Monday, December 31, 2012

Open Thread: Going on vacation to a place without a minyan

I have many contradictory thoughts on the subject in the title of this post, including:

1. Rav Moshe Feinstein wrote that who is distracted by the way his local minyan is conducted is still obligated to attend, unless he cannot even concentrate on the basic meaning of the words;

2. In the days of the gemara, many sages often davened without a minyan;

3. Rav Moshe permits missing certain mitzvos, such as sitting in a succah, for the sake of touring in special locations;

4. The Rambam (Hilchos Tefilah 8:1, and see Kesef Mishneh's sources there) writes that the prayer of the community is always heard before Gd, and so one must never miss davening with the community;

5. Certain rites - the Torah reading, kaddish, emulating of the angelic kedushah - may be performed only in a community;

6. I know Rabbis I respect who will take vacations in places without minyanim.

Much more could be said on this, but I'm curious what others will write. What do you think of this?

Thursday, December 27, 2012

We want Mashiach whenever

A thought for Parshat Vayechi...

On his deathbed, the patriarch - son and grandson of men who knew the Almighty intimately, of women whose insight mirrored the Divine plan - pledged to entrust to his children the secrets of the universe. With little strength or time remaining, Yaakov summoned his children and intoned, "Gather, and I will tell you what will befall you in the end of days." Then, abruptly, the ancient sage altered his focus, speaking more neutrally, "Gather, listen, sons of Yaakov, and pay heed to your father Yisrael." (Bereishit 49:1-2) He continued to convey blessings, but spoke no more of the end of days.

Commentators offer a range of approaches to explain why Yaakov changed his plans, but perhaps we might offer our own answer by first asking a fundamental question: Why did Yaakov wish to inform his children of the "end of days", at all? What benefit would there be in telling them of the end of a story not to play out for thousands of years? Indeed, informing them could even be hazardous; might they, or their descendants, abandon the book, knowing that they would never live the last page?

Don Isaac Abarbanel suggested that the eternal question of "When will he come?" is rooted in our desire to escape our current suffering. In his Maayanei haYeshuah (1:2), Abarbanel catalogued the history of the Jewish longing to know when the end will come, noting that such figures as King David (Tehillim 74:10), Yeshayah (Yeshayah 6:11), Chavakuk (Chavakuk 1:2), Zecharyah (Zecharyah 1:12) and Daniel sought to know the date of Mashiach's arrival. He then wrote, "How could they not seek the Divine message, the time when He will come and be seen, in order to find tranquility for their spirits, to rest from their struggle, to flee from their trouble?" However, this does not explain how the sons of Yaakov, who knew no suffering in Egypt, would benefit from knowing the circumstances of Mashiach's arrival.

We might answer our question with a closer look at the Jewish view of history. In his work Zakhor, Professor Yosef Haim Yerushalmi noted that the modern study of history clashes with the traditional Jewish approach to studying history. As he put it, "To the degree that this historiography is indeed "modern" and demands to be taken seriously, it must at least functionally repudiate premises that were basic to all Jewish conceptions of history in the past. In effect, it must stand in sharp opposition to its own subject matter, not on this or that detail, but concerning the vital core: the belief that divine providence is not only an ultimate but an active causal factor in Jewish history, and the related belief in the uniqueness of Jewish history itself." In other words, the modern study of history contends that all events in history occur without an underlying plan or purpose. Traditional Judaism, on the other hand, insists that history is a story written by a Hand, progressing according to a specific plan, and with a particular end in mind.

Perhaps this was the understanding of human events that Yaakov intended to convey to his children, as he passed to them the mantle of leadership. The point was not to have them mark down on some millennia-long calendar that Mashiach would come in Tevet 5773. Perhaps the point was for them to understand, as leaders of the Jewish nation, that there is an "end of days" at all, that the events of their lives are invested with purpose. [Indeed, Yosef tried to tell them this himself, insisting that his sale had been according to a plan. Of course, even Yosef ("G-d sent me here to provide food") didn't realize the scope of that plan ("your children will be slaves in a land not their own").]

