A New Fragment in Maimonides’ Hand Comes to Light

Since the discovery of the Cairo Genizah—the repository of discarded documents long kept at the Ben Ezra Synagogue—scholars have encountered numerous documents written by the great philosopher, rabbi, and physician Moses Maimonides. A scholar at Cambridge University, where the bulk of this accidental archive now resides, has recently discovered another such item. Stuart Roberts writes:

The pages are a glossary of basic terms relating to herbs, basic foods, and colors and were identified by José Martínez Delgado, a visiting professor to Cambridge University Library’s Genizah Research Unit, from the Department of Semitic Studies at the University of Granada.

Around 60 fragments written by Maimonides have been found in the Cairo Genizah manuscripts, and most are written in Maimonides’ customary Judeo-Arabic (Arabic written with the Hebrew alphabet). His writings include letters, legal rulings, and early drafts of his important works.

What makes this fragment unique, however, is the fact that Maimonides has added the translation in a Romance dialect below some words. It is the first evidence for Maimonides knowing Romance, an evolving dialect version of Latin that is a precursor to what would eventually become modern-day Spanish. . . .

Maimonides must have written these fragments—later deposited in the Cairo Genizah from where Cambridge’s collection derives—sometime between 1168 when he arrived in Egypt and 1204, the year of his death.

Read more at Cambridge University Library

More about: Cairo Geniza, Moses Maimonides


Israel Can’t Stake Its Fate on “Ironclad” Promises from Allies

Israeli tanks reportedly reached the center of the Gazan city of Rafah yesterday, suggesting that the campaign there is progressing swiftly. And despite repeatedly warning Jerusalem not to undertake an operation in Rafah, Washington has not indicated any displeasure, nor is it following through on its threat to withhold arms. Even after an IDF airstrike led to the deaths of Gazan civilians on Sunday night, the White House refrained from outright condemnation.

What caused this apparent American change of heart is unclear. But the temporary suspension of arms shipments, the threat of a complete embargo if Israel continued the war, and comments like the president’s assertion in February that the Israeli military response has been “over the top” all call into question the reliability of Joe Biden’s earlier promises of an “ironclad” commitment to Israel’s security. Douglas Feith and Ze’ev Jabotinsky write:

There’s a lesson here: the promises of foreign officials are never entirely trustworthy. Moreover, those officials cannot always be counted on to protect even their own country’s interests, let alone those of others.

Israelis, like Americans, often have excessive faith in the trustworthiness of promises from abroad. This applies to arms-control and peacekeeping arrangements, diplomatic accords, mutual-defense agreements, and membership in multilateral organizations. There can be value in such things—and countries do have interests in their reputations for reliability—but one should be realistic. Commitments from foreign powers are never “ironclad.”

Israel should, of course, maintain and cultivate connections with the United States and other powers. But Zionism is, in essence, about the Jewish people taking responsibility for their own fate.

Read more at JNS

More about: Israeli Security, Joseph Biden, U.S.-Israel relationship