Leor Jacobi: Talmudic "Honey", Fragments of the Novellae of R. David ben Saul of Narbonne

חדושי דב"ש למסכת ברכות של ר' דוד בן שאול
ליאור יעקבי 

    Four heavily torn and damaged bifolios extracted from a Girona bookbinding contain novella to Tractate Berakhot of the Babylonian Talmud. In three loci the fragmentary text matches quotations verbatim from “Chidushei Dvash”, cited by name 18 times by R. David ben Yosef Abudraham. This enables a definite identification. An additional three loci not appearing in the manuscript were cited from Abudraham by R. Joseph Caro in his authoritative Beit Yosef.
    In addition, Abudraham also cites from the work without attribution. Far from plagiarism, this method of citation was conventional and openly declared by Abudraham in his introduction. This dovetails with the results of a previous study regarding citations of R. Jonah of Girona in the commentary of a student of Rashba, also published from a Girona bookbinding. Thus, this Girona manuscript is extremely important for the study of Abudraham, a central medieval halakhic work.
    The identity of the author of Chidushei Dvash has remained elusive. In most editions of Abudraham the acronym Dvash has been corrupted to Ravash, further complicating matters. A prominent modern traditional Talmudic scholar suggested R. David ben Samuel “HaKokhavi”, the early 14th century Provencal author of Sefer HaBattim. This proposition was based upon the acronym and a unique correlation between certain opinions expressed in the two works. However, based on preliminary analysis of the text of the Girona manuscript fragments, and upon the groundbreaking new research on Provencal sages of Pinchas Roth, that possibility can now be rejected in favor of the earlier Rabbenu David ben Saul of Narbonne, who flourished in the early 13th century.
    This identification is based upon: 1. The acronym Dvash (= D. b. Sh.); 2. The absence of any reference to or quotation from Maimonides; 3. A unique similarity between these novella on Tractate Berakhot as cited by Abudraham and between a citation of R. Moses Botarel from the novella on Tractate Shabbat; 4. Stylistic similarities between the various citations, including, on the one hand, brief conceptual resolutions of difficulties (chiluq) in the style of Tosafot, and, on the other hand, resistance to the actual legal decisions of the Tosafot; and 5. Appearances downstream in Beit haBechira, Sefer HaBattim, and Orchot Chaim/Kolbo, cited as anonymous earlier opinions. (This accounts for the earlier aforementioned misattribution.)
    R. David ben Saul’s authority and impact were tremendous. He was a colleague of R. Jonah of Girona and, along with their teacher, R. Solomon ben Abraham “Min ha-Har”, they lead the Rabbinic opposition to the philosophical writings of Maimonides. In the context of the dispute, R. David was mentioned by R. Abraham ben Maimon and his writings were cited by Samuel ibn Tibbon. R. Menachem Meiri lists his name in the chain of transmission of his introduction to Tractate Avot and Roth convincingly proposes that R. David’s Rabbinic authority held sway over even R. Mordechai Kimhi, grandson of the illustrious leader of the pro-Maimonides camp, Radaq. R. David’s Talmudic novella were explicitly referenced by later sages, such as R. Yosef Haviva, Nimukei Yosef, but no originals have been identified until now.
    The Girona bookbinding fragments serve as a vital missing link, connecting the previously unidentified Chidushi Dvash, cited verbatim in the popular and influential Abudraham, with the iconic, but little-known, Rabbenu David ben Saul. All of his novella had been given up for lost, but we now possess a single fragmentary manuscript remnant and know that the work was utilized liberally by Abudraham.

ברוך הטוב והמטיב. גילוי קטעי כתב היד שנשתמרו בכריכת ספר בגירונה עד לעת עתה מהווה ברכה כפולה: משום שהם היו החוליה החסרה, וכעת כשנתגלו, הם סוגרים מעגל בין פירוש חשוב וקדום לתלמוד, חדושי דב"ש למס' ברכות, ובין מחברו, רבינו דוד בן שאול, מגדולי חכמי פרובנס בסוף האלף החמישי (=ראשית המאה ה-13 למניינם).
ר' דוד בן שאול מוזכר בשלשלת הקבלה של ר' מנחם המאירי בהקדמתו לבית הבחירה למס' אבות. הידיעות מעטות גם על החכם וגם על חידושי התורה שחבר. הזיהוי נעשה בהסתמכות על מחקר פורץ דרך על חכמי פרובנס של פנחס רוט. ספר אבודרהם מרבה לצטט מחיבור זה בשם חידושי דב"ש, ומשם נכנסו החידושים לקודש פנימה. וחידושי דב"ש מוזכרים בשמם בבית יוסף של מרן ר' יוסף קארו שלש פעמים.
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