Are you the publisher? Claim or contact us about this channel

Embed this content in your HTML


Report adult content:

click to rate:

Account: (login)

More Channels

Channel Catalog

Channel Description:

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

older | 1 | .... | 16 | 17 | (Page 18) | 19 | newer

    0 0
  • 12/08/08--07:52: Upcoming December Auctions
  • In the next few weeks there are a bunch of auctions. First, is Sotheby's auction of the "Delmonico" collection.  This collection, of an anonymous collector, is amazing.  It includes fifty incunabula with the balance of the auction being 16 and 17th century books.  Included in the later portion are volumes of the first edition Bomberg Talmud printed on blue paper.  These are the only known copies of these volumes. The incunabula includes the first edition of the Rambam's commentary on Mishna, the second edition of the Mishna Torah, the first book printed in the author's lifetime - the Nofet Zufim by R. Yehudah Messer Leon, first edition of the Ramban's Commentary on the Torah, the first Hebrew book with a printer's mark, as well as many, many other gems. This auction takes place on December 17th in the morning, there is another Sotheby's auction of Jewish books and Judaica taking place that afternoon as well.

    The next auction is Kestenbaum which takes place a day later, on the 18th.  Some highlights from the catalog include a letter from R. Joseph B. Soloveitchik (318) regarding the permissibility of teaching Talmud to girls.  "Rabbi Soloveitchik declines to present his views."  Because "'We have reached a stage at which party lines and political ideologies influence our Halachic thinking to the extent that people cannot rise above partisan issues to the level of Halacha-objectivity. . . . I am not inclined to give any of these factions an opportunity for nonsensical debates.'"  Also, in the manuscript section, are a collection of letters from R. Samson Morpurgo, (308) many dealing with the Ramchal controversy. While some have been published it appears there are discrepancies between the published versions and that of the letters in this collection.  Or for those interested in the R. Naftali Hertz Wessely controversy, the scribal copy of R. Tzvi Hirsch Berlin's resignation letter (296) is included.  Due to R. Wessely's Divrei Shalom ve-Emet, R. Berlin wanted Wessely expelled from Berlin; however, Mendelssohn defended Wessely leading Berlin to tender his resignation as Chief Rabbi of Berlin.  Later, Berlin, recinded his resignation and remained Chief Rabbi until his death in 1800.  Of course, R. Berlin was R. Saul Berlin's (publisher of Besamim Rosh) father. Although not as rare as the blue paper Bomberg, Kestenbaum has a complete copy of the Slavita, 1817-22 Talmud (256). The publication of this Talmud eventually led to the controversy betwen the Slavita and Romm presses.

    When it comes to colored paper there are two lots of interest.  The first is Deinard's edition of the Zemir Aritzim (124) which is printed on multi-colored papers including blue, green, pink, and yellow, indeed, there are only two white pages in the book. The Amsterdam, 1669 Seder Keriah ve-Tikun le-Leilei Chag Shavout ve-Hoshana Rabba, "at the request of wealty bibliophiles, a handful of copies of this work were printed on colored paper" including blue or green paper.  This one (213) is on blue paper.  Returning to Deinard, there are three other books of his, including one which he inscribed (122-25).  As is well-known Deinard travelled the world, what is lesser known is the the book Sefer ha-Berit ha-Chadash (On the Life and Customs of the Jews of China), Pietrokov, 1911, (108) which Uzeil Haga describes his travels with the U.S. Armed Forces expedition in 1901 to China. In the end Haga "was suspected of espionage and was imprisoned by the Boxers where he died after suffering torture."  Two bibliographical notes.  The first is a rare catalogue of R. Pinner (translator of the Talmud into German) for the Odessa Society for History and Antiquities Holdings of Ancient Hebrew and Rabbinic Manuscripts (81).  The second is Ben-Zion Eisenstat's Otzar ha-Temunot (85) which is a collection of photographys of over 150 Rabbis from the turn of the twentith century.  The full catalog can be downloaded here

    0 0

    Book Review: The Koren Sacks Siddur

    by Elli Fischer

            Rabbi Elli Fischer is a freelance translator living in Modiin, Israel.  He maintains the "On the Contrary: Judasim with Comments Enabled " blog.  This is his first contribution to the TraditionOnline Seforim blog.

    I was recently given the opportunity to preview The Koren Sacks Siddur. This work, due to be released in 2009, is the first major bilingual Orthodox synagogue prayer book to be released since the ArtScroll Siddur in 1984. It goes without saying that this siddur will present the first serious challenge to ArtScroll's steadily increasing hegemony over the bilingual siddur market, and, as such, this review will often note differences between the two siddurim.

    The present volume features a translation and commentary by Sir Jonathan Sacks, Chief Rabbi of the British Commonwealth (based on his 2006 Authorised Daily Prayer Book). His comments tend to be thematic and introductory, and do not explain or comment on the meaning of individual phrases. Taken together, Rabbi Sacks' comments would constitute a monograph on the basic structure, function, and themes of Jewish prayer. He does not anthologize from various commentaries on the siddur, rarely citing any sources later than the Talmud.

    The issue of translation is near and dear to my heart, as a professional translator. Translating the siddur is no easy task. It is fraught with the same tensions that characterize regimented prayer in general – the tension between spontaneity and regularity, the difficulty in giving expression to the longings of the human heart through a formal and formulaic recitation. Rabbi Sacks manages to capture the poetry and power of the prayers without sounding overbearing, highfalutin, archaic, or mechanical. Below I will compare the original Hebrew with the ArtScroll and Koren translations for several passages (The lines are broken up as they are broken up in the Koren siddur; the ArtScroll does not break lines up based on phrasing):




    את צמח דוד עבדך מהרה תצמיח וקרנו תרום בישועתך

    May the offshoot of Your servant David soon flower, and may his pride be raised high by Your salvation,

    The offspring of Your servant David may you speedily cause to flourish, and enhance his pride through Your salvation

    כי לישועתך קווינו כל היום

    For we wait for Your salvation all day.

    For we hope for your salvation all day long.




    שים שלום טובה וברכה

    Grant peace, goodness, and blessing

    Establish peace, goodness, blessing

    חן וחסד ורחמים עלינו ועל כל ישראל עמך

    Grace, loving-kindness and compassion

    To us and all Israel your people.

    Graciousness, kindness, and compassion upon us and upon all of Your people Israel

    ברכנו אבינו כלנו כאחד באור פניך

    Bless us, our Father, all as one, with the light of Your face

    Bless us, our Father, all of us as one, with the light of Your countenance

    כי באור פניך נתת לנו ה' אלוקינו

    For by the light of your face You have given us, LORD our God

    For with the light of Your countenance You gave us, HASHEM, our God

    תורת חיים ואהבת חסד

    The Torah of life and love of kindness,

    The Torah of life and a love of kindness

    וצדקה וברכבה ורחמים וחיים ושלום

    Righteousness, blessing, compassion, life and peace.

    Righteousness, blessing, compassion, life, and peace.

    וטוב בעיניך לברך את עמך ישראל

    May it be good in your eyes to bless Your people Israel

    And may it be good in Your eyes to bless Your people Israel,

    בכל עת ובכל שעה בשלומך

    At every time, in every hour, with Your peace.

    In every season and in every hour with Your peace

    Another, blatant example comes from the first line of the second blessing of the morning Shema, which begins with the words "Ahava Rabba". ArtScroll renders it: "With abundant love you have loved us, HASHEM, our God; with exceedingly great pity have you pitied us." Koren, on the other hand, translates: "You have loved us with great love, LORD our God, and with surpassing compassion have You had compassion on us."

    These examples should suffice to bear out my contention that the Koren translation has a much more intuitive feel – that it is formulated as an English rendition of the Hebrew prayer and not simply as a mechanical translation. It is hard to quantify why "surpassing compassion" resonates better than "exceedingly great pity", but the eye and ear notice the difference all the same (as Prof. Moshe J. Bernstein is fond of noting: "My toilet overflows; my cup runneth over").

    The layout of The Koren Siddur is innovative in several respects. Contrary to the convention of nearly all bilingual siddurim, the Hebrew appears on the left page and the English on the right. This format can be a bit disconcerting at first, but the adjustment period can be counted in minutes. The advantage of this innovation is both aesthetic and functional. From the aesthetic perspective, both languages seem to have a common "origin" in the binding instead of facing each other jaggedly. Functionally, this layout makes it easier to locate corresponding words and phrases.

    As I alluded earlier, Koren characteristically breaks lines up thematically, as in poetic verse. This results in an abundance of white space, but makes the prayers more intelligible. This convention is characteristic of Koren's all-Hebrew siddurim as well, and its efficacy transfers to the bilingual edition.

    Koren's liturgical publications (siddurim, machzorim, and chumashim) have long been known for their precise typesetting, and the present volume is no exception. In this siddur, there is a subtle distinction between the Hebrew fonts used for biblical passages and later liturgical compositions. The "dikduk-geeks" will be happy that the shva na is distinguished from the shva nach and the kamatz gadol from the kamatz katan. Its transliteration conventions are much more precise, making extensive use of apostrophes, hyphens, and underdots. Its transliterations of the various Kaddishin do not use awkward phonetic representations (e.g., "rabbaw").

    In addition to the translation and commentary, the Koren Siddur includes italicized English instructions on both sides of the page. In general, they are longer at critical turning points of the service (beginning of the Amida, before Barkhu at Shacharit) but otherwise fairly concise. In general, these instructions contain more background and are less preachy than ArtScroll's instructions. For example, compare the following instructions that appear prior to the silent Shemoneh Esrei:


    Moses advanced through three levels of holiness when he went up to Sinai. Therefore we take three steps forward as we 'approach' God in the Shemoneh Esrei prayer.

    Remain standing with the feet together while reciting Shemoneh Esrei. Recite it with quiet devotion and without any interruption, verbal or otherwise. Although it should not be audible to others, one must pray loudly enough to hear himself, See Laws #61-90 for a brief summary of its laws, including how to rectify the omission of phrases or paragraphs that are added at particular times of the year.


    The following prayer, until "in former years," on page 134, is said standing with feet together in imitation of the angels in Ezekiel's vision (Ezek. 1:7). The Amida is said silently, following the precedent of Hanna when she prayed for a child (I Sam. 1:13). If there is a minyan, it is repeated aloud by the Leader. Take three steps forward, as if formally entering the place of Divine Presence. At the points indicated by ^, bend the knees at the first word, bow at the second, and stand straight before saying God's name.

    The Koren Siddur, presumably because it is a bilingual edition of an Israeli siddur, is much more Israel-conscious than the ArtScroll. I refer not only to the fact that the Koren contains prayer services and laws for Yom ha-Zikaron, Yom ha-Atzma'ut, and Yom Yerushalayim and that it transliterates using generic Israeli pronunciation. I also refer to halakhic and liturgical differences that pertain to the Land of Israel, for example: adding the word "kadisha" in the Kaddish de-Rabbanan, differences regarding when one begins reciting "ve-ten tal u-matar", the procedures for Birkat Kohanim in the daily prayer, the inclusion of a note to omit "Barukh Hashem le-Olam" from Ma'ariv in the Land of Israel, and even the inclusion of the special prayer for rain in the Land of Israel as a footnote to the regular prayer. Although this siddur was produced specifically for American congregations, its inclusion of the laws and customs of the Land of Israel seems entirely right. The absence of these latter elements from the ArtScroll Siddur, for whatever reason, seems like an egregious omission.

    The Koren Siddur is more inclusive of women both in terms of its content and in terms of its instructions. The content includes the liturgy (imported from the Sephardic rite and increasingly prevalent in Israel) of the "Zeved ha-Bat" celebration upon the birth of a daughter (it appears in the excellent "Life Cycle" section of the siddur). It furthermore includes the thanksgiving prayer recited by a women after childbirth, which includes "Birkat ha-Gomel". The ArtScroll Siddur makes no mention of this obligation (and the practice is even discouraged in the ArtScroll Women's Siddur, which follows the minority opinion of the Mishna Berura on this matter without recording dissent). With regard to zimmun, the ArtScroll Siddur applies the practice to "three or more males, aged thirteen or older". The Koren Siddur, on the other hand, states that "when three or more women say Birkat ha-Mazon with no men present, then substitute "Friends" for Gentlemen".

    A final element of the Koren Siddur's treatment of women pertains to the commentary on the brakha of "she-asani kirtzono". As noted, this siddur does not generally comment on specific phrases and lines from individual prayers. The brakhot that use the "who has not made me" formula, as well as "she-asani kirtzono", are an exception to that rule. Here, Rabbi Sacks goes out of his way to explain these ostensibly problematic benedictions. Methinks he doth protest too much. His apology does little more than call attention to the problematicity of these passages.

    The present edition includes several introductions and appendices. The original preface to the Hebrew edition, from 1981, has been translated into English, and has been joined by prefaces written by the publisher and by Rabbi Dr. Tzvi Hersh Weinreb, Executive Vice President of the Orthodox Union (the OU is a sponsor of this publication). There is also a guide to pronunciation and transliteration penned by the editor of the volume. The most extensive introductory essay, however, is Rabbi Sacks' 42-page introduction to Jewish prayer. A perusal of it shows that it addresses elements of the history, philosophy, language, and structure of Jewish prayer, on the macro- and micro- levels. He characteristically weaves together Jewish sources from ancient to modern, as well as a sprinkling of references to British poets and critics.

    I have not read all 487 paragraphs of the halakhic section, but it goes well beyond the laws of prayer narrowly defined and includes discussions of the laws of tefillin and tzitzit, an overview of the entire Jewish year, and more. It even includes a section on issues that arise when traveling back and forth between Israel and the Diaspora. It also resurrects the very handy "Table of Permitted Responses", which provides an easy reference guide to what types of interruptions are permitted during the various parts of the prayer.

    The Talmud (Brakhot 32b) asks rhetorically: "Without knowledge, whence prayer?" Thus, understanding prayer – the simple meaning of the words and the underlying structure of how it all fits together – is a prerequisite for true prayer. The Koren Sacks Siddur has succeeded, through its nearly 1300 pages, in being informative and erudite without losing sight of the forest for the trees. It is, quite simply, a comprehensive guide book for Jewish prayer, introducing its users to the full gamut of experiences necessary to truly enter into the world of tefilla. It has set a new standard for English-language siddurim.

    0 0

    While we have had the opportunity to discuss plagiarism on multiple occasions, it is rare in the Jewish world that a plagiarizer is caught and admits their mistake.  As such I wanted to discuss such an example. 

    R. Yosef HaKohen Schwartz (1875-1944) was a veracious reader.  Many of his responsa are devoted to notes on newly printed seforim.  Indeed, the equally well-read bibliophile, R. Reuven Margoliyot, was in the habit of sending his new books for R. Schwartz's comment.  Needless to say, if one wished to pick a person's books to appropriate and remain undetected, it is probably not the best strategy to pick someone who reads much of what is published.  In this instance, however, that appears to be exactly what happened. 

    One of R. Schwartz's books is devoted to yarhzeit customs, Moad Kol Hayi (Kisvarda, 1925).  It is a short book, which is made even shorter by the inclusion of a bunch of approbations, a eulogy, and a responsum.  While the book in and of itself is fairly unremarkable, what happened next is.  R. Tzvi Hirsch Friedling, who edited a Polish Torah Journal, Ha-Be'ar, published a work that was broader in scope than Schwartz's but also encompassed the same topic as Schwartz covered - yarhzeit customs.  Specifically, Friedling, some time after 1928 published Hayyim ha-Nitzchim a collection of sources related to funerary customs as well as yarhzeit.  Friedling had published similar likut seforim and, in part recycled some of the approbations he received on a different work, Kiyum ha-Olam, for Hayyim ha-Nitzchim, including an approbation from R. Abraham Isaac Kook. Indeed, we know that Hayyim ha-Nitzchim must have been published after 1928 as the approbations contain dates from 1928.  It is true that there is no date given on the title page, however, as should become apparent, the first edition of Friedling's book must have been published after 1928 and before 1936.

    While Friedling readily admits that Hayyim ha-Nitzchim is not an original work, no where does he mention R. Schwartz or Schwartz's work on yahrzeit.  Although Schwartz is not mentioned, there is no doubt that the section of Friedling's book dealing with yarhzeit used Schwartz.  Indeed, as one would expect, Schwartz read Friedling's book and realized that Friedling had "borrowed" material from Schwartz.  In Schwartz's responsa, Va-Yitzbor Yosef, no. 50, Schwartz has a letter to R. Moshe Tzvi Landau discussing Landau's book Shulhan Melachim (Beregovo, 1931).  In his comments on Landau's book, Schwartz discusses  plagiarism in general and notes that he is a victim of plagiarism and specifically that Friedling had used his materials without attribution.  Schwartz writes:

    You should be aware that there are entire published books that were never written [by the alleged authors], that is, without changing anything except the title [people have plagiarized books] indeed I am not immune to this behavior as one Polish rabbi (and in the approbations he is refered to a Goan and a tzaddik! what a joke) who printed a book under the title "Hayyim ha-Nitzchim", however, it is all mine which he stole from my small, in size, but great in content book "Mo'ad Kol Hayi" which I spent many years gathering and collecting all the laws [that appear in the book], and now from the "well" [this is a play on the word be'er that subltly references Friedling's journal Ha-Be'er] the deer [a play on Friedling's name Tzvi] has drunk without my knowledge, and in doing so has destroyed a world, he [Friedling] failed to give me proper recognition, how terrible it is for a generation to have this happen in their time.

    יען כי גם ספרים שלמים קובעים בדפוס אשר לא דרו ולא ילדו, ובלי שינוי מעשה  אך בשינוי שם לבד, כאשר עשה אתי עמי רב א' מפולין (ומתארין אותו עוד בההסכמות לגאון וצדיק! אשר הוא לשחוק) כי הדפיס ס' בשם "חיים הנצחיים", וכלו שלי הוא גנוב אתו מספרי קטן הכמות ורב האיכות "מועד כל חי" אשר יגעתי בו הרבה שנים ללקט ולקבץ כל הדינים בזה, ועתה מבא"ר ההוא משקה הצבי שבור העדרים בבלי דעת, ומחריב העולם, ואת מקומי לא הערה, ואוי לדור שכך עלתה בימיו.

    It seems that Friedling found out that R. Schwartz caught Friedling with his hand in the proverbial cookie jar and actually attempted to make amends.  In particular, I am aware of one copy of one edition of what one assumes is a reprint of Hayyim ha-Nitzchim that is at the Widener Memorial Library at Harvard University. In that copy, before the section discussing yahrzeit customs the following admission appears:

    To Admit and Reveal!

    Because most of the statements that appear in this work were gathered and collected from the work Mo'ad Kol Hayi which was written and published by the esteemed, erudite, and well-known Rabbi Yosef ha-Kohen Schwartz who lives in Grosswarden (and is the author of Tzafnat Panaech, Shu"t Genzei Yosef, and Hadrat Kodesh and previously edited the journal Va-Yelaket Yosef for twenty years).  And because of circumstances [beyond my control??] I forgot to mention this in the introduction of this work as I should have done, and when I publish this work a second time I will/have do so.  The Author

    Now, although we don't know the exact date this edition with the admission was published, we do know that it, at the very least, must have been published after 1931 and probably after 1936.  This is so, as Friedling mentions three of Schwartz's other works, the last one, Hadrat Kodesh, was published in 1931 so this admission which makes mention of Hadrat Kodesh was written after that. It is also likely that this admission was published after the appearance of R. Schwartz's Va-Yitzbor Yosef where Friedling is exposed.  Va-Yitzbor Yosef was published in 1936 and therefore it is possible that this version of Hayyim ha-Nitzchim was published some time after that.  But, as with all the editions of Hayyim ha-Nitzchim we don't know for certain exactly when they were published. 

    Be that as it may, we do have an example of a full admission of plagiarism, whether intentional or inadvertent based on this little know edition of Hayyim ha-Nitzchim.  In fact, as I mentioned I know of only one copy of this version of Hayyim ha-Nitzchim housed at the Widener Memorial Library at Harvard University and have never seen it in any other copies of the book. 

    For more on Schwartz's biography, see Naftali ben-Menachem's article on Schwartz in Mi-Safrut Yisrael be-Ungariah pp. 330-70; Y. Y. Cohen, Hakmei Translivania, 237-40.  Both Friedling and Schwartz shared a few common facts.  They both edited journals and it appears that both were killed in the Holocaust.

    Finally, I would like to thank Mr. Yair Rosenberg for sending me a scan of the above page, and for Mr. Menachem Butler for his help as well. 

    0 0
  • 12/21/08--09:49: The Name Machabee
  • The Name Machabee

    Recently, a whole spate of books have been published, both in English and Hebrew, discussing names (see below for a partial list).  These works tend to focus on the alleged importance of one's name and offer insights into the source and meaning of names.  Although typically not discussed in these books is a well-known name, one that around this time of year deserves attention - the name Machabee (alternatively spelled Machabeus, Maccabaeus, Maccabeus, or substituting a "k" for the "c"). 

    One should not mistake the understanding of the proper  etymology and spelling is merely an academic exercise, we begin with a statement of the Hatam Sofer.  The Hatam Sofer is discussing the issue of the appropriate place for appellations in a divorce document. That is, where does one put "shlita" or the like - immediately after the person's name but before the father's name, i.e. Shimon Shlita ben Yosef, or after the father's name Shimon ben Yosef Shlita.  Hatam Sofer attempts to show that the former is correct by appealing to  the name Machabee. According to some, the name Machabee is an abbreviation for "Matisyahu Kohen ben Yochanon." Thus, the Hatam Sofer argues, demonstrates that the appellation, in this case "Kohen" appears immediately after the name and not at the end.  Ultimately, Hatam Sofer concedes that Machabee is not a perfect proof in so far as the reason for the placement of Kohen immediately following a name is because if placed solely at the end one may assume that the Kohen only applies to the father, who, engaged in an illicit relationship rendering his son a halal one who is no longer a kohen.  Thus, Machabee doesn't help for the general question of appellation placements.

