Monday, July 21, 2008

On love

After a very long wait, the Eric Zimmer Jubilee Volume was recently published. It includes an article by Prof. Simcha Emanuel titled 'Bitul Shiduchin', on the phenomenon of canceled engagements and the Jewish communal responses to this phenomenon in medieval Europe. After presenting the sources from France (where the possibility of engagements becoming annulled elicited the most extreme reactions) and Germany, Emanuel publishes a lengthy responsum probably composed by Rabbi Abraham Mintz of Padua. The way in which Emanuel determines the identity of the respondent is one of the highlights of the article. The issue at hand involved a young woman who was promised in marriage by her father, when she was a small girl, to a certain boy. After growing up a little, she didn't want to marry him, and her father found her a more suitable mate. The relatives of the first boy were livid that their agreement was so easily forgotten. The father responded that if his daughter didn't want to marry the boy, there was nothing he could do about it. The central point of the responsum is to claim that it was the father's duty to persuade his daughter, by any means, to stick with the plan. Her feelings have nothing to do with it.

It's interesting that in another recent festschrift, a similar discussion was presented from an almost contemporary rabbi in the same cultural region of Italy. Jeffrey Woolf described, in Turim II, a responsum by Eliyahu Capsali of Crete. A young man had found the love of his life, but his father was opposed to the match. Capsali wrote a responsum defending the son's right to choose his own mate. According to Woolf, Capsali was influenced by Renaissance mores of individualism values.

Speaking of Eliyahu Capsali - in a collection of articles on Umberto Cassutto, Malachi Beit Arie described Cassutto's work on the Hebrew manuscripts in the Vatican library. One of Cassutto's discoveries was that the core of the Ebraica collection in the Vatican came, ultimately, from the library of Eliyahu Capsali. His collection included one of the most important Hebrew manuscripts in existence, Vatican Ebr. 66. I hope to include an appreciation of this manuscript in my biography series soon.

Beit Arie's interest in Cassutto's work was, of course, an outgrowth of his own paleographic descriptions of the entire collection of Hebrew manuscripts in the Vatican libraries. Those descriptions, along with complete bibliographic entries, are now available (to the lucky few) in the newly published catalogue of Hebrew Manuscripts in the Vatican Library, described below:

Hebrew Manuscripts in the Vatican Library; Catalogue, compiled by the staff
of the Institute of Microfilmed Hebrew Manuscripts in the Jewish National and
University Library, Jerusalem, edited by Benjamin Richler, palaeographical and
codicological descriptions by Malachi Beit-Arié in collaboration with Nurit
Pasternak. Città del Vaticano, Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, 2008 (Studi e
Testi 438). xxvii + 682 + 66 pp.+ 16 colour plates. The first comprehensive
catalogue of the Hebrew manuscripts kept in the Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana.
The catalogue, written in English with titles and citations in Hebrew, describes
all 803 Hebrew manuscripts found in the Vatican Library before 2007. Previous
catalogues written in Latin or Hebrew were either incomplete or very brief. The
present catalogue includes detailed descriptions of the contents, detailed
palaeographical and codicolological descriptions and transcriptions of colophons
and owners' entries. There are indexes of persons (authors, scribes, owners
etc.) subjects, place names, other manuscripts mentioned and illuminated
manuscripts and, in Hebrew letters, of piyyutim and poems and titles. The
history of the collection is included in the historical introduction by Delio
Vania Proverbia on pp. xv-xxiii.List price: 120 Euro.