שאלות ותשובותCategory: PhilosophyMaimonides and his teachings
Anon asked Staff ago

I wanted to ask you how you see Maimonides and his teachings.

Do you also see him as a questionable person whose mind did not reach “the level of your intelligence”? How do you see a philosopher like him, whom few of his own people have matched yet who still maintained that we must fulfill all the laws without verging right or left? What did he miss that you were smart enough to see?



Noam

1 Answers
admin Staff answered 13 years ago

Dear Noam,



Despite the mocking, cynical tone, we will answer your question because it can explain our opinions to our readers.

We will begin with the Talmudic text, for it, and not the Holy Writ, is the obligating text for Jews, from the destruction of the Second Temple to this day. Since the development of the Oral Torah, the value of the Scriptures as a book of law and instruction has decreased and its place remains only in the holy ark, behind locked doors and a fancy curtain. The Talmudic text, which serves as the legal/Halachic infrastructure, is not systematically edited: it contains no philosophy, methodological inquiry, or even an organized set of laws. For the most part it is a collection of topics, moving from issue to issue, from story to story, from legend to legal issue. From this mixture of topics the reader must extract the Halachic conclusion which stems from the text, and Maimonides took this burden upon himself in his book HaYad HaChazakah. In our writings, found on this site, we have shown that the opinions of the Talmudic sages are far from science, history, philosophy, and ethics, and all their words only religious exhortations to uphold and preserve the narrow religious community, weak and persecuted as a lamb amongst seventy wolves.

Maimonides, who lived in the modern era, in the Middle Ages, at a time when Muslim philosophy was at its zenith, has opinions and an outlook which were radically different from those of the Talmudic sages. First, Maimonides had a philosophical approach (though not in the current meaning of philosophy, but in the Platonic: to defend the Jewish religion) and it is presented in the book Guide to the Perplexed. According to Maimonides “reason” is the basis upon which one must rest, and if the Talmud or the Scriptures write things which contradict reason then the writings must be distorted and emasculated to make them suit reason (Guide to the Perplexed part II, chapter 25). For more on the topic see our answers to The Torah has achieved its educational goals and Compromising education as a system of education in the Torah. As to your puzzlement about how Maimonides, as a rationalist, could demand the fulfillment of all commandments, the answer is simple and clear. The Jewish nation, through the generations, required a system of law, and anyone who is a part of this society must accept the laws, just as every citizen must accept the system of laws even if the legislature is made up of unethical ignoramuses who lust for money, power, and sex. Thus did Maimonides write in the introduction to Yad HaChazakah: “All that is in the Babylonian Talmud is obligatory for all Jews to follow and are forced upon each city and state, to follow all the customs which the Talmudic sages instituted, to follow their decrees and to obey their ordinances, because what is written in the Gemara has been agreed to by all of Israel.” According to Maimonides, “because [it] has been agreed to by all of Israel” we are obligated to hand down rulings in accord with the Talmud. Not because the Talmud’s authors were wise, smart, and knew the entire Torah, but because this is what the Jews accepted upon themselves.

But in the modern age, from the age of enlightenment, most Jews no longer accept the sages of the Talmud, and instead accept enlightened laws. The reality of the Jewish nation has changed. It is no longer in exile under foreign domination; it has its own sovereign country. Therefore the value of Talmudic Halacha has been marginalized; leaders still hold fast to Halacha but do not use it as a system of laws, only as a system of faith and divine commandments, understanding that the law of the land (secular law) is the law which will preserve them. Thus do the religious turn Halacha into a laughing stock, as is appropriate.



From my words above you can conclude that Maimonides would demand that the public which views itself as religious do as Prof. Yeshayahu Leibowitz OBM demanded of religious Jewry: “Innovation, which means renewing Halacha and presenting it as a realistic and current program of laws for a state and a lifestyle for society” (Judaism, the Jewish People, and the State of Israel, pg. 154). Since the religious public would have to present a fundamentally changed Halacha, we can have a true cultural war, pitting the representatives of the enlightened, free, and humanistic world against the representatives of religion. Today the enlightened public fights isolationist cults who deal with trivialities and nonsense like what the law is if a red heifer sprouts a white hair on its tail, how to buy a slave, and when one may steal from a gentile…



Sincerely,



Daat Emet

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