Thursday, December 28, 2006

Who Wrote the Mekore Minhagim?

As I have previously discussed, there is a well known work on the sources and rationale for various customs titled Mekore Minhagim. Indeed, there are two works with that very same title – by two different authors – that cover the same material. The question is which author stole from the other? I hope that I can clear this up as there still appears to be a misconception about who is the plagiarizer.

First, a brief history about prior attempts to decipher who is the real author of Mekore Minhagim is in order. As I noted in my original post, the first edition of the sefer to come out was published in Berlin in 1846 with the author listed as R. Avrohom Lewysohn (1805-1861). That edition contained 100 questions and explanation about various customs. Then, in 1851, R. Yosef Finkelstein published under the same title a work with the very same information, but that contained only 41 of the 100 questions and explanations from the work published in 1846. Almost immediately, it was claimed that Finkelstein had plagiarized his work from Lewysohn. And if one had to guess – absent any additional information –it would appear that this is the case simply because Lewysohn's work came out first; that is, unless Lewysohn could have read Finkelstein's mind, the latter must be the plagiarizer.

But, this is not a simple case. Instead, the appearance of the plagiarism claims in a German periodical did not settle the issue. Thus, R. Lewysohn's brother, Yehudah Leib Lewysohn, a Rabbi in Stockholm, after seeing Finkelstein's name mentioned in a different capacity in the journal ha-Maggid, again pointed out that Finkelstein had plagiarized Mekore Minhagim from Lewysohn. R. Y.L. Lewysohn gave a run down of the controversy and included the fact that, eventually, the dispute was taken to court, which ultimately concluded that Finkelstein had plagiarized from Lewysohn. But, it seems that Finkelstein had someone swear on his behalf that he was indeed the author.

After R. Y.L. Lewysohn published that account, including the court case coverage, Finkelstein himself answered the charge in a later issue of ha-Maggid. Finkelstein claimed that he was indeed the author and Lewysohn had stolen from him. But, how to account for the fact his sefer came out later? Finkelstein claimed that as he was traveling through Germany, he stayed with Lewysohn and eventually showed him his (Finkelstein's) manuscript of Mekore Minhagim. Lewysohn was extremely taken by this book. According to Finkelstein, Lewysohn must have copied his version and published it before Finkelstein was able to.

R. Y.L. Lewysohn responded – with a point by point rebuttal – that Finkelstein’s account was all untrue and challenged Finkelstein to go in front of a court again - but this never happened.

That is more or less a summary of the written record with respect to the controversy. So it seems there remains the possibility that Lewysohn did copy Finkelstein’s manuscript when they met in Berlin. And, in fact, many have come to Finkelstein's defense. For instance, R. Tzvi Efraim Babad in Der Yid has an article where he uses the ha-Maggid article to show that Finkelstein was indeed the author. In particular, it seems that R. Babad didn't like Lewysohn, as he was a German Rabbi and university educated, while Finkelstein was from a distinguished rabbinic Hungarian family. There is also an article in the latest Or Yisrael about this incident of plagiarism.

I think, however, that I can prove who the real author is. I can do so by using Finkelstein's own defense from ha-Maggid to demonstrate that he, in fact, is the plagiarizer. As is many times the case, he created the noose by which to hang himself.

Finkelstein, in his defense, states as follows:
When I was in Prague I wrote the work "Rivid ha-Zahav" which discusses the laws of ritual slaughter and checking for imperfection of the lungs. Many great Rabbis praised this work amongst them the famous Gaon R. [Shlomo] Yehuda Leib Rapoport and, because so many people liked it, the book sold out and I had to publish it again. After this I published another book "Tzafnas Panach" on blemishes in the lungs [of an animal].
He then continues and discusses the “Mekore Minhagim” and how Lewysohn got it:
When I traveled to Germany to sell my book I stayed with [R. Lewysohn] . . . when he saw my work the ‘Mekore Minhagim,’ which I wrote in 1839, he asked to look at it.
From there Finkelstein posits that Lewysohn eventually copied it and printed it as his own.

