March 6, 13
- Different schools of thought:
- Kalam (Church Fathers)– Islamic theology – Western take on
- Neo-Platonism – (Plato) – Developed by Philo and Plotinus –
Allowed for the fact that the world emanates from a one (what ever
that one is). The origin of everything – They believe that emanation
occurs in different stages: intellect, soul, world, + one more.
- Aristotelianism – (Aristotle) – He is the father of science. Most
profound and serious challenge to religion. Empiricism
- Philo Judeas – Forgotten by the Jews (until the 16thC)
- Harry Woolfson – Theory that Western theology begin with Philo
and ends with Spinozza.
- Isaac Israeli – Book of Definitions and Book of Elements – Taken
seriously by Christians – Maimonides denounced him.
- Saadia Gaon – The Book of Beliefs and Opinions – First high point –
Responded to the Karaites.
- Bahya ibn Pakuda – in the Neo-platonic school – how you can use
science and rational ethics to get closer to G-d.
- Solomon ibn Gabirol – The Source of Life – a dialogue and treis to
answer the question of emanation of the one, divine will, and neo-
- Judah HaLevi – The Kuzari – Dialogue between a Kzar king and the
person who converted him.
- Abraham ibn Daud – Spanish – 1110 – 1180 – First one to embrace
aristotilianism – The Sublime Faith
- Levi Gersonides – Southern France – (Ralbag) – Invented certain
microcscope and early cameras – wrote commentaries on
commentaries of Aristotle. The Wars of Lord. – Tires to take
Christian philosophy – he comes close to Deism.
- Hisdai Crescas - The Light of the Lord - Critic of Maimonides –
philosophy is incompatible with religion. Accepts the idea of a
- Judah Abrovanel – Dialogues on love – signals on modern times.
- In 1985 – UNESCO held an international conference – Celebrate the
850 anniversary of Maimonides.
- 1135 – 1204
- From Moses to Moses, there‟s non like Moses – Showing how he is
equivalent to Moses the prophet.
- Everyone after Maimonides just argue if he was right or wrong. - Born in Cordova, Spain and died in Cairo, Egypt
- Had to leave Spain because of the Almoeds – Had to choose
between the exile or convert to Islam.
- Became a doctor – Taken on by the Sultan of Cairo – The physician
of the Sultan and his family.
- No official position in the Jewish world.
- 2 truth claims, philosophy/science and religion/faith – he brought
both together in harmony.
- Also known as Rambam (Rabbi Moses Ben Moshe)
- Also known as the great eagle – Can see more, protective of young,
threatens to attack.
- Decisive influence on all of Jewish philosophy.
- Influence in modern Judaism.
- Mendelssohn, Herman Cohen, Leo Strauss, Spinoza.
- Also on Arabic philosophy
- Major Works:
- 1) Guide of the Perplexed – Written in Judeo-Arabic – 1190 –
Limited readership. A scholar in Provence, France translated it to
Hebrew (Ibn Tibn). He writes this book in a format of a series of
letters to his student Rabbi Joseph – He is going to write it
esoterically – he also said he might contradict himself – he is
deliberately trying to mislead the ignorant. Deals with the question
of how to read the Bible. – They take what is on the surface to be
true. 1) Anthropomorphism – one of human‟s biggest mistakes – G-
d has no body – incorporeal – They read the Bible literally
(outstretched arm) – anyone who reads it this way is a fool/heretic.
Then 2) Critic of the Kalam – how to demonstrate the existence of
G-d, what a prophet is (made and rise), famous story of Ezekiel,
divine providence, question of human perfection.
- 2) The Law Code – Mishnah Torah – Encompasses areas which most
scholars have left out – things that have nothing to do with
contemporary Judaism – included the Temple laws, agricultural laws.
