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Ibn Shem Tov, Shem Tov ben Joseph ben Shem Tov

IBN SHEM TOV, SHEM TOV BEN JOSEPH BEN SHEM TOV

IBN SHEM TOV, SHEM TOV BEN JOSEPH BEN SHEM TOV (15th century), Spanish rabbi, philosopher, and preacher. Shem Tov was the namesake of his grandfather, the militant anti-Maimonidean kabbalist (see Shem Tov *Ibn Shem Tov), and the son of the moderate Maimonidean Joseph ben Shem Tov *Ibn Shem Tov. He became a vigorous defender of Aristotelian and Maimonidean philosophy. He wrote several Hebrew works on philosophic subjects, including one on the distinction between matter and form, one on teleology, and commentaries on *Averroes' intermediate commentaries on Aristotle's Physics and De Anima. Only two of his works have been printed, Derashot ha-Torah ("Homilies on the Torah"; Salonika, 1525) and a commentary on Maimonides' Guide of the Perplexed, which is printed in most Hebrew editions of the Guide. As a preacher, Shem Tov, following Maimonides, taught that only the man of intellect is in the image of God. Perhaps influenced by his fideist grandfather, he also called for uncompromising loyalty to Torah and for sacrifice unto death for the Jewish people and its inheritance. In an age when many influential Jews chose baptism, he praised Moses who forfeited his status with Pharaoh and jeopardized his life by slaying the Egyptian taskmaster. It is for his commentary on the Guide that Shem Tov is generally known. Although not remarkable for its profundity or originality, it is a clear and extensive work which for centuries has been helpful to students of the Guide. Shem Tov extols the Guide: "He who knows this book and observes it meticulously is beloved above and pleasant below, and he is assured that he is a member of the world to come." His devotion to Maimonides included a religious acceptance of Aristotelian science. In commenting on the Aristotelian propositions that Maimonides held necessary for the proof of God's existence, unity, and incorporeality, he roundly ridiculed Ḥasdai Crescas for arguing against them. However, like his uncle Isaac b. Shem Tov *Ibn Shem Tov, he was apparently too immersed in Aristotelianism even to re cognize the force of Crescas' revolutionary critique.

bibliography:

H.A. Wolfson, Crescas' Critique of Aristotle (1929), index; J. Guttmann, in: mgwj, 57 (1913), 447–51.

[Warren Zev Harvey]

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