THE THIRTEEN PRINCIPLES OF FAITH, ACCORDING TO RAMBAM (MAIMONIDES)
°[the Principles and commentary upon them are excerpted from The Complete Artscroll Siddur, Nusach Ashkenaz (European Jewish version), published by Mesorah Publications, Ltd., New York, New York, © 1984.]
Historically, Judaism never separated belief from performance. In the Torah, the commandment to believe in G-d is not stated any differently than the commandment to lend money to a fellow Jew in need, or to refrain from eating non-kosher food [ed. note- non-kosher food is that which does not conform to the dietary laws as laid out in the Torah, such as the commandments not to eat pork or shellfish, or to mix meat with milk]. As the centuries rolled by, however, philosophical speculation and dogmas became prevalent among other religions and, in time, began to influence a number of Jews. To counteract this trend, midieval Rabbinical authorities felt the need to respond by defining the principles of Judaism. The 'Thirteen Principles of Faith' are based upon the formulation of Rambam [Moses Maimonides] in his Commentary to Mishnah (Sanhedrin, ch. 10) and have achieved nearly universal acceptance.
The Thirteen Principles fall into three general categories: (a) the nature of belief in G-d; (b) the authenticity of the Torah, its validity and immutability; and (c) man's responsibility and ultimate reward.
A) The Nature of Belief in G-d
°1. G-d's Existance. There is no partnership in creation. G-d is the sole Creator and the universe continues to exist only because He wills it so...
°2. G-d is a complete and total Unity. He is not a collection of limbs and organs, as are man and animals. He canoy 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. [ed. note- the Shema is the prayer which expresses the core belief of Judaism: "Hear, o Israel, the L-rd is our G-d, the L-rd is One. Blessed be the name of His glorious Kingdom forever and ever.]
°3. G-d is not physical nor can His essence be grasped by the Human imagination... [ed. note- G-d is infinite; we are finite; it is physically impossible for a finite construction such as the human mind to contain a concept of the infinite like G-d's essence]
°4. G-d is eternal and the First Source. Everything in the created universe has a moment when it came into existance; by definition no creature can be infinite. G-d transcends time, however, because time itself is His creation.
°5. Prayers should be directed to G-d. It is tempting to beseech the angels or such mighty forces as the sun or constellations, because G-d has entrusted them with carrying out His will. None of them have any power independent of what G-d assigns them. Therefore, prayers should only be directed towards G-d Himself.
B) Authenticity of the Torah
°6. G-d 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 G-d 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 G-d-given. Every word in the Torah was dictated to Moses by G-d... There is no difference between [the apparently trivial verses] and [the awsomely important verses]. Moreover, the same applies to the Oral Law that explains the Torah. All was given by G-d to Moses.
°9. The Torah is unchangable. Since both the Written and Oral Law were G-d-given, they cannot be improved upon in any way.
C) Man's Responsibility and Ultimate Reward
°10. G-d knows man's thoughts and deeds. Man's individual deeds are important to G-d and so are the hopes and thoughts that drive him. G-d is aware of everything man thinks and does.
°11. Reward and punishment. No one acts in a vacuum and no deed goes unrewarded or unpunished. This includes 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 our lives according to the Torah and remain faithful that the Messiah will come at the time deemed by G-d to be proper. This faith includes the principle that only the Davidic dynasty [ed. note- decendents of King David] will provide the Messianic King. [ed. note- the Messiah will be a human being, not in any way divine.]
°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. [ed. note- Judaism holds that the righteous of other faiths will also enjoy these rewards]
Excerpted from _The Complete Artscroll Siddur,_ pp 178-180, Mesorah Publications, Ltd., Copyright 1984, New York, New York.