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

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    Rabbis and Communism


    Marc B. Shapiro

    I had intended my newest post to be on the Rav’s famous essay “Confrontation,” but I recently received the latest issue of Tradition with Rabbi Yitzchak Blau’s article “Rabbinic Responses to Communism,” so let me make a few comments about it. First, I must say that it is a good read, like all of Blau’s writing, and I was impressed with the range of topics he attempts to tackle. My only suggestion for improvement would have been to examine the larger context of Jewish communist anti-clerical sentiment, which made it very hard for the rabbis to be sympathetic to communism.

    Yet this anti-clerical feeling did not arise in a vacuum. Quite apart from the traditional Marxist aversion to religion, the rabbis, like their non-Jewish religious counterparts, were generally aligned with the aristocracy, who paid their salary and took their sons as marriage partners for their daughters. The rabbis were thus seen as standing in the way of economic justice. In fact, there has been a long plutocratic tradition in the Jewish world, which meant complete disenfranchisement of the poor from all communal decisions. I don’t know of any Jewish community in history where people who could not afford to pay taxes were given communal voting rights. (This would be the modern equivalent of not giving welfare recipients the right to vote – wouldn’t the Republicans love to make this the law of the land!)

    R. Samuel de Medina goes so far as to argue that the wealthy are qualitatively superior to the poor, citing in support of this horrible notion Eccl. 7:12: “For wisdom is a defense, even as money is a defense.” For him, money and wisdom are two sides of the same coin. [1] He also gives another proof to support his pro-wealth point of view. Gen. 41:56 states: “And the famine was over all the face of the earth (פני הארץ).” Upon this the Midrash comments that the face of the earth refers to the rich people (Tanhuma, ad loc.). From this we see, says de Medina, that the rich are at the head of the community and everyone else in the rear, not a position from which one leads.[2] As he puts it (and note how the poor and the ignorant are treated as one group):

    Accepting the will of the majority, when that majority is composed of ignorant men, could lead to a perversion of justice. For if there were one hundred men in a city, ten of whom were wealthy, respected men, and ninety of whom were poor, and the ninety wanted to appoint a leader approved by them, would the ten prominent men have to submit to him regardless of who he was? Heaven forbid, this is not the accepted way (“the way of pleasantness”).[3]

    None of this means that de Medina was insensitive to the needs of the poor. This was not the case at all, and he has a responsum in which he requires people to contribute to the building of houses that will be used, among other things, for poor visitors to spend the night.[4] Yet we see in him a sense of paternalism that was common in traditional societies all over the world, and was one of the factors which convinced the lower class that it was time to take matters into their own hands.[5]

    When dealing with anti-clericalism in Russia, we must also not forget the masses’ long memory of how some (many?, most?) rabbis were silent during the era of the chappers. This was when children were grabbed for 25 years of military service in the Cantonists, often never again to see their parents and usually succumbing to incessant pressure (including torture) to be baptized. Yet it wasn’t the children of the rich or the rabbis who were taken, but the poor children. Jacob Lifshitz’ defense of the way the Jewish community dealt with the Cantonist tragedy – which he regards as worse than even the destruction of the Temple![6] – and his insistence that no one can judge the community leaders unless they themselves had been in such a difficult circumstance, is something we must bear in mind.[7] Yet all such ex post facto justifications would have no impact on the outlook of those that actually suffered during the Cantonist era, and it is no wonder that many of the common people would not regard the rabbis in a sympathetic light. The rabbis were certainly able to come up with a justification why their sons, the future Torah scholars, should not be taken to the army, just as they continue to make this argument. Yet this would only serve to show the masses that some children’s blood was indeed redder than others.[8]

    In his memoir of this era, Yehudah Leib Levin wrote:

    "I was relatively calm and personally did not fear the chappers, because my father was an important landlord, distinguished in Torah and highly regarded by everyone. My mother was the daughter of the most famous tzaddik (righteous person) of his generation, Rabbi Moshe Kabrina’at. And I, I was one of the “good children,” a prodigy the likes of whom were not touched by the hand of the masses. Free both of fear and of schoolwork, because the teachers and pupils had all gone into hiding and the chedarim [schools] were closed, I wandered daily around the city streets seeing the little “Russians,” and my heart burst when I realized they were in the hands of non-Jews, who forced them to eat pork – oh dear me!"[9]

    Elyakum Zunser was seized when he was away from his hometown. Many years later he wrote:

    Many private individuals engaged in this traffic, seizing young children and selling them to the Kahal “bosses.” Reminiscent of the sale of Joseph by his own brothers, these betrayals occurred daily. Lesser rabbis of small towns assented to such transactions, rationalizing that it was more “pious” to save the children of their own towns than to concern themselves with the fate of strangers.

    Though many important rabbis wept at these outrages, most dared not protest. They were afraid of the consequences if the Jewish community would defy the Tsar’s quota. The rabbis held their positions at the discretion of the Kahal leaders and feared the consequences of displeasing them. They were afraid to be denounced to government officials and exiled to Siberia.[10]

    Michael Stanislawski notes that in one community the communal leaders wanted to grab a poor tailor since he wasn’t observant, but the local rabbi forbid it. Stanislawski also tells us that in Vilna the communal leaders had their sights on a larger prize.

    [T]he traditionalist kahal authorities later attempted to forestall the opening of the government-sponsored rabbinical seminaries by drafting the sons of several of its proposed teachers, but this was discovered by the local administration and forbidden.[11]

    He also quotes the Hebrew writer Y. L. Katsenson, who describes his grandmother’s shock when she discovered that the chappers in her town were not Gentiles:

    No, my child, to our great horror, all khappers were in fact Jews, Jews with beards and sidelocks. We Jews are accustomed to attacks, libels, and evil decrees from the non-Jews – such have happened from time to time immemorial, and such is our lot in Exile. In the past, there were Gentiles who held a cross in one hand and a knife in the other, and said: “Jew, kiss the cross or die,” and the Jews preferred death to apostasy. But now there come Jews, religious Jews, who capture children and send them off to apostasy. Such a punishment was not even listed in the Bible’s list of the most horrible curses. Jews spill the blood of their brothers, and God is silent, the rabbis are silent. . . .[12]

    What is incredible is that after all the pressure to convert, some Cantonists remained Jewish. In fact – and here I mention something that I only learnt after my book on R. Jehiel Jacob Weinberg was published – Weinberg’s grandfather was a Cantonist. His father was also a soldier in the post-Cantonist Czarist army.[13] In the book I mentioned that Weinberg’s family was undistinguished, yet if I was writing it now I would speak about how the two generations of army service signifies that this was in fact a very low-class family, and shows how significant Weinberg’s rise to fame was. As I pointed out, while in theory the yeshivot were equal-opportunity institutions, in reality the aristocratic element in them was generally well established and self-perpetuating.[14]

    In a strong defense of the rabbis against the charge that they collaborated with the rich people in order to ensure that the poor were taken, R. Moses Solomon Kazarnov calls attention to all that the rabbis did to defend the children of the lower class.[15] But he acknowledges that the rabbis would hand over the non-religious kids, including their own![16] (While I have no doubt that the rabbis joined with the parnasim to hand over the non-religious youth, it strains imagination to believe that there were more than a few who did this with their own irreligious sons.) As Kazarnov puts it (51-52, in words that must cause loathing in any contemporary parent, and I would assume in virtually all parents even one hundred years ago):

    והרבנים איפא כבנים נאמנים לתלמודם הורו למעשה את אשר מצאו כתוב להלכה, ותמיד הורו לא אך לאחרים, אך גם לעצמם, אם בניהם לא נהגו כשורה, לנדותם להבזותם ולתת גם את חלקם לטובים מהם; כמה אבות רבנים או חרדים גרידא הנך זוכר קורא יקר, אשר בניהם יצאו לתרבות רעה ואשר התפללו לה' תמיד כי יחמול ה' עליהם ויקח את בניהם אלה מהם, כמה מהם השתדלו בעצמם להשיג את בניהם שנתפקרו למען מסרם לצבא תחת יתר בניהם הרודים עם א-ל?

    Talk about conditional love! I don’t even want to imagine what it did to the mental state of a child who knew that his father would hand him over to the Czar’s army if he decided that he no longer wanted to be Orthodox. Kazarnov continues:

    ואם כן אפוא מי זה יאשימם על הוראתם למסור למלכות לעבודת הצבא את החטאים תחת הכשרים? . . . הלא לא עשו לבני העניים יותר מאשר עשו לבניהם המם. את הכשרים שמרו כבבת עינם, אם שלהם ואם של אחרים, ואת החוטאים מסרו לצבא אם מירכם יצאו או מירך זולתם! . . . במאכלות אסורות ובנבלות, זמה ורשע, בזדונות כאלה שמו החרדים את פניהם להמעיטם מקרב עמם, מקרב משפחתם ומקרב בני ביתם, ומה היא כל החרדה הזאת?

    Concerning the general issue of the rabbis being allied with the wealthy, Dan Rabinowitz called my attention to what R. Judah Margaliot wrote in his Beit Middot:

    Some of the leaders of Israel do not think of the glory of their Creator but only of their own. They employ all their power merely to terrorize the community. [He then elaborates on how they do this] . . . Do not think that one can turn for help to the great figures of the generation, to our rabbis, whose duty it is to be the protectors and defenders of the people. For they are in league with the oppressors, walk together with the powerful men and rulers of the city, become collaborators of every mischief-maker, give protection to every swindler. They exploit the rabbi’s title and authority for all kinds of evil deeds. Everything obtains the approval of the community rabbi. He who ought to be the guardian of righteousness and justice becomes the protector of robbers and bandits. The righteous judge joins the league of the swindlers. . . . . And these are our judges and lawgivers! Calmly they look on at the robberies and injustices that take place in the community and flatter the rich and powerful from whom every quarrel and plague come.[17]

    Returning to the issue of poverty, which de Medina sees as a disqualifier for communal leadership, we can also find more positive evaluations of it. Nedarim 81a tells us not to neglect the children of the poor, for the Torah goes out from them. If you examine the commentaries on this passage you will certainly find those who point out that it is easier for a poor person to study Torah, as he does not have the same attachment to the material world as does the wealthy man, and it is this attachment that prevents one from focusing on Torah. I read these sources as designed to be encouraging. In other words, they are ex post facto judgments of the positive that can be found in poverty, so that people in this unfortunate state don’t think that all is lost.

    Yet in the entire history of the Jewish people I don’t know of any source that says that it is good to be poor, and that this is something that one should strive for. In fact, the Talmud states that one who is poor is like one who is dead (Nedarim 64b), and puts poverty in the same category as childlessness, leprosy, and blindness, all things that we hope we never have to deal with. Similarly, R. Phineas b. Hama stated: ”Poverty in one's home is worse than fifty plagues” (Bava Batra 116a). In Eruvin 41b extreme poverty is listed as one of the three things that “deprive a man of his senses and of a knowledge of his Creator.”

    The notion that it is harder for a rich person to get into heaven than to put a camel through the eye of a needle has never been a Jewish teaching, and Jews have regarded wealth as a blessing. It is a challenging blessing, but a blessing nonetheless.

    Yet when questioned by those who pointed out how difficult poverty is for the kollel students in Israel, R. Aryeh Leib Steinman responded with what, to my knowledge, is a completely new approach, one which idealizes poverty in a manner not very different than the Christian notion of “Blessed be ye poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.” (Luke 6:20):

    While everyone must distance themselves from unnecessary expenditures and luxuries just as they would be careful of fire, Bnei Torah have an especial obligation as the simple life is recommended for acquiring Torah, and they have it better if they live a life of simplicity and tsnius, and even poverty and want. It says: This is the way of Torah – eat bread with salt. But it is important to stress that what is necessary is strengthening emunoh and dedication to Torah. One should definitely not look for solutions that might cause avreichim to leave learning, G-d forbid.

    I was asked if it would be a good idea to open offices for chareidi men in the large chareidi cities so that they could work in an appropriate atmosphere. It is obvious that the idea is a bad one though the intentions are good. The fact that the workplaces would be especially suited to the needs of chareidi men, and set up by chareidi people, might encourage people in difficult financial situations to leave learning. It is a spiritual stumbling block for the community at large. It would be terrible even if it would cause just one man to leave full-time learning. . . .

    What are the effects of poverty? The answer is that it is better to be poor than to be rich, as Torah comes forth from the poor; they are the ones that become talmidei chachomim. The Jewish People has always undergone difficult trials. Historically, it's been the poor people who have maintained their commitment to Judaism, despite the difficulties. It was among the rich people that some failed to withstand the temptations and trials. They are the ones that lost their children and grandchildren to Torah. It was the poor who remained especially steadfast in their dedication.

    I have personally witnessed, and history testifies, that in all of the places where people learned Torah in poverty, they were able to maintain the Mesorah. In the places where the people had a comfortable standard of living, their learning was not immune to the Haskalah's influences and many abandoned the Jewish and Torah way of life.[18]

    Returning to Blau’s article, I was happy to see that he cited R. Jacob Emden who expressed admiration for shared property. I would just note that as with so many other issues in his writings, Emden had an alternate opinion as well, and here he comes out looking like his contemporary, Adam Smith. Emden explains how poverty is essential to a successful economic order. He notes that without the motivating factor of those who are in need – what Gordon Gekko would call “greed”[19] and what others will call “self-interest” – no economic progress will ever be made. If people are not able to improve their economic state, they will not take the risks that stand behind all new ideas and discoveries, which are precisely what keeps the economic engine of a society going. Communism, which took away the hope of personal gain, stifled all of this creativity.

    Showing keen insight, Emden writes that if everyone had sufficient economic security, no one would travel on ships to far-away places and bring back the goods that are so important to people, no one would agree to do the back-breaking work required to build society’s great structures, and no one would take the time to come up with new inventions such as clocks and מחזות, which Azriel Schochet[20] suggests means glasses but I think telescopes is just as likely.

    The passage appears in Birat Migdal Oz, 138b, but since the edition I have access to (on Otzar ha-Hokhmah) does not have page nos., I will cite it as it appears in Schochet, Im Hillufei Tekufot, 224-225:

    והפלא מהשגחת הבורא הפרטית לתועלת עולמו ולהשלים תקנת בני אדם דרי תבל למלא חסרונם בהמצא בהם עניים ודלים. כי זולתם לא היתה הארץ נעבדת לתת יבולה ופריה, ולא היו מתגלים מחצבי הכסף והזהב ואבנים יקרות וסממני הרפואה ומיני הצבעים הנחפרים מן הארץ להודיע טובה ושבחה ושפעה הרב, לא תחסר כל בה. ואם היו כולם שבעים ומושפעים בשוה לא היה אחד מהם טורח להשיג דבר מן הדברים הנזכרים, ואצ"ל שלא היה שום אדם מסכים לרכוב אניות ולדרוך אניות להביא לחמו ממרחק ולמלא חסרון המדינות נעדרי התבואות והדברים היקרים וראשי בשמים והסמים הפשוטים, ולא היה מי מהם שירצה להעמיס על עצמו המלאכות הכבדות כבנית הבנינים הגדולים והיכלות תמלכים ומגדלים, ערים בצורות וחפירות הבורות והבארות, והיה העולם שמם. וכל שכן שלא היה אחד טורח בשכלו ובכח ידו להמציא תחבולות ואומניות נפלאות, כמו כלי השעות והמחזות והדומה להם מהאריגה והציורים ופתוחי חותם, והרבה מה שיארך זכרו, ולא היה ניכר שוע לפני דל, ובסיבת העוני ישיגו בני אדם כל הטובות הגדולות הרבות ההנה, והעני והחסר ישיג בהם די מחיתו והשלמת חסרונו ברצונו. מלבד מה שישיגו ע"י כך אורחות חיים כי יחלץ עני בעניו ע"י שנצרף בכור העוני, והעושר זוכה בו ומהנהו מנכסיו, מאיר עיני שניהם ה'.

    I was also happy to see that Blau mentioned R. Jehiel Jacob Weinberg’s views, although he overlooked Li-Frakim (2002 ed.), 578-582 and Kitvei ha-Rav Weinberg, vol. 2, 404-408,[21] the latter of which is devoted to Marx.

    As can be expected, the rabbinic figures Blau surveys in his recent article in Tradition were no great fans of communism.[22] He writes: “My research failed to turn up a single Rabbi [!] of recognized stature who endorsed the communist program.”

    .יגעתי ומצאתי After the February 1917 Russian Revolution which brought Kerensky to power, the Orthodox formed a group called Masoret ve-Herut. It contained both Zionists and non-Zionists and was supposed to send a delegation to the All Russian Jewish Congress, which because of the Bolshevik revolution never took place. The group also envisioned itself becoming a real political power with the establishment of the new government. On the seventeenth of Tamuz, 1917, over fifty rabbis came to Moscow for discussions about this, including R. Avraham Dov Shapiro of Kovno, R. Abraham Aaron Burstein of Tavrig,[23] R. Isaac Rabinowitz of Ponovezh (R. Itzele), and R. Aaron Walkin of Pinsk. The Hafetz Hayyim sent greetings but was too ill to attend.

    Since the masses did not have any property, one of the issues the new group would have to take a stand on was agrarian redistribution. With the Czar overthrown, it was possible to take not just his land but also the land that belonged to the wealthy princes, noblemen, and magnates and redistribute it, and this was certainly what the average person wanted. However, is this in accord with Jewish law? Can one confiscate another’s property? This was a subject of great controversy among the rabbis, and as can be imagined, many opposed this step. R. Itzele got up and, as recorded by R. Judah Leib Graubart,[24] said the following

    החלק הפוליטי נחוץ, כי על ידו נמשוך את בני הנעורים והרחוב להסתדרותנו. גם הלא אנו רואים, כי כלל ישראל חפץ בו, בוודאי מאת ד' הייתה זאת. וכלל ישראל הוא גבוה ונעלה מגדולי התורה. ישראל אם אינם נביאים, בני נביאים הם.

    In other words, if the Jewish people think that the concentration of land in the hands of a minority is unjust and should be redistributed, even if the rabbis claim that redistribution of the land is robbery, the opinion of the Jewish people overrides that of the rabbis.[25] Certainly, all would agree that R. Itzele is a rabbi of recognized stature.

    Zalman Alpert called my attention to Jacob Mark’s discussion of R. Itzele in his Bi-Mehitzatam shel Gedolei ha-Dor, 116. Mark mentions that R. Itzele was greatly respected by the radicals (which included at least one of his own sons who was arrested in 1905 for revolutionary activities).[26] He was also very interested in socialism and carefully went through Marx’s Das Kapital. He was greatly impressed by Marx’s ideas, yet Mark notes that he commented: “I cannot agree with his positions, because they oppose the Torah law that protects private property.” I don’t deny that he said as much to Mark, but as we see from Graubart’s book, at the time of the Revolution he had a different perspective.[27] As to how, from a halakhic standpoint, he could have supported redistribution of wealth if the Torah protects private property, this is not a difficult problem. After all, as far as the Rabbis are concerned, governments have the right to engage in all sorts of taxation and redistribution of wealth.[28]

    Eliezer Brodt called my attention to R. Moshe Shmuel Shapiro, Rabbi Moshe Shmuel ve-Doro (New York, 1964), 134-135, who tells an interesting story about R. Menashe of Ilya, one of the great students of the Vilna Gaon. (I can't say whether the story is apocryphal.) R. Menashe was greatly bothered by the terrible poverty in the Jewish community and came up with a revolutionary idea long before Marx. He proposed organizing a meeting of all the great rabbinic and lay leaders in the Jewish community, and their job would be to divide the Jewish wealth evenly. By doing so, the poverty problem would be solved and all would be equal. It is said that he turned to R. Hayyim of Volozhin and asked him to put his stature behind such a gathering. R. Hayyim replied that he is willing to be involved in one half of the program, i.e., the part where the poor receive the money, but the second part, in which the rich have to give up their money, he leaves to R. Menashe. Supposedly, R. Menashe understood from this answer that his plan had no hope.

    R. Judah Leib Ashlag was another great rabbi who supported communism (see here ). It is very ironic that today Ashlag’s torch is carried by a few capitalist entrepreneurs, who have become very rich through the Kabbalah Centre.[29]

    Isaac Steinberg, while not a rabbi, is a figure that should be mentioned. He was a leader of the Social Revolutionary Party and served as commissar for law in the first Soviet government. There is a lengthy article and picture of Steinberg in the Encyclopedia Judaica. Here is another picture of him.

    Steinberg was also an Orthodox Jew. His ability to combine revolutionary views and Torah might be due to the influence of his teacher, the brilliant Rabbi Shlomo Barukh Rabinkow, who was himself “a convinced socialist and revolutionary.”[30]

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    One of the strange facts connected with plagiarism is that, at times, it is hard to discern what the motivation is to plagiarize. For example, we have seen a person today that continuously plagiarizes entire books even though he is well-known and, if the approbations on his books are any indication, well-respected. Still, he has plagiarized, in their entirety at least three books and seems to continue to do so. While monetary gain may be a reason, I don't see this as making him rich.

    Another example where it is hard to figure out why the person plagiarized is an earlier case, a case from the early 19th century. Again, we are dealing with a book that was plagiarized in its entirety. Such examples, where the whole book is appropriated, makes it easy to show that this is a case of plagiarism and not merely that a sentence or two was not cited properly. This particular example also has the benefit that although an entire book was stolen and then republished under the very same title, it appears that detection of this eluded some experts in the field of Jewish books. Specifically, as we shall see that Israel Zinberg, had no knowledge of this. First, the original.

    The book in question is a small work, Ha-Matzah Hadasha, published in Amsterdam as part of a collection of works. The entire collection, that includes three other works, is Shir Emunim. The author of these works is R. Moshe Piza. Ha-Matzah Hadasha is a book whose purpose is to demonstrate and list the words that contain the letter Shin and to distinguish between a Shin and a Sin. Additionally, R. Piza included a short commentary on the bottom that provides translation for some of the words he lists. Finally, R. Piza includes a poem of sorts at the end that lists the Sins in Tanach.

    Ha-Matzah Hadasha, Amsterdam, 1793

    Now, the plagiarized version. For this we travel from Amsterdam to Vilna. Zinberg, (A History of Jewish Literature, New York, 1975, vol. 6, pp. 282-84) in discussing the early rumblings of the Haskalah movement points to an "interesting person" Naftali Hertz Shulman. Shulman was very well-read and may have been proficient in Russian, German and Latin, something very uncommon for Jews of the time. He gave classes in the Rambam's Moreh Nevukim and was a teacher to many wealth students. Shulman attempted to start a journal that would provide information "about commerce and political events, and the lover of science about scientific discoveries." The stated purpose of the journal was so that "much knowledge in the realm of various languages, mathematics, geography, the natural sciences, etc. will be disseminated among our people."

    Now, in 1804, Shulman published R. Benyamin Mussafia's lexographic work, Zekher Rav. Additionally, in 1804, under his own name, Shulman published Ha-Matzah Hadasha. On the title page Shulman states that "he gathered the information [in Ha-Matzah Hadasha] from many places" but never says that the entire work is word for word from R. Piza's earlier work. Zinberg, in his three pages on Shulman - most of glowing with Shulman's accomplishments - never mentions this fact. This is so, although the fact that Shulman plagiarism was already noted by Roest in his catalog of the Rosenthal collection, Yodeh Sefer no. 520. Roest notes that Shulman plagiarized Piza's entire work. It is worth noting that in truth Shulman did not plagiarize R. Piza's entire work - Shulman left out the final poem (I have provided it below).

    Even auction catalogers, whose job presumably is to increase the value of auction items, were unaware of this fact. In the Judiaca Jerusalem catalog (April, 2008) they had Shulman's work for sale. They merely note that Shulman probably wrote this work - a work to differentiate between a the two similar letters of Shin and Sin - due to the unique Lithuanian pronunciation. Not only do that not mention the work is not original to Shulman, their explanation fails to account for the fact the work was never written in response to Lithuanian pronunciation as it was originally written in Amsterdam by a Sefardic author, R. Piza.

    Ha-Matzah Hadasha, Sklov, 1804

    Now, in light of Zinberg's description of Shulman, Shulman appears to have been well respected in Vilna, as I mentioned he taught many wealthy children, Shulman published his own works and was involved with many members of the early Haskalah even going so far as to suggest publishing the journal mentioned above. It is therefore perplexing then he would plagiarize an eight page book that for the most part is merely a list of words from Tanach that merely highlights whether there is a Shin or a Sin. Below, are scans from the original and Shulman's edition.

    A Page from Shulman's edition

    The same page from Piza's original version

    The poem that appears at the end of Piza's Version
    Additionally, it may be that he actually plagiarized another book as well. While this is highly speculative, another book, discussed here, was plagiarized from R. Abraham ben HaGra in 1804 by a Yehuda ben Naftali Hertz. I don't know if this Yehuda ben Naftali Hertz is related to the Naftali Hertz above but the similarity in name, place of publication, as well as the timing may be an indication that either it is the same person or somehow connected.

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    Responses to Comments and Elaborations of Previous Posts II

    by Marc B. Shapiro

    In a previous post I wrote as follows:

    In Kitvei Ramban, vol. 1, p. 413, Chavel prints the introduction to Milhamot ha-Shem. The Ramban writes:

    וקנאתי לרבנו הגדול רבי יצחק אלפאסי זכרונו לברכה קנאה גדולה, מפני שראיתי לחולקים על דבריו שלא השאירו לו כפי רב מחלוקותיהם ענין נכון בכל מה שדבר, ולא דבר הגון בכל מה שפרש, ולא פסק ראוי בכל מה שפסק, לא נשאר עם דבריהם בהלכות זולתי הדברים הפשוטים למתחיל פרק אין עומדין

    In his note Chavel explains the last words as follows:

    רק בסוף הפרק הזה נמצאה השגה אחת מבעל המאור

    Yet what Ramban means by למתחיל פרק אין עומדין are the children who begin their talmudic study with Tractate Berakhot. In other words, it is only the explanations and pesakim of the Rif that are obvious even to the beginner that have not been challenged.[1]

    Ephraim responded as follows

    WRT the reference of Ramban to פרק אין עומדין, both you and R. Chavel are wrong. Ramban is clearly referring to the gemara's explanation of the Mishnah's ruling at the beginning of that chapter of אין עומדין להתפלל אלא מתוך כובד ראש, which is that one should learn an undisputed halakha prior to davening. It is only on those simple and undisputed halakhos that the Maor did not disagree.

    Fotheringay-Phipps wrote:

    The basic problem with Dr. Shapiro's (or R' Mazuz's, as the case may be) pshat is that Ain Omdin is the fifth chapter of B'rachos, not the first. If the Ramban meant the perek that a kid starting out learns, why would he choose the fifth perek? I think R' Chavel's pshat is somewhat of a better pshat, since Ain Omdin is somewhat unusual in that there is only one haga'a from the Ba'al Hamoar in the whole perek, and I incline to think that this is what the Ramban meant.

    I presented these comments to R. Mazuz and he replied as follows:

    לפי פירוש כת"ר היל"ל הדברים הפשוטים שבתחלת פרק אין עומדין. אולם ידוע שבעדות המזרח התחילו ללמוד מסכת ברכות (וכ"ה בשו"ת הרי"ף סימן רג"ג). בניגוד לנהוג היום בתלמודי תורה להתחיל פרק אלו מציאות. ואבא זצ"ל התחיל לתלמידים בפרק תפלת השחר (ומסתמא כך נהגו בג'רבא) שהוא הפרק הכי קל בין הפרקים א' ב' ג' ד' במסכת ברכות. לכן יתכן מאד שבימי הראשונים התחילו דוקא בפרק אין עומדין (שהוא קל אפילו יותר מפרק תפלת השחר, ורובו דברי אגדה). וזוהי כוונת הרמב"ן

    With regard to his point about the Sephardim beginning their instruction from Berakhot, in R. Mazuz’s new book, Arim Nisi, p. 364, he notes that R. Shakh, Shimushah shel Torah p. 88, refers to the Maskilim’s attempt to institute this in Europe as a “reform.” Yet in reality, this practice has a long history. R. Mazuz writes:

    ונעלם ממנו במחכ"ת שכן מנהג הספרדים עד היום הזה, והוא מנהג קדמון מימי הרי"ף והגאונים, ואולי מימי רבי מסדר המשנה שהתחיל בסדר זרעים במסכת ברכות. ולפני כששים שנה הדפיסו באי ג'רבא מסכת ברכות בהשמתטת הקטעים שאין רגילים ללמדם לתלמידים בהסכמת רבני העיר וט"ו מרביצי תורה שבעיר, ויצאו מהם פירות ופירי פירות

    Since I mentioned R. Mazuz’s comment vis-à-vis what R. Shakh wrote, I should add that he criticized him on other occasions as well. These criticisms were always offered with proper respect. Yet there are those in the Lithuanian world who have no interest in hearing what another gadol has to say if it not in line with current Daas Torah.[2] R. Mazuz states that he once sent a letter to Yated Neeman pointing out an error R Shakh made, and they refused to publish it. After this paper refused to publish two more of his letters, he stopped sending them, as the hazakhah had been established.[3]

    He also tells us that if the editors had a different attitude, he would have also sent in something dealing with the proper way to pronounce the word אחד in Shema, since there was a great deal of discussion in the newspaper by people who didn’t know what they were talking about. The truth is that a dalet without a dagesh is very similar to a zayin[4] and is still preserved among the elders of Yemen and Iraq. He cites one of Ibn Gabirol’s poems which reads:

    לאטך דברי שיר דבורה

    אשר קרית שמע מפיך יקרא

    מיחדת ומארכת באחד

    In Peter Cole’s translation:

    Take, little bee,

    your time with your song,

    in your flight intoning the prayer called "Hear"

    declaring and stretching "the Lord is one."[5]

    In other word, the bee’s buzzing (zzz) shows us how one can extend the dalet. It is pronounced in the way that the letter can be extended, which cannot be done with a hard dalet.

    R. Shakh was a man of truth, and he certainly would have wanted to be corrected. All true scholars are happy when this happens, and this is what intellectual honesty is all about. But Yated Neeman has never been interested in truth or intellectual honesty, but in pushing a religio-political agenda, and therefore not only do they refuse to print such corrections of their gedolim, but they have even published material which they know is untrue. I refer in particular to their slander of R. Kook, stating that he applied the verse Ki Mitzion Tetze Torah to the Hebew University. Even though the truth was pointed out to them they continued to print the slander. One can read all about this in Moshe Maimon Alharar’s book Li-Khevodah shel Torah.

    Returning to R. Mazuz and R. Shakh. R. Shakh had written

    Whence did Hazal know that the earth was forty-two times larger than the moon, and that the sun was approximately one-hundred-and-seventy times larger than the earth (as explained in the Rambam, Hilkhot Yesodei Hatorah 3:8), if not from the power of the Torah?

