In the Media

Rambam Writings In Russian
- The Jewish Press

January 5, 2007

Never will the 12th century cities of Cordoba, Fez and Tiberias get more connected to modern Moscow, Be'ersheva and Brooklyn than by the newly published Russian-language book titled Rambam - Collected Writings. The works of Rambam, an acronym for Rabbeinu Moshe ben Maimon, or Maimonides, have been immortalized through the ages.

The present anthology offers a taste of the epic Torah scholarship and gigantic intellect of the 12th century Spanish-born physician to over three million Russian-speaking Jews in the world today.

The Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, zt"l, recognized Rambam's contributions to Jewish life and learning, and urged all to study the works of Rambam, whether it was his towering Mishneh Torah (Sefer Yad ha-Chazaka) — which covers all of Jewish law and lore - or his Sefer Hamitzvos.

The present edition was published in honor of Rambam's 802nd yahrzeit, which will take place on 20 Teves, 5767, corresponding to January 10, 2007. Rambam was born in Cordoba, Spain, in 1135 and died at age 69 in Fustat, Egypt. He is buried in Tiberias, Eretz Yisrael, next to the famous Tana, Rabbi Yochanan ben Zakkai.

The"book was published jointly by the SHAMIR organization in Jerusalem and the FREE Publishing House, a division of Friends of Refugees of Eastern Europe, in Brooklyn, N.Y.

Rabbi Yosef Y. Okunov, director of FREE Publishing House, says, "Our goal is to get this book into every Russian library and every shul where Russian Jews daven, and to the homes of those who are searching for authentic Jewish learning."

The 446-page hard cover book was researched, translated and edited by a team of professionals, headed by Professor Herman Branover, editor-in-chief of SHAMIR in Israel. Rabbi N.Z. (Velvel) Rapoport served as chief translator.

The book elaborates on six of Rambam's many thematic writings. It opens with a description of the Mishnah's six tractates, the compendium of oral Torah law, and how these were derived and produced.

The Mishnah, edited by Rabbi Judah haNasi in the second and third centuries, was composed over a period of some 250 years and is the forerunner of the 24 tractates of the Gemara.

The second part is Rambam's description of the Sanhedrin, the Supreme Court and judicial authority of ancient times, and how it operated. The book focuses on the first and 10th chapters of the Tractate Sanhedrin.

In the third part of the book, Rambam delves into Pirkei Avot (Ethics of Our Fathers), explaining how each ethical principal has its origin in the written and oral Torah law.

Next is the Russian translation of Rambam's Iggeret Teiman, a letter to the leaders of Yemen. It urges them to teach the Yemenite Jewish population to hold fast -to Jewish law and life and not sink into the morass of assimilation — as so many Jews in the Diaspora had succumbed to in the 12th century. The problems of the Jewish people in Rambam's era were not much different from those we face today.

Following the translation of Iggeret Teiman, Professor Branover chose Rambam's Iggeret Redifut, an essay on how to respond to persecution. Rambam himself experienced persecution under the rule of the fanatical Muslim Almohads, who hated the Jews and tried to convert them to Islam. Rambam and his family were forced to flee their hometown of Cordoba and wander for survival. He finally settled in Fez, Morocco, the ancient capital of North Africa. In the final section, the editors chose to elaborate on Rambam's treatment of t'chiyat hameitim, (resurrection of the dead), which Rambam affirms as the last declaration of his 13 principles of faith of fundamental Judaism.

Fascinating as it is, the book is but a touch of the vast writings of Rabbeinu Moshe ben Maimon. "When one completes the works of the Rambam and internalizes what he's read," said Rabbi Okunov, "he has virtually mastered the entire Torah." Rabbi Okunov was referring to his Mishneh Torah (upon which Rabbi Yosef Karo's Shulchan Aruch - Code of Jewish Law - is based), his great philosophic work Moreh Nevuchim, and his many igrot (letters) and essays.

Rambam - Collected Writings can be ordered by calling 718-467-0860, or through FREE's newly launched Jewish Russian Books website at www.JRBooks.org.

In Israel and elsewhere, the book can be ordered from SHAMIR Publishing House by calling 02-5385702, or by visiting www.ShamirBooks.org.il.

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