Maimonides' Thirteen Principles, which he describes as the roots and foundations of the Jewish religion (a literal translation: "Thirteen Principles of the Foundations of the Religion") first appeared in his Commentary on the Mishnah as an introduction to the final chapter of the tractate Sanhedrin. They were subsequently abbreviated and were later appended to many versions of the daily prayer book. To this day, these principles constitute one of the clearest statements of Jewish belief ever written. *
In Hasidic literature, the thirteen principles have received a scholarly and methodical analysis. This volume is based on the teachings and writings of several of the most prominent Hasidic masters, notably those of the Lubavitch dynasty. Each principle is treated as a meditation, a soul-illuminating insight into the very depths of one's being, the nature of G-d and His teachings, and the Torah. This work is not an exposition but rather an expedition into the thirteen principles of faith.
Hasidic philosophy views all of Torah as a manifestation of G-d Himself. Thus the Thirteen Principles are not merely descriptive, a philosophical statement of lofty Jewish ideals. Their intention is experiential: they are intended to be an encounter with ourselves, with the axioms upon which we base our lives, with the wisdom of G-d, and ultimately, as a happy encounter with G-d himself.
The first chapter of this work discusses why there are only thirteen fundamental principles and how to broadly apply them to the entire structure of Jewish faith. The chapter moves on to explain why Maimonides begins each principle with the words, "I believe with complete faith," which would appear to contradict his premise that the most fundamental of principles is knowing – not believing – that G-d exists. Gurary then goes on to examine each principle in great detail, how it defines a person's relationship to G-d and Torah, and how to apply each principle as a way of life.
Noson Gurary is an ordained rabbi and Jewish judge. He received his rabbinic ordination at the Central Lubavitcher Yeshiva in Brooklyn, New York. He recently (as of publishing in 1996) received his doctorate in Jewish philosophy from the Moscow Lomonosov University in Russia.
Rabbi Gurary is currently the executive director of the Chabad Houses in upstate New York and has taught in the Judaic Studies Department at State University of New York, Buffalo, for the past twenty-four years. He has published numerous articles in rabbinic publications and has lectured on campuses all over the United States.
Rabbi Gurary lives in Buffalo, New York, with his wife and seven children.
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* The Jewish religion or universal religion? – an essay by Nathaniel Segal
Maimonides actually calls his principles of faith the "Thirteen Principle Foundations of Religion." This how he introduces the text of these principles in his Commentary on the Mishnah. One assumes that Maimonides is referring to the Jewish religion.
However, Maimonides also authored the Code – the Mishneh Torah. In Chapter 9 of the "Laws of Kings and Their Wars," ruling 9, we learn:
We [Jews] do not allow them [Noahites] to establish a new religion or to create commandments of their own which originate in their own minds. Instead, either a Noahite becomes a righteous convert and accepts all of the  commandments [that every Jew is expected to observe], or he/she should remain with the instructions designated for him/her and not add or subtract.
This suggests the possibility that Maimonides is describing the universal principles of religion in his Commentary on the Mishnah. Accordingly, if a religion exists which deviates from these principles, it is a false religion. Therefore, the principles of Noahide religion are the same as the principles of the Jewish religion. Granted that obligations differ between Jews and Noahites, but the belief system is the same. Continued >>