AN ANTHOLOGY OF THOUGHT & EMOTION... Un'antologia di pensieri & emozioni

Tuesday, 11 April 2017


1. Attitudes of the Kabbalists and Hasidim towards Maimonides

By Rabbi Louis Jacobs 

Originally published in The Solomon Goldman Lectures, vol. v, ed. Byron L. Sherwin and Michael Carasik (Chicago: Spertus College of Judaica Press, 1990: 45-55)

Based on lecture delivered at Spertus College, 27 Oct 1985

The kabbalists and the Hasidim had what we would call today a ‘love-hate relationship’ with Maimonides. On the one hand, Maimonides’ halakhic views were totally accepted as a major contribution to the halakhic process, and there were strong affinities between some of his theological positions and theirs. On the other hand, some of Maimonides’ theological opinions were in direct contradiction with the kabbalah. In this essay we can note both the affinities and the contradictions between Maimonides and these mystics.
It is now generally acknowledged that to describe Maimonides as a ‘rationalist’ for whom, in the language of Ahad Ha’am, [l] reason was supreme, is mistaken. Maimonides, for all his emphasis on the role of human reasoning, can qualify as a mystic. The man who could speak of the soul love-sick for God [2] and who developed the idea of devekut, cleaving to God in mind and heart, in a way almost parallel to the mystics, [3] was poles removed from the sober rationalist of convention. The extremely rare individual, says  Maimonides, [4] who had God always in his thoughts, can walk unharmed through fire and water. Heschel has shown that Maimonides even believed that he had attained to the lower degrees of prophecy! [5] It would seem that the doctrine of devekut in Hasidism—in which the idea occupied a central place—owes much, in fact, to the formulation of the ideal in Maimonides, although this was not always frankly admitted. [6]
Secondly, the kabbalists, concerned to have their doctrines (grossly anthropomorphic on the surface) understood in a refined way—they repeatedly stressed that their mythical description of the sefirot referred to purely spiritual associations and that hagshamah (corporeality) was heretical—welcomed the via negativa of the philosophers in general and Maimonides in particular. With regard to the kabbalistic doctrine of Ein Sof—God as He is in Himself—the kabbalists went beyond Maimonides’ notion of negative attributes, [7] declaring that of Ein Sof nothing whatsoever can be said, no human thought is capable of grasping this aspect of the Deity. [8] The suggestion that God really did appear to the prophets in the guise of a king, sitting on His throne and surrounded by His angels, only seems preposterous to Jews because of the efforts of Maimonides and the other philosophers. In the thirteenth century, the anthropomorphic picture was accepted by many of the distinguished traditionalists, as we learn from the Ketav Tamim of Moses of Taku, who thought that Maimonides and his colleagues were advancing a new religion as a substitute for Judaism, and from the objection of Abraham ibn David of Posquieres (c. 1125-95) to Maimonides’ declaration that anyone who believes that God is corporeal is a heretic. [9]
The famous Safed kabbalist Moses Cordovero (1522-70) writes: ‘All that has been written by those who pursue the knowledge of God through human reasoning in the matter of the divine nature is totally correct in negating from His being the attributes and actions.’ [10] In his Pardes Rimonim, [11] Cordovero accepts Maimonides’ statement [12] that in God Knower, Knowledge and the Known is all One. Cordovero is followed in this by the most systematic hasidic thinker, Shneur Zalman of Liady (1747-1813), founder of the Habad trend in Hasidism. [13] Shneur Zalman’s grandson, Menahem Mendel of Lubavitch (1789-1866), in his Derekh Mitzvotekha, [14] has a lengthy treatment of Maimonides’ negative attributes, stressing its affinity with the kabbalah.
