Moses of London: Insight into Oxford's Jewry through his legal teachings and recent archaeology

Thursday, 24 June, 2021 - 3:14 pm

MS Parma 933, fols. 77-78 copy.pngOne of the greatest rabbis of the medieval period in England was Rabbi Moses of London, formerly Moses de Oxonia or Moses of Oxford.[1] Born in Oxford, he resided in the Oxford Jewry, before moving to London, until he passed away in 1268.[2] In the records he is known as Magister Moses of London, signalling his position as a respected rabbi and teacher of Jewish law. While little information is known in terms of his day-to-day life, financial activities and social interactions, a glimpse into his life and status in Anglo-Jewry in the 13th century may be viewed from his scholarship and legal rulings. A presentation of his legal rulings and discussions will offer us a meaningful view into the life and influence of this important medieval Jewish personality.


In this essay, I will present a brief outline of the life of Moses as culled from the records, his role in a major event that affected the Jewish community of Oxford, followed by a detailed analysis of where his scholarship can be located, and an overview of a selection of case studies in Jewish law where his rulings are presented. This will permit us to argue that although most of Jewish scholarship and development of law in the 13th century took place in Northern France and Germany, in the context of the Anglo-Jewish community, Moses appears to have been a towering and highly respected figure, as the head of the Tosafist school in England, and his authority in Jewish law played a central role in the development of a distinct, though marginal[3] Jewish legal corpus that developed in 13th century England. I will also argue that in addition to his rulings in Jewish law that were of significance to Jewish life in England, Moses of London is a serious contender for being the author of an important anonymous classic work on Hebrew grammar and the teaching of an anonymous Tosafot pertaining to the limitation of sovereign power in relation to private land ownership that would have been relevant to Moses, whose family was known to have owned land in 13th century England.


Moses was born at the end of the 12th century in Oxford to one of the most influential rabbinic families of the Middle Ages in England. Moses’ father was Rabbi Yom Tov, known in the records as Simeon of Oxford, who lived on the site of the current Town Hall in Oxford, and author of Sefer haTanaim (Book of Conditions).[4] He is known to have had Jewish legal correspondence with the head of the French Tosafist school, Rabeinu Tam (1100-1171), regarding the question of a home with a gabled roof that is higher than the local synagogue.[5] He was given the rare, distinguished title chacham.[6] This could have been a position of sage in the community appointed to lecture to the community about matters of spirituality, similar to the role of maggid. This may be found in Maimonides’ Mishneh Torah:[7] ‘It is proper for each and every congregation in Israel to appoint a great sage of venerable age, with [a reputation of] fear of heaven from his youth, beloved by the community, to admonish the masses and motivate them to repentance.’ This may have been the role of Tosafists, who would visit communities to teach Torah and inspire the people.[8] Yom Tov married Antera f. Jacob, who was the sister of Tosafist Rabbi Elijah of York, who was martyred in the massacre of 1190.[9] Moses’ brother was Rabbi Isaac of London.[10] According to a family tree that survived the expulsion of the Jews from England in 1290,[11] the great grandfather of Moses was the liturgist Rabbi Shimon ben Isaac ben Abun, known also as Rabbi Shimon the Great (Hagadol) of Mainz, a relative of Rabbi Shlomo Yitzchaki, known as Rashi (1040-1105). The first member of the family to move to England was Moses’ grandfather Moses of Bristol, who together with his wife Belaset or Rachel, lived in Bristol in the middle of the 12th century[12] before moving to Oxford sometime before 1176. [13] Moses of Bristol passed away around 1184.[14]


Moyses Hall


The residence of Jews in Oxford is referred to in the records as Magnus et Parvus Judaismus at Great Jury and Little Jury Lane.[15] At any time there were estimated no more than twenty homes in the Jewry and numbered around 200 people.[16] It is thought that Moses’ grandfather, Moses of Bristol, lived in Oxford in a property that became known for centuries later as Moyses Hall, a name used to indicate its earlier owner, a Jew called either Moyses or Mossey. The property was located on Pennyfarthing Lane, currently Pembroke Street.[17] This was almost certainly connected to Moses of Bristol and named after him, rather than his grandson Moses, although Moses of London was likely born and lived in that house.[18] The building was passed on to another Jew called Lumbard during the reign of John or beginning of the reign of Henry III, who became king in 1216. It was subsequently passed on to a number of other non-Jewish owners, even before the expulsion of the Jews in 1290, until it was given to Oriel College in 1362.[19] The property is currently part of Pembroke College. As the building was called Moyses Hall, it would have been a very substantial building, similar to other halls that were located on Pennyfarthing Lane, thus attractive to the founder of Oriel College, as were other buildings on Pennyfarthing Lane. This gives rise to the theory that this building served not only as a private residence but also a place of study (Yeshiva)[20] and worship.[21]




We are able to put together an overall picture of the immediate family of Moses of Oxford. He married the daughter of Oxford resident Bonefey.[22] Bonefey had three sons, Copin, Bonefey and Batekin and a daughter who married Moses. Together they had five children, two of whom became renowned rabbis in England during the 13th century: Elijah Menachem of London, considered one of the most learned Jews of 13th century England[23] and Berachiah of Lincoln, born around 1225, [24] known in the records as Magister Benedict f. Magister Mossei and in Hebrew deeds as Rav Berachiah, implying he was a chief rabbi of the city where he resided.[25] Other children of Moses were Jacob, who lived in the Jewry in Oxford, known for having sold his property, Bek’s Hall, to Walton de Merton that became part of Merton College;[26] Cresse, who lived in London and whose son Isaac was chief rabbi of England before the expulsion; Vives or Chaim, who died in London in 1274; and Hagin, who lived in Lincoln and served as the treasurer for Richard of Cornwall. He also served for a brief period as the chief rabbi of England until he died in 1280.




The biography of Moses’ life may be deduced from how he is referred to in the records. In 1208 there is a Moses f. Simeon, thought to be the same as Moses ben Yom Tov, who paid 20 pence ’because he made an agreement without the Chirographers.’[27] In 1238 he is referred to in the records as Moses of Oxford, when he paid a relief of £60 before being allowed to inherit the property of his father-in-law Bonefey, who passed away in 1238. Moses’ brother-in-law, Copin of Oxford, was one of the most important members of Oxford Jewry and acted as one of the local representatives at the Parliament of the Jews in 1240-1241. He lived on Fish Street and passed away in 1252.[28] There are also a number of deeds with his name on in the records published in the Deeds of the Jews by Davis. Ones such deed is in the name of Moses de Oxenford[29] regarding a debt of rent by a Hamon. He is also mentioned in the context of documents as the father of Berachiah of Lincoln. In those documents the father and son are called Rav Berachiah son of Rav Moshe, indicating they were both chief rabbis in their places.


David of Oxford


Shortly after the passing of Bonefey, Moses seems to have moved to London, indicating that they retained their residence in Oxford to assist, together with his wife, his father-in-law. In 1242, Moses was certainly already living in London, though still retaining close connections to Oxford, where his son Jacob resided with considerable wealth. In 27 August, 1242, Moses of London is mentioned in a letter from the King to Masters Moses of London, Aaron of Canterbury, and Moses’ son Jacob of Oxford in relation to the break-up of the marriage of great Oxford financier David of Oxford with Muriel.


David married Muriel but unfortunately did not have any children. As David wanted a heir, he wanted to divorce Muriel and remarry. The rabbis of England wrote to the rabbis of Northern France who ruled that David may not divorce Muriel against her will, as not having children is not sufficient grounds for divorce to override the prohibition of divorcing without consent. In what is the only known interference of the king in Jewish civil affairs in the medieval period in England, the king wrote a letter to David, prohibiting the rabbis from forcing David to live with any woman that he chooses. The letter states:


For David of Oxford: The King to Masters Moses of London, Aaron of Canterbury, and Jacob of Oxon', Jews, greeting. We do hereby forbid you to hold henceforth any plea concerning David Jew of Oxford and Muriel who was wife of the same; nor under any circumstances are you to distrain him either to take or to keep that wife or any other. Know for certainly that if you do otherwise, you will incur grave punishment therefore.[30]


Subsequently, David divorced Muriel, remarried Licoricia and had a son Duceman. While the legality of the story may be debated the story presents Moses as having moved to London, while still deeply connected to civil affairs in the Oxford Jewry together with his son Jacob of Oxon.


Hagahot Mordechai .pngTeachers


Moses studied under some of the greatest scholars of the time, both in England and France. His primary teacher in England was his father Rabbi Yom Tov and Rabbi Benjamin of Canterbury or, according to some, Cambridge. In France he was a student of Tosafist Rabbi Isaac ben Samuel the elder (c.1115 – c.1184), known as the Ri, and Shimshon ben Avraham of Shantz. He also had correspondence with the Ri, who wrote to Moses of London that beer of a non-Jew is permitted and is not subject to the laws of chadash (the Biblical requirement not to eat from the new grain prior to second day Passover), since barley and spelt mostly take root prior to Passover.[31] A further connection with the Ri can be found in a text in the Tosafot on Bava Batra that appears strikingly similar an argument made in the name of Moses of London in the margin to Mordechai hashalem, regarding the law of a middleman who incurred accidental damage to a garment in her possession.[32]


Moses’ recognition as a great scholar in his own right is reflected in the appellation ‘the mighty one of the world’ (abir ha-olam) given to him occasionally in rabbinic works, as well as Rabeinu Moshe.[33] Pertaining to his work on Hebrew grammar, his teacher appears to be grammarian R. Yekuthiel ben Yitzchak ha-Kohen, also known and Yekuthiel or Zalman ha-Nakdan, author of the work on Hebrew grammar En ha-kore. His disciples include Jacob ben Judah Chazan of London, his sons Rabbi Elijah Menachem of London, Rabbi Berachiah of Lincoln, and Rabbi Moses ben Isaac ha’Nessiah of London, author of Sefer Hashoham, in which he is quoted. Amongst the rabbis he disagreed with in his rulings are R. Meir of London, as can be found regarding the subject of whether one is biblically obligated to mourn after the passing of one’s mother who had converted together with oneself to Judaism. Moses of London says that one is not obligated, while R. Meir of London says one should.[34] Other English rabbis he disagreed with are R. Isaac ben Peretz of Northampton and his son, R. Elijah Menachem of London. With Isaac ben Peretz disagreement can be found regarding whether one should eat a meal between mincha and arvit on Shabbat. The custom in England was to do so, while Isaac ben Peretz had the custom in his city to eat before mincha, similar to the custom in France.[35] Another matter of disagreement between them was whether one can receive a divorce from an apostate without the knowledge of the wife, due to it being to her benefit. Moses of London ruled one can, while Isaac ben Peretz ruled that one may not.[36] An argument with Elijah Menachem pertained the correct haftarah to be read on a Shabbat that is prior to a single day Rosh Chodesh.[37] His other illustrious son, Berachiah of Lincoln, also disagreed with Moses of London, as can be found regarding whether tzitzit that tore must be removed.[38]


Hagahot Mordechai Perek Hasocher es ha-umnin.pngTeachings - sources


Moses of London’s teachings may be found in the following places:


a. In Pirush Rabeinu Eliyau U’psokov – within and at the end of the medieval work by the son of Moses of London, R. Elijah Menachem of London.


b. In the main work and in the margin of the compendium of Jewish law Etz Chaim by R. Jacob ben Judah Chazan of London (completed in 1287). This work is based on the text of Maimonides’ Mishneh Torah, with the rulings of French, German and English Tosafists included. Included are also rulings by Moses of London, alongside other English rabbis, like Elijah Menachem of London, Berachiah of Lincoln, Yosef of Lincoln, and Isaac ben Peretz of Northampton. A single manuscript of this work is held in Leipzig library, and published as a three-volume work by Mosad Harav Kook, 1962, edited by Chief Rabbi of Great Britain, Sir Israel Brodie (1895-1979).[39]


c. A teaching can be found in the margin of a manuscript[40] of German legal compendium Sefer Mordechai ha-shalem[41] by Mordechai ben Hillel, who was killed in the Rintfleisch massacres in 1298. The teaching can be found, alongside a teaching by the son of Moses of London, R. Elijah Menachem of London, on the Talmudic tractate Bava Metziah, Perek Hasocher et ha-umnin. The subject pertains to a woman who was given a garment to sell on behalf of the owner but no sale took place and the garment was accidentally damaged. Moses of London responded that the woman is liable for damages.


d. a personal manuscript of legal rulings called Sefer Halekutim that consisted of both his own rulings and copies of rulings from other works. Though the work itself is no longer extant, some of the rulings recorded in Etz Chaim in Moses’ name were most likely copied from Sefer Halikutim. In one case Jacob ben Judah Chazan of London states clearly that he copied a section of his work from the manuscript of Moses,[42] indicating there was a manuscript of Halachic teachings that is no longer extant.[43] The work was most likely a compendium of laws, similar in style to other contemporary rabbinic works that consist of laws with reasoning and sources drawn from the Talmud.[44] It is also likely that the teachings in his Sefer Halikutim were not all necessarily his own original teachings but, as was common, a documentation of the rulings of others that he transcribed from the works of others for his own personal use. This may be seen in the case of a particular teaching that is mentioned by Jacob ben Judah Chazan of London in Moses’ name but then he writes that the same teaching is also found in the work of Rabbi Isaac Alfasi.[45] In total the recorded teachings that we know about from the above works of Moses amount to a selection of thirty-four teachings: sixteen teachings in Pirush Rabeinu Eliyau U’psokov[46] and eighteen in Etz Chaim.[47]


e. A number of his teachings can be found as glosses to 13th century manuscript of Sefer Mitzvot Hakatan, known by its acronym Semak, or known as Amude Hagolah, by Rabbi Isaac Corbeil, found at the Bodleian Library, MS Michael 502.[48] One gloss consists of the laws of salting meat, titled Hilchot Melichat Basar V’chol Hadinim Kasher Sidrum Rabeinu Moshe M’londres. The law pertains to the requirement in Jewish law that permits eating meat and chicken only after the blood has been drained and cleaned. Earlier in the above manuscript there is a gloss that contains various other laws by Rabbi Moses of London.


f. French Hebrew manuscript of the 13th-14th century, Ms Parma 933,[49] held in The Palatina Library, Parma, Italy, by an anonymous author. The work is known as Tosafot Hachmei Angliya[50] and consists of a commentary on ten tractates of the Babylonia Talmud: Berachot,[51] Megillah, Beitzah, Pesachim[52], Avodah Zarah, Gitin, Sanhedrin, Niddah, Bava Metzia and Kiddushin. At the end of tractate Avodah Zara, one can find a section of laws by four legalists from France, Germany and England, including Sefer Hamiztvah Katan by R. Isaac of Corbeil,[53] Sefer Hateruma by R. Baruch Ben Isaac (c. 1140-1212),[54] R. Moses ben Yom Tov of London[55] and Piskei Maharam by R. Meir of Rothenburg (1215-1293).[56] The subject of the section belonging to Moses of London relates to details of the kosher dietary laws.


In addition, many of the novallae on the Talmud, are from Moses of London. This can be found on tractate Berachot and Pesachim. On fol. 59, it states: ‘siyamti mesechet Pesachim v’Chidushei Rabeinu Moshe’ (I have completed the novallae of the tractate of Pesachim and Rabeinu Moshe).[57] A further few folios were added, until folio 63, including also teachings of Moses, with a comment at the end of this section to the effect that the scribe added also this additional section, which he had initially forgotten. At the end of every paragraph that are of his teachings, it signs off with the acronym: ‘ram,’ that stands for Rabeinu Moshe. Other sections finish with the name of other Tosafists, like Rivan, Riva, Ritzba, among others.[58] According to R. Moshe Yehuda Blau, the teachings of Moses of London on the Talmud in Tosafot Hachmei Angliya were taken from another text that was a Tosafot commentary of Moses of London on the margin of R. Isaac Alfasi (Rif), known as Tosafot Alfas (published by R. Moshe Yehuda Blau, 1970).[59]


g. Another important source of the teachings of Moses of London is a manuscript in Paris, that consists of Tosafist commentary on four tractates of the Talmud: Yevomot, Ketubot, Gittin and Kiddushin. The work is cited in other works in the 15th century as Tosafot Alfas, indicating it was written as a commentary to R. Isaac Alfasi (Rif). This can be found in Leket Yosher[60] by R. Joseph (Joselein) ben Moses (1423–c.1490). It

was published in 1970 by R. Moshe Yehuda Blau, as the title: Hatosafot shel ha-Alfas l’Rabeinu Moshe ben Yom Tov m’Londres al mesechtot Yevomot, Ketubot, Gittin v’Kiddushin. According to Blau, this work is also the source for teachings of Moses of London, found in Tosafot Hachmei Angliya. In one teaching on Yevamot 97b, Moses signs off the teaching with the statement: ‘v’Shalom l’kol yisrael (And peace for all of Israel), Moshe.’ This signature: ‘v’shalom’ (and peace), followed by his name, can be found in the ending of the teaching by Moses of London in the margin of Mordechai ha-shalem on Bava Metzia, perek hasocher ha-umnin.[61]


h. A collection of decisions by Rabbi Moses of London may be found in a 1391 manuscript at the Bodleian Library, MS Michael 46.[62]


i. Hagahot Mordechai, tractate Gittin, section 465, regarding who may receive a divorce on behalf of a girl in different scenarios,[63] and also in the same tractate, section 467, though mistakenly cited in the name of Ri of London.[64] This law pertains to whether one may receive a divorce on behalf of a woman without her knowledge when it is certainly to her advantage.


j. A marginal note to Mordechai hashalem regarding accidental damage to a garment while held by a middleman (ma’aseh b’isha achat).[65]


k. A work on Hebrew grammar, Darkei ha-Nikkud ve-ha-neginot (attributed), the second part of which – Sha-ar ha-neginot - was added by masoretic scholar Jacob ben Hayyim ibn Adonijah anonymously in 1525 at the end of the second Mikra-ot Ge-dolot (rabbinic bible).[66]


l. Teachings on Hebrew grammar and lexigraphy in Sepher ha-Shoham by R. Moses ben Isaac ha-Nessiah of London.


m. Marginal notes to Sefer ha-Zikaron by R. Joseph Kimchi (attributed).[67]


n. In addition to the above, as mentioned, there is a teaching in the Tosafot[68] by the name of a Tosafist, ha-Nakdan, that may be also attributed to him, though Leopold Zunz (1794-1886) claims it is attributed to Rabbi Berachya ben Natronai ha-Nakdan of Oxford, author of Mishle Shualim (Fox Fables).[69]


Etz Chaim - Sukkah .pngLegal rulings


To understand the influence of Moses of London as a legalist and leader of the Jewish community of 13th century England, we will present a selection of his teachings that offers insight into the central role Moses of London played in the decision-making process of Jewish law in the Jewish community of 13th century in England, giving insight also into the religious issues that were facing the Jewish community of England during that period. The rulings are divided into two: the first are rulings recorded by his sons, including R. Elijah Menachem of London and R. Berachiah of Lincoln and others recorded in Etz Chaim by Jacob ben Judah Chazan of London.


