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The Golden Path

Maimonides Across Eight Centuries

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Maimonides Across Eight Centuries Featuring Highlights from the Hartman Family Collection of Manuscripts and Rare Books.

A Yeshiva University Museum exhibition
May 9, 2023 – February 29, 2024.

The story of Maimonides and his legacy crosses centuries, continents, and cultures. Exploring the life and impact of this multifaceted luminary and great Jewish sage, this exhibition presents rare manuscripts and books on loan from famed repositories in Europe, Israel, and the US. Exhibition highlights include manuscripts in Maimonides’s own handwriting, a carved 11th century door to the Torah ark from Cairo’s Ben Ezra Synagogue, and beautifully illuminated medieval manuscripts.

This exhibition and publication have been made possible through the generous support of Robert and Debra F. Hartman. Major support has been provided by the Leon Levy Foundation and a private family foundation. Generous support was provided by the David Berg Foundation and the Maimonides Fund. Additional donors to support this exhibition project include the Zoltan Erenyi Charitable Fund Jack z’l and Judy Rajchenbach, Mark and Shari Coe, and The American-Scandinavian Foundation.

“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.”

Rabbi Dr. Ari Berman, President of Yeshiva University


 

There is not a single aspect of Jewish life and thought that is not shaped by Maimonides.

— Dr. Ronnie Perelis, the Chief Rabbi Dr. Isaac Abraham and Jelena (Rachel) Alcalay Associate Professor of Sephardic Studies


 

“Arguably, no other individual has had a more pervasive or enduring effect on Jewish religious life over the last millennium than Maimonides.” 

— Dr. David Sclar, Exhibition Guest Curator

Golden Path

More About the Exhibition

The Golden Path tracks Maimonides and his thought through a study of materiality. It focuses on visual material, such as depictions of Maimonides, and on manuscripts and rare printed books from collections around the world, exploring specific items within their varied historical, cultural, and Maimonidean contexts. The exhibition is organized by guest curator David Sclar and will is complemented by a fully illustrated catalogue co-published by Liverpool University Press.  It exploress Maimonides’ authority and impact as well as the Mediterranean and Islamic contexts in which he lived. The catalogue  includes essays by world-class scholars from institutions such as Princeton University, Bar-Ilan University, Ben Gurion University, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, the University of Amsterdam, the University of Haifa, the University of Oxford, and Yeshiva University. 

The exhibition will include items that have never before been displayed in public. Among the pieces on display at 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’ own hand, borrowed from the Bodleian Libraries in Oxford, the British Library, the Library of the Jewish Theological Seminary, the National Library of Israel, the Jewish Theological Seminary, the Royal Library in Copenhagen, and others. 

Particularly exciting pieces include: 

  • A beautifully carved 11th century panel from a door to the Torah Ark in Cairo’s Ben Ezra Synagogue, which was known to Maimonides himself. This panel is co-owned by YUM and by the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore. 
  • A manuscript written by Isaac Newton, on loan from the National Library of Israel, in which he cites Maimonides’ Laws of the New Moon in his proposal for reform of the Julian calendar. 
  • Fragments from the Cairo Genizah on loan from the Library of the Jewish Theological Seminary, including one fragment with Maimonides’ signature and others in his hand. 
  • A signed manuscript of the Mishneh Torah that was personally approved by Maimonides in a statement written in his own hand. This volume will be on loan from the Bodleian Libraries at the University of Oxford. 
  • A volume of Maimonides’ commentary on the Mishnah. This volume, with notes by the sage himself, includes a well-known sketch of the Temple Menorah, which has in recent decades become the model for menorahs used in public Hanukkah celebrations across the world. This manuscript is also on loan from the Bodleian Libraries
  • An illuminated manuscript of the monumental philosophical treatise Moreh Nevukhim, or Guide of the Perplexed, on loan from The Royal Library in Copenhagen. The manuscript was completed in Catalonia in 1348 and is considered one of the finest examples of the illumination traditions of that time and place. 

The partnerships with international collections are unprecedented, and the exhibition stands to be one of the most impressive collections of Maimonides artifacts ever to be displayed together, and the first to focus as much on the man himself and his impact as on the items. It is the first of its kind designed for an American audience. We are excited by the potential of this exhibition to spark new research, inspire public learning and engagement, and bolster our ability to reach broad and diverse audiences. It gives YUM great pride to present this exhibition and bring these masterpieces together. 

