Page 65 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 9 (1950-1951)

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small and insignificant; what shines and becomes real is the beauty
of the world, mainly its spiritual beauty. This magnificent
he translates into logical reasonings with sparkling parables and
illustrations, in a vigorous, simple though eloquent style, and
with a vigilant eye for measure and balance. His theme is set in
an artistic landscape of scriptural and rabbinic sayings so that
they may lend to it strength and authority. The book’s Intro-
duction reveals his trepidations and his supreme effort to create
a scientific system based on his exalted conception of God and
on his faith in man’s ability to do good when properly guided by
the duties of the heart. He himself was conscious of the fact that
this was the first attempt in Jewish literature to build a system-
atic ethical treatise.
The foundation of his edifice is the unity of God; the apex is
the love of God, as he understands it to be. He lays down ten
basic principles that would comprehend all duties, and accordingly
divides his
Duties of the Heart
into ten parts, or Gates, as he calls
them. Out of these rational principles, man’s proper conduct
could be deduced as from mathematical and logical formulas.
One could not agree with Graetz that his first section on the unity
of God is not germane to the text. It is essential because God in
Bachya’s system is the guarantee of man’s moral conscience.
The first Gate is an endeavor to prove through philosophical
syllogisms and through the
the absolute uniqueness of
the unity of God. Other units in nature are relative and compos-
ite; e.g., one genus includes many species. God’s unity is such
that if we could conceive of a simpler unity than one, we would
attribute it to Him. Some of the metaphysical arguments are
borrowed from Saadya, from Neo-Platonism, and from the Arabian
Encyclopedists of the tenth century — the Brothers of Purity —
but Bachya’s approach is entirely his own. It always hinges on
the search for the ultimate good and for a firm guide to attain it.
With the well known early medieval premise of
creatio ex nihilo
Bachva arrives at the logical conclusion of God’s existence, unity
and eternity. To assume that the world may have come into ex-
istence by chance would be irrational. For, the world is synthetic,
bespeaking design and wisdom. “ I f ink were poured out acci-
dentally on a blank sheet of paper, would it be possible that proper
writing should result, legible lines, such as written with a pen?”
Man however, cannot intuit God, nor ascribe to Him the at-
tributes derived from activity which are so frequently mentioned
in the Scriptures and rabbinic literature. These are merely meta-
phorical. “The foolish and simple person will conceive the Creator
in accordance with the literal sense of the scriptural phrase.”
“The Torah speaks in the language of man.” This talmudic saying