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

older | 1 | 2 | 3 | (Page 4) | 5 | 6 | .... | 19 | newer

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    To the left are pictures what are supposed to be the Klausenberger Rebbe burning the book HaGaon (discussed here previously) with the Hametz. Additionally the final picture is him saying the Yehi Ratzon from the Ateresh Yehoshua when burning books of heresy. If you click on the images you can see them enlarged. Here is the full text of the Yehi Ratzon
    יהי רצון מלפניך ה' אלוקי ואלוקי אבותי, כשם שאנכי באתי לבער את ספרי החיצונים והמשכילים אלה, כן יסור את הצפוני מזרע ישראל, וביותר מן הבחורי חמד אשר ההשכלה מצאה קן בלבם ובמוחם והיצר מבלבל מחשבותם. בעל הרחמים ירחם עליהם ונטע בקרבם אמונת הבורא ואמונת הצדיקים כדכ(תיב), ויאמינו בה' ובמשה עבדו ועתה בזמן ביעור חמץ אשר היא עת מוכשר על זה לגרש ולבער את השאור שבעיסה הטמ(ו)ן בקרבנו, יעלה תפילה זו לרצון לפני אדון כל, אמן כן יהי' רצון

    "עטרת ישועה על חמישה חומשי תורה", ח"ב, קראקא, תרפ"ה דף פז, ב' סי' א

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    As some have already noted, there is a completely new edition of Boaz Cohen's Kuntras HaTeshuvot. This edition edited by Shmuel Glick totally reworks Cohen's work. Supposedly this new work benefited from many subsequent bibliographies as well as the Institute for Jewish Bibliography.

    While this is an vast improvement in my quick read (I only received it today) I was amazed at what this lacked and in my mind errors.

    The first is for the entry for the Besamim Rosh the famed possible forgery attributed to R. Asher b. Yecheil. In their entry they first note that examined the Krakow 1881 edition. Now aside from not looking at the first edition which is not hard to come by there is a greater error here. Specifically, they do not note that this edition is missing two teshuvot. So while they provide a bibliography listing articles discussing the Besamim Rosh they fail to mention the most important thing that if one gets the wrong edition they will not have the full text. Even though they comment there are 392 teshuvot they did not bother to count or to even read the articles they cite (which note this absence). This are not minor teshuvot either, in fact, the one on suicide which this edition leaves out is perhaps the most well-known and cited one from the entire volume.

    The next error is in regards to the Hatam Sofer. Again they have a long entry about the various editions and then list the various editions. But here they totally missed out on the first edition of this work. The first time teshuvot from the Hatam Sofer appeared was not as a separate work but as part of another work. In Prague 1826 edition of the Ri Megash from pages 31b until 42a there is Kuntras Hiddushi Torah v'Gam She'alot v'Teshuvot m'admu HaRav HaGaon . . . R. Moshe Sofer. In fact, on the title pages it even notes that this includes teshuvot from Hatam Sofer. This is listed in the Bibliography of the Hebrew Book and a simple computer search would have revealed this information.

    Additionally, the sources which are provided are rather uneven. Again, this is only from my limited viewing of it and I may revise but if one looks at the entry for Eleh Divrei HaBrit which deals with, among other things, the controversy regarding placing an organ in shul. In that entry they provide Haberman's article on the topic but not Binayahu's article or Samet's which both appeared in Asuphot vol. 1 and 5 respectively. In fact, the book Ohr Nogeh which is Liberman's book on the topic does not have an entry. While perhaps they considered this part of the work Nogeah HaTzedek there doesn't seem to be a reason to do so. Also, they do not include the book Tzror Hayyim which was published a year after Eleh and is devote to the very same topics in their list of books and articles discussing the organ. This is so eventhough the first teshuva discussed the organ exclusively.

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    There is a rather interesting teshuva which appears in R. Avrohom Weinfeld's Lev Avrohom. In it he discusses whether one can recite Shir HaMa'alot to the tune of Hatikvah.


    He first explains that this question involves the question of whether a tune from an impure source is appropriate to use. He begins by discussing the two well-known teshuvot (the Teshuvot haBakh and the Krach shel Romi) dealing with using non-Jewish tunes for Jewish songs.




    However, without getting into all of his halakhic discusion, I would like to focus on his final proof that using a tune or the like for an impure source is inappropriate. He finishes with a quote from the book Shivchei Rav Hayyim Vital. This quote demonstrates, for him, that it does matter what the source of something is. The quote is as follows:
    אמת הוא שהפזמונים שחיבר הם בעצמם טובים, אבל הוא בעצמו אסור לדבר עמו, ומי שמוציא מפיו הפזמונים שחיבר רע לו. כי תמיד פיו דובר נבלה וכל ימיו שיכור While it is true that the songs he composed are themselves good, he [the composer] it is not permitted to speak with him, and whomever sings the songs he [the composer] wrote, it is bad. Because [the composer] is always speaking profanities and spends his days drunk.

    Thus, according to R. Weinfeld, this shows that R. Hayyim held it is very important to know who the source is and if that source is bad, one should not use it even if it is a nice song. In fact, R. Hayyim continues (although this does not appear in the Lev Avrohom) with other rather serious allegations against this person. However, this proof is premised on the fact that we accept this. That is, if we were to figure out who this person was and we in fact do sing his songs, obviously we would not follow R. Hayyim's understanding.


    Now, as is apparent, in the Shivchei this person is anonymous. But all is not lost. The Shivchei is in fact an abriged version of a longer work. That work, Sefer Hezyonot the Book of Visions, is in fact published.

    The Sefer Hezyonot was first published in 1954 by Mossad HaRav Kook. Admittedly, this book contains rather shocking material and was therefore claimed that it was not in fact from R. Hayyim. R. Reuvan Margolios, among others, protested outside of Mossad HaRav Kook after this was published. Needless to say Mossad HaRav Kook never republished this. Now in truth it seems the manuscript which was used to print this book was actually from R. Hayyim's own hand. And therefore this book has actually been republished recently in three different editions.

    The first was in 1999 in an English edition "Jewish Mystical Autobiographies, Book of Visions." The second was in 2002 by a Yeshiva in Jerusalem and was edited and includes a commentary by R. Nesonel Monsor. However, as we shall see, this was not a complete edition. And then finally, this year Mochon Yad Ben Tzvi put out a critical edition of this book.

    So to return to our question, who was this unnamed composer, one just needs to open a Sefer Hezyonot to find out. There the very same passage as was in the Shivchei appears, however, it includes the name of the person. That person is the composer R. Yisrael Nagara. R. Yisrael was not unknown, in fact he authored a very well-known zemer which is sung universally, kah rebon 'olam.