    Some might recognize this passage as it was subject to a very strong critique by R. Aharon Lichtenstein. I am sure that many in the haredi world were very upset by what R. Lichtenstein wrote, but it pales in comparison to what R. Shakh wrote about the Rav’s Hamesh Derashot.[6] Among his negative comments, he referred to Rav’s Zionist ideas as ממש דברי כפירה.

    R. Lichtenstein actually has two replies to the quote from R. Shakh. They are both found in the same essay, but the essay has appeared in two different versions. In the original version he wrote as follows.

    Upon reading the passage, one can only reflect, first, that the description cited is nowhere to be found in Hazal, but derives, rather, from medieval astronomers; second, that it is in conflict with the rudiments of contemporary scientific assumptions, and, third, that it hardly consorts with the fact that the selfsame Rambam had explicitly stated, with respect to these very issues, that they were beyond the pale of Hazal’s authority. . . . The high regard properly due the author of the Avi Ezri notwithstanding, one can only conclude that, evidently, when their reach exceeds their grasp, even acknowledged and esteemed talmdei hakhamim may falter.[7]

    Yet when this essay was reprinted in Leaves of Faith, vol. 2, the criticism was softened:

    In raising this question, he is wholly oblivious not only of the rudiments of astronomy but also of the fact that the selfsame Rambam explicitly states, with respect to these very issues, that they are beyond the pale of Hazal’s authority.

    In response to this citation of R. Shakh in Yated Neeman, R. Mazuz wrote as follows (Or Torah, Adar 5753, pp. 461-462):

    והנני להעיר שהרמב"ם כתב כן ע"פ חכמי המדע בימיו ולא נצמא כן בדברי חז"ל. וכמבואר להדיא בהקדמתו לפירוש המשניות (בש"ס ברכות דפוס ווילנא דף נה סע"א וע"ב) שהמקור לזה מספר אלמגסט"י. והוא ספרו של בטלמיוס הידוע בחכמת האסטרונומיא. ועפ"ז כתב הרמב"ם בהלכות יסודי התורה (שם) שהשמש גדולה מן הירח פי 6800. ורלב"ג עה"ת (בפסוק ויאמר אלקים יהי מאורות) חולק על זה וכתב כי השמש גדולה מהירח פי חמשים אלף, כמו שביאר בח"א ממאמר חמישי מס' מלחמות ה' ע"ש. וכיום ידוע שהשמש גדולה מן הארץ פי מליון שלש מאות אלף

    R. Mazuz’s second letter deals with the nature of darkness. Yated Neeman had printed the Vilna Gaon’s opinion that darkness is not simply the absence of light but its own creation. R. Mazuz responded that this is in opposition to the opinions of the Rambam, Ramban, R. Joel Sirkes, R. Elijah Mizrahi and the Siftei Hakhamim. Subsequent to writing the letter he learnt that this view was also held by R. Saadiah Gaon, Ibn Ezra, Radak, and the Kol Bo (see ibid., p. 946) After pointing out that the Vilna Gaon’s view is held by R. Jacob Emden and the Hida. He concludes:

    מכל מקום אין לקרוא לסברא. שהחשך הוא העדר "דברת המינים" ח"ו. ואלו ואלו דברי אלקים חיים

    As already mentioned, Yated Neeman does not like to print letters from those who are able to show that the newspaper has erred. Only newspapers interested in the truth do that.

    In his Kovetz Ma’amarim, pp. 102ff., R. Mazuz includes another letter he sent to Yated which also was not printed. The paper had published the view of the Steipler and R. Chaim Kanievsky that even Sephardim should pronounce the final vowel of אד-ני as Ashkenazim pronounce the kamatz, since otherwise it appears as it if there is more than one God.

    R. Mazuz shows how mistaken this is, and illustrates though various texts that the way the Sephardim pronounce the kamatz today is precisely how it was pronounced in medieval times. For example, he cites one of Ibn Gabirol’s Azharot:

    אנכי ה' / קראתיך בסינַי/ ולא יהיה על פנַי / לך אלהים אחרים

    One can easily see that the words are designed to rhyme, so obviously the last syllable of Ado-nai was pronounced the same way as Sinai and panai.

    2. Since I just mentioned R. Aharon Lichtenstein, let me quote something else he wrote that relates to what I noted in a previous post.[8] I pointed to the common phenomenon of people rejecting the authenticity of texts that don’t agree with their preconceptions. R. Lichtenstein states:

    The Rav had no patience for philosophies that glorified passivity and reliance on miracles. At the beginning of the 1960’s, a few years after the launch of Sputnik, I had occasion to talk with the Rav about those people who claimed that man should not reach out for the heavens, for “the heavens are the heavens of God,” and only “the earth is given to human beings.” The Rav heaped scorn upon them. One of those present jumped up to protest: “But Rabbi, the Ramban in Bechukotai (Vayikra 26:11) speaks about how a person should have faith in the Holy One, and not to delve into matters that are too wondrous for him.” The Rav replied, “I heard from my father, in the name of my grandfather, that the Ramban never uttered that statement!”

    Although not identical to the Ramban’s position, there was also a medieval Jewish view that doctors should only be consulted for things like sprained arms, but that when it came to internal diseases one should only resort to prayer. Lest one think that this idiosyncratic position has totally disappeared, I have even found a twentieth-century author who adopts it,[9] leading R. Ovadiah Yosef to strongly reject this view in his haskamah.

    3. In a previous post[10] I called attention to an error made by H. Norman Strickman and Arthur Silver. They claimed that according to Radak’s commentary to Gen. 14:14, after the conquest of the Land of Israel the reading of this verse was changed to read “and pursued as far as Dan.” Dr. Strickman has informed me that in the Afterword to his translation of Ibn Ezra to Leviticus, p. 291, he himself corrected the errror. The correct reference is to Radak’s commentary to I Sam. 4:1. Here Radak leaves no doubt that he indeed believes that the text of the verse was changed.

    על האבן העזר: כמו הארון הברי' והכותב אמר זה כי כשהיתה זאת המלחמה אבן נגף היתה ולא אבן עזר ועדיין לא נקראה אבן העזר כי על המלחמה האחרת שעשה שמואל עם פלשתים בין המצפה ובין השן שקרא אותה שמואל אבן העזר שעזרם האל יתברך באותה מלחמה אבל מה שנכתב הנה אבן העזר דברי הסופר הם וכן וירדף עד דן

    With this text, we can now understand Radak’s commentary to Gen. 14:4 as also referring to a post-Mosaic change. Without this text, there would be no reason to assume that Radak in Gen 14:14 is not referring to Moses’ prophetically writing the word “Dan.”

    As I pointed out in my previous post, in the introduction to his Commentary on the Torah Radak insists on complete Mosaic authorship. In order that there be no contradiction between the sources, we must assume that Radak means that no sections (or even verses) were written by someone other than Moses, but not that there are no minor post-Mosaic changes. In my book I pointed out that Radak understood tikkun soferim literally, that is, the Scribes actually made minor changes to the text of the Torah.[11]

    (With regard to false ascription of critical views vis-à-vis the Torah’s authorship, I should also mention that Abarbanel, Commentary to Numbers 21:1, accuses both Ibn Ezra and Nahmanides of believing that the beginning verses of this chapter are post-Mosaic. Yet Abarbanel must have been citing from memory, since neither of them say this. In fact, Ibn Ezra specifically rejects the notion that the verses were written by Joshua.)

    4. In a previous post I mentioned R. David Zvi Hillman’s strong attack on R. Kafih. It is only fair to point out that Hillman’s letter was the impetus for an even sharper attack on Hillman. See here, here, and here for the relevant documents.

    R. Kafih was a follower of the Rambam who wrote that one should be “among those who are insulted, but not among those who are insulting” (Deot 5:28). While the articles make many good points, the crude language used is entirely unacceptable.

    5. With regard to the Netziv and reading newspapers on Shabbat, Dr. Yehudah Mirsky has called my attention to the Netziv’s article in R. Kook’s journal, Ittur Soferim (1888), pp. 11-12, where the Netziv offers halakhic justification for this practice. Unfortunately, this short article was not included in Meshiv Davar, vol. 5, which appeared in 1993. (Presumably, the editors were unaware of it.) This most recent volume of Meshiv Davar is a bit strange, because the editors don’t tell us anything about where they found previoiusly unpublished responsa included here. From a historical standpoint, the most interesting responsum is no. 44. Here the Netziv blasts the new analytic approach of R. Isaac Jacob Reines, which is found in his Hotam ha-Tokhnit and Urim Gedolim.

    Other than an anonymous article in Ha-Peles 5 (1903), pp. 673-674, in which Reines’ approach is regarded as falling into the category of “that which is new is forbidden by the Torah,” I don’t know of any other attacks on him. For some strange reason, Saul Lieberman thought that R. Yaakov David Wilovsky’s famous attack against the Brisker method, found in the introduction to his Beit Ridbaz, was directed against Reines. Shaul Stampfer quoted this in Lieberman’s name in the first edition of his masterpiece, Ha-Yeshivah ha-Lita’it be-Hithavutah (Jerusalem, 1995), p. 113 n. 29, but omits Lieberman’s comment in the second edition of this book (Jerusalem, 2005).

    6. In a previous post I wrote about the issue of kosher sturgeon. Shortly after the post appeared I read David Malkiel’s article on R. Isaac Lampronte’s Pahad Yitzhak.[12] Malkiel, p. 129, points out that the most famous entry in the work deals with the authority of customs, and focuses on whether a certain type of sturgeon is kosher. Lampronte tell us that the custom in Ferrara was to eat it.

    I wrote the post without doing an internet search, which is now the first place people go when beginning their research. Only after the post appeared did I do such a search and I came up with the following very interesting post by Rabbi Seth Mandel.[13] He writes as follows:

    I have asked several rabbonim about how it came to pass that if the Noda' biY'hudah paskened unequivocally that sturgeon is kosher, every book says black on white that it is not. Of the two rabbonim who even were aware of the issue, one said that of course sturgeon is kosher, and the fact that there is none with a hekhsher is either because the rav hamakhshir doesn't know about the issue, or you can't get a rav hamakhshir to the fishing plants. . . . The other rov said that of course, no recognized halakhic authority would contradict the Noda' biY'hudah on this, but since Jews believe they are not kosher, and the only ones pushing their kashrut are the C or R, why should an O rov fight to show they are kosher, as if we accept the way they arrive at their decision? . . .

    I challenge anyone to find a posek who deals with the issue and refutes the Noda' biY'hudah. I am _not_ saying that I "know" that there is no one; what I am saying is that I have been looking for years, and have found no one. Please do not hesitate to correct me if anyone knows of a source (but one that knows that the Noda' biY'hudah had a t'shuva on this). The books on the kashrus of fish just take it as a given that since sturgeon, as R. Josh says, do not have scales but rather bony tubercules, they are not kosher. My bottom line is I don't care if people hold that they are not kosher (I don't like fish eggs, anyway), but it seems to me inexcusable for these books to distort the Torah by giving the impression that everyone agrees on this issue. The Noda' biY'hudah is not just anyone. My goodness, he is not even MO, L, or Chareidi, so there go most of the opportunities for saying “WADR to the Noda' biY'hudah, he is MO/L/ wears a grey hat, and so cannot be representative of true Torah." The only thing you can say is that he was an opponent of chasidus, but even according to the Chasidim, that is not an issue, since a famous story of the Chasidim is that he repented on his deathbed from all the not nice things he said condemning chasidus (and the story _must_ be true, since it is retold in the CIS Shulman "authorized" biography of him).

    Rabbi Mandel wrote this before he was appointed to his current important position in the OU kashrut organization. Somehow, I don’t think he would have expressed himself this way if he was then working in the kashrut industry.[14]

    7. I was fortunate to spend back-to-back Shabbatot with Prof. Daniel Sperber. I learnt much from my conversations with him, and I think people will enjoy listening to his presentations. He is currently president of the Jesselson Institute for Advanced Torah Studies at Bar Ilan University, and was kind enough to give me a recent volume published by them, Mi-Sinai le-Lishkat ha-Gazit by Shlomo Kassierer and Shlomo Glicksberg. This book analyzes the relationship between the written and oral law, and the nature of rabbinical authority. What makes the book significant is the combination of traditional and academic study. Anyone who wants to understand the latest thinking on this topic would be wise to consult this book.

    8. Many people contacted me following my last post on Rabbis and Communism, so let me add a few further comments. R. Baruch Oberlander called my attention to Likutei Sihot, vol. 33, pp. 248-249. Here the Lubavitcher Rebbe states that there is no contradiction between Judaism and socialism. He adds that in Russia, before the Revolution, he knew many socialists, even radical ones (which I assume means real communists), who were completely Torah observant. See also Iggerot Kodesh, vol. 22, p. 497.

    Since my last post mentioned R. Jacob Emden and Abraham Bick’s communist ties, I should also mention Mortimer Cohen, the author of Jacob Emden: A Man of Controversy. This was the first academic defense of Emden, and was subjected to withering criticism by Scholem. Marvin Antelman, who has made attacking Eybschuetz one of his life’s goals, also sets his guns on Cohen, accusing him of having been the “’rabbi’ of a secret sect of Sabbatean communists, who carried on the Frankist conspiracy in Philadelphia” (Bekhor Satan, p. 44).

    R. Nathan Kamenetsky wrote to me pointing out that when R. Dovid Leibowitz was let go from Yeshiva Torah va-Daas in the 1930s, one of the complaints against him was that he was promoting communism (whether the complaint was justified I cannot say. Kamenetsky continues: “My son, R' Yoseph, pointed out that the Torah divides wealth evenly when it sets the law of Yovel. At the conquest of Canaan, the land was divided evenly, and every fifty years thereafter, by which time there would be wealthy lanlords and poor ones, the Torah redistributed the land in its original lots. (The difference between large estates and small ones would then result only from family sizes, by which families with many children would have smaller fields than and those with many children.)”

    I had wondered about the meaning of the word ,סוללים and suggested that it refers to a white-collar profession. Kamenetsky writes:

    You do not base your suggestion on philology - and nor will I. I also do not think that you are correct sociologically that white-collar workers were assumed to be less religiously observant than other Jews. I believe that Rabbi Graubart meant pharmacists, because, like doctors, they were not expected to be observant. I know this from my father's attitude (which was grounded in the pre-World War I Jewish environment). For example, when my father would speak of my native Tzitevian, the town where he served as rabbi, and telling an involved story about how a Jewish woman who was suspected by my mother of not using the mikveh found that her husband was carrying on with their goyisheh maid, he added, (not in these exact words) "Naturally, besides the pharmacist's wife, all the women in the shtetl used the mikveh." Insofar as doctors, and likely pharmacists too, they weren't trusted to be profesionally reliable if they were observant! See my Making of a Godol, page 557, (within my discussion about Dr. Einhorn, a mysterious figure), where I quote an article about that doctor which said, "The [townspeople] realized that [Dr. Einhorn's] way of life, his devoutness, did not harmonize with his profession."

    9. Dr. Yehudah Mirsky called my attention to Mordechai Zalkin, "Bein 'Bnei Elohim' li-Vnei Adam': Rabbanim, Bahurei Yeshivot ve-ha-Giyus le-Tzavah Ha-Russi ba-Meah ha-19," in Avriel Bar-Levav, ed., Shalom u-Milhamah be-Tarbut Ha-Yehudit (Jerusalem/Haifa, 2006), pp. 165-222. I was unaware of this fabulous article which is a detailed survey of the issue of rabbis and the Cantonist problem. Let me just quote his concluding paragraph, which I was happy to see supports a suggestion I made. Coming from Zalkin, who is an expert in the history of Russian Jewry, it should be taken very seriously.

    אין בידינו כלים לבחון את מידת השפעתו ארוכת הטווח של תהליך זה על מערך היחסים הבסיסי בחברה היהודית המזרח אירופית משלהי המא התשע-עשרה. אולם יש מקום להניח שלתחושת האכזבה והתסכול מאופן תפקודה של הרבנות המזרח אירופית בפרשת הגיוס היה חלק לא מבוטל במגמות החילון ובנהייה אחר תנועות אידאולוגיות שהציעו מודלים מנהיגותיים אחרים, שרווחו בקרב יהודי מזרח אירופה במחצית השנייה של המאה התשע-עשרה


    [1] See R. Meir Mazuz’ note in R. Hayyim Amselem, Minhat Hayyim, vol. 2, p. 15.

    [2] I stress the “current” Daas Torah, since Daas Torah has been known to change. For example, Yated Neeman will, for obvious reasons, no longer mention the Daas Torah set forth by the Brisker Rav, the Steipler, and R. Shakh, and which was the official haredi position for many decades, namely, that one is not permitted to serve in the Israeli government batei din. With regard to Daas Torah, the quote from R. Itzele that I mentioned in my last post is very interesting

    החלק הפוליטי נחוץ, כי על ידו נמשוך את בני הנעורים והרחוב להסתדרותנו. גם הלא אנו רואים, כי כלל ישראל חפץ בו, בוודאי מאת ד' הייתה זאת. וכלל ישראל הוא גבוה ונעלה מגדולי התורה. ישראל אם אינם נביאים, בני נביאים הם

    In the haredi version of Daas Torah, the opinions of the masses are meaningless, indeed they are said to be – by definition – in opposition to Daas Torah (which always makes me wonder how laypeople such as Jonathan Rosenblum are able to understand and explain Daas Torah). Yet R. Itzele places the opinion of the religious masses on a higher level than that of the rabbis (à la kol hamon ke-kol shadai). One reader informed me that R. Avraham Shapira quoted this passage in defense of Zionism, i.e., the religious intuition of the people, who supported Zionism, trumped the view of the gedolim, most of whom opposed Zionism.

    [3] Or Torah, Adar 5753, pp. 461ff., 946.

    [4] See Shamma Friedman, “Le-Inyan ha-Devorah be-Shiro shel Ibn Gabirol, u-Minhag Ehad bi-Keriat Shema,” Lashon ve-Ivrit, Dec. 6, 1990, p. 31.

    [5] Selected Poems of Solomon Ibn Gabirol (Princeton, 2000), p. 69.

    [6] See Mikhtavim u-Ma’amarim, vol. 4, p. 107. See also his strong attack on the Rav’s ideology, ibid., pp. 35ff.

    [7] “Legitimization of Modernity: Classical and Contemporary,” in Moshe Z. Sokol, ed., Engaging Modernity (Northvale, 1997), pp. 21-22

    [8] See here.

    [9] R. Reuven ben David, Meshiv Davar (Jerusalem, 1979), no. 2.


    [11] Limits of Orthodox Theology, p. 99. I also note that Radak doesn’t usually mention the various tikkunei soferim, which probably means that he did not accept them.

    [12] “The Burden of the Past in the 18th Century: Authority, Custom and Innovation in the Pahad Yitzhak,” Jewish Law Annual 16 (2006), pp. 94-132

    [13] See here.

    [14] In a future post I hope to deal with the history of the kashrut industry. For now, let me just note that among the many ways we are more fortunate than those of previous generations is that we can even buy toilet bowl cleaner with a hashgachah (it is parve.). See here. Here is the actual letter of certification.

    [15] See

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    Initial Bibliography of Important Haggadah Literature
    by Eliezer Brodt

    All are aware of the proliferation of Haggadahs. Every year more and more are published thus making it difficult to know which versions are worthwhile. Thus, in this post I intend to focus on a listing a small bibliographical list of seforim relating to the Haggadah that are, in my mind, some of the most important ones.

    In light of the fact I am going to select a few Haggadahs from the many, a caveat of sorts is in order. When discussing the "best" books it is good to keep in mind the comments of R. Eliyahu ben Avrohom Shlomo HaKohen (d. 1729) in his Shevet Mussar (ch. 28) who writes the following regarding affinities towards particular seforim:

    ותראה בני אדם שלומדים ענין אחד מדרוש או ממוסר בספר אחד ואין טועמים ממנו ואין נרשם הדבר בשכלם. והענין או דברי המוסר בעצמו לומדים אותו בספר אחר הבא בשינו לשון ובמלות שונות וטועמים ממנו ונרשם הענין בדעתם ומגדלים ומשבחים אותו ענין. ובהפך אם אחד למד ענין בספר שלמד זה וטעם הוא אינו טועם כטעם הספר שלא טעם חבירו. טעמו של דבר שכל הטועם מענין הספר שלמד יש לו איזה שורש לנשמתו בנשמת מחבר הספר כיון שהם משורש אחד לכן טועם לשונו ונרשמים הדברים בליבו. לא כן מספר שלמד ולא טעם אף על פי שהענין אחד משום שאין לנשמתו שום קורבה ואחיזה בנשמת המחבר אותו ספר.

    Basically, according each persons taste of a sefer could be different and the reason has to do with some sort of connection with the author of the sefer. Further, when it comes to the Haggadah and specifically the importance of the Haggadah the comments of the Sefer Hamaskil are instructive (p. 70):

    מה טוב ומה נעים לעיין תמיד דבר בעתו בכל שבוע ושבוע בפירוש חומש ומחזיר וסליחות... ואגדת פסח

    His basic point being that one should try to prepare before each occasion the tefilos we specific to that occasion – and for Pesach that is the Haggadah. (For more information regarding the Sefer Hamaskil see the excellent article from Rabbi M. Honig in Yerushcanu vol. 1).

    One final point regarding the study of the Haggadah. The seder is at most two nights and thus some complain that they have no time to discuss or learn all the torah written about the seder in such a limited time. Many years ago I came across a interesting Netziv who writes that one should discuss Yetzis Mitzrim all Pesach not just the seder night [Hemaek Davar shimos 13:8]. Therefore, according the the Netziv, there is plenty of time to delve into the Haggadah and the seder.

    As I have written before there is no other sefer which has more written on it than the Haggadah Shel Pesach. This year, on top of all the Haggadahs printed, Chaim Rosenberg has just added to his website of hebrew books 1000 more Haggadahs ! Moreover, the JNUL also has many rare Haggadahs online as well. Below are some of my recommendations of some good works on the Haggadah with some small points about them. I really should have a individual post about each one of these seforim but due to lack of time this should suffice for now.

    Haggadahs discussing the historical development of the Haggadah & the Seder:

    Many volumes have been written and will continue to be written about the Haggadah and its development. In 1954, R. Menachem M. Kasher had R. Shmuel Askenazi put together a Haggadah, Haggadah Shelama. [Virtually all of the work was done by R. Ashkenazi not by R. Kasher.] This Haggadah has an excellent introduction of forty chapters comprising 224 pages that discuss all aspects relating to the seder including much about the development of the Haggadah as we have it. As is the case with all R. Ashkenazi's works, this work is very well written and organized. It’s based on a very wide range of sources including manuscripts and genizah fragments. These introductory chapters have formed the bases for virtually all good Haggadahs printed since then. The second half of the Haggadah has an excellent collection of pirishim from many of the classic commentaries. This work has been reprinted many times, and is currently in print.

    Another important Haggadah was edition by Professor D. Goldschmidt. This is a critical edition of the Haggadah [this is a updated version of previous editions that he had written] it also has much useful information on the development of the Haggadah and is a bit more scientific than Haggadah Shelama. But it is not nearly extensive as the Haggadah Shelama in what topics and information that it covers.

    Another interesting work on the Haggada is called Haggadah and History by Professor Yosef Yerushalmi. This work contains 494 pages printed beautifully, describing five centuries of the Haggadah through facsimilie plates. Yerushalmi deals with many points of the particular Haggadahs. He also shows how the Haggadah is a mirror of Jewish history in general.

    Another important volume was printed in 1998 by professors [father & son] Shemuel & Zev Safrai, Haggadah's Chazal. This Haggadah is excellent. In the past fifty years, since the printing of Haggadah Shelama, many more manuscripts and genizah fragments have come to light. The Safrai Haggadah makes prodigious use of this new information. It is well written and very user friendly. The Safrais deal with each part of the seder discussing at length the development of the Haggadah from times of Beis Hamikdash onwards. They also go through the entire text discussing various readings, sources, etc. In all, it is more scientific Haggadah then the Haggadah Shelama but less comprehensive. In the U.S. it is available here.

    Another excellent work on the seder is Pessach Doros by R. Yosef Tabory published by Kibitz Hameuchad. This work focuses on many aspects of the seder and Haggadah. But this work does not only focus on the Pesach seder instead it discusses and provides sources for everything remotely touching on the seder – including, among others, the development of kiddish, lechem mishna, nitlas yadm on vegetables, and drinking wine in general this work to has a wealth of information on all these topics.

    Turning now to non-scientific works on the seder. The first such work is Vayaged Moshe by R. M. Katz. This sefer is full of valuable information and is one of the first collections of all the halachah aspects of the seder. But since its printing there have been many more and better works written.

    One such work written a few years back is R. Weingarten's three volume Seder Ha-aruch. The first volume is all about the halachaic aspects relating to the seder. The second volume discusses the aggadic parts relating to the seder. And the third volume is an excelent edition of the Haggadah. This third volume is based on many of the Haggdahs and includes all kinds of torah. It focuses on peshat based on rishonim and includes many other styles of learning as well including chassidius and kabalah. It is very easy to use and if one is leading a seder and has no time to prepare he will certainly find what to say. In general, this work it is very well researched and organized. It basically became a classic. A few works have come out since than I have not seen one done as well.

    Another work on the seder is R. Ovadiah Yosef's Chazon Ovadiah. Many years back he printed two volumes under the same title but that was merely a bunch of articles on random topics. More recently, he printed a new edition of the Chazon Ovadiah where he goes through all the halachas of peasach in his encyclopedic style.

    A Few Works on the Haggadah:

    A few years back Mossad Harav Kook printed a beautiful edition of the Haggadah, Toras Chaim. This Haggadah contains 12 different prisushim of rishonim on the Haggadah based on manuscripts and contains many excellent notes on the texts. It is well worth one's time to study these commentaries which provide the Haggadahs simple peshat. It does, however, take much time and patience (and is confusing) to go through them all at the same time. Instead, it may be easier to divide it up pick one or two commentaries each year. These peshatim are very important as these are the main rishonim and how they understand each part of the Haggdah. They deal with many of the questions one has on the Haggadah but they are not full of sharp crowd catching stuff if one is trying to get the whole seder table into it. That is, when one learns the Haggadah there are many questions he will have as he has when learning any chazal these rishonim deal with many of those problems but they stick straight to peshat not dealing with fancy things or mussar points that people enjoy saying over to the crowd but they are extremely important to learn and in helping one understand the whole Haggadah.

    Two minor complaints I have with this edition. Although the print is beautiful the layout is not. I find it a little annoying to use as when one is reading a particular pirish he has to keep on turning pages which is understandable but they are not all in the same place on each page which makes it kind of confusing. For example, some times the Ritvah you are in middle of you have to turn two pages etc. The best would have been to divide the sefer in half and make six pirushim per section making it much easier to use and easier to follow the notes. Another complaint is they should have printed a separate section of the halachos of the seder of these rishonim. This would make an excellent idea for a future work on Pesach and to include all the halchaic works of the rishonim on Pesach already printed by R. S. Stern.

    The next Haggdah well worth ones time is the Abarbnel's Zevach Pesach. This Haggadah was the first printed in 1505 and is the first Haggadah printed with a commentary. Since then this Haggadah has been printed well over hundred times including in English. Last year Mossad Rav Kook printed a beautiful edition of this Haggadah.

    This Haggadah provides excellent peshat in the well-known Abarbenel style. He begins by asking 100 questions on the Haggadah and than proceeds to answer each one in his clear manner. This Haggadah was and still is one of the most famous and most quoted in the various seforim. The Me'am Loaz Haggadah is heavily based on this Haggadah.

    As far as other works of rishonim on the Haggadah, in the past few years, many have been printed by Professor Yakov Speigel. Speigel's editions are based on manuscripts and providedin critical editions. Recently Rabbi David Holzer printed a collection of rishonim from manuscript some of which had been printed by Professor Speigel and some never printed before.

    Another work of rishonim printed is called Haggadahs Balei haTosfos also based on manuscripts of the Balei haTosofos on the Haggadah. This year a critical edition based on manuscripts was R. Yosef Gikatilla's Haggadah including many parts never printed before.

    This year Mechon Yerushalim issued a new Haggadah, Otzar Mefrshi Haggadah. This collection is beautiful, well done and well organized. It has loads of information on the Haggadah. The style is the same as their Otzar Mifarshei Hatalmud. The editors write in the introduction that they intend to focus on peshat which they do a great job of it. They write they do not intend to bring down everything good as that would fill volumes but they are trying to put together what they could in a usable fashion. They use many hagdas of rishonim and achronim and they are not embarrassed to quote who they use - many times they quote from Seder Haruch etc. Although I think they did a great job and it is worth the money but I think if not for their time dead line the yarzheit of R. Buxbaum. It could have even been better (this is my opinon one can argue of course). For more on this see here.

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    by Yitzhak, בין דין לדין.

    I thank Dan Rabinowitz for graciously allowing me to post this essay.

    Hunted Bears

    This is the cover image of the Gary Larson collection Beyond The Far Side:

    I have long found this cartoon profoundly depressing, in its humorous but acute portrayal of the moral degradation of which we are capable. עור בעד עור, וכל אשר לאיש יתן בעד נפשו 1; the desperate bear grins inanely as he attempts to persuade the hunter to shoot his companion instead of himself.

    Several months ago, though, I had an epiphany; it is all very well to consider the matter from a literary-psychological perspective, but what is the view of the Halachah 2?

    Cantonists and 'Chappers'

    The thought lay dormant in my mind, until I read the following paragraph in Dr. Marc Shapiro's typically erudite and fascinating article Rabbis and Communism at The Seforim Blog:

    When dealing with anti-clericalism in Russia, we must also not forget the masses’ long memory of how some (many?, most?) rabbis were silent during the era of the chappers. This was when children were grabbed for 25 years of military service in the Cantonists, often never again to see their parents and usually succumbing to incessant pressure (including torture) to be baptized. Yet it wasn’t the children of the rich or the rabbis who were taken, but the poor children. Jacob Lifshitz’ defense of the way the Jewish community dealt with the Cantonist tragedy – which he regards as worse than even the destruction of the Temple! – and his insistence that no one can judge the community leaders unless they themselves had been in such a difficult circumstance, is something we must bear in mind. Yet all such ex post facto justifications would have no impact on the outlook of those that actually suffered during the Cantonist era, and it is no wonder that many of the common people would not regard the rabbis in a sympathetic light. The rabbis were certainly able to come up with a justification why their sons, the future Torah scholars, should not be taken to the army, just as they continue to make this argument. Yet this would only serve to show the masses that some children’s blood was indeed redder than others.

