HEBREW MANUSCRIPT - Moses Maimonides (1138-1204), Judeo-Arabic commentary on Mishnah Zera'im. N.p. [Yemenite], signed on last leaf by the scribe Yechyeh ben Chasan, who wrote the manuscript for Mantsur ben Amar. Dated 1361 (1672 according to the Seleucid Era). 205 leaves, black ink on brownish paper, 260 x 190 mm., frayed and wormed, especially at the beginning, marginal repairs at the beginning, affecting some text, usually 25 lines to a page, usually 5 bifolia per quire, with occasional later marginal annotation, modern half-leather, modern flyleaves. Contents: 1r: originally blank with later additions; 1v-27v: Maimonides' introduction to tractate Zera'im; 27v-43v: Berakhot; 43v-61v: Pe'ah; 61v-79r: Demai; 79r-105r: Kil'aim; 105r-127r: Shevi'it; 127r-150v: Terumot; 150v-160r: Ma'aserot; 160r-176r: Ma'aser Sheni; 176r-187v: Challah; 187v-197v: Orlah; 197v-205r: Bikkurim; 205v; colophon, dated 1361.
All titles of the various tractates and several chapter titles are outlined in red ink and/or decorated with red pen flourishes. Furthermore, instructive diagrams and creative layouts occur on fols. 57r, 79r, 83v, 85r, 86rv, 87rv, 89v, 94v, 95rv, 96rv,105r, 106v, 167r.
Among the Jews of Yemen Maimonides' commentary to the Mishnah, usually read in Judeo-Arabic, i.e. Arabic in Hebrew characters, was considered highly authoritative. This esteem was based not only on the obvious lucidity of the commentary, but also, on a more general level, on his brilliant responsum Iggeret Teman, written in Egypt, in which he managed to give new strength to Yemenite Jewry, which was in great distress at that time. It is said that 'this letter made such an impression on the Jews of Yemen that, according to Saphir, they included the name of Maimonides in the Kaddish prayer' (Jewish Enc., 12: 593).