Monday, October 04, 2010

Demons on the ark, and the Kotzker's famous elu ve'elu

Summary: Rashi and Chazal against Rambam. The Kotzker resolves this by having the Rambam effectively pasken demons out of existence. But does this work for a rationalist? Does it work with the words of the Rambam? Doesn't it go against a Mishnah?

Post: According to Rashi, sheidim were taken on the teivah. How so?

19. And of all living things of all flesh, two of each you shall bring into the ark to preserve alive with you; they shall be male and female.יט. וּמִכָּל הָחַי מִכָּל בָּשָׂר שְׁנַיִם מִכֹּל תָּבִיא אֶל הַתֵּבָה לְהַחֲיֹת אִתָּךְ זָכָר וּנְקֵבָה יִהְיוּ:
And of all living things: Even demons. — [Gen. Rabbah 31:13]ומכל החי: אפילו שדים:

This based on the midrash in Bereishit Rabba:
ומכל החי מכל בשר שנים וגו אמר רבי הושעיא:אפי' רוחות נכנסים עם נח אל התיבה, שנאמר: מכל החימאותן שנבראו להם נפשות ולא נברא להם גופין. 

The basis for this derasha is clearly laid out. Mikol is inclusive of something, and hachai implies that this inclusive element has an aspect of chai. This would be something with a nefesh but not a guf. This would be ruchot, spirits. The standard meforshim on the side assume this means sheidim, and point us to another midrash that the creation of sheidim was incomplete, as they were created just before Shabbat. I am not so convinced they are the same thing, but Rashi does seem to regard them as the same.

The Rambam rejects the idea of literal sheidim, as demons. He takes them allegorically, or else perhaps in other instances dismisses them as a daas yachid. Thus, in his Moreh Nevuchim, he writes:
As regards the words, "the form of Adam, and his likeness," we have already stated (ch. i.) their meaning. Those sons of Adam who were born before that time were not human in the true sense of the word, they had not "the form of man." With reference to Seth who had been instructed, enlightened and brought to human perfection, it could rightly be said, "he (Adam) begat a son in his likeness, in his form." It is acknowledged that a man who does not possess this "form" (the nature of which has just been explained) is not human, but a mere animal in human shape and form. Yet such a creature has the power of causing harm and injury, a power which does not belong to other creatures. For those gifts of intelligence and judgment with which he has been endowed for the purpose of acquiring perfection, but which he has failed to apply to their proper aim, are used by him for wicked and mischievous ends; he begets evil things, as though he merely resembled man, or simulated his outward appearance. Such was the condition of those sons of Adam who preceded Seth. In reference to this subject the Midrash says: "During the 130 years when Adam was under rebuke he begat spirits," i.e., demons; when, however, he was again restored to divine favour "he begat in his likeness, in his form." This is the sense of the passage, "Adam lived one hundred and thirty years, and he begat in his likeness, in his form" (Gen. v. 3).
Thus, they did mean something by it, but Chazal did not mean literal demons in that midrash regarding what Adam begat.

Elsewhere, Rambam says that sheidim are non-existent, and that one should not believe in them. One such place is in his perush haMishnayot to Avodah Zarah 4:7. The Mishna:

Or, in English:
The Rambam comments:

Note the part I underlined in red. Thus, he considers sheidim to be non-existence, and nonsense and falsehood. One should not think that they exist but just that they are forbidden to be worshiped or paid heed to.

There then seems to be a conflict between this Rashi and Chazal, on the one hand, and the Rambam, on the other hand.

Perhaps Rambam would simply make this midrash into an allegory as well. I don't see how one could do this, though. The midrash is rather explicit in its derivation and that what is being inclusive is something with spirit but no physical body. This would not include evildoers. Plus, if Hashem's purpose was to destroy the world, what sense is there for Hashem to command the bringing of evildoers as well into the ark? Maybe we could say this is a reference to Cham? Even so, it doesn't work out because of the former part.

My guess is that Rambam would label this position of Rabbi Hoshaya in the midrash to be a daas yachid, and point out that there is an alternate derivation (as far as I, Josh, read it) that וּמִכָּל הָחַי refers to taking the whelps, rather than the adults, of the re'em. Or else that he would offer a different allegorical explanation of this particular midrash. Or that he would distinguish between ruchot and shedim. Or that he was unaware of this particular midrash, or didn't set his mind to resolving every single one.

There is a rather famous harmonization offered by the Kotzker Rebbe, which I saw quoted in Prachei Rashi:

שאל אחד את רבי מנדל מקוצק: הרמב״ם במורה נבוכים כופר
במציאות שדים וכשפים, ואלו בתורה כתוב ״ולא יזבחו עוד את זבחיהם
לשעירים״? גם כיצד יתיישבו דברי רש״י, שנח נצטוה מפי הגבורה להביא
שדים אל התיבה? ענה הרבי מקוצק, אלה ואלה דברי אמת: בימי קדם
היו שדים וכשפים בנמצא, אך מיום שבא הרמב״ם ואמר שאינם בנמצא,
הרי הרמב״ם פוסק הוא והסכימו עמו גם בשמים, וקימו את דבריו הלכה
למעשה וחדלו שדים מן הארץ.

"Someone asked Rabbi Mendel of Kotzk: The Rambam in Moreh Nevuchim denies the existence of demons and magic, yet in the Torah is is written 'and they shall no longer offer their sacrifices to seirim?' Also, how can the words of Rashi be resolved, that Noach was commanded from the Mouth of the Omnipotent to bring demons to the ark? The Rabbi of Kotzk replied, 'This as that are simultaneously true. In days of old, demons and magic existed. But, from the time that Rambam came and said that they did not exist, behold, Rambam is a posek, and they agreed to him as well in Heaven, and established his words halacha leMaaseh such that demons vanished from the earth."

