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The Return of Maimonideanism

Author(s): Warren Zev Harvey

Source: Jewish Social Studies, Vol. 42, No. 3/4 (Summer - Autumn, 1980), pp. 249-268
Published by: Indiana University Press
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The Return of Maimonideanism
by Warren Zev Harvey

Even as Maimonides (1135-1204) revolutionized normativeJudaism with

his Commentary on the Mishnah, with his legal responsa, and especially with
his great Code of Jewish Law, the Mishneh Torah, so too he revolutionizedJew-
ish philosophy1with his Guide of the Perplexed. Not only did the Guide render
all previousJewish philosophy almost obsolete, but it is barely an exaggeration
to call all subsequent medieval Jewish philosophy "Maimonidean."2Even Has-
dai Crescas (c. 1340-c. 1410), Maimonides' radical philosophic critic, called
him "the Master," and while dismantling his philosophy from the inside,
worked perforce within it. The waning of the Middle Ages, however, brought
the waning of Maimonideanism. Spinoza (1632-1677), who never completely
freed himself of the Maimonideanism on which he was reared, and whom
Harry Austryn Wolfson called "the last of the mediaevals and the first of the
moderns,"3is well seen as marking the end of a continuous Jewish philosophic
tradition which spanned almost five centuries. Some scholarswould go so far as
to say that the end of this medieval Maimonidean tradition meant the end of
all Jewish philosophy worthy of the name. Isaac Husik, for example, concluded
his A History of MediaevalJewish Philosophy with the flat statement: "There
are Jews now and there are philosophers, but there are no Jewish philosophers
and there is no Jewish philosophy."4
If Jewish philosophy did survive the Middle Ages, it was not Maimoni-
dean. To be sure, Maimonides remained as the symbol of The Jewish Philoso-
pher, but his philosophy was no longer a living, commanding force. Moses
Mendelssohn (1729-1786), the father of whatever might be called "modern
Jewish philosophy," was a fine student of Maimonides' rabbinic works, and
wrote an important Hebrew Commentary on his uncontroversial Treatise on
Logic, but he was too much the naive AuJkldrer,too much the aesthete, and
too much the idyllic religionist to identify with the aristocraticintellectualism
found in the Guide.5 Although the roguish Solomon Maimon (1754-1800) did
identify with it, publishing a Hebrew Commentaryon Part One of the Guide,
and even naming himself after the Master, his brilliant Transcendentalphilos-
ophie is a contribution to Kantian theory, not Maimonideanism. Similarly,
what is original in Nahman Krochmal's(1785-1840) prodigious Guide of the


Perplexed of Our Times is inspired more by Fichte, Hegel, and Schelling than
by Maimonides, its very title implying that Maimoides' Guide is anachronistic.
Unsurprisingly, when Hermann Cohen (1842-1918), founder of the neo-Kan-
tian Marburg school, turned to Jewish philosophy and wrote his magnificent
Religion of Reason out of the Sources ofJudaism, it was not a Maimonidean
but a neo-Kantian work.
As for twentieth century Jewish philosophy, it has been largely under the
existentialist spell of Martin Buber (1878-1965) and Franz Rosenzweig
(1866-1929). While Krochmal and Cohen had reverently studied the Guide,6
and as Jewish philosophers had considered themselves to be modern-day Mai-
monides, albeit not modern-day Maimonideans, Buber and Rosenzweig were
sheer outsiders to Maimonideanism. Buber wrote dozens of volumes on an im-
pressively wide range of Jewish and philosophic topics, yet he rarely mentions
even the name of Maimonides. Rosenzweig occasionally cites Maimonides in
passing, but the medieval Jew who most significantly influenced him was the
Hebrew poet and anti-philosopher, Judah Halevi (c. 1080-c. 1140), whose
"middle-sized reincarnation"7 he fancied himself to be. Not inappropriately,
the present age has been caricatured by the French phenomenologist, Emman-
uel Levinas (b. 1905), as one "in which Jews understand only hasidic tales."8
Levinas is in his own right one of the most profound contemporary philoso-
phers of Judaism, and although his orientation is undeniably more Maimoni-
dean than hasidic, he is a student of Husserl and only remotely of Maimonides.
Abraham Joshua Heschel (1907-1972), whose thought is perhaps representa-
tive of the dominant theological temper of the age, and who is certainly among
the most exciting of the hasidic storytelling Jewish existentialist philosophers,
had predictably little use for Maimonidean intellectualism, and wrote a beau-
tiful essay, "The Last Days of Maimonides," in which he tried to prove that in
the end Maimonides gave up "his earlier commitment to the superiority of in-
tellectual pursuits."9 Yet tepidness toward Maimonidean philosophy is found
even in places where one might have expected to find fervid enthusiasm. Thus,
Joseph B. Soloveitchik (b. 1903), who as an halakhist is probably the most
trenchant living interpreter of Maimonides' rabbinic system, and who is possi-
bly unique today among eminent rabbinic authorities in that, after the
Maimonidean model, he is also an original philosopher, has- notwithstanding
his mighty spiritual roots in Maimonides' rabbinism--constructed a philosophy
of Judaism which is influenced less by the Guide than by neo-Kantianism, by
Kierkegaardian existentialism, and maybe even by the Kabbalah. Again, there
have been historians of Jewish philosophy, such as Simon Rawidowicz
(1897-1957) and Israel Efros (b. 1891), who have made the Guide the subject
of meticulous study, and then have gone on to write their own Jewish philoso-
phy oblivious of Maimonides.
Return of Maimonideanism 251

Moreover, Maimonideanism has suffered in modern times not only from

the new phenomenon of disinterest, but also from the old phenomenon of hos-
tility. Anti-Maimonideans no longer conspire to have Maimonides' philosophic
works burned in the streets as, for example, they did in France in the 1230s.
Yet, the ferocious and often cogent argumentation of the medieval Maimoni-
deans remarkably survived the demise of medieval Maimonideanism. Modern
anti-Maimonideans, like their medieval predecessors, often combine damna-
tion of Maimonides' philosophy with praise of his rabbinics. The distinction
between Maimonides, the rabbinic hero, and Maimonides, the philosophic vil-
lain, seemed so clear to the distinguished talmudic scholar, Jacob Emden
(1697-1776), that he denounced the Guide as a forgery.'0 In his popular Nine-
teen Letters, Samson Raphael Hirsch (1808-1865), leader of German neo-Or-
thodoxy, wrote that Maimonides "gave birth to all the good and the evil," for
as a rabbinic decisor and codifier he preserved "practical Judaism," while as a
spiritual guide of the perplexed, he approached Judaism "from without," his
Geistesrichtung and his Lebensbegrzff being "Arabic-Greek."" The enlight-
ened pietist, Samuel David Luzzatto (1800-1865), condemned Maimonides for
trying to introduce dogmatics into Judaism, and charged that he represented
intolerant, intellectualist "Atticism," not tolerant, compassionate "Abraham-
ism."'2 It is not only the religionists who have attacked Maimonideanism in
modern times; one of the most informed indictments of Maimonidean intellec-
tualism was that of the ethical nationalist, Ahad Ha'am (1856-1927), who, in
his essay "The Supremacy of Reason,"'3 protested that Maimonides subjugated
the traditional values of Judaism to the one value of intellectual excellence.
More recently, Gershom Scholem (b. 1897), the grand historian of the Kabba-
lah who himself often sees things kabbalistically, has insisted that Maimonides'
philosophical allegorism is far less true to the classical Jewish sources than is the
symbolism of the Kabbalists, and that furthermore Maimonides' "synthesis" of
Jewish law and philosophy is "sterile."14 Even those moderns who have cham-
pioned Maimonides against his attackers were themselves usually anything but
Maimonideans. For example, the mystical Abraham Isaac Kuk (1865-1935),
responding to a critique of Maimonidean philosophy by a well-known rabbi-
historian, justified the Guide primarily (although not exclusively) on the plur-
alist grounds that different ideas lead different individuals to the true service of

