Oxford Jewish Thought

Lectures, essays, questions & articles

by Rabbi Eli Brackman

Parsha and Manuscript: Korach – ‘What did Korach take?'

In the Torah portion of Korach, it discusses the rebellion of Korach, accompanied by two hundred and fifty men, against Moses, for having appointed himself leader and his brother, Aaron, as high priest.[1] In describing the rebellion the Torah states:[2]


And Korah, son of Izhar son of Kohath son of Levi, took, and Dathan and Abiram sons of Eliab, and On son of Peleth—descendants of Reuben And they rose up against Moses, together with two hundred and fifty Israelites, chieftains of the community, chosen in the assembly, men of repute. They combined against Moses and Aaron and said to them, “You have gone too far! For all the community are holy, all of them, and the Lord is in their midst. Why then do you raise yourselves… Read More »

Shelach - Rashi Manuscripts

Rashi Manuscripts - Shelach


Bodleian Library MS. Oppenheim 34 (1201–1225) – Ashkenaz


MS. Oppenheim 34, fol. 85 (1201-25) Shelach.png


Bodleian Library MS. Canon. Or. 81 (1396) - Pescia (Italy)


MS. Canon. Or. 81, fol. 139 (1396).png



Bodleian Library MS. Michael 384 (1399) - Camerino (Italy)


MS. Michael 384, fol. 103 (1399) Shelacha.png



Bodleian Library MS. Oppenheim 35 (1408) - Ashkenaz


MS. Oppenheim 35, fol. 81 (1408) Shelach.png


Bodleian Library MS. Canonici Or. 35 (1401-1425) – Italy?


MS. Canonici Or. 35 (1401-25) Shelach.png 


Bodleian Library MS. Huntington 445 (1376-1400) - Spain


MS. Huntington 445 (1376-1400) Shelach.png


Bodleian Library MS. Huntington 389 (1301-1400) – Orient (Numbers)


MS. Huntington 389 (1301-1400) Shelach.png


Bodleian Library MS. Huntington 425 (1403) (Numbers and Deuteronomy) – North Africa?


MS. Huntington 425, fol. 33 (1403) Shelach.png



Bom…Read More »

Parsha and Manuscript: Beha’alotecha – 'Why does the candelabrum follow the dedication of the altar: A missing commentary'

MS. Canonici Or. 35, fol. 163 (1401-25).pngIn the Torah portion of Beha’alotcha it discusses the kindling of the Menorah following the description of the twelve-day inauguration of the altar by the princes of the tribes of Israel. It states,[1] The Lord spoke to Moses, saying: Speak to Aaron and say to him: “When you light the lamps, the seven lamps shall cast their light toward the face of the menorah.” The question arises: why is the kindling of the candelabrum in the Tabernacle juxtaposed with the inauguration of the altar? It does not seem to have happened in this order chronologically, as the kindling of the candelabrum seems to have occurred before the inauguration of the altar by the princes of the tribes, immediately when the Tabernacle was completed.[2]

&… Read More »

Parsha and Manuscript: Naso – ‘The secondary counting of the Levite clan of Gershon’

MS. Canonici Or. 35, fol. 158 (1401-25).pngIn the Torah portion of Naso, it discusses the census of the Levite clans; the mention of the Gershonites is sandwiched in the Book of Numbers between the census of the Kehatite and Merorite clans. This census follows three earlier countings in the Book of numbers: a. the overall census of the Jewish people between the ages of twenty and sixty[1], excluding the Levite tribe,[2] b. the census of the Levite tribe from thirty days old,[3] and c. the census of the firstborns, also from thirty days old, who were redeemed of their sanctity by the Levites.[4] This particular census of the Levite clans were of people between thirty and fifty, the purpose was to found out how many were strong enough for the service of dismantling and transporting th… Read More »

Parsha and Manuscript: Behar – ‘What exactly was taught at Mount Sinai?’

MS. Michael 384, fol. 91.pngIn the opening of the Torah portion of Behar it discusses the laws of the Sabbatical year with the unusual detail that this particular law was taught at Mount Sinai. As this detail appears to be unnecessary, as all laws are thought to have been taught at Sinai, we will explore the various ways biblical commentaries explain what the Torah intends to convey with this statement, looking at commentaries from the 4th century through the medieval period until today. We will focus on the Hebrew manuscripts of the medieval commentator Rashi at Oxford’s Bodleian Library to understand exactly how much of the laws were taught to Moses on Mount Sinai itself and how much were taught later in the desert Tabernacle and the Plains of Moav.


T… Read More »

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