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

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  • 12/12/07--16:20: New Book List December 2007
  • December 2007 New Book List
    By Eliezer Brodt

    As previously mentioned before from time to time we hope to write up lists of new seforim with a short description. Here is a list of some new seforim that came out in the past few weeks [some of these seforim will be the subject of their own longer posts].

    Iggeret Hamussar (Jerusalem, 2007); 269 pages. This sefer is the last will and testament of the Rambam (with nikkud) that he wrote to his son R. Avraham. This work has a lengthy commentary from R. H. Kupperman – 269 pages. The authenticity of this work will be discussed in a future post at the Seforim blog.

    Tosaot Chaim from R. Eliyahu De Vedasch author of the Resheis Chochmah. This edition is 437 pages and contains 183 chapters from R. Akiva Yitzchak about various topics in this sefer mostly relating to Orach Chaim topics.

    The Sefer Mitzvot Tefillen by R. Yeshaya Horowitz, author of the Shelah HaKadosh, was reprinted. This work was first printed by R. Kreizer over thirty years ago with notes from manuscript for the first time. It’s a complete work on the halakhot of tefillen written by the Shelah. Now R. Kreizer reprinted it with almost double amount of material in the notes than the original printing.

    Yerushateinu vol. 2 (Beni Brak: Machon Moreshet Ashkenaz, 2007); 462 pages. Machon Moreshet Ashkenaz released the second volume. This journal will soon be reviewed at greater length at the Seforim blog.

    R. Yadler has just printed his fourth volume of the popular work Meor HaShabbas. This work focuses on electrical products and Shabbas.

    A new volume of R. Tzvi Pesach Frank's Har Tzvi has been printed. This work is a collection of his notes on various classical acharonim, many of which have been printed before.

    A new sefer called Nasiach BeChukechah was just printed by the Rosh Kollel of the kollel in Palo Alto, California, Rabbi Avi Lebowitz. This work is an excellent basic work on the klalaei hamitzvos. The volume is very organized and clear, but not overly exhaustive or encyclopedic. The author focuses on the kelalim that the Chayei Adam brings (in siman 68) and Nasiach BeChukechah has chapters on each of these kelalim, providing citations for the basic sources and relevant discussions on the various kelalim. He also has some chapters on some of the Kelalim that the Chayei Adam omitted. For some samples of this work see here.

    Another volume from the Eitz Hadas Tov by R. Hayyim Vital was printed for the first time from manuscript. The introduction to this volume deals with, among other topics, the time when this work was written by R. Vital -- before or after R. Vital studied kabbalah. [A topic which has already been sharply debated between R. Y. Hillel and R. Montzur]. This edition of Eitz Hadas Tov also includes a hundred page work on the history of R. Hayyim Vital and his writings.

    Ahavat Sholom released two more volumes, numbers seven and eight, of their set of seforim of the Aderet. Other publishers are putting out other volumes of the Aderet's writings as well. Amongst the seforim in these two volumes is a work of the Aderet's father and a work on klalei Hamitzvot. All the works of the Aderet will be reviewed shortly at the Seforim blog.

    HaMeor HaGodol, R. Meir son of R. Jacob Emden, ed. R. Shmuel Dovid Friedman (Brooklyn, NY, 2007), [30], 352, [6]. This is a commentary on Mishnayos Seder Nashim and the Rambam's Mishneh Torah by R. Meir, the first born son of R. Jacob Emden. Included is a biography of R. Meir.

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    Ohr Yisrael no. 50 (Tevet, 5768); 256 pages.

    The new issue of Ohr Yisrael, no. 50. has a couple of articles I wanted to highlight. First, they have a section devoted to essentially whether the ArtScroll Gemara is a good thing or not. While in the United States the English version has been around for awhile, only recently has the Hebrew edition been on the market and it appears that it is very popular. Thus, there are those who are questioning if this is a positive step or not. Many of the articles are highly negative towards Artscroll and some even claim that if a person cannot learn Gemara without such an aid they should not be doing so at all.

    The final article in this section is by R. Chaim Rapoport, a frequent contributor at the Seforim blog, and is the most comprehensive of the bunch. R. Rapoport demonstrates that ArtScroll -- and he points out it is not only ArtScroll anymore but others have published Gemaras that explain the text -- is not new. Rather, in the late 19th and early 20th century a similar work, HaMadrich, was published with many outstanding approbations. [This portion of the article, as R. Rapoport notes, is heavily based upon R. Yehoshua Mondshein's article on HaMadrich that appears in Kovets Zekhor l'Avrohom, (2000-2001), 349.]

    Thus, R. Rapoport argues if those gedolim gave approbations then, they would have no problem today with the ArtScroll.

    R. Rapoport in the second half of the article does point out a few (according to him) deficiencies in ArtScroll Gemaras as well as the ArtScroll Siddur. R. Rapoport notes that ArtScroll Gemaras use an academic commentary to explain the half flesh/half dirt mouse discussed in the Mishnah in Hullin (9:6). Specifically, ArtScroll quotes approvingly R. Samson Raphael Hirsch's comments on how to understand such Aggadot. Additionally, R. Rapoport notes that, at times, ArtScroll appears to have selectively quoted Rishonim to "conform with modern sensibilities."

    Second, this issue contains an article on the customs surrounding Brit Milah by R. Yaakov Hayyim Sofer. Additionally, there is a very comprehensive article on the publication of R. Wolf Boskowitz's works.

    Finally, there is a section on Shemittah and "Amirah leAkum."

    Menachem Mendel Krochmal, Zemer Na'ah l'Kovod haTorah, (Brooklyn, NY, 2007); 73 pages. This is a reprint of the Amsterdam, 1675 edition and includes an introduction that includes biographical information on R. Krochmal. Additionally, as this work is for Simchat torah and when dedicating a new Torah, included are R. Krochmal's teshuvot discussing hilchot sefer torah. The book can be purchased at Biegeleisen or by contacting Shmuel Stefansky at 718.437.4044

    Dovid Felbarbaum, Halichot Kodesh (Brooklyn, NY, 2007), 20, 316 pages. A collection of customs, nusachei teffilah, and other daily acts by Chief Rabbi of Kassan, R. Yisrael Tzvi Rattonberg. To purchase this book, aside from Beigeleisen, the following are provided, 718.336.8971 or 718.972.4078.

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    Published several weeks ago, Rabbi Hillel Goldberg, Executive Editor of both the Intermountain Jewish News and of Tradition, has written a 'Review Essay' ("Discontinuities: The Case of Saul Lieberman," reviewing Elijah J. Schochet and Solomon Spiro's Saul Lieberman: The Man and His Work), in Tradition 40:3 (Fall 2007): 69-75. A PDF of this article is only available to subscribers to TraditionOnline and/or members of the Rabbinical Council of America.

    While the aim of a "Review Essay" is usually focused on broadening the perspective of a particular topic with the author making use of the most recent contributions from within the extant scholarly literature, "Discontinuities: The Case of Saul Lieberman" lacks any such focus.

    Continue reading this post ("Rabbi Hillel Goldberg on Prof. Saul Lieberman") at the Michtavim blog.

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    Moritz Steinschneider's online presence has been significantly augmented by the Jewish National Library's Digitized Book Repository. They seem to have scanned all of his German books, as well as the Hebrew translation of his general work 'Sifrut Yisrael'.
    And also includes an interesting anecdote that
    someone once told me how Prof. Moshe Bar Asher shut himself in a room for a couple of days, and emerged having taught himself Ugaritic.

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    After I posted the Table of Contents to the latest volume of the Torah u-Madda Journal, no. 14 (2006/2007), at the Michtavim blog last week -- note, this post has been updated with the links to the PDFs, hosted at -- I received some very harsh criticisms for my laxity in providing links to the PDFs, including one noteworthy email.

    To add insult to injury, the accuser sent me criticisms via an anonymous email address! See here [PDF].

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    I recently had an enjoyable conversation with a former roommate and friend, back from our days at Yeshivat Kerem B'Yavneh, who is currently nearing completion of a doctorate at the graduate school of an Ivy League institution in computer science, about his views on using print vs. electronic journals. Our discussion centered on the notion that a journal Tradition, published by the Rabbinical Council of America (RCA), a leading institution of American Modern Orthodox Judaism, charges a fee of $25.00 per year (or $15.00 to students) for non-Tradition subscribers. Parallel journals from within the Modern Orthodox community, like The Meorot Journal (formerly The Edah Journal), published by Yeshivat Chovevei Torah and the Torah u-Madda Journal, published by the Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary (RIETS) of Yeshiva University, are published in both print and electronic formats, thus allowing their publications to be read by individuals from throughout and beyond the geographic and ideological world of Orthodox Judaism.

    Below is a lightly-edited version of a letter that I received from my roommate and friend C.G., posted at the Seforim blog with his express permission.
    Dear Menachem,

    Regarding our conversation about Tradition, we discussed whether graduate students use online journal access through their universities. In my experience, not only do they use the online access, they only use the online access. I know that in 4 years as a PhD student at Columbia I have looked up an article that wasn't online exactly once. There is just too much material online and too many accessible journals for me to bother going to the library to photocopy a journal that is behind the times. (The one time I did go was for a seminal article from the 70's that it is de rigueur in my field to cite.) If I had to pay for the article, even a few dollars, there is no way I would have done so. My experience is that other PhD students take the same approach - for all intents and purposes, an article that isn't freely available to us online doesn't exist. (By free, I mean "free to me," as in either free or available through a University's e-journals program.) Free abstracts isn't much of a help either, if the article isn't free. It isn't even that I'm particularly cheap - it simply makes no economic sense for me to pay. There is always another article you can cite, and considering the hundreds of articles I read before each paper I write, the cost of a few dollars per article would add up pretty fast. It's the equivalent of replacing a library with a bookstore - if I have to pay for every book I read, I'll read a lot fewer books, and if most of the books I want are free but a few cost money, it would take a lot to interest me in the ones that I need to pay for.

    The New York Times discovered this recently; charging even a small fee for their opinion pages drastically reduced the impact of their columnists on popular thought, which is part of the reason that they are suddenly free again. (Incidentally, they were smart enough to make themselves free to academics even when they were charging the general public). New York Times continues to charge (the general public) for archived articles and I guarantee that this has reduced the frequency that archived articles are cited by non-academic researchers. New York Times can afford to do this because the fact is that they were the paper of record for more than a century and if you are researching news from the 1930's you don't have a lot of other choices. However, a small journal that isn't widely known outside of a relatively small circle doesn't have the same power.

    I will admit that $15 a year is a fairly nominal cost, and if I was planning on citing Tradition a lot I would pay it, much as I pay for various magazines. However, the key here is that I would only do that if I already knew that Tradition was full of material for me. If I came across a Tradition article and I wasn't familiar with the journal or didn't think I'd be citing many Tradition articles, I'd just click along to the next result on Google. This is the reason that it's standard practice in my field to make your own articles available online for free - the easier it is for someone to get it, the more likely it will have an impact. I also concede that my field (computer science) is more "online" than other fields. However, a lot of my friends are in graduate programs and an informal straw poll says that the same is true for other fields. A friend in psychology told me that an article that isn't free online "doesn't exist" and a close friend who was researching a Jewish Studies topic in conjunction with the chair of a university department told me that anything he needed to pay for or even needed to go to the library for wasn't worth his time when there were ten other articles that were free.

