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Rambam’s Mishneh Torah is filled with particular words and phrases used repeatedly. It’s also organized in a very particular fashion. Both the word choice and the structure are used deliberately. However, traversing through the Mishneh Torah itself, one can sense that he’s missing why Rambam is using this particular phrase or structuring it in that particular way but it’s unclear why.

Is there a book or essay perhaps that serves as a sort of handbook to understand why Rambam wrote what he wrote?

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  • Typically mimics the underlying source material
    – Nahum
    Commented Jan 16 at 14:43
  • "Is there a book or essay perhaps that serves as a sort of handbook to understand why rambam wrote what he wrote?" There are centuries of such books. If you're looking for the classics, check out the nose kelim traditionally printed alongside the MT and for something more modern explore R. Nahum Rabinovitch's Yad Peshutah and R. Yosef Qafih's commentary... unless I misunderstand your intent, in which case your question may need some more details/clarity. Commented Jan 16 at 16:17
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    This question seems very unclear to me. "one can sense that he's missing..." Examples would be helpful.
    – MichoelR
    Commented Jan 16 at 17:28
  • Yes, it's called Mishna, Gemara and Midrash. He uses the same unique phrases as the Oral Tradition that he is encapsulating in the referenced work
    – Rabbi Kaii
    Commented Feb 17 at 22:08

2 Answers 2

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Nice question, I never came across such a book in English but it would be useful.

What you might find useful is to learn one topic in depth, from its sources in the mishna and gemara to the Rambam. You will see how the Rambam's language or cases often come straight from the sources he used. The Migdal Oz commentary (on the pages of a traditional Hebrew Rambam) gives the relevant references, and Sefaria does the same online.

In parallel, you might want to check

I look forward to more relevant works being surfaced by the MY community.

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  • I have been searching for quite some time to get a complete set of Rav Kapach's edition of the Mishneh Torah. It has been out of print for several years. Do you know anywhere, by chance? While on that subject, I'm also looking for a complete Torah Shleimah by Rabbi Menachem Kasher. That has also been out of print for years. Commented Jan 18 at 14:38
  • @YaacovDeane I have a set of R. Qafih's MT that I ordered from Israel, you can get it here: net-sah.org/library/770 the office manager's name is ורד בדיחי she is very helpful and accommodating. As for R. Kasher's work... I've been looking for a set too lol... came very close a few years ago getting a used set but someone managed to snag it before me. Commented Jan 18 at 16:07
  • Torah Shleimah by Rabbi Menachem Kasher abebooks.com/…
    – Edward B
    Commented Jun 16 at 17:15
  • @EdwardB that is only one volume. Commented Jun 16 at 17:28
  • Although this 12 volume set is very expensive mysefer.com/products/… this one is much cheaper jbcbooks.com/product.asp?productid=5532
    – Edward B
    Commented Jun 16 at 17:42
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Another book to add to those listed by @mbloch is Reading Maimonides' Mishneh Torah by David Gillis

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Reading-Maimonides-Mishneh-Littman-Civilization/dp/1802070338

In this highly original study, David Gillis demonstrates that the Mishneh Torah, Maimonides’ code of Jewish law, has the structure of a microcosm. Through this symbolic form, Maimonides presents the law as designed to perfect the individual and society by shaping them in the image of the divinely created cosmic order. The commandments of the law thereby bring human beings closer to fulfilling their ultimate purpose, knowledge of God. This symbolism turns the Mishneh Torah into an object of contemplation that itself communicates such knowledge. In short, it is a work of art.

Gillis unpacks the metaphysical and cosmological underpinnings of Maimonides’ scheme of organization with consummate skill, allowing the reader to understand the Mishneh Torah’s artistic dimension and to appreciate its power. Moreover, as he makes clear, uncovering this dimension casts new light on one of the great cruxes of Maimonides studies: the relationship of the Mishneh Torah to his philosophical treatise The Guide of the Perplexed. A fundamental unity is revealed between Maimonides the codifier and Maimonides the philosopher that has not been fully appreciated hitherto.

Maimonides’ artistry in composition is repeatedly shown to serve his aims in persuading us of the coherence and wisdom of the halakhic system. Gillis’s fine exegesis sets in high relief the humane and transcendental purposes and methods of halakhah as Maimonides conceived of it, in an argument that is sure-footed and convincing.

The book is reviewed at https://www.academia.edu/32662761/Review_of_David_Gillis_Reading_Maimonides_Mishneh_Torah

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