Judaica in Leiden
An exhibition in Leiden University Library at the occasion of the Congress
of European Association of Jewish Studies, Amsterdam 21-25 juli 2002.
Tobias ben Moses ha-Avel (11th century). Manuscript
on paper, 16th or early 17th century.
Oriental semi-cursive script.
Or. 4779, ff. 103v-104a.
¶ Karaitic compendium of no less than twentythree texts. Tobias ben Moses
ha-Avel was a student of Joseph ben Abraham ha-Kohen ‘ha-Ro’eh’, and from
1048, head of the Byzantine Karaite community. Hiswork consists mainly
of Hebrew translations of Arabic works of his teacher. Among these is
Kitab al-Tamyiz (or al-Mansuri), Book of Enlightenment
Fools, which is translated with the title Mahkimat Peti
also Ps. 19:18). Considering the fact that texts by Ibn Ezra and
Maimonides are included in this codex, the collection reflects the general
Karaite interest in Medieval rationalism.
Other works of significance in this codex are:
(1) Sefer Ne`imot, by Josef b. Abraham (Yusuf al-Basir) (11th
(5) Hilkhot Shehitah, by Judah Hadassi (12th century).
(9) Arugat ha-Hokhmah u-Fardes ha-Mezimah, probably by Abraham
ibn Ezra (1089-1164).
(6) She’elot, by Abu Yusuf Jacob al-Kirkisani (10th
(18) Sefer Dinim, by Benjamin b. Moses al-Nahawendi (9th
Aaron ben Elijah the Younger (1317-1369). Manuscript on paper,
probably 14th or 15th century. Oriental semi-cursive
Or. 4752, f. 1r.
¶ Important work of the Byzantine Karaite Aaron ben Elijah the Younger
of Nicomedia. Steinschneider considered this manuscript to be one of the
oldest of the Leiden collection of Karaitica. Aaron ben Elijah produced
important works that reveal influence of Ibn Ezra and Maimonides. Apart
from Gan Eden, Aaron ben Elijah wrote Etz Hayyim (1346)
and Keter Torah (1362). The former deals with the philosophy of
religionand uses similar rational proofs for doctrine of faith as Maimonides
does in his Guide. The latter is a commentary on the Pentateuch.
Gan Eden was written in 1354 and is concerned with Karaite law.
As it is largely based on Levi ben Jafet’s (11th century) Sefer
ha-Mitzvot, it became the standard reference for Karaite Halakhah.
The Institutions of the Karaites, an anonymous work on Karaite
lore. Manuscript on paper, 1575, Constantinople. Byzantine semi-cursive.
Or. 4763, f. 91v.
¶ Volume with Karaite texts copied by Elijah Rabbenu ben Judah Tishbi.
The development of Karaism was characterised by various disputes on the
literal interpretation of the Bible. Aaron ben Elijah of Nicomedia (1317-1369)
wrote his code Etz Hayyim, which was recognised as authoritative.
Later on it was Elijah Bashyazı and his pupil Caleb Afendopolo (1464-1525)
who summarised the Karaite creed in ten articles. Among them the fifth
says: ‘He sent us the Torah through Moses, which contains the perfect
truth, which cannot be complemented or altered by any other (Oral) Law.’
Other texts included in this manuscript are:
(1) Sefer `Arayot, Hebrew translation by Jacob ben Simon of an
Arabic text on forbidden marriages and consanguinity by Jeshua ben Jehuda
(8) Hilluq ha-Qara’im `im ha-Rabbanim, the controversies between
the Karaites and the Rabbanites, Elijah ben Abraham (12th cent.).
Moses Bashyazı (first half 16th century). Manuscript
on paper, 1575, Constantinople.
Or. 4743, f. 51r.
¶ Collection of Karaite texts. Another great name in Early Ottoman Karaism
is that of Bashyazı(see also Or. 4763). The first important member
of this family was Elijah ben Moses who lived in the 15th century.
He was the composer of the code Adderet Eliyahu which had great
influence on the relaxation of Karaite law and the rapprochement with
Rabbanites. Moses Bashyazı, his great-grandson, studied the early
Aramaic texts of Anan ben David.
Another rare text fragment in this volume by the same author is:
(4) Sefer `Arayot by Moses Bashyazıon the forbidden degrees