Rabbi Solomon ibn Adret and His Responses to the Pugio Fidei
There is an obvious asymmetry in our discussion of the Jewish responses to the Pugio Fidei. With regard to the exchange between Friar Paul Christian and his Jewish contemporaries, we are poorly informed about the views of the former—since we do not possess anything directly from his pen—and rather well informed about the position of the latter. For the next stage in the new missionizing argumentation, the situation is reversed. On the Christian side, Friar Raymond Martin has left us the voluminous Pugio Fidei; we have nothing comparable for the Jewish response.
We have already explained this asymmetry on the Christian side by noting that Friar Paul was seemingly only a moderately learned former Jew whose contribution to the new argumentation was its initiation, not its refinement; Friar Raymond was the professional missionizer who brought the new approach to its fullest development. On the Jewish side, the disparity is more complex. In part, it flows from the nature of the changes introduced in the new missionizing argumentation by Friar Raymond. In the face of the challenge mounted by Friar Paul, Rabbi Moses ben Nahman and Rabbi Mordechai ben Joseph effectively set the course for Jewish responses to the innovative claims. To be sure, Friar Raymond improved the argumentation substantially. This refinement, however, necessitated no major realignment of Jewish responses. New texts had to be dealt with, but no new tactics had to be created. The disparity flows also from the external circumstances forced on the Jews by the Dominican instigators of the new missionizing thrusts. Friar Paul's efforts had culminated in the public disputation at Barcelona, out of which had emerged the counterargumentation of Rabbi Moses and the formulation of this counterargumentation in his path-breaking and widely diffused report on
the confrontation. Friar Raymond, while he did apparently discuss these issues publicly, engineered no such precedent-setting public spectacle. In his case, the new argumentation no longer required public testing; his enterprise was, after all, based on the positive and negative results of the Barcelona disputation. The lack of dramatic confrontation means, for us, the lack also of dramatic records of Jewish response, thereby depriving us of some of the fullness of the information available for the first stage in Jewish response to the new missionizing argumentation.
Our best—indeed, our only—evidence for Jewish awareness of and response to the refined argumentation of Friar Raymond Martin is found in the writings of his contemporary, the distinguished rabbi of Barcelona, Rabbi Solomon ibn Adret. It must be emphasized at the outset that nowhere in the writings of this major Jewish scholar and communal leader do we encounter a well-organized, full-scale rebuttal of the extensive case made by Friar Raymond. What we do find are hints of the new missionizing tactics and projected Jewish responses. The fragmentary nature of the evidence makes this part of our analysis necessarily less satisfying than the study of Friar Raymond's magnum opus. Nonetheless we shall use the writings of Rabbi Solomon to track Jewish awareness of the more sophisticated Christian case and to discern some of the lines of Jewish response.
Rabbi Solomon ibn Adret (often designated by his acronym as the Rashba), like Rabbi Moses ben Nahman, was a man of distinguished deed and reputation in mid-thirteenth-century Iberian Jewry and a figure of consequence in subsequent Jewish intellectual history. He was born in the early 1230s, scion of an aristocratic and learned Jewish family of Barcelona. By the 1260s, he was already a respected political and intellectual leader in his native community. To be sure, he deferred to—or perhaps was passed up in favor of—his older colleague, Rabbi Moses, in 1263. But this implies no serious reservations about his leadership capacity or intellectual ability. For the rest of his life, Rabbi Solomon served the Jewish community of Barcelona, teaching, affording religious guidance, bearing the burden of communal affairs. While his intellectual legacy resides primarily in his rabbinic writings, which have been highly prized by subsequent generations of Jewish scholars, he was no stranger to the broader currents circulating in his community during his lifetime. At the beginning of the fourteenth century, when Rabbi Solomon was already in his seventies, he was a major figure in the resurgence of concern with the
writings of Maimonides. Interestingly, he steered a course, at that juncture, much like that first proposed by Nahmanides back in the 1230s, a course of essentially traditionalist moderation. Given the stature of Rabbi Solomon, his involvement in so many facets of the life of his generation, and the centrality of the community he led, it is not surprising to find him both aware of and concerned with the new missionizing.
The issue of contact between Friar Raymond Martin and his contemporary, Rabbi Solomon of Barcelona, has been raised anew by Jeremy Cohen, who has drawn attention to an interesting passage in Raymond Lull's Liber de acquisitione Terrae Sanctae. This passage speaks of a preacher who knew Arabic and had attempted unsuccessfully to convert the King of Tunis. Subsequently, according to Lull, this same preacher learned Hebrew and disputed frequently with a distinguished rabbi in Barcelona. Cohen's careful analysis of the passage suggests that the Christian preacher was Friar Raymond Martin and that the rabbi in question was Rabbi Solomon ibn Adret. Noting the parallels between the arguments in the Pugio Fidei and in ibn Adret's Perushei Aggadot, Cohen asserts convincingly that there was indeed contact between these two important figures, including face-to-face discussion of the new missionizing argumentation. For our purposes, this would indicate Rabbi Solomon's firsthand awareness of some of the lines of argumentation developed in the Pugio Fidei and his active effort to respond to these claims.
