Born in or near Vilnius, Shabbetai ha-Kohen (1621-1662) spent his final years as the rabbi of the Moravian city of Holesov, now in the Czech Republic. Shabbetai, known to posterity by the acronym Shakh, was one of the foremost talmudists of his day, his most important work being a commentary on part of the Shulḥan Arukh—by his day the standard code of Jewish law. Local archivists in Holesov are now trying to assemble a library of historic copies of his works:
The Holesov synagogue bought at a New York auction a copy of Shakh’s commentary on Shulḥan Arukh, printed in 1677, which makes it the oldest of Shakh’s books in its collection. . . . [Acquiring the work] “is an extraordinary success because such copies are almost unavailable on the market and one can only very seldom find them,” the Holesov synagogue administrator Vratislav Brazdil said. . . . The Holesov synagogue also bought a copy of a newer edition of the commentary issued in 1711.
Brazdil began to create the rabbi’s library several years ago. He has been buying the books in online auctions organized abroad. At present, the library has 25 volumes that are displayed in what was once Shakh’s study, which was opened in the upper floor of the synagogue two years ago. . . .
A Jewish community appeared in Holesov as early as the 15th century. About 1,700 Jews still lived there in the 19th century. However, the Nazis destroyed the community during World War II. The local cemetery, with 1,500 gravestones, and the synagogue are among the . . . oldest Jewish [historic sites] in the Czech Republic.
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