Wednesday, October 26, 2005

The making of a Godol....

Dr. Sherwin Nuland is a surgery professor at Yale, author of the acclaimed How We Die (which I haven't read) and of the less-well known Lost in America: A Journey with my Father (which I have, and which is absolutely terrific). Over the last couple of days I've been reading his latest effort, a biography of Maimonides, which is the second in a new series of books on "Jewish Encounters" sponsored by Nextbook. Although I haven't quite finished it, it's a concise, charming, intelligent little book, which places Maimonides squarely in the context of his time and paints, to the extent possible, a psychological portrait of the man. Refreshingly, and reflecting the personal approach of Nuland, MD -- who bills this as more of a 'personal encounter' with Maimonides than a full biography -- it also devotes quite a lot of space to an evaluation of Maimonides the physician, explaining why he was so well regarded although he made no medical breakthroughs and never really advanced medical knowledge.
This is not a deep treatise on his philosophy / writings and is unlikely to satisfy anyone looking for an extensive analysis of his religious ideas. But for once, it was a pleasure and truly fascinating to look at the sum of a man who we too often only look at in parts; to think of Maimonides as a human being, rather than as the author of this idea or that book. I hope that Nextbook's next offerings -- most of which look really exciting -- are as delightful as this one.

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