Commentary to Pentateuch; Song of Songs, Ecc., R. Obadiah Sforno, Venice 1567 (45134)

באור על התורה; שיר השירים וקהלת - First Edition

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Listing Details

Lot Number: 45134
Title (English): Commentary to Pentateuch; Song of Songs and Ecclesiastes
Title (Hebrew): באור על התורה; שיר השירים וקהלת
Note: First Editions
Author: R. Obadiah Sforno
City: Venice
Publisher: Juan Grippo
Publication Date: 1567
Estimated Price: $3,000.00 USD - $5,000.00 USD
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Description

Physical Description

First editions. 92; 16 ff., quarto, 187:135 mm., light age staining, crisp margins. Very good copies bound in contemporary vellum over boards.

Two works in one volume, rare as published.

 

Detail Description

Commentary to Pentateuch; Song of Songs and Ecclesiastes by R. Obadiah b. Jacob Sforno (c. 1470–c. 1550), Italian biblical commentator and physician. Born at Cesena, R. Sforno was especially attached to his brother R. Hananel, who for a time supported him financially. Nothing is known about his father. In Rome R. Obadiah studied philosophy, mathematics, philology, and, in particular, medicine, which profession he followed; there on Cardinal Grimani's recommendation he taught Hebrew from 1498 to 1500 to the Christian humanist Johannes Reuchlin. He met David Reuveni when the latter was in Rome (1524). After staying in various cities, he finally settled at Bologna, where he played an active role in resuscitating a Hebrew printing house and in organizing the community. He established a bet-midrash which he conducted until his death. His renown was such that Italian rabbis addressed halakhic questions to him, and his decisions were quoted in the responsa of R. Meir Katzenelbogen, who referred to him in terms of great esteem (Resp. Maharam of Padua, nos. 48–49).

R. Obadiah's reputation rests chiefly on his commentary on the Pentateuch, Song of Songs, and Ecclesiastes, which first appeared in Venice in 1567; on Psalms (Venice, 1586), on Job (Mishpat Zedek, Venice, 1589) and on Jonah, Habakkuk and Zechariah which were published in the Rabbinic Bible, Kehillot Moshe (Amsterdam, 1724–28). While generally limiting himself to the literal exegesis of the biblical text and at times going beyond this to give an exposition in keeping with the contemporary scientific outlook (e.g., on the Creation), he avoids mystical and kabbalistic interpretations. He pays comparatively little regard to philology, being on the whole satisfied to elucidate the contents of a passage without entering into a philological analysis. He does not give historical explanations or identify places except in rare instances, availing himself, however, of his medical knowledge in his exegesis, e.g., Genesis 43:27, and in explaining the reasons for the commandments.

In his commentary on Song of Songs and Ecclesiastes, as well as on the Pentateuch, he employs allegory, e.g., in expounding the reason for the injunction of the red heifer. Instead of dealing separately with individual difficulties in a verse, he prefers to incorporate the solution in a brief running comment on the passage as a whole. He takes pains to emphasize the inner connection between different parts of a verse and to account for duplications in phraseology, e.g., Genesis 43:28. In many instances he deals with the motives that inspired acts of heroism. His explanation is at times extremely incisive, e.g., Genesis 39:19. While often quoting rabbinical statements in support of his views, he rarely makes use of historical aggadot. He aimed at inculcating a love for mankind in general and not only for fellow Jews, the difference between them being quantitative and not qualitative (Ex. 19:5), and his commentaries contain frequent references to humanistic ideas. In line with this he quoted that "righteous gentiles are undoubtedly dear to Me" i.e., to G-d (loc. cit.), and "the whole of mankind is Thine own treasure" (Deut. 33:3). At times, however, he introduces his views in a somewhat artificial manner, e.g., Numbers 23:22–24.

His commentary on the Pentateuch is prefaced by an introduction entitled Kavvanot ha-Torah ("The inner meaning of the Torah"), in which he deals with the structure of the Pentateuch and the reasons for its precepts, in particular for the sacrifices, on which he dwells at some length. His wide learning is reflected in his other literary productions. Thus he wrote a philosophical work Or Ammim (Bologna, 1537), in which he sought to refute the views of Aristotle, which are in conflict with the principles of Judaism, by employing the basic elements of the Greek philosopher's own teachings. He translated the work into Latin, under the title Lumen Gentium, dedicating it to King Henry II of France (Bologna, 1548). He wrote a commentary on Avot (published in the Roman Mahzor, Bologna, 1540–41), as well as other unpublished works: a translation of Euclid's eight books, a Hebrew grammar, some responsa, and smaller works on various subjects.

     
 

Hebrew Description

באור על התורה אשר חבר ... ר' עובדיה ספורנו אביר הרופאים זלה"ה.
 
מעבר לשער: אל המשכיל ... ר' חננאל בן ... ר' יעקב יצ"ו בן ... ר' עובדיה ספורנו ... מדי דברי בך ... בבולונייא מקום משכן כבו[דך] ... הראיתני ... מעלת ... זקנך ... לפלס פשטי הכתובים ... בקוצר מלין הואיל באר כל מחקר עיוני בתורתנו ... אמרתי ... אוציא לאור את באורו ... הלזה ... שלמה בן ... ר' אברהם לוצאטו יצ"ו.
דף ב-ג: הקדמת הגאון המחבר ז"ל. בראשה שיר: לכו בנים שמעו. וחכמי לב ודעו. אוצר השירה והפיוט, ג, עמ' 43, מס' 943.
דף [פ,א]: אמר המגיה ... ואחרי רואי החבור ... יוצא ... באותיות ונייר ודיו אין ערוך להם צלחה עלי רוח השיר ... [פותח:] שירי צאו לקראת אביר רועים. שורו כבוד הודו ויפעתו. סי' שמואל מן הארקוולטי חזק. שם, עמ' 458, מס' 1104.
דף פא-פו: מפתח הדברים העיוניים אשר בא באורם בכל פרשה ופרשה.
דף פז-צב,א: כונות התורה. מחקר ... אמר ... עובדיה... ספורנו ... ראוי להתבונן כי אמנם התורה ... המכוון בה לקדש ישראל ... ולמען השיג זה נתן בתורתו חלק עיוני ... וחלק מעשי ...
 
באור שיר השירים וקהלת מהגאון... ר' עובדיה ספורנו...

בשער דגל המדפיס: מגינית ובה כרוב (גריפון) מחזיק בצפרני רגליו אבן, שממנה יורד כדור בעל-כנפיים; מסביב למגינית עיטורים של מסכות, מסקרונים, רביות, כלי-זין, כלי-נגינה, ספרים וזר דפנא. יש טפסים שבהם חל שינוי בדגל: בלא מגינית ועיטורים. עי': אברהם יערי, דגלי המדפיסים העבריים, ירושלים תש"ד, עמ' 19-18, 136-135. מעבר לשער: אמר המגיה [ר' שמואל ארקיוולטי]... בהעיר יי את רוח... כמ"ר שלמה בן האלוף כמה"ר אברהם לוצאטו להוציא לאור... הבאור על התורה מהגאון ספורנו... בהוסיפו... בבאור שיר השירים וקהלת... משירי אהודנו. השיר מתחיל: ישרים ועדה תנו הוד ותודה לבן תם וישר. אוצר השירה והפיוט, ב, עמ' 455, מס' 4264.

 
 

References

CD-NLI 0179529; 0106694; EJ; JE