In trying to understand the prevalent modem attitudes toward Maimoni-

deanism, the case of Harry Austryn Wolfson (1887-1974) is instructive. As a
youth in Lithuania, Wolfson studied at the Slabodka Yeshivah, center of the

Mussar (rabbinic moralism) movement. He had a patriotic love for Hebrew,

and as a high school student in Scranton, Pennsylvania, and as an undergradu-
ate at Harvard College he had already published poems and essays in Hebrew
journals. These two biographical facts explain why, when exposed to philoso-
phy at Harvard, he violently rejected Maimonideanism, preferring the rab-
binic moralism of the Kuzari, the dialogue by the patriotic Hebrew poet, Ju-
dah Halevi.16 He soon published a rousing essay, "Maimonides and Halevi"
(1912)-originally an undergraduate paper for George Santayana-in which
he assailed Maimonides as the "Hellenist" and cheered Halevi as the
"Hebraist." He concluded that Maimonides' Guide is but "a scholastic apology
of religion," of no value to modern man, while "contemporary thought, the
whole pragmatic movement [the influence of William James (d. 1910) was in-
escapable at Harvard], may find its visions foreshadowed in Halevi's discus-
sions."'7 His anti-Maimonideanism led him naturally to the heavyweight of all
medieval anti-Maimonideans, Hasdai Crescas, whom he evidently saw as an-
other Judah Halevi,'8 only more rigorous philosophically. He believed that
Crescas, like Halevi, was of moment to contemporary philosophy, and that for
example his theory of time should interest students of Bergson.19 Meanwhile,
he was writing essays concerning current Jewish issues, and appeared to be
seeking grounds for a new Jewish philosophy which would take its cue from the
anti-Maimonidean "pragmatism" of Halevi and Crescas. Perhaps with an eye
to this end, he wrote his doctoral dissertation at Harvard on Crescas (1915),
and eventually published his monumental Crescas' Critique of Aristotle.20
Yet, immersion in historical and philological studies somehow caused
Wolfson to change drastically his attitude toward Maimonides. He came to see
Halevi, Maimonides, and Crescas as all belonging to one overarching philo-
sophic tradition which began with Philo of Alexandria (c. 25 B.C.-c. 45 A.D.)
and ended with Spinoza, included all Jewish, Christian, and Muslim philoso-
phers in between, and featured Maimonides (!) prominently. According to this
new view, Philo revolutionized Greek philosophy by interpreting it in the light
of Hebrew Scripture, and thereby founded a philosophic tradition ("Scrip-
tural" or "Philonic" philosophy) which reigned supreme in the West until Spin-
oza dethroned it by rejecting the veracity of Scripture.2'
Wolfson did not think that Philonic philosophy, including Jewish philoso-
phy, had ever been refuted by the moderns, but rather that it had perished
simply because it was irrelevant in a world no longer committed to Scripture.22
In the modern world, as he now understood it, traditional religion had been
rejected and modern liberal religion had failed: without viable religion there
could be no meaningful religious philosophy;23 without a viable Judaism, there
could be no meaningful Jewish philosophy. While previously it had seemed to
Return of Maimonideanism 253
him that some Jewish philosophy was anachronistic (Maimonides) and some
relevant today (Halevi, Crescas), it now seemed to him that all of it was
anachronistic. If he had ever entertained the thought of creating a contempo-
rary Jewish philosophy, the chilling implications of his new view sufficed to
prevent its recurrence. There was, however, a need to write the history of
Jewish philosophy in particular and of Philonic philosophy in general,24 and it
was to satisfy this need that he produced his learned volumes on Spinoza
(1934), Philo (1947), the Church Fathers (1956), the Kalam (1976), and scores
of monographs.25
In sum, young Wolfson, like Luzzatto and Ahad Ha'am, had rejected
Maimonideanism as subjugating Judaism to Reason, and like Rosenzweig he
had thought that contemporary philosophic inspiration could be found in Ju-
dah Halevi; however, the mature Wolfson was, like Husik, convinced that for
all intents and purposes Jewish philosophy ended with the last of the medievals.
Put another way: what the young Wolfson rejected as a modern philosophic
option was Maimonideanism defined narrowly; what the mature Wolfson re-
jected was Maimonideanism defined broadly.

"Are there Maimonideans today?" a student some years ago asked Shlomo
Pines (b. 1908), the encyclopedic authority on medieval Arabic and Hebrew
philosophy, and author of the now standard English translation of the Guide of
the Perplexed. "There is Leo Strauss," he replied without hesitation.26
Pines' reply requires explanation. While as an historian, Leo Strauss
(1899-1973), like Wolfson and Pines himself, wrote some highly important es-
says about Maimonides, as an original political thinker he does not seem to be
specifically "Maimonidean." In his Natural Right and History (1950), for ex-
ample, he mentions Maimonides only in one expendable footnote. As professor
of political philosophy at the University of Chicago (1949-1968), he raised a
generation of loyal Straussians who are propagating his theories in universities
throughout North America and also abroad, but no one thinks of calling them
Yet, in some respects, Strauss was undeniably Maimonidean. In the first
place, he read the Guide more like a medieval Maimonidean than like a
modern historian. He knew how to approach the Guide as a puzzle, doggedly
seeking to uncover its esoteric teaching, and even worried about the morality of
divulging it. In response to this moral problem, he affected a quasi-Maimoni-
dean esoteric style in his essays on Maimonides: if the Guide, he insisted, is "an
esoteric interpretation of an esoteric teaching," then its interpretation should

be "an esoteric interpretation of an esoteric interpretation of an esoteric teach-

