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Lot 8

Manuscript on Parchment – Hilchot HaRif on Many Tractates – Spain, 14th Century – "Accurate Alfas" Copy of Rabbi Shlomo Luria, the Maharshal, with his Signatures and Hundreds of his Glosses – Copy of Rabbi Feivish of Kraków, Teacher of the Bach

Thick manuscript volume on parchment, Hilchot Rav Alfas (the Rif) on Tractates Sukkah, Yoma, Moed Katan, Shabbat, Eruvin, Chullin, Halachot Ketanot, Hilchot Niddah, Order Nashim and Order Nezikin; with Pirkei Avot. [Spain, ca. 14th century]. Neat, square Sephardic script by two scribes.
The last page contains signatures of R. Shlomo Luria – the Maharshal: "So says the young Shlomo son of R. Yechiel Luria of Poznań, named Shlomo R. Yitzchak". Followed by another signature (partly deleted): "Acquired with my money, so says the young Shlomo [Luria?]". The margins of the manuscript contain hundreds of glosses in Ashkenazic script from that period. Based on our examination and comparisons with his compositions, we have determined that the glosses contained in this manuscript were handwritten by the Maharshal, and this seems to be the manuscript the Maharshal refers to several times in his compositions as "Accurate Alfas" or "Parchment Alfasi".
Additional signatures and ownership inscriptions appear at the end of the volume, including ownership inscriptions of R. Meshulam Feivish Rabbi of Kraków - teacher of the Bach - and of his sons.
This is a uniquely significant historic item – a manuscript volume on parchment, presumably written in Spain in the 14th century, which reached the study halls of Poland in the 16th century, and was in the possession of the Maharshal, who signed his name on it and annotated it, using it as an accurate copy on which to base his corrections.
The Manuscript:
Square Sephardic script, characteristic of the 14th century. Copied by two scribes. The first scribe copied the first half of the volume (pp. [1a]-[266a]) and marked his name, Yaakov, in several places (pp. [6b], [16a], [27b], [45a], [98b], [141b], [145b], [260a]). The second scribe, Chizkiyahu Kohen son of Yitzchak HaKohen, copied the second half of the volume (pp. [266b]-[455a]), marking his name in several places (pp. [290a], [298a], [388a], [388b], [400a], [444b], [445a], [446b]; on p. [395a] he marked "LaKohen", and on p. [449a], "Kahana"), and signing his name in the colophon on p. [455a]: "I, Chizkiyahu Kohen son of R. Yitzchak HaKohen, completed this book, the composition of HaRav Alfasi, from Tractate Ketubot, Chapter HeArel until here, for R. Moshe HaLevi, may G-d grant him the merit of studying from it, him and his descendants until the end of all generations, Amen – May we be strong and grow stronger, may the scribe not be harmed, now and for posterity…". The words "R. Moshe HaLevi" appear in faded or erased ink. The first page of the manuscript contains the completion of Tractate Rosh Hashanah, followed by the beginning of Tractate Sukkah. The manuscript is comprised of the complete Hilchot HaRif to Tractates Sukkah, Yoma, Moed Katan, Shabbat, Eruvin, Chullin, Halachot Ketanot, Hilchot Niddah, Order Nashim and Order Nezikin. Tractate Avot was copied at the end of the manuscript.
Signature of the Maharshal:
The last page (p. [455b]) contains the signature: "So says the young Shlomo son of R. Yechiel Luria of Poznań, named Shlomo R. Yitzchak". The Maharshal signs several responsa in Responsa Maharshal with the identical wording, for instance in section 36: "The words of Shlomo son of R. Yechiel Luria, named Sh.R. [= Shlomo R.] Yitzchak"; he likewise signed in the initials of the riddle he composed for the order of the Passover Seder (Responsa Maharshal, section 88): "Shlomo son of R. Yechiel Luria named Shlomo R. Yitzchak…". The Maharshal was given the appellation "Shlomo R. Yitzchak" after his grandfather, R. Yitzchak Kloiver of Worms, whom he studied Torah from in his youth. Below this signature, another signature of the Maharshal appears (partly deleted): "Acquired with my money, so says the young Shlomo [Luria?]". The two signatures end with a similar curlicue tending downwards from the Aleph of the word Luria.
Glosses of the Maharshal:
The pages of the manuscript contain hundreds of glosses (in the margins and between the lines) in early Ashkenazic script, which we have identified as the actual handwriting of the Maharshal. The identification of the Maharshal's handwriting was concurrently determined by Dr. Meir Raffeld and Dr. Chaim Bentov, by comparing the writing with an established handwriting of the Maharshal (see: M. Raffeld, Netivei Meir, 2013, pp. 287-288, note 12). The glosses appear mainly on the pages of Tractates Ketubot, Bava Kama and Makot. Most of the glosses consist of copyings of the words of Rishonim, mainly the Rashi commentary on the Rif and Piskei HaRosh, but several glosses are original, signed "N.L." (Nir'a Li – so it seems to me). In these original glosses, we found several instances which parallel with what the Maharshal wrote in his composition. There is also correspondence between this text of the Rif and the text that the Maharshal established according to the "Old Alfas" in his possession.
