Qohelet 12:12

16 09 2013

It may be that I simply have too many books. Since I last wrote about my library (which is now two libraries – one that dominates the living room, and another that almost prevents my entering the study), I have acquired the following texts:

In Hebrew/Aramaic:

Megillat Taanit. Considered by some to be the earliest work of “rabbinic” literature, Megillat Taanit comprises a list of dates on which it is forbidden to fast or to deliver a eulogy, written in Aramaic. The entire text can be viewed online here. It also includes a Hebrew commentary, which may have been written several centuries later, providing historical reasons behind each of the dates in the Aramaic text. The Aramaic component was probably authored at some stage in the 1st century CE, being referred to in the Mishna (Taanit 2:8), and at least one baraita (Shabbat 13b). Mine is the critical edition, מגילת תענית: הנוסחים, פשרם, תולדותיהם בצירוף מהדורה ביקורתית, by Vered Noam (Yad Ben-Zvi: Jerusalem, 2003).

HeArukh al-haShas (3 vols.), by R’ Natan ben Yechiel of Rome (1035-1106). Completed in 1101, the Arukh constitutes the first ever dictionary of the Babylonian Talmud. According to a poem that the author wrote by way of an introduction, it appears that he had four sons: Yechiel, his firstborn, died after thirty days, Benjamin lived only to the age of eight, Shabbetai died at the age of three, and the fourth did not survive long enough to be circumcised. Seeking comfort for his grief in an intensive study of the rabbinic literature, R’ Natan produced a work of scholarship that had a profound influence on subsequent generations of Talmudic scholars, and one that sheds light today on the early history of Talmudic interpretation in Europe.

Sefer Hasidim, by R’ Yehuda heHasid (1140-1217). As one of the leaders of the pietistic movement known as Hasidei Ashkenaz, which flourished in Germany during the 12th-13th centuries, R’ Yehuda has had his name attached to this text but without any certainty as to its actual provenance. A collection of ethical maxims, although not homogeneous in nature, it is believed to have reached its final form in Germany in the early part of the 13th century.

Beit haBechirah (7 vols.), by R’ Menachem Meiri (1249-c.1306). Although this commentary on the Talmud wasn’t published until the 18th century, and had a very limited influence upon the development of the halakha as a result, it is widely regarded as one of the most lucid overviews of Talmudic law. One area in particular in which it has had some effect is in the author’s emphasis on non-Jews of his day (specifically Muslims and Christians, but also other peoples whose nations are run in accordance with law) falling beyond the purview of those to whom the Talmudic authors were often referring when they spoke of goyim, nochrim and akum. As such, R’ Meiri was likely the first person to observe that certain passages need to be viewed within the context of their Sassanid-era composition.

Shnei Luchot haBrit (5 vols.), by R’ Yeshayahu Horowitz (c.1565-1630). First published in 1648 by the author’s son, R’ Horowitz’s magnum opus is actually several books in one:

Toldot Adam: written in eighteen parts (with an introduction of its own), this is the author’s introduction to the overall text. In it he makes clear the work’s tripartite structure and emphasises the fact that it serves as a testament to his children. He also provides an overview of his philosophical approach to the nature of God, the purpose of existence, the study of Torah, and several other issues, including the phraseology of prayer and the Temple service;

Aseret Maamarot: the first of the text’s three parts, this section comprises ten philosophical/kabbalistic discourses;

Sha’ar haOtiyot: an addendum to Aseret Maamarot, this section comprises twenty-two halakhic/philosophical excurses, titled as an alphabetic acrostic;

Aseret haDibrot: the second of the text’s three parts, this section comprises discourses on ten of the tractates in the Talmud and their related legislation. Each discourse is further subdivided into three parts: Ner Mitzvah, in which the laws are explicated in full; Torah Or, in which the reasons for the laws are enumerated; and Derekh Chayim, in which the author expands upon the philosophical and ethical lessons to be learnt from this legislation. To several of these discussions are appended drashot on a variety of related subjects;

Torah ShebiKhtav: the first of two addenda to Aseret haDibrot, this section comprises the author’s philosophical, legal and ethical commentary on the Torah, arranged by parsha. This section is occasionally published separately, as its own text;

Torah Shebe’al Peh: the second of the two addenda to Aseret haDibrot, this section comprises a lengthy and technical introduction to the early rabbinic literature, divided into twenty-seven “principles” and constituting a methodology for Talmudic analysis. The concern here, as with similar introductions, is with provenance and authority: which parts can be said to have been authored by whom, what is the relationship of individual corpora to one another, and how can we determine the halakha. The thirteenth “principle”, titled לשונות הסוגיות (“the expressions found in Talmudic pericopes”), constitutes a corpus-based analysis of Talmudic clauses and phrases, based upon information found within the Talmud’s various commentaries and meta-commentaries. In that respect it is not dissimilar to a modern dictionary, albeit with phrases for lemmas;

Aseret Hilulim: the third and final division of the text, this section comprises ten ethical treatises.

Although Shnei Luchot haBrit was written expressly for R’ Yeshayahu Horowitz’s children, it has had a profound impact upon the development of subsequent Jewish ethics and philosophy. One area in which it has had a particularly powerful impact is that of hasidic Judaism. The classic Liqqutei Amarim (“Tanya”) of R’ Schneur Zalman of Liady – the principle expression of the kabbalistic philosophy of Chabad – is heavily indebted to this text, perhaps more than any other post-Talmudic expression of ethical philosophy.

HaMeor haGadol (2 vols.): a compilation of novellae taken from various sources, all of them attributed to R’ Eliyahu ben Shlomo Zalman, the Vilna Gaon (1720-1797), published in 2004. Novellae concern selections taken from the individual parshiyot of the Torah, (most of) the subsequent books of the Tanakh, the sixty-three tractates of the Mishna, the Pesach haggadah and the siddur.

• Various works of R’ Yonasan Eybeschütz (1690-1764), each of which was published posthumously:

Chasdei Yehonatan (first published 1897) is a collection of novellae on various midrashim, halakhic and aggadic, found chiefly in Midrash Rabbah, Yalkut Shimoni, Midrash Tanchuma, Torat Kohanim, Sifrei Bemidbar and Devarim, and Rashi’s commentary on chumash;

Ahavat Yehonatan (first published 1875) is a collection of novellae on the parshiyot and haftarot that are read throughout the year, as well as on Lamentations (Eikhah);

Divrei Yehonatan (first published 1903) is a collection of novellae on the Torah, arranged by parsha, as well as on the festival of Pesach, its laws and customs, and the text of the haggadah;

Nefesh Yehonatan (first published 1901) is a collection of novellae on the Torah, as well as on the festivals of Hanukkah and Purim, arranged according to the parsha and in reference to a variety of midrashim and passages from the Talmud and the subsequent halakhic literature;

Midrash Yehonatan (first published 1933) is a collection of novellae, frequently complex, on the individual parshiyot of the Torah, in which the author links concepts from a wide range of Talmudic and halakhic texts;

Tiferet Yehonatan (first published 1873) is a collection of novellae on the Torah, arranged by parsha;

Tzefichat haDevash (first published 1887) is a collection of drashot that had been delivered by R’ Eybeschütz on various shabbatot and yamim tovim.

