The Book of Abraham

Rabbi Shimon ben Ẓemaḥ Duran and the School of Rabbenu Nissim Gerondi
by Seth (Avi) Kadish

· ‫ספרו של אברהם אבינו‬
‫רבי שמעון בן צמח דוראן‬ ‫ובית מדרשו של הר"ן‬ ‫מאת: אבי )סת'( קדיש‬

Copyright © 2011 by Seth (Avi) Kadish Some rights reserved Open Content License CC BY-SA 3.0

Original version: Ph.D. dissertation University of Haifa Faculty of the Humanities Department of Jewish History January, 2006 Revised online publication 2011 ‫א' דראש חודש אייר תשע"א‬ Rationalist Judaism Blog


is only due to the fact that you enabled me to do it. like everything I have done since our aliyah. Completing this book. 3 .To my wife Sheri (Shoshana). and support. for your love. Whatever we have accomplished. patience. we have done together.

Creation and Miracles Chapter 6.Table of Contents Acknowledgements Introduction Chapter 1. and the School of Gerondi Chapter 2. Afterword: An Open Torah Appendix A: An Explanatory Outline of Magen Avot Appendix B: An Explanatory Outline of Magen Avot III:4 on the Resurrection of the Dead Bibliography 4 . The Torah Encyclopedia Chapter 5. Duran. Principles of the Torah Chapter 4. The Philosophy of Prayer in the School of Gerondi Chapter 7. Crescas. The Book of Abraham Chapter 3.

Without his confidence in my abilities. support. and provide a forum for productive discussion. the original dissertation upon which this book is based could not have been completed. Sheri very often insisted that this project be at the top of our family’s priority list. Thank you for your patience. when our children were still small. I thank him for allowing me to fulfill both “get yourself a teacher” and “acquire for yourself a friend” (Avot 1:6) in my relationship with one and the same person.א' דר"ח אייר תשע"א‬ 5 . and goodwill. Since my research was funded both by the Israeli public and by a generous philanthropist (who supports advanced scholarship at the university). As the original dissertation was dedicated to her. and that is what ultimately allowed me to finish the original dissertation. and for the hundreds of hours you let me devote to research and writing. of positive and productive endeavors. so too is this online publication which commenced on our wedding anniversary. Support from my family—my wife Sheri (Shoshana). I look forward to many more years of fruitful contact and wish Menachem many years of health. During the years that I spent on research and writing. The University of Haifa granted me financial support during the 5761-5763 academic years. it is appropriate that this book be made freely available to the public under an open content license. and of naḥat ru'ah from his family. who supervised the writing of this book (in its initial form as my doctoral dissertation) with infinite patience.Acknowledgements I am grateful to Professor Menachem Kellner. and my children David Zvi and Ezra Shmuel—was most important of all. I hope the result justifies the time and resources that went into writing it. ‫. Rabbi Natan Slifkin has generously offered his personal website as the central place to publish and publicize this book online. make it freely available to the public. and his help in so many areas (both academic and otherwise). for which I am grateful.

they tempted him and he succumbed.. full of refutations to a book written by Rabbi Ḥasdai son of Judah of Saragosa in Aragon. renegade servants have risen in our day who have turned the words of the living God into heresy. engaged the books and treatises of the philosophers.... who has dimmed the sight of Israel in our time.. and in the Rabbi's words they find lies instead of beauty.. in the book he called The Guide to the Perplexed. It has fifty-five chapters. are pleasant and beloved to us.. The author called his book Or Hashem (“The Light of the Lord”). blemished the holy offerings. when I am seventy-seven years old.. close to the end of that seventh year.. Although the words of our Master the Rabbi. I further added two essays which I called `Anakim: the first one is refutations to the book Or Hashem written by Rabbi Ḥasdai Crescas of blessed memory. c. (Rabbi Ḥasdai Crescas. at the portion “for it is your life and the length of your days” (Niẓẓavim. (Rabbi Shimon ben Ẓemaḥ Duran. I further added—praise be added to His praises.. Based upon their feeble assumptions he built pillars and foundations for the secrets of the Torah.. And the root of the matter is that to this day no one has refuted the rational proofs of the Greek. 1405-10) Book 11. personal bibliographical notes. I have further merited that the Lord lengthen my life to this day. 1435-7) 6 .. and then two more treatises on this matter.. 5196). and I called the second essay Ma’amar ha-Yiḥud le-Shimon ibn Ẓemaḥ (“The Treatise on Unity by Shimon ibn Ẓemaḥ”). Introduction to Or Hashem. And when I wrote this book it was over six months since I began the seventy-sixth year of my life..Greatest of them all was the eminent Rabbi. Book 12. which is also the year of “the faithful” (196). who through his giant intellect and complete mastery of the Talmud and his broad mind. our master Maimonides. I finished writing it on the 25th day of Elul in the year “the kindnesses of David” (96). even his common conversation. But although the Rabbi's intention in doing so was pleasing. thanks to the blessed God who added to my days!—and I wrote a book which I called Or haḤayyim (“The Light of Life”). the truth is beloved even more. with yet additional refutations of the book Or Hashem.

Sara KleinBraslavy.Introduction Rabbi Shimon ben Ẓemaḥ Duran (Spain and Algiers. Duran publicized this view two decades earlier than his better-known younger contemporary. dissertation. pp. little attention has been paid to his philosophical writing. 1942). the original texts with notes may be found in the Hebrew version: Torat ha-`Ikkarim ba-Pilosofia ha-Yehudit Bimei ha-Benayyim (Jerusalem: Zionist Federation. Menachem Kellner.3 But scholarship on any other aspect of his thought has been limited to a characterization of his eclecticism through identifying his literary sources and examining how he chose among them. (NY: Yeshiva University. is his theory that the Torah is based upon three principles: God. Spain. trans.6 and he referred to Rabbenu Nissim Gerondi 7 (Ran)—who was Crescas’ teacher and a highly original thinker in his own right—as “the teacher of my teachers. 2. from whose waters we drink. The expression occurs several times in rabbinic literature (e. 1410/11 (winter of 5171). and providence. “Le-Ḥeker Mekorotav shel Sefer haIkkarim” in Sefer Zikkaron le-Asher Gulack ule-Shmuel Klein (Jerusalem. 1970). 5136 (1376). and a number of important studies have been devoted to the topic. Eshel Be’er Sheva 2 (5740). Shu”t ha-Ran p. pp. 1991). David W.4 No study of Duran has significantly compared any aspect of his philosophic literary output (aside from his views on principles5) to that of his contemporaries. The latter includes translations of relevant texts by Duran. relevation. considering his connection to two very important thinkers: He was personally acquainted with the era’s most unique intellectual figure. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 Relevant biographical and bibliographical data will be explored in chapter 1. 22 and his introduction to Derashot ha-Ran ha-Shalem (Jerusalem: Mossad Harav Kook. 1986). and the methodological questions posed by Nahum Arieli in his Ph. and he has been characterized as an eclectic philosopher rather than an original thinker. Rabbi Ḥasdai Crescas. Duran's relationship to Crescas will be explored and documented in chapter 1. regarding Rabbi Joshua in Bamidbar Rabbah 14 and Avot de-Rabbi Natan A chapter 18). Rabbi Yosef Albo.g.D. Ph. The most important studies of Ikkarim relevant to Duran are: Julius Guttman. Spain. 3. 7 . 16. Tashbaẓ II:283 (end). Terumato shel Rabbenu Nissim Gerundi le-`Iẓẓuvan shel Torot ha-`Ikkarim shel Ḥasdai Crescas ve-shel Yosef Albo. above n. p. See the comments in Julius Guttmann. 2003). Shimon ben Ẓemaḥ Duran ha-Rashbaẓ (Jerusalem: Hebrew University. Philosophies of Judaism. Solomon Spiro. 177-197. above n. 1976).” 8 Nor has the full scope of Duran's philosophical writing been adequately surveyed. Mishnato ha-Pilosofit shel R. Guttmann and Spiro. The Principles of Judaism According to Rabbi Simon ben Ẓemaḥ Duran. 1361-1444) was one of the most prolific Jewish philosophers in the late middle ages. pp. 2 The one aspect of his thought that has long fascinated scholars. Duran’s relationship to Gerondi and his students will be explored and documented in chapter 1. diss.D. 1 Despite his influence and enormous output. Silverman (NY: Holt. this is especially true of the unique and sometimes perplexing structure. This is surprising. Arieli. 1315/20-1376 (hereafter: “Gerondi”). and for which any originality has been attributed to him. d. See Feldman. as well as an extremely influential halakhist. Rinehart and Winston. 1964). Dogma in Medieval Jewish Thought (London: Oxford University Press. 10 ff. 242-247. but it is now known that Gerondi died on the ninth of Shevat. The latter date was considered uncertain until recently.

Each chapter furthers one or both of these two complementary goals. to learn and teach the truths they contained." By this we mean that although Gerondi and his students considered the sum of conclusions of no body of knowledge outside the rabbinic tradition to be binding. with relevant comparisons to that of Gerondi and his other students. and to apply those truths to their understanding of the Torah. we will identify several crucial characteristics that Duran shared with this group. and in the special position he occupied among his intellectual contemporaries. As for the school of Gerondi. and content of Magen Avot. one that allowed its reader to study the detailed argumentation and conclusions of rational inquiry in a wide spectrum of sciences and to show that. Overall. they are in accordance with the views of the Torah and Ḥazal in all of their myriad particulars.organization. Duran will be shown to be the member of this school who had the greatest loyalty to the prevailing intellectual culture and to the legacy of Maimonides. and as such the polar opposite of Rabbi Ḥasdai Crescas. and the sequence of chapters reflects the structure of Magen Avot as far as possible. at the same time they made enormous efforts to study other intellectual traditions in great depth. and how these unusual features contribute to his stated goals for that work. but that at times they pursued Gerondi’s intellectual legacy in dissimilar and even contradictory ways. In many cases. and comparing his approach to that of his contemporaries—determine the organization of this book. These two complementary goals—reading Duran with an eye to reconciling the structure and content of Magen Avot with its declared methodology.9 his main work of interest to medieval Jewish philosophy. whose system he saw himself as implementing and even improving upon. Magen Avot. when properly conducted. chief among them what might be loosely described as adherence to an "Open Torah. We will show exactly how Duran's Magen Avot as the “Book of Abraham” is a unique expression of this “Open Torah” attitude by comparing and constrasting it to the works of his contemporaries. organization and content of his main philosophical work. but rather in his unique reaction to the full corpus of Aristotelianism. In terms of his reaction to Aristotelianism. will show that they all shared certain basic ideas and tendencies. 9 Detailed bibliographical information on Magen Avot and the rest of Duran's literary output is provided in chapter 1. we will show that each aspect of the unusual structure. the tools he employed to achieve this goal are based on earlier suggestions by Maimonides. 8 . derives from Duran's desire that it facilitate what he thought of as the path of the patriarch Abraham: He designed Magen Avot to be a vast compendium of knowledge. the students of Gerondi. study of Duran’s philosophical output. This book will show that the significance of Duran as a Jewish philosopher lies not in his eclectic conclusions on specific topics.

