This week, thousands of communities and countless individuals worldwide concluded—and are today beginning anew—the annual study of Maimonides’ 14-volume Mishneh Torah. In conjunction with this milestone, we present you with 14 facts about this foundational work of Jewish law and the annual study cycle.
1. Rambam Is Studied Daily by Jews Worldwide
Rabbi Moshe ben Maimon (1135-1204), known in
the Jewish world by the acronym “Rambam” and to the world at large as
“Maimonides,” is one of the most important figures in the history
of Torah scholarship. His magnum opus is his Mishneh Torah, a systematic codification
of Jewish law.
The Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel
Schneerson, of righteous memory, called for a revolutionary addition to the core studies of Jewish people worldwide. He urged that every Jewish person study a
portion of the Mishneh Torah
daily—a suggestion that has since been actualized by people across
Read: Maimonides: His Life and Works
2. It Is the Only Book to Cover All of Jewish Law
In the entirety of Torah literature that follows the Bible,
there is not a single work that encompasses the totality of Jewish law. The
sole exception is the Rambam's Mishneh
The Rambam was the first to index the entire body of Oral Law
and compile it in a logical and systematic fashion. He even included laws
that will only be relevant in the
Messianic era, such as the
Jubilee Year and the Temple service. To this very day, the Mishneh Torah remains the only work of
By following the daily Rambam cycle, every individual has
the ability to study the entire body of Jewish law, a goal otherwise out of reach for most..
Read: A New Epoch in Torah Learning
3. It Contributes to Jewish Unity
The Rebbe explained that one of the principal elements in
the study of the Mishneh Torah
is the unification of Jewry. When everyone studies the same material on the same day, their learning is united across continents, and thus achieves a compounded unity of the full breadth of Torah learned by the full span of the Jewish people. Additionally, when
different people study the same topic, they will come to discuss and debate it,
ultimately bringing them closer to each other.
Watch: Rambam and Jewish Unity
|Modern translations and a host of online and print publications have made studying Mishneh Torah on a daily basis an attainable goal for just about anyone.
4. There Are Three Alternative Schedules
The Rebbe suggested three possible schedules, to meet the
specific circumstances and capabilities of every Jewish man, woman, and child:
- Those capable follow
a three-chapter-per-day schedule, which
completes the Mishneh Torah in
slightly less than one year.
- For those unable to study
three chapters every day, the Rebbe suggested a parallel track
at a more modest pace of one chapter daily, which lasts nearly
- For those who find even
that too difficult, the Rebbe instituted yet a third track. Paralleling
the three-chapter-per-day regimen by learning daily about the same
commandments being studied there in detail, this one explores the Rambam’s
significantly shorter Sefer
Hamitzvot (“Book of Commandments”), concluding all
613 mitzvot each year.
Read: Learning Daily Rambam
5. It Has Fourteen Parts
The Mishneh Torah is
divided into fourteen books, each one subdivided into numerous sections,
chapters, and laws.
Here’s a list of the fourteen books and their content:
Madda, the Book
of Knowledge. Includes the
basic principles of the Jewish religion which one must know from the
start, such as G‑d’s unity and the prohibition of idolatry.
Ahavah, the Book
of the Love of G‑d. Commandments
that are done frequently, so that we may always love G‑d and remember Him
constantly, such as reciting the Shema, prayer, tefillin, blessings, and circumcision.
Zemanim, the Book
of Times. Commandments
that are done at fixed times of the year, such as Shabbat and the holidays.
Nashim, the Book
of Women. Laws associated
with marital relations, such as marriage and divorce.
Kedushah, the Book
of Holiness. Laws of
forbidden relations and forbidden foods, with which G‑d sanctified the Jewish People and separated them from the nations.
Hafla’ah, the Book
of Promises. Laws relating
to oaths and vows.
Zeraim, the Book
of Seeds. Laws relating
to agriculture, such as the Sabbatical year
Avodah, the Book
of Service. Laws relating
to building the Holy Temple and
Korbanot, the Book
of Sacrifices. Laws relating
to sacrifices of the individual.
Taharah, the Book
of Ritual Purity. Laws relating
to ritual purity and impurity.
Nezikim, the Book
of Injuries. Laws associated
with civil relations in which there is injury to either property or
Kinyan, the Book
of Acquisition. Laws relating
to sales and purchases.
Mishpatim, the Book
of Judgments. Laws associated
with other civil relations that do not involve injury, such as deposits,
debts, claims, and denials.
Shoftim, the Book
of Judges. Laws delegated
to the Jewish court, such as administering punishment and receiving
testimony, and laws relating to the king
and his wars. Included also are the laws of Moshiach
and the Messianic era.
