Maimonides / Rambam / موسى ابن ميمون הרמב"ם

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Moshe ben Maimon Maimonides רמב"ם, موسى ابن ميمون

Nicknames: "The Great Eagle", "הנשר הגדול", "רמב"ם", "Rambam", "Moshe ben Maimon", "Abū ʿImrān Mūsā bin ʿUbaidallāh Maimūn al-Qurṭubī"
Birthdate:
Birthplace: Córdoba, Almoravid Empire (present-day Spain)
Death: Died in Egypt
Place of Burial: Western shore, Sea of Galillee, Tiberias, Israel
Immediate Family:

Son of Rabbi Maimon HaDayan ben Yoseph [Rambam father], רבי מימון הדיין בן יוסף, אבי הרמב"ם
Husband of wife, Rabbi Moshe Maimon [Rambam 1st wife], אשת הרמב"ם הראשונה and Jamila Maimonides, [Rambam 2nd wife]
Father of Avraham I HaNagid ben R' Moshe ben Maimon, אברהם הנגיד בן הרמב"ם
Brother of David ben Maimon [Rambam brother], דוד בן מימון, אחי הרמב"ם; [Rambam sister #1], בת מימון; [Rambam sister #2], בת מימון and [Rambam sister #3], בת מימון

Occupation: Rabbi, Talmudist, Philosopher, Physician,
Managed by: Private User
Last Updated:

About Moshe ben Maimon Maimonides רמב"ם, موسى ابن ميمون

From Moshe (of the Torah) to Moshe (Maimonides) there was none like Moshe

R' Moshe ben Maimon, Moses Maimonides the Rambam, [ca. 1138 (or 1135?) - 1204] was the preeminent medieval Jewish philosopher and one of the greatest Torah scholars of the Middle Ages. He worked as a rabbi, physician, and philosopher in Spain, Morocco and Egypt. With the contemporary Muslim sage Averroes, he promoted and developed the philosophical tradition of Aristotle. As a result, Maimonides and Averroes would gain a prominent and controversial influence in the West, where Aristotelian thought had been lost for centuries. Albert the Great and Thomas Aquinas were notable Western readers of Maimonides.

Also known as Rabbi Moshe ben Maimon or the acronym the Rambam: רבי משה בן מימון‎; Hebrew acronym: רמב"ם; Arabic: موسى ابن ميمون‎ Mūsā ibn Maymūn, short for ‏ أبو عمران موسى بن عبيد الله ميمون القرطبي Abū ʿImrān Mūsā bin ʿUbaidallāh Maimūn al-Qurṭubī), was born in Cordoba, Spain on March 30, 1135, and died in Egypt on 20th Tevet, December 13, 1204.

Although his copious works on Jewish law and ethics were initially met with opposition during his lifetime, he was posthumously acknowledged to be one of the foremost rabbinical arbiters and philosophers in Jewish history. Today, his works and his views are considered a cornerstone of Jewish thought and study.

Name:

Maimonides's full Hebrew name was Moshe ben Maimon (Hebrew: משה בן מימון‎) and his Arabic name was ʼAbū ʻImrān Mūsā bin Maymūn ibn ʻAbdallāh al-Qurtubiyy al-ʼIsrāʼīliyy (أبو عمران موسى بن ميمون بن عبد الله القرطبي الإسرائيلي ). However, he is most commonly known by his Greek name, Moses Maimonides (Μωυσής Μαϊμονίδης). All of these names literally mean "Moses, son of Maimon." Several Jewish works call him Maimoni (מימוני). However, most Jewish works refer to him by the Hebrew acronym of his title and name—רבי משה בן מימון (Rabbi Moshe ben Maimon‎)—thus, among Jews he is known as רמב"ם (the Rambam.)

Videos of the Rambam

Leo Strauss' Maimonides Lectures: Lecture 1 - Faith, Lecture 2 - Aristotle - Philosophy, Lecture 3 - Secret Teaching

Selected Links of the Rambam:

Out of his philosophical exploration came what is known as the Ladder of Charity, an elegantly simple half-page of wisdom spelling out the eight steps of giving.

MAIMONIDES’ EIGHT LEVELS OF CHARITY

  • Level 8 — The donor is pained by the act of giving
  • Level 7 — The donor gives less than he should but does so cheerfully
  • Level 6 — The donor gives after being solicited
  • Level 5 — The donor gives without being solicited
  • Level 4 — The recipient knows the donor but the donor does not know the recipient
  • Level 3 — The donor knows the recipient but the recipient does not know the donor
  • Level 2 — Neither the donor nor the recipient knows the other
  • Level 1 — The donor gives the recipient the wherewithal to become self-supporting

Quotes from Maimonides:

  • Teach your tongue to say "I do not know" and you will progress.
  • 
The risk of a wrong decision is preferable to the terror of indecision.
  • 

No disease that can be treated by diet should be treated with any other means.

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Abū ‘Imrān Mūsā ibn ‘Ubayd Allāh ibn Maymūn al–Qurtubī (1137/38–1204), the neo–Aristotelian philosopher and physician of Cordoba, who—as Moses Maimonides—found his way onto a very short list of medieval Jews known beyond the Jewish world even in their own time.

Driven out of Islamic–ruled Cordoba during a rare period of intolerance toward Jews, Christians, and Muslims alike, Maimonides settled in the old city of Cairo (Fustat) around 1166, where he instructed students from Provence, Syria, and Yemen, and attracted visitors from as far away as Baghdad.

One such visitor was the misanthropic Muslim physician and polymath Muwaffaq al–Dīn ‘Abd al–Latīf al–Baghdadī (1162–1231), who found Maimonides to be “tremendously learned,” but also “overcome by the love of leadership and of service to worldly lords”—so caught up in administrative duties that they compromised his scholarship.

Maimonides himself would not have disagreed with this assessment, to judge by frequent complaints of his lack of time for research. In a letter to his Hebrew translator in Provence, Maimonides complained that he commuted daily from the residential quarter of Fustat to the Ayyubid palace in Cairo to attend to the health of the Sultan, his family, and his high officials. If he managed to return home after midday, he found “all the vestibules” of his home “filled with gentiles, noble and common, judges and magistrates, a mixed multitude, who know the time of my return,” such that he barely managed to eat something light before writing prescriptions all afternoon and evening. “The result is that no Jew can speak with me or meet with me except on the Sabbath.

” To another scholar in Provence, he complained that “the yoke of the gentiles is on my neck regarding medical matters, which have sapped my strength, and have not left me one hour, neither day nor night. But what can I do, now that my reputation has reached most countries?”

This, in fact, is the central paradox of the man we know as Maimonides: the conflicting demands of the worldly (al–dunya) and the spiritual (al–ākhira). His skill in practicing medicine landed him in Cairo at the court of Salāhal–Dīn (r. 1171–93), the Muslim ruler who conquered Jerusalem back from the Crusaders in 1187.

As if that did not occupy enough of the time he might have spent on scholarship, he also served as head of the Jewish community of Fustat, the largest and most important congregation of its day, renowned for its high proportion of long–distance traders, religious specialists, government bureaucrats, and other members of the literate elite.

He also traded; as Kraemer explains in this readable biography, physicians often did so out of “a professional interest in precious and semiprecious stones, gold, spices, pharmaceuticals, perfumes, paper, and books”.

Maimonides held to the unpopular view that scholars should work rather than rely on communal emoluments, declaring, “It is better to strip hides of animal carcasses than to say to other people, ‘I am a great sage, I am a priest, provide me’ [with a living]”.