ing."27 He was, therefore, a Maimonidean in both reading the Guide and
writing about it.
Moreover, Strauss applied the method of esoteric reading he had learned
from his study of the Guide to the major philosophic works from antiquity until
about the eighteenth century. In explanation of this extraordinary procedure,
he argued that philosophy in its original sense required esotericism because it
sought to replace all opinion with truth, and thus necessarily subverted society,
which is always based on opinion (myths, values, ideologies). To protect society
(as well as to protect their own lives), therefore, philosophers had to write eso-
terically, that is, in such a manner as to reveal their philosophy to fellow phi-
losophers, while concealing it from society at large. Yet with the rise of modern
historicism and concommitant relativism, Strauss contended, philosophy gave
up its quest for the truth, was itself reduced to opinion, and therefore is no
longer necessarily subversive to society; and so the modern philosopher has no
need of esotericism, and the modern reader has no understanding of it.28 In his
Persecution and the Art of Writing and elsewhere, Strauss attempted to redis-
cover for moderns the lost art of how to read an esoteric text. What he wrote on
this subject is essentially an elaboration of Maimonides' prefatory instructions
on how to read the Guide.29
There is, however, a further sense in which Strauss was Maimonidean. As
a Western man, aJew, and a philosopher, Strauss was perplexed over the prob-
lem of "Jerusalem and Athens," and it was to Maimonides, more than to any-
one else, that he looked for guidance. He held that Western culture is what it is
by virtue of the coming together of these two cities, yet he insisted dogmatically
that they are incompatible.30 While Wolfson's Philonic Maimonides combined
Judaism and philosophy, Strauss' Maimonides knew no such harmony. Strauss
refused to speak of "Jewish philosophy," the phrase seeming to him self-contra-
dictory.31 In his view, a given work of Maimonides' might be Jewish or philo-
sophic, not both. The Mishneh Torah was Jewish; the Treatise on Logic, philo-
sophic; but what about the Guide? Boxed in, he called it "a Jewish book."32
What about Maimonides the man? Was he really a Jew or a philosopher?
Strauss' answer (if we may reveal his esoteric teaching) is that he was a citizen
of Athens who wrote his Jewish books to maintain the "opinion" of a city in
which he could not live.
Regardless of the value of Strauss' interpretation of Maimonides, one
thing is clear. He thought that Maimonideanism could not be a viable option
today not only because religion is not what it was, but much more significantly
because philosophy also is not what it was. Yet Strauss believed that if there is
to be any hope for Western man, "we must understand Jerusalem and
Athens."33 It was certainly in accordance with this belief that he set himself to
Return of Maimonideanism 255
the task of retrieving Jerusalem and (more especially) Athens, and clarifying
the nature of their conflict. In thus assuming the posture of the historian,34 he
was able to postpone his own decision between the cities. No doubt he wrote
esoterically about Maimonides' esoteric doctrine not only out of respect for the
Master, but also because he loved Jerusalem and feared prejudicing the case
against her. For while he was convinced that Maimonides had chosen Athens,
he was not, perhaps, altogether convinced that the choice was wise.35
Despite their clashing opinions on what Maimonideanism was, Wolfson
and Strauss agreed that a living Maimonideanism is impossible today.36 Believ-
ing that it would be anachronistic to approach Maimonides as philosophers,
both approached him as historians. They were saying, in effect, that in the
modern world the task of the philosophically-minded Jew is that of the histor-
ian. This sentiment, which is consistent with Husik's judgment that in the
modern world "there are no Jewish philosophers and there is no Jewish philoso-
phy," also might suggest that, from a strictly philosophic point of view, Wolf-
son and Strauss are two of the most important Jewish writers of our century.

It has not been universally conceded, however, that a living Maimonide-

anism is impossible today. There have, in fact, been contemporary attempts to
read Maimonides philosophically. One such attempt was that of Leon Roth
(1896-1963), the first Ahad Ha'am professor of philosophy at the Hebrew Uni-
versity of Jerusalem. It would be wrong to say that Roth's Maimonideanism
ever gained a wide following. Nonetheless, his Judaism: A Portrait37 is pres-
ently being sold in American paperback bookstores right alongside the works of
Buber, Rosenzweig, and Heschel; and in Israel there recently appeared a new
collection of his essays, Religion and Human Values.38
As opposed to Husik, Wolfson, and Strauss, Roth argued the immediate
relevance of Maimonideanism in the modern world. Maimonideanism for
Roth meant monotheism, and monotheism meant rationalism, universalism,
and ethics. The unity of God, he thought, implies the unity and intelligibility
of nature, and the unity and equality of man: in sum, it makes science and
ethics possible. "The real miracle of the universe," he wrote, "lies in the fact
that God made it a universe: one world, one truth, one law."39 His views on
Maimonideanism and its "modernity" are summarized in the epilogue of his
The Guide of the Perplexed: Moses Maimonides:

I have tried ... to give a general account of a great medieval figure, but I have tried to re-
veal not his medievalism but his greatness ....
But it is a pity that sound doctrine should receive a date at all. That religion has an in-

tellectual content . ..; that social institutions have an educational reference; that living de-
mands discipline and that virtue should ask for no reward-these and similar characteristic
teachings of Maimonides would seem to deserve attention even though they were enunci-
ated . . . many centuries ago. We may reject (though why should we?) his vision of God as
the centre towards which all creation yearns; but we should do well to ponder many other
lessons . . . and perhaps learn from them for our own need: that Biblical texts in order to
remain fruitful must be re-interpreted . . .; that the world is an ordered whole open to the
mind of man . . .; that design and law do not conflict, and that law and not miracle is the
sign-manual of the deity . . .; that all knowledge is revelation and all thinking inspiration.
... All this is "modern" enough. . . . After all, life is much the same in every age ....
The ultimate question for us is not therefore what Maimonides actually said but what
Maimonides would have said if he had lived in our day.40

All Roth's writings on Jewish subjects are at heart an attempt to say "what
Maimonides would have said." Even his important researches on Spinoza are
essentially part of this attempt; for he thought that Spinoza, despite his aliena-
tion from the synagogue, could help show how Maimonideanism might be
adapted to modern liberal society.41
Dissimilar to Spinoza, Wolfson, Strauss, and most modern Jews, Roth was
personally observant of Jewish law, the Halakhah. Whether or not such observ-
ance is a necessary condition of any living Maimonideanism, Roth preferred
not to dwell on the connection between Maimonideanism and Orthodoxy. He
was interested primarily in Maimonides' ethics and religious rationalism,
which he considered pertinent to all monotheists. Moreover, he saw Maimoni-
deanism as leading to religious observance, not presupposing it.
Although Roth occasionally acknowledged the legitimacy of alternative
approaches to Judiasm, his ineluctable tendency was to identify Judaism with
Maimonideanism. "Maimonides," he wrote in Judaism: A Portrait, "may be
said to have erected the structure of what is known now as Judaism."42 Accord-
ing to Roth, Maimonides was "in outlook both Jew and Greek," and his philos-
ophy was practical proof that the Hebraic and Greek views of life "are not in
principle incompatible." Even as the anti-Maimonideans have denounced
Maimonides for Hellenizing Judaism, Roth applauded him for it. The "great
achievement" of Maimonides' Judaism, he wrote, "is to have adapted Judaism
to the Western mind," and "the Western mind is ultimately the Hellenic."43
Maimonidean rationalism, preached Roth, preserves us from the "inco-
herences" and "phantasmagoria" of the Kabbalah,44 and from modern reli-
gious existentialism.45 Even when his enthusiasm for art and belles-lettres com-
pelled him to attack what seemed to him the excesses of this rationalism,
Roth-always the true-blue Maimonidean-commandeered his ammunition
from the Master's own arsenal, and argued "with Maimonides against Maimo-
nides" that the most excellent individual is not the philosopher but the proph-
et, who is distinguished not only in intellect but also in imagination.46
Return of Maimonideanism 257
Roth's Maimonideanism was unswervingly humanistic and moral. His
messianic vision was that of the universalistic prophecy with which Maimonides
concluded his Mishneh Torah: "the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the
Lord as the waters cover the sea" (Isaiah 11:9).47 His humanistic, moral Mai-
monideanism led Roth to demand that all halakhic decisions be made with ex-
plicit regard to ethics. In "Moralization and Demoralization in Jewish Ethics,"
he called for the thorough moralization of Jewish law: "the Law, the Torah, is
a law of life and kindness and love and decency and pity. This being the
guiding principle, whatever appears contrary to it must be explained away."48
It was Roth's Maimonidean universalism which inspired his sharp criti-
cisms of what he saw as Jewish and (after 1948) Israeli parochialism. To Roth's
mind, Maimonideanism was a necessary condition not only of a viable modern
Jewish religion, but also of a viable modern Jewish state. No less zealous a lib-
eral than was Spinoza or Mendelssohn, he unequivocally opposed any religious
coercion by the state, but like Spinoza and Mendelssohn he could not imagine
a viable state without true religion. In an essay on Spinoza's Theologico-
Political Treatise, he spoke of a "political paradox": "even though the state
cannot exist if the values of religion are coerced upon its citizens, still, without
these values the state will not exist at all."49 Often and urgently he argued the
corollary: even though the Jewish state cannot exist if Judaism is coerced upon
its citizens, still, without Judaism - that is, without Maimonidean Judaism - it
will not exist at all.50

