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Try it free for 30 days. View Colossians Bible Gateway Recommends. View more titles. Click the button below to continue. Close this window. Learn more today! In any event, in his Guide for the Perplexed Maimonides adopts a more pro-ascetic view and hints that extreme asceticism is the goal of such perfect persons as the prophets, and he accepts Aristotle's view that the sense of touch is the most repugnant of all the external senses, and accordingly regards sexual relations negatively.
Moses b. The ambivalent attitude towards asceticism, on the one hand rejecting it as the recommended moral way for the masses and on the other hand presenting it as an ideal of perfection, continued to permeate medieval Jewish thought. The radical rationalism of the 13 th —15 th centuries regarded conjunction with the Active Intellect — the beatitude sought by the philosopher — as attainable only after death. For the person who has reached perfection, matter becomes superfluous.
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Such rationalism led to idealizing extreme asceticism. Mystical tendencies towards asceticism took several forms. First, the mystical way leads to conjunction or communion devekut with the divine, and in some cases even to union with the divine world. Such views frequently result in an ascetic ethos.get link
Encyclopedia Judaica: Asceticism
Second, the theurgic interest in Kabbalah focuses on repairing tikkun the divine world, with the result that the terrestrial dimension of physical life is rendered marginal. On the other hand, the movement's tendency towards asceticism was opposed by their concern for the sanctity of sex and for theurgic practices.
Mystical attitudes towards asceticism thus remained mixed and complex. In Mesillat Yesharim end of chapter 13 he explains that, while it is proper for a person to limit his superfluous enjoyments to guard against debasement of his character, it is wrong and sinful to deprive oneself of enjoyments in a manner that will cause one needless suffering and be detrimental to one's bodily and spiritual health. Thus, while a moderate and balanced morality always dominated Jewish thought, the ascetic motif was never lacking.
Biblical legislation places limits on ascetic practices women might take upon themselves.
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According to Numbers —17, a woman's vows and self-imposed obligations were valid only if her father or guardian, in the case of a minor, or husband, in the case of a married woman, did not object when he learned about them. The vows and self-imposed deprivations of a widow or divorced woman, however, were considered binding. Issues connected with women's self-imposed ascetic vows are discussed in the Talmud TB Ned. Following the model of biblical legislation, the rabbis affirmed that the male guardian or husband has the prerogative to annul all such vows as soon as he hears of them; however, if he delays significantly, he cannot annul them later.
Generally, the rabbis disapproved of women who assumed obligations requiring extremes of self-denial and expressed particular disapproval of women who devoted themselves to excessive prayer and unusual degrees of fasting.
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Such a woman would be derelict in her central religious obligation, her domestic duties to her husband and family. Thus, TB Sotah 22a understands the "female 'pharisee' … who brings destruction upon the world" in R. Joshua's statement in Sotah , as "a maiden who gives herself up to prayer. While celibacy and monastic living allowed a significant number of medieval Christian women, and to a certain extent, also, some Muslim women, to cross gender boundaries, engage in a variety of ascetic spiritual exercises, and secure a place alongside men as scholars, saints, and mystics, rabbinic insistence on universal marriage from early adolescence ruled out such life alternatives for medieval and early modern Jewish women.
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The effort to distance women from asceticism is also indicative of their absence in Jewish mystical life, where such practices were typical of the male elite. It was only within the anti-nomian practices of the Shabbatean movement that gender barriers were removed sufficiently to allow for female participation in the spiritualization of physical existence and the advent of a new messianic reality. Steinmann, St. John the Baptist and the Desert Tradition ; J. Thomas, Le mouvement baptiste en Palestine et Syrie Green ed.
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