Akedat Yitzchak

Study What Matters, Not What Doesn’t

by R. Gidon Rothstein Akedat Yitzchak, Fifth Sha’ar R. Arama has referred several times to the idea of angels guiding motions of the planets. In this sha’ar, he tells us he intends to dispense with two ideas apparently accepted in his time, the heavenly spheres are intelligent and more valuable to the universe, than people [remember: in medieval cosmology, the planets moved ...

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Creation Shows Us God

by R. Gidon Rothstein I have come to believe I cannot overstress how much I chop from R. Yitzchak Arama’s ‘Akedat Yitzchak to present what seem to me his core ideas. With all my efforts, he still unfolds his worldview slowly, the crucial points becoming clear only with a periodic review of what he repeats most, what he insists on telling us ...

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The Jewish People as Shabbat’s Partner

by R. Gidon Rothstein Bereshit Rabbah 11 has a quote of R. Shim’on b. Yochai, where he portrays Shabbat as complaining to Hashem over her lack of a partner; Hashem promises her the Jewish people will be her partner. At Sinai, Hashem reminds the Jews of the commitment, when Hashem says zachor et yom ha-Shabbat le-kadesho, remember Shabbat to declare it sanctified. ...

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What Avraham Taught the World

by R. Gidon Rothstein What Avraham Taught the World R. Arama starts his she’arim with a brief summary of what he intends to tell us. Here, he plans to make a point about Shabbat and its role in teaching us important truths of the world, but makes a digression I found too enlightening to pass up. The Value of the First Six ...

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People as the Center of the World

by R. Gidon Rothstein ‘Akedat Yitzchak, Third Sha’ar (Conclusion, Week of 13 MarCheshvan): People as the Center of the World We’re up to the creation of humanity in R. Arama’s review of the ten sayings of creation in the first chapter of Bereshit. He thinks Hashem intended people to unite the upper worlds and lower ones, by combining aspects of both.   Bereshit Rabbah 8 portrayed ...

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From Raki’a to Animals, Sayings of Creation Two Through Seven

by R. Gidon Rothstein Third Sha’ar (Continued): From Raki’a to Animals, Sayings of Creation Two Through Seven The second statement of creation in R. Arama’s count called the raki’a into existence, which we translate as the firmament. R. Arama notes the view of R. Isaac Israeli, an early fourteenth century Spanish astronomer, whose Yesod ‘Olam defined raki’a in a way ...

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Starting the Ten Steps of Creation

by R. Gidon Rothstein Continuing the Third Sha’ar: Starting the Ten Steps of Creation R. Arama is ready to read the first chapter of Bereshit with us (which, conveniently, we just read last week in shul, so we hopefully have these passages more in mind than we might usually), to find the “ten sayings” a Mishnah in Avot said Hashem used to create the world. As ...

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Akedat Yitzchak, Beginning the Third Sha’ar

by R. Gidon Rothstein The first two she’arim of Akedat Yitzchak carved out a greater role for nature than we might have expected from a thinker who makes a principle out of rejecting the ideas of philosophers (which in his time included people we would today call scientists, all those who believe they can fully explain the world solely through the use of their ...

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Angels as Agents of Creation

by R. Gidon Rothstein The first part of the second sha’ar of Akedat Yitzchak denies an idea at length, only to then adopt it. As we watch R. Arama go back and forth, why he did so will be a question to ponder. The idea came from his consistent antagonists, the philosophers, who were sure the perpetual motion of the stars and planets must ...

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Where Torah Fits In

by R. Gidon Rothstein Akedat Yitzchak, Second Half of the First Sha’ar: (week of 15 Elul): Where Torah Fits In We closed last time with the idea of both Creation and Torah as the ways for people to learn about Hashem. To speak of Torah as how people find their way to their fullest purpose runs the risk of treating it ...

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