Page 63 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 17 (1958-1959)

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F
e f f e r
— J
udah
A
barban el
57
universe is bound together by love. Th e love of the spirits for
what is beneath them is necessary to effect God’s plan of the
universe, and is therefore a means to win His love.
In the final dialogue, Abarbanel describes the nature of divine
love: God’s love is cosmic; it permeates the entire universe; it
constitutes the source of the vigor of all natural forces; it is the
wellspring of truth and beauty. Beauty is a particular grace which
brings pleasure to the mind capable of perception and moves it
to love and to knowledge of God, which is the highest form of
knowledge. The aim of this knowledge is man’s union with God.
Through the intellectual love of God the soul returns to Him
and the cosmos becomes one with Him.
“God’s love must needs unfold His perfection and beauty and
reveal itself in His creatures, and love for these creatures must again
elevate an imperfect world to His own perfection. Thus is engendered
in man that yearning for love with which he endeavors to emulate
divine perfection.”
The Influence of Dialogues About Love
The
Dialoghi d’Amore,
with its concept of love as the guiding
principle of the universe and with its ornate, baroque embellish­
ments of mythology, history, medicine, metaphysics, Biblical
lore, philosophy and the pseudo-science of Renaissance Italy,
caught Europe by storm. Its nobility of spirit and imaginative­
ness of expression, its youthfulness and innocence, appealed to
scholar and to aesthete alike. It breathed a new soul into the
body of medieval philosophy; it substituted for its stilted
sobriety an exciting and ennobling
Weltanschauung
based upon
the human senses. The
Dialoghi
therefore exerted a powerful
influence. In the twenty years after its appearance it went
through at least five editions in Italian, was translated several
times into French and Spanish, and appeared later in Latin and
Hebrew versions. I t was known to Camoens and Montaigne, was
cited repeatedly by Burton and Castiglione, and influenced
Giordano Bruno and Lord Bacon. Baruch Spinoza owned a copy
of the Spanish edition of the
Dialoghi
and probably derived from
it his doctrine of the Intellectual Love of God.
Judaism, however, did not accept the book. It was praised by
the elder Abarbanel, whose views on creation, the soul and the
soul’s union with God are very like those of his son. One can find
similarities between Judah Abarbanel’s concept of divine love
and Hasdai Crescas’ belief that the ultimate purpose of human
life is the love of God. There is no doubt whatsoever that the
core of Judah’s philosophy is based upon Jewish sources, both
Biblical and Talmudic, and that the book breathes a deep love
for Judaism. Jewish philosophy has recoiled, however, from its
peculiar system of cosmic cohesiveness, its acceptance of Greek