Cover of Interiority and Law by Omer Michaelis
Interiority and Law
Bahya ibn Paquda and the Concept of Inner Commandments
Omer Michaelis


December 2023
222 pages.

Hardcover ISBN: 9781503636613
Ebook ISBN: 9781503637467

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Interiority and Law presents a groundbreaking reassessment of a medieval Jewish classic, Baḥya ibn Paquda's Guide to the Duties of the Hearts. Michaelis reads this work anew as a revolutionary intervention in Jewish law, or halakha.

Overturning perceptions of Baḥya as the shaper of an ethical-religious form of life that exceeds halakha, Michaelis offers a pioneering historical and conceptual analysis of the category of "inner commandments" developed by Baḥya. Interiority and Law reveals that Baḥya's main effort revolved around establishing a new legal formation—namely, the "duties of the hearts"—which would deal entirely with human interiority. Michaelis takes up the implications of Baḥya's radical innovation, examining his unique mystical model of proximity to God, which he based on an increasingly growing fulfillment of the inner commandments. With an integrative approach that puts Baḥya in dialogue with other medieval Muslim and Jewish religious thinkers, this work offers a fresh perspective on our understanding of the interconnectedness of the dynamic, neighboring religious traditions of Judaism and Islam.

Contributing to conversations in the history of religion, Jewish studies, and medieval studies on interiority and mysticism, this book reveals Baḥya as a revolutionary and demanding thinker of Jewish law.

About the author

Omer Michaelis is Senior Lecturer of Jewish Philosophy at Tel Aviv University.

"Examining Duties of the Hearts afresh, Michaelis uncovers a much more audacious and radical Baḥyā than the pious image we know. This thoughtful, thoroughly researched, and well-argued book sheds new light on the dynamics that fashioned medieval Jewish thought."

—Sarah Stroumsa, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem

"Interiority and Law is a masterful achievement. Michaelis has disclosed the philological nuances of Baḥya's classic work with illuminating originality; and with phenomenological insight revealed the inherent spiritual imperatives of Jewish religious practice. This is a work to be studied and cherished by those interested in Jewish and Islamic thought, and their profound interconnections."

—Michael Fishbane, University of Chicago

"Interiority and Law presents a brilliant and original interpretation of Duties of the Hearts. In Michaelis's compelling reading, Baḥya extends legal normativity to the interior sphere. It is a wonderful and extraordinary contribution."

—Moshe Halbertal, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem