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Maimonides Intellectual Portrait Syllabus at rambam.merkaz.com
Rabbi Moshe ben Maimon Statue in Cordoba’s Jewish Quarter in Spain One of the lawgivers in the chamber of the U.S. House of Representatives.
Rambam’s Signature משה ב'ר מימון (From T-S )
Rambam’s Letter - Arabic אטאל אללה בקא חצרה עמאדי וסנדי אלשיך אלתקה אלאמין ואדאם עזהא מגלהא עבדהא משה יסךם עליהא ויסתוחש מן בעדהא ויסאל תפלצהא פי מסאעדה מוצלהא יצחק אלדרעי לאנא מן מערפנא ותכלם אלחבר ש"צ ליכלף אלגמעאה אמרה חתי יצתחצל לה ענדכם גאליה לאן עליה ועלי אבנה גאליתין ואן אמכן אלחצרה אלסעי ליזן ענדכם פי מניה זפתה פלפעל לאנא טארי ומא וזן ללאן שי והו יתוגה לדמיאט לאמר מהם לנא ופי רגועה ינעמל לה חסב אלמקדרה ושלומה ירבה ושלום החבר ובנו ושלום בנה ש"צ משה בר מימון [זצ"ל] Transcription of T-S , by Simhah Assaf, aided by B. Klar and D.H. Baneth, in Sinai, volume 14 (1944) page 2.
Rambam’s Letter May God prolong the life of your honor, my pillar and support, al- Shaykh al-Thiqa, and sustain your glory. Your servant Moses, who venerates you, greets you. He longs for you because of your distance from him. Moses requests that your honor kindly help the bearer of this letter, Isaac al-Dar'i, for he is one of our acquaintances. Speak to the haber, may God preserve him, about inducing the community (jama'a) to take on responsibility for him, to collect the sum of his poll tax (jizya) among you, as he and his son must pay double. If your honor can endeavour to have him pay while he is with you at Minyat Zifta, please do so, as Isaac is a newcomer and has not yet paid a thing. He is going to Damietta to do something important for me. When he returns, please see to it that whatever possible be done for him. May your peace increase and the peace of the haber and his son, and the peace of his honor's son, may God preserve him. Moses b. Maimon, may the memory of the righteous be a blessing. Translation of T-S by Joel L. Kraemer in Maimonidean Studies, volume 1 (1990) pages
What comes to your mind when you think of the Rambam?
Biography 1137 Born Nisan 14, 1:20PM in Cordoba 1148 (11) Almohad invasion, left Cordoba and wandered
History of Spain Carthiginians Romans Visigoths Era of Conquest Umayyads in Cordoba Emirate Caliphate 929- Al-Mansur Fitnah Taifa Almoravids Almohads (1228) Nasrid dynasty
The Muslim Conquest of Spain in 711
The Pillars of Islam - A creed and four practices obligatory for all Muslims 1. Bearing Witness (shahâda): “There is no God but The God, and Muhammad is His envoy” 2. Ritual prayer (salat) performed 5x daily; the noon prayer on Friday with the community 3. Payment of alms in form of an annual tithe (zakat) on income 4. Fasting and abstentions during Ramadan 5. Pilgrimage (hajj), at least once in a lifetime, to Mecca
Muhammad’s successors were called Caliphs They led to the creation of an expanding Islamic empire. They were chosen in various, not terribly effective, ways. Fourth caliph was Muhammad’s cousin Ali Ali’s followers known as Shi’ites. then and now a minority in Islam—about 20% Shi‘ites looked to a spiritual & charismatic leader ( Imam) thought to be appointed by God Rest of Islamic community that did not follow Ali were known as Sunni Muslims, short for “Partisans of Tradition and the Community” After Muhammad
Dhimma and Dhimmis Dhimma: Contract of protection offered Jews and Christians upon their political submission to Islam; freedom to practice religion, but not to proselytize, build new houses of worship or make public display of religion. Dhimmis are prohibited from ruling over Muslims, owning Muslim slaves and are sometime constrained to wear distinctive clothing.
Hasdai ibn Shaprut Hasdai ibn Shaprut ( ) is the earliest of the Jewish eminences to emerge in Muslim Spain He was courtier, physician and statesman for the Umayyad Caliphs of Cordoba, Abd al-Rahman III and al-Hakam II. Imitating the behavior of his Muslim counterparts in the state diwans, Hasdai assembled a coterie of secretaries and intellectuals dependent on his largess. Poets, scholars and courtier of lower rank in his employ were commissioned to usher in a new period of Jewish political influence and Hebrew culture. He was also the head (nagid) of the Jewish community of Andalus and effectively declared its independence from eastern (Babylonian) rabbinate.
