Title: The Lion Cub of Prague: Thought, Kabbala, Hashkafa from Gur Aryeh – The Maharal of Prague
Author: Dr. Moshe David Kuhr
Reviewed by Yitzchak A. Breitowitz
Rabbi Yehuda Loewe of Prague, known as Maharal, was one of the greatest lights that G-d has given to the Jewish people. Halachic authority and active communal leader, linguist and grammarian, philosopher and mystic, master of the totality of rabbinic literature and conversant in the arts and sciences as well, Maharal revealed new depths to the words of Chazal and uncovered layers of meaning that would otherwise have gone unnoticed.
In a very real way, he cracked the code to the symbolic language of agada and midrash and exposed the powerful incontestable inner truths behind the stories and parables. Maharal wrote many works and all of them are devoted to uncovering the inner world of Chazal but, for many, Gur Arye – his masterful commentary on Rashi’s biblical commentary – might be the best place to start.
As the first of his works, it contains all the basic ideas of his philosophy in a relatively concise and accessible form and links them to the biblical text and Rashi’s comments. Because of this linkage, Gur Arye passages tend to be shorter and more easily digestible than some of Maharal’s other writings Moreover, because of its thematic connections with the Torah text, Gur Arye is not exclusively philosophical or mystical but is rich in grammatical and halachic analysis as well, appealing to readers of diverse interests and talents.
In many ways, Gur Arye is an ideal introduction to the rich tapestry of Maharal’s thought. Nevertheless, as is the case for all Maharal’s writings, the thoughts are deep, the language is concise (albeit vivid and colorful) and the vocabulary presupposes basic familiarity with not only rabbinic literature but with the esoterica of Kabbala and the technical vocabulary of medieval religious philosophy.
As such, for many readers Gur Arye is simply a closed book. We all hear about it and admire it as a classic, but few of us ever open it up to actually study it.
Dr. Moshe Kuhr, a faithful and conscientious student of Maharal’s writings for more than 15 years, has performed a major service to Klal Yisrael in making this treasure accessible. He has carefully selected passages from the Gur Arye that are suitable for the general reader and that are broadly representative of central themes in Maharal’s thought; translated them into modern readable English; provided annotations, sources and cross-references to other writings of Maharal; and added illuminating comments, questions and observations of his own set off in a distinct typeface.
The translation is flowing and felicitous; the source annotations and references are extremely helpful for further in-depth study; and Kuhr’s comments are penetrating and thoughtful. All of us owe Dr. Kuhr a debt of gratitude for a labor of love extending almost two decades of assiduous study.