Generally speaking, the term, "decrees of the Omnipresent" [in Hebrew, "gezeirot HaMakom"] is understood to imply decrees that cannot be explained rationally. This is also the way Maimonides explains this term in the Mishna (Berachot 5:3) where we are told that if someone claims that the law of chasing away the mother-bird prior to taking its young (Deut. 22:6) is an expression of G‑d's mercy, such a person must be stopped, since we must not interpret G‑d's laws as being based on human sensitivities. G‑d's laws do not need a rationale in order for us to observe and cherish them. Maimonides was attacked for having made such a statement, as is well known. At any rate, if it is as Maimonides says, then all the commandments are merely decrees that need not be investigated as to their specific rationale.

Nothing could be a greater proof of the divine authenticity of Torah than these so called contradictions….

We have another Midrash which compares the legislation of the red heifer to a king who enters a country, and to whom his subjects say, "Please impose upon us some decrees!" The King replies: "Once you have accepted me as your sovereign, I will begin to make decrees." Similarly G‑d said to Israel: "Since you have accepted My sovereignty when I said 'I am the L-rd your G‑d, etc.', now accept My decree not to have any other deities!"

There is an illuminating comment by the Maharam from Padua, on the Sefer HaMada of Maimonides, commenting on the miracle by which the world was created and how contradictory it seems that certain celestial bodies are sources of light, while others only reflect light, having none of their own to give. Some stars race around the universe, others travel at a leisurely pace. Some natural phenomena exude heat, others cold. All these phenomena are examples of contradictions. Nonetheless, they are all part of the same universe. What is so strange then if the Torah contains some laws that appear contradictory? On the contrary, nothing could be a greater proof of the divine authenticity of Torah than these so called contradictions. Had Torah been man-made legislation, surely it would have reflected the lawgiver's "consistency"!

Surely, when G‑d created Nature, He did so with intelligence! This then must be our answer when confronted by those who claim that the Torah's commandments are devoid of reason, only intended to assert G‑d's authority over His creatures.

Our answer to such arguments must be that this would be a very poor way for G‑d to win adherents to His law. Surely, if He had only wanted to secure our obedience, He would have legislated only laws that we could comprehend, and which by their logic would make us accept Him as our supreme authority! The only reason then that He legislated such apparently illogical laws must be that they are beneficial for us, though we do not understand how - a condition due to the limitation of our perceptive faculties!

[Translated and adapted by Eliyahu Munk.]