Nonetheless, G-d determined that Yaakov would not share this vision with his children, and perhaps this decision was motivated by their own welfare. People who are told that their lives and actions have automatic and inherent historical meaning, irrespective of their personal decisions, might abandon themselves to the determinism of Fate. If Mashiach is going to come in Tevet 5773, and my actions in 2255 will automatically play some butterfly's wing of a role in bringing about that ultimate hurricane regardless of my free will, then why should I value my own decisions and choices? Whatever will be, will be! Knowing how the story plays out could yield generations of Jews who would view themselves not as actors, but as acted upon; not as eventual redeemers, but as eventually redeemed. And so Yaakov's mouth is closed, and so King David, Yeshayah, Chavakuk, Zecharyah and Daniel were turned back, as was Don Isaac Abarbanel.

The information is there. The date is known. For us, though, it would be better that we not read the last page of the book; rather, it would be better that we write it.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Readings for the end of life

I saw an interesting question the other day: What Jewish reading material would you recommend for someone elderly, who is contemplating his eventual death?

I'm not at all sure how to approach this; clearly, a lot depends on the person.

I suppose that one should really begin by asking what question the person is looking to answer. Is the person looking for information about Jewish belief regarding the afterlife? Is the person looking for ways to deal with the end of his presence here? Is the person looking for ways to cope with fear, or to manage disappointment, or to develop acceptance?

Koheles might be a reassuring read for some, and frightening for others.
Some might benefit from Rabbi Maurice Lamm's The Jewish Way in Death and Mourning, I suppose.
Others might want to read Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan's works on Jewish beliefs.

And others might want Breslov works on emunah.

I'm not sure what to do with this; what would you recommend?

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Translation or Treason?

According to a tenth century halachic text, Baal Halachot Gedolot, the eighth of Tevet (this coming Friday) will mark the anniversary of the translation of Torah into Greek. The translation is alleged to have happened in the third century BCE, more than a century before the events of Chanukah.

We know little about how this translation came about; we have several different traditions regarding who did the translation, how, and for what purpose. We don't know whether the original translation was the Greek Septuagint, although this work is often granted that pedigree. We do know that traditional Jewish texts label the translation a tragedy, but we don't know why.

An early Jewish source, Masechet Sofrim (1:7-8), compared the translation of Torah into Greek with the worst event in our nation's religious history. As the text tells it, "Once five elders wrote the Torah in Greek for King Ptolemy, and that day was as harsh for Israel as the day the Calf was created, because the Torah could not be properly translated. Another time, King Ptolemy gathered 72 elders and put them in 72 houses without revealing why he had gathered them. He went to each one and told them, 'Write the Torah of Moshe, your master, for me.' G-d placed counsel into each one's heart, and each of them wrote an independent Torah. They changed thirteen things: 'Elokim created in the beginning'…" According to the first part of this account, Greek itself is inadequate to translate the Torah, and the disaster of translation was that it necessarily betrayed the original. Of course, omnis traductor traditor - every translator is a traitor – but this passage contends that Torah is uniquely beyond translation. [Of course, later religions made the same claim regarding their sacred texts.]

The explanation found in Masechet Sofrim is difficult, though, in light of a passage in Talmud Yerushalmi (Megilah 1:9), "Rabban Shimon ben Gamliel said: Tanach may only be recorded in Greek; the sages checked and found that the Torah can be translated properly only in Greek." Based on this text, what was the danger in translating Torah? Why was it considered catastrophic?

One approach is found in a midrash (Tanchuma Vayera 6): " R' Yehudah haLevi b'R' Shalom said: Moshe requested that mishnah be put in writing as well [as the written Torah], but G-d saw that the nations would translate the Torah and read it in Greek and say, 'We are Israel, too.'" In other words, the problem of translation is not in its inadequacy; rather, it is in its authenticity. Once the Torah is available in other tongues, the Jewish nation loses its special character, as anyone can mimic it and claim the heritage of Torah for themselves.

These two ideas – that translation is inadequate and that translation inappropriately shares our Torah – should give us pause in our age of ubiquitous English renditions. The need for translation at this time is clear, but we must be aware of what we are losing; we will be better off when we will be able to leave these treasons behind.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Rabbis should support gun control

I spent the day in New York, and much of that time was in the airport, where the televisions seemed to be locked into all-Newtown, all the time. Interviews with counselors, coverage regarding the funerals, interviews with people who knew the murderer, and, of course, the discussion about gun control.

