Bibliographic Thesaurus of Responsa Literature

A  bibliography and database of the vast sea of rabbinic responsa. This is an ongoing project in conjunction with the Schechter Institute for Jewish Studies in Jerusalem.

 
“Kuntress Hateshuvot”: A Bibliographicof Thesaurus of Responsa Literature published from ca.
 1470-2000
 
Shmuel Glick
 
Responsa literature has been recognized from the middle of the nineteenth century as an important source not only for the study of Jewish law but also as a potential source for learning about the social, economic and religious history of Jewish communities. From the Wissenschaft des Judenthums movement until modern times, responsa study has occupied the energies of prominent scholars.
Considering the breadth of more than 1,200 years of responsa literature, it is not surprising that scholars in the 20th century have focused on different periods, topics and personalities. The period of the Gaonim has received important treatment in the last hundred years by well known scholars (e.g. Sh. Abramson, I. Agus, S. Assaf, M. Ben Sasson, R. Brody, M.A. Friedman, Z. Grouner, B.M. Levin, J. Mann, and more). Certain halakhic authorities have also been subject to monographs (e.g. Maharam Rotenberg, Rosh, Rashba, Ribash, Radbaz and more). Conceptual, historical and methodological issues have also advanced with studies by Y. Dinari, S. Emanuel, A. Grossman, J. Katz, H. Soloveitchik, E. Zimmer and others.
However, scholarship still has not paid attention to the phenomenon of lone responsa immersed in books of various subjects within rabbinic literature (e.g. halakhah, homiletics, biblical exegesis, Hasidut, memoirs, history, etc.) as well as non-rabbinic literature (e.g. music, archaeology, Hebrew grammar, etc.). The true nature of the sub-category of “lone responsa” has yet to be researched.
Various studies focus on the classical responsa literature but it is rare to find within these studies any mention of lone responsa embedded in literature not defined as classic responsa literature. The main reason this is so is because these responsa are embedded in literature not classified as responsa type, and the scholar does not even think to find material for his inquiry there.
During the past twenty years, I have studied responsa, first as a source for the history of Jewish education. In volume two of Education in Light of Israeli Law and Halachic Literature (Jerusalem 2000), I compiled an index of 324 responsa titles related to Jewish education. Editing Mekorot le-toldot ha-hinukh be-Yisrael (Jerusalem 2001-2002), I indexed and annotated Assaf's references to responsa. In addition, I published in this series another three volumes of Mekorot le-toldot ha-hinukh be-Yisrael a book dealing only with responsa from the Ottoman empire, lands of Islam, and Europe. I   examined 820 books of responsa from Eastern and Western lands and have uncovered 600 responsa dealing with Jewish education.
After more than twelve years of scholarly work as part of the Bibliographical Project for Responsa Literature of the Schocken Institute for Jewish Research, with the support of the Memorial Foundation, Faculty of Law at Bar Ilan University and the Schechter Institute for Jewish Studies, in 2006-2009 We published four volumes entitled Kuntress Ha-Teshuvot He-hadash: A Bibliographic Thesaurus of Responsa Literature (comprising letters א-ת). This series of books includes a bibliographical collection of responsa literature printed from the beginning of Hebrew printing (ca. 1470) through the year 2000, an extended description of 4,600 books in which responsa may be found.

The Contribution of Responsa Literature to the Study of Halakha,Jewish Culture and History