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Maimonides, Arabic, and Chabad/Lubavitch


Rabbi Ari Shvat

Av 3, 5777
1. Is Maimonides/Rambam the person who compiled the Negative and Positive Commandments, and who numbered all these extra commandments? As I understand it, Maimonides wrote primarily in the Arabic language. In Israel, are his works studied in the original Arabic? 2. How is Chabad Messianism viewed by other Orthodox Jews? I find it to be extremely Christian. Also Rabbi Schneerson’s commentaries on these Parshas always relate in someway to Moshiach and the Messianic Era. Completely different in tone and texture than the other commentaries I have read thus far. Is this unusual in Judaism? Also, how do other Orthodox Jews view the Tanya? And these lectures he gave under the title Dvar Malchus?
1. The Jewish tradition counting 613 Torah commandments, 248 do’s and 365 don’t’s, goes back at least 1,600 years ago to the Talmud (Makot 23b). Rav Sa’adya Gaon listed them in detail, about 300 years before the Rambam, since then, also the Bahag, Ramban, Ya’avetz and others offered alternative ways of counting them. To which additional mitzvot are you referring? In Israel the Rambam’s works are studied in Hebrew, and only some scholars study the original Arabic (although the Mishneh Torah, his magnum-opus, was written in Hebrew, for the Rambam wanted to make sure it would be eternal and be studied in all exiles). In schools, English is taught alongside Hebrew, and to have 3 languages would be too much for children! 2. Chabad is seen as a very unique sect of orthodox Judaism, which has done a lot of good to bring Torah to Jews even in the most remote locations or with gentile upbringing. The Rebbe was seen as a great Torah scholar and clearly mainstream, as was the first Rebbe (who authored Tanya, and was a great and accepted halachic authority). Only since the obsession of some Lubavitchers with exaggerated messianism involving the rebbe (starting about 25 years ago), some have become wary of deification and fanaticism, but they still do important work. We are meant to focus on improving our world and not on theoretically dreaming ahead. Also, we are supposed to focus on the good in every person and movement.
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