Archive for the 'Judaica' Category

26
Apr
13

About Tomorrow’s Radio Show…


After a far too long hiatus (due to the final disease and subsequent ptirah of my uncle – Henry Moss, alav haShalom), we are back with a radio show special on motzey Shabbat at 11:30 pm (Eastern Time). We prerecorded it on Wednesday, at Sotheby’s, at the press intro to the exhibit of the Michael and Judy Steinhardt Judaica Collection.

The collection's catalog...

The collection’s catalog…

Detail of a very ornate Shabbat oil lamp, from the 18th Frankfurt Ghetto

Detail of a very ornate Shabbat oil lamp, from the 18th century Frankfurt am/Main ghetto.

We spoke with Jennifer Roth, Sotheby’s Senior Vice President and Department Head of the Judaica Department, John D. Ward, Vice President and Department Head of the Silver Department, Sharon Liberman Mintz and David Wachtel, Senior Judaica Consultants. The exhibit covers a millennium and a half of Jewish Ceremonial Art, from aquamanile to matza tools, from German Shabbat oil lamps to a British decorative silver plate given by the Jewish community to the Lord Mayor of London, to an illuminated medieval edition of MaimonidesMishnah Torah and hundreds more. Each item is unique, some are very rare, all show the extent to which the Jews appreciated art and integrated the artistic fashion of the time into their every day ceremonial needs.

The conversations with the four experts listed above were fascinating, as they opened up a new way to look at our history, at our values, and how the Jews truly fared in the European societies of old. Please listen to this fascinating show at BlogTalkRadio.com/kosherscene at 11:30 pm (Eastern Time) motzei Shabbat.

Meanwhile, in case you missed, please listen to the archive of our last show with Paula Shoyer.

Don’t forget to listen in tomorrow evening at 11:30 pm (Eastern Time), we’ll be wait’n for ya.

CS

01
Feb
13

The Michael & Judy Steinhardt Collection at Sotheby’s


You can glean an indication of a people’s essential soul through its art; you can tell an artist’s darkest fears or highest aspirations through his/her artistic creations. From its very beginning, Jewish art has been heavily influenced by its homestead environs, the cultural milieu, and the political and economic times of each era. Regardless of the external influences, however, the unique Jewish en-soulment  lives within every creation like a burning spark in each work. You can view these spiritual sparks in a collection of Judaica currently on partial display at Sotheby’s (1334 York Avenue, New York, NY 10021 – Tel: 212.606.7000). The full collection of 400 lots, collected by Judy and Michael Steinhardt consists of rare Jewish art spanning from antiquity to the 20th century and will be auctioned on April 29th, 2013.

Among the collection’s items one can find The Frankfurt Mishnah Torah, published sometime around 1457 to 1465, it is a beautiful set of eight illuminated manuscripts (another five volumes are in the Vatican). As Sotheby’s press release states, it is by far the most profusely illustrated manuscript of MaimonidesMishna Torah and is expected to command between $4.5 to $6 million. An item that is currently on display is this beautiful North German Bronze Lion Aquamanile, from the 12th century…

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One of only four known Aquamanilia (hand washing vessels) with a medieval Hebrew inscription.

One of only four known Aquamanilia (hand washing vessels) bearing a medieval Hebrew inscription.

Other items I was privileged to see are a German psomim bixl, used for havdallah at the end of Shabbos, a very ornate Torah crown…

An Italian Torah crown, circa 1730

An Italian Torah crown, circa 1730

The detailed work and beautiful lettering on the crown, speak eloquently of the artist’s reverence for his subject and mastery of the delicate nuances of his raw material. Also displayed is a Torah breastplate of rare workmanship unequaled today…

Intricately designed, unique in its beauty.

Intricately designed, unique in its beauty.

Other items displayed include 2 Ketubas – like the one below, for example:

The full ketuba above and the actual written contract on the bottom...