    My opinion: Tradition's current pricing is perfectly fine for a magazine. If that's the model they are aiming for, it's entirely sustainable, and it's what most magazines do, as their goal is to maximize subscriptions and revenue. However, an academic journal usually has a different goal of having an impact on the currents of thought in the broader field, and in that respect, if even 25% of researchers are like me and my friends (though, to be honest, I suspect that 95% are) then Tradition is making a big mistake.

    Just my opinion of course. Be well,


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    There are three books devoted to the topic of Nitel.

    Mordechai Menachem Goren, Hefaru Torasecha, Ma'amar Makif miMinhag Avosanu b'Yadanu Odos Lil haAfel Nitel Nacht UMinhag Yisrael l'Vatel meEsek haTorah,[4],52, [10] pages, 2004.

    This first contains a two page introduction and the next 52 pages discuss the custom, its sources, and the various opinions. The final 10 pages are some sources that are quoted in full.

    [Mordechai Menachem Goren], Hefaru Torasecha, (helek bet, b'inyanei haTekufa) . . . u'Migilas Nitel, [40] pages, 2005. This is the last chapter from the prior book and discusses the tefkufa. Additionally, it includes some additional sources about nitel, quoted in their enterity and some Rabbinic statements about Jesus. The work "Megilat Nitel" is also included. This Megilah comes from the work Iggeret R. Yochonon ben Zackai, that work is discussed by Prof. Meir Bar-Ilan in an article here, where he provides, as well, a bibliography of the various editions of Iggeret R. Yochonon ben Zackai.

    Yisrael Barukh Messinger, Nitel uMerosroso, Union City, NJ, 251, [4] pages, 1999.
    This work is similar to the above and based substantially on Marc B. Shapiro, "Torah Study on Christmas Eve," Journal of Jewish Thought and Philosophy 8 (1999): 319-353. At the end there is a highly charged discussion about R. Kook and Jesus in note 137 [for more on R. Kook and other controversial statements regarding Jesus, Shabbetai Zevi and others, see Bezalel Naor, Post-Sabbatian Sabbatianism (Spring Valley, NY, 1999), pp.109-13, 203-05].

    In Messinger's book he provides a bibliography of other articles that discuss the topic. One final article that is not mentioned as it came out after Messinger's book is the chapter in R. Freund's Moadim l'Simcha, vol. 2, pp. 397-427.

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    In a previous post at the Seforim blog, Prof. Elliott Horowitz of Bar Ilan University and co-editor of Jewish Quarterly Review, responded to a discussion of Bugs Bunny's purported Jewish identity.

    This is his second contribution to the Seforim blog. We hope that you enjoy.

    Edmund Wilson, Hebrew, Christmas, and the Talmud
    by Elliott Horowitz

    As is well known, during the 1950's Edmund Wilson, the great (and perhaps greatest) American man of letters, began studying Hebrew, both in order to read the Hebrew Bible on his own, and in order to write in an informed manner about the controversies surrounding the recently discovered Dead Sea Scrolls. As Shalom Goldman noted in his excellent chapter on Wilson in God's Sacred Tongue: Hebrew and the American Imagination (Chapel Hill, 2004), Wilson "delighted in teasing his Jewish friends" about their having jettisoned their (usually limited) Hebraic learning while he was steadily increasing his. As an example, Goldman cites the Christmas card Wilson sent to Alfred Kazin in 1952, which included (in Hebrew) the words "I shall learn Hebrew," followed by the Wilsonian barb: "I'll bet you can't read this."

    If one consults the card itself, reproduced in Edmund Wilson, Letters on Literature and Politics, 1912-1972 ed., Elena Wilson (New York, 1977), it may be seen that before the oddly vocalized words "elmod lashon yisrael," Wilson added, in the same square script, the blessing "barukh ata la-shem" - probably the first time these words (with the actual tetragrammaton) were used in a Christmas greeting.

    Readers of the Seforim blog may also be interested in a subsequent letter of Wilson's to the Brooklyn-born Kazin, written from the New Yorker office in October 1954, shortly after the article on the Dead Sea Scrolls was completed.

    "I am still struggling in the toils of the three thousand years of Jewish history. Once you get into it, you find there is no easy way of getting out again. Have you ever tried reading the talmud? It is a very strange work - difficult at first to get the hang of - but it exercises a certain fascination. I think that I may settle down to reading it through. There seems to be no other way of really finding out what is in it..." (Ibid., 528).

    Of course, daf yomi tapes were not yet available...

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  • 12/27/07--08:44: Neziv on Ancient Near East
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    To the Editors of the Seforim blog:

    I thank C.G. and Menachem for their thoughtful comments regarding Tradition at the Seforim blog (see "The Ongoing Debate on the Usage of Print vs. Electronic Journals: Perspective of an Ivy League PhD Student," available here). Since I understood the post to be using the example of Tradition for a larger phenomenon of deciding between print and electronic journals, I will also try to relate to this ongoing discussion in the context of explaining Tradition's situation. I should note from the outset that I write only from my limited experience and perspective as the online editor, and that these views are strictly my own, although they have certainly been shaped by discussions with Tradition's editor, Rabbi Shalom Carmy, and Rabbi Basil Herring, executive Vice President of the Rabbinical Council of America, publisher of Tradition.

    When I first became Tradition's online editor this past spring, I asked the same questions regarding making Tradition free online. C.G. raises the issue in particular with regard to university students, who get electronic access to many journals through their university. I initially raised it, however, in the context of offering it online to the wider public.

    This issue has been raised multiple times, by readers and editorial board members alike. Everyone would like to see Tradition available to as wide of an audience as possible. Unfortunately, it has been deemed unfeasible, at least for now, for the following reasons:

    1) Despite the fact that Tradition is edited on a volunteer-basis, producing the journal 4 times a year costs tens of thousands of dollars. Rising printing and mailing costs as well as other factors have increased the cost of print journals, which is one of the major factors propelling different journals to publishing an online-only journal. While producing an online journal still costs money, the costs are definitely reduced - you do not have to pay for paper, ink, design, layout, shipping, etc...

    If we made Tradition entirely free online, however, the feeling is that the print subscription would drastically decrease, especially with younger subscribers who are willing to print out journal articles for shabbat reading, and thereby undermine the financial stability of the journal.

    Many people, however, continue to find a printed journal as a more enjoyable reading experience, as they do with magazines like The New Republic, Commentary Magazine, etc. This was, indeed, the concluding point of the article in The New Yorker by Princeton University professor Anthony Grafton, linked at the Michtavim blog. Yet the initial cost of printing even one copy of the journal is quite expensive, and one needs to preserve a minimum number of print subscribers in order to maintain the financial viability of the printing.

    To a small extent, costs could be limited by reducing the number of editions published per year, but then you lose out on the joy of receiving a new edition on a more frequent basis, and the seasonal dialogue that it generates.

    2) Tradition's sponsor, the Rabbinical Council of America (RCA), does not have the funding to entirely absorb these costs. While Tradition Fellows generously cover an important amount of these costs, we must still pass some cost on to the reader. We are, of course, regularly pursuing other sources of revenue, and our outside funding has increased substantially in recent years, but these resources are finite. Tradition also has to be sensitive to not accepting money from organizations or individuals that might attach ideological or editorial strings to their contributions.

    If anyone, however, knows of potential donors or foundations, we'd of course be happy to hear from you.

    Given that information, I proposed making a number of changes that we have adopted including offering online-only subscriptions for a reduced price, and giving a further reduction for students, which we have now implemented at We continue to have reduced prices for multi-year subscriptions.

    We of course want to expand our reach deeper into the academic arena, and are currently working with our institutional subscribers to increase electronic access to affiliates of their universities, which we hope will ultimately happen, in one form or another, in the coming months. In addition to my duties at Tradition and as a Ram in Yeshivat Hakotel, I myself am also pursuing a PhD in Jewish Philosophy at The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and understand that our generation of students and professors prefer taking advantage of their electronic library priviliges.

    In many ways, the rising costs of printing and digitalization have forced journals to ask themselves whether they are a magazine or a research journal. The former cater to a more popular audience, and expect subscriptions from a larger audience while seeking profits. The latter limits themselves to a more limited, academic audience, and therefore mostly seek library subscriptions (at extremely high prices) to cover the costs of issues that come out on a less frequent basis. I do not agree with C.G.'s assessment that academic journals exclusively (or almost exclusively) impact currents of thought. I think magazines with a scholarly tone but a clear "public intellectual" agenda have a tremendous amount of impact, like First Things.

    Having never discussed this with the editors, I'd venture to say that Tradition is somewhere in between a magazine and a journal, leaning more toward the latter in both its frequency and tone. It is a scholarly (though not purely academic) journal with a public service agenda, addressed to an intellectual religious community rather than exclusively a professional academic coterie.

    Whatever one might make of that assessment, it remains clear, however, that we do not publish Tradition for-profit, and continue to publish it, lishmah, for the sake of disseminating and encouraging Orthodox Jewish thought.

    Another initiative was to "offer more," so to speak, for the subscription. In addition to creating the website to increase availability, we are now in the final stages of an extensive process to digitize all 50 years of Tradition in an indexed and searchable PDF online archives. The alpha release of the full archives will hopefully happen in the next month. When that happens, individual subscribers (both print and online-only) will have full access to all 50 years of Tradition, and non-subscribers will be able to purchase individual articles for a small fee (again comparable to other magazines), as they can do already for those issues currently online.

    As Grafton noted in his piece, the OCR technology is far from perfect, and produces a number of typos, particularly when irregular fonts are used, like in footnotes. Hebrew can also be a problem. Nonetheless, the overall technology remains wonderful, and having spent numerous hours this past week going through the archives online, I can testify to the blessings of digitalization, and I think that this will be a wonderful service to both the academic and broader communities.

    I should also note that all of Rav Soloveitchik's writings that were first published in Tradition will be available for free to the wider public. (For copyright reasons, The Lonely Man of Faith will be available in a read-only format).

    Especially given access to 50 years of Tradition, we think that our subscription prices are pretty reasonable. You can check them out here.

    Another new and popular phenomenon common to magazines, but not to journals, involves special online-only features on the website. Our new books of interest section has already begun and is in the process of being expanded, and we hope in the next months to have blogs and other online-only features, all of which will be available for free to the wider public. Obviously, these changes also cost money, and we have worked to procure grants for the archives scanning (over 1300 articles!).

    Anyone interested in sponsoring or dedicating other features of TraditionOnline should please contact me.

    When these changes go into effect, we plan to explore online advertising, which we hope will create revenue to keep subscription costs down or even reduce them. Of course, we want to make sure that all ads are appropriate for our site, and that our intellectual and religious integrity is not compromised by any of our financial affiliations. That is why we have, for now, elected not to use Google ads.

