Sunday, October 25, 2009

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

Rambam in MN 1:70 discusses the word Rochev – to ride – when used by the prophets to describe God. He explains that just as a rider controls the beast he is riding upon, so too God is the Mover of the spheres. The idea is that all physical existence is subject to motion. In Aristotelian science, motion underlies all physical existence. In their view, the four basic elements mix in various combinations resulting in all the different components of the world below the sphere of the moon. That mixing is caused by motion which originates in the circular orbit of the outer sphere which in turn was first put into motion by the First Mover at the dawn of existence. As motion has to be induced, God, the First Mover, caused that original spherical motion. When we say that motion was caused by another body, we imagine one body impelling another, by transferring force from one to another. To dispel us from this imagery, the prophets saw God as the rider of the spheres. Just like a rider controls the animal without transferring anything physical, the animal moves of its own volition as ordered by the rider, so too God set the sphere in motion without transferring anything from Himself. Rambam shows how this concept is found in the prophetic writings and both in the Talmud and Midrashim. He shows how the Rabbis in their cryptic way were teaching these metaphysical truths in Breishit Rabah 68:10 (pages 777-778 in the Theodor-Albeck Edition), Pirkei D’Rabbi Eliezer 18 and the Gemara in Hagigah 12b. (I plan to write a separate post explaining this Rambam). In the middle of the chapter Rambam comments–

“Consider how these excellent and true ideas, comprehended only by the greatest philosophers, are found scattered in the Midrashim. When a student who disavows truth reads them, he will at first sight, deride them as being contrary to the real state of things. The cause of this is because our Sages spoke of these subjects in metaphors: they are too difficult for the common understanding of the people, as has been noted by us several times.” (MN1:70)

In the following chapter, MN 1:71 Rambam addresses why these deep truths are so rare in the Talmud and Midrashim. He explains that the political status of the Jewish people, the influence of foreign conquerors, eradicated all that knowledge which was orally transmitted. The little that remained was scattered in the Talmud and Midrashim in a very esoteric form.

This was the cause that necessitated the disappearance of these great roots of knowledge from the nation. For you will not find with regard to them anything except slight indications and pointers occurring in the Talmud and the Midrashim. These are as it were, a few grains belonging to the core which are overlaid by many layers of rind, so that people were occupied with these layers of rind and thought that beneath them there was no core whatsoever.” (MN 1:71)

He then continues to explain that the few philosophical writings that we do find amongst the Geonim as well as the Karaites (!) were not based on tradition but rather developed by those people by adapting contemporary non-Jewish philosophy.

Professor Loberbaum in his article reads this Rambam out of its context, focusing on the above quote and arguing that “a few grains belonging to the core which are overlaid by many layers of rind” clearly indicates that the Rabbinic Midrashim were not reliable because of “the disappearance of these great roots of knowledge from the nation.” He concludes that Rambam held that the Talmud and Midrashim were not philosophical/scientific texts and that most Rabbis were not philosophers.

I really do not see that at all in reading the Rambam in context. All he is doing is explaining why these philosophical discussions are rare and why they are so well hidden behind metaphors and allegories. After all he just finished showing us in the preceding chapter how one should read a series of rabbinic Aggadot and Midrashim that complement prophetic writings and see in them deep metaphysical truths. This is clearly the case in view of the comment I quote earlier from MN 1:70, “Consider how these excellent and true ideas, comprehended only by the greatest philosophers, are found scattered in the Midrashim….”

But now YL, in his concluding remarks, makes a faux pas that shocked me. Here is a translation of his words.

“Rambam explained here- so too in chapter 59 – that what is found in the Talmud is at most a few philosophic/scientific statements, that are covered by “many rinds” namely a vast collection of Aggadot that have in them “rubbish and such perverse imaginings”. The rinds in the Talmud are so many that “people were occupied with these layers of rind and thought that beneath them there was no core whatsoever”. (Emphases in the original).”