    However, R. Y.S. Spiegel in an series of articles discussing ראשי תיבות analyzes this Hatam Sofer and points out that the Hatam Sofer's understanding is predicated on a reading of מכבי and not מקבי. But, as Spiegel explains, מקבי has some support. And, as we will discuss below, the entire basis of the word is Greek it is especially difficult to use the word, irrespective of its spelling for much of anything.

    Before preceding further, we should briefly discuss where the name Machabee first appears.  It does not appear in classic Rabbinic literature such as the Mishna or Talmud.  Indeed, nor can one point to the name of the book entitled Machabee and has four volumes, i.e. Machabees I, Machabees II and so forth, as has been shown, the title of these books were given much later than their composition.  In fact, the title was most probably given by early Christian editors/translators of the Bible.  (See generally, Uriel Rappaprot, The First Book of Maccabees, Yad Ben-Zvi, Jerusalem, 2004, pp. 12-13).  Instead, the most likely candidate for the original title was סרבת סרבניאל or סרבני-אל. 

    The first appearance of the word Machabee does appear in the work bearing the title Machabees I.  In particular, it states:

    In those days arose Mattathias the son of John, the son of Simeon, a priest of the sons of Joarib, from Jerusalem, and dwelt in Modin.  And he had five sons, Joannan, called Caddis.  Simon, called Thassi.  Judas, who was called Maccabeus. Eliezer, call Avaran, and Jonathan, whose surmane was Apphus.

    Machabees I, chapter 2, verses 1-5.  One of the earliest persons to deal with the meaning of the word Machabee was R. Azariah Di Rossi, in his Me'or Eynaim

    According to Samotheus, "Maccabee" is a Greek word that is translated as paladino (fighter) in Italian.  But I have been told by others that he received the designation Maccabee because it was inscribed on his banner and derived from the acrostic based on the words Mi Kamokha Ba-elim Hashem.  But this interpretation is not consistent with the fact that On the Maccabees is the title Josephus gave to the work in which he describes the sufferings of Eleazar and Hannah and her seven sons, and this episode predated the rise of Hasmonean dynasty.  But the first explanation would fit, since they, too, [i.e. Eleazar and Hannah who suffered martyrdom] were also fighters.

    Me'or Eynaim, Imrei Binah, section two, chapter 21.  Now, Weinberg, in her translation which the above was taken from with one minor alteration, explains that Somatheus is Johannes Lucidus Samotheus and this appears in his Opusculum, bk. 2, ch. 10, 25v.  Di Rossi accepted Samotheus' explanation that Machabee means fighter and is a Greek word.  Although not discussed by Di Rossi, Greek origin of the word makes sense in light of the fact that it was not only Judah who had a title, but his other brothers as well and those titles are Greek. Returning to Di Rossi, Di Rossi rejects the other explanation that Machabee is an acrostic because it was applied by Josephus to a story that long pre-dated Judah's existence.  It is worth noting that the second and rejected explanation is perhaps the more well known explanation of the word, Weinberg in her translation, however, admits that "I do not know the source for this explanation."  p. 343 n.12.  This rather surprising as the source for this understanding of Machabee appears in numerous sources, including the Rokeach (Pirush Siddur ha-Teffilah le-Rokeach, Jerusalem 1992, 219 & n.105), Tzoror ha-Meor (Parshat Veshahan), Shelah as well as many others. It is unclear why Weinberg was unable to locate any of these sources.  

    Although Di Rossi had a good reason for rejecting the Mi Kamokha explanation, it didn't stop some from holding on to it. R. David Ganz, in his Tzemach David, argues that perhaps while Judah was the main person to use Machabee, the term may have been applied to earlier persons as well.  Levin, in his Mi-Boker ad Erev, rejects this. Levin states, "with all respect to R. David Ganz, however, does this make any logical sense? In general, is it possible to prove that the son of Matisyahu was called "Judah Mi Kamokha Ba-elim Hashem" and even if one is to assume that this was his slogan?  Further, if one is going to argue that Machabee is an abbreviation can't the word be explained in hundreds of different ways, for example, Mattisyahu Kohen ben Yochanan.  This intrepretation, of Mattisyahu Kohen ben Yochanan, makes the least sense, as anyone with a brain will admit that it makes no sense that Judah the son of Mattisyahu's name was called "Judah Mattisyahu Kohen ben Yochanan." 

    A lesser known explanation was offered by Solmon Zeitlin who explained that during the Hellenistic period many people were called based upon their appearances. For example, Antichos VIII referred to Grippas as "the nose" due to his large nose.  Zeitlin accepts that Machabee is based on makbas, a hammer and thus, in keeping with the norms Judah had a hammer shaped head  - a block head.  Thus, Judah was Judah the Hammer Head. 

    Levin, cites other explanations including that if makbas means a hammer it is not a large hammer but instead a small one used by a blacksmith. According to this explanation, Machabee refers to Judah's occupation a blacksmith.   Indeed, if one looks to the story of Yael, she used a makabas which assuming she was of normal strength was probably not a huge hammer but a small one. Ultimately, Levin rejects this.  Levin also rejects Munks explanation that Machabee refers to Hammer as used as an honorific for Charles Martel - Martel the Hammer - for his victory over the Muslims between Tours and Poitiers.  Another explanation is that Machabee refers to a place - but then it should read mi-chabani

    To briefly return to the proper spelling.  A bit of background.  The Book of Machabees was written originally written in Hebrew but at best, the word Machabee was merely a transliteration from Greek.  We no longer have the original and only have the early Greek and Latin translations which were transliterating the word.  While there are essentially two schools regarding the original spelling - either with a kuf or with a chuf, that is was it spelled in Hebrew מכבי or מקבי.  Of course, some of the explanations discussed above depend on how it was spelled in Hebrew. Now, I won't attempt to go through the discussion on this, but refer the interested reader to Curtis's dissertation on the topic to which we shall presently turn. 

    Samuel Ives Curtiss, Jr. wrote an entire dissertation on the word Machabee, The Name Machabee, Leipzig, 1876.  In it, he discusses the various theories regarding the original Hebrew spelling and ultimately concludes that it was spelled מכבי.  Others, however, attempt to show that the original was מקבי. I am not qualified to offer an opinion on the correctness of either.  That said, Curtiss has a rather interesting and lesser known explaination regarding the etymology of the word.  He argues that in the time of Judah the state of the Jews "was most pitiable.  An insolent blasphemous and cruel foe filled the land, desecrated their sacred places, profanded the rite of circumcision . . . The one thought of Mattathias and his followers might well have been: How shall we extinguish these firebrands which are spreading death and desolation throughout the land."  Curtis continues that the word "מכבי as a simple word there is but one probable, I might also say possible, derivation for it, and this is from כבה to be extinguished, Piel to extinguish."  That is what Machabee (which would be pronounced using a kametz) means. 

    One final explanation and perhaps the most outrageous is that of Winkler who argues that since Machabee means hammer and hammer is used symbolically by the Greeks to refer to Gods perhaps Judah never existed and was merely a God like Zeus or Thor.  Levin, rejects this as we have historical evidence that Judah existed but it is worth showing how far out the theories are.

    [For additional posts regarding Chanukah see here.]


    Samuel Ives Curtiss, Jr., The Name Machabee, Leipzig, 1876
    N.D. Rabinowich, Benu Shenot Dor ve-Dor, 1986, 177-186
    Y. Levin, Me-Boker ad Erev, Jerusalem, 1981, 13-18
    Y. Tabory, Moadei Yisroel Betekufos Hamishna Vhatalmud, 2000, 367
    M. Adler, Hasmonei u-Banav, 2003, 46
    Y.S. Spiegel, "Uncommon Abbreviations", Yeshurun 11 (2002) 923-24
    A. Saba, Tzror Ha-Me'or, 261, stating:
     וזה חנוכה, לרמוז שבכח שם ה' וייחודו נצחו המלחמה, לא בחיל ולא בכח... אלא בשם ה' של הייחוד שהוא כלול בשם המפורש של ע"ב. וזהו מי כמוך באלים ה' בראשי תיבות מכב"י שעולה ע"ב. ולפי שהוא דבר סתר עושים בו ברוך כבוד ה' ממקומו (בר"ת בכי"מ (אותוית מכבי) . ולכן לפי טעם זה היו קורין לחשמונאים מכביאו"ש על שם הסוד שהיו נוצחים בכח שם השם ובכח שם המפורש של ע"ב שהוא מכב"י (פ' ואתחנן עמ' רסא)  

    Here are a few of the books devoted to names that have recently been published:
    A. Taharni, Keter Shem Tov, Jerusalem, 2000, 2 vol.
    M. Rubin, Koreh Shemo, Hebron, [2002]
    R. Weinberger, Tolodot Shem, Jerusalem, 2004
    Y.Z. Wilhelm, Kuntres Ziv ha-Shemot, Brooklyn, 2006

    0 0

    The Chanukah Omission
    by Eliezer Brodt

    Every Yom Tov we celebrate has different questions relating to it which become famous and are discussed from all different angles. Chanukah too has its share of famous questions. In this post I would like to deal with one such question which is famous but the answers are mostly not. The question is why is there no special Meshecta devoted to Chanukah as opposed to all other Yom Tovim [1]. Over the years many answers have been given some based on hassidus, others based on machshava, and still others in a kabablistic vein [2]. In this post I will try to discuss a few different approaches to answer the question. In dealing with this question I will touch on some other topics amongst them what is Megilat Taanis, when was it written, and what Rabbenu Hakodesh did in regard to the writing of the Mishna.
    One of the answers given to this question of why there is no Mishna on Chanuka is based on the famous Rambam who writes:

    אבל דיני הציצית והתפלין והמזוזות וסדר עשייתן והברכות הראויות להן וכן הדינים השייכים לכך והשאלות שנתעוררו בהן אין ממטרת חבורנו לדבר בכך לפי שאנחנו מפרשים והרי המשנה לא קבעה למצות אלו דברים מיוחדים הכוללים את כל משפטיהם כדי שנפרשם, וטעם הדבר לדעתי פרסומן בזמן חבור המשנה, ושהם היו דברים מפורסמים רגילים אצל ההמונים והיחידים לא נעלם ענינם מאף אחד, ולפיכך לא היה מקום לדעתו לדבר בהם, כשם שלא קבע סדר התפלה כלומר נוסחה וסדר מנוי שליח צבור מחמת פרסומו של דבר, לפי שלא חסר סדור אלא חבר ספר דינים (פירוש המשנה, מנחות פרק ד משנה א).
    Thus, according to the Rambam, things that are well known were not required to be mentioned in the Mishna.  There are those who posit that this rationale applies to Chanukah.  That is, Chanukah was also well known that’s why it was not necessary to be written. [3] [Regarding the Rambam's comments in general see R. Reuven Margolis in Yesod Hamishna Vearichasa pp. 22-23].
    The problem with this answer would be best illustrated with R. Yakov Shor's comments on this statement of the Rambam. [See R. Y. Shor, Mishnas Ya'akov Jerusalem:1990; 33-34]. R. Shor questions the entire premise of the Rambam that the laws and details of teffilin were well known when these mitzvot are very complicated with many details.  Indeed, they are arguably much more complex than kriyat Shema which does have its own mesechtah. To answer this, R. Shor suggests that there was a Mesectah Soferim devoted to the laws of teffilin - this is lost but forms the basis of our Mesectah Sofrim which we have today.
    With this introduction we can perhaps understand the following answers to the question about Chanukah, of which the assumption is there was a Mescatas Chanukah but has been lost.
    The Rishonim refer to "Seven Minor Meschetot," however, the earlier Achronim did not have these Meschetot.  Today, we do have "Seven Meschetot," although as we shall see not all agree that these are the same that the Rishonim had.  During the period these Meschetot were unknown there was some speculation as to what they contained.  R. Avraham Ben HaGra quotes his father about which were the titles of the שבע מסכות

    אמנם שמעתי מאדוני אבי הגאון נר"ו שהשבע מסכות קטנות המה חוץ מאשר נמצא לנו והן מסכת תפלין ומסכת חנוכה ומסי' מזוזה. (רב ופעלים, הקדמה דף ח ע"א)
    He repeats this in his introduction to Medrash Aggadah Bereshis (see also Yeshurun 4:228).
    We see that the Gra held that there was a Mesechet titled Chanukah. Now as far as we know today none of the seven Meschetot are about Chanukah. [4] But it could very well be there was such a Mesechet which was lost.  R. David Luria (Radal) [5] assumes as much and uses this assumption to understand the Teshuvos Hageonim which states:

    ובא אלינו איש חכם וחסיד זקן ודרש בישיבה כתיב ופן תשא עיניך השמימה וראית את השמש זה נדר ואת הירח זו שבועה... וסדר משנה תוספת על סדרי שלנו ראינו בידו שהיה מביא ולא זכינו להעתיק שסבתו גדולה ונחפז ללכת ואתם אחינו הזהרו בענין זה וטוב לכם. (שערי תשובה, סימן קמג)
    That is, this Geonic statement evidences additional Meschetot that are no longer extant. 

    A different answer given by many [6] is that the reason why Rebbe did not have a whole Mesechet about Chanukah was because there was one already Megilat Tannis!
    The Pirish ha-Eshel on Megilat Tannis (p. 58) wants to suggest that the Gra did not mean that there was a Mesechet titled Chanukah.  Instead, the Gra mean to reference Megilat Tannis.  Indeed, in earlier printings of the Shas it was included with the Meschetot Ketanyot. [7]
    Whether or not the Gra meant Megilat Tannis many do say that Megilat Tannis is really Mesechet Chanukah as the most important chapter and lengthy entry is about Chanukah and therefore the question why Rebbi did not include a Meschet about Chanukah was simply because there was one already - Megilat Tannis. 
    This answer was backed up with a statement found in the Behag which says:

    זקני בית שמאי ובית הלל,... והם כתבו מגילת תעניות...
    The problem with this answer is that while Megilat Tannis is our earliest written text (besides for Pirkei De-Reb Eliezer, see Radal's introduction to his edition of the Pirkei De-Reb Eliezer) dating from much before our Mishnayot, Migilat Tannis contains significant additions from a later time. To clarify, in the standard Megilat Tannis there are two parts one written in Aramaic which are various fast days and one part written in Hebrew which includes a lengthier description of the topic. The Mahritz Chiyus and Radal say that the Aramaic part was written very early when it was not permissible to really write Torah Shel Bal Peh but at a later point when it was permitted to write than the Hebrew parts were added. Mahritz Chiyus says it was after the era of Rabenu Hakodesh. Earlier than him R. Yakov Emden writes in his introduction to his notes on MT that it was completed at the end of the era of the Tanaaim. Now, the bulk of the discussion regarding Chanukah that appears in MT is in the Hebrew part. Thus, historically, it doesn't make sense that Rebbi did not include Chanukah in the Mishna because of sections of MT that had yet to be written. 

    Indeed, the Gedolim who first suggested that MT is the reason why Rabbenu Hakodesh did not include it in Mishnayois were not aware of this point that it was written at two different time periods. However R. D. Horowitz in an article in Haples turns the historical difficultly on its head when he argues that the person who wrote those Hebrew parts was Rabbenu Hakodesh. [8] In fact, in one of the editions of Megilat Tannis it says on the Shar Blat Megilat Tannis which is Mesechet Chanukah (the original edition with the Pirush ha-Eshel). The problem with R. Horowitz point is that it seems most likely that it was later than Rabbenu Hakodesh.[9]

    Another answer in the same vein as above was suggested by R. Schick (Torah Shleimah 3:156a).  R. Schik argues that there was a Sefer Hashmonaim which recorded the nissim etc written by Shamei and Hillel and therefore there was no separate Mishna. This seems to be based on the quote (quoted partially earlier) mentioned from the Behag which says:

    זקני בית שמאי ובית הלל, הם כתבו מגלית בית חשמונאי...
    Others say this might be a reference to Sefer Makabeyium or Megilat Antiyucus. However although it is likely what we have is from early times but it is not clear at all how early it is from. [See Radal in his introduction to Pirkei De Reb Eliezer, Binu Shnos Dor Vedor, pp. 121-150; N. Fried in Minhaghei Yisroel, vol. 5, pp. 102-20; Areshet vol.4 p. 166; Y. Tabori, Moadei Yisroel Betekufos Hamishna Vehatalmud, p. 390; Moadim le-Simcha p. 253-265, and Hasmonai U-Banav p. 21].

    Just for its bibliographical purpose in truth there is a book bearing the title Mesechet Chanukah but it was written in a parody form similar to Mesechet Purim of R. Klonymus the manuscript was printed in Areshet (3:182-191) [See also I. Davidson in Parody in Jewish Literature pg 39].  One of the things we see from this parody is the widespread custom of playing cards on Chanukah.
    There is a interesting unknown correspondence on this topic between the Aderes and R. Yakov Kahana (Shut Toldos Yakov, Siman 29) about the topic of a Mesechet Chanukah.  The Aderes wrote to R. Kahana:
    ומה שתמה על הש"ס למה לא הביאו האי בבא דמגילת תעניות גם אנכי הערתי בזה ומצאתי תמי' זו בהגהת הרצ"ה חיות ז"ל ובימי עולמו כתבתי מזה בס"ד ולא אדע אנה. ואשר התפלא מדוע לא נמצא הא דחנוכה בירושלמי באמת גם במשנה לא נמצא אולם בסוף פ"ו דב"ק שם נמצא וגם מעט בירושלמי בשלהי תרומות. ואנכי מתפלא מאד דגם מצות כתיבת ספר תורה לא נמצא במשנה...
    R. Yakov Kahana wrote a lengthy response.  He explained that it does not bother him that the Mishana does not mention this story of Chanukah from MT as the Bavli does not mention any of the incidences in MT. He is more bothered by the omission of the Yerushalmi of this story as the Yerushlmi does mention other incidences of MT.  As to writing a sefer Torah not being mentioned in the Mishana R. Kahana  gives a lengthy list of all the Mitzvos that are not discussed in the Mishna (and the list is long).  
    L. Ginsburg (Ginzei Schechter 2:476) writes :  
    וראוי להעיר שבתלמוד ארץ ישראל כמעט לא נזכרו דיני חנוכה כלל לא בדברי התנאים ולא בדברי האמוראים ורק בבבל שעובדי האש גזרו על מצוה זו וככל מצוה שמסרו ישראל נפשם עליה נתחזקה מאד בידיהם... 
    Another answer based on historical information is from the Edos Beyosef (2:15) who quotes the following Yerushalmi which says:
    בימי טרוגיינוס הרשע נולד לו בן בתשעה באב והיו מתענין מתה בתו בחנוכה והדליקו נירות שלחה אשתו ואמרה לו עד שאת מכבש את הברבריים בוא וכבוש את היהודים שמרדו בך חשב מיתי לעשרה יומין ואתא לחמשה אתא ואשכחון עסיקין באורייתא בפסוקא ישא עליך גוי מרחוק מקצה הארץ וגומ' אמר לון מה מה הויתון עסיקין אמרון ליה הכין וכן אמר לון ההוא גברא הוא דחשב מיתי לעשרה יומין ואתא לחמשה והקיפן ליגיונות והרגן אמר לנשיהן נשמעות אתם לליגיונותי ואין אני הורג אתכם אמרון ליה מה דעבדת בארעייא עביד בעילייא ועירב דמן בדמן והלך הדם בים עד קיפרוס באותה השעה נגדעה קרן ישראל ועוד אינה עתידה לחזור למקומה עד שיבוא בן דוד (תלמוד ירושלמי, סוכה, פרק ה)
      Based on this he [10] writes:
    וכתיבת דיני נר חנוכה יש בה פירסום יותר מהדלקה מפני שהדלקה היא בבתי ישראל בזמן מועט חי' ימים בשנה חצי שעה בכלל לילה ואפ' זה סמיה בידן להדליק בפנים אם יש חשש סכנה אבל דבר בכתב קיים כל הימים ומתפשט בעולם על ידי כל אדם המעתיקם כל מה שרוצה... ומפני זה השמיט רבי כתיבת דיני חנוכה..
    Another answer based on historical information is from R. Yeshouyah Preil in Eglei Tal who writes (pp. 17-18)

    כי הנה אנדריונוס קיסר אחרי הכניעו את המורדים בביתר שפך כאש חמתו על כל ישראל וישבת חגם, חרשם ושבתם כי גזר על שבת ויום טוב מלה ונדה וכיוצא בו, אולם בימי המלך הבא אחריו אנטוניוס פיוס ידידו של רבי רוח לישראל כמעט, אך כנראה לא השיב את גזרת ההולך לפניו בדבר חנוכה, כי באמת יקשה גם על מלך חסיד כמוהו להניח חג לאומי כזה לעם אשר זה מעט הערה למות נפשו ואך בעמל רב נגרע קרנו זה שנות מספר, ועל כן לא היה יכול רבינו הקדוש נשיא ישראל לדבר בזה בפומי
    R. Reven Margolis [11] has a very interesting answer to this question:

    ובכן כאשר תלמי המלך בזמנו צוה להעתיק לו התורה שבכתב לידע מה כתיב בה כן התענייה הנציבות לידע תוכן התורה שבעל פה ... דרישה כזאת היא אשר יכלה להמריץ את נשיא ישראל להתעודד ולערוך בספר גלוי לכל העמים תורת היהודים וקבלתם יסודי התורה שבעל פה להתודע ולהגלות שאין בה הטחת דברים נגד כל אומה ולשון ולא כל תעודה מדינית. ואחר אשר חשב רבי שספרו יבוקר מאנשי מדע העומדים מחוץ ליהודת שיחרצו עליו משפטם לפני כס הממשלה המרכזית ברומא. נבין למה השמיט ממשנתו דברים חשובים עקרים בתורת ישראל ... כן לא שנה ענין חנוכה והלכותיה במשנה, בעוד אשר להלכות פורים קבע מסכת מיוחדת, שזהו לאשר כל כאלו היו למרות רוח הרומיים שחשבום כענינים פוליטיים חגיגת הנצחון הלאומי ותוקת חפשיותו.

