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The Epistle to Yemen or Yemen Epistle (Hebrew: אגרת תימן, Iggeret Teman) was an important communication written by Maimonides and sent to the Yemenite Jews.

It arose because of religious persecution and heresy in 12th-century Yemen. The average Jewish population of Yemen for many centuries was very small. The Jews were scattered throughout the country, but they 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.

The persecution and increasing apostasy led one of Yemen's most respected Jewish scholars, Jacob ben Nathanael, to write for counsel to Rabbi Moshe ben Maimon, better known as Maimonides.

Maimonides replied in an epistle written in Arabic that was later translated into Hebrew. 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.

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Up to date as of January 22, 2010

From Wikisource

Epistle to Yemen
Moses Maimonides
The Epistle to Yemen (Iggeret Teiman), probably a compilation of several shorter responsa, was written by Maimonides about 1172 in reply to an inquiry (or inquiries) by Jacob ben Netan'el al-Fayyūmi, the then head of the Jewish community in Yemen. The exchange of letters was occasioned by a crisis through which the Jews of that country were passing. A forced conversion to Islam, inaugurated about 1165 by 'Abd-al-Nabī ibn Mahdi, who had gained control over most of Yemen, threw the Jews into panic. The campaign conducted by a recent convert to win them to his new faith, coupled with a Messianic movement started by a native of the country who claimed he was the Messiah, increased the confusion within the Jewish community. Rabbi Jacob evidently sought guidance and encouragement, and Maimonides attempted to supply both. Originally written in Arabic, this edition is that of the 1952 English translation by Boaz Cohen, published in New York by American Academy for Jewish Research, edited from manuscripts with introduction and notes by Abraham S. Halkin.
אגרת תימן
[-Introduction-] [-i-] [-ii-] [-iii-] [-iv-] [-v-] [-vi-] [-vii-] [-viii-] [-ix-] [-x-]

[-xi-] [-xii-] [-xiii-] [-xiv-] [-xv-] [-xvi-] [-xvii-] [-xviii-] [-xix-] [-xx-]

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  • Moses Maimonides, Moses Maimonides' Epistle to Yemen: The Arabic Original and the Three Hebrew Versions, Edited from Manuscripts with Introduction and Notes by Abraham S. Halkin, and an English Translation by Boaz Cohen. New York: American Academy for Jewish Research, 1952.

Other translations

  • Moses Maimonides, Epistles of Maimonides: Crisis and Leadership, Translation and Notes by Abraham S. Halkin, Discussions by David Hartman. Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society of America, reprint edition, October 1992 (from August 1985). ISBN 0827604300
  • "Maimonides' Epistle to Yemen (1172)", translated by Joel L. Kraemer, in Lerner, Ralph, Maimonides' Empire of Light: Popular Enlightenment in an Age of Belief, Chicago: University Of Chicago Press, 2000, pp. 99-132. ISBN 0226473139


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