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All about Seforim - New and old, and Jewish Bibliography.

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    Most are aware of the famous forgery perpetrated by Shlomo Yehuda Friedlaender at the beginning of the 20th century - the Yerushalmi on Seder Kodshim. (For background see here). Recently, R. Baruch Oberlander has written a series of articles, which appeared in Or Yisrael, further illuminating this episode.

    Now, the great-grandson of the publisher (Ya'akov Weider who was killed in the Holocaust) of this Yerushalmi offers the story behind his great-grandfather decision to publish this book. (link) He also defends the decision of his ancestor to publish this work, noting that prior to publication he received approval from various Rabbinic authorities. Unfortunately, due to the large expense involved and that it quickly became apparent that it was a forgery, the great-grandfather lost a significant amount of money on this endeavor.

    The article also notes that two announcements were published heralding the publication, one to Rabbis and the like and the other, a slightly different version to academics. It is worthwhile noting that not only were their two announcements, there were actually two editions of the Yerushalmi. One aimed at Yeshiva students and the like and again, the other, academics. The former was printed on poor paper and only contains a Hebrew title page. The latter was printed on good paper and includes a German title page (where Friedlaender becomes Dr. Friedlaender).

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    Obituary: Professor Mordechai Breuer zt”l
    By Marc B. Shapiro

    Professsor Mordechai Breuer passed away on the twelfth of Sivan, 5767. It is a great loss for the world of Jewish scholarship as well as that of Orthodox Jewry. Breuer, born in Frankfurt in 1918, was the great-grandson of R. Samson Raphael Hirsch, the grandson of R. Shlomo Zalman Breuer, who succeeded Hirsch as Rav of the Frankfurt separatist community, and the son of Dr. Isaac Breuer, the leading theoretician of the Agudah (although the latter’s philosophy would later diverge from what came to be known as the Agudah Daas Torah).

    Breuer came to the world of academic Jewish studies rather late, earning his PhD in 1967 for a study of the Ashkenazic yeshiva in the late Middle Ages. (He had previously earned an MA at the Hebrew University, writing on David Gans.) At that time, he was principal of the Horeb school in Jerusalem. He later became professor of Jewish history at Bar Ilan. It is more than a little ironic that a great-grandson of Hirsch would devote himself academic Jewish studies.[1]

    Returning to Prof. Breuer, it is hard to do justice to such a productive scholar in a short post. One can be sure that the next issue of Ha-Maayan, with which Breuer was associated since its founding, will have an important obituary.

    As one who has worked a great deal in the field of German Orthodoxy, I can state that my work would be much the poorer if not for Breuer’s many writings. His classic Modernity Within Tradition is a marvelous study of the German Orthodox community and a model for how to write the history of American Orthodoxy. For those who read German, I recommend the original version, published by the Leo Baeck Institute. While containing the same text as the English, the German version has additional information in the footnotes.

    For those interested in the full range of his scholarship (up until eight years ago) the volume Asif (Jerusalem, 1999) contains a number of his best articles, including his classic study of Hirsch’s Torah im Derekh Eretz principle. (This article was translated into English and published as a booklet, but has been out of print for many years.) The volume also contains a bibliography of his many writings.[2]

    Of particular interest to readers of this blog is his final work, Oholei Torah, on the history of the yeshivot.[3] The only criticism I can give of this work is that it tries to do too much, and throws too much information at the reader. Yet it is an enormously helpful volume. I leave aside for now his contributions in a number of other areas of Jewish studies, as well as in general German Jewish history.

    As I was in touch with him for many years, allow me to offer some personal comments, and excerpts from letters and e-mails I received, as I think they will be of interest to the readers.

    My first contact with Breuer was actually not the most pleasant for me. I was a graduate student and had just published an article in Ha-Maayan (Tishrei, 5754), in which I included a strong attack on R. Esriel Hildesheimer’s Eisenstadt yeshiva by an anonymous nineteenth-century critic.[4] Breuer wrote to me expressing his unhappiness that I had chosen to publicize what, in his mind, were the ignorant ravings of a benighted yeshiva bachur. I thought then, and still think, that — to paraphrase someone else — while ignorant ravings remain ignorant ravings, the history they illuminate is scholarship. The editor, the late, lamented Yonah Emanuel, took my side in this dispute, and I was happy to have his support when confronted by the man who had become one of my idols in scholarship. (Emanuel actually censored my article, taking out a reference to an attack on the Ketav Sofer, an attack that was already in print and which I found helpful in illuminating the dispute taking place in Hungary. The Ketav Sofer was actually a great friend of Hildesheimer, and even invited him to come to Pressburg to serve with him in the rabbinate.)

    Following this, our relationship improved, and I often turned to him with my questions. This became much easier when he too acquired e-mail access. Two months ago, in what was one of my last e-mails to him, I wrote:

    I take this opportunity to encourage you to think about writing your autobiography. Your great father did so, and all of kelal Yisrael benefited from it. The same would apply to you.

    Unfortunately, this was not to be. Already I feel a great loss at not having someone to turn to with all my questions. He was a veritable Urim ve-Tumim when it came to anything dealing with the lost, wonderful world of German Orthodoxy.

    A couple of months ago, someone contacted me and wanted information about Hirsch’s visits to the opera. I looked around the internet a bit, and apparently it is “common knowledge” that Hirsch attended the opera. There have even been online discussions about what the halakhic justification of this was. Despite my extensive reading in German Orthodox literature, I had never heard that Hirsch went to the opera. Therefore, I was very skeptical of this piece of "common knowledge." I was also aware that very often "common knowledge" turns out to be incorrect. But rather than offer my opinion, I did what I always did at times like this. I turned to Professor Breuer, the man who had read everything written by and about Hirsch, and who had painstakingly gone through every page of the German Orthodox newspapers and magazines of the nineteenth century. I also asked him about the general German Orthodox practice of going to the opera.

    He replied:

    Here and there you can find hints in German printed sermons disapproving going to the opera. When I went to the opera as a boy of 13-14 years my father did not express his dissatisfaction. I don't know if Hirsch was an opera lover, but I know that he went to concerts when he was at a holiday resort.

    All I can say is that if Breuer had never heard that Hirsch went to the opera, how is it that others seem to know this as a fact, and if asked for a source, will reply that it is “common knowledge”?

    In another e-mail he wrote similarly:

    I know of no Orthodox rabbi in Germany who regularly visited the opera. This applies also to Rav S.R. Hirsch. Very musical as he was, he sometimes visited a concert, especially while on holidays, but never, to the best of my knowledge, the opera.

    I also asked Breuer, who attended the Hirschian school in Frankfurt, what the situation was with regard to boys covering their heads (we all know the teshuvah of R. David Zvi Hoffmann testifying as to how they did not do so in the nineteenth century). He replied:

    None of the pupils covered their heads all day. I know there were nominally orthodox homes where heads were covered only for prayers and the like. One such case is documented not in Frankfurt, but in Munich. See Adolph Fraenkel’s biography of his father Sigmund Fraenkel, one of the leading members of Bavarian Orthodoxy.

    He also pointed out to me that when Hirsch was Chief Rabbi of Moravia, he protested against a rule that Jewish children were forbidden to cover their heads during class. In other words, only in Germany, where that was the common practice, did children sit with uncovered heads. It was not a “shitah” of Hirsch that they do so.

    I told Breuer that some people understand Hoffmann’s teshuvah as referring to him taking off his hat when he went into Hirsch’s office, but still having a kippah underneath. He replied that Hoffmann

    is obviously dealing with cases which, when the hat was removed, left the head without any cover. Carrying a kippah underneath the hat was very unusual in Germany. If that had been the case, Hoffmann would certainly have mentioned it. By the way, I remember that the principal of the school had his head always covered with a kippah, as did other teachers who carried the title of rabbi.

    In another e-mail he wrote:

    I left the Hirsch school in Frankfurt in 1934. The rule of uncovered heads while studying “secular” subjects (a concept which should not have actually been used at a school adhering to the principle of Torah im Derech Eretz) was enforced without exception (it was not enforced upon teachers who served as rabbis in one of the local synagogues). However, during the last years of the school’s functioning, when the impact of the Nazi regime became increasingly palpable, pupils and teachers reacted by covering their heads in “secular” subjects as well.

    I wrote to Breuer:

    In Binyamin Shlomo Hamburger’s new biography of Rabbi Merzbach, pp. 17-18,[5] he says that German rabbis were obligated by law to receive a university degree. As a blanket statement this is false. Yet I believe that there were some times and places when the government did require this. Do you know any particulars about this, i.e., where and when this was required? Also, was Hirsch’s school co-educational (i.e., boys and girls). If so, were the classes mixed or only the school?

    He replied:

    There was certainly no German law requiring rabbis to have a university degree. In mattters of religion the many German states (“Laender”) were autonomous. At the beginning of emancipation there were states which passed administrative rules concerning the qualifications of rabbis. There were no such regulations anywhere in the Weimar period.

    There were no mixed classes in S.R. Hirsch’s school except in the very first years when enrol which is present [!] and also in the very last years when students and teachers were continually disappearing. However, throughout its existence the girls’ school (“Lyceum”) and the boys’ school were in separate wings under one roof and one principal and adminstration. Co-education was very rare in Germany before WWI.

    I asked him about congregational singing in Germany. He replied:

    There was some congregational singing in Orthodox synagogues, but usually the choir sang those portions, with the congregation singing or humming with the choir.

    I asked him if his great father was a rabbi (since he is usually referred to as Dr.). He replied:

    My father z.l. had two semichot morenu. In Germany no one was titled “Rabbi” unless he was an officiating rabbi, which my father was not. Here in Israel the title of rabbi, gaon, etc. has undergone a process of inflation and my father is regularly referred to as rabbi, which in his case is more justified than in many others.

    On another occasion he wrote a bit more about the Hirschian school in Frankfurt and the relationship between his grandfather and Rabbi Marcus Horovitz:

    I cannot vouch that my grandfather never accidentally found himself in the presence of Rabbi Horovitz. He certainly tried hard to avoid this. The social rift in Frankfurt between the two orthodox congregations was proverbial. It existed even between different branches of the same family. There were quite a few members of the IRG, even such that were not also members of the other community, who transgressed the tabu [against entering the Gemeinde synagogue] and their number probably increased after World War I. There was no Austritt indoctrination in the IRG school, probably out of consideration for the students whose parents were non-members. There were also members of the faculty who were less than enthusiastic Austritt fanatics.

    After reading my dissertation he wrote to me:

    Leaving aside your study a certain affinity occurred to me between Rav Weinberg and R. Jacob Emden.

    To what you write about R. Weinberg’s responsum about co-education in the Yeshurun organization, I might add that in the late fifties I wrote to R. Weinberg asking him whether his p’sak was applicable to the Esra movement in Israel in which I was active. He never replied, but sent word by a messenger encouraging me to continue my educational activity without swerving to the right After his death I discovered that he had asked two of his students in Montreux to draft a response to my letter. The drafts are in my possession. They contradict each other. One of the two authors now teaches at a yeshiva in Bene Berak.

    In his German volume on the history of German Orthodoxy, Breuer mentions that in R. Seligman Baer Bamberger’s synagogue there was no Frauengitter. I assumed that this meant that there was no mehitzah in the famed Wuerzberger Rav’s shul, and I wrote to him to inquire. He replied:

    The “Frauengitter” mentioned in my note on p. 375 is the common German translation of mechitzah. It signifies some sort of lattice which was put on top of the parapet which surrounded the women’s gallery (or balcony). The parapet was low enough to allow the women to watch what was going on in the men’s hall downstairs. The lattice (“Gitter”) did not quite conceal the women from the men’s eyes; its significance was mainly symbolical. The lack of this lattice was one of the compromises made here and there with the Reform synagogues where women sat on the balcony, yet in full view of the men since there was no lattice.

    This was very helpful to me since in the next issue of Milin Havivin I am publishing something relating to the great controversy in Frankfurt over who would succeed Rabbi Shlomo Zalman Breuer as rabbi of the Hirschian kehillah. Prof. Breuer’s uncle, Rabbi Raphael Breuer, was the rabbi of Aschaffenburg, and the family obviously wanted him to step into his father’s position. However, the members of the community refused to give him their support. One of the issues brought up against Rabbi Raphael was that his synagogue did not a proper mehitzah. I was unable to find any description of exactly what the problem was. Prof. Breuer could not recall either, although as a child he had been to the synagogue on a couple of occasions. He did, however, remind me that his uncle’s predecessor was R. Simcha Bamberger, a son of the Wuerzburger Rav. I therefore assume that the “problem” with the Aschaffenburg mehitzah was the lack of latticework on top of the partition.

    After gaining so much from Professor Breuer, I was happy that I was able to give him a present — a copy of a manuscript letter from Hirsch. I didn’t even know what it said, as I found it impossible to read the old handwriting. He wrote to me as follows:

    The letter is quite important. R. Hirsch was asked about the relative significance of the Sabbath in Jewish law. I guess the question arose through some discussion with German authorities. They compared the Sabbath to the Christian Sunday. R. Hirsch showed by citing biblical and rabbinical sources that in Jewish law and practice the Sabbath ranked much higher than any other day of rest or festival.

    I had hoped that Breuer would be able to publish the letter himself, complete with an introduction. But alas, it was not meant to be. Beli neder, I shall do so.

    Despite his age, Prof. Breuer was always prompt in answering all of my questions, and I will be forever grateful. I am also in his debt for another reason. No doubt realizing that he would not be able to write about everything in his files, he offered to give me unpublished material relating to the controversy over the talmudic commentaries of R. Joseph Zvi Duenner, chief rabbi of Amsterdam. Needless to say, I was thrilled, and I thank my friend, Aharon Wexler, who went to his house, picked up the material, and mailed it to me. I hope to be able to publish it before too long.

    For those who don’t know, Duenner’s approach anticipated that of Halivni in some respects, primarily in the assumption that the answers given by the amoraim, while binding for halakhic purposes, are not necessarily the best explanation of the Mishnah. Duenner also pointed to a couple of passages in the Talmud — both of which are in the current daf yomi tractate — which he believed are interpolations from the heretics, intended to mock the rabbis. He claimed that the rabbis would never have discussed the case of one who falls off a roof and while landing on a woman has sex with her (a highly improbable scenario, to put it mildly), or that a holy sage would come into a new town and announce that he was looking for a wife for the night (Yevamot 37b, 54a). According to Duenner, these texts are the product of those intending to mock the rabbis, and were unfortunately taken by later scholars as authentic.

    Breuer’s grandfather, Rabbi S. Z. Breuer, was one of the leading opponents of Duenner, going so far as to threaten to place him into herem if he didn’t stop publishing his hiddushim, and put the ones already in print into genizah. Duenner refused, and the threat of a herem was never carried out. His hiddushim were later reprinted by Mossad ha-Rav Kook, and some unpublished material was also included in this new edition.

    Dr. Marc B. Shapiro holds the Weinberg Chair in Judaic Studies, Department of Theology and Religious Studies, University of Scranton. He is the author of Between the Yeshiva World and Modern Orthodoxy: The Life and Works of Rabbi Jehiel Jacob Weinberg, 1884-1966 (London: Littman Library, 1999) previous posts at the Seforim blog include “Uncensored Books” and an obituary for Rabbi Yosef Buxbaum zt"l, founder and publisher of Machon Yerushalayim.

    [1] It is even more ironic that the bête noire of Hirsch and S. Z. Breuer, R. Mordechai Horovitz (the Matteh Levi), has a descendant, R. Baruch Horovitz, who runs the fairly haredi Dvar Yerushalayim Yeshiva. In fact, when Rabbi Horovitz reprinted the Matteh Levi in 1979, he received a haskamah from R. Yitzhak Yaakov Weiss, Av Beit Din of the Edah Haredit and a man far removed from the cultured and tolerant Orthodoxy of the Matteh Levi. (Of course, what some would call “tolerant Orthodoxy,” Hirsch and S.Z. Breuer regarded as fraudelent Orthodoxy.)
    [2] See Mordechai Breuer, The "Torah-im-derekh-eretz" of Samson Raphael Hirsch (Jerusalem, New York, Feldheim, 1970)
    [3] See Mordechai Breuer, Oholei Torah: The Yeshiva, Its Structure and History (Merkaz Zalman Shazar 2003)
    [4] See my “A Letter of Criticism Directed Against the Yeshivah of Eisenstadt,” Ha-Maayan 34 (Tishrei, 5754 [1993]), 15-25 (in Hebrew).
    [5] Ha-Rav Yonah Merzbach: Pirkei Hayyim, Darko U-Fe'alav (Bnei Brak, 2004)

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    Shavuah HaSefer: A Recommended Reading List

    by Eliezer Brodt

    Every year in Israel, around Shavous time, there is a period of around ten days called Shavuah Hasefer-book week. Shavuah HaSefer is a sale which takes place all across the country in stores, malls and special places rented out for the sale. There are places where strictly “frum” seforim are sold other places have most of the secular publishing houses. Every year we witness the publishing of hundreds of new seforim and books by the various publishing houses. Many publishing houses release new titles specifically at this time. In this post I would just like to mention to some of the very recent titles from the various publishing houses which are available at this years Shavuah HaSefer.

