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Moses Maimonides

Explain the contribution of Moses Maimonides to the development and expression of Judaism.
Analyse the impact of Moses Maimonides on Judaism.

Names/Titles

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2.
3.

Moshe ben Maimon


RaMBaM, an acronym for Rabbi Moshe ben Maimon.
Maimonides which literally means son of Maimon in Greek

Lifespan

66 years old

Place of birth/death

Birth: Crdoba, Spain


Death: Fustat, Egypt
Buried: Tomb of Maimonides, Tiberias, Israel
1. Moshe ben Maimon was a Jewish physician, rabbi and philosopher.
2. After his brother died. He began practicing medicine and struggled to support himself and his
brother's family.

Education/Career

Cultural Background

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2.

Maimonides' father was a deeply learned man whose education consisted of Torah study,
mathematics and astronomy. His father become a role model to succeed and thrive.
Lived a very Jewish life, underpinned by Spanish culture.

Socio/Political
Context

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2.

3.

Religious Context/
Issues that needed to
be addressed

Dynamic religion?

Islamic world where Jews were considered as second class citizens. Maimonides lived in an
Islamic world where Jews were regarded as second class citizens.
Revival of classical philosophy posed as a threat to monotheism: The translation of Greek
philosophy to Arabic by Arab and Syrian scholars between the fifth and eleventh centuries,
enabled the re- emergence of Greek philosophy in Europe in the 11th and 12th centuries CE.
This revival of classical philosophy, especially the writings of Aristotle, challenged the
authority and validity of many religious ideas In particular it posed a threat to the
monotheistic religions of Judaism, Christianity and Islam.
Sephardi and Askenazi Jews: division in Jewish living in Spain

Contributions to
Judaism

How did Judaism develop as a result?

How was the expression of Judaism


affected as a result?

Commentary on the
Mishnah

Maimonides provides a comprehensive


commentary on each of the tractates of the
Mishnah. He does this through providing a
history of the Oral Torah and explaining the link
between learning the Torah and putting it into
practice

People were able to put the laws of Judaism into


practice, but also were able to see how the laws
can be involved in our modern lives.

Mishneh Torah

It is generally agreed that Maimonides' greatest


contribution to Jewish life was this code of law,
the Mishneh Torah. Maimonides' Mishneh Torah
provided an exhaustive topical codification of
the Talmud which facilitated much quicker and
easier access to the Jewish precepts. This work
comprised 14 books and was written
in Hebrew in a style which was easy to read and
understand.

It seems that Maimonides' intention in compiling


the Mishneh Torah was to provide Jews with a
comprehensible guide to Jewish Law without having
to spend long hours studying the Talmud. By
referring to the Torah and his code, Jews should be
able to work out how to behave in any given
situation. More accessible to all.

This text essentially deals with the key doctrines


of Judaism from a philosophical standpoint. For
example, it deals with issues such as the nature
of God, what it means for God to be omnipotent,
free will, what is evil and what goodness means,
justice and divine revelation

People were finally able to fully grasp the nature of


their God. This text allowed them to clarify any
issues, which in result allowed them to express and
appreciate their religion much more deeply.
Maimonides succeeded in providing a clear and
sound philosophical explanation of these issues. In
doing so he was also able to successfully defend
Judaism against philosophical challenges that the
beliefs of Judaism could not be rationally sustained.
Defence and security

Guide for the


Perplexed (Moreh
Nevuchim)

Prior to Maimonides there was no systematic


presentation of the Jewish law (Torah and Talmud)
thus a Talmudist would need to make an exhaustive
study of the entire text in order to explain the
Talmudic perspective on an issue. The Mishneh
Torah was the result of ten years of meticulous
study.

Contribution

Relevance to Judaism Today (continue from top)

Commentary on the
Mishnah

The second realm of significant influence for Maimonides came through his Commentary on the
Mishnah which provided a comprehensive commentary on each of the tractates of the Mishnah.
Ultimately, Maimonides intended this work to make Judaism more relevant to the average Jew living in
an Islamic society.
In the Commentary on the Mishnah Maimonides provides a link between learning the Torah and
putting it in practice by providing comprehensive commentary on each of the tractates of the Mishnah.
He wrote in a simple style and explained each mitzvot outside the context of the Rabbinic discussion
and went straight to the halakhic decision. This contribution is significant because it cuts across the
convoluted rabbinic discourse in presenting the final halakhic decision.

Mishneh Torah

Guide for the


Perplexed (Moreh
Nevuchim)

The nature of Maimonides' influence can be seen in three important areas. The first are is his
codification of the Talmud, the Mishneh Torah. The aim of Maimonides' major work was to provide a
topical codification of the Talmud so as to facilitate a much easier access to Jewish precepts. Prior to
this work, in order for a Jew to find out what they should do in any given circumstance, they would
have to undertake a laborious study of the entire text. This is significant because Judaism is essentially
a practical religion, concerned with the day to day practice of halakhic laws.
Essentially, therefore, the Mishneh Torah is significant because it can be regarded as the first
comprehensive, exhaustive, topical codification of the Talmud. The very fact that it was written in
Hebrew, rather then Arabic, which was the language Maimonides used for most of his works, gives is
an indication of Maimonides' intentions for this work. That is, this great reference work was to be used
not only by Arabic speaking Jews of his era but by Jews in all times. The importance of the Mishneh
Torah as a reference guide is evident in the fact that it was met with almost universal acclaimacross
the different strands of Judaism.
The fourth significant influence for Maimonides is hisintegration of religion, science and philosophy
primarily through his Guide for the Perplexed. This text sought to rationalise Judaism in relation to
classical philosophy and show that Judaism had abasis in rational thought.
Here he tried to resolve some apparent contradictions in the Jewish religion, which perplexed the
Jewish community and particularly those schooled in Aristotelian thought. In doing so, this work is
helped to preserve faith in Judaismby people who were genuinely perplexed by the apparent
contradictions in Jewish thought. Even more significant is the fact that Maimonides helped to assure
the Jews who were less educated that their religion was one with a sound basis, so that they would not
turn away from Judaism.
The Guide for the Perplexed is mainly concerned with the anthropomorphic depictions of God, despite
the belief about God's incorporeality. He concluded that since this practice of referring to the hand of
God etc cannot be rationally sustained, one should not therefore refer to God that way. Essentially,
Maimonides can be described as a religious rationalist who sought to rationalise religion in order to
save religion from being made irrelevant by rationalist philosophy.