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Maimonides Revised: The Case of the Sefer Miṣwot Gadol*

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  10 June 2011

Jeffrey R. Woolf
Bar-Ilan University


The Sefer Miṣwot Gadol (The Great Book of the Commandments) of R. Moses b. Jacob of Coucy (mid-thirteenth century), is one of the central works of halakhic codification stemming from Franco-German (Ashkenazic) Jewry in the High Middle Ages. It has long had a reputation for being one of the classic compilations of the tosafist age, a period of efflorescence of talmudic scholarship which spanned the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. Its influence both as a legal source and schoolbook was wide-ranging, as the large number of extant manuscripts of the work, as well as the intensive work of annotation and commentary that it inspired, bear witness.

Research Article
Copyright © President and Fellows of Harvard College 1997

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1 The work originally bore the name Sefer HaMiswot. It later received the adjective Gadol (“great”) to distinguish it from the later work Sefer Miswot Qatan (The Lesser Book of the Commandments) by R. Isaac of Corbeille.

2 For the available information regarding his life, see Urbach, Efraim E., Ba'ale hat-To'safot (5th ed.; Jerusalem: Mossad Bialik, 1986) 465–79Google Scholar . Unless otherwise noted, references to the Sefer Miswot Gadol are to the photo-reproduction of the Venice edition of 1547.

3 While medieval Ashkenaz produced a large number of halakhic works between the eleventh and early fourteenth centuries, these tended to be eclectic mixtures of responsa, commentaries, and traditions, most often organized around the order of the tractates of the Talmud or of the ninth-century gaonic code, Halakhot Gedolot. Among the few independently-organized medieval works were the Sefer HaYere'im of R. Eleazar of Metz (fl. ca. 1175), the Sefer HaTerumah of R. Barukh of Mainz (ca. 1200), the Sefer Roqe'ah of R. Eliezer of Worms (d. ca. 1230), and the Sefer Miswot Qatan of R. Isaac of Corbeille (d. 1280). See , Urbach, Ba'ale hat-To'safot, 152–64Google Scholar , 345-61, 388-411, and 571-85. For the earlier period, see Grossman, Avraham, Hokhmei Askenaz Harišonim (2d ed.; Jerusalem: Magnes, 1989)Google Scholar.

4 The tosafist age saw the development of a dynamic, essentially dialectical, method of talmudic study which revitalized and dramatically expanded the universe of talmudic discourse. The primary vehicle of expression of this school was in the form of tosafot or glosses on the older text, hence the anglicized form “tosafist.” These glosses carefully probed the talmudic corpus for contradictions and nuances, which one could then resolve or amplify through the use of dialectical discourse. For the purposes of the present study it is important t o note that the tremendous excitement engendered by the intellectual strides of the tosafists led to an ever-increasing emphasis in rabbinic circles upon Talmud study alone, to the detriment of other intellectual and spiritual endeavors (e.g., composition of religious poetry and biblical exegesis).

The classic study of the tosafist school is that of Urbach (Ba'ale hat-To'safot). See also , Twersky, Isadore, “Aspects of the Social and Cultural History of Provencal Jewry,” in Ben-Sasson, Haim Hillel and Ettinger, Samuel, eds., Jewish Society Through the Ages (New York: Schocken, 1973) 193–95Google Scholar ; Faur, Yasin Ahmad, “The Legal Thinking of the Tossaphot: An Historical Approach,” Dine Israel 6 (1975) xlii–lxxiiGoogle Scholar ; and Soloveitchik, Haym, “Three Themes i n Sefer Hassidim,” Association for Jewish Studies Review 1 (1976) 311–57Google Scholar . On possible points of contact between the tosafist school and the relevant features of the twelfth-century Renaissance, see , Urbach, Ba'ale hat-To'safot, 2429Google Scholar , 676-80 ; Grossman, Avraham, “Resitan sel To'safot,” in Steinfeld, Zvi A., ed., Rashi Studies (Ramat Gan: Bar-Ilan University Press, 1993) 6668Google Scholar ; and the reviews of Urbach's book by Irving Agus in JQR 46 (1955-1956) 366–78Google Scholar ; Haim Hillel Ben-Sasson in Behinot 9 (1956) 3953Google Scholar ; Jacob Katz in Qiryat Sefer 31 (1957) 916Google Scholar [reprinted in idem , Halakha wa-Qabbalah (Jerusalem: Magnes, 1986) 340–52]Google Scholar ; and Isadore Twersky in Tarbis 26 (1957) 215–27.Google Scholar

5 On the manuscript history of the work, see the summary by Peles, Yisrael M., “Nusah HaSMaG Hašalem,” in Sefer Miswot Gadol Hašalem (Jerusalem: Makhon Yerushalayim, 1993) 1724Google Scholar . Concerning the commentary literature on the work, see Havazelet, A. Y. et al., “Mefarsei HašMaG,”Google Scholar in Sefer Miswot Gadol Hašalem, 25-35. I discuss the long-term influence of R. Moses of Coucy's work in an article presently in preparation.

6 , Literally, “Recapitulation of the Law.”Google Scholar The now classic treatment of the work is to be found (with extensive textual and bibliographical references) in Twersky, Isadore, Introduction to the Code of Maimonides (New Haven: Yale Judaica Press) 1980Google Scholar . Further bibliographical references appear in the updated Hebrew edition of the same work, idem , Mavo L-Mišneh Torah L-ha-RaMBaM (Jerusalem: Magnes, 1992)Google Scholar . See also Levinger, Yaakov, Darkhe Ha-Mahsava Ha-Hlikhatit sel HaRamBaM (Jerusalem: Magnes, 1965)Google Scholar ; and idem , HaRaMBaM k-Pilosof u-Poseq (Jerusalem: Mossad Bialik, 1989)Google Scholar.

7 , Twersky, Code of Maimonides, 1480.Google Scholar

8 See Twersky, Isadore, “The Beginnings of Misneh Torah Criticism,” in Altmann, Alexander, ed.. Biblical and Other Studies (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1963) 161–82Google Scholar ; and idem, Code of Maimonides, 515-37.

