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The Rambam

December 13, 2017

Maimonides (aka “the Rambam,” the Hebrew acronym derived from his full name, Rabbi Moses Ben Maimon) died on this date in 1204, at age 69. His Guide for the Perplexed helped bring Judaism into contact with science and Aristotelian philosophy and greatly fortified the intellectual integrity of Jewish philosophy. Born in Muslim-ruled Spain toward the end of a period often referred to as a “Golden Age” for the Jews of the Iberian Peninsula, he became a rabbi and physician and served in Egypt as the doctor to the Sultan and the royal family. His voluminous Mishneh Torah remains today an authoritative codification of Talmudic law. In it, he defined “eight degrees of tsedoke” (sharing wealth to create justice), with the highest degree being investment and partnership with the person in need. “Anticipate charity by preventing poverty,” he said.

“The eternal providence has appointed me to watch over the life and health of Thy creatures. May the love for my art actuate me at all time; may neither avarice nor miserliness, nor thirst for glory or for a great reputation engage my mind; for the enemies of truth and philanthropy could easily deceive me and make me forgetful of my lofty aim of doing good to Thy children. May I never see in the patient anything but a fellow creature in pain. . . here am I ready for my vocation and now I turn unto my calling.” --The Oath of Maimonides for doctors