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The Rambam explicitly acknowledges that there is something called "secrets of Torah." His words (or at least R' Kapach's translation of his words) are (Moreh Nevochim 2:33):

שאי אפשר להכנס למעמד הר סיני יותר משיעור זה שהזכירו לפי שהוא מכלל סתרי תורה

... as it is impossible to enter into [explaining] the event of Har Sinai more than this amount that we have mentioned, since it is included in "secrets of Torah"

What are the nature of secrets of Torah (which are not possible to communicate) according to the Rambam? Particularly if one accepts that the Rambam rejected all aspects of Kabbalah.

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    How about, for example, sod ha'ibbur (i.e. the secret wisdom behind declaring the months and years, see Hil. Kiddush HaChodesh 11:4)? Other examples may be found in the mishna (Chagiga 11b). – Fred Jun 22 '15 at 3:26
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    @yEz From your link "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" – Double AA Jun 22 '15 at 4:07
  • @DoubleAA re "from your link..." that will clearly not be helpful in addressing my question here, because I am quoting from the very same Moreh Nevochim. If the whole thing is revealing the secrets, then these secrets which he can't reveal are obviously not the topic of the book. – Y     e     z Jun 22 '15 at 19:19
  • Comments are not for extended discussion; conversation here has been moved to chat. – msh210 Jun 22 '15 at 23:21
  • @Yez From the quotation, you appear to be entering the middle of Rambam's statement. But just from his language, he is describing the domain of Sitrei Torah as מעמד. That is like is used in Bava Bathra 100b describing the 7 halts made during a funeral procession. This seems to be referring to the kabbalistic system of Rabbi Yitzchok of Akko, which was the system handed down thru Spain via Ramban and before. – Yaacov Deane Mar 6 '17 at 12:53
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In his dissertation, Rabbi Ezra Labaton has a lengthy discussion of the use of the term "sod" (actually 3 words in Arabic, in addition to the word "sod") by Rabbenu Avraham ben HaRambam. It seems very likely that this would be very similar if not identical to the usage of the Rambam. He writes (page 279):

Rabenu Abraham uses the problematic word “סוד” in a number of ways, some more specific than others. At times, the term has a definite connotation. If the issue at hand has a certain theological/ metaphysical thrust, or if it presents a psychological/spiritual aspect of the human drive toward perfection - issues which cannot be fully discussed in a written commentary as this - Rabenu Abraham terms the issue a “סוד.” [...] In other instances, the term sod directs the reader to a more profound understanding of the verse which may be in addition to, or exclusive of, the peshat. Finally, sod is used, at times, in a more general way, indicating that there is some difficulty in the verse that has to be clarified or some contradiction that has to be resolved.

One example where Rabbenu Avraham uses the term to refer to a non-kabbalistic idea, is in Rabenu Avraham's commentary to Genesis (26:20) in which he writes:

יובן מזה סוד גדול כי האבות ע"ה עם כל עושרם הגדול ונכסיהם המרובים לא היו עסוקים בעניניהם הגשמיים ועסקם האמתי ובילוי זמנם והתעסקות מחשבתם היתה רק לרכוש ענינים רוחניים וכאשר התגלע ריב ועסק מן אותה הבאר קרא אותה (יצחק) עשק כלו' באר זו נתנה לנו עשק במה שאין בטבענו להעסק בו

It is understood from here a great deep secret that the forefathers with all their great wealth and their many possessions, did not really busy themselves with physical matters, but their true involvement and their time spent and their mental effort was only to acquire spiritual things. And when the quarrel erupted with the trouble from that well, he (Isaac) called it esek (trouble), i.e. “this well caused me trouble about that which I do not by nature become troubled (Trans. R. Labaton p. 269-9).

