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I don’t like that I have to ask this but I haven’t heard of this before and would like some information on it.

  1. If one holds, for example, that the Rambam literally holds that demons don’t exist, which are talked about multiple times throughout tanach and Talmud, would that mean that the Rambam is a heretic c”v?
  2. If the answer to the above question is yes, then would the fact that he’s the most cited person in the shulchan orech cause us to reconsider all of modern day halacha?? And how do we reconcile the fact that so many authorities respect him?
  3. If the above answer is no, would accusing him of being one cause the accuser to have a status of an apikores?
  4. If the answer is unknown, what would that mean for us in terms of following a possible heretic?

My personal opinion is that I find it hard to believe that Hashem would allow the Jewish people to become so swayed that all of halacha is skewed and most of us are looking up to a heretic. I also don’t find it likely that he was a heretic because of all the rabbanim and geniuses who had great admiration for the Rambam and paskened based on his teachings (this may be a logical fallacy of appealing to authority, but tradition and respect for rabbinic authorities is one of the core pillars in Judaism).

What would be best is if someone can explain the whole situation so that there is no confusion.

I apologize if I am leaving out any information that would be helpful to the question or if I am not asking as well as I can be.

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    Rambam, as we know, takes more of a rationalist approach to statements in the Gemara and Torah. This is simply a different way of interpreting the text, thus not making him a heretic. For all we know, our sages very well intended X to be a metaphor and not to be taken literally. By the example you cited, some people say when the Talmud says demons they mean bacteria and germs and not literal demons, so maybe rambam holds like this too. But in general, rambam, and many others, interpret midrashim and the like allegorically, and this is not heretical at all Commented Jun 29, 2023 at 3:31
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    @Rardal are you and setszu the same person? Commented Jun 29, 2023 at 12:07
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    @Deuteronomy hahaha most definitely not. I have a lot of respect for the Rambam and would never disgrace him, even if I didn’t understand something he said. If I came off that way I apologize, I really was asking sincerely
    – Rardal
    Commented Jun 29, 2023 at 13:22
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    @Rardal no worries, glad to have you here learning with us. Commented Jun 29, 2023 at 14:51
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    @setzu Comments are not the place for permanent discussion, and get cleaned up periodically if they grow unwieldy. If you have an answer to the question, you can post it as such.
    – magicker72
    Commented Jun 30, 2023 at 3:50

3 Answers 3

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the Rambam literally holds that demons don’t exist, which are talked about multiple times throughout tanach and Talmud, would that mean that the Rambam is a heretic c”v?

No, there is no fundamental principle of Judaism that is denied if one does not take such accounts literally. The mesorah for doing so stretches back to the Geonic academies in Babylon which are the direct inheritors of the Talmudic academies. See R. Sherira Gaon and R. Hai Gaon (as cited in Sefer ha-Eshkol, H. Sefer Torah 60a), R. Shemuel b. Hofni Gaon (in his intro to the Talmud, usually printed in the back of BT Berakhoth). The Rambam simply perpetuates this Geonic tradition. The debate over which aspects of the Torah and writings of Hazal should be taken literally, clearly has ancient roots.

If the answer to the above question is yes, then would the fact that he’s the most cited person in the shulchan orech cause us to reconsider all of modern day halacha?? And how do we reconcile the fact that so many authorities respect him?

The answer is simply not yes. No one maintains such an erroneous view. Rabbinic Judaism UNIVERSALLY upholds the Rambam as a respected authority on Jewish law.

If the above answer is no, would accusing him of being one cause the accuser to have a status of an apikores?

One who disgraces/disparages a Talmid Hakham is to be placed in niddui (ostracization) and has no portion in 'Olam ha-Ba (see H. Talmud Torah 6:11-12 and H. Teshubhah 3:11). Furthermore, if he is spreading his malicious lies and causing others to follow his inequity, this may constitute a violation of the prohibition of enticing others to sin (מחטיא את הרבים), which similarly has the consequence of losing a share in 'Olam ha-Ba (see H. Teshubha 3:10). This latter category is one from which teshubhah is withheld (see H. Teshubha 4:1). Anyone treading upon such a path is highly cautioned against.

If the answer is unknown, what would that mean for us in terms of following a possible heretic?

The answer is known. There is no such hypothetical to consider.

