site's logo and link back to the English-speaking home page decorative picture .About Rabbis and Talmudic Schools arrow back

Jewish Thought

pages decorative bandeau, reminder of the one of the main entry home page and the localized home page

Due to the interest Charlemagne displayed to the Jewish merchants, the Radhanites, due to that those merchants journeyed down to Baghdad and further and they could have contact with the House of Wisdom, due to that Jews hold a role into it and, at last, due to the philojudaisme of the Carolingian court under Louis the Pious, it looked like it was necessary to refer to a view of Jewish thought

Illustration of Jewish scholarshipIllustration of Jewish scholarship

Beginnings, Palestine

After 70 A.D. and the fire of the Jewish Temple, and after 135 A.D. and the last Jewish revolt in Palestine, Jews did not possess a nation and a land anymore as their unity now was a spiritual one only. The Torah turned they homeland! Those were the Pharisees, or the rabbis of Palestine, who bore that mutation. A Sanhedrin was authorized by Romans there as a reaction against such a relative tolerance had occurred under Emperor Hadrian by 135 A.D. Synagogues now could replace the Temple, prayer and sacrifices. Service of Sabbath and feasts focused upon the reading of Torah and the Prophets, along with the commentaries of 'targumists' ('interprets') and the preaching of 'aggadists' ('preachers'). St. Paul and the Fathers, who had diverted Christianity from Judaism and even, according to some, from reasoning, had also as a consequence that they reinforced rabbinic Judaism, Jews' narrow attachment to rituals and the development of reasoning's subtleties. Talmud eventually was to be the result of that and, albeit allowing to light the Jewish religious thought up, the sole recognized authority and almost occulting the Torah. Those were first the Patriarchs of Palestine who, during three centuries and half, controlled the fate of Jews. One the masters of the Sanhedrin in Palestine wrote the Mishna, a second Torah of sort. Orality is considered by some Jews like the nature self of Torah and writing a aide-mémoire only. When oral, the Law can adapt itself! Mishna and what was to come -Talmud, Commentaries, Codes- Torah's first crystallization. Mishna was the Law and oral traditions and the end of Midrash, a school which, since the 5th century B.C. opposed to Sadducees, the proponents of the litteral meaning of Torah. Midrash too is symbols, letters and codes. From the Torah, Mishna extracted ritual, ethics and theology as rituals were the object of books. Doctors of Mishna were the 'tannaim,' or 'teachers' and they indeed put the Torah into writings albeit conserving to it its adaptable aspect because, at the same time, they had published the diverging opinions. The writing of Torah meant, by those times which were harsh ones, to avoid that such a mass of knowledges be forgotten. Mishna may be considered the main body of Talmud as the Gemara may his commentary as some place indeed when it was written between the 2nd century B.C. and the 6th century A.D. Mishna is dealing with all the aspects of Jewish life, and it is written in a very pure Hebrew. It is divided into 6 'sedarim' or 'orders', which themselves are into 63 'massekhtoth.' Laws which matter with the relations of man with God are located either side of those which matter with the relations of men between them. Those are the following: Zeraim, for the sanctity of work (mostly the agricultural one), Moed about Sabbath and feasts, Nachim about marriage laws, Nezikin about civil law, Kodachim about sacrifices, and Taharoth about purities-impurities. the complete text of those treatises may be found at Beside Mishna further similar collections were extant as they had not been officially recognized however. By the end of that Palestinian epoch, the economic crisis of the Roman empire and the advent of Christianity brought Babylonia to take over Palestine. Sassanid kings there granted Jews with a large autonomy and the 'Exilarch,' their chief was endowed with a large power. Jewish schools then passed into Sora, Nehardaa and Pumbedita, the one of Sora being the most famous and his doctors possessing a vast learning. The School of Pumbadita, as far as it is concerned, was renowned for its dialectics. The Patriarcate of Palestine ended in 429 A.D. Patriarch Hillel II had made public the Jewish calendar's computation, which allowed a form of independence to the communities of the Diaspora. Some are pleading that St. Jerome, in Palestine, had appealed to Jewish masters at the effect of studying the Bible in its original Hebrew text like Origenus had done. Like any tradition, Jewish thought had to fight against sclerosis and tensification through a method for updating using critics and interpretation. That translated into expressly worded rules all along the era which followed the destruction of the Second Temple. Those were analogy from simple to complex as far as law and moral questions were concerned, analogic reasoning strictly which brought identical passages of Torah together but which could be performed only under the authority of a master. And setting of a principle from one or two passages, relationship between the general and the particular, and conversely which allowed to a accurate definition of a object. Similarities too between Torah's passages or deduction from the context. Variants or precisions about those methods could exist