I know we want to have freedom. And I know that guns are needed for self-defense. And I know that eliminating guns won't eliminate murder. But as a Rabbi, this one is a no-brainer. Not in the sense that it's a pure halachic requirement – Rabbi J. David Bleich has already covered that one – but in the sense that legislation controlling access to heavy weapons would fit the standard model for rabbinic legislation created for the good of the community.

Worried about the right to bear arms? Rabbinic law is certainly in the habit of suspending individual rights for the perceived greater good, and certainly where that good involves saving lives.

Certain that this won't prevent a determined murderer? That's true – but rabbinic law regularly prohibits certain activities as a fence to prevent violation of biblical law, even though willful sinners will flout the rabbinic and biblical law.

Example: The sages prohibited raising certain species of animals in Israel, because those were known to invade others' property. (Bava Kama 79b) Certainly, that limited personal freedom. And certainly, that wouldn't stop criminals from grazing their animals on others' land. But the step was made, and it mattered.

If you believe in the idea of creating imperfect protective legislation rather than do nothing, then gun control is an obvious choice.

Added thought: 
Think that guns are needed for protection/deterrent? Suicide bombers have proven that people who are not sane, or who are not operating by normal standards, don't need deterrents. And as Newtown, Virginia Tech, Aurora and so on show, our possession of guns isn't doing a good job of either protecting or deterring.

I've lived in Canada for 3+ years now. There have been men who have picked up guns and shot randomly in public places - but far, far fewer than in the US over the same period, way out of proportion with the population differential.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Should a Jew read Dostoevsky?

[Just by the way: On Chanukah, when people asked how many candles we were to light that night, was I the only person who felt an urge to respond, 'Last night we counted X'?]

There was a period, while I was in college I think, when I was very into Russian short-story writers and playwrights. I read quite a few, and was very impressed - until I came to Nikolai Gogol, and a story in which described the glory of the Cossacks. I couldn't read any further; the Cossacks were murderous butchers who slaughtered my ancestors.

Of course, if Jews were to shun all writers who hated us, we would be left with slim literary pickings; a quick thumbing through Allan Gould's "What did they think of the Jews" shows that we would lose a great deal of Western culture, including figures like Lord Byron and Joseph Conrad and Jack London. But it's hard for me to stomach reading the work of someone who views me, and my heritage, in unambiguously negative terms.

The question comes to mind now because I am considering picking up my copy of Fyodor Dostoevsky's The Brothers Karamazov. I've owned it for years, it's universally acclaimed as a remarkable work, but every time I look at it, it's with this ambivalence.

Dostoevsky said this of Jews:

... I know that in the whole world there is certainly no other people who would be complaining as much about their lot, incessantly, after each step and word of theirs -- about their humiliation, their suffering, their martyrdom. One might think it is not they who are reigning in Europe, who are directing there at least the stock exchanges and, therefore, politics, domestic affairs, the morality of the states...

Now, how would it be if in Russia there were not three million Jews, but three million Russians, and there were eighty million Jews -- well, into what would they convert the Russians and how would they treat them? Would they permit them to acquire equal rights? Would they permit them to worship freely in their midst? Wouldn't they convert them into slaves? Worse than that: wouldn't they skin them altogether? Wouldn't they slaughter them to the last man...

The decision to read, or not to read, is not a matter of halachah; it's personal. I have a hard time with the idea of reading his work, however insightful and creative. I should be even more horrified if I found myself admiring it.

What do you think?

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Could Rabbis Kill Judaism?

A couple of weeks ago I read a Slate article on a new book, The Chosen Few. According to the review, the book's authors argue that after the Roman destruction of the Second Temple, the Rabbis/Pharisees came to dominate the Jewish scene, and their emphasis on education set an economic bar that few Jewish families could match. As a result, many Jewish families simply opted out, and so the Jewish population underwent a major reduction over the ensuing several centuries.

It's an interesting thesis, although I'd need to read the book to evaluate it; I certainly have questions about it. But my point tonight isn't this particular case; rather, it's the idea that a rabbi, or a group of rabbis, could make a demand which would cause people to leave Judaism en masse.