So, now, in order to see who is actually right, we need to see if R. Finkelstein's story works. The way to do this is to check the books that Finkelstein actually was selling. First, it is important to know that Finkelstein published three books aside from Mekore Minhagim. As mentioned above, he wrote Rivid ha-Zahav and Tzofnas Panach. In addition he published a book his father- in–law, R. Meir Avraham Csaba, wrote - Pri Tzadik. Pri Tzadik was published in 1839, Finkelstein’s first published work. Now, according to Finkelstein, in his response in ha-Maggid, he published Tzofnas Panach after he published Rivid ha-Zahav for the second time. So, that would make Tzofnas Panach the last book published. Also, according to Finkelstein there were two editions of Rivid ha-Zahav (these are the only editions of Rivid ha-Zahav) but when was Rivid ha-Zahav published? According to the title pages, one was published in Prague (1846) and the other in Ofen (1845). But, according to Finkelstein's own testimony, these dates must be wrong -- or at least one. The reason being, if you recall, is that Finkelstein said Rivid ha-Zahav was written in Prague and was praised by R. Rapoport -which you can see as there is an approbation from R. Rapoport. In particular, the first edition of Rivid ha-Zahav has this approbation according to Finkelstein's own words. But, the only edition which has this approbation is the one with 1846 on the title page and the approbation itself is even dated the 6th of Av 5606 (1846). That means that, although the other edition of Rivid ha-Zahav states was published in 1845, in fact, it was published after the 6th of Av 5606. Which also means that Tzofnas Panach was also published sometime after the second edition of Rivid ha-Zahav was published.[1]

Now, for Finkelstein's story to be true, he states that he was selling "his books" -"ספרי" that means his personal books. That means we can rule out Pri Tzadik as that was his father-in-law's book and Finkelstein wouldn't have called it "his." So when did he travel to Germany to sell his books and to which books did he refer? Well, let's take the earliest of his books - which according to what we have figured out - is the first edition of his Rivid ha-Zahav. That edition of the Rivid ha-Zahav had to have been published sometime after the 6th of Av, the time of the approbation. That doesn't leave that much time in the year 5606, being that Av is the second to last month in the Jewish calendar. But, let's say he had Rivid ha-Zahav published really fast and during the month of Av he was able to publish it and was already in Germany meeting up with Lewysohn. Well, and here comes the funny part, Lewysohn's introduction to Mekore Minhagim (which is copied in Finkelstein's as well) is dated 16th of Kislev 5606, which would be around December 1845. This, of course, means that if our calculations are correct and we take all of Finkelstein's story as true, Lewysohn wrote the introduction at least ten months before Finkelstein ever came to town to sell his then, unpublished, Rivid ha-Zahav. Which means Finkelstein is a liar.

Thus, it would appear that we can now conclude who is the plagiarizer – Finkelstein. And, the fact is that Lewysohn is the real author of Mekore Minhagim.

[1] There is another reason the Tzafnas Panach must be the final book published although again according to the title page there is an earlier date. According to the title page it was printed in 1845, but now that we know the 1845 edition of Rivid ha-Zahav was in fact published after 1846 the Tzafnas Panach must also be published after that. This is so, because in the Rivid ha-Zahav with the title page which claims 1845 it also says the approbations for this will be published in my future work Tzafnas Panach (which in fact Tzafnas Panach includes). Thus, Tzafnas Panach must be after this second edition and thus must be after 1846 even though it claims an earlier date.

Sources: ha-Maggid No. 24 June 17, 1863 p. 192; No. 27, July 8, 1863, pp. 211-12; No. 36, September 9, 1863 pp. 283-84; No. 40, October 14, 1863, p. 316 (which are all available online here); R. Tzvi Ephraim Babad, "Printers, Copiers, Shasin, and Censor," Der Yid 25 (Friday, September 22, 2000), section 2.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

A Survey of Contemporary Electronic Resources: Two Hard Drives of Hebraica

Aside from purchasing a hard copy of a book, there are currently many other methods are available in obtaining seforim. The easiest and cheapest is the Shapell Family Digitization Project of the Jewish National & University Library, where many rare and expensive books are available for free. While this is a terrific resource if the particular book and/or edition is available, this digital project is far from comprehensive, and its purpose is not to have every (or even close to) every book online. To fill that demand, there are two external hard drives which contain about 18,000 - 20,000 seforim, both of which are around the same price of $1,400 (estimated). I have been using both for the last few months and wanted to give my impressions.

