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Cambridge University Library > Taylor-Schechter Genizah Research Unit > Maimonides Exhibition

Maimonides Exhibition texts

Autograph draft of The Guide for the Perplexed

Cambridge University Library T-S 10Ka4.1 leaf 1 recto

The leaf given here is the opening of part 1 chapter 64, which deals with what is meant in the Hebrew Bible by the phrases 'the name of the Lord' and 'the glory of the Lord'. It is clear from this draft, however, that Maimonides did not originally number his chapters, instead simply marking them by the Judaeo-Arabic word fasl, 'chapter'.

The Guide deals with the apparent contradictions between the study of philosophy and science, and a person's continued adherence to religious beliefs and practices. Maimonides sought to show the spiritual besides the literal meaning of those concepts in the Hebrew Bible which were difficult to reconcile with contemporary thought, such as biblical anthropomorphism and anthropopathism.

In the chapter given here, Maimonides explains how the glorification of God consists of a comprehension of His greatness, and that even things without comprehension, for instance, minerals, may glorify the Lord since they testify to the omnipotence and wisdom of their Creator; thus he explains the anthropomorphism in Psalm 35:10 'All my bones shall say, O Lord, who is like You?'.

T-S 10Ka4.1, which consists of two separate leaves, was discovered and published by Hartwig Hirschfeld in Jewish Quarterly Review 15 (1903), pp. 677-681, under the title 'The Arabic portion of the Cairo Genizah at Cambridge. IV. Two autograph fragments of Maimonides' Dalalat al Hairin'. A number of subsequent discoveries of fragments from the same autograph draft have been made both in Cambridge and other Genizah collections around the world.

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Hilkhot ha-Yerushalmi on Berakhot

Cambridge University Library T-S F17.7

Maimonides never published one of his most significant halakhic works, a compendium of halakhot from the Palestinian Talmud, Hilkhot ha-Yerushalmi ('Laws of the Palestinian Talmud'). He mentioned it in his commentary to the Mishnah, Tamid 5:1 'and we have already noted this teaching in the Hilkhot ha-Yerushalmi which we compiled', but no copies survived.

Thanks to the discovery of the Cairo Genizah, however, substantial fragments of the work in his own handwriting have now been identified, thereby bringing an important lost work to scholarly attention.

This fragment, T-S F17.7, was first published by Louis Ginzberg in his book Yerushalmi fragments from the Genizah (New York, 1909). In the introduction, Ginzberg mentioned the possibility that the fragment was part of Maimonides' lost Hilkhot, but rejected it, since he was expecting the work to be of a different character. It wasn't until the publication of Saul Lieberman's The Laws of the Palestinian Talmud of Rabbi Moses ben Maimon (New York, 1947) that the fragment was shown conclusively to be part of the lost work. That it is also an autograph copy is now clear, when it is compared with the large number of Maimonidean autographs which have been discovered since Ginzberg's initial publication.

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Cambridge University Library T-S 10K8.1

Maimonides' code of Jewish law, the Mishneh Torah (also called Yad ha-Hazakah), was the culmination of ten years' work and is one of the two works (the other is the Guide) on which Maimonides' lasting fame rests. With the Mishneh Torah, Maimonides sought to codify all biblical and rabbinical law, and to present it in a systematic, logical arrangement. Much criticism was subsequently levelled at him that with the writing of the work he sought to supplant the Talmud. Maimonides maintained that he wanted to encourage talmudic study, but his words in the introduction to the Mishneh Torah seem to imply otherwise, 'one should read the Written Law first of all and afterwards one should read this and thereby know all the Oral Law without needing to read any other book'.

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Autograph responsum concerning an oath made in anger and later regretted

Cambridge University Library T-S 12.201

1. In Your name, o Merciful one!

2. What says his honour, the precious diadem, our lord and master Moses,

3. the great prince of God's people, prince of all the House of Israel,

4. light and wonder of the world, from the rising to the setting of the sun

5. may his splendour be exalted, may his honour increase -- [about the following]? A community of Israel

6. residing in a certain place had among them a cantor who led them in prayer.

7. Now an argument developed between the leader in prayer and between

8. one [of the congregation], and this individual swore that he would never pray behind the

9. leader in prayer, [swearing this] unrestrictedly, without a time-limit.

