The soul, when accustomed to superfluous things, acquires a strong habit of desiring things which are neither necessary for the preservation of the individual nor for that of the species. This desire is without limit, whilst those which are necessary are few in number and restricted within certain limits; but what is superfluous is without end...
The error of the ignorant goes so far as to say that God's power is insufficient, because he has given to this Universe the properties which they imagine cause these great evils, and which do not help all evil-disposed persons to obtain the evil which they seek, and to bring their evil souls to the aim of their desires, though these, as we have shown, are really without limit.
WHEN reading my present treatise, bear in mind that by "faith" we do not understand merely that which is uttered with the lips, but also that which is apprehended by the soul, the conviction that the object [of belief] is exactly as it is apprehended. If, as regards real or supposed truths, you content yourself with giving utterance to them in words, without apprehending them or believing in them, especially if you do not seek real truth, you have a very easy task as, in fact, you will find many ignorant people professing articles of faith without connecting any idea with them.
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The third class of evils comprise those which everyone causes to himself by his own action. This is the largest class, and is far more numerous than the second class. It is especially of these evils that all men complain, - only few men are found that do not sin against themselves by this kind of evil. ...This class of evil originates in man's vices, such as excessive desire for eating, drinking, and love; indulgence in these things in undue measure, or in improper manner, or partaking of bad food. This course brings diseases and afflictions upon the body and soul alike.
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Another fundamental principle taught by the Law of Moses is this: Wrong cannot be ascribed to God in any way whatever; all evils and afflictions as well as all kinds of happiness of man, whether they concern one individual or a community, are distributed according to justice; they are the result of strict judgement that admits no wrong whatever.
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The prophet [ Isaiah ]... points out what will be the cause of this change; for he says that hatred, quarrel, and fighting will come to an end, because men will have a true knowledge of God. "They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain: for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters which cover the sea" (Isa. xi. ver. 9) Note it.
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Know that the difficulties which lead to confusion in the question what is the purpose of the Universe or of any of its parts, arise from two causes: first, man has an erroneous idea of himself, and believes that the whole world exists only for his sake; secondly, he is ignorant both about the nature of the sublunary world, and about the Creator's intention to give existence to all beings whose existence is possible, because existence is undoubtedly good.
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This must be our belief when we have a correct knowledge of our own self, and comprehend the true nature of everything; we must be content, and not trouble our mind with seeking a certain final cause for things that have none, or have no other final cause but their own existence, which depends on the Will of God, or, if you prefer, on the Divine Wisdom.
When I have a difficult subject before me - when I find the road narrow, and can see no other way of teaching a well established truth except by pleasing one intelligent man and displeasing ten thousand fools - I prefer to address myself to the one man, and to take no notice whatever of the condemnation of the multitude; I prefer to extricate that intelligent man from his embarrassment and show him the cause of his perplexity, so that he may attain perfection and be at peace.
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The strange and wonderful Book of Job treats of the same subject as we are discussing; its contents are a fiction, conceived for the purpose of explaining the different opinions which people hold on Divine Providence. ...This fiction, however, is in so far different from other fictions that it includes profound ideas and great mysteries, removes great doubts, and reveals the most important truths. I will discuss it as fully as possible; and I will also tell you the words of our Sages that suggested to me the explanation of this great poem.
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Now I wonder what our knowledge has in common with God's knowledge according to those who treat God's knowledge... Is there anything else common to both besides the mere name? ...there is an essential distinction between His knowledge and ours, like the distinction between the substance of the heavens and that of the earth.
It is possible that the meaning of wisdom in Hebrew indicates aptitude for stratagems and the application of thought in such a way that the stratagems and ruses may be used in achieving either rational or moral virtues, or in achieving skill in a practical art, or in working evil and wickedness.
For the elements have the property of moving back to their place in a straight line, but they have no properties which would cause them to remain where they are, or to move other-wise than in a straight line, These rectilinear motions of these four elements when returning to their original place are are of two kinds, either centrifugal, vziz.>the motion of the air and the fire; or centripedal, viz.> the motion of the earth, and the water; and when the elements have reached their original place, they remain at rest.
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Every human being should regard himself as if he were exactly balanced between innocence and guilt. Simultaneously he should regard the world as being in the same case. It follows then that if he performs one good deed, he has weighted the scales in favour of both himself and of the whole world, and thus brought about salvation both for himself and for all the inhabitants of the world.
