Thursday, December 28, 2006

Another daughter of Rashi

The next volume of Maggie Anton's trilogy, Rashi's Daughters, is supposed to appear soon. Meanwhile, an annotated version of part of it is available here. I've heard that the first book is fun reading, but it isn't available through the NYPL system yet. I did read her article in Judaism, but found it shallow. Looking through the annotated version mentioned above, it is clear that Anton is well read. But most of her Jewish sources are painfully old - Israel Abrahams, Irving Agus (scroll down for the comment about his taste in cars) and Joshua Trachtenberg. The primary source she seems to use the most, Israel Elfenbein's Teshuvot Rashi, is also notoriously problematic. Just to give you an example that I happen to be looking at this morning - number 52 (p. 46). In the sources he cites, the responsum is ascribed to R. Yitzhak ben Yehudah, Rashi's teacher. In Sefer ha-Niyar (an interesting book in its own right - the title reflects its appearance at the time when France was moving from parchment to paper, a transition which was apparently very speedy and decisive), it is attributed to Rav Sar Shalom Gaon. But nowhere is Rashi named as the respondent.

In any case, it is nice that Rashi is arousing popular interest. By the way, apropo Anton's speech at JTS, for which she produced the annotated chapters - I just noticed, and have not yet listened to, a recording of Beth Berkowitz speaking there about her book on capital punishment. Her claim, that Hazal's approach to capital punishment was not as humane as it is sometimes made out to be (and as I am still inclined to think), sounds interesting.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

New exciting book!

I just found out that Simcha Emanuel's book, Shivre Luhot, is about to appear. Check out the table of contents and introduction here.

I've been meaning to write something about Rami Reiner, who was my teacher for one semester at Hebrew U. He wrote a short review (in Sidra 21) of Haym Soloveitchik's Yeinam, in which he develops the idea that Rabbeinu Tam was temperamentally a conservative person, and it was really his nephew, R. Isaac of Dampiere, who had the audacity to carry through the halakhic revolution of Baale ha-Tosafot. Soloveitchik has said that this impression will be overturned by his forthcoming book on wine and halakhah.

Reiner also published a short piece in Alpayim, previewing his very interesting work on the Jewish gravestones found in Wuerzburg. Among other things, he discusses the tombstone of a convert to Judaism, and that of the daughter of R. Yoel of Bonn, the sister of the Raavya, who died in childbirth (important information about members of this family in Simcha's book) .

And finally, in a collection of lectures given at Ben Gurion University, he published a study on the use of Halakhot Gedolot in early Ashkenaz. I haven't finished reading it yet, but it seems to be very good. He has some convincing examples of Rabeinu Gershom rejecting Halakhot Gedolot in favour of his teacher's position.

Nehamah Hirschensohn

Menachem Mendel notifies us that the first volume of the long-awaited new edition of Hayim Hirschensohn's Malki ba-Kodesh has appeared. Just last week, I came across a letter from his daughter, Nehamah, inviting someone to a lecture she was giving at the YMHA in Newark on Jewish philosophy. The letter is dated 1911. My friend Menachem Butler told me that she is better known as Nima Adlerblum, that she was a well-known writer on philosophy and education, and that her memories of early childhood in Jerusalem had been published recently. Fascinating!

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

New manuscript online

The JNUL website has now added its first Tosefta manuscript to the collection of digitized Talmudic manuscripts. Here it is. The manuscript they digitized is Berlin Staatsbibliothek Or. fol. 1220, more popularly known as Erfurt. This is the manuscript which was used by Zuckermandel as the basis for most of his edition of the Tosefta. It is an early Ashkenazic manuscript, which reflects the kind of editorial reworking found in other Ashkenazic exemplars of earlier works (Yaakov Sussman discusses this in footnote 160 of his Tarbiz article on Sefer Yerushalmi; Adiel Schremer took issue with his contention at length here). In the wake of Ta-Shma's article on the library of 11th century Ashkenaz, this is known as "ha-arikhah ha-Ashkenazit". Another thing that makes this manuscript special is the occasional vocalization, which reflects a very basic system of nikkud. It is used sporadically, probably to mark off words about which the scribe felt some uncertainty, perhaps because he was aware of another version (see Mordekhai Mishor's articles in Leshonenu 64 and 67). You can also find the full text of this manuscript transcribed online.