    This post shall attempt to clarify the relevant controlling Halachos for both scenarios: may a bear attempt to save his life at the expense of his comrade's, and may a potential or actual draftee, or a friend of his, attempt to evade the draft if the consequence will be the drafting of another instead.3

    The Yerushalmi

    The locus classicus for this discussion is a passage in the Yerushalmi Bava Kama:

    שור שעלה בחבירו ובא בעל השור ושמטו מתחתיו אם עד שלא עלה שמטו ונפל ומת פטור ואם דחהו ונפל ומת חייב

    אמר רבי יוסי ותישמע מינה ראה אמת המים שוטפת ובאה לתוך שדהו רשאי לפנותן למקום אחר משנכנסו אין רשאי לפנותן למקום אחר

    אהן כריסו ארגירא עד דלא ייתי אהן כריסו ארגירא שרי מימר פלן עביד עבדיתי פלן עביד עבדיתי. מן דייתי אהן כריסו ארגירא אסיר.

    הדין אכסניי פרכא עד דלא ייתון רומאי שרי מיחשדוניה ומן דייתון רומאי אסיר.4

    The Nimukei Yosef cites the second paragraph of the Yerushalmi, about the Amas Hamayim 5.

    Rema rules:

    היה רואה נזק בא עליו מותר להציל עצמו אף על פי שעל ידי זה בא הנזק לאחר6

    Rema only cites the permissive component of the Yerushalmi; he omits the Yerushalmi's stringency, prohibiting the shifting onto another of a misfortune that is considered to have already befallen. Sema does indeed cite the latter part of the Yerushalmi:

    שם בנימוקי יוסף סיים וכתב דאם כבר בא עליו אסור לסלקו ממנו כשגורם בזה היזק לחבירו:7

    but why does Rema omit it? This question is raised by Rav Haim Yehudah Leib Epstein, who infers that Rema does not actually accept the stringency of the Yerushalmi L'Halachah, a position for which he offers various justifications, which are beyond the scope of this post 8. Although we shall see that The consensus of the Poskim, however, seems to accept the Yerushalmi in its entirety as Halachah 9.

    The Hafetz Haim discusses this Yerushalmi; he is curiously tentative about its application to the question of Lashon Ha'Ra that he is considering, the deflection of blame from oneself in a situation in which so doing will consequently cause another to be accused:

    אבל אם על ידי זה [שמשיב מי שנחשד מחבירו בעשיית דבר שלא כהוגן נגדו שאכן הוא לא עשאו] ממילא יוודע לו העושה, כגון שלא היה לו הספק כי אם על שניהם, תלוי בזה: אם הוא באמת דבר שאינו הגון, נראה דמותר לדחות זה מעל עצמו, אף שממילא יתגלגל הדבר על חבירו. אבל אם באמת דבר זה איננו עוולה, רק להשואל נראה שהדבר הזה הוא עוולה, צריך עיון אם מותר להשיב לו אפילו בלשון: אני לא עשיתי את הדבר, כיון שעל ידי זה ממילא יתגנדר הדבר על חבירו.10

    ונראה שדבר זה תלוי במה שמבואר בחושן משפט, בסימן שפ"ח (סוף סעיף ב) בהגהה ... ועיין בסמ"ע שם ... ומשמע מביאור הגר"א שם (אות כ"ט) שהוא מסכים להסמ"ע. והכא נמי אם הוא רואה שנחלט לעת עתה חשדא אצל השואל עליו, אסור לו לגלות כדי להסירה מעליו ולתיתה על חבירו, ועיין בביאור הגר"א שם, ואם אינו בגדר זה, מותר. ואף על פי כן, דבר זה אינו מבורר אצלי היטב למעשה.

    Draft Evasion

    Rav Yosef Ibn Lev discusses a case apparently very similar to one of the scenarios in the Yerushalmi:

    שאלה ראובן היה לו אהבה עם השרים ויועצי המלכות ולפעמים היו תופסין מחמת המלכות לקצת יהודים עשירים והיו כותבין לשראפי"ש או לשאר אומניות כמנהג המלכות הלז וזה היהודי שיש לו אהבה עם השרים יש לאל ידו להציל איזה יהודי מאותה הצרה אבל ירא לנפשו שאם יציל לשמעון יקחו ללוי תחתיו ומאן לימא ליה דדמא דשמעון סומק טפי דילמא דמה דלוי סומק טפי ועל זה שאל אם הרשות בידו להציל לשמעון מצרתו:

    תשובה עיקרא דהאי מילתא איתא ביבמות פרק הערל אמרינן התם מאי שנא הני אמר רב הונא העבירום לפני הארון כל שהארון קולטו למיתה כל שאין הארון קולטו לחיים מתיב רב חנה בר ביזנא ויחמול המלך על מפיבושת בן יהונתן בן שאול שלא העבירו וכי משוא פנים יש בדבר אלא שהעבירו וקלטו ובקש רחמים ופלטו ואכתי משוא פנים יש בדבר אלא שבקש רחמים שלא יקלטנו הארון מהך שמעינן בנדון דידן שאם כבר כתבו ליהודי אחד לשארא"ף ותפשו אותו והדבר ידוע שאם ימלט זה שיקחו אחר תחתיו אין להשתדל להצילו אבל אם יצתה גזרה לקחת קצת יהודים לאומנות המלך לשרא"ף וכיוצא בו הרשות נתונה להשתדל להציל לכל מי שירצה

    והאי דכתבינא דאם כבר נכתב למלכות דאסור להשתדל להצילו כיון דמנהג הוא לקחת אחר תחתיו היינו דוקא היכא דהוי ודאי דלית ספיקא אבל היכא דאיכא ספיקא די עידנא ישתנה ויעבור זעם ולא יקחו אחר תחתיו אין ספק מוציא מידי ודאי ...11

    Shach endorses Ibn Lev's ruling distinguishing between where the royal decree specifies particular individuals and where it merely demands a quota, and he says that the inference from the Mefiboshes passage is compelling12. It is curious, though, that neither Ibn Lev nor Shach mention in this context the Yerushalmi that we have been discussing until now; Rav Akiva Eiger 13, Rav Baruch Frankel14, Rav Meir Ya'akov Ginzberg15, and Pis'hei Teshuvah16 all refer the reader to the Yerushalmi. We shall presently see a suggestion for why Ibn Lev and Shach do not cite the Yerushalmi.

    Rav Shmuel Landau discusses whether it is permitted to take action to save particular individuals from a governmental draft, even though the result will inevitably be the seizure of others:

    ... ועל דבר שאלתו שאלת חכם חצי תשובה קשה להורות בדבר הנוגע לנפשות תחלה ומי ירים ראש בדברים כאלה. ...

    אבל לבי מהסס בדבר אם מותר לישראל להשתדל עבור איזה אנשים שלא יקחו אותם. ודבר זה מבואר בתשובות מהר"י בן לב .. הובא בש"ך ... ואם כן גם בנדון דידן אם עדיין לא לקח השר ולא פרט מי שיהיה יכולים להשתדל דרך שלילה על אנשים ידועים שלא יקחו אותם:

    ובאמת תמיה לי טובא על הש"ך בסימן [ק]ס"ג שהביא ממרחק לחמו מתשובת מהר"י בן לב הנ"ל הלא דבר זה מפורש בש"ע ברמ"א סימן שפ"ח סוף סעיף ב' ... הרי ממש כפסק של מהר"י בן לב וגם הסמ"ע שם כתב ... הרי ממש כפסק של מהר"י בן לב:

    ואפשר ליישב דמהרמ"א לקמן נשמע דאותו אדם עצמו כשרואה דהנזק בא עליו דמותר להציל עצמו אבל שיהיה לאחרים רשות להשתדל עבורו לא שמענו ולכך הביא הש"ך דברי מהר"י בן לב ופסק דגם אחרים יכולים להשתדל עבורו אם עדיין לא בא הנזק וראייתו מדוד שהתפלל על מפיבושת שלא יקלטנו הארון: [ועיין שם שהאריך לפלפל בסוגיא דיחדו לאחד מהם.]17

    Rav Avraham Maskil Le'Eisan cites this responsum and suggests that one may permitted to save himself at another's expense even if he has already been selected for misfortune:

    ועיין בנודע ביהודה .. שכתב דאם כבר לקחו אנשים ידועים אסור להשתדל להצילם רק קודם שנלקח אף א' מותר להשתדל להציל א'. וכמו שכתב הש"ך .. ובהג"ה שם (ש"פ) [לכאורה צ"ל שפ"ח].

    ונראה שהוא עצמו יכול להשתדל אף שנלקח דחייך קודמין:18

    This is incomprehensible; as we have seen, the entire point of Rav Landau is that the reason that Ibn Lev and Shach do not derive their permission to save someone at another's expense from the Yerushalmi is because they are allowing a third party to save a victim, whereas the Yerushalmi is discussing efforts by the victim himself, and yet the Yerushalmi explicitly forbids even such efforts when the misfortune is specific to the victim! Perhaps Rav Maskil Le'Eisan holds like Rav Epstein, that the Rema's omission of the Yerushalmi's prohibition indicates that it is not normative, but given that the Sema does cite the prohibition, and none of the major commentaries reject it, if Rav Maskil Le'Eisan really held like Rav Epstein, he should have said so explicitly 19.

    "At Risk" Youths

    In his article, Shapiro comments that:

    Michael Stanislawski notes that in one community the communal leaders wanted to grab a poor tailor since he wasn’t observant, but the local rabbi forbid it. ...

    In a strong defense of the rabbis against the charge that they collaborated with the rich people in order to ensure that the poor were taken, R. Moses Solomon Kazarnov calls attention to all that the rabbis did to defend the children of the lower class. But he acknowledges that the rabbis would hand over the non-religious kids, including their own!

    In the continuation of his responsum, Rav Landau, no mere local Rabbi, issues an uncompromising rejection of religious laxity as a justification for handing someone over to the government. He unequivocally, passionately and eloquently rejects a suggestion of his questioner that the community satisfy the government's demands with some "נערים קלים ופרוצים ביותר"; indeed, he seems horrified by the idea:

    ומה שכתב מעלתו דיש שם איזה נערים קלים ופרוצים ביותר. אהובי ידידי אין אנו יכולים לדון דיני נפשות דעל כל פנים הנערים אינן בכלל מורידין אף שהם נוהגין בקלות קצת והרבה הילדות עושה וניתן להענישם בתפיסה ומכת מרדות וכדומה אבל חלילה למסור אותם בידים ואל ידח ממנו נידח להדיחם לגמרי מקהל עדת ישראל ואף שיש ביד טובי העיר והבית דין לדון בכל עונשים חמורים למגדר מלתא היינו אם העם פרוץ בו וגם לזה צריך שיהיה דוקא גדולי הדור או טובי העיר שהמחום רבים עליהם ... אבל היכא דליכא משום מגדר מלתא שאין העם פרוצים רק איזה נערים הקלים מי ירים ראש לדון בזה. ...

    [ועיין שם שפלפל עוד בזה, והעלה:] ויהיה איך שיהיה ... בנדון דידן אף שיש נערים קלים ועוברים על איזה מצות אין אנו רשאין בשביל כן להעניש אותם כפלי כפלים ככל חטאותם ולסכן אותם בידים ובפרט שלא נתברר בעדות ברורה אם עברו על עבירה חמורה בשאט נפש לכן שארית ישראל לא יעשו עולה כזו.20

    We must note that Rav Landau's unwillingness to countenance the seizure of the religiously dubious youths is apparently predicated on his assertion that they are not in the category of Moridin; if it were reliably established that they were thoroughly irreligious21, he may indeed not object to their seizure.

    Rav Landau concludes with an apparent reiteration of his earlier ruling permitting action which is merely evasive:

    אך את זה יכולים לעשות להשתדל דרך שלילה על אדם חשוב וכשר שלא יקחו את זה כל זמן שלא קראו לו בפירוש שאותו הם מבקשים אבל אם כבר בא הפקודה לאחד קשה להורות להתיר להשתדל עבורו אם על ידי שזה יוצא לחירות ילכד אחר במצודה זו ומאי חזית דדמי דהאי סומק טפי מדמי דאיש אחר אשר יבא אחריו.

    וידעתי שבנדון זה קשה להורות ועל זה אמרו חז"ל כשם שמצוה לומר דבר הנשמע כן מצוה שלא לומר דבר שאינו נשמע והמשכיל בעת ההיא ידום אבל על כל פנים זה מחויב למחות ביד מי שרוצה למסור בידים.

    The Hasam Sofer has a similarily strong denunciation of the unfair selection by the community of particular individuals, even alleged "פוחזים וריקים", to be drafted:

    ועל דבר עם בני ישראל הנלקחים לצבא המלחמה למלכיות השתיקה יפה מדיבורינו בזה וגדולי ישראל ע"כ יעלימו עין והניחו להם להממונים מקהל לעשות כראות עיניהם לפי הזמן ועת לחשות

    ומכל מקום אומר כי גוף ענין דינא דמלכותא להטיל מס על כל עמו להעמיד מהם אנשים לצבא מלחמתו וזה הוא מחק מלכותו ודינו דין וממילא מוטל אקרקפתא דכל מי שראוי לצאת ושאין לו אשה ובנים כפי נימוס וחק מלכותו אך לא אבחורים לומדי תורה שאפילו לא פטרום המלכות בפירוש מכל מקום מדין תורה פטורים דאמרינן בפרק קמא דבבא בתרא ח' ע"א הכל לכרי' פתייא אפילו רבנן והני מילי דלא נפקי באוכלזא אבל נפקי באוכלזא רבנן לאו בני מיפק באוכלזא נינהו ומכל שכן שהמלכות יר"ה פטרם וכבר כמה פעמים כשנתתי אטעסט לבני מדינו' פיהם ומעהר"ין שהם לומדים ויצליחו לנהוג ציבור נפטרו מלהעמיד עצמם לצבא ואם כן כל הנוגע בהם נוגע בבבת עין:

    ואידך מהראוי שיעמדו עצמם כולם בשוה לפני העדה ויטילו גורל ועל מי שיפול עליו הגורל הוא ישתדל לעצמו במה שיכול לפטור בממון או להעמיד אחר במקומו או ילך בעצמו וכל ישראל מחויבים לסייעו ויקר פדיון נפשו אבל לאנוס אנשים בלי גורל ולומר שהם פוחזים ורקים אפילו מגלי עריות ומחללי שבת בעיני הוא כגונב נפש ומכרו כי מי נותן זה חליפי זה כיון שחיוב המלכות ופקודתו על כולם בשוה והמוסרו כמוסר לתוא מכמר אפילו מחוי אתיבנא חייב מכל שכן מוסר נפשו ורע ומר יותר כי הטובים הנאנסים עוברים על המצות באונס ולעתים רחוקים ואלו יעשו ברצון ואנו מדחים אחר הנופל עיין פרק קמא דקידושין לענין מכר עצמו לנכרים:

    אך מה שנמצאים עתה למאות המוכרים עצמם מרצונם וברצי כסף ולכן אף על גב דהמה גריעי מכולהו שהרי בשאט נפשם מתנים לחלל שבתות ולאכול איסורים מכל מקום כיון דשכיחי טובא ולא הוה כתרי עיברא נהרי ואם אין קהלה זו קונהו ימכור עצמו במקום אחר אם כן קלקלתם בעו"ה תקנה קצת וכן עשו בכל גלילותינו והוא כעין בחירת הרע במיעוטו

    והנה קצרתי מאוד כי אין ראוי להאריך בענין זה כמובן ...22

    Hasam Sofer prohibits seizing even youths who are מגלי עריות ומחללי שבת, but perhaps he is referring only to those who yield to temptation, and are therefore not considered Apikorsim, Minim or Meshumadim, and are not in the category of Moridin 23.

    Although both Rav Landau and the Hasam Sofer are unequivocal in their condemnation of the unfair seizure by the community of particular individuals in order to save others, I do not know if their opposition would extend to a mere request to the government that it draft them, or to the attempt by the targeted bear in the Far Side cartoon to convince the hunter to shoot his companion instead of himself. Normally these actions might constitute Mesirah, but in these situations, where the government will inevitably seize some individuals, and the hunter will certainly shoot a bear, and the request is merely determining who the victim(s) will be, perhaps the permissive rulings of the Yerushalmi and Ibn Lev still apply, since in any event the Yerushalmi seems to be a dispensation of the law of Grama B'Nizakin, which would presumably normally forbid the causing of harm to another even in the indirect forms under discussion.

    Kapos, Quotas and Cards

    Rav Zvi Hirsch Meisels relates the following heartbreaking story:

    מסחר נפשות עם הקאפו"ס

    והנה ליום המחרת, שהיא יום א' דראש השנה, אשר כל באי עולם יעברון לפניו כבני מרון, היה יום מהומה ומבוכה, ומפה לאוזן נתפשטה השמועה בכל המחנה, שלעת ערב יקחו את הנערים לבית המוקד, ... ולהרבה אנשים שבמחנה הי' להם בנם יחידם, אשר נשארו להם לפליטה, בתוך אלו הנערים או שאר בשרם הקרובים אליהם, או סתם ידידים אהובים אנשי עירם, והמה רצו כל היום בראש מבולבל מסביב הבלאק המוסגר, אולי יופתח איזה קרן אור להציל משם את הנער היקר להם עד שלא תחשך השמש.

    אך השומרים הקאפו"ס לא שעו אל כל תחנוניהם ובכיותיהם להוציא איזה נער וילד, מבין המסוגרים אשר נדונים לשריפה, ... במקרה הלזה הי' גם טענתם בטענה צודקת בפיהם, היות שהם אחראים על סכום הילדים שהופקדו לשומרים אליהם, אשר היה במספר מדויק, ולעת ערב עליהם למסור אותם לידי אנשי הס' ס' ימ"ש במספר ובמנין כאשר מסרו להם, ואם יחסר אחד מהם אז דמם בראשם ויקחו אותם לשריפה, נפש תחת נפש.

    אכן סוף סוף אחרי הרבה השתדלות ומו"מ של הקרובים עמהם גברה בהם תאות הממון, והסכימו בעד תשלום סכומים גדולים, לשחרר איזה נער וילד, ותיכף חטפו במקומו איזה נער אחר, מן הבא בידם בתוך המחנה, (מאלו שהצליחו להתחמק מהאוסף של אתמול או שנשתחררו בעת הבירור על ידי נגיעת ראשם בדף) וסגרוהו בהבלאק הנ"ל במקום הנער הפדוי כדי שיהיה המספר שלם.

    והנה להרבה אנשים הי' עוד סכומי כספים, או חתיכת זהב או מרגליות, טמון במטמונים ובמנעלים לעת הצורך, וכמובן שהי' כמה אנשים פשוטים ובעלי קוצר השגה שלא עשו שום חשבונות מה נעשה במקום נער הנפדה, וקיבצו במסירת נפש כל הונם הנשאר להם או שהשתדלו לאסוף סכום הנצרך, מאחרים ידידים ומכירים, ופדו את בנם המסוגר מכליון בטוח, וככה נמשך סחר-מכר הלזה משך רוב יום הדין לעיני כל האנשים שבמחנה, ...

    אמנם כמובן שהי' הרבה אנשים בעלי השגה, שלא רצו לפדות את בנם, על חשבון חייו של ילד אחר, כמאמר חכמז"ל מאי חזית, ולעולם לא אשכח עובדא נוראה אחת, אשר עיני ראו ואזני שמעו, אז בשעת ענין הנ"ל, אשר מעשה הלזה מסמל את קדושת בני ישראל, והתמסרותם לדרכי התורה הקדושה בתמימות אף בעת צרתם וסבלותם הנוראה.

    מסירות נפש של אב מלהציל בנו יחידו

    הנה ניגש אלי איש יהודי, שהיה נראה ליהודי פשוט מאויבערלנד, מתמימות הדברים שלו שאמר לי כדברים האלה.

    רבי, הבן יחיד שלי, היקר לי מבבת עיני, נמצא שמה בתוך הנערים הנידונים לשריפה, ויש בידי היכולת לפדותו, והיות שידוע לנו, בלי שום ספק, שהקאפו"ס יתפסו אחר במקומו, על כן אני שואל מהרבי שאלה להלכה ולמעשה, לפסוק לי הדין על פי התורה אם אני רשאי לפדותו, וכאשר יפסוק כן אעשה.

    [ועיין שם שלא רצה לפסוק הלכה בדבר זה, בלי ספרים, בלי רבנים אחרים ובלי ישוב הדעת, והתחנן אל השואל שאל יטיל עליו את האחריות הנוראה הזו. אולם האב השואל החליט, מתוך סרבנותו של הרב מייזליש להשיב תשובה ברורה, שהדבר אסור, ואמר שאם כן הוא מוכן להקריב את בנו יחידו על פי התורה וההלכה, ושהוא מקבל את זה באהבה ובשמחה, וכך עשה:] וגם ככה קיים דבריו ולא פדה את בנו, והיה כל היום, יומא דראש השנה, הולך ומדבר לעצמו בשמחה שזוכה להקריב את בנו יחידו לה' כי אף שיש ביכולת בידו לפדותו עם כל זה אינו פודהו מחמת שרואה שהתורה לא התירה לו לעשות כזאת ויהיה חשוב לפני השי"ת כעקידת יצחק אבינו שהי' גם כן ביום ראש השנה. ...24

    In a footnote, Rav Meisels analyzes the question Halachically. He begins by citing the Rema, Sema (citing the Nimukei Yosef citing the continuation of the Yerushalmi, as above), Shach (citing Ibn Lev), and Rav Landau, and he then proceeds as follows:

    ונסתפקתי בנידן דידן אם האב לגבי בנו רשאי להשתדל לפדותו אף שיודע שעל ידי זה יותפס אחר. לפי מה שכתב בהגהות יד אברהם .. דנראה שהוא בעצמו יכול להשתדל בהצלתו אף אחר שנתפס, אף על גב שיודע שעל ידי זה יקחו אחר במקומו, מכל מקום אמרינן חייך קודמין, ודוקא לפדות לאחרים אסור להשתדל להציל, אם על ידי זה יקחו אחר במקומו ע"ש. ואם כן יש להסתפק אם אב לפדות את בנו בכי האי גוונא שיקחו אחר במקומו, אם האב נידון כאחר ואסור להציל בנו בכי האי גוונא או דגם האב לגבי בנו אמרינן חיי בנך קודמין לחיי אחרים. ועיין בבא בתרא (קל"ו ע"ב) פלוגתא אי בנו עדיף ליה מנפשיה ע"ש וצ"ע.

    As I have argued earlier, the Yad Avraham's assertion is quite puzzling, since it seems to contradict the Yerushalmi. Rav Meisel's acceptance of it is even more baffling, since he has just cited both the Sema and Rav Landau's responsum, which eliminates my earlier suggestion that the Yad Avraham disagrees with the Sema and does not accept the stringency of the Yerushalmi as normative.

    Irving J. Rosenbaum cites the following discussion of Rav Efraim Oshry:

    On the twenty-third of Elul, 5701 (September 15, 1941), the German supervisor of the Kovno ghetto (Jordan) provided the Aeltestenrat (Judenrat) five thousand "white cards" to be distributed to workers and craftsmen in the ghetto and their families. Only those having "white cards" would be allowed to remain. At that time there were about thirty thousand souls in the ghetto, of whom about ten thousand were such workers and their families. In consternation, those workers who were the strongest forcibly seized "white cards" for themselver from the Aeltestenrat. Rabbi Oshry perceived two halakhic questions involved in the matter. ... The second: Was it permissible for a worker to snatch a card for himself, even though by so doing he would certainly be causing the death of another - since there were only five thousand cards for ten thousand workers? ...

    The second question - the permissibility of seizing a card and saving one's own life at the expense of another - also has precedent in Jewish law. The first is found in the Shakh ... However, Rabbi Oshry rejects this as a precedent for our case, since the Shakh's decision applies only when the men have not yet been seized. Then it is permissible to try to prevent them from being taken, even though others would suffer as a result. However, the Shakh would most probably rule that if two men were already in custody, it would not be permitted to attempt to free them; for it would then be inevitable that two others would be taken in their stead. In the Kovno ghetto situation, one could say that the entire community was already "taken prisoner". If so, the decision of the Shakh would not apply, and it would be forbidden for the workers to seize the "white cards."

    Yet it might be held, Rabbi Oshry continues, that in our case it would still be permissible. For as the Yad Avraham .. points out, it is only forbidden for others to try to rescue the imprisoned men when this will simply lead to different victimes being seized. However, it is certainly not forbidden for the prisoner himself to attempt to escape even though someone else will suffer. So too, here, the worker who seizes the card is saving himself, not another. But upon close examination this analogy proves imperfect. For the Yad Avraham is referring to a case where his action does not directly cause another to die. It is simply that if he escapes another is imprisoned in his place. Though the second man may ultimately die because of this, his death is not directly resultant from the act of the first. But in the Kovno ghetto, the seizure of the card by one workman would directly result in the death of one who was denied a card by his action.

    It is possible to support this distinction between direct and indirect action from the classic case in the Talmud, Baba Metzia 62a.

    If two men are traveling on a journey [far from civilization] and one has a pitcher of water, if both drink they will both die, but if one only drinks, he can reach civilization. Ben Patura taught: "It is better that both should drink and die, rather than that one should behold his companion's death." Until Rabbi Akiba came and taught: "'that thy brother may live with thee' (Lev. 25:36), thy life takes precedence over his life."

    As Rabbi Oshry explains Ben Patura's point of view, it is the drinking by the one man that causes the death of the other. The saving of his own life is, thus, the direct cause of his fellow's death. Ben Patura does not believe that the injunction of "and live by them" (Lev. 18:5) - not die by them - applies if one gains his own life by not attempting to save his comrade's. And though Rabbi Akiba disagrees with Ben Patura, it is only in this case of the two travelers, where the one takes no direct physical action to injure his fellow, but simply refrains from giving him water, that Rabbi Akiba would sanction his behavior. However, in our case, where as a result of the direct action of seizing the card, a fellow workman will be delivered over to the murderers, it is quite possible that Rabbi Akiba would agree with ben Patura and forbid the action. ... 25


    To summarize, we have the following principles:

    • Actively, directly harming others, even קלים, ריקים, פוחזים, פרוצים ביותר, מגלי עריות ומחללי שבת, in order to save oneself is forbidden.

    • Mere evasive action, even with the inevitable consequence of harm to another, is permitted to both a potential victim himself as well as a friend of his, provided that the harm has not yet befallen the victim.

    • Once the harm has already befallen the victim, it is forbidden to shift it onto another. Some still allow the victim himself to take evasive action, but this view is problematic.


    The idea that Halachah allows the privileged, the rich and the well connected to utilize their wealth and influence to shift, even indirectly, the burden of military service onto their less fortunate brethren26 will very likely trouble those (such as me) with modern, Western value systems. This is apparently a classic example of the celebrated maxim of Rav Ya'akov Weil:

    [פסקי] בעלי בתים ופסקי לומדים שני הפכים הם27


    1 Job 2:4

    2 One can, of course, consider the matter from an ethical perspective without invoking Halachah, and there may even be an ethic independent of Halachah, but our discussion will be limited to the Halachah.

    3 Dr. Shapiro read a draft of this essay, and commented helpfully thereon.

    4 בבא קמא פרק ג' הלכה א

    5 Bava Basra, p. 10 in the Rif pagination. He also cites the fourth paragraph, but he apparently understands it to be stating a different rule.

    6 הגהת שו"ע חו"מ סימן שפ"ח סוף סעיף ב

    7 שם ס"ק י

    8 שו"ת פרי חיים חו"מ סימן ד

    9 עיין בדברי החפץ חיים שנביא להלן, ובפתחי תשובה סימן קס"ג ס"ק כ"ז, ובתשובת רב שמואל לנדא שנביא להלן. ועיין להלן מה שנביא מהיד אברהם

    10 ספר חפץ חיים הלכות לשון הרע כלל י' באר מים חיים אות מ"ג

    11 שו"ת מהר"י ן' לב חלק ב' סימן מ

    12 חו"מ סימן קפ"ג ס"ק י"ח

    13 גליון שו"ע שם

    14 חדושי אמרי ברוך שם

    15 חדושי מוהרי"ג שם

    16 שם ס"ק כ"ז

    17 שו"ת נודע ביהודה תנינא יו"ד סימן ע"ד, ציינו הפתחי תשובה חו"מ שם וגם הביא קצת מדבריו ביו"ד סימן קנ"ז ס"ק י"ג

    18 יד אברהם, שו"ע יו"ד סימן קנ"ז סעיף א

    19 But note that the introduction to the Shulhan Aruch states that the Yad Avraham was published posthumously from manuscript, so perhaps something was lost in transcription.

    20 The objection of Rav Landau and of Hasam Sofer (see below) to the seizure of religiously lax youths is noted by Dr. Shapiro in footnote 16 of his article.

    21 The question of Tinok She'Nishbeh is beyond the scope of this post.

    22 שו"ת חת"ם סופר חלק ששי סימן כ"ט ד"ה ועל דבר, ציינו הפתחי תשובה חו"מ שם

    23 עיין רמב"ם הלכות תשובה פרק ג' הלכה ט', הלכות רוצח פרק ד' הלכה י', שולחן ערוך יו"ד סימן קנ"ח סעיף ב', אנצקלופדיה תלמודית ערך אפיקורוס

    24 שאלות ותשובות מקדשי השם, שער מחמדים, עמודים ד - ו. Rav Meisel's narrative is cited (in English translation) by Irving J. Rosenbaum, The Holocaust and Halakhah, pp. 3 - 5, and see his discussion of it in the endnote on p. 158. I thank Dr. Shapiro for bringing this story to my attention.

    25 The Holocaust and Halakhah, pp. 24 - 30. He is citing Rabb Oshry's Divre Efrayim, p. 95, a work to which I do not currently have access.

    26 I have seen no discussion of whether there's any ethical imperative, such as Lifnim Mi'Shuras Ha'Din or Middas Hassidus, to refrain from so doing.

    27 שו"ת מהר"י ווייל סוף סימן קמ"ו, הובא בסמ"ע סימן ג' ס"ק י"ג

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    Also available is the "Library" version which has 28,000 vol. without search. The SALE price for the Library edition is $1050 (reg. 1130).
    NOTE: There will be a special BONUS for readers of the Seforim blog (when mentioning Seforim blog)!

    Also, Bar Ilan's new version (16) will be arriving in about 2-3 weeks. Pricing is not yet available.
    DBS claims that there will be an update before Shavu'os as well.
    The Morgenstern Library is supposedly going to be updated on or about Rosh Chodesh Sivan (June 4). They will also be having a BIG sale at that time.
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    Lag Ba-Omer and Upsherins in Recent Jewish literature:
    Revisionist History and Borrowing and Plagiarism
    By Eliezer Brodt

    In this post I would like to touch upon some of the topics relating to Lag Ba-Omer through a discussion of the latest volume of R. Tuviah Freund’s Moadim le-Simcha.