Jewish history seems to indicate otherwise; long before the modern "create your own Judaism" age, groups which were uncomfortable with a particular definition of the religion simply went their own way, taking the name of Judaism with them: Chasidim, Sabbateans, Kabbalists, Rationalists, Karaites, and so on... No one has ever successfully trademarked the word Judaism.

Look at the push for education today. For the past 10-15 years, those in the Orthodox would who have felt that the institutional insistence upon Jewish day school education is too much have not filed for visas to flee Orthodoxy, much less Judaism. Rather, they have created their own models - charter schools, half-day schools modeled on the Talmud Torah system, on-line schools, and so on. [I expect that this will only grow with the toll from Hurricane Sandy; I can't imagine how Long Island schools will respond to the many, many families who had once been full-pay, who will not be able to afford it for next year.]

The same is true in kashrut, where rabbis and kashrut organizations insist on a standard [bug-checking, quinoa, cholov yisroel, pas yisroel] which many Orthodox families resent, and even oppose outright. None of them are ceding ownership of Judaism, though; far from it, they accuse the rabbis of inventing a new religion.

Ditto for the many other elements which are often characterized as a "shift to the right" -  black hats, no mixed dancing, and so on. Are any of the condemned practitioners (much less a majority) saying, "You can keep your Judaism, I'm leaving?"

And as I said before - this obstinacy is not new. We have many historical examples of Jews defining Judaism as they chose, and ignoring those who defined it differently.

So I have a hard time believing that rabbis have been able to define Judaism against the opposition of the population - certainly if that opposing population was as large a percentage as the authors of The Chosen Few contend.

What do you think?

Monday, December 10, 2012

The rabbi's addiction

The other week, in preparing a talk on "Clergy Burnout", I came across an old blog post of mine on the topic, with this quote from Rabbi Dr. Abraham Twerski:

We all need emotional sippuk [emotional satisfaction]… What are our sources? I’m going on record as saying that more than 50%, or perhaps 75% of our emotional input, should come from non-work-related sources, such as family, friends, learning Torah, mitzvos, whatever. Some of us have hobbies, some of us have kinds of things that we like to do for relaxation, whatever. But the work should not be expected to provide – we have a job to do, we have a tafkid to do, fine. But we should not be dependent on our work for the lion’s share of our emotional input, because if we do then we are going to reach burnout… Don’t expect the job to give you the greater part of your sippuk. The greater part of your sippuk should come from other sources…

Rabbi Dr. Twerski then compared a job which is expected to provide fulfillment to a flat iron that is expected to double as a griddle and a space heater. Use an iron as an iron, and the filament will last for ten or twelve years of occasional operation. Use it for these constant purposes, and it will burn out immediately.

My point in citing this was to concur with Rabbi Dr. Twerski, and to add another reason for not seeking emotional satisfaction from the rabbinate, or any job: Because you might not hold that job forever. And yes, I speak from personal experience; stepping away was my choice, but I have been dealing with the difficulty of replacing that satisfaction ever since.

But there is another side to the coin. As much as a rabbi might try to find his satisfaction in his family life or hobbies, the reality is that a healthy rabbinate offers so much that is satisfying. Working with kids, comforting mourners, exposing people to new ideas and new texts, counseling people, distributing tzedakah, getting to know individuals, getting to know a community - every day brings new opportunities for satisfaction, and it can be addictive.
Case in point: While preparing that talk on burnout, I received an email from someone, thanking me for something I did more than ten years ago. I can't divulge the specifics here, but it involved my participating in a Chanukah celebration in a non-observant setting in 2001. The person who wrote to me said she was not observant at the time, but is observant today. While I can't imagine that anything I did at that time was truly transformative, she thought enough of it that she remembered it, and emailed me more than a decade later, so I guess I did something.

Was that email satisfying? You bet! I remember that Chanukah night. I travelled for about an hour each way to participate for only a few minutes. I had been invited as part of a letter that went to every rabbi in the region, and I was the only rabbi who went. I didn't know anyone there. I didn't know whether I would ever be invited back. And I remember wondering, when I left that celebration, whether my participation had been meaningful, or would lead to something meaningful.