This statement is a perversion of everything we read so far in the above quotes of Rambam.
“People were occupied with these layers of rind and thought that beneath them there was no core whatsoever”, because the ideas were well hidden and not because there are so many other statements in the Talmud that have only rinds, as implied by YL. But to make matters worse when we turn to chapter 59 from where “rubbish and such perverse imaginings” was lifted and transplanted here, we see that Rambam was talking about Piyuttim and not Aggadot and Midrashim of the Rabbis. In that chapter, Rambam tells us that it is not permissible to develop our own attributes for God especially when we pray. We must limit ourselves to what the Rabbis have taught us based on their readings of the prophetic writings.

We cannot approve of what those foolish persons do, that are extravagant in praise, fluent and prolix in the prayers they compose, and in the hymns they make in the desire to approach the Creator. They describe God in attributes which would be an offence if applied to a human being, for those persons have no knowledge of these great and important principles, which are not accessible to the ordinary intelligence of man. Treating the Creator as a familiar object, they describe Him and speak of Him in any expressions they think proper; they eloquently continue to praise Him in that manner, and believe that they can thereby influence Him and produce an effect on Him. If they find some phrase suited to their object in the words of the Prophets they are still more inclined to consider that they are free to make use of such texts--which should at least be explained--to employ them in their literal sense, to derive new expressions from them, to form from them numerous variations, and to found whole compositions on them. This license is frequently met with in the compositions of the singers, preachers, and others who imagine themselves to be able to compose a poem. Such authors write things which partly are real heresy, partly contain rubbish and such perverse imaginings, so that they naturally cause those who hear them to laugh, but also to feel grieved at the thought that such things can be uttered in reference to God.” (MN1:59)

Need I say more? Since when are medieval Paytannim the authors of Midrashim and Aggadot? YL shows the weakness of his arguments when he has to resort to obvious distortions that can be verified by simply turning to the source, in order to prove his point.

That being the case, why do I read articles by scholars? Why did I spend a series of posts disagreeing with Professor Loberbaum? The answer is simple. One learns from everybody even when someone is at best misguided, at worse dishonest in his or her reading of the great medieval thinkers. One is forced to go back to the source and reread it with the latest reading in mind. Inevitably, new insights are gleaned and a better understanding is reached. I also learn a lot from good scholarly work. Unfortunately, the pressure to publish and be innovative leads many to stray from the purported quest for the truth. But there are “a few grains belonging to the core” amongst “many layers of rind”, following YL’s way of reading.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Does a Non-philosophical Person Gain Rights to the World To Come (Olam Haba)? How? (Part 1 in a series)

One of the difficulties people have is how to understand Olam Haba for the non-philosophical according to Rambam. Rambam describes Olam Haba in his Hilchot Teshuvah chapter 8 and in many other places as a result of the correct understanding of HKBH. He interprets all the seemingly physical rewards such as the Leviathan Feast, the crowns on the heads of the Tzadikkim etc… as metaphors for intellectual apprehension of the Deity (Hilchot Teshuvah chapter 8). That being the case how does a plain non-philosophical believer gain access to this unique and fabulous experience? In fact, some who study Rambam felt that although Rambam did not say so openly, Olam Haba was reserved for the elite philosopher only. The problem is that we have a Mishna at the beginning of the 10th Perek in Sanhedrin that says that ALL of Israel has a part in Olam Haba except for certain heretics who are precluded from it. Rambam subscribes to it and in fact uses that Mishna to launch a long dissertation on the 13 Ikkarim which include Olam Haba as dogmatic beliefs that one must have. In Hilchot Teshuvah chapter3:5 he legislates the Mishna as Halacha. It is inconceivable therefore, that he had an “esoteric” position on the matter. I would like to address this issue in a series of posts and hopefully it will also clarify Rambam’s Olam Haba which seems to be a little confusing to some, to say the least. (I have already touched on the issue of Olam Haba, to be found under the Olam Haba label on the sidebar, but have never devoted posts to a systematic study of the subject.)
There is a famous Mishna in Massechet Makot at the end of the third Perek that is well known because it is repeated at the end of public Shiurim before the Kaddish Derabanan is recited.

