He’s west of Constantinople and there’s a scholar battle brewing outside Salonica. Some visiting doctor from the capital got sniffy about the quality of the intellectuals in the city and one of the young students isn’t having it.
“Come out to the field,” the hothead shouts to a delighted crowd, “and let us compete in our knowledge of the Bible, the Mishnah and the Talmud, Sifra and Sifre and all of rabbinic literature!”
He’s been haunting the town for months, wandering the streets between the marbles and lemon sellers, from the synagogues to the mosques, and he can feel the old gravity dragging him elsewhere. “Let us strive in secular sciences—practical and theoretical fields of science; science of nature, and of the Divine!” He’d stay if he could—he hasn’t felt so at home for centuries. It’s a cramped, unsettled town, a hick town by Ottoman standards, choked with plague in the summer, the sort of place that gets assigned to disgraced courtiers because they keep getting run out of town, but it’s lively. “Let us wrangle in logic—the Organon, in geometry, astronomy, physics!”
“In your profession as well, that of medicine, IF IN YOUR EYES IT IS A SCIENCE—” thrilled oooohs from the crowd at that dig— “we consider it an occupation of no special distinction!” He tries the old trick of circulating through the mob, never still, but his doom can be put off no longer, dammit. “Try me, for you have opened your mouth and belittled my dwelling-place, and you shall see that we know whatever can be known in the proper manner.”
He wonders how it all worked out for decades.