Southern & Jewish
Southern & Jewish celebrates the stories, people, and experiences – past and present – of Jewish life in the American South. Hosted by the Goldring/Woldenberg Institute of Southern Jewish Life, posts come from educators, students, rabbis, parents, artists, and many other “visitors-to and daily-livers-of” the Southern Jewish experience. From road trips to recipes to reflections, we’ll explore a little bit of everything – well, at least all things Southern and/or Jewish. Shalom, y’all!
Welcome to Mensch Madness… Game Two!
This time around, we have the age old match-up of Rashi and Maimonides. These two great sages lived their scholarly, brilliant lives just a century apart from each other in the Rishonim era. Both men are credited with making great strides in Jewish thought in their time, and in this made-up match-up these formidable fellows are bringing their unique experiences and skills to the court.
When it comes to playing the game, Rashi’s plan is simple, easy to understand plays. This is much like how he approaches Talmudic study: Rashi’s commentary is a compilation of many different Jewish thinkers of his time. We look to his commentary as a testament to what the TaNaKh meant to the rabbinic Jews of the medieval and classic time.
Our competitor today, Maimonides, is all about the universal message. He translated the Mishnah so that others would be able to read and appreciate its often-cryptic text. What he was most known for is the writing a code of Jewish law. His intention was to create a sort of Jewish guide-book for how to act in all situations, so all you rowdy fans out there take note: Maimonides has rules for game etiquette written just for you!
We go live to the game, already in progress:
It was a slow start, with both Rashi and Maimonides fighting hard to make it to the next round. No clear victor emerged in the first few minutes of play. This one is going to be a nail biter through the end! At the start of halftime the score is tied 2-2.
Rashi has the ball, he’s passing it down the court. It goes to Rashi and he makes a beautiful pass back to Rashi. Now many people are in awe of Rashi’s playbook technique. Man, Rashi is all over that court! What a presence! He studied all of the great books of his time, much like he did in his rabbinic time with the TaNaKh, and wrote commentary on how to best understand their plays — so it seems like he can be everywhere at once. In fact, his commentary is thought to be so amazing that after it was made public people created a new way of writing to keep his plays secret. A smart move by Rashi followers, if they expect him to make it to the next round; he would not want his plays to become the most studied commentary in the game would he.
Hold on! A turnover has occurred!
Maimonides is zipping up the court, dodging left and right. It looks like he is going to shoot. And he’s….no, it cannot be! It seems that Maimonides is pulling out his famous Ladder of Tzedakah. For folk at home who may not know, this ladder has eight rungs that are meant rank charitable actions. Maimonides has climbed his ladder right into a slam dunk!
Will the refs allow it?
YES! The basket is good! The score is now Maimonides 4, Rashi 2.
Rashi is now in possession of the ball. If he wants to win the game, he is going to have to step it up on the court. It seems that he is going to go for a 3-pointer, this could mean a big win for Rashi in today’s tournament. But wait, what is Maimonides doing? He is unwillingly allowing Rashi to take the shot as a lower-level act of charity. Let’s see if this bold move pays off.
The clock is quickly counting down to the end of the game. 10….9…8… Rashi is lining up the shot. 7….6….Rashi shoots the ball…5….4….it is sailing perfectly through the air….3…2…it hits the rim….1….BUZZZ….and the ball swings around the rim and is no good.
Maimonides wins the game and will be moving on to the next round!