ג,יז [טז] רבי חנניה בן עקשיה אומר, רצה הקדוש ברוך הוא לזכות את ישראל; לפיכך הרבה להן תורה ומצוות, שנאמר "ה' חפץ, למען צדקו; יגדיל תורה, ויאדיר" (ישעיהו מב,כא).

Rabbi Hananya ben Akashya says, as HKBH wanted to warrant merit to the Jewish people, He provided them with a plethora of Torah and Mitzvot as Yeshayahu says, “God wished, for his [servant’s] righteousness' sake, to make the teaching great and glorious.” (I translated the verse as understood by Targum Yehonatan and to agree with this drash. There are however other interpretations.)

Rambam comments as follows:

פירוש המשנה לרמב"ם מסכת מכות פרק ג
יז] מיסודות האמונה בתורה שאם קיים האדם מצוה משלש עשרה ושש מאות מצות כראוי וכהוגן ולא שתף עמה מטרה ממטרות העולם הזה כלל, אלא עשאה לשמה מאהבה כמו שביארתי לך, הרי הוא זוכה בה לחיי העולם הבא, לכן אמר ר' חנניה כי מחמת רבוי המצות אי אפשר שלא יעשה האדם אחת בכל ימי חייו בשלימות ויזכה להשארות הנפש באותו המעשה. וממה שמורה על היסוד הזה שאלת ר' חנניה בן תרדיון מה אני לחיי העולם הבא, וענהו העונה כלום בא לידך מעשה, כלומר האם נזדמן לך עשיית מצוה ראוי, ענה לו שנזדמנה לו מצות צדקה בתכלית השלמות האפשרית, וזכה בה לחיי העולם הבא. ופירוש הפסוק ה' חפץ לצדק את ישראל למען כן יגדיל תורה ויאדיר.

It is one of the Law’s fundaments of faith, that if an individual had executed [even] one of the 613 precepts of the Law, in a proper and satisfactory manner, without associating with it some mundane designs at all, but did it for its own sake, as [an act of] love … that person has gained the rights to the life in Olam Haba. Rabbi Hananya teaches that the great variety of precepts ensures that during the entire course of one’s life one would have had the opportunity to perfectly fulfill [at least] a single precept thereby gaining the right for the soul to remain. The question [and answer] of Rabbi Hananya ben Tradyon (TB Avodah Zara 18a) points to this fundament. He asked whether he has [rights] to the life in Olam Haba. The answerer [r. Yossi ben Kisma] said to him, “did you do any act?” Meaning, did you perform a Mitzvah satisfactorily?” He answered that he had the opportunity to perform the Mitzvah of Tzedakah in the most complete [perfect] way possible, and therefore gained the right to the life in Olam Haba. The meaning of the verse is; God wants to bring righteousness to the Israelites He therefore made the Law great and glorious.

According to Rambam, the Mishna is teaching that the purpose of all the precepts is so that a person has the chance to fulfill at least one Mitzvah in his lifetime in a “proper and satisfactory” manner. He defines “proper and satisfactory” not as punctiliousness in its performance, but with the proper intent: “without associating with it some mundane designs at all, but did it for its own sake, as [an act of] love”. What exactly does that mean? As usual, the answer can be found elsewhere in Rambam’s works. “Associating with it some mundane design” is defined in Hilchot Teshuvah 10:1:

אל יאמר אדם הריני עושה מצוות התורה ועוסק בחכמתה, כדי שאקבל הברכות הכתובות בתורה או כדי שאזכה לחיי העולם הבא; ואפרוש מן העבירות שהזהירה תורה מהן, כדי שאינצל מן הקללות הכתובות בתורה או כדי שלא איכרת מחיי העולם הבא.
A person should not say that, “I do the Mitzvot of the Torah and learn its wisdom so that I will receive the blessings written in the Torah or so that I should gain the right to the life in Olam Haba. I will keep away from the transgressions the Torah warned against so that I am saved from the curses that are written in the Torah or so that I am not cut-off from Olam Haba”.

