Présentation de l'éditeur
In desperation, the Yemenite Jewish community 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 Muslim 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.