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Rabbis and Tzaddiks

SUMMARY

___________________________________________________________


Each religious period for more than 2,000 years placed its own cultural stamp and official functions  on Jewish religious leaders yet some traditions remained unchanged. The four brief biographies given here illustrate this link.

RASHI (1040 to 1105) was born in Troyes, France and became the outstanding Biblical commentator of the Middle Ages. At twenty-five, he founded an academy in France. His commentary on the Bible was unique as his concern was with every word in the text which need elaboration or explanation while using the minimum number of words.  His commentary on the Talmud was, and is, just as valuable.  There are now more than 200 commentaries on his commentary.

A UNESCO conference on the 850th anniversary of MAIMONIDES (1135 - 1204) birth was held in Paris in 1985.  He was described as perhaps the only philosopher in the Middle Ages, perhaps even now, who symbolizes a confluence of four cultures: Greco­Roman, Arab, Jewish, and Western.  A Muslim professor from Kuwait University, declared: “I regard him first and foremost as an Arab thinker”. Another said “Maimonides is the most influential Jewish thinker of the Middle Ages, and quite possibly of all time” (Time magazine, December 23, 1985). A popular Jewish expression of the Middle Ages declared “From Moses [of the Torah] to Moses [Maimonides] there was none like Moses.”

His original name was Moses Ben Maimon, also called Rambam (Rabbi Moshe Ben Maimon, “Rabbi Moses son of Maimon”), Arabic name Abū ʿImran Mūsā ibn Maymūn ibn ʿUbayd Allāh and lived from   He was a philosopher, jurist, and physician, the foremost intellectual figure of medieval Judaism. His first major work started when he was 23 and completed 10 years later, was a commentary on the Mishna, the collected Jewish oral laws. A monumental code of Jewish law followed in Hebrew, The Guide for the Perplexed in Arabic, and numerous other works, many of major importance. His contributions in religion, philosophy, and medicine have influenced both Jewish and non-Jewish scholars.  Click here for a list of his books.  

After Maimonides no one has had a greater or longer lasting influence on the Jew than JOSEPH CARO or KARO (1488 - 1575).

He wrote three books.  His first the Kesef Mishnah on Jewish law is a commentary on the Mishnah Torah of Maimonides.  His second, the Beth Yosef is also on the law.  His third and most well-known is the Shulchan Aruch, which is an abridged version of the Beth Yosef, paraphrasing all the legal decisions. When it appeared it became and remains the book of Jewish law.

MOSES ISSERLES, (1520 - 1572) perhaps more than anyone, united the Jewish people by universalizing the Shulchan Aruch, which by itself reflected the Sephardic opinions in Jewish law and custom. Rabbi Moses Isserles wrote a commentary to it that he called, Mapah, meaning the “Tablecloth.” If the Shulchan Aruch was the “Set Table” the Mapah would be the “Tablecloth.”

NATHAN LOPES CARDOZO (1946 - )  He heads a Think Tank focused on finding new Halachic and philosophical approaches to dealing with the crisis of religion and identity amongst Jews and the Jewish State of Israel.





RABBIS AND OTHERS
Judaism 101

Rabbi: Teacher and decider of matters of religious law

Chazan: Cantor, who leads congregation in prayer

Gabbai: Volunteer who assists with Torah readings

Kohein: Descendant of Aaron, the original High Priest

Levi: Descendant of the biblical Levites

Rebbe: The leader of a Chasidic community

Tzaddik: A righteous person with spiritual power

Rabbi There are a number of different people who serve special roles in the Jewish community.

RABBI

A rabbi is not a priest, neither in the Jewish sense of the term nor in the Christian sense of the term. In the Christian sense of the term, a priest is a person with special authority to perform certain sacred rituals. A rabbi, on the other hand, has no more authority to perform rituals than any other adult male member of the Jewish community. In the Jewish sense of the term, a priest (kohein) is a descendant of Aaron, charged with performing various rites in the Temple in connection with religious rituals and sacrifices. Although a kohein can be a rabbi, a rabbi is not required to be a kohein.

A rabbi is simply a teacher, a person sufficiently educated in halakhah (Jewish law) and tradition to instruct the community and to answer questions and resolve disputes regarding halakhah. When a person has completed the necessary course of study, he is given a written document known as a semikhah, which confirms his authority to make such decisions.

When I speak generally of things that were said or decided by "the rabbis" or "the sages," I am speaking of matters that have been generally agreed upon by authoritative Jewish scholars over the centuries. When I speak of rabbinical literature, I speak of the writings of the great rabbis on a wide variety of subjects.

Since the destruction of the Temple, the role of the kohanim has diminished, and rabbis have taken over the spiritual leadership of the Jewish community. In this sense, the rabbi has much the same role as a Protestant minister, ministering to the community, leading community religious services and dealing with many of the administrative matters related to the synagogue.

However, it is important to note that the rabbi's status as rabbi does not give him any special authority to conduct religious services. Any Jew sufficiently educated to know what he is doing can lead a religious service, and a service led by such a Jew is every bit as valid as a service led by a rabbi. It is not unusual for a community to be without a rabbi, or for Jewish services to be conducted without a rabbi, or for members of the community to lead all or part of religious services even when a rabbi is available.

CHAZZAN

A chazzan (cantor) is the person who leads the congregation in prayer. Any person with good moral character and thorough knowledge of the prayers and melodies can lead the prayer services, and in many synagogues, members of the community lead some or all parts of the prayer service. In smaller congregations, the rabbi often serves as both rabbi and chazzan. However, because music plays such a large role in Jewish religious services, larger congregations usually hire a professional chazzan, a person with both musical skills and training as a religious leader and educator.

