"THE doctor is here! The doctor is here!" This was the cry that went ringing through the hall. Jews, Christians, Mohammedans, judges, bailiffs, common people, all were filled with great excitement. They had been waiting since the early morning. It was now late in the afternoon. But at last the doctor had arrived.
"Sh-sh--quiet--quiet. Can't you hear that the doctor has come?"
"I shall be with you all in a minute," Dr. Maimonides promised as he hurried past them.
"Only, please let me wash my hands and take a little bite."
Soon Dr. Maimonides came out and far into the night he sat treating his patients.
Every day, beginning early in the morning, Dr. Maimonides used to attend the great Saladin, Sultan
of Egypt. He did not return home until noon, and often much later. And there his patients would be waiting for him.
As the people sat waiting for the doctor, you could hear them say:
"I knew his family in Spain," said one old man.
"Spain? What are you talking about? They came from Africa," remarked another.
"Yes, I know that," answered the old man, "they traveled through many countries--the Maimons did--until they settled here in Egypt. I remember one night I was at their home in Spain. Old Maimon was sitting with his son David, talking about the conditions in Spain. Old Maimon said:
"'Who would believe it? Who would believe that this is Spain? This the country where Jehudah Halevi, Ibn Gabirol lived and worked? This the country where the Jews were so well treated; so rich and so learned? Is this the country where so many Jewish poets and philosophers were born?'
"The father of Moses Maimonides was thus half thinking to himself and half talking to his older son, David, who sat near by.
"'Yes, Father. It seems there is no place where a Jew can feel safe now, no place where a Jew can serve his God freely. Shall we, too, have to become Mohammedans, as some of the other Jews have had to do?'
"Maimon closed his eyes and shuddered. 'No, no, God forbid,' he said, motioning with his hand as if to drive off evil.
"'We should rather leave this home of ours. We shall go into exile--and we shall try to find a free country, a country where they will let us worship as we believe.'
"'Where shall we go? When? We don't want little Moses to grow up in this country. It's true, I, myself, teach him the Bible and the Talmud and some arithmetic. Still he is studying medicine with the Mohammedan professors and they teach him their philosophy, and their religion. Soon he, too, may believe that Allah is God, and Mahomet his prophet. I have decided that we shall go to Southern Spain.' And so Maimon and his family left for Southern Spain.
Soon after they came there, the same African Mohammedans captured that place, too, and again the Maimon family had to begin to wander. This time they went to Africa. They hadn't been there very long when there, too, the Jews were made to take Islam for their religion. Many Jews learned the prayers and customs of the Mohammedans and became make-believe Mohammedans. But they made believe for so long that, in time, they forgot the truth. They forgot that they were Jews.
"Meanwhile little Moses had grown up to be a
brilliant man and a great scholar. In spite of all the traveling the family had to do, Moses never stopped studying. He never said, 'We went to Almeria so I couldn't study,' or 'We went to Fez, so I couldn't study.' No indeed, he not only studied, he even began to write a book.
"However, the Maimons did not stay long in Fez. At last they went to Egypt. Soon after they had settled there, Old Maimon died. Now Moses and his brother David had to support the family. They opened a big jewelry store, and traded with countries far, far away. David had more to do with the business than did Moses. It was David who traveled to the different countries to sell them the precious jewels. But on one of his journeys, David was drowned in the Indian Ocean, and after this, Moses had to take care of his own and his brother's families. By this time Moses had become a doctor. You remember that although in Spain he had begun to study medicine, his heart was in his Jewish studies. One day he said to his mother:
"'It's too bad that I must be a doctor. I do wish I had more time to give to the writing of that book which I began in Spain.'
"'Do you mean that book in which you explain
all the Jewish laws?' asked his mother kindly and proudly.
"'Yes, that's it. I am trying to make it so simple that a Jew will be able to find any law very quickly.'
"So between being a doctor, and trying to support two families, Moses wrote this book to explain the Jewish laws.
"Little by little his fame as a doctor spread and he became busier, but Moses did not give up his writings. He worked every single minute of the day. And he didn't even have time to read a story book. He just worked and worked all the time."
Everybody had gathered around the old man and listened quietly, because they were all interested.
At last, another man said, "And do you think that, with all his work, he stopped writing?"
"Of course not. Don't you think I know of his greatest book? In that book he shows that there isn't much difference between Judaism and the philosophy of the Greeks," answered the old man, proud of all he knew.
By now some of the people were beginning to fall asleep--because they didn't know such big words--and they didn't know just what Maimonides wanted to prove.
But one of those who had been listening, asked: "Is that what he called the 'Guide to the Perplexed?'" It was a young man talking. He was glad that he could understand everything the older men were talking about.
"Yes, and do you know that he has been asked to be court physician to Richard the Lion-hearted, the great king of England?"
"Oh, really," said an old lady. "How lovely! Where will he get the strength to do it all?"
"But he didn't accept that offer. He would rather give his time to his writings," answered the old man with the air of one who knows it all.
"And now there is a saying: From Moses to Moses, there has been none like Moses," the old man continued.
"What does that mean?" asked a young girl, who had been listening all the time.
"It means that from Moses who led the Jews out of Egypt till this Moses, Moses Maimonides, our doctor, no one has ever been as great as these two men." The man had just finished speaking when there was a sudden rush in the hall.
"Sh-sh--quiet--quiet. Can't you hear that the doctor has come in?"