Shmuel Benveniste's Efforts on behalf of the Jewish Community of Girona, 1443

I'll admit, History is not my central field of activity. But, after initial consultation with Prof. Dov Septimus, I decided that this fragment could not be ignored. I will be glad to receive any additional information about this. In a CD of images of binding fragments received from the Arxiu Historic in Girona we find mostly drafts of the Bet Din (one item dated 1355), four bifolia including a Talmud fragment (Shabbat) on parchment in Ashkenazic hand, Rashi on Berakhot and an additional, unknown commentary on the same tractate, and a Yozer for Purim. The images here are all low-resolution jpegs that pixilated when enlarged, so it's sometime difficult to make a precise reading, particularly in the drafts and record books written in cursive Sephardic. My attention was drawn to a two-page item, apparently serving as the fly-pages of a volume labeled 2212.The online image has been published here. We see here a record of expenditures, loans and mortgages, in a layout that reminded us of the Aragonian community record Yah. Ms. Heb. 242 here in the NLI (published with color facsimile in Books from Sefarad, 1992 pp. 150-151). The main difference between them is that the Girona pages are in Hebrew, with only a few technical terms in Catalan. On one of the pages we find the heading:
אלו הן ההוצאות מזמן גיביתי (?) מתחיל א' ג'ניר תמ"ג עד א' ג'יניר תמ"ד לחשבונם"". A record of expenditures spanning, in the Christian dates- January 1, 1443-January 1, 1444. This in itself is an important finding, as this Jewish community was presumed to be long disbanded in the destruction of 1391 and the events in its aftermath.
The last published records of a functional community, in the stages of collapse in the years 1415-1418, can be found in Angeles Masia, A Portaciones al Estudio Dell Call Gerundense, Sefarad XIII, 1953, pp. 287-308; LB Prats, Mas Precisiones Sobre el Call Gerundense La Ordencion de 1418, Sefarad XXI 1961 pp. 48-57.
Many of the expenditures are loans to private citizens, payments to and the local "Musen". But many of the records deal with the efforts of Samuel Benvineste on behalf of the community. One record reads:
ראשונה להשיג חותם אדונותינו המלכה יר"ה, שימסרו\ לנו פישישאו מבית הכנסת הישנה וגם למיסיר ג'ופרי\ שיעיין חותם ביטול התקנות בעבור שיש בו קפיטול\ כי כל הבתי כנסיות שלא יעשו בהם תפלה שהיו מהקהל\ כמו נכסי הכלל הוצאתי ע"י אנבנבנשת שמואל בין \ פרוויאר הסופלוקיסיאו וסידור הכתב...
To my limited understanding it means thus: The first (payment?) to obtain the signature or seal of our lord the Queen (may God preserve her) that we be given the posesio (possession) of the Old Synagogue and to Mr. Geoffery that he may review the signature on the annulment of the edicts, as all the Synagogues that are (no longer) in use for prayer, that once belonged to the community [have become?] public domain. Expended by EnBenveniste Samuel between February(?) the suplecusio (supplication) was drawn up…
Four records later:
עוד לסדר הכתב בברצלונ"ה פבריר תמ"ג על ידי אנבנבנישת\ שמואל הנזכר לאציל"ס פראטש סופר הגזבר כללי\ הלך עמו פעמים רבות לגזבר כללי הנזכר שהיה להשיג ממנו אשיקוטוריאה בעד בית הכנסת וגם\ ללכת לאשישור מיסי"ר פא"ב
That would be: to the order of (expenses in) Barcelona February 1443, expended by Samuel Benveniste to Achilles Prats, the secretary of the General Treasurer, (with whom) he went many times to the abovementioned General Treasurer in order to obtain from him an esicutoria (executorial?) for the synagogue, and also to visit the asesior (assessor?) Mr. Pav.
If my understanding is correct, Samuel Benveniste is attempting to lobby the Queen (that would be Maria, queen of Alfonso V) to retain the communal property, particularly the synagogue estates that have become the property of the General Treasury, as most of them are no longer in use.
The author of the ethical treatise Orakh Yamim bears the name Shmuel b. Yaakov Benveniste. So too is the name of the translator of Maimonides' Medical treatise Miqalat Fi'Rabu (Sefer Hamisa'dim), although Steinschneider (Hebraische Ubersetzungen, p. 767) dates him around 1320.
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Leor Jacobi: Prayer of Nehunaya ben Haqanna without Psalm 55:24