Turns repentance into a legal area. Deals with knowledge of both
Talmudim. His book is called - A repetition of the Torah, or The
Second Torah. Very bold statement. Account of messianic age –
they will be free of oppression and free to peruse knowledge. His
only work he wrote in Hebrew.
- 3) The Book of the Commandments – He ordered them by logical
ordered – not by the Torah.
- 4) Medical Treatises – Wrote on depression, another on sexual
intercourse, Medical aphorisms (a true physician should also be a
- 5) Scientific Treatises - 6) Massive Commentary on the Mishnah – Started when he was 23
and finished at 33 – Massive preparation of his code of law.
Introduction to the section of Seeds. Wrote the 8 chapters – ethics,
- Introduction to the Sanhedrin – 13 principles of Jewish faith:
1) G-d exists
5) G-d is the only being fitting to worship
6) Prophecy is true
7) Moses is the greatest of the prophets
8) The Entire Torah was reveled by G-d
9) The Torah is eternal
10) G-d is omniscient
11) Rewards the virtuous and punishes the wicked
12) here will be a messiah
13) There will be an end of Days – there will be a miraculous
resurrection of the dead.
- 7) Wrote letters – Responsa – all over the Jewish world – turned
into separate books. Letter to the Jews of Yemen, Letter proving his
belief in resurrection, Letters to the Rabbis of Southern France
(what does he think of astrology? – He demolishes astrology – form
of idolatry – the reason they lost their kingdom). A letter on
martyrdom. Wrote a letter to a convert – He says that a convert is
a complete equal of a Jew.
- Why did he get in so much trouble?
- Maimonidean controversy – From 12 – 17 C.
- Very controversial
- 1) Denounces anyone who believes that G-d is a body is a heretic.
Abraham bin David wrote a reply to this – Better and wiser Jews
than he that G-d has a body. He agrees that G-d doesn't have a
body but you shouldn't be called a heretic if you did.
- 2) Does away with all anthropomorphic views of G-d by means of
the Allegorical Method – There‟s one thing on the surface and under.
– Once you see what is under the surface you don't need the
- 3) Used philosophy – a lot of people thought it was the opposite of
- 4) If he was sincere in his belief in the resurrection of the body. –
He never mentions it in the Guide to the Perplexed. - 5) In the intro of the Mishnah Torah – When you have fully studied
my book you are free from studying the Talmud – people thought
this was way over the line.
- 6) He never cites his sources in the Guide to the Perplexed.
- 7) Represented the final blow of the Babylonian/Gaon system.
- Maimonides coming out of nowhere becomes the leading
theologian/political leader. This was the death of the Babylonian
system. You didn't need the official authority of the Babylonian
- 8) In the GttP – Reasons for the commandments – He says because
the Pagans did them – Sacrifices were the “in” thing – but in fact
the sacrifice was to wean them away from Pagan gods.
- 9) Blind faith is not only not the peek of religious virtue, but the
sign of an idiot – faith must be an intelligent faith – following as a
parrot is not intelligent faith. – For simple people its fine, but for
anyone who has any level of intelligence, they must be enlightened.
You must take it higher. Anyone who doesn't is an idiot.
- 10) His use of esoterism – elitism – Writing for the elite and the
multitude. People thought that was dismissive of the ordinary
believer. Believed that intelligence comes with a moral obligation.
- 11) One of his works was a failure – but very radical – he thought
that Rabbis and Jewish leaders should not be paid individuals. He
felt it was a corrupting thing. Religious leaders will make their
sermons towards their backers.
- 12) In the last 4 chapters of the GttP – The only true access to G-d
is through the mind/intellect – long effort of mental discipline – it‟s
not knowledge that gets you close to G-d but love – love being
intertwined with intellectualism – understanding as much of G-d as
- 13) Gave in the commentary of the Mishnah – the 13 principle of
Jewish belief – For centuries people said this is not Judaism – they
don't represent the principles of Judaism – What you believe is as
important as what you do.
