Though it's almost two months since the completion of the 30th cycle of the Daily Rambam - the teachings of Rabbi Moshe Ben Maimon commonly known as Maimonides, the global celebrations of this momentous occasion still aren't over.
The Maimonides Celebration in Cape Town during the Pesach holidays drew close to 200 people to the Sephardi Community Hall for what turned to be quite an intellectually stimulating evening bringing together an unusual mix of astute Torah scholars, lay professionals, and community members, some still on the very beginning of their journey in Torah and the Rambam's teachings in particular.
The major attraction of the night was the four Guest Speakers who drew on their particular fields of expertise to provide people with insight to the influence and role that Maimonides, the man and his teachings, has had on their life as well as the highlight of the evening, the Siyum completion and new beginning of the daily study of the Rambam.
Rabbi Reuben Suiza, spiritual leader of the Sephardi Hebrew Congregation (who graciously provided the space for the event), noted the particular significance to the Sephardi tradition that counts Maimonides as its "Royal Prince." Rabbi Suiza had everyone on edge as he painted a colourful portrait in his description of the man; Maimonides in his time, during Islamic rule in Spain, Morrocco, and eventually Egypt.
Touching on the Medical Profession (for which Maimonides is probably most renowned), Dr. Stan Ress, a leading research professor in Immunology and Allergology at UCT, quoted from his first reading in Medical School of Maimonides “Dr’s Prayer” and subsequent appreciation of his teachings throughout his medical career. Touching on various works of medical professionals throughout the 20th century, Dr. Ress's talk covered a wide variety of modern medical issues where current thinking has come in line with the principles he established over 800 years ago...
Dr. MeirTamari, is a former Senior Economist at the Bank of Israel and founder of the Center for Business Ethics and Social Responsibility in Jerusalem. He is a world renowned authority on Jewish Business Ethics and has published numerous books and articles on the subject. Hebegan his talk with a startling declaration that in Maimonides teachings of Jewish Business Practice “there is such a thing as Ethics, if it’s Halacha, it’s an obligation” and then followed with insightful quotes from Maimonides’ Mishneh Torah on how we should conduct ourselves in business, making money, spending, saving etc. in line with is original statement that the Rambam wasn't teaching "ethics" but law that we are obligated to live by.
The final talk by Attorney John Zieff was a mind-opening comparative study of Maimonides codification of witness testimony in Halacha, and South African law of who, what and when can be called to testify today. As a director of Edward Nathan Sonnenberg, one of South Africa's most prominent law firms, and an avid Torah Student himself, Attorney Zieff was well placed to give a masterful talk using five case studies of recent episodes in the South African and Global Judicial Systems, and showing the contrasts and comparisons to very similar practices set out in the Mishneh Torah's "Laws of Witnesses."
Rabbi Matthew Liebenberg brought greetings to the event from the CT Rabbinical Association followed by Rabbi Mendel Popack, Director of Chabad of Cape Town, hosts of the events, who led the Siyum and touching on the laws of Moshiach at the very end of Mishneh Torah. Rabbi Dovid Wineberg was the final speaker who closed the evening - by opening up the very beginning of Chapter 1 Halacha 1 of the Rambam encouraging everyone to join Cycle 31 of the Daily Study as instituted by the Lubavitcher Rebbe of righeous memory.
The night concluded with Rabbi Asher Deren explaining how people could signed up for the weekly Chayenu booklet which delivers a daily dose on many different subjects, including the daily chapter of Rambam. Email email@example.com for your copy as well.
Many thanks to Cape Kosher for the delicious dessert buffet which followed. Photo and Video Credits to Shawn Levin Productions.