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Maimonides, or Moses ben Maimon, was one of the greatest Jewish scholars to have ever lived.
He was a busy man who split his time between being a physician, a scholar, and the leader of the Egyptian Jewish community. Maimonides was famous for his medical writings and his teachings on religious matters.
With knowledge of a wide range of subjects, Maimonides never took anything he learned lightly. He always conducted his own research and only then came to conclusions. With several works published on Judaism, the philosopher was caught amidst much controversy in his time. Maimonides' life entailed several published works, of which the most famous are the 'Mishneh Torah' and 'The Guide For The Perplexed'. Find out more about Maimonides' philosophic work and family life in this article.
As a child and throughout most of his teenage years and adulthood, his family moved around, from country to country. This was mainly because the Almohad Empire threatened the lives of many Jews as their empire expanded.
Maimonides was a well-learned person. He was educated by many Torah masters and his father as well. He spoke several languages, was well-read in languages like Arabic and Hebrew, and took great interest in the Islamic culture. He was a trained physician, a theologist, and an expert on astrology.
Born sometime during the spring of 1138, Moses ben Maimon was the first son to his parents. They lived in Córdoba, Spain, and were wealthy and well-educated. Maimonides had a younger brother named David ben Maimon. His father, Maimon ben Joseph, was a Jewish judge in Spain.
When Maimonides was 10, the Almohad Muslims, an Islamic empire, took over their city and much of Spain. Non-muslims were given three choices: to convert, to run away, or to fall to their demise. The family moved to the south of Spain and then to Morocco, where Maimonides spent his teenage years. When he was 24, the family settled in Cairo, Egypt.
He got married in Egypt and had a son named Abraham Maimonides. His son became a scholar and a physician at 18. He stood by his father's teaching despite all the criticism it garnered.
Maimonides was a well-known Sephardic Jewish philosopher, astronomer, and physician. His tendency to know more made him one of the best scholars of his time. However, Maimonides is most known for his contribution to the Jewish religion. One of his role models was Rabbi Saadia Gaon. Maimonides read extensively on Islamic philosophy and Greek philosophy. He took great interest in Jewish theology as well.
His career as a doctor began as a means to provide for his family. Maimonides' brother, David Maimon, was mainly in charge of the wealth of the family. But on a trip to India in search of treasures, he drowned in the Indian Ocean. This left the family with no income source, so Maimonides took his physician skills and put them to work. His efforts as a doctor were noticed by the Sultan, who appointed him as the royal physician. In his medical memoirs, Maimonides wrote about illnesses like asthma, diabetes, pneumonia, and hepatitis. Sanitation standards, hospital planning, and research methods were some of the things he laid the foundation for that we still use today.
Maimonides' most remarkable works include the 'Mishneh Torah' and 'The Guide For The Perplexed'. The 'Mishneh Torah' is probably one of his most extensive works, which required a lot of time and patience. It is a guide on Jewish laws written in Hebrew and not in Arabic, as he was of the belief that many wouldn't understand it. The religious text is a condensed version of 'The Talmud', a 2,711-page text of Rabbinic Judaism and the source of Jewish laws. Maimonides managed to separate the book into 14 sections based on themes. He called his book 'Mishneh Torah', which became an extremely integral part of the Jewish culture. This fourteen-part book was the only work done in the Middle Ages on Judaism with detailed accounts of Jewish observance. However, Maimonides was criticized for not citing sources and saying that it was just a rearranged version of 'The Talmud'.
His book 'The Guide For The Perplexed' was written in Arabic. It was later translated into Hebrew, Latin, and other European languages. It crosslinks to show the similarities between Aristotelian philosophy and Jewish theology. He noticed the two were alike but different in certain aspects, and so he wrote a whole book on this concept. This, too, did not receive any good reviews back then.
In his books, Maimonides also often talked about the 13 principles of the Jewish faith, to name a few: The existence of God, God's eternity, and the resurrection of the dead. These are what make the belief in Judaism whole as a Jewish. The philosopher gathered this from several religious texts he read.
Published works by Maimonides include seven philosophical works on Judaism, articles on medicine, and Treaties on Logic. However, 800 years into the future, today, his books form the core of Jewish theology, and according to some, Rabbi Moshe ben Maimon is known as the greatest Rabbi of the Middle Ages. The philosopher also has several awards named after him, like The Maimonides Medical Prize given to doctors and researchers or anyone who has contributed immensely to the field. Maimonides certainly left an indelible mark on the world, and he is revered by everyone, even today.
As a doctor, Maimonides helped the community a lot. He split his time between being a court physician and being a local physician.
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