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Shalom.

I am looking for sources (a list if possible) that explain why monotheism, as opposed to paganism, is true. I would also like to know how to attain that knowledge.

I am aware that Chovos Halevavos is an authoritative source on the subject, but wish to know whether this question has been addressed by others (and if so, by whom and where).

Many thanks for your time.

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5 Answers 5

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This first place to look is the Torah itself. I would say that this is the primary purpose of the stories of the Exodus and the song of Haazinu. Also, the sefer Daas Tevunos deals with clarifying this issue and seeking demonstration of monotheism in history:

(לד) אמר השכל - עתה כשנשיב אל לבנו כל סדרי מעשיו ית', כל המעשה הגדול אשר עשה מני שים אדם עלי ארץ, וכל אשר הבטיח לנו לעשות ע"י נביאיו הקדושים, הנה מה שמתברר לנו מכל זה בירור גמור - הוא עוצם יחודו יתברך.

(34) Said the Intellect - Now that we have returned to your hearts the order of HaShem's actions may he be blessed, All of the great actions He has done since placing man upon the earth (Job 20:4), and everything that her promised us to do through the holy prophets, behold that which is clear to us from this with complete clarity - is the might of His singularity may He be blessed.

אבל יחודו, אדרבא, זה מתגלה ומתברר לנו בירור גמור. ונמשך לנו מזה שלא די שהוא מתברר לנו, אלא שחייבים אנחנו להשיב אל לבנו הידיעה הזאת, לתקוע אותה בלבבנו בישוב גמור בלי שום פקפוק כלל. והוא מה שמצוינו משה רבנו ע"ה מפי הגבורה (דברים ד, לט), "וידעת היום והשבות אל לבבך כי ה' הוא האלהים בשמים ממעל ועל הארץ מתחת אין עוד". ופי עליון מעיד בעצמו ומודיע כי כל הנלקט מכל מסיבותיו הגדולות אשר הוא מתהפך בעולמו, הלא הוא גילוי יחודו הגמור הזה; כענין אמרו (דברים לב, לט), "ראו עתה כי אני אני הוא ואין אלהים עמדי", ומקרא זה נאמר אחר שכלל כל סיבוב הגלגל, שהיה עתיד ומזומן להיות סובב בעולם, שנכלל הכל בדברי השירה ההיא של האזינו, וכמו שפשטן של כתובים עצמן מוכיח, והנה חותם החזון שלו חתם בלשון הזה, "ראו עתה כי אני אני הוא" וגו'. ובדברי הנביא ישעיה נתבאר בהדיא (ישעיה מג, י יא), "למען תדעו ותאמינו לי ותבינו כי אני הוא, לפני לא נוצר אל ואחרי לא יהיה. אנכי אנכי ה' ואין מבלעדי מושיע"; וכמו שכתוב (ישעיה מד, ו), "אני ראשון ואני אחרון ומבלעדי אין אלהים"; וכמו שכתוב (ישעיהו מה, ו ז), "למען ידעו ממזרח שמש וממערבה כי אפס בלעדי אני ה' ואין עוד. יוצר אור ובורא חשך עושה שלום ובורא רע, אני ה' עושה כל אלה". והנה "למען ידעו", "למען תדעו ותבינו" כתיב, משמע שרוצה שנדע בידיעה והבנה. ותכלית כל ההצלחה שהוא מבטיח לישראל הוא התברר יחודו לעיני הכל. ודבר זה נזכר פעמים אין מספר בדברי הנביאים ע"ה (ישעיהו ב, יא), "ונשגב ה' לבדו ביום ההוא"; (זכריה יד, ט), "והיה ה' למלך וגו' ביום ההוא יהיה ה' אחד ושמו אחד"; (צפניה ג, ט), "כי אז אהפוך אל עמים לקרוא כלם בשם ה' לעבדו שכם אחד". וסוף דבר, הלא זה עדותנו בכל יום תמיד (דברים ו, ד), "שמע ישראל ה' אלהינו ה' אחד":

