Two Versions of the Rambam on "Removing Hametz"
In Asufot v. III Moshe Assis published an article trying to answer the question of which edition of the Mishneh Torah was used by Yoseph Karo when he wrote his commentary on the Mishneh Torah, the Kesef Mishneh. Assis concluded that Karo used the Constantinople edition published in 1509 as his primary text. Assis also said that whenever Karo comments on a “גירסא בקצת ספרי רבינו” (“a version found in some books of our teacher”), Karo is referring to manuscripts of the Mishneh Torah that were available to him. Assis’s article dealt only with the laws from “zerayim” (agricultural laws), but there is a similar question raised on a very timely halakhah in the Rambam. In the Laws of Hametz and Matzah 2:2 we read in the printed version of the Mishneh Torah “ומה היא השבתה זו האמורה בתורה היא שיבטל החמץ בלבו ויחשוב אותו כעפר וישים בלבו שאין ברשותו חמץ כלל” (“What is the ‘removal’ of hametz that is mentionned in the Torah: It is that one should nullify the hametz in his heart and consider it like dust and put it in his heart that there is no hametz in his possession at all”). Yet the version which Karo quotes in the Kesef Mishneh is “ומה היא השבתה זו האמורה בתורה היא שיסיר החמץ הידוע לו מרשותו ושאינו ידוע יבטל בלבו וישים אותו כעפר” (“What is the ‘removal’ of hametz that is mentionned in the Torah: It is that one should remove the hametz which is known to him from his domain and [the hametz] which is not known to him he should nullify in his heart and consider it like dust…”). In the version quoted by the Kesef Mishneh there is a distinction made between hametz that is known to a person and hametz that isn’t known to them, with bittul hametz (“nullification of hametz”) only effective regarding hametz which is not known to a person. Karo comments that “זו הנוסחא שבספרי רבינו שבידינו” (“this is the version that is in the books of our master that are in our hands”). Apparently this version was possibly found, according to Assis’s theory, in some manuscripts which were known to Karo. According to the notes in the back of the Frankel edition of the Mishneh Torah, the version brought by the Kesef Mishneh is found in a mss. from the JNUL , although I can’t seem to find this mss. in their catalogue since it is listed by the apparently older number of 4–446. The only difference being that in place of “שיסיר” it has “שיבער”. Both the Kafih and Rabinowitz editions of the Mishneh Torah have the version that is found in the printed edition with only minor changes. The Frankel edition is not the last word in the question of the mss. versions but it is a good place to start. Of the early printed editions of the Mishneh Torah most have the version found in the Kesef Mishneh. The two exceptions are the Venice edition of 1574 and the Moses ben Shaltiel edition from Spain/Portugal which has been dated to either 1492 or 1497 (see S.Z. Havlin’s introduction to the fascimile edition). Karo makes no small attempt to show how the version that he brings is incorrect, discussing the versions of the text found in other sources and if applicable bringing their discussions of the variant readings of the Rambam. חג כשר ושמח, a festive Passover to all.