The Israel Museum Presents Maimonides: A Legacy in Script
Upcoming exhibition assembles international masterpieces of Maimonides' writings for the first time
This exhibition is part of a joint collaboration with the National Library of Israel that also features an international symposium and a special exhibit dedicated to Maimonides
Maimonides, the 12th-century philosopher, physician, and Jewish religious authority, is widely regarded as one of the most prolific and influential scholars in Jewish history. His approach to combining general studies with Torah studies, has made Jewish law accessible to all, from encouraging moderation in all aspects of life to his guidelines on nutrition and preventive medicine, his lessons continue to be studied today throughout academic, rabbinical, and popular circles.
On view from December 11, 2018 to April 28, 2019, the exhibition at the Israel Museum will explore Maimonides’ central role in Jewish history through a comprehensive presentation of his original writings and rare illuminated manuscripts, created in places as diverse as France, Germany, Italy, Spain, and Yemen, and on loan from prestigious institutions worldwide.
The exhibition marks the culmination of a significant two-part collaborative project between the Israel Museum and the National Library of Israel, aimed at facilitating a greater understanding and appreciation of Maimonides and his relevance to Jewish history, life, and practice up to the present day. The National Library will simultaneously host an international symposium featuring leading Maimonides scholars from around the world, and will also present a special exhibit, Maimonides: From the Invention of Printing to the Digital Age.
Maimonides changed Jewish practice for all time, making an immense contribution to the religious, philosophical, and ethical principles that have guided Jewish practice since the 12th century. Maimonides: A Legacy in Script will shed light on his multifaceted persona, offering a deeper understanding of Maimonides’ legacy through original illuminated manuscripts. The exhibition will showcase his Mishneh Torah, a work that standardized and codified Jewish law, making it accessible to all levels of intellectual understanding; as well as the Guide for the Perplexed, the apex of his innovative philosophical treatises, which highlights the connection between science, general studies, and the Torah. The exhibition will also explore Maimonides’ model of leadership, his authority within his own community and worldwide, and his contribution to medical practice.
“We are excited to be bringing such a comprehensive collection of this pivotal scholar’s work to the Israel Museum,” stated Ido Bruno, Anne and Jerome Fisher Director of the Israel Museum, “The exhibition will offer a detailed look at the depth and breadth of Maimonides’ influence across centuries of Jewish culture through a remarkable assembly of manuscripts, exploring issues that still bear relevance in our own time.”
The extraordinary illuminated manuscripts, presented together in this exhibition for the first time, underscore the profound respect and admiration that their creators held for Maimonides. Among the rare manuscripts from his own time, the exhibition will display the authorized proofread version of Maimonides' Mishneh Torah. On loan from the Bodleian Libraries, Oxford, this work bears Maimonides’ signature and contains the inscription written in his own hand, “it has been corrected from my own book.” Another central feature of the exhibition will be Volume II of the Mishneh Torah from Northern Italy, ca. 1457, jointly owned by the Israel Museum and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. This manuscript is richly illuminated, with six large painted panels decorated in precious pigments and gold leaf, as well as forty-one smaller illustrations with gold lettering adorning the opening words of each chapter. Volume I of the remarkable work, owned by the Vatican Library, will also be displayed.
Illuminated medical manuscripts will testify to Maimonides’ stature as physician to the royal family of Egypt, a profession he undertook to create a source of income for his family, as he opposed profiting from the teaching or study of the Torah. Doctors throughout the Middle Ages continued to study his writings alongside those of the classic physicians, Hippocrates and Galen. Maimonides' instructions for maintaining a healthy regime for a healthy soul were prescient and are still highly relevant today.