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soc.culture.jewish FAQ: Torah and Halachic Authority (3/12)
Section - Question 3.36: What is the Mishneh Torah (Yad Ha-Hazaqah , Sefer Mehoqeq)?

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                                  Answer:
   
   Moses Maimonides (Rabbi Moshe ben Maimon, usually referred to in
   Hebrew by the acronym "Rambam") was one of the towering figures in
   medieval intellectual and religious life. In addition to his law code,
   he excelled in the fields of philosophy, science, medicine, exegesis
   and communal leadership. Though born in Spain, in his youth his family
   fled religious persecution, settling in Egypt. Maimonides' literary
   output includes: a work on philosophical logic; an Arabic commentary
   to the Mishnah; an enumeration of the 613 precepts of the Torah; the
   Mishneh Torah law code; the Arabic philosophical treatise The Guide of
   the Perplexed; and many letters and responsa addressed to various
   Jewish communities.
   
   Maimonides lived from 1138 to 1204. He spent ten full years compiling
   the Mishneh Torah, which he continued to revise throughout his
   lifetime. The term "Mishneh Torah" means "The Second Law" and is the
   name used in the Bible itself to designate the book of Deuteronomy,
   which is a kind summary or review of the rest of the Torah.
   Maimonides's Mishneh Torah was intended to be a summary of the entire
   body of Jewish religious law.
   
   The Mishneh Torah is sometimes referred to as the Yad Ha-Hazaqah, "the
   mighty arm." This is a play on the numerological value of the Hebrew
   word for arm, "yad," which is 14, equal to the number of volumes in
   this code. Maimonides actually referred to the book as "Sefer Mehoqeq"
   ("The Book of Legislation"), a title which is rarely employed.
   
   The Mishneh Torah is composed in Rabbinic Hebrew, after the style of
   the Mishnah. It is divided up into fourteen general sections (similar
   to the "orders" of the Mishnah), each of which is further subdivided
   into books (like tractates), and then into numbered chapters and laws.
   Some of the distinctive features of the Mishneh Torah are the
   following:
     * It encompasses the full range of Jewish law, as formulated for all
       ages and places. Most other Jewish law codes confined themselves
       to laws that were in force in their own times and lands, thereby
       excluding rules that apply only in the Land of Israel, under an
       independent Jewish kingdom, or that could not be observed
       following the destruction of the Temple.
     * It completely reorganizes and reformulates the laws in a clear and
       logical system. Earlier codes had followed the Talmud's sometimes
       haphazard arrangement with only very few attempts to improve on
       that order.
     * It presents the normative rulings without any discussion or
       explanation of how the decisions were reached.
     * It contains a section on systematic philosophical theology,
       derived largely from Aristotelian science and metaphysics, which
       it regards as the most important component of Jewish law. Most
       other Jewish codes avoided mixing creed and religious law; and
       Maimonides' interpretation of Jewish religion in terms of Greek
       ideas aroused much opposition.
       
   An online version of Mishneh Torah, according to the Yemenite
   manuscripts, may be found at [5]http://www.mechon-mamre.org/i/0.htm.
   Immanuel O'Levy's translation of the Rambam's entire Sefer Mada (Book
   of Knowledge) can be found on Jon Baker's web site at
   [6]http://www.panix.com/~jjbaker/rambam.html.

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Top Document: soc.culture.jewish FAQ: Torah and Halachic Authority (3/12)
Previous Document: Question 3.35: What is the Rif (Hilchos of Rav Alfassi)?
Next Document: Question 3.37: What is the Sefer Mitzvot Gadol (The Semag)?

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