Seder haDorot (2 vols.), by R’ Yechiel ben Shlomo Heilprin (c.1660-c.1746). First published in 1769 (תקכ”ט), Seder haDorot is three books in one:

Seder Yemot ha’Olam. This 425-page text constitutes a history of the world, based on a variety of rabbinic historiographical sources, from the creation of the first man until the year 1696 (“ה’ אלפים תנ”ו”). The work is prefaced with a comprehensive 50-page index of all instances in the Babylonian Talmud in which the author believes that the name of a sage or the relationship between two sages has been incorrectly recorded; it is followed by a 69-page index of all names mentioned within the text (although Jesus, whose birth is mentioned in the year ג’ תרע”א and whose ministry is mentioned in ג’ תש”ז, appears to be mysteriously absent);

Seder Mechabrim uSefarim. Based heavily upon the monumental Siftei Yeshenim of R’ Shabbetai Bass (1641-1718), this 203-page text constitutes an alphabetical index of rabbonim, together with the titles of the works that they authored. Unlike Siftei Yeshenim, this text includes no additional information as regards each of the works that it lists, nor their dates of publication;

Seder Tannaim veAmoraim. This 778-page text constitutes a comprehensive index of every sage mentioned in the Mishna and Gemara, together with some brief biographical information (chiefly parentage, tutelage and names of disciples). The index also includes references to every passage within the Mishna in which they are mentioned, as well as to sources within the two Talmuds and their respective commentaries in which the biographical information that he provides can be found.

Nefesh haChayim, by R’ Chayim ben Yitzhak of Volozhin (1749-1821). A disciple of R’ Eliyahu ben Shlomo Zalman (the Gaon of Vilna; 1720-1797), R’ Chayim is most famous today for having founded the yeshiva in Volozhin – regarded by many as the first “modern-style” yeshiva, in terms of its curriculum, its management and the means by which ambassadors of the yeshiva raised funds for its continued support. Nefesh haChayim, which was first published in 1824, is the author’s major philosophical work, dealing with issues that pertain to the nature of existence, the mechanism of prayer, our relationship with God and the study of Torah. To my mind, the most interesting aspect of the text lies in its author’s distancing himself from a particular philosophy that was ostensibly held by his rebbe – a philosophy that, in Chabad literature, is presented as having been the chief cause of friction between the Gra and the hasidim – that of tzimtzum kifeshuto. So, for example, the Nefesh haChayim writes:

והוא ענין הכתוב “הלא את השמים ואת הארץ אני מלא” (ירמיה כג, כד). ויותר מפרש במשנה תורה “וידעת היום וגו’ כי ה’ הוא האלהים בשמים ממעל ועל הארץ מתחת אין עוד” (דברים ד, לט). וכן “אתה הראת לדעת כי ה’ הוא האלהים אין עוד מלבדו” (שם, שם לה) והוא ממש כמשמעו, שאין עוד מלבדו יתברך כלל, בשום בחינה ונקדה פרטית שבכל העולמות, עליונים ותחתונים והבריות כלם, רק עצמות אחדותו הפשוט יתברך שמו לבד

– Shaar III:3; for more on this subject, see Allan Nadlar, The Faith of the Mithnagdim: Rabbinic Responses to Hasidic Rapture (Baltimore, 1999), 11-28. On p16, Nadlar notes that, contrary to Chabad sources, “there was virtually no substantive theological difference between Hasidim and Mithnagdim in their respective theoretical understandings of the nature of divine immanence”.

Mei haShiloach (2 vols.), by R’ Mordekhai Yosef Leiner (1839-1854), student of R’ Simcha Bunim of Peshischa and the Kotzker Rebbe, R’ Menachem Mendel Morgensztern. First published in 1860 (תר”כ), approximately six years after his death, Mei haShiloach comprises two distinct hasidic commentaries on the Torah.

Minchat Chinukh (3 vols.), by R’ Yosef ben Moshe Babad (1801-1874). First published in 1869, Minchat Chinukh is the author’s conceptual commentary to the 13th century Sefer haChinukh, itself a methodological presentation of the 613 mitzvot, according to their presentation in the Rambam’s Sefer haMitzvot, and arranged by parsha. This 19th century commentary provides depth to those halakhot, teasing out the nature of the legislation by means of reference to Talmudic and post-Talmudic discussions on the subject, and through the author’s own discussion of hypothetical cases.

• Two collections of novellae on the Torah by R’ Moshe Schreiber (1762-1839), aka Chatam Sofer:

Torat Moshe Chatam Sofer (2 vols). First published in 1881, this is a collection of the Chatam Sofer’s novellae on the Torah, written as drashot and arranged by parsha;

Chatam Sofer al-haTorah (5 vols). This is a collection of the Chatam Sofer’s previously unpublished novellae on Torah, first printed in 1961 by R’ Yosef Naftali Stern, the son-in-law of the Chatam Sofer’s grandson, R’ Shlomo Aleksandri Schreiber.

Ketav Sofer (2 vols.), by R’ Shmuel Binyamin Schreiber (1815-1871), the eldest son of the Chatam Sofer. First published in 1883, this is a collection of the Ketav Sofer’s novellae on the Torah, the five megillot, the individual chaggim and the haggadah.

Ha’Ameq Davar (6 vols.), by R’ Naftali Tzvi Yehuda Berlin (1816-1893), rosh yeshiva at Volozhin. First published in 1879, Ha’Ameq Davar constitutes a commentary upon the Torah (at times, a super-commentary upon Rashi) and upon Song of Songs.

Meshekh Chokhmah (4 vols.), by R’ Meir Simcha of Dvinsk (“Or Somayach”; 1843-1926). In three volumes (the fourth constituting a series of detailed indices), this is the Or Somayach’s celebrated commentary on the Torah, first published posthumously. Perhaps the most (in)famous component is a remark made in the author’s explication of Parshat Bechukotai, to the effect that certain of his contemporaries were responsible for neglecting the study of Jewish literature, of failing to master the Hebrew/Aramaic language, of ceasing to consider themselves in exile and of considering Berlin to be the new Jerusalem. To such people, R’ Meir Simcha promises a storm of tremendous ferocity, the likes of which this exile has never seen, which will transport Jews to a foreign land in which they will be subjected to harsh decrees, will be reminded that they are Jews and will be brought to the edge of annihilation.

[Such threats are not uncommon in certain modes of literature, but the time and place of Meshekh Chokhmah’s composition makes their author seem something of a prophet.]

• Various novellae and drashot from the school of Brisk:

Beit haLevi al-haTorah: a collection of novellae arranged by parsha (from Bereishit to Ki Tisa), plus twelve drashot on Hilkhot Stam (the writing of sifrei Torah, tefillin and mezuzot). Authored by R’ Yosef Dov Soloveitchik of Brisk (“the Beis haLevi”, 1820-1892);

Sefer Drashot: a collection of eighteen drashot on a range of subjects, extracted from the Beis haLevi’s magnum opus, “Beit haLevi”;

Yalqut Shemu’ot miBeit haLevi: first published in the 9th and 10th editions (2001-2002) of Yeshurun, this is a collection of novellae and drashot on various parshiyot of the Torah, on some of the subsequent books of Tanakh, on certain tractates of the Mishna/Talmud, on the siddur and on the haggadah. They are all of them attributed to the Beis haLevi, either by people who heard them from him or who heard them in his name;

Chiddushei Maran haGriz haLevi: a collection of novellae and drashot on Tanakh and on various passages in the rabbinic literature, attributed to R’ Yitzhak Ze’ev Soloveitchik (“the Brisker Rov”, 1886-1959), grandson of the Beis haLevi. As with the previous collection, these have all been recorded by individuals who heard them from him personally or who heard them in his name. They were first published in 1996.

