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CRESCAS, HASDAI (ca. 1340-1412).

Spanish rabbi, statesman, and religious philosopher. The Talmudic scholarship of Hasdai Crescas was so highly valued that his contemporaries simply called him “the Rov [teacher] of Saragossa.” Crescas’ statesmanship was recognized when he served the Royal Court of Aragon, yet this did not save him from tragedy. His son was killed during the black year of 1391, when Spanish mobs, incited by the eloquence of a monk, raged in many cities and gave Jews a choice between death and giving up their faith. Crescas is best remembered for his philosophical work Or Adonai, “Light of the Lord.” This book described the major beliefs of Judaism as faith in God’s guidance and in Jewish destiny. Crescas opposed the philosophy of Aristotle and stressed his belief in free will. He is considered the last original Jewish thinker of the medieval period, and his work influenced deeply the 17th-century philosopher Baruch (Benedict) Spinoza.

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