Ikkarei Emunah

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The Rambam lists his ikkarim in his introduction to the chapter “Cheileq” in Tr. Sanhedrin. The mishnah states “All of Israel has a portion in the World to Come except…” The Rambam is addressing the question of who is “Yisrael” in this mishnah, which beliefs keep one from their guaranteed portion in the World to Come. (See also Hilkhos Teshuvah ch. 3.)The Ikkarim isn’t. R’ Yosef Albo has three ikkarim from which he derives 8 shorashim (roots). Shorashim are just as mandatory beliefs as ikkarim. However, ikkarim are the postulates, shorashim their theorems. He also derives many anafim (branches), beliefs that are not defining features of Judaism.In fact, R’ Albo points out that all “revealed” religions share the three ikkarim. It’s the shorashim that distinguish Judaism from them. He is seeking the minimal list of primary principles that from which you can reason your way to a complete belief system. They both use the same word “ikkarim”, but to mean different things: necessary belief vs postulate.I thought it would be interesting to line up the Rambam’s ikkarim with those of the Seifer ha’Ikkarim. One point of strong similarity is that in Hilkhos Teshuvah 3, the Rambam defines three types of heretic. I would argue that this is an aspect of the same notion.

  • Ikkar 1- Hashem exists (Rambam ikkar 1) – H”T 3:7 denial makes one a min
    • Shoresh 1.1- Divine Unity (Rambam ikkar 2)
    • Shoresh 1.2- That He has no body (Rambam ikkar 3)
    • Shoresh 1.3- That He is beyond the concept of time (Rambam ikkar 4)
    • Shoresh 1.4- That He is perfect (Rambam ikkarim 2 and 5, see below)
  • Ikkar 2- Revelation
    • Shoresh 2.1- Accepting the nevi’im (Rambam ikkar 6)
    • Shoresh 2.2- Moshe Rabbeinu’s uniqueness (Rambam ikkar 7)
    • Shoresh 2.3- The binding nature of the Torah (Rambam ikkarim 8 and 9)
  • Ikkar 3- Divine Justice (Rambam ikkarim 10 and 11)
    • Shoresh 3.1- Resurrection of the dead (Rambam ikkar 13)

Even further, looking at Rambam’s Hilkhos Teshuvah ch. 3, he lists three kinds of heretic who loses their place in the world to come. Halakhah 7 (15 in Qafeh’s ed.) defines a min exactly in terms of those articles of faith listed above as corresponding to ikkar 1 and its shorashim.

Similarly, the Rambam’s definition of apiqoreis (3.8) includes his ikkarim that address the same issues as R’ Yosef Albo’s 2nd ikkar and its shorashim — the nature of revelation.

However, defying the Torah (shoresh 2.3) is considered a form of kefirah, as would be denying notions of justice or an afterlife (2:6). This is a different line, therefore, between what the Ikkarim calls the ikkarim of Revelation and Justice. Implicitly, the Rambam is saying that informing the people of the law has more to do with G-d’
So their entire debate, once stripped of terminology differences, is on two points:

1- According to the Ikkarim, belief in mashiach (the Rambam’s 12th ikkar) is an anaf, a branch on the Tree of Life, but not necessary for its survival. So, the Rambam declares a person who doesn’t believe in mashiach a heretic and has no place in the World to Come (Teshuvah 3:6), the Ikkarim does not.

2- R’ Albo’s fourth shoresh from his first ikkar is that Hashem is uniquely perfect. The Ikkarim does include the worthiness of Hashem as a focus of worship as part of His uniqueness. I can not tell is this is part of the shoresh, or an anaf of it. (Which would be prohibited, but as idolatry, not heresy.)

Hashem’s uniqueness is part of the Rambam’s second ikkar about His Unity — He is both indivisible and unlike everything else. The Rambam’s fifth ikkar is that no one but Hashem is worthy of prayer, specifically making it about not having no other point of worship. So unlike my inability to determine if the Ikkarim makes this a central belief, the Rambam is clear on this point.

Just tonight I saw a third list of ikkarim, this time also in the Rambam’s sense of the word. The mishnah in Avos (3:15 or in some editions 3:11) gives a different list of people who have no portion in the World to Come.

Rabbi Elazar haModa’i (from Modi’in) said, “Someone who desecrates sacred objects, or who disgraces the festivals, or who pales the face of his peer [by embarrassing him] in public, or who annuls the covenant of our father Avraham a”h, or one who interprets the Torah not according to halakhah — even if he has Torah and good deeds, he has no portion in the World to Come.

The Tif’eres Yisrael (ad loc) explains that each action is demonstrative of a lack of belief in a critical belief. He uses the term apiqoreis to refer to such unbelievers.

The first is someone who denies the existence of G-d. He has no reason to acknowledge sanctity.

The second believes in G-d, but believes that the world is eternal. That reality emanates from an impersonal deity and therefore is coeternal with him. (In short, Platonism.) Such a person denies both creation and G-d’s “Hand” in history, and therefore Shabbos and the holidays are meaningless to him.

The third heretic believes in G-d, who created the world and runs it, but denies the human soul. He believes that the mind is merely the mechanics of the brain and people are thus not different in kind to animals. He has no reason to value human dignity, and therefore nothing stands in the way of his embarrassing others.

The fourth believes in souls, but not the convenant with Avraham. An attitude represented by the one who tries to alter himself to hide the beris milah of that covenant.

The last category is the person who believe in all of the above, but not that the covenant includes the Oral Torah. Therefore, like a Fundamentalist or a Qaraite, he would be lead to concluding that any of his own conclusions drawn from the text are as valid as any other, with no mesoretic process relaying proper and improper derivations.

This last list doesn’t correspond to either of the others. But the most notable difference in content is that it doesn’t include any eschatology — it doesn’t require belief in judgment in an afterlife, nor of mashiach and the resurrection of the dead. This is a very different trend than the one I wrote of in an earlier essay:

I would argue that HQBH created the world with a tachlis, a purpose, He placed each of us in it with a tachlis, and what is righteous is righteous because it is in accordance with furthering that tachlis. …
This means that of the Rambam’s ikkarei emunah, perhaps the last three are the most critical. Without an eschatology, without a final state, we have no way of defining which acts advance us to that goal, and which are ra, shattering that which was already built.

And your thoughts...?

  1. “So, the Rambam declares a person who doesn’t believe in mashiach a heretic and has no place in the World to Come (Teshuvah 3:6), the Ikkarim does not.”

    the ikarim says in perek 23 that not believing in anafim is minus, and such a person has no chelek in olam habo.

    the bal anafim (in perek 1) tries to say that this is not “real minus” but this is clearly a misreading of the ikarim. He also mangles the rambam in this section (saying the rambam’s “nikrain minin” are also not real minim). More generally, he isolates perek 1 (where the ikarim brings the gemara with R Hillel to argue on the Rambam) from perek 2 (where the ikarim takes the raavad’s position that a person who is kofer b’shogeg has a chelek in olam habo). He understands that the ikarim is bringing the story with R Hillel to demonstrate that failure to believe in moshiach doesn’t make a person a kofer. However, the ikarim doesn’t draw this lesson – once he takes the side of the raavad in perek 2 he can’t be taking this position, as the proof disappears (the gemara is quoting R Hillel because he is a kofer b’shogeg).
    I believe the bal anafim is mistaken and that there is no justification for reading the ikarim’s statement in perek 23 that someone who is a min “af al pi she’eyno kofer b’torah eyn lo chelek l’olam habo” – which is as clear as can be – as though it read “v’eyno eyn lo chelek lolam habo”