"Collection"; that is, the name of a medieval compilation of laws, customs, habits, and practises of a religious character, similar to other medieval compendiums of a legal character. It is preserved in a unique manuscript (No. 115) in the Montefiore College Library, Ramsgate, England. The author, who lived at the beginning of the fourteenth century, collected from numerous authors, of whom he mentions a large number, a rich store of information from halakic decisions, special "minhagim," and popular customs; and the collection throws light upon the ordinary life of the Jews in the Rhine country during the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. The manuscript is almost throughout endowed with vowel-signs. It is probably the only non-liturgical and non-Biblical text that has these signs.Character.
The author had at his disposal very rich literary resources, and displays more interest in every branch of religious life than the majority of similar compilers. He has a peculiar gift for noting down local customs and even superstitions, a feature that greatly enhances the value of the book. Another important characteristic is the accuracy with which he indicates the sources of his information. Many fragments of literature and many a name have been preserved by these quotations.
From a philological point of view the book possesses considerable interest, from the fact that numerous German glosses are found in the text that explain difficult or obscure terms, and some that show, incidentally, the intimate knowledge of German possessed by the Jews of that time.Contents.
The contents are, in brief, as follows: the laws relating to the ritual slaughtering of animals; laws concerning the observance of Passover, with a description of the ritual of the Seder; laws relating to the New-Year, the fast-days, and to all the feasts, including the semi-festivals; laws concerning the observance of the Sabbath; laws about proselytes; a string of medical prescriptions and charms; mourning and burial customs; marriage ceremonies and laws, including directions for the ceremony under the canopy; laws and formulas of divorce; mezuzot; a condensed form of the prayer-book; formulas and types of numerous commercial and religious contracts, and of various forms of excommunication as well as of repentance, followed by short chapters recapitulating and supplementing the subjects already treated.
The vocalization of the manuscript is also important, showing, as it does, that the pronunciation of the Jews of that period was much akin to the so-called Sephardic pronunciation.
- A full description of the work, as well as bibliographical references to the writers that have had access to it and made use of it, together with a series of abstracts of the more important passages, such as the Seder ritual, the short prayer-book, superstitions, customs, etc., is given by M. Gaster in Report of the Judith Montefiore College for the Year 1892-93, London, 1893, pp. 31-74.