- Name: manuscriptboy
Monday, April 30, 2012
Wednesday, March 07, 2012
Halakhot Pesukot online
Tuesday, February 21, 2012
Tuesday, December 27, 2011
Two attitudes towards the Talmudhttp://www.blogger.com/img/blank.gif
Rabbi Benjamin Blech, professor of Talmud at Yeshiva University, said the rabbis believed that study should not be made too easy. “We want people to struggle with the text because by figuring it out you will have a deeper comprehension,” he said. “They wanted a living index, not a printed index.”
Nothing satisfied Mr. Retter’s needs. As he said: “I’m a lawyer, and if I want to know the law, I look it up in an index.”
Friday, November 25, 2011
Hungarian Responsa Studies (book review)
Studies in Responsa Literature, ed. Viktoria Banyai and Szonja Rahel Komoroczy, Budapest 2011
It is rare to hear of a new scholarly volume entirely devoted to Halakhic responsa (or, indeed, to any aspect of post-Talmudic Halakhah). So I was fascinated by the very existence of 'Studies in Responsa Literature'. It is a collection of studies by scholars affiliated (at present or in the past) with the Center of Jewish Studies at the Hungarian Academy of Sciences. According to the introduction, the volume reflects the sustained interest in responsa that the students and teachers at the Center have maintained over the past several years. That institutional focus on responsa is also noteworthy. Responsa literature is so rich and multivalent that a concerted approach by different scholars with different interests makes a lot of sense. It also makes for a rewarding reading experience, going through a volume with multiple authors but with a fairly unified topic.
The first article in the volume is by Tamas (Sinai) Turan, who has made his mark in Budapest and in Jerusalem. The title is 'Terse Analogical Reasoning in Responsa Literature: Four Medieval Examples', but despite all that detail, it doesn't really explain the point of this deeply learned article. Taking examples from early medieval responsa (Geonim, Rashi, Maimonides, Tosafists), Turan shows how declarative statements by the rabbinic respondents often mask a more complicated Halakhic reality. He suggests that the text of the responsum often serves a rhetorical purpose, and that the actual Halakhic rationale employed by the rabbi may be hidden from view.
Dora Zsom has recently several articles recently (in the Hispania Judaica Bulletin) on rabbinic attitudes towards Jewish converts to Christianity in late medieval Spain and its diaspora. Here she discusses the central role that these converts played in the kosher wine trade in Spain, Majorca and North Africa, and the changing attitudes taken by the rabbis of the Duran family.
That's it for the medieval responsa. Geza Komoroczy discusses a responsum by Hakham Zvi about events in Budapest during the 1686 siege. His contention is that the person discussed in the responsum - whose wife and daughter were killed by a "bomba" during the siege - is actually Hakham Zvi himself, and draws grim conclusions from this about the rabbi's integrity. But, as far as I can see, the only basis for this identification is that, in describing his own flight from the city in 1686, Hakham Zvi mentioned losing 'my books and my dearest beloved', which is how Komoroczy translates the Hebrew and inteprets the 'dearest beloved' as being his wife and daughter. But the Hebrew term he translated is מחמדי הטובים, which can refer to prized possessions, maybe nice clothes like those of Esau, but I can't imagine a man referring that way to his dead wife and child. Without that, the whole identification falls apart.
Viktoria Banyai points to the potential use of Rabbi Yehezkel Landau's responsa (including some recently published manuscripts) for the study of Jewish history in Hungary. It's a short article and quite focused. But a lot of significant research has been done on the Noda bi-Yehudah recently (by Sharon Flatto and Maoz Kahana - others too?). Hopefully, these different scholarly strands will come together.
Szonja Rahel Komoroczy writes a fascinating analysis of R Hillel Lichtenstein's belief in the importance of Yiddish as a Jewish language, as the only language that Jews should speak. Besides studying several of his responsa and sermons, she points to the impact that this attitude had on the print history of Hungarian Jewry.
The last three articles in the book discuss Holocaust-era responsa and Halakhic discussions. Because the Nazis reached Hungary at a late stage in World War II, the communities there had the opportunity to consider the Halakhic ramifications of the tragedy enveloping them, and many of those responsa have been published over the past few decades.
I hope that the Center in Budapest continues to study responsa, and to publish its findings in English.
Thursday, October 06, 2011
Wednesday, July 20, 2011
BWB colloquium day 3
On the awareness of the Hebrew content of binding fragments in 15th-18th century Europe. Konrad Pellikan described his attempts as a young man to learn Hebrew from fragments of Hebrew manuscripts he saw as bindings. From end of 15th century, widespread desire to learn Hebrew but little access to texts. Awareness of the fact that bindings are in Hebrew is passive Hebrew literacy. Italian notaries sometimes began their register with a description of the number of pages and the type of binding of the register, in order to protect against later alteration of their records. Sometimes they note that the register is bound in parchment, sometimes that the parchment has writing on it, and occasionally that the writing was in Hebrew. In 1764, JS Semler published a sermon calling attention to the potential of Hebrew manuscript bindings for studying biblical textual variants.
Dr Javier Castaño
Hebrew documents from Spain should be divided into five areas:
1. Catalonia (including Valencia, Majorca, Roussillon)
2. Navarre and Aragon
3. Castile and Portugal
4. NW Castile (Burgos, Valladolid)
5. Andalusia (has not been studied yet)
Discussion of court documents from Navarra, including Maaseh Bet Din that summarizes documents (ketubah, tsava’ah, shetar matanah) dating back over 100 years in context of a family conflict over inheritance.
Justine Isserles – Hebrew binding fragments in Switzerland. 28 fragments in all, in Ashkenazic script. Mahzorim. Biblical fragments.
Two unusual fragments in Berlin, a biblical commentary still unidentified. Berlin Staatsbibliothek has important Oriental collection, has not been catalogued since Steinschneider, so probably potential for finding more fragments.
8 folios in two columns, reused in Seheim (SE of Darmstadt) from 1619 onwards – biblical commentary on end of Deuteronomy and beginning of Genesis, identified by Steinschneider as being by Menahem ben Shelomo (Midrash Sekhel Tov). Since Sekhel Tov has not been published on this section, hard to say for certain. Buber, in his introduction to his edition of the midrash, mentions these fragments which were copied for him and he concludes that they are not from the midrash. Part of the commentary focuses on linguistic parallels, another part is more midrashic and discusses numerical significance of letters.
Judith Olszowy-SchlangerRevisiting Durham fragment already described in 2003 and earlier. Peter the Venerable, most radical anti-Jewish polemicist, first Western Christian source to mention Talmud, as well as Alpha Beta de-ben Sira. AB de-ben Sira was widely read and copied by Jews. It is also quoted in the Hebrew-Latin-French glossary published in 2008 – evidence that it was known in Hebrew in 13th century England. Very small fragment of Latin translation of AB ben Sira, preserved in Durham library. Already detached from binding so hard to know what it looked like there, but binding was done in England and clear that it was folded over the outside of a book and then later reused in a 16th century binding as a pastedown. Interlinear Latin translation of Hebrew text – superscriptio. Hebrew writing includes calligraphic elements, but also cursive aleph (found in documentary texts), seems to have been written by a Jew. Vocalization is in the same ink as superscription and follows system used in other Hebrew-Latin manuscripts. Translation reflects accurate grasp of Hebrew language, including nuance such as ‘ha-Makom’ = Dominus.