Outwitting His Enemies
The Rambam (Maimonides) lived from 1135 to
1204. His scholarly works are world-renowned and it
is about him that we say, "From Moses to Moses there
never arose so great a person as Moses."
The Rambam was gifted in the study of science,
philosophy and medicine. It was in this latter field that
his fame spread throughout the Arab world. So much
so, that the Sultan of Egypt commanded him to appear
in his court. Recognizing the Rambam's brilliance, the
Sultan wanted to appoint him as a minister.
The Sultan had seven categories of ministers, each
in charge of a special branch of science and each an
expert in his field. The categories were listed as follows: Literature, Philosophy, Geometry, Numerology,
Astrology, Music and Medicine.
Appointed Court Physician
The Sultan realized that the Rambam's knowledge
far surpassed that of his ministers and was not sure to
what position he should appoint him. The Rambam requested that he be allowed to serve the Sultan directly
and be responsible for his health. The plan found favor
in the Sultans eyes and he appointed the Rambam as
This immediately evoked bitter antagonism and
hatred from all the ministers, especially the leading physicians of the empire. A non-believer, a Jew
dared to attain such a high office in the personal life
of the Sultan! Soon a plan was set in motion to trap
Rambam and cause him to lose favor in the eves of
It came to pass that the king became ill. The
Rambam prepared a medicinal potion for the king
to drink. However, the ministers bribed one of the
trusted servants to put a powerful poison into the
medicine. This same scoundrel was then told to warn
the Sultan that the Jewish physician was prepared to
kill the king by poisoning his medicine. He was told that Rambam had joined forces with the Sultan's enemies and was promised a rich reward for this dastardly act.
The Sultan was overwrought. He could not believe
it of his most trusted physician. However, when the
Rambam appeared with his medicine, the Sultan ordered the medicine to be given to a dog. One sip and
the dog died.
The Sultan was angry. He would not listen to the
Rambam's pleas that it was the doings of his court enemies. The Sultan condemned the Rambam to death.
"However," said the Sultan, "because of your years
of loyal service, I will grant you the choice of choosing
the manner of your death!"
The Rambam begged for three days grace to plan his
death with his disciples. It was granted. The Rambam
immediately went home, gathered his pupils around
him and told them of his plan.
"I will permit my enemies, the court physicians, to
sever every artery in my body and, in this way, they
will be convinced that I must bleed to death," explained
Rambam. "However, due to their ignorance, they will
overlook one of the main arteries near the heart. This
artery will contain enough blood to enable me to live a
while, although my pulse may appear to have stopped.
Rush me home and give me the following herbs and
medicines and stop the bleeding. With G-d's help I will
The Rambam returned to the court and offered
his plan of death to the Sultan. The court physicians gleefully accepted it. In the presence of the
Sultan, they severed all of the Rambam's arteries
and watched him bleed to death. Feeling no pulse or
heartbeat, they allowed the students to remove the
Rambam's body. The pupils obeyed their master's instructions and within a few days the Rambam was recuperating.
The Sultan was overwhelmed when he saw the
Rambam walk into his chambers. Now he was convinced that the Rambam was innocent. He accused the
court physicians of the dastardly plot on both his and
the Rambam's lives.
"Only in one way can you convince me of your superiority over the Rambam," said the Sultan. "I will arrange a contest. You will all prepare poison and put it
in each other's cup. The person who will not die will
be the winner, and it will be G-d's sign that he is the
The enemies of the Rambam were frightened. They
pleaded with the Sultan. "He is one and we are many,"
they said. "Therefore permit us to drink last and he
should be the first to drink our potion."
The Sultan agreed. The Rambam then requested
a few days time to prepare himself. When his pupils
heard of this new edict, they rend their garments, fasted and prayed to Hashem.
Every day for one week, the Rambam began tasting various poisons to accustom his body to them.
On the day of the contest, the Rambam drank a powerful antidote, which would line his stomach with
preventative acids and thus delay the effect of the
poisons. He also instructed his pupils to give him
other antidotes immediately after swallowing the
Just as the Rambam planned, he escaped unharmed
from the deadly effects of the poison. The Sultan and
the court were amazed at this miracle and he was loudly applauded.
Now it was the Rambam's chance to revenge himself upon his enemies. He prepared a strong poison and
his enemies were forced to swallow it. Immediately the
deadly poison took effect and 10 ministers and physicians died.
The fame of the Rambam spread to the four corners
of the world and he was revered and honored throughout the land.
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Page last updated - 11/13/2009