Friday, October 21, 2005

Demons According to the Rambam – Eruvin 18b

Demons According to the RambamEruvin 18b

The Gemara here relates that during the 130 years between the murder of Kayin and the birth of Sheis, Adam gave birth to רוחין ושידין וליליןspirits, demons and lilliths [another kind of demon]. Yet, as is well known, the Rambam's position is that there are no such things as demons. How does he deal with this Gemara?

In Moreh Nevuchim 1:7, Rambam deals with this very Gemara. He explains that the concept of Tzelem Elokim with which Man was created is his intellectual capacity — and, with it, the pursuit of perfection by way of that intellectual capacity. People who do not seek to develop their minds in quest of perfection lack Tzelem Elokim. Such people are animals in human form — indeed, they are worse, as they possess an intellect with which they can perpetrate evil. It was to such people, says the Rambam, that Adam gave birth until Sheis was born, who then continued the heritage of Tzelem Elokim from Adam.

Alternatively, R' Avraham the son of the Rambam writes in his Maamar al Derashos Chazal that stories which involve demons occurred in a kind of prophetic vision [albeit a vision that did not involve specific communication from Hashem], in a person's mind. Accordingly, it may be that this Gemara refers to Adam's mindset for those 130 years in which he felt rejected by Hashem — his mind was incapable of productive, spiritual thought, but was mired in negative and harmful visions.


  1. Thanks for bringing this up!

    Are there other stories about sheidim that Rambam explains as referring to people who don't cultivate their tzelem?

    I've been very interested in R' Avraham ben Harambam since I heard about his Sufi-style mysticism and read some of Seifer Hamaspiq Le‘ovdey H' a few years ago, but i haven't been able to find any of his works in sefarim stores. Any idea where i could find any?

  2. The only sefer I have by R' Avraham ben haRambam is HaMaspik, bound together with fragments from his peirush as haTorah.

    I am not aware of any other place the Rambam discusses this. A perfunctory DBS search brings up nothing. It would be instructive to search the Meiri, who follows the Rambam's line in this issue. Can't take the time right now.