    In other words, I think within its resources, Tradition is doing a thoughtful job of balancing its agenda, different audiences, and new technology. If at some point we can make Tradition available for free online, we will do it. We continue to explore different options, seeking to spread our articles to as broad of an audience as possible. Please feel free to contact me directly if you have further questions or suggestions.

    On a separate but related note, another element of the online world is that it expands the opportunities of different people to be involved with the journal. TraditionOnline is looking for limited number of qualified volunteers to assist with certain editorial elements of our expanding online presence. If you are interested, please be in touch with me.

    Shlomo (Myles) Brody
    Online Editor, Tradition

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    Review of Tiferes Yosef
    by Eliezer Brodt

    Tiferes Yosef, Sefer Shemos, R. Yosef Engel, ed. Friedman, Mochon Ohavei Torah, Monsey, NY, 595 pages, 2007. [845. 426.6152]
    About four years ago I noticed in the seforim store a sefer called תפראת יוסף. It caught my attention immediately because it said מאוצרות הגאון ר' יוסף ענגיל זצ"ל and I am a big חסיד of R. Engel as I am sure many are. I purchased the sefer after looking at it for a few minutes being satisfied with what I saw. This was the first volume which was just on חומש בראשית. A year ago the much awaited first volume of חומש שמות came out. What follows is a short review of this terrific work.

    As is well known ר' יוסף ענגיל besides for being a tremendous גאון was also a prolific writer. See, e.g., N. Lamm, Seventy Faces, p. 61 (noting that R. Engel is "one of the most brilliant and underestimated figures of pre-World War II Europe"). On his tombstone it says he left behind over 101 works on all topics ready to be printed. His grandson lists in his book on ר' יוסף ענגיל what they were, including a 36 volume encyclopedia work to complete his בית האוצר. After his death his son in law was able to print a few of the works. Unfortunately, the rest, as was the case with many other great people’s works, the manuscripts were lost during WWII. The one exception being R. Engel’s work of his on מסכת קידושין that the grandson, R. Dovid Morgenstern, was able to save called שארית יוסף (it is also printed under the name חוסן יוסף. R. Morgenstern, however, writes that people who printed the חוסן יוסף stole it from him and even made mistakes when printing it). In the past few years some additional pieces of his have been discovered and printed in various torah journals such as ישורון and כרם שלמה.

    In the past few years especially (although it was done to some seforim years ago) the seforim market has witnessed many attempts some successful and many not of systematically gathering torah of different גדולים and putting them in various orders. Meaning gaon x wrote much on shas so they gather all that he said on Chumash or hashkafic topics and put it in order making his torah much more accessible. Rabbi Friedman decided to do the same for all of ר' יוסף ענגיל works. He collected from everything that ר' יוסף ענגיל wrote on including some manuscripts he got a hold of and put it out according to the order of the torah – so far just on בראשית and part of שמות.

    But you are probably wondering what is so special about this job? The answer is the amazing skill of Rabbi Friedman at piecing together everything. As is well know ר' יוסף ענגיל had a tremendous בקיאות in all areas of torah including ירושלמי and קבלה, nothing escaped him. Besides for all this he is known for having amazing perspective in everything going deep into understanding everything. Often R. Engel brings amazing proofs from all over. Many times, throughout his writings, he references something he wrote elsewhere and thus the only way to properly understand him is to see all the places he has written on the topic But many times he does not even tell you that he explains this more elsewhere. Many times the additional points are in places you would never expect him to talk about the point you’re looking into. What Rabbi Friedman did was to put it all together every piece is presented beautifully organized with footnotes where necessary including explanations from ר' יוסף ענגיל words elsewhere on the topic. Many times he brings how other אחרונים explain the words of ר' יוסף ענגיל other times he explains it himself.

    Besides for all this Rabbi Friedman gives you the exact reference for all the wide range of sources that ר' יוסף ענגיל quotes. He also includes many other references from other people who talk about the same topics. Going thru this work one can find all types and styles of תורה that one might be interested in on the פרשה . Any מגיד שיעור or רב can find a wealth of information or at least a spring board to give lectures on חומש from here. There are also excellent indexes in the back of each volume because of the great wealth of topics included in each sefer. Besides for all this in the back of the first volume he includes a nice biography on .ר' יוסף ענגיל All in all I feel this is a great job and almost anyone can benefit from it. One can just hope that Rabbi Friedman is able to complete the entire חומש.

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  • 12/31/07--21:05: Rabbi Yaakov Kahana??
  • If anyone has any information about this author -- see here (PDF) -- please email

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    A Comprehensive (or close to it) List of New Seforim

    by Eliezer Brodt

    In a recent Mishpacha article [November 28, 2007, ‘Seforim Supplement’, p. 48] they quote Shlomo Biegeleisen, of Biegeleisen Books, as saying that “they receive sixty new seforim every single week!” The seforim market has exploded in the past few years and continues to grow daily. While it is impossible to keep up with everything that comes out we hope to keep the readers updated from time to time with some of the interesting things that are printed. This current list includes some of the many titles printed in the past few months.


    Mechon Haktav reprinted the Magan Avos from R. Shlomo Duran, the Tashbatz (663 pp.). This work was first printed in 1785 and than again in a photo-mechanical edition by Mekor in the 1960’s. The plus of this recent edition is mainly the clarity of the print as the earlier edition is almost impossible to read. The editors of this edition did not, however, include notes of any sort on the sefer.

    Sefer Al Esek Hatorah, Shtei Dershos Lrabenu Harosh (Kiryat Sefer, 2007); 76 pp. [08-974-0626].
    This volume is a small sefer written by the father of the Rosh on Limud Hatorah. It also includes two dershos of the Rosh. Parts of all this had been printed before in A. Freimann’s book on the Rosh. In this edition the editor rechecked the manuscripts and reprinting the whole thing all together. [For another work by this Mechon see this prior post].

    One of the dershos of the Rosh included in this work had been printed partially before by Professor Israel M. Ta-Shma in a few places [Kiryat Sefer, then in the journal MiGinzei L'taslume Kisvei Yad Ha'Ivriyim pp. 51- 52, and most recently in his Knesset Mehakarim vol. two pp. 184 -186]. The second dersha included herein had been printed in its entirety by Y. Galinsky in his doctorate on the Tur, Arbeh Turim V'safrus Halacha Shel Sefard b'Meha ha'arbah Aser (pp. 36-37, 74-75). In one of the dershos the Rosh gives strong mussar to the crowd for shying away to do certain Mitzvos such as lighting the Menorah in shul. There is a small historical argument between Professor Ta-Shma and Galinsky regarding the death of the Rashba (ibid.) based on the correct reading of a few words in the manuscript.

    Mechon Yerushalim released their Ramban on Chumash Shemos see here for their earlier volume.

    Avkas Rochel (Ashdod, 2007); 103 pp. [08-853-1651]
    The author of this work was Rabbenu Macir, a talmid of R. Yehudah, the son of the Rosh. This edition is a nice reprint of the original. It deals with topics such as Gan Eden, Gehenim, Olam Habah, Moshicah amongst many others.


    Maggid Meisharim (Jerusalem, 2007); 550 pgs, Ed. R. Y. Cohen [02 586-0457].
    This edition is very helpful as it provides a parallel translation of the entire sefer from Aramaic into Hebrew. The editor also included paragraph highlights and many helpful notes on the sefer but hardly adequate for what this work actual deserves. [A while back there was a series of three articles by R. Yehuda Leib Kelers, in the Tzefunous journal (1990-91), where he mentions that someone was actually starting such a project but as far as I am aware, nothing has come from it.]

    Nachalei Afersomin (Jerusalem, 2007); 360 pp., [04- 864-0135].
    This is a reprinted edition of the sefer from R. Rephael Balzam, a talmid of R. Meir Arik (and others). This work is on the Parsha, Mitzvos and Yomim Tovim. It includes an index and a nice short biography on the author. There are all kinds of styles of Torah in this work dealing with Kabbalah, Halacha and Machshaveh.

    She'elot u-Teshuvot:

    Shu"t Yeshuos Yakov was reprinted after not having been available for many years. This edition includes some nice new additions of Torah printed in various places. Hopefully there will be a full post on this Goan and his works shortly.

    Shu"t Mateh Menashe from R. Menashe Statoh [By Hillel Statohn 368 pp. 718-382-0085].
    The author was the Av beis Din of Tzafas over 150 years ago and was the father of R. Chaim author of the famous work Eretz Hachaim. This work was in manuscript for all these years. In the second half of this sefer they include a fascinating work of the author called Knessiah Leshem Shamaim, which had been printed before. The topic of this work is about an interesting custom that existed in many communities when someone was sick or childless. The custom was to do a whole elaborate process to appease the shedim (evil spirits), a sort of offering to them (a korbon of sorts). He discusses the entire topic explaining why it one is prohibited form doing such things. He deals with many topics such as the power of shedim in general. This work includes the Teshuvous of many gedolim of the time amongst them R. Chaim Palagai.

    Shu"t Sharei Tzion from R. Ben Zion Sternfeld was reprinted after not having been printed for a while. Besides for including R. Ben Zion's excellent teshuvos it includes many of his deroshos. This Goan is famous for giving the Chofetz Chaim haskamos on his Mishana Berurah, Shimiras Halaoshon and Likitei Halachos. This edition includes the Kuntres Darcha Shel Torah and Kuntras Sharei Tzion on the topic of the importance of a proper education for one's children. This edition includes a small biography of the author. These two works were written in response to Maskilim whom complained about not learning dikduk etc. One point of great interest from these Kuntreisim is the great importance and emphasis these Gedolim held of teaching Chumash properly to the children. They held that through the proper study of Chumash eventually the children will pick up Hebrew. Today, many school systems would do well to learn from these Gedolim to have proper methods to teach Chumash properly.

    Shu"t Mishanat Sachir was reprinted. The author, R. Teichtel, was one of the biggest Rabbonim pre World War II in Hungary. As is very well known, originally R. Teichtel was a rabid anti-Zionist, however, later he completely changed his mind and eventually authored the incredible work called Em Habonim Semaicha. He authored many teshuvos over the years and eventually printing one volume of the teshuvos. After his death, his son printed a massive volume of Shu"t thru Mechon Yerushalim. This work has been out of print for many years. It is fantastic in respects of both depth and Bikeius. The son printed another volume a few years later. This current edition includes the whole volume that was printed by Mechon Yerushalim and parts of the volume that was printed afterwards. The original volume that the author himself printed was not reprinted here. This edition also includes some pages of additions based on notes of R. Teichtel not printed before. Just to give one an interesting tidbit on this sefer:

    About six years years ago a journal from Chabad in Budapest called Tel Talpiyot (volume two) printed a few pages (pp. 42-55) of very interesting exchange of letters between R. Teichtel and his son R. Shlomo. This son went from Hungary to learn in Slabodkah Yeshivah. In the letters to his father he writes a few times how everyone in Slabodkah Yeshivah heard of his sefer and they enjoy it. He writes how many people asked him for a copy of the sefer but he only gave it to a few people amongst them the Divrei Yecheskel (see pp. 47, 48, 50).