9 In the absence of a universally recognized source of Jewish legal authority, acceptance of any given halakhic opinion follows upon the persuasiveness of its supporting arguments. Maimonides' atyptically apodictic, and predominantly unilateral rulings flew in the face of this accepted feature of the halakhic process. See , Twersky, Code of Maimonides, 97142Google Scholar ; Kirschenbaum, Aron and Lamm, Norman, “Freedom and Constraint in the Jewish Judicial Process,” Cardozo Law Review 1 (1979) 99133Google Scholar ; and Woolf, Jeffrey, “The Parameters of Precedent in Psaq Halakha,” Tradition 28 (1993) 4148Google Scholar.

10 This point, which is organically connected to the preceding one, was best summed up by the twelfth-century Provencal talmudist, R. Abraham b. David of Posquieres in his animadversionary gloss on Maimonides' introduction to the Mišneh Torah: “He intended to improve but did not improve, for he forsook the way of all authors who preceded him. They always adduced proof for their statements and cited the proper authority for each statement; this was very useful, for sometimes the judge would be inclined to forbid or permit something and his proof was based on some other authority. Had he known that there was a greater authority who interpreted the law differently, he might have retracted. Now, therefore, I do not know why I should reverse my tradition or my corroborative views because of the compendium of this author. If the one who differs with me is greater than I—fine; and, if I am greater than he, why should I annul my opinion in deference to his? Moreover, there are matters concerning which the Ge'onim [i.e., early posttalmudic authorities] disagree and this author, has selected the opinion of one and incorporated it in his compendium. Why should I rely upon his choice when it is not acceptable to me and I do not know whether the contending authority is competent to differ or not. It can only be that ‘an overbearing spirit is in him’ (Daniel 5:12).” (Cited in Twersky, Isadore, Rabad of Posquieres: A Twelfth-Century Talmudist [2d ed.; Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 1980] 131.)Google Scholar

11 Cf. Moreh Nebukhim 1.71 and 3.26-34, 51. See Twersky, Isadore, “Religion and Law,” in Goitein, Shlomo D., ed., Religion in a Religious Age (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1974) 6982Google Scholar ; idem, Code of Maimonides, 359-73; and Katz, Jacob, “Post Zoharic Relations Between Halakhah and Kabbalah,” in Cooperman, Bernard D., ed., Jewish Thought in the Sixteenth Century (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1983) 283–87Google Scholar.

12 The term is a misnomer, since early on Maimonides himself, owing to his titanic stature as a legal scholar, was no longer a subject of direct criticism. The question which lay at the heart of the debate from the early thirteenth century onward concerned the appropriateness of philosophical study for lesser mortals. See Septimus, Bernard, Hispano-Jewish Culture in Transition (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1982)Google Scholar.

13 On the various stages of the controversy, see Silver, Daniel J., Maimonidean Criticism and the Maimonidean Controversy: 1180-1240 (Leiden: Brill, 1965)Google Scholar ; Halkin, Abraham S., “Yedaiah Bedershi's Apology,” in Altmann, Alexander, ed., Jewish Medieval and Renaissance Studies (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1967) 165–84Google Scholar ; Baer, Yitzhak, A History of the Jews in Christian Spain (Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 1971) 96110Google Scholar , 220-24, 236-42, and 289-305 ; Shohet, Azriel, “Berurim be-Farasat ha-Pulemos ha-RiSon al kitbe ha-RaMBaM,” Zion 36 (1971) 2660Google Scholar ; , Septimus, Hispano-Jewish Culture; Jeremy Cohen, The Friars and the Jews (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1982) 5260Google Scholar and the sources cited in the next note.

14 On the place of Maimonides in Franco-German Jewish legal thought, see Dienstag, Jacob, “Yahasam Šel Ba'ale hat-To'safot LehaRaMBaM,” in Bernstein, Shimon and Hurgin, Gershon, eds., Sefer HaYovel L-S. K. Mirsky (New York: Yeshiva University, 1955) 350–79Google Scholar ; and Kahane, Isaac Zev, “HaPulmos Sawiw HaHakhra'a K'haRaMBaM,” inGoogle Scholaridem , Mehqarim B'ŠSifrut HaTesubot (Jerusalem: Mossad HaRav Kook, 1973) 888Google Scholar.

15 Despite the objections of Urbach, it has now become fairly certain that some sort of ban must have been issued against the Guide for the Perplexed and the Book of Knowledge. See Urbach, Efraim E., “Helqam Sel Hakhmei Aškenaz w'Sarefat b'Pulmos al HaRaMBaM u'Sefaraw,” Zion 12 (1947) 149–59Google Scholar ; Shatzmiller, Joseph, “L'Temunat HaMahloqet HaRiSonah al Kitbe HaRambam,” Zion 34 (1969) 126–44Google Scholar ; , Shohet, “Berurim,” 2760Google Scholar ; and , Cohen, Friars and the Jews, 5253Google Scholar.

16 There is no total identity between the topical arrangement and superscriptions found in two works, for at least two reasons. First, the Sefer Miswot Gadol is a listing of the commandments, as the title of the book implies. These are divided into two separate volumes, containing the negative and the positive commandments respectively. As a result, in cases where a specific topic comprehended both positive and negative commandments, R. Moses assigned each to its proper volume of the work. This is in contrast to Maimonides, who specifically emphasized his unique achievement in gathering scattered material and topics into a unified, topical arrangement (cf . , HaqdamahLešefer HaMiswot with MaimonidesGoogle ScholarLetter on Resurrection,” [ed. Finkel, Joshua; PAAJR 9 (1939)] 57105Google Scholar , esp. 2 and 4); see the discussion in , Twersky, Code of Maimonides, 276–81Google Scholar . Second, in other cases, R. Moses had substantive objections to specific Maimonidean formulations. See , Urbach, Ba'ale ha'ale hat-To'safot, 472–13 and belowGoogle Scholar.

