Rabbi Moses Maimonides *

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By the grace of G-d 
Copyright © 1997 Nathaniel Segal 
  A Brief Biography of Maimonides  

from The Book of the Commandments —
   written by Maimonides as an overview and introduction to his Code

. . . [Those who are party to the Covenant at Mount Sinai] have been commanded to love G-d by meditating on and contemplating His commandments and actions in order to understand Him and delight in full appreciation of Him with the greatest pleasure.  This is the love commanded in the verse: "You shall love the L-rd, your G-d"  (Deuteronomy 6:5).

Then our Sages asked, "Do we know how to love the Al-mighty?"  And they answered, "So the next verse continues, 'And these things that I am commanding you today shall be upon your heart.'  By [placing these words upon your heart], you recognize the One Who spoke and thereby created the world"  (Sifrei *).

Here we have explained how appreciation comes about through contemplation, resulting in pleasure, and ultimately love.

The Sages also taught us that this commandment includes inviting our fellow humans to serve Him and believe in Him.  This is analogous to when we really love someone.  We are continually lauding and praising them, and we encourage others to love and appreciate them.  Similarly, if we truly love G-d according to the best of our understanding, then we will certainly share our experience.  We will encourage the naive and immature to learn the truth to the extent that we have been granted to know.

As our Sages said: "'You shall love the L-rd' also means making Him loved by humanity as Abraham did.  This is the meaning of the verse '. . . and the souls that they made in Haran . . .'"  (Genesis 12:5; Sifrei).

. . . Just as Abraham harnessed his great love of G-d to bring humanity to faith, so too, "you shall love the L-rd" to the extent of calling other people to Him.

  (Compare this with Maimonides' Code, Book of Knowledge, Fundamental Laws of the Torah, Chapter 4, Halacha * 12.)

The warning that G-d prohibited us from allowing anyone who worships idols to live in our land, so that we should not learn from their apostasy.  In Scripture G-d says, "They shall not dwell in your land, lest they bring you to sin against me" (Exodus 23:33).

Even if such a heathen just wants to pass through our land, we are not permitted to allow such a thing, unless he or she agrees to abandon idol worship.  Then such a person is permitted to dwell [in our land].  The Torah calls them "resident converts" (ger toshav *).  The idea is that these are persons who have converted their ways [to the monotheism of the Torah] for the purpose of residing in the Land of Israel.

The Sages said (in the Talmud, Tractate Avodah Zarah 64b):  "Who is a resident convert?  This is someone who accepted upon himself/herself not to worship idols — the words of Rabbi Judah."

However, anyone who worships idols is not allowed to live in the Land of Israel.  Neither do we sell nor lease him land.  The explanation is explicit:  do not give them [the idol worshipers] a foothold in the land.

The particular laws of this commandment are explained in the Talmud in Tractates Sanhedrin and Avodah Zarah.

The Book of the Commandments — English edition

The Commandments: Sefer Ha-Mitzvoth of Maimonides
Translated from the Hebrew by Rabbi Charles B. Chavel
in two volumes, bound separately or together
"Volume One: The Positive Commandments"
"Volume Two: The Negative Commandments"
with foreword, notes, glossary, appendices, indices, and bibliography
The translation into English is based on the new Hebrew translation (from Arabic)
by Rabbi Joseph Kapach, 1958, Mosad Harav Kook.
Volume 1 pages: xxiv, 309
Volume 2 pages: xviii, 447
Maimonides introduction: pages 338-347 and 361-425 in Volume 2
(London/Jerusalem/New York: The Soncino Press, 1967)

Pronunciation Notes & Other Notes:

Maimonides - my MAHN ih deez

The Book of the Commandments - The title in Arabic is Kitab Al-Fara'id – The Book of the Divine Precepts.

Code - the Mishneh Torahmish NEH toh RAH; also MISH neh TOH rah

613 Commandments - People who are not Jewish have Seven Commandments — the Covenant with Noah's descendants.

Sifrei - siff RAY;  A legal commentary on the Biblical books Numbers and Deuteronomy.  This title means literally 'books' in the Aramaic language.  By legal commentary, I mean a source of Halacha as derived from verses in the order that they appear in the Bible.

Halacha - hah lah KHAH, hah LUH khuh;  Both the totality and the details of proper Jewish conduct.  In the context of Maimonides' Code, it means a single paragraph of detailed ruling of law.  Each of his chapters consists of several related laws.

ger toshav - resident stranger or foreigner;  GEHR toh SHAHV

Talmud - Without any qualification, this refers to the Babylonian Talmud – the Talmud created within the Jewish communities of Babylonia.  The Jewish community of the Land of Israel's Galilee compiled what is called the Jerusalem Talmud.

Judah - Yehuda

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