Was Abraham Lincoln a Maimonidean?


In my Learning Breishit group, we’ve been discussing angels. (They keep cropping up in Ya’aqov/Jacob’s story!) And as a result, we considered a chunk of Rambam’s Moreh Nevuchim/Maimonides’ Guide to the Perplexed (Part III, §6) in which he discusses his conception of what ‘angels’ are. He suggests that the term ‘angel’ is used in the bible to describe natural powers that enact God’s will, and that this includes everything from the power that causes the unfolding of the fertilized ovum into a baby to the powers within us that we call ‘reason’ and ‘imagination’.

As I was thinking about this, I realized that it reminded me of the lovely conclusion of Abraham Lincoln’s 1st inaugural address in 1860. Here it is:

>We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though >passion may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection. >The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and >patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone all over this >broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again >touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.

It seems to me that Lincoln is calling up a very Maimonidean notion of angels, as being
elements of our character that can enable us to be better and do better. It seems unlikely that he read the Rambam and probably he was merely using angels metaphorically. But perhaps it was a case of great minds thinking alike.

Shayna

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