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

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    A Tale of Two Lost Archives

    by

    Marc B. Shapiro

    I have spent much of my professional life rummaging through collections of documents, mostly in well-kept archives, but sometimes also in hard-to-reach places in basements and attics. Fortunately, I have made some great discoveries in these places, but I will now tell you a story that doesn't have a happy ending.

    It begins around fifteen years ago, when I was researching the life of R. Jehiel Jacob Weinberg. With the strength that only someone in his twenties has, I traveled around the world, knocking on doors, and tracking down every letter I could find written by Weinberg.[1] During this time I was in touch with the widow of R Hillel Medalie. While not a student of Weinberg, Medalie became close to him after the war. During this time he was serving as rabbi of Leeds, a tenure which incidentally led to a terrible dispute with R. Solomon Fisch, another rabbi in Leeds.[2] The dispute was so bad that Fisch refused to serve with Medalie on the Leeds beit din, and R. Joseph Apfel was appointed a dayan in Fisch's place. Apfel was a student of Weinberg, and more responsa in Seridei Esh are addressed to him than anyone else. At this time, he was serving as a hazan in Leeds, but after being appointed to the beit din his impressive learning was able to come to the fore.

    In 1996 Apfel published Yad Yosef, which contains his collected writings. It also contains letters from numerous great Torah scholars including R. Jehiel Jacob Weinberg, R. Dov Berish Wiedenfeld, the Lubavitcher Rebbe, R. Isaac Jacob Weiss and R. Nachum Eliezer Rabinovitch. Among the most interesting teshuvot is one that is written by R. Pinhas Toledano, the Sephardic Av Beit Din of London. Apfel turned to him with the following problem: In Leeds there is a Jewish old age home and a non-Jew cooks for the residents on Shabbat. Is this permissible? Apfel had argued that the elderly residents are regarded as holeh she-ein bo sakanah, and it is permissible for a non-Jew to cook for a holeh she-ein bo sakanah. Others disagreed and Apfel turned to Toledano for his opinion.[3]

    Toledano points out that while Apfel is correct that a non-Jew may cook for a holeh she-ein bo sakanah, (see Shulhan Arukh, Orah Hayyim 328:19), it is not at all clear that all old people have this status. Nowhere in the poskim do we find such a notion. So apparently, only for those elderly who suffer from diabetes, asthma or the like can the non-Jew cook. Yet Toledano concludes that the cooking is nevertheless permissible. Since the non-Jew is hired for the entire year, i.e., a contract worker, and can miss some days (vacation, etc.), there is room for leniency. While normally melakhah cannot be done in the house of a Jew because people will assume that the worker was hired to do the labor on Shabbat, in this case everyone knows that the cook is not hired on a daily basis. Toledano supports this contention by pointing out that in London everyone has milk delivered to the house on Shabbat and no one has raised any problems with this. I am too young to remember milk delivery, but I assume that this was the case in the U.S. as well, and the parallel is the daily delivery of newspapers. Toledano therefore concludes that it is permissible to have the non-Jew cook in the old age home. Yet he adds that even though halakhically this is OK, since it is very strange to permit such a thing in a Jewish old age home, the best thing to do is to cook the food on Friday and put it on a hot plate on Shabbat.

    Returning to Medalie, from Leeds he went on to become the rabbi of the Antwerp community. After his death in 1977, a very nice memorial volume appeared honoring both him and his father, R. Shemariah Judah Leib Medalie.[4]

    Here is a picture of R. Hillel.

     

     

     

    Here is R. Shemariah

    Although he came from a Chabad background, I don't know how strong Medalie's connection was to the movement throughout his life. His father, R. Shemariah, was close to the Rebbe, R. Yosef Yitzhak, and was a very important figure in Chabad spiritual activities in the Soviet Union.[5] He was also a major figure in the political activities that took place in Russian Orthodoxy after the fall of the Czar.[6] In 1933 he was appointed rabbi of the Moscow synagogue, which meant that he was regarded as the rav of the entire city, and also made him the most important rabbi in the Soviet Union.

    Before he left the country, R Hillel Medalie studied in a secret yeshiva that was headed by R. Mordechai Feinstein, R. Moshe's brother, who was the rav of Shklov. R. Moshe Zvi Neriyah was also a student here. The communists would later exile R. Mordechai to Siberia, where he died.[7] In the 1950's Medalie wrote to Weinberg about his attempts to secure his father's release from the Soviet Union. It had been years since he had communicated with his father and he did not know that in 1938 R. Shemariah was arrested, accused of counter-revolutionary activities, and shot.[8]

    R. Shemariah was one of many great talmidei hakhamim who were stuck behind the Iron Curtain, and even if not killed by the regime, lived out their days in what can only be described as a living hell.[9] While it was bad for everyone in the Soviet Union, for those whose lives revolved around Torah it was even worse. In accordance with the Lubavitcher Rebbe's wishes, the elder Medalie did not attempt to leave the Soviet Union. While other rebbes and great rabbis were fleeing the country, the Rebbe told his followers to stay, as it was their responsibility to bring Torah to the Jewish people, even in times and places of darkness. He told them that they should not only think about their own physical and spiritual well-being but that of the Jewish people as a whole.

    The Rebbe only changed his position in 1930 "when Stalinist terror was unleashed against rabbis and religious functionaries. But by then the difficulties connected with leaving the USSR were formidable and large scale emigration was impossible."[10] What this meant was that virtually all of the children and grandchildren of these hasidim ended up completely assimilating, and I think that in retrospect we can say that it was a terrible misjudgment. However, it must also be stated that when communism fell, there were still Habad families that had remained religious throughout all this time. The next time someone complains about how Habad is now dominating religious life in the former Soviet Union, he should remember this.

    This reluctance towards leaving the galut, even to go to Israel, is tied in with the Habad ideology that stresses the need to keep Judaism alive throughout the world. While this is generally a very good thing, as all world travelers can attest, sometimes the way it is expressed can be maddening for a religious Zionist to read. For example, in 1955, a few years after he became Rebbe, R. Menahem Mendel Schneersohn said as follows to his followers (Sihah for 20 Av, 5715):

     

    גם כאשר נמצאים בחוץ לארץ הרי זה המקום אשר יבחר ה' אלקיך בו, וגם כאן יכולה להיות עבודת הקרבנות ברוחניות . . . וזוהי ההוראה שצריכים להפיק מפרשת היום – ש"בכל המקום אשר אזכיר את שמי" הרי זה ארץ ישראל

    This downplaying of the Land of Israel was too much for R. Zvi Yehudah Kook, and he responded as follows (Le-Hilkhot Tzibur, p. 33):

     

    התואר "המקום אשר יבחר ד' א-להיך בו" נאמר בתורת ד' מן השמים רק על קדושת ארץ ישראל וירושלים שאיננה ניתנת להעברה וחלופין ח"ו על שום מקום בעולם . . . עבודת הקודש של העסק בתורה, שקידתה, הגדלתה והאדרתה וחרדת קודש של קיום מצוותיה הקדושות באמונה שלימה, ולדבקה בד' א-להים חיים ללכת בדרכיו, והחיוב על כל אדם מישראל לחזור כל ימיו בתשובה, לעולם לא תעקור, לא תמלא את המקום ולא תחליף את מצוות ד' של עבודת הקרבנות, שמקומה רק בפנים ולא מבחוץ. "בכל מקום אשר אזכיר שמי, שם ארץ ישראל" – ארץ ישראל מוגדרת ומוגבלת ומסומנת לקדושתה וסגולתה ולהגדרות חיובי מצוותיה ממקורות תורה שבכתב ותורה שבע"פ מקורות חז"ל דברי רבותינו גדולי ישראל ראשונים ואחרונים. וזה לשון הגמרא ברכות דף נז. "העומד ערום בחלום, בבבל עומד בלא חטא, בארץ ישראל ערום בלא מצוות" ולשון קדשו של רש"י שם: "בבבל עומד בלא חטא, לפי שחו"ל אין לה זכיות, אלא עוון יש בישבתה וזה עומד ערום בלא אותם עוונות." ע"כ

     

    Returning to Medalie, he also had a very good secular education, having received an MA from the University of Manchester and a doctorate from Trinity College in Dublin. In fact, Moshe Sharett, who was Israel's first foreign minister, wanted Medalie to serve as Israel's ambassador to Great Britain. Medalie declined the request after discussing the matter with the Hazon Ish.[11] Knowing of his closeness to Weinberg, I was anxious to examine his papers to find any letters from him, as well as from other great rabbis. His widow told me that all of his papers had been deposited at Machon Ariel in Jerusalem. No one had gone through them; they had simply been thrown into boxes and taken away.

    Around twelve years ago I went to Machon Ariel to try to find out something about the papers. No one could tell me anything and I almost despaired. Fortunately, with the help of a janitor I found two giant boxes in a storage room in the basement. This contained all the materials taken from Medalie's home. There was no light in the storage room or even in the basement (something was wrong with the electricity that day). The only light I had was from the windows on the top of the basement walls. I took the boxes, one at a time, and emptied them on the floor. I then spent a number of hours going through all the papers, putting aside everything that came from Weinberg. The rest of the material, including letters, speeches, and pictures, was of great interest and documented many years in the rabbinate. But this would have to wait until another day. For now, my focus was on in finding the Weinberg material, and I was able to make copies of whatever I located. I used a number of the Weinberg letters in my book and also published some of them in Kitvei ha-Rav Weinberg, vols. 1 and 2.

    I was leaving for the U.S. on the following day, so I made a note to myself to come back to Machon Ariel and carefully go through both large boxes. I knew that there was all sorts of fascinating material in these boxes and was very excited about a return trip. Shortly before I left, I looked at another large box (or maybe even two or three; I can no longer recall). This was full of Pinchas Peli's papers. Peli, who was a distinguished person in his own right, played a major role in bringing knowledge of R. Soloveitchik's thought to Israel, with the publication in 1975 of Al ha-Teshuvah. Here is his picture.

    Peli had a nice relationship with the Rav and I had no doubt that there were letters from the him among the Peli papers, but this too have to await a return trip. I was certain that no one would beat me to this, as no one cared, or even know, about the dusty boxes in the basement storage room, which had dishes and glasses in front of them. (There was a small catering business in the basement.) I had seen it before – boxes placed in some far-removed place where they remain for years and years, out of sight and out of mind, much like the Cairo Geniza. There is no doubt that when the Medalie and Peli papers were donated, the survivors didn't expect that they would be put in some far away place where no one could examine them. They thought that the papers would be catalogued and kept in some sort of archive. Since Machon Ariel had not done anything in this direction, I figured that on a future visit I would take out all of the important material and then speak to the people in charge, alerting them to whatever treasures I had found and asking that they be kept in some sort of archive.

    Mrs. Medalie told me that when the papers were at her home, some Chabad people had already looked through them for material from the Rebbe. She asked me to keep an eye out for any letters from him. Unfortunately, I didn't see anything, and presumably the material had already been removed. There are some letters to Medalie in the Rebbe's published correspondence. However, there are also many that do not appear there, but are found in R. Shalom Dov Ber Wolpo's Shemen Sason le-Haverekha,[12] which has a lengthy chapter on Medalie and the Rebbe. I assume that the new letters published here are what that the Chabad people found at the Medalie home.

    While I was working in the basement no one was watching me. No one even knew I was there. I could have walked off with anything. I considered the possibility that all this precious material would one day be lost, since Machon Ariel had no interest in it. (They probably accepted it in order to do the families a favor, but didn't have the resources to do anything with the boxes). I rationalized to myself that since the material wasn't being taken care of properly, something should be done. I thought that since I could watch over it and give the material a good "home," that it would be OK for me to walk off with it. But I immediately squelched the thought, since stealing is always improper. Although there is a long list of people who have pilfered books and manuscripts, I didn't want to join the list, even for the best possible reason.

    In January 2007 I finally had the opportunity to return to Machon Ariel to pick up where I left off. I saw that the basement is now a nursery school. Everything that used to be there was removed a number of years ago. There was no one there to talk to about this at the time, but in June 2008 I returned and had the janitor take me around. The boxes were nowhere to be seen. None of the administrators had any idea what I was talking about. I was shown the library, which is undergoing renovations. It was a mess and there were a bunch of boxes that were set to be taken to genizah the following day. What a story it could have been if I had been able to save the Peli and Medalie boxes one day before they were to be lost? But unfortunately, the material was not there. I assume that when the new construction happened in the basement, the boxes were thrown out like so much other garbage. For an average person looking at a large box with old papers, it certainly would have looked like garbage. Yet how much precious material is now lost forever.

    For all the great and important material found in archives around the world, much more has been lost. In fact, only a few years ago the son of one of Weinberg's students contacted me about getting copies of the letters of Weinberg to his father, since they can't find the originals. The father gave me copies many years ago and now they are lost. After he passed away and his house was cleaned, the letters were mistakenly thrown out. Such was probably the fate of many of the Weinberg letters that I was given copies of. It is the way of the world and there is little we can do about it, but it is frustrating nonetheless.

    The visit to Machon Ariel was noteworthy in at least one respect. On the floor of the library, waiting to be sent to the genizah, was a large pile of issues of Panim el Panim. This was a weekly that appeared in the 1950's and 1960's, edited by Peli, which covered the entire range of Orthodox life, and included interviews with leading figures from all camps. Unfortunately, it is not available online. One of its outstanding features were the numerous pictures of gedolim, rabbis, scholars, and public figures, many of which are found nowhere else. I grabbed one issue (20 Elul 5724), in order to have something to read in the hotel, and in it one finds the following pictures of Abraham Berliner

    and Jacob Barth,

    which as far as I know do not appear anywhere else.

    Here is a picture of R. Aaron Walkin of Pinsk, which I don't recall ever having seen.

    While on the theme of pictures of gedolim, let me note what appears in the recent volume focusing on the life of R. Bezalel Rakov, the Rav of Gateshead.[13] Rabbi Rakov thought very highly of such pictures and had them all over his house. He felt that today, when there are so many inappropriate pictures everywhere we look, it is important to have pictures of great rabbis to act as a counter. Here is a picture of Rabbi Rakov, from the beginning of the volume.

    Getting back to Panim el Panim, one of the cover stories in the issue I took is about how R. Yehezkel Sarne visited Heichal Shlomo and the conflict this created, since by so doing R. Sarne was violating the Brisker Rav's ban against the institution. Some believe that it was the Brisker Rav's harsh stance that prevented his nephew, R. Joseph B. Soloveitchik, from accepting the offer to become Chief Rabbi of the State of Israel.

    In general, the views of R. Sarne, and his Chevron Yeshiva, were more moderate than much of the haredi world (although he was known to be very anti-Habad). A glance at the names of those who attended the yeshiva shows that there are outstanding figures from all across the religious spectrum.[14] It is because of this that I was a little surprised when I read in a biography of R. Shakh[15] that R. Sarne once spoke very negatively to R. Shlomo Yosef Zevin about the Lubavitcher Rebbe. In fact, according to this source when R. Sarne was ill and R. Zevin visited him, R. Sarne told R. Zevin that his hasidut is heresy, his Rebbe is a heretic, and he is a heretic. When his health improved he went to R. Zevin's house and apologized for treating him that way when the latter came to visit him. But now that he is at Zevin's house, he wants to reaffirm that his hasidut is heresy, his rebbe is a heretic, and he is a heretic! The story as it appears is obviously a yeshiva fairy tale. But I asked R. Hayyim Sarne, R. Yehezkel's son and current Rosh Yeshiva of Hevron (the Geula branch) if it is true that his father once spoke harshly to R. Zevin about Habad. He told me that it is true but that his father later apologized to R. Zevin, i.e., a real apology.

    Since I mentioned R. Sarne and his inappropriate comments, let me tell another story that relates to the fact that he would sometimes say things that perhaps he shouldn't have. Those who have read my book no doubt recall the funeral scene that I describe right at the beginning.[16] That, more than anything else, really shows the difficulty in placing Weinberg in any particular category. I actually feel that it was appropriate that he was buried in Har ha-Menuhot with all the other great rabbis, rather than the place chosen by the Mizrachi leaders (even if R. Herzog is also buried there). I say this for the following reason: R. Weinberg could not live in the haredi world. His views were too different from them. In fact, as my friend Shlomo Tikochinski has correctly pointed out, Weinberg is the only great sage respected in the haredi world whose views are so much at variance with it.

    Yet while Weinberg wanted to live as a more modern type of rabbi, one who was a Zionist and academic scholar in addition to being a Torah sage, he wanted to be remembered as a gadol be-Yisrael. At the end of the day, he wanted his Torah works to be studied, and the only place for this was in the great yeshivot. So although he couldn't live in their world, for posterity he would have wanted his legacy to be with them. However, I must also add the following: When Weinberg passed away all the great yeshivot were in the haredi orbit, so it would be natural that this is where he would want to be remembered. At that time, high level Torah study could hardly be found in the Mizrachi world. However, things are very different now, with the flowering of religious Zionist yeshivot of all sorts. If Weinberg were alive today, he would be able to feel fully comfortable in the religious Zionist world, since he would see the intensive Torah study and openness to secular learning of places like Maaleh Adumim, Har Etzion, and the like. Yet these yeshivot simply didn't exist in his lifetime.

    Not long after my book appeared, I was in a bookstore in New York City (does anyone remember Ideal Books?). I started talking to a certain fellow who happened to be a rav in Brooklyn and a son of one of the great Torah scholars of the previous generation. He told me that he is the only one alive who can testify as to what was said in the conversation between R. Yehezkel Sarne and the men who were in charge of the funeral, after R. Sarne and his students stopped the procession. (At the time, he was a student at the Chevron yeshiva.) Before he told me the story, he noted that one should remember that in his old age R. Sarne sometimes said things that were not appropriate. He gave one example of this: R. Sarne once went into the Brisk yeshiva and started screaming at the students that they should start learning mussar (Brisk being a place where they don't do this). Only after telling me this story was he ready to inform me what was said at the funeral. According to him, after arguing with R. Sarne about where to bury Weinberg, Zorah Warhaftig, the Minister of Religions, was exasperated and declared: "But we have already dug the grave." To this, R. Sarne replied (in Yiddish): "Put yourself in it!" The yeshiva students then took the coffin and proceeded to Har ha-Menuhot.

    Returning to my conversation with R. Hayyim Sarne, which began with a discussion on Weinberg and moved into other areas, I was at his home for a good while and asked him many things. I even got into a disagreement with him on one issue. I am sure this surprised him, since roshei yeshiva are not used to young men challenging something they say. He insisted that it was better for people to be secularists than to identify with one of the non-Orthodox denominations. I responded that the opposite was the case, as the non-Orthodox groups at least add some Jewish content to people's lives. They also help slow down assimilation. (Of course, all this is valuable in and of itself, but from a purely utilitarian standpoint it also makes the job of the kiruv organizations easier.) Yet he didn't buy it and couldn't even see my point, which I think is shared by virtually all thinking people in the Diaspora.

    I used the conversation to ask him why the haredim have such a negative view of R. Kook's philosophical writings, and his answer was very enlightening. To this day I have never seen it anywhere in print. He told me that one can turn pages and pages in R. Kook's philosophical works without coming across a rabbinic text (ma'amar hazal). He insisted that a "kosher" work of Jewish thought must be constantly citing rabbinic texts. I had never thought of this point before, but I think it is quite significant. As all who study R. Kook know, he writes in such an original fashion that he becomes the primary text, and one can indeed turn many pages before seeing a ma'amar hazal.

    In the new biography of the Brisker Rav (R. Velvel Soloveitchik), there is a very nice picture of R. Hayyim Sarne and his father in Switzerland, together with R. Jehiel Jacob Weinberg and R. Wolf Rosengarten of Zurich.[17] This has nothing at all to do with R. Velvel. It is included because the picture was taken in Switzerland and the biography discusses R. Velvel's few trips there for health reasons. I assume that the author had this nice picture which he wanted to include, so he found some tenuous connection, even though, as I mentioned, it has nothing to do with R. Velvel.

    While R. Velvel was in Switzerland, he was taken care of by Rosengarten, who appears prominently in the biography. R. Velvel also spent a lot of time with his nephew, R. Moshe Soloveitchik of Zurich. Both Rosengarten and Soloveitchik were also close to Weinberg. It has fascinated me that in all of the hundreds of letters that I have, Weinberg never mentions the Brisker Rav's trips to Switzerland. He also had no interest in going to meet R. Velvel, even though the distance between them was no more than a few hours. I get the feeling that Weinberg felt that R. Velvel was in such a different world that it would be hard for them to even have a pleasant conversation. It might be that he was even intimidated by the Brisker Rav's extremism. What makes this more interesting is that R. Moshe Sternbuch, who had become a great follower of the Brisker Rav, was also close to Weinberg. R. Bezalel Rakov taught at the Montreux yeshiva in the 1950's, and he too had a very close relationship with Weinberg. As with so many other Torah scholars in Switzerland, Rakov too went to see the Brisker Rav.

    I think we might get a sense of why Weinberg made no effort to meet R. Velvel from the following story:[18] When Rakov went to meet R. Velvel, the latter refused to see him after he heard that he taught at the yeshiva in Montreux. This yeshiva was founded in 1927 and drew students from all over Western Europe. While R. Elijah Botchko, the Rosh Yeshiva, was a member of Agudah and the yeshiva was viewed as part of this world (R. Aharon Leib Steinman even studied there during World War II), he didn't tow the party line and was certainly more positive towards Zionism than the typical Agudist. Both he and his son and successor, R. Moshe Botchko, were also not opposed to the students getting a secular education. In the 1950's there was even a plan to for the yeshiva to provide this. It is this issue in particular that is mentioned in explaining why the Brisker Rav refused to see Rakov:

     

    דאפשר שגם הוא בין אלו שרצו להכניס בישיבה לימודי חול בין כותלי הישיבה

     

    Only after Rakov was able to convince the Brisker Rav's son that he had the proper hashkafot was he permitted to meet the Brisker Rav. He later recalled that the reason he was able to develop a good relationship with R. Velvel was because the latter valued his efforts in "fighting at the yeshiva so that they not incorporate secular studies." I think it is likely that knowing how different his outlook was from that of R. Velvel, and that R. Velvel had no hesitation in speaking his mind, Weinberg decided to avoid what might turn into a difficult meeting. Whereas other gedolim from the yeshiva world wouldn't dream of getting into an argument with Weinberg or telling him why his outlook was mistaken, the Brisker Rav, who always spoke his mind, would have had no such compunctions. As for the Montreux yeshiva, in 1985 it relocated to Israel and is now a hesder yeshiva.[19] This shows that even apart from the issue of secular studies, the yeshiva did not share the Brisker Rav's approach.


    [1] Since my book appeared I have also discovered many more letters, including a collection sent to one of the leaders of the yeshiva world (whose identity I am not at present able to divulge). In my Note on Sources, found after the preface, I mentioned that while such letters might cause me to reevaluate some of my conclusions, I was confident that the picture I presented would not be substantially altered. I was happy to see that nothing in these letters caused me to change any of my earlier thoughts.

    [2] See Fisch's Yeriot Shlomo (Jerusalem, 1983). Among Fisch's contributions to Jewish scholarship are his editions of Midrash ha-Gadol on Numbers and Deuteronomy and his commentary to Ezekiel in the Soncino Books of the Bible.


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    Many mitvot require that one stand. One of which is reading the Torah. Thus, the ba'al koreh and the person making the blessing stand. When it comes to those who are just listening, there is a debate whether they are required to stand as well. Some hold that the listeners are required to stand while others require the listeners to stand only for the blessings, and finally others don't there is a nearly universal custom to stand during the recitation of the Ten Commandments. Tracing the history of this custom, however, uncovers that not only is this a fairly recent custom, it is also a highly problematic one.

    The earliest possible source for this custom, as with many of today's "universal" customs, is the Hemdat Yamim. The Hemdat Yamim, records that:


    According to the Hemdat Yamim, the custom of the Ari (most of his customs the Hemdat Yamim attributes to the Ari, see this post discussing the spurious nature of the Meron custom also attributed to the Ari,) was to not stand for the recitation of the Torah with the exception of the Ten Commandments. Importantly, the Hemdat Yamim is only proposing this custom, not attempting to justify an already existing custom. Moreover, as we shall see, most who discuss the custom of standing for the ten commandments do so in an effort to reconcile this custom with the prohibition of elevating or highlighting the ten commandments as proscribed by the Talmud.

    For instance, R. Shmuel Aboab discusses the custom of standing for the Ten Commandments. R. Aboab was asked "about the custom of some to stand for the Ten Commandments, what is the reason for this custom and should others follow it?" In his response, R. Aboab first questions the custom in light of the well-known passage in the Berachot where the Talmud records that the custom to read the Ten Commandments was abolished in the "gevulot" due to the "minim." Thus, according to the Talmud, highlighting the Ten Commandments or, in this case, standing specifically for their reading may run afoul of this passage. Ultimately, R. Aboab defends the custom of standing and distinguishes the Talmudic passage and claims that the Talmudic restriction is only applicable "when it is unclear why one is favoring the Ten Commandments over the rest of the Torah, i.e. when one reads the Ten Commandments daily. But, here, [merely standing on Shavout or Parshat Yitro or Vethanan] the purpose is clear in that we are reenacting the acceptance of the Divine Glory and thus there is no fear of the minim. The standing for the Ten Commandments is thus akin to standing when we recite the blessing on the new moon, . . . as Abbai states we need to do it standing and Rashi explains that since we are greeting the Divine Glory we are required to make the blessing standing out of respect for the Divine Glory. Therefore, we stand when the Ten Commandments are read and it poses no problem."[1]

    The Hida also defends the custom of standing and argues the Talmudic fear of minim is not applicable as the Ten Commandments are read as part of a larger Torah reading thereby demonstrating that although we may stand for part we believe in it all.[2]

    In fact, it is not an exaggeration to say, from the early 18th century there has been a virtual explosion of commentaries attempting to justify this custom in light of the Talmud. [3]

    Of course, as with most Jewish customs, not everyone agrees that standing for the Ten Commandments is appropriate. R. Y. Emden (additions to the Siddur, Laws of Shavout) holds that one should not stand for the Ten Commandments as does R. Gieger in Divrei Keholot (p. 466).

    Returning now to the origins, the earliest and most likely source is the Hemdat Yamim, which dates to sometime in the 17th century. That said, he is not actually the earliest person to discuss this custom. Rather, the Rambam discusses this custom, however, the Rambam cannot be the source for the custom of standing for two reasons. First, this passage of the Rambam was unknown until the 20th century. Second, the Rambam was against the custom of standing for the Ten Commandments.

    The Rambam's statement appears in two editions of his responsa, first in the Freimann edition and then again, with small differences, in the Blau edition. The first, Freimann was published in 1934, and Blau's was published in 1971. Consequently, these can not be the sources for the custom discussed in the 17th century as these were still in manuscript and unknown in the 17th century - that is, no one mentions the Rambam until the publication of these editions. Moreover, as we have seen, this is not a inconsequential custom, rather, on its face this custom runs counter to the Talmud and thus if in fact this custom pre-dated the Hemdat Yamim why is there no one who raises the conflict with the Talmud in Berchot. As we have seen, once the custom is discussed it is almost always in the context of justifying the custom in light of the Talmudic passage.

    The Rambam, contrary to the position of those discussed above, takes issue with standing during the Ten Commandments. Specifically, unlike those above, he is unwilling to distinguish the Talmudic passage and in fact expands on what the Talmud prohibits. According to the Rambam, based on the Talmud, it is prohibited from elevating any part of the Torah over any other part. As the Rambam discusses at length in his Commentary on the Mishna, the introduction to Perek Helek, it is heresy to claim any one part of the Torah is more important than any other. Similarly, the Rambam holds that to stand for one part of the Torah and not another part is akin to heresy as it shows that the Ten Commandments are somehow worthy of standing to the exclusion of the rest of the Torah.

    To recap, the custom of standing seems to have become popular with the Hemdat Yamim in the early 18th century and the Rambam was against this practice ruling that it skirted the line of heresy. R. Ovadiah Yosef, basing himself on the Rambam (R. Yosef doesn't trace the lack of historical basis for the custom), rules that it is prohibited to stand. Surprisingly, this is not the conclusion reached by all his contemporaries. Instead, R. Waldenberg, takes the position that since this is well-established "minhag yisrael" standing for the ten commandments is permitted. R. Waldenberg raises the possibility that this custom falls in the category of those customs which are so powerful they override law.

    R. Waldenberg then deals with the Rambam, and essentially dismisses the Rambam as unimportant because this responsum was unknown. R. Waldenberg then throws in for good measure the controversial statement of the Hazon Ish regarding using recently discovered manuscripts. [4]

    R. Waldenberg is not the only one to dismiss this responsum. R. Feinstein also discusses standing for the Ten commandments and offers his own justification. In doing so he never mentions the Rambam's position. R. David Feinstein was asked if his father was aware of this responsum and R. D. Feinstein said that his father was not. But, R. Dovid continued, "knowing his father's position on newly discovered manuscripts - [that he took a dim view?]- the Rambam's responsum doesn't affect the analysis."Feldman, Yisrael be-Mamadam, p . 1051.

