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The Yemen Epistle of Maimonides


volgadon

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On another thread, Edgar has been arguing from his Unificationst POV that Jews will not accept a Messiah unless he is preceded by Elijah, an Elijah who identifies himself as such and that Jews rejected Jesus because John the Baptist denied being Elijah.

I brought up the Yemen Epistle written by Rabbi Moshe ben Maimon AKA Rambam or Maimonides, one of the most influential figures in Judaism. I thought I would quote from it extensively, so have started a new topic. This epistle was written to the head of the Jewish community in Yemen who was alarmed by Muslim repressions and by the appearance of a man claiming to be the Messiah, so he turned for help to Maimonides, one of the leading scholars, philosophers and leaders of the 12th century.

The translation comes from Boaz Cohen's one. I've cut out the bits not dealing with the Messiah as such, hence ellipses. I'll also post over a number of times, as the extracts are lengthy. The whole thing can be found on wiki.

Here comes the first part, about Jesus the Christ. Note the absence of Elijah.

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Ever since the time of Revelation, every despot or slave that has attained to power, be he violent or ignoble, has made it his first aim and his final purpose to destroy our law, and to vitiate our religion, by means of the sword, by violence, or by brute force, such as Amalek, Sisera, Sennacherib, Nebuchadnezzar, Titus, Hadrian, may their bones be ground to dust, and others like them. This is one of the two classes which attempt to foil the Divine will.

The second class consists of the most intelligent and educated among the nations, such as the Syrians, Persians, and Greeks. These also endeavor to demolish our law and to vitiate it by means of arguments which they invent, and by means of controversies which they institute....

After that there arose a new sect which combined the two methods, namely, conquest and controversy, into one, because it believed that this procedure would be more effective in wiping out every trace of the Jewish nation and religion. It, therefore, resolved to lay claim to prophecy and to found a new faith, contrary to our Divine religion, and to contend that it was equally God-given. Thereby it hoped to raise doubts and to create confusion, since one is opposed to the other and both supposedly emanate from a Divine source, which would lead to the destruction of both religions. For such is the remarkable plan contrived by a man who is envious and querulous. He will strive to kill his enemy and to save his own life, but when he finds it impossible to attain his objective, he will devise a scheme whereby they both will be slain.

The first one to have adopted this plan was Jesus the Nazarene, may his bones be ground to dust. He was a Jew because his mother was a Jewess although his father was a Gentile. For in accordance with the principles of our law, a child born of a Jewess and a Gentile, or of a Jewess and a slave, is legitimate. (Yebamot 45a). Jesus is only figuratively termed an illegitimate child. He impelled people to believe that he was a prophet sent by God to clarify perplexities in the Torah, and that he was the Messiah that was predicted by each and every seer. He interpreted the Torah and its precepts in such a fashion as to lead to their total annulment, to the abolition of all its commandments and to the violation of its prohibitions. The sages, of blessed memory, having become aware of his plans before his reputation spread among our people, meted out fitting punishment to him.

Daniel had already alluded to him when he presaged the downfall of a wicked one and a heretic among the Jews who would endeavor to destroy the Law, claim prophecy for himself, make pretenses to miracles, and allege that he is the Messiah, as it is written, "Also the children of the impudent among thy people shall make bold to claim prophecy, but they shall fall." (Daniel 11:14)

Quite some time after, a religion appeared the origin of which is traced to him by the descendants of Esau, albeit it was not the intention of this person to establish a new faith. For he was innocuous to Israel as neither individual nor groups were unsettled in their beliefs because of him, since his inconsistencies were so transparent to every one. Finally he was overpowered and put a stop to by us when he fell into our hands, and his fate is well known....

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Jesus is only figuratively termed an illegitimate child. He impelled people to believe that he was a prophet sent by God to clarify perplexities in the Torah, and that he was the Messiah that was predicted by each and every seer. He interpreted the Torah and its precepts in such a fashion as to lead to their total annulment, to the abolition of all its commandments and to the violation of its prohibitions. The sages, of blessed memory, having become aware of his plans before his reputation spread among our people, meted out fitting punishment to him.