Duran. 1925). Epstein writes that the book is to be regarded as a sequel to his previous work: The Responsa of Rabbi Solomon b. 21). presentation. is found in Moshe Katan’s comprehensive introduction to his new edition of Sefer ha-Tashbaẓ: Teshuvot Rabbi Shim`on bar Ẓemaḥ Duran (Jerusalem: Makhon Yerushalayim. Rabbi Ḥasdai Crescas. but the selection. 19-59. sometimes drawing on additional source material not utilized by Epstein. a descendant of Nahmanides (1194-1270) and of Rabbenu Jonah Gerondi (1180-1263) and a teacher (along with Ḥasdai Crescas) of Joseph Albo. The Responsa of Rabbi Simon B. As Epstein remarks: “Although there is a gap of about eighty years between the two periods. c. Epstein's two books on responsa were republished together in a single volume under the title Studies in the Communal Life of the Jews of Spain: As Reflected in the Responsa of Rabbi Solomon ben Adreth and Rabbi Simon ben Ẓemaḥ Duran (New York: Hermon Press. begins. Through his ancestors in Provence he was related to Gersonides (1288-1344). supplemented by the study of a vast range of disciplines 3 including mathematics.Chapter 1. S. De Maistre was martyred along with many family members in the violent persecutions of 1391. Arieli. Epstein (p. 23) writes that Duran “shows a knowledge of French” but unfortunately doesn’t cite proof of this. This earlier work provides useful background on the Spanish rabbinate. astronomy.2 Majorca boasted a thriving Jewish community. Rabbi Ephraim Vidal. to North Africa. as he mentioned in his writings. its educated class included men who were at once outstanding halakhists and experts in geography and astronomy (and who made use of the latter expertise in the service of Mediterranean sailors). Duran refers to his teacher. and the School of Gerondi Rabbi Shimon ben Ẓemaḥ Duran1 Shimon ben Ẓemaḥ Duran lived the first part of his life on the island of Majorca. Ẓemaḥ Duran as a Source of the History of the Jews in North Africa (London: Oxford University Press. which closes with the year 1310. remained the dominant characteristics of the Jewish religious and social life in Spain till the year 1391. p. history. a student of Rabbenu Nissim Gerondi. Duran testified to the range of his studies in Tashbaẓ. also see Abraham M.6 who was one of Gerondi's most beloved 1 2 3 4 5 6 The most important work on the life and times of Duran is Isidore Epstein. hereafter: Tashbaẓ. Note that the “gap of about eighty years” referred to by Epstein is what divides the two great batei midrash in the era of Christian Spain: the earlier school of Nahmanides and his students (including Rashba). 9 .]. 1930). 5 and Katan. We will compare these two schools later on in this chapter. logic. 6 n. as ha-kadosh (e. p. Another good biography of Duran. see below.K. The conditions so minutely described in the first book. who became Duran’s most important teacher. Hershman. My brief biographical remarks here are mostly based on Epstein and Katan. On Arabic and Latin. p.4 biology and medicine. born to a family of wealthy immigrants from Provence. Rabbi Isaac ben Sheshet Perfet and his Times (New York: Jewish Theological Seminary. Aragon was the home of his father-in-law. One of these scholars was Rabbi Ephraim Vidal. Epstein. with its scene shifted elsewhere [i.e. Rabbi Jonah de Maistre of Teruel in Aragon. but not on philosophy (cf. versus the later school of Gerondi and his students (including Duran).g. 1235-1310) was an important source for Duran in his halakhic writings. there is no break in the story. The young Duran received an intensive rabbinic education. especially in his commentary to Berakhot. Adreth of Barcelona as a Source of the History of the Jews of Spain (Routledge. 5758) pp. and emphasis are mine. Duran cites him in connection with certain halakhic matters (Tashbaẓ III:14. 1968). in Tashbaẓ I:163) apparently because he too was murdered in that terrible year (cf. II:52. For other helpful information. 1943). when the so called ‘golden age’ came to an end. grammar. 30). I have supplemented their material with data from other sources where appropriate. Duran also lived in Aragon during his Spanish period. 5 where he became acquainted with the rabbinic leader of the generation. languages.” Rabbi Solomon ben Adreth (Rashba. and when our story. Crescas. and on the cultural and intellectual environment in which Duran was raised.

the former wrote a series of works to refute the latter’s criticism of Aristotle and Maimonides. Duran took great pains for the argument to remain a principled and respectful one." Actually an uman. causing the latter great distress.7 During Duran's time in Spain he supplemented his inherited fortune with income earned as a physician.. See the autobiographical comments in Magen Avot on Avot 4:5. even unintentionally.12 18). as dayyan on the court of Rabbi Isaac bar Sheshet Perfet (known as Rivash. p. 248-50. Duran fled to Algiers. and discussed in greater depth in chapter 3. He consulted him on important questions and deferred to his views in various instances” (pp. 53-4). But the patient Perfet put up with his younger rival. pp. meaning an “operating surgeon” as opposed to a regular physician (Epstein.students. The third member of the court was Rabbi Isaac Bonastruc. the responsa lead Epstein to conclude that Duran “was a kindly. his "brother. For the sources of my summary here. Duran withheld publication of his responsum on the matter in deference to Perfet. In Algiers he was forced to perform rabbinic duties for a salary. Duran succeeded him as Chief Rabbi of Algiers... because “the cordial and intimate relations that subsisted between Duran and Barfat. 222-3. pp... decades after the death of Crescas.. and Duran's halakhic responsum on the matter in Tashbaẓ I:142-148. 44-54.”11 But this one incident is outweighed by the overwhelming evidence of mutual respect and admiration to be found in the responsa of both Perfet and Duran. see Warren Zev Harvey. 17 (Hebrew). His relationship with Perfet was mostly one of mutual courtesy and deep respect. 20-27. Otherwise. over the legitimacy of the king’s appointment of Perfet as Chief Rabbi with exclusive authority but little accountability.. free from arrogance and self-conceit. and the possibility that Gerondi was married to his sister. 8 n. Hershman.. and that he was submissive to him even when he happened to disagree with him. 33). he afforded him ample opportunity for the display of his authority. it is known that Simon Duran would refrain from expressing his views on questions that came under Barfat’s jurisdiction. p. 23-26).9 In the wake of the anti-Jewish riots of 1391. Duran later regretted his conduct in that matter. It is further evidence that Simon did acknowledge Barfat’s authority. Epstein and Hershman weigh the evidence somewhat differently in their respective evaluations of Duran’s personality: Hershman writes.. In the midst of their greatest controversy. see Epstein. Crescas also called Rabbi Isaac bar Sheshet Perfet (Rivash).8 preferring not to take a salary as a rabbi. 1326-1407). Contrast Epstein’s description of the relations between the two: “That these were somewhat strained at one time there is no gainsaying. The relationship between the two men has fascinated historians. with Gerondi's son Rabbi Reuben (the two were called "brothers"). This is the only case in which he speaks bitterly of Duran. calling his own behavior “childish. but these have not survived. In general. Tashbaẓ I:58. dispose of such assertions. and when the all-exclusive powers of the appointment were rescinded. himself a refugee from Barcelona and the very closest student of Gerondi. self-assertive. upheld it when slighted. the closest student of Gerondi. Moreover. although these were submitted to him. 2010). For Ḥasdai Crescas' close relationship with Gerondi. Rabbi Hisdai Crescas (Jerusalem: The Zalman Shazar Center.” (pp. in that I acted brazenly towards one so eminent in wisdom and old age. a peace- 7 8 9 10 11 12 10 .. Only in one specific legal matter did Duran intrude upon the authority of Perfet.. yet another student of Gerondi. was spent in bribing the authorities to spare him from forced baptism. ever ready to intrude his views and obtrude his personality and authority upon Perfet. “Duran was aggressive.” But this incident is no evidence of a standing feud between the two. but there was occasional friction between the two. Towards the end of Duran’s life. What little of his Spanish fortune that wasn’t plundered..10 Upon the death of Perfet. Only on one occasion was his patience exhausted. These will be described later in this chapter. testified by a number of incidents referred to in the Responsa. lovable personality.

2008.. and resolute character. But the author of the Shulḥan Arukh (1488-1575) only had access to a condensed version of Tashbaẓ. "Responses to Comments and Elaborations of Previous Posts III". he would have followed Duran in every case. and exegesis. the true story of his life was the story of his books. and worshipped idols and publicly violated the Sabbath just as he did before his conversion. The number includes. 12. pp. The list has been republished several times by bibliographers (who added parenthesis with the dates of printed editions). 13 14 15 16 17 18 11 . book 10 is a collection of a number of smaller works (kundrisin). Moshe Sobel (Jerusalem: Makhon Yerushalayim. and it was that happy blending that served him in good stead when he was called upon to take the spiritual charge of Chief Rabbinate in succession to Barfat.. Duran writes that he added iggerot or kundrisin as appendices to books 10. sometimes centuries after they were first written. while part four of Magen Avot is listed separately as book 9. had he access to the full version. However.. beneath his lovable and unassuming personality there lay concealed a strong. 37-38. it is clear that the major event shaping Duran’s life was the calamity of 1391. as well single “books” which are collections of a number of shorter works. the Jews of Algeria considered his decisions binding. Rabbi Joseph Karo himself ruled according to the decisions of Duran whenever he cited them. bequeathed to him by his teacher Rabbi Jacob Beirav. fearless.. On the other hand. Ibid. and 14.15 and for centuries to come the Duran family produced a long dynasty of influential North African rabbis. 33-4). and regularly sought his guidance.. A crucial topic Duran was forced to deal with on a halakhic level. All of his writings.”17 chronologically listing fourteen18 books he authored at various stages of his life. And this included not only loving man.13 During his lifetime. see Marc B. and was involved in making halakhic judgements throughout. he is a heretic and a rebel who is not called 'your brother' as I wrote above. But he is nevertheless considered an Israelite apostate and his act of marriage is binding. 26-27.. See Katan. The rabbis of Algeria argue that. In Tashbaẓ III:47 he wrote: "A convert who reverted to his sinful ways immediately after his conversion. however. was the reintegration of anusim (Jews who who had accepted baptism under threat of violence. pp.” (pp. In other words.Duran lived in Algiers for more than half a century. Duran continually updated his “bibliographical autobiography” until the end of his life.. On this see Katan. Most important are his responsa: Sefer ha-Rashbash (=Teshuvot Rabbi Shlomoh ben Shimon). book 8 includes the three philosophic parts of Magen Avot. for the clear distinction that it draws between communal sanction against apostates and sinners versus their status as Jews." For this responsum in the context of the contemporary debate. as Duran himself saw it. Indeed. 38-40. halakhists in Algiers and throughout North Africa esteemed him for his brilliant scholarship. pp. In centuries to come. pp. However. which is also of major historical importance. 49-53. Often printed as the first of three appendices (Ha-Ḥut ha-Meshulash) to Tashbaẓ (all three additions are collectively called the "fourth part" after Duran's own three parts). and 7 are the three parts of Tashbaẓ. Duran’s distant descendants were influential in first publishing his works. A careful edition of this list with very helpful bibliographical comments may be found in Katan. furthermore. “books” which are actually parts of even larger works. ed.14 Duran’s son Solomon was also a renowned halakhist. He thus saw fit to list his writings in a “bibliographical autobiography. exhibit astonishing mastery of the entire corpus of knowledge extant in the literature of his predecessors. even during the lifetime of Perfet. a vast collection of encyclopedic works on halakhah. but Katan's notes are the most comprehensive. he added yet another book. philosophy. 6. in each and every field. especially in wake of the violence in 1391) back into the Jewish community. even when they differed from the Shulḥan Arukh. 5746). which resulted in his exile from Spain. Some of the rabbinic family eventually branched off to Italy. Shapiro. for each book beginning with book 10 he notes that because God blessed him with more years. It is also obvious that the major impact his life had on others was through his halakhic research and decision-making.16 In terms of his personal history. One of Duran's responsa on this topic has become important in contemporary debates regarding conversion to Judaism. August 29. Seforim Blog. Thus books 5.

