Igeret Rav Sherira Gaon (The Letter of Rabbi Sherira, Gaon) by Rabbi Aaron Hyman, London 1910.

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Rabbi Aaron Hyman was known for publishing rabbinical reference books, which have been reprinted and are still in use today.  He had previously published Bet Vaad Lechochamim (which I have written about previously) and had just published Toldos Tannaim VeAmoraim.  This last work, in three volumes with 1,250 pages, is an alphabetical biographical dictionary of the personalities—Rabbis and others—whose names occur in rabbinic literature.

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Rabbi Hyman was born in Slutsk in 1862. He settled in London in 1885 and was the Rabbinical Supervisor and Head Shochet of the London Jewish Community. He was one of the founders of the Mizrachi Organization of Great Britain and in 1909 one of the founders of the Etz Chaim Yeshivah of London.

In 1910 he published this thin book, which was printed by Ekspress Printers of Commercial Street in Whitechapel, London.

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The Letter of Rav Sherira Gaon is actually a small book, and is a responsum – an answer – to Rabbi Jacob ben Missim of Kairouan, written in the late tenth century of the Common Era.  He methodically details the development of rabbinic literature, with a chronological list of the rabbinic leaders of Israel from the time of the Mishnah to the subsequent rabbinical works – Tosefta, Sifra, Sifrei etc., spanning the period of the early and later sages down to his own time.  He writes an outline of the development of the Talmud, its principles and how its lessons are to be applied in everyday life.  He explains why earlier authorities are seldom cited by name and the authorities that are so cited do not seem to be chronologically continuous.

Rabbi Hyman’s edition includes his own critical commentary, Pas-shegen HaKetav.

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