Sorry to threadjack, if it is indeed a threadjack, volga, but that underlined sentence is striking. I've never heard of a Jew who took the position that Jewish "sages," presumably what is understood in the NT as Scribes and Pharisees, were the ones who "meted out fitting punishment." Indeed, all I've ever heard is Jews generally distancing themselves from the Roman Assassination of the Master.

Maybe it was wishful thinking . . . as though the conquered and humiliated Jews, scant generations from The Hammer, had the ability to mete out much by way of "fitting punishment"s.

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It is, my co-religionists, one of the fundamental articles of the faith of Israel, that the future redeemer of our people will spring only from the stock of Solomon son of David.14 He will gather our nation, assemble our exiles, redeem us from our degradation, propagate the true religion, and exterminate his opponents as is clearly stated in Scripture "I see him but not now, I behold him but not nigh, there shall step forth a star out of Jacob, and a sceptre shall arise out of Israel. And shall smite through the corners of Moab, and break down all the sons of Seth. And Edom shall be a possession, Seir also, even his enemies, shall be a possession, while Israel doeth valiantly." (Numbers 24:17-18). He will be sent by God at a time of great catastrophe and dire misfortune for Israel as was predicted in the verse "There will be none remaining, shut up or left at large" (Deuteronomy 32:36). And when he appears, he will fulfill the promises made in his behalf. A later prophet too was alluding to the Messianic tribulations when he declared "But who can endure the day of his coming" (Malachi 3:2). This is the proper understanding of this article of faith.

From the prophecies of Daniel and Isaiah and the statement of our sages it is clear that the advent of the Messiah will take place some time subsequent to the universal expansion of the Roman empire and Arabic rule, which is an actuality today. This fact is true beyond question or doubt. Daniel in the latter part of his vision alludes to the Kingdom of the Arabs, to the rise of Mohammed and then to the arrival of the Messiah. Similarly Isaiah intimated that the coming of the Messiah will occur after the rise of the Madman, in the verse "A man riding on an ***, a man riding on a camel, and two men riding on horses." (21:7). Now "the man riding on an ***" is a symbolical reference to the Messiah as is evident from another verse which describes him as "lowly and riding on an ***" (Zechariah 9:9). He will follow the "man riding on the camel" that is, the Arabic kingdom. The statement "two men riding on horses" refers to both empires, the Roman and the Arabian. A similar interpretation of Daniel's vision concerning the image and the beasts is correct beyond doubt. They are conclusions derived from the plain meaning of the text.

The precise date of the messianic advent cannot be known. But I am in possession of an extraordinary tradition which I received from my father, who in turn received it from his father, going back to our early ancestors who were exiled from Jerusalem, and who were mentioned by the prophet in the verse, "And the exiles of Jerusalem that are in Spain" (Obadiah 20). According to this tradition there is a covert indication in the prediction of Balaam to the future restoration of prophecy in Israel. Incidentally it may be stated that there are other verses in the Torah which contain cryptic allusions in addition to their simple meaning. For example, the word "r'du" in the remark of Jacob to his sons, "r'du Shamah," "Get you down thither" (Genesis 42:2), has the numerical value of 210, and contains a hint to the length of Israel's stay in Egypt. Likewise, the statement of Moses our Teacher, "When thou shalt beget children, and children's children and ye shall have been long in the land," (Deuteronomy 4:25), embodies a reference to the duration of Israel's stay in Palestine, from the date of their arrival to the exile in the time of Jehoiakim, which was eight hundred and forty years, corresponding to the numerical value of the word WeNoSHaNTeM. Similarly, many other verses could be cited.

To come back to Balaam's prophecy, the verse "After the lapse of time, one will tell Jacob and Israel what God hath wrought," (Numbers 23:23), contains a veiled allusion to the date of the restoration of prophecy to Israel. The statement means that after the lapse of an interval equal to the time that passed from the Six Days of Creation to Balaam's day, seers will again tell Israel what God hath wrought. Now Balaam uttered his prediction in the thirty-eighth year after the Exodus which corresponds to the year 2485 after the Creation of the World, for the Exodus took place in the beginning of the year 2448. According to the interpretation of this chronology, prophecy would be restored to Israel in the year 497015 after the creation of the world. It is doubtless true that the reappearance of prophecy in Israel is one of the signs betokening the approach of the Messianic era as is intimated in Scripture "And your sons and your daughters shall prophecy ... And I will show wonders in the heavens and in the earth ... Before the great and terrible day of the Lord come" (Joel 3:1, 3, 4). This is the most genuine tradition concerning the Messianic advent. We were admonished against, and strictly prohibited form blazening it abroad, lest some folk deem it unduly postponed. We have already apprised you concerning it, but God knows best what is true.