Another contemporary attempt to read Maimonides philosophically is

that of Yeshayahu Liebowitz (b. 1903), formerly professor of biochemistry and
neurophysiology, and presently professor emeritus of the history and philoso-
phy of science, at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Judaism, Jewish People,
and the State of Israel,51 a selection of his topical lectures and essays, appeared
five years ago in Israel, and incited wide debate.52 Leibowitz' thought--al-
though perceptibly influenced by Hobbes, Mendelssohn, Kant, Wittgenstein,
and other moderns -is so thoroughly Maimonidean thatJudaism, Jewish Peo-
ple, and the State of Israel can be used profitably as a secondary work on Mai-
The Maimonideanism taught by Leibowitz is the jarring antithesis of
Roth's: it is anti-humanistic. Roth claimed that monotheism makes ethics pos-
sible. Leibowitz declares that "ethics is an atheistic category" since it concerns
man's status before man, not God.53 Roth claimed that monotheism makes sci-
ence possible. Leibowitz quips that "the Divine Presence did not descend on
Mount Sinai in order to fulfill the function of a physics professor!"54 Roth

claimed that the state cannot exist without religion. Leibowitz argues that to
judge religion by its utility to the state is fascism.55 Jewish humanists, among
them Roth, have often contended that the biblical account of the creation of
man "in the image of God" is the foundation of the doctrine of the worth of
man. Leibowitz, on the contrary, finds that it teaches the worthlessness of
man, a mere image of God!56 Religion, as Leibowitz understands it, is the ser-
vice of God for its own sake, not an instrument to satisfy human needs; it is
theocentric, not anthropocentric: man serving God, not God serving man.57
Leibowitz sees Maimonides as "the axis of any attempt at the systematiza-
tion of Jewish religious thought,"58 and his own attempt is in large measure
nothing but a rigid explication of what he takes to be Maimonides' implicit axi-
ology. According to this axiology, Judaism has one end, one ultimate value:
the service of God out of love, as expressed in the Torah and the command-
ments. This means that in Judaism, questions of ethics, politics, science, or his-
tory have no value whatsoever59 except insofar as they might be means to the
service of God in accordance with the Torah and the commandments, that is,
in accordance with the Halakhah.60
It is no less a mistake, according to Leibowitz, to call Maimonides a "ra-
tionalist" than it is to call him a "moralist," since for Maimonides reason, like
morality, is never more than a means to the service of God. Consequently, Lei-
bowitz insists that even though Maimonides was a consummate master of phi-
losophy, he was not properly a "philosopher," since he was interested not in
knowledge but in the knowledge of God. "Maimonides," Liebowitz almost
spitefully proclaims, "was the greatest Jewish mystic."61 Being mystical, the
Maimonidean service of God, according to Leibowitz, cannot be reduced to
human needs or to humanist values: Abraham on Mount Moriah is its symbol.
Leibowitz points to Maimonides' dictum in the resounding final chapter of his
Book of Knowledge: "he who serves [God] out of love occupies himself with the
Torah and the commandments . .. not on account of anything in the world"
(Teshuvah 10:2). Another text cited by him to illustrate Maimonides' mysti-
cism is found in the Guide, III, 51: "all the commandments [whatever their
utility or inutility] have only the end of training you to occupy yourselves with
His commandments rather than with matters pertaining to the world ... as if
you were occupied with Him!"62
Leibowitz is of course as aware as Roth of Maimonides' extensive analyses
of how the Torah leads to moral, social, and intellectual perfection. Yet, he in-
sists that these analyses, while surely of philosophic and political interest, have
"no religious significance whatsoever." Maimonides, Leibowitz explains, dis-
cussed Judaism on two levels, the "mystical" (religious) and the "utilitarian"
(non-religious), and he blurred the distinction between them so that only the
probing student can detect it, because he believed that since most people,. ow-
Return of Maimonideanism 259

ing to ignorance, act only for utilitarian reasons (see Maimonides, Introduc-
tion to Perek Helek), it would be pedagogically unwise to demand of everyone
unconditionally the mystical non-utilitarian service of God out of love. Against
Strauss, who thought that Maimonides' esotericism was intended to shield the
vulgar from true philosophy, Leibowitz thus avows that it is to shield them
from true religion!63
Leibowitz is convinced, however, that Maimonides' pedagogical approach
must be abandoned in our own modem secular society, because he believes
that it is foolish to try to advance religion by pointing to its utility in satisfying
human needs when these needs are in fact presently being satisfied quite well
without religion. To teach religion today as a means, he therefore argues, is to
teach that it is superfluous. What is urgent now, he advises, is to teach moder
man what religion is, and to distinguish it from other phenomena.64 He conse-
quently insists that today Judaism must be taught unequivocally as the service
of God out of love. Moreover, he is convinced not only that this is presently the
only sensible pedagogic option, but also that it should be a highly stimulating
one because education to the service of God out of love is education to valor
and rebellion. In every age, he explains, the true service of God entails rebel-
lion against utilitarianism and anthropocentrism,65 but today it is additionally
a rebellion against the reigning secularist values of society. "A person who
takes upon himself today the yoke of the commandments is a revolutionary
who is taking upon himself to create a new world!"66
Leibowitz' response to the modem world, therefore, is to teach Maimoni-
des' esoteric doctrine stripped bare of its exoteric costume. The obvious prob-
lem with this response is that even if the secularization of society has rendered
the utilitarian approach to religious education theoretically counterproduc-
tive, it has not transformed human nature: people remain utilitarian, and the
service of God for its own sake remains difficult. It is therefore not surprising
that while Leibowitz has won wide popular attention, his opinions have found
favor only among the few. Typical of Leibowitz' refusal to compromise with
folkloristic religion is his comment shortly after the Six Day War that the West-
ern Wall had been turned into a center of mob idolatry, and therefore should
be demolished even as King Hezekiah broke to pieces the brazen serpent made
by Moses when it became an object of fetishism (cf. II Kings 18:4).
Since Maimonides, clothed in exoterica, was attacked by the anti-Maimo-
nideans, it was inevitable that the naked Leibowitz should be attacked by
them. WhileJudaism, Jewish People, and the State of Israel has received some
sober analysis, and some partisan support, it often has drawn frenetic opposi-
tion, which has strikingly (and perhaps surprisingly) been more against Mai-
monideanism in general than against Leibowitz' theses in particular; but since
the esoteric disguise of Maimonides' philosophy is as effective today as ever,

