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The Taylor-Schechter Genizah Research Unit

Genizah Fragments

The Newsletter of Cambridge University's
Taylor-Schechter Genizah Research Unit
at Cambridge University Library

No. 13 April 1987

Co-sponsor sought for new award

An exciting and challenging award to assist Genizah research at Cambridge University Library has just been made by the British Academy, one of the country's most distinguished scholarly institutions. The sum of £7,000 has been promised for one year, with the possibility of annual renewals to a maximum of four years.

This financial assistance is earmarked for the appointment of a full-time Research Assistant to complete the description of all the rabbinic fragments in the New Series binders on which Dr Ephraim Wiesenberg has been working on a part-time basis over the past 13 years, with the British Academy's support since 1977.

In addition to talmudic and midrashic fragments, these binders contain many mediaeval rabbinic commentaries in Judaeo-Arabic, some important manuscripts of Aramaic texts and works by Maimonides, as well as Hebrew liturgical pieces and incunabula.

Since the cost of employing a full-time Research Assistant is expected to be around £14,000, the Academy has made its grant conditional on the Unit's ability to raise a matching sum of £7,000.

The Unit is now seeking a supporter to co-sponsor this important project with the British Academy and hopes to locate the necessary funds and to make an appointment in the latter part of this year. There are promising young scholars from among whom the most suitable researcher will be chosen.

Beyond the lecture-room

The idea of raising the level of co-operation between the worlds of commerce and higher education is very much in the air at the moment.

At a private luncheon a few weeks ago, I heard the Secretary of State for Education, Mr Kenneth Baker, bemoan the low level of support given by British industry to academic research and the lack of representation from the world of learning on the boards of major companies in the United Kingdom.

Sir Immanuel Jakobovits, Chief Rabbi of Britain and the Commonwealth, also recently stressed the point that a close association between those who control major financial resources and those who promote the interests of the intellect is vital for the future of both.

In a reference to a well-known rabbinic tradition he drew attention to the interpretation of the Biblical figures of Zebulun and Issachar as archetypes for the merchant and the student and to the assumption that each had a duty to provide for the other.

One of the principles underlying the Genizah Unit's activities since its establishment in 1974 has been to emphasize its responsibility for taking the results of its research beyond the confines of the lecture-room so that the interested public may enjoy glimpses into its past and obtain a better understanding of its present.

At the same time, endeavours have been made not to be a drain on public finance, but to attract support from private and corporate bodies. Most of what has been achieved has therefore been due to the joint efforts of Zebulun and Issachar.

As reported on this page, a scholarly body with a considerable degree of international prestige, the British Academy, has promised support of £7,000 to appoint a full-time Research Assistant in the Unit, if matching funds can be found elsewhere.

The challenge has gone out from the educational world to those in its commercial counterpart and the Genizah Unit is hoping that someone will be found who is willing to take it up.

Stefan C. Reif
Director, Taylor-Schechter Research Unit

Family fund increases commitment

Major supporters of the Genizah Unit in recent months have included Mr Cyril Stein (£1,000), Mr Stanley Kalms (£1,000), and the Faculty Board of Oriental Studies at the University of Cambridge, through its Tyrwhitt fund (£1,000). The Unit is deeply grateful to them for their involvement and generous assistance.

Important and welcome renewals of their annual contributions have been made by Mr Sidney Corob, Mr Trevor Chinn, Mr Gerald Ronson and Mr Cesare Sacerdoti (£500).

A moving letter from Mr Mark Goldberg to Dr Stefan Reif recorded the late Mr Ephraim Goldberg's "affection and respect for you and your work" and the decision taken shortly before his death to increase the Goldberg Family's annual commitment to £500.

The Unit is also indebted to Mr Stanley Burton, Mr Joe Dwek, Mr and Mrs Harry Landy and Bank Leumi (£250); Ilford B'nai B'rith (£200); Mr Fred Worms and Mrs Helena Sebba (£150); and Mr and Mrs Maurice Arenson, Mr Henry Knobil, Mr William Margulies, Mr and Mrs Anthony Rau and Sir Sigmund Sternberg (£100).