Having said this, we must, at the same time, refrain from seeking one-to-one correspondences between the Christian arguments presented in the Pugio Fidei and reflected in the writings of the Rashba. In the earlier discussion of the Pugio Fidei, I have already suggested that the compendium was quite clearly not meant for a Jewish reading audience. Intended for a leadership of missionizing preachers, it was unlikely to have been seen directly by Rabbi Solomon. Rabbi Solomon's awareness of its arguments would only have come from the kind of face-to-face encounter depicted by Raymond Lull or by reports reaching him of the new missionizing claims. Thus, a number of caveats with regard to the argumentation in the Pugio Fidei and its relationship to that reflected in the writings of Rabbi Solomon are suggested. (1) There is no guarantee that only the arguments of Friar Raymond will be reflected in the work of Rabbi Solomon. Other thrusts current in proselytizing circles may make their appearance as well. (2) There can likewise be no assurance of faithful Jewish perception of the
claims made by Friar Raymond. Face-to-face encounters—and secondhand reports of such encounters—can involve substantial distortion. (3) We cannot be certain that, even when the argumentation is that of Friar Raymond and even when the reportage is accurate, the claims are those of the Pugio Fidei. There is no reason that the Rashba may not have included in his writings materials that reflect a prepublication or a postpublication stage of the Pugio. Having said all this, it is nonetheless clear that the most interesting Christian argumentation depicted by the rabbi of Barcelona is broadly that which we have already discussed in chapter 7.
Among the writings of Rabbi Solomon ibn Adret, the major source for the new Christian missionizing and lines of Jewish response is his Perushei Aggadot, a literary dialogue in which the Christian arguments are presented and rebutted. This work again represents only piecemeal response to the new missionizing and lacks entirely the grand design of the Pugio Fidei. It begins with an unusual introductory statement, which reveals something of the general spiritual environment of the mid-thirteenth century, of Rabbi Solomon's perceptions of the essential issues at stake, and of his sense of the new Christian thrusts. It is significant that Rabbi Solomon defines his task in the following terms:
I have set myself to gather into a composition a few items in order to strengthen the hand of our associates [the Jews] and so that they understand the meaning of those things that are expressed in some of the aggadot that are found in our Talmud and in the midrashim in our possession.
The impact of the new missionizing argumentation on this statement of intent is obvious. Jewish polemicists of previous generations never defined their objectives in these terms. Rabbi Solomon is keenly aware of the new use of rabbinic material and committed to combating Christological readings of rabbinic texts.
Rabbi Solomon makes some interesting general observations on religious faith.
At the outset let me append an introduction, regarding understanding of the truth in its fullness. Peoples and cultures are divided into two groups with regard to religious faith.
One of these groups denies all scriptures. This is the group that includes some of those who philosophize, who announce with their nugatory views that there is nothing that stands beyond human inquiry. They
add to this that they believe that anything which human inquiry cannot fathom cannot exist. Therefore they deny that part of religion that has been transmitted to mankind through the prophets, which they [the prophets] received from the mouth of the Lord, may he be blessed, so that they might command all of mankind or one of the nations. They [the philosophers] deny all the signs and wonders that are written down in the books of religious faith, all that are considered to be in opposition to nature. These people have no religious faith, only customs which men have instituted for societal purposes and to smooth the patterns of human behavior one with another. With this group we have no dialogue regarding exegesis of the Scriptures and their meaning. . . .
The second group all acknowledge religious faith as given from the mouth of the Lord, may he be blessed, through his prophet. This group includes the three peoples known to us, i.e., the Jews, the Muslims, and the Christians, and perhaps more. Indeed these three acknowledge the religious faith of Moses our teacher, may he rest in peace, and all acknowledge that Moses represents the truth and his Torah is truth. None of them will deny this. However, one people among them divides the commandments into three categories. One category they establish as potential parables and metaphors, as in the case of the prohibition of plowing with an ox and an ass and the prohibition of eating animals which do not chew their cud and some similar commandments of the Torah. They remove them [these commandments] from their simple sense and clothe them with distorted allegorical meanings. The second category [of commandments] they preserve in their simple sense, but they set for them a prescribed time period, as in the case of the sacrifices and other similar commandments of the Torah. They announce with regard to these [commandments] that they are external forms intended to hint at the future. Thus, when the proper time arrives, the hinted-at truth is revealed and the allegorical form is annulled. This category differs from the first category in that this category was carried out literally for a time. The third category they leave without a fixed time but nonetheless introduce change, such as the sabbath, circumcision, priestly garb, and so forth. Another group takes all [the commandments] literally but establishes a set time, which involves the will of the Creator, may he be blessed—when he wishes to alter religious faith completely or in part through a prophet.
We the congregation of Israel take all the commandments in their literal sense, not as an allegory or a puzzle or for a limited time. Rather the commandments in their totality are eternal, as the days of the heavens above the earth, except for those which were commanded for a given time or for a given place or for a given circumstance.
I have quoted this passage at some length because it is useful from a number of perspectives. First, it places Rabbi Solomon very much in the mid-thirteenth century. His concern to define categories and sub-
categories of faith and to indicate the grounds of argumentation that might be utilized with the various groups is reminiscent of many other thinkers of the period. Second, it shows familiarity with some of the views of the commandments expressed in Friar Raymond's Pugio Fidei. To be sure, there is not a perfect correspondence between the friar's five categories of law and the rabbi's three, but there is considerable overlap. Since it is likely that the Rashba never saw the Pugio Fidei but rather heard the views expressed therein from Friar Raymond or others, the lack of accurate correspondence should not be a surprise. Finally, and most important, Rabbi Solomon's statement represents an independent and proactive Jewish stance, rather than a reactive one. Whereas Rabbi Moses ben Nahman was, as we have seen, responding to an agenda that was structured by the Christian side, an agenda that stressed the issue of the Messiah, Rabbi Solomon's freestanding statement, like that of Rabbi Mordechai, gives us a far more accurate view of internal Jewish thinking. It is of great significance that Rabbi Solomon chooses to establish his categories on the basis of religious law. From the Jewish perspective, this issue—rather than the issue of the Messiah—occupied center stage in religious thinking and religious debate. Having said this, it should be recalled that both Friar Paul and Friar Raymond were quite sensitive to the centrality of religious law in Jewish thinking. While each began his case with the issue of the Messiah, they both understood that the matter of Jewish law had to be addressed. Friar Paul intended to treat this issue at Barcelona; he failed to do so there but clearly did deal with it in his subsequent preaching. Friar Raymond, as we have seen, accorded serious consideration to this matter in his treatise. It is useful to have this independent source show us how deeply the Jews themselves perceived the heart of the struggle as the issue of religious law.
