A great Jewish sage, 1135-1204, Rabbi Moses ben Maimon (called "Maimonides" in English: son of Maimon. In Hebrew he's generally called "Rambam," from the initials Rabbi Moses ben Maimon). He was born in Spain, but moved to around a lot, to Morocco and Israel, and settled in Egypt, where he became the personal physician to the Sultan. He wrote many books of law and philosophy--some of which got him in a lot of trouble with the contemporay Jewish rabbinate. Some branded him a heretic, even bringing the French Inquisitors in on the argument.

His works are widely studied today, and with reason: he was an extraordinarily deep thinker. His philosophy is influenced by Aristotle, and tended to analyze religion in logical ways.

His most famous contributions to Jewish literature include his Mishneh Torah, a book of law, and his Guide to the Perplexed, a philosophical work.

Rabbi Moshe ben Maimon, or the Rambam, was born in Cordoba on March 30th, 1135. His father, Rabbi Maimon ben Chanoch, had been on of the leading Rabbis of the city, and the Rambam grew up in a muslim city with complete religious freedom, able to spend his time learning the Talmud

His early life is mostly unknown, but by the age of 35, he was a well known doctor, supporting himself since his brother died. He was also well known as a great scholar, both Judiacally and in mathematics and astronomy, as is shown by several different sources, notably a treatise on the Jewish calendar involving many rather complicated formulae involved in determining the appearance of leap years in the Jewish calander.

The Rambam published, throughout his life, three sets of books, any one of which would constitute a major body of work for many scholars. The three works each contain a significant amount of philosophy, and all are still intensely studied in Jewish philosophy and law.

The first of the three is the Commentary on the Mishna. Written while he was still younger, and displaying a mastery almost unknown even in older scholars, it explains the conclusion of the talmud and how it fits with the mishna. This work, which was originally written in Arabic, spans all of Jewish law. It contains, in addition to the actual commentary, two very important philosophical works: The introductions to Pirkei Avot and the 10th Chapter of the laws of Judgements (Sanhedrin). The introduction to Pirkei Avot, which is itself a set of statements concerning how one should live their life, is an eight chapter preface, containing Philosophy on everything from the nature of service of G-d to what leisure is, and how one needs to act in public. The introduction to the 10th Perek (Chapter) of Sanhedrin is introduced by the statement: "I have decided that I will now discuss many fundamental ideas of faith which are very important," and commences to do so. This includes the thirteen principles that the Rambam opines must be understood and adequately internalized (NOT "believed in") to be considered a believing Jew.

The second of the three major works that he wrote is the Mishna Torah, sometimes known as the "Yad Chazakah", or "Strong Hand", since "Yad", or "Hand" has the numerical value of 14, which is the number of volumes that the work contains. The work is a complete compendium of all Jewish law, which was monumental because, since the Second temple was destroyed, many laws pertaining to purity, the land of Israel, and the temple itself were almost completely undealt with. The books were also written in such a way as to allow people superficially studying them to see the basic tenets of faith, but it also contains many fundamentals of jewish thought that can be realized through careful comparisons of various concepts contained within the 14-volume set.

The last set of books is probably the most esoteric, misunderstood, and possibly therefore, the most widely know of the Rambam's works. The "Moreh Nevuchim", or "Guide for the Perplexed," was written specifically for those already very well versed in Jewish thought and philosophy. The introduction contains several warnings as to how the books are meant to be studied, almost all of which are ignored by both secular and religious scholars 'studying' the work, thereby leaving them a subject of widespread misunderstanding based on lack of context. These warnings begin with the statement that those who study Moreh Nevuchim superficially will come to more confusion than understanding, and only one well versed in both the old testament and the talmud, as well as understanding philosophy and having progressed in their study of the natural world should attempt to study the book. It was written, partially, to reconcile the philosophy of Aristotle with Judaism, and that both the original Arabic, and the translated Hebrew in the book are very difficult, and I understand almost nothing about this work no all but the most superficial (and therefore probably incorrect) level.

There is certainly more to be said about this intellectual giant, whose contributions to fields as diverse as medicine, linear algebra, and philosophy should amaze anyone who has heard about them, I think it is most appropriate to close with a quote that is written above his grave in Tiberias: "From Moshe (Moses) to Moshe (The Rambam) there were none like Moshe"

Abu Imran Musa bin Maimun bin Abd Allah, born in Cordoba, March 30, 1135; died in Cairo, Dec 13, 1204. Talmudist, philosopher, astronomer, and physician.

