Rabbi Solomon ben Abraham ibn Adret (1235-1310) was the Rabbi of Barcelona and the acknowledged spiritual leader of his generation. In this virtually unknown polemic work, he defends Judaism against the onslaught of Muslim theologian and critic Muhammad ibn Hazm (994-1064).
The text is based on a unique manuscript once housed in the Breslau Rabbinical Seminary. Researcher Bezalel Naor has relied on the transcription of one of the first graduates of the seminary, Joseph Perles, appended to Perles’ German monograph R. Salomo b. Abraham b. Adereth: Seine Leben und seine Schriften (Breslau, 1863). Naor’s lengthy introduction proves beyond a shadow of a doubt the attribution of the work to Rashba. In addition, the editor has included substantial footnotes and excursuses. The topic could not be more timely, as Judaism once again finds itself called upon to rise to the defense against the charges of Islamic triumphalists.
The volume includes a second original work by Bezalel Naor, Mitsvat Hashem Barah: An Elucidation of the Seven Noahide Commandments. The fascinating material is formatted both according to the order of Maimonides’ Hilkhot Melakhim and the order of the weekly Torah portion. (220 pp.)
Contained in the volume is a facsimile of a formal Haskamah (Approbation) from the late Talner Rebbe of Boston, Professor Isadore Twersy zt”l to Naor’s critical edition of Hassagot ha-Rabad le-Mishneh Torah (Jerusalem, 1984).
In the Desert–a Vision (Midbar Shur) is Rav Kook’s own record of his derashot or talks over a span of two years, 1894-1896. This book, which should have been the author’s literary debut, is the last of his works to appear in print. The reason for the delay, is that the manuscript disappeared in mysterious circumstances. The book may have arrived a century late; its message is uncannily timely. Beside their visionary quality, Rabbi Kook’s talks are remarkable for their encyclopedic knowledge. A typical derasha will start with a verse in the Torah or passage in the Midrash. From there, Rabbi Kook will weave a rich tapestry encompassing the breadth of Jewish literature: Bible, Talmud, philosophy, and Kabbalah.
The discipline of Kabbalah is generally subdivided into kabbalah ma’asit, practical or applied kabbalah, and kabbalah ‘iyyunit, theoretical kabbalah. In the popular imagination, the kabbalist is a practitioner of the magical arts. However, there is another sort of kabbalist whose way of relating to and interpreting the world is based on a profound system of thought.
Such a comprehensive, all-encompassing thought evidences itself in the spiritual diaries of Rabbi Abraham Isaac Hakohen Kook (1865-1935). Gershom Scholem, Professor of Jewish Mysticism at Hebrew University, Jerusalem, wrote: “Rabbi Kook’s great work… is a veritable theologia mystica of Judaism equally distinguished by its originality and the richness of its author’s mind. It is the last example of productive kabbalistic thought of which I know.”