Tzafnat Pa’aneach al-haTorah (3 vols.), by R’ Yosef Rosen of Rogatchov (1858-1936). Known as the Rogatchover Gaon, R’ Yosef Rosen (together with R’ Meir Simcha of Dvinsk) was one of very few people to have recognised the infamous Yerushalmi Qodshim as a forgery. A Kapuster hasid, the Rogatchover studied under the Beis haLevi and R’ Yehoshua Leib Diskin (“Maharil Diskin”), and gave semikha to the seventh rebbe of Lubavitch, R’ Menachem Mendel Schneersohn. At the time of his death in 1936, most of his voluminous writings were unpublished, and there were few who were capable of deciphering his famously laconic style. Leaving her home in Petach Tikva, the Rogatchover’s daughter, Rachel Citron, travelled to Dvinsk and met up with her father’s student, R’ Yisrael Alter Safern-Fuchs. Togther, they frantically prepared the Rogatchover’s writings for publication until such time as the Nazi ban of Jewish printing put an end to their efforts. In the time that they had left, they photographed the pages of his Rambam and Shas, together with his copious marginalia, and sent the pictures by post to R’ Tzvi Hirsch Safern in NYC. They were both murdered in 1942, but it is thanks to their efforts that many of the Rogatchover’s writings have now been published.

This three-volume set is a commentary upon the Torah and upon the Rambam’s Guide of the Perplexed. It was first published in 1974 by R’ Menachem Kasher, together with introductions that pertain to the life and thought of R’ Yosef Rosen. If you wish to read more about this incredible man, his insights into Torah and the amazing self-sacrifice of those who worked at disseminating them (or if you wish to contribute in any way to the ongoing labour of preparing his manuscripts for publication), you can consult the Tzafnat Pane’ach Institute.

Mikhtav meEliyahu (5 vols.), by R’ Eliyahu Eliezer Dessler (1892-1953), mashgiach ruchani at Ponevezh Yeshiva in Bnei Brak. Published between 1955 (תשט”ו) and 1997 (תשנ”ז), Mikhtav meEliyahu is a collection of R’ Dessler’s ethical writings, personal correspondence and mussar schmuessen, primarily dealing with themes that touch upon matters of faith, divine providence and free-will.

Sefat Emet (5 vols.), by the second Gerrer Rebbe, R’ Yehuda Aryeh Leib Alter (1847-1905). First published in 1905 (תרס”ה), immediately after the rebbe’s death, Sefat Emet constitutes a hasidic commentary on the Torah, widely regarded as exceptionally complex by virtue of its offering the reader very little in the way of any indication as to precisely which subject is under discussion, or which passage (in the Torah, in Rashi’s commentary or in the Talmud) is being specifically referred to.

Yismach Yisrael, by the second Alexanderer Rebbe, R’ Yerachmiel Yisroel Yitzhak Danziger (1853-1910). First published in 1911/2 (תרע”א), Yismach Yisrael is a hasidic commentary on the Torah.

Tiferet Shmuel, by the third Alexanderer Rebbe, R’ Shmuel Tzvi Danziger (1860-1923), the brother of his predecessor. First published in 1925 (תרפ”ה), Tiferet Shmuel is a hasidic commentary on the Torah, and one that makes reference in a number of instances to the Yismach Yisrael.

Divrei Yoel (8 vols.), by the first Satmarer Rebbe, R’ Yoel Teitelbaum (1887-1979). First published in 1971/2 (תשל”א), Divrei Yoel constitutes the Satmar Rebbe’s commentary on the Torah, and probably the most systematic elucidation of his hasidic thought.

Melekhet haMishkan veKheilav, by R’ Asher David Meyers. Published in 2004, this text (“The Construction of the Mishkan and Its Vessels”) constitutes a detailed study of the sanctuary and its adornments, the altars, the table and the courtyard, and the means by which these were constructed. It is based upon discussions of the subject in the rabbinic literature, and includes responsa by R’ Chaim Kanievsky (born 1928), son of R’ Yaakov Yisrael Kanievsky, “the Steipler Gaon”.

Sha’arei Sefarim ‘Ivrim, by A.M. Haberman. Published in 1969 by the Museum of Printing Art in Safed (מוזיאון לאומנות הדפוס, צפת), this work is a collection of images of 104 different Hebrew title pages over the course of several centuries. Commencing with a hand-drawn title page from a Tanakh written at the end of the 13th century, and culminating with a printed title page from a 1949 printing of Maayan Tahor (by R’ Moshe Teitelbaum, rav of Ujhely; 1759-1841), it is fascinating to see the evolution of different styles. Some are quite startling: a Pentateuch printed in 1591 shows a bare-breasted woman, draped in a cloth and sporting a crown, with a spear in her hand, pointing downwards at a seven-headed dragon; a collection of halakhic novellae on tractates Beitza, Bava Metzia, Ketubot, Hullin and Gittin, printed in 1737, depicts a ship at sea under attack from a giant, hornéd sea-monster, which appears to be swallowing the anchor and which has two men in its belly, wearing pointed hats and lighting a fire beneath a cauldron. The title pages of my own books are staggeringly boring to me now.

In Yiddish:

• Jacob Shatzky, The History of the Jews in Warsaw I: From the Beginnings to the Uprising of 1831 (New York, 1947).

• Jacob Shatzky, The History of the Jews in Warsaw II: From 1831 to the Uprising of 1863 (New York, 1948).

• Jacob Shatzky, The History of the Jews in Warsaw III: From 1863 to 1896 (New York, 1953).

In English:

• Malachi Beit-Arié, Unveiled Faces of Medieval Hebrew Books: The Evolution of Manuscript Production – Progression or Regression? (Jerusalem, 2003).

• William G. Braude and Israel J. Kapstein (trans.), Pesiqta de-Rab Kahana: R’ Kahana’s Compilation of Discourses for Sabbaths and Festal Days (London, 1975). Strack and Stemberger provide a variety of possible dates for this compilation, all of them within the first millennium but differing from one another by several centuries. A collection of homiletical discourses for Shabbatot and festivals, it has been described by some as the oldest exegetical midrash, and is our primary source for the ten special haftarot that are read before and after the 9th of Av.

• Mordechai Z. Cohen, Three Approaches to Biblical Metaphor: From Abraham Ibn Ezra and Maimonides to David Kimhi (Leiden, 2008). In this text, Cohen applies metaphor theory to the figurative language found within Tanakh, and analyses the different ways in which these three rishonim interpreted scripture.

• Anne and Roger Cowen, Victorian Jews Through British Eyes (The Littman Library of Jewish Civilization; London, 1998). This delightful 200-page text is a collection of newspaper articles, photographs and caricatures that concern Jews in England (be they English Jews or migrants) between approximately 1829 and 1900. The articles attest to the changing fortunes of Jews in England, both socially and politically, to attitudes that were held towards Jews from the East, and to the manner in which certain prominent Jewish individuals were considered in the public eye. (From the library of Alan and Sadie Crown.)

