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I have heard many times that the Rambam's omission of mystical ideas is proof, or evidence, of his rejection thereof. However, if one accepts the authenticity of Kabbalah as being a legitimate tradition sourced back to at least R' Shimon Bar Yochai, then that includes the fact that it was a secret tradition, as would be supported by the Mishna in Chagiga 2:1 that the מעשה מרכבה should not even be taught directly to an individual. From the way the Ramban introduces Kabbalistic ideas in his commentary on Chumash, it seems that he was not entirely comfortable to let the cat out of the bag. Therefore, silence seems inconclusive.

Is there positive evidence of the Rambam's rejection of Kabbalah, by which I mean statements which seem to acknowledge it and dismiss it?

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both maa3sa bareisheeth and markabo are science and not "kabbala" as brought down by rambam zl in mora nabucheem. –  MoriDoweedhYaa3qob Jun 23 '14 at 22:03
also he rejected sheeu3r qoma as a book of 3abodho zoro –  MoriDoweedhYaa3qob Jun 23 '14 at 22:04
Somewhat related chat. –  Fred Jun 23 '14 at 22:52
Although this does not address the fundamental tenets of Kabbalah, the Vilna Gaon sharply criticized the Rambam's rejection or reinterpretation of ideas regarding witchcraft, demons, amulets, divine names, and kabbalistic formulations/incantations (Bei'ur HaGra YD 179:13). –  Fred Jun 23 '14 at 23:49
@yez chayas.com/AntiRAMBAM.pdf enjoy –  MoriDoweedhYaa3qob Jun 24 '14 at 3:33

1 Answer 1

Menachem Kellner wrote a book on the topic, where he builds on work by Moshe Idel. Kellner takes for granted that Rambam rejected (what was taught as) kabbalah of his day, and his book 'shows' how much of the Rambam's writings were aimed at presenting an alternative to kabbalah. You could read his book as indirectly proving that the Rambam rejected kabbalah, because if he's writing with an anti-kabbalah agenda he obviously rejected it. However, in my mind, Kellner's book failed on both accounts (for many reasons, but I won't go into a long critique of his book here).

All in all, the scholarly consensus is that the Rambam rejected kabbalah, or what he knew of it, and not just because he writes in a teshuvah (Blau ed. I:117) that the kabbalistic book Shiur Komah is heretical. The Rambam's whole outlook doesn't seem to fit with many of the tenets of kabbalah, at least of what we know of it from that time. While you're right that these things were kept under wraps by those who knew them, the Rambam states in the introduction (and throughout) Moreh Nevuchim that in his book he is revealing the secrets of מעשה בראשית and מעשה מרכבה as he understands them, and they certainly don't look like kabbalah.

Of course, this is all kind of tenuous because we can't be sure how to read the kabbalistic works just because we have the texts. Maybe we're reading them incorrectly, as many authentic mekubalim (like R. Yaakov Hillel) of today will tell you that certain terms are codes for certain concepts, and that the mekubalim speak metaphorically, etc... This is especially so because later mekubalim actually did use the Moreh Nevuchim and picked up some of the Rambam's terminology here and there.

(For the sake of completeness, however, I should mention that there are two letters supposedly written by the Rambam which do in fact praise the kabbalah, though scholars have dismissed them as forgeries. One of them is quoted by the Migdal Oz to the first chapter of Hil. Yisodei HaTorah, where the Rambam is said to have discovered kabbalah later in life, and another well known one published in R. Shilat’s edition of the Rambam's letters, pg. 695. See there where he discusses the veracity of the letter)

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The problem that I have is, the Gaonim also gave rational explanations which could be taken as alternatives to Kabbala, and yet there exist teshuvos where the Gaonim "hushed" people who espoused Kabbalistic views - didn't correct them, but hushed them. That is why I want positive proof, not proof in abstentia. Rejecting Shiur Komah is closer, but still not really conclusive. –  YeZ Jun 23 '14 at 23:54
Re Shiur Komah, that isn't conclusive because specific kabbalistic ideas in the book could have been problematic to him. I don't know what it says in the book, or which parts he called heretical, so I can't really judge, but it's certainly incomplete. –  YeZ Jun 24 '14 at 2:20
@YEZ true, but the geonim never say that their explanations of aggada are to be considered 'maaseh beraishis' and 'maaseh merkava' (Truth is though that I don't think that's right about the geonim, if we're talking about rav sheriara and rav hai, but that's another topic) –  Matt Jun 24 '14 at 2:21
@Matt There is a specific teshuva which I think is from R' Sherira about how kevutzas haderech works, in which he had given a very rational explanation, someone wrote him asking "doesn't it work like this" with a "kabbalistic" explanation, and he essentially responded "we don't talk about those things" –  YeZ Jun 24 '14 at 2:23
@Matt I don't have a link, but it's brought in Otzar HaGe'onim on maseches Sukka. –  YeZ Jun 24 '14 at 2:28

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