who studies their Torah but at the same time refines it with his own contributions. is both anti-Islamic and anti-Christian. he told me that Duran did not know Arabic. p. xlv). Specifically designated as a commentary on the Halakhot of Alfasi. so they combined them into one book”). I too would have accepted Hyman’s opinion. but also the works of non-Jewish scholars. Perlmann is of the same opinion. Duran wrote his first work during his Spanish period: Ḥiddushei ha-Rashbaẓ on tractate Berakhot. Professor Hyman feels that Duran knew Arabic philosophy either from Hebrew translations. Ph. 4. meaning a summary or an outline).21 which is the most comprehensive analysis of that tractate by any medieval talmudist. Book 1 of Duran's bibliographical list. 23) notes it as well. It thus appears that Duran preferred to use Hebrew translations when they were available. 92-93. The latter include criticism of rationalistic interpretations for aggadot. M. as well as some comments on aggadot. see the introduction to Prosper Murciano’s edition of this work (Simon ben Ẓemaḥ Duran. Aside from his very complete commentary on Mishnah Avot (book 9. is found in two passages in Magen Avot II:3 where Duran consults the Arabic original of the Guide and suggests corrections to the translations of Samuel ibn Tibbon (Magen Avot 28a:45-49 and 29a:6-7). passages in Keshet u-Magen where Duran accuses Jerome of distorting the Hebrew text in his Latin translation. Arieli agrees without this evidence (p. These responsa are of great importance to halakhic study (beyond their concrete historical impact on the lives of Jews) because they are characterized by an encyclopedic exposition of the broad range of extant opinions on each topic. namely Professor Paul (sic) Hyman from Columbia University and Yeshiva University who is very familiar with Judeo-Arabic philosophy. I did as the sages of Israel did for the twelve minor prophets. Epstein (p. diss. in which he frequently quotes from the Hebrew translations of Arabic works by both Jewish and non-Jewish authors. which to the best of my knowledge has never been cited before. republished with an introduction and notes Jerusalem.”22 This was to be his only full-length commentary to a halakhic tractate. [New York University.. which is apparently the latter one (the former seems to have been a complete halakhic digest on the tractate.” Murciano apparently consulted with Professor Arthur (not Paul) Hyman. On Arabic. the work also deals with halakhic matters not cited in Alfasi. The commentary on Eduyot is lost. a short commentary on Eduyot.Jewish writings. According to Yisrael Ta-Shma. Of the two collections on Niddah. only one still exists (Livorno. Also see 51b:8-9. the collection in three volumes of his more than 800 responsa. See Arieli.. Spiro. but was also able to read Arabic when needed. see below). while the latter is labeled remazim. He lived in such a milieu and acquired this knowledge the way it was taught in Judeo-Arab Centers. p. this naturally raises the question of whether he read Arabic and Latin. Narrower commentaries include two collections of pesakim on tractate Niddah (book 2 and part of book 10). Keshet U-Magen: A Critical Edition. 4). though not a full commentary. 19 20 21 22 23 Duran’s polemical work. in the introduction to his critical edition of Magen Avot on Tractate Avot (Jerusalem: Erez.20 The content and context of his books reflect the story and meaning of his life. The commentary on Kinnim (a tractate posing difficult problems in arithmetic) and the summary of halakhot of Rosh Hashanah. p. I was first made aware of this information by Rabbi Eliyahu Zini. his most influential halakhic work by far was Tashbaẓ. and a summary of the halakhot of Rosh Hashanah (all listed as parts of book 10. and on Mishnah Kinnim. 14. 22. 1967). or he learned them orally as it was customary to study in the Sephardic academies. had my attention not been called to one clear piece of evidence proving the opposite: in Tashbaẓ I:136 Duran mentions that he searched for certain information in “the commentary on the Mishnah which Maimonides wrote in Arabic. 2 (Jerusalem: Magnes: 2000). which is “a collection of separate essays. But the strongest evidence of all. Ha-Sifrut ha-Parshanit la-Talmud be-Europa uve-Ẓafon Afrika. 1975]. 6 n.D. Keshet u-Magen.. have been republished in a single volume by Rabbi Eliyahu Zini (Haifa. nevertheless. called Al-Siraj” and then proceeds to cite the original. cf. 5748). 2000). 23 But more so than his talmudic commentaries. 12 . but he also read Arabic19 and probably Latin. vol. 1745. and lists examples. Duran reveals himself in this commentary as “the last of the great Spanish scholars who still saw himself as part of the authoritative chain of the students of Nahmanides and Rashba. Hyman’s opinion on the matter is a very reasonable one based on the general content of Duran’s writings. p. He preferred to study from Hebrew translations. which are short books. 8 n. pp. where he writes: “According to the authorities I consulted in this field.

In a larger sense. Kasher (Jerusalem.. which the editor appears to have missed. conservative sense of judgment. the manuscript upon which the Livorno edition was based. and to read it yet again after the Kinnot on Tish`a be-Av (p. listed in Katan.accompanied by balanced analysis.28 on (1) 24 25 26 27 28 Book 4. Rabbi Zini is currently preparing a critical edition based on mss. each in its appointed time. 1998). p. The single manuscript that can be dated precisely is in a Spanish script. Ma’amar Hameẓ.26 His first work of major interest to the study of medieval Jewish philosophy was a set of chapters on providence. First edition: Venice.. Book 10 also included commentaries on various types of piyyutim. 1785. M. and his lost commentary on the Torah. in an edition whose aesthetics are poor but whose accuracy is reasonable. therefore.e. The editor of Duran’s Haggadah commentary in the latter edition writes that he was forced to rely on the first printed edition for most of the text. 5764). these two books have become well-known. and on the Azharot. the custom of North African Jews. since the single surviving manuscript (Amsterdam. Clearly. 217). 1744). Ets Haim 47 D 34) is largely illegible.24 Duran also wrote a number of other shorter halakhic works 25 and commentaries on parts of the liturgy.. and includes a commentary on the Haggadah called Ma’amar Afikoman. the Livorno edition is a faithful replica. on Job (see next note). which immediately follows in the liturgy) is included among the essays collected in book 10. the major impetus for much of Duran’s writing was that he wanted educated Jews to have a rich appreciation for the texts they recited in the synagogue. The philosophical part of Magen Avot has reached us in nine partial or complete manuscripts dating from the 15-16th centuries (see bibliography). a modest but significant number. Another important halakhic work is Duran’s classification of the 613 commandments. Duran’s liturgical commentaries may thus be said to include his commentary on Avot (and by extension the entire Magen Avot!). However. as he explicitly states in the introduction to his commentary on Avot (see below): “The custom is to read this tractate in synagogues and in study halls. new corrected edition by Feldheim publishers (Jerusalem. In his critical edition of Duran's commentary on Avot (Haifa: Erez. 39 n. 52 n. New York JTS RAB 509. we have decided to write a commentary on it. and was completed in 1559 (ms Paris Heb. All but two are in Spanish scripts.. 358). printed together with the commentary Mishpat Ẓedek by Rabbi Ovadia Seforno (Italy.. Yavin Shemuah. for a small part of the haggadah commentary. he was only able to use the ms. is on the laws of Passover. Ma’amar Hameẓ and Tiferet Yisrael were published in the same volume as Yavin Shemuah. which he wrote as an introduction to Ohev Mishpat (a comprehensive commentary on the biblical book of Job that he penned in 1405). Every one of these works explains the text at hand in great depth. book 14. 1589. edited and republished by Rabbi M. on Ibn Gabirol’s Azharot. Book 3.. 27 His most important. is to read Job between Shavuot and Tish`a be-Av. and the Haggadah commentary was republished with notes in Haggadah shel Pesaḥ Torat Hayyim (Jerusalem: Mosad Harav Kuk. on the Passover Haggadah.. as we shall see in chapter 2. but is also. for the custom is to read the book of Job and the Azharot. and consequently entitled Zohar haRakia`. 1615. including the commentary on Avot). Book 13. The final decisions reveal a careful. 18) similarities between this manuscript and the Livorno edition published by Rabbi Yonah Duran.” According to Rabbi Zini. 1470-1550).. on Eizehu Mekoman and Rabbi Yishmael’s baraita. Duran purposely chose to write most of his important exegetical works on texts that were part of his liturgy. Rabbi Zini has noted (p. especially in Algeria. Book 8. As we shall see in chapter 2. the JNUL Manuscript Institute also lists Ms. I am grateful to Rabbi Eliyahu Zini for providing me with a digital version of the first half of the text (folios 1-48) based on the printed version. is on the laws of ritual slaughter and examination of the lungs of animals (Livorno. A commentary on Eizehu Mekoman (a chapter of mishnah [Zevahim 5] recited in the daily liturgy) and on Rabbi Yishmael’s baraita (with his thirteen hermeneutic principles. written in the form of a commentary on Ibn Gabirol’s Azharot. an appendix Tiferet Yisrael is on determining the lunar month. 5737) with notes by important talmudists. This manuscript is not just the only nearly complete manuscript that includes all four parts of Magen Avot (i. The commentary on Job itself is a comprehensive digest of medieval Jewish exegesis. First edition Constantinople. The philosophic part of Magen Avot was printed in Livorno. thus. 5760). a descendant of the 13 . 739). surviving philosophical work consists of the first three parts of a massive work called Magen Avot. and its mild inaccuracies derive from its source. along with original compositions by Duran himself (some of these have been printed in scattered volumes. just as we have written commentaries on the book of Job.