Your statement that Jeremiah alludes to the advent of the Messiah in the verse "It is a time of trouble unto Jacob" (30:7) is incorrect, for it needs must refer to the war of Gog and Magog which will take place some time after the arrival of the Messiah. Neither the fall of Giron Gate16 nor similar omens portent the oncoming of the Messiah. Some of the supposed prophetic signs are mistakenly ascribed to the sages, while others owe their origin to figures of speech and enigmatic sayings of the rabbis, which should not be taken literally.

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You mention that a certain man in one of the cities of Yemen pretends that he is the Messiah. As I live, I am not surprised at him or at his followers, for I have no doubt that he is mad and a sick person should not be rebuked or reproved for an illness brought on by no fault of his own. Neither am I surprised at his votaries, for they were persuaded by him because of their sorry plight, their ignorance of the importance and high rank of the Messiah, and their mistaken comparison of the Messiah with the son of the Mahdi [the belief in] whose rise they are witnessing. But I am astonished that you, a scholar who has studied carefully the doctrines of the rabbis, are inclined to repose faith in him. Do you not know, my brother, that the Messiah is a very eminent prophet, more illustrious than all the prophets after Moses? Do you not know that a false pretender to prophecy is liable to capital punishment, for having arrogated to himself unwarranted distinction, just as the person who prophesies in the name of idols is put to death, as we read in Scripture "But the prophet that shall speak a word presumptuously in My name, which I have not commanded him to speak, or that shall speak in the name of other gods, that same prophet shall die." (Deuteronomy 18:20). What better evidence is there of his mendacity, than his very pretensions to be the Messiah.

How odd is your remark about this man, that he is renowned for his meekness and a little wisdom, as if these were indeed the attributes of the Messiah. Do these characteristics make him a Messiah? You were beguiled by him because you have not considered the pre-eminence of the Messiah, the manner and place of his appearance, and the marks whereby he is to be identified. The Messiah, indeed, ranks after Moses in eminence and distinction, and God has bestowed some gifts upon him which he did not bestow upon Moses, as may be gathered from the following verses: "His delight shall be in the fear of the Lord." (Isaiah 11:3). "The Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him." (11:2). "And Righteousness shall be the girdle of his loins." (11:5). Six appellations were divinely conferred upon him as the following passage indicates: "For a child is born unto us, and a son is given unto us, and the government is upon his shoulder, and he is called Pele, Yoetz, El, Gibbor, Abiad, Sar-Shalom." (Isaiah 9:5). And another verse alluding to the Messiah culminates in the following manner "Thou art my son, this day have I begotten thee." (Psalms 2:7). All these statements demonstrate the pre-eminence of the Messiah.

Transcendent wisdom is a sine qua non for inspiration. It is an article of our faith that the gift of prophecy is vouchsafed only to the wise, the strong, and the rich. Strong is defined as the ability to control one's passions. Rich signifies wealthy in knowledge. Now if we dare not put trust in a man's pretensions to prophecy, if he does not excel in wisdom, how much less must we take seriously the claims of an ignoramus to be the Messiah. That the man in question is a sciolist is evident from the order he issued, as you state, to the people to give away all their possessions for eleemosynary purposes. They did right in disobeying him, and he was wrong inasmuch as he disregarded the Jewish law concerning alms-giving. For Scripture says, "If a man will devote anything of all that he has" and the rabbis explain in their comment on this verse, "part of all that he has, but not all that he has," (Sifra ad locum). The sages accordingly set bounds to the bounty of the beneficent in an explicit statement which reads "He who is inclined to be liberal with the poor, may not part with more than a fifth of his possessions. (Ketubot 50a). There is no doubt that the process of reasoning which led him to claim that he is the Messiah, induced him to issue a command to his fellow-men to give away their property and distribute it to the poor. But then the affluent would become destitute and vice-versa. According to this ordinance, it would be necessary for the nouveaux riches to return their recently-acquired property to the newly impoverished. Such a regulation, which would keep property moving in a circle, is the acme of folly.

