Wednesday, November 24, 2010

European Dissertations

Question: I would like to access dissertations submitted to European universities, in particular K. Wolff's 2009 dissertation submitted to Leiden University entitled "Bal Tashchit: The Jewish Prohibition Against Needless Destruction"

Answer: Although a great many dissertations are available via JTS's subscription to ProQuest Dissertations, this one is not included. However, the DART-Europe E-theses Portal provides additional access to European dissertations, some of them available in full text, at no charge.

As of November 2010 Woff has made available the beginning, the conclusions, and a summary (all in English) of his Bal Tashchit dissertation; in June 2011 the full text will be available.

Monday, November 22, 2010


Question: What is the source for the custom of "badeken" - the hatan (groom) covers the face of the kalah (bride) with a veil, prior to the marriage ceremony?

Answer: Various reasons and sources are given for this custom. the most fundamental may be that which is indicated in Tosafot (Tractate Yoma 13b s.v. le-hada amar lah) and cited in Shulhan Arukh by ReMA (Even ha-Ezer, chpt. 55, paragraph 1). There are two stages to Jewish marriage: arusin and nisuin. Arusin is, nowadays, usually accomplished by the hatan giving the kalah a ring. There are various opinions regarding how nisuin is accomplished. The custom is therefore to do as many potential acts of nisuin as possible. According to Tosafot, the covering of the kalah with the hinuma (veil) is an act of nisuin. This may be the source for the custom of badeken. To learn more about this custom and Jewish marriage see the following:

Monday, November 15, 2010

Project Ben Yehuda

Question: I would like to research the development of the modern Hebrew language, as seen through translations of world literature into Hebrew. Unfortunately I am not located near a research library with Hebrew books. Can you help me access these texts.

Answer: You could start your research with the Translations section of Project Ben Yehuda. This website is a collection of early modern Hebrew writings, including fiction, essays, poetry, drama and translations.

It includes Hebrew translations of worldwide authors such as Homer, Schiller, Heine, Byron, Rudyard Kipling, Pushkin, Baudelaire, Oscar Wilde, and others.

Most of the texts on Project Ben Yehuda are no longer under copyright; those still under copyright have been made available with permission from the copyright holder. In Israel copyright extends 70 years after the death of the author.

A serious study on the translation of world literature into Hebrew would require that you consult Jewish Translation History: A Bibliography of Bibliographies and Studies, by Robert Singerman (2002) REF Z 6514 J48 J49 2002. This comprehensive work will refer you to both lists of translations, and to studies about translation. Chapter 5 "Translations into Hebrew, 1850-2000" will be particularly relevant. This books is available in over 150 libraries throughout the world; you can identify the closest location by using

Monday, November 8, 2010

"Rabbi, Teacher and Preacher"

A question was received at the JTS Library's Reference Desk:

The Jewish Theological Seminary's certificate of rabbinical ordination proclaims the recepient as worthy of being a "rabbi, teacher and preacher". What is the history of this phrase and why was it chosen?

So far our inquiries have not turned up any relevant information on this matter. If anyone has information on this topic, we are interested in hearing from you in the "Comments" section. Thank you.