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R. Elijah Benamozegh was a 19th century rabbi and kabbalist, who wrote many works of biblical commentary and Jewish responsa, but is chiefly known in the non-Jewish world for his book on religious universalism, Israel and Humanity.

Israel and Humanity is quite singular in that it shows an orthodox rabbi incorporating non-Jewish religious sources (esp. Christian verses) in order to advocate his vision for a Noahide world coexisting with a Jewish one. In 2005, R. Adin Steinsaltz wrote an essay, "Peace without Conciliation," that quoted R. Benamozegh (on Benamozegh's assertion that "Christianity is but a distorted Kabbalah") to support his own view of correcting gentile nations and live according to Noahide laws.

Nevertheless, I have heard, but cannot source, that most rabbis disapprove of R. Benamozegh's theology. Can someone help me out here? I don't know another religious Jewish person here in Israel who has even heard of him, and the English translation of Israel and Humanity is from a Catholic Publisher (Paulist Press).

So, what rabbinic literature has been written about R. Benamozegh's Noahide works, from his lifetime to today? Is he accepted and learned in orthodox institutions (and why not)? Is it appropriate to study his works generally, and his Noahide theology specifically?

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    Cristianity is but a distorted Kabbala. Well, at least we can assume he believed in a very ancient Kabbala or we would have to ask which came first and which is a distortion of which? – user6591 Sep 18 '14 at 18:14
  • There is a little bit of information here, but you should try her if you're looking for authority on the matter. – WAF Sep 18 '14 at 19:09
  • That link that @WAF provided is intriguing, but can anyone get it to run through translation software? I am having trouble... – Mike Sep 19 '14 at 1:28
  • @aryeh. To address one point raised in your post, the Sonico Press Chumash, edited by the Chief Rabbi of the British Empire, Rabbi Dr. J H Hertz, referenced pages of non-Jewish sources. Based on comments made, the rabbi apparently held extreme regard for the Authorized Revised Version of the King James Bible. – JJLL Sep 19 '14 at 21:54
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I'm not sure if you really need to source disapproval of R. Benamozegh specifically, because mainstream Orthodoxy doesn't consider him worth talking about (as you've discovered). Almost all of his unique viewpoints are considered heresy; just pick up any Chareidi-published book on the Principles of Faith. It would take a long time to list all of the places where contemporary Orthodox rabbis have published such positions. He may be famous in the world of other religions for his views on Noahides, but I believe that he's more well known among Jews (among those that know of him, at least) for his rejection of most Kabbalistic principles.

If you'd like an actual historical source of the Orthodox response to his words, though, I've found one: apparently, the Rabbis of Aleppo held a public burning his commentary to the Torah (as the work of a heretic). See here, footnote 9

I know (and so do you) that Rabbi Steinsalz feels comfortable quoting him as a source, and I also know that Rav Eliyahu Zeini (the Rav of the Technion in Haifa) insists that his works should be studied by religious Jews. However, neither of those two Rabbis themselves are so widely accepted by the religious mainstream. (to give you some perspective: R. Zeini also advocates studying Emmanuel Levinas and claims that the Chofetz Chaim didn't know how to learn halakha).

However, none of this necessarily says anything about the specific opinion of Rabbi Benamozegh regarding Noahides. In fact, I think that this position is a fairly mainstream one, but I can only say that based on the feeling I get from hearing Rabbeim speak about it, but not from writings that I can source. The Gemara (Yevamos 24b) states that converts will not be accepted in the Messianic Era, which implies that the Messianic Era, despite being 'messianic' and an ideal universal state, includes the existence of other nations who don't follow the laws that the Jews do.

If you're interested in knowing more about R. Benamozegh and the Orthodox reception of him, there's a five part lecture series given by Prof. Marc Shapiro about him online at Torah in Motion (I haven't listed to them myself though).

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    "I believe that he's more well known among Jews (among those that know of him, at least) for his rejection of most Kabbalistic principles" - he actually wrote numerous defenses of kabbalah against its detractors. Claiming that most of his positions are heretical without giving any examples is rather problematic. Likewise, the rabbis of Aleppo who burned his books did not do it because of any of his views but because he cited non-Jewish sources. – wfb Oct 7 '16 at 18:54
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    See also this post and my comment rationalistjudaism.com/2012/04/… – wfb Oct 7 '16 at 18:55
  • because mainstream Orthodoxy doesn't consider him worth talking about Numerous scholars in every period of Jewish history have received scant attention by successors; particularly those in other countries. This is no evidence that they are not considered worthy of being spoken about. Furthermore, the term "mainstream Orthodox" is conveniently impossible to refute. FWIW Hakham Yosef Faur is a big fan of some of R. Benamozegh's teachings. Hakham Faur has semikha from hakham Matloub Abadi and hakham Suleiman Haggai Abadi. – mevaqesh Oct 7 '16 at 21:38
  • mainstream Orthodoxy doesn't consider him worth talking about ...Almost all of his unique viewpoints are considered heresy; just pick up any Chareidi-published book on the Principles of Faith. Is "mainstream Orthodoxy" the same as "Chareidi"? – mevaqesh Oct 7 '16 at 21:39
  • he's more well known among Jews (among those that know of him, at least) for his rejection of most Kabbalistic principles. Such as...? – mevaqesh Oct 7 '16 at 21:40
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While R. Elijah Benamozegh was apparently somewhat controversial in his day, he is hardly a "unquotable" figure: R. David Zvi Hoffmann and R. Mendel Kasher quote him in their work repeatedly, his work בשבילי המוסר was published by Mossad Harav Kook, and he is included in R. Avraham Bick-Shauli's anthology of Jewish thought. R. Yoel Schwartz (of Meah Shearim) quotes him in many of his seforim, he is the father of the modern Noahide movement, and he was one of the most original Jewish thinkers of the past 200 yrs. See also this post by R. Natan Slifkin.

In fact, Benamozegh was a kabbalist who wrote two defenses of Kabbalah, one titled טעם לשד, responding to the attack of Samuel David Luzzatto (Shadal) and a second called אימת מפגיע (I,II), responding to the critique of Leon de Modena, ארי נוהם. The fact that Benamozegh is not quoted may be more of an indication of people's ignorance about him than anything else. I recommend reading his work for yourself.

  • He was a great talmid chcham. The mainstream of judaism reject also ideologies not because apikorsut accusation but because not adapted. Chazon Ish e.g. was thinking that the german orthodox stream was not adapted for his time in Israel but he did not say that this way was pasul – kouty Oct 8 '16 at 18:59
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    @kouty where is this Chazon Ish about German Orthodoxy? – הנער הזה Oct 13 '16 at 14:53
  • Yes but I did not read it I think that it was a correspondance with Rav Desler concerning a Seminar for rabanim in England – kouty Oct 13 '16 at 15:30
  • @Matt ^^^ appears to be a response to your question. – mevaqesh Oct 14 '16 at 20:27

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