Visiting Spain: Writer Maimonides honored in his Cordoba hometown
The tips of his shoes and the hem of his robe gleam golden. Although the rest of the bronze statue is a deep dark brown, those golden glows are from the many admirers who have touched their hands to this tribute to Moses Maimonides.
“He was a very important philosopher, rabbi and writer,” said tour guide Juan Torres Carmona. “He was born here in Cordoba during the time that many consider to be the ‘Golden Age’ of Spain.”
Dedicated in 1964, the statue of Moses Maimonides stands in a small square in the Jewish Quarter of Cordoba, Spain, not far from the old synagogue. Today, the Jewish Quarter (Juderia in Spanish) consists of fascinating narrow lanes, jewelry and silversmith shops, historic attractions and a marvelous atmosphere that seems to reach back into the centuries of time.
The Jews were established in Cordoba in Roman and Visigoth times. Under Arab rule after the 8th century, Jews and Christians and Arabs lived in peace under Muslim rule. Life and intellectualism flourished. Cordoba was very rich – in both wealth and learning.
This was the life into which Moses Maimonides was born on Passover Eve, 1135.
“His father was a judge and a rabbi,” Carmona said. “His father had a dream where an angel appeared to him and told him to go to Cordoba because his son would be born there.”
Maimonides’ father Rabbi Maimon followed the angel’s prediction. Journeying from his nearby town, Maimon married a Cordoba butcher’s daughter and waited for the glorious birth of his son.
Maimonides mother died in the difficult childbirth but the child grew up in a very loving family where learning was highly valued. When Maimonides was 13, his family had to leave Spain because of the threat of religious persecution under the now ruling fanatical Muslims.
“Jews were giving a choice – convert to Islam or death or exile,” Carmona said. “Maimonides’s family chose exile.”
Years of wandering
The family moved from city to city during the next decade – Morocco, Israel and Egypt where Maimon died. During the years of wandering, Maimonides began his difficult writings, particularly in condensing and clarifying the lengthy Talmudic explanations of the Mishnah. He became the first person to write a systematic code of all Jewish law, the Mishnah Torah.
Today, his works are considered a cornerstone of Jewish thought and study. Maimonides’ 14-volume commentary on the Mishnah was a revolutionary book. It is revered as the encyclopedia of Jewish law and tradition.
In 1171, Maimonides’ brother David died in a shipwreck, taking much of the family’s finances with
“Maimonides had to support his family after his brother died,” Carmona said. With his great learning and intelligence, Maimonides trained to become a physician.
“He quickly became one of the most influential doctors of the time,” Carmona said. “He became the official doctor of the Saladin, the ruler of Egypt.”
Plagued by ill health in his later years, Maimonides died in 1204 in Cairo. His body was taken to Tiberias in Israel, and buried in a tomb near the Sea of Galilee. His grave became a place of pilgrimage.
“So important was Moses Maimonides and his work,” Carmona said, “that the inscription on his tomb reads “From Moses to Moses, there arose none like Moses.’”
-Story and Photos by Jackie Sheckler Finch
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