17 Regarding the issue of pragmatic versus theoretical study of Jewish law in the Middle Ages, see , Twersky, Code of Maimonides, 188215Google Scholar . In this regard, the wholistic views of Maimonides and the tosafists overlapped. Cf . , Urbach, Ba'ale hat-To'safot, 699720Google Scholar.

18 That the Sefer Miswot Gadol was based upon the Mišneh Torah, and not upon Maimonides' own listing of the commandments, the Sefer HaMiswot, caught the attention of the sixteenth-century halakhist, R. Elijah Mizrahi in his commentary to the Sefer Miswot Gadol (Hit. Hametz, Venice 1547, fol. 252b-d). This was most likely due to the fact that Maimonides' Sefer HaMiswot was translated only toward the end of the thirteenth century, by Moses ibn Tibbon, and was hence unavailable to R. Moses. See , , Urbach, Ba'ale hat-To'safot. 472Google Scholar ; and Sefer HaMiswot (ed. Heller, Hayyim D.; Jerusalem: Mossad HaRav Kook, 1980) 12Google Scholar.

19 See the examples noted by , Urbach, Ba'ale hat-To'safot, 472–73Google Scholar as well as the discussion below. Concerning the medieval penchant for not citing sources, see Minnis, Alastair J., The Medieval Idea of Authorship (London: Scolar Press, 1984)Google Scholar ; Carruthers, Mary, The Book of Memory (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990)Google Scholar ; and my comments in L'Demuto Ha Tarbutit v'ha-Hilkhatit Sel Rabbi Eliyahu,” Tarbis 65 (1996) 176 n. 28Google Scholar.

20 SMaG HaŠalem, 12. R. Moses discusses the work of Maimonides more extensively and i n more glowing terms than the other, previous halakhic works which he discusses in his introduction. Cf. Galinsky, Yehudah, “Qum 'Aseh Sefer Torah Mi-Shne Halaqim: L'Verur Kavvanat Rabbi, Moshe mi-Coucy Bi-khetivat HaSMaG,” HaMa'ayan 35 (1995) 29Google Scholar.

21 That is, “the great, outstanding scholar.” On the origin and development of the term, see Havlin, Shelomo Z., Toratan sel Ge'onim (7 vols.; Jerusalem: Wagshal, 1993) 7. 1Google Scholar.

22 SMaG HaŠalem, 12.

23 At the same time, this text is a precedent for the Ashkenazic penchant for annotating Spanish halakhic codes, thereby universalizing them, while simultaneously undermining their potential finality. This form of glossatorial activity would later become a hallmark of the circle of students surrounding R. Meir of Rothenberg (d. 1296). Cf . , Urbach, Ba'ale hat-Tosafot, 551–70Google Scholar , and Twersky, Isadore, “The Shulhan Arukh: Enduring Code of Jewish Law,” in Goldin, Judah, ed., The Jewish Expression (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1976) 326–27Google Scholar.

24 The best summary of this state of things is that of the sixteenth-century Polish halakhist, R. Solomon Luria, who asserted that “it has long been well known that the Sefer Miswot Gadol i s totally based on the RaMBaM, and [that] in most places he simply copies [Maimonides].…” (Isserles, R. Moses, Responsa, Amsterdam 1711Google Scholar , no. 67; and cf . Luria, R. Solomon, Responsa, Jerusalem 1972 no. 35)Google Scholar . Concerning Luria's halakhic work, see Raffeld, Avraham Meir, “HaMaHaRSaL w'HaYam Sel Selomo” (Ph.D. diss., Bar Ilan University, 1991)Google Scholar.

25 The formulation is , Twersky's (Code of Maimonides, 102).Google Scholar

26 The contention that R. Moses intended to create a tosafist version of the Misneh Torah gains further corroboration from the fact that R. Moses' encomium to Maimonides immediately precedes a description of his own decision to compose the Sefer Miswot Gadol. The proximity of the two passages suggests a causal nexus between R. Moses' adulation of Maimonides and his own literary project . , Galinsky (“Qum 'Aseh,” 2830)Google Scholar , on the other hand, understands R. Moses' motives solely in light of his stated criticism of the Mišneh Torah.

27 Introduction to the MiSneh Torah, s.v. u'w'zman; cf. Hassagat HaRaBaD. See the discussion in , Twersky, Code of Maimonides, 102–5Google Scholar ; and idem, Rabad, 128–97. As Twersky noted, Maimonides never denied the fact that the oral law would continue to grow, and thus never presumed it to have achieved halakhic finality. While this may be correct, it is also true that most of the readers of the Mišneh Torah (both supporters and detractors) understood him to mean exactly the opposite. See Twersky, Isadore, “Some Non–Halakhic aspects of the Misneh Torah,” in Altmann, Alexander, ed., Jewish Medieval and Renaissance Studies (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1967) 106–11Google Scholar ; idem, Code of Maimonides, 139-50 ; Havlin, Shlomo Zalman, “Misneh Torah-Sof Geonut?HaMa'ayan 5 (1965) 4159Google Scholar ; Soloveitchik, Haym, “Rabad of Posquieres: A Programmatic Essay,” in Etkes, Immanuel and Salmon, Yosef, eds., Studies in the History of Jewish Society in the Middle Ages and in the Modern Period Presented to Professor Jacob Katz. (Jerusalem: Magnes, 1980) 1920Google Scholar.

28 In the eyes of the tosafists, legal differences of opinion were even present in heaven. Cf . Hiddusei HaRitwa al Massekhet Eruwin (ed. Goldstein, M.; Jerusalem: Mossad HaRav Kook, 1991)Google Scholar fol. 13b, s.v. elu (which reflects the glosses of the late thirteenth-century French tosafist, R. Peretz of Corbeille):

The rabbis of France (of blessed memory) asked: “How is it possible that both opinions [in a Talmudic controversy] are the words of the Living God, since one permits and one prohibits?” And they resolved [the question]: “That when Moses ascended to heaven to receive the Torah, they showed him that for every question there are 49 ways to permit and 49 ways to prohibit [the same thing]. And he asked the Holy One, blessed be He concerning this. And He responded that this matter will be entrusted to the Sages of Israel in every generation, and the final decision will be in accord with their opinion.”

