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Principles of Samaritan Halachah.

Unlike its Jewish counterpart, the Samaritan Halakha has never benefited from ample and detailed treatment. Studies on this subject are quite rare; only a few treatises have been examined in the past, partly for comparative purposes, by scholars whose interest was not confined to Samaritanism per se (as is the case with one of the best researchers of Samaritan sources in the last century, Abraham Geiger - his investigations in this field having retained their value up to the present). Only small parts of the Samaritan Halakhic treatises have been published and properly translated, mostly as doctoral dissertations, with the exception of S. Noja's excellent Italian translation (not an edition of the text) of Kitab al-Kafi.(1) Only one medieval treatise has been published in its entirety so far, on a critical basis. I refer to Heinz Pohl's edition of Kitab al-Mirat, the Book of Inheritance, the work of the famous 12th-century scholar Abu Ishaq Ibrahim ibn Marut.(2) Lastly, the first half of the most important Halakhic composition, the Kitab at-Tabbah of Abu I-Hasan of Tyre (believed to be the author of the earlier Samaritan Arabic version of the Pentateuch), has been critically edited, translated into German and commented on by Gerhard Wedel.(3) Unfortunately, the author of the book under review was not able to utilize this edition, for it was submitted as a doctoral thesis in July 1987. This implies that Boid could not have had access to it before he finished his work. Otherwise, he might have chosen for the sequence tb h the traditional vocalization tabbah, meaning `cook', `slaughter', etc. (preferred by Wedel pending further investigation, p. 32), although his choice, tubah, `insight', looks more appealing.

Unlike the traditional prayerbooks, in daily use for the liturgical service, the Halakhic treatises have very limited circulation within the contemporary Samaritan community, tradition being the main source of inspiration for religious conduct. A Samaritan "canonic" Halakha resembling the Jewish systematic compositions never existed. This is why very few Halakhic treatises exist. The author complains with reason about the inaccuracy of the catalogues of various libraries in regard to Samaritan material, especially Halakhic treatises. According to his testimony, many manuscripts are not even catalogued (p. 12, n. 15).

Under such circumstances, the researcher is faced with the problem of finding the best text for investigation. In order to do this, Boid was compelled to prepare critical editions of the relevant portions of the texts he scrutinized. The texts are collated from various manuscripts, and, as a part of the introduction (pp. 26-46), a detailed list of these manuscripts is provided for the reader's orientation.

Other Samaritan sources have been consulted: the fatawa (decisions regarding the law) of Ya qub b. Harun (1841-1915?), the Kitab at-Ta rih of the 14th-century historian Abu l-Fath, as well as the Arabic versions of the Pentateuch. Abu l-Fath was consulted in what concerns the Dosithean Halakha (p. 46). Curiously enough, the author appeals repeatedly to E. Vilmar's edition (1863), disregarding the recent edition and translation of Paul Stenhouse published in 1985.(4) Nor does he give reasons for his choice of ms C. The reader has to resort to the author's illuminating article in Mikra(5) in order to find the reason for his choice. Even there, the information given is rather laconic (p. 604, n. 34). As for the Arabic version of the Pentateuch, here too, the author's choice of manuscripts is somewhat curious. For the "earlier" version he has chosen ms Or. 1450 of the British Library, copied in 1759. However, H. Shehade, the compiler of the critical edition of the Arabic version, is quite ambiguous with regard to this ms. In his "Prolegomena"(6) he asserts that it is a copy of the "later" version, compiled by Abu Sa id in the 13th century (p. 319), while in his edition(7) (p. xvii) he classifies the same ms together with the "old" version, ascribed to Abu Hasan of Tyre (11th century).(8) However, the great difference between the two is common knowledge. At any rate, Boid suggests that mustabhira (`covered with water) is the "early" rendering of the Hebrew bhw, far from convincing in view of the reading of ms Sam 2 of John Rylands Library: qafran (= wilderness). This is consistent with the Samaritan Aramaic Targum: ryqnyh. One may ask why the Aramaic Targum has not been consulted. Kohn's(9) and Geiger's(10) research long ago proved its value for the exploration of the old Samaritan Halakha. The short sentence explaining his reluctance to use this source (p. 22) attests to the author's limited familiarity with the variety of the Targumic material.

In his search for the principles of the Samaritan Halakha, Boid decided to make an extensive comparison of seven texts, originating at different times, all of which deal inter alia with the same subject: the contamination of women by menstrual or other vaginal bleeding, of men by emission of semen, and of both women and men by sexual intercourse. He has carefully translated and reviewed these texts in order to arrive at the best understanding possible, not before giving details regarding their manuscriptal state, authorship, date, etc. (pp. 21-47). Both the accuracy of the translation and the richness in material of the commentary may satisfy any demand. The author has a vast knowledge of the non-Samaritan sources, Karaite and Rabbanite, and he uses them extensively.

A large portion of the book (pp. 285-347) is reserved for the author's conclusions. In the first part of this section he presents the entire range of rules regarding uncleanness, as expressed in the sources he uses, including their many points of disagreement. The second part of this section is devoted to an attempt to establish the origin of these incongruencies. As for the uniformity of contemporary Samaritan Halakha, the author arrives at the conclusion that uniformity was not the original state. On the contrary, it is the product of an evolution in religious practice that took place in more recent times. The third part deals with the comparison between Samaritan and Jewish Halakha.(11) Given that the agreement between the two traditions is overwhelming, the conclusion reached is that both traditions have a common background: "the halakhic tradition of Israel is older than the division between Samaritans and Jews" (p. 328).

Boid's book is an instructive study carried out by an expert in both Samaritan and Jewish matters. It contributes greatly to our understanding of Samaritan Halakha and of its relation to the scriptures. It is also a pleasure to read.

(1) S. Noia, Il Kitdb al-Kafi dei Samaritani (Napoli, 1970). (2) Heinz Pohl, Kitab al-Mirt, Das Buch der Erbschaft des Samaritaners Abu Ishaq Ibrahim, etc. (Berlin, 1974). (3) G. Wedel, Kitab at-Tabbab des Samaritaner Abu l-Hasan as-Suri (Berlin, 1987). (4) P. Stenhouse, The Kitab al-Tarikh of Abu 'l-Fath (Sydney, 1985). (5) "Use Authority and Exegesis of Mikra in the Samaritan Tradition," in Mikra (Compendia Rerum ludaicarum ad Novum Testamentum), section two, vol. 1 (Assen, 1988): 595-633. (6) H. Shehade, "The Arabic Translation of the Samaritan Pentateuch, Prolegomena to a Critical Edition" (Diss., Jerusalem, 1977) [Hebrew]. (7) H. Shehade, The Arabic Translation of the Samaritan Pentateuch, vol. I: Genesis-Exodus (Jerusalem, 1989). (8) The need to mention the change of attitude was disregarded. (9) S. Kohn, Zur Sprache, Literatur und Dogmatik der Samaritaner (Leipzig, 1876), 178ff.; id., ZDMG 47 (1893): 626-97. (10) A. Geiger, Nachgelassene Schriften, Bd. III (Berlin, 1876), passim. (11) The last is somewhat limited due to the author's decision to refer mostly to the Mishne Tora.
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Author:Tal, Abraham
Publication:The Journal of the American Oriental Society
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Jul 1, 1992
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