Moses ben Judah, Noga

views updated


MOSES BEN JUDAH, NOGA (14th century), philosopher. Nothing is known about Moses' life, but it has been proved that he is not identified with *Moses Nathan, as some of the Hebrew bibliographical works claim. It has been suggested that "Nogah" is not a part of his name but rather an abbreviation for "nuḥo gan Hashem" ("may he rest in divine paradise"), and that he was a disciple of one of *Nahmanides' students, probably of R. *Yom Tov ben Abraham Ishbili (the Ritba). Moses ben Judah is the author of the Hebrew encyclopediaAhavah ba-Ta'anugim ("Love in Delights"), which was written during the years 1353–56, and which has never been printed, although extant in four manuscripts. The title of the work, Ahavah ba-Ta'anugim, is taken from the biblical Song of Songs 7:7: "How fair and how pleasant art thou, O love in delights!" The "love" referred to in the encyclopedia's title is directed towards the philosophical pursuits, which are the true human delight. The object of the book is to defend philosophy and to demonstrate that Torah and philosophy are not in contradiction but rather complement one another in order to arouse in the educated reader a passion for such learning. According to this aim the book contains a comprehensive summary of the sciences popular among philosophically inclined Jews of the period: The first section is devoted to physics which Moses (like Maimonides) identifies with ma'aseh bereshit, and contains eight divisions on the following topics: (1) On Prime Matter; (2) On the Substance; (3) On the Four Elements; (4) On Motion, the Movers, and the Prime Mover; On Time, Infinity, and the Finite; (5) On Space and Vacuum; (6) On Human Nature; (7) On Astronomical Signs; and (8) On the Soul, Sleep, and Waking; On Dreams and the Human Soul. The second section is devoted to metaphysics which Moses (again like Maimonides) identifies with ma'aseh merkavah, and contains eight divisions on the following topics: (1) On Substance and Accident, Chance and Necessity; On the Nine [other] Categories; (2) On Existence; (3) On the Whole, Parts, and the One; (4) On the Substance of the Sphere; (5) On the Separate Movers; (6) On God's Names; (7) On Knowledge; and (8) On the Way the World is Related to God. The third section is a theological section and contains four chapters on the following topics: (1) On Magic; (2) On Prophecy and the Prophet's Acts; (3) On the Creation of the World; On Providence, Reward, and Punishment; On the Meaning of the Commandments; (4) On the Eternal Soul and the Resurrection of the Dead.

The first two parts present clearly and systematically the central topics of physics and metaphysics, the points of dispute among the philosophers on various issues, and it also resolves these disputes by questioning the fundamental arguments underlying the refuted views. After those discussions it demonstrates how the philosophical opinions are to be found in the Torah. Moses almost always adopts the views of *Averroes, whom he regards as second to Aristotle. On the other hand he sees *Avicenna and Al-*Ghazali as thinkers on a lower level, who attempted to produce a mixture of religion and philosophy. Moses is also an admirer of Maimonides, and sees him not only as the master of all philosophers but also as the master of all prophets, and he even calls the Guide of the Perplexed "the sacred book." Another Jewish philosopher whom Moses admires is Abraham *Ibn Ezra, and he draws extensively on his commentary on the Pentateuch. Moses' acceptance of Averroes' philosophical views alongside his unconditional admiration for Maimonides leads him to a unique interpretive reconstruction of Maimonides, in order to present his opinions in accordance with those of Averroes, or at least to blur the difference between them. Moses also presents Maimonides' views as identical with those of Ibn Ezra and as a consequence the gap between Ibn Ezra and Averroes is reconciled through Maimonides. Yet, for Moses, not only are the views of Maimonides, Ibn Ezra, and Averroes basically identical with each other, but also with the Kabbalah. Moses derives various terms and ideas from the Kabbalah. His interpretation of the Kabbalah, however, is distinctly philosophical, and eliminates much of its mythical and anti-philosophical language. In metaphysics Moses accepts Averroes' understanding of God as a form encompassing all the forms of the world and the prime mover of the sphere, and he rejects Avicenna's view identifying God with the necessary existent. He brings these views into unequivocal agreement with those of Maimonides in his Guide and interprets the kabbalistic theory of the 10 *sefirot according to the Aristotelian doctrine of the 10 separated intellects. Moses accepts Avicenna's doctrine of *emanation, although according to Averroes matter has its own separate existence. According to Moses the entire world derives from God, and that is the meaning of creation ex nihilo. Moses accepted Averroes' view on the soul as presented in his Middle Commentary on the De Anima. According to this view, the individual's hylic intellect is none other than one of the aspects of the Active Intellect, and it has no separate and independent existence. Thus, in the state of the conjunction as it is post mortem, that is, the state of immortality and eternal bliss, there is no place for the individual intellect. As in the case of metaphysics, so too here with regard to psychology, Moses reads Maimonides' statements on the soul through the eyes of Averroes. He also explains the mystical notion of gilgul (transmigration of the soul) according to this theory: The Active Intellect enters the bodies of various human beings, and post mortem returns to its source and is united a second time with the Active Intellect, and so on ad infinitum. Moses also identifies the Averroean theory of the conjunction with prophecy. On the question of providence, Moses combines the Maimonidean view, explaining providence naturalistically, with astral elements. Regarding the reasons for the divine commandments Moses integrates the Maimonidean doctrines, the astrological notions of Ibn Ezra, and the symbolic kabbalistic ideas.


E. Eisenmann, "Ahavah ba-Ta'anugim: A Fourteenth-Century Encyclopedia of Science and Theology," in: S. Harvey (ed.), The Medieval Hebrew Encyclopedias of Science and Philosophy (2000), 415–29; R. Glasner, "The Question of Celestial Matter in the Hebrew Encyclopedias," in: ibid., 313–34.

[E. Eisenmann (2nd ed.)]

About this article

Moses ben Judah, Noga

Updated About content Print Article Share Article