Our study experience was very much on my mind during my recent family trip to Israel at the end of August. As we drove through the city of Tiberias, on the Sea of Galilee (the Kinneret), we passed an extraordinary structure that looked out of place within the rest of the city's architectural landscape:
I returned to the site a little while later (my family elected to shop instead!).
I found what amounted to a construction site. Although the burial site is of course very very old (he died in the year 1200 after all), it appears that the structure above is new. The construction folks are also renovating other parts of the site (where other Mishnah-era rabbis from 2000 years ago are also buried). The centerpiece of the site is Maimonides' grave itself:
Here's a close up of the inscription on the stone itself:
"From Moses to Moses [Maimonides], there had never arisen one like Moses [Maimonides].
The pole is blocking some of the text but the gist of it is:
Here lies the great rabbi...the giant of Torah and Wisdom - a builder and a healer, one who brought healing to every single human being he encountered by way of his strong hands. [Clearly a play on words: 'Strong hands' is also a subtitle of Mishneh Torah.]
OUR RABBI MOSES BEN MAIMON
birth date and burial date
On the men's side, Maimonides' famous 13 articles of faith are posted for study and reflection:
Some final thoughts:
1) The condition of the site currently is an embarrassment to the Jewish People. One can only hope that the current construction and renovation is meant to address that.
2) Although not surprised that the site was essentially a Sephardic and Orthodox shrine, I was upset by it. Our more progressive reading of the Rambam's work suggests that his philosophical creativity might, over time, make him a role model and symbol of those on the Jewish left who cannot (in an intellectually honest way) embrace a more fundamentalist reading either of Jewish scripture or philosophy.