Lot 2
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Sefer ha-Assufot (Halakhic Miscellany), Ashkenaz: ca. 1307

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  • ink, parchment
181 leaves (11 ¼ x 7 ½ in.; 286 x 191 mm), written in Ashkenazi Hebrew script in brown ink on parchment. collation: 17, 2-228, 236 ; catchwords; pricked on inside and lower margins; early and modern foliation in Hebrew and Arabic in pencil; the word Meir, marked on ff. 49v, 77v, 90r, 110r, probably the name of the scribe; moderate browning in first and last few leaves, elsewhere lightly browned. Marginal tear in f. 21 costing text in 3 lines; repair touching 8 lines of text on f. 29; shoulder note on f. 89 partially effaced, ff. 95-109 slightly clipped at fore-edge, ff. 178-181 remargined. A few scattered holes to parchment, some with old sewing repairs. Illustrative diagrams relating to ritual slaughter, ff. 3r, 4r, 7r, 9v, 11v; kabbalistic diagrams f.113. Some staining and moderate discoloration. Modern maroon diced morocco; brass and leather clasps and catches, black leather lettering piece, title gilt; housed in a complementary half calf over cloth clamshell case; black leather lettering pieces ; titles gilt.


Mordecai Samuel Ghirondi; Samuel David Luzzatto; Solomon Halberstam (shelf no. 115). Montefiore Collection, presumably among the 412 volumes acquired from Halberstam in 1892 by Moses Gaster); Purchased by the present owner: Important Hebrew Manuscripts from the Montefiore Endowment, Sotheby's NY, October 27, 2004, lot 124.


A. Y. Dziubas (London, 1942; reprinted, 1982); S. A. Stern, Moriah, 15 (1987), pp. 5-10; B. Z. Benedikt,Merkaz ha-Torah be-Provence, 1985, pp. 105-132; H. Gross in Magazin fuer die Wissenschaft des Judentums, 10, (1884), pp. 64-87; M. Gaster, Studies and Texts, vol. 2, (1928), pp. 711-724; Naphtali Wieder, The Formation of Jewish Liturgy in the East and the West, (1998), p. 91 (in Hebrew; quotes the formula bi-reshut shamayim in the invitation to the Grace after Meals [fol.121r]); Ivan G. Marcus, Rituals of Childhood: Jewish Acculturation in Medieval Europe, (1996), passim, and especially p.137; Halberstam, Kobak's Jeschurun, vol. 5, pp. 123, 471-476

Catalogue Note


The present manuscript contains the only extant copy of Sefer ha-Assufot, a collection of legal decisions and customs, divided into 575 paragraphs. The work begins with a lengthy section on dietary laws but soon moves on to cover a broad range of topics from matrimonial and family purity laws to regulations concerning Sabbath and Holiday observances, practices, and traditions. An extensive formulary provides appropriate templates for all manner of commercial documents as well as various forms of ketubbot (marriage contracts). The template for a divorce document (f.142v) gives the place as Worms, and is dated in Hebrew characters to the year 5067 (1307 CE), a date which is consistent with the paleographical and codicological evidence indicating the early fourteenth century Ashkenazic origins of the manuscript. A particularly fascinating section (ff. 88r-89v) is devoted to folk remedies, especially for complications arising out of circumcisions and for women experiencing difficulties in childbirth.In addition to Sefer ha-Assufot (ff. 1r-169v), the volume contains several additional works including Midrash Rabbi Akiva on the Taggin (ff. 169v-170r); a grammatical treatise on vocalization (ff. 170r-176v);  Elohim Li Magen, a series of rhymes on cantilllation and vocalization, by Rabbenu Tam (ff. 176v-177v); and a handful of miscellaneous notes, wordlists, and prayers.

The paper flyleaves, a later addition, contain notes by an impressive collection of scholars through whose hands this unique volume has passed: Mordecai Ghirondi, Moses Gaster, Solomon Halberstam, and Samuel David Luzzatto. Halberstam remarks that the list of Latin, French and German foreign words used throughout the text, and their translations, which can be found at the end of the volume, is in Luzzatto’s hand.  On the third flyleaf there is a note in the hand of Mordecai Samuel Ghirondi stating (incorrectly) that in a booklist in the library of his teacher, Isaac Rafael Finzi, he found that this book is by Isaac Aboab and is called Aron ha-eduth. The work also quotes widely from Rabbinic and Gaonic literature as well as from German and French rabbinic authorities.

Parts of Sefer ha-Assufot were published by A. Y. Dziubas, who erroneously credited the work’s authorship to Elijah of Carcassone, but S. A. Stern, correctly rejected Dziubas’s attribution. Numerous references are made throughout to the halakhic decisions of Rabbi Eliezer ben Joel ha-Levi of Bonn (1140–1225), commonly referred to by his acronym Ra'avyah. This prompted the renowned scholar, Avigdor Aptowitzer to opine, in his Mavo le-Sefer ha-Raavia, (p.50) that the author of Sefer ha-Assufot was likely a grandson of Ra’avyah.