Wednesday 26 September 2018


Responsa of the Ramo.

The following article is a guest post by my dear friend and colleague, Rabbi Chaim Finkelstein, Rosh Yeshiva LeRabbonus Pretoria, South Africa:



Toward the middle of the fifteen hundreds, a new phenomenon arose which became the focus of much of the halachik literature of the time. Esrogim, imported from the arid regions of the Mediterranean, became questionable as to whether they may be used for the mitzva of Arba minim, the Torah's commandment to wave the four species, as the new Esrogim were a hybrid of citron and other citrus fruit. 

The best way to produce a robust and longer lasting citron tree was to graft the latter onto a lemon or lime tree, which could be achieved using several agricultural methods. The result was an Esrog that was also part lemon or part lime, and the hybrid Esrog became the center of much debate. The nomenclature used to describe the grafted Esrog is "murkav ". 

Since the purpose of this article is to educate more than complicate, we will explore the various opinions on the subject and offer a short analysis to give a principle to work with. This article is not exhaustive but since the murkav controversy continues until today, with some Esrog suppliers being accused of providing murkav specimens to the public, a brief guideline is more than enough, for as we know, without such guidelines matters can escalate into a veritable morass.  



The Levush - Rabbi Mordechai Yaffe. Orach Chaim siman 649 #4:

The problem with a grafted Esrog is due to its creation via prohibited means, for the Torah forbade the interbreeding of certain species of fauna and the splicing of two species of flora. Any object that was used or created by violating a Torah prohibition disqualifies it from being used again for sacred mitzva purposes. 


The Alshich Hakadosh. Responsa of Rabbi Moshe Alshich #106:

A grafted Esrog is viewed neither as an Esrog nor a lemon but rather as a composite fruit of both species intertwined. This disqualifies the fruit on three counts, firstly the Torah called for a complete Esrog and not half an Esrog. Secondly, that the Esrog component of the composite fruit may lack its minimum required bulk of the volume of an egg. And thirdly that the part of the fruit that is not a citron leaves the citron component missing half of its flesh. When an Esrog is missing flesh it is termed a חסר, an Esrog with a chunk missing, and is disqualified.


The Ramo, Rabbi Moshe Isserles. Responsa # 117 126:

A grafted Esrog is no longer an Esrog but a new hybrid fruit altogether, a fruit that the Torah does not recognize as a פרי עץ הדר, the required fruit of beauty or Esrog. The Ramo then goes on to describe the physical differences between a grafted Esrog and a pure one for his petitioner to discern for his congregants. The pure Esrog has a bumpy rind as opposed to a grafted one which has a smooth skin.

The pure Esrog has its stem indented as opposed to the grafted one where the stem lies flush on the fruit bottom. The pure Esrog has a thick rind with little juice to be squeezed from it, as opposed to the grafted one which has a thinner rind and juicy center. (A fourth mark is mentioned by the Magen Avraham as that the pure Esrog has its seeds lying vertical in the seed box, unlike the grafted one where the seeds lie horizontal, cf. infra). 


The Bach, Rabbi Yisroel Sirkis. Responsa # 135 136:

The grafted species of Esrog differs only slightly in aroma and texture from a thoroughbred Esrog and as such may be used for the mitzva. Although deferring to others the Bach sees no real issue with the murkav. 


Most of the preeminent Poskim  side with the Ramo, viz. the Magen Avraham (648:23), the Taz (ibid 649:3), the Shulchan Aruch Harav (648:31) the Shvus Yaakov (Responsa vol 1 #36  ) et al, that a grafted Esrog is really a new species of fruit that differs from the Esrog mentioned in the Torah, and as such is not fit for the mitzva. The rationale of the Alshich is not mentioned and that of the Levush is rejected (cf. ad loc). 

Thus far we have outlined the basis for disqualifying the grafted Esrog, revealing no room to manoeuvre, for even the Bach who was convinced of the fruit's validity still sided with his esteemed contemporaries in forbidding the use of such an Esrog. It seems to be an open shut case that any form of hybrid Esrog is not fit for use. 


