A Treasury of Jewish Letters: Letters from the Famous and the Humble - Vol. 1

By Franz Kobler | Go to book overview

40
The Admonition of a Philosopher to his Young Son

J OSEPH, son of Abba Mari Caspi, a native of the Provenèal city of Argentières (or Caspia, as it is called in Hebrew: from Keseph, i.e. silver) was one of the most prolific Hebrew authors in the first half of the fourteenth century. He wrote a commentary on the entire Bible and also to 'The Guide of the Perplexed', for which he had a profound admiration. His desire to find a teacher or a companion who could help him to resolve the conflict between faith and reason made him a restless wanderer. He visited many places for that purpose but without success. When his son Solomon was twelve years old he determined to try Fez, which he had heard of as a seat of learning. Before setting sail, Caspi, fearing that he might never return, despatched to the boy what he called a 'Guide to Knowledge' in the form of a letter. Though in the introduction he expressed the hope that the Admonition might prove useful for a wider public - an expectation which was fully realized - the intimate character of various passages lends a special epistolary colour to this piece of philosophical instruction, of which an abridged version is given here.


JOSEPH IBN CASPI TO HIS SON SOLOMON

'How can I know that God is One, as is constantly proclaimed in our prayers, unless I know what constitutes unity?

[Valencia, Ellul 1332]

Solomon, my son! Know thou the God of thy father and serve Him. He will cause thee to ride in His 'second chariot'1 and thine own conduct must raise thee in its chariot, drawing thee as near as thy faculties avail unto Him....

Now, the knowledge of God is the primary precept of all our 613 laws....It is the basis of the precepts enumerated by Maimonides at the beginning of his Code, and which he specifically terms the Foundations of the Torah. These four precepts are (1) to know that there is a First Cause, (2) to recognize that He is One, (3) to love Him, and (4) to fear Him....

-265-

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