As to the place where the Messiah will make his first appearance, Scripture intimates that he will first present himself only in the Land of Israel, as we read, "He will suddenly appear in His Temple" (Malachi 3:1). As for the advent of the Messiah, nothing at all will be known about it before it occurs. The Messiah is not a person concerning whom it may be predicted that he will be the son of so and so, or of the family of so and so. On the contrary he will be unknown before his coming, but he will prove by means of miracles and wonders that he is the true Messiah. Scripture in allusion to his mysterious lineage says, "His name is the Shoot, and he will shoot up out of his place" (Zechariah 6:12). Similarly, Isaiah referring to the arrival of the Messiah implies that neither his father nor mother, nor his kith nor kin will be known, "For he will shoot up right forth as a sapling, and as a root out of the dry ground." (53:2). After his manifestation in Palestine, Israel will be gathered in Jerusalem and the other cities of Palestine. Then will the tidings spread to the East and the West until it will reach you in Yemen and those beyond you in India as we learn from Isaiah. "That sendeth ambassadors by the sea, even in vessels of papyrus upon the waters, go, ye swift mesengers [sic], to a nation that has been pulled and plucked to a people that suffered terribly from their beginning onward." (18:2). The process of the final redemption will not be reversed so that it will first appear in distand lands, and ultimately reach Palestine.

What the great powers are, which all the prophets from Moses to Malachi ascribe to the Messiah, may be inferred from various statements in the twenty-four books of Scripture. The most significant of them all is the fact that the mere report of his advent will strike terror into the hearts of all the kings of the earth, and their kingdoms will fall, neither will they be able to war or revolt against him. They will neither defame nor calumniate him, for the miracles he will perform will frighten them into complete silence. Isaiah refers to the submission of the kings to the Messiah in the verse, "Kings shall shut their mouth because of him." (52:15). He will slay whom he will, none will escape or be saved, as it is written, "And he shall smite the land with the rod of his mouth." (Isaiah 11:4). Revolution and war in the entire world, from East to West, will not cease at the beginning of the Messianic era, but only after the wars of Gog and Magog, as was indicated by Ezekiel. I do not believe that this man who has appeared among you posesses these powers.

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Sorry to threadjack, if it is indeed a threadjack, volga, but that underlined sentence is striking. I've never heard of a Jew who took the position that Jewish "sages," presumably what is understood in the NT as Scribes and Pharisees, were the ones who "meted out fitting punishment." Indeed, all I've ever heard is Jews generally distancing themselves from the Roman Assassination of the Master.

Maybe it was wishful thinking . . . as though the conquered and humiliated Jews, scant generations from The Hammer, had the ability to mete out much by way of "fitting punishment"s.

Well, among the various Jewish traditions on Jesus, there is a talmudic one stating that the sages judged him and sentenced him to death by stoning. In fact, about 6 years ago (perhaps more, it might have been related to Gibson's The Passion) the Israeli minister of health made a statement to the press that yes, Jesus was a yeshiva boy gone bad, so we had to stone him. I suspect that this tradition might actually be a dim memory of Stephen's martyrdom.

It does strike me as wishful thinking, like the death penalty they supposedly passed on Simeon bar Kosiva.

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You know that the Christians falsely ascribe marvelous powers to Jesus the Nazarene,18 may his bones be ground to dust, such as the resurrection of the dead and other miracles. Even if we would grant them for the sake of argument, we should not be convinced by their reasoning that Jesus is the Messiah. For we can bring a thousand proofs or so from the Scripture that it is not so even from their point of view. Indeed, will anyone arrogate this rank to himself unless he wishes to make himself a laughing stock?

