Tuesday, February 26, 2008

20th Adar Yarzheit of the Bach

I went to NY for a wedding last weekend. I was in the States for a total of 3 days, but it has taken me more than a week to recover from the jet lag and the cold I picked up on the plane.

There are so many things I wanted to blog about, but I will never get them all done, so let's start with something simple - a Yarzheit of one of the Gedolim.

Today (20th Adar) is the Yarzheit of the Bach, R' Yoel Sirkes. Anyone who has learned the Tur will know that the Bach is the bit that everyone skips, because they are too keen to learn the Beis Yosef. And most of the important things will be quoted by the Taz (who was the son-in-law of the Bach) so you can catch them when you get to the Shulchan Aruch. But that is not really fair to him is it?

His notes on the Talmud are much more widely used - everyone looks at the Bach when they see that he emends the text of the Talmud. Usually he is fixing a 'mistake' in the text, occasionally adding his own commentary. Look for the Hagahot HaBach somewhere on the page (underneath the picture of an aeroplane heading towards you).

This is what the Jewish Encyclopedia has to say about him (I changed some of the names, but I can't figure out the Hebrew for Phoebus - any thoughts?)

Polish rabbi; born at Lublin in 1561; died at Cracow, 1640. At the age of fourteen he was sent to the yeshibah of Shlomo ben Yehuda. After remaining there some time he went to Brest-Litovsk, where he attended the yeshibah of R. Phoebus. While still a youth he was invited to the rabbinate of Pruszany, near Slonim. Later he occupied the rabbinates of Lubkow, Lublin, Miedzyboz, Beldza, Szydlowka, and finally Brest-Litovsk and Cracow, succeeding in each of the two last-mentioned places his teacher R. Phoebus.

Sirkes wrote: "Meshiv Nefesh," commentary on the Book of Ruth (Lublin, 1616); "Bayit Ḥadash," commentary on the "Arba'ah Ṭurim" of Jacob ben Asher (Cracow, 1631-40); "She'elot u-Teshuvot Bayit Ḥadash" (Frankfort, 1697); "She'elot u-Teshubot Bet Ḥadash ha-Ḥadashot" (Koretz, 1785); "Haggahot," on all the tractates of the Babylonian Talmud; and "Rosh," first published, from a manuscript, in the Warsaw (1860) edition of the Talmud, and included in almost every subsequent edition thereof.

In the "Bayit Ḥadash" the evident intention of the author is to present and elucidate the fundamental principles of the Law as recorded in the Mishnah, the Babylonian and Jerusalem Talmuds, and the chief codes.

May His Soul be Bound in the Bonds of Eternal Life

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