Auction 42 - Rare and Important Items

Levush HaButz V'Ha'argaman – Venice, 1620 – Original Glosses Handwritten by Rabbi Shmuel Vital – With Many Variations from the Printed Version and with Dozens of Glosses that have not been Printed

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Levush HaButz V'Ha'argaman, Even HaEzer. By Rabbi Mordechai Yaffe. [Venice, 1620. Printed by Pietro and Lorenzo Bragadini, Giovanni Cajon].
Copy of Rabbi Shmuel Vital, with dozens of glosses in his own handwriting.
The book contains 74 glosses in the handwriting characteristic to Rabbi Shmuel Vital; 40 of them are long. 12 are signed at the beginning (Hebrew): A.S. = Amar Shmuel [Shmuel said]. There are also corrections and additions of subjects in the index at the end of the book, in his handwriting (19 additions). Most of the glosses have never been printed.
Rabbi Shmuel Vital
Rabbi Shmuel Vital (1598-1677), one of the leading disciples who copied kabbalistic teachings of the Ari and the great rabbis of the Ari's generation; a tsaddik and kabbalist, head of yeshiva and Av Beit Din of Damascus, one of the most prominent disciples of his father, Rabbi Chaim Vital . He copied and arranged his father's writings and the writings of his father's teacher, the Arizal. Son-in-law of Rabbi Yoshiya Pinto (the Rif) of Damascus (author of the Nivchar M'Kesef responsa, Rif commentary on Ein Ya'akov, etc.), and his successor as Rabbi of Damascus. An outstanding Torah genius of revealed and hidden Torah, he answered halachic questions sent to him from Eretz Israel, Egypt and other places (his responsa were printed in the Be’er Mayim Chaim responsa). A close disciple of his holy father Rabbi Chaim Vital, whom he calls in all his books “Mori” [my teacher]. His father held him in great esteem and praised him excessively. He said that his soul is from the root of the Ari’s soul and is a spark of the soul of Rabbi Meir, and Rabbi Chaim transmitted to Rabbi Shmuel kabbalistic hidden secrets. In Damascus, he headed the yeshiva in which he taught the Ari’s kabbalah and one of his disciples was Rabbi Ya’akov Tzemach [who arranged the writings of Rabbi Chaim Vital]. In 1663, Rabbi Shmuel Vital left Damascus and traveled to Egypt. Part of his possessions which were sent to Egypt before he arrived were lost or stolen on the way, together with a load of books and manuscripts. This caused Rabbi Shmuel great pain and he wrote: “Due to my sins, when I was expelled from my home and city and country and sojourned in a foreign land… I was robbed several times of my money and my books, both my responsa and books of poskim…”. He lived in Egypt until his death; there he began to arrange his writings. He signed Torah rulings together with the dayanim and Torah scholars of Egypt. His son, Rabbi Moshe Vital served as rabbi in Egypt.
Rabbi Shmuel received the Ari’s Kabbalistic teachings from his father and he inherited his writings, thereby becoming one of the most important editors of the Ari’s kabbalah and among the foremost transmitters of the Ari’s teachings and conduct. From his father’s teachings, he arranged and edited the work Shmone She’arim (also called Etz Chaim) which was the first reliable composition officially published with the arrangement of the Ari’s kabbalah. The Chida (entry: Rabbi Chaim Vital) writes of this composition: “Thirty years and more have passed since Shmona She’arim has been published arranged by the Maharchav‘s son Shmuel and they can be relied upon…”. The subsequent editors also followed Rabbi Shmuel; amongst them are Rabbi Ya’akov Tzemach (his disciple) and his disciple Rabbi Meir Popers.
Rabbi Shmuel also wrote works on the revealed Torah. Among them are Totzot Chaim on the Torah; Mekor Chaim – homiletics; Chochmat Nashim on the laws of Gittin, Yibum and Chalitza; Be’er Mayim Chaim responsa; Chaim Shnayim Yeshalem – novellae on the Talmud and Halacha; etc.
The author of Kore HaDorot (Rabbi David Conforte) wrote about him: “Rabbi Shmuel Vital…wrote many books of homiletics and halachic rulings and he also wrote a book of responsa and was proficient in kabbalistic wisdom and was very virtuous and humble”.
We can learn of the greatness and holiness of Rabbi Shmuel Vital from that which he himself relates to his father at the end of Sha’ar HaGilgulim about an event that happened to him while yet in Egypt; a dybbuk entered a young girl and said: “I am a Jewish spirit…therefore hurry and call the Chacham Rabbi Shmuel Vital to cure me…”. When Rabbi Shmuel Vital reached the place, the spirit requested him to perform his tikkun and to remove it from the body, with his great wisdom, which is known from what is announced about him in Heaven. Rabbi Shmuel performed kavanot and tikkunim and removed the spirit from the girl. He writes that he documented the things “so that people should know that Jews have a G-d”.
Glosses by Rabbi Shmuel Vital on the Levush
Rabbi Shmuel was very fond of the Levush. He studied it at length and wrote novellae and glosses on the Levush. Some of his glosses on the Levush were first published in the book Petach HaDvir [Parts 2 and 3; Izmir, 1863-1873]. The author, Rabbi Chaim Binyamin Fontrimoli, attached the work by Rabbi Shmuel Vital – “Chaim Shnayim Yeshalem” - to his book, from a manuscript which came into his possession.
“Chaim Shnayim Yeshalem” is novellae on the Shulchan Aruch written by Rabbi Shmuel Vital in the last years of his life at the time he lived in Egypt (in his introduction he wrote that he began to write in the month of Elul 1675 when in Egypt). The book contains compilations of his novellae which he wrote in his younger years. In the introduction he writes that some of the novellae that he wrote are no longer in his possession (they were stolen on his way to Egypt). In this book, he incorporated some of his glosses on the Levush. In the book Petach HaDvir, he only included the part on Orach Chaim. The composition was printed in its entirety (on the rest of the Shulchan Aruch and with his novellae on the Rambam) from a manuscript in 2000 by the Harerei Kedem Institute. That same year, the edition of the Levush was published by the Zichron Aharon Institute with the “Glosses of Rabbi Shmuel Vital” which actually were taken and “cut out” from the composition “Chaim Shnayim Yeshalem”.
In comparison to the original glosses of Rabbi Shmuel Vital that appear in this copy of the Levush (a copy that belonged to him), which he wrote while studying the Levush throughout many years, it becomes apparent that Rabbi Shmuel copied and incorporated only a few of his glosses on the Levush in his work “Chaim Shenayim Yeshalem” and that these are the original complete glosses on the Tur Even HaEzer (from Siman 14) which contain dozens of glosses that are not brought in that edition and were never printed. Furthermore, approximately 11 of these glosses which appear in the book “Chaim Shenayim Yeshalem” appear here in their original wording with variations of editing and content from the glosses printed by the Zichron Aharon Institute. Apparently, the original glosses were not in front of Rabbi Shmuel at the time he wrote the composition “Chaim Shenayim Yeshalem”.
Evidently, the glosses were very important to Rabbe Shmuel and he called them novellae (in his introduction to Chaim Shenayim Yeshalem). An interesting example to the love he felt for the Levush can be seen by the effort he expended in adding many lines in his handwriting to the index at the end of the book.
11-15, 18-87 leaves. (Attached are Leaves 1-10 and Leaves 16-17 replacement from another copy). 35.5 cm. Overall good-fair condition. Spotting, tears and worm damages. Detached leaves and signatures. Ancient binding, non-original, damaged and detached.
Enclosed is an authorization by an expert identifying the handwriting of Rabbi Shmuel Vital.
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Rare and Important Items