Insights into the Hebrew Bible from the Son of Judaism’s Greatest Medieval Philosopher

Oct. 29 2021

When the great Moses Maimonides, known in Hebrew as the Rambam, died in 1204, his only son Abraham—then merely nineteen years old—succeeded him as the spiritual leader of Egyptian Jewry, and spent much of his life defending his father’s teachings as they became the subject of fierce theological controversies. A great scholar in his own right, Abraham wrote a Judeo-Arabic commentary on the books of Genesis and Exodus, which for centuries was unavailable to most scholars. Moshe Maimon, who recently produced an annotated Hebrew translation of this work, discusses it in an interview by Eliezer Brodt:

The Rambam wrote many works, covering all aspects of [rabbinic teachings]. Yet, he never wrote on Scripture itself. (The work attributed to him on book of Esther is more than likely spurious; it is reminiscent of other Judeo-Arabic midrashic compendiums that were popularly, if falsely, attributed to the Rambam’s school). . . . Abraham’s commentary, hewn from the almost forgotten geonic [i.e., 8th-through-11th-century Mesopotamian] and Andalusian sources and permeated entirely with the spirit of the Rambam’s original thought, fills this void perfectly.

The Rambam’s influence on [his son’s] commentary is readily apparent from even a cursory acquaintance with it. Besides the various explanations that Abraham cites in his father’s name, and the many references to his father’s works, numerous individual exegeses are presented in obvious accordance with the Rambam’s own ideas—such as the assertion that Jacob’s encounter with the angel [in Genesis 32] occurred in a dream.

One of the unique features of Abraham’s commentary, which has almost no parallel in the writings of medieval rabbis, and was only popularized in [the late 19th century], is the view that the various individuals in Tanakh whom we view as evil in accordance with their depiction in midrashim were actually not entirely wicked. According to this opinion, Lot, Ishmael, Esau, Laban, and even Koraḥ and his cadre all possessed higher spiritual capacities and inclinations that at times straddled the boundaries between good and evil.

Subscribe to Mosaic

Welcome to Mosaic

Subscribe now to get unlimited access to the best of Jewish thought and culture

Subscribe

Subscribe to Mosaic

Welcome to Mosaic

Subscribe now to get unlimited access to the best of Jewish thought and culture

Subscribe

Read more at Seforim

More about: Hebrew Bible, Judaism, Moses Maimonides

 

Don’t Let Iran Go Nuclear

Sept. 29 2022

In an interview on Sunday, National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan stated that the Biden administration remains committed to nuclear negotiations with the Islamic Republic, even as it pursues its brutal crackdown on the protests that have swept the country. Robert Satloff argues not only that it is foolish to pursue the renewal of the 2015 nuclear deal, but also that the White House’s current approach is failing on its own terms:

[The] nuclear threat is much worse today than it was when President Biden took office. Oddly, Washington hasn’t really done much about it. On the diplomatic front, the administration has sweetened its offer to entice Iran into a new nuclear deal. While it quite rightly held firm on Iran’s demand to remove the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps from an official list of “foreign terrorist organizations,” Washington has given ground on many other items.

On the nuclear side of the agreement, the United States has purportedly agreed to allow Iran to keep, in storage, thousands of advanced centrifuges it has made contrary to the terms of the original deal. . . . And on economic matters, the new deal purportedly gives Iran immediate access to a certain amount of blocked assets, before it even exports most of its massive stockpile of enriched uranium for safekeeping in a third country. . . . Even with these added incentives, Iran is still holding out on an agreement. Indeed, according to the most recent reports, Tehran has actually hardened its position.

Regardless of the exact reason why, the menacing reality is that Iran’s nuclear program is galloping ahead—and the United States is doing very little about it. . . . The result has been a stunning passivity in U.S. policy toward the Iran nuclear issue.

Subscribe to Mosaic

Welcome to Mosaic

Subscribe now to get unlimited access to the best of Jewish thought and culture

Subscribe

Subscribe to Mosaic

Welcome to Mosaic

Subscribe now to get unlimited access to the best of Jewish thought and culture

Subscribe

Read more at Washington Institute for Near East Policy

More about: Iran nuclear deal, Joseph Biden, U.S. Foreign policy