Item description for Maimonides (Lives and Legacies.) by Ilil Arbel...
Overview Sage in the care of the body as well as the soul, Maimonides shines as one of the brightest intellects in an age of oppression and ignorance. Readers who allow Arbel to transport them back to that harsh era will marvel at how one man--relentlessly harassed because of his Jewish faith, repeatedly forced to move to alien new lands, stranded in isolation and poverty--doggedly pursued his sacred and secular studies until he completed an intellectual synthesis that affected the entire Mediterranean world--Jewish, Arab, and Christian. Without burdening readers with the technicalities, Arbel illuminates Maimonides' accomplishments in condensing the entire body of Jewish law into one accessible volume, the Mishnah Torah, and in reconciling religious tradition with contemporary scientific and philosophic thought in his Guide for the Perplexed. Though centuries distant, the controversy surrounding Maimonides' works still highlights the courage of a true innovator. The same intellectual daring shines through the astonishingly modern work Maimonides did in physiology late in life. An ideal introduction to a complex figure.
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Studio: The Crossroad Publishing Company
Est. Packaging Dimensions: Length: 8.3" Width: 5.4" Height: 0.8" Weight: 0.7 lbs.
Release Date Sep 30, 2001
Publisher Crossroad 8th Avenue
Series Lives And Legacies
ISBN 0824523598 ISBN13 9780824523596
Reviews - What do customers think about Maimonides (Lives and Legacies.)?
The finest and most meaningful Biography of Maimonides May 5, 2008
A concise biography of Moses Maimonides, great philosopher, physician to Saladin, writer on astronomy, logic, law and mathematics, which concentrates on his spiritual legacy. Moses Maimonides is considered the greatest Jewish philosopher of the Middle Ages, his work inspiring not only his contemporaries of all faiths but also later thinkers such as Leibniz and Spinoza. A rich biography exploring the historical, philosophical and social aspect of a great philosopher to be treasured. Arbel is a splendid writer. Born into a distinguished family in medieval Cordoba, Spain, the young Moses Maimonides was quickly recognized by his teachers for his outstanding intellectual abilities and extraordinary versatility. At the age of 13, when his peaceful world was shattered by war and persecution, and his family was forced into exile, fleeing and wandering from one place to another for many years, his religious and secular studies continued. Moses was, above all, a writer, and he wrote extensively until the end of his life." "After completing the Mishneh Torah in 1180, Maimonides was recognized internationally as the chief religious and legal authority of the entire Jewish world. A large part of his writing comes from his responses. Letters came from rabbis, judges, scholars, students, teachers and head of schools; even private citizens sent their letters and expected an official responsum. The question of whether Maimonides meant for the Mishneh Torah to replace the Talmud remains one of the most controversial parts of his legacy, and Arbel addresses the troubling argument with a lucid and tenacious intelligence." Maimonides' views were curiously modern and his medical writings constitute a significant chapter in the history of modern medical science. He approached his work as a sacred duty and with a sense of mission, and acquired the reputation of a doctor who treated the soul as well as the body.
The work of Arbel is a treasure by all means.
ESSENTIAL REFERENCE TOOL May 3, 2008
The kind of book only alert minds and lovers of history and culture will read. Rich in style, knowledge and historical information. No doubt, this is one of the best books written about Maimonides! Outstanding!!!
An excellent biography Dec 2, 2003
I am twelve years old, and I got this book for my bat-mitzva. I loved it and learned a lot and I would recommend it to both adults and children. I particularly liked the way Maimonides helped women during those hard times.
Intelligent, well-researched biography May 18, 2002
As a librarian, I was alerted to this excellent biography by Booklist and by The Library Journal, which both gave it excellent reviews. I don't read every book I order, but since I am particularly interseted in Maimonides, I did read it, and with great pleasure. I have studied much of Maimonides' work, and many books that analyzed his work, but Arbel's book is the only one fulfilling the need for a lively biography that really tells about Maimonides, his character and his relationships.
The book is extremely well-written, easy to understand, and will be entirely comprehesible to the secular reader. You don't have to be a Maimonides expert, a philosophy student, or a religious scholar to enjoy it. Yet any scholar will appreciate Arbel's historical research and grasp of the era he discusses.
My only criticism was that I wished the book were longer and continued into the second generation (Maimonides' son, Abraham, was a fascinating character). However, I realized that the book is a part of a series of biographies, the well-received Lives and Legacies (all called "A Spiritual Biography") from Crossroad Publishing, so Arbel probably followed certain guidelines as to length. I am very much looking forward to the publication of Arbel's biography of Rabbi Hillel, which apparently he is writing now.
