Foreword by KHALIL

Published on 3 Sep 2006 at 10:37 pm. No Comments.
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by Daniel N. Khalil


Jewish philosophy is often resigned to the assumption that fundamental descriptions of God and the universe are beyond the grasp of the human intellect. Questions of Jewish philosophy are generally posed in the context of a mysterious framework that is rarely examined per se. Such a mindset is often more concerned with man’s place, role, and duties in the world, than it is with the contours of the universe and the latter’s relationship to the Eternal:

[The reason of Jewish philosophy] is the reason that we find in chess…Chess offers the greatest possible scope for calculation…But all this takes place in accordance with a set of rules that determine which moves are permitted and which are not and how the pieces are set up. The rules themselves are the limits of reason in chess. They are not questioned nor need they be justified because the rationality of chess begins after the rules have been set down…This is Jewish intelligence…[it] has a sense of limit, of the vanity involved in hurling questions at the limits…”

– Michael Wyschogrod, The Body of Faith I, 3.
[italics mine]

Of course, there have been noteworthy attempts to defy this generalization. Maimonides is perhaps the most prominent example of a Jewish philosopher who would analyze — if not challenge — Judaism’s fundamental suppositions. In his Guide of the Perplexed, Maimonides describes a Judaism that dovetails seamlessly with an understanding of the universe as established primarily by Aristotle. As Maimonides holds Judaism to the light of Aristotle’s logic, he finds concordance on all topics, with merely one exception: the question of eternalism.



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