Maimonides’ Son’s Long-Forgotten Commentary, and the Quixotic Scholar Who Made It Available

Known mostly for his attempts to incorporate Sufi practices into Judaism, Abraham (1184-1237), the only son of Moses Maimonides and his successor as head of the Egyptian Jewish community, set out in his later years to write a commentary on the Torah, something his father never attempted. Abraham only completed the volumes Genesis and Exodus, and the manuscript—written in Arabic with Hebrew letters—remained unpublished until the 20th century, when it was translated into Hebrew. But a more recent translation, writes David Farkas, might finally give the work the attention it deserves:

A limited print run, head-scratching organization, and difficult linguistic choices conspired to prevent [the 1958 version] from reaching anyone beyond a very small circle of scholars. However, a lucid new edition and commentary has recently been published in Lakewood, New Jersey, the yeshiva capital of the Diaspora, by a scholar named Moshe Maimon.

Maimon, who claims direct descent from his namesake, Abraham’s father, signs his name with a prominent Samekh-Tet, meaning Sfardi Tahor (pure Sephardi), and is intent on redeeming the glory of his putative ancestor’s work. His two volumes contain between them nearly 1,500 punctuated and cleanly laid-out pages; they also include a detailed introduction describing the history of the manuscript, Abraham’s agenda as an interpreter, and an interpretive essay setting the commentary within the broader world of Maimonidean scholarship.

It is in the footnotes, however, where Maimon really shines. In a wonderful Hebrew style that is both thoroughly modern and suffused with tradition and classical quotation, Maimon provides thousands of illuminating comments and insights. Basic sources, of course, are provided, but Maimon goes much further, comparing and contrasting the opinions of rabbinic scholars both from Abraham’s milieu and of later periods. Points of grammar are properly explained. And comments from Maimon’s contemporaries in the [the more conservative circles of non-ḥasidic Orthodoxy] are also featured, a decidedly nice touch. It is this last feature that gives Maimon’s volumes particular distinction in a fascinating new scholarly genre.

Read more at Jewish Review of Books

More about: Biblical commentary, Moses Maimonides, Orthodoxy

Iran’s Calculations and America’s Mistake

There is little doubt that if Hizballah had participated more intensively in Saturday’s attack, Israeli air defenses would have been pushed past their limits, and far more damage would have been done. Daniel Byman and Kenneth Pollack, trying to look at things from Tehran’s perspective, see this as an important sign of caution—but caution that shouldn’t be exaggerated:

Iran is well aware of the extent and capability of Israel’s air defenses. The scale of the strike was almost certainly designed to enable at least some of the attacking munitions to penetrate those defenses and cause some degree of damage. Their inability to do so was doubtless a disappointment to Tehran, but the Iranians can probably still console themselves that the attack was frightening for the Israeli people and alarming to their government. Iran probably hopes that it was unpleasant enough to give Israeli leaders pause the next time they consider an operation like the embassy strike.

Hizballah is Iran’s ace in the hole. With more than 150,000 rockets and missiles, the Lebanese militant group could overwhelm Israeli air defenses. . . . All of this reinforces the strategic assessment that Iran is not looking to escalate with Israel and is, in fact, working very hard to avoid escalation. . . . Still, Iran has crossed a Rubicon, although it may not recognize it. Iran had never struck Israel directly from its own territory before Saturday.

Byman and Pollack see here an important lesson for America:

What Saturday’s fireworks hopefully also illustrated is the danger of U.S. disengagement from the Middle East. . . . The latest round of violence shows why it is important for the United States to take the lead on pushing back on Iran and its proxies and bolstering U.S. allies.

Read more at Foreign Policy

More about: Iran, Israeli Security, U.S. Foreign policy