Monday, May 01, 2006

The Shearit Hapleta Talmud

This is the title page from a very special edition of the Talmud.

The story is found here in an article title 'The Surviving Remnant.' At the outset it should be stressed that this Talmud is signifigant in and of itself because it is the only Talmud in the history of the world which was financed and published by a government: the government of the United States.

After the Holocaust, it was soon realized that there were few seforim available for survivors. Yeshivos had been re-established. The needs were great, supplies scarce. The urgency of this need prompted an appeal to American Advisor (to the US army) on Jewish Affairs Rabbi Philip S. Bernstein for help in the publication of a Talmud. He agreed that it was an excellent idea and helped actualize this project. In 1948 a 19-volume edition of the Talmud was published in a Heidelberg publishing house, one which had only shortly before been used to publish Nazi propaganda (Carl Winter Printing Plant).

Thus was the Talmud published with the financial and logistical aid of the US military, the only instance in history of a government publishing a Talmud.

It is well worth looking at an enlarged picture of the title page (click the image above) and reading the description in this link.

Incidentally, in one of R. Aharon Rakeffet's shiurim (available at yutorah.org) he relates an anecdote about a certain Boston-area Conservative rabbi who was personally friendly with R. Yosef Dov Soloveitchik (and the Bostoner Rebbe). One time, right before Pesach, he called up R. Soloveitchik with the following question: he had been preparing to make a siyyum on Massechet Makkot but he couldn't find his Gemara! He looked all over the house and had no idea where it was, or where he could find it! R. Soloveitchik made a guess and asked him if it was printed after Baba [Kamma?] in that edition. Sure enough, it was. The rabbi was incredulous and very impressed. How did you know?, he asked him. R. Soloveitchik didn't, but he had remembered an unusual edition of the Talmud which was printed about 1900, and his father had a copy, in which Makkot was printed after Baba [whichever it was]. As it turned out, this rabbi had been a chaplain in the US army and happened to have gotten a copy of this Survivor's Talmud--which was a photo offset of the earlier Talmud that R. Soloveitchik knew from his childhood. Lucky guess.

2 comments:

  1. i work at americna jewish university la in the library and we own a ful set of this edition of the talmud. upon reading the above blog post, Jakie Ben Efriam (the reference/special collections librarian) and i investigated and makkot is after bava kamma though not indicated on the spine or any title pages.

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