Leibowitz' opponents generally believe that they are attacking a newfangled

heresy and not the most venerable of Jewish philosophies.67
Leibowitz has been no less a critic of the intemperances of Israeli national-
ism than was Roth, but while Roth's criticism derived from his Maimonidean
universalism, Leibowitz' derives from his rigid Maimonidean axiology. Thus,
Leibowitz criticizes his fellow citizens for elevating the army, the Land, the
state, and the nation to values in themselves.68 He similarly insists that the reli-
gious significance of the State of Israel does not lie in its alleged messianic char-
acter, but only in that it provides a framework in which Jews can better serve
God in accordance with the Torah and the commandments.69 Since the cre-
ation of the state, Leibowitz has fought for the total separation of synagogue
and state-not, like Roth, for reasons of liberalism-but because he believes
that the Torah is mocked when it is reduced to a function of the secular state,
and that the cultural battle, which he relishes, to advance the cause of religion
can be waged effectively only when religion is an independent force.70
Like Wolfson and Strauss, Leibowitz accepts the premise that Maimoni-
dean Judaism is irrelevant to the values of the modern world, but unlike them
he demands a comprehensive rebellion against those values in the name of
Maimonidean Judaism. Roth sought to advance Maimonidean Judaism by ar-
guing its relevance to modern values: Leibowitz seeks to advance it by arguing
its irrelevance to them.

A third contemporary attempt to read Maimonides philosophically is

found in Maimonides: Torah and Philosophic Quest71 by David Hartman (b.
1931). A onetime rabbi in Montreal and now a senior lecturer in Jewish philos-
ophy at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Hartman studied rabbinics under
Joseph B. Soloveitchik, who has been his "paradigm of one who strives to inte-
grate the rigorous discipline of halakhic thought with the study of philosophy."72
Integration of Halakhah and philosophy is also an intrinsic feature of Hartman's
Hartman's interpretation of Maimonides crystallized in his sustained ef-
fort to refute Strauss' interpretation. Knowing well Maimonides the rabbinic
scholar, he could not accept Strauss' verdict that Maimonides was a citizen of
Athens whose Jewish writings had--in Hartman's paraphrase--"no relation-
ship to his personal, spiritual quest."73 Describing Maimonides as having
chosen "the way of integration,"74 Hartman follows Isadore Twersky, whose
careful studies have illumined philosophic emphases in Maimonides' rabbinic
works, and have indicated that the Maimonidean corpus is informed by "an in-
Return of Maimonideanism 261
tegrated community of interests."75 Hartman, however, is scarcely interested in
historical or philosophical questions. His concern is to tap Maimonides' "philo-
sophic religious sensibility" in order to join in his philosophic quest.
As Hartman sees it, Maimonides integrated philosophy and Judaism by
showing how philosophy culminates in the passionate "intellectual love of
God,"76 thus enabling one to fulfill the commandment, "And thou shalt love
the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy
might" (Deut. 6:5), and by showing conversely that the Halakhah, with its dis-
cipline of the commandments and with its political concern for the commu-
nity, legislates "a life-form" which "continuously sets God before the philoso-
pher" (cf. Psalms 16:8), and "enables him to live within the human world while
aspiring toward a passionate love of God."77 In other words, philosophy
enables one to be a good Jew, while Judaism enables one to be a good philoso-
pher. Maimonideanism, for Hartman, means the passionate, simultaneous
love of the free quest for philosophic truth, and of the traditional way of life of
the Jewish community.
Hartman's Maimonideanism preserves both the universalism of Roth's
and the axiology of Leibowitz'. On the one hand, it stresses that the Torah of
Judaism must be understood as "the universal way of reason."78 On the other
hand, it stresses that philosophy--"which offers the individual a God who is
sought because of His perfection, and not only because He responds to man's
physical helplessness" -is an instrument to raise man to the service of God for
its own sake.79
What is perhaps most remarkable about Hartman's Maimonideanism is
that it challenges modern religious existentialism and mysticism on their own
grounds. Maimonideanism, Hartman suggests, is "more in harmony with mod-
ern man's spiritual sensibilities" than is existentialism or mysticism, and thus is
more relevant to "the modern Jew's struggle to find his way back to his tradi-
tion." Hartman laments that the powerful religious spirituality of Maimonide-
anism has not been appreciated by modern man. "Buber," for example, "does
not appreciate the lived moment of immediacy in Maimonides' thought which
presupposes knowledge of God"; and Scholem could call Maimonides' integra-
tion of philosophy and Halakhah "sterile" only because he does not appreciate
the Maimonidean interrelationship of the philosophic study of nature and the
Jewish commandment to love God.80 One covert objective of Hartman's book is
to show modern man that he can find in Maimonideanism the very spirituality
which he has been seeking in religious existentialism and mysticism.
Perhaps not by coincidence, Roth, Leibowitz, and Hartman all chose to
live and to teach in Jerusalem.81 Zionism has presented Maimonideanism with
an opportunity. "The political renaissance of the Jewish people," Hartman

writes at the outset of his book, "enjoins an intellectual understanding of the

significance of Judaism," and he hopes that his study of Maimonides "will en-
courage renewed discussion on the political implications of halakhic
thought."82 Like Leibowitz, Hartman is troubled by the gulf between religious
and secular Jews in Israel, but while Leibowitz calls for an open cultural battle
between the two groups, Hartman calls for a common quest based on shared
spiritual ground. Hartman's insistence that the love of God can be attained by
means of philosophy, exclusive of Judaism (cf. Maimonides, Mishneh Torah,
Yesodei ha-Torah 2:2), enables him to speak of such shared spirituality not
only between religious and secular Jews, but also between Jews and non-Jews.
Focusing on the capacity of the Halakhah to create a spiritually sensitive Jewish
community, he has been unusually effective--both in the diaspora and in Is-
rael-in advancing its cause among Jews of non-traditional backgrounds. At
the same time, he has criticized the Orthodox establishment for insufficient
sensitivity to the spiritual dimensions of the Halakhah, and for often reflecting
"an isolationist mentality" toward secularists and non-Jews.83
Hartman may not agree with Roth that modern man will find Maimoni-
dean Judaism relevant to his values, but he is convinced that he ought to find it
relevant to his aspirations. If Leibowitz' is a Maimonideanism of the few, Hart-
man's is a Maimonideanism of the many.

