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Rambam writes (Hil. T'shuva 3:15) that it is forbidden to utilize any entity as an intermediary between oneself and God (more accurately that one who does so is a heretic who loses his share in the world to come and is in the same category as polytheists):

חמישה הן הנקראין מינים: האומר שאין שם אלוה, ואין לעולם מנהיג; והאומר שיש שם מנהיג, אבל הם שניים או יתר; והאומר שיש שם ריבון אחד, אלא שהוא גוף ובעל תמונה; וכן האומר שאינו לבדו ראשון וצור לכול; וכן העובד אלוה זולתו, כדי להיות מליץ בינו ובין ריבון העולמים. כל אחד מחמישה אלו מין.

He writes this in his Mishnah commentary (Sanhedrin 10:1) as well:

מן המלאכים והכוכבים והגלגלים...אין עושין אותם אמצעים

That is one may not use angels or other celestial forces as intermediaries to God. (This is the 5th of his 13 principles of faith).

Would there be any difference between this and asking a human being to intercede on one's behalf to God?

(That is, do any authorities forbid the former, but permit the latter; difference, or forbid both; no difference).

I have seen an explanation quoted from Maharal that one is permitted to ask humans to intercede on his behalf since people are commanded to perform kindness with each other, but I found this explanation unconvincing and am looking for other views.


Additional evidence regarding the general prohibition to pray to angels:

Rabbi Yitzchak Lamprontti (17th-18th cent.) cites the aforementioned quotation from Perush HaMishnayot as a prohibition to pray to angels as intermediaries (here).

This is also clear in the famed "ani ma'amins" (a restatement of his Rambam's principles)

לוֹ לְבַדּוֹ רָאוּי לְהִתְפַּלֵּל, וְאֵין רָאוּי לְהִתְפַּלֵּל לְזוּלָתוֹ

Although Rambam's statements seems all inclusive, it is interesting that in neither of the aforementioned citations, or in his somewhat similar ruling in Hil. Avodah Zara (2:1), does he mention human intermediaries explicitly.

  • You quote Rambam as calling someone a min but claim he's saying it's forbidden. Those don't seem, at first glance, to be the same. – msh210 Sep 2 '15 at 22:57
  • Note FWIW the Rambam didn't compose the Ani Maamin formulation. – Double AA Sep 3 '15 at 3:56
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    It also seems rather odd to think that requesting that someone pray on one's behalf should be considered an avoda if the person doesn't deify him in some way. Though I suppose if he does then the logic should indeed follow... – Loewian Sep 3 '15 at 4:02
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    How often did B'nai Yisra'el ask Moshe to pray for them? Esp. in the incidence with the fiery serpents (Bamidbar), where they specifically say to Moshe "pray for us..." - Were they not allowed to do this? – DanF Sep 4 '15 at 16:14
  • The point of the Maharal is that by angels there is no Chesed and that therefore asking something of them is a prayer rather than a request. The Maharal applies this to dead people as well. We don't request from them to pray for us, but we visit the grave to join with them which causes them to intercede on our behalf. – HaLeiVi Sep 4 '15 at 17:31
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Rabbi Moshe Feinstein writes (Igrot Moshe vol. 8 OCH ch. 43) that even according to those who forbid prayers to angels as intermediaries in any circumstance, utilizing human intermediaries is permitted. This is true for prophets as evident from II Kings (4:23) and for Torah scholars as evident from Berakhot 34b.

אך איכא מחלוקת רבותינו הראשונים לבקש מהם שהם בשליחותם יעשו באופן היותר טוב לפנינו, דיש אוסרין גם זה. אבל לבקש אדם כשהוא בחיים להתפלל ולברך, הוא דבר הראוי והנכון.

Later in the piece he writes that utilizing dead people as intermediaries, however, is more complicated. (1)

אך לאדם שמת, שכבר לא שייך שהוא יתפלל, אלא שנשמתו שהיא בגנזי מרומים שייך שתתפלל עבור אלו החיים, שלאלו דסוברים דלמלאכים אסור יש לעיין אם גם לבנ"א שמתו אסור

Whether or not R. Moshe's arguments are compelling, there is powerful proof for his conclusion. Short of an explicit statement of Rambam, we have the next best thing; his son, Rabbenu Avraham. In a letter to his brother-in-law(2) he writes

Indeed we are in great danger I cannot relate to you [even] the fewest details, for I can imagine what your great consternation would be upon hearing them. Thus have I seen fit to omit them and to mention to you naught thereof. May our master not leave off praying for us, “since a captive cannot free himself” (Berakhot 5b). (Trans. Paul Fenton).

We see that Rabbenu Avraham himself requested that his brother-in-law pray for him. Thus he evidently holds that asking a human being to intercede on one’s behalf is permitted.


(1) It should be noted that it is possible that Rambam et al. could conceivably disagree with some of his proofs. For example, in the episode in Kings (v. 28; the cited verse seems to be a misprint) the Shunamite woman never explicitly asks Elisha to intercede with God. Rather, she merely says:

'Did I desire a son of my lord? did I not say: Do not deceive me?' (Trans. Mekhon Mamre).

(2) Paul Fenton’s A Judeo-Arabic Commentary on the Haftarot by Hanan’el ben Semu’el (?), Abraham Maimonides’ Father-in-Law Appendix 1, p. 52 in Maimonidean Studies (ed. Arthur Hyman) vol. 1. New York, 1990.

  • If I recall correctly he points out that living humans have free will, that's one of the distinctions. – Shalom Sep 3 '15 at 8:45
  • I'm certainly not down voting since there's nothing wrong here, but you should know that there are dozens of teshuvahs on this topic, and Rav Moshe's teshuva (like almost all of them) is a pretty big chiddush – הנער הזה Sep 11 '15 at 3:25
  • @Matt updated it. Should be a whole lot more compelling now. – mevaqesh Jul 18 '16 at 22:06
  • @MoriDoweedhYaa3qob hat tip for Fenton's article. – mevaqesh Jul 18 '16 at 22:08
  • ת''ר מעשה שחלה בנו של ר''ג שגר שני ת''ח אצל רבי חנינא בן דוסא לבקש עליו רחמים כיון שראה אותם עלה לעלייה ובקש עליו רחמים בירידתו אמר להם לכו ש חלצתו חמה אמרו לו וכי נביא אתה אמר להן לא נביא אנכי ולא בן נביא אנכי אלא כך מקובלני אם שגורה תפלתי בפי יודע אני שהוא מקובל ואם לאו יודע אני שהוא מטורף ישבו וכתבו וכוונו אותה שעה וכשבאו אצל ר''ג אמר להן העבודה לא חסרתם ולא הותרתם אלא כך היה מעשה באותה שעה חלצתו חמה ושאל לנו מים לשתות – MoriDowidhYa3aqov Jul 19 '16 at 16:36

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