The first principle of Traditional Jewish medicine, is to recognize G-d in all aspects of our lives, and to know that the more we involve Him, the more He reveals Himself to us, showing us the sweetness of our existence. One might wonder if it is possible to harmonize this fundamental of Judaism with the empiricism of Aristotle, who "apparently" believed that all knowledge and concepts can be acquired only through one's perceptions.
In his Treatise, "Toras Hashem Temima" (The Torah of Hashem is perfect), the Ramban states: "...Hence you see the stubbornness of the leader of the philosophers (Aristotle), may his name be erased, for he denies a number of things that many have seen, whose truth we ourselves have witnessed, and which have become famous in the world. In ancient times, for example in the days of our teacher, Moshe , of blessed memory, they were known to all, because in that generation, all of the sciences were spiritual, such as the subjects of demonology, sorcery and the different varieties of incense offered for Heavenly works. For since they were chronologically closer to the creation of the world and the flood, there was no one who denied the concept of creationism, or who rebelled against Hashem. Rather, they would attempt to enhance their spirituality by worshiping the sun, moon and constellations, and they would draw certain shaped forms in order to receive higher powers. Even among the philosophers, as is written in the book of Talismans (אלטלסמש), it was possible for a person to bring down a spirit and the power of speech to images. When the Greeks arose, (and they were a new nation who had not received wisdom as an inheritance), as explained by the author of the Kuzari (Rabbi Yehuda Halevi), that well known man (Aristotle) arose and denied everything other than physical senses. He sought out science based only upon the senses while denying the spiritual ones. He claimed that the subject of demons and the art of sorcery were worthless and all activity in this world is based upon natural law...."
Yet, ironically, this very tenet of Aristotle, that Man can only know something as true if he is able to perceive it through his senses, at the end of his life, he recognized was flawed and recanted.
"I also saw that Rabbi Yosef Ibn Shem Tov in the introduction to his commentary on The Book of Middot says how he saw in Egypt a book in which was written how Aristotle at the end of his life admitted that everything that was written in the Sefer Torah of Moshe was true, and that he then converted to Judaism."
" I saw in the beginning of The Kuzari handwritten notes, and note 42 asks from whence did the philosophers get their wisdom. They answered that it came from the Jews and all the wisdoms copied their sources and principles from the Jews of Alexandria. Afterwards it was passed down to Persia and Medes, then to Greece and finally to Rome. But with the passage of time and much wandering, they did not remember that their wisdoms were copied from the Jews and not from the Greeks or Romans."
"The author of the Shvilei Emuna wrote– that he saw it written that when Alexander went to Jerusalem he appointed Aristotle, his teacher, to be in charge of the books of (King) Solomon, and that he (Aristotle) copied from there his philosophy, and called it in his (own) name."
"The Rav (the Rambam) in HaMoreh Nevuchim (The Guide For the Perplexed) section 1 chapter 71 says that all the wisdoms originally came from the people of Israel, but due to the domination of the nations upon us it came into their hands. So therefore, when we learn something from them which appears to be original, the opposite is true."
"Ibn Rashed who is called Aviro'oh says in the end of his book, Hapelet Hatefila, that the wisdoms came from Israel. 'I also saw these words in an ancient text , and I am copying them here word for word and here they are: 'I testify, with total clarity, that I heard from the mouth of the sage, Don Avraham Ibn Zarzer who lived in Lisbon, that the Ishmaeli sage, Ibn Alachtov, (who people used to say of him that there was no one of his caliber in his generation in terms of wisdom and piety) had heard that there was, in the city of Alekhara a book from Aristotle composed at the end of his life, and in that book, he recanted all that he had written previously. The sage Don Abraham ibn Zarzer sent for this book and saw in it matters relating to Divine providence, matters relating to the immortality of the soul, and matters relating to the creation of the world. Aristotle said concerning these as well as matters relating to nature, that, 'The “Shimoni” had changed my mind by way of the logic in which he explained certain miracles and other various arguments. At the end of this book is found the following letter, written by Aristotle sent to his student, King Alexander.
Here is the text of the letter:
'Blessed is Hashem who opens the eyes of the blind, and who teaches sinners the path to take. He is extolled with the praise that is worthy of Him, and has graced me with His mercy and his abundant kindness: For He has extricated me from the complete foolishness in which I was mired in all the days of my life pursuing the wisdom of philosophy, and judging everything according to logic and reason.
Based upon this, I authored as many books as the sand on the seashore. At the end of my days, however, I debated with a master from the sages of Israel, who demonstrated his strong arm in the Torah, and their inheritance from Sinai. He thus, drew my heart near with words of the Torah, showing me signs and wonders with true holy names that are revealed to the senses.
Yet, because I did not know that most of these things are above logic, when I did realize this, I gave of my full heart, reflecting with great intensity on the religion of the Jews. I discovered that its foundation is flawless, unlike the dark wisdom of philosophy. Therefore, my precious student Alexander, oh great king, do not let my books cause you to err, neither you nor for your friends, the philosophers, for if I could gather together all of my books that have spread to the farthest reaches of the land, I would burn them so that not even one would remain to be seen by the princes and their deputies, causing them to err. For I know that I will receive great punishment from G-d, having sinned and having caused the multitudes to sin.
Therefore, my son, Alexander I inform you and all the people of the world that most of the things that are derived through logic are lies,"For the Highest over the high waits (Kohelet 5:7)." Therefore since it has happened that my books have been disseminated throughout the western world, I hereby declare, with absolute certainty, that it is not worthwhile to look in them or review them, for their logic is iniquitous and their philosophy is false. I now, therefore, am discharged from responsibility before Hashem – for I transgressed unknowingly. Woe unto those that look in them (my books) for they go in a path of confusion leading to destruction. Know also that just as that great sage taught me about our wisdom, this was also the sentiment expressed by Shlomo the son of David by way of metaphor when he says, "To guard you from a strange woman...” (Mishlei 7:5), “Don't let your heart be drawn away to her path” (Mishlei 7:25) and, “All those that come to her will not return...” (Mishlei 2:19).
The reason that I hadn't written this letter to you previously, was that I was concerned that you would be angry with me and do me evil. But I have now decided to inform you of my opinion nonetheless. For I know that before this letter arrives, I will already be lying in a wooden casket, as I have reached the end of my life.
1. Aristotle converted to Judaism at the end of his life.
3. Some of the wisdom that he learned from King Shlomo is the basis of some his philosophy.
The gemara (Yoma 69a) adds yet more information about Alexander and Shimon Hatzadik: Alexander the Macedonian entered into Jerusalem, and that Shimon HaTzadik the Cohen Gadol went out to greet the emperor in his eight priestly garments. Upon seeing Shimon Hatzadik, Alexander descended from his chariot and bowed to him. He told his servants and those that were present that the vision of this man, the Cohen Gadol in his eight priestly garments appeared to him before each of his victories. The gemara continues that Alexander asked that an statue in the image of himself be placed in the Holy Temple, to which Shimon replied that this was against the Torah. However, to honor the king, all male Cohen children that would be born that year would be named Alexander and that all legal documents would be dated from the start of that year (ie, 1st year of the King Alexander). He was very happy and gave many gifts to the Temple. Thus we see clearly that Alexander, Aristotle's student, was a contemporary of Shimon Hatzadik.