• José Faur, The Horizontal Society: Understanding the Covenant and Alphabetic Judaism (2 vols; Boston, 2010). A somewhat strange but phenomenally eclectic collection of essays, dealing with a wide range of Jewish subjects and exhibiting an almost encyclopedic familiarity with the rabbinic literature. Its author is an alumnus of Beth Midrash Govoha in Lakewood, New Jersey, and a former professor at JTS and Bar-Ilan.

• John C.L. Gibson, Textbook of Syrian Semitic Inscriptions I: Hebrew and Moabite Inscriptions (Oxford, 1971). (From the library of Alan and Sadie Crown.)

• John C.L. Gibson, Textbook of Syrian Semitic Inscriptions II: Aramaic Inscriptions, including inscriptions in the dialect of Zenjirli (Oxford, 1975). (From the library of Alan and Sadie Crown.)

• Martin Goodman, Rome and Jerusalem: The Clash of Ancient Civilizations (London, 2008).

• Isaac Halevy-Levin (ed), The Revival of the Hebrew Language (Ariel 25; Jerusalem, 1969). Featuring articles by S.Y. Agnon, Chaim Rabin and E.Y. Kutscher, among others.

• Louis Jacobs, Theology in the Responsa (London: 1975). A fascinating text, R’ Jacobs looks at a range of responsa from the Geonic period through to the 20th century, and considers how their authors, either explicitly or implicitly, developed arguments on matters of faith. Arranged chronologically, with chapters devoted to different centuries. (From the library of Alan and Sadie Crown.)

• Leo Kadman, The Coins of the Jewish War of 66-73 CE (Corpus Nummorum Palaestinensium III; Jerusalem, 1960).

• Paul Kahle, The Cairo Geniza (2nd ed; Oxford, 1959). Based upon a series of talks given by the author for the British Academy Schweich Lectures in 1941, this text is an historical and literary introduction to the materials found within the Cairo Geniza, with a special emphasis placed upon witnesses to the biblical text, both masoretic and translations. (From the library of Alan and Sadie Crown.)

• Gail Labovitz, Marriage and Metaphor (New York, 2013). As with the work by Mordechai Z. Cohen, mentioned above, this is a contribution to the field of metaphor theory, and one in which the author turns her attention to the language of commerce that pervades rabbinic matrimonial texts.

• Binyamin Lau, The Sages III: The Galilean Period (trans. Ilana Kurshan; Jerusalem, 2013). The third volume in a three-volume series, the first was titled “The Second Temple Period” (from Shimon haTzaddik to R’ Tzadok) and the second was titled “From Yavneh to the Bar Kokhba Revolt” (spanning Rabban Yohanan ben Zakkai to R’ Yehuda ben Bava, and the deaths of R’ Akiva’s students). This third volume, titled “The Galilean Period” covers the establishment of the bet midrash in Usha, through to the death of R’ Yehuda haNasi.

• Marvin Lowenthal (trans.), The Memoirs of Glückel of Hameln (New York, 1977). Written in Yiddish between 1690 and 1719, Glückel’s diary (which she authored for the benefit of her children, shortly after the death of their father) provides a fascinating insight into the life of a Jewish woman of business in the final quarter of the 17th century. She writes of her memories of the expulsion of Jews from Hamburg in 1648, the Swedish invasion of Altona in 1657, the aftermath of the Chmielnicki uprising in the east, and the false messiah, Shabbetai Tvzi. The first of the two major German translations of this work was undertaken by a descendant of Glückel named Bertha Pappenheim. Better known to the world as “Anna O.” (the pseudonym by which Sigmund Freud and Josef Breuer referred to her in their case studies), Pappenheim was the most significant patient when it came to Breuer’s work on hysteria, and takes a major place in the early development of psychoanalysis. What can I say: this world can be a very strange place.

• Shimon Yosef Meller, The Brisker Rav: The Life and Times of Maran HaGaon HaRav Yitzchok Ze’ev HaLevi Soloveitchik zt”l (3 vols; trans. Daniel Weiss; Jerusalem, 2007). Published by Feldheim, these three volumes constitute a (somewhat romantic) biography of one of the greatest Torah scholars of the twentieth century, the son of R’ Chaim Soloveitchik and the grandson of the Beis haLevi. His nephew, R’ Yosef Dov Soloveitchik (“the Rav”) is not mentioned once in the book’s 1,792 pages. His absence, while not particularly surprising, is somewhat striking in the opening chapters of the first volume, in which the Rav’s family tree stops with his father, R’ Moshe Soloveitchik (the Brisker Rav’s brother), and in which information about the life of R’ Moshe Soloveitchik is attributed to his grandson, R’ Moshe Meiselman. R’ Meiselman, who heads Yeshiva Toras Moshe in Jerusalem, has courted controversy with his pretence that the Rav’s Zionism was put on for the purposes of outreach only, and that the Rav (who was both his uncle and his teacher) was as staunchly anti-Zionist as the rest of the Soloveitchik family.

• Jacob Neusner, A Life of Yohanan ben Zakkai Ca.1-80 CE (Leiden, 1970).

• Jacob Neusner, Major Trends in Formative Judaism II: Texts, Contents, and Contexts (California, 1984).

• Hayim Goren Perelmuter (trans.), Shir haMa’alot l’David (Song of the Steps) and Ktav Hitnazzelut l’Darshanim (In Defence of Preachers) (Ohio, 1984). Authored by R’ David Darshan and first printed in 1571 and 1574, respectively, these were the first books of darshanut to have been published in Poland, and its author the first itinerant preacher to have devised a handbook for others of his profession. Perelmuter’s translation incorporates a copy of the original publication in the back of the text, an introduction to the period and the style, and a running English commentary. (From the library of Alan and Sadie Crown.)

• Gil S. Perl, The Pillar of Volozhin: Rabbi Naftali Tzvi Yehuda Berlin and the World of Nineteenth-Century Lithuanian Torah Scholarship (Studies in Orthodox Judaism; Boston, 2012).

• Harry Rabinowicz, A Guide to Life: Jewish Laws and Customs of Mourning (London: 1964). This short and pocket-sized text provides information that pertains to the various periods of mourning, the care of the deceased, funerary and consecration practices and the observance of yahrzeits. Most importantly, it is replete with copious footnotes, providing sources in the Talmudic and post-Talmudic literature, making it an excellent pedagogical tool. (From the library of Alan and Sadie Crown.)

• Aaron Rakeffet-Rothkoff, The Rav: The World of Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik (2 vols; 1999). These two volumes constitute a brief biography of the Rav, followed by a compendium of remarks made by him on a wide variety of issues, translated into English.

• Stefan C. Reif, Shabbethai Sofer and his Prayer-book (Cambridge, 1979). One of the most outstanding grammarians of the 16th-17th centuries, the Polish-born Shabbetai Sofer was commissioned by the Council of Three Lands to write an official siddur for use by Ashkenazi Jews. That text was lost until the end of the 19th century, when the original manuscript was recovered in London by A. Neubauer and subsequently published. This volume, by Stefan Reif, constitutes an introduction to and commentary on the text of Shabbetai’s siddur. (From the library of Alan and Sadie Crown.)

• William Shirer, The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich (1977).