Despite all this, he produced enduring, monumental works of Jewish law (the Mishneh Torah, written in Hebrew) and philosophy (The Guide for the Perplexed, written in Arabic in Hebrew letters, or Judeo–Arabic), among many other types of writings.

The tension between the worldly and spiritual legacies of Maimonides is, in part, an artifact of choices he himself made. But this paradox also animated his philosophical style. He described The Guide of the Perplexed (Dalālat al–Hāirīn in its original Judeo–Arabic), the work for which he became best known outside orthodox Jewish circles, as “apples of gold encased in silver filigree.” The metaphor suggests that the book’s most precious content lies just out of reach, separated from the reader by an attractive but misleading exterior. Indeed, the book has surely created more perplexities than it has resolved.

Rare as it is to know anything at all about the extracurricular lives of the great medieval Islamicate thinkers, it is rarer still to possess the veritable mountains of detail that we have about Maimonides. There are letters in his own hand; the correspondence of his younger brother David, who until his death at sea ca. 1170 supported Maimonides with profits from the India trade1 a nearly complete copy of his Judeo–Arabic commentary on the earliest post–biblical code of Jewish law, the Mishnah2 and pages from drafts of his major works, including the Mishneh Torah, the Guide, and his legal opinions, all in his own hand, complete with crossings out.

That we possess such a wealth of first–hand evidence is due to a single, rare, and extraordinarily fortunate circumstance: the congregation in Fustat that Maimonides joined and where he spent the last forty years of his career never threw anything away. Instead, they paid heed to a Jewish custom that prohibited destroying any piece of writing bearing the name of God. This was the Syro–Palestinian congregation of Fustat (kanīsat al–shāmiyyīn), which, starting ca. 1025, filled the lumber–attic of its synagogue with so many discarded texts that by the time European scholars discovered them in the late nineteenth century, they numbered close to three hundred thousand. Maimonides and the amanuenses who wrote for him, like all members of the congregation, discarded their drafts and incoming correspondence in the lumber–attic, or bet geniza in Hebrew.

More than half the haul is now at the Cambridge University Library. Specialized scholars are still identifying and cataloguing the Cairo Geniza’s contents. As recently as 2004, one leaf of an autograph draft of the Guide was pieced together from three fragments in two libraries.

Born in Cordoba in 1138, Maimonides fled the harsh rule of the Almohads (1130–1276), a Moroccan dynasty that conquered much of the Iberian peninsula and whose severity and intolerance—otherwise unheard of in the Islamic Middle Ages—drove Christians, Jews, and any Muslim who did not adhere to their austere doctrine north, south, and east to safety.

Flee though he might, we next find Maimonides in the early 1160s in Fez, close to the epicenter of Almohad rule at Marrakesh. Why leave the fryer for the fire? And how could he have survived in Fez as a Jew? Decades later, an Andalusian jurist arrived in Fustat and accused Maimonides of having converted to Islam and then reverted to Judaism, the latter a crime potentially punishable by death. Maimonides’ main patron at the Ayyubid court, the vizier al–Qādī al–Fādil, saved him from the charges.

As to why the young Maimonides gravitated to Fez in the first place, Kraemer connects the episode with shifts in Almohad religious policy: after the caliph ‘Abd al–Mu’min (1130–63) consolidated his conquests in the Maghrib and Iberia, Jews and Christians prospered economically. New opportunities probably drew the family southward. But after a revolt in Granada in 1162 in which Jews and Christians were complicit, the Almohad caliph Abū Ya’qūb Yūsuf (1163–84) developed a much harsher attitude toward Jews. The family’s decision to take refuge in Fez now “put them in danger”.

As for whether Maimonides and his family really did convert to Islam, the question has polarized academic scholarship. Those wedded to idealized images of Maimonides’ rabbinic piety or reared on stories of Jewish martyrdom in the face of danger cannot accept that he evaded death through temporary apostasy.

Others find ample evidence and even justification for a period of crypto–Judaism in Maimonides’ own works. When a Muslim convert to Judaism wrote to Maimonides with doubts about his teacher’s opinion that Islam was idolatrous, Maimonides replied that it was a pure form of monotheism and consoled his correspondent that he was a true son of Abraham. Kraemer, after judiciously weighing all the available evidence, sees no reason to deny Maimonides’ temporary conversion. The evidence and arguments he presents are strong. As a young man living in Fez, Maimonides had written a treatise on forced conversion, which another scholar had categorically forbidden, enjoining martyrdom instead. With characteristic impatience, Maimonides dismissed this opinion as fallacious and misleading, ordering Jews instead to save their skins by verbally professing the unity of God and Muhammad’s prophecy (shahāda). In refusing to regard utterance of the shahāda as a religiously significant act so long as it was performed without inner conviction, Maimonides took the position of Islamic law itself—as Kraemer ingeniously points out. He also connects Maimonides’ temporary apostasy with the Islamic doctrine of “prudent dissimulation” (taqiyya), which allowed anyone in mortal danger to assume a different faith publicly.

When necessary, Kraemer writes, “People used concealment and wore veils. Deep inside the individual lived a private faith, which he treasured with a small circle of secret sharers” (101). Here again the esoteric–exoteric paradox surfaces in Maimonides’ life—as if history had conditioned him not to trust outward appearances.

Fustat and Cairo imposed far less constraint on Maimonides’ life. The philosophical world he inhabited was shared by Jews, Christians, and Muslims. All faced the same challenge: how to reconcile the revealed scriptures, which claimed that a single deity had created the world, with Aristotle, who argued that the world was eternal. Maimonides’ contribution was to tether that contradiction to the very words of the Hebrew Bible. He opened the Guide with a discussion of how his intended reader—the learned, observant Jew who has also studied philosophy and is perplexed by the contradictions—should understand flagrant anthropomorphisms and other passages that offend reason and so might lead him to abandon his faith. Unsatisfied with compartmentalization, unwilling to accept the notion that religion is irrational, Maimonides remained absolutely committed to the proposition that the universe is orderly and “governed by laws of a cosmic intelligence” .

Even if the work in which he expounded those views was quite deliberately accessible only to a privileged few, the problems it addressed were hardly those of Maimonides alone. The similarities between Maimonides’ Aristotle and Ibn Rushd’s demonstrate as much.

Avoiding one of the pitfalls of many intellectual biographies, Kraemer deftly reflects on Maimonides’ daily life, including his position at court. He began his political life as a Jew in the entourage of the Ismā‘īlī Shī‘ī Fatimid dynasty, but under the patronage of their Sunnī Muslim administrator, al–Qāīd al–Fādil, who for a time allied himself with the Christian crusaders against the Sunnī forces of the Syrian Zengid ruler Nūr al–Dīn (r. 1166–85). Nor were such unpredictable alliances uncommon. When the Sunnī Salāh al–Dīn overthrew the Fatimids and established the Ayyubid dynasty (1171–1250), al–Qādī al–Fādil rose to the vizierate and gathered his protégés in learned dialogue in literary salons (majālis), including Maimonides, the Sunnī poet Ibn Sanā al–Mulk (1155–1218), and on at least one occasion, the Shī‘ī jurist Abū 'l–Qāsim alHalabī (d. 1186–87).

As this episode suggests, Kraemer’s book has the quality of a collective biography. It extends well beyond Maimonides to depict men of his network and others of similar rank who offer some perspective on the master.