    Magnes Press

    did not put out anything special in the past few months and their prices are quite high in comparison to other years. The one exception is the very reasonable price for the set of Machzorim of Professor Daniel Goldschmidt on the Yom Tovim. Of course, one must get the Shivrei Luchos from Professor Simcha Emanuel released earlier this year. However, an older title worthy of mention is the Sefer Toseftas Targum Le’nevim it is basically a collection of lost pieces on targum on niviem (some pieces were printed over a hundred years ago). The Rishonim such as the Radak quote from it numerous times. To just to list one example of a more famous point quoted by the Radak from this Tosefta: In the discussion of the miracle of Chanukah a statement is attributed to R’ Chaim Solevetchick and others (see Making of a Godal pp. 727-729) that the oil in the original miracle was not technically shemn zeis rather it was shemn ness (miracle oil). As part of this statement a Radak is quoted by various achronim such as the Klei Chemda that the oil from the miracle of Elisha was patur from masser. This statement the Radak comes from a tosefta until recently we did not know the source of this tosefta it was assumed to be a lost tosefta now we know that its from a completely different work as it appears in the Tosefta Targum Le’nevim.

    The Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities has advertised, in their catalog, that the long awaited Yerushalmi on Seder Nizkin is available. However, it seems that it will take another month or two for it actually to be released. Another older title by offered by them for a very reasonable price is the two volume set of the Hebrew Illuminated Manuscripts in The British Isles by Bezalel Narkiss.

    Merkaz Zalman Shazar has released some new titles among them a Sefer Chasidim. This work is an anonymous work written in 1819 which is virulently against Chasidim. This is the first time this work has been printed. Another new title is a work on R’ Yehudha Hanasiah. This is another book which is part of their recent series on the great leaders throughout the generations (previously they have done on Rashi and R. Yehuda HaChasid among others). Another point of possible interest which is worth mentioning is they reprinted a few titles of Professor Jacob Katz that had not been available for some time.

    Reuvan Mass recently began a new series called Reshoot. They began the series with R Moshe Feinstein Teshuvot on the hot topic of Chaluv Akum. It includes an overview of the topic and a brief history of R’ Moshe life. They plan on releasing a few more in the near future such as from R’ Herzog. Another new release is from Professor Daniel Sperber called Darka Shel Halacha it deals with the sensitive topic of woman getting aliyos. One of the main points of the sefer is to discuss the halacha process more generally. Amongst the other topics in Professor Sperber’s work are Kovod Habriyos, Darkei Naom, and mitseios (reality) changing. As always there is a wealth of sources on a wide ranging amount of topics in the notes.

    The Bialik Institute has a very impressive new book, the second part of the Livyat Chain. This sefer was written in the era of the Rashba. The Rashba did not allow it to be released as it uses allegorical interpretations for some of the Aggdah. It remained in manuscripts for centuries. At the turn of the century small parts were printed. But, a few years ago Professor Howard Kreisel printed one part of this work - on the creation -which is sold by Magnes Press. Recently he released another part of this work. This new volume is a massive volume of over 1000 pages on many topics. Also worth mentioning is the Sefer Hasagah from R’ Yonah Ibn Ganach it’s a critical edition translated from the Arabic for the first time. An older title that had not been around for some time is Professor Robert Brodie’s Book on the Shiltos.

    Meketzei Nerdamim has released a new title - a collection of poetry from the father of the Aruch- R’ Yechiel it contains an extensive introduction about the author.

    Bar Ilan University did not put out all that much this year although there catalog shows some interesting titles in press such as another volume on the Gra. But they did put out one thing special, a pirish from the fourteenth century on the Sefer Kuzari from a R’ Shlomo Mluniel it’s a nice size work around 500 pages. Besides for this there is yet another study on the works of R’ Ovadiah Yosef.

    Mechon Ben Zvi has released some new titles such as a book on marriage in Italy called Nissuin Nusach Italia. Besides for that they have not released much new. But its worth mentioning the Index of the Cario Geneziah From N. Allony looks excellent for more on this book see Manuscript Boy's post here. Also the price on the recently released Pirish of R’ Matisyhu Hayesari on Avos (from Professor Y Spiegel) has dropped a bit.

    Mechon Yerushalim promises a new volume to their critical edition of the Teshuvos of the Rishonim the Shut Harif but its not out yet. They also advertise a new volume of the Kovetz Zecor Leavrohm on the topic of Marriage.

    Beis El released another volume from R’ Eliyahu ben Amzug called Mussar Yehudi Lumos Mussar Notsri. This is a critical edition of the work edited by Professor Eliyhu Zeini. It has been retranslated from the French as a while back it had been printed by Mossad Rav Kook. This is the second in the series of R’ Eliyahu ben Amzug works, the editor promises the rest of the works in the future.

    Another interesting new title, by Shalem Press, is called Hashevah Le'yerushalaim from Professor Aryeh Morgenstern. This book seems to have generated some interest in the political circles in Israel session will be devoted to it in Ben Zvi Institute. I have gotten a look at this book - it is massive some 596 pages which discuss Jewish resettlement of the land 1800-1860.

    The Hamodiah book sale is nice as well, they even have separate hours for men and women. There one sees many people just staring at the Otzar Hachoma and Otzar Hatorah programs watching their search engines. Of course none of these people intend to buy it. Feldheim and Oz Vhadar are there in full force. Worthy of mentioning is the great price of Feldheim on the set of Rodleheim Machzorim. However the main highlight of this sale at least for me are the displays of the Shem Olam Mechon. This publishing house prints many interesting seforim every year but for some reason most of it is never sold in stores. For example, they recently printed a two volume collection of letters of the S'dei Chemed which was virtually not sold anywhere. Another highlight is the booth of Otsros Hatorah where they sell old reprints of rare seforim for great prices. One is bound to find something good there.

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    Over the centuries, throughout our rich history, every time there has been a codification of halacha of any sorts there has been some opposition; the examples abound - the Rif who was opposed by the Bal Hamaor; the Rambam who was opposed by the Raavad. Even after that the Shach and Taz were also not accepted right away. One of the (many) reasons for this opposition was a fear of giving the law “to the simple people” who would then stop asking Rabbanim their questions as they could find the answers themselves in these works.

    Another type of secondary source for halacha can be catagorized as likutim (collections). For example this catagory would include commentaries on the Shulchan Orach such as the Keness HaGedolah, Be’er Hetiv, and Sharei Teshvah. With these sorts of books there was an additional fear that the halachos might be not always be quoted correctly and people will fail to check the sources themselves. That fear appears prescient as in recent times many contemporary works err in the way they quote sources – making it almost impossible to even check the original sources. Some Gedolim even write in there haskamos on these works the author is a good person "but as this is a halachic work I can not back everything he says."

    An awareness of the above concerns is illustrated by the story surrounding the Shmiras Shabbas K’hilchasa. This sefer quotes literally thousands of pesakim of R. Shlomo Zalman Auerbach. After seeing the unexpected success to this sefer, R. Shlomo Zalman sat in a room a few hours a day for a few years and reviewed everything making sure anything quoted from him was one hundred percent accurate. This resulted in the third volume of Shmiras Shabbos K'hilchasa. Unfortunately, many works the authors themselves do not double check there own work let alone have a great person review it.

    Today, there is no lack of books whose purpose is to be a repository of knowledge on a single topic. For instance, we have books devoted solely to the laws of washing one’s hands, how to bow properly (690 + pages), laws of lechem mishna (348 pages), the yarmulke (112 pages), and the list goes on. As it takes an almost heroic effort to write an entire book of hundreds of pages on but a single, minor topic, in most of the aforementioned cases, the authors indeed put forth a valiant effort to obtain anything and everything that, in the slightest way, remotely impacts on their selected topic.

    Relatedly, there is another category of book, in which the author collects everything which discusses yet another book. The book that epitomizes this category of works is called Piskei Teshuvos al’pi Seder HaMishna Berurah (hereinafter “PT”). PT collects and addresses anything and everything which discusses the Mishna Berura. Just as the authors of the first category of books mentioned above go to great lengths, so too did the author of PT glean material from the most obscure sources on some of the most arcane topics.

    At the turn of the century two excellent works were written almost the same time one on the whole Shulhan Arukh and one on just the volume of Orach Chaim. One is the Arukh Hashulhan and the other the Mishna Berurah. Each have their benefits (as will perhaps be discussed a different time) however, both were of great necessity as halacha is an endlessly complicated topic which, at that time, was especially evident. Before WWII the Arukh Hashulhan was much more widely accepted than the Mishna Berurah but after the war the Mishna Berurah became the more accepted one. What precipitated this change is unclear, some want to attribute it to the influence of the Chazon Ish who writes that the Mishnah Berurah is like the lishkas hagaziz etc. This is a rather ironic reason in that the Chazon Ish takes issue with the Mishna Berurah hundreds of times. Be that as it may today the more widely used work is the Mishna Berurah. There is even a Mishna Berurah cycle completing the whole Mishna Berurah every few years. However, as the years go by halakha has become larger especially with modern technology applications and the like, making it very hard for one person to master it all. The truth is throughout history there were various Gedolim that were experts in specific areas but not in everything - today such specialization is happening more and more.

    As a result, R. Rabinowich came up with a great idea. He decided to put together all the newer sources according to the order of the Mishna Berurah. This idea of collecting the modern sources was actually one of the original goals of the Mishana Berurah as he writes in his introduction – to include all the recent literature from the seforim printed after the Sharei Teshuvah. R. Rabinowich’s work is the PT.

    The first volume he released was on the laws of Shabbos. This first volume suffered a bit being the first born child. The sources were not that comprehensive and it did not cover many of the recent issues. The next volume, on the six volume of the Mishna Berurah, did get a bit better in the sources area. After that, the volume on fifth volume of Mishna Berurah came out here the sources got even better (as it much easier to put out a work on this volume thanks in part to the seforim Vayagid Moshe and Seder Arukh). After this he came out with a volume on the second volume of Mishna Berurah which he really out did himself on the sources. And recently the volume on first chelek on the Mishna Berurah came out.

    The problem with this work is not that it does not have a wealth of information but rather one has to be careful to double check the sources to see if he quotes the pesak right and if he understood it.

    So, thus far, five volumes of the PT have been published – the most recent, fifth volume covers volume one of the Mishna Berura. It is a very popular book. This latest volume was sold out in Israel within a week of publication and a distributor in the US ordered some 5,000 copies. R. Ovadia Yosef in a recent photograph in the Mispachah newspaper has a copy of the book on his table! This new volume of the PT weights in at a mere 995 pages. Readers may wonder how someone could write close to 1,000 pages on the first volume of the Mishna Berura alone? We now have our answer – it can’t be done.

    The PT has a numerous flaws. First, the introduction. We are told that it is imperative to closely examine the words of the Mishna Berura because not doing so, “God forbid, could cause a person to err in the minutia of the laws and correctly interpreting them.” (p. 36). This statement is astounding. In the remainder of this volume’s introduction, there is no similar imperative to examine closely, or even cursorily look up, the many books the PT quotes. For that, we are expected to rely upon R. Rabinowich (the author of the PT) for his interpretations of the many, many books quoted – of course, he assumes that there is no need to double-check his work. However, if one were to go directly to Rabinowich’s collection without first reading the Mishna Berura, then one virtually is guaranteed to err. As we shall see, then, if one wants to avoid erring in a matter of law and its minutia, one should look up every single citation in the PT, as many are demonstrably wrong as will be explained below.

    The PT instructs that when reading about unheard of laws, “one should make sure to test it logically.” (p. 37). So one would assume that the PT applied the same caveat when he was writing his book – unfortunately he does not. For instance, the PT informs us “that righteous and holy people have the custom [to wear a yarmulke] even when they are in the bath [mikvah] and only when they actually immerse do they remove it.” (p. 26). Or that it is a law that “one must close the door when using the restroom.” But, thankfully, the PT also informs us that “in cases that it is very dark or no one is around one can be lenient and not close the door.” (p. 29). Or, this gem, for example: one needs to wash his hands before invoking God’s name after “touching a Nochri, Yehudi Mumar . . .” but also, thankfully, that is “not an absolute obligation, [but that] one should be careful and strict whenever possible.” (p. 58). And this advice is vital, to be sure: one should not reveal more then necessary when using the bathroom – “however, that which is necessary not to soil oneself or the bathroom floor, or toilet” is permissible. (p. 28).

    The PT also suffers from a lack of completeness. For example, the PT has a few columns on the custom of shuckelin (swaying) – but misses many of the sources. (p. 418) (See E. Zimmer, Olam k’Minhago Noheg pp. 72-113 for the sources). Or the entry related to the placement of the Ten Commandments in a synagogue (p. 17-18) -- while the PT has a few sources, the bulk are missing. (See R. Goldhaver, Minhagi Kehilot (pp. 45-47) for a much more complete and balanced set of sources).

    Next, we have the PT’s comments on the obligation to wear a yarmulke. The PT first quotes the passages in the MB, which in turn quotes the well-known opinion of the Turei Zahav, that not wearing a head covering is a halachic violation. The PT explains the violation is of the command be’chukosheihem lo sei’leichu. Unfortunately, the PT fails to cite anyone who disagrees with that opinion, including, most notably, the Vilna Gaon in his Biur haGra (Orach Hayyim, siman 8 – which is quoted in the famous first teshuva in the Iggeres Moshe). The PT does manage, however, to cite the same Gra to obligate a “complete covering of the head”?! (p. 24 n. 55). In addition, the PT does not cite, or even mention, R. David Tzvi Hoffmann’s view that follows the Gra. It is not only in this section that the PT appears to be blissfully unaware of the Gra's view. Later in the book, where the PT discusses what someone should do if he prays by accident without a head covering, the PT makes no mention of the Gra’s view. (p. 719) Obviously, the Gra’s opinion on that topic is relevant, even if one were to hold that the Gra’s view is not optimal in the firs instance (i.e., in a post facto scenario, perhaps one can rely upon it).

    Not only is the section on yarmulkes lacking in very important sources, it also completely distorts history. The PT makes the amazing statement that one must wear a yarmulke which is “noticeable” and, furthermore, that “this is what all Jews have done forever, in every generation.” (p. 24-25). This is absolutely not the case. There is a long history of even well known rabbis not wearing yarmulkes (or head coverings) at all, let alone ones that are capable of being seen from all sides. One example is a well known portrait of R. Hirsch. In that portrait, R. Hirsch appears bare headed. Of course, there are two possibilities – that he is actually bareheaded or that he is wearing a wig which gives the impression that he is bareheaded (and thus not complying with the PT’s requirement that a yarmulke be a “noticeable covering”). In either case, then, the PT’s absolutist claim is wrong. Not only is the PT’s ruling contrary to historical sources, it is erroneous with respect to halachic sources as well. There are numerous other examples where people either did not wear noticeable head coverings or they went completely bareheaded. Although the PT doesn’t have know about R. Hirsch, he should know that in fact R. Moshe Feinstein explicitly allows for someone to wear a non-obvious head covering. R. Feinstein allows for the wearing of a toupee which (if one has a decent one) will not be obvious.

    In support of the position that one must wear a “noticeable covering,” the PT explains (p. 24 n. 57) that this understanding is premised on the prohibition of women wearing wigs. His “logic” is that because both women and men have obligations of head coverings, what is mandatory for one gender, must be for another. Although the PT cites to some sources holding that a wig is insufficient for women, as everyone knows there are many other opinions – as evidence by common custom today – which permit women to wear wigs. No such sources are cited or mentioned in the PT.

    There are other similarly misleading statements throughout the PT. For example, the PT discusses the custom which some have to recite L’Shem Yichud prior to performing mitzvoth. He says that “as there are deep secrets in this recitation, there are some who disapproved of this custom . . . [H]owever, this custom has been justified and if Jews are not prophets, they are sons of prophets.” (pp. 63-64). This gives the erroneous impression that the concerns of those who disapproved of such recitations are no longer an issue. The source for this idea, inter alia, is the Siduro shel Shabbos. (p. 63 n. 21). It is correct that that sefer does justify this custom; however, many authorities, both before and after the Sidduro shel Shabbos, have strongly held it is inappropriate to recite this formulation. In no way did that sefer settle the issue.

    The PT claims there is a tremendous obligation to wash one’s hands right after getting out of bed even before putting his feet on the ground – he notes a failure to comply is punishable by death. (pp. 5-8) First, he says that this stringency is based on the Zohar(which we do not actually have) , however, he failes to mention that it doesn't appear in the Gemara or early poskim. Furthermore, buried in a footnote in passing he cites to the Gra who said that after the death of the Ger Tzedek the particular ruach ra which produces the stringency of the washing is no longer present. Nor does he even quote the Sheti Yados (already highlighted by the Hatam Sofer in his notes on Shulchan Orach) that one should not take the death penalty idea literally.