The prayer of R. Nehunya ben HaQanna, recited upon entering the house of study as found in all versions of Bavli Brachoth 27b does not include the ending verse found in many prayerbooks and in the Hadaran recited at the conclusion of a Talmudic Tractate or Mishnaic Order: Psalms 55:24. שנאמר וְאַתָּה אֱלוהִים תּוֹרִדֵם לִבְאֵר שַׁחַת אַנְשֵׁי דָמִים וּמִרְמָה לֹא יֶחֱצוּ יְמֵיהֶם וַאֲנִי אֶבְטַח בָּךְ No medieval sources quote the verse in conjunction with the prayer. The inappropriate vitriolity of the verse in the context of this prayer has been pointed out by Torah giants such as Rav Kook (end of Ginzei Qedem, Vol. 1) and the Munkatch Rebbe (Divrei Torah, Mahadura 5, end of paragraph 60). The earliest known source for the inclusion of the verse is in printed versions of Hilchoth Alfasi (RIF). No manuscript versions contain the verse! However, one manuscript, Oxford Huntington 135 contains a reference to a different verse in a marginal note, the verse cited in the version of the prayer in Yershalmi Brachoth: Psalms 16:10 . It goes without saying that this verse is most appropriate in the context of the prayer. It seems likely that the printers of RIF, unfamiliar with the traditions of the Talmud Yerushalmi, substituted a more familiar verse, perhaps by habit ("ashagra D'Lishna") from Pirqei Avoth, chapter 5, describing Be'er Shahath, the destination of the students of the wicked Bila'am. Both locations share the common connecting words: שנאמר, באר שחת Thanks to Ezra Chwat, Moshe Bloi, and Shamma Friedman for their valuable assistance. gmb 015


The manuscript source of Tshuvot HaRaShbA vol. VI

It's not often that we can trace a printed work of the Rishonim to its manuscript source. Here's one such case.

Tshuvot HaRaShbA vol. VI was published in Warsaw 1898 (not 1868 as in the imprint- RSZ Havlin, introduction to Tshuvot HaRaShbA, 2000 p. 25), long after the publications of the previous volumes. Consequently, much of the material in this volume is parallel to responsa that had already been published. The publishers had the integrity to retain the order of the manuscript, and merely cited the parallel source where previously published responsa appear, alongside the respective number of the response in the manuscript.

With these features, it would be expected that we could easily identify the manuscript source, once it came up.

Hannan Benayhu, who now manages the manuscript collection of his father R. Meir Benayhu z"l, graciously allowed us to photograph two of the most important items of this collection, that we have had no image or record of until now- the Talmud Yerushalmi fragment from Sanhedrin VI-VII (shelfmark Sp 12), and the 167 page manuscript of Tshuvot HaraShbA (O 204).

The latter is clearly the source of vol. VI, bearing the following features of identification:

The marginalia on the first and last pages of the manuscript, comments by, respectively, David Pifano and Binyamin Qimhi, were retained in the published edition.

Responsa that were omitted in the edition appear in the manuscript here with scratchmarks, presumably an indication to the printer where to omit. In the margins of these responsa, are pencil-written references citing where the specific response has been published.