Despite Rabbi Solomon's sense of the centrality of Jewish law in Christian-Jewish debate, let us begin our considerations with the issue that had been accorded preeminence by the Christian side both at Barcelona and in the Pugio Fidei, namely, the advent of the Messiah. Discussion of this issue is found both in the Perushei Aggadot of the Rashba and in an interesting responsum that he wrote. The latter of these two sources, addressed to the Jewish community of Lerida, seems to reflect actual face-to-face confrontations both in the community of Lerida and in the Rashba's home community of Barcelona.
[This responsum is intended] to teach the Jews to respond to others truthfully and properly. It has seemed proper to me to set before you [these
matters] in writing. For a respected figure who has visited you recently told me that one of the sages of the gentiles spoke within [your] community on a day of assembly and filled [your] ears with his words. You asked that I provide you a response to his words. Therefore I have seen fit to write down that which one of their sages disputed with me with regard to these same issues and indeed [with regard to] more than you heard. . . . I shall set down for you briefly the essence of what our opponent said and the essence of [my] reply.
Let us attend briefly to the opening section of this exchange. Not surprisingly, it revolves about Genesis 49:10, which played such a central role in Barcelona and in the Pugio Fidei. The opening statement attributed to the Christian preacher is a simple one, arguing merely that the verse indicates that "the scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor the ruler's staff from between his feet, until Shiloh comes." The term Shiloh, he continues, means Messiah, as indicated in the Targum. Since the staff has already departed, then the obvious inference must be that the Messiah has already come. This is clearly reminiscent of Friar Paul's opening ploy, with the additional reference to the Targum, which reminds us of the general procedure of Friar Raymond in the Pugio Fidei.
The Rashba's response is somewhat surprising. He breaks with the general pattern of explication of this key verse that we have encountered thus far and suggests that "the word 'ad does not indicate subsequent suspension of the [original] phenomenon. Rather sometimes it offers assurance of the eventuation of the [original] phenomenon and—all the more so—further continuation." This is an unusual proposal. Rabbi Solomon claims that the verse should not be read as though it predicts suspension of Jewish rule with the coming of the Messiah but rather that it promises continuation of such rule to the time of the Messiah and yet more certain prolongation of that rule after his advent. If this exegesis is accepted, then the current suspension of Jewish rule, whatever its significance might be, cannot imply that the Messiah has already come.
The next step in the rabbi's report is not clear. He has his adversary simply repeat the preceding Christian claim. One can only suggest some textual problem at this point or—more likely—a disjuncture in the text, with the rabbi describing a second encounter. Whatever the explanation of this strange Christian rejoinder, Rabbi Solomon responds to it in the same terms we have already encountered in Nahmanides, arguing that if suspension of Jewish rule indicates the
advent of the Messiah, then that advent must have taken place at the time of Babylonian exile, many centuries before Jesus. In reply, the Christian argues that "during that exile it [the scepter] did not depart, for there were courts that judged even capital cases." Again, there is here a hint of the more refined argumentation of Friar Raymond, although without the rigor we have encountered in the Pugio Fidei. Rabbi Solomon rejects this suggestion on two grounds. (1) "First because they did not judge capital cases in Babylonia. [Indeed they did] not [judge capital cases] even in Jerusalem forty years prior to the destruction [of the Second Temple]." The point is clear, although gratuitous introduction of the issue of capital cases in general is difficult to understand in the light of Friar Raymond's use of this material. (2) "Moreover Jacob said this to Judah, but the courts were not [made up] of Judah—rather they were gathered from all of Israel." Thus, on both grounds, the Christian suggestion that the scepter was continued through the court system fails, according to the rabbi. At this point, the rabbi has his adversary ask him, "If this is the case, then in your view what is to be done with the prophecy of Jacob?" The Rashba's response is to present once more the exegesis we have noted above.
A few final observations on this material are in order. First, the passage is not very well organized into a coherent whole. Second, there are obvious reflections of the refined approach of Friar Raymond Martin, but there is hardly full awareness of the argumentation embodied in the Pugio. This may reflect either a failure to perceive fully the claims of the alleged Christian preacher or a stage in the development of this refined argumentation which preceded the Pugio. I see no way of deciding between these alternatives. Finally, one does not have the sense of a well-developed response on the part of the rabbi. His answers are to the point, but they do not constitute a full-blown response to the sophisticated argumentation of the Pugio.
A passage in the Perushei Aggadot deals with the same issues but seems to reflect a later stage in the development of the argumentation. In this text, the rabbi has his adversary, who may be fictional, suggest the following:
He [Jacob] said: "The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor the ruler's staff from between his feet, until Shiloh comes." This means the Messiah, as you yourselves say and as the Targum explained: "[until] the Messiah comes." Behold you have not had governing authority nor royal power for many years, from the days of the destruction of the Second Temple.
Indeed you have exercised no authority from then till now. Moreover, forty years prior to the destruction, the Sanhedrin was exiled from its place, as is indicated in the Talmud which you possess. This was a result of the sin which you sinned at that time, for it took place forty years prior to the destruction.
