A letter signed by Moses Maimonides. On the last line of this manuscript found in the Cairo Genizah appears the signature in Hebrew of the great 12th-century Jewish philosopher and physician, Rabbi Moses Ben Maimon. The Hebrew name, Ben Maimon, because Maimonides, a Greek form of the name. Jews commonly refer to him simply as “The Rambam,” from the acronym of his name.
Born in Cordoba, Spain, Maimonides remained in Spain until he was about 25, when he and his family moved to Fez in Morocco. Six years later, in about 1165, Maimonides left Fez for the Holy Land, but after a short period of time he once again moved on—this time to Fostat, the old city of Cairo. There he spent the remainder of his life serving as head of the Jewish community. At the time of his death in 1204 he was also court physician to the ruler of Egypt. The letter from Maimonides is written in Judeo-Arabic. It requests than an unmarried “trusted and faithful elder,” to whom the letter will be delivered, help him, the bearer of the letter, Isaac al-Dar‘i, to pay his poll-tax so that he may proceed on “important business.”