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December 2, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Defending the Right to a Jewish State

Heather Hale: Compliment your kids without giving them big heads

Megan Shauri: 10 ways you are ruining your own happiness

Carolyn Bigda: 8 Best Dividend Stocks for 2015

Kiplinger's Personal Finance editors: 7 Things You Didn't Know About Paying Off Student Loans

Samantha Olson: The Crucial Mistake 55% Of Parents Are Making At Their Baby's Bedtime

Densie Well, Ph.D., R.D. Open your eyes to yellow vegetables

The Kosher Gourmet by Megan Gordon With its colorful cache of purples and oranges and reds, COLLARD GREEN SLAW is a marvelous mood booster --- not to mention just downright delish
April 18, 2014

Rabbi Yonason Goldson: Clarifying one of the greatest philosophical conundrums in theology

Caroline B. Glick: The disappearance of US will

Megan Wallgren: 10 things I've learned from my teenagers

Lizette Borreli: Green Tea Boosts Brain Power, May Help Treat Dementia

John Ericson: Trying hard to be 'positive' but never succeeding? Blame Your Brain

The Kosher Gourmet by Julie Rothman Almondy, flourless torta del re (Italian king's cake), has royal roots, is simple to make, . . . but devour it because it's simply delicious

April 14, 2014

Rabbi Dr Naftali Brawer: Passover frees us from the tyranny of time

Greg Crosby: Passing Over Religion

Eric Schulzke: First degree: How America really recovered from a murder epidemic

Georgia Lee: When love is not enough: Teaching your kids about the realities of adult relationships

Cameron Huddleston: Freebies for Your Lawn and Garden

Gordon Pape: How you can tell if your financial adviser is setting you up for potential ruin

Dana Dovey: Up to 500,000 people die each year from hepatitis C-related liver disease. New Treatment Has Over 90% Success Rate

Justin Caba: Eating Watermelon Can Help Control High Blood Pressure

The Kosher Gourmet by Joshua E. London and Lou Marmon Don't dare pass over these Pesach picks for Manischewitz!

April 11, 2014

Rabbi Hillel Goldberg: Silence is much more than golden

Caroline B. Glick: Forgetting freedom at Passover

Susan Swann: How to value a child for who he is, not just what he does

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Financial Tasks You Should Tackle Right Now

Sandra Block and Lisa Gerstner: How to Profit From Your Passion

Susan Scutti: A Simple Blood Test Might Soon Diagnose Cancer

Chris Weller: Have A Slow Metabolism? Let Science Speed It Up For You

The Kosher Gourmet by Diane Rossen Worthington Whitefish Terrine: A French take on gefilte fish

April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review 10 Adar

First printed Torah commentary

By Rabbi Yonason Goldson


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Judaism's most famous commentary begins revelation of the Oral Tradition


http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | When Biography.com presented its list of the 100 most influential people of the last millennium, their selection for the Number 1 position was as predictable as it was appropriate. It's a sad footnote to history that Johan Gutenberg possessed far more mechanical ability than business sense and died penniless, failing to capitalize upon his own innovation. Nevertheless, his popularization of movable type that led to the explosion of information and made possible the Renaissance can hardly be disputed as the most significant cultural event in contemporary World History.


Its contribution to Jewish society is equally indisputable.


Movable type first appeared as early as 1041, when Chinese printers fashioned interchangeable clay pieces to replace the clumsy plates that preceded them. It was not Gutenberg's invention, therefore, but rather his inspiration to apply the centuries-old technology in Europe, where the Chinese system had either gone unnoticed or been ignored. Gutenberg completed his printing press, equipped with wooden or cast metal type pieces, in 1440. His best known creation, the Gutenberg Bible, began rolling off the presses on September 30, 1452.


It took little time for Jewish publishers to recognize the opportunity offered by the printing revolution. Scarcely 20 years after Gutenberg's Bible appeared, two Jewish presses on opposite ends of the Italian peninsula labored — unknown to one another — to prepare the first Torah manuscripts for mass production. On the tenth of Adar 5235 (17 February 1475) Abraham ben Garton published the first volume of Rashi (Rabbi Shlomo Yitzchaki) on the Five Books of Moses in the southern town of Reggio di Calabria. Nearly four centuries after Rashi's passing, the most important commentary in the history of the Jewish nation became available to the masses. And, as if he had been brought into the world for no other purpose, its ground-breaking publisher vanished from history by the end of that very year.


