March 30, 1135
Moses Ben Maimon, known as Maimonides or Rambam, was born in Cordoba, Spain, into a distinguished family (some sources give the year of his birth as 1138). In 1148, the Almohads invaded Cordoba and gave non-Muslims the choice of conversion, exile or death. As a result, Maimonides and his family left Cordoba and eventually settled in Fez, Morocco, in 1160. In Fez, Maimonides began writing commentaries on the Talmud and completed his education with a focus on medicine.
Religious persecution forced the family to migrate again and following a stop in Palestine, the family settled in Fustat, Egypt, in 1166, where Maimonides became a doctor and a rabbi. As a very skilled doctor, he was eventually appointed to be the court physician to the ruling family. Most influential as a philosopher, he served as the head of the Egyptian Jewish community.
Some refer to him by his acronym “Rambam,” which stands for his initials, Rabbi Moshe Ben Maimon. In addition to many other texts, he wrote 14 books, together titled Mishneh Torah, which explain Jewish religious laws and ethics. Among the many topics and laws discussed in Mishneh Torah is the commandment of Tzedakah (“charity”). Maimonides provided a ladder of priorities that teaches us which kinds of charitable giving are better than others.
His major philosophical work, Guide for the Perplexed, was written in Arabic as a letter to a student and published toward the end of the twelfth century.
Over the centuries, his body of work has been very influential for prominent philosophers and leaders, Jewish and non-Jewish alike.