Tuesday, August 10, 2021



Attitude toward Maimonides

Called upon, about 1238, for support by Solomon ben Abraham of Montpellier, who had been excommunicated by supporters of Maimonides, Nachmanides addressed a letter to the communities of Aragon, Navarre, and Castile, in which Solomon's adversaries were severely rebuked. However, the great respect he professed for Maimonides (though he did not share the latter's views), reinforced by innate gentleness of character, kept him from allying himself with the anti-Maimonist party and led him to assume the role of a conciliator.[5]

In a letter addressed to the French rabbis, he draws attention to the virtues of Maimonides and holds that Maimonides' Mishneh Torah – his Code of Jewish Law – not only shows no leniency in interpreting prohibitions within Jewish law, but may even be seen as more stringent, which in Nachmanides' eyes was a positive factor. As to Maimonides' Guide for the Perplexed, Nachmanides stated that it was intended not for those of unshaken belief, but for those who had been led astray by the non-Jewish philosophical works of Aristotle and Galen. (Note that Nachmanides's analysis of the Guide is not the consensus view of modern scholars.) "If," he says, "you were of the opinion that it was your duty to denounce the Guide as heretical, why does a portion of your flock recede from the decision as if it regretted the step? Is it right in such important matters to act capriciously, to applaud the one to-day and the other tomorrow?"[5]

To reconcile the two parties, Nachmanides proposed that the ban against the philosophical portion of Maimonides's Code of Jewish law should be revoked, but that the ban against the study of the Guide for the Perplexed, and against those who rejected allegorical interpretation of the Bible, should be maintained and even strengthened. This compromise, which might have ended the struggle, was rejected by both parties in spite of Nachmanides' authority.[5]


When the *Maimonidean controversy broke out in *Montpellier in 1232, Naḥmanides attempted to find a compromise between the opposing camps, although he agreed with *Solomon b. Abraham of Montpellier and his followers in condemning the detrimental use which had been made of the works of Maimonides by the "philosophizers" to whom the study of secular sciences was a principal object. On the one hand, in the letters which he sent to the community leaders of Aragon, Navarre, and Castile, he sought to prevent them from taking measures against the extremists of Montpellier, while on the other hand, in his famous letter "Before I raise my voice, I err," he requested the rabbis of France that they annul the ḥerem which they had proclaimed against the writings of Maimonides. He argued that these were not intended for French Jewry, which was faithful to Jewish tradition, but for the Jews of the south (Provence and Spain), among whom philosophic culture had struck roots, with the objective of bringing them back to the path of the faithful. In order to avert a schism between the opposed communities and camps, he proposed a detailed program which would suit the varying conditions prevailing in France and Spain and would regulate the study of the various sciences according to the age of the students and the locality. Naḥmanides' program failed because the extremists in both camps gained the upper hand and he was isolated.


  1. If I get invited to Techiyas HaMeisim, there's two things I want to see
    1) Moshe Rabeinu getting to the Jordan river and having to deal with an Israeli customs agent before he gets to cross
    2) The first meeting between the Rambam and the Ramban.

  2. You won't make it. Apikorus


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