10. Then, as soon as he had calmed down from the argument, he regretted

11. it greatly and was sorry for what he had done

12. and that he had prevented himself praying with the congregation.

13. Let our lord instruct us whether he should remain bound by his oath

14. or whether he may pray behind the cantor. And may his reward from heaven be doubled.

15. The answer:

16. The oath remains upon him, and he is not permitted

17. evermore to pray behind him, except if

18. he regrets it, then he should be dealt with according to the law governing someone

19. who has regretted his oath, i.e., who requires release by a sage, after expressing regret.

20. Written by Moses.

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Autograph responsum concerning marriage

Cambridge University Library T-S 12.202

1. In Your name, o Merciful one!

2. What says his honour, the precious

3. diadem, the glory, our lord

4. and master Moses, ha-Rav

5. ha-Gadol of Israel, the great councillor,

6. unique in his generation and its wonder

7. from the rising of the sun to its setting, about

8. Reuben? He had a nephew,

9. who died and left a widow and a son. And the son lived on

10. after the death of his father for one year.

11. Now Reuben intends to

12. marry the widow of his nephew,

13. but he is not allowed to. Let him --

14. God preserve him -- instruct us whether the Law permits

15. the aforementioned individual to marry

16. the widow of his nephew, without

17. it being contested.

18. And may his reward from heaven be doubled.

19. The answer:

20. He is permitted to marry her. Written by

21. Moses.

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Autograph responsum concerning a case of sexual slander

Cambridge University Library T-S 8K13.8


1. An aged widow, who is above suspicion, [has reported] that he jokingly expressed to her

2. a desire to sleep with her. But she has no witness to this and no proof.

3. And nothing like this has previously happened to him except for her allegation

4. which she made with the intention of harming him, damaging his reputation, cutting off his livelihood and putting him to shame

5. publicly. Is her report concerning him credible or not? And if

6. the aforementioned man wishes to free himself of suspicion, should he place a public ban

7. on anyone [alleging that] he has done such a thing or telling lies about him or

8. harbouring suspicions about him? Let our teacher instruct us and may he receive a double reward

9. from heaven.

10. The answer:

11. Her testimony is not acceptable. And every individual has the right to excommunicate

12. by name anyone who has publicly impugned his reputation,

13. but not to pronounce an excommunication over someone who [merely] harbours suspicions about him. And the correct way

14. to proceed in this case is to silence the gossiping and not to

15. pronounce a ban and not to have any further discussion in public. Written by Moses.

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Maimonides' On Sexual Intercourse

Cambridge University Library T-S Ar.44.79

Leaf 1 recto

'Long pepper, galanga, ginger and aristolochia, an ounce of each, cinnamon and anise, two ounces of each, clove, mace and nutmeg, one quarter ounce of each; grind these medicaments so that they will be ready to season any dish to be cooked and strew them over the dish. Strew it according to what will be mentioned in detail.

What one must avoid in foods and medicaments is all that makes cold or dry or drives away the winds. Of the things customary among us, lentils, vetch, and cold vegetables as cucumber, donkey cucumber, melons, garden orach and spinach belong to this group and more especially lettuce, which is very harmful in this'...

Leaf 2 verso

'For that is the most efficient treatment to warm the genitals, to conduct good blood to them, to strengthen them and to strengthen erection. One should also make a point to constantly drink iron water, as is prescribed for people with dysentery. Let it be filed and drunk at the time of need. If it is possible, then the broth of all dishes should be iron water, since this is very useful for strengthening the erection and strengthening all the inner organs. Know that the physicians only designate by 'joy-bringing drink' drink prepared with ox-tongue. Experience shows that if ox-tongue is placed in wine until its strength is extracted, it greatly increases the joy and strengthens sexual intercourse. If one takes this famous iron water and boils in it four dirhams of ox-tongue, half an ounce of lemon peel, half a dirham of beaten carnation; and one mixes in two ritls of wine or a ritl of honey (for one who does not consider wine permissible) and drinks this little by little, it will be of great avail. This much is sufficient for what the servant was ordered to do. The master may choose out of this that which is easy to do, do sometimes this, and another time that. May God lengthen his life in happiness and delight, and join for him this with the everlasting bliss, in His mercy'.

