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Why did Maimonides live in Egypt if the Torah forbids returning there?

by Rabbi Naftali Silberberg


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The Kesef Mishneh answers (in the name of the Re'am) that the prohibition of the Torah to dwell in Egypt applies only if one travels from Israel to Egypt, retracing the path which the Jews took from Egypt to Israel. This logic is based on the verse (Devarim 17:16) which says "For Hashem has said to you, 'You shall no longer return on this road again.'"

The Ridvaz rejects this answer and instead says that the prohibition is only to return to Egypt with the intention of settling there. If, however, one travels there without the intention of staying but afterwards is prevented from leaving due to pressing circumstances (such as the services the Rambam rendered the king and the Jewish community) one has not actually transgressed this prohibition. [In fact, the Ridvaz himself lived in Egypt for a period of time where he established a Yeshiva.]

It is interesting to note, however, that the Kaftor Vaferach writes that the Rambam would sign his letters "the writer, who every day is guilty of transgressing three sins," referring to the three verses where we are enjoined not to live in Egypt. From this we see that despite the fact that the Rambam certainly had good reason for remaining in Egypt, it bothered him deeply.


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Torah is G–d’s teaching to man. In general terms, we refer to the Five Books of Moses as “The Torah.” But in truth, all Jewish beliefs and laws are part of the Torah.
(Pl.: Yeshivot) Religious school which teaches Jewish studies. Most Yeshivot offer secular studies too.
"The Name." Out of respect, we do not explicitly mention G-d's name, unless in the course of prayer. Instead, "Hashem" is substituted.
Acronym for Rabbi Moshe ben Maimon, widely known as Maimonides. Born in Spain in 1135, died in Egypt in 1204. Noted philosopher and authority on Jewish law. Also was an accomplished physician and was the personal doctor for members of the Egyptian royalty. Interred in Tiberius, Israel.