    Now that we know who this is, we now see that it would appear we do not hold like R. Hayyim, in that we sing this song, even though R. Hayyim declared it was improper to do so. Thus, R. Weinfeld's proof is no longer a proof, but if R. Hayyim is correct in his claims of drunkeness etc. it actually demonstrates that we do not care that the source may be impure as it was.

    But, as we alluded to before, not every edition of Sefer Hazyonot contains the name. The Jerusalem edition in the place of the name has an ellipse. Now one can say perhaps the manuscript they used had that. That is wrong. There is only one manuscript in existance today and that manscript contains the name. Therefore, it seems the Jerusalem edition was censored. One can see on the side themselves the passages in question. The page which has the legend on the top Sefer Hezyonot/Darkehi Hayyim is the Jerusalem edition while the other Hebrew one is the Ben Zvi and I have supplied the English as well.

    Sources: Teshuvot Lev Avrohom no. 134 (if one is interested in a rather nuanced view of R. Weinfeld on the State of Israel one should also see nos. 139-141); Faierstein, "Jewish Mystical Autobiographies" introduction; Catalog of Gershon Scholem in Kabbalah no. 4331

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  • 05/04/06--16:00: Eruv Controversy and Website
  • There is an excellent site discussing various issues with eruvin, many of them contemporary (especially in light of the seforim which have been published on the topic in the last couple of years, many dealing with the Brooklyn controversy). Today, he has the second part of his series on the St. Louis eruv controversy which includes a rather fascinating discussion regarding two seforim printed at the turn of the 20th century.

    Both of those seforim are available online, if one is interested in reading further.

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    Mossad HaRav Kook has published Peninem u-Margoliyot which is a collection of articles by R. Reuven Margoliyot. These articles originally appeared in the journal Sinai and are now republished in a single volume. It seems that the impetus to collect and publish these was not so that people could have access to them (although perhaps this played a small role). Instead, Mossad HaRav Kook was forced, as it was, to publish these.

    In the last few years, in honor of someone's child's wedding, someone published some of R. Margoliyot's articles and books, including the articles which appeared in Sinai. Now, this seems to have upset Mossad HaRav Kook as they note in the introduction where they explain these articles are not that well known "with the exception of one publisher in America, who stole, without first obtaining permission, and Jews will not have a stumbling block in their homes." While it may be the case that many are unaware of the journal Sinai or where to find R. Margoliyot's writings it seems that Mossad HaRav Kook who had these for years, some for 30 years, they would have been content to let them langiush had it not been for this violation of copyright.

    In fact, Mossad HaRav Kook has only published those articles which appeared in Sinai, they did not, as the American publisher did, republish other works (long out of copyright) of R. Margoliyot. The American publications include Toledot Ohr Hayyim haKadosh and Toledot Maharsha. The latter was originally published in Lemberg in 1932 it contains a portrait of the Maharsah (R. Shmuel Edels) as well as a discussion by R. Margoliyot of other Rabbis who had their portraits done (the picture of him in the chair is from the 1814 Vienna edition of the Maharsha and the frontal picture is from R. Margulies's book).

    The articles in these books include among others: Ha-Rambam v'HaZohar, Defusi haShulhan Arukh, Defusi haShulahan Ohrah haRishonim, Zionunei HaPesukim b'Talmud u-Midrashim, and Toledot Rebbi Yehuda HaNassi.

    I purchased both the American and the Mossad HaRav Kook versions at Beigeleisen Books.

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  • 05/09/06--20:32: R. Reuven Margulies I
  • First, I want to post a bibliography of R. Margulies's works and then I shall discuss some biogrpahical details in the next post. This bibliography is not a scientific one in that I do not attempt to list every edition. Rather, I am listing just the works and some bibliogrpahical information as I see fit. Most of this information comes from Naftali Ben Menachem's bibliogprahy of R. Margulies's books which was printed in Sefer Margolious.

    1) Toldot Adam (Lemberg 1912) on R. Shmuel Edels
    2) Kav Besamim (Lemberg 1913) 102 notes on Tosefot
    3) Drush l'yom 'alot 'al kesi moshlim 'adonanu haKeiser Karal haRishon (Lemberg 1918)
    4) Kavi Ohr (Lemberg, 1921) laws pertianing to Israel as well as articles on history, including yesod hamishna among others
    5) Yesod HaMishna V'Arikachto (Lemberg, 1933) on the creation of the Mishna
    6) Sefer Hassidim with his notes (multiple printings)
    7) Tolodot Rabenu Hayyim ben Atar (Lemberg, 1925), biography on the Ohr Hayyim includes the notes of R. Meir Dan Plotzki (Kli Hemdah)
    8) Ohr Meir (Lemberg, 1926), biography of R. Meir from Perlmishiya
    9) Margenuta d'Reb Meir (Lemberg, 1926), sayings of the above R. Meir
    10) Shealot u'Teshuvot min HaShamyim, R. Margulies's extensive notes on the teshuvot as well as a comprehensive introduction discussing Torah lo' Bashmyim and other related topics (multiple printings)
    11) Yalkut Margolious ([Lemberg], 1927), derashot of R. Margulies
    12) Imrei Kodesh haShalem (Lemberg, 1928)
    13) Vikuach Rabbanu Yehiel m'Paris (Lemberg, 1928), with biography of R. Yehiel
    14) Shemot v'Kinuim B'Talmud, discussing names in the Talmud, including when two names started, (multiple printings)
    15) Helulua d'Tzadika (Lemberg 1929), lifespan and death dates of Tzadikim
    16) Vikuach HaRamban (Lemberg, 1928)
    17) Yalkut Peninim (Lemberg, 1929), derashot
    18) Butzna d'Nehora HaShalem (Lemberg, 1930), about R. Barukh of Metzerich
    19) Gevurot Ari (Lemberg, 1930), biography of R. Leib Srhson
    20) Toldot Rabbenu Avrohom Mimoni, biography of Rambam's son, (multiple printings)
    21) Rishimah (Lemberg, 193-) list of books in his bookstore
    22) Mekor Barukh (Lemberg, 1931), biography of R. Barukh of Metzerich and other historical documents
    23) Shem Olam, to reveal the anonymous people in hazal (multiple printings)
    24) HaModiah journal
    25) Nefesh Hayyia, on Shulchan Orakh multiple printings
    26) Hagadah shel Pesach (Tel Aviv, 1937)
    27) Shichot Chakhamim
    28) Mekor haBerakha discussing blessing and why and when before one does something (recently reprinted)
    29) Zohar with his extensive notes (multiple printings)
    30) Sibah hisnaguto discussing R. Emden/R. Eybeschitz controversy (very controversial Scholem wrote a pamphelet against this) Tel Aviv 1941
    31) Reb Saul Levin M'Ziaf haSefer Besamim Rosh, in Aresehet 1944
    32) Malechi Elyon on angels in Hazel (multiple printings)
    33) Ollalot various articles (multiple printings)
    34) Tikunei Zohar notes, multiple printings
    35) Sefer haBahir same as above
    36) Zohar Hadash same
    37) L'Toldot Anshei Shem b'Lvov, Jerusalem 1952
    38) Milchmot HaShem (R. Avrohom ben HaRambam) (including the biography on him) (multiple printings)
    39) haRambam v'Hazohar now reprinted in Penini Margolios
    40) Sha'ari Zohar collecting relvant passages from the Zohar to Hazal (multiple printings)
    41) Margolios HaYam on Sanhedrin (multiple printings)
    42) Divrarim b'Itam dershot
    43) L'Heker haMisparam beTalmud, Sinai 44
    44) Tzioyunim Bibliographim a comprehensive biobibliography in Areshet 1-2,4
    45) Tziyunim l'Ha'arot l'Seder haDorot, Sinai 46
    46) HaMikrah v'Hamesorah multiple printings
    47) Mekharim b'Darkei haTalmud v'Hidosov multiple printings

