Why is Maimonides venerated
Twist and turn it (the Torah) in all directions, for everything is contained in it », it says in the Mishnah. This can mean that the seeker will find an answer to every question in the Torah. But it also means the numerous possible answers that can arise for a single question.
The uninterrupted discussion over the centuries prevented the solidification of Jewish thought. However, it makes it difficult to make clear statements. Internally, the Jewish culture of debate was an ideal instrument to further develop the religion. Externally, Judaism was often exposed to hostile polemics that had to be countered with clear positions.
Rambam In the Middle Ages, Muslim scholars attacked Judaism with missionary zeal. The Rambam (1135–1204), Maimonides, the most influential Jewish thinker of the Middle Ages, strove to systematize the Jewish religion and created articles of faith that enabled an apologetic confrontation with those of different faiths. He summarized the core statements of Judaism in 13 doctrinal principles, which he published in his Mishna commentary on the Sanhedrin tract.
In a lyrical arrangement, the 13 Articles of Faith found their way into the service under the name «Jigdal». The hymn is named after his first words. Translated into German, they read: "Let the living God be exalted and praised, He exists - his existence is not limited by time."
13 Principles Rambam's principles do not attempt to explain Judaism in an exhaustive manner. They merely outline what at least belongs to the Jewish faith. At the beginning of the Rambam puts the metaphysical beliefs: the existence of God, his unity, incorporeality, eternity and God as the sole addressee of worship. This is followed by the legal principles, that is, those related to the essence of the Torah: the belief in prophecy, in Moshe as the highest prophet, the acceptance of the divinity of the Torah and the eternity and immutability of the Torah.
Finally, eschatological assumptions are formulated: God's knowledge of all human actions, the doctrine of reward and punishment after death, belief in the coming of the Messiah and the resurrection of the dead.
In the epilogue of his theses, Maimonides writes that anyone who denies even one of his principles will be excluded from the community of Israel and will have no part in the world to come. This sharp demarcation may have had the purpose of keeping Islam and Christianity at a distance. For example, the principle of the incorporeal nature of God reads as a rejection of Jesus.
Rejection The 13 principles and thus also the Jigdal were, however, not without controversy. The influential Altona rabbi Jacob Emden (1697–1776), for example, rejected it. He said that the Jigdal gave the impression that Judaism only had these 13 principles and that a deep study of the Torah was superfluous.
Today almost all Jews accept the Articles of Faith. Nevertheless, they are by no means to be compared with a normative creed as it is known by Christianity. They merely summarize essential points of the doctrine that were fundamental to the author. The answers that the Jewish people will receive when they twirl and turn their Torah in the future could be different.
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