    Thus, rather then dealing with the Rambam in a meaningful manner many appear to be willing to dismiss the entire position of the Rambam. Furthermore, the reason for this pithy dismissal is not based on substance but, instead, by alleging without any basis in fact that this responsum is a forgery.

    In sum, the custom of standing is based on the Hemdat Yamim and is not older than the 18th century. The Rambam had serious reservations about establishing such a custom, but some are willing to ignore the Rambam on questionable grounds.



    Sources:

    See Y. Goldhaver, Minhagei Kehilot, vol. 1 227-36 where the majority of the above is taken from. See also, Sperber, Minhagei Yisrael, vol. 2, 109-11, n.63 (he discusses among other things, the meaning of "minim"); E. Brodt, Yeruschasanu, vol. 2, p. 208; G. Oberlander, Minhag Avotanu be-Yadanu, Nissan-Av, chapter 27; S.Y. Feldman, Yisrael be-Mamadam, vol. 2, 1040-51.

    See also, Goitein, A Mediterranean Society, vol. II, 340 where he records the custom that to take an oath one had to swear "in the name of God, and the Ten Commandments." And that a document from Syracuse, Sicily, it records that "the party giving the oath was even obliged to read the Ten Commandments aloud from the Torah Scroll."

    Notes:
    [1] R. Aboab's distinction is far from certain. Specifically, why it is clear on Shavout one is standing for a particular purpose as opposed to the daily recitation of the Ten Commandments?

    [2] This reasoning is also not convincing as the proposed daily recitation of the ten commandments was also in a larger context where other Torah passages are recited, Shema, Az Yashir, and Tehilim. If reading the ten commandments during Yitro obviates the minim issue why doesn't reading it with the Shema or the Monday and Thursday Torah readings obviate the minim issue?

    [3] See R. Ovadiah Yosef, Yeheva Da'at, vol. 1 no. 29 where in his typical fashion cites almost all the relevant literature.

    [4] R. Waldenberg is not the first, nor presumably will he be the last, to question the authenticity of a particular responsum of the Rambam. For other examples, see Y.S. Speigel, Amudim be-Tolodot Sefer ha-Ivri, Kiteva ve-Hatakah, 264-65.



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    R' Orenstein, Author of the Yesuos Yaakov: The Controversy Over Publication of his Works
    by R. Yosaif M. Dubovick
    R. Y. Dubovick has published many articles on diverse topics. He is currently working on many projects including a critical edition of the Rabbenu Hananel's commentary on Bava Kama. Additionally, he has published a critical edition of the Mahrashal on hilchot shehita and Yoreh Deah (discussed here ) and R. Dubovick is working on some of the Mahrashal's other works. As R. Orenstein's yarhzeit is the 25th of Av, Tuesday, Aug. 26, R. Dubovick provides the following information on this personage and his works.

    Biographical Sketch of R'
    Orenstein


    Perhaps the crown of pre-war Polish Jewry was the city of Lvov (Lviv, Lemberg). Settled in the dawn of our history in Poland, the city was renowned as a center of learning and piety, drawing from the elite of scholarship to its helm. The mere mention of the city's name draws to mind those Gaonim, such as R' Yehoshua, author of Shut Pnei Yehoshua, Sefer Maginei Shlomo (grandfather of the author of the noted Pnei Yehoshua on Shas), as well as R' Shmuel HaLevi author of Turei Zahav on Shulchan Aruch 1 (son-in-law of R' Yoel Sirkes2 the author of Bayis Chodosh on Tur)3. R' Zvi Ashkenazi (author of Chacham Tzvi, father of R' Yaakov Emden), R' Shlomo of Chelm, author of Merkeves haMishnah on Rambam (as well as homilies on the haftorot and a volume of responsa4), and R' Chayim Hakohen Rappoport5 all held the position of Av Beis Din and Rav of Lvov.


    The subject of Toldos Anshei Shem by R' Shlomo Buber, Lvov has had its history well written and studied. R' Buber went so far as to personally request from the Rav of Krakow, the noted historian and author, R' Noson Chayim Dembitzer to collate his own findings; the result, a sefer of immense value to any student of history and genealogy, Klillat Yofe.6 These seforim list prominent men of stature and renown, leaders of the kehillot, their works and ancestors, shedding valuable light on the city's history.


    From the beginning of the 5th century, (1640) Lvov's two communities ['inner' Lvov, and 'outer' Lvov] united under the leadership of one Rav. This period of grace between the communities lasted for close to two hundred years, and ended with the passing of the famed Gaon of Lvov, R' Yaakov Meshulem Orenstein in 5599 (1839), the focus of this article.


    Much has been written regarding this sage, with numerous accounts detailing his biography. Klillat Yofe details his father's position as Rav of Lvov, R' Mordechai Zeev, who took office after R' Shlomo of Chelm stepped down as Rav in order to embark on a journey to Eretz Israel.7 In 5547 (1787) R' Mordechai Zeev was taken suddenly from this world, leaving a young twelve year old Yaakov Meshulem an orphan. The youth's best interests in mind, whilst still in the shiva period he was betrothed to the daughter of R' Tzvi Hirsch of Yaruslav, who was financially well off and would support his son-in-law.8 As such, the young man developed in his studies, and gained repute as a scholar of stature. His opinion was sought in many difficult matters, and elders as well as his contemporaries flocked to his doorstep in Yaruslav to discuss various issues with him. Notably, R' Aharon Moshe Tobias of Satnin, author of Shut Toafos Reem, would spend much time conversing with R' Yaakov Meshulem.9 Additionally, he was friends with R' Yehonosan Shimon Frankel, author of Etz Pri Kodesh, Lember, 1838. See his haskmah where he referrs to him as "yidid nafshe." He was also friendly with R' Yaakov Tzvi Yalish, author of Melo haRoim who he refers to as "hu yedidi min'noar."


    R' Yaakov Meshulem mentions having been Rav AB"D of Zhalkov for a period, but the exact dates aren't clear. Later, he was appointed to take his father's seat as Rav AB"D of Lvov, and we find witness that in 5566 (1806) was already serving Lvov as its spiritual head, a position he held for over 30 years, until his passing.


    The hub of religious activity in Poland, R' Yaakov's opinion on halachic matters was sought out by the leading sages of his time. Halachic authorities such as R' Moshe Sofer (author of Shut Chasam Sofer), and R' Akiva Eiger, R' Aryeh Leibish of Stanislaw (as well as with his son and successor R' Meshulem Yissocher, author of Shut Bar Levai), as well as R' Yaakov's relative, R' Chaim Halberstam of Sanz all queried him on matters of grave importance. His opinions regarding rulings issued by R' Shlomo Kluger of Brody versus his dissenters are collected in sefer Shivas Eynayim, along with those of his son, R' Mordechai Zeev.


    While himself not a member of the Chassidic camp, R' Yaakov showed no animosity towards Chassidim and their leaders, and is purported to have met with Rebbe Yisroel Freidman of Ruzhin, as well as Rebbe Meir of Premshlyn.


    As the head of the most prestigious community in the area, R' Yaakov also held the position of Nasi or president of Eretz Israel, and was responsible for the collation and distribution of all tzedakah funds earmarked for the Holy Land's poor.10 In addition, being financially secure, R' Yaakov established a personal free-loan organization, a gemach.


    The apple of his eye, his only son R' Mordechai Zeev was taken from him at an early age on the 17th of MarCheshvan 5597 (Oct 28, 1836). Less than three years later, R' Yaakov passed away on the 25th day of Av, 5599 (Aug 5, 1839), and was buried next to R' Shmuel Halevi, author of Turei Zahav. Out of respect for their venerable leader, it was agreed upon that no longer would there be one Rav heading both communities, rather a new title called 'Rosh Bais Din', with less authority was implemented. In the succeeding line of leaders, Lvov called R' Yaakov's grandson, R' Tzvi Hirsch to take his rightful place. In turn, R' Tzvi Hirsch's son-n-law, R' Aryeh Leib Broide11 succeeded him.


    R' Orenstein's Works & the Controversy Over Their Publication

    A prolific writer, R' Yaakov is best known for his magnum opus, Yeshuos Yaakov, novella covering all four sections of the Shulchan Aruch. Published in his lifetime, R' Yaakov is said to have danced with a copy of a second edition, stating that he is now assured that this work is considered by heaven to be 'prophetic' in nature.12 He also penned chiddushim on the Torah in the order of the parshiyos, at first printed together with the chumash entitled 'Ein Yaakov', and later published as a separate volume. A new edition of these chiddushim was re-typeset in 5764 (2004), with a two page biographical sketch.


    Throughout Yeshuos Yaakov, R' Yaakov cites numerous times his chiddushim on Shas, Rambam as well as his teshuvos, responsa. Seemingly, these works remained in manuscript form, and over the course of the years were lost. Recently, an attempt was made to 'reconstruct' those chiddushim on Shas based on chiddushim and references gleaned from sefer Yeshuos Yaakov. Chiddushei Yeshuos Yaakov al Seder haShas, 7 volumes, printed by Machon leCheker Kisvei Yad - Chochmas Shlomoh, Yerushalayim, 5757-60/1997-2000.


    In the last months of 5666 (1906), R' Avraham Yosef Fisher, a well-known publisher, printed R' Yaakov's teshuvos from manuscript, in Peterkov. According to R' Fisher, he was given the autograph from the then Gerrer Rebbe, R' Avraham Mordechai Alter (author of Imrei Emes) for printing. The responsa were reordered according to the Shulchan Aruch, and in the end of the sefer, a table of contents as well as a list of errata and annotation was added. For reasons not fully explained, R' Fisher printed the book sans approbations that he claimed to have received from various leaders. He had applied to several sages for their approval, and while waiting for their response, decided to publish without them. In deference to those letters not at hand, he chose to omit those he did have, citing his desire to publish as taking precedence. This printing of the sefer was photo-mechanically reproduced in New York some forty years ago.


    Several months after his sefer was printed, R' Aryeh Leib Broide, the son-in-law of R' Yaakov's grandson and heir, R' Tzvi Hirsch, issued a variant title page, and introduction. Claiming that the book had been in his personal possession to date, he alone had sent it to a printer, one Shimon Neiman for publication. Seemingly, the book changed hands, R' Fisher took possession of the printed volumes, selling them under his name, with R' Aryeh Leib Broide receiving a mere thirty volumes. As rightful owner, R' Aryeh Leib decried this act, and wondered how the name of the Gerrer Rebbe had been brought in to the fray. The variant pages were then bound to these thirty volumes.


    Speculation as the behind the scenes reasoning would be an exercise in futility, as no word of it was mentioned by the Gerrer Rebbe himself.13 While it is possible that R' Aryeh Leib's claims are accurate, R' Fisher was a respected publisher, and would only stand to lose by stooping to theft. Further, the silence of the Gerrer Rebbe on the issue is deafening in its own right. What cause could he have had be still regarding this issue? If he did give the book along with a letter, why remain silent? On the other hand, if his name was simply being used, why did he allow himself to remain an accessory to theft, even if only a defacto one?


    One might postulate based upon the religious leanings of those involved. Lvov at the time was torn between the haskalah movement, and the majority of its opposition, the Chassidim. While R' Yaakov stood strong against the waves of the enlightenment, after his passing those safeguards he passed began to lose potency. The Rabbinate in Lvov became politically controlled by those with positions of power and wealth, and sentiment among the Chassidic community in Lvov was that even R' Tzvi Hirsch was suspect of leaning towards the maskilim.14 Certainly R' Aryeh Leib was considered controversial. His son Mordechai (Marcus) studied in Polish schools, received a doctorate, and married Martin Buber's sister, Gila. It is possible that R' Neiman had suspicions as to the religious opinion of the book, seeing how the main buyers market were Chassidim. Should the book be published under R' Aryeh Leib's name, it might not sell. Moreover, it could be he suspected R' Aryeh Leib of wanting to edit the text, based on his personal leanings. Perhaps he sent it to the Gerrer Rebbe, who in turn allowed for R' Fisher to print it, and use his name. In the event of exposure, R' Fisher would take the blame, while the Gerrer Rebbe would remain silent, thereby obfuscating the facts.


    This year, a new edition of this controversy-fraught sefer has been published. Completely re-typeset, with the annotations and corrections penned by R' Fisher added in their rightful locations. Additionally, an index has been set up, to reference the standard ensemble of basic halachic texts; Shas Bavli and Yerushalmi, Rambam, Tur and Shulchan Aruch.


    Many of the responsa are those alluded to by R' Yaakov in his Yeshuos Yaakov; some of the letters are replies to expound his thoughts in Yeshuos Yaakov. A veritable 'who's who' of Galitzian Rabbis can be listed among those querying R' Yaakov; R' Chayim Halberstam of Sanz, R' Aryeh Leibish of Stanislaw, and R' Moshe Sofer, to name a few.


    The current publisher did not feel the edition would be complete without scouring the available literature and storehouses for those novella and letters that are not readily available. Such, an addendum was appended to the sefer, with additional responsa, derashos, chiddushim and even witticisms and anecdotes not found in the more common seforim. Of note, is a particularly interesting piece R' Yaakov expounded upon in the main beis medrash of Lvov in honor of Kaiser Franz Joseph [Emperor Franz II], on June 29 1814 (the 11th of Tamuz 5). The spirit of the derashah is the miraculous victory the Emperor had over Napoleon Bonaparte, and how he was Divinely aided in battle. A lone copy of this sermon survived, and Dr. M. Balaban reproduced it in his volume in honor of Dr. Mordechai (Marcus) Broide.


    Other curios include novella that elaborate on those posed in Yeshuos Yaakov, and anecdotes from obscure works of that period. In one incident, while speaking with a local Rav of lesser standing, R' Yaakov offered a very insightful thought. The Rav, realizing the potential use of this thought in a personal derashah, asked of R' Yaakov to 'present' him with this thought and make it his "own". Understanding the Rav's motive, R' Yaakov agreed under one condition: that upon using the thought as his own, he must announce that he received it as a gift from R' Yaakov.


    As a final touch, the publisher added a photo of the original title page, as well as the variant pages printed by R' Aryeh Leib. The ability to locate an extant copy of one of thirty copies ever bound testifies to the sheer effort expended in this edition.

    [Available at Girsa Books, Jerusalem; Biegeleisen Books, Brooklyn NY USA, and fine bookstores worldwide]


    Notes

    [1] Originally, the sefer was written as glosses and comments on Tur, much like the work by his father-in-law. [One might correlate the two works even more closely, and claim both emanated from marginal notes. See Prof. Y. S. Speigel, Amudim bToldot Hasefer haIvri, vol. 1, p. 297.] Later these notes were edited to form the present commentary.

    [2] R' Shmuel married R' Yoel's widowed daughter-in-law (m. R' Shmuel Tzvi Hertz, son of the Bach), and raised her orphan R' Aryeh Leib, author of Shut Shagas Aryeh (w/ Kol Shachal). R' Aryeh Leib was sent along with his brother by his stepfather to investigate the issue of Shabbtai Zvi.

    [3] During the outbreaks of 5424, two of his sons were massacred along with hundreds of the cities inhabitants. See D. Kahane, Sinai, 100 (Jubilee Volume), pp. 492-508.

    [4] Both published by Mossad HaRav Kook from manuscript.

    [5] Author of Shut R' Chayim HaKohen.

    [6] Indexed by Jacob B. Mandelbaum.

    [7] Unfortunately, he never made it to E. Israel, having passed away along with his wife in the city of Salonika, Greece, and is entombed there. See A. Brick, Sinai 61, pp. 168-84.

    [8] Introduction to Yeshuos Yaakov.

    [9] Citation in Klillat Yofe and see here as well.

    [10] Called "the charities of R' Meir Baal Hanes". There is uncertainty regarding the true name of this charity. Historically, the tanna Rebbi Meir was never called "Baal HaNes" and the name is not found in neither Geonic literature or in works by the Rishonim. Furthermore, geographical guidebooks that list gravesites in E. Israel mention TWO R' Meirs, one in Teveryah (this is the grave of the well known tanna, the student of R' Akiva and friend of R' Yehuda and R' Shimon Bar Yochai) and one in Gush Chalav, the second bearing the name "Baal Han


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    Responses to Comments and Elaborations of Previous Posts III

    by Marc B. Shapiro

    This post is dedicated to the memory of Rabbi Chaim Flom, late rosh yeshiva of Yeshivat Ohr David in Jerusalem. I first met Rabbi Flom thirty years ago when he became my teacher at the Hebrew Youth Academy of Essex County (now known as the Joseph Kushner Hebrew Academy; unfortunately, another one of my teachers from those years also passed away much too young, Rabbi Yaakov Appel). When he first started teaching he was known as Mr. Flom, because he hadn't yet received semikhah (Actually, he had some sort of semikhah but he told me that he didn't think it was adequate to be called "Rabbi" by the students.) He was only at the school a couple of years and then decided to move to Israel to open his yeshiva. I still remember his first parlor meeting which was held at my house. Rabbi Flom was a very special man. Just to give some idea of this, ten years after leaving the United States he was still in touch with many of the students and even attended our weddings. He would always call me when he came to the U.S. and was genuinely interested to hear about my family and what I was working on. He will be greatly missed.

    1. In a previous post I showed a picture of the hashgachah given by the OU to toilet bowl cleaner. This led to much discussion, and as I indicated, at a future time I hope to say more about the kashrut industry from a historical perspective.[1] I have to thank Stanley Emerson who sent me the following picture.

    It is toilet bowl cleaner in Israel that also has a hashgachah. Until Stanley called my attention to this, I was bothered that the kashrut standards in the U.S. had surpassed those of Israel. I am happy to see that this is not the case. (In fact, only in Israel can one buy a package of lettuce with no less than six (!) different hashgachot. See here)

    But in all seriousness, I think we must all be happy at the high level of kashrut standards provided by the OU and the other organizations. This, of course, doesn't mean that we have to be happy with what has been going on at Agriprocessors. I realize that this is a huge contract, but it was very disappointing to see that the first response of the OU to the numerous Agriprocessors scandals, beginning with the PETA video, has been to circle the wagons and put out the spin. Any changes from the OU only came after public outrage, and if the hashgachah is eventually removed from Agriprocessors, it will once again be due to this outrage. To be sure, we no longer can imagine cases of meat producers locking the mashgiach in the freezer,[2] but it does seem that the company was being given pretty free reign in areas where the hashgachah could have been using more of its influence. (Let's not forget that Agriprocessors needs the OU more than the reverse.) At the very least, we need some competition in the glatt kosher meat business. Agriprocessors has a near monopoly and as we all know, competition is what forces businesses to operate at a higher standard.

    In fact, the entire glatt kosher "standard" should be done away with and turned into an option for those who wish to be stringent. This has recently been tried in Los Angeles, with the support of local rabbis, but I don't know how successful it has been. The only way this can happen on a large scale is if the OU once again starts certifying non-glatt. The masses have been so brainwashed in the last twenty years that they will not eat regular kosher unless it has an OU hashgachah. There is no good reason – there are reasons, but they aren't good – why the OU does not certify non-glatt. As is the case with the Chief Rabbinate in Israel, the OU should certify both mehadrin (glatt) and non-mehadrin.

    It might be that people in Teaneck and the Five Towns don't feel the bad economic times. Yet there are many people who are having difficulty making ends meet. It is simply not fair to create a system where people are being forced to pay more money for meat than they should have to. The biggest problem Orthodoxy faces, and the factor that makes it an impossible lifestyle for many who would otherwise be drawn to it, is the enormous costs entailed. Anything we can do to lower this burden, even if it is only a couple of hundred dollars a year--obviously significantly more for communal institutions--should be done.
    Returning to Agriprocessors, while the current issue focuses on the treatment of workers, the problem of a couple of years ago focused on the treatment of animals. Yet the two should not necessarily be seen as so far apart. According to R. Joseph Ibn Caspi (Mishneh Kesef [Pressburg, 1905], vol. 1, p. 36), the reason the Torah forbids inflicting pain on animals is "because we humans are very close to them and we both have one father"! This outlook is surprising enough (and very un-Maimonidean), but then he continues with the following incredible statement: "We and the vegetables, such as the cabbage and the horseradish, are brothers, with one father"! He ties this in with the command not to cut down a fruit tree (Deut. 20:19), which is followed by the words כי האדם עץ השדה. This is usually understood as a question: "for is the tree of the field man [that it should be besieged of thee?] Yet Caspi understands it as a statement, and adds the following, which together with what I have already quoted from him will make the Jewish eco-crowd very happy.

    כי האדם עץ השדה (דברים כ' י"ט), כלומר שהאדם הוא עץ השדה שהוא מין אחד מסוג הצמח כאמרו כל הבשר חציר (ישעיה מ' ו') ואמרו רז"ל בני אדם כעשבי השדה (עירובין נד ע"א)
    Finally, in Rabbi Shmuel Herzfeld's op-ed on Agriprocessors in the New York Times (see here) he wrote as follows: "Yisroel Salanter, the great 19th-century rabbi, is famously believed to have refused to certify a matzo factory as kosher on the grounds that the workers were being treated unfairly." Herzfeld was attacked by people who claimed that there is no historical source to justify this statement. While the story has been garbled a bit, the substance indeed has a source. I refer to Dov Katz, Tenuat ha-Mussar, vol. 1, p. 358. Here R. Yisrael Salanter is quoted as saying that when it comes to the production of matzah, one must not only be concerned with the halakhot of Pesah, but also with the halakhot of Hoshen Mishpat, i.e., that one must have concern for the well-being of the woman making the matzah.
    אין כשרות המצות שלמה בהידוריהן שבהלכות פסח לבד, כי אם עם דקדוקיהן גם בדיני חשן משפט

    2. In my previous post I wrote: "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." I made a similar point in Limits of Orthodox Theology, p.106 n. 102.

    I looked at Abarbanel again and would like to revise what I wrote. I don't think it is correct to say that Abarbanel was citing from memory, since he quotes Nahmanides' words. With regard to Ibn Ezra, I now assume that Abarbanel thinks Ibn Ezra is being coy. In other words, although Ibn Ezra cites a view held by "many" that Joshua wrote the beginning of Numbers 21, and then goes on to reject this view, Abarbanel doesn't trust Ibn Ezra. He thinks that Ibn Ezra really accepts the "critical" view. I see absolutely no evidence for this. Ibn Ezra has ways to hint to us when he favors a critical view, and he never does so with this section. Furthermore, I am aware of no evidence that the "many" who hold the critical view are Karaites, as is alleged by Abarbanel.

    What led Abarbanel to accuse Nahmanides of following Ibn Ezra in asserting that there are post-Mosaic verses in Numbers 21? As with Ibn Ezra, Abarbanel sees Nahmanides as hiding his critical view and only hinting to it. Numbers 21:3 reads: "And the Lord hearkened to the voice of Israel, and delivered up the Canaanites; and they utterly destroyed them and their cities; and the name of the place was called Hormah." Yet as Nahmanides notes, it is in Judges 1:17 that we see the destruction of the Canaanites and the naming of the city Hormah. How, then, can the city be called Hormah in Deuteronomy when it won't be conquered and named for many years?

    Nahmanides writes that the Torah here is relating "that Israel also laid their cities waste when they came into the land of Canaan, after the death of Joshua, in order to fulfill the vow which they had made, and they called the name of the cities Hormah." In other words, the Torah is describing an event, including the naming of a place, which will only take place a number of years later. This event is described in the book of Judges. The verse in Numbers is written in the past tense, which would seem to render Nahmanides' understanding problematic. Yet as Chavel points out in his notes to his English edition, this does not concern Nahmanides. "Since there is no difference in time for God, it is written in the past tense, for past, present, and future are all the same to Him."

    This is certainly true with regard to God, but what about the Children of Israel? How are they supposed to read a section of the Torah that speaks about an event as having happened in the past but which in reality has not yet even taken place? These are problems that the traditional commentators deal with, but Abarbanel sees Nahmanides as departing from tradition and offering a heretical interpretation. He is led to this assumption because Nahmanides uses the ambiguous words "Scripture continued" and "Scripture, however, completed the account." Why didn't Nahmanides say that Moses wrote this? It must be, according to Abarbanel, that Nahmanides is hinting that this was written down after Moses' death. In Abarbanel's words:

    כי הרב כסתה כלימה פניו לכתוב שיהושע כתב זה. והניח הדבר בסתם שהכתוב השלימו אבל לא זכר מי היה הכותב כיון שלא היה משה עליו השלום והדעת הזה בכללו לקחהו הראב"ע מדברי הקראים שבפירושי התורה אשר להם נמנו וגמרו שלא כתב זה מזה והרמב"ן נטה אחרי הראב"ע והתימה משלימות תורתו וקדושתו שיצא מפיו שיש בתורה דבר שלא כתב משה. והם אם כן בכלל כי דבר ה' בזה.

    From here, let me return for the third time to what some would see as an aspect of biblical criticism in Radak. To recap, in his commentary to I Sam. 4:1 Radak writes:

    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.

    Dr. H. Norman Strickman convinced me that Radak means that the words "and pursued as far as Dan" are a later insertion, since the city was only named Dan after it was conquered in the days of Joshua (Joshua 19:47). In a comment to the post, Benny wrote:

    There is no reason to assume that Radak is not referring to Moses prophetically writing the word Dan. It just means that in the time that the story took place, the name was not Dan. . . . I think that it is definitely possible that Radak understood that Moshe is the one who wrote "Et HaGilad Ad Dan".

    Dr. Yitzchak Berger wrote to me as follows:

    I think the commenter 'Benny' was right about Radak's view of Gen. 14:14. At I Sam 4:1 he's probably merely contrasting the author-narrator's [i.e. "sofer's"--MS] perspective with that of the players in the story, concerning the phrases in both Samuel and Genesis (in the case in Samuel there would be no reason for him to introduce a later editor)."

    As is often the case in these sorts of disputes, I find myself being moved by the last argument I hear. As I noted in the earlier post, Radak elsewhere insists on complete Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch. Thus, it is certainly easier to read this text in a way that would not create a contradiction.

    While on the subject of Mosaic authorship, let me also add the following. David Singer recently wrote an interesting article on Rabbi Emanuel Rackman.[3] With the recent passing of Rabbi Moses Mescheloff,[4] Rackman, born in 1910, might be the oldest living musmach of RIETS. If this is so, don't expect this to be acknowledged in any way by the powers at YU.[5] The ideological winds have blown rightward in the last thirty years, and Rackman has moved leftward. He is thus no longer regarded as representative of RIETS or worthy of any acknowledgment.[6]


    A similar thing happened at Hebrew Theological College in Skokie. Rabbi Eliezer Berkovits (died 1992) was, in my opinion, the most significant and influential person ever to teach on its faculty. (Unfortunately, they didn't let him teach Talmud, only philosophy.) Yet not only does HTC currently have no interest in recognizing him, in 2001, some eighteen years (!) after the appearance of Not in Heaven, a very negative review appeared in the Academic Journal of Hebrew Theological College.[7] To show how insignificant Berkovits is in Skokie, neither the author, Rabbi Chaim Twerski, nor any of the editors, realized that his last name is not spelled Berkowitz! Were he alive today, can anyone imagine that HTC would allow him to speak? (It would be interesting to create a list of people who founded or taught at institutions and today would be persona non grata there. A few come to mind, and for now let me just mention R. Zev Gold, the outstanding Mizrachi leader who was one of the founders, and first president, of Yeshiva Torah Vodaas. Gold, who was also a rabbi in Scranton, was one of the signers of Israel's declaration of independence.[8])

    Some people pointed out that in Twerski's negative review, Berkovits is never even referred to as Rabbi, only as Dr. (A cynic might add that in his zeal to use the title "Dr." instead of "Rabbi" for those he doesn't approve of, Twerski even gives R. Judah Leib Maimon a doctorate, referring to him as Dr. Maimon.) In the following issue, Twerski apologizes for any disrespect, noting that while some people took offense at how he referred to Berkovits, others "who know [!] him well have told me that he always preferred to be addressed as 'Dr. Berkovits.'" I think this is a fair response. After all, would anyone criticize an author for referring to "Dr. Lamm"? Yet I must also say that someone reading the article will not learn that Berkovits was a great talmudic scholar, and I don't even know if Twerski recognizes this.

    Returning to Singer, in his article he writes that Rackman accepted the Documentary Hypothesis. I discussed this issue with Rackman some years ago and this is definitely not what he told me. The most he would say was that he would not regard someone as a heretic if he accepted biblical criticism. Yet he personally was not a believer in the theory. In support of Singer's assertion to the contrary, he quotes the following passage from Rackman: "The most definitive record of God's encounters with man is contained in the Pentateuch. Much of it may have been written by people in different times, but at one point in history God not only made the people of Israel aware of his immediacy, but caused Moses to write the eternal evidence of the covenant between Him and His people." He also quotes another statement by Rackman: "[T]he sanctity of the Pentateuch does not derive from God's authorship of all of it, but rather from the fact that God's is the final version. The final writing by Moses has the stamp of divinity – the kiss of immortality."

