Sunday, March 04, 2018

Legacy Judaica Auction March 6th: A Sampling of Forgeries and other Eclectic Lots

Legacy Judaica's next auction will occur on March 6, 2018.  The 220 lots include very rare books such as the first edition of the Yerushalmi and a letter from R. Tzvi Ashkenazi (Hakham Tzvi) (the entire catalog can be accessed here), there are many other interesting books and letters.

Conditional marriage has been applied since at least the talmudic period if not early.  The exact circumstances and necessary predicates have evolved over time and especially in the modern period when marriage and divorce were slowly wrested from the exclusive control of the clergy and the state began to involve itself permitting some to circumvent the religious process entirely, the issue of annulments became acuter.  Annulments were among the only methods that would free a woman whose husband proceed to receive a secular divorce but not a religious one.  In France, in the early 20th century a scheme to make conditional marriage the norm and avoid later issues was proposed.  But this met with fierce opposition from many rabbis, and to counter that proposal in 1930 in Vilna a book, Ein Tenie be-Nissuin, that contained signatures of 400 rabbis was published in protest.  The book also contains an introduction by the leading Posek, R. Chaim Ozer.  (Lot 21).  

Another contemporary controversy related to something much older, the Talmud Yerushalmi. In the first decade of the 20th century, Shlomo Friedlander published a few volumes from the Kodshim order that hereto had never been published (lot 47).  Allegedly these were from a manuscript, but many doubted their authenticity. R. Meir Don Plotski, the author of the biblical commentary, Kli Hemdah, devoted an entire book, Sha'lu Shelom Yerushalim, (lot 43) to disproving that Friedlander's edition was legitimate. (Dr. Shlomo Sprecher Zt"L reprinted the book in 1991 with a new introduction and a biography of R Poltski).  Friedlander also published less controversial books including his commentary on the Tosefta (lot 48). 

Although not controversial, another attempt to link the present with the past is a curious book, Sefer ha-Brit ha-Hadash, written by Uziel Haga of Boston (lot 130).  He petitioned and received permission from President McKinley to accompany the U.S. military on a tour of China.  Haga's purpose was to see first hand and document the lifestyles and customs of Chinese Jews.  Among other items, he asserted that the Jews Kaifeng in the Hunan Province are descendants of the Ten Tribes. If his identification is correct, that may explain Jews' affinity for Chinese cuisine.  Haga never made it back from China, he was imprisoned and killed by the Boxers.   Although Haga's book was printed in Pietrekov, one book, Mishberi Yam, (lot 131) was published in China.  

Returning to forgeries, the compendium of R. Zechariah Yeshayahu Yolles, Ha-Torah veha-Hayyim, (lot 24), includes his Dover Mesharim that disproves the attribution of a certain work to R. Mordechai Yaffa (Levush).  Yolles' position was vehemently disputed by R. Moshe Sofer (although Yolles defended him in a different controversy) and Sofer's letter appears in this volume.  The book is also noteworthy because it includes a portrait of Yolles in the frontispiece.  

Among the books with distinguished owners include a copy of Mishnei Torah that belonged to R. Yosef Dov Soloveitchik, (Beis HaLevi) (lot 151) and R. Hayim Volozhiner's copy of Mesorot Seyag le-Torah. Most of R. Hayim's library was destroyed in a fire, but this book had been on loan to R. Yaakov of Ivenitz, and thus was spared the fate of the rest of books.  (Regarding the two bibliographical topics of fire and lending, see Abraham Ya'ari, Mehkerei Sefer, 47-54 (discussing books printed after the author was saved from fire) and 179-97 (discussing book lending)). As an aside, the Mesorot Seyag le-Torah also likely contains material that is misattributed to its author.  See Wolf Heidenheim, Me'or Eynayim, comments to Exodus 27:17.

1 comment:

מרים קפלן said...

Regarding the Haga Book (no. 130 in the sale) - identical book was printed before in 1900 in Warsaw under a different title: מציאת עשרת השבטים עם הנהר סמבטיון במדינת חינא. See title page picture in : China and the Jews exhibition catalogue, Harvard, 1992 page 12. Wonder why he changed the title.

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