Essays & Theses

J. David Bleich on Duran's View of the Nature of Providence

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Duran's View of the Nature of Providence Author(s): J. David Bleich Source: The Jewish Quarterly Review, New Series, Vol. 69, No. 4 (Apr., 1979), pp. 208-225 Published by: University of Pennsylvania Press Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1454313 Accessed: 18/02/2010 10:21 Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of JSTOR's Terms and Conditions of Use, available at http://www.jstor.org/page/info/about/policies/terms.jsp. JSTOR's Terms and Conditions of Use provides, in part,
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  Duran's View of the Nature of ProvidenceAuthor(s): J. David BleichSource: The Jewish Quarterly Review, New Series, Vol. 69, No. 4 (Apr., 1979), pp. 208-225Published by: University of Pennsylvania PressStable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1454313 Accessed: 18/02/2010 10:21 Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of JSTOR's Terms and Conditions of Use, available athttp://www.jstor.org/page/info/about/policies/terms.jsp. JSTOR's Terms and Conditions of Use provides, in part, that unlessyou have obtained prior permission, you may not download an entire issue of a journal or multiple copies of articles, and youmay use content in the JSTOR archive only for your personal, non-commercial use.Please contact the publisher regarding any further use of this work. Publisher contact information may be obtained athttp://www.jstor.org/action/showPublisher?publisherCode=upenn.Each copy of any part of a JSTOR transmission must contain the same copyright notice that appears on the screen or printedpage of such transmission.JSTOR is a not-for-profit service that helps scholars, researchers, and students discover, use, and build upon a wide range of content in a trusted digital archive. We use information technology and tools to increase productivity and facilitate new formsof scholarship. For more information about JSTOR, please contact support@jstor.org. University of Pennsylvania Press is collaborating with JSTOR to digitize, preserve and extend access to The Jewish Quarterly Review. http://www.jstor.org  DURAN'SVIEW OFTHENATURE OF PROVIDENCEBy J.DAVID BLEICH, YeshivaUniversity SIMON BEN SEMAHDURAN (I36I-I444)isperhapsbest known forhis formulation of thedogmasofJudaismwhichwasadoptedandpopularized byayoungercontemporary, JosephAlbo,andbecamethe structuraltheme of thelatter'sSeferha-'Ikkarzm.Findingnobasis forMaimonides'selectionofthirteenprinciplesoffaith,Duran substitutedhisown listof threedogmas:the existenceofGod,revelation,andretri-bution.The existence of God and retribution areboth entailedbythe doctrine of revelation. Revelation would beimpossiblewithoutaGod whohasrevealedHimself,andacceptanceofthe law revealedbyGod isfosteredbytheanticipationofretribution.Retributionwould,ofcourse,beimpossibleifnotfor therealityof Providence. ToDuran,these threedogmasarethe basicprincipleswhich arenecessarilysharedbyallrevealedreligions.Duran believed that Maimonides'thirteenprinciplescouldbe reducedtothese threedogmasfrom whichthe otherprinciplescould be deduced.LikeCrescas,Durantakesissuewith the excessive intellec-tualism ofMaimonides.ImmortalityinDuran'sviewdependsnotupon perfectionoftheintellectbutuponethical eonductandobedienceto the Divine commandments.Similarly,Divine Providence is notlimited topersonswhoareincom-munion with Godbyvirtueof theirsuperior intelligencebutaffectsallmenirrespectiveoftheirintellectuality.Histheoryof Providence isdevelopedatlengthin theintroductiontohiscommentaryontheBook ofJob,OhebMishpait(Venice,I589)and is summarizedbrieflyinBookIII,chapter2,ofhisphilosophicalwork,MllgenAbot(Leghorn, I745).Duranrecognizesthatthequestionof whetherProvidence iscommensuratewith thedegreeto which the individualhassucceededinperfectinghis intellect(aswastheviewof  DURAN'SVIEWOFPROVIDENCE-BLEICH Maimonides),sactually dependent uponthe correctanalysisof the natureof thesoul.Maimonides,saysDuran,believedthat therational soul