Jews of Babylonia Under the Sassanids

Mishna at the time turned the basis and tannaim gave up their name and called themselves 'amoraim,' which is 'commentators,' meaning that they were the interpreters of Mishna. Amoraim developped Mishna concise points, or 'mishnayoth' and confronted them to other specific source, discussed every opinion through a strong logics and dialectics and worded new decisions about new cases, which gave the Gemara, or 'commentary', 'completion.' Mishna and Gemara eventually opened into the Talmud, or 'teaching,'. Two versions of the Talmud exist, with the Yerushalmil, or the Talmud of Jerusalem, which actually began to be written in Tiberiad as soon as by the late 3rd century A.D., which is a concise one. And the Babli, or the Talmud of Babylonia, which was written in the 5th century A.D. by the chief of the School of Sora. Talmud is the work of rabbis through which the Word of God, the Torah, is lightened up and scrutinized with intelligence and discernment. The methodology used by rabbis was few systematic as the canon self of the Torah -the 24 official books- originated with them. Rabbis were also the authors to the 'Halakha', which is the normative and ritual part of Judaism. That editing effort is to be put into perspective with the fact that Christianity at the time had become the sole religion of the Roman empire. Jews thus were reluctant to write the Torah as, finally, the Jewish orality had then become the sole characteristic of that Torah the Christians had appropriated to themselves. The Talmud, at the opposite of Mishna lean formulae, is showing live, somehow, how the oral thinking is developint. The Talmud's main creating effort occurred under Sassanid king Yesdegird (399-420 A.D.) who had wished to get distant from Zoroastrian maggi and was tolerant to Jews and Christians. That time also was a one of renewal of Jewish messianism. Jews had understood the Huns, who had accelerated the fall of the Roman empire, like the army of Gog, which had them believe into the eternity of the Jewish nation. The advent of Christianity like the sole religion in the Roman empire however swiftly brought to discriminations and persecutions. During the 6th century A.D., Jewish scholars turned the 'saboraim,' or 'thinkers.' They perfected the shape of Talmud into new elements. Torah, strictly, was the 'written law' and Talmud the 'oral law' even if indeed the Talmud then was put into writing. Jews at the time were obliged to defend themselves against the Zend, a democratist Mazdean party but they rapidly recovered and their schools reopened. From that periods of persecution -by the Nestorians which had took refuge in Persia included- and tolerance alternated as Jews participated into the Sassanid succession struggles and even the Byzantine or the fight against those. The fate of Palestinian Jews, who were under the Christian Byzantine rule, was much less desirable and that brought them, on a other hand, to support the Persian invasion in 614 A.D. Saboraim worried about law points the Jewish communities needed for their daily life. Talmud is mostly of a legal nature. All what is law, normative rule, and ritual are the Halakha in the Jewish thought as ethics and theology are the Agada. Talmud however display a