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

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    Aside from purchasing a hard copy of a book, there are currently many other methods are available in obtaining seforim. The easiest and cheapest is the Shapell Family Digitization Project of the Jewish National & University Library, where many rare and expensive books are available for free. While this is a terrific resource if the particular book and/or edition is available, this digital project is far from comprehensive, and its purpose is not to have every (or even close to) every book online. To fill that demand, there are two external hard drives which contain about 18,000 - 20,000 seforim, both of which are around the same price of $1,400 (estimated). I have been using both for the last few months and wanted to give my impressions.

    The two hard drives are Otzrot haTorah and Otzar HaChochmah. I have the hard drive of the first, and have been using an online version of the second.

    The first, Otzrot haTorah was originally the vision of R. Morgenstern, who has unfortunately since passed away. This edition includes the collection of thousands of seforim, as well as Otzar haPoskim (widely known as Otzrot haShu"t). This program allows for one to search responsa works and also classifies responsa based upon their relevance to section in Shulhan Arukh. Thus, you can click and see what the responsa has to say about Siman Gimmel in Orah Hayyim etc. Additionally you can do a text search of the responsa which appear on this program. This program, however, only covers 3 of the 4 volumes of Shulhan Arukh – Orah Hayyim, Even haEzer, and Hoshen Mishpat. I found the interface and the ease of locating material to be very good. Once you know which chapter in Shulhan Arukh you need they have the material.

    The more important portion of the hard drive is the collection of the 18,000+ seforim. This section is not text searchable. So if you are just hoping to use this to find material via a word search this is not the hard drive for you. But, this hard drive still has tremendous value. This is so, as it contains a terrific amount of material. Additionally, this material was systematically collected so you are less likely to find gaps on this then on the other hard drive. Whoever made the decision what to copy chose very well. Further, the seforim are divided topically (if you want) which if you are doing research let's say on siddur is invaluable. You can in two clicks call up all the editions of the siddur they have. Or if you want to find about a town you would go to the History section then pick the section on communities etc.

    Generally, you will find what you are looking for, however, as with almost any library or hard drive, this does not have every sefer printed, but if it is important or good, they probably do have it. If desired, you can print out the entire book, or convert it to a PDF to save to your hard drive. When you print it prints a water mark with their name in the middle, which is not a big deal (the other hard drive does the same). Aside from books, the hard drive also contains many journals as well.

    The other hard drive, Otzar HaChochmah, is text searchable. But, not every book which is on the drive is nor is it 100% accurate. Additionally, on the online version it tells you if found a hit in a book, but then there is no get more than the first hit in the book (there may be a way but it is not readily apparent or obvious). This is rather frustrating if the first hit is not the one you need. The reason this is not perfect as this drive uses OCR technology as opposed to typing in all the books. This means it searches the actual books as they appear with Rashi script etc., and at time all OCR makes some mistakes. But, the sheer number of books does make this feature valuable.

    One must state that this hard drive is much less comprehensive than the first one. It does not seem that the person who decided what to put on this has any rhyme or reason at times a basic book is missing while a useless one is included. There are serious gaps when it comes to some areas. Furthermore, with the online version, you can only print and there is no way to save the material. Otzar HaChochmah is constantly adding books, so they may eventually correct this. But it seems that are focusing on contemporary works rather than fixing the items in their catalog.

    If I had to summarize who would benefit from each of these I would say a person who is just looking to come across something they were not aware of and doesn't need access to seforim should go with Otzar HaChochmah. But, if you are looking for something to complement other research and you need access to seforim that are otherwise too expensive or impractical to own I would go with the Otzarot haTorah.

    Otzar HaChochmah is available here; and you can email for more on Otzarot haTorah

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    As I have previously discussed, there is a well known work on the sources and rationale for various customs titled Mekore Minhagim. Indeed, there are two works with that very same title – by two different authors – that cover the same material. The question is which author stole from the other? I hope that I can clear this up as there still appears to be a misconception about who is the plagiarizer.

    First, a brief history about prior attempts to decipher who is the real author of Mekore Minhagim is in order. As I noted in my original post, the first edition of the sefer to come out was published in Berlin in 1846 with the author listed as R. Avrohom Lewysohn (1805-1861). That edition contained 100 questions and explanation about various customs. Then, in 1851, R. Yosef Finkelstein published under the same title a work with the very same information, but that contained only 41 of the 100 questions and explanations from the work published in 1846. Almost immediately, it was claimed that Finkelstein had plagiarized his work from Lewysohn. And if one had to guess – absent any additional information –it would appear that this is the case simply because Lewysohn's work came out first; that is, unless Lewysohn could have read Finkelstein's mind, the latter must be the plagiarizer.

