Oxford Jewish Thought

Lectures, essays, questions & articles

by Rabbi Eli Brackman

Circumcision in Maimonides' Oxford Manuscript

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 A rare autograph of Maimonides exists at the Bodleian Library, University of Oxford, consisting of a brief text with Maimonides’ signature, authenticating an early copy written during his life time of the first two books of his legal compendium Mishneh Torah:[1] Book of Mada (knowledge) and Book of Ahava (love).[2] The manuscript is known in the Bodleian Library as MS Huntington 80 and in rabbinic works as the ‘Book of the Signature’ (Sefer Hachatum).[3] The Bodleian Library bought this text in 1693 from Dr. Robert Huntington, who acquired it while serving as chaplain to the English merchants in Aleppo. The autograph states:[4] ‘Corrected against my own book, I Moses, son of… Read More »

The Development of the Lighting of the Chanukah Menorah in the Oxford Manuscripts


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The holiday of Chanukah dates from the second century BCE at a time when the Greeks controlled the Holy Land under the Seleucid dynasty that existed from 312 BC to 63 BC. When Antiochus IV, known also as Epimanes, ‘the mad one,’ took over the reign between 175BC until 164 BC, he issued many decrees against the Jews in order to subdue them and inculcate Hellenist culture, banning the study of Torah, circumcision, keeping the Shabbat and the Kosher dietary laws. The Seleucids imposed their pagan worship and culture until they came to Modiin where the priest Matityahu lived. Matityahu and his sons led the Maccabees in a series of battles and eventually drove the Greeks out. When they arrived in the Temple to kindle th… Read More »

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