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