Weekly Chasidic Story 632 (s5770-17 / 19 Tevet 5770)

From Moses to Moses

The medical writings of Rabbi Moshe ben Maimon, known as the RaMBaM or Maimonides, influenced medical practice throughout the world for centuries.

Connection: 806th Yahrzeit


From Moses to Moses

The 20th of the Hebrew month Tevet [this year: Jan. 6] is the yahrzeit of the great Torah sage, Rabbi Moshe ben Maimon, known as the RaMBaM or Maimonides. A descendant of the royal line of King David, he was born on the eve of Passover in the year 4895 (1135) in Cordoba, Spain.

Shortly after his bar mitzvah, the Almohades Muslims conquered Cordoba. These ruthless fanatics didn't tolerate other religions and the Jews were forced to choose between conversion and exile. The family wandered from place to place for ten years, constantly fleeing. Eventually they settled in Fez, Morocco, but after five years they again had to seek refuge elsewhere. They left for Israel. Unfortunately, the Holy land at the time was being ravaged by the Crusaders and wasn't safe for Jews. In 1165 they settled finally in Cairo, Egypt. There, in addition to his many duties as Rabbi and teacher, the Rambam was also appointed to the staff of the court of Saladin as royal physician.

It was in Egypt that Rambam wrote his great masterworks on Jewish law and philosophy that made him famous in his generation and for all generations thereafter. Some of his renowned Torah works are: Pirush HaMishnayot-a commentary on the Mishna, Sefer Hamitzvot-where he enumerates the 613 mitzvot, and Mishna Torah-an explanation of each of the mitzvot and a codification of Jewish law. He also formulated the Thirteen Principles of Faith (Ani Maamin) and wrote Moreh Nevuchim: A Guide to the Perplexed-a masterful philosophical work, which was eventually translated into many languages.

Nor was he esteemed only in the Jewish world. He was also well-known and highly respected as a physician, philosopher and scientist. His medical writings influenced medical practice throughout the world for centuries.

When the Rambam felt his end approaching, he instructed his family to bury him in the Holy Land. Rabbi Moshe died at the age of sixty-nine, in the year 4965 (1204).

People from all over gathered to attend the funeral. When the procession was over, the coffin was perched atop a sturdy camel, and a caravan of hundreds of friends, family and disciples escorted it to Israel. After they crossed the border, no one could agree in which city to lay the Rambam to rest. This the Rabbi had not specified.

All of a sudden a band of armed Bedouins attacked the caravan and everyone panicked and scattered in all directions. The Bedouins, assuming there was a treasure inside the large box, tried to lead the camel away, but they could not get it to budge. Nor, as much as they tried, were they able to remove the box. In the end they pried up the lid, but saw only a body inside. Realizing that this must be the remains of a holy man, they terrifiedly asked forgiveness and fled.

The people of the caravan returned to the coffin. To their surprise, the camel began moving determinedly, on its own. The caravan leader cautioned the other people not to interfere, but simply to follow.

The camel continued all the way to the northern city of Tiveriyah (Tiberias), on the shore of Lake Kineret (Sea of Galilee). It paced through the narrow streets of the city until it suddenly stopped and knelt on the ground.

The people understood that this was the place where they should bury the Rambam. Everyone was amazed by the wonderful miracle.

Over the years, a beautiful structure and park was erected around the site. Throughout the year, and especially on the anniversary of his passing, thousands of people from all parts of the world come to visit this holy burial place. What is more, each year there is a siyum (completion) of the entire fourteen books of the Mishna Torah.

Prominently displayed there is the saying: "From Moshe (who received the Torah from G-d) to Moshe (ben Maimon), there was none like Moshe."

Adapted by Yerachmiel Tilles from L'Chaim #96 and TorahFax Tevet 20, 5757.

Connection: Yahrzeit date


Yerachmiel Tilles is co-founder and associate director of Ascent-of-Safed, and chief editor of this website (and of KabbalaOnline.org). He has hundreds of published stories to his credit, and many have been translated into other languages. He tells them live at Ascent nearly every Saturday night.

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