In this week’s episode of ‘Treasures from the Rebbe’s Library’, Chief Librarian Rabbi Berel Levin takes us back to the time when even owning a volume of Talmud was illegal, and explains the solution that Yidden came up with.
By Anash.org 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 Anash.org in partnership with the Rebbe’s library, will showcase some of the most unique and historic books and items in the Rebbe’s library.
In this week’s episode, Chief Librarian Rabbi Berel Levin takes us back to the time when even owning a volume of Talmud was illegal, and explains the solution that Yidden came up with.
Manuscript Rif Recovered From a Binding
Manuscript Sefer Hilkhot Rav Alfas, written by Rabbeni Isaac ben Jacob Alfasi, known as the ‘Rif’, is a halakhic compendium based on the Talmud with applicable practical conclusions.
Hilkhot Rav Alfas is arranged in the order of the Talmud. It was originally printed as an independent work with commentaries, accompanied by the Mordechai and Tosefta at the end.
Today, Hilkhot Rav Alfas, together with its commentaries, is printed after the relevant Talmudic tractates.
A single leaf from a manuscript Rif on parchment was found in the binding of a book printed in the sixteenth century.
Below, photo #1
The First Complete Rif – Constantinople 1509
The first complete edition of the Sefer ha-Rif, with commentaries and the Mordecai at the end. This edition was printed in Constantinople in 1509 by David and Samuel ibn Nahmias.
The library owns several complete volumes and a number of leaves from other tractates, some in exile in the Lenin Library in Moscow.
Below photo #2
What the Jews Learned When the Talmud Was Outlawed
In 1551 Tobias Foa opened a Hebrew press in Sabbioneta, Italy. In 1553, he began to print the Talmud with numerous editions and indexes.
In that same year, apostates brought slanderous accusations against the Talmud before the Pope, with the result that a decree was issued to burn the Talmud throughout Italy. A severe penalty was to be imposed upon anyone who kept any Talmudic tractates.
Of necessity, the study of the Talmud was replaced with the study of the Rif, which contains selections from the halakhic discussions in the Talmud.
The Sabbioneta edition was edited by Harav Yehoshua Boaz, the author of the Shiltei Gibborim on the Rif, which was then printed in the same edition.
The copy shown here, owned by the library has handwritten marginal notes by an unidentified author.
Below, photo #3