Professional chazzans are ordained clergy. One of their most important duties is teaching young people to lead all or part of a Shabbat service and to chant the Torah or Haftarah reading, which is the heart of the bar mitzvah ceremony. But they can also perform many of the pastoral duties once confined to rabbis, such as conducting weddings and funerals, visiting sick congregants, and teaching adult education classes. The rabbi and chazzan work as partners to educate and inspire the congregation.

GABBAI

A gabbai is a lay person who volunteers to perform various duties in connection with Torah readings at religious services. Serving as a gabbai is a great honor, and is bestowed on a person who is thoroughly versed in the Torah and the Torah readings.

A gabbai may do one or more of the following:

choose people who will receive an aliyah (the honor of reciting a blessing over the Torah reading)

read from the Torah

stand next to the person who is reading from the Torah, checking the reader's pronunciation and chanting and correcting any mistakes in the reading

KOHEIN

The kohanim are the descendants of Aaron, chosen by G-d at the time of the incident with the Golden Calf to perform certain sacred work, particularly in connection with the animal sacrifices and the rituals related to the Temple. After the destruction of the Temple, the role of the kohanim diminished significantly in favor of the rabbis; however, we continue to keep track of kohein lineage. DNA research supports their claims: a study published in Nature in June 1997 shows that self-identified kohanim in three countries have common elements in the Y-chromosome, indicating that they all have a common male ancestor. For more information about this and other recent genetic studies, see Genes and Diaspora

Kohanim are given the first aliyah on Shabbat (i.e., the first opportunity to recite a blessing over the Torah reading), which is considered an honor. They are also required to recite a blessing over the congregation at certain times of the year.

The term "Kohein" is the source of the common Jewish surname "Cohen," but not all Cohens are koheins and not all koheins are Cohens. "Katz" is also a common surname for a kohein (it is an acronym of "kohein tzaddik," that is, "righteous priest"), but not all Katzes are koheins.

LEVI

The entire tribe of Levi was set aside to perform certain duties in connection with the Temple. As with the Kohanim, their importance was drastically diminished with the destruction of the Temple, but we continue to keep track of their lineage. Levites are given the second aliyah on Shabbat (i.e., the second opportunity to recite a blessing over the Torah reading), which is considered an honor. The common Jewish surnames "Levin" and "Levine" are derived from the tribal name "Levi," but not all Levins or Levines are Levites and not all Levites have surnames that suggest the tribal affiliation.

REBBE

Rebbe is the term for the spiritual master and guide of a Chasidic community. The term is sometimes translated as "Grand Rabbi," but literally it simply means "my rabbi." A rebbe is also considered to be a tzaddik (see below). The position is usually hereditary. A rebbe has the final word over every decision in a Chasid's life.

Outside of the Chasidic community, the term "rebbe" is sometimes used simply to refer to ones own personal rabbi or any rabbi that a person has a close relationship with.

The term "rebbe" should not be confused with the term "reb," which is simply a Yiddish title of respect more or less equivalent to "Mister" in English.

TZADDIK

The word " tzaddik" literally means "righteous one." The term refers to a completely righteous individual, and generally indicates that the person has spiritual or mystical power. A tzaddik is not necessarily a rebbe or a rabbi, but the rebbe of a Chasidic community is considered to be a tzaddik.

For more detail on on the function of the Rabbi over 2,000 years,
Rabbinic Academies (Yeshivot), The Rabbinic Golden Mean,
Rabbinic Sages, Rabbinical Commentaries and Rabbinical Decisions
go to

‘The Book of Jewish Knowledge’ by Nathan Ausubel pp362 et seq

 

The following are brief biographies of some leading sages

AKIVA
New World Encyclopedia   (Go to link for more detail)

Akiva ben Joseph (Hebrew: עקיבא) or simply Rabbi Akiva—also spelled Akiba or Aqiba—was a Judean sage of the late first and early second century (c. 50–135 C.E.). He was a great authority in the matter of Jewish tradition, and one of the most central and essential contributors to the Mishnah and Midrash Halakha—the precursors of the Talmud. He is referred to in the Talmud as Rosh la-Chachomim (Head of all the Sages) and the "father of the Mishna."

Akiva set the standard of Judaism's strong yet flexible adherence to a tradition which refused to compromise on basic points of the Mosaic Law yet was willing to change with the times. He argued for the liberalization of oppressive rules regarding female purity, the strengthening of rules limiting slavery, and an open attitude toward formerly hated categories of people such as Samaritans and tax-collectors.

Rising from a humble background as a poor shepherd, Akiva was supported by his wife, Rachel, in his studies, from which he emerged as one of the greatest teachers of his age. Akiva was also a supporter of the revolt of Simon Bar Kochba, to whom he gave great credibility when he declared the rebel leader to be the promised Messiah of the Jews. Akiva later died a martyr's death at the hands of the Romans. He is revered in Judaism today both in story and liturgy and is considered by many to be the father of rabbinic Judaism.