    R. Alexander Moshe Lapidos answers:

    לא נכתבה מגילת חנוכה, לפי שנתקנה להורות תוקף תורה שבעל פה, ותולדתיה כיוצא שלא נכתבה... חנוכה המורה על תורה שבעל פה ע"כ לא ניתנה להכתב...  (תורת הגאון רבי אלכסנדר משה, עמ' רנו).

    Another answer given by R. Alexander Moshe Lapidos [12]:

    דבקושי התירו לכתוב תורה שבעל פה והיו פסקי פסקי. מתחלה סתימת המשנה בימי רבנו הקדוש. ואחר זה בימי רבינא ורב אשי חתימת התלמוד, והשאר היו נוהגין במגלת סתרים עד שלאחר זה הותר לגמרי לפרסם בכתב כל מה שתלמיד ותיק מחדש. ורבנו הקדוש לא הרשה רק מה שהוא לפירוש לתורה שבעל פה ומה שיש לו סמך בכתוב, או מה שהוא לסייג, כמו הלל וברכות, ערובין, נטילת ידים, נר שבת ומגלה (מחיית עמלק). אבל חנוכה שאיננו לא פירוש ואין לו סמך בכתוב, ולא לסייג, לא היה נהוג רק במגלת סתרים בבריתות דר"ח ור"א... רק נרמזה במשנה ב"ק סוף פ"ו ואחריה הורשה לפרסם בכתב בתלמוד.

    An interesting addition to this could be based on R. Shlomo Zalman Auerbach [13] who said:

    יש להבין אם מצוה זו כ"כ חביבה היא לנו, כמו שכתב הרמב"ם שמצוה חביבה היא עד מאד, למה באמת לא ניתנה ליכתב, אולם עיקר כריתת ברית שכרת הקב"ה עם ישראל הוא רק בעבור תורה שבעל פה כמו שכתב בגיטין ס' ע"ב ומשום כך הואיל ומלכות יון הרשעה רצתה שלא יהי' לנו ח"ו חלק באלקי ישראל, לכן נתחבבה מצוה זו ביותר שנשארה כולה תורה שבעל פה אשר רק על ידי תורה שבעל פה איכא כריתת ברית בינינו ובין ה' ולכן אפילו במשניות לא נזכר כלל דיני חנוכה וכל ענין חנוכה כי אם במקומות אחדים בדרך רמז בעלמא.

    R. Dov Berish Askenazi writes:

    ולכן לא נכתב נס חנוכה בכתבי קודש רק הוא מקובל לנו מאבותינו הקדושים שכל עצמו של אותו נס לא בא רק להורות על אמתת הקבלה אשר מורשה היא לנו איש מפי איש עד משה רבינו מסיני... (נודע בשערים, דף קי ע"ב).

    Another answer suggested by R. Chanoch Ehrentreu [14] is that:

    שגוף המשנה על חלקיה העיקריים הוא מעשה אנשי כנסת הגדולה... לאחר ימי אנשי כנסת הגדולה השלימו תנאים במקום שהיה טעון השלמה והוסיפו בשעה שנזקקו להוסיף, וחלקו על פירושה של משנה ראשונה וגם מסרו מחלוקות אלה לדורות. אך המשנה עצמה עתיקה מהלכות חנוכה. לכן ברור שתנאים שנו הלכות בענין חנוכה ונר חנוכה, אך כיון שכבר לא נמצא להם מקום בגוף המשנה נאספו אלה בברייתות.

    This answer is assuming that there were parts of the Mishna that existed earlier than Rebbe and he was just an editor, this leads us to the next explanation.

    One of the most famous answers given to this question was by the Chassam Sofer who is quoted to have said:

    מרגלא בפומי' כי נס חנוכה לא נזכר כלל במשנה ואמר טעמו כי רבנו הקדוש מסדר המשנה הי' מזרע דוד המלך ונס חנוכה נעשה על ידי חשמונאים שתפסו המלוכה ולא היה מזרע דוד וזה הרע לרבנו הקדוש ובכתבו המשנה על פי רוח הקודש נשמט הנס מחיבורו (חוט המשולש, דף נ ע"א).

    Others bring this answer without saying a source [15]. This statement generated much controversy where many went so far as to deny that the Chasam Sofer said such a thing.[16] The bulk of the issues with this answer were dealt with by R. Moshe Zvi Neriah in an excellent article on the topic [17]. The most obvious being that Chanukah is mentioned in the Mishnah a few times the question is just why there isn’t a complete mesectah devoted to it.

    The explanation in the Chasam Sofer seems to be based in part on the Ramban (not everyone agrees to this Ramban [18]) who writes:

    זה היה עונש החשמונאים שמלכו בבית שני, כי היו חסידי עליון, ואלמלא הם נשתכחו התורה והמצות מישראל, ואף על פי כן נענשו עונש גדול, כי ארבעת בני חשמונאי הזקן החסידים המולכים זה אחר זה עם כל גבורתם והצלחתם נפלו ביד אויביהם בחרב. והגיע העונש בסוף למה שאמרו רז"ל (ב"ב ג ב) כל מאן דאמר מבית חשמונאי קאתינא עבדא הוא, שנכרתו כלם בעון הזה. ואף על פי שהיה בזרע שמעון עונש מן הצדוקים, אבל כל זרע מתתיה חשמונאי הצדיק לא עברו אלא בעבור זה שמלכו ולא היו מזרע יהודה ומבית דוד, והסירו השבט והמחוקק לגמרי, והיה עונשם מדה כנגד מדה, שהמשיל הקדוש ברוך הוא עליהם את עבדיהם והם הכריתום: ואפשר גם כן שהיה עליהם חטא במלכותם מפני שהיו כהנים ונצטוו (במדבר יח ז) תשמרו את כהונתכם לכל דבר המזבח ולמבית לפרכת ועבדתם עבודת מתנה אתן את כהונתכם, ולא היה להם למלוך רק לעבוד את עבודת ה': (בראשית מט,י)

    R. Weinberger [19] says that what the Chasam Sofer meant was:

    דגם זה עשה רבינו הקדוש לשם שמים כמו דכל מעשיו היו לשם שמים, כלומר מאחר דחשמונאים דעל ידיהם נעשה הנס, והמה עי"ז עשו שתפסו המלוכה מזרע דוד, ולהכי לא הזכירם במשנה ולא מחמת כבודו וכבוד בית אבותיו.

    Interestingly enough the Chasam Sofer in his Chidushim on Gittin (78a) writes:

    ואל תתמה שהרי בשום מקום במשנה לא נזכר שיניח אדם תפלין... ולא תנן חייב אדם להדליק נר חנוכה אל גץ... ונר חנוכה גופא היכי הוזכר במשנה אלא רגילים הי' בכך ולא הזכיר...

    Whether the Chasam Sofer did say it or not we have testimony from a reliable source that another godol said it as is recorded by Chasdei Avos [20] who is citing the Chidushei Harim:

    דבשביל שהי' לבם של בית הנשיא מרה על החשמונאים, שנטלו מהם המלוכה, והוא נגד התורה דלא יסור משבט יהודה, כמו שכתב ברמב"ן ויחי, לכן לא הזכיר רבנו הקדוש דיני חנוכה במשנה.


    This explanation of the Chasam Sofer (nothing to do with him saying it) was the accepted explanation in most of academic literature for many years  as to why the Mishna omits the story of Chanukah. A while back G. Alon wrote a now classic article proving that this was not true at all. A little later on S. Safrai backed this up. They both showed that there is positive mention of the Chasmonim in Halacha.[21]

    To conclude this recently a very through and important article was written on the topic by M. Benovitz  printed in Torah Lishmah (pg 39-78) showing how the Yom Tov of Chanukah developed over time. But due to lack of time I can not discuss what he says. [Thanks to M.M. Honig for this source].

    This whole issue was a small part of a famous debate started a while back. In 1891, Chaim Slonimski wrote a short article in Hazefirah (issue #278) questioning why there is no mention in Sefer Hasmonaim and Josephus of the miracle of the oil lasting eight days. Furthermore, he questioned why the Rambam omits the miracle of the oil when detailing the miracles of Chanukah. [The truth is this general question was raised much earlier by the Meor Eynayim (ch. 51, p. 429)] As can be expected this article generated many responses in the various papers and journals of the time and even a few seforim. A little later while defending his original article Slonimski wrote:


    וכל דיני הלכות חנוכה לא מצינו בדברי בעל המשנה רק מן האמוראים שגמרא שבת...


    R. Ginsberg in his Emunat Chachimim (pg 4a-4b) already points out that it is mentioned in Baba Kama. But I think his point was more about sefer Chashmonim and Yosefin. R. Lipshitz in Derech Emunah defended this based on MT as quoted above. R. Y. Sapir (Nes Pach Shel Shemen, pg 30) also wrote such a defense. But Slonimski said that the MT is a late addition.[22]


     *I would like to thank to Professor Spiegel, M.M. Honig and Dan Rabinowitz for their help with this post.

    [1] Chanukah is mentioned a few times in Mishnayos but the issue here is why isn’t there a whole Mesechet devoted to it. See Machnayim 34:81-86 [See Tifres Yeruchem pg 60, 414]. As an aside, in the Zohar there is also no mention of Chanukah see Tifres Zvi (3:397,465) and R. Yakov Chaim Sofer in Beis Aron ve-Yisroel (18:2, pg 110) and his Menuchos Shelomo (11: 43). 
    [2] Chasidus sources: see Bnei Yissaschar , Ohev Yisroel and Moadim le-Simcha p. 38. For machashava sources see Sifsei Chaim (2:131); Pachad Yitzchak (pp. 29-32); Alei Tamar (Megilah p. 87); R. Munk, Shut Pas Sadecha, (introduction, p. 7). As to Kabblah the Yad Neman writes (p. 2b) that when he met R. Dovid Pardo author of the classic work on Toseffta Chasdei Dovid he told him a reason based on kabblah. 
    [3] The earliest sources who says this answer is R. Hayyim Abraham Miridna, Yad Neman, Solonika, 1804, p. 2b.  Subsequently, many others give this answer (all on their own) such as the Mahritz Chiyus (Toras Haneviyim p. 105), R. Yakov Reiffmann (Knesses Hagedolah (3:90)), Pirish ha-Eshel on Megilat Tannis (p. 58b) Beis Naftoli son (#28), Yad Yitchach (#295) R. Hershovitz in Minhagei Yeshurun (pg 48) Dorot Harishonim (4:46a) [see also R. Eliyhu Schleiseinger in Moriah (25:123) and in his Ner Ish Ubeso pg 338-339].
    [4] See Heiger in his introduction to Mesechtot Ketanot p. 6 and M. Lerner in The Literature of the Sages volume one pg 400-403 (thanks to P. Roth for this source). 
    [5] Radal notes to Midrash Rabbah Emor (22:1). See R. Nachman Greenspan, Pilpulah Shel Torah p. 60 and his Melechet Machshevet p. 6. See also the Radal's comments in Kadmus Hazohar at the end of section two;  R. Dovid Hoffman, Mishnah ha-Rishonah, pp.12-13;Yesod Hamishna ve-Arechsa  p. 29 (and nt.15) & 17.
    [6] The earliest source who says this is R. Yosef Hayyim ben Siman, Edos Beyosef, Livorno, 1800 (2:15). The Chida quotes this explanation in his dershos Devarim Achadim (derush 32) R. Lipshitz in Derech Emunah p. 24 also provides this explanation.
    [7] Pirush ha-Eshel p. 58 see also his introduction to MT. The piece on pg 58 is not found in the new Oz Vehadar edition as the Pirish Haeshel was printed only partially see this post. It would appear that the Gra held there was a real meschatah called Chanukah like the Radal seems to understand him as his great nephew brings in his introduction to his work on Avos Beis Avos writes:
    ואמר לי איך ששמע מדו"ז הגאון מו"ה אלי' ז"ל שהיו כמה וכמה מסכות על המדות כמו מסכתא ענוה ומסכתא בטחון וכדומה רק שנאבדה ממנו. 
    [8] Mahritz Chiyus, vol. 1, pp. 153-54; Radal, Kadmus Hazohar, p. 269.  Haples vol. one pg. 182.

    [9] The time period of the MT and the two versions (and the nature of the work in general) have been discussed by many just to cite some of the important sources: see Y. Tabori, Moadei Yisroel Betekufos Hamishna Vehatalmud, pp. 307-22; Yesod Hamishna ve-Arechsa , p. 12 & n.26, p. 20 ;R. N. D. Rabanowitz, Beno Shnos Dor Vedor, pp. 28-46; V. Noam in The Literature of the Sages volume two, pp. 339-62; see also the introduction to her excellent edition of Megilat Tanit. See the nice introduction to the Oz Vehadar edtion of MT. See also M. Bar Ilan, Sinai 98 (1986) pp. 114-37. See also the important points in Yechusei Tanaim ve-Amorim (Maimon edition) pp. 398-399.
    [10]  R.Y. Buczvah in Shut Beis Halachmei (#4) does not like this answer as than other yom tovim also should not be included. Regarding this Yerushalim, see: Yesod Hamishna ve-Arechsa p.22 nt.5; Ali Tamar, Sukkah p. 152; Y. Tabori, Moadei  Yisroel be-Tekufat ha-Mishna ve-HaTalmud, p. 373; Tzit Eliezer, 19:26.

    [11] Yesod Hamishna ve-Arechsa pp. 21-22. See also R. Freidman in Machanayim 16:12 and R. M. Cohen in Machanayim 37:43.

    [12 ]  This answer is brought by R. Yakov Reiffmann in Knesses Hagedolah (3:90) where he brings that R. Alexander Moshe Lapidos wrote this answer to him. This is historically interesting as it shows that there was a connection between the two even though he was a known maskil (for more on R. Yakov Reiffmann ties with Litvish Gedoilm see here ). As an aside this piece of R. Alexander Moshe Lapidos is omitted from the otherwise excellent, recently printed, collection of all of R. Alexander Moshe Lapidos Torah in Torat Hagoan Reb Alexander Moshe.  A similar idea to this is found in Tifres Zvi (3:465).
    [13] Halechot Shlomo (p. 306 n.42). See also Shalmei Moed p. 254.

    [14] Iyunim B'divrei Chaz

    0 0
  • 12/31/08--06:44: Review: Macsanyuh Shel Torah

    Review: Me'achsanya Shel ha-Torah

    by Eliezer Brodt

    Me'achsanya Shel ha-Torah, Rabbi Moshe Hubner, ed., New York, 2008, 297 pp.


    As mentioned in the past, there is an austounding amount of seforim being published.  One genre, that is bursting at the seams, is sefarim on Chumash. There are seforim printed from famous people; some are still with us, while others have been gone for many years. These seforim focus on all kinds of topics: mussar, machashavah, pshat, kabbalah, d'rush, and halachah. In truth, it is virtually impossible to keep up with what is printed. I would, however, like to mention just one such sefer printed this year: Me'achsanya Shel ha-Torah. This sefer is composed of three generations of Torah from the Hubner family. Most notably, Rabbi Shmuel Hubner, z"l, who was a big Rav for many years; ybl"ch, his son, Rabbi Y. Hubner; and his grandson, Rabbi Moshe Hubner, a young author who is frequently featured in the Hamodia Magazine Torah section. This sefer contains many interesting pieces on Chumash, some short and many long, representing unique and interesting topics and styles in learning. Aside from the many interesting chiddushim presented, it is worthwhile to note the mention of many rare and exotic sefarim quoted as sources throughout the work. As in almost any sefer, a variety of interesting content can be found apart from the actual body of the work. I would like to mention just a few of the interesting discussions I found in this sefer.


    The sefer begins with a very nice but straight to the point biography of Rabbi Shmuel Hubner, written by his son, Rabbi Y. Hubner. This biography was based on stories heard from Rabbi Shmuel Hubner throughout his lifetime (1891-1983). Rabbi S. Hubner  made his rounds in Europe, meeting many different gedolim (almost like a Forrest Gump). (One gets the impression that there are many more nice stories that should have been printed here.) Just to mention some of the facts mentioned: Rabbi S. Hubner attended the levayah of Harav Yosef Engel, zt"l, and heard the famous hesped of Harav Meir Arik, zt"l, who said on Rav Engel that he was a baki in all areas of Torah, Bavli Yerushalmi, Tosefta, etc., to which Rav Steinberg, the Brode Rav, asked him if he wasn't perhaps exaggerating a bit. Rav Arik replied that it was one hundred percent true, and there was no exaggeration involved.

    Rav Hubner studied at the Berlin Seminary and heard shiurim from Harav Chaim Heller, zt"l. He was in Vienna when the Rogatchver Gaon, zt"l, passed away and he visited with him a bit before he died. He heard the Rogatchver expound on some topics in the parashah based on his well-known and unique methods of thought and assessment. Rabbi Hubner was the rebbi of the well-known scholar and writer, ybl"ch, Rabbi Tuviah Preschel.


    After the war, Rabbi S. Hubner was a Rav in Brooklyn. Over the years he printed many pieces on all kinds of topics in the various Torah journals. Eventually, he collected many of them that related to practical halachah and printed them in a sefer entitled Sh"ut Nimukei Shmuel. This sefer received very warm haskamos from Harav Moshe Feinstein, zt"l, and Harav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach, zt"l. Some of the pieces have been reprinted in Me'achsanya Shel ha-Torah, along with many new pieces found in Rabbi Hubner's many personal journals, which have never before been printed. This leads to a now-famous discussion regarding divrei Torah left behind after a person's petirah. In particular, if the mechaber did not leave instructions as to whether his writings should be printed, is his family permitted to do so? Another issue is, do these pieces carry weight in halachah, since the writer might have changed his mind before he passed away. An additional questioned is, if the mechaber specified not to print his writings, must his family adhere to his wishes? Much has been written on these topics, but Rabbi M. Hubner found information in his grandfather's notes addressing this very issue, which he included in Me'achsanya Shel HaTorah. Being that Rabbi S. Hubner's answer was very original, I am quoting it here in its entirety (intro pg. 9-10):


    קראתי את תשובתו שבה כת"ה שקיל וטרי באריכות בנידון השאלה אם יש לשמוע להמחבר שציוה שלא לפרסם את כתביו הכוללים חידושים ותשובות. ואחרי שכת"ה מביא צדדי היתר וצדדי איסור הוא מגיע למסקנת שאין לשמוע לצוואת המחבר ויש להדפיס את כתביו. לע"ד נראה שיש לחקור ולמצוא טעמו ונימוקו של המחבר מפני מה הוא ציוה שלא להדפיס את כתביו ופסק הדין בשאלה זו תלוי בנימוקו של המחבר. דעתי זו מיוסדת על דברי הח"ס באו"ח סי' ר"ח שכתב וז"ל : כל המחבר ספר ומתערב במחשבתו לגדל שמו רבצה בו האלה האמורה במילי דאבות : נגיד שמא אבד שמא (פרקי אבות פ"א מי"ג) ולא תעשינה ידיו תושיה להוציא מחשבתו לפועל, כי יבוא מבקרי מומין ויחפשו וימצאו, מלבד שהוא עובר איסור דאורייתא דברים שבעל פה אי אתה רשאי לכותבן, ולא הותר אלא משום עת לעשות לה', (גיטין ס א) ואם איננו עושה לה' הרי איסורו במקומו עומד. לעומת זה מי שיודע בעצמו כי כל מגמתו לשם הית"ב, להגדיל תורה ולהדירה ורק מונע בר מפני חשש מבקרי מומין ומלעיגים ומלעיבים במלאכי ה' עבירה היא בידו, וכשם שיקבל עונש על הדרישה הנ"ל [אם אינה לשם שמים], כן ייענש זה על הפרישה, עכ"ל. בדברי החתם סופר הללו נמצאת התשובה על השאלה דמר. אם הציווי של המחבר שלא לפרסם את כתביו נבע מן החשש הראשון הנזכר בדברי הח"ס אז לדעתי מצוה לקיים דברי המת ולא להדפיסם, כי לב יודע מרת נפשו, ואין היורשים רשאים לעבור על צוואתו, כי ע"י הדפסת הספר יעשו רעה להמחבר, ואילו היה חי היה מורה בכל תוכף נגד ההדפסה, ועכשיו שאינו יכול למחות פסק הדין צריך למנוע מעשות לו עול. ואם ישאלני איך אפשר עכשיו לידע מה היה הנימוק שבגללו אסר את הפירסום ? אשיבנו שזה אפשר להכיר מתוך תשובותיו. אם דברי הח"ס מובאים בתשובותיו ובחידושיו, אז קרוב לודאי שגם תשובה זו היתה ידועה לו והיא היא שהניעה והביאה אותו לידי כך שיאסור לפרסם את כתביו. ברם אף אם דברי הח"ס אינם מובאים בתשובותיו אפשר ואפשר שתשובות הח"ס ובתוכן גם התשובה הנ"ל היו ידועות לו, שכן לא יצוייר שמחבר תשובות לא ישתמש בתשובות הח"ס. בהתחשבות עם זה לבי מהסס להתיר הפרסום.

