Sunday, February 08, 2009

Review of Quntres

Review of Quntres

by B. Jackson


First, a quick note regarding Prof. Haym Soloveitchik's apparent position that anonymous critiques are inappropriate.  It appears that his position overlooks at least one example of just that.  As Dan Rabinowitz has pointed out in a prior post, R. Shmuel Aboab authored an ethical work which critiqued some of the perceived laxity of the day but did so anonymously.  


Turning to the new online journal Quntres: An Online Journal for the History, Culture, and Art of the Jewish Book. This online only journal, which focuses on the history of the Jewish book has just published its inaugural issue. The editors explain that they view this journal as a "to continue the tradition of scholarship dedicated to the history of the Jewish book once represented in Europe in Hebräische Bibliographie and the Zeitschrift für hebräische Bibliographie, then transplanted to Israel in Kiryat Sefer, and now taking on a virtual form at the libraries of the Jewish Theological Seminary."  Although not noted, arguably there have been such journals in America already such as the Jewish Book Annual.  Additionally, in Israel, Ali Sefer, although on extended hiatus, has recently been restarted (soon to be reviewed). Be that as it may, any addition to the study of the Hebrew book is most welcome.  


This issue contains four articles, three in English and one in Hebrew.  The first two articles are articles truly devoted to Hebrew bibliography.   Marvin J. Heller, a prolific writer in this field, already having authored his excellent studies on the printing of the Talmud as well as his Abridged Thesauruses of the Hebrew book, turns his keen eye to unraveling the bibliographical history of the Sefer ha-Kavanot.  Indeed, this issue is also dealt with by Yosef Avivi, in his recent bibliography of writings of the Arizal.  The second article, by Jordan S. Penkower is also of interest to Hebrew bibliographies as well as students of the Bible.  In particular, Penkower traces the history of Norzi's Introduction to his Minhat Shai.  As most are aware, Minhat Shai, is a fundamental work on textual variants of the Bible, and the introduction, not included in the first edition of Norzi's work - nor many other editions - is important as well.  Penkower has published other similar bibliographical and Bible related studies such as his articles on the verse divisions of the Bible, the chapter divisions of the Bible and his seminal article which is steeped in bibliographical finds on the pronunciation of the word "zekher."[1] The final English article, while not directly devoted to Hebrew bibliography is still of interest to the history of Hebrew bibliography as it is an appreciation of Moritz Steinschneider, one of the most important Hebrew bibliographers of all time.


The final article, in Hebrew, is by Shmuel Glick and discusses some examples of censorship in the responsa literature.  Glick, of course, is the editor of the Kuntress ha-Teshuvot he-Hadash project (two volumes have already been completed [see reviews here and here], with the third and final volume set to appear this summer) and thus is perfectly placed to write such an article.  Indeed, Glick mentions the project in many footnotes for additional details. The start of the article is not all that promising as Glick trots out the well worn example of the responsa of the Rema regarding yayin nesach.  This is one of the most well known examples of censorship in responsa literature.  Many have discussed this example, but curiously Glick doesn't reference most of the scholarly literature on the topic.  For example, Asher Siev, in his edition of the She'elot u-Teshuvot ha-Rema discusses this as does Daniel Sperber in Minhagei Yisrael. [2]  Neither source is mentioned. Another omission is Glick's discussion of the responsa of R. David Tzvi Hoffmann.  Glick notes that in the Kest-Leibowitz edition a responsum regarding headcovering is removed.  It appears that Glick was unaware of Dan Rabinowitz's article (see here) where he notes this as well as other examples of censorship specific to headcovering.  One other example that Glick discusses should also be augmented. Glick mentions the responsum of R. Ezekiel Landau regarding a suspected case of adultery.  The responsum contains graphic details discussing the alleged act.  David Katz, "A Case Study in the Formation of a Super-Rabbi: The Early Years of Rabbi Ezekiel Landau, 1713-1754," (PhD dissertation, University of Maryland, 2004), 228-248, provides much in the way of background with regard to this case.  While it is possible that Glick didn't see this dissertation, the sources Katz provides should be added to the single source Glick provides.  One other addition regards the Hatam Sofer's responsum discussing metiziah be-peh. Glick correctly notes that this responsum was subject to much controversy whether it was authored by Hatam Sofer.  While Glick provides a few sources, he fails to mention that Jacob Katz has written an excellent article on the topic  -  see  Jacob Katz, "The Controversy Over the Mezizah," Halakhah in Straits: Obstacles to Orthodoxy at its Inception (Jerusalem: Magnes Press, 1992), 150–183 (Hebrew), translated in idem, "The Controversy Over the Mezizah: The Unrestricted Execution of the Rite of Circumcision," in Divine Law in Human Hands: Case Studies in Halakhic Flexibility (Jerusalem: Hebrew University Magnes Press, 1998), 357-402 as well as the more recent article by Shlomo Sprecher, "Mezizah be-Peh: Therapeutic Touch or Hippocratic Vestige," Hakirah 3 (September 2006): 15-66. 


Another example of responsa censorship that Glick provides bears mentioning because Glick's discussion supplements the discussion in Kuntress ha-Teshuvot.  Glick, in this article, mentions the removal of the responsum from R. Y. Greenwald to R. Sonnefeld regarding joining the Agudah from Greenwald's Zikrhon Yehuda.  In Kuntress ha-Teshuvot, Glick questions Miamon's story regarding how and why this responsum was removed.  Maimon claimed that as Greenwald argued against joining the Agudah, the Agudah purchased all the copies of Greenwald's responsa and removed and substituted a different responsum.  Unfortunately, the censors failed to change the index to reflect the alteration and in all copies, the index records a responsum discussing joining the Agudah and in some editions the responsum in question (no. 210) deals with that while in others it deals with the issue of eating on the eve of Yom Kippur.  Glick, however, questions this in Kuntress noting various problems with Maimon's story.  (See Kuntress ha-Teshuvot, vol. 1, no. 1310).  Now, Glick provides additional material that appears to indicate that Maimon was wrong.  In particular, Glick cites Schisa's article where Schisa provides a very different version of what happened. Namely, that the printers, in order to be able to sell this work at a convention that was an Agudah convention, on their own switched the responsum in question.  According to this version, the alteration was for profit not ideology.  Curiously, Glick makes no mention that the article considerably augments what appears in Kuntress ha-Teshuvot.      


Of course, the balance of Glick's article is very interesting and provides some lesser known examples of censorship in responsa literature.  Two technical notes.  First, in Glick's article he refers to non-existent page numbers.  That is, he references pages in his article (see, e.g.,  pp. 43, 65 n.56, 69 n.66) that are internally incorrect.  Second, although this journal is published digitally, the format is somewhat poor.  In particular, the lines are justified but, rather than get all the words on a single line, a considerable amount of words are broken up and hyphenated.  This makes for difficult to reading both digitally and in hard copy.    


[1] See Jordan S. Penkower, "The Chapter Divisions of the 1525 Rabbinic Bible," Vetus Testamentum 48:3 (July 1998): 350-74; idem, "Verse Divisions in the Hebrew Bible," Vetus Testamentum 50:3 (July 2000): 379-93; idem, "Minhag and Mesorah: On the Recent Ashkenazi Custom of Double Vocalization of זכר עמלק (Deut. 25:19)," in R. Kasher, M. Sipor, Y. Sarfati, eds., Iyenei Mikrah u-Parshanut 4 (Ramat Gan: Bar-Ilan University Press, 1997), 71-128.


[2] Teshuvot ha-Rama, Ziv. ed. no. 124, and pp. 66-67; D. Sperber, Minhagei Yisrael, (Jerusalem: Mossad ha-Rav Kook, 1991), vol. 2, p. 56 n.26; D. Sperber, Netivot Pesikah (Jerusalem: Reuven Mass, 2008), pp. 104-14; Y.S. Spiegel, Amudim be-Tolodot ha-Sefer ha-Ivri Ketivah ve-Hataka (Ramat Gan: Bar Ilan University Press, 2007), p. 273 and the notes therein.

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