Remembering the Rambam
15 Nissan (the eve of Passover) of the year 4895 (1135 C.E.1)
to 20th of Tevet of the year 4965 (1204 C.E.)
Maimonides Heritage Center in Tiberias Israel
The Live Broadcast of HaRav Yitzchak Ginsburgh, given on Sunday January 7, was the Yahrzeit of the Rambam, Rabbi Moshe ben Maimon. The Rav dedicated his Shiur in Memory of the Rambam.
Moshe was born in Cordoba, Spain, on the 14th of Nissan (the eve of Passover) of the year 4895 (1135 C.E.1). His father Maimon, a direct descendant of King David, was a judge in the city's rabbinical court. His mother passed away when he was yet a small child.
Moshe ben Maimon was a Talmudist, halachist, physician, philosopher and communal leader.
After discussing the elevated levels of the Rambam, in the distinctness of his personality, via the Sefirot, HaRav Ginsburgh compared his writings and as an accomplished Physician who treated whoever came to him (Jew or non-Jew), toward the last segment of his talk, the Rav compares the Rambam via the “Creation Story” analysis of Plato and Socretes. A Fascinating insight. [this is my analysis]
|Traditional portrait of Rambam, |
and authentic signature of the Rambam
Rabbi Moshe ben Maimon was one of the towering figures in the history of the Jewish people. Of him it was said, "From Moshe (Moses) to Moshe (the son of Maimon) there arose none like Moshe.” [A recurring theme of the Rav’s shiur] Among the Jewish people, he is known as the Rambam, an acronym for Rabbi Moshe ben (son of) Maimon (RaMBaM); while universally - for his fame and influence reached far beyond the confines of his own people - he is called Maimonides, the Greek form of "the son of Maimon."
At the age of thirteen, his family was forced to flee Cordoba when a fanatic Islamic sect took control of the city; the Jews were attacked by rioters and many synagogues were destroyed.
Moshe and his family traveled from place to place looking where to relocate. Not finding anything suitable in Spain, he and his father and younger brother, David, moved to Fez, Morocco, for five years. In 4925 (1165 C.E.), he visited the land of Israel and then moved to Alexandria, Egypt. Later, he settled in Fustat, today known as Old Cairo, where he lived until his passing.
In Egypt, Maimonides was supported by his brother David, a merchant who imported diamonds from India. His financial support gave Maimonides the ability to devote himself to the study of Torah and to author his scholarly work on the Mishnah, the 2nd century seminal work on Jewish law.
Tragedy befell him when his father, wife and two of his sons died within a span of two years, starting in 1166. Several years later, in 1171, his brother David drowned when his ship sunk en route to India.
Without the support of his brother, he began practicing medicine and struggled to support himself and his brother's family.
In his mid-fifties, Maimonides was appointed as a personal physician by a royal courtier and then to Saladin, the sultan of Egypt and Syria. His new appointments and duties gave him financial stability and more – albeit still very limited – time to devote to his writing.
His son and faithful student, Abraham, was his only remaining immediate family member.
Maimonides passed away on the 20th of Tevet of the year 4965 (1204 C.E.) and was buried in the city of Tiberias in the Holy Land. [The above video is dedicated to his place in Tiberias]
Two Legends (wikipedia)
Many legends are told about the burial of Maimonides. According to Jewish tradition, his bones were placed for a week in a small shrine where he used to study and to heal strangers. While some believe his bones never left Egypt, others believe that the permanent place of his burial was on the western shore of the Sea of Galilee, where Tiberias is now sited. One legend has it that a band of Bedouins who were about to attack the funeral cortegé as it marched through the desert "hung their heads in shame" after realizing it was the funeral of the man who had attended themselves and their families for free, and instead formed a protective guard for the procession as it made its way to Palestine.
Another legend was told by Joseph ben Isaac Sambari, a Jewish-Egyptian chronicler of the seventeenth century, who lived probably between 1640 and 1703. In one of his books Sambari mentioned an oral anecdote about the people who carried his body to the Sea of Galilee for permanent burial mistakenly leaving one of his toes behind in the Maimonides synagogue, which at that time was called the synagogue of Western (Tunisian) Jews. Later one of the people who carried the body had a dream, in which a wise man of Egypt reminded him about the forgotten toe. The toe was recovered and buried next to the body.
