Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Rabbi Yitzchak Yisraeli

I gave a shiur last night about Rabbi Yitzchak (ben Shlomo) Yisraeli. He is possibly the first Rishon (because he was a contemporary of Rav Saadiah Gaon, so he is really before the era of the Rishonim. He also lived to the age of 100, so he really spanned the transition from Gaonim to Rishonim (832-932).

The reason I have started giving a series on history is not because I know anything about it, but because the Talmud tells us that when we tell over the Torah of someone else their lips move in the grave. In other words, we keep the memory of someone alive through learning about them and what they said. So I have picked a dozen Rishonim that I have never heard of (a couple I hadn't heard about until a few years ago, so that also counts) - people who are never studied in Yeshivot, and have to rely on those outside the Yeshiva to keep them 'alive'.

It is also important for me to understand that Jewish 'hashkafa' has changed radically throughout the ages, based on time, place and temperament of each Rabbi. Unlike halacha, there is no 'psak' or even 'masorah' of hashkafa. Therefore we see that the Aristotelians argued with the Platonists, and they both argued with the Neoplatonists etc.

Yitzchak Yisraeli was one of the most respected philosophers and doctors in the medieval world. His books were still being used 500 years later! He is cited by many authorities, both Jewish and non-Jewish.

So, here is my attempt at casting a bit of light on this unknown (to me) historical figure, his influence and thought. As you will hear from the shiur, neither history nor philosophy are my strong points. If anyone can correct me (or better still - point me in the direction of a book which will explain neoplatonism and the differences between that and Aristoteliansim) I would very much appreciate it.

Here is the shiur:

Here is the audio shiur (and the pdf sheets to download if you want).

Rabbi Yitzchak Yisraeli

(Right click and then 'download as')

Rabbi Yitzchak Yisraeli source sheet

1 comment:

  1. 1- You mention the Iqarim's objection to the Rambam's 13 iqarim. I'm not sure they differ all that much. If you look at R' Albo's list of iqarim and shorashim, you get a very close overlap with the Rambam's iqarim.

    I personally think the difference in more in terminology than substance. The Rambam uses "iqar" to mean minimum necessary belief; R' Albo only calls first principles "iqarim", and derivable but still necessary beliefs are "shorashim".

    I blogged on the topic spelling the comparison. (Also giving a couple of very different lists of iqarim.)

    2- I think there is a lot of confusion caused because the terms rishon and acharon have different definitions in different fields. Historians discuss tannaim, amoraim, savoraim, geonim, rishonim and acharonim.

    But in terms of halachic authority... We don't see rishonim giving geonim any special authority.

    Similarly, I don't think halachicists view rishonim and acharonim in the same terms as historians do.

    In halakhah, there is a demarkation caused by the fact that the Greater Shulchan Arukh was accepted as a baseline. "Nispasheit bekhol Yisrael", as the Rambam describes the source of the Bavli's authority. A chiddush today is measured primarily by how far it is from the Shulchan Arukh or Rama.

    And so, the halachicist refers to a rishon as someone he can use to justify that distance from the SA, and an acharon is someone who has to do the justification.

    3- You asked about RYY's study of Syriac. Syriac is a dialect of Aramaic. It comes from Middle Aramaic, which in the 4th-8th cent dominated the Middle East, and made inroads in the rest of Asia (even as far as China). It has its own alphabet.

    In contrast Judeo-Aramaic is an Eastern Aramaic.

    4- I'm not so sure the Rambam was a pure Astistotilian. Yesodei haTorah 2 describes mal'achim as a descending chain of forms, which is more Plotinus than Aristo.

    For that matter, I believe the Leshem's entire program of unifying Litvisher Qabbalah with thoughts from the Moreh is only possible because of the overlap between the Platonic elements of the former with the neo-Platonic elements of the latter.