As Purim approaches, thousands of Israeli children and families grapple with poverty
The Ralbag is not the only “radical” in your book. The Rambam also comes across as something of a “radical,” especially regarding his views on prophecy and Olam HaBa.
Let’s begin with prophecy. The Rambam presents three opinions, and the interesting thing is that the opinion he dismisses as that of “ignoramuses” is probably the opinion one would form from a straightforward reading of Tanach. That opinion holds that God chooses certain people to be prophets. It’s simply a miracle; God can choose anyone He wishes to become a prophet.
However, Maimonides attributes that view to the pagan multitudes and contrasts it with the view of philosophers. According to philosophers, prophecy is basically a kind of natural achievement. If a person is morally perfect and reaches a level of intellectual perfection (and for Maimonides you also have to have a certain kind of perfection of the faculty he calls the imagination) you will become a prophet. It’s something that can be achieved rather than something that God miraculously creates in a person. Rambam advocates this view but adds that God can prevent somebody who would naturally become a prophet from becoming one.
Now that’s a surprising view because it implies that all the people in Tanach who speak to God are basically brilliant Aristotelian philosophers who achieved some grand intellectual perfection that yielded truths about the universe and God. But that’s not the impression people get of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob – let alone Moses.
The Rambam also maintains that people must achieve a certain measure of intellectual perfection to enter Olam HaBa. Correct?
Absolutely. According to the Rambam, what is it about us that’s immortal? It’s our intellect.
So the Rambam believes that an extremely kind, pious Jew who remains ignorant of certain philosophical truths does not enter Olam HaBa?
Correct, which is obviously problematic given a more mainstream, traditional understanding of Olam HaBa.
What is one supposed to make of all these “untraditional” views?
Well, it’s a good question. I don’t want to give the impression that medieval times were incredibly tolerant. They most certainly weren’t. But it does seem to me that at a theological level we may have become a little less tolerant and a little less thoughtful.
Should we consider these positions legitimate Jewish views nowadays?
If they’re views held by the Rambam or the Ralbag, I would imagine people would hesitate before saying they’re not legitimate Jewish views. People nowadays who may say they’re not legitimate views might be blissfully unaware that those were views taken by people they hold in great esteem.
What is your next book about?
Friedrich Nietzsche’s critique of religion. Nietzsche criticizes religious existence for being life-denying, psychologically destructive and symptomatic of a “sickness of the soul.” I’m currently working on a book with a British colleague, Rabbi Dr. Michael Harris, which will be investigating possible theological constructions that can be built from within the tradition in order to bring a “Nietzschean sensibility” to Judaism.
About the Author: Elliot Resnick is a Jewish Press staff reporter and author of “Movers and Shakers: Sixty Prominent Personalities Speak Their Mind on Tape” (Brenn Books).
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The president has made clear – I can’t state this more firmly – the policy is Iran will not get a nuclear weapon.
Obama has an apparent inability to understand Islam in particular and Mid-East culture in general
Pesach is a Torah-based holiday whose fundamental observances are rooted in Torah law; Purim is a rabbinic holiday whose laws and customs are grounded in the rabbinic tradition.
In honor of Prime Minister Netanyahu’s successful speech before Congress.
Mr. Spock conveys a message with painfully stark relevance to our world today, especially in the context of PM Netanyahu’s speech to Congress.
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I vote for the right and get left-wing policy. Every. Frigging. Time.
The Holocaust was the latest attempt of Amalek to destroy the special bond that we enjoy with God.
UN inspectors were flabbergasted when Iran allowed them full unfettered access to All nuclear sites
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Kristof’s op-ed “The Human Stain” was flawed and wrong; more than anti-Israel, it was anti-Semitic.
I can tell you that Cablevision has been astonished at how high we rank.
I said to myself, “This story has got to be told. We’re losing this generation of World War II and if we don’t listen to them now, we’ve lost it.”
I was very pro-Israel, I was very proud of being Jewish, and I was living in New York at the time as a single man in my 20s and I was just looking for a little bit more.
A school voucher means the state is giving you a voucher to send your kid to whatever school you want. That might be problematic as far church-state issues are concerned.
It’s not an admiration. It is simply a kind of journalist fascination. It stands out, it’s different from more traditional Orthodoxy.
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