Accounting for the Commandments in Medieval Judaism

Studies in Law, Philosophy, Pietism, and Kabbalah


Accounting for the Commandments in Medieval Judaism explores the discursive formation of the commandments as a generative matrix of Jewish thought and life in the posttalmudic period. Each study sheds light on how medieval Jews crafted the commandments out of theretofore underdetermined material. By systematizing, representing, or interrogating the amorphous category of commandment, medieval Jewish authors across both the Islamic and Christian spheres of influence sought to explain, justify, and characterize Israel’s legal system, divine revelation, the cosmos, and even the divine order. This volume correlates bodies of knowledge—such as jurisprudence, philosophy, ethics, pietism, and kabbalah—that are normally treated in isolation into a single conversation about a shared constitutional concern.

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Jeremy P. Brown, Ph.D. (2015), New York University, is Assistant Professor of Theology at the University of Notre Dame. He has served as Simon and Ethel Flegg Postdoctoral Fellow at McGill University. His research and teaching focus on kabbalah and medieval Judaism.

Marc Herman, Ph.D. (2016), University of Pennsylvania, is a Harry Starr Fellow in Judaica at the Center for Jewish Studies at Harvard University. He has held fellowships at Columbia University, Fordham University, the University of Michigan, and Yale Law School. He researches and teaches medieval Judaeo-Arabic and Arabic legal thought.


1 The Commandments as a Discursive Nexus of Medieval Judaism
Marc Herman and Jeremy P. Brown

Case Studies in Individual Commandments

2 Dê Maḥsoro as the Key to Jewish Almsgiving: A Maimonidean Interpretive Innovation and Its Legal Afterlife to the Fifteenth Century
Alyssa M. Gray

3 The Taqqanah of the Moredet in the Middle Ages
Judith R. Baskin

4 An Early Kabbalistic Explanation of Temple Sacrifice: Text and Study
Jonathan Dauber

The Ramifications of Maimonides

5 Early Evaluation of Maimonides’s Enumeration of the Commandments against the Background of the Eastern Maimonidean Controversy
Marc Herman

6 Maimonides’s Long Journey from Greek to Jewish Ethics
Albert Dov Friedberg

7 The Reasons for the Commandments in Isaac Ibn Laṭīf’s The Gate of Heaven (1238)
Guadalupe González Diéguez

Accounting for the Decalogue

8 The Ten Commandments Are Implanted in Human Minds: Abraham Ibn Ezra’s Rational Approach to the Decalogue
Mariano Gómez Aranda

9 Decoding the Decalogue: Theosophical Re-engraving of the Ten Commandments in Thirteenth-Century Kabbalah
Avishai Bar-Asher

Discourses of Ṭaʿame ha-miṣvot: Tosafism, Rhineland Pietism, Egyptian Pietism, Kabbalah, Sabbatianism

10 Ṭaʿame ha-miṣvot in Medieval Ashkenaz
Ephraim Kanarfogel

11 Pietism in the Law and the Law of Pietism: From Moses to Abraham Maimonides
Elisha Russ-Fishbane

12 A Castilian Debate about the Aims and Limits of Theurgic Practice: Rationalizing Incest Taboos in the Zohar, Moses de León, and Joseph of Hamadan
Leore Sachs-Shmueli

13 Ascesis, Hypernomianism, and the Excess of Lack: Semiotic Transfiguration of the Somatic
Elliot R. Wolfson

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Institutes and academic library collections dedicated to legal studies, religious studies, Jewish studies, and medieval studies; specialists, researchers, and graduate students in those disciplines.
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