8/24/20232 min read

RAMBAMS PARABLE OF THE DIFFERENT LEVELS OF SERVICE OF GOD adapted from the original ‘Guide to the Perplexed Section 3 Chapter 51’ by Rabbi David Bassous

A king is in his palace, and his subjects are partly in the country, and partly abroad. Of the former, some have their backs turned towards the king's palace, and their faces in another direction; and some are desirous and zealous to go to the palace, seeking "to inquire in his temple," and to minister before him, but have not yet seen the wall of the palace.

Of those that desire to go to the palace, some reach it, and go around in search of the entrance; others have entered, and walk about in the lobby; others have succeeded in entering into the inner part of the palace, and being in the same room with the king in the royal palace. But even the latter do not immediately on entering the palace see the king, or speak to him; for, after having entered the inner part of the palace, another effort is required before they can stand before the king—at a distance, or close by, or speak to him.

I will now explain the parable which I have made:

The king is the Lord of the Universe, blessed be He. The palace is a metaphor for a close relationship with God.

1. The people who are abroad are atheists, those that have no religion, neither one based on speculation nor one received by tradition. I consider these as irrational beings…

2. Those who are in the country, but have their backs turned towards the king's palace, are those who possess religion, belief, and thought, but happen to hold false doctrines, which they either adopted in consequence of great mistakes made in their own speculations, or received from others who misled them. Because of these doctrines they recede more and more from the royal palace the more they seem to proceed. These are worse than the first class…

3. Those who desire to arrive at the palace, and enter it, but have never yet seen it, are the mass of religious people, the multitude that observe the divine commandments but are ignorant.

4 Those who arrive at the palace, but go around it are those who devote themselves exclusively to the study of the practical law; they believe traditionally in true principles of faith, and learn the practical worship of God, but are not trained in philosophical treatment of the principles of the Law, and do not endeavor to establish the truth of their faith by proof.

5. Those who undertake to understand God and are near the truth, have reached the goal, and are in the palace in which the king lives. Even among them there are many levels depending on their knowledge of God.