“Rambam” – Rabbi Moshe ben Maimon (Rabbi Moses Maimonides)
14 Nisan, 4895 – 20 Tevet, 4965 (C.E. 1135 – 1204)
Rambam and his prominent Rabbinical family were forced to flee from Cordova, Spain, due to the religious civil wars that raged in that country during his youth. From there, he eventually made his way to Fez, Morocco. Finally he moved to Egypt and became the personal physician of the Sultan, as well as the leader for the entire Jewish community of that country, and for the Jews in all the Arab lands (most notably for the Jews of Yemen, who were enduring severe religious persecution from the Moslems at that time). His great works of Torah scholarship include Mishneh Torah (“The Second to the Torah”), “The Book of the Commandments,” and “Guide for the Perplexed.”
The source for the following text [used with permission] is “Sichos In English,” Vol. 26:
translation of a talk by the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, on 11 Nissan, 5745 (his 83rd birthday):
Must we elaborate on the greatness of the Rambam? It will suffice to repeat one line which serves as the epitaph at his tomb in Tiveriah [Tiberias] — “From Moshe to Moshe, none arose like Moshe!”
There is simply no greater praise to be said for anyone. From the days of Moshe our teacher till Moshe ben Maimon of Spain — a period of 50 generations which saw Yehoshua [Joshua], Elders, Prophets, Tana’im [early Sages], and Amora’im [later Sages], no one reached so lofty a level to be compared to Moshe, except for Moshe ben Maimon. This approbation is attested to by the fact that all of the greatest sages of Israel have agreed with the epitaph “From Moshe to Moshe….” Scholars who have debated many other points all agreed on this. Similarly, the Rambam’s Mishneh Torah fulfilled his own prophecy that he would be accepted by small and great alike who study and respect his Halachos [Torah-law rulings]. Similarly, it is about Teveriah that the Rambam writes, that the “Sanhedrin is destined to be reconvened in the future”; how appropriate that his epithaph is engraved in stone in Teveriah…
May God grant … the fulfillment of the promise with which the Rambam concludes his work:
For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of God, as the waters cover the sea. (Yeshayah [Isaiah] 11:9)
Then everyone will increase their study of Rambam and observance of all the Torah and mitzvos, starting with the mitzvah: “To know there is a God,” of which the Rambam says: “The basic principle of all principles and the pillar of all sciences is to realize that there is a First Being.” ([Mishneh Torah,] Basic Principles of the Torah 1:1)
In other words, not only irrational faith but also belief which penetrates into the level of conscious intelligence. This is knowledge! To know: … that there is a First Being who brought every existing thing into being. All existing things, whether celestial, terrestrial, or belonging to an intermediate class [e.g. the smallest mosquito] exist only through His true Existence.” (Ibid)
This of course is the same theme as the conclusion of the Rambam: “For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of God as the waters cover the sea.” ([Mishneh Torah,] Laws of Kings 12:5)
By studying this Torah principle it will affect the reality, as the Zohar states: “The Holy One, Blessed be He gazed into the Torah and created the world … when people observe the Torah they sustain the world.”
May it come speedily in our times, with joy and gladness of heart. …
… the Rambam’s Mishneh Torah … is a work of Halachah [Torah Law], having gathered all the rulings of the Oral Tradition, so that all the details are clear to the small as well as the great. Thus its scope includes the details of Torah which influence the world, and uplift the materialism to a higher level. This is encapsulated in the closing verse of this section: “To render decisions for the Jews …”; to give halachic rulings, which are the content of the Rambam’s work. The verse actually states: “… all the laws that God has taught you through Moshe,” meaning Moshe ben Amram, but also hinting at Moshe ben Maimon the Sephardi (from Spain), of whom it is said: “From Moshe till Moshe there arose none as great as Moshe.” One who seriously studies Mishneh Torah will truly know the whole Oral Torah. …
[At] the completion … he writes:
“In that [Messianic] era … all pleasures will be abundant like the sand of the earth” (Laws of Kings 12:5).
Now if all the luxuries of the world will be abundant, as the Rambam says, they will lose their value and will be equated with sand! The person will not experience delight from those pleasures. A question then arises: How will the human sense of pleasure operate at that time? Certainly if God created it, it must have some function.
But the answer is, as the Rambam continues to explain: “… the one preoccupation of the whole world will be to know the Lord” (Ibid).
In other words, the pleasure of that era will be in knowing G-d. As David Hamelech [the king] said: “To behold the pleasantness of the L-rd” (Tehillim [Psalms] 27:4), and as the verse says: “Then shall you delight yourself in the Lord …” (Yeshayah 58:14).