However, the matter is far from over. Several key questions need to be addressed which will open the issue to more understanding. Firstly, there is no mention of such a disqualification in the Talmud and Rishonim when the list of the flaws of an Esrog are enumerated. This is perplexing and to excuse it by arguing that the technology wasn't used back then is erroneous, for grafting was mentioned in many mishnayos and theologically the Talmud deals with almost impossible cases to extract principles, regardless of the period's technology. 

So why should this case differ?  Secondly, we need to consider a botanical reality, that cross-pollination by bees between citron and other citrus trees has resulted in new generations of hybrid Esrogim. So in fact most, if not all Esrogim are essentially grafted ones nowadays. Some contemporary opinions proffer that grafting by definition means the splicing of already forming Esrogim to citrus branches and not the inception at pollen level of undefined plant matter. See Chazon Ish (kilayim siman 2 #16). 

However based on the Ramo and most Poskim this definition does not address the specific invalidation of the grafted Esrog, for as noted, the hybrid Esrog is no longer the sacred fruit by dint of its genetic adulteration,  so what difference should it make when the adulteration occurred? This is indeed a serious issue for we may be faced with the possibility that most or all Esrogim are no longer kosher! 

A possible solution to the above conundrum presents itself after a careful reading of the Ramo and the other Poskim. A grafted Esrog is disqualified only when it loses the identifying characteristics of an Esrog, which happens when the outer appearance is one of a new citrus fruit with binary features. 

However if the fruit bares its signature features of the bumpy rind, the thick center, the indented stem and the vertically lying seeds (which can be assumed if the external features are present. Shvus Yaakov cf supra), then this fruit is the fruit of beauty פרי עץ הדר, irrespective of the percentage of genetic purity present. This would also account for why the Ramo went to pains to provide the identifying marks instead of ruling out the use of grafted Esrogim, for the real determinant lies in the features of the fruit at hand and not really the subcutaneous microstructure.

If we understand the sources this way then all becomes clear. The Talmud did not need to mention the flaw of a murkav, for a simple approach of "if it looks like an Esrog it's an Esrog" needs no further elaboration nor specific inclusions in Tannaic literature. This approach is germane to the general Talmudic appraisal of objects based on their lay characteristics as opposed to their biological or microscopic makeup. (Cf. Responsa Yechave Daas vol 6 # 47).  

This would also account for the acceptance of Esrogim despite the possibility of cross-pollination ruining the purity of the species, for as long as the unique characteristics of the Esrog fruit are apparent to the naked eye the fruit qualifies for the mitzva. Coupled with the assertion of the Bach that the effects of grafting are negligible there is little room to be concerned when an Esrog looks the part. 

A similar conclusion is reached by Rabbi Efrayim Margules in his Responsa Beis Efrayim (# 56,circa 1800). After a long dissection of the Talmudic sources which reject the position of the Levush that a grafted Esrog is an object of sin, and that of the Alshich that the murkav is half an Esrog, the author provides the same context as mentioned above for understanding the Ramo and most of the Poskim that if the fruit looks like an Esrog it is an Esrog.

(I observe with interest that contemporary scholars who cite the Beis Efrayim choose to quote only several lines where the author posits that even the Levush would allow a hybrid seed to be reproduced. They divorce these lines from the rest of the Responsa and use them as the only basis for permitting second generation murkavim. After learning through the entire responsa we can see that quoting text without context is seriously misleading.). 


At his point the halachik literature is replete with various interpretations which either defend the above thesis or maintain that genetic purity is indispensable to the mitzva (And the plot thickens when we take for example the writings of the Tzemach Tzeddek of Lubavitch Responsa Orach Chaim # 64 who disqualifies any Esrog that has been adulterated, yet is quoted in the work Beis Rebbe page 75 as relying on the Rabbi Margules where necessary, permitting the Korfo grafted Esrogim!). 


When choosing an Esrog that bears all the hallmark features of an Esrog there should really be no concern whether the microscopic composition of the fruit is adulterated, and since all of our Esrogim bare the distinct characteristics of the Esrog there should be no doubt as to its validity. Unless dealers are certified as maintaining a rigid control over cultivation practices, including the prevention of cross-pollination, then no Esrog is genetically superior to another. 