Rising from a humble background as a poor shepherd, Akiva was supported by his wife, Rachel, in his studies, from which he emerged as one of the greatest teachers of his age. Akiva was also a supporter of the revolt of Simon Bar Kochba, to whom he gave great credibility when he declared the rebel leader to be the promised Messiah of the Jews. Akiva later died a martyr's death at the hands of the Romans. He is revered in Judaism today both in story and liturgy and is considered by many to be the father of rabbinic Judaism

RASHI   (1040-1105)
from Jewish Vrtual Library

Rashi was the outstanding Biblical commentator of the Middle Ages. He was born in Troyes, France, and lived from 1040 to 1105, surviving the massacres of the First Crusade through Europe. He was a fantastic scholar and studied with the greatest student of Rabbenu Gershom of Mainz

At twenty-five, he founded his own academy in France. Rashi's commentary on the Bible was unique. His concern was for every word in the text which need elaboration or explanation. Moreover, he used the fewest words possible in his commentaries.

Most of his explanations were not written by him. Apparently, students would ask him questions about the text, or he would rhetorically ask questions about specific words, and a student would write his short, lucid answers in the margin of the parchment text. These answers comprise Rashi's commentary. We now have the answers, but the trick to studying Rashi is to figure out what the problem was with the text or the grammar of a given word.

Besides explaining individual words, Rashi also  He assumed that his students knew the midrash; he just emphasized its immediate relevance to the TaNaCH.

Rashi is also important for students of French. Many words in the Bible were unknown to Rashi's students, and obviously there would ask what a particular word meant and Rashi would give the answer in Old French using Hebrew transliteration. These transliterations provide important insights into the development of French and its pronunciation.

The original printed Bible text by Daniel Bomberg in 1517 included Rashi's commentary. That commentary became so popular that there are now more than 200 commentaries on his commentary. It is assumed in traditional circles that when you read the TaNaCh, you also read Rashi.

Rashi's commentary on the Talmud was even more important than his TaNaCh commentary. The Talmud was written in legalese: terse, unexplained language with no punctuation. Rashi provided a simple explanation of all Gemarra discussions. He explained all of the terse phrases; he explained the principles and concepts assumed by the sages who put together the Gemarra.

His simple, brief explanations for practically every phrase of the Gemarra made the Talmud understandable to the non-scholar. It became an instant best seller, and, to this day, it is unthinkable to study Talmud without studying Rashi's commentary at the same time.

Rashi's explanations and commentaries on the Talmud were so important that for almost a hundred years after his death, Talmud students in France and Germany concentrated their brilliant minds on discussing and elaborating on Rashi's commentary. Just as the monks were concentrating on deep philosophical discussions of Christian theology, France's Jewish scholars were focusing on the Talmud and its text. Their complicated (and sometimes convoluted) commentaries were called Tosafot (Additions). The scholars who created these additions were called the Tosafists (Those Who Added).

The most famous of these Tosafists was Rashi's grandson, Rabbenu Tam, who frequently disagreed with his grandfather. Today on every page of Talmud you can find Rashi's commentary surrounding the text on the inside of the page, and the Tosafot surrounding the text on the outside of the page.

RASHI BIOGRAPHY   
From Encyclopedia Britannica, Editor, Isadore Twersky

Rashi, acronym of Rabbi Shlomo Yitzhaqi    (born 1040, Troyes, Champagne—died July 13, 1105, Troyes), renowned medieval French commentator on the Bible and the Talmud (the authoritative Jewish compendium of law, lore, and commentary). Rashi combined the two basic methods of interpretation, literal and nonliteral, in his influential Bible commentary. His commentary on the Talmud was a landmark in Talmudic exegesis, and his work still serves among Jews as the most substantive introduction to biblical and postbiblical Judaism. Rashi also composed some penitential hymns (selihot), which revolve around twin themes: the harsh reality of exile and the comforting belief in redemption.

Shlomo (Solomon) Yitzhaqi (son of Isaac) studied in the schools of Worms and Mainz, the old Rhenish centres of Jewish learning, where he absorbed the methods, teachings, and traditions associated with Rabbi Gershom ben Judah (c. 960–1028/1040), called the “Light of the Exile” because of his preeminence as the first great scholar of northern European Judaism. Rashi then transferred his scholarly legacy to the valley of the Seine (c. 1065), where he was the de facto but unofficial head of the small Jewish community (about 100–200 people) in Troyes.

Rashi’s Bible commentary illustrates vividly the coexistence and, to some extent, the successful reconciliation of the two basic methods of interpretation: the literal and the nonliteral. Rashi seeks the literal meaning, deftly using rules of grammar and syntax and carefully analyzing both text and context, but does not hesitate to mount Midrashic explanations, utilizing allegory, parable, and symbolism, upon the underlying literal interpretation. As a result, some of his successors are critical of his searching literalism and deviation from traditional Midrashic exegesis, while others find his excessive fondness for nonliteral homilies uncongenial. Yet it is precisely the versatility and mixture, the blend of creative eclecticism and originality, that account for the genius, the animation, and the unrivaled popularity of his commentary, which, symbolically, was the first book printed in Hebrew (1475). The commentary had a significant influence on Christian Bible study from the 12th-century Victorines to the Franciscan scholar Nicholas of Lyra (c. 1270–1349), who, in turn, was a major source of Martin Luther’s Bible work. Its influence continues in contemporary exegesis and revised translations. Rashi’s customary use of a vernacular gloss to clarify the exact meaning of an obscure or technical term—there are more than 3,000 of them in his works—also makes his commentary an important source for the study of Old French.