So it was great to find out that my presence had meant something to someone. That was real satisfaction. And it made me miss the shul rabbinate all the more.
And therein lies the problem – as I said, I can preach, "Don't seek satisfaction in playing Rabbi," but the satisfaction comes around anyway, and it's addictive…

Thursday, December 6, 2012

47 days

One November, back when I was a shul rabbi, a tzedakah collector commented to me that 'my time' was running out. He explained that after Chanukah people embark upon December vacations, and then winter sends snowbirds to warmer climates and renders others homebound. That's followed by Purim, then Pesach, and then people's minds enter summer vacation mode until Rosh HaShanah. Thus, he explained, a rabbi's main 'season' is in the seven-to-eight weeks between Succot and Chanukah.

That interesting observation, coupled with the imminent arrival of Chanukah, has led me to assess the accomplishments of our YU / Torah miTzion Beit Midrash here in Toronto since Succot. Working from class registration lists - which don't tell the whole story, naturally, but which do offer some data - I looked at the types of classes we offer, and the turnout for the classes. I am thrilled to say that we have been blessed by G-d with tremendous success in the first 47 days of our "season".

In truth, I have qualms about this sort of statistical study; true success is in the quality of relationships and in the quality of learning, not in a tally of class attendees. Imagine a rabbi who gauged his success by the number of seats occupied in shul, or the number of people he visited in the hospital, without pausing to consider what those people were receiving from their shul experience or from those visits! Nonetheless, in my pride in the accomplishments of our avreichim, as well as in the response of our Toronto Jewish community, here is an amateur video I have made from that study.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Shiur Theatre: Maimonides and Galen, Act Three

Here is the third of the three acts; for Act One please click here, for Act Two please click here. I have also appended the source sheet at the end - and video of another Shiur Theatre presentation, "When Konstantinos Met Sarah", is now on-line at Koshertube here.

ACT III – Nutrition

NARRATOR: After a short pursuit, President Goldschmiedt catches up with Galen, but is unable to convince him to return to the interview. She returns to the office for a follow-up conversation with Maimonides, regarding his dietary prescriptions.

President and Maimonides return and sit down.

P: Well, that was certainly interesting. They did warn me that he was excitable.

M: Yes, an unfortunate side effect of the trait which also produced his brilliance; he never did get that under control. Does that mean the job is mine?

P: I do have a few questions for you. I am Jewish, and I have studied your medical and Jewish writings. Can you take a few minutes to explain your philosophy on diet?

M: Certainly. The primary goal of dietetic advice is to improve digestion;[1] one should stay far from constipating foods,[2] and eat foods that will pass through the system rather than rot inside the person.[3] One should never overeat, even with therapeutic foods.[4] This is based on experiments, which lead me to suggest that foods that taste good tend to be better digested, soft and moist food are most easily digested, and fattier foods are harder for the stomach to break down and lead to obesity.[5]

P: And what of nutrition?

M: All food has some nutritious element; the question is whether it will be digested well, and whether that particular nutritious character will be good or bad for someone who is ill. Foods with strong tastes are less nutritious, but sweet foods are good. Hard foods are nutritious, but digestion takes a while.[6]

P: You might want to look up a fellow named William Fletcher, before you come to work here.

M: Fletcher? Okay; I believe in receiving truth from whoever offers it.[7] I also believe that one must eat foods which will neutralize the moisture-dryness balance in the body, and which will keep the temperature moderate. In particular, one should avoid fresh fruits and vegetables.[8]

P: Avoid fruits and vegetables? And I suppose chicken soup is bad as well?

M: Oh, no! Chicken soup is excellent as food and medicine!

P: Well, that's a relief.

M: Yes, I got that from the Arabic texts of Ibn Zohr and Al Tamimi.

P: (astounded) Great – chicken soup is from the Arabs. What next? Is any of your medicine Jewish?

M: Certainly. The Sages of the Talmud were very concerned about washroom facilities, and so they wanted little to do with vegetables, particularly leafy ones, or bran.[9] They avoided foods with very strong tastes unless they were specifically medicinal, both because they considered the foods harmful and because water might be harmful and so they did not want us to be excessively thirsty.[10]

P: I see; very interesting. (closes folder) Well, it looks to me as though you will do nicely for our position, although you will need to do substantial reading in order to catch up on today's medicine.