The full ketuba above and the actual written contract on the bottom…

An unusual lot also on display is The Rouchomovsky Skeleton: A Russian Gold Articulated Skeleton in a Silver-Gilt Coffin, from Odessa 1892-96 and estimated at $150,000 to $250,000…

Very small, yet incredibly detailed.

Very small, yet exquisitely detailed.

This collection affords more than just a glimpse at the collective Jewish soul, to see it and even more to own a piece of it connects a person to centuries of Jewish hopes, dreams, tears and laughter. The complete collection of 400 lots will be on display at Sotheby’s (1334 York Avenue, New York, NY 10021 – Tel: 212.606.7000) from April 24 trough 28, while the auction itself will take place on the 29th of April.

CS

RELATED POST

Judaica at Sotheby’s – Valmadonna Trust Library

24
Dec
12

A Talk with Igal Fedida


This coming Wednesday at 10:00pm (Eastern Time), we will be talking to Igal Fedida. He is a modern painter with a message that extends beyond time. His colors are bold, Hebrew letters appear almost invariably, his brush strokes reveal a lot more about the subject matter than do the works of far more photo realistic artists. In short, though he paints Jewish art, his paintings speak to Jew and non-Jew alike, his works stir up emotions far beyond what the eyes can perceive. While looking at his works, you see the colors dance, you see the colors explode; no definable shape is discernible, yet everything that exists or ever existed is in them.

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The artist in front of one of his creations.

The artist in front of one of his creations.

I’ve been speaking to Igal almost daily over last week, his is a fascinating life’s journey to orthodoxy and the healing process of painting. His website, tells us:

Igal Fedida, born and raised in Israel, moved to the United States at an early age to pursue a successful business career in construction, design and remodeling. Being of curious and deeply spiritual nature, however, he decided to take some time to get to know the World and he traveled to many distant and unusual pockets of our home planet. He enjoyed drawing, sketching and design since an early age and he discovered the love for photography during his travels, capturing images of nature and people alike.

Returning to Los Angeles, he enrolled in intensive photography study program at the UCLA. Exploring the world of photography, his need for expression drove him to develop a unique form where he combined Polaroid photographs with water color in order to deepen the effect of the image. In doing so he discovered that his need to express the nature and the World that surrounds us far surpasses the limited potential of photography. Subsequently, as if an invisible hand pointed a direction, the magic door opened and he was pulled into the world of painting.

The gallery (1482 First Avenue, between 77 and 78 in Manhattan, showing his series on Creation.

The gallery (at 1482 First Avenue, between 77th and 78th in Manhattan’s Upper East Side), showing his series on Creation.

Meanwhile, in case you missed it, please listen to our broadcast with Dimitry Salita. Dimitry is another interesting personality, an Orthodox Jewish boxer!

Whatever you do, please don’t forget to listen in to our show with Igal Fedida this coming Wednesday at 10:00pm (Eastern Time). In fact, gentle reader, why don’t you call in (at 714.333.3357) while we are talking to this fascinating guest?

CS

For a Night of Wine and Art, to meet Igal Fedida,
to sip some great Israeli  wines and partake of some delicious cheeses
on Wednesday, January 23rd, 2013,
click here

RELATED POSTS

A Night of Wine and Art

A Night of Wine and Art – Part 2

20
Jun
12

Al Principio… – A Judaica Auction – Part 2


The third installment of The Cassuto Collection of Iberian Books is being offered at tomorrow’s auction. Many of the books in this allotment not only had to deal with the Inquisition’s censorship, but in some cases had to even use deception in order to get printed, as is the case with Lot 307, the crown jewel of the collections current offerings…

Al Principio crio el Dio alos çielos y ala tierra – In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.

[..]Ferrara, 1553 $30,000-50,000

OF UNPARALLELLED BEAUTY, THE FERRARA BIBLE REPRESENTS ONE OF THE GREAT LANDMARKS IN THE HISTORY OF PRINTING. It is the first Spanish translation of the entire Hebrew Bible, the work of Jews who had carried the language with them into exile. The Gothic typography and the presswork of this stately folio volume are exceedingly fine. The text, based upon older medieval Castillian versions that had circulated among the Jews of Spain, became virtually canonical for Sephardic Jews in Europe.

