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The Debate Between Eliezer And Maharal

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Chapter Summary

Before examining the debate between Eliezer Ashkenazi and Maharal, this chapter reviews the status of philosophy among North European Jewry in the 1570s. Of the two scholars, it was Eliezer who had a much stronger background in philosophy. Though Maharal published his Prodigies of the Lord a year before Eliezer?s Deeds of the Lord, it is almost certain that Maharal wrote the Second Preface to the Prodigies in direct response to Eliezer?s manuscript work. The chief goal of Eliezer?s book is to understand the biblical story from the standpoint of a theological rationalist. Eliezer registers one major disagreement with Maimonides early on in his work, on the issue of the anthropocentric character of creation. Gersonides criticized Maimonides both on divine foreknowledge of man?s acts, and on man?s knowledge of God. The Eliezer-Maharal exchange introduced Ephraim Luntshitz to the world of controversy and helped him to come to his own position.

Keywords: Biblical-rabbinic outlook; Deeds of the Lord; divine foreknowledge; Eliezer Ashkenazi; Ephraim Luntshitz; Gersonides; Maharal; Maimonidean philosophy; North European Jewry; Prodigies of the Lord

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