Cordoba Plan (Reconstructed)
Spain - Cordoba Capital of caliphate Library of 400,000 volumes Thriving Jewish community
Great Mosque of Cordoba
Biography 1137 Born Nisan 14, 1:20PM in Cordoba 1148 (11) Almohad invasion, left Cordoba and wandered 1159 (22) settled in Fez 1165 (28) travels to Acre (5 months), Israel and visits Jerusalem, Hebron
Description of Maimonides’ trip to Israel as quoted by R. Eleazar Azikri On Sunday evening, the fourth of the month of Iyar, I went to sea; on Sabbath, the tenth of Iyar, in the year 4925, a heavy gale arose, the sea was turbulent and we were in danger of drowning. I vowed to observe these two days as strict fast days for myself, my family and all my household, and to order my descendants to keep these fasts also in future generations and to give charity in accordance with their means. I further vowed to observe the tenth of Iyar in complete seclusion and to devote the day to prayer and study. On that day, God alone was with me on the sea; so upon the anniversary of this day, I wish to be alone with God and not in the company of man, unless I am compelled to. On Sunday evening, the third of Sivan, I landed safely in Acre and thus escaped persecution. The day on which we set foot in the land of Israel I vowed to observe as a day of festivity and joy accompanied by the distribution of gifts to the poor, I as well as my offspring in future generations. Tuesday, the fourth of Marheshvan, in the year 4926, we arrived in Jerusalem from Acre after a dangerous journey. I entered the site of the great and holy Temple and prayed there on Thursday, the sixth of Marheshvan.
Biography 1137 Born Nisan 14, 1:20PM in Cordoba 1148 (11) Almohad invasion, left Cordoba and wandered 1159 (22) settled in Fez 1165 (28) travels to Acre (5 months), Israel and visits Jerusalem, Hebron Short stay at Alexandria Moved to Fostat (Cairo) 1167 (30) completes Commentary of the Mishnah
Epilogue to Commentary on the Mishnah In concluding this work according to my plans, I pray to God that He save me from errors. Whoever finds occasion to criticize me, or knows of a better interpretation of any of the laws, should call my attention to it and graciously forgive me. Every righteous and intelligent person will realize that the task I undertook was not simple of easy of fulfillment. In addition, I was agitated by the distress of our time, the exile which God had decreed upon us, the fact that we are being driven from one end of the world to the other. Perhaps we have received reward for this, inasmuch as exile atones for sin. God knows, there are some laws which I explained while on the road; some matters I collected while on board ship. Besides, I also devoted myself to the study of other sciences. The reason that led me to describe my situation in detail was my desire to justify me critics; they should not be blamed for criticizing me. May God reward them, and I will regard them as friends, for they do godly work. The description of the conditions under which I wrote this commentary will explain why its completion required such a long time.
Prologue to Epistle to Yemen Verily, I am one of the humblest of scholars from Spain whose prestige was lowered in exile. Although I always study the ordinances of the Lord, I did not attain to the learning of my forbearers, for evil days and hard times overtook us; we did not abide in tranquility. We labored and had no rest. How could we study the law when we were being exiled from city to city, and from country to country? I pursued the reapers in their paths and gathered ears of grain, both the rank and the full ones, as well as the withered and the thin ones. Only recently have I found a home. Were it not for the help of God, I would not have culled the store I did and from which I continually draw.
Biography 1137 Born Nisan 14, 1:20PM in Cordoba 1148 (11) Almohad invasion, left Cordoba and wandered 1159 (22) settled in Fez 1165 (28) travels to Acre (5 months), Israel and visits Jerusalem, Hebron Short stay at Alexandria Moved to Fostat (Cairo) 1167 (30) completes Commentary of the Mishnah 1177 (40) brother David drowns
Letter on the passing of David written 1184 In Egypt I met with great and severe misfortunes. Illness and material losses came upon me. In addition, various informers plotted against my life. Bur the most terrible blow which befell me, a blow which caused me more grief than anything I have experienced in my life, was the death of the most perfect and righteous man, who was drowned while in the Indian Ocean. For nearly a year after I received the sad news, I lay ill on my bed struggling with fever and despair. Eight years have since passed and I still mourn, for there is no consolation. What can console me? He grew up on my knees; he was my brother, my pupil. He was engaged in business and earned money that I might stay at home and continue my studies. He was learned in the Talmud and in the Bible and an accomplished grammarian. My one joy was to see him. Now my joy has been changes into darkness; he has gone to his eternal home, and has left me prostrated in a strange land, Whenever I come across his handwriting or one of his books, my heard grows faint within me, and my grief reawakens. I short: “I will go down into the grace unto my son mourning.” Were not the study of the Torah my delight, and did not the study of wisdom divert me from my grief, “I should have succumbed in my affliction.”
