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57. The Narrative Portions of the Torah
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If there’s one thing in the Torah that has been misunderstood, the Rambam tells us, it’s the narrative portions. These sections contain profound wisdom, yet many people consider them to be without value. [III, 50] After all, what possible use could we have for such things as the names of Noah’s descendants and the lands […]
56. Ritual Purity and Impurity
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As noted above (in section 54), the Rambam says that the laws of ritual purity and impurity serve to limit people’s ability to enter the Temple at will. This served to create a sense of awe and reverence for the Temple, in line with Leviticus 19:30, “…you shall revere My sanctuary.” [III, 47] Human nature […]
55. Foundations of the Torah
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The mitzvos in the first of the 14 categories (detailed in section 54) are those that the Rambam discusses in Hilchos Yesodei HaTorah (the laws of foundations of the Torah) in his magnum opus, the Mishneh Torah. The reason for these mitzvos, he tells us, is self-evident. [III, 36] If you examine them one by […]
54. The Fourteen Types of Mitzvos
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The Rambam divides all the mitzvos into 14 categories. [III,35] Each of these categories serves a particular purpose. They are: 1. Basic principles of faith, including repentance and fasting; 2. Idolatry, including such things as shaatnez (not to wear garments of mixed wool and linen), which the Rambam attributes to idolatrous practices. Laws in this […]
53. The Torah Addresses the Norm
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It is important to understand that the Torah does not take exceptions into account. Whatever the Torah teaches, be it intellectual, moral or practical in nature, is based on the norm and not on any deviations that may occur. [III, 34] The mitzvos are beneficial to mankind but there may be individual cases where they […]
52. Goals of the Torah
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One of the goals of the Torah is to train people to overcome their animal natures so that they may subdue their physical urges as much as possible and give in to them only as much as is truly necessary. [III, 33] The things in which people typically overindulge include eating, drinking and sexual relations […]
51. The Wisdom of God’s Commandments
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If you want to see an example of God’s wisdom, all you have to do is look at how He designed the wonders of creation. [III, 32] The Rambam discusses the wisdom of the nervous system, how the nerves carry impulses from the brain and spinal cord to the muscles in order to effect movement. […]
50. “Meaningless” Mitzvos
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The Torah teaches the things that one needs to learn in order to achieve perfection – God’s existence, His unity, His eternity, His omniscience and omnipotence, etc. – but only in bullet points. [III, 28] These things can only be truly understood after acquiring an abundance of wisdom of many kinds. The Torah also requires […]
49. The Purpose of the Torah
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The Torah actually has two purposes: our physical well-being and our spiritual well-being. (III, 27) The Torah regulates our spiritual well-being through its philosophies. These philosophies must be communicated to the people according to their ability to understand them. Some of these are beyond the average person’s capacity. For this reason, some things are stated […]
48. Do the Mitzvos Have Reasons?
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As discussed in the previous section, people debate whether God’s actions are based in His wisdom (and therefore directed towards some purpose) or if they are exclusively manifestations of His will, and they therefore require no particular purpose. We maintain that God’s actions are based in His wisdom and do, in fact, have purposes, whether […]