Halacha L’Moshe MiSinai
Volume 2: Number 3
The First Mitzvah: To Believe In The Existence Of G-D.
It is a positive Mitzvah to believe that there is a G-d in existence.
Hafetz Hayyim: He …brought all existing entities into being, and all the worlds, by His power and blessed wish. It is He who watches over everything. This is the foundation of our faith, and whoever does not believe this denies the very main principle [the one and only G-d], and he as no share or right among the Jewish people. We are duty bound to be ready to give life and our might and main for this belief. The main thing, though, to fix firmly in one’s heart and soul that this is the truth, and nothing other than this is possible. This applies at every occasion and moment, for both men and women.
HMS: When we say we believe in “one G-d” we say we believe in only “one G-d”; no more and no less. There cannot be more than one G-d and there cannot be less than one. We may not know very much about G-d. We can even be agnostic, but we cannot be Jewish and also be an atheist, someone who does not believe in G-d at all. In fact, the classic formulation of apostasy is to say, “There is no Justice and there is no Judge” effectively denying G-d.
Everything is Judaism depends on our belief in one G-d. Every Mitzvah, every Halacha, every moral encouragement, depends upon there being a caring G-d in the universe. Judaism maintains that there must be some good that comes from all that we are required to do, and the source of all that goodness comes from G-d.
Life is not random. The things that we do must make a difference, not just to us and those we are in contact with, but we have to make a difference in a cosmic/spiritual sense as well. All of the meaning in our lives depends first of all on the premise that there is a G-d, beyond our universe and beyond our understanding that is the source of all life in the universe. The Rabbis noted that Abraham was the first to understand this concept of a single Creator/Ruler of the universe. The Rabbis tell a story of Abraham seeing a great castle with lights burning in every room. Abraham enters the castle and walks from room to room and never sees a single person in the entire castle. Finally Abraham says, “Can it be that this castle has no master?” at which point G-d replies, “I am the master of this castle.” The argument therefore is one based on the evidence that we see in this world. We see a world that is ordered and which follows a given set of natural laws. Can it be that such a world could come into existence in a random manner? Can it be that all that we see does not have a “master”? It is the beauty and the organization of this world that leads us to our one G-d. Today we know many proofs about the existence of G-d and just as many proofs denying that existence. How are we supposed to know if G-d is real or not?
There is no way to ever know about the existence of G-d for sure. G-d is just too different and not a part of our physical universe. So in the end, we are left with the existence of G-d as an act of faith. It is a big leap of faith to be sure, but this one leap makes all of Judaism possible. We, of course, have the option of not believing in G-d, but I can say that such a position will not make anyone feel any better about their life and the way the world is unfolding around us. If the world is Random than all of life is meaningless and we end up just a speck in a vast void. Once we establish the existence of G-d, then we give our lives meaning and direction.
Now we can understand why this is the first Mitzvah on the list. Without it there is no need for any other Mitzvot. If we can focus our heart and soul on this one Mitzvah, than all the other actions in life will easily follow. If you are not sure, than the Mitzvah calls on all of us to act “as if” there is a G-d, and then let the rest of the Mitzvot fill in the meaning of our lives.
Next Week: Mitzvah #2: The Unity Of G-d.