overflowing aspect and it is a melodious meeting between elements of Halakha and of Agada. Austere legal debates are ornated with moral and philosophical remarks, with tales, legends, folk life elements, or science observations which are used to lighten and illustrate as rabbis may also go back into the fundamental religious principles of each subject they deal with. Even Persian beliefs and superstitions and magics or demonology. As soon as that time, Talmud hold maxims and judgments hostile to other peoples and religions. The Talmud is the exegesis of the Torak, a code for practice, faith and morals. Albeit criticized by some Jews like a source of immorality or less inspired than the Torah, the Talmud indeed is central for the Jewish life and thought. It is exegetics, a authority, a understanding of Torah and it rules daily life, rituals and thought. A strong view is even that Talmud had been born as soon as by the 5th century B.C. with Ezra the Scribe as the Talmud tends to encompass, in the traditions it uses, the centuries before and after Christian era. From there, there will be after that additions only as any new problem to be studied from the Talmud! During the next ten centuries, Jews will withdraw unto the Talmud and they will see the world, Nature, men and History like mere insignificant incidents. Talmud further, as it trained Jews to the habit of reasoning, made Jewish people a people with a strong dialectics, a deep spirit and it kept alive its intellectual activity. Talmud eventually was the cement and educator of Jews. Talmud emphasised and clarified the Revelation made through the Torah, with YHWH and Israel like the Chosen People which passes the creed into YHWH, all that being expressed into the Shema Israel prayer (Deut. VI, 4): 'Listen, Israel, The Lord is Our God, The Lord is One!' Talmudists are not philosophers as their reference is the Torah and that God is a reality and the unity of Him a fact. To believe in YHWH is to act according to His will and faith and action are unseparatable. That God created the world, which exists through Its Providence and is directed through Its attributes which are Justice and Love. The Unique God is all-mighty, omnipresent and pure spirit, all-knowing as He probes hearts and He knows all the thoughts of men. YHWH's project however has to get carried out into the history of the world and the one of men. YHWH thus needs man, who is His co-worker and His associate to perfect that world which was intentionally left uncompleted, and to organize the terrestrial city 'according to the ideal He assigned to it.' Such a ideal is to establish God's kingdom on the Earth as it is represented like the messianic era, a vision which guided Jews during the centuries of the Exile. The existential temporality of man and society, according to Talmud, passes through reading, studies and interpretation. The relation to books, among Jews, is no a mere accident of life, but a vital condition of the possibility self of life. In that sense, Jews really are the 'people of the Book,' of reading and interpretation of the Torah. Each epoch is understanding the Torah its own way. Of note, at last, that the Talmud is also seen like a important source to psychoanalysis and even contemporary philosophy

