Monday, January 03, 2005

The 800th Yahrzeit of the Rambam: The Human Side

Rambam 1138-1204 Posted by Hello
This past Shabbat (20 Tevel 5765) marked the 800th anniversary of the death of Rabbenu Moshe b. Maimon (bin Abd'allah). Strikingly, little was said about the anniversary in the press. I will add more to this posting later today.
Add to the Posting:
Anyone who grew up in Boston, near the Rav zt'L, trying to creat some sort of Modern Orthodoxy that has both religious integrity and intellectual honesty (never mind those of us who studied under Prof. Yitzhaq Twersky) has his life dominated by the Rambam. Following an old custom of reading the works of a person on his yahrzeit, I spent Shabbat reading Rambam. This time, however, I didn't crack open the Commentary on the Mishneh, the Mishneh Torah, the Moreh Nebuhim or the 'heavy letters.'
I spent my free time reading his lighter correspondence (in Y. Shilat's incredible edition). It was a pleasure. What a change of pace. In these leters (as in a lot of his responsa) you get to see the human, passionate side of the man behind the timeless prose. He was a kind, involved communal leader. His sense of compassion for the needy is inspiring. His tenderness toward his disciples is moving.
I used to say that if I needed to choose with whom to go out to dinner, Rambam or Ramban, I"d pick Ramban-who seems to be a more social person. (After all, he chummed around with King James I of Aragon). Now, I'm not so sure. I think the Rambam would be an engaging interlocutor outside the Bet Midrash too. The only problem is, as he describes in his letters to Yosef b. Yehudah and Samuel Ibn Tibbon, he'd never have time for such an evening.


Anonymous said...

Who if any person from the past 100 years-do you believe people 800 years from now will be interested in their yahrzeit? Even be interested in them 100 years from now. Oh, professor-I and I assume kol blogesphere are awaiting your pronouncements eagerly.

goyisherebbe said...

I always took that statue of the Rambam for granted and never thought about it much. But tonight I was reading your blog and turned to my wife and said, "you know, if the Rambam were to come back from the dead and see this statue, he'd probably blow it up." The two of us proceeded to roll on the floor laughing our tails off, as the saying goes.