    הדבר שונה אם הנימוק העיקרי לצוואתו לא היה החשש הנ"ל אלא מטעם אחר כגון מפני חשש המבקרים או מפני שהיה מיראי הוראה, אז רשאי או יותר נכון מצוה להדפיס את כתביו כמפורש בדברי הח"ס שהבאתי לעיל. והנני להביא עוד ראיות לכך : בספר חסידים סי' תתקל כתב מי שגילה לו ה' דבר ואינו כותבו הוא גוזל את הרבים כדכתב סוד ה' ליראיו ובריתו להודיעם. ובשבט סופר (פ' כב) דעתיד אדם ליתן דין וחשבון על זה שאינו כותב חידושיו. ובספר מור וקציעה סי' רכג כתב דמי שגומר ספר בכתיבה וכל שכן בהדפסה יש לו לברך ברכת שהחיינו שכן עושין שמחה לגמרה של תורה, שאין שום קנין ובניו שיש בו שמחה יותר מזה. וכן מצינו ביבמות (צו ב) שדוד המלך התפלל אגורה באהלך עולמים (תהל' סא) וכי אפשר לאדם בשני עולמים ? אלא דוד אמר לפני הקב"ה רבונו של עולםל יהי רצון שיאמרו דבר שמועה מפי בעוה"ז. וכמו שאמר רשב"י כל ת"ח שאומרים דבר שמועה מפיו בעולם הזה שפתותיו דובבות בקבר.

    העיקר בנידון זה, לידע מאיזה טעם המחבר ציווה שלא לפרסם את כתביו.



    Another very interesting discussion found in this sefer (pp. 264-66) is a piece about the authorship of Lecha Dodi. Being that I have never seen or heard a discussion of anyone denying that Harav Shlomo Alkebetz, zt"l, authored the tefilah, I feel it is worthwhile to quote this piece in part. Rabbi S. Hubner knew an interesting person named Reb Meir Sokel, who suggested to him as follows:


     רק שני החרוזים הראשונים נכתבו ע"י שלמה אלקבץ, שבהם הוא שר על קדושת שבת. אבל שאר החרוזים, שבהם שוב אין זכר לשבת, ואין להם כל קשר לחרוזים הראשונים, הם מעשה ידי מזייף והם מכוונים לאיזה "איש הנערץ והנקדש", אישיות מהוללה ומפוארה, שאליה מדבר המזייף בלשון נקבה - כלומר המזייף מטיף בהם לנצרות באורח מוסווה... מאיר סוקל מסיק שהשיר "לכה דודי" לא יוכל להיכלל בשירי ישראל, ורק מתוך אי-ידיעה ואי-הבחנה הוכנס השיר לסדר התפילה ויש להימנע, לדעתו, מלאמרו.

    To which Rabbi S. Hubner replied to him at length:


    א- השיר "לכה דודי", כמו שהוא לפנינו נדפס בפעם הראשונה בפראג בספר "ארחות חיים" בשנת שע"ב כשלושים שנה אחר פטירת המשורר. ולא יתכן כי בזמן שבני דורו של המשורר היו עוד בחיים יהיה איש לזייף באופן גס כזה, ישאיר רק שני חרוזים מקוריים ואת החרוזים האחרים ימיר בחרוזיו "החשודים", והזיוף לא הוכר ואיש לא מחה כנגדו.

    ב- דבר ידוע הוא שהאר"י [האשכנזי - ר' יצחק לוריא] שהמשורר הסתופף בצלו, בחר בשירי אלקבץ מפני שנכתבו על דרך האמת. והלא בזמן שנדפס השיר שהוא לפנינו היה ר' חיים ויטאל, איש סודו ותלמידו הגדול של האר"י עוד בחיים. אם כן איך אפשר הדבר, שר' חיים ויטאל לא הדגיש בזיוף ובשינוי שאיש בליעל ביצע בשירו של אלקבץ, שהאר"י בחר בו, וציין אותו כשיר שנכתב על דרך האמת, והשינוי נתקבל ?

    ג- מאיר סוקל קובע שהחרוזים האחרונים של השיר לא יצאו מתחת ידו של אלקבץ, שהרי אין להם שום קשר לחרוזים הראשונים. מסקנתו של מ. ס. בנויה על הנחות בלתי נכונות. לאמיתו של דבר אין כאן סטיה מן הענין, החרוזים האחרונים מחוברים וקשורים אל הראשונים. עובדה היסטורית היא שאלקבץ, אחר בואו מאדריאנופול לצפת, הצטרף לחבורה הקדושה שהתקבצה מסביב להאר"י. בין אלה היו גיסו של אלקבץ, המקובל ר' משה קורדובירו, ר' יוסף קארו [בעל השולחן ערוך], ר' משה אלשיך, ר' אליהו די וידאש [בעל ראשית חכמה] ועוד. ערגה עזה להופעתו של הגואל היתה ממלאה את לב כל אלה וכל מאוויי נפשם היו להחיש את הגאולה. חד לכוסף הגאולה, אנו מוצאים בחרוזים האחרונים של "לכה דודי". אחרי שהמשורר שר בשני החרוזים הראשונים על קדושת השבת, הוא נותן ביטוי בחרוזים האחרונים לתקוות הגאולה, שנפשו של המשורר ערגה לה כל כך. הוא פונה אל ירושלים הנקראת "מקדש מלך" (עמוס ז יג) ומנחם אותה שגאולת ה' קרובה לבוא, אחרי שבני ישראל קבלו את השבת - וזה על יסוד מאמרו של ר' שמעון בן יוחאי "אלמלי משמרין ישראל שתי שבתות כהלכתן מיד נגאלים".

    כל הנימוקים האלה שהזכרתי מספיקים כבר להפריד את השערתו של מ. ס., אבל הוספתי עוד נימוק מענין והוא : הלא הרדר, מסופרי המופת בספרות הגרמנית, תרגם את השיר "לכה דודי" לגרמנית מפני חשיבותו של השיר ולא מצא בו שום דופי. גם המשורר בחסד עליון, היינריך היינה, נזדקק לשיר זה לתרגמו ולא פסל אותו בשל חוסר אחידות. והנה מ. ס. פסל תוך גישתו השכלתנית שיר שנתקדש אצל בני ישראל במשך דורות. את כל זה כתבתי לו, אבל איני יודע אם נימוקי שיכנעו אותו או עמד על דעתו.



    Another discussion of interest, in a more bibliographical sense, is a chapter (pp. 271-75) written by Rabbi Tuviah Preschel. It concerns a translation of the Talmud that Rabbi Shmuel Hubner wrote while hidden away in Belgium during World War II. What is unique about this translation is that it was done in Yiddish. By 1944 (when Belgium was liberated), Masechtos Brachos, Baba Metziah and part of Bava Kama had been completed. By 1948, a few more masechtos were completed. As late as 1965, some of these volumes were already being reprinted. Due to technical reasons, the printing of these masechtos was never completed. What is interesting is that Rabbi Hubner's translation seems to have escaped the otherwise rather excellent article of  Rabbi Adam Mintz, "The Talmud in Translation" in Printing the Talmud, an updated version of his article in Torah Umadah.

    Aside from these valuable pieces, there are many more to be found in Me'achsanya Shel ha-Torah. Just to note some, there is a very interesting discussion on the halachic aspects of adopting children (pp. 213-26); why the children "steal" the Afikomon on Pesach night (pp. 140-43); what reward can/does one get for learning via listening to a taped recording (p. 173)? (This question is found in the middle of a long discussion on the meaning of "שלא ברכו בתורה תחילה"); whether Hashem's shvuah to Noach not to destroy the world was only as pertains to a flood or any other means as well (pp. 31- 34); Zimri's understanding of the avodah zarah of baal pe'or (pp. 156-59); and an incredible lengthy discussion showing the historical background and logic behind the many the takonos of Ezra Hanavi (pp. 206-13).

    For information regarding the sefer, Rabbi Moshe Hubner may be contacted at

    0 0

    Y. Meiselman, Ha-Noten Sheleg, Be-Inyanei ha-Sheleg veha-Kerach be-Halacha, Holon, 2001, 266 pp.

    With winter approaching, a review of a work devoted to the topic of snow is particularly appropriate.  While everyone is familiar with R. Zevin's discussion of the halachik use of snow in his Le-Or ha-Halacha, R. Zevin only took his discussion so far. Today, we now have a work that is entirely devoted to snow and halacha.  This book, which is on Orach Hayyim and volumes on the other sections of Shulchan Orach are planned.  Indeed, the author in his introduction is aware how silly books devoted to a single topic can be and offers some justification for composing this work. This somewhat unique in so far as the author is at least willing to admit and deal with the problems with single subject works.  That is, there is no issue with writing a book on all of hilchos shabbos which incorporate something about snow.  What becomes problematic is when one takes a single subject and merely culls from other books what they have to say about it.  For example, is there any need for a book I once came across that is hundreds of pages on the "halachos" of walking in front of someone praying?  In this case, however, the author appears to have succeeded in producing a valuable work.  

    As one would expect with a book devoted to a singular halacha, it covers every possible aspect of snow. The first section collects every mention of snow in Tanakh and the Talmud.  Additionally, he collects stories that are centered around snow. A common theme is that many great people felt shoveling snow was not beneath their dignity.  For example, he has two stories one with R. Chaim Volozhin and the other with the Chofetz Hayyim which are similar.  In both, whenever it would snow all the paths in the morning would be cleared by these great Rabbis.  
    The author then ensures that his readers are actually aware of the phenomena that will be discussed so he provides the scientific definitions of snow, ice, and hail.   

    The book then turns to the halachik questions.  It covers the obvious ones like shoveling snow on shabbos, using snow for ritual hand washing etc. as well as some more esoteric topics like skiing on shabbos.  Additionally, as appears to be de rigueur today, the final section are questions and responses from R. Chaim Kenifsky. The author explains that many of the questions he asked R. Chaim were not novel and instead asked questions that had been discussed previously - one assumes to see if R. Chaim agreed or disagreed with the prior opinions.  

    Although the author claims his book is merely a collection of sources, in fact it is much more.  The author after collecting the various sources on a particular topic analysis the sources and actually is unafraid to come to his own conclusions.  This is especially surprising as so many authors are afraid of ever actually giving a conclusion for fear that someone will think it makes sense and follow it.  Rather, we typically get inane disclaimers on seforim that are devoted to halacha that in fact it is not a halachik work.  Indeed, in the case of this book, in some cases the author appears to disagree with the conclusion of R. Kenifsky.  Because of the author's willingness to actually offer opinions the book is a much more satisfying read, one not only gets a list of sources (many of which should be well-known) but also the reader can begin to see where the potential flaws are and come to their own conclusions.  

    Turning to the particulars, the author allows for shoveling snow on Shabbat, salting icy walkways, and even skiing (when he asked R. Chaim about skiing, R. Chaim admitted that he didn't know what it was, the author then showed him pictures of people skiing).  Many of these laws start with a discussion of the well-known pronouncement of the Mahram of Rottenberg that one can urinate on snow on Shabbat.  One area that he takes a restrictive view is not really related to winter but ice.  That is, he questions squeezing or mashing freeze pops or other frozen snacks on Shabbat due to the prohibition of mesarek

    Additionally, the author expends considerable energy on the burning question for most kids - can one make and throw snowballs on Shabbat. See 7:3 and Miluim no. 3. On this issue there is a split amongst the authorities.  The author in the additions in the back attempts to find additional support for those who allow for making and throwing snowballs on Shabbat.  He also discusses whether one can make snowmen (which he prohibits).  

    In all, the book is an enjoyable read that provides the starting point for an serious discussion regarding the halachot implicated by snow. 

    0 0

    Haskamot (rabbinical approbations) to Hebrew books have an very interesting history.  There are a few different forms of haskamot, perhaps the most important form is that which granted the author and/or publisher a copyright. Typically, the haskamah would prohibit republishing the particular book for a period of ten or fifteen years, etc.  In some instances, it was not only the particular book but any book in the field. For example, the haskamah to R. Yom Tov Lipmann Heller's edition of the Mishna with his commentary, Tosefot Yom Tov (Prague 1617) provides that "it is prohibited from printing any Mishnayot with any commentary for four years."[1] 

    The history of this particular form haskamah begins with the approbation that appears on the first Rabbinic bible (Venice 1517).  As Jordan Penkower has previously provided, the approbation which appears at the end of Chronicles states that it is 
    forbidden [for] any one under the penalty of excommunication and also the loss of the books in the territories of the Holy Roman Church, to print or cause to be printed these books with the Targum or without the Targum and the Hebrew Commentaries of the Bible for the space of ten years from 1515.[2] 
    This approbation is somewhat unique for Hebrew books as it was not given by a Rabbi but instead by Pope Leo X. Indeed, the version of this bible which contains this approbation was also dedicated to the Pope. Felix Pratensis, the editor and former Jew (he became a Augustin monk), explains in the dedication that the very idea of including the Targumim is favorable to the Church.  He explains that 
    the text we have added the ancient Hebrew and Chaldee Shcola, to wit the common Targum and that of Jerusalem.  These contain many obscure and recondite mysteries, not only useful, but necessary to the devout Christian.  We have wished with good reason to publish the whole under the sanction of your name [Leo X], for whereas on this book the foundation and the entire superstructure of Christianity rests, you are revered by us as the chief head of the Christian Church on earth and no one can deny the appropriateness of the dedication to you of our work. 

    Another odd approbation appears in the book printed much later in Lemberg, 1878.  This book, Peni Abraham, authored by R. Abraham Abba Seelenfreund includes approbations dated years before the book was ever published. For example, R. Meir Perles' approbation is dated 1852.  But, that approbation is not unique in the history of approbations.  In fact, the first Ashkenazik approbations, appearing in R. Shlomo Luria's Hakmat Shlomo (Krakow 1581) contains the approbation of R. Kalman of Worms dated 1542.  Instead, the odd approbation is that of R. Yitzhak Meir Alter, the Gerrer Rebbi otherwise known as the Hiddushei ha-Rim.  The reason this approbation is odd does have to do with the date.  Specifically, it is dated, Rosh Hodesh Tamuz, 1870.  The problem is that R. Alter died some four years earlier on the 23 of Adar 1866!  Now it is possible that instead of 5630 (1870) it should read 5620 (1860) and the letter Chuf was inadvertently changed to a Lamed, but in all events, it is a rather interesting slip of the pen.  

    Now, it is not only the approbation that is of interest, in fact, R. Seelenfreund himself was somewhat of a character. According to the brief biography by R. Yekutiel Yehuda Greenwald,[4] R. Seelenfreund ended up divorcing his first wife during sheva Berakhot.  Additionally, although R. Seelenfreund was the Rabbi in Zaloshick (Poland) for a period of time, in 1875 he took a position in Kosice, Hungary for a short period of time.  While R. Seelenfreund was considered Ultra-Orthodox, as the term was used by the Hungarians, Kosice, as were many cities in Hungry was split between three Jewish factions, Reform, Ultra-Orthodox and Status Quo.  R. Seelenfreund was appointed Rabbi of the Status Quo  synagogue and thought that his relationships with Ultra-Orthodox Rabbis would allow him to remain to be viewed as such.  Indeed, on his first sefer, Pras Avot (Lemberg 1865), he obtained the approbation of R. Yosef Shaul Nathanson.  It was R. Nathanson's suggestion for the title of the book to be Pras Avot. It appears that R. Seelenfreund, however, was very wrong in his calculation regarding Kosice. He eventually left Kosice and returned to Zaloshick but not before relationships between himself and the community broke down.  He even published a small book, Kol Shover Shekarim (Kosice 1878) to defend himself.  It is unclear why much of this history of R. Seelenfreund does not appear in Cohen's biography of R. Seelenfreund from Hakmei Hungaria.[5]  It appears that Cohen was unaware that R. Seelenfreund left Kosice or that he published Kol Shover Shekarim

    [1]  For this and other similar approbations see Nahum Rakover, Copyright in Jewish Sources (Israel 1991), 150-53 (Hebrew). Both Rakover's work as well as Benayahu's, see infra n3, break new ground on the issue of approbations.  The new edition of the Encyclopaedia Judaica, however, does not use any of these sources.  In fact, the new version merely reprints the earlier article on haskma which appeared in the 1971 edition and is seriously lacking.  This is but another example of how the new version has significant gaps.  See Shnayer Z. Leiman's review of the new edition here and Shlomo Zalman Havlin's additional note on the topic here

    [2] The translation of this and the next quote is taken from Christian D. Ginsburg, Introduction to the Massoretico Critical Edition of the Hebrew Bible (Ktav Press 1966), 935-36, 946.

    [3] In addition, Pratensis claims that this edition was unique as the prior editions "hav[e] almost as many errors as words in them" and that "no one has attempted [such an edition] before." Ginsburg in his discussion about this edition shows, however, that in fact previous editions were (close) to error free. Ginsburg bemoans the fact that "Felix Pratensis should have been betrayed to resort to such unfair expedients."  But, it is possible that Pratensis' claim regarding the novelty of the work was necessary in part due approbations.  Not Rabbinic approbations but the approbation of the Venetian Senate.  This is so, as in 1517 the Senate passed a law that would abolish all printing monopolies (copyrights) and hence forth would only grant monopolies for works which "are new or which have never been printed before."  Horatio Brown, The Venetian Printing Press (London 1891), 74. Indeed, Bomberg, the printer of this edition had appealed to the Senate for a monopoly when he began printing in 1515 and which the new law abolished. See Meir Benayahu, Copyright, Authorization & Imprimatour for Hebrew Books Printed in Venice (Israel 1971), 17 (Hebrew).  Thus, it is possible that Pratensis claim of novelty was to argue implicitly that this book qualified for a monopoly even under the new law as it was a "new" book.  

    [4] Y.Y. Greenwald, "The Descendants of the Rema and their Influence in Hungary," Sinai 28 (1951): 85-87 (Hebrew).  

    [5]  Y.Y. Kohen, Hakmei Hungaria (Israel 1997), 342.

    0 0

    A Note on the Latin Dedication in the Rabbinic Bible of Venice 1517

    by: Jordan S. Penkower

    In response to the recent post at the Seforim Blog about approbations of Hebrew books, a correction is in order concerning the footnote about the intent of the remarks of Felix Pratensis in his dedication of the Venice 1517 Rabbinic Bible to the Pope. In footnote 3 of the recent post, a conjecture was offered to explain Felix Pratensis' remarks.

    In addition, Pratensis claims that this edition was unique as the prior editions "hav[e] almost as many errors as words in them" and that "no one has attempted [such an edition] before." Ginsburg in his discussion about this edition shows, however, that in fact previous editions were (close) to error free. Ginsburg bemoans the fact that "Felix Pratensis should have been betrayed to resort to such unfair expedients."  But, it is possible that Pratensis' claim regarding the novelty of the work was necessary in part due approbations.  Not Rabbinic approbations but the approbation of the Venetian Senate.  This is so, as in 1517 the Senate passed a law that would abolish all printing monopolies (copyrights) and hence forth would only grant monopolies for works which "are new or which have never been printed before."  Horatio Brown, The Venetian Printing Press (London 1891), 74. Indeed, Bomberg, the printer of this edition had appealed to the Senate for a monopoly when he began printing in 1515 and which the new law abolished. See Meir Benayahu, Copyright, Authorization & Imprimatour for Hebrew Books Printed in Venice (Israel 1971), 17 (Hebrew).  Thus, it is possible that Pratensis claim of novelty was to argue implicitly that this book qualified for a monopoly even under the new law as it was a "new" book.  

    I would like to clarify a number of points about Pratensis' remarks.

    (1) Among his remarks, Pratensis makes the following statements: (a) no one before him had collated a great number of manuscripts to prepare a Bible edition; (b) the errors in the manuscripts are almost as many as their words, and only in this printed edition has the text been restored to its purity (See my PhD, p. 282 and nn. 20-21 for text and translation).

    (2) Previous scholars have pointed out the problem with Pratensis' remarks, which seem to be mere hyperbole. C.D. Ginsburg, in his Introduction (pp. 946-947), who explained Pratensis' remarks as referring to the text, noted that he found several manuscripts similar to Pratensis' edition, and on the other hand, never found any manuscripts whose errors were as numerous as its words. P. Kahle, in numerous places, e.g. Cairo Geniza, p.123, offered an explanation of Pratensis' remarks: Pratensis was referring to the vocalization found in the manuscripts, specifically those manuscripts with "expanded-Tiberian vocalization", a system that he rejected.

    (3) Neither of the above explanations of Pratensis' remarks is satisfactory. Ginsburg – he himself noted that if Pratensis refers to the text, there are several manuscripts similar to Pratensis' printed edition. Kahle – his explanation is unsatisfactory because Pratensis said that ALL mss - and not some specific sub-type - were replete with errors. I have offered an explanation several years ago in my doctoral thesis (pp. 187-188) that avoids the shortcomings of these suggestions. In chapter four of my thesis, I presented a detailed comparison of the variants between the Venice 1517 and the 1525 Rabbinic Bibles – in Genesis, Joshua, and Proverbs - both with respect to the text, as well as to the vocalization, accentuation, and ga'ayot. In light of the results of the comparisons between the two editions, I suggested that one should explain Pratensis' remarks as referring both to the text, as well as to the vocalization, accentuation, and ga'ayot.

    (4) I have shown in my fourth chapter that with respect to the TEXT, Pratensis relied mainly on accurate Sefardi manuscripts. These manuscripts do NOT mark the "light ga'aya" consistently; do NOT use qamatz together with shewa to note the qamatz qatan (but only the sign of the qamatz alone); do NOT have a special sub-system of accentuation in Proverbs; and do NOT write "bin-Nun" with a dagesh in the first nun of the name Nun. With respect to all of these latter four phenomena – found in the Rabbinic Bible of Venice 1517 – Pratensis relied upon Ashkenazi manuscripts, which also vary widely from the accurate Sefardi manuscripts with respect to the details of plene-defective spelling (these Ashkenzai manuscripts also vary among themselves with respect to the above four phenomena). From these details it follows that according to Pratensis every manuscript that he saw, its errors were like the number of its words: Ashkenazi manuscripts with respect to the plene-defective spelling (and other topics), and the Sefardi manuscripts with respect to vocalization, accentuation, and ga'ayot.