Jews of Babylonia Under the Arabs

Early fanaticism of Muslim Arabs against Jews swiftly turned into tolerance. Such a tolerance allowed a unprecedented bloom of the Jewish thought, which built upon the economic prosperity. As Jews in Babylonia had been speaking Aramean since 1000 years, they now spoke Arabic and the time also was to a purification of Hebrew. Such a common language allowed communication with non-Jews or Jews who lived in the former provinces of the Roman empire, who were speaking Greek or Latin. The Exilarch was recognized a power over all the Jewish communities of the area and it looks like, on a other hand, that the qualification of 'gaon' which was authorized to the chief of the School of Sora, appeared during the struggle in the Arab world, between Ali, the founder of Shi'ism and his opponents as Jews and Christians had rallied to Ali. Thence a strong animosity appeared among the Jews between the gaons, who were featuring the spiritual might, and the Exilarch who featured the temporal one. The history of Judaism however remained obscure during one century, until by 730 A.D. The Exilarch however and both chiefs of the Sora and Pumbadita schools ended into setting their respective powers during that period of time and a new organization of Jewish people appeared. The Exilarch, or the 'Prince of The Exile,' represented political power and he spoke in the name of Jews in front of the Caliph, and he collected taxes. His function was hereditary. Both gaons of Sora (which was related with the southern communities of Babylonia) and Pumbadita (which was related with the northern ones) represented religious power as they were ruling the Talmudic teaching. The Exilarch and gaons were sharing the judicial power. Appointments to those positions was a subtile balance of powers. Rabbis further were constituting a sanhedrin with some sort of legislative power. The whole set of the Exilarch, the gaons and the rabbis had indeed brough to the rebuilding of a Jewish state in Arab Babylonia. That was truer still as seen from Jewish communities abroad. Some of those, as the Arab expansion continued, were incorporated into that system, Palestine included and then Spain by the early 8th century. Babylonia thus had turned the center of the Jewish world. Under the Umayyads, such a favorable status of Jews kept on under caliphs who were friends to letters and science. As they imitated what the Arabs had done about Quran, Jews studied the Torah, and like Arabs too, they devoted themselves to poetry. That gave birth to the neo-Hebrew poetry, which had like a subject God, the sufferings of Jewish people and synagogal liturgy. The '"piyyutim,' or 'songs' also appeared as they gave the officiator of the synagogue a central role. Such songs might have appeared earlier, in Palestine, by the 7th century A.D. Piyyutim were deviced for special days of the Jewish religious calendar as founded upon Midrach as they called both to the heart and intelligence. They allowed for the moral education and piety of believers as their existence kept into about 1550 A.D. Under the Abassids, the Exilarch, or the 'Resh Galuta,' had precedency upon Christian dignitaries as the moral and religious authority of the gaons of Sora and Pumbadita increased over all the Jews who inhabited the Arabic Caliphate. Jews from everywhere and even Christians came to train in their schools, or 'yashivoth.' Gaons then also turned those who told the Law in the cases the Talmud had not given any solution, or the new problems. Their answers were formulated into 'cheloth' or 'techuvoth,' which were 'responsa' that were sent to the communities which had consulted them and into codes and treatises too. Gaons also were those who set ritual through books of prayers, like, about 860 A.D. the 'Siddar Rav Amram' by Gaon Rav Amram Gaon. They at last set the text of Torah with massorets who standardized and devised a system of vowel-points and accents to allow a unique reference text. Such a work had also been performed in Palestine from the 8th to the 10th century A.D. That work had begun in Persia in the 6th century A.D. from the exile of Green pagan philosophers when the School of Athens (specialized in medicine and science) had been ordered to close and too from the influence of the linguistics of Nestorians. Such a reformed text allow a larger number of Jews and even Christians to study the Torah. The time when the Jews settled into the Arab world finally is a time when the traditional Judaism imposed itself. Caliph Harun ar Rachid and his successors, despite being liberals, imposed by 807 A.D. a distinctive sign that Jews had to bear -and Christians too and struggle between both sons of Harun brought misfortune upon Palestine. Al Mamun who eventually became Caliph (813-833), culture took back to its expansion, like in Baghdad, Kairouan, or Merv as Jews participated into. A Jew, for example, introduced Indian numbers as another one translated into Arab Ptolemy's Megale Syntaxis and found the refraction of light about 800 A.D. The son of the latter was a renowned physician by 840 A.D. and master to two Arab physicians Razi and Anzarbi. Judaism of Babylonia however got weakened by the early 9th century A.D. through the Karait schism and the ensuing quarrels between the Exilarch and the gaons and the gaons between themselves. A standard Hebrew text of the Bible was produced beginning in about the 8th century A.D.