On the debit side, a number of Maimonides’ statements were anathema to the kabbalists. A major source of offence, for them as for the anti-Maimonists, was Maimonides’ identification of the rabbinic ma’aseh bereshit (work of creation) and ma’aseh merkavah (work of the heavenly chariot) with Aristotelian physics and metaphysics. [15] This was, for the kabbalists, to reduce the ‘mysteries of the Torah’, its inner soul, to exercises in Greek science and philosophy. In the attack by Shem Tov ibn Shem Tov (c.1380-1441) on Maimonides’ views, this kabbalist scornfully remarks: ‘Heaven forbid that we should understand it in this way. If that were so then these mysteries are available to all, to the pure and the impure, to the believer and the heretic, to the Canaanite, Hittite, Amonite and Moabite.’ [16]
Maimonides’ mighty attempt to give reasons for the precepts of the Torah [17] was held to be futile by the kabbalists. For them, the mitzvot had an effect on the worlds on high, each detail corresponding to this or that spiritual entity, instead of which Maimonides supplies reasons which make the mitzvot into a means to social, ethical (or even religious) ends but which, by implication, have no intrinsic value. As Shem Tov ibn Shem Tov puts it:
‘And when the rabbi [Maimonides] comes to provide reasons for the commandments, the truth be told, no one will discover any mitzvah to be carried out for its own purpose. Either it is for the purpose of nullifying nonsensical opinions, as are [for Maimonides] all the laws regarding idolatry and its worship, the sacrificial system, the Temple, its vessels and those who minister there, and to affirm God’s unity; or for the purpose of controlling the appetites, as are the forbidden foods and sexual relationships  and other mitzvot, or it is for the purpose of improving the character, as are charity, tithing, the poor man’s gifts, the laws of damages and of monetary claims; or for the purpose of remembering the creation of the world or the unity of God.’ [18]
The kabbalist Isaac of Acre (13th-14th cent.), in his Me’irat Einayim [19], admires Maimonides’ attempt at refining the God idea and Maimonides’ mystical fervour, but finds the sage’s attitude towards the reasons for the mitzvot unworthy of him.
‘Although the words of the Guide for the Perplexed refine the mind and direct the intellect aright, bringing those who understand his ideas correctly to a comprehension of the Creator, to love Him with a perfect, untainted love, with a whole heart and a soul filled with desire, as Scripture says: “Know thou the God of thy father, and serve Him with a whole heart and with a willing mind” (I Chron. 28: 9), yet in connection with the reasons for the mitzvot he said nothing at all adequate but as one who tries to push away an adversary with a straw.’
The kabbalists also shared in the opposition by the traditionalists to Maimonides’ eschatological view; his identification of the World to Come with the immortality of the soul; [20] his belief that it is only the ‘acquired soul’, the soul gained through metaphysical speculation, that is immortal [21], and his apparent rejection of the doctrine of hell, equating it with annihilation of the sinful soul, not with torment. [22]
With Maimonides’ view of angels [23] as entirely disembodied spirits who could never appear in human form, the kabbalists, with their rich angelology, based on the rabbinic literature, could hardly be in sympathy. Nahmanides (1195-1270), great talmudist, kabbalist and admirer of Maimonides, is horrified at the suggestion that all the biblical references to angels appearing as human refers to appearance in a dream, so that Jacob did not really wrestle with the angel, Sarah and Abraham were not actually visited by angels; it was all a dream, as was the episode of Balaam and the ass. [24]
Maimonides also angered the kabbalists in his silence on the whole doctrine of the sefirot, so central to the kabbalistic scheme, of which he appeared to be ignorant. On Maimonides’ philosophical understanding of Moses seeking God’s back but not His face [25] (Exodus 33: 20) Abraham ibn David remarks: ‘Face and Back is a great mystery, which it is improper to reveal to everyone. Perhaps the author of this statement did not know it.’ [26]
Few of the kabbalists saw fit to denigrate Maimonides in the manner of Shem Tov ibn Shem Tov. Moses Alashkar (1466-1552) appends to his responsa collection [27] a lengthy attack on Shem Tov and a defence of Maimonides, though, in the process, he makes Maimonides more conventional than he really is and goes so far as to make him a convert to the kabbalah, as we shall see. Shem Tov’s sons and grandson did not share his rejection of Maimonides. On the contrary, they were followers of many of Maimonides’ views. It is one of the ironies of the whole debate that Shem Tov’s grandson, also called Shem Tov, compiled one of the standard commentaries to Maimonides’ Guide of the Perplexed. [28] Yet we learn from the Magid Mesharim of Joseph Caro (1488-1575) that, in the sixteenth century, some kabbalists had a very unflattering view of Maimonides.
