Hasdai Crescas on Codification, Cosmology and Creation

The Infinite God and the Expanding Torah


Author: Ari Ackerman
This work focuses on the conception of God of the medieval Jewish philosopher and legal scholar, Hasdai Crescas (1340-1410/11). It demonstrates that Crescas’ God is infinitely creative and good and explores the parallel that Crescas implicitly draws between God as creator and legislator, which is rooted in his understanding of the Deity as continuously involved in generative activity through the outpouring of goodness and love as manifest by multiple, simultaneous and successive worlds and a perpetually expanding Torah. It also reviews the Maimonidean background for Crescas’ position and suggests that Crescas is countering Maimonides’ stance that creation is limited to a single moment and Maimonides’ notion of the Torah as perfect and immutable.

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Dr. Ari Ackerman is a professor in Jewish philosophy and education at Schechter Institute in Jerusalem and the incumbent of the Golinkin Chair in TALI Jewish Education. He received his Ph.D. in Jewish thought from Hebrew University and he published a critical edition of the sermons of Zerahia Halevi Saledin (Beer Sheva University Press, 2013).

Introduction The Concealed Legal Universe of Hasdai Crescas

1The Maimonidean Context for Crescas’ Conception of the Infinite and Dynamic Torah
 1 The Torah as Perfect, Eternal, and Immutable (Guide 2:39)

 2 The Limitations of the Law (Guide 3:34)

 3 Maimonides on the Possibility of Legal Change

 4 Separating Biblical Roots from Rabbinic Branches

 5 Taking Issue with the Geonim

 6 Maimonides and the Wholeness Conception of the Torah

2Hasdai Crescas on Codification
 1 Codification and Human Perfection

 2 Abraham and the Multiplicity of Commandments

 3 Crescas, Maimonides, and Anatoli on the Multiplicity of Commandments

 4 Crescas on the Pragmatic Orientation of Torah Study

 5 Maimonides and Crescas on Comprehensive Codes

 6 Methodological Criticism of Maimonides’ Mishneh Torah

 7 Crescas’ Criticism and Maimonidean Self-Perception

3The Infinite Torah
 1 Crescas on the Infinity of the Torah

 2 Crescas’ Students on the Torah’s Infinitude

 3 Sources for the Conception of the Infinitely Expanding Torah

 4 Crescas on the Immutability of the Torah

 5 Joseph Albo on the Immutability of the Torah

4Legal Definitions and Taxonomy in Crescas’ Halakhic Writings
 1 The Laws of Passover in Derashat ha-Pesaḥ

 2 Crescas and the Jewish Codificatory Tradition

 3 Hasdai Crescas and Samuel b. Hofni Gaon

 4 Hasdai Crescas and Abraham ibn Ezra

 5 Hasdai Crescas and Maimonides

 6 Hasdai Crescas and Gersonides

 7 The Influence of Philosophy on the Halakhic Deliberations of Hasdai Crescas and Members of His Circle

5Crescas on God, Torah, and Nature
 1 Crescas’ Introduction to Or Hashem

 2 The Prooemium of Or Hashem

6Hasdai Crescas on the Possibility of Multiple, Simultaneous Worlds
 1 The Possible Existence of Multiple, Simultaneously Existing Worlds in Ancient and Medieval Philosophy

 2 Crescas’ Discussion in Or Hashem 1:2:1

 3 Place, Space, and the Existence of an Extra-Cosmic Vacuum

 4 Arguments for the Existence of Multiple, Simultaneous Worlds

 5 Arguments against the Existence of Multiple, Simultaneous Worlds

 6 Resolution of the Quaestio

7Maimonides and Gersonides on Creation
 1 Maimonides on Creation Ex Nihilo

 2 Maimonides’ Refutation of Aristotle’s Arguments for Eternity

 3 Maimonides’ Proofs for the Likelihood of Creation

 4 Maimonides on the End of the World

 5 Gersonides on Cosmogony

 6 Gersonides on Time and Infinity

 7 Gersonides and the Eternal Existence of Matter

 8 Gersonides on the Incorruptibility of the World

 9 Comparing Maimonides and Gersonides on Creation

8Creation and Crescas’ Infinitely Creative God
 1 Hasdai Crescas’ Response to Maimonides’ Proofs for Creation

 2 Crescas’ Alternative Definition of Time

 3 Crescas’ Theory of Eternal Creation

 4 Crescas on Multiple, Successive Worlds and the Corruptibility of the Universe

 5 Crescas on the Incorruptibility of the World

 6 Philosophy Encounters Kabbalah: The Sources of Crescas’ Theory of Multiple, Successive Worlds

Conclusion Maimonides and Crescas on God as Legislator and Creator
 1 Maimonides on the Parallel between Law and Nature

 2 Crescas on God as Creator and Legislator



The primary readership would be specialists in and students of Jewish philosophy and law.