Most of the glosses are copyings from teachings of the Rishonim, apart from 16 original glosses signed "N.L." (two of these glosses are trimmed). Some of the glosses are signed "R." = Rashi, and consist of copyings of the commentary on the Rif ascribed to Rashi; others are signed "A." = Asheri, containing copyings of Piskei HaRosh (which relate to Hilchot HaRif). In several places, he cites other sources: "To[safot]"; "Semag"; "Haga BeA[sheri]"; "R. Niss[im]"; in one instance he quotes the Tur; and in several places he brings from "M.O." =
Mordechai Österreich. On p. [172a], he cites a passage of Tosefot HaRashbam (published in Shamma Yehuda Friedman, Tosafot of the Rashbam to Alfasi, Kovetz Al Yad 18, 1975, pp. 202-203). In some places, the Maharshal corrects the text of the Rif.
As mentioned, by examination and meticulous comparison of the manuscript and glosses against the works of the Maharshal, several parallels were found. In two instances, we found brief marginal glosses in this manuscript which were expounded into an entire section in his work Yam Shel Shlomo. See Hebrew description for a detailed report.
Glosses by other writers:
P. [116b] contains a gloss in early Ashkenazic script, in a different handwriting than the other glosses, ending: "So it seems in my humble opinion".
Pp. [423b] and [419a] contain glosses in early Sephardic cursive script (omissions from the text of the Rif).
Copy of R. Meshulam Feivish Rabbi of Kraków: Ownership inscriptions of R. Meshulam Feivish Rabbi of Kraków and of his sons appear on the last page, p. [455b]: "R. Meshulam known as Feivish, Rabbi"; "R. Feivish son of Yisrael Shmuel, Shmuel son of R. Meshulam known to all as R. Feivish"; "Yosef son of R. Meshulam"; "Yisrael son of R. Meshulam".
R. Meshulam Feivish son of R. Yisrael Shmuel was the rabbi of Kraków ca. 1608. Seemingly, he served previously as rabbi of Brisk, where he was the teacher of R. Yoel Sirkis, author of Bayit Chadash – the Bach, who mentions him: "And so I was taught by my teacher R. Vish (Feivish) of Brisk, Lithuania" (Bach, Orach Chaim 276). In Halachic literature (such as in the Taz, in Eliyahu Raba and others), many halachic rulings are quoted in his name, and his responsa appear in Responsa Bach, Responsa HaGeonim Batra'ei and others. After his passing, his disciple the Bach succeeded him in the rabbinate of Kraków. His son R. Shmuel, whose signature appears here, served as rabbi of Premisla. See enclosed material for more details.
Other ownership inscriptions:
In the margin of p. [221b], two inscriptions in Ashkenazic script appear: "I am Yaakov son of Natan Mashe". The last leaf (leaf [455]) contains additional ownership inscriptions in Ashkenazic script. On the recto: "So says Aharon son of Yisrael"; "I studied in this in the community of [---], so says [---]". On the verso: "Yeshaya…"; "Yokev son of Elyakum known as Getz of Poznań in 1632"; "Binyamin Wolf son of R. Yisrael Moshe".
On the first page, the stamp of "Study hall of the Ashkenazic community in London – Jews' College". Several pages bear stamps of "Daniel son of R. I. – D.I." (the famous philanthropist R. Daniel Yoffe of Berlin, also known as Daniel Itzig, leader of the Berlin community in the late 18th century. He maintained in his home a library of books and manuscripts, and offered financial support to Torah scholars who came to study in his home and library. R. Yosef Teomim, the Pri Megadim, composed most his books in the home of Daniel Yoffe, as he mentions in the prefaces to his books).
The Maharshal – Biography:
The Maharshal – R. Shlomo Luria (ca. 1510-1573), was the Rabbi and yeshiva dean of Lublin and a spiritual giant of Polish Jewry at the beginning of the Acharonim era. A leading Halachic authority and commentator to the Talmud of all generations. He belonged to a generation of Torah scholars such as the Beit Yosef, the Rama and the Arizal. He was presumably born in Brisk, Lithuania, to a family descending from Rashi. In his youth, he moved to Poznań where he was raised by his grandfather – R. Yitzchak Kloiver of Worms, and studied Torah under him, earning him the appellation "Shlomo R. Yitzchak". He disseminated Torah in Brisk and in Ostroh. After the passing of R. Shalom Shachna, Rabbi of Lublin, he succeeded him as rabbi and yeshiva dean.
