Jewish philosophy

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Jewish philosophy refers to the conjunction between serious study of philosophy, Jewish scholasticism and Jewish theology. In one sense, it refers to all philosophical activity carried out by Jews or in relation to the religion of Judaism. In the very narrow sense, it is often used to refer to the views of Jewish scholastics, influenced by Plato, Aristotle, Mutazilites, Ismaili, Averroes, Kant and others. In a much broader sense, Jewish Philosophy attempts to reconcile coherent new ideas into many millenia of Torah and Talmudic study; thus organizing emergent ideas within a uniquely Jewish scholastic framework and world-view.

The notion of "Jewish Philosophy" as a component of the Religion of Judaism is not shared by all Jews. Jewish Philosophy, in a Maimonidean Rationalist form, was largely a Sephardic pursuit until The Enlightenment at which time a variant of Maimonidean Rationalism was embraced by a larger body of Jewry - notably what became known as Reform Judaism. Arguably, this soured many Orthodox Jewish scholars on the efficacy of Maimonidean Rationalism. However, Reform Judaism is a political movement within Judaism, it is not based upon any specifically Jewish philosophy. Many Tosafists, Kabbalists, and Karaites deplored what would eventually become known as Jewish Kalam. Maimonidean Rationalism persists within communities of Spanish Jews, Baladi Yemenite Jews, Meknes Moroccan Jews, Syrian Jews, and small groups within the Mizrahi Jewish Communities. We should also note that Yeshiva University's core programs are centered around Maimonidean Rationalism as described by Mendell Lewittes, a member of Yeshiva University's very first graduating class (1932)[1].

Even after the enlightenment, the Vilna Gaon had little regard for Philosophical endeavors by stipulating that the only texts that should involve a Jew are the Torah, Talmud and commentaries on both; secular education was not encouraged and study of philosophy was frowned upon (if not completely prohibited). Kabbalists eschewed Maimonidean Rationalism preferring esoteric methods of reconciling notions of "good" and "evil" among other difficult human concerns.


[edit] Ancient Jewish philosophy

[edit] Biblical philosophy

Israel, as a nation of people, did not exist until the revelation at Mount Sinai. The exact origins of Judaism, as a religion, are uncertain - what is undeniable is the practices of daily prayer as proxy for temple sacrifices, observance of kashrut, family purity, and good deeds have been performed by the Nation of Israel for millennia. Technically speaking, any philosophy harbored by various Israelite tribes was not necessarily shared by all other tribes until King David united the Tribes. Rabbinic Tradition suggests that until Saadia Gaon there was no clear codification of Jewish Philosophy nor a defense of it in the face of challenges from emergent Christian, Karaite and Muslim philosophers.

Many have attempted to stipulate that the Patriarch Abraham introduced a philosophy into his teaching as he learned from Melchizedek. Whether this is true we cannot definitively declare.[citation needed] Talmud Bereishis Rabba (39,1) tells how Abraham understood this world to have a creator and director by comparing this world to a house with a light in it, what is now called the "Argument from design". Nonetheless we have no historical works from which to derive Abraham's Biblical Philosophy. Many scholars assume that Melchizedek influenced Abram's views; Genesis 14:17-24 tells how Abram returns from defeating King Chedorlaomer and his associates and meets with the King of Sodom. Abraham was the first documented human to conceive of a single God. Beyond monotheism we know nothing of Abraham's philosophy.

The Book of Psalms contains appeals to philosophical speculation, such as invitations to admire the wisdom of God through his works. Other books of philosophical interest are Proverbs and Ecclesiastes.

[edit] Philo of Alexandria

Philo of Alexandria (20 BCE - 40 CE) was a Hellenized Jewish philosopher born in Alexandria, Egypt.

Philo included in his philosophy both the wisdom of Ancient Greece and Judaism, which he sought to fuse and harmonize by means of the art of allegory that he had learned as much from Jewish exegesis as from the Stoics. His work was not widely accepted in Judaism, though it later became important to Christian theologians. Philo made his philosophy the means of defending and justifying Jewish religious truths. These truths he regarded as fixed and determinate; and philosophy was used as an aid to truth, and as a means of arriving at it. With this end in view Philo chose from the philosophical tenets of the Greeks, refusing those that did not harmonize with the Jewish religion, as, e.g., the Aristotelian doctrine of the eternity and indestructibility of the world.

[edit] The period between Philo and Saadia

With the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 CE Judaism was in disarray - Jews had just endured civil war, Roman genocide, and expulsion from Jerusalem. Jewish uprisings persisted for many centuries thereafter. After the destruction of the Second Temple, Rabban Yochanan Ben Zakkai moved the Sanhedrin to Yavne. Shortly thereafter, the Council of Yavne met there, preserving Rabbinic Judaism and allowing it to formulate texts and new views. The Sanhedrin departed Yavne for Usha in 80 CE, only to return in 116 CE, before leaving Yavne for good. Jerusalem itself was razed by the Emperor Hadrian at the end of the Bar Kochba Revolt in 135 CE. According to Cassius Dio, 580,000 Jews were killed, and 50 fortified towns and 985 villages razed by Emperor Hadrian during the Bar Kochba Revolt.

Around 135 CE Rabbinic scholars gathered in Galilee commenced reassembling, and reassessing, Judaism along with its laws (oral and written), theology, liturgy, beliefs and leadership.
In around 200 CE, Mishnah, standardized Jewish oral law as it stands today, is redacted by Judah haNasi in Israel.
In 219 CE, the Sura Academy is founded by Abba Arika and becomes one of the two (2) most influential academies of Babylon. The other leading academy, at Nehardea, was founded in the same year. Many Jews of the region were engaged in agriculture and some of the scholars at the academy were also farmers. The commentaries of the scholars at Sura and other academies were ultimately collected into the Babylonian Talmud. The Sura Academy was the principal academy of Babylon during the first century of its existence. It rose again to preeminence under Rav Ashi (367-427), declined after his death, only to me resurrected by Mar Rab Mar.
In 259 CE, after the armies of Palmyra destroyed the Jewish academy at Nehardea, the scholar Judah ben Ezekiel began a new academy at Pumbedita (now known as Fallujah, Iraq). This academy remained the center of Jewish religious learning in Babylonia until the arrival of Saadia Gaon in Sura in 909 CE. Pumbeditha scholars maintained strong ties with scholars in Tiberias, Palestine. After 352 the academy went into decline and survived in the shadow of the greater academy of Sura.
Around 450 CE, Redaction of Talmud Yerushalmi (Talmud of Jerusalem) is completed
In around 550 CE, redaction of Talmud Bavli (Babylonian Talmud) is completed under Rabbis Ravina and Ashi. To a lesser degree, the text continues to be modified for the next 200 years as more communities add their anecdotal info.
From roughly 700 CE until 1050 CE, the undisputed centers of Jewish life were Jerusalem and Tiberias (Syria), Sura and Pumbeditha Babylon (Iraq). The heads of these law schools were the Gaonim, who were consulted on matters of law by Jews throughout the world. During this time, the Niqqud is invented in Tiberias. Oppression of Jews, culminating in the murder of Hezekiah Gaon (the last exilarch, resulted in closing of the Sura and Pumbeditha Academies for good...only to find a new home in Al-Andalus.
In roughly 760 CE, Karaites reject authority of the oral law, and split off from Rabbinic Judaism - disputes with Saadia in early 900's formalized this split whereby Karaites are no longer considered Jews to this day.
Hai Gaon, son of Sherira ben Hanina, was a master of Hebrew lore who was also familiar with the Quran (and the Hadith), with Plato, Aristotle, Alfarabi, the grammarian al-Halil, the Septuagint, the Greek calendar, Greek history, and the Persian language translation of Kalilah wa-Dimnah. He did not hesitate to consult Chaldean Catholics in an exegetical difficulty over Psalms, as the Sicilian dayyan Matzliah ibn al-Basak relates in his biography of Hai Gaon. Hai Gaon justified his action by saying that scholars in former times did not hesitate to receive explanations from those of other beliefs. He had an exact knowledge of the theological movements of his time, of which Islamic Ash'ariyyah attracted him the most. Moses ibn Ezra called him a mutakallim. Hai Gaon was also competent to argue with Muslim theologians, and sometimes adopted their polemical methods. Hai Gaon established a level of scholarship that was to influence the Academies of Pumbeditha and Sura.

Islam, after having conquered, at the edge of a sword most of what was once Jewish, was just begining to assemble its followers, and fomulate Islamic scholarship, in response to Jewish scholarship. The Basra Ash'ari School of Muslim theology founded by Abu al-Hasan al-Ash'ari in the 10th century supported the use of reason and speculative theology kalam to defend Islam. The Ash'ari school was not as extreme in its rationalism as the Mutazilite school. Followers attempted to demonstrate the existence and nature of God through rational argument, while affirming the eternal, uncreated nature of the Quran. They were accused by the Mutazilites of believing in predestination because they claimed the human capacity for action was only acquired at the very moment of action.

The Ash'ari may have succeeded in laying the groundwork for a stable empire, and for subordinating philosophy as a process to fixed notions of ethics derived directly from Islam but, in hind-sight, the Ash'ari set into motion a collection of intellectual pursuits, and parochial dogma, largely responsible for the scholastic and philosophical gap that exists today between Western Civilization and the Islamic World. While al-Ash'ari, himself, was opposed to the views of Mutazilites, due to their over-emphasis of human reason and intellect, he was also opposed to the views of the Zahiri (literalist), Mujassimah (anthropomorphist) and Muhaddithin (traditionalist) schools for their over-emphasis on taqlid (imitation). Modern Western commentators blame Asharites for curtailing much of the Islamic world's innovation in sciences and technology, which at one time led the world.

[edit] Medieval Jewish philosophy

Early Jewish philosophy was heavily influenced by the philosophy of Plato, Aristotle and Islamic philosophy. Many early medieval Jewish philosophers (from the 8th century to end of the 9th century) were especially influenced by the Islamic Mutazilite philosophers such as Hasan al-Basri and Wasil ibn Ata who descends from Alī ibn Abī Ṭālib (Ali) through Muhammad ibn al-Hanafiyyah and his son Abd-Allah ibn Muhammad ibn al-Hanafiyyah; they denied all limiting attributes of God and were champions of God's unity and justice. Greek philosophy, science, medicine and mathematics was absorbed by Jewish scholars living in the Arab world via Arabic translations of those texts. In science and philosophy, Jewish scholars absorbed data, methods, world-view and suppositions of Greek Philosophers.

Islamic mystics turned to Jews to answer a variety of mystical questions. In addition to the Prophet Muhammad's familiarity with the Jewish religion, early Jewish converts to Islam brought with them the stories from their heritage, known as Isra'il'iyat, which told of the Bani Isra'il, the pious men of ancient Israel. One of the most famous early Islamic mystics - and the man considered to be the "patriarch of Muslim mysticism" - Hasan al-Basri introduced numerous Isra'il'iyat legends into Islamic scholarship, stories that went on to become representative of Islamic mystical ideas of piety. An early biographer of the Prophet Muhammad included in his work many legends and stories of virtuous behavior that he attributed to the "People of the Torah," an inclusion for which he was roundly criticized by his contemporaries, because he had explicitly pointed out the Jewish influences on the Prophet. As the early Sufis had much in common with the Hasidim of Talmudic times, Islamic spiritualists could well be seen as the Hasidim's spiritual progeny, through the administration of early Islamic mystics such as Hasan al-Basri. Hasan al-Basri credited the Jewish King David as originating many of the practices that characterized the Sufis, down to the specific woolen garb that identified them. Nonetheless, the height of Jewish-Sufi symbiosis was achieved in a 13th century Sufi in Damascus, Abu ali ibn Hud. Abu Ali ibn Hud spent his time teaching Maimonides' Guide for the Perplexed to students of all religions. Not only did he purportedly wear an ill-concealed Yarmulke under his turban as a show of respect for Jewish religion, but when he was asked to teach, he replied, "Upon which road: the Mosaic or the Muslim?".

If the affiliation with Islam sounds peculiar, we should remember that Islam was once a heterodox movement within Judaism, as was Christianity, which slowly diverged to the point where it became a separate religion. In other words, scholastic academies of Arabia and Persia were once Jewish academies where a rigorously parochial version of Judaism was practiced. A Jewish presence within Medina, of present-day Saudi Arabia, goes back to the time of King David - Babylonian inscriptions discovered in 1956 suggest that Jewish religious communities were introduced into Hijaz in the 6th century BCE. When Muslim hordes marauded across the Middle East, and North Africa, nearly all that was once Jewish became Muslim at the blade of the sword. Mohammad's development of a separate religion began when he realized that the Jews of Medina were not prepared to accept him as a Prophet nor accept his arbitrarily contrived Arab version of Judaism[2] which was contrived with Bahira who was also known as Sergius Bahira - a Nestorian Monk. Regardless of how it came about, Persian and Arab scholars persisted in their studies and debates which involved mathematics, astronomy, philosophy and medicine.

One path towards synthesis of the best philosophies into Judaism was to apply analytical philosophy to one's own religion in order to strengthen the basis of that faith amidst new ideas. Among Jewish thinkers who had this view we should note Saadia Gaon, Gersonides, and Abraham Ibn Daud. In the case of Abraham Ibn Daud, he was a religious person who would also be a remembered as a philosopher by asking questions such as:

  • What is the nature of God? How do we know that God exists?
  • What is the nature of revelation? How do we know that God reveals his will to mankind?
  • Which of our religious traditions must be interpreted literally?
  • Which of our religious traditions must be interpreted allegorically?
  • What must one actually believe to be considered a true adherent of our religion?
  • How can one reconcile the findings of philosophy with religion?
  • How can one reconcile the findings of science with religion?

According to some views, this may perhaps be the task of Jewish philosophy, but there is no way to end the debate conclusively. Over time Aristotle came to be thought of as the philosopher par excellence among Jewish thinkers and Islamic philosophers. This tendency was no less marked in the Islamic, the Christian Byzantine and the Latin-Christian schools of thought. For traditional Judaism our universe did not run according to immutable laws. Rather, God directly regulated the workings of the universe that he had created, insuring that events would lead to the specific goal He had in mind. Medieval Jewish Philosophers, unable to give up their view of nature completely, sought to reconcile the Torah and Talmudic concepts of creation and miracles with the theories of secular philosophy.[3]

[edit] Isaac Israeli ben Solomon

Isaac Israeli ben Solomon (c.Egypt, 832 – Kairouan, 932), ( a/k/a Yakob Yitzhak ben Shlomo ha-Yisraeli, a/k/a Abu Ya'qub Ishaq ibn Suleiman al-Isra'ili, a/k/a Isaac Israeli the Elder), was one of the foremost physicians and philosophers of his time. He is regarded as the father of medieval Jewish Neoplatonism. His works, which were translated into Hebrew, Latin and Spanish, were current throughout the Middle Ages and published as late as 1515. Israeli was court physician to the last Aghlabid prince, Ziyadat Allah III.

Israeli's philosophical works exercised considerable influence on Christian and Jewish thinkers, and a lesser degree of influence among Muslim intellectuals of the Kalam School. In the twelfth century, a group of scholars in Toledo transmitted many Arabic works of science and philosophy into Latin. One of the translators, Gerard of Cremona, rendered Israeli's Book of Definitions and Book on the Elements into Latin. Isaac Israeli's work was quoted and paraphrased by a number of Christian thinkers including Gundissalinus, Albertus Magnus, Thomas Aquinas, Vincent de Beauvais, Bonaventura, Roger Bacon and Nicholas of Cusa. Isaac Israeli's philosophical influence on Muslim authors is slight at best. The only known quotation of Israeli's philosophy in a Muslim work occurs in Ghayat al-Hakim, a book on magic, produced in eleventh-century Al-Andalus, translated into Latin and widely circulated in the West under the title Picatrix. Although there are passages which correspond directly to Israeli's writings, the author does not cite him by name.

Israeli's influence extended to Moses Ibn Ezra (c. 1060-1139) who quotes Isaac Israeli without attribution in his treatise The Book of the Garden, explaining the meaning of Metaphor and Literal Expression. The poet and philosopher Joseph Ibn Saddiq of Cordoba authored a work The Microcosm containing many ideas indebted to Israeli. Joseph Ibn Saddiq is the first presentation in Jewish literature of a scheme embracing the totality of human knowledge

Isaac Israeli ben Solomon was known to have had lively correspondence with Saadia Gaon prior to Saadia's departure from Egypt for the Sura Academy. Of particular note is the fact that the Jewish Academies of Fayyum, Egypt, were so advanced as to cultivate a man of Saadia Gaon's intellect and catch the attention of an esteemed intellect such as Isaac Israeli ben Solomon.

