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HaGra Glosses to the Talmud - Glosses in his own...
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Volume containing Babylonian Talmud Tractates Rosh HaShana, Ta'anit, Yoma, Sukkah and Megillah, as well as the Jerusalem Talmud, Tractate Shekalim. Berlin - Frankfurt am Oder, 1735. Written on the title page in an old handwritten script are the words, "With glosses by the Gra in his own handwriting". Inside the volume itself are numerous glosses handwritten by the Gaon Rabeinu Eliyahu of Vilna. (The script is typical of the early 18th and 19th centuries). Most of the glosses appear in "HaGra Glosses to the Talmud" (Vilna, 1880; this edition was known to be more accurate than previous editions). Some glosses found in this volume do not appear there. * Besides the script on the title page, which states that the glosses are in the Gra's own handwriting, it is also obvious that this is indeed his handwriting based on the style and method of the handwriting here, which is identical to other well-known manuscripts attributed to the Gra. In particular, a clear similarity exists between the glosses in the present volume and the Gra glosses in the Vilna printing of 1880-1886 (which was edited according to the original Gemarot with glosses in the Gra's own handwriting), thus proving without a doubt that this is indeed the volume that the Vilna printers used for the revised edition of HaGra glosses. The Gra studied from these Gemarot. Drops of melted wax appear on the Gemarot leaves. It is known that the Gra closed the shutters of the windows in his room and studied by candle light. See introduction by his disciple Rabbi Israel of Shklov to the book "Pe'at HaShulchan," where he writes about the Gra, "He would close the windows of his room, studying by candle light, so as not to be disturbed or distracted by people, and this was the manner in which he studied from his youth in his toil in Torah, and reviewed the Babylonian Talmud every month, all his life...".* Glosses of the Gra: Editions and the differences between themHaGra glosses to the Talmud were first printed partially and incorrectly by a gentile printer, Anton Schmidt, in Vienna in 1806. Schmidt purchased a copy of the glosses and the right to publish them from the Gra's heirs. Many mistakes appear in this edition, for two reasons. First, there were simple copying errors, and second, the glosses were misinterpreted. The glosses, which were worded in clues and hints, needed to be deciphered by scholars. Rabbi Israel of Shklov, the Gra's disciple, commented about Anton Schmidt's edition, "The Gra's glosses are the essence of Halacha, and were given to an uneducated gentile for printing." Moreover, the chief editor of the Vienna edition was Yehuda-Leib Ben-Ze'ev, a freethinking Jew belonging to the Enlightenment, who, according to the "Divrei Haim," was observed desecrating the Shabbat while working on the Talmud glosses. Rabbi Israel of Shklov edited the Gra's glosses on the Tractate Shekalim in his book "Tekalin Hadatin" (Minsk, 1812). These glosses were copied from the original source and sent to Rabbi Israel of Shklov who at the time was living in Eretz Israel. The copied glosses received by Rabbi Israel of Shklov were written in a copy of the Tractate Shekalim from the Slawita Talmud printed in 1802.There had been attempt to correct the errors of the Viennese edition in the Kopys edition of the Babylonian Talmud, however, these corrections were based on assumption, not on the original HaGra manuscript. * The Vilna Edition of 1880, printed from the Gra's original manuscriptThe Vilna edition of the Talmud, 1880-1886, is the crowning glory of HaGra glosses. The Romm publishers secured a team of scholars headed by Rabbi Avraham Aba Kleinermann to decipher the glosses of the Gra's original manuscripts. The team toiled for several years to complete this monumental undertaking.This Vilna edition, prepared by great Jewish scholars, contains corrections of many of the errors that appeared in the Viennese edition by Anton Schmidt. By using the original manuscript, the scholars were able to revise the glosses back to the original version. (eg, Ta'anit 28/a, was printed in Vienna as "????? ??"?" while in the Vilna edition it was printed - as in the original manuscript offered here - "????"?"). The sole advantage the Vienna edition had over the Vilna edition was that the censorship in Vienna was less stringent than in Vilna. See, for example, Megillah page 11a, where the Gra corrected the text twice to read "Roman" instead of "Persian." This correction appears in the Vienna edition and in the original manuscript, whereas it is missing from the Vilna edition. In the epilogue to the Vilna edition (end of the Tractate Niddah), the Vilna printers commented that they worked off the original copy of the Talmud that the Gaon studied and on which he added his glosses. This volume was in the possession of the Gaon Rabbi Yehuda Bachrach of Seini, author of "Nimukei HaGrib" and a grandson of the Vilna Gaon. Rabbi Yehuda was also referred to as "Gaon", like his grandfather. (Rabbi Ya'akov, grandson of Rabbi Yehuda Bachrach, writes in his book "MeHaIbur uMinyan HaShanim" (Warsaw, 1893) in regard to the glosses, "...In the four volumes of the Talmud which the Gra studied and in which he wrote glosses in his own handwriting... These belonged to the Gaon [Rabbi Bachrach], my father's father").