Oxford Jewish Thought

Lectures, essays, questions & articles

by Rabbi Eli Brackman

The Rare Oxford Machzor Vitry: A Rosh Hashana essay


One of the important Hebrew manuscripts in Oxford’s Bodleian library is the Machzor Vitry, which includes laws, prayers and liturgical poems, as well as the liturgy for the High Holiday prayers. It is authored by Rabbi Simcha ben Shmuel of Vitry (d. 1105), who was a French Talmudist of the 11th and 12th centuries and disciple of the great Biblical and Talmudic commentator Rabbi Shlomo Yitzchaki, known as Rashi (1040-1105). His son Samuel married Rashi's granddaughter and he was the grandfather of the famous Tosafist, Isaac of Dampierre. They both died in the same year.

The Oxford text is one of only three manuscripts of the Machzor Vitry that exists. The oldest, according to Abraham Berliner (1833–1915) in his additions to Hu… Read More »

Maimonides in Oxford: A commentary on the Oxford Manuscript of the Mishneh Torah


Maimonides in Oxford: A commentary on the Oxford Manuscript of the Mishneh Torah


The manuscript of Maimonides’ Mishneh Torah (Ms Hunt. 80) in the Hebrew collection at the Bodleian library in Oxford is one of the most important Hebrew manuscripts in existence. In 1693 the Bodleian library purchased the collections of Dr Robert Huntington and Professor Edward Pococke, the Regius Professor of Hebrew, and among the books bought from Dr Robert Huntington is Maimonides' Mishneh Torah with the author's signature, attesting that the text had been corrected against his original, as he writes (fol. 165r) "corrected against my own book, I Moses, son of Rabbi Maymun of blessed memory".


This manuscript is supremel… Read More »

Dominus Illuminatio Mea: An Oxford attempt to reconcile science and religion in the 16th century

The words Dominus illuminatio mea serves as the motto of the University of Oxford, the oldest university in the English-speaking world, founded around 1167. These words, taken from the opening of Psalm 27, means ‘The Lord is my light’, and has been in use at least since the second half of the 16th century, the time of the great revival of interest in the Hebrew Bible in Oxford, and appears on the University's arms.


Oxford is not the only university to use the Psalms for its motto. Trinity Western University uses "A Mighty Fortress Is Our G-d" or in Latin Turris Fortis Deus Noster, which is the best known of Martin Luther's hymns. Luther was paraphrasing Psalm (46:8 8), ‘The Lord of Hosts is with us; the… Read More »

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