The two hard drives are Otzrot haTorah and Otzar HaChochmah. I have the hard drive of the first, and have been using an online version of the second.

The first, Otzrot haTorah was originally the vision of R. Morgenstern, who has unfortunately since passed away. This edition includes the collection of thousands of seforim, as well as Otzar haPoskim (widely known as Otzrot haShu"t). This program allows for one to search responsa works and also classifies responsa based upon their relevance to section in Shulhan Arukh. Thus, you can click and see what the responsa has to say about Siman Gimmel in Orah Hayyim etc. Additionally you can do a text search of the responsa which appear on this program. This program, however, only covers 3 of the 4 volumes of Shulhan Arukh – Orah Hayyim, Even haEzer, and Hoshen Mishpat. I found the interface and the ease of locating material to be very good. Once you know which chapter in Shulhan Arukh you need they have the material.

The more important portion of the hard drive is the collection of the 18,000+ seforim. This section is not text searchable. So if you are just hoping to use this to find material via a word search this is not the hard drive for you. But, this hard drive still has tremendous value. This is so, as it contains a terrific amount of material. Additionally, this material was systematically collected so you are less likely to find gaps on this then on the other hard drive. Whoever made the decision what to copy chose very well. Further, the seforim are divided topically (if you want) which if you are doing research let's say on siddur is invaluable. You can in two clicks call up all the editions of the siddur they have. Or if you want to find about a town you would go to the History section then pick the section on communities etc.

Generally, you will find what you are looking for, however, as with almost any library or hard drive, this does not have every sefer printed, but if it is important or good, they probably do have it. If desired, you can print out the entire book, or convert it to a PDF to save to your hard drive. When you print it prints a water mark with their name in the middle, which is not a big deal (the other hard drive does the same). Aside from books, the hard drive also contains many journals as well.

The other hard drive, Otzar HaChochmah, is text searchable. But, not every book which is on the drive is nor is it 100% accurate. Additionally, on the online version it tells you if found a hit in a book, but then there is no get more than the first hit in the book (there may be a way but it is not readily apparent or obvious). This is rather frustrating if the first hit is not the one you need. The reason this is not perfect as this drive uses OCR technology as opposed to typing in all the books. This means it searches the actual books as they appear with Rashi script etc., and at time all OCR makes some mistakes. But, the sheer number of books does make this feature valuable.

One must state that this hard drive is much less comprehensive than the first one. It does not seem that the person who decided what to put on this has any rhyme or reason at times a basic book is missing while a useless one is included. There are serious gaps when it comes to some areas. Furthermore, with the online version, you can only print and there is no way to save the material. Otzar HaChochmah is constantly adding books, so they may eventually correct this. But it seems that are focusing on contemporary works rather than fixing the items in their catalog.

If I had to summarize who would benefit from each of these I would say a person who is just looking to come across something they were not aware of and doesn't need access to seforim should go with Otzar HaChochmah. But, if you are looking for something to complement other research and you need access to seforim that are otherwise too expensive or impractical to own I would go with the Otzarot haTorah.

Otzar HaChochmah is available here; and you can email for more on Otzarot haTorah

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Books for Sale

R. Landy has purchased a library of 19th century books, mainly consisting of she'elot u'teshuvot and hiddushim on Shas for sale. All are obscure prints and many have never been reprinted. He can be reached at 917-676-0762.

The Custom of Playing Cards on Channukah

One of the more interesting customs relating to Chanukah is that of a relaxation of the restriction against gambling. As Menachem Mendel has pointed out, this relaxation was not limited, as some think, to those of Hassidic decent. Rather, some of the earliest mentions come long before the creation of the Hassidic movement, in places such as Worms and Frankfort. Further, this custom has continued to be almost universal (amongst Ashkenazim) irrespective of origin.

