The Tomb of Maimonides (Rabbi Moshe Ben Maimon or Rambam) is situated in Tiberias on the western shore of the Sea of Galilee. Maimonides (1135-1204) was a learned Torah scholar, philosopher; physician and codifier of Jewish law. Rambam is one of several important “tsadikim” (righteous ones) and Rabbinical figures buried in Tiberias as it is one of Israel’s four holy Jewish cities.
Maimonides was born in Cordoba, Spain in 1135 and grew to be an authority on Jewish law. He and his family fled Spain for Morocco in 1135 due to religious persecution and eventually settled in Egypt where he became a doctor to Sultan Saladin, Muslim ruler of Egypt. Rambam died in Egypt in 1204 and requested that his body be laid to rest in the Holy Land. One legend claims that his body was put on his camel and Rambam’s students followed as the camel walked. When the camel stopped at the grave of Rabbi Yochanan ben Zakkai they knew they had found the right burial site.
Rambam was well-read in the teachings of Greek philosophers, rabbinical teachings, the Bible and Talmud. In addition, he was an educated doctor versed in the sciences. His contribution to medicine included observations on the anatomy of the uterus, recognition of psychosomatics and especially in the field of medical ethics. Among his greatest works are The Guide to the Perplexed and the Mishnah Torah. Rambam composed a prayer for healers equivalent to the Hippocratic Oath but in a religious context. Rambam made an impact no only on Judaism and Torah studies but also in the fields of philosophy and medicine.
Praying at Rambam’s Grave
As with other tombs of great Jewish sages, it is traditional for Jews to come to Rambam’s grave to pray. This age-old tradition does not mean that the person is praying to Rambam but rather that praying at the graveside will add merit to the person’s prayers. The most popular time to prayer at Rambam’s grave is on the anniversary of his passing. It is also traditional to visit the tomb on the eve of Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year) and Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement) to pray for the tzadik to intercede on our behalf on the Day of Judgment.
Visiting Rambam’s Tomb in Tiberias
A long walkway leading to the tomb is lined with columns inscribed with the titles of the 14 volumes of the Mishnah. At the end of the walkway, a large geometrically-shaped sculpture representing a crown covers an open-air courtyard. The tomb is located here as well as various plaques bearing prayers and quotes. Within the same burial complex are the tombs of Yochanan ben Zakai (30 BC-90 AD) and Rabbi Isaiah Horowitz (1555-1630). Next to the Tomb of Maimonides is the Maimonides Heritage Center where you can learn more about the sage’s life, work and legacy.