Thursday, May 04, 2006

Of Demons (Sheidim) and Men - Rambam believes that Sheidim exist!

Happywithhislot has a post about Artscroll position on Shedim, demons . It brought to mind an interesting Rambam on the subject and here it is:
Moreh 1:7 -

A man who has instructed another in any subject, and has improved his knowledge, may in like manner be regarded as the parent of the person taught, because he is the author of that knowledge: and thus the pupils of the prophets are called" sons of the prophets," as I shall explain when treating of the homonymity of ben (son). In this figurative sense, the verb yalad (to bear) is employed when it is said of Adam," And Adam lived an hundred and thirty years, and begat (va-yoled) a son in his own likeness, in his form" (Gen. V. 3). As regards the words," the form of Adam, and his likeness," we have already stated (ch. i.) their meaning.

(Rambam explains there that Tzelem and Demut refer to the quality that defines a man when compared to any other living thing namely the intellect).

Those sons of Adam who were born before that time were not human in the true sense of the word, they had not" the form of man." With reference to Seth who had been instructed, enlightened and brought to human perfection, it could rightly be said," he (Adam) begat a son in his likeness, in his form." It is acknowledged that a man who does not possess this" form" (the nature of which has just been explained) is not human, but a mere animal in human shape and form. Yet such a creature has the power of causing harm and injury, a power which does not belong to other creatures. For those gifts of intelligence and judgment with which he has been endowed for the purpose of acquiring perfection, but which he has failed to apply to their proper aim, are used by him for wicked and mischievous ends; he begets evil things, as though he merely resembled man, or simulated his outward appearance. Such was the condition of those sons of Adam who preceded Seth. In reference to this subject the Midrash says:" During the 130 years when Adam was under rebuke he begat spirits, i.e., demons;when, however, he was again restored to divine favour" he begat in his likeness, in his form." This is the sense of the passage," Adam lived one hundred and thirty years, and he begat in his likeness, in his form" (Gen. v. 3)

People say that Rambam does not believe in Demons - Sheidim. That is untrue. He does not believe that they are a separate species half - human and half spirit. But he does believe that sheidim exist. They are the people amongst us us who are wicked and mischievous. It is those who have the brains and the ability to grow into good and great people who use them to harm and destroy.


  1. cool! Then it shtims the urban legend that Hitler was a sheid.

    I was curious what you think Artscroll was getting at regarding zorastinism and the danger of pairs.

  2. You got my point. There are unfortunately other mazikim too and among our fellow correligionists. That is probably the meaning of the Gemara, i dont recall which amora explains why Friday night shul feels like it is crowded blaming it on the mazikim. They all come out frigay night when everybody goes to shul. :-)

  3. And the one about not saying hi to random spooky strangers you pass out in ruins alone at night...

  4. I recall the Ramchal also has a few things to say in Derech HaShem. I'm sorry, but I don't keep a copy of it at work (maybe I should).