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Maimonides' Disputed Legacy

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Chapter Summary

The Maimonides whose impact on Judaism is apparently so vast that the octocentennial of his death in 1204 brought forth a fl ood of symposia, journals and collected volumes (including this one), is a sanitized Maimonides, a Maimonides forced to fit accepted (and hence acceptable) patterns of thought. Far from establishing Judaism on a firm philosophical basis, his principles were pried from their theoretical framework and turned into a literary trope. Matters of holiness and ritual purity relate to the kind of world in which Maimonides wants us to live. This chapter discusses two aspects of Maimonides' legacy, not connected to his "proto-ockhamism," which had to be "translated and improved" before they could be accepted as part of normative Jewish teaching. It presents two inter-related examples of how contemporary students of Maimonides' rabbinic writings ignore or render "acceptable" the message he sought to impart.

Keywords: Jewish teaching; Judaism; Maimonides' legacy; Maimonides' rabbinic writings



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