The Talmud Manuscript Which Puzzled Researchers

Handwritten manuscripts of Talmud, transcribed before the invention of the printing press, can be found in many libraries. However, one manuscript in the Rebbe’s library is different than the others…

By reporter

Thousands of priceless treasures lie on the shelves and safes of the Central Chabad Library, right next door to 770. The average chossid, however, won’t have the chance to see the most precious of them. Until now, that is.

A new series, launched by in partnership with the Rebbe’s library, will showcase some of the most unique and historic books and items in the Rebbe’s library.

The third episode showcases two handwritten manuscripts of Talmud Bavli, each unique and one-of-a-kind, and one of them which still puzzles researchers.

Babylonian Talmud – Manuscript on Parchment

Prior to the invention of the printing press, the Talmud was transcribed by hand and disseminated in manuscript form. In his Mishna Torah, the Rambam writes that he personally saw a manuscript written five centuries earlier, which would put it not long after the Talmud was completed.

Frequently, these manuscripts were transcribed on parchment, which was easier to obtain at the time than paper.

The Library has three folios from a Talmud on parchment (from Sanhedrin and Shavu’ot) apparently written in the time of the Rishonim.

The manuscripts were found in the binding of a book printed in c. 1540.

Talmud with Rashi’s Commentary – Manuscript

Rashi’s commentary on the Talmud was originally disseminated on its own, in booklets entitled
Quentres. It was only after the Talmud was printed that Rashi was published on the margins of the page, as we know it today.

Surprisingly, when cataloging old books, the library discovered a manuscript of the Talmud with Rashi’s commentary written on the side.

This was exceedingly rare at the time, and the exact reason for the discrepancy from other editions is unknown. In his lecture below, Rabbi Levine offers two possible reasons.

The Library has ten folios of this manuscript, from tractate Kiddushin with Rashi in the margin.

They were transcribed in the fifteenth century and found in the binding of a book printed in the sixteenth century.


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