Obj. ID: 36217
Jewish printed books Yosef Da'at by Yosef ben Issachar, Prague, 1609
This text was prepared by William Gross:
A super-commentary on Rashi’s commentary on the Torah by R. Joseph ben Isaachar Baer of Prague. Joseph was a student of the R. Mordechai Yoffe (Levush, c. 1535 – 1612), R. Judah Loew ben Bezalel (Maharal, c. 1525 – 1609), and R. Ephraim Luntshitz (Keli Yekar, 1550 – 1619).
This is the only edition of Yosef Da’at, and Joseph’s only published work. His purpose, as stated on the book’s title page, is to correct errors in Rashi's printed text. To this end he relies on an early manuscript of Rashi dating to about 1300.
Some biblical commentaries have "initiated more questions than [they have] answered and realised more problems than [they have] solved." The influential commentary of Rashi is a classical case in point. Although the commentary was used by many generations for the instruction of beginning students, its precise, spare language and encapsulation, without attribution, of traditional rabbinical understandings of the text have engendered more than two hundred super-commentaries, among them the present volume. The author, who flourished at the end of the sixteenth century, was a pupil of the famous Maharal of Prague (Judah Loew ben Bezalel, circa 1515-1609), one of the foremost scholars in the rich intellectual and cultural milieu of Prague during its so-called Golden Age. Among the contributions of the Maharal was an indictment of contemporary educational practices: "The fools nowadays teach boys Bible with the commentary of Rashi, which they do not understand." Yosef Da'at, which provides keys to understanding Rashi, as well as Jacob ben Asher, another medieval commentator, is an attempt to amplify these texts.
The volume’s title page is decorated with florets, and bears a verse containing an acrostic of Joseph’s name.
Numerous illustrations were included by the author to assist the teachers of small children. Among them are: a full page map of Eretz Israel, the Temple, the Menorah, priestly garments, how grapes grow for related agricultural laws, the ladder in Jacob’s dream, the spies and the cluster of grapes, and the world with Eretz Israel in the middle. The map of the boundaries of Eretz Israel was reputedly drawn by the Levush (see B.588).