Rabbi Hasdai Crescas was born in Barcelona, Spain, in the year , in a noble family that had been famous for its scholars and leaders in Jewry for generations. At an early age he proved himself worthy of his noble family. He was blessed with an unusually sharp and clear mind, and with an iron will to learn everything possible of the Torah and Talmud. In the year a wave of cruel persecution broke out in Barcelona, when the Jews were accused, falsely of course, that they had desecrated religious articles of the Church. Although their innocence was clear from the start, and was soon proved also in Court, they were kept in prison for several months, and were released only after a large sum of money was paid as "bail. Rabbi Hasdai was welcomed with great honor by the Saragossa Jewish community, and was even offered the position of Chief Rabbi.

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Please contact us in case of abuse. In case of abuse, Report this post. The story of Rabbi Hasdai Crescas and his impassioned battle against Christianity is a good example of this phenomenon. In , the Christian Spanish population rioted against their fellow Jewish citizens, killing many of them and destroying their long-established and flourishing communities.

Many Jews rushed to convert to Christianity in order to save their lives. The hostilities continued for about one hundred years, on and off, until , when the remaining Jews were viciously expelled from Spain or forced to convert. The Jewish leadership reacted to the mass conversions after by attempting to convince their lost brethren to return to Judaism, pointing out what they considered to be illogical elements of Christian belief.

Crescas had been greatly affected by the situation, his own son was killed during the brutal riots. His book aimed to prove that Christian beliefs were mistaken. He based his arguments on two logical premises: 1 religion must conform to the truth as we know it, be rational, and not teach irrational beliefs, and 2 each of its teachings must recognize that God can only do good.

Hasdai Crescas Rabbi Hasdai Crescas was born around and died about As a young man, he was a merchant and wrote poetry. He is remembered primarily because of his philosophical treatise Light of the Lord in which he attacked Aristotelian rationalism and the views of his great predecessor Maimonides He respected the brilliance of both philosophers but rejected their writings because Jewish intellectuals used them to justify their desertion of Judaism.

Crescas, according to some scholars, may have also believed in the transmigration of souls, the idea that souls are reincarnated in future humans and animals. As we will see, he also accepted many Christian notions such as original sin, thinking that they were original Jewish thoughts.

This sin was removed with the death of Jesus. A trinity exists: God the father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost.

When the priest utters certain words, he transforms wafers and wine into the body and blood of Jesus. He who has not been baptized has no share in the world to come. The messiah has come. Christians were given a new testament and do not need to observe all the laws in the Hebrew Bible. Demons exist. The demons were originally good angels, but they sinned because of jealousy and pride in the very first instant of their existence.

They were punished by being deprived of free will, and they became wicked. There are some contradictions between the two works — apparently, but by no means certainly, because the rabbi felt that it was expedient to say what he did not believe in order to accomplish his important purpose of saving Jews from error.

Similarly, while he rejects the belief in original sin in his Refutation because it is illogical to suppose that innocent and righteous descendants should be punished for the misdeeds of their ancestors, he accepts this clearly Christian idea in his Light of the Lord, the book that expressed his beliefs.

He states that Jews were absolved of the original sin when they were circumcised. This idea about being absolved was also a Christian teaching — that prior to the appearance of Jesus circumcision saved the Jews from the impact and punishment of the original sin. He states in his Light of the Lord, contrary to logic, that just as good descendants can benefit from the past good deeds of ancestors, the opposite is also true: the evil descendants of the patriarch Isaac are rewarded because of the meritorious act of Isaac when he agreed to be sacrificed in Genesis Be this as it may, Crescas was consistent in his view regarding demons.

Many of the Jewish masses before and after him were convinced that demons plotted and performed pernicious acts in the dark corners all around them, and in both his Refutation and his Light Crescas states that he also believes in them. He even cites what he considers to be biblical proof for the existence of demons. Demons in the Bible In order to back up his claim about the existence of demons, Crescas draws on sources from the Bible. In his Guide of the Perplexed , and 46, Maimonides understood that the Bible was stating that the Israelites had sunk so low that they worshipped imaginary things that did not exist.

