Saturday, March 28, 2009

Sefer ha-Gan

As Passover looms near (in the light of the waning sun-cycle), so does the Mossad Ha-Rav Kook booksale that follows it. One of the new books on sale this year is Sefer ha-Gan. I didn't see further details (except the price - NIS55), but I'm assuming that this is the long-awaited edition of Sefer ha-Gan, based upon J. Mitchell Orlian's PhD dissertation from 1981.

A few comments on Sefer ha-Gan are therefore in order. It is a biblical commentary from 13th century France, attributed to Aharon ben Joseph ben Aharon (on whom see Avraham Grossman's article in the Aharon Mirsky festschrift, Be-Orah Madda). I once looked at the manuscript of Sefer ha-Gan and found that it is an Ashkenazic manuscript of the Pentateuch, with Massorah and Rashi in the margins. There are also little circles with micrographic writing inside them - that's Sefer ha-Gan. It's amazing that Orlian has managed to produce a book out of such daunting materials.

The field of Ashkenazic biblical commentary is sorely under-explored. Until recently, the only studies were those by Yitshak Shimshon Lange of Zurich from the 1970s. Now we can add Joy Rochwarger's MA thesis from Touro College on Pa'aneah Raza (Jerusalem 2000) and Hazoniel Tuito's doctorate on Minhat Yehudah, completed at Bar Ilan University in 2004. Hopefully, Prof Ephraim Kanarfogel's next book will provide a wider perspective on this literature, its cultural context and exegetical agenda.

UPDATE: Prof. Kanarfogel pointed out to me that Grossman's article is about a different person by the same name.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Limmud Cambridge Day

Check it out.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Another tombstone from Perani

He also showed a gravestone whose text was engraved with mistakes, and so the workmen put it aside. Hundreds of years later, in the 20th century, it was reused as the base of a barbecue. In the picture above you can see Perani shoveling away 60 years of pig grease to reveal the tombstone.

Perani’s Epitaphs at ASSEI

The Association for the Study of the History of the Jews in Italy (ASSEI) held its first conference last week, at Tel Aviv University. One of the speakers was Prof Mauro Perani of Bologna, a person I have know by reputation and email for a long time but whom I had never met before.

His lecture presented the Jewish gravestones that he has found in the area of Mantua. Not an extremely interesting topic, but he had some cool stuff to show.

Jews in Northern Italy sometimes made their gravestones in the shape of cylinders. He showed the gravestone of Rabbi Moses Zacuto, which is preserved in a museum somewhere in Italy. But two others, including that of the brother of Rabbi Aviad Sar Shalom Basilea, can be found guarding the entrance to an Italian pizzeria.