at itsinceptionisnodifferentfrom thenutritive soulorthesensitive soulin thatit isafacultyorpower capableofreceiving intelligibles,whoseperfectioniscommensuratewith thedegreeto whichthispotentialisactualized.Sinceitis the rational soul whichisimmortal,developmentofthe intellectisthepreliminaryconditionforitsimmortality.Maimonides thusacceptsthedoctrine ofacquired immortality,accordingto whichonlytheactualiza-tionofman'sintellectualpowerconveys immortality.Iftherequisiteknowledgeandunderstandingisnotacquired,thesoulcannotachieveimmortality.This,accordingtoMaimo-nides,is the correctinterpretationof theBiblicalpunish-mentof karetor cuttingoff. Duran finds thisanalysisof the soul anditsimmortalitydifficult toacceptonseveral counts.Accordingto Maimo-nides,thesoulisdeprivedofimmortalitysimplybecauseit has notacquiredknowledgeofintelligibles,for itisonlythroughsuchknowledgethatthesoulisimmortal.Itwouldthen follow that theevildoerwhohasbeenexceedinglywickedand hasnotdevelopedhisintellect,and thelazypersonwho has notdevelopedhis intellectbecauseofidleness,areequalwithregardtoashareinthe world tocome. Durandeemssuchasituation to beunjust.Furthermore,fimmor-talityis theresultofintellectualperfection,itshould followthat thesoulsofchildren do notpossessimmortality.Yetthe Talmudclearlystatesthatchildren haveashare in theworldtocome from the time thattheyareable torespond Amen. 1Also,accordingto Maimonides'analysisofthenatureofthesoul,itis difficulttoexplainthereunificationofbodyand soul at the time of resurrection.Moreover,bothScriptureand Rabbinic tradition indicate that Providenceiscontingent upon performanceoftheDivinecommandments,without inanywayhintingthatintellectualperfectionisa 1B.Sanh. IIob.14 209  THE JEWISH QUARTERLYREVIEW corequisite.Thusthe Torahpromisesthatneither shallanyman covetthyland,whenthougoestuptoappearbeforethe LordthyGodthree times in theyear(Exod. 34:24). Similarly, theSagesdeclare that thosetravelingfor thepurposeofagooddeedsuffernoharm. 2 Inneither caseisreflection ormeditationuponintelligiblesrequired.Providence is thusseento becontingent entirelyupon performanceofgooddeedsrather thanuponintellectualactivity.Furthermore,heKabbaliststeachthat shedimremove themselvesfrom onewhorecitestheShema'beforeretiring, 4 eventhoughhecannotpossiblybeengagedin intellectualactivitywhileasleep.Duran,citingthe kabbalistic tradition ashissource,declaresthatthe soulis of thesoulofGodand of thebreathof His 2B.Pes.8a. 3 Kabbalistic literatureis,ofcourse,repletewith referencestoevilspirits,demons,etc.Althoughwithinthephilosophicaltraditiontheexistenceofshedim wasdeniedbyMaimonides(GuideofthePerplexed, III,37,andMishnehTorah, LawsConcerning Idolatry, XI,I6),andaccordingtoMenassehbenIsrael,byIbn Ezra aswell,theexistenceofdemonicspiritswasaccepted by Judahha-Levi(Kizari,V,I4),butin acontextwhichmakesnomention of thequestionofdiversesourcesofgoodandevil.Amonglater medievalwriterstherealityof suchspiritswasaccepted byShemTobibnShemTob(Seferha-Eminiot,Ferrara,I556,V,I),Crescas(Orha-Shem,IV,6),MosesTachau(Ket~bTdmim,publishedinOsarNehmad,ed.IgnatzBlumenfeld, Vienna,I86o,III,97);Isaac Abravanel(inhiscommentaryonDeut.I8:9),andbysolateanauthorityasElijahGaonofVilna(cf.hisoft citedstrictureon Maimonidesinwhichhe claimsthat Maimonideswasmisledby philosophy andhenceinterpretedTalmudic references tospiritsand demonsin anoverlyrationalspirit,Shul6hancArki,YorehDe'dh,I79,Bz'tiha-GRA,noteI3).Foradiscussionofthesourcesandjustificationoftheconflictingviewssee Menasseh benIsrael,MishnatIHayyim(Warsaw,I876),III,12-14.Averroes also alludes to abelief in theexistenceof suchbeingsasintermediaries betweentheIntelligencesofthespheresandsublunarycreatures(DieHauptlehrendesAverroes,trans.M. M.Horton[Bonn,I913],p.277).Gersonides(WarsoftheLord,IV,3),inattributingsuchabeliefto the multitudeofourcoreligionists incontrasttohisearlierreference tothe philosophers, probablyhad nospecificfigureinmind,but wasreferringto Kabbalisticviewswhichthemassestendedtoacceptinanunsophisticatedmanner.4SeeZohar,Introduction,p.II.

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