to reject his interpretations. cited by the editor of Hadar Zekenim from a manuscript of Livyat Hen that was in his possession. 1863). no. 20). Book 9. 1710). The three part division corresponding to God. entitled Setirat Emunat ha-Noẓerim (Constantinople. during which it appeared in numerous editions. which he called Livyat Ḥen” (Responsa. is an encyclopedic commentary on tractate Avot. 29 The fourth and final part of Magen Avot. A critical edition of Keshet U-Magen was prepared by Prosper Murciano (above. Thus it is unclear whether the work was meant to defend Gersonides. but was first published before the philosophical part (Livorno. apparently borrowed the idea from Duran. 466) Rabbi Solomon called his father’s work “The book Livyat Ḥen which he composed to criticize [le-hasig `al] the commentary written by his relative. (3) providence and resurrection. n. who used the same three-part division as the structural principle for his Sefer ha-Ikkarim. 32 That same year he 29 30 31 32 author. 57) implying that it stands on its own as a commentary. The polemical chapter of Magen Avot (Part II chapter 4) is omitted from most manuscripts of the philosophical part. In another place (Responsa. 1785 edition (folios 26-27). 1790) also included anti-Christological passages from Magen Avot Part I that were omitted from the Livorno. which Duran considered the most important. See the studies cited earlier in the introduction. 36). At age 77 he wrote what was apparently a full-length commentary on the Torah in the form of notes (hagahot) to the commentary of Gersonides (“our relative”). the commentary on tractate Avot.God. The one surviving fragment of this commentary (on Genesis 18:32. 26). Albo. but implicitly rejects his interpretation. This is likely true. was the reverse of the philosophical part: It survives in just three separate manuscripts. It this edition it is entitled Keshet U-Magen and is joined to the related polemic Milhemet Miẓvah by Duran's son Solomon. which would be similar to what he does in his other writings. Book 12. A critical edition edited by Rabbi Eliyahu Zini appeared in 2000 (above. in a parenthetical addition to the Tosafot on Vayera) is an exegetical discussion that doesn’t deal with Gersonides directly. or (as I myself suspect) to write a supercommentary with an eclectic orientation towareds Gersonides own commentary.30 Towards the end of his life he added what were apparently voluminous works of philosophical import. and providence (including resurrection) reflects Duran’s classification of Maimonides’ thirteen principles of the Torah. no. Rabbi Zini sometimes gave preference to the Livorno edition because “it is reasonable to assume that the manuscript available to the descendants of the author was one of the better ones” (p. (2) prophecy. the anti-Christological half of it appeared alone. a necklace about your throat"). who is also responsible for the commonly used title of his father's work. 1855. all of which are unfortunately lost: In 1436 (his 75 th year) he wrote Or haHayyim31 to defend Aristotle and Maimonides from Crescas’ refutation of their philosophy in his Or Hashem. The first full edition including its argumentation against both Christianity and Islam (Leghorn. in 1762 (the commentary on Avot was published before the philosophical part). Vienna. but what we note in chapter 2 also makes it entirely possible that the philosophical part and the commentary on Avot were both published in Livorno from the very same manuscript. Duran himself listed his commentary in the context of works that are meant to defend both Maimonides and Gersonides from Crescas. The fate of Magen Avot Part IV. 1762) and twice subsequently before the 20th century (Leipzig. the great scholar Rabbi Levi of blessed memory. The title is taken from Proverbs 1:9 ("For they are a graceful wreath upon your head. In his critical edition.” Similarly. n. 14 . His son Rabbi Solomon mentioned the work as “his commentary on the Torah. prophecy. It was first printed incompletely. Book 11.

By “philosophy” we mean what Duran and his contemporaries would have called “rational investigation. originally appeared in Hebrew as: “Al Heker ha-Pilosofia ha-Yehudit Bimei ha-Benayyim” in Al Da`at ha-Makom: Mehkarim be-Hagut ha-Yehudit uve-Toledoteha (Jerusalem: Keter. 1975). In addition. all discussions of Duran's philosophy have been almost entirely limited to his two main philosophical tracts: Magen Avot Parts I-III and the set of introductory chapters to Ohev Mishpat. then Crescas became the spokesman for a new period in which no aspect of the Aristotelian universe was any longer beyond question.37 Some have gone so far as to suggest that Crescas was more than just a harbinger among the Jews. “Needless to say. 407. we will use the terms “science” and “philosophy” somewhat loosely because of stylistic considerations. which is also refutations of Or Hashem” (by its title seemingly aimed directly at the first part of Or Hashem on the existence of God. p. Rabbi Ḥasdai Crescas. and the second is the “Treatise on Unity of Shimon ibn Ẓemaḥ. his unity.” When it deals with Crescas. Modern scholarship has long been fascinated by Crescas. Symcha Bunim Urbach. Colette Sirat. 11-12. 1996).C. its standard of argumentation. 1940).. attributes. Several examples of the latter usage will be for the results of observation during the dissection of animals. In parts of this book. If Maimonides was the central figure in Jewish Aristotelianism. 36 Scholars are nevertheless aware that. But his other writings have been mostly been ignored.” He seems to have regarded at least the first two of these four essays as appendices to his Torah commentary Livyat Ḥen. Hagut Pilosofit Bimei ha-Benayyim (Jerusalem: Keter. Mishnato ha-Pilosofit shel Rabbi Ḥasdai Crescas. its originality. and incorporeality. but that he was both the wellspring of a new stream in Jewish thought and at the same time one of the very first creators of modern philosophy and science. the profundity of its interpretation of classical Jewish sources. 15 . 389. p. which is apparent from the origins of the titles taken from the same verse. A History of Medieval Jewish Philosophy (Philadelphia: JPS.129-141. viewing him as the pivotal figure in medieval Jewish philosophy who brought the Maimonidean era to a close. For typical evaluations of Crescas’ importance by modern scholars. pp. [=Amudei ha-Mahashava ha-Yisraelit. The last two of the four essays are simply “two more essays on this matter. pp. the primary consideration which moves a scholar to study a certain philosophical text is its intrinsic significance. it is enough to consult some of the standard handbooks: Guttmann.added four more essays33 devoted to disproving Crescas. But in order to understand both the context of his thought and why it merits study. despite the conceptual importance of Crescas’ thought.” while “science” will usually refer more specifically to explanations of concrete phenomena in the sublunar world. especially as known from the works of Galen. Gieben. pp. we must also introduce his better-known elder colleague.35 Crescas and Duran: A Comparison The subject of our study is Duran. the historical impact of his ideas cannot be compared to that of Maimonides. 1991). Isaac Husik.. which beyond sympathy for Gersonides' philosophical exegesis might even hint at defense of his Aristotelianism from the likes of Crescas.” See “On the Study of Medieval Jewish Philosophy” in History and Faith: Studies in Jewish Philosophy (Amsterdam: J. 224-227. This book will note a number of relevant passages and parallels in Duran’s non-philosophical works. but which also contains Crescas' entire critique of Aristotelian science). “scholarship has preferred the philosophical criterion over the historical criterion of socio-cultural impact. and the like.38 But in his introduction to Crescas' 33 34 35 36 37 38 In his bibliographical additions to book 12 he entitles the first two of these essays `Anakim (meaning “necklaces” based upon Proverbs 1:9) and then proceeds to describe each of them separately: the first is “refutations” of Crescas. his halakhic and exegetical works also at times betray the influence of medieval science34 and philosophy. As Aviezer Ravitzky has remarked. Until now.

Two elements. Crescas didn't make due with the words of Aristotle and his students. and that is why before he attacked the 26 Aristotelian axioms he made efforts to strengthen them as much as possible. but rarely tried to show that Aristotle was empirically inadequate. that his criticism was nearly all conceptual. but at the very same time allowed nothing to compromise the intellectual integrity of his work: "Crescas sought no easy victory over Aristotle. as well as their limitations. Harry Austryn Wolfson refused to take Crescas quite that far. 1929). Had Crescas not just cast doubt on conceptual reason. He wanted to criticise the very best in Aristotelian science. He was only interested in a fair fight. though drawing near. Eliezer Schweid. For Urbach’s detailed evaluation of Crescas’ originality. is a vivid reminder of the talmudic maxim that the school of Hillel would first present the positions of the school of Shammai before stating their own views (Eruvin 13b). For direct criticism by Schweid of Urbach’s evaluation of Crescas’ influence and importance. and at times he added new arguments.. But the time for this. The distinction between “theology” and “philosophy” is of course a modern one. 7. “Ha-Te’ologyah shel Rabbi Ḥasdai Crescas”. 5721). 124-127. p. pp.” Harvey. Crescas’ Critique of Aristotle (Cambridge: Harvard University Press. In many places he even improved the old Aristotelian arguments. but to free the Torah from the bonds of Aristotelian philosophy by destroying rational certainty. it is Part III]. Furthermore. 1970). 40 According to Schweid. first published as an introduction to the limited facsimile edition of the first printed version of Crescas’ Or Hashem (Ferrara. p. Crescas stopped short of a revolution in philosophy because of his religious motivation for attacking Aristotle. he would have set a created a revolutionary new model (that of modern science). where he claims that Urbach went too far in his evaluation of Crescas as a revolutionary thinker. 424-32. that his negative criticism offered no alternative model. said Wolfson. Rabbi Hisdai Crescas. 55. pp. had not yet come.. in light of the sources he drew upon. (Jerusalem: Torah Education Department. In other places we will occasionally use it to distinguish ideas that Duran or others ascribe to the Torah as opposed to “rational investigation.Critique of Aristotle. In a more recent description of Crescas' place in the history of science (in a chapter provocatively entitled "Revolutionary of the New Science") Warren Zev Harvey emphasizes the extraordinary and positive steps forward that Crescas took. a negative motivation proved—when combined with superb talent and enormous integrity—to be exactly what was needed to help push science forward. as the prelude to criticism that would undermine it in fundamental ways. Harvey describes him as a striking example of a thinker who possessed full self-awareness of his non-scientific motivations and was completely open about them.39 Eliezer Schweid's view of Crescas is even more cautious. giving it all of the serious attention that it fully deserved. and second. limited Crescas' otherwise revolutionary criticism of Aristotle: one. His conservative theology 41 thus gave birth to a purely critical philosophy. 9-12. His goal was not to build a new philosophical system."42 In other words. 381-409. see his review of Urbach’s book in Kiryat Sefer 37 (1961-2). 39 40 41 42 16 . but we are using “theology” loosely in our current discussion in the same sense as Eliezer Schweid. That Crescas presented Aristotelianism in the strongest way possible. 1555) by Makor (Jerusalem. see pp. pp. In terms of Crescas' religious motivation. but also tried to control reason with facts.