Rashi’s commentary on the Talmud, based on the collective achievements of the previous generations of Franco-German scholars, reflects its genesis in the oral classroom instruction that Rashi gave in Troyes for several decades. The commentary, sometimes referred to as kuntros (literally, “notebook”), resembles a living tutor; it explains the text in its entirety, guides the student in methodological and substantive matters, resolves linguistic difficulties, and indicates the normative conclusions of the discussion. Unlike Maimonides’ commentary on the Mishna (the authoritative compendium of Jewish Oral Law), which may be read independently of the underlying text, Rashi’s commentary is interwoven with the underlying text. Indeed, text and commentary form a unified mosaic.

Rashi’s work was literally epochal, and the agreement of subsequent scholars that the basic needs of text commentary had been fulfilled stimulated the rise of a new school of writers known as tosafists, who composed tosafot (glosses), refining, criticizing, expanding, or qualifying Rashi’s interpretations and conclusions. Skillfully and honestly combining stricture and supplement, they were able to perpetuate and augment the achievement of the great Rashi.

OVERVIEW  - MAIMONIDES    (1138-1204)
From http://www.bbc.co.uk/religion/religions/judaism/people/maimonides.shtml

Moses Maimonides is regarded by many as the greatest Jewish philosopher of the Middle Ages. He lived during the 'Golden Age' of Spain in the twelfth century where Jews and Christians lived in peace under Muslim rule.

Maimonides was born in Cordoba, the centre of Jewish learning and Islamic culture. There is disagreement about his date of birth. It is widely stated to be 1135, however other sources give the date as 1138, based on recent research. His was born into a family of rabbinic scholars and his father was his first and most important teacher. Even at the age of 16, Maimonides showed a marked interest in theology, writing a paper on the proper linguistic usage of theological terms.

After being persecuted by the puritanical Almohades during a time of great political upheaval in Spain, Maimonides and his family fled to Fostat in Egypt. He was a great leader of the Jewish community in Egypt, and because rabbis were not paid in that time, he trained to become a physician. Thanks to his intellectual ability he quickly rose to be one of the most influential physicians of his time, and became the official doctor to Saladin, the ruler of Egypt.

INFLUENCE AND INFLUENCES

His teaching influences other faiths as well as Jews, however, it is his commentary on Jewish texts that mark him out as one of the most influential and important Jews in history. He wrote three major essays on Jewish law, the most famous being 'The Guide for the Perplexed', and each of them is still regarded as hugely important in Jewish philosophy. This monumental work laid the foundation for all subsequent Jewish philosophic inquiry known as Chakirah, and stimulated centuries of philosophic Jewish writing.

Maimonides, living in the religious melting pot of North Africa, was hugely influenced by all the faiths surrounding him. The Arab and Greek ideas he was exposed to at the time probably made him among the most tolerant of religious leaders. He did not believe that true prophecy was confined to only the Jews, but rather stressed a difference in the degree of responsibility.

He was one of the few Jewish leaders whose teachings also influenced the non Jewish world during that period, and Christian leaders, such as Saint Thomas Aquinas, referred to him in writings as 'Rabbi Moses'. He was successful in bringing four cultures (GrecoRoman, Arab, Jewish, and Western) together in one person, and in doing so, remains one of the most influential religious philosophers of the intellectual world.

MAIMONIDES BIOGRAPHY   
http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/biography/Maimonides.html

If one did not know that Maimonides was the name of a man, Abraham Joshua Heschel wrote, one would assume it was the name of a university. The writings and achievements of this twelfth­ century Jewish sage seem to cover an impossibly large number of activities. Maimonides was the first person to write a systematic code of all Jewish law, the Mishneh Torah; he produced one of the great philosophic statements of Judaism, The Guide to the Perplexed; published a commentary on the entire Mishna; served as physician to the sultan of Egypt; wrote numerous books on medicine; and, in his "spare time," served as leader of Cairo's Jewish community. It is hardly surprising that when Shmuel ibn Tibbon, the Hebrew translator of The Guide to the Perplexed (which had been written in Arabic), wrote Maimonides that he wished to visit him to discuss some difficult points in the translation, Maimonides discouraged him from coming:

I dwell at Fostat, and the sultan resides at Cairo [about a mile­ and­ a­ half away].... My duties to the sultan are very heavy. I am obliged to visit him every day, early in the morning, and when he or any of his children or any of the inmates of his harem are indisposed, I dare not quit Cairo, but must stay during the greater part of the day in the palace. It also frequently happens that one of the two royal officers fall sick, and I must attend to their healing. Hence, as a rule, I leave for Cairo very early in the day, and even if nothing unusual happens, I do not return to Fostat until the afternoon. Then I am almost dying with hunger. . . I find the antechamber filled with people, both Jews and gentiles, nobles and common people, judges and bailiffs, friends and foes-a mixed multitude who await the time of my return.

I dismount from my animal, wash my hands, go forth to my patients and entreat them to bear with me while I partake of some slight refreshment, the only meal I take in the twenty­ four hours. Then I go forth to attend to my patients, and write prescriptions and directions for their various ailments. Patients go in and out until nightfall, and sometimes even, I solemnly assure you, until two hours or more in the night. I converse with and prescribe for them while lying down from sheer fatigue; and when night falls I am so exhausted that I can scarcely speak.

In consequence of this, no Israelite can have any private interview with me, except on the Sabbath. On that day the whole congregation, or at least the majority of the members, come to me after the morning service, when I instruct them as to their proceedings during the whole week; we study together a little until noon, when they depart. Some of them return, and read with me after the afternoon service until evening prayers. In this manner I spend that day.

