writings translated and published in Russian
Israel’s SHAMIR & New
York’s FREE agencies in joint venture
BROOKLYN, NY — Wednesday, March 01, 2006
by Ray Kestenbaum
Brooklyn, NY--Never will the 12th century cities
of Cordoba, Fez and Tiberius get more connected to modern
Moscow, Be’ersheva and Brooklyn than by the newly published
Russian-language book titled “Rambam - Collected
Writings”. The Rambam, an acronym for Rabbeinu
Moshe ben Maimon, or Maimonides, probably never figured his
books or letters would be immortalized through the ages.
But they were and the present anthology is offering
a taste of the epic Torah scholarship and gigantic intellect
of the 12th century Spanish-born physician of whom it has
been said, “From Moshe (Rabbeinu) to Moshe (Maimonides)
there never stood another Moshe.” The offer is made
without cost to over three million Russian-speaking Jews
in the world today.
The Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson,
recognized the Rambam’s contributions to Jewish life
and learning and urged his chassidim to study the works of
the Rambam, whether it was his towering Mishne Torah (Yad
Hachazaka), which covers all of Jewish law and lore, or his
The present book was published in honor of the Rambam’s
800th yahrtzeit, which took place on the 20th of Taves, 5766.
The Rambam was born in Cordoba, Spain, in 4895 (1135 CE)
and died at age 70 in Fostat, Egypt. He is buried in Tiberius,
Eretz Yisrael, right next to the famous Tana, Rabbi Yochanan
The book was jointly published by the SHAMIR organization
in Jerusalem and FREE Publishing House, a division of Friends
of Refugees of Eastern Europe,
in Brooklyn, NY. Professor Herman Branover, Editor-in-Chief
of SHAMIR, observes that “Russian people do a lot more
reading than Americans.” He wasn’t concerned
that the book would be too lofty for the average Russian
Rabbi Yosef Y. Okunov, Director of FREE Publishing House,
co-publisher of the book, 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 Dr. Branover
in Israel. Rabbi N.Z. (Velvel) Rapoport served as chief translator
and Pinchas Gil, Publishing Manager of Shamir, managed the
operation. Over 3,000 copies were printed in the first press
run by Chish Printing in Ramle, Israel, but many requests
have prompted SHAMIR and FREE to embark on a second printing.
Six Themes of the Rambam
The book elaborates on six of the 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 Ha-Nasi
in the second and third centuries, was disputed and composed
over a period of some 250 years and is the forerunner of
the 24 tractates of the Gemorrah.
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, the Rambam undertakes to
delve into the Pirkei Avot, The 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 the
Rambam’s “Iggeret Teiman,” a letter to
the leaders of Yemen that 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 have succumbed to in the 12th century. The
problems of the Jewish people in the Rambam’s era were
not much different from those we face today.
Following the translation of Iggeret Teiman, Professor Branover
chose his “Iggeret Redifut,” an essay on how
to respond to persecution. The Rambam himself experienced
persecution under the rule of the fanatical Muslim Almohads,
who hated the Jews and tried to convert them to Islam. The
Rambam and his family were forced to flee their home town
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
the Rambam’s treatment of “t’chiyat hameitim,” resurrection
of the dead, which the Rambam affirms as the last declaration
of his 13 principles of fundamental Judaism.
Fascinating as it is, the book is but a touch of the vast
writings of Rebbe 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
Mishne Torah, upon which Rabbi Yosef Karo’s Shulchan
Aruch, Code of Jewish Law, is based, let alone his great
philosophic work Moreh Nevuchim and his many Iggerot, letters,
FREE Publishing House is in the process of building up its
Russian-Language Jewish library, particularly its translated
classic works of Torah and commentary. Since its founding
in 1971, it has published over 40 different titles in an
effort to inform and educate the world’s three million
plus Russian-speaking Jews. FREE Publishing House is a division
of Friends of Refuges of Eastern Europe
that was founded by the Lubavitcher Rebbe in 1969, as the
Chabad-Lubavitch Russian immigrant program.
SHAMIR, which is based in Jerusalem, has published
over 400 titles and is well known throughout the Russian
Jewish world. SHAMIR and FREE have a winning partnership
in the Rambam book venture.
SHAMIR, Israel’s Association of Jewish Professionals
from the Former Soviet Union, was founded in 1972 and is
still going strong. The name is an acronym for Shomrei Mitzvot
Yotzei Russia, Mitzvah Observant Russian Émigrés.
SHAMIR is the oldest voluntary association for Russian Jewry
in Israel and has been lauded by Israel’s late Prime
Minister Menachem Begin, the late Pulitzer Prize winner in
Literature Herman Wouk, The Chairman and President of World
Jewish Congress, Latvian Council of Jewish Communities, Yuli
Edelstein, Chaver of the Israeli Knesset and others.
It was the Lubavitcher Rebbe who appointed Dr. Branover,
in the early 70’s to organize in Israel with the aim
of disseminating Torah education to Soviet émigrés,
many of whom escaped to live as Jews and in freedom. The
plan was to translate into Russian the holy Jewish texts.
Indeed, within a few years, SHAMIR had published and distributed
the translated Siddur, Machzor, Chumash, Tanach, Shulchan
Aruch, parts of the Mishneh and the Rebbe’s Farbrengens.
Dr. Branover was himself a “refusnik” who had
spent World War II years in Siberia with his family and because
of his belief in and study of Judaism was always in contention
with the Soviet authorities. Born in Riga, Latvia, Dr. Branover,
managed to educate himself, earning a Doctor of Science in
Physics from the Leningrad Polytechnic Institute. He became
an expert in magneto-hydrodynamics and teaches that subject
at the Ben Gurion University in Be’ersheva.
Widely respected as teacher, author and translator, Dr.
Branover, in addition to academic responsibilities, undertook
the Rebbe’s challenge and continued his Torah activism
in Israel as he did in his younger years in defiance of the
Communist dictatorship in Latvia and the Soviet Union. He
hired teams of academics to study, research, translate, edit,
publish and distribute the literary undertakings of SHAMIR.
“Rambam - Collected Writings” can
be acquired from the FREE Publishing House at 1383 President
Street , Brooklyn, NY, 11213, by telephone at 718-467-0860,
by fax at 718-467-2146 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
It can also be ordered though FREE’s website at www.FREEPublishingHouse.com.
In Israel the book can be ordered from SHAMIR Publishing House, 6 Yellin Street. P.O.B. 5749, Jerusalem
91057, by telephone at 02-5385702, by fax at 02-5385118,
by e-mail at email@example.com or
by ordering through its website at www.shamirbooks.org.il.
Book is available online at FREE
Publishing House Bookstore.
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