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MARJORIE LEHMAN The ??? Yacaqov: A Collection of Aggadah in Transition THE 1EJN YA'AQOV IS THE FOREMOST COLLECTION of talmudic aggadah, or nonlegal lore, in classical Jewish literature. Edited by the fifteenth-century scholar Rabbi Jacob Ibn Habib, the work consists of three parts. The first is an extensive collection of aggadot culled primarily from the Babylonian Talmud, although there are also selections from the Palestinian Talmud.1 The second component consists of a commentary that contains the excurses of Jacob Ibn Habib on selected aggadot as well as his selection of additional commentaries written by various medieval rabbis on the aggadot of the Talmud. The third is a set of indices. Unfortunately, Ibn Habib died before finishing this project. A Spanish exile, Ibn Habib immigrated to Portugal in 1492 and finally settled in the Ottoman city of Salonika,2 where he began work on the 'Ein ya'aqov, completing the sections on Seder Zera'im and Seder Mo'ed before he died in 1515/16. In 1516, the first volume of his work was printed by Don Judah Gedaliah.3 Ibn Habib's son, Rabbi Levi Ibn Habib, was responsible for continuing the work begun by his father. Following his father's model, he selected aggadot from the remaining massekhta'ot.4 Like his father, Levi wrote a commentary to the selections, albeit a less extensive one, and compiled indices to the aggadot.5 Levi's commitment to his father's project stemmed less from his own interest in aggadah than from his desire to memorialize his father and what his father had sought to contribute to the study of aggadah. By 1522, a complete edition of the 'Ein ya'aqov in two volumes was available to the public.6 The first edition of the complete 'Ein ya'aqov represented less the publication of a finished work than the birth of a process—a process that PROOFTEXTS 19 (1999): 21-40 O 1999 by The Johns Hopkins University Press 22MARJORIE LEHMAN was continued and completed only by generations of later editors interested in the study of aggadah, who appended new commentaries to the original document, created new indices for it, collected new treatises written about aggadah, and added new talmudic material to it. In this way, the 'Ein ya'aqov eventually became the classic anthology of aggadah in Jewish literature—a work whose basic structure was indeed set by Jacob Ibn Habib but whose full proportions were actualized only much later by additional editors. In this essay, I wish to explore Ibn Habib's original contribution to this process of anthologizing, which continued for more than four hundred years after his death; in particular, I wish to examine the extent to which Ibn Habib can be described as an anthologizer, and the degree to which his own work can be characterized as anthological. At first glance, there would seem to be no difficulty in describing Ib Habib and his project as anthological. Like most anthologizers, who collect their material from multiple sources and reorganize it in accordance with new structures—by theme, genre, or chronology,7 for example—with the purpose of making it more accessible to a broader audience, Ibn Habib wanted to collect the aggadic material strewn throughout the multivolume talmudic corpus, where it is usually embedded in extensive halakhic discussions. To accomplish this, he dismantled the talmudic sugyot, separated the aggadah from the halakhah, and thus highlighted and emphasized the former's unique teachings, all with the intention of exposing the aggadah to a wider constituency. Needless to say, this project entailed a fundamental break with the editorial policies adapted by the framers of the Babylonian and Palestinian Talmudim, who deliberately chose to interweave the genres of halakhah and aggadah. Difficulties with classifying the 'Ein ya'aqov as an anthology or Ibn Habib as an anthologizer begin only when one acknowledges the fact that Ibn Habib had no intention of producing an aggadic anthology in the strict sense of the word—one containing aggadot selected from all of rabbinic literature. His aggadic collection would contain material selected solely from the two Talmudim. He intended to produce less of an anthology per se than an abridged version...


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