Maimonides's full name was Moses ben Maimon; in Hebrew he is known by the acronym of Rabbi Moses ben Maimon, Rambam. He was born in Spain shortly before the fanatical Muslim Almohades came to power there. To avoid persecution by the Muslim sect — which was wont to offer Jews and Christians the choice of conversion to Islam or death — Maimonides fled with his family, first to Morocco, later to Israel, and finally to Egypt. He apparently hoped to continue his studies for several years more, but when his brother David, a jewelry merchant, perished in the Indian Ocean with much of the family's fortune, he had to begin earning money. He probably started practicing medicine at this time.

Maimonides's major contribution to Jewish life remains the Mishneh Torah, his code of Jewish law. His intention was to compose a book that would guide Jews on how to behave in all situations just by reading the Torah and his code, without having to expend large amounts of time searching through the Talmud. Needless to say, this provocative rationale did not endear Maimonides to many traditional Jews, who feared that people would rely on his code and no longer study the Talmud. Despite sometimes intense opposition, the Mishneh Torah became a standard guide to Jewish practice: It later served as the model for the Shulkhan Arukh, the sixteenth­ century code of Jewish law that is still regarded as authoritative by Orthodox Jews.

Philosophically, Maimonides was a religious rationalist. His damning attacks on people who held ideas he regarded as primitive — those, for example, who understood literally such biblical expressions as “the finger of God” so infuriated his opponents that they proscribed parts of his code and all of The Guide to the Perplexed. Other, more liberal, spirits forbade study of the Guide to anyone not of mature years. An old joke has it that these rabbis feared that a Jew would start reading a section in the Guide in which Maimonides summarizes a rationalist attack on religion, and fall asleep before reading Maimonides's counterattack - thereby spending the night as a heretic.

How Maimonides's opponents reacted to his works was no joke, however. Three leading rabbis in France denounced his books to the Dominicans, who headed the French Inquisition. The Inquisitors were only too happy to intervene and burn the books. Eight years later, when the Dominicans started burning the Talmud, one of the rabbis involved, Jonah Gerondi, concluded that God was punishing him and French Jewry for their unjust condemnation of Maimonides. He resolved to travel to Maimonides's grave in Tiberias, in Israel, to request forgiveness.

Throughout most of the Jewish world, Maimonides remained a hero, of course. When he died, Egyptian Jews observed three full days of mourning, and applied to his death the biblical verse "The ark of the Lord has been taken" (I Samuel 4:11).

To this day, Maimonides and the French­ Jewish sage Rashi are the most widely studied Jewish scholars. Contemporary yeshiva students generally focus on the Mishneh Torah, and his Book of Commandments (Sefer ha­Mitzvot) a compilation of the Torah's 613 commandments. Maimonides also formulated a credo of Judaism expressed in thirteen articles of faith, a popular reworking of which (the Yigdal prayer) appears in most Jewish prayer books. Among other things, this credo affirms belief in the oneness of God, the divine origins of the Torah, and the afterlife. Its twelfth statement of faith — “I believe with a full heart in the coming of the Messiah, and even though he may tarry I will still wait for him” — was often among the last words said by Jews being marched into Nazi gas chambers.

Maimonides was one of the few Jewish thinkers whose teachings also influenced the non­ Jewish world; much of his philosophical writings in the Guide were about God and other theological issues of general, not exclusively Jewish, interest. Thomas Aquinas refers in his writings to “Rabbi Moses,” and shows considerable familiarity with the Guide. In 1985, on the 850th anniversary of Maimonides's birth, Pakistan and Cuba — which do not recognize Israel — were among the co­sponsors of a UNESCO conference in Paris on Maimonides. Vitali Naumkin, a Soviet scholar, observed on this occasion: “;Maimonides is perhaps the only philosopher in the Middle Ages, perhaps even now, who symbolizes a confluence of four cultures: Greco­Roman, Arab, Jewish, and Western.” More remarkably, Abderrahmane Badawi, a Muslim professor from Kuwait University, declared: “I regard him first and foremost as an Arab thinker.” This sentiment was echoed by Saudi Arabian professor Huseyin Atay, who claimed that “if you didn't know he was Jewish, you might easily make the mistake of saying that a Muslim was writing.” That is, if you didn't read any of his Jewish writings. Maimonides scholar Shlomo Pines delivered perhaps the most accurate assessment at the conference: “Maimonides is the most influential Jewish thinker of the Middle Ages, and quite possibly of all time” (Time magazine, December 23, 1985). As a popular Jewish expression of the Middle Ages declares: “From Moses [of the Torah] to Moses [Maimonides] there was none like Moses.”

Sources: Joseph Telushkin. Jewish Literacy. NY: William Morrow and Co., 1991. Reprinted by permission of the author; Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.

MAIMONIDES - BIOGRAPHY     
http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/358539/Moses-Maimonides

OVERVIEW

Moses Maimonides, original name Moses Ben Maimon, also called Rambam, Arabic name Abū ʿImran Mūsā ibn Maymūn ibn ʿUbayd Allāh   (born March 30, 1135, Córdoba [Spain]—died Dec. 13, 1204, Egypt), Jewish philosopher, jurist, and physician, the foremost intellectual figure of medieval Judaism. His first major work, begun at age 23 and completed 10 years later, was a commentary on the Mishna, the collected Jewish oral laws. A monumental code of Jewish law followed in Hebrew, The Guide for the Perplexed in Arabic, and numerous other works, many of major importance. His contributions in religion, philosophy, and medicine have influenced Jewish and non-Jewish scholars alike.

