Torah in the Observatory: Gersonides, Maimonides, Song of Songs

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Academic Studies Press, 2010 - Philosophy - 374 pages
Professor Kellner is one of the more productive and creative scholars in medieval. Jewish thought. Over the years he has published many important essays on various aspects of medieval Jewish philosophy, especially on Gersonides and Maimonides. These studies are fundamental readings for any student of medieval Jewish philosophy. This anthology of his writings is a most valuable contribution to our understanding of these two thinkers.-Seymour Feldman, Professor of Philosophy, Emeritus, Rutgers University

Gersonides (1288-1344) was, in my view, the most original philosopher in medieval Judaism. However, he has not been studied to the same extent as other Judaic luminaries, and only his Commentary on the Song of Songs has been (magnificently!) translated into English (1998), after an excellent Hebrew edition of the Introduction was published (1989), both the work of Menachem Kellner.

This new volume by Menachem Kellner explores some of the most important questions raised by Gersonides: Providence, Mosaic Prophecy, Miracles, the Messiah and Resurrection, Astronomy and Metaphysics, Politics and Perfection. It is not by chance that Menachem Kellner has devoted so much to the study of Gersonides. Like Gersonides, Kellner has firmly in hand the knowledge of the Bible and of the traditional literature of Judaism, he is well trained in philosophy and science, and his broad interests make him the best and most penetrating champion of a great philosopher and an outstanding student of human thought. Colette Sirat, directeur d'etudes a l'Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes Sorbonne et chercheur associe a l'Institut de Recherche et d'Histoire des Textes

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About the author (2010)

Menachem Kellner (Ph.D., Washington University in St. Louis, 1973), born and educated in the United States, has lived in Israel for the last 30 years. Dr. Kellner has written, edited or translated 16 books and over 100 scholarly articles. His most recent books include Maimonides' Confrontation with Mysticism (2006) and Science in the Bet Midrash (2009). Kellner is a Professor at the University of Haifa and a Senior Research Fellow of the Shalem Center in Jerusalem.
Rabbi Levi ben Gershom (Ralbag, Gersonides; 1288-1344), one of medieval Judaism's most original thinkers, wrote about such diverse subjects as astronomy, mathematics, Bible commentary, philosophical theology, "technical" philosophy, logic, Halakhah, and even satire. In his view, however, all these subjects were united as part of the Torah. Influenced profoundly by Maimonides, Gersonides nevertheless exercised greater rigor than Maimonides in interpreting the Torah in light of contemporary science, was more conservative in his understanding of the nature of the Torah's commandments, and was more optimistic about the possibility of wide-spread philosophical enlightenment.

Gersonides was a witness to several crucial historical events, such as the expulsion of French Jewry of 1306 and the "Babylonian Captivity" of the Papacy. Collaborating with prelates in his studies of astronomy and mathematics, he apparently had an entree into the Papal court at Avignon. Revered among Jews as the author of a classic commentary on the latter books of the Bible, Gersonides, as portrayed by Kellner, is a true Renaissance man, whose view of Torah is vastly wider and more open than that held by many of those who treasure his memory.

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