The Babylonian Talmud teaches (Makkot 23b) that the Torah contains 613 commandments, 365 prohibitions corresponding to the number of days in a solar year and 248 positive mandates equal to the number of limbs in a human body. However, the Talmud does not specify which of the Bible’s many directives should be counted toward the total of 613. In the Middle Ages, rabbinic scholars began drawing up lists of which commandments they felt should be included. The most famous of these, Rabbi Moses Maimonides (1138-1204), composed the Sefer ha-mitsvot in Judeo-Arabic as a type of introduction to his magnum opus, Mishneh torah, a comprehensive study of all of Jewish law. The present lot is a copy of the rare first edition of this work, as translated into Hebrew by Moses ben Samuel ibn Tibbon (fl. 1244-1283), which was printed without a title page sometime between 1510 and 1525 in Constantinople. Rabbi Chaim Heller (1880-1960), in his edition of Sefer ha-mitsvot (1914), notes that this printing preserved many correct readings of the work that were subsequently altered (consciously or unconsciously) and, at times, adulterated by later editors and publishers.
Shem Tov Yarhi (f. 1r)
Joseph R. Hacker, “Defusei kushta ba-me’ah ha-shesh-esreh,” Areshet 5 (1972): 457-493, at p. 479 (no. 80).
Moses Maimonides, Sefer ha-mitsṿot, ed. Chaim Heller (Piotrkow: Mordecai Zederbaum, 1914), 2v-3r, 9r.
Vinograd, Constantinople 63
Avraham Yaari, Ha-defus ha-ivri be-kushta: toledot ha-defus ha-ivri be-kushta me-reshito ad perots milhemet-ha-olam ha-sheniyyah u-reshimat ha-sefarim she-nidpesu bah (Jerusalem: Magnes Press, 1967), 82 (no. 80).
Isaac Yudlov and G. J. Ormann, Sefer ginzei yisraʼel: sefarim, hoverot, va-alonim me-osef dr. yisraʼel mehlman, asher be-beit ha-sefarim ha-leʼummi ve-ha-universitaʼi (Jerusalem: JNUL, 1984), 127 (no. 763).
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