The Unit's friends across the Atlantic provided further assistance of over $5,000, most of it transmitted through the American Friends of Cambridge University.

Special gratitude is expressed to the Georges Lurcy Charitable and Educational Trust ($3,000 arranged by Mr Seth E. Frank and Dr Edward M. Bernstein); Mr and Mrs Saul Koschitzky ($1,000); Jerome and Miriam Katzin ($500); Max Richter Foundation ($250 per Professor Jacob Neusner); Ms Kathryn L. Johnson ($250); and Professor Leon Feldman ($100).

The Genizah Unit also acknowledges with thanks numerous smaller and/or anonymous donations made at home and abroad.

Ilford gesture

Following a recent visit to Cambridge to view some of the Genizah Collection and hear about its unique historical importance, Ilford B'nai B'rith has launched an appeal fund in memory of its late members and voted that the income would initially be used to support the work of the Cambridge Genizah Unit.

Lodge members also decided to hold an annual memorial lecture devoted to topics relating to the Genizah. The first, given by Dr Stefan Reif a few weeks ago to an audience of more than 100, was entitled "Moses Maimonides and the Genizah."

It pays to return

Scholars are dubious about the value of repeated examinations of the same material. A return for a second stint as a Visiting Research Associate at the Genizah Research Unit has, however, proved very fruitful.

My main project was the study of the standard prayers, but I did not neglect my interest in the legal tracts, responsa and talmudic exegesis of the Geonim between the seventh and eleventh centuries.

After sifting through many fragments containing common prayer, I feel that we can at least roughly sketch the basic elements of the standard version of the Egyptian-Babylonian community during the "classical" Genizah period, by virtue of the common material in the majority of texts.

It is, indeed, closely related to that found in Saadya Gaon's treatise on prayer. But, as I had anticipated, I also found many of what I would call hybrid versions of the prayers, i.e., texts containing elements of both the Babylonian and Palestinian traditions.

Usually, the Babylonian rite dominated, in keeping with its course, during this period, towards general domination of Jewish prayer. (Interestingly, I found other examples of hybrids involving the rites of various communities.)

I also identified more texts of the Palestinian type, including some for festivals, hitherto unknown to scholars (or at least unpublished).

My most exciting liturgical discovery was the last section of Saadya's treatise, not contained in the published edition, about which I shall shortly write in detail.

The enigma of Seder Rav Amram continues to unravel. On the one hand, it is cited on the margin of one of the "mainstream" fragments. On the other, the reading there differs from that in all our manuscripts of the work.

Furthermore, in a list of questions sent to one of the Geonim, the questioner refers to the Seder Rav Amram, but, alas, we do not know if that Gaon was familiar with the work.

In the non-liturgical sphere, we were able to restore some missing portions of Hai Gaon's Sefer Ha-Shetaroth (Book of Court Deeds), including one deed that bore a name in other manuscripts, but revealed its contents only in this fragment.

The name of Samuel ben Hofni's Kitab al-`Idda, on the other hand, should have shed light on its contents. Scholars nevertheless squabbled.

Citations found in a post-geonic polemic (against him and Hai's treatise on oaths, both cited in the Arabic original) leave no doubt as to the nature of the work, as I shall demonstrate in a future publication.

Another gem among the unexpected finds from the geonic period is a direct quotation from the text of the Palestinian Talmud to the tractate Makkoth. This citation is otherwise unknown.

Tsvi Groner
Visiting Research Associate, Senior Lecturer in Talmud, Haifa University

Of police and prayer

Genizah fragments figured prominently in 1986 conferences held in Madrid in the spring and in London in the summer, both attended by Dr Geoffrey Khan, Research Assistant in the Cambridge Genizah Unit.

A symposium on Fatimid History and Art was held at the School of Oriental and African Studies in the University of London and attended by scholars from many countries, including Britain, the United States, France, Egypt, Lebanon, Israel and Japan.

Many of the papers relied extensively on Genizah sources and on the studies of their socio-economic content produced by the late Professor S. D. Goitein and his students.

One paper, on Fatimid dress, frequently mentioned the descriptions of women's garments in mediaeval trousseau lists found in the Genizah. Another used Goitein's research as a source for a description of the police force and the inspection of markets in Fatimid Cairo.

