Menachem Mendel

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Lo Tehanem and Censorship

There is another aspect of the prohibition of Lo Tehanem that I would like to write about. For some background see this previous post. Not surprisingly, as with many topics addressing the relationship between Jews and non-Jews, the texts that discuss this issue have an interesting textual history. I want to illustrate this by examining the halakhah as it was codified in R. Jacob b. Asher’s Tur and a comment upon it by Rabbi Joel Sirkes, in his commentary the Bayit Ḥadash (Baḥ).

The following is from the Tur, ed. Evigsberg, 1540, Ḥoshen Mishpat, 249.

Tur HM 249-Evigsberg, 1540.jpg

The relevant lines reads

It is forbidden to give a free gift to an idol worshipper, but it is permitted to give it to a resident alien (ger toshav) since we are commanded to save his life.

The same version with one small difference can be found in the Venice (1595) edition.

Tur HM 249-Venice, 1595.jpg

Things start to get interesting in the Krakow (1631) edition. Notice the substitution of goy, non-Jew, for idol worshipper.

Tur HM 249-Krakow 1631.jpg

It is forbidden to give a free gift to an goy, but it is permitted to give it to a resident alien (ger toshav) since we are commanded to save his life.

This was also the first edition of the Tur that included the R. Sirkes’s commentary, the Baḥ. The section of his commentary that I am interested in describes the censorship of texts that mention non-Jews.

Bayit Hadah on Tur HM 249-Krakow 1631 1.jpg
Bayit Hadash on Tur HM 249-Krakow, 1631 2.jpg

In my humble opinion, since the authorities are strict if non-Jews are mentioned dishonorably in our texts, therefore they removed the word “goy” and wrote in its place “idol worshipper,” but the most reliable version of our master’s books (i.e. the Tur), is that it is forbidden to give a free gift to a non-Jew (goy) as it is in the first chapter of Tractate Avodah Zarah.

The Baḥ was of the opinion that the original version of the Tur was

It is forbidden to give a free gift to an goy (non-Jew), but it is permitted to give it to a resident alien (ger toshav) since we are commanded to save his life.

The Baḥ’s intuition may very well have been correct. In the Feivi de Shoko (?) [1475] edition of the Tur the word is goy and not idol worshipper, although in the 1490 Soncino edition the word is idol worshipper. (I apologize for being unable to bring images of these texts, but the JNUL Digitized Books doesn’t work so well with a Mac.) One would have the check the many MSS of the Tur to see which was the original reading, although my hunch is that it was “goy” and not “idol worshipper.”

What happened to the comment of the Baḥ is possibly more interesting. This comment is still found in the Frankfurt am Main edition (1714).

Bayit Hadash on Tur HM 249-Frankfurt on Main, 1714.jpg

But it is missing from the Krakow (1861) edition.

Bayit Hadash on Tur HM 249-Krakow, 1861.jpg

Luckily, the Tur ha-Shalem edition has returned this comment to the Baḥ, although I wonder why they chose “idol worshipper” in the Tur and not “goy.”

Tur ha-Shalem HM 249.jpg

3 Responses to “Lo Tehanem and Censorship”

  1. 1

    The notes to the Tur Ha’Shalem state flatly that the early printed editions have גוי, and the notes to their Markowitz edition add that the MSS do, too.

  2. 2
    Menachem Mendel:


    Thanks. All the more reason to wonder why they didn’t change it in the text. I am not familiar with the Markowitz edition, how does it match up the Tur ha-Shalem?

  3. 3

    It’s a newer edition, with some of the commentaries and notes removed, yielding fewer pages / volumes, and a cheaper price point. The texts are basically the same, although I think we’ve noticed some slight improvements in the Markowitz edition.

    It also seems that while the older edition often leaves incorrect or problematic readings in the text, and adds corrections in the notes, in many cases the Markowitz edition just places the ‘right’ reading in the main text.

    In this case, I assume that the reason that both editions leave גוי in the main text is because that’s the version that was before ב”×™ and ב”×—.




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