Sunday, February 20, 2005

On taking our culture as a whole

In the past year, several Talmudic manuscripts have been scanned and posted online. I was just thinking about Munich 95, the only extant manuscript of the entire Talmud (and perhaps the only one ever to exist). It is a massive tome, difficult to use in facsimile, and the website is frustrating as well (it doesn't seem to be working at the moment).

What I like about the site, though, is that they scanned the manuscript in its entirety - including the sections which are not part of the Talmud. A fascinating article appeared recently, exploring the magical texts on the last page of the manuscript (Guiseppe Veltri, ' "Watermarks" in the ms "Munich, Hebr. 95"; magical recipes in historical context ', in: Jewish Studies between the Disciplines = Judaistik zwischen den Disziplinen; Papers in Honor of Peter Schäfer on the Occasion of His 60th Birthday. Ed. by Klaus Herrmann, Margarete Schlüter, Giuseppe Veltri. Leiden: Brill, 2003, pp. 243-256).

The French and German Jewish culture which produced the Munich Talmud was full of magic. The same culture which produced the vaunted Tosafot. I can understand why some people would feel uncomfortable with certain aspects of their heritage. But that is no reason to forget them.


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