  • I'm aware that Rabbi Avraham Ben HaRAMBAM was of the view that the Sufis long predated islam(I understand that academics and learned sufis now know that they predate islam). And he was of the view that they had copied some meditations from the Neviim, and that Sufi teachings had become corrupted/islamized with islam and he saught to remove the corruption/islamization from their teachings. And i've heard that he called himself a jewish sufi... Would you say he was a Kabbalist? He was Pre Arizal.. and i'd guess maybe maimonideans/rambamists wouldn't want to say he was a kabbalist – barlop Nov 1 '16 at 6:27
  • @barlop Rabbenu Avraham was indeed of the opinion that some Suffi practices represented authentic ancient Jewish practice. He doesn't address the history of the Suffi religion. Rather he simply notes that various practices that Scripture and rabbinic literature apply to the prophets are illustrated by contemporary Suffi. || TTBOMK he never calls himself a Jewish Suffi. (Trust me, he doesn't.) For a summary of different views on his relationship with Suffism, see the dissertation I linked to. || He was indeed a mystic, but not every trend in Jewish mysticism in known as kaballah, see [cont.] – mevaqesh Nov 1 '16 at 14:50
  • @barlop the aptly named 'Major Trends in Jewish Mysticism' by Gershom Scholem. While both Rambam and his son had mystical sides, neither subscribed to Kabbalah in any of its strains; certainly not Lurianic which they predated by several centuries! It should be noted, that there exists a significant body of kabbalistic pseudepigrapha falsely attributed to Rambam, whom the later kabbalists tried to co-opt. – mevaqesh Nov 1 '16 at 14:55
  • Thanks. So when you wrote "One example where Rabbenu Avraham uses the term to refer to a non-kabbalistic idea" I guess you weren't implying that he has any uses of the term that refer to kabbalistic ideas? And any idea why the same line of thought doesn't exist for the RAMBAN i.e. he was a pre-lurianic mystic but nobody stamps their feet and says he was not a kabbalist, though I guess they might for Rabbi Avraham and certainly would for the RAMBAM who you say had a mystical side himself. – barlop Nov 1 '16 at 21:50
  • @barlop Correct, I didn't mean that he ever uses the term to refer to kabbalistic concepts. I was just responding to the OP who assumed (incorrectly) that anything termed "secret" ought to refer to Kabbalistic mysticism. || Again, I reccomend Major Trends or some other survey if you are interested in the history of Kabbalah, but AFAIK, the sort of mysticism that became known as Kabbalah, was born in early 12th century Provence, and its founding figures were Rabad of Posquierres, followed by R. Isaac the Blind. Ramban would have been an early member of this pre-Lurianic school. – mevaqesh Nov 1 '16 at 23:09
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In the end of הלכות יסודי התורה - פרק שני the Rambam says:

יב צִוּוּ חֲכָמִים הָרִאשׁוֹנִים שֶׁלֹּא לִדְרשׁ בִּדְבָרִים אֵלּוּ אֶלָּא לְאִישׁ אֶחָד בִּלְבַד וְהוּא שֶׁיִּהְיֶה חָכָם וּמֵבִין מִדַּעְתּוֹ וְאַחַר כָּךְ מוֹסְרִין לוֹ רָאשֵׁי הַפְּרָקִים וּמוֹדִיעִין אוֹתוֹ שֶׁמֶץ מִן הַדָּבָר וְהוּא מֵבִין מִדַּעְתּוֹ וְיֵדַע סוֹף הַדָּבָר וְעָמְקוֹ

So it seems that you can find the outline of what the Rambam considers the secrets of the Torah by learning the first 2 chapters of the Yad.

  • So he violated his own rule, or is something missing from the picture? – HaLeiVi Jun 22 '15 at 17:07
  • @HaLeiVi - if you read those first 2 chapters, you will discover no secrets. E.g.: (Ch.1:5) "The planets all have a [hidden] force causing them to spin" is no big secret; we even have equations for this phenomenon. How this works? Now you're scratching the surface - and the Rambam doesn't go there. "Gcd makes it happen" is all you get. – Danny Schoemann Jun 25 '15 at 8:23
  • @HaLeiVi, the Lubavitcher Rebbe says that this means that what the Rambam brought until then isn't even ראשי הפרקים, it is less than that. – Yishai Jun 25 '15 at 13:56

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