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Bidding Information
Lot #    8854
Auction End Date    1/11/2005 10:58:00 AM (mm/dd/yyyy)
Title Information
Title (English)    Sefer ha-Yashar (The Book of Righteousness)
Title (Hebrew)    ספר הישר
Author    Anonymous
City    Venice
Publication Date    1544
Collection Information
Independent Item    This listing is an independent item not part of any collection
Description Information
   Second edition. 68 ff., 140:98 mm., wide margins, light age staining. A very good copy of a rare work bound in modern full calf boards, tooled in blind.
   An anonymous work, probably written in the 13th century, one of the most popular ethical books in the Middle Ages. The book was published for the first time in Constantinople, c. 1515, and since then has been reprinted many times. It was frequently attributed to R. Tam, the tosafist, who wrote a book by that name (Sefer ha-Yashar le-Rabbenu Tam, Vienna, 1811); his writing, however, is concerned only with halakhic problems. Some manuscripts attribute the book to Zerahiah ha-Yevani, but there is no evidence to bear out the authenticity of such an ascription. Some scholars have suggested that the author might have been R. Jonah Gerondi, one of the foremost writers in the field of ethics in the 13th century; however, the difference between R. Jonah's known views and those expounded in Sefer ha-Yashar would suggest otherwise.

There is also some confusion regarding the nature of the book and the school of ethical concepts to which the author adhered. The style and language conform to contemporaneous philosophical ethical writings and ideas; the author especially made use of Aristotelian terms and concepts. The work, however, is also marked by a tendency to deviate from the central stream of philosophical conventional ethics. This is evidenced in some of the main ideas. The difference is so great that some scholars have concluded that the author might have been a kabbalist who did not want to reveal the full scope of his mystical beliefs. Some ideas in the work also bear great similarity to the ethical concepts of the Ashkenazi hasidic movement which reached its peak in the 13th century, and especially to Sefer ha-Hayyim which was written by one of the Hasidei Ashkenaz.

Most of the unusual ideas are found in the first part of the work which describes the creation and explains why the wicked were created together with the righteous. The rest of the work is concerned, in a rather conventional way, with the main themes of Jewish ethics: love and fear of G-d, repentance, prayer, and good deeds. In several editions there are variations in the arrangement of the chapters and even in the content. No critical edition of this work has been published, and until the correct text is ascertained, the problems concerning the authorship and the underlying philosophic thought cannot be solved satisfactorily.

Paragraph 2    ספר מוסר. מתוך ההקדמה: "ראיתי ספרים... בענין עבודת האל, כגון ספר חובת הלבבות לחסיד ר' בחיי בן בקודה ז"ל... אך מקצת עניניהם עמוקים... ובאשר ראיתי... חשתי... וחברתי ענינים... אשר בהם יכנעו הלבבות... מכל אשר ידעתי ומפי החכמים שמעתי... וחלקתי הספר הזה לשמנה עשר שערים...".

הספר נתייחס בטעות לרבינו תם. יש מייחסים אותו בטעות לר' זרחיה הלוי. אחרים מייחסים את הספר לר' זרחיה היווני. ויש מייחסים אותו לרבינו יונה גירונדי. עיין: חיד"א, שם הגדולים, מערכת גדולים, ז, מס' 14-13; י, מס' 241; מערכת ספרים, י, מס' 72; בריל, 1883 ,VI-V, עמ' 83-80; י"מ טולידאנו, דברים אחדים בחכמת ישראל, הצופה לחכמת ישראל, יא, תרפ"ז, עמ' 239; א"א אורבך, בעלי התוספות, ירושלים תש"ם, עמ' 107.

   CD-EPI 0154915; EJ; I. Tishby, Mishnat ha-Zohar, 2 (1961), 657–8 n. 12; G. Scholem, Ursprung und Anfaenge der Kabbala (1962), 94–96.
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Listing Classification
16th Century:    Checked
Italy:    Checked
Kabbalah:    Checked
Other:    Ethics
Language:    Hebrew
Manuscript Type
Kind of Judaica