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Competing Approaches To Maimonides In Early Kabbalah

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Chapter Summary

This chapter focuses on two of these Kabbalists, R. Asher ben David and R. Azriel of Gerona. Both of these Kabbalists felt a need to respond to a Maimonides-inspired critique that the kabbalistic doctrine of the sefirot contradicted divine unity, but whereas R. Azriel overtly rejected the Maimonidean view of divine unity, R. Asher attempted to square-however awkwardly-the kabbalistic position with Maimonides' notion of divine simplicity. The chapter argues that R. Asher's conception of divine unity, in contradistinction to R. Azriel's conception, highlights the role of Maimonidean ideas in the development of Kabbalah in the thought of at least one of the first Kabbalists. R. Asher's limited embrace of Maimonideanism momentous is that, in the context of the well-known debate over Maimonides' philosophy in the first half of the thirteenth century, it may have carried significant social consequences.

Keywords: Kabbalah; Maimonidean thought; R. Azriel



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