At the very moment when the religious life of many Jews was being quashed, when many felt they had to convert to Christianity to save their lives and their families, when Jewish leaders felt obliged to issue refutations of Christianity to save them from such a mistake, Jewish leaders, like Crescas, wrote pamphlets and books refuting Christianity that unconsciously labeled basic Christian beliefs as Jewish, including faith in an original sin and the idea that demons control their lives.

Many Jews were murdered by Christian riots, including his only son. Jewish communities were destroyed and a host of Jews converted to Christianity to avoid future persecutions.

As a leader of Spanish Jewry, he felt obliged to do what he could to return the converts to Judaism. Despite his good intentions, probably without knowing it, he accepted the ideas of the existence of demons and original sin.

His life contains two of many examples demonstrating that many — in fact, nearly all — Jews absorbed pagan and Christian notions that are contrary to rational Judaism, Maimonides being a remarkable exception. About the Author Dr. Israel Drazin served for 31 years in the US military and attained the rank of brigadier general.

As a lawyer, he developed the legal strategy that saved the military chaplaincy when its constitutionality was attacked in court, and he received the Legion of Merit for his service. Drazin is the author of more than 50 books on the Bible, philosophy, and other subjects.


Rabbi Hasdai Crescas

Moreover, in certain important respects Crescas was influenced by Gersonides himself. This change in attitude may have been a reaction to the increasing precariousness of the position of the Jewish community in Spain. The criticism of the extreme rationalism of some medieval Aristotelians coincided historically with a certain disintegration of and disaffection toward classical Aristotelian Scholasticism. This trend was associated with the so-called voluntarism of John Duns Scotus c. In his critique, Crescas attempted to disprove the Aristotelian thesis that the existence of an actual infinite is impossible. He held that space is not a limit but a three-dimensional extension, that it is infinite, and that, contrary to Aristotle, the existence of a vacuum and of more worlds than one is possible.


Ḥasdai ben Abraham Crescas

The Sinagoga Major is on the left. Hasdai Crescas came from a family of scholars. Following in the footsteps of his teacher he became a Talmudic authority and a philosopher of great originality. He is considered important in the history of modern thought for his deep influence on Baruch Spinoza. Joseph Albo is the best known of his pupils, but at least two others have won recognition, Rabbi Mattathias of Saragossa, and Rabbi Zechariah ha-Levi. Crescas was a man of means. Still, though enjoying the high esteem even of prominent non-Jews, he did not escape the common fate of his coreligionists.


The Life and Time of Hasdai Crescas

In the view of Crescas, this point of view often led to mistaken conclusions, and threatened to blur the distinctiveness of the Jewish faith. He felt that this program reduced the doctrinal contents of Judaism to a surrogate of Aristotelian concepts. Crescas makes no concealment of his purpose to vindicate classical Jewish thinking against the rationalism of Maimonides and Gersonides. Of these two the former especially had endeavored to harmonize revelation and faith with philosophy. While, in those instances where this harmony could not be established, Maimonides refused to follow Aristotle to the exclusion of Moses , his successors seemed bent upon the opposite course.


Hasdai Crescas

Free will The purpose of the Torah Obligatory beliefs. The existence of the Torah is possible without them, but if someone denies them he is a heretic. There are eight general beliefs in the obligatory category: The creation of the world The survival of the soul after death Reward and Punishment as per degree of conformity to the divine commandments Resurrection The eternity of the Torah The prophetic stature of Moses The Urim and Tumim a mystical tool of the High Priest through which he could ask God questions The Messiah There are three specific obligatory beliefs related to special religious obligations: Prayer and the priestly benediction Repentance Rosh Hashana, The Fast of Kippur and the three pilgrimage festivals. Fourteen beliefs for which the Torah does not clearly establish what the correct opinions are. Regarding these beliefs Crescas explores the different options and tries, using the interpretation of the traditional Jewish sources together with philosophical enquiry, to establish the correct view.

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