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I have come across many people who believe that it is inappropriate to learn Moreh Nevuchim especially at a younger inexperienced age. However, it seems that many important issues are discussed in the MN and it is quoted throughout many more popularly learned seforim.

What are the arguments for or against learning Rambam's Moreh Nevuchim?

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2 Answers 2

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My arguments for learning Moreh Nevuhim:

  1. Many issues regarding proper approach to understanding the language of the Torah are clarified, thereby removing the stumblimg blocks that result from being over-literalist in translation of the Torah.

  2. Many universally accepted (amongst current Orthodoxy) fundementals are spelled out with a clarity that guides one to be able to look at Tanach, Midrashim, and Miforshim and not reach philosophically erroneous conclusions.

  3. In an age when children are being overfed or underfed (depending on the background) the more "magical" sounding midrashim, the Moreh helps us get an understanding of what true depth is and how to balance the miraculous vs. Divine Providence.

My arguments against learning it are:

  1. Many people are agenda driven and use the Moreh to confirm their agendas.

  2. Most people tend not to read his introduction nor heed his instructions. This leads to all sorts of problems.

  3. One must be brutally honest with himself regarding what he understands and what he doesn't in order to walk away with Rambam's true intent and not walk away with erroneous conclusions. Most people are not this honest with themselve's.

  4. Most people today do not have enough of a background in Hazal and in the classical philosophers to really grasp the more complex philosophical issues that Rambam addresses.

  5. Most people do not read and understand the classical Arabic original and except for one translation all the others never received Rambam's approbation. The one that did is extremely difficult to comprehend due to the new terms the translator was required to invent in order to convey the ideas in Hebrew. So there is a great risk of not getting what Rambam really meant.

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I'm not sure what you mean by people confirming their agendas. –  jake Feb 28 '11 at 22:47
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Another issue (somewhat related to con #4): the Rambam uses Aristotelian philosophy (and generally accepts most of its conclusions as fact, except for where it contradicts Torah thought, such as the idea of the universe having been created vs. always existing). Since these concepts are alien and unscientific to the modern mind, what may end up happening is that someone is left with a question on Judaism without a satisfactory answer. –  Alex Feb 28 '11 at 23:01
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There are people with extra-rationalist agendas and people with monolithic Kabbalist agendas, both types vying for Rambam as their ally or even champion. –  Yahu Mar 1 '11 at 1:41
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Another agenda is those who are Kabbalistic and feel the need to show that based on the information we have today (from the ARIZAL) the Rambam's Hashkafah is passe (as Rambam would've agreed with the ARI). This agenda may cause one to miss all the points of similarity between Rambam's philosophy and Kabbalah. –  Yahu Mar 1 '11 at 23:39

The last Lubavitcher Rebbe points out that there were generally two opinions regarding the Moreh Nvuchim:

  1. Some said that it wasn't written by the Rambam, others said that even if it was written by the Rambam, it was written for the "Perplexed", and anyone who is not perplexed could live his life without learning it.
  2. One must say that this sefer was written for everyone, because to say that it was written only for "sick" people, and any healthy person who would read it would get sick, seems unreasonable. Moreover, the Rambam specifically says in the beginning of the Sefer that it was written for his best student.

Moreover, much of Chabad Chassidus is based on Moreh Nvuchim, and many times the Lubavitcher Rebbes would bring sources of the Moreh Nvuchim in the Zohar and Midrashim.

It is possible that the general attitude to Moreh Nvuchim changed as a result of the revelation (by the Previous Lubavitcher Rebbe who had a tradition from the Baal Shem Tov) that the Rambam was a great Mkubal

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It is worth noting that that idea that the Rambam was a great mkubal is not widely accepted. Indeed, the usual assumption is that the Rambam was antagonistic to mysticism. So this statement might be better written not 'as the result of the revelation' but rather 'as the result of the claim' that... –  Curiouser Aug 31 '11 at 20:10
    
I've seen it explained that he didn't want to mention Kabbalistic ideas because he lived in a time when it was forbidden to publicize Kabbalah. The revelation, though, was the FR saying that he has a tradition from the Baal Shem Tov that the Rambam was a big Mekubal. AFAIK, most Chabad Chassidim didn't know it either until then.use he lived in a time when it was forbidden to publicize Kabbalah. The revelation, though, was the FR saying that he has a tradition from the Baal Shem Tov that the Rambam was a big Mekubal. AFAIK, most Chabad Chassidim didn't know it either until then. –  Shmuel Brin Aug 31 '11 at 20:22
    
Yes, but my point was that that 'revelation' is not widely accepted as being true. See for instance Kellner's book, "Maimonides' Confrontation with Mysticism" for more citations of how non-mainstream the idea of the Rambam being a mkubal is. Which is why I suggested editing your answer so as not to give the impression that this 'revelation' is widely accepted or even acknowledged beyond a particular Chasidic group. –  Curiouser Aug 31 '11 at 22:50
    
Rebbe Nachman zy"a is extremely critical of the Rambam's hashkafa in general and Moreh Nevuchim in particular (Breslever Chasidim don't learn M"N davka). My impression has always been that this view, to varying degrees, is more the universal amongst Chasidim. I am unaware of any other group besides Lubavitch that puts any emphasis on learning Rambam at all. –  yoel Sep 1 '11 at 2:34
    

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