Monday, September 21, 2009

Did Rambam's Attitude To Aggadah Evolve? - A review of Professor Loberbaum Article (Part 2).

Professor Yair Loberbaum (YL) proceeds to make his case for his thesis on Rambam’s sharp change in attitude towards Aggadah in his later years. He quotes two responsa written is his later years that seem to suggest that Rambam felt Aggadah was not to be relied upon as opposed to his earlier statement in Pirush Hamishna that it contained great depth. The first is amongst answers to several questions posed to him by the Dayan Rav Pinchas of Alexandria (Blau edition #458 (i) ). The second is a well-known Teshuvah to R. Sa’adyah ben Pinchas, a disciple, regarding the Sefer Shiur Komah about which he clearly changed his mind drastically as he grew older (I quoted and discussed this issue here ). YL contrasts these two divergent positions, with the opinion of the Geonim who dismiss Aggadah as unreliable. He tries to show that in his youth, Rambam disagreed with the Geonim and as he aged, he eventually accepted their take going even further then them as seen from his vehement rejection of Shiur Komah. I will not bother repeating the whole presentation. I did not find it very convincing. Shiur Komah is an esoteric work and though traditionally it is attributed to Rabbi Ishmael, the great Tanah, Rambam believes it to be misattributed and was composed by Greek preachers (ii) . That is far from proving that he felt that one could ignore genuine Tannaitic works. The other responsa, which I quote verbatim in footnote 1 above, is ambiguous and does not necessarily disagree with the possibility of Aggadah containing deep truths. However, as the Aggadot need deciphering, each thinker has a tendency to come to his own interpretations. How then can one ask from them or use them as proofs for a specific position? An alternate interpretation will yield a different understanding. It is in fact consistent with how Ma’aseh Merkavah is supposed to be taught, Mosserim lo Rashei Perakim and the excelling student comes to his own conclusions (iii) .

YL also brings additional support from a comment in Iggeret Techyat Hametim. That is even less convincing than the first two. I am not sure why he resorted to these three “proofs” as they do little to help his thesis.

In the next post, I will discuss the proofs YL brings from the Moreh itself. Some are quite convincing, at least at first blush. We will see if they stand up to scrutiny.

Gmar Chatima Tova to all my friends and readers.


שו"ת הרמב"ם סימן תנח
ולעניין יוצא תיבה +הכוונה אולי למאמרו של ר' יוחנן בסנהדרין ק"ח ב' למשפחותיהם יצאו מן התבה אמר ר' יוחנן למשפחותם ולא הם, ועי' הספרות שהביא לוצקי שם /התקופה ל - ל"א/ עמ' תש"ב+ כל אותן הדברים דברי הגדה +על יחסו של רבינו לאגדה עי' לוצקי שם /התקופה ל - ל"א/ עמ' תרצ"ט ואילך+ ואין מקשין בהגדה +עי' על מאמר זה לוצקי שם /התקופה ל - ל"א/ הע' קכ"ד+ וכי דברי קבלה הן או מילי דסברא אלא כל אחד ואחד מעיין [בפירושן] כפי מה שיראה לו בו +השווה דברי רה"ג באוצר הגאונים חגיגה עמ' נ"ט+ ואין בזה לא דברי קבלה ולא אסור ולא מותר ולא דין מן הדינין ולפיכך אין מקשין [בהן] ושמא תאמר לי כמו שיאמרו רבים וכי דברים שבתלמוד אתה קורא הגדה כן כל אלו הדברים וכיוצא בהן הגדה הן בעניינם בין שהיו כתובין בתלמוד +השווה אוצר הגאונים שם /חגיגה/ עמ' ס', והשווה גם לוצקי שם /התקופה ל - ל"א/ סוף הע' קכ"ז+ בין שהיו כתובין בספרי דרשות +הם כנראה המדרשים המיוסדים על פסוקי המקרא ומסודרים לפי סדר התנ"ך+ בין שהיו כתובין בספרי הגדה +הם כנראה הקובצים הכוללים אגדות בלי סדר מיוחד.+ (Blau’s footnotes are inserted between two addition signs in the text above).

I am not sure who these Darshanim were, possibly composers of Midrashic texts who attributed to great people their own ideas. A similar claim was levied against the Zohar centuries later.

ולא במרכבה ביחיד, אלא אם כן היה חכם ומבין מדעתו and תני רבי חייא אבל מוסרין לו ראשי פרקים Hagigah 13a.


  1. Besides the Rambams position on shiur komah. What other proof to Yair Loberman bring?

  2. I mean does Yair Loberman bring.

  3. David,
    What do you think about the statements of the Rambam on Shiur Komah in general. There are those that claim the Rambam was exposed to Kabbala at the end of his life, at that point he took back all his previous rationalist positions. When was this letter written? Clearly this exposure to Kabbala did not change his mind. These strong words by the Rambam shows that he completely rejected kabbala.

  4. I am writing the next post which discusses another proof.

    Re Kabala Rambam never accepted it. The purported letter which is quoted in Migdal Oz is a forgery. The kabbalah movement could not stomach that such a great halachist denied so they fabricated a supposed change of mind. The proof is that whatever tolerance he had to it in his youth, he lost it completely in his old age and recommended destroying the book.

  5. Is there any proof that it was a forgery? I always assumemed that it was.

  6. see Igrot Harambam by Rav Sheilat volume 2 page 696.