* Evidence that the volume offered here is the Gemara from which "The Gra's Glosses" were printed in the Vilna printing press:A close examination of the copy offered here proves that this is the original manuscript. Much evidence is presented in the attached essay. Here are some examples: 1. All the additions and changes extant in the Vilna edition appear in the Gra's own handwriting presented here. 2. In some instances, the Vilna printers describe minute and specific details of the manuscript they saw in front of them and off which they worked. For example, Tractate Rosh Hashanah, page 23b, states in the Vilna edition, "This gloss does not appear in the original manuscript," and this is indeed so in the volume on offer here. In the Tractate Sukkah, page 7a, it states, "So it was heard from him [the Gaon] but it is not found in his handwriting..." and indeed such a gloss is not present in the manuscript. In Tractate Yoma, page 49b, the Vilna edition contains the words, "In the mean time are encircled" marking these words for deletion. In the original text, the words 'in the mean time' are encircled. 3. The words "With glosses from the Gra of Vilna, in his own handwriting" are scribbled in an old-style handwriting on the title page. These words were presumably written by Rabbi Yehuda Bachrach (see photocopy attached to enable comparison with his handwriting taken from "Nimukei HaGri"b").*The Gra's writing styleThe comments were written in the Gra's typical fashion, for example: (1.) Parentheses or a circle around letters or words to be deleted; (2.) A line drawn over the letters or words, to mark a deletion or change of version; (3.) Scratching printed letters for deletion; (4.) A symbol of three dots forming a triangle between or above words, to note a gloss or an addition of a new version; (5.) Marking words with the letters "Aleph" and "Bet", thus indicating a reversal of the order of the words in the text. The handwritten glosses of the Gaon vary, due to their being written over a span of many years (for example, use of clearer script when he was young and larger script when he was older). The change in his handwriting is particularly noticeable in the Tractate Shekalim, where he commented numerous times. Some of the comments, while being repetitious, are noticeably different in handwriting styles. Another particularly interesting gloss is the one written in two stages (proving beyond a doubt the originality of the glosses). This gloss is located in Tractate Megillah, page 13a: The Gemara writes about Moshe Rabbeinu, "Yered - this refers to Moshe and why was he called Yered? For he brought down manna to the people in his days". At first, the Gaon marked notes of deletion over the word "Manna," and wrote instead in the margin, "Torah." At a later time, the Gaon revised this first version. He crossed out the word "Torah," and marked parentheses to indicate the need to delete the whole section. He noted in the margin his new version, "Who brought down Torah to the people of Israel".It seems from the glosses offered here, that they were written by the Gra for his personal use only and that he did not intend to publicize them to teach others. For example, in Tractate Ta'anit, leaf 15b, the Gra commented on the word "VeTaku" by scratching the first letter in the printed text, thus leaving "Taku". This gloss is not easily discerned at first sight. (It exists only in the Vilna edition, from which, by the way, we can fathom how hard the Vilna printers had to work). If indeed the Gra had written his glosses in order to educate others, he would probably have implemented this deletion in ink, as in other places where he marked deletions using parentheses or with a line above the deleted letters. Hence, it appears that the glosses were meant for himself, for his own study.It is well known that the Vilna Ga'on did not elaborate unnecessarily in his speech and writings. His words were short and brief. It therefore requires much thought and knowledge to understand the depth of each of his writings and markings. In his glosses to the Babylonian and Jerusalem Talmud and Midrashim of our Sages (Safra, Sifri, Mehilta, and Zohar), the Gra transmitted to us entirely new understanding of the texts. Many scholars have studied and scrutinized every note of his glosses, many of which are understood only by the most advanced and brilliant minds. ConclusionAside from the immense importance of the autograph of the Vilna Gaon offered here, and apart from the tremendous significance of the new glosses that have not yet been printed, this volume is a significant source of information and knowledge to better understand his commentary. One can study the Gra's handwriting itself and discover new meaning and significance in the Gaon's words and insights. The above item description is based mainly on the opinion of Rabbi David Kamenetsky, a renowned expert in the research of the Gaon's writings. Rabbi Kamenetsky authored a 40-page essay about the very volume offered here (attached). In it, he compares in detail the differences between the written glosses and the printed ones, with tens of examples that were altered or omitted. Description of the Volume[1], 2-41 leaves; [1], 2-36 leaves; [1], 2-93 leaves; [1], 2-67 leaves; [1], 2-13 leaves; [1], 2-47 leaves. ca. 34 cm. Heavy, good quality paper. Good-fair condition. The volumes show signs of usage, including tears to some of the leaves, with adhesions. There is minor moth damage to several leaves. Some staining and drops of melted wax. The leather spine is damaged, no binding. (A detailed condition report can be provided upon request).
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