Category: Jewish History

Enter the worlds of the Rishonim and early Achronim. The focus of the articles in this category is historical, including sociopolitical and intellectual history.

  • Rambam as Kabbalist: An Early Account

    Rambam as Kabbalist: An Early Account

    The idea that Rambam was actually a Kabbalist and not (or, depending on the theory, not just) a philosopher, became widespread about a century after his death. This idea takes two different forms: the first holds that Rambam turned his back on philosophy at the end of his life, renouncing his rationalist works, namely Sefer […]

  • Yedidya Norzi and Menachem Lonzano: An Early Modern Tale of Two Biblical Scholars

    Yedidya Norzi and Menachem Lonzano: An Early Modern Tale of Two Biblical Scholars

    The words of birkat kohanim, the priestly blessing as recorded in the Torah (Bemidbar 6:26-24), leap out at us from the painstakingly unfurled silver scrolls dated c. 600 BCE, above. Well, not exactly leap, unless you read paleo-Hebrew, or what the rabbis of the Talmud call כתב ליבונאה, “Libonah script” (in contrast to what they term […]

  • Ibn Ezra in England

    Ibn Ezra in England

    At the end of his life, after years of itinerant scholarship, the great commentator Avraham Ibn Ezra found himself at the far edge of the world: England. It is there (probably) that he wrote an exposition of his philosophy, known to us as Yesod Mora; and there, too, that he wrote the unusual Iggeret ha-Shabbat. We even have […]

  • The Jewish Mapmakers of Majorca

    The Jewish Mapmakers of Majorca

    Image: Four leaves (each split in two) of the Catalan Atlas, showing the Mediterranean basin. On an island in the Mediterranean in the 14th century there lived a mapmaker and his son. Their story, like all good stories, is at once highly particular, a tale about idiosyncratic individuals in a distinct time and place, but […]

  • Radak’s Use of Bereshit Rabbati

    Radak’s Use of Bereshit Rabbati

    Image: “Arch of Titus” by Nick in exsilio is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0 In his long comment on Bereshit 1:31, Radak includes an interesting midrash that he attributes to Bereshit Rabbati. Actually, the reference is itself embedded in an arresting interpretation of this blockbuster pasuk: וַיַּ֤רְא אֱלֹקים֙ אֶת־כׇּל־אֲשֶׁ֣ר עָשָׂ֔ה וְהִנֵּה־ט֖וֹב מְאֹ֑ד וַֽיְהִי־עֶ֥רֶב וַֽיְהִי־בֹ֖קֶר י֥וֹם […]