For holy men, no headstones should be on their graves because their words are their memory…and people should not visit graves.” -Maimonides, Mishne Torah (Sefer Shoftim, Laws of Mourners 4:4)
When Maimonides Moved to Las Vegas
Be aware: on your next visit to Tiberias, you may notice something new: a shrine.
10 million dollars will soon transform Maimonides’ wish for a humble tomb into a spectacle. The plan is to surround Maimonides' tomb with a glass enclosure, and add a three-dimensional eternal flame -and why not- a laser beam that will reach several kilometers high, turning it into “a tourist and education site" (Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu). Doesn’t that sound more like something befitting Las Vegas than Maimonides’ grave?
What irony and disrespect! Maimonides, who decried pilgrimage to rabbis’ tombs and even discouraged the erection of tombstones, is to become a tourist attraction and yet another idolatrous pilgrimage destination.
Maimonides’ teachings can be summarized as the struggle against idolatry and superstition. Now, tragically, Maimonides’ tomb will become a center of idolatry. The most extreme streams of Judaism will make claims over it, imposing a fundamentalist agenda not unlike that which, in effect, is imposed on the Kotel. It will be another victory for a Judaism that alienates Israelis and Jews around the world.
Maimonides espoused a philosophy of responsibility, not magic. He taught that nothing in this world is absolute and that "holy" is the result of behavior and not something granted arbitrarily. His legacy obligates us to be both responsible and humble about the way we go about our lives.
Yes, we are confronting vital issues—Iran, Hamas, Hezbollah, conflicts, anti-Semitism—but who is going to fight for our integrity? Is Jewish integrity up for sale?
You may say, with so many critical issues at hand, do we really have time for this? At Skirball, we do not intervene in politics. We do not lobby, or engage in policy-making. Yet when it comes to intellectual integrity and the kind of Judaism we are forging, we must take a stand.
We believe that the greatest asset the Jewish people possess is an intelligent, open and anti-fundamentalist tradition. We are committed to an Israel that embodies the great principles of Jewish tradition. That’s our cause, that’s our struggle.
Maimonides dedicated his life to fighting idolatry; to eradicating superstitious and reductionist approaches to Judaism. His tomb must not become a shrine for that which he vehemently opposed.
The fight over Maimonides’ legacy is a stand for the kind of Judaism we want in Israel and around the world.
We must unite and send a clear message: Israel will not be kidnapped by religious extremism. The wishes of Maimonides and of those who want an open-minded, thoughtful and relevant Judaism will be respected. We love and care about Israel. We are calling out for a democratic Judaism; a pluralistic Judaism; an intelligent Judaism.
Skirball stands by the legacy of our sage, Maimonides. Skirball stands with Israel. Join us!
Please help us by signing our petition which we will present to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Tiberias Mayor Zohar Oved.
This paragraph is nice but might be overkill: [The original Moses in the torah chose not to disclose his burial place. He knew that it would become a shrine - a tourist destination. Let another Moses, who also fought idolatry and rejected shrines, be respected in his wishes and teachings.]
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Rachel Honeyman, New York, NY, United States2 years ago
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