Friday, October 28, 2005

Minhagim Books No. 1

I hope to present a couple of post on various Minhagim books. Some will focus on communal Minhagim books, and others on the minhagim of specific people.

The Tashbetz, also known as the Tashbetz Koton to distinguish between this the teshuvot haTashbetz, are the customs of R. Meir of Rothenburg as recorded by his disciple. The disciple's name formed the title, however, it is unclear what exactly was his name. Obviously, it is linked to the title, Tashbetz. Some explain the title as Talmid Shimon ben Tzodok others say he was Talmid Shmuel ben Tzodok, or Tosefot Shimon ben Tzodok, Tosefot Shimon ben Yoitz, orTikkun instead. The book was supposedly written when R. Meir was imprisoned.

The book collects all the customs of R. Meir dealing with the holidays, prayers and everything in between. As R. Meir is one of the gedoli Ashkenaz many of his customs were followed by subsequent generations. Of course, his customs were generally highly influential also due to his students, R. Mordechi ben Hillel haKohen, author of the Mordechai code on the Talmud, R. Asher b. Yehiel (Rosh) as well as his son R. Jacob (Tur) as well as many others.

There are many fascinating customs, whose sources are from the Tashbetz. , standing during the recitation of the Torah, washing ones hands after the kiddush, eating head of a ram on Rosh haShana, saying Zikhron Terura when Rosh haShana is on Shabbat, reciting both Eloki 'ad shelo netzarti and aloki netzor on Yom Kipppur and the list goes on. There are also some key passages, which explain other unclear customs. For instance, Naftali Wieder explains a rather cryptic passage in the Tashbetz as offering a totally new rational for why some people switch the word b'Fie (Bet-Peh-Yud) in Barukh She'amar to b'Feh (Bet-Peh-Hey). According to Wieder, Fie, is a curse in numerous languages, [think fie fi fo fum] and thus, the Tashbetz is saying for that reason one must alter the word.

There is actually a new edition of this book, however, it has some rather glaring flaws. The editor of this edition, [Sefer Tashbetz haKoton, Israel, 2005 Machon Torah S'beketav] states that he used a specific manuscript for this version, namely the one that he matched up with R. Yosef Karo. From the fact that this manuscript conformed with R. Karo's readings, this was the manuscript of the Tashbatz. Why the manuscript R. Karo, who lived some 300 years after the time of the transcription of the book, is left wholly unanswered. Further, aside from matching up a couple of passages from the Tashbetz with that of R. Karo, nothing further is offered about this manuscript. The editor never dates the manuscript, talks about where it was written and by whom. In fact, the reader is left to guess whether this manuscript was written after the Shulhan Orakh and Bet Yosef and was done with the specific purpose of conforming with the readings of R. Karo. The editor never says which of the "hundreds" of manuscripts there are of the Tashbetz is actually the oldest. Only that if R. Karo may have used one then that one is dispositive of R. Meir of Rotenberg's statements. Obviously, this is absurd.

This fundamental flaw aside, there are some positive points of this reprint. The first is that they have reproduced the first edition of the Tashbetz, Cremona 1556. This is reproduced fully, including a interesting title page which can be added to a previous post of mine. The editor has also added some notes, which at times are helpful. He generally uses abbreviation in referencing other books, he includes a key to explain these abbreviations. However, he cites to R. Daniel Goldsmit's Machzor as well as Weider (cited above) but for those abbreviations, the reader is left on there on. I assume he did not want to "taint" anyone with citations to scholars that although he saw fit to use, did not wish to fully reveal to his readers.

For further reading on both R. Meir and the Tashbetz, see Arbach Ba'alei haTosefot, 552-564; Yode'a Sefer (in vol. 2 of the Roest Catalog) no. 2525; Encyclopedia Judaica 11:1247-53; N. Wieder, Hisgabsut Nusakh haTeffila b'Mizrak u'Ma'ariv (The Formation of Jewish Liturgy in the East and the West) Jerusalem 1998 469-491.

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