Oxford Jewish Thought

Lectures, essays, questions & articles

by Rabbi Eli Brackman

Parsha and MS – Tazria – ‘Signs of Baldness: a mistaken text?’

MS. Canon. Or. 81 Tazria.pngIn the Torah portion of Tazria, it discusses the phenomenon of a person contracting Tzara’at or leprosy in response to slander or gossip. Maimonides explains[1] this is unnatural lesion that occurs on a person’s skin, clothing or house meant to indicate to a person to correct their ways and not to continue on such a destructive path. It first occurs on the walls of a person’s home. If the person changes course, it no longer occurs. If the person persists it spreads to a person’s garments and then on a person’s skin. The Talmud[2] discusses numerous other reasons why this may occur to a person including arrogance and other immoralities.


We would like to focus on an aspect of the laws of Tzara'at regardi… Read More »

You and Us in the 12th century Corpus Christi Passover Haggadah Manuscript

Screen Shot 2020-04-14 at 01.43.38 am.pngThe Haggadah presents the Exodus story in the context of the four sons: the wise, the wicked, the simpleton and the one that does not know how to ask. The Haggadah text in the Ashkenazi Siddur CCC MS 133 presents the wise question as follows: 'What does the wise son say? "What are these testimonies, statutes and judgments that the Lord our G-d commanded us?"' And accordingly you will say to him, as per the laws of the Pesach sacrifice, "We may not eat an afikoman [a dessert or other foods eaten after the meal] after [we are finished eating] the Pesach sacrifice."[1]


This text of the CCC MS 133 Haggadah is based on the verse in Deuteronomy[2] with a variation: instead of stating: ‘the L-rd our G-d… Read More »

Passover Essay: ‘Remembering the going out of Egypt every day’

MS. Pococke 307, fol. 179 (1301-1400).png

A main aspect of the Passover Seder is to remember the going out of Egypt. The centrality of the Exodus to Judaism is indicted by the fact it is mentioned no less than fifty times in the Torah,[1] and serves as the cornerstone to the Torah and Jewish belief.[2] I would like to present a brief overview of the tradition to remember the going out of Egypt and how it developed over the centuries in Jewish thought from a simplistic concept to a more complex idea. In particular, we will look at how the second two stages of the development of this idea becomes pronounced when looking at the manuscripts of Maimonides at the Bodleian Library and a mystical manuscript at the British Library, where a single word is added representing the final idea … Read More »

Parsha and manuscript: Tzav - 'A thanksgiving'

MS. Canon. Or. 81 Tzav.png

In the portion of Tzav, it discusses the laws of the sacrifices including a thanksgiving peace offering, whereby if a person is rescued from danger they should offer a thanksgiving offering to G-d that in the times of the Temple consisted of an animal offering together with a grain offering mixed with oil. The Torah states:


This is the ritual of the sacrifice of well-being that one may offer to the Lord: If he offers it for thanksgiving, he shall offer together with the sacrifice of thanksgiving unleavened cakes with oil mixed in, unleavened wafers spread with oil, and cakes of choice flour with oil mixed in, well soaked.


Thanksgiving can also be found in Psalms:[1] ‘Sacrifice a thank offering to G-d, and pay your … Read More »

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