Me'ah She'arim, R. Isaac ben Elijah Sheni, Salonica 1543 (49797)

מאה שערים - First Edition

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Listing Details

Lot Number: 49797
Title (English): Me'ah She'arim
Title (Hebrew): מאה שערים
Note: First Edition
Author: R. Isaac ben Elijah Sheni
City: Salonica
Publication Date: 1543
Estimated Price: $5,000.00 USD - $8,000.00 USD
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Description

Physical Description

First edition. [58] ff., quarto, 194:138 mm., light age staining, wide margins, three censor inscriptions on final. A very good copy bound in modern leather over boards, tooled in blind.

 

Detail Description

A kabbalistic commentary on one hundred of the six hundred thirteen commandments. R. Isaac ben Elijah Sheni (Shani, first half sixteenth century), the author, was a rabbi in Constantinople, He is also known to have edited R Menahem Recanati's Ta'amei ha-Mitzvot (Constantinople, 1544).

R. Sheni begins, in a beautiful introduction, by stating that a person's pupose is to achieve true completeness, to be bound to G-d, for "thee soul of my lord shall be bound in the bundle of life with the L-rd your G-d" (I Samuel 25:29), to be accomplished only through Torah, thus achieving true knowledge, the wisdom of Kabbalah, This is intimated by King Solomon in the Song of Sons, "By night on my bed," alluding to the soul laying in the body, akin to night, seeking knowledge, "I sought him Whom my soul loves," and as com­plete knowledge cannot be attained through peshat (literal meaning), "I sought him, but I found him not," I said, "I will rise now, and go around in the city," alluding to the writ­ten Torah, "in the markets and in the broad streets," Mishnah and Tahmud, "I seek him whom my soul loves," with all this, "I sought him, but I found him not. The watchmen that go around in the city found me," aIludling to the talmudic scholars who guard the Torah (Song of Songs 3:1-3).

R. Sheni continues at some length, concluding that it is important to attribute reasons for the mitzvot, to arrouse a desire to fulfill them. He discusses commandments applicable today; fifty-five positive and forty-five negative commandments, for which he derives a numerical value equal to the name HaShem. Wilhin the book, each mitzvah begins with a statement of the commandment a concise description of how it is to be fufilled, an explanation of the peshat, followed by a deeper of kabbalistic interpretation.

Books on reasons for the mitzvot, including works on one hundred commandments, are not uncommon. The identity of R. Sheni as the author of Me'ah She'arim has been questioned, it being suggested it being suggested that he is identical to R. lsaac ibn Farhi, accused of literary plagiarism for a work on the reasons for mitzvot in the 16th century. This accusation, repeated in several works, was found to be completely baseless when a unique manuscript of the alleged source work, by an earlier R. lsaac ibn Farhi, was discovered, It did not compare in style, content, or the division of positive and negativc commandments to Me'ah She'arim,

The name of the printer is not given on the title page. However, as the letters are clearly Soncino fonts, as is the ornamental frame on the title page, this book is generally attributed to their press. Furthermore, R. Recanati's Ta’amei ha-Mitzvot was also printed by Eliezer Soncino.

 

Hebrew Description

 נלקט ונתחבר משבולי החכמים הראשונים והאחרונים, על מצות עשה ומצות לא תעשה וטעמן על דרך הפשט ודרך הקבלה, ומאמרים רבים וסודות מכמה ענינים (כאשר מצאתי בספרי המקובלים ... ובראשם בספר הקדוש קנה בן קנה ז"ל. וסדרתים כשולחן ערוך ... והיתה השלמתו בחדש אדר על ידי ... יצחק בן ... ר’ אליה שני נצב"ה [נפשו צרורה בצרור החיים]) ...

מהקדמת המחבר: "השתדלתי לחבר ספר זה ... כדי לעורר לב האדם במצות הבורא ... ואחלקם במאה שערים, במצות אפשריות שנוהגות בזמן הזה והכרחיות ... והמאה שערים נחלקים לחמשה וחמשים שערים על מצות עשה וחמשה וארבעים שערים על מצות לא תעשה".

"קנה בן קנה", הנזכר בחתימת הספר, הוא ספר הקנה על המצוות, שנדפס לאחר מכן בפראגא ש"ע-שע"א ובפאריצק תקמ"ו.

על הספר ועל מחברו, עי’: רוזנטל, יודע ספר, עמ’ 170, מס’ 895; אהרן ילינק, קונטרס תרי"ג, ווינא תרל"ח, עמ’ 14, מס’ 77, ועמ’ 45-46; אריה טויבר, מחקרים ביבליוגרפיים, ירושלים תרצ"ב, עמ’ 31-32, מס’ 44.

 

References

Marvin Heller, 16th Century Hebrew Book pp 266-7; Bibliography of the Hebrew Book 1470-1960 #000176421