The significance of form: R. Moses of Coucy's reading audience and his Sefer ha-Mizvot

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Sefer Mizvot gadol (Semag) by the French Tosefist R. Moses of Coucy was a most influential halakhic work in medieval times. Originally titled Sefer ha-Mizvot (The Book of Commandments), it was written in northern France in the first half of the thirteenth century and in many ways reveals the influence of Maimonides' Mishneh Torah. Indeed, to understand R. Moses of Coucy's legal project properly, it is important to comprehend the availability of Mishneh Torah in Europe at the time. Whereas Maimonides completed his Mishneh Torah circa 1180, the work seems not to have reached the study halls of the French Tosefists before 1200. In this article, I explain R. Moses' purpose and program in writing his Sefer ha-Mizvot, examine the format he chose, and clarify who his presumptive reader, or readers, may have been.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)293-321
Number of pages29
JournalAJS Review
Issue number2
StatePublished - Nov 2011

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This article began as a paper delivered at the 2007 European Association for Jewish Studies (EAJS) Summer Colloquium, “The Cultures of Maimonideanism,” held at Oxford University, organized by Gad Freudenthal and James Robinson. I would like to thank the organizers and participants for their comments, as well as David Kazhdan and Menachem Butler for reading this article and offering helpful suggestions toward its improvement. In addition I would like to thank Ephraim Kanarfogel for discussing many of the issues dealt with in this study and for sharing his own study on the topic. Finally a special thanks to the anonymous reader for giving me the opportunity to reexamine my conclusions and to sharpen my formulations relating to the final section of this study. The research for this study was supported by the Israel Science Foundation (grant no. 1342/07).


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