Thursday, October 28, 2010

A Dire Medical Diagnosis--Should We Tell the Patient?

Where can I find a summary of Jewish law on the the issue of whether or not to tell a seriously ill patient the truth, or the entire truth, regarding his medical condition?

Answer: The Encyclopedia of Jewish Medical Ethics, compiled and written by Avraham Steinberg and translated by Fred Rosner (Feldheim, 2003) includes a section entitled "Disclosure of Illness to the Patient" in vol. 1, p. 317-328. Steinberg covers multiple aspects of this issue by tracing relevant Jewish sources from the Tanakh, Talmud, codes, commentaries and Responsa (both early and current opinion). He also provides medical, scientific, and secular ethical background.

This monumental 3-volume encyclopedia is an excellent resource for all aspects of Jewish biomedical ethics; Steinberg earned the 1999 Israel Prize for producing this work.

The Encyclopedia of Jewish Medical Ethics is available in the Encyclopedia Room of the JTS Library at R 135.5 S6713 2003.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Question: I saw a reference to Ms. 16 at the Breslau Seminary in a Jewish Quarterly Review article published in 1891 (I. Abrahams "Jewish Ethical Wills" JQR vol. 3 no. 3, p. 483). Which seminary is this, and where can I find that manuscript today?

Answer: The seminary was the Juedisch-Theologosches Seminar in Breslau, the "first modern rabbinical seminary in Central Europe" according to the Jewish Virtual Library.

The Breslau ms 16 is currently at the Jewish National and University Library is Jerusalem, and is now known as JNUL ms 28° 2264.

The history of the Breslau Hebrew manuscript collection is in Benjamin Richler's invaluable Guide to Hebrew Manuscript Collections (Jerusalem, 1994), p 24. The core of the Breslau collection was formed by the gift of 69 manuscripts from Leon Saraval; other donations were from Bernhard Beer and Raphael Kirchheim. By World War II the collection held 405 Hebrew manuscripts. During the war the manuscripts were confiscated by the Nazis, and dispersed to multiple locales including a Gestapo cellar. Various research institutions now hold many of the manuscripts, and Richler has conveniently listed the current locations of approximately one half of the collection in Appendix V, p. 213.

Richler's Guide describes the histories, catalogs, and outstanding holdings of hundreds of collections, allowing researchers to trace the wanderings of the manuscripts and to match up older manuscript references with later catalogs, numbering systems and locations. Updates and corrections are available from the Institute of Microfilmed Hebrew Manuscripts.

Richler's Guide is available at the Jewish Theological Seminary Library Reference Desk.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Number of Words and Letters in Torah, Neviim, and Ketuvim

As a follow up to my blog post of Monday, October 11, 2010: "Number of Verses in Neviim and Ketuvim", I was informed by JTS professor Dr. David Marcus, that the following article has tables showing word and letter counts for the books of the TaNaKh (Hebrew Bible): “What Did the Scribes Count?” by Francis I. Andersen and A. Dean Forbes. This article is found as Appendix A (p.297-318) in the work Studies in Hebrew and Aramaic Orthography [Winona Lake, Indiana : Eisenbrauns, 1992].

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Question: The prayer for rain is recited annually during the Musaf Amidah (Ashkenazi rite) on Shemini Atzeret. Has there been any recent academic research on this prayer?

Answer: The prayer for rain is treated briefly in the "Af Beri" article in The Encyclopedia of Jewish Prayer by Macy Nulman (1993), and in the 1993 translation (Jewish Liturgy: A Comprehensive History) of Ismar Elbogen's earlier work.

Brigitte Kern-Ulmer discusses rain as theological redemption and regeneration, as understood in early rabbinic texts: "Consistency and Change in Rabbinic Literature as Reflected in the Terms Rain and Dew" in Journal for the Study of Judaism in the Persian, Hellenistic and Roman Period v 26, no 1 (April 1995), p. 55-75. The article focuses on the general prayer for rain, not specifically the Shemini Atzeret prayer.

Micahel Rand looks at the Shemini Atzeret prayer from a completely different point of view. He analyses paytan Eliezer Kallir's attempt to provide a rational meteorological explanation for the production of rain, based on Kallir's understanding of earlier rabbinic midrashim. The article is "Clouds, Rain and the Upper Waters: From Bereshit Rabbah to the Piyyutim of Eleazar be-Rabbi Qullir" in Aleph v 9, no. 1 (2009) p. 13-39.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Number of Verses in Neviim and Ketuvim

I am interested in knowing how many verses are in each of the books that comprise the Neviim (Prophets) and the Ketuvim (Writings) in the TaNaKh (Bible). The editions that I consulted do not give me that data. Would you recommend an edition that will give me that information?

In those editions of the TaNaKH that contain masoretic notes (see here for information on the Masoretes and their notes:, the verse-counts for each of the books that comprise the Neviim and Ketuvim can be found at the end of each book. A popular edition of the TaNaKH that records masoretic notes is: Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia [Stuttgart : Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, 1997].