Sunday 29 October 2023

449) Maimonides on the authority of the rabbis

A 13th to 14th century manuscript of Moreh Nevuchim from Yemen.


This article based extensively on the research by Professor Menachem Kellner[1] − explores Maimonides (1135-1204) as a democratiser of Jewish law. Maimonides’ theology and worldview have been interpreted in so many ways, many of which are mutually exclusive. The problem is that by just reading his Code of Law, known as Mishneh Torah, he comes across as a dedicated jurist and Halachist. On the other hand, by just reading his Guide of the Perplexed, or Moreh Nevuchim, he emerges as a radical philosopher. Thus, to some, Maimonides is simply a legal Halachist who essentially despised philosophy  (either because they never read Moreh Nevuchim or they claimed it was a forgery). To others, he becomes the Great Philosopher whose deepest thoughts were in grave conflict with normative Judaism. To still others, he becomes a secret mystic who later in his life turns against philosophy and adopts Kabbalah.[2] And there are even those who believe he was a secret Karaite.[3] 

Sunday 22 October 2023

448) R. Yosef Karo’s unusual mystical entries in his diary

1773 edition of Magid Meisharim by  R. Yosef Karo


R. Yosef Karo (1488-1575) is well recognised as the great codifier of Jewish law who was responsible for the Shulchan Aruch. Many are familiar with the logical and methodical nature of this legal code. For practical purposes, today, he is widely regarded as the last of the great codifiers if not the codifier par excellence. 

However, not many are aware of an extremely mystical component of his makeup. This extreme mysticism may seem rather surprising for someone so steeped in the pragmatism of legal codes. He kept a diary in which he recorded some of the mystical teachings he had acquired from an apparent spiritual or angelic being, known as a Magid (who identified as the ‘soul’ of the Mishna). These were later published in book form under the title Magid Meisharim. 

Sunday 15 October 2023

447) How Should We Respond to Tragedy and Crisis?

 Another guest post by Rabbi Boruch Clinton:

Image by Ri Butov from Pixabay

I’m almost jealous of Jews living in Israel during this crisis: they may face horrifying tests and mortal danger but, from what I’m hearing, they’re rising beautifully to the challenge. And, one way or another, they’re acting. They’re making a difference.

Thousands of miles away, my ability to act is limited. Sure, we can all offer financial support for the many emergency funds out there. But that can’t be enough.