[edit] Saadia Gaon

Saadia Gaon (a/k/a Saadia Ibn Yosef, a/k/a Sa'id ibn Yusuf al-Fayyumi, a/k/a Sa'id ibn Yusuf al-Dilasi, , a/k/a Saadia ben Yosef aluf, Yeshu'a, a/k/a Sa'id ben Yusuf ra's al-Kull[4]) was born in Dilaẓ, Upper Egypt, 892; died at Sura 942. Saadia is considered one of the greatest, if not the greatest, of the early Jewish philosophers. His Emunoth ve-Deoth (Beliefs and opinions) was originally called Kitab al-Amanat wal-l'tikadat, the "Book of the Articles of Faith and Doctrines of Dogma". It was the first systematic presentation and philosophic foundation of the dogmas of Judaism, completed in 933. Saadia came from a family of scholars (Ishmaili?) - Saadia's father was a Proselyte[5]. During Saadia's life in Egypt, the Tulunids, a branch of the Fatimid Caliphate (a/k/a al-Fātimiyyūn), ruled all of Egypt. The leaders of the Tulunids were also Ismaili Imams, hence, they had a religious significance to Shi'a Ismaili Muslims. Their influence upon the academies of Egypt resonate in the works of Saadia; in contract to the KAraites who were very strong in numbers in Egypt at that time.

In "Book of the Articles of Faith and Doctrines of Dogma" Saadia declares the rationality of the Jewish faith, with the restriction that reason must capitulate wherever it contradicts tradition. Dogma must take precedence over reason. Thus, in the question concerning the eternity of the world, reason teaches that since the time of Aristotle, the world is without beginning; that it was not created; in contrast, Jewish dogma asserts a creation out of nothing (ex nihilo). Since the time of Aristotle it was held that logical reasoning could only prove the existence of a general form of immortality, and that no form of individual immortality could exist. Mainstream Jewish dogma, in contrast, maintained the immortality of the individual. Reason, therefore, must give way in Saadia's view.

In the scheme of his work Saadia closely followed the rules of the Mutazilites (the rationalistic dogmatists of Shi'a Islam, to whom he owed, in part, his thesis and arguments), adhering most frequently to the Mutazilite school of Al-Jubbai[6][7]. Mas'udi, a Mohammedan author who died in 957, states that Saadia was a pupil of Abu Kathir Yahya ben Zakariyya al-Katib Al Tabarani (a Tiberian Scribe)[8][9], with whom Mas'udi himself carried on a disputation in Palestine. It was in his twentieth year (913) that Saadia completed his first great work, the Hebrew dictionary which he entitled "Agron."

In his twenty-third year, according to a verse contained in Abraham ibn Ezra's "Yesod Mispar," he composed a polemical work against Karaism, thus apparently beginning the activity which was to prove so important in opposition to Karaism and other heresies and in defense of traditional Judaism. Saadia followed the Mutazilite Kalam, especially in this respect, that in the first two sections he discussed the metaphysical problems of the creation of the world (i.) and the unity of God (ii.), while in the following sections he treated the Jewish theory of revelation (iii.) and of the doctrines of belief based upon divine justice, including obedience and disobedience (iv.), as well as merit and demerit (v.). Closely connected with these sections are those which treat of the soul and of death (vi.), and of the resurrection of the dead (vii.), which, according to the author, forms part of the theory of the messiah in whatever form a messiah may be recognized (viii.). The work concludes with a section on the rewards and punishments of the future life (ix.)

Clearly there was exchange of philosophical reasoning and tenets among the Mutazilites and Saadia (and Saadia's teachers). But within Saadia's philosophical definitions there is a distinction between Jewish and Muslim definitions of good and evil which have survived to this day. Translation of 'good' and 'evil' into the relative concepts defined by God through revelation limits good to the bounds of Islam. This means that only the good deeds done by a Muslim in obedience to Allah's command are deserving of reward.

According to Saadia, in Judaism, no such exclusivist notions have ever defined normative Rabbinic Judaism. In Saadia's way of thinking, if good and evil were absolute, there was nothing to exclude any human being, endowed by God, with the ability to rationalize the difference between right and wrong, to perform acts in accordance with the Laws of God as defined in the Torah and later codified by Maimonides.

Mu'tazilites themselves, who saw good and evil as general categories, came to admit, albeit reluctantly, that a non-Muslim was capable of earning his reward and entering paradise. This dichotomy between Jewish and Muslim view of good is illustrated subtly by the possibility of God extending the term of human life as a reward. The Muslim tradition, on which this idea is based, suggests "acts of obedience" as a cause of such reward. The implication, according to Islam, is that good acts, for which a man is rewarded, are those carried out in obedience to Allah's will, as expressed in Islam.

Saadia, when discussing the very same question, seemingly agrees that the term of human life can be extended as a reward for "acts of righteousness". This implies that Saadia Gaon does not parallel the rewardable acts with religion. It is this single point that signals the "fork in the road" whereby Shi'a Islam's Rationalist Philosophy (Averroism) becomes deprecated within Islam, and Judaic Rationalism excels.

According to Saadia, "Sefer Yetzirah" is one among many competing theories of creation, and not authoritative due to its esoteric nature. Concerning the supposed attribution of the book to the patriarch Abraham, Saadia indicates "the ideas it contains might be ancient, but that grammatical analysis shows that the text could not predate the Bible".

It was Saadia Gaon, who laid foundations of a uniquely Jewish rationalist theology which built upon the work of the Mutazilites without yielding to Islam's Ashari pressures and demands as the Karaites had done; thus shifting Rabbinic Judaism from mythical explanations of the Rabbis, and laid the groundwork for all the future development of Jewish religious philosophy. For studying Torah, Saadia favored the ben Naftali Codex[10].

[edit] David Ibn Marwān al-Mukammas

David Abū Sulaymān Ibn Marwān Al-Raqqī Al-mukammas, (a/k/a Dâwûd al-Muqammas, a/k/a Dâwûd abu Suleiman ibn Merwan al-Mukkamas al-Raqia al-Shirazi, a/k/a David Ha-Bavli, a/k/a Dâwûd ben Masuj, a/k/a Abu'l-Khayr Da'ud ben Masuj, a/k/a David ben Merwan al-Mukkamas, a/k/a David ben Marwan al-Muqammis al-Raqqa, a/k/a Dawud ben Marwan al-Muqammis al-Shirazi, a/k/a Daud Ibn Marwan al-Muqammas, a/k/a 'Daud Ibn Marwan al-Qumsi [11]), born abt 900 CE in Aleppo, Syria - died 937, Raqqah, Mesopotamia, was a Syrian philosopher and polemicist. He is regarded as the father of Jewish medieval philosophy. Al-Mukammas was the first Jewish thinker to introduce the methods of Kalam into Judaism and the first Jew to mention Aristotle in his writings. He cited Greek and Arab authorities, but his own Jewishness was not obvious in his writings, since he never quoted the Torah. Among the subjects presented in his work ʿIshrūn maqālāt are a proof of God’s existence and his creation of the world, a discussion of the reality of science, the substantial and accidental composition of the world, the utility of prophecy and prophets, and the signs of true prophets and prophecy. Al-Mukammas also wrote on Jewish sects.

David ben Merwan al-Mukkamas was an Umayyad Muslim who converted to Rabbinic Judaism (not Karaism as some argue); David was a student for many years a physician and renowned Christian philosopher named Hana. His close interaction with a Christian Philosopher, and his familial affiliation with Islam gave David ben Merwan al-Mukkamas a unique view of religious belief and theology. David wrote a couple of polemics against Christianity. In 1898 Abraham Harkavy discovered, in the Imperial Library of St. Petersburg, fifteen of the twenty chapters of David's philosophical work entitled Ishrun Maḳalat (Twenty Chapters) of which 15 survive.

The subject-matter of these fifteen chapters is as follows

1. The Aristotelian categories
2. Science and the reality of its existence
3. The creation of the world
4. The evidence that it is composed of substance and accidents
5. The properties of substance and accident
6. A criticism of those who maintain the eternity of matter
7. Arguments in favor of the existence of God and His creation of the world
8. The unity of God, refuting the Sabians, the Dualists, and the Christians
9. The divine attributes
10. Refutation of anthropomorphism and Christian ideas
11. Why God became our Lord
12. Showing that God created us for good and not for evil, and combating absolute pessimism as well as absolute optimism
13. The utility of prophecy and prophets
14. Signs of true prophecy and true prophets
15. Mandatory and prohibitive commandments.

David ben Merwan al-Mukkamas is the first Jewish author to mention Aristotle (Jew. Quart. Rev. xiii.450).

[edit] Hasdai Ibn Shaprut

Hasdai ibn Shaprut (a/k/a Rabbi Chisdai ibn Shaprut, a/k/a Abu Yusuf ben Yitzhak ben Ezra a/k/a Abu Yusuf Ibn Yitzhak Ibn Ezra al-Jaen) (born 915 in Jaen - died 990 in Cordoba) brings Italian scholar Moses ben Hanoch to Cordoba (the place of the royal court) and opens a Yeshiva. This is the beginning of the development of the great Spanish tradition of Jewish learning which will ultimately create one of the major schools of diaspora Jewish scholarship. Hasdai marks the beginning of the florescence of Andalusian Jewish culture, and the rise of poetry and of the study of Hebrew grammar among the Spanish Jews. Himself a physician and scholar, he worked physician and wazir in the court of Abd-ar-Rahman III Emir and Caliph of Córdoba and a prince of the Ummayad dynasty in al-Andalus; and later his son Al-Hakam II.

Hasdai ibn Shaprut encouraged scholarship among fellow Jews by purchasing Hebrew books for their use, which he imported from the East, thereby supporting Jewish scholars whom he gathered about him. Among the latter were Menahem ben Saruq, a Spanish-Jewish philologist of the tenth century CE, the protégé of Hasdai's father, and Dunash ben Labrat, a medieval Jewish commentator, poet, and grammarian of the Golden age of Jewish culture in Al-Andalus and a student of Saadia Gaon both of whom addressed poems to their patron.

Until the time of Hasdai ibn Shaprut Al-Andalus was dependent on Babylonian authority for its scholarship - Al-Andalus will now become increasingly independent and will soon take over the mantle of scholarship from Babylon. Hasdai ibn Shaprut was an exceptional intellect of his time - he laid the groundwork for the golden-age of Judaism in Al Andalus. Hasdai ibn Shaprut advocated prostration during Tachanun in a manner similar to Yemenite Jews.

[edit] Chananel ben Chushiel

Rabbi Chananel ben Chushiel (a/k/a Hananel ben Hushiel) was born in 990; he is generally associated with the city of Kairouan, Tunisia. Kairouan it is the capital of the Kairouan Governorate. It was founded by the Arabs in around 670 and the original name was derived from Arabic meaning "military/civilian camp", "caravan", or "resting place"

Tosafists, medieval rabbis known in Talmudical scholarship as Rishonim who created critical and explanatory glosses on the Talmud, refer to him as "Ish Romi". Rabbi Chananel studied under his father, Chushiel ben Elchanan.

Chushiel ben Elchanan was head of the Beit Ha-Midrash at Kairouan toward the end of the 10th century. His origins and travels are obscure, and his eventual arrival in Kairouan is the subject of a well-known story. According to Abraham Ibn Daud, Chushiel was one of the four scholars who were captured by Ibn Ruma, an Arab Admiral, while voyaging from Bari. Chushiel was collecting money "for the dowries of poor brides." Chushiel was sold as a slave in North Africa, but he and the other three rabbis were ransomed by Jewish communities in Alexandria, Cordoba, and Kairouan. Once ransomed, Chushiel went to Kairouan. In Kerouan his Talmudical knowledge gained him the position of head of the Beit Ha-Midrash - possibly after the death of Jacob ben Nissim

Rabbi Chananel ben Chushiel was a student of Hai Gaon.

[edit] Rav Nissim Gaon

Nissim ben Yakob ben Nissim Ibn Shahin, (a/k/a Nissim Ben Jacob,a/k/a Nissim Gaon, a/k/a Nissim Ibn Yaqub Ibn Nissim Ibn Shahin) 990 CE -1062 CE - His teacher was his father "Rav Yakob ben Nissim ibn Shahin Gaon" (a student of Hai Gaon) to whom the famous Iggeret R’ Sheirirah Gaon had been addressed. Upon the death of his father Chushiel becomes his teacher; Chushiel was successor to Jacob ben Nissim around 1006, Nissim being at that time too young to qualify for this position.

Nissim had a personally developed method of studying of the Talmud, using mostly Talmud Yerushalmi, which was largely neglected by scholars in favor of the Babylonian Talmud (Talmud Bavli). This was probably due to the teaching of Chushiel ben Elhanan. He followed the method of Saadia Gaon in defending the anthropomorphisms of the Haggadah against attacks of the Karaites.

Nissim also corresponded with Samuel ibn Naghrela in Al-Andalus, and transmitted Hai Gaon's teachings to him. (Later, Nissim’s daughter married Shmuel Ha-Nagid’s son, Yosef.) Some consider Nissim, Shmuel Ha-Nagid, Chananel ben Chushiel, the first generation of the era known as the “Rishonim.” (Meaning “Early Ones,” this title denotes the 500-year period between the decline of the Babylonian academies and the expulsion of the Jews from Spain in 1492 CE.)

Nissim had numerous pupils, some of whom came from Al-Andalus, who spread his teachings within Spanish Yeshivot; as a result he was honored with the title "Gaon."[12]. Nissim ben Yakob ben Nissim Ibn Shahin deserves full credit for helping transplant Talmudical knowledge from dying academies of Babylonia to Al-Andalus. Nissim, was a poor man on the payroll of Samuel ha-Nagid, whose son, Joseph Ha-Nagid, married Nissim's only daughter. The bride, according to Abraham ibn Daud (l.c.), was very learned and pious, but physically deformed.

[edit] Samuel Ha-Nagid

Samuel Ha-Nagid (a/k/a Samuel ibn Naghrela a/k/a Abū Ishaq Isma'il bin-Naghrillah, a/k/a Sh'muel Ha-Levi ben-Yosef ha-Nagid, a/k/a Yitzhak Sh'muel Ha-Levi ben-Yosef ha-Nagid) (born 993 - died after 1056) was the recipient of letters written by Hai ben Sherira Gaon ( a/k/a Hai Gaon) to Nissim ben Yakob ben Nissim Ibn Shahin - making him, ostensibly, a student of Hai Gaon and Nissim Gaon at the same time.

Samuel Ha-Nagid (Samuel ibn Naghrela) founded the Yeshiva that produced such brilliant scholars as Rabbi Yitzhak ibn Ghiath (Isaac ibn Ghiyyat) and Rabbi Maimon ben Yosef (father of Maimonides). Samuel HaNagid was also the man who provided refuge for the two (2) sons of murdered Exilarch Chizkiya (Hezekiah Gaon); Daud Ibn Chizkia Gaon Ha-Nasi and Yitzhak Ibn Chizkiya Gaon Ha-Nasi.

  • Hiyya al-Daudi Gaon, also known as Don Yahya, (a/k/a Hiyya "El Daudi" Ben Hiyya "Vital", Hiyya ha-Nasi al-Daudi, Yahya al-Daudi, Hiyya Al-Daudi, Chiya al-Daudi, Yahya Ibn Daud, Haim ben David) is the great-grandson of Daud Ibn Chizkia Ha-Nasi - from this family line come the Charlap families (among others).

Many Jewish families, particularly those descended from the great Rabbis, have traditions of at least some strength that they are descended from Hezekiah Gaon. These include such names as Abendaoud, Abarbanel (alternative spelling Abravanel), BenDavid, Benveniste, Berdugo, Charlap (Charlop, Charlaf, Charlov, Harlap, Harlop, Harlof, Harlov, Kharlap, Kharlov), Don Yehiya (Yachia, Ibn Yahya, Yechia, Iachia), Dyan (Dayan), Eldaoudi, Elfandari, Friedensohn, Friedman, Galperin (Heilprin), Ginzburger, Halperin (Alperin/Perin/Perigin), Horowitz, Katzenelbogen, Landau (Landaus), Loew (Lew/Loeb/Lowe/Liva), Lurie (Luria/Lauria), Margulies, Mirkes, Paprosh, Parnas, Peretz, Posner, Rabinowitz, Reins (Raines), Roff, Roth, Safrin, Salit (Salant), Shaltiel (Shealtiel), Shapira (Shapiro), Shneerson (Shneur), Weil (Wahl) and Winkler.

In 1039, Samuel Ha-Nagid was Wazir of Habbus al-Muzaffar in the Berber Zirid Army of Granada leading them in battle against the Abbasid Armies of Seville.

[edit] Yitzhak ben Yaakob HaKohen Alfasi

Rabbi Yitzhak ben Yakob HaKohen Al-Fasi (a/k/a Isaac Alfasi, a/k/a "The Rif" (רי"ף) was born in Kalat ibn Hamad, a village near Fez, Morocco, in 1013 - he died in Lucena, Al-Andalus 1103) - Alfasi was a Talmudist and posek. He was a student of Nissim Gaon. He is best known for his work of halachah, the legal code Sefer Ha-halachot, considered the first fundamental work in halachic literature. He spent the majority of his career in Fez, Morocco, and is therefore known as Alfasi ("of Fes" in Arabic ). Later in life he is forced to flee Morocco to Lucena due to false witness brought against him by Khalif Ibn El'gav. In those years in Lucena, Alfasi granted Joseph ibn Migash the title of Rabbi and Ibn Migash was made "Rosh Yeshiva" of the Yeshiva of Lucena. Ibn Migash, in turn, was the teacher of Rabbi Maimon ben Yosef, father of Maimonides.