The Magid Mesharim is the mystical diary kept by Caro, like Maimonides a great lawyer and mystic, in which his Magid, a visitant from the upper worlds, communicated messages to him. The very revealing communication referring to Maimonides reads:
‘When you die the Rambam of blessed memory will come out to meet you because you solved the difficulties in his Code of Laws. He belongs among the saints, not, as those sages say, that he was reincarnated as a worm. For let it be that it was so decreed, because of words of his he spoke improperly, yet his Torah learning protected him and also his good deeds of which he was a master. He was never reincarnated as a worm. He was obliged to suffer reincarnation [in some other form] but when he departed that life he was admitted into the realm of the saints.’ [29]
Nahman of Bratzlav (1772-1811), hasidic leader and opponent of the Haskalah movement, centuries later, is the most outspoken mystic of all against Maimonides’ philosophical views as being incompatible with mystic faith. [30] Whoever studies Maimonides’ Guide, says Rabbi Nahman, destroys the holy image of God, and as for the reasons Maimonides gives for such precepts as the sacrificial cult and incense, [31] they are all nonsense. Horodesky was told by a Bratzlaver Hasid of the bold statement by Nahman: ‘There are many thinkers whom the world treats as great men, especially the Rambam. But in the future world they will know that he was an unbeliever and a heretic!’ [32]
Among the majority of the kabbalists, admiration for Maimonides gained the upper hand and the inevitable happened: Maimonides was himself turned into a kabbalist, albeit a secret one. The first mention of this is in the commentary to Maimonides’ code, Migdal Oz, by Shem Tov ibn Gaon (13th-14th cent.).
Ibn Gaon composed the work some time after he had emigrated from his native Spain to Palestine in 1312. He is commenting on the passage, mentioned above, where Abraham ibn David supposes that Maimonides was not an initiate into the mysteries of the Kabbalah. [33] Maimonides’ explanation, says Ibn Gaon, of Face and Back does, indeed, pursue the philosophical approach but that does not mean he was unaware of the kabbalah, as Ibn David suggests. Ibn Gaon continues:
‘In my opinion Maimonides, of blessed memory, did come to know the kabbalah towards the end of his life. For I hereby testify that I saw in Spain my birthplace a very old begrimed parchment scroll in which was written: “I, Moshe ben R. Maimon, reflected on the subject of the end of days, after I had descended into the halls of the Chariot.” What he says here is very close to the ideas of the kabbalists to which our great teacher, Nahmanides, of blessed memory, alludes at the beginning of his Commentary on the Torah.’ [34]
The legend of Maimonides’ conversion to the kabbalah received further elaboration after the expulsion from Spain. Evidently, the collapse of Spanish Jewry and its philosophical tendencies encouraged the kabbalists to win Maimonides over to their ranks. Me’ir ibn Gabbai (1486-after 1540) wrote his classical work on the kabbalah, Avodat Hakodesh, in the years 1523-31. Here he writes:
‘Who was greater in philosophical expertise than the Rambam, of blessed memory? Yet once he had found the pearl he threw away the pebbles. One of the true sages [i.e. a kabbalist], who explained the mysteries of the Ramban, [35] writes as follows in his commentary to Beshalach. “This man, Rabbi Jacob, went to Egypt to transmit the kabbalah to the Rambam, of blessed memory. So overjoyed was he [Maimonides] that he praised it [the kabbalah] to his disciples. However, he did not have this privilege until the latter days of his life, when he had composed all the works of his we have today.” The sage, Rabbi Isaac Abravanel, of blessed memory, in his work Nahalat Avot, writes as follows, at the end of chapter ‘Akavia’, [36]: “I, too, have heard that the great rabbi, Maimonides, wrote, ‘Towards the end of my life a certain person came to me saying to me tasty words. Were it not for the fact that this was towards the end of my life, when my works had been published throughout the world, I would have retracted many of the things I had recorded therein.’ And there is no doubt that it was the kabbalah about which he had heard towards the end of his days.” He [Abravanel] only heard it as a report. But I have actually seen a work in which it is stated in his [Maimonides’] name: “Towards the end of my life a certain venerable sage came to me and he illumined my eyes in the kabbalistic science. Were it not for the fact that my works have been published, I would have retracted many of the things I have written therein.”’ [37]