And even if the authenticity of such a dealer can be established, the superior fruit would be nothing more than a hiddur, an added measure of observance, given the preponderance of literature supporting the logical and workable halachik guideline mentioned above.

Sunday 23 September 2018


The burial place of the kabbalist R. Nechemya Mota in Cochin, India.


Not much information can be found on the kabbalist, R. Nechemya ben Avraham Mota (d. 1575[1]), although what little can be gleaned about him and his community is intriguing. He is also known as the Tzadik of Cochin, a town in the tropical area of Kerala (meaning coconut) in southwest India.



The Bene Yisrael or Shanivar Teli caste of Indian Jews is quite well known and well documented. They inhabited the central western coastline of India and later moved to Mumbai and parts of today’s Pakistan.

Rambam (1135-1204) mentions that there were Jews living in India, and it is generally understood that he may have been referring to the Bene Yisrael.[2]

But there was another group of Jews that lived in Cochin, about which not much is known:


According to Nathan Katz[3], a Jewish community has existed in Cochin for about two thousand years. During that time, they experienced peace and prosperity while participating actively in the spice trade, government and even the military. At one stage, besides enjoying an autonomous Jewish principality, there was even a Jewish prime minister to a Hindu Maharaja.

According to some accounts, Jewish sailors started arriving in southwest India from the time of King Solomon. Other accounts suggest that Jews came there during the Babylonian Exile around 500 BCE, or after the destruction of the Second Temple around 70 CE. Still other accounts put it during the 4th-century migration from Majorca. And according to a traditional song sung by some Malayam Jews, their ancestors came from Yemen.

Either way, the Jewish community developed their own style of liturgy, known as nusach Shingly, after the ancient centre of Cranganore, north of Cochin, which the Jews called Shingly. In 1341 a flood changed the coastline and the port of Cranganore was silted up and a new harbour opened up in Cochin. The Jews then moved to Cochin.

The Cochin Jews were never a homogenous group since they descended from Jews of various cultural backgrounds. There were three separate synagogues (the Tekkumbagam, Paradesi and Tekkavumbagam Synagogues) all within walking distance of each other in what was called later referred to as ‘Jew Town’.

The oldest documentary evidence of this community goes back to 1000CE, when one Yosef Rabban received some engraved copper plates from the Hindu ruler exempting the Jews from paying taxes, and allowing them to collect tolls and use drums and lamps - which was considered an honourable ritual status. These plates are apparently still preserved in the Paradesi Synagogue in Cochin.

The Maharaja gave the Jews a large portion of land which was named Mattancherry, right next to his palace.  Mattancherry is a mixture of Hebrew and Malayalam, meaning Gift of Land.

In this far corner of the world, the Jews developed their own language which was a mixture of Hebrew and Malayalam and produced a number of rabbis and even kabbalists who enjoyed the rather unique distinction of being revered by Hindus, Muslims and Christians.

The Cochin Jews probably developed the most exotic religious practices in the Jewish world, as – living in India – they became an elite caste and also adopted some Hindu symbols. Unfortunately, the caste system created some friction within the Jewish community as Jews discriminated amongst themselves and in one particular case a caste controversy waged for five hundred years.

When Israel attained independence in 1948, a year after Indian became independent, most of the Cochin Jews immigrated to Israel. Today there are about four thousand Cochin Jews in Israel.
Although there are only about sixty (some say twenty-six) Jews still there today, it is estimated that many thousands of Jews once lived in that fertile area of the Malabar coast of Kerala.

