The Thirteen Principles of Faith

Maimonides' theological principles were never unanimously embraced.

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Principle 5

God should be the only object of worship and praise. One should not appeal to intermediaries, but should pray directly to God.

Objections

Some of the selihot prayers--prayers of repentance recited on fast days and during the High Holy Days--and the third paragraph of the Shalom Aleichem hymn, sung prior to the Shabbat kiddush, are directed to angels. In addition, one of the Geonim--the leaders of Babylonian Jewry from the 7th to 11th centuries--defended the use of angels to intercede with God (Ozar ha-Geonim, Shabbat 4-6).  He added that angels could sometimes fulfill the petitions of a prayer without consulting God.

Jacob Emden (1697-1776) is among some of the others who have approved of petitioning angels to intercede on ones behalf. Nissim Gerondi (Ran) maintained that there is one specific angel whom one may pray to.

Principle 6

Prophets and prophecy exist.

Principle 7

Moses was the greatest prophet who ever lived. No prophet who lived or will live could comprehend God more than Moses.

Objections

Nahmanides and Gersonides believed that the Messiah would gain more knowledge of God than Moses. Shneur Zalman of Lyady (1745-1813), the first Lubavitcher Rebbe, in his Likutei Amarim, notes that Moses' prophetic abilities weren't as great as those of Isaac Luria, the renowned medieval kabbalist.

Principle 8

The Torah is from heaven. The Torah we have today is the Torah that God gave to Moses at Sinai. 

Comment

This principle assumes that there is and has always been one text of the Torah and that the Masoretic text--the text established by ben Asher in 930 CE--is this text.

Objections

The Talmud (Baba Batra 14b-15a; Makot 11a) relates that Joshua wrote the last 8 verses of the Torah. Abraham Ibn Ezra believed that Joshua wrote the last 12 verses. The Midrash Tanhuma, a rabbinc text, cites cases of tikkun soferim, instances where the scribes of the Great Assembly (the leaders of the Jews during the Persian exile) emended the Bible--including the Torah.

Menahem ben Solomon ha-Meiri mentions the "Masoretic works" instead of a singular "Masoretic text."

Solomon ben Aderet (Rashba) discussed when we should change our Torah to accord with the Talmud's version (which differs from the Masoretic text). Aryeh Loeb Guenzberg (18th century) opined that the commandment that every Jew write a Torah scroll no longer applies because of our doubts about how certain words are to be written. Similarly, Moses Sofer (1762-1839) believed that there's no need to say a blessing before writing a Torah because, perhaps, the Talmud's version is correct and the Torah being written is invalid.

Principle 9

The Torah will never be abrogated, nothing will be added to it or subtracted from it; God will never give another Law.

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Daniel Septimus

Daniel Septimus is Executive Director of The Sefaria Project. Previously, he served as Chief Executive Officer of MyJewishLearning, Inc.