Jewish Philosopher and physicianby Rit Nosotro First Published:: 2003
“From Moses to Moses there was none like Moses” (Werblowsky and Wigoder p. 272). Thus reads Moses Maimonides tombstone. Moses Maimonides, a 12th century rabbi was a rabbi, scholar, philosopher and physician.
Rabbi Moses ben Maimon, also known as Rambam, was born in Cardoba, Spain in 1135. His family fled Spain because of Islamic persecution and wandered for awhile before settling in Morocco. Because of pressure to convert to Islam, the family once again relocated. They went to Israel, but the chaos of the Crusades still held. Finally they moved to Egypt where they located in Fostat, the old city of Cairo.
When Maimonides was in his forties his younger brother David died. David had supported the family and made it possible for Maimonides to devote his life to the study of Torah. He went into a depression and said that he was not going to make his living by using Torah as a means of support. It is believed that around this time he became a physician. He was a believer in preventative medicine. He believed that eating healthily prevented sickness.
He became a physician in the Egyptian royal court. He wrote to Shmuel ibn Tibbon, who translated The Guide to the Perplexed into Hebrew. Ibn Tibbon asked if he could visit Maimonides to ask about some translating issues. Maimonides replied that it was probably not a good idea to visit him because after a long day at the palace he would be faint from hunger and return home. “I find the antechamber filled with people, both Jews and gentiles, nobles and common people, judges and bailiffs, friends and foes-a mixed multitude who await the time of my return.” (http://www.us-israel.org/jsource/biography/Maimonides.html)
He was asked to become the royal physician to a “Frankish king” who is speculated to be King Richard the Lionhearted. He did not accept the offer. He was highly respected among both Jew and Gentile. He was a leader of the Jews in the area. Gentiles sought out his advice in medical and philosophical matters.
Rambam wrote Mishnah Torah, Siraj, The Guide to the Perplexed, and The Book of Commandments. Mishnah Torah and The Guide to the Perplexed are the most well known. Mishnah Torah, which literally means second law, is a summery of the Jewish religion. Sometimes going against the Torah, the first five books of the Bible, and contradicting the Talmud, a commentary on the Torah which the Mishnah is a part of, it includes all the Jewish law and attempts to sort it logically. It took ten years to compile and he continued revising it for the rest of his life. It was written in Arabic, as was The Guide to the Perplexed. The Guide to the Perplexed is an apologetics work. In the introduction he clearly states that it is for neither the common people nor the beginners, but for the learned, studied men who knew Torah and also had studied philosophy and were trying to reconcile them.
Of the things he is most known for is the Thirteen Articles of Jewish Faith. They state the tenants of Judaism. They explain about the belief and faith in God.
1. Belief in the existence of the Creator, be He Blessed, who is perfect in
every manner of existence and is the Primary Cause of all that exists.
2. The belief in G-d's absolute and unparalleled unity.
3. The belief in G-d's noncorporeality, nor that He will be affected by any physical occurrences, such as movement, or rest, or dwelling.
4. The belief in G-d's eternity.
5. The imperative to worship Him exclusively and no foreign false gods.
6. The belief that G-d communicates with man through prophecy.
7. The belief that the prophecy of Moses our teacher has priority.
8. The belief in the divine origin of the Torah.
9. The belief in the immutability of the Torah.
10. The belief in divine omniscience and providence.
11. The belief in divine reward and retribution.
12. The belief in the arrival of the Messiah and the messianic era.
13. The belief in the resurrection of the dead. (http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/source/rambam13.html)
Maimonides was a learned man and prolific author. He was respected by the western world. He wanted to reconcile the philosophy of Aristotle with his faith. He succeeded. When he died in 1204 at age 69 Fastat, Cairo’s old city, mourned for three days. A general fast was appointed in Jerusalem. His remains were carried to Israel where his tomb remains a pilgrimage to modern day.
Telushkin, Joseph “Jewish Literacy” NY: William Morrow and Co., 1991. Jewish Virtual Library Oct. 8, 2003
Halsall, Paul. “Medieval Sourcebook: Maimonides: The 13 Principles and the Resurrection of the Dead” Halsall, Paul. Jan. 1996. Fordam University. Oct. 8, 2003. http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/source/rambam13.html
“Maimonides, Moses (Biography)” Heritage: Civilization and the
Jews. Channel 13. Oct. 8, 2003.
Kolak, Daniel. “Lovers of Wisdom” 1997. William Patterson University.
Oct. 8., 2003.
Encyclopedia of the Orient “Maimonides” Oct. 8, 2003.
Lavine, Jay B. “The Thirteen Principles of Jewish Medical Ethics”
September 23, 2001 Oct. 10, 2003.
Karp, Abraham J. “From the Ends of the Earth: Judaic Treasures of the
Library of Congress”. Judaic Treasures of the Library of Congress:The
Mishneh Torah and the Guide for The Perplexed. Jewish Virtual Library Oct. 11,
“Moses Maimonides: Mishnah Torah” University of Calgary Oct. 11,
Karp, Abraham J. “From the Ends of the Earth: Judaic Treasures of the Library of Congress”. Judaic Treasures of the Library of Congress:The Mishneh Torah and the Guide for The Perplexed. Jewish Virtual Library Oct. 11, 2003
Werblowsky, R.J. Zwi. The Encyclopedia of the Jewish Religion. NY. Adama Books. 1986
Shapiro, Michael. The Jewish 100: a ranking of the most influential Jews of
all time. NY. Citadal Press. 1994