Saturday, December 15, 2018

Defining Rationalism Vs. Mysticism

After considerable thought, I've decided to update my description of the differences between the rationalist and mystical schools of rabbinic thought. This is because I think it's important to add another category, that of supernatural entities. So, I would like to present the differences between rationalists and non-rationalists as falling into four related areas:

I. KNOWLEDGE

Rationalists believe that knowledge is legitimately obtained by man via his reasoning and senses, and should preferably be based upon evidence/reason rather than faith, especially for far-fetched claims.

Mystics are skeptical of the ability of the human mind to arrive at truths, and prefer to base knowledge on revelation, or – for those who are not worthy of revelation – on faith in those who do experience revelation.

(This relates to how, as we shall now discuss, rationalists see the universe as essentially following a natural order, and hence we can understand it via our senses and reasoning. According to mystics, the supernatural order is dominant, and thus truths about existence require revelation.)

II. NATURAL LAW

Rationalists value a naturalistic rather than supernatural interpretation of events, and perceive a consistent natural order over history, past present and future.

Mystics prefer miracles, and believe them to be especially dominant in ancient history and the future messianic era. They tend to maximize the number of supernatural entities and forces.

III. SUPERNATURAL ENTITIES

Rationalists minimize the number of supernatural entities and forces, seeing them as threatening monotheism. They believe in God, and depending on where on the rationalist spectrum they fall, they may believe in a small number of other supernatural entities or none at all. Discussions of apparent supernatural entities in classical literature are reinterpreted or rejected.

Mystics tend to maximize the number of supernatural entities and forces. They can be either forces of holiness, or forces of evil. These include all kinds of angels and demons, astrological forces, sefirot (emanations), olamot (spiritual worlds), and an infinite number of other metaphysical entities.

IV. THE SERVICE OF GOD

Rationalists understand the purpose of mitzvos and one’s religious life in general as furthering intellectual and/or moral goals for the individual and society. Even chukkim serve to accomplish these functions, albeit in a way that is not immediately obvious.

Mystics accept that mitzvos serve intellectual and moral goals, but see the primary function of mitzvos as performing mechanistic manipulations of spiritual metaphysical forces. The reasons for mitzvos are either to accomplish these manipulations, or are ultimately incomprehensible.

(In related news, my book Rationalism vs. Mysticism: Schisms in Traditional Jewish Thought is nearly finished!)

73 comments:

  1. I find that a bit simplistic, you can embrace a rational approach regarding the physical universe without rejecting a kabalistic approach of spiritual reality, with the condition of respecting the definition domains of both approaches, no chulent. :-)

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  2. Is this a result of years of learning Rambam? Or hours of navel gazing?

    The Rambam is quite strident in his emphasis on the limitations of the human brain and how we must be careful when trusting our own logic.

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    1. Nothing that I wrote conflicts with that.

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    2. Maimonodes was skeptical of the ability of the human mind to arrive at truths, and prefer to base knowledge on revelation, or – for those who are not worthy of revelation – on faith in those who do experience revelation.

      Do those words sound familiar? According to your description Maimonides was a mystic.

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  3. I am glad to see I fall totally on the rationalist side. I personally absolutely reject Kabbalah/Zohar/mysticism. I do not even believe in angels. My view is "we have Hashem, why do we need angels".

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    1. But aren't there many Biblical verses which explicitly mention angels?

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    2. @Dave Marshall

      Don't you think it ironic that you reject angels, but believe in a god?

      Why do you believe Hashem exists in the first place?

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    3. of course, and all that stuff throughout tanach (just take sefer daniel for example) about angels was just made up for fun. the problem is, once you've decided that the prophets record made up stuff, how do we know about hashem? maybe they made that up too.

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    4. why do we need astronomy? we have 'twinkle twinkle little star'

      The ignorance of spirituality around here is astonishing. I don't mean to insult you, it's just that you were never exposed to any understanding of how the world works. From a Jewish point of view of course. Do you think the upper worlds are empty of beings?

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    5. @Anonymous, when the books of Tanach were "released", they were accompanied with oral interpretation. That cleared up all ambiguities. What was in the oral interpretation? Rationalist authorities have their answer and mystic authorities have theirs.

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    6. chaim,
      the problem is that the rationalists (I assume you mean rambam, ibn ezra, et al) don't interpret these "ambiguities" in a way that is meaningfully different than the non rationalists.
      this dichotomy seems to be a made up issue, invented by modern people that feel uncomfortable with the degree to which Judaism appears (to them) to be primitive.