This alleged secret document is referred to in Moses Alashkar’s defence of Maimonides referred to above. In his reply to Shem Tov ibn Shem Tov’s denial that Maimonides knew the kabbalah, Alashkar writes:
‘First of all, I must record the words of the Rabbi [Maimonides], of blessed memory, which he wrote to his beloved disciple, in a secret document regarding the profound mysteries of the true kabbalah . . . “For most of my days I was perplexed [38] about the investigation of existing things to know their true meaning, according to the methods of the philosophers and by means of logical postulates. But it now seems that these methods are at fault, at least. For that which was obvious to them [the philosophers] had not been proven by any disproof of the contrary. [39] . . . But the practitioners of the kabbalah, by methods assured against error, are able to comprehend all matters capable of comprehension quite easily. It was by these methods that the prophets proceeded, comprehending all they did, knowing the future and carrying out strange acts of a supernatural order. I also took to myself some few of these methods for the investigation of the nature of things and all my doubts were stilled.”’ [40]
And so the legend grew. Joseph Solomon Delmedigo (1591-1655), in his work in defence of the kabbalah, Matzref Lehokhmah, a reply to the rejection of the kabbalah by his kinsman, Elijah ben Moses Delmedigo, Behinat Hadat [41] repeats the legend, [42] quoting all the above sources, which, for him, appear conclusive evidence of the authenticity of the report that Maimonides became a kabbalist in his old age and retracted his former opinions. None of these writers appear to be aware that in the process they are accusing Maimonides of subterfuge, of refusing to retract his opinions except in a secret document!
On the other hand, the famous kabbalist Hayim Vital (1542-1620) appears to have rejected the legend, if he knew of it in the first place. In a mystical vein Vital remarks [43] that both Maimonides and Nahmanides were named Moses because their souls were derived from ‘corners of the head of the Lesser Countenance’. [44] But Nahmanides’ soul came from the right side and hence he was privileged to know the kabbalah, whereas Maimonides’ soul came from the left side and he was denied knowledge of the kabbalah. The Hida, Hayim Joseph David Azulai (1724-1806), in his biographical note on Maimonides, [45] quotes this saying of Vital and notes that it contradicts the legend. Hida is obliged to say either that the legend is false or that all Maimonides attained in his old age was how to use the divine names for magical purposes, not the knowledge of the kabbalistic mysteries.
The kabbalist Joseph Ergas (1685-1730) is similarly circumspect. In reply to the accusation that the kabbalah cannot be an authentic tradition since it was unknown to Maimonides, Ergas [46] suggests a number of possibilities. First, no single person can know everything. Even a Maimonides may have been ignorant of the kabbalah without this fact causing us to cast aspersions on the science. Secondly, Maimonides may well have known the kabbalah but in his honesty, as he saw it, he may have rejected the science as he undoubtedly did with regards to such things as belief in demons and magic. [47] Finally, Ergas falls back on the authenticity of the secret document quoted by Alashkar and states that he, himself, has a copy of this very document in his possession. The mystery has deepened.
In the hasidic movement the same ambivalent attitude towards Maimonides’ philosophical (though not, of course, his halakhic) views prevailed. In one area in particular, that of divine providence, Maimonides’ views were in direct conflict with those of Hasidism. Hasidic immanentism or panentheism [48] refused to allow, as Maimonides held, that God’s providence extends only in general to the species other than the human. [49] Hasidism depended for its whole system on the belief that there is individual divine providence for all things in creation.
