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Muchrach HaMetzius


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#1 Rabbi Shapiro

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Posted 06 March 2011 - 09:53 AM

I have a question about the First Cause principle: Granted that the world needed a First Cause. But who says this First Cause is Hashem? Maybe it’s an angel or an alien? And also, why doesn’t Hashem Himself need a cause? If everything needs a cause then why doesn’t Hashem need a cause too?

The First Cause can itself have no cause, meaning, nothing that it needs to depend on for its existence. If there exists anything without which it would not exist, then that thing is its cause. Obviously, then, any physical entity that possesses form and substance cannot be a First Cause, since without its form and substance it would not exist. Without its body it would not exist. Without time or space it would not exist. Anything that depends on something else to exist is not causeless and thus cannot be the First Cause.

Anything that, under different circumstances, would have not existed, cannot be a First Cause, since it depends on those circumstances for its existence, making those circumstances its cause.

In short, anything that is what we call efsher hametziyus – anything that could theoretically not have been here – cannot be the First Cause, since such a thing depends on other things for its existence.

Anything that could have not existed has a reason why in fact it does exist. Whenever there exists more than one possible scenario - in this case, scenario 1: “existence” and scenario 2: “non-existence” - there must be a reason why one scenario actually came about and not the other. Since they were both possibilities, there has to be something that caused one pos-sibility to become reality and not the other.

And therefore, the First Cause must be what we call muchrach hametzius or mechuyav hametzius – meaning, something for which non-existence was never a possible scenario. This is a different type of existence than that which we have ever encountered in our experience. Everything that exists in our experience could theoretically have not existed. Therefore, it has a cause that determined it should exist as opposed to not exist. But a First Cause, in order to be a First Cause, must have had no possibility of non-existence to begin with, which would eliminate the need for a cause of its existence.

Only something that theoretically could have not existed has a cause for its existence, but something that never had an option of non-existence does not need a reason why it exists – for existence is the only option!

And since the First Cause has no cause, the only way that could be possible is if the First Cause not only happens to exist, but could never have not existed. Everything else in the world exists, but theoretically could not have existed. The First Cause, however, could never have not existed.

Everything else but the First Cause happens to exist; the First Cause exists not because it happens to exist but because it could not have not existed.

The First Cause thus by definition cannot be subject to time or space, or to anything at all, because then its existence would have a cause. It cannot have any measurable or describable attributes such as length, width, breadth because those measurements and attributes would be its cause since without them this entity would not exist. It cannot have any describable nature whatsoever because if it would, then that nature would be what causes it to be what it is.

Since this First Cause exists without being subject to circumstances, nothing in the world can affect it. It cannot change, cannot disappear, cannot cease to exist. If its existence has not been determined by any circumstances or factors, then no circumstances or factors can affect it.

And since we can easily prove that there was indeed a First Cause – because an infinite chain of causes in the past is absurd - we know clearly that:

There exists a first entity which was not created but always ex-isted and will always exist, which is utterly Simple, is not composed of parts, and has no physical attributes, that exists not because of anything else, that could never have not existed, which caused everything else to come into being.

Call this entity whatever you like. This entity is what we worship. This is what we refer to when we say “Hashem Yisborach”. In fact, according to the Ran, the Mitzvah to believe in Hashem is not to believe that a First Cause/muchrach hametzius with all the attributes listed above exists. Rather, it is to believe that the First Cause/muchrach hametzius described above is in fact the entity that brought us out of Egypt and gave us the Torah etc. But the fact that this entity exists – that is not emunah. It is simple logic. This is what it means, the Ran says, by Anochi Hashem Elokecha asher hotzaisicha: Hashem is introducing Himself to us, kivyachol, and saying: “You all know of the entity that is First Cause. Well, I, Who brought you out of Egypt, I am that same First Cause that you always knew existed.”

