Maimonides

JUDAISM
יהדות

שְׁמַע יִשְׂרָאֵל

Hear, Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord is One.
Blessed be the Name of His glorious kingdom for ever and ever.
And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.
And these words that I command you today shall be in your heart.
And you shall teach them diligently to your children, and you shall speak of them
when you sit at home, and when you walk along the way, and when you lie down and when you rise up.
And you shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be for frontlets between your eyes.
And you shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.

Deuteronomy VI 4-9


Introduction



There is no doubt that of all ٍSyrian religions, the religion of Abraham possessed a superior philosophy which had outlasted all its contemporaries.

"Whereas the gods of Olympus tirelessly pursued beautiful women, the God of Sinai watched over widows and orphans. While Mesopotamia's Anu and Canaan's El were pursuing aloof ways, Yahweh speaks the name of Abraham, lifting his people out of slavery, and (in Ezekiel's vision) seeks out the lonely, heartsick Jewish exiles in Babylon. God is a God of righteousness, whose loving-kindness is from everlasting to everlasting and whose tender mercies are in all his works." ~ Huston Smith, The World's Religions

The message of Abraham (peace be on him) was very logical and direct: There is only one God. He cannot be seen or heard through the senses. He is the creator of everything and yet nothing is like Him. In the metaphysical world (the real world), God is everywhere. In the physical world (the illusion perceived by the senses), His existence is deduced through His creation. Direct communication with God through human language can only be achieved through the perfection of prophecy, the highest and most perfect levels of intellect and spirituality - combined - that a human being can possibly attain.

Of all these prophets, no one was greater than Moses (peace be on him), for he was given the Torah (Hebrew for the Law). Moreover, he freed his people from one of the most tyrannical regimes known at that time; freed them physically and spiritually. From that momentous event onward, Moses reminded his people that "The Lord God has chosen you to be a people for His own possession, out of all the peoples that are on the face of the earth" (Deuteronomy 7:6). Unfortunately, some people, including some Jews, have misunderstood this message to mean that the sons of Israel are a superior race. But the truth is, God was saying to the Israelites that they were chosen to bear the responsibility of becoming a righteous model-nation for all other nations to emulate:

"If you obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession out of all the peoples. Indeed, the whole earth is mine, but you shall be for me a priestly kingdom and a holy nation." (Exodus 19:5-6)

A covenant, unlike a contract, has no expiration date and requires the total pledge of one's self. God promised the Israelites that as long as they keep His covenant, He shall keep His promise to them in this life and the next.

The most central of all Jewish prayers is the Shema, short for Shema Yisrael (Hear O Descendents of Israel), shown at the beginning of this essay in full. The first verse of the Shema is the heart and soul of Judaism: "Hear, Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord is one." For the untrained eye, such a message appears to be nothing more than an expression of faith. But it is in these very words that the keys to freedom, liberty, and happiness are withheld. This prayer from Deuteronomy is actually saying: you shall bow to no other human. No man or woman or object is lord over you. To worship and obey no other lord but Him is the Straight Path that would free one of all earthly matters that enslave mankind.


Mysticism



The first "name" for God in the original Torah was "Ha Shem (השם)", which translates to "The Name", meaning the name of that which is nameless. It is part of the Jewish tradition that God's name be not named, and one can see the utility in that tradition - after all, bringing His name up so often, and on every worthy and unworthy occasion, diminishes His majestic existence as it manifests itself in the human mind.

Mysticism can be found in the very first words of the Torah, in the book of Genesis, which are often incorrectly translated into English as "In the beginning..." when the more accurate translation is "In a beginning...", suggesting that this current existence is but one cycle; one creation of many.

"The best part about Judiasm (Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, etc.) is the Mysticism that engulfs, that pervades, that streches out to infinity. The customs, the rules, the trappings, while important, are merely the foundation upon which to discover deeper truths. Take what Maimonides said about the Shema: "What is the love that is appropriate for God?" His response is to love God as if you are falling in love, only more so. Think about that. To understand the seemingly impossible task of loving God, Maimonides tells us to relate to what we know on our very human level -- falling in love (only more so, of course). He is saying that we can enter the mystic through human experience, through deep human experience. It's an inside-out thing, and not the other way around. It's there, always there, for us to seek, to have, if we allow ourselves to search, to find. All religions meet in the mystic. They are all pointing to the same place. When does religion not serve us well? When it stops short of the mystic. When it stops pointing to that place. When it becomes a competition. When it becomes a war. Imagine the unity, the harmony, that could be, if we could all point to the same place." ~ Dennis Kaplan

The following is a Kabbalistic poem that expresses this mysticism:

Poem with Sky and Earth
Samuel Ha-Nagid (993-1056)

I look up at the starry sky
and down at the creatured earth
with heartfelt understanding of how
well and wisely made they are.
The heavens seem an enormous tent
hung by loops and hooks,
moon and stars a shepherdess
guiding her flock to pasture;
then a lonely moon glides
through the clouds like a ship;
or the clouds move like a girl
watering her garden and trees;
and the dew settles as from a woman
who shakes her wet hair over the ground.
Like the animals, people seek their rest
in mansions or in stables;
they flee the timor mortis
like doves the diving falcon.
At last it all seems like a great dish
that's been smashed into a thousand pieces.

Translated by George Economou


Judaism Globalized



Both Christianity and Islam have manifested from Judaism, and both uphold the Torah as the true message of God upon which their Scriptures only came to confirm, as their respective Holy Scriptures unequivocally testify:

Matthew 5: "(17) Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law [Torah] or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. (18) I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. (19) Anyone who breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commandments will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. (20) That's why I am telling you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven"

Quran - al-Fatiha (Ch. 1): "Show us the Straight Path (6) the Path you have shown the people whom You have blessed, except those who evoked your anger and those who have gone astray (7)"

Quran - al-Baqara (Ch. 2): "O Sons of Israel remember the blessing I have bestowed upon you and fulfill My Covenant and I shall fulfill yours, and fear no one but Me (40)... O Sons of Israel remember the blessing I have bestowed upon you and remember that I have chosen you over the worlds (47)"

Quran - al-Saff (Ch. 61): "And Jesus son of Mary said: "O Sons of Israel I am God's Messenger to you, confirming the Torah in my hands... (6)"

Quran - al-Maida (Ch. 5): "Why should they [the Jews] come to you [Muhammad] for judgment when they have the Torah which already contains the commandments of God? ...(43) We have bestowed the Torah in which there is guidance and light. The prophets (sent to the Jews), the rabbis, and the scholars, all who submitted to God, judge by it; they have been entrusted with God's Book and they were witnesses.... Whoever does not rule by what God has bestowed are the rejectors of truth (44)"

Thus, although the Jews still remain few in numbers (less than 0.01% of the world population), unlike any of their contemporaries 3000 years ago, the influence of the Jewish faith - including its more recent manifestations - in philosophy, science, law, logic, art, literature, film, language, and every other aspect of life imaginable is truly unmeasurable.


Maimonides