According to a tradition recorded in the Talmud, God revealed 613 commandments to Moses at Mt. Sinai. In his Book of Commandments, the medieval Jewish scholar Maimonides attempts to figure out which of the many laws within Judaism make up this sum, and in the introduction to that work, he outlines the principles which guided him in determining whether or not a law can be counted as one of these commandments. Maimonides lived within a majority Islamic society, and he wrote the Book of Commandments in Judeo-Arabic. The language and content of these principles of enumeration demonstrate certain parallels to Islamic legal literature, and my dissertation, “Cataloging the Revelation: Maimonides’ Principles of Commandment Enumeration,” examines the ways in which Maimonides implicitly adapted notions found in Islamic legal theory to Jewish law.
This dissertation asks when, why, and how do originally intra-Islamic discussions make their way into Judaism? More broadly, it touches on the features of a religion’s boundaries, and the extent of the permeability of those boundaries. The movement of ideas between religions, and the significance of such movement, represents an important topic for academics as well as for the wider public with which the Marty Center engages, making the Marty Center an optimal venue for pursuing my research. I look forward to honing my understanding of these and other issues through conversations with the diverse cohort of fellows this year, and I am honored to have been given the opportunity to do so.