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  • 05/10/06--06:48: R. Reuven Margulies II
  • I have already discussed the most recent book of R. Margulies and provided a bibliography of his works, I now want to turn to a brief biography of him.

    R. Margulies was born in 1889 and was known, from the time of his youth, as extremly erudite. Although he recieved ordination, he did not become a Rabbi and instead opened a bookstore in Lemberg. It is said that although his store was always full of talmidi hakhmim it was unclear if he actually sold anything. During his time in Lemberg he began publishing his own books. Many of his early books focus on hassidim. One of his early works, a biography on R. Hayyim ben Attar (Ohr haHayyim haKodesh) included comments by R. Dan Polonski, the author of the Kli Hemdah. In 1935 R. Margulies moved to Israel and became the librarian at the Rambam Library in Tel Aviv.

    After moving to Israel he produced some of his most well known works. He began to focus on the Zohar literature and produced a fully annotated version of the Zohar, Zohar Hadash, Tikkunei Zohar and the Bahir. Additionally, during this time, he was involved in a controversy with Gershon Scholem over the R. Jacob Emden/R. Jonathan Eybeshuetz controversy. R. Margulies produced a pamphlet defending R. Eybeshuetz and in response Scholem produced his own disagreeing with R. Marguleis's conclusions.

    R. Margulies also produced an annotated Shulhan Orach, Nefesh Hayiah which he lists, in his typical encyclopedic manner, other books which deal with the same issues. It was this book that some in the comments to a previous post have raised questions about plagerism. The source for this accuasation comes for R. Wolf Leiter. He cites to sixty-one examples from R. Margulies's book Nefesh Hayiah where R. Leiter notes others have said the same thing prior to R. Margulies. In fact, R. Leiter says these are just the tip of the iceberg. He says "there are hundreds of other examples which I have written on the side of my copy, there is no end I have only provided some examples." R. Leiter's examples include citations to articles and other books.

    It is important to note, however, that R. Margulies wrote this during World War I. R. Margulies himself notes that this was written during a particular trying time "I remember the long winter nights when I was closed up, alone, lacking everything . . . I wrote and studied from the light of the oven fire, laying upon the floor." Thus, it is a possiblity that during this time he neglected to look up everything and produced much from memory. In turn, the result may have been to include what he had seen before without attribution.

    Additionally, some accuse him of plagerizing from R. Yosef Engel and R. Engel's comments to the Zohar. I have never seen this in print (aside from the comment).

    That being said, to accuse R. Margulies of not being extremely well read and very, very, erudite is wrong. If one looks to R. Yosef HaKohen Schwartz, who himself was one of the biggest bikeim of his day. He corresponded with R. Margulies and among other notes that R. Margulies's "praises are known to all" that he is "an amazingly sharp mind." Furhter, if one looks at his bibliography in three parts in the journal Areshet is very apparent R. Margulies's breath of knowledge. Finally, as evidenced by the bibliography below, R. Margulies produced many, many books and if in one or two he may have been sloppy in attribution it is equally clear that the vast majority of his works he was not.

    R. Margulies passed away in 1971.

    Sources: Sefer Margolios, ed. Dr. Y. Refael; R. Z.W. Leiter, Tzion l'Nefesh Hayyiah no. 109; R. Y. Schwartz, Ginzei Yosef.

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  • 05/10/06--10:09: The Meshumad Hazzan
  • As some of you know I have an interest in meshumdim and their wide affect on modern day Judaism. Thus, Yehoshua Mondshine's latest installment in his series on corrupted stories is especially good. Some may recall our earlier post on Mondshine's earlier piece about the "classic" ba'al teshuva story and its root in a Shai Agnon story, I think this one is equally as good.

    This story is a Habad story and it basically goes like this. There was a Hazzan in Habad known as Reb Yechiel the Meshumad. His story was that as a young boy his entire village was wiped out by a progrom. The Poritz kept him as his own son and did not tell him that he was Jewish. The boy had no idea who his true ancestors were. As the boy grew up it became appearent he had a talent for music and was sent to a music school. At school some kids taunt him for being Jewish (there are slightly different variations here) and he has no idea why. He goes back to his "father" and he is then told what happened and eventually hooks up with Habad and becomes the Hazzan.

    This entire story is not in the least bit true. First, they have letters from the Hazzan Yechiel to his (real Jewish) father. Second, in those letters he discusses his lineage so he was well aware where he came from. Third, he was never a meshumad. Instead, it seems he was the meshulach for Yeshivat Tomkhei Torah. It seems that meshulach and meshumad are close enough that people got them mixed up!? However, once the meshulach became a meshumad it was only a small leap to create an entire legend surrounding his childhood.

    The full article is available here.

    Additionally, it seems the niggun which the story revolves around - the one for hu' 'elokanu in the mussaf of Shabbat is based upon a non-Jewish one.

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  • 05/10/06--17:37: Note to Email subscribers
  • Those who subscribe via email, the prior service, bloglet, appears to be dead. I have now switched to feedblitz. If you have already subscribed you need not do anything you have been automatically switched. However, if you would like to subscribe it is on the left side of the page.


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    The Vilna edition of the Shas printed by the Romm Press has become the standard edition of the Shas. This Shas had many important additions and corrections that prior ones did not. One of those was the inclusion of the comments of R. Jacob Emden.