On the issue generally, see , Urbach, Ba'ale hat-To'safot, 734–44Google Scholar ; , Soloveitchik, “Three Themes,” 339–45Google Scholar ; idem , “Rabadof Posquieres,” 16 and 19-20; and Saguy, Avi, Elu w'Elu (Tel Aviv: Ha-Qibbutz HaMe'uhad, 1996)Google Scholar . I address different aspects of this issue in my forthcoming articles: “Samkhut u'Kfifut BaPesiqa HaASkenazit b'Selhe Yeme HaBena'im,” in Safrai, Zeev and Saguy, A., eds., Samkhut w'Autonomia B'Massoret Yisrael (Tel Aviv: Ha-Qibbutz HaMe'uhad, 1996).Google Scholar

29 S.v., Wayehi.

30 R. Moses of Coucy was, among other things, an itinerant preacher. By his own testimony, he spent 1236 in France, Provence, and Spain preaching and exhorting Jews to nurture the fear of God and the performance of the commandments. He mentions on several occasions that he wrote his book at the importuning of his audience to provide them with a guidebook to proper religious observance. This he delayed doing until, in his words, a dream instructed him to write the work. The final product, furthermore, contains several passages from his sermons. See , Urbach, Ba'ale hat-To'safot, 466–71Google Scholar ; and , Galinsky, “Qum 'Aseh,” 2527Google Scholar.

31 Cf. , Galinsky, “Qum 'Aseh,” 26Google Scholar . Concerning R. Isaac and his product, which became one of the most influential Ashkenazic codes of the later Middle Ages, see , Urbach, Ba'ale hat-To'safot, 571–77Google Scholar.

32 If so, then the Sefer Miswot Gadol realized the goal which Maimonides may have set for his own work.

33 That is, based upon authority.

34 The order of the Mishnah that deals primarily with the temple service.

35 The order that treats agricultural laws (e.g., heave offerings, tithes, and so on) and is essentially relevant only in the land of Israel.

36 The order that addresses issues of ritual purity, most of which are in desuetude. “Among the issues raised here are the legitimacy of theoretical Torah study and the difficulties innate to Talmud study as a guide to practical observance, which in turn serves as a justification for the entire codificatory enterprise. Particularly noteworthy are the specifically Maimonidean echoes in these connections. Cf . , Hil. Kiddus HaHodes 18.14Google Scholar ; “Iggeret L'Rabbi Pinhas HaDayyan,” in Iggerot HaRambam (ed. Shilat, Yitzhak; Jerusalem: Birkat Moshe, 1988) 438-49Google Scholar ; and more generally , , Twersky, Code of Maimonides, 195200Google Scholar.

38 In this he echoes the sentiments of Maimonides. Cf. Peruš HaMišnah, Menah. 13.11 and his Iggerot L'Rabbi Pinhas HaDayyan, 446–47.

39 It remains unclear, however, whether there were actual voices expressing such sentiments at the time. If there were such, who were they and to what did they object?

40 Cf. , Galinsky, “Qum 'Aseh,” 27Google Scholar . See also Levinger, Yaakov, Darkhe HaMahsawah HaHilkhatit, 2133Google Scholar ; and , Twersky, Code of Maimonides, 6181Google Scholar . As this exchange evidences, it is clear that the question as to the “popular” versus the “scholarly” audience of the MiSneh Torah, is still moot. Upon further consideration, however, such inner tension appears to be endemic to the codificatory enterprise. A good example, in this regard, is provided by the Sulhan Arukh of R. Joseph Karo. In his brief introduction to the first edition of that work, he points out its being aimed at students, scholars, and kabbalists. See Tchernowitz, Hayyim, Toldot HaPosqim (New York: Jubilee Committee, 1947) 2534Google Scholar ; Elon, Menachem, HaMiSpat Ha-Iwri (3d ed.; Jerusalem: Magnes, 1992) 1096–99Google Scholar ; and , Twersky, “Shulhan Arukh” 327–30Google Scholar.

41 Here too, the Sefer Miswot Gadol echoes an oft repeated Maimonidean theme. Cf. “Iggeret L'Rabbi Pinhas HaDayyan,” 442-44. The extent to which R. Moses had access to these other sources remains unclear.

42 The passage also underscores the personal conviction of the author that the casuistic/ dialectical analysis of the Talmud is an integral part of its study. R. Moses' deep commitment o t tosafist dialectic takes shape both in his own glosses and in the learned discussions strewn throughout his work. In relationship to the former point, scholars have long attributed the glosses known as Tosafot Yesanim on tractate Yoma to R. Moses of Coucy. The late Professor Shraga Abramson contended that R. Moses also composed tosafot on tractates Berakhot, Abodah Zarah, and Sanhedrin. Cf . Abramson, Shraga, ‘“Inyyanot B’ Sefer Miswot Gadol,” Sinai 80 (1977) 207 9Google Scholar . , Urbach (Ba'ale hat-To'safot, 478)Google Scholar , however, disputed this claim.

One might also note that the desire to provide the student with a systematic presentation of the commandments is both a counterpoint to the involvement in pilpul, and a corrective that would ensure a healthier relationship between it and halakhic decisionment. Such considerations were also on the mind of R. Eleazar of Metz in his introduction to Sefer Yere'im (Yere'im Hašalem [ed. Schiff, A. A.; Vilna, 1892-1904Google Scholar (= Jerusalem, 1974)]):

For my thoughts are disturbed…for those poor in Torah, their toil is in casuistic questions on the passages of the Talmud and its path, while they pay no attention to the roots of the commandments, that which the Creator ordained, [to know] how to fulfill His statutes and ordinances.

