||Work designed to provide uncensored material, that is, text omitted from printed censored editions of the Talmud. The title page asserts that it is a collection of omissions קבוצות ההדמטות. It states that included are all the material lacking from the Babylonian Talmud, Rashi, Tosafot, Rosh, and the Gr”a, and from the Mishnayot commentary of the Rambam. Also included are hesronot in the works of the Maharsha.
The need for a Hesronot ha-Shas results from the events that occurred in the second half of the sixteenth century and which have not to this day been completely corrected. On Rosh Ha-Shanah, 5314 (September 9, 1553) the Talmud was burned in Rome and shortly thereafter in several other cities in Italy. The Roman Catholic Church, engaged in the Counter Reformation, the Church’s response to the Protestant Reformation, demanded complete theological conformity from the faithful and attempted to extirpate every occurrence of heresy. The Catholic reaction was led by new popes unsympathetic to the liberal spirit that had characterized the Renaissance. Not only did the leaders of the Church now demand strict spiritual obedience from the faithful, but they also displayed a rigidly intolerant face to the Jewish community, recalling the worst anti-Semitic features of the middle ages. The atmosphere in Rome was thus considerably different from the more tolerant spirit that had prevailed only a few decades earlier.
In Rome, a committee of six cardinals, the Congregation of the Inquisition, for investigation was led by Cardinal Giovanni Pietro Caraffa, the future Pope Paul IV. Cardinal Caraffa was an extreme reactionary and a bitter anti-Semite. Under Caraffa’s direction, the committee reported in favor of burning the Talmud. On August 12, 1553, the Pope issued a bull ordering the confiscation and burning of the Babylonian and Jerusalem Talmuds. These documents, the Order to Collect and Examine Copies of the Talmud, and the Declaration of Giovanni Battista Frescolini and Brother Tommaso di Urbino, the former, a professor of theology, the latter, of the order of Santo Domenico, who were among those chosen to examine the Hebrew books in question played a significant role in the final tragedy. Both Giovanni Battista Frescolini and Brother Tommaso di Urbino declared the Talmud to contain offenses and blasphemies against the Catholic religion, recommending the books be “extinguished and execrated.” The final result was that representatives of the Inquisition, through a house-to-house search of the Jewish residences of Rome, collected copies of the Talmud, which were ceremoniously burned in Campo di Fiori on Rosh Ha-Shanah, 1553.
When permission was given to reprint the Talmud in Basle (1578-81) it was as a heavily expurgated edition, printed in accordance with the with the Council of Trent’s strictures, eliminating those passages considered offensive to Christianity. Among the restrictive conditions imposed was that the name Talmud not be used, it being disallowed by the index of forbidden books. Among the acceptable terms were gemara, shas (for Shisha Sedorim [six orders] of Mishna, and limud. Passages considered offensive were expurgated, while others were modified to make the contents acceptable to the censors. Tractate Avodah Zarah was entirely omitted, its name and subject matter, idolatry, being sufficient to disqualify it. Alterations were not done in a systematic manner, so that entries expurgated or modified in one place were left intact elsewhere. Nevertheless, some criteria were applied consistently. All references to Rome or Edom were understood as euphemisms for the Church, even if the clear intent was the pre-Christian classical period. Anthropomorphic statements, such as Ta’anit, 29a, “And G-d made a noise over them like the crowing of cocks,” and (Sanhedrin, 56b), “If any one strike an Israelite on the cheek it is as though he had struck the cheek of the Holy One,” were excluded. References which did not reflect well on Church practices were also expurgated or altered. Yevamot 63a, was modified from, “any man who is not married is not a [whole] man” to, “any Jew who is unmarried. . .” Reputedly done to exclude the pope and members of the priesthood, celibate, from the rule.
It is omissions such as these that Hesronot ha-Shas aims to correct.