RAMBAM and Kabbalah

Many people mistakenly assume that RAMBAM (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maimonides) did not posses the wisdom of Kabbalah.

This belief can be understood as all the works of this great sage seem to be based on rational thinking. But this is only a veil that conceals one of the greatest Kabbalists the world ever known.

As one of the greatest masters of Kabbalah Abu Lafia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abraham_Abulafia) pointed out – Kabbalah is based on two key books – Sefer HaYetzira that is attributed to Avraham and RAMBAM’s Guide.

I was troubled myself by the fact that ARIZAL implied in Shaar HaGilgulim that RAMBAM’s soul was derived from the left side of side-locks and therefore he didn’t merit to learn the Wisdom of Kabbalah, but the author of this article resolves this difficulty.



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5 Responses to RAMBAM and Kabbalah

  1. A very good article, but some points have to be sharpened for understanding.

    When Arizal says that “Rambam didn’t merit to learn the Wisdom of Kabbalah” he means exactly what he says, because Rambam was born knowing Kabbalah! and so couldn’t merit from its learning. As the men thanks the G-d in the morning for not being made the woman, and many people misunderstand it thinking that it implys, that it is better to be a man, but what the blessing actually means is that the man has much more work to do himself to get the same level as a woman, in another words, we came to this world to get rid of the feeling of shame, that we haven’t earned something we are given by HaShem. BeZkut ve Lo beHessed is the way of the correction and the less you are given from the begining the more sure you can be that what you have is almost earned by you.

    If we take two people, one a son of rich man and a son of a poor man, and they both started bussness and they both succeeded, but the first one has all his father’s money and connections in buseness world, but the other did his success all by him self!

    Of course we would see the success of a ex-poor man as a real one and the success of the rich one we will connected more to his father position in the world.

    But as a matter of fact both of them has the real success, because the poor one had real need for making money and he strugle as a lion( in another words he has ready-made Hissaron), the rich one had to make the Hissaron by himself, because he had everything from his father, why to wish to get into buseness at all.

    So as we see Arizal was absolutly right in stating about Rambam and it showes why Rambam called his work “Guide to the Perplexed”, because he was the one that felt perplexed of how-could-it-be-that-he-knows-what-he-knows without being taught, and that is why he knew Zohar, because he was born with this Knowledge in him.But it doesn’t mean that Rambam has a “golden cup in his mouth”, He had to learn all his life to prouve to himself that what he knew is a spiritual knowledge which differs very much from Greek philosophy, and is a spiritual knowledge which exist independent from humanity and may be reached or prouved to oneself only through learning written and oral Torah and Observing Mitzvot!

    The souls of the left side has to find the prouve, and the souls of the right side has to learn, but the result of being able to say I KNOW- is the same amount of spiritual work done wether you are from this or that side.

  2. “The knowledge of metaphysical reality can only be achived by certain methods of abstract contemplative thought”

    1.”certain methods”is observing Torah and Mitzvot KiHallakhah! kabbalaists are known by there extra-Harridi following the hallakot, they know such details of their performence that regular people see as insignificant, for ex. when they make Nettilat Yadaim they never pass the Natlan from hand to hand (as Felix gave the ex. with intercrossing fingers), but they put it on and then take it with the other hand, not to have a moment of holding it with both hands at the same time- not to mix the right and left lines. When they say Shma Israel they put three fingers on the forehead, the small finger on the left eye and the big one on the right one thus achiving one of the haShem’s name-ShaKai, not to mention their Siddur( Felix gave a good ex. of it in his article). Rabbi Eliezer( disendent of Moashe) the teacher of Rabbi Akivva knew the secret of Ashes of Red Cow. So the method of Kabbalaist isn’t meditation, it can help but can’t substituid performing Torah and Mitzvot, the jewish meditation is PRAYER and it should be used with the knowledge of true Hissaron taught by Kabbalah. Yekhudi has a special “gift” in prayer, nobody can pray so openly and sincire as Yekhudi and nobody is heard as quickly as Yekhudi.

    “Abstract contemplative thought” is day by day analysis and synthesis of the life situations and their compareing with the dicision making of our ego and the demands of Torah and Motzvot and choosing in favour of Torah and Mitzvot.

