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Moshe to Moshe, there arose no one like Moshe

Translation by Yehoshua Siskin

"From Moshe to Moshe, there arose no one like Moshe" – Thus we are accustomed to say regarding Moshe Rabbeinu, who is mentioned for the first time in this week's Torah portion, and Moshe ben Maimon, the Rambam, who passed away today exactly 816 years ago. It is difficult to exaggerate the importance of the Rambam -- halachic authority and philosopher, astronomer and physician, leader and educator. What can we, dwarfs by comparison, learn from these two giants?

First, both of them were great men who had concern for those much lesser than they. Moshe Rabbeinu worried about everyone, from the lost sheep of his flock to the lowliest slave in Egypt. The commentators explain that he was called Moshe not by chance, but because he was drawn out of the water (in Hebrew, the root meaning of "Moshe" and "drawn out of the water" is the same), just as the people would be drawn out of Egypt by Moshe, out of the depths of slavery and ignorance into a life of freedom and Torah. Rambam used his genius to reach out to the people as well: he educated, sent letters of encouragement to far off Jewish communities, wrote books of philosophy as well as books accessible to the general public, in order that everyone would be able to understand the Torah.

Second, both of them acted on behalf of their faith and their people -- before the entire world -- with dignity, wisdom, and sensitivity. In an era when Judaism and Jews are still seen by some as a problem and not a solution, it is important to remember these two figures. This week we begin to read about Moshe the liberator and we continue to read the works of Moshe the educator who passed away 816 years ago.

From Moshe to Moshe, no one arose like Moshe and, in a sense, both of them continue to draw us out – from exile to redemption, from lack of understanding to clear comprehension of the Torah.


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