Responsa in Cairo Genizah Manuscripts

  Respnsa in Cairo Genizah Manuscripts
A Joint Project with the Taylor-Shcechter Geniza Research unit at Cambridge University Library

Until now there has not been any catalogue uniquely dedicated to responsa manuscripts and fragments in the Cambridge collections. In the late ‘90s two great scholars opened the gates to research on halakhic fragments in the Cairo Genizah. Robert Brody in his Hand-List of Rabbinic Manuscripts in the Cambridge Genizah Collections, Particularly of the New Series (NS) Collection (1997) includes around 160 responsa written in Hebrew and Judeo-Arabic, with brief physical descriptions. The titles are short and, as a hand-list, it does not intend to be descriptive. Neil Danzig also compiled a Catalogue Fragments of Halacha and Midrash from the Cairo Genizah in the Elkan Nathan Adler Collection of the Library of the JTSA [New York and Jerusalem, 1997] in which he included some annotations and descriptive titles. He does not, however, deal exclusively with responsa material, and researchers interested in responsa have a difficult time learning the content of the manuscripts based on the catalogue’s descriptions.
We hope that by providing transcriptions and translations into Hebrew, as well as brief English titles, our catalogue will not only improve upon the earlier catalogues, but will also serve a wider and more diverse audience. For the first time, scholars from various disciplines, both Hebrew and English readers, will be able to study the data from manuscript responsa. Responsa scholarship is not merely the field of scholars of halakhah and minhag (custom). Thus, for example, historians and sociologists may find much material on the life of Jews who lived in Palestine and other Middle Eastern countries, as well as in North Africa. Scholars of Jewish law (mishpat `ivri) and Islamic law will find in responsa much material on procedures; regulations and parallels between Jewish and Islamic law in the middle ages and thereafter. Various other fields and disciplines will likewise find rich material in the Cambridge Genizah responsa manuscripts.