Maimonides: Religion as Poetic Truth:
A Modern Commentary on the Great Commentator
The question “How far shall faith, and how far must reason, dominate human life?” has to be answered anew by every generation. It is part of Maimonides’ greatness that he, in his time, rejected the easy primacy of either faith or reason, and achieved a unique balance between the two. Can he, on the 750th anniversary of his death, still teach us anything in this respect?
If nothing of Maimonides except his Guide for the Perplexed had become a classic for Judaism; if he had not supplemented this great work of critical and “secular” thought with a monumental codification of the Talmud, the Mishneh Torah—then, according to some spokesmen of a conservative Judaism, Jewry could never have survived spiritually. The late Oskar Goldberg stated this view with brutal narrowness when he said that any Jew who asked beforehand (as Maimonides seemed to do in his Guide) whether Greek philosophy allowed him to hold certain Jewish opinions was a traitor to the legacy of the Maccabees. Even Leo Strauss, although far more circumspect than Goldberg, flirts with a rigid religious dogmatism in his study of Maimonides, Philosophie und Gesetz.
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