||Responsa and novellae by R. Joseph b. Mordecai Gershon Katz of Cracow (1510-1591), one of the preeminent scholars of sixteenth-century Polish Jewry. Katz was the brotherin-law of R. Moses Isserles (Rema), his sister being Rema's second wife, and served as a Rosh Yeshiva in Cracow for more than fifty years. He was a dayyan there together with Rema and R. Moses Landau, and was a leader of the Va'ad Arba Aratzot (Council of the Four Lands). Queries were submitted to him from other lands, such as Italy and Turkey. Among those who turned to him are Isserles, R. Solomon Luria (Maharshal), and R. Meir Katzenellenbogen (Maharam). R. David Gans (Zemah David, I 391) described R. Katz as having four crowns, that of Torah, priesthood, greatness, and a good name.
The title page has an architectural frame and states that it includes novellae on the Mordekhai for selected tractates and on the Tur Hoshen Mishpat. Work on the volume began on Tuesday, 12 T evet, in the year, " [and he shall give strength to his king], and exalt the horn 1ip (350 = December 19, 1589) of his anointed" (I Samuel 2: 10). The colophon dates the completion of the book to Monday, "Only good :m!l (17th)" (Psalms 23:6; 73: 1; and Proverbs 11 :23) in the eleventh month (Adar), "and exalt the horn 1ip (February 21, 1590) of his anointed," which in fact occurred on a Wednesday that year.
The author's introduction is on the verso of the title page. R. Katz, due to his great humility, did not wish to publish any of his writings, for, as he states, he did not write this for any honor, but did so in response to the urging of the Cracow community, which he had served for forty-nine years. Near the end of the introduction R. Katz writes that he is old and his sons and grandsons pressed him to publish. The book is entitled She'erit Yosif, based on the verse,
"Hate the evil, and love the good, and establish justice in the gate; it may be that the Lord God of hosts will be gracious to the remnant of Joseph (she'erit Yosef)" (Amos 5: 15), that it should be for me for a sign, a remembrance, and a remnant, and perhaps it will fulfill for me, "[And the roof of your mouth like the best wine for my beloved, that goes down sweetly,] causing the sleepers' lips to murmur" (Song of Songs 7: 10). And praise to God, with the help of HaShem I will have a remnant and a goodly remembrance from children and grandchildren for ever.
The introduction is followed by a listing (2a-4a) of the responsa, and then, to 92a, the responsa. After the responsa, with a new enumeration, are the novellae on tractates in the Mordekhai and Hoshen Mishpat. The text is in two columns in rabbinic type, the introduction and headings are in square type, and the initial words of the novellae are in ornamental letters. The listing enumerates seventy-six responsa, but they are preceded by one unnumbered responsum. The responsa cover a wide variety of subjects, such as festivals, marital issues, and inheritance, but are primarily concerned with commercial issues. Katz was generally stringent in his rulings, but also fearless. He also annotated the Sifer haAguddah (Cracow, 1571) of R. Alexander Suslin ha-Kohen (above, pp. 614-15).