In sum, had this man acted presumptuously or disdainfully, I would deem him worthy of death. The truth seems to be that he became melancholy and lost his mind. In my opinion, it si most advisable, both for your good and for his that you put him in iron chains for a while, until Gentiles learn that he is demented. After you have blazoned and bruited abroad the intelligence concerning this man among them, you may release him without endangering his safety. If the Gentiles gain knowledge about him after he has been locked up by you, they will taunt him, and pronounce him irrational and you will remain unmolested by them. If you procrastinate until they learn of this affair of their own accord, then you will most likely incur their wrath...

I shall now narrate to you succinctly several episodes subsequent to the rise of the Arabic kingdom from which you will derive some benefit.19 One of these refers to the Exodus of a multitude of Jews, numbering hundred of thousands, from the East beyond Ispahan, led by an individual who pretended to be the Messiah. They were accoutered with military equipment, and drawn swords, and slew all those that encountered them. They reached, according to the information I received, the vicinity of Baghdad. This happened in the beginning of the reign of the Umayyads.

The king then said to all the Jews of his kingdom: "Let your scholars go out to meet this multitude and ascertain whether their pretension is true and he is unmistakably your Expected One. If so, we shall conclude peace with you under any conditions you may prefer. But if it is dissimulation, then I shall wage war against them." When the sages met these Jews, the latter declared: "We belong to the children of the district beyond the River." Then they asked them: "Who instigated you to make this uprising?" Whereupon they replied: "This man here, one of the descendants of David, whom we know to be pious and virtuous. This man, whom we knew to be a leper at night, arose the following morning healthy and sound." They believed that leprosy was one of the characteristics of the Messiah, for which they found an allusion to the verse: "stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted," (Isaiah 53:4), that is by leprosy. Whereupon the sages explained to them that this interpretation was incorrect, and that he lacked even one of the characteristics of the Messiah, let alone all of them. Furthermore they advised them as follows: "O, brethren, you are still near your native country and have the possibility of returning thither. If you remain in this land you will not only perish, but also undermine the teachings of Moses, by misleading people to believe that the Messiah has appeared and has been vanquished, whereas you have neither a prophet in your midst, nor an omen betokening his oncoming." Thereupon they were persuaded by these arguments. The Sultan turned over to them so and so many thousand of dinars by way of hospitality in order that they should leave his country. But after they had returned home, he had a change of heart with respect to the Jews upon whom he imposed a fine for his expenditures. He ordered them to make a special mark on their garments, the writing of the word "cursed," and to attach one iron bar in the back and one in the front. Ever since then the communities of Khorasan and Ispahan experienced the tribulations of the Diaspora. This episode we have learned from oral reports.

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The following incident we have verified and know to be true because it occurred in recent times. About fifty years ago or less, a pious and virtuous man and scholar by the name of Moses Al-Dar'i came from Dar'a to the province of Andalusia to study under Rabbi Joseph ha-Levi, of blessed memory, ibn Migash, of whom you very likely have heard. Later he left for Fez, the center of Maghreb. People flocked to him because of his piety, virtue and learning. He informed them that the Messiah had come, as was divinely revealed to him in a dream. Yet he did not pretend on the basis of a divine communication, as did the former lunatic, that he was the Messiah. He merely affirmed that the Messiah had appeared. Many people became his adherents and reposed faith in him. My father and master, of blessed memory, endeavored to dissuade and discourage people from following him. However only a few were influenced by my father, while most, nay nearly all clung to R. Moses, of blessed memory. Finally he predicted events which came true no matter what was going to occur. He would say: "I was informed yesterday--this and this would happen," and it did happen exactly as he foretold. Once he forecast a vehement rain for the coming Friday and that the falling drops will be blood. This was considered a sign of the approaching advent of the Messiah, as was inferred from the verse, "And I will show wonders in the heavens and in the earth, blood and fire, and pillars of smoke." (Joel 3:3). This episode took place in the month of Marheshvan. A very heavy rain fell that Friday and the fluid that descended was red and viscous as if it were mixed with clay. This miracle convinced all the people that he was undoubtedly a prophet. In itself this occurence is not inconsistent with the tenets of the Torah, for prophecy will return to Israel before the messianic advent, as I have previously explained. When the majority of the people put their trust in him, he predicted that the Messiah would come that very year on Passover eve. He advised the people to sell their property and contract debts to the Muslims with the promise to pay back ten dinars for one, in order to observe the precepts of the Torah in conection with the Passover festival, for they will never see them again, and so they did. When Passover came and nothing transpired, the people were ruined as most of them had disposed of their property for a trifling sum, and were overwhelmed with debt. When the Gentiles in the vicinity and their serfs learned of this hoax they were minded to do away with him, had they located him. As this Muslim country no longer offered him protection he left for Palestine where he died, may his memory be blessed. When he left he made predictions, as I was informed by those who saw him, concerning events both great and little in Maghreb which were later fulfilled.