- 14) When he denounced astrology he touched a nerve – a lot of
people thought it was closer to G-d. To him it embraces magic –
and it has lost its way – denounces it in horrible words to bring
them back to religion.
March 13, 13
- What is Mysticism?
- Not the same as religion – it usually appears within the context of
- Some kind of individual connection with G-d - The mystic claims to have risen to a height that cant be reached
from just regular religion.
- Tends to be the case that mystics are inclined to aesthetic practices
(usually involving, food, solitude, sex, etc… - deny themselves
- Orgiastic – Being concerned with physical things
- Antinomianism – Anyone who opposes the order of things.
- Connection with magic – The mystics believe the forces which
operate in the universe are not observable. – Trying to get hold of
the levers of how the world runs.
- Oracles – the mystics often believe that there are communications
from the other side which come to us.
- The fate of the soul – is not tied to the ordinary forces – a concern
of the mystic.
- Only available to certain people.
- Mysticism – elitist phenomena
- Gershom Scholem
- Major Trends of Jewish Mysticism
- Where does mysticism appear in religion?
- There are basically 3 stages in religion
- 1) The mythological stage – paganism, polytheism, gods are
- 2) Demythologization – de-anthropomorphism – the physical
attributes are metaphorical – a great deprivation for some souls.
- 3) Mystical stage – the mystic tries to bridge the abyss – to bridge
the finite to the infinite.
- Mysticism is about a direct experience/intuition of G-d.
- This comes after religion has restricted G-d.
- Starts to appear in Rabbinic texts
- They start talking about things which were “unknown”
- 2 Biblical texts – Maaseh Breshit – Account of beginning (Gen 1)
- Maaseh Merkavah – account of chariot (Ezek 1 and 10)
- Chariot has wheels within them with eyes and starts to ascend – 4
animals pulling it – lion, bull, man,… - With wings above and below
– very hard to understand what‟s going on.
- 1 C or 2 /3d rd Era of CE it appears
- The pardes (PaRDeS) – originally from Persian – orchard – a
mystical place where mystics aspire.
- The four who entered the Pardes:
- 1) Ben Azai – looked and died
- 2) Ben zoma – looked and goes mad
- 3) Akivah – went in in peace and out in peace
- 4) Elisha (known as Acher [other] - heretic) – went in and became
a pulled out (heretic) - When you get to the gates of pure marble do not say “water, water”
because he who…
- The word Kabbalah and the word Mysticism – Kabbalah doesn't
appear until the common era.
- The first phase of Jewish mysticism is Yordai HaMerkavah (The
riders of the chariot – those who descend to the chariot) – Hechalot
- There are 7 palaces/domains/heavens.
- You have to ascend
- The dangerousness process
- Elitist – it can lead people astray
- Unio mystica – Mystical union – direct immediate contact – can they
have that with G-d?
- Metratron – G-d‟s “right hand man” – G-d doesn't get in to the
concerns of the universe.
- You can have a direct relationship with that angel, and some say
that angel is G-d.
- Probably appeared in the wake of the 6thC
- 1) Shiur Komah - „The measurement of the body‟ (of G-d). They
want to talk about G-d with having a physical body – They say, G-d
has an arm but billions of miles long – too long to conceptualize. –
They get around the problem of anthropomorphism. This book is a
commentary of the song of songs.
- 2) Sefer Yetzirah – „The book of formation/creation‟ – Doesn't really
tell a story – the stream that takes the Hebrew language very
seriously. Mystical commentary on the 22 letter of the Hebrew
alphabet – and the numbers from the letters. They find in these
letters the secrets to the world that exists – mystical periodic table.
G-d made the universe out of the Hebrew letters. If you can
understand those things – manipulate those letters you become an
agent of the world. They call the first 10 letters – Sefirot – the 10
powers of the universe.
- Hasidai Ashkenaz – The pious of Germany
- Appears in the times of the Crusades.