Kraemer admits that a sick person in medieval Fustat might have contacted not Maimonides but another Jewish physician, Abū 'l–Makārim Hibatallāh ibn Jumay’ (d. 1198), since it was believed that he had resurrected a man from the dead. (In fact, he merely detected that a man about to be buried was still alive.) While there is not always concrete evidence that the numerous contemporaries Kraemer discusses knew Maimonides or had much bearing on his thought, his impulse to engage as much circumstantial evidence as possible is understandable, since the sources hardly answer all our questions about him. And given Kraemer’s expertise in finding and deciphering the evidence, one can hardly begrudge him this generosity of context. It is likely that his book will remain—together with Herbert A. Davidson’s Moses Maimonides: the Man and His Works (Oxford, 2004)—a standard guide to this towering figure for many years to come.

1 Kraemer finds no evidence for the view that David’s death forced Maimonides to abandon scholarship for “service to worldly lords.” If anything, Kraemer writes, the event drew Maimonides further into scholarship, the pursuit of reason being his greatest consolation.

2 This manuscript was passed down through Maimonides’ descendants in Egypt until the fifteenth century, when one scion of the family brought it to Aleppo, whence British orientalists acquired it piecemeal. For the entire fascinating story, see pp. 168–69.

3 The targets of Almohad severity included Averroes himself, whom the regime initially favored but whose books were burned after 1195.

4 See also 95–96 for a Geniza letter written by a Maghribi Jew in Fustat containing first–hand reports of ‘Abd al–Mu’min’s conquests and his massacres of the Jews of Tlemçen and Sijilmāsa.

Biography

His year of birth is disputed, with Shlomo Pines suggesting that he was born in 1138. He was born during what some scholars consider to be the end of the golden age of Jewish culture in Spain, after the first centuries of the Moorish rule. At an early age, he developed an interest in the exact sciences and philosophy. In addition to reading the works of Muslim scholars, he also read those of the Greek philosophers made accessible through Arabic translations.

Maimonides was not known as a supporter of mysticism. He voiced opposition to poetry, the best of which he declared as false, since it was founded on pure invention - and this too in a land which had produced such noble expressions of the Hebrew and Arabic muse. This Sage, who was revered for his saintly personality as well as for his writings, led an unquiet life, and wrote many of his works while travelling or in temporary accommodation.[9] Maimonides studied Torah under his father Maimon, who had in turn studied under Rabbi Joseph ibn Migash - a student of Isaac Alfasi.

Maimonides house in Fes

The Almohades from Africa conquered Córdoba in 1148, and threatened the Jewish community with the choice of conversion to Islam, death, or exile. Maimonides's family, along with most other Jews, chose exile. For the next ten years they moved about in southern Spain, avoiding the conquering Almohades, but eventually settled in Fez in Morocco. During this time, he composed his acclaimed commentary on the Mishnah in the years 1166–1168.

Following this sojourn in Morocco, he and his family briefly lived in the Holy Land, before settling in Fostat, Egypt around 1168. Maimonides shortly thereafter became instrumental in helping rescue Jews taken captive during King Amalric's siege on the Egyptian town of Bilbays.

He sent five letters to the Jewish communities of lower Egypt requesting them to pool money together to pay the ransom. The money was collected and then given to two judges sent to Palestine to negotiate with the Crusaders. The captives were eventually released.

Following this triumph, the Maimonides family gave their savings to the youngest son David, a merchant, in the hopes of expanding their wealth. Maimonides directed him to procure goods only at the Sudanese port of Aydhab, but, after a long arduous trip through the desert, David did not like the goods offered in the port city. So he boarded a ship to India against his brother's wishes since great wealth was to be found in the East. Sadly, David drowned at sea sometime between 1169–1170 before he could make it to India. The death of his brother caused Maimonides to become sick with grief. In a letter discovered in the Cairo Geniza, he later explained:

   The greatest misfortune that has befallen me during my entire life—worse than anything else—was the demise of the saint, may his memory be blessed, who drowned in the Indian sea, carrying much money belonging to me, him, and to others, and left with me a little daughter and a widow. On the day I received that terrible news I fell ill and remained in bed for about a year, suffering from a sore boil, fever, and depression, and was almost given up. About eight years have passed, but I am still mourning and unable to accept consolation. And how should I console myself? He grew up on my knees, he was my brother, [and] he was my student.

Following his recovery, he was appointed the Nagid of the Egyptian Jewish community around 1171. Arabist S.D. Goitein believes the leadership he displayed during the ransoming of the Crusader captives led to this appointment.

But since the Maimonides family had their savings tied up in David's business venture, when he drowned, all of that money was lost. This forced Maimonides to take up his famous vocation as a physician. Maimonides was trained as a physician in Cordoba and in Fez. He gained widespread recognition and became a court physician to the Grand Vezier Alfadil, then to Sultan Saladin, after whose death he remained a physician to the royal family.

In his writings he described many conditions including asthma, diabetes, hepatitis, and pneumonia, and emphasized moderation and a healthy life style. His treatises became influential for generations of physicians. He was knowledgeable about Greek and Persian medicine, and followed the principles of humorism in the tradition of Galen, however, did not blindly accept authority but used his own observation and experience.

Frank, however, indicates that in his medical writings he sought not to explore new ideas but to interpret works of authorities so that they could become acceptable.

Maimonides displayed in his interactions with patients attributes that today would be called intercultural awareness and respect for the patient's autonomy. In a famous letter, he describes his daily routine: After visiting the Sultan’s palace, he would arrive home exhausted and hungry, where "I would find the antechambers filled with gentiles and Jews ... I would go to heal them, and write prescriptions for their illnesses ... until the evening ... and I would be extremely weak."

Maimonides died on the 20th of Tevet in Fostat, Egypt where it is believed that he was shortly buried before being reinterred in Tiberias, a town on the western shore of the Sea of Galilee, Lower Galilee, Israel. However the location of Maimonides grave is not without controversy and in the Jewish Cairene community there is tradition that maintains that his grave has remained in Egypt.

Maimonides and his wife, the daughter of one Mishael ben Yeshayahu Halevi, had one child, Avraham, who was recognized as a great scholar, and who succeeded him as Nagid and as court physician at the age of eighteen. He greatly honored the memory of his father, and throughout his career defended his father's writings against all critics. The office of Nagid was held by the Maimonides family for four successive generations until the end of the 14th century.

He is widely respected in Spain and a statue of him was erected in Córdoba in the only synagogue in that city which escaped destruction; although no longer functioning as a Jewish house of worship, it is open to the public.

Influence

Maimonides was one of the most influential figures in medieval Jewish philosophy. A popular medieval saying that also served as his epitaph states, From Moshe (of the Torah) to Moshe (Maimonides) there was none like Moshe.

Radical Jewish scholars in the centuries that followed can be characterised as "Maimonideans" or "anti-Maimonideans." Moderate scholars were eclectics who largely accepted Maimonides's Aristotelian world-view, but rejected those elements of it which they considered to contradict the religious tradition. Such eclecticism reached its height in the 14th–15th centuries.

The most rigorous medieval critique of Maimonides is Hasdai Crescas' Or Adonai. Crescas bucked the eclectic trend, by demolishing the certainty of the Aristotelian world-view, not only in religious matters, but even in the most basic areas of medieval science (such as physics and geometry). Crescas's critique provoked a number of 15th century scholars to write defenses of Maimonides. A translation of Crescas was produced by Harry Austryn Wolfson of Harvard University, in 1929.

