Thursday, July 29, 2010

Death of the RAMBAM's brother

Question: What was the year of the death of David ben Maimon, the younger brother of the RAMBAM. He was on a business voyage when his ship sank.

Answer: Various biographies mention different dates for this incident, which was pivotal in the life of the RAMBAM. The Encyclopedia Judaica, 2nd ed (2007) states it ocurred in 1169. Joel Kraemer, in Maimonides: The Life and World of One of Civilizations' Greatest Minds, (2008) has provided two different calculations of the year.

One possibility is 1177: In a letter dated 1185 that Maimonides had written to a friend, Japheth ben Elijah, in Acre, he describes the terrible disaster of losing his brother 8 years before. (p. 255 and p. 545 note 46).

Another possibility is sometime just after 1169-1171, the probable time period that David wrote to the RAMBAM describing his upcoming voyage. (p. 252). However, Kraemer points out that perhaps this letter is describing a voyage prior to the ill-fated final voyage (p. 252).

David's trading business had supported the extended family. When David died, not only did the RAMBAM fall into a depression, but he also needed to find a new means of support (p. 257). He did not believe it was proper to earn a livelihood through his rabbinical duties. He instead devoted more time to his medical practice and became a renowned physician. At the same time he continued his illustrious scholarly career as a philosopher, jurist and community leader.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Mezuzot in Places of Business?

Does one install mezuzot on the doorways of one's business?

We do not answer questions of practical halakhah. I suggest that you consult with a halakhic authority.
For your own theoretical knowledge, I can tell you it seems that while the question appears to be dependent on an argument mentioned in the Babylonian Talmud (Yoma 11a), the present day consensus seems to be that mezuzot should be put up in places of business – though, possibly without the recital of the usual blessing. This is based on the opinion found in Yoma (ibid.) and subsequently codified in the Shulhan Arukh (Yoreh Deah, chpt. 286, paragraph 1) that warehouses (such as) for wine or oil are obligated in mezuzah. I saw this ruling expressed in the work Pithe Mezuzot by Yisakhar Hazan [(Betar Ilit : Yisakhar Hazan), 5766] both in his commentary on the Shulhan Arukh’s laws of mezuzah entitled Pithe Mezuzot (see chpt. 286, notes 9-11) and in his summary of the laws of mezuzah entitled Bet Mezuzah (see chpt. 8, p.205-208). The same opinion is also expressed in the work Shaare Mezuzah by Shemuel Yosef Shtitsburg [(Bet Shemesh : Shemuel Yosef Shtitsburg, 2008)] – see chpt.6 paragraph 1 and see note 1 (ibid.) where he references the Arukh ha-Shulhan (chpt. 286, paragraph 28 – see also Arukh ha-Shulhan, ibid. paragraph 4).

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia

Question: Please explain to me how to use the Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia, the critical edition of the Biblical text based on the Leningrad Codex.

Answer: I suggest you consult the following brief summary by Dr. Marc Brettler (Professor of Biblical Studies at Brandeis University) of how to use Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia (BHS). This 2-page guide is found on the Scholarly Bible Editions section of his home page. Limitations of Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia are summarized in Dr. William H. C. Propp’s Guide to Biblical Research, revised and updated by Dr. Jeffrey H. Tigay.

Some of the more complete guides to BHS mentioned by Brettler, Propp and Tigay are:

Scott, William R. A Simplified Guide to BHS: Critical Apparatus, Masora, Accents, Unusual Letters & Other Markings, 2nd ed. (1990) BS715 1977c

Wonneberger, Reinhard. Understanding BHS: A Manual For The Users of Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia (1984). REF BS178 W582 1984

A more recent guide is: Kelley, P. et al. The Masorah of Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia: Introduction and Annotated Glossary (1998) BS718 K38 1998.

For broader reference: the JTS Library’s Research Guide to Jewish Studies: Bible identifies key texts, editions, commentaries, translations and reference books in the field of Biblical Studies.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

19th Century Rabbis

Question: Can you please recommend a resource that can quickly help me identify some of the rabbis in the towns of 19th century Europe. I would also like some biographical information about them.

Answer: I suggest you use זכרון לאחרונים Latter Day Leaders, Sages and Scholars Born Between Late 18th and Early 20th Century, compiled by Emanuel Rosenstein and Neil Rosenstein (1983). This "computerized bibliographic index, alphabetized by first name, surname and town" will list the rabbi's names, birth dates and death dates, and point you to biographical information in 10 different biographical dictionaries. Most of these biographical works were published in the late 18-hundreds and early 19-hundreds, providing contemporary information. Latter Day Leaders also includes rabbis active in the Western Hemisphere, Israel, Australia, and sections of Africa. It is available at the Reference Desk of the JTS Library; the biographical dictionaries are also available in the JTS Library.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Year of Sir Moses Montefiore's marriage

In what year did Sir Moses Montefiore marry his wife Judith?

According to the work Moses Montefiore : Jewish Liberator ; Imperial Hero by Abigail Green [Cambridge, MA : Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2010 - p.28], Moses Montefiore married Judith Barent-Cohen in 1812. Judith was an Ashkenazi whose father was a succesful merchant (ibid.). Both Moses and Judith were in their late twenties at the time of the marriage.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Number Of Women Ordained at JTS

We are often asked how many women have been ordained at the Jewish Theological Seminary, or what percentage of the rabbinic graduates are women. The Rabbinical Assembly has provided the following statistics:

Please note that these totals reflect only JTS graduates, not rabbis ordained at the Ziegler School of Rabbinic studies (Los Angeles ), Schechter Rabbinical Seminary (in Jerusalem), or the Seminario Rabbinico Latinoamericano (in Buenos Aires).

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Jewish Communal Service Webliography

The Library of the Jewish Theological Seminary has added an annotated webliography on Jewish Communal Service and Jewish Public Administration to its Online Resources webpage. The webliography emphasizes sites with full-text articles and reports, authoritative statistics, comprehensive directories, traditional Jewish texts, and extensive bibliographies.

We invite our readers to submit suggestions for additions -- please submit them as comments to this blog entry.