Monday, December 05, 2005

Publishing someone elses incomplete ideas posthumously

R. Harry Maryles posts about a very interesting, and rarely mentioned problem: namely, the posthumous publication of manuscripts.
....Halachic manuscripts that are published posthumously, and are not subject to the scrutiny or subtle nuance of the original writer or Posek. No matter how noble the intention of the publishers, they cannot know if the author wanted to even have his writings published w/o further review and corrections. Mistakes cannot be corrected by the author. R. Aaron Soloveichik often said the Sefer (religious book) by his great grandfather, the Beis HaLevi was written by the Beis HaLevi's students and therefore there are many inaccuracies contained therein. It is also, possible that the publishers may have even misunderstood some of the non-manuscript/anecdotal Teshuvos.

Yet just such a posthumous Sefer, what is now the final volume of his magnum opus, “Igros Moshe” by Rabbi Moshe Feinstein was published based on manuscripts containing a virtual retraction of his responsa on Chalav Stam (Chalav Akum or Chalav HaCompanies). I do not impugn the motivation or integrity of the publishers nor anyone involved with bringing it to publication. Nor do I doubt the accuracy of the manuscript it is based upon. I only question the need to publish Rabbi Feinstein’s unfinished work without the benefit of his final revisions or approval.
I'd never heard the bit about the Beis Halevi, but its very interesting.

Now, it should go without saying that, in general, the idea of posthumous publication is not intrinsically bad. Ask any music fan what they think when record companies hoard unreleased music in their vaults. But there is still the pitfall that R. Maryles describes.

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