    However, it appears that one comment, a rather important one was left out. R. Emden in Gitten page 60 made a comment regarding the Hassidim, this does not appear in the Vilna Shas. In the Mozonim edition they partially rectified this by providing a partial transcription of the passage. But it seems they were unable to reproduce the entire passage and thus, even in their edition it contains numerous ellipses. Now, in the most recent volume of the journal Ohr Yisrael, R. M.M. Goldstein has provided the complete passage. As will be apparent, this is a very important passage. R. Goldstein got this from the manuscript of R. Emden's comments which is now housed in the Oxford Library. In the article, R. Goldstein provides of copy of the original manuscript.

    In it R. Emden discusses Kabbalah and that this subject is really only for a select few. (He also explains the term aggadah in relation to kabbalah). He then continues to explicate the limited distrubution of kabbalah and says
    ואינו מתגלה אלא ליחידי סגולה לא עמוד איש בליעל ורע בסודה, ולהוציא גם ממה שנהגו מתחסדים חדשים מקרוב באו לעסוק בספר הזוהר ואר"י בקבע, ועשו תלמוד והלכות עראי וטפל, אין חפץ ה' בהם, הלא מזקנים נתבונן שעיקר למודם ותורתם לא היה אלא בנגלה בלבד, וסתרי תורה לא היה נמסרים אלא ליחיד עמוד בחצי ימיו על פי תנאי פרישות הרבה כמו שאמרו פרק אין דורשין, ואף זה לא אשכח ותני רק למבין מדעתו וחכם, והללו עשו פומבי לדבר פתאים בל ידעו מה, כסילים נעדרי דעת, השה אלוה חכמה ולא חלק להם בבינה

    [kabbalah] should only be given to a limited set of person, one who can understand its secrets, this excludes the new hassidim who spend their time reading the Zohar and the works of the AR"I, but only spend amount of time on the Talmud and the laws, God does not want them, from our ancestors we have learnt that the majority of ones time should be only in the revealed Torah, the seceret Torah was only for special ones, who where older [at the mid point in life] with conditions of ascetism as is described in the Talmud Haggiah, it is only given to those who can understand by themselves, however, these [the hassidim] they make public things which should be private to those who don't know anything, idiots totally lacking in knowledge, God who gives wisdom did not give them understanding.
    While this is not the only critique R. Emden had of Hassidim it is curious that the Romm printers did not inlcude it. Unfortunatly we don't know why. It was not as if the Romm press was considered particularly friendly with Hassidim. In fact, one of the reasons Hassidim used the Shapira press was they viewed the Romm one as not in line with Hassidic values. This was so, as the Romm press printed works of maskilim. But, now that this passage has been printed one can hope that in future editions of the Shas this will be included, in it entirety.

    Sources: R. M.M. Goldstein, Iyunim u'Biurim b'Mishnato shel Rabbenu haYavetz, in Ohr Yisrael vol. 43 (Nissan 5766) 203-215; for another passage in R. Emden's writings discussing Hassidim see Wilensky, Hassidim u'Mistnagdim, p. 380; for more on what the Romm edition included see their Achrit Davar at the end of Niddah.

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  • 05/12/06--09:43: Kuntress Ha-Teshuvot Review
  • I have previously briefly mentioned a couple of problems with the new work Kuntress Ha-Teshuvot haHadash, now I would like to give a full review. First, I am no expert in the teshuva literature, that being said I was somewhat disappointed with this book.

    The book first contains a long introduction into the teshuva literature in general. It discusses such topics as the importance of the literature, the pervasiveness or lack there of, as well as censorship in the teshuvot and different bibliographic topics. On this last point, the introduction discusses how, at the advent of printing, teshuvot do not seem to have been that important. They come do this conclusion by comparing amounts of other types of books printed during the same period with that of teshuvot. Books on other topics were printed in mass, while teshuvot made up only a very small portion of the books printed.

    The introduction is fairly informative, although for much of this ground there are far better works out there (documented in the extensive footnotes), this does provide a basic understanding. Finally, there is a discussion about the book itself and what Boaz Cohen’s work (the predecessor to this one) is out to accomplish. This last topic is also covered in an English translation of the introduction, however, all the rest of the introduction is not translated.

    The bulk of the book is devoted to the actual bibliographical entries of the teshuva books. This volume covers books with titles between aleph and lamed. But it is far from clear what exactly the standard for these entries are. If I had to categorize my main complaint with this, it would unevenness. That is, for some entries there is a significant amount of information such as some important teshuvot from that book, what other books discuss this one, and other points of interest. For other books with equally important and interesting teshuvot there is nothing.

    So for Luach Eres by R. Jacob Emden (no. 1950) there is a long entry dealing with all the content of the work as well as others who he discusses and those who discuss the work as well. They also include articles on the book as well. This runs over three densely packed columns. The same is true for Eleh Divrei HaBrit (no. 222) as well as many, many others.

    But for the book Har Tabor (no. 1129) which discusses the proper place of the bimah in the center of the synagogue there is no mention of any other books which discuss this topic, or any other books which disagree with this book either.

    Another example, the book Be’ar Esek (no. 406) contains a teshuva about the R. Menacham of Fano and whether he had a beard. This teshuva was highly controversial and R. Yosef Erges, R. Moshe Sofer, and R. Eliazer of Munkatz all wrote about it. There is no mention of this teshuva in the entry nor is there any mention of the literature this teshuva spawned.

    This last point, that at times they fail to reference other books about the one entered happens time and time again. Perhaps the most egregious example of this is the Divrei Iggeret by R. Menhem Steinhardt (no. 759). Although the entry does note this book contains a teshuva on kitnyot (he permits it) it doesn’t mention any of the books discussing this topic, e.g. Ashro Hametz (which has no entry at all), nor does it mention the teshuva from R. Moses Sofer against R. Steinhardt’s permitting kitnyot. Additionally, it doesn’t mention an article devoted to the book itself. Professor Judith Bleich wrote an article titled “Menahem Mendel Steinhardt’s "Divrei Iggeret", Harbinger of reform” in the Proceedings for the World Congress of Jewish Studies 10 (1990): 207-214.

    The next problem with the work is incompleteness. This is apparent in the entries as well as the bibliography provided. So some of the problems mentioned above are the worst, in that they don’t list anything about the book, at times even when they do they do a shoddy job. Already in my previous post I mentioned the poor entry on the organ. But there are numerous others. For instance, they have a fairly comprehensive entry on the book Hayi Olam (no. 1456) which deals with the issue of cremation. They discuss the content of the book as well as others who disagree with the author. They list other books dealing with the same subject matter as well. However, they fail to mention Michael Higger’s coverage (perhaps the most comprehensive) on this topic. (This appears in his Halakhot ve’Aggadot, 1933).