In that 'Jewish state' of Babylonia however, Talmudism of gaons and the Exilarch was, in the 8th century A.D., tending to turn into a academism or even a simple exercise of memory. Karaism is a Jewish schism which likely originated from the integration of the Jewish world into the Arab Caliphate. The ancient origin of it lies by the Sadducees as they rejected, since the 2nd century B.C. the oral tradition to work upon the Oran only, as the interpretation was left to each one's own abilities. Jews of Babylonia, and even Africa, further were used to gaons' authority as those of Palestine, Irak and Syria were freer in spirit and used to relationships with Arabs. In their religious arguments with them, they mainly were using Torah as they eventually realized that numerous talmudic precepts issued by the gaons' schools were groundless in the text. Those Jews thus, by the 8th century A.D., came to leave Talmud and refer to Torah instead, a move that was strenghtened by the renewal of Arab intolerance from Caliph Omar II (717-720), from too the fall of Ummayads or the excesses of authority by the Exilarch or his will to control gaonic schools. Some Jews even did not follow Biblical prescriptions anymore! Karaism officially was formulated by Anan ben David, a young Persian scholar from the lineage of David as his disciples first called themselves 'Ananites.' He was the Exilarch's nephew and he had been frustrated the succession of him by the gaons, who rallied the Caliph to their views. Anan was forced to emigrate into Palestine where he expanded his thesis which rejected Talmud. It is possible that Karaism to be linked to Shi'ism which at that same time was confronting with orthodox Islam, or Sunna. Anan came back to a primitive Judaism focusing upon the Torah's text as he even called techniques of the Mishan's taraim. Karaism was relatively favorable to Jesus, or Muhammad. Karaism was the very first great schism in Judaism during the Second Exile and Anan became the Exilarch of his proponents, or 'Prince Anan.' Talmud-following Jews were termed 'rabbanites.' One consequence of that schism was that the hereditary character of the Exilarchate ended as it turned elected by gaons. Karaism was democratic enough and pro-women -as it did not allow matrilinearity however- and it hold priests of the Second Temple to be the chiefs of its communuties (those did not exist at the time anymore but they could be restored). A possible influence of Islam may exist in Karaism with carpets in the synagogues instead of benches and, above all, Anan ben David might have been imprisoned along with Muslim lawyer Abu Hanifa Al-Nu'man Ibn Thabit, a founder to one of the 'orthodox' Muslim schools of interpretation of Quran, or the Hanafites. It was him who would have inspired Anan with his interpretation method. That questioning of gaons relatively to questions of Jewish life was welcome enough by those times which was were those of the Arab conquest. Karaism also endured the influence of the rationalistic Arab Mu'tazilism as rabbis, at the opposite rallied to Anthropomorphism, which had been one of the reactions to Mu'tazilism. Jehuda Judghan the Persian, from Hamadan, by 800 A.D. for example, was denying any material shape to YHWH and he was claiming the freedom of men due to the existence of punishments and awards which were promised by Torah. Benjamin ben Mose, from Nahavend (about 800-820 A.D.) endeavoured to have Mu'tazilism known by Karaites and claimed the high character of Jewish God to the point that Creation and Revelation were due to His angels only. At the imitation of Arab Anthropomorphists, some Jewish scholars estimated the formal aspect and material life of YHWH and they mostly were influential in the School of Pumbadita as such debates eventually brought splits and rifts. Karaism become established in southern Babylonia, in the School of Sora and orthodoxy kept North with Baghdad and the School of Pumbadita. Those quarrels eventually settled by about 830 A.D. Karaism also featured its own cults and diverging interpretations. Karaism thus is basing upon personal exegesis, which works itself upon the simple sens of Torah's text, in agreement with what reason dictates. Karaism eventually gathered tens of thousands members which dwelt mainly in Babylonia, Palestine, Persia, Egypt and Crimea as they accounted for 40 percent of the Jewish people of the time. It looks like the most important Karait community was the one in Muslim Spain as it further features that a woman -al-Maa'lima, Al-Taras' wife- played a important religious role during some time. The spread of Karaism began to decline as soon as by the 10th century A.D.. It had started like a protest against rabbis but it reached down to skepticism, like Mu'tazilism had done. Karaits still are to be found nowadays in the U.S.A. and Ramla, Israel, by the number of 30,000 as they had left Egypt at the time of the independence of it. Some small groups also exist in Lituania. Karaits were the first to introduce philosophy in Judaism. The 'orthodox' Judaism, as far as it is concerned was firmly defended by gaon of Sora, Rav Saadia, who was the first Jewish philosopher. To refute Karait rationalism, he indeed expressly asserted that Talmudic interpretation is not opposed to reason' demands. Karaism dried up by the 10th century A.D. in terms of intellectual activity, in massoretics excepted (a domain that even Talmudists accepted) and Karaits by 960 A.D. refused any philosophical reflection. As Karaism had urged Talmudism to answer its own rationalism, it finally was a contributor to that Babylonia evolved

