Hasdai Crescas

Hasdai ben Judah Crescas (Hebrew: חסדאי קרשקש) (born in Barcelona, c.1340 – 1410/1411) was a Jewish philosopher and a renowned halakhist (teacher of Jewish law). Along with Rambam, Ralbag, and Albo, he is known as one of the major practitioners of the rationalist approach to Jewish philosophy, and his positions on issues of natural law and free will in Or Adonai can be seen as precursors to those of Spinoza.

Contents

Biography

Carrer Marlet, in the old Jewish Quarter of Barcelona, where Crescas was born. The Sinagoga Major is on the left.

Hasdai Crescas came from a family of scholars; he was a disciple of the Talmudist and philosopher Nissim ben Reuben, known as The RaN. 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.

While Crescas did not occupy an official position as rabbi, he seems to have been active as a teacher. Among his fellow students and friends, Isaac ben Sheshet (known as the RIBaSH), famous for his responsa, takes precedence. 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. As such he was appointed sole executor of the will of his uncle Vitalis Azday by the King of Aragon in 1393. Still, though enjoying the high esteem even of prominent non-Jews, he did not escape the common fate of his coreligionists. Imprisoned upon a false accusation in 1378, he suffered personal indignities because he was a Jew. His only son died in 1391, a martyr for his faith, during the anti-Semitic persecutions of that period. Nevertheless he kept his faith.

Notwithstanding this bereavement, his mental powers were unbroken; for the works that have made him immortal were written after that terrible year. Another episode of his life worthy of note is connected with the appearance of the pseudo-Messiah of Cisneros, one of whose adherents he became. In 1401-02 he visited Joseph Orabuena at Pamplona at the request of the King of Navarre, who paid the expenses of his journey to various Navarrese towns (Jacobs, l.c. Nos. 1570, 1574). He was at that time described as "Rav of Saragossa."

Works

His works on Jewish law, if indeed ever committed to writing – have not reached us. But his concise philosophical work Or Adonai, The Light of the Lord became a classical Jewish refutation of medieval Aristotelianism, and a harbinger of the scientific revolution in the 16th century.

Three of his writings have been preserved:

  1. His primary work, Or Adonai, The Light of the Lord.
  2. An exposition and refutation of the main doctrines of Christianity. This "tratado" was written in Catalan in 1398. The Catalan original is no longer extant; but a Hebrew translation by Joseph ibn Shem-Tov, with the title ("Refutation of the Cardinal Principles of the Christians"), has been preserved. The work was composed at the solicitation of Spanish noblemen. Crescas' object in writing what is virtually an apologetic treatise on Judaism was to present the reasons which held the Jews fast to their ancestral faith.
  3. His letter to the congregations of Avignon, published as an appendix to Wiener's edition of "Shevet Yehudah" (see above), in which he relates the incidents of the persecution of 1391.

List of works

Opening Crescas street in Jerusalem, Jan 2011. In front to the right side: prof. Warren Zeev Harvey
  • The Light of the Lord (Hebrew: Or Adonai or Or Hashem)
  • The Refutation of the Christian Principles (polemics and some philosophy)
    • Daniel Lasker: Sefer Bittul Iqqarei Ha-Nozrim by R. Hasdai Crescas. Albany 1992. ISBN 0-7914-0965-1
    • Carlos del Valle Rodríguez: La inconsistencia de los dogmas cristianos: Biṭṭul 'Iqqare ha-Noṣrim le-R. Ḥasday Crescas. Madrid 2000. ISBN 848832412X
  • Passover Sermon (religious philosophy and some halakha)

Important studies

  • Harry Austryn Wolfson, Crescas' Critique of Aristotle. Cambridge, Harvard University Press, 1929.
  • Warren Zev Harvey,Physics and Metaphysics in Hasdai Crescas, Amsterdam Studies in Jewish Thought, J.C. Gieben, Amsterdam, 1998.
  • Warren Zev Harvey, Great Spirit and Creativity within the Jewish Nation: Rabbi Hasdai Crescas(Hebrew), Mercaz, Zalman Shazar, Jerusalem 2010.


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  • Hasdai Crescas — Hasdaï Crescas Pour les articles homonymes, voir Crescas (homonymie). Hasdaï Crescas (hébreu : חסדאי קרשקש) est un éminent philosophe et légaliste séfarade du XIVe siècle (Barcelone, env. 1340 1410 ou 1411). Biographie Hasdaï ben… …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Hasdai Crescas — (1340 1410), filósofo y escritor judío, fue un rabino en Barcelona y en Zaragoza, escribió en catalán y hebreo participando de la reacción contra la filosofía aristotélica, escribiendo La Luz del Señor, donde critica el pensamiento de Maimónides… …   Wikipedia Español

  • Hasdaï Crescas — Pour les articles homonymes, voir Crescas (homonymie). Hasdaï Crescas (hébreu : חסדאי קרשקש) est un éminent philosophe et légaliste séfarade du XIVe siècle (Barcelone, env. 1340 1410 ou 1411). Biographie Hasdaï ben Abraham ben Hasdaï… …   Wikipédia en Français

  • CRESCAS (or Cresques), ḤASDAI BEN JUDAH — (c. 1340–winter 1410–11), Catalonian rabbi, philosopher, and statesman. Crescas was born into an old Barcelonan family of rabbis and merchants. He studied Talmud and philosophy there under Rabbi nissim b. reuben gerondi (c. 1310–1376) and… …   Encyclopedia of Judaism

  • Crescas — (Hebrew: קרשקש‎) is a Jewish family name. There have been a number of scholars and rabbis sharing that surname, including: Abiathar Crescas, a 15th century Jewish physician and astrologer, doctor to King John II of Aragon (1458–79) Astruc Don… …   Wikipedia

  • CRESCAS — (Cresques; Heb. קרשקש), personal or family name common among the Jews of southern France and Catalonia. It apparently comes from the Latin verb crescere ( to grow, increase ); compare the name Dieutecresse ( may God increase ) common among the… …   Encyclopedia of Judaism

  • Crescas, Ḥasdai ben Abraham — ▪ Spanish philosopher born 1340, Barcelona? died 1410, Saragossa, Spain       Spanish philosopher, Talmudic scholar, and critic of the Aristotelian rationalist tradition in Jewish thought, who became crown rabbi of Aragon.       A merchant and… …   Universalium

  • Hasdai — Den Namen Hasdai (Hasday, Hasdaye), auch Hisdai (Hisday, Hisdaye), trugen Chasdai ibn Schaprut (915 975), jüdischer Wesir in Cordoba am Hof des Kalifen Abd ar Rahman III. Abu l Fadl Hasdai ibn Yusuf ibn Chasdai (1050? 1093?), Enkel des vorigen,… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Crescas, Hasdai ben Abraham — (c. 1340–1412) Jewish philosopher and theologian. Crescas was the first European thinker to oppose Aristotelian cosmology, arguing instead for an infinitely extended cosmos. He opposed the extreme rationalism of Maimonides, and his emphasis on… …   Philosophy dictionary

  • Crescas — /kres keuhs/, n. Hasdai /khahs duy/, 1340 1412?, Jewish philosopher and theologian, born in Spain. * * * …   Universalium


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