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. Jun 23, 2014 at 22:03
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    also he rejected sheeu3r qoma as a book of 3abodho zoro Jun 23, 2014 at 22:04
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    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, 2014 at 23:49
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    @yez chayas.com/AntiRAMBAM.pdf enjoy Jun 24, 2014 at 3:33
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    @yez he is top safaradi 7achom in america :) Jun 24, 2014 at 21:09

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 still doesn't prove anything conclusively.

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. Jun 23, 2014 at 23:54
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    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. Jun 24, 2014 at 2:20
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    @Matt I don't have a link, but it's brought in Otzar HaGe'onim on maseches Sukka. Jun 24, 2014 at 2:28
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    @Yishai rambam liked sheeu3r qoma in the beginning of his life, but as he learned philosophy and the sciences, he rejected it and said it is kafeero. it is also mentioned by rabbeinu abrohom ban ha rambam zl in his meel7omoth hashem that some rabbis were mistaken in taken it as actual fact and that it is kafeero Jun 25, 2014 at 0:00
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    @Yishai In Shlomoh ben Yosef's translation of Rambam's opening to his commentary on Sanhedrin Ch. 10 (Pereq Cheleq), in the section on the seventh foundation, it says "ויכנס בזה שיעור קומה ועניינו" ( see here, five lines before the end of the page). In Yosef Qafih's translation it doesn't appear, but in the footnotes he says that it was in the first edition of Rambam's manuscript, but was later erased from it. (See also here, s.v. "Earlier I noted ...")
    – Tamir Evan
    Jul 6, 2014 at 16:34

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