People who do not understand this may ask: Yes, the universe has to have a First Cause, but who says Hashem was that First Cause? Such a question indicates a lack of under-standing of the entire principle. It is not that we worship Hashem and then claim that Hashem is the First Cause. In-stead, we know there is a First Cause and it is that First Cause that we worship and refer to as Hashem. Totem poles clearly exist, the sun and the stars clearly exist, and the First Cause clearly exists. Some religions worship totem poles; others worship the sun and the stars; Judaism worships the First Cause. We refer to it as Hashem.

This may be why many Rishonim, including the Rambam, when they discuss the Mitzvah of Emunah, first describe the existence of an “entity” that created the world and maintains it and is the cause of all existence. And then, afterwards, they say, “This entity is Hashem.” They are saying that this entity that created everything, this First Cause –that is what we refer to when we say Hashem.

The First Cause took us out of Egypt and gave us the To-rah; the First Cause spoke to the prophets; the First Cause manages the world. In Hebrew, we express this thought as: Hashem Hu HaElokim. Or: Hashem Elokeinu. Meaning: Hashem – the First Cause, Hu HaElokim – is the Manager of the universe.

That emunah – the belief that the First Cause is He Who gave us the Torah, brought us out of Egypt, and manages the world – that is the basis of the Jewish religion. Idol worship-pers also believed in a First Cause, but they held that it did not directly interact with the world, but rather created other entities for which it was more appropriate to be involved in worldly affairs. Judaism believes that it is the First Cause Itself that runs our lives.
This is the emunah that Avrohom Avinu espoused – that the First Cause itself is running the world. He spread that belief until one day, the First Cause spoke to Avraham, and introduced Himself, saying “I am the Baal Habirah.”

But perhaps someone will ask: Maybe it wasn’t the First Cause that created the universe – maybe it was the second or third cause?

The answer is, if it wasn’t the First Cause that created the universe, but a second or third cause, then consider those second and third causes part of the universe, for they are cre-ations, not the creator. They, like the rest of the universe, were created by the First Cause.

We worship the First Cause. We call it “Hashem.” The First Cause spoke to Avraham Avinu, introducing Himself as the creator of the world. The First Cause meted out plagues upon Egypt, escorted us through the desert, gave us the To-rah, and spoke to the prophets. The First Cause is aware of everything that happens in the world and exerts His Hashgachah over it; rewards and punishes; and will one day send Moshiach and revive the dead.

All right. You’ve proven that (a) there had to be a First Cause, (b-) that the First Cause can-not be more than one, © that the First Cause is eternal and (d) can never change or be affected by anything. I have one more question: How do we know that the First Cause is sentient altogether? Maybe this First Cause was just a non-conscious event?

The First Cause caused everything either by choice or by necessity (meaning, it had no choice and had to create the world).

If it was by choice, then it cannot be a non-sentient entity, since choice requires sentience.

If it was not by choice, then something necessitated the First Cause to create the universe.

And we know that nothing could prompt the action of the First Cause, because then whatever that factor was is a cause before the First Cause, which is absurd.

Therefore, nothing could have necessitated action on the part of the First Cause.

Therefore, the action of the First Cause had to be by its own choice.

And a requirement of choice is sentience.

#2 foncused

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Posted 14 December 2011 - 03:34 PM

You wrote:

The First Cause thus by definition cannot be subject to time or space, or to anything at all, because then its existence would have a cause. It cannot have any measurable or describable attributes such as length, width, breadth because those measurements and attributes would be its cause since without them this entity would not exist. It cannot have any describable nature whatsoever because if it would, then that nature would be what causes it to be what it is.


Not sure why if this entity would have had attributes, they would be the cause of the entity. Would love some clarification.

Next:

Since this First Cause exists without being subject to circumstances, nothing in the world can affect it. It cannot change, cannot disappear, cannot cease to exist. If its existence has not been determined by any circumstances or factors, then no circumstances or factors can affect it.

Isn't the restriction on change a limitation itself? Are you not limiting the abilities of the First Cause by restricting its ability to change freely?

#3 Rabbi Shapiro

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Posted 17 December 2011 - 06:57 PM

Not sure why if this entity would have had attributes, they would be the cause of the entity. Would love some clarification.

