Maimonides, Spinoza and Us: Toward an Intellectually Vibrant Judaism

Overview

A challenging look at two great Jewish philosophers, and what their thinking means to our understanding of God, truth, revelation and reason.

Moses Maimonides (11381204) is Jewish historys greatest exponent of a rational, philosophically sound Judaism. He strove to reconcile the teachings of the Bible and rabbinic tradition with the principles of Aristotelian philosophy, arguing that religion and philosophy ultimately must arrive at the same ...

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Maimonides, Spinoza and Us: Toward an Intellectually Vibrant Judaism

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Overview

A challenging look at two great Jewish philosophers, and what their thinking means to our understanding of God, truth, revelation and reason.

Moses Maimonides (11381204) is Jewish historys greatest exponent of a rational, philosophically sound Judaism. He strove to reconcile the teachings of the Bible and rabbinic tradition with the principles of Aristotelian philosophy, arguing that religion and philosophy ultimately must arrive at the same truth.

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Baruch Spinoza (163277) is Jewish historys most illustrious heretic. He believed that truth could be attained through reason alone, and that philosophy and religion were separate domains that could not be reconciled. His critique of the Bible and its teachings caused an intellectual and spiritual upheaval whose effects are still felt today.

Rabbi Marc D. Angel discusses major themes in the writings of Maimonides and Spinoza to show us how modern people can deal with religion in an intellectually honest and meaningful way. From Maimonides, we gain insight on how to harmonize traditional religious belief with the dictates of reason. From Spinoza, we gain insight into the intellectual challenges which must be met by modern believers.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Many books and articles are devoted to the biographies and ideas of the two great Jewish philosophers, Maimonides (1138–1204) and Spinoza (1632–1677). Angel comes up with the laudable notion of comparing and contrasting their views in a single volume. This is a bold venture, since he is an Orthodox rabbi and his predecessors in the Amsterdam Jewish community excommunicated Spinoza as a heretic in 1656, just two years after the Spanish and Portuguese Synagogue was founded in New Amsterdam (now New York). Angel, born into Seattle’s Sephardic community, became the New York synagogue’s rabbi in 1969 and now serves as rabbi emeritus. Although he is respectful of many notions advocated by Spinoza, Angel makes clear his preference for the thinking of Maimonides. He explores what each of them had to say about faith, reason, God, Torah, superstition, and the relationship between Jews and non-Jews, invariably advocating the positions espoused by Maimonides. This thoughtful presentation will appeal to everyone interested in religion, Judaism, theology, and philosophy. (Dec.)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781580234115
  • Publisher: Jewish Lights Publishing
  • Publication date: 10/1/2009
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 200
  • Sales rank: 852,405
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Rabbi Marc D. Angel, PhD, is founder and director of the Institute for Jewish Ideas and Ideals (www.jewishideas.org). Rabbi emeritus of Congregation Shearith Israel of New York City, he is author and editor of twenty-nine books, including Maimonides, Spinoza and Us: Toward an Intellectually Vibrant Judaism; Foundations of Sephardic Spirituality: The Inner Life of Jews of the Ottoman Empire (both finalists for the National Jewish Book Award); and Maimonides—Essential Teachings on Jewish Faith and Ethics: The Book of Knowledge and the Thirteen Principles of Faith—Annotated and Explained (all Jewish Lights).

Rabbi Marc D. Angel, PhD, is available to speak on the following topics:

  • Maimonides, Spinoza and Us: Confronting Basic Issues of Faith
  • The Orthodox and Non-Orthodox Jewish Communities: Can We Learn from Each Other?
  • Conversion to Judaism: What the Jewish Community Can Learn from Converts
  • Choosing to Be Jewish: The Orthodox Road to Conversion
  • Losing the Rat Race, Winning at Life: Ethics for Moderns
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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments ix

Preface XI

1 Faith in Reason, Reason in Faith 1

2 The Nature of God, the God of Nature 23

3 Torah from Heaven 41

4 Divine Providence 53

5 The Oral Torah and Rabbinic Tradition 71

6 Religion and Superstition 95

7 Israel and Humanity 113

8 Conversion to Judaism 131

9 Eternal Torah, Changing Times 149

10 Faith and Reason 177

Notes 185

Suggestions for Further Reading 195

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