Page:Eight chapters of Maimonides on ethics.djvu/22

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THE ETHICS OF MAIMONIDES

Torah the famous sentence, "I have named this work Mishneh Torah for the reason that if any one has read the Torah and then this work, he would know the Biblical and oral law without having to read any other book." Geiger[1] maintains that Maimonides' object was merely to shorten the study of the Talmud.

There are those, however, who take exception to this view. Rosin[2] says, "From the very beginning the Talmud alone was the object of his study." Worldly knowledge and philosophy were merely used by Maimonides as instruments for explaining and glorifying the divine teaching. He considered the rabbis to be second only in rank and greatness to the prophets, and held their writings in equally high esteem. On the face of it, the quotation cited from the Mishneh Torah would seem to prove the assertion made above, but this passage may be interpreted to prove exactly the opposite; that far from being his object to discourage the study of the Talmud, he wished to spread its knowledge among those who for any reason were unable to have access to it, or who could not devote sufficient time to master it. "It is a gross injustice often done to Maimonides," says I. Friedlaender, "to accuse him of having the intention to supersede the Talmud entirely. . . . He considered the Talmud as a most worthy object of study, but only for scholars. The people, however, are not scholars and cannot devote the whole of life to learning. For the mass of people alone he intended to supersede the Talmud by a comprehensive extract from it." Ziemlich, finally, asserts that Maimonides did not desire to put an end to the study of the Talmud, but rather to cast it into scientific form.[3]

Although this decided difference of opinion as to Maimonides' attitude towards the Talmud still exists, all, however, agree

  1. Moses ben Maimon, p. 57; p. 83, n. 33.
  2. Ethik, p. 30, "Von Hause aus sei der Talmud allein Gegenstand seines Studiums gewesen."
  3. I. Friedlaender, Moses Maimonides, in New Era Illustrated Magazine, January, 1905, Reprint (New York, 1905), pp. 34–35; Bernard Ziemlich, Plan und Anlage des Mischne Torah, in Moses ben Maimon, I, p. 259; see also M. Friedländer, Guide, Introd., pp. xix, xxi.