    The PT also discusses the issue of reciting partial verses of the Torah and rules that this is not a problem “as it is already known that we are not concerned to split sections and even verses we find many times.” (p. 243) To whom is the PT referring (by use of the word “we”)? Indeed, there are some people who maintain the custom to not split verses. Most famous, perhaps, is the statement of R. Hayyim Volozhin regarding the veZos HaTorah passage when showing the Torah to the congregation.

    Aside from misleading statements, there are some statements in the PT, out of which I can make no sense. For example, the PT discusses whether to use a patach or tzerei for the first two words of kaddish. (p. 506). He records that in R. Emden’s siddur and in the Siddur haRav, there is a patach, but “in all the other siddurim it is with a tzerei.” (Id.). First, what does the PT mean by all? Did he check every single siddur, both in published and in manuscript form? Or does he mean the siddurim at his shul or that he had on his bookshelf? Readers are left to guess because the PT does not elaborate further. Similar ambiguities (e.g., statements like “most siddurim”) abound. In any event, the PT is 100% wrong. In historical terms (i.e., how the siddurim vowalized the words in question), the custom up until the 18th century was to have a patach. (For a listing of the siddurim and the history see my article in the latest Ohr Yisrael).

    Another example of this type of misstatement is in the PT’s discussion about praying where a married woman’s uncovered hair is visible. First, the PT states “we find that many achronim are lenient in this matter.” But, he then continues: “however, the majority of achronim” disagree. (p. 600). Who is the majority? Is the PT referring to contemporary persons or historic achronim (the period generally is considered to extend from approx. late 15th early 16th century until today)? Additionally, those in the “minority” include R. Moshe Feinstein, the Ben Ish Chai, the Oruch haShulchan, the Seridei Eish – and those are just the ones listed in the PT. Perhaps there are cases where usage of the term “majority” is appropriate but what about when there are such distinguished authorities in the “minority?”

    Another example of the necessity to check the PT’s sources is the entry relating to the use of musical tunes whose origins were not Jewish. There, the PT misquotes the Kerach shel Romi. The PT says that even the Kerach shel Romi holds when a tune is specific to idolatry, then it cannot be used. (p. 470 n. 209) But, if one looks up the source, that sefer actually says the opposite.

    The above represent some of the issues in the latest volume. I have not gone over the entire 995 pages with a fine tooth comb, but I have no doubt that there are numerous other examples of the kind discussed above. The biggest problem with the PT is, in fact, as Dayan Weiss states in his approbation: that the PT “has lovingly been accepted among klal yisrael.” [He also states that he greatly enjoys the PT.] While it is admirable that people are interested in expanding their knowledge, such efforts should not be at the expense of quality. This appears to be a clear case of trying to make available as much as possible irrespective of the content. Moreover, what is particularly troubling about the above discussed examples is that the PT consistently highlighting either chumrahs or outlandish and dubious “laws.” Relatedly, it seems that the PT’s the errors of omission always manage to omit out sources which would temper or obviate some of the more stringent statements found in the PT. This displays an ideological bias in favor of stringencies over leniencies (or in many cases over actual historical practice).

    * I want to thank R. Eliezer Brodt for writing the introduction to this post.

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  • 06/18/07--07:42: Two News Items
  • First, the sale on the Seforim Hard Drives has been extended until June 22 for the Otzar haChomah and the 25th for the Morgenstern hard drive.
    Second, a new issue of Ohr Yisrael has just come out and includes more articles on wheat for matzot from Arizona, an article on definition of Darkei Emorei and the related laws, the second installment on the custom of candle lighting. Additionally, there is another article by R. B. Oberlander, related to the Yerushalmi on Kodshim, this one discussing the Friedlander family. Finally, R. Yitzhaki has an article on publishing of a Tanach.

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    As was noted in a prior post, Prof. Daniel Sperber has published another book - Darkah shel Halakha Kiryat Nashim b'Torah. As the title implies the main focus of the book is to discuss the permissablity of women being called to the Torah. Much has already been written on the topic, however, Prof. Sperber's focus is distinct. He focuses on two aspects (aside from other halachic considerations) kavod ha'briyot and more generally, how halakha has adapted over time. In his inimitable fashion he marshals terrific sources - the footnotes contain a treasure trove of material. It is especially interesting to see, for instance, R. Yissocher Frand and Prof. Michael Silber cited in the same footnote.

    The book, however, is not limited to the narrower issue of women and Torah reading but instead, there is an extensive discussion throughout regarding changes which happened throughout history in the halakhic practice. To clarify any ambiguity Prof. Sperber includes an appendix listing many laws from the Shulhan Arukh which are no longer practiced in the same manner as advocated by the Shulhan Arukh. He also has chapters or appendixes devoted to specific instances [interestingly, he doesn't mention the tosafot, Moed Katan, 21a, s.v. elu which appears to support his thesis] where there have been changes in practice, including inter alia menstruating women attending the synagogue, the Bat Mitzvah ceremony, and even the inclusion of an ezras nashim (women's section) in the synagogue. In this last one, we are provided with a terrific history of architecture of synagogues from the Temple period onward.

    There are, however, a few places where, Prof. Sperber is not as comprehensive as he is in some of his previous works. While these are a mere handful of footnotes, nevertheless it is worth noting. For instance, in a note he discusses the issue of blowing shofar when Rosh Hashanah falls on Shabbat. While his sources are rather impressive, he misses (on purpose perhaps?) the Mo'adim l'Simcha's discussion [although he does mention an entire work on the topic which I was unaware - Shofar b'Rosh haShana sh'Chal L'hiyot b'Shabbat, by R. Menachem Bornstein]. Or where he discusses the historic evidence of whether it is permitted to read the newspaper on Shabbat he mentions the controversy about the translation of R. Barukh ha-Levi Epstein's Mekor Barukh which states the Netziv read the paper on Shabbat. Prof. Sperber doesn't mention that there is now a entire book devoted to the topic, R. Y. S. Bifus, Mikrayei Kodesh HaKiryah haMutteres ve'haAssurah b'Shabbat, Jerusalem, 2003 (122 pages) as well as Rabbi Dr. Jacob J. Schacter's article "Facing the Truths of History," Torah u-Madda Journal 8 (2000): 200-273 [PDF]. These are minor points and should not take away from the whole of the book.

    Of course, the ultimate subject matter is the propriety of women and reading the Torah. In this area, Prof. Sperber is very convincing. Again, the sources used are wide ranging. Irrespective of one's views on the topic, there is much to gain by this book. In fact, whether one is even interested in the particular topic of women and Torah reading is really no matter, this book is worthwhile reading.

    The book can be purchased at Biegeleisen books in the US, or it is published by, and can be obtained from, Rubin Mass in Israel.

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    In the history of Jews on the American continent, many are unaware that the first Jewish settlement in the Americas was not in North America, but instead South America. Specifically, the Brazilian city of Recife was the first formal Jewish community in the Americas. Recife, for a brief period of time, came under the control of the Dutch government. In 1630 they took Recife from the Portuguese, this event was key in establishing a Jewish community, as the Portuguese enforced the inquisition. The Dutch, however, did not, Amsterdam being a city where Marrano could return to Judaism.

    When the Dutch took Recife, a Jewish community was established soon after, and eventual for the next 14 years, a the community flourished. There were two synagogues as well as all the trappings of a budding Jewish community - Rabbis, schools etc. The Rabbi of Recife was R. Isaac Aboab da Fonseca (his original surname is Aboab, but later in life he took his mother's name Da Fonseca as well) - and Machon Yerushalayim has published some of his writings as well as historic documents relating to the Recife community - Kitvei Rabbenu Yitzhak Aboab (De Fonseca) - Hakhmei Recife v'Amsterdam (Machon Yerushalayim, 2007).

    The earliest responsum relating to the Americas concerns the community of Recife. As Recife is in the southern hemisphere and their season are the opposite of those in the northern hemisphere, they asked if they should still say ve'ten tal u'mattar at the time it is normally said as it is not the correct season for them.

    R. Aboab, a student of R. Isaac Uzziel, was then appointed to the position of hakham and became the assistant of R. Saul Morteira and eventually took his position as Chief Judge of the Amsterdam court. R. Aboab was successed by R. Yakkov Sassportas.

    In 1641 R. Aboab was sent to Recife to become the rabbi and head of the Dutch community there. Although the community was doing well, other forces spelled the demise of the community. In 1646, the Portuguese attacked Recife and although initially they were held off, they eventually were successful in reconquering the city and the rest of Brazil. The Jews were given three months to evacuate or come under the inquisition. R. Aboab, and many others returned to Amsterdam. Other refugees went and established communities in the Caribbean while one group, went to then New Amsterdam (eventually New York) and became the first Jews in New York.

    In this new book, there is an extensive introduction, by R. Yosef Veitman, the Chabad shaliach in São Paulo, which gives all the above history and more. R. Veitman has done extensive research and this shows throughout the work. The history is very detailed and the sources consulted -- both traditional and academic -- are quite extensive. The one minor criticism is his use of statements of the prior Lubavitch Rebbi to prove a point of history (see, e.g., p. 39 n. 19 - also see p. 73 n. 123 which, as R. Veitman recognizes is highly suspect), otherwise the research is very good.

    Aside from providing a history of R. Aboab and Recife, this work contains Torah from R. Aboab. The most important is the Machberet Nishmat Hayyim. This work was originally in Porteguse, and has now been translated into Hebrew. It has previously been translated into English by Alexander Altmann, "Eternality of Punishment: A Theological Controversy Within the Amsterdam Rabbinate in the Thirties of the Seventeenth Century,' in Publications of the American Academy of Jewish Research 40 (1972): 1-88, which R. Veitman used with permission. [1] This work dealt with what was a "hot" topic in Amsterdam at the time - whether there is such a thing as eternal damnation. This was very important as many Jews in Amsterdam had relatives in countries under the control of the inquisition and were "practicing" Christians. What would be their status - could their souls ever be redeemed?

    R. Saul Morteira essentially said that there is such a thing as eternal damnation. R. Aboab disagreed and penned this work to explain his disagreement. This work has much broader implications for just the inquisition, but to any Jew who for whatever reason did not practice.

    Both Nishmat Hayyim as well as R. Morteira's comments are found in this new volume as well as extensive notes. (Also, R. Meneshe Klein, in his approbation has his own take on this issue.)

    Aside from this work, the communal laws of Recife are included, as well as a poem R. Aboab wrote on the Portuguese siege of Recife. It is worth mentioning that R. Aboab did not abandon the Recife community when faced with the Portuguese attack, rather he stayed and ministered to the community during this time of need. There are other smaller Torah pieces (including on the Amsterdam eruv) as well as the teshuva discussing ve'ten tal mentioned above.

    The work contains excellent footnotes throughout and all in all this is an excellent work, especially for one interested in either the philosophy of reward/punishment or American Jewish history.

    I purchased the book from Biegeleisen in Boro Park (718-436-1165), and I assume in Israel, Machon Yerushalayim should have copies.

    [1] Although Altmann published this already in 1974 the "new" Encyclopeadia doesn't update the Cecil Roth entry on R. Aboab and still has that R. Aboab's "work on reward and punishment entitled Nishmat Hayyim [has] not been published." vol. 1 p. 269.

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    New Volume of Rav Ovadiah Yosef's "Hazon Ovadiah:"
    On the halakhot of the Four Fasts, the Three Weeks,
    Nine Days, Tisha B’Av, and Zekher le-Hurban
    by Eliezer Brodt

    A new sefer just reached the seforim stores today, just in time for the three weeks. The newest volume of Chazon Ovadiah of the great gaon Rav Ovadiah Yosef. This sefer includes halakhot on a few areas: the halakhot of the Four Fasts, the Three Weeks (& Nine Days), Tisha B’Av, and halakhot related to Zekher le-Hurban, including going to the Kotel, etc. In the back there are hespedim which Rav Ovadiah delivered for various Gedolim amongst them R. Yitzchak Herzog, R. Zvi Pesach Frank and R. Shlomo Zalman Auerbach. Chazon Ovadiah is 577 pages and includes a very thorough index.

    In the past few years we have been privileged to a complete encyclopedic collection on all the Yom Tovim from Rav Ovadiah Yosef. It all started many years ago when he wrote a set of seforim called Chazon Ovadiah on Pesach related topics. These seforim received impressive haskamot from many gedolim, amongst them R. Tvi Pesach Frank and R. Shlomo Yosef Zevin. It appears that this particular project was put on hold and Rav Ovadiah turned his attention to printing his Sheelot u-Teshuvot. Then, a few years ago he started printing his shiurim and notes on the sefer Ben Ish Chai. This resulted in an eight volume set called Halikhot Olam. Finally, after all that, Rav Ovadiah returned to the Yom Tov series, Chazon Ovadiah, starting with Purim than Hilkhot Yom Tov. He then continued with Pesach, Succot, Yomim Noraim and Chanukah. Earlier this year, Tu B’Shevat and Hilkhot Berakhot were printed. Thus far, the set is eight massive volumes. One only hopes that Rav Ovadiah continues this set with Hilkhot Shabbat.

    Amongst the reasons why I recommend this particular set of seforim, even if one is not of sefaradic origin is as follows: Rav Ovadiah Yosef is world famous for his unbelievable memory resulting in a tremendous bekiut. [I once joked that he must have had someone develop some computer program and attached it to his brain to help him retain so much information and recall it at all times.] When one uses this work, as with all of his other works, one can find hundred of sources from the Rishonim to extremely obscure Sheelot u-Teshuvot on virtually every topic related to the Yomim Tovim. He even quotes many, very recent seforim. He covers many sugyot quite comprehensively, whereas others Rav Ovadiah simply brings down a few sources. Besides for all this, one has literally hundreds of pesakim of a great gaon on all of these topics.

    All this results in making it an excellent reference for Rabbanim, Maggedei shiurim, interested laymen, and any one interested in researching any topic related to the Yomim Tovim. From all the many seforim which are printed every year on the Yomim Tovim, the entire set of Hazon Ovadiah is by far the most impressive in terms of its sources and information.

    One interesting point I found in this most recent volume of Chazon Ovadiah was that Rav Ovadiah mentions in the introduction that he uses the highly 'controversial' sefer Hemdat Yamim [see here for Dan Rabinowitz's post on Tu B'Shvat]. Rav Ovadiah justifies his use of this sefer, as many great Sephardi gedolim have used this sefer, ever since it was printed, so although the R. Jacob Emden comes out very strongly against Hemdat Yamim, Rav Ovadiah still quotes from it.

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    A Review of: Kitvei Ha'Arukh HaShulhan
    Eliezer Brodt

    Almost every Friday morning, I get a call from a fellow seforim addict asking me what's new on the market. The past few weeks, he had been complaining to me that the market is dry, and nothing of note has been put out. Yesterday, he told me that finally one interesting thing came out the night before: a collection of the writings R. Yehiel Mihel Epstein (1829-1908), the author of the Arukh HaShulhan, called Kitvei Ha'Arukh HaShulhan. So off I ran to the seforim store to get this new piece. What follows is a review of this new sefer.

    Kitvei Ha'Arukh HaShulhan is divided into multiple parts. The first part is a reprint of the "Or La'Yesharim" by R. Epstein. The Or La'Yesharim is a commentary on the classic work, Sefer HaYashar of Rabbeinu Tam. R. Epstein wrote this when he was very young, although it wasn't published until 1869.

    The Sefer HaYashar of the Rabbeinu Tam[1] (this is not to be confused with the mussar work with the same title which is incorrectly attributed to the Rabbeinu Tam – there is some debate exactly who the author is, with some claiming it is R. Zerachia HaLevi, author of the Ba’al HaMe’or, others attribute it to R. Zerachiah HaYevani, and finally others claim the author is Rabbeinu Yonah) which is today available in two parts – Hiddushim and She'elot u-Teshuvot. The Sefer HaYashar was first published (both parts together) in 1811 in Vienna, but this edition was full of errors. Later, in 1898, it was reissued – but only the She'elot u-Teshuvot section, by R. S. Rosenthal for Meketzei Nerdamim. He included both his own notes as well as notes from R. Ephraim Zalman Margolis in an effort to correct the seriously corrupted text. In 1959 R. S. Schlesinger republished the the Hiddushim section of this sefer in a more critical edition. Professor E. E. Auerbach writes that it is ironic that the Sefer HaYashar should have so many textual errors, when one of the purposes of the Sefer HaYashar was to provide a correct text of the Gemara. (Balei Hatosfot p. 94). In Kovetz Al Yad (volume 7), R. Yosef Kapach printed some more teshuvot of Rabbeinu Tam. Today, however, there are still still many pieces which rishonim quote from the Sefer HaYashar of Rabbeinu Tam which are not found in either section of the Sefer HaYashar that we have.

