God's commandments are ...


Well-Known Member
Jan 10, 2011
New Jersey, USA
Who is the author of Mitzvah [commandments]? asked Rabbi Herman E Schaalman, in (1). According to some people, he wrote, "the authority of the 'commandment' resides in the people;" they claim that mitzvot are the customs created by our sages. Such an answer would be sufficient, he continues, if "Jews were like any other people." Why is it so? In which way are Jews different? Unfortunately, this question is not answered by the Rabbi, to my satisfaction. He refers to the Hebrew language, with which I am not familiar.

But I do know how Spinoza, a 17th century Jewish theologian (2), would answer this question. Spinoza wrote: "By God's direction I mean the fixed and unchanging order of Nature ... so it is the same thing whether we say that all things happen according to Nature's laws or that they are regulated by God's decree and direction." Spinoza would say that people are part of nature, and that desirable ways of behavior, described by sages, were also described by God. Many theological contradictions would disappear if Spinoza's defintion of God were universally accepted. Do you agree?

Ludwik Kowalski (see Wikipedia)

1) "Gates of Mitzvah: A Guide to the Jewish Life Cycle;" edited by Simeon J. Maslin, Central Conference of American Rabbis, New York, 1979

2) Steven Nadler, "Judging Spinoza," The New York Times, Opinion Pages, May 25 2014.

Also in http://opinionator blogs.nytimes.com/2014/05/25/judging-spinoza/