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Bidding Information
Lot #    19536
Auction End Date    1/8/2008 10:45:00 AM (mm/dd/yyyy)
Title Information
Title (English)    Tractate Bava Mezia
Title (Hebrew)    מסכת בבא מציעא
Author    R. Meir Schiff (Maharam Schiff)
City    Lemberg
Publisher    Jacob Madfes
Publication Date    1917
Collection Information
Independent Item    This listing is an independent item not part of any collection
Description Information
   119 ff. folio 325:215 mm., usual age staining, wide margins. A very good copy bound in contemporary boards, rubbed.
   Traditional folio edition of tractate Bava Mezia with the addition to the Takmudic page of the novellae of R. Samuel Eliezer ben Judah ha-Levi Edels (Maharsha) and of R. Meir ben Jacob Ha-Kohen Schiff (Maharam Schiff). While it was common practice to add the halakhic novellae of the Maharsha to small format tractates it was uncommon to do so to large format tractates. The further addition of the important novellae of Maharam Schiff makes this a particularly worthwhile and useful edition of the tractate. The novellae Maharam Schiff were first published in Homburg-vor-der Hoehe (on Bezah, Ket., Git., BM, and Hul., in 1737, and on Shab., BK, BB, Sanh., and Zev., in 1741). They were much sought after by students and were regarded as essential for the study of Talmud.

R. Meir ben Jacob Ha-Kohen Schiff (Maharam Schiff, 1605–1641), was a noted and preeminent talmudist and rabbinic author. Born in Frankfurt, where his father was a member of the bet din and a communal leader, Schiff was, in his early youth, considered a scholar of unusual ability. While still a boy, he turned to R. Meir of Lublin with halakhic problems. At the age of 17, he was appointed rabbi of the important community of Fulda, where he also headed a notable yeshivah. He wrote down the essence of his lectures, novellae, and comments, which extend over the whole Talmud, but most of it was destroyed by fire in 1711. There exists a tradition that he was appointed rabbi of Prague in 1641. However, if the statement of his grandson is to be trusted, namely, that he lived only 36 years, he must have died immediately after his appointment. Many editions were published, and they were also incorporated in the standard editions of the Talmud. A new annotated edition of his novellae on Gittin was published by S. Schlesinger in 1963.

Maharam Schiff avoids the casuistic manner that was prevalent in the yeshivot in his time and strives to arrive at an understanding of the text as its stands. For this reason, he also opposed suggestions that the traditional readings were faulty. In writing of pilpul, he complains of "the ink that has been spilled and the pens broken to give pilpulisitc interpretations to passages of the Talmud which I am able to explain according to this plain meaning." His books are distinguished by brevity and clarity of language. He takes special care to stress that he does not wish to give halakhic decisions, referring the reader on each occasion to the relevant halakhic literature. At the end of each tractate he gives an exposition connecting the tractate concluded with the one about to be studied at the yeshivah. In consequence, it is possible to determine the exact dates and order in which he taught. His novellae bear witness to his intellectual integrity. On more than one occasion he writes "I was mistaken," "There is no value in all I have written." He was acquainted with the works of his contemporaries, such as R. Solomon b. Jehiel Luria, R. Samuel Edels, and R. Meir of Lublin, and more than once disparages their views, belittling and scorning them with such phrases as "this is fit for children," "empty words," "he extends himself over a few futile difficulties." Because of the large interval between the writing and publication of his work, many errors crept in. Consequently many super-commentaries have been written, the most well known and the best being that of Mordecai Mardush of Poritsk, which is printed in the standard editions of the Talmud.

The many sermons appended to his books reveal that Schiff was a strong personality who did not hesitate to rebuke his community about those matters of which he disapproved. He accuses many of the communal leaders of desecrating the Sabbath, of not studying the Torah, of failing to support scholars, and of other offenses. His style in preaching does not differ from that of his contemporaries. Here he does permit himself the use of pilpul, although he eschewed it in the study of the Talmud. He also wrote on kabbalistic themes. The Schiff family of bankers are among his descendants.

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Listing Classification
20th Century:    Checked
Russia-Poland:    Checked
Other:    Talmud
Language:    Hebrew
Manuscript Type
Kind of Judaica