IMC 2008: Sessions

Session 1005: The Unnatural Jew, I: Nature, Law, and Philosophy

Wednesday 9 July 2008, 09.00-10.30

Moderator/Chair:Simha Goldin, Goldstein-Goren Diaspora Research Center, Tel Aviv University
Paper 1005-aNature, God, and the Law: The Jewish Medieval Scholar's Concept of Nature
(Language: English)
Joseph Isaac Lifshitz, Goldstein-Goren Diaspora Research Center, Tel Aviv University / Shalem Center, Jerusalem
Index terms: Philosophy, Theology
Paper 1005-bThe Natural World as a Moral Field in Rashi's Commentary on Pentateuch
(Language: English)
Ari Geiger, Department of History, Bar-Ilan University, Ramat Gan
Index terms: Biblical Studies, Hebrew and Jewish Studies, Theology

Paper -a:
Already in the Talmud, nature is a Godly value. God as a creator described the world a good world, and ordered the people to preserve it, and many of the laws are an expression of this order. Since obedience of law is identification with God, it has to go along, with the world and not against it. These theological values of nature have legal ramifications in the Talmud. Yet the law has an independent value. The question of the preference of nature over law was raised by Jewish medieval scholars thought and the paper will examine two approaches that answered this question.
Paper -b:
R. Solomon son of Isaac (=Rashi; France, 1041-c. 1105) is considered the most important among the Jewish commentators of the Bible. This paper will discuss Rashi’s view of the natural world as subordinated to moral rules. In Rashi’s interpretations, dogs, rivers, or the earth deserve reward for their good deeds, rocks can be of a good example for human beings and birds are charitable to their companions. This is a unique kind of humanization that greatly minimizes the fundamental dichotomy between human beings and the natural world, according to which the universe was perceived by most of the medieval world.