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Bidding Information
Lot #    17425
Auction End Date    3/13/2007 12:49:30 PM (mm/dd/yyyy)
Title Information
Title (English)    Birkat Avraham
Title (Hebrew)    ברכת אברהם
Author    R. Abraham ben Moses ben Maimon
City    Lyck
Publisher    Zevi Hirsch Fetzal
Publication Date    1859
Collection Information
Independent Item    This listing is an independent item not part of any collection
Description Information
   First edition. [16], 67 pp. octavo 243:185 mm., nice margins, usual age staining. A verry good copy bound in contemporary boards, rubbed.
   Forty-seven responsa from R. Abraham ben Moses ben Maimon, son of Maimonides (Rambam) and a halkhic authority in his own right. These responsa were written as replies to queries submitted to him in 1213 by R. Daniel ben Saadiah, a Babylonian scholar and Rosh Yehsivah in Baghdad. R. Daniel sent Abraham strictures on Maimonides' two great halakhic works: the Mishneh Torah and the Sefer ha-Mitzvot, to which R. Abraham responded in this work, Birkat Avraham and in Ma’aseh Nissim (1867). R. Abraham convincingly and effectively defends his father. The front matter of Birkat Avraham includes a forward from R. Eliezer Lipmann Zilberman,who brought the book to press and a biographical introduction on Maimonides from Ba’er Goldberg.

R. Abraham ben Moses ben Maimon (1186–1237), leader (nagid) of the Egyptian Jewish community and religious philosopher; only son of Maimonides. He studied biblical and rabbinical lore as well as philosophy and medicine with his father. Almost immediately after Maimonides' death in 1204, Abraham was appointed nagid of the Jews of Egypt, despite his youth. This office, which he held until his death, remained hereditary in his family for four successive generations to the end of the 14th century. Immediately after Abraham's appointment as nagid, a controversy broke out among the Jews of Egypt over the practice of invoking his name in public prayer (Yekum Purkan and Kaddish) as was the custom with the exilarchs in Babylonia. The opposing faction stopped attending the synagogues and held services in private homes. This resulted in a considerable financial loss for the community. Consequently, the communal leaders decided in 1205 that all references to the nagid by name in public prayer be abolished while on the other hand all who seceded from the synagogues should be excommunicated.

Abraham's view of religion was almost mystical. He had a high regard for the mode of worship of the Muslim mystics, the Sufis. Under their influence, he sought to revive certain prayer customs such as prostration and spreading the arms which were practiced in the days of the Second Temple, but were later abolished in protest against Christian usage. Abraham also intended to introduce customs that had no Jewish precedent but were merely imitations of Muslim forms of worship, such as washing the feet before prayer, sitting cross-legged, and standing in ordered rows. Many members of the community, chief among them, ibn Abi-R-Rabi', supported these innovations. In Erez Israel, too, many people sided with Abraham. On the other hand, his innovations aroused strong opposition from a section of Egyptian Jewry headed by the Nathanel and Sar Shalom families (descendants of Moses ha-Levi who had presided over the Fostat academy in the second half of the 12th century). These families presented a protest petition to Sultan al-Malik al-'Adil I (1199–1218). But the document fell into Abraham's hands and he, in turn, addressed a memorandum to the sultan in which he pointed out that he had not compelled anyone to accept his innovations and that he had conducted his type of service only in his own house. Furthermore, he had refrained from excommunicating his opponents, though his friends had advised him to do so.

While Abraham sought to introduce his ritual innovations in a spirit of mystic piety, he was compelled to come to the defense of his father's books. When the great controversy over Maimonides' writings erupted in Provence and Spain, Abraham at first refrained from becoming involved, but when he heard of the alleged burning of his father's books in Montpellier in 1235, he addressed a rebuke, entitled Milhamot Adonai (“Wars of the Lord”), to the scholars of Provence.

Abraham was considered an authority on halakhah and among those who sent to him queries were the scholars of Yemen, particularly from Aden, and French scholars settled in Alexandria. His responsa, written mostly in Arabic, are distinguished for their brevity and clarity, primary sources generally being cited (ed. by A. H. Freimann, Jerusalem, 1938; for additional responsa see Sinai, vol. 14; et al.).

As nagid, Abraham issued important ordinances, such as that no person should have the power to excommunicate without the concurrence of three prominent members of the community, and that the fine levied upon the indicted person should not go to the excommunicator but to the poor or to the synagogues. This ordinance was also accepted by the scholars of Acre, then the most important Jewish community in Erez Israel (Responsa, 25–26). In another ordinance, Abraham abolished the usage that the prominent members of the congregation sit in the synagogue facing the people with their backs to the Ark.

Abraham's communal and medical activities kept him greatly occupied and he often complained that they prevented him from carrying out his literary plans. He worked throughout his life on several projects but completed only a few of them. His Kifayat al-'Abidin (“Comprehensive Guide for the Servants of God,” Heb. ed. 1965) is an encyclopedic work on Jewish religion, designed to support his ascetic approach. Unlike his father, Abraham here tends to be repetitive and digressive. He also intended to write a commentary on the entire Bible, but it seems that he completed only the portions on Genesis and Exodus (Arabic original and Hebrew translation by E. Wiesenberg, 1958). He also prepared commentaries on parts of his father's Mishneh Torah and on various tractates of the Talmud.

Paragraph 2    הוא ספר תשובות לרבינו אברהם בן הרמב"ם ז"ל, על שאלות והשגות שעשה רבינו דניאל הבבלי ז"ל, ראש ישיבה בעיר בגדת, על ספר יד החזקה להרמב"ם ... והועתקו מספר כתב יד אשר נמצא ... באוקספורד ... על ידי ... בער גאלדבערג בעיר פריס ...

עמ' [3]: הקדמת המו"ל אליעזר ליפמאן זילבערמאן. עמ' [16-5]: דברי הימים של ... הרמב"ם ז"ל מעת אשר נולד לו בנו רבינו אברהם ז"ל וקצת מתולדות רבינו אברהם בכל הנוגע לתולדות הספר הזה בפרט", מאת בער גאלדבערג.

   BE Bet 1591; EJ; CD-EPI 0106841
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Listing Classification
19th Century:    Checked
Germany:    Checked
Responsa:    Checked
First Editions:    Checked
Language:    Hebrew
Manuscript Type
Kind of Judaica