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Rosh Chodesh Shevat: Thoughts on the Life of the Rambam

Last week we began looking at the personal life of the Rambam from a historical perspective. We addressed the fact that as a child, the Rambam was a disappointment, to say the least, to his illustrious father.

What did young Moshe ben Maimon do when he was outside the front door of his house?

He ran and ran – until he reached the outskirts of the town. Being an excellent, strong swimmer, Moshe took off his robe and energetically entered the cool, soothing waters for an invigorating swim.

Sometime later, Moshe returned to town, not to his home, but to the shul, where everyone was welcome. He opened the large doors to the Aron Kodesh, the Holy Ark. He prayed and cried, and prayed some more for ה׳ to open his mind to learn Torah. He wanted his father to have nachas, and his mother to look down from Gan Eden and see that she did not give her life in vain.

This heartfelt prayer was a turning point in his life. ה׳ answered his prayers.

After sleeping in the shul that night, Moshe made up his mind to travel to Alisena, to the Beis Medrash of his father’s teacher, Rabbi Yoseph Ibn Migash. Rabbi Yoseph embraced the young Moshe, who was only 8 years old, and much younger than his other students. When Rabbi Yoseph heard Moshe’s story, he welcomed him, and continued learning earnestly with him for the remainder of his life.

After the death and shiva for Rabbi Yoseph, Moshe understood that he must return to his home town of Cordova. Surprisingly himself, his first stop was the great shul in Cordova, where he gave a spectacular speech on the parsha. His father, who was present, recognized his son and welcomed him warmly, apologizing for his unacceptable behavior. Rabbi Maimon, Moshe, and his younger brother Dovid resumed their daily learning schedule, and they lived in peace, at least for a while. Until…

The story will continue next week, but I’d like to leave you with some food for thought. What do we think about Moshe’s determination to learn Torah and become a real scholar in spite of what his father thought? Did you expect Moshe to have such a good relationship with his father after the way his father treated him? Do you see children who are perceived as a disappointment go on to become super successful? And as adults, parents, leaders, and educators – do we refuse to give up on the children that don’t “fit the mold”?

How would the Rambam have been labeled had he lived today?

I hope you will share your thoughts.

Shabbat shalom and chodesh tov!

Chavi Goldberg is founder and CEO of CyberSem

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