Sunday, November 13, 2005

David Tamar z"l

At the library today I saw a notice with the details of a memorial service marking thirty days to the passing of Prof. David Tamar, this coming Tuesday. I feel bad - I had no idea he had died. Now I see that he passed away on Erev Sukkot. An obituary written by Neryah Gutal in HaZofeh is here.

I met Tamar only once. His father, Yissachar Tamar, devoted his lifetime to the study of the Jerusalem Talmud. He wrote a commentary titled Alei Tamar and amassed a library focused on the topic. That library was transferred after his death to Yeshivat Har Etzion, and his yahrzeit is observed there every year. One year, the son came for the memorial service and came up to the beit midrash. He was a sorry sight. His clothes were unwashed, his thoughts were scattered, but he was looking for intelligent conversation. He approached my havruta and myself, and starting showing us letters he had received from the Lubavitcher Rebbe (and other people, but I don't remember who).

As it happens, I read an article by Tamar less than a week after he died. Though republished in a collection of his articles on Jewish history in Eretz Yisrael and Italy, it was about R. Israel Isserlein, a 15th century Austrian rabbi known to some by the name of his book, Terumat HaDeshen. It is an article that has been harshly reviewed by Yaakov Elbaum, and contains some very unscholarly comments on topics like the literary quality of R Isserlein's poetry.

I learned one fascinating piece of information from David Tamar's article. He refers to a sentence in Leket Yosher, a description of life with R Isserlein written by one of his students. In discussing mourning customs he tells how:
וזכורני ששכיבא ליה ברתא קטנה שמה מושקט ז"ל לעת זקנתו ואין לו עוד בת ואין אנו יכולים לאמר לו דברי תנחומים...
And I remember that his young daughter died in his old age. Her name was Muscat and he had no other daughter and we could not say anything to console him...
Leket Yosher part 2. p. 97

Later, reading Avraham Grossman's book on French sages, I found that Rashi also buried a daughter:
ורבי' שלמה קרע על בתו בחול המועד אעפ"י שאין דין אבילות נוהג בם כלל
And R Shlomo tore his clothes over his daughter on Hol HaMoed even though there is no mourning on those days at all
Sefer HaNiyar, p. 60

Grossman suggests that this daughter was the youngest of Rashi's children. And he, like R Yisrael, was also inconsolable, refusing to wait until after the festival in order to mourn his child.

References:
Avraham Grossman, Hachmei Zarefat HaRishonim, Jerusalem 1997, p. 125, n. 13
David Tamar, 'Demuto HaRuhanit shel R Israel Isserlein', Sinai 32 (1953), pp. 175-185 = idem, Mehkarim be-toldot ha-Yehudim be-Eretz Israel uve-Italya, Jerusalem 1973, pp. 55-65
Yaakov Elbaum, Teshuvat haLev ve-Kabbalat Yissurim, Jerusalem 1993, p. 28-29

7 Comments:

Anonymous francine marino said...

Thank you for sharing that account of Rashe's uncontrollable grief over his daughter's death. It contrasts starkly with the tale of Rabbi Meir's wife who witheld, for the duration of Shabbat, any sign of grief over her two sons' death. Only after Shabbat ended did she share the awful news with her husband and grieve openly. I always found her conduct impossible to fathom. How reassuring to learn that Rashi's reactions were what we would consider normal and human.

6:52 PM  
Anonymous j said...

Do you know where or how one can still purchase a copy of R. Yissachar Tamar's Alei Tamar on the Yerushalmi?

6:19 AM  
Blogger manuscriptboy said...

At least up until a few years ago, some volumes of the book were available at the library of Yeshivat Har Etzion.

9:10 AM  
Anonymous mivami said...

In one of the igrot haRambam there is also some mention of the passing of a daughter but it is not clear if it was the Rambam's own or his correspondent's.

6:48 PM  
Blogger Mar Gavriel said...

Mm. Interesting. Moving.

7:11 PM  
Blogger Mar Gavriel said...

Paging Avi Shmidman:

There is a new post on my blog, relevant to the Mahzor Vormaiza piece.

10:15 PM  
Blogger David Wacholder said...

Dr. Tamar wrote about Tzfat 15th Century in the Proceeding of World Congress of Jewish Studies. Rabbi Nahum Wachtfogel mentioned him to me. Thank you.

Sefer Haniyyr is of uneven quality as a source. See regarding Havdala and looking into nails...and if no candle look at reflection of the stars and make blessing. Such contradictory statements need scrutiny.

8:53 PM  

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