REVIEW: Reinventing Maimonides

Featured Articles - Home, Tradition Online | November 30, 2020

It is no exaggeration to say that Maimonides has exercised an influence in Jewish law and thought surpassed only by the Hebrew Bible and the Talmud. It is not surprising, then, that Maimonides has been subjected to a dizzying array of interpretations in the past 850 years. In Reinventing Maimonides in Contemporary Jewish Thought (Littman Library of Jewish Civilization, 2019), written by James A. Diamond and Menachem Kellner, two eminent Maimonides scholars, we can see just how varied these interpretations are, even within the more limited sphere of Orthodox Jewish thought. Kellner and Diamond, in alternating chapters explore how Maimonides has been interpreted by eight later-nineteenth and twentieth century Orthodox Jewish rabbis, including Netziv, R. Abraham Kook, R. Elchanan Wasserman, R. Kalonymus Kalman Shapira, R. Aharon Kotler, R. Joseph Soloveitchik, R. Joseph Kafih, and R. Shlomo Aviner. (Only R. Aviner is still living and writing.) But not all the rabbis treated here seek to align themselves with Maimonides; on the contrary, several of them explicitly seek to distance themselves from him. The essays in Reinventing Maimonides in Contemporary Jewish Thought offer a window into how diverse leading rabbis have read Maimonides in the modern era. 

Click here to read Alex Sztuden’s review of Reinventing Maimonides, from our Summer 2020 issue.


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