Maimonides was the greatest Jewish philosopher and legal scholar of the medieval period, a towering figure who has had a profound and lasting influence on Jewish law, philosophy, and religious consciousness. This book provides a comprehensive and accessible introduction to his life and work, revealing how his philosophical sensibility and outlook informed his interpretation of Jewish tradition.
Moshe Halbertal vividly describes Maimonides's childhood in Muslim Spain, his family's flight to North Africa to escape persecution, and their eventual resettling in Egypt. He draws on Maimonides's letters and the testimonies of his contemporaries, both Muslims and Jews, to offer new insights into his personality and the circumstances that shaped his thinking. Halbertal then turns to Maimonides's legal and philosophical work, analyzing his three great books--Commentary on the Mishnah, the Mishneh Torah, and the Guide of the Perplexed. He discusses Maimonides's battle against all attempts to personify God, his conviction that God's presence in the world is mediated through the natural order rather than through miracles, and his locating of philosophy and science at the summit of the religious life of Torah. Halbertal examines Maimonides's philosophical positions on fundamental questions such as the nature and limits of religious language, creation and nature, prophecy, providence, the problem of evil, and the meaning of the commandments.
A stunning achievement, Maimonides offers an unparalleled look at the life and thought of this important Jewish philosopher, scholar, and theologian.
Moshe Halbertal is the Gruss professor of Law at New York University, professor of Jewish thought and philosophy at the Hebrew University, and professor of law at IDC Herzliya in Israel. His books include On Sacrifice and Concealment and Revelation: Esotericism in Jewish Thought and Its Philosophical Implications (both Princeton).
"In his rigorous and insightful study Maimonides: Life and Thought, Moshe Halbertal reintroduces readers to this rabbi-scientist, who insisted that faith should be an enterprise based on reason."--Dara Horn, Wall Street Journal
"[M]agisterial. . . . Halbertal presents a moving and detailed portrait of Maimonides's life as well as his work. . . . Maimonides is not just a titan of Jewish learning; as Halbertal shows in his timely and definitive book, he can be a surprisingly contemporary guide for our times."--David Mikics, Forward
"[Halbertal] pioneers a new path, walking the reader through the different interpretive schools and explaining what supports each one while acknowledging that Maimonides contradicts himself both across and within his many writings--at times purposefully, which inevitably leaves his readers perplexed. Halbertal is a wonderful guide, explaining how different approaches illuminate Maimonides' writings and how certain issues reverberate throughout the sage's work, returning in new forms and contexts. . . . Drawing on all of Maimonides' writings, and especially his many letters, Halbertal crafts a portrait of a refugee who never fully left home and felt the pain of exile for his entire life. . . . [An] extraordinary book."--Jay M. Harris, Foreign Affairs
"In a sea of literature about the great twelfth-century Jewish sage and philosopher, one could do no better than turn to Moshe Halbertal's single volume work on Maimonides. . . . Accessible to both scholar and interested general reader, this book should be the first work on Maimonides for an English reader to approach."--David Tesler, Association of Jewish Libraries Reviews
"If you are going to read only one book about Maimonides, make it Moshe Halbertal's stunning Maimonides. Even if you have read many other books by and about Maimonides, you have much to learn here."--Menachem Kellner, AJS Review
Table of Contents
Other Princeton books authored or coauthored by Moshe Halbertal: