Monday, October 26, 2009

Southern France at Bialik

Mosad Bialik has just published two books on the Jewish communities of Southern France. One is the pinkas of the Jewish community in Carpentras, from the 18th century. It is one of the rich ironies of Jewish history that, after 1497, the only Jews living openly in Western Europe (west of Italy, that is) were the Jews living in the Papal States.

By that time, the Jewish communities of the area lacked the vitality and creativity they were known for in earlier times. But they did preserve their liturgical tradition, which contains many indigenous piyyutim. Those piyyutim are the subject of a major new study by Binyamin Bar-Tikvah, who previously published a monograph on the work of one of those medieval poets, Isaac ha-Seniri.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Book history

A cool event devoted to an important genre of literature - detective fiction!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Medieval Iberia

A workshop on new research into medieval Iberia is taking place at Hofstra University on November 6th. Some details here, though none I could find about the content. For a very brief explanation of some new research being done on Jews in 14th century Aragon who requested permission from the king to practice polygamy, see here.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009


The Leon Levy Foundation has put a lot of money into funding digitization and conservation of archives (including several archives that I catalogued). Like this Friday ketubah. And the Simonsen collection in Copenhagen is also online, which is very cool. The most famous manuscript there is, I think, this copy of Maimonides' responsa, though some people have other interests. Their interface is very user-friendly, and doesn't require downloading any special software, unlike another library I could mention.

Friday, October 09, 2009

Yemen, again

The latest volume of the venerable REJ is now available online. It includes an article by Dr M Morgenstern on the textual value of the Yemenite manuscripts of the Babylonian Talmud. Morgenstern is working on a comprehensive grammar of Jewish Babylonian Aramaic, based primarily on Oriental manuscripts (of the Talmud and the Geonic literature) and on magic bowls. His conclusion in this article is that from a linguistic perspective, the Yemenite manuscripts are contaminated by outside influences, and sometimes are simply mistaken.

Correction: Dr Morgenstern pointed out to me that he was discussing the Yemenite reading tradition, not necessarily the text of Yemenite manuscripts.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Hebrew manuscript fragments in Morocco

An upcoming conference advertised on H-Judaic, taking place in Paris in November, sounds very cool. The unspecific title is 'Ongoing research on Hebrew manuscripts at EPHE: present and future'. I'll mention two lectures that sound interesting. One is by Justine Isserles (who is/was? working on Mahzor Vitry last I heard) about MS Parma de Rossi 403 (a fascinating French halakhic compendium - see Simcha Emanuel, Shivre Luhot, p. 300) and haroset.
There will be another lecture by Judith Kogel about fragments from Alsace. One about fragments from South-West France and Switzerland. And Wissem Gueddich is speaking about Hebrew manuscript fragments from Morocco. I wish I could be there (and that my French were good enough for me to understand the lectures).

Lulav as victory sign

This midrashic idea expressed last night - here. While performing this song.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Modena Genizah and astrology

A new issue of Aleph - the journal for the study of science and Jewish history - has appeared. TOC here. It includes an article about a binding fragment recently detached in Modena containing passages from two astrological books by Ibn Ezra. Some of the other fragments are described here.

Friday, October 02, 2009


Dr Aviram Ravitsky, with whom I was lucky enough to take a couple of courses when he was still working on his doctorate, has just published his second book, based on aforementioned doctorate. His first book was a critical edition of Sha'are Tsedek, a commentary on the Baraita de-R. Yishma'el often attributed to Gersonides. His new book deals with the larger phenomenon of philosophical commentaries on that Baraita which attempt to align it with the principles of Aristotelian logic. An essay of his on the topic can be found here.