Thursday, August 19, 2004

Condensation of Ch. 5 of Rambam's "Eight Chapters"

This is part of my upcoming translation
of Rambam's "Eight Chapters", to be
published shortly by Judaica Press.

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1. Aside from subordinating your personal capacities the ways spoken of before, strive to comprehend God as much as you can; make that your life’s goal; and do whatever you do purposefully and with it in mind.

2. As such, strive for what’s edifying; and if it happens to be gratifying, too, then so be it. Unless you want to enjoy gratifying or attractive things for your health, or to be well enough to acquire knowledge. You’d also do well to accrue money only in order to own uplifting things, to maintain your well-being, and to extend your life long enough to comprehend God. In point of fact, the field of medicine affords a person the opportunity to grow intellectually and personally, to know God, and to comprehend what true bliss is.

3. The sort of person who’d go about eating satisfying but harmful foods is no different than an animal. For a true human-- a person of reason-- would only do things that would edify him and keep him healthy. But he wouldn’t make health itself his goal; for that’s no different than pursuing any other form of self-indulgence. He’d try to stay healthy in order to pursue personal and intellectual virtues without encumbrance.

4. The same goes for studying non-Torah subjects. Do it as long as those studies bring you closer to your ultimate goal. But only study things like geometry, engineering and the like, since they sharpen your mind enough to discriminate between valid and invalid theorems, which will help you understand God. And when you speak, speak about wisdom and personal virtues, and against wrongdoing.

5. You’d tend to do and say much less if you make comprehending God your goal in life; and the only reason you’d relax and occupy yourself with extraneous things would be to stay healthy and have a clear mind.

6. But the sort of individual who’d use all his personal capacities toward understanding God; who’d only occupy himself with things that would themselves be virtuous or foster a virtue; who’d measure each action to determine if it would lead to that end or not-- is nearly on par with the prophets. In point of fact, though, that’s exactly what God requires of each one of us!

(C) 2004 Rabbi Yaakov Feldman