Monday, August 27, 2007

Carmi Horowitz: A Critique of Two New Reprints

A Critique of Two New Reprints
by Carmi Horowitz *

Two new works have recently appeared on the market: a new edition of Midrash Lekah Tov and a new edition of the Perush on Sefer Yezirah of R. Yehudah b. Barzilai Barceloni. The following is based on an initial perusal of the two works. I have not read through the entire volumes.

I.

The new edition of Lekah Tov consists of three volumes published by Zikhron Aharon Jerusalem with a forward by Yonatan Blier. The first volume is on Bereshit and Shemot, the second on Vayikra, Bemidbar and Devarim and the third the five Megillot. All three volumes are newly typeset, clearly and beautifully printed with the Biblical verses commented on printed in clear bold type on very good quality paper, and handsomely bound. The volumes are aesthetically attractive and elegant.

The first volume contains R. Salomon Buber’s edition of Lekah Tov on Bereshit and Shemot, with his introduction and comments. The only addition that has been added beyond the original Buber edition are the scattered comments of R. Yeruham Perlow (author of the encyclopedic commentary on R. Saadia Gaon’s Sefer Hamitzvot). If collected, the comments would make up not more than two or three pages at the most. Buber’s introduction was moved to the end of the third volume. The typesetters of the new volume obviously did not have Greek on their computers. Thus Buber’s Greek references in the introductory essay were simply skipped. The Greek references in the footnotes to the text were literally (physically) cut and pasted from a printed edition. Thus beyond the aesthetics there is almost nothing new in this volume.

The second volume of Lekah Tov contains Vayikra, Bemidbar and Devarim with the commentary of R. Aharon Moshe Padwe of Karlin, all reset from the original Vilna 5681-4 edition. In addition this volume contains newly printed the commentary by R. Avraham Palaggi, the son of R. Hayyim Pallagi (author of Kaf Hahayyim et al). The commentary itself has very little to do with the Lekah Tov. It is a series of derashot or pilpulim based mainly on the works of the Ketav Sofer and adds very little to the understanding of the work. This volume also has scattered comments of Rabbi Perlow.

The only volume that is really useful is the third volume which contains the Lekah Tov to all the five Megillot with whatever comments the original editors added. To the best of my knowledge the Lekah Tov to the Megillot has not been collected until now, and thus only in this volume is there some real added value beyond the new typesetting.

II.

The Perush Sefer Yezirah of R. Yehuda b. Barzilai Barceloni was published once before by Shlomo Zalman Hayyim Halberstam in Berlin in 1885 with a detailed introduction. The present edition was published in 5767 (2007) by Aharon Barzani and Son, Tel Aviv with an introduction by Amnon Gross. The book is clearly printed and well bound; the text is divided into sentences and paragraphs, which was not done in the original edition. The division into sentences and paragraphs is the main contribution of this edition. The original edition did not contain any footnotes or sources. It contained an introduction by Halberstam which was partially reprinted in this volume. The editor Amnon Gross eliminated form the introduction the list of R. Yehuda Barceloni’s sources saying that they are now noted in the new text and hence it is unnecessary to include them in the introduction (!!). Indeed Gross inserted source references in the text, but they are inserted on a haphazard and inconsistent basis.

The original edition of the commentary on Sefer Yezirah contained important appendixes of Halberstam, David Kaufmann and Jacob Reifman. Those appendixes were not reprinted in this volume although only some of the corrections in these appendixes were incorporated into the text, again on an inconsistent basis.

I did not check the integrity of the text itself to see whether Gross accurately reproduced Halberstam’s text; in light of all the other inconsistencies in the editing – hashdehu.

In summary both publications are disappointing. The first has very little that is new, and the second is edited in such a careless fashion as to make one prefer the original printing.

*Professor Carmi Horowitz received his semikhah at the Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary (RIETS), an affiliate of Yeshiva University, where he studied with R. Joseph B. Soloveitchik. He received his doctorate from Harvard University (1979) where he wrotes his dissertation was on “A Literary-Historical Analysis of the Sermons of R. Joshua Ibn Shu’eib,” under the direction of Prof. Isadore Twersky. He has published on that topic as well as on the Rashba, the Mabit and on the Derashah literature. After teaching at Ben Gurion University he headed Touro's Graduate School of Jewish Studies in Jerusalem and is now Rector of Machon Lander in Jerusalem (an independent academic institution). This is his first contribution to the Seforim blog.

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