revolutionary concepts meant to replace those of Aristotle. What Crescas' did not do was best expressed by Wolfson: The model was still missing. Crescas was incapable of providing a new. But on certain issues he did take positions counter to what was previously accepted in Jewish thought. and a highly respected halakhist. and his theory on the relationship between free-will and divine foreknowledge. “Determinism and Ethics in the Teachings of Rav Ḥasdai Crescas and Rav Abraham Isaac Hacohen Kook” in Freedom and Moral Responsibility (College Park: University Presses of Maryland. acceptable to his colleagues.. Though he was never able to carry out his plan to summarize all of Jewish law in a work that would supersede Maimonides’ Mishneh Torah. p.43 Having described his unique contributions. important parts of Or Hashem were later translated into Latin and published. Copernican cosmology and the deterministic physics of Newton were based first and foremost on the careful observation of physical phenomenon. among them the eternity of space and of time. These men did not create modern science. pp. 205-215. 17 . see Urbach. 1997). because both his criticisms and his new ideas were almost entirely conceptual. On free-will. pp. For Crescas in particular. and the possibility of a vacuum (empty space). 281 ff.44 His basic approach was. but they took crucial steps forward that made the scientific revolution possible in generations to come. pp. the possibility of many worlds (or an infinity of worlds) both across space and throughout time. In the centuries to come. 55-59. presumably. Seymour Feldman. Crescas' physics also had a profound influence on Spinoza. Or Hashem is full of positive. we can now return to his contemporaries to see how they dealt with his ideas. Schweid discusses several factors that may account for Crescas’ lack of influence. pp. In short. Schweid. 54. pp.. but not in time. 45 And his skill as a philosopher was nothing short of brilliant.not true at all that Crescas' philosophy was purely critical. making them available to the scientists and philosophers of the 16th and 17th centuries. “Crescas’ theological determinism” Daat 9 (1982). Michael Zvi Nehorai. And what prevented him from doing so was not his motivation. Crescas was an important member of a small group of men who were the first to challenge the core of dogmatic Aristotelianism and offer conceptual alternatives to it. On the contrary. comprehensive model of the universe. pp. but the following is the most important for our purposes: 43 44 45 Ibid. 3-28. the principle of deterministic causation. For a discussion of the former see Urbach. 192-196 and Schweid. This is certainly true regarding the basic motivations for his critique of Aristotelianism. Crescas was the prominent Spanish rabbinic leader in his day. such as his opinion that the world was created ex nihilo. These facts make it all the more striking that his originality found limited reception among Jews in his own time and in subsequent generations. but rather his lack of an empirical thrust. While he was able to offer some extraordinarily positive and valuable new ideas. who read Or Hashem in Hebrew in his youth. 40-46.

5-6. because the root of the problem 18 . did not spread from their primary source but from a secondary one: from Rabbi Yosef Albo's book Sefer ha-Ikkarim.46 Schweid adds the following incisive comments about “conservative theologians” such as these: The courage to follow a very consistent and radical methodology. Albo accepted his teacher’s view that duration existed before creation. 651-8. For another example. for Crescas. authoritarian principle. but through a compromise that bypasses the extremes. Vol. is duration. p. and combines various unlike things. “Scholasticism after Thomas Aquinas and the Teachings of Ḥasdai Crescas and his Predecessors” in Studies in Medieval Jewish History and Literature (Cambridge. 82-109. Schweid’s description of Albo may exaggerate the situation.. But on his way to back up the Torah's authority. which added what he learned from his teacher Crescas (in a blunted. 663-4): Did time exist before creation? Maimonides held that it did not. and for good reason: it is striking that Crescas' very own student presented his teacher's radical. We find that in Crescas' generation the eclectic tendency increased. and it is this that was able to exert direct influence on the wider community of Torah scholars and educated men. but with this very approach he stepped out of the bounds of spiritual preparedness of most of his contemporaries. in whatever measure they reached this audience. and has been discussed at length by Wolfson (pp. pp. How does it resolve the contradictions found among those accepted ideas? Not by methodological synthesis. that he seemed an anomaly even to those who had conservative tendencies that were. Ibid. that there can only be “imaginary” time where there is no physical motion. which offers a modus vivendi among the views that have won general acceptance in a certain generation. he revealed such a radically critical attitude towards the theological and philosophic thought that had been accepted in recent generations. all according to an outside. pp. Consider: Traditionalism at its roots reflects a bias towards conformity. It is loyal to what is agreed upon and accepted by the majority. lukewarm presentation) to the corpus of ideas that he found in the works of Saadia Gaon. For another evaluation besides of Crescas’ place in the history of philosophy. Crescas presented himself as a true nonconformist and an original philosopher. What this means is that in his criticism of the physics and theology accepted in his time. One possible example of Albo’s “lukewarm” attitude towards his teacher’s theories is regarding the eternity of time (Ikkarim II:18). Nevertheless. but countered that such pure duration is not true time. blurs the differences. Crescas counters that even without physical motion. 5. brilliant new views as simply another variation on the ideas of his predecessors. similar to his own. Maimonides. Ibn Ezra. see Shlomo Pines. see Albo’s blunt dismissal of his teacher’s solution to the problem of determinism in Ikkarim IV:1. but unmeasured time is really only “imaginary. 404-446. Time. He then concluded by interpreting a midrash (Bereshit Rabbah 3:7) to mean that time only followed upon the creation of the celestial spheres. and only its measurability depends on physical motion. there is order and succession in a thinking mind (perhaps the mind of God) even in a duration lacking any physical motion. even when its conclusions match the tradition and serve to back up its authority. Reprinted in Collected Works. is essentially opposed to traditionalism. Judah Halevi.48 46 47 48 Schweid.His goal as a conservative theologian was to reinstate the authority of the Torah. and others. Even Crescas' own views. pp.” thus reverting to Maimonides’ position in principle. V. seemingly. showing thought that is consistently loyal to its inner logic. 1979). time is “true” because it can be measured by conceptual motion.47 Schweid's chosen example of a conservative eclectic here is Albo. in every area of thought and action.

His halakhic works made Duran influential long after his own lifetime. was apparently quite thorough (no less than 55 chapters49). Duran’s overall methodology was to take the best from the theories of each of his predecessors. then each and any of these may have been quite long. But the very fact that he wrote them helps justify our characterization of Duran as the conservative antithesis of Crescas. based on a number of hints in Sefer ha-Ikkarim. even if Schweid is correct that Sefer ha-Ikkarim doesn’t do justice to Crescas’ philosophy in the final and permanent form it took at the end of his life. Furthermore. 20-22). It is our misfortune that all of these polemical tracts are lost.e. there is no better representative of the may lie less in Albo’s intellectual attitudes and more in the programmatic structure of his book. It is hard to tell whether there is some overall methodology to account for his specific choices. This is why it seems that he “added what he learned from his teacher Crescas. even though his literary success in the field was far greater: He was fortunate enough to see several important halakhic works to their completion.50 that book was followed a year later by four more treatises (iggerot) all devoted to the very same goal.Nevertheless. it is worth noting Wolfson’s suspicion. his relationship to Crescas was that of a scholar to an admired elder colleague. and reject damaging conclusions that were in conflict with the tradition (pp. n. and as we mentioned above. but unlike Albo. (In fact.. fill in that which they left incomplete. something that Crescas was unable to do.51 Seemingly. Section C explains Crescas’ alternative metaphysics. 5-7). nor would such a section fit into the book’s plan. But Albo’s Sefer ha-Ikkarim has no such goal. Thus. Duran clearly recognized (unlike Albo) the extent to which the radical ideas in Crescas’ Or Hashem threatened the intellectual status quo. Crescas) who reject the philosophical view. The first part of Crescas’ Or Hashem is built as a rebuttal of Aristotle: Part I. not a student to his teacher. and at times combined elements from more than one of them. it is designed solely to identify the Ikkarim. no other word is used more often to describe him.” and contrasts it with that of more recent authorities (i. As a writer of philosophy. while his abilities as a popularizer were less (both like Crescas). Nor is the presentation always halfhearted. Duran would have been a stronger example for Schweid’s purposes. See the notes on book 11 and the additions to book 12. He too was a conservative eclectic unwilling to accept Crescas' radical new views.. In several places. Unlike Crescas. and that he was heavily influenced by kabbalah (pp. which Duran wrote in his old age in order to refute Crescas. but rather that it provides “a faint echo of the class room discussion of Crescas’ lectures on philosophy” (p. 49 50 51 19 . that the book doesn’t borrow directly from Crescas’ Or Hashem. Albo first cites the view of “the philosophers. and then survey the various opinions on each Ikkar and its related topics. 2). 30). Section A presents the arguments and proofs supporting Aristotelian physics and metaphysics. This is the central problem to which Arieli devoted his dissertation (Introduction. despite the deep admiration that he sometimes exhibits for it. but about an entire world view. meaning “chapters” or “sections”. it may indeed do justice to the intellectual mood in his yeshivah as he worked out his ideas with his students.) When reading him we find that he chose his conclusions from among his literary sources for each issue that he dealt with. She`arim. It has no polemical section comparable to the first part of Or Hashem. These juxtapositions make it clear that the debate is not just about the details. scholars have long regarded Duran as an eclectic philosopher. The book called Or ha-Hayyim. to the corpus of ideas that he found in the works” of earlier thinkers. Duran also more closely resembled Crescas as a prominent halakhist. Section B refutes them one by one. if Duran’s other writings may serve as evidence. he was also much closer to Crescas than to Albo: His philosophical expertise was greater than Albo's. as a rule. He concluded that Duran was a severe critic of Maimonides who held that rational investigation has no intrinsic value. Finally.

