Who was the Rambam (Maimonides)

Moses, son of Maimon, (Rambam in Hebrew, Abu Imram Musa Ibn Maimun in Arabic and Maimonides in Greek) was born in Cordova, Spainon March 30, 1135 corresponding to Passover eve of the Hebrew year 4895. His mother died in childbirth and consequently his father Dayan (judge) raised him. Persecution by the Almochades (Almoravids), a fanatical Moslem group from North and West Africa, forced the Maimon family to flee Cordova in the year 1148.

The family wandered through southern Spain and northern Africa for the next ten years and finally settled in Fez, Morocco. The Maimon family left Morocco in 1165, traveled to Eretz Israel, landing in Acre, and from there to Egypt where they settled in Fostat (old Cairo).

Maimonides turned to medicine as a livelihood only after the death of his father in 1166 and the death of his brother in a shipwreck shortly thereafter. Maimonides was left with his brother’s wife and children to support and, after a year’s illness following his father’s death, entered into the practice of medicine.

In 1174, at age 39, he was appointed Court Physician to Visier Al-Fadhil, Regent of Egypt during the absence of the Sultan, Saladin the Great, who was fighting in the Crusades in Eretz Israel. It was at this time that Richard the Lion-Hearted, also fighting in the Crusades, is reported to have invited Maimonides to become his personal physician, an offer which Maimonides declined.

His reputation as a physician grew in Egypt and neighboring countries, and his fame as a theologian and philosopher became widespread.

In 1193, Saladin died and his eldest son, Al Afdal Nur ad Din Ali, a playboy, succeeded him. As a result, Maimonides’s medical duties became even heavier.

Maimonides was also the spiritual leader of the Jewish community of Egypt. At age 33, in the year 1168, shortly after settling in Fostat(Old Cairo), he completed his first major work, the Commentary on the Mishnah. In 1178, ten years later, he finished hismagnum opus the Mishneh Torah. This monumental work is a 14-book compilation of all Biblical and Talmudic law and remains a classic to this day. In 1190, Maimonides completed his great philosophical masterpiece, the Guide for the Perplexed. Maimonides died on December 14, 1204 and was buried in Tiberias.  

To this day, Maimonides and the French ­Jewish sage Rashi are the most widely studied Jewish scholars. Contemporary yeshiva students generally focus on the Mishneh Torah, and his Book of Commandments (Sefer ha­Mitzvot) a compilation of the Torah’s 613 commandments. Maimonides also formulated a credo of Judaism expressed in thirteen articles of faith, a popular reworking of which (the Yigdal prayer) appears in most Jewish prayer books.

Among other things, this credo affirms belief in the oneness of God, the divine origins of the Torah, and the afterlife. Its twelfth statement of faith — “I believe with a full heart in the coming of the Messiah, and even though he may tarry I will still wait for him” — was often among the last words said by Jews being marched into Nazi gas chambers.

Maimonides was one of the few Jewish thinkers whose teachings also influenced the non­Jewish world; much of his philosophical writings in the Guide were about God and other theological issues of general, not exclusively Jewish, interest. 

A popular Jewish expression of the Middle Ages declares:

“From Moses [of the Torah] to Moses [Maimonides] there was none like Moses.” 

Rambam’s Quotes:

  • Do not consider it proof just because it is written in books, for a liar who will deceive with his tongue will not hesitate to do the same with his pen.
  • You must accept the truth from whatever source it comes.
  • No disease that can be treated by diet should be treated with any other means.
  • No disease that can be treated by diet should be treated with any other means.