Blessings and curses written in the Torah are matters that deal with our physical day-to-day existence such as health and wealth. We can easily accept that we are not supposed to do the Mitzvot for practical reasons. That we should not do them so that we become perfected and get Olam Haba is much more difficult to digest! After all Rambam just finished the whole chapter 8 describing Olam Haba as basking in the knowledge of God, the ultimate truth.

ומה הוא זה שאמרו, ונהנין מזיו השכינה--שיודעין ומשיגין מאמיתת הקדוש ברוך הוא, מה שאינן יודעין והן בגוף האפל השפל

What did the Rabbis mean when they said [describing the Tzadikkim in Olam Haba] “and they bask in the shine of the Shechinah”? It means that they know and apprehend [something] of the truth [essence] of HKBH, something that is impossible while they are in this dark and lowly [physical] body.

The answer lies in the nuance. There is a difference between seeking the truth itself for its own sake and seeking the truth because one gets pleasure from knowing it. Olam Haba is the resulting pleasurable state that one is in once the truth is attained. To seek the truth for the sake of experiencing that state of pleasure must not be the goal of the perfect person.

ב] העובד מאהבה, עוסק בתורה ובמצוות והולך בנתיבות החכמה--לא מפני דבר בעולם, לא מפני יראת הרעה, ולא כדי לירש הטובה: אלא עושה האמת, מפני שהוא אמת; וסוף הטובה לבוא בכלל.

A person that worships [God] for the sake of love, is not involved in Torah and Mitzvot nor following the paths of wisdom, because of anything else in the world, not fear of bad things happening nor to gain good things. The only reason he does Truth is that it is Truth. The good things will generally come at the end.

Note that three things, Torah, Mitzvot and paths of wisdom are all Truths. In this context, being involved in Torah and Mitzvot should be read in the popular sense, in that Torah is the ontological understanding as well as it contains the practical laws while Mitzvot means following them and acting according to these laws, the 613 Mitzvot. What exactly does Rambam mean when he says that Mitzvot ARE Truth? As I have discussed many times in past posts, Rambam seems to see the Mitzvot as utilitarian, a tool to help us reach our goal of knowing God, rather than Truth itself. Rambam already presented this idea in his introduction to Chelek, the 10th Perek of the tractate Sanhedrin.

פירוש המשנה לרמב"ם מסכת סנהדרין פרק י
שלא יעשה תכלית הלמוד לא שיכבדוהו בני אדם ולא רכישת ממון, ואל יעשה תורת ה' פרנסה, ואל יהא אצלו תכלית הלמוד אלא ידיעתו בלבד, וכן אין תכלית האמת אלא לדעת שהוא אמת, והמצות אמת ולכן תכליתם קיומם

one should not make the goal of learning so that people will respect him nor should he do so to gain wealth, one should not make a living from the Torah of HKBH. The goal of learning should be only to know it [the subject]. So too, the goal of Truth is to know that it is Truth and as the Mitzvot are Truth, therefore their goal is to perform them…

This is a partial quote in a lengthy exposition on the subject, which I plan to work on separately in future posts. For our purpose here, we find Rambam repeating this idea that Mitzvot are Truth and he adds one more concept; “therefore, their goal is to perform them”. In other words by keeping Mitzvot one acts the Truth. What exactly does this mean?

There is one more term that Rambam uses in the Halacha from Hilchot Teshuvah quoted above - העובד מאהבה – A person that worships [God] for the sake of love. How are we to understand this love? What does it mean?

I plan to deal with all these questions and others that will crop up as we follow this line of thought, in upcoming posts.

