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MISC-----moreh nevuchim

ranred Posted - 02 July 2006 19:17

What’s the story with the Moreh Nevuchim? Should we learn it? I heard some say it was only written for the Rambams generation, but on the other hand so many Gedolim quote it in their seforim. Who do we pasken like in this issue?

MODERATOR Posted - 02 July 2006 19:20

First, you should not touch the Moreh Nevuchim unless you have a very strong background in Torah hashkafa, which means if you’re the average frum teenager, or even an above average frum teenager, stay away. You have to walk before you can run.

Second, the opinions you are quoting are not in disagreement. When the seforim say that the Rambam write Moreh Nevuchim exclusively for his dor, it does not mean that we shouldn’t learn it.. There’s no such thing in Torah that only a certain dor is allowed to learn a certain sefer. That makes no sense.

But there is such a thing that only a certain dor – or certain people within a certain dor - are allowed to assume that the advice and explanations in the sefer were meant exclusively for them, because, that is the advise most applicable and explanations most effective and understandable to them. But had the author written for different people, he would have given different advice, or different explanations. Or perhaps the author knew the way his target audience would take his words so he explained things a certain way, whereas a different audience would take his words differently, and misconstrue things.

It’s like let’s you are a medical student observing an expert doctor prescribe medicine for his patients. .There is a lot to learn from that experience, but you should not make the mistake of thinking that the medicine the doctor said would cure his patients would work for you. If you do take the medicine, it will likely make you sick.

Some Torah teachings are addressed and apply to all of Klall Yisroel and some are appropriate only for certain people. Both of those should be learned, and could be understood, but they should be learned and understood in two different ways. And you need to be expert enough to tell which is which.

The very best example I know of this is the Minchas Elozor’s explanation as to why the Rambam wrote there is no such thing as Sheidim when Chazal say there is. He says that SHeidim are the kind of things that kol dekapid kapdi bahadei udelo kapid lo kapdi bahadei (Pesachim 110b) – they can only harm you if you’re scared of them. Now the Rambam lived in Egypt in the middle ages, where the masses believed strongly in the power of demons and all sorts of magical forces. This presented a grave danger of the people being damaged by Sheidim. The Rambam, knowing his target audience as people who are very scared – and therefore very susceptible – to the damage that can be done by SHeidim, tried to get them to think that Sheidim don’t exist so they would not longer be scared of them and thus escape the very real and tangible danger that SHeidim posed.

. That’s an example of what the seforim mean when they say that the Moreh Nevuchim was meant for his generation. There is a lot we can learn from this Rambam, regarding how SHeidim work and to what extent we are allowed to go to protect people from them, which is relevant to so many Halchos and Agados.

SO saying the Rambams sefer was meant for his generation never meant to say it should not be learned. Nobody ever said that.

Of course, if someone does not know the “code” of the Moreh Nevuchim and will take the Rambam at face value – which is something that everyone agrees cannot be don’t with Moreh Nevuchim – then it is better that he keep away form it, because if he reads it, he will not be learning the Rambam anyway, but merely his own distorted understanding of what he mistakenly believes the Rambam means to say.
The Rambam himself, in Moreh Nevuchim explains that there are several reasons (7 I think, offhand) that cause contradictions in what an author may say, one of which is that the author has to understand his audience, and if they will not understand something because it is above them, the author may have to give an oversimplification of an answer because that’s what the reader will comprehend.

The Rambam in Moreh Nevuchim was dealing with a certain type of audience (Nevuchim!) with certain types of issues. He addressed their specific issues in ways that they would understand. Had the Rambam been writing for our generation, he would have written differently.

That having been said, someone who understands where the Rambam was coming from will be able to understand the true meaning of the Moreh Nevuchim. But you need a very strong background to do so. It’s kind of like when I say the Gemora is not meant l'halachah l'maaseh. A posek can derive the halachah from the Gemora, but only because he is so skilled at learning. So when we say the Moreh Nevuchim was meant only for his generation, we do not mean that it should not be leaned – on the contrary – we mean it needs to be learned even harder than an average sefer, if you are going to understand it properly.

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