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    @magicker72 the word "literally" is the issue here. I get bogged down in long discussions over it. God IS a consuming fire, but not a literal physical fire. It's not a metaphor, but rather physical fire is the metaphor for the "real" fire. Anyway, if you have further objections, make them and then let's just leave it because this conversation is just too long for a site like this.
    – Rabbi Kaii
    Commented Jun 29, 2023 at 13:15
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    @RabbiKaii thanks for the input I've made some edits, though didn't want to get too bogged down (so left out your suggestion of quotes from critics). Hopefully alluding to the fact that there are accepted divisions within our tradition, should suffice to make the point. Commented Jun 29, 2023 at 13:46
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    +1 Many mistakenly think Rambam made this all up after reading Aristotle. As with many other "unique" positions of his, Rambam (living in the Middle East) was largely following the (Middle Eastern) Geonic tradition in a way few other European Rishonim did (or could).
    – Double AA
    Commented Jun 29, 2023 at 15:31
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    @setszu There's no evidence he twisted his tradition from the geonim. Basically everything he says is found already in the geonim before him. Their writings were less widespread so historically various people (including apparently you) have suggested Rambam made things up, but such claims have been objectively disproven. If you want to claim the geonim living in Bavel in the same Yeshiva buildings as Rav Ashi twisted and changed the tradition, then you'd have a claim that has not been disproven (or proven).
    – Double AA
    Commented Jun 29, 2023 at 17:04
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    @setszu I can't provide you every citation to earlier works. Try a commentary on Rambam by someone well versed in Geonica, say Yad Peshuta. I'll provide you one thing he recorded faithfully and and you provide me something he twisted/made-up. Deal?
    – Double AA
    Commented Jun 29, 2023 at 18:05
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While Rambam's opinion on demons and magic etc. is a minority view, nobody has said it makes him a heretic. In fact, the accepted definition of a heretic is one who disagrees with one or more of the thirteen principles of faith outlined by the Rambam himself in his introduction to Perek Chelek.

Falsely accusing someone of heresy is not tantamount to heresy.

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  • Comments have been moved to chat; please do not continue the discussion here. Before posting a comment below this one, please review the purposes of comments. Comments that do not request clarification or suggest improvements usually belong as an answer, on Mi Yodeya Meta, or in Mi Yodeya Chat. Comments continuing discussion may be removed.
    – Isaac Moses
    Commented Jul 2, 2023 at 17:08
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Maimonides is not a heretic. That Maimonides did not believe in demons does not make him heretical, it makes him a pure monotheist. Accusing him of heresy doesn’t make one a heretic. It makes them ignorant.

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    "That Maimonides did not believe in demons...makes him a pure monotheist" No, his affirmation of the oneness of God is what makes him a monotheist. Belief in the existence of a particular creation (foolish/false or not) does not necessarily entail an infringement on the concept of monotheism. It is true that demons and the like were often the preoccupation of idolators, but unless such existences (imagined or not) are petitioned, prayed to, worshiped as independent forces, etc. then there is no inherent contradiction to monotheism. It would be just another aspect of creation. Commented Jun 29, 2023 at 15:52
  • @Deuteronomy The belief in the “Shekinah,” or demons or even angels as separate beings from God, is a polytheistic belief. It is also idolatrous to believe in powers without evidence. In addition, I did not say that Maimonides' disbelief in demons made him a monotheist. I said it made him a pure monotheist. It's true the belief in one God is held in greater purity by Turks than by Christians but Rational Jews, who strictly hold to the belief of one God, is real purity; for they acknowledge no co-partnership with God. It believes in him solely; and knows nothing of demons, devils, nor Ghosts.
    – Turk Hill
    Commented Jun 29, 2023 at 17:40
  • The shekhinah/kabhod/created-light is understood as a creation by many early sources (this seems to have been the view of Rasag, R. Yehudah ha-Lewi, and others). Though the Rambam clearly introduces another perspective, he also very clearly maintains that there is no harm in such a view (see MN 1:19). Malakhim are similarly so conceived. Belief in the existence of any creation (erroneous or not) does not infringe on pure monotheistic belief. Mistaken belief that a monster inhabits Loch-Ness does not make an idolater. Affirming that something exists is not an affirmation of partnership with G Commented Jun 29, 2023 at 18:29
  • @Deuteronomy A belief in a Loch-Ness monster does not make one an idolater but the belief in “Shekinah,” as a being separate from God, is. It's a polytheistic belief. There's no evidence that demons exist.
    – Turk Hill
    Commented Jun 29, 2023 at 18:44
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    Going in circles now. I give up. Commented Jun 29, 2023 at 21:11

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