The Rabbinical Seminaries
The chapter essentially discusses the reception of Maimonides’ Guide of the Perplexed at the Rabbinical Seminaries in Germany during the second half of the nineteenth century. The main focus is on the Breslau seminary where philosophy-professor Manuel Joel published in 1859 the first academic monograph on the philosophy of the Guide, followed by books on Maimonides by Breslau teachers David Kaufmann, David Rosin and later Israel Finkelscherer. Also, some 15 doctoral dissertations were written by graduates of all three German seminaries between 1884 and 1909 on several aspects of the Maimonidean teachings in the Guide, which will in part be discussed in the chapter. In addition, the chapter evaluates the reception in Germany of Solomon Munk’s first academic edition of the Guide from the Arabic original in the 1860s, the frequent appearances of Maimonidean ideas in the numerous Jewish catechisms and text books published during that period, further the Maimonidean arguments used in a debate about the amendment of the Jewish prayer book, and finally the ambitious project of the two Moses ben Maimon volumes containing several influential essays on Maimonidean thought, published at the beginning of the twentieth century.
At this time, Maimonides’ philosophy was increasingly interpreted as asserting the priority of reason in any conflict between reason and religion. The idea of harmonization between the two elements was reduced to a limited number of aspects where harmony was possible – all this being nevertheless a strong conviction among those scholars who held that such an interpretation was seen by Maimonides as within the possibilities that traditional Judaism offered, and not as a concession to Aristotelianism – a point of view that they themselves all too willingly shared. No longer did Maimonides’ students pick single doctrines out of their context for support of a radical Reform approach to Judaism; they now concentrated on a systematic reading of the Guide’s many teachings in their historical framework, and thus place Maimonidean philosophy back into the intellectual history of Judaism.