This is much closer to the formulation of the case presented in the Pugio, although even here the precision of Friar Raymond's argument is lacking.
Rabbi Solomon's response in the Perushei Aggadot moves along the same lines that we have already encountered in the second exchange in his responsum, arguing for a much earlier suspension of Jewish political authority subsequent to the exile into Babylonia. The point, while well taken, is highly traditional; it leads to a further set of thrusts and counterthrusts, broken off with the abrupt end of the text as we have it.
All told, the sections of Rabbi Solomon's writings that deal with the advent of the Messiah on the basis of Genesis 49:10 show some awareness of the newer argumentation of Friar Raymond, although not a full sense of this argumentation. The lines of response presented by Rabbi Solomon vary from the rather standard to the somewhat unusual, although, in general, the responses to this Christian thrust are not fully developed. It must be remembered, of course, that for Rabbi Solomon, this issue was not the decisive one. For him, religious law, that is, Jewish law in particular, was paramount.
The issue of Jewish law is raised by Rabbi Solomon a number of times and in a number of ways. Again, since the Perushei Aggadot cannot be taken as a direct response to the Pugio Fidei, but rather as a reaction to ideas in the air in Barcelona, the variety of Christian views should not be disconcerting. Let us examine some of the Christian claims advanced and the Jewish responses suggested by Rabbi Solomon.
The simplest Christian thrust has the Christian adversary in the dialogue asking in a most general way, "Of what concern is it to the Holy One, blessed be he, that we eat the [flesh of the] lamb and not eat the [flesh of the] pig or that we wear wool and linen separately but prohibit them together." Rabbi Solomon gives an equally general answer: "It is sufficient for us that he, may he be blessed, so commanded and that we have done his will, even though our intelligence does not comprehend his wisdom." Both the thrust and the parry are highly traditional and of little real interest.
While the Christian thrust is a simplistic one, the issue is clearly of such significance to the Rashba that he pursues a number of further rationales for the ritual laws. Three of these flow from important biblical verses. Let us note only the first.
Indeed [God], may his name be blessed, has already written in his unassailable Torah that these laws which he ordained for us are considered by those who acknowledge the truth as wisdom and discernment, for it is written: "Observe them [the laws and rules transmitted by Moses] faithfully, for that will be proof of your wisdom and discernment to other peoples, who on hearing of all these laws will say, 'Surely, that great nation is a wise and discerning people.' " Thus he said that by virtue of observance of the laws we are worthy of being designated wise and discerning. Indeed he went farther and said rak [translated above as "surely" but taken by Rabbi Solomon in a more basic sense as "only"] a wise and discerning people, to indicate that they will say that only we alone are a wise and discerning people among the nations. This [will be so concluded] through analogic reasoning. For all the commandments of the Torah whose basis we understand are truly built on truth, purity, righteousness, respect for forebears, avoidance of illicit gain, acknowledgment of God, may he be blessed, and such like. Likewise when we do what the nations cannot understand through intelligence, by analogy we shall be judged as showing unusual discernment. They [the nations] will say: "Any people whose deeds are upright and pure with all that we see of them and all that our intelligence grasps of their deeds, then in truth whatever they do must be of necessity and not frivolous. Thus, even though we do not grasp through our intelligence some of their deeds, such as the rejection of forbidden foods and of the donning of wool and linen jointly, this does not reflect the inadequacy of their knowledge, but rather the inadequacy of our intelligence and the superiority of their wisdom and discernment."
This is a rationale for Jewish law that derives from a combination of biblical verse and reasonable argument for the superiority of Jewish law. As noted so many times during our discussion of the traditional polemical argumentation, these claims are unlikely to have been meaningful outside the Jewish community. It is clear, however, that Rabbi Solomon was addressing himself exclusively to a Jewish audience under pressure and would have been quite satisfied to have successfully reassured that audience only.
There is one final argument that departs from scriptural foundations and that involves instead an appeal to philosophy and the philosophers. The Rashba suggests quickly and without great elaboration that he was aware of "philosophers who said that the prophetic soul was above the philosophic soul." Although this brief claim cites
both Plato and Aristotle, the impression is that this was merely window dressing and not an integral part of Rabbi Solomon's multifacted response to the new missionizing argumentation.
The second Christian thrust depicted by Rabbi Solomon is sharper. The Christian disputant is made to acknowledge that, for a period of time, all the commandments were observed—and were meant to be observed—in literal fashion.
Indeed, however, the commandments are divided into three categories—part having to do with sanctity, part having to do with civil affairs, and part having to do with habituation and education, as in the case of an untrained calf or a donkey unhabituated to carrying a load. One puts upon such an animal a heavy load so that he not learn improper ways until he is trained. Subsequently one lightens the heavy load and gives him an appropriate load. Likewise when the Torah was given to you, you were new and preceded all nations with regard to the commandments. In order to habituate you, [God] heaped upon you commandments such as eating the [flesh of the] pig and the prohibition of forbidden conjunctions and such commandments. After habituation, these commandments were annulled and there remained only the first two categories.
While the notion of a number of categories of Jewish law, some temporal and some eternal, is reminiscent of Friar Raymond, the specifics are not. Rabbi Solomon's responses are traditional. He argues first that the chronology in this portrait makes no sense. If habituation were the goal of the ritual commandments, then annulment of these commandments need not have waited until the time of Jesus. The process of habituation was complete at a far earlier stage, and thus, according to this Christian view, the annulment should have taken place far earlier as well. Second, he cites Isaiah 66 as a statement on future redemption and indicates that the ritual commandments are there projected for the time of redemption. Finally, Rabbi Solomon negates, in a sense, the system of distinctions altogether, indicating that in the major biblical passages that speak of ritual abstention from certain foods, the explicit scriptural rationale for such abstention is sanctity and not societal habituation. This is interesting give-and-take but still reflects little of the new missionizing.