1.     Wearing torn Tzitzit on Shabbat


A ruling of Moses of London is recorded by his son, Rabbi Berachiah of Lincoln,[70] reflecting also the unique relationship between Berachiah and his esteemed father, Moses. It relates to the case of a talit [71] that tore on the Shabbat and became invalidated. The question posed is: does one need to remove the talit, so as not to wear a talit without tzitzit - in violation of the positive commandment to wear tzitzit on a four-cornered garment or may one continue to wear the invalid talit on the Shabbat.[72] The underlying issue is whether concern for human dignity – undressing in public - overrides the law against carrying on the Shabbat - allowing the person to continue wearing the talit without valid tzitzit, or does Jewish law override human dignity.[73]


The background to this discussion is the following case in the Talmud:[74]

Ravina was once walking behind Mar bar Rav Ashi on the Shabbat of a festival discourse, when a corner of Mar bar Rav Ashi’s garment with its fringes (tzitzit) tore off. Mar bar Rav Ashi was unaware of this and Ravina who did notice it, said nothing to him. When Mar bar Rav Ashi reached his house, Ravina said to him: From there – a certain location along the route – it had been torn off. Mar bar Rav Ashi said to Ravina: Had you told me immediately, right there I would have thrown off the garment.


According to another version of the story, Ravina was walking not through a public thoroughfare but rather a field or the like (karmelit)[75] – within which the prohibition against carrying on the Shabbat is only rabbinic in origin. Mar bar Rav Ashi in fact alerted Ravina immediately when the corner tore off, upon which Ravina asked Mar bar Rav Ashi whether he needs to remove the cloak. Mar bar Rav Ashi responded that as it is in a field - where the prohibition against carrying is only rabbinic in origin - and not a public thoroughfare, which would be subject to the biblical transgression of carrying, preservation of human dignity overrides rabbinically transgressing Shabbat. The person therefore need not undress and remove the invalid talit.


In summary, Talmudic law stipulates that if a talit tore in a public domain - connected to a Biblical prohibition of carrying - one does need to remove the tallit, despite the discomfort involved, whereas in a non-public domain, which is connected to a law of rabbinic origin, one does not need to remove the talit.[76]


Medieval development of the law


This view remains undisputed until the medieval period. The medieval Jewish legal work, Mordechai, takes issue with this lenient Talmudic ruling based on the consideration that the obligation to wear a talit with tzitzit is in fact Biblical in origin.[77] The implication of this should be that even if the prohibition against carrying in a non-public domain is rabbinic in origin, since the obligation to wear tzitzit on a four cornered garment is Biblical in origin considerations of human dignity (kavod ha-briyot) should not override it.


The answer given is the following distinction: the obligation to wear a talit with tzitzit is only a positive commandment that one should place tzitzit on a four cornered garment, but there is no prohibition against wearing a talit without tzitzit. The implication of this is that on Shabbat when a person is not permitted – thus unable - to fix tzitzit to a talit, one does not need to remove a torn tallit on Shabbat, as there is no neglect of a positive commandment by not repairing the tzitzit, since it is in any event not practicable on the Shabbat. Based on the same rationale, one would not need to remove an invalid talit immediately even indoors.[78]


Distinction between Shabbat and weekdays


On the weekday, however, when there is no prohibition against repairing a talit, the Biblical positive commandment to fix tzitzit to a talit is in effect and therefore requires a person to remove a torn talit right away, so not to neglect the positive commandment to wear tzitzit on a four-cornered garment. This distinction between Shabbat and weekdays is articulated in the Mordechai, quoted by Rabbi Joseph Karo in his commentary to the Tur[79] and legislated as part of Jewish law by Ashkenazic legalist Rabbi Moses Isserles in his gloss to R. Joseph Karo’s Shulchan Aruch in the 16th century.[80]


No distinction between Shabbat and weekdays


The distinction between Shabbat and weekday however is contested by leading 17th century legalist Rabbi Abraham Gombiner (1635 – 1682), known as the Magen Avraham,[81] as well as 16th century Rabbi David ha-Levi Segal (c. 1586 – 1667), known as the Taz, after his legal work Turei Zahav. They argue that if there is no negative commandment against wearing a talit without valid tzitzit and the only obligation is not to neglect a positive commandment, then even though the positive injunction to wear the tzitzit is applicable, this would not require a person to remove a torn talit even on the weekday, if there is much discomfort, for example in the middle of the street or in a synagogue. This is based on the principle that if the violation is only the absence of doing a positive commandment, namely, by not wearing a kosher pair of tzitzit, one may transgress a positive commandment in a case of much discomfort (g’nai gadol). This view is in fact the deciding opinion in Jewish law.[82]


Moses of London – makes distinction between Shabbat and weekday


The above dispute can be found in a marginal note in the Sefer Mitzvot Katan (Samak) by French Tosafist R. Isaac of Corbeil (d.1280). The marginal note is of Berachiah of Lincoln in the name of his father Moses of London, who argues that there is no need to remove the talit if it tears on the Shabbat even indoors, based on the rationale that there is no negative commandment not to wear a talit without tzitzit. Since the positive commandment to fix a torn talit is not practicable on Shabbat, one need not remove a torn talit, whether outdoors or indoors on Shabbat. This is derived from the Talmudic dialogue between Mar Bar Rav Ashi and Ravina, whereby the only reason Mar Bar Rav Ashi would have removed the torn talit – were it not for human dignity – was because of it being worn outdoors on the Shabbat, violating a biblical obligation of carrying outdoors in a public domain. This implies that if it had ripped indoors there would be no need to remove the talit on Shabbat. Berachiah however disagrees with the view that the same rationale applies to the weekday and writes that one would have to remove the talit if it becomes invalid on the weekday.[83]


2.     Haftarah – Sunday Rosh Chodesh (machar chodesh)


There is a custom to read in the synagogue the weekly Torah portion, followed by a section from the prophets, called the haftarah, that contains a similar theme as the Torah portion. If the Shabbat and the Sunday is Rosh Chodesh (beginning of a new Hebrew month), however, a special section from the prophets is read that relates to the subject of Rosh Chodesh occurring on a Sunday. There is a dispute if Rosh Chodesh is only a single day – on the Sunday. According to R. Eliyahu of London, the regular haftara is read, not the special reading relating to Sunday being Rosh Chodesh. He maintains that the special reading is only read when both days – Shabbat and Sunday – are Rosh Chodesh. The reason is since a reading from the Torah on Shabbat on the subject of Rosh Chodesh is read, a related reading from the prophets and the Rosh Chodesh on Sunday is also read. If Shabbat is not Rosh Chodesh, so no special from the Torah is read, there is no basis for the haftarah to be read from the prophets relating to the Sunday as Rosh Chodesh. Moses of London – the father of R. Eliyahu – argues however that in both cases – whether Shabbat is also Rosh Chodesh or only the Sunday is Rosh Chodesh, the special haftara from the prophets is read relating to the subject of Sunday being Rosh Chodesh.[84]


Screenshot 2021-06-24 at 19.59.12.png3.     On which loaf does one recite the blessing first?


In the laws of meals, it discusses the order of blessings over different foods and that president should be given to food that is more prestigious. The rule is that if one has a whole loaf of bread from barley and a broken loaf from wheat, one should place the broken piece inside the whole and recite a blessing over both of them. In some cases, however, they are of equal status and one may choose over which one to recite the blessing first. This is the case if the refined bread is ritually unclean, and the coarse bread is clean. The Jerusalem Talmud[85] rules that one can choose over which one to recite the blessing first. R. Isaac ben Peretz of Northampton, known by his acronym Ribraf,[86] derived from this case that if one has before him coarse bread of Jew, and refined bread of a non-Jew, if one is not meticulous about eating bread from a non-Jewish baker, one may choose over which one to recite the blessing first.[87] This is in fact the halacha in the Shulchan Aruch of R. Joseph Karo.[88] Moses of London, however, argues with R. Isaac ben Peretz of Northampton with the rhetorical argument that we are ashamed for not being particular about eating bread from a non-Jewish baker - should we also allow its blessing to take precedence?[89] To avoid this problem, R. Moses of Coucy suggests to remove the superior bread of the non-Jew from the table while the blessing over the inferior Jewish bread is recited.[90] In this case, Moses of London appears, as with the dairy, to take a more stringent view in matter related to food, than his colleagues in England, like R. Isaac ben Peretz of Northampton and also compared to his colleagues in France.


4.     Gifts on Shabbat


The case relates to a person who set out on the festival with wine from Auxerre[91] and arrived on the Shabbat. R. Jacob Tam, known as Rabeinu Tam (1100-1171), writes that one may not drink the wine on the Shabbat, as it has been subject to the rabbinic transgression of being transported 2,000 cubits (890m/0.55mile) beyond a town’s boundaries or established dwelling on the Shabbat. This is known as the law of Techum (boundary). Moses of London argues that one may however drink the wine immediately after the Shabbat. He derives this from an omission in the text in a relevant law in the Talmud. The Talmud states: “If a gentile brought a gift to a Jew on the Festival from beyond the city boundary it is prohibited.” Moses argues that since the Talmud does not say that it remains prohibited for any period after the Shabbat one can assume that it is immediately permitted and one does not need to wait the time it takes to bring the wine from a to b. The reason for this leniency is due to the fact that the law of T’chum is only rabbinic in origin, in contrast to the law of cooking over the Shabbat, when placed to cook before the Shabbat, that when violated one is required to wait after the Shabbat the extent of cooking time before benefiting from the food. The case[92] relates to the prohibition against filling a pot with uncooked beans and placing them directly on the stove before the Shabbat to cook over the Shabbat and be ready for eating after the Shabbat. The Talmud states that in this case one must wait for the amount of time that it took to cook before benefiting from the dish (b’chdei Sheya’asu). Moses argues that a distinction is made between the case of the Tosefta where there is a concern of a transgression of a Biblical law, i.e. cooking on the Shabbat, and the case of the city limits, which is rabbinic in origin.


This view is also the opinion of the Tosafist R. Isaac the Elder, known as the Ri.[93] This view was not however shared by most opinions nor endorsed as accepted Jewish law. Tosafist R. Baruch of Germiza (Germany 1170-1211), Rabbi Isaac Alfasi (1013–1103), R. Judah Gaon,[94] R. Nissim, Mordechai ben Hillel, R. Moses of Coucy, as well as the conclusion in Jewish law,[95] all differ from the view of Moses of London and maintain that if someone brings an item from outside the city limits on Shabbat, the intended recipient may not benefit from the item on the Shabbat and must wait the amount of travel time after the Shabbat before benefiting from it.[96] The reason is due to the concern a person, knowing he can gain benefit, may be tempted to ask a gentile to bring something on the Shabbat from outside the city boundary. If no benefit can be derived from the transgression one will not be tempted.[97]


5.     A dairy spoon in a meat pot on Shabbat


A dairy spoon had fallen in to a pot of meat on Shabbat. The question that arose was whether one can apply the method of 1/60 ratio of non-Kosher to Kosher food on the Shabbat and allow the meat to be eaten? This concept is based on the teaching in the Mishna[98] that in addition to non-kosher food, the imparting of flavour of non-Kosher food is also forbidden to eat, according to Jewish law. The implication is that if non-kosher food falls into a pot of kosher food, thereby imparting a non-kosher flavour, the kosher food is now non-kosher, even though the non-kosher food was removed. If, however, there is no imparting of non-kosher flavour, the product is permissible because it is regarded as nullified (batel). The same applies to mixture of milk and meat.


The determination whether there is a flavour or not can be achieved in two ways: A non-Jew can taste the mixture and inform whether there is any taste of the non-kosher food.[99] A second way is to calculate whether there is sixty times more volume of the Kosher food than the non-Kosher substance that fell into the pot.[100] Sephardic custom is the former, while Ashkenazic custom is the latter.


Moses of London ruled that in any case where a dairy spoon fell into a pot of meat on Shabbat, one may calculate whether there is one sixtieth of the spoon against the pot of meat. Although taking measurement in general for mundane purposes is forbidden on Shabbat, measurements related to matters that are a mitzvah is permitted,[101] like calculating whether there is sufficient water in a Mikvah, or a garment is large enough to be susceptible to the laws of impurity.[102]


6.     Searching a clean room for Chametz


A biblical commandment on Passover is not to have in one’s possession any leavened food (chametz).[103] For this reason, the rabbis instituted that one should search on the evening before Passover (the night of the 14th of Nissan) for chametz that might be in one’s house. The principle is that any part of the house that may have had chametz brought into it during the year must be searched for chametz, whereas parts of the house that for certain would have had any chametz does not need to be included in the searching for chametz. The question that arises is: if one swept one’s house and rooms for chametz (leavened) three or four days before Passover, does one need to search those areas once again on the night before Passover as part of the searching for chametz? In this context, Moses of London responded that one still needs to search those areas for chametz, even if one is sure the rooms had not be used for chametz in the interim. In other words, we do not differentiate between one room and another; if it is a room that had been used for chametz during the year, it must be included in the search.


This principle of not differentiating between the particulars of cases in the application of Jewish law, is drawn from a text in the Jerusalem Talmud.[104] The question posed in the Talmud is: do the designated courtyards in Jerusalem, where the eating of the loaves of the thanksgiving offering (lach-mei todah) and the wafers of the Nazarite – both leaven - took place, need searching for chametz on the eve of Passover? The premise of this question is, since the law of these offerings stipulate, they must be eaten within a specific time frame and it is forbidden to have any leftover, these courtyards are thoroughly cleaned at the end of each day to remove any remnants. If so, there should be no need to search these same courtyards again for leavened for Passover separately. Nevertheless, the law is that once does still need to search for chametz, as we don’t differentiate between one courtyard and another. This is the same as the case of a menstruant priestess who must fully prepare oneself for the mikvah by combing one’s hair and washing, even though a priestess would have done so already before partaking of Terumah (priestly tithe) - that requires eating in a state of ritual purity. Nevertheless, we apply the laws pertaining to mikvah equally without differentiation. Based on these two cases in the Talmud, Moses of London applies the same principle in our case, regarding searching for leavened in a room that had been already cleaned a few days prior to Passover.[105] In a marginal note in the Etz Chaim manuscript,[106] R. Berachiah of Lincoln, son of Moses of London, stipulates, that if the first cleaning of the courtyard a few days earlier was for the particular purpose of searching for leavened for Passover – not just to clear the thanksgiving loaves more generally, or in our case, general cleaning of the house before Passover - one need not search for chametz again in those areas on the evening before Passover.[107]


7.     Blessing over the Hallel at the Passover Seder


At the Passover Seder the Hallel recited in two parts: half before the meal and half after the meal. The reason for this is so that the second cup of wine at the Passover Seder can be ‘beautified’ with praise of G-d (Hallel), as each of the other cups of wine have a special prayer recited over them – the first cup – kiddush, third cup – grace after meal and fourth cup – Hallel. Since the Haggadah itself constitute a story, it was instituted to have half of the Hallel recited before the drinking of the second cup of wine, to fulfil the dictum: ‘one only recites a song of praise over wine’ also over the second cup of wine.[108] There are two opinions whether the blessing before the Hallel should be recited at the Passover Seder. German Tosafist R. Isaac ben Asher, known as the Riva,[109] would recite a blessing before the Hallel. Moses of London disagreed, following the view of the Gaonim.[110] He argued that since there is an interruption in the reciting of the Hallel - the meal, that is itself longer than the time it would take to complete the Hallel - it does not constitute a ‘reading of the Hallel’ – thus invalidating a blessing if it were to be said over its recitation.[111]


8.     Commemorating Hillel the Elder at the Passover Seder


One of the foods eaten at the Passover Seder is the bitter herbs, together with the Matza, as it states in Exodus (12:8). The custom is to first eat the Matza and then the bitter herbs dipped in charoset. The amount one should take for each is the size that is seen as the minimum of what constitutes ‘eating’ in Jewish law – the size of an olive (k’zayit). This is then followed by taking the (third) Matza from the Seder plate and one wraps it with the bitter herbs, dips in the charoset, and eats it. This is to commemorate the way Hilel the Elder would perform the mitzvah on the Seder night during the Temple period – to not eat them separately, but combined, as a sandwich. The question is: how much bitter herbs should one take when performing the custom like Hillel, since one has already fulfilled the core custom when it was eaten separately. Moses of London argues that it is correct (nachon) to take an olive size, since this is most likely what Hillel would have done. Since we are commemorating Hillel’s observance, one should also take an olive-size of bitter herbs with the matza.