M: That's no problem; I understand there is a Yeshiva University Torah miTzion Beit Midrash in your city; I'll feel right at home there.

(rise and walk off)

[1] Medical Aphorisms 20:1
[2] Hilchos Deios 4:13
[3] Medical Aphorisms 23:109
[4] ibid 20:12
[5] Ibid. 20:5-6, 62-63
[6] Ibid. 20:1, 11, 58-66
[7] Introduction to Shmonah Perakim
[8] Medical Aphorisms 20:46-47, 51; Hilchos Deios 4:11
[9] Pesachim 42b, Shabbos 81a, Eruvin 55b-56a
[10] Eruvin 29b, 56a

Act One: Getting Acquainted
1.         Rambam, Mishneh Torah, Hilchot Deiot 2:5
סייג לחכמה שתיקה, לפיכך לא ימהר להשיב ולא ירבה לדבר, וילמד לתלמידים בשובה ונחת בלא צעקה ובלא אריכות לשון, הוא שאמר שלמה דברי חכמים בנחת נשמעים
Silence bounds wisdom. Therefore, one should not rush to respond or speak much, and one should teach students calmly and gently, without yelling and without verbosity. As Sh'lomo said, "The gentle words of sages are heard."

2.         The Medical Aphorisms of Moses Maimonides 17:4
One should not neglect physical exercise for the body, as do people of learning who diligently study the entire day and night. Rather, it is proper that the body and all limbs be moderately active, and that each limb perform its movement, so that all organs, both external and internal, receive benefit therefrom.

3.         The Medical Aphorisms of Moses Maimonides 18:2
The most beneficial of all types of exercise is physical gymnastics to the point that the soul becomes influenced and rejoices, such as hunting and ball-playing, because emotions of happiness often suffice to heal just by their presence. Thus, rejoicing and happiness alone will make many people’s illnesses milder. For others, both the illness on the one hand, as well as the emotional upset that led to it, disappear.

4.         Rambam, Commentary to Mishnah Nedarim 4:4
חייב הרופא מן הדין לרפאות חולי ישראל והרי הוא בכלל אמרם בפירוש הכתוב והשבתו לו לרבות את גופו שאם ראהו אובד ויכול להצילו הרי זה מצילו בגופו או בממונו או בידיעתו
The doctor is obligated to heal Jewish patients; it is included in the explanation of the text, "'You shall return it to him' – including his body." One who sees another lost, and who could save him, does so with body, money or knowledge.

5.         Rambam, Mishneh Torah, Hilchot Yesodei haTorah 4:13
אין ראוי לטייל בפרדס אלא מי שנתמלא כריסו לחם ובשר, ולחם ובשר הוא לידע האסור והמותר וכיוצא בהם משאר המצות
One should not tour pardes unless his belly is filled with bread and meat, which means knowledge of prohibited and permitted things, and similar elements of other mitzvot.

6.         Rambam, Mishneh Torah, Hilchot Deiot 5:7
תלמיד חכם לא יהא צועק וצווח בשעת דבורו כבהמות וחיות, ולא יגביה קולו ביותר אלא דבורו בנחת עם כל הבריות...
A scholar may not shout or scream when speaking, like a beast, and he may not raise his voice, but he must speak gently with all others…

7.         Rambam, Introduction to the Guide of the Perplexed (Friedlander translation)
אני האיש אשר כשיציקהו הענין ויצר לו הדרך ולא ימצא תחבולה ללמד האמת שבא עליו מופת אלא בשיאות לאחד מעולה ולא יאות לעשרת אלפים סכלים, אני בוחר לאמרו לעצמו, ולא ארגיש בגנות העם הרב ההוא, וארצה להציל המעולה האחד ההוא ממה שנשקע בו ואורה מבוכתו עד שישלם וירפא:
When I have a difficult subject before me-when I find the road narrow, and can see no other way of teaching a well established truth except by pleasing one intelligent man and displeasing ten thousand fools-I prefer to address myself to the one man, and to take no notice whatever of the condemnation of the multitude; I prefer to extricate that intelligent man from his embarrassment and show him the cause of his perplexity, so that he may attain perfection and be at peace.