• Shaul Stampfer, Lithuanian Yeshivas of the Nineteenth Century: Creating a Tradition of Learning (The Littman Library of Jewish Civilization; trans. Lindsey Taylor-Guthartz; Portland, 2012). Shaul Stampfer focuses primarily on the yeshiva in Volozhin, which was established by R’ Chaim ben Yitzhak and which counted amongst its leaders (at least for a time) both the Beis haLevi and the Netziv, but he also gives attention to the yeshivas in Slobodka, Telz and Kovno. The yeshiva in Slobodka is particularly interesting to me: headed by R’ Nosson Tzvi Finkel (“the Alter of Slabodka”; 1849-1927), the yeshiva placed a very strong emphasis on the study of mussar. In 2011, when the rosh yeshiva of the Mir in Jerusalem died (a man also named Nosson Tzvi Finkel) he was eulogised by R’ Nissan Kaplan as having come to the yeshiva as a young American boy so many years back – a young boy, with no yichus. I don’t know what it means to have no yichus, given that his father was a rabbi, his great-uncle was the rosh yeshiva at the Mir, his grandfather was the mashgiach ruchani at Yeshivas Hebron, and his great-grandfather (for whom he was named) was the Alter of Slabodka. But there you go.

• Bernard Wasserstein, On the Eve: The Jews of Europe Before the Second World War (New York, 2012). From the book’s jacket: “Unlike most previous accounts, On the Eve focuses not on the anti-Semites [sic] but on the Jews. Wasserstein refutes the common misconception that they were unaware of the gathering forces of their enemies. He demonstrates that there was a growing and widespread recognition among Jews that they stood on the edge of an abyss… Wasserstein introduces a diverse array of characters: holy men and hucksters, beggars and bankers, politicians and poets, housewives and harlots… from Vilna (the “Jerusalem of the North”) to Amsterdam, Vienna, Warsaw, and Paris, from the Judeo-Espagnol-speaking stevedores of Salonica to the Yiddish-language collective farms of Soviet Ukraine and Crimea… Based on comprehensive research, rendered with compassion and empathy, and brought alive by telling anecdotes and dry wit, On the Eve offers a vivid and enlightening picture of the European Jews in their final hour.”

• Reuven Ziegler, Majesty and Humility: The Thought of Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik (Jerusalem, 2012).

and the pièce de résistance:

Biblical Archaeology Today: Proceedings of the International Congress on Biblical Archaeology – Jerusalem, April 1984. This wonderful text contains articles and addresses by a number of different scholars, many of whom were giants in their field. The list of authors includes, but is not limited to, Frank Moore Cross, Benjamin Mazar, Yigael Yadin, David Noel Freedman, Norman K. Gottwald, Siegfried Herrmann, Moshe Kochavi, Amihai Mazar, Israel Finkelstein, Avraham Biran, Ruth Amiran, William G. Dever, David Ussishkin, Donald B. Redford, André Lemaire, Baruch A. Levine, Lawrence H. Schiffman, Joseph M. Baumgarten, Elisha Qimron, John Strugnell, Hartmut Stegemann, David Flusser, Cyrus H. Gordon and Ephraim E. Urbach.


Decorating my Tomb

13 12 2011

At some time this morning, my blog finally reached 100,000 views! It’s the little things in life.

Well, what better way to usher in the new centumillennium than by inventing a word (thank you, yes) and by remarking on the current state of the five bookshelves in my bedroom. But first:

A Disclaimer.

I have been warned, by one whose opinion means much to me, that the following blog post is “incredibly boring”, and also that “nobody cares”. While a cataloguing of my books might have value for any future insurance claim, does it need to be published? A cogent critique! And yet, being the pedant that I am, I am going to publish it anyway. Feel free to simply look at the pretty pictures, skip to the Old and Rare Books section near the end, or else skip the whole thing altogether and wonder why you let yourself contribute to my slowly growing view count.

Excepting the volumes on my desk (a mini-Shas and several journals: NAPH, JBL, Tradition, Hakirah, etc), the following are the five shelves in my bedroom:

This is bookshelf #1. It might not look like much, but it does fit snugly into its little niche. This is the first of my two academia shelves, and sorted only by the author’s last name. Included here are books that deal with biblical studies, Qumranic literature, rabbinic literature and Jewish history. Books are arranged from right to left and include the ABD, two volumes of the IVP Dictionary of the Old Testament (“Pentateuch” and “Historical Books”), David Biale’s (ed.) Cultures of the Jews, four volumes of the “Compendia Rerum Iudaicarum” series (Mikra, Jewish Writings of the Second Temple Period, and Parts 1 and 2 of The Literature of the Sages), twelve volumes of The International Critical Commentary (Genesis, Numbers, Deuteronomy, Judges, Samuel, Kings, Isaiah 1-27, Ezekiel, Amos and Hosea, Job, Daniel and Chronicles), and all four volumes of Menachem Elon’s Jewish Law: History, Sources, Principles.

Books on this shelf that either changed my life, my course of study or my mind include:

• Gedaliah Alon’s The Jews in Their Land in the Talmudic Age,

• Robert Alter’s The Art of Biblical Narrative,

• Shaye Cohen’s The Beginnings of Jewishness: Boundaries, Varieties, Uncertainties,

• Noah Efron’s Real Jews: Secular vs. Ultra-Orthodox and the Struggle for Jewish Identity in Israel,

• Michael Fishbane’s Biblical Interpretation in Ancient Israel,

• Theodore Gaster’s Thespis, and

• Norman Gottwald’s The Hebrew Bible: A Socio-Literary Introduction.

This is bookshelf #2: the second of my two academic shelves. From the fourth shelf down is material pertaining to the Hebrew language: Biblical, Rabbinic and, in one instance, Israeli (Ghil’ad Zuckermann’s Language Contact and Lexical Enrichment in Israeli Hebrew). In addition to other works of scholarship on Hebrew, I have a total of twelve grammars (Arnold and Choi, A. Davidson, B. Davidson, Gesenius, Joüon and Muraoka, Lambdin, Segal, Sperber, Spinoza, van der Merwe, Waltke and O’Connor, Weingreen and Williams).

After Hebrew, things are a bit of a mess. I have books (grammars, dictionaries, other scholarship) concerning Aramaic, Syriac, Coptic, Greek, Latin, Yiddish, Akkadian, Arabic, Ge’ez and Ugaritic, followed by a few works that deal with comparative Semitics. Between Syriac and Coptic, however, lie all of my linguistics and literary critical books. The shelf is pretty tight, and in order to make room for newcomers, I have been moving unwanted literary critical texts to one of the shelves in my living room, together with material pertaining to modern European languages. When I run out of space for new books, I’ll just have to get a bigger house.

Books on this shelf that have changed my life, my course of study or my mind include:

• Gary Knoppers and Bernard Levinson’s (eds.) The Pentateuch as Torah: New Models for Understanding its Promulgation and Acceptance,

• Allan Nadler’s The Faith of the Mithnagdim: Rabbinic Responses to Hasidic Rapture,

• Donald Redford’s Egypt, Canaan and Israel in Ancient Times,

• Jeffrey Rubenstein’s Talmudic Stories: Narrative Art, Composition, and Culture,

• Gershom Scholem’s Major Trends in Jewish Mysticism,

• Marc Shapiro’s Studies in Maimonides and His Interpreters,

• Baruch Spinoza’s Theological-Political Tractate,

• Meir Sternberg’s The Poetics of Biblical Narrative: Ideological Literature and the Drama of Reading,

• Isaiah Tishby’s The Wisdom of the Zohar, and

• Emanuel Tov’s Textual Criticism of the Hebrew Bible.