The Genizah was also mentioned in a paper on trading links between the East African coast and Egypt, and in one on Fatimid ceilings.

At the eighth international conference of the Middle East Libraries Committee, held in the Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Cientificas in Madrid, Dr Khan lectured on "Arabic Documents in the Cairo Genizah".

In a number of recent public lectures, Dr Stefan Reif spoke of the importance of Genizah discoveries for understanding the history of the Jewish prayer-book a thousand years ago.

He also lectured at the Congress of the International Organization for the study of the Old Testament held in Jerusalem last August on the Hebrew University campus.

Increased support from North America

In an effort to draw attention to the work of the Genizah Unit and to attract further support for its future plans, the Director, Dr Stefan Reif, spent a week in the USA and Canada in November.

Meetings were held in New York with Mr Raphael Levy, one of the Unit's established supporters and advisers and with Mrs Blu Greenberg, while telephone approaches were made to a number of leading personalities about their possible involvement in the Unit's activities.

Some twenty-five guests were invited to the home of Rabbi and Mrs Irving Greenberg to hear Dr Reif lecture on the Cambridge Genizah collection and new support was enlisted.

At the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York, Dr Reif addressed the faculty and students on the relationship between the acquisition of the Genizah fragments and the personality and ideology of Solomon Schechter, who left Cambridge in 1902 to become the President of the Seminary. Dr Reif also visited the new library and held meetings with the Librarian, Professor Menachem Schmelzer, and other library staff.

Contacts with the American Friends of Cambridge University and with the B'nai B'rith International in the city of Washington were maintained though Mr Gordon Williams and Dr Michael Neiditch, especially on the proposed lecture on the Genizah at the Smithsonian Institution later this year.

At a luncheon meeting given under the chairmanship of Professor Isadore Twersky at the Widener Library of Harvard University, Dr Reif spoke on "The Cambridge Genizah Collection: A Story of Then and Now." Discussions were also held with Professor Ezra Fleischer, of the Hebrew University (then on sabbatical leave at Harvard), on further co-operation in the Genizah field.

About 150 people attended an evening devoted to the Genizah by the Toronto Board of Jewish Education; the topic and Dr Reif's illustrated presentation were received with enthusiasm and resulted in lengthy discussion.

Important new contacts were made and a meeting with Mr Saul Koschitzky was followed by a generous renewal of his financial support.

Lost midrashim come to light

The discovery of the Cairo Genizah has opened new horizons in many areas of Jewish studies. The field of the halakhic midrashim produced by the Tanna'im of the early centuries of the Common Era is no exception.

Here the main contribution of the Genizah is in two areas: the provision of early, reliable texts for midrashim already known, and the discovery of fragments of lost midrashim.

The well-known halakhic midrashim that have been the subject of commentaries since the Middle Ages, and were printed on the early Hebrew presses in sixteenth-century Venice, include the Mekhilta of Rabbi Ishmael on Exodus, the Sifra on Leviticus, and the Sifrey on Numbers and Deuteronomy.

The critical editions of these midrashim published in the first half of this century were based mainly on complete manuscripts preserved in European libraries. Several of them, however, did not take account of Genizah sources, while others made only marginal use of them.

The early printed editions and most of the complete manuscript codices represent Western textual traditions of the midrashim. They are full of copyist's errors and "scribal emendations."

These were purposely made in order to elucidate difficult passages or with a view to harmonizing the halakhic midrashim with the corresponding sections of the halakhah or with those of the Mishnah and the Babylonian Talmud, which were more widely dispersed and regarded as more authoritative than the midrashim.

But the Eastern textual tradition, preserved in the Genizah fragments, is in many instances older and, unlike the Western tradition, often reflects the original text of the midrash, before it had been "corrected" in the mediaeval yeshivoth of Europe. The Genizah fragments therefore provide us with the key to a better understanding of the midrashim.

In addition to the four midrashim mentioned earlier, the sages of the Middle Ages had at their disposal at least three other such halakhic midrashim composed in the tannaitic period: the Mekhilta of Shim`on bar Yohai on Exodus, the Sifrey Zuta on Numbers, and the Mekhilta on Deuteronomy. None of these midrashim is known to have survived in complete form in any manuscript.

