The RAMBAM: 'There Never Arose A Person As Great'
The acronym RAMBAM is an
abbreviation for the Hebrew letters
which stand for Rabbi Moshe ben
Maimon who was known as the
leading Jewish personality in the
twelfth century Moslem world. He is
remembered as a Talmudist, a
halachist, a philosopher scientist, a
physician, a theologian, an advisor.
Most important, his contemporaries
said of him:
"From Moshe (Rabaynu) to
Moshe (Maimonides), there never
arose (a person as great) as Moshe
He was born in Cordoba, Spain
in 1135, on the eve of Pesach, the
14th day of Nisan. Just prior to his
bar mitzvah, the Almohades,
religious Moslem fanatics, toppled
the government. To avoid religious
persecution, Rabbi Maimon (father
of Maimonides) fled with his family.
They wandered north through
Spain toward the Provence
(southern France) territory, then
traveled to Fez, Morocco, where
they arrived in 1165. After many
years there, the family sailed for
Acco, in Eretz Yisrael, where they
remained for five months. They
toured the holy sites, visited
Jerusalem and the Cave of
Machpelah in Hebron. But Eretz
Yisrael was not to be their new
home, for life in the Holy Land was
Maimonides was known
as the leading Jewish
personality in the twelfth
century Moslem world.
He is remembered as a
Talmudist, a halachist, a
philosopher scientist, a
physician, a theologian,
very difficult due to the devastation
wrought by the Crusades.
Maimonides, by this time a
recognized leader because he had
already published some of his
writings during the years of
wandering, was searching for a
place where he could acquire
students and establish a permanent
yeshiva. He selected Egypt, first
Alexandria, then finally settling in
Fostat (a suburb of Cairo), Egypt.
Maimonides devoted himself to
leading the Jewish community while
preparing more work for publication.
His brother David, a wealthy
merchant who dealt in precious
stones, supported the family.
Life was good for eight years,
until David drowned in the Indian
Ocean while on a business trip.
FRIDAY, MARCH 27, 1992
Rabbi Moshe ben Maimon
Maimonides then took the
responsibility of supporting his
widowed sister-in-law and her two
children, in addition to his own wife
and son. He decided that the best
way to earn a livelihood was to
practice medicine, a profession
which, although subordinate until
now, had provided him with some
degree of fame.
In a short span of time, he was
appointed the personal physician to
the Sultan Saladin, famous for his
encounter with King Richard the
Lion-Hearted during the Third
The Sultan Saladin was
surrounded with many physicians,
but he mostly depended on the
services of Rabbi Moshe ben
Maimon, Maimonides, the
RAMBAM. The sultan and the rabbi
became devoted friends, thereby
incurring the jealousy of other
At every opportunity, they tried
to cast aspersions or bad-mouth the
RAMBAM. The sultan reacted
angrily and turned deaf ears to their
accusations. He remained loyal to
his devoted personal physician and
challenged them to prove that they
were more knowledgeable than he.
The courtiers concocted a plan
which they believed had the
potential to prove that the RAMBAM
was a fool. They arrived at court
leading a blind man behind them.
"Your majesty," they clamored.
"This man was born blind. However,
we want to prove to you that we
have the ability to heal his vision.
We can prescribe some medicine
which will permit him to see."
The RAMBAM, who was
standing nearby, said simply: "It is
impossible for a person who was
born blind to be restored to vision."
"But we," shouted the courtiers
gleefully, "can perform this medical
Immediately, the leader of the
courtiers stepped forward and
smeared some ointment into the
blind man's eyes. In five minutes,
the man shouted: "I can see! I can
see! The courtiers have
miraculously cured me!"
At that moment, the RAMBAM
walked over to the cured man and
waved a red handkerchief in front o_f
him. He whispered "Can you tell
me what color this handkerchief
is?" "Of course, of course," he
replied. "That handkerchief is red."
"You are right," said the
RAMBAM, "but these courtiers are
lying. You were never blind, for a
person who was blind from birth,
whose vision was suddenly
restored, would not be able to
recognize one color from another,
for he had never seen the spectrum
of color." The courtiers retreated,
embarrassed. The sultan's faith in
the curative abilities of the
RAMBAM did not waver.
Rabbi Abraham Ibn Ezra
wandered for many years
throughout the Moslem world, living
for some time in Egypt where the
RAMBAM befriended him. They
became very close friends. Once,
Rabbi Abraham's eyes became
infected, and he sought the advice
of his friend. "He is such a
prominent physician; maybe he
knows a cure for my eyes."
The RAMBAM was very busy
with patients and he refused to
examine Rabbi Abraham after
glancing hastily at his red eyes.
Rather, he instructed his servant to
grab him and put him in the stable.
The servant followed the orders
of his master. "How is it possible for
my friend to treat me in such a
beastly way?" cried Rabbi
Abraham. He sat down in a corner
on the straw and wept bitterly.
"What did I do to harm him, that he
has cast me into this stable, that he
has not even attempted to cure me,
that he has ignored our friendship
completely?" He wept bitterly all
As the rays of dawn broke
across the horizon, the RAMBAM
opened the doors of the stable, and
smiled broadly at his patient. Rabbi
Abraham stared at him in disbelief.
Softly, the RAMBAM whispered:
"Are you feeling better, my
dearest friend? Yesterday, when I
saw your bloodshot, infected eyes, I
knew that only tears could cure you.
Forgive me for treating you so
harshly, but I see that my
prescription helped you recover."
Reprinted from "Otzer Yisroel,"
Shilo Publishing Company.
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