My father of blessed memory, told me that about fifteen or twenty years before that episode, there lived respectable folks in Cordova, the center of Andalusia, some of whom were given to the cult of astrology. They were all of one mind that the Messiah would appear that year. They sought a revelation in a dream night after night, and ascertained that the Messiah was a man of that city. They picked a pious and virtuous person by the name of Ibn Aryeh who had been instructing the people. They wrought miracles and made predictions just as Al-Dar'i did until they won over the hearts of all the people. When the influential and learned men of our community heard of this, they assembled in the synagogue and had Ibn Aryeh brought there and had him flogged in public. Furthermore they imposed a fine upon him, and put him into the ban, because he gave assent by his silence to the professions of his adherents, instead of restraining them and pointing out to them that they contradict our religion. They did the same thing to the persons who assembled about him. The Jews escaped the wrath of the Gentiles only with the greatest difficulty.

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About forty years preceding the affair of Ibn Aryeh in Andalusia, there appeared a man in Linon, a large center in the heart of France, which numbered more than ten thousand Jewish families. He pretended that he was the Messiah. He was supposed to have performed the following miracles: On moonlit nights he would go out and climb to the top of high trees in the field and glide from tree to tree like a bird. He cited a verse from Daniel to prove that such a miracle was within the power of the Messiah: "And behold, there came with the clouds of heaven One like unto a son of man ... And there was given him dominion." (7:13-14). Many who witnessed the miracle became his votaries. The French discovered this, pillaged and put many of his followers to death, together with the pretender. Some of them maintain however, that he is still hiding until this very day.

The prophets have predicted and instructed us, as I have told you, that pretenders and simulators will appear in great numbers at the time when the advent of the true Messiah will draw nigh, but they will not be able to make good their claim. They will perish with many of their partisans...

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In case one missed it, here is the most striking passage from the epistle regarding Elijah.

As to the place where the Messiah will make his first appearance, Scripture intimates that he will first present himself only in the Land of Israel, as we read, "He will suddenly appear in His Temple" (Malachi 3:1). As for the advent of the Messiah, nothing at all will be known about it before it occurs. The Messiah is not a person concerning whom it may be predicted that he will be the son of so and so, or of the family of so and so. On the contrary he will be unknown before his coming, but he will prove by means of miracles and wonders that he is the true Messiah. Scripture in allusion to his mysterious lineage says, "His name is the Shoot, and he will shoot up out of his place" (Zechariah 6:12). Similarly, Isaiah referring to the arrival of the Messiah implies that neither his father nor mother, nor his kith nor kin will be known, "For he will shoot up right forth as a sapling, and as a root out of the dry ground." (53:2). After his manifestation in Palestine, Israel will be gathered in Jerusalem and the other cities of Palestine. Then will the tidings spread to the East and the West until it will reach you in Yemen and those beyond you in India as we learn from Isaiah. "That sendeth ambassadors by the sea, even in vessels of papyrus upon the waters, go, ye swift mesengers [sic], to a nation that has been pulled and plucked to a people that suffered terribly from their beginning onward." (18:2). The process of the final redemption will not be reversed so that it will first appear in distand lands, and ultimately reach Palestine.

What the great powers are, which all the prophets from Moses to Malachi ascribe to the Messiah, may be inferred from various statements in the twenty-four books of Scripture

What is striking is that Elijah is not mentioned. Not once. This despite Malachi 3:1 being quoted!

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Whose? Edgar's or Maimonides's?

The Rambam's. I don't claim expert status, as most of what I've read of him are quotations less lengthy than you provide from a few of his works. His arguments are generally pretty compelling . . . and, I don't know . . . maybe if I wasn't prepared to reject his arguments I'd be more impressed with this letter.

