So when I came across Sherwin Nuland’s highly accessible book on this historic figure, I grabbed it, and put it on my reading pile; and because of its short length, it made a great weekend read for me.
Before his death, Nuland was a professor of clinical surgery at Yale and widely known as the author of How We Die: Reflections on Life’s Final Chapter which won the National Book Award and spent thirty-four weeks on the New York Times best seller list.
Nuland’s Maimonides explores the man’s life, influences and works, and provides an insight into the context of this historic figures impact on his world during his life and in the centuries following. Born in Córdoba during the end of the golden age of Jewish culture in the Iberian Peninsula, which was under Moorish rule, Moses Maimonides developed an early interest in sciences and philosophy. He read Greek philosophers accessible in Arabic translations and immersed himself in the sciences and learning of Islamic culture. Ultimately forced to leave Spain because of the harsh Islamic climate, he moved to Morocco and Palestine, and finally settled in Egypt, where he continued his work as a renowned physician, treating members of the ruling family in Cairo. He also eventually became the leader of the Egyptian Jewish community and its principal teacher. His writings as the Jewish culture’s foremost legal authority and scholarly philosopher brought him to ultimately be described as the Architect of Judaism.
Moses Maimonides was a Renaissance man before the Renaissance: a great physician who served a sultan, a peerless scholar of the Torah, a community leader, a groundbreaking philosopher whose greatest work--The Guide for the Perplexed— strove to reconcile scientific knowledge with faith in God. He was a Jew living in a Muslim world and a rationalist living in a time of superstition. Eight hundred years after his death, his works continue to inspire and stir debate. Nuland’s book, a comparatively quick read, is an insightful introduction to the greatest of Jewish thinkers.