I beg you to send a copy of this missive to every community in the cities and hamlets, in order to strengthen the people in their faith and put them on their feet. Read it at public gatherings and in private, and you will thus become a public benefactor. Take adequate precautions lest its contents be divulged by an evil person and mishap overtake us. (God spare us therefrom.) When I began writing this letter I had some misgivings about it, but they were overruled by my conviction that the public welfare takes precedence over one's personal safety. Moreover, I am sending it to a personage such as you: The counsel of the Lord is for those who fear Him. [ Ps. 25:14]. Our sages, the successors of the prophets, assured us that persons engaged in a religious mission will meet with no disaster. What more important religious mission is there than this! Peace be unto all Israel. Amen. (p. 131)
These concluding words of the Epistle to Yemen speak volumes for Maimonides' heroic commitment to and concern for the community. The philosopher-halakhist may not remain silent while his community is in a state of confusion and desperation. He may not dissociate himself from a community that is being crushed by religious persecution and endangered by apostasy.
The Epistle to Yemen should be read as Maimonides' response to the tragic predicament of a community struggling to retain faith in the eternal covenant of the Torah despite the prevailing conditions of his-