The same reasoning applies for why one should dip the bitter herbs the second time in the charoset,[112] even though the reason for the dipping is redundant – to remove harm of poisoning due to its sharpness. Since[113] bitter herbs can only be harmful when eaten alone - not accompanied by bread – the reason to dip in the charoset is not relevant.[114] Moses of London argues, however, that since this is most likely what Hillel would have done – to dip into charoset, we should also do so in commemoration. Nevertheless, Moses of London concludes, if one does not dip the bitter herbs into charoset for the second time or does not take an olive-size, one need not be concerned, since it is sufficient that commemoration was performed by the actual taking of the bitter herbs and matza together.


Moses of London maintains that a blessing is not needed over the taking of the Matza, bitter herbs and charoset, following Hillel, even though this would usually require three blessings, for each item. The reason is since it has already been covered by the previous eating of these items separately.[115]


9.     Interruption between the four cups of wine at the Passover Seder


In the laws of Passover, there is a dispute what constitutes an interruption in a meal to require a second blessing over the food to be recited. In the case of the Passover Seder, does the recitation of the Haggadah constitute an interruption between the first cup of wine and the second, requiring one to recite a grace after the wine (al ha-gefen) after the first cup of wine. The same question is regarding a meal, whereby one has partaken of bread, and then in the middle one rises to pray. Does that constitute an interruption of the meal, requiring a second blessing of the bread to be recited before continuing the meal? In the Etz Chaim, it presents two opinions: 1. Rabbi Yitzchak ben Avraham, known by his acronym Rivra[116] or Ritzba, and Rabeinu Tam say that one only needs to recite the grace after the wine after the fourth cup of wine, as the Haggadah does not constitute an interruption.[117] 2. Others have the opinion to recite the grace after the wine after the first cup of wine, since the Haggadah does constitute an interruption. German Tosafist Ra’aviah says one should recite a blessing after the first, third and fourth cups of wine, as does the Machzor Vitry, Rabbi Meir of Rothenberg (c. 1215 - 1293), Rabbi Elijah of London, Rabbi Jacob ben Judah Chazan of London, as recorded in Etz Chaim, Laws of Pesach (ch. 4),[118] and Rabbi Eleazar ben Judah (ben Kalonymus), known after the title of his work Rokeach (1176-1278).[119] Rabbi Zedekiah ben Abraham Anav (Shibbole Ha-Leket) cites the opinion of Rashi that one should recite the blessing after each of the four cups of wine.[120] Similarly, they require someone who interrupts their meal to pray, must say a further blessing over the bread. Moses of London, however, says that the latter view is folly, as the only thing that constitutes an interruption in a meal is Grace after Meals itself, but not prayers or the Haggadah.


Moses of London says that the law of what constitutes interruption in Jewish is also pertaining to the law of reciting a blessing over the slaughtering of an animal. As long as there has not been an interruption in between the slaughtering of one animal and another, one need not recite a second blessing. Moses of London argues that only the covering of the blood after the slaughtering of non-domesticated animals and fowl,[121] constitutes an interruption in the slaughtering, expressing clear intention of an intermission, while prayer would not constitute such an interruption.[122] This view of Moses of London represents a congruence of opinion between Moses of London and some of the French and German rabbis (Rabeniu Tam and Ritzba), while differing with some other German Rabbis (Ra’aviah), as well as some of the English Rabbis of his time (R. Jacob ben Judah Chazan of London and his own son R. Elijah Menachem of London).[123]


10.  Fastening the cover of a Sukkah with nails


Moses of London discusses that they would build their Sukkah with nails. He argued that there is nothing to be concerned of about the nails becoming susceptible to the laws of impurity, and therefore disqualifying the Sukkah, since as soon as the nails become affixed to the wall, they become purified, based on the law mentioned in the Tosefta, laws of the Red Heifer (8:7), regarding a chest that had become subject to impurity due to contact with a corpse. As soon as one nails the lid permanently closed, it is no longer a vessel and becomes ritually pure.[124]


11.  A shelter from pouring rain on Sukkot


With the location of England in the path of the jet stream from East to West, making it more susceptible to rain, an issue that arises in Jewish law is pertaining what may and what may not be used to cover a Sukkah from heavy rain,[125] while remaining a valid Sukkah for eating in on the holiday of Sukkot. Moses of London rules that one may make a door made from planks that are less than four handbreadths wide to be placed over the Sukkah as a shelter from ‘pouring rain.’


The premise of this case is from the Talmud[126] that posits that planks that are less than four handbreadths wide may be used as cover (s’chach) for the Sukkah, as opposed to more than four handbreadth that would be considered similar to roof beams of a house.[127] The concern is that a person may think that just as one may sit in a Sukkah covered by such beams, one may also sit indoors.[128] Drawing on this permissibility to use planks less than four handbreadth as cover for a Sukkah, Moses of London writes that if such planks were placed together in the form of a door, it would be also permitted as cover for a Sukkah. This represents a discussion in Jewish law relating to circumstance in England, where Moses of London addresses how a Sukkah can be observed in comfort.[129]


12.  Tarte with fruit baked by a non-Jew


A medieval food in France and England was pie (pye) or in France, known as tartes, that included pastries filled with fruit. The question that arose was whether fruit tartes baked by a non-Jewish baker was kosher. Moses of London writes that there is no concern for the prohibition of eating cooked fruit by a non-Jew (bi-shulei go-yim), since the fruit can be also eaten raw, thereby not making it subject to the prohibition against eating cooked food by a gentile. Even if it is baked together with non-kosher meat, there is no concern from the steam with something adjacent that is covered, as long as one is certain the fat from the non-kosher meat on the floor of the oven does not become absorbed into the pastry.[130]


The only issue of concern is regarding the pastry that is baked by a non-Jew. This is however subject to a dispute in Jewish law and some would have not eaten such a pastry, while others would have not been particular in the medieval period, as nowadays. The origin of this prohibition is from the 1st century, during the Mishnaic period, when eighteen decrees were made, including prohibiting bread baked by a non-Jew, so to avoid fraternizing that could lead to intermarriage.[131] In the medieval period, Rabbi Shlomo ben Aderet, known as Rashba, stated that this applied even when the issue of intermarriage is not directly relevant.[132] There are a few considerations however whereby this decree was not applicable in the case of a baker: a. in the Talmud, there is discussion whether this applies only to a city or also in a field, b. does it apply where the only baker is of a non-Jew. The latter question continued into the 16th century - R. Joseph Karo maintained the stricter view, while Ashkenazic R. Moses Isserles was lenient that one may in event buy from a non-Jewish baker.[133] Reflecting the lenient view, the French medieval Tosafists testified that the prohibition against non-Jewish bakers was not in fact observed,[134] as it was never accepted by everyone in the first place.[135] In this context, the statement by Moses of London, found in Etz Chaim, in indicative of how this custom was observed. The Etz Cahim writes, ‘those who were not concerned about eating bread baked by a non-Jew, may eat the tarte with fruit inside.’ This suggests, perhaps, a more stringent observance than France, whereby some Jews in England were not particular but others did observe this custom.[136]


13.  Dairy produced by a non-Jew


A second case about food eaten by medieval Jews in England, pertains to the dispute about the permissibility to eat dairy produced by a non-Jew. This question has its roots in a version of the Jerusalem Talmud,[137] divided the Gaonim in Babylonia and resurfaced again in the 13th century among the Jewish communities of France and England. The premise is that alongside the prohibition of bread baked by a non-Jew, in the 1st century, it was decreed that milk produced by a non-Jew unsupervised is also prohibited, due to the concern that it might be mixed with milk from a kosher animal, like camels, horses, mules and pigs.[138]


There is a difference however between production of milk and cheese. The concern of non-kosher milk becoming mixed with kosher milk is only relevant to milk but not cheese, since milk from a non-kosher animal does not curdle. Nevertheless, cheese produced by a non-Jew remains non-kosher, since there is concern some milk (whey) remains between the crevices of the cheese and contain a mixture of non-kosher milk.[139] The reason mentioned by Maimonides and Jacob ben Judah Chazan of London, is due to the concern that the stomach of a non-kosher animal was used for stimulating the curdling process. This concern applies even if in actuality fig extract or other fruit acid was used.


The question that arises is regarding the production of butter that can also only be made from a kosher animal, like cow and goat’s milk. Unlike cheese that all agree is prohibited, as part of the eighteen items prohibited in the 1st century, the is a dispute between the Babylonian and Jerusalem Talmud whether this included also butter. There is a version in the Jerusalem Talmud that includes butter (chem’ah) among these items. This in fact became a dispute between the Jews of Babylon and Israel.[140] Among the Gaonim, some permitted due to non-kosher milk does not curdle, and some prohibited, because of the concern of the whey.


In the medieval period, Etz Chaim documents the views in France and England on this subject. Rabeinu Tam ruled in France that butter may be eaten. Some in France prohibited due to the fact that in England whey is indeed mixed with the butter. Ri the Elder ruled however that in case of doubt, it remains permitted, as in any case non-Kosher whey does not curdle and therefore the whey would most likely be from kosher milk.[141] The rule that Jewish law is lenient in case of doubt pertaining to a prohibition that is rabbinic origin is applicable. In conclusion, Jacob ben Judah Chazan of London writes that butter produced by non-Jew is permitted. At the end of this deliberation, Jacob ben Judah Chazan of London documents that this is also the ruling of Rabbi Moses of London. Nevertheless, one who follows the view of the Jerusalem Talmud and prohibits such butter, will be blessed. Pertaining to cream, however, Moses of London would say it is completely prohibited, since it is unusual for it to be produced from milk that had been curdled for cheese, because it would weaken the cheese making process. The production would therefore be from the milk that is produced specifically for cream that does not entail curdling, regarding which there remains the concern of mixture with non-Kosher milk.[142]


In conclusion, based on the work of Etz Chaim, Jews of England would certainly not have eaten cheese, milk or dairy cream produced by their non-Jewish neighbours, they would have been permitted to eat butter, as the Jews in France were. However, it is highly likely that, unlike their French co-religionists, Jews of England would have refrained also from eating butter produced by non-Jews, as indicated by the statement of Moses of London that those who refrain will be bestowed with blessing.


14.  Eggs


Moses of London discusses the question whether one may buy eggs from a non-Jew, when there is concern the eggs may be from a non-Kosher fowel. The Talmud states:[143] ‘One may buy eggs from the gentiles anywhere, and one need not be concerned, neither with regard to carcasses, i.e., that the egg may have been removed from a carcass of a bird and therefore forbidden, nor with regard to eggs from tereifot (mortally injured), because neither of these possibilities is likely.’ Regarding the possibility that the eggs are from a non-kosher fowl,[144] there is no concern, as such eggs are not usually found amongst us, he writes.[145] This is only the case, however, if one buys whole eggs, but one may not buy eggs mixed in a bowl, since Jewish law stipulates that if a Jew wants to sell his eggs from a fowl that was mortally injured (tereifa), he should sell it only once it is mixed in a bowl. This suggests that one may not buy such eggs from a non-Jew, since it may have come from a Jewish person who had sold his eggs that were from an injured fowl.[146] Regarding buying a pastry (knishes and blintzes?) made with eggs, however, the mixture of eggs in itself is permitted, as there is not the same concern, as when buying the egg straight as it is mixed in a bowl. There is also no concern of a blood spot in the eggs, since most eggs don’t have blood spots in them. However, Moses of London argues there is a prohibition of eating the pastry with the eggs, as the eggs constitute a cooked item, separate to the pastry itself. Therefore, even if one is not particular about buying bread from a non-Jew,[147] the prohibition of buying cooked food is of an earlier enactment and is prohibited. This ruling is disputed by Rabeinu Tam, who says the egg in the ingredients in the pastry is considered part of the pastry and therefore only subject to the prohibition of baked bread of a non-Jew, that is permitted to those who are not concerned about this prohibition.[148] This represents a case where the rabbis of England were more stringent[149] than the French Tosafists.[150]


15.  Receiving a divorce in the interest of a woman without her knowledge


In a case where we know that a divorce is certainly in the interest of the woman, a person may receive the divorce on her behalf without her knowledge.[151] This ruling by Moses of London is also found in Hagahot Mordechai, tractate Gittin (467), though mistakenly cited in the name of Ri of London.[152] This is most likely the same Rabbi Moses of London. In the Etz Chaim, however, it adds in the same section what seems to be the context of this ruling: A story occurred where a person had two daughters and received marriage for one of them without stating her name (making both of them the possible spouse of the same man). A second person proceeded to accept all their divorces that was required without their knowledge (so to annual the marriage). In the context of this ruling by Rabbi Moses, both the Etz Chaim and Hagahot Mordechai by R. Mordechai ben Hilel, proceed to bring a further case from the time of Rashi: A similar case occurred with the wife of an apostate who initially refused to grant a divorce but finally consented. This case came before Rashi, who ruled that the divorce may be received on behalf of the woman without her knowledge. In the Hagahot Mordechai it adds that the divorce may be received also at night time, despite the requirement of monitory cases to be decided only during the day in Jewish law. The distinction is since the issue and acceptance of the actual divorce document reflects the conclusion of a case.


To give context and comparison to this ruling, in Hagahot Mordechai, it references the Talmud in tractate Yevamot (118b), where it discusses a similar law in the context of receiving a divorce when it is in the perceived interest of the woman, without her knowledge. The cases that this applies to in the Talmud include: a. if a husband gives a divorce to an agent to hand to his wife, but the husband dies before being delivered, making her subject to levirate marriage with the husband’s brother. The divorce is sometimes in her interest to avoid levirate marriage as she may dislike him. b. With regard to one who confers possession of a bill of divorce to his wife through an agent in a situation when there was a quarrel between them. In the former case, the Talmud is inconclusive, and the latter, the sages apply the idea that a woman prefers to be married with a man she quarrels with or with a lowly occupation that be unmarried, thus regarding divorce in principle a disadvantage to her, and therefore only divorced when she actually receives the divorce in her hand (or knowingly appoints an agent). In Hagahot Mordechai, it brings a further case where the husband fell very ill and the wife was in a distant place, and there was a possibility he would pass away and she will have to perform levirate marriage with her husband’s much younger brother.


The father of R. Eliezer b. Joel ha-Levi of Bonn, known as the Ra’aviya (1140–1225), author of Avi-asaf, ruled that one cannot receive the divorce on her behalf without her knowledge, since the Talmud does not differentiate between cases in this context. R. Moses ben R. Shlomo Hakohen ruled, however, that one may, citing a similar opinion of Rabeinu Tam, derived from the story in the Talmud (Gittin, 69b): ‘Ashmedai saw the joy of a wedding celebration in which they were celebrating, and he cried.’ The Talmud explains the reason why he cried was because he ‘knew that this man will die within thirty days. And his wife is required to wait for the yavam, the husband’s brother, who is a minor, to reach the age of thirteen years, the age of majority, so that he can release her through ḥalitza, the ritual through which the yavam frees the yevama of her levirate bonds.’ This view is however rejected since it is unique in that she will have to wait thirteen years. In conclusion, the view of Rashi is cited that in the case of preventing levirate marriage a divorce may not in fact be received without her knowledge, since it is not certain that levirate marriage is to her disadvantage.


This reference to the discussion in the Talmud and Hagahot Mordechai in tractate Yevamot clarifies that the ruling by Moses of London that divorce may be received without the woman’s knowledge is indeed only in the case when there is certainty that it is to her advantage that she receives the divorce, for example when he had first refused and finally agreed and there is concern, he may recant, or if ambiguous marriage was issued, when there are two daughters as potential suitors.


16.  Liability of a middleman


A single teaching can be found in the margin of a manuscript[153] of German legal compendium Sefer Mordechai ha-shalem[154] by Mordechai ben Hillel, who was killed in the Rintfleisch massacres in 1298. The teaching can be found, alongside a teaching by the son of Moses of London, R. Elijah Menachem of London, on the Talmudic tractate Bava Metziah, Perek Hasocher et ha-umnin. The subject pertains to a woman who was given a garment to sell on behalf of the owner but no sale took place and the garment was accidentally damaged. Citing five cases in the Talmud with similar circumstances, Moses of London responded that the woman has the status of a full buyer, who is liable, similar to a borrower (sho-el), in Jewish law, for not only theft and loss, but also accidental damage (o-nes).




He compares this to the case in the Talmud (Nedarim 31b):


There was a certain middleman [safseira] who took a donkey to sell but it was not sold, i.e., he was unsuccessful in finding a buyer. While he was in the midst of returning the donkey to its owner, an accident occurred to the donkey. Rav Naḥman then obligated him to pay for it, even though he was in the midst of returning it, because were he to find someone to sell the donkey to even at the door of his house, would he not sell it? Therefore, he retains the status of a borrower.


Borrower or buyer?


The rationale for this liability is subject to a dispute between the French and Spanish medieval rabbis, as found in the Tosafot (Bava Batra 87b): Rashi, his grandson, R. Shmuel ben Meir, known as Rashbam (1085-1158), and great grandson, R. Isaac ben Samuel, known as Ri (c. 1115 - c.1184), maintain the middleman has the status of a buyer. R. Shlomo ben Aderet, known as Rashba, maintain he has the status of a borrower.[155] Moses of London follows the opinion of Rashi and Rashbam that the customer has the status of a purchaser, once he removes the item, and is thus liable for accidental damage.