that his originality bore fruit in a positive way. But what of problems posed by the Torah. Although Crescas' severe critique of Aristotelianism was entirely new in Jewish thought. we will see that Duran had a far more positive attitude towards rational investigation than Arieli would have it. Crescas was interested not in building a new philosophic model to replace the one he destroyed. or the question of philosophic exegesis for the Bible and rabbinic literature? Scholars neglected Crescas’ theology for most of the past century.53 However. becoming a veritable role-model for all further research. For Duran. In this sense. his theology builds upon the work of others. no less so than for Crescas. Duran. the case must be stated in opposite terms: Although the philosophy he presented was old in that it mostly restated the arguments he found in his literary sources. but never explored: Duran's massive program to interpret biblical and rabbinic sources according to his theological and philosophical positions. we will see that despite a few exceptions. he freely employed Aristotelian terminology in his exegesis. 1989). on the contrary. Such as Schweid and Aviezer Ravitzky. for whom aggadot that cannot be reconciled with reason are not binding. it is specifically in the area of theology that extra methodological care is called for. But because it dealt only with the critique of Aristotle. his project was far more ambitious than that of Maimonides. but especially in chapters 2 and 4. or able to shed new light on tradition. when comparing Crescas to Duran. The deep contrast between the two men is in their contradictory appraisals of Aristotelianism. then Duran represented a conservative type that shared the overall theological categories. this in no way precluded the use of its concepts whenever they seemed true in the light of tradition. In this. but in rebuilding the Torah free of rationalistic constraints. but wanted no part of the anti-Aristotelian revolution. If Crescas was a conservative theologian with a markedly unconventional philosophic attitude. It seems that the brilliance of exhibited by Wolfson in Crescas’ Critique of Aristotle quickly set the standard for excellence in medieval Jewish philosophy. as Schweid points out. scholars have examined his theology more closely. free to do so because although he eliminated philosophic certainty. made a huge effort to show that even contradictory aggadic positions each reflect different aspects of philosophical truth. the two are mirror images of each other. In addition. In recent years. such as prophecy and providence. 52 but it was precisely here. and considered himself a “true” Maimonidean in certain ways. Derashat ha-Pesaḥ le-Rabbi Ḥasdai Crescas u-Mehkarim be-Mishnato haPilosofit (Jerusalem: Israel Academy of Sciences. managing to reconcile philosophic interpretations with peshat in unique 52 53 Throughout this book. 20 . This is especially true for one major element that scholars have long noted. In fact. But at the very same time his exegesis was highly conservative. his theology had the potential for much that was new. other parts of Crescas’ thought were less studied afterwards.kind of traditionalism described by Schweid than Duran. the kabbalistic influence on Magen Avot is not overly significant. and also the standard work on Crescas.

Nahmanides and his students tended to treat 54 55 56 57 58 This is especially true of his commentary on Job. c. Rashba is more important simply because of the vast scope of his writings. Rabbi Aharon Halevi (Ra’ah. 1.D. 1235-1310). c.ways. The figure we are speaking of is Rabbenu Nissim Gerondi.54 Crescas. Although Gerondi was probably born too late (c. (Jerusalem: Hebrew University. himself widely acknowledged by scholars as a highly original thinker. Robert Eisen's study of Ohev Mishpat also shows that Duran was the most conservative exegete of Job among the medieval Jewish philosophers (personal correspondence. on the Halakhot of Alfasi. and philosophy. which comprise the last major halakhic works by a direct heir to Nahmanides. The career of Rabbenu Nissim Gerondi (“Ran”) marks a major shift in three central areas of Spanish-Jewish scholarship: halakhah. To begin with. A sign of things to come? 21 . while Duran venerated him as "the teacher of my teachers". He even suggested that Nahmanides’ enthusiasm for kabbalah may have led him to exaggerate his criticisms.4 Rabbenu Nissim Gerondi and his Students A comparison of Crescas and Duran yields both strong similarities and profound differences. The major figures in this school were: Nahmanides himself (c. An excellent descriptive survey of Nahmanides and his students. 1315-20) to have studied directly under the students of Nahmanides. Duran managed to take the philosophical debate (which he assumes took place among Job and his counterparts) and make it into an outgrowth of the emotional remarks by the participants. for many or most of these works. and now see: The Book of Job in Medieval Jewish Philosophy [Oxford University Press. engaged in philosophical exegesis. attempted to limit the "jurisdiction" of Aristotelian thought. Crescas’ exegesis of Ḥazal has been studied by Natan Ophir. He too composed voluminous novellae on the Talmud. too. diss. lies behind those feelings and attitudes for each participant in the book’s debate. 85-89). Rabbi Yom Tov ibn Ishbili (Ritba. he nevertheless composed a short book called Sefer Zikkaron to defend Maimonides’ Guide from the criticisms of Nahmanides. Not only this. 2004]). may be found in Ta-Shma (pp.56 specifically to their monumental novellae on the Talmud 57 and their halakhic responsa. 55 but on a quantitative level no contemporary did so nearly to the extent of Duran. the material by Crescas’ students that has survived is all in the form of philosophic exegesis or derashot. but with one marked difference: In their halakhic decision-making. and who. though he considered the former his most important teacher. 29-78). but a definite philosophy. Other than Albo's book. c. In terms of his thought. because Crescas and Duran were both deeply influenced by a profound teacher of religious philosophy. but his philosophy was written entirely in the form of exegesis. 58 Gerondi continued their tradition of Ḥiddushim and teshuvot in his halakhic writings. In other words: the verses themselves deal with personal feelings and attitudes (which are easy to regard as peshat). it is noteworthy that although Ritba’s sympathies were closer to the kabbalists. for the most part discussed separately. But the question goes beyond these two specific personalities. Ph. Crescas studied under him directly. Of the two. he was the last writer to produce commentaries on much of the Talmud in the style and spirit of their school (pp. Rabbi Ḥasdai Crescas ke-Parshan Pilosofi leMa’amarei Ḥazal. Ohev Mishpat. in terms of their halakhic writings. in the field of halakhah. as did his students. which culminated in the comprehensive scholarship found in the voluminous writings of Rashba. 1195-1270) and his two major students. kabbalah. the writings of Gerondi make him the greatest heir to the school of Nahmanides and his students. 1994). 1250-1320) studied under both Ra’ah and Rashba. More precisely. like both Crescas and Duran. 1230-1300) and Rabbi Shelomoh ben Adreth (Rashba.

see Yitzhak Baer. no. pp. rather. he also stopped short of disqualifying kabbalah altogether. pp. “The Commentary of R. A History of the Jews in Christian Spain. To put this departure in perspective. I (Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society of America.64 59 60 61 62 63 64 Rabbi Joseph Karo apparently recognized this. Bein Torah le-Hokhmah (Jerusalem: Magnes. 157: “And I’ve told you what my master and teacher. Leon Feldman considers the entire passage to be Gerondi. insurmountable cultural gap between the contemporaneous schools in Spain and southern France. Nissim b. 108. Rabbi Vidal of Tolosa (c. see “Yesodot Kabbali’im be-Sefer Or Hashem le-R. 2001). Rabbenu Nissim of blessed memory. 1978). we find that Nahmanides and his students maintain complete and utter silence regarding all Provencal halakhic views expressed after the period of (non-Maimonidean) scholars such as Ra’avad and Ba`al haMaor. 334-352. confided in me: That Nahmanides of blessed memory immersed himself far too much in his kabbalistic belief. thus portraying Gerondi as a vehement anti-kabbalist. and focus on the seemingly neutral area of halakhah. Halbertal maintains that such perfect silence can be explained only as a result of a vast. 62 Given this background. So I have chosen not to involve myself in esoteric matters. We will return to this topic and to Halbertal's evaluation of Nahmanides and his students in the final chapter of this book. which takes Gerondi precisely at his word. or whether he meant exactly what he said: that kabbalah can be taken too far. Reuven Gerondi to the Halakhot of Alfasi: A Study in Halakhic History. 289-305. but understated his views for fear of controversy. 1989): 187-194. and that Nahmanides unfortunately did so (this presumably includes his students as well). 1968). In view of the other harsh antikabbalistic remarks cited by Perfet in this responsum.” HUCA 60 (1989): 191-258. For a rich cultural analysis. 69.” Divrei ha-Congress ha-Olami 64 (3:1.60 and was at the root of the roles they played in the Maimonidean controversies. My own initial reading of the primary source before I became aware of the problem was the same as Harvey’s. 1360). as described by Moshe Halbertal in his Bein Torah le-Hokhmah (Jerusalem: Magnes. Ḥasdai Crescas. Even if we ignore the fierce battleground of kabbalah versus philosophy. but reads the last part as the words of Perfet.” The passage continues. And though I have seen explanations of Nahmanides’ secrets. On the special place Maimonides occupied in Gerondi’s halakhic writings. It must be admitted that Perfet records other views far more critical of kabbalah than the one he records in the name of Gerondi. 61 which culminated in Rashba's famous ban. this originally appeared in a shorter version as “Rabbenu Nissim ben Re’uven Gerondi u-Mishneh Torah la-Rambam. they too fail to reveal the roots of that wisdom. as we shall soon see. see Mark Washofsky. if we take him too at his exact word. see Moshe Halbertal. “For this reason I do not immerse myself in that wisdom. vol. It remains an open question whether Gerondi opposed kabbalah altogether. or whether they are Perfet speaking for himself. Zeev Harvey cites Feldman. A comprehensive analysis of this topic may be found in Moshe Halbertal's recent book. For basic background. p. But a study of the overall openness of Gerondi and his students to all sources of knowledge (including kabbalah). because it was accompanied by a positive reappraisal of his philosophy as well. see his introduction to Perush ha-Ran al ha-Torah..Maimonides as one source among many others. because I have not received it from a kabbalistic scholar. pp. Cited by his student Rabbi Isaac ben Sheshet Perfet in Shu”t ha-Rivash. Ibid. 2006).” Mehkarei Yerushalayim be-Mahashevet Yisrael 2 (5743).” It is unclear whether the last part of the citation is from Gerondi. author of the Maggid Mishneh. may strengthen support for the latter view. it is tempting to accept the former possibility. consider the attitude of the school of Nahmanides to the rabbinic Maimonideans of Provence. `Al Derekh ha-Emet: HaRamban vi-Yeẓiratah shel Masoret (Jerusalem: Hartman Institute. p. In kabbalah the shift was even more severe. while Gerondi made a conscious effort to bolster the authority of the Mishneh Torah. Nevertheless. 5760). as long as they are not taken too far. and are likely to lead one to err.59 This revival of Maimonides’ halakhic authority is all the more interesting. Kabbalah filled the inner life of Nahmanides and his students. 219-222. 22 . (Jerusalem: Makhon Shalem. was a colleague of Gerondi. they reveal one cubit only to cover several more. Gerondi’s well-known statement that Nahmanides ascribed undue importance to the kabbalah63 marks a clear and radical departure from his predecessors. 17. thus equating Gerondi with the Maggid Mishnah as a commentary on Maimonides (!). which deals with the interplay between Nahmanides' kabbalistic convictions and his role as an expositor of the exoteric Torah. to the extent that in his introduction to Beit Yosef he declared that he would interpret difficult points in the Rambam according to the Maggid Mishneh and Gerondi.