To demonstrate this point, it is worth mentioning a lesser known book, which although lesser known is rich in the history of customs of Lithuanian Jews during the 19th century. This book, Rememberings: The World of a Russian-Jewish Woman in the Nineteenth Century, (which I have previously mentioned at the Seforim blog) is the memoir of Pauline Wengeroff. She grew up in Lithuania and eventually moved to St. Petersburg Russia (along with many detours). Her book, originally written in Yiddish, was translated into English (and abridged, you can download the full translation here).

In the course of discussing how she celebrated the Jewish holidays as a child she discusses card playing.
"On the fifth night [of Chanukah] my mother invited all our friends and relatives. That was the night she gave us Chanukah gelt . . . You stayed up later than usual that evening, and played cards longer. . . . It was a day of rejoicing for us children. Even we little ones were allowed to play cards that night. . . . On such evenings my father skipped even learning Talmud and sat down to cards although, like my mother, he had no idea of the rules of any game."
She is not the only Lithuanian to record such a practice. R. Yosef Hayyim Sonnenfeld, the Rabbi of Jerusalem and the leader (of his time) of the Yishuv haYashan was asked why do so many people, some of which spend their days learning Torah, neglect Torah study and play cards on Chanukah? R. Sonnenfeld responded that not everyone can learn all the time and people need a break and playing cards is better than doing nothing. The questioner, however, was unsatisfied with this response, and questioned the notion that card playing could be considered a legitimate necessary break. The questioner allowed that exercise would be allowed but couldn't understand how card playing could be considered an allowed break from Torah study. R. Sonnenfeld refused to back down regarding his original pronouncement and said, while some at some times may value exercise at other times people have other needs which apparently cards fulfill.

Sources: Rememberings: The World of a Russian-Jewish Woman in the Nineteenth Century, pp. 65-66; R. Yosef Hayyim Sonnenfeld, Simlat Hayyim, nos. 48-49; for more on the custom of dreidel see my post from last year here.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

A Forgotten Work on Chanukah: חנוכת הבית

Rabbi Eliezer Brodt of Jerusalem has authored articles in the journals Ohr Yisrael and Yeshurun, both familiar to many readers of the Seforim blog, and is contributing what is hoped to be the first of many guest-posts.
While learning הלכות חנוכה, I noticed that the very first מגן אברהם quotes a sefer called חנוכת הבית. I had never heard of the sefer before, and I was curious about it. I asked several people about the sefer until I found someone who was familiar with it. He was kind enough to purchase it for me. I started reading through the sefer last week, and I completed it over shabbos. It was a fascinating read.

In the introduction, the author begins with a list of questions about the נוסח of הנרות הללו. He then proceeds to answer his questions with the interesting concept that almost all of the הלכות חנוכה are hidden in the text of הנרות הללו. I believe that this is a virtually unknown idea, as I have yet to see this concept quoted in any sefer about חנוכה -- including the outstanding sefer חזון עובדיה by ר' עובדיה יוסף. Even the generally exhaustive מפתח על שבתי פרנקל on מסכת בבא קמא in the גמרא relating to חנוכה he makes no mention of his piece on this גמרא!

Not much is known about ר' שאול בן ר' דוד, the author of חנוכת הבית. His date of birth appears to have been around the year 1570. We do know that he learned from the מהרש"ל השני and ר' הירש שור, the father of the תורת חיים. He was a ראש ישיבה in Russia. ר' שאול wrote a few seforim, the most well known being טל אורות on the ל"ט מלאכות of שבת. The טל אורות received many very חשוב הסכמות, including הסכמות from the מהרש"א, the כלי יקר and the של"ה. It’s quoted by the מגן אברהם and מרכבת המשנה many times. A beautiful edition was reprinted in ירושלים in 1996. Another sefer by this author is תפלת הדרך which was printed by his son in 1641 [this book includes an unusual illustration of a ship at sea on the last page]. The sefer חנוכת הבית was first printed in פראג in 1616. It was not reprinted until in 1981 in a photo offset version. It was reprinted a year later, and in 2002, a very nice edition with notes was printed.

