I was reading about the life of the great Jewish thinker Moses Maimonides and the times in which he lived, and came across this story that touched me. Four Jewish Rabbi’s were sailing on a ship from the port city of Bari on the SE coast of Italy, on a fund raising tour to gather money for the Jewish Academy in Sura, Babylonia – SE Iraq today. The ship was hijacked by Ibn Romahis, commander of the naval forces of Abd-er-rahman al-nasr, and the rabbis taken prisoner. One of the prisoners, Rabbi Hushiel, was sold into slavery and sent to Kairuan in Tunisia. Another captured Rabbi named Shemarjaru was sent as a slave to Alexandria, Egypt. Rabbi Moses was sold into captivity and ended up in Cordova, Spain. The fourth Rabbi’s name was never recorded.
When the Jewish communities in all the cities where these Rabbis ended up found out about their plight, they raised the appropriate ransom money and had them redeemed back to their own people. Rabbi Moses, who found himself in Cordova, Spain, the capital of the Muslim caliphate that had taken over Spain, was more than happy to attend the Synagogue on the first Sabbath since he was set free.
The leader of the local Synagogue in Cordova was a well respected scholar, Rabbi Nathan. On this Sabbath, Rabbi Nathan was expounding on the Jewish Talmud, which is a collection of teachings by Jewish scholars. When it came question and answer time, Rabbi found himself unable to give a satisfactory answer to a question that was raised. So he looked around for anyone who might have some input.
Rabbi Moses, because of his ordeal was poorly dressed, and did not appear to be a very educated individual. So when he raised his hand, everyone was surprised. Not only did he answer the question thoroughly, but answered several other difficult questions handed him. At the end, Rabbi Nathan stood up and declared to the assembly: “I am no longer your leader; that stranger in his sackcloth shall henceforth be my teacher, and you shall appoint him as your chief.” When the Muslim admiral heard how astoundingly brilliant Rabbi Moses was, he tried to cancel the ransom deal, but the king would not allow it.
I can only imagine this is how the Pharisees and scribes felt when they tried to teach the people and Jesus dressed in His simple Galilean attire stood up and not only answered all the questions, but showed Himself to be of such persuasion and authority, that even the great Jewish scholar Nicodemus sought Him out. Perhaps this same opportunity can be in our destiny if we vigorously study God’s Word and become familiar with the voice of the Holy Spirit.