Aryeh (Leon) Feldman (Jerusalem: Mosad Harav Kook. the possibility of true dialogue (though certainly not full agreement)."68 Feldman thus notes that Duran was "close" to Gerondi's "school of thought. because even a cursory examination shows that Gerondi had a powerful influence on his students. though he had high regard for philosophic achievements. broader influences are undeniable. 23 . 2001). and certainly was no partner to the idea of banning it. see Feldman’s first edition." Though he leaves the boundaries of this school undefined. the scholarly effort to identify the sources of Gerondi’s students has overlooked their teacher. He cites five similar examples for Albo. This phenomenon remains to be tested and determined. Nonetheless.In philosophy there was a shift in attitude. We will use Derashot ha-Ran ha-Shalem. My summary here of Gerondi’s attitude towards kabbalah and philosophy is based upon impressions from my own reading. ed. for Gerondi happily employs philosophic concepts and reasoning throughout his Derashot. pp.66 In modern scholarship. It seems to me that Duran did not see the Derashot. this hesitancy is not fully realized in practice. Gerondi was an admirer of Maimonides’ philosophic enterprise.65 He did not scorn philosophy in general. especially areas that encroached on tradition. 1973). This book will not find any evidence of direct borrowing from the Derashot by Duran in any of the topics it explores. These impressions fully agree with the (flowery) description in Feldman’s introduction to Perush ha-Ran. the cultural gap with Provence was not quite so vast. but points out that when scholars looked for the sources of Albo's statements they stopped with Crescas. But other. 42-43. Feldman writes: "It is difficult to determine whether Rabbi Shimon ben Ẓemaḥ Duran was influenced by Gerondi in his book Magen Avot. On the influence of Gerondi’s Derashot in general. 45.67 Regarding Duran. some acquaintance with the writings of Gerondi and 65 66 67 68 The departure of Gerondi (and his students) from the school of Nahmanides can be better appreciated when we realize that for them. Above. complemented by an even greater shift in emphasis. second edition. 41-45. This denial may reflect limited internalization and acceptance of the sort of criticism offered by Nahmanides and Rashba. far more attention has been paid to the philosophy of Gerondi's students than to Gerondi himself. n. and was close to his school of thought and to his many students personally. Leon Feldman collected examples of Crescas' borrowing from Gerondi's ideas in his discussions of a dozen central issues. In the introduction to his first edition of Derashot ha-Ran. In consequence. 36-40. 68-69. it is likely that they would have found in the school of Gerondi. he denied their absolute validity in all areas. First edition. pp. even though he was [Gerondi's] student. pp. as opposed to the school of Nahmanides. never bothering to take one step further back for an examination of Gerondi. pp. he was a hesitant admirer. p. Nevertheless. especially of his Derashot. That this constitutes a methodological error is clear. 68. we will often simply refer to the work simply as the Derashot. supplemented occasionally by Feldman’s introduction to his first edition (Jerusalem: Makhon Shalem. Unlike the school of Nahmanides. Had the cultural tradition of the Provencal rationalists not been cut off by persecution.

At the very same time. of course. pp. Jews tended to look inwards. For some remarks on this. of which Duran is an exceptional example. In this way were judged those divisions of Judaism that concerned ceremony and ethical practice. Duran. 1972). viii. Zerahia Halevi. Abravanel and Arama both share them (see chapter 8). 250-252. 1964). The characteristics we will enumerate here actually go beyond the first two generations of Gerondi’s students. Avraham bar Yehudah). 388-389). as we shall see in the coming chapters. dissertation. Since the members of our group unanimously and explicitly reject this attitude. Thus. if we may indeed speak of “Gerondi’s school of thought. Reinhart and Winston. Rabbi Yosef Albo. For the proof see Ta-Shma. Rabbi Ḥasdai Crescas.” In Jewish intellectualism. It is especially important to emphasize this distinction when we consider the historical context in which our group lived. R. they differed amongst themselves on the extent to which philosophic investigation has achieved certainty. who has been proven to be the true author of the Perush al ha-Torah le-Rabbenu Yosef ben David miSaragosa edited and published by Leon Feldman (Jerusalem: Makhon Shalem. For instance. on the contrary. it has enormous respect for the intellect. see the final chapter of this book. Nissim ben Reuben de Gerone devant la philosophie de son temps (Ph.” as Sara Klein-Braslavy has called Gerondi. as well as some of the ways in which they differ amongst themselves: 1) As we have already noted. However. D. they all considered the Torah a surer and more comprehensive source of knowledge than rational inquiry. “Maimonides and Gersonides were the great peaks that stood out above the rest” of those who held this attitude. similarly see Julius Guttmann. R. was the last successor to Nahmanides. Such is Isaac Husik’s description of this outlook and of the term scholars use for it (pp. all the more so given the times in which they lived. and thus to explain the “antiintellectualism” of our group as a function of their dire circumstances. the members of this group all used philosophy widely. p. Though Gerondi. 70 and refused to interpret the Torah naturalistically. 21) that the history of medieval Jewish philosophy ought not be reduced to the study of the historical and cultural circumstances of the philosopher. neither he nor any of his students seem to have honored Rashba’s ban to any degree at all. Not only were they themselves 69 70 This general category is meant to include figures such as Gerondi. For though Gerondi’s school clearly opposes intellectualism. and Ritva. author of Nimmukei Yosef on Alfasi’s Halakhot and a student of both Gerondi and Crescas. exile. On the contrary. I agree with Ravitzky (History and Faith. “All else that is not pure thought acquires what value it has from the relation it bears to thought. 91. and other students of Crescas whose writings have survived in manuscript (R. They all equally rejected intellectual perfection as the purpose of the Torah or the goal of man. and the murder of loved ones. Matityahu Hayitzhari. it is also misleading. To these may now be added R. all of them equally denied that the entire Aristotelian corpus can be absolutely proven. Yosef Havivah. R. It is tempting to claim that in times like these. see the final chapter of this book. Yosef ben David. Their value consisted in their function of promoting the ends of the reason. see R. their approach may be correctly described as “anti-intellectualism. Nevertheless. including the loss of personal fortune. For more on this. Though it rejects the hierarchy of values posited by Maimonides and Gersonides. and even beyond. imprisonment. What we actually have here is a unique balance. Philosophies of Judaism (New York: Holt. Rabbi Isaac bar Sheshet Perfet (Rivash). who presented a radical new approach to this last problem by denying any philosophic certainty at all. It was Crescas. it accepts much of the content of their thought.” then that school of thought remained the prevalent outlook among Spanish scholars all the way until the expulsion. Scholars typically use the word “intellectualism” for the attitude that “the most important part of man is his rational soul or intellect” upon which immortality is dependent. they seem to have ignored it entirely.his first two generations of students69 allows us to make a preliminary list of several points that characterize them jointly. p. the traumatic violence in Spain at the time directly affected every one of the men discussed here in terrible ways. 24 . though the term is technically correct. But this explanation is dubious: In this book we will find that the level of openness among members of this group was quite remarkable. p. in terms of his halakhic works. Nevertheless. The intellectual world of Gerondi and his students is largely built upon the writings of Maimonides and Gersonides. Rashba. Sorbonne. even within exegetical works. 1973).

“The period which witnessed the rise of opposition to philosophy among Jews was also the period of the greatest philosophic activity among them” (p. Meḥkarei Yerushalayim be-Mahashevet Yisrael 2 (5743). but for all of them its use was dwarfed in comparison to philosophy. it was often couched in philosophic terms. 1999). informal instruction. Ha-Mahashava he- 25 . But some them also gave a hearing to the view that rejects the truth of astrology. Also see Albo in Sefer ha-Ikkarim. when it comes to direct statements about kabbalah. Dov Schwartz. And many of them (including Gerondi and some of Crescas' students) wrote their philosophy as biblical commentary. see: Zeev Harvey. 73 And even when it was used. 31).74 71 72 73 74 As Wolfson has noted. 7790. 1999). Part IV. I believe that this has made it hard for scholars to recognize that limited kabbalah unites the group far more than contradictory statements about kabbalah divide it. that of the philosopher). Joseph Stern. some less or not at all. one gets the preliminary impression that they were using basic ideas acquired from the study of books or from occasional.71 All members of this group saw the philosophic enterprise as a useful tool with which to understand the Bible and rabbinic literature in general. Moses Maimonides -. Haim Kreisel.72 3) All the members of this group limited their use of kabbalah. and Providence" in Samuel Kottek and Fred Rosner. or unfairly forgotten. I am the first to stress this as one of the defining characteristics of a specific school. Chapter 4 (the first opinion. Some used it more." Proceedings of the Eleventh World Congress of Jewish Studies 2 (1994): 25-32. Physics. pp. eds. and the Human Ideal (Albany: SUNY Press. 75-109. while kabbalah sometimes proved to be a two-edged sword. Ḥasdai Crescas. members of the group disagreed: Their attitudes ranged from rejection or hesitation to outright admiration. This point is inadequately emphasized at times. Joseph Baruch Sermonetta Memorial Volume of Jerusalem Studies in Jewish Thought 14 (1998): 25-46. Shaul Regev. Medicine. 5-7).. Experimental Science and Scientific Method in Maimonides' Teachings" in Aviezer Ravitzky. Maimonides' Political Thought: Studies in Ethics. 2) All the members of the group used astrology widely as an exegetical and theological tool." History of Religions 8 (1968): 143-158." Journal of Jewish Thought and Philosophy 6 (1997): 185-263. A comparative study of Gerondi and his students may help us to better understand and evaluate why this paradoxical generalization rings true. On kabbalah during this period. One possible explanation is based on the historical context: The members of this group were deeply involved (though often against their will) in debates against the Church and in writing polemical tracts. ed. For studies on the status of astrology in medieval Jewish philosophy. Yesodot Kabbali’im be-Sefer Or Hashem le-R. 1993). Ralph Lerner. Arieli. and Philosopher (Northvale: Jason Aronson. Haim Kreisel. "Magic. Astrology. For those who did admire kabbalah and made use of it. "The Fall and Rise of Myth in Ritual: Maimonides vs. This is the fourth of Crescas’ “open questions” in Part IV of Or Hashem. Law.Physician.all highly educated philosophically (which the ban might arguably have allowed). "Maimonides' Letter on Astrology. Scientist. though they rejected the radical reinterpretation of the Torah in philosophic terms. see: Gad Freudenthal. Passion for kabbalah and serious immersion in its study seem to be entirely lacking.. "Maimonides' Repudiation of Astrology. As far as I know. It may be that they limited their use of kabbalah because philosophy proved a surer polemical tool against Christianity. Astral Magic in Medieval Jewish Thought (Ramat Gan: Bar Ilan University Press. but they taught and wrote philosophy for the public at large. because of the superlatives with which some members of the group praise kabbalah (cf. Tzvi Langermann. "Maimonides' Approach to Astrology. and the War Against Idolatry. pp. However. pp. It is perplexing that the writings of those who expressed admiration for kabbalah are far less colored by kabbalah than we might expect based on their expressions. Nahmanides on the Ḥuqqim. "Maimonides' Stance on Astrology in Context: Cosmology. Dov Schwartz." Maimonidean Studies 2 (1991): 123-158. All of them made an effort to show that the sources of tradition can often (though not always) be understood best using philosophic concepts.

