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Rambam

Rambam

Maimonides's (Rambam) Mishneh Torah is considered by traditionalist Jews even today as one of the chief authoritative codifications of Jewish law and ethics. It is exceptional for its logical construction, concise and clear expression and extraordinary learning, so that it became a standard against which other later codifications were often measured. It is still closely studied in Rabbinic yeshivot (academies). A popular medieval saying that also served as his epitaph states, From Mosheh (of the Torah) to Mosheh (Maimonides) there was none like Mosheh. It chiefly referred to his Rabbinic writings.

But Maimonides was also one of the most influential figures in medieval Jewish philosophy. His brilliant adaptation of Aristotelian thought to Biblical faith deeply impressed later Jewish thinkers, and had an unexpected immediate historical impact. Some more acculturated Jews in the century that followed his death, particularly in Spain, sought to apply Maimonides's Aristotelianism in ways that undercut traditionalist belief and observance, giving rise to an intellectual controversy in Spanish and southern French Jewish circles. The intensity of debate spurred Catholic Church interventions against "heresy" and even a general confiscation of Rabbinic texts and in reaction, the defeat of the more radical interpretations of Maimonides and at least amongst Ashkenazi Jews, a tendency not so much to repudiate as simply to ignore the specifically philosophical writings and to stress instead the Rabbinic and halachic writings; even these writings often included considerable philosophical chapters or discussions in support of halachic observance, as David Hartman observes Maimonides made clear "the traditional support for a philosophical understanding of God both in the Aggadah of Talmud and in the behavior of the hasid [the pious Jew]" and so Maimonidean thought continues to influence traditionally observant Jews.

The most rigorous medieval critique of Maimonides is Hasdai Crescas' Or Adonai. Crescas bucked the eclectic trend, by demolishing the certainty of the Aristotelian world-view, not only in religious matters but even in the most basic areas of medieval science (such as physics and geometry). Crescas's critique provoked a number of 15th century scholars to write defenses of Maimonides. A partial translation of Crescas was produced by Harry Austryn Wolfson of Harvard University, in 1929.

Because of his path-finding synthesis of Aristotle and Biblical faith, Maimonides also had a fundamental influence on the great Church theologian Saint Thomas Aquinas. There are explicit references to Maimonides in several of Aquinas's works, including the Commentary on the Sentences.

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