    (5) Thus we see that Pratensis indeed thought that his edition was unique and was the first accurate Bible edition. In his edition, he gathered for the first time phenomena from the above noted Sefardi and Ashkenazi manuscripts, and in his opinion his edition thereby "restored the splendor to the crown" with regard to all of its components: text, vocalization, accentuation, and ga'ayot. In reality, he created a new hybrid that never existed in the manuscripts.

    Bibliography: Christian D. Ginsburg, Introduction to the Massoretico Critical Edition of the Hebrew Bible, London 1897, reprint: New York 1966; Paul Kahle, The Cairo Genizah, Oxford 1959; Jordan S. Penkower, Jacob ben Hayyim and the Rise of the Biblia Rabbincia, PhD dissertation, 2 vols, Jerusalem 1982 (Heb.); idem, "Rabbinic Bible", in: Dictionary of Biblical Interpretation, vol. 2, Abington Press, Nashville Tenn 1999, pp. 361b-364a.

    0 0

    Review: Ma'amar al Yishma'el
    by Eliezer Brodt & Ish Sefer
    Solomon Ibn Aderet, Ma'amar al Yishma'el, Bezalel Naor ed., Spring Valley, NY, 2008, 178 pp.
    Bezalel Naor, Mitsvat Hashem Barah, Spring Valley, NY, 2008, 220 pp.
    R. Bezalel Naor, who has published a host of translations and explanations of R. Kook's writings, as well as Post Sabbatian Sabbatianisms, discussing Sabbatean works, has published two works in a single volume. The first, Ma'amar al Yishma'el, is a critical edition of R. Solomon Ibn Aderet's (Rashba) discussion of Islam.
    This work was printed from manuscript (which today is lost) for the first time in 1863 by Y. Perles. Most recently it was printed in the new Shut ha-Rashba by Machon Yerushalayim in their last volume (siman 367). At first it was not accepted that Rashba authored this work but today it is accepted that  he is indeed the author. Naor's edition begins with an excellent introduction dealing with amongst many things the authorship of this work, Naor raises the possibility that R. Dovid who was a talmid of the Ramban was the author. Throughout the text he brings various proofs about the authorship from other writings of the Rashba. As an appendix Naor printed a copy of a manuscript of Steinschneider where he deals with the authorship of this text.
    The main topic of this work is about the Rashba defending the Torah from an Islamic attack. Although much has been written on Jewish Christian disputes, when it comes to Jewish Islamic disputes, much less is written or known. Indeed, most are probably unaware that the Rashba wrote this work defending Judaism against Islam. Naor's edition begins with an excellent introduction discussing the work generally and specifically providing background materials on exactly what the Rashba was responding to.  Naor discusses both the Jewish as well as Islamic sources in all languages. It is pretty incredible to see his command in both these groups of sources, it is clear that much time and hard work went into preparing this work.
    The main topic which the Rashba deals with is defending that the Torah which we have is 100% accurate and was never tampered with. The Rashba deals with many specific examples in a very orderly fashion. Specifically, the Rashba elaborates why the torah publicized what seems to be sins of Reuven (p.74) and Yehudah (pp. 73-74). The Rashba also deals with why the torah had to include the story of Lot and his daughters (pp. 72-73). Another issue that the Rashba defends is proving that the numbers of the Jews given by the Torah was 100% accurate (pp. 63-71). Additionally, the Rashba deals with the famous incident of the finding of the Sefer torah in Yoshiayhu's time. There are also many Chidushim with regard to the seven Noachide commandments.
    Regarding why Hashem chose to give the Torah publicly the Rashba writes (p. 90):

    והתבונן כי בשתי תורת האלו, רוצה לומר, תורת בני נח ותורת משה עליו השלום לא רצה השם יתברך שיקבל אותם ממנו נביא, ויקבלו אותם מן הנביא שאר העם. וזה לשתי פנות גדולות האחד: כדי שלא יוכל אחד ממי שנתחייב באורה התורה, להסתפק בקבלתה, ולחשוד מי שקבלה, שבדה מלבו, או ששבש בם קצת... והשניה, כדי שלא יוכל לשבש בדת ובאמונה לאחר זמן, ויטעון שהשם יתברך נתן עתה על ידו תורת כן וכן, כמו שנתן תורה ראשונה מתחלה עד יד הנביא פלוני אשר קדמו. אלא קבץ כל הנמצא באותו זמן ונתן רוחו עליהם והתנבאו...
    Naor already points out that although this is similar to the proof offered by the Kuzari, however, this proof has a new addition to it as it includes the notion that the ז' מצות בני נח were also directly and publicly given by God! 
    Besides for the actual main topics that the Rashba deals with and its great importance (as he is one of our most important Rishonim) there is also a wealth of interesting side points and discussions in this work.
    Amongst the many important points that the Rashba writes is that although we find many times about the Torah that the Gemarah says שכחה התורה וחזרה ויסדה (one of example of this is by with Ezra). The Rashba explains at great length that it does not mean the Torah was almost completely forgotten at these times. Rather all of torah is connected and if one thing is forgotten it is as if everything is forgotten so Ezra prevented this from happening (pp. 100-05). With this the Rashba explains many things amongst them the famous Gemarah in Pesachim (66b)

    תנו רבנן: הלכה זו נתעלמה מבני בתירא. פעם אחת חל ארבעה עשר להיות בשבת, שכחו ולא ידעו אם פסח דוחה את השבת אם לאו. אמרו: כלום יש אדם שיודע אם פסח דוחה את השבת אם לאו? אמרו להם: אדם אחד יש שעלה מבבל, והלל הבבלי שמו, ששימש שני גדולי הדור שמעיה ואבטליון ויודע אם פסח דוחה את השבת אם לאו. שלחו וקראו לו. אמרו לו: כלום אתה יודע אם הפסח דוחה את השבת אם לאו? אמר להם: וכי פסח אחד יש לנו בשנה שדוחה את השבת? והלא הרבה יותר ממאתים פסחים יש לנו בשנה שדוחין את השבת. אמרו לו: מנין לך? אמר להם: נאמר מועדו בפסח ונאמר מועדו בתמיד. מה מועדו האמור בתמיד - דוחה את השבת אף מועדו האמור בפסח - דוחה את השבת. ועוד, קל וחומר הוא: ומה תמיד שאין ענוש כרת דוחה את השבת, פסח שענוש כרת - אינו דין שדוחה את השבת. מיד הושיבוהו בראש ומינוהו נשיא עליהם, והיה דורש כל היום כולו בהלכות הפסח. התחיל מקנטרן בדברים, אמר להן: מי גרם לכם שאעלה מבבל ואהיה נשיא עליכם - עצלות שהיתה בכם, שלא שמשתם שני גדולי הדור שמעיה ואבטליון. אמרו לו: רבי, שכח ולא הביא סכין מערב שבת מהו? אמר להן: הלכה זו שמעתי ושכחתי. אלא, הנח להן לישראל אם אין נביאים הן - בני נביאים הן. למחר, מי שפסחו טלה - תוחבו בצמרו, מי שפסחו גדי - תוחבו בין קרניו. ראה מעשה ונזכר הלכה, ואמר: כך מקובלני מפי שמעיה ואבטליון.

    Many people have discussed this Gemarah throughout the ages (its was a popular derasha topic for Shabbat HaGadol) how could they forget such a thing? The Rashba explains it with his same theme. Here to Naor includes an excellent lengthy footnote dealing with this Gemarah providing many sources.
    Another important statement of the Rashba (pp. 116-17) is:
    כל שכן ספר כולל מה שהוא ומה שהיה ועתיד להיות כתורתנו השלמה והתמימה שכוללת מן החכמה כל מה שהיה מן הבריאה הראשונה עד תכלית כל חכמה. ואפילו בא נביא מן הנביאים לכתוב בפרטי כל מה שתרמוז בה לא יכיל גליון וכן בפירושי מצותיה. 
    When talking about Rabbenu Hakodesh role in the writing of the Mishna he writes (p. 119):
    והודיעונו יתרון חכמת רבינו הקדוש בסדור ספרו סדר המשנה חברו בתכלית החכמה בקצור ובסדור בסתם ואחר כך מחלוקת ומחלוקת ואחר כך סתם וכולל ענינים גדולים בדברי קצתם.
    Although, as mentioned above, the notes are generally excellent there is comment that deserves to be discussed. The Rashba referring to a Gemrah in Mesectas Pesachim calls (p. 103) it מסכת פסח שני. Here, Naor does not explain what the Rashba meant. The intention of the Rashba is that many rishonim called the part of Pesachim which deals with Korbon Pesach, Pesach Shenei, and referred to the first part of Pesachim that deals with Chametz and perek Arvei Peachim as Pesach Rishon. This fact was not known to everyone see for example Hagadah Shelemah (p.197) where it is pointed out that the Abarbanel was not aware of this and made a mistake because of this. [See also R. N. Rabonowitz, Mamar Al Hadfosass Hatalmud, p.27]. The Merei writes (Peachim 57b):

    אמר מנחם בן שלמה לבית מאיר י"א זאת המסכתא ר"ל מסכת פסח שני היא מסדר מועד וכבר ביארנו בפתיחת החבור שבסדור רבינו הקדוש ע"ה היו מסכת פסח ראשון וזאת המסכתא חוברות אשה אל אחותה נכללות במסכתא אחת נקראת פסחים ופרק ערבי פסחים היה אחרון לכל פרקיה ובימי הגאונים ז"ל חלקוה . לשתים וקראו הראשונה פסח ראשון והעתיקו פרק ערבי פסחים ממקומו וסדרוהו בסוף פסח ראשון וקראו שם המסכתא הזאת פסח שני ועל זה הצד הורגלנו בלמודה אחר מסכת פסח ראשון על הדרך שסדרנו בפתיחת החבור והיא כוללת חמשה פרקים וסדרם לפי שיטתנו...

    Another nice piece is (p. 67):

    יש לנו להשיב ולומר שלא כל התולדות אשר היו להם זכר הכתוב רק מקצת מהם או מקצת מן הנזכרים ואף על פי שהיו להם או למקצתם בנים אחרים רבים מאלה, אלא שלא זכר כאן רק אותם שהיה הצורך מביא לזכרם, מפני שאלה היו ראשי בית אבות למשפחותם והאחרים בלבד יקראו על שמם כאשר קרה ליוסף שלא זכר הכתוב מכל בניו רק מנשה ואפרים...
    The text of Ma'amar also contains extensive footnotes which provide the sources for the Rashba's statements as well side discussions. In the final section of this work, Naor explores, in greater detail, some issues he raised in passing in his notes. Just to mention a few of the many topics he deals with in the notes and appendixes (with just a few additional sources). These topics are rather eclectic ranging from the Ramban's position regarding the Ibn Ezra (pp. 136-143). In the introduction Naor has another nice discussion about the Ibn Ezra's position regarding the authorship of the Torah (pp. 23-28) although many deal with this topic Naor has some new important points based on some manuscripts showing what R. Ezra of Gerona, the Rebbe of the Ramban, thought of the Ibn Ezra. Other issues he deals with in regard to the Ibn Ezra are with his work the Iggeres ha-Shabbat (p. 141 n.578) [see also Ohr Yisrael 54:238] and additions which were put in by others in his works (p.142 n.582) [see also my Bein Keseh Lassur (Jerusalem, 2008), p. 53]. Others issues Naor deals with: did the Rashba know Arabic (p.21 n.24), the authorship of the classic Kabbalah work Mereches Aleokus (pp. 53-55). It is interesting that the Rashba always refers to Muchamed as Meshugah (see the note on p. 61-62 about this) [One can add to this Marc B. Shapiro, Studies in Maimonides and His Interpreters (Scranton and London: University of Scranton Press, 2008), 151-52]  Another great note is about R. Abraham Ben Ha-GRA whose usage of very rare editions of the Talmud (pp. 72-72 n.236), and also about Ba'al Tosef on Taryag Mitzvot and the seven Noahide Laws (pp. 86-90). These are but a few samples.

    In the introduction Naor writes that only after he completed working on this sefer did he find out that Chaim Zalman Dimitrovsky printed it already with notes - had he known he never would have bothered working on it. As is obvious, Naor has a tremendous command of the sources in Hebrew and academic world and he did incredible research for this work yet he never discovered the well known source where most should begin with when working on the Rashba - Dimitrovsky's works. It was good that he only found it at the end as he did a beautiful job dealing with many many things which Dimitrovsky did not, making it very worth while that he too worked on this sefer.
    One minor piece of criticism is that Naor makes paragraph divisions between each section giving each chapter a heading.  While this is very useful, Naor does not explain that these are his creation and not the Rashba's and thus can cause some confusion.  For example, on page 120 he quotes a piece from Yigdal which would be a nice early source but after checking it out with other versions of the Mamar its clear that Naor himself added this in -to be helpful.
    The second book included in this volume is Mitzvat Hashem Barah. This book deals with the seven Noahide commandments. Rather than dealing with the actual commandments - i.e. a mere list - this book delves into rather interesting issues that surround these laws. For example, Naor has a fascinating discussion regarding R. Hayyim Hirschensohn's opinion that all commandments can be adduced logically. This discussion implicates what obligations there are in absence of specific commandments or, in the classic parlance, what happened before Matan Torah (pp.72-83). As an aside although it is very useful that he quotes the exact lengthy pieces of Hirschensohn he says he is doing so as they are very rare seforim. Although it is true that a hard copy of the seforim are hard to get but anyone can access them today thanks to Hebrew books.

    Naor also presents the controversy between R. Jacob Emden and Moses Mendelssohn regarding the Noachide laws (pp. 16-34). While some maybe aware of the correspondence R. Emden had with Mendelsshonn regarding determining the time of death (see Moshe Samat's article in Hadash Assur min ha-Torah (Jerusalem: Dinur Center & Carmel Publishing, 2005), 157-227), most are not aware of this important philosophical debate. For two additional scholarly sources to this topic not mentioned by Naor, see the important unpublished paper of Professor Lawrence Kaplan, "On the Boundary between Old and New: The Correspondence Between Moses Mendelssohn and R. Jacob Emden," delivered at the Jewish Thought in the Eighteenth Century conference, Harvard University (Spring 1984), and the extensive discussion in chapter seven of Jacob J. Schacter, "Rabbi Jacob Emden: Life and Major Works," (PhD dissertation, Harvard University, 1988), 661-747 ("The Emden-Mendelssohn Correspondence"), and see esp. 720n3 for citations to previous descriptions of the correspondence, and also 725n37, 726n48, 742n150, 743n165, 744n168, where he discusses Kaplan's paper. Naor adds much to this topic. After these discussions, Naor then provides insights on the various Parshiyot ha-Torah that implicate Noahide laws especially before Matan Torah. Again the topics covered and, more importantly, the manner in which they are covered are terrific in scope and depth. His command of the "Yeshivish" sources along with Kabbalah (pp.97-102) and hasidut is excellent. Although much has been written on this topic of seven Noahide commandments especially before Matan Torah including a massive sefer (in size) called Birkot Avot and a recent pamphlet Mebei Medrasha from R. K. Redisch, Naor brings many new things to the table not dealt with before.

    Here to he has many great footnotes scattered throughout the sefer some strictly for the sake of a very side footnote one such example is on pp. 5-6 about the Tosafot Yom Tov which writes (Nazir 5:5):

    והכוונה בודאי ממאמר מי שלא נתקיימו דבריו הוא מה שאמרנו עכ"ל. ונתקיימו דבריו. אע"פ שבגמרא לא פירשו כן. הואיל לענין דינא לא נפקא מינה ולא מידי. הרשות נתונה לפרש. שאין אני רואה הפרש בין פירוש המשנה לפירוש המקרא שהרשות נתונה לפרש במקראות כאשר עינינו הרואות חבורי הפירושים שמימות הגמ'. אלא שצריך שלא יכריע ויפרש שום דין שיהא סותר דעת בעלי הגמ':

    He brings a few sources that a סברא is דאורייתא (p.78 n.180) Just to add one obscure source to his list see R. Avraham Grodzensky in Torat Avraham (p.264) who writes:
    גם סברת האדם ושכלו הפשוט כמקרא מפורש הוא, ואדרבה כל סברא פשוטה ביותר מפורש הוא ביותר כאשר נבאר איתא בב"ק (מו:) מניין להמוציא מחבירו עליו הראיה... מתקיף לה רב אשי הא למה לי קרא סברא הוא... קושיא זו של רב אש אינה על סברא שדעת התורה והשקפתה כלולה בה, אלא על סברא פשוטה שהולה מבקש את הרופא מפני שמרגיש את כאביו ואל סברא זו מקשה...

    One point of interest although this could really be nothing when Naor quotes Mendelssohn (pp.16-34) and Weisel (p. 19 n. 48, 200-203) in the text of the sefer he brings there name in abbreviation one suspects it has to do with fear for citing their names openly only in the notes (p.22 n.51) which much less people read does he quote Mendelssohn by full name.

    On page 69 he deals with a Rambam who says יראה לי explaining that when ever the Rambam uses such language he is saying his own hiddush. It is surprising that although through out  this work Naor demonstrates great bekiyut in the works of the Aderet here he does not mention in the notes that he composed a work on all the Rambam's that say יראה לי recently reprinted by Ahavat sholom called Teshuvah Meyerah and more importantly he deals with this Rambam. One weakness is neither of these two works in the volume have an index which would have been rather useful as there are many many topics of interest in this sefer and one can not find them easily.   

    Finally, it is worth noting that the book itself is rather nice to look at in part due to the color cover depicting a Spanish synagogue scene from the period of the Rashba. All in all this work is well worth owning and reading carefully.

    The book is available in Jewish bookstores in Baltimore, Boston, New York and Pittsburgh or via the Orot website, with a special offer here.

    0 0

    Thoughts on "Confrontation" and Sundry Matters, Part I

    By: Marc B. Shapiro

    Rabbi Meir Soloveichik's year-old essay, "No Friend in Jesus,"1 caused me to once again think about the Rav's essay "Confrontation," (available here) and how it should be understood. Before getting to that, let me note, for those who don't know, that Soloveichik is emerging as one of the most interesting, if controversial writers, on interfaith matters. I don't know if he picks the titles of his articles, but they are certainly catchy. In addition to "No Friend in Jesus," I also have in mind "The Virtue of Hate,"2 and "Of (Religious) Fences and Neighbors."3 The last article focuses on the Maria Johnson's wonderful book, Strangers and Neighbors. Johnson is my colleague at the University of Scranton and the book deals with what she has learnt from living in a haredi community. The friendships she has developed (which would be impossible in a large city where the haredim have no substantive contact with non-Jews and certainly do not allow their children to play together) bring great enlightenment to her own Christian faith. With all of the bad press focusing on the haredi community (some of which is deserved and self-inflicted), it is nice to read such a positive portrayal.

    Soloveichik is currently working on his PhD at Princeton, and due to his many essays he has already made a mark. While it is true that political concerns play a central role in his writing, and he seems most comfortable in the role of public intellectual rather than academic scholar, there is a great deal of learning in everything that he produces. He has also emerged as Orthodoxy's most prominent "theocon," which has led him to take positions that in my opinion are at odds with the proper halakhic response.4 I also suspect that many will not look kindly upon his theoretical defense of torture, although no one can argue the case better than he can.5

    There are those who will criticize Soloveichik because he engages in theological dialogue with Christians, and they think that this is in violation of the Rav's strictures. If that were the case, then the Rav himself would be in violation, because he first delivered his famous "Lonely Man of Faith" as a lecture at a Catholic seminary.6 The fact is that the Rav never said that theological issues couldn't be discussed with non-Jews in a non-official setting. It all depends on the context of the discussions and the venue. In any event, it is very important to have a rabbi who actually understands Christian dogma. Otherwise, you can get poskim, like R. Joseph Messas, mentioned below, who come to decisions based on entirely incorrect information.

    We should all be happy that there is a rabbi who knows that before Newman was an actor and then a tomato sauce, there was a more important Newman, that Immaculate Conception is not Virgin Birth, that Limbo is not only a game played at Bar Mitzvahs, and that St. Thomas is more than an island in the Caribbean. There are, however, many rabbis who know very little about Christianity. That is fine, but it is not fine when they try to speak about a matter they know nothing about. Some time ago I heard a talk in which the speaker gave his take on what was wrong with certain Christian ideas. The only problem was that that he had but a smattering of knowledge of the religion he was discussing. (Can you believe that there are people who speak about Catholicism without even knowing what happened at Vatican II?) After the talk someone asked me what I thought about the speaker. My reply was to quote the immortal words of Ha-Gaon R. Mizrach-Etz: "A man has got to know his limitations."7

    Let me begin with a short article I wrote on "Confrontation" that originally appeared on the website of Boston College's Center for Jewish-Christian Understanding. I don't think that many people have seen it, and posting it here will give it some more exposure. I would encourage people to also read the other papers.8 One can even watch the original presentations.9

      "Confrontation": A Mixed Legacy

    If any evidence were needed of the centrality of Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik in contemporary American Orthodoxy, one need only look at the vigorous exchange of ideas between Drs. Korn, Berger and Rabbi Klapper. These thinkers have focused on a close reading of the seminal essay "Confrontation," and have argued about its message and implications in a changed world. I would like to call attention to some points that have not been raised, which I regard as unfortunate results of the widespread acceptance in American Orthodoxy of the perspective offered in "Confrontation."

    My goal in these comments is not to criticize the essay, but rather to clarify its impact. In fact, both in my personal and professional life (with perhaps one exception) I have avoided all venues of interfaith dialogue, and this despite being in my tenth year of teaching at a Jesuit university. I have participated in numerous events where Christians were exposed to Judaism, as well as some where I learnt more about Christianity, but it is unlikely that Rabbi Soloveitchik's position has any relevance to these situations.

    Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik's warning was directed against Jews dialoguing with Christians in some sort of organized, presumably official,10 meeting, and the fears he expressed relate to this type of setting. On the other hand, individual Jews and Christians discussing each other's religion has occurred in every generation, and neither this, nor a Jew giving a lecture to Christians about some aspect of Judaism, qualifies as dialogue of the sort that the Rav was warning against. It is therefore not surprising that even the most strident opponents of dialogue do not mention the subject of Orthodox professors teaching at universities whose student body is primarily Christian.

    I have abstained from involvement in interfaith dialogue not because I regard the Rav's essay as a binding halakhic decision, but because I would have felt uncomfortable being regarded by the other side as a representative of Judaism. (Despite being part of a department of Theology and Religious studies, I am hardly a theologian.) In addition, I have always been sensitive to an aspect of dialogue that the Rav was concerned with, namely, that Jews will feel pressure to adjust their religious views in response to moves from the Christian side. In calling attention to this point, I feel that the Rav was uncannily prescient.

    Yet despite the fact that I have lived my life in accordance with the Rav's guidelines, I believe that his position has had certain negative consequences. It might be that these are the sorts of consequences that Orthodox Jews who follow the Rav's prescriptions must live with, but I hope not.

    One of these consequences is religious separatism, and when it comes to interfaith relations the Modern Orthodox have adopted the same position as that of the right-wing Orthodox. Thus, in the United States one finds virtually no relationships between Modern Orthodox rabbis and Christian clergymen, or between Modern Orthodox groups and their Christian counterparts, even of the sort that the Rav would encourage.11 This type of separatism is to be expected when dealing with the haredim, but one would have thought that the rabbinic leadership of Modern Orthodoxy would be more open-minded in this area. Yet for many Modern Orthodox rabbinic figures this is not the case, and when a group of Cardinals recently toured Yeshiva University a number of faculty members and students of the Rav expressed strong criticism of the administration in allowing this visit.12 In fact, the Rav was often cited as a source for this opposition, as if anything he wrote in "Confrontation" spoke against friendly relations and interchange of ideas in non-theological settings.13

    In today's Orthodox world, when it comes to Christianity the stress is on the negative, beyond anything the Rav wrote about in "Confrontation." This has brought about a broad refusal on the part of Modern Orthodox rabbis to have even the barest of relationships with their Christian counterparts. I am not blaming this on "Confrontation," since before the essay appeared such relationships were also rare, but the essay reinforced the atmosphere of distance between Orthodox Jews and Christians in all spheres, even though this was not its intent. To put it another way, I would say that, despite its intent, "Confrontation" reaffirmed Orthodox Jews' inclination that, in all but the most negligible circumstances, they should ignore the dominant religion and its adherents. A different essay by the Rav could have put an even greater stress on the positive results of interfaith cooperation in "secular" spheres.14 Instead, almost nothing was done to remove the fear of Christianity from Orthodoxy, and while in the very shadow of Vatican II this might have been the correct approach, by now I think we have moved beyond this. Yet even in our day it would still be unheard of for a Christian clergyman to address the members of an Orthodox synagogue or group about matters of joint concern. A lay Christian might be welcome, but any relationship with clergy is seen as dangerous, in that it could lead to a compromising of traditional Jewish beliefs.

    Another result of the lack of any dialogue between Orthodox Jews and Christians is that in addition to the fear of Christianity, there remains an enormous amount of ignorance. On numerous occasions I have heard Orthodox Jews assert that according to Christianity one must accept Jesus in order to be "saved". When I have pointed out that this notion has been repudiated by the Catholic Church as well as by most Protestants, the response is usually incredulity.

    It is also significant that Orthodox Jews treat Christianity as an abstraction, and detailed discussions about its halakhic status continue to be published. I find it strange, however, that in our post-modern era people can write articles offering judgments about Christianity based solely on book knowledge,15 without ever having spoken to Christian scholars and clergymen, that is, without having ever confronted Christianity as a living religion.16 There is something deeply troubling about Orthodox figures discussing whether Christianity is avodah zarah without attempting to learn from Christians how their faith has impacted their lives. I would think that this narrative, attesting as it does to the redemptive power of faith, must also be part of any Jewish evaluation of Christianity.17 Yet barring theological dialogue, how is this possible?
    I realize that the halakhic system prefers raw data to experiential narratives, but certainly modern halakhists and theologians are able to find precedents for inclusion of precisely this sort of information. After all, wasn't it personal contact with Gentiles, and the recognition that their lives were not like those of the wicked pagans of old, that led to a reevaluation of the halakhic status of the Christian beginning with Meiri and continuing through R. Israel Moses Hazan,18 R. David Zvi Hoffmann, and R. Jehiel Jacob Weinberg?

    The concern with dialogue leading to attempted revisions of traditional Jewish beliefs is certainly well-founded, but the flip-side is that without any direct contact distortions can arise in the other direction as well, namely, in how non-Jews are viewed. Could Saadia Grama ever have written his infamous book19 if his Gentile neighbor, the Christian, was a real person instead of a caricature? Of course, one does not need interfaith theological dialogue in order to see adherents of other religions in a more positive light than Grama, but as noted above, a current trend opposes even non-theological dialogue. When all substantive contact with the Other is off-limits, it becomes much easier for extremists to reawaken old prejudices that should have no place in a modern democratic society.

    I don't have any illusions that the leaders of American Orthodoxy will change their stance on this matter even after considering what I and others have written. Yet this does not mean that all is lost when it comes to Jewish-Christian relations. Even without theological dialogue there is still a great deal that we can discuss, and thus ensure that neither Orthodox Jews nor Christians are strangers in each other's eyes. There is a host of social and political issues that affect both of our communities and a vast reservoir of goodwill and respect among Christians for Jews, and Orthodox Jews in particular. Isn't it time the Orthodox responded in kind?

    * * *

    With regard to the Rav and Christianity, it is interesting to note what R. Samuel Volk wrote. R. Volk was one of the other roshei yeshiva at RIETS, an outstanding talmudist who had studied in Telz. Yet he was no fan of the Rav and went so far as to accuse the latter of adopting Christian imagery. In his eulogy for Dr. Samuel Belkin, the Rav described the latter as a wandering and restless yeshiva student. This was too much for Volk (who clearly had a bone to pick with the Rav). In the introduction to volume 7 of his Sha'arei Tohar, he wrote:

    ראשית כל הנני להעיר שהביטוי הזה של "נודד" שאל "גאון" זה מהגוים ימ"ש, שאומרים שבעבור שעם ישראל לא קבלו תורת "אותו האיש" נתקללו להיות "עם נודד לעולם" ימ"ש וזכרם. ועליהם אין להתפלא דמה לנו ולהם? אבל על "גאון" הנ"ל שיש לו אפי' "פאספארט" של זכות אבות יש להתפלא!

    He repeats this criticism of the Rav in his Sha'arei Tohar, vol. 8, p. 332.20 Yet this is nothing compared to how he savages Dr. Belkin, his former boss. Out of respect for Belkin, I will refrain from reproducing what he writes (which can be found in the just mentioned sources). His words are a good reflection of the conflict and tension that existed between Belkin and the roshei yeshiva, many of whom saw Belkin's goals as at odds with Torah Judaism21 On occasion Belkin had to give in to them, as in their threat to resign en masse if he went through with his plan to move Stern College uptown near Yeshiva University. Yet they usually had to sit by and feel growing anger at what they viewed as Belkin's wrong-headed moves. It was only after they were no longer employed at YU that they could express themselves openly. When they did, it is not surprising that they could be sharper than the most harsh haredi critics.

    Another strong attack on Belkin was penned by R. Chaim Dov Ber Gulevsky, who also taught at YU. (I will have a great deal more to say about his fascinating writings in one of my upcoming posts.) As with Volk, Gulevsky too, unfortunately, falls into the trap of attacking Belkin personally.22 In the case of Gulevsky, I can say that he believed that in doing so he was defending the honor of the Rav, for whom he has the greatest respect. Yet, as with Volk, his attack is way overboard, so much so that I am again embarrassed to cite it. It is unfortunate that rather than focusing on all the Torah he taught while at YU, Gulevsky concludes on the following note:

    ואני תפילה שנזכר לחיים טובים ממלך חפץ בחיים אמן ואמן. ושלא יענישו ושלא ירחיקו אותי ממקורי, וממחיצת צדיקים ישרים ותמימים גאוני ישראל קדושי עליונין בגלל שפעם הייתי במחיצתו של "אותו הנשיא", "אשר מכף רגל והראש לא היה בו מתום" . . . ר"ל.

    In Gulevsky's attack, we also see reflected the long battle between the roshei yeshiva and the adherents of academic Jewish scholarship. This dispute was found at the institution from its early years, and is described in Rakefet's biography of Revel, Solomon Zeitlin was probably the first focus of the roshei Yeshiva's anger. A number of others, most notably Irving Agus and Meir Simhah Feldblum, would later run into trouble from the halls of RIETS on account of their outlooks.

    In Gulevsky's mind, Belkin was not an adherent of Torah study of the traditional sort – he even denies the well-known story that Belkin received semikhah from the Hafetz Hayyim at age seventeen. He sees Belkin as having sold his soul to the idolatry of academic Jewish studies, with all the heresy that went along with it. In fact, it is not merely academic Jewish studies that Gulevsky sees as Belkin's downfall, but no less than the hated 'hokhmah yevanit" that the Sages had warned about. Philo of Alexandria is, in Gulevsky's understanding, just another example of "hokhmah yevanit."23 This involvement with Greek wisdom also led Belkin to his friendships with Christian scholars and "the professor who thought that 'the Jews made a terrible mistake' in pushing away oto ha-ish r"l". Gulevsky told me that (as I suspected) the unnamed professor is Harry A. Wolfson, who was the preeminent Philo scholar of his time. Yet I don't think Wolfson ever said this, and I believe Gulevsky has confused Wolfson with Joseph Klausner.

    Gulevsky also recalls with pain how, in his annual shiur in memory of R. Yitzhak Elhanan Spektor, for whom RIETS was named, Belkin would include material dealing with Philo rather than give a traditional shiur. According to Gulevsky, this even led Belkin to make heretical statements with regard to the Oral Law. He also blasts Belkin's lengthy article on Philo and Midrash Tadshe24 and what he regards as Belkin's foolish attempt to posit a Philonic influence on the Zohar through an ancient midrashic tradition.25 Rather than seeing this last article as a worthy attempt to uphold an ancient dating for the Zohar, Gulevsky instead points out how Scholem rejected Belkin's position as completely nonsensical, even doing so on a visit to Yeshiva University.26

    * * *

    Returning to the issue of Judaism and Christianity, let me begin by calling attention to some curiosities that are perhaps not so well known. The first relates to R. Israel Moshe Hazan, mentioned above. His positive view of Christian scholars seemed so over the top to R Eliezer Waldenberg, that the latter delivered a stinging rebuke in Tzitz Eliezer 13:12:

    שומו שמים למקרא מה יפית כזה לאמונת הנוצרים וחכמיהם מפורש יוצא וללא כל בושה, מפי בעל התשובה . . . ובכלל המותר לקרוא קילוס לחכמיהם? ואיה האיסור של לא תחנם שישנו בדבר?

    As far as I know, Hazan is the only rabbinic author to publish a Christian haskamah in his work (he actually publishes two). These appear in his Nahalah le-Yisrael, which is devoted to a halakhic problem dealing with inheritance. Translations of these haskamot are found in the appendix to Isadore Grunfeld's The Jewish Law of Inheritance.27 (The section dealing with Hazan and his Nahalah le-Yisrael is called: "A Cause Célèbre, A Remarkable Man and a Remarkable Book.") The Christian scholars' haskamot appear together with the haskamot of such renowned figures as R. Hayyim David Hazan of Izmir (later Rishon le-Zion in Jerusalem), R. Eleazar Horovitz of Vienna, R. Shimon Sofer of Mattersdorf, R. Avraham Samuel Sofer of Pressburg, and R. Meir Ash of Ungvar.
    Hazan's testimony about Jews who would go to the Church to listen the music, even if they stood outside the sanctuary has also been very troubling for many. The whole question of the propriety of entering a church deserves its own post. In years past no Jew would enter a Church unless he was forced to, or in order to avoid enmity. R. Moses Sitrug, Yashiv Moshe, vol. 1, no. 235, discusses the latter case and he advises removing one's head covering before entering the church. If not, one will be forced to do so in the church, and this would appear as if one was worshipping with the Christians.28 (When the Chief Rabbi of England is present in a church for an important state function, he does not remove his kippah, and is not expected to.)

    I began this post with Meir Soloveichik. There was actually another Soloveitchik who also had a great interest in things Christian. I refer to R. Elijah Zvi Soloveitchik. Here is a picture of him.

    He was the grandson of R. Hayyim of Volozhin and the uncle of R. Joseph Baer Soloveitchik, the Beit Halevi. He is also the subject of a comprehensive monograph by Dov Hyman, who was a medical doctor trained in London and who lived in Manhattan. For some reason this book was kept fairly secret, with only fifty copies published and never sold in stores. Here is the title page of the book.

    Among Soloveitchik's works is a volume entitled Kol Kore (Paris, 1875). Friedberg, Beit Eked Seforim, describes this book as "in opposition to the New Testament." Yet Friedberg never looked carefully at the volume, for if he did he would have seen that rather than being in opposition to the New Testament, it is in favor of it. Yet it is not a missionary tract. Rather, Soloveitchik followed the approach of R. Jacob Emden (whom he cites in his introduction) that the New Testament is only directed towards Gentiles, and supports the Noahide Laws. However, it has nothing to say to Jews, whom it acknowledges are obligated to keep the Torah. In line with this conception, Soloveitchik felt comfortable in authoring a commentary on the book of Matthew, and that is what the Kol Kore is. Here are the title pages of the first edition as well as the 1985 reprint.

    This is not the only rabbinic commentary on the book of Matthew. In 1900 R. Samuel Weintraub's commentary on this Gospel was published (Milhemet Shmuel). Yet unlike Soloveitchik's work, Weintraub's commentary is devoted to exposing the Gospel's faults.29 Here are the two title pages of the book.

    The book is an interesting polemic, which unlike most polemics is written in the form of a commentary. Yet there are times when the author goes too far. For example, he deals with Matthew 1:18, which states that Mary was impregnated by the Holy Spirit. Needless to say, he strongly attacks this notion. But he also has to make sense of Gen. 6:2, which states that "the sons of God saw the daughters of men that they were fair; and they took them as wives." The problematic words are בני אלהים, as this might be taken to show that the Torah also shares the mythological conception of gods impregnating women.

    Weintraub writes:

    הוא כתרגום אונקלס בני רברביא, ואמרו בב"ר ר"ש בן יוחאי הי' מקלל למי שמתרגם בני אלהיא, כי לא יתכן כלל שהמלאך יבוא אל האשה ויחמוד אותה, ורק העובדי אלילים היו מאמינים בשטותים הללו כמבואר בספרי מיטהאלאגיע ובס' יוסיפון, תדע שהרי הכתוב מסיים עלה: וירא ד' כי רבה רעת האדם בארץ, ולא כתיב כי רבה רעת בני אלהים בארץ, כי בני אלהים האמורים היו ג"כ בני אדם כתרגום אונקלס. ואם רצה השי"ת לברא את המשיח ברוח קדשו היה לו לבראו עפר מן האדמה מבלי אב ואם כמו שברא את אדם הראשון ואז היו כולם מודים בו ואין הקב"ה בא בטרוניא עם בריותיו.

    The only problem with Weintraub's point is that in his zeal to attack the Christian belief, and by asserting that only pagans could believe in a nonsensical notion such that an angel could desir

    0 0

    Thoughts on "Confrontation" and Sundry Matters Part II

    By: Marc B. Shapiro

    What follows is a continuation of this post.

    Some people are so set on showing the differences between Christianity and Judaism that in the process they end up distorting Judaism. Let me start with an example that for the last fifteen years must be considered a Jewish teaching. By Jewish teaching I mean a view that is taught in the observant community. This doesn't mean that all or even most people will agree with it, anymore than they agree with the ideas of Daas Torah, religious Zionism, religious anti-Zionism, or that the shirayim of the Rebbe has mystical significance. But agree or not, these are clearly Jewish teachings.

    Today it must be admitted that Judaism and Christianity share a belief in the Second Coming of the Messiah. While this is an obligatory belief for Christians, for Jews it is, like so many other notions, simply an option. The truth of my statement is seen in the fact that messianist Habad is part and parcel of traditional Judaism, and, scandal or not, most of the leading Torah authorities have been indifferent to this. That is, they see it as a mistaken belief, but not one that pushes its adherent out of the fold. In other words, it is like so many other false ideas in Judaism, all of which fall under the rubric "Jewish beliefs." As long as these beliefs don't cross any red lines, the adherents are regarded as part of the traditional Jewish community.

    To give a parallel example, many people reading this post are good rationalists, and therefore regard astrology as quite foolish. But we are all well aware of the many Jewish teachers who taught the efficacy of this system. Therefore, astrology must be regarded as an acceptable belief for adherents of traditional Judaism. Whether it is correct or not is a completely different matter, and if the latter criteria determines whether something is included under the rubric of traditional Judaism, then it will be a small tent indeed.

    Unlike Professor David Berger, it doesn't overly concern me that the belief in a Second Coming didn't exist twenty years ago. After all, Judaism is a developing religion. Two hundred years ago leading Torah scholars criticized Hasidism for advocating all sorts of new ideas, and yet these too became part of Judaism. In another fifty years the notion of a Jewish Second Coming will probably be seen by most as just another Hasidic eccentricity (albeit the province of only one sect), up there with prayers after the proper time and shirayim. The important point for me is what makes a belief an acceptable one in Judaism is not whether it is new, and certainly not whether it is correct, but whether the rabbinic leaders tolerate it. Over time they have shown that they can tolerate all sorts of foolish doctrines, Habad messianism being merely the latest.

    Professor Berger argued his case valiantly, but it has largely fallen on deaf ears, and this includes the ears of great Torah scholars. So, like it or not, traditional Judaism now encompasses hasidim and mitnagdim, rationalists and kabbalists, Zionists and anti-Zionists, and those who think the Messiah will be coming for the first time together with those who think it will be a return trip.

    What has occurred with Habad messianism and its painless integration into wider Orthodoxy can also teach us something with regard to the history of Judaism and Christianity. Had Paul not insisted on his antinomian path, that is, had the Law remained central to early Christianity, there is no reason to assume that there would have been a break with Pharisaic Judaism.

    When thinking about Habad, there is one other point we have to bear in mind. There are great Torah scholars who unfortunately believe the messianic foolishness, and they should be treated with respect. After all, R. Hayyim Joseph David Azulai, the Hida, quoted from the works of scholars who continued to believe in Shabbetai Zvi even after his apostasy.33 He certainly opposed their Sabbatianism, and we must oppose the Habad messianism, but one's religious legitimacy in contemporary Orthodoxy is not destroyed because of the belief in a false Messiah.

    Let me now return to an issue mentioned already, namely, the naivete in dealing with the differences between Judaism and Christianity that is common in Orthodox circles, especially among those who engage in apologetics and kiruv type activities. To give an example that I have both seen in print and heard in lectures, there are those who talk about how compared to Catholicism Judaism is a much more realistic religion when it comes to divorce, in that it permits it if people don't get along. That is fine, as far as it goes, but some people then go overboard and denigrate any outlook that opposes "Judaism's position." In doing so, these well-meaning people end up of denigrating Beit Shammai's view. Some will recall that Beit Shammai said that "a man may not divorce his wife unless he has found in her some unseemly conduct" (Gittin 9:10), which means unchastity. Now the halakhah is not in accord with Beit Shammai, but his is certainly a Jewish position. Any presentation of Judaism that presents the standard view of divorce as "the" Jewish position, and denigrates any other approach, has the unintended consequence of denigrating Beit Shammai as not having had a "Jewish" position.

    In other words, it is disparaging to Beit Shammai for any contemporary to speak about how Beit Hillel's view is "better" than that of Beit Shammai. In fact, there are traditional sources that speak about how in Messianic days the halakhah will follow Beit Shammai, in this and in all other disputes. I think the traditional position would be to assert that Beit Hillel's position is not objectively any "better", and certainly not more ethical, than that of Beit Shammai. Furthermore, a number of poskim actually hold that Beit Hillel and Beit Shammai only dispute about a second (or subsequent) marriage, but that with regard to the first marriage, Beit Hillel agrees with Beit Shammai that a man can divorce his wife only if he finds a matter of unchastity. R. Solomon ben Simeon Duran goes even further and asserts that in this dispute the halakhah is actually in accord with Beit Shammai!34ואע"ג דב"ש וב"ה הלכה כב"ה משמע הכא דהלכה כב"ש

    This is not the accepted halakhah, but it illustrates how unseemly it is to portray a position held by important poskim as out of touch or foolish. As mentioned above, I have seen many times when apologists try to show the beauty of Judaism by contrasting it positively with some "non-Jewish" position (on the unsophisticated assumption that the best way to better their position is by denigrating another). As noted, I have also observed that sometimes the position they are denigrating happens to also be a Jewish position (just not the accepted position). Of course, when you point this out to them, and show them that the way they were arguing had the unintended consequence of ridiculing a position held by traditional Jewish figures, they immediately apologize and give assurances that they won't do so again.

    My question always is, why not? Five minutes ago they were happy to declare how unfair or foolish a certain position is, and once being informed that the position is also held by Jewish thinkers they drop their argument like a hot potato. Are we to conclude that it is not the inherent logic of an argument that gives it validity, but only who its adherents are? Does an approach only stop being ridiculous when the polemicist learns that it was held by a traditional thinker? Obviously yes, which leads to the conclusion that there is no purpose in the polemicist arguing the merits of his case at all, since everything he states is only conditional. In other words, the polemicist is telling us: "I can attack a position as being foolish and illogical, but this is only when I think the position is held by non-Jewish or non-traditional thinkers. Once I learn that the position is also held by traditional thinkers, all of my previous words of criticism should be regarded as null and void." This is another example of what elsewhere I have termed the "elastic" nature of Jewish apologetics and polemics.

