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Working Towards Accomodation: Rabbenu Yonah Gerondi's Slow Acceptance of Andalusian Rabbinic Traditions

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image of The Journal of Jewish Thought and Philosophy

Rabbis of thirteenth-century Spain were often exposed to two traditions, that of Northern France-Germany and that of Moslem Spain. Until now, the dominant discussion of how they balanced the contrast has been Bernard Septimus' analysis of Nahmanides (Ramban), who managed to draw fruitfully on both. Rabbenu Yonah b. Abraham of Gerona, Ramban's only slightly less famous relative, presents a useful counterexample.

Rabbenu Yonah's early works reflect an almost-total immersion in Northern French ways of thinking and writing. Only gradually does he engage ideas from Moslem Spain, suggesting that the mixing of the two traditions in his later writings resulted from years of slow growth and exposure to such Moslem Spanish authors as Rif, R. Bahye ibn Paquda, and Maimonides.

His example suggests that how to react to these differing influences was a continuing issue for these rabbis, and that tracking it offers an important key to understanding the intellectual history of the rabbis of that era.


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