Monday, January 11, 2010

Kitsur SMaK? - No! Kitsur SMaG!

Last week a question was posted on this blog requesting information regarding an abridgement of the SMaK done by a Christian Hebraist (see post entitled: Kitsur SMaK? - Monday, January 4, 2010). A reader known as “Manuscriptboy” posted a helpful response. He wrote: “See Avraham Yosef Havatselet's article, 'Kitzur ha-Semag le-mi?', Moriah 16, 5-6 (1988), pp. 34-40.” I consulted Manuscriptboy’s citation and learnt that a translation of an abridgement of Moses ben Jacob of Coucy's (13th cent.) Sefer Mitsvot Gadol (also known by the abbreviation: SMaG) was done by a Christian Hebraist. I contacted the patron who had made the original request for information. I wrote as follows:

I looked in the referenced article and saw that the Kitsur SMaG was first published in Basel in 293 (1533). This 1533 edition was published by a Christian by the name of Sebastian Minster [sic] who also translated the work into Latin and added an introduction. Havatselet does not believe that Minster [sic] actually wrote the original. He feels that Minster [sic] translated an MS that may have been written by a Jew. Notwithstanding the assertion made in your original email not to confuse the Kitsur SMaK with the Kitsur SMaG, is it possible that the introduction you are looking for is in reality that which Minster [sic] published with the Kitsur SMaG?

The patron wrote back that this translation of an abridgement of the SMaG may indeed be what he is looking for and he will attempt to examine it. Later, a reader named Yakov Shafranovich posted the following response on the blog:

You might be referring to: "Mitsvot haTorah - Catalogus omnium praeceptorum legis Mosaicae quae ab Hebraeis" It was translated into Latin and published by Sebastian Munster in 1533 in Basel. However, that is a translation of the Smag, not the Smak.

Shafranovich has, helpfully, supplied us with the proper spelling of Munster’s name and the title of the work he published. I would like to thank Manuscriptboy and Yakov Shafranovich for their assistance.


  1. No biggie, but it should either be Münster (with the umlauts) or Muenster to conform with English orthography. This would, of course, be rendered with a yud in Hebrew, producing "Minster."

    Please see here for an interesting letter from R. Yaakov Tzvi Meklenburg to Julius Füurst, where he actually spells his surname with a vav, but with umlauts atop it!