Medieval History

Selected Sources Full Text Sources Saints' Lives Law Texts Maps Medieval Films Search Help

Selected Sources Sections Studying History End of Rome Byzantium Islam Roman Church Early Germans Anglo-Saxons Celtic World Carolingians 10 C Collapse Economic Life Crusades Empire & Papacy France England Celtic States Nordic Europe Iberia Italy Eastern Europe Intellectual Life Medieval Church Jewish Life Social History Sex & Gender States & Society Renaissance Reformation Exploration
IHSP Credits

Medieval Sourcebook:
Jewish Community of Barcelona:
The Book of Document Forms

from: Judah b. Barzillay Bartzeloni, Sefer haShetarot, ed. S.Z. Halberstam (Berlin, 1898), p. 3

1. Certification of Appointment:

This text is found in a document formulary composed in Barcelona around the turn of the twelfth century. There is no evidence that this document was ever used by any community in reality, but it provides an interesting perspective on Bartzeloni's own views of authority.

    We the elders and the heads of the community of such and such a place [say]: so it was that for our great sins we declined and decreased and diminished until we remained a remnant of many, like a tall pine tree on a mountain, and like a flag on a hill, (Isaiah 30:17), and the people of our community remained without a head and without a nasi and without a chief judge and without a  leader so that we were like sheep without a shepherd. And a few of the members of our community (qehilah) are without clothing and a few of them speak obscenities, and a few of them mingle with the nations and eat their bread and have become like them and there is no difference between them except the name "Jew." And since we have seen this, we are disgusted and dispirited.

    And we assembled with all of the members of the community and negotiated and saw that this is a disgrace to us and to our community and we agreed in an assembly (ma'amad) of all of our community and we balloted from lesser to greater for Mr. X (or X and Y) a member of our city, since he is wise and discerning and fears heaven and is trustworthy with money and hates avarice [cmp. Dt 1:13, Exod 18:21]. He was appointed for us (may God strengthen him for good) and we asked him to lead us in the straight path and to teach us the Torah of God (may His name be exalted and His memory be raised up forever) and to judge over us as he is shown from heaven, and to coerce for us those people who speak obscenity and to castigate them and to excommunicate them and to lead in a straight path those who are mingling with the nations and to remove them from their perversion and to teach them. Perhaps God will have mercy upon us and will forgive our sins when we hear his rebukes.

    We have agreed in an assembly of all of the members of our community and have accepted on ourselves and on our descendants with oaths and vows fully that we should have no authority, neither us nor our descendants forever, to deviate from his rebukes and his teachings and his speech; every Israelite among our community who shall deviate from his words or transgress his commandments shall be considered excommunicate and his sons shall be considered mamzerim [1] his bread shall be considered Samaritan bread, and his wine, idolater's wine; he shall not be buried in a Jewish burial ground, and his sons shall be expelled from the school and shall not be circumcised, according to the curse of Elisha b. Shafat (II. Kgs 2:24) and the ban of Rav Yehuda bar Yehezkel (BT Kiddushin 70a [along with] any of the community who support him, from those who are here today and those who are not here (Dt. 29:14). May the King of theuniverse bless him and give him merit, etc. What all the members of our community agreed with a single mind to write and sign on such and such a day of such and such a year, we have written and signed, etc.

[1] A mamzer is the product of an adulterous or incestuous union.


2. Description of Ordination (p. 132)

This is a description of ordination from the same formulary. Note that it is not the certificate itself, for which Bartzeloni does not provide a text.

The elders of the city or the elders of the synagogue and the academy (midrash) agreed to ordain one of the students; they agree to this and they write a certificate of ordination without laying [their] hands on his head, but rather they write him a certificate of ordination as a remembrance of [original] ordination [with the laying on of hands]. And since he has this certificate of ordination in his hand, from that time forward, they call him Rabbi, and they include him with the judges and in the councils of the Fellows [of the academy] and his usage and his dress are like the usage of the ordained sages . . . and not like that of the students who have not yet been ordained.


translated by Elka Klein

©  Elka Klein, 1998. The text may be used for non-commercial educational purposes, including use course packets.  Further publication in other forms (including by university presses) requires permission. Do not reproduce this text on other websites.

This text is part of the Internet Medieval Source Book. The Sourcebook is a collection of public domain and copy-permitted texts related to medieval and Byzantine history.

Unless otherwise indicated the specific electronic form of the document is copyright. Permission is granted for electronic copying, distribution in print form for educational purposes and personal use. If you do reduplicate the document, indicate the source. No permission is granted for commercial use.

© Paul Halsall, November 1998


The Internet History Sourcebooks Project is located at the History Department of  Fordham University, New York. The Internet Medieval Sourcebook, and other medieval components of the project, are located at the Fordham University Center for Medieval Studies.The IHSP recognizes the contribution of Fordham University, the Fordham University History Department, and the Fordham Center for Medieval Studies in providing web space and server support for the project. The IHSP is a project independent of Fordham University.  Although the IHSP seeks to follow all applicable copyright law, Fordham University is not the institutional owner, and is not liable as the result of any legal action.

© Site Concept and Design: Paul Halsall created 26 Jan 1996: latest revision 31 May 2024 [CV]