LIFE

Maimonides was born into a distinguished family in Córdoba (Cordova), Spain. The young Moses studied with his learned father, Maimon, and other masters and at an early age astonished his teachers by his remarkable depth and versatility. Before Moses reached his 13th birthday, his peaceful world was suddenly disturbed by the ravages of war and persecution.

As part of Islamic Spain, Córdoba had accorded its citizens full religious freedom. But now the Islamic Mediterranean world was shaken by a revolutionary and fanatical Islamic sect, the Almohads (Arabic: al-Muwaḥḥidūn, “the Unitarians”), who captured Córdoba in 1148, leaving the Jewish community faced with the grim alternative of submitting to Islam or leaving the city. The Maimons temporized by practicing their Judaism in the privacy of their homes, while disguising their ways in public as far as possible to appear like Muslims. They remained in Córdoba for some 11 years, and Maimonides continued his education in Judaic studies as well as in the scientific disciplines in vogue at the time.

When the double life proved too irksome to maintain in Córdoba, the Maimon family finally left the city about 1159 to settle in Fez, Morocco. Although it was also under Almohad rule, Fez was presumably more promising than Córdoba because there the Maimons would be strangers, and their disguise would be more likely to go undetected. Moses continued his studies in his favourite subjects, rabbinic's and Greek philosophy, and added medicine to them. Fez proved to be no more than a short respite, however. In 1165 Rabbi Judah ibn Shoshan, with whom Moses had studied, was arrested as a practicing Jew and was found guilty and then executed. This was a sign to the Maimon family to move again, this time to Palestine, which was in a depressed economic state and could not offer them the basis of a livelihood. After a few months they moved again, now to Egypt, settling in Fostat, near Cairo. There Jews were free to practice their faith openly, though any Jew who had once submitted to Islam courted death if he relapsed to Judaism. Moses himself was once accused of being a renegade Muslim, but he was able to prove that he had never really adopted the faith of Islam and so was exonerated.

Though Egypt was a haven from harassment and persecution, Moses was soon assailed by personal problems. His father died shortly after the family’s arrival in Egypt. His younger brother, David, a prosperous jewelry merchant on whom Moses leaned for support, died in a shipwreck, taking the entire family fortune with him, and Moses was left as the sole support of his family. He could not turn to the rabbinate because in those days the rabbinate was conceived of as a public service that did not offer its practitioners any remuneration. Pressed by economic necessity, Moses took advantage of his medical studies and became a practicing physician. His fame as a physician spread rapidly, and he soon became the court physician to the sultan Saladin, the famous Muslim military leader, and to his son al-Afḍal. He also continued a private practice and lectured before his fellow physicians at the state hospital. At the same time he became the leading member of the Jewish community, teaching in public and helping his people with various personal and communal problems.

Maimonides married late in life and was the father of a son, Abraham, who was to make his mark in his own right in the world of Jewish scholarship.

Moses Maimonides, original name Moses Ben Maimon, also called Rambam, Arabic name Abū ʿImran Mūsā ibn Maymūn ibn ʿUbayd Allāh   (born March 30, 1135, Córdoba [Spain]—died Dec. 13, 1204, Egypt), Jewish philosopher, jurist, and physician, the foremost intellectual figure of medieval Judaism. His first major work, begun at age 23 and completed 10 years later, was a commentary on the Mishna, the collected Jewish oral laws. A monumental code of Jewish law followed in Hebrew, The Guide for the Perplexed in Arabic, and numerous other works, many of major importance. His contributions in religion, philosophy, and medicine have influenced Jewish and non-Jewish scholars alike.

Maimonides was born into a distinguished family in Córdoba (Cordova), Spain. The young Moses studied with his learned father, Maimon, and other masters and at an early age astonished his teachers by his remarkable depth and versatility. Before Moses reached his 13th birthday, his peaceful world was suddenly disturbed by the ravages of war and persecution.

As part of Islamic Spain, Córdoba had accorded its citizens full religious freedom. But now the Islamic Mediterranean world was shaken by a revolutionary and fanatical Islamic sect, the Almohads (Arabic: al-Muwaḥḥidūn, “the Unitarians”), who captured Córdoba in 1148, leaving the Jewish community faced with the grim alternative of submitting to Islam or leaving the city. The Maimons temporized by practicing their Judaism in the privacy of their homes, while disguising their ways in public as far as possible to appear like Muslims. They remained in Córdoba for some 11 years, and Maimonides continued his education in Judaic studies as well as in the scientific disciplines in vogue at the time.

When the double life proved too irksome to maintain in Córdoba, the Maimon family finally left the city about 1159 to settle in Fez, Morocco. Although it was also under Almohad rule, Fez was presumably more promising than Córdoba because there the Maimons would be strangers, and their disguise would be more likely to go undetected. Moses continued his studies in his favourite subjects, rabbinics and Greek philosophy, and added medicine to them. Fez proved to be no more than a short respite, however. In 1165 Rabbi Judah ibn Shoshan, with whom Moses had studied, was arrested as a practicing Jew and was found guilty and then executed. This was a sign to the Maimon family to move again, this time to Palestine, which was in a depressed economic state and could not offer them the basis of a livelihood. After a few months they moved again, now to Egypt, settling in Fostat, near Cairo. There Jews were free to practice their faith openly, though any Jew who had once submitted to Islam courted death if he relapsed to Judaism. Moses himself was once accused of being a renegade Muslim, but he was able to prove that he had never really adopted the faith of Islam and so was exonerated.