The 13 principles of faith

Main article: Jewish principles of faith

In his commentary on the Mishneh (tractate Sanhedrin, chapter 10), Maimonides formulates his 13 principles of faith. They summarized what he viewed as the required beliefs of Judaism with regards to:

  • 1. The existence of God
  • 2. God's unity
  • 3. God's spirituality and incorporeality
  • 4. God's eternity
  • 5. God alone should be the object of worship
  • 6. Revelation through God's prophets
  • 7. The preeminence of Moses among the prophets
  • 8. God's law given on Mount Sinai
  • 9. The immutability of the Torah as God's Law
  • 10. God's foreknowledge of human actions
  • 11. Reward of good and retribution of evil
  • 12. The coming of the Jewish Messiah
  • 13. The resurrection of the dead

These principles were controversial when first proposed, evoking criticism by Rabbi Hasdai Crescas and Rabbi Joseph Albo, and were effectively ignored by much of the Jewish community for the next few centuries. ("Dogma in Medieval Jewish Thought," Menachem Kellner).

However, these principles became widely held; today, Orthodox Judaism holds these beliefs to be obligatory.[citation needed] Two poetic restatements of these principles (Ani Ma'amin and Yigdal) eventually became canonized in the "siddur" (Jewish prayer book).

Legal works

With Mishneh Torah, Maimonides composed a code of Jewish law with the widest-possible scope and depth. The work gathers all the binding laws from the Talmud, and incorporates the positions of the Geonim (post-Talmudic early Medieval scholars, mainly from Mesopotamia).

While Mishneh Torah is now considered the fore-runner of the Arbaah Turim and the Shulchan Aruch (two later codes), it met initially with much opposition[citation needed]. There were two main reasons for this opposition. Firstly, Maimonides had refrained from adding references to his work for the sake of brevity; secondly, in the introduction, he gave the impression of wanting to "cut out" study of the Talmud, to arrive at a conclusion in Jewish law, although Maimonides himself later wrote that this was not his intent.

His most forceful opponents were the rabbis of Provence (Southern France), and a running critique by Rabbi Abraham ben David (Raavad III) is printed in virtually all editions of Mishneh Torah. However, it was recognized as a monumental contribution to the systemized writing of Halakha. Throughout the centuries, it has been widely studied and its halakhic decisions have weighed heavily in later rulings.

In response to those who would attempt to force followers of Maimonides and his Mishneh Torah to abide by the rulings of his own Shulchan Aruch or other later works, Rabbi Yosef Karo wrote: "Who would dare force communities who follow the Rambam to follow any other decisor, early or late? ... The Rambam is the greatest of the decisors, and all the communities of the Land of Israel and the Arabistan and the Maghreb practice according to his word, and accepted him as their rabbi."

An oft-cited legal maxim from his pen is:

"It is better and more satisfactory to acquit a thousand guilty persons than to put a single innocent one to death."

He argued that executing a defendant on anything less than absolute certainty would lead to a slippery slope of decreasing burdens of proof, until we would be convicting merely according to the judge's caprice.

Philosophy

Through the Guide for the Perplexed and the philosophical introductions to sections of his commentaries on the Mishna, Maimonides exerted an important influence on the Scholastic philosophers, especially on Albert the Great, Thomas Aquinas, and Duns Scotus. He was himself a Jewish Scholastic. Educated more by reading the works of Arab Muslim philosophers than by personal contact with Arabian teachers, he acquired an intimate acquaintance not only with Arab Muslim philosophy, but with the doctrines of Aristotle. Maimonides strove to reconcile Aristotelian philosophy and science with the teachings of the Torah.

Negative theology

The principle, which inspired his philosophical activity, was identical with the fundamental tenet of Scholasticism: there can be no contradiction between the truths which God has revealed, and the findings of the human mind in science and philosophy. Maimonides primarily relied upon the science of Aristotle and the teachings of the Talmud, commonly finding basis in the former for the latter. In some important points, however, he departed from the teaching of Aristotle; for instance, he rejected the Aristotelian doctrine that God's provident care extends only to humanity, and not to the individual.

Maimonides was led by his admiration for the neo-Platonic commentators to maintain many doctrines which the Scholastics could not accept. For instance, Maimonides was an adherent of "negative theology" (also known as "Apophatic theology".) In this theology, one attempts to describe God through negative attributes. For instance, one should not say that God exists in the usual sense of the term; all we can safely say is that God is not non-existent. We should not say that "God is wise"; but we can say that "God is not ignorant," i.e. in some way, God has some properties of knowledge. We should not say that "God is One," but we can state that "there is no multiplicity in God's being." In brief, the attempt is to gain and express knowledge of God by describing what God is not; rather than by describing what God "is."

The Scholastics agreed with him that no predicate is adequate to express the nature of God; but they did not go so far as to say that no term can be applied to God in the affirmative sense. They admitted that while "eternal," "omnipotent," etc., as we apply them to God, are inadequate, at the same time we may say "God is eternal" etc., and need not stop, as Moses did, with the negative "God is not not-eternal," etc. In essence what Maimonides wanted to express is that when people give God anthropomorphic qualities they do not explain anything more of what God is, because we cannot know anything of the essence of God.

Maimonides' use of apophatic theology is not unique to this time period or to Judaism. For example, Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite and Maximus the Confessor, Eastern Christian theologians, developed apophatic theology for Christianity nearly 900 years earlier. See Negative theology for uses in other religions.

Prophecy

He agrees with "the philosophers" in teaching that, man's intelligence being one in the series of intelligences emanating from God, the prophet must, by study and meditation, lift himself up to the degree of perfection required in the prophetic state. But here, he invokes the authority of "the Law," which teaches that, after that perfection is reached, there is required the "free acts of God," before the man actually becomes a prophet.

The problem of evil

Maimonides wrote on theodicy (the philosophical attempt to reconcile the existence of a God with the existence of evil in the world). He took the premise that an omnipotent and good God exists. He adopts the Aristotelian view that defines evil as the lack of, or the reduced presence of a God, as exhibited by those who exercise the free choice of rejecting belief.

Astrology

Maimonides answered an inquiry concerning astrology, addressed to him from Marseille. He responded that man should believe only what can be supported either by rational proof, by the evidence of the senses, or by trustworthy authority. He affirms that he had studied astrology, and that it does not deserve to be described as a science. The supposition that the fate of a man could be dependent upon the constellations is ridiculed by him; he argues that such a theory would rob life of purpose, and would make man a slave of destiny. (See also fatalism, predestination.)

True beliefs versus necessary beliefs

In "Guide for the Perplexed" Book III, Chapter 28, Maimonides explicitly draws a distinction between "true beliefs," which were beliefs about God that produced intellectual perfection, and "necessary beliefs," which were conducive to improving social order. Maimonides places anthropomorphic personification statements about God in the latter class. He uses as an example the notion that God becomes "angry" with people who do wrong. In the view of Maimonides (taken from Avicenna) God does not actually become angry with people, as God has no human passions; but it is important for them to believe God does, so that they desist from sinning.

Resurrection, acquired immortality, and the afterlife

Maimonides distinguishes two kinds of intelligence in man, the one material in the sense of being dependent on, and influenced by, the body, and the other immaterial, that is, independent of the bodily organism. The latter is a direct emanation from the universal active intellect; this is his interpretation of the noûs poietikós of Aristotelian philosophy. It is acquired as the result of the efforts of the soul to attain a correct knowledge of the absolute, pure intelligence of God.

The knowledge of God is a form of knowledge, which develops in us the immaterial intelligence, and thus confers on man an immaterial, spiritual nature. This confers on the soul that perfection in which human happiness consists, and endows the soul with immortality. One who has attained a correct knowledge of God has reached a condition of existence, which renders him immune from all the accidents of fortune, from all the allurements of sin, and even from death itself. Man, therefore is in a position not only to work out his own salvation and immortality.

