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I have heard that Sha'ar Ha'Yichud of Chovos Ha'Levavos is controversial, and that one needs a rebbe in order to learn it. What does the author say that is so difficult to understand?

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The philosophical approach is considered by many to be an "Emunah minefield" for those who do not have proper guidance. The popular "Lev Tov" edition of Chovos Halevavos (with a translation/commentary by R' Pinchas Lieberman) has a lengthy introduction to Shaar HaYichud, in which he cites these views at length and in detail.

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This tells a person where to find the answer but does not actually give an answer. Can someone edit this answer and add the relevant information? – avi Jan 6 '14 at 7:31
Can you summarise the reference in your answer? – bondonk Apr 30 '15 at 18:25

I believe I heard in the name of the former Rosh Yeshiva of Chofetz Chaim Rav Henach Lebowitz ZS"L not to read it because it is not good to place the entire belief of G-d on science.

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Please explain the downvote. – Hacham Gabriel Feb 3 '12 at 3:42
i upvoted to counteract. – josh waxman Dec 27 '12 at 13:07
+1 ACDN were here… – HodofHod Dec 27 '12 at 23:16
I read in the below translation that the Chasam Sofer would teach it and say kaddish afterwards. so he considered it torah – ray Dec 30 '12 at 12:59
Thats True he did say that. – shlomo Jun 4 '13 at 3:27

In addition to the issue of whether the philosophical proof of G-d's existence is a proper approach, my own analysis of Sha'ar HaYichud is that the particular philosophical proof he uses is simply incorrect. Some mathematical premises that he relies on were proved incorrect in the 19th century.

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another answer to Hawking's mistake is that the author did not mean to say mathematically that one infinity cannot be greater than another infinity but rather as the Marpe Lenefesh commentary there says: "If we were able to take out a finite part from something infinite then perforce it must be composed of two opposite natures - finite and infinite, and this is an impossibility" – ray May 8 '13 at 7:05
@R.S. Where can we see Hawkings' claims so we can evaluate the merit of your alleged disproof? And btw Hawkings didn't live in the 19th century, so I don't think that's what Chanoch is referring to. – Double AA May 8 '13 at 14:40
@R.S. BTW What do you mean by what "'ACTUALLY INFINITE" means in the real world"? I thought all infinities are abstractions. The real world itself is finite. – Double AA May 8 '13 at 17:24
"Actually infinite" is a quote from the shaar yichud not from me. this is exactly my point. the "refutation of Hawkings" assumes the shaar yichud is bringing a mathematical proof. Whereas the shaar yichud says "actually infinite" specifically to negate this. Marpe Lenefesh commentary in ch.5: (on the words if we consider in our thoughts): This means that the thing to consider is actually infinite, but for something which is not actually infinite but is just theoretical, that the mind imagines something infinite - from this one cannot bring a proof, because the power of imagination – ray May 8 '13 at 18:16
bottom line is hawkins is talking about mathematical infinity whereas shaar yichud is talking about an actual infinity existing in the here and now - that is not something that can be comprised of parts. – ray Jan 6 '14 at 7:55

I asked this question to Rabbi Mordechai Kornfeld, the rosh kollel of iyun hadaf in harnof http://dafyomi.co.il

he replied: "There is a difference of opinion among the Torah authorities as to whether this section should be studied by the typical student of the Torah. Many Torah luminaries maintain that one should not seek philosophical proofs of G-d's existence. Belief in Hash-m should be based on the Mesorah (tradition) that we received from our elders and mentors, the study of Hash-m's wondrous Torah, and the many ways He manifests Himself in His creations and in our daily lives."


(after more study of the shaar yichud)

ray: The reason the shaar yichud is so difficult is because the author tries to explain logically why we exist. ultimately this involves trying to understand that which is Eternal, and the Eternal is beyond the grasp of human logic, since it is beyond our cause/effect way of understanding things. the shaar yichud itself concludes that it is better to stay away from logical inquiry and to try to know God through His deeds as written in ch.10:

Therefore, you should exert your mind until you know the Creator through the evidences of His works and not strive to know Him in His glorious essence. For He is exceedingly close to you from the side of His deeds but infinitely remote in any representation of His essence or comparison with it. As already stated, we will never be able to find Him in this way. When you arrive at the stage where you abandon (trying to find Him) through your thoughts and senses because He cannot be grasped in this way, and you instead find Him in the evidence of His deeds, as though He were inseparable from you - this is the pinnacle of knowledge of Him which the prophet exhorts us on.


from Rabbi Mattityahu Solomon's recently published commentary to chovos halevavos (gate 2):

"The custom practiced in the yeshiva world is not to study the Shaar Yichud. And even though, there is no doubt whatsoever that all of what he says there is absolute truth, nevertheless, his words are of philosophical inquiry and this inherently leads to many questions in the mind of the person studying them, and not every person is capable of fully understanding them. It is possible therefore that one could remain with unresolved questions, or at least with doubts, that would not have occured to him had he not studied this work. Therefore, it is customary to walk simply and accept as a given, simple faith that the Creator is One. And the explanation of One is that there is no power in the world besides Him, no place in the world devoid of Him, and nothing in the world without Him. These things are above the powers of our minds to grasp.

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