Excerpt: Chovoth HaLevavoth (Duties of the Heart)

Excerpt from Chovoth HaLevavoth (Duties of the Heart) by R. Bachya ben Joseph ibn Paquda
(Here is a demonstration of the Existence of the Creator) –
Sha’ar Ha’yichud, Section One: The Gate of the Unity of G-D, (Excerpts from Chapters Five and Six) –
There are three premises which lead to the inference that this world has a Creator who created it from nothing:
1) A thing cannot make itself.
2) Beginnings (causes) are limited in number; therefore, they must have a First Beginning (First cause) which had no beginning (cause) before it.
3) Anything composite must have been brought into existence (cannot be eternal, i.e. without beginning).
When these three premises are established, the inference will be, for one who understands how to apply them and combine them – that the world has a Creator who created it from nothing, as we will demonstrate with G-d’s help.
Since it has been demonstrated that there cannot be an infinite series of causes, it follows that the world must have a beginning before which there is no other beginning, a first cause without a cause before it. It is He Who formed the world, bringing it into existence out of nothing, aided by nothing, and with nothing as a foundation, as it says in scripture: “I am G-D Who made all things; I alone stretched out the heavens, by Myself I spread out the earth” (Yeshayahu 44.24); “He stretches out the north over empty space, suspends the globe over nothing” (Iyov 26.7).
Arguments [for the proposition] that G-D is one:
Since it has been demonstrated by way of logical argument that the world has a Creator, it is now our duty to inquire as to whether He is one or more than one. [….]
The first [argument] is drawn from examining the causes of existing things. For when we consider these causes, we find that they are fewer than their effects. [….] The further back we go in tracing the cause of causes, the fewer causes we find; the higher we ascend [the hierarchy of causes], the lower their number becomes, until finally, when we reach [the top, there is only] one cause, the cause of all causes.
To read more on line, go to Daf Yomi Review, Chovoth HaLevavoth.

8 thoughts on “Excerpt: Chovoth HaLevavoth (Duties of the Heart)

    1. actually modern science and the creation story of the Hebrew Bible are in agreement: When Adam was created, the world was 42,000 years old. But before Adam was created, we do not use human years, but divine years. Therefore, the age of the universe is 42,000 divine years.As we have seen earlier, one divine year is 365,250 human years. Therefore the age of the universe is 42,000 times 365,250 human years. Make the calculation, and you see that it comes out that the universe is close to 15 billion years old! This is an interesting figure. From most calculations made on the basis of the expanding universe and other aspects of cosmology, this is precisely the age of the universe given by science. And yet, this figure is given in a Torah source over 700 years old. [….] Scientific opinion puts the age between 12 and 17 billion years old, with the current top estimates at 13.7 and ~15 billion.

      Science makes new discoveries and refinements as time goes on, especially in cosmology, and therefore has no “exact” figure, but only well defined estimates. However this does not detract from Rabbi Kaplan’s point. In fact, although 13.7 billion years is the most quoted scientific age of the universe, it carries problems with it, because some galaxies and stars appear to be older than 13.7 billion years! However by using other means of calculation, some scientists today do in fact hold an age of around 15 billion years old, in accordance with Rabbi Yitzchok’s calculation over 700 years ago. One of the puzzles of the Torah involves the two accounts of creation. We are not speaking of what Bible critics say, since they are on a completely wrong track, and their opinion has no bearing on our discussion.


    1. According to Aryeh Kaplan, the Sabbatical cycles in Sefer HaTemunah can be used as a basis for calculating the age of the universe. While Sefer HaTemunah sees the world as existing in the second cycle, others say it is in the seventh cycle. If so, Adam was created when the universe was 42,000 years old, and six worlds were created and destroyed before the creation of Adam. This thesis was laid out by Rabbi Isaac ben Samuel of Acre, a 13th-century Kabbalist, who said that when calculating the age of the universe, one must use divine years rather than physical years.
      “ I, the insignificant Yitzchak of Akko, have seen fit to write a great mystery that should be kept very well hidden. One of God’s days is a thousand years, as it says, “For a thousand years are in Your eyes as a fleeting yesterday.” Since one of our years is 365 ¼ days, a year on High is 365,250 our years. ”

      Rabbi Yitzchak of Akko then goes on to explain a value of 49,000 years, but does not proceed with the multiplication, nor the reduction of 49,000 to 42,000, which is Kaplan’s own interpretation. Kaplan calculates the age of the universe to be 15,340,500,000 years old. His reasoning was as follows: as the Midrash states, “A thousand years in your sight are but as yesterday” (Psalm 90:4); a physical year contains 365 ¼ days, which, if multiplied by 1000 would give the length of a divine year as 365,250 physical years; if we are living in the last, 7th Sabbatical cycle, that would mean that the creation as it described in the Bible happened 42,000 divine years ago; to convert this figure to physical years it should be multiplied by 365,250; this gives the result 15,340,500,000 years.


      1. ok. thanks. makes sense. the shaar yichud is indeed fascinating. is the proof on the unity of G-d meant to be a formal thorough proof or something we should accept at least partially on faith?


      2. From reading some of the commentary on Shaar Yichud, I think Bahya ben Joseph ibn Paquda was stressing a logical proof for the Existence of the Creator. As you put it, a formal thorough proof. you might wish to post your question on the Mi Yodeya web site where you have the opportunity to reach a bigger audience.


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