With the heat intensifying, the first of the summer groups arriving, and the stirrings of social-protest demonstrations, there is no question that the Israeli June is here. For this writer, and I imagine for many readers of the blog, the most exciting part of the month is the multi-week long “Shavua haSefer” (granted, it’s also known as “Hebrew Book month”). Here’s a list, organized according to publisher, of some of the academic books that will be on sale this month at reduced prices, along with other tips about making the rounds at the various fairs to take place around the country. Many of the books are also available at reduced prices through the websites of the publishers, but there is nothing quite like jostling for new books under a bloated Jerusalem moon suspended in the starry summer night sky:
Magnes Press publishes dozens of books related to Rabbinics. Unfortunately, especially now that they are pushing e-book sales, they rarely reprint their older books. One has to be careful to purchase them before they run out.
Some books that will probably run out soon include:
- Daniel Boyarin et. al, Atara L’Haim (עטרה לחיים). I found this festchrift for Prof. Dimitrovsky in the press’ catalogue and was pretty surprised to see that it was still available. When I went to their offices to pick it up, so were they.
- David Weiss Halivni’s Sources and Traditions: Bava Metzia (מקורות ומסורות בבא מציעא).
- Abraham Goldberg’s Tosefta Bava Kamma: A Structural and Analytic Commentary with a Mishnah-Tosefta Synopsis (תוספתא בבא קמא: פירוש מבני ואנליטי).
- Ta-Shma’s The Old Ashkenazi Custom (מנהג אשכנז הקדמון), although they’ve been pretty good about reprinting his books.
During Book Month Magnes is running a few different sale models, depending on the book. New books only get 20% off, meaning that some of their books most relevant to Talmud are still pretty pricey. These books include:
- Abraham Goldberg’s collected essays, Literary Form and Composition in Classical Rabbinic Literature , (צורה ועריכה בספרות חז”ל).
- A recent collection of some of Moshe Bar-Asher’s essays entitled Leshonot Rishonim (לשונות ראשונים).
- A brand new book by Ezra Fleisher, edited by Shulamit Elizur and Tova Beeri, Statutory Jewish Prayers: Their Emergence and Development (תפילות הקבע בישראל בהתהוותן ובהתגבשותן).
- The same goes for the new edition of Halivni’s Introductions to Sources and Traditions (מבואות למקורות ומסורות), which adds an introduction to Sanhedrin (the commentary to which has not come out yet) and a few corrections to the first edition.
- For some reason the final volume in Ezra Melamed’s series on Midrashei Halakha in the Talmuds, Halachic Midrashim of the Amoraim in the Babylonian Talmud (מדרשי הלכה של האמוראים בתלמוד הבבלי), which was published last year by Magnes and by Bar-Ilan Press, is still priced as a new book by both [it's actually a little cheaper at Bar-Ilan; note: one should always check both publishers when a book is jointly published!].
These are just some pointers. Magnes has many other volumes, both new and old, that should be of interest to our readers. They also distribute books published by the World Union for Jewish Studies, meaning that, although they have yet to add it to their online catalogue, they may be selling Emmanuel’s Responsa of Rabbi Meir of Rothenburg (reviewed here by Pinchas Roth) at their stands.
- Shemesh and Amit, Melekhet Makhshevet (מלאכת מחשבת), mentioned by Amit (Gvaryahu) here.
- Historian Moshe Beer’s collected essays The Sages of the Mishnah and the Talmud (חכמי המשנה והתלמוד).
Yad Yitzchak Ben-Zvi
- Sussman’s Thesaurus of Talmudic Manuscripts (אוצר כתבי-היד התלמודיים) is without a doubt the most important book for talmudists on sale this Shavua haSefer. While I hope that we can fully discuss the book in a later post, here’s a brief description. The first two volumes list, alphabetically according to library, all of the manuscripts and manuscript fragments in the world of the Mishnah, Tosefta, Yerushalmi, Bavli and Ri”f. The entries are numbered, and contain a description including the exact contents, and references to secondary literature which may have dealt with them. The third volume contains a few introductory essays- mainly previously published articles of Sussman- and multiple indices. The most important indices, of course, are those that are organized by work. For example: if one is studying m. Bava Bathra 2:7, one can look up the mishnah in the proper index and see the numbers of all of the entries of manuscripts or fragments that transmit that mishnah. One can then look up the entries in the first two volumes, and then look up the manuscripts or fragments themselves. The same is true for halakhot in the Tosefta, and folios of the Yerushalmi, Bavli, and Ri”f.
- In the field of Geonica, YBZ recently published Shraga Abramson’s edition of Rav Hai’s Mishpatei Shavuot, brought to press by Robert Brody and David Sklare (see here for the table of contents and Brody’s introduction).
- Ofra Tirosh-Becker’s Rabbinic Excerpts in Medieval Karaite Literature, reviewed by Amit here, is due to become an indispensible tool for philologically minded talmudists.
- Moshe Florentin’s Samaritan Elegies, a collection of fifty-six poems published for the first time, along with an extensive commentary.
Bialik also has a number of volumes of collected essays, such as those of Ta-Shma (Studies in Medieval Rabbinic Literature, in four volumes), and Moshe Bar-Asher’s essays on Rabbinic Hebrew.
Schocken distributes JTS’ books in Israel, and is probably the easiest and cheapest place to buy their books anywhere. Here too, one can find a nice mix of new and old books. Besides the classics (Lieberman’s books, the various editions put out by JTS, etc.), one should look out for:
- Shamma Friedman’s Talmudic Studies (סוגיות בחקר התלמוד), which came out last year, collects his essays on the Bavli. [Note: this volume contains Prof. Friedman's article "אל תתמה על הוספה שנזכר בה שם אמורא: שוב למימרות האמוראים וסתם התלמוד בסוגיות הבבלי", based on a lecture given at the same Bar-Ilan conference which became the aforementioned volume Malekhet Makhshevet. After the conference the article was released on Prof. Friedman's site, published in this volume, and then published again in Malekhet. Only in the Studies version does the article include the very important response to the critiques brought against him by Prof. Robert Brody in the article "סתם התלמוד ודברי האמוראים", and a response to Moscovitz's lecture from the 14th World Congress of Jewish Studies.]
- Shmuel Glick’s A Window to the Responsa Literature (אשנב לספרות התשובות). I haven’t seen this volume yet and would like to hear more about it in the comments section from someone who has.
Over a year ago at the International Book Fair, the Schocken stand had a few copies of Abraham Goldberg’s commentary to Mishnah Shabbat. Apparently, they had found some box of them after thinking that they were long sold out. A few months later they were still selling copies during Shavua haSefer and it still appears in their catalogue. To be honest, this saddens me a bit. The commentary, the work of an important teacher and scholar, should be in the library of all those who dabble in academic Talmud.
- The Ta-Shma memorial volume, entitled Ta-Shma, published by Herzog College, collects over 30 articles in two volumes.
- Yosef Dan’s recently completed seven volume set on Jewish Mysticism.
This list is not meant to be exhaustive. Anyone who knows of any other academic books that should be on our radar is invited to write about them in the comments sections below.