Firstly, "the Rif" succeeded in producing a Digest, which became the object of close study, and led in its turn to the Mishneh Torah by Maimonides and Shulchan Aruch of Rabbi Joseph Karo. Secondly, it served as one of the "Three Pillars of Halachah", as an authority underpinning both the Arba'ah Turim and the Shulchan Aruch. Rabbi Nissim of Gerona (The RaN) compiled a detailed and explicit commentary on this work; In yeshivot "the Rif and the RaN" are regularly studied as part of the daily Talmudic schedule.

This work was published prior to the times of Rashi and other commentaries, and resulted in a profound change in the study practices of the scholarly Jewish public in that it opened the world of the gemara to the public at large. It soon became known as the Talmud Katan ("Little Talmud"). At the close of the Middle Ages, when the Talmud was banned in Italy, Alfasi's code was exempted so that from the 16th to the 19th centuries his work was the primary subject of study of the Italian Jewish community. Alfasi also occupies an important place in the development of the Sephardi method of studying the Talmud. In contrast to the Ashkenazi approach, the Sephardim sought to simplify the Talmud and free it from casuistical detail; see Chananel Ben Chushiel. Rashi (1064-1105), whose activity began before the first crusade, opened up Jewish religious literature to the popular mind, by his systematic commentaries on Torah and Talmud. On the other hand, the Tosafists, the school of commentators succeeding him, by their seemingly petty quibbling and hairsplitting made the Talmudic books more intricate and less intelligible to the greater body of Jewry. Where the Sephardim wanted Jewish scholarship to be available to all Jews, albeit in a simplified codification, the Ashkenazic community wanted study and training in Torah and Talmud to be the central role of Jewish Life; leaving Rabbis central to Rabbinic Judaism and interpretation of Talmudic sources.

Notable students of Alfasi include Judah HaLevi and the Rambam's father Rabbi Yosef ben Maimon. Maimonides later wrote that Alfasi's work "has superseded all the geonic codes…for it contains all the decisions and laws which we need in our day…"

Many consider Isaac Alfasi the first of the Rishonim. Please note that Isaac Alfasi is no relation of Karaite grammarians and commentators including David ben Abraham al-Fasi (and his son Abraham ben David al-Fasi), who were well-known Karaite critics of Saadia Gaon and other Rabbinates. Isaac Alfasi bolsters the path of Rabbinic Judaism with his polemics against Karaism.

[edit] Solomon ibn Gabirol

Solomon Ibn Gabirol (a/k/a Avicebron, a/k/a Abu Ayyūb Suleiman ibn Yahya ibn Jabirūl, a/k/a Solomon ben Judah, a/k/a Shlomo ben Yehuda ibn Gevirol). He was born in Málaga about 1021, died about 1058 in Valencia. He was influenced by Plato. His classic work on philosophy was Mekor Chayim, "The Source of Life". His work on ethics is entitled Tikkun Middot HaNefesh, "Correcting the Qualities of the Soul". Little is known of his youth, but piyyutim for Samuel ibn Naghrela and Hai Gaon seem to indicate that he was educated in Rationalist Philosophy which he later shed.

In Ibn Gabirol's work Plato is the only philosopher referred to by name. Characteristic of the philosophy of both Ibn Gabirol and Plato, is the conception of a "Middle Being" between God and the world, between species and individual. Aristotle had already formulated his objection to the Platonic theory of ideas, because it lacked an intermediary or third being between God and the universe, between form and matter. This "third man," this link between incorporeal substances (ideas) and idealess bodies (matter), is, with Philo, the Logos; with Gabirol it is the divine will. Philo gives the problem an intellectual aspect; while Ibn Gabirol conceives it as a matter of volition, approximating thus to such modern thinkers as Schopenhauer and Wundt.

Ibn Gabirol was one of the first teachers of Neoplatonism in Europe. His role has been compared to that of Philo. Philo had served as the intermediary between Greek philosophy and the Oriental world; a thousand years later Ibn Gabirol occidentalized Greco-Arabic philosophy and restored it to Europe. The philosophical teachings of Philo and Ibn Gabirol were largely ignored by their fellow Jews; the parallel may be extended by adding that Philo and Gabirol alike exercised considerable influence in secular circles: Philo upon early Christianity, and Ibn Gabirol upon the scholasticism of medieval Christianity.

Ibn Gabirol's philosophy made little impression on Maimonidean Rationalist Jewish philosophy. His greatest impact is in the area of the Jewish liturgy. His work is quoted by Moses ibn Ezra and Abraham ibn Ezra. Christian scholastics, including Albertus Magnus and his pupil, Thomas Aquinas, defer to him frequently.

[edit] Abraham bar-Hiyya Ha-Nasi

Abraham bar Ḥiyya (a/k/a Abraham son of [Rabbi] Hiyya "the Prince" Sâhib ash-Shurta, a/k/a Savasorda (from the Arabic صاحب الشرطة Sâhib ash-Shurta "Chief of the Guard") was born 1070 in Barcelona, Al-Andalus – died 1136 Provence, France. He was a student of his father Hiyya al-Daudi Ha-Nasi - this line of scholasticism traces to Saadia Gaon through Yehuda ben David ben Zakkai. Abraham bar Ḥiyya and Abraham ibn Ezra, jointly occupy an important place in the history of Jewish science. Abraham bar Ḥiyya was, indeed, one of the most important figures in the scientific movement which made the Jews of Provence, Spain, and Italy the intermediaries between Averroism, Mutazilites and the Christian world. He aided this movement not only by original works, but also by translations and by acting as interpreter for another great translator, the celebrated Plato of Tivoli. His two (2) most important original Philosophical work, written in Hebrew - not Arabic, are:

  • הגיון הנפש ("Meditation of the Soul"), an ethical work written in a rationalistic religious basis. It was published in 1860 by Freimann, with a biography of the author (by the editor), a list of his works, and an introduction by Rapoport.

His most well-known student was Abraham Ibn Ezra.

[edit] Nethanel al-Fayyumi

Natan'el al-Fayyumi[13] (a/k/a Natan'el al-Fayyumi, a/k/a Netan'el Ibn al-Fayyumi, a/k/a Nethanael ben al-Fayyumi), born about 1090 - died about 1165, of Yemen was the twelfth-century author of Bustan al-Uqul (Garden of Intellects), a Jewish version of Ismaili Shi'ite doctrines. Like the Ismailis, Nethanel al-Fayyumi argued that God sent different prophets to the various nations of the world, containing legislations suited to the particular temperament of each individual nation. Each people should remain loyal to its own religion, because the universal teaching was adapted to the specific conditions and experiences of each community. Not all Jewish depictions of the Prophet Mohammad were malicious. Jews who lived in environments governed by Ismaili Shi'ites, did not view them as enemies - and visa-versa.

Ismaili teachings speak of an evolutionary sequence of prophetic revelations, which will culminate in the era of the messianic Qa'im who will unite all humanity in acknowledging the one God. Ismaili doctrine acknowledges that a single universal religious truth lies at the root of the different religions; and that each of the historical revelations plays a role in preparing the path for that universal truth. There were Jews who accepted this model of religious pluralism, leading them to view Muhammad as a legitimate prophet, albeit not Jewish, sent to preach to the Arabs, just as the Hebrew prophets had been sent to deliver their messages to Israel.

Unfortunately, this idyllic tale of mutual tolerance proved ephemeral. Within a single generation, Nethanel's son Yakob ben Nethanel Ibn al-Fayyumi was compelled to turn to Maimonides, asking urgently for counsel on how to deal with a new wave of religious persecutions and forced conversions that was threatening the Jews of Yemen. The letters and intellectual dialogue between the student Yakob ben Nethanel Ibn al-Fayyumi, and his teacher Maimonides, and Saladin had a lasting effect upon the Jews of Yemen - from that day forward the Baladi Yemenite Jews were Maimonidean Rationalists.

[edit] Bahya ben Joseph ibn Paquda

Bahya ibn Paquda (a/k/a Bahya Ibn Yusuf Ibn Paquda, a/k/a Bahye ben Yosef Ibn Pakuda) lived in Al-Andalus in the first half of the eleventh century. He was a prominent Dayyan and author of the first Jewish system of ethics, written in Arabic in 1040 under the title Al Hidayah ila Faraid al-hulub, "Guide to the Duties of the Heart", and translated into Hebrew by Judah ben Saul ibn Tibbon in 1161-1180 under the title Chovot ha-Levavot, 'Duties of the Heart'.

Though he quotes Saadia Gaon's works frequently, he belongs not to the rationalistic school of the Motazilities whom Saadia follows, but, like his somewhat younger contemporary, Solomon ibn Gabirol (1021-1070), is an adherent of Neoplatonic mysticism. He often followed the method of the Arabian encyclopedists known as "the Brethren of Purity" but tends to adopt some of the Sufi tenets rather than the Ismaili. Inclined to contemplative mysticism and asceticism, Bahya eliminated from his system every element that he felt might obscure monotheism, or might interfere with Jewish law. He wanted to present a religious system at once lofty and pure and in full accord with reason.

ibn Paquda's Religious Philosophy, the Ḥobot ha-Lebabot is divided into ten sections termed "gates," corresponding to the ten fundamental principles which, according to his view, constitute man's spiritual life. The essence of all spirituality being the recognition of God as the one maker and designer of all things, Baḥya makes the "Sha'ar ha-Yiḥud" (Gate of the Divine Unity, or of the monotheistic faith) the first and foremost section. Taking the Jewish Confession, "Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God the Lord is One," as a starting-point, the author emphasizes the fact that for religious life it is not so much a matter of the intellect to know God as it is a matter of the heart to own and to love Him. Yet it is not sufficient to accept this belief in God without thinking, as the child does, or because the fathers have taught so, as do the blind believers in tradition, who have no opinion of their own and are led by others. Nor should the belief in God be such as might in any way be liable to be understood in a corporeal or anthropomorphic sense, but it should rest on conviction which is the result of the most comprehensive knowledge and research. Far from demanding blind belief—which is anything but meritorious—the Torah, on the contrary, appeals to reason and knowledge as proofs of God's existence, as is shown in Deuteronomy. It is therefore a duty incumbent upon every one to make God an object of speculative reason and knowledge, in order to arrive at true faith.

Baḥya furnishes, in this first gate, a system of religious philosophy that is not entirely new, though somewhat innovative in borrowing from Sufism and Kalam then integrating it into Neo-Platonism. Unfamiliar with Avicenna's works, which replaced Neoplatonic mysticism by clear Aristotelian thought, Baḥya, like all the Arabian philosophers and theologians before him, bases his arguments upon Creation. He starts from the following three premises: (1) Nothing creates itself, since the act of creating necessitates its existence (so also Saadia, "Emunot," i. 2); (2) the causes of things are necessarily limited in number, and lead to the presumption of a first cause which is necessarily self-existent, having neither beginning nor end, because everything that has an end must needs have a beginning; (3) all composite beings have a beginning; and a cause must necessarily be created. The world is beautifully arranged and furnished like a great house, of which the sky forms the ceiling, the earth the floor, the stars the lamps, and man is the proprietor, to whom the three kingdoms—the animal, the vegetable, and the mineral—are submitted for use, each of these being composed of the four elements. Nor does the celestial sphere, composed of a fifth element —"Quinta Essentia," according to Aristotle, and of fire, according to others—make an exception. These four elements themselves are composed of matter and form, of substance and accidental qualities, such as warmth and cold, state of motion and of rest, and so forth. Consequently the universe, being a combination of many forces, must have a creative power as its cause. Nor can the existence of the world be due to mere chance. Where there is purpose manifested, there must have been wisdom at work. Ink spilled accidentally upon a sheet of paper can not produce legible writing.

That Bahya borrowed from Sufism can only be underscored by the fact that the title of the eighth gate, "Muḥasabat al-Nafs" (Self-Examination), is reminiscent of the celebrated Sufi chief Abu Abd Allah Ḥarith Ibn Asad, who has been surnamed El Muḥasib ("the self-examiner"), because—say his biographers—"he was always immersed in introspection"[14]

[edit] Yehuda Ha-Levi and the Kuzari

Rabbi Judah Ha-Levi (a/k/a Yehuda Halevi, a/k/a Yehuda Ben Shmuel ha-Levi) born 1075 – died 1141 - in his polemical work Kuzari made strenuous arguments defending traditional rabbinic Judaism against rival systems including Islam, Christianity and Karaism. Karaism was ascendant in Al Andalus at that time. He was a student of Moses Ibn Ezra whose scholastic training came from Isaac ibn Ghiyyat; though trained as a Rationalist, Judah HaLevi shed its tenets later in life in favor of Neo-Platonism.

The position of Judah ha-Levi in the domain of Jewish philosophy is parallel to that occupied in Islam by Al-Ghazali [Abū Ḥāmid Muḥammad ibn Muḥammad al-Ghazālī (1058-1111)], by whom he was influenced. Like Al-Ghazali, Judah endeavored to liberate religion from the bondage of the various philosophical systems. In a work written in Arabic, and entitled Kitab al-Ḥujjah wal-Dalil fi Nuṣr al-Din al-Dhalil, كتاب الحجة و الدليل في نصرة الدين الذليل, (known in the Hebrew translation of Judah ben Saul ibn Tibbon by the title Sefer ha-Kuzari), Judah ha-Levi expounded upon his view of Judaism, which he defended against the positions of non-Jewish philosophers, against Karaism, Mozarabic Rite Christianity and those he viewed as "heretics" who practiced what he considered distorted means of Torah study. The Kuzari describes representatives of different religions and of philosophy disputing before the king of the Khazars concerning the respective merits of the systems they stand for, the victory being ultimately awarded to Rabbinic Judaism.

Ha-Levi wrote before Maimonides, and it would be anachronistic to regard him as "anti-Maimonidean": rather, Yehuda Halevi's attack was aimed at an unthinking acceptance of the philosophy of Avicenna. However, many of his arguments were reprised by the Anti-Maimonidean movement of the thirteenth century. The anti-Maimonideans considered Maimonidean rationalism equivalent to Karaism and concluded Maimonidean rationalism to be false and illusory - thereby undermining rabbinic tradition including Gaonic Rationalism as expressed by Rav Saadiah Gaon; rather inward illumination based on truths instilled by God in the human soul is considered paramount.

As among the Arabs, Avicenna and Averroes leaned more and more on Aristotle, so among the Jews did Abraham ibn Daud and Maimonides and all of the great minds of Al Andalus until the arrival of Frankish anti-Maimonideans, in Barcelona, who recruited Catholic Dominican monks to burn the writings of Maimonides.[15]

[edit] Abraham ibn Daud

Abraham ibn Daud (a/k/a Avraham ben David Ha-Levi, a/k/a Abraham ben David Halevi ibn Daud, a/k/a Abraham Ibn Daud Ha-Levi, a/k/a Ibrahim ibn Daud al-Daudi a/k/a Rabad I or Ravad I) was a Spanish-Jewish astronomer, historian, and philosopher; born at Toledo, Al-Andalus about 1110-died a martyr abt 1180. He is sometimes known by the abbreviation Rabad I or Ravad I. He himself reported that he was educated by a maternal uncle Rabbi Baruch ben Yitzhak Ibn Albalia who is known to have been a teacher and community leader in Cordova, where he died in 1126. Rabbi Baruch ben Yitzhak Ibn Albalia was taken into the home of, and educated by, Isaac Alfasi after the death of Baruch's father - Rabbi Yitzchak ben Yaakov ben Baruch Ibn Albalia (1035-1094) - a student of Samuel ibn Naghrela.

The family into which Abraham ibn Daud was born was one of the oldest aristocratic Jewish families of Spain. The first ancestor of the family when it settled in Spain was simply called Baruch; he was one of the princes of Judea who was taken captive by Titus, the Roman general (and later emperor) who destroyed Jerusalem. Baruch was an expert silk weaver, and Titus sent him, together with several other prominent exiles from Judea to Spain, which was also under Roman rule at that time. Baruch was to develop the silk industry there and also act as Roman governor of the province of Merida. Later the family moved to Cordova, where Rabbi Baruch ben Yitzhak Ibn Albalia was born nearly 1,000 years after his first ancestor settled in Spain - and thence educated his nephew Abraham ibn Daud. Rabbi Baruch ben Yitzhak Ibn Albalia was sponsored by Samuel ibn Naghrela and thus a student of Hai Gaon, Nissim Gaon and other Rationalists of that period.

Abraham ibn Daud's chronicle, a work written in 1161 under the title of Sefer ha-Kabbalah (Book of Tradition), in which he fiercely attacked the contentions of Karaism and justified Rabbinic Judaism by the establishment of a chain of traditions from Moses to his own time, is replete with valuable general information, especially relating to the time of the Geonim and to the history of the Jews in Al-Andalus. An astronomical work written by him in 1180 is favorably noticed by Isaac Israeli the Younger ("Yesod 'Olam," iv. 18). His philosophical work, Al-'akidah al-Rafiyah (The Sublime Faith), written in 1168, in Arabic, has been preserved in two Hebrew translations: one by Solomon ben Labi, with the title Emunah Ramah; the other by Samuel Motot. Labi's translation was retranslated into German and published by Simshon Weil.