Though Egypt was a haven from harassment and persecution, Moses was soon assailed by personal problems. His father died shortly after the family’s arrival in Egypt. His younger brother, David, a prosperous jewelry merchant on whom Moses leaned for support, died in a shipwreck, taking the entire family fortune with him, and Moses was left as the sole support of his family. He could not turn to the rabbinate because in those days the rabbinate was conceived of as a public service that did not offer its practitioners any remuneration. Pressed by economic necessity, Moses took advantage of his medical studies and became a practicing physician. His fame as a physician spread rapidly, and he soon became the court physician to the sultan Saladin, the famous Muslim military leader, and to his son al-Afḍal. He also continued a private practice and lectured before his fellow physicians at the state hospital. At the same time he became the leading member of the Jewish community, teaching in public and helping his people with various personal and communal problems.

Maimonides married late in life and was the father of a son, Abraham, who was to make his mark in his own right in the world of Jewish scholarship.

JOSEPH CARO  (1488-1575)
From JewishHistory.org

INFLUENCE

Among the Jews who left Spain during the expulsion in 1492 was a boy not even 13 who would become one of the great figures in the history of the Jewish people, Rabbi Joseph Caro (sometimes spelled Karo).

By the time of his death in approximately 1575 it could be said that from the time of Maimonides until his time no person had a greater and longer lasting influence on the Jewish people. He was not only the giant of his age, and all the ages since.

KESEF MISHNAH

After the Spanish expulsion, his family moved first to Italy, then Greece, then Turkey — where they stayed for many years — before finally settling to the city of Safed in the Land of Israel. He would spend the last 35 years of his life there.

We know him as the author of the basic works of Jewish law that were written after the time of Maimonides. His first major work, authored while he was yet a young man in Turkey, was entitled, Kesef Mishnah. It is a commentary to the Mishnah Torah of Maimonides.

Maimonides had written his magnum opus without quoting his sources by which he derived the law. He did not say where it was stated in the Talmud or why he chose one opinion over the other. The Kesef Mishnah filled that void. He cited the source, explained why Maimonides adopted that view and defended Maimonides against the opinions who opposed that viewpoint.

In general, it is the most basic commentary on the Mishnah Torah. There is almost no subsequent printing of the book that does include the commentary of the Kesef Mishnah.

THE BETH YOSEF

That book alone would have sufficed to make Rabbi Joseph Caro immortal. However, he wrote a second book which he says took him 25 years to write. It is the most encyclopedic book written on Jewish law until its time. It is even more encyclopedic than the Mishnah Torah. Remember, this was time before computers, voice recorders and access to libraries, as we know them. To write such an encyclopedic work meant that whatever he learned remained embedded in his mind.

He called this book Beth Yosef (also Beis Yosef), the “House of Joseph.” It is a commentary to the Arbah Turim (or simply, “the Tur”), until then the authoritative law book for Ashkenazic Jewry. In other words, Rabbi Yosef Caro’s first book was a commentary to the greatest book of Jewish law written by the greatest Sephardic authority, Maimonides, and then he wrote an even more encyclopedic commentary on the greatest book of Jewish law till then by an Ashkenazic authority!

The Beth Josef is massive, well organized and well written in a lucid style; the logic is almost unarguable. It became the foundation of all Jewish legal thought not only in his time but even through today.

It is such a monumental work that a legend arose that Rabbi Josef Caro studied Torah with an angel. How otherwise could such a book have been written by an ordinary mortal? He had to have supernatural qualities to produce such a work. The point is that Rabbi Joseph Caro was so extraordinary that it was difficult to believe his works were written without supernatural help.

THE SHULCHAN ARUCH

His third and most well-known book is the Shulchan Aruch, which basically is an abridged version of the Beth Yosef, paraphrasing all the legal decisions. He also adopted the format of the Tur, organizing the Shulchan Aruch into four volumes, and even using the Tur’s numbering system for the paragraphs and sub-paragraphs.

He writes in his introduction that he relied upon the opinion of the three great scholars: the Rif (Rabbi Isaac Alfasi), the Rambam (Maimonides) and the Rosh (Rabbi Asher ben Jehiel, whose son, Rabbi Jacob, wrote the Tur). If there was a difference of opinion between the three, then he generally decides according to the majority. Since two of the three were Sephardim, in matters of differences of custom the Shulchan Aruch is basically a Sephardic work. Just ahead we will discuss how it became a universal work so that even the Ashkenazim have adopted it.

The Shulchan Aruch was published in 1542. From the moment it saw the light of publishing it became the book of Jewish law, and it remains so today.

Notwithstanding its complete acceptance today, when it was first published it was not accepted with glowing accolades by everyone. There was a great deal of opposition to it for various reasons; if nothing else, anything new automatically brings about opposition. The main objection to it by men of stature was that it would downgrade Jewish scholarship. They said that now all a person would have to do was open the book and decide the law without studying the Talmud and its sources, without understanding the process and progression of the law. They held that it would diminish Jewish scholarship and make it sterile, because there is nothing as dry as a law book. They felt that all the life that was reflected in the Oral Law – in the Talmud and later books – would now be dried up by the Shulchan Aruch.

All those fears proved groundless. Within about 50 years it had swept the Jewish world and all opposition to it faded by then.

MOSES ISSERLES (RAMA)  (1520-1572)
From Crash Course in Jewish History

He probably lived in Krakow Poland from 1520-1572 at the same time as Rabbi Joseph Caro

He perhaps more than anyone united the Jewish people by universalizing the Shulchan Aruch, which by itself reflected the Sephardic opinions in Jewish law and custom. Rabbi Moses Isserles wrote a commentary to it that he called, Mapah, meaning the “Tablecloth.” If the Shulchan Aruch was the “Set Table” the Mapah would be the “Tablecloth.”