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    7. I disagree, Dave, why do we have to feel that angels (which are an extension of HaShem), are somehow oranges, and G-d, the apple? They're both oranges, my friend. Look, I know what you're getting out, you probably feel that it's just irrational to believe these things. That's okay, I understand that, however, would you say Issac Newton wasn't a rationalist? The man who discovered gravity? What about Martin Scorsese, Ben Stein? These are religious individuals with high IQs to boot. From Scorsese's perspective, Jesus rose from the dead. Of course, we Jews disregard that on theological grounds, but nonetheless, it's still a. . . dare I say it, miracle. So, if he can believe it (along with angels), then why can't we, regarding Kabbalistic thought? Why do we have to feel that mysticism has out-welcomed itself?

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  4. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  5. If sources were provided to support claims made in regards to mystics this article would be more persuasive. What the author consideres mystical it is not clear mystics agree.

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  6. Another difference /rational approach boring to many / mystical approach exciting to many

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  7. Regarding Supernatural Entities:

    I would like to suggest that you simply let the Tanakh speak for itself. Meaning, the rationalist need not reinterpret nor reject anything thinking that it somehow threatens rationalism. There is no need to maximize nor minimize. If anything, the classic literature is probably more attuned to some facets in scripture that rationalists have discarded. I am not necessarily saying kabbalah nailed it, but that rationalism has gone the other extreme in rejecting things. Just take it for what it is. In general, the Tanakh speaks of an "animated" spiritual world. There are spirits up there and even a hierarchy. Within the larger theological aim, there is even the idea in Tanakh of spirits that go against God's plan and will be punished. You are not irrational to accept the Tanakh on its own terms.

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  8. Is the pictured incorrect Bohr model of the atom rationalist or mystical? :)

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  9. There is no traditional source for rejecting angels. The Rambam identifies them as the intelligences governing the spheres and planets.

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  10. I hope people recognize that Rambam completely and wholly accepted the existence of angels and astrological forces. (There are two type of astrological forces on can believe in. He rejects one type and wholly embraces the other. See the letter on Astrology.)
    The reason Rambam accepted these supernatural entities is because he believed the Universe is not a closed natural system capable of perpetuating itself without constant outside input to keep it existing. See beginning of MT Hilchos Yesodei HaTorah and Moreh Nevuchim Section II, chapters 1-12.
    So much for Rambam "the rationalist".

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  11. I disagree with the premise that rational means anti kabbalah. I would say that being rational means acting according to one's intellect without being emotional to the information at hand. I've seen Rambamists who blindly follow the Rambam without addressing certain issues that perhaps he was mistaken and I've seen kabballists who have a very rational approach to certain strange statements in the kabbalah and understand that much of kabbalah is expressed through metaphor and imagery. I love the Rambams halacha and his "philosophy". I also love learning Zohar, kitve Ari and Hasidut.

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    1. I wish people would read my posts properly. I didn't use the word "rational" once.

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    2. OK, then I hear by replace my using of rational with rationalist in my post.

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  12. I've been reading Halachic man.. you can almost search/replace Halachic man with "Rationist" and make the same point

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  13. What do Mystics do with the passuk in Netzavim: "Hanistarot LaShem Elokeinu v'haniglaot lanu u'levaneinu ad olam" (think I got it). It passuk clearly implies that that which is unknowable (and science recognizes such) is, in fact, unknowable to all. Likewise, that which can be known, may be known by all. IOW, there's no such thing as "nistar" that can only be known by a few select individuals. The knowledge of G-d's universe is available to all.

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    1. Maybe they understand that passuk like Rashi explains it?

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    2. My question does not conflict with Rashi, but I think consideration of the point I am trying to make is key. What we cannot know, Tzaddik v'rah lo, Etc." is not, to me, as important as what we CAN know.

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  14. I once heard it said that the diff between a Qabbalist and a Talmudist is like a fever and a stomach ache.
    You can measure the fever but not a stomach ache.

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  15. Dear Rabbi Slifkin,

    You draw a clear delimiting line between “Rationalists” and “Mystics”, a division so strong as if two irreconcilable camps oppose each other. While I tend to agree with your four distinctions, I would nevertheless highlight that both parties talk about entities beyond human cognition. In my view, Kant made it adamantly clear that knowledge only exists as expressed through the categories of our mind based on sense data. Not to deny moral, psychological, etc. knowledge, but his philosophy ended all “dogmatic speculation” claiming knowledge about extra sensorial entities.

