Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Review of Kuntress Ha-Teshuvot He-Hadash

Kuntress Ha-Teshuvot He-Hadash, A Bibliographic Thesaurus of Responsa Literature published from ca. 1470-2000, ed. Shmuel Glick, vol. II, Jerusalem & Ramat-Gan, 2007, [4], 11, 483, [4].

I have briefly mentioned previously the bibliography on the Teshuva seforim, Kuntress Ha-Teshuvot He-Hadash ("KTH"). The second of four volumes has been published and I wanted to provide a more in-depth review of this work. KTH is an update of Boaz Cohen's earlier bibliography, Kuntres Ha-Teshuvot, of Teshuvos seforim. In truth, however, this is far from a standard bibliography and when viewed as merely a bibliography it falls short. There are two basic types of Jewish bibliography works. The first is a "standard" bibliography and contains a meticulous entry of the publication information of a book. So in this type the reader gets the title, author, page count, size and various editions. The second type, while sometimes less exact on the technical side makes up for that by including additional information either about the contents of the book or the author. An shining example of the second type is the Hida's Shem HaGedolim. KTH, while it has some of the first type is much stronger if viewed as in the Shem HaGedolim category.

KTH provides the basic information for each entry. The information includes: title, author, place[s] the author lived, years the author lived, a description of the book, sources for biographical information on the author, various printings of the book, and where the editors have seen the book recorded. In the bibliographical sense, KTH does not attempt to provide information on every printing of a particular book. Thus, one looking for a complete history of printing will be disappointed. That said, today, with the ease of viewing almost every major library's catalog online locating a particular edition is not too difficult.

Instead, what KTH provides is something a typical library catalog cannot - detailed information on the content of the books. For many, although not all, of the books listed in KTH there are detailed description of many of the questions that appear in the book in question. And, I cannot emphasis enough how much information they provide at times it is amazing as not only do they provide the details of the book itself the editors also provide articles on the topic in question or citations to other books that discuss the same or a similar question. A few examples from the literally hundreds of such entries. In the entry for מלחמות אלקים by R. Bernard Illowy (2266) they list some of the teshuvos in the sefer one is teshuva no. 4:

סי' 4: תשובות מאת המחבר ומאת ר' שמשון רפאל הירש ור' נתן אדלר בעניין כשרות עוף הברברי . . . על הפולמוס בעניין עוף זה, ועל תשובות המחבר, ראה ז' עמר וא' זיבטפסקי, "כשרות הברברי והמולרד", המעין מד, א (תשס"ד) עמ' 35-42, נ"י וינברגר, "והעוף ירב בארץ", ישורון יד (תשס"ד) עמ' תתקט-תתקלא

KTH is full of such entries. Another example, is the entry for מקוה ישראל (no. 2438) one of the books on the controversy regarding the mikvah in Rovigo. Again not only is the controversy mentioned merely as it appears in the book, instead, a nice bibliography on the controversy generally is provided. To wit,

על הפולמוס ראה: גרשון כהן, "לתולדות הפולמוס על סתם יינם באיטליה ומקורותיו," סיני עז (תשל"ה) עמ' סב-צ, יהודה בלוי, כתבי הרב יהודה אריה ממודינא, בודאפשט תרס"ו, עמ' 127-137, י' זנה, "הבדותה על דבר הספר מלחמות ה' בעניין המקוה מרוויגו", קרית ספר י (תרצ"ד), עמ' 360-364, מ' בניהו,"ספרים שחיברם ר' משה חאג'יז וספרים שהוצים לאור", עלי ספר ב (תשל"ו) עמ' 132 הע' 31, וראה עוד על הפולמוס ועל הדף "בשם ה'" שצורף לספר, מחקרי ספר, עמ' 420-429. וראה גם י' יודלוב, "פסקי דין של רבני ויניציאה משנת שס"ט" סיני מג (תשל"ט) עמ' קסו-קעב הע' 11

Or, the entry for the נודע ביהודה, the editors (no. 2627) document the well-worn and imaginary story that some editions of the נודע ביהודה were changed. Specifically, the famous teshuva discussing the recitation of לשם יחוד ends with a sharp barb at Hassidim. R. Landau substituted חסידים for פושעים. Many have recorded that in some editions this was changed back to the original reading. While that might be a good story there is no evidence that in any edition the passage in question was ever altered from the original. The entry lists many of those who record the story albeit with slightly different facts (they analyze the following sources: Beis Rebbi, Mekor Barukh, MiDor Dor, Medi Hodesh b'Hodsho, Imrei Shammai, and Mofesh HaDor) and then demonstrates the falicy of the story. Just two small additions to the entry are worthwhile pointing out. First, although many who record the story are listed, Dr. Sperber, in Minhagei Yisrael also was taken by this story (vo. 2 p. 118). Second, the only source provided that discusses the permissabilty of reciting לשם יחוד is the Hida in Machzik Berakha, O"C, 231:1. At the very least, R. Chaim Czernovitz, Sha'ar Ha-Teffilah should be mentioned as it is an attempt to rebut the position of R. Landau. See also Sperber's discussion in Minhagei Yisrael, vol. 2 115-18, vol. 3 186-209.

The entry for מספד תמרורים (no. 2366) states:
עמ' 7-8: "נשאלתי בהא דנוהגי' הגבאי' בהלוי' המת כשיש בידם הקופות שקוראי' 'צדקה תציל ממות' דהרי הוי לועג לרש וחרף עושהו וממש דמגרה עם המת שלכן מת כיון שלא נתן צדקה ואלו הי' נותן צדקה לא הי' מת? ע"כ

Aside from the "extraneous" information, information about various printings is provided as well. In the entry for the נחלת שבעה (no. 2667) the editors note that Efrahim Koffer found an autograph manuscript of the work that contains additional teshuvot and information. The editors also note that this new material was included in the 2006 edition of the נחלת שבעה. The editors point out, however, that in the 2006 edition they were "unaware" that Koffer found and published this additional material first. Moreover, the editors provide additional information on other manuscripts of the נחלת שבעה. Other entries contain which editions are lacking or have been changed.

The entries also provide sources for biographical information of the authors. The sources run the gamut from academic sources to biographies in the Yated Ne'eman (see, e.g. no. 2057).
All the information provided makes this a highly readable work and more importantly, provides the reader with much information that is difficult to locate otherwise. This work when competed in four volumes, will be the standard work in the field.

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