Strangely enough Ergas in his Shomer Emunim [50] follows Maimonides on general versus particular providence. Isaac Stern, the editor of the Shomer Emunim, lists a number of hasidic masters who took issue with Maimonides and Ergas on this issue. [51] For them every blade of grass lies where it does and in that particular way by a direct divine fiat. [52] Typical is the attitude of Rabbi Hayim Halberstam of Zans (1791-1876), an admirer of Maimonides. (The Hasidim report that the Zanser would study the Guide of the Perplexed after Kol Nidrei on Yom Kippur and would pray to God that he might be as God-fearing as Maimonides. [53]) Halberstam writes in affirmation of the doctrine of particular providence: ‘Even though the Rambam, of blessed memory, has a different opinion in this matter, the truth is, as the rabbis of blessed memory say, [54] that not even a bird is caught in a snare without direct providence from on high, as is well known.’ [55]
Hasidism, then, went its own way without being bothered too much as to whether or not its doctrines were compatible with those of Maimonides. A few of the hasidic masters shared Nahman of Bratzlav’s hostility to Maimonides’ thought. The majority respected Maimonides as a great teacher but refused to study his philosophical ideas. Typical of the compromise position is the story told to Heschel about Menahem Mendel of Kotzk (1787-1859). [56] The Seer of Lublin advised the Kotzker to study Maimonides’ Code but to skip the opening chapters, which contain his philosophical views. The Kotzker, however, did not skip these passages but he read them in a cursory fashion without any deep study.
A fairly reliable report [57] tells of the hasidic master Abraham Jacob of Sadegora (1819-83) repeating a defence of Maimonides by his father Israel of Ruzhyn (1797-1850). The Ruzhyner asked his Hasidim, why do people speak ill of Maimonides? Why should they not, exclaimed a rabbi present, since he dares to suggest that Aristotle knew more about mundane matters than the prophet Ezekiel? The Ruzhyner replied: Aristotle was so dazzled by the splendours of the world—the king’s palace—that he devoted all his talents to its investigation, whereas Ezekiel was too much dedicated to the king himself to spend time on examining the glories of the palace. Maimonides was right. After telling this, Rabbi Abraham Jacob went on to say that Maimonides was of the seed of David and codified the Law so that all should be ready for the coming of the Messiah, and he himself should have been the Messiah were it not that the world was not ready for his coming. That is why all the righteous try their utmost to defend Maimonides against his detractors. From a foe of the kabbalah Maimonides has become the longed-for Messiah who was unfortunate enough to be born before his time.


  1. Ahad Ha’am, ‘Shilton Hasekhel’, in Al Parashat Derakhim (Berlin, 1921), 4: 1-37. Also see Solomon Goldman, The Jew and the Universe (New York, 1936; ed. Anna Pom, New York, 1973), which contains a critique of Ahad Ha’am’s essay on Maimonides.
  2. Maimonides, Mishneh Torah, ‘Sefer Hamada, Yesodei Hatorah’, 4: 12, and ‘Hilkhot Teshuvah’, 10: 3.
  3. See Gershom Scholem, ‘Devekut, or Communion with God’, in The Messianic Idea in Judaism (New York, 1973), 203–27. On p. 205 Scholem notes the strong resemblances between Maimonides’ view of devekut and that of the early kabbalist and talmudist, Nahmanides. Nahmanides’ statement is in his commentary on Deuteronomy 11: 22, Commentary on the Torah, ed. H. D. Chavel (Jerusalem, 1960). ‘Devarim’, 395.
  4. In his discussion of devekutGuide, III, 51.
  5. Abraham Joshua Heschel, ‘Did Maimonides strive for Prophetic Inspiration?’, in Louis Ginzberg Jubilee Volume, Heb. section (New York, 1945), 150-88.
  6. See Jacob I. Dienstag: ‘Maimonides’ Guide and Sefer HaMadda in Hasidic Literature’, in Abraham Weiss Jubilee Volume, Heb. section (New York, 1964), 307-30. See especially pp. 314-16, where Dienstag provides an illuminating parallel between Maimonides on devekut and Abraham of Kalisk (1740-1810).
  7. Guide, I, 51-60.
  8. ‘The Mystical Prayer of Elijah’ in Tikkunei Zohar, Second Introduction.
  9. For Abraham ibn David (Rabad), see his stricture to Maimonides’ Mishneh Torah, ‘Teshuvah’ 3: 7. On Moses of Taku see Ketav Tamim, ed. from the Paris manuscript by J. Dan, in ‘Kuntresim’, Texts and Studies 61 (1984).