    Shas and Halacha:

    Mezareph Le'Chachmah (Jerusalem, 2007); 174 pp.
    This particular work of R. Yosef Delmedigo (Yashar) has been the subject of much discussion for many centuries. Already R. Yehudah Aryeh Modena wrote that the views in this sefer are not the authors real opinions rather he was playing “games.” After that, Graetz and others and as recent as Barzilay have attempted to prove that Modena was correct. However, I feel after a careful reading of the sefer that it was by no means a joke and this was the author’s real opinions. Recently, Professor David B. Ruderman has shown that Delmedigo did not intend this work to be a joke or game of some sort. Ruderman does so in his classic work Jewish Thought and Scientific Discovery in Early Modern Europe (pp. 128-152) dealing with all the problems Geretz and others raised. Mezareph Le'Chanchmah is full of interesting topics and information just to list a few: authorship of Zohar (52), Rashi (49) and Rambam's knowledge of Kabalah (37, 51), against R. Avraham Abulafiah (31), and when Nekudos are from (21-22). He has a whole section showing that there are no contradictions between Halacha and Kabblah. The Shach in Yoreh Deah quotes him in regard to eating meat after cheese (89:16).

    This current edition is printed beautifully, however, they edited out all the notes of Delmedigo's student, R. Shmuel as well as some of the other stuff that were originally printed in this sefer. It is also lacking an index which would be very helpful with such a sefer enabling one to find all the treasures easily.

    One original claim that I saw in the introduction of this edition and is recorded by many people and is in turn based on the Chida who states in R. Moshe Zechut's name that the Delmedigo's knowledge in kabbalah was not impressive based on specific things he writes in Mezareph Le'Chachmah. The page from Mezareph Le'Chachamah that lends credence to that opinion turns out that it was not from Delmedigo but instead from his talmid.

    Kisvei Hagri (Jerusalem, 2007); 396 pp. [02 566-5240].
    This a collection of the writings of R. Yaakov, Av Beis Din of Letichev. The author was born in 1730 and was rav there for many years. This was printed from manuscript for the first time by his descendants. The sefer has been waiting to be printed for nine generations. The editors put in lots of effort into this sefer giving you historical background. The sefer includes all kinds of genres, Chumash torah based on on old style pilpul, she'elot u-teshuvot, derush for all occasions (yom tovim etc.), hespedim, R. Yaakov's tzavah and others. One of the many interesting things of interest in this sefer is a Megilas Yuchsin that R. Yaakov wrote. The editors put in much effort to track down lots of material about it. Also included is a list of his seforim collection (useful for certain fields of interest see for example Zev Gris, Hasefer K'Sochen Tarbus, pp. 65-72). Its unclear if the author was chassidish but he does quote from the Bal Shem Tov a few times.

    Minhaghim and similar genre:

    Chikrei Minhaghim (Cholon, 2007); 188 pp., [03- 556-3874]
    This is a collection that focuses on Minhaghei Berlin gathered from many seforim including notes.

    Orchos Hasofer (London, 2007); 173 pp.
    This work is a beautiful collection of material about the Chasam Sofer gathered from a wide range of sources organized very nicely.

    Bazel Hakodesh (Jerusalem, 2007); 334 pp.
    This work is very interesting collection of material from R. B. Rakow collected together by his great-nephew. Topic ranges from chumash and halacha to stories he used to say over about various gedolim. Among the interesting discussions in this work are his opinions on learning and how to pasken, his connection with the Seridei Eish and his connection with R. Elyashiv resulting in getting R. Jonathan Sacks to take back what he wrote in one of his books [although the author does not mention R. Sacks by name] [See Marc B. Shaprio, Of Books and Bans, Edah Journal 3:2]. Another piece worthy of mention is his take on the Yeridos Hadoros question as it relates to learning.

    Maseh Ish (Bnei Brak, 2007); 206 pp. Ed. R. Yabrov.
    This is volume number seven of the on going series on the Chazon Ish. As with all such works there is lots of good stuff and some nonsense mixed in. This volume also includes a section on shemitah.

    Halichos Kodesh (Brooklyn, 2007); 316 pp.[718 336-8971, 718 972-4078]
    This is a collection of the hanhagohs of the whole year of R. Yisroel Rotenberg, Av beis Din of Kossin. He was killed by the Nazis. The sefer is from the notes of a close talmid of his. Its an extremely in depth description, providing a day by day going thru the whole year how he acted in each situation its full of interesting things.


    Rishimos Teshuvos Rav Sherira Goan (New York, 2007); 119 pp., ed. R. Nosson Dovid Rabinowitz [917- 753-5178].
    This sefer includes an excellent history of Rav Sherira Goan from the most updated sources in the academic world. It also includes listings of all the Teshuvos of Rav Sherira Goan including many that were mistakenly attributed to others.

    Tohar Haloshon, ed. Rothschild (Jerusalem, 2007); 80 pp.
    The theme of this sefer is to show that the historical acceptance of the Hebrew language – Ivrit, was, according to the author, a very tragic story. The author shows through the statements of Ben Yehudah and Y. Klausner how anti-Jewish they were. He also shows which terrible methods they used to make this the language spoken amongst Jews in Eretz Yisroel. The book, however, is not to objective, rather it is presented in a very kannois way but all in all is still an interesting read to see a glimpse into that time period.

    Olkieniki Radin Vilna (Jerusalem, 2007); 454 pgs, by R. Kalman Farber [02 571-1727, 03-731- 2149].
    This is a diary of R. Farber of these places before World War Two and especially during the War. Among the interesting sections of this book are his accounts of his Rabaeim R. Naftoli Trop (known as Granat) and the Chofetz Chaim.

    Yosor Yasroni (Bnei Brak, 2007); 469 pp., by R. Yitzchak Gibralter [03-618-8360]
    This is a book about Kovno, R. Gibralter home town. This is a very interesting book which gives one a very nice picture of Kovno before World War Two not a typical Artscroll like history.


    Heichel Ba'al Shem Tov, issue 21,189 pp.
    There are two articles of interest in this latest issue one, an article from R. Chaim Rapoport on the minhag of Chasidim of seeing ones rebbe in general and other areas relating to this topic.

    One of the sources on the topic which he brings is from a teshuvah of R Yakov Kahna in his Shu"t Toldos Yakov (available here) (no. 33, pp. 72-74, in particular). What is specifically interesting about this teshuvah is his discussion of the Gra and his stance against Chassidim. He basically writes that the Gra made a mistake - he was fooled by false witnesses! What is interesting about this is this R. Yakov Kahan grandfather was the Gra brother author of the Maleos Hatorah! [I hope to return to this R. Yakov Kahana in a future post soon as his teshuvos are extremely interesting.]

    Another point of interest, found in a different article, is a discussion of a grandson R. Chaim Volzhiner, Reb Eliyahu Zvi Soloveitchik, who became close with chassidus. The author references the extremely rare sefer by the Manhattan doctor, Arthur (Dov) Hyman, on this highly interesting personality.

    Additions to earlier lists:

    In an earlier post on new seforim I mentioned a sefer from R Chaim Vital.

    Here is some updated information on it as I have had more time to go thru it a bit. This sefer was printed by R. N. Levi. This sefer is based on the handwritten copy of R. Chaim Vital himself. This volume was part of the famous Musaef collection. The rumors on the street are that this sefer legally ended up in the hands of dealers who cut it up page by page and sold each page for $15,000. After all the pages of the sefer were sold it was printed in this beautiful edition. This actual work was actually six parts a few of the parts were printed many years ago including haskomos of R. Kook [vol. 2, printed in Jerusalem, 1906] and more recently by Mechon Ahavat Sholom. It appears that there is still a part not printed which was to be found in the Ger Rebbi's pre-World War II collection, which is currently still missing. As to the specific style of this sefer it is not heavy Kabbalah as there is much niglah in here. There are pieces of torah on everything – from chumash, aggdah gemaras and Mesectos Avos. Also included are many dershos which he said at chausunas, brisim and for hespedim. The dating of the sefer has been debated between R. Yakov Hillel and R. Manzur as to if this was before or after he learnt by the Arizal. Basically it seems that the bulk of the work was written before his learning with the Arizal and additions were added in by him throughout his lifetime.

    The editor of this edition besides for presenting the work with nice layout and some sources include a basic history of R. Chaim Vital and his works. They consulted R. Y. Avivi who is a renowned Talmid Chacham and expert on Kabblah. Just to point out some minor comments on it. For some strange reason they quote a lot of material from M. Benayhu, but they can not properly write his name and instead refer to him as "the author of the Toldos HaAri" (for example see pp. 18, 19, 24, 31 and many more. They also can not properly write that he wrote the Sefer Yosef Bechrei which they also quote (pg 8, 14) or his Dor Eched baAretz (p. 72). Nor could they quote Avraham Yaari by name (pp. 45, 54) or Professor D. Tamar (pp. 48, 60) or Professor Tishbi (p. 67). What the problem in quoting these scholars name is beyond me. One more point in the end they deal with the sefer Kabalah Maseios of R. Chaim Vital making no mention that parts have been printed already. I have elaborated earlier on this particular sefer in this post (link). As an aside in the latest issue of Mekabtzeul from Ahavat Sholom they printed some more pieces from this work.

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    In a previous post at the Seforim blog, Prof. Elliott Horowitz of Bar Ilan University and co-editor of Jewish Quarterly Review, described Edmund Wilson's unique Christmas card and some thoughts on the Talmud [see here].

    This is his third contribution to the Seforim blog. We hope that you enjoy.
    Isaiah Berlin on Meir Berlin (Bar-Ilan) and Saul Lieberman
    Elliott Horowitz

    Although there have been some fine reviews of the collection of letters by Isaiah Berlin published in England under the title Flourishing: Letters 1928-1946 (Chatto and Windus, 2004), and in the United Sates (by Cambridge University Press) under the subtitle of the British edition,[1] not much attention has been given to the candid comments included therein about some of the twentieth century’s leading rabbis and Jewish scholars. Moreover, although one of the reviewers (Ilan Stavans in Forward) commented on the "overzealousness of its editor" Henry Hardy in annotating and contextualizing Berlin's letters "to the point of dizziness," this zealousness is less than excessive in his annotations of the letter written by Berlin, who had recently become the first Jew to be elected to a fellowship at Oxford’s All-Souls College, from Jerusalem to his parents in London on the first day of Rosh Ha-Shana, 1934 (pp. 96-98). Among the Jerusalemites he mentions having met since arriving a week earlier are "Dr. Scholem the Kabbalist," "Baneth of the University," and "Meir Berlin" - all of whom are dutifully identified by Hardy. The Volozhin-born Berlin, who settled in Jerusalem in 1926 and later changed his name to Bar-Ilan, is described by Isaiah (to whom he was not related) as a "clever cunning man with an unpleasant son in law, who teaches the Yerushalmi at the University." Hardy informs the reader that the Yerushalmi is "the Jerusalem or Palestinian Talmud," but he has not been as "overzealous" about identifying the "unpleasant son in law," who, as most readers of the Seforim blog have already recognized, was Saul Lieberman, who completed his MA at the Hebrew University in 1931 and married the former Judith Berlin in the following year.

