Dr. Binyamin Richler: Mahral on Tur in Oxford Opp. 262

At the end of the volume of Even ha-Ezer in the El ha-Mekorot edition of the Tur Jerusalem 1958) , Rabbi S.B. Werner published חידושי מהר"ל מפראג novellae by Rabbi Judah Loewe b. Bezalel of Prague (Maharal). In the introduction Rabbi Werner wrote that he was editing the text from a manuscript in Cambridge[!] and he copied the scribe’s colophon dated 5355=1595. In fact, the colophon belongs to MS Oxford, Bodleian Library Opp. 254 (Catalogue Neubauer 752), a copy of glosses on the Tur Yoreh Deah by a grandson of the Maharal, probably either Naftali b. Isaac ha-Kohen Katz or his brother Hayyim, that incorporates most of Maharal’s novellae that were later printed in Sulzbach 1775. The text published by Rabbi Werner was not copied from that MS but from MS Oxford, Opp. 262 (Catalogue Neubauer 753). However, for some reason, Werner omitted all of the novellae on sections 1-27 and many of those on section 28. One can only surmise that he had not examined the original manuscript but consulted only an incomplete set of photocopies.

The novellae on Even ha-Ezer are preceded by novellae on Tur, Yoreh Deah, headed ביאורים נחמדי' ונמוקי' ממו' הגאון המופלג מוהררי"ל. Another contemporary hand confirmed the identity of the author adding in Hebrew מהר"ל פראג, indicating that the author was in fact the Maharal of Prague. The text breaks off after section 174. These novellae are not found in the other manuscripts or in the editions. In the novellae on Tur, Yoreh Deah by Maharal’s grandson in MS Oxford Opp. 752 in which most of the printed novellae of Maharal are quoted verbatim, none of the passages from this copy are quoted. This suggests that Maharal reviewed Yoreh Deah and added additional glosses and notes after MS Opp. 752 was written in 1595. Support for this theory may be found in the novellae on Even ha-‘Ezer copied in this manuscript in which the responsa of R. Joseph Karo, first printed in 1598, are quoted. This proves that Maharal continued to add glosses to the Tur long after he completed the printed novellae.

Due to his confusing the two manuscripts, Rabbi Werner was led to make additional mistakes and had to struggle to reconcile inconsistencies that he invented. He wrote that the novellae on Yoreh Deah copied in the MS agree with the editions, when, in fact, they are different. He has to resort to dubious pilpul to reconcile the fact that the manuscript. ostensibly written in 1595, quotes the responsa of the Beit Yosef published in 1598 and that the scribe added a note referring to the Bayyit Hadash by R. Joel Sirkis, first printed in 1638.

Rabbi Werner edited the novellae by Maharal before the Institute of Microfilmed Hebrew Manuscripts acquired copies of the Oxford manuscripts. Had he been able to consult microfilms of the manuscripts we can be certain that he would have avoided committing these embarrassing mistakes.

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