With his Torah authority and hundreds of disciples, he established the largest Torah center in Poland and its surroundings. In his battle against the Pilpul method of Torah study prevalent at the time, he established his own approach to study. Many of the generation's leading Torah scholars and rabbis of Polish communities were his disciples, including R. Yehoshua Falk HaKohen author of Sema, R. Shlomo Efraim of Luntschitz author of Kli Yakar, R. Chaim of Friedberg brother of the Maharal of Prague, R. Eliyahu Baal Shem of Chelm, R. Binyamin Salonik author of Responsa Masat Binyamin, R. Moshe Mat of Premisla author of Mateh Moshe, and the Shelah.
The leading Torah scholars of his and subsequent generations spoke in effusive terms of his greatness and enormous impact. The Rama, his friend and relative, was also a leader of Polish Jewry in those times and headed a large yeshiva in Kraków. The two exchanged halachic correspondence which sometimes developed into fierce polemics, yet the Rama nevertheless related to him with great reverence and submission, describing him as "fitting to be relied upon like Moshe who heard the Torah directly from G-d".
The famous miracle which occurred to him is recounted by the Chida in Shem HaGedolim (entry Shlomo Luria): One night, while he was studying, his candle burnt low and was about to extinguish, but a miracle transpired and it continued burning until dawn broke. The Maharshal alludes to this miracle in the preface to his book Yam Shel Shlomo, writing that he once received a sign from Heaven through a candle, encouraging him to continue in his studies.
Apart from his expansive commentary work Yam Shel Shlomo, he authored many other significant compositions, including his responsa book (Responsa Maharshal), Kabbalistic works and others. Part of his study methodology was investigating and clarifying the correct text of the classical books, and several of his works consist of corrections of textual errors. The most renowned of them is Chochmat Shlomo, in which he establishes the correct wording of the Babylonian Talmud – a composition which was later integrated in all printed editions of the Talmud.
The Maharshal possessed a particularly extensive library, including many manuscripts, which he utilized for correcting the Talmud (see: R. Y.L. Kliers, The Maharshal's Library, HaMaayan 49, 4 – Tammuz 2009). The famous proofreader of the Kraków printing press, R. Shmuel Pihem, in the foreword to the second edition of Chochmat Shlomo (Kraków 1582), describes the Maharshal's way of work, how he obtained early parchment manuscripts of Talmud, Rashi and Tosafot, and based on them and on the halachic works of Rav Alfas, the Rambam, Semag, Semak, Baal HaTurim, Baal HeAruch and responsa works of Rishonim and Acharonim, he corrected all textual errors, refining and clarifying everything with his pure mind.
Several times in his works, the Maharshal corrects the text based on an "Old Alfasi" or "Parchment Alfasi" which he possessed. This volume is probably the one the Maharshal used when correcting. It is noteworthy that the Maharshal used the Rif's composition extensively in his studies, and there is almost no leaf in Yam Shel Shlomo which does not contain a mention of the Rif.
R. Yair Chaim Bacharach, author of Chavot Yair, writes in one of his responsa (Responsa Chavot Yair, section 43) concerning a rabbi who attempted to contradict the Maharshal's teachings: "...[the Maharshal's] pure soul undoubtedly stemmed from the Atzilut spheres… and he has already been pronounced to have the ability, should the Torah be forgotten, to restore it with his in-depth study… I will not be able to concur with him, far from me to cause offense to G-d's anointed one…". In another responsum (ibid, section 44), he lauds the Maharshal: "From Shlomo until Shlomo, no one arose like Shlomo". In the approbation of the Prague rabbis to Yam Shel Shlomo, they write of the Maharshal: "Almost all the prominent Torah scholars of our times are his disciples and glean from his teachings".
The epitaph on the tombstone of Rebbe Chaim of Sanz, the Divrei Chaim, famously includes: "Of holy descent of the Maharshal". A prevalent Chassidic tradition attests that this was done at the behest of the Divrei Chaim, since the name of the Maharshal has the ability to dispel spiritual impurities.
[455] parchment leaves. Lacking the beginning. Most gatherings contain 6 sheets (12 leaves). 23 cm. Overall good condition. Stains. The first and last leaves are worn and damaged. Small tears in several places. Large tear to leaf [84]. Lower margin of leaf [283] cut out, not affecting text. Margins trimmed, affecting some of the glosses and the titles with the names of the tractates at the top of the leaves. Several natural holes. Red stained edges. New leather binding, with gilt blocking.
1. Collection of the Beit Din and Beit Midrash – London, manuscript no. 10.
2. Christie's – New York, June 1999, lot 7.