[Avodah] Use of the word peshat in Moreh Nevuchim

Zvi Lampel zvilampel at gmail.com
Mon Jun 20 04:41:09 PDT 2022

Use of the word peshat in Moreh Nevuchim

We all know that when we speak of the ‘’peshat’’ of a pasuk, we don’t
mean the literal meaning of the words. And we all know that the Rambam
(for example in Mishneh Torah 1:9 and throughout Moreh Nevuchim)
emphasized that terms such as ‘’the hand of Hashem’’ or ‘’the eyes of
Hashem’’ are not to be taken literally.

However, Hebrew translations of the Moreh Nevuchim, including those by
Ibn Tibbon and its commentators, and Kapich, have the Rambam terming
the literal meaning as the ‘’peshat.’’ I.e., he writes that although
the ‘’peshat’’ of the pasuk indicates that Hashem is a physical being,
one should reject the ‘’peshat’’ in favor of the pasuk’s real meaning.

I thought this to be strange. So, knowing that even when writing in
Judeo-Arabic, the Rambam wrote pesukim and some technical terms in
pure Hebrew, I searched for forms of the word “peshat’’ in Munk’s
Judeo-Arabic text of the Moreh Nevuchim. Surprisingly, I did not find
it once!

I then did a search for the term in Ibn Tibbon’s Hebrew translation,
highlighting the terms, and extracted those pages that had them, and
asked my Judeo-Arabic go-to man what Arabic word the Rambam used in
those places. The reply:

I checked the Arabic text against every mention of peshat that you
highlighted, and every single time, it says  [tes with a slash or dot
in it, aleph, hey, reish], or some form thereof, such as [tes with a
slash or dot in it, vuv, aleph, hey, reish] for plural. It means "the
surface meaning."… It makes sense that the Rambam refers to it as the
external meaning, because he speaks of the golden apple with the
silver netting over it.

So, the Rambam did not call the literal meaning of the posuk or its
words the ‘’peshat,’’ or ‘’peshuto.” A better Hebrew word would be a
form of the word ‘’shetach.’’

I’m surprised about two things.

1.	So many Hebrew translators missed this.

2.	The Rambam never uses the term peshat regarding pesukim in the
Moreh Nevuchim!

Zvi Lampel

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