The Paradesi Synagogue today.
During the 16th-century, there was a new wave of Jewish migration to Kerala, with many refugees from the Spanish and Portuguese expulsions. These new immigrants were known as Paradesis or foreigners. They built their own Paradesi Synagogue just thirty yards from the Maharaja’s palace in Cochin. These newcomers were also referred to as ‘white Jews’ as opposed to the original Jewish inhabitants who were called ‘black Jews’. The Paradesi Jews did not intermarry with the original Jews.
The Paradesi Synagogue has a three-story clock tower (added in 1761) with three faces. The side which faces the Maharaja’s palace has Malayalam characters, while the side facing Jew Town has Roman characters and the side facing the synagogue has Hebrew characters.
Visitors must remove their shoes before entering these synagogues in keeping with the Hindu and Muslim practice. Removing shoes before entering a synagogue was also a custom in Yemen (and the Talmud Yerushalmi records that it was also the custom in Israel – although not in Babylonia[4]).

One of the silver crowns on the Sefer Torah was a gift from the Maharaja in 1803. In 1968 the Paradesi Synagogue celebrated its 400 anniversary and the celebration was attended by Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. A commemorative stamp was also issued.
Cochin Jews (known as Cochinim) commemorate the passing of their kabbalist, R. Nechemya Mota, on the anniversary of his death which is on the first day of Chanukah. He is also known as Naamia Mootha.
His tomb in Jew Town has become a place of pilgrimage not just for Jews but also for Hindus, Muslims and Christians.
Stories abound of his miraculous deeds including his alleged ability to fly through the air to reach his home before Shabbat prayers.
The first English reference to Nechemya Mota was in the 1907 edition of the Jewish Encyclopaedia, which states that he was a false messiah who appeared to the Jews of Cochin. This has subsequently been contested but of course, the entry (and hence the allegation) still remains.
Most scholars seem to think he hailed from Yemen, although some believe he came from Italy or even Poland. He married a woman from the original or ‘black Jewish’ community.
The 1757 nusach Shingly Machzor, contains around twenty of Nechemya Mota’s prayers – but for some reason, they were omitted from the 1769 edition. In more recent editions, printed in Israel, they were reincorporated back into the Shingly nusach.
The following is an English translation of the inscription from his headstone:
“Here rest the remains of
the famous kabbalist,
The influence of the light of whose learning
shines throughout the country,
The perfect sage, the hasid, and
God-fearing Nehemia, the son of
The dear rabbi and sage Abraham Mota.
Our Master departed this life on
Sunday, the 25th of Kislev, 5336 (1575).
May his soul rest in peace.”

Another noteworthy Cochin rabbi was David Rachabi is known for his work, Ohel Yisrael, which deals with the origins of the Hebrew calendar. He also makes comparisons between the Islamic and Hindu calendars.

Ohel David by R. David Rachabi
R. David Rachabi appears to have discovered the other group of Indian Jews, the Shanivar Teli or Bene Yisrael, who were living in little villages and keeping Jewish customs. They were thought to have possibly been descendants from the Lost Tribes. David Rachabi then taught the Bene Yisrael about contemporary Jewish practices to bring them in line with the rest of the Jewish world.

He trained young men, known as Kajis, to become teachers and they assumed leadership roles in the community.

[There were, however, two people who were called David Rachabi and no one is certain which one discovered the Bene Yisrael. One Bene Yisrael tradition has it that David Rachabi arrived either around the year 1000 or 1400.
Others suggest a David Rachabi had lived between 1694 and 1772.[5]]


The religious leaders of Cochin were called Chachamim. Although there does not seem to be evidence of any halachic responsa literature emanating from Cochin, they certainly did adhere to halacha and often wrote to the rabbis of Cairo and Jerusalem for halachic guidance.
The community of Cochin had a number of very talented sofrim or scribes who wrote beautiful Torah, Megillah and Mezuzah scrolls. These scrolls were in high demand by Jews of Europe.
Besides scrolls, there were hundreds of other religious manuscripts produced in Cochin.


The Cochin Jews developed their unique Judeo-Malayalam, much like Ladino in Spain and Yiddish in Germany. According to a fascinating individual, Thoufeek Zakriya[6], a Muslim native of Cochin who is drawn to the Jewish history of Cochin and wants to preserve it – some examples of Targum Malyalemi would be ‘assadeekha’ for haTzadik and ‘yayina’ for yayin (wine).