    Or we have the entry for Modena’s works. Perhaps it is worthwhile to compare this entry with another. We first have the entry for the Zakan Ahron by R. Ahron Walken. As each entry includes biographical information and sources this entry reads “על המחבר ראה: דור רבניו וסופריו, ו, עמ' 31-32; אהלי שם, עמ' 201; אנציקלופדיה של הציונות הדתית, ב, עמ' 175-177. וראה לאחרונה, אליעזר הכהן כ"צמאן, "נעימות התורה- הג"ר אהרן וואלקין אב"ד פינסק בעל בית אהרן, זקן אהרן, וכו'", ישורון יא (תשס"ב), עמ' תתצא-תתקד; יב (תשם"ג) עמ' תשכז-תשלט." So, for this we have three entries plus a recent article discussing the biographical details. Now we turn to Modena. For Modena we have the following: “על המחבר ראה "אריה ישאג – ר' יהודה אריה מודינה ועולמו” and then provides the detail for that book. So we have one entry for Modena biography. So was Modena unknown? No, far from it, he wrote his own autobiography. There have been numerous articles on him as well as a full lengthy doctoral dissertation by Adelman. His autobiography is available in both Hebrew and English. The English version contain articles on him as well. But none of these are mentioned.

    Now we get to omissions. The book Avot ‘Atrarah L’Banin (no. 4) contains, as the entry notes, an extensive teshuva on the permissibility of being photographed. It includes a list of Rabbis who had their photograph or more likely, their portrait done. This is all well and good. However, the entry leaves out perhaps the most interesting part, the author of Avot included a photograph (loose) of himself in the first edition. Thus, his teshuva was in a sense to justify his own practice.

    There is no entry for the book Hadrat Panin Zakan which is a collection of teshuvot on beards. Nor is there an entry for the book Da’as HaRabanim which is two long teshuvot from R. Menachem Mendal Kasher and R. D. Polonski (Kli Hemdah) discussing women’s suffrage.

    The editors claim this list only goes up to the year 2000. However, for some entries they include editions even after the year 2000. For R. Yehudah Herzl Henkin’s Beni Banim (no. 555) they include his fourth volume printed in 2004. However, for R. Teichtel’s Em HaBanim Semacha (no. 239) where there have been two recent translations which are different they do not include this. But again for R. Menachem Kasher’s Hatekufa haGedolah (no. 1144) (how this even qualifies as a teshuvah book is left unanswered) they include his 2001 edition.

    Or we have the entry for the Helkat Ya’akov (no. 1496) where they note the first edition date and then the rest they claim are photo-offsets of the original. This is wrong. In the subsequent editions R. Herzog’s approbation was removed and thus they are not just copies of the original.

    However, perhaps the answer to some of these shortcomings comes from the introduction itself. The editors explain how this work came to be. They explain that this was initially an "auxiliary tool for another project" a project on "Jewish education in the halakhic literature." This is perhaps most telling. They are explaining to the reader that (a) they are not bilbiographers; (b) they did not initially set out to do this; (c) they are not experts in teshuvot. These shortcomings are apparent. This being said, it is important to recognize that this is a vast improvement over Cohen's work and a welcome entry for Jewish biliography.

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  • 05/17/06--13:03: Kehati Revision
  • Menachem Mendel has posted about a very interesting revision to the English Kehati edition of the Mishna.


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  • 05/18/06--07:54: Errors in Seder Olam?
  • When one discusses the "Jewish" date of the world, the source used is the book Seder Olam. In fact, this is the source where we get to our counting of this being the 5766 year of the world. There was a rather intriguing controversy about whether the edition we have of Seder Olam is a corrupted edition or not.

    R. Moshe Hagiz, pehaps most well know for his campaign against R. Moshe Hayyim Luzzato, had a very interesting correspondence with R. Jacob Emden. R. Hagiz was incensed when a published siddur by R. Uri Lipmann in Sulzbach.

    This siddur offered an explaination for the recitation of Tzedkaska (צדקתך) at Shabbat mincha. "As Moshe died on Friday, King David on Shabbat were therefore recite tzeduk hadin at Shabbat mincha." R. Hagiz took issue with the statement that Moshe died on Friday. R. Hagiz first attacked this siddur in an wholly unrelated book. R. Hagiz added his comments to the book Birkat Eliyahu, Wandsbeck 1728. There, R. Hagiz claims that the publisher altered the death date of Moshe from the Shabbat to Friday in an effort to answer how Moshe could have written on the Shabbat. Thus, according to R. Hagiz, the publisher had Moshe die on Friday when writting is permitted.

    This justification enraged R. Hagiz. He says
    who is this person in todays day and age who calls himself a Jew . . . how terrible is it to change, to change even the dot of the letter yud of our perfect Torah. . . and this type of diesease which spreads among those lacking in faith and lacking in wisdom . . . god should pay back these comesurate with thier wickedness.
    But R. Hagiz did not stop there. Instead, he wrote a long letter to R. Emden highlighting this terrible deed to have Moshe die on Friday. We now come to the issue of the book Seder Olam. R. Hagiz was faced with a problem. While it is correct that some sources have Moshe dying on Shabbat, others - specifically the Seder Olam - have Moshe dying on Friday.

    R. Hagiz therefore decided that the Seder Olam must have been corrupted. "A wise person can see that is some places a later person . . . put in his own thoughts . . . as is common when persons write their notes on the side eventually printers incorporated these personal notes into the actual text of the book." Thus, according to R. Hagiz, the statement that Moshe died on Friday is one that was not from the actual Seder Olam but was inserted erronously into the book.

    R. Emden takes issue with this explanation of the Seder Olam. He first notes this idea that later additions were incorporated into the Seder Olam is really from R. Azariah de Rossi the author of the controversial Me'or Einayim. R. Emden then continues and notes that while it is true that numerous additions to our texts by later persons have been incorporated into the text, including even in Nach (he cites R. Kimchi (RaDaK) on Joshua 21:7). R. Emden says that the Seder Olam did not suffer such a fate and is "clean and pure."

    In the end R. Emden is satisified in admitting that there is a controversy amongst the midrashim about Moshe's death date, and therefore R. Hagiz should accept that there are those who disagree with him.

    This debate regarding the Seder Olam was not only between R. Emden and R. Hagiz but continues to today. Among most scholars the concensous is that although portions of the Seder Olam date to at least Talmudic times there were later insertions. Among others, the entirety of Seder Olam is attributed to the tanna R. Yose ben Halfta.

    Sources: First, if one wishes to read more about marginalia which have become part of the text, see R. Yitzhak Zilber excellent article "Yedi maTikim Shaltu Bo" in Ohr Yisrael 41, 201-222. Additionally, Zilber discusses the above controversy and also includes an extensive discussion regarding R. Emden's views on R. Azariah de Rossi and his Me'or Einayim. On the controversy discussed above see R. Eliyahu ben Yaakov, Birkat Eliayhu (Wandsbeck, 1728), 56b-57a; R. Jacob Emden, She'elot Ya'avetz, vol. 1 no. 33; see also the Ratner edition of Seder Olam.