    The Or La'Yesharim by R. Epstein is an extensive commentary covering the Nashim and Niddah masekhtot of the Hiddushim section of the Sefer HaYashar. The original edition was very rare and now, thanks to work R. Horowitz, the editor of the newly published Kitvei Ha'Arukh HaShulhan, it is now available to all. This part of the volume comprises 200 pages and is nicely printed and includes a thorough index.

    Or La'Yesharim has many haskamot from: R. Yitzchak Elchanan Spektor; the author’s brother-in-law, R. Naftali Zevi Yehudah Berlin (Netziv); the author's uncle R. Meir Berlin; R. Yehoshua Leib Diskin; and even from a Hasidic Rebbe, R. Aaron M’Chernobyl. It seems that there also was a haskama from the R. Menahem Mendel Schneerson, third rebbe of Lubavitch known as the Tzemach Tzedek, but it was lost.

    The next part of the Kitvei Ha'Arukh HaShulhan is a collection of the Arukh HaShulhan’s She'elot u-Teshuvot on all areas of halakha. It’s known that the Arukh HaShulhan wrote a very large amount of She'elot u-Teshuvot to thousands of questions that he was asked from all over the world. But, he writes that he was too busy to keep copies of all of them and thus, unfortunately, we do not have too many copies of these letters. However, R. Horowitz collected the letters that we do have from various sources: publications of the time, people he corresponded with that printed his letters in their seforim and manuscripts. There are some interesting statements in the teshuvot such as “Chas vesholom to rely on the shekia of Rabbeinu Tam as the Gra and Shulhan Arukh Harav already come out not like him” (p. 7). Another interesting letter is where R. Epstein writes after trying to find a leniency, he writes “even though I always try to leniencies where needed here I could not” (p. 74).

    Interestingly enough, this new edition included all letters of the Arukh HaShulhan based on the advice of R. Chaim Kanievsky, to produce a complete work and not to censor any of the letters. This includes the famous letter of the Arukh HaShulhan permitting one to use electricity on Yom Tov. But, as has already been pointed out by many people, this was based on a faulty understanding of the exact science of how electricity works (pg. 12-13). Another famous letter of his printed here is his allowing of Metzizah through an instrument (p. 50).

    The next part of the sefer is a collection, but not all, of derashot (sermons) of R. Epstein. One only wonders why the editor chose to put in these and not all, (or perhaps none) as we already have all this in a recently released volume. These derashot are excellent continuing in the path familiar already through his commentary on the Haggadah called Leil Shimurium.

    The volume continues with a collection of letters related to community work, various semikhot that he gave to Gedolim and haskamot that he gave to various works. These come from private collections, including those from Hebrew University and the Schocken Collection of Jerusalem.

    One interesting letter that seems to have bypassed the radar of the editors is a letter where someone had asked him about something, and R. Epstein responded:
    “unfortunately, we cannot ask my brother in law, the Netziv, because he’s ill, and we can’t ask R. Yitzchok Elchanan Spector because he’s surrounded by people (מוקף מסביב)” (p. 141).
    He seems to be hinting to what is claimed by many – the R. Yitzchok Elchanan was greatly influenced by his secretary, R. Yaakov Lifshitz. For examples, see Yaakov Mark’s work: Bemechitzasam Shel Gedolei Hador (p. 102), where he reports such a confession from R. Yaakov Lifshitz himself. (See also Nathan Kamenetsky, Making of a Gadol, pp. 458-463). However, interestingly enough, there is a letter in regard to another issue, where R. Yitzchak Elchanan himself writes:
    “I have been a Rav for tens of years authored thousands of teshuvos on every area of halakha to inquires from all over the world and in regard to many areas relating to the zibur and no one has ever questioned that I was not going according to my own mind and it’s a great chutzpah to say publicly that I have no da'at and people in my household use me!”
    (Iggerot R’ Yitzchok Elchanan Spector, vol. 1 pp. 59-60 [2]). Another interesting letter included is against Zionism (pp. 139-140) and R. Epstein’s defense of the Mussar movement (pp. 132-136).

    After each piece throughout the sefer R. Horowitz writes its exact source. I personally find this method much more user friendly than other similar works where they include this material in the back of the sefer which many times confuses the reader.

    The volume ends off with a short biography of R. Epstein. The only point of criticism on the biography is that not enough credit is given to the sources. One of the sources is R. Meir Bar-Ilan, a nephew of the Arukh HaShulhan, who is only mentioned in one footnote, but should have been mentioned in many more.

    In sum this is a beautifully presented volume of the writings of the R. Epstein and is well worth adding to one’s collection.

    [1] See generally, E.E. Aurbach, Ba’alei HaTosefot, 80-91; Y. Felix, “Sefer haYashar l’Rabbenu Ya’akov ben Meir,” Sinai, 39 (1956): 52-61, 106-15, 172-83, 224-39.
    [2] It is possible that R. Yaakov Lifshitz actually authored this letter.

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    In the prior post, R. Brodt discussed the new work of R. Yechiel Michal Epstein. R. Epstein is most famous for his Arukh HaShulhan a comprehensive halakhic work. Although the work itself is very well-known there is one point about the work that is not as well known.

    Today, the Arukh HaShulhan is sold as a set, a set which covers most of Shulhan Arukh. However, when it was orignally published, R. Epstein did not put out all the volumes at once, rather it was published piecemeal. The first volume, on Hoshen Mishpat, was published in 1884. The volume on Orach Hayyim wasn't completed until 1909 after R. Epstein had died (he died in 1908). Even after a portion of Shulhan Arukh was completed, in most cases, the Arukh HaShulhan continued to be published in small volumes comprising a few simamin and not more. [It was first published in a "full set" in 1950.]

    After R. Epstein died, his children took over publication. Although, today, for the most part, the Arukh HaShulhan is merely a photo-mechanical reproduction of the earlier editions, one line is typically missing - which child was the publisher. That is, the title page of the orginally posthumously published editions contain the following legend (reproduced below - you can click for a larger version):
    Printed by the well-known Rabbanit Mrs.
    Brina Walbrinska
    the daughter and legal successor [inheritor] of the Goan, the author of all the volumes of the above mentioned Arukh HaShulhan

    So the person who ended up publishing the bulk of the Arukh HaShulhan was R. Epstein's daughter. While this is not all that remarkable, there were many notable women publishers (most well-known, the Widow Romm), it is interesting that it was not R. Epstein's famous son, R. Barukh, but instead, this task fell to his daughter. This line no longer appears in today's copies of the Arukh HaShulhan.

    Additionally, some of the volumes contain important genological information (reproduced below - you can click for a larger image) on the Epstein family. For instance, as you can see below, Brina discussses the fact that (a) she is strapped for money and looking for someone to help defray the printing costs; and (b) that her son Dovid, died young in "New York, the Bronx, in America." Further, she discusses her husband. Additionally, she notes that she has "published 15 volumes [of the Arukh HaShulhan] and four more volumes remain in manuscript." Finally, she notes that there is a second volume of R. Epstein's work, Or L'Yisharim which also remained in manuscript.

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    As a followup to the two recent posts at the Seforim blog -- see here ("The Other Works of R. Yehiel Mihel Epstein, Author of the Arukh HaShulhan") and here ("Printing of the Arukh HaShulhan: The Missing Line About Rabbi Epstein's Daughter"), we are proud to present Rabbi Michael J. Broyde's short post about the Arukh HaShulhan.

    Three Missing Sections of the Arukh HaShulhan:
    The Search for the Complete Text

    Rabbi Michael J. Broyde

    Anyone who regularly learns the Arukh HaShulhan knows that his restatement of the Shulhan Arukh is incomplete in three places, and perhaps in three different manners.

    Firstly, he is missing some sections on mitzvot hateyulot ba'aretz. For example, Yoreh Deah 331 and 332 are missing and Rabbi Epstein explains himself that these matters are (1) not practiced nowadays, (2) complex and long and (3) not related to Yoreh Deah and thus he omits them from this section and places then in the Arukh HaShulhan Ha'atid.

    Secondly, the Arukh HaShulhan is missing Yoreh Deah 223-282 which deals with setam yenam (gentile wine), idolatry, ribbit (usury) and magic. I have no explanation as to why these sections were left out, and I have no indication that they were actually written, either -- although it would surprise me that any writer on Yoreh Deah would leave these sections out. I have always assumed that they were awaiting publication, although I have no proof as to such.

    Thirdly, the Arukh HaShulhan is missing all of hilkhot ketubot which is Even Haezer 66-118. It is clear that the Arukh HaShulhan wrote these sections, as he makes reference to them a number of times in other areas of his writings. (For example, if you look in Arukh HaShulhan hilkhot sotah 178:25, he makes clear reference to his commentary on Even Haezer 115, paragraphs 27-32, which means that he must have written that section already and he assumes that the reader can look this up.) However, as far as I know, they were never published.

    So, I was wondering if anyone knew anything else about these missing sections?

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    god or God: A Review of Two Works on the Names of God
    Eliezer Brodt

    Last week I picked up a new sefer titled Nekadesh es Shimcha. What caught my attention was that it included not only Nekadesh es Shimcha but also the work Meleches haKodesh from R. Eleazar Fleckeles (most well-known for his Teshuva m'Ahava). What follows is a short biography of R. Fleckes, a review of Meleches haKodesh, and a review of the new sefer - Nekadesh es Shimcha.

    R. Eleazar Fleckeles was born in 1754 in Prague. He was a direct descendant of R. Shlomo Ephraim Luntschitz, author of the Keli Yakar, whom R. Fleckeles quotes many times throughout his writings. When R. Fleckeles was 14, he went to study with R. Ezekiel Landau and spent ten years studying there. R. Landau, as is evident from his haskamot to R. Fleckeles works, held R. Fleckeles in high regard. Additionally, many teshuvot in Noda b'Yehuda are penned to R. Fleckeles. In R. Fleckeles's writings, he quotes many interesting statements from R. Landau [for one example see here]. When R. Fleckeles was twenty-four, he became the Rabbi of Kojetin, a town in Moravia. After four years, however, R. Fleckeles returned to Prague to sit on R. Landau's Bet Din and serve as a head of a yeshiva.

    R. Fleckeles authored many works, works covering halakha, derush, and a commentary on the Haggadah. R. Fleckeles was a skilled halakhist as is evident from his Teshuva m'Ahavah, but his fame also rests on his skills as a darshan. His derashot were published in a four volumes, Olat Chodesh. The fourth volume contains, R. Fleckeles series of derashot he gave against Shabbatai Tzvi and Jacob Frank (this section has a seperate title, Ahavat Dovid). One of themes which run throughout his derashot is an emphasis on learning Shas and Poskim and not Kabbalah. Recently, Professor Marc B. Shapiro printed an interesting correspondence between R. Fleckeles and Karl Fischer, a government censor, about Nittel Nacht, which first appeared as "Torah Study on Christmas Eve," Journal of Jewish Thought and Philosophy 8 (1999): 350-55, and then as "A Letter of R. Eleazar Fleckeles Concerning Torah Study on Christmas Eve," Ohr Yisrael 30 (2002): 165-168. This was not the only correspondence between the two, as a well-known teshuva appears in Teshuva m'Ahavah in response to Fischer's question about Jew's taking oaths. Teshuvah m'Ahavah, vol. 1, no. 26.]. In 1826, R. Fleckeles died after serving for 43 years on the Prague Bet Din.

    Amongst R. Fleckeles lesser known seforim is the Meleches ha'Kodesh. The book differentiates between the names of Hashem, which are kodesh and which are chol, using the Bavli, Yerushalmi, Midrash, three Targumim, and all the various m'farshim on the Chumash. The reason the differentiation is important is that every time a sofer writes a kodesh name of Hashem, he needs to makes sure it is l'Shem Kedushas HaShem. If the sofer does not do so, the Sefer Torah is invalid. Although there are many instances it is obvious when the name is kodesh, there are many times it is unclear. Over time, there have arguments amongst the various poskim what to do in the ambiguous situations. R. Fleckeles collected all the prior opinions and provides his own conclusion for these questionable Shems.

    R. Fleckes begins each of his discussions by quoting an earlier work on the topic Meir Netiv by R. Yehuda Piza [this first appeared in the Chumash R. Piza published in Amsterdam in 1767, Ezras HaSofer - R. Piza will be the subject a forthcoming post at the Seforim blog.] R. Fleckeles then provides additional sources not considered or quoted by R. Piza and then R. Fleckeles comes to his conclusion. In the process, R. Fleckeles demonstrates a tremendous breadth of knowledge in the works of Chazal, the Rishonim, and Achronim. What is extremely interesting about both of these works are the sources used to reach their conclusions. They use, amongst others, the Ibn Ezra, Abarbanel, and the Ralbag, these sources are not typically used to form a halachic conclusion. Even more noteworthy, are some of the sources R. Fleckeles uses, the Me'or Eynaim by R. Azariah di Rossi, as well as Mendelssohn's Biur (pp. 4, 52, and 88). R. Fleckeles also quotes R. Shlomo Dubnow a few times (pp. 92, 115). What is particularly striking about the quotes from Mendelssohn, is that R. Fleckeles, like R. Landau [although R. Landau's opinion is subject to some debate] was firmly against the Biur. (See Alexander Altman, Moses Mendelssohn, pp. 486-88; Moshe Samet, Chadash Assur Min haTorah, pp. 76-7; Meir Hildesheimer, "Moses Mendelssohn in Nineteenth Century Rabbinical Literature," Proceedings of the American Academy for Jewish Research (PAAJR) 55 (1988): 79-133, esp. p. 87 n. 23.)

    The Meleches haKodesh is divided into two parts, the first, discussing the ambiguous verses, and the second, a through exposition of writing holy-names more generally. Throughout the book, while discussing the specific questions, he includes many of his own explanations of the pesukim. Additionally, he discusses many things of interest in halacha and aggadah not directly related to the main topic. Both of these factors make this an important work even for someone not involved in the topic of the usage of Hashem. [The second part is not reprinted in this new work.]

    For instance, there is a discussion when did the author of Onkoles live. (pp. 4, 77). A discussion about the famous controversy of reciting Machnesei Rachamim. R. Fleckeles cites his teacher, R. Landau, that R. Landua when he said Neliah was careful not to pray to the angels. (p. 15). R. Fleckeles writes that tzadikim are greater than angels. (p. 42). Elsewhere he writes that even regular people are greater than angels. (pp. 104-5). At least twice he quotes Torah he thought of in his dreams. (pp. 14, 95). He records an interesting rule that wherever Chazal use "lamah" (למה) it is because they want to find out the reason for doing something that they do not know any reason for. This is in contrast to the usage of mipneh mah (מפני מה) which is used when there is a known reason but are not satisfied with that reason. (p. 110).

    When it comes to the Zohar, R. Fleckeles uses interesting language. After quoting one statement from the Midrash of R. Shimon bar Yochi, he notes that there is a contradictory statement found in the Zohar, to which R. Fleckeles writes:
    והיא נפלאת בעיני כפי המפורסם זה שלש מאות שנים חבור הספר הזוהר מהתנא האלקי רשב"י עליו השלום . . . יאמר נא יראי ה' אם זה הספר תולדות אדם גדול וקודש רשב"י הוא הוי ליה על פנים להזכיר דעתו בזה וצריך עיון רב ליישב על פי פשוט
    (pp. 5-6). Elsewhere he writes with regard to having special kavanot when saying the name of God "ומעולם לא עלה על הדעת קדושים הראשונים חכמים וסופרים לחשוב מחשבות וספירות כי בימיהם לא ידע מאומה, בלי מה מספירה." (p. 133).

    In general, throughout R. Fleckeles writings, there are interesting statements about Kabbalah and the Zohar especially, in the above mentioned Ahavat Dovid. In the introduction to that work he quotes a letter from R. Naftai Hertz Wessley which says
    כי שמעתי מפי הגאון המקובל הגדול שהי' ידוע הזוהר וכל ספרי האר"י ז"ל בעל פה הוא הרב ר' יהונתן אייבשיטץ זצ"ל שהיה אומר לשומעי דבריו בעיני הקבלה כשראה שהם מפקפקים בהם ואמר אם לא תאמינו אין בכך כלום כי אין אלו מעיקרי אמונתנו, וכן היה אומר לאלו המביאים הקדמות מדברי קבלה לישב איזה גמרא או מדרש לא חפצתי בזאת ומה חדוש על פי קבלה תוכל ליישב מה שתרצה אמור לי הפשט הברור על ידי נגלה ואז אודך וכל זה אמת עי"ש עוד

    Aside from the content of the letter, it is noteworthy that R. Fleckeles quotes R. Wessley at all, as Wessley was one of the early leaders of the haskalah movement and close to Mendelssohn.

    The book ends with eulogies and has a separate title, Kuntres Nefesh Dovid v'Nefesh Chayah. This section is comprised of eulogies R. Fleckeles said on his parents, and includes many wonderful explanations of derush on all kinds of topics.