A number of fragments have, however, been discovered in more recent years, most of them in the Genizah. Many were published at the time of their discovery, by such scholars as Solomon Schechter, Louis Ginzberg and others.

They have also been included in recent editions of the midrashim, particularly the new edition of Shim`on bar Yohai's Mekhilta edited by J. N. Epstein and E. Z. Melamed, which is based substantially on Genizah fragments. The recovery of these lost midrashim is clearly of great importance for talmudic scholarship in both its halakhic and aggadic aspects.

Over the past few years, Professor J. Sussmann, of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, has been directing the individual classification and cataloguing of the talmudic fragments from the Genizah. Although called the "Mishnah Project," its scope in fact ranges over works other than the Mishnah.

In the context of this project, my task has been to concentrate on the field of halakhic midrashim. So far, I have been able to identify (with the assistance of others) more than one hundred new fragments of well-known halakhic midrashim, as well as a few leaves of lost texts not previously noticed.

These latter leaves are from the Mekhilta of Shim`on bar Yohai and the Mekhilta on Deuteronomy. Most were discovered in the Taylor-Schechter Collection and are now being prepared for publication.

During the preliminary classification of the fragments, early this century, many leaves of aggadic or halakhic midrashim were mistakenly assigned to Bible, liturgy, piyyutim and other subjects.

Since handlists have yet to be prepared for all these subjects, I should be grateful if Genizah researchers in other fields would draw my attention to any midrashic fragments they have found, including fragments which they suspect may be from a midrash but which they cannot identify with certainty.

Menahem Kahana
Department of Talmud, Hebrew University, Jerusalem

Genizah's 90th

To mark the ninetieth anniversary of Genizah research at Cambridge, the Genizah Unit has produced a limited edition of three colourful and original wall posters illustrating the different aspects of its work. Readers interested in obtaining copies should write to the Director.

The University Printing Services of Cambridge University Press have also undertaken other printing jobs for the Unit, in addition to the production of this newsletter.

A fourth edition of the pamphlet A Priceless Collection, first issued in 1978, has been produced and is available to readers on request, as are prints and translations of some of the famous items in the Collection.

Last autumn, the British Embassy in Israel featured a Cambridge Genizah text on the New Year card that it sent to its Jewish friends.

[image of manuscript]

Detail from T-S Ar.40.37: a twelfth-century Egyptian government decree

Protecting fishing rights

In the course of editing a corpus of mediaeval Arabic legal and chancery documents preserved in the Cambridge Genizah Collection, Dr Geoffrey Khan, Research Assistant in the Genizah Unit, has discovered a decree on the subject of fishing rights.

The decree was issued by the Fatimid government of Egypt in the twelfth century and is intended to protect the local fishing industry by denying fishermen coming from other provinces access to areas for which they have no special permit.

A detailed article on the fragment (T-S Ar.40.37) has been published by Dr Khan in the Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies 49/3, 439-453.

At St John's

Arrangements are now being finalized for the next conference of the Society for Judaeo-Arabic Studies to be held at St John's College, Cambridge, on 14 - 17 July 1987.

The meeting will be jointly hosted by the School of Oriental and African Studies at the University of London and the Genizah Research Unit and will mark the ninetieth anniversary of Genizah research at Cambridge, where Dr Geoffrey Khan is arranging a special exhibition.

Participants will first convene at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London on Monday afternoon, 14 July, and will move on to Cambridge University that evening.

Further details are available from Professor J. Blau, President of the Society, at the Ben-Zvi Institute, P.O. Box 7660, Jerusalem, 91 076, Israel.

[many people]

Recent guests and hosts at Cambridge (left to right): Mr Moshe Raviv, Mrs Claire Connick, Topol, Mr Yitzhak Navon, Dr Gordon Johnson, Dr Stefan Reif, Dr Risa Domb and Professor John Emerton

Navon at T-S Unit

Distinguished personalities from Israel have been prominent among recent visitors to the Genizah Unit.

