Reading Maimonides' Mishneh Torah

By David Gillis

In this highly original study, author David Gillis demonstrates that the Mishneh torah, Maimonides' code of Jewish law, has the structure of a microcosm. Through this symbolic form, Maimonides presents the law as designed to perfect the individual and society by shaping them in the image of the divinely created cosmic order. The commandments of the law thereby bring human beings closer to fulfilling their ultimate purpose, knowledge of God. This symbolism turns the Mishneh torah into an object of contemplation that itself communicates such knowledge. In short, it is a work of art. With consummate skill, Gillis unpacks the metaphysical and cosmological underpinnings of Maimonides' scheme of organization, allowing the reader to understand the Mishneh torah's artistic dimension and to appreciate its power. Moreover, as Gillis makes clear, uncovering this dimension casts new light on one of the great cruxes of Maimonides studies: the relationship of the Mishneh torah to his philosophical treatise The Guide of the Perplexed. A fundamental unity is revealed between Maimonides the codifier and Maimonides the philosopher that has not been fully appreciated hitherto. Maimonides' artistry in composition is repeatedly shown to serve his aims in persuading us of the coherence and wisdom of the halakhic system. Gillis's fine exegesis sets in high relief the humane and transcendental purposes and methods of halakhah as Maimonides conceived of it, in an argument that is sure-footed and convincing. *** "A brilliant piece of will have a major impact on the study of Maimonides and on the larger realm of Jewish and cosmopolitan scholarship.Gillis pries open a window that affords broad vistas of forests, valleys, mountains, and the heavens themselves." -- Lenn E. Goodman *** "Novel, fresh, and creative as well as cogently argued. It is an original contribution to the study of Maimonides in particular and of medieval Jewish thought in general.shows how philosophy informs the entire Mishneh torah from beginning to end in an exquisite structure that is Aristotelian in number and Plotinian in order.Gillis does not just present purely theoretical theses but applies them in order to resolve some of the problems that have engaged both scholars and the rabbinic world in making sense of various anomalies, inconsistencies, and contradictions in the Maimonidean corpus." -- James A. Diamond *** "A few brave souls have dared to bridge the divide between Halacha and philosophy by trying to unravel the connections between the Code and the Guide. In this book, David Gillis does not only rise to this challenge. He aims for the top, offering an approach to the Mishneh Torah that is meant to reveal its deepest secrets and illuminate its conundrums. ...Gillis suggests that Maimonides' magnum opus should be seen as a work of art, whose very structure conveys its deepest meaning." - AJL Reviews, Vol. V, No. 3, September/October 2015 [Subject: Jewish Studies, Religious Studies, Philosophy]

300 pages

Publication Date: 1/8/2015
Format: Cloth
ISBN: 9781906764067