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Maimónides

Birthdate: 30. March 1138
Date of death: 13. December 1204

Moses ben Maimon, commonly known as Maimonides and also referred to by the acronym Rambam, was a medieval Sephardic Jewish philosopher who became one of the most prolific and influential Torah scholars of the Middle Ages. In his time, he was also a preeminent astronomer and physician. Born in Córdoba, Almoravid empire on Passover Eve, 1135 or 1138, he worked as a rabbi, physician, and philosopher in Morocco and Egypt. He died in Egypt on December 12, 1204, whence his body was taken to the lower Galilee and buried in Tiberias.During his lifetime, most Jews greeted Maimonides' writings on Jewish law and ethics with acclaim and gratitude, even as far away as Iraq and Yemen. Yet, while Maimonides rose to become the revered head of the Jewish community in Egypt, his writings also had vociferous critics, particularly in Spain. Nonetheless, he was posthumously acknowledged as among the foremost rabbinical decisors and philosophers in Jewish history, and his copious work comprises a cornerstone of Jewish scholarship. His fourteen-volume Mishneh Torah still carries significant canonical authority as a codification of Talmudic law. He is sometimes known as "ha Nesher ha Gadol" in recognition of his outstanding status as a bona fide exponent of the Oral Torah.

Aside from being revered by Jewish historians, Maimonides also figures very prominently in the history of Islamic and Arab sciences and is mentioned extensively in studies. Influenced by Al-Farabi, Avicenna, and his contemporary Averroes, he in his turn influenced other prominent Arab and Muslim philosophers and scientists. He became a prominent philosopher and polymath in both the Jewish and Islamic worlds.

Works

„Know that this Universe, in its entirety, is nothing else but one individual being“

—  Maimónides, book The Guide for the Perplexed

Guide for the Perplexed (c. 1190), Part I
Context: Know that this Universe, in its entirety, is nothing else but one individual being; that is to say, the outermost heavenly sphere, together with all included therein, is as regards individuality beyond all question a single being like Said and Omar. The variety of its substances—I mean the substances of that sphere and all its component parts—is like the variety of the substances of a human being: just as, e. g., Said is one individual, consisting of various solid substances, such as flesh, bones, sinews of various humours, and of various spiritual elements; in like manner this sphere in its totality is composed of the celestial orbs, the four elements and their combinations; there is no vacuum whatever therein, but the whole space is filled up with matter. Its centre is occupied by the earth, earth is surrounded by water, air encompasses the water, fire envelopes the air, and this again is enveloped by the fifth substance (quintessence). These substances form numerous spheres, one being enclosed within another so that no intermediate empty space, no vacuum, is left. One sphere surrounds and closely joins the other. All the spheres revolve with constant uniformity, without acceleration or retardation; that is to say, each sphere retains its individual nature as regards its velocity and the peculiarity of its motion; it does not move at one time quicker, at another slower. Compared with each other, however, some of the spheres move with less, others with greater velocity. The outermost, all-encompassing sphere, revolves with the greatest speed; it completes its revolution in one day, and causes every thing to participate in its motion, just as every particle of a thing moves when the entire body is in motion; for all existing beings stand in the same relation to that sphere as a part of a thing stands to the whole. These spheres have not a common centre; the centres of some of them are identical with the centre of the Universe, while those of the rest are different from it. Some of the spheres have a motion independent of that of the whole Universe, constantly revolving from East to West, while other spheres move from West to East. The stars contained in those spheres are part of their respective orbits; they are fixed in them, and have no motion of their own, but participating in the motion of the sphere of which they are a part, they themselves appear to move. The entire substance of this revolving fifth element is unlike the substance of those bodies which consist of the other four elements, and are enclosed by the fifth element.<!--pp.288-292 (1881) Tr. Friedlander

„…one should accept the truth from whatever source it proceeds.“

—  Maimónides

Foreword to The Eight Chapters Of Maimonides On Ethics, translated by Joseph I. Gorfinkle, Ph.D. Columbia University Press, New York (1912). Page 35-36. https://archive.org/details/eightchaptersofm00maim
Variant: "Accept the truth from whatever source it comes." Introduction to the Shemonah Peraqim, as quoted in Truth and Compassion: Essays on Judaism and Religion in Memory of Rabbi Dr. Solomon Frank (1983) Edited by Howard Joseph, Jack Nathan Lightstone, and Michael D. Oppenheim, p. 168
Variant: You must accept the truth from whatever source it comes.