There is still much to discover about this gem of a Jewish community that very few have even heard of. It would be intriguing to find some more of the writings of the rabbis of Cochin, particularly of the kabbalist, Nechemya Mota.

So much more of the story of the Jews of Cochin still needs to be told.

POSTSCRIPT: As of the time of publishing this article, I have just communicated with Rabbi Yonatan Goldschmidt who is currently in the Paradesi Synagogue for the High Holy Days and hope to be able to get more accurate information from him about this fascinating community.

R. Yonatan Goldschmidt at the tomb of Nechemya Mota. 

Photo courtesy of R. Goldschmidt who confirms that very little is known about this Indian Kabbalist.

Johnson, Barbara C. and Daniel, Ruby.  Ruby of Cochin:  An Indian Jewish Woman Remembers.  Philadelphia and Jerusalem:  The Jewish Publication Society, 1995.
Joshua, Isaac.  The Synagogues of Kerala 70 CE to 1988, unpublished, 1988.
Segal, J. B.  The History of the Jews of Cochin.  London:  Vallentine Mitchell, 1993.
Spalak, Orpha.  The Jews of India: A Story of Three Communities.  Jerusalem:   The Israel Museum, 1995.
Jewish Virtual Library.
Jews of Malabar (online), Thoufeek Zakriya.
Roland JG (1998) The Jewish communities of India.


A young girl from South Africa spent a Shabbat in Kochi, while on holiday in India. This is her story:
4 January 2020
By Yael Robins, aged 15
………   We arrive at shul and I look around at the davening. I go outside and play cards and the rabbi and rebbetzins daughter comes and joins us as well.
After the service we go and get an explanation of the Torah’s and it turns out Rebbetzin Elisheva is from South Africa and so is her mother and she is Afrikaans. My mom talked to her a lot and my dad talked to Rabbi Goldschmidt who was a really funny guy that got married by and learnt with Rabbi Benschlous which is so COOL.
They invited us to kiddush and lunch and had delicious food which was all VEGAN. Ayelet got on well with the little girl and she had a play date with her for the afternoon while we all played with the little baby boy.
After lunch we went to the Dutch Palace museum where children were free so we went in and my poor parents stayed outside. The museum was really cool but my parents would have enjoyed it more.
We went back to our homestay to relax and I read a bit. We were exhausted because it was so so hot and we had had a long walk back.
Then at 6ish we went for a walk and then after Shabbat came out we got a tuktuk to the RabbI and Rebbetzin’s house for Havdallah. I played with the baby and when it was time to say goodbye the baby gave me one last hug and wouldn’t go back to his mom and then he kissed my cheek and started crying when I left.

The Rabbi showed us a grave in the alley behind his house. It was of a Jewish mystic who is revered by the Hindus and Christians as well as the Jews. The neighbouring Christian Hindus regularly paint the memorial and look after it.

[1] Some put the date as 1615.
[2]Roland JG (1998) The Jewish communities of India.
[3] The Last Jews of Cochin: Jewish Identity in Hindu India, by Nathan Katz and E. S. Goldberg.
[4] Yerushalmi Bava Metzia 2,9.
[5] There was also a much later David (Baruch) Rachabi who lived around the early 1800s, although he clearly could not have been the author of Ohel David which was published in 1785.

Sunday 9 September 2018


Bomberg edition of Mikraot Gedolot 1525, edited by Yaakov ben Chaim Adoniyah.
It is often emphasized - when teaching any section of Torah, especially to children – that the exact printed format with the original page layout of the text should be used. So, for example, one shouldn’t just type out the wordage, but rather copy the primary text from the Gemora or Chumash itself.
This is known as Tzuras haDaf, or the format of the page, which is said to be beneficial for students to learn from and become acquainted with – almost as if it has some mystical significance.
In this article, we are going to look at the fascinating and rather surprising story of how that basic format of a typical Chumash and Gemara which we use today, was first developed.

Daniel Bomberg[1] (1483-1549) was the father of printing and publishing when it came to Jewish religious books. He was born in Antwerp and he was a Christian, yet he wasn’t just a printer – he became the catalyst for the preservation of our main Torah texts as we know them.
All in all, Bomberg published about two hundred Jewish books, many for the first time.