    As you said, the rationalist “believes” in a natural order where in my view any exception is rationalized as allegorical. The mystic on the other hand has recourse to an elaborate speculative system, most often of neo-platonic origin and curtailed to fit Jewish theological prerogatives, in order to describe a supra naturel “world” that influences our condition via wonder, enchantment and incomprehensible dogmas.
    In the end, isn’t “anything and everything” an allegory? How abstruse can a speculative system become, even when it reaches a point where many of its core concepts are of non-Jewish origin?

    In other words, the Rationalist camp and the Mystic camp talk about entities that are speculative, using different methods and vocabulary in order to articulate (seeking comprehension) the service of G’d, the purpose of creation and mankind in particular. What makes one approach more truthful than the other? Or is it simply a matter of one’s inclination and intellectual temperament to champion one approach over the other?

    The late Yeshayahu Leibowitz wrote a book called “Emunato shel ha-Rambam”, in my opinion a profound modern and rationalist account of our faith that does without allegories and having to conform to scientific thinking, while at the same time firmly refusing the Neo-Platonist worldview and psychology of the theoretical Kabbalah. I assume that your forth coming book will include perhaps a selection of rationalist and mystical thinkers. Do you dedicate a paragraph to Yeshayahu Leibowitz’s thought?

    Regards, Gidon Feigenbaum

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    1. I think you are missing the point about how rationalists dismiss 'elaborate speculative systems' (or 'baloney' in plain English). Rationalists don't think the non-explainable stuff is real. They think it's not real at all, and therefore not part of 'knowledge'.
      Thinking that when the Torah uses the term 'angels' is an allegorical way of discussing the forces of nature, doesn't mean they think angels exist. It means they think angels don't exist.
      Rationalists and Mystics don't discuss the same things using difficult terms, they have completely different views on how the world really is.
      If you want philosophy, then rationalists are more like Popper... mystics are like (erm... I don't know any philosophers who just make stuff up.)
      Both attempt to discuss God, however and herein lies the answer to your main question: Rationalists largely say that since is God is not part of nature He is largely off limits to human knowledge and so you can say very little about Him, other than guessing about His influence on the natural world (and even that is minimized). Mystics conjured up ways to cross the ethereal plane via the Chain of Sefirot and made God accessible so they can say an awful lot about Him. Most of what they say, of course, is weird, but not more weird perhaps than you would expect from a bunch of men in early periods of human history who were making things up as they went along.

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    2. Eh fozzie, don't be a tease! Let's get a full-on rant about the Zohar, Ari etc. This post is as good a place as any...

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    3. So when the Torah says for example that an angel of G-d called out to Hagar, or to Avraham, it was really just nature?

      "Rationalists largely say that since is God is not part of nature" when you say this what exactly do you mean?

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    4. What is the path [to attain] love and fear of Him? When a person contemplates His wondrous and great deeds and creations and appreciates His infinite wisdom that surpasses all comparison, he will immediately love, praise, and glorify [Him], yearning with tremendous desire to know [God's] great name, as David stated: "My soul thirsts for the Lord, for the living God" [Psalms 42:3].

      When he [continues] to reflect on these same matters, he will immediately recoil in awe and fear, appreciating how he is a tiny, lowly, and dark creature, standing with his flimsy, limited, wisdom before He who is of perfect knowledge, as David stated: "When I see Your heavens, the work of Your fingers... [I wonder] what is man that You should recall Him" [Psalms 8:4-5].

      Based on these concepts, I will explain important principles regarding the deeds of the Master of the worlds to provide a foothold for a person of understanding to [develop] love for God, as our Sages said regarding love: "In this manner, you will recognize He who spoke and [thus,] brought the world into being."
      Rambam Yesodei HaTorah 1:2

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    5. "(erm... I don't know any philosophers who just make stuff up.)"

      See Paul Johnson's contrast of Einstein vs. Freud and Marx, at the beginning of his history of the modern world.

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    6. "(erm... I don't know any philosophers who just make stuff up.)"

      but of course the ancient ones did.

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    7. but of course the ancient ones did.

      ah the bliss of ignorance

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  16. But the way Mysticism is being defined here we are not dealing with Kabbala. Kabbalah is real mysticism. The new Atheists call traditional religous belief and in truth religious belief altogether mysticism because they don't bother to learn about religion before making pronouncements about it.