Some interesting tidbits about the Rambam:
Rabbi Ovadiah Yosef cites the Ritva (Novella, Yoma 38B), who explains that the prohibition only applies to the geography and infrastructure of biblical Egypt. With the destruction of the Egyptian cities, this was nullified. In other words, the present day cities where Jewish communities were more recently established are not considered the ‘Egypt’ of the prohibition. Rav Yosef thus concluded that one can dwell in Egypt and he himself lived in Egypt for two years (1947-1949).
Rabeinu Bechaya also commentated that this only applied when the people of Egypt were particularly immoral, but it is not a prohibition for all times. Ritva commented that the prohibition was not applicable after the destruction of the temple and the exiles that followed. The Radvaz (Commentary of Rambam, Laws of Kings 5,7,8) says that the actual Torah prohibition would be violated only if a person moved to Egypt with the intention of living there but a person may move there for temporary asylum or while he does some business. Once a person is there, if he decides to stay it is still forbidden but not as severe, as it involves no physical action. Therefore if the economic situation is difficult or the Jews are being persecuted in other lands it is permitted to stay. Rabbi Eliezer of Metz states that the prohibition applies only returning to Egypt from Israel, Rabbi Yosef Shaul Halevi Nathansohn adds that this is only via the same route of the 42 encampments that the Jews followed in the desert.
The Rambam quoted:
“Nevertheless, the intent of the Creator of the world is not within the power of man to comprehend, for His ways are not our ways, nor are His thoughts, our thoughts. Ultimately, all the deeds of Jesus of Nazareth and that Ishmaelite who arose after him will only serve to prepare the way for Mashiach’s coming and the improvement of the entire world, motivating the nations to serve God together..” Hilchot Melachim 11:4
In interpreting the Mishnaic teaching “make of them neither a crown of which to boast nor a pickaxe with which to dig,” Pirkei Avot
“I had thought to say nothing about this provision, because it is clear but also because I know that what I have to say about it will displease most, if not all, great Torah scholars. But I will have my say and not pay attention to [them]. Know that it says “make not of the Torah a pickaxe with which to dig”; that is, do not consider it a means for earning a living. This means that one who obtains this- worldly benefit from the honour of the Torah has cut off his soul from the life of the world to come…. For when we consider the practice of the sages of blessed memory, we find that none of them raised funds from people or sought contributions for the exalted and distinguished yeshivas or for the Exilarch or for judges or teachers or any appointees or other people.”
The Rambam’s Written Works:
Commentary on the Mishnah 25-30 years old (Morroco)
Sefer HaMitzvot /Mishnah Torah 30-40 years old
Guide for the Perplexed 47-53 years old
Teshuvot and Epistles
10 Medical works and various earlier compositions
“What I wrote in the work [Mishneh Torah] is doubtlessly correct, and so I wrote in the Commentary on the Mishnah [in a revision of the first version]. What you have is the first edition, which I published before close scrutiny, following, in this passage, what R. Hafetz wrote in Sefer ha- Mitzvot . The mistake is his, and I followed it without verifying. But when I examined and scrutinized these passages, it became clear that what I wrote in the work is correct, and I revised the commentary. “ Iggerot, pp. 647–649
The original, authorised version of the work, in Maimonides’ own hand, was kept in his home. From that editio princeps , corrected on occasion by Maimonides himself, additional copies were made. Those manuscripts were certified as authoritative by Maimonides’ signed statement that he had examined and approved the copy. These copies were sent to various communities, and, during Maimonides’ lifetime, the treatise reached all parts of the Jewish Diaspora, all the way to India. Maimonides was following carefully and attentively the fate of Mishneh Torah and could provide a detailed account of its dissemination, in times when manuscripts and letters moved in slow motion.
“This honored and awesome God commands that we love Him…. What is the way to love Him?
When a person contemplates His wondrous, great actions and creations, and perceives in them His immeasurable and infinite wisdom, Then he immediately loves and praises and exalts and experiences a great desire to know the great God, as David said: ‘My soul thirsts for the living God….’ As our Sages taught, concerning love: ‘For thus you recognize Him Who spoke and the world came into existence.'” Hilchot Yesodei HaTorah 2:1-2
“When a person considers these things and recognizes all of the creations… and perceives God’s wisdom in all creatures and all creations, he loves God even more and his soul will thirst and his flesh long to love the blessed God.” Hilchot Yesodei HaTorah 4:12
Ten Things You Definitely Didn’t Know About the Rambam