Israel Drazin

The truth is the truth

Maimonides taught in his introduction to his Guide of the Perplexed, the truth is the truth no matter what its source. Therefore, Maimonides said he had no scruple about generally accepting the philosophy of the Greek Aristotle (384-322 BCE), one of the most influential thinkers in the history of Western thought.

The rabbis also accepted Aristotelian ideas. The Israel Prize winner for Talmud, Professor Shamma Friedman, points out a rabbinical borrowing from Aristotle in his article in Maarav.[1] He shows that a passage in the Babylonian Talmud Baba Mesia 83b “are directly paralleled in the writings of none other than Aristotle. In his History of Animals, book 3 chapter 9…”

Not only rational philosophers, but even mystics stressed Maimonides’ teaching about taking truths from all sources, Jewish and non-Jewish. The famed kabbalist Rabbi Haim Attar (1696-1743) asked in his book Or Ha-Haim, in his commentary to Exodus 18:21, why does the Bible tell us the story of the Midianite pagan priest Jethro offering advice to the law-giver Moses and add that Moses implemented the priest’s advice? Isn’t there enough knowledge among Jews? Why go to non-Jews for advice?

Rabbi Attar answered, The Bible is teaching us that in all generations there are non-Jews with greater knowledge than Jews. Rabbi Attar states that this teaching is also found in Midrash Rabba Eikha 2:13 and the Babylonian Talmud Sanhedrin 39b and other sources.

[1][1] Shamma Friedman, Aristotle in the Babylonian Talmud, Maariv 21.1-2 (2014): 311-317. Dr. Friedman tells about other parallels in his footnote.

About the Author
Dr. Israel Drazin served for 31 years in the US military and attained the rank of brigadier general. He is an attorney and a rabbi, with master’s degrees in both psychology and Hebrew literature and a PhD in Judaic studies. 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. Dr. Drazin is the author of more than 50 books on the Bible, philosophy, and other subjects.