While I imagine that he would not like to know it, I’ve a huge debt of gratitude to Prof. Lawrence Schiffman, whose From Text to Tradition: A History of Second Temple & Rabbinic Judaism did wonders in getting me out of yeshiva.

Favourite linguistic or grammatical works include Sue Groom’s Linguistic Analysis of Biblical Hebrew, Paul Joüon and Takamitsu Muraoka’s A Grammar of Biblical Hebrew, and Peter Cotterell and Max Turner’s Linguistics & Biblical Interpretation. Most formative in this area, however, would be Bruce Waltke and M. O’Connor’s An Introduction to Biblical Hebrew Syntax and, of course, Kautzsch and Cowley’s Gesenius’ Hebrew Grammar.

These are bookshelves #3 and 4. I couldn’t get a clear shot from the other side, which is the first of my three primary literature shelves. That one (the inverse of the side that you can see) contains material relating to the Hebrew Bible and to the period of the second temple. On the top shelf is my Miqra’ot Gedolot, to be followed by a Tiqqun Qor’im, a set of Torat Hayyim, a BHS, witnesses to the Hebrew Bible (MT, SP, LXX, Peshitta, Vulgate, Saadiah’s Arabic translation and some Coptic mss), a facsimile of the Geneva Bible, the KJV, RSV and NRSV, the Jerusalem Bible, Martínez and Tigchelaar’s Dead Sea Scrolls Study Edition, two editions of Ben Sirach (one, the official publication with plates; the other, a critical edition), Josephus, Philo, and critical editions of the Nag Hammadi library, the Apocrypha and the Pseudepigrapha. After that, I have a concordance (Even-Shoshan), an English Mishna (Danby), the BDB, HALOT, Jastrow, an excellent index of the rabbinic literature (arranged by scriptural source) and – because I like to “cheat” – both Kehati’s and Albeck’s commentaries on the Mishna, as well as Rabbi Steinsaltz’s Hebrew translation of the Babylonian Talmud. Next to that set is Frank’s grammar on Babylonian Talmudic Aramaic, and I have found that by assiduously avoiding everything he has to say about Biblical Hebrew (a waw that “converts the tense”! Indeed!), I have so far avoided throwing it at my wall.

On the side that you can see in the picture, I have my primary rabbinic literature: midrash, parshanut, chassidut and philosophy. From the top right, there’s the Etz Hayyim in four volumes, after which is all of my midrash aggadah: Midrash Rabbah, Midrash Tehillim (“Shocher Tov”), Yalqut Shim’oni, Midrash Tanchuma, Leqach Tov, Pirqei deRebi Eliezer, Pesiqta deRav Qahana, Pesiqta Rabbati, Seder ‘Olam Rabbah, Seder ‘Olam Zuta, Tana deVei Eliyahu and Sekhel Tov. After that is an English translation of Bialik and Ravnitzky’s Sefer haAggadah, and then all of my parshanut. That includes Mishnat haRosh (a compendium of Rabbeinu Asher‘s observations on the parsha, culled from his writings and the writings of his son), Gur Aryeh (the Maharal‘s 16th c. super-commentary on Rashi), the Meshekh Chokhmah of Rabbi Meir Simcha of Dvinsk (the “‘Or Sameach”), seven homiletic commentaries of Rabbi Yehonatan Eybeschütz (Tiferet Yehonatan, Chasdei Yehonatan, Ahavat Yehonatan, Divrei Yehonatan, Nefesh Yehonatan, Midrash Yehonatan and Tzefichat haDevash) and a collection of scriptural observations of the Vilna Gaon: Rabbi Eliyahu ben Shlomo Zalman.

Chassidut! The only work of “general Chassidut” that I have is the Noam Elimelekh. For Breslov, I have the Liqqutei Moharan, Shivchei haRan, Sikhot haRan, and an English translation of Rebbe Nachman’s stories. I have a haggadah with a commentary by Spinker Hasidim, the Sefat Emet of the second Gerrer Rebbe, Reb Arleh’s Shomer Emunim (in two volumes), together with a couple of works that were published by Toldos Aharon: Tiqvat haGe’ulah and Derekh Emunah. I have the Satmar Rebbe’s VaYoel Moshe, and number of works of Chabad: Liqqutei ‘Amarim (“Tanya”), Siddur Torah ‘Or, Seder Tefillot miKol haShanah, Torah ‘Or and Liqqutei Torah, two volumes of commentary on various ma’amarim of the Baal haTanya (Chassidut Mevu’eret), the Tzemach Tzedek’s Derekh Mitzvoteikha, and a few works by the Lubavitcher Rebbe, including his Hadranim al-haRambam veShas, Hilkhot Bet haBechirah, and ‘Inyanah shel Torat haChassidut. I did have the full set of Liqqutei Sichot, but until I figure out whether or not I want to sell it, it’s sitting on a shelf in my living room.

As for philosophy, I’ve the Rambam’s Moreh haNevukhim (trans. S. Pines) and R’ Yehuda haLevi’s haKuzari, as well as Reishit Chokhmah, Sha’arei Teshuvah, ‘Orkhot Tzadikkim, and the Ramchal‘s Derekh haShem, Derekh haTevunot and Sefer haHigayon. How I love those last two. I also have a variety of English books on this shelf, whether philosophical (Soloveitchik, Leibowitz, Jacobs, Hirsch and Heschel) or academic. For the latter, I have three works on prayer (R’ Seth Kadish’s Kavvana: Directing the Heart in Jewish Prayer, Jeremy Schonfield’s Undercurrents of Jewish Prayer, and Rabbi Prof. Daniel Sperber’s On Changes in Jewish Liturgy: Options and Limitations), as well as Marc Shapiro’s incredible The Limits of Orthodox Theology: Maimonides’ Thirteen Principles Reappraised. I also have an excellent and provocative work by a brilliant and highly underrated scholar: Judith Plaskow’s Standing Again at Sinai: Judaism From a Feminist Perspective. I have been greatly intrigued by feminist approaches to scripture ever since I encountered the works of Cheryl Exum and Phyllis Trible, and feminist (or at least, gender-based) approaches to rabbinic literature since I discovered Daniel Boyarin. Judith Plaskow’s work is the feminist approach to Jewish tradition par excellence. A must read for feminists, and for those who haven’t yet realised that that’s what they are.

You cannot see it in the photo, but buried on the bottom shelf, like an embarrassing neurosis, is material pertaining to the Holocaust. As with many of my interests, there is a thin line between analysis and devotion, and a confusion over whether or not there is a difference between the two. For that reason, I include here a slim volume of drawings and poems that were made and composed by children in Theresienstadt Concentration Camp (I Have Not Seen a Butterfly Around Here), a DVD that contains footage from Penig, Ohrdruf, Breendonck, Hannover, Arnstadt, Mauthausen, Buchenwald and Dachau, and the Piaseczno Rebbe‘s Sacred Fire: Torah From the Years of Fury 1939-1942 (trans. from Esh Kodesh), which could have been placed with parshanut, or even chassidut. Within this section of my fourth shelf, I also have Lucy Dawidowicz’s The War Against the Jews, Raul Hilberg’s Sources of Holocaust Research: An Analysis, his three-volume The Destruction of the European Jews, Albert Speer’s Inside the Third Reich, and Claude Lanzmann’s brilliant 9.5hr documentary, Shoah.

