Avodah Mailing List

Volume 36: Number 80

Wed, 04 Jul 2018

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Subjects Discussed In This Issue:
Message: 1
From: H Lampel
Date: Tue, 3 Jul 2018 23:17:42 -0400

On 7/3/2018 7:36 PM, Micha Berger wrote:
> On Tue, Jul 03, 2018 at 04:51:41PM -0400, H Lampel wrote:
> : I have not really studied Strauss. But in almost every description of the
> : Strausian approach I've seen, the Rambam, to avoid persecution, secretly
> : believed in Aristotelian eternity, a belief the Rambam vociferously fought
> : against as heretical, one that would undermine the entire Torah...
> The way I understood estoricism is that Strauss believed the Rambam had
> beliefs that the masses would consider heretical, and therefore he hid
> them. Not that the Rambam himself thought he was being a heretic, or
> that his position was inconsistent with Chazal's.

> So, why couldn't he believe Chazal were hiding the same truths from /their/ uneducated contemporaries?
The Rambam built he case that accepting Aristotle's version of an 
eternal universe would topple the message of the Torah, repeatedly 
describing Creation ex nihilo a y'sod of the Torah, denial of which he 
declared heretical. So maybe what you mean to say is that Strauss 
preached that although the Rambam considered himself a heretic, he 
thought there's nothing wrong with being a heretic, because heresy was 
the truth. And then, yes, Rambam thought Chazal as well secretly held 
and hinted to in their Aggados views they publicly preached as 
heretical. So yeah, if one could swallow that, the Strausian school 
could be considered internally consistent.

But regardless, it's not consistent with the facts or reason. The Rambam 
constantly depicted the masses as the ones who accepted Aristotle's 
eternity, and did not have the sophistication to see doing so 
contradicted their following the Torah. Yet he went to great lengths to 
counter that belief. Had he said nothing, the masses would continue to 
hold the correct heretical belief in an eternal universe while 
illogiclly continuing to keep the mitzvos. No one asked the Rambam to 
buck the crowd and call Aristotle's view heretical, but he did.

As far as the Midrashim are concerned, it's the other way around. The 
Rambam points out that on their face they often /are/ heretical (as are 
many pesukim depicting Hashem as a physical entity) or otherwise 
unacceptable, and the masses accepted those literal meanings. The Rambam 
struggled to convince his audience that they required interpretation to 
remove the heresy and unacceptable literal meanings.
> :>    ... Although how the donkey could reach the level of knowledge the
> :> Rambam would say would be necessary to experience a seikhel nivdal like
> :> the mal'akh is beyond me. Leshitaso, was that the big neis?
> : L'fi HaRambam, the entire episode was Bilaam's vision. He saw this
> : story, including the donkey's seeing the angel and speaking to Bilaam
> : [which was actually happening in the spiritual world, as you explain]
> : being played out, meant to teach him the lessons he was meant to learn.
> : This is how Abarbanel (on MN 2:42) explains the entire episode of the
> : angels visiting Avraham, Sarai being in the tent and preparing food, etc.
> Yes, that's who I cited.
> But my problem stands. Bil'am saw a real event, and therefore he saw his
> donkey having a real exchange with an angel. No problems with Bil'am's
> witnessing the exchange, but I don't understand how the Rambam explains
> that exchange itself.
> However, the Rambam believes that nevu'ah comes from knowledge, and the
> consequent connection to haSeikhel haPo'al / the Active Intellect. How
> could the donkey have that exchange?
Bilaam was not seeing an earthly donkey. He was seeing a seichel nivdal 
kind of donkey, which I would think is at home with other such entities 
and with whom it is able to communicate. (For readership's 
clarification, as you know, the issue isn't an earthly donkey talking. 
Rambam accepts that such a temporary miracle is not impossible. The only 
issue is that it is an impossibility for an earthly donkey to make a 
connection with haSeikhel haPoel, a view the Ramban shares.)
> : As I wrote,
> : >     The Rambam is explicitly speaking of contradicting /premises/ used
> : >     to give evidence for a point, not contradicting /points/. ...
> ...
> : In their Hebrew translations, Ibn Tibbon, Shem Tob, Efodi, as well as KPCH
> : speak of contradicting hakdamos. Pines accordingly speaks of contradicting
> : premises. ...
> CC-ing RSM. Here's a link to the original.
> http://www.teachittome.com/seforim2/seforim/moreh_nevuchim_arabic.pdf#page=22
> (Page 22 of the pdf, page 11 of the book, the 7th reason starts on
> line 7.)
 From what I can make out (thanks to Rambam's occasional use of Hebrew) 
this is where he begins talking about all seven seebos. The Arabic 
Makdamah is obviously the Hebrew Hakdamah [to this subject], and the 
next Arabic word, asba-av is obviously the Hebrew seebah. The 7th reason 
for contradictions is on page 23 of the pdf, p. 12 of the book. And 
there I again see the Arabic word makdamah, and repeated twice in close 
proximity, matching the Hebrew translations that have the word hakdamah 
twice in close proximity.

Zvi Lampel
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