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HTS Teologiese Studies / Theological Studies

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‘There is no concern of prohibition against their trade’: A responsum by Rashbatz on the trade in monkeys practiced by Algerian Jews in the middle ages

Abraham O. Shemesh

Abstract


The current study deals with the responsum of R. Shimon ben Zemah Duran (Rashbatz, Algeria, 15th century), a Jewish halakhic adjudicator, on the trade in monkeys practiced by Algerian Jews in the middle ages. The basis of the discussion concerning the monkey trade is an ancient prohibition of the Mishna’s sages against trading in non-kosher animals. The current study clarifies the halakhic, historical and zoological circumstances underlying the missive sent to Rashbatz. In fact, R. Shimon ben Zemah Duran permitted trading in monkeys. He bases his ruling on ancient sources in rabbinical literature and states that this is not a new issue in the economic life of Algerian Jews and that his family also dealt in the monkey trade.




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