Ah, it’s bookshelf #5! This one is a continuation of my primary rabbinic literature, but this time with a decidedly halakhic and kabbalistic theme. Along the top is my Babylonian Talmud, followed by my Palestinian Talmud (in eight clunky volumes; I miss my single-volume Yerushalmi). The second shelf contains antique and rare books, recently rescued from the cabinet in my living room. The oldest of these books is from 1701, although some of them were published in places like Warsaw, Vilna and Berlin immediately prior to the Shoah. One of them (Avraham Mapu’s Ahavat Tziyon) was published in “Palestine”, 1948. The introduction notes that it was published “שבועים להכרזת המדינה היהודית” (two weeks after the declaration of a Jewish state)! Those that are in particularly poor condition (excluding a few that are at the book doctor’s as we speak) are sitting in the cabinet still, waiting to be looked after.

At the end of the Old and Rare Books section, the halakhic literature continues with my midrash halakha: Mekhilta deRebi Shim’on bar Yochai, Mekhilta deRebi Ishmael, two versions of Sifra (“Torat Kohanim”; one of them a critical edition), Sifrei on Numbers and Deuteronomy, and Midrash Tannaim. Next is my 13-volume Mishnayot Zekher Chanokh: a set of Mishna, published by Moznaim, with every conceivable commentary and super-commentary that you could poke a stick at. Following that is Sefer haChinukh, the Rambam’s Sefer haMitzvot, and the Rambam’s illustrious Mishne Torah. After those is Rabbi Yitzhak of Vienna’s ‘Or Zarua and the anonymously authored Sefer Kol Bo, followed by the Arba’ah Turim and the Shulchan Arukh, the Shulchan Arukh haRav, Hayyei Adam, Mishne Berurah, Kitzur Shulchan Arukh, Ben Ish Chai, the Arukh haShulchan and the Arukh haShulchan he’Atid.

Some “minor” works of halakha follow, some of them in English, after which I’ve placed my Sifrei haGeonim: Rav Saadiah Gaon’s Siddur, the famous responsum of Rav Sherira Gaon and the Sheiltot of Rav Achai Gaon. My favourite siddur follows (Siddur Vilna, if you’re curious, although I think that Siddur Torah ‘Or and Seder Tefillot miKol haShanah are both marvellous), the machzorim that I inherited from my grandfather and a couple of haggadot.

You cannot see the bottom shelf on this photo either, but it contains some “kabbalistic” siddurim with kavvanot included: one three-volume set in the tradition of Rabbi Shalom Sharabi, a single volume that purports to be the siddur of Rabbi Asher Margoliot, and two hand-written siddurim by a hasid of Shomer Emunim (one of them with a haskamah from Rabbi Yisroel Reizman of the Edah). I have a couple of copies of Sefer Yetzirah (one with R’ Aryeh Kaplan’s commentary, and one with commentaries by the Raavad, the Ramban, Rav Saadiah Gaon and the Vilna Gaon, amongst others), R’ Aryeh Kaplan’s translation and commentary of Sefer haBahir, and two versions of Sefer Raziel haMal’akh. Following those is a reference book on Jewish amulets, a nice three-volume set of Sefer haZohar al-haTorah, and the twenty-two volume “Matoq miDevash” commentary on Sefer haZohar (with Tiqqunei haZohar and Zohar Chadash).

The following is a catalogue of my Old and Rare books, arranged in chronological order by date of publication:

Amsterdam, 1701. A small Hebrew Bible (Biblia Hebraica), with no vowels or accents, and with the qere/ktiv written in the form of a list at the back;

Magdeburg, 1720. A large Hebrew Bible (Biblia Hebraica), with text-critical apparatus in the margins and at the bottoms of the pages. The volume features a Latin introduction, and a dedication to King Frederick Wilhelm I (“Friderico Wilhelmo”). The title page features an illustration of five men, one of whom wears a crown and has a harp at his feat. They have Isaiah 8:20 open before them, with the words לתורה ולתעודה (“For teaching and for instruction”, NRSV) on display. They are gazing in wonder as the heavens above them open: a celestial temple can be seen through the clouds, above which is a triangle which features three yods, and which radiates light over the whole scene. A banner, beneath the lowermost cloud, features a (slightly truncated) quote from Psalm 36:10: כי] עמך מקור חיים באורך נראה אור (“[For] with you is the source of life; by your light we will see light”):

London, 1843. Moses Margoliouth, The Fundamental Principles of Modern Judaism Investigated; Together with a Memoir of the Author, and an Introduction: to which are appended a List of the Six Hundred and Thirteen Precepts: and Addresses to Jews and Christians;

Prague, 1856. A machzor for Yom Kippur, acc. to the tradition of Poland, Bohemia, Moravia and Hungary (כמנהג פולין בעהמען מעהרן ואונגארן), with German translation. The front page features an illustration of Abraham, knife-drawn, holding the hand of a young Isaac, who clutches a bundle of sticks and looks innocently at his father. The inscription: מי שענה לאברהם אבינו בהר המוריה הוא יעננו (“He who responded to our father, Abraham, on Mt Moriah – he will respond to us”). If you look carefully, you can see a ram in the thicket behind them:

Prague, 1860. Selichot for the entire year, acc. to the tradition of Poland, Bohemia, Moravia and Hungary (כמנהג פולין בעהמען מעהרן ואונגארן);

Warsaw, 1863. The first volume of a three-volume Zohar al-haTorah;

Vienna, 1863. The liturgy for Tishah b’Av, with Lamentations. The title page boasts the presence of large letters, nice paper and black ink (באותיות גדולות ובנייר יפה ובדיו שחור);

London, 1864. A King James Bible, originally gifted by a mother to her son in 1881;

London, 1864. A siddur in Hebrew and English, acc. to the Polish tradition;

Berlin, 1866. The third and fourth volumes of a Mishne Torah (being the fourth and fifth books: נשים and קדושה) – in need of rebinding;

London, 1868. W.M. Thomson, The Land and the Book; or, Biblical Illustrations drawn from the Manners and Customs, the Scenes and Scenery of the Holy Land;

Lemberg, 1870. Rabbi Chaim ben Shlomo of Chernowitz, סדורו של שבת (Sidduro Shel Shabbat, “The Order of Shabbat”). A Hasidic discourse on the laws and customs of Shabbat;

Vilna, 1873. A machzor for Rosh haShana, Yom Kippur, Pesach, Shavuot and Sukkot, acc. to the Ashkenazi tradition – currently being rebound;

Vilna, 1874. Rabbi Bahya ibn Paquda, חובות הלבבות (Chovvot haLevavot, “Duties of the Heart”);

London, 1874. Reverend A.P. Mendes, The Students Prayer Book: A New Interlinear Translation of the Daily, Sabbath and Festival Prayers, with the Blessings, Prayers for Children, &c., &c., to which is prefixed A Compendium of the Hebrew Accidence, Designed to Serve as an Introduction to the Study of the Sacred Language;

Unknown, 1881. A large English King James Bible with embossed wooden covers and metal clasps. Extensive commentary, copious illustrations (both black-and-white and colour), and introductions dealing with flora, fauna, weaponry, architecture, etc. Apocrypha included:

