Thursday, September 01, 2005


The latest issue of HaMa'ayan (48/4, 2005) there is a short article that raises once again the tiring question of who wrote the Sefer ha-Hinnuch. Was it R. Pinchas ha-Levi, brother of R. Aaron ha-Levi of Barcelona, or was it an anonymous student of the Rashba?

In this short piece, R. Yosef Abramson recounts a conversation he had with the late Prof. Israel Ta-Shma three years ago. Ta-Shma had declared quite emphatically, starting with an article he published in 1980 (now reprinted in his Knesset Mehkarim) that the author was, in fact, R. Pinchas.

One of those who disagreed with Ta-Shma was Prof. Y. S. Spiegel, who wrote a rejoinder to Abramson's article. He describes the telephone conversation he had with Ta-Shma after his dissenting article appeared. After arguing back and forth for more than an hour, they agreed that it was impossible to reach a clear and unequivocal conclusion. "Then why", asked Ta-Shma, "did you write that my conclusion is untenable?"

That was, in fact, what Spiegel's article said. "From all of this it is apparent that Ta-Shma's conclusion has no basis". מכל אלה נראה שהשערתו של תא שמע אין לה על מה שתסמוך.

And this was the answer. The reason I have bothered blogging about this whole debate. Spiegel explained that what he himself had written was simply that the matter required further investigation. השערתו של תא שמע צריכה עוד לפנים. It was the editor who, finding this too meek, changed the wording.

Once, while still in yeshiva, I wrote an article relating to the week's Torah reading, and gave it to the editor of the yeshiva's in-house parsha sheet. The editor accepted it, but when I came to take a look at it before publication, I found that he had rewritten the entire conclusion. He thought my take on it was incorrect, and therefore saw it as his duty to change it. I was apoplectic. As luck would have it, the editor was green, and his immediate predecessor is a good friend of mine. So, with the application of moderate force, the editor backed down and my article was published with my own ideas in it.


Anonymous kaspit said...

On the other hand, do we imagine Rabbi Meir rolling over in his grave? Or R. Yehudah ha-Nasi? Or Ravina & R Ashi? (Or we could go earlier at the risk of our souls...)

Isn't editing in a long tradition of rabbinic commentary and interpreta- /pola- tion?


(Muttar to edit my last word.)

4:56 PM  
Blogger manuscriptboy said...

I see your point. But there are two differences. One, which is arguable, is that rabbinic commentary tends not to directly rewrite statements. The second is that to do that when the author is alive, has the expectation that his own words are the ones to be published and will have to contend with their ramifications later, there is less room for editorial interference.

6:30 PM  
Anonymous kaspit said...

One, agreed is very arguable. Talmudic discourse is commonly rewriting tannaitic statements. You don't think medieval commentary occasionally revises/rewrites their (version of the) Talmud?

Two, isn't this partly a matter of power? In the Talmud, doesn't the rav sometimes dismiss or correct a mere tanna-reciter? Ok, not so apt, plus I'm out of ideas for post-Talmudic. Though I've heard that Reb Moshe Feinstein's later psakim were edited, and I think some before he was niftar.

8:42 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It would seem that what was behind the editors thinking (one that I agree with whole heartedly) is that a quick look at the evidence on this matter (can be found in article by kalman kahana, intro by chavel, intro by d. metzger) indicates that the author was a student of Rashba (yes, another levi in Barcelona not directly tied to ra’ah or his brother, or possibly another family member). Ta-Shma came up with a new creative idea based on a number of parallels between r’ pinhas and the chinukh. Once these parallels are considered to be inconclusive evidence I believe we default back into Rashba’s corner.

9:15 AM  

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