The argument is made from the following additional cases in the Talmud:


1.     Sending a gift to one’s intended (Bava Metzia 81a):


One who takes vessels from an artisan’s house to send them as a gift to his father-in-law’s house, and he said to the artisan: If they accept them from me as a gift I will give you the money for them, and if not, I will give you money in accordance with the benefit I received from them, i.e., I will pay you the benefit that I accrued through their knowledge that I tried to send them a gift; and an accident happened to the vessels and they were broken, if this incident occurred on their way to the recipient the customer is liable. If they broke on the way back he is exempt, because he is like a paid bailee, who is liable for loss and theft but not for accidents. Rashi comments that since the customer drew the item that has a fixed price, it constitutes a purchase until notified otherwise.


2.     Examining a vessel (Nedarim 31a)


Shmuel said: One who takes a vessel from a craftsman to examine it, and an accident occurs to it while it is in his hand, he is liable to pay for the damages. The Talmud qualifies that the case refers to a keen buyer and fixed price, implying all the benefit is the customer. Rashbam comments that this gives the customer examining the item the status of a ‘complete buyer’ (lo-keach ga-mur).[156]


3.     Pumpkin (Bav Batra 88a)


There was a certain man who brought pumpkins to the city of Pum Nahara. Everyone came and took a pumpkin with the intention of buying it, but had yet to pay for it. The seller was angry, and since he did not know from whom to demand payment, he said to them: The pumpkins are hereby consecrated to Heaven. They came before Rav Kahana to inquire about the legal status of the pumpkins. Rav Kahana said to them: This statement has no effect, as a person cannot consecrate an item that is not his, and since the buyers had lifted the pumpkins, they no longer belonged to the seller. The implication of this legal ruling by Rav Kahana is that intention to buy constitutes a sale, and not merely a borrower.


4.     Middleman (Bav Metzia 81a)


There was a certain man who sold a donkey to another. The buyer said to him: I will bring it to such and such a place; if it is sold, well and good; and if not, I will return it to you. He went and it was not sold, and on his way back the donkey was injured in an accident. The case came before Rav Naḥman, who deemed the buyer liable to pay.


Copied Tosafot


The above five cases are the basis for the ruling by Moses of London that the woman who was selling garments on a sale and return basis, is liable for accidental damages. The subject of this ruling of Moses of London, with some of the accompanying discussion about the correct interpretation of the above case of the pumpkin, is found also in a Tosafot on Talmud tractate Bava Batra (87a),[157] where the same conclusion is reached in the name of Rashi and his great grandson, Ri. In this text, it cites the Rashba, who argues that the case of the pumpkin is not a sufficient proof. This view is subsequently refuted by the Ri, upholding the view of Rashi. While the Tosafot cites the argument of the Rashba and its refutation by the Ri, Moses of London, while appearing to be making the exact same argument and refutation, does not cite this is in the name of the Rashba and the R, but rather his own. This, then, represents a text consisting of a legal ruling by Moses of London, providing a legal ruling in a civil matter in England, that appears to have almost definitely utilised or at least was aware of an existing Tosafot text on this subject, written by the rabbis in France.[158]


From the above rulings in Jewish law by Moses of London, amongst others recorded in Etz Chaim, including by other preeminent rabbinic family members of his,[159] there existed a medieval Jewish community in England, concerned with the meticulous observance of kosher dietary laws, including the prohibition of mixing meat and dairy, refrained from buying dairy products from their non-Jewish neighbours, as well as from eating certain foods cooked by non-Jews, as proscribed according to Jewish law. In addition, there was careful observance of the Shabbat and festivals. At the same time, there were challenges with basic ritual items, like finding kosher wine for the Shabbat and festivals.[160]


Screenshot 2021-06-01 at 20.32.20.pngArchaeology – Kosher dietary laws


Meticulous observance of Jewish tradition has been also demonstrated through an excavation that took place in 2015 on the site of one of the main houses in the Oxford Jewry, belonging to Jacob of Oxford, son of Moses of London.[161] The area that was excavated was on Queens’s St, previously Butcher’s Shambles, and St Aldate’s that was previously called Fish Street, due to the location of fish stalls there. The site that was excavated was known as Jacob’s Hall, and another property encroaching Elekin f. Bassino. Next to that was a property owned by Aaron de le Rye. The archaeological features of the site that was being excavated were examined through carbon dating and dated back to the 12th century, the known period of the Jewry in Oxford. What was discovered was a number of intercutting pits, including waste or storage pits that would be filled and then emptied and refilled. The area was a yard with a number of pits at the back of the property where the rubbish was dumped. In medieval standards it was a stone lime toilet or latrine. This is not very exotic but also not very common. For archaeologists this is very important, as organic and pottery that goes in these pits are preserved quite well.


The archaeologists excavated the depth of the latrine that was at the back of the yard of what was Jacob’s Hall. At the floor of the latrine, there was gooey substances and pieces of charcoal. A jug was retrieved and reconstructed and this was what people would have been using. Also, a ceramic vessel was found in the latrine, a cooking pot in dark grey that would have been placed over the fire. The cooking pot was what was used how to identify the area as a Jewish site. One of the ways is organic residue analysis (ORA). When you put the pot on the fire, and it burns, what burns remains in the crevices of the pot. The most important part of the pot for analysis is the residue from the rim of the pot, as opposed to its base, as the rim catches all the fat when the food boils. Pottery, even if looks clean, has residue, with clues what it was used for and what was put inside them. With unglazed pottery, the fats and liquids can be absorbed in the ceramic matrix of the vessel itself. Liquids were able to be extracted from a number of vessels from the site. Anything with fats were able to be detected, including meats, fish, as well as cheese.


Altogether, a sample of 70 sherds of residues were gathered from the area. Some of the samples predated the Jewry for comparison of results, and some were from another non-Jewish site, at Queen’s college. The results were: In the pre-Jewish phase (stage one) at Jacob’s Hall, the vessels were used in a mixed way, sometimes beef and sometimes pork. There was also some dairy but the pot was not used exclusively for dairy. If the pots were used for dairy, the residue would be lower down, while ruminants would be higher.


In the Jewry phase (stage 2), the pots were used mostly to cook beef, lamb or sheep (mutton). There is much lower signature that suggests the vessels were not used for pig products. Another vessel had only a signature of dairy, meaning there was no mixing of dairy and meat. This was a sign that the people living there, during the Jewry phase, were living according to Jewish law. Furthermore, the animal bones that were found – in the pre-Jewry phase, were pig bones, while in the Jewry phase, there were no pig bones. They were eating domestic cattle, like sheep, and goat. Also, bird bones, goose, and domestic fowl, like chicken in high quantity. Before the Jewry phase, and after, however, there is next to nothing of theses – people didn’t eat them.


Also, as the site was on Fish St, there was a lot of fish. There was herring but no eel bones, which is not kosher. People were also eating eggs. One fragment of oyster shell was found in the latrine. Of the 89 fragments of marine shell (mainly oysters), from post Jewry phase (stage 3), just one came from the latrine. Some of the other pits also predates the Jewish habitation. When they started to fill up, they did contain pig bones. But in the upper fills, they contained no pig bones, no eel bones or marine bones. This means those pits were filled in by people who observed Jewish dietary laws. It was possible to pin point when Jacob’s Hall was built, as the finds tallied with the same time. The dating of the latrines from the graphic is a few decades earlier than the date of the expulsion, suggesting that before the expulsion the property went out of Jewish ownership or was confiscated.[162]


GRAMMARIAN - Darchei ha-Nikud ve-ha-Neginot


In addition to his legal rulings recorded in the above 13th century works, an important work on Hebrew grammar, Darchei ha-Nikud ve-ha-Neginot (system of punctuation and cantillation), is attributed to him and can be found in manuscript in the Bodleian Library - MS. Oppenheim Add. 4° 162 (1426–1519),[163] and British Library – MS BL Or 853 (1300-1499).[164] It was used by a certain R. Senior (or Shneor) from France or Germany (late thirteenth to early fourteenth century), the author of a grammatical compilation preserved in a single manuscript (MS Bodl. Opp. 31); the majority of it is devoted to the rules of vocalization and accents in the Torah according to the Masorah.[165] It is also cited twice by Hebrew philologist, grammarian, and lexicographer Elijah Levita, known also as Elijah ben Asher ha-Levi Ashkenazi or Elijah Habachur (1469–1549), in his work Masoret ha-masoret.[166]


A part of the work – Sha-ar ha-neginot - was first published in Hebrew at the end of the second Mikraot gedolot (Great Bible), known also as the Rabbinic Bible, published by Bomberg in Venice, 1525[167] and Bragadin printing, 1618.[168] It was subsequently published as a stand-alone edition in Vilna in 1822 (62 pages)[169] and Hanover in 1847 (92 pages).[170] In some manuscript editions of the 17th-18th century, it is called Sefer Ha-Nakdan.[171] It was subsequently published in Latin, Tractatio de punctis et accentibus quae a Moyse Punctatore scripta dicitur, in Budapest, 1929.[172]




In the published edition, the author of the work is Rabbi Moses ha-Nakdan (the punctuator) and dated about 1250s. The work does not, however, have the name of the author explicitly recorded. Enigmatically, the author appears to be deliberately anonymous, as he only refers to himself as the mechaber (author), making one guess who the author actually is. Before an author was established, the anonymous work was identified by the opening line: ‘amar ha-mechaber emet ha-davar ki ha-nikkud natan b’sinai (the author says that it is true that the vocalization was given at Sinai). Elijah Levita writes that Darkei ha-nikkud erroneously was thought to be of Rabbi Samson ha-Nakdan, grandfather of Joseph ben Kalonymos, author of Sefer ha-Shimshuni or Chibbur ha-Ḳonim.[173] Levita, in his work Masoret ha-meaoret (Venice, 1538), argues, however,[174] in his opinion, the author is R. Moses ha-Nakdan. The reason for this is since we find the name ‘Moshe’ acronymised in the text in a few places. This can be found in the opening of the second section, beginning with the phrase: m’mchon shiv’to hish’giach (Psalms 33:14) tzur yisrael l’kdushoto l’azreini l’va-er mishpat ha-kamatz gadol v’hapatach gadol, ken yih-yeh b’ezri l’va’er mish-pat ha-kamatz katan ha-nikra tse-rei v’hapatach katan ha-nikra segol (from the place of His habitation He looks, the Rock of Israel in His holiness, to assist me to explain the rules of the kamatz gadol and patach gadol, so should He be my assistance to explain the rules of the kamatz katan, that is called tse-re, and the patach katan, that is called segol). The first letter each of the first three words of this paragraph, acknowledging G-d for assisting him in writing the first two sections, contains the acronym: ‘Moshe.’ This acronym can be found also in the opening to the third section: mishpat shimush ha-cholam – the rules concerning the use of the cholam. This negates the possibility that the author is Samson ha-Nakdan, or any other Nakdan who is not called Moshe. Levita suggests Moshe ha-Nakdan may be the same person referred to elsewhere as Rabbi Moses Chazan, known by the acronym Ra-mach, though Levita says he doesn’t know who this person is.[175] Indeed, many of the nakdanim were readers of the Torah, known also as kor-im or cha-zanim.[176] If this were the case, it would add an additional title to Moses of London, were we to accept him as the author of this work. A further indication that the work belonged to Moses ha-Nakdan is found in a version found in the British Library Or 853, fol. 46,[177] not found in the printed editions – at the end of the second section, concerning the rules of tsere and segol, it states: the blessed rock of Israel, who began to help Moses to explain the Torah concerning kamatz katan (tsere) and patach katan (patach segol), He shall be his help, and wherever he turns he should make him successful.’ In the printed edition, there is no reference to Moses.[178]


Based on the methodology of using an acronym to identify the author, we can identify a further individual in the work. At the end of the work, a poem appears stating that this book is thanks to his teacher, who the author owes an eternal debt of gratitude. While there is no explicit mention of who this teacher is, the acronym of the four-line poem has the acronym ‘Zalman.’ The context of the acronym is unlikely to suggest that the name of author himself was Zalman, but rather this was the name of his teacher – the subject of the poem. If this is correct, this would most likely refer to Zalman ha-Nakdan, known also as R. Yekuthiel b. Yitzchak ha-Kohen, or Yekuthiel ha-Nakdan.[179] He referred to himself by his acronym, Yahbi.[180] He[181] was a German[182] grammarian, who lived in Prague[183] and is author of the work on Hebrew grammar, En ha-Kore.[184]


Another possible author of this work may be Rabbi Moses Hakohen. This can be derived from a discrepancy in the manuscripts of this work. In the published edition,[185] when presenting many of the sections, it states anonymously: ‘And I will (now) speak about’ or ‘now I will explain.’ In the Oxford manuscript, however,[186] on one occasion in the text, it states: ‘And Moses Hakohen spoke.’[187] This indicates that the author may be 11th century Spanish grammarian R. Moses Hakohen, who is mentioned on many occasions in the commentary of Ibn Ezra,[188] also known as Moses ibn Gikatilla and Moses ha-Nakdan. To confuse the matter further, in the earlier British Library manuscript, it states in the same place:[189] ‘And Moses spoke,’ without the addition: Hakohen.[190] In the printed edition, the sentence: ‘And Moses spoke’ is removed completely, perhaps, due to the possibility of it being in error, or to maintain consistency, as on most of the sections begins with just: ‘I will speak’ (ava-er) or ‘now, I will speak’ (ata adabra). In any event, as the work cites Ibn Ezra, who lived after Moses Hakohen, it is unlikely that he is the author of Darkei ha-Nikkud.


A further possible author appears to be Rabbeinu Aharon Ha-Levi (1235 – c. 1290), known by his Hebrew acronym Ra'aH. This name appears at the end of Sha-ar ha-neginot that was copied in the Mikra-ot ge-dolot, 1525, where Jacob ben Hayyim writes that he ‘left out Sefer ha-ta-mim) the first part of the work) from Rabbeinu Aharon, since it was not necessary and Sha-ar ha-neginot is most widely known, in my humble opinion.’[191]


The accepted view is that of Elijah Levita that the author is Moses ha-Nakdan, identified as Moses of London. His interest and expertise in Hebrew grammar is clear from Sepher ha-Shoham, where he is mentioned as the teacher of Moses ben Isaac ha-Nessiah – one of the great grammarians of 13th century England.[192] An indication of this identification may be deduced from a single use of a somewhat rare phraseology found in the work. In a single instance it refutes an erroneous view regarding the rule of dagesh. The rule is that when a word ends in an open syllable – yud, hay, vav, alef – the first letter in the following word does not take a dagesh, so not to lose the open syllable. An exception to this rule is, when the second word opens with two consonants that are the same next to each other, the first of which is of be-ge-d-k-fa-t (beit, gimel, daled, kaf, pei, tav), and the first letter has a sheva, the first letter does take a dagesh, as in ‘va-ye-hi be-voam’ (1 Samuel 16:6). The reason is since it is difficult to pronounce two same consonants softly (without a dagesh). A question is posed on this exception: why doesn’t the second consonant take the dagesh, and thus preserve the rule that the first letter does not take a dagesh after an open syllable (yud, hay, vav, alef) from a previous word? This suggestion is however dismissed since there is a rule that a word that begins with a letter that takes a sheva is never followed by a letter with a dagesh.[193] In refuting the suggestion, the phrase used is that this is ‘hevel’ – folly.[194]


The word ‘hevel’ (folly) is similarly used in the legal work, Etz Chaim, by Jacob ben Judah Chazan of London, when presenting the opinion of Moses of London concerning an legal opinion that he totally rejects. This is expressed in the context of the view that an interruption during the Passover Seder is constituted by anything other than the Grace after Meals for the purpose of having to make another blessing over the wine afterwards. It states that this view is ‘hevel b’einei Rarav Moshe M’Londrei’ (folly in the eyes of Rabbi Moses).[195] This is a strong term employed on occasion by Rabbis when they view the opinion or reasoning of another Rabbi as utterly wrong. In other places it uses the more common phrase that ‘Moses did not agree’ (aval Harav Moshe ein modeh lo) to a particular opinion[196] or it ‘did not seem correct to Moses’ (v’ein nir’eh l’Rav Moshe M’Londreis).[197] The employment of the term ‘folly,’ in describing disagreement with a particular view, while not unique to Moses of London, indicating his authorship. The same is regarding the term: ‘emet’ (truth) in the opening of the work, in the context of stating his view when there is dispute in the Talmud, regarding the fact that the punctuation and cantillation come from Sinai. The phrase: ‘v’chen emet’ can be also found in manuscript, MS Parma 2618,[198] containing rulings of Moses of London and a ruling of his that can be found in Hagohat Mordechai on tractate Gittin (465).[199]


The title of Moses as Moses ha-Nakdan, instead of Moses of London, may suggest that it was authored before he moved to London, and was still residing in Oxford. This may also give a context for the work, as a possible curriculum for teaching the system of punctuation and cantillation to not only Jews in Oxford but also local non-Jews during the early years of the fledgling university that was focused primarily on theology. The numerous polyglots and translations of the Bible from the original Hebrew into Latin that exists in the Oxford colleges date from this period and may reflect this collaboration.




