Focus On:The Rambam - A Brief BiographyVolume 4 , Issue 2 (Dec, 1990 | Kislev, 5751)
son of Maimon, (Rambam in
Hebrew, Abu Imram Musa Ibn Maimun in Arabic and Maimonides in Greek) was born in
Little is known of Maimonides's early life and medical education." There are no sources indicating that Maimonides had any formal medical education." In his Medical Aphorisms, he mentions "the elders before whom I have read;" this is the only allusion to some semi-private study of medicine." A few times he mentions the son of Ibn Zuhr from whom he heard teachings of the latter's illustrious father(the great physician Abu Merwan Ibn Zuhr) whom Maimonides held in great esteem.
Maimonides must have been an avid reader since his medical writings show a profound knowledge of ancient Greek authors in Arabic translations, and Moslem medical works. Hippocrates, Galen and Aristotle were his Greek medical inspirations and Rhazes of Persia, Al Farabi, and Ibn Zuhr the Spanish-Arabic physician, are Moslem authors frequently quoted by Maimonides.
The Maimon family left
In 1193, Saladin died and his eldest son, Al Afdal Nur ad Din Ali, a playboy, succeeded him. As a result, Maimonides's medical duties became even heavier, as described in the famous letter he wrote to his friend, disciple and translator, French Rabbi Samuel Ibn Tibbon, in the year 1199.
"I live in Fostat
and the Sultan resides in
In consequence of this, no Israelite can converse with me or befriend me [on religious or community matters] except on the Sabbath. On that day, the whole congregation, or at least, the majority, comes 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 services until evening prayer. In this manner, I spend the days. I have here related to you only a part of what you would see if you would visit me."
was also the spiritual leader of the Jewish community of
At age 33, in the year 1168, shortly after settling in Fostat (Old Cairo), he completed his first major work, the Commentary on the Mishnah. In 1178, ten years later, he finished his magnum opus the Mishneh Torah. This monumental work is a 14-book compilation of all Biblical and Talmudic law and remains a classic to this day. In 1190, Maimonides completed his great philosophical masterpiece, the Guide for the Perplexed.
Maimonides died on December 14, 1204 (Teveth 20, 4965 in the Hebrew calendar) and was buried in Tiberias. Legend relates that Maimonides's body was placed upon a donkey and the animal set loose. The donkey wandered and wandered and finally stopped in Tiberias.
Dr. Fred Rosner is
Director of Department of Medicine, Queens Hospital Center and Assistant Dean
and Professor of Medicine, Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva
University. He has written extensively on the medical writings of Maimonides
and recently published a book entitled Existence and Unity of God: Three
Treatises Attributed to Moses Maimonides. The Jewish Review is
grateful for being given permission to excerpt this biography from an article
written for the