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The Moshe Who Returned to Egypt

Rabbi Eli Stern

The Rambam states that someone who returns to Egypt transgresses no less than three Torah prohibitions. The problem: the Rambam himself lived there. A look at the Rambam’s life and the circumstances that led to him settling in Egypt provide sound basis for the explanations offered by the Rishonim and Acharonim.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The Rambam, Rabbi Moshe ben Maimon, was born in the city of Cordoba, Spain, in 4895 (1135). His father, Rabbi Maimon, who was a talmid muvhak of the Ri Migash, served as a dayan and rav in Cordoba.

Not long after the Rambam’s birth, a terrible decree was enacted against the Jews of Spain. The Almohades, members of an extremist Muslim sect that had come to power in North Africa, stormed into the Iberian Peninsula and conquered vast portions of southern Spain. Wherever the Almohades seized power, they confronted the Jews with a cruel ultimatum: convert to Islam or die. Many cities were destroyed during that period, entire Jewish communities were uprooted, and many Jews fled Spain in every direction.

Among the refugees were Rabbi Maimon and his family. The Rambam was about thirteen years old when Rabbi Maimon took him, along with his brother, Reb Dovid, on a long, difficult journey to escape from the Almohades. They took up residence in the North African city of Fez, where they remained for five years. Then, finding themselves in danger once again, the Rambam’s family boarded a ship bound for Eretz Yisrael.


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