A portrait in brief of a remarkable scholar/philosopher/physician of the 12th century, and an examination of the long tradition of Jewish healing.
In this second volume in the Jewish Encounters series, Nuland, a surgeon and NBA-winning author (How We Die, 1994, etc.), sketches the religious and political tensions of the time, chronicling the Maimon family’s wanderings around the Mediterranean in search of a place to live. Moses ben Maimon, better known as Maimonides, settled in Islamic Egypt, where his driving purpose was preservation of the Jewish community, a task demanding strong leadership. As a young man, Maimondes became the spiritual leader of Jews in Saladin’s kingdom and the foremost scholar of his time. Nuland sifts out the facts from the many legends and myths surrounding Maimonides, and for readers unfamiliar with Jewish traditions, carefully explains the significance of his major religious works, which incorporate science and philosophy into religious thought. Maimonides possessed a remarkable mind for observing and interpreting the world, and a powerful talent for collecting, codifying and clarifying. If the portrait of the man himself is hazy, Nuland cannot be blamed, for details of Maimonides’ personal and family life are obscure. What is known is that tradition forbade him from making a living as a rabbi, and when his brother’s ship was lost at sea, taking the family fortune with it, Maimonides turned to the practice of medicine for income. Already a prominent public figure, he was soon made a physician in Saladdin’s court. Nuland concludes that Maimonides, who inspired centuries of Jewish physicians, should be revered for his devotion to the Jewish people and the progressive worldview he brought to theology. An appendix briefly discusses his medical writings.
A fine distillation.