Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Rambam on Man in the Garden of Eden

I've decided to release my notes on Rambam's understanding of the story of Man in the Garden of Eden. (Note: it's not as polished as my usual writing.) It's valuable not only in terms of understanding Rambam's view of this topic, and how he approached it in a thoroughly non-literal manner, but also for how to approach the Guide to the Perplexed in general. When reading the notes, observe how it is only possible to deduce Rambam's view by studying his comments in several different parts of the Guide, and analyzing how they shed light on each other. (This is similar to how the subject of his comments about the mistaken belief in the sounds of the spheres only becomes clear in a different place in the Guide.) Note too how Greco-Muslim philosophy provides the framework for Rambam's discussion.

Download the notes at this link


  1. You aren't suggesting here that according to the Rambam there was no such individual person as Adam Harishon, just that the event in the garden was a metaphor, right?

  2. It's complicated. Rambam certainly believed that there was a First Man. But as to exactly how much of this person's life correlates with the account of Adam HaRishon isn't so clear. If you are genuinely interested in understanding this topic (as opposed to just looking to challenge me, as you usually do), then the definite treatment is by Klein-Bresslavy.

  3. R"N,

    Can you please be more specific which of her works do you have in mind.

    This one?

    Sara Klein-Breslavy, Perush ha-Rambam le-Sipur Briat ha-Olam (Jerusalem: Ha-Chevrah le-Cheker ha-Mikra, 1978)

  4. No, the other one:

    Maimonides’ Interpretation of the Adam Stories in Genesis - A Study in Maimonides’ Anthropology, Jerusalem, 1986 (Hebrew).

  5. Just curious, R' Slifkin: Do you think that the Rambam would say, "This is the way to understand the Adam story" or "This is the way I understand the Adam story"?

  6. Lawrence Kaplan comentz:

    For the Rambam the first four chapters of Genesis belong to Maaseh Bereishit and therefore not all of it should be taken literally (See Guide 2:29). On the other hand, beginnig with Genesis, we are dealing, I think, with history for the Rambam. But I am not sure.

  7. Excellent analysis.

    It amuses me, though, that his interpretation is so very wrong. Not only in that it was colored, skewed, by the science of his time (which we now know to be false), but also in that it so clearly does not fit with the plain meaning of the text.

  8. Lawrence Kaplan Comments:

    Oops. I meant to write "Beginning with Genesis 5."

  9. The question was not addressed to me but I think he would say "This is the way I understand the Adam story" and leave it for us to chose between his explanations and those of others. He says so regarding his explanation of 'vechzakti es lev Paroh' in the last perek of Shmone Prokim'.

    Greg, this is sod and it doesn't have to fit with the plain meaning of the text, in fact it shouldn't. What makes Rambam's explanation wrong?

  10. Rambam was undoubtedly certain that his explanation was THE explanation.

    Carol, I am surprised that you think Rambam's view is correct. The entire Greco-Muslim foundation for it has long been consigned to the dustbin of history.

  11. Let me first state that I am a very junior student of Rambam and that I am here to learn. I have been learning Rambam for only about 3 years. Having said that, Rambam's understanding of the Torah is the one that makes the most sense to me. In fact, it's the only one that I can live by. What is the problem with his understanding of Adam before and after the sin?

  12. I am pretty unlearned when it comes to the following so please elaborate for us - what is the Greco-muslim foundation?

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