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- 12/08/08--07:52: _Upcoming December A...
- 12/09/08--07:13: _Book Review: The Ko...
- 12/11/08--05:37: _Caught in the Act: ...
- 12/21/08--09:49: _The Name Machabee
- 12/29/08--14:03: _Eliezer Brodt: The ...
- 12/31/08--06:44: _Review: Macsanyuh S...
- 01/07/09--13:51: _Snow: A Review of H...
- 01/08/09--09:05: _Some Observations R...
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- 01/19/09--10:42: _Review of Ma'amar a...
- 01/25/09--18:44: _Thoughts on Confron...
- 01/28/09--13:18: _Marc B. Shapiro: Th...
- 01/30/09--01:26: _Message From Profes...
- 02/02/09--07:01: _David Berger: A Bri...
- 02/08/09--15:32: _Review of Quntres
- 02/19/09--09:15: _Milah Books & Manuals
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- 03/11/09--16:27: _New Books from Bieg...
- 05/07/09--18:54: _New Books from Bieg...
- 12/08/08--07:52: Upcoming December Auctions
- 12/09/08--07:13: Book Review: The Koren Sacks Bilingual Edition of the Siddur
- 12/11/08--05:37: Caught in the Act: An Unknown Admission of Plagiarism
- 12/21/08--09:49: The Name Machabee
- 12/29/08--14:03: Eliezer Brodt: The Chanukah Omission
- 12/31/08--06:44: Review: Macsanyuh Shel Torah
- 01/07/09--13:51: Snow: A Review of Ha-Noten Sheleg
- 01/08/09--09:05: Some Observations Regarding Approbations for Hebrew Books
- 01/11/09--05:47: A Note on the Latin Dedication in the Rabbinic Bible of Venice 1517
- 01/19/09--10:42: Review of Ma'amar al Yishma'el
- 01/25/09--18:44: Thoughts on Confrontation & Sundry Matters Part I
- 01/28/09--13:18: Marc B. Shapiro: Thoughts on Confrontation & Sundry Matters Part II
- 01/30/09--01:26: Message From Professor Haym Soloveitchik
- 02/02/09--07:01: David Berger: A Brief Response To Marc B. Shapiro
- 02/08/09--15:32: Review of Quntres
- 02/19/09--09:15: Milah Books & Manuals
- 02/23/09--17:11: Daniel J. Lasker - Birkat Ha-Hammah 5769
- 03/06/09--04:57: Elliott Horowitz - Modern Amalekites: From Adolf to Avigdor
- 03/11/09--16:27: New Books from Biegeleisen
- 05/07/09--18:54: New Books from Biegeleisen - May 2009
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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
Y.S. Spiegel, "Uncommon Abbreviations", Yeshurun 11 (2002) 923-24
A. Saba, Tzror Ha-Me'or, 261, stating:
A. Taharni, Keter Shem Tov, Jerusalem, 2000, 2 vol.
M. Rubin, Koreh Shemo, Hebron, 
R. Weinberger, Tolodot Shem, Jerusalem, 2004
Y.Z. Wilhelm, Kuntres Ziv ha-Shemot, Brooklyn, 2006
by Eliezer Brodt
A different answer given by many  is that the reason why Rebbe did not have a whole Mesechet about Chanukah was because there was one already Megilat Tannis!
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.  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.
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:
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.
R. Alexander Moshe Lapidos answers:
Another answer given by R. Alexander Moshe Lapidos :
R. Dov Berish Askenazi writes:
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:
Others bring this answer without saying a source . This statement generated much controversy where many went so far as to deny that the Chasam Sofer said such a thing. The bulk of the issues with this answer were dealt with by R. Moshe Zvi Neriah in an excellent article on the topic . 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.
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)
Interestingly enough the Chasam Sofer in his Chidushim on Gittin (78a) writes:
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  who is citing the Chidushei Harim:
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.
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.
*I would like to thank to Professor Spiegel, M.M. Honig and Dan Rabinowitz for their help with this post.
 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.
 Yesod Hamishna ve-Arechsa pp. 21-22. See also R. Freidman in Machanayim 16:12 and R. M. Cohen in Machanayim 37:43.
 Iyunim B'divrei Chaz
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.
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".
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 email@example.com.
Y. Meiselman, Ha-Noten Sheleg, Be-Inyanei ha-Sheleg veha-Kerach be-Halacha, Holon, 2001, 266 pp.
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.
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.
 Y.Y. Greenwald, "The Descendants of the Rema and their Influence in Hungary," Sinai 28 (1951): 85-87 (Hebrew).
 Y.Y. Kohen, Hakmei Hungaria (Israel 1997), 342.
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.
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.
by Eliezer Brodt & Ish Sefer
Bezalel Naor, Mitsvat Hashem Barah, Spring Valley, NY, 2008, 220 pp.
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.
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):
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':
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.
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
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
What follows is a continuation of this post.
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
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 (firstname.lastname@example.org)
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 or specific parts of milah such as metzizah be-peh. Others focus on the philosophic and theological implications of milah. 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.
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 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].
Modern Amalekites: From Adolf to Avigdorby 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
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.”
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.
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,  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.
See here for the previous lists.
Halkhot Gedolot, Berlin-Hildesheimer ed., Otzreinu, Toronto, 2009, 2 vol., 22, 162, ; 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  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.