Ibn Daud was not an original thinker, nor did he produce a new philosophy; but he was the first to introduce the phase of Jewish philosophy which is generally attributed to Maimonides and which differs from former systems of philosophy mainly in its more thorough systematic form derived from Aristotle. Accordingly, Hasdai Crescas mentions Ibn Daud as the only Jewish philosopher among the predecessors of Maimonides (Or Adonai, ch. i.). But having been completely overshadowed by Maimonides' classical work, the Moreh Nebukim, Abraham ibn Daud's Emunah Ramah ("Sublime Faith"), a work to which Maimonides himself was indebted for many valuable suggestions, received scant notice from later philosophers.

The only Jewish philosophical works that Ibn Daud had before him, according to his own statement ("Emunah Ramah," p. 2, or in German trans., p. 3), were Saadia's Emunot we-De'ot, and "The Fountain of Life" by Solomon ibn Gabirol. On one hand, Ibn Daud fully recognizes the merits of Saadia Gaon, although he does not adopt his views on the freedom of the will, notwithstanding that the solution of this problem was to be the chief aim and purpose of his whole system ("Emunah Ramah," p. 98; German trans., p. 125). On the other hand, his attitude toward Gabirol is entirely antagonistic, and even in the preface to his "Emunah Ramah" he pitilessly condemns Gabirol's "Fountain of Life." See Kaufmann, "Studien über Solomon ibn Gabirol," Budapest, 1899.

Being the first strict Aristotelian among Jews who considered Aristotle, and his Arabic commentators (Alfarabi and Ibn Sina), to be the only true philosophers — Ibn Daud feels himself provoked to constant opposition by the doctrines of Ibn Gabirol, who represents the Neoplatonic philosophy. Impartial enough to accord to childlike faith its full rights, Ibn Daud desires also to defend the rights of reason, and, consequently, resists with the utmost energy any attempt to set bounds to science; regarding this as a culpable encroachment upon the plan of the Divine Ruler, who did not endow man with the faculty of thought without intent.

True philosophy, according to Ibn Daud, does not entice us from religion; it tends rather to strengthen and solidify it. Moreover, it is the duty of every thinking Jew to become acquainted with the harmony existing between the fundamental doctrines of Judaism and those of philosophy, and, wherever they seem to contradict one another, to seek a mode of reconciling them. Ibn Daud insists that, however highly philosophy may be valued, the religion of Judaism is preferable.

It has not yet been established with any certainty whether Abraham ibn Daud is one and the same person as the twelfth-century Arabic-Latin translator Avendauth, also known as “Avendeut philosophus israelita”, who collaborated with Dominicus Gundissalinus in Toledo. However, the fact that three of Ibn Daud's major sources relate to the translation activities of Avendauth and Gundissalinus seems to suggest that they are indeed the same person.

Abraham ibn Daud's importance lies in the fact that he was the first to present a coherent systematic interpretation of Judaism in light of the new challenge, namely Muslim Aristotelianism. The sustained use of Aristotelian doctrines and logical reasoning clearly distinguishes ER from the writings of earlier Jewish philosophers. Moreover, the manner in which he incorporates his Muslim (and to a lesser extent) Jewish sources in a carefully structured system in order to solve a religious problem is noteworthy. His thought develops along the following lines: substance – form – motion and transition from potentiality into actuality – soul – God – intelligences – prophet – freedom of the will – correspondence between correct knowledge and correct conduct – perfection.

Nonetheless, it should be noted that Ibn Daud's reasoning contains quite a few loose ends; harmony between religion and philosophy is not always achieved. Cases in point are 1) his ambiguous position with regard to the origin and status of matter and 2) the way in which he skirts around the issue of creation versus emanation. The inconsistencies and undetermined issues in Emunah Ramah are partly the result of the influence of neo-Platonism. The Aristotelianism of the Muslim peripatetics still contains an appreciable number of neo-Platonic notions that had an impact on Ibn Daud's thinking. Arfa's evaluation of Ibn Daud's philosophic activity “at the point where it has rejected neo-Platonism but has not yet freed itself of many of its fundamental doctrines and thought habits, and on the other hand has espoused Aristotelianism but has not yet assimilated the full meaning of its world outlook” hits the nail right on the head. For another part, the apparent flaws in Ibn Daud's reasoning are due to his conception of philosophical knowledge as the foundation on which religion should be built. For all the importance he attaches to the use of philosophical speculation, his bias is religious, which explains why he remains vague about, or to omitting entirely, Aristotelian doctrines such as the eternity of motion. When harmony between religion and philosophy cannot be reconciled, Ibn Daud retreats from accepting the consequences of Aristotle's doctrines and instead seeks refuge in the limitations of the human intellect, claiming that "philosophers tend to overreach themselves". This weakness in his reasoning notwithstanding, Ibn Daud's significance for the development of Jewish philosophy can hardly be understated.

[edit] The Rambam - Maimonides

Rabbi Moshe ben Maimon, a/k/a Maimonides, a/k/a The Rambam, a/k/a ʼAbū ʻImrān Mūsā bin Maymūn ibn ʻAbdallāh al-Qurtubiyy al-ʼIsrāʼīliyy, a/k/a Mūsā ibn Maymūn, a/k/a Moshe ben Maimon ben Yosef ben Yitzhak ben Yosef ben Obadiah ben Solomon ben Obadia (born 1135 Cordoba, Al-Andalus - died 1204 Fustat, Egypt), רבי משה בן מיימון, known commonly by his Greek name Maimonides, was a Jewish rabbi, physician, and philosopher.

Rambam's father, Rabbi Maimon ben Yosef, was a student of Yehosef ben Meir Ha-Levi Ibn Migas (Joseph ibn Migash) - Joseph ibn Migash, in turn, was a notable student of the Rif Isaac Alfasi; stories which suggest the Rambam was a student of Ibn Migas are not verifiable since Rambam was only 11 years old at the time of Ibn Migas's death. Scholars point to Rambam's frequent mention of Joseph ibn Migash in his works as the source of this misunderstanding. To be clear, Rambam was a student of his father, Rabbi Maimon ben Yosef, the Great Dayan of Cordoba, Al-Andalus; when teh family fled Spain for Fex, Maimonides was enrolled in the Academy of Fez and learned under Rabbi Yehuda Ha-Kohen Ibn Soussan - a student of Isaac Alfasi.

Through the Guide for the Perplexed and the philosophical introductions to sections of his commentaries on the Mishnah, Maimonides exerted an important influence on the Rationalist philosophers of Judaism. The Rambam was a Jewish Rationalist who was educated more by reading the works of Arab Muslim philosophers than by personal contact with Arabian teachers, he acquired an intimate acquaintance not only with Arab Muslim philosophy, but with the doctrines of Aristotle. Maimonides strove to reconcile Aristotelian philosophy and science with the teachings of the Torah. In some ways his position was parallel to that of Averroes: in reaction to the attacks of those like Ha-Levi and al-Ghazali on the Avicennian version of Aristotelianism, he embraced and defended a stricter Aristotelianism without its Neoplatonic additions.

Maimonides held that no positive attributes can be predicated of God. The number of His attributes would seem to prejudice the unity of God. In order to preserve this doctrine undiminished, all anthropomorphic attributes, such as existence, life, power, will, knowledge - the usual positive attributes of God in the Kalâm - must be avoided in speaking of Him. Between the attributes of God and those of man there is no other similarity than one of words (homonymy), no similarity of essence ("Guide," I 35, 56). The negative attributes imply that nothing can be known concerning the true being of God, which is what Maimonides really means. Just as Kant declares the Thing-in-itself to be unknowable, so Maimonides declares that of God it can only be said that He is, not what He is.

Maimonides wrote his thirteen principles of faith, which he stated that all Jews were obligated to believe. The first five deal with knowledge of the Creator. The next four deal with prophecy and the Divine Origin of the Torah. The last four deal with Reward, Punishment and the ultimate redemption.

The principle which inspired all of Maimonides' philosophical activity was identical those of Abraham Ibn Daud: there can be no contradiction between the truths which God has revealed and the findings of the human mind in science and philosophy. Moreover, by science and philosophy he understood the science and philosophy of Aristotle. In some important points, however, he departed from the teaching of the Aristotelian text, holding, for instance, that the world is not eternal, as Aristotle taught, but was created ex nihilo'.

What is commonly overlooked by contemporary Jewish Scholars, and educators, is that Maimonides' works were excommunicated by Solomon ben Abraham of Montpellier. Why excommunicate Maimonides' works and not the man? Maimonides was too well-known, a Nagid and respected among Jews, Christians and Muslims. This excommunication of Maimonides' works divided Judaism into two hostile camps - Maimonidean and anti-Maimonidean. Solomon ben Abraham of Montpellier had sufficient philosophical training which enabled him to recognize the importance of Maimonides' ideas, and the contradictions existing between the latter's conception of Judaism and that of more parochial Talmudists with whom Solomon ben Abraham of Montpellier studied. Solomon ben Abraham of Montpellier regarded the works of Maimonides as heretical; he knew enough to understand that he would be powerless to challenge Maimonides' great authority and against his numerous supporters. He therefore sought allies; but his demands for the injunction against scientific studies found little support among the scholars of southern France and most of Al Andalus, only two of his pupils, Yonah Gerondi (Nahmanides' cousin) and David ben Saul, joining him. So these three (3) men wrote the Cherem surrounding the works of Maimonides.

In 1232, in response to the excommunication of Maimonides works Bahiel ben Moses, wrote an appeal against such excommunication to the Jewish congregations of Aragon to, in retaliation, recognize the excommunication pronounced upon Solomon ben Abraham of Montpellier and his associates. The Maimonideans sent the highly respected translator/grammarian/Talmudist David Kimhi [the Radak] south into Aragon and Castile to state their case, while the anti-Maimonideans circulated Nahmanides [the Ramban] in Gerona, and others whom they had reason to believe sympathetic. In Aragon most of the leading Aljamans (Saragossa, Huesca, Monzon, Calatayud, and Lerida) joined in the excommunication of Solomon ben Abraham of Montpellier under the influence of the powerful Alconstantini family (The Alconstantini family were Jewish courtiers in 13th-century Aragon possibly originating from Constantine, North Africa. Nahmanides refers to them disapprovingly as "the Ishmaelites of the court."), and especially its leaders, Moses Alconstantini, the physician/politician Bahya ben Moses (Bahiel ben Moses a/k/a Don Bahiel al-Constantini and his brother Solomon Bahiel ben Moses) a/k/a Don Solomao al-Constantini (see Jewish community of Calatayud)[16]. In Castile, however, the excommunication of Solomon ben Abraham of Montpellier met with little approval --- the unsympathetic position taken by anti-Maimonidean physician Judah ibn Alfakhar (anti-Karaite polemist) largely being responsible - Judah Ibn Alfakhar viewed Maimonidean rationalism as similar to Ananite Karaism.

The reason for the excommunication of Solomon ben Abraham of Montpellier was due to his recruiting Christian Dominican monks to burn the works of Maimonides and the Talmud - this mortified the Jewish Communities. Solomon was not satisfied with burning the works of Maimonides so long as Maimonides' admirers were still alive. Solomon denounced them to the authorities. It seems, however, that the Maimonideans, with the help of friends in the court of King James I of Aragon, repaid Solomon ben Abraham of Montpellier in-kind. Several supporters of Solomon ben Abraham of Montpellier had their tongues cut out. The ultimate fate of Solomon ben Abraham of Montpellier is not known.

Curiously, one of Maimonides' greatest detractors, Yonah Gerondi, was the instigator of the public burning of Maimonides' writings by order of the authorities at Paris in 1233, and the indignation which this aroused among all classes of Jews was mainly directed against him. Subsequently (not forty days afterward, as a tradition has it, but in 1242; see note 5 to H. Grätz, Geschichte, vol. vii.), when twenty-four wagon-loads of Talmuds were burned at the same place where the philosophical writings of Maimonides had been destroyed, Gerondi saw the folly and danger of appealing to Christian ecclesiastical authorities on questions of Jewish doctrine, and publicly admitted in the synagogue of Montpellier that he had been wrong in all his acts against the works and fame of Maimonides.

Later in his life, around 1165 CE, his entire family left Morocco, after fleeing Al-Andalus, and moved to Israel, although difficulties forced the family to leave Israel for Egypt. After the death of Rambam's father, the family settled in Fostat (old Cairo). At that time, the Karaites exerted strong influence on Egyptian Jewry, and Rambam fought them with all the weapons at his disposal.

The publisher of the Maimonides' Mishneh Torah, in Hebrew, was Moshe Shaltiel a descendant of the Perfet branch of Mar Shaltiel's family in Barcelona[17] Maimonides relied on the Aleppo Codex when he formulated the Mishneh Torah, as he explains in the conclusion to that section: “In these matters we relied upon the codex, now in Egypt, which contains the twenty-four books of Scripture and which had been in Jerusalem for several years. It was used as the standard text in the correction of books. Everyone relied on it, because it had been corrected by Ben Asher himself, who worked on its details closely for many years and corrected it many times whenever it was being copied. And I relied upon it in the Torah scroll that I wrote according to Jewish Law” (Sefer Ahavah, Hilkhot Sefer Torah 8:4).

[edit] Jewish philosophy after Maimonides

Jewish community controversies concentrated on the themes of Maimonides. Maimonides initiated the controversies himself when he attacked the geonim, honorary title of leaders of Jewish academies, by describing the "Gaon of Baghdad" Samuel ben Ali Ha-Levi al-Dastur as "one whom people accustom from his youth to believe that there is none like him in his generation," and he sharply attack the "monetary demands" of the academies. To Illustrate this point, Samuel ben Ali ha-Levi al-Dastur, the chief opponent of Maimonides in the East, was excommunicated by Daud Ibn Hodaya al Daudi (Exilarch of Mosul). Samuel ben Ali ha-Levi al-Dastur of Bagdad was an anti-maimonidean operating in Babylon to undermine the works of Maimonides and those of Maimonides' patrons (the Al-Constantini Family from North Africa).

In return, Maimonides' Mishneh Torah was fiercely condemned by Abraham ben David of Posquieres; and scholars such as Meir Abulafia were appalled by Maimonides' rejection of the doctrine of the "resurrection of the dead." A cherem, excommunicatory ban, was pronounced on Maimonides' philosophical works.

The controversy was begun while Maimonides was still alive by Meir Abulafia (a/k/a Meir ben Todros Ha-Levi Abulafia). Outraged by Maimonides' apparent disbelief in physical resurrection of the dead, Abulafia wrote a series of letters to the French Jews in Lunel. To his shock and disappointment, they supported Maimonides. When Nahmanides wanted to renew the controversy thirty years later, Rabbi Abulafia refused to participate. Rabbi Abulafia opposed the study of philosophy in entirety. Nahmanides was aware that Maimonides' ideas were welcomed by the assimilated and prosperous Jews of Spain and Provence, and argued that "but for the fact they lived out of the mouth of his works…they would have slipped almost entirely." Nonetheless, Nahmanides believed that Maimonides' ideas were heretical - and actively engaged in bolstering anti-Maimonidean sentiment within the Jewish Communities of Europe and Persia.

In the West, the controversy was halted (the first time) by the burning of Maimonides' books by Christian Dominicans, in 1232. Avraham son of Rambam (Abraham ben Moses ben Maimon), Maimonides' son, continued fighting for his father's beliefs in the East. In the East, desecration of Maimonides' tomb, at Tiberias, was a profound shock to Jews throughout the Diaspora and caused all to pause and reflect upon what was being done to the fabric of Jewish Culture.

The controversy flared up once more at the beginning of the fourteenth century when Rabbi Solomon ben Abraham Adret a/k/a Shlomo ben Aderet, under unfluence from Asher ben Jehiel (a revered Talmudist) issued a herem on "any member of the community who, being under twenty-five years, shall study the works of the Greeks on natural science and metaphysics." Such tension between the anti-Maimonideans and Maimonideans continues to this day. Evidence of this running dispute can be seen in sixteenth-century disputes between Moses Isserles and Solomon ben Jehiel Luria - and in the 21st Century in the disputes that occur between, among many such disputes, Neturei Karta and the overwhelming body of zionist World Jewry, the controversies surrounding Haredi Jewish communities disputing the validity of Orthodox conversions, and the belief among many Haredi Jews that the world is only 5770 years old, which contrasts with a scientifically derived estimate ranging in many billions of years accepted by less parochial belief structures and the greater body of mankind.

The Maimonidean controversy is simultaneously essential to understanding Jewish Cultural differences at the heart of Jewish culture and, at the same time, center-stage in explaining the problems which plague Judaism, Islam, and Christianity alike.

[edit] Yosef ben Yehuda of Ceuta

Yosef Ibn Yehuda of Ceuta (a/k/a Joseph ben Judah of Ceuta a/k/a Yusuf bin Yehud al-Israi'li [18], a/k/a Yusuf bin Yehud al-Sabta, a/k/a Yosef Ben Yehuda al-Sabta) was born about 1160 in Ceuta - died 1226 in Aleppo. He was a student and disciple of Maimonides; it is for him that Guide for the Perplexed is written. Yosef had a hungry mind, he traveled from Alexandria to Fustat (Cairo) and studied logic, mathematics, and astronomy under Maimonides. Maimonides likewise expounded the writings of the Prophets, because Yosef ben Yehuda of Ceuta seemed perplexed as to the possibility of reconciling the teachings of the Prophets with the results of metaphysical research. Maimonides advised patience and systematic study; but the disciple left before Maimonides had completed his course of lectures on the Prophets (Maimonides, "Moreh Nebukim,"). His stay with Maimonides was short - less than two years.

