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This is based on the answer to the post here.

"In the Milstein-edition (Artscroll, p. 427) 1 it quotes the Maharal's Chiddushei Aggadah and says that these (eighteen thousand worlds) are the total number of worlds that are under the protecion of G-d. So it seems that it is taken literally."

According to the Maharal, if this is to be taken literally, then what are these worlds? Different planets with life forms? Alternate dimensions? Curious to hear more about this.

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    Finally someone on this website who asks my kind of questions. I say they mean 18,000 real planets. The Tanya, Shaar Hayichud Vehaemunah, middle of Chapter 7 of Friday, 20 Sivan 5783 / June 9, 2023 says......( look below ). Jun 23, 2023 at 14:56
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    וְהִנֵּה, גֶּדֶר וּבְחִינַת שֵׁם "עוֹלָם" נוֹפֵל עַל בְּחִינַת מָקוֹם וּבְחִינַת זְמַן דַּוְקָא. בְּחִינַת מָקוֹם – הוּא: מִזְרָח וּמַעֲרָב, צָפוֹן, דָּרוֹם, מַעְלָה וּמַטָּה. בְּחִינַת זְמַן – עָבָר, הֹוֶה וְעָתִיד. ( The term “world” can be applied solely to [that which possesses] the dimensions of space and time, “space” referring to east, west, north, and south, upward and downward, and “time” referring to past, present, and future. Only with regard to entities that are subject to the limitations of space and time can the term “world” be applied. ) Jun 23, 2023 at 14:56
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    When I discussed the above with a few Chabad Rabbis, they still insisted that these are not physical worlds. As far as I am concerned, these are real planets/worlds that you can touch and feel. Jun 23, 2023 at 14:58
  • @MarsSojourner how do you come to your conclusion?
    – Dude
    Jun 27, 2023 at 15:08
  • @MarsSojourner Your observation from the Tanya, Sha'ar HaYichud is correct. It is possible that those "Chabad Rabbe'im" you are speaking with are unfamiliar with this subject. The Alter Rebbe is quoting an older kabbalistic teaching dealing with the concept of Olam, Shanah and Nefesh. Olam and Shanah pertain to the nomenclature used in modern physics of space (or as translated in Hebrew Makom) and time (Z'man). This is also discussed in the teachings of Rabbi Yosef Taitatzek and his "Magic Squares". Jun 27, 2023 at 17:27

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This subject matter is explored by Rav Aryeh Kaplan in The Aryeh Kaplan Reader.

If you look at the preview - he has a chapter entitled On Extraterrestial Life (p.170). Based on Rav Chasdai Crescas (in his sefer Ohr Hashem1), it quotes the Gemara in Avodah Zara 3b (p.171):

After a lengthy discussion, he comes to the conclusion that there is nothing in Jewish theology to preclude the existence of other worlds.

As a possible evidence for extraterrestial life, he then quote the Talmudic teaching that God flies through 18,000 worlds. Since they require His providence, we may assume that they are inhabited.2

If we take this further and understand these 18,000 worlds in a literal sense, there is a fascinating peirush from the Ri MiBarcelona (Rav Yehuda ben Barzillai) on Sefer Yetzira

Whilst he begins by exploring the concept of 18,000 worlds in relation to our own, and that perhaps ours differs as we were given the Torah etc.,3 he then goes on to qualify the nature of these 18,000 worlds.

He writes:

אולי אפשר נמי לומר כי באותן הי"ח אלף עולמות אין בהם בריות בחטא ובעון כמו באלו ובאולי אותן הבירות מלאכים רוחות הן שברא המקום לכבודו או אולי קרובים להן והן בלא חטא שאין יצר הרע שולט בהן ולכך אולי אין צריכין דין ומזון והמקום ברחמיו וחסדיו מתעסק ביום בזה העולם מפני שאנו מלאים עונות ויצר הרע שולט בנו

Perhaps we can say that in those 18,000 worlds there are no creations capable of sin and iniquity like on our world and perhaps those creatures are angels and spirits that G-d created in His honour. Or, maybe they are close to them and they are without sin and the evil inclination does not control them. Therefore, perhaps there is no need for justice and sustenance, and G-d in His mercy and grace deals with this world (i.e. our world) day by day because we are full of sins and the evil inclination controls us.

Thus, if this is the difference he wonders as to what type of worlds these actually are:

לא פירשו לנו רבותינו ז"ל אם יש בהן באותן העולמות בריות כמותנו שיצר הרע שולט בהם או אם הם מלאכים ורוחות למה הם צריכים לעולמות כמותנו די להם אויר או הרקיעים וכיון שאין ברור לנו כל זה אין אנו יכולים לפרש בזה כלום על בוריו וגם יש מי שמחשב בלבו ואומר שאלו הי"ח עולמות הם סביבות זה העולם בתוך הגלגלים האלו שאנו בהן ולעניות דעתין לא יתכל זה לומר

Our Rabbis of blessed memory did did not explain to us if in those worlds there are creatures like us that the evil inclination controls, or, if they are angels and spirits why do they need worlds like us? The atmosphere or the heavens are enough for them, and since we are not clear about all of this, we cannot interpret anything about it. And also if one were to think in his heart about these 18,000 worlds, that they are within the spheres surrounding our worlds, but in my humble opinion this is not possible to say this…

He therefore concludes:

אלא פירוש הדבר לעניות דעתין לדעת האומר הדבר שהוא הלכה כי חוץ מזה העולם כלו ברא המקום י"ח אלף עולמות כמו זה העולם כל אחד ואחד כמו זה העולם בגלגליו ואויריו ז' רקיעים וששה אוירין וכל מה שיש ביניהן הכל כמו זה העולם וצורתו ועניניו בלי חיסור ובלי יתור

Rather the explanation of the matter according to my humble opinion is to acknowledge that G-d created these 18,000 worlds outside our world (beyond our solar system?), and each and everyone of them is like our world with its spheres and atmosphere - with it seven skies and six levels of atmosphere. And everything that is between them is everything like this world in its form and matter without anything lacking or extra.

And he thus closes, each of these worlds continued to expand until Hashem said "די" - "Enough".


1 See Maamar 4, Drush 2 (Starts on the penultimate paragraph of the page)

2 Although please note in the subsequent paragraph he writes:

Of course, this Talmudic quotation is by no means absolute proof, for it may be speaking of spiritual worlds, of which an infinite number were created. (Cf Etz Chaim 3:1)

3 See p.171 - "כי אולי באותן השער העולמות לא נתן להם תורה"

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  • There is definitely interesting material here, but it does not address a key aspect of the question which seeks to understand the Maharal's position ("According to the Maharal, if this is to be taken literally, then what are these worlds?") I would expect an answer to this question to focus on the words of the Maharal and/or his immediate interpreters. Jul 24, 2023 at 0:01
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    @Deuteronomy that may indeed be the case. However, since I have not yet found anything Maharal-related, I focused on the question in a more general sense - namely, "What are these worlds? Different planets with life forms? Alternate dimensions?"
    – Dov
    Jul 24, 2023 at 8:42
  • Yes as much is clear from your answer. I think OP would do well to note that R. Yehudah Barzilai and R. Hasdai Crescas (though to a slightly lesser extent) are coming from very different places than the Maharal (historically, geographically and most importantly philosophically). If @Seeker is sufficiently pleased with this type of answer, then I'm glad you've piped up :) Jul 25, 2023 at 22:08
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    Thanks @Deuteronomy - I can but try! :-)
    – Dov
    Jul 25, 2023 at 22:10

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