Because a cause means any circumstances without which the entity would not exist. If without the attributes the entity would be a different entity then those attributes are by definition a cause. See here.


Isn't the restriction on change a limitation itself? Are you not limiting the abilities of the First Cause by restricting its ability to change freely?

This is answered here.

If you are defining limitation in that sense, then limitations are not a problem. Who said they are? The First Cause cannot be caused, Is that a "limitation"? Perfection cannot be imperfect. Is that a limitation? If you use a definition of "limitation" that includes things such as this, then so be it. Nobody ever said such so-called limitations cannot exist.

But these things are not really limitations. The fact that the "First Cause "cannot" be caused or "cannot" be physical is not due to any circumstances that would prevent those things from happening. Rather, they are due to the fact that a "physical First Cause" or a "First Cause that is not a First Cause" are oxymorons. The reason an oxymoron cannot exist is not due to "limitations." it is due to the fact that an oxymoron does not contain any meaning and therefore there is nothing there to exist altogether.

Something that cannot happen because a restricting factor that will not let it happen is a limitation. Something that cannot happen even without any restricting factor, such as having, for example, "two that is not two," or "danger that is nto a Sakanah" or "a physical First Cause" is not a limitation. Rather, it is not "something."

#4 LL3

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Posted 23 April 2013 - 11:41 AM

 

 

To Rabbi Shapiro: you say that everyone has an obligation to KNOW that Hashem and Torah are true for a fact meaning with proof. My question is as a mechanech/teacher of high school girls...what does that obligate me to teach them? and how do you suggest I teach them? Should I be teaching them first cause proofs, logic, from our mesorah...? I have a responsibility to teach them this? And how do you suggest I do it, using which method, or both...? Please respond thank you.



#5 Rabbi Shapiro

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Posted 29 April 2013 - 07:17 PM

To Rabbi Shapiro: you say that everyone has an obligation to KNOW that Hashem and Torah are true for a fact meaning with proof. My question is as a mechanech/teacher of high school girls...what does that obligate me to teach them? and how do you suggest I teach them? Should I be teaching them first cause proofs, logic, from our mesorah...? I have a responsibility to teach them this? And how do you suggest I do it, using which method, or both...? Please respond thank you.

 

You should teach them that Hashem's existence is a fact, not a belief. I would suggest as a source of useful material on this subject, Rav Avigdor Miller's Sing You Righteous - the chapters called "The Universe Testifies," and "Seeing Is Believing." The first deals with how we see Hashem in nature, and the second is the strength of the Mesorah. 

 

The material, especially the proofs from nature, are not a one-time lesson to teach and test the students on. You need to do it often with them. Beleif in Hashem is THE most important part of the Torah, and the Yetzer Horah therefore is bent on preventing people from having Emunah. It is a lifelong occupation. Continuously we must be reminded of that fact that Hashem's existence is obvious to someone who looks in the right places.

 

For yourself, I'd also recommend Rav Miller's Rejoice O Youth and Awake my Glory both of which have a lot of material on this subject. Familiarize yourself with as much of this material as possible.

 

Also - assuming we're talking about older HS students; i.e. 12th grade and maybe 11th - teach the students the principle of Siba Rishona (that is outlined in this forum). On the old frumteens site, the reaction of the teenagers to this material was wide-eyed amazement. Everywhere I speak about it the audience is enthralled. The material is so new and enlightening to them. It gives us an much of an idea as we can possibly have, what Hashem is (or, more accurately, what Hashem is not), and answers so, so many questions people have about Yedias Hashem and Yichud Hashem. The following Shiurim are mostly the same material, but given to differnt audiences and so the delivery is a bit different:

 

http://www.baismedra...2010/10/hashem/

 

http://www.baismedra...rove-about-g-d/

 

 

And please feel free to download my 36-page booklet on the topic, in English,which is an actual online conversation I had on this subject with some teenagers. Reproduce them and give them out if you like. Get it here:

http://www.baismedra.../firstcause.pdf

 

If you prefer, I probably have some actual bound copies left, which were given out at our Shul's Melave Malka last year. You can have a supply for your classroom free of charge. Email me if you're interested. rabbishapiro@baismedrash.com.