Musa came to be called the second Musa at that time he was living due to his contribution to Jewish literacy. Musa received much of his learning from his father, Maimun, a highly merited scholar. Moreover, Maimun guided Musa to outstanding Arabian scholars consequently enriching Musa's intellect with all branches of science of that time. When Musa was 13, Cordoba fell to the zealous Almohades Islamic sect. Almohades gave Jewish communities two options, conversion to Islam or exile. Maimun and his family chose exile, and for 12 years lived a nomadic life in Spain.

In 1160 Maimun, his family, and 25 year old Musa settled in Fez, Morocco. Musa and his family eagerness to pass as Muslims in Fez was met with failure. In Fez Musa encountered many Jews who were forced into conversion to Islam but practiced Judaism in secrecy. Musa's name because of his intellect and young age was growing increasingly, plus enquires by authorities to his religious nature was mounting. An informant charged Musa with the crime of reversion from Islam. However, because of negotiations by a Muslim friend, theologian and poet Abu Al-Arab Al-Mu'ishah, Musa would have shared his friend Judah bin Shoshan destiny of death sentence on a parallel charge. The state of things caused the family to wander again 5 years later in 1165 to Acre, then Jerusalem, then to Fostat (Cairo), where they settled permanently.

Life in Egypt was met with hardships, after Maimun's death, Musa's brother David, supported the family by trading of precious stones. David’s ship sank in the Indian Ocean. This double heartbreak affected Musa’s health, and resulted in bad health for a long time. Obligated to support himself, and considering it sinful to gain money through religion, he went into the medical career. After becoming proficient in medical matters and establishing a reputation, he became personal doctor to Sultan Saladin's wazir (minister) Al-Kadi Al-Fadil Al-Baisami, the wazir suggested him to the royal family. Later Musa became personal doctor to Saladin. According to Al-Kitti, an Arab historian, a similar offer was given to serve the king of the Franks in Escalon(Richard I. of England), nonetheless, it was rejected.

During 1158 toward 1190 Musa wrote the following books dealing heavily in Philosophy. Kitab (book) Al-Siraj (Precept), a commentary on the Mishnah. Kitab (book) Al-fara'id (orders), code of Mishneh Torah, described by Jewish admirers in Hebrew as Yad ha-hazakah. Dalalat (Guides) Ha'irin (Perplexed), known in Hebrew translations as Moreh Nebukim. Guide to the Perplexed is one of his most famous rational works. Musa declared on the subject of Guide to the Perplexed, "I have composed this work neither for the common people, nor for beginners, nor for those who occupy themselves only with the Law as it is handed down without concerning themselves with its principles. The design of this work is rather to promote the true understanding of the real spirit of the Law, to guide those religious persons who, adhering to the Torah, have studied philosophy and are embarrassed by the contradictions between the teachings of philosophy and the literal sense of the Torah."

Musa proves the existence of God through four arguments. First, Motion produced by cause and affect, with the series of causes being finite. Second, because some things send and receive motion, and other things receive motions without sending it, there must be a being that sends motion with out receiving motion. Third, existing beings are partly permanent and partly transient, there must be a being whose existence is permanent. Fourth, nothing can pass from state of potential to actual without a cause, this cause requires another cause, and so on until we arrive at a cause that is constant. Further, the unity of God is proven by the following arguments. First, two Gods is irrational; they would have a common element which makes them Gods, and another element that makes them distinguishable from each other, moreover, both Gods can not have an independent existence, but both would themselves have to be created. Second, the whole world is one body of interdependence. The earth is dependent on the forces coming from the heavens, the affects must be because of one cause.

Musa final years was stacked with increasing physical illness, he died in his 70th year. Both Jews and Muslims observed public mourning for 3 days in Cairo. After his death, the Dalalat Al-Ha'irin (Guide for the perplexed), Moreh Nebukim in Hebrew translations sparked a bitter fight between conservative and liberal Jews in France and Spain. Very bitter was this fight that finally in 1234, the disagreement was referred to Christian authorities, it was resolved by ordering Musa's works to be burned. Because of the strong opposition from the orthodox Jews, the Moreh produced Philosophers such as Spinoza, Solomon Maimon, and Moses Mendelssohn.



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