Among the rabbis Daniel Bomberg employed and consulted with, were some of the most respected of the time, including R. Meir ben Isaac Katzenellenbogen (he was the founder of the Katzenellenbogen family), known as the Maharam of Padua:
The Maharam of Padua authored the well-known responsa work, She’elot uTeshuvot, and was an interesting rabbi in his own right. He was related to R. Moshe Isserless who referred to him as the Rabbi of Padua, and he was known for his more lenient and liberal rulings. He also referred to the non-Jewish months by name (in some cases) which was very unusual for a rabbi of that time.
To illustrate the dangerous spirit of those difficult times: In 1549, the Maharam of Padua was involved in printing the Rambam’s Mishneh Torah, under the licence of another printing press, the Bragadini press. Jews were not allowed to own printing presses but they were allowed to operate them, under the patronage of non-Jewish owners.
At the same time, a rival printing press - the Giustiniani press – pirated the Bragadini press’ Mishneh Torah. Things turned sour and the censors got involved and the result was a large-scale burning of Talmudim and other Jewish books.[2]
In another instance, the Maharam of Padua wrote that one should not rely on his opinion because he had no copy of the Talmud to refer to, as all the manuscripts were burned[3]. This additional burning of the Talmud took place around 1553 under Pope Julius III, who was advised to take such action by Jews who had recently become baptized!

In Venice, Daniel Bomberg adopted aspects of the earlier Joshua Soncino format of 1483, with what is known as the ‘foliation'[4] (such as Bava Kama 52b) and what has become the universal format of the Talmud page, with Rashi on the ‘inside’ and Tosefot on the ‘outside’. 
Bomberg added the other commentaries which are found at the back of printed tractates of Talmud. Soncino had only printed sixteen tractates and did not access all the Talmudic manuscripts which Bomberg was able to source. This made Bomberg’s Talmud much more reliable.
To this day, the standard and conventional layout of the Talmud follows the 1523 edition of the Bomberg Talmud.
It took him four years, from 1519-1523, to produce his Talmud, which was project managed by R. Chiya Meir ben David who was a judge on the Beit Din of Venice.

The Bomberg Talmud was published with the approval of Pope Leo X (although he died in 1521), who showed special favours to the Jews. He was a patron of all forms of study, having raised the salaries of the eighty-eight professors who taught at the Roman University and he wanted to elevate the church by encouraging all intellectual pursuits. He believed that the printing of the Talmud would help him in with the ascension of the Church.

As mentioned, in Daniel Bomberg’s Venice publishing house, he consulted expert sages, scholars and rabbis. But one of his main consultants was Felix Pratensis, a Jew who had converted to Christianity to become an Augustinian Friar! In fact, it was Felix Pratensis who first encouraged Bomberg to publish Torah books in the first instance.
Daniel Bomberg’s first published work, as early as 1517, was the Chumash (Five Books of Moses) with many commentaries (some which had never been printed before), and it was entitled Mikraot Gedolot.  Friar Felix Pratensis was particularly involved in this publication, and it was also endorsed by the Pope.
The first Mikraot Gedolot was not widely welcomed by the Jews, because it had mistakes with cantillation or musical symbols, but the fact that the apostate Pratensis was involved was also a major part of the objection.
What the Bomberg’s Mikraot Gedolot did do was to innovate the Torah text by organizing it into Chapters and Verses. Although this reference system had been in use in Christian circles since the 1200’s, this was the first time it was used in a printed text of the Torah. It has remained the standard printing procedure ever since then. Many would find this surprising as every Chumash we open today, naturally has chapters and verses and one somehow imagines that it was always like this.
Bomberg wanted to be as accurate as he could with his versions of the printed texts, but his hands were tied by some of the restrictions of the Church. In the case of R. David Kimchi, known as the Radak, much of his commentary was indeed censored as some of his writing contained anti-Christian polemics. However, in fairness to Bomberg, he later published a limited edition of the full text of the Radak as a separate enterprise.