    Singer misunderstands Rackman. There is no Higher Criticism here, no Documentary Hypothesis. What Rackman is saying is that the stories in the Pentateuch might have been recorded by various people before Moses, but that these stories were later included in the Torah at God's command, with Moses being the final author. In both of these passages Rackman is explicit that the Torah was written by Moses. Rackman's position in these quotations is very traditional, asserting that all that appears in the Torah is Mosaic. With this conception it doesn't matter if, for example, the stories of Noah or the Patriarchs had earlier written versions passed down among the Israelites, since what makes them holy and part of the Torah is God's command to Moses that they be included in the Holy Book. This was done by Moses' "final writing." I can't see anyone, even the most traditional, finding a problem in this.

    While on the subject of Rackman, let me make a bibliographical point. R. Moshe Feinstein, Iggerot Moshe, Yoreh Deah IV, no. 50:2 refers to:

    המאמרים של רב אחד שמחשבים אותו לרב ארטאדקאקסי שנדפסו בעיתון שבשפת אנגלית . . . והנה ראינו שכולם דברי כפירה בתורה שבעל פה המסורה לנו.

    R. Moshe goes on to further attack the heresy of this unnamed rabbi, who is none other than Rackman. This can be seen by examining Ha-Pardes, May 1973, p. 7, where R. Moshe's letter first appeared. It is not a private communication but is described as coming from Agudat ha-Rabbonim of the United States and Canada, and R. Moshe signs as president of the organization. Earlier in this issue (it is the lead article) and also in the April 1973 Ha-Pardes, R. Simhah Elberg published his own attack on Rackman, referring to him as ראביי ר. Elberg refers to Rackman's articles which appeared regularly in the American Examiner, and which so agitated the haredim – and also many of the centrist Orthodox. This paper then joined with the Jewish Week, and became known as the Jewish Week and American Examiner. Rackman continued to publish in the paper until around 2001. (His article discussing my biography of Weinberg was one of the last ones he would write, and it is reprinted in the second edition of One Man's Judaism [Jerusalem, 2000], pp. 402-404.)

    3. Many people were interested in the claim, quoted in an earlier post, that rabbis turned over their own children to become soldiers if these children were no longer observant. If something like this ever happened it would have been very heartless, and there were, of course, many children of gedolim who became non-religious. While in some cases the child choosing a different path led to estrangement with his father, in others, father and son remained close, and I think today everyone realizes that this is the only proper approach to take.

    R. Jehiel Jacob Weinberg thought that it might be a good idea for a father to attend his son's intermarriage, in order not to break ties completely. (Believe it or not, this statement was published in Yated Neeman.) Yet to see how different things were in years past, at least among some parts of our community, consider the following responsum by the important Hungarian posek, R. Jacob Tenenbaum.[9] The case concerned an Orthodox shochet whose son went to the בית האון (This means the non-Orthodox rabbinical seminary in Budapest, against which the Orthodox rabbis carried on a crusade.) The problem was that during his vacations the son came home to his parents' house. Tenenbaum was asked if this meant that the shochet was disqualified and could no longer serve the community. The father pleaded that he loved his son, and Tenenbaum replied that התנצלות זה הוא הבל. Tenenbaum also rejected the father's claim that if he doesn't show love to his son, the latter will go even further "off the derech."

    Tenenbaum demanded that the father make a complete break with his son (that is, if the father wanted to be regarded as a Jew in good standing). The choice was clear: The father had to decide between loving his son and making a living (for if chose the former he would be blacklisted throughout the country):

    ואם אביו יתן לו מקום בביתו או יתמכהו באיזה דבר בזה יגלה דעתו שגם בו נזרקה מינות [!] ובזה אין חילוק בין שו"ב לאיש אחר . . . אם יחזיק ידו או יתן לו מקום בביתו הנה ידו במעל הזה אשר בנו פנה עורף לדת ה' ועל כן צא טמא יאמר לו, ושלא יוסיף עוד ראות פניו אם לא ישמע לדבריו לעזוב דרך רשע.

    I know this sounds like a Hungarian extremist approach, but R. Kook had basically the same viewpoint. In Da'at Kohen no. 7, he too is asked about a shochet whose non-religious sons live at home. R. Kook replies that while technically the actions of the sons do not destroy the hezkat kashrut of the father, nevertheless, the matter is very distasteful (מכוער). Even if the father could not be blamed at all in this matter, nevertheless, it is a hillul ha-shem. Since the beit din has the power to legislate in matters beyond the strict law, "there is no migdar milta greater than this." He explains the reason for his uncompromising viewpoint:

    שלא ילמדו אחרים להפקירות עוד יותר, כשרואין שבניו של השו"ב הקבוע הם מחללים ש"ק, ע"כ לע"ד ברור הדבר, שכ"ז שבניו הם סמוכין על שולחנו, ואין פוסקין מחילול ש"ק, איננו ראוי להיות שו"ב קבוע, ומה גם בעדה חרדית.

    If this is said about a shochet, how much more would it apply to a rav of a community. It is therefore easy to understand why non-religious children of some well-known rabbis are no longer welcome in their parents' home. (Other well-known rabbis have a completely different outlook, and reject what they would categorize as the conditional-love approach of Rabbis Tenenbaum and Kook).

    4. Since I have mentioned R. Jehiel Jacob Weinberg a few times, I must call


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    Gravely Mistaken

    by Akiva Leiman

    R. Leiman teaches high school at the Yeshiva of Greater Washington in Silver Spring, Maryland.  Additionally, he leads trips to sites of Jewish interest in Eastern Europe. This is his first contribution to the Seforim blog.

    One hardly need go far to find errors in published materials, but when even moderate research would suffice to unearth correct information lack of such an effort would seem egregious. Jewish burial sites have often been lost: Nazis or indigenous peoples destroyed cemeteries, acid rain ravages stones, burning candles char monuments and, of course, people just simply forget where things are.[1] Misinformation, however, would seem to be the most preventable culprit in this ever-losing battle to maintain vestiges of our heritage.

    A few examples should suffice.[2]

    1. In Paul Johnson's A History of the Jews, in the very first paragraph of the actual text, he says,

    There in the Cave of Machpelah, are the Tombs of the Patriarchs . . . . Across the inner courtyard is another pair of tombs, of Abraham's grandson Jacob and his wife Leah. Just outside the building is the tomb of their[3] son Joseph.

    In an endnote he references L.H. Vincent and his depiction of the cave which has been reproduced in EJ XI p. 671. There the caption does read: "Tomb of Joseph." However, the text of the EJ explicates that, "A Muslim tradition maintains that Joseph was buried here... (t)his tradition is probably due to a corruption of the Arabic name for Esau, whose head, according to aggadic sources fell within the cave..." EJ's theory for the mistake aside, Johnson must not have read the text of the article (or: ignored it), for though the diagram's caption tells us that Yosef is buried in the Cave, the text belies this point.[4] Furthermore, see Joshua 24:32 (providing Shechem as Joseph's burial place),[5] which must, at the very least, be mentioned in any serious discussion of the final resting place for Yosef.[6]

    2. In בשבילי ראדין, by M. M. Palato, Machon B'Shvilai HaYeshivot, (2001), p. 25, we are provided a picture and told "that we are being shown the final resting place of R' Chaim of Volozhin (d. 5581 - 1821), the most esteemed student of the Vilna Gaon, and he is buried next to his mentor."[7]

    But, R' Chaim is actually interred in Volozhin[8] and his grave is a regular stopping point for those visiting the Byelorussian town. The picture shown is of the old Ohel over the grave of the Vilna Gaon in the since-destroyed Shnipishok cemetery of Vilna. Of course, R' Chaim's grave is not pictured at all.[9]

    3. Holy Stones: Remnants of Synagogues in Poland, drawings by Joseph Cempla, Dvir, Tel Aviv (1959) is a beautiful group of renderings of pre-war Poland. From the description for plate number 13 we read:

    The gravestone of Rabbi Shalom Shachna in the Lublin Cemetery: Rabbi Shalom ben Joseph Shachna[10] (1510-1550[11]) was one of the greatest Talmudists produced by Polish Jewry. He was the pupil of Rabbi Jacob Polak, head of the Lublin Yeshiva, who created the method of "Pilpul"[12] (casuistics)[13] employed in the study of Talmudic literature.

    It is correct that R' Shalom Shachna was a student of R' Yaakov Polak, but the stone sketched by Cempla is not R. Shalom Shachna. Here is Cempla's drawing:

    And here is a picture of R' Shalom Shachna's grave today in the Old Cemetery of Lublin:

    The grave today stands without the adornments found in Cempla's rendering: no pillars, no arch and no artistic flair filling the arch. Also, Cempla seems to indicate ten or twelve lines of etching while the current stone shows at least fifteen; puzzling, if not insurmountable issues.

    A bit more research revealed the obvious error. Within twenty feet of R' Shalom Shachne stands this prominent headstone:

    This is the grave of Rabbi Yaakov Yitzchak Horowitz (d. 9 Av 5575 – 1815), the Chozeh of Lublin.[14] It seems almost certain, upon comparing Cempla's drawing with that of the Chozeh's headstone is that Cempla drew the Chozeh's headstone mistaking it for the tomb of R' Shalom Shachna which lies in its close proximity.


    [1] I can recall, as a young man, visiting the old cemetery in Tzfat immediately after havdalah. I encountered a middle-aged Chassidic Jew at that strange time, and inquired after the grave of Rabbi Chaim Vital (d. 5380) the eminent student and chronicler of R' Yitzchak Luriah – the Ari Hakadosh (d. 5332). He told me to go up the road and after a bit to ask for directions to Damascus...

    [2] For another example see אבי מורי, Dr. S.Z. Leiman, in Who is Buried in the Vilna Gaon's Tomb? Originally published in Jewish Action, Winter (1998), 59(2), and which can be found online at: http://www.ou.org/publications/ja/5759winter/leiman.htm

    [3] Sic, he was the son of Rachel not Leah.

    [4] See Z. Vilnai, מצבות קודש בארץ ישראל, pp. 167-176, where (p. 170) sightings of the burial place in Shechem date to 320 AD.

    [5] ואת עצמות יוסף אשר העלו בני ישראל ממצרים קברו בשכם

    [6] For further discussions, see L. Ginzberg, Legends of the Jews, V1, JPS (2003) p. 430 n. 443. Also, Vilnai pp. 141-144. To come full circle, in Acts 7:16 we are told that Jacob was also buried in Shechem!

    [7] See note 1 above.

    [8] For a nice photo, see Mishpacha, Special Supplement Succos 5767, pp. 24-25.

    [9] The caption also tells us that R' Zalmaleh of Volozhin, the brother of R' Chaim and most brilliant student of the Vilna Gaon, is in the photo as well. He is neither in Volozhin, next to his brother, nor in the Gaon's Ohel. See note 1. His grave has sadly been lost.

    [10] I would assume that Shachna was his second, not family name; the stone reads:שלום המכונה שכנה, which would seem to be a nickname rather than a surname.

    [11] See S. B. Nissenbaum's Lekorot HaYehudim B'Lublin, p. 19 for the exact wording on his tombstone. He actually died on Friday Rosh Chodesh Kislev 5319, which was in 1558. See A. A. Akavia לוח לששת אלפי שנה p. 485.

    [12] Quotes in original

    [13] Parenthetic translation in original

    [14] Interestingly, in Y. Alfasi החוזה מלובלין p. 107 nt. 9 there is a discussion if the Chozeh is in fact buried near R' Shalom Shachna. He relies on a pre-war witness. Today one can go and see for himself, ואין לדיין אלא מה שעיניו רואות.


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    Can A Segulah Free an Agunah? Jewish Beliefs and Practices for Locating a Drowned Body

    By Bency Eichorn

    Bency Eichorn learns in kollel and, on the side, has been researching about various segulos. For his wedding he authored a book, Simchas Zion, discussing the segulah of keeping the afikomom from year-to-year. The post below is a small part of a much larger project on this segulah and has been adapted for the blog.

    In light of the recent drowning of Los Angeles's Naftoli Smolyansky A"H, much discussion has ensued about the segulah performed to recover his body. This same segulah, which involves floating a loaf of bread and candle in the water to locate the missing corpse, last year when Toronto Rabbonim considered performing it in order to locate the missing body of Eli Horowitz A"H, who had drowned the previous year. There is much skeptism regarding this segulah, some consider it witchcraft and claim that it has no basis in Judaism, deriving instead from non-Jewish sources. In this article, I will outline the development of similar segulot used throughout the ages and discuss how these methods were practiced by Jews and non-Jews alike. As my research on this topic is ongoing, I do not attempt to draw conclusions, but rather I hope to draw attention to primary and little-noted sources for these segulot. In effect, this will indicate how wide-spread these segulot were, specifically among Jews. This will suggest that their origins extend further than the tale recounted in Twain's Hucklebery Finn and can be traced to early Jewish sources.

    The Floating Wooden Dish

    Among the segulot noted in Jewish sources used to locate a missing drowned body, is a practice involving taking a wooden dish and floating it in the water above the general area where the body went missing. According to the tradition surrounding this segulah, the dish will float to the spot where the body lies and then stop. The first and earliest source for this segulah that I could presently locate is from the year 1618 in a well known sefer minhagim written by R' Yosef Yuzpa Han Norlingen[1]. He writes, that "I have a tradition of a segulah to locate a body that drowned; and this is the correct way it should be performed: Take a wooden dish [ke'oh'rah],[2] place it on the water to float by itself, until it rests on the spot where the body is lying." The work continues with an anecdote about a certain man named Meir, who drowned in Lake Pidikof and whose body was found using this particular segulah. Interestingly, the passages closes with the note "that if this segulah really works, it could have amazing implications, for it could help women who would otherwise have to be agunot for the rest of their lives."

    The procedure for this segulah is rather straightforward; all that must be done is to place a dish on the water and it will float to the drowned body. This segulah seems to have been quite popular as it is mentioned in many seforim, particularly sifrei segulah such as the Noheg Ketzon Yosef (grandson of R' Yosef Yuzpa Han Norlingen),[3] the Taamai Haminhagim,[4] Refuah Vechaim,[5] Rafael Hamalach,[6] Hoach Nafshainu,[7] Mareh Hayeladim,[8] Yosef Shaul,[9] and the Segulas Yisroel.[10]

    This amazing segulah is the earliest Jewish method noted as having been used to locate a drowned body and seems to be an exclusively Jewish practice. A search of a number of non-Jewish sources, works of history, superstition, and mythology, has not brought to light an instance of this particular practice of locating a drowned body. Thus to my knowledge, it does not seem to have ever been used by a non-Jew.[11]

    The Floating Loaf of Bread

    The second segulah attested to in the Jewish sources as being used to locate a drowned body is to float a loaf of bread instead of a bowl. Similar to the previous method it is believed that when the bread is left alone in the water it would float to the location of the body.

    The earliest source for this segulah that I have found thus far can be traced to the year 1734 by Rabbi Dovid Tebal Ben Yaakov Ashkenazi.[12] He writes, "to locate one that drowned, throw a loaf of bread into the water [where he drowned] and the place where the bread stops [sholet] that is where the body is located."

    This segulah is later recorded in Over Orach, a sefer of segulot, teffilot and halachot regarding traveling. In his discussion of general segulot, the author writes "[i]f one drowned, a segulah to find the body is to take a loaf of bread and throw it in the area of water where the person drowned, and the bread will float to the location of the drowned body." He finishes his description of the segulah by testifying that, "[t]his segulah has been performed in the past and it is known that it produced positive results"[13].

    A similar practice of using bread to locate a drowned body is recorded in a Yizkor book for the community of Mlawa, a shtetl in pre-World War II Poland. In this book, under the subject of communal beliefs in segulot, the following is recorded, "if someone drowned while bathing, people would come there [to the place he or she drowned] with long iron poles, to search for the body. To aid in their search, they would throw a loaf of bread, on top of which was a burning candle, into the pool next to the brick factory.[14]" I found this belief, of using bread to locate a drowned body, recorded in a number of sifrei segulot, including, the Hoach Nafshainu,[15] Mareh Hayeladim,[16] Rafael Hamalach,[17] Yosef Shaul,[18] and the Segulas Yisroel.[19]

    Thus, in the Jewish sources this method of locating drowned bodies is evidenced in a few but reputable sources. In contrast, it is mentioned in many non-Jewish sources. As early as 1586 we find that Thomas Hill mentions this practice as he records "[t]o find a drowned person...take a white loaf, and cast the same into the water, neer ye suspected place, and it will forth-with go directly over the dead body, and there abide.[20] Not long after in the year 1664, Oliver Heywood records an instance in which this practice was actually used to help find a missing corpse.[21]

    Alternative Versions of the Floating Bread

    As time went on, the method used by non-Jews seems to have changed. As early as the year 1767, the belief developed that a loaf of bread was not enough, but that the loaf of bread should be filled with quicksilver and only then should it be set afloat on the water. Sylvanus Urban, in The Gentleman's Magazine, describes this change in a testimony. He writes that in Newbury, Berkshire, "After diligent search had been made in the river ...a two penny loaf, with a quantity of quicksilver put into it, was set floating from the place where the child, it was supposed, had fallen in, which steered its course down the river upwards of a half a mile... when the body happening to lay on the contrary side of the river, the loaf suddenly tacked about ... and gradually sank near the child."[22] This loaded loaf was called by many 'a St. Nicholas'[23] and its occasional effectiveness was attributed by the cynical to eddies in the water.

    This method was practiced and recorded many times over in the non-Jewish sources. Occasionally, it was even recorded that it worked. However, on most occasions, this practice yielded no positive results. Recorded testimonies of this method in the non-Jewish sources include the years 1849[24], 1878[25], 1879[26], 1884[27], 1885[28], 1891[29], 1921,[30]-[31] and 1925.[32] There are many more recordings of this procedure, but the above sources should suffice to indicate the widespread belief in the efficacy of the practice.[33]. Indeed, according to scholars of Mark Twain, the belief that quicksilver, or mercury, would make bread float to a point over a submerged body was widely held in Britain.. This particular version of the method to locate drowned bodies was apparently based on an purported etymological connection concerning the biblical ''bread of life'' and ''quick'' or ''living'' silver, so called because of the flowing form of mercury.[34]

    The method of using bread with a candle on top of it, as recorded above as a practice of the Jews of Mlawa, is recorded in non-Jewish sources as well. However in the non-Jewish sources it is supplemented with the addition of quicksilver. The first record of this practice is in the year 1886, written by Henderson. He writes, "A loaf weighted with quicksilver, if allowed to float on the water, is said to swim towards and stand over, the body; when a boy, I have seen persons endeavoring to discover the corpse of the drowned in this manner in the River Wear...and ten years ago, the friends of Christopher Lumley sought for his body...by the aid of a loaf of bread with a lighted candle in it"[35]. Again, in the year 1891, in the Journal of Science,[36] it is written, "[i]n Brittany, when the body of a drowned man cannot be found, a lighted taper is fixed in a loaf of bread, which is then abandoned to the retreating current. When the loaf stops, there it is supposed to the body will be recovered.[37]The lit candle was referred by some, as just being a way to mark the course of the floating loaf at night.[38]

    However, in Belgium, they would merely float a lit candle accompanied by the reading of a formula.[39] Indeed, already in 1578, Bornenisza recorded that a candle alone was used to locate the drowned. He writes, "[i]n Hungary if somebody drowns, a lighted wax candle is placed in a dish and where the flame goes out, there the drowned man lies."[40] This may indicate that the method recorded above of a loaf of bread together with a candle on it, was a corruption of the method to use just a candle. It is interesting to note that the record in the Jewish sources of using the method of a candle is from the people of Mlawa, if so more research is needed to ascertain whether this method originated with Jews. In any event, the method of using a candle alone can be viewed as separate, third, method of locating a missing, drowned body.

    The Use of an Amulet to Locate Missing Bodies

    A fourth method used by Jews to locate a missing drowned body involves floating an amulet. R' Yonathan Eibeshutz, remembered by Jews today as an eminent Talmudist, distributed many such amulets. He issued them in Metz, where he was Rabbi, and later in Hamburg, Altona, and Wandsbeck, where he later served as chief Rabbi.

    During this time R' Eibeshutz, together with a number of other Rabbis, was condemned by R' Yaakov Emden as being a follower of Shabtai Tzvi and his Messianic cult. This led to the famous controversy between these two great Rabbis. One of the complaints of R' Emden was R'Eibeshutz's writing and distributing of amulets. Among the many amulets, one was shaped like a written parchment and was used to find the missing body of one who had drowned.[41]

    In a treatise written by R' Emden against R' Eybeshutz's amulets, which he named Sfas Emes,[42] he mentions the amulet that R' Eybeshutz supposedly wrote to find a missing, drowned body.

    Interestingly, a similar usage of amulets is found in the non-Jewish sources as well. In a correspondence of Notes and Queries, it is recorded how a corpse in Ireland was discovered by means of a wisp of straw around which was tied a strip of parchment, inscribed with certain kabalistic characters written by a parish priest.[43]-[44]

    Aside from the practices that bear a similarity to those evidenced in Jewish sources, many additional methods for locating drowned bodies are attested to in the non-Jewish records. Among such non-Jewish practices for locating a drowned body, one that is akin to the previously mentioned methods, includes placing a shirt of the person who drowned in the water so that it will float to the spot of the missing body.[45] It was also believed that straw or a bundle of straw should be floated on the water so that it would float to the spot of the body.[46] Some people have thrown in a lamb (or goat) in an attempt to locate a missing body.[47] A curious custom, practiced in Norway, is to row to and fro with a rooster in a boat, expecting that the bird will crow when the boat reaches the spot where the corpse lies in the water.[48] Certain Native American tribes would float chips of wood, while other groups would float wooden cricket bats or wooden bowls.[49] The effectiveness of the method of floating bread or any other item in the water to find a sunken corpse was attributed by many to natural and simple causes. In all running streams there are deep pools formed by eddies, in which drowned bodies would likely be caught. Any light substance thrown into the current would consequently be drawn to that part of the surface over the centre of the eddy hole.[50]

    Another interesting method involves the use of drums. People searching for a drowned body would row down the river slowly beating on a big drum and according to the belief, if they came to the part of the river in which the dead body was immersed, a difference in the sound of the drum would be distinctly noticed.[51]

    Another non-Jewish practice is related in one of the classics of American literature, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain, which was published in the year 1884. The novel relates the story of a of a young boy from St. Petersburg, Missouri (a thinly veiled cover for Hannibal, Missouri, where Twain spent most of his youth) who tries to run away from civilization with an escaped slave named Jim. The book paints a picture of the pre-Civil War South through the dialects and habits of the characters, through their adventures and misadventures, and through their attitudes and the way their attitudes change during the story. One of those attitudes is the inclination to superstition.

    In one of the most humorous episodes, Huck has run away from being 'civilized' by Miss Watson, his foster aunt, and is hiding on an island. He has covered his tracks with the blood of a pig, so that it looks as if he has been murdered:

    "Well, I was dozing off again, when I thinks I hear a deep sound of "boom!" away up the river. I rouses up and rests on my elbow and listens; pretty soon I hear it again,. I hopped up and went and looked out a hole in the leaves, and I see a bunch of smoke laying on the water a long ways up- about the area of the ferry, and there was the ferry boat, full of people, floating along down. I know what was the matter now. "Boom," I see the white smoke squirt out of the ferry-boat's side. You see, they was firing cannon over the water, trying to make my carcass come to the top."

    Shortly after the canon firing, "Huck happened to think how they always put quicksilver in loaves of bread and float them off because they always go right to the drowned carcass and stop there."

    I have discussed earlier the latter belief of using bread with quicksilver to locate a missing drowned body. As Twain writes in the preface to Tom Sawyer, "[t]he odd superstitions touched upon were all prevalent among children and slaves in the West at the period of this story."[52] The first method mentioned by Twain of using a canon was actually not only a belief he heard about, but something he experienced firsthand. In the annotated Huckleberry Finn, Hearn observes that once when he was thought to have drowned, young Mark Twain witnessed a similar scene as the townspeople of Hannibal fired cannons over the water to raise him to the surface. He recalled in a later letter on February 6, 1870, "I jumped over board from the ferryboat in the middle of the river that stormy day to get my hat, and swam two or three miles after it [and got it] while all the town collected on the wharf and for an hour or so, looked out across toward where people said Sam Clemens (Mark Twain) was last seen before he went down."[53]

    The method of shooting a canon to locate a drowned body is also recorded in Notes and Queries. "A few years ago when two men were drowned in the Lune, I believe the same experiment was tried [bread with quicksilver]. Guns also were fired over, and gunpowder was so contrived as to explode in the bottles containing it beneath the surface, but one of the bodies has never been found."[54] In a second citation in Notes and Queries, it is written, "Heavy gun firing was in progress yesterday in the marshes, and there is a strange but widespread belief among the riverside residents that a cannon tends to bring the drowned to the surface." [55] The superstition is also mentioned in Edgar Allen's Poe's 1842 story, Mystery of Marie Roget.[56]

    A reason for the purported effectiveness of this method is offered in Radford's Encyclopedia of Superstition,[57] where he describes a widespread British superstition that, "a gun fired over a corpse thought to be lying at the bottom of the sea or a river, will by concussion break the gall bladder, and thus cause the body to float."

    It seems Radford took the above fact for granted, for, scientifically, firing a canon over water is not likely to cause a gall bladder to burst. Even if it does rupture, it is strictly internal and there is no effect on the buoyancy since the body's overall density remains unchanged. However, if the skin is broken and the bowels come loose, then the body's density may increase due to water entering the body and air and other gasses escaping. This actually allows for a greater chance of the body sinking.[58] Accordingly, firing the cannon over the water would cause the opposite affect than what the superstition alleges. The only factor that could aid in the retrieval of the body that the firing of the cannon could cause a concussive effect which might jar loose a body snagged in weeds on the bottom of the water. So firing a canon might raise a body, although not for the reasons that the superstition gives.[59]

    To returning to the Jewish sources, there seems to have been four different segulot used to locate a drowned body, each one involves floating an object in the water, either a wooden bowl, bread, a candle or an amulet. Each individual method seems to have once been a separate practice of its own. However in a number of instances the separate segulot are recorded as being performed together. It can be assumed that in these instances the person performing the segulah was aware of methods and combined them in the hopes of a more effective result.

    There is limited testimony as to the effectiveness of these segulot; this may be due to the fact that they have rarely been subjected to controlled experimentation in the past. Like many segulot, they remain shrouded in mystery. The questions that remain are: From where did these segulot develop? Are all of them of early origin? Are they all solely of Jewish origin?

    I would like to conclude this article, by stating that the world of Segulot and Kemi'ot [amulets] is very large and unexplored. Many of the seforim on this topic are rare and unavailable, while others remain in manuscript form. These seforim may have the missing pieces to the entire puzzle of the methods and sources of segulot. As material is continuously printed and made more available, my hope is the history of segulot will be made much more clear.[60]


    [1] Rabbi Yosef Yuzpa Han Norlingen, Yosef Ometz, Jerusalem 1975 ed., pg. 352. Born in Frankfort 1570. It is probably correct to assume, the fact that the sefer was finished in 1618 [even though it was only first printed in 1648 see intro. Ibid.], and he was born in 1570, that this belief in this segulah was current before 1618 and certainly in the late 1500's.

    [2] The word used in the Yosef Ometz is ke'oh'rah, which can be translated as a dish or bowl. The word ke'oh'rah comes from the root kar which means sunk, compared to keeka'ah which means to engrave (etch inside). See The Kunkurdantzyah Dictionary to The Tanach by Dr. Shlomo Madelkarn, Jerusalem 1972, pg. 1035, ke'oh'rah. See also Marcus Jastrow, Dictionary of The Talmud, Jerusalem, pg. 1397, ke'oh'rah, therefore it would be correct to assume that ke'oh'rah is a dish, that is a slightly sunken in, like a bowl or even a plate that's center is lower then it's border.

    [3] R' Yosef Yuzpa Dashman Segal, Noheg Ketzon Yosef, Tel Aviv, 1979,pg. 122, s.v. "segulas."

    [4] R' Avraham Yitzchok Sperling, Sefer Taamai Minhagim, Jerusalem 1957 ed. [f.p. Lvov 1894], pg. 569.

    [5] R' Chaim Palagi, Refuah Vechaim, Jerusalem 1997 ed. [f.p. Izmir 1879], pg, 141.

    [6] R' Yehudah Yudal Rosenberg, Rafael Hamalach, Jerusalem 198? ed. [f.p. Piotrkow 1911], pg. 41, s.v. "yedeyot."

    [7] R' Avaraham Chamuoy, Hoach Nafshainu, Jerusalem 1981 ed., [f.p. Izmir 1870], pg. 185 s.v. "water."

    [8] R' Rafael Uchnah, Mareh Hayeladim, Jerusalem 1987ed. [f.p. Jerusalem 1900], pg, 48a, s.v. "drowned;" id. at 66b s.v. "water."

