The ta’amei ha-mitzvot of the Sefer HaBatim
Finkelstein, Asher E.
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The Sefer HaBatim-Sefer Mitzvah is a work on the number, reasons, and purposes of the 613 commandments by thirteenth century Provencal scholar Rabbi Dovid b. Shmuel HaKochavi. His count generally follows that of Maimonides, although he does deviate on occasion. Furthermore, in sharp contrast to Maimonides’ Book of Mitzvot, the Sefer HaBatim engages thoroughly with the rationale behind the Mitzvot and their deeper meanings, an endeavor which Maimonides left for his Guide for the Perplexed. The goals and contents of HaKochavi’s ta’amei ha-mitzvot also differ greatly from those of Maimonides. While Maimonides offers a unified, philosophical-historical set of rationales for the mitzvot, HaKochavi’s aims, sources, and theories appear to be far more diverse and variegated. On a first reading, his books of mitzvot and his book on matters of faith can give the impression of a fundamentally eclectic, even somewhat pluralistic thinker. HaKochavi gives a range and multiplicity of reasons for many of the mitzvot, quoting the full gamut of Jewish sources available in his day, addressing himself to multiple audiences, and polemicizing against diverse groups while simultaneously making room for multiple legitimate approaches to Judaism. The reasons he gives for the mitzvot range from the sanitary and educational, moral and political, to the astrological and philosophical. He ascribes a range of reasons and modes of fulfilment of many mitzvot for people of differing intellectual and spiritual levels. He quotes freely from thinkers as different as R. Yehuda HaLevi and Maimonides. His work seeks to polemicize against intellectual foes as diverse as Karaism, Christianity, Islam, radical Maimondeanism, and anti-philosophical Judaism. As much as he polemicizes against anti-philosophical Judaism, he readily acknowledges the legitimacy and value of philosophically unsophisticated Jewish piety. (from Introduction)
Senior honors thesis / Open Access
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