The resemblance between this doctrine and Spinoza's doctrine of immortality is so striking as to warrant the hypothesis that there is a causal dependence of the latter on the earlier doctrine. The differences between the two Jewish thinkers are, however, as remarkable as the resemblance. While Spinoza teaches that the way to attain the knowledge which confers immortality is the progress from sense-knowledge through scientific knowledge to philosophical intuition of all things sub specie æternitatis, Maimonides holds that the road to perfection and immortality is the path of duty as described in the Torah and the rabbinic understanding of the oral law.

Religious Jews not only believed in immortality in some spiritual sense, but most believed that there would at some point in the future be a messianic era, and a resurrection of the dead. This is the subject of Jewish eschatology. Maimonides wrote much on this topic, but in most cases he wrote about the immortality of the soul for people of perfected intellect; his writings were usually not about the resurrection of dead bodies. This prompted hostile criticism from the rabbis of his day, and sparked a controversy over his true views.

Rabbinic works usually refer to this afterlife as "Olam Haba" (the World to Come). Some rabbinic works use this phrase to refer to a messianic era, an era of history right here on Earth; in other rabbinic works this phrase refers to a purely spiritual realm. It was during Maimonides's lifetime that this lack of agreement flared into a full-blown controversy, with Maimonides charged as a heretic by some Jewish leaders.

Some Jews at this time taught that Judaism did not require a belief in the physical resurrection of the dead, as the afterlife would be a purely spiritual realm. They used Maimonides's works on this subject to back up their position. In return, their opponents claimed that this was outright heresy; for them the afterlife was right here on Earth, where God would raise dead bodies from the grave so that the resurrected could live eternally. Maimonides was brought into this dispute by both sides, as the first group stated that his writings agreed with them, and the second group portrayed him as a heretic for writing that the afterlife is for the immaterial spirit alone. Eventually, Maimonides felt pressured to write a treatise on the subject, the "Ma'amar Tehiyyat Hametim" "The Treatise on Resurrection."

Chapter two of the treatise on resurrection refers to those who believe that the world to come involves physically resurrected bodies. Maimonides refers to one with such beliefs, as being an "utter fool" whose belief is "folly".

   If one of the multitude refuses to believe [that angels are incorporeal] and prefers to believe that angels have bodies and even that they eat, since it is written (Genesis 18:8) 'they ate', or that those who exist in the World to Come will also have bodies—we won't hold it against him or consider him a heretic, and we will not distance ourselves from him. May there not be many who profess this folly, and let us hope that he will go no farther than this in his folly and believe that the Creator is corporeal.

However, Maimonides also writes that those who claimed that he altogether believed the verses of the Hebrew Bible referring to the resurrection were only allegorical were spreading falsehoods and "revolting" statements. Maimonides asserts that belief in resurrection is a fundamental truth of Judaism about which there is no disagreement, and that it is not permissible for a Jew to support anyone who believes differently. He cites Daniel 12:2 and 12:13 as definitive proofs of physical resurrection of the dead when they state "many of them that sleep in the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life and some to reproaches and everlasting abhorrence" and "But you, go your way till the end; for you shall rest, and will arise to your inheritance at the end of the days."

While these two positions may be seen as in contradiction (non-corporeal eternal life, versus a bodily resurrection), Maimonides resolves them with a then unique solution: Maimonides believed that the resurrection was not permanent or general. In his view, God never violates the laws of nature. Rather, divine interaction is by way of angels, whom Maimonides often regards to be metaphors for the laws of nature, the principles by which the physical universe operates, or Platonic eternal forms. [This is not always the case. In Hilchot Yesodei HaTorah Chaps. 2-4, Maimonides describes angels that are actually created beings.] Thus, if a unique event actually occurs, even if it is perceived as a miracle, it is not a violation of the world's order.

In this view, any dead who are resurrected must eventually die again. In his discussion of the 13 principles of faith, the first five deal with knowledge of God, the next four deal with prophecy and the Torah, while the last four deal with reward, punishment and the ultimate redemption. In this discussion Maimonides says nothing of a universal resurrection. All he says it is that whatever resurrection does take place, it will occur at an indeterminate time before the world to come, which he repeatedly states will be purely spiritual.

He writes "It appears to us on the basis of these verses (Daniel 12:2,13) that those people who will return to those bodies will eat, drink, copulate, beget, and die after a very long life, like the lives of those who will live in the Days of the Messiah." Maimonides thus disassociated the resurrection of the dead from both the World to Come and the Messianic era.

In his time, many Jews believed that the physical resurrection was identical to the world to come; thus denial of a permanent and universal resurrection was considered tantamount to denying the words of the Talmudic sages. However, instead of denying the resurrection, or maintaining the current dogma, Maimonides posited a third way: That resurrection had nothing to do with the messianic era (here in this world) or with Olam Haba (עולם הבא) (the purely spiritual afterlife). Rather, he considered resurrection to be a miracle that the book of Daniel predicted; thus at some point in time we could expect some instances of resurrection to occur temporarily, which would have no place in the final eternal life of the righteous.

The Oath of Maimonides

The Oath of Maimonides is a document about the medical calling and recited as a substitute for the Oath of Hippocrates. The Oath is not to be confused with a more lengthy Prayer of Maimonides. These documents may not have been written by Maimonides, but later. The Prayer appeared first in print in 1793 and has been attributed to Marcus Herz (1747-1803), a German physician, pupil of Immanual Kant and the friend and physician of Moses Mendelssohn. It was written in German and was translated into Hebrew and from Hebrew back into modern languages. [Of Maimonides, Rabbi Moses ben Maimon, Jews say: "From Moses (the Prophet) unto Moses (Maimonides) there arose not one like Moses." Mendelssohn (1729-86) who gave Jews European culture and modernized Judaism, is rated the third great Moses of the Israelites.

 “Almighty God, Thou has created the human body with infinite wisdom. Ten thousand times ten thousand organs hast Thou combined in it that act unceasingly and harmoniously to preserve the whole in all its beauty the body which is the envelope of the immortal soul. They are ever acting in perfect order, agreement and accord. Yet, when the frailty of matter or the unbridling of passions deranges this order or interrupts this accord, then forces clash and the body crumbles into the primal dust from which it came. Thou sendest to man diseases as beneficent messengers to foretell approaching danger and to urge him to avert it.    

Thou has blest Thine earth, Thy rivers and Thy mountains with healing substances; they enable Thy creatures to alleviate their sufferings and to heal their illnesses. Thou hast endowed man with the wisdom to relieve the suffering of his brother, to recognize his disorders, to extract the healing substances, to discover their powers and to prepare and to apply them to suit every ill. In Thine Eternal Providence Thou hast chosen me to watch over the life and health of Thy creatures. I am now about to apply myself to the duties of my profession. Support me, Almighty God, in these great labors that they may benefit mankind, for without Thy help not even the least thing will succeed.”

Maimonides and the Modernists

Maimonides remains the most widely debated Jewish thinker among modern scholars. He has been adopted as a symbol and an intellectual hero by almost all major movements in modern Judaism, and has proven immensely important to philosophers such as Leo Strauss; and his views on the importance of humility have been taken up by modern humanist philosophers, like Peter Singer and Iain King. In academia, particularly within the area of Jewish Studies, the teaching of Maimonides has been dominated by traditional, generally Orthodox scholars, who place a very strong emphasis on Maimonides as a rationalist. The result of this is many sides of Maimonides's thought, for example his opposition to anthropocentrism, have been obviated. There is some movement in postmodern circles, e.g. within the discourse of ecotheology, to claim Maimonides for other purposes. Maimonides's reconciliation of the philosophical and the traditional has given his legacy an extremely diverse and dynamic quality.