I don't know that this really resolves anything, even though it is both cute and seemingly a way to say eilu veEilu for the rationalist and mystical approach. The problem with this, to my mind, is that Rambam in Moreh Nevuchim and elsewhere did not merely take a position on the present existence of demons, but on the existence of demons in the past as well. Read carefully his comments in peirush haMishnayot and seems rather clear that he maintains that they never existed, and that it is silly to believe otherwise. That this was Avraham Avinu's argument, that these forces didn't exist.

That Rambam interprets midrashim referring to demons allegorically demonstrates that he maintains that even in the days of Chazal, and in the days of Adam, demons did not literally exist.

What would Rambam do with the pasuk about worshiping the seirim? He would say that they worshiped the non-existent seirim, and that one should not take this pasuk to mean that they exist but it is merely forbidden to worship them. He says this explicitly, above. He cites the chasidim mibnei dateinu who hold this belief, and says that they are wrong. We also saw that Rambam interpreted midrashim referring to demons and spirits allegorically. So in answer to how to resolve it, one should adopt one of the above approaches. Namely, daat yachid, allegory, or in some instances reference to things which don't even exist.

As a result, not only would Rambam be unhappy with this non-rationalist harmonization of his position -- how rationalist is it to "pasken" demons out of existence? -- but this doesn't even make Rambam's words true. For Rambam did not just deny the existence of present demons, but of demons in the past, pre-Rambam, as well. How could we say, then, that אלה ואלה דברי אמת?

I would add one somewhat humorous point to this. If sheidim are seirim and were worshiped, then the Mishna in Avodah Zarah above would seem to argue against the possibility of their ceasing to exist, and disappearing in a puff of Maimonidean logic. For the zekeinim in Rome explained why some existing gods (or entities worshiped as gods) couldn't suddenly disappear.



Anonymous said...

regarding the kotzker and shaidim.

There is a story of the kotzker rebbe riding in a carriage, and up ahead some people were throwing stones. When told to get inside the carriage, the rebbe responded that there was nothing to fear for they were just shadim. After all, people don't throw stones only demons do.


The Soapbox said...

Just my two cents. The problem I've always had with this quote from the Kotzker is that it does not fit with anything we know about who he was and the way he thought. He was not the type to make compromises, or to pronounce two contradictory statements as both true. He was a very black and white person, either it was true, or it wasn't. Couple that with his generally rational philosophy, not to mention his dimissal of the supernatural role of a rebbe which appears to be used here, and I get suspicious of this quote. I see 3 possibilities
1. He never said, and it was ascribed to him. I'd like to say it, but it's so unlike him, I fail to see why anyone would accidentally ascribe it to him. Generally, you ascribe things to people that they would have said, which is how all the great pithy one liners eventually get ascribed to the Kotzker. Not that its impossible, I just don't see how such a massive error would be made.
2. He said it, but he was being sarcastic. I find this the most likely scenario. Someone asked him a question, and he was mocking the premise of the question. Either there are demons, or there aren't. Figure that on your own, what, you think the Rambam caused demons to not exist, you idiot? The somewhat over the top nature over the quote contributes to my conviction its intention was satirical. According to this theory, people who took this quote seriously were the reason the Kotzker went into seclusion for 20 years.
3. He said it, but meant something insightful. Possible, as the Kotzker had a talent for condensing complicated ideas into short pithy statements. If there is a deeper idea to this, it would probably be found in someone like Rav Tzadok, who often expands upon ideas found in the Kotzker, especially as Rav Tzadok is very into how ideas evolve over history.

Tamir said...

( I arrived here via your answer to "Which Rabbinic source claimed that the Rambam 'killed' the demons?" at Judaism.StackExchange)

"Or that he would distinguish between ruchot and shedim."

That would be difficult to say, as in the Munk edition of the original Arabic version, gives the end of the passage you cited at the beginning of your post( Moreh Nevokhim I 6, toward the end) as:
וקאלוא פי אלמדרש כל אותן מאה ושלשים שנה שהיה אדם נזוף בהן היה מוליד רוחות יענון שדים
R. Yosef Qafih translates it as:
ואמרו במדרש: כל אותן מאה ושלשים שנה שהיה אדם נזוף בהן, היה מוליד רוחות, כלומר: שדים
Michael Schwarz translates it as:
ואמרו במדרש: כל אותן מאה ושלושים שנה שהיה אדם נזוף בהן היה מוליד רוחות, והכוונה שדים

"Thus, he considers sheidim to be non-existence, and nonsense and falsehood."

I can see from the Rambam you bring that the books dealing with Shedim are "nonsense and falsehood".

Where exactly does he say the Shedim themselves are non-existent, and nonsense and falsehood?

joshwaxman said...

Good point re differentiating. Indeed, I think the ruchot, that is, sheidim, is part of my bold text above. But, does that mean that he associates **every** instance of ruchot with sheidim? By Rabbi Hoshaya, the midrashic text itself defines the meaning of "ruchot" as spirit without body, מאותן שנבראו להם נפשות ולא נברא להם גופין, which seems (to me) the very opposite of Rambam's definition, of beings which do have concrete bodies. That is what I meant about making such a distinction. (maybe it is kvetch-able.)

Regarding the books vs. beings distinction, I think that one follows the other, even if **technically** the text does not say it explicitly. Belief in the reality of these beings is superstition and nonsense, just as belief in astrology, necromancy, etc. And also consider that Rambam gives an allegorical explanation of them elsewhere; and omits from Mishneh Torah halachic explanations based on sheidim, where the gemara did attribute it to sheidim.


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