Image of Maimonides from the 1744 Thesaurus Antiquataum Sacrarum.

Maimonides was a Sephardi Jewish scholar who lived in the 12th century (March 30, 1135 - December 13, 1204 C.E.). He was the leader of the Jewish community in Cairo, a physician to the Sultan and his writings interpreting how Jews should behave in life situations are seminal to many Jewish traditions.

His full name was Rabbi Moses ben Maimon and is often referred to as Rambam, the acronym of his Hebrew name, רבי משה בן מימון. He is commonly known by his Greek name, Moses Maimonides (Μωυσής Μαϊμονίδης) and also as Maimoni (מימוני).

He was born in Spain, but his family left when he was 13, rather than convert. He spent most of his life in Fostat near Cairo in Egypt. He was initially buried in Egypt, but his body was later moved to Israel. Next to his grave, there is a building called The Maimonides Heritage Center (MHC). It is a museum, with tours and group programs directed by Rabbi Michael Schachter.

Maimonides wrote the Mishneh Torah, Guide for the Perplexed , Oath of Maimonides (a document about the "medical calling"[1]) and other documents including medical documents and responsa.

Famous excerpts

Measure of men

14th century illustration which depicts Maimonides saying that, in comparison to the Earth and the universe, man is relatively insignificant.

In his commentary on the Mishna, he identified 13 Principles of Faith:

  1. The existence of G-d
  2. G-d's unity
  3. G-d's spirituality and incorporeality
  4. G-d's eternity
  5. G-d alone should be the object of worship
  6. Revelation through G-d's prophets
  7. The preeminence of Moses among the prophets
  8. G-d's law given on Mount Sinai
  9. The immutability of the Torah as G-d's Law
  10. G-d's foreknowledge of human actions
  11. Reward of good and retribution of evil
  12. The coming of the Jewish Messiah
  13. The resurrection of the dead

Maimonides listed 8 "degrees" of charity. The lowest is someone who gives, but unwillingly. The next lowest is giving unwillingly, but with a smile. Above this is a person who gives when asked. On the 5th highest level is when a person gives without being asked to. On the 4rth highest level is a person who does not know whom he's giving to, but the poor does know who he's receiving from, as to not embarrass him. On the 3rd highest level is vice versa of the 4rth, where the provider does know to whom he's giving, but the benefactor does not know from who he's receiving, to spare the man from guilt. On the second highest level is when it is anonymous both ways. This spares the poor man from guilt, and the provider does not embarrass him. The highest is when you help some one to be able to take care of him or herself.

His commentaries have had significant influence on non-Jewish philosophers and secular law as well. The translation of one of his famous comments is, "It is better and more satisfactory to acquit a thousand guilty persons than to put a single innocent one to death."

Many schools, hospitals, other buildings and institutes are named in honor of Maimonides.


  1. "The Oath of Maimonides" on Wikipedia.

External links

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