 

And, for you, I'd suggest my Sefer on this topic, which contains a full set of Mekoros and explicaitons, in Loshon Hakodesh. You can download it here. Reproduce it if you like, no problem. If you like, I can send you a hard-covered copy, no charge (they were given out at my son's chasana a few years ago - I don't charge for them), but I'll ask you to cover postage. Let me know if you're interested.

 

It may be  a good idea to use a text when teaching this. I'd recommend either the first chapter of the Ramchal's Derech Hashem, which actually is an explanation of this First Cause principle. How it ties in, is demonstrated in my above Sefer.

 

If you can get your students to understand this, you will have given them the most important possession in the world: Emunah.

 

If you have any questions at all about this, please let me know.



#6 LL3

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Posted 29 April 2013 - 10:22 PM

Why do you say only to upper high school grades? If someone is teaching ninth or tenth grade then how should they teach the topic? or should they not teach it to girls that age?



#7 LL3

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Posted 29 April 2013 - 10:33 PM

And also do you suggest learning the first shaar of chovot halevavot for myself?



#8 Rabbi Shapiro

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Posted 01 May 2013 - 07:24 AM

Why do you say only to upper high school grades? If someone is teaching ninth or tenth grade then how should they teach the topic? or should they not teach it to girls that age?

 

 

And also do you suggest learning the first shaar of chovot halevavot for myself?

The Siba Rishona chain of logic is more suited for 17 year olds than 14 year olds. And it's better, as a rule, not to teach them something they won't fully understand even if they will hear it again a few years later. Because what happens is, when they hear it the first time, they reject it in their minds, and then when they hear it the second time, they already think they understand it and disagree. People develop a bias to things they think they heard and rejected. Better not to give them that negative bias.

 

That said, the more you understand the Siba Rishona concept, the less sophistication you're going to need on the part of the listener to explain it in a way they can understand. The Siba Rishona concept needs to be very well understood because you're defining the borders of our understanding of Hashem, and by definition that means that a small mistake and you've passed the borderline, and that means into Kefirah. You also need to be prepared for good questions.You don't want someone to think that our concept of Hashem doesn't make sense.

 

I don't want to scare you off. Not in the slightest. It's wonderful that you will teach this in a class. I'm just saying that you need to be very well familiar with the concept - backwards and forwards. That's not hard, but it's very necessary - more here than when, let's say, teaching a Rashi.

 

As far as the Chovos Halevovos, There are Gedolim, such as the Nodeh beyehudah and others, who said not to learn the first chapter. When I was a teenager, I asked Rav Avigdor Miller ZTL about this.He told me that the reason is because it's very philosophical and people don't think so much like that nowadays, so what happens is "the questions are easy and the answers are hard and it's like going into battle with rusty weapons." But then he added that if you read newspapers you should not worry about reading the Chovos Halevovos, because it's a big step up from a newspaper.

 

In any case, I don't think it's necessary. Familiarize yourself with the concept very thoroughly, and that will be sufficient. 

 

PS - I received your email. Bli neder over the weekend I'll take care of it.



#9 LL3

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Posted 02 May 2013 - 09:58 PM

Thank you. The reason I asked about the first shaar of chovot halevavot is that when I learned it when I was a teen and it helped me understand a lot and answered many of my questions and just made a lot of sense to me personally in understanding and beleiving in Hashem...I guess it's just not for everyone?



#10 Rabbi Shapiro

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Posted 03 May 2013 - 12:27 AM

Correct., it's not for everyone. That's why I wouldn't recommend teaching it to a class - it may not work for every one in the class, and this is something that, if it doesn't work, it can be detrimental to one's Emunah. Different people think different ways, and not everyone can wrap their head around the way the Shaar HaYichud explains things.