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

By Franz Kobler | Go to book overview
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38
Faith versus Reason Letters from the Struggle between the Maimunists and Anti-Maimunists

THE dispute between the followers and opponents of Maimonides which broke out with the first appearance of the Hebrew translation of 'The Guide of the Perplexed', engaged the participation of the most famous names in Jewish learning, both in Spain and in France. The last stage of the centennial struggle was reached at the beginning of the fourteenth century. Devotion to secular studies, greatly stimulated by the example of Maimonides, had produced in many Jews an attitude of scepticism even towards some statements of the Bible itself, and made them lax in religious observance. To counteract this tendency, many Rabbis were in favour of placing a general, or at least partial, ban on secular study, especially philosophy and natural science. The leadership of these traditionalists in their conflict with the modernists was assumed by Solomon, son of Abraham ibn Adret, of Barcelona, the outstanding rabbinic authority of the age after the passing of Rabbi Meir of Rothenburg. He was at that time a man of about seventy and was recognized as the spiritual head of the Jewish world on account of his wisdom, his learning and his saintly life. The number of his extant Responsa exceeds three thousand, perhaps the largest number penned by a single respondent. In one of them, his views on the rationalistic approach to the Bible are expressed with great force and precision. This letter can, therefore, well serve to illustrate the spirit of those who fought for the traditional values of Judaism.


SOLOMON IBN ADRET TO AN INQUIRER

'What has been founded on tradition or prophetic inspiration cannot be overthrown by any science in the world'

[ Barcelona, second half of the 13th century ]

You ask about my attitude to that Agadah according to which the world will come to an end after a certain time; you have found in the writings of R. Moses ben Maimon statements which are opposed to this.

-248-

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