Maimonides has been memorialized in numerous ways-:

For example, one of the Learning Communities at the Tufts University School of Medicine bears his name. There is also Maimonides School in Brookline, Massachusetts, the Brauser Maimonides Academy in Hollywood, Florida, and Maimonides Medical Center in Brooklyn, New York. In 2004, conferences were held at Yale, Florida International University, Penn State, and the Rambam hospital in Haifa. To commemorate the 800th anniversary of his death, Harvard University issued a memorial volume. In 1953, the Israel Postal Authority issued a postage stamp of Maimonides, pictured. In March 2008, during the Euromed Conference of Ministers of Tourism, The Tourism Ministries of Israel, Morocco and Spain agreed to work together on a joint project that will trace the footsteps of the Rambam and thus boost religious tourism in the cities of Córdoba, Fez and Tiberias. Rambam Hospital in Haifa, Israel, is named for him.

Works and bibliography

Judaic and philosophical works

Maimonides composed works of Jewish scholarship, rabbinic law, philosophy, and medical texts. Most of Maimonides's works were written in Judeo-Arabic. However, the Mishneh Torah was written in Hebrew. His Judaism texts were:

  • Commentary on the Mishna (Hebrew Pirush Hamishnayot), written in Judeo-Arabic. This text was one of the first commentaries of its kind; its introductory sections are widely quoted.
  • Sefer Hamitzvot (trans. The Book of Commandments).
  • Sefer Ha'shamad (letter of Martydom)
  • Mishneh Torah, also known as Sefer Yad ha-Chazaka, a comprehensive code of Jewish law;
  • Guide for the Perplexed, a philosophical work harmonising and differentiating Aristotle's philosophy and Jewish theology. Written in Judeo-Arabic. The first translation of this work into Hebrew was done by Samuel ibn Tibbon
  • Teshuvot, collected correspondence and responsa, including a number of public letters (on resurrection and the afterlife, on conversion to other faiths, and Iggereth Teiman - addressed to the oppressed Jewry of Yemen).
  • Treatise on Logic (Arabic: Makala Fi-Sinat Al-Mantik) has been printed 17 times, including editions in Latin (1527), German (1805, 1822, 1833, 1828), French (1935), and English (1938), and in an abridged Hebrew form.

Medical works

Maimonides wrote ten known medical works in Arabic that have been translated by the Jewish medical ethicist Fred Rosner into contemporary English.

  • Extracts from Galen, or The Art of Cure, is essentially an extract of Galen's extensive writings.
  • Commentary on the Aphorisms of Hippocrates is interspersed with his own views.
  • Medical Aphorisms of Moses titled Fusul Musa in Arabic ("Chapters of Moses," Pirkei Moshe in Hebrew) contains 1500 aphorisms and many medical conditions are described.
  • Treatise on Hemorrhoids discusses also digestion and food.
  • Treatise on Cohabitation contains recipes as aphrodisiacs and anti-aphrodisiacs.
  • Treatise on Asthma discusses climates and diets and their effect on asthma and emphasizes the need for clean air.
  • Treatise on Poisons and Their Antidotes is an early toxicology textbook that remained popular for centuries.
  • Regimen of Health is a discourse on healthy living and the mind-body connection.
  • Discourse on the Explanation of Fits advocates healthy living and the avoidance of overabundance.
  • Glossary of Drug Names represents a pharmacopeia with 405 paragraphs with the names of drugs in Arabic, Greek, Syrian, Persian, Berber, and Spanish.

One of the central tenets of Maimonides's philosophy is that it is impossible for the truths arrived at by human intellect to contradict those revealed by God. Maimonides held to a strictly apophatic theology in which only negative statements toward a description of God may be considered correct. Thus, one does not say "God is One", but rather, "God is not multiple". Although many of his ideas met with the opposition of his contemporaries, Maimonides was embraced by later Jewish thinkers. The fourteen-volume Mishneh Torah today retains canonical authority as a codification of Talmudic law.

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Jewish Dynasties

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Maimonides Works Banned

During his time the writings of Maimonides proved highly controversial. Some of his statements were deemed too radical, others were simply misunderstood. At one point, his works were banned, and after his death in 1233, burned at the instigation of the rabbis.

However, when nine years later, the French king Louis IX ordered the Talmud burned, Jews interpreted this as a "measure-for-measure" punishment from God for the burning of the works of Maimonides. Indeed, the rabbi who instigated the ban and burning, Rabbi Jonah Gerondi, subsequently repented for doing so and authored the book Sha'arei Teshuva, "Gates of Repentance," as a form of atonement for his derogatory statements about Maimonides.

Today the works of Maimonides are universally accepted and revered. Indeed, Maimonides is known in the Jewish world as one of most important of the Rishonim or "the First Ones."

This group of Jewish sages follows those we have previously discussed: the Tanaim or "Teachers" (200 BCE to 100 CE) who are quoted in the Mishnah; the Amoraim or "Explainers" (200 to 500), who are quoted in the Gemara; and the Gaonim or "Geniuses" (500 to 1038) who were the masters of the post-Talmudic Babylonian academies. The Rishonim (1038 to 1439) added significantly to Jewish scholarship.

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Maimonides Versus Aristotle

This article is an excerpt from "Fundamentals and Faith: Insights into the Rambam's 13 Principles" by Rabbi Mordechai Blumenfeld. Published: Sunday, April 27, 2003

With this Principle, the Rambam parts company with Aristotle and describes a God who necessarily preceded Creation and is free to choose to create.

Ani Ma'amin, an unabridged version of the 13 Principles written by an unknown author, reads, "I believe with complete faith that the Creator, blessed be His name, is the first and the last." The point of this statement seems to be that God has no beginning and no end; He exists outside of time and is therefore not limited by it. Thus, the statement in Ani Ma'amin appears to be a repetition of the first Principle of absolute existence, which, by definition, means that He has no beginning and no end. If He suddenly sprang into existence, He would be dependent upon the source that brought Him into being. As discussed in the examination of the first Principle, it is impossible to conceive of God as an absolute being from which everything else derives unless He Himself has not beginning. By adding the idea of eternity, Ani Ma'amin is misleading.

It implies that the Rambam is referring to God existing outside of time. A careful reading of the Rambam, however, shows that this implication is incorrect. Instead, the Rambam is actually presenting the idea that the Almighty preceded the universe and created it ex nihilo. This is evident from the verse he cites (Deuteronomy 33:27): "God who preceded all existence is a refuge..." The Principle is not that "He was the first," a statement which implies that He may have had a beginning; rather, He was "without a beginning," the absolute first: He preceded all Existence and created all Existence from a perfect void.

THE ETERNITY OF MATTER

This Principle of creation ex nihilo has been the subject of a classic dispute among philosophers throughout history. In his Guide to the Perplexed (Vol. 2, ch. 25), the Rambam states that it would be possible (though wrong) to accept the story of Creation in Genesis while still assuming that matter was eternal. This concept of the eternity of matter implies that God and the universe co-existed without any beginning, an idea held by Aristotle.

The Greek philosopher acknowledged a beginning and no end, its role as a creator had not beginning and no end. To Aristotle, the eternity of matter was not a contradiction to his belief that God was the Source of all Existence.

ARISTOTLE'S POWERLESS GOD

It is with this Principle that the Rambam parts company with Aristotle. The god of Aristotle is merely a docile machine. It cannot choose to act or react. It is what it is. It could not and cannot choose to become Creator. It is impotent, with no understanding, no awareness and no freedom. Such a god, so limited, cannot be served.

The god of Aristotle is merely a docile machine. It cannot choose to act or react.

