Moses Maimonides, millennial man

Who would you select as Jew of the millennium? What are the criteria?

In an admittedly unscientific poll of local Judaica scholars, the winner was not a warrior, a leader of state or a sports hero. Instead, more than half of those polled selected a doctor, scholar, philosopher and medieval theologian. Go figure.

Moses Maimonides (1135-1204), also known as Moses ben Maimon or Rambam, accomplished several lifetimes of work in his 69 years.

An avid student of Aristotle as well as Judaism, he brought a strong philosophical discipline to Jewish thought. He codified the Jewish law, wrote an extended commentary on the Mishnah and wrote his famous "Guide of the Perplexed," tackling such topics as the nature of God and the nature of belief.

One of his strongest contributions was his rejection of the belief in an anthropomorphic God patterned in man's image in favor of a God that was pure spirit.

In addition, he was a physician in both the Arab and Jewish worlds. And he took a holistic approach that was centuries ahead of his time, penning common-sense advice on such diverse topics as hygiene, poisons, nutrition, sex and even hemorrhoids.

Eating properly and spiritual treatment, he wrote, can reduce nervousness and help the asthmatic.

In his "Guide to Good Health," he wrote that music, poetry, walks in healthy surroundings and proper care of the body can alleviate depression and its physical symptoms.

Yet, despite his many contributions not only to Judaism but to the world, Maimonides is not a household name and few know of his many accomplishments.

Said Jonathan Roth, an associate professor in the Jewish studies program at San Jose State, "He's probably one of the best known people of the Middle Ages that nobody has heard of."

As the millennium approaches, make a resolution to learn about this Jewish millennial man. It couldn't hurt.