    In April of 1943, while serving at the British Embassy in Washington, Isaiah dryly informed his parents that "there were some serious social complications about the Sedarim this year (428)." Among those who had invited him were Chaim Weizmann (sometimes referred to as "Charles" in Berlin's letters), the latter’s "factotum, a certain Weisgal," and "Meyer (sic) Berlin and his daughter Judith." Hardy explains what "Sedarim" are, identifies "[Meyer Wolf] Weisgal," and provides the information that Judith Berlin Lieberman was "married to talmudic scholar Saul Lieberman. (428-29)" Somehow, however, he fails to connect this son-in -law of Berlin’s, who by that time had become a professor at New York's Jewish Theological Seminary, with the "unpleasant" man who during the previous decade had taught Yerushalmi at the Hebrew University. One of the factors complicating Isaiah's decision as to where to spend the Sedarim of 1943 was that three of his potential hosts – Meir Berlin, Vera Weizmann, and Tamar de Sola Pool (wife of Rabbi David de Sola Pool and president of Hadassah) - were "reciprocally not on speaking terms," and thus "to go to one is to insult the other two automatically." He spent the first Seder with the Weizmann’s and the second, which was "fantastic," with Meyer Weisgal. Consequently, as he explained to his parents, he found himself in the position of having to "grovel to Rabbi Meyer Berlin…and Mrs Tamar de Sola Pool, great Zionist powers with whom diplomatic relations must be preserved. (430-31)."

    In a subsequent letter to the British diplomat Angus Malcolm, however, Berlin referred the Mizrachi leader less charitably as "Rabbi M. Berlin of Palestine and Riverside Drive, an enemy of Weizmann and a clerical maximalist (438)." Although Weizmann (who died in 1952) and Bar-Ilan (who died three years earlier) had their differences, both now have universities named after them – in only one of which, it may be added, is the Yerushalmi taught.

    [1] See, for example, Geoffrey Wheatcroft, "The Book of Isaiah," The New York Times (June 27, 2004): 11; Simon Schama, "Flourishing," The New Republic (January 31, 2005): 23-30.

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    Henry Hollander Books is having a 50% off sale on selected books. There are a significant number of books on sale, covering many different genres. The catalog is available online and the sale runs through the end of January.

    There are two auction catalogs online. The first, Asufa, who is having their auction on Janaury 24 is available here. The second, Baranovich, is having their auction on the 23 of January and you need to first fill out a form to get the catalog in PDF.

    The Asufa auction includes a rare proclamation regarding the Besamim Rosh, a slew of books relating to various controversies, as well as many other interesting books.

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    Forgery and the Halakhic Process, part 3
    By Marc B. Shapiro

    I thought that I had exhausted all I had to say about Rabbi Zvi
    Benjamin Auerbach’s edition of the Eshkol -- see my first two posts at the Seforim blog, here and here [and elaborations] -- but thanks to some helpful comments from readers, there is some more material that should be brought to the public’s attention. Even before looking at this, let me express my gratitude to Dan Rabinowitz who sent me this picture of a youthful Auerbach.
    In my first post I cited R. Yitzhak Ratsaby as a very rare example of a posek who is aware of the problems with Auerbach’s Eshkol. A scholar who wishes to remain anonymous, and who has helped me a great deal in the past,[1] called my attention to R. Yehiel Avraham Zilber (the son of R. Binyamin Yehoshua Zilber), who is also aware of the Eshkol problem. In his Berur Halakhah, Yoreh Deah (second series), p. 111, he notes that R. Ovadiah Yosef cites Auerbach’s Eshkol in matters of hilkhot niddah. Yet the authentic Eshkol does not have any section for niddah. In fact, as Yaakov Sussman has pointed out,[2] Auerbach’s Eshkol, vol. 1, p. 117, also refers to the Yerushalmi on Niddah. However, this is impossible as neither R. Abraham ben Isaac nor any of the other rishonim had this volume.

    Zilber writes that his own approach is not to rely on anything in either Auerbach’s Eshkol or the Nahal Eshkol. In his Berur Halakhah, Orah Hayyim (third series), p. 16, he also states that a certain passage in Auerbach’s Eshkol, Hilkhot Tzitzit cannot be authentic. Before I was alerted to these two sources I had never examined any of Zilber’s volumes (although I have perused the works of his father). Now that I have looked at them I see that they contain a great deal of learning, but my sense is that they are of no significance in the halakhic world, and are rarely quoted.

    This doesn’t mean that they are not valuable in and of themselves, but with so many halakhic books being published, only some can make it to the top. The rest, no matter how learned, remain little studied and even less quoted. One must feel bad for authors who put so much effort into producing their works which could be of great use to people, yet at the end of the day do not have any impact.

    As Eliezer Brodt has already pointed out, in a previous post at the Seforim blog, with respect to books on hilkhot shemitah, although new volumes continue to appear, it is hard to believe that much of anything original is being added.[3] The same can be said for the laws of Shabbat, where I don’t see how another new book recording the halakhot can possibly have any value as we already have so many fine books in this area. If the author is going to come up with new rulings, then fine, but it is hard to see how the world will benefit from yet another collection of the various melakhot and what is permitted and forbidden.

    This doesn’t mean that up-and-coming halakhic scholars have nothing to write about. For example, there is only one book on the halakhic issues involved in sex change operations, so here is an area that cries out for our best and brightest to direct their talents towards.
    For those who are writing books that are not given the attention due them, one should not lose hope. Occasionally a book that is ignored in its time comes back in a future generation and assumes great popularity (e.g., the Minhat Hinnukh), while books which were very popular in previous years fall out of style. One example of the latter is the Kitzur Shulhan Arukh. When I was young everyone seemed to study it. It has been reprinted numerous times and also translated into many languages. According to the Encyclopedia Judaica, it went through fourteen editions in the author’s lifetime, which I think is a record for halakhic works. Yet today, I don’t know anyone who uses it as a work of practical halakhah. (Simply writing this ensures that people will e-mail me to point out that there are indeed some who still use it).

    Returning to the anonymous scholar mentioned above, he also alerted me to a letter by R. Michael[4] Aryeh Stiegel which appeared in Tzefunot 1 (Tevet, 5749): 108. In this case I had actually seen the letter, as I own the journal and even have my pen mark on this page. But I had forgotten about it, so once again I am in the anonymous scholar’s debt. Before noting what he says, let me repeat what I mentioned in a previous post, namely, that the publication of the fourth volume of the Eshkol is very strange. We are given no information about the manuscript such as where it came from and why no one, including Auerbach’s family, had ever heard of it until it was published.

    There is one other point which I neglected to make in my previous post, but it also is relevant. In 1974 Bernard Bergman published an essay on Auerbach in the Joshua Finkel Festschrift (later included as an appendix to vol. 4 of the Eshkol) in which he defended him against Albeck’s attack. At the time of this essay Bergman knew nothing about any unpublished manuscript of Auerbach’s Eshkol. It is very suspicious, to say the least, that Bergman is also the one to publish the newly discovered volume. Are we supposed to assume that it is just coincidence that Bergman, who earlier had published an essay on Auerbach, discovered this manuscript? (Those who are old enough will recall that during these years Bergman had lots of other things on his mind.) Of course, it is possible that some rare book dealer came into possession of the manuscript and knowing Bergman’s interest in Auerbach, sold it to him. In my previous post I stated that despite the problems that can be raised about the new volume, barring any further evidence we should give Bergman the benefit of the doubt.

    Yet Stiegel notes something which should force us to reopen the issue. In volume 4, p. 26 n. 24, we find the following in the Nahal Eshkol.

    לא ידעתי למה מביא זה, שהרי רבא הקשה אי הכי במקדש היכי תקעינן. אך מצאתי שגם הראב"ן ר"ה מביא דרש זה, ועי' באבן שלמה על הראב"ן שם אות ד' שהאריך ליישב קושיה זו.

    The problem is that the edition of Ra’avan with R. Solomon Zalman Ehrenreich’s commentary Even Shlomo only appeared in 1926, many years after Auerbach’s death. This sort of anachronism is often what enables scholars to uncover a fraud.

    When problems became apparent in Auerbach’s edition, Albeck called for the manuscript to be produced, and this was never done. Here too, I call for the manuscript of volume 4 to be produced, and for the publisher, Machon Harry Fischel, to join in this demand. Only when we can examine the manuscript will we be able to determine what is going on. If the answer given is that the manuscript cannot be located, which was the same answer given one hundred years ago, then the possibility that Eshkol volume 4 is a late twentieth century forgery will have to be seriously considered.

    The anonymous scholar also alerted me to R. Hayyim Krauss’ Toharat ha-Shabbat ke-Hilkhatah. Krauss is known for a campaign he mounted in the 1970’s, culminating in the publication of his books Birkhot ha-Hayyim and Mekhalkel Hayim be-Hesed, which were in large part devoted to showing that the proper – and original -- pronunciation in the Amidah is morid ha-geshem, not gashem. There is no doubt that Kraus was correct, but I don’t know if his campaign bore any fruit. Certainly in the United States when I was growing up, virtually everyone said gashem since that is what the siddurim had, including Brinbaum. Matters have changed greatly in the last twenty years because of the ArtScroll siddur. This siddur vocalizes – or, to use the word that ArtScroll prefers, “vowelizes” –
    גשם as geshem. I have previously noted one example where the Artscroll siddur has changed the davening practices of the American Orthodox community[5] and this is another. Had the ArtScroll siddur given gashem as the pronunciation, that’s what we all would be saying now.

    Since this blog is devoted to seforim, with a great focus on bibliographical curiosities, let me mention the following: It has been awhile since I’ve seen the literature about geshem vs. gashem, but I remember that the side that supported gashem was able to show that it was not only grammarians who supported this reading, but R. David Lida (c. 1650-1696) Ashkenazi rav of Amsterdam, also attested to it. In fact, he might be the earliest authority to do so. But those who cited Lida didn’t know a couple of things about him. Neither do the people who keep publishing his works. To begin with, Lida was a plagiarizer, and not a very skilled one at that.[6]

    People can live with plagiarism, especially as it is not uncommon in haredi “mehkar.”[7] But worse, much worse, is that Lida also appears to have been a Sabbatian. In my Limits of Orthodox Theology, p. 42 n. 21, I called attention to something similar. The Yemenite kabbalists who attacked R. Yihye Kafih made use of, and defended, a Sabbatian work written by Nehemiah Hayon. It was only after R. Kook pointed out the true nature of Hayon’s work that they excised this defense. As I commented in my book, this shows the elasticity of apologetics, in that if one beleves a work is “kosher,” he will devote great efforts to defending it, but after learning that the author is a Sabbatian the defense is immediately dropped. We must ask, however, why were the ideas in this work acceptable before the author’s biography was known?