Daat 28 (5752). even though he strongly challenged its validity in certain areas (as did the others in the group). These books are also revealing not just in their content. In its sheer volume. wrote full-length philosophical works. To complicate matters further. occasional use. Daat 29 (5752). 65-86. It is striking that the structure of all of the surviving76 full-length books is based upon classifications of the principles of the Torah. Crescas and Albo. idem. But it was still haphazard.. Boaz Hoss. Severe digressions from the book's simple plan occur in many of its 13 chapters. but also because of severe imbalances in the book’s very structure. the three philosophic sections are printed on 100 folios. we might say that Duran is the most thoroughly eclectic of the entire group. of course. in terms of his essentially positive attitude towards every body of knowledge he knew (rational investigation.Bein Pilosofia le-Kabbalah. at least not one that is evident to the reader at the outset. pp. parts of it can be reconstructed through the hundreds (perhaps even thousands) of interpretations he offered in his other writings. For these reasons we will devote special attention to the organization of the book. pp. and we will show that the unusual arrangement of Magen Avot is the most revealing of all. pp. and especially to methodological statements by Duran concerning his plan for the book. Maga`im bein Pilosofia le-Mystika Yehudit be-Reshit ha-Meah ha-15. Ta`amei Mitzvat ha-Yibbum . Rabbi Eliyahu Zini first pointed this out to me when I expressed my regret at the loss of the commentary. showing that it derives from preoccupation with a problem that was crucial to Gerondi and his students. a unique phenomenon that we will study in detail. Duran's philosophic writing is far greater than that of any other member of the group. but they are dwarfed in size by Magen Avot (not to mention Ohev Mishpat and the other lost philosophical works of Duran). pp. 20-32. but also in their very structure.75 Duran made extensive use of the full range of scientific and philosophic knowledge available in his day. 26 . As for kabbalah. and makes some very positive statements about it (as do some of the others). It is quite possible. to the extent that even though his Torah commentary is lost to us. But the very last chapter of the final section begins on folio 34b.As a member of this group. 75 76 77 Razyonal-Mystit be-Hagut ha-Yehudit ba-Meah ha-15. we may say the following about Duran: His philosophic exegesis constituted a massive project. Risking generalization. that some of Duran's lost philosophical essays dealt with the principles of the Torah as well. This is not only because of the poor aesthetics of the printed edition. 155-189. In the Livorno edition. or were even structured based upon them. which were (as we shall show) consciously created by the author himself. Al Ma`mad ha-kabbalah be-Sefarad le-Ahar Pera`ot KN”A [1391]. Duran uses it more frequently and more openly than do the rest. Dov Schwartz. and cannot in any way be compared to his use of philosophy. The philosophical part of Magen Avot is very difficult to read. this extremely long chapter contains lengthy essays based upon the scientific works of Averroes. making it alone a full two-thirds of the entire book! This means that there is no clear plan organizing most of the book. Pe`amim 56 (5753). Only two others. 41-67. My thanks to Professor Mordecai Pachter for initially calling these articles to my attention when I began my research. Mehkarei Yerushalayim be-Mahashevet Yisrael 5 (5746).77 Like the rest of the group. huge digressions that make it hard for the reader to keep the overall context of the book’s argument in mind. astrology was an important tool for him. he left its validity unquestioned. and showed obvious admiration for what he considered its myriad achievements (in this he differs from Crescas).

Ravitzky details the development of Gerondi’s political theory. 1. an autonomous Torah that stands on its own merit.. If we may characterize the school of Gerondi as adhering to an “Open Torah. the yeshivah. p. Ravitzky. this question can now be answered in favor of penetration. Ibid. p. on the factual level.astrology. the observation of nature and the dissection of animals. 13. especially as found in the works of Galen. 14. Ibid. pp.. and of the possibilities for further investigation. or did it also penetrate the synagogue. we now know that Eliezer Schweid was at best only partially correct about Crescas' lack of influence in his own era. and of Duran as occupying a specific place within that school.78 and his making effective use of all of them with relatively less hesitation than some of his contemporaries.81 But moving from the historical level to the conceptual level. p. or that a certain concept is based upon another one.e.” i. we learn about the ways it anticipates development in various directions. were influenced by. History and Faith. 79 First and foremost. 27 . we are not only interpreting the latter text or idea. 19-21. trying to rethink it in the light of these sources.. The original Hebrew version is “Mishpat ha-Melekh: Hagut Politit be-Shilhei Yemei ha-Benayyim” in Al Da`at ha-Makom. Ibid. We learn about the various logical possibilities inherent in it.5 Methodological Points If we may indeed speak of a "school" of Gerondi. kabbalah). pp. 3-21. namely those which were developed in response to. there is even more to be learned from previously unknown works by students: What kind of texts can an interpretation use in addition to the very texts which contain the interpreted teaching? Does interpretation take into its purview only the sources of a teaching. the works of students (mostly in manuscript form) as opposed to the central texts of Jewish philosophers (long studied by scholars in their printed versions) can help us answer an important historical question: "Was the philosophic enterprise always only the portion of the few. it becomes appropriate to raise certain methodological points that have been made by Aviezer Ravitzky in his description of current research on the thought of Rabbi Ḥasdai Crescas. then within this school Duran was perhaps the most open of all.82 78 79 80 81 82 To these may be added. but at the same time encourages a Jew to learn and accept the truth from any outside source that can teach it. As Ravitzky describes. To this should be added that in his introduction to Or Hashem. or were critical of the teaching and revealed new ways of reading it? For when we assert that a certain text was influenced by another. Crescas emphasized more than once that his philosophical work was the product of interaction and discussion with his colleagues. In the same volume. or should an interpretation also take into account different types of texts. but in a way we are interpreting the original source as well. as we will see especially in chapter 4 ("The Torah Encyclopedia"). the public at large?"80 In the case of Crescas.

It this sense it can serve the modern reader as an introduction to medieval science. Duran was the one scholar who seems to have had the most consistently positive attitude of all towards every system of knowledge available to him in the literary sources of his time. paying special attention to his methodological statements and to the structure and organization of his writing. 1. and of how they struggled with that legacy when it seemed to them to be in conflict with their understanding of the Torah. in which those structural imbalancs become so severe that the formal division of the book into 13 chapters (matching Maimonides' 13 principles) becomes lost entirely. It is hoped that a side-benefit of the close attention we will pay to structure and organization of Magen Avot will be to help open up the book to modern readers. are the dual goals for subsequent chapters of this book. Chapter 4 ("The Torah Encyclopedia") continues with the next two parts of Magen Avot. the students of Gerondi. as we shall see in the next chapter. and each chapter will implement one or both of them. which is the first example of difficult structural imbalances that are highly revealing about Duran’s purposes. by developing the logical possibilities inherent within it in two different ways. As a member of this group. While this chapter introduced Duran in the context of his contemporaries. for whom it largely remains closed despite the previous scholarship on it. namely Part II on prophecy. but in the unique position he occupied among his intellectual contemporaries. To read Duran with an eye towards reconciling the structure and organization of Magen Avot to its declared goals. Such use would fit in squarely with the intentions of its author." Each of these two chapters will deal with concrete units of Magen Avot: Chapter 2 ("The Book of Abraham") analyzes Duran’s introduction to Magen Avot as well as Part I (on God).83 Significant comparisons to his contemporaries will at the same time place him firmly within the school of Gerondi regarding a number of crucial characteristics. and then Part III on providence and resurrection. and to compare him to his contemporaries. Subsequent chapters of this book will show this to be so through a careful reading of Duran.6 Conclusion The significance of Duran as a Jewish philosopher lies not in his eclectic conclusions on specific topics. two subsequent chapters will focus on Magen Avot as a book whose declared goals (chapter 2) and idiosyncratic organization (chapter 4) both reflect Duran's unique implementation of the shared idea of an "Open Torah. 28 . Our analysis of these two parts of Magen Avot will show how and 83 105-125.Study of Duran with appropriate comparisons to his contemporaries will show that he and Crescas were able to take Gerondi’s basic approach in two opposite directions. It is my subjective view that no other book equals Magen Avot as a general reflection of how the overall corpus of Aristotle and Averroes was studied and understood by late medieval Jews.

despite shared ideas. and that school's lasting influence upon subsequent generations in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries and beyond. was expanded on widely by Gerondi and other members of his school. Here. we will see that there are differences in emphasis within the school. too. The question of prayer.why Duran turned his book into a massive compendium of knowledge that encompassed both cosmology (Part II) and the life-sciences (Part III:4. It introduces the idea of “derivative principles of the Torah” that was discussed by Duran in Ohev Mishpat. about which Duran himself offers only brief (if nevertheless clear) comments. "the first topic"). Clarifying Duran's concept of “derivative principles” and how he later applied it in Magen Avot is critical to making sense of Magen Avot Part III. a topic which was a major preoccupation shared by the entire school. 29 . which is primarily concerned with the notion of a volitional God (an idea stressed equally by all the members of Gerondi's school). Chapter 3 ("Books of Principles") is a prerequisite to chapter 4. and their views are compared in chapter 6 ("The Philosophy of Prayer"). and the question of whether that phenomenon implies not only divine volition but even a change in God’s will. A crucial example of this problem is in the divine response to prayer. Chapter 5 ("Creation and Miracles") deals with the rest of Magen Avot Part III (III:1-3 and "the second topic" of III:4). his place in the school of Gerondi. Duran's implementation of this concept in Magen Avot puts him squarely into the discussion of “principles of the Torah” by Gerondi and his students. Chapter 7 ("An Open Torah") offers concluding remarks on Duran’s vision for Magen Avot. which will be a large part of our goal in chapter 4.

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