158 leaves (10 3/4 x 7 1/2 in.; 275 x190 mm). collation: 1-164, 176, 18-374, 382[of 4], 394, 402 =158 [of 160 lacking only 38.2 and 38.3]. Foliation defective in press. Title page, stained, owner's notes. A strong copy save for first two and final three leaves, strengthened at gutter, worming, tape repairs. Dampstaining. Occasional marginal tears and marginalia. Speckled edges. Modern three quarter library cloth over composition board, edges worn.
Vinograd, Const. 217 (calling for only 158 ff.); Mehlman 758; Yaari, Const. 161; Hacker 161
Includes the incredibly rare quire 28 in its original state with the two leaves of responsum # 66 (ff.109-110)
Eliah Mizrahi (c.1450–1526) was born in Constantinople, and was the leader of the native Romaniot community during the influx of exiles from the Iberian Peninsula. Mizrahi became the foremost rabbinical authority in Constantinople and in fact throughout the whole Ottoman Empire after the death of Elijah Capsali in 1498. Widely recognized for his brilliant supercommentary on Rashi, it is through his Responsa that we can best understand the illustrious reputation that he enjoyed, already in his own lifetime.
In one responsum reminiscent of Maimonides reply to Judah ibn Tibbon, Mizrahi gives a description of his daily routine, which reveals the strain under which he worked. Fulfilling multiple functions simultaneously, he conducted the affairs of the community, rendered halakhic decisions, headed a yeshivah, and taught both Talmud and secular subjects. At the same time he penned his commentaries on religious and scientific works and maintained an elite cadre of students to whom he taught legal codes. Finally, he wrote responsa in answer to queries addressed to him from around the Ottoman Empire and beyond.
The notorious responsum # 66 concerns Eliah Mizrahi's son Gershon, who was the victim of a libel at the hands of one Joseph Algazi. According to Mizrahi, Algazi (a physician, grandfather of Samuel Algazi) had been excommunicated for acts taken against certain Jews in Crete during the lifetime of Moses Capsali and later. However, in response to Algazi's appeal Mizrahi interceded with the local leaders on his behalf. Following his victory Algazi repaid Mizrahi's kindness with scorn, and tried to undermine Mizrahi's son Gershon, a rabbi in Candia, by denouncing him as an ex-marrano and claiming that he had sought to be converted to Islam. Gershon was forced to abandon his family and, after paying heavy bribes, escaped to Naxos, where he continued to suffer persecution at the hand of his accusers.
When another of Mizrahi's sons, Israel, assembled his father's responsa, he included #66, the impassioned defense of his brother Gershon by their father. The influence that the elder Mizrahi had been able to wield in life was no match for the rising power of those who wished to excise any aspersions that had been cast on Algazi and his descendants. In the midst of publishing the present work, nearly all copies had the four leaves of quire 28 cancelled and replaced by a new two-page quire, typographically reset in order to seamlessly fit in and leave no trace of the missing responsum.
The present lot is now only the third known copy of this work with quire 28 in its intended and complete state.
Literature: Joshua Starr, "Jewish Life in Crete Under the Rule of Venice," PAAJR, vol. 12, (1942), pp. 59-114.
Provenance: S. Kleinhaus, Antwerp-his stamp on several leaves.
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