    By way of introduction, in the past few years, the field minhaghim, specifically the research and investigation of sources and reasons for custom has expanded exponentially. To be sure, from early rishonim and onwards we have many books discussing minhag. But, only more only more recently, did the systematic study and collecting of sources as they relate to minhag really start. The basic idea underlying this particular area of research involves digging up as many sources as one could related to a particular minhag and then to try and put together a comprehensive picture of the development of the specific minhag. This is a time consuming process. To begin with, one has to carefully track down early sources, figure out who is earliest source, and then try to understand the reasons given for the custom on the whole. Additionally, one has to be mindful of who influenced whom, separate the development from the original unadulterated custom, as customs, being the product of human development tend to themselves to develop over time. The older a minhag is, the more difficult a challenge as the possible source texts multiply and patience is required to put together the whole puzzle.

    The recent interest in the field has produced many articles and books. Although many of these articles rely on one another, proper attribution varies widely. Some authors always give credit, while others just “borrow” sources and still others take entire text portions without any attribution. At times, to obscure this misappropriation, the order of the original article is changed although the text remains the same.

    Bar-Ilan University professor Daniel Sperber, in the introduction to his eighth and final volume of his Minhagei Yisrael, catalogues and comments on many recent works minhag. In an earlier volume he published a bibliography on minhagim by Prof. Yosef Tabory.

    The Moadim le-Simcha Series

    In this genre, one of the more recent and popular books is Moadim le-Simcha, by R. Tuviah Freund. The sixth volume of this series has just been published. The volumes follow the yearly holiday cycle and this latest volume covers the holidays appearing in the months of Iyyar and Sivan.

    R. Freund first publishes portions of the books in the newsweekly Hamodia (Hebrew). Then, he updates them and collects and arranges them according to the months. Overall, the material found in this collection is excellent. R. Freund uses a wide range of sources and it is obvious that he works hard to put out a good product. Moreover, just collecting this disparate material in one place is admirable.

    But, aside from doing his own research – a task that is obviously quite time consuming – R. Freund employs two other methods that ultimately allow him to produce these books. As I have elaborated on in the past, Machon Otzar ha-Poskim has a card catalogue comprising thousands of topics with a phenomenal amount of sources related to those topics. R. Freund, as other contemporary authors, uses these cards to get a head start (alternatively, sometimes the cards provide everything) on the articles in Moadim le-Simcha. R. Freund freely acknowledges, at the beginning of each volume, that he relies on these cards.

    As we have previously noted, another source of R. Freund’s materials, however, goes unacknowledged. On many topics, not necessarily all, he locates a key article of a talmid hakham or academic scholar, and then R. Freund proceeds to use their material. At times he mentions the original source in a random footnote while on other occasions he makes no mention at all.

    Of course, there is no problem using someone else material so long as the source is clearly noted at the outset of the chapter that you used it and you are adding on your own finds. To be sure R. Freund is not the only who fails to properly note all of his sources; many authors do this today both in the traditional rabbinic and academic communities, and this is not a new phenomenon. Indeed, below, we will see another such example.

    Setting aside this methodological issue, Moadim le-Simcha also suffers from lack of proper organization. Chapters do not flow into one another like they should, content is not put in chronological order and many times sources are not given. One other issue is one can always find more material touching on the topics covered in Moadim le-Simcha. Although this is not a criticism of R. Freund but is an issue anytime someone attempts to collect material on minhagim. Overall, however, Moadim le-Simcha is well worth one’s money as it does have a wealth of information some of which will not be found else where on many interesting topics relating to the months of the year.

    Moadim le-Simcha, volume 6 – The Customs relating to the Months of Iyyar & Sivan

    As mentioned above, the latest volume of this series covers Iyar and Sivan. The first article is a lengthy one covering the issues of becoming bar-mitvah during the sefirah period. This one section is over ninety pages. The next topic is Pesach Sheni. The next eight articles cover topic that are connected with Lag Ba-Omer. The final section covers Shavous topics.

    It is the Lag Ba-Omer section, however, that will be the focus of our discussion. Topics covered include the recent minhag called ח"י רוטל (pp. 146- 148), bows and arrows on Lag Ba-Omer (pp. 155-58),[1] and the origins of bonfires on Lag Ba-Omer and burning clothing. There is then a detour to discuss the more general custom of lighting candles at graves year-round. Then we return to Lag Ba-Omer with a discussion of Upsherin and a section on peyos, after which he discusses the custom of learning at the kever of the Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai (“Rashbi”), followed by a chapter on the halakhic discussions relating to Kupas (charity) of Rashbi. On the topic of Rashbi, R. Freund turns to the controversial topic of authorship of the Zohar, as well as some general aspects of studying Kabbalah. Then we have another detour to discuss visiting graves of Tzadkim in general. He concludes this section with a discussion of the minhag to go to the kever of Shmauel ha-Navi on the forty-third day of Sefirat ha-Omer.

    We now turn to the content of these chapters and Lag Ba-Omer generally.

    Traditionally, the sefirah period is considered a time of mourning. The most well-known reason given – offered by the rishonim – is the mourning is due to the death of students of R. Akiva who died during this time of the year. Because this is deemed a mourning period, we refrain from shaving, taking haircuts, dancing, listening to music and making weddings, etc. Interestingly, some seem to think that there is an additional minhag during this time of abstaining from purchasing new clothes in order to avoid making a shehecheyanu; however, this is wrong. Many poskim write that people erroneously confuse the sefirah period restrictions with those customarily applied during the three weeks. Indeed, during the three weeks, one should refrain from buying new clothes to avoid a shehecheyanu, but during sefirah no such halakha applies. For example, the Mishnah Berurah writes that if during sefirah [493:2]:

    מ"מ אם נזדמן לו איזה ענין שצריך לברך עליו שהחיינו יברך

    The source for this ruling is the Ma'mar Mordechai who writes:

    לא מצאתיו בשום ספר ראשון או אחרון ואין ספק שנשתרבב זה המנהג ממה שכתוב בשלחן ערוך לקמן סי' תקנא דטוב ליזהר מלומר שהחיינו בין המצרים על פרי או על מלבוש

    While this is the halakha, today we do know that in fact there is some bases for refraining from shehecheyanu during sefirah. As many manuscripts have come to light, one of these manuscripts reflects this customs. In fact, this topic was comprehensively covered by R. Gedaliah Oberlander in his journal Ohr Yisroel, and later reprinted in his collection on minhaghim called Minhag Avosenu be-Yadenu (Merkaz Halakhah, 2005). There is much to add on this topic and I hope to return to it in a future post at the Seforim blog. While on this topic of shehecheyanu during sefirah, it is worth noting that one of the earliest sources reflecting this custom is the Leket Yosher. R. Zilber, quoted by R. Ben David, in his article in Tzohar, uses this example to question the authenticity of the Leket Yosher. Basically, they argue the Leket Yosher must be a forgery as this custom is only attested to in recent times. But, as I mentioned R. Oberlander demonstrates that there are many sources for the shehecheyanu restriction aside from the Leket Yosher. (Also, R. Ben David, in a later issue of Tzohar admitted that the fact the Leket Yosher may confirm what was believed to be a later custom is meaningless and disavowed his reliance on R. Zilber.)

    Prof. Daniel Sperber (Minhagei Yisrael 1:101-117) posits that the mourning customs during sefirah are mainly due to the crusades, as many of the most horrific events of the crusades took place during the sefirah period. As evidence, Sperber notes that in Ashkenaz there was a custom to refrain from cutting one’s nails – a terrific extension of symbolic mourning. Moreover, in Sefer Assufot [printed in a few places- see Meoros ha-Rishonim p. 89] it says:

    ועוד נראה לי מה שאין נושאין נשים בין פסח לעצרת, מפני צער הקהלות בכל המלכות, ומתענין עליהם ומזכירין נשמות באותן השבתות ומצטערין ודואגין עליהן באותו הפרק

    In Spanish sources, however, we find that they were much more lenient some going so far to permit marriage during the sefirah period. (For one example of this leniency, see the manuscript published by Meir Benayahu,Yosef Bechiri [Jerusalem, 1991], 518-20).

    Now for some reason or reasons all these prohibitions are lifted on Lag Ba-Omer. Additionally, there is a custom to celebrate on Lag Ba-Omer, while to a more limited degree in many places, but especially in Meron at the Kever of Rashbi. In Meron there are great celebrations with music and dancing and the like on Lag Ba-Omer. The obvious question, however, is why?

    Now I will not even attempt to provide all the answers offered, but in a moment I will point the interest reader to additional sources. There are many early sources for simcha on Lag Ba-Omer, also that tachanun is omitted, marriages are allowed and so is shaving. In some rishonim the reason given is because the students of Rabbi Akiva stopped dying on Lag Ba-Omer. This reason, however, provides no insight into the connection between Meron and specifically Rashbi and Lag Ba-Omer.

    One of the most famous reasons explaining the connection between Rashbi and Lag Ba-Omer – if you ask anyone this will probably be their reply – is because the Rashbi died on Lag Ba-Omer. Assuming for a moment this is factually correct, it is quite strange that we celebrate Rashbi’s death. We don’t find any other yahrzeit that we celebrate it in such a way and we had many other great people die besides for Rashbi, Avraham, Moshe, David HaMelech, etc. – none of whose death we celebrate with bonfires. Another problem is that neither chazal nor any of the rishonim mention Rashbi dying on Lag Ba-Omer. These questions and others were addressed by the Hatam Sofer in his teshuvot. In fact, because of these problems, he was very skeptical – to put it very mildly – of this celebration that takes place at Meron.

    As an aside, an unknown sources about this whole topic is a statement found in some versions of Toledot Ha-Arizal (Sefer ha-Ari, 219) it is also found in a manuscript of the Chida which says:

    בימי מרן (ר' יסוף קארו) הסכימו שלא יעשו ישראל הערביים מחול בל"ג בעומר על ציון רשב"י. ונראה למרן וב"ד שהוא זלזול שאוכלים ומרקדים, ונכתבה ולא נחתמה. בלילה חלם מרן עם הרשב"י וא"ל שתבא מגפה גדולה בעבור זו ההסכמה, כי רצונו שישמחו בהללולא, ולמחר קרע את ההסכמה

    With this introduction regarding Lag Ba-Omer, we can now turn to the Moadim le-Simcha’s discussion of Lag Ba-Omer customs.

    He starts the topic of Lag Ba-Omer with a nice list of issues regarding Lag Ba-Omer giving the impression that this list indicates the progression of the articles. The reader is quickly disabused of this notion as R. Freund jumps from topic to topic at times returning to earlier topics with no discernable order. After carefully reading the Lag Ba-Omer section, I decided to compare R. Freund’s work with that of R. Betzalel Landau’s [author of ha-Goan mi-Vilna] on Lag Ba-Omer called מסע מירון. R. Landau’s sefer is a collection of articles printed in 1966 and as is the case with R. Freund, R. Landau’s articles also first appeared in the Hebrew weekly Hamodia. R. Landau’s work is printed along with the Maseh Meron of R. Mendel Rabin. R. Landau’s articles deal with everything connected to Lag Ba-Omer, from the visiting of Meron and the accompanying celebration to Upsherin and much more. It is written beautifully, well organized and has excellent sources including manuscripts and many rare seforim.

    After comparing the material, I noticed that R. Tuviah Freund basically lifted all the material from R. Betzalel Landau with one big difference: where R. Landau presents the material in very organized fashion, R. Freund does not. To be sure, Freund adds much material to the topics discussed by Landau and Freund covers areas not covered by Landau. On the other hand, Freund omits many interesting topics and sources relating to this day that he should have dealt with such as discussion of the song Bar-Yochai.[2] The point is not that Freund used the sources collected by Landau but rather at the outset of the articles Freund should note his debt to Landau and reference the reader to Landau’s work for its additional materials. In fact, in passing on at least two occasions Freund mentions “Mase Meron” indicating that indeed he was aware of and used Landau’s work. To make this even more bizarre, the only times Freund cites Landau, in truth, Landau was merely quoting from Avraham Yaari, Iggerot Eretz Yisrael (Tel Aviv, 1943), a work that Freund uses directly in other places (379-384). In other words, the times he does mention Landau’s work it was almost unnecessary while where Freund should mention it he does not. Is it to say that only here he used Landau work and the rest he found himself? I find it hard to believe and quite silly – there is no problem to use someone else’s material as long as you give them proper credit.

    A Revisionist History of Lag Ba-Omer and Another Example of Plagiarism.

    Before returning to the rest of R. Tuviah Freund’s Moadim le-Simcha, we need to examine another recent article that appeared in the journal Yeshurun (no. 15) authored by R. Moshe Blau. R. Blau’s article is devoted to Lag Ba-Omer and is well organized and clearly written – a model for R. Freund to learn from. While these facts distinguish R. Blau’s article from Freund’s, Blau actually has something in common with Freund – Blau too plagiarized.

    Again, Blau uses information that appears elsewhere without mentioning the sources. Specifically, Blau plagiarized from Avraham Yaari, Meir Benayahu, Betzalel Landau, and possibly even R. Yaakov Hillel, as I will demonstrate below.

    As I mentioned earlier many traditionally many claim the yarzheit of Rashbi is on Lag Ba-Omer. While this claim is well-known the source of this tradition is more difficult to locate. Avraham Yaari and Meir Benayahu show that the earliest source to mention Lag Ba-Omer as the yarzheit of Rashbi is none other than the Hemdat Ha-Yamim. (R. Yaakov Hillel also confirms this on page 13 in his Aid ha-Gal ha-Zeh.)

    There were some, however, who attributed the Lag Ba-Omer death date of Rashbi not to Hemdat Ha-Yamim but to R. Hayyim Vital, whose source was the Arizal. In truth, it is a mistake to give R. Vital credit for this. The source of this mistake was based on a simple printing mistake in one version of the Prei Etz Chaim which was first printed in 1782 - available here. (For more on this edition see R. Yosef Avivi, Binyan Ariel, pp. 68-71.) That edition reads:
    והטעם שמת רשב"י ביום ל"ג בעומר כי הוא מתלמידי רבי עקיבא הנ"ל שמתו בספירת העומר
    The Chida already writes that this is a mistake and instead of שמת, one letter is missing and the correct reading is שמחת רשב"י. So it is not a reference to Rashbi’s death day at all. Avraham Yaari demonstrates that other sources aside from the Prei Etz Chaim confirm this reading of שמחת. Meir Benayahu also concludes this is the correct reading using manuscripts. Finally, R. Yakov Hillel also writes that it is clear from viewing many manuscripts of the Prei Etz Chaim that it is a mistake. [3]

    Turning to the origins of going to Meron, again, Avraham Yaari, in an article in Tarbiz 22 (1951) has a very detailed piece showing how the custom of going to Meron was taken from an earlier custom of going on Pesach Shnei to the kevarim of Hillel and Shamai in Meron. Soon after Yaari published this article, Meir Benayahu penned a strong rebuttal (Sefunot 6 pp. 11-40), and is again summarized in Sefer Vilnai 2:326-330). According to Benayahu, the custom of going to Meron was begun by the "Mekubeli Sefat." Irrespective of whose side one falls, both articles are full of interesting facts about the development of this Lag Ba-Omer. In my opinion, Benayahu appears to have the upper hand. More recently, Tel Aviv University professor Elchanan Reiner revisited this topic in his incredible dissertation, “Pilgrims and Pilgrimage to Eretz Yisrael (1099-1517),” (PhD dissertation, Hebrew University of Jerusalem, 1988), 295-320. (Hopefully, Dr. Reiner will publish this in book form.)

    Returning to Freund’s article on Lag Ba-Omer, there is no doubt he used both Landau and Benayahu, as he quotes them in his notes. At the end of his article, Freund raises the older, although less known, custom of going to the grave of Shmuel ha-Navi (again close to Lag Ba-Omer) (p. 384). In doing so Freund quotes an early source for this custom, a source that is only in manuscript. But, Freund provides no citation where this source can be found. In fact this comes from Yaari (neither Landau or Benayahu mention it) who notes that this was originally published in Jacob Moses Toledano, “Teudot mikkitvey-yad," Hebrew Union College Annual 4 (1927): 449-466, quote at 458. So either Freund was perusing random old copies of HUCA or more likely, he found Yaari’s article on Lag Ba-Omer and neglected to mention that.

    Coming back to Blau's article, the general idea of Blau in his article is after dealing with all the sources of why Lag Ba-Omer is different than the rest of Sefirat ha-Omer. His new ideas which he brings to the table are that 1) the earliest source for Lag Ba-Omer being the death of Rashbi is from Hemdat ha-Yamim. This point was already made by both Yaari and Benayahu. 2) The printings of Prei Etz Chaim contains a printing error (Blau shows this to be the case from various manuscripts he checked). Again, not a new point, while it is nice that he prints in the article copies of the various manuscripts but this also was already shown to be the case by Benayahu much earlier. 3) Finally, at the end of his article he brings from a manuscript that R. Yosef Karo wanted to stop the going to Meron but did not. Blau, however, concludes that this fact is not mentioned by the Chida because the Chida did not believe this manuscript was legitimate. This whole major manuscript is brought by Yaari and Benayahu. The text itself is printed in Benayahu’s Sefer HaChida. Additionally, R. Landau also discusses this point. None of this is noted by Blau. All in all this leads to the conclusion that much of Blau’s article is premised, without attribution, on Yaari’s, Benayahu’s, and Landau’s works on the topic.

    As an aside both R. Yaakov Hillel and R. Ovadiah Yosef (Yabia Omer 5:35 and Hazon Ovadiah, p. 274) do not encourage going to Meron on Lag Ba-Omer due to the situation of pritzus there. R. Hillel is also against going on these types of hilulas throughout the year.

    In actuality, while it is difficult to connect with the death of Rashi, there is another important person who perhaps did die on Lag be-Omer, Yehoshua ben Nun. (See R. Hamberger, Shoreshei Minhag Ashkenaz 3:262). In Meglias Ta'anis, the last section, there is a part titled Meglias Ta'anis Batra. In many versions of this text, it places Yehoshua ben Nun's death on Lag be-Omer. Professor Shulamis Elitzur, in her excellent book, Lamu Tzamnu, deal with the death date of Yehoshua ben Nun at length. She cites to many early piyutuim that mirror this reading found in Meglias Ta'anis. (See Lamu Tzamnu pp. 18, 26, 34, 39, 66, 120, 126, 172.) Generally, Lamu Tzamnu is a scientific edition of Megilas Tannit Batra. For further on this, see also her Piyyutei R. Pinchas ha-Kohen, pp. 240 & 693. See also, Landau, p. 71, who errs in this regard based on a faulty manuscript; S. Leiman, "The Scroll of Fasts: The Ninth of Tevet" in J.Q.R., vol. 74, pp. 174-95, esp. pp. 174-79; Reiner, op. cit., pp. 289-90.

    Moadim le-Simcha on Upsherin and Peyos

    Now that we have covered the two latest discussions of Lag Ba-Omer and their similar faults, we return to the rest of Moadim le-Simcha. Freund’s next major topic is that of Upsherin. The problem with this article is that it is not objective.

    The source for the Upsherin custom is highly problematic. R. Benyamin Shlomo Hamberger, Shorshei Minhag Ashkenaz 3:251-267, attacks it for the following reasons: there is no mention of this custom in any of the rishonim. Now do not say they did not bother to write it down as we have very detailed discussions from the rishonim about this time period in a Jewish boy’s life how to take him to cheder etc. (discussed by R. Hamburger at great length in volume two of his Shorshei Minhag Ashkenaz 2:502-532) but there is no mention of the Upsherin custom.[4] Furthermore, he shows from many places in the times of the rishonim they cut their hair long before three years old. Another big question dealt with by Yaari and later on in more detail by Hamberger is the attributing the custom of Upsherin on Lag Ba-Omer to the Arizal. This attribution is problematic as it is documented that the Arizal did not cut hair the entire sefirah – including Lag Ba-Omer. This particular issue M. Benayahu does not find to be such a problem as it could be what he did to his son and what he himself did were two different things. Another issue R. Hamberger raises is even if there is such a minhag what does it have to do with Rashbi and where do we find such a thing to give a haircut in a grave yard? Further more he brings sources [amongst them a National Geographic Magazine!] which claim that it come from outside – Arabic influences. R. Hamburger does defend it a little that it still makes sense to keep if it comes from outside sources. However after seeing all this documentation of R Hamburger notes that it makes sense why we can not find sources in litvishe or Hungarian sources – as there are no early sources in rishonim!

    Professor Sperber [Minhagei Yisrael 8: 13-30] takes Hamberger's discussion much further documenting how this comes from many completely outside ancient sources. R. Yechiel Goldhaber (author of the Minhagei ha-Kehillos) told me that he just saw a manuscript of a letter of R. Akiva Yosef Schlesinger who writes very sharply that this whole custom is taken form outside sources. Generally, Freund has no problem mentioning R Hamburger as he quotes this very same volume in another chapter of his in this sefer – saying Tikun on shavuos night. But when it comes to using Hamberger to question or examine Upsherin, Freund seems unable to do so.

    After this chapter Freund has a section all about the customs of peyos including different opinions about wearing it behind ones ears. A careful reading of this chapter shows he stole much [and he could of stolen even more] from Yitzchak (Eric) Zimmer's chapter in his Olam Keminhago Noheg (Mercaz Zalman Shazar, 1996) devoted to these topics.

    Freund continues with a chapter on the development of the tomb over Rashbi’s kever and its history. He has a lot of important information on it. I would add to it the last section of M Benayhu previously mentioned article (which I think for sure Freund was well aware of on this topic of Meron in general).

    The Zohar and its History

    In connection with Rashbi, Freund examines the Zohar, its authorship and other topics related to the learning of the Zohar. This topic really deserves its own series of posts but for now I will just point out three issues. He does not mention that there was any opposition to the authorship of the Zohar. Now I understand perfectly well why he does not mention Yehudah Aryeh (Leon) Modena and others but there is one work which definitely deserves mention and that is the Mitpachat Seforim from R. Yaakov (Jacob) Emden. This work is not an attempt to undermine Kabbalah at all but rather it shows that there was some tampering done to the Zohar by different people. To be sure this work was considered very important by many as the Hatam Sofer writes in a teshuvah [Choshen Mishpat Likutim, 59] to someone:

    הנה נמצא בשכונתך ס' מטפחת ספרים למהריעב"ץ תמצא שם כי דבר גדול דבר הנביא ז"ל בענין זה הלא ישתוממו רואיו וד"ל

    Interestingly enough a few years back this sefer was printed by someone than it was put in cherem by the badatz! The printer was cursed by sefardi mekubalim and he died within the year! This edition of the sefer is now considered very rare. Indeed, included in the introduction to this edition, are other sources attesting to the importance of the Mitpachat Seforim. Additionally, R. Eliezer Waldenberg, in his Tzizt Eliezer cites the Mitpachat Seforim. (Tzitz Eliezer 9:51 and 21:5).

    Another issue I have with this chapter is he does not even mention the famous discussion of the poskim regarding contradictions between Kabbalah and halakha; much has been written on this I will not even bother to cite sources.

    One other issue with this chapter is at the end he lists commentaries on the Zohar although he does not claim to make a comprehensive list there are some strange omissions. One is the work of R. Reuven Margoliyot on the Zohar it is extremely important with all his comments as he draws parallels from all over chazal another thing he does is he references many halakhic discussions from the

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    Shavuah ha-Sefer 2008: A Recommended Reading List

    by Eliezer Brodt

    Book week just began in Eretz Yisroel. As I wrote last year Every year in Israel, around Shavous time, there is a period of about ten days called Shavuah Hasefer-book week. Shavuah HaSefer is a sale which takes place all across the country in stores, malls and special places rented out for the sale. There are places where strictly “frum” seforim are sold and other places have most of the secular publishing houses. Many publishing houses release new titles specifically at this time. Just as in last year's post on Shavuah HaSefer, in this post I would just like to mention to some of the very recent titles from the various publishing houses which are available at this years Shavuah HaSefer. As to regular seforim that have come out in the past few months since my last seforim list a new list is being composed of the past few months.

    Bar Ilan University Press had a big awakening compared to last year. Amongst their new titles is Mechkarim be-Toldos Yehudi Ashkenaz which is a sefer ha-Yovel in honor of Professor Eric Zimmer. There are many excellent articles in this volume (see here for the table of contents). As the title indicates, these articles are related to Ashkenaz. Another important book, published in conjunction with Oxford University Press, is from the extremely prolific author Professor Sperber, The Jewish Life Cycle – Custom, Lore and Iconography. The book covers Jewish customs from the cradle to the grave. This book is based on his previous work Minhaghei Yisroel but as Sperber notes in the introduction, Minhagei Yisrael is not in any order and is eight volumes and thus is not the most user friendly when it comes to locating in a systematic fashion the topics covered. This volume is an attempt to organize some of that material, specifically, materials relating to the Jewish life cycle. Additionally, it includes many updates, corrections, and is the case with Sperber's past works, many interesting illustrations and diagrams. The much awaited volume two of the Keter Mikros Gedolos Chumash on Shemot was printed. (Volume one was not printed yet.) With this volume, Bar Ilan is trying something new as they released this volume in two sizes – big (the previous size) as well as a smaller size version. Only time will tell if they will continue to print both sizes. [The Keter series now has Berashit Vol. 1 and 2, Yehosuha, Shoftim, Shmuel alef and beis, Melachim alef and beis, Yeshaya, Yehezkiel, and Tehilim Vol 1 and 2.]

    Iyunei Hamikra volume eight was printed this volume looks like it contains an excellent collection of articles. Another important work reissued (which unfortunately if you have the first edition you are stuck as I am) with many important additions to the first edition was their scientific version of Yesod Moreh of the Ibn Ezra. Amongst the many topics the Yesod Moreh deals with, one in particular around Shavout is worth noting. In this work, the Ibn Ezra takes issue with the "Miztvot counters" those you claim a set 613 mitzvot (see here for our discussion regarding mitzvot counts and the Azharot custom for Shavout.)

    Another issue of Badad was printed (#20). Another important title is Am Levodod which collected pieces all about Mesctas Avodah Zorah by Professor Z. Steinfeld.

    Another excellent looking volume is the Olam Nistar be-Maddei ha-Zeman from R. Shuchat. This volume contains in-depth studies on the Gra and his opinions in regard to the geulah. It also deals abit with the Ramchal and Rav Kook. There is an interesting chapter discussing the highly controversial work attributed to the Gra the Kol ha-Tohar. Just to add in a source the author seems to have missed Reb. Wolbe writes in his letters (vol 1 pg 227) that:

    בענין קול התוהר: הגר"י הוטנר שליט"א אומר, שבעל הלשם שהוא הבר סמכא בענין כתבי הגר"א בקבלה, אינו מזכיר את הספר בכלל. הוא גם השתדל להוציא לאור ספרי הגר"א, ואילו הי' בדעה שזה ספר שיצא מבית מדרשו של הגר"א- לא יתכן שלא הי' משתדל להוציאו או לכל הפחות היה מזכיר אותו. לעומת זאת אמר לי הגר"י קלופט שליט"א שהוא מאמין שזה ספר אוטנטי, ומה שישנם בו דברים המפלאים אותנו, אין בזה כל ראי' שלא נישנו הדברים בבית מדרשו של הגר"א

    Reuvan Mass has a few good titles, two of which pertain to the holocaust era. One is called Zikhron be-Sefer from a few authors - E. Farbstein, N. Cohen and A. Yedidya. This book deals with Gedolim that wrote, in their introductions to their works, accounts of their experiences in the Holocaust. The second book, Tenous be-Chrovos by Y. Fund, is about the Agudah Yisroel before and during the war how they dealt with the issues at hand to save the Jews. Aside from these two Holocaust books, Reuvan Mass also has D. Sperber's Nisviat Piskah already reviewed here. Another work is mi-Sinai le-LisKhat ha-Gazis by S. Kassierer and S. Glicksberg. This work deals with Torah she-Bal Peh in the writings of the Rambam and Ramban it looks like a very professional job.

    The Jewish Theological Seminary Press has reprinted Saul Lieberman classic, Yerushalmi Kifshuto with a few pages of additions. Also printed this year is volume two of the Kuntres hatushuvos Hachdash already reviewed here. Additionally, one should keep an eye out in their "cheap section" as there are always some good titles.

    The Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities finally released the much awaited volume of Yerushalmi Nizkin with many additions from the Italian Gneziah.

    Machlekes Herzog advertises that they have a new book form Professor Grossman on Rashi called Emunah Vedoes Bolamo shel Rashi but this title will not be printed for another few months.

    Beis El has a new title from R. Reuven Margolis called Tal Techeyah. This work was very rare and has not been reprinted since 1922 it’s a collection of six pieces of his in his typical excellent style.

    Mechon Ben Zvi has a new volume in there set of critical editions of classics of Sefer Hamakabim and other works - the Chayeh Yosef from Yosef ben matisyhu. Another important work just printed is the Chemas Hachemdah (from 1285)on chumash Breishes. One should keep an eye out on there cheap section as there are some great titles for really cheap prices.

    Yediois Hachronis reprinted an old work of Shadal called Yesodei Hatorah. This new edition of theirs has a new name - Al he-Chemlah ve-Haskakha.

    Merkaz Zalman Shazar has released some new titles among them a book in there about Shai Agnon. This is another book which is part of their recent series on the great leaders throughout the generations. Another title is from E. Shoham- Steiner called Charigim Bal Charcahim which deals with crazy people, leprosy, and people who had physical problems how they were looked at in the Middle Ages. Kiyum Beidan Shel Temuras a collection of articles about life in Germany from 1618-1945 – 647 pages these are articles from the English and German parts translated into Hebrew. Another title is Histography be-Mivchan which is a collection on Jacob Katz. Another very important title which they printed is ha-Yayin be-Yemei ha-Benayaim. This volume is the much awaited part two of Professor C. Solovetick book Yaynam printed by Am Oved a few years back. This volume is 480 pages and looks incredible. Here again, one should keep an eye out on there cheap section as there are some great titles for really cheap prices.

    The Bialik Institute printed a very important work on Canonaztion of The Zohar from Boaz Huss. This book contains very valuable information on this controversial and senstive topic. [This title was printed with Ben Zvi and is a little cheaper by them]. An older title of theirs just reprinted is Y. Libeis book called Sod Hemunah Hashebatous.

    Meketzei Nerdamim released two important new titles one is a critical edition of Rashi on Meschtos Megilah. Another is Shiriei R Aron Al-ammani from twelfth century Egypt.

