R. Jacob Emden, philosophy, and the authority of Maimonides
YU Faculty Directory
MetadataShow full item record
Beginning with the period shortly after his death in 1204, Maimonides was recognized as a pre-eminent authority in matters both halakhic and philosophical whose opinions could not simply be dismissed. Already in the thirteenth century, Maimonides' reputation reached "heroic" proportions and all who succeeded him found it necessary to reckon with the power and force of his stature and authority. 1 Those who disagreed with the fundamental assumptions of Maimonidean rationalism and were opposed to the absolute primacy of philosophical inquiry in Judaism faced a most difficult dilemma. How could they justify their position in light of the obvious and intense emphasis on philosophy reflected in the works of this outstanding, towering and influential personality? How could they deny major significance to philosophy when the great Maimonides clearly considered rational investigation of Judaism to be a crucial religious imperative and an indispensable component of genuine religious experience?2 ¶ Among those forced to deal with this problem was R. Jacob Emden (1698- 1776), the well-known halakhist, kabbalist and anti-Sabbatean polemicist.3 His generally negative attitude towards philosophy (texts #1-5) forced him to confront the legacy of Maimonides and led him to attempt a solution to the problem by differentiating between the halakhic and philosophic parts of the Maimonidean oeuvre. As the forthcoming texts (#6-7) will indicate, he held the former in highest regard, but rejected the latter as a distortion of Judaism. Indeed, on occasion (texts #8-10) he even went so far as to assert that the Maimonides who achieved such great heights in the realm of halakhah could not possibly have written the Guide of the Perplexed. In this way, he was able to acknowledge Maimonides' universally recognized halakhic greatness and authority while, at the same time, distancing himself from his philosophy.4 (from Introduction)
Schacter, J. J. (1993). R. Jacob Emden, philosophy, and the authority of Maimonides. Tradition, 27(4), 131-139.
*This is constructed from limited available data and may be imprecise.
The following license files are associated with this item: