Mysticism Meets Philosophy in Medieval Spain

When kabbalistic teachings made their way from southern France into northern and then central Spain, they were introduced to rabbis who were literate in multiple languages and well-versed in philosophy and the work of Moses Maimonides, leading to both competition between, and synthesis of, philosophical and mystical ideas. One of the most remarkable figures of this era was Abraham Abulafia, born in Zaragoza to a distinguished family around 1240. Tamar Marvin writes:

Abraham Abulafia sought, and claimed to have experienced, mystical union and even prophetic visions, alongside a more studied, intellectual knowledge of Kabbalah. . . . Abraham began his advanced learning with a study of The Guide of the Perplexed, Rambam’s late-breaking philosophical magnum opus. . . . This quickly led Abraham to a place of esoteric seeking.

In the summer of 1280, in a quixotic attempt to convert . . . Pope Nicholas III to Judaism, thus provoking the beginning of the messianic age, Rabbi Abraham arrived in Rome. Unfortunately for him, the pope died unexpectedly in August of 1280, arousing suspicion of Abraham and leading to his imprisonment. After his release, Abraham continued teaching and writing in Italy, but by 1285 he had sufficiently aroused the ire of the great Rabbi Solomon ibn Adret (Rashba), who placed him under a ban as a messianic pretender and effectively proscribed ecstatic Kabbalah, resigning it to obscurity.

Read more at Stories from Jewish History

More about: Jewish Philosophy, Kabbalah, Medieval Spain, Moses Maimonides, Papacy

Only Hamas’s Defeat Can Pave the Path to Peace

Opponents of the IDF’s campaign in Gaza often appeal to two related arguments: that Hamas is rooted in a set of ideas and thus cannot be defeated militarily, and that the destruction in Gaza only further radicalizes Palestinians, thus increasing the threat to Israel. Rejecting both lines of thinking, Ghaith al-Omar writes:

What makes Hamas and similar militant organizations effective is not their ideologies but their ability to act on them. For Hamas, the sustained capacity to use violence was key to helping it build political power. Back in the 1990s, Hamas’s popularity was at its lowest point, as most Palestinians believed that liberation could be achieved by peaceful and diplomatic means. Its use of violence derailed that concept, but it established Hamas as a political alternative.

Ever since, the use of force and violence has been an integral part of Hamas’s strategy. . . . Indeed, one lesson from October 7 is that while Hamas maintains its military and violent capabilities, it will remain capable of shaping the political reality. To be defeated, Hamas must be denied that. This can only be done through the use of force.

Any illusions that Palestinian and Israeli societies can now trust one another or even develop a level of coexistence anytime soon should be laid to rest. If it can ever be reached, such an outcome is at best a generational endeavor. . . . Hamas triggered war and still insists that it would do it all again given the chance, so it will be hard-pressed to garner a following from Palestinians in Gaza who suffered so horribly for its decision.

Read more at Washington Institute for Near East Policy

More about: Gaza War 2023, Hamas, Israeli-Palestinian Conflict