    All of this is included in the back of the new work, Nekadesh es Shimcha. This work also is on the topic of the names and status thereof, of God in the Torah. Its author, R. Yehuda Farakas, includes many haskmos including that of R. Elyashiv. The main purpose of this book is to update R. Fleckeles work with the many sources which were unavailable to R. Fleckeles. There are also discussions of pesukim R. Fleckeles did not discuss at all.

    Again, R. Farkas uses many works which are not typically used in a halachic context, this includes recently published manuscripts. Amongst the more noteworthy are the Pirush R. Avrohom ben HaRambam, Radak, and Bechor Shor. The use of these runs counter to the well-known opinion of the Chazon Ish regarding newly published manuscripts. R. Farkas also uses many commentaries on the Targumim and Ibn Ezra not otherwise used by most. Throughout, he quotes the pesakim of R. Elyashiv.

    In conclusion, this an impressive, encyclopedic work on the topic of God's name. This is helpful in understanding the meaning of various pesukim in the Chumash. It is noteworthy that the controversial quotes remained, such as that of Mendelsshon. It is possible R. Farkas was unaware the Nesivos Shalom is the title of Mendelssohn's Biur. The one criticism is R. Farkas's decision not to republish the second part of Meleches haKodesh which would have made this a complete one-volume compendium on this topic.

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    In some of the recent posts we have discussed various new publications of Rabbi Yehiel Mihel Epstein, author of Arukh HaShulhan.

    Recently, Makhon Oz VeHadar reprinted the Arukh HaShulhan, and that reprint has been the subject of some harsh criticisms. The critique points to two major problems. First, this edition includes the Piskei Mishnah Berurah which, in the reviewer's mind, unconscionable. His reasoning is as the Arukh HaShulhan is a "piskei" work in its own right, there is no need to include the work of someone else as it undermines the force of the Arukh HaShulhan's pesak.

    Second, the review highights the biography which is included in the introduction. The reviewer demonstrates that much of this biography comes from two sources, R. Meir Bar-Ilan's MiVolohzhin l'Yerushalim and R. Maimon's Sa'are haMeah, neither of which are ever mentioned. R. Lior posits the reason for this exclusion is both of these works are "Zionist" works and thus can not even be cited by some.

    Of course, this would not be the first time Oz VeHadar is guilty of such viewpoint censorship. As pointed out previously, another recent Oz VeHadar edition has similar flaws.

    You can read the entire article here.

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    Response to Rabbi Zev Leff
    by Marc B. Shapiro

    Rabbi Zev Leff (of Moshav Matityahu) reviewed my book, The Limits of Orthodox Theology: Maimonides' Thirteen Principles Reappraised, in the most recent issue of Jewish Action [see review]. I don’t feel that he gave the readers a correct sense of what the book is about. To rectify that, I can only ask people to read for themselves and determine if his portrayal is accurate. For now, I would like to challenge him on the specific points he makes.

    1. He writes “The Chatam Sofer in his responsa (Yoreh Deah 356) cites a source even older than Rambam who refers to Thirteen Principles of Faith.” As I noted in the book (p. 36 n. 176) the Hatam Sofer was mistaken about this. The source he refers to was actually composed by R. Yom Tov Lipmann Muelhausen (14th-15th cent.) and has recently been published. (I also point out that in another responsum, Even ha-Ezer II, no. 148, Hatam Sofer himself realizes that the source we are talking about has nothing to do with the Thirteen Principles which, he acknowledges, originate with Rambam.) The fact that R. Leff could include such a sentence, even though I showed it to be incorrect, leaves me with some doubts as to how closely he read my book.

    2. He writes: “Today the [Thirteen] Principles are universally accepted.” I do not believe this to be the case, and whenever I hear prayers or selihot directed towards angels (a violation of the fifth principle), I am reassured of the correctness of my belief. If one is simply using the Thirteen Principles as a loose term to define traditional Jewish belief, then yes, R. Leff is correct. The purpose of my book was to show that, despite the widespread acceptance, there has nevertheless been a great deal of dispute regarding the Principles throughout Jewish history.

    3. He writes: “One who denies any of them is outside the pale of the faith community of Torah Judaism.” Yet this sentence is followed by another sentence which contradicts it: “The Sages [1] do not agree whether to deem one a heretic for harboring this belief.” Which is it? Is one who believes in a corporeal God a heretic or simply an ignorant person who must be enlightened? As I discuss in my book, our sages have disputed this very point, with no less a figure than R. Arele Roth rejecting the Rambam’s view that such a belief turns a person into a heretic.

    4. R. Leff then says that I misunderstand “so many Torah sources.” The first one he refers to Rashbam to Numbers 22:1. I referred to Rashbam as an example of one who believed that certain small parts of the Torah are post-Mosaic. Rabbi Leff writes that Rashbam “does not even intimate when this section was written. Rather, Rashbam simply explains that ‘beyond the Jordan’ was written to reflect what would be in the future.” Here are Rashbam’s exact words, as found in Martin Lockshin’s translation:
    “The phrase ‘across the Jordan’ is appropriately written after they [i.e. the Israelites] had crossed [to the west side of] the Jordan. From their point of view the plains of Moab [on the east side of the Jordan] are called ‘across the Jordan’”

    I assume that R. Leff’s understanding of Rashbam is based on David Rosin’s text (or one of the other editions or CD-Roms that use this text). Rosin’s edition removes anything radical from Rashbam. But as Lockshin has written, Rosin’s “reading is based on a conjectural emendation... I am convinced that Rosin’s emendation is based on his desire to make Rashbam’s comment here seem less heterodox.”

    In my book, I also noted that according to a medieval Tosafist collection of Torah commentaries, Rashbam also identified Gen. 36:31-39 as post-Mosaic; yet R. Leff does not mention this.

    5. I quoted sources that indicate that the notion of tikkun soferim is to be taken literally. Among these sources are Midrash Tanhuma and Yalkut ha-Makhiri (as well as the Arukh and a number of other texts which R. Leff does not mention, leaving the reader with the wrong impression).

    He writes: “What Dr. Shapiro fails to mention is that those portions of the Tanchuma and Yalkut are not found in most early editions.” Let’s assume that this is correct (although to prove this one would need to actually examine the manuscripts, not simply refer to two apologetic comments found in the standard rabbinic commentary to Tanhuma). This would make perfect sense, as later copyists would be inclined to leave out that which they regarded as controversial or even heretical. What then does this prove?

    Furthermore, the sources R. Leff mentions are only referring to Tanhuma. Neither of them mention anything about Yalkut ha-Makhiri. Of course, I am sure that he will also assert that this text is a forgery, or was written by a “mistaken student,” and will do the same with any other text that presents an alternate understanding of tikkun soferim.

    6. The next section of his review concerns how to understand a passage in R. Nissim and the Midrash. In presenting this, I wrote that it was hard to see how the approach of these sources can be brought into line with Rambam’s understanding of revelation of the entire 5 books of Moses. Nothing that R. Leff writes has changed my mind in this respect. The reader should note, however, that before discussing this I stated that these views “seem to contradict Maimonides’ Principle” (emphasis added). I was well aware that the matter was not completely certain, for exactly the reasons that Rabbi Leff sets out.

    7. R. Leff completely misunderstands my view about Principles of Faith and halakhah, so let me try to clear it up. I have said, and I repeat now, that no rishonim that I am aware of, and certainly not Rambam, believed that Principles of Faith can be decided in a halakhic fashion. Hatam Sofer says that they can. According to the Hatam Sofer, Principles of Faith can change in accordance with the halakhic decisions of the times; what used to be an obligatory belief can cease being so, and what is now an obligatory belief need not have been so in the past.

    Yet nothing could be more at odds with the Rambam’s understanding. According to the Rambam, Principles of Faith are eternal truths. They define the essence of what Judaism was, is, and forever will be. If the majority of poskim determine that God has a body, this will not change the fact that it is still a basic principle of the Jewish faith to assert the opposite. For the Rambam, Principles of Faith don’t depend on the majority, be they right or wrong, for they are part of the essence of Torah. Principles of Faith have not, and indeed can never, change. Unlike the Hatam Sofer's pan-halakhic approach, in the Rambam’s conception, one doesn’t need a halakhic decision for the Principles to be binding. As Menachem Kellner has put it, “Dogmas, it must be recalled, are beliefs taught as true by the Torah; is the truth taught by the Torah historically conditioned?”[2]

    We can see that the rishonim held this view by how they dispute with the Rambam. When they want to show that one of his Principles is mistaken, they cite a talmudic passage to show that one of the tannaim or amoraim disagreed with him. Thus, to give an example which I only saw after my book was completed, R. Isaiah ben Elijah of Trani’s proof that belief in God’s incorporeality is not a Principle, denial of which is heresy, is that there were sages of the Talmud who held this belief![3]
    אבל אם יחשוב אדם שהקדוש ברוך הוא בעל תמונה, לא הקפידה תורה בכך, וכמה היו מחכמי התלמוד הקדושים, שמהם תצא תורה לישראל, שלא נתנו לבם להתבונן בענין האלהות, אלא הבינו המקראות כפשוטם, ולפי תומם חשבו כי הקדוש ברוך הוא בעל גוף והתמונה, וחלילה שנקראו מינים לאשר נאמר עליהם לקדושים אשר בארץ המה

    R. Isaiah doesn’t assume, or even raise as a possibility, that it used to be permitted to believe this, but now, since the halakhah has been decided, it is forbidden. On the contrary, he asserts, based on the fact that some talmudic sages believed in a physical God and they are not, Heaven forbid, to be regarded as heretics, that God’s incorporeality cannot be a Principle. This, to him, is the greatest proof that the Rambam is wrong in declaring that all who deny his third Principle are heretics. In other words, R. Isaiah also believes that for something to be a Principle of Faith, it has to be eternally true.

    Thus, R. Leff is incorrect (with regard to the Rambam and other rishonim) when he writes that “faith and belief are mitzvot like all other mitzvot. Hence, the halakhic decision-making process applies to matters of faith in the way it does to other mitzvot.” In my book I acknowledge that this was the Hatam Sofer’s opinion, but it was not the Rambam’s view. In fact, the Rambam could not be more opposed to Rabbi Leff’s statement, as it means that his own Principles of Faith can be “voted out.” I can only wonder, after explaining my position, why Rabbi Leff sees this as “yet another example of Dr. Shapiro’s misunderstanding of Torah sources.”

    Incidentally, R. Leff quotes from my book (p. 142 n. 15) that R. Abraham Isaac Kook also held the Hatam Sofer’s opinion. But in that note, I also call attention to other sources from R. Kook that have a different approach. Why does Rabbi Leff ignore them?

    6. Finally, R. Leff claims that I “make a brazen attack on Rabbi Moshe Feinstein.” I am not sure why a valid criticism of R. Moshe qualifies as a brazen attack, but let’s move onto substance. (Anyone who has heard my lectures on R. Moshe at, can have no doubt as to my great esteem for him.)

    R. Moshe stated that the Rambam believed in the protective power of holy names and the names of angels, as used in amulets. R. Leff, in his criticism of me, states that in Hilkhot Mezuzah 5:4 “Rambam rules that God’s name ‘Shakai’ should be placed on the outside of the mezuzah, indicating his belief that the Shem does have protective powers.”

    Yet the Rambam never says that the name of God “should be placed” there; rather, he permits people, in accordance with the widespread custom, to do so if they want to, as this action has no relevance to the mitzvah per se and does not violate any halakhic prohibition. But to say, as R. Leff does, that the Rambam believes that a name of God can protect you (and R. Moshe even says this about names of angels) is a complete perversion of Rambam’s philosophy. Relevant in this regard are R. Kafih’s short remarks in his commentary to Mezuzah 5:4, which could also be seen as a reply to R. Leff.
    והדברים תמוהים מי זוטר תפקידה של המזוזה דתנטריה לבעל הבית בצאתו לרה"ר מלשגות בהרהורים, מי זוטר מה שמזכירה לאדם בצאתו למרחב את יחוד ה' ואהבתו ולא יבוא לידי חטא אפילו במחשבה

    In his commentary to Mezuzah 6:13 he writes:
    ואין כוונת חז"ל לדעת רבנו שהמזוזה מהנה בעניני העולם הזה, אלא שבזהירות במזוזה ישווה ה' לנגדו תמיד, ובכך תהיה השגחת ה' עליו גדולה

    Two hundred years ago, the great R. Wolf Boskowitz wrote:[4]
    אלא ודאי מוכח מזה דרבינו ז"ל סובר דמצות מזוזה אין בו תועלת השמירה כלל בטבעה ובסגולתה, רק כי היא כמו אחת מכל מצוות ה' אשר צוה אשר אין בהם תועלת לעניני עולם הזה רק לעשות רצון קונו יתברך אשר צוה על כך וקבלת פרס בעולם הבא, שתי אלה הם תכלית כל המצוות, ותכלית תכליתן היא קרבת אלקים כי זה חפצו יתברך וזה הוא גם כן תכלית מצות המזוזה ואפס זולתו

    In his Commentary to Sotah 7:4, the Rambam speaks strongly against those who write amulets. These people put various holy names and names of angels in the amulets. In fact, this is the definition of a Jewish amulet. When R. Moshe speaks of holy names he is referring to the names of God that are mentioned in medieval works (such as כוזו במוכסז כוזו ). Yet according to the Rambam, this is all nonsense.

    The Vilna Gaon recognized this.[5] Although he notes that the Talmud has stories of special powers associated with holy names, he also states that according to the Rambam .הכל הוא שקר R. Joseph Ergas wrote:[6]
    הרמב"ם ז"ל, כיחש בזה, ולגלג הרבה על המאמין שיש כח בשמות לעשות שום פעולה
    In my book, I assumed that R. Moshe’s position could be explained by the fact that he, like so many other poskim, did not immerse himself in philosophy. The fact that R. Leff could also assert this leaves me speechless. What is at issue is not the meaning of a citation of the Rambam from here or there, but a proper understanding of his entire philosophical worldview.

    [1] According to the scholarly convention, the word “sages” is only capitalized when referring to the Sages of the Talmud.
    [2] See his review of my book ("Returning the Crown to its Ancient Glory: Marc Shapiro's The Limits of Orthodox Theology: Maimonides' Thirteen Principles Reappraised") in The Edah Journal 4:1 (2004): 6.
    [3] Sanhedrei Gedolah le-Masekhet Sanhedrin (Jerusalem, 1972), volume 5, section 2, p. 118. On the previous page, in direct contradiction to Rambam, he writes:
    מי שיטעה בכך ולא ירד לעמקו של דבר, ומבין המקראות כפשוטן וסבור שהקדוש ברוך הוא בעל תמונה, לא נקרא מין, שאם כן הוא הדבר, איך לא פרסמה תורה על דבר זה ולא גילו חכמי התלמוד להודיע דבר זה בגלוי, ולהזהיר נשים ועמי הארץ שלא יהוא מינים ויאבדו עולמן. הלא כמה איסורים קלים כגון איסור מוקצה וכיוצא בו, חיברו חכמים כמה הלכות והרבו כמה דקדוקין להעמיד כל דבר על מכונו, ועל דבר זה שכל האמונה תלויה בו ויש בו כרת בעולם הזה ובעולם הבא, איך לא הורו חכמים על דבר זה בגלוי. אלא ודאי לא הקפידו לכך, אלא יאמין אדם [את] הייחוד כפי שכלו, ואפילו הנשים כפי מיעוט שכלן . . . שלא צותה תורה להורות על אלה הדברים
    [4] Seder Mishneh, ad loc. (p. 197).
    [5] See Beur ha-Gra, Yoreh Deah 179:13.
    [6] Shomer Emunim 1:13.

