Mensch Madness Game 5: Gaon vs. Maimonides

Welcome back to Mensch Madness! It’s already Game 5!

Rabbi Moses Ben Maimo, also known as Maimonides, alias Rambam, is in the arena today to take on winner of round one, Saadia Gaon. He’s not scared of his competition though, he’s sure to take care of him (just differently than he took care of the Sultan of Egypt).[i] Saadia thinks it’s another story — he knows he’s got this one in the bag(hdad).[ii]

The arena is packed. Maimonides has a lot of fans in the house; the room is echoing with their cheers of “Rah-Rah, Rahm-bam,” and “My-man-is-de best.” Saaadia’s supporters have also arrived, albeit a little late – they were confused about the calendar.[iii] But not to be outdone, the few but fervent fans of the Gaon keep reminding their foes that they still have psalm chance to win– in fact, they’re pretty sure that Maimonides doesn’t have a prayer[iv].

As the game begins, Maimonides sticks to game plan and quickly scores 14 points, one for each book in his Mishneh Torah. He knows the rules of the game well, being a scholar of commandments. He’s even categorized the rules to make sure that all of his fans can understand the game. Saadia, on the other hand is little concerned about something unexpected– his uniform. During a foul, he is overheard yelling at Maimonides: “You fray these, and you’ll tigret-it!”[v]

Saadia’s team is falling behind. It’s hard to keep up, and his team is perplexed[vi]— they don’t have a helpful guide like Maimonides’ team. But at half-time they lean in to their conservative style, sticking to their opinions and beliefs.[vii] Seems to be doing the trick: Saadia is playing point guard of the traditions and it’s working. He sha-toots[viii], he scores!

In an (Ari)startling[ix] comeback, Saadia’s team gets ahead of the Rambam. He was really giving it his all, playing as if he didn’t have a Karaite in the world.[x] The score is 49-38, so you won’t hear the Gaonim gra-oning.

But suddenly, the Gaonim stop moving. Their pride has gotten the best of them, and their passion for Sefer ha-Galui seems to have been misheard. Their equipment managers spread glue on their shoes, which is not what Galui (“Demonstration”) means! The deus ex machina Maimonides needed to win has appeared, and he’s ready to reclaim the game for the Rishonim.

Maimonides rams the ball into the hoop with one final dunk and is able to steal the game back. Maimonides wins, Maimonides wins!

See y’all soon for Game 6!

[i] Maimonides served as the royal physician to the Sultan of Egypt during his time as Egyptian Nagid, or leader of the Jewish community.

[ii] Saadia Gaon is from what is now Baghdad.

[iii] One of Saadia Gaon’s most famous arguments was with Aaron ben Meir over the regulation of the Jewish calendar.

[iv] Saadia Gaon is the author of many liturgical poems and a prayer book.

[v] Saadia Gaon lived in between the banks of the Euphrates and Tigris rivers.

[vi] Maimonides is the author of  “Guide for the Perplexed.”

[vii] Saadia Gaon is the author of “Opinions and Beliefs.”

[viii] Saadia Gaon called the tradition of Kol Nidre a minhag shatoot, or a foolish tradition.

[ix] Saadia Gaon was a student of Aristotle’s philosophy

[x] Saadia Gaon had a particular disdain for the Karaites.

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