A manual of Jewish belief (a guide to real Judaism) for the thinking individual.

Copyright © 1977 by R' Avi Shafran

[Web Page Last Revised: Tuesday, June 29, 2004 02:35 PM ]


Authorities Cited

Amoraim (sing. Amora) – the expounders of the Mishna in the Talmud who lived from approximately the 3rd century until approximately the 6th. C.E.

Rabbi Joseph Albo – (1380-1444) A post-Maimonidean philosopher whose work Sefer Haikkarim deals with the codification of the dogmata of Judaism. According to him, the three basic dogmas are 1) the existence of G~d, 2) divine reward and punishment and 3) the divineness of the Torah.

Rabbi Abraham ibn Daud (1110-1180) – Probably the first Jewish thinker to attempt to explain his religion in the light of Aristotelian philosophy. He wrote religious, historical, and scientific works and is thought to have been an influence on Maimonides.

R. Bachya ibn Pakudah – (1090-1156) A famous Jewish thinker whose major work, The Duties of the Heart reflects the distinction between outward observance (the "duties of the limbs ") and inward f eeling (the " duties of the heart"). He sought to purify his religion from within, not to reconcile it with any philosophical system. However, he does not hesitate to make use of involved philosophical speculation.

Chasam Sofer – (1763-1839) Rabbi Moses Sofer was a Torah-giant who during his lifetime was looked to by world Jewry for the final word on religious matters. He battled, vigorously and successfully, to hinder the fungus of Reform Judaism as it began to spread in Europe. Yet he was known by all as a gentle and saintly man.

Chazon Ish – (1879-1954) Rabbi A.Y. Karelitz was a comparatively recent Torah-sage whose genius and righteousness were recognized when he was still a boy. He rose to fame, against his efforts to lead a quiet peasant's life, and became a leader of religious Jews in Europe and then in Israel. His writings and letters portray a man of eloquence, scholarship and goodness.

R. E. E. Dessler – (1891-1954) A Torah-scholar who studied in Russia and then took a position in the rabbinate of London. His piety and scholarship became well known. After the Second World War Rabbi Dessler was asked to head the great rabbinical academy in England, at Gateshead. His collected writings and talks on Jewish thought and ethics are widely read under the title of Michtav M'Eliyahu. The end of his life was lived in the Holy Land.

Geonim – The post-talmudic religious leaders of Jewry who lived from around 600 until the beginning of the 11th century.

Gersonides – (R Levi ben Gerson) (1288-1344) A great mathematician and astronomer as well as a taimudic scholar and philosopher. He was, according to some, a grandson of Nachmanides.

R. Yehudah Halevi – (1086-1146) Though well-versed in Aristotelian and Neo-Platonic thought, he did not emphasize philosophy as the key to life. Rather he stressed the importance of tradition and common sense in his work The Kuzari. He was a great poet as well, and composed volumes of poems and songs.

R. Samson Raphael Hirsch – (1808-1888) A recent luminary who studied Talmud in Germany as well as secular studies at the University of Bonn. As chief rabbi of Moravia and Austrian Silesia, he briefly served as a member of the Austrian parliament. Eloquent, intelligent and educated he capably fought emerging Reform movements in Europe and wrote his famous commentary on the Chumash as well as other works to preserve the truth of Real Judaism.

Maimonides (Rambam) – (1135-1204) Recognized as the most comprehensive mind of medieval Jewry, his scholarship embraced all Biblical and rabbinic literature as well as the science and philosophy of the day. He was also an accomplished physician and wrote treatises on medicine. His most famous works are the Mishne Torah [Yad Chazaka], which is a brilliant and comprehensive halachic code, and the Moreh Nevuchim, a celebrated work on philosophy and Judaism. Originally written in Arabic, it has been translated into English under the title Guide for the Perplexed.

Nachmanides (Ramban) – (1195-1270) An illustrious, brilliant talmudist and theologian, he also studied philosophy and science. He earned his livelihood through the practice of medicine. Author of many volumes of taimudic commentaries and theology, he also wrote one of the most respected Bible commentaries to date. Though often in scholarly disagreement with Maimonides, he maintained a great respect for his older contemporary.

Rashi (Rabbi Shlomo Yitzchaki) – (1040-1105) was probably the most consequential of the post talmudic scholars. An early Rishon, he wrote unelaborate but perfectly thought-out running commentaries on the Bible and Talmud, not to mention his numerous responsa. His is considered the basic essential Bible commentary.

Rishonim – The name given to the series of Torah-leaders who lived from the l1th century until about the 14th.

R. Saadiah Gaon – (892-942) Perhaps the most famous gaon. Strong in his opposition to the Karaites, the sect of that period who rejected the Oral Law, he was respected as the intellectual leader of his day. An expert in the philosophical methods of the Arab civilization, he wrote volumes of philosophy and halachic resposa as well.

Tannaim – The authors of the Mishna, ranging in time approximately from 10 CE. to 200 CE.

R. Elchonon Wasserman – (1874-1943) A leader of religious Jewry in Europe who started his career during the period between the World Wars as the head of a small local rabbinical academy which he transformed into a large successful institution. That he was a tireless prober for truth is evident in his talmudic works and other writings. His sincerity and scholarship gave him a well-deserved good name throughout the world. He died a martyr, with the words of the Torah on his lips, during the Second World War.

R. Yochanan ben Zakkai – (35-75) A great tanna who lived at the period of the destruction of the Second Temple, he later founded the great talmudical academy at Yavneh. Aside from his great learning he was an established leader and, as the head of the peace party in the struggle against the Romans, he saved many Jews and earned the trust of the Romans.

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