Maharal of Prague

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Acronym for Morenu Harav RabbiLaib, ‘Our Teacher Rabbi Leow’, Talmudist, theologian, Rabbi of Prague (d. 1609). It is unfortunate that the Maharal is known chiefly as the creator of the golem and that his grave is one of the tourist attractions in the city, since he was an original and influential thinker who deserves better than a reputation as a vulgar miracle-worker. In his thought Maharal was influenced by the Renaissance and the emerging new scientific picture of the universe. A prominent theme in his writings is, consequently, the role of man in the creation. Following Rabbinic teachings on this theme, the Maharal develops the idea that God created an incomplete universe which it is the task of humans to bring to completion. This applies even to the Torah, which is incomplete and requires to be applied by the sages of Israel through their deliberations.

There is a strong mystical tinge to Maharal's thought. He was obviously influenced by the Kabbalah but formulates his thought in such a way that his theories are presented in his own style without any direct reference to Kabbalistic terminology. His presentation in his voluminous works is far from systematic and it is often difficult to see the wood for the trees. This probably accounts for the comparative neglect of this original thinker.

Subjects: Judaism and Jewish Studies.

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