Yabia Omer vol. 9 Orah Haim sim. 96:

גם ראיתי בקובץ "משנת חכמים", (תשרי תש"ס), במאמר מאת הרה"ג עזריאל מנצור (עמוד לה) שכתב, ששאל על זה מאת הרה"ג יעקב מוצפי זצ"ל, ואמר לו, שספר "תורה לשמה" אינו לרבי יוסף חיים.‏

HaRav Yaakov Muztafi זצ"ל was quoted saying that Sefer "Torah Lishma" is not from the Ben Ish Hai! I am misunderstanding this? Can someone please explain what exactly is going on? This book is known to be from the BI"H.


Moshe Koppel did an computer analysis of this sefer, comparing it to R. Yosef Chaim's Rav Pe'alim, and concluded that the two were works were written by the same author.

The particular authorship verification problem we will consider here is a genuine literary conundrum. We are given two nineteenth century collections of Hebrew- Aramaic responsa. The first, RP (Rav Pe'alim) includes 509 documents authored by an Iraqi rabbinic scholar known as Ben Ish Chai. The second, TL (Torah Lishmah) includes 524 documents that Ben Ish Chai, claims to have found in an archive. There is ample historical reason to believe that he in fact authored the manuscript but did not wish to take credit for it for personal reasons (Ben-David 2003).

  • Very interesting. I didn't conduct an analysis of the limited data that was made available in the paper, but it seems there may be sufficient lexical differences to distinguish meaningfully between Rav Pe'alim and Torah Lishmah (beyond just intentional changes in difference and purpose). It took the removal of over 30 of the most glaringly different features just to bring the rate of distinct pairwise lexical features below 60%. (Then again, I don't have expertise in this area, so maybe it's normal for works by the same author in the same genre to stay above 60% after repeated unmasking). – Fred Jul 7 '16 at 19:45
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    Perhaps the Ben Ish Chai's responsa-writing style was heavily influenced by the Torah Lishmah, and maybe that could explain most of the major lexical similarities between RP and TL. (Unless the Ben Ish Chai claimed to have found TL after he wrote RP?) – Fred Jul 7 '16 at 19:45

There is a Mahloket between Hacham Ovadia Yosef Shelita (Yabia 9:OH:96) and HaRav Yaakov Moshe Hilel Shelita (one of his biographies of Ben Ish Hai - in the Inyan about "Torah Lishma): Hacham Ovadia (obviously) holds it was not written by Rabenu Yosef Haim. However, Hacham Yaakov Hilel holds it was written by him, and he even adds "ודלא כאלה שפקפו בזה".

  • The text of Yabia Omer that you quoted does not show that Rav Ovadiah accepts what he heard in the name of Rav Mutzafi. – Dave Mar 30 '12 at 20:59
  • @Dave not that text, but if you the rest of the Teshuva you will see he agrees. – Hacham Gabriel Mar 30 '12 at 21:11
  • What does he say about this? – ertert3terte Mar 30 '12 at 21:19
  • @ShmuelBrill he is not saying it Stam, he proves it. (anyways, that's his grandson, not his son). – Hacham Gabriel Mar 30 '12 at 22:16
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    @HachamGabriel - all that proves is that the author wanted to present it as if it were written by someone else (which was evidently his intent in writing under a pseudonym). – Dave Apr 1 '12 at 5:06

There is an article by Levi Cooper which discusses the authorship and the computer analysis - the conclusion is that the Ben Ish Chai is the author - see https://www.academia.edu/21091728/A_Baghdadi_Mystery_Rabbi_Yosef_Hayim_and_Torah_Lishmah

  • Thanks for posting this! I quoted this paper in a shiur not long ago, and when I saw this question bumped, I was going to come and post it... – רבות מחשבות Mar 29 '19 at 11:11
  • 1/2 Both Cooper's and Koppel's articles are interesting, but I think that there are other forms of data they left unexplored. For instance if you compare the style of responsa themselves (i.e. not the type of words they use but the type of responsa they are) there is an obvious difference that immediately jumps out at you. The responsa in Torah Lishmah are often short and cheap on sources cited. – Alex Mar 29 '19 at 15:22
  • 2/2 When comparing the average length of responsa in the 2012 set that printed them together you find that Torah Lishmah had less than a page per responsum, while the volumes of Rav Pealim ranged from just under 3 to just under 4 pages per responsum. i.stack.imgur.com/GLDPw.jpg The introduction to Rav Pealim also lays out the approach that the Ben Ish Chai feels is proper in terms of utilizing various sources. It would be interesting to analyze each responsum in both books to see to what extent they follow this (my impression is that Torah Lishmah follows it less). – Alex Mar 29 '19 at 15:22
  • @רבותמחשבות (In case you're interested as well.) – Alex Mar 29 '19 at 15:23
  • I read two more articles both in Hebrew which deal with actual content and sources in the Torah Lishma - they point to a later date - and raise more question. Both articles are on the Bar Ilan Responsa project. (also look at Cooper's first footnote) ע' כתב עת צהר ב תשנ"ח ר' יהודה לביא בן דוד ע’ כתב עת ויען שמואל ט תרע"ז ר' אברהם מוצא (אייר תשס"ו) – Ari Kahn Mar 30 '19 at 18:49

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