Rambam visits Hebron

The prolific and influential Jewish scholar considered his visit to the Cave of Machpela a personal holiday.

28.10.20, 12:13
(IMAGE: A page from Rambam's illustrated Guide of the Perplexed, Barcelona, circa 1347, from the Royal Danish Library, Copenhagen.)
On the 9th of Cheshvan 4926 / October 24, 1165 Maimonides, one of the most one of the most prolific and influential Torah scholars in the Jewish world visited Hebron. Rabbi Moshe ben Maimon, known by the Hebrew acronym Rambam, was a medieval doctor and philosopher whose writings are studied by Jews throughout the world today.
Maimonides discussed his journey in a letter to Rabbi Yaphet bar Eliyahu the Judge.
The letter was printed in the preface to his commentary on the Talmudic tractate of Rosh Hashana and also in collections of the Rambam's letters.
…And on the first day of the week, the ninth day of the month of MarCheshvan, I left Jerusalem for Hebron to kiss the graves of my forefathers in the Cave of Machpela. And on that very day I stood in the Cave and I prayed, praised be G-d for everything. And these two days, the sixth (when he prayed on Temple Mount in Jerusalem) and the ninth of Mar-Cheshvan I vowed to make as a special holiday and in which I will rejoice with prayer, food and drink. May the Lord help me to keep my vows."

His visit was part of a long and arduous journey to Israel that included miraculously surviving a sea voyage and a dangerous ride from Akko to Jerusalem.
Once in Jerusalem, Maimonides visited the Temple Mount before travelling south to Hebron.
The Crusaders ruled the land at that time and many holy sites were accessible, although with restrictions.
The Tomb of the Patriarchs and Matriarchs looked much the same then as it does today. The Muslims conquered the region and converted it into the Mosque of Ibrahim. But their Christian adversaries later triumphed and converted the site into the Church of St. Abram where a Jewish synagogue operated alongside.
The church operated in the Hall of Isaac and Rebecca where vaulted ceiling were added, still visible today. The synagogue operated in the opened central hall of the building. Today it is still possible to identify the few indications that remain of this medieval synagogue.
In 1120 Christian monks succeed in discovering the entrance to the underground Cave of Machpela inside the complex, where the graves of the founding fathers and mothers of monotheism are located. The Muslims had previously blocked this entrance.
Access to the site was possible for both Christians and Jews until the renewed Muslim occupation about 100 years later in approximately 1260.
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