“In the Name of the ALL-TRANSCENDENT ONE, the Mighty-Authority of the universe.” (Genesis 21,33)
In addition to the Thirteen Principles of Faith, we bear witness and affirm:
1) The Singularity of God.
There is One alone Who created and sustains all existence. He is not a ‘one’ that can be counted or numbered. We say He is One so as to discount any thought of plurality within His Being. His Oneness is unlike any unity in creation. His Oneness is neither a greater unifying ‘essence’ that pervades creation and of which the souls of Jews are a part (panentheism), nor is it a oneness that includes any form of plurality (duality, trinity, olam atzilut, pantheism, etc…); His attributes are either merely descriptions of how He interacts with creation or are one and the same as His Being itself – not subsistent entities nor emanations (sefiroth) sharing in His Divine essence. He, His Wisdom, and His Life are absolutely one and the same, with no distinction whatsoever. He is His Wisdom and He is His Life. The most perfected of creation is as infinitely dissimilar to His Essence as the lowest of creation. He has no partners in His divinity – no predecessor, son, daughter, or any sort of consort. He is neither a man nor a body, nor a force or a power in a body – neither a supernal spiritual ‘body’ nor a physical form of any type. The Creator is not subject to His creation, nor to any factor of creation, such as: time, change, space, location, size, volume, mass, height, or form. Though His sovereignty and providence fill the universe and His existence is evident everywhere, yet the Essence of His Being is neither contained within the physical world nor subject to any location.
2) The Error of Idolatry.
One may not do an act of religious service to anything created, whether it be an angel, kabbalistic emanations (sefiroth), any spiritual force or power, sphere, star, statue, image, human, any physical element or anything composed of the elements, or any form conjured up in the mind. Even if a person knows that YHWH is the Highest Power and Authority, and yet he does religious acts of devotion to anything other than Creator so that it will act as a mediator between himself and the Creator or intervene for us with Him — such a person has violated the prohibition against idolatry. One should address his thoughts and words of prayer to YHWH alone, the Highest Power and Authority, and leave out consideration of everything else. Included in this is the prohibition against beseeching the aid of the departed, even if they be loved ones or the uniquely righteous (sadiqim).
3) The Idolatry of Egotism.
The Talmudic Sages taught that the Biblical injunction that ‘there be no foreign god within you’ is a charge against submitting to the destructive inclination (yesar ha-ra’) that is present in us all. There is a difference between inadvertent transgression of G-d’s commands due to innocent ignorance or something beyond one’s control, and voluntary surrender to a force that one knows is contrary to the Almighty’s Will, even if that force is simply a desire within the heart or mind. The latter is comparable to idolatry even though no object is pro-actively worshiped — the commonality being submission to a force outside the scope of G-d’s Will. Despite this similarity, there are also important differences between the two. Though one who constantly surrenders to his destructive inclination may be regarded as a wicked Israelite, so long as he still devotes all pro-active worship to G-d alone and accepts Torah as binding, despite his habitual transgression, he is still counted among Israel; one who devotes religious service to something other than YHWH, on the other hand, removes himself from the community of Israel and has forsaken his place in the World to Come.
4) The Immutability of Torah.
“…the hidden things belong to YHWH our Venerable Authority; but that which is revealed belongs to us and our sons forever to do all the words of this Torah;” (Deuteronomy 29,28).
“Then He confirmed it to Jacob as a statute, to Israel as an everlasting covenant, saying, ‘To you I shall give the Land of Canaan, as the portion of your inheritance;'” (Psalm 105,10-11).
“Thus says YHWH: If heaven above could be measured, and the foundations of the earth searched out beneath, then also would I cast off all the seed of Israel for all that they have done, says YHWH;” (Jeremiah 31,36).
“This entire message that I command you, you shall observe to do; you shall not add to it, nor diminish from it;” (Deuteronomy 13,1).
5) The Consistency of True Prophets.