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    There is what appears at first glance to be a technical passage (although some may find it of interest on its own) in the Talmud dealing with the issue of which types of impurity bars one from Torah study. The Talmud states "הזבים והמצורעים ובעולי נדות קורין בתורה ושונין מדרש הלכות והגדות ובעלי קרי אסור בכולן" "A zav, a metzorah, boli niddot, are permitted to read from the Torah, study Midrash, Laws, and 'agadot, however a ba'al keri can study none of these." So according to this all these types of men, as this is in the masculine, are able to study these things even though they have some level of impurity. This is how it appears in the Talmud Bavli.

    However, the Jerusalem Talmud and the Tosefta preserve a different reading. They have both men and women in the list. Hence "זבין וזבות נדות וילדות קורין בתורה וכו" "zavim and zavot (the feminine) and menstruating women, and a women who just gave birth can read from the Torah etc." according to this reading women would need to know whether they could engage in study of Midrash and Law etc. So what happened?

    Lieberman states "I think that the women would intentionally removed [from the Munich manuscript of the Talmud Bavli and hence our corrupted texts] and were replaced with men." So the menstruating women were replaced with a man who had marital relations with a menstruating woman. And instead of a woman who gave birth we have a metzorah. The reason is obvious to have the Talmud discussing whether women in this state of impurity could study these texts assumes that they regularly studied them, something that for some may not have been accepted.

    Sources: Saul Lieberman, Tosefet Rishonim vol. 1, 15; Jerusalem Talmud, Berakhot, 3:4; Talmud Bavli Berakhot 22, a; Tosefota, Berakhot 2 :12; Lieberman, Tosefta K'Peshuto p. 20.

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  • 06/01/06--08:24: Shavout Night and Coffee
  • There are many customs associated with Shavout, you can read about some here and here. One, is staying up all night and learning Torah (or at least part). This custom, which began in the 16th century in Safet spread rather quickly throughout the Jewish world. R. Yosef Karo, the author of the Shulkan Orakh lent a spiritual side. R. Karo stayed up all night and was studying with his student R. Shlomo Alkabtz (author of Lecha Dodi) and the following occurred:

    Rav Yosef Karo and I agreed to stay up all night on Shavuot... we did not sleep for one minute... and when we began to study the Mishna.. we heard the voice of the Divine Presence, [with a feeble voice] speaking through Yosef Karo: 'May you be blessed; return to your studies, do not stop for one minute, and go to Eretz Yisrael... Do not have pity on your vessels [material goods], because you will be sustained by "the upper realms"... so hurry to Eretz Yisrael, because I will be your sustainer, and I will provide for you and the peace of your house.' And we all raised up a great cry of joy, when we heard the Divine Presence, her voice pleading with us...

    Thus, feel the Divine and give Him honor.. and God will cause your hearts to merit becoming one with the Holy Land, to work it together, Amen.


    Elliott Horowitz, who we had mentioned previously, has a rather interesting explanation to the quick spread of the custom. Horowitz notes that the rise in popularity of remaining up all night was due to the new drink - coffee. Coffee with its stimulant powers allowed more people to participate in this ritual. Thus, Horowitz notes in a period of thirty years no less than five editions of Tikkun lel Shavout are published in Venice. The same is true in other areas of Europe. This coincided with the rise of coffeehouses. Venice, the same city with all the printings of the Tikkun lel Shavout, in the 18th century, had some 200 coffeehouses (even prior to the rise of Starbucks). In Worms, the community was tasked with supplying coffee specifically for Shavout night. These facts precipitated greater parcipitation in a ritual with its demand upon wakefullness through the night.

    While the above is rather interesting explaination for the spread of this custom, it is worth noting that Horowitz's article appears incomplete. Specifically, he doesn't touch on two other rituals which would benefit from coffee. The first would be Pesach night. As one is obligated to stay up (and this is min HaTorah) coffee it would seem would be perfect. (In fact, Briskers only stay up on Pesach night and do not stay up on Shavout to highlight this.)

    But, perhaps coffee was not used on Pesach because a) it was a private - in the home and b) some considered hametz or kitnyot or at least susceptible to admixture with them.

    The second area is the custom to say Shilchot at midnight. Many say it in the morning or some even say it early evening, but many hold midnight is the best time, why did this not benefit from coffee? In other words, why do we not see a rise in people reciting Selichot at midnight after coffee is introduced.

    Finally, Horowitz does not discuss how almost all of the kabalistic customs from Safed where quickly adopted by the rest of Europe even when they had nothing to do with coffee. So the remaining awake all night can be seen as just an outgrowth of the acceptance of the others, think kabbalat shabbat etc.

    Although Horowitz doesn't touch upon these, his thesis is one to bear in mind when one is indulging in coffee (today RedBull) and cheesecake at 2 am.

    Sources: Elliott Horowitz, "Coffee, Coffeehouses and the Nocturnal Rituals of Early Modern Jewry," AJS Review 14:1 (Spring, 1989) 17-46; For a fascinating view of the spread of coffee to Amsterdam Jews and the rest of the world, one should read David Liss's historical fiction work "The Coffee Trader."

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    As a service for those who either don't have access or the time to browes the seforim stores to see what new has been printed I will now on a periodic basis list the seforim I have recently purchased/seen. The vast majority of these I will have seen/purchased will be from Biegeleisen books in Boropark (718) 436-1165.

    At times I will have lenghter comments and some books I will just list and leave to the reader to investigate further.

    1) The second volume of the Siddur Kol Ya'akov. This a newly set type of the classic Hassidic Siddur.
    2) Pirush Mesacktat Avot l'Rebi Mattishayu HaYishari edited with an introduction by R. Ya'akov Shmuel Spiegel as well as an introduction by Dov Schwartz on R. Mattityahu's philosophy based upon this commentary.
    3) HaNehmadim miPaz a 862 page work on everything and everything having to do with mitzvah of writing a sefer Torah as well as Haknatat sefer Torah.
    4) Hazar Rebi Yehudah HaHassid this discusses the Hurva Shul and includes some interesting historical pictures and documents relating to it. Which I think is being fully rebuilt now.
    5) Rigshe Lev Tefilatam shel Nashim a book all about women's prayer although not prayer groups. The implict point of the book, however, is to say that women should be ok without prayer groups or the like. The book inlcudes various "laws" applicable as well as all the myriad of scenarios one needs to come up with when writing a book of this type - can a woman pray where there is no mehitzha, what do if she slept through the proper time of prayer, etc.

