Jewish Community of Barcelona:
The Book of Document Forms
from: Judah b. Barzillay Bartzeloni, Sefer haShetarot, ed. S.Z. Halberstam
(Berlin, 1898), p. 3
1. Certification of Appointment:
This text is found in a document formulary composed in Barcelona around the turn of
the twelfth century. There is no evidence that this document was ever used by any
community in reality, but it provides an interesting perspective on Bartzeloni's own views
We the elders and the heads of the community of such and such a
place [say]: so it was that for our great sins we declined and decreased and diminished
until we remained a remnant of many, like a tall pine tree on a mountain, and like a flag
on a hill, (Isaiah 30:17), and the people of our community remained without a head and
without a nasi and without a chief judge and without a leader so that we were like
sheep without a shepherd. And a few of the members of our community (qehilah) are without
clothing and a few of them speak obscenities, and a few of them mingle with the nations
and eat their bread and have become like them and there is no difference between them
except the name "Jew." And since we have seen this, we are disgusted and
And we assembled with all of the members of the community and
negotiated and saw that this is a disgrace to us and to our community and we agreed in an
assembly (ma'amad) of all of our community and we balloted from lesser to greater for Mr.
X (or X and Y) a member of our city, since he is wise and discerning and fears heaven and
is trustworthy with money and hates avarice [cmp. Dt 1:13, Exod 18:21]. He was appointed
for us (may God strengthen him for good) and we asked him to lead us in the straight path
and to teach us the Torah of God (may His name be exalted and His memory be raised up
forever) and to judge over us as he is shown from heaven, and to coerce for us those
people who speak obscenity and to castigate them and to excommunicate them and to lead in
a straight path those who are mingling with the nations and to remove them from their
perversion and to teach them. Perhaps God will have mercy upon us and will forgive our
sins when we hear his rebukes.
We have agreed in an assembly of all of the members of our community
and have accepted on ourselves and on our descendants with oaths and vows fully that we
should have no authority, neither us nor our descendants forever, to deviate from his
rebukes and his teachings and his speech; every Israelite among our community who shall
deviate from his words or transgress his commandments shall be considered excommunicate
and his sons shall be considered mamzerim  his bread shall be considered Samaritan
bread, and his wine, idolater's wine; he shall not be buried in a Jewish burial ground,
and his sons shall be expelled from the school and shall not be circumcised, according to
the curse of Elisha b. Shafat (II. Kgs 2:24) and the ban of Rav Yehuda bar Yehezkel (BT
Kiddushin 70a [along with] any of the community who support him, from those who are here
today and those who are not here (Dt. 29:14). May the King of theuniverse bless him and
give him merit, etc. What all the members of our community agreed with a single mind to
write and sign on such and such a day of such and such a year, we have written and signed,
 A mamzer is the product of an adulterous or incestuous union.
2. Description of Ordination (p. 132)
This is a description of ordination from the same formulary. Note that it is not
the certificate itself, for which Bartzeloni does not provide a text.
The elders of the city or the elders of the synagogue and the academy (midrash) agreed
to ordain one of the students; they agree to this and they write a certificate of
ordination without laying [their] hands on his head, but rather they write him a
certificate of ordination as a remembrance of [original] ordination [with the laying on of
hands]. And since he has this certificate of ordination in his hand, from that time
forward, they call him Rabbi, and they include him with the judges and in the councils of
the Fellows [of the academy] and his usage and his dress are like the usage of the
ordained sages . . . and not like that of the students who have not yet been ordained.
translated by Elka Klein email@example.com
© Elka Klein, 1998. The text may be used for non-commercial educational
purposes, including use course packets. Further publication in other forms
(including by university presses) requires permission. Do not reproduce this text on other
This text is part of the Internet
Medieval Source Book. The Sourcebook is a collection of public domain and
copy-permitted texts related to medieval and Byzantine history.
Unless otherwise indicated the specific electronic form of the document is copyright.
Permission is granted for electronic copying, distribution in print form for educational
purposes and personal use. If you do reduplicate the document, indicate the source. No
permission is granted for commercial use.
© Paul Halsall, November 1998