by Ben Zion Katz
KTAV Publishing House, Urim Publications, 2021
This Student's Companion edition lays out, in nontechnical terms, the main ideas contained in Maimonides' famous work Guide of the Perplexed so it can be read be read by an ambitious beginner or advanced high school student. It also provides a general introduction to Maimonides' life, the plan and outline of the Guide, the required philosophical background, and a concise chapter-by-chapter overview and commentary.
About the Authors:
Moses Maimonides was one of the greatest Jewish minds of all time. Born in Cordova, Spain around 1135, his family fled from fanatical Moslem persecution. They passed through Fez, Morocco and Israel, eventually settling in Fostat (Old Cairo), Egypt. Also known as the Rambam, Maimonides became the leader of the Jewish community in Egypt for a time; he also studied medicine and became a court physician. He authored three great Jewish works (as well as many medical and scientific treatises): a commentary on the Mishnah, a code of Jewish law and his philosophical masterpiece, The Guide of the Perplexed. Published in 1190, the Guide has been translated into many languages and has had a profound influence on both Jewish and non-Jewish philosophers. Maimonides died in 1204 and was buried in Tiberias in Israel.
Ben Zion Katz is a Professor of Pediatrics at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine and is an Attending Physician in the Division of Infectious Diseases at the Ann & Robert H Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago. He is the author of over 70 original medical publications, as well as many book chapters and editorials on medical matters. He is also the author of A Journey Through Torah: A Critique of the Documentary Hypothesis (Urim, 2012) and has published many articles of Jewish interest in learned journals such as Tradition, Jewish Bible Quarterly and Bekhol Derakheha Dehu (Journal of Torah and Scholarship). He has taught for the Florence Melton Adult Education Program of Hebrew University, the Dawn Schuman Institute for Jewish Learning and Limmud Chicago, and has given invited presentations at meetings of the Association for Jewish Studies and the Herzl Institute in Jerusalem. He lives with his family in the Chicago area.
Praise for Student's Companion to The Guide of the Perplexed:
“Moses Maimonides was one of the supreme Jewish minds of the Middle Ages. He was a halakhist par excellence and the greatest Jewish philosopher. Dr. Katz's book will be useful to those seeking a bird's eye view of the Guide.
The book will also be very useful to those who have studied the Guide and seek to refresh their memory as to its contents. Teachers of the Guide will find Katz’s work an excellent tool for preparing their lectures.
Rabbi Moshe Isserles, one of the greatest Jewish scholars of Poland… speaks of the study of the metaphysical as tiyul be-pardes. Ben Zion Katz's Student’s Companion to The Guide will serve as a useful handbook to those who desire to walk in the garden.”
– Rabbi Dr. H. Norman Strickman
“Still, the Guide remains a closed book to so many students of Torah because of its daunting but necessary prerequisite knowledge of Aristotelian philosophy. How does someone begin on the long road of tackling the Guide? Fortunately, there’s no shortage of commentary and analysis…. Recognizing, however, that many of these works may be inaccessible to the average reader, because of language and/or scholastic barriers, the latest entry by Dr. Ben Zion Katz, Student’s Companion to the Guide of the Perplexed, is a welcome addition.
Dr. Katz came upon the study of the Guide as a “layman,” being a doctor of medicine and not of philosophy. The layman’s view, however, will be appreciated by so many in the Jewish community who lack the years of academic training in both secular and Jewish philosophy and who are seeking an explanation of and entrée to complex ideas and concepts. Katz has spent much effort researching many of the more abstruse topics in the Guide and he does a good job at simplifying these concepts.
This is not a definitive work, but a brief and clear reader’s guide (it recalls the old “Cliff Notes” of my youth), weighing in at under 140 pages in “pocket book” format. Katz has attempted to economize on any embellishments, sticking to “just the facts” as much as possible. He presents a straightforward synopsis of what the Guide is, and only rarely adds terse commentary and analysis….
Student’s Companion succeeds in its stated objective of being just what it claims to be. It is a great way to get one’s feet wet without investing a large amount of time and mental energy into trying to decipher some of the more academic writings on the Guide…. this small book will prove to be very helpful in making an initial foray into the world of Rambam’s Guide. I trust it will be well received by a new generation of the perplexed.”
-Rabbi Daniel Korobkin, Tradition online