Col. Kemp, An Impartial Observer VS a Traitor of Our Own, Goldstone YS.

Of course this was kept secret while Goldstone got all the publicity.

Hat tip to Rabbi Arie Folger.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Did Rambam's Attitude To Aggadah Evolve? - A review of Professor Loberbaum Article (Part 5).

Professor Loberbaum proceeds to try to prove his thesis that Rambam lost respect for Aggadot, as he grew older. Rambam in his introduction to the Moreh describes the metaphors and allegories found in the prophetic texts. He first quotes a Midrash from Shir Hashirim Rabah where the Rabbis describe the processes Shlomo Hamelech used in his metaphors.

Again, Solomon begins his book of Proverbs with the words, "To understand a proverb and figurative speech, the words of the wise and their dark sayings" (Prov. 1:6); and we read in Midrash, Shir Hashirim Raba, 1:1); "To what were the words of the Torah to be compared before the time of Solomon? To a well, the waters of which are at a great depth, and though cool and fresh, yet no man could drink of them. A clever man joined cord with cord, and rope with rope, and drew up and drank. So too Solomon went from figure to figure, and from subject to subject, till he obtained the true sense of the Torah." So far go the words of our Sages. I do not believe that any intelligent man thinks that "the words of the Torah" mentioned here as requiring the application of figures in order to be understood, can refer to the rules for building Sukkot, for preparing the Lulav, or for the law of the four trustees.”

The Midrash presents Shir Hashirim as a prophetic parable. It is teaching us how to read the parable. It offers different metaphors which suggest that we need to be careful how we read these parables and how we decipher them. The metaphor in this segment of the Midrash describes how at times a systematic approach is required, where every component, the ropes and the cords are attached and by slowly following the clues in proper order, we can grasp the intended goal – the difficult and hidden idea. Rambam quotes another metaphor the rabbis use to describe how one reads a prophetic parable.

What is really meant is the apprehension of profound and difficult subjects, concerning which our Sages said, "If a man loses in his house a sela, or a pearl, he can find it by lighting a taper worth only one issar. Thus the parables in themselves are of no great value, but through them the words of the holy Law are rendered intelligible." These likewise are the words of our Sages; consider well their statement that the internal meaning of the words of the Torah is a pearl whereas the external meaning of all parables is of no value in itself. They compare the hidden meaning included in the literal sense of the simile to a pearl lost in a dark room, which is full of furniture. It is certain that the pearl is in the room, but the man can neither see it nor know where it lies. It is just as if the pearl were no longer in his possession, for, as has been stated, it affords him no benefits whatsoever until he kindles a light. The same is the case with the comprehension of that which the simile represents.”

Some prophetic parables contain filler which are unimportant and one should not try to explain every detail of it. The metaphor describes the relative value of the light and the pearl where one is a tool to find the other, the important item. Rambam adds a little to the Midrash by introducing the furniture that fills the room that is a co-conspirator with the darkness in hiding the valuable pearl. In other words although the candle lights up the room, one still has to clean away the valueless furniture before finding the pearl.

Rambam then describes a type of metaphor also found in the prophetic writings where there are dual meanings where both are important, though one may be of greater importance than the other may. In other words, once the reader has grasped what the parable is trying to teach, he may encounter a double meaning where the external teaches important matters but is only like silver in comparison to the gold found in the deeper meaning.

