SEFER HA-MA'ASIM LI-VENEI EREẒ YISRAEL, halakhic work written in Ereẓ Israel. In 1930 B.M. *Lewin published two fragments from the Genizah collection in Oxford of the Sefer ha-Ma'asim with an introduction (Tarbiz, 1.1 (1930), 79–101). Since then various additional fragments have been published by J.N. *Epstein and J. *Mann. All these fragments together amount to only 15 pages, but in 1972, Z.M. Rabinowitz published the largest extract yet found, consisting of ten pages. This additional extract makes possible a fuller evaluation of the importance of this work. These fragments confirm the conclusion of Epstein that the work belongs to the end of the Byzantine and the beginning of Arab rule in Ereẓ Israel (end of the 7th century) and the terminus ad quem is provided by the fact that the far-reaching geonic enactment, permitting the *ketubbah of a woman to be levied from movable goods of the orphaned children, enacted in 787 C.E., was unknown.

The word Ma'asim refers to the fact that the work consists of practical halakhic discussions, excluding laws which had no practical application. As such it affords interesting glimpses into aspects of the life of the Jews in Ereẓ Israel at the time. Thus it reveals that Jews engaged extensively in agriculture and cattle raising and that they rented land for this purpose from the Arabs.

The importance of the work lies in the fact that unlike other halakhic codes and commentaries which are based mainly upon the Babylonian Talmud, Sefer ha-Ma'asim is the first and earliest example of the codification of the halakhah according to the Jerusalem Talmud and the halakhah observed in Ereẓ Israel until the time of *Yehudai Gaon and his disciples (8th century).

The Sefer ha-Ma'asim contains some laws and customs for which there is no other source. Further extracts from the Sefer ha-Ma'asim, from the literary legacy of the late Prof. Mordecai Margaliot, have been published.


Z.M. Rabinowitz, in: Tarbiz 41:3 (1972).

[Louis Isaac Rabinowitz]

Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.