Cf. , Urbach, Ba'ale hat-To'safot, 159–62Google Scholar ; , Soloveitchik, “Three Themes,” 339–52Google Scholar ; and Ta-Shema, Israel, “Miswot Talmud Torah k'Ba'ayah Datit w'Hevratit B'Sefer Hassidim, Snaton Bar-Ilan 14-15 (1977) 98113.Google Scholar

43 Such a goal will also explain the cursory treatment that some commandments receive in the work. See, e.g., Sefer Miswot Gadol, positive commandments 8-11, 21-22. At the same time, one cannot but feel that the Sefer Miswot Gadol marks a first step in the effort of Maimonidean enthusiasts to rehabilitate theoretical, non-decision-oriented talmudic studies. Maimonides had a conflicted attitude (at best) toward such activity. On the one hand, in a letter to Yosef b. Yehudah, he terms such intellectual activity “a waste of time and of little productive purpose.” Cf. Iggerot HaRambam, 311-13. On the other hand, Maimonides himself cultivated this type of activity throughout his life. Cf. the case of the temple service on Yom Kippur that Twersky cited (“Non-Halakhic Aspects,” 111 n. 70). R. Moses, on the other hand, appears to have advocated using the Mišneh Torah (via the Sefer Miswot Gadol) itself for this type of activity. See the observations of Berger, DavidReview of Isadore Twersky, Introduction to the Code of MaimonidesAHR 86 (1981) 109Google Scholar . A generation later, R. Menahem HaMeiri would argue that the true rationalist must, perforce, dedicate himself to the intricacies of talmudic dialectics. Cf . Bet HaBehira al Massekhet Berakhot (ed. Dyckman, Samuel; Jerusalem: Yad HaRav Herzog, 1965) 2436Google Scholar.

44 The most complete discussion appears in , Twersky, Code of MaimonidesGoogle Scholar.

45 As were, for that matter, most of the major commentators on the code. See, e.g, Kesef Mišneh, Hit. Yesode HaTorah 4.14; Hil. Abadim 8.9 and Hil. Me'ila 8.8; and Biure HaGRA, YorehDe'ah Sec. 246. For further discussion, see , Twersky, “Non-Halakhic Aspects,” 98118Google Scholar.

46 Introduction to the negative commands section of Sefer Miswot Gadol, s.v. w'hineh.

47 This would be most apt, considering the sad state of Talmud study in Spain in the period following the Almohade invasions (1148). Cf . , Septimus, Hispano-Jewish Culture, 120Google Scholar.

48 Cf. Introduction, Guidefor the Perplexed. Twersky (“MiSneh Torah Criticism,” 168; and idem, Code of Maimonides, 519), appears to have taken Torah to refer solely to talmudic studies. In conversation with me, he suggested this interpretation, which I have become convinced is the correct one.

49 Sefer Miswot Gadol, positive commands, 1. The rest of this passage will be discussed below.

50 Deut 6:4.

51 Dan, Joseph, Torat HaSod šel Hassidut Askena? (Jerusalem: Mossad Bialik, 1968) 23Google Scholar . See Davis, Joseph, “Philosophy, Dogma, and Exegesis in Medieval Ashkenazic Judaism: The Evidence of Sefer Hadrat QodešAssociation for Jewish Studies Review 13 (1993) 208–11Google Scholar.

52 Concerning this version of the work, see Kiener, Ronald C., “The Hebrew Paraphrase of Saadiah Gaon's Kitab Al-Amanat wa'l-i'tiqadat,” Association for Jewish Studies Review 11 (1986) 125Google Scholar , and the literature cited there. Based on the short citation in the Sefer Miswot Gadol, it is unclear which recension of the paraphrase R. Moses used. Cf . , Kiener, “Hebrew Paraphrase,” 2325Google Scholar . See also , Dan, Joseph, Ketaw Tamim (Jerusalem: Akademon, 1984) vii–xxvii.Google Scholar

53 Such a focus on Sa'adiah may well have served R. Moses as a way of deflecting attention from Maimonides the philosopher, in order to focus upon the legitimation of Maimonides the halakhist.

54 This attitude contrasts sharply with that of Sa'adiah himself (along with many other medieval Jewish philosophers) who stressed the fact that philosophic study had both inner-and outer-directed functions in Judaism. Cf. Sefer HaEmunot w'haDe'ot, Haqdamah ; Paquda, Bahya ibn, Sefer Hobot HaLebabot (ed. Hyamson, Moses; New York: Feldheim, 1978) 18Google Scholar.

55 Cf. the literature cited above, n. 89 as well as Sasson, Haim Hillel Ben, “Rabbi Mose b. Nahman: Iš b'Siwkhei Tequfato,” in Hacker, Joseph, ed., Resef u'Temurah (Jerusalem: Am Oved, 1984) 316–19Google Scholar.

56 Kitbe Ramban (ed. Chavel, Charles; Jerusalem: Mossad HaRav Kook, 1964) 336–51Google Scholar . I have adapted the translation of Charles Chavel, ed. , , Ramban (Nahmanides): Writings and Discourses, II (New York: Ktav, 1975) 357417Google Scholar.

57 In other words, anyone who even maintains these works in his possession.

58 On the dire state of talmudic study in the wake of the Almohade invasions, see , Baer, History of the Jews in Christian Spain, 1. 5970Google Scholar ; and , Septimus, Hispano-Jewish Culture, 125Google Scholar.

59 That is, Mahgreb, or North Africa.

60 The land of Israel.

61 Clearly Nahmanides' defense did not reflect the actual position of Maimonides. The latter viewed Judaism divested of its philosophic component as deficient. Cf. the introduction to the Guide for the Perplexed and the discussion in 3.51. See below, n. 99.

62 , Chavel, Writings and Discourses, 370–75.Google Scholar

63 Whether this really reflected Nahmanides' position or whether it was an apologetic stance adopted owing to the circumstances of the controversy is questionable. See Berger, David, “Miracles and the Natural Order in Nahmanides” in Twersky, Isadore, ed., Rabbi Moses Nahmanides: Explorations in his Religiosity and Literary Virtuosity (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1983) 107–28Google Scholar ; Idel, Moshe, ‘“We Have No Kabbalistic Tradition on This,’”Google Scholar in ibid., 51-74; and most recently, idem, “R. Moshe b. Nahman-Qabbalah, Halakha, u'Manhigut Ruhanit,” Tarbis 64 (1995) 535–80Google Scholar.

