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Rambam's Optimism

Moses ben Maimon is commonly known as Maimonides and the Rambam.

Rambam was a medieval Sephardic Jewish philosopher who became one of the most prolific and influential Torah scholars of the Middle Ages. In his time, he was a preeminent physician.  The BBC biography states, "Moses Maimonides is regarded by many as the greatest Jewish philosopher of the Middle Ages."

Dr Beni Gesundheit, pediatric hematologist-oncologist and stem cell researcher in Israel wrote, “Historians can argue about dates and facts, but what is really important is the practical legacy of Rambam’s ideas.  Maimonides said a physician should treat his patients with optimism, joy and utmost kindness. This is an extraordinarily strong message at the time that he was writing.”

The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy: "the notion that what the Law requires is not too hard for human beings to grasp is an important principle in Jewish thought. Maimonides agreed with Aristotle in regard to each person being born with a certain temperament and having specific propensities and susceptibilities through no choice or fault of one’s own. However, Maimonides had a more optimistic conception of the depth of change one can bring about in one’s character, made possible by and through fulfilling the commandments."

Rabbi Marc D. Angel PhD in “Maimonides, Spinoza and Us” wrote, the “fundamental optimism of both Rambam and Spinoza seems particularly relevant in a modern era. The 20th century witnessed two world wars, the holocaust of European jewry, and numerous small wars and violent revolutions. It would be easy enough for an objective observer to declare humanity to be morally bankrupt, without possibility of redemption. In today’s world we seem condemned to a never ending cycle of hatred and warfare. We have access to more destructive weapons than ever existed in the past. Nuclear technology is falling to the hands of dangerous regimes and possibly even of terrorist groups. Chemical and biological warfare loom on the horizon. Given humanity’s terrible record, It is possible to sink into a helpless depression and to lose faith in the ability of human beings to change the status quo. Rambam and Spinoza, though, call on each of us to strive for a meditative, spiritual and blessed life. In spite of all the evils that exist in our world, we each have the power to perfect ourselves. In this personal striving we are able to find personal blessedness and meaning. As more human beings attain intellectual love of God, humanity as a whole moves closer to its own perfection .” 

 

 

 

 

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