    Returning to Krauss’ Toharat ha-Shabbat ke-Hilkhatah, in volume 1 of this work he cites Auerbach’s Eshkol. In volume 2, p. 450, Krauss publishes a letter he received from R. David Zvi Hillman. Hillman, in addition to being an outstanding talmid hakham, also has a real historical sense and many years ago edited Iggerot ha-Tanya u-Venei Doro (Jerusalem, 1953). In more recent years he published an interesting, though wrong-headed, article arguing that Meiri’s views of anti-Gentile halakhot are not to be taken seriously but were written due to fear of the censor (which was a concern even in pre-printing days).[8] He has also been involved with the Frankel edition of the Rambam, most recently editing Sefer ha-Mitzvot. Despite its problems, the Frankel edition of the Mishneh Torah is now the standard edition for both yeshivot and the academic world.[9]

    As everyone knows, the Frankel edition has been attacked for systematically ignoring the writings of some prominent non-haredi gedolim. For example, there are no references to R. Kook, even though he wrote a commentary on the Rambam’s shemitah laws, which will be mentioned in an upcoming post at the Seforim blog. (He is cited the ArtScroll Mishnah volume on Shevi’it.) It was because of this affront that R. Kook's followers have put out a separate index of commentaries on the Mishneh Torah, which is now available online. See here.

    A particularly harsh criticism of the Frankel edition, which appeared as an “open letter,” is found here:

    Hillman chose to answer this critique. He briefly mentions the issue of R. Kook, but has a lot to say about R. Kafih, and his critique of the latter is incredibly sharp. Here is his letter:

    Even if one doesn’t agree with him, it should be obvious to all that Hillman has a much broader knowledge than the typical talmid hakham. It therefore should not be surprising that he was critical of Krauss for including Auerbach’s Eshkol. In fact, Krauss does not even print Hillman’s entire letter, but cuts out a section that no doubt would have been seen as disrespectful to Auerbach. Thus, Hillman writes:

    ומ"ש באשכול ליתי' באשכול (הוצ' אלבעק) אלא . . .

    Krauss inserted the three dots since Hillman’s original letter must have continued by referring to Auerbach’s edition. Similarly, a few lines later Hillman writes

    (. . . ובנד"ד יש לנו לזה ראיה נוספת ממה שלא הוזכרה שזה דעת האשכול בספר המאירי שהיה הצאצאיו ושמעתתי' בפומיה תדיר בכינוי גדולי קדמונינו) ואף את"ל . . . ומבעל האשכול יצאו הדברים מ"מ הלכה כהרשב"א דבתראה הוי.

    The second ellipsis was inserted by Krauss. In his letter Hillman must have written, “Even if you want to say that Auerbach didn’t forge this section, and it really was stated by the Eshkol.” Yet Krauss didn’t want anything negative about Auerbach to appear in print, so he cut it out. Hillman also calls attention to the comments of R. Hayyim Eleazar Shapira in the introduction to his Darkhei Teshuvah on hilkhot mikvaot. Here Shapira notes that the Maharsham cited Auerbach’s Eshkol, and this once again raises the problem I have earlier discussed, namely, what to do with pesakim that rely on forged texts? (This is not such a problem in hilkhot mikvaot, as Shapira notes that most of what is quoted from Auerbach’s Eshkol is le-humra).

    Shapira states that he is not prepared to decide the matter of the authenticity of Auerbach’s Eshkol, yet according to Hillman
    נראה מכתלי דבריו שדעתו נוטה לצד המערערים על אמיתותו. It is obvious that the reason Shapira does not definitively decide the matter is because of his feeling of respect for Auerbach as a great talmid hakham. The notion that such an outstanding Torah scholar, one of the German rabbinic elite, could perpetrate such a fraud is difficult for people to accept. Yet Shapira is also surprised that the Maharsham cites Auerbach’s Eshkol entirely oblivious to the problems with this edition.

    I don’t see this as unusual at all. Shapira was an incredibly learned man, with knowledge of all sorts of things, but the Maharsham was an ish halakah whose life was spent in Shas and Poskim. Similarly, although R. Moshe Feinstein quotes Auerbach’s Eshkol, I would assume that he too had never heard of the controversy, as it is not something that penetrated the walls of the traditional Lithuanian Beit Midrash (at least not until so many bachurim began reading the Seforim blog!). Shapira writes:

    ולא באתי להכריע, יען כי כם כבוד הה"ג ז"ל בעל נחל אשכול המו"ל (ואשר האריך לבאר כשיטתו במבואו והקדמתו) לא נקל בעיני . . . (ולא ידעתי מה הי' לו להג' מהרש"ם ז"ל וכי לא ראה או לא ידע, מ"ש וערערו על ככה והביא כמעט כל דברי ס' האשכול כאלו הי' ברור ומקובל אצלו הללמ"ס שזהוא להראב"ד בלי ספק ופקפוק לעולם).

    In his reply to Hillman, Krauss states that he was indeed aware of the problems with Auerbach’s Eshkol, and even referred to Shapira’s introduction, but he did not want to elaborate (and indeed, he never quotes what Shapira says, but only tells the reader to examine it). I think that many people in the traditional world who know about the issue have this problem as well. They are between a rock and a hard place. If they say nothing, then a forgery is allowed to remain part of the Torah world. Yet if they write against it, they must take on someone who in his lifetime was recognized as one of the gedolim of Germany. Like all gedolim, he was also regarded as a great tzaddik.

    Krauss does allow himself to say the following:

    ובזה צע"ג על שו

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    In a recent discussion in the journal Or Yisrael concerning the permissibility of using ArtScroll gemaras -- for PDFs of the articles, see here -- one source deserves closer scrutiny. In particular, some authorities who are against the use of ArtScroll gemaras cite to a passage in the Leket Yosher in support of their opinion. Thus, an examination of the Leket Yosher is appropriate.

    The Leket Yosher was compiled by R. Yosef ben Moshe (1423-c.1490), a student of R. Israel Isserlein (1390-1460), the author of the Terumat HaDeshen. The Leket Yosher records R. Isserlein's customs and rulings. The Leket Yosher was the first work to base itself on the four part division of the Turim, however, only the sections on Orach Hayyim and Yoreh Deah are extant. While it appears that there was a third part on Even haEzer which is no longer extant, it is unclear whether there ever was a part on Hoshen Mishpat. [1] Leket Yosher [2] was not published until 1903 (Orach Hayyim; and in 1904 Yoreh Deah was published) by R. Ya'akov Freimann from Munich manuscript in R. Yosef's own hand.[3] It has been published at least three times and today is typically available as part of a set of three minhagim works, Leket Yosher, Yosef Ometz and Noheg KaTzon Yosef.

    The passage used by some in the discussion in Or Yisrael regarding ArtScroll, records the disapproval of R. Isserlein of the practice of "spoiled, rich kids" who used a revolving table to avoid having to get up and get a book. (vol. 2, p. 39). The passage reads in full:

    "אותם הבחורים העשירים המפונקים שעשו להם שולחנות כשיושבין במקומן הופכין השולחן לאי זה צד שירצו ועליו הרבה ספרים לא טוב הם עושים, אדרבה כשמבקש אחר הספר ובא לו בטורח גודל זכור באותו מעשה מה שרוצה ללמוד, כמדומה לי שמצאתי לו סמך ב[יורה דעה] בסימן ג' (שפח) 'ולא כאלו שלומדין מתוך עידון' וכו"
    "Those rich, spoiled students that had made a revolving table which allowed for them to turn the table to get which ever book they wanted [without having to get up] such behavior is inappropriate. Instead, one who gets up to get a book and exerts themselves will remember that they had to look for the book [and will remember what the book said]. It seems to me [R. Yosef] that support for this position [that frowns upon the turntable] can be found in Yoreh Deah where it says "one should not study in luxury.'"
    Thus, argue those you compare the turntable to ArtScroll Talmuds, Torah study should not be easy, and one should struggle in preforming that commandment. In other words, because studying with Talmud with an ArtScroll is easy, it is inappropriate for Torah study. As an initial matter, the comparison is somewhat strained in that the Leket Yosher is referring to those who are lazy and does not necessarily speak to someone who uses ArtScroll because they cannot otherwise study gemara (or the additional commentaries that ArtScroll provides) at all. But setting aside this difficulty, it does not appear that the Leket Yosher's opinion in this regard is agreed upon by all. For example, R. Yitzchak Hutner, in his approbation to the Otzar Mifarshei HaTalmud, explains why the Otzar is a good thing. As many are aware, the Otzar collects all (or almost all) the literature on a particular passage of the gemara (or mishna as is the case with the volume on Hallah). This avoids the need to look through many books to see what, if anything, they have to say on a particular passage. R. Hutner cites to a statement from the Hazon Ish, that "people confuse looking (hipush) with study" and, according to R. Hutner, the Otzar eliminates that problem. Thus, it can be argued that both according to R. Hutner and the Hazon Ish, there is no benefit or merit per se in the act of getting a book or looking to see if that book has anything relevant. This appears in conflict with the Leket Yosher.

    Similarly, when the Vilna Shas was printed many years ago, the story goes that the printers said that whoever finds a mistake in this heavily invested shas will get rewarded. In the excellent book, Derech Etz Chaim (p. 568) about R’ Isser Zalman Meltzer, they record a story that a printer of a current Yerushalmi visited the Steipler with the idea to print a Yerushalmi in a similar format to the Talmud Bavli and to have, amongst other things, many commentaries in the back. When the Steipler heard this, he said that R. Meltzer used to complain that there’s a very big printing mistake in the Vilna Shas. Specifically, that in the Vilna Shas many commentaries in the back, but each commentary is 3 pages so you have to look 50 times for the same thing. R Isser Zalman wanted that they should put it in order of the Blatt, so he recommended that they not make the same mistake and do the same for the Talmud Yerushalmi.[4]

    Setting aside R. Hutner and Hazon Ish, what is worthwhile to point out is the passage immediately preceding the above quoted passage in the Leket Yosher. The Leket Yosher records the following question and answer:
    "ושאלתי לו קטן שהולך בדרך לא טובה כגון משכב זכר ועובר על לאו לא תגנוב אם מותר ללמדו תורה ואמר הן"

    "And I asked [R. Isserlein] a student who sin, with sins such as homosexuality or stealing should they be taught Torah? Answer, Yes."
    To be clear, the the Leket Yosher allows for the teaching of homosexual students. Now, obviously this passage, although immediately preceding the discussion about the revolving table, is not germane to the later topic, but I have never seen this passage quoted anywhere else, even though it appears to be espousing a fairly unique position both in the realm of Jewish education and attitudes towards homosexuality. [I have been informed that it is mentioned in R. M. Ashkenazi, Hilkhot Talmud Torah, however, even so it is not well-known by any definition.]
    Since we are on the topic of the Leket Yosher it is also worthwhile to point out some of the other interesting observations related to the Leket Yosher. Perhaps the most important fact to come from the Leket Yosher is that the assumption, first espoused by the Taz and expanded upon by others, that the Terumat HaDeshen was not the product of actual questions and answers and instead R. Isserlein made up the questions himself and therefore, according to some, the Terumat HaDeshen is not authoritative. As R. Freimann demonstrates, however, this is incorrect. Instead, actual events as recorded in the Leket Yosher can be matched with teshuvot in the Terumat HaDeshen thus demonstrating that the questions in Terumat HaDeshen were based upon actual events and were not fabricated.[5]

    Perversely, the criticism of the Terumat HaDeshen was turned on its head and applied to the Leket Yosher. Specifically, the Sanzer Rebbi in his Divrei Yatziv (E.A. 39), claims that one cannot rely upon the Leket Yosher as it records actual events and one cannot decide halakha from events. This is inapposite of those who complain that the Terumat HaDeshen is not reliable because the questions do not relate to real events. It appears that the position of the Sanzer Rebbi has not been accepted as R. Moshe Feinstein (which is especially noteworthy in light of his general disapproval of newly discovered works), R. Ovadiah Yosef, Daayan Weiss, R. Shlomo Zalman Auerbach and many others all cite with approval the Leket Yosher. Moreover, the Sanzer Rebbi himself is at least five other places[6] in Divrei Yatziv cites with approval the Leket Yosher. In only one other instance does he couch his citation of the Leket Yosher (E.A. 78) with a disclaimer "that is is unclear whether the Leket Yosher is reliable."

