Judah Halevi




   14.The Jewish scholar [haver]. The ancient philosophers could justify their
recourse to rational argument on the grounds that they did not have the benefit
of prophecy or of the light of revelation. They brought the sciences concerned
with proof to the highest pitch of perfection and devoted themselves single-
mindedly to them. In these sciences there are no differences of opinion between
them. But it is hard to find them agreeing in the subjects which come after these
sciences -in metaphysics and, indeed, often in physics as well. Should you find
a number of them agreeing on some particular point, it is not because of any
independent investigation they have carried out, or because they have reached
the same conclusion, but it is because they form the school of some philosopher
whose views they blindly follow (such as the school of Pythagoras, or the school
ofEmpedocles, or the school of Aristotle, or the school of Plato), or it is because
they follow the Companions of the Porch [the Stoics], or the Peripatetics, who
are a part of the school of Aristotle. [1
  On fundamental principles the philosophers hold opinions which are absurd
to the intellect, and which the intellect treats with contempt. Such, for example,
is their explanation of the revolution of the celestial sphere. They state that the
sphere seeks for a perfection which it lacks, namely, to occupy all possible
spatial positions. Since it cannot achieve such a state simultaneously in respect
of each of its constituent parts, it attempts to achieve it by occupying each
possible position in turn. Equally false is their opinion regarding the
emanations which flow from the First Cause. They maintain that from an
angel's knowledge of the First Cause there arises of necessity another angel, and
from the angel's knowledge of itself there arises a sphere; and so the process of
emanation advances step by step down through eleven stages till the
emanations come to an end with the Active Intellect from which arises neither
an angel nor a sphere. And they hold other views like these which are less
convincing than those advanced in the Seier Yezirah.l All these opinions are
highly dubious, and it is impossible to find any two philosophers agreeing on
them. However, we should not blame the philosophers for this. Rather, they
deserve our praise for what they managed to achieve simply through the force
of rational argument. Their intentions were good, they established the laws of
thought, and they rejected the pleasures of this world. They may, in any case, be
granted superiority, since they were not obliged to accept our opinions. We,
however, are obliged to accept whatever we see with our own eyes, or any well
founded tradition, which is tantamount to seeing for oneself. [2
  15. The Khazar king. Please give me a brief account of the views held by the
tneologians whom the 'Qaraites call the 'Masters ot the Science of Kalam'. [3
  16. The Jewish scholar. This would have no value -save as an exercise in
dialectics, or as in aid to fulfilling the injunction of the Sages, 'Take care how to
reply to an Epicurean' (Mishnah, Pirqei Avot 2:14). A simple, wise man, such
as a prophet, can impart little to others by way of instruction, nor can he solve a
problem by dialectic methods, whereas the Master ofKalam has such an aura of
learning that those who hear him regard him as superior to the simple, pious
man whose learning consists of beliefs which no one can induce him to abandon.
Yet the supreme achievement for the Master ofKalam, in all that he learns and
teaches, would be that there should enter into his own soul and into the souls of
his students those very beliefs which are implanted naturally in the soul of the
simple man. It can happen that the science of Kalam destroys many true beliefs
in a man's heart by introducing him to doubts and conflicting opinions. The
Masters of Kalam are like experts on poetic metres who investigate scansion,
Such experts make a great fuss and use a lot of formidable tenDS to describe a
skill which comes easily to the naturally gifted poet, who senses the metre and so
never breaks in any way the rules of scansion. The ultimate achievement for the
prosodic expert would be to acquire the skill of the natural poet, who appears
ignorant of scansion because he cannot teach it, in contrast to the expert who
can. As a matter of fact the naturally gifted person can teach someone as gifted
as himself, by the merest hint. The same may be said about those who possess a
natural aptitude for living in accordance with the divine law and for drawing
near to God: through the words of the pious, sparks are kindled in their souls,
which become rays of illumination in their hearts. A man not endowed with
such a natural gift must resort, perforce, to the Kalam, which may not bring
him any benefit, and may possibly cause him positive hanD. [4
  17. The Khazar king. I do not want a lengthy exposition of the subject;
rather all I ask for is a summary of the basic principles, to serve me as an aide-
memoire, for I have already heard something of them, and my soul desires to
know more. [5
  18. The Jewish scholar. First principle. The first point to be established is
that the world was originated. This may be demonstrated by refuting the
contrary view that it is eternal. If the past were without beginning, then the
number of individuals existing in the period stretching from the past down to
our own time would be infinite. But that which is infinite can never become
actual. How, then, did those individuals become actual, if they were so
numerous as to be infinite? There can be no doubt, therefore, that the past had a
beginning and that the number of individuals that have existed is finite. For
although it is within the power of the intellect to count thousands and millions
multiplied without end, this is possible only potentially; no one could achieve it
in actuality. Anything that comes to actuality is counted as a single entity, and
so too any number which has become actual must undoubtedly be finite, for
how could that which is infinite ever have become actual? So the world had a
beginning and the celestial sphere has performed only a finite number of
revolutions. [6
Furthermore, neither division nor multiplication nor any numerical ratio
