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Epistle to Yemen: and Introduction to Chelek (English Edition) [Format Kindle]

Moses Maimonides

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In 1165 C.E., the Jewish community of Yemen was in grave crisis. The fanatical Muslim ruler of Yemen presented the Jews with a choice: conversion to Islam, or martyrdom. Additionally, a zealous Jewish apostate began a campaign to convince his former co-coreligionists to convert to Islam, preaching that Mohammed was a divinely-sent prophet alluded to in the Bible. And if that was not enough, an impoverished Yemenite Jew began proclaiming that he was the long-awaited Messiah.

In desperation, the leader of the Yemenite Jewish community, Rabbi Jacob ben Netanel al-Fayyūmi, turned to the greatest scholar of the generation: Rabbi Moses ben Maimon, also known as Maimonides, and in Hebrew, Rambam.

Maimonides, not yet 40 years old, had recently been appointed Nagid (leader) of the Egyptian Jewish community. Maimonides had experienced first-hand the persecution of Moslem extremists in his homeland of Spain, where his family had chosen exile rather than forced conversion at the hands of the Almohad Muslims. It is not surprising that Maimonides was acutely sensitive to the plight of the Jews of Yemen.

Maimonides responded to Rabbi Jacob’s inquiry with his "Epistle to Yemen" (Iggeret Teiman). Despite the obvious dangers involved, Maimonides wrote his bold response in Arabic so that his response would be understood by all members of the threatened Yemenite community.

The epistle was successful. The Yemenite Jews remained faithful to their religion despite the grave dangers facing them. Maimonides also used his influence at the court of Saladin in Egypt to intervene in their behalf, and the persecution ceased.


Several years prior to writing his "Epistle to Yemen," Maimonides published his monumental "Commentary to the Mishnah." Perhaps the most famous section of this major work is his Introduction to Mishnah Tractate Sanhedrin, “Perek Chelek”. This article deals with eschatological themes in Judaism, and concludes with Maimonides’ famous creed, "The Thirteen Principles of the Torah." Since the essay discusses the Messianic Era and the final redemption of Israel, it is a natural companion to the Epistle to Yemen.

In his Introduction to Chelek, Maimonides discusses the various rewards promised to those who faithfully observe the Torah and its precepts: material benefits in this world, the Messianic Era, the Revival of the Dead, and the Garden of Eden. All of these rewards, Maimonides explains, are not goals but merely means so that we will be free to attain greater wisdom and perfection. Rather, the ultimate recompense is the World to Come.

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  • Format : Format Kindle
  • Taille du fichier : 731 KB
  • Nombre de pages de l'édition imprimée : 118 pages
  • Vendu par : Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Langue : Anglais
  • ASIN: B00J350Y3Q
  • Synthèse vocale : Activée
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5.0 étoiles sur 5 Two books in which Maimonides told "essential truths" 6 janvier 2016
Par Israel Drazin - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Format Kindle
The two essays in this book are important, although they intentionally do not tell the truth. In his letter to the persecuted Jews in Yemen, he told the suffering people, among other things, that the messiah will arrive soon, even though he did not believe it, but he did so in a humanitarian effort to give the people in Yemen hope. Although they later realized what he had done, they were forever grateful.

In his essay Chelek, he did the same. Jewish people were looking for a list of basic Jewish principles, so Maimonides wrote thirteen for them. Many Jews are convinced that Maimonides lited ideas that he was convinced were true, but many scholars and rabbis recognized that these were what Maimonides called "essential truths," non-truths that need to be taught to the general public.

Menachem Kellner in his The Limits of Orthodox Theology writes that Don Isaac Abravanel (in his Rosh Amanah) and many others recognize that Maimonides composed his principles for the less educated public to give them information and to strengthen their belief in Judaism. Abravanel faults those who take “Maimonides’ words at face value.”

Leo Strauss and Shlomo Pines in The Introduction to the Guide of the Perplexed, Yeshayahu Leibovits in Conversations with Yeshayahu Leibovits and other scholars posit that there is an “exoteric and esoteric Maimonides.” Exoteric statements are ideas that Maimonides writes which he does not view as true but rather as necessary to help the less educated masses, the majority of Jews, because he recognizes that they will feel threatened if they are told their long-held ideas are untrue. The esoteric statements are hints that Maimonides does not state explicitly, but which he expects the learned Jew, who knows both Jewish and non-Jewish studies, to mine from his writings and understand.

This exoteric-esoteric approach to understanding Maimonides is supported by Maimonides’ own writings. In his Guide of the Perplexed 3:28, he explains that there are two kinds of truths: true truths and necessary truths. “True truths” are statements that express a truth that can help one understand an idea and grow intellectually. These are what Strauss, Pines, Leibowitz and others called esoteric teachings.

A “necessary truth” is a tradition, a mistaken or wrong notion, rather than a fact. These truths are not taught because they are correct, but to fulfill a social purpose, such as instilling obedience to the Torah, regulating social relations, improving human or social qualities or alleviating fears. These are his exoteric statements.

Maimonides was not the first person to recognize the importance of teaching “necessary [but untrue] truths.” The Greek philosopher Plato writes in his Republic and other works that the masses need to be taught untruthful myths – called “noble lies” - in order to survive.
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