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Tish'a B'Av 'Amidah supplement

Prof. Andreas Lehnardt of Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz has been very active in recent years in finding new Hebrew Manuscripts in bindings throughout Central Europe. The last harvest, from the Stadtische Sammlung of Halberstdt, of which he published a survey in Gemeinnützige Blätter 17, (2008) pp. 58-64, and subsequently sent us the images. (National Library Aleph record no. 2638598) Among the findings here are 16 folios of Kinnot for Ninth of Av, including the Torah portion, Haftarah, and one folio from the 'Amidah including supplementary paragraphs. What's peculiar here is, in addition to the common Nahem supplement to the 14th brakhah, a remnant from the end of an additional supplement to the 13th brakhah- citing Zechariah I:14. GMB 013


The addtional verse for 'El Na Refah'

An inevitable mathematical problem faced by paytanim is the 22nd letter of the Hebrew Alphabet- Tav. Any poem using the classic 4-line-per-verse alphabetized structure is doomed to end at seven verses, at line 21- the letter shin. The tav is either omitted or deserving its own 4-line verse.
All the more so is the case of the classic Selihah, commonly found amogn those of Ta'anit Zibbur and Minhah of Yom Kippur- 'El na Refah' (Davidson 3875; Goldschmidt, Mahzor of Yom Kippur, 1970, p. 705). Here each of the seven verses conclude with the cry "'anenu…" mentioning Biblical heroes whose supplication for salvation was answered, the source of which is clearly the seven additional blessings supplemented to the prayer service for Public Fast that appear in Mishnah Ta'anit 2:4. The fourth line of each verse matches the corresponding blessing found in the Mishnah. This allows for only seven verses (21 lines, 21 letters), thus the end the Selihah at shin appears to be original, and so it appears in the medieval manuscripts (Mahzor Hildesheim p. 124; Modena, Archivio di Stato 184.1; Parma 3193 fol. 36a).
In the manuscript collection of the National Library, among the hundreds of loose manuscript folios and fragments found in the eight boxes labeled Ms. Heb. 8°1800, is a single paper leaf, containing only this Selichah. Although it starts and ends with lines from the standard Selihot service, the leaf appears to be organically individual, not having been detached from codex. These additional lines – in a different font size- are simply reminders of the place of where this piyyut is to be supplemented in the Selichot service. The paper bears a watermark similar to those found in the late 17th- early 18th cent. (Heawood, Watermarks, 1950, pls. 340-345). In this copy an additional eighth verse is supplied for the letter tav. The subject of the final "'anenu" here is Mordechai and Esther, as in the standard 'Anenu litany at the end of the Selihot (Goldschmidt, Selichot, 1965, p. 15). In the unlikely possibility that this is the original version, this verse was dropped because of the dissonance with the Mishnaic source. In the more likely scenario, in which the original ends at line shin, one must consider why this was added. The aesthetic asymmetry of a missing letter didn't seem to bother anyone before.
It's possible that this eighth verse was added for the usage of this piyyut in the Selihot service for the Fast of Esther.
Here's the additional verse:
תַעֲנֶה לְקורְאֶיךָ וְהַסְכֵת מִמְעונִים תִשְמַע שַוְעַת צועֲקֶיךָ שומֵעַ אֶל אֶבְיונִים תְרַחֵם בָנֶיךָ כְרַחֵם אָב עַל בָנִים עֲנֵנו כְמו שֶעָנִיתָ לְמָרְדְכָי וְאֶסְתֵר וְתָלוי עַל הָעֵץ חֲמִשִים הָאַב עִם בָנים:
And so too in two subsequent manuscripts (1690- Cincinnati HUC 774 p. 45a; 1790- Prague Jewish Museum 93 fol 2b). Note the relative flexibility of the length and content of this final verse, among the few text witnesses available- another indication that this is not an organic part of the poem. In Avodat Yisrael (Radleheim 1868 p. 595) the final line, possibly a result of apologetic self-censorship, reads:
עֲנֵנו כְשֶעָנִיתָ לְמָרְדְכָי וְאֶסְתֵר וְחַסְתָ עַל אָבות וּבָנִים
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