The genius behind what he did was that rather that authoring his own book of Ashkenazic opinions in Jewish law and customs he inserted comments as glosses into the text to the Shulchan Aruch. Had he written a separate book then the Jewish world would have, in effect, two Shulchan Aruchs. However, with his far-seeing eye he wrote his “Shulchan Aruch” as glosses to Rabbi Joseph Caro’s. Wherever he disagreed with Rabbi Joseph Caro, or wherever he felt that the Ashkenazic opinion was not represented fully, he inserted a comment into the text.

By so doing he made the Shulchan Aruch universal and relevant to all Jewry, Sephardic and Ashkenazic. From his time onward, the Shulchan Aruch has always been printed with the text of Rabbi Joseph Caro and the glosses of Rabbi Moses Isserles. That made the Ashkenazic ideas well-known and appreciated by the Sephardim, and the Sephardic customs well-known to the Ashkenazim. The Sephardim followed the rulings of Rabbi Joseph Caro while the Ashkenazim followed those of Rabbi Moses Isserles, but the book is one book. The Jews only have one Shulchan Aruch.

It cannot be overemphasized how important it was that Rabbi Moses Isserles made it one book instead of two.

RABBI NATHAN LOPES CARDOZO

From Wikipedia,

Nathan Lopes Cardozo (born 1946) is a Dutch-Israeli rabbi, philosopher, and scholar of Judaism. A sought-after lecturer on the international stage for both Jewish and non-Jewish audiences, Cardozo is known for his original and often fearlessly controversial insights into Judaism. His ideas are widely debated on an international level on social media, blogs, books and other forums.

He writes for the Times of Israel, The Jerusalem Post and other news websites.

Nathan Lopes Cardozo was born on 26 July 1946 in Amsterdam. Nathan was named after his father's youngest brother who was killed in the Holocaust. His father was a secular Jew who was proud of his Portuguese-Jewish origin. His mother was not Jewish. After his mother's Christian parents died, however, she was raised by Cardozo's father's Jewish family. Though not Halachically Jewish, she was an integrated part of the community and spoke their language. Later on, she saved her husband and his family by hiding them in her apartment in the center of Amsterdam while it was under Nazi occupation. Many times she risked her life by telling the Nazis that her husband and family were already taken to the concentration camps.

At age sixteen Cardozo converted to Judaism through the Amsterdam Rabbinate, formed by Hacham Salomon Rodrigues Pereira, Chief Rabbi Aron Schuster and Rabbi Benjamin Pels. His mother later converted to Judaism as well.

Cardozo spent the next 12 years studying at various Haredi Yeshivas such as Gateshead Talmudical College. He received his semikhah from Rabbi Aryeh Leib Gurwitz, Rosh yeshiva of Gateshead.

At the age of 21, he married Freyda Gnesin, a young lady of Eastern European descent whom he met in the synagogue of Haarlem.

While in her 50s, Cardozo's mother converted to Judaism. Cardozo then changed his name from Nathan the son of Abraham (being the standard name for someone not born Jewish) to Nathan son of Jacob.

Cardozo is the Founder and Dean of the David Cardozo Academy and the Bet Midrash of Avraham Avinu in Jerusalem. Rabbi Cardozo is the author of 13 books and numerous articles in both English and Hebrew. Rabbi Cardozo heads a Think Tank focused on finding new Halachic and philosophical approaches to dealing with the crisis of religion and identity amongst Jews and the Jewish State of Israel.

Cardozo has five children and lives in the Bayit V'Gan neighborhood of Jerusalem.

Quotes about Rabbi Cardozo

“Rabbi Nathan Lopes Cardozo has emerged as one of the most thoughtful voices in contemporary Judaism. He is a man of deep faith and wide intellectual horizons, unafraid to confront the challenges of the age with the quiet confidence of one who is attuned to the music of eternity.” (Rabbi Professor Jonathan Sacks, Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of Britain and the Commonwealth)

“Rabbi Cardozo brings an unusual - perhaps unique - collection of talents and cultural sensitivities to his sacred work. He embodies Ashkenazi training, Sephardi heritage, European dignity, and the English speaking idiom.” (Rabbi Hillel Goldberg, PhD, author, lecturer at Hebrew University, Executive Editor, Intermountain Jewish News, Denver)

“Rabbi Lopes Cardozo has earned a well-deserved reputation as a brilliant and profound teacher, lecturer and author. Audiences around the Jewish world flock to hear his lectures on Torah and Jewish philosophy. Rabbi Cardozo’s insights into, and understanding of, Judaism and the modern world are refreshing as they are thought-provoking.” (Rabbi Dr. Sholom Gold, Dean of Jerusalem College for Adults Rabbi of Kehillat Zichron Yosef, Jerusalem)

See  A Modern Day Inquisition/

LINKS    

‘The Book of Jewish Knowledge’ by Nathan Ausubel pp362 et seq

Oath and Prayer of Maimonides   Johns Hopkins University - The Sheridan Libraries -

The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy

Maimonides (Moses ben Maimon)   Stanford EncyclopediEncyclopedia Mythica a of Philosophy

Jewish Virtual Library

Biography of Moses Maimonides   BBC-

Jewish Encyclopedia   The unedited full-text of the 1906 Jewish Encyclopedia

The New Jewish Encyclopedia, 1976

My Jewish Learning

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