Babylonia's Decline and Rationalism

Successors to Caliph Al Mamoun eventually deepened discriminatory regulations and, above all, the Exilarch did not was recognized any more by the Caliph and thus he did not have any official nature nor a public authority any more. The School of Pumbadita became in importance the equivalent to that of Sora. A swift decline of intellectual activity however occurred in Babylonia as any other studies than religious ones -especially science- were suspected of Karaism. Karaism indeed had transitioned from a protest against Talmud to reach to skepticism and that spread too among talmudists. Responsa of rabbis at the time began to be written in Arabic only. Any Jewish intellectual activity, like medicine, philosophy, philology, progressively came back from Egypte and Kairouan, North Africa. Isaac ben Soleimas Israeli (about 845-940 A.D.), in Kairouan, was the physician to Fatimid dynasty's founder -which allegedly was said the son of a Jewish woman- and he was the one who reopened the way to reflection. The School of Pumbadita only took profit from that. Since the late 9th century A.D., Arab Caliph, under the influence of Vizier Obeid-Allah ibn Soleiman took back to tolerance and gaon of Pumbadita imposed itself, politically included, to the Exilarch and the School of Sora. The time however did not belong to Babylonia anymore, where the Exilarch did not possess any influence anymore upon the Caliph. Judaism until then, like we have seen it above, refers itself to Revelation and Tradition only and thus it cannot feature any philosophy which itself is working on reasoning and experiment. It is through reasoning that talmudist rabbis however built a global view of the world. At the time of Hellenism and Philo, Jews already had attempted to reconcile the Torah and Greek thought, which had brought to the Alexandrine Hellenistic Judaism. That current did not have many influence upon the Jewish world as, at the contrary, it was to deeply influence Christian theology. That was John Damascenus, a Greek and one of the last Fathers of the Church, who passed, in the 8th century A.D., the endeavour to reconcile Revelation and philosophy to the Arabs. Thence Saadia came, through the Arabic 'kâlam,' and he brought down to Maimonid. In that declining Abassid Caliphate, Karaism, like said, had a first evolution of Talmudism to appear. Gaon Said, or Saadia ben Josef (892-942 A.D.), a Egyptian born in the Fayum region, was the first Babylonian scholar who founded Jewish philosophy and science, and thus the last representative of Babylonian Judaism! A talmudist he had also acquired his varied knowledge from Karaits and Muslims. He was a controversist against Karaits. As those had de facto inaugurated a serious reading of Torah and as talmudists of Babylonia focused upon their own commentaries, Saadia translated and he commented the Torah in Arabic so it be accessible to all Jews, from Europe to India and so to stop both Karaits and anthropomorphist mystics. So, Saadia opened both biblical studies and grammar to rabbis. He became gaon of the School of Sora about 930 A.D. which is the point indeed where 7 centuries of supremacy of Babylonia came to a end, like the reference center for Diaspora's Jews. That end moreover, which occurred with Saadia, came with free-examination and the proclaimed equivalence between philosophy and Talmud. The role of Saadia could not find any completion because he lived in a time of struggles and clans which further were taking place amidst struggles for Caliphate. In his Emounoth ve-deoth ('The Treatise of Beliefs and Opinions') in 934 A.D. which he wrote in Arabic, Saadia borrowed from the Mu'tazilists and endeavoured to define and set the relationship between religion and reason with both indeed, emanating from God and thence no conflict possible. YHWH created the world as man is coronating Creation. Man then received the Torah and the commands in there are meant to allow him to reach happiness, the supreme good. His soul, which is spiritual and immortal, is forming together with his body a natural unity and the soul too allow to reach happiness. As the oral Law of rabbis is from divin origin, as much as Torah, nor it nor the Talmud can be contradicting reason, a sort of point where they meet. Saadia already had published a parallel between the Ten Commandments and Aristotle's Ten categories. For him, reason must allow to true religion. Philosophy moreover is not bringing to skepticism as soon as it is guided through faith and it does not come like a unuseful duplication to Revelation as that somehow prepared the journey of reason. Saadia defended Judaism against skeptics which Karaism had generated and against Muslims and Christians. He nevertheless kept a gaon, the one of the School of Gora, and as such he kept responding to questions sent by Jewish communities. Decline of the Arab Caliphate, on a other hand, also allowed a brief rebirth of Palestinian Jews as the handover of Jewish civilization then passed into Muslim Spain. Rulers' tolerance there, and a high degree of civilization were to bring the apparition of Jewish philosophy. Jews were there to endure a Golden Age!