35 But His singularity, is just the opposite, it is revealed and clarified focus in complete clarity. And it emerges for us from this that it is not enough that it be clear to us, but that we are obligated to return this knowledge to our hearts, to embed it in our hearts completely settled without any doubt. And this is what we were commanded by Moshe our teacher may he rest in peace from the mouth of The Mighty One (Deuteronomy 4:39), "And you shall know today and return to your hearts that HaShem He is the G-d in the heavens above and on the earth below, there is no other". And the mouth of the One on high himself testifies and informs us that everything that is gathered from all the great occurrences that He overturns in his world, is it not the complete revelation of this - His singularity; as it says (Deuteronomy 32:39) "See now that I, I am He and there is no other G-d with me", and this passage is said after He included all the future revolutions of the globe that are planned to occur in the universe, that include everything in the words of this song of HaAzinu, and like the straightforward meaning of these writings themselves prove, and behold the ending of His vision ends with this language, "See now that I, I am He" etc. And in the words of the prophet Isaiah it is described explicitly (Isaiah 43:10-11), "In order that you know and believe me and understand that I am He, before me no G-d was created and there will be no other after me. I, I am hashed and there is no savior other than me"; and as it is written (Isaiah 44:6), "I am first and I am last and there is no G-d other than me"; and as it says (Isaiah 45:6-7), "In order that you know from the the east and the west that there is nothing other than me, I am HaShem and there is no other. The maker of light and creator of darkness making peace and creating the negative, I am hashed the maker of all of these". And behold, it is written "In order that you know", In order that you know and understand", meaning that He wants us to know with knowledge and understanding. And the purpose of all of the success that He promises to Israel is the explanation of His singularity to the eyes of all. And this matter is mentioned innumerable times in the words of the prophets may they rest in peace, (Isaiah 2:11), "...and haShem will be exalted on that day."; (Zechariah 14:9) "And haShem will be king [on all the earth] haShem will be one and His name will be one"; (Zephania 3:9) "For then I will overturn the peoples to all call in the the name of haShem and to worship him as one accord". And in the end, is this not always our testimony every day (Deuteronomy 6:4) "Hear O' Israel HaShem our G-d HaShem is One": A general point that is critical for this question: make sure you are clear on the question before you put effort into discovering the answer!

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A philosophical argument for the oneness of God is summarize by the Rambam in Yesodei Hatorah 1:7:

אֱלוֹהַּ זֶה אֶחָד הוּא וְאֵינוֹ שְׁנַיִם וְלֹא יֶתֶר עַל שְׁנַיִם. אֶלָּא אֶחָד. שֶׁאֵין כְּיִחוּדוֹ אֶחָד מִן הָאֲחָדִים הַנִּמְצָאִים בָּעוֹלָם. לֹא אֶחָד כְּמִין שֶׁהוּא כּוֹלֵל אֲחָדִים הַרְבֵּה. וְלֹא אֶחָד כְּגוּף שֶׁהוּא נֶחְלָק לְמַחְלָקוֹת וְלִקְצָווֹת. אֶלָּא יִחוּד שֶׁאֵין יִחוּד אַחֵר כְּמוֹתוֹ בָּעוֹלָם. אִלּוּ הָיוּ אֱלֹהוּת הַרְבֵּה הָיוּ גּוּפִין וּגְוִיּוֹת. מִפְּנֵי שֶׁאֵין הַנִּמְנִים הַשָּׁוִין בִּמְצִיאוּתָן נִפְרָדִין זֶה מִזֶּה אֶלָּא בִּמְאֹרָעִין שֶׁיֶּאֶרְעוּ בַּגּוּפוֹת וְהַגְּוִיּוֹת. וְאִלּוּ הָיָה הַיּוֹצֵר גּוּף וּגְוִיָּה הָיָה לוֹ קֵץ וְתַכְלִית שֶׁאִי אֶפְשָׁר לִהְיוֹת גּוּף שֶׁאֵין לוֹ קֵץ. וְכָל שֶׁיֵּשׁ לְגוּפוֹ קֵץ וְתַכְלִית יֵשׁ לְכֹחוֹ קֵץ וָסוֹף. וֵאלֹהֵינוּ בָּרוּךְ שְׁמוֹ הוֹאִיל וְכֹחוֹ אֵין לוֹ קֵץ וְאֵינוֹ פּוֹסֵק שֶׁהֲרֵי הַגַּלְגַּל סוֹבֵב תָּמִיד. אֵין כֹּחוֹ כֹּחַ גּוּף. וְהוֹאִיל וְאֵינוֹ גּוּף לֹא יֶאֶרְעוּ לוֹ מְאֹרְעוֹת הַגּוּפוֹת כְּדֵי שֶׁיְּהֵא נֶחְלָק וְנִפְרָד מֵאַחֵר. לְפִיכָךְ אִי אֶפְשָׁר שֶׁיִּהְיֶה אֶלָּא אֶחָד. וִידִיעַת דָּבָר זֶה מִצְוַת עֲשֵׂה שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (דברים ו ד) "ה' אֱלֹהֵינוּ ה' אֶחָד":