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  17. "Rationalists understand the purpose of mitzvos and one’s religious life in general as furthering intellectual and/or moral goals for the individual and society"

    Is there any sort of indication that those performing mitzvos, rationalist or otherwise, are in any way more morally or intellectually advanced than those who do not?
    To say nothing of societies...

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    1. Good point. Rambam said had Moshe not been given Torah, we'd had discovered it through nature. Sorry, but this is a bit ridiculous. So explain to me, there's no scientific befit to kosher, then how would we have found it otherwise? Your question proves there must be a mystical element to these things, benefits which we can't comprehend in the state we're in. A lot of the mitzvot make no sense on a rationale level anyway.

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  18. Rationalists tend to think that the only (and best) way of knowing about things is through the everyday mind and the five senses (enhanced by various technologies).

    Mystics realise that these tools of the physical body (actually, is the mind in the brain or not?) are limited to gaining information about only the physical plane of existence and are not terribly useful for gaining a full picture of existence, and inparticular for understanding the perspective of religion. Man has higher tools that can enable him to know the world in a different way and also grasp the nature of the upper worlds, and it is a good idea to acquire and use those tools.

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    1. I love how in the comments section of this blog everything is upside down; Skeptic is only skeptical of evidence and extremely credulous of everything else (see mumbo-jumbo above), "Modern Orthodox" is anything but...It's a weird sorta place, but I guess it's home!

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    2. @Shlomo

      One has to understand evidence in a broader context. It's not an absolute. Read Thomas Kuhn.

      And I'm credulous of other stuff because I'm a mystic at heart, and I have had many mystical experiences that led me to conclude that there is reality in all of this stuff.

      Sorry you think what I wrote is 'mumbo-jumbo', I guess you just didn't understand.

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    3. "And I'm credulous of other stuff because I'm a mystic at heart, and I have had many mystical experiences that led me to conclude that there is reality in all of this stuff."

      Then be honest and call yourself "skeptic (selectively)."

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    4. I call myself skeptic here to convey the idea that I'm skeptical of the 'rationalist' viewpoint and I try to present something of the alternative view. It's a bit of a backhand joke if you see what I mean.

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    5. Generally the connotation of "skeptic" in these parts is one who desires evidence before believing rather than simply FEELZ. You have that in the reverse.
      So...seems a bit backward rather than backhand if you see what I mean.

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  19. Unsurprisingly (to anyone who has seen earlier comments of mine on this blog), I disagree on all 4:

    1- The Rationalist finds life's meaning in that which people can understand and harness. The Mystic finds it in those things that go beyond our reach. There is no Orthodox Judaism without believe in a G-d we cannot understand. And a Qabbalist, for all his complicated metaphysics, does seek to understand it. The limits of comprehension are not in dispute. It is whether what we can understand or what lies at the borders of comprehension and beyond that are most important.

    2, 3- Maximalism vs minimalism is almost the same thing as mysticism vs rationalism, but not part of the same picture. Othewise, you would have felt no need to separate 1 from 2&3. (On the other hand, you felt a need to separate maximalism about miraculous events and maximalism about metaphysics, and I am here lumping them together.)

    4- This too is also more complicated. The way the yeshivish understand Nefesh haChaim, the role of Torah is to refine the self, but the means of refinement are mystical. And how far is your description of the rationalist approach to avodas Hashem from your own definition of mysticism in I? "Even chukkim serve to accomplish these functions, albeit in a way that is not immediately obvious" appeals to a knowledge of the limits of human understanding.

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  20. "Rationalists...and depending on where on the rationalist spectrum they fall, they may believe in a small number of other supernatural entities or none at all."
    Who believes there are no supernatural entities?

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  21. As a general rule the Rationalist Rishonim believed in astrology. I am only aware of the Rambam being the exception.

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    1. I think that's overstating it. Rav Saadia Gaon? The Ralbag?

      Also, accepting astrology when your Natural Philosophy is Aristotelian can actually be rationalist. Since Aristo's metaphysics has the spheres in the chain of intellects that mediate down to physics, why not believe that the positions of the spheres influence events here on earth? It doesn't require appealing to that which we cannot understand.

      The Ibn Ezra was a rationalist astrology because in his milieu, astrology was considered a science (pardon the anachronistic term) not magic.

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    2. The Ralbag needed astrology for his philosophy as a philosophical rationalist necessity.

