Sunday, August 16, 2009

Accept the Truth From All Sources - Rabbi Yaakov Anatoly and Michael Scot - Naples circa 1230.

Several years ago I was introduced to Rabbi Yaakov Anatoly (1194 – 1256) and his sefer Malmad Hatalmidim while reading Professors Aviezer Ravitzky and Moshe Halbertal. RYA was a son in law and possibly also a brother in law of R. Shmuel Ibn Tibon, the great translator of Rambam’s Moreh Hanevuchim. He was born in Provence and eventually became a member of the court of Frederick II, in Naples. To put him in perspective he was born when Rambam was in his late fifties, about 10 years before his death. Provence during his time was the center of the Maimonidean movement but was also buffeted by the first Anti-Maimonidean controversy. For a short summary of the great man’s life and works go to here
Once I was made aware of RYA I started noticing many references to him in Meiri’s Chibur Hateshuvah and in other works of the era. A fast search on the Bar Ilan Responsa site yielded references to the Ba’al Hamalmad in Abudraham, Orchot Chaim, Kol Bo, Magen Avot, Ibn Shuib and some later authors. He was one of the early interpreters and teachers of Rambam’s thought and had a great influence on subsequent Maimonidean thinking. He was also a friend of Michael Scot (1175 – 1232) here a Christian mathematician and scholar at the court of Frederick II and he quotes him extensively in his sefer praising his interpretation of the subject at hand. The Sefer Malmad Hatalmidim (which translates as “the goad of the students”) is a record of speeches he made every Shabbat to the congregation. Besides dealing with theological issues along the Rambam Derech, he also interprets large sections of Mishlei, explains allegorically many stories in Chumash and Tanach and in general as a very provoking Sefer Mussar.

Here is how he introduces us to Michael Scot –

ספר מלמד התלמידים הקדמה

ומעט אשר שמעתי מפי החכם הגדול מיכאל שמו הוא אשר התחברתי עמו ימים וכל הימים ההם כשנזדמן לנו פסוק מן הפסוקים שהיה אומר בו דבר חכמה הייתי מקבלו וכותב אותו בשמו לפי שאין כונתי להתפאר בכלים שאולים כדי להחזיק אותי בחכם ואין ראוי לחכם לתפוש אותי בזה ולא לבזות הדבר הכתוב בשמו לפי שאינו מבני עמנו כי אין לבחון הדבר רק מצד עצמו לא מצד אומרו הלא תראה שמשה רבינו ע"ה הקדים פרשת יתרו למתן תורה לחבוב דעתו ואני גם כן הלכתי בדרך התורה להזכיר דבר בשם אמרו

And the little I learned from the great scholar Michael by name, with whom I had contact for a time. During that time, whenever a verse presented itself to us and he made a smart interpretation, I accepted it and wrote it down in his name, for it is not my intention to be admired for borrowed items so that I should be considered a scholar. It is also improper for a scholar to censure me for this and to disdain things written in his name because he is not a member of our nation, for a matter should judged on its own merit, not on who is its author. See how Moshe Rabbeinu had the story of Yissro precede Matan Torah, because he so strongly appreciated his input. I too went in the way of the Torah, repeating things in the name of its author.

I plan to slowly work my way through the sefer and as I come across matters that catch my attention, I will post them under a new label – R. Yaakov Anatoly.

You can find a complete copy of the Sefer here.

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