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  • 06/06/06--18:53: One more Book on Stam Yayin
  • I neglected to mention one other book that was just published. The book Dimyon Areyeh was originally printed in 1616 in Prague, this was the only edition until now. This book is addressed to those of Nikolsburg who were leinient in regards to Stam Yayin. This practice had been justified by R. Moshe Isserless (Rema) in his teshuvot which were subsequently removed in many editions. However, many questioned this practice this book, Dimyon Areyeh, is one of them. There is a nice introduction about the author, R. Yehudah Leib Pisak, and collects what little we know about him. It also discusses some of events and history about the stam yayin controversy. The type has been reset and includes new footnotes throughout. Additionally, it includes the Kuntras Pesak B'Inyan Taknot HaKehilot from R. Shmuel ben David Moshe haLevi author of Nahlat Shivah (which according to this publisher lends support to the Dimyon Areyeh). It is interesting that this was its original title but was removed (for no reason) in later editions of the Nahlat Shivah. Also in at least one edition of the Nahlat Shivah there are no real haskomat (m'ta'am ha'kamut) in a effort to shield those giving the approbation from criticisim which was leveled against the book. It is the Berlin 1763 edition.

    If one wants to read more about the Rema leiniency see Asher Ziv's edition of the Teshuvot HaRema no. 124. For more on the removal of that teshuva see Ziv, pages 66-67 and now Y.S. Spiegel Amudim b'Tolodot HaSefer haIvri - Kitiva v'Hataka p. 273 (also see his footnotes for more on the controversy generally); Daniel Sperber Minhagi Yisrael vol. 2 56 note 26. And, of course, on this topic generally see Haym Soloveitchik, Yenam.

    Finally, I should mention in light of R. Dr. Shlomo Sprecher's excellent article in Hakirah, a book he relies upon heavily - R. Tertis's Dam Brit - is available from Biegeleisen in copy format, albeit smaller than the original folio size but does include pictures of the "Tertis Apparatus."

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  • 06/12/06--07:29: Names of Seforim I
  • The names utilized for Seforim are rather unique. As opposed to most cultures who title their books based upon their content (think Da Vinci Code about a code Da Vinci did), Jewish book titles, for the most part, have no relationship to their content. Additionally, for many, the title of the books supersedes that of the actual author to such an extent that many authors are only known by their book titles. So while many are aware of the Shach and the Taz (shortened forms of the titles Siftei Kohen and Turei Zahav commentaries on the Shulhan Orakh most are not aware who actually wrote these works. Instead, one would say "(the) Shach says" etc. Now if we were to return the above titles, Siftei Kohen - the Lips of the Priest and the Turei Zahav the Pillars of Gold, from first glance one would assume the former is about Priests while the latter is about either metallurgy or perhaps some Indiana Jones like pillars.

    Some have been critical of the use of such obscure titles for Jewish books. Isaac D'Israeli the father of Statesman Benjamin (Isaac was the one to remove himself and his family Benjamin included and convert them to Christianity after Isaac was angered over his synagogues dues) was highly critical of such titles, in his Curiosities of Literature he writes:

    The Jewish and many oriental authors were fond of allegorical titles, which always indicate the most puerile age of taste. The titles were usually adapted to their obscure works. It might exercise an able enigmatist to explain their allusions; for we must understand by The Heart of Aaron,” that it is a commentary on several of the prophets. “The Bones of Joseph is an introduction to the Talmud. The Garden of Nuts, and The Golden Apples,” are theological questions, and The Pomegranate with its Flower,” is a treatise of ceremonies, not any more practised. Jortin gives a title, which he says of all the fantastical titles he can recollect, is one of the prettiest. A rabbin published a catalogue of rabbinical writers, and called it Labia Dormientium, from Cantic. vii. 9. Like the best wine of my beloved that goeth down sweetly, causing the lips of those that are asleep to speak. It hath a double meaning, of which he was not aware, for most of his rabbinical brethren talk very much like men in their sleep.

    Almost all their works bear such titles as bread,— gold, —silver, —roses, —eyes,— &c., in a word, anything that signifies nothing.

    Isaac Reggio (perhaps it is the Isaacs) was equally critical, in his introduction to Delmigido's Behinat HaDa'at. "Amongst the incorrect customs which has been exacerbated over time . . . when authors title their books with titles that do not speak to content, or at best they use titles which only hint to the books content which can only be decoded after reading the introduction . . . there are those who use titles which contain the authors name." Reggio then proceeds to list some of thcategories those catagories. "There are those who use titles from the vessels in the Temple ארון עדות,מזבח הזהב, מנורת המאור, שלחן ארבע, זר זהב, קערת כסף or some use the clothing of the priest for titles שרשות גבלות, המצנפת, מעשה אפוד, משן אהרן, כליל תכלת," and the list goes on.

    Reggio mentions two catagories of interest, one the author placing his name (or hinting to it) and the other hinting to the content via an obscure title. As to the second there was such a book reviewed by the Jewish Chronicle (London)

    Very wittily is the pun-title, City of Sihon (Heb: Ir Sichon), for a mathematical book by R. Joseph Zorphathi, alluding to Numb. xxi 27, "For Hesbon (reckonin [caculating]) is the City of Sihon."

    Jewish Chronicle (London), June 21, 1889, page 15

    There are also similarly titled or pun titled books which are hinting at the name of the author. For instance authors whose name was Avrhom utilize puns on various verses relating to Avrohom. So we have the books Pesach haOhel (1691) which is referencing that Gen. 18:1; Yukach Na (1881); Sa'du Lebchem (1881) both referencing Gen. 18:4-5.

    Then we have books which are not as creative and just use the persons name in the title. Perhaps the person to go wild with this theme was R. Hayyim Palaggi. Who wrote over 25 seforim and almost all carry the name Hayyim in the title. So we have Otzrot haHayyim, Genzi Hayyim, Darki Hayyim, U'Baharta B'Hayyim, Zechirah L'Hayyim, Huke' Hayyim, Hayyim b'Yad, Hayyim V'Shalom etc. (you get the picture).

    Asided from these we have other books which make reference to something that happened in the authors life, generally unrelated to content of the book. So we have Homat Aish (1799) a commentary on the Ibn Ezra's song Tzama Nafshe which was written soon after the author lost his house and all to a fire. He decided to write this in the hope it would prevent a future fire. Or we have the various books written by blind people, Eynai Avrohom and the like which generally reference eyes or sight.

    Aside from these curiosities, there is still the final one of substituting the authors name for that of his book. Menachem has a rather interesting story related to this practice here.

