The question of the relation between ritualistic commandments and ethics is one of the major questions of religious philosophy in general, and Jewish thought in particular. One of the major problems with existing academic research on this subject is that these analyses cover very few thinkers. The aim of this article is to analyze the approach to this subject of the important but oft-ignored Jewish neo-Platonic philosopher Rabbi Abraham bar Hiyya (Catalonia, d. 1136). The main challenge to understanding R. Bar Hiyya’s opinion on ethics is his use of two very different moral viewpoints, for in some passages in his writings he sounds like a universalist, explaining in purely philosophical terms the aim of leading a moral life, while in other passages he asserts that the capacity for moral living exists only for Jews. To address this challenge, the first part of the article compares and contrasts the two types of passages, while the second part shows how R. Bar Hiyya himself resolves the seeming contradiction between these two conflicting viewpoints. It evolves that R. Bar Hiyya absolutely accepts that people of all nations can use their intellect to see the true moral life. However, according to our author, only Jews have free will, due to the positive influence of the Torah. Lacking the light of the Torah, the intellectual part of the gentiles’ soul is rendered subservient to the animal part. Only the giving of the Torah at Sinai makes the Jews free, whence the dichotomy between Jew and Gentile: Non-Jewish philosophers can have correct knowledge regarding morality and ethics, however, in practice, they and their followers cannot live ethically because of their not being truly free.
|Translated title of the contribution||Natural Law and the Election of Israel in the Thought of Rabbi Abraham Bar Hiyya|
|Number of pages||13|
|Journal||דעת: כתב-עת לפילוסופיה יהודית וקבלה|
|State||Published - 2018|