Galen , in the third section of his book, "The Use of the Limbs," says correctly that it would be in vain to expect to see living beings formed of the blood of menstruous women and the semen virile, who will not die, will never feel pain, or will move perpetually, or shine like the sun. This dictum of Galen is part of the following more general proposition: Whatever is formed of matter receives the most perfect form possible in that species of matter; in each individual case the defects are in accordance with that individual matter.
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Even when a person suffers pain in consequence of a thorn having entered into his hand, although it is at once drawn out, it is a punishment that has been inflicted on him, and the least pleasure he enjoys is a reward; all this is meted out by strict justice; as is said in the Scripture, "all His ways are judgement" (Deut. xxxii. 4); we are only ignorant of the working of that judgement.
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You will see the mercy of God toward His creatures, how He has provided that which is required, in proper proportions, and treated all individual beings of the same species with perfect equality. ...for it is an act of great and perfect goodness that He gave us existence; and the creation of the controlling faculty in animals is a proof of His mercy towards them, as has been shown by us.
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Anticipate charity by preventing poverty; assist the reduced fellow man, either by a considerable gift or a sum of money or by teaching him a trade or by putting him in the way of business so that he may earn an honest livelihood and not be forced to the dreadful alternative of holding out his hand for charity. This is the highest step and summit of charity's golden ladder.
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The corporeal element in man is a large screen and partition that prevents him from perfectly perceiving abstract ideals; this would be the case even if the corporeal element were as pure and superior as the substance of the spheres ; how much more must this be the case with our dark and opaque body. However great the exertion of our mind may be to comprehend the Divine Being or any of the ideals, we find a screen and partition between God and us.
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It is no wrong or injustice that one has many bags of the finest myrrh and garments embroidered with gold, while another has not those things, which are not necessary for our maintenance; he who has them has not thereby obtained control over anything that could be an essential addition to his nature, but has only obtained something illusory or deceptive. ...This is the rule at all times and in all places; no notice should be taken of exceptional cases, as we have explained.
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To sum up: I am the man who when the concern pressed him and his way was straitened and he could find no other device by which to teach a demonstrable truth other than by giving satisfaction to a single virtuous man while displeasing ten thousand ignoramuses - I am he who prefers to address that single man by himself, and I do not heed the blame of those many creatures.
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He who thinks he can have flesh and bones without being subject to any external influence, or any accidents of matter, unconsciously wishes to reconcile two opposites, viz., to be at the same time subject and not subject to change. If man were never subject to change there could be no generation; there would be one single being, but no individuals forming a species.
It is not unreasonable to assume that the works of God, their existence and preceding non-existence, are the result of His wisdom, but we are unable to understand many of the ways of His Wisdom in His works. On this principle the whole Law of Moses is based; it begins with this principle: "And God saw all that He had made, and behold, it was very good" (Gen. i. 31); and it ends with this principle: "The Rock, perfect is His work" (Deut. xxxii. 4). Note it.
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Divine Providence is connected with Divine intellectual influence, and the same beings which are benefited by the latter so as to become intellectual, and to comprehend things comprehensible to rational beings, are also under the control of Divine Providence, which examines all their deeds with a view of rewarding or punishing them. ...the method of which our mind is incapable of understanding.
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The generation of Isaiah did not require the detailed description; his account, "I saw the Lord," &c., sufficed. The generation of the Babylonian exile wanted to learn all the details. ...Isaiah was so familiar with it that he did not consider it necessary to communicate it to others as a new thing, especially as it was well known to the intelligent.
The Mutakallemim... apply the term non-existence only to absolute non-existence, and not to absence of properties. A property and the absence of that property are considered by them as two opposites, they treat, e.g. , blindness and sight, death and life, in the same way as heat and cold. Therefore they say, without any qualification, non-existence does not require any agent, an agent is required when something is produced.
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I find it expressed in various passages of Scripture that the fact that God knows things while in a state of possibility, when their existence belongs to the future, does not change the nature of the possible in any way; that nature remains unchanged; and the knowledge of the realisation of one of several possibilities does not yet effect that realisation. This is likewise one of the fundamental principles of the Law of Moses concerning which there is no doubt nor any dispute.
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An ignorant man believes that the whole universe only exists for him: as if nothing else required any consideration. If, therefore, anything happens to him contrary to his expectation, he at once concludes that the whole universe is evil. If, however, he would take into consideration the whole universe, form an idea of it, and comprehend what a small portion he is of the Universe, he will find the truth. There are many ... passages in the books of the prophets expressing the same idea.
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