A second revised and corrected edition of Mikraot Gedolot was published a while later, this time with Tunisian born Yaakov ben Chaim Adoniyah as editor – and that became the format for all future Mikraot Gedolot. He was an expert in Nikud or vocalization, and also edited the first edition of the Jerusalem Talmud and Rambam’s Yad. Later Adoniyah was also to convert to Christianity - yet his edition remains the standard we still use today.

 DAVID GINSBURG (1831-1914):
A more modern scholar, who studied and wrote about Yaakov ben Chaim Adoniyah, was David Ginsburg. He was born to a wealthy family in Warsaw and studied in top Polish Yeshivot.
Yet - in keeping with the strange history of those involved in perpetuating our sacred texts - he too converted to Christianity. He moved to England and became Christian David Ginsburg.
Ginsburg considered Yaakov Adoniyah as a type of ‘mentor’ (although he had lived three hundred years earlier), and he took up the subject almost where it was left off by those early pioneers who worked with Bomberg. Ginsburg continued the search for portions of text from the countless manuscripts scattered throughout Europe and the East.
Christian David Ginsburg translated into English Yaakov Adoniyah’s Introduction to Mikraot Gedolot:

(NOTE: I couldn’t help but notice that the original Mikraot Gedolot of 1525 was called Shaar Hashem haChadash [see picture at beginning of article] whereas in Ginsburg’s book he refers to it as Shaar Hashem haKadosh.)

In 1867, in his preface to his second edition of his English translation of Yaakov Adoniya’s Introduction, Ginsburg writes rather mysteriously:
“...For the elaborate Indices, I am to a great extent indebted to a friend, whose name I am not at liberty to mention.”
One wonders who that individual could have been and why his identity was kept from us.
[Perhaps the following excerpt may shed some light:
Inspite of his personal status his works are still cited and used by many present day talmidei chachamim and serve as an invaluable work towards preserving the massorah of the correct text of Tanach. Seforim Online offers the original 4 vols. in the 6 vols. Edition.”[5]]
Ginsburg gives an overview of the life and times of Yaakov Adoniyah:
Very little is known of the life of JACOB BEN CHAJIM ADONIJAH, who rescued the Massorah from perdition, and for the first time collated, compiled, and gave to the world in a printed form the grand critico-exegetical apparatus, bequeathed to us by the Jews of olden times. In his celebrated Introduction to the Rabbinic Bible, which we publish with an English translation, he tells us that he was a resident of Tunis...Hence he is also called Tunisi...
For more than seven years (1510-1517) Ibn Adonijah roamed about homeless in the different towns of Italy, where at that time Hebrew literature was greatly cultivated and patronised by the highest of the land; and where popes and cardinals, princes and statesmen, warriors and recluses of all kinds were in search of Jewish teachers, in order to be instructed in the mysteries of the Kabbalah.
Whether it was owing to his conscientious scruples, which would not allow him to initiate Gentiles into this esoteric doctrine...[he did not find work, and] he had at first to endure great privations during his sojourn in Rome and Florence. He at last went to Venice, where the celebrated Daniel Bomberg, of Antwerp, had at that very time established his famous Hebrew press (1516), and...he at once became connected with the printing office.”
Then Ginsburg informs us that it wasn’t only the ‘Rabbinic Bible’ or Mikraot Gedolot, that Yaakov ben Chaim Adoniyah edited, but also:
 “...the entire Babylonian Talmud, published by Bomberg in 1520-1528, was partly edited by Jacob b. Chajim [Adonijah]...simultaneously...Ibn Adonijah also worked at the editio princeps of the Jerusalem Talmud.”
And that’s not all, because:
“...within twelve months...he edited...the stupendous legal and ritual code of Maimonides, entitled, Mishne this code, which appeared in 1524...Ibn Adonijah wrote an Introduction.
It is perfectly amazing, to find that the editing of these works, which would itself more than occupy the whole time of ordinary mortals in the present day, was simply the recreation of Jacob b. Chajim; and that the real strength of his intellect, and the vast stores of his learning, were employed at that very time in collecting and collating MSS [manuscripts] of the Massorah, and in preparing for the press the Rabbinic Bible, which was published in 1524-25...”
Ginzburg then quotes Yaakov ben Chaim Adoniyah:
Behold, I have exerted all my might and strength to collate and arrange the Massorah, with all the possible improvements, in order that it may remain pure and bright, and shew its splendour to the nations and princes...This was a labour of love, for the benefit of our brethren, the children of Israel, and for the glory of our holy and perfect law...
As regards the Commentaries, I have exerted my powers to the utmost degree to correct them in all the mistakes as far as possible: and whatever my humble endeavours could accomplish was done for the glory of the Lord, and for the benefit of our people. I would not be deterred by the enormous labour, for which cause I did not suffer my eyelids to be closed long, either in the winter or summer, and did not mind rising in the cold of the night, as my aim and desire were to see this holy work finished.”
This is how Yaakov Adoniyah describes his boss, Daniel Bomberg:
When I explained to Bomberg the advantage of the Massorah, he did all in his power to send into all the countries in order to search out what may be found of the Massorah...and we obtained as many of the Massoretic books as could possibly be got. He was not backward, and his hand was not closed, nor did he draw back his right hand from producing gold out of his purse, to defray the expenses of his books, and of the messengers who were engaged to make the search for them in the most remote corners...”

