In Mishne Torah A.Z (11:16) he says that sorcery and mysticism in general does not exist, but he does not refer to demons explicitly. Does the Rambam speak about demons specifically anywhere else?


2 Answers 2


The Rambam mostly rejected the idea of demons. This resulted in him either completely ignoring הלכות mentioned in the גמרא that were based on the existence of demons (such as the issur of keeping food beneath your bed), or giving the הלכות different and more rational reasons (an example for such an halach is מעין שבע said on Friday nights, which was based on the fear that demons, which are common on Friday nights, will attack those that stay alone after davining. The Rambam was instead worried of other natural dangers, and so when ליל הסדר falls on Friday night, the Rambam says you still say מעין שבע even though ליל הסדר משומר מן המזיקין. In this example there is a real נפקא מינא from the Rambams rational approach!). The Rambams rational approach affected not only the הלכות based on demons, but also הלכות that base on other irrational/supernatural phenomenons (such as explaining the reasons of אישה קטלנית on medical reasons rather the her מזל, which has some נפקא מינות.)

There are a few different approaches to his disbelief in them, that range from the Gra's statement that the philosophy twisted the Rambams mind:

"והוא [רמב"ם] נמשך אחרי הפילוסופיא, ולכן כתב שכשפים ושמות ולחשים ושדים וקמיעות הכל הוא שקר. אבל כבר הכו אותו על קדקדו, שהרי מצינו הרבה מעשיות בגמרא על פי שמות וכשפים. "אמרה איהי מלתא, ואסרתה לארבא"... (שבת פא,ב חולין קה,ב) ובסוף פרק ד' מיתות, ובירושלמי שם עובדא דר"א ור"י ובן בתירא, וכן ר"ח ור"א דאיברי עיגלא תילתא, ור' יהושע דאמר שם ואוקמיה בין שמיא לארעא (בכורות ח,ב), וכן אבישי בן צרויה (סנהדרין צה,א), והרבה כיוצא. ואמרו (בסוף פרק ארבע מיתות, חולין ז,ב) למה נקרא שמן כשפים וכו'. והתורה העידה "ויהיו תנינים". ועיין זוהר שם. וכן קמיעין בהרבה מקומות ולחשים רבו מלספר. והפילוסופיא הטתו ברוב לקחה לפרש הגמרא הכל בדרך הלציי ולעקור אותם מפשטן, וח"ו איני מאמין בהם ולא מהם ולא מהמונם, אלא כל הדברים הם כפשטן, אלא שיש בהם פנימיות, לא פנימיות של בעלי הפילוסופיא שהם חיצוניות, אלא של בעלי האמת.".

The kuzke rebbi that defend him, and said that once the Rambam stated the the demons don't exist they indeed ceased to exist, and Harav Tzvi Yehuda that said that the Rambam did believe in demons, but as the spiritual leader of the nation he felt that it was better if they stop messing with unnatural things.

Sources: Gra - ביאור הגר''א שו''ע יו''ד ס' קעט ס''ק יג. Kuzk - in the book אמת ואמונה. Hrav Tzvi Yehuda - שיחה לפרשת יישלח, חלק 9.

  • 1
    1) Why didn't they reappear when the Gra said they do exist? 2)convincing his generation not to believe in something which he actually knew was true would seem particularly evil. See the Ramma in siff two of the shulchan aruch you quoted. Ignoring a sakana of these types is assur, one may not rely on a miracle. Both of these approaches you quote seem like over simplified pandering of people desperately trying to meld Rambam philosophy and pseudo-Kabbala.
    – user6591
    Apr 20, 2015 at 12:48
  • Do you have a source for the Kuzke rebbe's statement? I would love to reference it elsewhere.
    – Nic
    Apr 20, 2015 at 12:57
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    1. I agree with you completely. The kuzk rebbis answer is a big chidush and I personally find it hard to swallow. 2. Again, I agree. The Rav Tzvi Yehuda explains his reasons, Although I assume that they too are hard to agree with. In Guide iii:36 the Rambam talks of "necessary beliefs", in which the Torah and our sages told us " half truths " since they were necessary for moral reasons or in order to keep the nation religious. (See Marc Shapiros book "The Limits of Orthodox Theology" on the Rambams 8th principal for further information on this issue).
    – yechezkel
    Apr 20, 2015 at 13:02
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    Nic, it's in אמת ואמונה עמוד ק'. His statement is: "רבינו ז"ל יישב דעת הרמב"ם שכתב שאין שדים מצויים והלא בגמרא נמצא הרבה על כך ואמר כי אמנם מקודם היו. רק אחרי שפסק הרמב"ם שאין מצויים גם בשמים פסקו הכי, ולכן עכשיו אינם בנמצא".
    – yechezkel
    Apr 20, 2015 at 13:13
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    @Nic Kovetz Leket Meotzar Bachasidut (Brandesdofer) p. 22.
    – mevaqesh
    Aug 24, 2016 at 2:29

found this in the "Guide for the perplexed" chapter XXIX


"I say that my knowledge of the belief, practice, and worship of the Sabeans has given me an insight into many of the divine precepts, and has led me to know their reason. You will confirm it when I shall give the reason of commandments which are seemingly purposeless. I will mention to you the works from which you may learn all that 1 know of the religion and the opinions of the Sabeans; you will thereby obtain a true knowledge of my theory as regards the purpose of the divine precepts. The great book on this subject is the book On the Nabateas Agriadture, translated by Ibn Walishiya. In a succeeding chapter I shall explain why the Sabeans had their religious doctrines written in a work on agriculture. The book is full of the absurdities of idolatrous people, and with those things to which the minds of the multitude easily turn and adhere [perseveringly]; it speaks of talismans, the means of directing the influence [of the stars]: witchcraft, spirits, and demons that dwell in the wilderness. There occur also in this book great absurdities, which are ridiculous in the eyes of intelligent people. They were intended as a criticism and an attack on the evident miracles by which all people learnt that there exists a God who is judge over all people. Comp." That thou mayest know how that the earth is the Lord's" (Exod. ix. 29)," That 1 am the Lord in the midst of the earth (ibid. viii. 18)."

  • If you look at the original Arabic source (or the Hebrew translation done by Dr. Michael Schratz) you will see that by "demons" he is actually referring to Ginis, spirits that live in lamps (like in the film Aladdin). There is no place where he talks directly of demons.
    – yechezkel
    Apr 27, 2015 at 5:19
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    If you look up Jinn, they are not necessarily equal to lamp genies in Disney movies. They are parallel to descriptions of sheidim in several respects. e.g. how they are in bondage to Shlomo Hamelech. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jinn Apr 27, 2015 at 11:25
  • @yechezkel, what Arabic term should have been used to convey daemons instead? The Wikipedia description seems to indicate it is an appropriate translation: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jinn
    – Yishai
    Apr 27, 2015 at 15:39
  • @Yishai, I'm not an Arab nor a Muslim, so i can't be sure. But the Rambam mentions (this translation seems incorrect) both Jinns and Ghouls, which is also a kind of deamon. There is an disagreement among researchers if jinns is a type of demon or rather a general name for the spieces (as the Wiki artical says). The fact that the Rambam put jinns AND ghouls makes me belive that by Jinn he was refering to a specific kind of deamon, and not the entire race.
    – yechezkel
    Apr 27, 2015 at 16:07

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