Maimonides and the Book That Changed Judaism: Secrets of The Guide for the Perplexed

Maimonides and the Book That Changed Judaism: Secrets of The Guide for the Perplexed

Maimonides and the Book That Changed Judaism: Secrets of The Guide for the Perplexed

Maimonides and the Book That Changed Judaism: Secrets of The Guide for the Perplexed

Synopsis

A publishing sensation long at the top of the best-seller lists in Israel, the original Hebrew edition of Maimonides and the Book That Changed Judaism has been called the most successful book ever published in Israel on the preeminent medieval Jewish thinker Moses Maimonides. The works of Maimonides, particularly The Guide for the Perplexed, are reckoned among the fundamental texts that influenced all subsequent Jewish philosophy and also proved to be highly influential in Christian and Islamic thought.

Spanning subjects ranging from God, prophecy, miracles, revelation, and evil, to politics, messianism, reason in religion, and the therapeutic role of doubt, Maimonides and the Book That Changed Judaism elucidates the complex ideas of The Guide in remarkably clear and engaging prose.

Drawing on his own experience as a central figure in the current Israeli renaissance of Jewish culture and spirituality, Micah Goodman brings Maimonides's masterwork into dialogue with the intellectual and spiritual worlds of twenty-first-century readers. Goodman contends that in Maimonides's view, the Torah's purpose is not to bring clarity about God but rather to make us realize that we do not understand God at all; not to resolve inscrutable religious issues but to give us insight into the true nature and purpose of our lives.

Excerpt

I first encountered The Guide for the Perplexed when I was nine years old. It was at Yehuda Halevy Synagogue in Jerusalem’s Katamon neighborhood where my parents prayed. After the services one Shabbat morning, while waiting for the bustling committee members to bring out the kiddush— whisky and pickled herring for the grownups, potato chips and ice pops for the children— I wandered over to the expansive pine wood bookcases at the back of the sanctuary and stopped at a shelf marked “Jewish Philosophy.” I did not know then what philosophy was, but I had a vague notion that it was something important and that I would learn more about it someday.

The book’s cover was plain, with dark blue letters on the spine: The Guide for the Perplexed. I took it down and began to turn the pages, my eyes lighting here and there on words and phrases that I couldn’t understand: “physics … metaphysics … homonyms …” My interest was piqued, and I turned, meaning to sit down with the book in one of the back pews, but found myself instead facing a rabbi in the synagogue, who was towering over me.

The rabbi looked at the book and then at me, a mixture of pride and concern in his kind gray eyes. He gently removed the book from my hands, replaced it on the shelf, and murmured, “Not yet, Micah,” and then guided me by the arm to the Kiddush tables, by now laden with goodies. As I tore the wrapper off an ice pop I

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