Yosef ben Judah of Cueta went further east and settled in Aleppo (Halab - Aram Tsoba). Here he established himself as a medical practitioner, married, and made a successful commercial journey which enabled him to live independently and free from care. It was probably in the course of this journey that he witnessed, in Baghdad, the burning of the works of the Muslim philosopher 'Abd al-Salam.

Yosef abandoned his other pursuits and wished to open a school to teach what he learned from Maimonides. Maimonides dissuaded him from the undertaking, unless he should do it without seeking material profit from his teaching. When, thirty years later, Al-Ḥarizi visited Aleppo (1217) he found Yosef in the zenith of his glory. He praised him as the "Western light," and applied to him the words of Scripture, "and Yosef was ruler over the whole land; he supplied food for all" ("Taḥkemoni," xlvi., l.). He must indeed have had great authority when he defended his master and silenced the opposition expressed by some rabbis in Bagdad against the works of Maimonides. Maimonides exhorted Yosef to moderation, begging him, being young in years, not to oppose an old rabbi whose authority was recognized in the congregation (see "Birkat Abraham," Lyck, 1859; "Zikronot," ii.: a letter written by Maimonides in 1192).

[edit] Shemtob Ben Joseph Ibn Falaquera

Shem-Tov ben Joseph ibn Falaquera (a/k/a Shem-Tov ibn Falaquera, a/k/a Shem-Tov ibn Palquera, a/k/a Shem Tob Ibn Falaquera, a/k/a Shem Tob ben Joseph Palquera, a/k/a Shem Tob Ibn Falqerah, a/k/a Ibn Palquera) was born 1225 – died 1290. He was a Spanish-born Jewish philosopher and translator who propagated a reconciliation between Jewish Orthodoxy and philosophy and defended Maimonides’ Guide for the Perplexed against the attacks of the anti-Maimonideans. We do not know where he was born nor do we know where he died - scholars speculate he was born in Cordoba, and spent his later years near Narbonne. Still others scholars speculate that he was a student of Rabbi David Kimhi whose family fled Spain to Narbonne[19].

His numerous works include Dialogue Between a Philosopher and a Man of Piety; an ethical treatise known as The Balm of Sorrow; an introduction to the study of the sciences entitled Reshit ḥokhma (“The Beginning of Wisdom”), which reproduces al-Farabi’s Aims of the Philosophy of Plato and Aristotle and which was translated into Latin at the end of the 15th century; Sefer ha-maʿalot (“Book of Degrees”), which advocates the Neoplatonic ideal of the contemplative life; a commentary on Maimonides’ Guide under the title More ha-more (“Guide of the Guide”); and an abstract of Ibn Gabirol’s influential Fons vitae in Hebrew.

As is clear from his encyclopedia of science Reshit ḥokhma, he was a post-Maimonidean Rationalist; his two leading philosophic authorities were Averroes and Maimonides. Nonetheless, Ibn Falaquera had an open mind when it came to Neo-Platonic writings - proof is found in his decision to write Hebrew versions of Ibn Gabirol's Fons vitae and Pseudo-Empedocles' Five Substances, and from his many citations from Ibn Gabirol in his Moreh ha-Moreh. He knew the works of the Islamic philosophers better than any Jewish scholar of his time, and made many of them available to his co-religionists – often without attribution (as in Reshit Hokhmah). Ibn Falaquera did not hesitate to modify Islamic philosophic texts their texts when it suited his purposes. For example, he turned Alfarabi's account of the origin of philosophic religion into a discussion of the origin of the "virtuous city".

[edit] Gersonides

Rabbi Levi ben Gershon (a/k/a Gersonides, a/k/a Ralbag, a/k/a Leo Hebraeus, (1288-1345) is best known for his work Milhamot HaShem (or just Milchamot), ("Wars of the Lord"). Among scholastics, Gersonides was perhaps the most advanced; he placed reason above tradition. The Milhamot HaShem is modelled after the Guide for the Perplexed of Maimonides. It may be seen as an elaborate criticism from a philosophical point of view (mainly Averroistic) of the syncretism of Aristotelianism and Jewish orthodoxy as presented in that work. Gersonides was a student of his father Gerson ben Solomon of Arles (a/k/a Gerson ben Solomon Catalan). Gersonides' father followed the scholastic steps taken by Shem-Tov ibn Falaquera, he divided his work into three parts, dealing respectively with: (1) physics, including a chapter on dreams; (2) astronomy, taken chiefly from Al-Fergani; and (3) theology or metaphysics, which part, as Catalan expressly says, contains nothing new, but is a copy of Maimonides' Book of the Soul. Gersonides and his father were avid students of the works of Alexander of Aphrodisias, Aristotle, Empedocles, Galen, Hippocrates, Homer, Plato, Ptolemy, Pythagoras, Themistius,Theophrastus, Ali ibn Abbas al-Magusi, Ali ibn Ridwan, Averroes, Avicenna, Qusta ibn Luqa, Al-Farabi, Al-Fergani, Chonain, Isaac Israeli, Ibn Tufail, Ibn Zuhr, Isaac Alfasi, and Maimonides.

Gersonides held that God does not have complete foreknowledge of human acts. "Gersonides, bothered by the old question of how God's foreknowledge is compatible with human freedom, holds that what God knows beforehand is all the choices open to each individual. God does not know, however, which choice the individual, in his freedom, will make." - It should be noted however that this interpretation of Gersonides' view originates from a non strictly-Orthodox perspective (that of Louis Jacobs, see footnote, who was the creator of Conservative Judaism) and thus is likely not widely accepted.[20]

A Jewish proponent of self-limited omniscience was Abraham ibn Daud. "Whereas the earlier Jewish philosophers extended the omniscience of God to include the free acts of man, and had argued that human freedom of decision was not affected by God's foreknowledge of its results, Ibn Daud, evidently following Alexander of Aphrodisias, excludes human action from divine foreknowledge. God, he holds, limited his omniscience even as He limited His omnipotence in regard to human acts".

"The view that God does not have foreknowledge of moral decisions which was advanced by ibn Daud and Gersonides (Levi ben Gershom) is not quite as isolated as Rabbi Bleich indicates, and it enjoys the support of two highly respected Achronim, Rabbi Yeshayahu Horowitz (Shelah haKadosh) and Rabbi Chaim ibn Attar (Or haHayim haKadosh). The former takes the views that God cannot know which moral choices people will make, but this does not impair His perfection. The latter considers that God could know the future if He wished, but deliberately refrains from using this ability in order to avoid the conflict with free will."[21]

Rabbi Isaiah Horowitz explained the apparent paradox of his position by citing the old question, "Can God create a rock so heavy that He cannot pick it up?" He said that we cannot accept free choice as a creation of God's, and simultaneously question its logical compatibility with omnipotence.

[edit] Moses Narboni

Moses ben Joshua (a/k/a Moshe ben Yehoshua, a/k/a Moses of Narbonne, a/k/a Maestro Vidal Blasom, a/k/a Moses Narboni), bonr abt 1297 - died abt 1363, was a scholar and philosopher who mainly composed commentaries on Islamic philosophical works. Moses was an admirer of Averroes; he devoted a great deal of study to his works and wrote commentaries on a number of them. Perhaps ben Joshua's best know work is his "Treatise on the Perfection of the Soul." He began studying philosophy with his father when he was thirteen and then studied with Moses ben David Caslari and Abraham ben David Caslari - both of whom were students of Kalonymus ben Kalonymus.

He believed that Judaism was a guide to the highest degree of theoretical and moral truth. In common with others of his era he believed that the Torah had both a simple, direct meaning accessible to the average reader as well as a deeper, metaphysical meaning accessible to thinkers. He rejected the belief in miracles, instead believing they could be explained, and defended man's free will by philosophical arguments.

Of particular note are Moses Narboni's following works -

1. "Perush mi-Millot ha-Higgayon," on the terminology of Maimonides' "Guide for the Perplexed"
2. a commentary on the "Guide for the Perplexed"
3. "Ma'amar Alexander be-Sekel," supercommentary on Averroes' commentary on Alexander of Aphrodisias' work on the intellect
4. a commentary on Averroes' "middle" commentary on Aristotle's "Physics"
5. a commentary on Averroes' paraphrase of the "Organon"
6. a commentary on the fourth part of Avicenna's "Canon"

[edit] Isaac ben Sheshet Barfat

Isaac ben Sheshet Barfat[22] (a/k/a Yitshak Barcheshet, a/k/a Yitzhak ben Sheshet Perfet, a/k/a Isaac ben Sheshet Perfet) was a Spanish Talmudic authority who was born on Island of Majorca in 1326; died at Algiers in 1408. He studied under Hasdai Crescas and Rabbi Nissim ben Reuben Gerondi ("The RaN"), for whom he professed, throughout his life, the greatest veneration and admiration.

We should note that Sheshet's teacher, Nissim ben Reuben Gerondi, was an ardent Maimonidean Rationalist who did not hesitate to refute leading authorities, such as Rashi, Rabbeinu Tam, Maimonides, Moses ben Nahman, and Solomon ben Adret. Nissim wrote a philosophical work containing twelve homilies ("derashot"), displaying in this small volume his familiarity with philosophy, especially with that of Maimonides and Abraham Ibn Ezra. He was no friend of mysticism, and even reproved Nahmanides (RaMBaN) for devoting too much time to the esoteric methods of Kabbalah.

Isaac had a global reputation as a Talmudic authority, and halakic inquiries were addressed to him from all Jewish communitites.He earned a living as a shop owner until he was about fifty years old, when he was compelled to accept a position as rabbi. Together with six other prominent men of Barcelona, among whom was his younger brother Judah ben Sheshet and his teacher Nissim ben Reuben Gerondi, he was thrown into prison on a false accusation. After his acquittal he accepted the rabbinate of Saragossa. Dissensions in the community, stirred up by the dayyan Joseph ben David, compelled Isaac to accept the less important rabbinate of Calatayud; just as he was about to leave Saragossa the leaders of that community induced him to stay. Peace, however, did not remain long undisturbed, and Isaac eventually settled at Valencia, where he directed a Talmudical school.

In 1391 occurred the great pogroms against Jews of Spain. Isaac saved himself by fleeing to Algiers. However, an anti-Maimonidean Jew, had settled at Algiers before him aspiring to become the leader of the community - he saw Isaac as a rival. This anti-Maimonidean began to persecute him. To give to Isaac the power necessary to act against this man, Saul ha-Kohen Astruc persuaded the government to appoint Isaac rabbi of Algiers. But this won for him a still more powerful enemy in the person of Simeon ben Zemah Duran (a/k/a "the RashBaz"), who disapproved of any intervention on the part of the government in the affairs of the rabbinate. When Isaac died, Rabbi Simeon ben Zemah Duran took over as Chief Rabbi of Algiers.

Isaac ben Sheshet was highly respected by Algerian Jews. His tombstone was restored by the community of Algiers in 1862. It bears a Hebrew elegy, composed by Abba Mari ibn Caspi, and the following French inscription: "Ce monument a été restauré par la communauté Israélite d'Alger en I'honneur du Rabbin Isaac bar Chichat, né en Espagne, décédé à Alger en 1408, dans sa 82 année. Alger le 11 août, 1862." The accuracy of the date of his death given in this epitaph is, however, questioned by some scholars, who claim with some authority that Isaac died at least one year later.

Isaac was the author of 417 responsa, to which great halachic value is attached by men like Joseph Caro, Berab, and many others. They are also of great historical importance as reflecting the conditions of Jewish life in the fourteenth century. In some of them are to be found details of the author's life.

Although Isaac was very strict in his halakic decisions, he was far from being narrow-minded. He has nothing to say against secular knowledge; he disapproves the study of Aristotle only because the latter professed belief in the eternity of matter and denied God's providence. Isaac's responsa evidence a profound knowledge of the philosophical writings of his time. In one of them (No. 118) He explains the difference between the opinion of Levi ben Gershon and that of Abraham ben David of Posquières (RABaD) on free will, and gives his own views on that complicated subject. He shows himself a decided adversary of the Kabbalah. Isaac never spoke of the Sefirot, and Isaac quotes another philosopher when reproaching kabbalists with "believing in the "Ten" (Sefirot) as the Christians believe in the Trinity" (No. 159).

Isaac's responsa were first published, under the title "She'elot u-Teshubot," at Constantinople in 1546-47. A new collection of the responsa was published recently under the title "She'elot u-Teshubot ha-Ribash ha-Ḥadashot" by David Frenkl at Muncas.

[edit] Hasdai ben Judah Crescas

Hasdai Crescas (a/k/a Don Chasdai Cresques, a/k/a Chasdai ben Yehuda Cresques,a/k/a Hasdai ben Judah Cresques, a/k/a Chasdai bin Jehoud al-Bargeloni) was born in Barcelona 1340 – died in Saragossa 1410/1411. He was a Jewish philosopher and a renowned halachist (teacher of Jewish law). Along with Rambam, Ralbag, and Joseph Albo, he is known as one of the major practitioners of the rationalist approach to Jewish philosophy, and his positions on issues of natural law and free will in Or Adonai can be seen as precursors to those of Baruch Spinoza. Hasdai Crescas was a student of Nissim ben Reuben Gerondi, who in turn was a student of Reuben ben Nissim Gerondi.

Hasdai Crescas came from a very wealthy family of scholars and cartographers; he was a disciple of the Talmudist and philosopher Nissim ben Reuben (The RaN). Following in the footsteps of his teacher he became a Talmudic authority and a philosopher of original and innovative reasoning. He is considered important in the history of modern thought for his influence on Baruch Spinoza. Hasdai Crescas was not an official Rabbi, yet he was active as a teacher. Among his fellow students and friends, Isaac ben Sheshet (a/k/a the RIBaSH), famous for his responsa, emerges as his best friend. Joseph Albo is the best known of his pupils, but at least two others have won recognition, Rabbi Mattathias ha-Yiẓhari of Saragossa, and Rabbi Zechariah ben Yitzhak ha-Levi.

Hasdai Crescas was a man of means. As such he was appointed sole executor of the will of his uncle Vitalis Azday by the King of Aragon in 1393. Still, though enjoying the high esteem even of prominent non-Jews, he did not escape the common fate of his coreligionists. Imprisoned upon a false accusation in 1378, he suffered personal indignities because he was a Jew. Despite Crescas' efforts to have his family protected, his only son was murdered in Barcelona. Nevertheless, Crescas he kept his faith.

His concise philosophical work Or Adonai, The Light of the Lord became a classical Jewish refutation of medieval Aristotelianism, and a harbinger of the scientific revolution in the 16th century.

Three of his writings have been preserved

1. His primary work, Or Adonai, The Light of the Lord.
2. An exposition and refutation of the main doctrines of Christianity written in in 1398. Crescas' objective was to explain why Jews held fast to their ancestral faith.
3. A letter to the congregations of Avignon in which he relates the incidents of the persecution of the Jews of Spain in 1391.

[edit] Joseph Albo

Joseph Albo (a/k/a Yosef Albo. a/k/a Yosef Alvo) born 1380 – died 1444. He was a Jewish philosopher and rabbi who lived in Spain during the fifteenth century, known chiefly as the author of Sefer ha-Ikkarim ("Book of Principles"), the classic work on the fundamentals of Judaism. Albo was a student of Hasdai Crescas. Albo limited the fundamental Jewish principles of faith to three -

1. The belief in the existence of God;
2. in revelation; and
3. in divine justice, as related to the idea of immortality.

Albo finds opportunity to criticize the opinions of his predecessors, yet he takes pains to avoid heresy hunting. A remarkable latitude of interpretation is allowed; so much so, that it would indeed be difficult under Albo's theories to impugn the orthodoxy of even the most theologically liberal Jews. Albo rejects the assumption that creation ex nihilo is an essential implication of the belief in God. Albo freely criticizes Maimonides' thirteen principles of belief and Crescas' six principles. According to Albo, the first of his fundamental root-principles, the belief in the existence of God, embraces the following shorashim, or secondary radicals -

1. God's unity
2. God's incorporeality
3. God's independence of time
4. God's perfection: in God there can be neither weakness nor other defect.

The second root-principle—the belief in revelation, or the communication of divine instruction by God to man—leads him to derive the following three secondary radicals:

1. The Hebrew prophets are the mediums of God's revelation
2. The belief in the unique greatness of Moses as a prophet
3. The binding force of Mosaic law until another shall be divulged and proclaimed in as public a manner as Mt Sinai. No later prophet has the right to abrogate the Mosaic Law.

From the third root principle, the belief in divine justice, he derives one secondary radical: the belief in bodily resurrection.

According to Albo, therefore, the belief in the Messiah is only a "twig". It is not necessary to the soundness of the trunk. It is, hence, not an integral part of Judaism. Nor is it true that every law is binding. Though every ordinance has the power of conferring happiness in its observance, it is not true that every law must be observed, or that through the neglect of a part of the law, a Jew would violate the divine covenant or be damned. Observant Jews, however, believe that the Jewish person is divinely obligated to fulfill every applicable commandment.

