||German translation of the classical Sefer Kaftor va-Ferah on the geopraphy of Erez Israel by Estori (Isaac ben Moses) ha-Parhi. That work is on the land of Israel, its holiness, topography, geography and applicable halakhot. This edition is a German language translation by R. Dr. L. Gruenhut with an introduction and extensive annotations.
R. Estori (Isaac ben Moses) ha-Parhi (1280–1355?), first topographer of Erez Israel. The family was originally from Florenza, Andalusia, Spain—hence, the name ha-Parhi, a Hebrew translation of the Spanish flor (“flower”). In the introduction to his main work Estori refers to himself as Ish Tori (“Man of Tours”) in Touraine, France. It appears that he was born in Provence. He studied in Montpellier with his relative Jacob b. Makhir and with Asher b. Jehiel. He obtained a broad general education, including the study of medicine as well. When the Jews were expelled from France in 1306, Estori went to Perpignan and Barcelona and then to Toledo. He stopped in Cairo in 1313 on his way to Erez Israel. He studied with Baruch Ashkenazi in Jerusalem but left because of the negative attitude to Maimonides among the scholars of the city. Estori then settled in Beisan (Beth-Shean), where he was respected as a physician. He continued to earn his livelihood as a physician wherever he went. From Beisan he traveled throughout the land investigating ancient sites. He spent two years studying the Galilee and five years, other parts of the country. In Beisan he wrote Sefer Kaftor va-Ferah (Venice, 1549), which was completed in 1322. In this book he delineated the names of the towns and villages in the land. He also presented a complete discussion of the topographic principle that applied to the land. The book, based upon first hand visits to the sites, is rich in information. The book gives the borders of Erez Israel as presented in the Bible and in the halakhah. It describes Jerusalem and the various regions of the country and presents a list of the biblical, talmudic, and Arabic names of the sites. Most of the 180 identifications of ancient sites that he made were correct. He was the first person to identify the sites of Usha, Modi'in, Bethar, and others. His ruling that the biblical and talmudic names of villages and rivers are preserved in the Arabic, with only slight changes, is accepted by modern scholarship. Especially important is his study of ancient coins, which he compared with contemporary coins. He also compared the weights and measures of the Bible and the Talmud with contemporary weights and measures. He investigated plants, noting their Arabic names and attempting to determine their Hebrew names according to the Mishnah and Talmud. He also described the appearance of Jewish dress in Erez Israel and in those countries of the Diaspora with which he was acquainted. He discovered the ruins of an ancient synagogue in Beisan and also described the remnants of an ancient synagogue in Hukok. He also provides information about the different religions and religious sects: Muslims, Christians, Jews, Samaritans (whom he calls Sadducees), and Karaites. He gives valuable information on the Jewish settlements in Israel during his time. He mentions 11 Jewish communities, three of which were in Transjordan. A. M. Luncz published a critical edition of Kaftor va-Ferah (Jerusalem, 1897), in which he mentions a number of other books that Estori wrote, though most of them are not extant. Estori's books include: a translation of the book of medicine De Remediis by the physician Armengaud (Eremenganus) of Montpellier; a translation of the book Hakabusim containing articles and notes on medical matters, probably collected by the physician Elijah b. Judah; an exposition of some chapters from the Canon of Avicenna; Battei ha-Nefesh, words of admonition and moral rebuke; Shoshannat ha-Melekh, on the humanities and the sciences in the Talmud; and Sha'ar ha-Shamayim, expositions and novellae on the Talmud.
The translator, R. Eleazar Gruenhut (Lazar; 1850–1913), was a rabbi and author. He was born in Gerenda, Hungary, and in 1883 he was appointed rabbi of TemesvFr. Impressed by the Haskalah and taking up the challenge he saw in it, he decided to augment his general education and acquire a scientific foundation for his Jewish studies. At the age of 40 he resigned his rabbinical post, left TemesvFr, and moved to Berlin, where he studied at the Hildesheimer seminary and at the University of Berlin. He was especially influenced by R. Azriel Hildesheimer and Abraham Berliner. In 1892 he emigrated to Palestine and became head of the German-Jewish Orphanage. His introduction of secular studies there and his openly proclaimed Zionist views aroused the opposition of ultra-Orthodox circles in Jerusalem. R. Gruenhut was a prominent figure in the early Mizrachi. In addition to his communal and educational activities, R. Gruenhut continued his scholarly endeavors, mainly in Midrash and in Palestinian geography