    Magnes Press this year has issued a few nice titles amongst them: Simchat Haregel be-Talmudum Shel Tananim by D. Henshke, Min ha-Rambam le-Shmuel Ibn Tibbon from C. Fraenkel. They also reprinted a few older titles amongst them E. Fleischer classic Shirat Hakodesh Byemi Habnayim, Rashi by S. Kamin and the Rashbam on Kohles by S.Japhet and R. Salters.

    Mechon Yerushalim promised last year a new volume to their critical edition of the Teshuvos of the Rishonim the Shut Harif well it is out and looks great. They did not edit out the important notes and haskomos of Rav Kook on one of the editions they printed in this volume as other people would do these days. This volume is only part one and looks well done hopefulay part two will be printed shortly. They used the works of R. Dovid Rothestein and R. Leiter. Some other new tiles of there are: volume three of the Ramban on chumash Vayikra, Mordechai on Pesachim, volume five to their Nodah Beyuhadh set. Seder Parshyious of the Adres on Shemois and Ginas Veradim of the Prei Megadim.

    Kibutz Hamechuad has put out many nice titles this year. One is a beautiful critical edtion of Mishnayis Shevies from professors S. and Z. Safrai. Other works of note include ha-Mavad Atzmos la-Daat by Y. Lichtenstein all about suicide. Another book from the same author put out earlier this year is called me-Tumah le-Kedusah which deals with going to Kevrei Tzadkim. Another title is a new study On the Jews in Germany in the middle ages called ha-Ashkenazim ha-Rishonim by A. Frischman. (reviewed here)

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    The Otzrot HaTorah (AKA "The Morgenstern Library") is now ON SALE thru June 30.
    The library contains 13,000 volumes in the "regular" version and 14,000 volumes in the "expanded" edition.
    The SALE prices are as follows:
    Expanded edition: Reg. price $1990 SALE price: $1480.
    Standard edition: Reg. price $1480 SALE price: $1160.
    There is a payment plan of (up to) 20 monthly payments. Payments can be made by cash, check or credit card.
    For those making a one time payment by either cash or check there will be an additional $200 discount (i.e. $1280) for the Expanded version and a $165 discount (i.e. $995) for the regular version.
    Please note: The Otzrot HaTorah program includes the 13,000 - 14,000 volumes (scanned originals, categorized but without search) as well as the Otzrot HaShut from Otzar HaPoskim (topic search) plus a few hundred digitized seforim (search, copy-paste, etc.). It also comes with the "" collection (AKA Bayis Molay Seforim).
    Purchasers will be entitled to the soon-to-be-released update which will include another 2,000 volumes as well as an update to the Otzrot HaShut as well as an update to the program itself.
    Also, Bar Ilan version 16 is now IN STOCK.
    Prices are as follows:
    Version 16 is $469
    Version 16 "plus" (inc. Encyclopedia Talmudis) is $569
    Upgrades for previous owners are available as well.
    Also, DBS version 14 has arrived! Updates from previous versions are available. (You can also purchase "older" versions for less).
    Prices are as follows:
    version 10 = $170
    version 11 = $210
    version 12 = $270
    version 13 = $330
    version 14 = $420
    AND FINALLY, Otzar HaChochma 33% off SALE is still going on until June 22.
    BONUS: Purchase any TWO of these Seforim programs (i.e. Otzar HaChochma, Otzrot HaTorah, Bar Ilan, or DBS) and receive a FREE all-in-one photo printer (print, copy, scan). A $100 vailue!
    Please contact:
    Moishe Flohr
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    cell: 917-456-7855

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    Lo Zu haDerekh: A Review of
    Rabbi Prof. Daniel Sperber’s Darka shel Halakha

    by Aryeh A. Frimer

    Rabbi Prof. Aryeh A. Frimer is the Ethel and David Resnick Professor of Active Oxygen Chemistry at Bar Ilan University. He has lectured and published widely on various aspects of “Women and Halakha.”

    Among his many articles, Rabbi Frimer is the author of “Women and Minyan,” Tradition, 23:4 (Summer 1988): 54-77, available online here; “Women’s ‘Megilla’ Reading,” in Ora Wiskind Elper, ed., Traditions and Celebrations for the Bat Mitzvah (Urim Publications: Jerusalem, 2003), 281-304, available online here (PDF); “Guarding the Treasure: A Review of Tamar Ross, Expanding the Palace of Torah: Orthodoxy and Feminism,” BDD - Journal of Torah and Scholarship 18 (April 2007): 67-106 (English), available online here (PDF); “Feminist Innovations in Orthodoxy Today: Is Everything in Halakha - Halakhic?” JOFA Journal 5:2 (Summer 2004/Tammuz 5764): 3-5, available here (PDF).

    Over a three year period, from 5758-5760 (Fall 1997-Summer 2000), Rabbi Frimer delivered in-depth high-level shiurim on "Women and Halakha" to the Women of Rehovot at the Tiferet Moshe Synagogue – Rabbi Jacob Berman Community Center. The basic sourcebook for these lectures was R. Elyakim Getsel Ellinson, haIsha ve-haMitsvot – Vol. I: Bein Isha leYotsra, and this series of classes were regularly recorded as MP3 files, and the source materials, handouts and lecture notes were converted into PDF files and these files are now available here.

    Aryeh A. Frimer and Dov I. Frimer are the co-authors of "Women's Prayer Services - Theory and Practice," Tradition 32:2 (Winter 1998): 5-118, available online here (PDF); and of the forthcoming “Women, Kri’at haTorah and Aliyyot.”

    This is his first contribution to the Seforim blog.

    Allow me to begin my review of Rabbi Prof. Daniel Sperber’s new volume Darka shel Halakha, with a few words of introduction.[1] I have the greatest respect for Prof. Sperber both as a scholar par excellence and as a human being. Over the almost 35 years I have been at Bar-Ilan University, we have developed a warm friendship and mutual respect. He writes clearly and beautifully, with great knowledge, sensitivity and depth – and his book Darka shel Halakha is no exception. Nevertheless, I am forced to disagree with his analysis and conclusions. I strongly believe that we have to be sensitive to women’s spiritual needs or as Hazal say: לעשות נחת רוח לנשים (Sifra, Parsheta 2; Hagiga 16b). But at the same time, we have to be honest about what the halakha clearly states – so that, at the same time, we will not be guilty of האהבה מקלקלת את השורה.

    The question of women receiving aliyyot, which lies at the center of Darka shel Halakha, is briefly discussed in a baraita cited in the Talmud Megilla (23a) which reads (Source 1):

    (1) תלמוד בבלי מסכת מגילה דף כג עמוד א
    תנו רבנן: הכל עולין למנין שבעה, ואפילו קטן ואפילו אשה. אבל אמרו חכמים: אשה לא תקרא בתורה, מפני כבוד צבור.

    Despite the above negative ruling of the Talmud and, in its wake, of all subsequent codifiers,[2] within the last decade, there have been two major attempts to reopen this issue. One was penned by R. Mendel Shapiro[3] who argues that kevod ha-tsibbur is a social concept – and a woman’s general standing in society was lower than men’s. Nowadays when this is no longer true, a community can be mohel on its kavod – voluntarily set aside its honor. He errs, however, since the vast majority of rishonim and aharonim disagree with his analysis. Kevod ha-tsibbur has nothing to do with social standing. The vast majority of posekim maintain that kevod ha-tsibbur stems from women’s lack of obligation in keri’at haTorah, and expresses itself either in terms of tsniut or zilzul ha-mitsvah. The Tsniut School argues that women should not be at the center of communal ritual unnecessarily – and this is particularly true by keri’at haTorah, from which they are freed. The second school maintains that there is an issue of zilzul ha-mitsva in that the men who are duty-bound should fulfill the mitsva that is incumbent upon them – and not delegate it to those who are not obligated.[4]

    The second attempt is that of R. Prof. Daniel Sperber,[5] in Darka shel Halakha, and I would like to focus on two major issues.

    Kevod haTsibbur: Instruction or Recommendation?

    Firstly, R. Sperber has suggested that the phrase in Megilla 23a “However, the Rabbis declared: a woman should not read from the Torah – because of kevod ha-tsibbur” describes what Hazal believed to be the preferred or recommended mode of conduct, the ideal way of performing keri’at haTorah.

    Indeed, ke-darko ba-kodesh, Prof. Sperber surveys all the places where it states אבל אמרו חכמים and shows that some cases are merely expressions of the ideal, while others refer to things that are actually assur. Yet, he concludes [Note 19, p. 21] that that in the case of women’s aliyyot: "לא נראה שמדובר ... בתקנת חז"ל אלא שאינו ראוי"

    This position is very problematic, particularly in this case of women’s aliyyot which is one of kevod ha-tsibbur.

    (1) Firstly, Meiri, Kiryat Sefer, Ma’amar 5, sec. a, writes (Source 2):

    (2) מאירי, קרית ספר, מאמר חמישי חלק א
    נמצאת למד ...שהכל עולין למנין ז' אפילו אשה וקטן…, אלא שמיחו באשה מפני כבוד צבור...

    The word “מיחו” appears many times in the Mishnaic and Tamudic literature and it refers to strongly verbalized objection and public reproof. See for example, Source 3.

    (3) מסכת פסחים פרק ד משנה ח
    משנה: ששה דברים עשו אנשי יריחו על שלשה מיחו בידם ועל שלשה לא מיחו בידם
    רמב"ם: אלו הששה דברים כולם היו שלא ברצון חכמים, אלא שעל שלשה מהם - והם הראשונים - לא מיחו בידם חכמים, ושלשה המנויים באחרונה מיחו בידם.

    Clearly, from the Meiri’s perspective, the statement אבל אמרו חכמים by women’s aliyyot is not a simple recommendation.

    (2) Secondly, there is a group of rishonim and aharonim who maintain that in the specific case of women’s aliyyot, women cannot receive aliyyot, even in cases of she’at ha-dehak or be-diavad. This school includes the Rambam and Semag and many subsequent aharonim (R. Abraham Pinso; R. Matsli’ah Mazuz; R. Ben-Zion Lichtman, R. Zalman Nehemiah Goldberg and R. Isaac Zilberstein). For example, Rambam (Sources 4 and 5) writes without any qualification that women may not receive aliyyot:

    (4) רמב"ם הלכות תפילה ונשיאת כפים פרק יב, הלכה יז
    אשה לא תקרא בציבור מפני כבוד הציבור…

    (5) הרב מסעוד חי רוקח, מעשה רוקח שם
    ורבינו כתב קיצור הדין ד-"אשה לא תקרא מפני כבוד הציבור", א"כ נאסר לגמרי…

    Semag (Source 6) records that minors may receive aliyyot, but makes no mention of women whatsoever. On the contrary, he maintains (Sources 7 and 8) that women cannot motsi men in megilla, even be-di-avad, just as they can’t receive aliyyot.

    (6) הרב משה בן יעקב מקוצי, ספר מצוות גדול (סמ"ג), עשין סימן יט
    כמה [הם] הקוראים, בשבת בשחרית שבעה .. וקטן היודע לקרות ויודע למי מברכים עולה בשבעה למניין.

    (7) ספר מצוות גדול – מצוות מדרבנן, הלכות מגילה
    …דאף על גב דנשים חייבות במקרא מגילה אינן מוציאות את הזכרים. ואל תשיבני נר חנוכה דאמרינן בפרק במה מדליקין (שבת כג, א) דאשה מדלקת משמע אף להוציא האיש. דשאני מקרא מגילה שהוא כמו קריאת התורה לכך אינה מוציאה את האיש.

    (8) מגן אברהם סימן תרפט ס"ק ה
    "וי"א שהנשים אינם מוציאות את האנשים "
    אינם מוציאות - ול"ד לנרות חנוכה דשאני מגילה דהוי כמו קריאת התורה (סמ"ג) פי' ופסולה מפני כבוד הצבור ולכן אפי' ליחיד אין מוציאה דלא פלוג (רא"ם)

    Clearly, according to these authorities, the statement אבל אמרו חכמים is not a simple recommendation.

    (3) There is another very large group of posekim (perhaps the majority) led by the R. Yoel Sirkis (Ba”h; Sources 9 and 10) who maintain that one cannot be mohel on kevod ha-tsibbur – particularly in the case of women’s aliyyot. However, bi-she’at ha-dehak – where there is no alternative or no one else eligible - a woman can read, lest keri’at haTorah be cancelled. It is to such cases that the Gemara in Megilla was referring.

    (9) הרב יואל סירקיס, בית חדש (ב"ח) טור או"ח סימן נ"ג ד"ה "ואין ממנין"
    …אלא הדבר פשוט, כיון שכך תקנו חכמים דחששו לכבוד ציבור, אין ביד הציבור למחול.

    (10) בית חדש, טור אורח חיים סימן קמ"ד
    ... מה שתיקנו חכמים .. משום כבוד הציבור לא תקנו מתחילה אלא היכא שאפשר

    For example, in a case of a city with only kohanim cited by Rabbi Sperber himself, Maharam mi-Rothenburg (Source 11) permits women to receive the third through seventh aliya. Otherwise the Torah reading would not occur, for the lineage of the kohanim would be challenged were they to receive the remaining aliyyot. In the language of the Maharam:

    (11) שו"ת מהר"ם מרוטנברג חלק ד (דפוס פראג) סימן קח
    ...ועיר שכולה כהנים ואין בה [אפי'] ישראל אחד נראה לי דכהן קורא פעמיים ושוב יקראו נשים דהכל משלימי' למנין ז' אפי' עבד ושפחה וקטן (מגילה כ"ג ע"א). ונהי דמסיק עלה אבל אמרו חכמי' לא תקרא אשה בתורה מפני כבוד הצבור, היכא דלא אפשר ידחה כבוד הצבור מפני פגם כהנים הקוראים שלא יאמרו בני גרושות.

    Maharam mi-Rothenburg was only willing to permit bi-she’at ha-dehak. This certainly doesn’t sound like a recommendation המלצה. Rather it is permission given only bi-she’at ha-dehak.

    It would seem to me that in Darka shel Halakha there is a blurring of the difference between le-khathila and be-di-avad. For example, Hazal say that one should not use a milchig spoon שאינו בן יומו (not used in last 24 hours) to stir hot chicken soup. Similarly, Hazal indicate that one shouldn’t eat out of utensils that haven’t been immersed in a mikva. In both cases, be-di-avad, the food remains perfectly kosher. Hazal’s ruling in both these cases is not a recommendation - but rather a clear directive how one is required to act; under normative conditions, it is assur to act otherwise. This is also true regarding women’s aliyyot Hazal forbade it le-khathila, even though be-di-avad or bi-she’at ha-dehak the aliyya may be valid.

    Now it should be appreciated that from Prof. Sperber’s perspective it is important that אבל אמרו חכמים be only a המלצה. Prof. Sperber wants to maintain that there really is no “down side” to women getting aliyyot. However, to my mind, he errs – kevod ha-tsibbur is a takana le-khathila, not a recommendation.

    In this regard, I would also like to briefly mention one further crucial point, relevant to both the papers of R. Mendel Shapiro and R. Daniel Sperber – but which we will not be able to develop fully here at the Seforim blog.[6] When Hazal talked about women getting aliyyot, they were referring to a system in which the oleh made the berakhot and read aloud - for himself and the community. However, nowadays, the job of the oleh is bifurcated: the oleh makes the berakhot and ba’al korei reads aloud. This raises a fundamental question: how can one person make berakhot, while another does the ma’aseh ha-mitsva. For there not to be a berakha le-vatalah there must be a mechanism to transfer the reading from the ba’al korei to the oleh. That mechanism is either shom’eah ke-oneh or shelihut. But both mechanisms require that both the oleh and ba’al korei be obligated – otherwise there is no areivut. Since women are not obligated in keri’at haTorah, they can serve neither as the oleh nor as the ba’al korei - me-ikkar ha-din – because the birkhot haTorah of the oleh will be berakhot levatalah. Note that all this has nothing to do with kevod haTsibbur. The only case in which the issue of kevod haTsibbur begins is in the uncommon case where a woman makes the berakhot and reads for herself.[7] Hence, under a bifurcated system, there is a clear downside in allowing women to read or serve as olot – a proliferation of berakhot le-vatala!

    Does Kevod haBeriyyot Defer Kevod haTsibbur –
    The Rules of Kevod haBeriyyot

    Lets now turn to the second issue – and this is Prof. Sperber’s major hiddush in this book. Briefly, Prof. Sperber notes that there is a concept in halakha called kevod ha-beriyyot which refers to shame or embarrassment (בושה או בזיון) which would result from the fulfillment of a religious obligation. The view of the halakha is that kevod ha-beriyyot can defer rabbinic obligations and prohibitions. Hence, Prof. Sperber maintains that if there is a community of women who are offended by their not receiving aliyyot – because of the rabbinic rule of kevod hatsibbur, then kevod ha-beriyyot should defer kevod ha-tsibbur.

    Professor Sperber’s book is devoted to describing the use of kevod ha-beriyyot in the halakhic literature. He is by no means the first to do this and the subject is extensively reviewed and analyzed by Rabbis Rakover,[8] Blidstein,[9] Lichtenstein,[10] Feldman,[11] and many others.[12]

    Let’s begin with the Gemara in Berakhot 19b:

    (12) תלמוד בבלי מסכת ברכות דף יט עמוד ב
    (א) אמר רב יהודה אמר רב: המוצא כלאים בבגדו פושטן אפילו בשוק, מאי טעמא (משלי כ"א) "אין חכמה ואין תבונה ואין עצה לנגד ה'" - כל מקום שיש חלול השם אין חולקין כבוד לרב.
    (ב) מתיבי: קברו את המת וחזרו, ולפניהם שתי דרכים, אחת טהורה ואחת טמאה, בא בטהורה - באין עמו בטהורה, בא בטמאה - באין עמו בטמאה, משום כבודו. [רוב הראשונים גורסים: באים בטמאה, בא עמהם משום כבודם] אמאי? לימא: אין חכמה ואין תבונה לנגד ה'. תרגמה רבי אבא בבית הפרס דרבנן
    (ג)...תא שמע: גדול כבוד הבריות שדוחה [את] לא תעשה שבתורה. ואמאי? לימא: אין חכמה ואין תבונה ואין עצה לנגד ה'! - תרגמה רב בר שבא קמיה דרב כהנא בלאו (דברים י"ז, יא) דלא תסור [מן הדבר אשר יגידו לך ימין ושמאל[ ...כל מילי דרבנן אסמכינהו על לאו דלא תסור, ומשום כבודו שרו רבנן.
    (ד) רש"י: כל מילי דרבנן וכו' - והכי קאמר להו: דבר שהוא מדברי סופרים נדחה מפני כבוד הבריות, וקרי ליה לא תעשה - משום דכתיב לא תסור, ודקא קשיא לכו דאורייתא הוא, רבנן אחלוה ליקרייהו לעבור על דבריהם היכא דאיכא כבוד הבריות.

    The upshot of this Gemara is that if one is wearing sha’atnez – the wearer is obligated to remove it even in the marketplace, despite any possible embarrassment. The Gemara explains that G-d’s honor/dignity takes priority over that of Man. However, if the garment is only rabbinically forbidden, one can wait until they return home to change. The reason is that kevod ha-beriyyot, the honor of the individual, can defer rabbinic prohibitions.

    Prof. Sperber adequately shows that kevod ha-beriyyot has always been an important consideration in pesak. However, an in-depth survey of the responsa literature over the past 1000 years makes it clear that it cannot be invoked indiscriminately. Indeed, as the gedolei ha-posekim make apparent, there are clearly defined parameters which Prof. Sperber seems to ignore. Hence, R. Sperber’s application of kevod ha-beriyyot to the issue of women’s aliyyot is seriously flawed. In this brief presentation, we will discuss nine of the aforementioned principles.

    (1) Firstly, kevod ha-tsibbur is merely the kevod ha-beriyyot of the tsibbur.[13] Hence it makes no sense that the honor of the individual should have priority over the honor of a large collection of individuals. Indeed, this is explicitly stated by the 13th century Meiri. [Source 13; Meiri is referring to Source 12ב]
    (13) מאירי, בית הבחירה, ברכות דף יט עמוד ב:
    {יש גורסים בא בטומאה באין עמו. ואין הדברים נראין} שאין כבוד רבים נדחה מפני יחיד או יחידים, [וכן הוא] באבל רבתי...ואף בתלמוד המערב...

    (2) Secondly, The Meiri (Source 14) also emphatically states:
    (14) מאירי, בית הבחירה, ברכות דף יט עמוד ב:
    ...שלא אמרה תורה כבד אחרים בקלון עצמך...

    Giving women aliyyot by overriding kevod ha-tsibbur with kevod ha-beriyyot would effectively be honoring women by dishonoring the community – and, hence, cannot be done.

    (3) R. Sperber’s suggestion would ask us to uproot completely the rabbinic ban on women’s aliyyot. However, kevod ha-beriyyot can only temporarily set aside a rabbinic ordinance. As stated in the Jerusalem Talmud (Source 15):

    (15) תלמוד ירושלמי כלאים פ"ט ה"א, לב ע"א
    הרי שהיה מהלך בשוק ונמצא לבוש כלאים, תרין אמוראין (שני אמוראים חולקים בדבר): חד אמר אסור; וחרנה (ואחר) אמר מותר. מאן דאמר אסור - דבר תורה; מאן דאמר מותר - כההיא דאמר רבי זעירא: גדול כבוד הרבים שהוא דוחה את המצוה בלא תעשה שעה אחת.

    Many of the commentaries on the Yerushlami and posekim hold that this proviso of sha’ah ahat applies to Rabbinic mitsvot as well – including: Tosafot, Ketubot 103b, end of s.v. “Oto”; Or Zarua, Hilkhot Erev Shabbat, sec. 6; Penei Moshe; Vilna Gaon; R. David Pardo; Arukh haShulhan (Source 16); and others.

    (16) ערוך השולחן, יו"ד סימן ש"ג, סעיף ב:
    שאני הכא [בכלאים] דהוא לשעה קלה, דכשיבא לביתו יגידו לו ויפשוט. ..ואפי' באיסור דרבנן תמידי נ"ל דמחוייב להגיד לו, ואין למנוע מצד כבוד הבריות

    (4) Next, many posekim including R. Yair Hayyim Bachrach, R. Meir Simha of Dvinsk (Source 17), R. Jeroham Perlow, R. Moses Feinstein, R. Chaim Zev Reines indicate that the “dishonor” that is engendered must result from an act of disgrace - not from refraining to give honor. As Rabbi Meir Simcha of Dvinsk writes:

    (17) אור שמח (הרב מאיר שמחה הכהן מדווינסק) הלכות יו"ט פרק ו, הלכה י"ד
    גדול כבוד הבריות...זה דווקא במידי דבזיונא הוא לבריות, אבל...ענין של כבוד...מי שרי?

    Only in cases where kavod is obligatory (e.g., for a King or mourner) is the absence of kavod considered embarrassing, as indicated by R. Isaac Blazer (Source 18),

    (18) שו"ת פרי יצחק, נד (הרב יצחק בלזר)
    צריך לומר דסבירא להו לגמרא במקום שהכבוד מחוייב גם העדר כבוד הוא בכלל כבוד הבריות, דהעדר כבוד הוא כמו גנאי... ועיין בכתובות (דף סט) מניין שאבל יושב בראש....

    Prof. Yaakov Blidstein discusses burial on Yom Tov sheini shel galuyot, which is permitted because Yom Tov sheni is de-rabbanan, while not burying is kevod ha-beriyyot.[14] However, a long list of posekim will not permit 20 individuals to violate Yom Tov sheni to attend to a burial, when only 10 are required to bury the deceased and the additional 10 would be coming along out of honor. Only the first 10 are permitted.

    Similarly, in the case of aliyyot, no act of shame has been performed to all those not called to the Torah (both men and women); they are simply not honored. Kevod ha-beriyyot cannot be activated under such conditions.

    R. Daniel Sperber in his book Darka shel Halakha (p. 77, note 104) attempts to challenge this principle - that kevod ha-beriyyot is inapplicable when no act of shame has been performed. He cites the fact that a bride is permitted to wash her face on Yom Kippur (Source 19).

    (19) מסכת יומא פרק ח משנה א
    משנה: יום הכפורים אסור באכילה ובשתיה וברחיצה ובסיכה ובנעילת הסנדל ובתשמיש המטה והמלך והכלה ירחצו את פניהם והחיה תנעול את הסנדל דברי רבי אליעזר וחכמים אוסרין:
    רשי והכלה - צריכה נוי עד שתחבב על בעלה, וכל שלשים יום לחופתה היא קרויה כלה.
    ר' עובדיה מברטנורא: והכלה - צריכה נוי כדי לחבבה על בעלה. וכל שלשים יום קרויה כלה:

    R. Sperber assumes that the prohibition against washing on Yom Kippur is rabbinic (when many authorities hold it is biblical) and that the permission to wash stems from kevod ha-beriyyot. Based on this, he wants to demonstrate that the shame here results from something that was not done.

    This analysis is in error because the leniency for a bride has nothing to do with kevod ha-beriyyot. What was forbidden was rehitsa shel ta’anug, but not washing of necessity, e.g., for cleanliness. A bride is permitted to wash her face on Yom Kippur, so that her face would not be displeasing in her new grooms eyes – and this is considered laving of necessity. As Rashi and Rav write (Source 19 above), a bride requires beauty.

    R. Sperber (p. 83) further cites a responsum of R. Isaiah of Trani, Resp. haRid, sec. 21 which permits the lighting of candles in the synagogue on Yom Tov because of “kevod ha-beriyyot.” R. Sperber attempts to use this example to demonstrate that kevod ha-beriyyot can set aside prohibitions even if it is only to honor those who are attending synagogue.

    Unfortunately, he errs in his analysis here as well. Similar teshuvot are found from the Rid, Rosh and Maharam of Rothenburg.[15] And their goal is to show that lighting candles in the synagogue come under the rubric of tsorekh okhel nefesh because they honor people (Rid), the synagogue (Maharam) or the holiday (Rosh). Once it its tsorekh okhel nefesh, it is the tsorekh okhel nefesh which defers the prohibition.

    (5) Nearly all authorities – including, inter alia, R. Naftali Amsterdam (Source 20), R. Elhanan Bunim Wasserman, R. Makiel Tsvi haLevi Tannenbaum, Rav Yitzchak Nissim (Source 21), R. Joseph B. Soloveitchik, R. Elijah Bakshi Doron (Source 22), R. Israel Shepansky - maintain that kevod ha-beriyyot requires an objective standard that affects or is appreciated by all.

    (20) שו"ת פרי יצחק, נג
    הרב נפתלי אמשטרדם: כי הנה כבוד הבריות לא נאמר רק על דבר שהוא גנאי לכל מין האנושי יהיה מאיזה מין שיהיה, כמו מת מצוה או לילך ערום שרוב בני האדם מתביישים מזה. אבל בדבר שהבזיון מתייחס רק לאדם הזה לפי תכונתו, כמו לישא שק או קופה, בזה לא שייך כלל לפטור מטעם כבוד הבריות.

    (21) הרב יצחק ניסים, תשובה כתב יד, מרחשון תשכ"ד (יד הרב ניסים)
    וכמובן שתלך [הבת מצווה] לפני כן לבית הכנסת להתפלל, אבל לא לעלות לתורה. הלכה מפורשת היא שאין אשה קוראת בתורה בציבור, ואין משנים את ההלכה לפי הרגשות של בני אדם.

    (22) הרב אליהו בקשי דורון, שו"ת בנין אב, ח"ב, סימן נ"ה, אות ג'
    ...כבוד האבל דין הוא שיש לכבד כל האבלים, ובכגון זה כבוד הבריות שיכבדו האבל... אבל אדם פרטי שמחליט לכבד את עצמו...כבודו משיקולים פרטיים אינו יכול לפטור אותו, או לדחות איסור דרבנן.

    This view explicitly rejects subjective standards - in which what is embarrassing results from the idiosyncrasies or hypersensitivities of an individual or small group. The vast majority of religiously committed women are not offended when they do not receive an aliyya. Indeed, they understand and accept the halakhic given, although some might clearly have preferred it to be otherwise.

    More importantly, does it make halakhic sense that if a group of women – nay, any group, says: “this Rabbinic halakha offends me” – be it mehitsa, tsni’ut, kashrut, stam yeynam, many aspects of taharat ha-mishpahah, who counts for a minyan, and who can serve as a hazzan - then we should have a carte blanche to go about abrogating it. Such a position is untenable, if not unthinkable.[16]

    (6) Many leading scholars[17] emphasize that, as in the cases of kevod ha-beriyyot discussed in Berakhot 19b and elsewhere, the shame must result from extraneous factors. Thus, removing the kilayyim garment per se’ is not what causes the shame. Rather, it is that one has no other garment underneath and, hence, remains naked. In such cases, kevod ha-beriyyot can be invoked to nullify the rabbinic commandment which leads to the dishonor. However, kevod ha-beroyyot cannot be invoked to nullify a rabbinic commandment, where the shame comes from the very fulfillment of the rabbinic injunction itself.

    Take for example one who is invited to dine with his colleagues or clients, would we allow him to avoid embarrassment by eating fruit and vegetables from which terumot and ma’asrot (which nowadays is Rabbinic) have not been removed, or by consuming hamets she-avar alav haPesah, or by drinking stam yeynam (wine touched or poured by a non-Jew). Or alternatively, suppose someone is at a meeting and is ashamed to walk out in order to daven Minha. And what about prayers at the airport in between flights. Would we allow him to forgo his rabbinic prayer obligation because of this embarrassment?

    The answer is that in those cases where acting according to halakha - be it to not eat terumot and ma’asrot, or to not drink stam yeynam, or to fulfill ones prayer obligation – creates the embarrassment, then kevod ha-beriyyot cannot set aside the Rabbinic prohibition. One should be proud to be fulfilling the halakha. Similarly, kevod ha-beriyyot cannot be invoked to uproot the rabbinic consideration of kevod ha-tsibbur which prevents women’s aliyyot. This is because the dishonor stems directly from the very fact that women are not given aliyyot in accordance with the rabbinic guidelines.

    (7) That the rabbis of the Talmud were sensitive to women’s spiritual needs is evident from the rabbinic concept of nahat ru’ah (spiritual satisfaction), which was invoked in a variety of instances to permit certain special dispensations for women.[18] R. Sperber maintains that this concept is an expression of kevod ha-beriyyot.[19] Yet, despite this admitted sensitivity, Hazal themselves were not concerned about kevod ha-beriyyot when they ruled that, because of kevod ha-tsibbur, women should not le-khathila receive aliyyot. Hence, how can we?

    This argument is all the more true according to the explanation of Rashi on the mechanism of kevod ha-beriyyot deferments. Rashi (Source 12ד cited above) explains that in instances of kevod ha-beriyyot the Rabbis “forgo their honor to allow their edict to be violated.”