„For this reason, great theological scholars gave instruction in all such matters only by means of metaphors and allegories.“

—  Maimónides, book The Guide for the Perplexed

Guide for the Perplexed (c. 1190), Introduction
Context: You must know that if a person, who has attained a certain degree of perfection, wishes to impart to others, either orally or in writing, any portion of the knowledge which he has acquired of these subjects, he is utterly unable to be as systematic and explicit as he could be in a science of which the method is well known. The same difficulties which he encountered when investigating the subject for himself will attend him when endeavouring to instruct others: viz., at one time the explanation will appear lucid, at another time, obscure: this property of the subject appears to remain the same both to the advanced scholar and to the beginner. For this reason, great theological scholars gave instruction in all such matters only by means of metaphors and allegories.

„He gave us existence; and the creation of the controlling faculty in animals is a proof of His mercy towards them“

—  Maimónides, book The Guide for the Perplexed

Source: Guide for the Perplexed (c. 1190), Part III, Ch.12
Context: You will see the mercy of God toward His creatures, how He has provided that which is required, in proper proportions, and treated all individual beings of the same species with perfect equality.... for it is an act of great and perfect goodness that He gave us existence; and the creation of the controlling faculty in animals is a proof of His mercy towards them, as has been shown by us.

„The theory of man's perfectly free will is one of the fundamental principles of the Law of our teacher Moses“

—  Maimónides, book The Guide for the Perplexed

Source: Guide for the Perplexed (c. 1190), Part III, Ch.17
Context: Fifth Theory.—This is our theory, or that of our Law.... The theory of man's perfectly free will is one of the fundamental principles of the Law of our teacher Moses, and of those who follow the Law. According to this principle man does what is in his power to do, by his nature, his choice, and his will; and his action is not due to any faculty created for the purpose. All species of irrational animals likewise move by their own free will. This is the Will of God; that is to say, it is due to the eternal divine will that all living beings should move freely, and that man should have the power to act according to his will or choice within the limits of his capacity.

„In addition to the teaching of truths the Law aims at the removal of injustice from mankind.“

—  Maimónides, book The Guide for the Perplexed

Source: Guide for the Perplexed (c. 1190), Part III, Ch.32
Context: The chief object of the Law, as has been shown by us, is the teaching of truths; to which the truth of the creatio ex nihilo belongs. It is known that the object of the law of Sabbath is to confirm and to establish this principle, as we have shown in this treatise (Part II. chap. xxxi.) In addition to the teaching of truths the Law aims at the removal of injustice from mankind. We have thus proved that the first laws do not refer to burnt-offering and sacrifice, which are of secondary importance.

„You know from the repeated declarations in the Law that the principal purpose of the whole Law was the removal and utter destruction of idolatry“

—  Maimónides, book The Guide for the Perplexed

Source: Guide for the Perplexed (c. 1190), Part III, Ch.29
Context: You know from the repeated declarations in the Law that the principal purpose of the whole Law was the removal and utter destruction of idolatry, and all that is connected therewith, even its name, and everything that might lead to any such practices, e. g., acting as a consulter with familiar spirits, or as a wizard, passing children through the fire, divining, observing the clouds, enchanting, charming, or inquiring of the dead. The law prohibits us to imitate the heathen in any of these deeds, and a fortiori to adopt them entirely. It is distinctly said in the Law that everything which idolaters consider as service to their gods, and a means of approaching them, is rejected and despised by God... Thus all precepts cautioning against idolatry, or against that which is connected therewith, leads to it, or is related to it, are evidently useful.

„They built temples, placed in them images, and assumed that the stars sent forth their influence upon these images, which are thereby enabled (to speak) to understand, to comprehend, to inspire human beings, and to tell them what is useful to them.“

—  Maimónides, book The Guide for the Perplexed

Source: Guide for the Perplexed (c. 1190), Part III, Ch.29
Context: In accordance with the Sabean theories images were erected to the stars, golden images to the sun, images of silver to the moon, and they attributed the metals and the climates to the influence of the planets, saying that a certain planet is the god of a certain zone. They built temples, placed in them images, and assumed that the stars sent forth their influence upon these images, which are thereby enabled (to speak) to understand, to comprehend, to inspire human beings, and to tell them what is useful to them. They apply the same to trees which fall to the lot of these stars.

