Wednesday, November 9, 2022

Rambam never said Agada is false

Kalonymus HaQatan • 11 days ago

Introduction to Aggadata 2: Three Approaches to Understanding Aggada

Rabbi Jonathan Ziring:

1. Introduction of Rambam to Perek Chelek, Translation based on I. Twersky, A Maimonides Reader, pp. 407-409

You must know that the words of the Sages are interpreted differently by three groups of people.

The first group is the largest one. I have watched them, read their books, and heard about them. They accept the teachings of the Sages in their simple literal sense and do not think that these teachings contain any hidden meaning at all. They hold these opinions because they do not understand science and are far from having acquired any knowledge. They posses no perfection which would give them their own insights, nor have they found anyone else who would provide them with a similar understanding. Therefore, they believe that the Sages intended no more with their deliberate and straightforward utterances than what they understand based on their own inadequate knowledge. They understand the teachings of the Sages only in the literal sense, even though some of these teachings, when taken literally, would make even the uneducated (let alone sophisticated scholars) ask how anyone in the world could believe such things are true, let alone edifying. The members of this group are ignorant, and one can only regret their folly. Their very effort to honor and exalt the Sages using their own meager understanding actually humiliates them...

The second group is also large. When the people in this group read or hear the words of the Sages, they too understand them according to their simple literal sense and believe that the Sages intended nothing other than what may be learned from their literal interpretation. Inevitably, they ultimately declare the Sages to be fools, hold them in contempt, and slander that which does not deserve to be slandered. They imagine that they are more intelligent than the Sages, that the Sages were simpletons who suffered from inferior intelligence. The members of this group are so pretentious and stupid that they can never attain genuine wisdom. Most of those who have stumbled into this error are involved with medicine or astrology. How remote they are from true philosophy compared to real philosophers! They are more stupid than the first group; many of them are simply fools.

There is a third group. Its members are so few in number that it is hardly appropriate to call them a group, except in the sense that one speaks of the sun as a group (or species) of which it is the only member. This group consists of men to whom the greatness of the Sages is clear. They recognize the superiority of their intelligence from their words, which point to exceedingly profound truths. Even though this third group is few and scattered, their books teach the perfection which was achieved by the authors and the high level of truth which they had attained. The members of this group understand that the Sages knew as clearly as we do that difference between the impossibility of the impossible and the existence of that which must exist. They know that the Sages did not speak nonsense, and it is clear to them that the words of the Sages contain both an obvious and hidden meaning. Thus, whenever the Sages spoke of things that seem impossible, they were employing the style of riddle and parable, which is the method of truly great thinkers. For example the greatest of our wise men (Shlomo) began his book by saying, “To understand an analogy and a metaphor, the words of the wise and their riddles” (Mishlei 1:6).

All students of rhetoric know the real concern of a riddle is with its hidden meaning, and not with its obvious meaning, as:“Let me now put forth a riddle to you” (Shoftim 14:12). Since the words of the Sages all deal with supernatural matters whichare ultimate, they must be expressed in riddles and analogies


  1. correct -
    unfortunately the Gra is reported to have accused Rambam of saying they are false:

    Wednesday, November 2, 2022
    Gra criticized Rambam regarding the supernatural
    Gra (Commentary to Shulchan Aruch YD 179:13): Shulchan Aruch (Yoreh Deah 179) Uttering an incantation on the wound from a scorpion is permitted even on Shabbos even though this type of remedy is ineffective since the person is in mortal danger. This ruling of the Shulchan Aruch is view of the Rambam (Mishna Torah Avoda Zara 11:11). The Rambam expressed this view also in his comments on the Mishna (Avoda Zara 4:7) However, every rabbinic authority after the Rambam disagreed with him. This is because there are many gemoras describing use of Divine names and witchcraft. The Rambam had such a view because he was influenced by philosophy. Therefore he writes that witchcraft, use of Divine names, incantations, demons, and charms are all false.