    With this in mind, let me now say something that I know will make many people uncomfortable, but which I have felt for a long time. Throughout Jewish literature one can find any number of explanations as to how the notion of the Trinity is in direct opposition to Jewish teachings, since Judaism demands a simple, unified God. There is no doubt that for much of our history this was the standard view. However, once the doctrine of the sefirot arises on the scene, matters change. Many of the arguments put forth by kabbalists to explain why the belief in the sefirot does not detract from God's essential unity could also be used to justify the Trinity, a fact recognized by the opponents of the sefirotic doctrine. Since the doctrine of the sefirot has become part and parcel of Judaism, we must now acknowledge that Judaism does not require a simple Maimonidean-like, divine unity.

    In fact, without any reference to the sefirot, R. Judah Aryeh Modena was able to conclude that one could indeed justify the notion of the Trinity so that it did not stand in opposition to basic Jewish beliefs about God's unity. As Modena points out in his anti-Christian polemic, Magen va-Herev, the real Jewish objection to the Christian godhead is not found in any notion of a Triune God, but in the Christian doctrine of the Incarnation.35 The idea that God assumed human form, i.e., that a human is also God, is regarded by us as way over the line. This is not only because it deifies a human, but also because there is a great difference between a spiritual God divided into different "parts," and an actual physical division in God. The latter is certainly in violation of God's unity even according to the most extreme sefirotic formulations. (It would not, however, appear to be in violation of R. Moses Taku's understanding of God, since he posits that God can assume form in this world at the same time that He is in the heavens. For Taku, Christianity's heresy would thus be seen only in their worship of a human, which is avodah zarah.)

    From the Trinity, let's turn to Virgin Birth, another phenomenon which everyone knows is not a Jewish concept, or is it? If by Virgin Birth one means conception through the agency of God, then there is no such concept in Judaism. Yet if by Virgin Birth we also include conception without the presence of human sperm, then as we shall soon see, this indeed accepted by some scholars. (I stress human sperm, so that we can exclude the legend of Ben Sira's conception, which occurred by means of a bathtub, not to mention all of the responsa dealing with artificial insemination.)

    Pre-modern man believed in all sorts of strange things, one of which was the concept of the incubus and the succubus, which was found in many cultures. The idea was that male and female demons would have sex with humans while they slept. Among the outstanding Christian figures who believed the notion possible include Augustine and Aquinas.36 This was an especially good way to explain an unwanted pregnancy: just blame it on the demon. While the classic example of the incubus is when a male demon comes upon a sleeping woman, there were times when this happened while both parties were awake, and we will soon see such a case in Jewish history. Lest one think that this is only a pre-modern superstition, what about all those people who claim to have had sexual relations with aliens who abducted them?37

    As the superstitions in Jewish society have often mirrored those of the dominant culture, we shouldn't be surprised that sex with demons comes up in our literature. Already the Talmud (Eruvin 18b) speaks of Adam begetting various types of demons. This source doesn't say who the mother was, but since it wasn't Eve it must be a female demon. Yet the Talmud is quick to note that Adam never actually had sex with this female demon. Rather, she impregnated herself with his sperm that was emitted accidentally. Throughout Jewish history there were women who were believed to have had sex with demons, and this raised halakhic issues that had to be dealt with. There is no need for me to give various sources on this as they have been nicely collected by Hannah G. Sprecher in a fascinating article.38 I will just mention one point which I find interesting, and which I mentioned in one of my lectures on R. Ben Zion Uziel.39 While R. Uziel is in many respects a model for a Modern Orthodox posek, it is quite jarring to find that he too takes seriously the claim that a woman was intimate with a demon. Instead of sending her to a psychologist, he devotes great efforts to showing that she can remain with her kohen husband.40 That poskim would discuss this sort of thing is not surprising, and in an earlier post I mentioned a current talmid chacham who discusses if one can eat the flesh of a demon. Similarly, Sprecher cites a twentieth-century work that deals with circumcising a child whose father was a demon.41 Yet to find R. Uziel, a supposedly modern posek, also taking this very seriously was quite a surprise to me. I guess the greater surprise was that of the various women involved with the demons. While some were no doubt off their rocker, others presumably just invented the story to save themselves from the shame of an improper relationship and its consequences. Imagine their surprise when instead of being condemned for their illicit affair, the rabbis actually believed the story that they made up, namely, that the man they had sex with was really a demon!42

    Once a woman is believed to have had sex with a demon, and certainly if she had a child in this fashion, people are generally not going to want to have anything to do with her and her family. Being descended from the Devil is hardly the best yichus. Yet much of the world began like this, at least according to one early interpretation. Targum Ps.-Jonathan to Gen. 4:1 explains that Cain's father is not Adam, but Sammael, who also is known as Satan and the Angel of Death. As James Kugel has shown, this tradition is found in other early sources, such as 1 John 3:12 which describes Cain as being "of the Evil One." Pirkei de-Rabbi Eliezer 21 describes how the serpent impregnated Eve, and we know from other sources that the serpent is none other than Sammael. While we might be inclined to smile and regard this all as pleasant folklore, there is actually much more here than meets the eye. As Kugel brilliantly notes, this portrayal of Cain serves to explain why God did not accept his sacrifice, a point that is never explained in the text. In addition, it helps solve the puzzling comment of Eve (Gen. 4:1): "I have gotten a man with the Lord," understanding "man" to mean angel, as is elsewhere found in Scripture.43

    Lest one think that in modern times tales of the Devil's children are only to be found in novels and on the big screen – one immediately thinks of Rosemary's Baby and The Omen – let me tell you a fascinating story. In the beginning of the nineteenth century a married woman named Yittel Levkovich gave birth to a child which, we are told, was obviously not her husband's. Yittel claimed that she had been raped by a male demon. This claim was accepted and the woman was not regarded as an adulteress nor was the child regarded as a mamzer. Yet other Jews refused to marry with the descendants of this woman, and these descendants were known as "Chitshers." Matters got to be so bad that in 1926 a broadside was published signed by many Hungarian rabbis declaring that there was no problem marrying into the Chitshers. Among the signatories was the young R. Joel Teitelbaum, the rav of Satmar.

    Despite this plea, there were those who continued to shun the Chitchers, and even to this day there are families in the Hungarian hasidic world who will refuse to intermarry with other Hungarian hasidim since the latter are descended from Yittel and the demon. Tying in with the Christian theme with which I began this post, there was even a belief that a Chitcher has the image of a cross under his skin opposite the heart!44 Take a look at the end of this responsum.

    This is a fascinating topic, and those who want more details should consult the previously mentioned article by Sprecher, from which I took the information mentioned until now. One aspect of the story that appeared too late to be included by Sprecher is mentioned by Jerome Mintz, and shows how despite R. Yoel Teitelbaum's words of support for the Chitshers, this did not carry on to one of the inheritors of his throne.

    Jerome Mintz records the following from a Satmar informant:

    The Satmar Rebbe's son, the oldest son, Aaron, he has sometimes a big mouth. Aaron, the Rebbe's son, gave a speech and he called Ableson's45 mother a hatzufah [impudent woman]. "This Ableson's mother--that impudent woman with her tsiganer [gypsy] family--came to the shul and starts yelling." You know, with that phrase he was trying to bring up an old pain.

    There is an old story about the Ableson family, given only from mouth to ear, about the quality of their family. There were some rumors about a hundred years ago about the Ableson family, that it's not so spotless. A woman in the family had a relationship with some demon or something and that's how the branch of the family got started. . . . Nobody knows how she became pregnant. She went away to a different town and came back pregnant and she didn't have any love affair. She was a virgin. She was still a virgin. . . . It's written in a lot of books at that time. The Kotsker, on of the big rabbis, said that one of their ancestors was made pregnant by a demon.

    This goes back six generations. The family is spread out and the descendants feel a little guilty. They try to behave, you know, so that nobody should throw it back at them. The family is so widespread because they're so rich. They've gotten into every family. They're very aggressive people, probably because they come from the devil. . . . Even today when somebody is making a marriage arrangement he wants to find out if the family is not from the witches. I know that my mother and my father when they made a marriage arrangement, it was a day before they left the country, they found out if there's a witch or not.46

    The R. Aaron mentioned in this story is one of the current Satmar Rebbes.

    We find another example where a large family was ostracized in this fashion. The problem here was especially acute as many great Torah scholars had married into this family, and now aspersions were being cast on it. Those casting the aspersions referred to the family members as Nadler, which has the connotation of mamzer. (As with the term mamzer, it was also used as a general term of abuse and is the subject of a responsum of R. Solomon Luria.47) Because of the growing calumnies against innocent families, the Maharal and numerous other great rabbis were forced to publicly support them and condemn all who would question their yichus.48 What I don't understand is how, considering the base origin of the term "Nadler" and how it was used in such an abusive fashion, that the word actually became an acceptable last name. Indeed, it is now more than acceptable and people are proud to have this name, which they share with two outstanding scholars, not to mention my former congressman.

    * * *

    Returning to the issue of Christianity, many have discussed whether or not it is considered avodah zarah. I will deal with this at a future time, but now I want to raise another issue which I mentioned briefly in Limits of Orthodox Theology: What is worse, atheism or avodah zarah? Subsequent to the book's appearance I found more sources related to this, which I hope to come back to in a future post. For now, let me just call attention to found a very interesting comment of R. David Zvi Hoffmann with regard to avodah zarah. It is found in R. Hayyim Hirschenson's journal, Ha-Misderonah 1 (1885), p. 137. In speaking about the practice of the Talmud to sometime use euphemistic language, he claims that the expression "Grave is avodah zarah, for whoever denies it is as if he accepts the whole Torah" (Hullin 5a and parallels) is an example of this. In other words, the Talmud really means: "Grave is avodah zarah, for whoever accepts it denies the entire Torah." I had never thought of this and it is certainly interesting. Hoffmann is himself led to this interpretation, which he sees as obvious, because if it was really the case that one who rejected avodah zarah would be regarded as one who accepts the Torah, how come a public Sabbath violator who rejects avodah zarah is still regarded as having rejected the Torah?

    Nevertheless, despite its immediate appeal, I don't think Hoffmann's interpretation can be accepted, and the passage is not to be regarded as euphemistic. Rather, it is an example of the Sages' exaggerations, which we find in other places as well, such as where they state that a certain commandment is equal to all six hundred thirteen. In fact, I have what I think is conclusive proof that Hoffmann is mistaken in regarding this passage as expressing a euphemism. In Megillah 13a the passage appears in an altered form: "Anyone who repudiates avodah zarah is called 'a Jew.'" The Talmud then cites a biblical proof text to support this statement which shows that it was not meant to be understood as a euphemism.

    While on the subject of Christianity, I would like to respond to the reaction of some who read my opinion piece on John Hagee. There I showed that what got so many upset, namely, Hagee's theological understanding of the Holocaust, was actually shared by R. Zvi Yehudah Kook.49 Of course, I understand why people feel that attempting to explain the Holocaust is improper. I happen to share this sentiment. Yet if people are upset by what Hagee said, just wait until they see the following, which out of all the supposed justifications for the Holocaust, which have ranged the gamut, this is surely the most bizarre. What can I say, other than that it never ceases to amaze me how some of the greatest scholars we have say some of the craziest stuff imaginable.

    I am referring to one of the reasons R. Ovadiah Hadaya gives to explain the Holocaust. He saw it as God's way of cleansing the world of all the mamzerim!50 How a sensitive scholar, which Hadaya certainly was,51 could offer such an explanation really boggles the mind. To think that the cruel murder of six million, including over a million children, not to mention all of the other terrible results of the Holocaust, was in order to complete some yichus program is beyond strange. I can't recall who it was who said that any attempts at explaining suffering are invalid if you are not prepared to tell it to a parent whose child is dying of cancer. I certainly can't imagine anyone telling a parent that his family was wiped out in the Holocaust in order to get rid of the mamzerim! (A well-known American haredi rosh yeshiva responded very strongly when told about what Hadaya wrote, but I don't have permission to quote his words.) Prof. David Halivni commented, when I told him about Hadaya's view, that Sephardim often don't get it when it comes to the Holocaust. I remember thinking about Halivni's comment when R. Ovadiah Yosef gave his own explanation for the Holocaust, some years ago, one which created such a storm that Holocaust survivors protested outside his home. He claimed that the dead were really reincarnated souls suffering for their sins in previous lifetimes.

    Although he doesn't mention it, Hadaya's view is obviously based on the Jerusalem Talmud, Yevamot 8:3, which speaks of a catastrophe coming on the world every few generations which destroys both mamzerim and non-mamzerim (the latter are destroyed as well, so that it not be known who committed the sin.) Sefer Hasidim, ed. Margaliot, no. 213, repeats this teaching.

    יש הריגת דבר או חרב שלא נגזר אלא לכלות הממזרים וכדי שלא לביישם שאם לא ימותו רק הממזרים היה נודע והיתה המשפחה מתביישת מפני חברתה [ולכן נוטל הכשרים עמהם]

    It is with regard to the issue of the mamzer that one can see manifested a point I have often thought about. The great classical historian Moses Finley spoke of what he termed the "teleological fallacy" in the interpretation of historical change. "It consists in assuming the existence from the beginning of time, so to speak, of the writer's values . . . and in then examining all earlier thought and practice as if they were, or ought to have been, on the road to this realization, as if men in other periods were asking the same questions and facing the same problems as those of the historian and his world."52

    The fact is that earlier generations often thought very differently about things. For example, we are much more sensitive to matters such as human rights than they were. They took slavery for granted, while the very concept of owning another person is the most detestable thing imaginable to us. Followers of R. Kook will put all of this in a religious framework, and see it as humanity's development as it gets closer to the Messianic era.

    We see this very clearly when it comes to the issue of the mamzer who through no fault of his own suffers terribly. The Orthodox community is very sympathetic to his fate, and it is unimaginable that people today will, as in the past express satisfaction at the death of a mamzer.53 A difficulty with the sympathetic approach is the Shulhan Arukh's ruling (Yoreh Deah 265:4) that when the mamzer is born אין מבקשים עליו רחמים. The Shakh writes: כלומר אין אומרים קיים את הילד כו', מטעם דלא ניחא להו לישראל הקדושים לקיים הממזרים שביניהם. In fact, according to R. Bahya ibn Paquda (Hovot ha-Levavot, Sha'ar ha-Teshuvah, ch. 10), if one is responsible for bringing

    0 0

    Message From Professor Haym Soloveitchik

    It has come to my attention that a critique of my article "Halakhah, Hermeneutics and Martyrdom" published by the Jewish Quarterly Review has appeared in the Tradition Seforim blog in Fall of 2008. In principle, I do not respond to blogs, as this would place my time at the mercy of anyone who can type. However, I am preparing my articles for re-publication in 3 volumes by the Littman Library. The articles will be reproduced as originally published. However, I hope to relate to new developments in the prefaces to the individual essays. I welcome any criticism or relevant notes that individuals would send me. If I find merit in their remarks, I will note it; if their criticism seems substantive, I will try to address it.

    I should add, I will not respond to anonymous communications. As I view such traffic as inappropriate. Intellectual engagement entails reciprocity of exposure. To criticize others behind a shield of anonymity is to my thinking craven and unworthy of a scholar or talmid hakham.

    Haym Soloveitchik (
    Merkin Family Research Professor at Yeshiva University

    0 0

    A Brief Response To Marc B. Shapiro 
    by David Berger

    In response to Prof. Marc B. Shapiro's recent comments in, "Thoughts on Confrontation & Sundry Matters Part II," Prof. David Berger, submitted the following response to readers of the Tradition-Seforim blog. For the recently-published paperback edition of his book on Lubavitch messianism, which follows the Hebrew translation of his book -- see David Berger,HaRebbe Melekh HaMashiach, Sah'aruriyyat ha-Adishut, ve-ha-Iyyum al Emunat Yisrael (Jerusalem: Urim Publications, 2005) -- and which includes a new introduction where he responds to earlier criticisms of the book, see David Berger, The Rebbe, the Messiah, and the Scandal of Orthodox Indifference, With a new Introduction  (Oxford: The Littman Library of Jewish Civilization, 2008).

    This is his first contribution to the Tradition Seforim blog.

    Since I've written an entire book about Chabad messianism, there is little point in my rehearsing the arguments here in truncated form.  I will make just two brief observations.

    First, Prof. Shapiro writes, "Unlike Professor David Berger, it doesn't overly concern me that the belief in a Second Coming didn't exist twenty years ago. After all, Judaism is a developing religion."  My point, of course, is not that the belief did not exist twenty years ago. It is that Jews through the ages repeatedly--through both word and deed--rejected the possibility that God would send the Messiah to announce that redemption was imminent, preside over a movement identifying him as the Messiah, and then die in an unredeemed world.  In short, Chabad messianism destroys the gedarim, or defining parameters, of one of the ikkarei he-emunah.  Since this point was a key argument used against Christianity for untold generations, rendering it false is a betrayal not only of the Jewish faith but of generations of Jewish martyrs.

    Second, there is the reality of toleration by rabbinic leaders (my "scandal of indifference"), which for Prof. Shapiro determines not only what Judaism has become but what we ought to accept as legitimate.  Now, in discussing Christianity, he goes on to say that the incarnation, or belief that a human being is God, is way over the line.  He does not, however, return to Chabad in that part of his discussion, because he would be required to confront his earlier criterion with all its terrible consequences.  I have shown that a significant segment of Chabad hasidim (not just a few lunatics) maintain a fully incarnationist doctrine, and yet the rabbis who believe this (including some of Prof Shapiro's "great Torah scholars" who allegedly deserve respect despite their adherence to the "messianic foolishness") are also generally treated as Orthodox rabbis in every respect.  The reasons for this indifference are discussed in chapter 13 of my book, and they have little to do with theology.  It may indeed be that even this belief will become so legitimated that Judaism will be fundamentally transformed; it is, however, much too early to make such a judgment even about "mere" messianism, and it is beyond irresponsible to look at this development with the cool eye of an analyst without attempting to stem the tide.  Historic Judaism is in mortal danger.  Let outsiders watch this process in detached fascination.  Those of us who care about preserving the faith of our ancestors must take a stand.  If we fail, the proper reaction will not be to accept this with equanimity as analogous to the distribution of shirayim; it will be to tear keriah as we mourn the destruction of core elements of our faith.

    0 0
  • 02/08/09--15:32: Review of Quntres
  • Review of Quntres
    by B. Jackson

    First, a quick note regarding Prof. Haym Soloveitchik's apparent position that anonymous critiques are inappropriate.  It appears that his position overlooks at least one example of just that.  As Dan Rabinowitz has pointed out in a prior post, R. Shmuel Aboab authored an ethical work which critiqued some of the perceived laxity of the day but did so anonymously.  

    Turning to the new online journal Quntres: An Online Journal for the History, Culture, and Art of the Jewish Book. This online only journal, which focuses on the history of the Jewish book has just published its inaugural issue. The editors explain that they view this journal as a "to continue the tradition of scholarship dedicated to the history of the Jewish book once represented in Europe in Hebräische Bibliographie and the Zeitschrift für hebräische Bibliographie, then transplanted to Israel in Kiryat Sefer, and now taking on a virtual form at the libraries of the Jewish Theological Seminary."  Although not noted, arguably there have been such journals in America already such as the Jewish Book Annual.  Additionally, in Israel, Ali Sefer, although on extended hiatus, has recently been restarted (soon to be reviewed). Be that as it may, any addition to the study of the Hebrew book is most welcome.  

    This issue contains four articles, three in English and one in Hebrew.  The first two articles are articles truly devoted to Hebrew bibliography.   Marvin J. Heller, a prolific writer in this field, already having authored his excellent studies on the printing of the Talmud as well as his Abridged Thesauruses of the Hebrew book, turns his keen eye to unraveling the bibliographical history of the Sefer ha-Kavanot.  Indeed, this issue is also dealt with by Yosef Avivi, in his recent bibliography of writings of the Arizal.  The second article, by Jordan S. Penkower is also of interest to Hebrew bibliographies as well as students of the Bible.  In particular, Penkower traces the history of Norzi's Introduction to his Minhat Shai.  As most are aware, Minhat Shai, is a fundamental work on textual variants of the Bible, and the introduction, not included in the first edition of Norzi's work - nor many other editions - is important as well.  Penkower has published other similar bibliographical and Bible related studies such as his articles on the verse divisions of the Bible, the chapter divisions of the Bible and his seminal article which is steeped in bibliographical finds on the pronunciation of the word "zekher."[1] The final English article, while not directly devoted to Hebrew bibliography is still of interest to the history of Hebrew bibliography as it is an appreciation of Moritz Steinschneider, one of the most important Hebrew bibliographers of all time.