64 R. Moses was a disciple of the early thirteenth-century scholar, R. Judah Sire Leon. Cf. , Urbach, Ba'ale hat-To'safot, 320.Google Scholar

65 It is not my intention here to provide every example of R. Moses' patterns of action in this regard, but simply to offer a number of suggestive illustrations of general trends in his work.

66 Sefer Miswot Gadol, positive commands, 1; emphasis mine.

67 Exod 20:2.

68 Maimonides Hil. Yesodei HaTorah 1.1.

69 Twersky, Isadore, ed., A Maimonides Reader (New York: Behrman House, 1972) 43Google Scholar ; emphasis mine. The translation follows that of Hyamson, with the one change of the word “realize” to the more accurate “know.”

70 It is true that the Hebrew translation of Maimonides' Sefer HaMiswot also formulates the first commandment in terms of belief, rather than of demonstrated knowledge. As Hayyim Heller pointed out in his edition of that work, the Arabic word used by Maimonides (i'takadat) most likely means knowledge and not belief alone. Cf . Sefer HaMiswot (ed. Heller, Hayyim; Jerusalem: Mossad HaRav Kook, 1972) 35Google Scholar n. 1. In any event, it is unlikely that R. Moses had access to Maimonides' Sefer HaMiswot. Cf. Altmann, Alexander, “Translator's Introduction: Saadya Gaon: Book of Doctrines and Beliefs,”Google Scholar in idem , Three Jewish Philosophers (New York: Atheneum, 1969) 1820.Google Scholar

71 Cf. , Twersky, Code of Maimonides, 371–75Google Scholar , as well as , HaMeiri, Bet HaBehira al Berakhot, 14Google Scholar.

72 R. Moses reiterates the centrality of the authority of received tradition in his first introduction to the positive commandments. He may also have sought to defend the authority of Jewish tradition in response to the Church's contemporary delegimization thereof. Cf . Hen Merhavia, HaTalmud BRe'i HaNasrut (Jerusalem: Mossad Bialik, 1970) 249–52Google Scholar and , Cohen, Friars and the Jews, 6668Google Scholar . See also Woolf, Jeffrey, “Some Polemical Emphases in the Sefer Mitzvot Gadol of Rabbi Moses of Coucy,” JQR [forthcoming]Google Scholar.

73 He was by no means the only one to do so. The same tactic attracted the sixteenth-century thinker R. Moses b. Joseph di Trani. See Moses, R.di Trani, Qiryat Sefer (Warsaw, 1902) fol. 13aGoogle Scholar.

74 Hil. Me'ilah 8.8. See also Hil. Temurah 4.13 (end) and the discussion by , Twersky, Code of Maimonides, 407–17Google Scholar.

75 End of the positive commandments (fol. 242c). After this follows a discussion of the seven, so-called rabbinic commandments.

76 b. Yoma 67b.

77 Lev 18:4. Cf. Rashi, Lev 18:4, s.v. zot.

79 That is, the wearing of clothes containing a mixture of linen and wool. Cf. Lev 19:19 and Deut 18:4.

80 The ceremony for the release of the levirite woman. Cf. Deut 25:5-10.

81 Leviticus 14.

83 Cf. Sifra (ed. , Weiss), Ahare Mot 7Google Scholar ; Tanhuma (ed. , Buber), Par. Mišpatim, 7Google Scholar ; b. Yoma 67b.

84 See below, n. 117.

85 Hil. Mei'la, 8.8.

86 Maimonides here substitutes “impulse” for “Satan” in the original text, based upon the rabbinic dictum (b. Batra 16b); Resh Laqish said: Satan is the same as the evil impulse, which i s the same as the Angel of Death. Cf. Guide for the Perplexed, 3.17 and Rashi b. Erubin 26a, s.v. “Satan”; Rashi b. Sukk. 38a, s.v. L'Iggurei; Rashi b.Yoma 67a, s.v. “Satan”; and Rashi b. Qidd. 81a, s.v. id'ami.

87 Or better, “challenge us.”

88 , Twersky, Maimonides Reader, 146.Google Scholar

89 Guide for the Perplexed, 3.26-30.

90 For all of this, see Twersky, Isadore, “Berur Diwrei HaRaMBaM Hil. Me ilah, Pereq Het, Halakhah Het- L 'Parasat Ta 'amei Miswot L 'HaRaMBaM,” in Etkes, Emanuel and Shalmon, Yosef, Studies in the History ofJewish Society in the Middle Ages and in the Modern Period:Presented to Professor Jacob Katz (Jerusalem: Magnes, 1980) 2433Google Scholar ; and , Twersky, Code of Maimonides, 407–15Google Scholar.

91 The topic immediately before that is the laws of the ritual bath (miqwa'ot).

92 The similarity in approach between HaMeiri and R. Moses of Coucy attracted the attention in passing of Twersky (Code of Maimonides, 475 n. 295). One should add, in this context, that the degree of retreat from Maimonidean rationalist interpositions in the Misneh Torah needs careful correlation with the individual author's position regarding the study of philosophy. For the basic facts of Meiri's biography, see Mirsky, Samuel K., “Toldot R. Menahem HaMeiri u-Sefaraw,” in Schreiber, A. S. B., ei., Hibbur HaTesuba (New York: Hotsa'at Talpiyot 1950) 125Google Scholar . Regarding the third stage of the Maimonidean Controversy, see , Baer, Jews in Christian Spain, 2. 289305Google Scholar and the description in Sarachek, Joseph, Faith and Reason: The Conflict Over the Rationalism of Maimonides (New York: Hermon, 1935) 197264Google Scholar.