    [9] R' Shaul Feldman, Yosef Shaul, Piatrikov 1911, pg. 83. It is interesting to note that he adds there "take hot bread."

    [10] R' Shabtzi Lifshutz, Segulas Yisroel, Jerusalem 1991 ed. [f.p. Jerusalem 1946], pg. 132. s.v. "drowned." He brings it in the name of the Refuah Vechaim.

    [11] The only similar (but note the same, for they are only similar in the fact that they consist of floating a piece of wood or pot similar to a bowl) methods found in non Jewish sources is in Notes And Queries, Oct. 4, 1851, pg. 251, The Journal of Science, NY, Dec. 4, 1891. Nicolas B. Dennys, The Folklore of China, Amsterdam 1968. "Sir James Alexander, in his account of Canada [L' Acadie, 2 vol., 1849, Pg. 26] writes: "The Indians imagine that in the case of a drowned body, its place may be discovered by floating a chip of cedar wood, which will stop and turn round over the exact spot. An instance occurred within my own knowledge, in the case of Mr. Lavery of Kingston Mill, whose boat overset, and himself drowned near Cedar Island; nor could the body be discovered until this experiment was resorted to." See also Linda J. Ivanits, Russian Folk Belief, 1989, pg. 73 (pg. 222 note 64) "A pot (or wooden cup) filled with hot coals and incense and with candles attached to the sides was placed on the surface of the water; the victim's body was believed to lie under the spot where the pot stopped floating."[Thanks to Professor Daniel Shvarber for pointing out this source to me.] Also the use of a wooden cricket bat in 1925 as recorded by Notes And Queries, Oct. 18. 1851, Pg. 297 [Also in Jan 30, 1886, Pg. 95] " An Eton boy, named Dean, who had lately come to school, imprudently bathed in the river Thames where it flows with great rapidity under the 'playing fields,' and he was soon carried out of his depth, and disappeared. Efforts were made to save him or recover the body, but to no purpose; until Mr. Evans, who was then, as now, the accomplished drawing-master, threw a cricket bat into the stream, which floated to a spot where it turned round in an eddy, and from a deep hole underneath the body was quickly drawn.

    [12] Beis Dovid, Rabbi Dovid Tebal Ben Yaakov Ashkenazi, Wilhermsdorf, Pg. 31.

    [13] R' Shimon Ben R' Meir, Over Orach, Lemberg 1865, pg. 8. The Sefer Over Orach was really an adaptation and extension of a sefer printed about 1646 in Krakow, by R' Yaakov Naftoli Ben Yehudah Leib of Lublin the Sefer was originally called Derech Hayoshor. [see Kiryat Sefer, 1933/34, 10, pg. 252]. It seems that segulah is one of the added segulas of R' Shimon Ben Meir, as this segulah only first appears in Over Orach by R' Shimon Ben R' Meir in the Karlsaruah 1764 ed. pg. 172, which seems to be the first or at least the second printing of the sefer in the life time of the latter Auther . In addition to the fact that this segulah is not brought at all by R' Yaakov Naftoli Ben Yehudah Leib in Derech Hayosher.

    [14] David Shtokfish, Jewish Mlawa, Tel Aviv 1984, pg. 486.

    [15] Ibid. pg. 55.

    [16] Ibid. sub. Of water, pg. 66b.

    [17] Ibid , the author brings this belief in the name of a earlier source however I had trouble locating his source.

    [18]Ibid, pg. 83.

    [19] Ibid. pg. 195 sub. Water. Also see his Kuntres Even Segulah pg. 406.

    [20] Thomas Hill, Natural Conclusions, 1586, D3. Qouted by Iona Opie and Moira Tatem, A Dictionary of Superstitions, Oxford University Press 1989, pg. 34, subject, Body: locating in water.

    [21] Oliver Heywood, Autobiography c.a. 1664, Turner ed., III 1883, pg. 89. 'Mr. Rawsthorne of Lumb and Mr. Thomas Bradshaw walked out and after they had drunk a cup of ale returned home. Going in the night by a pit side Mr. R. fell in; Mr. B. leaped after him to take him out because he could swim, they were both drowned. Mr. R. swam at top, Mr. B. could not be found. A women made them cast in white loaf and they doing so it would it would not be removed from over the place where he was, so they took him up, and they were buried together. A sad family it was, my brother being eye witness there of.

    [22] Gents. Mag, 1767, pg. 189. Quoted in A Dictionary of Superstitions ibid. See also Notes And Queries [Oct 4, 1851, Pg. 251, 1851-s1, iv, pg. 148, June 15, '78 5th s. Ix. pg. 478] "In looking through the chronicle of the Annual Register for 1767, I came across the following entry, which clearly shows that the superstition referred to by...was at the time current in Berks: The following odd relation is attested as a fact. An inquisition was taken at New Bury, Berks, on the body of a child near two year old who fell onto the river Kennet and was drowned. The jury brought in their verdict, accidental death. The body was discovered by a very singular experiment, which was as follows. After diligent search had been made in the river for the child to no purpose, a two penny loaf with a quantity of quicksilver put into it was set floating from the place where the child it was supposed had fallen in, which steered its course down the river upwards a half a mile, before a great number of spectators, when the body happening to lay on the contrary side of the river, the loaf suddenly tacked about and swam across the river, and gradually sunk near the child, when both the child and loaf were immediately brought up with grabbers ready for that purpose."

    [23] Collin de Plancey, 'Dictionnaire Critique des Reliques et des images miraculeuses.' tom:ii, pg 212, Paris 1821. "In rural regions of France a perforated loaf called St. Nicholas is thrown in the river, which it would float down on, and stop as soon as it gains the spot with the corpse underneath, after turning three times around." Quoted in the Notes And Queries July 26, 1924 pg. 61.

    [24] Notes And Queries [5th s. IX June 15, '78 pg. 478] " In January 1849, when the pier at Morecambe was being constructed, the stone for which was procured near Halton, the boat conveying the workmen from the quarry across the river Lune to the village was upset, and eight of the men were drowned. The villagers were confident that quicksilver placed inside a loaf would enable them to find the bodies, but the last corpse was not discovered until nearly three months after the accident." Also See June 29, 1878 pg. 516.

    [25] Notes And Queries [ibid.] "A few years ago, when two young men were drowned in the Lune, I believe the same experiment [ a loaf with


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  • 09/16/08--06:03: The Tree Murderers I
  • This post introduces a new series of posts discussing recently published seforim.  Specifically, we shall focus on seforim that should never have been printed.

    The first such sefer is R. Aaron Levine's Kol Bo le-Yarhzeiht, Toronto, Canada, 2006.  This two volume work weighting in at a mere 1177 pages (needlessly killing all those trees) is entirely devoted to the custom of yarhzeit.  First a bit about the layout of the book. The first volume of the book opens with 18 pages of dedications and then 19 pages of approbations.  So the reader, who presumably paid money for this book, has to get through 40 pages before coming to any substantive content.  Moreover, the need for 19 approbations on a book that is supposedly merely a "likut" boggles the mind.  Perhaps the most amazing thing is that the author wasn't satisfied to include these dedications at the opening of the first volume - yes, at the start of the second volume, again the reader needs to first see all the very same dedications that appear at the beginning of the first, another 20 wasted pages.  To be clear, these 20 pages (at the start of the two volumes) are not the only dedications, no, at the end of each volume are 36 additional pages of dedications. And, yes, the same 36 pages appear at the end of each volume.  So, in total there are 112 pages of dedications!  That still leaves over 1000 pages for material about yarhzeit. 

    As is apparent the author did not feel constrained by space (or environmental concerns) but that doesn't stop him from failing to include relevant sources.  For example, there is a section devoted to the using the mikveah before serving as a hazan on a yarhzeit.  What is amazing is that the section only speaks in terms of obligation - how one is obligated to do this.  It never mentions or includes any sources that not everyone does this. Apparently there were no more trees left for the other views.

    A more troubling section is the lead section of the book discussing the history of the yarhzeit custom. As the author demonstrates, yarhzeit is a custom that started with the Ashkenazim sometime around the 13th century.  It is not a talmudic or geonic custom.   As such, there is no Hebrew or rabbinic term for the custom and unsurprisingly, yarhzeit or the German for aniversery is employed to describe the custom.  But there is still a dissenting view brought that it is improper to use a non-Jewish term to describe such a holy custom. 

    Finally, it should be pointed out that throughout the book Pesach Krohn's stories are used as valid sources for halachos and customs.

    Least one think that the needless killing of trees will end with this book, the author indicates that he plans on publishing an English edition and is soliciting dedications.  So if you want your dedication - and it may appear multiple times, perhaps the English will be three volumes allowing you the reader to see the same dedication three time - send your money in now.  

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    The Enigmatic R. David Lida

    by Tevie Kagan

    Tevie Kagan works in the Seforim industry.  This is his first post for the TraditionOnline Seforim blog.

    Part I: R. David of Lida and Plagiarism

    R. David ben Aryeh Leib of Lida (c.1650-1696) is a fascinating and enigmatic figure. He was the rabbi of multiple communities over the course of his lifetime including Lida, Ostrog, Mainz, and the Ashkenazic community in Amsterdam. He was forced to leave Amsterdam under a cloud of alleged plagiarism and possible Sabbatean beliefs; though he was acquitted of these charges by the council of the four lands (Va'ad Arba Ha-Aratzot), he never recovered from the various accusations. He is not a well-known individual today, yet many of his works survive and are still available in print. This post (the first of two) will present a detailed account of his life and will attempt to see if both the accusations of plagiarism and heretical beliefs have merit.

    R. (David) Lida was born in Zwollen, Lithuania into a prominent rabbinical family. His uncle was R. Moshe Rivkes, author of the Be'er Ha-Golah. Other family members that Lida cites within his works include R. Yeshaya Horowitz, author of the Shnei Luchos Habris (Shelah), R. Yosef of Pozna, R. Naftali Hertz of Lemberg, and R. Yaakov Cohen of Frankfurt. He was married to Miriam the daughter of R. Wolf Yuspef of Lvov (Lemberg) and had two sons, Nathan and Pesachya, and two daughters. One of the daughters was married to R. Yerucham b. Menachem, who helped prepare Shomer Shabbos (one of Lida's early works) for printing, and the other was married to R. Abraham b. Aaron, who helped with the printing of Shomer Shabbos in Amsterdam. In his work Ir David, Lida testifies[1] that his primary teacher was R. Joshua Hoeschel b. Jacob of Cracow (c.1595-1663), who was one of preeminent rabbis of the time.[2]

    From 1671 until 1677, R. David was rabbi in Lida. He then served as a rabbi in Ostrog and Mainz, replacing R. Samuel David b Chanoch of Lublin, the author of Divrei Shmuel who had passed away. In 1681, Lida left Mainz and became a rabbi in Amsterdam. After being forced out of Amsterdam, Lida appealed to the council of the four lands. By doing so he succeeded in getting himself reinstated in Amsterdam. However, his position was untenable, so he reached a financial agreement and moved to Lvov, where he lived until his death in 1696.[3]

    The following is a list of Lida's works (with the topic covered in parentheses):

    ¨ Beer Esek – Frankfurt on the Oder/Lublin, 1684 (apologetic)

    ¨ Beer Mayim Chaim- lost, never printed (on Code of law)

    ¨ Chalkei Avanim- Fuerth, 1693 (on Rashi's commentary on bible) reprinted in Yad Kol Bo under the title Migdol Dovid

    ¨ Divrei David- Lublin, 1671 (ethics)

    ¨ Dovev Sifsei Yesheinim- lost, never printed (mishnah)

    ¨ Ir David- Amsterdam, 1683 (incomplete), 1719 (complete) (Homiletics)

    ¨ Ir Miklat – Dyhernfurth, 1690 (613 commandments)

    ¨ Migdol David –Amsterdam,1680 (Ruth)

    ¨ Pitschei She'arim - Pirush Tefilos- partially printed in Yad Kol Bo (prayer)

    ¨ Shalsheles Zahav

    ¨ Shir Hillulim- Amsterdam, 1680 (poem in honor of dedication of a new Torah)

    ¨ Shomer Shabbos – Amsterdam, 1687 printed with Tikkunei Shabbos, reprinted in Yad Kol Bo, and reprinted separately in Zolkolov, 1804 (laws of Sabbath)

    ¨ Sod Hashem Sharbit Hazahav– Amsterdam, 1680 (on circumcision)

    ¨ Tapuchei Zahav kitzur reishis chochma – Fuerth, 1693

    ¨ Yad Kol Bo- Amsterdam/Frankfurt on the Oder, 1727(Collection)

    While in Amsterdam (about 1694), Lida was accused of libel, plagiarism and Sabbatean leanings. Since many of the documents surrounding both controversies no longer exist, we can only attempt to recreate what happened.

    Lida is Accused of Libel

    R. Yaakov Sasportas (c.1610-1698) has a series of responsa[4] that refer to the libel case. One of the prominent members of the Sephardic congregation, R. Nissan ben Judah Leib, the brother in law of R. Isaac Benjamin Wolf ben Eliezer Ashkenazi (Chief Rabbi in Berlin and the author of the Nachlas Binyomin (Amsterdam, 1682)), claimed that on a trip to Wessel R. Nissan had found defamatory letters about himself and R. Isaac Benjamin Wolf, which R. Nissan alleged were written by Lida. Lida denied having written these letters. R. Nissan submitted copies of the letters to the Sephardic court, presided over by R Yitzchak Abuhav, R Yaakov Sasportas and R Shmuel Deozida. The court requested the original letters, and when they could not be produced, the court decreed that Lida did not write the letters and that he was an upstanding rabbi of the community. The court also demanded that R. Nissan apologize, which he did. Subsequently the Sephardic court sent a letter to both R Wolf Lippman and the Council of the Four Lands requesting they revoke all bans against Lida and to forgive both themselves and Lida. This letter included the signatures of many prominent rabbis of the time, though many of these rabbis may have been influenced by Lida's famous brother-in-law, Yitzchak b. Abraham of Posnan, who was the first signature on the list.

    Additionally, Lida himself wrote a work entitled Beer Esek,[5] in which he attempts to clear his name.The work begins with an introductory homily, after which Lida then proceeds to defend himself from the charges of plagiarism. Lida's letter ends off with letters and signatures of approbation..

    Charges of Plagiarism

    Charges of plagiarism hounded Lida regarding many of his works. The first work that this charge was leveled at was Divrei David (Lublin, 1671), an ethical treatise broken up into seven parts, corresponding to the days of the week. On the title page of this work, Lida states that it is culled from the words of Rishonim upon which he added his own additions. The bibliographer, Joseph Zedner (1804-71), in his Catalogue of the Hebrew Books in the Library of the British Museum (London, 1867), was the first to note that the text of the Divrei David is identical to a part of the text of the Sefer Yirah published by Aryeh Judah Loeb ben Aryeh Priluck.

    The work itself contains information that is inconsistent with Lida's biography. For example, the author talks about trips to Israel (nos. 6, 77, and 85), serving as rabbi in Israel (no. 46), and refers to a work that he wrote called Zer Zahav on the Bible (no.72). At the time Divrei David was published Lida was 21 and, as far as we know, never visited Israel, as he never mentions it anywhere else in any of his works. Even more puzzling is that he never authored a work on the Bible called Zer Zahav! Interestingly, Gershom Scholem argues that whoever the author of Divrei David was the author had Sabbatean leanings as there is a possible Shabbati Zevi reference in the beginning of the section on Shabbos.[6] Was this work stolen from a previous work? It would appear so; but, in defense of Lida, he admits that he culled his work from other sources. Nevertheless, this would not account for his borrowing of accounts of positions, travels or works written.

    The Sefer Yirah was first published from manuscript in 1724 (Lida had published Divrei David in 1671). The publisher of the Sefer Yirah, Priluck, clearly states on the title page that he found a manuscript and had no idea as to whom was its author. Priluck adds statements and revises the original work where he saw fit. One example is in the "morning half" of the "first day," where he adds (in the fifth section) that he already printed a prayer book which was grammatically correct. Most of the other additions are merely clarifications of the earlier work [for example, in the "night section" of the first day he clarifies that the Shema referred to is the one said in bed before sleep (Kriat Shema al Ha'Mita)]. Within the section of the fourth day Lida mentions (part 77) that he was in Jerusalem, and he concludes that one should cover their head with a hat when saying grace (birkat ha'mazon); yet this last item is not found in the Priluck version of Sefer Yirah. In total, there are about twenty slight differences, but most are stylistic, with Priluck changing particular words and verses. The Sefer Yirah concludes with a statement that this is where the manuscript ends and that he does not want to add from other sources. The Warsaw edition of 1873 of the Divrei David adds an entire section of good traits (minhagim tovim). Interestingly the most recent reprinting (Brooklyn, 2006 by R. N.M., German) adds 2 more pages of character traits not found in the Warsaw edition. This would not be the only work that would come under suspicion that Lida wrote.

    Lida's most famous work that is under the suspicion of plagiarism is his Migdol David, published in 1680 while Lida was still rabbi in Mainz. The work was published with 17 approbations (haskamot). While some of the approbations do not mention the work Migdol David specifically, by reading them one gets the idea that many felt it was an original work. In his Beer Esek, Lida alludes to R. Nisan's claim that accused Lida of stealing the work (R. Nisan did so by saying that Lida "wears the talis of another"). Many believe that this work was really a copy of R. Hayim Ben Abraham Ha-Kohen's (c.1585-1655) [7]Toras Chessed. For instance, R. Hayyim Yosef David Azulai, ,writes "truthfully [Migdol David] is the work of R. Hayim Kohen, author of the Tur Barekes..." (Shem ha-Gedolim, Marekhet Seforim, s.v. Migdol David). ,Azulai also cites the Yaavetz (R. Yaakov Emden) and his charge in Toras Hakanaos (see below). The Menachem Tziyon attempts to clear Lida's name by showing that many great rabbis attested to his kabalistic knowledge, but ultimately he too leans towards the plagiarism charge. [8]

    The Yaavetz, in his Toras Hakanaos, lists a group of works that he charged with having Sabbatean leanings and allusions. He includes Lida's work, not as a potential Sabbatean work,[9] but rather as a plagiarized one, and, more specifically, to support his claim that Lida's character was suspect, and even possibly Sabbatean. Sabbateans were known to have "double natures," one being outwardly righteous, while the inner being corrupt and immoral (more about this to come in part 2 of this post, R. David of Lida and Sabbatianism). The Yaavetz shows that Lida took the work but left an allusion to Hayim Kohen's name in the introduction, which states, "ממקור מיים בריכה העליונה כה"נא רב"א" Lida's choice of words is suspect, as Lida was neither a Kohen nor named Hayim.

    More recently, Marvin Heller[10] has argued that a parable in the introduction to Lida's work alludes to the fact that it is not an original work. The allegory (from the Zohar) regards a rooster who finds a pearl while searching for food. Startled by the pearl's beauty, the rooster recoils and wonders what caused the pearl to be hidden. A man, seeing the rooster recoil, stops to see what caused the reaction; when he sees the pearl, he proceeds to give it to the king. As a result, the king honors the rooster. Lida writes: "So to I found in this scroll blossoms and fruit which give forth a brightness, delightful to the sight and desirable to the eye, 'its fruit is good for food' (Genesis 2:9)...when this distinguished book comes to the hand of one who appreciates its value ... and also who publishes it will be remembered for good before the King, King of the universe" (emphasis added). This choice of language seems to be referring to a publisher not an author. In Lida's Ir Miklat, in the glosses where Lida mentions "my book Migdol David,"[11] Azulai (in his comments) interjects: "He printed it." Eisner seeks to defend Lida, even though he had never seen a copy of the rare Migdol David. Eisner argues that since all the charges were found to be groundless in the first case against Lida, so too the plagiarism charges must be false. He attempts to buttress this by showing that Lida had a reputation for being a Kabbalist. In 1681, the notorious anti-Semite Johann Andreas Eisenmenger (ca.1654-1704) visited Amsterdam and wrote about meeting Lida in his Entdecktes Judentum (Frankfurt am Main, 1700). He speaks of Lida and how he was a great scholar and Kabbalist. Interestingly, towards the end of the introduction of Ir David, Lida states that he hopes that this work will be printed without the mistakes and errors that the printers added to his work Migdol David, which he was unable to fix. Is Lida attempting to lay the groundwork for the argument that any troubling pieces within Migdol David are not his, but rather the work of the printers?

    Slightly more telling about both of the works that are suspected of being stolen is that Lida references them in his other works very infrequently. In contrast, Ir David is referenced quite frequently within his other writings. When themes or interpretations are referenced in Chalkei Avanim that are supposedly printed in Lida's other works (specifically Migdol David) he does not give the work's name, but just the statement "and it is understood."[12]

    Even after his death Lida's works have encountered problems. His son Pesachya printed a collected volume of his works entitled Yad Kol Bo (Amsterdam 1727) in which was included a work on Psalms called Assarah Hillulim. According to Brill, this was actually written by the Calvinist-Hebraist, Heinrich Jacob van Bashuysen (1679-1750) and published in Sefer Tehilim im Pirush ha-Katzar, Hanau, 1712.[13]


    [1] Ir David, First Sermon

    [2] See Dembitzer Kelilas Yofi Krakow:1893 pg59a-59b

    [3] For the date of Lida's death, see Solomon Buber, Anshei Shem (Krakow, 1895), where he recreates the correct date based on approbations Lida had given, which are marked after the date on his tombstone.

    [4]Ohel Yaakov 75-76

    [5] Reprinted in Abraham Eisner, Toledot Hagaon R. David Lida (Breslau,1938) and in Aaron Freimann, Sefer Hayovel for Nahum Sokolow (Warsaw, 1904)

    [6] See Warsaw edition that actually puts Lida as author and includes that he wrote Zer Zahav and Bris Yitzchok, which Lida did not.

    [7] See Encyclopedia Judaica entry where Scholem states that Lidas plagiarism was well known in Kabalistic circles before H.J.D. Azulai made it public. Scholem offers no source or examples for this statement. Also interesting to note is that whatever Azulai's thoughts on Lida's character may have been, he still wrote glosses to Lida's work Ir Miklat.

    [8] See also Ohr Hayim (Hayim Michael), where he unequivocally states that it is a stolen work from R. Hayim Kohen.

    [9] Yehuda Liebes, in "Sefer Tzadik Yesod Olam- Mythos Shabetai" (reprinted in On Sabbateanism and its Kabbalah: Collected Essays (Jerusalem, 1995), pg. 303-304, note 22) shows that even Migdol David is not free of possible Sabbatean leanings. These could not have come from R Hayim Kohen as he died before Sabbateanism grew to the movement that it later became.

    [10] Marvin J. Heller, David Ben Aryeh Leib of Lida and his Migdol David: Accusations of Plagiarism in Eighteenth Century Amsterdam, Shofar (Jan. 1, 2001) (translation of text is his).

    [11] Commandment 190

    [12] For examples see Brooklyn edition 2006-pg. 5, fn 1; pg. 8, fn 8.

    [13] For more on Bashuysen, see Encyclopaedia Judaica under his name entry. Eisner strongly disagrees and says that it clearly is not a Christian work, and that it includes many ideas from Lidas other works.


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    Notes on Rabbinic Epitaphs: I

    by: Shnayer Leiman

    The newly recovered tombstone of R. Yosef Trani (1568-1639), the Maharit, among the greatest of the early aharonim,1 is a truly remarkable event. The discoverer, the noted bibliophile and book dealer R. Shlomo Epstein, had searched all the Jewish cemeteries in Istanbul (formerly: Constantinople), but could not locate the Maharit's grave. On a recent visit to Safed, where he went to pray at the tomb of R, Moshe Alshekh (circa 1520-1593), he noticed nearby a fragmented, barely legible tombstone (see figure 1). As he began to decipher the text, he realized that it was the tombstone of none other than the Maharit. In fact, the Maharit died and was buried in Constantinople, but his sons later transferred his remains to Safed (as he had requested) so that he could be interred near his father, R. Moshe Trani (1500-1580), the Mabit.2

    clip_image002

    There is much to learn from tombstone inscriptions. Often they are the only source of precise information about an ancestor or about a gadol be-yisrael. Sadly, tombstones are often neglected, lost, or destroyed. Despite all the claims otherwise, we do not know where Rashi (d. 1105), Ibn Ezra (d. 1164), R. Eleazar b. Yehudah of Worms, author of Sefer Rokeah (d. circa 1230), or Don Isaac Abarbanel (d. 1508) are buried.3 Moreover, no one took the trouble to copy their tombstone inscriptions – and they can no longer be recovered. In a much later period, the tombstone of R. Aryeh Leib b. Asher Gunzberg (d. 1785), noted author of the Sha'agat Aryeh, was destroyed.4 Again, no one took the trouble to copy his tombstone inscription before it was destroyed – and it can no longer be recovered. Similarly, Sarah Schenierer's (see figure 2)5 headstone in Plaszow (a suburb of Krakow), erected in 1935 and destroyed by Nazi orders in 1942, was neither photographed nor copied during the seven years it stood undisturbed. When the stone was reset in 2003 (see figure 3), a newly invented text, based in part on eye-witness testimony, had to be prepared for it. We need to learn from these instances that it is crucial that we preserve Jewish cemeteries the world over, to the best of our ability. Moreover, tombstone inscriptions in particular need to be photographed while still legible, and – at least in the case of gedolei yisrael – restored or redone so that visitors can read and be inspired by what was said about those gedolei yisrael. When tombstones are restored, the original text is always preferable to a newly invented text.

    figure 2 figure 3

     

    In my travels, I often photograph rabbinic epitaphs, and present some samples in this posting.

    I. R. Akiva Eger (d. 1837).

    There is no need to rehearse here biographical information about R. Akiva Eger.6 Sadly, his grave in Poznan (formerly: Posen), which was still standing before World War II (see figure 4),7 figure 4 was destroyed by the Nazis. Tombstones from the Jewish cemetery were used to pave roads, and the nineteenth century Jewish cemetery itself – it opened in 1804 – was incorporated into Poznan's Trade Fair grounds after the war.8 Ultimately, a housing project and shopping center figure 5were built on the grounds of the Jewish cemetery, today at ul. Glogowska corner ul. Sniadeckich. Fortunately, the rabbinic section of the cemetery served as a parking lot (rather than as the foundation of an apartment house), and it was possible to transform the lot into a grassy knoll and to set new tombstones over the old graves (see figure 5). At best, the tombstones are approximately over the gravesites they describe. Even so, it is a great kiddush ha-Shem that this sacred site has been restored. The graves restored include R. Akiva Eger (see figure 6), his second wife Breindel (d. 1836), his son and successor R. Shlomo Eger (d. 1852; see figure 7), and his son R. Avraham Eger (d. 1854). Also restored were the graves of two predecessors of R. Akiva Eger as Chief Rabbi of Posen: R. Yosef b. Pinhas of Posen (son-in-law of R. Yehezkel Landau Prague; see figure 8), d. 1801, and R. Moshe Shmuel, author of בית שמואל אחרון, d. 1806 (see figures 9 and 10 for the original and the restored tombstone inscriptions).9

    We would be remiss if we didn't mention that R. Akiva Eger's likeness is on permanent display in Poznan's Town Hall (see figure 11). The excerpt in figure 11 is part of a larger mural painted by Julius Knorr (1810-1860) and entitled Marktplatz in Posen. The painting was done during the lifetime of R. Akiva Eger and was first displayed in 1838. R. Akiva Eger can be seen at the bottom right, walking with cane in hand and accompanied by the two other members of his rabbinic court.10

    figure 6 figure 7 figure 8 figure 9  figure 10

      figure 11

    II. R. David Hoffmann (d. 1921).

    The recent announcement that R. David Hoffmann's פירוש על ספר שמות (based upon his lecture notes in German) is about to be published by Mosad Harav Kook has brought great joy to biblical and rabbinical scholars alike.11 Yet another sefer by the Master! It matters not that more than a century has passed since he first taught Exodus at the Hildesheimer Rabbinical Seminary. Of course modern Bible scholarship has changed drastically in the interim. R. David Hoffmann's commentary will not reflect modern archaelogical advance, will not grapple with the textual readings of the Dead Sea Scrolls, and will not deal with the latest philological discoveries of Semitic linguistics. But those who have read his commentaries on Genesis, Leviticus, and Deuteronomy, and learned from them, will know that regarding R. David Hoffmann "כל מקום שאתה מוצא דבריו עשה אזנך כאפרכסת."12 Master of the Oral Law, he of course read the Torah through rabbinic lenses. At the same time, he listened to dissenting voices, weighed all the evidence, and never disparaged others even as he dismissed their arguments. He always judged judiciously and graciously. And even when one disagrees with him, one always gains insight from his comments.

