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How should one respond to someone who says that Maimonides worked for his living?

18.03.15

Question

Hello, I wanted to know how to respond to someone who denigrates Torah scholars who are devoting themselves to their studies and says instead that they should be like Maimonides who studied Torah but also worked. This is a claim that I hear a lot from the public who does not appreciate Torah scholars. When they bring up the fact that Maimonides was a doctor, I don’t know what to say. I personally appreciate Torah scholars and know that the world exists in their merit, and if I could support even one yeshiva scholar, I would be thrilled that I had a part in his Torah (I know that a non-religious Jew wouldn’t understand this). But I would like to be able to at least give an answer on the subject of Maimonides. Thank you.

Answer

First of all, congratulations on your strong belief in the importance of Torah study. Good for you!

Maimonides at first learned Torah and was supported by his brother. Only after his brother sailed and drowned in the sea, was Maimonides forced to work to support his family (and his brother's family).

All the greatest Jewish leaders learned Torah all day, and they only worked when they had no choice.

Maimonides was a doctor, but he did not study in a university. He learned the Creator’s wisdom from nature and the human body. There is no conflict between science and Torah for a righteous person who utilizes the natural sciences to attain the Torah.

The universe exists in the merit of the Torah, as the verse says (Jeremiah 33:24): "If not for My covenant day and night, I would not have set in place the laws of heaven and earth." Rabbi Chaim Volozhin (the student of the Vilna Gaon) wrote in his book "Nefesh ha-Chaim" that were it not for Torah scholars, the world would not exist.

Serving G-d is the essence of human life: "You shall love the L-rd your G-d with all your heart, and with all your soul and with all your might ..." (Deut. 6:5)

A person has to study Torah every moment of his life: "and speak of it when you sit in your house, and when you walk on the way, and when you lie down and when you arise." (Ibid. 6:7)

Torah study is above any material matter. Maimonides wrote (Talmud Torah 3:5): "One who is motivated to fulfill this mitzvah properly, and wants to be crowned with the crown of Torah — should not let his mind be distracted by other things, and should not let his heart desire to acquire Torah together with wealth and honor. For this is the way of Torah: Eat bread with salt, sleep on the ground, and live a minimal subsistence while toiling in Torah. You do not have to complete all the work, but you are not a free man to evade it; for if you study much Torah, you will get much reward, and the reward is according to the difficulty."

Here's an article that you can offer people to read in Hebrew:

www.hidabroot.org/he/article/3692

 

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