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

Sept. 17 2021

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only completed the volumes Genesis and Exodus, and the manuscript—written in Arabic with Hebrew letters—remained unpublished until the 20th century, when it was translated into Hebrew.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.

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Read more at Jewish Review of Books

More about: Biblical commentary, Moses Maimonides, Orthodoxy

How European Fecklessness Encourages the Islamic Republic’s Assassination Campaign

In September, Cypriot police narrowly foiled a plot by an Iranian agent to murder five Jewish businessman. This was but one of roughly a dozen similar operations that Tehran has conducted in Europe since 2015—on both Israeli or Jewish and American targets—which have left three dead. Matthew Karnitschnig traces the use of assassination as a strategic tool to the very beginning of the Islamic Republic, and explains its appeal:

In the West, assassination remains a last resort (think Osama bin Laden); in authoritarian states, it’s the first (who can forget the 2017 assassination by nerve agent of Kim Jong-nam, the playboy half-brother of North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un, upon his arrival in Kuala Lumpur?). For rogue states, even if the murder plots are thwarted, the regimes still win by instilling fear in their enemies’ hearts and minds. That helps explain the recent frequency. Over the course of a few months last year, Iran undertook a flurry of attacks from Latin America to Africa.

Whether such operations succeed or not, the countries behind them can be sure of one thing: they won’t be made to pay for trying. Over the years, the Russian and Iranian regimes have eliminated countless dissidents, traitors, and assorted other enemies (real and perceived) on the streets of Paris, Berlin, and even Washington, often in broad daylight. Others have been quietly abducted and sent home, where they faced sham trials and were then hanged for treason.

While there’s no shortage of criticism in the West in the wake of these crimes, there are rarely real consequences. That’s especially true in Europe, where leaders have looked the other way in the face of a variety of abuses in the hopes of reviving a deal to rein in Tehran’s nuclear-weapons program and renewing business ties.

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Read more at Politico

More about: Europe, Iran, Israeli Security, Terrorism