  10. Shiur Komah (Warsaw, 1885) 34b (Arabic no. 67).
  11. Chap. 7, ‘Sha’ar Mahut Vehanhagah’ (Jerusalem, 1962).
  12. Mishneh Torah, ‘Yesodei Hatorah’, 2: 10; Guide, I, 68.
  13. Tanya (Vilna, 1930), Part I, chs. 2, 48; Part II, ch. 7. On this author’s discussion of Maimonides’ doctrine of negative attributes, see his Likkutei Torah(Brooklyn, 1976), ‘Pikkudei’, 6c (Arabic no. 12).
  14. Derekh Mitzvotekha (Brooklyn, 1976), 46b-47a.
  15. Mishneh Torah, ‘Yesodei Ha-Torah’ 4:10-13; Guide, Introduction.
  16. Sefer Ha’emunot (Ferrara, 1556; photo-copy, Jerusalem, 1969), Introduction, 4a.
  17. Guide, III.
  18. Sefer Ha’emunot, I, ch. 1, 7a.
  19. Ed. H. A. Erlanger (Jerusalem, 1975), 203.
  20. Mishneh Torah, ‘Teshuvah’, 8: 2.
  21. Guide, I, 70.
  22. Mishneh Torah, ‘Teshuvah’ 8: 5. For the kabbalistic opposition to Maimonides’ eschatology see e.g. Rabad on ‘Teshuvah’ 8: 2, 4; Shem Tov, Sefer Ha’emunot, I, 1, p. 5b; Migdal Oz on these passages in the Mishneh TorahMidrash Hane’elam, Zohar 2, 135b-136a, appears to be based on Maimonides!
  23. Guide, II, 42.
  24. Nahmanides’ Commentary on Genesis 18: 1, ed. Chavel, pp. 103-7.
  25. Mishneh Torah, ‘Yesodei Hatorah’, 1: 10.
  26. Quoted in Kesef Mishneh ad loc., obviously referring to the doctrine of the sefirot; perhaps ‘face’ is Tiferet and ‘back’ is Malkhut, or ‘face’ is Hesed and ‘back’ is Gevurah.
  27. Jerusalem, 1957, no. 117.
  28. e.g. in Lemberg edn. of the Guide, 1866.
  29. See R. J. Z. Werblowsky, Joseph Karo: Lawyer and Mystic (Oxford, 1962), 31 and 170 note 2. Cf. my Jewish Mystical Testimonies (New York, 1977), 115-16. Werblowsky points out that the reference to reincarnation in a worm has been omitted from the printed versions of the Maggid Mesharim out of respect for Maimonides. Werblowsky supplies it from the manuscript.
  30. See Dienstag, op. cit., pp. 316-17.
  31. Shivhei Haran (Lemberg, 1864), chapter on ‘Keeping Away from Speculation and being strong in Faith’.
  32. S. A. Horodesky, Hahasidut vehahasidim (Berlin, 1923), 2: 40.
  33. In Kesef Mishneh on ‘Yesodei Hatorah’, 1: 10.
  34. Migdal Oz on Mishneh Torah, ‘Yesodei Hatorah’, 1: 10.
  35. On the whole subject of Maimonides’ alleged conversion to kabbalism see the famous essay of G. Scholem, ‘Mehoker limekkubal, Sefer Harambam’,Tarbiz, 6: 3 (1935), 90-8. Scholem notes that it would seem that the author of these commentaries on Ramban is Isaac of Acre in his Me’irat Einayim, but Scholem was unable to discover any reference to the report in any of the manuscripts of the work he consulted. It is not found in the Erlanger edn., op. cit., either. Israel Weinstock, Bema’agalei Hanigleh Vehanistar (Jerusalem, 1969) has adduced a good deal of evidence to show that some of the basic kabbalistic ideas were known to the medieval philosophers including Maimonides. In the light of his investigations, he remarks, the whole question of Maimonides’ relationship to the kabbalah will need to be reopened (118, n. 34). Cf. H. J. Michael, Or Hahayyim (Frankfurt, 1891), 537 and 551-2; S. N. Hones, Toledot Haposekim (Warsaw, 1922), 443 (from Michael).
  36. Opening word of chapter three of Avot. In the Jerusalem, 1970, edn. of Nahalat Avot, the passage is found on p. 209.
  37. Avodat Hakodesh (Jerusalem, 1973), Part II, ch. 13, 33c (Arabic no. 66).
  38. Heb. navukh, obviously inspired by Maimonides’ Moreh Nevukhim (Guide of the Perplexed).
  39. The meaning appears to be that the propositions of the philosophers were only guesswork since they had not advanced the convincing proof that the contrary of the positions is false.
