In his introduction to Avos (Shmomneh P'rakim), the Rambam delineates 5 "parts" of the human nefesh. Is this something that he came to on his own or does he have a source for this?

I know that the Rambam was well versed in both ancient and what was then contemporary philosophy and that it's very likely that this idea came from one of those sources. However, the bit of research I did on this did not turn anything up on this specific point.


1 Answer 1


Is already mentioned in Medrash Rabba בראשית רבה יד citing that in the entire Tana"ch the Torah calls the soul in five different ways.

חמישה שמות נקראו לה: נפש, רוח, נשמה, חיה, יחידה:

נפש - זה הדם, שנאמר (דברים יב כג): "כי הדם הוא הנפש". רוח - שהיא עולה ויורדת, שנאמר (קהלת ג כא): "מי יודע רוח בני האדם העולה היא למעלה [ורוח הבהמה היורדת היא למטה לארץ]". נשמה - זו האופיא. דברייתא אמרין: האופיתא טבא. חיה (תהלים קמג ג, איוב לג כח) - שכל האיברים מתים, והיא חיה בגוף. יחידה (תהלים כב כא, תהלים לה יז) - שכל האיברים משניים שניים, והיא יחידה בגוף.

  • Is that really where the Rambam gets this idea from? Five names is different from five parts. Plus Rambam isn't known for taking Aggadic Midrashim like this all that literally.
    – Double AA
    Commented Feb 11, 2018 at 15:13
  • @DoubleAA The Rambam definitely saw Midrashim and I'm not sure if its reasonable to make a blanket statement about what he used for his sources vs what he didn't. Commented Feb 11, 2018 at 18:48
  • @Trust Good thing I didn't say he didn't see Midrashim nor did I make any blanket statements about what he used as sources.
    – Double AA
    Commented Feb 11, 2018 at 18:54

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