    (12) תלמוד בבלי מסכת ברכות דף יט עמוד ב
    ..... כל מילי דרבנן אסמכינהו על לאו דלא תסור, ומשום כבודו שרו רבנן.
    (ד) רש"י כל מילי דרבנן וכו' - והכי קאמר להו: דבר שהוא מדברי סופרים נדחה מפני כבוד הבריות, וקרי ליה לא תעשה - משום דכתיב לא תסור, ודקא קשיא לכו דאורייתא הוא, רבנן אחלוה ליקרייהו לעבור על דבריהם היכא דאיכא כבוד הבריות.

    It is one thing if the clash is unexpected, unanticipated and accidental. But in the case of keri’at haTorah, it was Hazal themselves who knowingly set up the rule of kevod ha-tsibbur which precludes women from aliyyot. Why would we expect them to forgo their honor in such a case?

    (8) The Rivash (Resp. Rivash, sec 226) forbade sewing baby clothes during hol ha-moed for a newborn’s circumcision despite the parents’ desire to dress him properly and festively for the event. One of Rivash’s rationales is that since all understand that new clothes cannot be sewn on hol ha-moed - because Hazal forbade it, kevod ha-beriyyot cannot be invoked to circumvent this rabbinic prohibition. Similarly, one cannot invoke kevod ha-beriyyot to allow women to receive aliyyot, because all understand that this has been synagogue procedure for two millennia and that the Rabbis of the Talmud themselves prohibited it.

    (9) Rivash (ibid.) and Havot Yair (sec. 95) and others rule against extending the leniency of kevod ha-beriyyot beyond those instances explicitly discussed by Hazal - honor of the deceased (כבוד המת), personal hygiene dealing with excrement, undress, and the wholeness of the family unit. New cases may not be comparable in their nature or severity to the original examples. Indeed, as noted by Prof. Blidstein and R. Aharon Lichtenstein,[20] throughout the two millennia of post-Talmudic responsa literature, kevod ha-beriyyot is rarely if ever cited as the sole or even major grounds for overriding a bona fide rabbinic ordinance. It always appears as one of many additional reasons to be lenient (snif le-hakel). This is indeed the case in nearly all the instances cited at length by R. Daniel Sperber in his book Darka shel Halakha.

    What’s more, in those instances where kevod ha-beriyyot is invoked essentially alone, it is because the matter being deferred is a mere, often unbased, stringency (humra be-alma). For example, the custom in some communities prohibiting menstruants to enter the synagogue – which Prof. Sperber has returned to repeatedly (Sperber, pp. 74) - is what the posekim call a humra ve-silsul be-alma. Hence, the fact that even in such stringent communities, menstruants visited the sanctuary on the High Holidays - would be a classic example of kevod ha-beriyyot overruling a humra be-alma.

    Now Prof. Sperber will respond, that he too would only invoke kevod ha-beriyyot in the case of women’s aliyyot. After all, there is no real down side - at most we have only violated a recommendation. However, as we have argued above, “aval amru hakhamim” is not a recommendation by women’s aliyyot - but a prohibition le-khathilla. What’s more, a woman who gets an aliyya without reading for herself or who is only the ba’alat keria is responsible for generating berakhot levatala. We have also argued that Prof. Sperber has improperly invoked kevod ha-beriyyot for the case of women’s aliyyot because he has not taken into consideration the kelalim of the gedolei ha-posekim.

    I would like to close with one last point. Despite the fact that we strongly disagree with Prof. Sperber’s conclusion, he after all did w

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    A Note Regarding the Recitation of Brikh Shemei

    by Rabbi Yechiel Goldhaber

    Rabbi Yehiel Goldhaber of Jerusalem is the author of the (currently) two-volume authoritative work on the customs of the Mattersdorf Kehilla entitled Minhagei Ha-Kehillot (2004) and is at work on additional volumes, as well as on a complete history of the area and rabbonim of the Mattersdorf Kehilla. He is also completing a volume on coffee.

    In addition to his authoritative articles on Kabbalat Shabbat in Beit Aharon ve-Yisrael, Rabbi Goldhaber has published many articles on the topics of halakha and minhagim in Yerushateinu, Yeshurun, Tzohar, Ohr Yisrael, and many more.
    In addition to its wide readership amongst the followers of the Mattersdorf Kehilla, Minhagei Ha-Kehillot has been praised by leading scholars in the academic community for its wide-ranging and comprehensive footnotes relevant to kehillot beyond Mattersdorf.

    In Rabbi Goldhaber's post at the Seforim blog below, he explores the origins of two seemingly independent customs relating to the Torah reading - Brikh Shemei and vaYehi Binso'a ha-Aron. An examination of their history reveals that the inclusion of one possibly impacted the placement of the other. The recitation of vaYehi Binso'a is a fairly old custom. But, in its original incarnation this verse, as a simple reading of its contents imply, was said as the Torah was removed from the ark. That is, while the torah is moving. Today, however, this verse is said while the Torah is firmly ensconced in the ark. R Goldhaber suggests that the much later inclusion of Brikh Shemei may have "bumped" vaYehi Binso'a to an earlier spot.

    This is his first contribution to the Seforim blog.

    בפרשיתנו נמצאת פרשה מיוחדת "פרשה בפני עצמה" והיא השמירה ללווית עם ישראל בעת מסעם במדבר.

    פסוקים אלו נוהגים כהיום בתפוצות ישראל לאמרם עם הוצאת הס"ת מארון הקודש.

    לרגע אדלג על פסוקים אלו, ואתמקד במנהג אמירת "בריך שמיה" עם הוצאת הספר.

    תפלת "בריך שמיה" מקורו בזוהר הק', פרשת ויקהל, דף רו ע"א: "אמר רבי שמעון, כד מפקין ס"ת בצבורא למקרא ביה, מתפתחין תרעי שמייא דרחמין ומעוררין את אהבה לעילה ואבעיליה לבר נש למימר הכי: בריך שמיה דמארי עלמא...".

    עם התפשטות הזוהר וכתבי האר"י החל להתפשט -כיתר מנהגי המקובלים- גם אמירת 'בריך שמיה' בקרב קהילות ישראל. לראשונה הודפס בספר 'תפלה לדוד', עותק יחיד בעולם נמצא בבית הספרים שבירושלים, מאת המחבר ר' דוד ב"ר יוסף קארקו, נדפס בקושטא שנת רצ"ה, עלה לארץ מטורקיה, ורשם לעצמו מנהג התפילה בירושלים [מהספרים החשובים למנהג המקורי בא"י!] כבר בהקדמה מצטט המחבר ארבע פעמים קטעים מדברי הזוהר. ואכן בדף 27 הובא "בקשה להוצאת הס"ת" ומעתיק לשון בריך שמיה.

    לאחריו העתיקו ר' עמנואל ב"ר יקותיאל בניונטו, בסוף ספרו 'לוית חן' על כללי תורת הדקדוק, מנטובה שי"ז, בסוף הספר הוא מעתיק מספר הזוהר אזהרות ודברי מוסר בענין שמירת כבוד בה"כ. בין הקטעים הוא מעתיק גם לשון ה"בריך שמיה". לציין שר' עמנואל היה חכם וחסיד ומקובל, הוא אשר הגיה את דפוס ראשון של הזוהר, וכן ספר מערכות אלקות (חייט). לאחריו הביאו בספר 'סדר היום' לר"מ בן מכיר מצפת.

    הסידור הראשון המביאו "הלכה למעשה" הוא דוקא בפולין, אצל המדקדק המפורסם רבי שבתי סופר מפרעמישלא, בלטימור תשנ"ד עמוד 359, לא רק שהוא מעתיקו אלא הוא גם מבאר פירוש מילותיו! סידור חשוב זה נערך בשנת שע"ז, לערך. ומאז והלאה, החל אט אט להתפשט ע"י סידורים שונים.

    תפלה זו, משכה אליה שאלות שונות, לדוגמה: זמן אמירתו, האם רק בשבת, או שמא גם בחול. משמעות ביטויים תמוהים, כגון "בר אלהין" וכן מה פשר המילים "סגידנא מקמא דיקר אורייתא". תביעת צרכים בשבת, ובירור נוסחאותיו, על כל אלה האריך ידידי הרב בנימין שלמה המבורגר, בספרו הנפלא 'שרשי מנהגי אשכנז' ח"א.

    באתי לדון בזה בפרט אחד, שלכאורה הוא שולי ביותר -ובגדר "דקדוקי עניות", אולם היות ולאחרונה דנים בזה השכם וערב, אענה אני חלקי גם בזה, והוא:

    שעת המדויקת לאמירת בריך שמיה: אם לאומרו בפתיחת הארון לפני הוצאת הספר, או שמא רק לאחר שהוציאוהו כבר, והמוציא מחזיקו ביד, או שמא בשלב יותר מאוחר!

    לכאורה מלשון הזוהר כד מפקין ס"ת בצבורא למקרי משמע שיש לאמרו תוך כדי הוצאת הספר מהארון.

    ואחרי בירור הנושא באנו לידי ארבעה מנהגים שונים!

    עקב אריכות הדברים אצטט רק למראה מקומות ולא אאריך בהם, על אף שמן הדין כן לבאר את הלשונות.

    א] לאומרו רק אחרי הוצאת הספר, כן כתב: סידור רבי שבתי סופר, סידור רבי יעקב עמדין, סדר קריה"ת והלכותיה. ערוך השלחן בסימנים קלב, רפב ו-רצב. כן נוטה דעת רבי יוסף חיים הבבלי בשו"ת רב פעלים ח"ג, סוד ישרים סימן ח, על אף שבספרו "בן איש חי" פ' תולדות לא נגע בבעיה זו.

    רבי אברהם יעקב זלזניק, ראש ישיבת עץ חיים, במשך חייו היה מעורר את העולם על דברין הטעון תיקון בסדר התפלה, לדעתו! בין הדברים היה גם שלפי דעתו יש לאמרו אחרי ההוצאה, וכפשטות לשון הזוהר. ועוד הוסיף לטעון, שאחרת נגרם חוסר כוונה למתפללים! [יש מקום לחלוק עליו בזה].

    ב] לאמרו בעוד הספר באה"ק:

    כן כתב החיד"א בספרו תורת השלמים סימן כב סעיף ב: כשפותח הארון להוציא ס"ת יאמר...

    רבי חיים פאלאגי' בספרו 'כף החיים' סו"ס כח: "העושה פתיחת ההיכל לא יוציא הס"ת תכף שפותח, אלא ישהה מעט כדי שיוכלו לומר בריך שמיה... ואם יוציא תיכף הס"ת מתחיל גדלו, ולא יוכלו לאומרו כל אחד בכונה...". וכן משמעות המ"ב בסימן רפב וכה"ח (סופר) סימן קלג וכן מפורש בקצות השלחן סימן כה.

    כן נהגו בקהילה עתיקה בארם צובה, שמעתי מאת הרב המקובל רבי מרדכי עטיה, ועוד.

    וכן נוהגים אצל כל עדות החסידים לגזעיהם.

    לגבי הנהגת העולם, כבר לפני כשלושים שנה התעניינתי אצל זקני ירושלים, הן מעדת החסידים והן מעדת האשכנזים, רובם ככולם ענו ואמרו ש"המנהג הישן" לאמרו כשהס"ת עדיין בהיכל!

    ורק הודות לפעולותיו של הרב זלזניק ש"הרעיש" את העולם על כך, הוקבע בעולם הישיבות, להקפיד כדעתו [וכן ראיתי שרבי יצחק נתן קופרשטוק מזדעזע כראותו אחד הנוהג כמנהג זה].

    ג] שאין נפק"מ מתי לאמרו, בהרבה קהלות בארופה לא דקדקו בכך, וכן כותב שו"ת אגרות משה

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  • 06/23/08--18:58: Upcoming Auctions
  • There are two upcoming auctions. The first, Kestenbaum & Co. will take place this Thursday, June 26th, the catalog is available on their website. The auction includes R. S.R. Hirsch's copy of the Zohar, which is interesting in that R. Hirsch is not readily associated with Kabbalah. Of course, R. Hirsch and other German Jews had a more nuanced view of Kabbalah and were not antagonistic as some others (think certain groups of Yemenites).

    Additionally, for those interested in incunabula, R. David Kimchi's (RaDaK) Sefer ha-Shorashim, Naples 1490 is for sale. It is worth noting that a tremendous amount of incunabula - by my count some 96 titles! - are available online at the JNUL Digitized Book Repository including this edition of the Sefer ha-Shorashim. To have access to so many rare titles is extrodinary. Even if one has access to a library that has a few incunabula it is difficult to view them let alone browse through and copy and print pages from these works.

    This edition of the Sefer ha-Shorashim is also important in that it is different than the later editions. One of the readings this edition contains implicates the correct reading of Zekher Amalek. (See J. Penkower's excellent article on the topic, "Minhag u-Mesorah - 'Zekher Amalek' be-Hamesh or be-Shesh Nikkudot" in Iyun Mikrah u-Parshanut, vol. 4 (1997) 71-128, esp. pp. 82-3.)

    Another work of interest, especially in light of some recent controversies, is Tuv Ta'am by R. Aron Tzvi Friedman, discussing various laws of Shehitah. As noted by Goldman, "according to a family legend, the English translation of this work convinced President Ulysses S. Grant to eat only kosher meat."

    Other mentions include:

    The first edition of R. Hutner's Torat ha-Nazir, that includes R. Kook's approbation (removed in some later versions).

    Aneh Kesil, a polemic defending the authenticity of the Yerushalmi Kodshim.

    Asufa has an auction coming up on July 3rd. Their catalog is available online here.

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  • 06/24/08--13:03: Important Announcement
  • Dear Seforim Blog Readers,

    It is with great pleasure that we announce today that Tradition Online ( will be adopting the Seforim blog onto its website.
    We believe that the Seforim blog is a premiere source of online Jewish learning, and we hope that our resources and expanding website will help the newly-named Tradition Seforim Blog (TSB) continue to grow. TSB remains easily accessible at its new URL -, and can also be accessed through Tradition's website.

    Allow me to assure you that the current Seforim editors will continue to exclusively direct the content and direction of the blog, and that TSB will continue to welcome your comments on the site. We salute Dan Rabinowitz for his excellent work, and look forward to helping him bring TSB to greater audiences.


    Shlomo Brody
    Online Editor, Tradition

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    In honor of the adoption of TraditionOnline Seforim Blog, Tradition Online is offering, for a limited time only, a reduced price of $15 for a 1-year, online-only subscription to Tradition. This will entitle you to complete online access to upcoming issues as well as all 50 years of the Tradition archives.

    To subscribe, simply go to the Subscriptions link on the sidebar, choose the 1-year online-only subscription option at the bottom of the page, and when you get to your shopping cart, enter the promotional code: Seforim. The price will then be reduced to $15.

    The TraditionOnline Seforim blog (TSB) is, of course, open to the public for free, and will always remain that way.

    Also, for those of you who are already subscribed to Seforim Email Updates - you don't have to do anything to continue receiving your email updates. You will be automatically connected to TSB email updates. Anyone interested in signing up for TSB email updates can do so on the top left corner of the TSB home page.

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    As a religion based on tradition, Judaism places great stock in the words and opinions of its early Sages. This is so to the extent that there is great debate as to whether it is even possible that these early authorities could err. In fact, throughout Jewish literature one can find many areas where people argue for deference based on seniority. For instance, there is an extensive debate on the binding authority, and to what extent, with regard to the Rishonim or the Shulhan Arukh. Similarly, there are those who refuse to allow that the Rishonim or earlier authorities erred. Recently, some accused Rabbi Natan Slifkin of allowing that certain statements of Hazal require reappraisal and that those statements are wrong. In the case of Slifkin, his issues with the particular statements of Hazal were not novel and mainly he repeated some of the same arguments that have been bouncing around for the last 400 years or so without adding anything new to that particular debate. A more important case, however, was that of R. Hayyim Hirschensohn in his discussion of whether women are allowed to hold positions of power.[1]

    In the early part of the 20th century there was a debate of the appropriateness of women taking part in elections - whether they can vote or run for office. (Of late, this debate has been renewed by the Young Israel's stance regarding women becoming synagogue presidents.) Most are aware that those who take the position that women cannot hold positions of power rely upon the Rambam, hilkhot melakhim 1:5, who in turn in relying upon a Sifre 147 to Devarim 17:15. R. Hirschensohn, however, understood the Sifre in a radically different manner and in doing so allowed that the Rambam erred in his interpretation of the Sifre. Specifically, R. Hirschensohn argues that the Sifre that states "that the verse (Devarim 17:15) 'You shall place upon yourselves a king' limits the placement to a king and not a queen" should be understood that the requirement for a king does not require a queen. That is, should the queen die she need not be replaced; however, should the king die there is a commandment to replace him." Furthermore, according to R. Hirschensohn, the Sifre has nothing to do with the other statement from Hazal (Yevamot 45b) based on this verse, that "any leadership you shall establish should only be from your brethren [they must be Jewish]."[2] Thus, the Rambam erroneously conflated the two statements and thereby misunderstood the Sifre and came to the incorrect conclusion - that women are barred from all positions of power. As R. Hirschensohn explains "that even one as great as the Rambam in his knowledge and wisdom is not immune from error, an which then caused many who followed after him to rely upon and led to other errors. It is without a doubt the Rambam relied upon memory regarding these statements, and did not have time to reexamine them again" (See Malki ba-Kodesh 2:194).

    As one would expect, aside from taking issue with R. Hirschensohn's position on women holding power, many took issue with R. Hirschensohn's claim the Rambam erred. R. BenZion Uziel said that although he respects R. Hirschensohn -- in fact R. Uziel ultimate held like R. Hirschensohn on this issue -- R. Uziel "believed that [R. Hirschensohn] erred in hastily writing such things about our master, Maimonides. For, while we may indeed take issue with his position, we may not characterize him as having committed [elementary] errors in understanding the text, or as having been mislead by custom and historical context. [R. Hirschensohn's] remarks to such effect are, no doubt, a slip of the pen." Mishpetei Uziel, vol. 2, Hoshen Mishpat, no. 6 (the translation comes from this article). R. Uziel was not alone in disputing R. Hirschensohn's assessment of the Rambam as is evidenced by the many letters to R. Hirschensohn and his responses on the issue of the Rambam erring. See, e.g. Malki ba-Kodesh 4:131, 6:103-104 (letter from R. Yosef Babad).[3] It is worth noting that R. Hirschensohn seemed to have tired defending this opinion saying in one letter "that any further argument about this point is only repetitive." Malki ba-Kodesh 6:100.

    Another more recent example was noted by R. Eliezer Brodt in the magazine Datza, no. 15 (19 Kislev 5368): 4, where he calls to attention the recent edition of R. Yosef Karo's Maggid Mesharim edited with notes by R. Yosef Kohen. In the Maggid Mesharim, amongst the many halakhic statements from the Maggid -- the legendary angel that visited R. Karo and whose remarks are recorded in this work -- is that "on Rosh ha-Shana one should not eat meat or drink beer [wine] and one should be careful about other foods as well. And, although Ezra said [regarding Rosh ha-Shana] 'go eat sweet food' that was only said for the populace, I [the Maggid] am speaking to the special ones." The problem with this specific statement is that, as many commentaries have noted, it contradicts various Talmudic statements - including a Mishna or two - that imply one should eat meat on Rosh ha-Shana. (For more on the topic of eating meat on Rosh ha-Shana see Eliezer's post earlier post, available here, additionally, Eliezer's forthcoming volume on many of the customs of Rosh ha-Shana will also discuss this custom amongst others.)

    Amongst the many others who attempted to explain this statement of R. Hayyim of Volozhin explained that the entire power of the Maggid only came from R. Karo himself. Thus, if R. Karo forgot a Mishna or a source then the Maggid wouldn't know it either. Therefore, "it is clear that at that moment the Bet Yosef [R. Karo] forgot the relevant Mishna, or there was some lack in his recollection or understanding, and due to that the light [understanding] of the relevant Mishna was also held back from the Maggid." R. David Luria, Kadmut Sefer ha-Zohar 5:4 (Koenigsberg, 1856), p. 35a (quoting R. Hayyim). Thus, according to R. Hayyim, R. Karo could forget and make mistakes.

    R. Hayyim of Volozhin's understanding, however, is completely rejected by R. Yosef Kohen in his new edition of the Maggid Mesharim. R. Kohen, commenting on R. Hayyim's explanation, says "I am extremely troubled by this explanation, how is it possible to say that the great Rabbi Bet Yosef, who understood and was completely fluent in the entire Talmud and Mishna, that he forgot a simple Mishna or that he was weak in a particular Mishna." Maggid Mesharim, R. Yosef Kohen ed. (Jerusalem, 2007), 418.

    Again, we see the two camps clearly, those who allow for human error and forgetfulness and those who refuse to believe great Rabbis could fall prey to these human frailties. An examination of the relevant sources shows that those in the former camp have the greatest support. Returning to the Rambam that R. Hirschensohn argued erred in his understanding of the Sifre. The Rambam himself in his famous answer to the Hakhmei Lunel, admitted that he had made a mistake. Similarly, the Rambam's son, R. Abraham when presented with a contradiction between his father's statement and a Talmudic passage said "it is possible that my father forgot this passage when he wrote this."

    Likewise, R. Yair Hayyim Bacharach, author of Shu"t Havvot Yair, explains in a responsum "to one Godol who cast aspersions on [R. Bacharach] for claiming errors in the writings of the great earlier ones. That is, you asked how can I have the gall to dispute the earlier ones which we are much smaller. And, that I went further and said [at times] that they had forgotten the words of the Talmud and the Poskim." R. Bacharach answered "I turn the question back on you, is not this language, that is, 'you have forgotten [אשתמיטתיה]' taken from the Talmud itself and applied to the greatest Amoraim . . . using [forgetfulness] is a respectful way to allege that one didn't remember a relevant passage. Forgetfulness is human nature and affects everyone. Of course, how forgetful one is depends on the person."

    R. Bacharach then offers historical examples to support his contention. "Who is greater than Moshe the greatest prophet who forgot two laws (Shapiro notes that Bacharach erred - Moshe made three errors! (Shapiro, 52 n.220)) due to anger . . . and who is a greater Posek than the Rambam who understood the entire oral Torah as is evidenced by his work and who also authored a commentary on the entire six volumes of the Mishna based on the Talmud . . . who also forgot . . . and Rashi, who was a repository of Torah, but who writes in his commentary to the Torah . . . 'I don't know . . . and whom the Ramban wrote that [Rashi] forgot a passage from Midrash Ruth." R. Bacharach continues to list other such examples. He concludes "there is no shame in saying that the Rishonim and the Achronim . . . forgot a Talmudic passage or Tosefot . . . and this position is evident from the writers in all the generations that precede me, they never held back from saying on the great ones before them." R. Yair Hayyim Bacharach, Shu"t Hut ha-Shuni, no. 20.

    R. Yosef Hayyim from Baghdad, in the introduction to his responsa Rav Pealim, echos R. Bacharach's sentiment. "In truth one can find that many great ones that they made terrific errors, errors that even children wouldn't make, and at times they made mistakes in quoting biblical verse, as was the case with the goan, wonder of his generation the Hida [R. Hayyim Yosef David Azulai, one of the most erudite scholars of his period] . . . on these sorts of errors the verse 'that one is blameless from error' (Psalms 19:13)." By way of example R. Ya'akov Hayyim highlights four such errors R. Yosef Shaul Nathanson, author of the Shu"t Shoel u-Meshiv made in his work. R. Ya'akov Hayyim concludes "therefore, do not be surprised to find I disagree with the great ones . . . when I argue they erred because they forgot. Because, such allegations [of forgetfulness] are not unique and in no way take away from their greatness."

    It is particularly ironic that the Hida fell prey to this very type of forgetfulness as he wrote an entire book, Helem Davar, [4] showing exactly these types of mistakes in other's works. The title of the Hida's work, Helem Davar is rather instructive when discussing the possibility of sages erring. Helem Davar refers to the sacrifice the members of Sanhedrin would bring should they all err, indicating that even groups of great people are not immune from making mistakes.

    With the above introduction we now turn to Professor Marc Shapiro's new book Studies in Maimonides and His Interpreters (Scranton and London: University of Scranton Press, 2008), 205 pages, where one of the three articles is devoted to showing exactly the type of errors that must be attributed to forgetfulness or faulty memory that appear in the Rambam. This volume is an expanded discussion of Prof. Shapiro's two earlier articles "Maimonidean Halakhah and Superstition" (2000) and "Principles of Interpretation in Maimonidean Halakhah: Traditional and Academic Perspectives" (2008), both of which originally published in Yeshiva University's Maimonidean Studies, and includes a Hebrew section of several letters from two twentieth-century Torah giants (R. Joseph Kafih and R. Yehiel Yaakov Weinbeg), as well as from the nineteenth-century-maskil Nahman Isaac Fischmann to R. Samuel David Luzzatto zt"l (ShaDaL).

    The article regarding superstition is especially refreshing in the recent resurgence of many customs and practices that are arguably superstitious. One example of this resurgence is the book Shemirat ha-Guf veha-Nefesh that is replete with practices that can be labeled (surely according to the Rambam as explicated by Shapiro) as superstitious. In his article on errors in Maimonides Shapiro provides many examples of persons who held Maimonides and others could err as well as many who hold that one cannot attribute difficult passages to error. For example, notes that the Hida (contrary to what we have seen above regarding his view of other scholars) held that one can not write off difficulties in Maimonides' statements to error as "[i]f such approaches are adopted every insignificant student will be able to offer them, and what value is there in writing such thing?" (Shapiro, 8)[5]. On the other hand Shapiro marshals numerous sources, including the Ramabam himself, who allow for the errors in the Rambam. In the letter to the sages of Lunel, the Rambam states that in his old age he suffers from forgetfulness. (See Shapiro 73 n.295, 76 nn. 308, 309 discussing the controversy over the authenticity of these letters). However, even explicit statements from the Rambam himself have been disputed by later authorities. For example, although the Rambam concedes regarding a law in Yad that he erred, the Gra says that the Rambam was erring is saying he erred. The Gra explains that the original law in Yad is indeed right contrary to the Rambam's own position. (Shapiro 69 n.282). The Gra's position is somewhat tenuous, aside from the obvious issue of ignoring the statement of the original author, as "a number of . . . achronim provided what they believed to be better proofs for Maimonides' decisions than he himself was able to supply" but is has been shown "that the aharonim who adopted this approach erred in almost every example." (Shapiro 54 n.227).

    Included in the book is a short "Note on Maimonides and Muhammad" following censorship that occurred in his "Islam and the Halakhah," Judaism 42:3 (Summer 1993): 332-343, about which Shapiro writes:
    The "Note on Maimonides and Muhammad" found at the end of the English section requires a bit of explanation, as it speaks to the times in which we live and the sometimes precarious state of scholarship when it comes up against larger political forces. In 1993, I published an article in Judaism entitled "Islam and the Halakhah." In the version of the article submitted to the journal, I mentioned that Maimonides referred to Muhammad as a "madman," and in a few lines I also explained the origin of the term. When the article appeared in print, however, I was surprised to find that this had been removed without my knowledge. Naively, I thought that this was an innocent mistake, and I inquired as to what had happened. Imagine my shock when I was told that my article had been censored because the journal did not want to publish anything that could be seen as offensive to Muslims! While some may see this as understandable in the wake of the Salman Rushdie episode, it was nevertheless a betrayal of scholarship, which cannot be guided by political correctness. I would hope that any Muslims who see the "Note on Maimonides and Muhammad" will understand that its intent is not to insult their prophet, but rather to clarify a historical issue.
    Studies in Maimonides and His Interpreters is available for purchase here at

    The editors of the Seforim blog take great pride in the first post (of hopefully many frequent posts) at this new web address being able to discuss Professor Shapiro's new work. This is so, as Professor Marc B. Shapiro has been (as many others) a frequent contributor to the Seforim blog. It is such contributions that make the blog so much better.

    [1] Much of the material on R. Hayyim Hirschensohn was brought to my attention by Marc Herman, "Orthodoxy and Modernity: Rabbi Hayyim Hirschensohn's Malki ba-kodesh," (BA thesis, Brandeis University, 2005), 18-51. For a recent review of the scholarly consensus on R. Hayyim Hirschensohn, see Marc B. Shapiro, "Review of Jewish Commitment in a Modern World: Rabbi Hayyim Hirschenson and His Attitude to Modernity by David Zohar," The Edah Journal 5:1 (Tammuz 5765): 1-6. Additionally, parts of the material on this topic of claiming that people forgot, comes from R. Shmuel Ashkenazi's article "Helem Davar u-Tous Sofer." Ashkenazi's article was originally supposed to appear in the journal Or Yisrael no. 15 (Nissan 5659), but at the last minute the editors decided not to publish it and instead the article was published separately in a run of 25 copies. Ashkenazi, himself an outstanding repository of material - it seems unlikely he forgets but he is human - in this article lists numerous examples of errors that can only be attributed to forgetfulness or printing error. For instance, Ashkenazi notes that R. Yechiel Epstein in his Arukh Ha-Shulhan states "it is surprising that the Rif does not mention the laws of yayin pagum, not in the eigth chapter of berakhot discussing the laws of wine for blessing, or in the tenth chapter of Pesachim regarding kiddush and havdalah." In fact, however, the Rif in the tenth chapter of Pesachim does discuss the laws of yayin pagum.
    Or, the case of R. Aryeh Leib ben Asher Gunzberg (author of Shu"t Shaagat Aryeh), who notes in his Turei Even, that "we never find anywhere that the reading of the Bikurim passage is called Vidyu." Turei Even, Megilah, 20, s.v. mihu. Ashkenazi cites R. Yeruchum Fishel Perlow's comments in the journal Noam who notes R. Gunzberg forgot the mishna in Bikurim 2:2 which calls this recitation "viduy" as well as the Rambam in the laws of Bikurim 3:5, who says "it is a mitzvah to preform viduy on the bikurim." Ashkenazi adds the Tosefta in Bekurim chapter one and the Yerushalmi Bikurim, chapter 2 also refer to this process as viduy.

    Another example, this one with the Hida. The Hida in Machzik Beracha (O.C. 468:10) and Lev David (end of chapter 10) states the author of the SeMaK is R. Yecheil. But, the real author is R. Yitzhak Corbeil. The Hida, in his own work on Hebrew bibliography, Shem ha-Gedolim, actually gets it right. But, it appears that he forgot that when he wrote these other works.

    [2] R. Moshe Feinstein also argues the Sifre is not connected with the Talmudic statement. See Iggerot Moshe, Yoreh Deah II, #44-45. R. Feinstein, however, ultimately comes to the opposite conclusion then that of R. Hirschensohn - the opinion of the Rambam must be followed and women cannot hold high office.

