Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Sadness and celebration

Yesterday my family celebrated my sister's Bat Mitzva with a modest, belated but greatly enjoyable meal at an Indian restaurant. From there I staggered home, only to leave a couple of hours later for a wedding. The wedding was great. I found the huppa hilarious (you had to be there), the couple wonderful and I had a nice conversation with Aviad Stollman. Aviad is starting to build the personal part of his website, and there are already some very worthwhile things there. Look at this too. And lots of luck to Yosef and Yehudit!

I came across this blog today. It belongs to someone who describes herself as " the first woman to practice sofrut (creation of sacred Hebrew texts) in over 200 years". I can't say I read everything on both her sites, but I didn't find a place where she explains which historical precedent she is referring to .

I can guess, though. R David Oppenheim was the rabbi of Prague in the early 18th century. He was a phenomenal book collector. He had close connections with the vibrant printing presses in the city, through which he procured many unique printed books. He also acquired a phenomenal collection of (mostly Ashkenazic, I think) Hebrew manuscripts. After his death, the collection was put up for sale. Nobody responded for decades, until eventually the Bodleian Library of Oxford bought it up, and assured its position as one of the foremost Hebrew manuscript libraries in the world.

I digress. In his collection of responsa, Nish'al David, in the section on ritual law - Orah Hayim, number 30, he discusses the question of whether a Megillah written by a woman would be ritually acceptable. His conclusion was that it would be.

A year or two after I read that responsum, I found (through Tzitz Eliezer vol. 11, no. 92) another book from around the same time (R Moses Perles, Megillat Sefer, Prague 1710), which discusses the same question. From this contemporary source it emerges that the woman R Oppenheim had in mind was his own daughter. But tragically, by the time the second responsum was penned, the daughter had died and the question was moot.

There is much to be said about this worst possible loss - the pain of a bereaved parent. Not for now. For starters, you can look at Elisheva Baumgarten's book (in the Hebrew version, pp. 247-253; in the English, 165-169). And, if you feel like it and have an academic subscription, read this article by Ralph Houlbrooke on the way English kings expressed their grief over the deaths of their children.


Blogger Soferet said...

Shalom, M"B. Yes, I was indeed referring to R' Oppenheim's daughter, Sarah, who apparently wrote a Megilat Esther. As it was a conflict of interest, her father declined to poskin on it & referred it to a colleague who pasuled it. Thank you for all the info on his collection - I'm looking forward to doing research on it.

12:01 PM  

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