Mishneh Torah, Talmud Torah 3:10 One, however, who makes up his mind to study Torah and not to work but to live on charity, profanes the name of God, brings the Torah into contempt, extinguishes the light of religion, brings evil upone himself, and deprives himself of life hereafter, for it is forbidden to derive any temporal advantage from the words of the Torah. The sages said, “Whoever derives a profit for himself from the words of the Torah is helping on his own destruction.” They have further charged us, “Make not of them a crown wherewith to aggrandize yourself, nor a spade wherewith to dig.” They likewise exhorted us, “love work, hate lordship.” “All study of the Torah, not conjoined with work, must, in the end, be futile, and become a cause of sin.” The end of such a person will be that he will rob his fellow creatures.
Biography 1137 Born Nisan 14, 1:20PM in Cordoba 1148 (11) Almohad invasion, left Cordoba and wandered 1159 (22) settled in Fez 1165 (28) travels to Acre (5 months), Israel and visits Jerusalem, Hebron Short stay at Alexandria Moved to Fostat (Cairo) 1167 (30) completes Commentary of the Mishnah 1177 (40) brother David drowns 1177 (40) appointed Nagid 1185 (48) Appointed physician to al-Fadil, Saladin’s vizier
Letter to Joseph b. Judah I inform you that I have acquired in medicine a very great reputation among the great, such as the Chief Qadi, the princes, … and other grandees from whom I do not ordinarily receive any fee. As for the ordinary people, I am placed too high for them to reach me. This obliges me continually to waste my day in Cairo visiting the [noble] sick. When I return to Fostat, the most I am able to do, for the rest of the day and night, is to study medical books, which are so necessary for me. For you know how long and difficult this art is for a conscientious and exact man who does not want to state anything which he cannot support by argument and without knowing where it has been said and how it can be demonstrated. This has further resulted in the fact that I find no time to study Torah; the only time I am able to read the Bible is on Saturday. As for other sciences, I have no time to study them at all and this distresses me very much. Recently I received all of Averroes’ commentaries on Aristotle… and my impression is that he explicates the author’s views properly, but I have not yet found the time to read all his books.
Letter to Samuel Ibn-Tibbon “Now God knows that in order to write this to you I have escaped to a secluded spot, where people would not think to find me, sometimes leaning for support against the wall, sometimes lying down on account of my excessive weakness, for I have grown old and feeble. With regard to your whish to come here to me, I cannot but say how greatly your visit would delight me, for I truly long to commune with you, and would anticipate our meeting with even greater perils of the voyage, for beyond seeing me, and doing all I could to honor you, you would not derive any advantage from your visit. Do not expect to be able to confer with me on any scientific subject, for even one hour wither by day or by night, for the following is my daily occupation: I dwell at Mir [Fostat] and the sultan resides at al-Qahira [Cairo]; these two places are two Sabbath days' journey distant from each other. My duties to the sultan are very heavy. I am obliged to visit him every day, early in the morning; and when he or any of his children, or any of the inmates of his harem, are indisposed, I dare not quit al-Qahira, but must stay during the greater part of the day in the palace. It also frequently happens that one or two royal officers fall sick, and I must attend to their healing. Hence, as a rule, I repair to al-Qahira very early in the day, and even if nothing unusual happens, I do not return to Mi\r until the afternoon. Then I am almost dying with hunger... I find the antechambers filled with people, both Jews and gentiles, nobles and common people, judges and bailiffs, friends and foes—a mixed multitude who await the time of my return.
cont. I dismount from my animal, wash my hands, go forth to my patients, and entreat them to bear with me while I partake of some slight refreshment, the only meal I take in the twenty-four hours. Then I go forth to attend to my patients, and write prescriptions and directions for their various ailments. Patients go in and out until nightfall, and sometimes even, I solemnly assure you, until two hours or more in the night. I converse with and prescribe for them while lying down from sheer fatigue; and when night falls, I am so exhausted that I can scarcely speak. In consequence of this, no Israelite can have any private interview with me except on the Sabbath. On this day the whole congregation, or at least the majority of the members, come to me after the morning service, when I instruct them as to their proceedings during the whole week; we study together a little until noon, when they depart. Some of them return, and read with me after the afternoon service until evening prayers. In this manner I spend that day. I have here related to you only a part of what you would see if you were to visit me. Now, when you have completed for our brethren the translation you have commenced, I beg that you will come to me but not with the hope of deriving any advantage from you visit as regards your studies; for my time is, as I have shown you, excessively occupies.”