- Pietistic Movement – concentration on piety. – protecting oneself
from the forces of evil.
- Sefer Hassisdim - They put their emphasis
- 423 Seltzer – Summary of 6 features
- 1) Emphasis Love of G-d – and man and woman but in relation to
G-d. Sacrificing oneself for G-d is the extreme act – Response to
the martyrness of the Jews during the Crusades. – The supreme act
- 2) They stress the immediate presence of G-d. G-d is everywhere - 3) The powers and forces which are between worlds – kavod – glory
- 4) Divine names – The divine name itself is a key to getting at G-d
– great magical power if you are in control of it. Gematria – Each
Hebrew word has a meaning and a numerical value – take the
numerical value of one word and the same with another and find
- 5) Demons – using magic against those forces.
- 6) Concept of prayer – The replacement for the ancient sacrifices
and it is a vehicle for the direct contact with G-d.
- 7) Rigorous morality
- Phase #2 of Jewish mysticism
- Kabbalah – To receive – reception – tradition
- The Zohar – The book of Jewish mysticism - Written in a kind of
bazar Aramaic (Neo-Aramaic) – Written by Moses de Leon –
Medieval text. – Spanish Jew – Disciple of Maimonides – Mystical
commentary on the Torah.
- Ayn Sof – the infinite – One type of G-d
- Then there is a G-d which is concealed and a G-d which is revealed.
- Sefirot – Hebrew word for counting
- 10 Different manifestations of G-d.
- 1) The top – Keter (crown)
- 2) Chochma – Wisdom (right side)
- 3) Binah – Intelligence (left)
- 4) Chesed – Mercy (right)
- 5) Din – Justice (left)
- 6) Tiferet – Beauty (center)
- 7) Yesod – foundation (center)
- 8) Malchut - Kingdom (center)
- 9) Netzah – Endurance (right)
- 10 Hod – Slander (left)
- What do they represent in a totality?
- Different ways of understanding them – The Cosmic Man – Each of
them is a kind of the body
- Saw sex as part of the divine reality.
- It is also seen as a cosmic tree
- And another version of it – Circles in circles in circles…. And in the
center is Earth (us).
- The key is that the human is a divine mirror of the divine –
connected with G-d.
- It is about the physical
- G-d emanated out of himself different – Spiritual form of this
- Why would Scholem say this is the rebirth of mythology?
- Myth – stories of the life of the gods. - You could say that these are the 10 gods
- Divine potencies – The way G-d expresses itself in the world.
- Male and female sexuality – a connection between the divine
- Everything bellow mirrors above.
- They turned it into a practical doctrine
- The commandments of the Torah are an instruction manual –
related to one of the 10 sefirot.
- Phase 4:
- Wake in the expulsion of the Jews in Spain
- Isaac Luria
- One of the great figures of Jewish mysticism
- 1534 – 1572
- Not so much a systematic thinker – a pictorial thinker – using
pictures he has contrasted…
- He gathers disciples
- One of the great non-writing prophets of history.
- His theory – basing himself off the great disaster of Spain
- Cosmic Catastrophe
- In Luria‟s conception there is a point to specialize G-d – Why is
there anything other than G-d.
- G-d had to make space within himself for non-G-d.
- How? – He widthdrew from an empty spot – he contracted away
- 1) tzimtzum – contraction – A rebirth of Gnosticism – 10 jars – G-d
poured his spirit – in doing so something went wrong – the jars
broke – they couldn't hold the spirituality of G-d…
- 2) Shvirot hakalim – The breaking of the vessels. …they spilled
down and were sparks. The jars start to form around the sparks
(the lower to the higher). And that is our world. – The beginning of
the world is a great catastrophe.
- 3) Tikkun Olam – The restoration/repairing the world – Our
challenge in our life is to restore the world to its original wholeness.
- Shabtai Tzvi
- Nathan of Gaza – finds a rational for the conversion – he must go to