Rambam 1135-1204 Spain, Morocco, Egypt, Jewish pioneer of faith and science

Hey Max,

Have you heard of this guy? He is one of a series of leading people of science across history who were also people of faith.

Look him up on Wikipedia and other stuff, I did.

Moses Maimonides 1135-1204 Spain, Morocco, Egypt, Jewish

also known as Mosheh ben Maimon or RaMBaM– Hebrew acronym for "Rabbeinu Mosheh Ben Maimon" was a preeminent medieval physician, philosopher, astronomer[5] and Torah scholar[6][7][8]. He was born in Córdoba (where the monument pictured left is situated, part of present-day Spain) during Islamic Moorish Rule, in 1135 and died in Egypt on December 12, 1204.[9] In accordance with his wishes, his remains were taken to Tiberias, where he was re-interred.[32] The Tomb of Maimonides on the western shore of the Sea of Galilee in Israel marks his grave.

Although his writings on Jewish law and ethics were met with acclaim and gratitude from most Jews, there were also vociferous critics of some of his writings. Nevertheless, he was posthumously acknowledged to be one of the foremost rabbinical arbiters and philosophers in Jewish history, his copious work still forms a cornerstone of Jewish scholarship. The volume, clarity and range of his written work is remarkable, given his tiring life as a physician and rabbi.

He read Greek philosophers and was deeply immersed in the sciences and learning of Islamic culture.[10] When the Almohads, conquered Córdoba in 1148, they abolished the protected status (dhimma) of the Jewish and Christian communities. For the next ten years, Maimonides moved about in southern Spain, eventually settling in Fes in Morocco. During this time, he composed his acclaimed commentary on the Mishnah in the years 1166–1168.[18] It is exceptional for its logical construction, concise and clear expression and extraordinary learning, so that it became a standard against which other later codifications were often measured.[37] It is still closely studied in Rabbinic yeshivot (academies). A popular medieval saying that also served as his epitaph states, From Mosheh (of the Torah) to Mosheh (Maimonides) there was none like Mosheh.

Maimonides shortly thereafter was instrumental in ransoming Jews taken captive during the Crusader King Amalric‘s siege of the Egyptian town of Bilbays. Later, with the loss of the family funds due to a tragedy at sea, Maimonides assumed the vocation of physician, for which he was to become famous. Gaining widespread recognition, he was appointed a physician to the royal family.[25]

In his medical writings, he described many conditions, including asthma, diabetes, hepatitis, and pneumonia, and emphasized moderation and a healthy lifestyle.[26] His observations became influential for generations of physicians. He was knowledgeable about Greek and Arabic medicine, and followed the principles of humorism in the tradition of Galen. He did not blindly accept authority but used his own observation and experience.[26]

Maimonides was also one of the most influential figures in medieval Jewish philosophy. His brilliant adaptation of Aristotelian thought to Biblical faith deeply impressed later Jewish thinkers.[38] Some Jews in the century that followed his death sought to apply Maimonides’s Aristotelianism in ways that undercut traditionalist belief and observance, giving rise to a bitter intellectual controversy in Spanish and southern French Jewish circles.[39] The most rigorous medieval critique came from Hasdai Crescas. Crescas bucked the eclectic trend, by demolishing the certainty of the Aristotelian world-view, not only in religious matters but also in the most basic areas of medieval science (such as physics and geometry). Crescas’ works on Jewish law, if indeed ever committed to writing – have not reached us. But his concise philosophical work Or Adonai, The Light of the Lord became a classical Jewish refutation of medieval Aristotelianism, and a harbinger of the scientific revolution in the 16th century. Crescas’ critique in turn provoked a number of 15th-century scholars to write defenses of Maimonides. This conflict was not just between two Jewish scholars. Copernicus (see his profile in this collection) was soon to get into the same trouble for the same radical change of thought.

Because of his path-finding synthesis of Aristotle and Biblical faith, Maimonides had a fundamental influence on the great Christian theologian Saint Thomas Aquinas[43], plus other Scholastic philosophers, included Albert the Great, and Duns Scotus.

The principle that inspired his philosophical activity was identical to a fundamental tenet of Scholasticism: there can be no contradiction between the truths which God has revealed and the findings of the human mind in science and philosophy. Maimonides primarily relied upon the science of Aristotle and the teachings of the Talmud, commonly finding basis in the former for the latter. This illustrates the hold that Aristotelianism had over the medieval mind. Yet, in some important points, he departed from the teaching of Aristotle; for instance, he rejected the Aristotelian doctrine that God’s provident care extends only to humanity, and not to the individual.

Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.

The risk of a wrong decision is preferable to the terror of indecision.

Do not imagine that what we have said of the insufficiency of our understanding and of its limited extent is an assertion founded only on the Bible: for philosophers likewise assert the same, and perfectly understand it,- without having regard to any religion or opinion.

Teach thy tongue to say ‘I do not know,’ and thou shalt progress.

You must accept the truth from whatever source it comes.

You will certainly not doubt the necessity of studying astronomy and physics, if you are desirous of comprehending the relation between the world and Providence as it is in reality, and not according to imagination.

The whole object of the Prophets and the Sages was to declare that a limit is set to human reason where it must halt.


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