    [3] As an aside, one of the many letters to R. Hirschensohn regarding women's voting rights came from Yehiel Mihel Goldberg from Radom. Goldberg attempts to bolster R. Hirschensohn with the (now) well-known statement of R. Shmuel Archivolti in his Ma'ayan Ganim and recorded by R. Barukh ha-Levi Epstein in both his Torah Temimah and Mekor Barukh that supposedly is a halakhic statement which allows for women to study Talmud. As I have demonstrated elsewhere, the Ma'ayan Ganim is not a responsa work or halakhic work. But, Goldberg's use of the Torah Temimah for this point seems to be the earliest. While the Torah Temimah was first printed in 1902 and then reprinted in 1904, it was not reprinted until 1928 and Goldberg's letter was written in 1921. Perhaps Goldberg's use evidences that the Torah Temimah was well received soon after it was published.

    [4] This work, Helem Davar was recently printed (Beni Brak, 2006) for the first time in book form from manuscript - it also was printed as part of the lager book Iggerot ve-Haskmot Rabbenu ha-Hida also in 2006. Prior to this 2006 publication, R. Yehuda Leib Maimon published Helem Davar in the journal Sinai 43 (1948): 301-15. The 2006 edition includes Maimon's original article as well as a commentary on Helem Davar, Hokher Davar.

    [5] This argument, essentially a slippery slope argument, is also applied to making textual emendations. See, e.g. R. Y. Landau, Noda be-Yehuda Kama, Even ha-Ezer, 32; this issue is discussed by Y.S. Spiegel, Amudim be-Tolodot Sefer ha-Ivri Haghot u-Maghim, Ramat Gan, 2007, pp. 255-56.

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    Bitul ha-Tamid and Edgar Allan Poe*

    The Mishna in Tannit records that 5 bad events occurred on the 17th of Tamuz, one being the cessation of the daily sacrifice, the tamid. The Talmud Bavli offers the background to the other four events. When it comes to the cessation of the Tamid, all the Bavli does is state "Gemara." It is left to the Yerushalmi to fully explain the story.

    The Yerushalmi, (Tannit, 4:5), records that the Jews to maintain the tamid worked out a deal with the Romans who were besieging the city. Everyday the Jews would lower down a basket full of coins, and in its stead, the Romans would return the necessary animals. One day, the 17th of Tamuz, however, after the Jews gave the requisite money, instead of the correct animals the Romans replaced them with pigs. Thus, the Jews were unable to bring the tamid and the sacrifice stopped from that time on.

    As mentioned, this story only appears in the Yerushalmi and not the Bavli. (Although the Bavli records a similar story, it is about the Hashmonaim and not the Roman's, nor does it mention the bitul ha-tamid.) Further, Josephus does not record it either (he briefly mentions that the daily sacrifice stopped on the 17th without giving details - see Wars of the Jews, book VI, chapter 2). Although these works do not record it, Edgar Allan Poe does. Specifically, he has a story titled "A Tale of Jerusalem" which, more or less, is this story repackaged. You can read the whole story here. Basically, the story details the two priest whose job it was to lower the baskets of gold. Poe ends with the pigs being raised instead.

    Not only does Poe use this somewhat obscure story, he even injects some detail that one would need to be versed in the original story to fully appreciate. The priest in question are who belonged to the sect called "The Dashers (that little knot of saints whose manner of dashing and lacerating the feet against the pavement was long a thorn and a reproach to less zealous devotees–a stumbling-block to less gifted perambulators)." This is a play on the talmudic description of the priests - that they are quick - kohanim zerizim hem.

    Poe assumes familiarity with the Hebrew alphabet to a degree that one would know the letter yud is the smallest. As he says "thou canst not point me out a Philistine–no, not one–from Aleph to Tau–from the wilderness to the battlements–who seemeth any bigger than the letter Jod!"

    The question is where in the world did Poe get this. According to some it seems Poe got this from another novel from "1828, Zillah, a Tale of Jerusalem, by Horace Smith (1777-1849). Poe incorporated whole phrases and sentences from Smith's story: "Poe's story is more than a parody; it is literally a collage of snatches of the Smith novel, cut out and pasted together in a new order."

    That being said, it seems that Poe was still more familiar with this story than Zillah and we are left to wonder did Poe study Talmud? He wouldn't be the first famous American author to do so. Thomas Jefferson had a copy of a volume or two of the Bavli. Although, here, it would appear Poe one upped Jefferson by being a baki in Yerushalmi as well.

    Bitul ha-Tamid in Later History

    Although the actual tamid stopped on the 17th of Tamuz, the phrase "bitul ha-tamid" continues to be used. According to some, Rabbenu Gershom, amongst the many takanot he was involved in, instituted bitul ha-tamid. Bitul ha-tamid as used in this sense means to stop the daily prayers. That is, if a person had a grievance, they could stop the prayers or public torah reading, until the community dealt with the issue. Some rishonim trace bitul ha-tamid to a Yerushalmi that records R. Yochanon telling someone to stop the prayers to have his way. (See Teshuvot ha-Rashba, vol. 4, no. 56).

    Bitul ha-tamid was a serious and well-recognized device. For example, the Or Zarua records that "on the week of parshat Emor, someone stopped the services, and there was no torah reading. Thus, they had to read both Emor and Behar the next week." (Or Zarua, Laws of Shabbat no. 45). Note that there was no question about the legality of forcing the entire community, in this case Cologne Germany, skipping the torah reading. The only issue was how to make it up.

    The Sefer Hassidim records the process:
    The one wishing to stop the prayers goes up either before barachu (or seder kedusha) to where the Hazan is standing. This person then closes the prayer book of the Hazan and announces "I am the one who stopped - [the word kalu or kalman possibly from clamour] and the hazan immediately stops the prayers. If he wants to stop the torah reading, he goes up to the steps before the ark and announces 'I will not allow the torah to be removed.' Some do this on the torah's return - they stop the return. Sefer Hassidim no. 463.
    Obviously, this device could not be used for any minor grievance, the question some deal with is exactly when this can be used. One of the teshuvot ha-Geonim records that in Bavel, they only allowed this to be used when a person refused to show up for bet din. That is, if someone sues someone and the party refuses to come to bet din, one can go to the recalcitrant person's synagogue and make this announcement. In this same responsum, however, it records a different opinion that allows for one to collect on an outstanding debt - but, in the case of a debt collection to only do bitul ha-tamid once. The Sefer Hassidim, however, allows for bitul ha-tamid to collect necessary funds for the poor.

    As one would expect, it appears that this process became abused. The Sefer Hassidim, the source for much material on this topic also includes a warning to anyone who misuses this that they will have to pay for abuse of the process. Similarly, R. Efrahim Lunschintz in his Amudei Shesh explains that abuse of this process only harms god as he misses out on prayers he otherwise would have received.

    At base, it is understood that this is a powerful tool to get one's grievances heard, but what is the rationale behind this custom? According to Goiten, and based on genizah materials, he explains that bringing one's grievance before all - is demonstrative of the notion that bet din "were but representatives of the community, which, in principle, was the supreme judge. The biblical concept 'the people shall judge' (Numbers 35:24) was still very much alive." Goiten notes that this process was not limited to men, and instead, the geniza preserves some "eloquently styled and beautifuly written appeals to the community by women." Goiten posits that the women did not actually enter the men's section but had someone reads these on their behalf. See Goiten, A Mediterranean Society, vol. II, pp. 324-26.

    A very different purpose for this procedure is espoused by a Lithuanian memoir. Basically, by this account, as "the Jewish townlets of Lithuania and Poland did not" have a well-developed press, "what weapon did the poor widow have at hand for calling public attention to the iniquities of, say, the money lender?" The answer, of course, "They delayed the reading of the weekly Portion on the Sabbath!" A story of a poor widow is provided to illustrate this point. She comes Shabbat morning, and is brought in to the main sanctuary on a cot where she moans
    My child! My child! You are murderers! Take pity and give me back my child! . . . We children knew this woman quite well. . . All of us knew that this good old woman was now confined to her bed and quite helpless. And we also knew that the cause of her illness was due to the forcible drafting of her only son, Borukke the Tinsmith, into the army. We had also heard frequent comments at our homes on this heartless deed of the Town Elder in taking away this poor widow's only son in exchange for the few hundred rubles he received from David Refoel's for letting his own son - his fourth son- escape his duty, by finding a substitute for him in the son of the widow . . . The entire townlet knew of this iniquity and in the privacy of their homes had denounced it as a great outrage; but publicly they were afraid to speak of it. They were afraid to start a rumpus with the Elder who enjoyed the friendship of the town's Chief of Police.

    Everyone in the Congregation immediately put aside his Pentateuch and paid the closet attention to the bed-ridden widow's supplication. The only one in the assembly who pretended to be unconcerned in the matter and began to read aloud to himself the weekly Portion, was David Refoel's. This painful scene lasted but a few brief minutes when from behind the Bimah there emerged Honeh the Shoemaker who, with his fists doubled, rushed over to the Elder and yelled out in a voice choking with anger: "If Borukke Tamar's is not freed from military service you will all be sent in chains to Siberia! Do you think we don't know that you have bought substitutes? Take care!"

    An informer usually was hated by the town folk. But in this case they all gave their approval to Honeh the Shoemaker . . . It took just about one week before Borukke's claim to exemption on account of being an only son was properly recorded and he returned to his mother's home, a free man. Saks, Worlds that Passed, pp. 79-85.
    Although I haven't seen this in print, I was told that when R. Solovetchik came to Boston there was no mikveah in Boston (there was one outside). R. Solovetchik instructed the women to stop the torah reading until sufficient funds were pledged for a mikveah.

    *A portion of this post appeared in a slightly different format a few years back. I have updated that portion and added about bitul ha-tamid generally. Additionally, much material on bitual ha-tamid appears in Simcha Assaf's work, Battei ha-Din ve-Sidreihem (1924), pp. 25-29.

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    On the recent occasion of the two hundredth anniversary of the birth of Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch (1808-1888), Dr. Meir Hildesheimer of The Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch Cathedra for the Research of the Torah im Derekh Eretz Movement (Bar-Ilan University), delivered a paper entitled "Historical Perspectives on Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch," at the Jüdisches Museum in Frankfurt (7 June 2008). The remarks below appear with the express permission of Dr. Hildesheimer.

    Historical Perspectives on Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch

    by Meir Hildesheimer

    1. Introduction

    200 years ago, on June 20th, 1808 Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch was born. And this year, 2008 – is also the 120th anniversary of Rabbi Hirsch's death; he died on December 31st, 1888. Rabbi Hirsch was an outstanding personality who is known as one of the founders of Neo-orthodoxy and the Torah Im Derekh Eretz philosophy. In orthodox Jewish circles he is remembered above all as an intrepid fighter against Reform Judaism and as an exemplary educator. And theologians, Jewish and Christian, appreciate his creative Bible commentary.

    In my lecture I want to deal neither with Rabbi Hirsch's philosophy nor with his exegesis of the Holy Schriptures, as these issues are well known and much has been written about them. I want to concentrate on his deeds and achievements form a historical point of view and to shed light on some aspects of his multi-faceted personality.

    2. Biographical sketch

    Let's start with a brief biographical sketch. Rabbi Hirsch was born on June 20, 1808 (27th Sivan 5568) in Hamburg as first child of Raphael and Gella Hirsch.[1] His parents named him Samson. Later he used to join his father's name to his own ("Samson Raphael Hirsch"), thus following a widespread custom of the period. Samson Raphael Hirsch had a close relationship with his parents whom he described as "the guardians of his childhood, the guides of his youth, and the companions of his mature years."[2] His grandfather, Mendel Frankfurter, a great Talmudic scholar and serving as Rosh Beit Din of Altona, had a profound influence on his grandson, as had the charismatic Rabbi (Chacham) Isaac Bernays (1792-1849) who was appointed Rabbi of Hamburg when young Samson reached Bar-Mitzva age, and Rabbi Yaakov Ettlinger (1798-1871) whose Yeshiva in Mannheim Rabbi Hirsch attended. Conscious of the new legal requirements from rabbis, the latter advised him to study at an university. Rabbi Hirsch went to the Univertsity of Bonn where he befriended the slightly younger Abraham Geiger, leaving after studying for a year without earning a degree. Consecutively Hirsch served as rabbi of Oldenburg (1830-1841), Emden (1841-1847) and as Landesrabbiner of Moravia (1847-1851) before he accepted the call of a tiny religious association in Frankfurt called "Israelitische Religionsgesellschaft". From 1851 until his death in 1888 he resided in Frankfurt.

    3. Personality

    Rabbi Hirsch was a puzzle for his contemporaries and has remained so for later scholars seeking to unravel the complex components of his personality. Various people described Hirsch as extremely introverted, some of them even as "remoted" and "cold". His disciple in the Nikolsburg yeshiva Armin Schnitzer (later rabbi of Komorn), for example, wrote in his memoirs: "His demeanor was serious and introverted. He was not talkative." Rabbi Hirsch's following self-portrait, which he wrote as a young man, shows clearly that he was conscious to that perception:

    "So it always goes with me when my inner soul is too full. Then it does not spill over the sides as is common in other people – no, inside there can be stormy, turbulent waves but on the outside, with pressures and counterpressures – only silence. I am like a clock whose inner components interact with each other constantly but whose hands are missing, so that on the outside it appears completely still. Superficial people hold a feather to the nose and proclaim it lifeless, but those whose comprehension is deeper sense from the ticking that there is indeed life inside. A wise man knows to attach the missing hands to the face, so that he can read the time ...".[3]

    In the eyes of his fellow people – except those of his family and intimate friends who praised his warm and symphatetic heart – he looked not only cold and distant, but also very self-confident. Rabbi Hirsch's tone was rarely conciliatory, whatever his intentions. He used to express himself in such confident terms that made him appear arrogant. His strong commitment to rabbinic Judaism turned him into an active polemicist in the Orthodox camp.

    4. Fighter against Reform

    Rabbi Hirsch's father had been a merchant. He intended his firstborn son to go into his footsteps. But when growing up, Samson chose for himself another profession – that of a rabbi. According to his own words, the religious controversies waged in his native town Hamburg were of primary importance in the shaping of his career.

    At the end of 1817, when Samson Raphael Hirsch was nine years old, a substantial group of Jews in his native town Hamburg joined together to offer an alternative public expression of Judaism and established the "New Israelite Temple Association in Hamburg" and in 1818 erected a house of prayer which they named "Temple". The "Temple" was the first Jewish house of worship in German to use an organ on the Sabbath and a mixed choir in the services. The Temple Association also published a new prayerbook, in which many prayers were in German, and various sections added and deleted at will. The Hamburg rabbinate as well as some of the leading rabbinic personalities issued a prohibition against praying in the Temple or using its prayerbook. The Hirsch home was the venue of meetings and strategy sessions called to combat the threat posed to Torah Judaism by the Temple. Young Samson was apparently deeply affected by the gatherings in his parents' home, and in his later years recalled that it was this struggle which first gave him the impetus to pursue his calling in life.

    Rabbi Hirsch's first writings, The Nineteen Letters and Horeb already represented the beginning of his active struggle against the Reformers. At this early stage, Hirsch tried to address the reformers and young people attracted by reform in conciliatory terms, offering a positive alternative to the Reformer's approach. The rebuff he received from the Reformers drove Rabbi Hirsch on to more open opposition. His literary energy in the years immediately following was mostly spent as an active polemicist in the Orthodox camp and emerged gradually its most uncompromising and militant defender.

    5. Secession

    Rabbi Hirsch's uncompromising stance toward Reform was also the reason for his struggle for the secession of his small orthodox community in Frankfurt called Israelitische Religionsgesellschaft from the main Jewish community.

    Neither in Oldenburg and Emden nor in Moravia did Rabbi Hirsch propagate a schism in the Jewish community. On the contrary, when leaving Nikolsburg, he admonished the Jews of Moravia in his farewell letter to stay united. On the other side, he left the Moravian Landesrabbinat because he had received an "appeal from Frankfurt to go to the aid of a tiny group, whose very founding is, in my view, given the goals I had all my life, the most promising development that has occurred in Jewry within the last several decades. For now, for the first time, a Jewish community has been formed, which is openly and proudly dedicated to a most holy principle, in an area which has been successfully conquered by the faces of confusion (i. e. Reform). What can I do! This holy cause is the very one to which I have consecrated my life."

    The reason for his different behavior in different places is obvious: in places where Reform gains influence over the Jewish community and its rites, a God fearing Jew must strive to disassociate himself from these "wicked people" and erect his own, Torah true community; in places not endangered by religious innovators taking over Jews should stay united. For the same reason Rabbi Hirsch sided the secession from orthodox Jewry in Hungary in 1868, when the newly constituted Jewish congress was dominated by reformers.

    When the Prussian government in 1875 passed a law that enabled the erection of additional Jewish communities at a certain place (called the Austrittsgesetz), and the Israelitische Religionsgesellschaft (IRG) was entitled to form an independent community. The Jewish community of Frankfurt, then dominated by the reformers, did not want a significant number of their members, i. e. taxpayers, leaving, especially not the richer ones like Baron Willy Rothschild who was associated with the Religionsgesellschaft. So the community agreed to provide for all the needs of its orthodox members – a thing it did not do in the past – and exempting them from funding the religious activities of the reformers. A disagreement arouse among the IRG members about accepting this generous offer or to secede and form an independent community. The rabbi of the IRG, Rabbi Hirsch, propagated the last option; he even issued an halachic statement that obliged the members to secede. But a significant number of them did not consent and succeeded in getting the halachic support of one of the most prominent orthodox rabbis in Germany at this time, Rabbi Seligmann Bär Bamberger of Würzburg. Rabbi Bamberger's involvement lead to a sharp literary argument between the two rabbis, resulting in lasting mutual bitterness and a severe blow for Rabbi Hirsch personally: most of the IRG members did not leave the old community.

    What motivated Rabbi Hirsch's fierce struggle for secession? In Rabbi Hirsch's opinion Israel is a nation and became a nation only through and for the Torah. Every Jewish community is a microcosm of the people as a whole, and just as Torah is the sole unifying force of the Jewish people, so must it also be the bond which unites each community. Every Jewish individual is not only required to take an active role in the community, but only by being part of a community can the individual fulfill his role as a Jew and find his true meaning and purpose in life. The community exists for the sake of the Torah. A community that does not act according to the Torah forfeits its right to exist. Naturally, it is forbidden to be a part of such community.

    At the same time, Rabbi Hirsch felt there was no halachic imperative for Jewish communities to join together in a wider framework. It is not clear whether his later activities for uniting orthodox Judaism in an organization called Freie Vereinigung für die Interessen des orthodoxen Judentums (Orthodox Union) reflexes a change in his beliefs or were only for practical reasons.

    6. The orator and writer

    Rabbi Hirsch used two main means for disseminating his ideas: the spoken and the written word. Once he said of himself: "All my life I have engaged in thinking more than in speaking, and in speaking more than in writing."[4] But in truth his abilities in all these fields were really masterful. As an orator of rare talent he was seemingly influenced by his rabbi and teacher Isaac Bernays who was one of the most famous Jewish preachers of his time – that means, in the German language. Once asked by his uncle, why he preferred delivering his sermons in German and not in Hebrew, he replied that law in East Friesland required him and the other rabbis to preach in the vernacular, and furthermore the Jewish masses were not proficient in the Holy language. In order to reach them one would have to speak their tongue. His first experience as an orator he had as a student at the University of Bonn, where he and Abraham Geiger established an "association for the cultivation of speech", intended for future rabbis in order to train them to deliver popular sermons.

    Besides of speaking in German, a number of additional factors contributed to the profound impression Hirsch made on his audience: the carefully chosen expressions, the fast tempo, originality of thought and cogency of argument. He spoke without a text, occasionally keeping a small Bible in front of him. In his early years he would commit his speeches to writing before he delivered them. By the way, he spoke only in public settings, never at festive meals and private celebrations. His gifts as a speaker do much explain the great influence he had on his contemporaries.[5] In Frankfurt, Rabbi Hirsch's weekly Sabbath addresses was the bond which unified the members of the IRG and left his listeners inspired to put the ideals of the Torah into practice. A visitor to his synagogue commented: "I do not understand one word that was said, but one had the impression that nothing less than the prophet Isaiah was standing up there."

    Yet the influence of his writings were even greater for they reached a much greater audience and had also a significant impact on future generations until this very day. Rabbi Hirsch's gifted pen produced a rich and varied output: Halacha, commentaries on the Pentateuch, the Psalms and the Jewish prayer book, articles on philosophy, Jewish weltanschauung and education, polemics, letters and responses. All his writings, including his letters and halachic responses, were stamped with his unique style and characterized by a warmth of feeling and a sense of closeness to God. His skill at capturing the sanctity and sublime beauty of Jewish life remains unparalleled. His style is characterized by long sentences quite typical for this period. It shows his perfect command of German language and literature. Rabbi Hirsch employed his mastery of German prose and modern literary techniques in the cause of classic Judaism. In these times the literary sophistication of this Orthodox rabbi took everyone by surprise. (His Hebrew writings – mostly responses – are written in a very special style too.)

    His writings had a particular influence on the younger generation, and continued to affect German Jewry in the decades after his passing. His commentary on the Pentateuch, for example, were found in every home of religious Jews in Germany.

    7. Rabbi Hirsch's attitude to German culture

    Rabbi Hirsch's attitude toward German was not the same as that of the other traditionalists of his time who were conversant in that language. To the latter, it was a language they knew and employed, but nevertheless a non-Jewish language. Rabbi Hirsch, on the other hand, had a deep emotional feeling for German and a strong attachment to German culture that also went far beyond the modest requirements set down by the conservative Maskilim who advocated practical subjects as necessitated by social and economic considerations. Rabbi Hirsch had been educated in a gymnasium focusing on humanistic studies. Influenced by the atmosphere in his family who encouraged secular studies, he appreciated the humanistic spirit which permeated the German cultural climate as well as the aesthetics. In the first of the Nineteen Letters, Rabbi Hirsch makes his imaginary protagonist remark: "How can anyone who is able to enjoy the beauties of a Virgil, a Tasso, a Shakespeare, who can follow the logical conclusions of a Leibnitz and Kant--how can such a one find pleasure in the Old Testament, so deficient in form and taste, and in the senseless writings of the Talmud?" Before Rabbi Hirsch, no Orthodox Jew had ever expressed such sentiments, even as a prelude to their rebuttal.

    Rabbi Hirsch was especially influenced by Hegel and Schiller. In a speech given in his school he founded on the centenary of the birth of the latter, he claimed that the universal principles of Western culture embodied in Schiller's writings are Jewish values originating in the Torah.

    Despite Rabbi Hirsch's liberalism in matters of culture and education, he was critical of literature that he considered offensive from a religious or moral standpoint. Thus, while reading "Der Salon" by Heine, he grew so highly incensed by its blasphemous expressions that he wanted to burn the book and compensate the library for its destruction. Nevertheless, the fact that "Der Salon" was written by apostate did not prevent Rabbi Hirsch from reading it.

    8. Torah Im Derekh Eretz

    But with all his love for German language and culture, Rabbi Hirsch was well aware of the danger of scientific knowledge leading one away from religion. He, therefore, strongly opposed the tendency to simply put Torah and Derekh Eretz side by side for this would implement that both are of equal value. According to Rabbi Hirsch, however, there is a higher and a lower sphere: The Torah is the essential, the standard by which all education is measured, while secular knowledge is secondary or supplementary to Torah. Or in Rabbi Hirsch's own words: "We are confident that there is only one truth, and only one body of knowledge that can serve as the standard... Compared to it, all the other sciences are valid only provisionally".[6]

    The totality of Rabbi Hirsch's thinking and teaching has always been regarded as comprehended in the single phrase, Torah im Derekh Eretz. What does it stand for?

    The concept of Torah im Derekh Eretz – universal and timeless – in the doctrine of Rabbi Hirsch has been defined as a synthesis of Judaism and modern culture, embracing art and literature to the extent compatible with Halakha (i.e. religious Jewish law). However, this synthesis is to be understood in a Hegelian sense: two contradictory forces contending with each other are reconciled and renewed on a higher level. In other words: Torah and life, Judaism and culture, do not just complement each other, but achieve complete identity. In his old age, Rabbi Hirsch devoted most of his teaching activity in his school to a subject which he called "The Spirit of the Jewish Theory of Laws". In those lessons he strove to implant in the hearts of his students a love of Torah and to inspire them with the consciousness of Torah im Derekh Eretz as the unifying principle of all the religious commandments, molding them into a uniform context of a harmonious Weltanschauung and life-pattern.

    9. Political attitudes and activities: the struggle for emancipation

    On December 10, 1810 Hamburg, Samson Raphael Hirsch's native town, was annexed by revolutionary France. In 1814 the French were thrown out of the city, but the revolutionary vision of liberty, equality and fraternity remained part of the city's intellectual fabric. Gabriel Riesser, the famous Jewish lawyer and politician, was one of the leading advocates of Jewish emancipation and very much admired by Jewish youths. Rabbi Hirsch was also deeply impressed, despite Riesser's decidedly non-religious attitude.

    As other rabbis, Rabbi Hirsch, too, recognized the enormous spiritual threat posed by Emancipation. Nonetheless, he viewed it as both a challenge and an opportunity to demonstrate that the Torah is no less applicable to the new open society than it was in the Ghetto – but of course only on condition that the Jewish people would still be bound to the Torah's laws.

    In his Moravian time, Rabbi Hirsch had a first-hand experience of the negative side effects that came together with emancipation:

    a. religious indifference;

    b. the loosening of the bond between the individual Jew with the community which was expressed by refraining from paying community taxes – an act that brought the Jewish communities on the brink of bankruptcy; and

    c. a substantial increase in anti-Semitism.

    Seemingly this was the reason that from the time he went to Frankfurt, he did not engage in any more public advocacy to advance the cause of civil equality for Jews. In reevaluating the battle for equal rights, he wondered whether the all-out drive for emancipation at any price had not been grounds for the further deepening of the exile, and if it had not engendered renewed persecution and increased restrictions on Jews.[7]

    10. Jewish Nationalism and the Colonization of Eretz Israel

    Heaving heard about Rabbi Hirsch's attitude towards emancipation as well as about his embrace of contemporary German culture, we now want to deal with his attitude towards Jewish nationalism and the colonization of Eretz Israel.

    Rabbi Hirsch's opinion is probably expressed best in his reply to Rabbi Zvi Hirsch Kalischer's attempts to persuade him to support his activities concerning the colonization of Eretz Israel. Rabbi Kalischer of Thorn, was a forerunner of Jewish nationalism and the settlement of Eretz Israel. His philosophy connects Jewish nationalism, philanthropic activities and the strive for ultimate redemption. In his book Derishat Ziyyon, he explained his idea of the return to Erez Israel and stated his theory that redemption would come in two stages: the natural one through return to Erez Israel and working on the land, and the supernatural one which would follow. Furthermore, he preached that the first stage should involve a healthy economic foundation for the yishuv, a foundation which could only come about through the development of agriculture on a large scale. Accordingly, he recommended the establishment of an agricultural school for the younger generation.

    In his reply, Rabbi Hirsch presented a clear and concise statement of his position concerning settlement of Eretz Israel as a goal in itself in the present era. In his opinion, according to the Sages of the Mishna and the Talmud, Jew's obligation is only to be devout with all the strength he is granted, and to look forward to the redemption each day. Israel possessed land and statehood only as instruments for translating the Torah into living reality; neither is it a goal in itself, nor is it instrumental in bringing the redemption. Furthermore, Jewish statesmen like Disraeli and Cremieux cannot be viewed as harbingers of redemption, for it is impossible to imagine that G-d would choose people who reject the Torah as his agents. Finally, Rabbi Hirsch agreed that is was important to support those Jews who currently lived in Eretz Israel – he himself supported efforts to improve their conditions! – but he expressed concern that mass settlement activity would bring in its wake increased risk of Sabbath desecration and the transgression of the agricultural commandments unique to Eretz Israel. And when Rabbi Kalischer's attempts to persuade him did not cease, Rabbi Hirsch wrote: "In my lowly opinion, there will not emerge from this any benefit for put Torah and Jewish tradition, and it is not fitting for God-fearing people to associate with the Alliance Israelite Universelle, whose leaders lack all commitment to Torah and to God's coventant." And in his letter to Rabbi Lipschitz, the secretary of Rabbi Yitchak Elchanan Spector of Kovno, he wrote that all the effords to bring the redemption in this way is a grave sin. Here again we have Rabbi Hirsch's resentment from cooperation with non-orthodox Jews!

    And now, let us see if - and how – Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch's legacy, 120 years after his death, is still relevant. In order to do this we have to relate to Jacob Katz's essay "Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch – ha-meymin veha-masme'il" (turning to the right and the to the left) published in 1987. Katz wrote that Rabbi Hirsch took a decisive right, i.e. conservative, position in issues concerning Judaism and its beliefs (see his fight against Reform), but may be called "left" concerning culture, science and the attitude towards modern society. As nobody after him succeeded to unite these juxtapposite positions, this apparent rift in Hirsch's philosophy led to a selected adoption of his by different group of peoples.

    The "right" components were readily adopted by ever growing parts of ultra-orthodox society, that means an uncompromizing struggle against everything that seemed a deviation from traditional Judaism as well as the abhorrence of a cooperation with non-orthodox people or groups, even if the goals are common. These circles will cite from Hirsch's writings the passages useful for their purposes, but ignore other passages speaking, for example, of the need to learn a trade or gain seculat knowledge. It also seems that the ideological opposition to Zionism of Orthodoxy has its roots in Rabbi Hirsch's philosophy (see above), that means many years before the the Munkatcher and the Satmarer Rebbes.

    Other orthodox circles, especially Modern Orthodoxy, embraced Rabbi Hirsch's openness to secular culture and science, combining "Torah" (i.e. rabbinic studies) with "Derekh Eretz". But unlike their ultra-orthodox counterparts, they do not refrain from cooperating with non-religious Jews. This is especially right of Religious Zionism which is also – as its name inplies – Zionist.

    Rabbi Hirsch stood in the focus of the dramatic intellectual and spiritual transformations that characterized German Jewry in the 19th century. His personality as well as his many-sided and varied activities on the fields of Bible exegesis, philosophy and leadership shaped the face of Neo-orthodoxy to a very high degree and their influence was felt not only in his own generation but also later on until to this very day.

    Selected Bibliography:

    Breuer, Mordechai, The "Torah-Im-Derekh-Eretz" of Samson Raphael Hirsch, Jerusalem-New York: Feldheim Publishers, 1970.

