On thought

19 01 2010

Maimonides is not aiming for the solution, the answer. The basic features of his reason are discipline and passion. Thinking and the act of knowing are no less important for him than that which is thought; thinking is holy. He emphasizes over and over again that he does not want to erect a system of philosophy, he merely wants to pave the way to the knowledge of God. He does not focus on inventing original elements of thought. He lives in the intoxicating wealth of the universal sciences, he is filled with experiencing and understanding this magic.

If logic fails in the face of religion, Maimonides considers it lazy to settle down comfortably in faith, in tradition. He is aware of the limits of reason. But to live in the kingdom of reason is an imperative for him. He does not care to build his home on the narrow borderstone of ignorance. Reason, for him, is not a hiding place to store all doubts; it is located in the kingdom of God, albeit not at the center but on the border.

-Abraham Joshua Heschel, Maimonides





On being paid to think religious thoughts

1 12 2009

…But it went against Maimonides’ grain to use the Torah as a spade. The notion that the communities were obligated to subsidize scholars in their studies was something he regarded as an “error, for neither the Torah nor the books of the later sages have any guiding principle, any indication to support this.”

No one could demonstrate that the great teachers of the past “demanded money from the people; they did not collect money for respected and distiguished academies… Had Hillel asked for help, they would have filled his house with gold and precious stones, but he did not wish to take anything, he nourished himself from the proceeds of his work; he scorned donations for the sake of the Torah.

-Abraham Joshua Heschel, Maimonides