Location

Yeshiva University Museum
at the Center for Jewish History
15 West 16th Street
New York, NY 10011

Exhibition Hours

Monday – Wednesday: 10:00 am – 4:00 pm
Thursday: 10:00 am – 7:30 pm
Friday: closed
Saturday: closed
Sunday: 11:00 am – 4:00 pm

Other hours available by appointment.

For more information, contact info@yum.cjh.org 

 


Select Artifacts


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

Arthur Szyk used vibrant colors and references to traditional Medieval manuscripts to create this vivid portrait of Maimonides in 1950. The Hebrew text appearing under Maimonides’s arm is a quote from his famed opus the Mishneh Torah and cites Psalm 16:5, “The Lord is my allotted share and portion; You control my fate.


A page of a book

Description automatically generated with low confidence
Commentary on the Mishnah, 
Egypt, after 1168
Author: By Moses Maimonides
The Bodleian Libraries, University of Oxford, MS. Pococke 295
 

This volume contains notes in Maimonides’s own hand in the margins and a beautiful sketch of the Temple Menorah, which may have been drawn by Maimonides himself. This image in recent decades became a model for menorahs used in public Hanukkah celebrations across the world.


Text

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

This manuscript contains Maimonides’s signature, certifying the text’s correctness, which was known as an ijaza (authorization) – a common Islamic practice to ensure authenticity. His signature can be clearly seen at the bottom of the page. In the 12th century, this volume was bequeathed to the local rabbinic tribunal to be held as a model for the correction of other manuscripts of the Mishneh Torah.


A picture containing text, plaque, picture frame

Description automatically generated
Mishneh Torah, Printed by Gershom Moses Soncino, Soncino (Italy), 1490
Author: By Moses Maimonides
Hartman Family Collection
photograph by Ardon Bar-Hama

This Maimonides text was among the first to be produced using the new printing technology in the 15th century in Italy.


A picture containing text

Description automatically generated.
Sefer ha-Mitsvot (Book of the Commandments), Yemen, 1492
Author: By Moses Maimonides
Hartman Family Collection
Photograph by Ardon Bar-Hama

Jews in Yemen faithfully followed Maimonides's teachings. This text is Maimonides’s rendering of the 613 commandments contained within the Torah.  This manuscript, written in the original Judeo-Arabic, includes a chart in red and green ink in which the scribe listed what he regarded as the most pertinent commandments, such as devotion to God, observance of Sabbath and festivals, and dietary laws.“


A picture containing text, different, picture frame

Description automatically generated.
Panel from a Torah Ark Door, Egypt, 11th century, with later carving and paint
The Walters Art Museum, Baltimore (funds provided by the W. Alton Jones Foundation Acquisition Fund, 2000) and Yeshiva University Museum (funds provided by the Jesselson Foundation)
Photo: Susan Tobin

This panel comes from the Ben Ezra Synagogue in Fustat (modern-day Cairo), where Maimonides resided from about 1168 until his death in 1204.  As a rabbinic and communal leader, Maimonides likely had occasion to visit the Ben Ezra Synagogue.

Inscription: "Open to me the gates of righteousness; I will enter and give thanks to the Lord" (Psalm 118:19)


Lithograph, Warsaw, ca. 1879. Courtesy of Moreshet Auction House.

Lithograph, Warsaw, ca. 1879. Courtesy of Moreshet Auction House.


Ben Shahn, mosaic mural. William E. Grady CTE H.S., Brooklyn, 1957. Photo by: John Nelle.

Ben Shahn, mosaic mural. William E. Grady CTE H.S., Brooklyn, 1957. Photo by: John Nelle.


Blasio Ugolino, Thesaurus Antiquitatum Sacrarum, Venice, 1744. Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University.

Blasio Ugolino, Thesaurus Antiquitatum Sacrarum, Venice, 1744. Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University.  


Unknown Artist, Maimonides, 21st Century. Hartman Family Collection.

Unknown Artist, Maimonides, 21st Century. Hartman Family Collection.


A. R. Oleosa, Statue of Maimonides, Córdoba, dedicated in 1985. Photo © Ken Welsh. All rights reserved 2023 / Bridgeman Images.

A. R. Oleosa, Statue of Maimonides, Córdoba, dedicated in 1985. Photo © Ken Welsh. All rights reserved 2023 / Bridgeman Images.

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