The wise king said, "A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in vessels of silver" (Prov. 25:11). Hear the explanation of what he said: The word maskiyoth, the Hebrew equivalent for "vessels," denotes "filigree network"--i.e., things in which there are very small apertures, such as are frequently wrought by silversmiths. They are called in Hebrew maskiyyoth (literally "transpicuous," from the verb sakah, "he saw," a root which occurs also in the Targum of Onkelos, Gen. 26:8), because the eye penetrates through them. Thus, Solomon meant to say, "Just as apples of gold in silver filigree with small apertures, so is a word fitly spoken."
See how beautifully the conditions of a good simile are described in this figure! It shows that in every word which has a double sense, a literal one and a figurative one, the plain meaning must be as valuable as silver, and the hidden meaning still more precious: so that the figurative meaning bears the same relation to the literal one as gold to silver. It is further necessary that the plain sense of the phrase shall give to those who consider it some notion of that which the figure represents. Just as a golden apple overlaid with a network of silver, when seen at a distance, or looked at superficially, is mistaken for a silver apple, but when a keen-sighted person looks at the object well, he will find what is within, and see that the apple is gold. The same is the case with the figures employed by prophets. Taken literally, such expressions contain wisdom useful for many purposes, among others, for the amelioration of the condition of society; e.g., the Proverbs (of Solomon), and similar sayings in their literal sense. Their hidden meaning, however, is profound wisdom, conducive to the recognition of real truth.”

Clearly, Rambam is not talking here about the parable itself but about what was deciphered by either the reader or the prophet in describing his vision. He tells us that one must not stop at the first teaching one grasps because many times there are dual meanings, where a deeper ontological or metaphysical idea is also present.

For some reason YL sees these descriptions of prophetic writings as a criticism of how the Aggadot are different. He contrasts the “good simile” in the last example with the ones before where there is some fluff in the parable. He is confusing the description of a parable with a description of the result one gets once the parable is deciphered. Furthermore, YL somehow reads this whole discussion to refer to Aggadot, though a careful read of the quotations above clearly show they are ALL describing PROPHETIC parables. Rambam is at first quoting Midrashic metaphors that describe the prophetic parables and then quotes Shlomo Hamelech who describes the results of the deciphered parables as having more than one meaning – silver and gold. I reread the section several times and for the life of me cannot see what YL sees there. I leave it to the reader to decide.

z2There is one more purported “proof” that I will discuss before summarizing and opining.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Did Rambam's Attitude To Aggadah Evolve? - A review of Professor Loberbaum Article (Part 4).

In apparent digression, Rambam in MN 3:43, in the midst of discussing reasons for the different festivals and specifically the reason for taking the Lulav and Etrog on Sukkot, discusses a certain type of Midrashic exegesis. Professor Loberbaum uses it to further develop his theory about Rambam’s supposed change of opinion regarding Rabbinical Aggadot.
As regards the four species [the branches of the palm tree, the citron, the myrtle, and the willows of the brook] our Sages gave a reason for their use by way of Aggadic interpretation, the method of which is well known to those who are acquainted with the style of our Sages. They use the text of the Bible only as a kind of poetical language [for their own ideas], and do not intend thereby to give an interpretation of the text. As to the value of these Midrashic interpretations, we meet with two different opinions. For some think that, the Midrash contains the real explanation of the text, whilst others, finding that it cannot be reconciled with the words quoted, reject and ridicule it. The former, struggle and fight to prove and to confirm such interpretations according to their opinion, and to keep them as the real meaning of the text; they consider them in the same light as traditional laws. Neither of the two classes understood it, that our Sages employ biblical texts merely as poetical expressions, the meaning of which is clear to every reasonable reader. This style was general in ancient days; all adopted it in the same way as poets [adopt a certain style]. Our Sages say, in reference to the words, "and a paddle (yated) you shall have upon your weapon" [azeneka, Deut. xxiii. 14]: Do not read azeneka, "thy weapon," but ozneka, "thy ear." You are thus told, that if you hear a person uttering something disgraceful, put your fingers into your ears. Now, I wonder whether those ignorant persons [who take the Midrashic interpretations literally] believe that the author of this saying gave it as the true interpretation of the text quoted, and as the meaning of this precept: that in truth yated, "the paddle," is used for "the finger, "and azeneka denotes "thy ear." I cannot think that any person whose intellect is sound can admit this. The author employed the text as a beautiful poetical phrase, in teaching an excellent moral lesson, namely this: It is as bad to listen to bad language, as it is to use it. This lesson is poetically connected with the above text. In the same sense you must understand the phrase, "Do not read so, but so," wherever it occurs in the Midrash.”

