Rare Manuscripts Handwritten by Maimonides on Display at Upcoming Yeshiva University Museum Exhibit

By Dirk Vanduffel - Friday, May 19, 2023
Rare Manuscripts Handwritten by Maimonides on Display at Upcoming Yeshiva University Museum Exhibit

A ground-breaking exhibit of extraordinary items, some never before displayed in public, including spectacular manuscripts in Maimonides’s own hand, make up The Golden Path: Maimonides Across Eight Centuries, a new Yeshiva University Museum (YUM) exhibit, running May 9 to Dec. 31, 2023.

Artifacts with a personal connection to this great Jewish luminary include a Mishneh Torah (code of law that revolutionized the study and practice of Judaism) signed and personally approved by Maimonides; a fragment from the Cairo Genizah with Maimonides’s signature and other fragments in his hand; and a volume of his commentary on the Mishnah, containing notes written by Maimonides and a well-known sketch of the Temple Menorah, which may have been drawn by the sage and has in recent decades become the model for menorahs used in public Hanukkah celebrations across the world.

“This exhibit reflects Maimonides’s influence as well as his core values which also form the worldview and aspirations of Yeshiva University,” said Rabbi Dr. Ari Berman, President of Yeshiva University. “The basis for our educational enterprise is epitomized by Maimonides’s religious leadership and intellectual quest for truth. Yeshiva University is honored to introduce the journey of Maimonides’s works to the broader community who through this exhibit can better develop their knowledge of Maimonides, Jewish history and the values on which to build their lives.”

Sefer ha-Mitsvot (Book of the Commandments), Yemen, 1492
Author: By Moses Maimonides Hartman Family Collection

Dr. David Sclar, Curator of The Golden Path: Maimonides Across Eight Centuries : “The assembly of this collection of objects is unprecedented. The Golden Path traces the legacy of Moses Maimonides (1138-1204) through the proliferation of material culture, from manuscripts to early and rare printed books to portraiture and ephemera. This medieval thinker was at once a philosopher, physician, legal scholar, and communal leader, whose influence has only broadened and deepened with time.  As such, the story of his life and afterlife encompasses a vast range of intellectual, social, and political trends across centuries, continents, and cultures. The range of objects in the exhibition, drawn from private collections and numerous international institutions, demonstrates the profundity of this individual, his role as an intellectual and spiritual catalyst, and ultimately how modern perceptions of his image shed light on ourselves.”  

Mishneh Torah, Egypt, 1170–1180
Author: By Moses Maimonides
The Bodleian Libraries, University of Oxford, MS. Huntington 80

Dr. David Sclar continues : “Arguably, no other individual has had a more pervasive or enduring effect on Jewish religious life over the last millennium than Maimonides,” said Sclar. “This exhibition is intended to convey not only his importance, but the ways in which people have shaped and been shaped by his impact.”Also on display will be several beautifully decorated medieval manuscripts of the Moreh Nevukhim (Guide to the Perplexed), Mishneh Torah and other works by Moses Maimonides, one of the greatest Jewish scholars in history.

Beyond written work, visitors will see a beautifully carved 11th-century door to the Torah Ark from Cairo’s Ben Ezra Synagogue, which Maimonides himself likely used when he lived in that city. The exhibition will also feature portraits of Maimonides by modern painters, including Arthur Szyk and Ben Shahn.

“There is not a single aspect of Jewish life and thought that is not shaped by Maimonides,” said Dr. Ronnie Perelis, the Chief Rabbi Dr. Isaac Abraham and Jelena (Rachel) Alcalay Associate Professor of Sephardic Studies at YU. “This exhibition’s strength is in its ability to bring to life the way Maimonides’s ideas illuminated Jewish life throughout the diaspora and for generations after his death.”

An unprecedented partnership with international collections, the exhibit is the most impressive collection of Maimonides artifacts ever to be displayed together, and the first to focus as much on the man himself as on his impact and influence.

“Arguably, no other individual has had a more pervasive or enduring effect on Jewish religious life over the last millennium than Maimonides,” said Sclar. “This exhibition is intended to convey not only his importance, but the ways in which people have shaped and been shaped by his impact.”

Arthur Szyk, Maimonides, New Canaan,1950, Watercolor and gouache on paper. Collection of Yeshiva University Museum, gift of Louis Werner

Among the pieces that will be on loan to YUM are important and rare examples—such as 13th-century Yemenite manuscripts, early printed books from Italy and the Ottoman Empire, and texts produced by and for Christian audiences—from the Hartman Collection, the most significant private collection of Maimonides manuscripts and rare books; and spectacular manuscripts, some in Maimonides’s own hand, borrowed from the Bodleian Libraries in Oxford, the British Library, the National Library of Israel, the Jewish Theological Seminary, the Royal Library in Copenhagen, the Italian State Archives, and others.  

Image on top : Guide of the Perplexed, Barcelona, 1347 or 1348
Author: By Moses Maimonides Courtesy of the Royal Danish Library, Copenhagen
 

 

Dirk defines the overall policy of ArtDependence Magazine, in addition to conducting interviews. He specializes in valuation and auctioning.

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