“I will raise for them a prophet from among their brethren, like unto you; and I will put My words in his mouth, and he shall speak unto them all that I shall command him;” (Deuteronomy 18,18). The function of a prophet is to warn and command concerning impending judgment and thereby motivate the people to return to YHWH by upholding His Torah. A prophet may also receive a prophecy that will encourage the people and strengthen their faith or to provide information for recovering something that was lost. If a prophet’s warning of doom does not come to pass, it does not equate to a false prophecy. Such prophetic warnings are for the purpose of inspiring repentance, so as to avoid the judgment. However, if a prophet foretells anything else without a qualifying exception and the event does not come to pass, he is a false prophet. Likewise, a prophet who claims authority to establish a new law or practice based on prophecy, or that any of the Torah’s commandments are no longer valid, he is a false prophet; for the warning against a false prophet begins with “you shall not add to it nor diminish from it;” (Deut. 13,1). Even if such a prophet were to do signs and wonders, YHWH is testing us (Deut. 13,4) and it is forbidden to heed him, for “he has spoken rebellion against YHWH […] to remove you from the way in which YHWH your Venerable-Authority commanded you to walk;” (Deut. 13,6). If, on the other hand, the prophet’s prophecies always come to pass and he does not change details of existing laws, establish new laws, or abolish laws for all generations, but he commands a temporary suspension of the Torah’s laws, as in the case with Elijah the prophet, he is to be heeded. A true prophet will never command temporary suspension of the prohibition against idolatry.
6) Sole Universal Legislative Authority of the Great Sanhedrin.
“And whenever any controversy shall come to you […], between blood and blood, between law and commandment, statutes and ordinances, you shall enlighten them, that they be not guilty before YHWH;” (II Chron. 19,10). “You shall act according to the matter which they shall declare unto you from the place which YHWH shall choose; and you shall be careful to do according to all that they shall instruct you. According to the instruction which they shall instruct you, and according to the judgment which they shall tell you, that you must do; you shall not turn aside from the matter which they shall declare unto you, neither to the right, nor to the left;” (Deut. 17,10-11). This particular commandment demands obedience to the Court established under Moses. The judges of this Court direct us in how to do the 613 commandments. Their clarifications must be consistent with the Torah and not contradict it. Their decisions are to have precedent in the Torah. Their instructions may or may not be changed by a later Great Court, depending on certain parameters. Their rulings are not equal to the 613 commandments of the Written Torah. Their rulings are, however, authorized by the Torah and mandatory according to the Torah. Therefore, the Torah itself identifies their rulings as ‘torah’ (instruction).
7) The Inferiority of Post-Talmudic Rabbinic Decree.
No post-Talmudic Jewish court of any size, and certainly no individual rabbi, regardless of how wise or esteemed, has permission to usurp the authority of the ancient Great Sanhedrin or its rulings and clarifications of Biblical law, whether to be more lenient or more strict. Similarly, no such post-Talmudic Jewish court or rabbi has authority to enforce new religious practices or to impose any levy that was unauthorized by Haz”al. Post-Talmudic Jewish courts and individually acting rabbis are forbidden to overstep the limited authority granted to them for adjudicating cases of halakhic uncertainty for the masses, according to the parameters established by Haz”al. Even the future reestablished Great Sanhedrin, may it be restored within our days, is limited in the degree to which it can modify rulings of the ancient Great Sanhedrin; and even this is on the condition that it is greater in wisdom and number.
8) Personal Halakhic Responsibility and Accountability.
It is the responsibility of every Jew to familiarize himself with halakha and its actual implementation. Although a Jew has the right to appoint for himself a poseq, a decider of Jewish law, and for many it is a practical necessity, a Jew is still responsible for who he will choose to be his poseq. A Jew’s reliance on a poseq does not absolve him from the responsibility to know halakha for himself and to verify the reasoning behind the poseq’s decision. If the poseq made a logical error which lead the individual to violate a Rabbinic or Torah law, the individual is accountable for his own actions, even though the transgression was inadvertent. “For this commandment which I command you this day, it is not too hard for you, neither is it far off. It is not in the heavens, that you should say: ‘Who shall go up for us to the heavens and bring it unto us, and enable us to hear it, that we may do it?’ Neither is it beyond the sea, that you should say: ‘Who shall go over the sea for us, and bring it unto us, and allow us to hear it, that we may do it?’ Rather, the word is very near to you, in your mouth, and in your heart, that you may do it;” (Deut. 30,11-14).
9) The Independence of Authentic Israelite Custom.
“No Torah commandment or practice that the prophets or the [Talmudic] Tradition teach may be ceased just because the nations copy it;” (R’ Avraham, son of the Rambam). We are only forbidden from adopting those customs of the nations that are a result of foolish superstition, unique to their idolatrous worship, or were specified as being prohibited by the Torah or the ancient Sages. Reasonable customs of the nations are permitted, such as those based on medical knowledge or some other practical purpose – ie: washing hands with soap before eating or non-idolatrous ornamentation.
10) The Independence of Local & Personal Custom.
