Travel Miracles I: Kefitzat ha-Derach
by Ilil Arbel, Ph.D.
One day the king asked Maimonides: "Show me that you really know how to perform Kefitzat ha-Derach."
"Very well, sir," said Maimonides, and disappeared from sight.
The king looked for him for half a day, and could not find him. Suddenly, Maimonides reappeared, led the king to his house, and showed him goods from other countries located in Europe. Everyone knew how far Europe was! He also had a document, signed by eye witnesses and by the governor of one of the distant cities, showing that on that same date Maimonides bought a house for a certain price, and from a specific landlord. Then, Maimonides showed the king a set of keys for that house.
The king was so impressed that he started studying the Torah with Maimonides and from that day on, was always good and kind to the Jews. The entire congregation maintained a pleasant lifestyle and earned a good income.
Literally, the phrase Kefitzat ha-Derach means "The Jumping of the Road." In Jewish myth, there is a recurring miracle that allows a traveler to cross long distances in unnaturally short time.
This legend has a strong historical core, regarding a document showing the deed for a house, bought at a specific date. The evidence was used favorably to prove Maimonides' innocence when he was accused of converting to Islam during a specific time. The document proved he could not be at two places at the same time. In addition, the good king is undoubtedly Saladin, who always treated the Jews well.
Ilil Arbel. Maimonides: A Spiritual Biography. New York: Crossroad Publishing Company. (To be published September 2001).
Yitzhak Avishur. Shivhe ha-Rambam. Jerusalem: The Magnes Press, The Hebrew University. 1998.