The work of Roth, the ongoing work of Leibowitz, and the burgeoning
work of Hartman suggest that it might be legitimate to speak of the return of
Maimonideanism. That such a return could today be possible is perhaps at-
tributable to three factors. First, the process of secularization begun with Spin-
oza, while showing no signs of abating, had evidently stabilized, and it now
seems that religion, though battered and crippled, is not doomed. Second, the
philosophic world, having apparently tired of grand domineering systems, is
currently in a self-critical, searching, eclectic mood, and as a consequence phi-
losophers today are more likely than they have been at any time since the sev-
enteenth century to approach earlier thinkers openly and without prejudice.
The third factor has already been mentioned: modern Zionism has created a
new situation which is conducive to (and perhaps demands) critical political
thinking about Judaism, such as is found in Maimonideanism.
All this is not to say that Husik would consider Roth, Leibowitz, or Hart-
man to be "Jewish philosophers," let alone "Maimonideans." The possibility of
any Jewish philosophy in the modern world is still moot. Yet today, for the first
time since Spinoza, it seems that if Jewish philosophy is possible at all, Mai-
monideanism is.
Return of Maimonideanism 263

1. Without defining Judaism or philosophy, one could define Jewish philosophy as a mix-
ture of the two.
2. As a philosopher, Maimonides belonged to the school founded by the Muslimfaylasif,
Alfarabi (c. 870-950), which was characterizedby a staunch Aristotelianismin logic, natural sci-
ence, and ethics, a grim Platonism in politics, and a neo-Platonized Aristotelianism in meta-
physics. Maimonides taught that Judaism commands the study of philosophy, and that philoso-
phy demonstratesthe utility of Judaism. He wrote the Guide of the Perplexed in order to explain
this to young, scientifically-mindedJews, perplexed because they were unable to reconcile their
disparate commitments to Judaism and to philosophy. Since, like Plato and Alfarabi, he was
anxious about the potential of philosophy to corrupt or to derange those readersincapable of re-
placing lost belief with reasoned conviction, he contrived to conceal his own philosophic specula-
tions from such readers by writing the Guide in a bizarreliterarygenre: the puzzle. To decipher
the true teaching of the Guide, one must connect dispersed argumentsby pursuing subtle logical
implications, and one must ignore rhetorical red herrings, delectable to the imagination but in-
sipid to the intellect; in short, one must read it as only a philosopher can. Owing to this esoteri-
cism, neither medievals nor moderns have been able to agree on a precise definition of Maimoni-
3. Cf. The Philosophy of Spinoza (Cambridge, Mass., 1934), I, vii; also Studies in the His-
tory of Philosophy and Religion (Cambridge, Mass., 1977), II, 605.
4. (New York, 1916), p. 432.
5. The Guide, nonetheless, was for Mendelssohn a fond symbol of enlightened Judaism.
Poring over the Guide as a youth, he would quip, left him with his hunchback, but was worth it!
See Alexander Altmann, Moses Mendelssohn: A Biographical Study (Philadelphia, Pa., 1973),
p. 12. Long after Spinoza and Mendelssohn, traditionally-educatedJews of an inquisitive bent
continued to be initiated into philosophy by way of the Guide, which often had to be studied
clandestinely (cf. Bialik's reference in "Ha-Matmid" to the lad expelled from the talmudic
academy after being caught "hiding away in the attic with the Guide of the Perplexed"). After
this initiation, they would-if they persisted in philosophy- move on to Kant, Hegel, Nietzsche,
or other such contemporary fare, and leave the Guide behind as a happy schoolday memory,
and a symbol.
6. See, for example, Simon Rawidowicz, ed., Kitvei Rabbi Nakhman Krokhmal [The
Writings of Nachman Krochmal] (Waltham, Mass., 1961), pp. 432-43; and Hermann Cohen,
"Charakteristikder Ethik Maimunis,"Jiidische Schriften (Berlin, 1924), III, 221-89.
7. Nahum N. Glatzer, Franz Rosenzweig: His Life and Thought (New York, 1953), p.
8. Difficile liberty (Paris, 1963), p. 45, (1976), p. 49.
9. The Insecurity of Freedom (New York, 1967), p. 288. Cf. Maimonides, Eine Bio-
graphie (Berlin, 1935), pp. 272-79. Unlike mostJewish existentialists, Heschel was fascinated by
Maimonides'spiritual life. Cf. also his "Ha-he'eminha-Rambam she-Zakhahle-Nevu'ah?"[Did
Maimonides Strive for Prophetic Inspiration?] Louis GinzburgJubilee Volume (New York,
1945), pp. 159-88. A similar fascination with Maimonides may be found in the writings of the
French Jewish existentialist, Andre Neher.
10. Mitpahat Sefarim (Altona, 5528/1768), II, 8, p. 24b; cf. his Siddur, hallon VII. The
claim of forgery may have been but a device to discredit Maimonides' philosophy without im-
pugning his rabbinics.