    Perhaps the reason for this practice can be gleaned from the following story was told. There was a city which was filled with less than learned or interested people who were in need of a rabbi. However, when each candidate would come through they would be turned off by the populace. The town decided to do something about this and had commisioned tombstones with famous personages such as the Shach, Taz, Rama etc. and placed them in the graveyard. With the next candidate they made sure to tour the cemetary. Needless to say, although the rabbi had some misgivings he decided to take the job figuring if the Shach etc. were here it couldn't be all that bad. After he accepted one of the townspeople took him aside and told him the truth immediately the Rabbi complained saying he was tricked. However, the town board explained he was not. As in the various cities where the Shach, Taz etc are actually buried they study their works and the Talmud says that when one studies the works their lips move - they are still alive. In this town, however, no one studies any of their wotrulyd they are truely dead here.

    Perhaps the idea that the Torah of the person is the most important thing and the authors derive life from that caused some to substitute their works.

    Sources: Zlotkin, Shemot haSeforim and entire work devoted to the names of books; Y. S. Spiegel, Amudim b'Toldot HaSefer Haiviri, Ketiva v'Hataka, 384-428 discussing the use of the authors name in the title (Spiegel's two volumes of Amudim are excellent and are a must read for anyone interested in the history of Seforim); for a list of books about various events, famine, jailing, blind people etc. see A. Yaari, Mekeri Sefer. [Thanks Menachem for the Jewish Chronicle (London) citation.]


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  • 06/19/06--16:40: Inverted Nuns
  • While Mississippi Fred recently discussed the missing nun (that is the Hebrew letter and not the people), last week we were treated to those Oh, Inverted World Nuns. Although, today this odd textual device is standard at least in its use, although there are some variations as to exactly how one does it (Sefardim do it more like a z and Ashkenazim have the upside down backwards nuns -more about this later). You can see some examples here, including one where the text was changed.

    In fact, it is far from clear whether one should do this at all. Most notably, R. Shlomo Luria (Maharshal) argued that the Talmudic passage this custom is based upon only mandates the typical break for a parsha and not any upside down or otherwise letters. The passage only states that a sign should be made for this parsha and nothing more. He argues that such letters in the Torah render the Torah passul (unfit for use). R. Luria also notes the lack of uniformity in presenting such nuns, there are 19 different ways he came across to make the nuns. Some even flip the nuns of the text of the Torah and do not place the strange letters prior to and after the parsha in question. Thus, according to R. Luria, all of our Torahs which contain such nuns are passul.

    R. Yechezkial Landau (Noda B'Yehuda), however, among others, defends the custom. He claims that the use of such a non-letter i.e. an upside down or z shaped non-letter is the key to allowing such a practice. As since this is not a letter at all therefore it is just a sploch of ink which doesn't render the torah unfit for use.

    Although the nuns in last weeks reading are almost universal, there is another inverted nun in the Torah that is attested to by R. Shlomo Yitzhaki (Rashi) which, it seems, is not accepted at all. Rashi at the end of Parshat Noach says that the name of Abraham's father, Haran has an inverted nun. But this doesn't appear at all. (Another missing nun as it was.)

    For more on this topic see here and here. Read She'alot u'Teshuvot Maharshal, no. 73; She'alot u'Teshuvot Mahram m'Lublin, no 75; She'alot u'Teshuvot Noda B'Yehuda, vol. 1 yoreh Deah no. 73; R. Menachem Mendel Kasher, Torah Shelmah, vol. 29 p. 124-130 (where he provided pictures of the various methods of writing the nuns); C.D. Ginsburg, Introduction to the Massoretico Critical Edition of the Hebrew Bible p. 341; Shnayer Z. Leiman, "The Inverted Nuns at Numbers 10:35-36 and the Book of Eldad and Medad" in Journal of Biblical Literature 93:3 (Sept. 1974): 348-55; Saul Lieberman, Hellenism in Jewish Palestine, 38-43; Emanuel Tov, Textual Criticism of the Hebrew Bible p. 54-55.

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    Some have recently posted regarding the status of non-Jews vis-à-vis Jews. Although, they are more focused upon the medieval time period, I though it would be instructive to discuss a more contemporary view. This view, is striking in its breath as well in its authorship.

    R. Yechiel Heller, author of the teshuvot Amudi Ohr, is well-known in Yeshiva circles. While respona literature is generally not studied as one of the commentary on Talmud, there are at least two of R. Heller's responsa which are standard fare in Yeshivot when studying Talmud. (One is a discussion regarding toch k'edi dibur k'dibur and the second deals with misasek). However, R. Heller has a lesser known responsum, which does not appear in his Amudi Ohr but in a different and rare work. This work, Sheni Perakim'al Davar haHov l'Ohev haKazar (Two Chapters on the Obligation to Love the Czar) printed in St. Petersburg in 1852. One of these chapters is authored by R. Heller. In this chapter he makes a very novel and very important arguement regarding the status of non-Jews.

    R. Heller argues that non-Jews today, have the status of Geri Toshav. This is so even without any formal acceptance of that status. R. Heller explains that such formal acceptance is necessary only for individuals, but when an entire nation (he focuses on Christians) falls into the category there is no need for any formal acceptance. Today, he argues, the nations of the world more or less follow the seven Noahide laws (he explains idolatry for this catogry allows for shituf) and therefore automatically considered geri toshav.

    This position has tremendous ramifications which R. Heller himself notes. Specifically, all the laws in the Talmud regarding non-Jews are not applicable to geri toshav. Thus, R. Heller explains, that yayin nesach is not applicable with a ger toshav. Nor is the special prohibition against selling weapons, returning a lost object, or yihud (seclusion). Additionally, one can lend with usery to a ger toshav. All of this, R. Heller explains, is applicable to the non-Jewish people we find our self living with.

    This stunning opinion did not go unchallenged. There are those who question whether, without a formal acceptance one can be considered a ger toshav. In fact, there is an entire work written to refute R. Heller's position, however, this work is still in manuscript form and has never been printed. (If someone is willing, I would like to get a copy of this from the JNUL- you can email me).

    However, it is important to note, that irrespective of whether this position is the correct one, at the very least it is an important historic position, one that bears further dissemination and study.

    Sources: For more on R. Heller see R. E. Katzman's biography, "Mofet haDor, HaGoan R. Yechiel Heller ZT"L - Ba'al Amudi Ohr" in Yeshurun 4 (1998) 648-681; 682-695 (reprint of the eulogy of R. David Luria for R. Heller); R. A. Mandelstamm, Sheni Perakim, St. Petersburg, 1852; Peli [R. Pinchas M. Heilprin] Iggeret Cheil Bet HaElyi, The Jewish National and University Library Ms. Heb. 8°5224, [1855].

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