Jewish Golden Age in Muslim Spain

Exilarchate disappeared in Babylonia about 940 A.D. following a increase of Muslim crowd's intolerance and amidst the decline of the Arab Caliphate. That disappearance few preceded the one of the Schools of Sora and Pumbadita. Saadia had been the last representative of Eastern Judaism. The School of Sora disappeared due to clans's struggle by about 948 A.D. as the School of Pumbadita by about 965. Judaism at the time left Babylonia. Four exiles from Sora had been made prisoners off Italian coasts by a Hispano-Moorish and sent, few before that end, in Egypt, Africa, Spain and France. As they settled there, they rendered Jewish communities independent from the East. As Spain, at the time, was the only one to be politically and intellectually developed, it was there that Judaism's Golden Age took place. Europe then had gotten distant from the Carolingian Renaissance, Egypte was a wheat producer only as Kairouan was weakening under the rule of the intolerant Fatimids. Despite the chaotic maintenance of their activity in both Babylonian schools until about 1040 A.D., intellectual Jewish life passed then into Spain. By the 9th and 10th centuries A.D. rabbis, in Spain, discovered Greek works through their Arabic translations and a true Jewish philosophy appeared. It is certain that such a endeavour was influenced through 'kâlam,' the Muslim theologians' reasoning method, by which they were making the synthesis between Greeks and Islam, and bringing a rational justification of the latter. The first halve of the 10th century was then, with the passage of the Jewish world from Babylonia into Spain, to mark the beginning of the Jewish thought Golden Age's three centuries. That Golden Age, on a other hand, broke with the Talmudist epoch as it was rationalist and scientific. Spanish ruler Abderraman III, like other Spanish Caliphs, was a friend to arts and especially poetry. He had made the Spanish Peninsula a brilliant intellectual center. At the opposite of Mozarabs, who lost their faith in the process of participating into that move, Jews benefitted from that tolerance keeping attached to Judaism. During 5 centuries, Spain, after Babylonia, became the center to Judaism, the land to the Hispano-Jew, and even Jewish-European civilisation. The merit of that has to be attributed to Abou Yossuf Hasdai ben Isaac ibn Schaprut (ab. 915-ab. 970 A.D.). A son to a Spanish Jewish merchant, who was liberal and patron of science, he gave Judaism it Western character. He became the Caliph's translator and was often entrusted relations with the Spanish Northern Christian kingdoms or Byzantium, or the Ottonians in Germany. As the Caliph still was hesitating to entrust important offices to Jews, his successors did not. Hasdai also swiftly imposed himself like the international point of reference to Jewish communities. He then served al-Hakim, the Caliph's successor, and gathered Jewish scholars around himself. Grammar, poetry, study of Talmud developed as Mishna was translated into Arabic. Moshe ben Hanok, a exile from the School of Sora, was the first director of the Talmudic School of Cordoba. From Spain and Africa first, questions were plentiful as sent by Jewish communities, like they had done to the schools of Babylonia. Several thousand wealthy Jews were dwelling in Cordoba as their wealth was originating from the slave trade by the Rhadanites. After that that policy of favor towards scientists kept on and they were appointed to the highest dignities -a practice which also developed from the part of Christian rulers. Spanish Jews had gotten distant both from over-religious and mystic and they eventually reached to the confines of unbelief. Cordoba, Lucena, Granada had taken Sora and Pumbadita's place and they were shining over Europe and world's Jewish communities. Linguistic studies of Hebrew were keeping. As Germany had maintained a certain intellectual independence and links with the ultimate activities of Babylonia's schools, persecutions developed in Europe and the Fatimids-ruled lands since 1000 A.D. as the Umayyad Spanish Caliphate had entered decline. So it was during the first halve of the 11 century A.D. that the Jewish civilization in Spain was to reach its apogee. Works at the time eclipsed all what had preceded and philosophy allowed to independence. Even the Talmudic teaching gave itself a methodology. Amidst troubles between diverse Arab pretenders and the creation of small-sized Arab states, Andalusia looked like a 'Jewish state.' It eventually was Salomon ibn Gabirol who was the first great Spanish Jewish philosopher. With its Mekor Hayim, he reflected about relations between YHWH and the world. Philo, before, had searched to solve that question through the Logos, which had brought to the 'emanation' theory among Neo-Platonicists. Gabirol moved away from those as the concept of Divine Will is mediating between God and 'emanations'. The world is not a mechanical and necessary consequence of YHWH anymore as matter, which is considered of a spiritual, and not corporal, nature is one of the first emanation as its materiality is just a accessory feature. As seen from Christian Europe, Gabirol was Avicebron as, in that case too, the translation into the 'Fons Vitae' of Gabirol's work was to reach its largest repercussions upon Christian scholars. Among Jews, Gabirol opened, in the 13th century A.D., on the Kabbale. His religious poems however had been introduced into Kippur's liturgy and they had indeed deeply penetrated Jewish thought. During that time which was called the 'first rabbinic period,' Jews changed residence and their area of influence function of Arabe states' hazards. By 1070 A.D., anti-Jewish persecutions also reached Spain as Berbers were less fanatical than Arabs