    Other interesting comments in the Leket Yosher include: R. Yosef, in 1456, records that he saw Halley's Comet [7] (vol. 2, pp. 17-8), R. Isserlein used to tell Torah riddles on the first days of Pesach and Shavous and Purim (vol. 1, pp. 103-4), R. Isserlein's daughter-in-law, Redel, studied Torah (vol. 2, p. 37), and the restriction against walking behind a woman is no longer applicable (id.).

    [1] See Freimann's introduction XIII. Friemann's introduction appears at the beginning of volume two on Yoreh Deah. The first volume, on Orach Hayyim has no introduction.

    [2] Aside from being unique in it use of the Turim's division, the Leket Yosher, has another unique attribute. As Professor Y.S. Spiegel has pointed out the title employed, Leket Yosher, hints not only to the authors own name (as is a a somewhat common practice - see Spiegel for more on this practice) but also to R. Yosef's teacher, R. Isserlein as well. Specifically, the numerical value of Leket Yosher and is ישראל יוזלין Yisrael is for R. Isserlein Yozlin is for Yosef. See, Y.S. Spiegel, Toldot Sefer haIvrei, vol. 2 p. 411.

    [3] For additional biographical and bibliographical information see generally Freimann's introduction. For some reason neither R. M.M. Kasher in Sa'arei HaElef or Glick in Kuntres HaTeshuvot HaHadash or in the earlier version by Boaz Cohen has an entry for Leket Yosher.

    [4] It is, however, worth pointing out that R. Isser Zalman Meltzer held that part of ameilus batorah is getting up a taking a sefer out of the bookshelf. Thus he would never allow anyone to get him a sefer. He would get it himself. According to R’ Shach explained that there were 2 reasons for this. One is because he didn’t want anyone to help him, and two because of his ameilus batorah.

    Likewise, in the same book (p. 181) they record that R. Aharon Kotler uses the Gemara in Menochot where Avumy forgot something that he said. He turned to his talmid R. Chisda to remind him how he explained a certain topic. The gemara asks why he didn’t send his talmid to come to him. Rashi says that it’s because of yegata u'motzasa (he worked and he found). R’ Aharon deduces that going yourself is part of the learning.

    In an effort to avoid having to get up to get books R. Teichtel writes to his father R. Yissachar Teichtel, author of Am habonim Semacha, that when R. Yissachar visited R. Menachem Zemba, he had sitting on the table in front of him, a gemara with Rambam and all of chazal so that way he wouldn’t have to waste time and get up every time he needed to look up something. (letters in Tal Talpios, mentioned here, on page 44).

    R. Meir Bar-Ilan, in a beautiful chapter of his classic MiVolozhin l'Yerushalayim (p. 269), in describing how his uncle, the R. Yechiel Michel Epstein, author of the Arukh HaShulhan, wrote his work said that R. Epstein also had a Rambam, shas and Shulchan Orach on the table and reference everything without having to move.

    [5] See id. at XIV and id. note 40 discussing those who make the claim that the Terumat HaDeshen was not addressing actual cases and thus cannot be relied upon and specific statements in Leket Yosher that connect to the Terumat HaDeshen. R. Freimann discussed most of the literature on this topic only a few further cites should be added. To wit, Y.A. Dinari, Hakhme Ashkenaz be-Shelei Yemi HaBenayim, Jerusalem, 1984, pp. 303-5; Zevin, Soferim veSeforim, vol. Teshuvos, p. 14; R. P. Horowitz, Sefer HaBrit, p. 162, discussing the phenomenon of fictional responsa.

    See also the comments of R. Munk in Pa'as Sadecha, who specifically rejects the notion that the Leket Yosher is not a reliable work. Instead, R. Munk states that the Leket Yosher was written with extreme care and can be relied upon.

    In the newest edition of the Terumat HaDeshen, edited by Shmuel Avitan (Jerusalem, 1991), the editor is completely dismissive of R. Freimann. Although Avitan neither mentions Freimann by name nor explains why Freimann is wrong. This attitude is particularly striking in that R. Freimann devotes some 50 pages to an extensive and well documented introduction of the Leket Yosher as well as related topics. Avitan, on the other hand, is satisfied with a two page introduction that adds almost nothing to either the Terumat HaDeshen the work or R. Isserlein the person and in fact borrows heavily, many times without citation, from R. Freimann's introduction. [It appears Avitan was not even aware of Dinari's work.] For example, Avitan deals with when R. Isserlein refers to "one of the great ones - אחד מהגדולים" if R. Isserlein is referring exclusively to the Maharil. Freimann was the first to demonstrate that this reference is not exclusive to the Maharil. Avitan, also comes to the very same conclusion, without mentioning Freimann or even as Avitan is wont, "the introduction to the Leket Yosher."

    Aside from claiming that the responsa are fictional, others have made a distinction between the "teshuvot" and the "pesakim" of R. Isserlein. See Dinari, Hakhme Ashkenaz, p. 303-4 n. 223.

    [6] Divrei Yatziv Orach Hayyim nos. 179, 236, 295, 297; Yoreh Deah 31.

    [7] For a later mention of seeing a comet see Glikel Zikhronot, ed. C. Turnyanski, Jerusalem, 2006, p. 605 n. 314.

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    Clarifications of Previous Posts

    by Marc B. Shaprio

    [The footnote numbers reflects the fact this is a continuation of this earlier post.]

    1. I was asked to expand a bit on how I know that R. Barukh Epstein’s story with Rayna Batya is contrived. In this story we see her great love of Torah study and her difficulty in accepting a woman’s role in Judaism. Certainly, she must have been a very special woman, and I assume that she was, for a woman, quite learned. When Mekor Barukh was published there were still plenty of people alive who had known her and it would have been impossible to entirely fabricate her personality. The same can be said about Epstein’s report of the Netziv reading newspapers on Shabbat. This is not the sort of thing that could be made up. Let’s not forget that the Netziv’s widow, son (R. Meir Bar-Ilan) and many other family members and close students were alive, and Epstein knew that they would not have permitted any improper portrayal. It is when recording private conversations that one must always be wary of what Epstein reports.

    A good deal has been written about the Rayna Batya story, and Dr. Don Seeman has referred to it as “the only record which has been preserved of a woman’s daily interactions with her male interlocutor over several months.”[15] When challenged about the historical accuracy of Epstein’s recollections, Seeman replied “that there is no evidence to indicate that R. Epstein invented these episodes out of whole cloth.”[16]

    I will therefore explain how I concluded that the story is fictional. Let’s begin with the well-attested fact that Epstein was a plagiarizer. My assumption is that when dealing with someone who is not a reputable scholar, one must be very suspicious of what he or she writes when there is no outside evidence to back it up. In fact, when the Torah Temimah first appeared, the editor of this work published a booklet, Sihah Temimah, accusing Epstein of fraudulent behavior.[17] Here are the first few pages of this booklet.

    A central feature of his dialogue with Rayna Batya is her producing the book Ma’ayan Ganim by R. Samuel Archivolti. Here it states that mature women who have a desire to study Torah are to be encouraged (Mekor Barukh, p. 1962). Epstein, a young teenager, then attempts to refute her by arguing that the passage from Ma’ayan Ganim is not halakhic, but rather divrei melitzah. The whole dialogue, and in particular the part about her discovering the winning passage in Archivolti, is contrived and designed to lead the reader to sympathize with the fate of the poor woman.

    In his Torah Temimah (Deut. ch. 11 n. 68) he cites the passage from Ma’ayan Ganim that as a teenager he supposedly argued against. Anyone reading Torah Temimah would assume that Ma’ayan Ganim is a regular halakhic work, as Epstein refers to it as She’elot u-Teshuvot.[18]

    Although at the end of the passage he says that he doesn’t know who the author is, and that Tosafot Yom Tov calls him a grammarian, I believe that this is all part of the literary game he is playing. In other words, he wants to publicize Archivolti’s view, and then to “cover” himself cites Tosafot Yom Tov. In Mekor Barukh, after telling his story, he points out that Archivolti was also a great talmudist and that the only reason the Tosafot Yom Tov refers to him as a medakdek was because he was referring to him in his youth.[19]

    Dan Rabinowitz, in his discussion of the issue, writes:

    The entire famous Rayna Batya incident must now be called into serious question. Was Rayna Batya so ignorant as to confuse Ma’ayan Gannim with a legitimate book of halakha? How, then, do we reconcile this with her supposed profound learning? It cannot be that R. Epstein was unable to recognize the Ma’ayan Gannim for what it was, for he himself writes that he told his aunt of the true nature of Ma’ayan Gannim. But if he did know what it was, how is it that in his Torah Temima he refers to Ma’ayan Gannim as responsa—and yet in the same paragraph in the Torah Temima he seems to backtrack and wonder how it is that the Ma’ayan Gannim could innovate “new laws about women with reason alone?” The entire Rayna Batya episode is a highly problematic one, raising one perplexing question after another.[20]

    As far as the first few questions are concerned, I can only say that the entire report of Rayna Batya discovering the relevant text in Ma’ayan Ganim was made up by Epstein. This book, which was published in Venice in 1553, is an extremely rare volume. There would have only been a few copies of this book in all of Lithuania. (In Torah Temimah Epstein also says that it is a rare book.) It is therefore impossible to imagine that the rebbetzin, sitting in Volozhin, would just so happen to come across this volume on her husband’s bookshelf. Of this, there can be no doubt, and I assumed that Epstein, who was a great bibliophile, later in life came across the book and in his desire to publicize its contents, created the dialogue with Rayna Batya.

    Yet thanks to R. Yehoshua Mondshine’s recent article,[21] I see that I was mistaken in my assumption. The truth is that Epstein never even saw the book and thus did not know the true nature of Ma’ayan Ganim. He learnt of the relevant passage, which he places in Rayna Batya’s mouth, from an article that appeared in Ha-Tzefirah in 1894. We see this from the fact that the Ha-Tzefirah quotation mistakenly omits some words, and the same words are omitted in Mekor Barukh. This shows that his knowledge of this book came in 1894 and that he never discussed it with Rayna Batya, who died many years prior to this.

