Abba Mari ben Moses ben Joseph Astruc of Lunel

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ABBA MARI BEN MOSES BEN JOSEPH ASTRUC OF LUNEL (c. 1300), writer who opposed extreme rationalism. He especially attacked the spread of philosophical allegorization of Scripture in popular sermons and the use of astral magic for healing. Abba Mari lived in Montpellier where the dispute over Maimonides' Guide of the Perplexed had broken out as early as 1232–33 and where the controversy between the philosophical and the traditionalist schools of thought persisted up to the beginning of the 14th century. In order to counteract the rationalistic method of biblical exegesis, which in his view undermined belief, Abba Mari laid down three basic principles of Judaism: the existence, unity, and incorporeality of God; the creation of the world by God; and God's special providence. In his polemical work Sefer ha-Yare'aḥ (yeraḥ = "moon"; an allusion to his native city Lunel), Abba Mari interprets biblical sayings and stories from the point of view of these three principles. As the leader of the traditionalists in the struggle against their opponents, Abba Mari conducted a vehement propaganda campaign and attempted to induce Solomon b. Abraham *Adret of Barcelona and Kalonymos b. Todros to combine in taking steps against the "corrupters of the holy tradition" (see *Maimonidean controversy). Abba Mari did not succeed, however, in inducing Solomon b. Abraham Adret to oppose publicly the use of astral magic and was barely able to persuade him to join the opposition to allegoristic sermons. Ultimately Adret did join the struggle against rationalism.

After negotiations lasting three years, a 50-year ban was pronounced in the synagogue of Barcelona on the Sabbath before the Ninth of Av, July 1305, against all those who before their 25th birthday engaged in the study of science and of metaphysics. In a special letter to the Provençal communities, this anathema was extended to include those who indulged in rationalistic exegesis and the philosophic interpretation of the aggadah. Abba Mari's opponents, led by Jacob b. Machir ibn Tibbon of Montpellier, realizing that this movement was directed against the extreme rationalists, issued a counter-ban. Menahem *Meiri of Perpignan sent Abba Mari a sharp rejoinder, and *Jedaiah ha-Penini Bedersi addressed himself in a like manner to Adret. Abba Mari obtained rabbinic opinions concerning the ban and counter-ban and received many favorable comments on his position, among others from the rabbis of Toledo, headed by *Asher b. Jehiel. This controversy, however, came to an abrupt end when the Jews were expelled from France by Phillip the Fair in 1306. Abba Mari then moved to Arles and after that to Perpignan. His enemies sought to prevent his settling in that city. The leaders of the Jewish community, Samuel b. Asher and his son Moses, however, espoused his cause and befriended him. The letters and pamphlets of this controversy were collected by Abba Mari in his work Minḥat Kena'ot (Pressburg, 1838). The halakhic correspondence between Abba Mari and Adret is contained in the responsa of the latter – She'elot u-Teshuvot ha-Rashba, 1 (1480; no. 167, 825, in conjunction with no. 413, 424–28; for the correspondence with Asher b. Jehiel, see the latter's Responsa no. 24). Abba Mari wrote a kinah for the Ninth of Av as well as a commentary on a Purim song in Aramaic, composed by Isaac ibn Ghayyat (Venice, 1632). Presumably, the piyyut, published by S.D. Luzzatto in Kerem Ḥemed 4 (1839), 30, is also by Abba Mari (cf. Zunz, against this view, Lit Poesie, 537), and similarly the one written entirely in Aramaic, mentioned in Naḥalat Shadal 2 (1879), 4, but omitted in Davidson's Oẓar.J. *Jabez, at the end of his book Or ha-Ḥayyim (1554) includes excerpts from Sefer ha-Yare'aḤ without mentioning Abba Mari, but occasionally referring to the author as "one of the disciples of Ben Adret" (Kerem Ḥemed, 9 (1856), 47).

A critical edition of Minḥat Kena'ot and other pertinent responsa was published by Ḥayyim Zalman Dimitrowsky, in Teshuvot ha-Rashba (1990), vol. 2.


Baer, Spain, 1 (1961), 289 ff.; D.J. Silver, Maimonidean Criticism and the Maimonidean Controversy 1180–1240 (1965), 42–43; J. Sarachek, Faith and Reason (1935), 195–264; Zunz, Gesch, 477; Weiss, Dor, 5 (1891), ch. 4; Renan, Rabbins, 647; Gross, in: rej, 4 (1882), 192–207; Gross, Gal Jud, 286, 331, 461, 466; Davidson, Oẓar 1 (1924), 7, no. 121; 115, no. 2429. add. bibliography: D. Schwartz, "Changing Fronts toward Science in the Medieval Debates over Philosophy," in: Journal of Jewish Thought and Philosophy 7 (1997), 61–82; idem, Faith and Reason: Debates in Medieval Jewish Philosophy (Heb., 2001); idem, Studies on Astral Magic in Medieval Jewish Thought (2005).

[Jacob Freimann /

Dov Schwartz (2nd ed.)]