    Understanding of the Models of life hidden behind any of the situation and finding the correspondent “stories” in TaNaKh and by compareing the Models coming to the only right decision for you in this given situation. There are no ready made recipies, you have to analyse and synthesis the decision all the time. if you can’r find the connection of each and every story in TaNaKh or Talmud to our life, it isn’t because it isn’t relevant any more it is because your analysing and synthesising capabilities are not developed enough.

    So I wouldn’t recomend to use all this “modern” terms for ancient basic notions.

  3. To understand the meaning of having left or right side soul we have to remember that this world is very interwooven and you may no point out a “clear” left or right side soul, but of course we may discuss them theoretically and one would try to analyse him or herself and synthesise their own conclusions of what kind of souls he belongs and what he or she has to do, no matter what stage of life or position he or she is.

    Being left side soul means have hypersensitivity and a desperet need for love, having trouble to postpone getting pleasure and suffering the deprevation of the pleasure on a very high tragic personal level. That is why, in general of course, the people belonging to this kind will be for men: criminals, terorists and extremists, busenessmen and people loving traveling, moving from place to place, from work to work, from woman to woman and ect.. For women these are ussually devoursed or lonely women very nervous, agresive, demanding with hyperbolated self-estim, dreaming too much and not doing anything.Both of them are no good with the law, and that is why Rambam’s most of the works are dedicated to studing and clasification the law =Talmud,because if you want to strengthen your weak side you have to work on it. Rambam, being instoled in him knowledge of the upper worlds, could have brought him to being a kind of “false” Mashi’akh, if he hadn’t worked so hard on the developing in himself the opposide side= understanding that in this world there are the laws and we have to obey them no matter how desperetly we want the things to be different. He also understood the problematic sides of revolutions of all kind ,because the the enthusiazm of the left soul people may rise others, but they are good at the distraction only to build something new you need to develop additional qualities in your soul, thus correcting the left side by adding to it the right side qualities and putting it into the middle.

    In Torah we have several examples of corrected and incorrected left side souls, but we will discuss only two of the – Eissav and Leah.

    We all know the story from thr Torah that Leah became the wife of Yacob, and Midrash tells us that she “knew” that she was the soul-mate of Eissav and she cried day and night that it was her destiny to be the soul mate of “Rashah”( evil person).

    Acctully it isn’t so clear why she was crying and not doing something else, for ex. asking her father not to agree for her to marry Eisav( but to tell the truth Esave never asked her or her father to marry her) . As Leah is the left side soul of a woman, she actually cried over understanding that she will never expereance being loved, and as being love is the extprem nessecety of the left side souls she fighted her wish all the time, and even being married to Yakov the motivation for the giving birth to “sons” was the need to be loved. And to agrevate it more as we said, Eissav never thought of her as his soul mate, he wasn’t satisfied by his women- “easy to get easy to change”, why to trouble to look for somebody spetial. He loved hunting, senses, danger, chalenge, woman was just a kind of his man’s physiological needs, he was unable to overcome the need for imidite satisfaction, he didn’t care to look for Leah- the love on a very deep, very unique, most sensetive levels of souls unity, it demends to add to the sensuality the highest levels of spiritual intelectuality, and it meant to go to “Eshiva” and not to the” field, and forest”,he just find bits of satisfaction with changing women and mixing all with all, having “spontanious” bursts of emotional presure, which finally brought the birth of Ammalek in his denasty.So the uncorrected left soul of a man will ultemetly bring the person to crime or at least to dreaming to perform if, or to dream of becoming rich in a moment and these are so called one day busenessmen that make their fortunes in a “day”, but often loose them as quickly as they got them.

    The correction of these souls is in finding the law system that they will obey , and as they are born with intuitive knowledge of Kabbalah they will ultemetly come to Judaism= performing and obeying Torah and Mitzvot doesn’t matter wether they were born jewish ot not.We learn it from correction of Yitzkhak-Akedda=complete obidience= overcoming the wish of immidiet or spontanious satisfaction of the desired, and prohibition to leave Eretz Israel= the clear understanding of the necessety of undergoing through correction, before you come to the perpose of Creation.

    Yitzlhak liked Eissav, because they were of the same side soul, they understood each other very much, but at the end we read that Eisave’s wives made greeve not only to Rivka but to Yitzhak too, and he agrees with Rivka- right side soul, and she loved Yakov-right side soul, that they should try to send Yakov to find his wife from “their” place(Harran) and only after staying in “Ehiva of Malki Tzeddek=learning the necessity of developing the intuitive side, feelings, imagination) Yacove moves to Harran amd comes back after 20 year as Israel=middle line.