11. Neunzehn Briefe (Altona, 1836), XVIII, 89. (English trans., New York, 1899, 1960).
12. Luzzatto's Yesodei ha-Torah [Foundations of the Torah], a counterblast to Maimon-
ides' composition of the same name, argues that the foundations of the Torah are not in reason
but in compassion. In the first Introduction to that work, Maimonides is cited as an example of
"Atticism" (Mehkerei ha- Yahadut [Studies in Judaism] [Warsaw, 5673/1913], I, v-vi; English
translation in Noah H. Rosenbloom, Luzzatto'sEthico-PsychologicalInterpretation ofJudaism
[New York, 1965], p. 148). Luzzatto's sharpest attack on Maimonidean philosophy appeared in
Kerem Hemed (1838), III, 66-71 (Mehkerei ha-Yahadut, I, 164-69), and drew the response
from Krochmal (Kerem Hemed [1839], IV, 260-74) cited above in Note 6.
13. "Shilton ha-Sekhel," English translation in Ten Essays on Zionism andJudaism (Lon-
don, 1922), pp. 162-222.
14. Major Trends in Jewish Mysticism (New York, 1941), pp. 25-39.
15. "There is no doubt at all that there are people on whom certain ideas work to a good ef-
fect to bind their hearts to holiness and purity, to faith and service, to Torah and command-
ment, and there are other people on whom just other ideas are capable of bringing their hearts
near to all those holy and sublime things; and if the ideas explicated in the Guide suited [the holy
Maimonides] . . ., there is no doubt at all that there are very many in Israel on whom these ideas
might . . . work to a good effect" (Appendix to Ze'ev Jawitz, Toledot Yisrael, [History of Israel]
[Tel-Aviv, 5695/1925], XII, 211-12).
16. For Wolfson's biography, see Leo Schwartz, Wolfson of Harvard (Philadelphia, Pa.,
1977) and his "A Bibliographical Essay," Harry Austryn Wolfson Jubilee Volume (Jerusalem,
1965), I, 1-46; Lewis S. Feuer, "Recollections of Harry Austryn Wolfson," AmericanJewish Ar-
chives, 28 (1976), 25-50; Isadore Twersky, "Harry Austryn Wolfson (1877-1974)," American
Jewish Year Book, 76 (1976), 99-111.
17. "Maimonides and Halevi: A Study in Typical Jewish Attitudes towards Greek Philoso-
phy in the Middle Ages," Studies, II, (cited above, Note 3), 120-60.
18. "With this [i.e., with Crescas' ideas!] Halevi's criticism of philosophy is completed"
(ibid., p. 159; see also pp. 158 n. 93 and 159 n. 94). Cf. "Studies in Crescas," ibid., pp. 475-76.
19. "Note on Crescas' Definition of Time,"Jewish Quarterly Review, n.s., 10 (1919), 17;
and Crescas' Critique of Aristotle (Cambridge, Mass., 1929), p. 97.
20. Ibid. Cf. also his long monograph, "Crescas on the Problem of Divine Attributes"
(1916), Studies, II, pp. 247-337.
21. See Philo: Foundations of Religious Philosophy in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam
(Cambridge, Mass., 1947), pp. 459-60; Religious Philosophy: A Group of Essays (Cambridge,
Mass., 1961), p. v; Studies (Cambridge, Mass., 1973), I, 70.
22. Religious Philosophy, pp. 25-26.
23. Modern religious philosophy, like modern religion, seemed to Wolfson a sham. In "The
Professed Atheist and the Verbal Atheist" (1955), he delicately but mordantly suggested that the
only difference between the modern religious philosopher and the fool of Psalm 14 who said
"there is no God" is that the latter was "a downright honest and plain-spoken fellow," while the
former uses "polite but empty phrases" (ibid., pp. 270-71; cf. p. 26).
24. See "The Needs of Jewish Scholarship in America," The Menorah Journal, 7, no. 1
(1921), written more than a decade before Wolfson's theory of Philonic philosophy attained its
mature form.
25. Far from being a rejection of his original patriotic "Hebraism," Wolfson's thesis about
Philonic philosophy was a bold expression of it, for it presents Hebrew thought (primarily that of
the Bible and secondarily that of the Jewish philosophers) as fundamental even to the philoso-
Return of Maimonideanism 265
phic tradition. See my "Hebraism and Western Philosophy in H. A. Wolfson's Theory of
History" (Hebrew), Daat, 4 (1980), 103-109. Nonetheless, this "Hebraic" thesis of his was
ironically responsible for turning him away from his yet unfinished researches into Crecas, and
causing him to apportion the lion's share of his subsequent scholarly work to Greek, Latin, and
Arabic texts. See Leon Wieseltier, "Philosophy, Religion, & Harry Wolfson," Commentary, 61,
no. 4 (April 1976), 57-64; and my Letter to the Editor, 62, no. 1 (July 1976), 10-12.
26. Cf. Pines, " 'Al Leo Strauss" [On Leo Strauss], Molad, 7, nos. 37-38 (1976), 455-57. In
this article, Pines does not call Strauss a "Maimonidean," but does state that "he was perhaps the
first one, after the medieval commentators, who read with attention Maimonides' book [the
Guide]." He states also: "[Strauss] saw himself as a philosopher"; and "he was a philosopher."
27. Persecution and the Art of Writing (Glencoe, Ill., 1952), p. 56.
28. See, e.g., What is Political Philosophy? (Glencoe, Ill., 1959), pp. 221-32.
29. Cf. Maimonides, Guide of the Perplexed (Pines translation: Chicago, 1963), pp. 15-20.
Fundamentally a puzzle-solving activity, esoteric reading demands careful attention to detail. As
a result of their Maimonidean reading style, Straussians are known for their scrupulous transla-
tions of philosophic texts.
30. See, e.g., Jerusalem and Athens: Some PreliminaryReflections (New York, 1967).
31. See, e.g., Persecution, pp. 19, 43, 104-105; and "How to Begin to Study The Guide of
the Perplexed," in Pines' translation of the Guide, p. xiv.
32. Persecution, pp. 42-46; "How to Begin to Study the Guide," p. xiv.
33. Jerusalem and Athens, p. 3.
34. See Persecution, pp. 55-56.
35. With unabashed vicarious joy, Strauss speculates about Judah Halevi's triumph over
philosophy: "for some time, we prefer to think for a very short time, he was a philosopher. After
that moment, a spiritual hell, he returned to the Jewish fold" (Persecution, p. 109). Cf. Strauss'
comments on "our prophets" in What is Political Philosophy?, pp. 9-10. See also Strauss' autobi-
ographical remarks in "A Giving of Accounts: Jacob Klein and Leo Strauss," The College (a
publication of St. John's College, Annapolis, Md., April 1970), pp. 1-5. Cf. Ralph Lerner, "Leo
Strauss (1899-1973)," American Jewish Year Book, 76 (1976), 91-97.
36. The impossibility of a living Maimonideanism today also would seem to be presupposed
by Pines in his naming of Strauss as a modern "Maimonidean." However, Pines may be implying
that Strauss as a philosopher was indeed a Maimonidean, and that, writing in an age of histori-
cism, he assumed the exoteric posture of the historian precisely as Maimonides, writing in an age
of religion, had assumed the exoteric posture of the religionist. "Maimonideanism" in this odd
sense would be devoid of any Jewish content. Pines' views on the relationship between Judaism
and philosophy, it might be noted, are in some respects close to Strauss', but there is also a pro-
vocative affinity between them and those of Micah Joseph Berdyczewski (1865-1921).
37. (New York, 1960, 1972).
38. Ha-Dat ve-'Erkhei ha-Adam [Religion and Human Values] (Jerusalem, 1973). More re-
cently, a Hebrew translation of Roth's Spinoza (London, 1929) appeared in Israel (Jerusalem,
1974). On Roth, see T. E. Jessop in Proceedings of the British Academy, 50 (1964), 317-29;
Raphael Loewe in Studies in Rationalism, Judaism, & Universalismin Memory of Leon Roth
(London, 1966), pp. ix-xiii, 1-11; and Zvi Adar and Moshe Sternberg in Ha-Dat, pp. vii-xxii.
In the introductory Latin epitaph in Studies in Rationalism, Roth is aptly called "magistri sui
Maimonidis fidelis discipul[us]."
39. Judaism: A Portrait, p. 162. Cf. "Jewish Thought in the Modern World," in E. R.
Bevin and Charles Singer, eds., The Legacy of Israel (Oxford, 1927), pp. 433-72.

40. (London, 1948), pp. 133-34.