This God is One God; He is neither two nor more than two but One to whose Unity there is no comparison among the individual units in the universe; not like the unit of a genus which embraces many individual units, nor like the unit of a body which is divisible into parts and particles, but a Unit to Whose Unity no other unit in the universe is like. Supposing that there are many deities is equivalent to an admission that they are corporeal, because like individual beings do not differ save in chance traits characteristic of bodies and material things only. Thus supposing the Creator to be corporeal and material would force a conclusion that He is finite, for, it is impossible to imagine a body which does not end in dissolution; but our God, blessed is His Name! beholding that His power is infinite and uninterrupted, for lo, the universal sphere continues to revolve forever. His power is positively not a physical power. And, because He is Incorporeal, none of the chance traits, characteristic of bodies, so as to be divisible or an offshoot of another being, can be attributed to Him. Therefore, the impossibility for Him to be but One. And, the knowledge of this doctrine of Monotheism is a mandatory commandment, saying: "The Lord our God is One God" (Deut. 6.4).

I would bet that the Rambam elaborates in Moreh Nevichim, but I am not sufficiently familiar with that sefer.

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As you say, paganism involves identifying deities who are exaggerated super-human forms, e.g. Thor, Zeus et al. Invariably, this involves multiple divine players, and not a single god.

The Jewish belief in god is that god is a) unknowable and b) a unity. Therefore the Jewish determination of god's existence is bound together with the Jewish concept of the indivisibility and the ineffable mystery of god's existence.

With regards to this determination, there seem to be 2 basic views. One (e.g. proposed by R Yehuda HaLevi) is that proof of god's existence, unity and mystery comes from direct religious experience. The other (e.g. proposed by Maimonides) is that proof of the Jewish notion of god can be derived by philosophical argument.

Presuming that you mean to follow the latter path to Jewish-style belief, you could start by reading Guide for the Perplexed, which provides a rationalistic view on the matter.

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Emunos v'Deos by Rav Saadya Gaon is very comprehensive. He also finds sources for his points in the Bible.

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  • Could you summarize some key points from the sefer?
    – robev
    Commented May 31, 2021 at 16:50
  • The sefer is very influential, so a lot of his points will be familiar from later sources as well. But when I say comprehensive, I mean comprehensive. A summary wouldn't do it justice. However, the link at Wikipedia does give some points.
    – N.T.
    Commented May 31, 2021 at 21:26
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"Physics.vii" by Aristotle articulates Genesis.2:7 in scientific terms - demonstrating one force eternally creating motion inside matter to bring life into existence.

Regarding the superior attributes of a singular, eternal Creator > read "Guide to the Perplexed" [Chapters 35 & 36] by Maimonides.

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