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Moshe, Maimonides and Me

Friday, 24 December, 2021 - 11:50 am

Earlier this week I was speaking with a friend who listens to daily Torah classes by Rabbi Yehoshua Gordon obm on the weekly parshah. (They’re great! Check them out here.

He found it peculiar to be learning the story of the Jews in Egypt and the birth of Moshe when Passover was over three months away. Of course, the Torah reading cycle does not coincide with the Jewish festival calendar, but something special about today actually connects to this week’s parshah beautifully. Here’s how.

Today, (Friday the 20th of Teves) marks 817 years since the passing of Maimonides. His full name is Rabbi Moshe ben Maimon and he is most famously known in Judaism by the acronym of his name RaMBaM. While he lived over 2,500 years after the story of Exodus, his life shares so many parallels to it, which makes the fact we are commemorating his life today quite amazing.

Firstly, he shares the same name as the main protagonist and hero of the Passover story - Moshe, whose birth we learn about this week. Even more amazingly, Maimonides was born on the eve of Passover, literally hours before the Seder! At a young age his family was forced to flee for their lives from their hometown Cordoba, Spain - just like Moshe escaped from Pharaoh’s executioners - and he ended up settling in Egypt of all places.

Moshe spent considerable time in the Egyptian Royal Palace and Maimonides served as the personal physician and advisor to the Egyptian sultan.

But their strongest commonality is in their legacies. Moshe’s greatest contribution to Judaism and humanity is the Torah. As the prophet who communicated G-d’s laws to us he transcribed the Written Torah for posterity. However, most of the details remained an oral tradition passed down through the generations by tens of thousands of dedicated teachers and students. While the Mishna and Talmud became the first authoritative records of this tradition, they were never fully complete, nor easily understandable to the masses.

Maimonides codified and indexed the entire corpus of Jewish law in a systematic fashion, in language understood by the most basic Hebrew reader in his magnum opus entitled Mishneh Torah, which remains the only work of this scope to this day. The impact it continues to have on Judaism is so powerful that the epitaph inscribed on his tombstone in Tiberias reads “From Moshe until Moshe, there was none like Moshe.”

All this he accomplished while living a life of tremendous pain and hardship. Instead of surrendering to his trials and tribulations, he rose above them and focused on the task at hand to make the world a better place. His life and teachings continue to inspire millions around the globe.

I am privileged to study Maimonides’ Mishneh Torah every day and I invite you to join the global daily study movement which will uplift and inspire you. Learn more about it here.

 

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