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  22. If Judaism is based on a revelation at Sinai and rationalists don’t believe in supernatural events then what do they do about revelation ? Is it an exception ?

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    1. Yes, which is what makes it special.

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    2. that's why this whole conversation is so simple minded. there is no difference between believing in one miracle or believing in a thousand. there is an absolute divide between those who believe that miracles are not possible (not Judaism) vs. those that believe they are (Judaism, and some other religions as well). once you accept that principle of miracles being real, the whole discussion of how many, how often, who gets them, etc. may be of theological/moral importance, but does not represent a divide between two schools of thought.

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    3. No, I disagree. I think the distinction is not between one and thousands but rather that whereas both mystics and rationalists accept that Google can cross over into the natural world only mystics are on enough hallucinogenics to delude themselves that they can break out of nature into His realm. So Sinai is rationalist, but the tales the Ari and his chums spread about entering palaces or conversing with angels are mystical.

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    4. Wow, what an extraordinary autocorrect!

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    5. Fozziebea, if G-d can cross-over, why could we don't? Do you have a reason? I guess you'd say we're finite. However, our souls - which aren't - may be the one's doing the crossing. You could certainly read it that way.

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  23. After contemplating this post for a few days, I'd be most comfortable saying that a supernatural order surely exists but is simply not our focus. Our business is in olam hazeh, and though we must find rational explanations and solutions to our problems, it doesn't mean that's all there is to it. We'll deal with whatever is going on 'behind the scenes' when we get there.

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    1. JD, a pretty typical Litvisher attitude. I'll do what I'm supposed to. All that other stuff may well exist, it's not my problem.

      See the first item in my earlier comment, about R' Natan's #1. I think the distinction between rationalist and mystic is less about what they're capable of believing and more about what they think is important.

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  24. Rabbi - kind of off topic (and might be old news), but did you know that your book on animals is cited in Yuval Noah Harari's recent book Homo Deus?

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    1. Oh wow - is it really? Wonderful book - did not see that cited.

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  25. There's a fundamental difference between Rabbi Slifkin's rationalism and the Rationalist Rishonim rationalism. Rabbi Slifkin minimizes when he can miracles just for the sake of it. They did not do that just for the sake of minimizing miracles. Minimizing miracles was only done when it was felt that that the miracle would be inconsistent with their philosophical beliefs.

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    1. That's quite possibly the silliest comment ever posted here.
      Have you seen what Rambam writes about his policy of minimizing miracles?
      And what does "just for the sake of it" mean?

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  26. Minimizing miracles I meant in the sense of not accepting a particular miracle. The Rambam had miracles be a part of nature by having it be set at the moment of creation to happen at a specific time and place. He and the other Rishonim had rules about which miracles were to be accepted as really having happened. If a particular miracle did not violate their rules then it happened according to them, otherwise not. The Ralbag rejected the idea that Sun stood still because he felt that it would be a miracle involving change outside of the sphere of the moon. You seem though to just have a rule of dismissing miracles when you can without any pholosophical rules on them.

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    1. Rambam's policy was to minimize miracles wherever possible. In some cases he had no choice but to accept them as happening.

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  27. He decided based on whether he felt it was philosophically possible to have a particular miracle happen.

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  28. https://www.torahmusings.com/2009/12/rambam-and-miracles/

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  29. He also decided not to accept a particular miracle naturaly when it occurred when he said a vision or dream was occuring because of another reason.

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  30. For most Jewish leading thinkers over the centuries it was multileveled


    This should be obvious to any honest person.

    Come on
    having to admit that would be so unfair!
    More fun to posit the strawman mysticism for anything that destabilizes the insides

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  31. I tend to lean towards the mystical side of things. I think there is fairly strong scientific evidence that mystical experiences do happen. As there appears to be something... spiritual about the conflict between Israel and Amalek. However, I tend to lean towards Maimonides' view on angels, even if the Tanakh doesn't always take this view.

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    1. If you don't mind, why would you take Rambam's late interpretation on angels over the Tanakh? I'm just confused why. Toda.

