The 18th World Congress of Jewish Studies

Torat ha-Masorah: The Masorah as an Integral Part of Exegetical, Halakhic, and Theological Scholarship in Thirteenth-Century Ashkenaz

The term Masora as it is used in modern-day research refers to meta-textual elements that relate to the consonantal text of the Hebrew Bible. In the Tiberian Bible codices from the 9th and 10th centuries, the masoretic notes (masora parva and magna; masora finalis) refer mainly to rules of orthography, syntax, vocalization, and cantillation. When the masoretic tradition arrived in Ashkenaz and Northern France, the rabbinic scholars and Bible masters did not want to limit the purpose and function of the Masorah to grammatical and text-critical issues, but rather extended the scope of application of masoretic notes to exegesis, halakha, and even esoteric knowledge (torat ha-sod). This paper presents various examples that show to which extent the Masorah was incorporated into rabbinic scholarship in Ashkenaz and Northern France and how it was used as a flexible tool for argumentation.