Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Meiri Redux

Edah recently teamed up with Ne'emane Torah va'Avodah for a series of mini-conferences on issues of concern to the Modern Orthodox community. I wasn't able to attend any of these, but according to Chakira, one session centered on the attitude of Jewish Law to Non-Jews. Predictably, the hero of the evening was the fourteenth century Provencal Halakhist, R. Menahem HaMeiri, who did take long strides toward viewing trinitarian Christianity as a non-idolatrous religion. From Chakira's report, however, it appears that Meiri's ideas were often harnassed to fit pre-existing ideological positions.

This is not the place to discuss Meiri in full. However, his ideas are important enough (and distorted enough) that before invoking them, people should at least read the discussions by Jacob Katz, Ya'aqov Blidstein and Moshe Halbertal (among others).

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

"trinitarian Christianity as a non-idolatrous religion"

I am only asking out of curiosity, as I am neither a christian, nor a jew. simply a curious mind..

what do you think? how can christinity not be idolatrous according to judaism? I am not even talking about catholicism with their crucifixes and virgin mary statues.

I also want to say that I think this was a very beautiful post. I read it, and I read the links. It brought back memories, and I really enjoyed it.

Hatshepsut-

Jeffrey said...

Somewhere in the twelfth to fourteenth century, Jews began to become more aware of the fact that while Trinitarian Monotheism apperars to be an oxymoron, Christians really did believe themselves to be monotheists. This led to a legal distinction wherein Trinitarian Monotheism is deemed to be compatible with the requirements of the Noachide Laws, but not when it comes to the Jewish requirement to believe in One God.
Help?

Gil Student said...

Post-Reformation, and particularly today when everyone creates their own religious beliefs based on what feels good to them (including many, many Catholics), I don't think the term "Christian" has much significance in this respect. It is much too broad. There are clearly some Christians who are blatant idolaters in every sense of the term and there are some who are so close to atheism that they are clearly not idolaters. In between is a whole spectrum of gray area.

An additional piece of information, I don't think that many Catholics have a clue what the official Church teaching on the trinity is.

What this does to pesak halakhah, I'm not sure. It certainly makes it more complex. It seems to me that those who just repeat the mantra "Meiri. Meiri. Meiri." are missing the big picture on this serious halakhic matter.

Anonymous said...

"This led to a legal distinction wherein Trinitarian Monotheism is deemed to be compatible with the requirements of the Noachide Laws, but not when it comes to the Jewish requirement to believe in One God.
Help?"

Well not really. The Noachide Laws forbid "worshipping false Gods". Since Christians believe Jesus to be "god", I don't see how this can work out, and it appears to me like you're cutting people slack "because they're not jews". Lets face it, a false god is a false god...
Well of course that's just how I see it :p
I know you're the expert, but can you honestly say I'm not making sense?

Hatshepsut-

Anonymous said...

Read Katz, Blidstein, and Halbertal? How about reading the Meiri!

By the way, you really should use spellchecker. Ignoramouses? Build a better ignoramousetrap! Besides, the correct plural is ignoramice.

Anonymous said...

Take a chill pill.
Speaking of spellcheck... it's ignoramuses, since the singular form is ignoramus. I hope for your own sake you're not a native English speaker, since you're being corrected by an Icelander like myself ;)

Hatshepsut-

Jeffrey said...

1) The problem is my typing, not my spelling.

2) The comment about reading Meiri is gratuitous. Of course you should read the sources. These writers collate and examine the sources differently and provide the required Maimonidean background for understanding them.

3) Simcha's comment is well taken, though most Christians still believe in the Trinity in some form. Idolatry is really the wrong word to use. Polytheism is better. Jews could never accept the idea of 3=1 (it's also bad math). The shift came when Halakhists began looking at the way the Christians themselves defined their belief. That was also a shift in the understanding of the terms of the Noachide Laws, as per Hatshepsut's point (also well taken). That leaves Hinduism etc which is pantheistic and, IMHO, 'fotreign worship' by every standard.