The widespread claim that Jews are required to follow the majority in every generation (ie: even when there is no Great Sanhedrin) is both erroneous and hypocritical. Ashkenazi Jewry did not abandon its unique practices when Jews of Islamic lands were the majority. When Ashkenazi Jewry became dominant, non-Ashkenazi Jews did not and do not feel obligated to adopt Ashkenazi customs. Clearly, however, majority practice is a powerful influence whose infiltration is difficult to avoid. Those who uphold majority practice tend to be more confident and less concerned over discrimination. Consequently, it is in our days far more frequent to observe an Ashkenazi Jew standing during Qadish in a Sefaradi minyan while all others remain seated, than to find a Sefaradi Jew who would dare bring legumes into the home of his Ashkenazi friend during Passover.
11) The Priority of Human Decency.
“Politeness precedes Torah” (Midrash Rabba Wa-yiqra 9,3; 35,6) Torah cannot be appreciated by a person who does not value other human beings; nor can Torah be properly kept by a person who is lax in one of the most critical Torah commandments, that we “walk in His ways.” The Sages explained this to mean that just as He is compassionate, so must we be compassionate. Just as He is merciful, so must we be merciful; (TB Shabbat 133). Just as He is holy, so we are to be holy, and so on. Just as He is patient, so must we be patient. Just as He is forgiving, so must we be forgiving. Just as He is slow to anger, so must we.
12) The Inferiority of Noahide Law.
We recognize the Laws of Noah as the bare minimum of tolerable behavior in human society. It is not a standard that one should aspire to or that can perfect the individual or the world. We do not teach that those who do not enter the Torah-covenant are condemned to hell or that those who are careful to keep only the Laws of Noah will not have a place in the World to Come. Rather, we emphasize that the belief that those who only keep the Laws of Noah are assured a place in the World to Come is a Rabbinic concept that was not agreed upon by all the ancient Sages and which cannot be found in the Torah. We do not object to the now popular Rabbinic belief that one who keeps the Laws of Noah will have a place in the World to Come. Rather, we wish to ask non-Jews the question, ‘Would you rather base your eternal state on the explicit promises of G-d found in the Torah, or rest the outcome of your eternity on a disputed Rabbinic opinion that is neither found in the Torah nor given by prophecy?’
13) The Universal Relevance of Torah.
The Midrash teaches that G-d gave the Torah to Israel in the uninhabited wilderness so as to say that no one has sole claim to the Torah; but that it is available to whoever will come to receive it. It is also no coincidence that the Torah was given and Israel established at the geographical convergence of the three major continents. It was G-d’s will that the Torah be spread to the ends of the earth. However, G-d, in His mercy, has not enforced the Torah on the entire world in one blow. Rather, He created a system by which the Torah would influence the nations slowly, over time, so that eventually “…it shall come to pass that ten men of all the languages of the nations shall take hold of the hem of the garment of a Jew, saying: We will go with you, for we have heard that G-d is with you;’” (Zech. 8,23). It is evident that in the future the Creator will hold the nations to a standard higher than the Laws of Noah, as it states in Zechariah 14,19: “…this shall be the punishment of Egypt, and of all the nations that do not go up to observe the Feast of Tabernacles;” and as it says in Isaiah 66,23: “from one New Moon to another, and from one Sabbath to another, shall all flesh come to prostrate before Me, says YHWH.” It is only through upholding the Torah that G-d promises us blessing, goodness, and life. And so our Sages warned that we not overly frighten a potential convert, ‘lest we cause him distress and turn him from the good path (becoming Jewish) to the bad path (ie: not becoming Jewish);’ (Hil. Isurei Bi’ah 14,3) And similarly they stated concerning a potential convert: “For at the outset we draw a person forth with soft and appealing words, as the prophet states: ‘With cords of man, I drew them forth,’ (Hosea 11,4) and then continues: ‘with bonds of love.’ […] and we say to him, ‘ You should know that the World to Come is hidden away only for the righteous, and they are Israel.’” The Torah makes it clear that the convert is not inferior to the native-born Israelite: “An everlasting law for all your generations: as you are, so shall the convert be before YHWH;” (Num. 15,15).
14) Moral Absolutism.