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    In response to Prof. Marc B. Shapiro's recent response to Rabbi Zev Leff (see original review), Rabbi Chaim Rapoport has submitted the following letter exclusively posted at the Seforim blog.
    בס"ד. שלהי חודש תמוז ה'תשס"ז
    לכבוד הרבנים מנהלי 'בלוג הספרים', וכל העוסקים במלחמתה של תורה לשם שמים, ה' עליהם יחיו ויחיינו מיומים

    בקשר להמחלוקת שפרצה מחדש בין המשפתים, בענין שיטת הרמב"ם ע"ד פעולת השמות הקדושים והטהורים, אף שאינני רוצה להכניס ראשי בין הרים גדולים[1], אבל הנני בזה כמעיר ובא לפני חכמים, להביא לכללות שיטת פרופ. שפירא סמוכין, מדברי הגאון יעב"ץ בספרו 'לחם שמים'.
    בפירושו 'לחם שמים' עמ"ס סוטה פרק שביעי כתב היעב"ץ על דברי הרמב"ם בפיהמ"ש שם משנה ד[2] בזה"ל: "לכאורה יראה מלשונו זה, שהי' [הרמב"ם] מהביל כתיבת קמיעות לגמרי, ואם כן נגע ח"ו בכבוד חכמי התלמוד. ועיין מה שכתבתי ב'עקיצת עקרב', משם תראה קצת התנצלות על מה שכתב גם בספר מורה נבוכים מענין זה כדומה לזה. אך מה שהפריז על המדה בענין באור שם המפורש, עם שהאמת אתו בזה שכן קורין חז"ל לשם הוי"ה ב"ה, אבל ניקודו ודאי צריך למסורת עכ"פ כמו שנראה בבירור בכמה מקומות בתלמוד, ביחוד ביומא ובפ"ד דקידושין וזולת. דוק ותשכח . . . וכמדומה שהי' חושב גם כן משתגע למי שעוסק בידיעת צרופי שמות וכן שם בן ע"ב וכ"ב (והמה מוזכרים בתלמוד שהפליגו חז"ל בשבח היודעם וזהיר בהם) והדומים הידועים ומקובלים ליחידי סגולה, והנם אצלו נחשבים מהבילים ומשוגעים חלילה. אבל מחשבה כזאת היא חסרון ידיעה מסתרי תורה ודאי והעדר קבלה שלא זכה אלי', היא שגרמה לו לשום במלאכי ה' תהלה, שרי לי' מרי' וימציא לו מחילה. ופעולת השמות אמנם מפורש במקרא [3] מאז בעלי המגדל ידעו מזה כמ"ש (פ' נח יא, ד) 'ונעשה לנו שם' (אלא שרצו להשתמש בו לפנייה חיצונית, לכן לא עלתה בידם, ע"י בלבול שפתם נתבטלה, לולי זאת היתה מחשבתם מתקיימת, כי חכמים גדולים היו כמ"ש בס"ה) בסוד 'ויעש דוד שם' (שמואל-ב ח, יג), המ"י [=המשכיל יבין]". עכ"ל היעב"ץ.
    מלשון היעב"ץ וסגנונו נראה בעליל, שהרמב"ם לא האמין בכח השמות וביטלו כליל, וזאת בגלל שהי' לו חסרון מסורה, העדר הידיעה בחכמת האמת וסודות התורה.
    [על דבר "העדר הקבלה" של הרמב"ם - ראה גם מ"ש היעב"ץ בספרו 'מטפחת ספרים' פי"ד המדבר "במעשיו הגדולים של הר"מ ז"ל ומדותיו האלקיות, כן הודיע גם בספר צדה לדרך בהקדמתו. גם האר"י ז"ל גלה עמוקות בסוד אחיזת נשמתו כי גבהה מאד, יעוין ספר הגלגולים. לכן חובה ודאי להפך בזכותו, ולא לתלות בי' בוקי סריקי דספר מורה נבוכים[4], כי אמנם זולת זה כל חבוריו בתורה ובאמונה, ממנו יתד ממנו פנה. כולם נכונים למבין וישרים ליודעי בינה. חוץ איזה פרטים ומעטים, שלא יפלא אם שגה בהם מחסרון קבלה[5], ושכל אנושי עלול לחטוא, גם מבחר מין האנושי טעה איזה פעמים, לכן לא יחסר ממעלתו דבר. בפרט דרחמנא לבא בעי, וכל כוונתו ז"ל היתה לטובה, וכל מגמתו לחזק מוסדי הדת"].

    בכבוד ובברכה לכל העוסקים בפרפראות לחכמה, יישר חילכם לאורייתא – הן הן גופי תורה, עלי ה'בלוג' לא יבולו, ותורה יבקשו מפיהו
    הרב חיים רפופורט
    לונדון, אנגלי'.

    נ. ב. לתועלת הרבים הנני בזה להעתיק קטע ממכתבי ששלחתי בשעתו לפרופ. שפירא כצורתו וכצלמו:
    ב"ה. ג' שבט ה'תשס"ד
    שלום לרחוק בגשם וקרוב ברוח,
    ידידי ורעי, ברכה על ראשו תנוח,
    חוקר חריף ובקי, משנתו קב ונקי,
    מפענח צפונות ופותר תעלומות,
    קנה לו חבר, עט סופר מהיר,
    הרב דר. מלך שפירא שליט"א
    . . . ספרך על קצה הגבול של התיאלוגיה (האורטדוקסית), בו הבקיאות והחריפות משמשים בעירבוביא, קנה שביתה על שולחני, באמת - אוצר בלום של תורה ומחקר מדעי. וכבר הודעתי לחברים מקשיבים לעצתי, שעליהם לקנות את הספר היסודי, - גם זקנים שכבר קנו חכמה, גם מתחילים שיודעים לדבר בדברי תורה. ובעז"ה אם ירשה הזמן אכתוב דברי סקירה וביקורת כפי מסת ידי, אבל עכשיו באתי לפרש שיחתי, לבאר ביתר פירוט את שאלתי. ובהקדם:
    בשו"ת אגרות משה (יו"ד ח"ב סימן קמא, ענף ג, עמוד רלט) כתב לאמר "שגם הרמב"ם מודה שאיכא שמירה בשמות מלאכים ושמות קדושים ופסוקים, ולכן פשוט שגם פרשיות דמזוזה לא גריעי משאר פסוקים ושמות ששייך לכותבם בקמיע לשמירה, ורק מה שסוברין שהנחת המזוזה בפתח הבית היא לשמירה גשמית דהנאת עצמן הוא בטול המצוה, ולכן שלא במקום המצוה אף ששם נכתבו לשמירה דקמיע אין בזה גרעון וחסרון לכתיבת הפרשיות והנחתן בפתח הבית למצוה, כדחזינן דפסוקים ושמות הם דברים שיש בהן ענין שמירה אף להרמב"ם ממה שכותבין בצד השני, שא"כ יש להבין מזה שגם הפרשיות יש בהו ענין שמירה אף שלא מצד המצוה, ומ"מ מודה הרמב"ם שאין בזה בטול וגריעותא להמצוה דאף דאיכא בה גם שמירה עכ"פ הוא מניחן בפתח למצוה ולא לקמיע, א"כ גם כשכותב אחד את הפרשיות לקמיע מה בכך הא כן הוא האמת שאיכא בהו ענין שמירה. ולכן אין למילף שהרמב"ם יאסור שם לכתוב פסוקי הפרשיות לקמיע כשמניחים במקום שלא שייך ענין מצות מזוזה, דאין ראי' שסובר דאסור להאמין שכתיבת פסוקים ושמות יועילו לשמירה בכלל ואף לא שפסוקי הפרשיות יועילו, היפוך מה שמפורש בגמרא בשבת דף סא שהיו כותבין קמיעין מענינות הרבה ויש בהן משום קדושה ואיפסק כן ברמב"ם פ"י מס"ת ה"ה [הקמיעין שיש בהם ענינים של כתבי הקודש אין נכנסין בהן לבית הכסא אלא אם כן היו מחופות עור], וגם בכאן אינו כותב שהן טפשין שמאמינים בדבר שאין להאמין, אלא כתב שהן טפשין במה שמבטלין המצוה שעושין מצוה גדולה שהיא יחוד השם כאילו הוא קמיע שזהו הטפשות וגם איסור גדול לדעתו".

    ובספרך אשר כתבת (עמוד 157 בשולי הגליון) ציינת, לדברי האג"מ הנ"ל כ"דוגמא מדהימה", לאי-ידיעתו של הגרמ"פ זצ"ל בספרי החקירה, של הנשר הגדול בעל משנה תורה. כתבת שהרמב"ם שולל בפירוש את כוחן של השמות הקדושים, לשמור מפגעים רעים ושאר מרעין בישין. (1) בפיהמ"ש סוטה פ"ז מ"ב ו(2)במו"נ ח"א פס"א.
    והנה, כפי שכבר אמרתי: לית דין צריך בושש, שאם באנו להביא ראיות ואותות, לאשר דברנו ולקבעם במסמרות, מוכרחים אנו לתוקף של יתד בל תמוט. אמת נכון הדבר, שלפי השקפת עולמו ה'רציונליסטית' של הרב המורה, קשה למצוא 'מקום' בהגיון, לפעולה על-טבעית של שמות העליון. גם מצינו בספריו דברי ביקורת חריפים, דברים כדרבונות כחיצים יורים, כנגד בעלי הקמיעות למיניהם, ביד החזקה הל' מזוזה ובספריו הנ"ל שציינת אליהם.
    אבל הנידון עלי' עמדתי היתה, האם שלל הרמב"ם בפירוש את השיטה, המייחסת כח שמירה נסי לשמות ופסוקים, וע"ז טענתי שבמקומות שהזכרת אין הדברים מפורשים. ניתי ספר ונחזי:
    בפיהמ"ש שם קאי על מה ששנינו בסוטה, "במקדש אומרים את השם ככתבו", וע"ז כתב: "וכתבו [=השם ככתבו] הוא מה שנהגה מן יוד הא ואו הא, וזהו שם המפורש המרומם, דע זה, ואל תטריד את מחשבתך במה שהוזים כותבי הקמיעות וטפשי בני אדם". וכוונתו במ"ש ["ואל תטריד את מחשבתך וכו'"] פשוטה, דכנגד הטפשים דיבר המורה, כלפי שאמרו בעלי הקמיעות, שהשם המפורש מרובה באותיות. לפי דבריהם שם בן ד' קדושתו פחותה, משמות המרובים באותיות שחיברו לשמירה, "השם ככתבו" הינו שם ארוך בכמות, ולא שם הוי' שאין בו אלא ארבע אותיות. וע"ז כתב הרמב"ם – להד"ם, אל תשגיחו בדברים חסירי טעם, את שם המפורש המירו הטפשים, בשמות שבדו להם הוזים בכוכבים. גם הרמב"ם מודה שישנן שמות קדושים לבורא, וכמ"ש בהלכות יסודי התורה; "השם ככתבו" דהיינו שם בן ארבע המורה על עצמו, בנוסף לשאר שמות ותוארים המורים על פעלו, שבעה שמות הם הקדושים במעלה, ושם המפורש העולה על כולנה.
    איפה מצאת בדברי הרמב"ם בפירוש המשנה, ביטול דעת האומרים שהשמות האמיתיים כחן יפה, לשמור את האדם בשמירה מעולה, הלא מזה לא דיבר הרמב"ם מאומה?!
    שמא תאמר הלא קרא לכותבי הקמיעות "טפשים", ועל כרחך שלל מכל וכל את ערכן של הקמיעות והמחברים, לזה אני אומר המוציא מחבירו עליו הראיה, וכבר אמרו דברי תורה עניים במקום זה ועשירים במקום אחר. הלא עוד יצא כברק חצו במורה הנבוכים, לתקן הדיעות וליישר המעקשים, לא חס על הקמיעות וה'מכשפים', הטועים ומתעים את העם בדברים מסולפים. שם (פס"א) נטה ידו לבאר החילוק בין שאר שמותיו שהם "שמות הנגזרים מן הפעולות . . . שהם כולם שמות הונחו לפי הפעולות הנמצאות בעולם" לשם המפורש המתייחס להבורא עצמו, "לא יהיה לו שם נגזר בשום פנים, אבל שם אחד מיוחד להורות על עצמו, ואין אצלנו שם בלתי נגזר אלא זה והוא יו"ד ה"א וא"ו ה"א אשר הוא שם המפורש גמור, לא תחשוב זולת זה". ובהמשך לזה כתב: "ולא יעלה במחשבתך שגעון כותבי הקמיעות, ומה שתשמעהו מהם או תמצאהו בספריהם המשונים, ומשמות חברום, לא יורו על ענין בשום פנים, ויקראו אותן שמות, ויחשבו שהם צריכים קדושה וטהרה, ושהם יעשו נפלאות, כל אלה הדברים לא יאות לאדם שלם לשמעם, כל שכן שיאמינם, ואינו נקרא שם המפורש כלל זולת זה השם בן ארבע אותיות הנכתב אשר לא יקרא כפי אותיותיו". עוד מתח עליהם את שבט הביקורת בסוף פרק סב: "וכאשר מצאו האנשים הרעים הפתאים אלו הדברים התרחב להם הכזב, והמאמר שיקבצו אי זה אותיות שירצו ויאמר שזה הוא שם יעשה ויפעל כשיכתב או כשיאמר על תאר כך, ואחר כך נכתבו הכזבים ההם אשר בדאום הפתאים הראשונים, ונעתקו הספרים ההם לידי הטובים רכי הלב הסכלים אשר אין אצלם מאזנים ידעו בהם האמת מן השקר, והסתירום ונמצאו בעזבונותם ונחשב בהם שהם אמת".

    שתים רעות עשו אלו, בעלי הקמיעות - במעלם אשר מעלו, על כן בצדק קרא להם הרמב"ם טפשים, גם לפי דעת האג"מ שאינו חולק על כחן של השמות הקדושים. (א) בדו להם שמות אשר "לא יורו על ענין בשום פנים", והטעו את "רכי הלב הסכלים אשר אין אצלם מאזנים", (ב) את השם המפורש המירו ברעתם, באותיות פורחות באוויר לעומתם.
    ועוד בה שלישיה, מ"ש הרמב"ם בהלכות מזוזה, שהכותב שמות בפנים המזוזה עבודתו פסולה, ואם קבעה בדלת ביטל את המצוה. ואת רובע עשו האוילים, מוכרי הקמיעות והאלילים, במקום מצוות לאו ליהנות, החליפו ועשו ונתנו 'סגולות'.
    מקום הניח להגרמ"פ לבא ולטעון, שהרמב"ם לא חלק על הנסיון, וכפי שהעיד לנו בעצמו, בהלכות שבת אשר כתב ידו בחיבורו: "יוצאין בקמיע מומחה, ואי זה הוא קמיע מומחה זה שריפא לשלשה בני אדם או שעשהו אדם שריפא שלשה בני אדם בקמיעין אחרים, ואם יצא בקמיע שאינו מומחה פטור, מפני שהוציאו דרך מלבוש" (הלכות שבת פי"ט הי"ד).
    הלא הוא הדבר אשר דברתי בתחלה, שאני הקטן לא מצאתי להדיא, בפירוש המשנה או במורה, ביד החזקה – משנה תורה, שלילת הדברים שכתב הגאון רבי משה. כולי עלמא מודים, ששמות בדויים אינם עוזרים, פיסול המזוזה ה"ה עון פלילי, הלא הגמרא (שבת לב, ב) אומרת שע"י ביטול מזוזה ימות ערירי.
    הרואה באג"ם יווכח לדעת, שלא הצדיק ר' משה את כותבי הקמיעות, במעלם אשר מעלו להמיר ולהחליף, ולעשות ככל העולה על דעתם הכוזב. אלו השמות לא יועילו, ואת כח השמירה לא יכילו, לא דיבר הגרמ"פ אלא מפסוקים הכתובים בתורה, ומשמות שנכתבו בקדושה ובטהרה.

