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Nadler Rambam Revival

Nadler Rambam Revival

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The
"Rambam
Revival"
in
Early
Modern
Jewish
Thought:
Maskilim,
Mitnagdim,
and
Hasidim
on
Maimonides’
Guide
of
the
Perplexed
Allan
Nadler
What
"Rambam
Revival
?
There
is
an
assumption
in
the
title
of
this
paper
that
begs
the
following
ques
tion:
Was
there
in
fact
a
signifIcant
and
sustained
"Rambam
Revival"
in
the
modern
period?
The
very
notion
of
a
modern
Jewish
Maimonidean
renais
sance
impliesthat there
had
beenan
extended
historical
period during
whichMaimonides
was
not
of
widespread
interest
and
his
works
not
studied
in
the
Jewish
world,
a
deficiencythat
was
subsequently
addressed
and
remediedby
this
alleged
"Rambam
revival."
In
evaluatingthe
history
of
thereception
of
Maimonides
from
the
periodimmediately
following
his
death,
through
to
the
early
modern
periodwith
which
we
are
presently
concerned,
a
fundamental
distinction
must
first
be
drawn
between
"Rabbenu Moshe Ben
Maimon,"
the revered
rabbi
and
authoritativehalakhist,
and
Maimonides,
the
Aristotelian
philosopher,
scien
tist,
and
medical
authority.
From
its
appearance
in
the
late
12th
century,
the
Mishneh
Torah, the
masterful
Jewish
legal
code
authoredby
the
Rambam,
the
"Great
Eagle,"
remained
the
foundational
text
of
Jewish
jurisprudence
until
its
normative
sta
tus
was
eclipsed
by
the
Shuihan
Arukh
in
the
16th
century.
Despite
fierce
quarrels
with
it
that
erupted
early
on
among
some
medieval
European
rab
binic
critics
most
famously by
Provencal
Rabbi
Abraham
ben
David
of
Posquieres’
at
no
point
in
Jewish
history
was
the
Mishneh
Torah
in
need
of
I
The
fullest
treatment of
Rabad’s
criticism
of
Maimonides’
code
is
I
Twerksy,
Rabad
of
Posquieres (Cambridge,
1962),
chapter
3,
pp.
128197.
36
 
revival.
It
was
notonly
the
most
frequently
consulted
and
respected
source
of
halakhahthroughout
the
centuries
it
was
the
most
widely
studied
and
ana
lyzedrabbinic
work
in
the
history
of
Rabbinic
[Q2[S
Even
after
the
codification
of
the
Shuihan Arukh,
which
overrode
the
legislative
authority
of
the
Mishneh
Torah,
Maimonides’
code
was
consulted
and
studied
widely, especially
in
the
hard
cases
to
be
foundthroughout
the
responsa
literature.
Moreover,
the
Mishneh
Torah
was
mined
widely
for
many
centuries
as
a
source
of
Talmudic
pilpul,
the
most
common
practice
of
which
was
finding
the
Rambam’s
sources
and
reconciling
any
apparent
discrepancies
between
his
halakhicdecisions
and
the
implications
of
the
corresponding
Tal
mudic
sugya,
ortextual
unit.
"Erleydigen
aShveren
Rambam"
(resolving
a
diffi
cult
passage
from
Maimonidescode)
is
the
common
Yiddish
expression
for
this
highly
developedgenre
of
rabbinicstudy.
Ironically,
the
pilpulistic
indus
try
generated
by
the
Mishneh
Torah,
which
became
so
popular
in
the
Yeshivas
of
Eastern
Europe,
actually
served
to
undermine
its
author’s
originalintent
in
composing
his
code:
namely,
to
simplify
access
torabbinic
law
and
eliminate
the
convolutions
of
Talmudic
reasoning.
This
Rambam,
the
rabbinic
master
of
halakhah
was
certainly
never
ignored,
let
alone
forgotten,
and
one
cannot
therefore
speak
of
any
revival
of
interest
in
him
or
his
Mishneh
Torah
and
his
other authoritativerabbinic
works
in
the
modern
3[S
But
"Dr.
Maimonides,"
the
medieval
rationalist
philosopher
of
Judaism
and
author
of
the
stunning
and,
in
the
view
of
many
traditionalists,
subversive,
even
heretical,
work
Guide
of
thePerplexed,
was
indeed
largely
ignored
and
suppressed
(to
the
point
of
having
been
banned
several
times
and
even
handed
over
once
by
the
Spanish
rabbisto
the
Dominicans
for
publicburning!)
and
was
for
the
most
part
hidden
away
for
many
centuries.
The
philosopher,
Maimonides,
who
intimated
that
had
the
Greek
philosophers
proven
that
the
world
is
eternal,
he
would
havebeen
forced
to
abandon
the
traditional
understanding
of
theTorah’s
creation
narrative
t
Maimonides
who
suggested
that
silent
intellectual
contemplation
is
a
superior
form
of
wor
shiptoprayer,
which
is
in
turnsuperiorto
the
Biblical
regimen
of
sacrificial
2
On
the
history
of
the
receptionof
the
Mishneh
Torah
and
its
enduring
influence,
see
I
Twer
sky,
Introduction
to
the
Code
of
Maimonides
(New
Haven,
1980),
Epilogue,
pp.
515-537.
3
Still,
i
has
been
argued
that
the intense
systematic studyof
the
Mishneh
Torah reached
new
heights,
or
depths,
in
the so-called
"Brisker"
school
of
the
Lithuanian
Yeshiva
movement,
inauguratedbyRabbi
Hayyim
Soloveitchik.
On
this
method,
see
Norman
Solomon,
"Anomaly
and
Theory
in
the
Analytic
School
of
Rabbi
Hayyim
Soloveitchik
and
his Circle,"
in
Jewish
t[
Annual
6
(1987):
126147.
See
also,
the
discussions of
the
uses
of
the
Mishneh
Torah
in
Norman
Solomon,
The
Analytic
,neni
in
Rabbinic
Jurisprudence: HayyirnSoloveitchik
and
His
Circle (Atlanta,
1993).
4
Guide
of
the
Perplexed,
I
end
of
chapter
25.
37
 