[..]Completed on March 1st, 1553, the Ferrara Bible is a remarkable achievement. The entire text is obviously Jewish from beginning to end, avoiding the Christological nuances and mistranslations of the Vulgate…

[..]The title page of the Bible proclaims that it is a “word for word translation from the Hebrew Truth.” It also states that the translation was “seen and examined by the Office of the Inquisition.” On the bottom of the page is recorded that the book was printed “under a privilege from the Duke of Ferrara.” There is no doubt the Duke permitted the Jews to print the book, but it is inconceivable that this translation could have been approved by the Inquisition. The Catholic Church would have approved of no translation other than the Vulgate, which was its official version. Moreover it would not have given approval to a translation based upon the Hebrew text, edited in a style that was faithful to the traditional Jewish Bible commentaries. Aside from that, authorizations by the Inquisition never appeared as part of the title of a book, but rather as a seal on the title page or the last page. Such authorizations did not refer to the “Office of the Inquisition,” but rather to the “holy Office” (santo oficio). Most likely the formula printed here on the title page was coined for the sake of appearances and Duke Ercole II probably agreed to the deception.

Important to note is the tragic iconography of the title-page which is truly emblematic of the entire era. In the top center of the ornate woodcut frame is a head of a bearded Neptune, who, with bulging cheeks, is blowing a storm . Beneath the lines of text, a ship flounders in the waves of a raging sea, its sails torn, its mast broken. The ship represents the afflicted Jewish people, particularly the Spanish and Portuguese exiles, in their perilous search for a safe heaven. Further symbolism may be found: At the top of one of the masts there is an armillary sphere which represent a dramatically inverted symmetry. The very same device that was for Portugal, a sign of its great age of exploration and its hope for glory, becomes here, a symbol of Jewish latest age of wandering, and its hope for a secure refuge from the storm of its suffering.

THE FERRARA BIBLE, A MASTERPIECE OF 16TH CENTURY JEWISH BOOK PRODUCTION, BECAME THE CLASSIC SPANISH VERSION OF THE BIBLE FOR THE MARRANOS RETURNING TO JUDAISM AND INDEED FOR THE ENTIRE SEPHARDIC DIASPORA AS A WHOLE FOR CENTURIES THEREAFTER.

A truly daring achievement for the times, and proof that the Jewish spirit is truly unconquerable as long as we tenaciously cling to our beliefs, and to our tradition.

Lot 324 is another interesting work…

LEON, JACOB JUDAH (TEMPLO). Tavnith Heichal – Libellus Effigiei Templi Salomonia. FIRST HEBREW EDITION. Separate Hebrew and Latin titles, Spanish dedications to the Parnassim of the Sephardic Congregation Talmud Torah of Amsterdam, followed by a Hebrew translation of the Privileges granted by the United Dutch Provinces. Numerous previos owner’s marks, including various members of the Belmonte Family. ff 6, (l), 4-38. Ex-library, some staining. Contemporary calf, worn, spine taped. Sm. 4to. Vinograd, Amsterdam 179 (unseen); Fuks, Amsterdam 266.

Amsterdam, Marcus Levi, 1650 $1000-1500

Treatise on the exterior, interior, and ritual objects of the Temple of Solomon. The name “templo” was added to the author’s family name on account of the celebrated copper engravings of Solomon’s Temple that Jacob Judah Leon prepared for his scarce work. Retrato del Templo de Solomon (1642).

It is interesting to note that earlier this year, we spoke of the Spanish and English translations of this very same book (photo of a detailed illustration included), published in 1654 and 1675 respectively and currently in the possession of the New York Public Library.

Lot 317 is important mainly because it exposes the ruthlessness of the Inquisition…

(INQUISITION). Beringer, Joachim. Hispanicae Inquisitionis & Carnicinae Secretoria. [“The Spanish Inquisition and the Secret Torture Chamber”) FIRST EDITION. pp. 334. Foxed. Contemporary vellum, discolored. 8vo.

