Sunday, December 30, 2007

Review of R. Yosef Engel's Tiferes Yosef

Review of Tiferes Yosef
by Eliezer Brodt

Tiferes Yosef, Sefer Shemos, R. Yosef Engel, ed. Friedman, Mochon Ohavei Torah, Monsey, NY, 595 pages, 2007. [845. 426.6152]
About four years ago I noticed in the seforim store a sefer called תפראת יוסף. It caught my attention immediately because it said מאוצרות הגאון ר' יוסף ענגיל זצ"ל and I am a big חסיד of R. Engel as I am sure many are. I purchased the sefer after looking at it for a few minutes being satisfied with what I saw. This was the first volume which was just on חומש בראשית. A year ago the much awaited first volume of חומש שמות came out. What follows is a short review of this terrific work.

As is well known ר' יוסף ענגיל besides for being a tremendous גאון was also a prolific writer. See, e.g., N. Lamm, Seventy Faces, p. 61 (noting that R. Engel is "one of the most brilliant and underestimated figures of pre-World War II Europe"). On his tombstone it says he left behind over 101 works on all topics ready to be printed. His grandson lists in his book on ר' יוסף ענגיל what they were, including a 36 volume encyclopedia work to complete his בית האוצר. After his death his son in law was able to print a few of the works. Unfortunately, the rest, as was the case with many other great people’s works, the manuscripts were lost during WWII. The one exception being R. Engel’s work of his on מסכת קידושין that the grandson, R. Dovid Morgenstern, was able to save called שארית יוסף (it is also printed under the name חוסן יוסף. R. Morgenstern, however, writes that people who printed the חוסן יוסף stole it from him and even made mistakes when printing it). In the past few years some additional pieces of his have been discovered and printed in various torah journals such as ישורון and כרם שלמה.

In the past few years especially (although it was done to some seforim years ago) the seforim market has witnessed many attempts some successful and many not of systematically gathering torah of different גדולים and putting them in various orders. Meaning gaon x wrote much on shas so they gather all that he said on Chumash or hashkafic topics and put it in order making his torah much more accessible. Rabbi Friedman decided to do the same for all of ר' יוסף ענגיל works. He collected from everything that ר' יוסף ענגיל wrote on including some manuscripts he got a hold of and put it out according to the order of the torah – so far just on בראשית and part of שמות.

But you are probably wondering what is so special about this job? The answer is the amazing skill of Rabbi Friedman at piecing together everything. As is well know ר' יוסף ענגיל had a tremendous בקיאות in all areas of torah including ירושלמי and קבלה, nothing escaped him. Besides for all this he is known for having amazing perspective in everything going deep into understanding everything. Often R. Engel brings amazing proofs from all over. Many times, throughout his writings, he references something he wrote elsewhere and thus the only way to properly understand him is to see all the places he has written on the topic But many times he does not even tell you that he explains this more elsewhere. Many times the additional points are in places you would never expect him to talk about the point you’re looking into. What Rabbi Friedman did was to put it all together every piece is presented beautifully organized with footnotes where necessary including explanations from ר' יוסף ענגיל words elsewhere on the topic. Many times he brings how other אחרונים explain the words of ר' יוסף ענגיל other times he explains it himself.

Besides for all this Rabbi Friedman gives you the exact reference for all the wide range of sources that ר' יוסף ענגיל quotes. He also includes many other references from other people who talk about the same topics. Going thru this work one can find all types and styles of תורה that one might be interested in on the פרשה . Any מגיד שיעור or רב can find a wealth of information or at least a spring board to give lectures on חומש from here. There are also excellent indexes in the back of each volume because of the great wealth of topics included in each sefer. Besides for all this in the back of the first volume he includes a nice biography on .ר' יוסף ענגיל All in all I feel this is a great job and almost anyone can benefit from it. One can just hope that Rabbi Friedman is able to complete the entire חומש.

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