[edit] Hoter ben Solomon

Hoter ben Shlomo, (a/k/a Hoter ben Shelomo, a/k/a Mansur ibn Sulayman al-Dhamari, a/k/a Mansour ibn Suleiman al-Dhamari, a/k/a Mansur ibn Sulayman al-Ghamari) born abt 1400 - died abt 1480. was a scholar and philosopher in Yemen who was heavily influenced by the earlier works of Nethanel ben al-Fayyumi, Maimonides, Saadia Gaon and al-Ghazali.

The connection between the "Epistle of the Brethren of Purity" and Ismailism might have suggested the adoption of this work as one of the main sources of what would become known as “Jewish Ismailism” as was found in Late Medieval Yemenite Judaism. This “Jewish Ismailism” consisted of adapting to Judaism a few Ismaili doctrines about cosmology, prophecy, and hermeneutics. There are many examples of the Brethren of Purity influencing Yemenite Jewish philosophers and authors in the period 1150-1550.[23]

For example, chapter two of the Judaeo-Arabic theologic-philosophical work by Natanel Ibn al-Fayyumi, "The Garden of Intellects" (Bustan al-‘uqul), written in Yemen in 1165, includes a correspondence between numbers 1-10 and ten scientific and philosophical concepts (soul's faculties, senses, directions, bodily substances and parts, etc.) most of which are identical to those listed by the Brethren of Purity.

Some traces of Brethren of Purity doctrines, as well as of their numerology, are found in two Yemenite philosophical midrashim written in 1420-1430: "The Glad Learning" (Midrash ha-hefez) by Zerahyah ha-Rofé (a/k/a Yahya al-Tabib) and the "Lamp of Intellects" (Siraj al-‘uqul) by Hoter ben Solomon.

[edit] Don Isaac Abravanel

Isaac Abravanel (a/k/a The Abravanel, a/k/a The Abarbanel, a/k/a Don Ishaq, a/k/a Don Yitzhak Abrabanel, a/k/a Yitzhak ben Yehuda ben Shmuel Abravanel al-Daudi, a/k/a Yitzhak ben Yehuda ben Shmuel Abarbanel al-Daudi, a/k/a Abu Ishaq bin Yehoud bin Ismai'il Ibn-b'allah al-Daudi) was born in Lisbon, Portugal 1437 – died in Venice, 1508. The family name is also spelled Abravanel, Abrabanel, Habarbanel, Abarbanel, Barbanel, Barbanello. Isaac Abravanel was a Portuguese Jewish statesman, philosopher, Bible commentator, and financier who commented on Maimonides' thirteen principles in his Rosh Amanah. According to him, if one must reduce Judaism to a set of creedal propositions, Maimonides' attempt cannot be improved upon. At the same time, the actually binding part of Judaism is the entire body of 613 mitzvot rather than any set of beliefs.

Isaac Abravanel was raised in Lisbon Portugal, steeped in Maimonidean Rationalism by its patrons, the Ibn Yahya fmaily, who had a residence immediately adjacent to the Great Synagogue of Lisbon which was built by the Ibn Yahya Family. Isaac was a student of who would be deemed "Renaisance men" in contemporary terms. His teachers were at once physicians, theologians, financiers, advisors to Monarchs and philosophers.

Isaac Abravanel was raised in Lisbon, Portugal after his family fled pogroms against Jews in Castile-Leon. He was a student of the Rabbi of Lisbon, Joseph Chaim a/k/a Yosef ben Shlomo Ibn Yahya[24], poet, religious scholar, rebuilder of Ibn Yahya Synagogue of Calatayud (a descendant of Hiyya al-Daudi who was great-grandson of Hezekiah Gaon), he became well versed in rabbinic literature and in the learning of his time, devoting his early years to the study of Jewish philosophy. The Ibn Yahya family were renowned physicians, Maimonidean Rationalists and accomplished aides to the Portuguese Monarchy for centuries.

The tension between rationalists and anti-rationalists never abated throughout the Middle Ages. Among the beleaguered Jews of 15th-century Christian Spain, Maimonidean rationalism was seen by many as the root cause of the misfortunes and the reason for *apostasy. On the other hand, a man like Abraham *Bibago, throughout his Derekh Emunah, defended rationalism, not only as being justified but as the very essence of Judaism. Proudly calling himself "a pupil of Maimonides," he believed that the Jewish people are the bearers of reason – weak in this world as reason is weak against the unreasonable passions. Generalizing the traditional rationalistic view, he stated:

The reasonable creature having reason has to study the sciences; and being a believer, he will study Torah and acquire faith and its roots and dogmas. The first study will be a kind of carrier and vessel to bear the second study. In the same way that life is an assumption and carrier by which humanity and speech are carried, so through the form of reason – by whose accomplishment one studies and acquires the sciences – Torah study will be assumed and carried. Thus faith will be complete and without doubt, and the one attitude [faith], will not conflict with the other [philosophy]. Therefore did the sages say, 'Reason and faith are two lights.' To solve all doubts we must explain that 'Greek wisdom' cannot be the above-mentioned wisdom of reason belonging to man insofar as he is a man. Hence it is a human wisdom and not a Greek one. The wisdom called (by talmudic sages) 'Greek wisdom,' must be something peculiar to the Greeks and not to another nation [sic. Israel].

That views like this were acceptable also among 16th-century Ashkenazi Jewry is proved by the fact that the Sefer ha-Miknah by Joseph ben Gershom of Rosheim is in reality a kind of synopsis of Bibago's Derekh Emunah. In Renaissance Italy Jehiel ben Samuel Pisa wrote a detailed treatise (Minḥat Kena'ot) against rationalism, while the life and works of many of his contemporaries and countrymen constituted a clear espousal of it. In Poland-Lithuania in the 16th–17th centuries the tension between Maimonideans and anti-Maimonideans likewise continued, as evidenced, for example, by the dispute between Moses Isserles and Solomon ben Jehiel Luria (see Moses Isserles, Resp., nos. 687; and see also his Torat ha-Olah).

What many scholars overlook in the study of Isaac Abravanel is the fact that his grand-father Samuel Abravanel, the richest Jew in Valencia, was forcibly converted to Christianity during the persecutions of 1391 and took the spanish name "Juan Sanchez de Sevilla". Samuel fled Castile-Leon, Spain, in 1397 for Lisbon, Portugal, and reverted to Judaism - shedding his Converso name "Juan Sanchez de Sevilla". These conversions outside Judaism, coersed and otherwise, had a strong impact upon young Isaac - many scholars suspect that this single event compelled Isaac to cling to Judaism, looking for a balance between Kabbalists and Maimonideans, allowing himself to forfeit his immense wealth in an attempt to redeem Iberian Jewry from the Alhambra Decree; a proxy for rescuing Jews from controversy. Isaac Abravanel commented on conversos in the course of his writings. There area parallels between what he writes and documents produced by the Inquisition that present conversos as ambivalent about their new religion and sometimes even ironic in their expressions regarding their new religion - bespeaking behavior of crypto-jews. It is clear that this picture of ambivalence suited Abravanel and he was not alone in such a view of conversos as integral to the Jewish collective and its fate.

The problems of the synthesis between Judaism and other cultures, of the proper content of Jewish education, and of the right way to God – through reason or through mystic union – has remained, though formulations and expressions have changed considerably. The old hierarchical basis of Jewish leadership, wholeheartedly hated by Maimonides, has, by now, disappeared, but the leadership of the individual scholar, even after Maimonides, retained many hierarchical and sacral elements (Smichah). The Mishneh Torah did not supersede the Talmud, and Maimonides' aristocratic opposition to monetary support for Torah study failed to a lesser degree. So strong was Maimonides' personality, however, that most of his opponents made great efforts to say that they opposed not Maimonides himself but some element of his teaching or, better still, some misguided interpretation or citation of his work. The Maimonidean controversy is both very specifically at the heart of Jewish culture and, at the same time, part or a set of problems central to Judaism, Islam, and Christianity alike.

[edit] Leone Ebreo

Judah Leon Abravanel (a/k/a Yehuda ben Yitzhak Abravanel, a/k/a Yehuda ben Yitzhak Abarbanel, a/k/a Yehuda ben Yitzhak Abravanel al-Daudi, , a/k/a Yehud bin Ishaq Ibn-b'allah al-Daudi, a/k/a Leo Hebraeus, a/k/a León Hebreo, a/k/a Leone Ebreo, a/k/a Leo the Hebrew, and יהודה בן יצחק אברבנאל ) (c. 1465 - c. 1523) was a Jewish Portuguese physician, poet and philosopher. His work Dialoghi d'amore (Dialogues of Love) was one of the most important philosophical works of his time. He was born of Spanish Jewish heritage in Lisbon, and wrote his most important work in Italian.

The year 1492 brought a turbulent change to the Abravanel family and to all Jews in Spain, as Isabel and Fernando ordered the conversion or expulsion of all Jews in Spain. Dom Isaac, in a desperate plea, threw himself at the feet of the Catholic Kings and begged them to revoke their decree, but to no avail. He made plans to move his family to Naples, Italy. A plot was hatched to kidnap Judah’s son as an attempt to persuade the Abravanel family to convert to Christianity and, ultimately, to remain in the service of Los Reyes Católicos. In an attempt to circumvent the plot, Judah sent his son to Portugal with a nurse, but by order of the king, the son was seized and baptized. This occurrence was a devastating insult to Judah and to his family, and was a source of bitterness throughout Judah’s life and the topic of his writings years later; especially since this was not the first time the Abravanel Family was subjected to such embarassment at the hands of the Catholic Church.

Through his travels, Judah was well-acquainted with many Italian humanists and with the Neapolitan Court. Some scholars suggest he met Giovanni Pico della Mirandola while in Florence and composed for him a discourse on the “Harmony of the Skies.” If so, he also probably associated with Elia de Medigo, teacher of Pico della Mirandola, Yohanan Alemanno (a Jewish writer influenced by the Medici court and mysticism and author of Song of songs), Giovanni Pontano, Mario Equicola and Dominican Monk Egidio da Viterbo.

Judah Leon surrounded himself with humanists interested in the topic of Love. The Chancellor of Florence, Marsilio Ficino commented on Plato’s Symposium (1474-75), while Girolamo Benivieni composed his Canzone d’amore (1486), which Giovanni Pico della Mirandola analyzed soon after. Equicola’s Libro della natura d’amore (1495), Pietro Bembo’s Asolani and Francesco Cattani da Diacceto’s De amore were published while Judah was writing. Judah's Dialoghi is regarded as the finest of these works. Menéndez Pelayo describes it as the most monumental work of Platonic philosophy since Plotinus's Enneads. Similar to other humanist works, Dialoghi is strongly influenced by Plato and Aristotle. Menéndez Pelayo states that Abravanel employs Platonic ideals in his work, but filtered through his heritage. That is, his Neo-platonism derived from the Hispanic Jewish community, especially the works of Ibn Gabirol and Maimonides. A disciple of these renowned Jewish scholars, Abravanel was also influenced by the Hellenic spirit of the Renaissance. Platonic notions of reaching towards a nearly impossible ideal of beauty, wisdom, and perfection encompass the whole of the work.

In his Dialoghi d'amore, Judah Leon Abravanel seeks to define love in philosophical terms. He structures his three dialogues as a conversation between two abstract and mostly undeveloped “characters”: Philo, representing love or appetite, and Sophia, representing science or wisdom, in other words, Philo+Sophia (philosophy).

Dialoghi d'amore was an important work in Spanish culture as it brought Renaissance ideals to Spain. Otis Green argues in his España y la tradición occidental that in Abravanel's work human love is spiritualized, placing it in connection with divine love, by posing the necessity of going beyond physical union to merge minds and souls.

[edit] Francisco Sanchez

To many scholars, Francisco Sanchez (Francisco Sanches) is the Father of Modern Skepticism; some scholars even go so far as to declare that his work titled Quod Nihil Scitur inaugurates the beginning of Modern Philosophy. Little is known of Francisco Sanchez, born between 1550 CE and 1551 CE, died in 1623 CE; we do not know exactly where he was born nor do we know exactly where he died. We know that his parents were António Sanches, also a physician, and Filipa de Sousa. What we do know is that he lived with his aunt from the age of 12 until the age of 19 (1562 thru 1569); his aunt was married to Antonio Lopez (a member of a powerful converso family in Bordeaux, France). Why Francisco went to live with his aunt is unknown. While in Bordeaux, Francisco Sanchez attended College de Guyenne - an institution frequented by conversos and Jews alike. In 1575 he was appointed a professorship in Medicine at the University of Toulouse.

The philosophical work for which he is most remembered is called Quod Nihil Scitur "That nothing is known" - it was written in 1575 and published in Lyons, France, in 1581 CE. During a period in history when "Judaizing" meant a turn at the stake for burning, Francisco Sanchez only quoted the Tanach and omitted any mention of the Christian Gospels and Epistles.

So what was so special about Sanchez? His goal was to overthrow Greek Idealist Rationalism (a/k/a Aristotelianism) thereby denying that it was ever possible to attain "perfect knowledge" and "certainty" in nature. Contrary to Christian theology which maintains that the soul and body are two (2) distinct realms that can be separated (by burning and torture), Sanchez regarded them as integral, inseparable and part of a single system: the human being. In this respect Sanchez and Maimonides merge in their views of a human being; and it is for this reason that contemporary Jewish scholars view Sanchez as a Converso - a person who outwardly lives life as a Christian yet practices Judaism behind drawn curtains and locked doors.

To (Francisco Sanches), Aristotelian definitions are "fictions, not dissimilar to Platonic ideas. They are abstractions". Out of these fictions, Sanchez theorizes, philosophers web a "fictitious world that no sane or rational mind could actually accept". "Do you call this knowledge?" asked Sanchez. "I call it ignorance". Sanchez rejected Plato's theory of knowledge as recollection. Sanchez also rejected syllogistic reasoning unscientific and manipulative - the conclusion is always clearer and more lucid than the proof leading to the conclusion. According to Sanchez "...what is obtained by means of syllogisms, divisions, predications and similar mental operations is not science". To Sanchez syllogisms are worthless.

This rejection of syllogistic reasoning had deeper impact than simply rhetoric. The epistemology of syllogistic reasoning was crafted by Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274), who maintained that natural human reason participates in the eternal law of God. In response to this method of reasoning championed by Aquinas, (Francisco Sanches) says this:

"Accordingly it seems to me quite stupid, what some have established , that rational demonstrations conclude and necessarily participate in that which is eternal and inviolable"[25]

This harsh criticism of Thomas Aquinas gives us clues to the motives of Francisco Sanches and provide clear insight into his philosophical and theological proclivities.

Since everything produced from syllogistic reasoning is pure gibberish, Sanchez reasoned, he characterized the "scientific" knowledge of his time as a fiction: "every Science is a fiction".[26]

[edit] Uriel da Costa

Gabriel da Costa (c. 1585 – April 1640), as he was originally known, was born into an aristocratic family of "Nueva Cristao" New Christians in the northern Portuguese city of Porto in the early 1580s. His father, Bento da Costa, was a devout Catholic, his mother descended from Jews who had practiced a variant form of Judaism. The family lived in a large home in the best part of the city with servants always at the command. The children were well-educated and Gabriel himself went on to study canon law at the University of Coimbra.

Gabriel da Costa was an independent thinker who struggled against the religious orthodoxy of his day. His nature was to question what others took for granted. A diligent study of the Bible led him to question the Catholic Church's insistence on following certain rituals as a condition for attaining salvation. Further, from his point of view, certain material in the New Testament contradicted material in the Old Testament. Since both Jews and Christians believed in the Old Testament and only Christians in the New Testament, he came to believe in Judaism as the religion that was closest to the truth.

His father died leaving a widow with six (6) sons all filled with a desire to convert to Judaism. Conversion to Judaism, in Portugal, meant the attention of the Inquisitors. So they sold all of their belonging and converted them into portable wealth that could be carried and secretly embarked by ship for Amsterdam. Secrecy was important because all New Christians were required to obtain a special license from the king before leaving the kingdom. Once in Amsterdam, the entire family embraced Judaism, with Gabriel becoming Uriel, and his mother choosing Sarah. Although most published works show his name as "Acosta", he himself signed his name as "Uriel da Costa".

Uriel da Costa is an early proponent of modern biblical criticism. Internal to Jewish communities, he was seen by many as a troublemaking heretic and martyr against the intolerance of the parochial Jewish establishment. He has also been seen as a precursor to Baruch Spinoza; both of whom were excommunicated.

Uriel da Costa is a tragic figure in Jewish Philosophic circles - After writing his autobiography, Exemplar Humanae Vitae (1640), in which he wrote about his experience as a victim of intolerance, he set out to end the lives of both his cousin and himself. Seeing his relative approach one day, he grabbed a pistol and pulled the trigger, but it misfired. Then he reached for another, turned it on himself, and fired, dying a reportedly terrible death.

