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October 06, 1967 - Image 20

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1967-10-06

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

Responsa: Seventeen Centuries on Tape

Editor's Note: An attempt is now :
being made by scientists at the Weiz-
mann Institute of Science and scholars
at the Hebrew University and Bar Ilan
University to use an electronic computer
for concentrating and systematizing 17
centuries of responsa (answers given by
eminent scholars and rabbis to written
questions on Jewish law). This work.
which it is hoped will make the responsa
generally accessible for the first time.
is described in Rehovoth. the Weizmann
bys kr)pr.
e gI n
rite Frpaeernigicaolf r
I nsitei ztu

plied Mathematics Department. Here are
some excerpts from his article:

The first responsa appear in the
Talmud at the beginning of the
3rd Century. Questions on day-to-
day matters were sent from Baby-
lon to Palestine and duly answer-
ed. Responsal literature became
very wide-spread during the Ga-
onic era, from the beginning of the
7th Century to 1038. when the
Babylonian schools were the chief
centers of Jewish learning and
their scholars accepted as author-
From the middle of the 10th Cen-
tury, large Jewish communities
gradually established themselves
elsewhere and Jews started to sub-
mit their questions to local acad-
emies. Thus began the era of the
"Rishonim" (the early scholars),

which lasted to the end of the 15th '
Century; the outstanding rabbinical
scholars coming from the Spanish-
North African, French - and Ger-
man schools. The next era, that
of the "Aharonim" (the later
scholars), began at the end of the
15th Century and included respon-
sal literature from a large num-
ber of diferent schools and coun-
The typical responsum is not just
a "yes" or "no. - it is much more
than merely a written permission
or prohibition, as is indeed the
case for the codifications. The de-
cision given is painstakingly built
up from careful analysis of perti-
nent passages in the Talmud and
earlier responsal literature: from
a refutation of any possible oppo-
sition on the basis of some other
talmudic passages; and from the
scholar's application of his own
judgement and knowledge.
The responsa cover almost all
aspects of life. They range from
questions dealing with subleasing,
to matters pertaining to the phil-
osophy of religion: from compli-
cated tax queries to rulings con-
cerning calendar - theoretic prob-


20—Friday, October 6, 1967

History of Aeronautics: Fantastic
Tales for the Air-Minded Youngsters

lems, astronomy, mathematics,
chronology and geography; from
definitions of the responsibility of
the individual towards the com-
When did man first began to on Dec. 17, 1903, and it precedes
munity to inheritance problems;
this actual flight achievement by
from rulings which establish the fly?
Was Daedalus the first to com- telling about the Montgolfier Broth-
legal form of a bill of divorcement
and other attempts at flying.
to decisions about the fate of busi- mence the airborne adventure?
There follow many other great
Did the maker of wing
ness contracts when currency is
about daredevils, about
ers and cloth, many years ago,
Louis Bleriot, Count Zeppelin and
actually introduce flying?
Responsa concern .themselves
Random House has issued a fan- many others—about flying farther
only with cases taken from life tastic story about flying and the and faster, about war planes and
itself, with questions that trouble history of aeronautics in a book by the conquest of the air.
the individual and the community. Mary Lee Settle, well illustrated
It's a great story and the air-
They are thus reflections of the by George Evans, entitled "The minded youngsters will be thrilled
pulse of generations. and repre- Story of Flight."
with this interesting tale that is so
sent part of the great heritage of
It tells about the Wright Broth- well completed as a history of
an ancient nation.
ers' first plane that went into space flying.
There seems to be no reliable
estimate of the number of respon-
sa that have survived, nor of the
different authors who compiled
them. Estimated numbers range
from about 200,000 to half a mil-
lion for the former, and from 2,300
to 5,000 for the latter.
A person who wants to retrieve
all responsa concerned with
"death penalty," will instruct the
computer to cite or print all
responsa including the word
"death" and the word "penalty,"
but only where "penalty" is the
word immediately following
"death." This is possible, since
the concordance includes a num-
bering of the words within each
World's Largest Display of Carpeting
sentence. The researcher will of
course normally also add syno-
nyms such as the "supreme pen-


The creation of a mechanised

Best Wishes For

A Happy, Healthy

and Prosperous New Year

To The Entire Jewish Community

The Agins Family

Best WisAes

go,- a Happy and

[Prosperous new Year


c7lie getvisk Communit y

Emma Schaver, President


concordance in any semitic Ian
guage is not a simple matter at
all. Unfortunately. scholar; of yore
did not write in English. The lan-
guage of the responsa is a combi-


nation of Hebrew and Aramaic.
closely intertwined and highly in-
flected. Additionally. tha text is not
punctuated nor is it printed wilts
vowels. All this induces a consider-
able number of homographs,
words with the same spelling but
different meanings.
(For instance, like shell— of a
fish — and the verb to shell or
to bomb. If one omits the vowels
in printed English, "shll" might
also be read as "shall," and an
additional homograph would thus
be obtained.)

ifii( •

May the Shofar's message, now again being

heard throughout the world, herald a message

of peace for the entire world. May it soften

the hearts of those who preach in anger, and

may it bring encouragement to all who aspire

for a world withour rancor.

Mechanized concordances are
much more flexible than written
ones. For example, it is easy to

11z:1=11 mm nnvg)

find the number of words in Web-
ster's Dictionary which begin with
"my." But it is considerably hard-
er to find the number of words
which end in "my;" or, for in-

To The Entire Community and our Many Friends.

stance, the number of three-letter
words. This is because printed in- B
dexes are sorted according to some
limited number of specific a priori
criteria, while a mechanized in-
dex can be sorted according to a
much wider class of criteria, 11:1
which need not be fixed in ad-
The project which has recently
gotten underway is carried out at
the Weizmann Institute with the
cooperation of the Hebrew Uni-
versity's Institute of Research In




The most highly sophisticated of B
mechanical linguistic tools are
therefore required for automatic
processing of the text. Initial work
in this direction on Hebrew texts B
was done recently by Shapiro and
Choueka (Leshoneny 27, 1964, 354-
372). Even then, manual post-ed-
iting is required. That is, the com-
puter's linguistic analysis does not
always produce a unique solution.
It sometimes indicates two or more
possibilities for a word (as in B
"shell"). The editor must then de-
cide on the basis of context, which
interpretation is the correct one.
Special tools will be del, ised to
minimize the number of such am-

Jewish Law, and Bar-Ran Uni-
versity. It is estimated that the
cost of the first two-year experi-
mental phase will be some ;60,000.
During this time, we plan to de-
velop the necessary linguistic tools.
and computer programs, and test
them on a limited body of respon-



Mr. and Mrs. Irving Hermelin and Family

Mr. and Mrs. David B. Hermelin


& Family



And Associate



13625 W. 8 Mile Rd., Detroit

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