Aldabi, Meir ben Isaac

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ALDABI, MEIR BEN ISAAC (c. 1310–c. 1360), religious philosopher, with strong leanings toward the Kabbalah. Aldabi was a grandson of *Asher b. Jehiel. As a young man he received a comprehensive education in biblical and rabbinic literature, and afterward he turned to philosophical and scientific studies. In 1348 he apparently left his native Toledo and settled in Jerusalem, where, in 1360, he finished his long contemplated work, Shevilei Emunah ("Paths of Faith"). It was first published in Riva di Trento, 1518.

Aldabi was moved to write his book by the belief, prevalent in the Middle Ages, that the Greek philosophers (especially Plato and Aristotle) derived the essentials of their knowledge from Jewish sources. He determined to assemble the fragments of ancient Jewish wisdom scattered throughout the various works of the philosophers and natural scientists and to trace them back to their original sources. Actually, as stated in the introduction, the book is merely a compilation of subjects and theories, some of them translated by him from foreign languages, and culled from different works. The various subjects are not arranged systematically but are presented in random sequence. He borrowed mainly from Hebrew literature and to some extent, particularly in the fields of medicine and astronomy, from Arabic literature. His philosophy is based largely on that of *Maimonides, his ethics on that of *Baḥya b. Joseph ibn Paquda, and his theology on that of *Naḥmanides and his circle. The influence of the last is particularly evident in Aldabi's predilection for Kabbalah which he ties in with his rationalist philosophy. He relies on the encyclopedic Sha'ar ha-Shamayim of his predecessor Gershon b. Solomon of Arles, and for his psychological theories he uses the views of Joseph ibn *Ẓaddik and *Hillel b. Samuel of Verona. Aldabi's book is divided into ten "paths" (netivot) in which he treats (1) the existence and unity of God, His names, and divine attributes both from a philosophic and a kabbalistic point of view; (2) the creation of the world, geography and astronomy, and the elements; (3) the creation of man and family life (part of this section is taken, without acknowledgment, from the Iggeret ha-Kodesh of Naḥmanides); (4) embryology, anatomy, and human physiology (a digest of the accepted theories on anatomy and physiology in medieval medicine, presented on the basis of the comparison between the microcosm and macrocosm); (5) rules for physical and "spiritual" hygiene (on the nature of anger, joy, and the like); (6) the nature and the faculties of the soul; (7) religious observances as defined by the Torah and rabbinic tradition; (8) the uninterrupted chain of the Oral Law from Moses to the Talmud; (9) reward and punishment and metempsychosis; and finally (10) the redemption of Israel, resurrection, and the world to come.

The last two chapters are based largely on the opinions of Naḥmanides and Solomon b. Abraham *Adret.


Weiss, Dor, 5 (1891), 117, 141, 214; Steinschneider, Cat, 1690; Steinschneider, Uebersetzungen, 9–27; Bruell, Jahrbuecher, 2 (1874), 166–8; Zinberg, Sifrut, 2 (1956), 136–40, 396; G. Sarton, Introduction to the History of Science, 3 (1948), index; D. Kaufmann, Die Sinne (1884), index; Waxman, Literature, 2 (19602), 318–9.

[Meir Hillel Ben-Shammai]