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  32. As I understand it, your book will cover both points of view, or have a rationale bias? I don’t think we should term mystics “mystics.” They are also just as rational about the natural world, just adding a supernatural layer to it. Actually, the Rambam and these people are just one step away from... you guessed it, atheism. And most people would chose Deism over Judaism’s complex halacha so... I don’t think Spinoza would have followed Judaism had he been more Maimonidean. In the end, they’re saying G-d can exist, but not angels, demons, etc,. but they’ve failed to understand that we’re talking about oranges, not oranges and apples (i.e., both supernatural “entities”, if that makes sense). In fact, a Kabbalist would say that angels are just an “extension” of G-d, and in a sense, are G-d. Last point, which interpretation is more closer to the Torah’s, if we were to be honest about it? Rambam, who said Moshe Rabbeinu used his “intellect” to find out what G-d wanted (whatever that means), or the Kabbalist, who reads Torah on a more literal level? I’ll leave it to you to decide.

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  33. Shalom Rabbi Slifkin,



    I am wondering what is your take on rationalism and Maimonides’ approach to angels, miracles, and prophecy. My understanding tells me that Maimonides did not believe in angels other than a force of nature. Miracles were a natural occurrence. Take the for ex the episode of the spit of the Sea of Reeds. The Torah says that a strong east wind blew the waters over night and not what was depicted as in the movie “Ten Commandments.” However, this does not belittle the even nor make it any less miraculous. And regarding prophecy, I believe Rambam said it was the higher intellect at work. A lot of people are afraid to accept new views and often feel threatened when they hear something oppose to what they heard in their youths. But these radical views should not deteriorate anyone’s faith in G-d, but strengthen it. These rational views freely stares science in the face and gives no ground to atheism. While mysticism is beautiful, we must contend, as Rabbi Jonathan Sacks said, with change and accept growth to improve our understanding of natural law, science, the self, and society. Rationalism helps us improve our views about Judaism and brings people to faith in an age where most youths are leaving religion, due to their rejection of growth in science and modernization. Even if you disagree with this interpretation of Maimonides, it should, hopefully, provide people with the ability to think and ask questions to the issues raised. Thank you.

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    1. I know you asked for our host's take, but here's mine...

      I don't think your picture of the Rambam's position on angels is accurate. In Aristotilian metaphysics, those forces of nature are caused by intellects. It is those intellects, not the forces themselves, which he is identifying with nature. And he includes other non-corporeal intellects, i.e. angels, other than forces of nature.

      This is explicit in Yesodei haTorah 2:3-8. (Sefaria link)

      Also, quoting Moreh Nevuchim 2:6 (in Freidlander's mediocre but public domain translation):
      We have already stated above that the angels are incorporeal. This agrees with the opinion of Aristotle: there is only this difference in the names employed — he uses the term “Intelligences,” and we say instead “angels.” His theory is that the Intelligences are intermediate beings between the Prime Cause and existing things, and that they effect the motion of the spheres, on which motion the existence of all things depends. This is also the view we meet with in all parts of Scripture: every act of God is described as being performed by angels. But “angel” means “messenger”; hence every one that is entrusted with a certain mission is an angel. Even the movements of the brute creation are sometimes due to the action of an angel, when such movements serve the purpose of the Creator, who endowed it with the power of performing that movement; e.g., “God hath sent His angel, and hath shut the lions’ mouths that they have not hurt me” (Dan. vi. 22)…. It is also used of ideals, perceived by prophets in prophetic visions, and of man’s animal powers, as will be explained in another place.

      When we assert that Scripture teaches that God rules this world through angels, we mean such angels as are identical with the Intelligences. In some passages the plural is used of God, e.g., “Let us make man in our image” (Gen. i. 26); “Go to, let us go down, and there confound their language” (ibid. xi. 7). Our Sages explain this in the following manner: God, as it were, does nothing without contemplating the host above.


      The problem with all this is that Aristotle's intellect-centered metaphysics is based upon a physics which doesn't have a law of conservation of momentum. Instead, motion is caused by an intellect imperting impetus to an object, which then moves until the impetus is used up. (Thus the spheres must be intellects, since some intellect must be keeping the planets and stars moving...)

      Since the physics is off, the metaphysics doesn't work, and the Rambam's angelology has no modern rationalist equivalent.

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    2. I agree that both Aristotle and Maimonides relied on the science of their day which was wrong in many ways. Yet, I think their thinking about angels is correct. G-d is not a Pasha surrounded by servants that carry out the Pasha's commands. G-d has no need for assistants. Yes, tradition came up with the idea that there are angels, meaning messengers from G-d. But they should not be understood as figures outside natural law. Natural law is fixed and needs no change. If one wants to think of the existence of angels, think of the natural forces such as rain, snow, the laws of gravity, etc.

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