[Adapted from S. M. Stern, Maimonidis Commentarius In Mischnam (Hafniae, 1966), vol. iii pp. 19-20. Includes restoration of the missing text]

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Autograph letter of recommendation by Maimonides for a scholar from Morocco

Cambridge University Library T-S 12.192 recto

1. May God prolong the life of his honour, my pillar and support, the faithful Shaykh al-Thiqa,

2. and sustain his position of glory. His servant and admirer Moses sends him greetings.

3. He longs for him because of the distance between them. He requests him to be so kind

4. as to help the bearer [of this letter], Isaac al-Dar`i, because he is one of our acquaintances.

5. May he tell the haver (community official) -- God preserve him -- to entrust his problem to the community

6. and see [the money for] his poll-tax collected from among you, because two payments of tax are due from him and from his son.

7. If his honour is able to take steps to have this paid among you in Minyat Zifta,

8. then may he do it, for he is a newcomer and he has not yet paid a thing. He is now on his way to Damietta

9. on important business for us, and on his return let there be done on his behalf as much as is possible.

10. May his wellbeing increase and the wellbeing of the haver and his son, and the wellbeing of his own son -- God preserve him.

11. Moses son of the scholar Maimon -- may the memory of the righteous be a blessing.

Maimonides exhibition page

Autograph draft reply by Maimonides to a scholar who is seeking a meeting

Cambridge University Library T-S 16.290 verso

1. I understand all of his [the writer's] intentions.

2. Let God -- may He be exalted -- realise his hopes

3. and grant him insight. And undoubtedly he

4. has seen and heard of the extent to which I suffer

5. from the 'yoke of the gentiles', in being 'between daybreak

6. and evening destroyed' (Job 4:20). I only arrive in the late evening (?)

7. [...] unwell

8. and sighing greatly; completely unable to sit

9. due to fatigue, I only throw myself down.

10. Eventually it ends

11. [...] and I proceed

12. to [my duties...]. And if you attend the study hall

13. every sabbath you will certainly

14. receive from me some of what

15. you hope for. Perhaps God will grant

16. us some free time to learn

17. and to teach. And may his wellbeing increase.

18. And when it is impossible

19. to cook, let your food consist of almonds and a few raisins without

20. seeds. And there's no reason why you

21. sometimes should not accompany bread with

22. good, fresh stoneless date honey

23. mixed with [...]. And may [his] wellbeing [increase].

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The last letter that Maimonides received from his brother

Cambridge University Library Or.1081 J1


'To my beloved brother R. Mos[es, son of R.] Maimon -- the memory of the righteous be blessed!

David, your brother who is longing for you -- may God unite me with you under the most happy circumstances in his grace.

I am writing this letter from `Aydhab. I am well, but my mind is very much troubled, so that I walk around in the bazaar and do not know -- by our religion -- where I [am...], nor how it is that I did not imagine how much you must worry [about m]e.

This is my story: I reached Qus and after Passover I booked for `Aydhab in a caravan. [...]

So we travelled alone out of fear of him. No one has ever dared to embark on such a disastrous undertaking. I did it only because of my complete ignorance. But God [saved] us after many frightful encounters, to describe which would lead me too far afield. When we were in the desert, we regretted what we had done, but the matter had gone out of our hands. Yet God had willed that we should be saved. We arrived in `Aydhab safely with our entire baggage. We were unloading our things at the city gate, when the caravans arrived. Their passengers had been robbed and wounded and some had died of thirst. Among them was Ibn al-Rashidi, but he was unharmed. [...] We preceded him only slightly and there was only a small distance between us and those who were robbed. We were saved only because we had taken upon ourselves those frightful experiences. All day long I imagine how you must feel when you hear about `Ata' Allah Ibn al-Rashidi, how he was robbed, and you believe that I was in his company. Then God comes between me and my reason.

To cut a long story short: I arrived in `Aydhab and found that no imports had come here [...] at all. I found nothing to buy except indigo. So I thought about what I had endured in the [des]ert [...]; then it appeared a simple matter for me to embark on a sea voyage. I took Mansur as my travel companion, but not Ma`ani...'


'for all my troubles came [only from him; you know] the man and how he behaves (2 Kings 9:11). Sometime, if God wills it, I shall tell you [all that happened between us] on our way from Fustat to `Aydhab.