    Now that we know where Epstein copied the text from, we can see another element of the literary game he played. He cites Ma’ayan Ganim as follows:

    ומאמר חכמינו כל המלמד את בתו תורה כאלו מלמדה תפלות אולי נאמר כשהאב מלמדה בקטנותה.

    Yet in Ha-Tzefirah it states:

    מאמר רבותינו ז"ל כל המלמד בתו תורה כאלו מלמדה תפלות אינה צריכה לפנים דאיתתא חזינא ותיובתא לא חזינא כי אפשר לחלק שחכמים ז"ל לא דברו אלא כשהאב מלמדה בקטנותה.

    Leaving aside the words Epstein omits, he has substituted אולי for אפשר לחלק. In doing so he softened Archivolti’s point. Whereas Archivolti was stating that one can distinguish between teaching a grown woman and a small girl, Epstein has Archivolti prefacing this idea with “perhaps”. I think this is part of Epstein’s confusing game. He wants to bring this view to the public’s attention, but he doesn’t want to come off as too radical. In fact, this אולי, which is his own creation, assumes a life of its own. Thus, in his letter to R. Hayyim Hirschensohn (Malki ba-Kodesh, vol. 6, p. 47), criticizing the latter’s view of teaching women Torah, Epstein writes:

    צר לי כי לא אוכל להסכים עמו בזה הן הוא (הרש"ק בעל המכתב הידוע) אינו בטוח בעצמו בדבריו אלה, כנראה מלשונו שכתב "ומאמר חכמינו כל המלמד את בתו תורה וכו' 'אולי' נאמר כשהאב מלמדה בקטנותה" וכו' ועתה הגע עצמך האם בסברא "פן ואולי" אפשר להתיר מה שנאמר בגמרא מפורש לאיסור. כך דעתי בזה.

    In other words, Epstein invents the word אולי and inserts it into Archivolti’s letter, and then he uses this to criticize Hirschensohn! The chutzpah on Epstein’s part is astonishing, but as I see it this is all part of his game.

    No one who has discussed Epstein and Rayna Batya was aware of his letter to Hirschensohn, so they could not point out the following obvious fact: When one looks at Mekor Barukh, which was published after his letter to Hirschensohn, one finds him telling Rayna Batya the exact same thing. It is obvious that he uses the language in his letter to Hirschensohn to create the following reply to Rayna Batya, that supposedly occurred some fifty years prior.

    והן המחבר בעצמו כמו 'מודה במקצת' בזה, באמרו: 'ומאמר חכמינו' כל המלמד את בתו תורה כאלו מלמדה תפלות 'אולי נאמר כשמלמדה בקטנותה'; הרי שבעצמו אינו בטוח בדבריו, וכהוראת הלשון 'אולי' ולא ב"אולי" ולא ב"פן" מתירים מה שנאמר מפורש בתלמוד.

    (It is possible that I am wrong in assuming that it was his positive view towards women studying Torah which explains why he created the story and cited Ma’ayan Ganim. Perhaps he was simply attempting to create a good story, or even some controversy, and that explains why he seems to be on both sides of the issue, as Dan Rabinowitz points out in the passage cited above.)

    Here are the relevant pages in Ma’ayan Ganim, Ha-Tzefirah, Mekor Barukh, and Torah Temimah.

    I know that there are people who are very upset at me, believing that I have given ammunition to those who chose to censor and withdraw My Uncle the Netziv. I make no apologies. We must combat falsehoods and plagiarism no matter where they emanate from. If, in the process, some of our own sacred cows are slaughtered, that is the price we must pay.

    Returning to Mondshine, he is most concerned with the supposed dialogue between Epstein’s father, R. Yehiel Michel (the author of the Arukh ha-Shulhan), and the Tzemach Tzedek, R. Menachem Mendel Schneersohn. He sees it as an opportunity for Epstein to put all sorts of ideas, including criticisms of Hasidism, into the mouth of the great hasidic leader, something that if he did on his own would have brought down storms of criticism upon him. For example, he has the Tzemach Tzedek say that the hasidim have to be grateful for the opposition of the Vilna Gaon. Had it not been for the great dispute about Hasidism, and the Gaon’s strident opposition, the new movement might have led its followers out of the ranks of halakhic Judaism. (p. 1237). This idea was expressed by R. Kook (Ma’amrei ha-Re’iyah, p. 7) and was probably a common non-hasidic notion. But it is impossible to think that the Tzemach Tzedek would have ever expressed himself this way.

    At the time that R. Yehiel Michel is said to have had his conversations with the Tzemach Tzedek, he was the rav of the Habad town Novozypkov.[22] In later years R. Abraham Chen and R. Shlomo Yosef Zevin served as rabbis of the town.[23] I know about this place because my grandmother’s second husband (who was like a grandfather to me) was from there. In fact, during World War One word came to the town that a certain group of Jews was being moved and would be passing through, and that among them was an outstanding young scholar named Shlomo Yosef Zevin. The townspeople came up with the necessary money to remove him from the group. He was chosen as the town’s rabbi and lived in my step-grandfather’s house for about six months. I read somewhere that the townspeople were followers of Kopys/Bobruisk, rather than Lubavitch. As R. Zevin was himself a Bobruisker, this would make sense. R. Yehiel Michel was himself born in Bobruisk, as was his son R. Baruch.

    I always tell this story to Habad people in order to impress them with my yichus, that the great R. Zevin lived in my family’s house. Yet on two separate occasions after I told the story to young Habad shluchim, they replied, “Who is Rav Zevin?” It is also very rare to find a young Habadnik who has even heard of Kopust/Bobruisk. Yet without knowing about this it is impossible to understand how R. Zevin could have been a Zionist when the Lubavitcher rebbes were all anti-Zionist. After all, who ever heard of a hasid not following his Rebbe? The answer is that all Lubavitchers were Habad, but not all adherents of Habad were Lubavitch. The ignorance among some in Habad of their own movement probably shouldn’t surprise me, as I have met many hasidim who don’t have a clue about the history of the hasidic movement. And of course, how many Modern Orthodox know the first thing about Hirsch and Hildesheimer?

    Mondshine assumes that one of the purposes of Epstein’s stories about his father and the Tzemach Tzedek is to build up his father’s halakhic reputation. His pesakim were subject to attack as being too liberal, and certainly in the hasidic world he was not accepted. In the Lithuanian world he was a much more important posek, and R. Joseph Elijah Henkin stated that in a dispute between the Mishneh Berurah and the Arukh ha-Shulhan, the Arukh ha-Shulhan is to be preferred.[24]

    Yet many did not share R. Henkin’s viewpoint. A number of years ago I saw in one of R. Yitzhak Ratsaby’s books that he heard from some gedolim that one should not rely on the Arukh ha-Shulhan. I wrote to him objecting to this lack of respect for the Arukh ha-Shulhan, and also expressing my near certainty that the gedolim he referred to must have been Hungarian, for the Hungarian poskim never accepted the Arukh ha-Shulhan as an authoritative work. On Nov. 22, 1990, Ratsaby wrote to me:

    בענין הגאון בעל ערוך השולחן, דוקא הדברים נובעים מליטא, והנני מפרש, הגר"י כהנמן זצ"

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  • 01/19/08--22:37: About Rabbi Avraham Korman
  • In his recent post at the Seforim blog, Prof. Marc B. Shapiro mentioned Rabbi Avraham Korman [at note 33] and as some readers have requested additional information on the latter, please see below:

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    Pini Dunner B.A (Hons), formerly rabbi of London's Saatchi Synagogue, is an avid collector of polemical and controversial Hebraica, with a very large, diverse private collection of such material. Many items in his collection are unknown and unrecorded, and relate to long forgotten, obscure controversies.

    This is his first post at the Seforim blog in a series about rare polemical pieces from his personal collection.
    Mercaz Agudat Ha-Rabbanim Be-Lita, Kovno, 1931
    Pini Dunner
    (London, England)

    In the mid-1920s the rabbi and rosh yeshiva of Slabodka, R. Moshe Mordechai Epstein (1866-1934), left Lithuania to lead the newly established branch of his yeshiva in Chevron. In his place as rabbi of the Slabodka community he left his son-in-law, R. Yosef Zusmanowitz (1894-1942), renowned in the Lithuanian yeshiva world as the 'Yerushalmi Illuy'. R. Zusmanowitz was a scholar of repute and a great communicator. The heads of the yeshiva, R. Boruch Horowitz (R. Epstein's brother-in-law) and R. Yitzchak Isaac Sher (1875-1952; son-in-law of the Alter of Slabodka), were concerned that the young R. Zusmanowitz would also try and take over the yeshiva. They were totally opposed to his involvement in the yeshiva, especially as he was not enamoured with the strong concentration on mussar. Instead they appointed R. Zalman Osofsky as the rabbi of the town.

    A fierce controversy erupted between the 2 factions. R. Zusmanowitz's most vociferous supporter was R. Nota Lipshitz, son of the famous secretary to R. Yitzchak Elchanan Spektor, R. Yaakov Lipshitz. The fight became so personal that R. Lipschitz's nephew was effectively expelled from Slabodka yeshiva simply because of his uncle's support for R. Zusmanowitz. As a result, the nephew, and others, began to learn together with R. Zusmanowitz, thereby starting a rival Slabodka yeshiva. At its height the yeshiva had 50 students. Frightened of the competition, and of the fundraising confusion that was impacting on their income (Zusmanowitz fundraisers included the 2 Teitz boys from America), R. Horowitz and R. Sher arranged for the Agudat Ha-Rabbanim (R. Horowitz was chairman) to issue a psak that R. Zusmanowitz had to close his yeshiva. This decision was met with anger and derision by its supporters, but the yeshiva closed. None of the 50 students were allowed back into Slabodka yeshiva – except for R. Ephraim Oshry (1914-2003), and he was subsequently suspected of being a spy who had been planted by the Slabodka yeshiva in R. Zusmanowitz's yeshiva.

    In this stencilled poster, the Agudat Ha-Rabbanim vigourously deny that they had reported R. Zusmanowitz to the authorities as a subversive, as he and his supporters were claiming in posters, pamphlets and correspondence. They also explain that as R. Zusmanowitz refused to sign that he would not open a yeshiva if he won the elections that had been scheduled as a way to resolve the dispute, he had effectively ruled himself out of the election. The status-quo that established itself during this time was that R. Osofsky was the rabbi for the Slabodka yeshiva community and R. Zusmanowitz was the rabbi for the rest of the town. The whole controversy was viewed very negatively by those not involved, and particularly because R. Zusmanowitz's opponents - who used a variety of nefarious tactics to get their way - were meant to represent the mussar movement and its ethical ideals.

    R. Zusmanowitz later became the rabbi of Wilkomir – a position for which R. Yaakov Kamenetsky had been vying, and thought he had secured – when the previous rabbi, R. Arye Leib Rubin, father-in-law of the Ponevezher Rov, died in 1937. It was as a result of this that R. Kamenetsky came to America. He would later say that what had at the time seemed like a tragic failure had in fact saved his life and the lives of his family as he was spared from the Holocaust as a result. R. Zusmanowitz was not so lucky. He was killed in 1942. (With thanks to Rabbi Eliezer Katzman for much of the information concerning this controversy).

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