Amber (Bavaria) Johannes Schönfeld, 1611 $500-700

Anti-Inquisitorial tract, based on maily on the earlier work of Reginaldus Gonsalvius Montanus (pseudonym of the Spanish theologian and Bible translator Casiodoro de Reina), SanctaeInquisitionis Hispanicae Artes (heidelberg 1567).

Lot 312 shows the craziness behind the Inquisition, even if it never intended to do that…

(HEBREW). Joannem Ab Incarnatione. Dikduk Leshon HaKedosha / Grammatica Linguae Sancta. FIRST EDITION. Latin interspersed with fully vocalized Hebrew. pp. (8), 4, 549, (I blank). Lightly browned. Contemporary calf-backed marbled boards. 4to.

Coimbra, Typis Academiae, 1789 $500-700

Rare Hebrew grammar printed in Portugal. It might strike one as ironic that at the height of the Inquisition, when Portugal had been purged of Judaism, the Hebrew language – “the sacred tongue” – was studied by Catholic theologians at the prestigious University of Coimbra.

WorldCat shows but a single copy of the book, located in the Sterling Library, Yale University.

It seems very strange that even as the Inquisition denied the Jews the right to live as Jews – under penalty of death – that its theologians felt compelled to study what they regarded as “the sacred tongue.” Confused?

There is so much among these offerings covering everything from halacha to kabbalah, from TaNa”CH to prayer, from ethical writings to historical documents and much more. This auction will take place tomorrow June 21st, 2012; 3:00pm at Kestenbaum & Company at 242 West 30th, 12th floor; New York, NY 10001- Tel: 212.366.1197 – Fax: 212.366.1368.

RELATED POSTS

You Have Taught Me Since My Youth – A Judaica Auction – Part 1
A Journey Into History, Rare Judaica Auction – Part 1

A Journey Into History, Rare Judaica Auction – Part 2
A Journey Into History, Rare Judaica Auction – Part 3

19
Jun
12

You Have Taught Me Since My Youth – A Judaica Auction – Part 1


Elokim, limadtani mine’uray ve’ad henah agid nifla’otecha – True God, You have taught me since my youth and until now, I will say your wonders. Thus opens up Lot 101 (Menachem Azariah Da Fano‘s Yonath Elem) in the upcoming Judaica auction at Kestenbaum & Company – this coming Thursday; June 21st, 2012 at 3:00pm. The opening phrase above best sums up the treasured first or early editions of learned books, of awe inspiring manuscripts, and of the ceremonial art that – starting this past Sunday afternoon – are on display at the auctioneers’ offices (242 West 30th, 12th floor; New York, NY 10001- Tel: 212.366.1197 – Fax: 212.366.1368).

Kabbalistic works mingle freely with less esoteric commentaries of the TaNa”CH, chassidic tomes share space with the writings of fierce opponents to the fledgling movement. What is remarkable to me, what fills me with emotion as I peruse these old books, these fragile manuscripts from the hands of some of the greatest figures in our history (past and just passed), is that though the ideas seem divergent, the disagreements often lie more in the semantics than in the actual contents. Yes, historically we have witnessed very bitter arguments between rationalists and kabbalists, between chassidim and misnagdim, but there is little doubt these disagreements between the leaders were not for the sake of personal honor but about how we could best serve Him, speak of, sing about or praise His wonders. All these various ideas, all these disparate ways, are nothing more and nothing less than multiple roads leading to the same eternal truth…

Menachem Azariah MeFano‘s  Asarah Ma’amaroth was first printed – partially – in Venice in 1597. Lot 101, Yonath Elem, is the first printed edition of one of the individual ma’amarot on kabbalistic subjects.

FANO, MENACHEM AZARIAH DA. Yonath Elem [kabbalah] FIRST SEPARATE EDITION ff38. Lightly worn, some worming (mostly marginal but touching some letters in final leaves). Contemporary calf, needs rebinding, 4to. Vinograd, Amsterdam 150; Fuks, Amsterdam 254.

Amsterdam, Judah ben Mordechai and Partners, 1648 $500 – 700

One of ten Kabbalistic treatises, collectively entitled Asarah Ma’amaroth. R. Menachem Azariah (1548-1620), of a well-to-do banking family in Bologna, Italy, was first a follower of the Cordoveran system of kabbalah but afterward, under the influence of an elusive figure, R. Israel Sarug, switched his allegiance to the Lurianic school. The propagation of kabbalah emanating from Safed in Europe was largely due to his prolific efforts. The title cites the words of the “Shelah HaKadosh” R. Isaiah Horowitz, who advisded a colleague to attach himself to attach himself to this work, which is “pleasing to the eyes of God and man”.

Another work that is sure to inspire deep feelings of awe is Lot 75:

Seder Tephilah miKol haShanah im Kavanoth HaAri”zal. Prepared by Asher ben Solomon Zalman Margoliuth. FIRST EDITION. Lengthy contemporary ownership inscription on opening blank. ff398. Stained, couple of neat paper repairs. Modern calf. Thick 8vo. Vinograd, Lemberg 45.

Lemberg, Solomon Yaros Rapaport, 1787 $10,000-15,000

THE HIGHLY IMPORTANT SIDDUR OF R. ASHER – A RARE COMPLETE COPY

Chassidim hold in the very highest esteem this particular prayerbook that contains many Lurianic Kavanoth. R. Asher was a disciple of R. Chaim of Sanz the famed Chassidic-group known as the Broder-Kloyz.” In the same year, 1788, the printer Rapaport produced this Reb-Asher Siddur, he also issued the famed first edition of the Noam Elimelech.

Now we turn from the chassidim to the misnagdim… Lot 99:

(ELIJAH, GAON OF VILNA). Perush al Yona [Commentary on the Book of Jonah]. Introduction by R. Chaim of Volozhin, the Gaon’s principle disciple. FIRST EDITION. ff. (I). 6 Some light staining , corners rounded. Modern marbled boards. 4to. Vinograd, Vilna 14; Vinigrad, Gra 50

Vilna, Wielmoznega Kanonika, 1800. $600-800

With approbations from the Dayanim of Vilna who bear witness that this work is among the very earliest authentic texts written in the Gaon’s own hand.

I also found Lot 57 and Lot 58 very worthy of being mentioned here…

ASHKENAZI, ELIEZER BEN ELIJAH HAROPHÈ. Yosef Lekach {commentary to the Book of Esther, with text] FIRST EDITION. Title within historiated woodcut architectural arch. Wide margins. The Valmadonna copy. ff.83 (I-blank). Some staining, censor’s signature and inscriptions. on recto and verso of final leaf, ff 6 and 7 misbound upside down. Recent blind-tooled morocco boards. Sm 4to. Vinograd, Cremona47; Benayahu , Cremona 44; Adams B-1335.

Cremona, Christopher Draconi, 1576. $400-600

Eliezer Ahkenazi’s Biblical exegesis is permeated with the contemporary rationalistic spirit of rabbinical scholarship. This edition of Yosef Lekach, was the last Hebrew book printed in Cremona, which for over twenty years was a center of Jewish learning and printing, amidst the rigid censorship of the Inquisition. See D. Amram, The Makers of Hebrew Books in Italy (1963) pp. 306-19

BACHIAH BEN JOSEPH IBN PAQUDA. Chovoth Halevavoth. Translated into Hebrew by Judah Ben Tibbon. Scholarly marginalia in an Italian hand especially on Sha’ar HaTeshuvah (ff. 66-68) ff. 103. Some staining in places, previous owners’ signature on title, censor’s signature on final leaf , closely shaved. Later calf-backed boards. Sm 4to. Vinograd, Mantua 62.

Mantua 1559. $700-800

An attractive copy of this classic work, with new corrections plus seven leaves of indices to Bible and Talmudim.

Throughout the ages, the book enjoyed wide popularity in a variety of circles, although in later centuries Eastern European Jews would shy away from the introductory Sha’ar HaYichud, which is of a decidedly philosophical nature. and focus instead on the remainder of the work, with its ethical guidance.

For those who prefer halachic works, the second sepher in Lot 1 should be truly appealing…

AARON IBN CHAIM. Lev Aaron [Commentary to the Books of Joshua and Judges, with text] . ff. 122, (2), 129, (3).

Bound With: Isaac Ben Abba Man of Marseilles. Sepher Ha’Itur. ff 110. Geometrical diagram on f. 101a. Two works bound in one volume. FIRST EDITION. Some staining and slight marginal repair to upper corner of title of first woork. Later calf-backed boards. spine worn. Folio. Vinograd, Venice 1052 and Venice 1041.

Venice, Giovanni di Gara, 1608 $1000-1500

The author of the first work, R. Aaaron ibn Chaim I (1545-1632) served as dayan in the court of Vidal HaTzarfati in Fez, Morocco. He is most famous for his study of the Siphra. The present commentary to Joshua and Judges excels in its command of Midrashic and Talmudic literature. See Ch.J.D. Azulai, Shem HaGedolim I, V-6; EJ. Vol VIII cols. 1179-1180 (inc. facs.)

The second work is a monumental halachic compendium discussing fiscal and marital laws, forbidden foods, festivals, etc. The work is a primary source of Gaonic responsa and is frequently cited by Joseph Karo in his Beth Yoseph.

It is utterly impossible in this brief space to do justice to this wondrous collection of sepharim, kithvey yad, letters and more. There are – in this assortment – some truly unique treasures on so many different aspects of Judaism, it is obvious there should never be a problem finding a way to learn and speak of His wonders.

CS

RELATED POSTS

A Journey Into History, Rare Judaica Auction – Part 1
A Journey Into History, Rare Judaica Auction – Part 2
A Journey Into History, Rare Judaica Auction – Part 3

13
Jun
12

Judaica Auctions – A Conversation with Daniel Kestenbaum


Towards the end of March we wrote on these very pages about a fascinating Judaica auction, where rare and ancient sfarim, awe inspiring kitvey yad,  ceremonial art and more, were up for bids (here, here, and here). This evening, at 8:00pm (Eastern Time), we will talk to Daniel Kestenbaum – the president and founder of Kestenbaum and Company – who run that auction and has a new one coming up on June 21st.

Growing up in England, in London, Daniel developed a passion for Jewish history from a very early age on; becoming an auctioneer of fine Judaica allowed him to literally touch history. I had the pleasure of taping our conversation with him yesterday at Kestenbaum and Company‘s offices (at 242 West 30th Street, 12th floor, New York, NY 10001; Tel: 212.366.1197). You will hear, stories of unusual finds, stories about the Jewish intelligentsia of Tel Aviv in 1935 and more. At their offices I was surrounded by thousand year old manuscripts, books printed in the late 15th century, ceremonial art from around the world.

Meanwhile, in case you missed it or even if you want to hear it again, why not listen to our last week’s broadcast with brothers David and Zev Brooks, the creative brothers’ who brought us the funny/touching movie The Yankles - about a chassidic yeshiva’s baseball team.

Please do not forget to listen, this evening, to BlogTalkradio.com/kosherscene at at 8:00pm (Eastern Time), when we will talk to Daniel Kestenbaum of Kestenbaum and Company. It will be a very interesting, fascinating look at Jewish history and rare books. We’ll be waiting for you.

CS

28
Sep
11

Some Thoughts for Rosh Hashana


Rosh Hashana starts this evening, and as I look at the news, as I tremble over my personal flaws, shortcomings and misdeeds of the past year I can only hope that my repentance will hold and shield me from repeating the same things, from having the same thoughts again, and that the world will change for the better starting with each one of us…

On September 29th, 2008, I posted the following on my political blog:

The world is embroiled in war, tyrants walk around arrogant and defiant, massacres in almost every continent are mostly ignored by the world community. The UN Human Rights Council, seems to concern itself with anything except the trampling of human rights around the globe. Women’s rights are of little concern to a world that prides itself of its extreme liberalness and unheard of freedoms, while rape is used as a political weapon in the Congo, in Sudan, etc… and women are merely chattel to husbands, fathers, sons and brothers in a major portion of this planet. To say the least, it is obvious that in spite of an enlightened 21st century we have never really evolved from the atrocities of the Barbarian Age even as our weapons and rhetoric are more sophisticated, more intellectual, ostensibly more enlightened in our attitudes

While the situation in Sudan has changed for the better, while the Arab Spring has brought about the downfall of various Arab despots, the aftermath has so far not seen any of the sought after freedoms but merely replaced old dictators with a new set… Yet, the UN Human Rights Council has not found the time to condemn repression, the denial of human rights, or to defend freedom of religion anywhere where it may be ignored in the world…

Frankly, the world – at this moment – with all its freedoms and all its horrors is far from ideal. Political ideologies, masquerading as religion, pose new threats to the free world as they aim to destroy all the hard fought for rights and freedoms of the Western world. Meanwhile the West seems to have lost its soul and wonders around like a drunkard in its search for meaning, coexistence and peace…

Tonight, gentle reader, Jews around the world begin the celebration of Rosh Hashana – the Jewish New Year. No, it is not a time filled with drunken parties and silly noise-making but rather a time when one searches in the most recondite crevices, the most hidden places of one’s existence and asks oneself why, how, when, what? Why did I fail to do all that I set out to do? How could I be so lazy, so complacent and not try harder… or at least just try? When will I rise from this lethargy and do my duty as a human, to my Lord, to my fellow humans, to myself? What will it take for me to wake up, while I still am capable of waking up?

The answers are often shameful, sometimes gut wrenching. Nevertheless they afford every Jew a chance to reach out of his/her comfortable shell and do that which he or she is capable of doing, of reaching one’s potential if the individual truly wants it. But sometimes, even if in our prayers we take firm resolve to make a difference, even when the tears of repentance stream from the deepest recesses of the heart, in a few days we settle back in the comfort of emptiness and inaction. More often than not, the answers are too hard, too strenuous on our pampered selves, for us to truly rise above the comfort of merely being discomforted by the world around us or take any action to change it.

In the Rosh Hashama prayers, there is one I must particularly single out as I pronounce it with heavy trepidation in my heart as the clarion call of the Shofar is sounded:

Attah ZocherYou remember – the deeds done in the Universe and You recall all the creatures fashioned since the earliest times. Before You all hidden things are revealed and the multitude of mysteries since the beginning of Creation, for there is no forgetfulness before Your Throne of Glory and nothing is hidden before Your eyes. You remember everything ever done and not a single creature is hidden from you. Everything is revealed and known before You, Lord our God, Who keeps watch and sees to the very end of all generations, when You bring about a decreed time of remembrance for every spirit and soul to be recalled, for abundant deeds and a multitude of creatures withoutt limit to be remembered….

[...] Regarding countries, it is said on this day which is destined for the sword and which for peace, which for hunger and which for abundance; and creatures are recalled on it to remember them for life or death. Who is not recalled on this day? For the remembrance of everything fashioned comes before You: everyone’s deed and mission, the accomplishments of man’s activity, man’s thoughts and schemes, and the motives behind man’s deeds.

May this coming year, 5769 in the Jewish calendar, bring about that very elusive, very prayed for, long hoped for, universally expected peace. May each one of us walking this earth, know no more strife, no more hunger, no more pain. KTIVAH VECHATIMA TOVAH – MAY [WE ALL] BE INSCRIBED AND SEALED FOR GOODNESS, may abundance and health break rampant, may universal peace bathe this earth and the realization of one’s fondest dreams bring sweetness and the total banishment of sorrow to every one on this lowly plane of existence.