    But, this is not a simple case. Instead, the appearance of the plagiarism claims in a German periodical did not settle the issue. Thus, R. Lewysohn's brother, Yehudah Leib Lewysohn, a Rabbi in Stockholm, after seeing Finkelstein's name mentioned in a different capacity in the journal ha-Maggid, again pointed out that Finkelstein had plagiarized Mekore Minhagim from Lewysohn. R. Y.L. Lewysohn gave a run down of the controversy and included the fact that, eventually, the dispute was taken to court, which ultimately concluded that Finkelstein had plagiarized from Lewysohn. But, it seems that Finkelstein had someone swear on his behalf that he was indeed the author.

    After R. Y.L. Lewysohn published that account, including the court case coverage, Finkelstein himself answered the charge in a later issue of ha-Maggid. Finkelstein claimed that he was indeed the author and Lewysohn had stolen from him. But, how to account for the fact his sefer came out later? Finkelstein claimed that as he was traveling through Germany, he stayed with Lewysohn and eventually showed him his (Finkelstein's) manuscript of Mekore Minhagim. Lewysohn was extremely taken by this book. According to Finkelstein, Lewysohn must have copied his version and published it before Finkelstein was able to.

    R. Y.L. Lewysohn responded – with a point by point rebuttal – that Finkelstein’s account was all untrue and challenged Finkelstein to go in front of a court again - but this never happened.

    That is more or less a summary of the written record with respect to the controversy. So it seems there remains the possibility that Lewysohn did copy Finkelstein’s manuscript when they met in Berlin. And, in fact, many have come to Finkelstein's defense. For instance, R. Tzvi Efraim Babad in Der Yid has an article where he uses the ha-Maggid article to show that Finkelstein was indeed the author. In particular, it seems that R. Babad didn't like Lewysohn, as he was a German Rabbi and university educated, while Finkelstein was from a distinguished rabbinic Hungarian family. There is also an article in the latest Or Yisrael about this incident of plagiarism.

    I think, however, that I can prove who the real author is. I can do so by using Finkelstein's own defense from ha-Maggid to demonstrate that he, in fact, is the plagiarizer. As is many times the case, he created the noose by which to hang himself.

    Finkelstein, in his defense, states as follows:
    When I was in Prague I wrote the work "Rivid ha-Zahav" which discusses the laws of ritual slaughter and checking for imperfection of the lungs. Many great Rabbis praised this work amongst them the famous Gaon R. [Shlomo] Yehuda Leib Rapoport and, because so many people liked it, the book sold out and I had to publish it again. After this I published another book "Tzafnas Panach" on blemishes in the lungs [of an animal].
    He then continues and discusses the “Mekore Minhagim” and how Lewysohn got it:
    When I traveled to Germany to sell my book I stayed with [R. Lewysohn] . . . when he saw my work the ‘Mekore Minhagim,’ which I wrote in 1839, he asked to look at it.
    From there Finkelstein posits that Lewysohn eventually copied it and printed it as his own.

    So, now, in order to see who is actually right, we need to see if R. Finkelstein's story works. The way to do this is to check the books that Finkelstein actually was selling. First, it is important to know that Finkelstein published three books aside from Mekore Minhagim. As mentioned above, he wrote Rivid ha-Zahav and Tzofnas Panach. In addition he published a book his father- in–law, R. Meir Avraham Csaba, wrote - Pri Tzadik. Pri Tzadik was published in 1839, Finkelstein’s first published work. Now, according to Finkelstein, in his response in ha-Maggid, he published Tzofnas Panach after he published Rivid ha-Zahav for the second time. So, that would make Tzofnas Panach the last book published. Also, according to Finkelstein there were two editions of Rivid ha-Zahav (these are the only editions of Rivid ha-Zahav) but when was Rivid ha-Zahav published? According to the title pages, one was published in Prague (1846) and the other in Ofen (1845). But, according to Finkelstein's own testimony, these dates must be wrong -- or at least one. The reason being, if you recall, is that Finkelstein said Rivid ha-Zahav was written in Prague and was praised by R. Rapoport -which you can see as there is an approbation from R. Rapoport. In particular, the first edition of Rivid ha-Zahav has this approbation according to Finkelstein's own words. But, the only edition which has this approbation is the one with 1846 on the title page and the approbation itself is even dated the 6th of Av 5606 (1846). That means that, although the other edition of Rivid ha-Zahav states was published in 1845, in fact, it was published after the 6th of Av 5606. Which also means that Tzofnas Panach was also published sometime after the second edition of Rivid ha-Zahav was published.[1]

