The teachings of Judaism's greatest medieval philosopher can be a companion on your own spiritual journey.
No Jewish thinker has had a more significant impact on Jewish religious thought than Moses Maimonides (1138–1204). A medieval philosopher whose vision covered an extensive range, he created a method of mediating between revelation and reason that laid the groundwork for a rational, philosophically sophisticated Judaism. He also provided an approach to biblical interpretation and philosophy that remains relevant for people of all faiths who follow a religion based on sacred text and oral interpretation.
In this accessible examination of Maimonides’s theological and philosophical teachings, Rabbi Marc D. Angel opens up for us Maimonides’s views on the nature of God, providence, prophecy, free will, human nature, repentance and more. He explores basic concepts of faith that Maimonides posits must serve as the basis for proper religious life. He also examines Maimonides’s insights on reward and punishment, messianic days, the world to come and other tenets of Jewish faith.
Now you can experience the wisdom of Maimonides even if you have no previous knowledge of Judaism or Jewish philosophy. SkyLight Illuminations provides insightful yet unobtrusive commentary that reveals why Maimonides’s teachings continue to have profound relevance to those seeking an intellectually vibrant understanding of Judaism.
About 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
Table of Contents
Laws of Foundations of the Torah 3
Laws Relating to Moral and Ethical Character 43
Laws of Torah Study 71
Laws of Idolatry 89
Laws of Repentance 105
Thirteen Principles of Faith 151
Selected Bibliography 176
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
There are many divergent interpretations of the brilliant sage Moses Maimonides (1138-1204). Some scholars, such as Leo Strauss of the University of Chicago, are convinced that Maimonides wrote for two audiences, intellectuals and the general population, and that he frequently hid his true views from the non-intellectuals, convinced that the more philosophically-minded could mine what he wrote and understand what he really thought. Others, such as Menachem Kellner of the University of Haifa, Israel, believe that this is not true. Maimonides meant what he wrote and did not hide ideas so as not to disturb the common people or say things just to make people feel better. Rabbi Marc Angel, the founder and director of the prestigious Institute for Jewish Ideas and Ideals (jewishideas.org) takes the latter approach and presents it well. He includes texts from Maimonides¿ Book of Knowledge and from his famous Thirteen Principles of Judaism. He chose these two sources because they give a clear presentation of Maimonides¿ teachings on morality, ethics, Torah study, idolatry, and the principles of Judaism. He places Maimonides¿ words on the right side of the book, puts numbers where there are ideas he wants to explain, and he explains them on the left side. For example, he quotes Maimonides¿ teaching about when Jews should give up their lives for Judaism on the right and gives historical examples on the left. Similarly, he mentions Maimonides view that prophets must be philosophers on the right and explains on the left that people do not have to accept his view and gives his opinion why. Also, he quotes Maimonides that righteous people do more than what the law requires and deviate from the middle path on the right and describes the higher standard on the left. His explanations are clear and he frequently refers to other books that help clarify and supplement Maimonides¿ thoughts, including other books that Maimonides composed. Rabbi Angel starts his book with a thirty page introduction that introduces Maimonides, his history, and writings to the reader. He tells readers that Maimonides was both a religious man and a philosopher; contrary to some people who think he was only one or the other. He describes the Book of Knowledge and the Thirteen Principles. He points out that Maimonides insisted that religion must have a sound intellectual foundation. ¿His approach (to religion) allows a person (of every religion) to be religious without turning off his or her brain.¿ He tells readers that Maimonides never wrote, as most people think, that Jews must believe in God. The translators misunderstood what he wrote. He said that people should study and understand as well as they could about God. Maimonides emphasized knowledge not belief.Rabbi Angel tells us that Maimonides felt strongly that there is no distinction between Jews and other human beings; humans are humans. The Torah emphasizes this message when it states 36 times that we should love the stranger. Non-Jews know things Jews don¿t know and everyone should learn from everyone else; the truth is the truth no matter what its source. One cannot be a true Torah scholar without deriving wisdom from all sources. Non-Jews have the identical rights to the world to come. The book is filled with Rabbi Angel¿s insightful interpretation of Maimonides and this great sage¿s important teachings, such as the following: Maimonides believed in miracles, ¿but God does so very rarely.¿ People should not be ascetic, such as fasting when not required to do so. Contrary to the thinking of some ultra-Orthodox, Maimonides stressed that Torah scholars should work and not depend on the charity of others.In summary, readers will gain much by reading this book because Maimonides was the greatest sage since the biblical Moses and Rabbi Angel gives us a good explanation of his views.