The work offers a detailed system and the rules for the punctuation and cantillation in Biblical Hebrew. On many occasions, it gives also the reasons for the rules of Hebrew verb morphology. Moses of London follows the system of Ibn Hayyuj regarding the distinction between strong and weak verbs, and according to a disciple, Moses ben Isaac ben ha-Nessiah of London, Moses of London was the first northern grammarian to accept a refer to Hayyuj’s system.[200] This was followed by his disciple grammarian Moses ben Isaac ben ha-Nessiah,[201] who was the first to introduce the work of Ibn Janah in a systematic framework, as elucidated by Joseph Kimchi in his work on Hebrew grammar Sefer Ha-zikaron.[202] In his youth, Moses ben Isaac wrote a Hebrew grammar called Leshon limmudim, which is no longer extant. His second work, Sefer ha-shoham (The Onyx Book) – shoham is an anagram or gematria of Moshe[203] - is a methodical grammatical treatise and dictionary, written around 1260 in London and preserved in two manuscripts, including one in the Bodleian Library, MS Opp. 152 (Neubauer catalogue no. 1484).[204] It was edited by Binyamin Klar and printed with an introduction by Cecil Roth by mekitse nirdamim in Jerusalem, and the Jewish Historical Society of England, 1947.


In this work, he refers to Moses of London with enormous deference, describing him on one occasion my teacher, harav reb, Moshe ben ha-chacham R. Yom Tov. This is in the context of Moses of London disagreeing with Joseph Kimchi’s opinion in Sefer ha-zikaron[205] regarding differentiating between masculine and feminine in the plural imperative form.[206] The details of this subject in brief is: The masculine singular imperative for the Hebrew word for ‘guard’ is: she-mor, the feminine singular is shim-ri or shom-ri (with chataf kamats), as in Judges 9:10 – mash-chu,[207] masculine plural – shim-ru, mikl; ,xed plural – also shim-ru, feminine plural – she-morna. There is a dispute regarding combining an object pronoun to the feminine singular in the imperative form (inseparable object pronoun): Joseph Kimchi says that only in the masculine may the pronoun be inseparable, as in in shim-ru – instead of shimru otam, it may be shim-rum. In the feminine there is no inseparable form; it must always be separated, as in she-morna otam. Moses of London maintains there is no different between masculine and feminine – they can both take the object pronoun as inseparable – shim-rum.


On another, he is referred to plainly as ‘Rabbi.’ This can be found in the context of deciding to follow the opinion of Ibn Hayyuj, in a dispute with Ibn Parhon, pertaining to the correct root of the Hebrew word ‘וְנִפְלַ֚ל’ (v’niflal) in Ezekiel 28:23. Ibn Parhon, as David Kimchi and Metzudat David, says the word is from the root ‘to fall) (nafal), with a double lamed. The meaning of the verse is then: ‘And the slain shall fall (nif’lal) in her midst, when the sword comes upon her from all sides, and they shall know that I am the Lord.’ Ibn Hayyuj argues that the root of the word is from p’lilim, as in Deuteronomy 32:31: ‘and our enemies judge,’ and translates, therefore, as: ‘and they will judge themselves as slain in her midst by the sword [coming] upon her from all around, and they will know that I am the Lord.’ Moses ben Isaac ha-Nessiah of London writes in Sefer ha-Shoham that his teacher ‘Rabbi’ says that the opinion of Ibn Hayyuj seems correct.[208] This, both, reflects the esteem shown towards Moses of London by a disciple, considered one of the great grammarians of medieval England, as well as the confidence of Moses of London in this field to intervene between two of the great Spanish grammarians, Ibn Hayyuj and Ibn Parhon.[209]


Darkei Hanikkud is influenced by the Oriental grammarians, as can be found quoted in the work. These include – in order of how they are found in the work: Moroccan linguist R. Judah ben Hayyuj (c. 945 - c. 1000), who is referred to as ‘the mighty one (abir haday’kanim) of the grammarians,[210] Spanish grammarian Jonah ibn Janah (c. 990 – 1055),[211] who expanded and sometimes argued with ben Hayyuj, R. Abraham Ibn Ezra (1089-1167),[212] French Tosafist and grammarian Samuel ha-Naqdan,[213] thought to be the brother of Berechiah ben Natronai Krespia ha-Nakdan, who lived in Oxford in the 13th century,[214] 12th century Spanish grammarian Solomon ben Abraham ibn Parhon,[215] disciple of Ibn Ezra and author of Biblical lexicon in Hebrew, Maḥberet he-Arukh and Rashi. In addition to his work Darkei ha-Nikkud, Moses ha-Nakdan has also been credited with the detailed comments on Joseph Kimchi’s Sefer ha-Zikkaron.[216]


Introduction – from Sinai


The work has two parts: the first is an extensive section, called Darkei ha-nikkud, and deals with the vocalization (ni-kkud) of the Hebrew letters in the Torah; the second is a much shorter section, called Darkei ha-Neginot and offers a system of rules for the cantillations (ne-ginot). The work opens with a brief introduction about the origin of the vocalization and cantillation, stating: ‘it is true (emet) that the vocalization and cantillation were given at Sinai, but forgotten during the exile, and restored by Ezra.’ This is in fact a matter of dispute in the Talmud[217] between Rav Yochanan, who maintains the vocalization and cantillation are an innovation of the rabbis, and Rav, who maintains it is from Sinai. The view that the vocalization and cantillation is biblical in origin, as part of the oral tradition, and restored by Ezra, is deduced from the interpretation of the verse in Nehemiah (8:8): ‘And they (Ezra)[218] read in the scroll, in the Law of G-d, distinctly, and gave sense, and they explained the reading to them.’ The Talmud in tractate Nedarim (37b) explains that the phrase ‘distinctly’ refers to the Aramaic translation (targum); ‘and gave the sense’ refers to the traditions (masorah) that determine the proper vocalization of the Bible; ‘and caused them to understand the reading’ refers to the punctuation of the text with cantillation notes (pisuk ta-amim), which facilitate the understanding of the verses.[219]


Elijah Levita in the 16th century cites Moses ha-Nakdan’s view that the vocalization and cantillation are from Sinai and rejects it,[220] maintaining the Torah scroll that Moses wrote had no vocalisations, cantillations, nor division of the text into verses, but rather, the whole Torah was a single verse or even a single word, without any divisions between words.[221] Furthermore, the subject of the vocalisations and cantillations are not discussed in the Talmud and Midrash, and the names of the vocalizations and cantillations are in fact Aramaic, suggesting they are an innovation of the rabbis after the close of the Talmud. In this context, Moses ha-Nakdan follows the interpretation of the view of Rav in the Talmud that the vocalisation and cantillation of the Torah are from Sinai.


Overview of the work


The work is divided into 5 sections: 1. the rules of kamatz and patach; 2. kamatz katan (tsere) and patach katan (segol) - thirteen rules for when a tzerei changes to a segol; 3. cholam and chataf kamatz - seven rules when a cholam changes to a chataf kamatz; 4. chataf patach gadol and chataf patach katan (segol) – when gutturals take a chataf patach, and three rules when they just take a chataf (sheva) without the patach; 5. chok yehu (the rule that a first letter of a word does not take a dagesh[222] when it follows a word ending with yud, he, vav or alef, as in lo sa-neh and lo sach-mod (Exodus 20:13-14), and the exceptions to this rule.[223]


For the purpose of this essay, we will present the first section in detail: the rules of kamatz and when it undergoes a change to patach. The principle is that all words in Hebrew start out as strong verbs with all the letters taking a kamatz. Under eight conditions, the kamatz undergoes a change to a patach. The conditions include:


1.     a final syllable in a verb (sof pe-ulah), as in sho-mar. The reason is since when it receives a prenominal suffix, as in shamare-ti, it takes a sheva, the sheva cancels the kamatz. An open syllable, by contrast, as in o-soh, retains the kamatz. The reason is since when it receives a prenominal suffix, it takes a chirik, as in asi-ti,’ instead of a sheva. [224] It therefore does not cancel the kamatz. Exception to this rule are:


a. an open syllable but with a mappiq he, that is pronounced like a consonant and therefore acts like a closed syllable, which cancels the kamatz. This is contrast with a mappiq he that serves as an object suffix, as in l’ovdoh u’lshomroh (Genesis 2:15).


b. Passive participle verbs retain the kamatz, as in nich-bod (Genesis 34:19). This in contrast to passive perfect verbs, as in nish-ma (Genesis 45:16).


c. Two letter root verbs that are missing a middle letter (alumei ayin), as in shav and kam. In this case, the kamatz takes the place of the missing letter (ko-yam or sho-yav). In the case of va-yokom, when the missing letter (yud) is in fact included, there is no reason for the kamatz, as it ought to follow the rule that a final, closed syllable becomes a patach. According to R. Judah Ibn Hayyuj (c. 945-c.1000), it should have a kamatz chataf to reflect this. This is contrast with two letter root verbs that are missing a double letter, as in tam ha-kesef (Genesis 47:18), instead of tamam. Since when it receives a prenominal suffix, it takes a dagesh, to replace the doubling of the letters, as in tamu or raku (Psalms 55:22), the dagesh cancels the kamatz and takes a patach instead.


d. If the closed syllable is a vav, mem or nun, it retains the kamatz, as in och-lov (Leviticus 19:8), rod-fom, or rod-fon. This is unless the vav, mem or nun is part of the root of the word, as in va-ye-tzav.


e. Apocopated verbs, as in va-yikor (Numbers 23:4). Samuel ha-Nakdan explains the reason for this is: the yud serves instead of the nun - nifal (passive). For this reason - the missing nun - the kuf takes a dagesh. The kamatz then is to replace the apocopated he – va-yi-koreh, similar to the apocopated verb: va-osot et hat-vuah (Leviticus 25:21). This is contrast with an apocopated guttural verb, as in vaya-al, that is unable to ‘rise’ from a segol (patach katan) – vaya-se - to a kamatz.


f. Pausal form (etnachta and sof pasuk) retains a kamatz, as in omor (Genesis 21:1). This is besides va-yomar and va-ye-lach that remain unchanged in pausal form.


g. Nouns retain the kamatz in a closed syllable, as in do-vor, bo-kor, bo-sor, odom, and mik-dosh.


2. a verb that contains a letter that takes a dagesh, like daber, or a word that contains the inseparable preposition (beit - in, kaf - like, lamed – to/for, hei - the), with no guttural of alef, reish, ayin), if it serves as a definite article, the second letter takes a dagesh (replacing a missing hei), causing the opening letter to take a patach, as in ba-sho-mayim (in the heavens);[225] If it does not serve as definite article, there is no missing letter, thus no dagesh, it retains the kamatz, as in bein mayim lo-mayim (Genesis 1:6).


3. A verb that contains a resting she’va (when not in a pausal state) cancels the kamatz, as in kas-po.


4. A verb that has a prenominal suffix - nun yud, like acho-la-ni (Genesis 31:40).


5. A verb that has a prenominal suffix alef yud, making the ‘i’ sound, as in yo-diy, rag-liy, or in the middle of a word, like yo-da-yim.


6. Gutturals in a noun or verb causes the vowel to change to a patach, like ya-al (Genesis 44:33) and va-ya-as.[226]


7. An interrogative ‘mah’ (what) that is joined to a verb with a maqqef – considered a single unit - takes a dagesh in the first letter of the verb, and therefore cancels the kamatz and replaces it with a patach, in the word mah, as in mah-no-mar (Genesis 44:16). If the verb begins with an alef, hei or reish, then it retains the kamatz, as in moh ha-aretz (Numbers 13:18). If the verb begins with a chet or ayin, it, in most cases, takes a segol - meh.


8. Two letter stem words that are in construct form (d’vekut), take a patach, as in har sinai (Exodus 24:16), bat pharaoh (Exodus 2:5), chag hamatzot.[227] Two letter stem words that are not in construct form retain the kamatz, as in oz, shom. Similarly, three letter nouns, like basar, in construct form takes a patach, as in be-sar ha-miluim (Exodus 29:34), and Shabbat[228] Sha-baton in construct form from Shabbos – with a kamatz - when not in construct form.


The exception to all the above is when the word appears in a pausal state – it retrieves the kamatz. Thirteen exceptions retain the kamatz even in the construct form, like v’asat et ha-tevuah (Leviticus 25:21). Ibn Ezra argues, however, these are not in the construct form; they are just missing the hey (or another letter) at the end of the word, as in ve-asasa. Furthermore, words ending with ko-he-ne-t (kaf, hei, nun and tav) have a kamatz, as in ba-necho, while gutturals hei, chet, and ayin take a kametz.[229]




In summary, the author of Darkei ha-Nikkud sits alongside other medieval grammarians and works on Hebrew grammar including Sepher ha-shoham, produced by fellow English grammarian Moses Hanessiah, German grammarian Yekuthiel ha-Nakdan, author of En ha-kore, as well as Berachiah ben Netronai ha-Nakdan and French grammarian Samuel ha-Nakdan, amongst others. While En ha-kore is explicit who the author is, for some unknown reason, Darkei ha-Nikkud chose to remain anonymous and provide only hints to who the possible author is. In this regard, the accepted theory is, following Elijah Levita, that the author is Moses ha-Nakdan, who we identify as Moses ben Yom Tov of London, written most likely while he lived in the Oxford Jewry. As the British Library and Oxford manuscripts of Darkei ha-nikkud situate the work alongside En ha-kore, it suggests a close association between these two works - and as mentioned, the poem at the end of the published edition contains the acronym of the author of En ha-kore, Yekuthiel ha-Nakdan, known also as Zalman ha-Nakdan. Despite its near anonymity, however, in contrast to other works that appear to have had little lasting impact, Darkei ha-Nikkud was included in the Mikra-ot gedolot in the 16th century, reflecting its important contribution to Hebrew grammar, with lasting influence on the Hebrew bible (chumash) until today.


Ha-Nakdan’ in the Tosafot – Moses of London


With the identification of the anonymous author of Darkei ha-nikkud as Moses ha-Nakdan - Moses of London, it is possible to propose that a teaching found in a Tosafot also in the name of an anonymous ‘ha-Nakdan,’ could also be in fact Moses of London. Apart from attributing the teaching to Moses of London due to the name ha-Nakdan, the subject matter may also indicate a connection to Moses of London - or another Nakdan from England. The subject relates to the extent and limitation of the power of a king in relation to landownership - a subject that would have been particularly relevant to England, around the time the Magna Carta was signed by King John at Runnymede, near Windsor, on 15 June 1215 that included the clause:[230] ‘No free man shall be seized, imprisoned, dispossessed, outlawed, exiled or ruined in any way, nor in any way proceeded against, except by the lawful judgement of his peers and the law of the land.’ As a family of landowners, the subject would have been also of particular interest and relevant to Moses of London and his family members. As recorded in the Master of the Rolls and the documents of the Jews of England in the 12th and 13th century, the family of Moses, including his sons, had land ownership in Oxford, London and Lincoln. We will present the background to this Jewish legal teaching and the contribution of the unidentified ‘ha-Nakdan’ to this subject.


Limitation of sovereign power


The Talmud in the tractate of Sanhedrin[231] discusses the extent of the power of a king, according to Jewish law. The discussion relates to I Samuel (8:11-17), where Samuel, confronted by Israel’s request for a king, agreed to appoint one, but first enumerated the extensive powers that such a king would have. This includes involuntary conscription in the king’s service, confiscation of lands and various taxes. The question posed is, whether these powers represent in fact what is sanctioned in Jewish law regarding to the extent of the powers of a king, or merely written in the form of a threat, to deter the people from requesting a king. The Talmud presents two opinions on this subject:[232] ‘Rabbi Yehudah said in the name of Shmuel every power enumerated in the portion of the king, the king is permitted to exercise. Rav said in reality a king may not exercise any of those powers, for that portion was stated only to place the fear of the king upon the people, as it says (Deuteronomy 17:15): ‘You shall surely place a king upon you,” which means that the fear of the king shall be upon you.”’


The reasoning for the opinion of Rav is explained in the commentary on the Talmud Yad Ramah by Rabbi Meir ben Todros haLevi Abulafia (c. 1170 – 1244): since many of the people that petitioned Samuel for a king were boors, who desired a king merely to emulate the surrounding people, it was necessary for Samuel to instil in them the proper feelings of fear and awe towards their king. Hence, Rav maintains that Samuel’s words were only an attempt to accomplish that goal.


Ha-Nakdan limits sovereign power


Although the law follows the opinion of Shmuel, granting broad powers to the king, the Tosafot in the 12th century seeks to clarify whether limitations exist for a king to confiscate privately owned land. The context of this discussion is two stories: a. In I Kings (21:1-29), the king of Samaria, Ahab, asked to purchase a vineyard belonging to Naboth, located next to Ahab’s palace in his hometown of Jezreel. When Naboth refused to sell the vineyard of his inheritance, Ahab, instigated by his wife, Jezebel, had him killed and seized the vineyard. Subsequently, Ahab was harshly punished by G-d through the prophet Elijah for seizing the vineyard. A second story relates to David:[233] David needed barley to feed his animals, so he raised the following dilemma: is it permitted for him to take a stack of barley belonging to a Jew, to place before his animals to consume, with the intent to pay the owner of the barley with the stacks of lentils belonging to the Philistines? The Tosafot asks:[234] if kings are granted unlimited power to confiscate land, following Shmuel’s opinion in the Talmud, why was Ahab punished, and did David have to compensate the barley; sovereign power includes the right to seize a vineyard or barley without compensation?


The Tosafot presents six answers to this question, clarifying that Jewish law in fact does limit the power of the king to confiscate privately owned land:


a. a king may only seize land if it is for the purpose of rewarding his servants, for their participation in the king’s wars,[235] but not for himself. This is indicated in I Samuel (1:8): “He may take and give to his servants.”


b. Ahab was indeed permitted to take the land without paying, but since he had first asked Naboth to sell it to him, Naboth thought he had the permission to refuse to sell it to the king. This, therefore, restrained the king’s power to seize the property, even if Naboth refused to sell.


c. Ahab was punished not for the sale itself but rather for the use he intended for the vineyard, namely idol worship.


d. Nakdan: it is only permitted for a king to confiscate private land when the land is distant from the city and not of great value, whereas in the case of Naboth’s vineyard, it was situated next to Ahab’s palace in Samaria.


e. land that is in a person’s possession by acquisition may be confiscated, while ancestral land may not. In the case of Naboth, the vineyard was an inheritance, therefore the king did not have the power to seize it. This is indicated in the response of Naboth to Ahab: ‘it would be sacrilege for me to give the inheritance of my father to you.’


f. a king that rules over both the people of Judah and Israel, and rules by the word of G-d, may seize land. Ahab, in contrast, as a king of Samaria, did not rule over Judah and was not sanctioned by G-d.


