Faith’s Middle Path

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

by R. Gil Student

Title: Judaism Reclaimed: Philosophy and Theology in the Torah
Author: Rabbi Shmuel Phillips
Publisher: Mosaica Press

Almost immediately upon publication, Rambam’s Moreh Nevuchim yielded contradictory interpretations. Some readers, including the book’s Hebrew translator R. Shmuel Ibn Tibbon, see in Moreh Nevuchim a subversive text, a book of radical philosophy hidden underneath a Torah mask. Others, including the translator’s son R. Moshe Ibn Tibbon, take Rambam at his word that he is evaluating philosophy from a Torah perspective and rejecting what runs contrary to revelation.

This Ibn Tibbon dispute represents broader trends toward Moreh Nevuchim and philosophy in general. To some degree, as a result of this long interpretative debate, many faithful Jews stayed away from the subjects altogether. To them, the spiritual danger was too great to allow any engagement with philosophy or any other course of knowledge that could challenge religion.

These three approaches still characterize the Jewish community. Some Jews reject Torah traditions when they see evidence they believe contradicts those traditions. Others stay away from all such debates to avoid religious challenges. And still others take the middle path of engagement within the parameters of faith, accepting truth from wherever it comes but recognizing that Torah is the ultimate truth. This last approach was adopted by some (certainly not all) great Torah scholars throughout history. The great Lithuanian-style Torah scholars read widely, even from heretics and Maskilim, accepting insights while rejecting heresies, filtering everything through the lens of Torah faith…

Continued at The Jewish Press: link

About Gil Student

Rabbi Gil Student is the Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of, a leading website on Orthodox Jewish scholarly subjects, and the Book Editor of the Orthodox Union’s Jewish Action magazine. He writes a popular column on issues of Jewish law and thought featured in newspapers and magazines, including The Jewish Link of New Jersey, The Jewish Echo and The Vues. In the past, he has served as the President of the small Jewish publisher Yashar Books and as the Managing Editor of OU Press. Rabbi Student serves on the Executive Committee of the Rabbinical Council of America and as Director of the Halacha Commission of the Rabbinical Alliance of America. He also serves on the Editorial Board of Jewish Action magazine and the Board of OU Press. He has published five English books, the most recent titled Search Engine volume 2: Finding Meaning in Jewish Texts -- Jewish Leadership, and served as the American editor for Morasha Kehillat Yaakov: Essays in Honour of Chief Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks.

Leave a Reply