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The Chafetz Project - Melekhet Machashevet

    Melekhet Machashevet (מלאכת מחשבת) (or Intentful Work), by Moshe Chafetz, is a homiletical-philosophical commentary on the Torah.

    Published Editions

    • First edition (Venice, 1710)
      pub. Appresso Alvise Bragadin, per Giovanni de' Pauli
      Oversized volume (8.5"x14")
      Includes table, portrait of Chafetz, and front drawing of Moses seemingly on Sinai.
      Handwritten text.
      readable online - hebrewbooks.org
    • Second edition (Koenigsberg, 1859)
      pub. Eliezer Lipman, on Tuesday, 13th of Adar, 5519 (February 17, 1859), per Yaacov Meklenberg's introduction
      Includes supercommentary, Machashevet Choshev, by Judah Leib Jaffe.
      Includes doctored portrait from first edition, excludes Moses drawing. Typeset, not handwritten.
      Possible additional Koenigsberg edition, 1860, pub. Lipman (or here)
    • Third edition (Warsaw, 1914)
      Includes Machashevet Choshev, omits portrait.
      Readable online - hebrewbooks.org
    • Fourth edition (Warsaw, 1929)
      pub. Avraham Kahana
      No apparent differences from third edition.
    • Fifth edition (Jerusalem, 1964)
      pub. Le-hasig S. Shefer
      Exact reprint of third edition, except title page edition information

    Book Details

    • Chafetz's portrait is the first portrait ever published in a Hebrew book (1710 edition)
    • 206 pages (first edition, each represents two facing pages; Warsaw/Jerusalem editions repaginated over 400 pages)
    • Sample page (PDF)

    Online Citations

    Melekhet Machashevet is taught on occasion, and referenced in some sermons and commentary online (linked and quoted here, by parshah):

    Interesting Information

    • Author's portrait a first for Hebrew books
       
      From Encyclopedia Judaica, Second Edition, Volume 4, p. 75 (under "Books"):
      "Portraits of an author occasionally appear in Hebrew books printed in Holland Italy in the 17th and 18th centuries; for example... Moses Hefez (Gentili) in his Melekhet Mahashevet (Venice, 1701). (sic)"
       
    • Why include an author's portrait?
       
      This is the first Hebrew book printed with an author's portrait, ever.
      It was "quite normal for authors' portraits to be included in books published in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries" (see Planets, Potions, and Parchments: Scientifica Hebraica from the Dead Sea Scrolls to the Eighteenth Century).
       
    • Was Moshe Chafetz really 100 when this book first printed?
       
      No. Very common mistake. The frontispiece says "meah" ("I am meah years old today") which literally means 100, but in Gematriah (Hebrew numerology) adds up to 46, his age in 1710. The frontispiece inscription is misleading. In fact, the second edition printers were fooled:
      It wasn't only the printers in Warsaw that saw R. Moshe Hefez Gentili as a 100 year old author
       
    • 1819 Italian Hebrew writers review mention.
       
      A description of Italian Hebrew writers from a review of Della illustrazione delle lingue antiche (readable online, p. 216 of PDF file, numbered 49 top-right) by Cesare Lucchesini (1819), in an 1828 edition of The Monthly Review, mentions "the Philological Commentary on the Pentateuch, by Moses Chefetz, of Trieste, who began printing it when he was a hundred years of age, and which contains dissertations on God's attributes, on angels, on the human soul, free-will, on the punishments and rewards of a future life, and on the souls of animals." (from It wasn't only the printers in Warsaw that saw R. Moshe Hefez Gentili as a 100 year old author)
       
    • 1800 Hebrew authors reference mention.
       
      Giovanni Bernardo de Rossi's Dizionario storico degli autoi ebrei e delle loro opere (1800) also mentions the book, stating the incorrect 100 year age, too: Additions to the Chefetz-Gentili post
       
    • More word games - Machashevet a word and acronym? (1710 Italian literary journal mention)
       
      An Italian literary journal from 1710 mentions the new book, and notes that Machashevet is itself an acronym as well as a literal word: (Moshe Chefetz Shocheyn Ben-Ir Trieste) (from Additions to the Chefetz-Gentili post).
       
    • Another description of the book
       
      Hebrew Bible Exegesis in #19, Sixteenth Century to Middle of Eighteenth Century: "Commentaries were written in Italy by... and Moses hefeZ (Gentile), whose interesting Pentateuch commentary draws also upon the principles of secular science."
       
    • Another description of the book, including the age error
       
      Monthly Review (from May to August inclusive, 1828; London) about Della illustrazione delle lingue antiche e moderne, e Orientali... by Di Cesare Lucchesini. (Lucca. 1827)
      p. 368, under "Italian Writers on Languages," says "Lucchesini afterwards notices the works of several learned Italian Jews... the Philological Commentary on the Pentateuch, by Moses Chafetz, of Trieste, who began printing it when he was a hundred years of age, and which contains dissertations on God's attributes, on angels, on the human soul, free-will, on the punishments and rewards of a future life, and on the souls of animals."
       
    • Historical context for the book
       
      Jewish Virtual Library says, "The 16th to the 18th centuries are characterized by an almost complete neglect of the study of the Bible as such. Talmud and Kabbalah became almost the sole subjects of study. Only in Italy was the study of the Bible as such pursued, and it produced such epoch-making works as... the commentaries of... Moses Hefez (*Gentili).
       
    • Reference to the book
       
      A History of Jewish Literature (vol. 12): Hasidism and Enlightenment (1780-1820) says "He (Moses Leib Lilienblum) read Moses Hefetz's Melechet Mahashevet (commentary on the Torah), and in it became aware that this great man in Israel in no way believed that there are demons in the world." (p.211)
       

    Some information repurposed from Encyclopedia Judaica

    Moshe Chafetz
    (frontispiece, Melekhet Machashevet, 1st edition)

    Moshe Chafetz
    (frontispiece, Melekhet Machashevet, 2nd edition)

    The Chafetz Project

    I have two editions of Melekhet Machashevet (the Koenigsberg second edition and Warsaw third, I believe).

    Got Information?

    Any information about this book or Moshe Chafetz is greatly appreciated; in particular, available copies or existing translations.

    Contact me at djbrook@sbcglobal.net.

    Copyright Doug Brook. All rights reserved.