The answer given in d above that restricts the rights of a king to seize land besides for the countryside, distant from the king’s residence, is attributed in the Tosafot to ha-Nakdan. While the first three answers reflect unlimited power to the king to dispossess land, as long as he is taking it for his servants, does not use it for idol worship and does not initially ask for permission, the last three answers, beginning with the answer proposed by ha-Nakdan, severely restricts his powers: only countryside, non ancestral land, and in the final answer, only when sanctioned by G-d to rule over the entire Jewish people in Judah and Samaria.[236] Interestingly, medieval Jewish quarters in Europe would typically be in close proximity to the king’s castle.[237]  


As mentioned, this subject would have been extremely relevant to medieval England, including Oxford, where the land and homes of Jews were confiscated first by King John in the beginning of the 13th century, due to extortionate tallages of £44,000 in 1210, which decimated the Jewish community. The Jewish community was crippled a second time under Henry III in 1239, after some years of stability, to placate the Barons and maintain popular support, and a third time under Edward I, culminating in the expulsion of the Jews in 1290, and the confiscation of all their property.[238] If ha-Nakdan of our Tosafot is Moses of London, perhaps living in Oxford at the time, as indicated by his name as ha-Nakdan, he would have been addressing not just an abstract detail in Jewish law but reflecting the very real circumstances of Jews in medieval England.




In conclusion, we presented a comprehensive overview of the life and teachings of 13th century England great rabbinical figure, Moses of London, offering a portrait of not just an important figure connected to Oxford’s Jewry, as demonstrated in his rabbinic mediation of the divorce of David of Oxford, but a major personality in the development and codification of Jewish law in 13th century England. He was most likely the head of a Yeshiva in London, a reason perhaps why he moved to London from Oxford, and as testified from his many teachings in the style of the Tosafists in France, he appears to have been the head of the English school of Tosafists. There was also interaction between the Tosafist schools in France and England. In the earlier generation, Moses’ illustrious father, R. Yom Tov received answers to questions in Jewish law from the head of Tosafist school in France, Rabeinu Tam, as indicated by the ruling about a gabled roof, that was higher that the roof the local synagogue. Similarly, before 1222, Moses of London received responses in Jewish law from the head of the French Tosafist school in his time, R. Isaac ben Samuel, who may have also been his teacher. From the fact, however, that Moses of London fielding his own questions in Jewish law, on occasion in opposition to some of the views of his French contemporaries, reflects a maturity and independence of the English school of Tosafists, as also indicated that some of these ruling made their way into the work of Hagahot Mordechai, alongside other Tosafists from France and Germany. The recording of his legal ruling in Perma MS 933, alongside the rulings of another disciple of R. Isaac ben Samuel (Ri), R. Baruch ben Isaac, author of Sefer ha-Terumah, and R. Meir of Rothenburg, known as Maharam, reflects his standing in England, alongside these great 13th century Tosafists of France and Germany.


We presented also the argument that Moses of London is in fact the anonymous author of an important work on Hebrew grammar, Darkei ha-nikkud, that most likely served as an aid to readers of the Torah in the synagogues in England. This places Moses of London in the context of the other major English, French and German grammarians of his day. On this subject, his view about the use of the imperative in Hebrew grammar, that the plural feminine (shim-rum) should be the same as the masculine, disputed by other grammarians, might reflect a wider view of his regarding the role of women in 13th century England.[239]


With this identification, we further suggested that an anonymous Tosafist simply recorded by the name ha-Nakdan, addressing the subject of limitation of power of a king in relation to private property ownership, may also be identified with Moses of London. This further illustrates the significance of Moses of London and the impact he had on Jewish life, within the synagogue and study hall, and outside of it, in 13th century England.


While the work on grammar became a classic, as an extract was incorporated at the back of the rabbinic bible in the 16th century, when viewing the works of the Tosafists as a whole, however, the near[240] absence of any of the English Tosafist by name in the major legal work of the Mordechai, and Sefer Mitzvah Katan, as well as in the immense collection of Tosafot teachings published for posterity on the margins of the Talmud, albeit mostly anonymous, reflects the marginalisation of the English Tosafists, perhaps due to the lateness of their flourishing.  


Despite the overall marginalisation of the English Tosafists in the dominant Tosafist schools of France, the rulings of Moses of London, as recorded in Etz Chaim, produced on the eve of the expulsion, reflect a community that strictly adhered to Jewish custom and laws, perhaps even more so than the Jews of France, despite challenging circumstances. This observation that has previously been known only from texts, is now supported by recent archaeological finds in the Oxford Jewry, on the site of St Aldate’s and Queen’s Street, attesting to strict observance of the kosher dietary laws in Oxford’s Jewry. This is no doubt a credit to this towering rabbinic figure, who, together with his illustrious family, retained personal connections to the Jewry.[241]


[1] See Hebrew deeds of English Jews before 1290 - Davis, M.D., 1830, p. 351-2: Other deeds with Moses mentioned as the father of Berachiah of Lincoln are deeds no. 154, 167 and 204.

[2] Jews of Medieval Oxford, p. 115. If he had correspondence with R. Isaac ben Samuel, as indicated in Etz Chaim 1:341, who passed away 1184, this would mean he would have been born c. 1164, assuming his correspondence with Ri was after he had turned twenty years old. This would suggest, if he passed away 1268, he was over 100 years old when he passed away!

[3] Most of the rulings of the English rabbis only appear on the margins of other major texts, including the Samak, Mordechai, amongst others. Even in the English works of law, some rulings are only included in the margin, compared to the major opinions of the French and German rabbis.

[4] Cecil Roth records that Simeon of Oxford, son of Moses of Bristol, lent money to Henry d'Oilly. With interest, it amounted to £1,015 when it was claimed by the king 1208. Jews of Medieval Oxford P. 9-10, 31.

[5] Etz Chaim, Hilchot Beit Hak-neset v’tzarchei tzibur, vol. 1, p. 56. Rabeinu Tam rules that a gabled roof that is not used for habitable purposes may be higher than a synagogue, whereas a flat roof that is guarded may not be higher than the synagogue and, if it is higher, must be lowered. In addition, a gabled roof – if the beginning of the slope is higher, it must be lowered. Regarding the height of the synagogue building, Maimonides records there is an obligation for it to be the highest building in the town. However, as Etz Chaim indicates, and as found also in medieval legal commentary Hagahot Maimoniot (on Mishneh Torah, Laws of Prayers 11:2), roofs in England were gabled and the height limitation does not apply. In addition, if other non-Jewish houses would in any case be higher than the synagogue, this rule does not apply to Jewish houses in the town either (Mishnah Berurah 150:5). There are also records stating that the medieval synagogue itself had a gabled roof. See article by E. Brackman, ‘Reflection of the Oxford Medieval Synagogue’ - A further ruling from R. Yom Tov – arguing with Maimonides in the Mishnah Torah, laws of Lulav - is that a partner who jointly owns an Etrog cannot prohibit each other from using it on the first day of the holiday of Sukkot, since it was originally with that in mind automatically when they bought it that it can be used for Sukkot, without each partner having to give their part ownership as a gift to the other so he can perform the mitzvah of shaking the lulav and etrog (Etz Chaim 1:356).

[6] Sepher ha-shoham, p. 39.

[7] Mishneh Torah, laws of repentance 4:2.

[8] A theory why Tosafist R. Elijah of York was in York at the time of the massacre was as a visitor to the community to inspire them.

[9] Elijah of York is mentioned in the Tosafot Yoma 27a and Zevachim 14b. He is mentioned as the uncle of Moses in an Oxford manuscript (MS Michael 502 f. 99b). Jews of Medieval Oxford, p. 114. He was a pupil of the Tosafist Rabbi Isaac the Elder, and of Rabbi Samuel b. Solomon, known as Sir Morel of Falaise. Accessed 26 June, 2017.

[10] He may have been Isaac of Oxford, mentioned as having moved to London, and owned property also in Norwich (Hebrew Deeds, Davis, pp. 143-6). He appears to have been also a scholar like his brother as he is called by the title Magister in the records (Jews of Medieval Oxford, p. 69). Isaac son of Moses is mentioned as having received a piece of land in Oxford, in vico Judeorum, in 1185, from Osney Abbey (Jews of Medieval Oxford, p. 84).

[11] Shocken Library Machzor, Jerusalem. The family tree was brought out by Moses ben Jacob

[12] Cf Neubauer, notes p. 310.

[13] A deed in their name is recorded by the Sheriff of Oxford for a payment of 100 Shillings to the treasury in 1176-7 (Jews of Medieval Oxford, p. 7).

[14] Toldos Rabeinu Eliyau Menachem m’Londreis p. 22.

[15] Anthony à Wood, John Peshall (Sir.), Ancient and Present State of the City of Oxford, p. 111.

[16] Salter H E, Properties of the City of Oxford (OUP, 1926), 207.

[17] Anthony à Wood, John Peshall (Sir.), Ancient and Present State of the City of Oxford, p. 59. In 1696, in a list of payers of window tax in Oxford it lists a Jane Almond as living at 7 St Aldates described as part of Moses Hall ( Accessed 25 June, 2017). This would have been on the east side of St Aldates as opposed to Pennyfarthing Street that was on the west side. It is possible there was a second Moses Hall related to the ownership of a building north of The Guild Hall situated to the south side of Knapp Hall, owned by Moses the son of Isaac. Ancient and Present State of the City of Oxford, p. 111. Jews of Medieval Oxford, p. 87.

[18] Jews of Medieval Oxford, p. 96; p. 115.

[19] After Lumbard, it was passed onto R. de Pouer, who gave it to Philip Walys. It was then given to J. Wamberge. From Wamberge it was given in 1302 to Philip de Warmenbale, who earned rent from it during Edward I and II. Philip’s son, Thomas, conveyed it to Adam de Brome (d. 1332), founder of Oriel College, in 1331. In 1332 Brome bequeathed it to his clerk R. de Overton, in 1344 it was given to Nic. Misterton and in 1346 to W. Daventre. Daventre’s daughter gave it to Oriel College in 1362-3. Anthony à Wood, John Peshall (Sir.), Ancient and Present State of the City of Oxford, p. 155.

[20] R. Moshe Yehuda Blau writes in introduction to Tosafot Alfas that Moses of London was a head of Yeshiva (Rosh Yeshiva).

[21] In 1290, Bonefey of Cricklade, Vives Le Petit, Sarah Le Eveske, Pya and Moses of London all awned shoppae in Oxford. See M. Paris, Chronica Majora, 5, p. 341. Thesis of Robin R. Mundill (1988) ‘The Jews in England, 1272-1290.’

[22] Homonym for Jekuthiel, Jews of Medieval Oxford, p. 60 ff. 4.

[23] Elijah was the subject of the presidential address by Cecil Roth delivered before The Jewish Historical Society, 12 December, 1943, entitled, ‘The most illustrious Jew of England in the Middle Ages.’

[24] The Jewish Heritage of Lincoln Cathedral, Marcus R. Roberts, p. 2. Berachiah appears in the records as living in Lincoln from 1268 (the year his father, Moses of London, passed away), though he most likely lived there also prior to that date.

[25] Hebrew Deeds of English Jews, Introduction xiv.

[26] The deed survives today in Merton College archives. The site of Jacob’s building is where staircases 6 and 7 are currently located in the first quad.

[27] Jews of Medieval Oxford, p. 36.

[28] Jews of Medieval Oxford, p. 62.

[29] P. 352.

[30] Jews of Medieval Oxford, p. 51.

[31] Etz Chaim 1:341. See also Teshuvat Ha-Rosh by R. Asher ben Yechiel (1250-1327), klal 2, siman 1, where he cites ‘haram zal’ in this context, whom appears to be R. Moses of London; Mordechai Kiddushin, ch. 1, 501; Pirush Rabeinu Eliyahu, p. 78.

[32] Friedberg MSS 5-011, fol. 95 (89 in different numbering), held in the Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library, University of Toronto. Formerly part of the David Sassoon collection (MS no. 534): Full manuscript: Folio 95:

[33] Tosafot hachmei Angliya.

[34] Tosafot Alfas on Yevamot 97b, p. 321.

[35] Etz Chaim 1:295-6. See also his rulings in Etz Chaim 1:178;

[36] Etz Chaim 2:197. Tosafot Alfas, p. 325, f. 79. In Etz Chaim, it is cited in the name of Harav Reb Moshe m’Londres. See also Tosafot Alfas on Yevamot 118b.

[37] Etz Chaim 1:55-56.

[38] Pirushei Rabeinu Eliyahu Menachem l’londres u-psokov p. 165.

[39] It’s not clear whether Jacob ben Judah Chazan of London had Tosafot Alfas in front of him when writing Etz Chaim as, for example, the law pertaining to writing a get at night time, that is found in Etz Chaim 2:197 it recorded verbatim in the name of Rashi (Teshuvat Rashi 204), when a ruling on this subject can be found also in Tosafot Alfas on Gittin, 5a (p. 345), with additional discussion.

[40] Friedberg MSS 5-011, fol. 95 (89 in different numbering), held in the Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library, University of Toronto. Formerly part of the David Sassoon collection (MS no. 534): Full manuscript: Folio 95:

[41]. Piskei Eliyahu l’Seder Ze-raim, p. 2.

[42] Etz Chaim p. 332: Kach he’takti m’ksav yad Rabeinu Moshe m’Londrei.

[43] Bodleain MS. Michael 512; JHSE XV 61, 3. Journal of Jewish Studies i. 67-81.

[44] Examples of these works include Machzor Vitry, Mordechai, Pirush Rabeinu Eliyau U’psokov and the Sefer Mitzvot Gedolot among others.

[45] Etz Chaim, p. 332.

[46] MJL Sacks, Mosad Harav Kook, 1957, p. 159-162.

[47] The only manuscript copy is held at the University of Leipzig Library. The manuscript has been digitized and may be obtained from the library. Mosad Harav Kook published the Etz Chaim with errors in 1962, 1964, 1967.

[48] MS. Michael 502, ff. 104 and 105. Neubauer Catalogue 882. Rulings by a rabbi titled Ram in MS Opp. 389 might also refer to Moses of London, though in Neub. catalogue it attributes it to Maharam of Rothenburg.

[49] The same manuscript is known as MS Parma 2618.

[50] Another manuscript by this title but without rulings of Moses of London is MS Parma 2618:|FL17398790.

[51] Fols 15-40.

[52] Fols. 40-63.

[53] Fols. 73a-76b.

[54] Fols. 76b-77b.

[55] Fols. 77b-78a:$FL17398883.

[56] Fols. 78a-78b.


[58] As with Parma 933, at the end of tractate Avodah Zara, fol. 73, one finds Sefer Hamitvah Katan, and Sefer Haterumah on fol. 77.

[59] Hatosafot she ha-Alfas l’Rabeinu Moshe ben Yom Tov m’Londres al mesechtot Yevomot, Ketubot, Gittin v’Kiddushin (R. MY Blau, NY, 1970), p. 18. See: and P. 92.

[60] Leket Yosher, Yoreh Deah, p. 86 regarding the prohibition mentioned in Tosafot Alfas in Moed Katan, the end of perek elu megalchin, and p.  95 regarding the laws of mourning on Purim, taken from the same perek elu megalchin.


[62] MS. Michael 46 (Neub. 781:2), fol. 69b, 107. On fol. 102 there is mention of R. Yosef of Lincoln.

[63] See Tosafot Alfas, Gittin, p. 358, f.5. In Hagahot Mordechai, it cites ‘Harav m’Londres’ at the beginning of the text and closes with ‘this is the text of ha-Ram z”l,’ which is the same reference used for the teachings found in Tosafot Hachmei Angliya, for the teachings of Moses of London. In addition, the use of the term: ‘emet’ when stating his view appears to indicate the author is Moses of London, as he uses the same phrase in the opening of Darkei ha-Nikkud, and elsewhere

[64] Tosafot Alfas, p. 325, f. 79.

[65] Friedberg MSS 5-011, fol. 95 (89 in different numbering), held in the Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library, University of Toronto. Formerly part of the David Sassoon collection (MS no. 534): Full manuscript: Folio 95:

[66] The Sepher Hashoham (TJHSE, 1947), p. 1.

[67] The Sepher Hashoham (TJHSE, 1947), p. 164, f. 14.

[68] Talmud Sanhedrin 20b.

[69] Neubauer, Cat. Bodl. Hebr. MSS. No. 1466, 7. An additional work of his is Sefer Hachibbur (Book of Compilation), on the works of Saadia Gaon, Bahya ibn Pakuda, and Solomon ibn Gabirol. This is quoted by Rabbi Moses ben Issac ha-Nessiah of London, in his work on Hebrew grammar and dictionary, Sefer ha-shoham, written around 1260, part of which was published at Oxford in 1882, and by Metize Nirdamim in Jerusalem in 1947. Rabbi Berachiah is nephew of Rabbi Benjamin of Canterbury, who is quoted in medieval Rabbinic writings, including Rabbi Elijah Menachem of London.

