In the Seder HaDoros, published by R' Yechiel Heilprin in 1747, the author describes the life and legacy of many Jewish historical personalities including Rambam.

I'm not sure how historically accurate this book is considered to be, as many of the stories I read through seemed exaggerated and unlikely to be an objective portrayal of what events actually occurred. One example is the description of the Rambam being a beaten child who left home and stumbled upon the Ri MiGash whereupon he became a light to the nation. The Ri Migash died when the Rambam was seven, not leaving much time to study together. Another example would be the attribution of the צוואת הרמב"ם to Rambam, whereas we now know this to be untrue.

Anyway, the author lists the Rambam's works, and writes at the bottom of the right-hand column on עמוד נד/ב:

פי' על התורה מובא בכנסת הגדולה

I am interested in following the trail behind this story. This line is a bit cryptic to me. Is the author saying that the commentary is brought down in a Sefer called כנסת הגדולה? If so, does anyone have information on this Sefer?

Furthermore, I have never seen this claim being made elsewhere. Are there any other references to a commentary the Rambam may have written on the Torah? There is a Sefer that claims to be the Rambam's commentary on Esther, but this is generally seen to be an unsubstantiated claim.

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    Your intuition is correct. The Hida says that this is an unreliable work.
    – mevaqesh
    Feb 22, 2017 at 2:31
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    Rambam did not author a commentary on the Torah, although his son authored one which is extant on most of the first two books. The volume of literature falsely attributed to Rambam is actually larger than his real works...
    – mevaqesh
    Feb 22, 2017 at 2:33
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    @mevaqesh Careful with your wording! He may say that he relies too much on unreliable sources, but I'm sure he does not imply he was unreliable. I know you didn't say that either, but it could have been said with tact. Having said that, there is probably another reason why the Chida was unhappy with Sefer Hadoros. I will just allude to it, it has to do with the part that was censored in later versions of the Sefer.
    – lionscribe
    Feb 22, 2017 at 6:25
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    All he probably means is that he found reference to a work of the Rambam on Chumash in Sefer Kneses Hagdolah. Sefer Kneses Hagdolah is an early multi volume work on Tur and Shulchan Oruch. I don't know where in the Sefer it is mentioned, but in any case, it's probably a typo.
    – lionscribe
    Feb 22, 2017 at 6:27
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    @mevaqesh He quotes the story from Shalsheles Hakabalah. He himself writes in his introduction that it is not reliable. The following is a quote from wikipedia; הרב יחיאל היילפרין כתב בהקדמה לספרו סדר הדורות שהספר שלשלת הקבלה מלא בשקרים. מכל מקום, הרב הלפרין העתיק סיפורים רבים מתוך הספר שלשלת הקבלה. המהדיר נפתלי משכיל לאיתן, הסביר, שלא עלה כלל על דעתו של הרב הלפרין שבעל שלשלת הקבלה הביא הזיות ושקרים, ומה שכותב שבעל שלשלת הקבלה הביא שקרים, כוונתו ל"טעויות", שכן טעות קרויה "שקר" במקורות. ולכן העתיק מדבריו ומספרים אחרים, למרות שהיה ידוע שבחלק מהדברים נפלו טעויות רבות.
    – lionscribe
    Feb 22, 2017 at 13:00

1 Answer 1


Rambam wrote a commentary on Tanach (which includes the Torah), though limited in scope and not a running commentary. It is the first volume of Guide for the Perplexed. As he describes it in his introduction:

My primary object in this work is to explain certain words occurring in the prophetic books. Of these some are homonyms, and of their several meanings the ignorant choose the wrong ones; other terms which are employed in a figurative sense are erroneously taken by such persons in their primary signification. There are also hybrid terms, denoting things which are of the same class from one point of view and of a different class from another. It is not here intended to explain all these expressions to the unlettered or to mere tyros, a previous knowledge of Logic and Natural Philosophy being indispensable, or to those who confine their attention to the study of our holy Law, I mean the study of the canonical law alone; for the true knowledge of the Torah is the special aim of this and similar works.

The object of this treatise is to enlighten a religious man who has been trained to believe in the truth of our holy Law, who conscientiously fulfils his moral and religious duties, and at the same time has been successful in his philosophical studies. Human reason has attracted him to abide within its sphere; and he finds it difficult to accept as correct the teaching based on the literal interpretation of the Law, and especially that which he himself or others derived from those homonymous, metaphorical, or hybrid expressions. Hence he is lost in perplexity and anxiety. If he be guided solely by reason, and renounce his previous views which are based on those expressions, he would consider that he had rejected the fundamental principles of the Law; and even if he retains the opinions which were derived from those expressions, and if, instead of following his reason, he abandon its guidance altogether, it would still appear that his religious convictions had suffered loss and injury. For he would then be left with those errors which give rise to fear and anxiety, constant grief and great perplexity.

This work has also a second object in view. It seeks to explain certain obscure figures which occur in the Prophets, and are not distinctly characterized as being figures. Ignorant and superficial readers take them in a literal, not in a figurative sense. Even well informed persons are bewildered if they understand these passages in their literal signification, but they are entirely relieved of their perplexity when we explain the figure, or merely suggest that the terms are figurative. For this reason I have called this book Guide for the Perplexed. (Friedlander translation)

(I am not specifically suggesting that this is what the Seder Hadoros meant. I am addressing the general question of whether Rambam wrote a commentary on the Torah. Alternatively, one could perhaps understand my answer as suggesting that the Seder Hadoros is incorrect because Rambam already described Moreh Nevuchim as his commentary on Tanach.)

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    +1, but your alternate suggestion seems somewhat weak - Rambam couldn't write anything else on Tanach if he's written something that vaguely follows that model? Feb 26, 2018 at 4:42
  • @Yez I agree it is somewhat weak (and my first suggestion is really what I intended when I wrote the answer), but there might be something to it, especially because Rambam also writes in the introduction about another commentary that he had said (in his commentary to Mishnayos Sanhedrin) he would write explaining the prophets even more, but which he ended up scrapping, so it would be the perfect place to tell us that there's a third commentary to Tanach that he wrote/plans on writing.
    – Alex
    Feb 26, 2018 at 4:51

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