rites
t
Maimonides
whose
allegorization
of
the Torah’s
most
important
his
torical
narratives
and
prophecies
and
whose
rationalist
philosophy
of
Judaism
spawned
a
series
of
bitter
disputes
from
the
13ththrough
the
16th
centuries
the
Maimonides
whose
philosophy
was
blamed
for
thecatastrophes
that
befell
Spanish
Jews
from
1391
until
their
expulsion
in
1492
the
Maimonides
whose
influence
was
accused
of
softening
theresolve
and
faith
of
those
Spanish
Jews
who
succumbed
to
conversion
during
the
century
of
Christian
persecution,
thatled
up
to
the
8[h
t
Maimonides,
the
frighteningly
rationalist
"BaalHa-Moreh,"
was
indeed
the
beneficiary
of
a
stunning
revival
in
the
early
mod
ern
period.
And
it
is
to
the
revival
of
interest
after
centuries
of
neglect
pri
marily
in
Maimonides’
greatsynthesis
of
reason
and
religion
mostfamously
articulated
in
the
Guide
that
we
now
turn.
There
was,
in
particular,
a
noticeable renaissance
in
the
publication,study,
and
dissemination
of
the
long
neglected
and
oft-suppressed
Guide
of
thePerplexed,
beginning
in
the
latter
decades
of
the
18th
century,
a
period
that
coincided
with
the
inception
of
the
Haskalah,
the
European
Jewish
Enlightenment.
There
are
numerous
ways
to
document
the
renewed
interest
in
Mai
monidean
rationalism that
coincided
with
the
emergence
of
the
Haskalah.
The
simplestquantitative
measure
of
this
Rambam
revival
is
a
bibliographic
survey
of
the
publication
history
of
the
Hebrew
translation
of
the
Guide
of
thePerplexed.
While
such
a
bibliographical
overview
tells
us
almostnothing
about
the
underlying
reasons
for
the
"Rambam
revival"or
its
intellectual
con-
5
Guide
of
the
Perplexed,
I
32.
6
On
the
Maimonidean
controversies,
see
JosephSarachek,
Faith
And
Reason
llia
1935)
,[h
Maimonidean
m[h
and
the
Maimonidean
controversy(Leiden,
1965).
On
the
general
cultural
and
intellectual
background
to
the
Maimonidean
controversy,
seeBernard D.Septimus,
His
panicJewish
Culture
in
Transition
(Cambridge,
1982).
See
also
Septimus’
unpublished
doctoral
disser
tation,
MeirAhulafia
and
tile
Maimonidean
Controversy,
Harvard
University.
1975.
7
This
is
the
central
theme
of
the
anti-Maimonideanpolemic by
the
Spanish
exile,
R.
JosephYaavetz,
Or
Ha-Hav)’irn (Zolkiew,
1912
edition,
with
the
commentary
aya
,n,[h
by
R.
Zevi
Elimelekhof Dinov).
Many
post-expulsion
kabbalists,
most
notably
the
Spanish
exile
and
kabbalist
R.
Meir
ibn
Gabbai,
held
Maimonidean
influenceresponsible
for
undermining
the
faith
of
Spanish
and
Portuguese Jewry
leading
so
many
to
convert under duress
as
the
source
of
the
divine
wrath
that
resulted
in
the
tribulations
of
I
Jewry.
See,
in
particular,
lbn
Gabbai’s
introduction
to
Tolaat
Yaakov
(Constantinople,
1560).
In
the 19th
century
this
very
theme
was
transposed
to
the
Hasidic
criti
cism
of
the
Haskalah
in
the
remarkable
commentary
to
Yaavetz’s
Or
Ha-Ha
yyim
byZevi
Elimelekh of
Dinov.
See on
this
work,
l[h
Peikarz,
"Al
Meh
Avdah
Galut
Sefard:
Kelekah
Kelapei
-Ha
Be-Mizrah
Eyropa
ha-Hasidut
-Ey
R.
Zevi
li
"[h
in
Daat
28
(1992):
105Ill.
See
my
discussion of
Zevi
Elimelekh of
Dinov below.
8
See
Solomon
Alami,
Iggeret
-Mu
(Constantinople,
10)
Thishighly
influential
work
was
re-issued
fifteen
times
between1510 and
the
critical
edition
by
Abraham
Meir
Haberman,
Jerusalem,
1950.
Just
as
Zevi
Elimelekh of
Dinov
used
Yaavetz’s
Or
-Ha
as a
textual
basis
for
his
attack
on
the
Haskalah,
the
20th-centuryHasidic
rebbe, I-lenokh
Ha-Kohen
ofAlexander,published
a
commen
taryto
Alami’s
:[h
Ha-Musar
that
transposed
its
critique
of
Maimonidean
philosophy
onto
the
Haskalah
and
Reform
Judaism
of
his
day.
See
thePietrokov,
1912
edition
of
t[h
-Mu
38

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