Monday, 23 April 2018

Moravian synagogue buys book by its famous Rabbi Shakh

ČTK |
5 February 2018

Holesov, South Moravia, Feb 2 (CTK) - The Holesov synagogue bought a copy of a commentary on Shulchan Aruch by its famous Rabbi Shakh printed in 1677 at a New York auction, which makes it the oldest Shakh's book in its collections, Hana Podhajska, from the local municipal cultural centre, has told CTK.

"This is Shakh's key work. It is an extraordinary success because such copies are almost unavailable on the market and one can find them only very seldom," Holesov synagogue administrator Vratislav Brazdil said.

However, the book cost an equivalent of only some 12,000 crowns, he said.

The book contains the commentaries by Shakh and Rabbi David Halevi dubbed Taz, Brazdil said.

Shabbatai HaCohen dubbed Shakh (1621-1663) was born in Vilnius in the present Lithuania and he died in Holesov where he was a rabbi.

Shulchan Aruch is the code of Jewish law written for Sephardic Jews by Joseph Karo in the 16th century. Shakh wrote a commentary on it for Ashkenazi Jews in the 17th century.

Podhajska said Shulchan Aruch became highly popular at its time, but it could not be used by the Ashkenazi Jews in central and eastern Europe who had different customs than the Sephardic community.

The first commentary on Karo's code for the Ashkenazi community was written by Rabbi Moshe Isserles. Commentaries by five other Jewish scholars followed, included that by Shakh. These commentaries have remained the basis of the Jewish law until now.

The Holesov synagogue also bought a copy of a newer edition of Shakh's commentary on Shulchan Aruch issued in 1711.

Brazdil began to create Shakh's library several years ago. He has been buying the book in online auctions organised abroad. At present, the Shakh library has 25 volumes that are displayed in Shakh's study that was opened in the upper floor of the synagogue two years ago.

Podhajska said the study is for Jewish scholars as well as tourists since other Czech synagogues do not have any such memorial.

A Jewish community appeared in Holesov as early as the 15th century. About 1700 Jews still lived there in the 19th century. However, the Nazis destroyed the community during World War Two. The local cemetery, with 1500 gravestones, and the synagogue are among the most precious and oldest Jewish heritage in the Czech Republic.

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