    The final article, in Hebrew, is by Shmuel Glick and discusses some examples of censorship in the responsa literature.  Glick, of course, is the editor of the Kuntress ha-Teshuvot he-Hadash project (two volumes have already been completed [see reviews here and here], with the third and final volume set to appear this summer) and thus is perfectly placed to write such an article.  Indeed, Glick mentions the project in many footnotes for additional details. The start of the article is not all that promising as Glick trots out the well worn example of the responsa of the Rema regarding yayin nesach.  This is one of the most well known examples of censorship in responsa literature.  Many have discussed this example, but curiously Glick doesn't reference most of the scholarly literature on the topic.  For example, Asher Siev, in his edition of the She'elot u-Teshuvot ha-Rema discusses this as does Daniel Sperber in Minhagei Yisrael. [2]  Neither source is mentioned. Another omission is Glick's discussion of the responsa of R. David Tzvi Hoffmann.  Glick notes that in the Kest-Leibowitz edition a responsum regarding headcovering is removed.  It appears that Glick was unaware of Dan Rabinowitz's article (see here) where he notes this as well as other examples of censorship specific to headcovering.  One other example that Glick discusses should also be augmented. Glick mentions the responsum of R. Ezekiel Landau regarding a suspected case of adultery.  The responsum contains graphic details discussing the alleged act.  David Katz, "A Case Study in the Formation of a Super-Rabbi: The Early Years of Rabbi Ezekiel Landau, 1713-1754," (PhD dissertation, University of Maryland, 2004), 228-248, provides much in the way of background with regard to this case.  While it is possible that Glick didn't see this dissertation, the sources Katz provides should be added to the single source Glick provides.  One other addition regards the Hatam Sofer's responsum discussing metiziah be-peh. Glick correctly notes that this responsum was subject to much controversy whether it was authored by Hatam Sofer.  While Glick provides a few sources, he fails to mention that Jacob Katz has written an excellent article on the topic  -  see  Jacob Katz, "The Controversy Over the Mezizah," Halakhah in Straits: Obstacles to Orthodoxy at its Inception (Jerusalem: Magnes Press, 1992), 150–183 (Hebrew), translated in idem, "The Controversy Over the Mezizah: The Unrestricted Execution of the Rite of Circumcision," in Divine Law in Human Hands: Case Studies in Halakhic Flexibility (Jerusalem: Hebrew University Magnes Press, 1998), 357-402 as well as the more recent article by Shlomo Sprecher, "Mezizah be-Peh: Therapeutic Touch or Hippocratic Vestige," Hakirah 3 (September 2006): 15-66. 

    Another example of responsa censorship that Glick provides bears mentioning because Glick's discussion supplements the discussion in Kuntress ha-Teshuvot.  Glick, in this article, mentions the removal of the responsum from R. Y. Greenwald to R. Sonnefeld regarding joining the Agudah from Greenwald's Zikrhon Yehuda.  In Kuntress ha-Teshuvot, Glick questions Miamon's story regarding how and why this responsum was removed.  Maimon claimed that as Greenwald argued against joining the Agudah, the Agudah purchased all the copies of Greenwald's responsa and removed and substituted a different responsum.  Unfortunately, the censors failed to change the index to reflect the alteration and in all copies, the index records a responsum discussing joining the Agudah and in some editions the responsum in question (no. 210) deals with that while in others it deals with the issue of eating on the eve of Yom Kippur.  Glick, however, questions this in Kuntress noting various problems with Maimon's story.  (See Kuntress ha-Teshuvot, vol. 1, no. 1310).  Now, Glick provides additional material that appears to indicate that Maimon was wrong.  In particular, Glick cites Schisa's article where Schisa provides a very different version of what happened. Namely, that the printers, in order to be able to sell this work at a convention that was an Agudah convention, on their own switched the responsum in question.  According to this version, the alteration was for profit not ideology.  Curiously, Glick makes no mention that the article considerably augments what appears in Kuntress ha-Teshuvot.      

    Of course, the balance of Glick's article is very interesting and provides some lesser known examples of censorship in responsa literature.  Two technical notes.  First, in Glick's article he refers to non-existent page numbers.  That is, he references pages in his article (see, e.g.,  pp. 43, 65 n.56, 69 n.66) that are internally incorrect.  Second, although this journal is published digitally, the format is somewhat poor.  In particular, the lines are justified but, rather than get all the words on a single line, a considerable amount of words are broken up and hyphenated.  This makes for difficult to reading both digitally and in hard copy.    

    [1] See Jordan S. Penkower, "The Chapter Divisions of the 1525 Rabbinic Bible," Vetus Testamentum 48:3 (July 1998): 350-74; idem, "Verse Divisions in the Hebrew Bible," Vetus Testamentum 50:3 (July 2000): 379-93; idem, "Minhag and Mesorah: On the Recent Ashkenazi Custom of Double Vocalization of זכר עמלק (Deut. 25:19)," in R. Kasher, M. Sipor, Y. Sarfati, eds., Iyenei Mikrah u-Parshanut 4 (Ramat Gan: Bar-Ilan University Press, 1997), 71-128.

    [2]Teshuvot ha-Rama, Ziv. ed. no. 124, and pp. 66-67; D. Sperber, Minhagei Yisrael, (Jerusalem: Mossad ha-Rav Kook, 1991), vol. 2, p. 56 n.26; D. Sperber, Netivot Pesikah (Jerusalem: Reuven Mass, 2008), pp. 104-14; Y.S. Spiegel, Amudim be-Tolodot ha-Sefer ha-Ivri Ketivah ve-Hataka (Ramat Gan: Bar Ilan University Press, 2007), p. 273 and the notes therein.

    0 0
  • 02/19/09--09:15: Milah Books & Manuals
  • Milah Books & Manuals
    by Eliezer Brodt & Ish Sefer

    Much has been written on milah. Hebrew Books has over forty seforim on this topic. There are those books that discuss the various controversies, including abolishing milah in toto[1] or specific parts of milah such as metzizah be-peh.[2] Others focus on the philosophic and theological implications of milah.[3]  This post, however, will focus on two types of milah books , one what we will refer to as milah manuals and the second, books about milah. The former is comprised of books that explain, in detail, the process of milah - these can include the physical process, i.e. how the surgery is to take place, as well as the more esoteric processes such as thoughts or prayers that are to accompany the milah.  The second type of book doesn't focus on the technical aspects of milah but instead focuses on the customs, the laws, etc. that are connected with the surgery.  One final point, this is not intended to be a complete bibliography of either type of work, instead, we have picked out a few titles that hopefully will be of interest to the readers. 

    Milah Manuals

    The first manual up for discussion is R. Tzvi Benyamin Auerbach's, Brit Avraham,  Frankfort, 1860. This book includes a nice introduction dealing with a history of the Ravan as well as other Rishonim.  Additionally, all the liturgy associated with brit and explanations of the liturgy is included.  There is a section on the laws relating to milah.  At the beginning of this section, Auerbach notes that although he takes a different view of some of rules governing milah, he provides explainations for his divergent opinions in another section.  Indeed, Auerbach does provide a detailed discussion of the law of milah including a discussion of most, if not all, relevant opinions.  Interestingly, although the laws and liturgy are in Hebrew, this section, the section discussing the bases for Auerbach's opinions, is in German.  Not only is it in German, but in Latin characters indicating that Auerbach was trying to demonstrate the correctness of his opinion to only those who could read German.  Let us explain.  Auerbach's work includes one other section in the vernacular.  That section discusses various cures associated with milah. This section is written in Yiddish in Hebrew characters.  Auerbach explains that he did so "so that even those who do not understand Hebrew will understand this section." Thus, there are three potential audiences for this book.  Those who only understand Yiddish, those who understand Hebrew, and finally, those who understand German as well. [More]

    0 0

    Get Ready – It's Almost Time to Bless the Sun

    by Daniel J. Lasker

    Daniel J. Lasker is Norbert Blechner Professor of Jewish Values at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Beer Sheva, and is chair of the Goldstein-Goren Department of Jewish Thought. His landmark work Jewish Philosophical Polemics against Christianity in the Middle Ages, originally published in 1977, was recently republished with a new introduction in 2007.

    This is Professor Lasker's second post at the Seforim blog. His previous post about ve-ten tal u-matar li-verakha was entitled "December 6 Is Coming: Get Out the Umbrellas," and is available here.

    לזכר אבי מורי ז"ל

    In less than two months, on April 8, 2009 (Erev Pesah, 14th Nisan, 5769), the once- in-28-years Blessing of the Sun (Birkat ha-Hammah) will be recited, celebrating the occasion when the sun returns to the position where it was when it was first created, on the same day of the week and the same hour of the day as it was then. For those with short and medium range memories, and for those who were toddlers or perhaps not even born in 1981, it is useful to review the reason for this ceremony, one of the very few Jewish events which follow a solar calendar rather than our standard Jewish luni-solar calendar. This year's Blessing is the first one in the internet age, so it is appropriate to publicize it on a blog; one can only imagine what technological breakthroughs will be around at the time of the next Blessing in 2037. [More]

    0 0

    In a previous post at the Seforim blog, Prof. Elliott Horowitz of Bar Ilan University and co-editor of Jewish Quarterly Review, described Isaiah Berlin on Meir Berlin (Bar-Ilan) and Saul Lieberman [see here].
    This is his fourth contribution to the Seforim blog. We hope that you enjoy.


    Modern Amalekites: From Adolf to Avigdor

    by Elliott Horowitz

    Well before the outbreak of World War II the Nazi regime in Germany came to be associated by many Jews with Israel’s ancient arch-enemy, Amalek. Perhaps the first to do so was the noted historian Simon Dubnow who in a 1935 (Hebrew) letter from Riga to his disciple Simon Rawidowicz bemoaned the recently promulgated Nuremberg Laws, and then prophetically exclaimed “We are at war with Amalek!” During that same decade some ultra-Orthodox European rabbis were using the epithet of “Amalek” with reference to their more secular coreligionists who adhered to such modern ideologies as Communism or Zionism. This was true, for example, of the great Talmudist R. Elhanan Wasserman, one of the leaders of Agudat Yisrael, who like Dubnow was to meet his death in 1941 at the hands of the Nazis. Wasserman, who had studied in Volozhin and Telz before joining the kollel of the Hafetz Hayyim (R. Israel Meir Ha-Kohen, 1838-1933), cited the latter’s confident opinion that the Soviet Jewish communists (known as the Yevsektzia) were “descendants of Amalek.” Ironically, his even more ultra-Orthodox Hungarian contemporary R. Hayyim Elazar Spira of Munkacz (1872-1937) included among the ranks of modern Amalekites not only the Zionists, but also the members and leadership of Agudat Yisrael.1

    In September of 1941 Joseph Hertz, the Chief Rabbi of (what was then still) the British Empire, delivered a thundering sermon at a public “intercession service” held on the ruins of London’s Great Synagogue, which had just been destroyed by German bombs. Drawing upon the previous week’s scriptural reading from Deuteronomy 25, which is also the “additional” reading for Shabbat Zakhor, Hertz referred to Nazi Germany as “Amalek’s latest spiritual descendant; he fears not God; he closes the gates of mercy on those who cannot resist his might.” The Chief Rabbi stressed that God’s war with Amalek was not to be left in divine hands, but was to be “carried out by…men and nations filled with an endless loathing of Amalek and all his works and ways.” He also praised those Jews who had shown support for “our beloved country in her struggle to blot out the memory of Amalek from under the heavens of the Lord.”2
    Hertz, who had studied at New York’s City College (where he received a gold medal for English composition) before attending the Jewish Theological Seminary of America (of which he was the first rabbinical graduate), was not the first British clergyman to portray the Germans as contemporary Amalekites. Early in October of 1939, shortly after his arrival in Jerusalem to serve as chaplain of St. Andrew’s Scottish Church (and a month after Germany’s invasion of Poland), Dr. Norman Maclean chose as the text for his Sunday sermon the account (in Exodus 17) of Amalek’s attack at Rephidim. The prayer by Moses on the adjacent hill-top, asserted Maclean (1869-1952), who had earlier served as minister of St. Cuthbert’s Church in Edinburgh, “described our duty in the grim conflict now being waged.” Then as now “the nations which abolished God or reduced Him to a tribal deity confronted the nations that held fast to the faith of their fathers.” In the balance, both at Rephidim and in the present, lay nothing less than “the fate of the world’s soul.”3

    The connection between the world’s soul and the Jewish people had concerned Rev. Maclean (to whom I hope to return in a future post) well before his arrival in Jerusalem, which he first visited in 1934. During the First World War, while still serving at St. Cuthbert’s he contributed a foreword to Leon Levison’s The Jew in History (1916) which opened with the words: “The world owes its soul to the Jews.” In consonance with that position Maclean shared the hope of Levison, his Safed-born brother in Christ,4 that the war’s end “may be the restoration of the Jews to Palestine,” which Maclean saw as “the only lasting reparation that Christendom can make for centuries of wrong,” adding that “it was a disgrace that the holy places of Christianity should be in the hands of Mohammedans.”

    Not surprisingly, Rev. Maclean, whose views were not quite in consonance with those of Britain’s Mandatory representatives, did not last very long at St. Andrews in Jerusalem. Early in January of 1941 the Palestine Post laconically reported that “Dr. Norman Maclean and the Hon. Mrs. Maclean are planning to return to Britain shortly.” Several months later he completed his tenth book, His Terrible Swift Sword: On the Problem of Jewish Immigration to Palestine (1942), which he had begun writing “on the summit of one of the hills of Judah looking down on Ain Karem,” but completed in Portree on the Island of Skye. As the Palestine Post reported, it was prohibited for importation into Palestine by the High Commissioner (Harold MacMichael) who may not have approved of such passages as: “Nine months after we declared war on Hitlerism, victims of Hitlerism are still in Athlit (p. 16).” Shortly after the book’s publication Maclean spoke at an event sponsored by the Jewish National Fund at London’s Dorchester hotel.5
    At that event he may well have met Chief Rabbi Hertz, who was a fervent Zionist - a position of which not all prominent British Jews then approved. Had Maclean crossed the ocean to visit New York City he could, of course, have met many rabbis who shared his criticisms of British immigration policy, including Israel Levinthal of the Brooklyn Jewish Center. The Vilna-born and Columbia-educated Levinthal, like many of his coreligionists and fellow clergymen on both sides of the Atlantic, saw Hitler as a modern-day Haman and the Nazis as Amalekites, but by 1947 he was also willing to add others to the list. In a sermon delivered on Shabbat Zakhor of that year (and later published in his collection Judaism Speaks to the Modern World) he asserted that the British, who earlier “pretended to be friends of Jewish Palestine” now “suddenly reveal themselves as the modern Amalek,” and that Ernest Bevin, the Labour government’s foreign secretary, “is just like Haman himself.”6
    It is unlikely that such ardent religious Zionists as Hertz and Levinthal were able to imagine that in the Jewish state they hoped and prayed for chief rabbis would emerge who would hurl the epithet of “Amalek” at fellow Jews, including members of parliament. Yet as many readers will recall, less than a decade ago R. Ovadia Yosef compared then-education minister Yossi Sarid to Haman, adding that “he is wicked and satanic and must be erased like Amalek.” Although the office of then-attorney general Elyakim Rubinstein pursued a criminal investigation on grounds of possible incitement to violence the redoubtable Rishon le-Zion was never charged. He was thus understandably less reluctant to make use of the same rabbinical WMD during the recent elections, when many Shas supporters showed signs of leaving the Sephardi Sage of Har Nof for the Russian Rage of Nokdim. At the same Saturday night live broadcast at which R. Ovadiah had in 2000 asserted that Sarid “must be erased like Amalek” he turned his rhetorical rifle to the right and aimed it at MK Avigdor Lieberman, announcing that “a vote for Lieberman was a vote for Amalek."

    1 See Elliott Horowitz, Reckless Rites: Purim and the Legacy of Jewish Violence (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2006), 140-41, and the sources cited there.

    2 See Joseph H. Hertz, Early and Late: Addresses, Messages, and Papers (Hindhead: The Soncino Press, 1943), 67-69.

    3 Palestine Post, 2 October 1939. Maclean’s imminent arrival, together with that of his wife, was reported in the same publication on 9 May of that year. The couple had previously been living on the Island of Skye.

    4 On Levison see Frederick Levison, Christian and Jew: The Life of Leon Levison, 1881-1936 (Edinburgh: The Pentland Press, 1989).

    5 idem., 4 June 1942, 17 September 1942.

    6 Israel H. Levinthal, Judaism Speaks to the Modern World (London: Abelard-Schuman, 1963), 77-84. On Levinthal see Kimmy Caplan, “The Life and Sermons of Israel Herbert Levinthal (1882-1982),” American Jewish History 87:1 (March 1999): 1-27.

    0 0
  • 03/11/09--16:27: New Books from Biegeleisen
  • New Books from Biegeleisen

    While Eliezer is in the midst of preparing a comprehensive list of new seforim issued in the past months, I wanted to provide a shorter list of new seforim that I have recently received from Biegeleisen.  All of these are of course available at Biegeleisen in Boro Park (and I assume elsewhere as well) and some will be reviewed in greater detail in the coming months. 

    Batim le-Vadim, Yaakov Mosowitz, Beni Brak, 2008, 663 pp. a collection of laws and customs relating to marriage as well as the laws relating to mahzir gerushato.  The book covers both first marriages as well as second.

    Sodei Humash ve-sha'ar, Students of Rebbenu Yehuda ha-Hassid, ed. Yaakov Stal, Jerusalem, 2009, 228 pp.  This is another work from the school of Yehudah ha-Hassid edited by R. Stal.  R. Stal's prior works in this area are excellent.  Eliezer has reviewed two here and here.

    Kitzur Nahlat Shivah, Shmuel ha-Levi Segal & Asher Anshel Greenwald, ed. Yehezkel Shraga Shwartz, Beni Brak, 2009, 2 vols., 315, 649 pp.  This reprint, done by Otzar ha-Poskim, follows Otzar ha-Poskim's reprint of the full Nahlat Shivah.   This contains a short introduction as well as notes on the text. 

    Pirush ha-Melitz Bentotam, Tzvi Fishbein, [n.p.], 2009, 567 pp.  A commentary on the Targum Yohnathan ben Uzzeil for the parshiyot Shemot - Beshalach.  The commentary is divided into two parts, the first, beiurim is an straightforward explanation of the text, while the second, Iyunim, discusses the implications of the text in great detail providing both other rishonim's take as well as the relevant achronim.

    Otzar Hemdat Yamim, David Shlomo Kosovitski-Schorr, Beni Brak, 2008, 885 pp. This work collects close to all the mentions of the controversial work Hemdat Yamim in other works.  Additionally, rather than just provide quotations, full pages are reproduced which is an added boon to the interested bibliographer.  Kosovitski-Schorr's stated purpose is to show that the author of Hemdat Yamim was active during the years 1599-1639.

    Ve-Zarch ha-Shemesh, Shirah Devlisky, Beni Brak, 2008, 101 pp.  A collection of custom of R. Devlisky's congregation in Beni Brak with notes and sources for said customs.

    Ma'aseh Rav, Jerusalem, 2009, 423, [102] pp.  This is a new edition of the Ma'aseh Rav which collects the customs of the Gra. This edition includes some additional notes and supposedly is a "critical edition."  They also include a photomechanical reproduction of the 1832 edition of the Ma'aseh Rav as well as the Tosefot Ma'aseh Rav.  Unfortunately, the editors seem to be unfamiliar with a few points about the 1832 edition.  First, they fail to include both title pages.  The 1832 edition contains two distinct title pages, only one is included. Second, and more importantly, Dr. Jordan Penkower has already suggested that the 1832 edition while the first edition chronologically in terms of publication date may not actually reflect the first edition of the Ma'aseh Rav.  Instead, according to Penkower as well as Yeshayahu Vinograd the bibliographer of all the Gra's works, the second edition, Lemberg, 1833 is actually the "mahdurah kama" of the Ma'aseh Rav .  See J. Penkower, "Minhag and Massorah: On the Recent Ashkenazic Custom of Double Vocalization of Zeikher Amalek," in Rimon Kasher, Moshe Zipor, Yitzhak Zafati, eds., Studies in Bible and Exegesis (Ramat Gan: Bar-Ilan University Press, 1997; Hebrew), 82-85; Y. Vinograd, Thesaurus of the Books of the Vilna Gaon, Kerem Eliahu, Jerusalem, 2003, entry 809.

    Sefer haKol Bo, the critical edition of the Kol Bo has been completed in eight volumes bound in four volumes.

    She'elot u-Teshuvot Rebi Akiva Yosef, Akiva Yosef Schlesinger, Jerusalem, 2008, 2 vols., 403, 397 pp.  The responsa of the eclectic R. Akiva Yosef Schlesinger on Orah Hayyim and Yoreh Deah with notes and an introduction. 

    0 0

    See here for the previous lists.

    Halkhot Gedolot, Berlin-Hildesheimer ed., Otzreinu, Toronto, 2009, 2 vol., 22, 162, [3]; 652 pp.: This is a reprint of the important Geonic work based upon a different manuscript than the other printed editions.  Additionally, it includes a new brief introduction and additions to the Seder Rav Amram Goan also published by Otzeinu.

    Kol Brisk, Jerusalem, 2009, 797 pp. This is a controversial work that explores the Brisk school and attempts to locate the current Brisk school with the European one.  It is has already been subject to pashkevilin and one can read more about it all here and here.

    Beyamin Shlomo Hamburger, Meshekhe ha-Sheker u-Mitnagdehem, Machon Moreshet Ashkenaz, Beni Brak, 2009, 703 pp.  This is an significantly updated and expanded version (the prior version is only 347 pages) of R. Hamburger's work on various false messiahs in Jewish history.  As anyone who read the original version knows, R. Hamburger takes a very broad view of the term "messiah."  (read more here)

    Shmuel Glick, Mekorot le-Tolodot ha-Hinukh be-Yisrael, vol. 5, New York & Jerusalem, 2009, 30 [2] 452 pp.  This is the fifth volume in the revised work originally done by Simcha Assaf collecting sources on Jewish education.  The first three volumes reprinted Assaf's original work with some updating of the notes.  The fourth and now the fifth contains new material. In particular, the fifth volume focuses on the European responsa literature from the 15th-20th centuries.  As the editor points out in his introduction, Assaf's work is particularly weak in this area and thus this substantially adds to Assaf's sources.  The introduction also explains why the focus on responsa literature in particular, although one assumes it was natural for Glick, who has been editing a bibliography on responsa literature, to focus on the responsa. Additionally, in the introduction, the editor notes that volume six, which will focus on Sefard responsa, will be out soon.

older | 1 | .... | 16 | 17 | (Page 18) | 19 | newer