THE THIRTEEN PRINCIPLES OF MAIMONIDES
Orthodox Judaism is defined by the thirteen Articles of Faith written by the medieval scholar, Maimonides. His Jewish name was Moses ben Maimon, and he has come to be so highly esteemed that there is a saying, “From Moses to Moses, there is no greater than Moses.” He is commonly known as “Rambam,” an abbreviation taken from Rabbi Moses ben Maimon. He was born in Spain in 1135 A.D. and died in Egypt in 1204. His Thirteen Principles are given in two forms: as theological statements, and also in a creedal form called the “Ani ma’amin” (“I believe...”).
The Thirteen Principles
1. God exists. There is no partnership in creation. God is the sole Creator, and the universe continues to exist only because He wills it so.
2. God is a complete and total Unity. He is not a collection of limbs and organs, as are man and animals. He cannot be split as can a rock or divided into component elements as can everything in Creation. This is the concept expressed in the first verse of the Shema: “Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is a Unity.”
3. God is not physical, nor can His essence be grasped by the human imagination.
4. God is eternal and the First Source. Everything in the created universe has a moment when it came into existence. By definition, no creature can be infinite. God transcends time, however, because time itself is His creation.
5. Prayers should be directed to God. It is tempting to beseech the angels or such mighty forces as the sun or constellations, because God has entrusted them with carrying out His will. None of them have any power independent of what God assigns them. Therefore, prayers should only be directed towards God Himself.
6. God communicates with man. In order for man to carry out his divinely ordered mission, he must know what it is. Prophecy is the means by which God communicates His wishes to man. It is a gift that man can attain upon reaching heights of self-perfection.
7. Moses’ prophecy is unique. Moses’ prophecy is not only true, but of a quality unapproached by that of any prophet before or since. It is essential that his prophecy be unrivaled so that no later prophet could ever claim that he had received a Torah that was superior to that of Moses.
8. The entire Torah is God-given. Every word in the Torah was dictated to Moses by God. There is no difference between trivial verses and important verses. Moveover, the same applies to the Oral Law that explains the Torah. All was given by God to Moses.
9. The Torah is unchangeable. Since both the Written and Oral Law were God-given, they cannot be improved upon in any way.
10. God knows man’s thoughts and deeds. Man’s individual deeds are important to God and so are the hopes and thoughts that drive him. God is aware of everything man thinks and does.
11. There is reward and punishment. No one acts in a vacuum and no deed goes unrewarded or unpunished. This includes the fact that one cannot cancel out a bad deed with a good one. Each is treated independently.
12. The Messiah will come. We are to conduct out lives according to the Torah and remain faithful that the Messiah will come at the time deemed by God to be proper. This faith includes the principle that only the Davidic dynasty will provide the Messianic King.
13. The dead will live again in the Messianic era, when the world will attain a new spiritual and physical level of perfection. Those who have not been found too unworthy to enter this exalted state will live again to enjoy it.
The Creed (Ani ma’amin)
1. I believe with complete faith that the Creator, blessed is His Name, creates and guides all creatures and that He alone made, makes, and will make everything.
2. I believe with complete faith that the Creator, blessed is His Name, is unique, and there is no uniqueness like His in any way, and that He alone is our God, Who was, Who is, and Who will always be.
3. I believe with complete faith that the Creator, blessed is His Name, is not physical and is not affected by any physical phenomena, and that there is no comparison whatsoever to Him.
4. I believe with complete faith that the Creator, blessed is His Name, is the very first and the very last.
5. I believe with complete faith that the Creator, blessed is His Name, to Him alone is it proper to pray and it is not proper to pray to any other.
6. I believe with complete faith that all the words of the prophets are true.
7. I believe with complete faith that the prophecy of Moses our teacher, peace be upon him, was true, and that he was the father of the prophets, both those who preceeded him and those who followed him.
8. I believe with complete faith that the entire Torah now in our hands is the same one that was given to Moses, our teacher, peace be upon him.
9. I believe with complete faith that this Torah will not be exchanged nor will there be another Torah from the Creator, blessed is His Name.
10. I believe with complete faith that the Creator, blessed is His Name, knows the deeds of all human beings and their thoughts, as it is said, “He fashions their hearts all together; He comprehends all their deeds.”
11. I believe with complete faith that the Creator, blessed is His Name, rewards with good all those who observe His commandments, and punishes those who violate His commandments.
12. I believe with complete faith in the coming of the Messiah, and even though he may delay, nevertheless I anticipate every day that he will come.
13. I believe with complete faith that there will be a resuscitation of the dead whenever the wish emanates from the Creator, blessed is His Name and exalted is His mention, forever and for all eternity.
For Your salvation do I long, Lord. I do long, Lord, for Your salvation. Lord, for Your salvation do I long.