My company in the Mala[bar] sea will be [...], Salim, the son of the broker and his brother's son, Makarim al-Hariri and his b[rother], and the brother of Sitt Ghazal. But Ma`ani embarked, together with Ibn al-Kuwayyis on another ship, and Bu 'l-`Ala remains in Dahlak, since the ship in which he travelled foundered, but he was saved and absolutely nothing of his baggage was lost. Ibn `Atiyya, however, was in another boat, together with Ibn al-Maqdisi. Their boat foundered and only their din[ars] remained with them.

Now, despite all of this, do not [worry]. He who saved me from the desert with its [...] will save me while on sea. [...]

And, please, calm the heart of the little one and her sister; do not frighten them and let them not despair, for crying to God for what has passed is a vain prayer (M. Berakhot 9:3). [...] I am doing all of this out of my continuous efforts for your material well-being, although you have never imposed on me anything of the kind. So be steadfast; God will replace your losses and bring me back to you. Anyhow, what has passed is past, and I am sure this letter will reach you at a time when I, God willing, shall have already made most of the way. But the counsel of God alone will stand (Proverbs 19:21). Our departure will probably be around the middle of Ramadan.

I shall trav[el with ... Tell this] to his uncle, and also that he is fine. [Best regards to you, to] Bu `Ali and his brother, to the elder Bu Mansur and his brothers, to my sisters and the boys, to all our friends, to the freedman, and Mahasin.

Written on the 22nd of Iyyar, while the express caravan is on the point of leaving'.

[Adapted from S. D. Goitein, Letters of Medieval Jewish Traders (Princeton, 1973), pp. 209-210]

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Appointed 'Head of the Jews'

Cambridge University Library T-S J2.78 recto

1. The purport of this blessed,

2. auspicious, propitious and proper document

3. is the appointment to the leadership of the splendid, the precious, the crowned,

4. the glorious, the honourable, great and holy,

5. our master and our teacher, our lord Moses, the

6. Great Rav in Israel, light of the generation and its wonder,

7. the turban of splendour and its banner, from the rising of the sun

8. to its setting -- may our God establish the throne of his authority

9. until Shiloh comes, and may He crown the assemblies of

10. Jeshurun with his life and adorn them with the length

11. of his days -- son of our lord, our master and our teacher Maimon

12. the Great Rav in Israel, the wise and discerning --

13. may the memory of the righteous be for a blessing and for revival -- son of our teacher Joseph the judge,

13. the prudent, the exceptional, the superlative sage,

14. son of our teacher Isaac, the Great Rav in Israel -- his memory be for a blessing. May God -- for him and for all Israel -- make it a

15. good sign and a successful sign. And greetings.

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A visit to Maimonides' home

Cambridge University Library T-S 8J14.18


1. P.S.

2. And al-Fakhr - God preserve him -- was with us when

3. we set out [to visit] R. Moses, but he sat down

4. at the entrance of the house while we proceeded,

5. al-Jalal and I. I kissed his eminent hand,

6. and he received us very warmly.

7. He said [to me] 'Come and sit down, my young sir',

8. and indicated that I should sit down on

9. the edge of the raised section of the room,

10. where he was sitting, opposite him.

11. So he was sitting on the edge of the

12. raised section of the room and I sat down [there too]. He read the note

13. that I had given him from beginning

14. to end. He was delighted with the things [that I brought him]

15. and played with al-Jalal -- God preserve him. There was no one

16. seated in the room except for him,

17. R. Abraham and I.


1. Then such things happened that it is impossible to describe

2. in a letter. Boxes arrived

3. and he began to eat lemon pastilles.

4. And after having sat for a time, he again detained me

5. and we conversed secretly for a while, and this

6. cheered my master's heart. As for al-Jalal,

7. R. Abraham - God preserve him - had been teaching him

8. a phrase with which he could address

9. R. Moses; so he stated it before him, and he [R. Moses] laughed

10. and he delighted him by playing with him.

11. I got up to go first while

12. al-Jalal continued to talk with the usher

13. in the entrance hall. R. Moses said

14. to R. Abraham 'Where is his son?'

15. who replied 'At the door'. So he [R. Moses] said

16. 'Go and look for him' and, having re-entered, he met with [al-Jalal]

17. who said the phrase [again].

18. And greetings.

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