Epistle to Yemen
The Epistle to Yemen or Yemen Letter (Hebrew: אגרת תימן Iggeret Teman, Arabic: الرسالة اليمنية) was an important communication written by Maimonides and sent to the Yemenite Jews. The epistle was written in 1173/4.
It arose because of religious persecution and heresy in 12th century Yemen. The average Jewish population in Yemen for many centuries was very small. The Jews were scattered throughout the country, but were successful in business and acquired books about the history of their faith.
There was a revolt against Saladin as sultan in the last quarter of the 12th century, and Shia Muslims began to persecute the Jewish faith in the Yemen at this time. At the same time, a man began preaching a syncretistic religion that combined Judaism and Islam, and claimed that the Bible had foretold his coming as a prophet.
Maimonides replied in a Letter written in Judeo-Arabic that was later translated into Hebrew by Nahum Ma'arabi. This letter made a tremendous impression on Yemenite Jewry, and effectively stopped the new religious movement. It also served as a source of strength, consolation and support for the faith in the continuing persecution.
Maimonides interceded with Saladin in Egypt, and shortly thereafter the persecution came to an end.
Maimonides, in his Epistle to Yemen, heaps lavish praises upon the Jews of Yemen in his day, and uses hyperbolic speech to describe the condition in which he found them. Evidently, Maimonides had knowledge of the Jews of Yemen, and avouched that they maintained a strict adherence to Jewish law and custom, long before his writings became widespread throughout Yemen. Unfortunately, the rhyme employed in his verse has been lost in the translation. The Epistle was sent from Egypt to Aden in anno 1173/4 CE.
- "Letters of Maimonides: Crisis and Leadership," by Abraham Halkin and David Hartman
- Nemoy, Leon. Maimonides' Letters to Yemen. The Jewish Quarterly Review.
- Jacob Israel Dienstag (1983). Eschatology in Maimonidean thought: Messianism, resurrection, and the world to come : selected studies, with an introduction and bibliography. Ktav Pub. House. p. xcii. ISBN 978-0-87068-706-8. Retrieved 5 August 2012.
- Works related to Epistle to Yemen at Wikisource
- Oral Reading of Epistle to Yemen with Translation and Explanation
- אגרת תימן - ספריה למתלמדים Hebrew Translation (with English footnotes by Shlomo Goldman)
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