With the third line of Christian attack, we find ourselves more firmly in the mid-thirteenth-century ambience.
Some of the commandments they explain literally, but they claim that they are not of intrinsic significance and are only forms intended to hint at future events. When the future event is realized, the commandments
which prefigured it are annulled. One of the commandments which they include in this category is the commandment of the paschal sacrifice, which is a memento intended to hint at what they claim later took place. Some of them bring proof from what is said in Tractate Kiddushin, in the chapter Ha-Ish Mekadesh: " 'And all the aggregate community of the Israelites shall slaughter it.' This teaches that all Israel fulfills the obligation with one paschal offering." With what paschal offering will all Israel fulfill its obligation? Surely that special paschal offering.
Here we have echoes of Friar Raymond's approach. The statement noted by Rabbi Solomon corresponds to Friar Raymond's fifth category of Jewish law, which he calls the sacraments. Moreover, the support for this Christian claim is rooted in a talmudic citation, again reminiscent of Friar Raymond. Indeed, as our analysis of the Pugio Fidei has shown, this second stage in the exploitation of Jewish sources did not restrict itself to aggadic materials only. Here the Christian protagonist cites a distinctly legal passage. Although we do not find this particular passage in the Pugio Fidei, this third Christian assault on Jewish ritual nevertheless quite clearly reflects Friar Raymond and the new mid-thirteenth-century missionizing in both its content and its style.
The serious use of rabbinic materials elicits a sober response from Rabbi Solomon ibn Adret. He addresses in halachic terms the citation adduced in the Christian argument.
This claim is vain. For [with regard to the verse] "and all the aggregate community of Israelites shall slaughter it"—there derives therefrom either a positive commandment that all Jews slaughter on the Passover the lamb in order to eat it roasted or the granting of permission to free all Israel from the obligation. Therefore it involves either a positive commandment or the granting of permission, and thus [the proposed Christian explanation] is groundless. He who said this [the quoted rabbinic statement] did so only to indicate that, although one lamb does not have enough [flesh] with which to provide the required amount of meat, nonetheless they have fulfilled their obligation, for [this is according to] Rabbi Nathan who believed that eating [the meat of the Paschal lamb] is not the essential issue, but rather that the sprinkling of the blood is crucial.
What Rabbi Solomon had done here is to challenge the exegesis of the rabbinic passage, arguing that it cannot be understood in the manner proposed by the Christian protagonist. Its meaning must instead be seen within the context of the precise legal issue under discussion. In this regard, Rabbi Solomon is following one of the main lines of argu-
mentation sketched out by his predecessor, Rabbi Moses ben Nahman, who also argued relentlessly for contextual understanding of statements adduced in support of Christian claims.
To this specific response to the rabbinic statement utilized by the Christian protagonist in his dialogue, Rabbi Solomon adds a more general observation of significance.
In truth there is no commandment in the Torah that has been annulled or that will ever be annulled, with the exception of temporal commandments such as the [temporary prohibition during the wilderness period] of meat slaughtered for satisfying human appetite [as opposed to meat slaughtered for ritual purposes]. Even though there are commandments that are not now operative, such as the commandments related to the Land of Israel, e.g., [Temple] gifts and tithes and all the Temple ritual, not one of these has been annulled; rather they are deferred because they cannot be observed with the place and the opportunities required for them. If these things were available today, then these commandments would be in force. This is obvious.
Rabbi Solomon buttresses his case by examining a series of major ritual commandments, for which he claims scriptural support for eternal applicability. Among those he cites are the commandments of the paschal lamb and of the eating of mazot[*] . The basis for the rabbi's assertion of the everlasting nature of these obligations lies in the biblical statement that defines them as "everlasting law" (hukat[*]'olam ), an understanding of 'olam that Friar Paul had gone to great lengths to reject. To be sure, the rabbi's case derives from more than the disputed meaning of 'olam; he uses other key biblical phrases such as "for all your generations" and "as the days of the heavens above the earth." The sum total of the argument is that a series of biblical expressions indicate beyond any reasonable doubt that major items of ritual law were intended by the divine author of the law to be unchanging. The Rashba continues to press the argument, claiming that even when the temporal implications of a given law are not mentioned specifically, the Bible clearly intends such laws to be everlasting. The only exceptions—and they are limited ones—are those laws which are specifically designated for a given time only. All others, he claims, were intended to be valid for all times.
Rabbi Solomon presses his case by appeal to prophetic texts as well, citing, in particular, Isaiah and Malachi. What he argues here is that the vision of the postmessianic future projected by these divinely inspired visionaries includes the continued fulfillment of the ritual
laws. Thus, even in the new era inaugurated by the appearance of the Messiah and despite all the changes associated with this new era, the ritual law will remain an unchanged feature of the life of the people of Israel. Reference to these prophecies has double meaning. First, this is still another reasonable argument for Rabbi Solomon's position. Second, he was undoubtedly aware that the Christian case posited by Friar Paul and Friar Raymond was based on the notion of the altered status of Jewish law in the wake of the advent of Jesus whom they saw as the prophetically predicted Messiah.
Rabbi Solomon completes this extensive and vigorous case by arguing the overarching point, claiming—as he had already done in his introductory remarks—that in fact observance of the law formed the very heart of the Jewish religious faith. The passage bears at least partial citation.