    בוודאי לא יקפיד כת"ר על המעורר, הלא כך הוא הדרך – זה בונה וזה סותר, נא אל תשיבני ריקם מלפניך, תורה היא וללמוד אני צריך ממך.
    אסיים מעין הפתיחה, בכבוד ובברכה לכת"ר ולכל המשפחה, המקום ירחם עליהם ועל כל הנמצאים מאמיתת המצאו, ברוך עדי עד שם תהלתו
    ידידו דושה"ט בלונ"ח תכה"י
    חיים רפופורט.
    ה"ה הרה"ג ר' זאב לעפ שליט"א ממושב מתתיהו באה"ק תובב"א והרב פרופ. מלך שפירא שליט"א מארה"ב יצ"ו.
    וזה לשונו שם (לפי מהדורת קאפח): ". . . ואל תטריד את מחשבתך במה שהוזים כותבי הקמיעות וטפשי בני אדם".
    ראה גם מ"ש היעב"ץ – ע"ד פעולת השמות - בספרו 'בירת מגדל עוז' חלק 'אוצר הטוב' אות יו"ד: ". . . ההוא יקרא מעשה בראשית כשיושג ענין היצירה בעצם ובסבותיו, באופן שיגיע האדם לתכליתו ויוכל להמציא ג"כ יצירה חדשה מעיקרה, כענין ר"ח ור"א דעסקי בס' יצירה ומיברי להו עיגלא, להורות יכות וחכמת הממציא העליון אשר חלק מחכמתו ליראיו, וגלה להם סודו לפרסם כח שמותיו הקדושים, ולידע שחולק לאוהביו מכבודו להשתמש בשרביטו שיתדמו לבוראם להוציא הוייות חדשות, ונתן כח בידם לברוא עולמות בכח צירוף השמות המתבאר בספר יצירה למי שיודעו, זוהי חכמת עצמת מעשה בראשית שהפליגו חז"ל בשבחה והעלימוה מאד, (כי אמנם עוונותינו הבדילו בינינו לבין אלקינו, וחטאתינו מנעו הטוב הגמור ממנו עד שאין אתנו יודע עד מה, ולא אחד בדור שראוי וכדאי להבין אותה חכמה), ועלי' צוו חכמים במשנה (חגיגה רפ"ב) 'אין דורשין במעשה בראשית בשנים', לא על ידיעת שמות חומר וצורה ולידע שכל הגופים השפלים מורכבים מארבע יסודות ארמ"ע ושחומר הגלגל הוא גשם חמישי בלתי מושג ומנין גלגלים המדומה שבזה נכללו שני פרקים גדולים מהלכות יסוד התורה באריכות גדול ואין בהם עומק כלל ורובן סברות קלות והשערות מבני אדם חכמי העכו"ם אשר חכמת מה להם, אינן מקנות שלמות לא באמונה ולא בשכל ולא אפילו חידוד".
    השווה מ"ש על דבר הרמב"ם ב'אגרת בקורת' ו, רע"ב: "חלילה לתלות בוקי סריקי ברבן של ישראל [!] ולהעמיס בלשונו הצך מה שאין במשמעו ושלא עלה על דעתו ז"ל".
    להעיר ממ"ש היעב"ץ בספרו 'בירת מגדל עוז' (הנ"ל הערה 3) על דברי הרמב"ם בהל' יסוה"ת פ"ג ע"ד הגלגלים, וז"ל היעב"ץ שם: "כל הגלגלים אינן לא קלים ולא כבדים כו', לא אוכל לדעת מניין לו דברים הללו, מי עלה שמים וירד ויגידה לנו גבהי שמים, מי ידע מה טבעם . . . אכן באמת הוא נטוי' מדעת התורה ששמה מים מעל לרקיע, ואין מקרא יוצא מידי פשוטו, ואיני יודע מה בא הרב ללמדנו בכך, וכי כבוד הבורא תלוי בכך אם הגלגלים כבדים או קלים".
    ועל דבר מי שמאמין בפירוש הרמב"ם להמושגים מעשה מרכבה ומעשה בראשית –פשוטו כמשמעו, כתב היעב"ץ בספר 'מטפחת ספרים': "תכלית הדברים, כל המעלה בדעתו שהבלי הפלוסופים הם מעשה בראשית ומעשה מרכבה, הוא ודאי אפיקורוס. כופר לא לבד בדברי חכמים, כי גם בתורת משה, שריבוי השמות והכינויים, ופעולות הנראות גשמיות ומסורות יתרות וחסרות, ותיבות ולשונות זרות, ואותיות מלופפות ונזורות ונוספות, ונקודות ותגים ופרשיות, ומאמרים המתנכרים ומשקלות מורכבות והנקראים אצל בעלי הפשט זרים, הלא כל אלה צווחות ואומרות, דע כי לא דבר רק הוא, ואם הוא, מכם הוא. ואולם ודאי שחכמת הטבע תתכן להקרא מעשה בראשית ביחס אל מדרגת פשט המקרא. וכמו שלא יכול הפשטנים לתת טעם וסבה לזרים הנמצאים בו לרוב, וככה בטבע ימצאו זרים למהלך הטבעי, לא ידעו הטבעי, לא ידעו הטבעיים עלתם. אמנם חכמת הטבע של אנשי העולם, היא מלבוש הגס העב למעשה בראשית, שהוא הפרי הגנוז ועצם הענין במהותו, וחכמת מה היא הטבעית של פלוסופים, שעוסקים בקליפות החיצונות הנזרקות, שאינן למאכל ולא נחמדים להשכיל, כי אין להם השגה רק במקרים, ככל מעשה החושים החיצונים". ואכ"מ להאריך בכ"ז.

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    In response to Rabbi Chaim Rapoport's recent response to Prof. Marc B. Shapiro's response to Rabbi Zev Leff (see original review), Prof. Marc B. Shapiro has shared with the Seforim blog his original response to Rabbi Chaim Rapoport from several years ago.
    ועש"ק פרשת בא תשס"ד

    לכבוד ידידי אהובי הרה"ג החסיד המפואר, איש חמודות ונדיב לב, אוצר בלום לתורה ולחכמה, מוה"ר חיים ראפפורט שליט"א, אב"ד דק"ק אילפורד יע"א
    אחדשה"ט באהבה נאמנה

    תחילה אני מודה למע"כ על טירחתו לכתוב לי ולהעיר על דבריי הפעוטים . . . וכעת אבא לעיקר הנידן במכתבו, וטרם אתייחס לטענתו במישרין, הנני מצהיר שדבריי בזה הם כיהודה ועוד לקרא, שהרי רבנו הגר"א, אשר כל רז לא אניס ליה, כתב בפירוש שהרמב"ם מכחיש את הקמיעות והשמות, ואנן מה נענה אבתריה. וכל הנידון אינו אלא האם אפשר למצוא את זה במפורש בדברי הרמב"ם. ויאמין לי ידידי, כי אני זהיר מאד בכל לשונותי, ולפני שאני כותב דבר בשם הנשר הגדול יושב אני שבעה נקיים, ורק אח"כ הנני מעלה את הדיו על הנייר. וכמובן, מוכן אני להודות שטעיתי, כי אין אדם תחת השמש שיכול לומר שלא שגה, ולא אפונה כי יש בספרי דברים הצריכים תיקון, ושגיאות מי יבין, כל קבל דנא מחזיקנא טיבותא לך אם יעמידני על האמת, ואת הצריך תיקון אשוב ואתקן, אבל בנידון דידן, אינני חושב שטעיתי.

    כתב האג"מ שהרמב"ם מודה שאיכא שמירה בשמות מלאכים ושמות קדושים ופסוקים, ובפירושו לסוטה ז, ד כתב הרמב"ם נגד אלה הטפשים שכותבים קמיעות ושמים בתוכם שמות קדושים ושמותיהם של מלאכים. זה פירושו של קמיע. וכשהאג"מ כותב "שמות קדושים" כוונתו לאלו השמות שנזכרים ע"י גדולי אשכנז, ולפי דעת הרמב"ם הכל הבל ואלו הכותבים קמיעות טפשים הם כי בדו מלבם כל השמות הללו, שמות ה' ושמות מלאכים, ורבים הם וא"א לפורטן. ובספרי כתבתי שהרמב"ם שלל את כחם של שמות המלאכים ושמות קדושים (או "קדושים") ואכן בפיהמ"ש ובמו"נ ברור מללו, וראה גם בפירושו של הרב קאפח להלכות מזוזה פרק ה אות יד.

    נכון, כמו שכתב כת"ר, שהרמב"ם אינו שולל בפירוש את סגולת השמירה של שם המפורש או א' משמות ה' הנמצאים בתורה. אולם. כל מי שמכיר את דרכו של הרמב"ם יודע שמושג זה ממנו והלאה, וע"כ במבט לשעבר הנני מודה שכדאי היה לי להאריך קצת ולכתוב שאע"פ שהרמב"ם אינו שולל בפירוש את כח השמירה של שם המפורש, בכ"ז לפי הפילוסופיה שלו והשקפת עולמו אין מקום לרעיונות כאלו, כמו שהבין הגר"א ובעל שומר אמונים (א, יג) וכל אלו שהעמיקו בדברי הרמב"ם בלי יוצא מן הכלל, וע"כ תמהתי על האג"מ.

    והנני בזה ידידו מוקירו דושה"ט באהבה, מודה ומכיר טובה על ענותנותו וטוב לבו לעיין ולהעיר בדברי.

    מלך שפירא

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    Rabbi Yehuda Henkin is the author of Shu"T Bnei Banim in four volumes and the commentary Chibah Yeteirah on the Torah. He learned privately with his grandfather, Rabbi Yosef Eliyahu Henkin, and served as Area Rabbi of the Bet Shean Valley in Israel. He now lives in Jerusalem.

    Rabbi Henkin has two degrees from Columbia University, and has written extensively in English: Equality Lost--Essays in Torah Commentary, Halacha and Jewish Thought, (Urim Publications); New Interpretations on the Parsha (Ktav); Responsa on Contemporary Jewish Women's Issues (Ktav); and the forthcoming Understanding Tzniut--Modern Controversies in the Jewish Community (Urim).

    This is his first contribution to the Seforim blog.
    Opposite of Plagiarism
    Rabbi Yehuda Henkin

    Plagiarism is a lack of attribution; less common is its opposite, mistaken attribution; rare indeed is the attribution of a defamatory work to the object of the defamation himself! An example of the latter can be found in the entry in the Encyclopedia Judaica [1] concerning my grandfather, R. Yosef Eliyahu Henkin zt"l.

    The offending sentence reads: "His published responsa appear in Chaim Bloch's Even me-Kir Tizak (1953) and his own Perushei Lev Ivra (c. 1925)."[2] But in fact, not only does the pamphlet Even me-Kir Tizak contain no responsa of R. Henkin, it is an unbridled personal attack on him on the part of one who lost a din Torah heard before him. Bloch refused to accept the verdict, and resorted to defamation of the judges. If I recall reading correctly about the affair, he was subsequently put in cherem by the Agudas HaRabbonim.

    How did the mix-up in attribution occur? Since the card-catalogue of the Jewish Reading Room of the 42nd Street Library in New York listed Bloch's pamphlet under R. Henkin, one can surmise that the researcher[3] for the EJ copied the listing without bothering to look up the reference.

    Since then the mistake has been copied in Rafael Halperin's Entziklopedia l'Bet Yisrael and, earlier this year, in the new edition of the EJ (2007). Surely a case of shigegat talmud oleh zadon [4].

    [1] First published in 1972, vol. 8 column 324. The EJ contains a number of incorrect or partial biographical details; for a comprehensive account see my Equality Lost (Urim), chap. 16. See here for Shnayer Z. Leiman's review of the NEJ at the Seforim blog.
    [2] This confuses two separate works: Perushei Ivra [PDF] (1925) and Lev Ivra [PDF] (1957). Together with Edut leYisrael (1946), all were reprinted in Kitvei haGri"a Henkin, vol. 1 (1981). In addition, Kitvei haGri"a Henkin, vol. 2 (1989) is a collection of his responsa and articles, edited by his son (my father) Avraham Hillel zt"l. (The volumes may or may not be available from Ezras Torah in NY. I have some of vol. 1 and a few more of vol. 2.)
    [3] Not to be confused with the rosh yeshiva of the same name, but an otherwise reputable academic scholar.
    [4] Avot 4:13.

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    No more Bentchers: A Review of a Sefer Given as a Wedding Gift
    by Eliezer Brodt

    A wedding carries with it many customs, one of which is an attempt to use this ceremony to disseminate Torah. There was an old custom in many communities for people to write poems in honor of the simchas chasan and kallah. Others even wrote plays in honor of the bride and groom. One example is the Ramchal who wrote the play Ma’ashe Shimshon (as well as other poems for various weddings). In other communities there was a custom for someone to say a derasha at the chasunah for the same reason (in certain circles this still exists). Recently a newer custom evolved to print a sefer and give it out at the wedding.

    It used to be a plain old bentcher was given out at a wedding, some, wanting something more substantial than a bentcher began giving out siddurim or chumashim. Today, in many circles, a sefer of some sort is given out to the wedding guests. Some times it’s an old work of some old famous relative of the family that has never been printed before, other times is a reprint from a relative of one of the wedding parties work which had been out-of-print. Some times its it’s torah from the groom or from some family member that’s making the wedding. What’s even more interesting about these seforim is many times they never reach the stores even the famous Biegeleisen who generally gets close to everything printed (to some known as Gan Eden). The market for these seforim many times is very small so the family never bothers bringing it to any stores. [Although, recently, various works of R. Reuven Margoliyot were reprinted for a wedding. It seems these were more widely disseminated as the republication forced Mossad HaRav Kook to reprint the works and to note that, according to them, the wedding reprint was a violation of their copyright.] The only way one gets the sefer is by being at the wedding or knowing someone who has been there. Other times it’s just pure luck - somehow one gets lucky and stumbles upon it. It’s a shame that a complete bibliography of such works can not really be written because there is no way to know all the works that have been published for these occasions.

    A few months ago I was at the wedding of a good friend. As is now commonplace, the guests received a sefer – more correctly a collection of seforim – at this wedding. What follows is a review of that wedding gift.

    First, I can only refer to this work as Mazkeret Nisuin Yehudah Vyael Hershowitz (a keepsake from the wedding of Yehudah and Yael Hershkowitz) as no other title is provided. The sefer is a paperback and is one hundred and thirty six pages long. It includes a few parts some of which have never printed before. The book was edited by the groom - R Yehudah Hershkowitz. R. Hershkowitz has authored many articles some of which appeared in Or Yisroel and Yeshurun dealing with many areas of learning and history.

    The sefer contains four sections: section one is the sefer Ashes Chayil from R. Avrohom Yagel, section two are Shelios Uteshuvot from R. Avigdor Kara, section three is the Mamar al targum from R.Yakov Ben Chaim (ibn Adonijah), and section four is a Kuntres from R. Noach Berlin. I assume the reason why he printed it in this order is because Ashes Chayil is the most relevant to the wedding and then the other placement is based on chronological order. Prior to each section R. Herskowitz includes an excellent historical introduction to the work which follows.

    The first part is the sefer Ashes Chayil from R. Avrohom Yagel. This work has been printed a few times even at a chasunah in 1994 of Zvi and Sarah Friedman in this edition R Herskowitz reset the type, which had not been done in the prior reprint, and added some notes.

    The author R. Avrohom Yagel has been discussed at great length by Professor David Ruderman in his book Kabblah, Magic and Science. R. Avrohum Yagel was born in 1553. He corresponded with many gedolim of the time, amongst them the Ramah Mepano and R. Mordechai Dato. He was highly respected by the Ramah Mepano. He wrote many works on all areas especially science, many of which are still in manuscript and await publishing. One of his seforim is called Gaie Chezyon this work has been recently reprinted in English and Hebrew by Professor David Ruderman. It is a highly original work written in the form of dreams dealing with many topics. Many aspects of R. Yagel’s personal life can be gleaned from this work.

    Ashes Chayil was first printed in Venice in 1606 and is a commentary on the thirty-first chapter of Mishlei which contains the verse of Ashes Chayil . R. Yagel wrote this work in honor of a friend’s wedding. The main idea of the work is to discuss what the role of a wife in marriage, to fear and love god, fear and love her husband and not to sit idle. R. Yagel notes that these same attributes apply not only for marriage but also when serving God. In the work there are many interesting explanations to different aggados of Chazal. Besides for this he writes many practical pieces of advice relating to marriage. For example, he writes, how the wife should get up early to prepare the household needs (pg 36). He writes that her voice should not be heard outside (Pg 40). Another point he makes is she should be careful to dress in a ts’neius manner and not to dress up like many woman to impress everyone (pg 49-50).

    The next section are the Shelios u’Teshuvot of R Avigdor Kara. These teshuvot are printed here for the first time from manuscript. Here too R. Hershkowitz includes an excellent historical background about R. Avigdor Kara and his times. Although not much is known about R Avigdor Kara, R. Hershkowitz includes a brief history as well as a listing of the writings of two of his contemporaries which help with R. Kara's biography: R. Yom Tov Melehuzan and R. Menachem Shalem. They were all active on the beis din in Prague during the same time periods (approx. 1390-1439). Besides for this R. Yom Tov Melehuzan was involved in kabblah as many of his works show whereas R. Menachem Shalem was more involved in philosophy. R Avigdor Kara was somewhere in between them as he was involved with both areas. In one of the teshuvot printed in this collection we see how R Avigdor Kara struggled trying to reconcile contradictions between Kabblah and philosophy. In the end R. Kara writes that he was successful and felt that he was able to show that there were no contradictions between the two. Both R. Yom Tov Melehuzan and R. Menachem Shalem were close with R Avigdor Kara quoting him in their respective works. R Avigdor Kara wrote many works on all areas. Some were printed many others remain in manuscript. One work, the Sefer Hapliah (more on this in a future post) was attributed to him but as has been recently proven is certainly not from him. The Sefer Hapliah although many write it is from R Nechunyah Ben Hakonah (see the many sources R Hershkowitz cites) but Professor Ta Shema (see his Kneset macharim Volume 3) and others have demonstrated that it’s a much later work.

    R Herskowitz was perhaps unaware of some more sources on R Avigdor Kara. R. Yididiah Tiyah Weil brings that R Avigdor made a golem (Levushim Levadim pg 37). There is a nice chapter on R. Avigdor Kara in the controversial book Hachasidus from R. Ahron Marcus (chapter 28). Another point R. Hershkowitz missed is that the Zemir Achud Yuchud is attributed to him . This song is sung in many circles when the chasun gets an aliyah and has been subject to an excellent article by one of the experts on minhagim, R. Hamburger in his Shorshei Minhag Ashkenaz (volume 3 Pg 373- 397). While these contemporary sources are not mentioned, R. Herskowitz does provide many other sources.