    Yakove was a “good boy” he sat and learned, but if you think of a Heaven as a place of a nice sweet people that are never wrong and always do what is right to do you feel sick that very moment and rather go to Hell not to be bored to death in such kind of Heaven, the Heaven is the combination of Ratzon Lekkabel with Kavvanah Lehashpia, and that is why when we say that somebody is Tzadick we do say it with the respect, but it is difficult to love such a person, because he doesn’t exite you at all, and they say that Tzadikim never can rise as high as Ba’alei Tshuva= those who work with Ratzon Lekkabel and converting it into Ratzon Lehashpia.

    So Tzadik Yakov has to become a man out of a “good boy” and he is sent to be dependent on himself and the G-d and in this way he develops his senses and gets intuition and understanding heart, and that is why he, that loves Rakhel only= woman’s ex. of right side soul= being loved and beautiful, but actually having no such a need for this love, not being able to experience real jealousy, being a kind of “good girl”, understanding and obidient, but undeveloped and not being able of givening the birth to the “sons” ,because she lack real sensitivity which is developent through the suffering and deprivation, the suffering of Leah’s understanding of staying all her life on the “second” role.

    If you take the Rambam’s case, you will see that he lost his father and elder brother who supported the family and had to support the family himself- developing his very weak side= matereal one, connection with the reality of this world, and doing it in a legal way, and not “criminal” one, made him being connected to the matereal world very much through build his ‘carrier” step by step and not getting it AT ONCE, and it is the correction of the left side souls to exept the Ellokhim=law-Avva’a ratio = first of all Hashgakga Klallit= the correction and then Ashgakha Prattit=the Purpose of Creation, no way other!

    And that is what Leah did, though crying all the time, but exepting the fact that it is better to use your abilities for what they are needed in the process of correction= building the 12 tribes of the future jewish nation, than to sit and complain of the “poor” destiny of being not needed even by her soul mate.and it is the correction of the most left side soul women, which have to understand that the potential they feel within themselves won’t pop out itself one day, one have to do her predestination in this world wether he( most of the said is equal for men and women) or she is appritiated at the moment or not. These kind of wemen has to learn to fulfill their other roles exept “a loved woman”, BECAUSE IN THEIR “NATURAL” way, without being loved by anybody, they are actually unable to love themseleves, others and even their one children, if they are loved they love everybody, but if they are not loved they terorise everybody, they make them as unhappy and misiranle as they think they are themseleves and as we know the love that is dependent on something mat not be called a real love. So their need for love comes out of being unable to really love, most of them actually never expirienced real love.

    And their correction is to learn to love and become sensitive to others First, as for the left soul men, their correction is in understanding that nothing real is got or built in one day, and ussualy out of rich of “hand” and getting it needs a systematic work in one and the same direction, may be for years, and that hunting in the field or the forest is a wrong way all together.

    As for the right side souls which are often polititians, lawers, army representatives, administretors and so on , ” good “husbands and “good” wives, but boreing and undeveloped sensitively, having no creativity and imagination, uncapebale of doing something if they don’t know what will come out of it= uncapable of Immuna, and being unable of real desire and never experiencing the real climix of any firld of indivour, being unable of “giving a birth” to something new, their correction is in learning Kabbalah , especially Zohar ( there isn’t more sensitive and exiting book in a world)and overcoming their need for logical clarity in everything and the sadistic or mazochistic following their “rules” , which are acttually very often the rules of the incorrected socity or their families and developing independent thinking and alternative to criminal way of getting Gadlut.

    So we see that some souls- left ones merit from stading and following law, and others are merit from learning Kabbalah, and all of us need these knowledge not for the sake of the knowledge, but for understanding that if we ignoor any of the sides of our personality it will bring anywhere, but spirituality= real desire, real fulfilment, real exatment. And as today’s souls are very combinated ones, meaning being combined of different parts of left and right sides within different Sfirrot in one and the same soul, the best way is to study Law=Talmiud and Kabbalah=purpose of Creation and getting the understanding that Torah is Tree of Life and only the one who hold it tide you will finally come to Unity with yourself, your soul mate and the G-d.