[70] Pirushei Rabeinu Eliyahu Menachem l’londres u-psokov p. 165.

[71] Numbers 15:38.

[72] This question and answer is also found in the Mordechai Katan, 544, in the name of the Ri. See likkutim on Samak, positive commandment 32.

[73] The issue at hand is based on the Shabbat law that one may not carry in a public domain, nor transfer from a private domain to a public domain or vice versa. This includes any item that is not regarded as usual clothing, thus only a talit with properly tied Tzitzit may be worn on the Shabbat as a cloak. If it is torn one is concerned to fix it and therefore loses its status as a piece of clothing until it is repaired.

[74] Talmud Menachot 37b-38a.

[75] Talmud Menachot 37b.

[76] This law is affirmed by Rabbi Joseph Karo in the 16th century - Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 13:3. It should be noted that in terms of Jewish law, a public domain is only an area that is of a certain width and a minimum of half a million wayfarers daily. The majority of public streets and roads today therefore do not constitute a public domain and one need not remove a torn Tallit.

[77] Numbers 15:38; Deuteronomy 22:12.

[78] See Taz on Orach Chaim 13.

[79] Magen Avraham, Orach Chaim 13:8.

[80] Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 13:3.

[81] Magen Avraham, Orach Chaim 13:8.

[82] This lack of distinction between Shabbat and the weekday is carefully read back into the text of the Mordechai by the above legalists, suggesting that Mordechai ben Hillel himself agrees with this view. He was merely talking about Shabbat since this was the context for the initial discussion but in fact would agree that the rationale should not distinguish between Shabbat and weekdays.

[83] A possible reason for this dispute between the rabbis of England and Germany could be due to a difference in the kind of talit one wore in Germany to what they wore in England. The Mordechai (Laws of Tzitzit 943) quotes French Tosafist R. Samson of Sens (c. 1150 – c. 1230) criticizing the custom in Germany of wearing a talit that is pulled down over one’s head, as opposed to covering one’s head and a majority of one’s body. From medieval depictions of Jews of England (The Jews of England by Jonathan A Romain) it appears that they would in fact wear a talit that would cover part of their head. A difference between these two types of garments is that the former would be worn beneath one’s clothing, whereas the later possibly above one’s clothing This would make a difference regarding the question of removing a talit that had torn while wearing it. If the talit is worn beneath one’s clothing, as in Germany, one would have to significantly undress to remove one’s talit - a matter of possible great discomfort outdoors. If the talit is an outer garment the discomfort involved in removing the talit would be considerably less. For further reading on this subject, see Shitah Mekubetzes Menachot 37b; Tosafot Harosh to Yevamot 90b; Responsa of Rambam, Pe’er HaDor 72; Magen Avraham 13:8; Hagahos HaRav Mordechai Benet to Mordechai ad loc.; see Sha-agas Aryeh 32, Avnei Nezer Yorah Deah 381:1-3, Chidushe HaGriz, and Yad David; see also Shulchan Aruch Harav 13; Mishneh Berurah 13:15-16.

[84] Etz Chaim 1:55-56. The dispute is in brackets in the printed edition, reflecting the fact that in the Leipzig manuscript of Etz Chaim it was added in the margin.

[85] Jerusalem Talmud, Berachot 6:1.

[86] Other statements by him include, that in England wine was scarce and they would only drink a small amount of the Kiddush, and then pour a little more to make it non-pagum, so someone else can recite a blessing over the wine (Etz Chaim, 1:196). See also Etz Chaim, 1:178.

[87] See also Tosafot hachmei angliya, but with no reference to Moses of London – MS The Palatina Library, Parma, Italy Cod. Parm. 2618, fol. 5:|FL17398798.

[88] Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim, 168:5.

[89] Etz Chaim 1:163. See also Pirush R. Eliyahu Menachem of London 86b. It seems the phrase used in the question – we are ashamed’ (anu bnoshim) - is borrowed from a similar used in the Talmud tractate Ketubot 78b: ‘With regard to the new property, which she inherited after marriage, we are ashamed (anu boshim) of this ruling, while you seek to impose upon us the same ruling even with regard to the old property that she owned beforehand?’

[90] Ateret Ze’kenim on Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim, 168:5. There is a discussion whether the opinion of R. Moses of Coucy is for a person who is meticulous not to eat non-Jewish bread, but if one is not meticulous, he need not remove the superior non-Jewish bread from the table, while reciting the blessing (Eliyah Rabba on Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim, 168:5).

[91] There was Jewish production of wine in Auxerre until the 13th and 14th centuries. See Accessed 9 July, 2017.

[92] Talmud Shabbat 18b.

[93] Tosafot Beitza 24b. The dispute centers on the interpretation of the clause that when an item is brought from outside the city boundary limits the designated recipient may not benefit but others may benefit. The logic behind this distinction is that the law of Techum (boundary) is rabbinic in origin. One implication of that is that there is leniency pertaining to the extent of the personal prohibition – only relevant to the person who was the designated recipient. This is the view of Rashi and Tosafot (Beitazh 24a). An additional implication of this distinction is also that there is no need to prohibit benefit from the item after the holiday or Shabbat. It may be benefited from immediately. This additional implication is the view of Ri and Moses. The underlying argument between these two views is based on two rationales given in Rashi’s commentary for the prohibition of having benefit from an item that comes from outside the city limits (Techum): a. one may not have benefit from an item that has transgressed. b. a concern that a person may ask a person to bring an item from outside the Techum. The former is an objective prohibition; the latter is subjective. A difference between these two views are that if it is subjective then that would only be relevant to the intended recipient as a deterrent but would not be relevant to any other uninvolved person. Pertaining to the recipient himself however as it is meant to be a deterrent this would need to ensure that the person gains no benefit from the bringing of the item from outside the city boundary and this would need to include making sure the recipient waits that time period even after the Shabbat before benefiting from the item. According to the first rationale that the prohibition is objective and the reason why it only extends to the intended recipient and not anyone else is because the objective prohibition is of a weaker value since it is only of rabbinic in origin. This mitigation of the objective prohibition of Techum would give rise to the rationale that there may also be a limitation to the extent of the prohibition to have benefit from the item. This would be the view of the majority of the legalists.

[94] Tosafot Beitza 24b.

[95] Shulchan Aruch Harav, Orach Chaim 325:11.

[96] Sefer Hateruma 251; Rosh, Beitzah 3:2.

[97] Rashi on Beitza 25a.

[98] Talmud Chullin 96b.

[99] Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh De’ah 98:1. Talmud Chulin 97a-b.

[100] Talmud Chulin 98a-b. This is derived from the Nazarite sacrifice, whereby the ram is eaten by the Nazarite, while the foreleg is eaten by the priest. Even though it was cooked together, imparting a flavour into the whole ram, it does not pose a problem to the whole ram, once the foreleg is removed, as the foreleg is deemed less than one sixtieth of the whole ram, therefore nullifying any imparting of the taste.

[101] Talmud Shabbat 157a. Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 306:7.

[102] Etz Chaim 1:281.

[103] Exodus 12:20.

[104] Jerusalem Talmud, Pesachim, halacha 1 / p. 1b-2a.

[105] Mordechai, Pesachim, 535. In the Etz Chaim, this ruling is brought in the name of Moses of London, whereas in the Mordechai, it is brought in the name of German Tosafist, R. Eliezer ben Nathan of Mainz, known as Ra-aven (1090–1170). Also, in the Mordechai, the part of the discussion in the Jerusalem Talmud about the laws of immersion in a Mikvah by a priestess after menstruation is not mentioned.

[106] Fol. 242. It refers to Harav R’ Berachiah she’yichyeh n’Nikol, reflecting that it was added while Berachiah was living.

[107] Etz Chaim 1:310.

[108] Talmud Berachot 35a. Mordechai, Pesachim Haseder b’k-tzara.

[109] In Etz Chaim (1:327) it says: Rivra (Isaac be Avraham). In Pirush Rabeinu Eliyahiu Menachem of London it says Riva (Isaac ben Asher).

[110] Otzar Hagaonim, Pesachim, Hat-shuvot, p. 124. Etz Chaim, 1:327.

[111] Etz Chaim, 1:327.

[112] In Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim, 475:1, it also says one should dip the bitter herbs for the sandwich (korech) in charoset. R. Moses Isserless adds, some say one should not to and that the custom he has seen is not to.

[113] Talmud Pesachim 116a. Jerusalem Talmud, Pesachim (Be-ur Ha-Gra on Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 475:1:13).

[114] This is the reason for the opinion cited by R. Moses Isserless, one should not dip in the charoset. Se Be-ur Ha-Gra on Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 475:1:13.

[115] Etz Chaim, 1:329.

[116] See Pirush Rabeinu Eliyahu Menachem of London, p. 14, f.1.

[117] Rabbi Sherira Gaon, his son Rabbi Hai Gaon, Rabbi Amram Gaon, as recorded in Seder Rav Amram, as well as Rabbi Asher ben Yechiel, Rabbi Jonah of Gerondi (c.1200-1263), Rabbi Shlomo ben Aderet (1235-1310), known as the Rashba (Sha’alot uTeshuvot haRashba 72), Rabbi Avraham ben David (1125-1198), known as the Ra’avad (Tamim Deim 30), Rabbi Isaac ben Samuel the Elder (c. 1115 – c. 1184) all maintain that one should recite a blessing only after the fourth cup. This is also the prevalent Ashkenazi custom today. Rabbi Isaac Alfasi says one should recite a blessing after the second and fourth.  11th century Talmudist Kairouanan Rabbi Chananel ben Chushiel says one should recite a blessing after the third and fourth (Tur Orach Chaim 474).

[118] Etz Chaim 1:321.

[119] Hagahot Maimoniyot and Bayit Chadash, Orach Chaim 474.

[120] In Sefer Hapardes L’Rashi (164 & 166) however it states clearly not to recite a blessing after the second cup of wine.

[121] Leviticus 17:13.

[122] Etz Chaim 1:332.

[123] A further ruling pertaining to Passover concerns the process of making matza with warm water. This discussion is based on the Talmud in tractate Pesachim 42a: Rav Yehuda said: A woman may knead matza dough only with water that rested, i.e., water that was left indoors overnight to cool. If water is added to dough immediately after it was drawn, when it is still lukewarm, the dough will leaven at a faster rate. Rava taught: A woman may not knead dough for matza in the sun, nor with water that has been heated by the sun, nor with water collected [hagerufin] in an urn heated by coals [mulyar] And in addition, she may not remove her hand from the oven, i.e., interrupt her baking, until she finishes forming all the loaves from the dough, so that it should not become leavened in the interim. And she requires two vessels, one in which she mixes the water into the dough and one in which she cools her hands so that the heat from her hands does not cause the dough to leaven. A dilemma was raised before the Sages: If she transgressed and kneaded the dough with warm water, what is the halakha? Mar Zutra said: It is permitted after the fact. Rav Ashi said: It is forbidden. Moses of London rules in this context that it is permitted for others.

[124] Etz Chaim 1:348-9. See Beit Yosef on Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim, 629, section beginning ‘katav.’

[125] The phrase used (mach-she l’zerem) in Etz Chaim is from Isaiah 25:4: ‘For You were a fortress for the poor, a fortress for the pauper in time of his distress, a shelter from pouring rain (mach-she l’zerem), a shade from heat, for the spirit of the tyrants is like a flood against a wall.’

[126] Talmud Sukkah 15a.

[127] See Or Za-rua that discusses this law (Hilchot Sukkah 289) and Semak 92:

[128] Shulchan Orach Chaim, 629:18.

[129] Etz Chaim 1:350. In the Etz Chaim, there are a number of words in the text that are missing, making the whole text unclear. It appears to make an argument that there is a reason to prohibit such doors, since an observer may think that the planks are fastened with nails. In a case when it was necessary to move (m’fakpek) the planks (nesarim) to validate the Sukkah – in a case where let’s say the door was placed prior to the Sukkah becoming Kosher – one would inevitably move also the nails on the holiday (unclear). A further discussion is about if the door was a single plank, not nade up from a number of planks. See Shulchan Orach Chaim, laws of Shabbat, regarding two types of doors – single plank and multi-plank doors.

[130] Etz Chaim, Issurei Achilah, 2:64. See Talmud Pesachim 74b for another reference to mu-laysa.

[131] Talmud Avoda Zara, 35b: ‘And these are items that belong to gentiles and are prohibited, but their prohibition is not that of an item from which deriving benefit is prohibited: Milk that was milked by a gentile and a Jew did not see him performing this action, and their bread and oil.’

[132] Shulchan Aruch Yoreh Deah 112:1 quotes the Rashba; Shach 4.

[133] Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh Deah 112:2.

[134] Tosafot, Avoda Zara 35b (m’klal d’ika man d-shari): m’kan samchu ata le’chol pas shel ov-dei Ko-chavim.

[135] Talmud Avodah Zara 36a: ‘Our Sages sat and inspected the matter of gentiles’ oil and determined that its prohibition had not spread among the majority of the Jewish people, and our Sages relied upon the statement of Rabban Shimon ben Gamliel and upon the statement of Rabbi Elazar bar Tzadok, who would say: The Sages issue a decree upon the community only if most of the community is able to abide by it.’ The Tosafist argue that this statement applies also in fact to bread.

[136] Etz Chaim, Issurei Achilah, 2:64.

[137] Jerusalem Talmud, Shabbat 1:4. Semag, negative commandment 132.

[138] Talmud Avodah Zara 35b.

[139] Talmud Avodah Zara 35b. According to Maimonides, the reason is due to custom to use a stomach from a non-kosher for the stimulation of the curdling process.

[140] Mordechai, Avodah Zara ch. 2: 426.

[141] See Oxford MS. Can. Or. 1 (Würzburg Siddur, 1303-4), fol. 7b-8a, marginal note: Rabeinu Tam and Ri would permit butter made by a non-Jew and so is written in the response of the Gaonim but in a Responsa of the Gaonim that I have by Rabbi Nathan from Afirik it says that since there were people who defrauded… whoever eats it should be excommunicated. However since it has already been permitted by important rabbis if butter made by a non-Jew had been cooked in a pot one need not kosher the utensils for someone who is not accustomed to eat the butter. It is the custom in German lands not to eat butter made by a non-Jew besides cities that are near the border with France.

[142] Etz Chaim, Issurei Achilah, 2:75. Maimonides maintains that if the butter has whey in the crevices but is cooked, so that the whey disappears, it is permitted, because any mixture will become absorbed and nullified. This is as long as the butter is cooked by a Jewish person, since if it is cooked by a non-Jew it is subject to the law against partaking of food cooked by a non-Jew (Mishnah Torah, Hilchot Ma-achalot Asurot, 3:16).

[143] Talmud Chullin 63b.

[144] Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh Deah 13:1.

[145] This view is also found in the Rosh on Talmud Chullin 63b.

[146] Talmud Chullin 64a.

[147] The leniency to eat bread baked by a non-Jew is from Jerusalem Talmud Avodah Zara, ch. 2, where it states that the sages permitted it.

[148] Tosafot on Avodah Zara 38a. This is based on the Talmud (ibid) that states that when a non-Jew cooks salted fish with flour, the flour is the essential component, and the dish is therefore considered the cooked food of a gentile. Based on this, Rabeinu Tam rules that where there is flour, the flour is dominant and the law follows the flour, as opposed to minority ingredient, i.e., in our case the eggs. Moses of London argues that the flour is clearly secondary to the cooked fish, and is nevertheless considered a principle ingredient, making the dish prohibited. Similarly, the eggs retains its importance in the pastry. The halacha nowadays follows Rabeinu Tam: ‘If a non-Jew makes scrambled eggs, omelets, boiled eggs, etc. the prohibition of bishul akum applies. However, if the eggs are added to a dough recipe, such as is the case when one bakes bread, this is not bishul akum. The egg is considered a minority ingredient in the bread, and since bread is not included in the prohibition of bishul akum, the egg inside is permitted as well. If the egg is smeared on the surface of the bread, Aruch Hashulchan (Yoreh Deah 112:21) writes that this is permitted, provided the egg is no more than a glossy shine on the bread. But if the layer of egg has a measurable thickness, as is the case with French toast, then it too would be included in the prohibition of bishul akum (

[149] Pirush R. Eliyahu Menachem of London u’psakav, 159-160.

[150] A further ruling regarding kosher food related to koshering a utensil that had become unkosher: Moses of London writes that if only a part of a utensil absorbed a prohibited taste one does not need to kasher the whole utensil, as the entire utensil nullifies the part. The law however is ‘if partially hot then it is considered entirely hot. Responsa of Chatam Sofer (130) writes that even is the utensils are in sections, the absorbed taste spreads to the entire pot.

[151] Etz Chaim 2:197. In Etz Chaim, it is cited in the name of Harav Reb Moshe m’Londres. See also Tosafot Alfas on Yevamot 118b.

[152] Tosafot Alfas, p. 325, f. 79.

[153] Friedberg MSS 5-011, fol. 95 (89 in different numbering), held in the Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library, University of Toronto. Formerly part of the David Sassoon collection (MS no. 534): Full manuscript: Folio 95:

[154]. Piskei Eliyahu l’Seder Ze-raim, p. 2.

[155] In Chidushei ha-Rashba on Bava Batra 88a, however, it follows the opinion that he indeed has the status of a buyer.

[156] Moses of London cites the opinion of Rashbam, who argues in Bava Batra (88a) (section beginning v’hani mili) that a comment in the Talmud and cited in Rashi (Nedarim (31a), (section beginning alma hana’t loke-ach hi) pertaining to the case of Shmuel about a customer examining an item to buy it, that it gives him the status of a paid watchman (no-se sachar), instead of a borrower or buyer, is not precise (lav dav-ka), since Rashi and the context of the Talmud status that he is liable for accidental damage, which would be incorrect, as paid watchman is only liable for theft and loss, but not accidental damage.