    It is sad that this seminal figure, Rector and Rosh Yeshiva, Bible scholar and Posek, Literary Critic of the Mishnah and Restorer of Lost Tannaitic Midrashim, Defender of the Faith and Public Servant, has never been the subject of an intellectual biography worthy of the name.13 Here we publish, apparently for the first time, his epitaph. R. David Hoffmann is buried in the Adass Jisroel cemetery in the Weissensee section of Berlin.

    Obverse (see figure 12):

    פ"נ

    גאון ישראל נר המערב מורה מהור"ר14

    דוד צבי

    בן מוה"ר ר' משה יהודה

    למשפחת

    האפפמאן

    ראש בית המדרש

    לרבנים בברלין זכרונו לברכה

    נולד ביום ב' דר"ח כסלו התר"ד

    ועלה למרום ביום תשעה עשר

    לחדש מרחשון ה' תרפ"ב לב"ע

    ----------------

    דור לדור ישבח אורו

    ותורתו ילמדנה

    דעתו שפטה תועי דורו

    צדקת עמו יגידנה

    באר תורה ללבב עמו

    יסד עז במשנת קדומים

    זך מדעו נעם טעמו

    לנצח יחיו בעלומים

    תנצב"ה

     figure 12

    Reverse (see figure 14):

    Professor

    Dr. DAVID HOFFMANN

    geb. 24. November 1843.

    gest. 20. November 1921.

    figure 14

     

    NOTES

    1. According to R. Avraham Yeshayahu Karelitz (d. 1953), "גדול האחרונים הוא המהרי"ט." See Z. Yabrov, מעשה איש, Bnei Brak, 2001, vol. 4, p. 90.

    2. See E. Zalman, "המהרי"ט קבור בצפת," Qulmos 65 (2008), pp. 18-21. The photograph in figure 1 is taken from the Zalman essay.

    3. In the case of R. Eleazar b. Yehudah of Worms, he was certainly buried in the Worms Jewish cemetery, standing to this very day. The portion of the cemetery he was buried in was appropriated by the non-Jewish authorities. See R. Juspa Shammes, מעשה נסים, Amsterdam, 1696, p. 20.

    4.

    See N. Netter, "Les Anciens Cimetieres Israelites de Metz," REJ 51(1905-6), pp. 280-281. Cf. S. Schwarzfuchs, (תנאי הרבנות של השאגת אריה בק"ק מיץ",מוריה 15(1986", pp. 81-90.

    5.

    The only extant authentic photograph of Sara Schenierer, which scholars in Israel and the United States have kept under wraps for years, was recently published in T. Lesniak, J. M. Malecki, J. Purchla, and A.B. Skotnicki, eds., Swiat przed katastrofa:Zydzi krakowscy w wudziestoleciu miedzywojennym (A World Before a Catastrophe: Krakow's Jews Between the Wars), Krakow, 2007, p. 128 – and is reproduced here.

    6.

    See, e.g., Y. Strasser and A. Perl, eds., מאורן של ישראל: רבינו עקיבא איגר, New York, 1990, 2 vols. Cf. J.H. Sinason, The Gaon of Posen: A Portrait of Rabbi Akiva Guens-Eger , Jerusalem, 1991.

    7.

    Figure 4 is taken from T. Sztyma-Knasiecka, Miedzy tradycja a nowoczesnoscia: Zydi poznanscy w XIX i XX wieku, Poznan, 2006, p. 23.

    8.

    See Z. Pakula, , The Jews of Poznan, London, 2003, pp. 1-21 and 109. Cf. anonymous, "Jewish Poznan," Poznan in Your Pocket, July-October 2008, p. 6.

    9.

    The photograph of the original tombstone inscription is taken from Sztyma-Knasiecka, p. 22.

    10.

    See Sinason, pp. 100-103; cf. Sztyma-Knasiecka, p. 13.

    11.

    See A. Wasserteil's introduction to R. David Hoffmann, (שיעבוד בני ישראל במצרים, המעין 48(2008, number 3, p. 25.

    12.

    R. David Hoffmann used to apply this Talmudic phrase to the רש"ש, but it surely applies to Hoffmann as well. See his שו"ת מלמד להועיל, Frankfurt, 1932, vol. 3, §71. Cf. R. M. Roth, מבשר עזרא, Jerusalem, 1968, p. 167.

    13.

    Useful information can be gleaned from the following:

    H.J. Bechtoldt, "David Hoffmann," in his Die jüdische Bibelkritik im 19. Jahrhundert, Stuttgart, 1995, pp. 363-438; D. Ellenson and R. Jacobs, "Scholarship and Faith: David Hoffmann and his Relationship to Wissenschaft des Judentums," Modern Judaism 8(1988), n.1, pp. 26-70; L. Ginzberg, Students Scholars and Saints, Philadelphia, 1928, pp. 252-262; L. Jung, The Path of a Pioneer, London, 1980, pp. 20-27; J. Marmorstein, "David Hoffmann, Defender of the Faith," Tradition 8(1966), n.4, pp. 91-101; A. Marx, Essays in Jewish Biography, Philadelphia, 1947, pp. 185-222; Idem, Studies in Jewish History, New York, 1944, pp. 369-376; M. B. Shapiro, "Rabbi David Zevi Hoffmann on Torah and Wissenschaft," Torah U-Madda Journal 6(1995-6), pp. 129-137; C. Tchernowitz, מסכת זכרונות, New York, 1945, pp. 244-264; and Y. Wolfsberg-Aviad, "David Hoffmann," in L. Jung, ed., Guardians of Our Heritage, New York, 1958, pp. 363-419 (cf. Wolfsberg-Aviad's דיוקנאות, Jerusalem, 1962, pp. 57-66). Much more bibliography can be added; the items listed here are intended to get the interested reader started.

     

    14.

    For the honorific title מורה מורנו, see figure 13, also from the Adass Jisroel cemetery. Cf. the very interesting responsum in שו"ת מהרש"ם 2:56.

    figure 13


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    Repackaged Rulings: The Responsa of R. Elyashiv

    by: Yitzhak of בין דין לדין


    Wolf2191 recently wrote:

    N.B. I believe I noticed that some of the pesakim that R' Elyashiv issued when he was part of the Beis Din Ha-Gadol together with Chacham Ovadiah and Harav Kappach were republished in a kovetz under R' Elyashiv's name only, but I would need to check again.]

    The קובץ תשובות

    Three volumes of Rav Elyashiv's responsa have been published in Yerushalayim under the title קובץ תשובות, the first in 5760, and the latter two in 5763. None contain any preface, introduction or critical apparatus, except for the following brief prefatory paragraph, which appears verbatim in all three volumes:

    קובץ זה נאסף ונלקט מספרים קובצים וכו'. וזאת למודעי כי ברוב התשובות לא היה גוף כתה"י לנגד עינינו, וסמכנו על הנדפס ויש מהם שבאו בחסר ושינויי לשון, כך שאין מקום כלל לקבוע דבר מהם. התשובות נלקטו ונסדרו ע"ד בלבד ואם שגינו אתנו תלין משוגתנו, ואנו תפלה להשי"ת שלא יצא דבר תקלה ח"ו מתח"י.
    The title pages state merely that these responsa have been
    נאספו נלקטו וקובצו מספרים וקובצים תורניים
    No editors are named, and copyright is claimed anonymously, although a mailing address is given.

    A striking difference between the three volumes is in the sourcing of the individual responsa. The table of contents of the first volume contains sources for all the responsa, that of the second leaves many unsourced, particularly in the Even Ha'Ezer and Hoshen Mishpat sections, and that of the third dispenses entirely with sources.

    Why does the second volume omit some sources? Rav Dovid Soloveitchik used to say (and probably still does) "We may only ask 'what does it say', not 'why'", so let us rephrase the question; which sources does the second volume omit? The crucial clue is in the fact that the table of contents of the first volume mysteriously gives the sources for many of the responsa as 'פ"ד', whereas that of the second volume contains no such references. 'פ"ד' clearly stands for פסק דין, or perhaps more precisely, פסקי דין, and indeed, most of the unsourced responsa in the second volume seem to be excerpts of rulings originally published in the פסקי-דין של בתי הדין הרבניים האיזוריים בישראל, which explains their concentration in the aforementioned sections.

    I have hunted down the sources for a half dozen responsa from the beginning of the Hoshen Mishpat section of the second volume of the קובץ תשובות:

    קובץ תשובות פסקי דין
    p. 310 Vol. 5, p. 322
    p. 314 Vol. 4, p. 225
    p. 321 Vol. 3, p. 289
    p. 327 Vol. 5, p. 3
    p. 342 Vol. 1, p. 108
    p. 351 Vol. 3, p. 170
    The remainder are left as an exercise for the reader.

    Of the six cases listed above, five were apparently decided unanimously, and the published opinions are recorded simply as the courts' rulings. The third case in the above list yielded a split decision; one opinion appears over the names of R. Elyashiv and a colleague, and another opinion over the name of the third member of the panel. The קובץ תשובות' inclusion of these opinions implies that they have been authored by Rav Elyashiv himself, although the careful reader will notice that the editors do not explicitly attribute them to him; his signature is not appended, as it is to many of the responsa in the work.

    The פסקי דין

    We have mentioned the פסקי דין; a few words about this invaluable work are in order. At more than eight thousand pages in more than twenty volumes, it is the largest, and unquestionably the most important, published collection of casefiles in the areas of Hoshen Mishpat and Even Ha'Ezer. The decisions are lengthy and intricately argued, and they include copious citations of earlier literature as well as much important original analysis. Many of the בתי הדין הרבניים are represented, as are many of the most eminent Talmidei Hachamim and experts on Hoshen Mishpat and Even Ha'Ezer of the latter half of the twentieth century. Here is a list of some of the best known of these scholars:

    Current Status and Availability

    According to the Hebrew University catalog entries (See the Main Catalog entries (not JNUL) here and here) twenty two volumes of rulings have been published to date, plus three index volumes. I believe that the cost of the print version is exorbitant, but the wonderful people at HebrewBooks.org have made most of the volumes available for free download, in PDF format; search for פסקי דין. They apparently have the same material that my local library has, nineteen volumes of rulings plus index volumes. [My library has one index volume, covering volumes one through fifteen, they have two, covering volumes one through five and six through ten, and the Hebrew University collections have all three.] They seem to have duplicate copies of volumes eleven through eighteen, and the publication dates of their first series, titled אוסף פסקי דין, are all given as תש"י, which is obviously incorrect (this is the date of the appearance of the first volume, as we shall presently see), but this is mere carping; their making (most of) the work available for free online is a great boon for anyone interested in Hoshen Mishpat and Even Ha'Ezer.

    Present At the Creation

    Wolf2191 has shown me Dr. Zerah Warhaftig's personal account of the founding and subsequent evolution of the project:

    An important innovation in the history of the responsa literature was inaugurated in Israel with the decision to publish the rulings of the Rabbinical High Court of Appeal and those of the district rabbinical courts. The rulings are published together with the arguments on which they are based, as presented in court. Indeed, I myself proposed the publication project, and was charged with its implementation, a responsibility I viewed as a great privelege and sacred trust.

    Previously, the Rabbinical High Court of Appeal followed the traditional system of issuing brief rulings while at the same time compiling a full account of the halakhic deliberation on the case in pamphlet form for circulation among judges. Deliberation and discussion are an essential part of the legal process, allowing the individual judges an opportunity to convince their colleagues of the validity of their arguments, so that a decision can be reached. The pamphlets were intended to facilitate this process, rather than explain the rulings to the litigants involved, so that they could understand why they had won, or lost, their cases.

    There was no appeal against a ruling of the Rabbinical High Court, nor were there establishe procedures for appealing the rulings of district rabbinical courts. (Interestingly, these pamphlets often served as the basis for volumes of responsa published by their authors years later.)

    The idea of publishing, in an organized fashion, both the courts' rulings and their grounds, and that of appending abstracts of the laws cited in the rulings, as is customary in law reports, to allow for ease of reference and study, was thus entirely new. Accordingly, the Chief Rabbinate, which had to approve the proposal, had to be convinced of its merits. This entailed some negotiation, in which, as head of the Ministry of Justice's Research Institute for Jewish Law, I was much involved.

    In due course an agreement in principle was reached between myself and the Chief Rabbinate. After some administrative changes were carried out, the first collection of rulings of the Chief Rabbinate's Rabbinical High Court of Appeal was finally published in 1950. Assisted by S. B. Feldman, S. Z. Cahana and P. Galevsky, I served as editor. In the foreword to the volume, I wrote:

    The selection of the rulings herein published was guided by the desire to accurately portray the workings of the court. Most of the rulings relate to family law and public endowments; the others are devoted to monetary matters. The opinions of the judges, with a few exceptions, are not published as written, but have been abstracted by the editors from the contents of the pamphlets appended to the case files. This volume thus does not constitute a formal record and the editors assume full responsibility for the adaptation and wording of the judicial opinions.
    ...

    It was found that publication encouraged rabbinical courts judges to communicate their opinions in a clear and orderly manner comprehensible to those unschooled in Jewish law, whether jurists or members of the public. Over time, rulings of the Rabbinical High Court of Appeal and the district rabbinical courts began to be handed down in a form that allowed them to be published as written, with no editing. Accordingly, it was decided to publish the rulings of the district rabbinical courts, and later, those of the Rabbinical High Court of Appeal, on a monthly basis. ...

    In addition to the inaugural volume of rulings of the Rabbinical High Court of Appeal, eleven volumes of rulings of Israel's rabbinical courts had been published by 1960. These well indexed volumes alone contain a wealth of decisions on questions of family and monetary law and on matters of vital public interest.

    [Warhaftig, Zerah "Precedent In Jewish Law." in Authority, Process and Method: Studies in Jewish Law Ed. Hanina Ben-Menahem and Neil S. Hecht. Harvard Academic Publishers. 12-16]

    So in addition to Wolf2191's point about the republication of the panels' rulings as specifically Rav Elyashiv's, Warhaftig tells us that the rulings in the first volume of the פסקי דין (at least one of which is included in the קובץ תשובות, as above) are actually abstracts written by the editors, and not the original opinions penned by the Dayyanim in the first place!



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  • 09/28/08--13:16: Post on my sefer
  • Announcing The Publication of Eliezer Brodt's Bein Kesah L'Asur

    by Eliezer Brodt


    This post is not a review of a sefer as one can not review ones own sefer. Rather it is a simple announcement and book description. Last year I posted a chapter from my sefer about the minhaghim of Rosh Hasnaha. I was hoping to complete that work this year but as the material grew I realized that would not be possible. Around Pesach time I decided that I would take some of the parts about aseret yemei teshuvah and print it as its own pamphlet. The pamphlet grew into its own 286 page sefer. The name of the sefer is Bein Kesah L'asur. The central topics of the sefer revolve around the chumras (stringency) that people practice during aseret yemei teshuvah.

    The sefer begins with a chapter to explain why we observe these chumras even though right afterwards we revert back to our old ways. This follows with a chapter about the special power of Teffilah during this period. In the next chapter I trace at length the source of the minhag to take on chumros during this period starting with the Yerushalmi and up until recent literature showing how this minhag developed over time. Throughout I discuss many topics that were inter related to this Yerushalmi such as baking challos for shabbos that it should be specifically Pas yisroel, the minhag of people of Tzefas to eat chulin B'taharah, going to the Mikvah erev Yom Tov especially Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, and if there was Efar Parah Adumah after the destruction of the Bes Hamikdash. Besides this I deal with other topics such as the time period one has to observe these chumros. After which I have a few chapters disusing at length the actual chumras that people did, such as washing hands before eating vegetables, giving tzedakah in asret yemei teshuvah, checking ones tzizits before putting it on, sleeping during the day and on shabbos. There are some interesting appendixes in these chapters such as where the source for sleeping on Shabbos is considered oneg shabbos, wearing teffilin the whole day or at least during mincha. The last two chapters are about chumras in general (the pros and cons), and about the famous Asrah Mili Dechasdusad'Rav (the 10 pious practices of Rav) – in particular "Rav Lo soch Sicha Bitalha Miyomov" (Rav never spoke unnecessary words his whole life). I conclude the sefer with a chapter about the sefer Simachat Ha-nefesh which I used many times through out this work. I included an index of some 40 entries of some obscure seforim and topics that I discuss in the footnotes.


    The sefer is available in Girsa, Otzar haseforim, next to the Mir and Shankies. It is en-route (arriving right after Rosh ha-Shana) to Biegeleisen and Judaica plaza. For all information about this sefer including donations for this one or the upcoming volume contact me at eliezerbrodt-at-gmail.com


    What follows is a sample chapter based on one of the most famous things everyone learns about in school about asret yemei teshuvah that if you do teshuvah each day of the week has power to fix all of those days of that year.


    החומרות בעשרת ימי תשובה ככפרה על ימות השנה

    א. אלולא דמסתפינא הייתי אומר, שהסיבה שישראל קדושים לאחוז בחומרות יתירות בעשרת ימי תשובה היא משום היסוד המפורסם על שמו של האריז"ל:

    אמר לי הרב משה גאלאנטי, ששמע ממורי ז"ל: שאם האדם יתענה בשבעת ימים שבין ראש השנה ליום הכפורים ויעשה בהם תשובה גמורה, כל יום מהם מכפר על כל העונות שחטא כל ימיו, ביום שכיוצא בו... ואם התענה ועשה תשובה בכל שבעת הימים ההם, יתכפרו לו כל עונותיו שעשה כל ימיו1.

    ומשום כך נהגו בחומרות יתירות בימים אלו, כדי שיעלה להם שעשאום בכל ימות השנה. ואכן ראיתי שהדברים נתבארו בכתבי ר' דוד מנובורודוק (רוסיה הלבנה, תקכה-תקצג), בעל 'גליא מסכת': ועוד ראיתי, שענין הזה שאמרו דורשי רשומות, דכל יום מימי עשרת ימי תשובה עומד ומעותד שיהיה ניתקן בו כל מה אשר עיות, חס וחלילה, בכל יומו מימות השנה. ויש לזה סמיכות בירושלמי... דרבי חייא רבה מפקיד לרב: אי אתה יכול למיכל כולה שתא חולין בטהרה - אכול, ואם לאו - תהא אכיל שבעה יומין מן שתא. וכתב ראבי"ה: קבלתי, שאלו שבעה ימים בין ראש-השנה ליום כיפור... אם כן נראה, שבחר שבעה ימים מעשרת ימי תשובה כדי שכל יום ויום, הן יום ראשון או יום שני וכן כולם, יתקן כנגדו מכל ימות השנה2.


    ב. רעיון זה שר' דוד מנובורודוק הביאו בשם "דורשי רשומות" הוא באמת מתורת האריז"ל, וכאמור. ונוסיף בכך דברים. ר' רפאל עמנואל חי ריקי (תמז-תקג), מגדולי מקובלי איטליה שגם שהה בצפת ובירושלים מספר שנים, כותב בשנת תפב בספרו משנת חסידים: "ובעשרת ימי תשובה... המתענה בהם ועושה תשובה גמורה, מוחלין לו בכל יום מימי השבוע שבעשרת ימי תשובה מה שחטא ביום ההוא לעולם"3. כמו חיבורים אחרים, גם משנת חסידים הינו סיכום מתורתו של האר"י כפי שקיבלו המחבר מתלמידי תלמידיו בארץ-ישראל ובאיטליה, ולפיכך אנו מוצאים את הרעיון המדובר גם בכתבים אחרים שאספו לקרבם מתורת האר"י. ר' מאיר פופרש כותב: "מי שיחזור בתשובה גמורה ויתענה בשבעת ימי התשובה, נמחלו לו כל עונותיו. דהיינו, אם חל ביום ראשון משבעת ימי התשובה ביום א דשבת - מתכפרים לו כל עונותיו שחטא ביום א דשבת... וכן כולם. זה וודאי בלי ספק"4. הדברים הובאו גם במקורות מאוחרים יותר, ולא תמיד בשמו של האריז"ל. כך כותב הגר"א (ליטא, תפ-תקנח) בלשונו התמציתית: "...ולכן המעשים הנאותים הנפעלים בימים אלו [=בעשרת ימי תשובה], חשובים ככל השנה"5. אחריו כותב תלמיד-תלמידו, ר' יצחק אייזיק חבר (ליטא, תקמט-תריג): "לכן בימים המקודשים האלו... מחויב כל איש... לטהר עצמו מכל חטא ואשמה על-ידי תשובה גמורה... בימים אלו [ש]הם כלל כל ימות השנה, וכמו שכתב האריז"ל, שבשבעת הימים - כל יום ויום נתקן בו מה שפגם באותו יום מכל ימות השנה..."6. גם באחד מספריו של ר' יוסף תאומים (פולין ואשכנז, תפז-תקנב), בעל 'פרי מגדים', נאמר: "כי יקר הזמן מאד מאד, על כן ימהר יחיש מעשיו לתקן את כל אשר עיות בכל השנה. כי בעשרת ימי תשובה, בכל יום יתקן מה שפגם בכל השנה באותו יום"7.וכך אצל עוד רבים מרבותינו האחרונים8.

     


    ג. אמנם ראוי לציין שהיסוד המובא על-שם האריז"ל מצוי, ברמיזה, באחד מספרי בן-דורו המבוגר, ר' משה קורדובירו (הרמ"ק; שאלוניקי-צפת, רפב-של)! וזה לשונו: עשרת ימי תשובה... ועשרה ימים אלו הם עשרה ימים שבהם עשר ספירות ודאי. ואולם מלת 'תשובה' נודע פירושה: תשובת הדברים אל שרשם... וכפי פעולת האדם בימים ההם כן יפגום בימים או ישלימם במעשיו הטובים... [ו]נתן הקב"ה לישראל עשרה ימים אלו, שהם של תשובה, שמתגלה המקור, שהיא הבינה, על הימים - שהם העניפים, להמשיך להם שפע רב, ולתקן על ידי התשובה כל פגם שפגם בימים הנזכרים שחלפו9.

    אך הפלא הוא, שהמקור הראשון המזכיר ענין זה בשם האריז"ל הוא ר' משה גלנטי10, שרבותיו המובהקים היו: ר' יוסף קארו (בתורת הנגלה) והרמ"ק (בתורת הנסתר)!11.

    על פרט נוסף ראוי להתעכב מעט. במובאות הראשונות שמשם האריז"ל הודגש, ששבעת ימים אלו מתקנים את כל ימות השנה רק "אם האדם יתענה" בהם "ויעשה בהם תשובה גמורה"12. ואילו מתורתו של הרמ"ק אנו שומעים ש"ישלימם במעשיו הטובים" בלבד, וניתן להבינם כמחייבים רק את התשובה ולא גם את התענית. ולמרות כל זאת, רוב המקורות המאוחרים המביאים יסוד זה בשם האריז"ל13, ואף-על-פי-כן אינם מציינים שיש להתענות, אלא רק מחייבים את התשובה!


    ד. היה שמצא את שורש יסודו של האר"י בתורת הנגלה, וזולתו מצאה בתורת הנסתר. הראשון הוא ר' יחזקאל לנדא (פראג, תעד-תקנג), בעל 'שו"ת נודע ביהודה', המוצא לכך סמך מהמסופר בתלמוד בבלי (חגיגה ה סע"ב):

    רב אידי, אבוה דרבי יעקב בר אידי, הוה רגיל דהוה אזיל תלתא ירחי באורחא וחד יומא בבי רב. והוו קרו ליה רבנן: 'בר בי רב דחד יומא'. חלש דעתיה... נפק רבי יוחנן לבי מדרשא ודרש: "ואותי יום יום ידרשון ודעת דרכי יחפצון" (ישעיה נח ב), וכי ביום דורשין אותו ובלילה אין דורשין אותו? אלא לומר לך: כל העוסק בתורה אפילו יום אחד בשנה - מעלה עליו הכתוב כאילו עסק כל השנה כולה...

    מסיק מכך ר' יחזקאל לנדא: "הרי מפורש בגמרא, שיום אחד יוכל לתקן כל השנה. ואם כן יפה כתב האר"י, שיוכל לתקן בימים הקדושים הללו מעשה כל ימות השנה"14.

    מאידך, ר' רפאל כ"ץ (המבורג, תפג-תקסד) מוצא סמך לדברי האריז"ל בנאמר בספר הזוהר15:

    בכל יומא ויומא כרוזא נפיק וקרי ולית מאן דישגח. דתניא: אינון יומין דבר-נש כד אתברי בההוא יומא דנפק לעלמא, כלהו קיימין בקיומייהו ואזלין וטאסין בעלמא נחתין ואזהרן לבר-נש כל יומא ויומא בלחודוי. וכד ההוא יומא אתי ואזהר ליה ובר נש עביד בההוא יומא חובא קמי מאריה, ההוא יומא סליק בכסופא ואסהיד סהדותא וקאים בלחודוי לבר. ותאנא בתר דקאים בלחודוי, יתיב עד דבר-נש עביד מניה תשובה. זכה - תב ההוא יומא לאתריה; לא זכה - ההוא יומא נחית ואשתתף בההוא רוחא דלבר ותב לביתיה ואתתקן בדיוקניה דההוא בר-נש ממש... בין כך ובין כך, אתפקדן אינון יומין וחסרים ולא עאלין במניינא דאינון דאשתארו. ווי לההוא בר-נש דגרע יומוי קמי מלכא קדישא ולא שביק לעילא יומין לאתעטרא בהו בההוא עלמא - - -

    מסיים ר' רפאל הכהן ואומר: "והנה, כתבו בעלי מוסר, שסגולת הימים האלו [=עשרת ימי תשובה], שאם שב לפניו ברוך הוא, מוחלין לו כל מה שחטא באותו יום בשבוע כל ימות השנה. נמצא על ידי מה ששב בימים הקדושים האלו, גורם שחוזרים הימים שחטא בהן במנין הימים, כמבואר בזוהר. ועל ידי זה נכון הוא לקרוא לאותן הימים 'ימי תשובה', כי על ידי ימים האלו משיבין לו הימים שנאבדו ממנו בחטאתו בהן"16.


    ה. יסודו של האריז"ל, ששבעת הימים מעשרת ימי תשובה מתקנים את היום השבועי שכנגדו, שימשו שורש ועיקר גדול; ממנו נוספו כמה הנהגות טובות ואף נתבארו על-ידו כמה מהִלכות ימים אלו.

    1. ביטול השינה ב'שבת תשובה'. המחבר האנונימי של ספר חמדת ימים הבין מיסוד זה, שבשבת החל בעשרת ימי תשובה ('שבת תשובה') אין לקיים בו את מצוות 'שינה בשבת תענוג':

    בשם הרב ז"ל, כי כל יום מעשרת ימי תשובה, מה שיעשה האדם בתשובה בהם - מתכפר מה שפגם באותו יום כל ימות השנה. וכן על זה הדרך בכל עשרת הימים. והאיש השלם עם השם, צריך לתת אל לבו אם פגם באיזו משבתות השנה בשיחת חולין ודברים בטלים או כעס


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  • 10/07/08--17:21: Eliezer Kallir - Updated
  • Eliezer Kallir, is considered one of the greatest paytanim.  He authored some of the most well known piyyutim including those said for geshem and tal, as well as many others (although most of his piyyutim that were included in the Rosh haShana and Yom Kippur prayers are no longer said by most).  While his literary output is well-known, "[b]iographical facts about Kallir are shrouded in mystery."  E.J. (new ed.) vol. 11, p. 743. There are many theories about who R. Kallir was and I would like to touch on some of these in this post. (Also see below for a bibliography on R. Eliezer Kallir - provided by a kind reader of the blog.)

    R. Shmuel David Luzzato (Shadal) in his Mevo l'Machzor Beni Roma, discusses Kallir and the history of piyyutim at length.[1]  "If you will ask who authored the first piyyut and who followed them, I will answer that the first is Yanni or Yinai, and the second is R. Eliezer Berebi Kalir.  The product of both is apparent to all in the Haggadah as the piyyut "Az Rov Nissim" is from Yanni . . . and the piyyut "Ometz Gevoroteha" is from R. Eliezer berbi Kallir . . ."  Interestingly, "regarding Yanni a nasty rumor has been spread (Zunz found it in a manuscript commentary to the Mahzor), however, anyone who hears it will laugh,  . . . [and the rumor is] that Yanni became jealous of his student R. Eliezer and [Yanni] put a scorpion in [Eliezer Kallir's] shoe and the scorpion killed Kallir."  Shadal, however, dismisses this rumor in light of the fact that Yanni's piyyutim are still said, especially the one mentioned above during Pesach.  Shadal argues that if Yanni was a murderer then there is no way Yanni's piyyutim would be so popular.  Additionally, Rabbenu Gershom mentions Yanni and uses honorific terms, something Rabbenu Gershom would not have done if the rumor is true. 