It's fascinating, though, to see him at work here. Gives me an insight into the the mind of the Jew in dhimmitude, I feel some rage in him that I didn't perceive in other things of his I've read.

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The Rambam's. I don't claim expert status, as most of what I've read of him are quotations less lengthy than you provide from a few of his works. His arguments are generally pretty compelling . . . and, I don't know . . . maybe if I wasn't prepared to reject his arguments I'd be more impressed with this letter.

It's fascinating, though, to see him at work here. Gives me an insight into the the mind of the Jew in dhimmitude, I feel some rage in him that I didn't perceive in other things of his I've read.

The whole thing is worth reading. This is not the detached Rambam cooly developing a philosophical argument, it is Moshe ben Maimon speaking up for what he believes in. He risked his life by going to the aide of a distressed and imperiled community, as some of the things in the epistle are quite explosive. he insisted on the letter being read in public, and if the contents had gotten back to the rulers in Egypt, he could have lost all he had and quite possibly his life, not to mention the after-effects on the Cairene Jewish community. He realised that during a time of great misery and trepidation philosophical arguments won't help. He didn't explain or rationalise the halakhah, he defended and upheld it. He was speaking from the heart. he knew very well what the repurcussions of a false and failed messiah would be on the Jewish community- ruin, bloodshed and misery.

This may not be his finest theoretical work, but it shows the man and the leader at his finest.

You are right about the rage, just wait until you read the bits on Muhamad, AKA the madman. There are actually some very compelling arguments against some scriptural interpretations used by Muslims in proselyting to the Jews.

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This may not be his finest theoretical work, but it shows the man and the leader at his finest.

Thanks for that background. The Muslim apologists of today talk about how wonderful things were for Jews under dhimmitude, but I don't buy it. At the Court of Saladin in Cairo, it is remarkable that he would dare such things, what with the 3rd Crusade going on while he was at the heart of Muslim Central.

You are right about the rage, just wait until you read the bits on Muhamad, AKA the madman. There are actually some very compelling arguments against some scriptural interpretations used by Muslims in proselyting to the Jews.

Can't wait. What a tough time . . . predations against the Rheinland Jews, Crusader indisriminance, the courtly madman bouncing back and forth between Cairo and the Levant, and dhimmitude waiting to gobble up the exhausted Jews of the XIIth Century. The fires that kept those folks alive must necessarily boil over from time to time . . . if only in print.

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Thanks for that background. The Muslim apologists of today talk about how wonderful things were for Jews under dhimmitude, but I don't buy it. At the Court of Saladin in Cairo, it is remarkable that he would dare such things, what with the 3rd Crusade going on while he was at the heart of Muslim Central.

Which is what makes said epistle remarkable.

Muslim apologists overstate the nature of Judeo-Muslim relations. It really was more of a grin-and-bear-it situation for Jews.

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Can't wait. What a tough time . . . predations against the Rheinland Jews, Crusader indisriminance, the courtly madman bouncing back and forth between Cairo and the Levant, and dhimmitude waiting to gobble up the exhausted Jews of the XIXth Century. The fires that kept those folks alive must necessarily boil over from time to time . . . if only in print.

I like this point from Halkin and Hartman's Epistles of Maimonides: crisis and leadership.

When reading the Epistle to Yemen it is important to keep in mind its intended audience, just described. Both the style and the content of the work reveal Maimonides' concern to establish rapport with that audience and to help them make sense of their suffering...

In order to communicate effectively with a suffering person, we must convince him that we understand his pain and agony. Words of consolation seem empty if they fail to convince the hearer that the speaker shares some of the bitterness andguish that he experiences...

Maimonides thus informs his audience that they are not alone; the great biblical prophets were aware of and disturbed by what this community would suffer at the hands oof its Islamic rulers. By marshalling a wide array of sources from biblical literature, Maimonides made the plight of the community in Yemen into a focal point of all of Jewish history. His readers could feel that not only he but also many other great leaders in Jewish history understood their pain and anguish.

This epistle is one of the proudest communal heritages of the Yemenite Jews. It established a centuries-long devotion to Rambam and to the principles he espoused. The Yemen community became celebrated for its learning and piety.

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