Ninety Lost Pages of the First Printing of a Seminal Work of Jewish Law Have Been Found

Jan. 20 2022

For traditional Jews around the world, the central code of Jewish law is the 16th-century Shulḥan Arukh, composed by the great Spanish-born sage Joseph Karo. This work is a consolidation of Karo’s commentary on an earlier work, the Arba’ah Turim (“Four Rows”) of Jacob ben Asher (ca. 1269-1343), a German sage who immigrated to Christian Spain with his father—himself a great Talmudist—and embodied a synthesis of Ashkenazi and Sephardi schools of learning. Part of this work was recently acquired, in the rarest of forms, by the National Library of Israel. The Jerusalem Post reports:

The National Library of Israel in Jerusalem announced on Tuesday that it has obtained 90 singular pages from the earliest period of Hebrew printing.

The pages come from the only known copy of a late-15th-century edition of Rabbi Jacob ben Asher’s Arba’ah Turim, one of history’s most important works of Jewish law. No complete copies of it have survived, and the pages acquired . . . are not found in any other collection in the world, public or private. Prior to the acquisition, the library already held 59 pages from the book.

Works published prior to 1500 are known as “incunabula” (from the Latin for swaddling clothes, cradle; the earliest stage of something). During this period, less than 200 total Hebrew titles were printed, of which around 150 have survived until today. The National Library of Israel has copies of more than 80 of them.

Read more at Jerusalem Post

More about: Halakhah, Jewish press, Rare books, Shulhan Arukh


In the Aftermath of a Deadly Attack, President Sisi Should Visit Israel

On June 3, an Egyptian policeman crossed the border into Israel and killed three soldiers. Jonathan Schanzer and Natalie Ecanow urge President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi to respond by visiting the Jewish state as a show of goodwill:

Such a dramatic gesture is not without precedent: in 1997, a Jordanian soldier opened fire on a group of Israeli schoolgirls visiting the “Isle of Peace,” a parcel of farmland previously under Israeli jurisdiction that Jordan leased back to Israel as part of the Oslo peace process. In a remarkable display of humanity, King Hussein of Jordan, who had only three years earlier signed a peace agreement with Israel, traveled to the Jewish state to mourn with the families of the seven girls who died in the massacre.

That massacre unfolded as a diplomatic cold front descended on Jerusalem and Amman. . . . Yet a week later, Hussein flipped the script. “I feel as if I have lost a child of my own,” Hussein lamented. He told the parents of one of the victims that the tragedy “affects us all as members of one family.”

While security cooperation [between Cairo and Jerusalem] remains strong, the bilateral relationship is still rather frosty outside the military domain. True normalization between the two nations is elusive. A survey in 2021 found that only 8 percent of Egyptians support “business or sports contacts” with Israel. With a visit to Israel, Sisi can move beyond the cold pragmatism that largely defines Egyptian-Israeli relations and recast himself as a world figure ready to embrace his diplomatic partners as human beings. At a personal level, the Egyptian leader can win international acclaim for such a move rather than criticism for his country’s poor human-rights record.

Read more at Washington Examiner

More about: General Sisi, Israeli Security, Jordan