In contrast, the Rambam's God preceded Creation and is free to choose to create. He observes and controls. The world is His. Aristotle's god has no control; even man has more control than Aristotle's god. It is bound by its own nature and therefore has no relationship with creation. None of the names of God that describe Him as He relates to creation would be applicable to the god of Aristotle. It is neither a Lord nor a Master nor a Power. In Aristotle's world, there is nothing to serve because it is impossible to serve a limited force.

A LEAP OF FAITH

This Principle of creation ex nihilo we know only from the Torah. Both the Rambam (Guide to the Perplexed, ch. 16) and Yehudah HaLevi (Kuzari 1:63-67) admit that it is impossible to prove Aristotle wrong through logic. Up until this point in our discussion, intellect acted as a guide to considering the truth of each of these Principles, step by step. Since Aristotle cannot be proven wrong by logic, we must now rely on God's revelation to Israel in order to know the truth.

It would seem, however, that this Principle could be derived through reason as well. Wasn't that what happened in our history with the story of Abraham? Didn't he look at the "palace" (Midrash Hagadol 12:1; Bereishis Rabbah 39:1) and understand that there had to be an Owner? He observed the universe and knew that there had to be a Creator.

Not only did Abraham perceive a God who creates, but he also concluded that this Creator cares for and imposes obligations upon creation. With total clarity and an extraordinary fidelity to his convictions, he deduced all these facts to the extent that he was willing to be thrown into the burning furnace rather than worship idols (Bereishis Rabbah 38:19), he had to understand that there was a system of morality that came from a Creator. This system of morality defined the relationship between the Creator and man to the extent that it was proper and necessary to defend the truth even at the cost of life itself.

With his intellect, Abraham saw in the universe a God far different from the impotent, mechanical god of Aristotle. The God of Abraham related to man in such a way that man could address Him as "my Lord, my Master" (Genesis 15:2; see Berachos 7b). One might say that the inference of a caring God from the perfect design of the universe is a subtle step that demands trust as well as logic.

To Aristotle the "why" of Creation must remain a mystery. Obviously, the world was not created in order to fulfill the needs of the Creator, because by definition He lacks nothing, He has no needs. If, according to Aristotle, creating is part of the very definition of the Creator, then there never existed a separate act of Creation or a separate will on the part of the Creator to create.

To Abraham, the sublime order of the universe testified to purpose and meaning.

In Aristotle's term there never existed an act of giving -- of chesed, such that one could term Creation an act of giving to the created; the question of "why" in Creation does not exist.

Abraham, on the other hand, could not leave this "why" unresolved. To him the sublime order of the universe testified to purpose and meaning. This conviction led him to conclude that the Almighty was not always a Creator. He became convinced that God willed Creation for the benefit of man. This benefit is the absolute pleasure that is derived from closeness to the Source of all existence. The more man would emulate the Creator, the closer he could come to Him.

Since Abraham came to know God through a Divine attribute manifested in Creation - that of chesed, of giving - it follows that the theme of Abraham's life became one of giving to others.

Extract from Aish.com

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Maimonides' Phiosophy

Moses Maimonides (1135-1204)[6] also known as the Rambam, was a rabbi, physician, and philosopher in Spain, Morocco and Egypt during the Middle Ages. He was the preeminent medieval Jewish philosopher whose ideas also influenced the non-Jewish world.

One of the central tenets of Maimonides's philosophy is that it is impossible for the truths arrived at by human intellect to contradict those revealed by God. Maimonides was embraced by later Jewish and many non-Jewish thinkers such as St. Thomas Aquinas. He was influenced by Aristotle and Averroes.

While works on Jewish law and ethics were initially met with opposition during his lifetime, he was posthumously acknowledged to be one of the foremost rabbinical philosophers in Jewish history. Today, his works and his views are considered a cornerstone of Jewish thought and his works (such as Guide for the Perplexed) should be seriously considered by all rational theists. His works were written in Judao-Arabic. This below is therefore a translation of a translation, not of the original. I didn't do these translations myself, and further edited it for size and clarity to a non-Jewish readership. L. Loflin

Also The Jews of Spain and Rambam

The Thirteen Foundations of the Ramba'm

The 1st Foundation is to believe in the existence of the Creator, that there exists a Being that is complete in all ways and He is the cause of all else that exists. He is what sustains their existence and the existence of all that sustains them. It is inconceivable that He would not exist, for if He would not exist then all else would cease to exist as well, nothing would remain. This first foundation is taught to us in the statement, "I am HaShem your God..." (Shemos [Exodus] 20:2, Devarim [Deuteronomy] 5:6).

The 2nd Foundation is the unity of HaShem, that G-d is One. This does not mean one as in one of a pair nor one like a species [which encompasses many individuals] nor one as in one object that is made up of many elements nor as a single simple object which is infinitely divisible. Rather, He, HaShem is a unity unlike any other possible unity. This second foundation is referred to when [the Torah] says, "Hear Israel! HaShem is our God, HaShem is one". (Devarim [Deuteronomy] 6:4)

The 3rd Foundation is that He is not physical. This means to believe that the One whom we have mentioned is not a body and His powers are not physical. The concepts of physical bodies such as movement, rest, or existence in a particular place cannot be applied to Him. Such things cannot be part of His nature nor can they happen to Him. "To whom can you compare Me? To what am I equal? Says the Holy One." (Yeshaya [Isaiah] 40:25) If He would be a physical body He would be comparable to physical bodies.

In all places where the Holy Scriptures speak of Him in physical terms, as walking, standing, sitting, speaking and anything similar, it is always metaphorical, as our Sages of blessed memory said, "The Torah speaks in the language of men". This third foundation is referred to when [the Torah] says, "For you did not see any form" (Devarim [Deuteronomy] 4:15), in other words, you did not perceive him as being an entity with a form because, as we mentioned, He is not physical and His power is not physical.

The 4th Foundation is that He is first. This means to believe that the One was the absolute first and everything else in existence is not first relative to Him. There are many proofs to this in the Holy Scriptures. This fourth foundation is referred to in the verse, "That is the abode of God the first" (Devarim [Deuteronomy] 33:27).

The 5th Foundation is that it is proper to serve Him, to ascribe to Him greatness, to make known His greatness, and to fulfill His commandments. We may not do this to any lesser being, whether it be one of the angels, etc. For all these things have predetermined natures and have no authority or control over their actions. Rather, such authority and control is God's. Similarly, it is not proper to serve them as intermediaries in order that they should bring us closer to God. Rather, to God Himself we must direct out thoughts, and abandon anything else. This fifth foundation is based in the prohibition against idolatry about which much of the Torah deals.

The 6th Foundation is prophecy. That is, that a person must know that there exists amongst mankind individuals who have very lofty qualities and great perfection; whose souls are prepared until their minds receive perfect intellect. There are numerous verses in the Torah which attest to the prophecy of the prophets.

The 7th Foundation is the prophecy of Moshe (Moses) our Teacher, may he rest in peace. This means to believe that he is the father of all the prophets, both those that preceded him and those who arose after him; all of them were below his level. He was the chosen one from all of Mankind, for he attained a greater knowledge of the Blessed One, more than any other man ever attained or ever will attain. For he, may he rest in peace, rose up from the level of man to the level of the angels and gained the exalted status of an angel. There did not remain any screen that he did not tear and penetrate; nothing physical held him back. He was devoid of any flaw, big or small. His powers of imagination, the senses, and the perceptions were nullified; the power of desire was separated from him leaving him with pure intellect. It is for this reason that it is said on him that he could speak to HaShem, blessed be He, without the intermediary of angels.

