Manuscript Leaves – Sections of Torat Chaim – The Maharchash Responsa – Signed by the Author, Rabbi Chaim Shabtai, Chief Rabbi of Thessaloniki in the 16th Century

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Two handwritten leaves of the first work of responsa by the Maharchash (Rabbi Chaim Shabtai), written by his scribe (Sephardi Rashi script), signed by the author himself "Chaim Shabtai ---". [Thessaloniki, 16th century].
On the first leaf is a passage from a responsum which was printed in his book Torat Chaim Volume 1, Siman 41. In the margin is a gloss signed "A.S.H." – this gloss was printed in the book's 1713 edition, and evidently these are the leaves in the handwriting of the author's disciple who owned the manuscript from which the book was printed. The second leaf is the end of the responsum printed in his book Torat Chaim Volume 1, Siman 38, with the author's own signature.
The well-known Torah scholar Rabbi Chaim Shabtai – the Maharchash (1656-1747), disciple of Rabbi Shlomo HaCohen (the Maharshach) and disciple and member of the Beit Din of Rabbi Aharon Sasson (the Mahara Sasson) in Thessaloniki. From 1715, he headed the Kehillat Kodesh Shalom Yeshiva in the city and merited teaching many disciples (in the Dvar Moshe responsa Part 2 Hoshen Mishpat Siman 23, he writes quoting Rabbi Yosef Kovo: "We have the tradition that the Maharchash would determine his ruling after discussing the issues with his disciples to assure that the decisions are clearly thought through"). The Maharshach was a great teacher and many prominent rabbis of his times from Thessaloniki and from other countries were his disciples. Among them are Rabbi Shlomo HaLevi (the Maharash L'Beit Levi responsa), Rabbi Yitzchak Barki, Rabbi Aharon Kopino, Rabbi Yehoshua Chandli (Pnei Yehoshua reponsa), Rabbi Azarya Yehoshua, Rabbi Chasdai HaCohen Pirchiya (Torah Chesed responsa), etc. Rabbi Shabtai was considered to be a rabbi of Jews all over the world; written on his tombstone in Thessaloniki is “Our teacher and our great rabbi, the head of ‘Golat Ariel’”. The Maharshach's responsa were accepted as halachic rulings to follow in practice and are quoted thousands of times in books written by the leading poskim of later generations, Sephardim and Ashkenazim.
After the Spanish expulsion, the city of Thessaloniki became the Jewish center of the Oriental countries and was divided into several communities originating from various countries. Each community led autonomous community lives until 1539 when all the community heads in Thessaloniki decided to appoint the Maharchash as Chief Rabbi whose decisions would be binding for all the various communities. Even at an old age, he retained all his facilities. His book contains a responsum which was written when he was over ninety years old.
Raban shel Yisrael - he responded to thousands of questions from Jews all over the world, most were printed only after his death. His book the Maharchash responsa – Even HaEzer and a pamphlet on the topic of agunot was printed in Thessaloniki in 1751. Most of his responsa were printed in Torat Chaim, 3 volumes, printed about 70 year after his death in 1713-1722. During all those years, his responsa were dispersed among various libraries of rabbis and Torah scholars in Thessaloniki and as the printer Rabbi Avraham ben Rabbi David Nachman writes a “Printers’ apology”: “The rulings of the author were dispersed and circulated throughout the homes of Torah scholars, a bit here and a bit there, until at the beginning of the printing they needed to announce that anyone who has any rulings of the rabbi shall bring it to the printing house. Furthermore, they sought them thoroughly among the homes of the Torah scholars until much time elapsed and I still did not receive them all...”.
Presumably, the gloss signed with the initials “A.S.H.” was written by one of the Torah scholars of Thessaloniki who were able to access the writings for the duration of many years. [Possibly, the initial stand for Amar Shlomo HaLevi and the gloss was written by his great disciple Rabbi Shlomo HaLevi (1581-1634), author of the Maharash L’Beit Levi responsa, who was a leading head of yeshiva in Thessaloniki].
4 written pages, approximately 20 cm. The first lines of the pages are lacking due to wear damages, (the paper was professionally restored). High-quality paper. Good-fair condition.
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