חנוכת הבית seems to be almost completely unknown to many bibliographers. The חיד"א makes no mention of it in his שם הגדולים although he has two entries on the author. The bibliographer יצחק בן יעקב has two separate entries on the sefer, one of which says “this might be the sefer that the מגן אברהם quotes a few times,” but he doesn’t write any details about it. Then two entries later he talks about our sefer showing he never saw it – because it’s the same one that the מגן אברהם mentions.

As previously mentioned, חנוכת הבית starts with the concept that almost all of הלכות חנוכה are hidden in הנרות הללו. There are three additional parts to the sefer. The first is a song which contains many of the halachos of חנוכה in the lyrics. Another part is מליצות based on הלכות חנוכה containing clever גמטריות and kabbalistic ideas about חנוכה. The third part is a דרשה connecting פרשת תצוה to חנוכה in many ways. The author was fond of writing in song. He also wrote similar kinds of songs in his work ט"ל אורות. In his introduction to ט"ל אורות, he writes that he likes this method because it’s a great memory tool. We have other songs he composed, such as a song in the שלשלת הקבלה, which was a הספד on his רבי, the מהרש"ל השני. Another song he wrote could be found in one of the manuscript’s of סידור שבתי סופר, which was written by his nephew.

חנוכת הבית discusses almost all the important topics related to חנוכה and makes many interesting points. The author goes through many of the גמרות in מסכת שבת about חנוכה at great length. He deals with topics such as the famous question of the בית יוסף. (See סקווירא תשסג p. 33), why חנוכה isn’t nine days because of ספיקא דיומא (Idem at p. 50), why the מנורה wasn’t טמא etc (Idem at p. 36). He takes sides on some of the big halachick questions in the פוסקים such as whether to light נר שבת or נר חנוכה first (Idem at p. 58), whether to make הבדלה before נר חנוכה on מוציא שבת or not (Idem at p. 60), and many other topics. The author also takes a stance in the big controversy about the נוסח of the ברכות. Like the מהרש"ל, he says that the correct way is to say שלחנוכה as one word (Idem at p. 32). The sefer mentions that the מהר"י סגל lit נרות in the place where he gave his שיעור (Idem at p. 120). Also mentioned is the reason for the מנהג to eat milchigs on חנוכה (Idem at p. 136). חנוכת הבית is also the earliest known source for giving gifts on חנוכה. In his song, the author uses the words "לחלק מתנות." In the הלכה part of the sefer, he writes that one should give צדקה, especially to the children who are learning תורה (Idem at p. 72, 83). It is this statement the מגן אברהם quotes when he quotes from the חנוכת הבית. The חנוכת הבית is quoted another time by the מגן אברהם in הלכות פסח.

שלשלת הקבלה עמוד קנ; מגן אברהם סימן תפט סעיף ז ובהלכות חנוכה ריש סימן תרע; אוצר הספרים אות ח מספר 732 ו734; והמבוא של הטל אורות באריכות שיצא לאור בירושלים תשנ"ו

Title Page from Chanukas HaBayit (Prague, 1616)

Ship Illustration from Teffilat HaDerekh, Prague, 1641

Friday, December 08, 2006

Two Books Sales

First, Hollander Books is selling their overstocks at 50% off until December 16th and 25% if you order by December 31. You can download the catalog here. Second, Seforim World, has just purchased a significant library which includes many out-of-print books. Seforim World can be reached at 718-438-8414.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

The Chief Rabbi of Amsterdam: A Jewish Convert

Converts have been involved with seforim in many capacities. But, there is one book which was actually authored by a convert – Zera Yitzhak, Amsterdam 1789. This book is on Pirkei Avot and was written by R. Yitzhak (b. Avraham) Graanboom. R. Yitzhak was born in Sweden a non-Jew. His father Jacob moved his family to Amsterdam in 1749. At age 69, after moving to Amsterdam, Jacob and his wife Leah converted to Judaism. At the time, Jacob took the name Avraham. His youngest son Mattis, also converted and became Yitzhak (his full name appears to be Aharon Moshe Yitzhak, however, in his book both on the title page and the approbation he is referred to only as Yitzhak, perhaps these names were added later, or he didn't use them).