    Shadal then turns to the details of R. Eliezer Kallir's biography.  "In many places R. Eliezer signs his name as 'R. Eliezer beribi Kallir from Kiryat Sefer.' Many of the early ones believed that this indicated Kallir was from the biblical town of Kiryat Sefer, and many thought that Kallir was a tanna, either R. Eliezer the son of Simon ... or R. Eliezer ben Arakh, both of these opinions are recorded in the Sefer HaYuchsin."  Shadal, however shows that it is highly unlikely that R. Eliezer Kallir was a tanna or that he was from the biblical town of Kiryat Sefer. Instead, Shadal quotes the opinion of R. Moshe Landau (grandson of the Noda Be-Yehuda) in his commentary to the Arukh, Maarkhe Lashon.[2]  According to Landau Kallir is a reference to the Sardinian city Cagliari.  Shadal disagrees with Landau.  In the end, after citing other opinions, including identifying Kallir with an Italian city, Pumadisa in Babylon, and Sippara also in Babylon, and to those it should be added, Bari, Ostia, "Civitas Portas, the former port of Rome (Derenbourg); Constantinople; Civita di Penna in the Abruzzi; . . . Normandy, Speyer in Germany . . . Lettere in Souther Italy,  . . . Antioch and Hama in Syria . . . Kallirrhoe in Palestine . .. [and finally] Tiberias."  E.J. p. 744.  As should be apparent, there is no consensus on where Kallir was from.

    Turning to his name - Kallir - the starting place is R. Nathan and his Arukh.   He explains that Kallir, means cake (indeed in Greek kalura means cake).  And, Kallir was called "cake" because "he ate a cake that had written on a kemiah (amulet) and, as a result, he became smart."  Arukh erekh klr.  The idea to feed children cake with inscriptions is a well documented one.  R. Eliezer from Worms, the author of the Rokekh records the custom to feed children cakes with the verses from Isaiah 50:4, id.50:5, and Ezekiel 3:3.  The children would eat these when they were indoctrinated into Torah study on Shavout.  [2]  Of course, as noted above, some view the name Kallir as an indication of where Kallir was from.  Indeed, many, including Shadal did not swallow (if I may) the Arukh's interpretation of Kallir.

    Again, as we have seen there is a bit of debate when it comes to Kallir, one of the more interesting debates regards which piyyutim can be attributed to him.  While in many Kallir provides his name in an acrostic, according to R. Shelomo Yehuda Rapoport (Shir) one can also attribute those piyyutim that there is a gematria that equals some permutation of Kallir's name.  That is, Kallir sometimes signed his name Eliezer haKallir, Eliezer beribi Kallir, Eliezer Kallir me-Kiryat Sefer, and a combination of any of these.  Thus, according to Shir, if in the first line equaled any of these Kallir was the author. 

    R. Efraim Mehlsack, however, took issue with Shir's use of gematria. Specifically, Mehlsack wrote Sefer ha-Ravyah, Ofen, 1837, against Shir.  Mehlsack was a prolific author, he supposedly authored some 72 seforim, but the only published sefer was this one.  But before we get into the details regarding Mehlsack we need to discuss his critique of Shir.  Mehlsack went to town on Shir and showed that using the gematria for the first line of a book, Mehlsack could make Kallir the author of just about every important Jewish book.  Mehlsack goes through Tanakh and uses the first verse of each book to equal some form of Kallir's name.  For example, the first verse in Berashit equals 913 which equals "meni ha-katan Eliezer Kallir." The first verse in Joshua equals 1041 which equals "ha-katon Eliezer beribi Kallir."  Mehlsack doesn't stop with Tanakh, he then moves to Mishna noting that the first mishna in Berkhot is 2362 which equals "ani Eliezer berbi Ya'akov ha-Kallir mi-Kiryat Sefer yezkeh be-tov amen."  As a final shot at Shir, Mehlsack has the gematria of I am Shelmo Yehuda Rapoport = 1164 to Eliezer beRebi Yaakov Kallir =1164.  Indeed, Mehlsack was not content to provide some 40 odd examples, he had even more and as a result of already printing the pages, the Sefer Ravyah is an interesting bibliographical oddity in that these gematrias appear on page 18 and then continue.  Well Mehlsack includes an alternative page 18 in the back which has more examples of these gematrias. Thus, the book goes until page 32 and then there is another page 18.  Both versions appear below.





    Turning now to Mehlsack.  As I mentioned Mehlsack supposedly authored 72 books.  We know of 34 titles from that list.[4] Although most of those works have been lost, there are a few, around five, that are available in manuscript.  In Boaz Hass's recent book on the history of the Zohar, he mentions Mehlsack's translation of the Zohar (Scholem also discusses this work).  One of the works lost, is a work permitting one to travel via train on Shabbat.  The introduction of this work has been published (in part) and appears below. Additionally, Sefer Ravyah was not Mehlsack's only attack on Rapoport, Mehlsack attacked Rapoport in a few of his works, and some of his critiques were published in Bikkurei Ha-Ittim.

    Returning to Kallir, it goes without saying that Kallir's piyyutim were controversial.  Most famously, the Ibn Ezra complained about them and offered that one should refrain from saying Kallir's piyyutim.  Ibn Ezra's critique is discussed by R. Eliezer Fleckels, who defends Kallir, and Heidenheim thought it important enough to include this lengthy responsum in Heidenheim's edition of the Machzor.[For more on the Ibn Ezra see צבי מלאכי "אברהם אבן-עזרא נגד אלעזר הקליר - ביקורת בראי הדורות" פלס (תשם) 273-296)  

    Bibliography on R. Eliezer Kallir (provided by a kind reader of the blog.)

    אלבוגן, התפלה בישראל בהתפתחותה ההסטורית, 233 - 239

    יוסף זליגר, "לתולדות הפיוט והפיטנים (ר' אלעזר קליר)", כתבי הרב ד"ר יוסף זליגר, לאה זליגר מו"ל, ירושלים תרצ, צז - קב

    שלמה דוד לוצאטו, אגרות שד"ל א, 464 ואילך

    ---, הליכות קדם, גבריאל פאלק, אמסטרדם תרז, מחלקה שניה, 56 - 64.

    צבי מלאכי, "הפייטן אלעזר הקליר - לחקר שמו ומקומו", באורח מדע: פרקים בתרבות ישראל מוגים לאהרן מירסקי במלאות לו שבעים שנה, צבי מלאכי, מכון הברמן למחקרי ספרות, לוד תשמו, 539 - 543

    אהרן מרקוס, ברזילי: מסה בתולדות הלשון העברית, ירושלים: מוסד הרב קוק תשמג, 346

    עזרא פליישר, תרביץ נ, 282 - 302

    ---, "לפתרון שאלת זמנו ומקום פעילותו של ר' אלעזר בירבי קיליר", תרביץ נד ג, ניסן - סיון תשמה, 383 - 427

    שלמה יהודה ראפאפארט, תולדות גדולי ישראל, 24 - 55

    יעקב שור, ספר העתים, 364 – 365

     

    בנועם שיח: פרקים מתולדות ספרותנו, מכון הברמן למחקרי ספרות, לוד תשמג, 114 - 156

    המעין טז א, תשרי תשלו, 3 - 14. המשך: ב, טבת תשלו, 32 - 52.




    [1] Mevo leMachzor Beni Roma, Habermann ed. Jerusalem

    [2] For more on this commentary see S. Brisman, History & Guide to Judaic Dictionaries & Concordances, KTAV Publishing House, Inc. 2000, pp. 19-20.

    [3] For more on this custom see Assaf, Mekorot le-Tolodot ha-Hinukh be-Yisrael, Jerusalem 2002, pp. 80-1 n.9 and the sources cited therein.  See also, E. Kanarfogel, Peering through the Lattices, Wayne State University Press, Detroit, 2000 pp. 140-41 and the notes therein (discussing the ceremony generally); id.p. 237 n.47 (discussing some of the halakhik issues with this custom including the "issue" of "excret[ing] these verses")

    [4] See G. Kressel, "Kitvei Mehlsack," Kiryat Sefer 17, pp. 87-96.





     


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


    This is Pini Dunner's third post at the Seforim blog. His first post, "Mercaz Agudat Ha-Rabbanim Be-Lita, Kovno, 1931," is available here; his second post, "Unknown Picture of the late Lubavitcher Rebbe, c.1930s," is available here.


    For background on the controversy over Corfu etrogim, see Yosef Salomon, "The Controversies Regarding the Corfu and Eretz Yisrael Etrogim 1875-1891," Zion 65.1 (2000): 75-106; Yosef Salomon, "The Controversy Regarding the Corfu Etrogim and its Historical Significance," AJS Review 25 (2000-2001): 1-25; Yitzhak Refael, "Corfu Etrogim and Eretz Yisrael Etrogim," Sheragi 2 (1985), 84-90; Dan Porat, "The Controversy over Israeli Etrogim from 1875-1889," (MA thesis, Hebrew University of Jerusalem, 1993); H. Hamel, "R. Yosef Zehariah Stern's Position in the Corfu Etrogim Controversy," in Sefer Refael (Jerusalem, 2000), 242-251. For a brief discussion about the broadsides authored by R. Gershon Henoch Leiner and his son R. Mordechai Joseph Eliezer Leiner of Izbica-Radzin that were posted throughout Poland, see Pearl Preschel, "The Jews of Corfu," (PhD dissertation, New York University, 1984), 111-112, 113-114, 159.


    Regarding the Russian text at the bottom of the broadside, the following is a translation that was obligatory to appear on all non-Russian books:
    Condemnation by M.I.Leiner of those rabbis, which, as the revenge for the dwellers of the Greek islands for the disturbances on the island of Corfu, prohibited the paradise apples originating from those islands for using them in the religious ceremony of the holiday of Sukkot.
    Included is a protest letter by the rabbi of Corfu about the matter.
    ---------------------------
    Permitted by the censorship, Warsaw, 15 July 1891 -- printing of M.I. Galter Nalevki [St.] 23.

    for post
    Handbill Defending the Use of the Corfu Etrogim authored by R. Mordechai Joseph Eliezer Leiner of Izbica-Radzin  published in Izbica, July 1891


    This broadside contains a vigourous and impassioned defence of the practice of using etrogim from Corfu in preference to those from Eretz Yisrael. For centuries the most prized etrogim used by Jews of all communities were those grown in Corfu, and the etrog industry on the island was a mainstay of the local economy. It was said that the etrogim grown in Corfu traced their origins to those used during the second temple period, and were therefore of the most reliable pedigree. The untainted pedigree of an etrog is of primary importance, and as a result Corfu etrogim were highly sought after, making them expensive. Furthermore, the owners of the orchards - many of them non-Jews - fiercely guarded their monopolies, and were extremely careful that their etrogim were of unimpeachable pedigree.


    This broadside was issued as a result of the drift away from using etrogim grown on the island of Corfu in the late nineteenth century. Initially this began with a ban on their use that was issued c.1875 and that had its roots in the growing suspicion that Corfu etrogim were no longer reliable in their pedigree and that growers had secretly begun grafting them with other citrus fruits to boost the numbers of fruit that were fit for use, and in addition would be outstanding in their appearance, boosting their value.


    Then in 1891, the year of this broadside, the ban against Corfu etrogim was strengthened as a result of the terrible anti-semitism on the island that had led to a vicious blood libel. Jewish communities formerly loyal to Corfu etrogim switched their allegiances to the ever expanding etrogim market of Eretz Yisrael and it was this that R. Leiner was trying to prevent. R. Leiner (1877-1929) was the scion of the Izbica/Radzyn dynasty and in this broadside he quotes his recently departed father, R. Gershon Henoch (1839-1891), the famous 'Baal ha-Techeilet', as saying that there were no better and more kosher etrogim than those that grew in Corfu. He added that those grown in Eretz Yisrael were probably unfit for use and, furthermore, the excuse that they provided income for poor farmers there was utterly inappropriate in light of their unfitness. He added that the chief rabbi of Corfu, R. Elisha mi-Pano, had written to him to say that the ban effected against Corfu etrogim (the annual market for etrogim was of major economic significance to the small island) as a result of the blood libel was making matters worse for the Jews of Corfu.


    Despite attemps by R. Leiner and other advocates of Corfu etrogim, the Corfu etrog business went into terminal decline. By the early twentieth century the rival industry in Eretz Yisrael had grabbed the overwhelming majority of the etrogim market, and with the upheaval of the two world wars, and following the creation of the State of Israel, Corfu etrogim disappeared completely from the scene.


    Recently, I understand, there has been some effort to revive the fortunes of the Corfu etrog. It would seem that an emissary of R. David Twersky of New Square annually acquires etrogim from Corfu for R. Twersky to use on sukkot. No doubt this action is motivated by R. Twersky's well-known desire to strictly follow the customs of his illustrious forebears who, in the years when the etrogim controversy raged, were devotees of Corfu etrogim over their Eretz Yisrael counterparts. Nevertheless, as any etrog grower will tell you, once an etrog orchard has been abandoned, any fruit that emerge from it in the years that follow, especially if many years pass, no longer have a chezkat kashrut, and more than likely they are murkavim. It would be interesting to know if R. Twersky makes a bracha on these questionable etrogim, or if he first uses an etrog of reliable pedigree and then switches to the murkav simply for sentimental purposes.


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    In a recent post, Dr. Leiman noted that Rabbi Dr. Dovid Tzvi Hoffmann's commentary on Shemot is being translated into Hebrew and printed in the near future.  While the volume on Shemot will be published, a commentary of one of R. Hoffmann's student on Koheles has recently been translated and printed.  Indeed,  there are two editions of the same commentary that have been recently been printed.  The fact that someone who has been ignored for a while then merits to have competing editions of their work is not that uncommon. For example, recently, there has been a renewed interest in the works of the Aderet.  The Adret's commentary on teffilah, Tefilat Dovid, there are three editions when five years ago there were none.

    In this case, there are two editions, one in Hebrew and one in English of Dr. Gerson Lange's commentary on Kohelet.  The English edition titled, "The Book of Koheleth," is edited by Yosef Binyamin Fagin and includes a short biography about Dr. Lange. A slightly different version of this biography was printed in volume two of Yeruhaseinu (English section, pp. 22-31). Dr. Lange was a student of Rabbis Hoffmann and Hildesheimer and eventually took over as Director, after the death of R. Dr. Mendel Hirsch of the Israelitischen Religionsgessellschaft Realschule in Frankfort.  In this role as teacher, Dr. Lange taught Kohelet to his students, this work is a product of those classes. 

    This is not Dr. Lange's only book, he also translated the Ralbag's Ma'asei Choseiv, a work on mathematics.  Dr. Lange, after obtaining semikh, studied mathematics at the University of Berlin.  In his commentary on Koheleth, he makes use of his mathematical background and even discusses Newton's Theory of Emission in the introduction.The commentary is one of peshat and many times focuses on eytomology to find the peshet.  The English version produces a highly readable translation. 

    The Hebrew version, titled Gerash Yerachim, although the original title was, as the English version renders it, The Book of Koheleth, the editor decided to come up with a new title - a point that is not mentioned anywhere in this version. Additionally, this version, according to the editor, is not a translation but adapts Dr. Lange's commentary.  This version contains an introduction and background on Dr. Lange.  The introduction appears to take on a more apologetic tone than the English version.  Specifically, when discussing Dr. Lange the introduction points out that although Dr. Lange went to university buty that "going to university was common amongst the German Jews and without obtaining an advanced degree they could not function in any communal role, even amongst the Orthodox communities . . . [Dr. Lange] was following in the footsteps of his teachers, Rav Ezreil Hedesheimer and R. Dovid Tzvi Hoffmann and going up in holiness the Goan R. [Yaakov] Ettlinger."  Additionally, the introduction goes on to recount how R. Meir Shapira visited a resort near Frankfort, "Dr. Lange would get up at four a.m. and go to R. Shapira to study with him.  When R. Meir [Shapira] came back into Frankfort he proclaimed 'A Jew like [Dr. Lange] shows that there are still beni aliyah amongst the German Jews!'" Whether or not this tone was the intent of the editor, is of course, difficult to discern but worth noting. Finally, a short review of the Hebrew edition appeared in volume three of Yeruhaseinu pp. 399-400.

    Both of these versions should be available in your local seforim stores, or the English can be purchased by contacting langebook-at-aol.com     

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    Review of Amudim be-Toldot Sefer ha-Ivri Haghot u-Maghim

    by Eliezer Brodt and Dan Rabinowitz


    Yaakov S. Spiegel, Amudim be-Tolodot Sefer ha-Ivri Haghot u-Maghim (Chapters in the History of the Jewish Book Scholars and their Annotations), Ramat Gan, 20052, 689 pp.

    In 1996, Bar Ilan Press published Amudim be-Toldot Sefer ha-Ivri Haghot u-Maghim from Professor Yaakov S. Spiegel. Shortly thereafter, this edition sold out due to its popularity. A few years later Amudim be-Toldot Sefer ha-Ivri Kitevah ve-haTakah (volume two) was published.  More recently, Amudim be-Toldot Sefer ha-Ivri Haghot u-Maghim was reprinted with over seventy five pages additional pages full of many important additions. In this new edition, Spiegel apologizes to the people who purchased the first edition of his work and would now have to buy the new one if they want the updates.  Spiegel offered that the requirement for a completely new edition rather than an addendum was out of his control.

     

    Although the importance and quality of the book will be obvious shortly, it has not been reviewed or discussed properly in academic journals except for a short review on Hamayan (37, 3: 69-75). This post hopefully is a start in rectifying this omission.

     

    This volume is the first of two (current) volumes discussing the History of the Jewish book - specifically the creation and alteration of the Jewish books.  That is, this volume covers annotating or editing texts.  Essentially, this work is divided into two parts, (Spiegel divides it into four parts) the first, discusses the permissibility of editing texts and the second discusses annotators and editors. 

     

    The first portion begins with the sugyah of editing texts in the time of the Mishana (sifrei torah) and moves into the topic of the prohibition of having a unedited sefer. These two chapters play an important role in the background of this topic of editing seforim.  Spiegel then moves into the era of the geonim and rishonim dealing at great length with there methods of editing or annotating texts. He discuses at great length the methods of Rabbenu Gershom, Rashi and Rabbenu Tam.  As is well known Rabbenu Tam prohibited the editing or annotating texts Spiegel discusses the complete background of Rabbenu Tam's opinion going through the myriad of sources when Rabbenu Tam's restriction applies. This discussion includes an analysis of Rabbenu Tam's work Sefer Hayashar and his famous disagreement with R Meshulem. Spiegel, as he does in each of the chapter, quotes all the previous sources on the topics and rechecks it all carefully and comes out with many new important conclusions.

     

    Spiegel then proceeds to deal with the different works of haghot in the times of rishonim and the nature of these works. Of particular interest is his sections on the Haghot Ashrei (pp. 183-90) and on the Ravad's comments on the Ramabam discussing if those comments are plain haghot or hasaghot (pp. 198-207).

     

    The second section of the book surveys the story of Haghot u-Maghim from the beginning of the printing press, in approximately 1456, until 1840. He begins with chapters on the importance of the printing press (see also pp. 300-06) and moves in to the job of the annotators and editors and their methods. Dealing with topics such as, did Rabbenu Tam only speak to instances where one is erasing the text and substituting another but if one merely notes an alternative reading and preserves the original that is OK? Or, is it only applicable to manuscripts or does it apply to printed works as well?  The distinction being, in the case of a manuscript, that manuscript may be the only copy and, if one alters the text, the original is forever lost.  Additionally, Spiegel discusses at length the important question of whether one can correct texts based on logic or textual support. An interesting section is where he brings a bunch of sources that there is a special will from God that these mistakes happened and should remain (pg 262-269).

     

    There are chapters on the various 'editors' such as R. Betzalel Ashkenazi, R. Yoel Sirkes (Bach), Maharshal, Maharsha, Maharam, R. Jacob Emden, R. Y. Pick, Gra, Rashash, and a host of others.  For each one Spiegel discusses which version of the Talmud they were addressing their emendation and whether their emendations were based on manuscript evidence or their own determination that the text was corrupted. These questions are very important. For example, Spiegel notes that the Maharshal (p. 315) and Maharsha (p. 323) did use manuscript evidence many times whereas the Maharam (p. 325) did not use manuscript evidence frequently.

     

     

    As to the Bach's emendations, Spiegel notes that weren't published until the 19th century, but the Bach's comments were addressed at earlier, different version of the Talmud.  Thus, at times, it is unclear what the Bach is changing.  Indeed, Spiegel shows how some commentaries have misunderstood the Bach's comments. Spiegel deals with at length what the Bach's goals were. Spiegel also shows that there were additions to the work after the Bach's death. As to the Bach's usage of manuscripts Spiegel shows it's still not proven that the Bach  used them as most of the changes can be found in Ein Yakkov

     

     

    Spiegel devotes a long chapter dealing with the Gra notes amongst the topics he discusses are what was the Gra's point in his comments, and to why there are contradictions in his notes on Shas to his other writings (pg 450). As to the question of whether the Gra used manuscripts Spiegel concludes that it appears that he did not [although he did visit libraries and saw old seforim (pg 454-457)].

     

    Another whole section Spiegel devotes to is discussing Rabinowich's Dikdukei Soferim at length. This is especially important in that Dikdukei Soferim is a collection of variant readings of the Talmud.  As many great Rabbis of Rabinowich's time praised this work, this tends to show these Rabbis' position on emending texts. Spiegel shows the may people who used it and how those who did not use it could have benefited from availing themselves to Dikdukei Soferim. Spiegel deals with various theories why it was not used widely. He concludes that it appears that the Dikdukei Soferim is becoming more widespread. He even quotes recent sales of Dikdukei Soferim and notes how quick it sold out after being reprinted after being out of print for quite a while. Although a Otzar haChochma search comes up with well over 2000 hits in over a thousand seforim (of course not all this are good hits as there search engine is still limited although useful). It still does not appear that the Dikdukei Soferim is used widely in the main yeshiva circles. Perhaps that will change.


    Spiegel deals extensively with the position of the Hazon Ish regarding manuscripts.  This topic, one which has gotten much attention (see, e.g. the Shnayer Z. Leiman, Kook, Moshe A. Bleich articles in Tradition, Hevlin in Meah Shearim as well as the articles in Beis HaVaad), is discussed in detail with the backdrop of all the nuances Spiegel raises throughout this work. Spiegel discusses the curious fact that the Chazon Ish himself did sometimes use the manuscripts of Gemarah when learning (p. 567 n.126).

    Spiegel concludes this section with a discussion on to more recent printings of the Shas such as the shas Vilna, Frankel and Oz veHadar. It appears that the methodology of both Shas Vilna (the original one) and Oz veHadar in deciding which texts to use etc are not clear. This is especial important to know with Oz veHadar what the methods that they use as they advertise as if they are making incredible important changes but one only wonders what they are ad on what basis they are made.

     

    The last section of the sefer is devoted to the various annotators and editors to various editions of the Ramabam including the editions of Bragadin and Justintine. Spiegel also deals with when were the divisions of halachot put into the Rambam (pp. 637-638).  He also deals at length with the Amsterdam edition and the comments of R. Sholom Leon and showing its influence on later editions. R. Sholom Leon authored other seforim  including Mesectas halacha Le moshe miSinia which was recently printed in a annotated edition including a nice introduction. The editor of this new edition was not aware of Spiegel discussion regarding R. Leon. Spiegel has an interesting discussion about a third work called Merkevet ha-Mishna by R. Leon that was not known to many people and thus people made a mistake attributing a source (pp. 648-49).

     

    It is amazing to see Spiegel's mastery of the Talmud and the sources with all its nuances throughout the book. The amount of classical seforim quoted and discussed is breathtaking many very rare works are quoted. Another point is the respect and tone he uses when he speaks about all the authors, a problem some have with many academic books. Another thing is he is not embarrassed to admit mistakes he made – he could have easily left out a specific footnote instead he writes it and explains that he made a mistake (see, e.g., p. 259).

     

     

    From the above, it should be apparent that this book contains a wealth of information regarding the issue at hand, emending texts.  While that alone would be enough to recommend in the strongest terms this book, it must be noted that Spiegel, mainly in the many footnotes, covers an amazing amount of tangential topics.  Here are some examples:

    p.29 n. 8 Spiegel has a discussion about the sefer Kol Dodi quoted by Agnon (for more on this work see this post ).

    p. 41 n.12 sources regarding the custom of placing a possul sefer torah in the ark and whether this violates the prohibition of "al tiskon be-ohelkha" (one should not have uncorrected texts in their home).
    p. 65 n.105 testimony from R. Yaakov Katz that Rav Hai Goan was a copyist. 
    p. 75 n.153 noting that
    la"z the term used to indicate a translation should not contain the quote mark as it is not an abbreviation. 
    p. 80 n.177 noting that Krochmel in his
    Moreh Nevukeh haZeman quotes the Mahritz Heyos only as "Hakham Eched."
    p. 89 n.29 discusses R. Zevin's offhanded comment that the rishonim did not use "
    nusach aher."
    p. 102 n.110 discusses "
    nusach Sefard" and whether it is more reliable.
    p. 103 n.115 notes that although a statement from the Rosh (responsa,
    klal 20, no. 20) is used by multiple authors to show that Ashkenazik customs have a long history, those many authors ignored the other implication of the statement regarding

    the "nusach haTalmud shel beni Ashkenaz."
    p. 105 n.123 who authored rashi on Horyois.

    p.105 n. 126 if one learnsa small daf is it considered a Complete daf.

    p.107 n.132 discussing the issue of when the Talmud records a pusuk differently than our Sifrei Torah

    p. 131 n.14 corrections of rashi that were later added into the printed edition of Shas.

    p. 142 n.55 when Rashi says Hachei Garseninon did he have a different version in front of him.
    p. 170 n.64 the common meaning of the word "sefer" - as in
    yodeah sefer which sefer?
    p. 218 n.7 Spiegel explains the
    melitza used by the printers of the 1494 Nevim to describe what they did.  The melitza includes the line "lower the high and raise the lower" (Ezekiel
    21:31).  Dr. M. Glaser explained that in the early printing presses the letters would be set and they faced upwards, the printer would coat them in ink and then place the paper on top.  This is in contrast to how writing was done previously - from above. 
    p. 230 n.67 citing examples of books where the Soncino press accused the Bomberg press of using (illegally?) Soncino editions.
    p. 234 n.79 discussing the alleged apostasy of Yakkov ben Hayyim Ibn Adoniyahu
    , the editor of the Mikrot Gedolot and other seminal texts.
    p. 268 n.95 many sources that say the Havah Minah of the gemarah is true and important. 

    p. 318 -21  he discusses the methods of R Dovid Meubin a talmid of the Maharshal in annotating the Gemarah including many general rules that he mentions in his sefer.

    p. 329 -35 discuses the notes of the Levush on shas if they were really from him and dealing with R. Zechariah criticism on this.

    p. 426 n.18 discuses about Fogelman work on R. Menasha Milyah.

    p. 464 n.167 the Gra's opinion on the laining on Rosh Chodesh.

    p. 540 n.29 the plagiarism of the Tolodos Adam.

    p. 587 n.41 deals with a bit if Chaim Bloch was a forger.

    p. 652 n.185 Kapach opinon on the Teshuvos of Rambam to Chachemei Lunel.

     

     

    In the academic world Spiegel work has gotten some attention for his discussion of the Chazon Ish and manuscripts.  Specifically, Benny Brown in his unpulished dissertation, The Hazon Ish Halakhic Philosophy, Theology and Social Policy As Expressed in His Prominent Later Rulings  (Hebrew) pp. 129-40, & Appendix pg 111- 113  deals with Spiegel's discussions with comments and additions. As has been noted here Sperber in his recent work Nesivos Pesikah uses Spiegel's discussions on this topic. And, in his doctorate on R. Betzalel Askenazi B. Toledano uses Spiegel's comments on R. Betzalel. Finally, others have used Spiegel's work, but as Spiegel notes only sometimes do they give Spiegel credit, (see here for more and see the introduction p. 13 and the notes therein and page 183 n.132).

     

     

    Finally, although Spiegel's work is very comprehensive, there are some additions to some of the topics discussed in the sefer:

     

     

    In the beginning of the book Spiegel has a chapter about אין כותבין ספרים תפלין ומזוזות במועד ואין מגיהין אות אחת אפילו בספר העזרה בספרים אחרים גורסים ספר עזרא

    To add to his long list of sources see Archaei Tanamim Vamorim (Rebbe of Rokeach) (Blau edition 2:666-67) and R. Meshulam Roth, Shut Kol Mevaser 2:2823.

     

    For the chapter (pp. 39-83) about המחזיק בספר מוטעה אל תשכן באהליך עולה see Efodi in his Maseh Efodie p. 18 in the introduction.


    For his chapter about Rabbenu Tam's methods of amending texts see also R. Yakov Shor (intro to Sefer haIttim p. vii) where he says he followed Rabbenu Tam's method in his edition of the Sefer haIttim and did make corrections on the actual text.

     

     

    In chapter twelve where he discusses the Mesectos which are not learned (407-414) Spiegel mentions Nedarim as not being learnt (p. 407). See also the Merei in his Seder Hakabbalah (p. 128 Ofek Edition) where he writes

    דעו בעדות נאמנה שלא נשנית מסכת נדרים בישיבה זה ק' שנה

    On Nedarim see also R. Reven Margolis, Mekharim beDarkei HaTalmud, pp. 81-84; R. Zevin, Sofrim Veseforim (geonim) pp. 46-48; the extensive discussion of R. Zev Rabanovitz in his Shaerei Toras Bavel (pp. 299-310).