[edit] Maimonidean Rationalism in the history of Jewish thought

The rationalist approach to interpretation of the Bible and religious tradition is based on the fundamental doctrine that Torah (5 books fo Moses) and reason cannot be in conflict, and that an individual therefore need not adopt any position on matters religious which transgresses against reason. The basic spirit of Jewish Maimonidean rationalism — its motivation and method — is well captured by the following two statements from Bachya and Ralbag (respectively):

And if he does not delve into the truth and certainty of the matter, he is disgraceful and is considered to be intellectually and functionally lax. He would be like the patient who knew all about his disease and its cure, but who depended entirely on his doctor to heal him, and was reluctant to use his own knowledge and judgment to determine if the doctor was doing the right thing or not... — Bachya ibn Pakuda

... when the Torah, interpreted literally, seems to conflict with doctrines that have been proved by reason, it is proper to interpret these passages according to philosophical understanding, so long as none of the fundamental principles of the Torah are destroyed... It is even more proper that we not disagree with philosophy when the Torah itself does not disagree with it. — Ralbag

There is shame and disgrace attached to the failure to investigate matters of religious principle using the fullest powers of human reason and intellect. One cannot be considered wise or perceptive if one does not attempt to understand the origins, and establish the correctness, of one's beliefs. Moreover, at least on Ralbag's view, the "claim of reason" occupies a higher place than the "claim of tradition," and traditional understandings must be brought into conformity with the demonstrations of philosophy, rather than vice versa, to whatever extent this is possible.

Of course, one challenge of the "religion of reason" is that the dictates of reason change over time, and this intellectual approach — if it is to be pursued over the long term — demands a never-ending re-appraisal of tradition. This is because, as new principles are discovered and new facts uncovered, what earlier seemed a "reasonable" position slowly becomes an unconvincing, and, finally, untenable position. It is then replaced by a position that is more "reasonable" in light of current knowledge (and biases). This being the case, if Torah and reason are to remain free from contradiction, then the interpretation of Torah may need to change as often as corresponding artifacts of reason.

This observation has no doubt caused many to dismiss as foolhardy any effort to reconcile religion and reason using our intellect. Those of a scholarly mindset will argue that the inevitable "tortured reconciliations" forfeit the original meaning and message of the text (e.g., Spinoza, sarna_66), while those more inclined to skepticism will wonder at the usefulness of a document whose only apparent remaining purpose is to be periodically "reconciled" with external evidence.

[edit] Karaite philosophy

Karaism represents an amalgamation of heterodox sects in Babylonian-Persian Jewry which clashed with the efforts of the heads of the Babylonian Academies, of Sura and Pumbeditha, to consolidate their position as the exclusive and central authority of Jewish law; religious, political, and economic stagnation in Babylon and Persia. The Karaites absorbed certain aspects of Jewish sects such as Isawites (Shi'ism), Malikites (Sunnis) and Yudghanites (Sufis), who were influenced by East-Islamic scholarship. Exactly who influenced whom is vigorously debated.

Karaites trace their origin to the first split among the Jewish people, at the time of Jeroboam; Karaites hold that the "true law" had subsequently been preserved by the descendants of Ẓadok, who had discovered a portion of the truth. This process of this discovery of the truth was then continued by the exilarch Anan ben David. Karaites, in turn, influenced Arab and Islamic scholars with misrepresentations of Torah and Talumic study. Rabbanite sources, on the other hand, give their own one-sided version of the emergence of the Karaite schism, ascribing it exclusively to Anan ben David's personal ambition and the injury his pride suffered when his younger brother Hananiah was elected exilarch.

Karaite philosophers were stricter in their adherence to the principles of Mutazilites Kalam than the Rabbinic students of that theological school. On the other hand, Karaites adopted the views of Ash'ari when contemplating the sciences (neo-Platonic). Karaite rationalism goes beyond that of Saadiah Gaon, as can be seen from their opinion that rational knowledge of God must precede belief in revelation. In the view of Karaites, only after it has been established that God exists, that He is wise, and that He is omnipotent is the truth of revelation guaranteed. A similar rationalism is manifest in their conception of ethics: they maintained that various specific moral principles are self-evident upon reflection, e.g., that good should be done and evil avoided, that one should be grateful, and that one should tell the truth.

Questions debated by the Arab and Islamic theologians were applicable to Judaism, which had not dealt with religion in a philosophical manner before. The processes of reconsidering religion in light of new learning proceeded rapidly with the emergence of Islam and its conquering of Jewish centers of learning. The forerunners in this process were the Karaites. They were the first Jewish Sect to subject religion to the scrutiny of Islamic rationalism - rationalism as defined by the Mutazilites. Having rejected Talmud and the wisdom of the Rabbis, Karaites were at liberty to reinterpret the Tanach in accordance with the demands of the new age. This largely meant succumbing to the pressure of Islamic scholarship and criticism - abandoning foundational Judaic belief structures. Some scholars suggest that the major impetus for the formation of Karaism was a reaction to the rapid rise of Shi'a Islam, which recognized Judaism as a fellow monotheistic faith, but claimed that it detracted from this monotheism by deferring to Rabbinic authority.

Karaites believe that awareness is independent of revelation, since even those who deny God and revelation adhere to these principles. The moral law is binding not only for man but also for God. These two philosophers, Joseph ben Abraham al-Bahir and his disciple Jeshua ben Judah, argue with great subtlety for the creation of the world, but unlike Saadiah Gaon, they accept the kalamic doctrine of atomism. In the late Middle Ages Aaron ben Elijah of Nicomedia, author of Etz Hayyim ("Tree of Life," written in 1346), is the outstanding Karaite thinker. Though his work appeared some 150 years after Maimonides' "Guide for the Perplexed", he was still adhering to the philosophy of Mutazilite Kalam. In fact, his work is a kind of Kalam critique of the Guide. Aaron ben Elijah of Nicomedia held that Mutazilite kalamic doctrines are in accord with biblical teachings, while Aristotelianism, pagan in origin, conflicts with biblical teachings on many points.

Against Maimonides, Aaron ben Elijah of Nicomedia argues that the Kalam proofs for the creation of the world are valid, that God can be described by positive attributes, that providence extends not only to man but also to animals, that evil is not merely a privation of good, and that the soul, not only the acquired intellect, is immortal. Following Maimonides, he distinguishes the prophecy of Moses from that of other prophets. He is critical of the kalamic doctrines that God created the world by means of the "created will" and that animals will be rewarded in the hereafter, and also of kalamic conceptions of law.

The dispute between Saadiah Gaon and the Karaites helped to consolidate the split between them. [27]

[edit] Kabbalah - Esoteric meethods, not philosophy

Part of a series on
10 Sephirot
Ein Sof · Tzimtzum · Ohr · Sephirot · Four Worlds · Seder hishtalshelus · Tree of Life · Merkabah · Jewish angelic hierarchy · Shechina · Kelipot · Tikkun · Sparks of holiness · Messianic rectification in Kabbalah · Tikkun Chatzot · Gilgul · Ibbur  · Kabbalistic astrology · Gematria · Notarikon · Temurah · Tzadik · Tzadikim Nistarim · Divine immanence · Divine transcendence
Historical evolution
The Zohar
Sefer Yetzirah · Heichalot · Bahir · Toledano Tradition · Chassidei Ashkenaz · Prophetic Kabbalah · Zohar · Jewish commentaries on the Bible · Selective influence on Western thought · Mystics of 16th century Safed · Cordoveran kabbalah · Lurianic kabbalah · Philosophy of the Maharal · Shnei Luchos HaBris · Baal Shem-Nistarim · Sabbatean mystical heresies · Emden-Eybeschutz Controversy · Immigration to the Land of Israel · Beit El Synagogue · Hasidic philosophy · Hasidic-Mitnagdic schism · Hasidic dynasties · HaSulam
Asceticism in Judaism · Jewish meditation · Devekut · Practical Kabbalah
Medieval Tree of Life illustration
100s: The Four Who Entered the Pardes · Shimon bar Yochai

1100s: Isaac the Blind · Azriel 1200s: Nahmanides · Abraham Abulafia · Moses de Leon 1300s: Bahya ben Asher 1400s: 1500s: Joseph Karo · Shlomo Alkabetz · Moshe Alshich · Moshe Cordovero · Isaac Luria · Chaim Vital · Judah Loew ben Bezalel 1600s: Isaiah Horowitz · Abraham Azulai 1700s: Jonathan Eybeschutz · Jacob Emden · Chaim ibn Attar · Baal Shem Tov · Dov Ber of Mezeritch · Moshe Chaim Luzzatto · Shalom Sharabi · Vilna Gaon · Chaim Joseph David Azulai · Nathan Adler · Schneur Zalman of Liadi · Chaim Volozhin 1800s: Nachman of Breslov · Ben Ish Chai · Shlomo Eliyashiv 1900s: Abraham Isaac Kook · Yehuda Ashlag · Baba Sali

Position in Jewish thought
Ark of the Ari Ashkenazi Synagogue, Safed
Eras of Rabbinic Judaism · Rabbinic literature · Jewish philosophy · Pardes · Talmudical Hermeneutics · Ashkenazi Judaism · Sephardi Judaism · Nusach
Judaism · Jewish philosophy · Jewish theology · Jewish mysticism · Kabbalah

Kabbalah is one of the most universally misunderstood parts of Judaism. Some non-Jews (and even some Jews) describe Kabbalah as "the dark side of Judaism". Many of these misunderstandings arose largely from distortions of the teachings of Kabbalah by non-Jewish mystics and occultists. Kabbalah was popular among Christian intellectuals during the Renaissance and Enlightenment periods, who reinterpreted its doctrines to fit into their Christian dogma. For example, one such source (the Kabbalah Denudata) states that the Ten Sefirot have something to do with the Christian Trinity because they are sometimes divided up into groups of three, despite that the Sefirot are divided up into many groups of varying numbers, that these groupings overlap, that the grouping he refers to is not comprised of a father, son, and spirit, but of a male, a female, and neutral, and so forth. Mysticism is an integral part of Chasidic Judaism, for example, and passages from kabbalistic texts are routinely included in traditional prayer books - even in prayer books of non-Kabbalistic communities. Other Orthodox Jews place little energy in studying mysticism. One prominent Orthodox Jew, when introducing a speaker on the subject of Jewish mysticism, said basically, "it's nonsense, but it's Jewish nonsense, and the study of anything Jewish, even nonsense, is worthwhile". Then why even give Kabbalah any attention? Jewish mysticism doesn't conflict with Halachah or Talmud; therefore, as a purely Jewish formulation, it is worthy of study from an academic/scholastic perspective as a component of Rabbinic Judaism.

The word "Kabbalah" is used in older Jewish texts to mean simply "tradition", see Abraham Ibn Daud's Sefer HaQabbalah also known as "the book of our Tradition", and does not necessarily refer to mysticism of any kind. In Talmudic times there was a secret mystical tradition in Judaism, known as Maaseh Bereshith (the work of creation) and Maaseh Merkavah (the work of the chariot); Maimonides interprets these texts as referring to something similar to Aristotelian physics and metaphysics as interpreted in the light of Torah. The tradition of Sefer HaQabbalah is not represented in contemporary meanings of Kabbalah and should not be confused therewith.

Jewish Mysticism (Kabbalah in its commonly-known contemporary form), viewed by some as a replacement for Maimonidean Rationalism, is a set of esoteric teachings. Kabbalah seeks to define the nature of the universe and the human being, the nature and purpose of existence, and various other ontological questions. Kabbalah originally developed entirely within the milieu of Jewish scholarship and constantly uses classical Jewish sources to explain and demonstrate its esoteric teachings. These teachings are held by kabbalists to define the inner meaning of both the Tanach and traditional rabbinic literature, as well as to explain the significance of Jewish religious observance. Because it is by definition esoteric, no popular account (including an encyclopedia) can provide a complete, precise, and accurate explanation of contemporary Kabbalah; in other words, Kabbalah is not a philosophy but a collection of techniques of textual interpretation.

"Do not inquire into what overwhelms you, and do not delve into what is hidden from you. Reflect upon what you have inherited instead; for you have no business occupying yourself with mysteries" (3:21)

Aside from early opposition from some Medieval Rabbinic scholars and Rational Philosophers, Kabbalah spread quickly from its 13th and 14th-century circles, and achieved its main expression in its central text - the Zohar. For the next 200 years, attempts were made to rationally systemise and synthesise its theology with little progress. Kabbalah was reinvigorated in the 16th Century mystical school in Safed. After expulsion from Spain, leading Rabbinic and mystical scholars such as Joseph Karo, Moshe Alshich and Moshe Cordovero sought new spiritual consolation and scholarly depth in Jewish mysticism.

[edit] Rabbinic criticism of esoteric Kabbalah

Saadia Gaon teaches in his book Emunot v'Deot that Jews who believe in gilgul (reincarnation) have adopted a non-Jewish belief.

Maimonides rejected many of the texts of the Heichalot, particularly Shi'ur Qomah whose starkly anthropomorphic vision of God he considered heretical.

Rabbi Abraham ben Moses ben Maimon, in the spirit of his father Maimonides, Rabbi Saadiah Gaon, and other predecessors, explains at length in his book Milhhamot HaShem that the Almighty is in no way literally within time or space nor physically outside time or space, since time and space simply do not apply to His Being whatsoever. This is in contrast to certain popular understandings of modern Kabbalah which teach a form of panentheism, that His 'essence' is within everything.

Around the 1230s, Rabbi Meir ben Simon of Narbonne wrote an epistle (included in his Milhhemet Mitzvah) against his contemporaries, the early Kabbalists, characterizing them as blasphemers who even approach heresy. He particularly singled out the Sefer Bahir, rejecting the attribution of its authorship to the tanna R. Nehhunya ben ha-Kanah and describing some of its content as follow -

"They boast in mendacious speeches and statements of having found confirmation and encouragement in the land of sages and scholars... But God save us from the sin of such heretical words... And we have heard that a book had already been written for them, which they call Bahir, that is 'bright' but no light shines through it. This book has come into our hands and we have found that they falsely attribute it to Rabbi Nehunya ben Haqqanah. God forbid! There is no truth in this... The language of the book and its whole content show that it is the work of someone who lacked command of either literary language or good style, and in many passages it contains words which are out and out heresy."

Rabbi Yitzchak ben Sheshet Perfet, (Isaac ben Sheshet, in his responsa on the topic was skeptical of certain interpretations of Kabbalah popular in his time,; he is quoted as saying that "Kabbalah was worse than Christianity", as it made God into 10, not just into three. Most followers of Kabbalah have never followed this interpretation of Kabbalah, on the grounds that the concept of the Christian Trinity posits that there are three persons existing within the Godhead, one of whom was a human being. In contrast, the mainstream understanding of the Kabbalistic Sefirot holds that they have no mind or intelligence; further, they are not addressed in prayer and they cannot become a human being. They are conduits for interaction, not persons or beings; regardless of the phraseology chosen, Maimonidean Rationalists view this as border-line Idolatry. Important poskim, including Maimonidies in his work Mishneh Torah, prohibit any use of mediators between oneself and the Creator as a form of idolatry.

Rabbi Leone di Modena Leon Modena or Yehudah Aryeh Mi-modena, a 17th century Venetian critic of Kabbalah, wrote that if we were to accept the Kabbalah, then the Christian trinity would indeed be compatible with Judaism, as the Trinity closely resembles the Kabbalistic doctrine of the Sefirot. This critique was in response to the knowledge that some European Jews of the period addressed individual Sefirot in some of their prayers - representing idolatry in Judaism - a/k/a heresy.

Rabbi Yaakov Emden, 1697–1776, wrote the book Mitpahhath Sfarim (Veil of the Books), a detailed critique of the Zohar in which he concludes that certain parts of the Zohar contain heretical teaching and therefore could not have been written by Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai. Opponents of his work claim[citation needed] that he wrote the book in a drunken stupor.

Rabbi Yihhyah Qafahh, an early 20th century Yemenite Jewish leader and grandfather of Rabbi Yosef Qafih, also wrote a book entitled Milhhamoth HaShem, (Wars of the L-RD) against what he perceived as the false teachings of the Zohar and the false Kabbalah of Isaac Luria. He is credited with spearheading the Dor Daim who continue in R. Yihhyah Qafahh's view of Kabbalah into modern times. Dor Daim form part of a wider body of opinion called talmide-ha-Rambam (Maimonideans), who stand for a strict adherence to the views of Maimonides in matters of philosophy as well as Jewish law.

Yeshayahu Leibowitz 1903–1994, brother of Nechama Leibowitz, though Modern Orthodox in his world view, publicly shared the views expressed in R. Yihhyah Qafahh's book Milhhamoth HaShem and elaborated upon these views in his many writings.

There is dispute among modern Haredim as to the status of Isaac Luria's, the Arizal's, kabbalistic teachings. While a portion of Modern Orthodox Rabbis, Dor Daim and students of the Rambam, reject Lurianic Kabbalah teachings, as well as deny that the Zohar is authoritative, or from Shimon bar Yohai, all three of these groups completely accept the existence and validity of Ma'aseh Merkavah and Ma'aseh B'resheet mysticism as defined by Maimonides. Their only disagreement concerns whether the Kabbalistic teachings promulgated today are accurate representations of those esoteric teachings to which the Talmud refers. Within the Haredi Jewish community one can find both rabbis who sympathize with such a view, while not necessarily agreeing with it, as well as rabbis who consider such a view absolute heresy.

