December 17, 2018
One of Judaism's greatest and most renowned thinkers is being honored with an internationally sourced exhibition at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem.
The exhibit will showcase the original signature and several manuscripts of Rabbi Moshe ben Maimon — the Sephardic Jewish philosopher, physician, astronomer and preeminent Torah scholar who lived and worked almost a millennium ago. The exhibit is in conjunction with an international convention on his work at the neighboring National Library of Israel.
Ben Maimon, aka Maimonides, aka Rambam, was born in Cordoba, Spain, in approximately 1138. He and his family fled to Morocco due to the forced conversion of Jews, and later settled in Egypt. It is in these two countries that Maimonides wrote his most important works.
In Cairo, Maimonides became the leader of the Jewish community, and also practiced medicine to great acclaim. He died in 1204, and tradition says his remains were transferred to the land of Israel at his request, and he was buried in Tiberias.
"Maimonides was a great scholar, doctor, researcher and leader, and this exhibition will allow the public to see his most important manuscripts in Israel for the first time," said Professor Ido Bruno, the director of the Israel Museum.
Maimonides "continues to influence Jewish and Israeli thought and practice today," said David Blumberg, chairman of the board at the National Library.
"Anyone can find himself reflected in Maimonides' work: Torah scholars find his Halachic work; the secular appreciate his critical philosophy; and Chabad (ultra-Orthodox) believe in his messianic political thought," said Blumberg.
A 12th Centuray commentary on the Mishnah that refers to Maimonides' work (Photo: Oleg Kalashnikov, Israel Museum)
"Maimonides continues to be relevant in almost every Jewish field, due to his amazing achievements and thought in philosophy, theology, medicine, science, Talmud, Halachic issues and even politics," he added.
The exhibition will feature original artifacts from the medieval philosopher's work — his signature, with which he authorized the edited version of Mishneh Torah, his seminal commentary on the Jewish scriptures, and a copy of his popular and influential Commentary on the Mishna.
The exhibit will also feature other artifacts such as manuscripts from the 12-15th centuries, including Latin translations of Maimonides' work from the very earliest days of print.
Manuscripts in the exhibition originate from Germany, Yemen, Spain, Egypt and other countries. Among other items are good-luck charms with Maimonides' portrait, historical children's books about him and his work, documents describing celebrations of his 800th birthday in Spain and Egypt, and more.
Some of the items have made their way to Jerusalem from various museums around the world, including the British Library, New York's Metropolitan Museum, the Vatican Apostolic Library, the French National Library in Paris and the Oxford's Bodleian Libraries.
The rare and valuable scriptures were transferred to Israel on individual flights and under heavy secrecy and security measures, to prevent any possibility of theft.
(Photo: Oleg Kalashnikov, Israel Museum)
The National Library scanned and digitized all the rare manuscripts. Curators said that the exhibition's aim is to shed light on Maimonides' role in Jewish culture and philosophy and his relevance for modern times and current Jewish practices.
The international convention at the Library is to host experts from around the world and leading Israeli scholars. The endeavor is the brainchild of The Maimonides Interfaith Foundation.
Retired Supreme Court justice Aharon Barak will deliver the opening lecture of the convention, dealing with the relationship between current Israeli legislation and ancient Hebrew law. The convention will also hold discourses and debates about various subjects, such as Jewish philosophy under Muslim rule, religion and state and more.
A website about Maimonides is also in the works, which will be devoted to his life story and his journey from Spain to Morocco, Egypt and Israel.