R. Yitzhak was extremely successful in his studies and was widely respected within the Amsterdam community; so much so, that when he attempted to move to Israel, R. Saul (ben Aryeh Löb) Löwenstamm (1717-1790) – then Chief Rabbi of Amsterdam – convinced him not to for the sake of the Amsterdam community. R. Yitzhak was for a short period of time a gem cutter, after which he moved to full time study and working. After R. Löwenstamm died, R. Yitzhak became the interim chief Rabbi of Amsterdam. Later, he became the Chief Rabbi of a new synagogue in Amsterdam, Adat Yeshurun. As this was a new synagogue, there were some from his old synagogue who were upset with the move. R. Yitzhak was known as "Yitzhak the Ger" (Yitzhak the Convert), some members of the old synagogue began referring to him instead as "Yitzhak Getz" (Yitzhak the Fool).

R. Yitzhak died in 1807 and his epitaph reads as follows:
זאת מצבת קבורת אדונינו מורנו ורבינו אב"ד ור"מ דקהלתנו, הנודע שמו בישראל בשם הגאון הצדיק החסיד מוהר"ר אהרן משה יצחק בן כ"ה אברהם זצוק"ל. רועה צאן עדת ישרון, גאה וגאון השליך נגדו, הצנע היה לכתו, רק לאמונה גבר בארץ, להורות עם ה' את הדרך ישכון אור, להטות לבבם ליראת ה' כל הימים, ולגלות למסור אזנם, ויקם עדות ביעקב ותורה שם בישראל, אף אם הציון הלז יכסה את גויתו, אהבתו תשאר תקועה
בלבנו, כי בזרע יצחק עוד יאיר שמשו ואור חכמתו ותורתו לעד בעולם

This is the monument of our master, our teacher, our Rabbi, the Chief Rabbi and Teacher of our community, who is known as the great one, pious, and righteous Rabbi Aharon Moshe Yitzhak son of the wise on Avraham ztsuk"l. The leader of Congregation Adat Yeshurun, the great and high one, who was humble in his ways, his relied upon faith, and taught the path to light, to lead their hearts to fear God all their days, and to reveal the ethical path to their ears, and he upheld the congregation and gave Torah to Israel, even though this monument covers his body, our love for him remains in our hearts, with the seed of Yitzhak will still guide by his light, and his light of wisdom and Torah will remain forever.
After he died, there were some who questioned some of his minor innovations and his son, Yisrael printed Melitz Yosher, to defend these practices.

There appears to be but one depiction of R. Yitzhak, a statue of him which unfortunately disappeared during the Holocaust. The statute is reproduced on the side and as you can see his book, Zera Yitzhak, is also included next to the statute.

Sources: For biographical information see: Shmuel Yosef Fuenn, Kenesset Yisrael (Warsaw, 1886), entry R. (Ahron Moshe) Yitzhak b"r Avraham Graanboom; A. Ya'ari, "R' Yitzhak ben Avraham haGer” in Mizrach u'Ma'ariv 5 (1931), 323-325. On converts who were involved in other aspects of Hebrew books, see A. Ya'ari, Mehkere Sefer (Jerusalem 1958), 245-255. The picture of R. Yitzhak as well as some biographical information is taken from Mozes Heiman Gans, Memorbook: History of Dutch Jewry from the Renaissance to 1940 (Netherlands, 1977), 291. Aside from R. Yitzhak's Zera Yitzhak, he also composed a song for the inauguration of the Synagogue of Adat Yeshurun which was published in 1797 and is titled Zot Hanukat HaBayit.