London, 1886. Frederic W. Farrar, History of Interpretation: Eight Lectures Preached Before the University of Oxford in the Year MDCCCLXXXV;

Vilna, 1887. The first volume of a Midrash Rabba (being Genesis Rabba and Exodus Rabba) – in need of rebinding;

Vilna, 1891. Seder Zeraim in the Mishna, together with the commentaries of Rabbi Ovadiah of Bertinoro and Rabbi Yisroel Lipschitz (“Tiferet Yisrael”), and selections from the commentary of Rabbi Yom-Tov Lipmann Heller (“Tosafot Yom-Tov”);

Philadelphia, 1891. Heinrich Graetz, History of the Jews. Volume 1: From the Earliest Period to the Death of Simon the Maccabee (135 BCE);

Vilna, 1895. A Siddur in the Ashkenazi tradition;

Vienna, 1896. A Hebrew Bible;

Vilna, 1898. Rabbi Yaakov Tzvi Yissachar Shapira, תפארת יעקב (Tiferet Yaakov). A super-commentary on the תפארת ישראל (Tiferet Yisrael: Rabbi Yisroel Lipschitz’s commentary on the Mishna). This volume contains an approbation by the Rogatchover Gaon, Rabbi Yosef Rosen;

Vilna, 1898. A collection of poems by the maskil, Yehuda Leib Gordon, cleverly titled “שיַרי השירים” (Shayarei haShirim, “Remnants of Songs”);

Tarnów, 1904. Rabbi Elimelekh of Lizhensk, נועם אלימלך (Noam Elimelekh). A Hasidic commentary on the Torah. This volume contains an approbation by the Shinever Rov, Rabbi Yechezkel Shraga Halberstam – currently being rebound;

Vilna, 1911. Selichot for Rosh haShana – currently being rebound;

Braunschweig, 1907. C. Diercke and E. Gaebler, Schul-atlas für höhere lehrenstalten (“An Atlas For High School Students”) – in need of rebinding;

Berlin, 1912. A Hebrew Bible;

Vilna, 1913. Chaim Meir Heilman, בית רבי: תולדות הרב (Beit Rebi: Toldot haRav, “The House of Rebbe: Generations of the Rav”). The text constitutes an early history of Chabad, dealing with the lives of Rabbi Schneur Zalman (“the Alter Rebbe”), Rabbi Dovber Schneuri (“the Mitteler Rebbe”) and Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneersohn (“the Tzemach Tzedek”);

Pietrkov, 1913. A machzor for Rosh haShana and Yom Kippur, acc. to the Ashkenazi tradition;

Vienna, 1921. Moses Rath, שפת עמנו: A Hebrew Grammar and Reader for Schools and Selfinstruction – currently being rebound;

Leipzig, 1922. Chaim Brody (ed.), מבחר השירה העברית: Anthologia Hebraica: Poemata selecta a libris divinis confectis usque ad iudaeorum ex hispania expulsionem. A selection of Hebrew poems, composed between the years immediately following the formation of the canon until the exile from Spain. The oldest poems in the text are by Ben Sirach, and the latest are by Rabbi Shlomo ben Reuven Bonfid;

London, 1922. Hillaire Belloc, The Jews – first edition;

Warsaw, 1922. Shmuel Leib Gordon, עשרים וארבעה: נביאים אחרונים – דברי ירמיהו (‘Esrim veArba’ah: Neviyim Acharonim – Divrei Yirmiyahu, “Twenty-Four: Latter Prophets – The Words of Jeremiah”). The third volume of an illustrated commentary on the twenty-four books of Tanakh;

Berlin, 1924. A beautiful facsimile of a handwritten Shir haShirim;

London, 1926. A Hebrew Bible;

Berlin, 1927. Rabbi Yaakov ibn Habib, עין יעקב (Ein Yaakov). Originally composed at the end of the 15th century, the work constitutes a presentation of the aggadic passages in the Babylonian Talmud, together with the author’s commentary;

Warsaw, 1927. A small siddur in the Ashkenazi tradition, titled שפת אמת (Sefat Emet, “Truthful Speech”);

Vienna, 1930. A haggadah for Pesach;

London, 1933. A haggadah for Pesach;

Vienna, 1934. A two-park machzor for Rosh HaShana and Yom Kippur, acc. to the Polish tradition;

Vienna, 1937. A haggadah for Pesach;

Cairo, 1940. A haggadah for Pesach, acc. to the Karaite tradition. Written in French and Hebrew, with a disclaimer in Hebrew and Arabic to the effect that anybody who reproduces a Karaite siddur without it being stamped with the offical stamp of the Karaite bet din in Egypt will be penalised in accordance with local law;

Jerusalem, 1948. Abraham Mapu, אהבת ציון (Ahavat Tziyon, “Love of Zion”). First published in 1853 (בשנת תרי”ג, as the introduction innocently points out), Ahavat Tziyon was the first novel ever published in the Hebrew language. This version was published in “Eretz-Israel (Palestine)”, two weeks after the declaration of the Jewish state (שבועים להכרזת המדינה היהודית);

Unknown, 1952. A haggadah for Pesach, acc. to the Karaite tradition. Written in Arabic;

Unknown. A siddur in the Ashkenazi tradition, of unknown provenance. The binding is strong, but the pages are in poor condition. My guess is that it is either early 20th century, or very late 19th.

• The Aleppo Codex, or כתר ארם צובא (Keter Aram Tzova, “Crown of Aleppo”). The earliest Hebrew Bible in codex form, dating from the 10th century. The full extant manuscript (severely damaged after the synagogue that housed it was set alight in the 20th century) can be viewed online. The original is housed in Jerusalem, at the Shrine of the Book;

• The Leningrad Codex. After the damage accrued by the Aleppo Codex, this is now the oldest most complete Hebrew Bible in codex form, dating from the 11th century. According to the colophon, the text was completed in the month of Sivan, of the year 4770 – almost exactly one thousand years ago (1010/11 CE). The date is also given as 1444 since the exile of King Jehoiachin, as 1319 from the “dominion of the Greeks” and the cessation of prophecy, of 940 since the destruction of the second temple, and of 399 of the “reign of the small horn” (ie: Hijrah). The full text can be downloaded from this link. The original is housed in the National Library of Russia, under “Firkovich B 19 A”;

• A haggadah from Prague, 1527. It would appear that the original is kept by the Religious Council of Efrat, although I have not been able to determine where, and under which classification:

• A (very) small Birkat haMazon from Hungary, written and illustrated by a Polish scribe named Meshullam, who went by the name of Zimel (נעשה ונכתב ע”י הסופר משולם המכונה זימל פאלין). Acc. to the title page, the booklet was commissioned in 1751 as a gift from Koppel, son of Rav Yirmiyahu Broda, to his bride, Gittel, the daughter of Rav Savel Leidersdorf. There are colour illustrations throughout the text, some quite gruesome. Alongside the additional prayer said on Purim is the hanging of Haman and his sons. Alongside the additional prayer said on Hanukkah is Judith holding the severed head of Holofernes aloft, the stump of his neck protruding bloodily from the sheets of his bed. In the background, a boy lights a hanukkiah, and in the foreground stands a girl who waits to receive his head in an open sack. The original is housed in the Jewish Museum in Budapest, No. 64.626: