Inside the LSJS Rare Books Room
LSJS has an internationally renowned Library. The Rare Book Room contains approximately 1500 books printed between 1500 and 1800. This week’s article is about some books in the Rare Book collection. Books from the Rare Book Room can be viewed by appointment.
The only son of Maimonides
Last week, on the 7th of December almost 800 years ago Rabbi Abraham Maimon Ha-Nagid (1186 -1237) passed away. He was the only child of Rabbi Moses Maimonides. Abraham received his entire education from his father.
After Maimonides’ death (1204) Abraham succeeded his father as the Nagid (religious leader) of the Jews in Egypt. Following in the footsteps of his father, Abraham too became a successful physician. In contrast to his father, who was a rationalist, Abraham showed great interest in the study of Kabbalah and mysticism in general.
However, there were controversies concerning Maimonides’ writings in Spain and in Provence, which were about to lead to the burning of his Father’s works in Montpellier (1235). Abraham did not hesitate and responded with a book:”Milchamot Hashem”. In 1213 he had already written two other works in defense of Rambam’s writings: ”Birkat Avraham” and “Ma’aseh Nissim”.
Abraham became an authority on Halachah (Jewish Law) and his Responsa became well known for their clarity. His most outstanding work was a guide for the “Servants of God”, ”Hamaspik Le-Ovdei Hashem”, an encyclopedic work of Jewish religion and ethics.
Further mention needs to be made of his commentary on the Pentateuch of which only Bereshit (Genesis) and Shemot (Exodus) are known. The late Rabbi Dr. E.J.Wiesenberg translated it from the original Arabic text into Hebrew and the book was published by the late Rabbi David Sassoon in 1958.
All Rabbi Abraham ben Maimon’s works can be found in our library and are available to be consulted by all.
The works of the Maharshal
This week on the 7th of November is the “Jahrzeit” (anniversary of death) of the Maharshal, Rabbi Shlomo ben Jechiel Luria (Poznan, Poland 1510 – Lublin, Poland 1574). He was an authoritative posek & halachist and Talmudic commentator.
The Maharshal is well known through his work of Halacha: “Yam shel Shlomo” and his Talmudic Commentary: “Chochmat Shlomo“. He authored Responsa which are of great historic importance as they reflect the social and cultural circumstances of the Jews of Poland and Lithuania at that time.
In the Rare Book Room of the Library at LSJS we find several editions of the Maharshal’s works which include the “Yam shel Shlomo“, printed in 1766 in Furth, and “Chochmat Shlomo“, printed in Amsterdam in 1691 by the famous printer Joseph Athias (who printed from 1658 till 1693).
This particular volume of “Chochmat Shlomo” belonged to Moses Mendes da Costa – also known as Anthony da Costa – a well-known 18th century English banker. He was the son of Jacob da Costa who came from Portugal to England with his family in 1655. Moses married Leonora (Rachel) Mendes, a sister of Fernandez Mendes the Marrano physician of King John IV of Portugal. Moses died in 1747.
The title page of this copy of “Chochmat Shlomo” has handwriting which shows that Moses ben Jacob Mendes da Costa acquired the book in 1733.