notes to I, [80]-[82]

I, [80] The translators into Hebrew seem to have trouble with the word kalima.  (I have not yet seen the translation of Professor Schwartz, nor the promised English version of Berman-Kogan; they are likely to handle this properly.) Dozy’s dictionary, which specializes in the Maghrebian Arabic native to Hallevi, informs us that kalima is synonymous with dīn, “religion”. This is exactly how it is used by Hallevi in this paragraph, which is written in elegant Arabic prose.
Ta’alaffat is taken to mean “become united”, but I think it conveys more than political unity; it carries with it the clear nuance of becoming a harmonious whole.

I, [81] I think that the Nazir’s short comment is spot on, but just touches the surface of the contrast that Hallevi draws here. “Intellectual codes”–I think we might call this natural religion—develop naturally, that is, in a process over time. On the other hand, the divine code arrives instantaneously, in no time. This is very much the distinction between processes motivated by nature, and those brought about by fayḍ, the divine “overflow” or “bounty” that suffuses the cosmos. Maimonides makes use of this distinction in an entirely different context. The phrase, “He (Allah, the name used by Hallevi and other Jews to refer to God, with no hesitation) said, ‘Be!” (kun), and then it was,” appears in one way or another eight times in the Qur’an. I am sure that this has been pointed out by others somewhere.
I also suggest that tawfīq means here “success” rather than “support” or “help”, which is the meaning chosen by the Hebrew translators that I have seen. I also dare propose that this word nods to ittifāq, “chance” or “coincidence”, used in the following paragraph. The idea Hallevi gets across in this paragraph is that some of the inventors of “intellectual codes” will be successful, helped by fortunate circumstances, which lead people to say that those leaders are divinely guided and inspired. Hallevi is careful not to let on that they are in fact divinely guided; that is only the reaction of their followers, who see their success.

I, [82] I think we can notice here an interesting theological rift (one of too many to count) between Hallevi and Maimonides. Hallevi emphasizes that Moses did not abrogate (nasakha, fasakha) the commandments given to Adam and other pre-Mosaic prophets; he only added to them. Maimonides does not speak of an abrogation on Maimonides’ part, but he makes it clear that the biblical stories about Abraham’s circumcision and the like have no legal force in Jewish law. Jews do not circumcise because Abraham was told to do so, we do it because Moses received that commandment along with all the rest at Sinai. This is not merely a legal trifle. I believe that Maimonides held Abraham to be, well, an Abrahamic monotheist rather than a Torah-observing Jew.

2 thoughts on “notes to I, [80]-[82]

  1. I find this quite remarkable Tzvi:

    I think we can notice here an interesting theological rift (one of too many to count) between Hallevi and Maimonides. Hallevi emphasizes that Moses did not abrogate (nasakha, fasakha) the commandments given to Adam and other pre-Mosaic prophets; he only added to them. Maimonides does not speak of an abrogation on Maimonides’ part, but he makes it clear that the biblical stories about Abraham’s circumcision and the like have no legal force in Jewish law. Jews do not circumcise because Abraham was told to do so, we do it because Moses received that commandment along with all the rest at Sinai. This is not merely a legal trifle. I believe that Maimonides held Abraham to be, well, an Abrahamic monotheist rather than a Torah-observing Jew.

    So did Avraham keep all the mitzvos as we know them today from the giving of teh Torah according to this view?

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    1. Sol, thanks for the comment. According to my understanding, especially what I learned from Rav Qafih, Avraham did not keep all 613 mitzvot; the midrashim that say this have other things in mind. Avraham’s way of life is called דרך ה׳ in Breishit.

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