[157] Tosafot in Bava Batra (87a) first states that the customer (middleman) has the status of a borrower, before citing the opinion of Rashi and the Ri that the person has in fact the status of buyer. The Rashba disputes the case of the pumpkins as proof that customers with intention to buy have the status of buyers, since they may have had intention to buy and not just examine the items. This is however defended by the Ri and in the marginal text by Moses of London, that from the context of this case, that it follows the case of Shmuel, that it also refers to merely examining (l’vakro) the items to buy, but not actual purchase – nevertheless this constitutes a sale.

[158] Moses of London is the author of many Tosafot teachings found in Tosafot Hachmei Angliya, as can be found in MS Parma 933 and 2618.

[159] There are a number of rulings from his son, R. Berachiah of Lincoln, as well as R. Joseph of Lincoln, who appears to be the son in law of R. Berachiah of Lincoln.

[160] Etz Chaim, 1:196. See also Etz Chaim, 1:178.

[161] Lecture given by Edward Biddulph (Oxford Archaeology) at the OU Chabad Society, on 1st June, 2021, entitled ‘Finding Oxford’s medieval Jewry: using organic residue analysis, faunal records and historical documents.'

[162] What happened to the site after then? People continued to live there. It went through a number of different uses. In the 14-15th centuries it seems to owned by a high-level merchant. Oxford was of course a place of learning. Chard plant remains, beef mutton and pork were back into the diet, wild strawberries and some really nice imported pottery It evidently was a high-status residence. A lamp was found on the site. 15-16th centuries drinking vessels were found, as it was used for an inn. Mid 17-18th century, another latrine was built and pots of wine bottles, tabaco trays, figs, it seems to have been a place where lots of people met, high drinking, perhaps collegiate or merchant accommodation. Historically, it was known the Jewry existed, but archeologically it was hard to show, as evidence does not survive very well or gest destroyed, we have found evidence that it was used, thrown away and eaten by the Jewry there and more particularly Jacob’s Hall. The archaeological signature is the first time in Britain for arch. Evidence for medieval Jewry. It was been published, and can be found in the archaeology of Oxford in the 21st century. It is free to download in Archaeological and anthropological sciences.

[163] MS. Michael 208 (Neub. Cat. 1559:5): Sefer Hanikud V’hata’amim; MS. Opp. 752 (Neub. Cat. 1496:2): Darchei ha-Nikud; MS Opp. Add. 4to, 162, fol. 37v (Neub. Cat. 2521: 4): Darchei ha-Nikud: From fol. 47 (Neub. Cat. 2521: 5), it contains Sefer Ein Ha-koreh l’Reb Moshe Hakohen. Neubauer suggests this may be the same Moses of London, though the work is not identical. It would seem that the opposite may be the case that Darkei Hanikud is in fact authored by Rabbi Moses Hakohen.

[164] BL Or 853 (1300-1499). Grammatical writings. Fols 2r-29r: Author: Yekutiel ben Yitzchak ha-Nakdan, ha-Kohen, active 13th century. Title: ῾En ha-ḳore. Fols 29v-75v: Author: Moses ben Yom-Tov, -1268 (ascribed to him). Title: Darke ha-niḳud ṿeha-neginot.

[165] Judith Olszowy-Schlanger, The Science of Language among Medieval Jews, in Gad Freudenthal, ed., Science in Medieval Jewish Cultures (Cambridge, 2011), p. 397.

[166] Masoret ha-masoret, 10, Hakdama ha-sh’lishit: Masoret ha-masoret, Sha-ar shiv-rei ha-luchot, p. 33b:

[167] A discussion in the margin about the correct vowel for the passive singular masculine in the participle of nichbod that it should be with a kamatz can be found in the margin at: This is also the view in Darkei ha-Nikkud, p. 1.

[168] Ketuvim, with Targum Yerushalmi and Darkei HaNikud V'Haneginot. 1618. Bragadin printing.



[171] The Montefiore collection, Europe, 17th/18th Century. (accessed 20 June, 2021).

[172] Tractatio de punctis et accentibus quae a Moyse Punctatore scripta dicitur, ed. S Lowinger, Budapest 1929. Jews of Medieval Oxford, p. 115.

[173] Masoret ha-masoret, Sha-ar shiv-rei ha-luchot, p. 33b. See list of nakdanim at

[174] Masoret ha-masoret, Sha-ar shiv-rei ha-luchot, p. 33b:

[175] Masoret ha-masoret, Sha-ar shiv-rei ha-luchot, p. 33b. See also Ginsburg, Christian D., The Massoreth Ha-Massoreth of Elias Levita: Being an Exposition of the Massoretic Notes on the Hebrew Bible, or the Ancient Critical Apparatus of the Old Testament in Hebrew, with an English Translation, and Critical and Explanatory Notes, p. 256.

[176] It’s possible this was the reason for the name Jacob ben Judah Chazan of London, author of Etz Chaim.


[178] The phrase is taken from Deuteronomy 1:1, but conveniently utilised for the author, Moses. It is immediately after this – beginning of the third section about cholam and chataf kamatz - where the acronym is found – mentioned above.

[179] In some places his name appears as Yekuthiel ben Judah, but in this manuscript at the British Library it has ben Yitzchak.

[180] See En ha-kore – MS BL Or 853, fol. 15.

[181] En ha-kore – MS BL Or 853, fol. 25:

He refers in the work a few times to ‘my brother (achi)’ who on one occasion explained the difference between a dagesh chazak that comes at the beginning of a word, and dagesh kal in the middle of a word. This suggests either he wrote the work with his brother in mind, or it’s a generic term that is referring to his colleagues in a general term.

[182] In Ein ha-kore – MS BL Or 853, fol. 27, he refers to himself as Bnei Ashkenaz.

[183] Elijah Levita, Masoret hamesoret, p. 34:

[184] Interestingly, in the British Library manuscript, at the beginning of Ein ha-kore, there appears also a poem beginning with the same words as can be found at the end of Darkei ha-Nikkud - ‘zeh sefer,’ containing also the acronym ‘Zalman:’ The poem does not appear in MS BL Or 853.

[185] P. 16.

[186] MS. Oppenheim Add. 4° 162, fol. 44v:

[187] On other occasions in the manuscripts, it retains ‘v’adabra’ (and I will speak), as found in the printed edition.

[188] Ibn Ezra on Genesis 1:28 and Genesis 41:51: R. Moshe Hakohen Hasfardi; Genesis 42:23; Psalms 10:3 regarding the correct translation of be’reich; 72:9 regarding the word i’yim. In most cases Ibn Ezra disagrees, though quotes him on Genesis 41:51 without dispute. Other grammarians mentioned by Ibn Ezra in his commentary are: R. Yonah Hasfardi on Genesis 19:15, R. Yonah on Genesis 44:5; R. Shmuel Hasfardi Hanagid z”l on Genesis 19:18; Hanagid on Genesis 49:18; R. Aaron Hakohen Rosh Hayeshiva on Genesis 34:30; R. Yonah Hamedakdek Hasefardi on Genesis 41:43; R. Yehudah Hamedakdek Harishon (Ibn Hayyuj) on Genesis 42:51; R. Yonah Hamedakdek (Ibn Jannah) on Genesis 50:26.


[190] This suggests that an earlier version may have just had ‘And Moses spoke,’ and a later copier added ‘Hakohen,’ perhaps, mistakenly, due to his view that the author of the work is Rabbi Moses Hakohen, unaware of the possibility that it could also belong to English Rabbi Moses of London, or that this section was in fact copied from an earlier work by Rabbi Moses Hakohen.

[191] See page online:

[192] The fact that Moses ben Isaac does not refer to Moses of London as Moses ha-Nakdan, though he does with regard to Berachiah ha-Nakdan (of Lincoln?) may reflect that the title ha-Nakdan is used in the context of a lesser stature whose primary interest is as a nakdan (punctuator). A figure like Moses of London appears to have been of a stature that was far greater than just a nakdan, as one of the great legalists of the 13th century, in addition to being a nakdan.

[193] Besides the word she-tayim, since the dagesh represents the missing nun from she-natayim.’

[194] A similar point can be made regarding the phrase used in the opening of the work: ‘emet’ (truth), regarding the fact that the punctuation and cantillation come from Sinai. This phrase: ‘v’chen emet’ can be also found in manuscript, MS Parma 2618, fol. 53, containing rulings of Moses of London:|FL17398771. The phrase may also be found in Hagohat Mordechai on tractate Gittin (465).

[195] Etz Chaim p. 332.

[196] Etz Chaim p. 163.

[197] Etz Chaim p. 327.

[198] Fol. 53:|FL17398771.

[199] See Tosafot Alfas, Gittin, p. 358, f.5.

[200] Judith Olszowy-Schlanger, The Science of Language among Medieval Jews, in Gad Freudenthal, ed., Science in Medieval Jewish Cultures (Cambridge, 2011), p. 396.

[201] The Sepher Hashoham (TJHSE, 1947), p. 39: Moses ben Isaac refers to Moses of London as: ‘my master (mori), the teacher (harav), Rabbi (reb) Moshe ben ha-chacham Rabbi Yom Tov.

[202] Introduction by Cecil Roth to The Sepher Hashoham (TJHSE, 1947), p. 9. In Dar-kei ha-nikkud it references Ibn Jannah a number of times, whereas in Sepher ha-shoham (p. 34 – 41) in the section Sha-ar ha-poalim it presents the system in detail in an organized manner.

[203] The Sepher Hashoham (TJHSE, 1947), p. 4 and 8.

[204] A second one is MS St. Petersburg, Firkovich Evr II A 34, edited by G. W. Collins, London, 1882.

[205] Sefer ha-zikaron p. 32.

[206] The Sepher Hashoham (TJHSE, 1947), p. 39. See Sarah Nicholson, Biblical Hebrew, p. 139-141 for imperative and 154-156 for object pronouns: Masculine singular - she-mor, feminine singular - shim-ri or shom-ri (with chataf kamats), as in Judges 9:10 – mash-chu, masculine plural – shim-ru, mixed plural – also shim-ru, feminine plural – she-morna. There is a dispute regarding combining an object pronoun to the feminine singular in the imperative form (inseparable object pronoun): Joseph Kimchi says that only in the masculine may the pronoun be inseparable, as in in shim-ru – instead of shimru otam, it may be shim-rum. In the feminine there is no inseparable form; it must always be separated, as in she-morna otam. Moses of London maintains there is no different between masculine and feminine – they can both take the object pronoun as inseparable – shim-rum.

[207] Gesenius, p. 124 (46:d).

[208] The Sepher Hashoham (TJHSE, 1947), p. 164. This in fact follows the opinion of Rashi, a relative of Moses of London, on this verse.

[209] In addition to the anonymous mention of Moses of London in Sefer ha-Shoham, there is also mention of Rabbi Brachiah Nakdan, whom Cecil Roth identifies as Rabbi Berachiah of Lincoln, son of Moses of London. This is in the context of the meaning of the word kha-shukhim in Proverbs 22:29: ‘See a man skilled at his work— He shall attend upon kings; He shall not attend upon obscure (kha-shukhim) men.’ Ibn Ezra translates it as darkness, as opposed to white, referring to unfree men, while Berachiah translates it was poor, as can be found in the Aramaic translation of the Hebrew word for dalim. The Sepher Hashoham (TJHSE, 1947), p. 77.

[210] Darkei Hanikkud, pps. 2, 3, 7. He was a disciple of Spanish grammarian Menachem ben Saruq, who disputed with fellow Spanish grammarian Dunash ben Labrat about the form of verb stems in the Hebrew language.

[211] Darkei Hanikkud, p. 3 and 7.

[212] Darkei Hanikkud, p. 3, 6, 9, 10 and 11.

[213] Darkei Hanikkud, p. 2 and 5.


[215] Darkei Hanikkud, p. 7. Moses questions Ibn Parhon’s opinion.

[216] Judith Olszowy-Schlanger, The Science of Language among Medieval Jews, in Gad Freudenthal, ed., Science in Medieval Jewish Cultures (Cambridge, 2011), p. 396.

[217] Talmud Nedarim 37b.

[218] Metzudat David on Nehemiah 8:8. This is also the way it understand this verse that it’s referring to Ezra himself who read the law to the people, in the opening of Darkei ha-Nikkud.

[219] This text of the Talmud follows the way it is presented in Darkei ha-Nikkud, but in the Talmud it is with slight variation. Also,

[220] Masoret hamesoret, p. 10b:

[221] Levita writes that this is the view of the Kabbala and Nachmanides, as he writes in his introduction to his commentary on the Torah, the whole Torah are names of G-d. Levita claims this is also the view of Ibn Ezra in Sefer hatzachot. Kuzari maintains that G-d spoke the Ten Commandments and the Jewish people heard and preserved the knowledge of the vocalisations and cantillations.

[222] The general rule is that all words take a dagesh in the first letter of the root word, besides when it contains a guttural (Sarah Nicholson, Biblical Hebrew, p. 16-17). There are however seven exceptions to this rule according to the masora.

[223] This is the case even for apocopated words that would have had a he, like v’asita vadei (Exodus 25:13), where ve’asita ends with a tav, apocopating a he. Since the he is considered present, the first letter in the next word does not take a dagesh (va-dei). There are however thirteen exceptions to this rule.

[224] Additional cases when a vowel change occurs include the following: 1. Guttural causes a patach to turn into a kamats under the vav-consecutive imperfect: The vav in the vav-consecutive imperfect usually takes a patach (a vowel) under the vav, as in va-yichtov (and he wrote), and the next letter takes a dagesh, as with the dagesh in the yud in yi-chtov. If the letter after the vav-consecutive is a guttural, however, as in vo-ezkor, it cannot take a dagesh and so the vowel under the vav is lengthened and becomes a kamats, as in vo-ezkor (Biblical Hebrew, S. Nicholson, p. 112). 2. A guttural in the perfect, as in o-mad (he stood), is called a weak verb, and takes a vowel change in the imperfect: Instead of yi-ktol (ee vowel in the first letter), it takes a patach, as in ya-mod. The reason is because the guttural in the imperfect cannot take a simple sheva - as it does in yiketol. It has to take a complex sheva, as in ya (ayin with complex sheva) - mod. This causes the vowel change in the first letter, as in ya-mod (Biblical Hebrew, S. Nicholson, p. 122). 3. When a verb ends with a he, the verb drops the he in the perfect and the vowel changes, as in galah (to reveal) to gal(e)-’ta, ga-lita (ibid. p. 125). 4. See Gesenius Hebrew Grammar, p. 118-120.

[225] Sarah Nicholson, Biblical Hebrew, p. 24 and 80.

[226] The vav consecutive (VC) imperfect takes a kametz, if the next letter is a guttural, that cannot take a dagesh, as in vo’eshmor, instead on va-yichtov. Sarah Nicholson, Biblical Hebrew, p. 112-113.

[227] Sarah Nicholson, Biblical Hebrew, p. 57-60.

[228] The reason why it’s not she-bat with a sheva, is because there is a dagesh in the bet.

[229] See Patach furtive in Sarah Nicholson, Biblical Hebrew, p. 58-59.

[230] Magna Carta, clause 39.

[231] Talmud Sanhedrin 20b.

[232] The Talmud cites a Beraita containing a similar dispute between two earlier Tannaic sages: ‘Rabbi Yose says the king is permitted to exercise every power enumerated in the portion of the king, while Rabbi Yehudah says in reality a king may not exercise any of those powers, for that portion was stated only to place the fear of the king upon the people, as it says (Deuteronomy 17:15): ‘You shall surely place a king upon you,’ which means that the fear of the king shall be upon you. Shmuel contends that the powers of a king are not just to enforce law and order but includes involuntary conscription in the king’s service, confiscation of lands and various taxes.

[233] II Samuel 23:15-16, as interpreted in Talmud Bava Kamma 60b.

[234] Tosafot on Talmud Sanhedrin 20b.

[235] Clarification by R. Yonah of Gerona, known as Rabeinu Yonah (d. 1263).

[236] The balancing of the rights of the king to seize land but with limitations is also reflected in Maimonides (Mishneh Torah, laws of kings 4:1-7), who follows the opinion of Shmuel that the king indeed has broad powers but concludes that he must pay for what is taken. R. Joseph Karo (1488-1575), in his commentary on Mishneh Torah, Kesef Mishneh, points out that the Talmudic principle that states where there is a dispute between Rav and Shmuel the Halachah follows Shmuel in monetary affairs, in which he was considered the greater expert, is applicable in our case, hence the ruling of Maimonides. In another commentary to the above text of the Mishneh Torah, Rabbi David ben Zimrah (d. 1573), known as the Radbaz, argues that Maimonides’ ruling is based on the Jewish legal dictum by the same Shmuel mentioned elsewhere in the Talmud (Gittin 10b): ‘Dina d'malchuta dina,’ the law of the land is the law.

[237] This can be seen in Oxford, where the Jewry was near the castle, under the protection of the king’s constable. Similarly, in Spain, like Tarragona, for example.

[238] They were only allowed to take movable possessions.

[239] Moses’ grandmother, Baleset, was a known financier in her own right, alongside her husband Moses of Bristol.

[240] Elijah of York is mentioned twice in reference to a single teaching and there is the conjecture that ha-Nakdan is Moses of London.

[241] A shop is found to his in Moses’ name at the end of the 13th century. His son, Jacob, owned properties and retained his residence in the Jewry.

Comments on: Moses of London: Insight into Oxford's Jewry through his legal teachings and recent archaeology
There are no comments.