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Maimonides' System of the Commandments / תורת המצוות של הרמב"ם

מיכאל נהוראי and Michael Nehorai
Daat: A Journal of Jewish Philosophy & Kabbalah / דעת: כתב-עת לפילוסופיה יהודית וקבלה
No. 13 (קיץ תשמ"ד), pp. 29-42
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/24184931
Page Count: 14
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Maimonides' System of the Commandments / תורת המצוות של הרמב"ם
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Abstract

There is much evidence that Maimonides wanted to base the commandments of the Torah on the same scientific premises on which God's Providence over the world is realized. 1) The system of commandments which is laid out in chapter 3:26 is written next to the chapters concerning Providence, and in both of them we find the same differences of opinions. 2) Maimonides differentiates between general Providence and specific Providence. The same applies to the commandments. He differentiates between the arguement that applies to the general rule and that which applies to the details. 3) The thinking man merits a specific Providence even though he is a part of the whole. Maimonides applies this concept to that detail of Commandment that is logical. 4) Maimonides maintains that we are obliged to seek out the wisdom of the Almighty in His universe. The same applies to the details of the commandments. According to Maimonides' method, each commandment is to be divided into 3 sections: a) The logical basis; b) The general rule; c) The details. By the logical basis he means that the commandments are intended to bring benefit to the whole of society or to the individual soul. The general rule is intended to achieve this goal (i.e. of a) according to human capacities. The detail is evaluated according to whether it is essential to the general rule. For example: To achieve the aim of good health (i.e., the logical basis) we have to slaughter animals in order to eat their meat (i.e., the general rule). The way in which the animal is slaughtered has no effect on the general rule. Therefore, the commandment that we must slaughter through the neck, does not, on the surface, make sense; so it will not be an essential part of the general rule. If, however, we explain that this method of slaughtering is imposed upon us in order to develop in our soul a feeling of mercy to animals, then it becomes a part of the logical basis. Maimonides takes great care not to enlarge on the subject, and we see that he applies this concept only to Biblical laws and not to oral laws. Even though, Maimonides only touches upon this subject once, in chapter 26. It is sufficient for us to understand that the Divineness of a commandment depends upon the integration between the three principles discussed above.

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