    Now, for Finkelstein's story to be true, he states that he was selling "his books" -"ספרי" that means his personal books. That means we can rule out Pri Tzadik as that was his father-in-law's book and Finkelstein wouldn't have called it "his." So when did he travel to Germany to sell his books and to which books did he refer? Well, let's take the earliest of his books - which according to what we have figured out - is the first edition of his Rivid ha-Zahav. That edition of the Rivid ha-Zahav had to have been published sometime after the 6th of Av, the time of the approbation. That doesn't leave that much time in the year 5606, being that Av is the second to last month in the Jewish calendar. But, let's say he had Rivid ha-Zahav published really fast and during the month of Av he was able to publish it and was already in Germany meeting up with Lewysohn. Well, and here comes the funny part, Lewysohn's introduction to Mekore Minhagim (which is copied in Finkelstein's as well) is dated 16th of Kislev 5606, which would be around December 1845. This, of course, means that if our calculations are correct and we take all of Finkelstein's story as true, Lewysohn wrote the introduction at least ten months before Finkelstein ever came to town to sell his then, unpublished, Rivid ha-Zahav. Which means Finkelstein is a liar.

    Thus, it would appear that we can now conclude who is the plagiarizer – Finkelstein. And, the fact is that Lewysohn is the real author of Mekore Minhagim.

    [1] There is another reason the Tzafnas Panach must be the final book published although again according to the title page there is an earlier date. According to the title page it was printed in 1845, but now that we know the 1845 edition of Rivid ha-Zahav was in fact published after 1846 the Tzafnas Panach must also be published after that. This is so, because in the Rivid ha-Zahav with the title page which claims 1845 it also says the approbations for this will be published in my future work Tzafnas Panach (which in fact Tzafnas Panach includes). Thus, Tzafnas Panach must be after this second edition and thus must be after 1846 even though it claims an earlier date.

    Sources: ha-Maggid No. 24 June 17, 1863 p. 192; No. 27, July 8, 1863, pp. 211-12; No. 36, September 9, 1863 pp. 283-84; No. 40, October 14, 1863, p. 316 (which are all available online here); R. Tzvi Ephraim Babad, "Printers, Copiers, Shasin, and Censor," Der Yid 25 (Friday, September 22, 2000), section 2.

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    A Look at Makhon Moreshet Ashkenaz’s New Journal: Yerushateinu
    By Eliezer Brodt

    There is a new journal published by מכון מורשת אשכנז titled ירושתנו. This מכון is well known for producing some excellent works, amongst them זכרונות ומסורות על החת"ם סופר and the four volumes ofשרשי מנהג אשכנז . This journal they promise to put out once a year but only time will tell, as anyone familiar with this מכון knows; they do great work but it takes forever for the seforim to come out. Many reasons have been given as to why that is so (money amongst them) however, the main reason I feel is because they strive for perfection – which is the biggest mistake many make as the משנה in אבות says לא עליך המלאכה לגמור.

    With this in mind I would like to review this work (not in-depth so as to keep your interest). There are articles on all topics – basically whatever your interest you’re sure to find something there.

    This sefer has about thirty articles including many articles which include hereto unpublished Torah from the great גדולים of אשכנז.

    Amongst them from the בעל חינוך בית יהודא ,ערוך לנר ,רב הירש ,רב עזריאל הילדסהימר ,ר' יונה מרצבך and ר' דוד הקשר. There is an in-depth discussion as to the שיעור מיל according to the קליר between ר' יצחק אדלר and ר' יונה מרצבך. For those interested in poetry there is a great piece from the מהר"ם מרוטנברג on חנוכה which includes many interesting things about חנוכה. There is another article on the זמר of דרור יקרא and a piece on שירה during davening in general.

    There are a few articles on contemporary halakhic issues such as הגעלת כלים from the בעל שמירת שבת כהלכתה and on יארצהייט when it’s a leap year.

