What was Rabbi Ferber reading? Tsuf Dvash by Vidal Tsarfati, 1718, Amsterdam.

TsufDvash01Before we discuss the book itself, which is interesting in its own right, it is inscribed twice, has a marginal note, and has the ownership stamp in red ink, of Rabbi Tzvi Hirsh Ferber.

Rabbi Ferber was born in Slobodka, a suburb of Kovno, Lithuania, in 1879. He was a renowned Torah and Talmudic scholar who emigrated to Manchester, England in 1911 and then in 1913 became the Rabbi and leader of the West End Talmud Torah Synagogue (Kehilas Yeshurun) in Soho, London. His stamp has the Manette Street, Soho address.

He ministered to the needs of his synagogue, which included many small tradesmen, artisans and shopkeepers in the West End of London, by some accounts not the most educated or sophisticated congregation. However, this left him free time to be a scholar and spend much time in the nearby British Museum reading room, where he was a regular.

Much has been written about him, including his memoirs of his early life edited by Rabbi Pini Dunner – click on a sample here.

TsufDvash02Rabbi Ferber was a prolific author and was renowned as a riveting orator who gave his sermons in Yiddish. He was active in communal affairs, and established the Chesed V’emeth Burial Society in 1915. He was for many years the honorary secretary of the London “Vaad Harabonim” (rabbinical council of the Federation of Synagogues) and chairman of the Association of London Rabbis (“Hisachdus Harabonim”). he was a member of the World Rabbinical council of Agudas Yisroel. He died in London in 1966.

I have previously written about some of the Rabbi Ferber’s books – you can read about Shvil HaTzvi and Hegyonei Avos.

My copy has these inscriptions:

This says “Tzvi Hirsch, son of the late Rabbi Yehuda Leib Ferber.”


The above inscription says “I, Tzvi Hirsch Ferber, son of the late Rabbi Yehuda Leib Ferber, was born in Slobodka – Kovno, and presently at London West End.”


The book itself was written by Rabbi Vidal Hasarfati (1545-1619?).  The famous Chida (Rabbi Chaim Yosef David Azulai) wrote of him, “one of the geniuses of Occident”. Rabbi Sarfati amassed an astounding amount of knowledge, quoting Plato, Aristotle, Euclid, Seneca as well as Arab philosophers and, of course, Maimonides, Yehuda Halevi and many other rabbinic scholars. He frequently quotes from the books of the Kabalah and was also a physician. He had an important library.  

Tsuf Dvash (flowing honey) was published in Amsterdam in 1718.  It is a commentary on the Torah with additional commentaries on the Five Megillot. This book once circulated throughout the Jewish world.  It is written very concisely and was republished a number of times. Rabbi Vidal also had a reputation of being a miracle worker.

TsufDvash04The book was printed by the Amsterdam printer Solomon Proops, who was born in 1675 to 1680 and died in 1734.  His father, who may have been a Hebrew printer as well, was established as a bookseller in Amsterdam.  In 1704 Solomon Proops set up his own Hebrew press, which produced mainly liturgical books but also a wide range of other works  in Hebrew and Yiddish.  In 1714 Proops began to print a Talmud edition in competition with that planned by Samuel ben Solomon Marquis and Raphael ben Joshua de Palacio. They were all forced to discontinue printing due to the approbations issued for the 1697-1699 Frankfurt-am-Oder edition of the Talmud. These functioned as rabbinic prohibitions, or copyrights, preventing rival editions from being issued for a specified period of time.

This book has approbations (haskomos) reproduced below of Rabbi Solomon Ayalon of the Sephardi community of Amsterdam and Rabbi Abraham Berlin of the Ashekenazi community of Amsterdam.


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