That same year, in July, Meshullam Cuzi published the influential codification of Jewish law, Arba'a Turim, in the northern village of Piove di Sacco. Italy rapidly acquired a near-monopoly on Jewish printing and, by 1834, the famous Gershom Soncino had produced over 100 different Hebrew works. Many interpreted this explosion of Hebrew publishing as the fulfillment of the prophecy that Torah would become "an inheritance for the community of Jacob" (Deut. 33:4) and that "the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of G-d" (Isaiah 11:9).


Within a year of the first popular editions, the Jewish press had expanded to Spain, soon after to Lisbon, to Fez and, by the beginning of the next century, as far as Constantinople. The printing industry became known to many as the labor of Heaven. In 1520, the first printed volumes of the Talmud appeared, published, ironically, by a non-Jew, a Flemish merchant whose passion for Hebrew texts helped Venice become the center of Jewish publishing, a distinction it retained into the 18th century. Partnerships between Jews and gentiles accelerated competition and spurred on the industry.


In 1550, Rabbi Meir Katzenellenbogen produced the first printed edition of Maimonides's Mishne Torah, the first codification of Jewish law. The original release of Mishne Torah in 1185 had ignited a ferocious controversy, in part from Maimonides's decision to omit his sources, but more fundamentally from an ideological debate concerning the authority of contemporary scholars to restructure the talmudic presentation of the Oral Tradition. Would not such a codification encourage the uneducated to take the awesome responsibility of interpreting Torah law into their own hands? Would it not erode the authority of qualified Torah authorities?


As controversial as the Mishne Torah may have been, Maimonides succeeded at the very least in breaking the taboo against reformatting the Oral Law. Other Torah luminaries followed with codifications of their own, and the Arba'a Turim (as mentioned above) became the second Torah volume to receive wide circulation thanks to Gutenberg's method. But the most dramatic transition came when Rabbi Yosef Karo, after the success of his commentary on the Arba'a Turim, went on to publish his own codification of Jewish Law on the second of Elul 1564. By then, it was an idea whose time had finally come.


Although he was Sephardi, Rabbi Karo's legal major opus, Shulchan Aruch, gained almost universal adulation even among Ashkenazim, and ran through nine reprintings in its first 33 years, becoming the first compendium of Jewish law accepted as authoritative throughout the entire Jewish world. From that point forward, Jewish law would advance not merely through the written word, but through the printed word as well.


As indisputable as Gutenberg's influence on the written word has been, history came very close to taking an entirely different path.


In 1444, a decade before Gutenberg, a French goldsmith named Procopius Waldvogel, from the southern city of Avignon, entered into partnership with a Jew named Davin de Caderousse. Having heard of Gutenberg's experiments in printing as he traveled through Germany, or perhaps conceiving the innovation of movable type on his own, Procopius sought an alliance that would bring his inspiration to reality. Davin, a dyer by profession, contributed his knowledge of dyes and mechanical devices, while Procopius fashioned the 27 letters of the Hebrew alphabet, cast in iron. In a contract that remains intact to this day, Davin certified that he had, on 26 August 1446, received the agreed upon materials to implement the craft of "artificial writing."


It remains uncertain whether Davin envisioned an actual printing press or more of an archaic typewriter. Either way, as the Jews of Avignon were quite active in the book trade as binders, parchment procurers, and merchandisers already, Davin seems to have been eager to capitalize upon a promising new technology.


The business venture, however, was not destined to succeed. Neither Davin nor Procipius seems to have been satisfied with the contribution of the other, and their quarrel culminated not merely in the liquidation of their partnership but in a lawsuit, wherein the court ordered Davin to return Procopius's typeset and forbade him to disseminate his craft within 30 miles of Avignon.


Whether any Jewish publications actually made it into print from Davin's press remains unknown. But it's difficult not to imagine how, had events taken a slightly different course, it might have been a Jew instead of Gutenberg whom we honor for having given the printed word to the world.


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JWR contributor Rabbi Yonason Goldson teaches at Block Yeshiva High School in St. Louis. Comment by clicking here.


Previously:

Yahrtzeit of Rabbi Samson Rafael Hirsch
The Septuagint
End of the Great Flood
First Day of Creation
Reprise at Sinai
Tu B'Av: Repentance and the foundations of love
Sin of the Golden Calf: Understanding the how and why and resulting Divine punishment
The day the sun stood still
Nemirov massacres and the Chmielnicki uprising
Independent Judea under Shimon HaMaccabee
The Great Revolt begins
Dedication of new walls of Jerusalem

© 2006, Rabbi Yonason Goldson