    Besides this there are about six articles on מנהגים all of the articles just whet one’s appetite – leaving one feeling that suddenly they took the משנה of שלא עליך המלאכה לגמור too far. For instance, one article discusses the custom of waiting between milk and meat is an extreme example of having too little information. I and many others were waiting for an exhaustive article on the topic – this is not it. Even the article from the generally great ר' בנימן שלמה המבורגר (the author of the works שרשי מנהג אשכנז), discussing קדיש after קריאת התורה, leaves us feeling teased. We are used to much more from such an expert on מנהגים. He probably wants to save it for his own works שרשי מנהג אשכנז - which we are anyway long overdue for another one.

    There are, however a few stand out articles. There is an important article from Professor יעקב שפיגל, whose articles and books are consistently excellent, discussing the בית יוסף’s usage of ראשונים - specifically which editions the בית יוסף had in front of him. שפיגל covers, among others, the שבלי הלקט and the sefer אגור. This is very important in fully understanding the בית יוסף in general and his sources.

    After שפיגל’s article there is a much talked about article from ר' מרדכי הוניג. This article is a review of a recent printing of the ספר חסידים החדש from the nephew of the רא"ש, sometimes referred to as the ספר המשכיל. This sefer has many many interesting things on many topics many of whichר' הוניג is kind enough to point out – he has extensive comments from a wide range of sources. One can only hope that one day he puts out this sefer with all his notes and the many more I am sure he could have put in this article of 45 pages. Perhaps he was keeping with the above themeלא עליך המלאכה לגמור.

    After that there is an article, from ר' יחיאל גולדהבר, on ר' עזריאל הילדסהיימר during his time in אייזנשטט. Although the article is good, it appears he missed out on one important source from ר' עזריאל הילדסהיימר’s daughter all about her father. See Gertrude Hirschler and Shnayer Z. Leiman, “Esther Hildesheimer Calvary: The Hildesheimers in Eisenstadt,” Tradition 26:3 (1992): 87-92.

    After that there is an extensive article on the life of ר' יוסף אלטמאן including many items from rare German newspapers.

    The articles conclude with a short piece from ר' אברהם סולומון about a future edition of דברי קהלת from שלמה גייגר that he plans on publishing. דברי קהלת is, of course, an extremely important source for מנהגים and anyone familiar with the sefer will definitely understand the great necessity for such a job as it’s a very hard sefer to use but one could only hope that the authors dream comes true and he is able to put out the work as he intends to.

    Finally, the inaugural issue of ירושתנו also includes a לוח השנה של מנהגי בית הכנסת לבני אשכנז בארץ ישראל and two articles in English.

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    Simchat ha-Nefesh:
    An Important But Often Ignored Work on German Jewish Customs

    By Eliezer Brodt

    While doing research for a forthcoming article on the topic of saying דרשות at wedding celebrations, I kept noticing secondary sources citing to the work שמחת הנפש. Yet, after obtaining many editions of the שמחת הנפש I was still unable to locate the quotes regarding wedding speeches! After a while, I came across a citation to a specific edition of the שמחת הנפש and came to the realization that there was a second volume to this title, one that is very rare, and has only reprinted once. While the first volume was reprinted numerous times, it was this second volume of שמחת הנפש that contained the information I needed. It was in 1926 that Professor Yaakov Shatsky published an edition of שמחת הנפש which includes this second section and thus I was finally found the elusive source!

    The question remained, though, as to why this source was not in all the other editions that I had looked at; in order to understand why, a discussion of שמחת הנפש is warranted.

    The author of the שמחת הנפש was ר' אלחנן קירכהן – son-in-law of the famous author of קב הישר, R. Tzvi Hirsch Kaidanov – was born in 1666 in קירכהן (hence his surname) which is not far from Hamburg. ר' אלחנן קירכהן was a quite a Talmid Hakham and is evident from his sefer and correspondences with many גדולים of his time such as ר' יהונתן אייבשיץ. (See בינה לעתים הלכות יום טוב פרק א הלכה כג ; שמחת הנפש, ירושלים, תשנ"ט Introduction, pp. 31-32 ; כל בו על אבילות .עמוד 200-201)

    ר' אלחנן קירכהן wrote seforim on many topics, but only one of his other seforim, חידושים מספר (see שמחת הנפש, Shatsky ed., 1926, pp. 29-30.), was published and the others still remain in manuscript. It seems from his writings that he was a professional darshan. It is also clear that he traveled all over Europe, as throughout the sefer, he gives accounts of his travels. In 1707, he printed anonymously the first two parts of what would ultimately become his famous work, שמחת הנפש. The first two parts were printed many times in many places, while the third part, the one printed in 1727, was printed only once. (See Shatsky’s introduction, especially pp. 23-28, where there is an extensive bibliography of the exact printings. See אוצר הספרים לבן יעקב ; עמוד 594 אות 864.)