    Creativity of rising Ore Hosser is the part which is given to creation to Creat, and as we know that TaNaKh is Ore Yashar-light and Talmud and Kabbalah are Ore Hosser-vessels ,we may concluedthat only in their unity and understanding we will get the Middle Line the correction that did Rambam and that is why Avrakham abulafia felt that Mishnei Torah couldn’t be written by a person that didn’t knoe Kabbalah, and that is why Rambam merited from clasification of Talmud and left us heredity to mert from his work and his correction.

    The future belongs to Creation that combines the the Purpose of Creation with its creative attitude to it.

    And we learn it from the fact that we are atracted to the art, music, singing, dancing, acting , knowledge, because we feel that they have their root in the Eternal Sourse of the Creator, and are the ways of expresing our individuality and making this world more buaitiful, corrected, intresting, exiting and loving place.

  4. Sorry, I made a mistake Rambam’s brother David was younger one, and not the elder as a wrote.

  5. Rambam
    Voices in Our Head
    Chapter 7, Law 4

    “One who has repented (lit., ‘a master of repentance’) should not imagine that he is distant from the high level of the righteous because of the transgressions and sins that he did. The matter is not so. Rather, he is beloved and precious before the Creator — as if he had never sinned before. Not only that, but his reward is great, for he has tasted sin and separated from it, conquering his evil inclination. The Sages said, ‘The place that repenters stand [before G-d in the World to Come], wholly righteous people cannot stand.’ Meaning, their level is greater than the level of the those who never sinned before since they have conquered their evil inclinations more than they.”

    The Rambam in this law makes a very beautiful point which as we’ll see, is very relevant to the overall theme of this chapter.

    Before we look at the Rambam’s point itself, I’d like to make a brief observation regarding how he presents it. The Rambam does not simply make his statement — that one who repents is greater than one who has never sinned (quoting from Talmud Brachos 34b). Rather, he presents it by rejecting the alternative, by saying, “Don’t think that you, the repenter, are worse on account of your past. For no, as a matter of fact you are even greater…”

    The Rambam appears to recognize that people do not tend to think this way, that the repentant sinner is anything better than a come-from-behind impersonator of the truly devout — the uppity nouveau frum rather than the real old money. He therefore makes a point of refuting such a notion. The Rambam, who as we know generally spares very few words, is almost giving such people a pep talk: Don’t be down on yourselves. Don’t feel that since you’ve sinned before, you’re always a little bit despicable in G-d’s eyes. Don’t feel that with the baggage you’re carrying you’ll never catch up to the truly great. Rather, here’s what the Sages had to say about you: You will lead the way in the World to Come. You’re not worse; you’re greater — regardless of the condescending attitude others may have towards you. In fact, the Sages stand in awe before the likes you, who have done what they themselves have never done.

    I was once at a graduation ceremony for newly-ordained rabbis from a ba’al teshuva yeshiva (rabbinical college for people who hail from irreligious homes — who began their Torah study as adults with little or no background). One of the speakers at the event, who is one of great rabbis of this generation, said with awe and admiration that he saw these young men grow and develop faster than he himself had ever grown in any period of his life. Such people have taken enormous strides. To reject their pasts and pick themselves up from almost nothing, to overcome their past temptations and discard them all for the sake of G-d: Such are a very special class of people. They may not always receive their due recognition in this world — and they may in fact trail their contemporaries in accumulated knowledge and never shake off the appearance of the advanced beginner. Yet when G-d’s final tallying take place in the True World, they will take the place they truly deserve. And a lot of folks may well be surprised.

    Let us now look at the Rambam’s statement itself. He really makes two points. The first is that such a person’s sins are forgotten by G-d — “as if he had never sinned before.” Thus, the repenter should not feel he is still sinful. Teshuva (repentance) erases our past mistakes entirely. It is as if they never occurred.

    Secondly, the Rambam continues, such people are actually superior to those who have never sinned. People innocent to the ways and temptations of this world have a much easier time resisting sin. They never developed an appetite for wicked behavior; sins exert no great pull over them. Repenters, by contrast, have been there and done that. Their evil inclinations do not need break any new ground with them — but merely remind them of their past thrills, tickling them with fantasies they only remember too well. And if such people resist that urge, they are clearly greater than those who have never fallen before.

