Auction 42 - Rare and Important Items

Responsum Handwritten and Signed by Rabbi Chananya ben Yakar – With Torah Novellae in the Handwriting of the Maharshach – 1596

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Two handwritten leaves with the conclusion of a hitherto unknown halachic responsum written and signed by Rabbi Chananya ben Yakar. On the margins and on the following pages is a halachic responsum in the handwriting of Rabbi Shlomo HaCohen of Thessaloniki, author of the Maharshach responsa. [Thessaloniki, c. 1596].
The passages in the Maharshach's handwriting are drafts for a responsum on the issue of the annulment of a shidduch and on the subject of asmachta and vows [printed in the Maharshach responsa Vol. 4, Siman 37]. Another inscription in the handwriting of the Maharshach's scribe [opening paragraph to the Maharshach's responsum to Rabbi Shlomo HaLevi on the subject of an aguna printed in Vol. 4 Siman 44].
Rabbi Chananya ben Yakar (died in 1585), a disciple of Rabbi Yosef Ibn Lev (the Maharival), is mentioned in the books of Torah authorities of his times: the Maharshadam, the Maharshach and the Maharit. The Maharshach's handwriting on the leaf indicates that this responsum to Rabbi Chananya [on the topic of Chezkat Chatzerot in the city of Thessaloniki] was sent to the Maharshach.
Rabbi Shlomo HaCohen – The Maharshach (1520-1601), the greatest among the Torah scholars in his wise generation. Raban shel Yisrael. At the end of the days of Maran Beit Yosef, he was recognized in many countries as the greatest Torah personage of his times and as the leading Torah authority. A disciple of Rabbi Yosef Pirmon and Rabbi Shmuel di Medina (the Maharshadam). Rabbi Ya'akov Alfandari wrote about Rabbi Shlomo HaCohen in a responsum that "I regard the Maharival and the Maharshadam and the Maharshach like the Rif and the Rambam and the Rosh in their times" (Responsum at the end of the Magid MeReshit Responsa, and his words were brought in Shem HaGedolim by the Chida who writes that "His name is great among the Jewish people"). He wrote thousands of responsa to Jews all over the world which later composed the four volumes of the Maharshach responsa. Three volumes were printed in his days (Thessaloniki 1586, Venice 1592 and Venice 1594), and the fourth volume was printed a long time after his death in Thessaloniki 1652. The responsa in Volume 4 were mostly written after 1594 because even in his later years the Maharshach continued his commitment as the pillar of Torah authority of his times. His rulings and responsa are often quoted in the books of poskim and the Shach and the rest of the later Torah authorities discussed his words at length and relied on his decisions in their rulings (for example, in the Ba’ei Chayei responsa by the author of the Knesset HaGedola the words of the Maharshach are mentioned more than 700 times).
The Maharshach responsa excel in their elucidation and explanation of all the details of the treatises and their foundations up until the halachic conclusion. This manuscript written while clarifying a treatise, depicts a little of what exists “behind the curtains” of the manner in which the Maharshach wrote his responsa. These inscriptions were written while he was perusing the treatise which led to his responsum regarding the annulment of a shidduch (a matrimonial match) which took place in Cheshvan 1596 and later printed in Volume 4, Siman 37. Therefore, these inscriptions are from the last period of his life when he was nearly eighty years old. Excerpts of the content and entire sentences of this manuscript can be found in the final responsum printed in that volume, but some passages do not appear in the printed responsum. The Maharshach also writes that “I have already written in one of my rulings that this is not to be relied upon…”.
The Maharshach’s disciples were renowned for their greatness and their books of responsa were frequently mentioned in Torah literature written by various poskim: Rabbi Chaim Shabtai (the Maharchash) author of the Torat Chaim responsa, Rabbi Shmuel Hayun author of the Bnei Shmuel responsa, Rabbi Chaim Melamed, and others.
4 pages, approximately 21 cm. (including 2 pages in the handwriting of Rabbi Chananya ben Yakar, a page and a half written by the Maharshach and 4 lines in the handwriting of the Maharshach’s scribe). Fair-poor condition, the leaves were removed from the Binding Geniza, stains and ink blurs, wear and tear with missing text, professionally restored.
Enclosed is an authorization by experts identifying the handwriting of the Maharshach and of Rabbi Chananya ben Yakar.
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Rare and Important Items