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12 Av 5765 - August 17, 2005 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly










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Opinion & Comment
Ahavoh and Emunoh — Comparisons and Differences. And What is the Way to Love of Him?

by Mordecai Plaut

Part I

Would anyone confuse Ahavas Hashem and Emunoh?

It would seem that not. It is hard to even imagine that anyone would get confused between these two very basic mitzvos.

Both of the mitzvos occur in parshas Voeschanon. The mitzvah of Emunoh is the first of the Ten Commandments: "I am Hashem your G-d . . . " The mitzvah to love Hashem, Ahavas Hashem, is in the first paragraph of Krias Shema: "And you should love Hashem your G-d . . . "

Certainly no one would confuse them because they appear near each other in Devorim. Emunoh, basic faith in Hashem, is clearly something very different from loving Hashem, and loving Hashem is not the same as believing in Him. I can believe that a certain man exists, but that does not imply that I love him. Conversely, I may love a certain idea even though it is wildly impractical and far from being real or even realistic.

What is Emunoh?

Emunoh is knowing "the foundation of all foundations and the pillar of all wisdom" (Hilchos Yesodei Hatorah 1:1). Notice that Emunoh is knowing a particular thing. Of course that "thing" in this case is a highly exalted fact, but nonetheless, Emunoh is knowing a particular thing.

What we must know to fulfill Emunoh is that "there is a First Being, and He makes everything else exist, and all creatures, from the Heavens and Earth and everything between them have existence only because of the reality of His existence" (Hilchos Yesodei HaTorah 1:1). The Rambam continues in the next six halachos to explain this fact that must be known and to note some of its details. At the end of Halochoh 6, the Rambam summarizes: "Knowing this is a positive Commandment (mitzvas aseih)."

Emunoh is the basis of our lives and also the basis of everything that we know. It is "the foundation of all foundations and the pillar of all wisdom" meaning that everything that there is, is built upon this, and that is why the Rambam calls it "the foundation of all foundations." Furthermore, it is the basis of all knowledge and wisdom, and that is why he calls it "the pillar of all wisdom."

These are not just arbitrary terms of praise that the Rambam is heaping upon the content of the first mitzvah — although they are great praise — but rather they are also technical descriptions that have specific consequences and meanings. Everything is built upon Emunoh and must be built upon Emunoh.. Any proposal that is not built upon this bedrock, has nothing beneath it and is worthless.

Just as the world itself stands upon the truth of Hashem, so our knowledge which is hopefully a mental representation of what is in the world, must also have Hashem at its base. If it does not, then it is obviously not truly a representation of the world.

Once we have achieved this Emunoh, we must love the One in Whom we believe, as the posuk says, "And you shall love Hashem your G-d" (Devorim 6:5).

What is Love? And What is Love of Hashem?

In contrast to Emunoh, love is not knowing some fact, but having a relationship with a loved one. This contrast is worth developing at greater length.

Belief or knowledge are entirely within ourselves. To properly fulfill the mitzvah of Emunoh, we have no need of anything outside of ourselves. For example, to believe in the coming of the Moshiach, we do not have to have him, the Melech HaMoshiach. Even though we of course await his coming every day, we believe in him even though he has not yet come. Clearly, all the generations that have passed so far in which Moshiach has not come, have nonetheless fully fulfilled the mitzvah of believing in his coming.

Insofar as Emunoh is like this, it does not require the presence of the object of our belief. Emunoh is like knowledge, but the object of the knowledge is not part of the knowledge. If I know that a man or a woman exists, even if it is a specific man or woman, I do not thereby have, and I have no need whatsoever to have, that man or woman present in order to complete my knowledge in any way. My knowledge or belief is complete in every way even if the object is as far away as could be.

So Emunoh is like knowledge. But love is not something entirely within us. Rather, it includes a relationship with something other than ourselves, something outside of ourselves.

Love is a positive relationship between a lover and a beloved. Most people would probably say that love is more than a simply "positive relationship" but it is certainly not less than that and whatever is additional need not concern us here (and can only be distracting to consider).

In order to truly love something, that thing must be present. There cannot be a real relationship between myself and something else if that something else does not exist, and in order to consummate the relationship, I must actually have that thing present.

If we want to love Hashem, in order to fulfill the mitzvah we have to love Hashem, we need to have Him present, as it were.

As we approach the fulfillment of the mitzvah of Love of Hashem, we can assume that we have already fulfilled the mitzvah of Emunoh. We already know and believe that "there is a First Being, . . ." etc.

But where is He? The dry knowledge that He exists does not bring in its wake any relationship with Him.

I must search for Him; I must find Him; and I must love Him.

How does one seek Him? How does one find Him?

The Rambam teaches us in the following sections (Hilchos Yesodei HaTorah 2:2): "And how is the way to love of Him? . . . one contemplates His deeds and His great and wondrous creatures, and one sees from these the wisdom of G-d . . . "

The end of that chapter and the following two are devoted to a presentation of the details of what the Rambam calls "His deeds and His great and wondrous creatures," whom he recommends that we contemplate in order to see "the wisdom of G-d — that it is immeasurable and unbounded."

Some of the subjects that the Rambam deals with in these three chapters were also subjects that were dealt with in the Rambam's day by non-Jewish intellectuals and researchers.

There is a very widespread conception that what the Rambam brings in these chapters was refuted or disproved in the course of scientific progress over the eight centuries since the Rambam wrote his Mishneh Torah.

However it is clear, even to someone who only reads the Rambam's presentation in a very superficial way, that this conception is wrong for at least part of the matters that are brought in these chapters, and it can even be said that the majority of the material in these chapters is of this kind.

In my opinion this conception is entirely mistaken. These matters, generally speaking, were not disproved but merely abandoned. Researchers, "men of science," put these matters on the side, defined them as outside of the realm of scientific interest, and raced ahead with explosive development of what they regarded as within their boundaries of interest. However no serious questions were even asked upon what the Rambam actually said.

What are the first details about "His deeds and His great and wondrous creatures" that the Rambam actually presents? "All that Hakodosh Boruch Hu has created in His world can be divided into three categories: Some are creatures composed of both matter and form . . . (like the bodies of man, of animals, of plants and the metals) . . . Some are creatures composed of matter and form, but they do not change, . . . but their form is eternally fixed . . . (and they are the Heavenly spheres, and the stars within them and their matter is not like other matter and their forms are not like other forms), and some are composed of form without any matter — and these are the angels . . . "

The Rambam continues, explaining what angels are, and how they are distinguished one from another, and the nature of this distinction, and that these matter-less forms are living and they recognize the Creator, and they know Him in a very great way . . . " The Rambam continues in this vein, covering important insights into the way HaKodosh Boruch Hu knows Himself, and other such insights.

In the time of the Rambam, these matters were considered areas of interest for a typical scientific researcher. The scientists of our day in fact see themselves as the heirs of those researchers. But it should be clear that none of the statements in these matters was ever disproved or even could be disproved by empirical science. It was all just shoved aside as being outside the area of competence of modern science whose interest is self-limited — strictly, arrogantly, and with false and somewhat silly pride — to the sensible world. Anything that is not fully sensible is elbowed aside with, in some unfortunate cases, a disdain that has no foundation. (Of course, it is well-known that there are many modern scientists who are fully religiously observant.) Modern science tends to look down its nose at those matters which are outside its self-limited area of competence, for example, refusing — or trying to refuse — to allow them to be taught in the same classrooms.

End of Part I

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