Chicken Marinated with pomegranate molasses, honey and spices, stuffed with brown rice, on a bed of rice. Photo from: Los Angeles Times

The year is now 5772 and hardly anything of substance has changed, tramplers of human rights are afforded what once an honored pulpit at the United Nations, a place where they freely spew their lies, where they proudly show off the perversion of their minds, their utter disregard for any human values and yet are applauded for such. The United Nations, founded on the noble principles of safeguarding human rights and ensuring peace around the world, has degenerated into what Bibi Netanyahu just described as “theater of the absurd,” as it shows itself totally unwilling, totally unable to live up to its mandate.

Hakadosh baruch Hu is warning us, urging us to return to Him and yet in spite of the warnings, in spite of all the evidence in front of our eyes, we refuse to heed the call, as we’ve been seduced by a seemingly liberal world plunging head on into a global tyranny where lies are the new truth, where falsehoods replace true values… May it be His will, that we wake up this coming year and with renewed vigor we embark in an era filled with goodness and wholesome values, an era where evil will be defeated and war will disappear…

May we all be inscribed in the Sefer Hachaim – the Book of Life and may we only know health, prosperity and happiness and at peace within and without.

KTIVA VECHATIMA TOVA!!!!

CS

21
Sep
11

Judaica at Sotheby’s – Valmadonna Trust Library


This past Sunday, I went to Sotheby’s to see the current exhibits. On the first flight up, they were showing Mid 20th Century Furnishings, and a collection spanning the over 4 decades’ career of 20th century American painter Sam Francis. In the Furnishings area, there was a small glass enclosed alcove where a tiny sampling of the more than 11,000 sfarim of the Valmadonna Trust Library was on show.

The entire collection had already been exhibited in 2009, occupying the whole of Sotheby’s 10th floor gallery. Sotheby’s press release, at the time, described it thus:

New York, NY; February 9, 2009 – Sotheby’s announced today that it would display in its entirety, for the first time ever, the Valmadonna Trust Library, the finest private library of Hebrew books and manuscripts in the world. Assembled over the past century, this extensive group of over 11,000 works is monumental in its significance as a primary source on both world history and Jewish life and culture. The collection boasts rarities dating from the 10th century to the early 20th century from Italy, Holland, England, Greece, Eastern Europe, the Ottoman Empire, North Africa, India, and China, documenting the spread of the Hebrew press and the dissemination of Jewish culture around the globe. Among the treasures in the collection are: the only surviving manuscript written in England before the expulsion of the Jews in 1290; arguably the finest copy of the Babylonian Talmud produced between 1519 and 1523 by famed printer Daniel Bomberg, which was previously in the collection of Westminster Abbey; as well as the preeminent group of Hebrew books in existence from the dawn of printing (15th century). The entire collection will be exhibited in Sotheby’s 10th floor galleries from February 9-19, 2009, with the exception of February 14th.

A small sampling of this rare sfarim collection

This superb collection is comprised of books and manuscripts including Bibles and Talmuds, kabbalistic texts, siddurim, and Passover haggadot. Among the Library’s other holdings are Hebrew grammatical and legal texts; medical, philosophical and literary treatises; as well as periodicals, broadsheets, and wall calendars—particularly rare items on account of their ephemeral nature.

Printed by Daniel Bomberg, Maseches Me'ilah, around 1519-1523

Many medieval texts are here, dating from as early as the 10th century and including the first printed sfarim from the late 15th century. Among the collection’s jewels is a ktav yad of the earliest known Ashkenazic script, a Franco-German Chumash, dating from the 10th or 11th century. The crown jewel, however, is the Codex Valmadonna I. This is the only dated Hebrew text in existence from medieval England, before King Edward I’s 1290 edict expelling the Jews. The year following this manuscript’s creation, in 1190, mobs in York attacked the Jewish community living there, massacring the population, and looting their property.

Other opulent manuscripts in the collection include a Yemenite Chumash from the early 15th century, replete with characteristic Oriental illuminations. Of the original 29,000  titles – incunables [books printed on Gutenberg's original presses] – only 140 were done in lashon kodesh. This collections has almost half of them!

A superb collection, Sotheby’s is hoping to sell as one, perfect for an institution of Jewish learning!

CS




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