A Question About Ralbag's Reception
Professor Menachem Kellner asked me to post the following question:
Rabbi Levi ben Gershom (1288-1344), known as Ralbag or Gersonides, is best known in the world of Jewish tradition as the author of commentaries on the earlier prophets and of Job. These commentaries are found today in the Mikra'ot Gedolot editions of the Bible along with other traditional commentaries. Once in the Mikra'kot Gedolot, Ralbag's status as a rishon was assured, despite his unusual positions on a whole range of theological issues. His hitherto very rare commentaries on the Torah are being made available by Mossad ha-Rav Kook and in an exemplary edition under the editorship of Rabbi Baruch Braner of Yeshivat Birkat Moshe in Ma'aleh Adumim.
Ralbag's apparently positive reception (as evidenced by his inclusion in the Mikra'ot Gedolot) notwithstanding, there is no denying that he became a controversial figure by the later middle ages. Indeed, the first publisher of his philosophic magnum opus, Milhamot ha-Shem (Wars of the Lord) states that many called the book Wars Against the Lord. The explicit doctrines Ralbag defends in his Milhamot Ha-Shem, like those relating to the creation of the cosmos out of a kind of pre-existing matter, and especially those relating to God's knowledge and providence, are daring. Indeed, Isaac Husik called his doctrine of God's knowledge a "theological monstrosity."
I am interested in finding responses to Ralbag by rabbinic figures from the last two centuries and would be grateful for any assistance. I am familiar with brief haskamot on his writings by Reb Moshe Feinstein, z"l, and by the Netziv, but almost nothing else.
Thanks in advance, Menachem Kellner (Kellner@research.haifa.ac.il)