    Of course, it should be stated that the repenter who might resist sin but still spends his time reminiscing about the “good old days,” or who allows himself to fantasize about those sins he no longer commits, is not necessarily superior to one who has never sinned before. *If* he can truly reject his past sinfulness, put it out of mind and reject it — in fact cringe at the memory of his past sinfulness, he has achieved more than the one who has never sinned. But in honesty, that requires a long and arduous journey. One who has merely reached the first step — who refrains from doing *acts* of sin but who hasn’t really progressed far from his earlier self, may in truth have a great way to go to surpass the truly righteous.

    I would imagine that of the two points the Rambam makes, the first is much easier to accept. If the Torah promises that G-d forgives our regretted past mistakes, we can rest assured that they are no longer on our tab. We do not have to feel G-d deplores us on account of them. Those sins are history.

    The second point, however, I believe is psychologically much more difficult to accept. The one who used to sin but now resists is greater than one who never sinned before because he has greater temptations he must overcome. Although the point sounds valid, it’s a little hard to believe that such a person is really higher. I’ll bet Rabbi X doesn’t lust after the same wicked behaviors I’ve become accustomed to. I’m so much more filthy, so much closer to evil than he. Sure, I’m resisting it, but it’s impossible to feel I’m really on his level. He wouldn’t — and doesn’t — even *dream of* the nasty stuff I used to be involved in.

    Well, first of all, you hardly know what’s in Rabbi X’s head, and how pure you *imagine* him to be is hardly grounds for being so down on yourself. The vast majority of us really are human. Your evil inclination might get more graphic with you because of your past experiences, but no one is beyond human temptation. As we all know too well (and hear on the news too often), pious outer appearances are hardly an indication of how great and pure a person truly is within.

    However, there is something to consider here — and it ties right in to the theme of this chapter. As we’ve explained, Chapter 7 — which seems to reintroduce teshuva anew — is not discussing teshuva as an obligation to G-d, but as our own road to self-fulfillment. We also explained that fulfillment really revolves around an issue more basic than the particular good and bad deeds I have done. It’s really a question of what kind of person I am. Have I developed myself into a person who appreciates goodness and spirituality? Am I deep down really a holy person, who wants G-d and His Torah rather than my own smallness and selfishness? Will I have something in common with G-d when my soul returns to heaven? Teshuva is about connecting myself to whom I really am, to not just being a good person somewhere deep down within me, but being fulfilled and true to myself through and through.

    And this is where the repenter can really become down on himself. Say such a person has rejected his past and begins serving G-d properly. But now he wants to ask himself the sixty-four-thousand-dollar question: Who is he really? Is he really a spiritual person? Has he really outgrown his past and become close to G-d? Or do those fantasies which still haunt his subconscious prove that his sins are really still a part of him — a part of whom *he* is? Has he accomplished the repentance of Chapter 7?

    And such a person may become profoundly saddened by that question. How can he pretend he is now a godly person if he is still hounded by memories of his past? Who is he? Well, isn’t he *really* the sum total of his thoughts? Isn’t he composed of all those little voices he hears in his head? Sure, he may be behaving outwardly and even attempting to quell such bad thoughts as they come. But aren’t his thoughts *him*? Can he really be just as holy as the truly pious if he is still plagued by such nasty thoughts? Would G-d really want a relationship with someone as confused and racked with sinful thoughts as he?

    And this is where the Talmud steps in with another bombshell. Those nasty thoughts that you don’t want but cannot fully quell are not whom you are — because that’s not whom you *really* are. Your evil inclination may be attempting to drag you down with memories of your past. But that is not you. Sure, nobody is perfect and thoughts and fantasies are a part of every human being’s makeup. But thoughts which unwittingly enter my mind are not *me*. They are just thoughts. And so long as I don’t spend my time enjoying them, they do not define who I am.

    The Talmud states that under almost all circumstances, G-d does not punish us for the bad thoughts we had which accompanied our sins (Kiddushin 39b). For there are thoughts and there are thoughts. There are thoughts which describe who *I* am, which I allow to entire my psyche and become a part of my essence. And there are thoughts which really come from without, which tickle me, even plague me, with fantasies of actions I would never commit, but which are really not *me*. And when we truly ask ourselves whom we are G-d will know which thoughts contributed to our true essence. We cannot control that which pops into our minds, but we most certainly can be selective regarding which thoughts we dwell upon and which ones we really choose to make our own. And ultimately, that decision process determines in G-d’s eyes just whom we really are.

    by Rav Dovid Rosenfeld

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