micha at aishdas.org
Tue Jan 8 10:27:28 PST 2013
On Fri, Dec 28, 2012 at 10:14:59AM -0500, David Riceman wrote:
> What's extraordinary is your second clause:
>> I argue with the belief that the Rambam realized he was doing so, and
>> thought it was okay to do so.
But the notion that the Rambam's unification of Mesorah with his
Aristo-Neo-Platonism ended up distorting the mesorah to the point
of breaking it is far from my chiddush.
Unlike most machloqesin, this is a case where the debate isn't
whether A or B is correct. Invoking eilu va'eilu becomes non-trivial
when the machloqes is wheere one side says A is true, and the other
side says it's not only untrue, it's not divrei E-lokim chaim.
In 2009 I quoted RSRH on the subject, from the 18th of his 19 Letters
The age gave birth to a man [R' Drachman's footnote: Maimonides], a
mind, who, the product of uncomprehended Judaism and Arabic science,
was obliged to reconcile the strife which raged in his own breast
in his own manner, and who, by proclaiming it to the world, became
the guide of all in whom the same conflict existed.
This great man to whom, and to whom alone, we owe the preservation
of practical Judaism to our time, is responsible because he sought
to reconcile Judaism with the difficulties which confronted it
from without instead of developing it creatively from within, for
all the good and the evil which bless and afflict the heritage of
the father. His peculiar mental tendency was Arabic-Greek, and his
conception of the purpose of life the same. He entered into Judaism
from without, bringing with him opinions of whose truth he had
convinced himself from extraneous sources and he reconciled. For him,
too, self-perfecting through the knowledge of truth was the highest
aim, the practical he deemed subordinate. For him knowledge of God was
the end, not the means; hence he devoted his intellectual powers to
speculations upon the essence of Deity, and sought to bind Judaism
to the results of his speculative investigations as to postulates
of science or faith. The Mizvoth became for him merely ladders,
necessary only to conduct to knowledge or to protect against
error, this latter often only the temporary and limited error of
polytheism. Mishpatim became only rules of prudence, Mitzvoth as well;
Chukkim rules of health, teaching right feeling, defending against the
transitory errors of the time; Edoth ordinances, designed to promote
philosophical concepts; all this having no foundation in the eternal
essence of things, not resulting from their eternal demand on me,
or from my eternal purpose and task, no eternal symbolizing of an
unchangeable idea, and not inclusive enough to form a basis for the
totality of the commandments.
He, the great systematic orderer of the practical results of the
Talmud, gives expression in the last part of his philosophic work
to opinions concerning the meaning and purpose of the commandments
which, taking the very practical results codified by himself as the
contents of the commandments, are utterly untenable cast no real
light upon them and cannot go hand in hand with them in practice,
in life, and in science...
And I summarized then:
> What then is RSRH's complaint? That the Rambam was too Aristotelian,
> and it led him to study Judaism from the outside, casting upon it the
> Hellenic philosopher's priority of knowledge rather than morality.
According to RSRH, the Rambam stood on the hashkafic outside looking in,
and distorted Chazal into saying things in concert with Greek thought
that are in truth dissonant to all versions of the Torah worldview.
(I am particularly bothered by this placing of intellect front and
center -- the point so central to the Rambam it's in both the opening
and closing peraqim of the Moreh. Reducing "vehalakhta bidrakhav" and
"his'haleikh lefanai" to handmaidens of abstract philosophical knowledge
is quite alien to me and to the way anyone else reads Chazal.)
I am voicing my agreement with the belief of many rishonim and acharonim
that the Rambam's reinterpretation of many pieces of aggadita are
distortions of the original. I just added that there is every indication
that the Rambam himself would be against such distortion; that he
explained Chazal as he was sure they must have meant.
The Rambam didn't take license to invent new peshatim in the Torah that
argue against Chazal, even according to those who say that de facto he
did do such inventing. Therefore (to go back to the top of the thread)
I objected to R/D Shinnar invoking the Rambam as telling us this is the
correct approach when science and mesorah point to different answers.
Micha Berger Good decisions come from experience;
micha at aishdas.org Experience comes from bad decisions.
http://www.aishdas.org - Djoha, from a Sepharadi fable
Fax: (270) 514-1507
More information about the Avodah