Moses Maimonides (1135-1204) was a halakhist par excellence, philosopher, physician, and a political leader of the Jewish community at the ibn Ezra Synagogue of Egypt. Born in Cordovero, Spain and caused to flee a fanatical Muslim sect, the Rambam travelled to Morocco, Eretz Yisrael, Alexandria, and then served as a physician in the court of the Sultan in Cairo Fostat.
In 1180 B.C.E. Maimonides composed his halakhic magnum opus, the Mishneh Torah. The latter was the most comprehensive code of Jewish law to be composed in the post Talmudic period [after the Tur by Rabbi Yakov ben Asher ordered in 4 parts], and the main work of Rambam's oeuvre. Rambam also wrote Sefer HaHigayon (book of Logic), Pirush al Hamishneh including the Yod Gimel Ikarim on Mishnah Sanhedrin, chapter 10], Sefer HaMitzvot (Book of Commandments), Sifrei Refuah [various medical writings including treatises on diet, asthma, poisons, and commentaries on Hippocrates and Galen], letters on subjects such as resurrection [Iggeret (maamar) Tehiyyat ha-Metim], martyrdom [Sefer Ha'shamad], Iggeret Teman, astrology [to the Jews of Marseille], Hilkhot ha-Yerushalmi [a fragment on the Jerusalem Talmud, identified by S. Lieberman], and the last composition of the Rambam, ordered in seven sections, Sefer Moreh HaNevukhim. The Guide was translated by Rabbi Judah ibn Tibbon from Arabic into Hebrew, and translations by others such as Rabbi Munk in French as Les Guides Des Egares and a trans. in Latin Doctor Perplexus that Aquinas drew upon. For reasons for the Maimonidean Controversy, see: Levy, David, B. (2000). Censorship of Rambam's Sefer Mada of the MT. and Sefer Moreh HaNevukhim. Proceedings of the 35th Annual Association of Jewish Libraries, 35, 172-177.
The Mishnah Torah is unique in scope, originality and language. The Mishneh Torah was the only work, which Maimonides composed in Hebrew. Its language is clear, and concise.
Maimonides’code contains all the laws found in the Bible and Talmud without regard to contemporary relevancy. The fourteen volumes of the yad [yud + daleth= 14) hazakah, that comprise theMishneh Torah deal not only with laws of prayer, Sabbath and festival observances, dietary regulations, laws governing the relation between the sexes and civil law, but it also includes halakhot dealing with the sacrificial system, tithes, skin eruptions, the construction of the Temple, the making of priestly garments, laws pertaining to a Jewish monarch, and the messianic era when the Sanhedrin and Beit HaMikdrash will be restored on har habayit.
According to Maimonides: “When one first studies scripture and thereafter reads the Mishneh Torah he obtains here from “a complete knowledge of the Oral law.” Aside from being a code of Law, the Mishneh Torah represents Maimonides’ conception of Judaism.
One of the things that Maimonides seeks to impress upon his readers is that Jewish law and ritual make sense and are free from irrational and superstitious practices.
Maimonides insisted that all magical practices are, “false and deceptive.” He held that it is not proper for Israelites who are highly intelligent to allow themselves to be deluded by such inanities or to imagine that there is anything in them, as it is said, For there is no enchantment with Jacob, neither is there any divination with Israel (Num. 23:23). Maimonides taught that, “Whoever believes in these and similar things in his heart, holds them to be true and scientific and only forbidden by the Torah, is nothing but a fool, deficient in understanding.”
According to Maimonides, our concept of reality should be based on the Teachings of the Torah properly understood by reason. Logic, mathematics, physics, metaphysics, i.e. science & sense perception all help us to understand the teachings of the Scripture
David B Levy.
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