     

    About Meschates Moed Koton see the important comment of R. Yissacar Tamar, Alei Tamar Moed Koton pg 312; and Yeshurun 20:702.

     

    Another mesectah not really learnt in the time of the Rishonim was Mesectas Avodah Zarah see; Professor Chaim Solovetick, Hayayin Byemei Habenyaim pp. 133-36.

     

    When discussing Meshtas Chagigah (pg 409) he brings the famous story from the Menorot haMeor that:

    מעשה בתלמיד אחד, שהיה מתייחד במקום אחד, והיה למד בו מסכת חגיגה. והיה מהדר ומהפך בה כמה פעמים, עד שלמד אותה היטב והיתה שגורה בפיו, ולא היה יודע מסכתא אחרת מן התלמוד זולתה, והיה שונה בה כל ימיו. כיון שנפטר מן העולם הזה, היה לבדו באותו בית שהיה לומד בו מסכת חגיגה, ולא היה שום אדם יודע פטירתו. מיד באה אשה אחת, ועמדה עליו, והרימה קולה בבכי ובמספד, ותרבה אנחתה וצעקתה, כאשה שהיא סופדת על בעלה, עד אשר נקבצו ההמון, ואמרה להם, ספדו לחסיד זה, וקברוהו בכבוד גדול, וכבדו את ארונו, ותזכו לחיי העולם הבא, שזה כבדני כל ימיו ולא הייתי עזובה ולא שכוחה בימיו. מיד נתקבצו כל הנשים וישבו עמה סביב למטתו ועשו עליו מספד גדול, והאנשים נתעסקו בתכריכיו ובכל צרכי קבורתו, וקברו אותו בכבוד גדול. ואותה אשה בוכה במר נפש וצועקת. אמרו לה, מה שמך. אמרה להם, חגיגה שמי. וכיון שנקבר אותו חסיד נעלמה מן העין אותה אשה. מיד ידעו שמסכת חגיגה היתה, שנראית להם בצורת אשה, ובאה בשעת פטירתו לספוד לו ולבכותו ולקברו בכבוד, מפני שהיה שונה בה ושוקד עליה ללמוד אותה. והלא דברים קל וחומר, ומה חסיד זה שלא למד אלא מסכתא אחת בלבד כך, הלמד תורה הרבה ותלמוד הרבה ומעמיד תלמידים הרבה על אחת כמה וכמה.

     

    It should be noted that there are eleven versions of the story see S. Askenazi notes to Kav Hayashar and updated to 15 versions in his Alpha Beta Kadmita Deshmuel Zeria pp. 331-36. [These sources were not know to Y. Hacohen in his new annotated edition of the Magid Mesharim (p. 292). The Otzar Yad Chaim (pg 198) goes so far as to say that because of this story some say it's a segulah to learn this Mesechtah on a yarzheit. [See also Megedaim Chadashim introduction to Chaggiah.]

     

    In regard to The famous abrevation ענ"י which Mescetas were hard add R. Emden who writes on the Zohar which says

    עני איהו תמן בסימן עירובין נדה יבמות

     "בנה סוד על הלצה בעלמא, שהיתה מצויה בפי עוסקי התלמוד בישיבה, שלא יכלו לירד לעמקן של מסכתות הללו החמורות מאד, מחמת ריבוי החלוקות החדודות שבהן, הודו ולא בושו בעניות דעתם וקוצר יד השגתם, שלא יכלו להשוות כל הסוגיות השונות והסתירות הנמצאות בהן, לתרצם וליישבם כדרך שעשו בשאר כל המסכתות, חוץ מאלו קשות ולא מצאו כל אנשי חיל ידיהם. ונתנו בהן סימן על דרך הצחות, שלא יתפלא אדם, גם אם יאמר החכם למצוא פשר דבר לא יוכל, שכבר צווחו בהן קמאי דקמאי ולא אסקו בידייהו, אלא כמאן דמסיק תעלא מבי כרבא ועניא דקרי אבבא, היאומן שדברים כאלה יצא מפי תנא, אין צריך לומר מפי משה רבנו וא משאר נשמות מעולם הנעלם".  (מטפחת ספרים עמ' מו).

     

     

    See also S. A


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  • 11/13/08--13:47: Baranovich Auction
  • Yeshiva Ahavas Torah, Baranovich is having an auction Wednesday, November 19th.  One can download the catalog here.  While I don't intend to cover the whole catalog, I want to briefly highlight a few items. Those interested in early Hebrew/English primers (or English Hebraica) and the like should take a look at lots 12-17.  For those interested in early 20th century American figures, such as Rodkinson and Eisenstein, see lot 62 for Eisenstein's quasi-autobiography, Otzar Zikronoti .  And for a polemic against Rodkinson by R. Yosef Kohen Zedek (of London, a fascinating figure in his own right) see lot 52, Sefat Emet.  For other polemical material, no auction is complete without the rare (but, again, somehow appear in every auction) polemics on the Emden-Eybshutz controversy, lots 35-36.  Another controversial piece is the 1535 Constantinople edition of the Machberet Emanuel , lot 66. While this is not the first edition which was published in 1491, it contains different material than the first edition.  See Machberet Emmanuel, Yardeni ed., Jerusalem, 1957 p. 20.  For those interested only in first editions, the first edition of the Hafetz Hayim, Vilna 1873, lot 72 is available. For earliest mention of the Ba'al Shem Tov see lot 81, Maayim Hayyim , discussed at length here. Finally, for those interested in illustrated seforim, the Maayan Ganim, with its fountain illustrations as well as a mention of women studying torah is lot 102.

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    Rabbis & History: A Review of the Koreh HaDorot, Ahavat Shalom ed.

    by Eliezer Brodt



    This is the first post in what I hope to be a series on various attitudes towards studying history.  The prism through which we will examine this issue is that of the many works written by gedolim discussing history.  The subject of this post is a new edition of the classic work Koreh Hadoros (KH) by R. Dovid Conforte (printed recently by Ahavat Sholom).  After discussing the actual sefer and its author,  I will conclude with a few comments about this recently printed edition.

     

    R. Conforte was born in Salonika around 1617 and died sometime after 1678. Throughout his life he traveled to many places (including Eretz Yisroel), and in KH he describes his meetings with many great personalities, including R. Menachem Lonzano, author of Sheti Yadot, and R. Hayyim Benevisti, author of the Keneset Hagedolah. As he enumerates throughout the book, R. Conforte studied with R. Moredcahi Kalai and many others (see, for example, pg. 163, 175, 176, 179; all page references are to the new edition).  At times he also emphasizes with whom and when he studied Kabalah (pg. 172-73), which he started to learn at the young age of seventeen (p. 150). He seemed to have authored a few other works, most of which are lost. Recently, a responsum of his was printed in the journal Yeshurun (vol. 7, pg. 55ff). [In that article, the authors write of a plan to collect all R. Conforte's torah as well as to reprint the KH]. In Sinai (28:279-295), R. Toledano published a manuscript called Zikhron Yerushalim about gravesites in Eretz Yisroel, which the author proves was written by R. Conforte.

     

    The KH is one of the most famous historical works written by a talmid chacham and continues to be studied to this day. This sefer was printed a few times (once even under a mistaken name -  see R. M. Strashun, Mivchar Kesavim, p. 240), and remains very popular amongst gedolim and scholars alike. Most notably, the Chida quotes this work extensively in all his seforim (as an aside, it's rather strange that his entry on R. Conforte in Shem Hagedolim is very small and uninformative). Indeed, when, many years ago, R. Meshulam Roth created a curriculum for his yeshiva, he included the Koreh Hadoros as an essential sefer for his talmidim to read (among other interesting things in the program; see Mivasar Ezra, pg. 176, and Mivasar Vomer, pg. 119); R. Meir Shapira even asked R. Roth if he could use the latter's curriculum for Yeshivat Chachemei Lublin (see Mivasar Ezra, pg. 172).  Even today scholars use this work extensively; check the index of almost any of the works of Meir Benayhu and one can see how often he quotes the KH. 

     

    KH begins with the era of the Rabbonan Savorei ("Saboraim"), continues with the geonic period and the rishonim, and ends with R. Confotre's own generation, in total covering a period of a few hundred years. The idea of this work is to list the different gedolim from each period and include basic information about them, such as when they were born and died, with whom they stiudied, and what they wrote. At times the KH includes a more lengthy entry on a specific person. Much of this information, especially that of R. Conforte's own period, is very important,  as we have no other such sources for it.  Much of the other material is taken from other classic "history" works, as R. Conforte himself notes (e.g. Igerres R. Shreriah Goan, Sefer Hakablah l'Ha'Ra'avad, Sahlsheles Hakablah, and Sefer Yuchsin, all of which will hopefully be subjects of their own posts in the future); yet, though R. Conforte uses these works extensively, he will at times disagree with these works. One work which, for some unknown reason, R. Conforte does not use, and which R. D. Kassel already pointed out, is the Zemach Dovid, obvious from the fact that the section on Askenaz achronim is quite weak. Finally, throughout the sefer he quotes many interesting things he heard from purportedly reliable sources, rare seforim, and manuscripts which he saw. In the recent Ahavat Sholom edition, they discuss about fifty such works which R. Conforte mentions. Indeed, Koreh HaDoros shows an incredible bikiyut in shas, rishonim, and achronim (and all of this in the pre-Bar-Ilan days!).

     

    In 1842, D. Kassel printed an annotated version of KH. Though he included many short notes on various points in the sefer, his additions included nothing extensive. Among the reasons Kassel provides for this is that he was told Leopold Zunz was working on his own edition.  However, Zunz never ended up publishing his own edition and, as such, Kassel's edition, which still left room for much work, became the standard edition. More recently, this sefer was reprinted by Ahavat Sholom. One of the benefits of the Ahavat Shalom edition is that it collects all the Chida's comments on the sefer (scattered throughout his writings) and prints it here in the proper places. The truth is that Kassel already references when and where the Chida discusses particular points in KH; still, the Kassel edition only includes citations to the Chida's works without reproducing what the Chida says.  The Ahavat Shalom edition, on the other hand, includes the full text of the Chida's relevant comments. To be sure, even a cursory Bar-Ilan project search shows that the Ahavat Shalom edition missed a few of the Chida's comments, and I am sure that this is true of the many other seforim of the Chida not included the in the Bar-Ilan database.  Another plus of their edition are the indexes, which are very extensive- over a hundred pages (which include every time any sefer or name is mentioned)! Finally, the edition also has a retyped set,  making the sefer  more readable and clearly marking paragraph and topic breaks. They were also kind enough to reference pages numbers of the first edition, a useflul tool in tracking down quotes from the original edition.


    Another positive aspect of this edition is a very thoroughly researched introduction about the author and the sefer. The Ahavat Shalom printing includes an entire section devoted to many of the manuscripts and seforim that R. Conforte may have seen (discussing what happened with the seforim if they were printed since then, etc.). Just to point out some additions to their discussion: The KH mentions a sefer from R. Yisroel Nigra which is a collection of his derashos called Mikveh Yisroel. They write (p. 35) that it exists in many manuscripts and that one derasha was printed already in Yeshrun (10:134). The truth is that this manuscript was printed partially in the early 1900s, but, more recently, S. Regev printed all the dershos (Bar Ilan Press, 2004) in a critical edition (675 pgs.), including an excellent introduction to the work Interestingly, R. Y. Goldhaver seems not to have been aware of this edition as he only quotes the manuscript (see his Minhaghei Hakehilos, 1:287). Another sefer that the KH mentions, also authored by R. Yisroel Nigra, is Sheris Yisroel, which is a collection of Nigra's songs. In the Ahavat Sholom introduction they mention that it exists in manuscript. It is interesting to note that the manuscript was in the collection of R. Aryeh Lipshiz, as mentioned in his Avos Atrah Lebanim (p. 109).

                                                                                                               

    The main weakness of this new edition are the notes. Aside for putting in all the comments of the Chida taken from Shem Hagedolim, there is almost nothing as far as notes go. On the one hand, one could argue that Ahavat Shalom did not feel it is necessary to put in more notes than they did. However, in a recent issue of a journal called Mikabsel (# 32) - published by Ahavat Shalom - the editors include the introduction to KH, including the history of the author and a sampling of over fifty notes on various topics in the sefer. Even these notes, too, could have been more comprehensive, they are still very useful. For some odd reason, most of these notes were not included in the published edition of KH. In sum, Ahavat Sholom should be thanked for printing an important sefer which has not been around for some time; nevertheless, a critical edition is definetely still needed and eagerly awaited.


    I would just like to give a list of some of the many points and discussions which R. Conforte brings up in the sefer. As previously mentioned, he deals with the Geonic period, mostly basing himself on the earlier works available to him such as Iggerot R. Sherirah Gaon and Sefer Hakablah of the Ra'avad.  

     

    He records the famous puzzling statement about the death of R. Sherirah Goan that:

    ונתלה רב שרירא מידו אחת והוא כבן מאה שנה, ולא הוסרו מגאונות.

     

    For a recent summary of the discussions of this statement and a new suggestion as to its interpretation, see R. Nosson Dovid Rabonvitz, Rishumot Teshuvos R. Sherirah Gaon, pp. 42-45.

     

    Another one of the interesting things R. Conforte brings up, and which is rather famous (and hopefully the subject of its own post shortly), is the dictum:


    ומצאתי כתוב שיש אומרים כי הגאונים נקרא כל אחד מהם בלשון גאון על שם שהיה יודע שם ס' מסכתות כמנין תיבת גאון (עמ' יח).

      

    In a footnote of the Ahavat Sholom edition, the editors note that the Meiri makes the same point in his Seder Hakablah. In the introduction, they note (p. 31) that the KH probably saw this in the Meiri's  manuscript. However, from R. Conforte's discussion of the Meiri, it appears to me that he never saw the sefer (see p. 83). Furthermore, if he had seen this particular sefer of the Meiri (which, parenthetically, could have helped him much in this work), he would have quoted it as he quoted from his other sources. A more likely source where R. Conforte could have seen this phrase is from the Sefer HaTishbi (pg. 122), which he did see and from which he often quotes. 

     

    He includes a nice amount of information on the Rambam, including the famous legend regarding him being buried in Tevariah (Tiberias) and why the Ra'avad wrote a critical work on the Rambam. One of the things R. Conforte points out (as do many others) is that the Rambam studied under the Ri Migash (though the Chida comments that this is not chronologically possible).  What is less well known is what R Avraham Ben Ha-Rambam wrote about this:


    ואבא מארי זצ"ל למרות היותו נמנה עליהם וקורא להם בחיבורו הגדול רבותי משום שאביו שהוא רבו הנו תלמידו של רבינו יוסף ז"ל  (המספיק לעובדי השם מהדורת נ' דנה עמ' 177-178).

     

    KH mentions the famous legend about the death of R. Yehudah Halevi (already discussed previously here ). He also includes many interesting points about Rashi. Amongst them, he deals with a famous question that many ask: if Rashi died in middle of writing his work on Baba Basra, how is it that others say he died while working on Makos? R. Conforte's seemingly obvious answer is that Rashi must have been working on both at the same time (p. 56).


    He includes an extensive list (almost fifteen pages) of all the various Rishonim quoted by Tosofos, including places where they quote from the Rambam and Ibn Ezra., further portraying the author 's tremendous bekiyut in Shas. In the new Ahavat Sholom edition, the editors actually provide the exact sources for all these pages.

     

    The KH writes a very interesting possibility about the authorship of the Kol Bo:


    ושמעתי אומרים שאשה חכמה חברה ספר זה, אבל אין דעתי נוטה לזה, מפני שחכמת הספר ההוא אינו מדעת אשה אלא מדעת איש חכם גדול ורב מובהק, ומחמת ענוה יתירה שהיה בו לא רצה להזכרי ולפרסם שמו בתוך הספר

    .

    For more on this point, see Y. Levine in her introduction to Simchat Torah L'yad Rivkah Tiktiner, pg. 17 (as well as my Ben Keseh Lassur, pg. 143). Although the possibility is mentioned (and dismissed) by the KH that a woman wrote this work, A. Grossman's excellent book Chasidos U'morodos (pp. 282-289) does not mention it at all, though he provides a lengthy list of many of the learned woman in times of Rishonim (as an aside, I did not see a discussion of this list in the Sefer Toras Emechah, which deals with at length with the issur to teach Torah to women).

     

    The KH has a lengthy discussion of the authorship of the Sefer Tanya, as it is well known that it appears to be a direct copy of the Shibbolei Ha-leket (pg. 76-77). In the latest volume of Yeshurun (20:696-697), R. Yakov Chaim Sofer goes so far as to discuss whether a similar point made by both the Shibbolei Ha-leket and the Sefer Tanya can "count" as two Rishonim or only as one. He proves at the end that the Eliyahu Rabah (in many places) counts them as two Rishonim. R. Conforte concludes that the author was most likely R. Yecheil, the author of the Malos Hamidos, and perhaps more famous as the sofer who copied the Yerushalmi Leiden. Throughout the past few centuries, the authorship of this sefer has been constantly aruged and discussed. Recently, Profesor Feintuch (Mesoros Venuscos B'talmud, pp. 65-76) proved conclusively that the KH is certainly correct (see also, I. Ta-Shma, Creativity and Tradition, pp. 77-79).

      

    When discussing the place where the Reshis Chochma is buried, he mentions, as an aside, that the Matnes Kehunah is buried next to him (p. 146). Others disagree on this point, showing that the Matnes Kehunah was actually buried in Poland (see Zev Gris, Safrus V'hanhagos, pp. 41-42).

     

    When talking about R. Shlomo Halevi, R. Conforte writes (p. 165):


    וצוה בשעת פטירתו... שהספסל שהיה משים עליו הספרים כשהיה לומד, שיעשו ממנו ארון כדי לקוברו בו.

     

     

    On this topic of burying one using the table on which one studied, see the many sources of R. S. Askenazi in his notes on the Kav Hayashar, and his updates in his Alpha Beta Kadmidta Deshmuel Zeria, pp. 487-93.

     

    When discussing the Lechem Mishna, R. Conforte brings down an incredible story which he heard (pg. 153):


    ושמעתי מפי זקנים כי נפטר בערב שבת במגפה ונקבר בין השמשות ובא השמש, והתחילו מצטערים לומר שחללו את השבת. וכשחזרו מבית הקברות לבתיהם זרחה השמש והאיר להם היום ושמחו על שלא חללו את השבת.

     

    As D. Tamar notes (Areshet, Vol. 1, p. 474), the KH is the first historical sefer (p. 127) to attribute the Magid Mesahrim to R. Yosef Karo (contrary to what R. Y. Greenwald writes in his book R. Yosef Karo Ve'doro, pg. 192). Of course today we have much earlier and excellent proof as to the authenticity of this work; see, in partiuclar, the works of R. J.Z. Werblosky and M. Benayhu (in Yosef Becherei).

     

    The KH also brings (p. 128) an incredible tidbit about the Beis Yosef which he heard from the Beis Yosef desendants:


    ספר לנו קצת משבחי זקנו ז"ל, ובכלל שבחיו אמר לנו שהרב זקנו אמר בשעת פטירתו שזכה ללמד התלמוד כלו שלשה פעמים.

      

    In the introduction to the Ahavat Sholom edition, the editors note that this sefer was also used to learn halacha, such as in the discussion of teaching torah to Karaties. They reference, for example, how the first source on this topic in the Sdei Chemed is the KH (Sdei Chemed, Klal Beis, Siman 34:13). While it is true that the Sdei Chemed does quote the KH, in reality he is only quoting Shut Mizrachi as brought in the KH. However, a Bar-Ilan search does show a few cases where the Shut Minchat Yitzcahk uses this sefer in his works. As far as Halachos of Klalei Ha'pesak, I am certain that KH could play a role.

     
    In the recent ("controversial") book Reckless Rites Elliot Horowitz has a excellent extremely comprehensive chapter on local Purims throughout history. One of the Purims he discusses is the Purim of Cairo (pp. 286-89) he mentions that we have various sources showing it was observed over several centuries. Another source, not mentioned by Horowitz, is that a reference to this Purim can be found in the KH where he mentions that in his times it was also celebrated (p. 119).
     

    One last point of great interest about R. Conforte is that although he lived in the time of Shabetai Tzvi, no mention of Shabetai Zvi can be found in the entire sefer. This point was made by B. Deblitski in his article in Mekabseil (pg. 606); however, the introduction of the Ahavat Sholom edition omits this very important and interesting point.

     

     

     



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    A Note Regarding R. Menahem de Lonzano
    by Jordan S. Penkower

    I would like to call attention to the following points in reference to R. Menahem de Lonzano, as mentioned in Koreh HaDorot by R. David Conforte.
     
    (1) In his recent post on TSB, Eliezer Brodt, in his review of the new edition of Conforte's Koreh HaDorot (2008), made the following statement (in the second paragraph):
     
    R. Conforte was born in Salonika around 1617 and died sometime after 1678. Throughout his life he traveled to many places (including Eretz Yisroel), and in KH he describes his meetings with many great personalities, including R. Menachem Lonzano, author of Sheti Yadot,...
     
    This seems to be a "slip of the pen", for it assumes an impossibilty. Conforte was born in 1617 (or 1618) in Salonika, and Lonzano died before 1624 (apparently in Eretz Israel; he was buried there at the foot of the Mount of Olives). Thus, Conforte was still a young lad in Salonika when Lonzano died elsewhere (apparently in Eretz Israel). In short, these two scholars never met, and Conforte certainly does not mention any such meeting between them.
     
    In an interesting turn of events, these two scholars were, nevertheless, connected; for Conforte married Lonzano's granddaughter, the daughter of Lonzano's son, Adonikam. Conforte mentions his father-in-law (and the fact that he died young) in Koreh HaDorot, at the end of his entry on R. Menahem de Lonzano.
     
    (2) In his introduction to the new edition of Koreh HaDorot, p. 32, R. Bezalel Deblitzki lists as one of the manuscripts used by Conforte:
          שבלי הלקט בכתיבת יד מהר"ם די לונזאנו   
     
    When one goes to verify this assumption, one finds, on p. 76 of the new edition, the following quote:
     

     ומצאתי כתוב בתחלת ספר אחד מס' שבלי הלקט מכתיבת יד ה"ר מנחם די לונזאנו ז"ל וז"ל = וזה לשונו
     
    At first glance, one could possibly understand this statement as R. Deblitzki did, i.e. that Lonzano copied the whole manuscript of Shibbolei HaLeket.

    Nevertheless, a closer look yields the following interpretation:
     
    Conforte is describing a manuscript (written by an anonymous scribe) which was in the posession of Lonzano. At the beginning of this manuscript Lonzano added a gloss (quoted here at length by Conforte) about the author of the work and his teachers. Lonzano also mentions in the gloss that Zedekiah HaRofeh (author of Shibbolei HaLeket) wrote another work (=volume two; in manuscript) and that he (Lonzano) owns a copy. Lonzano further makes an observation at the end of his gloss concerning the state of the work - that people later changed the order of the work, just as they did with Sefer Yerei'im.
     
    In short, the phrase
    ומצאתי כתוב.. מכתיבת יד ה"ר מנחם די לונזאנו ז"ל
    refers only to the gloss of Lonzano - which was subsequently quoted at length by Conforte.
     
    The inserted phrase: בתחלת ספר אחד מס' שבילי הלקט  simply informed the reader what were the contents of the manuscript (Shibbolei HaLeket, volume 1), and where the gloss was inserted (at the beginning of the manuscript).
     
    I later discovered that already HID"A (R. Hayyim David Azoulai) correctly interpreted this passage in Conforte's Koreh HaDorot, and understood that Lonzano possessed a manuscript copy of Shibbolei HaLeket. See Azoulai's remarks in Sheim HaGedolim, s.v. רבינו צדקיה ב"ר אברהם הרופא
     
    וב' ספרים אלו (=שבלי הלקט, על שני חלקיו) היו ביד מהר"ם די לונזאנו כמו שהביא דבריו בס' קורא הדורות דף כ"א ע"א ע"ש
     
    It should be noted that this phenomenon, of Lonzano adding glosses in books (manuscripts and printed) that he owned, can be documented in many other cases as well.


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    The Enigmatic R. David Lida Part II
    by Tevie Kagan

    R. David of Lida and Sabbateanism


    The case for Sabbatean leanings in R. David ben Aryeh Leib of Lida's works are somewhat cloudy. The first clear accusation in this regard is from R. Yaakov Emden in his Toras Hakanaos. [1] Specifically, R. Emden, dealt with the conclusion of one of Lida's poem's entitled Shir Hillulim, which was printed with his Migdol David. Shir Hillulim was written in honor of a torah dedication in Amsterdam in 1680. It was comprised of verses to be recited by the congregation and cantor. The letters at the end that are enlarged spell out "Tishbi," and says "Tishbi, he will redeem us." In traditional Jewish literature, Tishbi (Elijah) is referenced as a forerunner for the messiah. Emden saw this as an allusion to Shabbetai Zevi, as the letters in "Tishbi" form "Shabbetai" when transposed. Emden continues and notes that the letters between the last lines (spelling out "David") demonstrate that Lida was attempting to equate David with Tishbi, and, consequently, with Shabbetai Zevi.


    There are those who argue with Emden's assertion that Shir Hillulim displays Sabbatean tendencies. Specifically, they note that David de Castro Tartas, who routinely printed prayer books and other works of sabbatean nature, [2] printed Shir Hillulim. Eisner, for example, postulates that Tartas added the problematic lines and that Lida knew nothing about it. [3] However, as Heller [4] points out, it would seem unlikely that a printer would modify such a small work, and that of the chief rabbi, meant for immediate distribution. Even more so, if this were the case, why would Lida use the same printer again, as he did with for his Shomer Shabbos in 1687?


    Indeed, it is especially difficult to determine whether a work is Sabbatean in nature.  Within Sabbatean writings there are certain recurring themes. There is often a thematic fixation on the Messiah. The writings often focus on King David, and explain how he did not sin with Bat-Sheba (Samuel II, Chapter 11). They also frequently discuss the concept of "mitzvah ha-ba'ah be-averah," the notion of reinterpreting biblical figures actions as foreshadowing Shabbetai Zevi's acts (particularly Esther or King David), and the rabbinic dictum that "greater a sin done for heavens sake than a commandment done other than for the sake of heaven." Writing about any one of these topics alone does not deem one to be a Sabbatean. However, a recurring reference to these beliefs within ones writings, combined with a less then stellar character, may deem one suspect.  Coupled with actual accusations from one of the foremost experts on Sabbateanism (R. Yaakov Emden), one must be wary and investigate further.


    Aside from the obvious reasons for not overtly stating the sabbatean nature of a work, inherent in Sabbateanism is the notion of a "dual nature."  Scholem describes this dualism as having one side bordering on nihilism and another that is outwardly religious. Elsewhere, [5] Scholem states that "[a] double-faced nature came to be seen as a characteristic trait . . . [to] live in a high tension between outward orthodoxy and inward antinomianism." This corresponds with the paradox that the followers of Shabbetai Zevi were left with after he apostatized in 1666. This also follows Sabbatean teachings that corrupted the Lurianic doctrine of tikun, using sin as the preferred medium for rectification, as opposed to mitzvoth. Shabbetai Zevi sought to abolish many commandments, stating that since it was the messianic age they no longer were applicable. He instead preached a doctrine of "mitzvah ha-ba'ah be-averah," asserting that the path to a mitzvah is through a sin.[6] This is one of the many ways that Shabbetai Zevi's followers attempted to rationalize his apostasy.  They argued that he was merely gathering "sparks" from within the broken shards that reside in the Islamic faith. Shabbetai Zevi advocated certain sins outright, such as eating chelev, the forbidden fat of an animal, and abolishing the fast of the 9th of Av (Tisha B'Av"). Thus, it is unsurprising that it is difficult to uncover what truly is a Sabbatean work and what is not.  