  40. Responsa, op. cit., no. 117, p. 313.
  41. Behinat Hadat, ed. Isaac Reggio (Vienna, 1833). On p. 40 the older Delmedigo says that none of the geonim knew the kabbalah. Reggio’s note to this page refers to the younger Delmedigo’s defense but dismisses it, referring to Leon da Modena (1571-1648), who, in his Ari Nohem, ed. Julius Furst (Leipzig, 1840), ch. 12, p. 34, says the whole thing is only a dream.
  42. Joseph Solomon Delmedigo (Yashar of Candia), Matzref Lehokhmah, ed. D. Tors (Odessa, 1864), 34a-b (Arabic no. 68-69).
  43. Sefer Hagilgulim (Premisla, 1875), Part II, 8b.
  44. Ze’er, i.e. Ze’er Anpin, one of the partzufim of the Lurianic kabbalah. Interestingly enough Vital says here that Maimonides did not know the kabbalah at all whereas Nahmanides came to know it in his old age. There seems to be some confusion here between Nahmanides and Maimonides, i.e. the notion that Maimonides only became a kabbalist in his old age was transferred to Nahmanides.
  45. Shem Hagedolim (Warsaw, 1876), s.v. ‘Harambam’, I, # 100. Azulai refers to the strong doubts expressed as to the authenticity of the secret document in Moses ben Jacob’s Shushin Sadat (Koretz, 1784), 31a.
  46. Shomer Emunim, ed. Isaac Stem (Jerusalem, 1965), Part I, 12-13, pp. 10-13. The ‘secret document’ is also referred to in the commentary on the Guideby Moses b. Joshua of Narbonne (d. 1362): Narboni, ed. J. Goldenthal (Vienna, 1852), Part 2, 21, p. 4a.
  47. E.g. in Mishneh Torah, ‘Avodah Zarah’, 11 end, on magic. Commentary on the Mishnah, ‘Avodah Zarah’, ch. 4; Guide, 111, 46 on demons. Cf. Mishneh Torah, ‘Sanhedrin’ 12: 2, where Maimonides says, ‘Even if he heard the voice of the one who gave the warning without actually seeing him’, obviously giving his interpretation to Me’ilah 6b, ‘even by a demon’. See Me’iri on Me’ilah 6b, who says derekh mashal (‘as a parable’; ‘in a manner of speaking’). Also see Rabad on Mishneh Torah ad loc. And see Vilna Gaon to ‘Yoreh De’ah’ 179, n. 13.
  48. See my Seeker of Unity (London, 1966).
  49. Guide, III, 17-18.
  50. Shomer Emunim, Part I, 81, although Ergas does not mention Maimonides here by name.
  51. Stern’s Introduction, 31-4.
  52. Phinehas of Koretz (1726-1791) in Pe’er Layesharim, ed. I. D. Ozenstein (Jerusalem, 1921). No. 38, p. 5b.
  53. Dienstag, op. cit., 325.
  54. See Tosafists to Avodah Zarah 17b, s.v. dimos.
  55. Divrei Hayyim (Brooklyn, 1962), ‘Mikketz’, 13d (Arabic no. 26).
  56. See Heschel’s Yiddish book Kotzk (Tel Aviv, 1973), I: 175-6. On page 347, n. 8 gives as his source a verbal report to him.
  57. Keneset Yisra’el by Reuben Zvi of Ostila (Warsaw, 1906), 7b-8a. See Sefer Hahakdamah Vehapetihah by R. Gershom Hanokh Henekh of Radzyn, ed. Yeruham Latner (New York, 1950); this is the introduction of R. Gershom Hanokh to his father’s Beit Ya’akov. See pp. 28-40 for a defense of Rambam as kabbalist.

~ * ~

Louis Jacobs CBE (17 July 1920 – 1 July 2006) was the founder of Masorti (Conservative) Judaism in the United Kingdom, and a leading writer and theologian. He combined "immense erudition with the ability to inspire... he has shown it is possible to be Orthodox without being superstitious."