What advantages do Kabbalists harbor in their belief system that Rationalists continue to wrestle with? Lurianic Kabbalah helps people understand how evil people seemingly benefit from the suffering of good and righteous people. In the aftermath of the Andalusian pogroms of 1391; Spanish Inquisition Expelling Jews from Spain in 1492; expulsion from Portugal in 1497; 1648-9 mass murders of jews in Tulchin, Polonnoye, Volhynia, Bar, Lvov and Nemirov; and the Holocaust. Millions of Jews killed, and evil people profit and prosper...

[edit] Renaissance Jewish philosophy

Divergent Jewish philosophies continued through the Renaissance period. Sephardic and Mitnagdishe Rationalism had a strong following in Arab lands, Ottoman Empire, and Lithuania...and Lurianic Kabbalistic Judaism continued with a rapid growth upon acceptance, and spread, of Hasidism.

Grave of the Maharal

Judaism saw the development of a brand of Jewish philosophy drawing on the teachings of Torah mysticism derived from the esoteric teachings of the Zohar and the teachings of Rabbi Isaac Luria. This was particularly embodied in the voluminous works of Rabbi Judah Loew ben Bezalel known as the Maharal of Prague. While the teachings of the Maharal are based on Jewish mysticism, it presents these ideas in philosophical forms, avoiding Kabbalistic terminology.

One work that gained considerable influence in the Christian world was the Dialoghi d'Amore of Judah Leon Abravanel (known as Leone Ebreo). This took the form of a series of dialogues between "Philo" and "Sophia", and may be compared with the Renaissance Platonism of Ficino and Pico della Mirandola, but had no explicit Jewish content.

[edit] Enlightenment Jewish schoplars and philosophers

With expulsion from Spain came the dissemination of Maimonidean Rationalism throught the Mediterranean Basin, Northern Europe and the Western Hemisphere. Of particular interest is the persistent line of Maimonidean Rationalists who migrate out of Germany and italy into Crete, and other areas of the Ottoman Empire.

Moses Almosnino was a student of Levi Ibn Chaviv, who was in turn a student of Jacob ibn Habib, who was, in turn, a student of Nissim ben Reuben.

Elia del Medigo (born in Crete 1458 – died 1493) (a/k/a Elias del Medigo, a/k/a Elijah Delmedigo, a/k/a Elias ben Moise del Medigo, a/k/a Eliyahu ben Moshe Abba Dal Medigo, a/k/a Eliyahu ben Moshe Abba Dal Medigo, a/k/a Helias Hebreus Cretensis, a/k/a Elias Cretensis) he was a descendant of Judah ben Eliezer ha-Levi Minz and Moses ben Isaac ha-Levi Minz. Eli'ezer del Medigo, of Rome, received the surname "Del Medigo" after studing Medicine. The name was l;ater changed from Del Medigo to Ha-rofeh. He was the father and teacher of a long line of philosophers and scholars that persists to this day, including -

Joseph Solomon Delmedigo - (June 16, 1591 – October 16, 1655) (a/k/a Joseph Solomon Rofe, a/k/a YashaR Mi-qandia, a/k/a Yosef Shlomo ben Eliyahu Dal Medigo) was the teacher of -

Baruch Spinoza, who was a student of adopted Pantheism and broke with Rabbinic Judaism. Nevertheless the Jewish influence in his work, for example from Maimonides and Leone Ebreo, is evident. Some contemporary critics (e.g. Wachter, Der Spinozismus im Judenthum) claimed to detect the influence of the Kabbalah, while others (e.g. Leibniz) regarded Spinozism as a revival of Averroism; another word for Maimonidean rationalism whose philosophical roots are found in Andalusian-Arab Islamic Philospher Averroes.

Eliezer ben Elijah Ashkenazi Ha-rofeh ("the physician") Ashkenazi of Nicosia, Cyprus, the author of Yosif Lekah on the Book of Esther.

[edit] Post-Enlightenment Jewish philosophers

[edit] Contemporary Jewish philosophy

[edit] Revival of Maimonides

Reinvigoration of Maimonidean Rationalism is a rapidly growing movement in Judaism. Dor Daim, and Talmid HaRambam Rambamists are two (2) groups who reject mysticism (Kabbalah) as a "superstitious" addition to an otherwise clear and succinct set of Laws and rules with which we live. Generally speaking, Spanish-Portuguese Sephardim and Yemenites harbor nearly identical Philosophies.

Modern Orthodoxy affords its subscribers the latitude to decide for themselves how many esoteric additions, or rationalism, they wish to include in their toolbox of Divine Devotion.

[edit] Jewish Existentialism

One of the major trends in contemporary Jewish philosophy was the attempt to develop a theory of Judaism through existentialism. One of the primary players in this field was Franz Rosenzweig. While researching his doctoral dissertation on the 19th-century German philosopher Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, Rosenzweig reacted against Hegel's idealism and favored an existential approach. Rosenzweig, for a time, considered conversion to Christianity, but in 1913, he turned to Jewish philosophy. He became a philosopher and student of Hermann Cohen. Rozensweig's major work, Star of Redemption, is his new philosophy in which he portrays the relationships between God, humanity and world as they are connected by creation, revelation and redemption. Later Jewish existentialists include Conservative rabbis Neil Gillman and Elliot N. Dorff.

[edit] Reconstructionist theology

Perhaps the most controversial form of Jewish philosophy that developed in the early 20th century was the religious naturalism of Rabbi Mordecai Kaplan. His theology was a variant of John Dewey's philosophy. Dewey's naturalism combined atheist beliefs with religious terminology in order to construct a philosophy for those who had lost faith in traditional Judaism. In agreement with the classical medieval Jewish thinkers, Kaplan affirmed that God is not personal, and that all anthropomorphic descriptions of God are, at best, imperfect metaphors. Kaplan's theology went beyond this to claim that God is the sum of all natural processes that allow man to become self-fulfilled. Kaplan wrote that "to believe in God means to take for granted that it is man's destiny to rise above the brute and to eliminate all forms of violence and exploitation from human society."

[edit] Process theology

One of the more recent trends has been a reframing of Jewish theology through the lens of process philosophy, and more specifically process theology. Process philosophy suggests that fundamental elements of the universe are occasions of experience. According to this notion, what people commonly think of as concrete objects are actually successions of these occasions of experience. Occasions of experience can be collected into groupings; something complex such as a human being is thus a grouping of many smaller occasions of experience. In this view, everything in the universe is characterized by experience (which is not to be confused with consciousness); there is no mind-body duality under this system, because "mind" is simply seen as a very developed kind of experiencing.

Inherent to this worldview is the notion that all experiences are influenced by prior experiences, and will influence all future experiences. This process of influencing is never deterministic; an occasion of experience consists of a process of prehending other experiences, and then a reaction to it. This is the process in process philosophy. Process philosophy gives God a special place in the universe of occasions of experience. God encompasses all the other occasions of experience but also transcends them; thus process philosophy is a form of panentheism.

The original ideas of process theology were developed by Charles Hartshorne (1897-2000), and influenced a number of Jewish theologians, including British philosopher Samuel Alexander (1859-1938), and Rabbis Max Kaddushin, Milton Steinberg and Levi A. Olan, Harry Slominsky and to a lesser degree, Abraham Joshua Heschel. Today some rabbis who advocate some form of process theology include Donald B. Rossoff, William E. Kaufman, Harold Kushner, Anton Laytner, Gilbert S. Rosenthal, Lawrence Troster and Nahum Ward.

[edit] Non-Orthodox revival of Kabbalah

Perhaps the most unexpected change in Jewish religious thinking in the latter 20th century was the resurgence of interest in Kabbalah. In academic studies, Gershom Scholem began the critical investigation of Jewish mysticism, while in non-Orthodox Jewish denominations, Jewish Renewal and Neo-Hasidism, spiritualised worship. Many philosophers do not consider this to be a form of philosophy, as Kabbalah is a form of mysticism. Mysticism is generally understood as an alternative to philosophy, and not a variant of philosophy.

[edit] Haredi theology

At the same time, Haredi Judaism has seen a resurgence of a systematic philosophical format for its beliefs. The founder of this system was Rabbi Eliyahu Eliezer Dessler, a student of the Kelm mussar yeshiva and later Mashgiach (spiritual supervisor) of Ponevezh yeshiva. Although never formally committing his ideas for publication, after his death in 1953 his students compiled and organized his numerous manuscripts in a five-volume work titled "Michtav Ma'Eliyahu", later translated into English and published as "Strive for Truth". His ideas have been popularized and promulgated by many Haredi educators. Notable among them are his student Rabbi Aryeh Carmel (main redactor of "Michtav Ma'Eliyahu") and Rabbi Dr. Akiva Tatz (author of many works and a well known lecturer and activist in the kiruv (outreach) movement).

Haredim consider the fusion of religion and philosophy as difficult because classical philosophers start with no preconditions for which conclusions they must reach in their investigation, while classical religious believers have a set of religious principles of faith that they hold one must believe.

Some maintain, however, that in reality it is incorrect to direct this criticism solely at religious philosophy. Rabbi Eliyahu Eliezer Dessler (Strive for Truth Vol. 1) contends that no human being can possibly claim objectivity in philosophical investigations with moral implications: "..a person senses in advance that the answer will make a significant difference...On the solution will depend whether he will be obliged for the rest of his life to struggle with his baser desires...or whether he will be able to live without a higher responsibility". On this basis Dessler maintains that only those who have spent years concentrating on the subjugation of their desires to their intellect, can even begin to claim intellectual impartiality. Indeed, according to this it is more likely for religious philosophy to succeed in attaining the truth then secular philosophy.

Some, however, hold that one cannot simultaneously be a philosopher and a true adherent of a revealed religion. In this view, all attempts at synthesis ultimately fail. For example, Rabbi Nachman of Breslov, seen as the most imaginative and poetic Hasidic mystic, views all philosophy as untrue and heretical. In this he represents one strand of Hasidic thought, with creative emphasis on the emotions. Approaching this point of view from the opposite direction, Baruch Spinoza, a pantheist, views revealed religion as inferior to philosophy, and thus saw traditional Jewish philosophy as an intellectual failure.

Others hold that a synthesis between the two is possible. One way to find a synthesis is to use philosophical arguments to prove that one's religious principles are true. This is a common technique found in the writings of many religious traditions, including Judaism, Christianity and Islam, but this is not generally accepted as true philosophy by philosophers. One example of this approach is found in the writings of Lawrence Kelemen, in his Permission to Believe, (Feldheim 1990). A synthesis on a more profound level is seen in the works of the Hasidic leaders, who express an intellectual articulation of Hasidic thought, most notably in Habad, which seeks to bring Hasidism into complete intellectual analysis. On this they take a different view of mainstream philosophy to Rabbi Nachman of Breslov. In the writings of Habad, Hasidus is seen as able to unite all parts of Torah thought, from the schools of philosophy to mysticism, by uncovering the illminating Divine essence that permeates and transcends all approaches. One example of this is given by Schneur Zalman of Liadi in the early chapters of the Tanya. In a parenthetical side-column to the main text, the Kabbalists are said to agree with Maimonides' description that "God is the knower, the knowledge, and the known", but that this statement only applies to certain, stated Kabbalistic levels of Divinity, and no higher. For a fuller treatment of the nature and essence of Hasidic thought, and its relation to other disciplines in Judaism, see Hasidic philosophy.

[edit] Hasidic Theosophy

Hasidic Theosophy is the thought and teachings of the Hasidic movement founded by the Baal Shem Tov. It expressed the esoteric Lurianic Kabbalistic tradition in a new paradigm in relation to man, and so could be conveyed to the Jewish masses. As the movement grew, it developed into various different interpretations, formed by the circles of close followers of the Baal Shem Tov, and his successor Dov Ber of Mezeritch. In the school of Chabad, formed by Schneur Zalman of Liadi, the mystical revivalism of the early Hasidic Masters was brought into a systematic philosophical articulation, that brought the esoteric Kabbalah of Isaac Luria into understanding. Interpreting the verse from Job, "from my flesh I see God", Shneur Zalman explained the inner meaning, or "soul", of the Jewish mystical tradition in intellectual form, by means of analogies drawn from the human realm. As explained and continued by the later leaders of Chabad, this enabled the human mind to grasp concepts of Godliness, and so enable the heart to feel the love and awe of God, emphasised by all the founders of hasidism, in an internal way. This development, the culminating level of the Jewish mystical tradition, in this way bridges philosophy and mysticism, by expressing the transcendent in human terms. See Hasidic philosophy for a more detailed treatment.

[edit] Holocaust theology

Judaism has traditionally taught that God is omnipotent (all powerful), omniscient (all knowing) and omnibenevolent (all good). Yet, these claims are in jarring contrast with the fact that there is much evil in the world. Perhaps the most difficult question that monotheists have confronted is "how can one reconcile the existence of this view of God with the existence of evil?" or "how can there be good without bad?" "how can there be a god without a devil?" This is the problem of evil. Within all the monotheistic faiths many answers (theodicies) have been proposed. However, in light of the magnitude of evil seen in the Holocaust, many people have re-examined classical views on this subject. How can people still have any kind of faith after the Holocaust? This set of Jewish philosophies is discussed in the article on Holocaust theology.

[edit] Jewish philosophical influences today

The following philosophers have had a substantial impact on the philosophy of modern day Jews who identify as such. They are writers who consciously dealt with philosophical issues from within a Jewish framework.

[edit] Sephardic Philosophers of Judaism

Maimonides' Guide for the Perplexed

[edit] Philosophers of Ashkenazic Orthodox Judaism

[edit] Philosophers of Conservative Judaism

[edit] Philosophers of Reform Judaism

[edit] See also

[edit] References

  1. ^ Understanding rabbinic Judaism, from Talmudic to modern times By Jacob Neusner
  2. ^ A history of the Jews By Paul Johnson
  3. ^ Ivry, A. L., in article Nature, Encyclopedia Judaica vol. 12 cols. 888-889, Keter 1972
  4. ^ "Jews in Islamic countries in the Middle Ages" By Moshe Gil, David Strassler Pg 348
  5. ^ Jews in Islamic countries in the Middle Ages By Moshe Gil, David Strassler
  6. ^
  7. ^ W. Montgomery Watt, Free will and predestination in early Islam, London 1948, 83-7, 136-7.
  8. ^ The geonim of Babylonia and the shaping of medieval Jewish culture By Dr. Robert Brody
  9. ^ "Jews in Islamic countries in the Middle Ages" By Moshe Gil, David Strassler, Pg 348
  10. ^ Penkower, Jordan S. New Evidence for the Pentateuch Text in the Aleppo Codex. Edited by M. Goshen-Gottstein and U. Simon, Ha-makhon Le-toledot Heqer Ha-miqra' Ha-yehudi: Mekorot Umehqarim. Ramat-Gan: Bar-Ilan University Press, 1992.
  11. ^ "Jews in Islamic countries in the Middle Ages" By Moshe Gil, David Strassler, Pg 344
  12. ^
  13. ^ A history of Jewish philosophy in the Middle Ages By Colette Sirat
  14. ^
  15. ^ Cohen, Gerson D. translation of 'Sefer HaQabbalah' originally written by Abraham Ibn Daud
  16. ^ Negotiating cultures: bilingual surrender treaties in Muslim-Crusader Spain, By Robert Ignatius Burns, Paul Edward Chevedden, Miguel de Epalza
  17. ^ Shaltiel: One Family's Journey Through History by Moshe Shaltiel-Gracian (2005) ISBN 0-89733-534-1 Pg 114
  18. ^
  19. ^ The encyclopædia britannica: a dictionary of arts, sciences ..., Volume 13 edited by Hugh Chisholm, Pg 174
  20. ^ ^ Jacobs, Louis (1990). God, Torah, Israel: traditionalism without fundamentalism. Cincinnati: Hebrew Union College Press. ISBN 0-87820-052-5. OCLC 21039224
  21. ^ ^ Guttmann, Julius (1964). Philosophies of Judaism: The History of Jewish Philosophy from Biblical Times to Franz Rosenzweig. New York City: Holt, Rinehart and Winston. pp. 150–151. OCLC 1497829
  22. ^
  23. ^ D. Blumenthal, "An Illustration of the Concept 'Philosophic Mysticism' from Fifteenth Century Yemen," and "A Philosophical-Mystical Interpretation of a Shi'ur Qomah Text."
  24. ^ "Isaac Abarbanel's stance toward tradition: defense, dissent, and dialogue" By Eric Lawee
  25. ^ In the Shadow of History: Jews and Conversos at the Dawn of Modernity by Rabbi Dr. Jose Faur
  26. ^ The Return to Scripture in Judaism and Christianity: Essays in Postcritical Scriptural Interpretation (Theological Inquiries) by Peter Ochs 1963
  27. ^ Oesterley, W. O. E. & Box, G. H. (1920) A Short Survey of the Literature of Rabbinical and Mediæval Judaism, Burt Franklin:New York.
  • Daniel H. Frank and Oliver Leaman (eds.), History of Jewish Philosophy. London: Routledge, 1997. ISBN 0415080649
  • Colette Sirat, A History of Jewish Philosophy in the Middle Ages. Cambridge University Press, 1990. ISBN 0521397278

[edit] External links

[edit] Further reading