93 Bet HaBehira al Massekhet Berakhot, 12-13.

94 Cf. Rashi b. Ber. 33b, s.v. “midotaw.” It would not be stretching things too far to suggest that HaMeiri's retreat from the stated Maimonidean position was influenced by the accusations of extreme allegorization and antinomianism which their opponents hurled at the Maimunist camp during the late thirteenth and the early fourteenth centuries. Cf. R. Abba Mari of Lunel , Sefer Minhat Qena'ot, in Teshubot HaRashba, I (ed. Dimitrovsky, H. Z.; Jerusalem: Mossad HaRav Kook, 1993)Google Scholar ; and the discussion by Abraham S. Halkin, “Yedaiah Bedershi's Apology,” i Altmann, Alexander, ed., Jewish Medieval and Renaissance Studies (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1967) 165–84CrossRefGoogle Scholar and Saperstein, Marc, Decoding the Rabbis: A Thirteenth-Century Commentary on the Aggadah (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1980) 120 and 159-212Google Scholar.

95 Concerning the commentatorial and expansive nature of Maimonides' formulations in the Mišdneh Torah, see , Levinger, Darkhei HaMahsawa; Twersky, Code of Maimonides, 176 and 337–39Google Scholar ; and Benedikt, Binyamin Zeev, HaRambam L'lo Stiyyot MeHaTalmud (Jerusalem: Mossad HaRav Kook, 1985)Google Scholar.

96 Of course, this mode of writing also serves the additional purpose of bringing, the MiSneh Torah back to its sources.

97 b. Sanh. 17a.

98 Hil. Sanhedrin 2.1.

99 In their commentaries to Mišneh Torah, Hil. Sanhedrin 2.1, the sixteenth-century scholars R. David Ibn Abi Zimra (RaDBaZ) and R. Joseph Karo (Kesef Mišneh) struggle to understand the basis for Maimonides' expansion of the Talmud's injunction, as well as the practical need therefore. Cf . , RaDBaZ and Kesef Mišneh on Hil. Sanhedrin 2.1Google Scholar ; and , Twersky, “Non-Halakhic Aspects,” 98104Google Scholar.

100 The qualification that this rule relates to all types of Sanhedrin is missing from the talmudic passage, but does appear in the Mišneh Torah. Indeed, the conflation of the two passages making up R. Moses' ruling (b. Sanh. 17a and 32a) is typically Maimonidean (cf. Hil. Sanhedrin 2.1-2).

101 Sefer Miswot Gadol, positive commandments, 97.

102 Another example may be found through careful comparison of ibid. 73 with Hil. Gezela wa Aweda 6.11.

103 The parchment attached to the doorpost of the house. Cf. Deut 6:9.

104 Hil. Mezuza 6.13.

105 Ps 34:8.

106 , Twersky, Maimonides Reader, 95.Google Scholar

107 Sefer Mišwot Gadol, positive commandments, 23 (fol. 106d).

108 b. Menah 82b.

109 Significantly, this passage from Menahot does not appear in the parallel discussion of these three commandments in the Sefer Yereim of R. Eleazar of Metz (nos. 399-401). This tends to confirm the Maimonidean origin of its positioning here by R. Moses.

110 Hil. Mezuzah 5.4. The translation is that of , Twersky, Maimonides Reader, 9495Google Scholar . On the use of the mezuza as an amulet, and the customs regarding additions thereto, see Sperber, Daniel, Minhage Yisrael (5 vols.; Jerusalem: Mossad HaRav Kook, 1989-1995) 2. 103–6Google Scholar.

111 Cf. Hil. Abodah Zarah 11.12–16. For further discussion see , Twersky, Code ofMaimonides, 125 n. 88Google Scholar ; Levinger, Jacob S., HaRaMBaM K'Pilosof u'k'Poseq (Jerusalem: Mossad Bialik, 1989) 100–12Google Scholar ; and , Katz, “Post Zoharic Relations,” 284–85Google Scholar . Of course, the most prominent example of this position may be found in Maimonides' unbending opposition to astrology. Cf . , Maimonides “Iggeret Teman,”Google Scholar in , IggerotHaRambam, 148–54Google Scholar ; “Iggeret el Hakhme Montpellier al Gezerat HaKokhawim,” in ibid, 474-90; and Hil. Tesuba, 5.4. For discussion see , Lerner, Ralph, “Maimonides' Letter on Astrology,” HR 8 (1968) 143–58Google Scholar.

112 Sefer Miswot Gadot, positive commandments, 22 (fol. 106b).

113 Deut 6:4.

114 On the significance of this “holy name,” see , Sperber, Minhagei Yisrael, 104.Google Scholar

115 Deut 4:2.

116 See Šulhan Arukh, Yoreh De'ah 288.15.

117 I say “apparent contradiction,” because the dominant concern of Maimonides appears to have been that no one should add to the text on the side of the parchment that actually quoted Deuteronomy. On the other hand, in light of Maimonides' overall sentiments on such matters, it is hard to believe that he approved of the addition of “holy names” of any sort to the mezuza. Shaddai, on the other hand, is a biblical name of God, not a mystical invention, and is hence unobjectionable.

118 This change is an example of R. Moses trying to “improve” the Mišneh Torah by bringing it into line with accepted Franco-German practice.

119 , Sperber, Minhagei Yisrael, 104–6Google Scholar . I am grateful to Professor Sperber for calling this example to my attention.

120 Cf. Num 35:9-34 and Deut 19:1-10.

121 b. Mak. 10a.

122 Deut 19:5.

123 Hil. Rose'ah u'Semirat Nefeš 7.1.

124 This is a typical trait of the Mišneh Torah. See , Twersky, Code of Maimonides, 143–64.Google Scholar Given Maimonides' own frenetic schedule, one wonders whether there is not here an autobiographical reference. See his letter to Samuel ibn Tibbon (Iggerot HaRambam, 550-51; and , Twersky, Maimonides Reader, 68)Google Scholar.

125 , Twersky, “Non-Halakhic Aspects,” 98106Google Scholar ; idem, Code of Maimonides, 473-79.

126 Guide for the Perplexed, Introduction, 1.71, 3.51. On the matter generally, see , Twersky, “Religion and Law,” 6982Google Scholar ; and Woolf, Jeffrey, “Torah LTMadda: A Reappraisal,” L'Eyla 25 (1989) 3237Google Scholar.