     

    Migdol David was Lida's first major work that was disseminated widely. It was written on the book of Ruth and seeks to explain the Davidic lineage. Migdol David does have messianic tones; yet, if the author was truly a Sabbatean, one would expect to find it overflowing with Sabbatean references. Oddly enough, though, through most of the work there are few Sabbatean references.  The ending lines are what lead to its Sabbatean suspicion, as they include the words "שבתי בבית ה'" This verse is in of itself not problematic, but the choice of  "שבתי" would fit with a common trait of Sabbatean writing to identify ones work to those who knew of certain code words. This was a fairly common tactic as can be adduced from Emden's list in Toras Hakanaos, where many books were banned for similar reasons.[7]

     

    Within Lida's Sod Hashem, a manual of the rules of milah (circumcision)  with a running commentary called Sharbit Hazahav, there are a couple of problematic themes. While describing the kabalistic reasons behind mila, Lida explains that the foreskin is as an offering to Samael and, because of the phrase "nachash efer lachmo," the foreskin is placed in dirt. Sabbatean Kabbalah often equates the nachash (snake) with the messiah, as both have the same numerical value. This does not mean that every reference to the nachash is suspect; in this case, though, clearly equating it with Samael and the offering is odd. Slightly more problematic is the quote[8] from R. Yehoshua Heshel from Vilna that discusses the verse: "Abraham was ninety-nine years old and the Lord appeared to him" (Gen. 17:1). He proceeds to give an interpretation explaining its significance within the sefiros of the numbers involved. Now, one would assume this to be the same R. Heshel under which Lida studied. However, it is R. Heshel Zoref[9] (c.1663-1700), the noted Sabbatean Kabbalist, and supposed prophet of the Sabbatean movement in Poland, to whom Lida is referring. Zoref wrote the Sefer Ha-Zoref where, among other things, he proclaimed himself Messiah b. Joseph and Shabbetai Zevi as Messiah b. David. Lida's quoting of Zoref is not a damning piece of evidence on its own, as it is one isolated quote, and as Naor points out,[10] classic works such as Kav Hayashar contain quotes from Zoref as well.  Still, this does not help Lida,s case.

     

    Quite possibly the most egregious piece of suspect Sabbateanism that Lida published is the homily at the beginning of his Be'er Esek.[11] After discussing the Medrash that the Yalkut Shimoni brings in Samuel (151) that David climbed the olive crop and cried, Lida goes into detail about why David would cry and why these do not suffice as reasons. Lida brings quotes from the Zohar and Peliah that say that David did not sin with Bat-Sheba, but that rather she was prepared for him from the six days of creation and that, indeed, it was a good thing that he had relations with her. David saw himself as Adam, Bat-Sheba as Eve, and Uriah the Hittite as the nachash. By having relations with Bat-Sheba, David rectified the sin of Adam and the act of the Snake having relations with Eve, ultimately bringing death to this world. Next Lida equates David, Adam and Messiah, explaining how David did not sin, but in fact effected a great tikun (rectification). Lida continues in this vein for at least another page and a half, equating his own travails with David being maligned for taking Bat-Sheba and running from Absalom.[12] This work is ostensibly setting out to clear his name of all Sabbatean charges, yet within the work Sabbatean charges are never mentioned, and the work opens with the epitome of a Sabbatean sermon!

     

    Lest one think this is an isolated instance, one has but to look at much of Lida's Ir David to see this is more the norm than the exception. Ir David was Lida's magnum opus. He was only able to bring the first third to print, as he states in the introduction. Lida's son Pesachya ended up printing the entire work in Amsterdam in 1719, through the press run by Solomon Proops.[13] In the introduction Lida discusses the rabbinic claim that when the messiah comes all holidays will be nullified except for Purim. This saying had become a popular adage among the Sabbateans, since Shabbatai Zevi had abolished all holidays (including the 9th of Av), as he believed he was the Messiah. Lida proceeds to expound on a passage (#143) in the Megaleh Amukos (by R. Nathan Nata Shapiro) that the Merkavah Chariot is alluded to in the letters שב"ת implying, therefore, that the redemption is connected to the Jews keeping shabbos. Lida proceeds to equate this using the gematria  שין, בית, תיו and אליהו משיח בן דוד   which equal 496. The equation of these two sets of words is suspect, since a popular "pastime" of Sabbateans was to show that Shabbetai Zevi's name was numerically similar to the numerical value of the word "messiah." If we suppose that Lida had a Sabbatean mindset, than one more passage in the introduction is suspect as well. Lida bring uses a statement from R. Isaac Luria, the Ari, that states that all souls stem from the same 248 souls, which are mired in impurities and kelipot, except those of certain individuals, one of them being the messiah. Scholem, in his article on Shabetai Zevi in the Encyclopaedia Judaica, explains how Sabbateans viewed the messiah's soul within their own kabalistic view:[14]

    "He is essentially different from all those souls which play their part in the process of tikkun. In fact, he was never under the authority of the Torah, which is the mystical instrument used by the power of the thoughtful light and the souls connected with it. He represents something utterly new, an authority which is not subject to the laws binding in the state of cosmic and historic exile. He cannot be measured by common concepts of good and evil and must act according to his own law, which may become the utopian law of a world redeemed. Both his history and his special task explain his behavior after he had freed himself from the prison of the kelippah."

    This can be used as a rationale for Shabbetai Zevi's apostasy, for if his soul was not from among the "regular souls," it could not be influenced by the impurities inherent in regular souls. Accordingly, he had the ability to save those who needed to be saved. Lida ends with one of his favorite verses, "ושבתי בבית ה'" with, once again, his "favorite letters" standing out. As mentioned previously, all of this is innocuous on its own, but taken within the larger picture, gives one pause.

    Within Ir David there are certain recurring pieces. As in his Be'er Esek, the concept that King David didn't sin with Bat-Sheba is an important and recurrent trope. In part 42,[15] for example, Lida argues that the reason David was perceived to have sinned was to inspire the concept of repentance in individuals. Similarly, the Israelites were perceived to have sinned by the golden calf to inspire repentance among larger groups. In part 54, Lida explains that David came to replace Adam and rectify the snake's relations with Eve. This discussion continues in part 55 where Lida discusses two interpretations of what happened with the snake and Eve, and how this affects, depending on the interpretation, our interpretation of whether or not David sinned. Lida continues with this theme in part 58, which also combines one of Lida's favorite aspects of David's life, that of David being persecuted by Absalom (perhaps a reference to Shabetai Zevi or Sabbateans being persecuted). In part 64 we are reminded that King David knew he was not sinning and that, on the contrary, he was eventually rewarded with a spot in the merkavah with the forefathers. Part 86 continues this theme by asserting that David, Moses, and the Israelites all did not sin because their motivations were right; through this, Lida sets forth the concept of "better a sin done for the sake of heaven than a mitzvah done with the wrong intention." Finally, part 88 references the Talmud in Shabbos 56 that asserts that anyone who says David sinned is wrong, as well as referencing a passage in the Assarah Maamaros that discusses why David's name is not invoked in prayer.

     If one views Lida as a Sabbatean, then David is not the one speaking, but rather the Messiah, Shabbetai Zevi.[16] This further complicates much of Lida's sermons, since this implies that he is no longer merely using Psalms as a springboard for simple rabbinic-homiletic discourse; on the contrary, this gives everything he states a double meaning.

               

    It cannot be disputed that Lida was a great scholar and a prolific author. Whether he plagiarized works or held Sabbatean beliefs remains up for discussion. However, much of his writing lends proof to the fact that he did. Why his works are still in print today, as opposed to the works of other possible Sabbateans, has more to do with the luck that Lida had of being reprinted early on by the Hasidic Rabbi Tzvi Hirsh of Liska (1808-1874) (and why a Hasidic rabbi chose to latch on to such a controversial figure may have to do with the similar ideological mindset of early Hasidism and Sabbateanism).[17]


    *The author would like to thank the editors of the seforim blog who make this great forum available. I would like to thank Professor S.Z Leiman for helping me with the idea for this post and guidance throughout, and Efraim Keller at the Habad Library who helped with attaining Eisner's Toldos of Lida. and Achron Achron Chaviv Eli Meir Cohen who has been a tremendous asset with his wealth of knowledge of everything seforim related especially getting out of print items.

     



    [1] Emden, Toras Hakanaos (Amsterdam, 1752), 71b

    [2] See Rosenthaliana Studia- http://cf.uba.uva.nl/nl/publicaties/treasures/text/t18.html

    [3] Eisner, Toldot ha-Goan Rabbi Dovid Lida, pg.12

    [4] pg.123

    [5] 'Shabbetai Zevi," Encyclopaedia Judaica, pg.1251

    [6] See Scholem, Mitzvah Habah Beaverah: Mechkarim Umekoros Letoldos Hashabsaut Ugilgoeha (Jerusalem, 1982)

    [7] For an examination/explanation of Emden's list, see S.Z. Leiman, Sefer Hazikaron R. Moshe Lipshitz (New York, 1996)

    [8] David Lida, Sod Hashem (Kiryath Joel, 2002), pg. 25

    [9] Strashun, Mivhar Kesavim (Jerusalem, 1995), pg.128, n 2

    [10] Betzalel Naor, Post-Sabbatian Sabbatianism (Spring Valley, 1999), pg.43

    [11] Aaron Freimann, Sefer Hayovel for Nahum Sokolow (Warsaw, 1904), pg. 464

    [12] While this is most probably just a standard writer's convention, it lends credence to Emden's contention that Lida may have had some messianic aspirations. See Emden's Toras Hakanaos, discussing Shir Hillulim.

    [13] For more about Solomon Proops, see Richard D. Abraham, "Selomoh Proops, Corrector or Copyist?" Hispanic Review, Vol. 43, No. 3. (Summer, 1975), pp. 317-320; Quaerendo, Volume 37:2 (April, 2007), pg. 96-110; Marvin J Heller, Printing the Talmud: A History of the Individual Treatises Printed from 1700

    [14] pg. 1242

    [15] All numbers refer to the paragraphs assigned in Amsterdam edition.

    [16] See Naor, Post-Sabbatian Sabbatianism, pg. 168, n 16

    [17] See Scholem, Major Trends in Jewish Mysticism (New York, 1967), "Ninth Lecture- Hasidim: The Latest Phase"




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      Two Editions of R. Chaim Berlin's Responsa: An Egregious Example of Censorship
    by Eliezer Brodt

     

     

    R. Chaim Berlin, Sefer Nishmat Hayyim, She'elot u-Teshuvot, R. Ya'akov Kosovsky-Shachor ed., Beni-Brak, 2002, 412 pp.
    R. Chaim Berlin, Sefer Nishmat Hayyim, Mamorim u'Mechtavim, R. Ya'akov Kosovsky-Shachor ed., Beni-Brak, 2003, 424 pp.

    R. Chaim Berlin, Otzar Reb Hayyim Berlin, Shu"t Nishmat Hayyim, Jerusalem, 2008, 4 vol., 446, 462, 449, 298 pp.


    R. Chaim Berlin (1832-1912), the son of the R. Naftali Tzvi Yehuda Berlin (author of the Netziv), although well known until recently none of R. Chaim's extensive torah has been published.  To be sure, some of R. Chaim's torah can be found scattered throughout the seforim of his time, but never in a book of its own.  In 2002, R. Kosovsky-Shachor ("R. KS") published a collection of R. Chaim's responsa entitled Nishmat Hayyim.  These responsa were collected from various manuscripts in many collections as well as correspondences which R. KS found in the Rabbinic literature from R. Chaim's era. A year later R. KS printed a second volume of letters, derashot, articles and approbations of R. Chaim Berlin also entilted Nishmat Hayyim. In the back of the volume of responsa, R. KS includes a nice historical write up of R. Chaim Berlin's life (corrections and additions to the biography appear in the back of the second volume). 


    A few months ago another collection of R. Chaim Berlin's respona were published by Yeshivat ve-Hegaditah le-Vinkha entitled Otzar Reb Hayyim Berlin. This version was published in four massive volumes on all areas Shulchan Orach, Shas and more. In this post I will discuss a bit about the two versions, some of the interesting teshuovs found in them and many instances of censorship in the later edition. Regarding these examples of censorship, I can only assume that there are many more examples as I haven't compared every line of the four volumes with the original.  But, as will be apparent, the examples provided below are fairly egregious. Additionally, these works touch on the important topic of the reason behind the closing of Volozhin Yeshiva.  

     

    For purposes of this post, I will refer to the Nishmat Hayyim as the older edition and the Otzar Reb Hayyim Berlin as the new edition.  The earlier edition contains about 200 responsa while the new version has well over 800 responsa. In the earlier edition they printed a volume of letters and haskamos which the new version did not do yet include but promises to print shortly. The newer version has an excellent index based on the order of shas and topics. Just a quick glance shows the tremendous wealth of topics discussed. They also included a list of all the people R. Chaim corresponded a veritable "who's who" of the gedolim from that time period.

    Some Highlights

    Amongst the many interesting teshuvos there is one about riding on a train on Shabbas (1:171-172), creating something via the Sefer Yetzira on Shabbas (1:418), asking an agent to give a Get via a phonograph (4:39), throwing grass when one leaves the cemetery (2:359) and burning dead bodies as opposed to burial (2:353-355).

     

    In the new edition there is a lengthy discussion (1:70-77) about answering Amen when one is in middle of davening.   In the midst of this responsa  (1:73) R. Berlin notes a very interesting thing :

    נראה לענ"ד שאף במקום שמותר להפסיק בפשיטות ואין שם בית מיחוש כלל להחמיר כמו להפסיק מפסוקי דזמרה לקדושה, אין זה אלא רשות שמותר להפסיק אבל לא חיוב, וטעמא דידי, משום דקי"ל העוסק במצוה פטור מן המצוה....

     

    Another interesting statement found in a correspondence between him and R. Sholomo Hakohen where R. Shlomo writes (#67 in the old edition and # 191 in the new edition):

     

    כן שמעתי מפי אביו הצדיק זצ"ל (הכוונה להנצי"ב) שאמר בשם חמיו זקנו הצדיק מו"ה חיים מוואלזין זצ"ל שיש לומר פירוש בלשון הרמב"ם והשו"ע אם הוא עולה ע"פ ההלכה אף שבודאי לא כוונו לזה משום שרוח הקודש נזרקה על לשונם, וכן מצאתי כעין זה ממש בס' בית אלוקים להגאון המבי"ט זצ"ל בסוף פ' ס"ד ע"ש".

     

    While discussing the topic of gramophones, R. Chaim Berlin (#1 in old edition) writes that they had these already in the time of Chazal:

     

    ובזה נראה לי לפרש לשון הש"ס בפ' ראוהו ב"ד רה"ש כ"ח ב' דמשני הש"ס על הא דתנן הי' עובר אחורי בית הכנסת ושמע קול שופר או קול מגילה, אם כיון לבו יצא ואם לאו לא יצא מאי לאו אם כיון לבו לצאת, ושמע מינה מצות צריכות כונה, ומשני לא לשמוע, והא שמעי, סבור חמור בעלמא הוא, ופירש רבינו חננאל בש"ס החדשים דפוס ווילנא אם כיון לבו לשמוע ולהבחין אם הוא תקיעת בן אדם או צהלת סוס, ותמוה דהא ניחא בקול שופר שיש לטעות שהוא צהלת סוס, אבל בקול מגילה דלא שייך לטעות שהוא צהלת סוס, מאי איכא למימר, ותפשוט מינה דמצות צריכות כונה, וכבר תמהו בזה הטורי אבן במקומו, והפרי חדש או"ח (סי' תר"צ סעי' י"ג). ונראה דבימי הש"ס הי' כלי זו של הגרמפון עשויה כצורת חמור והליצנים היו משתמשין בו, וזהו חמרא דאכפא דאמר ר' אבהו בפ' במה אשה שבת ס"ו ב' ופירש"י חמור הנישא בכתפים והליצנים עושים אותו ובמקומנו נקרא ארדפיסא, ותרגם בש"ס החדשים דפוס ווילנא שזה קומנדינט או פארשטעלונג, וביותר היו עושין כן בפורים לבדח ולשמח את ההמון, והיה הדבר מצוי לשמוע מהחמור הזה גם קול מגילה, ומבואר דאם הוא קול החמור הזה, אינו יוצא ידי חובתו, כנלע"ד, וה' יודע האמת

     

    Another nice point is found while dealing with the issue of reciting the tefilah of Birkat Rosh Chodesh in light of the general prohibition against praying for one's livelihood on Shabbos. R. Chaim Berlin writes (#23 old version):

     

    ע"ד אשר שאל, היאך מצלינן בשבת שמברכין החודש על חיים של פרנסה, לפלא שלא שאל גם על נוסח מי שברך שאומרים בכל שבת אחר יקום פורקן, דמצלינן וישלח ברכה והצלחה בכל מעשי ידיהם, וגם על נוסח בריך שמי' שאומרי' בהוצאת ס"ת דמצלינן יהא רעוא קדמך דתוריך לן חיין בטיבותא. אבל כבר כתבו האחרונים ליישב מנהג ישראל, שלא אסרו לתבוע צרכיו בשבת, אלא ביחיד העושה לעצמו תפלה מיוחדת על איזה מקרה, הנחוצה לו באותה שעה לפרנסה או לרפואה וכדומה, אבל נוסח תפלה הקבוע לכולם בשוה בנוסחא אחת, אין קפידא בזה, וגם זה נכלל בלשון הירושלמי טופס ברכות כך הוא.

     

    Another nice piece (# 52 old version) I found is in regard to the famous discussion for those who observe gebrucks how can they make kneidel on Chol Hamoed Pesach?

     

    והנה, קרבו ימי המועד לבוא, אשר לא אאחוז עט בידי לכבודו משך שמונת ימים, ע"כ אמרתי להודיעו מה שעוררתי את בני עדתי בדרשת שבת הגדול העבר, ע"ד האנשים הנזהרים ממצה שרוי' כל ימי הפסח לבד מיום האחרון, ויש גם נשים הנזהרות בזה. ואותן הנשים שנזהרות בזה ואין להם משרתת בבתיהם ואופות ומבשלות בעצמן, הנכון שיזהרו בשביעי של פסח מלהכין תבשילי מצה שרויה על יום המחרת, מאחר שאין התבשילין הללו ראויין להן ביו"ט, ואפי' אם יקלעו להם אז אורחים ביו"ט שביעי של פסח, ג"כ לא יתנו להם מצה שרוי', הרי לא מהני עירוב תבשילין בזה, כמש"כ הרמ"א בסי' תקכ"ז סעי' כ' לענין מי שמתענה ביו"ט ועי' מגן אברהם שם.

    It is also apparent from this teshuvah  that R. Chaim did not even write Torah on Chol Hamoed.

     

    Another very interesting Teshuvah (new edition 3:1-3) is where he deals with the Tzavas R. Yehudah Hachassid, as he was asked about marrying someone where it would be against one of the statements in the Tzavah. To which he replied:

    מכאן נלמוד לכל האזהרות שהזהיר רבינו החסיד ז"ל בעניני זיווגים, שאם אין בדבר זה שום מצוה, אלא שחפץ בה לשם ממון או לשם נוי, ודאי יש ליזהר בכל אזהרותיו, אבל מי שעושה מעשיו לשם שמים, ומכוין למצוה, עליו לא הזהיר החסיד כלל.

     

    Another interesting piece found (#24) is about a piece of the Netziv in the journal of Rav Kook, Iyutur Seforim where the Netziv wrote that it is permissible to read newspapers on Shabbas.  Regarding this point R. Chaim Berlin wrote:

     

    ועל דבר לעיין בשבת בהרהורא בעלמא בלי קריאה בפה באגרות רשות ובמכתבי העתים לא הי' כלל דעת מר אבא הגאון שליט"א, לקבוע מסמרים בהלכה זו ככל דבריו שבעטור סופרים, ולא בא אלא ליישב מנהג העולם שקוראים במכתבי העתים בשבת שסומכים בזה על משמעות תלמודא דידן עפ"י דעתם, שמפרשים דתלמודא דידן פליג בזה על תלמוד ירושלמי, אבל להלכה גם הוא יודה דקיי"ל כהירושלמי, וכה"ג מצינו בהרבה מקומות שכתבו הפוסקים ליישב מנהג העולם, שסומכים על דעה יחידית אף שלא כהלכה.

     

    The Netizv defends his opinion in the Shut Bikurei Shlomo (1:2). Interestingly enough there is testimony to the contrary from R. Baruch Halevei Epstein who writes how on Shabbas his uncle the Netziv used to read the Hebrew newspaper, Hamagid (Mekor Baruch 4:1794). R. Meir Bar-Ilan echoes R. Baruch Halevi's testimony about his father the Netziv that he would read newspapers on Shabbas (Me-Volzhin LeYerushalim 1:138).

     

    Much has been written about how the responsa literature can aid in reconstructing the history of the period, this sefer also shows us this. Just to cite one example in volume one (p. 88) of the newer version (which shockingly was not edited out) someone wrote to R. Chaim:

    גלוי וידוע לכבודו עד כמה פשתה הנגע בארצינו וביתר שאת בארצות אוירפפה ושדה תיכלה כמעט בכל בנות ישראל שוע ודל אשר גם בעליהן ואבותיהן המה משלומי אמוני היהודים המחזקים בדתינו הקדוש והמה גם הנה אינן ח"ו מפורקי עול בדרך כלל, ובכל זאת עברו ושנו ונעשה להן כהתיר לילך בגליות שער ראשיהן אחת המרבה ואחת המטמעטת, עיר ועיר ומדינה ומדינה כמנהגה וכפי חוקות המאדע שלה. ולא ישמרו את נפשותיהן מזה לילך כן גם בבתי כנסיות ובבתי מדרשות ובמסיבות אנשים שרים סביב לשלחן בעת סעודות נשואין שבת ויום טוב...

     

    We see from this that the well known phenomena of woman not covering their hair in previous generations. The question which was posed to R. Chaim was what one should do about saying berokhot or Shema in front of such a woman. To which R. C. Berlin replied:


    לענין קריאת שמע גופא יש מקילין בזמן הזה שכבר נהגו לגלות ראשן ודומה לשער שמחוץ לצמתן... ומעתה למעשה בזמן הזה, מי שאינו מחפש למצוא לו יתד על מה לסמוך, ומקלו יגיד לו, יוכל לסמוך על המקילין. ומי שהוא ירא חטא, ורוצה לצאת ידי שמים גם  בסתר כבגלוי, ודאין אין לו לסמוך על המקילין.

     

    This is similar to the famous controversial pesak of the Aruch Hashulchan (O.C. 75:7):

     

    עתה בואו ונצווח על פרצות דורינו בעוונותינו הרבים שזה שנים רבות שנפרצו בנות ישראל בעון זה והולכות בגילוי הראש וכל מה שצעקו על זה הוא לא לעזר ולא להועיל ועתה פשתה המספחת שהנשואות הולכות בשערותן כמו הבתולות אוי לנו שעלתה בימינו כך מיהו עכ"פ לדינא נראה שמותר לנו להתפלל ולברך נגד ראשיהן המגולות כיון שעתה רובן הולכות כך והוה כמקומות המגולים בגופה... וכיון שאצלינו גם הנשואות כן ממילא דליכא הרהור

     

    Censorship in the New Edition


    Of course this post would not be complete without mentioning some censorship in the new edition. Although I mentioned that the later edition has much more material than the first edition it seems a few teshuvos got "lost" in the later edition. [The family involved with the printing of this sefer is the same one mentioned by Dr. Gil S. Perl, in his Emek ha-Neziv, A Window into the Intellectual Universe of Rabbi Naftali Zvi Yehudah Berlin (PhD, Harvard, 2006), on pages 49-50, in light of Dr. Perl's comments, it is of no surprise that they edited out these particular teshvot].

     

    In the first edition (# 135, see volume 3:5 of the new edition) there is a discussion about shaking woman hands which has been a very controversial topic [See the recent Bina Ve-das p. 117]. Perhaps shockingly to many R. Chaim Berlin replied:

     

    ואשר שאל על דבר נתינת ידו לרשעים או לנכרית, הנה ליתן יד לפושעים אין שום איסור בזה אם אין בזה הודאה וחיזוק להנהגותיהם בשרירות לבם. ולתת יד לאשה לשון הש"ס הוא ברכות ס"א א' המרצה מעות לאשה מידו לידה כדי להסתכל בה, מבואר דאם אינו מכוין לשום דבר וכש"כ שאינו עושה כדי להסתכל בה כמו מעלתו שכל מעשיו לשם שמים אין איסור בזה לרצות מעות מידו לידה. ודאי אם יוכל להזהר בזה מה טוב, אבל אם אי אפשר לו להנצל מזה כגון אם הנכרית הקדימה והושיט לו את ידה ואין דעתו לשום הרהור ח"ו אין להחמיר בזה, ודרכיה דרכי נועם, ואהבת את ה' אלקיך אמרו חכמים יומא פ"ו א' שיהא שם שמים מתאהב על ידך, ולא יאמרו על יראי ה' שהם משוגעים ואינם בעלי דרך ארץ.

     

    Two other pieces edited out from that same teshuvah in the new edition I am not sure as to why, are:


     ועל דבר כסוי ראש האשה במטפחת אחת, אם אין שערה נראין אין בזה שום איסור, ועדיף טובא מפיאה נכרית, ואין צריך כלל שני כסויין, ואם אך אין השער נראה בחוץ די בכסוי אחד אף ברשות הרבים, ורשאי גם לקרות ק"ש כנגדה, ואין להחמיר עוד בזמן הזה.

     

    ולדבר עם אשה בשוק לא נאסר אלא לתלמיד חכם ולא למי שאינו מוחזק בתלמיד חכם, וכשם שתלמיד חכם המדבר עם אשה בשוק גורם בזה חלול השם כן מי שאינו מוחזק לתלמיד חכם הנזהר בזה שלא לדבר עם אשתו לעיני הבריות הוא מיחזי כיוהרא, ויש בזה גם כן חלול השם...

     

    Another very interesting statement which was edited out of the second edition is about Chasidim (# 7 in the old edition) where he writes:

     

    ולהתפלל בבית הכנסת של החסידים אין שום חשש בזה, וגזירת רבינו הגר"א ז"ל לא הי' אלא בזמנו שהקילו אז בכבוד תלמידי חכמים לומדי תורה, ולא כן בימינו שהחסידים חולקים כבוד לכל לומדי תורה והם יראי ה' ושומרים תורה ומצוה. אך על דבר שינוי נוסחת התפלה, אסור לשנות בפרהסיא ממנהגיהם ומנוסחאותיהם ובנוסח הקדושה יאמר קדושת כתר בשביל שנאמרת בקול רם ויש בזה איסור לא תתגודדו, וגם שלא לעורר מחלוקת ח"ו, אבל בתפלה בלחש לא ישנה כבודו ממנהג אבותיו וממנהגו מעולם, ויתפלל שמונה עשרה בלחש כנוסח אשכנז.

     

    Another piece which was censored out although I am not sure what is so bad with it (#200 in the old edition) where he writes that there were additions to Mishnayos after Rabeenu Hakodesh edited it:

     

    שביארתי מאמרם ז"ל התמוה מאד בשלהי מס' סוטה מ"ט ב' על משנתינו משמת רבי בטלה ענוה ויראת חטא א"ל ר"י לתנא לא תיתני ענוה דאיכא אנא א"ל ר"נ לתנא לא תיתני יראת חטא דאיכא אנא. והתמיה מפורסמת איך אמוראים קדושים כאלה ישבחו עצמם בענוה ויראת חטא, והמלך החכם אמר יהללך זר ולא פיך. וביארתי בס"ד על פי מש"כ הרע"ב ז"ל על האי בבא משמת רבי בטלה ענוה שתלמידיו של רבי הוסיפו וכתבו זה במשנה, וכ"כ בתוס' רע"ק בשם הרמב"ן בחי' ע"ז ל"ז א' שהוא תוספת שהוסיף בר קפרא או לוי במשנה, והמה היו תנאים אחרונים תלמידי רבי. ואמרתי שהוא הוא התנא שדברו עמו רב יוסף ורב נחמן, שרב יוסף א"ל לזה התנא שהוסיף במשנה משמת רבי בטלה ענוה א"ל לא תיתני ענוה שאתה מסתיר מדותיך הטובים ושונה במשנה משמת רבי בטלה ענוה ואנא ידענא שגם אתה ענוותן כרבי ועדיין לא בטלה ענוה משמת רבי, וכן א"ל רב נחמן לזה התנא שהוסיף במשנה משמת רבי בטלה יראת חטא א"ל לתנא לא תיתני יראת חטא שאתה מסתיר מדותיך הטובים ושונה במשנה משמת רבי בטלה יראת חטא ואנא ידענא שגם אתה ירא חטא כרבי, ועדיין לא בטלה יראת חטא משמת רבי, כן ביארתי זה המאמר לפי חומר הנושא.

     

    This censorship or editing goes the other way as well. In the first edition there is a piece (#120 old edition) about being a vegetarian but the whole question is not included for some odd reason but in the new version (#222) the whole question is printed out in full. R. Chaim Berlin was asked by R. Menashe Grossburg:

     

    אם ראוי לישראל להיות מהחברה צער בעל החיים, ואם מותר לאכול בבית מרזח שלהם, שאין אוכלים אפילו חלב ובצים. לדעתי נראה לי בחפזי לפי מה שכתב הט"ז כמה פעמים דמה שמפורש התיר בתורה אין כח לשום אדם לאסור ובתורה מפורש התיר לאכול בשר מזמן נח. והם אומרים שכשם שאסור רציחה באדם גם כן אסור בבהמה אפילו בשחיטה, וזה נגד דעת תורתנו. ועוד ששמחת יום טוב מצות עשה גם בזמן הזה בבשר.

     

    To which R. Chaim Berlin answered:


    נראה דעד כאן לא אמר הט"ז אלא דאין כ


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