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Sunday, 26 April 2015

Maimonides and the Question of Modern Ethics


As told by Moses, Son of Maimon
by
Ilil Arbel
I rarely use my magic arts or inventions, particularly my skill of time travel. I am not sure it is an ethical thing to do, and since I don’t know anyone else who had learned to do so, who can I ask for advice? Once in a while, I feel the need to study the events to come. This is only my third time, and I have jumped about eight hundred years into my future. The year is 2015 of the Christian calendar, and 5775 of the Jewish calendar. I have never jumped so far ahead before. 

But this is not all. They have wars, the horror of which even the great Saladin would not be able to understand. Sadly, the fanatics called ISIS remind me of the wild Almohades who had destroyed my beloved Al-Andalus and exiled or killed my entire community. Like the Almohades, ISIS brutally murders other Muslims, Christians, and Jews, pretending to do so in the name of God. What God would want to see the innocents slaughtered? Many of these wars are fought merely for money and power.

Another ethical question is the insane greed the rich are exhibiting. It is worse, much worse, than the habits of the rich in my time. All the money is concentrated in the hands of the few, while the populace is becoming poorer and poorer. Entire nations are losing their wealth to these groups, who do not seem to care at all for their own countrymen and women. Some of the practices they employ in the name of profit I am unable to understand. They seem to be able to employ people on meagre pay in faraway lands, instead of leaving such work in the hands of loyal employees who had served them well. Entire communities have the bread taken from their mouth, while the rich commit excess the likes of which the world has never seen.
They have learned nothing, nothing at all, about ethics. But as I am preparing to go home, I trust that someday in their own future they will see the light. I could not live without hope. 

I have to admit that as a physician, I am very much impressed with their practice of medicine. I have seen people cured from cancer. Artificial hearts save people from certain death. They can create a natural immunity to future diseases by using certain serums. But despite such wonders, they allow those who cannot pay die from illnesses the physicians could cure. I simply cannot understand that – in my time, a good physician would treat them for free. In my own practice, I set aside a time each week for people who cannot afford to pay.






Ilil Arbel is the author of a number of fiction and non-fiction books, including biographies, memoirs, novels, and mythology/folklore. She has also written articles, short stories, and Judaic myths.



Arbel has a Ph.D. in the field of mythology and folklore but has also devoted much study to her special interest in Jewish history, biography, legends, and myths. She is currently engaged in writing the biography of Hillel the Elder, the first century B.C. leader and religious scholar.



Dr. Arbel was born in Tel Aviv, Israel. She has lived and studied in Tel Aviv, Paris, and New York and currently resides in Manhattan.

 Moses, Son of Maimon

Born into a distinguished family in medieval Cordoba, Spain, the young Moses Maimonides was quickly recognized by his teachers for his outstanding intellectual abilities and extraordinary versatility. At the age of twelve, when his peaceful world was shattered by war and persecution and his family was forced into exile, his religious and secular studies continued. Despite the years of wandering and the harsh conditions, he also developed into a writer and wrote extensively until the end of his life.
 
Amazon
After years of wandering and relatively short stays in Morocco and Israel, Maimonides and his family settled in Egypt. The Jewish community quickly recognized his genius, and after completing his important book, the Mishneh Torah, he was recognized internationally as the chief religious and legal authority of the entire Jewish world. He produced many books on diverse subjects such as philosophy, law, religion, and medicine that are considered extremely important to this day by Jews, Christians, and Muslims alike. Despite experiencing loss and controversies, Maimonides rose to eminence as both the official head of the Jewish community in Cairo and the private physician to the sultan and his court.

His world was full of contradictions. A man who abhorred excess of any kind, Maimonides nevertheless lived as a member of a glittering society. Cairo of that time was full of art, music, literature, elegant fashions, priceless jewelry, and sophisticated food. He moved among the sultan’s wealthy advisors and the elegant ladies of the royal harem during the day, and among the Jewish scholars in the evening. He was accused of supporting corporal punishment for wives, and at the same time, people gasped at his revolutionary defense of women’s rights.

His fame brought controversy that is still raging—eight hundred years after his death. At certain times his books were banned and even burned at the stake. But no one could ever deny that his work was that of a brilliant innovator and scholar who could reconcile religious traditions with science and philosophy like no one else.

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