    Klugman, Eliyahu Meir, Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch, Architect of Torah Judaism for the Modern World, New York: Mesorah Publications, 1996.

    Liberles, Robert, Religious Conflict in Social Context, Westport (Connecticut)-London: Greenwood Press, 1985.

    Rosenbloom, Noah H., Tradition in an Age of Reform, Philadelphia: The Jewish Publication Society of America, 1976.

    [1] Rabbi Hirsch's genealogy was researched by Eduard Duckesz and published in: Jahrbuch der Jüdisch-Literarischen Gesellschaft (also printed seperately).

    [2] Dedication to Horeb (Altona 1836).

    [3] Transcript (free rendition) by E.M. Klugman in the possession of the late Prof. Mordechai Breuer.

    [4] Nineteen Letters, Letter 19.

    [5] For example: Armin Schnitzer from his time in Nikolsburg as cited in English in Klugman, p. 324.

    [6] Commentary to Leviticus 18, 4-5

    [7] See Collected Writings II, p. 26.

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    More on Ma'adanei Eretz on Shevi'it

    By Yitzchak Jakobovitz

    Between the 'Inner Family Circle' and the Published Word

    a) In a recent post on the Seforim Blog, Rabbi Chaim Rapoport spoke of the extent to which some disciples of the late Rabbi Shlomo Zalman Auerbach have gone in order to disassociate their late mentor from the heter mechirah, a procedure that he defended robustly in his work Ma'adanei Eretz.

    To this end, a censored version of the original work was published (bearing the title Kitvei Ma'adanei Eretz), in which Rabbi Auerbach's endorsement of the heter mechirah as a minhag yisroel Torah hee was eliminated. The new version also eschewed citations of, and expressions of reverence for, the late Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak HaKohen Kook (one of the primary proponents of the heter mechirah and other controversial positions).

    In note 10 of his article Rabbi Rapoport wrote: "In the course of time we may yet witness the birth of reports to the effect that Rabbi Auerbach (and/or: the Rabbis who gave their glowing haskamot) regretted ever having published (written approbations for) his Ma'adanei Eretz. Clearly Rabbi Auerbach's regret will have to have been expressed 'be-sof yamav', since in 1972/5732 he was evidently still enthusiastic about the project".

    Little did Rabbi Rapoport know that his tentative 'prophecy' had already been 'fulfilled.' A recent publication (dated Elul 5767) entitled Shemittah keMitzvatah, dedicated to a rebuttal of the efficacy of the heter mechirah, documents such a suggestion. This work published anonymously but with an abundance of haskamot (including an approbation from Rabbi Yosef Shalom Elyashiv shlit"a), quotes many authorities that expressed their opposition to and disdain for the heter mechirah.

    In the preface, chapter 5 (page 19), the anonymous author quotes Rabbi Yitzchak Yerucham Burdiansky, a son-in-law of Rabbi Auerbach, in his eulogy for his revered father-in-law. According to Rabbi Burdiansky, Rabbi Auerbach would say to his family: "You can tell the Rabbis that it (the heter mechirah) is worth absolutely nothing. It is a mere mockery!"[1]

    The author does not tell us how Rabbi Auerbach's statements in the inner circle of his family may be reconciled with his own published Ma'adanei Eretz.[2] Indeed, Ma'adanei Eretz is not even mentioned! One may therefore readily assume that Rabbi Auerbach's (alleged) change of mind occurred 'be-sof yamav' (as Rabbi Rapoport had predicted!); in time enough to express this to his family, but too late in the day to publish his revised opinion! Consequently, Rabbi Auerbach's (alleged) ridicule of the heter mechirah was evidently first publicised posthumously, at a hesped.

    The Uncensored Edition is Back in Print

    b) In the interim a new, uncensored edition, of the Ma'adanei Eretz has been published by "Beit Medrash Halachah, Moriah, Jerusalem 5768." This edition is an exact replica of the original Ma'adanei Eretz as the publishers inform us on the back of the title page:

    נדפס מחדש בשנת תשס"ח

    שנת השמיטה במתכונתו הקודמת

    כפי שנערך ע"י מורנו המחבר זצ"ל

    ובהוראתו, במהדורת תשל"ב

    בית מדרש הלכה


    This uncensored edition has evidently received the financial backing of a generous and zealous English philanthropist (who was disturbed by the attempt to rob the Olam haTorah of part of Rabbi Auerbach's heritage). The same page continues:

    מהדורא זו יוצאת לאור

    בסיוע "קרן רחל", לונדון

    לזכרו של מרן המחבר זצ"ל

    להגדיל תורה ולהאדירה

    Students who wish to study the Ma'adanei Eretz as authored and published by Rabbi Auerbach himself can now do so without recourse to a library or rare bookshop that still has a copy of the original edition.

    On the other hand, students who want to study a censored version of the work, albeit bearing exactly the same title as the original, can also do so with ease. For since the publication of Kitvei Ma'adanei Eretz (and Rabbi Rapoport's post thereon) a 'Friedman edition' of Ma'adanei Eretz has been released (with the blessings of Rabbi Shlomo Zalman's family). This version bears greater similarity to the original work, both in external format and internal structure, but it is still heavily censored and spares the reader from having to confront the truth!

    [1] בספר 'שמיטה כמצותה – בענין מכירת קרקע לגוי להפקיע דיני שביעית בימינו', עמוד יט (ההערות בשולי הגליון נכללו בחצאי ריבוע): "הרב יצחק ירוחם בורדיאנסקי שליט"א חתן הגרש"ז אויערבאך זצ"ל [רחוב ויסבורג 4 ירושלים] מעיד שחותנו דיבר בחוג המשפחה אודות ההיתר מכירה (פירסמו בהספד שהספיד חותנו), וז"ל, איר קענט זאגן די רבנים אז ס'איז גארנישט מיט גארנישט, ס'איז א ליצנות (ועשה בידו תנועה של ביטול) – אתם יכולים להגיד לרבנים שזה לא כלום, זו ליצנות – כי אין להם דעת למכור ולא מתכוונים למכור, וכן הרב אביגדור נבנצאל שליט"א מעיד בשמו של הגרש"ז אויערבאך זצ"ל, שאפילו לתלמיד 'מרכז הרב' לא התיר לאכול ירקות מ'היתר מכירה' משום איסור ספיחין, ואין זה סותר למה שאומר הרב בקשי דורון שאמר לו הגרשז"א זצ"ל בנוגע לההיתר מכירה 'שהרי יש מאירי', משום שאם יש אחד מיני אלף שיש לו גמירות דעת אין כאן הפסד במכירה לפי המאירי אלא רק ריווח, אבל עכשיו שנתברר שכל דברי המאירי לא נכתבו אלא מפני אימת המלכות [כמו שביארנו בשער א' פרק ז], בודאי אסור לסדר מכירה".

    [2] Rabbi Auerbach's remarks in his Minchat Shlomo 1:44-45 also imply that he did not consider the heter mechirah to be a total mockery.

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    The popular press, in this case Newsweek, does not always get Jewish practices correct. Newsweek just published a short piece on Jewish drinking and specifically mention "Kiddush clubs." While the article makes it appear that this is a new problem, (and to be fair, it seems that is what they were erronously told by those they spoke with), in fact, as is almost always the case, ain hadash tachas ha-shemesh – there is nothing new under the sun.

    First, the article claims that "Jews don't drink – much. Historically, Jews have not had alcohol problems to the extent as some other religious groups." This claim, that Jews don't drink, echos the erroneous assertions of some non-Jews, especially during the temperance movement of the 19th and early 20th century in the United States. Much of the temperance movement was lead by certain Christians and pointed to Jews or more specifically the Old Testament in suport of banning alcohol. One particularly egregious mistake in doing so was to misinterpret the prohibitions of Passover. That is, the problem that some in the temperance movement were required to deal with is if Jesus drank wine at the Last Supper, then how can wine be bad? To answer this, some pointed to "Jewish" practice. Specifically, they noted that the Last Supper took place on Passover, "and we know that the Jews were scrupulous in using at this ceremony none but unleavened bread and unfermented wine." Of course, while leavened bread is prohibited there is no related prohibition on fermented wine.[1]

    Professor Hayim Solovetick has shown that historically Jews were involved in the wine business and drank as much as their non-Jewish neighbors. These facts may have affected certain halachik rulings. This does not mean that Jews must drink alcoholic beverages. Although wine is mandated for numerous rituals, according to most, grape juice suffices. For this point we again turn back to the temperance movement and this time the effect of the 18th Amendment. The 18th Amendment prohibited the consumption of alcohol. However, the National Prohibition Act carved out an exemption that allowed for consumption for "religious rites." As a consequence, there was a market for fraudulent rabbis and other religious figures that would permit the otherwise prohibited. To counter these scofflaws, R. Levi Ginzburg,[2] penned a responsum arguing that grape juice sufficed to Jewish religious purposes. This responsum remains the most comprehensive discussion of grape juice in Jewish law.

    Isaac Wise, authored an essay discussing the topic of how Judaism views being a teetotaler. Wise rejects this practice. Wise notes that "Isaiah, upbraiding the weakness of his people says: 'Thy wine is adulterated with water.' and the Psalmist sings: 'And wine gladdens the heart of man.'" Wise continues and highlights the use of "mishteh, 'a drinking occasion." Accordingly, Wise explains that since "Moses and the Talmud are not opposed to the use of wine or strong drink. The Jew might consider it superfluous to be more orthodox than Moses, the prophets, or the rabbis of old."

    Wise further argues that if the reason for prohibiting drink is due to the harm that may come from overindulging, there is a much more pernicious "evil" that of the amassment of wealth. Wise claims that "the wildest imagination [is] too feeble to depict a mere fraction of the woes and crimes caused by money. It makes rogues of honest men, and villains of generous souls . . . Money makes slaves, hypocrites, gamblers, thieves . . . [it] ruins virtue, beguiles innocences." Thus, Wise concludes that "the use of wine or strong drink as a beverage is no moral wrong . . . the abuse of religion and prayer is worse than the abuse of liquor, [and] the present crusade [of temperance] will not remedy the evil; it is contrary to law and liberty, and it makes us ridiculous in the eyes of the civilized world."

    As was the case with Wise, there can be no doubt that drinking has been a controversial topic for one reason or another. One of the more well-known cases of censorship relates to a ruling on wine. The Rama's responsum on the consumption of ya'yin nesach was removed in most of the editions of his responsa. This responsum was so unknown that some charged the Rama never authored it and it was a forgery.[3]

    But we need not go so far afield as ya'yin nesach to find controversy. As is mentioned in the article, there are those who participate in Kiddush clubs and, (as would be expected), there are those who question such gatherings. What no one appears to mention is that the Kiddush club is not a recent invention. Instead, from at least mid-sixteenth century, such gatherings took place. Specifically, R. Moshe Yitzhak M'zia (1530-1600, most of his responsa were authored between 1560-80) in his Yefeh Nof was asked

    About the custom of the bachurim on Shabbat to leave the synagogue after the Torah is removed from the ark to drink whisky before the mussaf, is this permitted?

    If they do not sit down for a meal this is permitted because the law does not follow Rav Huna who prohibits tasting prior to mussaf.[4]

    According to this responsum, groups would leave to drink during the prayers.[5] From this responsum we can glean a few important facts about the custom during that period. First, such gatherings probably would not be called Kiddush clubs because they did not make Kiddush at all. Second, R. M'zia does not condemn the practice and expresses no outrage or suggestion that it stop. Instead, it appears so long as it was halachikally ok, R. M'zia was unwilling to challenge this practice.

    [1] For more on the topic of unfermented wine (raisin wine) on Passover and its connection with the temperance movement see Jonathan Sarna, "Passover Raisin Wine, The American Temperance Movement, and Mordechai Noah," HUCA, 59 (1988), 269-88. Additionally, see the fascinating article by Hannah Sprecher, "'Let Them Drink and Forget Our Poverty': Orthodox Rabbis React to Prohibition," American Jewish Archives 43:2 (Fall-Winter, 1991): 134–179.  Sprecher discusses the one Orthodox response to Ginzberg.  Id. at 158.  See, as well, Marni Davis, "'On the Side of Liquor': American Jews and the Politics of Alcohol, 1870-1936," (PhD dissertation, Emory University, 2006), esp. chap. five ("'A House Divided Against Itself': American Jews Respond to Prohibition"), 190-250. Finally, see J. David Bleich, Contemporary Halakhic Problems, vol. V, 2005, chap. viii, "The Whiskey Brouhaha," where he takes issue with the monkier used by a drinking club - the Glatt Cigar Society.

    Aside from actually drinking, Jews also authored parodies on drinking. One such parody is devoted to prohibition Gerson Kiss, Massekhet Prohibishon (Brooklyn, 1929), a description of which is found in in Sharon Liberman Mintz & Gabriel M. Goldstein, eds., Printing the Talmud: From Bomberg to Schottenstein (New York: Yeshiva University Museum, 2005), 300. And, Y. Friedlander, the possible author of the well-known forgery Yerushalim on Seder Kodshim, also authored a drinking parody. This parody, however, focused on the hassidic custom of drinking for the purposes of tikkun. The parody is titled Sefer ha-Tikkun and is a "Shulhan Orakh" on all the various times and occasions to make a tikkun. See Baruch Oberlander, "Ha-Yerushalmi le-Seder Kodshim vehaMotzei le-Or Shelo," Or Yisrael 15 (1999), 174-75; see also Boaz Haas, Ke-Zohar ha-Rakiyah, Jerusalem, 2008, 353 n.330 who also discusses the Sefer ha-Tikkun. For other examples of parodies see Eliezer Brodt's post on the topic here.

    [2] As an aside, it worth noting that Ginzburg was originally a student of Telz Yeshiva and later in life went on to teach at JTS. However, after Telz relocated to the United States, he helped with the publication of the Teshuvot R. Eliezer from R. Eliezer Gordon, Rosh ha-Yeshiva of Telz. Ginsburg was thanked in the back of this edition in a full page, it appears that in some copies, (perhaps those disturbed to Telz students) Ginzberg's name was pasted over. Additionally, on the topic of Ginzburg and Telz Yeshiva, Ginzburg authored an excellent five volume work on the Yerushalmi, Pirushim ve-Hiddushim al ha-Yerushalmi. R. Gifter and Ginzberg carried on a correspondence regarding this work which still remains in manuscript - but is facinating in its content. 

    [3] See Y.S. Speigel, Amudim be-Tolodot Sefer ha-Ivri Ketivah ve-haTakah, Ramat Gan, 2005, 273 and the notes therein.

    [4] This responsum was first published by Assaf in his Mekorot l'Tolodot ha-Hinukh be-Yisrael, (in the original version it appears in vol. 4. no. 39:6, p. 43 and in the latest version, edited by Shmuel Glick, Jerusalem, 2002, it appears in vol. 1. P. 111). R. M'zia's responsa remained in manuscript until 1986 when Mechon Yerushalim published them. This edition includes a biography of R. M'zia by Professor Eric Zimmer. Additionally, Zimmer authored an article on M'zia. See E. Zimmer, "The book Yefeh Nof of R. Yitzhak M'zia," Kiryat Sefer 56 (1981), 529-545; E. Zimmer, Gahalaton shel Hakhamim, Jerusalem, 1999, 84-105.

    [5] This is distinct from the custom of stopping the prayers and everyone, not just the bachurim, going home to eat a snack and then study prior to the start of the Torah reading; this custom is discussed at length by R. Y Goldhaver. See R. Y. Goldhaver, Minhagei ha-Kehilot, Jerusalem, 2005, vol. 1, 200-208. R. Goldhaver's work includes notes by the prolific and encyclopedic R. Shmuel Ashkenazi. On this topic of taking a break during services, Ashkenazi notes that Goldhaver made a common bibliographic mistake of attributing the Shu"t Hut ha-Meshulush to the author of the Tashbetz, R. Shimon b. Tzemach Duran, because both works were published together. See R. Shmuel Ashkenazi comments id., vol. 2, 316.

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    Some Literary, Scholarly & Halachic Perspectives on
    Medieval Ashkenazi Attitudes Toward Martyrdom

    by Yitzhak of בין דין לדין


    George Eliot, in Daniel Deronda, depicts the ineffable, exquisite Mirah Lapidoth contemplating her recent abortive suicide attempt:

    She went on musingly--

    "I thought it was not wicked. Death and life are one before the Eternal. I know our fathers slew their children and then slew themselves, to keep their souls pure. I meant it so. (George Eliot, Daniel Deronda, Chapter XVII)

    She elaborates, several chapters later:

    Then I thought of my people, how they had been driven from land to land and been afflicted, and multitudes had died of misery in their wandering--was I the first? And in the wars and troubles when Christians were cruelest, our fathers had sometimes slain their children and afterward themselves: it was to save them from being false apostates. That seemed to make it right for me to put an end to my life; for calamity had closed me in too, and I saw no pathway but to evil. But my mind got into war with itself, for there were contrary things in it. I knew that some had held it wrong to hasten their own death, though they were in the midst of flames; and while I had some strength left it was a longing to bear if I ought to bear--else where was the good of all my life? (ibid. XX)

    The one who "held it wrong to hasten [his] own death, though [he was] in the midst of flames" may be R. Hanina B. Tradyon:

    מצאוהו לרבי חנינא בן תרדיון שהיה יושב ועוסק בתורה ומקהיל קהלות ברבים וספר תורה מונח לו בחיקו הביאוהו וכרכוהו בספר תורה והקיפוהו בחבילי זמורות והציתו בהן את האור והביאו ספוגין של צמר ושראום במים והניחום על לבו כדי שלא תצא נשמתו מהרה ...

    אמרו לו תלמידיו ... אף אתה פתח פיך ותכנס [בך] האש אמר להן מוטב שיטלנה מי שנתנה ועל יחבל הוא בעצמו אמר לו קלצטונירי רבי אם אני מרבה בשלהבת ונוטל ספוגין של צמר מעל לבך אתה מביאני לחיי העולם הבא אמר לו הן השבע לי נשבע לו מיד הרבה בשלהבת ונטל ספוגין של צמר מעל לבו יצאה נשמתו במהרה אף הוא קפץ ונפל לתוך האור יצאה בת קול ואמרה רבי חנינא בן תרדיון וקלצטונירי מזומנין הן לחיי העולם הבא ... (גמרא עבודה זרה דף י"ח ע"א)


    References to suicides and murders of children by their parents (and occasionally teachers) to avoid apostasy abound in both the Halachic and liturgical medieval Ashkenazic literature. A classic example from the former:

    ואך את דמכם וגו'. אזהרה לחונק עצמו. ואמרו בבראשית רבה (ל"ד י"ג) יכול אפילו כחנניה מישאל ועזריה, תלמוד לומר אך. פירוש יכול אפילו כמו אלו שמסרו עצמן לקידוש השם שלא יוכל לחבול בעצמו אם הוא ירא שלא יוכל בעצמו לעמוד בנסיון, תלמוד לומר אך, כי בשעת השמד יכול למסור עצמו למיתה ולהרוג עצמו. וכן בשאול בן קיש שאמר לנערו שלוף חרבך ודקרני בה וגו' (שמואל א' פרק ל"א פסוק ד'). ומכאן מביאין ראיה אותן ששוחטין התינוק בשעת הגזירה...

    ומעשה ברב אחד ששחט הרבה תינוקות בשעת השמד כי היה ירא שיעבירום על דת, והיה רב אחד עמו והיה כועס עליו ביותר וקראו רוצח והוא לא היה חושש. ואמר אותו רב אם כדברי יהרג אותו רב במיתה משונה, וכן היה שתפסוהו עכו"ם והיו פושטין עורו ונותנין חול בין העור והבשר, ואחר כך נתבטלה הגזירה, ואם לא שחט אותן התינוקות היו ניצולין: (דעת זקנים מבעלי התוספות בראשית פרק ט' פסוק ה', וכעין דבריהם עם קצת שינויים הובאו בבדק הבית יו"ד סימן קנ"ז בשם ארחות חיים)

    Here are two poignant references, from the Kinos of Tishah B'Av, to suicide and the slaughter of children to avoid conversion and sin:

    אראלים צאו וצעקו מרה / ספוד תמרור האגדו בחבורה
    קול כחולה צרה כמבכירה / התאוננו על עדת שה פזורה
    עלימו כי נגזרה גזרה / בחרי אף וזעם ועברה
    ונתועדו בפרישות ובטהרה / לקדש שם הגדול והנורא
    ואיש את אחיו חזקו בעזרה / לדבק [בו] ביראה טהורה
    בלי לכרוע לעבודה זרה / ולא חסו על-גבר וגבירה
    על פנים צפירת תפארה / אבל אזרו גבורה יתרה
    להלום ראש ולקרץ שזרה / ואלימו דברו באמירה
    לא זכינו לגדלכם לתורה / נקריבכם כעולה והקטרה
    ונזכה עמכם לאורה / הצפונה מעין כל ועלומה

    אז הסכימו גדולים וקטנים / לקבל באהבה דין שוכן מעונים
    וזקנים דשנים ורעננים / הם היו תחלה נדונים
    ויצאו לקראתם עזי פנים / ונהרגו המונים המונים
    ונתערבו פדרים עם פרשדונים / והאבות אשר היו רחמנים
    נהפכו לאכזר כיענים / והפיסו על אבות ועל בנים
    ומי שגורל עלה-לו ראשונים / הוא נשחט בחלפות וסכינים
    ובחורים עלי תולע אמונים / הם לחכו עפר כתנינים
    והכלות לבושות שנים / מעלפות בזרועות חתנים
    מנתחות בחרב וכידונים / זכרו זאת קהל עדת נבונים
    ואל תחשו מהרבות קינים / והספידו על חסידים והגונים
    אשר צללו במים הזידונים / לזכר זאת נפשי עגומה
    (קינות לתשעה באב כמנהג פולין (מהדורת גולדשמידט)), "החרישו ממני ואדברה", מספר כ"ג

    Professors Simon Schwartzfuchs and Avraham Grossman disagree both on the quantity and significance of the liturgical poetry composed contemporaneously to the events of the First Crusade, and their divergent views on this question yield different inferences as to the magnitude of the Crusade's impact on the ravaged German communities. Grossman details Schwartzfuchs' position:

    שוורצפוקס ממעיט ביותר ברישומן של גזירות אלה על הדורות הסמוכים ולאחריהם, וזאת הוא מסיק בעיקר ממיעוט העיסוק בהן ביצירה הרוחנית לענפיה ולסוגיה. עניין מיוחד יש בדבריו על הפיוטים. באותם ימים תפסו הפיוטים מקום נכבד בחיי הקהילות ולהדי הזמן ניתן בהם ביטוי מובהק. אם אכן לא נותר רישום הגזירות בהם, כי אז היה הדבר מעיד על מיעוט העניין בהן ועל הרושם הזעום שעשו על בני אותם דורות:

    אשר לפיוטים שעניינם מסע הצלב הראשון
    , אשר ליקטו הברמן וקודמיו, מספרם הזעום מפתיע. הברמן הביא שניים שלושה פיוטים בני זמנו של מסע הצלב הראשון. יתרה מזאת, לא ברור כלל אם כולם דנים במסע הצלב. וכבר העיר ברון, שפיוטים אלה חוזרים על עצמם ועל ניסוחם, המעורפל במידה רבה, בכל הנוגע למאורעות שהם אמורים לתאר ולהזכיר (שוורצפוקס, "מקומם של מסעי הצלב בדברי ימי ישראל", בתוך: ר' בונפיל, מ' בן-ששון, י' הקר (עורכים), תרבות וחברה בתולדות ישראל בימי-הביניים, קובץ מאמרים לזכרו של ח"ה בן-ששון, ירושלים תשמ"ט, עמוד 257)

    Yet Grossman himself disagrees:

    קשה להסכים עם קביעות אלה מהטעמים דלהלן: מספר הפיוטים הקדומים המתייחסים אל גזירות תתנ"ו שהובאו בספרו של הברמן איננו 'שניים או שלושה'. הוא הביא בספרו שבעה פיוטים כאלה, ועליהם יש להוסיף ארבע קינות של ר' אלעזר ב"ר נתן (הראב"ן) המשולבות בתיאור הגזירות. למעשה, כבר כתב הברמן במפורש, כי הוא מביא לקט ומבחר מן הפיוטים על גזירות תתנ"ו, וכי הוא לא ירד למנות את כולם. בין אלה שלא הובאו על ידו יש לציין במיוחד את הקינה על חורבנה של קהילת וורמייזא שחוברה סמוך מאוד לאותן הגזירות, ואולי מיד עם סיומן, על ידי ר' יעקב בר' יצחק הלוי, בנו של ראש ישיבת וורמייזא...

    בקינות אלה אין תיאורים כלליים של הגזירות אלא התייחסות מפורשת אל האירועים בשנת תתנ"ו. עליהם יש להוסיף פיוטים אחרים שנתחברו לאחר מסע הצלב השני וגזירות אחרות, אשר בהם תינו הכותבים את הצרות שתכפו עליהם מבלי להתייחס דווקא אל תתנ"ו, אך ניתן לחוש בבירור כי גם הן נלקחו בחשבון מניין הצרות. מדרך הטבע ישלב כותב מאוחר את פרעות זמנו עם אלה שקדמו להן ולא יסתפק בהזכרת הראשונות בלבד, ואין בעובדא זו כדי ללמד שנחלש או נעלם רישומן של הצרות הראשונות.

    כללו של דבר, בתחום הפיוט נשארו הדים מרובים וקשים לגזירות תתנ"ו, ולכך יש חשיבות מרובה. הפיוט שימש באותם ימים ככלי הביטוי העיקרי להגיגיהם של בני הקהילות, ובו ביטאו את שמחותיהם ובעיקר את מכאוביהם ויגונם. יתר על כן, מסורות שונות היו מצויות בידי חכמי אשכנז שלאחר הגזירות, והן הועברו מדור לדור, תוך שמירת משמעותם של פרטים שונים הנמצאים באותם פיוטים שנתחברו על גזירות תתנ"ו. לפי מסורות אלה, אף שחלק מדברי הפייטנים נראים כתיאורים כלליים בלבד, נתכוונו בהם הכותבים לרמוז אל אירועים ממשיים שהתרחשו באותן גזירות. (אברהם גרוסמן, 'שורשיו של קידוש השם באשכנז הקדומה', בתוך: ישעיהו גפני, אביעזר רביצקי (עורכים), 'קדושת החיים וחירוף הנפש, קובץ מאמרים לזכרו של אמיר יקותיאל', עמודים 101 - 103)


    Suicide and Infanticide in Halachah: A critique of Soloveitchik, Halbertal, and Berkovitz

    All of this serves as an appropriate introduction to an analysis of Professor Haym Soloveitchik's provocative discussion of medieval Ashkenazic halachic attitudes toward martydom in Halakhah, Hermeneutics and Martyrdom in Medieval Ashkenaz (Part I of II) (Jewish Quarterly Review, Volume 94 Number 1 Winter 2004 p. 77) [I am greatly indebted to Andy for drawing my attention to, and providing me with copies of Soloveitchik's article, as well as the previously cited article by Grossman].

    Soloveitchik opens by arguing:

    Some fifteen years ago, I argued that there are occasions when cultural norms shape the perception of Halakhah, even on the part of its greatest thinkers. There is no pure empiricism in Halakhah, any more than in any other discipline. The simplest text, if it leads to unbelievable conclusions, will be either discounted or reinterpreted. The more outlandish the conclusions of the straightforward interpretation, the less plausible need be the reinterpretation. Despite its improbability, it will carry the air of verisimilitude to those who share the shock at the alternative. This does not happen often, but it does happen - even in such important areas of Jewish law as martyrdom.

    The strange reasoning of the Tosafists on the subject of martyrdom does not, I contended, bear legal scrutiny. Both their justification of suicide when fearing that one might yield to torture and apostasize and their even more surprising defense of parents slaughtering infants to prevent them from being reared as Christians were post facto justifications of the conduct of Jewish communities during the first Crusade. ...

    The matter seemed fairly obvious to me, and I contented myself with one long footnote of documentation. This was evidently a mistake. Much to my surprise, this claim stirred considerable controversy. ...

    Clearly the matter needs to be treated in far greater detail. Let us turn to the Tosafist writings on martyrdom, examine them carefully, and see whether their hermeneutical sins on this topic are indeed so scarlet. ...

    Soloveitchik follows with an intricately detailed and closely reasoned argumentation showing that the Tosafists' reasoning in this area is not compelling and arbitrary, but that, on the other hand, the dilemmas faced by the Jewish victims of the Crusades had been unbearably agonizing. [In a recent, brief post, Wolf2191 is dismissive of Soloveitchik's entire argument, but I think it has more merit than he concedes, and that it is, in any event, worthy of a more detailed discussion.] Soloveitchik eloquently concludes:
    The choice that now confronted the Jews probed the limits of the halakhah. The laws of martyrdom treat the issue of when one is obliged to lay down one's life. What happens after one is dead is irrelevant legally, but only too relevant in real life. The fate of the child of the now-dead martyr was out of the purview of halakhah, but remained at the very center of Jewish concerns for their Jewish continuance. Halakhah could not adequately address that burning question, so Jews addressed it on their own. Halakhists endorsed their solution, some even rationalized it after a fashion. The inadequacy of their answers was not simply because they were given after the bloody fact, but also because the received halakhah was inadequate to resolve the tragic question raised by their present condition: What was the point of Jewish martyrdom if the children would be reared as Christians?

    Although Soloveitchik's arguments are, as I mentioned before, generally quite cogent, I believe that a couple of his points are erroneous. He writes:

    Let us now turn to the issue of killing one's children rather than allowing them to fall into the hands of the idolators (i.e. Christians). ...
    Perhaps nothing better illustrates the factors at work than [R. Meir of Rothenberg's] responsum. It reads:
    יהודי אחד שאל את ר' מאיר שיחיה, אם צריך כפרה על ששחט(א) אשתו וד' בניו ביום הרג רב בקופלינש עיר הדמים, כי כן ביקשוהו יען ראו כי יצא הקצף מלפני ד' והתחילו האויבים להרוג בני קל חי הנהרגים על קדוש השם. וגם הוא רצה להרוג את עצמו במית(ו)תם אלא שהיצילו ד' על ידי גויים.

    וכתב לו: לא ידענא שפיר מה אידון ביה, כי ודאי ההורג את עצמו על ייחוד ד' רשאי לחבול בעצמו, ואמר יכול כשאול, ת"ל אך. ... אבל לשחוט אחרים צריך עיון למצוא ראייה להתיר, ומשאול אין ראייה לאיסור אחרי שצווה דוד להרוג אותו (וכן) בן איש גר העמלקי, שנאמר אנכ[י] מות(ו)תתי משיח ד', [דדילמא משיח ד'] שאני. ...

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