Rabbi Avi Weinstein

Archive for the ‘Rambam’ Category

What would the Rambam say of Collatoral Damage?

In civilians, collateral damage, Maimonides, Rambam, war on April 1, 2009 at 4:37 pm

There has been a small buzz on the internet regarding the conduct of Israeli combatants during the Gaza incursion. It is undisputed that it has been a longstanding practice for Palestinian combatants to elect to fight in heavily populated civilian areas in order to not only deter the Israeli forces, but to use civilian casualties to their political advantage.

This type of war was not considered in our sources, but the Rambam does speak eloquently about the mission of the soldier:

…he should put his life in his hands, and not be afraid. He should not think of his wife and family, but he should wipe out the memory of them from his heart, and focus everything on the battle before him. For anyone, who has second thoughts during battle and feels fear, transgresses a negative commandment, as it is written: Do not soften your hearts and do not be afraid… Not only this, but all of Israel is weighing on his neck. And if they do not win, and he has not fought with all his heart, it is as if he has spilled the blood of everyone… (Rambam Hilchot Melachim 7:15)

For a more complete rendering and a scorchin commentary, click here.

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Obama takes an unwitting cue from the Rambam on Education

In Education, Maimonides, Obama, Rambam, Synagogues, Tzedaka on March 13, 2009 at 3:26 pm

My understanding is that even though No Child Left Behind had some positive impact, the implementation of standards was never followed up with the funding that was promised. It is clear, however, that Obama is going to put serious money where his mouth went this past week.

Years ago, I collected several sources from the Rambam’s Mishnah Torah regarding his priorities for what were considered essential communal services.

In Hilchot Matanot Aniyyim Laws of Tzedaka, He states that every Jewish community has to have a community fund to take care of the poor, and acknowledges that he never heard of a community that didn’t have one.

In Hilchot Shekhaynim, Laws regarding good citizenship, he states that citizens can force each other to contribute to the building of a synagogue and the purchase of a community Torah scroll.
Note the injection of coercive language that was absent from the community fund.

In Hilchot Talmud Torah, Laws of Torah Study, he commands that every town must hire a teacher for their children, and if they don’t we put a ban on the town, and if they still don’t, we destroy it.

Why is the most coercive language saved for educating children? The Rambam knew that if one didn’t have an educated population, soon enough one would not have synagogues or community funds. Education is the foundation of civility, success, and communal memory. It is where we are reminded of our connections to each other and the value of a collective enterprise. A school is where these messages are reinforced. Obama’s right! Education reform, in the long run, is the most critical of all his goals and it can’t wait.

Just look at the most dispossessed of peoples and their profound adaptability when only a text kept us together for nearly two thousand years, then one may understand, “Why are you Jews So Smart?” Click on the link for the Rambams in question.