Zera Yitzhak (Amsterdam, 1789)

Monday, December 04, 2006

The Case of the Missing Books: Besamim Rosh in Berlin and St. Petersburg

While we have previously discussed how the Besamim Rosh to this day remains an enigma, there are two important texts which may have bearing on this issue. Benjamin Richler has been kind enough to provide additional information about these two sources. We therefore pick up from Benjamin Richler at the Jewish National and University Library:

The Case of the Missing Books: Besamim Rosh in Berlin and St. Petersburg
by Benjamin Richler

There are two sources concerning the Besamim Rosh that researchers would like to consult but cannot find.

One is a manuscript copy that belonged to Abraham Geiger and was briefly described in the list of Geiger’s manuscripts presented to the Hochschule für die Wissenschaft des Judentums in Berlin in Hebraeische Bibliographie, 17 (1877), p. 11, no. 3.[1] According to the description the manuscript that may have been an autograph was dated 1757 and includes the introduction by R. Zvi Hirsch Berlin. Until 1984, nothing was known about the fate of the manuscripts in the Hochschule; it was assumed that the Nazis confiscated the library but it was not found after the War. In 1984 Sotheby’s offered a collection of Hebrew manuscripts for sale and before the sale it was identified as belonging to the Hochschule. These books had been smuggled out of Germany before the War. [2] Two of the manuscripts in Geiger’s list were not included in the sale. One of them is the Besamim Rosh. For years after 1984 it was considered lost, but recently it came to light in a collection of archives and manuscripts looted by the Nazis and later captured by the Red Army. These documents and books were kept in what was called the "Special Archives" recently renamed "The Center for Safekeeping of Historical Collections of Documentation" in the Russian State Military Archives in Moscow. The manuscript was microfilmed for the Institute of Microfilmed Hebrew Manuscripts in Jerusalem where I examined it. The manuscript seems to be a neat copy, rather than an autograph draft, and when compared with the printed edition, I could find no significant differences in the text. I must admit, however, that I only checked a few passages at random, especially the beginning and end. My impression is that the manuscript is written in an Ashkenazic script of the 18th century. It may have been the copy that was sent to print or a copy that was made for R. Tzvi Hirsch before it was printed.

The second source that has not been examined for decades, perhaps for over a century, is a copy of the first edition with notes and additions by R. Saul Berlin himself. This copy was described by Shemuel Wiener who edited קהלת משה, the catalogue of the library of Moshe Aryeh Leib Friedland donated to the Institute of Oriental Studies in the Academy of Sciences of Russia located in St. Petersburg. [3] While the Friedland Library survive the War unscathed, and the manuscripts are accessible at the Oriental Institute, the 14,000 printed books were sent to storage and according to a senior fellow of the Oriental Institute who tried to extract this volume, it is impossible to locate any titles as the books are piled up to the ceiling in no particular order. Until premises are found to shelve the collection, the annotated copy of Besamim Rosh will remain inaccessible.

[1] Geiger’s name is not mentioned in the description, but Moritz Steinschneider, the editor of HB who probably wrote the descriptions, identified Geiger as the owner in his Vorlesungen über die Kunde hebräischer Handschriften (Berlin 1897), p. 64, n. 29.

[2] The manuscripts were in the possession of Prof. Alexander Guttmann, formerly a professor in the Hochschule, who claimed that the manuscripts were given to him in 1936 for safekeeping. After it became known that the MSS were originally the property of the Hochschule, the State of New York disputed the sale. A settlement reached by the parties resulted in the formation of the Judaica Conservancy Foundation, a joint undertaking of Jewish institutions of higher learning in the United States, England and Israel. Twenty-two lots, including nineteen MSS sold at the auction, were recalled and given to the Foundation, which deposited them in the libraries of some of its members. It also authorized the proceeds of the sale of two of the MSS, to be awarded to Guttmann in consideration of his role in saving the MSS.

[3] Volume 1, Petersburg 1893, no. 1793, Wiener noted that the manuscript was purchased from the bookseller and scholar R. Raphael Nathan Rabinovicz, author of Dikdukei Soferim.

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