Biography 1137 Born Nisan 14, 1:20PM in Cordoba 1148 (11) Almohad invasion, left Cordoba and wandered 1159 (22) settled in Fez 1165 (28) travels to Acre (5 months), Israel and visits Jerusalem, Hebron Short stay at Alexandria Moved to Fostat (Cairo) 1167 (30) completes Commentary of the Mishnah 1177 (40) brother David drowns 1177 (40) appointed Nagid 1185 (48) Appointed physician to al-Fadil, Saladin’s vizier 1187 (50) has a son, Abraham, from his second wife 1204 (66) Dies on December 13. Buried in Tiberias.
Works Treatise on Logic – מילות היגיון (1158, Arabic) Treatise on the Calendar – מאמר העיבור (1158, Arabic) Commentary on 3 Orders of Talmud Babli Halakhot Yerushalmi – compendium of laws from the Talmud Yerushalmi Critique of R. Isaac Alfasi Letter on Martyrdom (1162) Commentary on the Mishnah ( ) Sefer ha-Missvoth – Listing of 613 Commandments (Arabic) Epistle to Yemen (1172) Mishneh Torah (1178, Hebrew) Guide of the Perplexed (1190, Arabic) Letter on Resurrection (1191, Arabic) Responsa (Hebrew, 467 extant) Medical Writings (Arabic)
Medical Writings (1)Al-Mukhta\arat is a compendium of the works of Galen for teaching purposes, of which only three, in Arabic, have been preserved. (2)A commentary by him on the Aphorisms of Hippocrates, which had been translated into Arabic by the ninth-century translator Hunayn ibn Ishaq, in general follows Galen's commentary; it has been only partially preserved in two defective Arabic manuscripts. (3)Fu\ul Musa ("The Aphorisms of Moses") is possibly the most famous and most widely quoted of all Maimonides' medical writings. It was translated into Hebrew under the title Pirkei Moshe, in the 13th century. In this work Maimonides included a large number of medical aphorisms and sundry information, mostly from Galen's own writings or his commentaries on Hippocrates, but also from Arab authors. On speaking of the relation between the right-hand part of the heart and the lungs (1:55), Maimonides seems to have touched on the lesser circulation, without, however, venturing further afield. The passages in 1:19 as well as 8:57 and 62 strongly indicate that he was speaking of arterioles connecting the arteries and the veins. (4)Sarh asma$ al-uqqar is a commentary on drugs, the manuscript of which was found in Istanbul in It consists of 56 pages of 17 lines each. In the introduction Maimonides deals with the necessity of identifying drugs by their popular names. He then lists, in alphabetical order, about 350 remedies, mainly derived from plants. The Arabic names are often followed by Greek and Persian terms as well as colloquial Spanish, Moroccan, Egyptian, and Berber names. The so-called "Prayer of a Physician" was not written by Maimonides but was added later. (5)Fi al-Bawasir is a work on hemorrhoids and was written for a young aristocrat. (6)Fi al-Jimaa, a treatise on sexual intercourse, was written for the sultan Omar son of Nur al-Din. (7)Maqala Fi al-Rabw ("Treatise on Asthma") was written in Maimonides regards bronchial asthma as largely due to nervousness, and believes that some people thus inclined react strongly to certain irritants. Correct diet and spiritual treatment, he says, have a beneficial effect on the asthmatic. (8)Kilab al-Sumum wa al-Mutaharriz min al-Adwiya al-Qitala ("On Poisons and Their Antidotes"), a very famous manuscript, includes a classic description of the various symptoms of poisoning and is of value even today. Maimonides is the first to distinguish between the various types of snake venoms and suggests the establishment of collections of antidotes in state pharmacies. For snakebites he advises cautery, local tourniquets, rest, and general treatment against shock. (9)Fi Tadbir al-Sihha ("Guide to Good Health"), a treatise on hygiene, is one of the most popular of Maimonides' works. It was written in 1198 for the Egyptian sultan Afdal Nur al-Din Ali, who suffered from attacks of depression accompanied by physical symptoms. Maimonides teaches that physical convalescence is dependent on psychological well-being and rest. He stresses the necessity of hygienic conditions in the care of the body, physical exercise, and proper breathing, work, family, sexual life, and diet, and suggests that music, poetry, paintings, and walks in pleasant surroundings all have a part to play toward a happy person and the maintenance of good health. (10)Maqala Fi Bayan al-Arad ("Explanation of Coincidences") was also written for the sultan Afdal Nur al-Din Ali, who requested an explanation of the causes of his continued depression. It is a short treatise on the subject, in 22 chapters.
