I am new to Judaism and am intrigued by Maimonides and his teachings but I do not know the opinions of this particular teacher - a man of such vigor and influence - by the many different congregations and denominations of Judaism. He is much more rational so as to be connotative of an aura of the less mystical or supernatural aspects of God so as to call into question humanity and its relationship to God, being created in the image of God and our place in the universe and the hereafter if you know what I mean.

There are a certain understanding and acceptance of God and humanity but a convexity of the afterlife that comes into existence as a Jew. Death anxiety seems absent to some degree in Judaism which I do not know whether is good or not good.

What Rabbis opposed the teachings of Rambam?

  • 5
    Many great Jewish thinkers disagree with one another on virtually any point you can come up with. Welcome aboard :) Oct 7, 2019 at 1:28
  • Welcome to Mi Yodeya! What exactly is your question?
    – LN6595
    Oct 7, 2019 at 13:50
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    Certainly, his views on "humanity and its relationship to God, being created in the image of God and our place in the universe and the hereafter" are not entirely mainstream in 21st Century Orthodox Judaism - though practical differences are insignificant.
    – AKA
    Oct 8, 2019 at 12:08

4 Answers 4


Yes, several subsequent Jewish authorities criticized Maimonides, either for his general approach or for specific statements. A few examples:

  • Nachmanides in his commentary to Genesis 18:1 criticizes Maimmonides's non-literal interpretations of certain Biblical incidents:

    But such words contradict Scripture. It is forbidden to listen to them, all the more to believe in them!

    (Chavel translation)

    (See my answer here for more context for this.)

  • R. Solomon Ben Aderet (Responsum 1:9) rejects Maimonides's claim that the world has no end, because we follow tradition over philosophy and (contrary to Maimonides's claim that it is only a minority opinion among the Sages) the unanimous view of the Sages in the Talmud is that the world will have an end:

    And we don't see anyone disputing him in the Talmud. And if these words were rejected by the [rest of] the Sages, why would Ravina and Rav Ashi write them in their holy honored book without dispute?

    (My translation)

  • R. Yom Tov Asevili (commentary to Babylonian Talmud Rosh Hashana 16a) criticizes Maimonides's pragmatic explanation of the concept of asmachta:

    Not like the words of those who explain that asmachtot are like mnemonics that the Sages gave, while the Torah did not [actually] intend this; heaven forfend! The matter should be swallowed and not spoken, for this is a heretical view.

    (My translation)

  • R. Joseph Ibn Kaspi accuses Maimonides of opening up the possibility of disregarding the entire Torah by interpreting the Book of Job as a non-literal event:

    And if we say about the story of Job and his friends that a wise man wrote it as a parable in order to set views and beliefs in the hearts of those who see it, we can also say this for all of them [other stories in Scripture] And if so we have no Torah, no Scripture, and no writings! And if some of the early ones of blessed memory did not know [Job's] time and place, what is it to us?

    (My translation)

    (For more on this see my answer here.)

  • R. Isaac Ben Sheshet (Responsum # 55) criticizes him for his involvement in philosophy:

    These two kings [Maimonides and Gersonides] did not stand their feet on the straight path in some matters, their honor remaining in their place.

  • R. Elijah of Vilna (commentary to Shulchan Aruch Yoreh Deiah 179) stated that Maimonides was led astray by philosophy:

    And he followed the accursed philosophy and therefore wrote that magic, names, spells, demons, and amulets are all false. But they already hit him on the head [for this].

    (My translation)

However, all this aside, no one will deny that Maimonides is one of the most respected Jewish authorities in history. His monumental code of Jewish law is the most comprehensive ever written, and is probably the basis of more subsequent Rabbinic discussion than any other book save the Talmud. Even those who disagreed with him and even strongly criticized him generally acknowledged his greatness.

  • Don't forget the Rashba rejects the Rambam's attempts to find taamei hamitzvos
    – robev
    Oct 7, 2019 at 3:43
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    I gather that, initially, Rabbeinu Yonah was fervently against Rambam's teachings until the government burned his books and more.
    – DanF
    Oct 7, 2019 at 14:42

See Rabbi Samson Refael Hirsch, in his Nineteen Letters, letter 18. He criticizes the rational approach of Maimonides, but without mentioning him by name:

he sought to reconcile Judaism with the difficulties which confronted it from without, instead of developing it creatively from within, for all the good and the evil which bless and afflict the heritage of the father. His peculiar mental tendency was Arabic-Greek, and his conception of the purpose of life the same. He entered into Judaism from without, bringing with him opinions of whose truth he had convinced himself from extraneous sources and — he reconciled. For him, too, self-perfecting through the knowledge of truth was the highest aim, the practical he deemed subordinate. For him knowledge of God was the end, not the means; hence he devoted his intellectual powers to speculations upon the essence of Deity, and sought to bind Judaism to the results of his speculative investigations as to postulates of science or faith...

