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Archive for February, 2009

As I wrote a couple of days back, I downloaded the PDFs of both the Auerbach and Albeck Eshkols and perused them.

After writing my original posting on the subject of the Nahal Eshkol, I emailed Prof. Marc B. Shapiro (who is the person who seems to have written the most about this subject online) with several outstanding questions I had on the subject. His reply was that the answers to my questions about the source of Albeck’s manuscript could be found by reading the introduction to Albeck’s volume. I was also interested to see what Auerbach had to say about his volume, so full of expectation I set about reading both volumes.

The first thing that I noticed is that they are entirely different books. I am no scholar, but without having read them from cover to cover, I would hazard a guess  that they have no common sections in them at all. 

I then went on to read the editors’ introductions. Auerbach’s introduction is written in long and ornate language and starts off with the story of how he duscovered the manuscript beautifully written “in well formed Sefardic hand” and amazingly erudite etc. and how he came to the conclusion that he had the Eshkol in his hands when he found sections that had been quoted by other books as being from the Eshkol. He then continues that the manuscript was in a very bad condition and that he needed to do a lot of work to interpret it and bring it to print. He claims that the manuscript was rotten and infested and in addition that there were sections written in another hand that he claims were fake.

Of this story, Shapiro writes in his first blog post on the subject:

It came as quite a shock when in 1909, many years after Auerbach had died, the great scholar R. Shalom Albeck accused him of having invented the story of the Spanish manuscript in order to enable him to forge the work.

and later

Needless to say, the supposed Spanish manuscript has never been found.

I then moved on to Albeck’s introduction. Here Hanoch Albeck opens with describing how his father Shalom Albeck started the work which he completed and with notes about how he edit ed and completed his father’s work. He then continues with his father’s introduction including a section on which manuscript he used and how he edited it. Here he writes the following (page 21):

eshkol1

Which translated says:

3) Manuscripts of the Sefer HaEshkol

In the following chapter I will enumerate the names of the authors who attributaed the Sefer HaEshkol to “Rabenu Ha-Abad” (R. Yitzhak of Navorna) and the writers who used the work. Here my purpose is to show the quality of the two manuscripts of this book from which I copied the book that present before you.

1) This I will call the “Carmoly manuscript”, for it comes from the library of the honored Eliakim Carmoly of Frankfurt Am Main. This is the manuscript that was used by Rabbi Auerbach in the Eshkol that he printed and it is now in the possession of the inheritors of his estate in Halberstadt. It is written on strong paper of quarter size in old, wide and well formed Sefardic script. The manuscript starts on page 2, and by counting it can be seen that not only page 1 is missing, and before it is a smooth sheet like a title page on which has been written in large lettering [by Carmoli?] “Sefer HaEshkol of Rabenu Avraham son of Rabbi Yitzhak of Navorna.

He then goes on to describe a second manuscript “the Paris manuscript” that he used to supplement the Carmoly one where it was missing pages or was difficult to read.

You will probably have noticed an amazing revelation here. Albeck worked from a manuscript that he got from the Auerbach family in Halberstadt!

So was this presumably the manuscript that Auerbach used? If so, then how did Albeck claim that the whole Spanish manuscript story was a fake and how does Shapiro say that Auerbach’s manuscript was never found? It certainly appears that Auerbach had a manuscript, even if he faked the text rather than laboring over the original.

Albeck’s description (on the page subsequent to the quote above) of the manuscript is that it was in a much better state than Auerbach claimed although he mentioned smudged and faint sections and parts written in a different hand. However, having Paris manuscript for comparison he succeeded in overcoming these problems. Maybe Auerbach claimed all this in order to justify his forgery – like he was writing what the Eshkol should have been, rather than what it was? Maybe Albeck was claiming that although there was a manuscript, it didn’t match and the discrepancies were unexplained?

It looks like I am going to have to purchase a copy of the “Kofer HaEshkol” in order to understand what is going on. I saw reprints on sale online for USD18, so this looks like my next move.

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I just found (it wasn’t that difficult if I had thought to look) both Auerbach’s and Albeck’s Eshkols online. I am downloading them. What particularly interests me are the forwards. I’ll let you know what I found out.

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“The wetter, the better”

Ben Dorfman c.1975

Ben Dorfman was the perpetual gabbai or “warden” as we called them then, in the Sutton and District Synagogue. That was back in the 1970s. Ben was refering to the saying of Ben Heh-Heh in the Mishna (Avot 5:26) – le-fum tza’ara agra (according to the effort comes the reward), specifically on the subject of walking to shul in bad weather.

Back there  in  a wet English winter, he wasn’t talking about the way I felt today as the rain pelted down. We had a total of 21mm of rain today and it is supposed to carry on into the night.

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Dust Storm

Horrible weather. This is what it looks like out the window of our offices. My office has a better view of the garden in the middle of the building, but this is on the other side of the building and you can see just how disgusting it is looking out there.

It is supposed to start raining again tonight, but then everything will just gwet washed down with dirty rainwater. Luckily it is going to rain for a couple of days, so it might get cleaned off.

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MRI Mind Reading

An article appears this morning in Technology Review about fMRI (that’s functional magnetic resonance imaging whatever that may be) being used to determine the contents of short term memory stored in people’s brains.

Subjects were shown one of two pictures and then using the fMRI, researchers attempted to determine which one they had seen. They isolated the the region of brain used for visual memory and successfully determined which picture the subject was remembering in 80% of cases.

Impressive, amazing, but kind of frightening. I was relieved to read the final paragraph in the article:

No need to worry yet about Big Brother reading your mind. For now, real-world applications remain limited, says Frank Tong, an associate professor of psychology and senior author on the study. The ability to reconstruct from scratch a complex memory or imagined scenario is a long way off. “We’re still just discriminating a simple binary state,” Tong says. “If you increase the number of options, this would get progressively more difficult.”

However science has a habit of progressing exponentially, ao I’m sure they”ll have solutions for that as well.

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