The Rambam says that everyone’s preoccupation ["esek"] [in the Messianic Era] will be to know God. By using the term esek [which is the word normally used for business] he means to indicate that there will be a steady profit and increase. In other words, in the pleasure of beholding God there will be a steady increase, to the point of “dveikus” [rapturous cleaving to God]. ‘ The Tzemach Tzedek attributes this level of dveikus to the Alter Rebbe. The Alter Rebbe once paraphrased the verse in Tehillim: “For whom shall I have in Heaven one day, and beside You I have no other desire on earth.” On this the Alter Rebbe said: “That which is beside You I don’t want, I want not physical pleasures, I want not spiritual pleasures …; I want not anything which is only beside You, I want You alone. …”
If such a level is attainable in this world how much more so when Moshiach [the Messiah] comes, when all desire will be only in God. …
When we speak of the legacy of the great sages of old, in addition to the knowledge we garner from their written works there is also much to be gleaned from studying their biographies and their talks, customs and lifestyles. As the Talmud tells us: “From the casual conversation of R. Gamliel we have learned …” and “… even the casual conversation of scholars demands study.” How much more so, can we learn from their actions and regular activities.
From the life story of the Rambam we may learn much in the way of actual Halachah, “guidance,” for the perplexed, and we may also observe the real, down to earth, application of his teachings.
First, what special matters do we find in his Code [the Mishneh Torah]? In the Rambam’s Code there are two special, unique and overwhelming aspects which are important to note and which single his work out among all the other codifiers. The first is the fact that Rambam includes all the laws of the Torah in his Code, including the laws of the Bais Hamikdosh [Holy Temple] and even the laws of Moshiach. The second is the fact that Rambam teaches us and gives the Halachic details of the Seven Noachide Laws, introducing them by stating:
“Moreover Moshe, our teacher, was commanded by God to compel all human beings to accept the commandments enjoined upon the descendants of Noach…. A Gentile who accepts the Seven Commandments and observes them scrupulously is a “righteous Gentile” and will have a portion in the world to come.” (Laws of Kings 8:10-11)
… as the Rambam brings at the end of the Laws of Kings that Moshiach:
“… prevails upon Israel to walk in the ways of the Torah and repair its breaches, and fights the battles of the L-rd … rebuilds the Sanctuary on its site and gathers the dispersed by Israel…. He will prepare the whole world to serve the Lord with one accord, as it is written: “For then will I turn to the peoples a pure language, that they may all call upon the Name of the Lord , to serve Him with one consent” (Tzephaniah 3:9).” ([Mishneh Torah], Laws of Kings 11:4)
Just as it is the responsibility of a Jew today to see that the world is civilized and God-fearing, so too will Moshiach bring the perfection, that all the nations will “… serve God with one consent.”
This we find in the Code [Mishneh Torah].
Similarly, in his daily life we find his regular custom was to assist all people, Jews and Gentiles alike. There is the well-known letter of the Rambam in which he describes his difficult daily schedule and he writes:
“[after returning home from his daily visit to the Sultan's palace] … I find all the foyers and waiting rooms filled with people, Gentiles and Jews are there … I then go out to treat them, to write prescriptions and medical advice to heal their sickness … till late at night … and I reach a state of utter weakness and exhaustion….”
In the Rambam’s daily lifestyle, which serves as a living example for us, how we are to help those who need our help, he shows us that it must be done without consideration for the difficulty of the service, to the point of self-sacrifice. For the Rambam set aside many hours every day for helping others, without being concerned for his own well-being.
Therefore, in addition to learning in the Code of Maimonides how one must act to improve the world and civilization we also learn a lesson from the Rambam’s personal daily activity, that he toiled and dedicated his life to helping everyone, Jews and Gentiles, dealing with the most basic of all assistance, their health.
When people will gather to celebrate the siyyum — completion of the Rambam — it is appropriate that this lesson shall also be taught. We must improve the world and the level of civilization, by teaching the Gentile the Seven Noachide Laws – and in our personal lives we must extend help to all, wherever and whenever we can. …
And this brings us to the importance of organizing programs in honor of the Rambam even among Gentiles.
As we see that Morocco, Spain, Egypt and the U.N. have designated times and activities to honor the Rambam, recognizing him as the Great Codifier and Prince of the Jews — being that he was appointed as Nassi [leader] over the Jewish community in Egypt, etc.
Thus it is important to encourage Gentiles to honor the 850th birthday of the Rambam. It should be stressed that the Rambam cared for everyone, Jew and Gentile alike, so that in his Code he presented the Laws for them (Seven Noahide Laws), and in his daily life he extended a caring and helping hand for all.
This will increase the knowledge of the Rambam in the world and will bring an improvement in the civilization of the world. All efforts should be expended to organize meetings and celebrations among the nations of the world to honor the Rambam. Similarly, the issuing of postage stamps with the Rambam’s name or likeness is likewise a form of honor for the Rambam and will spread the teachings of the Rambam and the improvement of civilization in the world.
As we have seen in the city of Fez in Morocco, where the home of the Rambam still stands, that through proper requests the government permitted a siyyum to be conducted in the Rambam’s house…
Through all this work, of teaching the Laws of Noah to the nations of the world, which is a preparation for the work of Moshiach, may we merit the ultimate and complete goal of perfecting the world with the fulfillment of the promise:
“For then will I turn to the peoples a pure language, that they may all call upon the Name of the Lord to serve Him with one consent.”
Presented by AskNoah.org and NoahideAcademy.org with permission of Sichos in English.