You must further see that Moses our teacher, of blessed memory, was a prophet of the commandments, not a prophet of future events. Only at the end of the Torah did he prophesy concerning future eventuations, as a way of issuing a general warning concerning all the commandments of the Torah. He informed them [the Israelites] of what would happen to them if they would not fulfill the words of the Torah, as is said: "And later generations will ask—the children who succeed you, and foreigners who come from distant lands [and see the plagues and diseases that the Lord has inflicted upon that land . . .—all nations] will ask, 'Why did the Lord do thus to this land? [Wherefore that awful wrath?'] They will be told, 'Because they forsook the covenant that the Lord, the God of their fathers, made with them when he freed them from the land of Egypt.' " Behold he [Moses] gave testimony here that this punishment will only be realized because of the abandonment of the covenant which he [God] struck with us at Horeb with regard to the entire body of the commandments—not because of our general behavior or for taking a new faith for which we were not commanded at Horeb.
This is a powerful conclusion to a lengthy and important argument, one that clearly meant a great deal to its author.
The fourth set of Christian claims cited by Rabbi Solomon is by far the most interesting and shows the greatest sophistication in the utilization of rabbinic materials. We shall have to quote this passage at some length and in some technical detail.
He came against us utilizing the aggadot that are found in the Talmud, claiming that in the Talmud they said that the commandments were destined to be annulled. For they said in the first chapter of Tractate
Berakhot: "It is taught: Ben Zoma said to the sages, 'Is the exodus from Egypt to be mentioned at the time of the Messiah?' " From the discussion it is to be inferred that the commandments of the Torah were given for a set time, since the recitation of the shema' and the commandment of Passover and the mazot[*] and the prohibition of hamez[*] were intended as mementos of the exodus from Egypt. For it is written: "You shall slaughter the Passover sacrifice for the Lord your God, [from the flock and the herd, in the place where the Lord will choose to establish his name.] You shall not eat anything leavened with it; for seven days thereafter you shall eat unleavened bread, bread of distress [—for you departed from the land of Egypt hurriedly—] so that you may remember the day of your departure from the land of Egypt." Thus [God] commanded concerning the eating of the paschal lamb, the mazah, and the prohibition of hamez for seven days, so that we are reminded thereby of the exodus from Egypt. Now, if the exodus from Egypt is not to be mentioned in messianic times, as in the view of the sages, then likewise the paschal lamb, the mazah[*] , and the prohibition of hamez are annulled, since we have been commanded these things only to recall the exodus from Egypt.
This is highly sophisticated use of Jewish legal sources, more adroit than that reflected in the Mahazik[*]Emunah and very much along the lines we have seen in the Pugio Fidei. Rabbi Solomon has his adversary cite two further highly technical sources to make the same point. While I shall refrain from quoting these lengthy and technical passages, what must be emphasized is the excellent command of difficult halachic material reflected in all three of these Christian thrusts. Clearly, this second stage in the development of the new-style Christian argumentation, a stage that proceeded far beyond the rudimentary efforts of Friar Paul Christian, was encountered by Rabbi Solomon of Barcelona. The refined Christian claims of the Pugio Fidei were carried from the circle of Friar Raymond Martin and into the Jewish communities, where they came to the attention of Rabbi Solomon.
The technical thrust of the Christian claims evoked from Rabbi Solomon a series of equally technical rejoinders. Again, I shall deal only with the first of the series, but I shall have to do so in some detail. What Rabbi Solomon challenges is the nexus created by the Christian claimant between recollection of the exodus and the key commandments of the paschal lamb, the mazah[*] , and the prohibition of hamez[*] .
The commandment of the paschal lamb, of mazah, and of prohibition of hamez does not require recollection of the exodus from Egypt. This will become apparent from the diversity of punishments which [God], may he
be blessed, decreed. With regard to nonfulfillment of the paschal offering, [he decreed] divine punishment through sudden or premature death. . . . He decreed the same with regard to eating of hamez[*] . . . . But with regard to eating of the mazah[*] , he decreed a positive commandment [punishment for which is milder]. . . . Now, if the bases in all these cases were the same, why did he decree in two instances divine punishment through sudden or premature death and in the third only a positive commandment?
The diverse punishments are thus taken as a reflection of differing foundations for the three commandments. They could not all be taken together as a vehicle for the recollection of the exodus from Egypt. This response, however, is not decisive, and Rabbi Solomon tackles the heart of the issue, the biblical verse that seems to suggest remembrance of the exodus as the basis for the three ritual obligations of the paschal lamb, the eating of mazot[*] , and the abstention from hamez[*] . Again, the presentation is technical. Let us set the backdrop for the rabbi's case by citing the relevant biblical passage:
Observe the month of Abib and offer a passover sacrifice to the Lord your God, for it was in the month of Abib, at night, that the Lord your God freed you from Egypt. You shall slaughter the Passover sacrifice for the Lord your God, from the flock and the herd, in the place where the Lord will choose to establish his name. You shall not eat anything leavened with it; for seven days thereafter you shall eat unleavened bread, bread of distress—for you departed from the land of Egypt hurriedly—so that you may remember the day of your departure from the land of Egypt as long as you live. For seven days no leaven shall be found with you in all your territory, and none of the flesh of what you slaughter on the evening of the first day shall be left until morning.
Rabbi Solomon proceeds to propose that "the verse that says 'so that you may remember the day of your departure from Egypt' does not relate [directly] to completion of the paschal offering, to abstention from hamez, or to eating of the mazah." He argues that these rituals are indeed related to the recollection of the exodus from Egypt; such recollection, however, is not the defining purpose of the rituals. He claims that the word "so that" (le-ma'an ) in this verse is parallel to the use of the same word in the verse that speaks of the sabbath as instituted "so that your ox and your ass might rest." Just as the resting of oxen and asses does not define the purpose of the sabbath, so too remembrance of the exodus from Egypt does not define the purpose of the three rituals of Passover. In both cases, the term "so that" points
to valuable results of fulfillments of the commandments, not to their inherent rationale.
