An Overview

The 13 Ikkarim are the thirteen basic fundamental concepts of Judaism. Together, they form the foundation upon which Torah, Mitzvos, and life as a Jew are built.

  • These 13 are most commonly expressed in an abridged form as the Ani Maamins, with each Ani Maamin declaring full acceptance and unwavering belief of that particular concept.

  • The listing of 13 was compiled by the Rambam, spelled out in detail in his commentary on Mishna, in his introduction to the 10th chapter of Maseches Sanhedrin, completing this work in the year 1168. At some later point, the Rambam’s concepts were condensed, and phrased in credo “Ani Maamin” form, by an unknown author. To the best of our current knowledge, this version first appeared in the 16th century, close to 300 years after the Ramba”m.

  • “Ani Maamin” has gained near-universal acceptance in the centuries since, becoming a standard feature of Jewish communities all across the globe. Many of our greatest leaders, such as the Chofetz Chaim, have urged their daily recital. Indeed, the Ani Maamins are found in the vast majority of siddurim, right after Shacharis, and many do in fact recite them daily at the conclusion of the morning tefillah.

The thirteen Ikkarim represent 13 independent ideas. They are, however, interconnected. It can truly be said that when put into perspective, they are a description of 4 distinct concepts.

  • The first series describes the way we understand and relate to Hakadosh Baruch Hu himself. This series comprises the first five Ikkarim.

  • The second series describes the authenticity of the Torah and commandments which instruct us on how to live our lives. This series covers the sixth through ninth Ikkarim.

  • The next series lays out the concept that not only are the acts we perform inherently good or bad, but that these acts are tabulated, and each one will carry a consequence. This covers the tenth and eleventh Ikkarim.

  • The final series lays out our long term vision, the world which we aspire to create. This is detailed in the twelfth and thirteenth Ikkarim.
Understanding our relationship with Hakadosh Baruch Hu

1| His essence is something completely different than everything we know and experience. Every single thing in our universe has a vast number of dependencies. We require all sorts of things to exist, such as nutrition, a properly hospitable climate, oxygen to breathe etc... Likewise, all physical entities or matter that we know of depend on a vast number of elements to exist. Above all, everything requires something to create it and bring it into existence.

Hakadosh Baruch Hu, on the other hand, is completely independent and requires nothing else to help him exist. If the entire universe would destruct, it would not impact His viability in the slightest.

2| He is One, in the sense that nothing exists without His having brought it into creation, and nothing continues to exist without His constant investing in maintaining the continued existence of that person or thing. There is no other such force. He is the Creator alone. Nothing else has the power or ability to determine what being, events, or forces should or should not exist or happen except for Him and Him alone.

3| Hakadosh Baruch Hu is not physical, and has no physical being, nor any physical emotions, feelings, or dimensions. Our entire universe, including the very existence of physical matter and forces such as rules of nature is all an invention of His. These physical elements and forces have no connection to the nature of Him himself, and as such, it is fundamentally impossible to describe him using any comparative terms.

4| Hakadosh Baruch Hu is timeless, having existed when our world was yet to be brought into existence. He was always here, whereas we were brought into this world at a specific point in time to fulfill a specific role.

5| Being that He and He alone controls all that exists and all that we experience, each time we look for “behind-the-scenes“ controlling force, whether in praise for all that we receive, or whether in supplication for help with all our needs, we turn to Him and to Him alone.

Understanding the truth of our Torah and Mitzvos

6| The concept of prophecy is absolutely true. That is to say, that HaKadosh Baruch Hu actively engages our world, and will in fact communicate directly with select human beings in highly specific situations. Because of this channel, we were able to receive instruction from Him guiding us as to our mission in life, and in laying out the parameters of good and bad.

7|Of all those to receive this divine communication, Moshe Rabbeinu was the penultimate recipient, who communicated with unparalleled clarity. No other individual ever experienced, or will experience, a prophecy of greater clarity. Thus, no other individual can ever claim to have a better understanding of Hashem’s will than Moshe Rabbeinu. No one can claim to possess a more accurate Torah.

8| The Torah given to Moshe Rabbeinu is the one in our possession today. It was faithfully transmitted, and those leaders that passed the Torah from generation to generation did not insert personal opinions, views or values. They conveyed only their fullest understanding of the word of Hashem as it was conveyed to them.

9| The Torah given to Moshe, in our possession today, is not specific to a time or place. It is all encompassing, providing us Hashem’s unwavering will which is relevant and in full force in all times and places. As such, no one can ever claim that there are modifications or newer versions of Hashem’s will.

Understanding the significance of our actions

10| Hakadosh Baruch Hu is intimately aware of each and every action we do. Not merely the physical motions, but the thought process, internal challenges, and machinations of our hearts and mind are as well open to Him, allowing Him to properly, fully and accurately tabulate all that we do. These thoughts and actions are most significant to Him, and He observes and records them all.

11|Our actions do not just disappear into history. Each action brings a reaction. Much as we understand how physical actions can automatically create pain or enjoyment, all the actions we perform natural- ly create an effect we will come to experience. Positive actions generate rewarding consequences, negative ones generate damaging ill-effect. Full reward or retribution is something far greater than what can be experienced in this world, and therefore, will only truly be felt after we conclude our physical lives, and move on to the Next World.

Understanding the development of our world

12| There will come a day when the entire world will realize the truth of Hakadosh Baruch Hu’s existence. Society will no longer adhere to all sorts of assorted human-created values or random in-vogue morals. Rather, led by the guidance of Moshiach as a Torah-true monarch, all Jews will embrace the Torah and live lives guided by Hashem’s directives. They will serve as a radiant beacon leading the world at large to a true sense of what is right and what is wrong, what is to be lauded and what is abhorrent. It will be a world that will truly hew to a vision of embodying Hashem‘s will.

13|At some point within the development of this new world order, there will be a point where earlier generations of Jews will be resurrected, returning to life. Throughout the story of history, Jews have struggled mightily to keep their faith, pass it on to their children, and live a life of growth in Torah and mitzvos. It’s a centuries-long story of having been faced with challenges both individually and on a communal or national scale. With the return to life in a utopian era, they will be able to live the life of a Jew that they aspired to, free of the hardships and challenges that hold people back in life.


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