„To what may he be compared? To a flickering flame, which is extinguished as soon as one touches it. Whoever closes the eyes of the dying while the soul is about to depart is shedding blood.“

—  Maimónides

Biomedical Ethics and Jewish Law http://www.myjewishlearning.com/ideas_belief/bioethics/Bioethics_Euthanasia_TO/Bioethics_EuthanMedi_Rosner.htm, published by KTAV http://www.ktav.com/
Context: One who is in a dying condition is regarded as a living person in all respects. It is not permitted to bind his jaws, to stop up the organs of the lower extremities, or to place metallic or cooling vessels upon his navel in order to prevent swelling. He is not to be rubbed or washed, nor is sand or salt to be put upon him until he expires. He who touches him is guilty of shedding blood. To what may he be compared? To a flickering flame, which is extinguished as soon as one touches it. Whoever closes the eyes of the dying while the soul is about to depart is shedding blood. One should wait a while; perhaps he is only in a swoon.

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„Wrong cannot be ascribed to God in any way whatever; all evils and afflictions as well as all kinds of happiness of man, whether they concern one individual or a community, are distributed according to justice“

—  Maimónides, book The Guide for the Perplexed

Source: Guide for the Perplexed (c. 1190), Part III, Ch.17
Context: Another fundamental principle taught by the Law of Moses is this: Wrong cannot be ascribed to God in any way whatever; all evils and afflictions as well as all kinds of happiness of man, whether they concern one individual or a community, are distributed according to justice; they are the result of strict judgement that admits no wrong whatever.

„In accordance with the divine wisdom, genesis can only take place through destruction“

—  Maimónides, book The Guide for the Perplexed

Source: Guide for the Perplexed (c. 1190), Part III, Ch.12
Context: In accordance with the divine wisdom, genesis can only take place through destruction, and without destruction of the individual members of the species the species themselves would not exist permanently. Thus the true kindness, and beneficence, and goodness of God is clear.

„Those who desire to be men in truth“

—  Maimónides, book The Guide for the Perplexed

Source: Guide for the Perplexed (c. 1190), Part III, Ch.8
Context: Those who desire to be men in truth, and not brutes, having only the appearance and shape of men, must constantly endeavor to reduce the wants of the body, such as eating, love, drinking, anger, and all manners originating in lust and passion; they must feel ashamed of them and set limits to them for themselves.

„It is no wrong or injustice that one has many“

—  Maimónides, book The Guide for the Perplexed

Source: Guide for the Perplexed (c. 1190), Part III, Ch.12
Context: It is no wrong or injustice that one has many bags of the finest myrrh and garments embroidered with gold, while another has not those things, which are not necessary for our maintenance; he who has them has not thereby obtained control over anything that could be an essential addition to his nature, but has only obtained something illusory or deceptive.... This is the rule at all times and in all places; no notice should be taken of exceptional cases, as we have explained.

„The error of the ignorant goes so far as to say that God's power is insufficient, because he has given to this Universe the properties“

—  Maimónides, book The Guide for the Perplexed

Source: Guide for the Perplexed (c. 1190), Part III, Ch.12
Context: The error of the ignorant goes so far as to say that God's power is insufficient, because he has given to this Universe the properties which they imagine cause these great evils, and which do not help all evil-disposed persons to obtain the evil which they seek, and to bring their evil souls to the aim of their desires, though these, as we have shown, are really without limit.

