In the early Middle Ages, while most Jews lived under the Islamic Caliphate, Judaism was being torn apart from within. Somehow Judaism survived, thanks to the brilliant writer and deep thinker, Saadiah Gaon.
From combating the threat of the Kaarites, a Jewish sect which argued that the the written Torah was all that mattered, to ending a schism between the Jewish academies of Babylonia and of the Land of Israel, Rabbi Saadiah ben Yosef Al Fayyumi was one of Judaism’s most brilliant and influential figures.
Through his simultaneous reverence for long-standing practice and embrace of scientific thought, he went on to write the first rule book of Hebrew grammar and translate the Bible into Arabic. He was even appointed the Gaon of the Sura Academy in Babylonia, until he got into a fight with the Exilarch over a legal case about inheritance, ending in his exile from Sura. During his exile he wrote The “Book of Beliefs and Opinions,” which blended Greek philosophy, Jewish theology, and Arabic literary style, uniting both religious leaders and rationalists. Rabbi Saadiah’s actions and innovative thought paved the way for the Golden Age of Judaism and the concurrent rise of the Rambam.
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