6. It Is Presently Being Started for the 39th Time
The Rebbe initiated the daily study of Rambam in the spring
of 1984. The Rambam has since been studied by men, women, and
children from across the spectrum of Jewish observance. The participants are
presently concluding the 38th cycle and immediately continuing with
7. Conclusion of Cycle Celebrated Annually
Every year, special siyum (completion)
celebrations take place, recognizing and celebrating the achievement of
those who have studied over the past year. Siyum HaRambam events take place annually in numerous locations across the globe.
The Rebbe would conduct the yearly completion by
giving in-depth expositions on the final chapter of the Rambam’s work, linking
it with the first chapter.
8. Celebrations in Tiberias, Fez, and Cairo
Among the numerous locations where celebrations are held,
special mention should be made of those places associated with the Rambam
himself. In Israel, major public events are held annually at the resting
place of the Rambam in Tiberias. Celebrations have also been held in Fez,
Morocco, where the Rambam lived after escaping with his family from Spain, as well
as in Cairo, Egypt, where he wrote the Mishneh
Read: Maimonides and the City Gates
|It has become a tradition for Moroccan Jews to travel to Fez to celebrate the conclusion of Mishneh Torah near the home of the great scholar, who lived in the city for some time. This group photo is from 2009. (credit: Chabad of Morocco)
9. It Has Three Names
The Rambam named his work Mishneh Torah (lit., “second to the Torah,” or “study [of the entire] Torah”). In his introduction to
the book, he explains the reason for this name: “A person will be able to study
the Written Law and then study this text and comprehend the entire
Oral Law from it, without needing to study any other text between them.”
The work is also referred to as the Yad HaChazakah (lit., “The Strong
Hand,” echoing the words of Exodus 6:1). It is so called because the Hebrew word for hand – יד – is numerically equivalent to 14, the number of books in
the Mishneh Torah.
The most common method of referring to the book is simply as
“the Rambam,” after its author. The word Rambam itself is an acronym (in
Hebrew) for R. Moshe ben Maimon,
Moses son of Maimon.
Read: What is the “Oral Torah”?
10. It Is the Rambam’s Only Hebrew Work
The Rambam authored many other works, most notably his Commentary on the Mishnah, Sefer Hamitzvot, and Moreh Nevuchim (Guide for the
all his other works were originally written in Judeo-Arabic (the language of the
masses in the Iberian Peninsula and North Africa, where the Rambam lived), and
were subsequently translated by others into Hebrew and other languages. The Mishneh Torah is the Rambam’s only work
which he himself penned in Hebrew.
Read: 7 Jewish Classics Originally Written in Arabic
|A page from an early draft of Maimonides's “Guide for the Perplexed,” written in Judeo-Arabic
11. Hundreds of Commentaries Have Been Written on It
Hundreds of commentators have elucidated the text of Mishneh Torah, beginning with the
Rambam’s contemporaries (some of whom wrote critical commentaries to disprove
some of his rulings). Indeed, commentaries on Mishneh Torah continue to be written to this day, uncovering the
endless depths of his words.
12. It Incorporates Philosophy, Health, and Astronomy and Much More
The Rambam’s work covers a wide range of topics, beyond what one might naturally assume relates to Jewish law. The first section of Mishneh Torah presents
the basics of Jewish thought and belief, such as G‑d’s unity and freedom of
choice. There is a chapter with guidance on maintaining a healthy
lifestyle, teaching learners that all our
actions should be permeated with holiness and G‑dliness. The Rambam also explains at
length the astronomical calculations used to determine the
appearance of the new moon, which serves as the basis of the Jewish calendar.
Read: Philosopher and Mystic, Physician and
13. It Concludes with the Laws of Moshiach
Among the distinctions of the Mishneh Torah is that it concludes with two chapters
describing the personality of Moshiach, his coming, and what life will be
like after his arrival.
The Rambam concludes the final chapter with these words:
In that era, there will be neither
famine nor war, envy nor competition, for good will flow in abundance and all
the delights will be freely available as dust. The occupation of the entire
world will be solely to know G‑d. Therefore, the Jews will be great sages and
know the hidden matters, grasping the knowledge of their Creator according to
the full extent of human potential, as Isaiah 11:9 states:
“The world will be filled with the knowledge of G‑d as the waters cover the
Watch: Maimonides and Moshiach
14. You Can Join Today
Unite with the many people who have mastered “the
entire Torah” by studying the Mishneh
Torah. Now is the perfect time to get started. Join the daily Rambam program today!
|From homes to synagogues to vast arenas like the one above in Israel, gatherings around the world mark the completion of the annual study of Maimonides’ Mishneh Torah. (File photo)