Merging Other Beliefs with Judaism
Rabbi Moshe Ben-Chaim
Reader: My query is your take on the ancient Greek/Roman philosophy of Stoicism. It is basically divided on three legs: Physics, Logic and Ethics. I am predominately asking about Ethics. I am more than cognizant of the ethics of the Torah but I also see the relevance of what Stoicism teaches. Our Rambam was able to create a synthesis between Aristotle's philosophy and Torah. Can the same thing be accomplished again with Stoicism?
Rabbi: The Stoic God is not a transcendent omniscient being standing “outside” nature, but rather it is immanent—the divine element is immersed in nature itself.
Thus, there are 2 grave errors in Stoicism: 1) their concept of God is wrong, 2) and as they don’t study God’s words concerning His definitions and permutations of truth, justice, kindness and charity, Stoics operate based on feeble human notions.
God alone caused the universe, including physical reality, man and morality. God alone determines truth and morality, and without knowing God’s definitions, man must err. And although Rambam praised Aristotle, he could not fully know Torah’s definitions of morality, justice, kindness and charity on his own. Maimonides too says Aristotle believed in the eternity of the universe, while the rabbis says He created it from nothingness. Even Abraham who was perfected in thought and character, was not God, so he too could not know all matters. Rashi on Genesis 5:5 says that God told Abraham, “Give up your astrological speculations that you have seen by the planets that you will not raise a son; Abram indeed may have no son but Abraham will have a son.” Rashi teaches that Abraham had incomplete knowledge.
Synthesizing an incomplete or corrupt system with Torah must corrupt Torah. But when God recorded Abraham’s righteousness in Genesis, He incorporated selected values that reflected truths and Torah ideals.