This still leaves a fourth item mentioned in the Christian thrust, namely, the recitation of the shema'. Here again Rabbi Solomon argues, in effect, that the Christian case involves a misunderstanding of the ultimate purpose of the commandment. Beyond recollection of the exodus from Egypt, the regular recitation of the shema' is intended to remind the Jew of the power and wondrous deeds of the Almighty. Thus, when the Messiah comes and redeems Jews all over the world (indicating en passant that the Messiah has not yet come and has not yet redeemed them) and when a new set of recollections are instituted, the ultimate purpose of these recitations will remain intact, that is, they will continue to serve as a constant reminder of the glories of the Lord. In this sense, then, the commandment will not be abrogated: Jews will continue to celebrate the power and concern of their Creator.
Thus, Rabbi Solomon ibn Adret has clearly responded to the detailed argument mounted by Friar Raymond with an equally detailed rebuttal. Specific issues of Jewish law are discussed in a highly technical fashion; the rabbi's goal was to prove that the four central obligations identified as annulled in messianic times—the paschal lamb, the eating of mazot[*] , the abstention from hamez[*] , and the recitation of the shema'—would in fact not be annulled during the days of the Messiah but would remain, along with the rest of Jewish law, in full force. What is striking here is the technical character of the Christian thrust and the equally technical character of the Jewish rejoinder.
As we have already noted, the twin negative thrusts against Jewish sensitivities involved the argument that Jewish law was no longer valid and meaningful and the claim that Jewish circumstances were now hopeless. We have seen that Rabbi Mordechai ben Joseph addressed the major part of his treatise to the latter allegation, arguing vigorously that all the promises for messianic redemption of the Jews remained in force and that the longed-for salvation would eventuate. While Rabbi Solomon reversed the priorities, arguing more strenuously the issue of Jewish law, he was not insensitive to the Christian claim of Jewish hopelessness. He has his Christian adversary make the following statement, obviously reminiscent of the Pugio Fidei:
Our exile [the exile of the Jews] was lengthened only because they failed to believe in that which he had proven [i.e., the messianic role of Jesus, which was central to the Pugio Fidei specifically and the new missionizing argumentation in general] and because they hated him groundlessly.
He brought proof from what was said in the first chapter of Tractate Yoma: "Why was the First Temple destroyed? Because of idolatry, fornication, and murder. Why was the Second Temple destroyed? Because of groundless hatred. This is to teach you that groundless hatred is equal in its significance to those three iniquities." Now if this was said with regard to groundless hatred between humans, is it possible to say groundless hatred between humans is as important as those three iniquities? Rather [the reference can only be] to that well-known hatred which you [the Jews] hated him whom he proved [i.e., Jesus].
The correspondence between this claim depicted by Rabbi Solomon and the actual thrust of the Pugio Fidei on this issue is manifest.
Rabbi Solomon addressed this matter seriously and undertook a number of rebuttals. The first line of rejoinder reminds us of an earlier approach taken by Rabbi Moses ben Nahman. Rabbi Solomon proposes consideration of the identity of the author of this statement.
Who recounted this aggadah ? A Jew or a Christian or a heretic who behaved like a Jew and believed like a Christian? Now if he was truly a Jew, then he did not make the statement in the fashion that you indicate, for then he would not have been a Jew. If he was a Christian, then I need not believe in what he said regarding this matter. Let him say whatever he wishes. If he was a heretic, then neither we nor you need believe in what he said. One does not bring proof from a heretic.
The answer put in the mouth of the rabbi's adversary corresponds to the position that we hypothesized earlier.
He was truly a Jew, but he spoke without sensing [what he had said]. Just as you say, "he prophesied without realizing what he had prophesied."
Rabbi Solomon's reply is twofold.
Who would force us to believe the statement of someone who does not understand what he is saying? Is it not better to say that the author of the statement understood his statement, but that it bears another explanation.
The issue is serious. Again, a Jewish spokesman attacks the central thrust of the new argumentation. The Christian side now claims that rabbinic exegesis and dicta can be shown to have implied Christological meaning. To this, Jewish spokesman like Nahmanides and the Rashba reply that the notion is inherently unlikely. The wisest alternative is to seek an explanation of these statements that requires no
such tortured suppositions. At this juncture, we are no longer in the realm of unassailable argumentation; we have moved to the domain of greater or lesser likelihoods. The Jewish spokesmen argue to their brethren that the greater likelihood is the non-Christological import of the disputed statements.
Rabbi Solomon does not limit himself to this rebuttal. He next attacks the proposed Christian understanding of the rabbinic statement, suggesting that it clearly contrasts the three sins that supposedly led to the destruction of the First Temple (idolatry, fornication, and murder) with the single sin that led to the destruction of the Second Temple (groundless hatred). However, the Christian exegesis of this passage blurs the essential contrast, according to Rabbi Solomon, and in fact presents further problems.
If it is as you say—when you said that this statement refers to that groundless hatred that you suggest—then it [this groundless hatred] includes the most heinous murder that might occur, according to your view, murder the severity of which was not encountered during the First Temple, even if they had shed the blood of the entire human race and no human remained. Likewise during the First Temple, although they worshiped idolatrously, they did not strike out as they did during the Second Temple, according to what you consider the meaning of this aggadah. Indeed they worshiped all the more idolatrously during the Second Temple and denied the divine in incomparable fashion. From this is manifest the lack of validity of the proposal which you made concerning this statement. The same is similarly manifest from what was said there: "to teach you that groundless hatred is equal in significance to those three iniquities." According to this view [the Christian explication of the aggadah], this equivalence would represent stupidity on the part of the author of the statement. Now look, is it possible that someone intending to contrast and to magnify [would say] that a large mountain is equivalent to a small ant. Such is not the style of any person having a brain in his head.