  2. Did Rambam say Chazal erred?
    Did Gra claim that the Rambam said they erred?

  3. They never say Chazal erred. They say either (1) we don't understand Chazal because if we did we'd see they're right or (2) nature has changed.

  4. Look at your title. Gra said rambam said aggada was false. That wasn't my interpretation of rambam.

  5. But the Rambam didn't say - it so he was wrong about the Rambam
    You are the only one making the claim that Chazal are fallible!

  6. Nope. Chazal make the claim in horayos. I'm just upholding the Talmud.

  7. You are saying what the rule should be and
    i am just reporting what it is.
    The bottom line is your original claim is wrong and the overwhelming majority clearly disagrees with your proposal

  8. My original statement was a cynicism aimed at those who think even now the gedolim are infallible.

    Many innacuracies were revealed. Eg you claimed chazal and the Sanhedrin are not the same. But Sanhedrin was comprised of chazal during chazal period.

    Also the Gra alleging rambam saying chazal were wrong. When in fact what he said was aggada needed careful examination, and not to be taken at face value.

    Also that infallible does not mean wrong.

    Also the claim that chazal never erred. But several cases of chazal erring. The claim is like saying recent gedolim never erred, then saying that yes, some gedolim have erred.

  9. It is disrespectful to say Chazal erred. And also such a blunt statement reeks of haskalah.

    I have heard many times by Rabbanim that Judaism does not hold our Biblical figures to be "perfect" the way other religions treat their figures. And that the Torah does not whitewash their shortcomings. Is there actually a Gemara that makes this statement about the people in the Tanach?

  10. "You are saying what the rule should be and
    i am just reporting what it is."

    If that sentence refers to both of us, then it is tenuous.
    The rule is as set out in the Torah and Horayos. It's not as threatening as it seems to you. A BD, a community, individuals all need to bring korbanos if they sin . It's no use claiming that "we cannot ever get it wrong ". That is, lehavdil the extreme position of Khomeini. Torah doesn't claim our leaders were infallible. Moses made a small misjudgementm. Aaron's sons made up their own chiddush. Even Aaron himself got caught up in the Egel zahav debacle. Does not mean we Chas v shalom disregard Torah law.

  11. only because you consider the Chachamim of the era of the Talmud to be superior in every way to the Neviim of the Torah - the Avot, Moshe Rabbeinu, Joshua, and David Hamelech Yeshayahu,. Eliyahu hanavi, Elisha , Yechezkel etc.

    After all , Talmid Chacham adif m'navi.

  12. Nonsense - simply admit you were mistaken!

  13. I'll have to consult the Rambam to see his opinion.
    did you forget about free will? if people are infallible, they no longer have free will.

  14. Seems to me you have no textual evidence to support your position

  15. One of the most difficult things is to read the Nach part of the Bible through the eyes of Chazal. We have to remember that the Bible we have was edited and redacted by Anshei Knesses HaGedolah. If there are certain things that are in it, they felt it was important for us to know about it. If there's not, then they felt we didn't need to. Remember that the book of Yechezkel almost didn't make it into the Nach. It would be completely lost to history now if that had happened.
    The implication is a strong one: they thought we could handle knowing about David HaMelech's affair with Bat Sheva and drawing proper conclusions. They thought we could handle all the messes our ancient leaders got into and the terrible things some of them did.
    But then Chazal came along and tried to whitewash it all. All these negative portrayals, which the earliest Chazal thought we could handle, are now revised and reinterpreted to ensure that we encounter nothing negative about our ancestors. So yes ,whitewashing is older than the Satmar claiming that Achav was a true tzadik.

  16. Seems to be you have no evidence to support your position just shaky conjecture,

  17. Rambam does not say Chazal erred
    Sometimes he will say certain views are a minority view but he does not state that the views of Chazal are nistaken

  18. you misrepresent my position.
    I clearly stated that I'm not saying they erred. but they Say they could. Individual figures clearly did err.

  19. So you accept there are liable sacrifices should a BD err?

  20. Anyway, I'm in hospital now. Hope I'm not being punished, although I am.

    be well


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