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"על מה אבדה הארץ" (ירמיה ט:יא): בין חטא דתי לתהליך היסטורי טבעי אצל הרמב"ם ותלמידיו / "Why is the Land in Ruins?" (Jeremiah 9:11): Religious Transgression versus Natural Historical Process in the Writing of Maimonides and His Disciples
חנה כשר and Hannah Kasher
Hebrew Union College Annual
Vol. 69 (1998), pp. קמג-קנו
Published by: Hebrew Union College - Jewish Institute of Religion
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/23508860
Page Count: 14
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Jewish tradition interpreted the destruction of the First Temple and the ensuing exile as divine punishment for Israel's sins, particularly the sin of idolatry. Nevertheless, a different view may be discerned in some medieval writers, who interpret the destruction not as divine intervention in history to punish the recalcitrant people of Israel, but as an event open to rational explanation. This view, which can be traced to Maimonides' epistle to the scholars of Montpellier, indeed created a link between idolatry and the destruction of the Temple, but interpreted the link in a naturalistic vein: political folly, induced by reliance on astrology, brought about defeat at the hands of the Babylonian superpower. Maimonides' disciples followed him with their own discussions of the issue. R. Jedaiah ha-Penini Bedersi, postulating an essential link between intellectual perfection and divine providence, argued that idol-worship therefore negated providence. Nonetheless he proposed didactic reasons why faith in direct providence through reward and punishment should be preferred to Sisyphean preoccupation with astrology. R. Joseph ibn Kaspi held that the relevant religious transgression was disobedience of the prophets who were realistic politicians. R. Isaac Polgar proposed two answers. The first was part of his anti-Christian polemic: Israel's debacle was due to its submissive behavior and reluctance to resist; the second was traditional, portraying the destruction as divine punishment for religious sins. R. Moses of Narbonne translated the religious language of interpersonal sins or sins against God into the language of actions that weakened the nation's ability to withstand its enemies. Common to all these thinkers is the idea that Israel could mend its ways, so that there was hope for redemption and a return to the land.
Hebrew Union College Annual © 1998 Hebrew Union College - Jewish Institute of Religion