My Monides or Yours?

posted 9 Jul 2019, 11:36 by Charles Greene
Where in the world is Rabbi Eli?
My Monides or Yours?
Rabbi Moshe ben Maimon, better known as RaMBaM in Hebrew and the western languages, was a sage, philosopher, and physician. He is known for his great agility of mind in matters of biblical interpretation and philosophic discourse. He is not, however, known for his affinity for mysticism, which he largely rejected, for waxing poetry which he despised, or for his sense of humour, which he... uhm. Well. Let's say, there actually is a letter from the sage to an admirer/follower who begs for two minutes of his time in order to ask an important question face-to-face. In response, Maimonides describes in great detail, over nearly two pages how busy his day is and how presumptuous it was to expect him to spare even one single moment of that immensely tense and crazily hectic schedule of a great Rabbi and the Egyptian court physician... all that, without a shadow of a smile.

There are many great things you can glean from the works of Maimonides. He practically single-handedly brought Aristotelean thought into Jewish philosophy and biblical exegesis. He introduced formal views to the fields of Jewish theology where it was sorely lacking before. He opened a whole new world of discourse. He is known as 'The Great Eagle'. Rabbis used to say, "From Moses (the prophet) until Moses (Maimonides) there was none like Moses". In Rambam's works, you can find enlightenment, foresight, and inspiration. But if you happen to be looking for fun today, you may want to turn to other sages first.

As Rabbi Hasdai Crescas, one of the greatest critics of Maimonides, used to say, he forbade his disciples from reading the famous Maimonidean "Guide for the Perplexed", lest one reads the description of heresy and gets so bored he falls asleep before getting to the refutation part, thus spending the night as a heretic...

Anyhow, Cordoba is justly proud of being the birthplace of the great scholar, whose statue was erected in the Jewish Quarter, La Judaria, over half a century ago.


From Andalusia the project takes us up north, all the way to the old Toledo. The two once-gorgeous synagogues here are known as El Transito and Santa Maria La Blanca (a name like that's a sure sign your Schule is in trouble even if you never heard of the Expulsion).

Indeed, though both synagogues had been turned into churches once the Jews were expelled, El Transito contains the Sephardic museum of Toledo today. As for Santa Maria La Blanca (the white name was adopted in the 16th c. by the monks trying to "drive out the darkness of its Jewish past"), it is still in the Catholic Church possession. Once known as Ibn Shoshan, the largest and most glorious of Toledo synagogues, it fell in the Church' hands after the terrible pogroms of the 14th c, connected to the Black Death coming in the city.


The Spanish Jewry keeps pressing for the restitution of the synagogue to the community; so far, in vain. Ironically, simply paying the entrance fee to the empty building you drop a few pennies in the coffers of the Spanish Church. On the upside, nobody will try to burn you at the stake, not anymore. The community even organized a couple of services here in the last few years. Things definitely are looking brighter.

Looking forward to seeing you next Shabbat at The Lodzer,