Rambam is referring to a series of Derashot recorded in Vaykra Rabah 30:8-16 about the reason for taking the four kinds – Arbe’a Minim. The first derasha explains how Etrog is connected with the words used to describe it in the Torah, Pri Etz Hadar, and the same for the remaining three. Thereafter, the Midrash discusses possible symbolism in the Mitzvot, such that the four Minim represent different aspects of God, the three patriarchs and Yosef, the four matriarchs and so on. All the Midrashim use the verse as an exegetical device for their ideas. All these references are far from Peshuto Shel Mikrah, the plain meaning of the text. Rambam explains that these types of Midrashic texts are recordings of sermons or sermon types of Aggadot that use a poetic type of presentation. The Rabbis wanted to teach how one should look at Mitzvot and use them for connecting with the transcendental, get in touch with Judaism’s basic tenets and in general teach Hashkafic and ethical concepts, using the text as a tool to impress or as a mnemonic device. The rabbis are not explaining the text but use it as a tool to make their point, which may have nothing to do with the text. As an extreme example, much more distanced from the text than the ones in Vaykra Rabah, Rambam quotes the one about stuffing your fingers in your ears when confronted with prohibited talk. Clearly, the verse is not talking about it and the Rabbis just used it as a device to make a totally unrelated point. Rambam uses this opportunity to describe and explain a certain common type of Midrashic text amongst many other types of such texts.

YL however wants to take this a step further. In the Pirush Hamishna in the introduction to Chelek Rambam also presented three opinions about Derashot: Those who insist on literalness, those who denigrate and the third group, the correct ones, those who see in them great depth and philosophical teachings. If we set them parallel with the three groups Rambam enumerates here, the third correct one is parallel to the ones who understand the exegetical method of teaching unrelated issues using the verse. YL contrasts Rambam’s description of the correct approach in Chelek as philosophical and of great depth while here he describes it as poetical and not the real meaning of the text. In other words in Chelek the Rabbis teach a deep and true concept as opposed to here, where they distort the true meaning of the text. Furthermore, Rambam describes them as “derashot”, public sermons, that are directed to the masses and not of great depth. He therefore claims that again we see a change of heart about Aggadah that is consistent with the supposed change in the introduction to MN we discussed in the previous post. YL does note that the presentation here is milder than the one in the introduction. There, according to YL’s understanding, Rambam was quasi insulting to the Rabbis while here he seems to praise their “poetical talent”. He therefore discovers a “Halachik” impact in these Derashot, which are the reason Rambam is more careful. He does not want to weaken our regard to Halacha! He is also trying to protect Halachik exegesis which when one would insist that it is the meaning of the text, would lose its legitimacy.

If I am correct, and I am convinced I am, that YL misread Rambam in the introduction to MN, as I have shown in the preceding post, this whole argument has no leg to stand on. In addition, my read of the Rambam above is unquestionably correct. Rambam, typical and true to form, sees the complexity of the Derashot. Aggadah is a term that covers many different non-Halachik writings of the rabbis. Some have deep philosophic import and teach very complex issues from observations about our universe and environment to the ontological and metaphysical. They however also contain many ethical and moral teachings; these probably make up the great majority of the Aggadic texts. Some of these were indeed public sermons and used different types of devices to impress upon the listeners. To impress and make sure the teaching is absorbed and remembered they used the text in a non-literal way. To insist that Rambam is monochromatic and his comments are generalized to all Aggadot is disingenuous. I believe that Professor Loberbaum’s reading of this Rambam is faulty and does not prove his point.

However, YL has still more proofs and I want to address them. At the end of this series, I plan a post to explain why I decided to address this article and a general comment on the importance of academic work on Rambam.