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Maimonides' Confrontation with Mysticism$
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Menachem Kellner

Print publication date: 2006

Print ISBN-13: 9781904113294

Published to Liverpool Scholarship Online: February 2021

DOI: 10.3828/liverpool/9781904113294.001.0001

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Maimonides’ Critique of the Jewish Culture of his Day

Maimonides’ Critique of the Jewish Culture of his Day

(p.1) One Maimonides’ Critique of the Jewish Culture of his Day
(p.iii) Maimonides’ Confrontation with Mysticism

Menachem Kellner

Liverpool University Press

This chapter discusses how Moses Maimonides expressed a vision of Judaism as a remarkably naturalist religion of radical responsibility. His Judaism is a religion in which concrete behaviour serves the needs of abstract thought; that abstract thought is the deepest layer of the Torah and, at least in Maimonides' day, could be most clearly and accurately expressed in the vocabulary of the Neoplatonized Aristotelianism which Maimonides accepted as one of the highest expressions of the human spirit. This Judaism was simultaneously deeply elitist and profoundly universalist. Maimonides crystallized and expressed his vision of Judaism because the Jewish world in his day was, in his view, debased and paganized. Seeking to purify Judaism from ‘proto-kabbalah’, what he actually succeeded in doing was to force these currents of thought from the subterranean depths in which they had hitherto flowed up to the bright light of day. In that light they flourished, grew, and ultimately became dominant. Kabbalah has long since become the mainstream of Judaism, relegating Maimonideanism to the status of a largely ignored backwater.

Keywords:   Moses Maimonides, Judaism, abstract thought, Torah, elitism, Jewish world, proto-kabbalah, kabbalah

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