‘And the correct way to proceed in this case is to silence the gossiping and not to pronounce a ban and not to have any further discussion in public.’

A joke gone wrong leads to a tricky case of slander that requires the great Moses Maimonides to issue a legal opinion. Maimonides was often asked for his formal opinion on points of religious law, and the answers, known as Teshuvot (‘replies’, the equivalent of an Islamic fatwa), were later collected and published. The Genizah has preserved previously unknown rulings by him from among his personal papers. In this case, a schoolteacher was accused of making improper advances to an elderly widow, but without witnesses the woman’s testimony is invalid in Jewish law. Maimonides adds a typically pragmatic opinion in his own hand.

Fustat, 12th century

Judaeo-Arabic, paper

T-S 8K13.8

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