Moreover this incompatibility is further reflected in what was objected there [in the talmudic passage]: "Now was there no groundless hatred during the First Temple? Behold it is written: 'They shall be cast before the sword together with my people.' It is said there: 'These are people who eat and drink with one another but pierce one another with the swords of their tongues.' " They [the rabbis of the Talmud] respond [to the question as to the existence of groundless hatred during the First Temple]: "That refers only to the princes of the people, as is written: ['For this shall befall] all the chieftains of my people.' " Now if they said this with the intention that you think [as a reference to Jewish rejection of Jesus], how could they [the rabbis] object: "Was there not
groundless hatred during the First Temple," that is to say that during the First Temple they hated groundlessly. And how could they respond that it was so, but that the hatred existed only among the princes of Israel only. Now if the hatred that existed during the Second Temple is that hatred which you think, then it did not exist at all during the First Temple, neither among the people at large nor among the princes. Thus you must recognize and acknowledge that this statement was not made with that meaning [the Christian view], but simply indicates that they hated one another.
Thus, on a series of grounds, Rabbi Solomon rejects the Christian view that we found central to the Pugio Fidei: it makes no sense in terms of the terminology of the statement; it is absurd in terms of the comparison of the two sets of alleged sins; it makes incomprehensible the flow of the talmudic passage. The only sensible explication of the passage is the traditional Jewish one: the sin of groundless hatred within human society is an extremely grave offense or, as Rabbi Solomon himself put it, "In truth hatred includes [potentially] all the iniquities."
This extensive rebuttal of the Christian reading of the rabbinic aggadah still leaves unanswered the question of the lengthiness of Jewish exile, and the Rashba does not leave that stone unturned.
I gave two responses on this issue. First, no one comprehends the rules of God, may he be blessed, for "his designs are [very] subtle." We only know in a general way that it is not groundless, for "all his ways are just." Secondly, in truth every individual sin does not entail a punishment that would add up to all this [the lengthy exile] were it added to the total. Indeed the individual person who sins alone bears responsibility, as is said: "A child shall not share the burden of the parent's guilt, nor shall a parent share the burden of a child's guilt. The person who sins, he alone shall die." [In the same way] the sin of the corporate body is visited upon the corporate body. However three items that one might consider individual are in fact corporate. The first is the sin of the father of the family; the second is the sin of the king; the third is the sin committed by the majority of the people, for which are punished even individuals who did not agree with the majority. The reasons in all three cases are cited in Scriptures. . . . Thus [in sum] it is possible that our forefathers sinned and the subsequent generations were punished, until a time and period which God, may he be blessed, will favor, or that we deal here with sublime matters incomprehensible to us. Blessed be [God] who knows. The judgment is proper.
According to the Rashba, understanding the basis for the lengthy exile suffered by the Jews is no simple matter. He does attempt to reassure his Jewish listeners nonetheless that there are explanations. Whatever they might be, the Christian theses advanced by the missionizing circle of Friar Raymond are resolutely repudiated.
In conclusion, we have seen that the Jews of post-1263 Spain felt missionizing pressure but perceived the threat in a multiplicity of ways. The line from the workshop of Friar Raymond into the Jewish quarters of Spain was not straight. At the same time, there can be no doubt that one of the major thrusts—indeed, probably the major thrust—perceived by Jews like the Rashba was the new missionizing argumentation that Friar Paul had initiated and that Friar Raymond had refined. Moreover, this new argumentation was taken quite seriously. In the writings of Rabbi Solomon ibn Adret, there is none of the bantering levity that we encountered in Rabbi Moses ben Nahman. The reason is clear: Friar Raymond and his circle constituted a much more serious group of adversaries. Friar Raymond's more extensive knowledge of rabbinic literature and his better command of that literature resulted in a more serious set of Jewish responses, including argumentation that involved significant ingenuity in the use of textual proofs. Finally, the writings of Rabbi Solomon, like the Mahazik[*]Emunah of Rabbi Mordechai ben Joseph, give us a much better sense of the Jewish perceptions of strength and weakness, and such a sense is invaluable. Whereas Rabbi Moses had built his case in response to the Christian attack, Rabbi Solomon had greater latitude in his writings and left us a clearer record of his own evaluation of the relative significance of the various Christian thrusts. Rabbi Solomon is obviously not deeply concerned with the positive lines of Christian argumentation, such as the argument that the Messiah has already come. What evokes his greatest concern is the more negative lines of Christian argumentation, specifically, the assault on Jewish law and the claim of Jewish hopelessness. This leader of Spanish Jewry obviously felt his flock most vulnerable on these issues, for these are the thrusts that he goes to the greatest lengths to parry. Put in a different way, as we have already noted, the Christian missionizers—the aggressors in this circumstance—did not need to construct a foolproof case for their faith; it would have sufficed for their purposes to evoke fundamental doubt in their Jewish auditors. That alone would have constituted a major victory and would have pointed those Jews who doubted to-
ward acceptance of the dominant Christian faith. The assault on Jewish law and the case for the hopelessness of Jewish circumstances probed weak points in Jewish sensitivity, and it is no accident that Rabbi Solomon devoted most of his efforts to reassuring his followers on these crucial issues, as had Rabbi Mordechai ben Joseph. The give-and-take was serious, and Rabbi Solomon knew precisely where to direct his Jewish counterargumentation.