Friday, August 15, 2008

Rambam's 8th Principle - All Torah is from G-d

Rambam(Sanhedrin chapter 10:1 8th principle): The Eighth Principle of Faith is that Torah is from Heaven. It is to believe that the entire Torah we have today was given through the agency of Moshe and that it was entirely from G‑d. In other words that the entire Torah came to Moshe in a manner which we can best describe as speech. Even though this process is unknown to us, somehow the Torah was communicated by G‑d to Moshe. Moshe functioned like a scribe who receives dictation and records all the events, narratives and commandments. That is why Moshe was called Mechokek (engraver). Consequently there is absolutely no distinction between the words, “And the sons of Cham were Kush and Mitzrayim” [Bereishis 10:6] or, “The name of his wife was Mehaitavel [Bereishis 36:39] or, “Timna was a concubine” [Bereishis 36:12] and between the First Commandment, “I am the L-rd your G-d” [Shemos 20:2] or the Shema, “Hear Israel the L-rd our G-d the L-rd is One” [Devarim 6:4]. That is because the entire Torah is from G‑d and therefore all of it is G‑d’s perfect Torah – pure, holy and true. Consequently one who says that verses like these or the narratives were written by Moshe alone is considered by our Sages and our Prophets as the worst type of heretic and revisionist. That is because he thinks that there are genuine and spurious parts of the Torah i.e., that these historical descriptions and stories serve no purpose and that they were created by Moshe – and not by G‑d. This is what is referred to in the Mishna (Sanhedrin 90a) as one who says that Torah is not from Heaven – and he therefore has no share in the World to Come. Our Sages [Sanhedrin 99a] explain that it is even heresy to assert that the entire Torah is from G‑d - except for a single verse which was said entirely by Moshe. Such a heretical assertion is an act of despising G‑d’s word [Bamidbar 15:31]. In fact all the words of the Torah contain astounding wisdom for those who understand them. These words are so profound that they will never be completely understood…. This is true not only of the Written Torah but also of the Oral Torah i.e., the explanations of the Written Torah which we have also received from G‑d. Therefore that which we make a Sukkah in a particular manner and perform the mitzvos of lulav, shofar, tzitzis, tefilin and the other mitzvos is the manner which G‑d told Moshe and he in turn faithfully told us. The Torah verse which teaches us this principle is (Shemos 16:28), “And Moshe said: And by this you will know that G‑d sent me to do all these deeds and I didn’t make it up myself.”


  1. Is this because of the Devarim thing?

    Look, the Rambam surely knew that Devarim is fundamentally different in style from the other 4 books and yet he wrote this. Therefore he would have a way to explain the difference without giving up on this principle.

    A suggestion: These are Moshe's speeches but he probably spoke a lot more than what's recorded (what kind of rabbi wouldn't?) which means whatever made the final copy of Devarim was chosen - presumably by God.

    After all,there are narrative breaks in the book as well which are in the style of the rest of the Torah.

    So I still don't see the problem.

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  3. The issue of Sefer Devarim is a bit confusing to me. I haven't looked into it much, so these are just off-the-cuff comments.

    The Torah frequently quotes conversations that took place between people that were clearly not speaking under a spirit of prophecy. This has no relevance to the Divine origin of the text of the Torah; Hashem simply dictated word for word what Moshe should write.

    Why should the speeches of Moshe quoted in Sefer Devarim be different? Moshe gave these speeches, in his "own" words, and then Hashem told him, word-for-word, to write them down.

    The question, then, is why does the Gemara give the tochacha in Sefer Devarim a different status from the tochacha in Sefer Vayikra?

    Perhaps because, in Vayikra, the Author of the Torah is recounting what Hashem said to Moshe, whereas in Devarim the Author of the Torah is recounting what Moshe said on his own.

    This is, presumably, a real distinction. The wicked statements of Pharaoh, the worshipers of the golden calf, the meraglim, Korach v'adaso, Bilaam, etc. are all part of the Torah, but this doesn't mean that we should accept those statements as God's message. They are clearly presented as improper statements that are repudiated by the Author.

    Similarly, any time the Torah quotes a human being speaking on his own initiative, even Moshe Rabbeinu, those statements cannot be understood in the same way that we understand the Torah's presentation of the Author's own words.

    All of this does not detract from the principle that every letter of the Torah comes directly from Hashem. Moreover, this is all speaking from the perspective of peshat. From other perspectives (drash, sod) these statements might well be treated as direct statements of the Author (as we find with the Messianic prophecy in the words of Bilaam).

    From what Rabbi Eidensohn has presented so far (I haven't looked up the sources), I think this is clearly the Malbim's understanding. Moreover, I think the Ohr HaChaim can be understood this way as well. I don't know about the Abarbanel.

  4. Garnel Ironheart said...

    Is this because of the Devarim thing?


    So I still don't see the problem.
    The Rambam doesn't allow for retroactive validation as Torah - nor do most rishonim and achronim.Torah is from Heaven and Moshe's words are Torah because that is what G-d told him to say.


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