It is worth reading the full letter.

  • But isn't Maimonides' case, in a certain sense, representative of the way in which traditional Judaism has usually interacted with surrounding civilizations, throughout the entire course of its history ? e.g., the Babylonian influence on the Torah (creation week, lunar calendar, months counted from spring, Noah's Flood paralleling Gilgamesh, seven archangels), Egyptian influence (Noah's Flood and the New Year starting in autumn), Greek influence (calendar based on the 19-year Metonic lunar cycle), Greek-Roman influence (the Sanhedrin itself), etc.
    – user18041
    Feb 17, 2020 at 3:05
  • @Lucian I believe in the Divinity of the Torah, so I do not accept that everything you mentioned is from outside influence. The fact that other cultures have similar institutions to ours does not mean that we took it from them, and since we believe these ideas are good and correct we would expect to find them in other cultures.
    – simyou
    Feb 18, 2020 at 7:24
  • @Lucian If you are asking about our own historical perspective on Maimonides, then yes, it is another instance of foreign influence on Judaism, but that does not make it correct, and does not mean we have to accept it as a legitimate approach. If you are asking from Maimonides own perspective, saying that he would be consciously grafting foreign ideas into Judaism similar to the way that foreign ideas have been absorbed in the past, then I would say that past influence does not legitimize consciously grafting foreign ideas into Judaism.
    – simyou
    Feb 18, 2020 at 7:26
  • @Lucian Maimonides was not just influencing how we think about Judaism going forward, but he was presenting a philosophical foundation for the existing religion, so his ideas are anachronistic in that sense.
    – simyou
    Feb 18, 2020 at 7:29

Rabbi Yaakov Emden was so incensed by what was written in the Moreh Nevuchim that he refused to believe the Rambam wrote it. He says anyone who claims Rambam wrote it is a liar. In particular he points out Rambam's innovative ideas mixed with non jewish theology about the miracles mentioned in Torah and Neviim and the Merkava.

אך לבעל ספר מורה נבוכים לא יכולתי לישא פנים בזכרי, (בפרטות מ"ש בענין הניסים שבתורה ונביאים, ובמעשה מרכבה שבדה מלבו בעל ספר המורה והרכיבם עם חכמת מה חיצונית על דברת בני אדם בשאר דעות, אשר לא ממקור ישראל חוצבו), רעדה אחזתני, חלחלה מלאה מתני, על כן אמרחי בחפזי, כל האדם הקורא בשם הר"מ על חבור ספר מורה נבוכים, כוזב) שאינו המחבר הגדול בעל ספר הי"ד החזקה, כאשר גליתי דעתי בעלית המעשה.


The sages Rashi and Nachmanides, come to mind. For example, while Rashi felt that we knew why G-d created the world, Rambam felt this was impossible to know. Rashi also believed in the existence of demons. He describes the demon: “the feet of a demon is like a rooster’s,” and felt that Noah saved them on the ark. In contrast, the Rambam did not believe in demons.

Mystics, like Nachmanides, felt that nothing happens in this world unless G-d wills it to do so. Thus, according to Nachmanides, the world does not function through the laws of nature. He explains,

“From [belief in] large perceptible miracles one [comes to believe] in hidden miracles, which are the very foundation of the entire Torah. A person has no share in the Torah of Moses our teacher until he believes that all that occurs is the result of miracles, not the laws of nature. … Everything happens by divine decree.”

Thus, Nachmanides stressed the notion that there are “hidden miracles.” For example, a falling leaf. The great sage felt that no leaf fell from a tree unless G-d ordered it to: “fall, keep falling, keep falling, keep falling, stop, now lay still.” Ramban also felt that doctors were unnecessary and that G-d determines the outcome of all wars.

Maimonides disagreed. Maimonides wrote in his Guide of the Perplexed 3:17 and 18 that it is not,

”through the interference of divine providence that a certain leaf falls [from a tree], nor do I hold that when a certain spider catches a certain fly, that this is the direct result of a special decree and will of G-d in that moment… In all these cases the action is, according to my opinion, entirely due to chance, as taught by Aristotle…"

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