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"Eight Chapters"

Chapter Five (Part 1)

Perhaps the most vexing problem we have today is not knowing what to focus on. There's just so much we can do and so much that we'd like to, that there seem to be parts of ourselves peppered all over the landscape. So, what in fact should we concentrate on if we hope to achieve spiritual excellence, and what comes second, third, etc.?

We're told pointblank here that we're "to place a single goal before our eyes", one overarching aim and objective: "to comprehend G-d Almighty as much as a human being can".

But how awesome a goal that is, how almost unthinkable! Can anyone comprehend G-d, in fact? Aren't we taught that “His greatness can't be fathomed” (Psalms 145:3), that “There’s no searching out His understanding” (Isaiah 40:28), and “If you search (for) G-d could you find Him?” (Job 11:7)? Hasn't G-d Himself said "My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways" (Isaiah 55:8)?

The truth is G-d *can* be grasped to some degree (don't forget we're charged to comprehend Him "as much as a human being can", not as much as an angel can; for they too can only understand Him to a degree). Rambam doesn't expand upon this much in this work, but he lays out a lot of what we'd need to know elsewhere which we'll now cull from.

We’re to understand that G-d existed before everything else and created it all; that His existence is a prerequisite for the existence of everything else; that He would continue to exist even if nothing else did, for He’s utterly self-reliant and unique; that He’s eternal; that He’s one in a unique sense; and that He’s utterly incorporeal and thus undergoes none of the things that corporeal beings undergo. We’re also to understand that He provides everything for His creations, and that He influences creation moment to moment.

Thus, we're to make the awareness *and absorbtion* of all that our life's goal, and to "direct all our actions, movements, and utterances to that end, so that nothing we do is arbitrary or tends to thwart that goal". That's to say that we're to make everything else secondary to that and use it only as a means to foster our goal of understanding G-d.

"So, for example," we're told, "when you eat, drink, sleep," and the like, we're to "let our only aim be our health" alone -- rather than an outright relishing of what we're eating or drinking, or of sleeping unto itself. But even health shouldn't be an end unto itself, we're to "let our goal in being healthy be to remain robust and well enough to acquire the knowledge and the personal and intellectual virtues we’d need to reach that goal" of comprehending G-d. We'll explore some of the ramifications of this next.


Text Copyright © 2006 by Rabbi Yaakov Feldman and Torah.org


 

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