The prophecy of Moshe Rabbeinu (Moses our Teacher) is distinguished from the prophecies of all other prophets in four regards:

• Every other prophet received the word of HaShem through an intermediary, Moshe did not have an intermediary, as it says, "Mouth to mouth I speak to him." (BaMidbar [Numbers] 12:8)

• All other prophets only receive their prophecy either when they are sleeping, as we find in numerous places "in a dream at night" (B'Reishis [Genesis] 20:3) and "in a vision at night" (Iyov [Job] 33:15) and many other examples. Or by day when a trance has fallen over them which removes all their senses and leaves their mind open as in a dream. Such a state [of prophecy] is called a vision or seeing and is referred to as "Divine visions" (Yechezkel [Ezekiel] 8:3). Moshe received his prophecy by day...as is testified to by HaShem, blessed be He, "and I will commune with you there" (Shemos [Exodus] 25:22). And as HaShem states, "If prophets are among you then I, HaShem, make myself known to them through a vision, in a dream I speak to him. It is not so with my servant Moshe, he is trusted in all my house. I speak to him mouth to mouth, in a vision without puzzlement. He gazes at the image of God." (BaMidbar [Numbers] 12:6-8)

• When a prophet receives prophecy, even though it was only a vision and by means of an angel, he would nevertheless be weakened by it and his body would shudder. He would be stricken with a very great fear almost to the point that his spirit would leave his body, as Daniel said when [the angel] Gavriel (Gabriel) spoke to him, "No strength remained in me; my robustness changed to pallor, and I could retain no strength... and I was in a deep sleep upon my face, and my face was to the ground". And as he says later, "during the vision my joints shuddered and I could retain no strength". (Daniel 10:8-9, 16). But Moshe does not experience trembling from the speech of his fellow, Moshe did not tremble from the word even though it was face to face.

• All the [other] prophets were unable to receive prophecy when they willed it but only when HaShem, blessed be He, wished it. The prophet could wait days or years and prophecy would not come. He could beseech HaShem, blessed be He, to make known to him a matter through prophecy and then he could wait for days or months for the prophecy, sometimes it would never come at all. Moshe [could prophesize] at any time he wished. As he said, "Wait and I will hear what HaShem has commanded you" (BaMidbar [Numbers] 9:8).

The 8th Foundation is that the Torah is from Heaven. This means that we must believe that this entire Torah, which was given to us from Moshe Our Teacher, may he rest in peace, is entirely from the mouth of the Almighty...for all of the Torah is from the mouth of the Almighty and it is all the Teaching of God (Toras HaShem), perfect, pure, holy, and true.

One who says that verses and stories like these [in the first group] were written by Moshe out of his own mind, behold! He is considered by our Sages and Prophets as a heretic and a perverter of the Torah more than all other heretics, for he believes that the Torah has a "heart" and a "shell" [i.e. an meaningful part and a meaningless part] and that these historical accounts and stories have no benefit and are from Moshe our Teacher, may he rest in peace. This is the meaning of [the category of heretic who believes that] "The Torah is not from Heaven" [which is listed in the Mishnah (Sanhedrin 10:1) as one who has no share in the World to Come].

All this is also true for the explanation of the Torah, which was also received from the mouth of the Almighty [the Oral Torah]. The manner in which we today make the Sukkah, Lulav, Shofar, Tzitzis, Tefillin, and other items is precisely the manner that God, blessed be He, instructed Moshe, who then instructed us and Moshe was reliable in relating [God's word]. The verse which teaches this foundation is "And Moshe said, 'Through this you shall know that God has sent me to do all these things, for they are not from my heart." (BaMidbar [Numbers] 16:28)

The 9th Foundation is the transcription, meaning that this Torah, and no other, was transcribed from the Creator and we may not add to it or remove from it, not in the Written Torah or in the Oral Torah, as it says, "...you shall not add to it, nor diminish from it" (Devarim [Deuteronomy] 13:1). Note that Rabbinic Judaism has an Oral Torah while the Saddecees rejected this.

The 10th Foundation is that God knows the actions of mankind and does not turn His eyes from them. "And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth..." (B'Reishis (Genesis) 6:5), and "And the Lord said, Because the cry of Sodom and Gomorrah is great..." (ibid. 18:20). These verses teach us this tenth foundation.

The 11th Foundation is that God reward those who who obeys the commandments of the Torah and punishes one who violates its prohibitions. The greatest reward is the World to Come, and the greatest punishment is kareis (spiritual excision, "cutting off"). "And now, if you will forgive their sin; and if not, please remove me [from your book which you have written]" to which God responds, "...Whoever has sinned against me, him will I blot from my book" (Shemos (Exodus) 32:32-33). This indicates that He knows the servant and the sinner, to give reward to this one and punishment to the other.

The 12th Foundation is the time of the Moshiach (literally, the anointed) or Messiah. The Jewish Messiah is an exceptional human sent by G-d, not a man-god as in Christian salvation for sin theology. This means to believe and be certain that he will come, and not to think that he is late in coming. One shouldn't set a time for him, and you should not make calculations in Scripture to determine the time of his coming. Included in this principle is that there is no king to the Jewish people except from the House of David and the seed of Solomon alone. Anyone who disagrees with the status of this family denies God and His prophets.

The 13th Foundation is the resurrection of the dead. The resurrection of the dead is a foundation from the foundations of Moshe (Moses) our Teacher. There is no faith and no connection to the Jewish religion for one who does not believe this. But the resurrection is only for the righteous alone, not the wicked. "The wicked, even during their lifetimes they are called dead; the righteous, even during their deaths they are called living."

When a man believes all of these foundations and his belief in them is clear, then he enters into the community of Israel, and it is commanded to love him, to have mercy upon him, and to behave towards him with all the manners of love and brotherhood which have been commanded upon a man towards his fellow by God, blessed be He. And even if he sins greatly because of his desires and the strength of his baser nature, he is punished according to his sins but he still has a share in the World to Come and he is considered a sinning Jew. If one doesn't accept even one of these foundations, they have left the community and are called a a heretics.

Extracts from Eliezer C. Abrahamson Talmud Torah: Center for Basic Jewish Education

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Maimonides Descendants

"The last of Maimonides' descendants to act as nagid was R. *David b. Joshua. For reasons that are not known R. David was compelled to leave Egypt in the 1370s"

'Maimon Family and Maimonides Descendants?' By Hadar Zabari <HadarZa@bezeq.com> :

  • Ovadia (The full lineage up to Maimonides I believe is mentioned by maimonides at the end of his commentary to tractate Taharot of the Mishna)
  • Maimon
  • Maimonides
  • Avraham
  • David
  • Ovadia (wrote a Mystical work that was published in Translation to English a number of years ago)
  • Yehoshua HaNagid (Responsa (Yehuda Ratzabi) published by Mechon Moshe Kiryat Ono Israel)
 "There might be more in EJ regarding further descendants. What seems to be completely clear is that the Maimon family of European origin is of no relation to the family of Maimonides but most probably a direct link to Solomon Maimon (Bielorus) a philosopher who greatly admired Maimonides (wrote a commentary to the first section of the Guide called Giva'at HaMoreh) and thus took on the name Maimon."

However, others of the Maimon family, show here (on Geni) a direct lineage from Maimonides till today

view all

Maimonides / Rambam / موسى ابن ميمون הרמב"ם's Timeline

1138
1138
Córdoba, Almoravid Empire (present-day Spain)
1186
1186
Age 48
Fustat, Cairo, Egypt
1204
1204
Age 66
Egypt
1204
Age 66
Tiberias, Israel
????
????