Translation:Mishneh Torah/The Book of Wisdom/Laws of the Foundations of the Torah/Chapter One

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Mishneh Torah by Maimonides, translated from Hebrew by Wikisource
Laws of the Foundations of the Torah, Chapter One

Chapter One[edit]

(1) The foundation of foundations and pillar of wisdoms[1] is to know that there is a First Cause and He created all that exists. And everything that exists from Heaven to Earth and everything in between would not exist except from the truth of His existence.

(2) If it should come upon your mind that there is no Cause, then nothing else could exist.

(3) If it should come upon your mind that nothing besides Him exists, He would still exist. And He would not be negated by their non-existence. Everything that exists has need of Him; and He, Blessed be He, has no need of them, not even one of them. Therefore, His existence is not like the existence of any one of them.

(4) The prophet [Jeremiah] said, "And the Lord God is true," (Jer. 10:10). God alone is the truth, and nothing else is true as is His truth. The Torah says, "There is none beside Him" (Deut. 4:35), meaning there is no true Cause beside Him which is like Him.

(5) This Cause is Lord of the World and Master of the Earth. And He directs the sphere with a strength that has neither end nor limit, and with a strength that has no disruption. For the sphere revolves continuously, and it is impossible that it revolve without [a force] that makes it revolve.

(6) The knowledge of this matter is a positive commandment, as it says, "I am the Lord your God" (Ex. 20:2). And anyone who brings upon his mind that there may be another god beside Him violates a negative commandment, as it says, "You shall not have other gods before Me" (ibid. 20:3). And this [thought] is complete heresy. For this [knowledge of God] is the greatest principle upon which everything else depends.

(7) God is one. He is not two and not more than two. Rather, He is one and His unity is unlike the unity of anything else that exists in the world. He is not like one genus that includes many other specifics. And He is not like one body that can be divided into parts and extremities. Rather, His unity is such that there is no unity like His in the world. If there were many gods, they would possess bodies and forms, because the things are counted are not equal in there existences, which are separate one from the other, rather in the events that happen to bodies and forms. And if the Creator had a body and a form, he would have an end and a limit, because it is impossible that a body does not have an end. And if a body has end and limit, its strength will also have end and cessation. And our God, blessed be His name, since His strength has no end and nothing to disrupt it - since the sphere revolves continuously (forever) - His strength is not the strength of a body. And since He does not have a body, events do not occur to Him as they occur to bodies, which can be split and divided by something else. Therefore it is impossible that He be anything but one. And the knowledge of this matter is a positive commandment, as it says, "The Lord is our God, the Lord is One" (Deut. 6:4).

(8) It is clear in the Torah and the books of the prophets that God has neither body nor form, as it says, "For the Lord is God in the Heaven above and the Earth below" (Deut. 4:39). And a body cannot be in two places [at once]. And as it says, "For you have not seen any image" (Deut. 4:15). And as it says, "And to what shall you compare Me and I be equal" (Isa. 40:25). And if He had a body, He could be compared to other bodies.

(9) If so [that God does not have a body], what does it mean that in the Torah "And beneath His feet" (Ex. 24:10)? Or what is written "with the finger of God" (ibid. 31:1), "the hand of the Lord" (ibid. 9:3), "the eyes of the Lord" (Gen. 38:7), "the ears of the Lord" (Num. 11:1), etc.? This accords to the thought of man, who can only comprehend bodies. And the Torah spoke in the language of man. And these are all epithets, as it says, "I whet My sword of thunder" (Deut. 32:42). And if He possessed a sword, would he kill with a sword?! Rather, this is a parable, and these are all parables. A proof of this matter is what one prophet [Daniel] says that he saw the Holy One, blessed be He, "clothed white as snow" (Dan. 7:9), and another prophet [Isaiah] saw Him "in crimson garments of Bozrah" (Isa. 63:1). Moses our teacher himself saw Him at the Sea [of Reeds] as a soldier waging battle, and at Sinai as a prayer leader wrapped in a shawl. This means that he has neither form nor image, rather this is only in a prophecy and a vision. And the truth of the matter is that the mind of man is incapable of investigating Him or studying Him. And this is what the Scripture said, "Can you by searching find out God? Can you find out the limit of the Almighty?" (Job 11:7)

(10) What did Moses our teacher request to investigate when he said "Show me, please, Your glory" (Ex. 33:18)? He requested to know the truth of the existence of the Holy One, blessed be He, until He would be known in Moses' mind. [This is] like the knowledge of a man who sees a face and then that image becomes etched in his mind, so that that man is distinct in his mind from all other men. Thus Moses our teacher requested that the existence of the Holy One, Blessed be He, be distinct in his mind from the existence of everything else that exists, until he know the truth of His existence as it is. And the Holy One answered that the knowledge of mortal man does not have the strength, since his body and soul are connected, to investigate the truth of this matter to completion. And the Holy One made known what man did not know before him and what he did not know after him, until he investigated from the truth of His existence the matter that the Holy One, blessed is He, was distinct in [Moses'] mind from everything else that exists, as one man will be distinct from a group of men when he only sees his back and becomes aware of his his entire body and clothing in his mind from the all the other bodies of other men. And that which is written hints at this matter and said, "And you shall see My back, but My face will not be seen" (Ex. 33:23).

(11) Now that it is clear that He possesses neither body nor form, it will also be evident that events of the body do not happen to Him. Neither connection nor separation; neither place nor measure; neither going up nor going down; neither right nor left; neither front nor back; neither sitting nor standing. Nor is He found within time, or else he would have a beginning and an end, and would have a count of two. And He does not change, since there is nothing that can cause Him to change. And He has neither death nor life like the life of a living body. And neither foolishness nor wisdom like wisdom of a wise man. [And He has neither] sleeping nor waking. And neither anger nor calm. And neither happiness nor sadness. And neither quiet nor speech like the speech of man. And thus the Sages said, "The Almighty has neither sitting nor standing nor back nor weariness" (Chagigah 15a).

(12) And since this matter is so, all of the matters and everything similar to them that are spoken of in the Torah and the words of the prophets are all parable and allegory. As it is said, "He who dwells in Heaven will laugh," (Ps. 2:4); "they have angered me with their vanities" (Deut. 32:21); "when the Lord rejoices" (ibid. 28:63), etc. About all of this the Sages said, "The Torah spoke in the language of man." And it says, "Is it me that they are angering?" (Jer. 7:19). Behold it says, "I am the Lord, I have not changed" (Mal. 3:6). And if sometimes He is angry and sometimes happy, he would change. And all of these matters only exist for lowly and dirty bodies, dwellers of clay houses that are founded in dust. However He, Blessed is He, is raised and elevated above all of this.


  1. This phrase is four words in the original, and their initials spell out the devine name.