chapter  2
11 Pages

Between rationalism and mysticism: Maharal’s place in Jewish thought

WithBINYAMIN GROSS

Very little research has been done to define the place that the work of Grand Rabbi Yehuda ben Bezalel Loew (1512-1609) occupies in the development of Jewish thought. His was a very large opus, difficult to access and occasionally dense, frequently full of allusions, exploring a very wide range of aspects in Jewish thought and seemingly not quite fitting the generally accepted classifications. It stands out from previous works on the philosophy of Judaism both by its style of thought and its mode of exposition. It, in fact, gives the appearance of being a homiletic work, both fragmen-

tary and often highly repetitive, always based on Talmudic writings and the literature of the Midrash, considered the quintessence of Jewish thought to the point that it is not easy to distinguish how these commentaries on ancient texts bear original ideas. The vocabulary largely makes use of that of Jewish philosophy of the Middle Ages, which was marked by Aristotelian themes, even if generally deviating from its original content. A similar difficulty awaits the scholar who seeks to extract from this

sometimes contradictory jumble of commentaries a consistent guideline for positioning this work vis-à-vis the main philosophical themes that played a significant role in establishing Jewish religious philosophy in the period between approximately the ninth and fifteenth centuries.1