127 This is apparent simply through a conflation of Hil. Yesode HaTorah 4.14 with Hil. Talmud Torah 1.11-12. This line of argument leans heavily upon the “integrationist” approach to Maimonides, for a critique of which, see Leo Strauss, “The Literary Character of the Guide for the Perplexed,” in Baron, Salo W., ed.. Essays on Maimonides (New York: Columbia University Press, 1941) 269–83Google Scholar ; idem , Philosophy and Law (Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 1987)Google Scholar ; and Pines, Shlomo, “The Philosophic Sources of the Guide of the Perplexed,”Google Scholar in idem , Moses Maimonides: The Guide of the Perplexed (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1974) lvii–cxxxivGoogle Scholar . A summary of the debate appears in Levinger, Y., HaRaMBaM K'Pilosof 916Google Scholar.

128 This is an incidental addition into the text, drawing upon the more familiar text of Lev 25:36, which reads: “That your brother shall live with you.”

129 Sefer Miswot Gadol, positive commandments, 87 (emphasis mine). Twersky (“Non-Halakhic Aspects,” 102 n. 30) noted the emendation without commenting upon its significance in R. Moses' work.

130 There are two minor changes as well. R. Moses cites the verse from Deuteronomy at greater length, and shortens the Maimonidean interpretation by excising the words “and the seekers thereof, without the study of Torah, are considered a form of death.” The overall import, however, remains unchanged.

131 To the best of my knowledge, there is no credible evidence of philosophic study in twelfth- or thirteenth-century Franco-German Jewry (with the exception of the paraphrase of Sa'adiah). R. Moses' behavior here reflects either his own level of involvement with Maimonidean thought, or perhaps a desire to present such an alternative to the Jews of Provence, whom he knew so intimately. At present, however, it is not possible to determine which of these (if not both) is the more correct explanation. For a summary of the scholarship on signs of philosophic study in high and late medieval Ashkenaz, see , Davis, “Philosophy, Dogma, and Exegesis,” 208–12Google Scholar.

132 I do not intend the ensuing as a definitive discussion, especially in the absence of a full-scale examination of the homiletical sections of the Sefer Miswot Gadol in light of Franco-Jewish biblical exegesis and the literature of the German pietists.

133 This is a critical aspect of his discussions of love and fear of God, as well as his novel inclusion of the commandment not to forget God. See Sefer Miswot Gadol, negative commandments, 64 as well as Galinsky, Yehudah, “Pen Tiskah et Ha Sem Eloheka,” Mišafra V Sayyfa 44/45 (1993) 233–39Google Scholar ; and Peles, Yisrael, “Response,” MiSafra L 'Sayyfa, 44/45 (1993) 240–42Google Scholar [Hebrew]. 134Ps 104:3-4. The literal translation is “He makes the winds His messengers.” I have translated in accordance with the interpretation that R. Moses invoked here, which is itself based upon Genesis Rabbah (ed. Theodor-Albeck) 1 (s.v., R. Tanhuma), 3 (s.v., Wayehi). Interestingly, in his commentary to Ps 104:4, Rashi (whose writings R. Moses certainly knew) follows the literal interpretation of the phrase, while elsewhere (cf. Job 4:14 and 2 Chr 18:20) he assumes that of the Midrash.

135 Cf. Gen. R. 8 (s.v., wayomer) and Lev. R. 14 (s.v., isha): “If he merits it, we say to him: ‘You took precedence over all of creation.’ If not, we say: ‘A mosquito preceded you.’” For the phrase “lest he be overly proud” (shema yitga'eh), cf. Song R. 4 (s.v., kelakh). [My thanks to Professor Moshe Berger for bringing these texts to my attention.]

136 Prior to the creation of humanity, the heavens and the earth were balanced; hence the inclusion of this statement. Cf . Osar HaMidrasim (ed. Eisenstein, Judah D.; New York: n.p., 1906) 78Google Scholar.

137 Prov 20:27.

138 , Literally, “the animal flesh in his body.”Google Scholar

139 , Literally, “the angel within his body.”Google Scholar

140 Victory, that is, of either of the competing aspects of human existence.

141 Sefer Mišwot Gadol, positive commandments, Introduction; emphasis mine.

142 Hil. De'ot 3.3. The translation is from Twersky, Maimonides Reader, 57. This passage i s a popularized version of one in the Guide for the Perplexed (3.51), later known as “The Discipline of the Lonely” (Hanhagat Ha-Mitboded). Cf. Šulhan Arukh, Orah Hayyim 1.1 and the comments there of R. Moses Isserles. See also , , Twersky, “Šhulhan Arukh,” 335–37Google Scholar.

143 The emphasis upon the constructive nature of sleep appears to be a Maimonidean novelty. At the same time, the seeming avoidance of the question of the proper place of human sexuality in the Sefer Miswot Gadol requires some examination. This is especially so in light of the conflicted attitude on the subject characteristic of the German pietists. Cf . , Soloveitchik, “Three Themes,” 323–25Google Scholar.

144 This appears to be a clear reference to m. Abot 1.2: “By three things is the world maintained: the study on Torah, the worship of God [originally the temple service] and the performance of acts of loving kindness.”

145 For all of this, see , Twersky, Code of Maimonides, 374429Google Scholar ; idem , “Religion and Law,” 69-71 ; and , Katz, “Post Zoharic Relations,” 283–85Google Scholar.

146 Cf. Guide for the Perplexed, 1.71.

147 This is the major thrust of the Maimonidean emphasis on the search for the rationale for the commandments. Cf. Hil. Mei'lah 8.8; Hil. Temurah 13 (end); Hil. Yesodei HaTorah 4:14; and Guide for the Perplexed 3.26-32.

148 One should note the substitution of “Creator” for “Lord” or “God” in this passage. This may be yet another piece of evidence for Moses', R.affinity for German pietism. See Sefer Hassidim (ed. Wistinetzki, Yehuda and Freimann, Jacob; Berlin: Wahrmann, 1924) 1, 27Google Scholar; and cf. , Soloveitchik, “Three Themes,” 312–18Google Scholar.

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