„As soon as he had acquired a true knowledge of God, he confessed that there is undoubtedly true felicity in the knowledge of God; it is attained by all who acquire that knowledge, and no earthly trouble can disturb it.“

—  Maimónides, book The Guide for the Perplexed

Source: Guide for the Perplexed (c. 1190), Part III, Ch.23
Context: The words of God are justified, as I will show, by the fact that Job abandoned his first very erroneous opinion, and himself proved that it was an error. It is the opinion which suggests itself as plausible at first thought, especially in the minds of those who meet with mishap, well knowing that they have not merited them through sins. This is admitted by all, and therefore this opinion was assigned to Job. But he is represented to hold this view only so long as he was without wisdom, and knew God only by tradition, in the same manner as religious people generally know Him. As soon as he had acquired a true knowledge of God, he confessed that there is undoubtedly true felicity in the knowledge of God; it is attained by all who acquire that knowledge, and no earthly trouble can disturb it. So long as Job's knowledge of God was based on tradition and communication, and not on research, he believed that such imaginary good as is possessed in health, riches, and children, was the utmost that men can attain; this was the reason why he was in perplexity, and why he uttered the... opinions, and this is also the meaning of his words: "I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear; but now mine eye seeth thee. Wherefore I abhor myself, and repent because of dust and ashes" (xlii. 5, 6); that is to say, he abhorred all that he had desired before, and that he was sorry that he had been in dust and ashes; comp. "and he sat down among the ashes" (ii. 8) On account of this last utterance, which implies true perception, it is said afterwards in reference to him, "for you have not spoken of me the thing that is right, as my servant Job hath."

„This is the way how we have to understand the accounts of trials; we must not think that God desires to examine us and to try us in order to know what He did not know before.“

—  Maimónides, book The Guide for the Perplexed

Source: Guide for the Perplexed (c. 1190), Part III, Ch.24
Context: This is the way how we have to understand the accounts of trials; we must not think that God desires to examine us and to try us in order to know what He did not know before. Far is this from Him; He is far above that which ignorant and foolish people imagine concerning Him, in the evil of their thoughts. Note this.

„Divine Providence is connected with Divine intellectual influence“

—  Maimónides, book The Guide for the Perplexed

Source: Guide for the Perplexed (c. 1190), Part III, Ch.17
Context: Divine Providence is connected with Divine intellectual influence, and the same beings which are benefited by the latter so as to become intellectual, and to comprehend things comprehensible to rational beings, are also under the control of Divine Providence, which examines all their deeds with a view of rewarding or punishing them.... the method of which our mind is incapable of understanding.

„This course brings diseases and afflictions upon the body and soul alike.“

—  Maimónides, book The Guide for the Perplexed

Source: Guide for the Perplexed (c. 1190), Part III, Ch.12
Context: The third class of evils comprise those which everyone causes to himself by his own action. This is the largest class, and is far more numerous than the second class. It is especially of these evils that all men complain,—only few men are found that do not sin against themselves by this kind of evil.... This class of evil originates in man's vices, such as excessive desire for eating, drinking, and love; indulgence in these things in undue measure, or in improper manner, or partaking of bad food. This course brings diseases and afflictions upon the body and soul alike.

„The philosophers have uttered very perverse ideas as regards God's Omniscience of everything besides Himself; they have stumbled in such a manner that they cannot rise again, nor can those who adopt their views.“

—  Maimónides, book The Guide for the Perplexed

Source: Guide for the Perplexed (c. 1190), Part III, Ch.16
Context: The philosophers have uttered very perverse ideas as regards God's Omniscience of everything besides Himself; they have stumbled in such a manner that they cannot rise again, nor can those who adopt their views.... They continued thus: If he perceives and knows all individual things, one of the following three cases must take place: (1.) God arranges and manages human affairs well, perfectly, and faultlessly; (2.) He is overcome by obstacles, and is too weak and powerless to manage human affairs; (3.) He knows [all things] and can arrange and manage them, but leaves and abandons them, as too base, low, and vile... Those who have a knowledge of a certain thing necessarily either (1.) take care of the thing they know, and manage it, or (2.) neglect it; or (3.) while taking care of it, have not sufficient power and strength for its management, although they have the will to do so.... the philosophers emphatically decided that of the three cases... two are inadmissible in reference to God—viz., want of power, or absence of will... Consequently there remains only the alternative that God is altogether ignorant of human affairs, or that He knows them and manages them well.... we conclude that God has no knowledge of them in any way of for any reason. This is the argument which led philosophers to speak such blasphemous words.

„Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetuer adipiscing elit. Etiam egestas wisi a erat. Morbi imperdiet, mauris ac auctor dictum.“

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