    The teshuvos which are included in this volume are on some very interesting topics. He discusses davening to angels and in general what function they serve exactly in tefilah. This is another great source for the well-known discussion of Machnesei Rachamim which has been treated thoroughly in the classic article of R. S. Sprecher (Yeshurun, vol. 3, pp. 706-29). It is also an important source for the debate, recently restarted again on this blog, regarding Professor Marc B Shapiro book. Another teshuvah deals with a work of R. Avigdor Kara’s which we do not have called Even Sappir. R. Avigdor explains what this work was, it appears to be rectifying contradictions between Kabblah and philosophy. For both these teshuvot R. Hershowitz provides some excellent background behind these topics. One other (of the many) interesting points found in this section is a early source that one should remove ones shoes before entering shul. This subject has been treated by many, most recently by R. Yecheil Goldhever in his now classic Minhaghei Hakehilos (volume one pg 3-7).

    The next section is the Mamar Al targum from R.Yakov Ben Hayyim. This Mamar was very rare and exists in less than five chumushim in the world. R. Yakov Ben Hayyim was the famous editor for the Bomborg publishers in Venice. Much has been written about Bomberg, but suffice it to say it played a very important role in the history of the printing of seforim. Many of the seforim printed in this printing house have remained the same layout to this day such as the Mikros Gedolos Chumash, Shas Bavli and Yerushalmi and Rambam. R. Hershkowitz has a nice discussion on how exactly did R.Yakov Ben Hayyim edit the seforim. One of the famous points of interest with R.Yakov Ben Hayyim is that he became a Christian, not much is known as to when and why. R. Hershkowitz wants to suggest an interesting possibility that R.Yakov Ben Adoneiah did not do so willingly but rather was forced. [The inclusion of R. Yakov and R. Yagel has another connection, in that R. Yagel was erroneously accused of converting to Christianity.]

    The Mamar Al targum discuses many interesting things amongst them when was Targum Onkelos given and written. He also has a big chidish L’ehalacha that sh'naim mikra ve'achad targum needs to be done during K'reias hatorah.

    The last section is a Kuntres from R. Noach Berlin. This kuntres was never printed before. In this section R Hershkowitz does not provide that much of a biography about R. Noach Berlin as he and a friend are currently working on another work of R. Berlin the Meyin Hachacmah (which we eagerly await). R. Noach Berlin authored many famous works amongst them the Atzei Arazim (on Shulchan Orach Even Ezer) and Aztei Almughim (on eruv chaserios and netlayas yadaim). R. Chaim Volozhiner writes that after the Gra died the only person he had to consult with was R. Noach Berlin. This kuntres is on the topic of woman doing semicha. While discussing this topic he goes thru many others (as was the style of learning in those days) and deals with woman and mitzvos aseh sheha'zman grama especially Tefilin.

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    הערות על אנ"י
    מאת: ש"ז הבלין

    הרב הנקין הזכיר מכשול בערך מערכי האנצ"י, ואולי ראו להוסיף, כי אכן נכון הדבר, ואף הרב הנקין שליט"א בעצמו, נכשל בעבר בהסתמכו על מידע שלקח מאצ"י. באחת מחוברות 'קושט', עלון רבני שעורך הרב הנקין (לצערי איני זוכר את מס' חוברת, ואף אני עכשיו רחוק מביתי ומארצי), ציין הרב כמקור ראשון ל'אני מאמין' שבסידורים, את הגדת ונציה שכ"ו. פרט זה לקוח מהערך על י"ג העיקרים שבאנציקלופדיה יודאיקה (שכתב פרופ' אלטמן מברנדייס). והנה לא זו בלבד שאין שם ה'אני מאמין', אלא שככל הנראה אף אין הגדה שנדפסה בונציה בשנה זו!

    ציון זה הכשיל גם את עורך הסידור היפה מאוד, הן בתוכנו ובמקורותיו והן בצורתו הנאה מאוד, 'עליות אליהו',[1] שציין פרט זה כמקור ל'אני מאמין'.

    מקורו של 'אני מאמין' לענ"ד עדיין נעלם. אמנם רבים חושבים שהוא הוא על פי דעת הרמב"ם, אך מי שיעיין וישוה ימצא ניגודים לא מעטים ואף חשובים בין דברי הרמב"ם ובין נוסח ה'אני מאמין'. בסידורים שבדפוס, דומני שהקדום מהם שראיתי בו את השיר הזה הוא סידור פראג רצ"ו (אני כותב כנ"ל מרחוק ומחוסר ספרים[אני בדקתי וזה אמת ד.ר.]), וכנראה הוא מצוי גם בכתבי יד של הסידור, אך מסופקני אם יימצא בהם קדום יותר מאשר המאה הט"ז.

    במיוחד חשוב פרט אחד, שנאמר בשם הגאון מבריסק ר' וולוולע זצ"ל, ואשר רבי מ"מ שולזינגר בספריו הפך אותו לאחד מעיקרי הדת ופלפל בו הרבה מאוד, והוא שהצורה הנכונה של האמונה בביאת המשיח, היא כמו שנאמר בסידור: 'בכל יום שיבוא', והיינו לפי פירושו שיש להאמין שמשיח יבוא בכל יום, היינו היום הזה, וכך יש להאמין בכל יום. ידוע ששאלוהו על דברי הגמרא בעירובין שאין משיח בא בשבתות או בערבי שבתות, והשיב, קודם כל יבוא, ואנו כבר נמצא תירוץ מתאים!

    על כל פנים יש לעיין, מיהו מחבר ה'אני מאמין' ומה סמכותו כפוסק בענין זה, והלוא ברמב"ם לא נאמר שיש להאמין שמשיח יבוא בכל יום! (פרט לכך אפשר לדחוק ולומר שגם ב'אני מאמין' הפירוש להאמין בכל יום, שיבוא, ולא שיבוא בכל יום. . .)

    וגם ברצוני להגיב על מאמרו היפה של פרופ' ש"ז ליימן, על האנציקלופדיה יודאיקה החדשה. חשוב מאוד לדון כך, באנציקלופדיה שמהווה מקור עיקרי למידע, ובעיקר לחשוף מגמות ונטיות לא ענייניות ולא אובייקטיביות. כמובן שיש לבקר גם את הרמה ואת המקצועיות.

    מסקנתו של פרופ' ליימן, שרמתה של המהדורה הישנה גבוהה יותר מהחדשה. וזה פרדוכס שכמדומני מאפיין במידה רבה את המצב במדעי היהדות בכלל, לרבות התחומים הטכניים והאינפורמטיביים. בנהוג בעולם, בעיקר במדעי הטבע והרפואה,שמקיימים את צו התורה, וישן מפני חדש תוציאו. לא אחת ראיתי בספריות, שהגיעו מהדורות חדשות, ואף של סדרות גדולות,ומיד השליכו החוצה את הישן, כאבן שאין לה הופכים. אין הדבר כך לא ביהדות, לא במדעי היהדות, ואף לא בביבליוגרפיה שעדיין עלינו למשמש ולהשתמש בספרים הישנים, כגון ספרי הרחיד"א, חיים מיכל ועוד, ומוצאים בהם לעתים, גילויים שחוזרים ומתגלים כעת מחדש, ואין מחסור בדוגמאות.

    כדי לשבר את האוזן, הרי אירוע שאירע לי בערך שכתבתי למהדורה הישנה (כתבתי בה למעלה מחמישים ערכים). הזמינו ממני ערך 'הגהות'. נושא זה היה חדש, ולא מצאתיו בספרים קודמים (ראה למשל אצל יעקב שפיגל, עמודים בתולדות וכו'. הע' 1, שלא מצא שכתבו על נושא ההגהות פרט ל'ערך' זה באנצ"י), הסתפקתי אם הכוונה היא לתופעת ההגהות, או לתולדות ספרות ההגהות והשתלשלותה. פניתי למערכת ומתשובת העורך הבנתי שהשאלה לא הובנה, ואי לכך כתבתי על שניהן (ובמיוחד שנוכחתי שיש כנראה קו ישר והתפתחותי מהתופעה אל הספרות).

    לאחר הכתיבה, לאחר העריכה, התרגום, הבדיקה וההגהה, לקראת סגירת העבודה, קבלתי קריאה בהולה מן המערכת, שקרתה תקלה, וכלל לא התכוונו לערך זה. אמנם מאחר שכבר נכתב ונערך וכו' הם ישמחו להדפיסו, אך בגלל הטעות נמצא שעכשיו חסר להם הערך 'הגהות מיימוניות' שאותו התכוונו להזמין בשעתו. בקשוני אפוא להכין להם בדחיפות ובמהירות ערך כזה . . .

    זוכר אני את הרעש ואת המהומה שהתחוללה בארץ, כאשר נודע שפרופ' י' לייבוביץ שהיה אז אחד מעורכי האנציקלופדיה העברית, מתעתד לכתוב בעצמו את הערך על דוד בן גוריון באנציקלופדיה. היו צעקות רמות, שלא יתכן שאדם בעל דעות כשלו, ושעמדותיו הפוליטיות והערכותיו לראשי המדינה היו ידועות ברבים, יקח על עצמו כתיבת ערך חשוב זה.

    ברור שיש להבליט בכל מקרה כזה כמו לפנינו, את המגמות המעוותות, חוץ מהכשלונות האובייקטיביים, והשקפות מסוימות של חוגים מסוימים, שמשתמשים בהזדמנויות להשליט את דעותיהם על הצבור.

    הערות [1]סידור 'עליות אליהו' הוא גם סידור הגר"א, היינו שאמנם אינו סידור שעשה הגר"א, שכידוע אין סידור כזה, אלא סידור על פי מה שמשוער להיות נוסחת הגר"א ודעתו בהלכות הנוגעות לסידור, כמו שנהגו בסידורי הגר"א כולם.
    והנה לאחרונה הופיעה מהדורה חדשה של סידור, זה, על ידי המחבר והמהדיר של 'עליות אליהו' ובהשתתפות האדמו"ר מנוואומינסק שליט"א, בשם 'קרני הוד', ובנוסח ספרד. הרי לנו אפוא, סידור הגר"א בנוסח ספרד! ת

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    Iggeres Ha'Mussar: The Ethical Will of a Bibliophile
    by Eliezer Brodt

    A few days ago, the sefer Iggeres Ha'mussar from R. Yehudah Ibn Tibbon, was reprinted. What follows is a short review of this beautiful work.

    R. Yehudah Ibn Tibbon was born in 1120. Not much is known about him but from this work one learns a few more things about him, he was a doctor, close to the Ba'al Ha'meor (pp. 50, 63). R. Yehudah appears to have been working on another work (see p. 46) although it is unclear whether this work was a full work. He also loved his only son R. Shmuel Ibn Tibbon very much and wanted him to succeed him as a doctor and translator of seforim -as Yehudah Ibn Tibbon was famous for his own translations. R. Yehuda ibn Tibbon's son, Shmuel, refers to his father as "father of translators" as he translated many classics, among them, the Tikun Nefesh of Ibn Gabreil, Kuzari, Mivhar Peninim, Emunah Ve'dais of Reb Sa'adia Gaon, Chovos Halevovos, and two works of R. Yonah Ibn Ganach.

    In general, most people do not enjoy reading ethical wills for a few reasons. Amongst the reasons given is that wills, by nature, can be a depressing reminder of death and the like, topics most people would rather not focus on. Another reason given is (and this they say they find applies to many older mussar seforim as well) is people feel the advice is dated and does not speak to them at all. In this particular case, however, the Iggeres Ha'mussar is not a typical will as it does not focus on death at all. Furthermore, although it was written around 1190, over 800 hundred years ago, it is full of valuable advice that speaks to one even today. Besides for all this, there are some interesting points found in this will that are very appropriate for a seforim blog to talk about- specifically, how one should maintain their library.

    Iggeres Ha'mussar is an ethical will which R. Yehudah Ibn Tibbon wrote to his son R. Shmuel Ibn Tibbon. This work has been printed earlier, but not that many times. [1] The most recent reprint is Israel Abrahams' Hebrew Ethical Wills, originally printed in 1926 and reprinted in 2006, with a new forward by Judah Goldin. Now, Mechon Marah has just reprinted this work based on four manuscripts. This edition also includes over three hundred comments from the editor, R. Pinchas Korach, which explain the text and provide sources for many statements in the book. This new version also includes an introduction, short biography of the author, and a listing of R. Yehudah Ibn Tibbon sources. Additionally, this edition also includes a letter from R. Yehudah Ibn Tibbon to R Asher M’luniel regarding Ibn Tibbon's translation of Chovos Halevovos.

    Some of the many points found in this work. Regarding learning and other areas of ruchnius R. Yehudah Ibn Tibbon writes to his son make sure to learn torah as much as possible, (p. 38), make sure to teach it to your children, (p. 59) to one's students (p. 61). One should study chumash and dikduk on Shabbos and Yom Tov (id.). R. Yehudah writes to make sure not to waste your youth as at that stage of life it is much easier to learn than later in life (p. 38). He also exhorts him to be on time to davening and be from the first ten for the minyan (p. 67).

    He tells his son to study medicine (p. 38). Elsewhere he writes that his son should learn the ibur – how the calendar works (p. 57). R. Yehudah is very concerned, throughout the will, that his son learn how to write clearly and with proper grammar and R. Yehudah offers many tips on how to accomplish these goals (pp. 33-36,45-48). R. Yehudah tells his son to learn Arabic (pp. 34-35) and to do so by to studying the parsha every Shabbos in Arabic (p. 43). R. Yehudah expresses the importance of double checking written material prior to sending it as one tends to make mistakes (p. 45) and notes that "even the Ba'al Ha'meor, who was the godal hador, showed R. Yehudah writings before they were sent out" (p. 50).

    On life in general, R. Yehudah Ibn Tibbon writes that one should be very careful with the mitzvah of kibud av v'em going so far as to tell his son to review the parsha of Bnei Yonoduv (which deal with this topic) every Shabbos (pp. 62 and 32). He tells him to make sure to seek advice from good people, people whom he's confident in their wisdom (pg 42). Not to get in to arguments with people, (id.), dress oneself and their family nicely, (p. 43), acquire good friends (p. 39), be careful to eat healthy, (p. 54), and make sure to keep secrets people tell you (p. 70). He advises his son to treat his wife respectfully and not to follow the ways of other people who treat their wives poorly. (p. 57) Later on, R. Yehudah adds to make sure not to hit one's wife (a unfortunate practice that was all too common in that period, see A. Grossman, "Medieval Rabbinic Views on Wife Beating, 800-1300," in Jewish History 5, 1 (1991) 53-62) and, if one must rebuke their wife to do so softly (p. 58).

    Regarding seforim and libraries R. Yehudah Ibn Tibbon writes many interesting things. He writes that he bought his son many seforim which covered a wide range of topics, at times buying multiple copies of the same book in order his son would not need to borrow from anyone else (pg 32-33). He writes that "you should make your seforim your friends, browse them like a garden and when you read them you will have peace” (pg 40 - 41). It’s important to know the content of seforim and not to just buy them (pg 33). He also writes “that every month you should check which seforim you have and which you lent out, you should have the books neat and organized so that they will be easy to find. Whichever book you lend out ,make a note, in order that if you are looking for it you will know where it is. And, when it is returned make sure to note that as well. Make sure to lend out books and to care for them properly” (pp. 60 – 61).

    One rather strange point throughout the Iggeres Ha'mussar is the tone R. Yehudah Ibn Tibbon uses, the tone leaves the impression that his son, R. Shmuael Ibn Tibbon, was very lax in the area of kibud av (see, e.g., pp. 33, 34, 52). Although, I highly doubt that his son completely failed at honoring his father, one thing is certain that in the end R. Shmuel listened to his father and read and fulfilled the suggestions in the will. Specifically, R. Shmuel became fluent in Arabic and became the most famous translator of his generation, translating many works, the most well-known being the Rambam's Moreh Nevukim, making his father quiet proud of him in the Olam Ha'elyon.

    This new print of the Iggeres Ha'mussar is aesthetically very appealing - the print is beautiful and the notes are very useful. But, this edition, which claims to have used multiple manuscripts, should not be mistaken for a critical edition as it has serious shortcomings in this area. For example, the will many times references the poems of R. Shemuel Ha'naggid's Ben Mishlei but R. Korach, in this edition, never provides a citation where they are located in Ben Mishlei. This deficiency is in contrast to Israel Abrahams' edition where Abrahams does cross-reference these external works. The latest edition states that they used four different manuscripts but do not explain what, if any, major differences are between the manuscripts. Nor do they explain the differences with Abrahams' edition and theirs. The history in the introduction is very unprofessional, quoting spurious sources - this part in too could have been a bit better. Although the introduction includes some nice highlights of the will they should also have included a full index, which is standard in most contemporary seforim. All in all, however, aside for these minor points this ethical will, and this edition, is worth owning and reading from time to time as R. Yehudah Ibn Tibbon wanted his son to do.


    [1] This work was only first published by the famed bibliographer Moritz Steinschneider in 1852. Steinschneider did so as part of a larger work VeYavo Ya'akov el Ha'A"Yan, which Moritz Steinschneider published in honor of his father Yaakov [which is rather appropriate as this will contains much on the obligation to honor one's parent] reaching age 70. The work was then republished in 1930 by Simcha Assaf under the title Mussar haAv.

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