The Role of Philosophy and Kabbalah in the Works of Rashba
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Rashba, in the course of his discussions of the theological problems entailed in the phrases ‘olam ke— minhago noheg and em mazzal le—yisrael, was consistently sensitive to philosophic problems, and took pains to show that Jewish beliefs did not contravene the Law of Contradiction. On the other hand, he vigorously maintained the superiority of tradition over speculative reasoning, and he could not tolerate the fact that contemporary allegorists gave axiological supremacy to speculative studies. ¶ Rashba’s attempt to justify segulot within a natural framework demonstrates his sensitivity to the demands of the contemporary natural philosophy. He refused, however, to countenance the thought that the Rabbis of the Talmud would be mistaken concerning a scientific issue that possessed halakhic ramifications. Although Rashba possessed a good deal of scientific konwledge, we do not find him to be an advocate of the pursuit of the sciences in non—halakhic contexts. ¶ Rashba’s rejection of the supremacy of philosophic categories was not supplemented by a full—fledged kabbalistic interpretation of Judaism. The content of his Kabbalah was that of the Gerona school at a time when other forms were developing, and he chose not to expand its contours. The form of his writing was characterized by extreme esotericisxn. His Commentary On Aggadah contains both philosophic—allegorical interpretations and kabbalistic hints to the same passage; this feature of his work demonstrates that he must be classified as neither a kabbalist nor a philosopher, if either of these two terms c~ignates an exclusive system of categories through which one views reality. ¶ In a letter where Rashba declared that Kabbalah, and not physics and metaphysics, is the substance of ma’aseh bereshit and ma’aseh merkavah, he nonetheless suggested that Jews would be better served if they studied the exoteric Torah. By doing so, they would be able to perform the mitzvot in a more perfect manner and be protected by G—d.
Horwitz, D. (1986, January). The Role of Philosophy and Kabbalah in the Works of Rashba (Master's Thesis, Yeshiva University).
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