The Israeli Minister of Education and Deputy Prime Minister, Mr Yitzhak Navon, spent a morning looking at the famous Hebrew fragments from the Middle Ages. Accompanying him were the actor, Chaim Topol; the Minister at the Embassy of Israel in London, Mr Moshe Raviv; and Mrs Claire Connick of the World Ort Union which sponsored the Minister's trip to Britain.

On signing the University Library's visitors' book, Mr Navon expressed "profound gratitude for the rare and moving experience of seeing such remnants of the precious Jewish heritage as the handwritten notes of Moses Maimonides and Yehuda Halevi".

Another member of the Israeli Cabinet to visit the Unit was the Minister of Labour and Social Affairs, Mr Moshe Katsav, who came with his assistant, Mr Avraham Yitzhaki, and Mr Moray Angus, of the Central Office of Information (for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office), which made the arrangements for Mr Katsav's tour.

Other leading Israeli visitors were Mr Dan Meridor, Member of the Knesset and former secretary to the Cabinet; the well-known writer, A. B. Yehoshua; and Miss Malka Ben-Yosef, newly appointed cultural attaché at the Israeli Embassy in London.

[two gentlemen]

Israeli Minister Moshe Katsav (left) discussing Genizah texts with Dr Haskell Isaacs

Group visits

The Genizah Unit welcomed a total of 441 visitors during the academic year 1985-86.

Among the visiting groups were Ilford B'nai B'rith, Cardiff Jewish Representative Council, IBM, 117 Society, Israeli War Widows, and Hasmonean High School for Girls.

Visitors during the first few months of this year have included B'nai B'rith First Lodge, JACS Edgware, Jews' College, Scopus Society and JIA Women-in-Business.

During his visit to Cambridge University Library, the New Zealand High Commissioner, Mr Bryce Harland, was shown some of the most famous Genizah fragments.

[image of manuscript]

Detail from T-S NS 327.51: A 700-year-old medical certificate in Arabic

1262 medical certificate

Research Associate Dr Haskell Isaacs has found a medical certificate signed by two Muslim doctors on 22 January 1262 (T-S NS 327.51).

The physicians declared that they had examined Ibrahim the Jew and found him to be suffering from leprosy. He was therefore forbidden to reside or earn his living among Muslims because the disease was contagious.

By taking such a view, the two doctors were in disagreement with the standard Muslim tradition of their day, which stated categorically that leprosy was not contagious. They also anticipated the view of Ibn al Khatib (d. 1374), who regarded the disease as contagious.

In print

The latest Year Book of the Encyclopaedia Judaica (1983/85) includes articles by both Dr G. Khan and Dr S.C. Reif, one on the past twenty years of Genizah research, and the other on Genizah material at the Cambridge University Library, particularly since the establishment of the Genizah Unit in 1974.

Dr Reif has also made use of Cambridge Genizah fragments in an article in the Festschrift for the Chief Rabbi, Sir Immanuel Jakobovits, entitled Tradition and Transition (Jews' College Publications, London, 1986).

In person

The Secretary of State for Education, Mr Kenneth Baker, was the guest of honour at a private dinner party and at a luncheon meeting, both of which were held in London and attended by the Director of the Genizah Unit, Dr Stefan Reif.

Dr Reif took the opportunity of drawing the Minister's attention to the importance of the Collection and to what had been achieved with the assistance of external funding, as well as discussing with him some of the more general problems of higher education in Britain.

On computer

The Cambridge University Library was host to the 1986 annual conference of the Hebraica Libraries' Group. The participants, who were led by their chairman, Mr P. S. Salinger of the School of Oriental and African Studies, were welcomed by the University Librarian, Dr F. W. Ratcliffe.

After the business session, Mrs Jill Butterworth, now Under-Librarian at Cambridge University Library's Department of Oriental and Other Languages, described the latest developments in computerized cataloguing with special reference to Hebrew. A guided tour of the Genizah Collection was conducted by Dr Geoffrey Khan.

In the afternoon, an NBC film about the Cambridge Genizah fragments was introduced and shown by Dr Stefan Reif, who led a discussion about the use of the media for the promotion of scholarly collections.

Edited by Stefan C. Reif and printed by the University Printing Services of Cambridge University Press

If you have any questions, please e-mail genizah@lib.cam.ac.uk
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