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Menahem Kasher

KASHER, MENAHEM (1895–1983), rabbi and halakhist, distinguished for his research in talmudic and rabbinic literature. Kasher, born in Warsaw, studied under the greatest Polish rabbis of his time, and was primarily influenced in his method of study by Abraham Bornstein. He was ordained by Meir Dan *Plotzki in 1915 and went to Ereẓ Israel in 1925 as an emissary of Abraham Mordecai Alter, the head of the ḥasidic Gur dynasty, on whose behalf he founded in Jerusalem the yeshivah Sefat Emet, which he directed and managed for two years. Despite his communal work and his religious activity, Kasher never held any official appointment, and his reputation derives mainly from his literary work. This consists for the most part of varied anthologies, encyclopedic in character, which he not only initiated and wrote, but also took the responsibility for financing. His Torah Shelemah is an encyclopedia of the Talmud and Midrash, in which all relevant material in the oral law, both published and in manuscript, is collected according to the Scriptural verse to which it applies together with notes, expositions, and supplements. Thirty-three volumes, covering Genesis–Leviticus 24:23 had been published by 1981 (the first volume appeared in 1927). For this work, Kasher was awarded the Israel Prize in 1962. Gemara Shelemah (1960) deals with the first nine pages of the tractate Pesaḥim, with variant readings from all the known manuscripts and with all the relevant comments of the rishonim, together with notes and expositions by Barukh Naeh edited by Kasher – the beginning of a long-term project toward a scientific edition of the entire Talmud. Haggadah Shelemah (19563) comprises the Passover Haggadah with variant readings, notes, and expositions, to which are added a selection of relevant homiletic comments. Sarei ha-Elef (1959) consists of a list of Hebrew books whose authors lived between 500 and 1500, edited and arranged in conjunction with J. Mandelbaum. These compilations are basic reference works for all research in talmudic and rabbinic literature. In 1950 Kasher founded, in Jerusalem and in New York, the Torah Shelemah Institute for research and publication.

In 1956 Kasher discovered an extensive collection of writings by Joseph *Rozin, author of Ẓafenat Pa'ne'aḥ. In order to edit and publish this material he founded, together with the *Yeshiva University in New York, the Ẓafenat Pa'ne'aḥ Institute, which by 1970 had issued 12 volumes. Aside from these projects, Kasher published many works on varied subjects: Mefa'ne'aḥ Zefunot (1959), elucidating the halakhic terms and concepts used by Rozin in the above-mentioned book; Sefer ha-Rambam ve-ha-Mekhilta de-Rabbi Shimon b. Yoḥai (1943), clarifications of the sources of Maimonides; Shabbat Bereshit ve-Shabbat Sinai, in Talpiyoth, 1 (1944), and Ha-Shabbat u-Mizraḥ ha-Olam, in Ha-Pardes, 28 (1954), elucidations of the problem of the International Date Line prompted by the dilemma of the Jewish war refugees in Japan; a small collection of responsa by Rashi (1925); Targum Yerushalmi ha-Shalem from a Rome manuscript, and others. Kasher also devoted himself to the clarification of contemporary halakhic problems, and to comparisons of the views of the sages with modern concepts. These appear mostly in the annual publication No'am (1958– ) which Kasher founded and which he edited. The halakhic aspects of such problems as artificial insemination and autopsies are dealt with in this publication. Kasher also wrote an extensive article to prove the antiquity of the Zohar, and published many articles on the importance of manuscripts for a complete and correct understanding of the Talmud. He instituted an *eruv for Manhattan in New York which gave rise to considerable controversy. In 1968 there appeared his Ha-Tekufah ha-Gedolah in which he maintained that the establishment of the State of Israel is the beginning of the Redemption foretold by the prophets, and its development its progressive realization. A hitherto unknown work on a similar theme by R. Hillel Shklover, a disciple of Elijah Gaon of Vilna, is appended to the work with a commentary by Kasher.

Sources: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2007 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.