Sher­win B. Nuland
  • Review
By – November 10, 2011

A good friend of mine, a promi­nent local Ortho­dox rab­bi, remarked to me recent­ly that he fre­quent­ly stud­ies Mai­monides’ Mish­nah Torah, along with Mish­nah, Gemara, and Torah. Such is the influ­ence that Mai­monides, or Ram­bam,” holds on the every­day life of 21st cen­tu­ry Jews, 800 years after his death.

The rea­sons for this, as well as a fla­vor of Jew­ish life in the 12th cen­tu­ry, is nice­ly doc­u­ment­ed in Sher­win Nuland’s new, tight­ly writ­ten biog­ra­phy, Mai­monides. Nuland takes the read­er on a jour­ney through the major reli­gious writ­ings of the Ram­bam, while spot­light­ing his career as a physi­cian. The read­er is able to under­stand how Mai­monides was able to rec­on­cile faith with sci­ence, per­haps his great­est philo­soph­ic gift to cen­turies of Jews and non-Jews. Also described are the remark­able per­son­al traits of Mai­monides, includ­ing his wis­dom in inter­pret­ing halakha, his vast intel­li­gence, extra­or­di­nary mem­o­ry, and com­pas­sion for the sick. 

As not­ed above, the vol­ume is con­cise, achiev­ing the desired goal of whet­ting the reader’s appetite for more infor­ma­tion. As a physi­cian, I felt the book was a treat to read; such is the appeal of both Mai­monides and Mai­monides that I think my learned rab­bini­cal friend would enjoy it as well. 

Paul M. Arnold, MD, is pro­fes­sor of neu­ro­surgery and direc­tor of the Spinal Cord Injury Cen­ter at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Kansas.

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