There are many ironies in this story: Besides the Maharam of Padua and R. Chiya Meir ben David, the other main participants were either Christian (Daniel Bomberg and Pope Leo X), or Jews who had converted to Christianity (Friar Felix Pratensis, Yaakov Adoniyah and Christian David Ginsburg).
The extent of this irony should not be lost because it is difficult enough to study the Torah with all its main commentaries, the Rambam’s encyclopaedic Mishneh Torah, the Babylonian and Jerusalem Talmudim – let alone know how to collect the most accurate source material for all those texts and then collating and editing them.
Such work requires special minds even more expansive than the great students who later study them. The Reader is urged look at Hachi Garsinan, to get some perspective of just how variant some of the source texts are – to the extent that they can change the meaning of the matter under investigation.[6]
What had happened to Felix Pratensis that he became a Friar and why did converted Jews encourage Pope Julius III to burn the Talmud?
And after reading about Yaakov Adoniya refusing to teach Kabbalah to non-Jews because of the value he placed on the esoteric tradition; and how he tried to make a Kiddush haShem and relentlessly laboured on behalf of ‘our brethren, the children of Israel’- one wonders why such a scholar was later to leave his own religion for another.
One of the heroes of the story must surely be Daniel Bomberg himself who spent his own money to fund the collection of accurate manuscripts (and who fought against censorship as we saw with his limited edition of Radak) and bequeathed to later generations works which were to become the cornerstone of all future Torah learning. 
He must surely rank among the righteous of the nations.

[1] Sometimes referred to as Bombergi.
[2] Cecil Roth, History of the Jews in Venice, p. 256.
[3] She’erit Yosef 1.
[4] The is a difference between foliation and pagination: Pagination is defined as:consecutive page numbering to indicate the proper order of the pages, which was rarely found in documents pre-dating 1500, and only became common practice c. 1550, when it replaced foliation, which numbered only the front sides of folios”.
[5] Massorah Massoreth Massoretic RabbinicHebrewBible.  C.D.Ginsburg. 1865. 1905. 4vols. plus 3 vols.
[6] My friend, Mendy Rosin recently visited R. David Bar-Hayim in Israel, and he writes: 
"...He [R. Bar-Hayim] then showed me what he was currently working on, comparing various early manuscripts of the Mishna for discrepancies. It also just so happened that on the screen at that time, he showed, was a page from the Gemora (possibly Bavli Nedarim 62a at the bottom) where a verse from Vayikra was quoted but missing a whole world (the four-letter name of Hashem if my memory recalls correctly). Rav Bar-Hayim mentioned that there are many instances of single letter differences between our text of the Torah and what the Gemora quotes - but a whole world is irregular."