41. Roth's was a conspicuously Maimonidean Spinoza. In his first book, Spinoza, Des-
.cartes, & Maimonides (Oxford, 1924), Roth documented the Maimonidean nature of Spinoza's
critique of Descartes, and concluded that "Maimonidesand Spinoza speak throughout with one
voice" (p. 144). Cf. Roth's contributions to Chronicon Spinozanum, 1 (1921), 278-82; 2 (1922),
42. Judaism: A Portrait, p. 46; cf. p. 117.
43. Ibid., pp. 157, 215-16.
44. The Guide for the Perplexed: Maimonides, p. 130.
45. Cf., e.g., Ha-Dat, p. 39. Scholem'sremarkson Rosenzweig'stheology, referred to with
disfavor by Roth, appear now in Gershom Scholem, Devarim Bego [Explications and Implica-
tions] (Tel-Aviv, 1975), p. 412.
46. Ha-Dat, pp. 114-16, 119. A similar attempt to mitigate Maimonidean rationalism by
appeal to Maimonides' own theory of the imagination is found in Leone Ebreo (c. 1460-after
1523), with whom Roth has more than a name in common.
47. The Guide of the Perplexed: Maimonides, p. 129.
48. Judaism, II, no. 4 (1962), 298; Ha-Dat, pp. 100-101.
49. Ha-Dat, p. 201.
50. During his years in Jerusalem (1928-1951), Roth often addressed himself to the prob-
lems of state-building, and wrote and lectured in particular on democracy, liberalism, liberal
education, and Jewish-Arabrelations. His native England was his exemplar of democracy. Even
while the British mandatory government was preventing immigration to Palestine from Nazi-oc-
cupied Europe, he was extolling the virtuesof British democracy. In 1951, disaffected by the val-
ues of the new State, he suddenly returned to England. Cf. Judaism: A Portrait, p. 221.
51. Yahadut, 'Am Yehudi, u-Medinat Yisrael(Tel-Aviv, 1975). An English translation is
forthcoming. Since the completion of this article, Leibowitz has published Sihot 'al Pirkei Avot
ve-'al ha-Rambam [Talks on Pirkei Avot and on Maimonides] (Tel Aviv, 1979), and Emunato
shel ha-Rambam [The Faith of Maimonides] (Tel Aviv, 1980).
52. See, e.g., Iyyun, 26, no. 4 (1975); and Sefer YeshayahuLeibowitz [Yeshayahu Liebo-
witz Book] (Tel Aviv, 1977).
53. Leibowitz, Yahadut, p. 16; cf. pp. 26-27, 74, 239, 294, 310-14.
54. Ibid., pp. 342, 383; cf. p. 26.
55. See, e.g., ibid., pp. 181-83, 298-99; cf. pp. 122-24.
56. Ibid., pp. 16, 74, 317. Cf. Roth, "Moralizationand Demoralization,"pp. 295-96; Ha-
Dat, pp. 95-97.
57. Leibowitz, Yahadut, pp. 26-32, 74, 295-96, 298-99, 312, 330, 338, 344.
58. Ibid., p. 319.
59. See, e.g., ibid., pp. 57, 65-66, 92, 98-100, 122-24, 307, 319-21, 337-46. Leibowitz
has written that the critical distance between Maimonidean religion and nihilism is, like that be-
tween the Garden of Eden and Gehenna (see Pesikta de-Rav Kahana, 28), a mere handbreadth!
See "Maimonides-The Abrahamic Man,"Judaism, 6, no. 2 (1957), 151. The Hebrew original
of this essay appeared in Beterem, 5 (211), August 1955, pp. 20-22. Cf. Judaism, 7, no. 1
(1958), 74-75; and Beterem, 9 (215), November 1955, pp. 21-22.
60. For Leibowitz, Judaism is historically-empiricallydistinguished only by the Halakhah.
Here again his view contrasts with Roth's.
61. Quoted from a lecture of Leibowitz'. Cf. Yahadut, pp. 319-20, and note the reference
to Wittgenstein, pp. 342-43. Leibowitz' distinction between "knowledge"and "knowledge of
God" is in effect a direct reply to Hirsch (see Nineteen Letters, XVIII).
Return of Maimonideanism 267
62. Cf. Yahadut, pp. 35, 307, 320. Leibowitz often cites Psalms 16:8, "I have set the Lord
before me always," and interprets it: "I have not set man before me always, and I have not set
the world before me always" (p. 339). Eliezer Schweid brands Leibowitz' Judaism "neo-neo-Or-
thodoxy." According to Schweid, Leibowitz' Judaism is "more consistent" than any previous
"neo-Orthodoxy" in that it "freesJudaism of every tie ... to human culture" (Beyn Ortodoksiah
le-Humanizm Dati [Orthodoxy and Religious Humanism] [Jerusalem, 1977], pp. 58-63). Leibo-
witz, for his part, considers his Judaism to be Maimonidean, and thus in the mainstream of the
halakhic tradition. He remarks that "there is enormous- almost symbolic - significance" in that
when Moses Isserles (1525 or 1530-1572) began his celebrated Notes on the Shulhan Arukh, the
embodiment par excellence of halakhic Judaism, by quoting Psalms 16:8, he proceeded to inter-
pret this "mighty verse" by citing a text not from the Bible, nor from the Midrash, nor from the
Kabbalah, but from the Guide of the Perplexed (III, 53)! See "Maimonides-The Abrahamic
Man," pp. 150-51.
63. Yahadut, pp. 319-20. Cf. pp. 19-20, 34-35, 57, 100-101, 123.
64. Ibid., pp. 46, 65-67, 320-21.
65. Leibowitz makes capital of the opening sentence of the Shulhan Arukh: "One should be
valiant as the lion to rise up in the morning to the service of his Creator .. ." Cf. Yahadut, pp.
25, 130, 295, 299, 311, 315, 338, 380.
66. Ibid., p. 46.
67. In a paradigm of this unconscious anti-Maimonideanism, one opponent (writing in Ha-
Arets, 24 October 1975) argued that if according to the new heretical religion of "Leibowitzism"
prayer is not utilitarian but the service of God for its own sake, then instead of our present liturgy
we might as well recite "bla-bla-bla" in the morning, "kish-kish-kish" in the afternoon, and
"zum-zum-zum" in the evening! The opponent apparently had no inkling that the position he
was ridiculing is Maimonidean. Maimonides teaches in the Guide that man can affirm nothing
of God (the via negativa), that God (since He is pure actuality) can learn nothing from man, and
that therefore the way of true prayer is "silence is praise to Thee" (Psalms 65:2). According to
Maimonides, and Leibowitz, it was for heuristic reasons alone that the prophets and the rabbis
composed prayers in "the language of man" instead of prescribing nonsense syllables or silence.
See Guide, I, 59.
68. Leibowitz does not deny that they are necessary instruments. He was a platoon com-
mander in the Haganah, and no one has been more vocal than he in demanding that the Hala-
khah confront (not "adapt to"! [cf. p. 65]) the new conditions brought about byJewish indepen-
dence. See, e.g., Yahadut, pp. 51-56, 88-147, 192-228.
69. Detesting messianic speculations, Leibowitz often (e.g., pp. 99, 123, 238, 384, 403,
417) invokes Maimonides' admonition (Mishneh Torah, Melakhim 12:2) that one should not
preoccupy himself with the rabbinic homilies concerning the messiah since they lead to neither
the fear nor the love of God.
70. See Yahadut, pp. 154-91. Leibowitz quotes David Ben-Gurion as having told him in
the early 1950s: "You demand the separation of religion and state so that religion will return to
be an independent factor with which the state government will have to struggle. I reject this sep-
aration. I want the state to hold religion by the hand" (p. 173).
71. (Philadelphia, Pa., 1976). See my review in Journal of the History of Philosophy, 17
(1979), 86-88.
72. Hartman, Maimonides, p. vii.
73. Ibid., p. 26.
74. Ibid., p. 15-27.
75. "Some Non-Halakic Aspects of the Mishneh Torah," in Alexander Altmann, ed.,Jew-

ish Medieval and Renaissance Studies (Cambridge, Mass., 1967), p. 98. Twersky's long-antici-
pated Introduction to the Code of Maimonides (New Haven, Conn., 1979), should provide fur-
ther evidence of Maimonides' integration of philosophy and Jewish law.
76. Hartman provocatively uses this phrase made famous by Spinoza, but found also in
earlier Maimonidean literature, although not in Maimonides.
77. Hartman, Maimonides, pp. 191, 196, 208-209.
78. Ibid., pp. 52, 66, 127, 140, 142, 159, 206-207, 214.
79. Ibid., p. 76.
80. Ibid., p. 262 n. 44; p. 256 n. 5; pp. 142-43; cf. p. x.
81. Both Wolfson and Strauss were faithful Zionists with original ideas about Zionism, but
neither chose to live in the Land of Israel. Wolfson, who declined a professorship at the Hebrew
University in 1925, never visited the Land. Strauss was a visiting professor at the Hebrew Univer-
sity in 1954-1955.
82. Ibid., p. x.
83. See hisJoy and Responsibility (Jerusalem, 1978). See my review (Hebrew) in Daat, 2-3
(1978-79), 263-68. See also Leibowitz's review (Hebrew) in Petahim, 45-46 (1979), 82-88, and
Hartman's (Hebrew) response in Petahim, 47-48 (1979), 78-83.