Maimonides: Life and Thought

Maimonides: Life and Thought

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by Moshe Halbertal
     
 

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Maimonides was the greatest Jewish philosopher and legal scholar of the medieval period, a towering figure who has had a profound and lasting influence on Jewish law, philosophy, and religious consciousness. This book provides a comprehensive and accessible introduction to his life and work, revealing how his philosophical sensibility and outlook informed his

Overview

Maimonides was the greatest Jewish philosopher and legal scholar of the medieval period, a towering figure who has had a profound and lasting influence on Jewish law, philosophy, and religious consciousness. This book provides a comprehensive and accessible introduction to his life and work, revealing how his philosophical sensibility and outlook informed his interpretation of Jewish tradition.

Moshe Halbertal vividly describes Maimonides's childhood in Muslim Spain, his family's flight to North Africa to escape persecution, and their eventual resettling in Egypt. He draws on Maimonides's letters and the testimonies of his contemporaries, both Muslims and Jews, to offer new insights into his personality and the circumstances that shaped his thinking. Halbertal then turns to Maimonides's legal and philosophical work, analyzing his three great books--Commentary on the Mishnah, the Mishneh Torah, and the Guide of the Perplexed. He discusses Maimonides's battle against all attempts to personify God, his conviction that God's presence in the world is mediated through the natural order rather than through miracles, and his locating of philosophy and science at the summit of the religious life of Torah. Halbertal examines Maimonides's philosophical positions on fundamental questions such as the nature and limits of religious language, creation and nature, prophecy, providence, the problem of evil, and the meaning of the commandments.

A stunning achievement, Maimonides offers an unparalleled look at the life and thought of this important Jewish philosopher, scholar, and theologian.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
11/11/2013
Maimonides, also known in Hebrew as Rambam, was a great Jewish philosopher and physician. Born in Andalusia, Spain, in 1138, he was forced to flee after the intolerant Almohad dynasty gained power. After years of wandering in North Africa, he finally reached Egypt in 1166, where he became a leader of the Egyptian Jewish community until his death in 1204. Many commentators have written about Maimonides’s contributions, especially about his work on Jewish law. This new book adds the ideas of author Halbertal, a philosopher who teaches at Hebrew University and New York University, to scholarly understanding of Maimonides. His work, originally in Hebrew, is difficult to follow. Readers need to be well-versed in Jewish philosophy and the writings of Maimonides to comprehend Halbertal’s analysis. Many others, some cited in a lengthy bibliography organized by chapters, have written clearer analyses of Maimonides’s contributions. This is a book that will be useful only for those who are well-versed in Jewish philosophy and especially in the books written by Maimonides. (Dec.)
From the Publisher
Winner of the 2013 National Jewish Book Award in Scholarship, Jewish Book Council

Honorable Mention for the 2015 PROSE Award in Theology & Religious Studies, Association of American Publishers

One of Choice's Outstanding Academic Titles for 2014

"In his rigorous and insightful study Maimonides: Life and Thought, Moshe Halbertal reintroduces readers to this rabbi-scientist, who insisted that faith should be an enterprise based on reason."—Dara Horn, Wall Street Journal

"[M]agisterial. . . . Halbertal presents a moving and detailed portrait of Maimonides's life as well as his work. . . . Maimonides is not just a titan of Jewish learning; as Halbertal shows in his timely and definitive book, he can be a surprisingly contemporary guide for our times."—David Mikics, Forward

"[Halbertal] pioneers a new path, walking the reader through the different interpretive schools and explaining what supports each one while acknowledging that Maimonides contradicts himself both across and within his many writings—at times purposefully, which inevitably leaves his readers perplexed. Halbertal is a wonderful guide, explaining how different approaches illuminate Maimonides' writings and how certain issues reverberate throughout the sage's work, returning in new forms and contexts. . . . Drawing on all of Maimonides' writings, and especially his many letters, Halbertal crafts a portrait of a refugee who never fully left home and felt the pain of exile for his entire life. . . . [An] extraordinary book."—Jay M. Harris, Foreign Affairs

"In a sea of literature about the great twelfth-century Jewish sage and philosopher, one could do no better than turn to Moshe Halbertal's single volume work on Maimonides. . . . Accessible to both scholar and interested general reader, this book should be the first work on Maimonides for an English reader to approach."—David Tesler, Association of Jewish Libraries Reviews

"If you are going to read only one book about Maimonides, make it Moshe Halbertal's stunning Maimonides. Even if you have read many other books by and about Maimonides, you have much to learn here."—Menachem Kellner, AJS Review

"Halbertal's book provides an introduction to the complexity of Maimonides's work, and should be studied by any serious Maimonides scholar."—Tamar Rudavsky, Journal of the History of Philosophy

"Maimonides, then, remains an elusive and fascinating figure: his importance is clear, but it's hard to grasp exactly what made him so important. That is why Maimonides: Life and Thought, the new study by Moshe Halbertal, is such a valuable contribution. . . . Readers who are curious about this difficult but rewarding thinker will find Maimonides: Life and Thought a thrillingly lucid introduction."—Adam Kirsch, Barnes & Noble Review

"Moshe Halbertal's Maimonides is a useful guide to the man and his work, with something to offer both novice and scholar. . . . [T]his admirable work invites us to study Moses Maimonides' writings on our own."—Mark Blitz, Weekly Standard

"Halbertal, a professor of both law and Jewish studies, is equipped to grasp the richness of Maimonides's thought, which reflects a potent blend of rabbinic expertise and philosophical acumen. . . . If Halbertal's book accomplishes nothing else but to inspire this Maimonidean approach to life and religion, then he has done his job well."—James A. Diamond, Jerusalem Post

"[S]tudying the Andalusian refugee Maimonides will be revealing and this terrific book by the philosopher Moshe Halbertal is a great place to begin."—Richard Marshall, 3ammagazine.com

"This insightful, well-written book offers a fresh perspective on Maimonides. Halbertal offers an excellent introductory overview of Maimonides's life and contributions to Jewish law, philosophy, medicine, and religious consciousness. He also makes clear how Mainmonides's personality, psychology, and evolving outlook penetrate his oeuvre. . . . The author offers a window into the self-perception of this greatest of medieval rabbinic thinkers, physicians, legalists, and theologians, and the radical transformations he sought to effect in Judaism."Choice

"[A] valuable and impressive achievement."—Eric Shoag,Jewish Journal

"[A] brilliant tour de force."—Lawrence Kaplan, Jewish Review of Books

"In this excellent study, Moshe Halbertal makes it clear, in keeping with Maimonides, that there is no one way to understand the Jewish tradition."—Jude P. Dougherty, Mary Elizabeth Tetzlaff

"[A]n unusually comprehensive overview of Maimonides achievements."—Berel Dov Lerner, Religion & Theology

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781400848478
Publisher:
Princeton University Press
Publication date:
11/24/2013
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
400
Sales rank:
909,792
File size:
2 MB

Meet the Author

Moshe Halbertal is the Gruss professor of Law at New York University, professor of Jewish thought and philosophy at the Hebrew University, and professor of law at IDC Herzliya in Israel. His books include On Sacrifice and Concealment and Revelation: Esotericism in Jewish Thought and Its Philosophical Implications (both Princeton).

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Maimonides: Life and Thought 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
casa42 More than 1 year ago
I have read a number of books about Maimonides and his philosophy. Unlike the books I had read this volume does not make the Guide for the Perplexed the center piece. Although it is dealt with in detail, the Mishneh Torah and his Commentary are also explicated thoroughly providing a fuller portrait of Maimonides' thought. The volume is also written in clear jargon-free prose.