A New Biography of Maimonides Feb 17, 2002
The appearance of a new biography of Maimonides is always important, if only because it happens infrequently.
What we need, and do not yet have in English, is an excellent and scholarly biography of Maimonides, like Netanyahu's biography of Abarbanel.
Ilil Arbel's new biography, entitled Maimonides, A Spiritual Biography, does not fill that bill. However, for those who are already reading Maimonides, it will fill in the historical gaps reasonably well. The book is based on secondary and tertiary sources, with the exception of the more historically significant items of Maimonides' correspondence and some of the shorter works, which the author shows familiarity with. The author is fluent in Hebrew, and may be an Israeli, it is not clear from the jacket material. That material indicates that she is a "Writer and editor, and has a Ph.D. in the field of mythology and folklore, and is a regular contributor of Judaic myths to Encyclopedia Mythica, her next book is A biography of Hillel, she resides in New York City".
The book comes with a full index and a short bibliography. There are a very few notes, more would have been desirable. I would like to know where she got some of her material. There is a Chronology which she confesses is based on the usual consensus opinions but not based on any research of her own.
I do not think the book will do anyone any harm. She pointedly stays away from giving comment or analysis of the Guide or the Mishneh Torah, and for that reason, I do not understand why she calls this a spiritual biography. The excitement that I get from the works of Maimonides themselves is not well communicated by the author.
What she does do that helps make this book of contemporary significance is the integration of Geniza material from the Ben Ezra synagogue in Cairo, Egypt, about which I recently wrote on in connection with the Spertus College of Judaica exhibit. She does know this material, and has spent some time with the writings of S.D. Goitein, the acknowledged expert in that field. She also has listed in her bibliography several contemporary Israeli books on Maimonides. All of these sources help to provide depth and context in Maimonides' story.
Among these positive attributes I would randomly site her extended treatment of the unending controversies between Maimonides and the Gaon of Baghdad, Shmuel Ben Ali, who was the leader of the Babylonian Academy and saw himself as the universal Jewish authority. She also fills in the personalities of Maimonides son Abraham, and his student Joseph Ibn Aknin, for whom the Guide of the Perplexed was dedicated.
On the controversial issue of Maimonides' feigned conversion to Islam, she fails to explain the meaning of such conversions, and leaves her readers confused. At one point she states flatly we can rest assured that he never converted to Islam, and at other times she indicates just as flatly that he feigned observance of Islam. She should have explained that Islam does not need conversion at all as Islam views people as having an Islamic nature which only needs to be realized. Such realization takes place when the individual acknowledges the formula of the divinity of Allah and the prophecy of Mohammed in a mosque. Maimonides himself writes that since this is all that is required, together with occasional attendance at Mosque prayers, a Jew need not question his own faith if he has to do these acts for the sake of survival.
Admittedly our determination that Maimonides feigned such conversion is based on circumstantial evidence, but it is exceptionally good circumstantial evidence. Apart from his own words in his epistle on the subject, we know for a fact that no Jew, and particularly no Jew of public prominence like Maimonides and his father, could have survived long in Fez, Morocco under the Almohads without feigning Islam. Then there is the well known case, discussed by Arbel, of the prosecution brought by Abul Arab ibn Moisha in Cairo. Moisha had known Maimonides in Fez, as an apparent Muslim, and was shocked to find him as the head of the Jewish community in Cairo. He brought a prosecution against Maimonides for the capital heresy of converting from Islam. Maimonides' protector, El Fadil, Saladin's vizier, was the judge in the case. Arbel states that Fadil's ruling was to declare Maimonides never really adopted the fate or converted but only kept up a fabulous disguise and therefore could not have had a relapse from Islam. What really happened, according to Dr. Joel Kraemer, was that the court ruled coerced conversions were not effective conversions in Islam, citing Quran, and Maimonides could not be held guilty for feigning conversion under coercion.
Like all books nowadays, the editors don't really do any editing, and there are many obvious typographical errors in the text. One howler is the author's apparent inability to distinguish pray from prey (twice!) as in ". . . It prayed on his mind."
The book is neither long nor difficult to read, and the author has a moderately engaging prose style. She seems to be genuinely interested in the details of Maimonides life, and for those reasons the book should be read.