During an all to quick vacation on the Kinneret, I took the opportunity to pay my respects at the Tomb of the Rambam. As with everyone else I know, the impact of Maimonides on my life, mind and soul has been profound. He dominated my (just shy of a) decade of learning with the Rov. He was the focus of everything we did at Harvard under Professor Twersky. His thought frames every discussion of the interaction of Judaism and general culture. Even my most recently published article, about the nigh on absolute neglect of Maimonides b Tosafist and late Ashkenazic scholars, is simply a reverse example of what Professor Twersky called, 'the endless fascination of Maimonides.'
All of that, of course, only requires studying the Rambam. However, the experience of being in the quasi-physical presence of a great figure from the past is very powerful. It's rooted in the Jewish sense of time perception, viewing Time as fluid, as a continuum. There are very few places (especially in Israel) where one can commune with one's memories of medieval Gedole Torah. The Rambam is one such rare example, and that's another reason why I try to go whenever I'm in Tiberias.
Of course, the Rambam emerges from his writings (including his letters) as a somewhat austere individual. Thus, the white washed, simple tomb that I remember from my youth is that which fit him best (sans the gate):
I was, therefore, a little taken aback when they started 'improving' the site. First, the monument itself was ‘fixed up.’
OK. That part wasn’t so bad. It’s actually quite beautiful. The problem is that they then covered the whole thing with this hideous tower:
Then, came what I thought was the piece-de-resistance. The Rambam was turned into a miracle worker/intercessor. And in typical fashion, they destroyed the tomb by sticking on it the ugliest mechitza you ever saw.
I thought that was the end, until yesterday (and I’m really sorry I didn’t have a camera). The place was teeming with people asking the Rambam to work miracles. There were Rambam souvenirs everywhere. I’m sure he’s none too pleased, considering what he wrote about amulets, now that he himself has become one. The nadir was reached when I saw a bottle of ‘Sacred Araq,’ guaranteed to cure what ails you. On the label, looking extremely uncomfortable, was (you guessed it!):
I think I’ll go read Hilkhos De’os, chapters 1 and 2. (I’m very angry).