Abstract

The paper begins with a discussion of S. D. Goitein’s assessment of Abraham Maimonides’ place in history (“a perfect man with a tragic fate”). His revolutionary program for revitalizing Judaism in the spirit of Sufism failed to be realized not only because he was overshadowed by his father but because of the time and energy he spent on leadership, presumably undertaken to preserve his father’s heritage. Contrariwise, we present and discuss (1) Abraham Maimonides’ response to criticism that he had neglected the responsibilities of community leader in favor of promoting his religious program and his testimony on (2) the successes of his leadership—especially abolishing deviant Palestinian prayer-rites in Fustat, Egypt, and introducing new (“re-creating forgotten”) modes of worship—and (3) his personal shortcomings in piety. The key to this perspective is found in three passages in his writings, two of which were recently discussed in this journal by Elisha Russ-Fishbane in a different context. These passages had not been available to Goitein because of the state of research at the time. In the process of discussing their relevance to our investigation, certain elusive expressions in the Judeo-Arabic texts are explained and the history of research clarified. After taking note of an additional aberrant practice—an “abominable” wedding custom—abolished by the Nagid, the paper concludes with a summary of the distinction between the historian’s assessment of Abraham Maimonides’ leadership and failed mission and his self-proclaimed perception of these matters.

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Additional Information

ISSN
1553-0604
Print ISSN
0021-6682
Pages
pp. 495-512
Launched on MUSE
2014-07-28
Open Access
No
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