Towards Contemporary World

Kabbale was a move which began existing mostly since the 13th century A.D. as it was esotericism, mysticism and symbolism. 'YHWH is Torah's text,' they said. A first Kabbalistic book looks like it existed as soon as the Talmud's era, between 600 and 800 A.D. but source are not numerous. Shimon bar Yohai was a Kabbalist of Carolingian times. After the Middle Ages, Jews, as expelled from Spain, settled among the Ottomans, in the Netherlands and North Africa. By the 17th and 18th centuries, some Jews -which are termed 'Port Jews' participated into naval merchantilism of the European kingdoms where they had took refuge, like in Amsterdam, London, Trieste, or Hamburg. That constituted the first evolution of Jews towards modernity as they took a distance with religion but they claim they cosmopolitism however. Jews at the time also were monopolizing trade, diplomacy and court offices but that did not prevent periodic persecutions nevertheless. In Poland, which was the main refuge-state for Jews, persecutions eventually led numerous Jews to migrate further West. Then came the Age of Enlightenment. Among Jews the move took the shape of 'Haskalah,' which originated in Germany, which was a claim to freedom and integration, the right to teach lay science and science, a interest to Jewish identity and a opposition to Merchantilism's Jews. The Haskalah merged into Enlightenment, the concept of nation and the one of equality like worded by the first secularism. Halakah however was opposed by the Hassidic Judaism, which was a mystical approach to religion and a democratism, which made lively devotional piety of the people equal to elites. Then, Orthodox Judaism maintained itself also, which kept respectful of Talmud and its ensuing laws. Haskalah, Hassidism and Orthodoxy were the three main currents which defined the contemporary history of Judaism. Due to English industrialism, it was the Haskalah which turned predominant. The former concept of Jewish nation disappeared and Jews turned then 'Israelits.' The Mitnagdim move of Eastern Europe opposed to that rally of Jews to Enlightenment and, at the same time, 'moderates' looked for a way of compromise. There is to be found, along with Haskalah, Hassidism and Orthodoxy the basis to current divisions of Judaism. Integration turned the main party during the 19th century as it however eventually brought a new form of antisemitism, a scientific one based upon the ideas of races and nations as the most famous expression of it was found with the French Dreyfus Affair. That new antisemitism in turn gave birth to 'Zionism,' that idea according to which Enlightenment Jews were not to get a protection against modern antisemitism but with a nation of their own. That epoch was also to a strong emigration in the U.S.A from Eastern Europe and Russia. European Jews then were parted into a intellectual elite, or the Russian Bolshevism. That troubled era of the history of Europe -which indeed is the end of the English capitalism's rule- eventually brought the Holocaust of European Jews, which itself accentuated the idea of a necessary Jewish state. Settlement in Israel, that new Jewish nation, which began in the 19th century, looked like it could come about in 1918 as England had taken Palestine from the Turks and they promised it to Jews through the Balfour Declaration. 'Assimilated' Jews however and Orthodox rabbis opposed to that project and competing projects existed like a 'New Israel' in North America or the ones of the Socialist Revolutionnary Jews. Arabs opposed to immigration into Palestine and England did not look to do much to prevent that. Jews had then to organize their defense by themselves as English were at the origin of the bi-national state concept, or a Arab state with a Jewish minority. By 1945, with Rooseveltian U.S.A. and Soviet Russians both the winners of the war atop the debris of the English era, the state of Israel is created among diverging opinions among Jews themselves as it was U.N.O. eventually which parted Palestine in 1948, between a Arab, a Jewish state, respectively and Jerusalem. In nowadays Israel, Jewish Orthodoxy has been added with varied parties, like Hassidim, religious Zionists, U.S. 'modern-Orthodox' (which are Haredim in Israel). Liberal Jews do not grant any major importance to Torah nor the Talmudic tradition. The 'Reformed Judaism,' which is mostly present in the U.S.A. is centered upon rabbis as it however questions the divine character of Torah and allows personal choices. 'Conservatice Judaism,' at last, or 'massorti,' which features both conservative and liberal trends, is also found mostly in the U.S.A. and is strongly opposing to the previous and rejects Orthodoxy by the same time and authorized itself to go back to old Talmudic decisions which are fit to current morals. Jewish Enlightenment -the Haskalah- generally was at the origin of Zionism and both the Reformed and Conservatice Judaism. Hassidism nowadays is encompassing ultra-Orthodox, Lituanian tradition and Eastern Sepharad tradition. Israeli life nowadays mostly is based upon the antagonism between secular and religious Jews. Secular Jews are of Western origin and a form of loosely attached to Jewish religious practice. The fact they belong to Judaism however is a important factor in their life. Leftist parties in Israel are most non-religious. Religions Jews, on the other hand, represent a small fraction of rightist parties. They are of a Mediterranean, Middle-eastern or Central Asiatic origin and they are more traditionals. Advanced Orthodox religion-practising Jews are religious Zionists and 'haredi,' which are religious nationalists both Lituanian Ashkenaz and, mostly Sepharad. Among Jews of the Diaspora, there is a coexistence between the Reformed Judaism, the Orthodox Judaism in Europe, and the Conservative Judaism in the U.S.A.

Website Manager: G. Guichard, site Learning and Knowledge In the Carolingian Times / Erudition et savoir à l'époque carolingienne, Page Editor: G. Guichard. last edited: 1/28/2013. contact us at
Free Web Hosting