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Science in the Bet Midrash

Studies in Maimonides



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Science in the Bet Midrash by Menachem Kellner
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What is the secret that Maimonides hides? He himself tells us: the rabbis of the Talmud used the expression ma'aseh bereshit ("Account of Creation") for what the Greeks called physics and used the expression ma'aseh merkavah ("Account of the Chariot") for what the Greeks called metaphysics. So why is this important? The consequences of these equations are momentous. Maimonides imports what we today would call science into the heart of Torah. This is allied to his universalism and to his conception of the com-mandments of the Torah as tools (which could in principle have been different), whose importance lies in the end they serve, and not in themselves. That being the case, true reward and punish-ment are not connected to behaviour, no matter how saintly or how vile, but to proper conceptions of God, crystallised in the 'Thirteen Principles'. Maimonides hid these secrets from his fellow Jews, not out of fear of reprisal (protected as he was by his good friend, al-Qadi at-Facil, he had no reason to fear them), but out of noblesse oblige. Exposing simple Jews (and their philosophically no less simple rabbis) to these truths could only lead to perplexity (in the best of circumstances) or to falling away from observance (in the worst of circumstances), neither of which Maimonides had any interest in promoting. One God wrote two books, as it were: Torah and Cosmos. The truly devout Jew realises that he or she must study both books, or only have access to half of God's oeuvre.

Author Biography

Born and educated in the United States, Menachem Kellner (Ph.D., Washington University in St. Louis, 1973) has lived in Israel for the last 30 years. Author, editor, or translator of 16 books and over 100 scholarly articles, Kellner's most recent books include Science in the Bet Midrash and Maimonides' Confrontation with Mysticism (2006).
Release date NZ
April 15th, 2009
Country of Publication
United States
Academic Studies Press
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