Monday, December 24, 2007

A few new things

A new volume of David Weiss Halivni's Mekorot u-Masorot, on Baba Batra. It includes an extensive introduction, explicating Halivni's positions on the redaction of the Bavli.

Shenaton le-Heker ha-Mikra veha-Mizrah ha-Kadum, vol. 17, includes two articles on Rashbam (one on his biblical commentary and another on his grammatical work, Deyakot), one on Pseudo-Rashi to Chronicles, and Jordan Penkower's article, which I've been waiting to see for a few years, on the biblical textual tradition of early Ashkenaz. TOC here. As I understand it, Penkower's goal is to demonstrate that the text of the Hebrew bible is not represented by a single tradition - exemplified by the Aleppo Codex - which Ashkenazic scribes strayed from, but rather that there was an alternative tradition which Ashkenazim actually followed carefully. Over time, their tradition was forgotten and it became contaminated with the other tradition, producing texts with mixed traditions. But I haven't seen the article, so I may be totally off. In any case, I'm sure it's an important article.

A friend sent me details of a festschrift being published in honour of Shamma Friedman, and a gathering this Wednesday to launch it, at the Schechter Institute. Speakers will include Daniel Sperber, Mordechai Akiva Friedman, and a punning presentation by Moshe Benovitz titled 'Shamma Garim' (a reference to Friedman's article 'Ha-shem gorem' in Ve-eleh Shemot 2, 1999).

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Auction results

I've been curious to see how my perception of a manuscript's importance compares to the price it brings at auction. Now I'm watching the results of the Sotheby's auction I mentioned recently.

The Yemenite Torah scroll, the earliest of its kind, went for $193,000. A medieval Spanish humash, which sounds nice but not unique, surpassed that at $217,000.

The Samaritan manuscript, which contains two Arabic sermons and can be dated to the early 14th century, started out with a low appraisal of $5000. I had a feeling it would go higher, with people jumping at the bargain, and indeed it was sold at a final price of $25,000. It is a very small manuscript, only two quires.

Sefatayim Yishak, a printed page from the Emden-Eybeshuetz affair, was bought for $16,250, well above the expected price. Controversy sells.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

German studies of Hebrew manuscripts

Prof. Andreas Lehnardt's recently published study of the Kassel Talmud fragments is available in full-text here. The fragments are from a Spanish manuscript and they contain pages from tractates Pesahim and Yoma.

Moritz Steinschneider's online presence has been significantly augmented by the Jewish National Library's Digitized Book Repository. They seem to have scanned all of his German books, as well as the Hebrew translation of his general work 'Sifrut Yisrael'.

All of which should spur me on to learn German properly. Languages don't come easily to me.

Speaking of which - someone once told me how Prof. Moshe Bar Asher shut himself in a room for a couple of days, and emerged having taught himself Ugaritic. A few weeks ago, I mentioned the appearance of a festschrift in Bar Asher's honour. It is titled Shaarei Lashon. A man with a cold (I hope he's feeling better now) sent me the contents of two out of the three volumes of the festschrift.

Of the many articles in these volumes, I'll mention a few that sounded interesting to me:

Abraham Goldberg - 'Keini Matnita': An Interpretative Remark or a Different Reading?
Joseph Yahalom - 'Homonyms in Hebrew and Judeo-Greek'
Hananel Mack - 'The History of a Hebrew Manuscript'
Mordechay Mishor - 'Hebrew in the Babylonian Incantation Bowls'
Shlomo Naeh - 'Karyana de-Igreta - Notes on Talmudic Diplomatics'
Israel Ta-Shma - 'Remarks on the Early Byzantine Texts from ca. 1000 CE'

Monday, December 10, 2007


Menachem Butler is back with a new blog all his own. Stay tuned to Michtavim.

Sotheby's is having an auction of "Important Judaica" next week. It includes several Hebrew manuscripts. A few items that were sold a few years ago at the Montefiore auction. The earliest extant Yemenite Torah scroll. A Yemenite manuscript of Ketuvim by a member of the Benayah family, who were famed for their scribal skills. A Mahzor Roma (a siddur following the rite of Jews in Rome) that belonged until recently to Prof. Ariel Toaff.

(My thanks to Prof. Jordan Penkower for pointing out an inaccuracy in my description of the Benayah manuscript)

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Sarajevo Haggadah

Fascinating and sad story about Dervis Korkut, who saved the Sarajevo Haggadah and a Sarajevan Ha-Shomer Ha-Tzairnikit from the Nazis, in the New Yorker.

Sansoni and his cuddly friends

Jewish amulets are back in fashion. As noticed by someone, the shapes used to represent Sanoi, Sansoni and Samonglif in early modern Jewish amulets for the protection of children from Lilith look pretty cool. So a guy from Maale Gilboa has turned them into toys, selling at FAO Schwartz.