INSIGHT: Rambam: “This is the Best!”From Moshe Rabbeinu to Rabbi Moshe ben Maimon

Rambam – The Busy Scribe

Rambam – The Busy Scribe

ספר תורה שכתבתי אני רוחב כל דף ודף מדפיו ארבע אצבעות, ושירת הים ושירת האזינו רוחב כל דף משתיהן שש אצבעות…

משנה תורה, הלכות ספר תורה פרק ט

From Moshe Rabbeinu to Rabbeinu Moshe, a.k.a. the Rambam.

In the laws of Sefer Torah in his book of the Mishneh Torah, the Rambam shifts from his usual style – stating the Jewish laws, and shares something personal: “The Sefer that I wrote… the width of each page should be exactly…”

And then he goes on, at length, and even more length, to explain exactly how to write a Sefer Torah.

Think about it. The Rambam was extremely busy, busier than you can ever imagine. He single-handedly wrote his Mishneh Torah, a 14 volume set covering all the laws of the entire Torah, a feat that would normally take an entire staff of Torah scholars and their entire lifetime to accomplish!

Indeed, the Rambam was busy! He wrote to his good friend and scholar, Rabbi Yehonasan HaKohen of Lunil, France, “I worked day and night – non-stop – for 10 years straight to complete my Mishneh Torah!”

Yet, the Rambam found the time to write a Sefer Torah. That’s 5,845 Pesukim, nearly 80,000 words and exactly 304,805 letters – a full time job that can take up to a year to complete!

Why couldn’t he hire an expert scribe to write it for him?

Let’s turn to the words of the Rambam himself for a better understanding:

It is a positive commandment for each and every Jewish man to write a Torah scroll for himself, as it is written (in Parshas VaYeilech), “And now, write down this song for yourselves,” meaning, write down the [entire] Torah which contains this song…
Even if a person’s ancestors left him a Torah scroll, it is a Mitzvah to write one himself. If a person writes the scroll by hand, it is considered as if he received it on Mount Sinai!
Mishneh Torah, Laws of Sefer Torah, Chapter 7, Halachah 1

So, that explains it. Writing a Sefer Torah by hand creates a Matan Torah Experience, bringing a person face-to-face with HaShem!

Yes, there are other ways to perform this great Mitzvah, such as hiring a scribe. Clearly, the Rambam wanted to experience Matan Torah personally!


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Shazak insight

Rambam: “This is the Best!”

Besides the Mishneh Torah book that the Rambam wrote, he also authored Sefer HaMitzvos, where he lists and explains all 613 Mitzvos of the Torah. There, in Mitzvah #18 he expresses with even more excitement than he writes (see before) in Mishneh Torah, how important it is to write a Torah yourself:

In his words:

HaShem commanded us that every Jewish man should write a Torah scroll for himself. And if he writes it with his own hand, he is very praiseworthy, and this is the best, as oaur Sages say, “If he wrote it with his hand, it is considered as if he received it from Mount Sinai!” If he cannot write it, only then he should buy one or hire someone to write it for him.

Sefer HaMitzvos, Mitzvah 18

Shazak insight

From Moshe Rabbeinu to Rabbi Moshe ben Maimon

Come to think of it, it was important for the Rambam, more than anybody else, to have this Matan Torah experience through writing a Torah.

Indeed, by writing his Mishneh Torah set of books, the Rambam was doing something similar to what Moshe Rabbeinu did at Matan Torah – teaching all Jews in his time and future generations the laws of the entire Torah!

Geared for Kids... Great for Adults!

Geared for Kids... Great for Adults!

The name is Rabbi Moshe ben Maimon, a.k.a. Rambam, a.k.a. Maimonides. Shazak? Never heard of it.
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