Commentaries on the Mishneh Torah

The Mishneh Torah sparked the creation of extensive and voluminous commentary.

Print this page Print this page

Radbaz, the foremost halakhic authority of the sixteenth century in Egypt (until he immigrated to the Land of Israel), provided a commentary on the portion of the text of Maimonides for which there was no Maggid Mishneh. He defended Maimonides against criticism but did not particularly concern himself about supplying source references. Parts of his commentary have been printed in several recent editions of works by Maimonides, as well as separately.

Lehem Mishneh by Abraham di Boton

Abraham di Boton, a leading halakhic authority in Salonika in the sixteenth century, was a disciple of Samuel de Medina (Maharashdam). His book Lehem Mishneh attempts to ascertain Maimonides' sources and reconciles inconsistencies between the Mishneh Torah and the talmudic sources.

When he was in the midst of his commentary to Hilkhot Tefillah [Laws of Prayer], Caro's Kesef Mishneh reached him, and he found in it explanations and novellae similar to those he had also written. He therefore decided that for the rest of his commentary, "I will write down only those points of mine that are novel," i.e., only comments adding to what was said by Caro.

Mishneh la-Melekh by Judah Rosanes

Judah Rosanes lived in the second half of the seventeenth and the early part of the eighteenth centuries. He was the Rabbi of Constantinople and was regarded as the leading Turkish halakhic authority of his generation.

His book Mishneh la-Melekh is different from the other commentaries. If, for purposes of comparison, we distinguish between commentaries and novellae, the books above referred to would be classified as commentaries, whereas Mishneh la-Melekh would be novellae.

Judah Rosanes actually wrote his novellae without reference to Maimonides, as a work on various talmudic subjects, but his disciple, Jacob Kuli, who printed his books, arranged them to correspond to the organization of the Mishneh Torah.

Haggahot Maimuniyyot by Meir ha-Kohen of Rothenburg

Haggahot Maimuniyyot [Maimonidean Glosses] by Meir ha-Kohen of Rothenburg is different in kind and purpose from all the other commentaries previously mentioned, which is why it is discussed last although it was composed before some of the others.

The author lived at the end of the thirteenth and the beginning of the fourteenth centuries and was a disciple of Maharam of Rothenburg. The purpose of Haggahot Maimuniyyot was not to criticize or defend Maimonides, or to find his sources, but to supplement the Mishneh Torah with the responsa and decisions of the German and French halakhic authorities wherever appropriate.

Only a few of the hundreds of commentaries that are part of the extensive literature on Maimonides' Mishneh Torah have been discussed here. In addition to the commentaries directly on the Mishneh Torah, there are discussions of laws as set forth by Maimonides interspersed throughout the general literature of commentaries, novellae, and responsa.

Did you like this article?  MyJewishLearning is a not-for-profit organization.

Please consider making a donation today.

Menachem Elon

Justice Menachem Elon has had a long and distinguished career as a legal scholar. He is a retired professor of Jewish Law at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, and a prolific author on Jewish Law. In 1977 Justice Elon was appointed to the Supreme Court of Israel and served as its Deputy President from 1988 until 1993. He lives in Jerusalem.