The Rambam and his therapies-Dr Rambam : the secret of Health and Longevity.
Healing Wisdom that last through centuries By David Orbach (RN, BA) Israeli Ministry of Health.
On Motsaei Shabbat Shemot, 20 Tevet, we celebrate the Hilula of Rabbi Moshe Ben Maimon, the Rambam (1135-1204). He is best known for his famous Halachic decisions that appear in the Mishne Torah, and for his philosophical work, the More Nevuchim (Guide of the Perplexed). In honor of his Hilula, we will discuss the Rambam’s knowledge of Medicine and career as a Jewish doctor.
The Rambam was born in Cordoba, Spain, but all his family had to leave Spain because of the Reconquista. The Reconquista was the period when the Christians conquered Spain from the Muslims. At that time, the Muslims treated the Jews much more favorably than the Catholics. After the Reconquista, the Catholics expulsed all the Jews from Spain and started the Inquisition !
The Rambam and his family went to Fez in Morocco, but the sect of Muslims who lived there began to execute all the Jews who refused to convert to Islam, so they had to escape quickly. The family voyaged to Eretz Israel, where the Rambam wrote about the Jewish Communities in Acre, Jerusalem and Hebron.
After bloody wars with the Crusaders, the Kurdish leader Saladin took power in Egypt, Syria and Baghdad and kicked out all the crusaders from Jerusalem and the Holy Land. Though Saladin was a fierce warrior, he was renowned for his generosity and would always treat his guest with utmost respect. The Rambam decided to live in Cairo, Egypt and became the Sultan Saladin’s primary doctor and advisor. He wrote extensively on medicine in addition to issues on Halacha and Torah.
The Rambam is one of the only authors of the Middle ages who discussed the concept of blood circulation in the body. In chapter 25 of Fusul Musa (or Pirkei Moshe), he criticized the Roman Catholic doctors who did not understand the role of the heart and the lungs in purifying the blood. He also wrote medical books about asthma, hemorrhoids, pharmacology, poisons and antidotes, which are still used today.
All of the Rambam’s medical works were written in Arabic, but some works were translated into Hebrew (like Fusul Musa which was translated into Hebrew by Dr. Muntner and published by Mossad Harav Kook.) His most popular work in Arabic was about marital relationships and aphrodisiac, which was a work ordered by Umar (the sultan who commanded building the mosque on the Temple Mount.) This same sultan suffered from Depression and therefore ordered the writing of another treastise on the cause of his symptoms to cure his depression.
He was the first to introduce the idea of psychosomatic diseases and the importance of living a generally healthy lifestyle. For example, he wrote that a man who suffers from melancholy will have cardiac or digestive problems, but Sultan Umar was still depressed. The Rambam therefore continued to write another book on hygiene, where he stressed the importance of proper nutrition, physical exercise and proper respiration. He also suggested that painting, poetry, and music are important for maintaining health. This last point is confirmed by the first book of the Prophet Samuel , (16,23): “When the evil spirit was upon Shaul, David took a lyre, and played with his hand: so Shaul was refreshed and was well, and the evil spirit departed from him.”
We are honoring the Rambam and the reciprocal relationship that he encouraged between health and music, betweem Islam and Jewish Philosophy. For those of you who enjoy Jewish music and wish to celebrate the Hilula of the Rambam please join us this Saturday Night, 8 pm at the Beit Sefer Noam, 38 Rabbi Chaim Vital , Kyriat Moshe. There will be music by Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach, Aharon Razel, David Orbach, Bruce Brill, Yossef Taieb as well as Divrei Torah by Rabbi David Levanon. Refreshments will be served.
David Orbach (RN,BA) is a head nurse in the Ministry of Health. He is a journalist,a musician, a poet,a composer and a Mohel le shem shamaim (free of charge.) Every month he organizes the Jerusalem Folk Evening. He can be reached for music lessons at [email protected]. You can hear his beautiful music at www.cdbaby.com/davidorbach. Read his articles in French and English at www.david613.wordpress.com
The Rambam and his therapies1 (published in Shiur Times, January 2008).