can apply to that which is infinite. Yet we know that the revolutions of the sun
are one-twelfth those of the moon, and that the other movements of the celestial
spheres stand in similar relationships to each other, so that one can be expressed
as a fraction of the other. But fractions cannot apply to what is infinite, so how
could all these movements be infinite when some fall short of or exceed others,
that is to say, are greater or less in magnitude? [7
Furthermore, how could that which is infinite ever have reached us? If an
infinite number of created beings preceded us, how could the number ever have
terminated with us? That which reaches an end must have had a beginning, for
were this not so, then every individual before coming into existence would have
had to await the coming into being of an infinite series of individuals preceding
him, and so no one would ever come into existence. [8
Second principle. The world is originated because it is a body. A body must
be either in a state of motion or in a state of rest. The state emerging in the body
is obviously originated, as may be seen from the simple fact of its emergence; the
antecedent state which it replaces must also be originated, for had it been pre-
existent it could never have suffered extinction. Both motion and rest,
therefore, are originated attributes. But whatever is inseparable from
originated attributes must itself be originated, since it could not have existed
prior to those attributes, and if the attributes are originated, then it must be
originated as well. [9
Third principle. Whatever is originated must have a cause which originated
it, for whatever is originated must have come into being at a specific point in
time. It would have been possible to have assigned it to an earlier or a later time,
so the fact that it came into being when it did and not earlier or later, testifies to
the existence of a cause which assigned it to that specific point in time. [10
Fourth principle. God is pre-existent, and there never was a time when he
was not; for had he been originated he would have required an originator, and
so we would find ourselves caught in an infinite regress. But it is impossible that
we should not come in the end to a pre-existent Creator who is the First Cause,
and he is the one whom we seek. [11
Fifth princIple. God is everlasting and will never pass away. A being whose
pre-existence has been established cannot cease to be. The emergence of non-
existence as much requires a cause as the emergence of existence. Nothing is
annihilated through its own agency, but through the agency of an opposing
force. God, however, can neither have an opposite nor a like. Anything like him
in every respect would be identical to him and could not be conceived of as
distinct from him. On the other hand, an opposing, annihilating force could not
share pre-existence with him, for it has already been shown that God's existence
is prior to that of everything else. Nor is it possible that the annihilating force
could have been originated, for everything that is originated depends for its
existence on the pre-existent Cause, and it is surely inconceivable that that
which has been caused should annihilate the cause WhICh brought It into
being. [12
Sixth principle. God is not a body, for a body is inseparable from originated
attributes, and whatever is inseparable from originated attributes is itself
originated. So, too, it is false to regard God as an accident, for an accident can
subsist only in the body which bears it: the accident depends for its existence on
the body, adhering to it and being borne by it. Nor is God defined or delimited
by any of the dimensions of space, for this is one of the characteristics of a
body. [13
Seventh princIPle. God knows everything, both that which is universal and
that which is particular. Nothing escapes his knowledge, for it has been shown
that he created, ordered and arranged everything, as Scripture says: 'Is the one
who planted the ear unable to hear? The creator of the eye unable to see?' (Ps.
94:9). Again it says: 'Darkness would not be dark to you' (Ps. 139:12). And
again: 'It was you who created my innermost being' (Ps. 139:13). [14
Eighth principle. God is living. Since it has already been established that
God possesses knowledge and power, then the fact that he possesses life has
been established as well. His life, however, is not as our life which is defined by
sensation and motion. Rather his life consists of pure thought, and his life is
identical with him and he with it. [15
Ninth principle. God possesses will. With regard to everything that issues
from before him, the possibility exists that its opposite could have issued, or that
it might not have come into being at all, or that it could have issued earlier than
it did or later. God's power encompasses equally the different possibilities. We
need, therefore, to postulate the presence of a will directing God's power to one
of the possibilities to the exclusion of the other. It is also possible to say that
God's knowledge is alone sufficient, without speaking of power or will, since his
knowledge is specific to one of the contrary possibilities. God's pre-existent
knowledge, then, would be the cause of everything that happens. This agrees
with the opinion of the philosophers. [16
Tenth princIple. God's will is pre-existent and accords with his knowledge;
therefore nothing new emerges in this will, nor does it undergo any change. God
lives with the life of his own essence, not with an acquired life; so too he is
powerful through his power and willing through his will, for it is impossible for
a thing and that which negates it to coexist; hence one may not make the
unqualified statement 'He is powerful without power'. [17
  19. The Khazar king. This is sufficient to refresh my memory. Without
doubt what you have related about the soul and the intellect and about these
articles of belief comes from your recollection of what others have said. Now I
would like to hear your own opinions and your own creed. You have already
said to me that you intend to investigate these and similar matters. In my view
you cannot avoid discussing the problem of predestination and freewill, since it
is a question of such importance for human conduct. So tell me now your views
on this point. [18


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