Act Two: Approach to Practicing Medicine
8.         Rambam, On Asthma, page 41
One should never say, "This disease is similar to that other one."… Nor should one say, "I have seen how my elders have treated this condition in such or such way."

9.         Rambam, Mishneh Torah, Hilchot Deiot 4:4
היום והלילה כ"ד שעות, די לו לאדם לישן שלישן שהוא שמונה שעות
Day and night are twenty-four hours; it is sufficient to sleep for one-third of those, eight hours.
10.      Letter of Rambam
I would not return to Fostat until the afternoon. Then I was almost dying with hunger, but I would find the antechambers filled with people, both Jews and non-Jews, nobles and common people, judges and policemen, friends and foes – a mixed multitude, awaiting the time of my return. I would dismount from my animal, wash my hands, go forth to my patients and entreat them to bear with me while I partook of some slight refreshment, the only meal I would take in the 24 hours. Then I would go forth to attend to my patients, and write prescriptions and directions for their various ailments. Patients would go in and out until nightfall, and sometimes even, I solemnly assure you, until two hours or more in the night. I would converse with and prescribe for them while lying down from sheer fatigue; and when night fell I was so exhausted that I could scarcely speak.

11.      Rambam, Commentary to Mishnah Chagigah 2:1
ושמע ממני אני מה שנתברר לי לפי דעתי ממה שעיינתי בו מדברי חכמים, והוא, שהם מכנים במעשה בראשית למדעי הטבע והמחקר בראשית הבריאה.
Listen to me: It has been made clear to me, in my opinion, from my analysis of the words of sages, that they name "the deeds of Bereishit" the science of nature and investigation into the original creation.

12.      Rambam, Mishneh Torah, Hilchot Yesodei haTorah 4:12
בזמן שאדם מתבונן בדברים האלו... מוסיף אהבה למקום ותצמא נפשו ויכמה בשרו לאהוב המקום ברוך הוא
In examining these things… he will increase love of Gd and his soul will hunger and his flesh will long to love Gd…

13.      Rambam, Sh'monah Perakim, Chapter 7
כי כל נביא לא יתנבא אלא אחר שייקנו לו המעלות השכליות כולן
For no prophet will prophesy until all of the intellectual levels are his.

14.      Rambam, Sh'monah Perakim, Chapter 5
ועל זה ההיקש יהיה למלאכת הרפואה מבוא גדול מאד במעלות, ובידיעת ד', ובהשיג ההצלחה האמיתית, ויהיו לימודה ודרישתה עבודה מן העבודות הגדולות, ולא תהיה אז כאריגה וכנגרות
Based on this logic, medical practice is of great entrée in attributes, in knowledge of Gd, and in achieving true success. Learning it and seeking it are among the greatest forms of worship, unlike weaving or carpentry.

15.      Rambam, Mishneh Torah, Hilchot Deiot 4:1
אי אפשר שיבין או ידע דבר מידיעת הבורא והוא חולה,
One cannot know or understand anything of Gd when he is ill…

16.      Rambam, On Asthma, pg. 95
Do not assume that I am the one into whose hands you should deliver your soul and body for treatment. May the Lord be my witness that I know for certain about myself that I too am among those who are deficient in this art, [who] stand in awe of it, and who find it difficult to achieve its goal.

17.      The Medical Aphorisms of Moses Maimonides 25:59
There is one disease which is so common that I think that no one can escape it, except a rare individual, even during long periods of time. This disease can be of greater or lesser severity, like other physical and spiritual illnesses. The illness to which I refer consists of the fact that every individual person considers himself more perfect than he really is, and desires and lusts that all that enters his mind should possess perfection, without effort and fatigue.

Act Three: Nutrition
18.      Rambam, Sh'monah Perakim, Introduction
ושמע האמת ממי שאמרה
And listen to truth from the one who says it.

19.      Rambam, Mishneh Torah, Hilchot Deiot 4:11
לעולם ימנע אדם עצמו מפירות האילנות, ולא ירבה מהן ואפילו יבשין ואין צריך לומר רטובים...
One must always avoid tree fruit and not increase of them, even when they are dry, much less when they are moist.