Page 63 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 23

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— J
ew ish
seems that they fulfilled his command since none have come
down to us in their original form, the compilers of the Mishnah
preserved all previous sources in their own literary form, both
oral and written. All these sources were later used extensively
in both Talmuds, the Palestinian and the Babylonian, so that
the Talmud reintroduced them not only as comments upon the
Mishnah but as additions to it. By all kinds of pretexts, both
halakhic and aggadic texts were brought into the Talmud at
the side of the Mishnah, so that the mishnaic passages indeed
appear to be little islands in the vast sea of the Talmud.
I t became thenceforth the task of those who tried to direct
both the Mishnah and the Talmud back to the course of a code,
to condense all the material and to eliminate from them all
aggadic and irrelevant subjects. This was done by R. Isaac Alfasi
in the 11th century, and three centuries later by R. Asher b.
Yehiel who followed in his footsteps. Their books, however, can
hardly be called codes since they have followed the order of
the Talmud and made no attempt to reorganize the material
according to topics.
The Monumental Code of Maimonides
Maimonides (1135-1204) is rightfully considered the author
of a monumental code, titled
Mishneh Torah.
However, with
all his extraordinary ability demonstrated in this book for re-
casting talmudic and post-talmudic material into mishnaic He-
brew and reclassifying Judaic law in a systematic manner, his
work is far from a code in the modern sense of this word. I t
includes both halakhic and aggadic material and it formulates
religious dogma, philosophical and ethical teachings, even hy-
gienic and medical advice, alongside legal norms. Moreover, it
is the product of a single great mind, and though its decisions
in controversial matters were accepted in many oriental coun-
tries as law, they were considered in most of the Franco-German
countries as the opinions of an individual scholar and not as law.
Many other attempts to edify Jewish law were made by various
scholars, but because of the idiosyncrasies in the order they chose
to impose on their material, they were not universally accepted.
Such is the nature of
and others. Outstand-
ing among the Jewish codes composed after Maimonides is the
book of
(Rows) by R. Jacob b. Asher. Unlike his father,
who wrote an abridged Talmud, R. Jacob b. Asher arranged the
bulk of Jewish law in four rows: 1) civil law—substance and
procedure (Hoshen Mishpat); 2) family laws (Eben haEzer); 3)
religious and ritual laws referring to behavior on weekdays and
holidays (Orah Hayim); and 4) rules and regulations concerning