|Old hand-drawn sketch of Maimonides
Maimonides is my hero for a variety of reasons, none of them the reasons we normally choose a hero for. He is currently considered the greatest Jewish scholar of the Talmudic era, having written the Mishnah Torah and A Guide for the Perplexed. During his life he lived a variety of places and did various jobs.
The Mishnah Torah and A Guide for the Perplexed are both religious writing on the Torah and the laws contained therein. The Mishnah Torah is one of the greatest codifications of Jewish law and has been used by many people, both Jewish and non-Jewish, for instructions on how to act and for creating laws. The Guide for the Perplexed is a series of arguments on how the Torah should be read, the meaning of certain phrases in it, and what it meant, designed to clarify the overall meaning and make reading the Torah easier. Both of these books were censored when they came out, often by more conservative rabbis who did not agree with what he taught. His willingness to write these books and continue to support them shows how firmly he believed in his faith and is part of what makes him a hero to me.
Maimonides, or Moses Ben Maimon, was born in 1135 in Spain and lived to 1204. Once he was born an intolerant Muslim ruler took control of Spain, forcing his family to flee. After moving around from one country to another he finally settled in Cairo and took up the trade of a doctor. He took up the trade of doctor because, while he had been supported by his brother when he first moved there, an accident destroyed the ship with his brother and most of his wealth. He continued to mourn for his brother long past the traditional year of mourning.
Once he was a doctor he soon became a physician in the court, a position which allowed him to exert an amount of influence over the ruler for the benefit of the Jews. During his time as court physician he became the leader of Cairo’s Jews, which helped enable him to spread his ideas. In his writings of the Mishnah Torah and a Guide for the Perplexed he remains highly factual, rarely letting his personal feeling affect an argument except for where he believed a person to be badly mistaken, in which case he would attack their views. However, his personal writings were very different, being far more emotional on many subjects. His opinions on some subjects such as music were unusual, “song and music are all forbidden, even if unaccompanied by words”, as noted in the Encyclopedia Judaica.
Maimonides is my hero because he chose to stick with his ideas even when they were unpopular and because he tried to keep his personal feeling as far away as possible from his work. He also was one of the greatest Jewish writers and has many books which are still used today. His views and actions are also different than normal, but he is very human, continuing to mourn for a long time in his personal life.