Oxford Jewish Thought

Lectures, essays, questions & articles

by Rabbi Eli Brackman

Marks of Genius: Maimonides' Laws of Hiring

Rambam Manuscript of Laws of Borrowing and Entrusted Objects.jpg

One of the most important Hebrew manuscripts at the Bodleian Library is a manuscript belonging to Maimonides (1130-1204) in his own handwriting of a section of his Jewish legal code Mishneh Torah (repetition of the law). The manuscript is an early draft of the work of the Mishneh Torah containing the Book of Mishpatim (laws), covering Jewish civil law. It was discovered in the Cairo Genizah in the old Ben Ezra synagogue and brought to Oxford at the end of the 19th century by Rev. G. J. Chester.


In the ‘Marks of Genius’ exhibition at the Bodleian library’s new Weston building, a folio of the Cairo Genizah manuscript of Maimonides’ Mishneh Torah went on display with the page open to the end of Laws of Hirin… Read More »

Shakespeare & The Jews

Professor Sir Jonathan Bate delivered a fascinating lecture on Shakespeare and the Jews focusing on the play the Merchant of Venice, written around 1597. He began by portraying Elizabethan England of the 16th century as endemically anti-Semitic with the Jew viewed as a villain lingering through mythology since the medieval period despite the expulsion of the Jews since 1290. Sir Jonathan mentioned how Shakespeare could have used then current myths for example that discovery of witches was done by a method of if you pricked them and they did not bleed this meant they were witches.


The play is a reflection of the Jew as the ‘other’ and foreign in a Christian society and aims to portray the Jew of the Old Testament as a pi… Read More »

Marks of Genius: Maimonides' Laws of Borrowing

Rambam Manuscript of Laws of Borrowing and Entrusted Objects.jpg

One of the most precious Hebrew manuscripts in the Bodleian library is a section of work by Rabbi Moses ben Maimon, known as Maimonides (1135-1204). This piece is from his Mishneh Torah, Repetition of the Law, and remarkably in his own handwriting (MS. Heb. d. 32). The Mishneh Torah was completed in 1180 and consists of a Jewish legal work by subject matter of the entire Talmudic and Gaonic literature of Jewish law. The manuscript, which is currently on display at the new Weston Library of the Bodleian Library, has about 200 pages and was bought through the Rev. G. J. Chester, in 1890, as part of the discovery of the Cairo Genizah. The Cairo Genizah is a designated room attached to the old Ben Ezra Synagogue in Cairo where discarded pages… Read More »

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