Talmud Teachers Rabbi Isaac Alfasi ( ) Last of the Geonim Maimonides Rabbi Maimon ben Joseph (d. 1170) Rabbi and Dayyan Rabbi Joseph Ibn Migash ( ) “The understanding of that man in Talmud was awe- inspiring... so that it could almost be said of him that never before had there been his like.”
Philosophic Influences Letter to Judah Ibn Tibbon, cont. Be careful not to read the books of Aristotle themselves but rather their commentaries such as the commentary of Alexander of Timestius or in the light of Ibn Rushd. Indeed the books which you mentioned to me that are in your possession like Sefer haTapuah and Sefer Bet haZahab are all visions and nonsense. And these two books that are attributed to Aristotle are not really his. The book of wisdom by Alrazi is by him but it has no benefit since Alrazi was only a doctor. Similarly, Sefer haGebulim and Sefer haYesodot by Isaac ha-Israeli are also all nonsensefor Isaac ha-Israeli was also only a doctor… In general, I shall tell you not to study in the works of logic except what Abunaser Alfarabi has written because everything he wrote and especially his Sefer ha-Hathalot ha-Nimzaot are entirely pure flour. One can gain knowledge and wisdom from his words for he was extraordinarily intelligent… The books of Aristotle are the very source and essence of all of these works of wisdom. However, they are unintelligible without their commentaries such as that of Alexander or Temestius or Ibn-Rushd…
Ibn Tibbon letter, cont. The works of Plato, the teacher of Aristotle are deep and in riddles. But they are not necessary since Aristotle, his student, summarize everything beforehand. Aristotle reached the highest level of human knowledge except for one who is influenced by divine inspiration who reaches the level of prophecy after which there is no higher level. The books of Ibn Sina, even though they contain careful analysis, are not like the books of Abunasser Alfarabi but they are helpful for he too is a man whose words you should study. Behold I have instructed you what you should study and with what you should toil you precious mind. Peace to you my friend, my son, and my student. May you grow and prosper and may salvation come to a poor and lowly nation. Moshe bar Maimon the Spaniard has written on the eighth of Tishre 1511 to the Seluced calendar. Peace.
Al-Farabi ( ) born c. 878, Turkistan died c. 950, Damascus? in full MuRammad ibn MuRammad ibn Tarkhan ibn Uzalagh al-Farabi, also called Abu Nasr al-Farabi, Latin name Alpharabius (also spelled Alfarabius), or AvennasarMuslim philosopher, one of the preeminent thinkers of medieval Islam. He was regarded in the Arab world as the greatest philosophical authority after Aristotle. Very little is known of al-Farabi's life. He was of Turkic origin and is thought to have been brought to Baghdad as a child by his father, who was probably in the Turkish bodyguard of the Caliph (the titular leader of the Islamic community). Al-Farabi was not a member of the court society, and neither did he work in the administration of the central government. In 942 he took up residence at the court of the prince Sayf ad-Dawlah, where he remained, mostly in Salab (modern Aleppo), until the time of his death. Al-Farabi's philosophical thinking was nourished in the heritage of the Arabic Aristotelian teachings of 10th-century Baghdad. His great service to Islam was to take the Greek heritage, as it had become known to the Arabs, and show how it could be used to answer questions with which Muslims were struggling. To al-Farabi, philosophy had come to an end in other parts of the world, but had a chance for new life in Islam. Islam as a religion, however, was of itself not sufficient for the needs of a philosopher. He saw human reason as being superior to revelation. Religion provided truth in a symbolic form to non-philosophers, who were not able to apprehend it in its more pure forms. The major part of al-Farabi's writings were directed to the problem of the correct ordering of the state. Just as God rules the universe, so should the philosopher, as the most perfect kind of man, rule the state; he thus relates the political upheavals of his time to the divorce of the philosopher from government. Currency of Khazakhastan
Avicenna ( ) Stamp of the United Arab Emirates
Averroes ( ) Statue in Cordoba, Spain Author of The Incoherence of the Incoherence (Tahafut al-tahafut) Raphael’s The School of Athens has Averroes looking over the shoulder of Pythagoras.