© 2020 by Rabbi Zvi Aviner
Torah Class IDOLATRY-2/Know that God exists
Know your CREATOR, know yourself, and know the difference
1: The Positive Aspect is discretionary for Noahides
Having discussed the Negative aspect of the IDOLATRY Commandments- the list of all possible idols which we should NOT worship, we move on to discuss the Positive aspect of the Commandment, the other side of the coin, that tells what TO DO: Know God, His Names and Worship only Him.
The Negative part, we’ve said, is expressed in Moses’ the Second of Moses` Second of the Ten Commandments, that says “Thou shall NOT have other Gods Over My Face” etc. We’ve discussed this part last class.
The Positive side, we’ve said, is presented at the top, first Commandment on Moses’ Tablets. It says
- I Am
- The LORD your GOD
- Who took you out of Egypt Land
Here the Speaker- God- presents Himself. It is both an INTRODUCTION, and a COMMANDMENT
For Israel, it is counted as a COMMANDMENT. Israel must not only avoid worshiping the idols listed in Commandment 2, but is also required to KNOW the Speaker’ s Names as He presents Himself here. Skipping this part would be considered sever violation of the Law , when done by Israel. (Israel after all is the one He took out of Egypt.)
For Noahides, however, observing the Positive aspect – the First Commandment at the top of the Tablets – is not mandatory as it is for Israel. This means that Noahides are not punishable for disobeying it, yet they expected to know God’s Names and ways no different than Israel. And moreover, they are also rewarded for observing it. .
In fact, since most of the IDOLATRY mentioned in the Negative side are now obsolete, the thrust of the Commandment has ascended to the upper, Positive side – obliging us to Know God’ Names and actions. . .
2: Know My Holy Names
If the top Commandment on the Tablets is an INTRODUCTION to the Ten Commandment, what does the Speaker mean by saying
2. “The Lord, your G-d
3. “Who took you out of Egypt Land.”
Here the Speaker instructs us about THE WAY BY WHICH HE WISHES TO BE KNOWN AND ADDRESSED.
For instance suppose I enter your classroom and say: Hi –
2. Rabbi Dr Zvi Aviner
3. And I teach Torah classes
Here I present myself in three lines -paralleled to the First Commandment.
In line 1- “I Am”: – I present to you my “essence” or my “being.”
In line 2 – “Rabbi Dr Zvi Aviner: – I presents my titles and names- my .ATTRIBUTES. I’ve selected them carefully, for I wish to establish by them my credentials to you. My title “Rabbi” would assure that I’ve e learned Torah, and my title Dr. assures that I am also quit versed in general sciences . Then add my private name to be used on intimate level
In line 3– “I teach Torah on the internet etc:” – I tell you what I do, my actions in the field of teaching.
Now having presented myself to the class this way, it would be rude to address me otherwise. I expect a student to address me either as a “Rabbi Dr” , or more intimately and fully- “Rabbi Dr Zvi Aviner..”
Now if someone mispronounce my name or distort them or replace them, I would be offended. It would also show that the person is not aware of the meaning of my names and titles. This would diminish my authority in the person’s eyes.
Same goes for the First Commandment of the Tablets. Here the Speaker – God- has selected very carefully the titles and Names by which He wishes us to know Him and address Him; like in our Blessings and Prayers. Any distortion or mis-pronunciation would be offensive to the Speaker, but would also express an IGNORANCE of the title’s meanings.
Before we indulge in the understanding of God’s tiles as they appear here, let’s see other interpretations
3: Believe in me; Know that I exists
Maimonides sees the First Commandment at the top as a Positive COMMANDMENT rather than INTRODUCTION. It commands us to-
Believe that God exist (RaMBaM in the “Book of Commandments”)
Know that God exist (RaMBaM in the “Mighty Hands” )
What is the difference between “To Believe” and “To Know”?
When I say “I believe that the table exists” I infer that I still have some doubts whether or not it exists. I may have been told about the table existence. I may have done some research and have concluded – logically- that he table exists. Yet I can’t tell it for sure.
In contrast, when I say that “I know that the table exists” I infer that I have already taken some steps to assure me- beyond belief- that the table exists. I may have touched it, moved it or banged on it – and I KNOW that the table exists!
Thus while Believing is a spiritual level of faith, Knowing lies in the world, confirmed by our senses.
Hence Maimonides sees the First Commandment at the top as an obligation to pursue the knowledge of God’s existence. A person should ascend up from believing to knowing. At first he/she do the best to arrive at a BELIEF in God’s existence. The second and higher step is to climb up in the ladder of faith and get to KNOW for sure that God exists.
Can we ever achieve that goal? God is not an object like a table. His existence is beyonnnd our human perception!
And yet, the very fact that this goal was given to us as a Commandment, it speaks loudly for the fact that it is reachable.
Maimonides actually guides us HOW to achieve the level of BELIEVING in God that the higher level KNOWING that God exits.
A person may come to BELIEVE on Go’s existence-Maimonides writes- by two roads. One path is to observe and study Nature. By realizing Nature’s wonders and the wisdom inherent in it, one would come to appreciate the CREATOR.
In addition, by studying Torah and its Wisdom, a person may also come to believe in the existence of its giver- God.
Either one of these patches would bring us to BELIEVE. Yet, there would be many who study either Science or the Torah and yet would still have DOUBTS about God’s existence.
Moreover- he writes – miracles are never reliable enough to make us believe in God. A person can doubt whether or not the miracles did happen or whether they have natural explanations .
Even the story of the exodus with its miracles has failed to bring the people to KNOW that God exists for sure, the RaMBaM writes. At the splitting of the Reed sea, the people of Israel BELIEVED in God, yet three days later they reverted to their doubts. They came closer to Him on Sinai. .
There is a way to KNOW of Gods existence- by combining Science with Torah.
Is he right? We’ll see. .
END OF IDOLATRY CLASS 2