Learn Emunah:
Introduction to Section One:
The 13 Principles of Judaism

By Rabbi Shlomo Nachman © October 11, 2018

There are many ways to teach/learn Judaism. We have chosen to begin with the Thirteen Principles of Judaism as defined by Rambam. These are thirteen points that all Jews should be able to accept. Note that each of these points are understood in diverse ways. In this section we will examine each of these essential points.

As will be discussed in section two, beliefs alone do not make a person Jewish. Believing what Jews believe or doing what Jews do does not make one Jewish. Since the Tanach (Hebrew Bible) is the foundational Jewish Scripture and is revealed by the Holy One to the Jews, it is to the benefit of all who look to the Bible to understand our beliefs and interpretations. This course presents our core beliefs.

You are invited to become a talmid (student) of this course for one on one conversation with Rabbi Shlomo Nachman and/or to attend our live discussions. To register send your name and Google Hangout e-mail address to Rabbi Shlomo Nachman. Registered talmidim are invited to send in essays on the "Points to Consider" at the bottom of each page to the same address with your questions, comments, and insights.

HaShem's "Rod and Staff" Comforts Us

Rabbi and noted medical doctor Moses ben-Maimon (also known as Maimonides and Rambam) was born Passover Eve 1135 C.E. and died in Egypt (or Tiberias) on the 20th of Tevet, December 12, 1204. He was a preeminent medieval Jewish philosopher and one of the greatest Torah scholars of the Middle Ages, and arguably of all time. Among his many achievements is his carefully calculated list of the 613 biblical Commandments. This count is still generally accepted as authoritative by the vast majority of Jews, although other calculations do exist. The 613 Commandments are posted here.

There is of course a problem with any attempt to codify or legislate Jewish beliefs and Law. Religious Jews struggle intimately with HaShem over our beliefs and observances. Jews tend to be independent minded and seek to understand the why of the commandments as well as the how. For any human to dictate Halacha (Jewish Law) is to encourage heated debate. Despite this, the proper way of observing the 613 Commandments are fairly well established. Most Orthodox Jews agree on what is to be done and not done in most cases. The differences exist mainly in the details and local customs (minhag). Most non-Orthodox religious Jews are not Torah observant by Orthodox standards, however they generally seek to observe the spirit of the rules of the Law as well, if not the letter.

For most Jews what one believes is less important than what one does based on their beliefs, with certain key foundational exceptions. For the Orthodox it is usually more important to properly observe the mitzvot than to understand the beliefs underlying them. Nonetheless all religious Jews struggle for ever more understanding.

For instance, why the separation of meat and dairy? Tradition. There are many attempts to explain our various Traditions, but Orthodox Jews tend to maintain the Tradition first and seek understanding secondly. Tradition plays a critical role in all we do. It is what identifies us to ourselves and to the world.

Despite this, there is in a sense a Judaism that is unique for each Jew. This results in endless debate and opinions of course, but its one of our greatest strengths as a people. There is no "Jewish pope." Even the Chief Rabbis do not hold such authority. Each Jew determines our personal walk with HaShem within the boundaries of the Traditions and Halachic understandings we embrace.

Formal codifications (whether the 613 or these 13) sidestep this process by their very nature. Codification demands certain beliefs and actions. Despite our diversity and independent thought, there is unity within Judaism and Rambam offers these 13 principles as points that all religious Jews should be able to agree on. While the interpretation of these 13 beliefs are debated endlessly, the essential points are generally accepted by all religious Jews. If one rejects any of these principles it is questionable whether he/she is religiously Jewish.

Rambam's Thirteen Principles of Judaism

Source: The Koren Siddur

1. I believe with perfect emunah
  • that the Creator,
    blessed be His Name,
    creates and rules all creatures
    and that He alone made, makes, and will make, all things.
2. I believe with perfect emunah
  • that the Creator,
    blessed be His Name, is One.
    that there is no Oneness like His in any way;
    and that He alone is our God who was, is, and ever will be.
3. I believe with perfect emunah
  • that the Creator,
    blessed be His Name, is not physical,
    that no physical attributes can apply to Him,
    and that there is nothing whatsoever to compare to Him.
4. I believe with perfect emunah
  • that the Creator,
    blessed be His Name, is first and last.
5. I believe with perfect emunah
  • that the Creator,
    blessed be His Name,
    is the only one to whom it is proper to pray,
    and that it is improper to pray to anyone else.
6. I believe with perfect emunah
  • that all the words of the prophets are true.
7. I believe with perfect emunah
  • that the prophecy of Moses our teacher,
    peace be to him, was true,
    and that he was the father of the prophets --
    those who preceded him and those who followed him.
8. I believe with perfect emunah
  • 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 perfect emunah
  • that this Torah will not be changed,
    nor will there be any other Torah from the Creator,
    blessed be His Name.
10. I believe with perfect emunah
  • that the Creator, blessed be His Name,
    knows all the deeds and thoughts of humanity,
    as it is said, "He fashions the hearts of them all,
    comprehending all their deeds."
11. I believe with perfect emunah
  • that the Creator, blessed be His Name,
    rewards those who keep His commandments,
    and punishes those who transgress them.
12. I believe with perfect emunah
  • in the coming of the Messiah,
    and though he may delay,
    I wait daily for his coming.
13. I believe with perfect emunah
  • that the dead will live again
    at a time of the Creator's choosing:
    blessed be His Name and exalted be His mention for ever and all time.

Points to Consider:

Go to Lesson One

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