We affirm the basic moral code that is universally recognized and historically accepted by all Abrahamic religions — the prohibitions of murder and bodily harm to the innocent, unnecessary abortion of an unborn baby, proactive euthanasia, rape, adultery, pre-marital sex or pre-marital foreplay, child-sex, bestiality, homosexual relations, lesbian relations, pornography, masturbation, stealing (regardless of the person’s religion or ethnicity), drunkenness, and the responsibility to respect the laws of one’s country. Some of these laws, though not explicit in the Written Torah, were clarified by the ancient Sages and recorded in the Talmudic literature. We reject as irrational and hypocritical the atheistic notion that morality is relative to societal norms. Were it so, those who espouse such an abnormal view should be penalized according to their own philosophy.
15) The Centrality of the Holy Land and the Temple.
The Almighty allotted the Land promised to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob to their seed the people of Israel. This Holy Land is entrusted to the children of Israel according to the conditions expressed in the Torah. Israel is assured blessing if it will, as a united people, uphold the covenant of Torah. Israel can similarly expect calamity if, as a people, they turn from Torah and walk according to the imaginations of their own hearts.
Though the Holy Land and Jerusalem are significant in our observance of G-d’s Torah, we are not permitted to govern the land in whatever means we desire. Israel’s presence as a united people in the Holy Land is subject to the legislative and judicial system elucidated by Haz”al. Consequentially, the current secular state in the Land is of no religious value to us. So long as Israel’s behavior in the Land, as a united people, is not in accord with Torah, neither is their presence in the Land in accord with Torah. We do not deny the statements Haz”al made concerning the preference to dwell in the Holy Land as a single Jew among idolaters rather than to dwell in exile within a Jewish community, but several factors must be taken into consideration concerning this statement.
1) The statement assumes the person under discussion gives weight to Torah & Haz”al.
2) The statement concerns a Jew ascending to dwell in the Land as an individual among non-Jews; not a massive united migration of mainly secular-humanist people of Jewish descent with premeditated intent to overthrow the then already existing local governments.
3) The statement assumes that the person would be able to maintain Torah observance as an individual among non-Jews.
4) The statement is not a requirement that a Jew, in a time of exile, live in the Holy Land in a situation where the non-Jews would be actively threatening the Jew’s life.
5) Assuming that eventually large communities of Jews form in the Holy Land as a result of several people migrating to the Holy Land as individuals, the quoted statement of Haz”al does not give them authority to rebel against the already established government.
The only form of mass migration of Jews to the Holy Land that is recognized as valid by Torah and halakha is a migration of the Jewish people to the Holy Land as a unified Torah observant people that heeds the parameters of warfare and government as expounded upon by Haz”al. Such a migration is only to occur under the leadership of a valid king of Israel, who is to be appointed by a Sanhedrin and a prophet, and with an anointed priest; (Hil. Melakhim 1,4; 7,1). This is not to say that the Jewish people cannot defend themselves when attacked. To the contrary, all Israel must come to the aid of his neighbor in such a scenario. This, however, does not justify unnecessary conquering of land in a manner contrary to halakha. Without a valid king of Israel or a restored Great Sanhedrin, the people of Israel are still subject to the nations. Those who wish to deny this cannot deny that it is anti-Torah individuals who control the current secular state, whose status, according to Haz”al, is that of “k-goy” (like a non-Jew), only “pahuthim hem min ha-goyim” (they are on a level lower than non-Jews) – Hil. Eduth 11,11.
16) Irresponsible Beliefs & Practices:
“Fathers shall not be put to death because of children, neither shall children be put to death because of the fathers; every man shall be put to death for his own sin;” (Deut. 24,16). We do not subscribe to the concepts of a vicarious human sacrifice or reincarnation. Both of these concepts encourage moral laxity on the part of the masses as well as passiveness rather than productivity. A person is more careful with his time and behavior when he realizes that this life is the one chance he has.
“Torah study without work leads to sin.” “Do not make the Torah an ax to chop with.” A rabbi whose income is dependent on a paid salary cannot take a stand on sensitive congregational or community issues lest it threaten his livelihood; and so, the sheep intimidate the shepherd. The shepherd is silenced, his staff does not guide, and the sheep go un-rebuked. Likewise with full-time avrechim. If you are dependent upon a kollel check, you are not likely to speak up or act on matters that you’ve learned from your studies if it will cause you to lose favor in the eyes of the kollel and prevent the check from coming. It makes Torah learning impotent. “You shall take no gift; for a gift blinds those who have sight, and perverts the words of the righteous;” (Ex. 23,8). “You shall not distort judgment; you shall not be partial; neither shall you take a bribe; for a bribe blinds the eyes of the wise and perverts the words of the righteous;” (Deut. 16,19).
R’ Yosef Eliyah & R’ Asher Meza
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