Maimonides on Judaism and the Jewish People
S U N Y Series in Jewish Philosophy
By Menachem Kellner
State University of New York Press, 1991, 168 pages
Reviewed by Israel Drazin - April 30, 2010
Menachem Kellner addresses the issue of Maimonides' approach to non-Jews in his well-written book Maimonides on Judaism and the Jewish People. He makes it clear that the great philosopher's attitude on many subjects was influenced by non-Jews and his understanding of human nature.
Maimonides (1138-1204) begins his philosophical work Guide of the Perplexed, in chapter 1, by telling his readers that the Bible instructs us that humans were created in the tzelem Elohim, "the image of God," (Genesis 1:27), and this means that the distinguishing feature of all humans, Jews and non-Jews – that which differentiates them from animals and plants – is that they were created with intelligence. This idea, presented at the very onset of the Guide, is repeated at its close, in 3:54, where Maimonides says of intelligence: "this is the true reality, the ultimate end; this is what gives the individual true perfection, a perfection that belongs to him alone [and not to any other of God's creations]." Jews were not created in a new way or given a new form when Abraham was born or when Moses gave the Israelites the divine Torah. All humans are composed of the same basic essence and all must be respected.