    It is this mysterious third part, which is very rare; indeed, few copies exist in libraries worldwide. In 1926, however, it was reprinted by Professor Yaakov Shatsky in a facsimile edition.

    Many important personages praised שמחת הנפש. For example, ר' יהונתן אייבשיץ (in his יערות דבש, א, דרוש יב, באמצע), strongly praise the שמחת הנפש ;ר' יוסף מאיר אב"ד האנובר in his הסכמה writes that one could פסקן from this sefer, a point we will return to later! (הסכמה למהודרא פירדא תפז); the חתם סופר also spoke very highly of the sefer, (הסכמה של ר' שמעון סופר למהדורת פאקש תרנט, Intro to the ירושלים edition pg 36-37.)

    ר' שמען סופר writes that his father, the כתב סופר, used to learn theשמחת הנפש on שבת with his sister. He also writes that within the copy of the שמחת הנפש of his grandfather, ר' עקיבא איגר, he had seen comments in the sefer. Interestingly enough, we find that ר' עקיבא איגר quotes from the sefer in his notes שלחן ערוך גליון רע"א סי' תרצו סעיף ד. The sefer was among the list of seforim in the library of ר' פנחס קאטצענאליבויגען. (See יש מנחלין עמוד נ אות קכב; and Dan's post Ghosts, Demons, Golems and their Halachik Status about ר' פנחס קאטצענאליבויגען.) In 1898, in Faux, Hungary, at the suggestion of ר' שמעון סופר, a copy of שמחת הנפש was reprinted with a פירוש by ר' יהודה קרויס. For other examples of those praising the שמחת הנפש, see the introduction to the most recent edition by ר' שמואל לוריא.

    שמחת הנפש was extremely popular amongst the general populace as is evident from the fact that it was reprinted throughout Europe at least twenty-eight times. Even the most recent edition (a Hebrew translation) was reprinted just a year later. What is so exceptional about the sefer? I believe that the answer lies in the way it was written. With its very captivating and down-to-earth language, the sefer speaks to the reader in a clear manner and keeps one interested using many stories and parables (seeתולדות ספרות ישראל עמוד 103-108.) In addition, שמחת הנפש was an excellent halakhic guide for the masses for regular day-to-day situations.

    Unfortunately as with many of our seforim, at one point this book was banned, and even, according to some, burnt. Zinberg explains that the reason it was burnt was because at the end of the first volume, there is a second part containing halakhot, about which the printer wrote in the shar blatt “שלחן ערוך, אורח חיים ויורה דעה ומנהגים של כל השנה." People felt it was dangerous to give a sefer which allowed the masses to easily find the law (תולדות ספרות ישראל,ד, עמוד 107 ; ספר וסייף, עמוד174-176). This was despite the fact, as mentioned previously, thatר' יוסף מאיר אב"ד האנובר says in his הסכמה to the sefer, that one couldפסקן from the sefer, and despite the fact that ר' עקיבא איגר actually did פסקן from it. However, after this one incident, there is no indication of any other strong opposition as is self evident from the amount of subsequent printings.

    As mentioned previously, שמחת הנפש is composed of three volumes. The author lists the contents of his sefer on the title page. Amongst them are: (1) מוסר and תוכחה with many משלים ומעשיות; (2) Proofs of why one should not get upset about anything, as everything that happens is from G-d and for ones benefit; (3) Proof of the existence of the נשמה; (4) The הלכות of the whole year including הלכות for woman on חלה ונדה (this was the second part of the first volume). In his introduction he adds that he wrote the part of הלכות because there are many places where people do not haveרבנים to ask there questions to. So he included the הלכות so everyone could now what to do. He even writes that one could rely on it not like other seforim that have many mistakes. (This is in contrast to many Halakha seforim where the author writes “do not rely on me.”) This last part stating that one could rely upon the sefer, however, was not reprinted in all the editions of the sefer. In the introduction he writes even more clearly the goal of the sefer:
    “I prove that one does not have to worry I give many solutions to deal with pain… I show that the נשמה is created to serve g-d. With this I have included all the דינים, so one should know how to serve him. All that you do should be with שמחה therefore I called the sefer שמחת הנפש.”
    In 1727 he wrote a third part which (called part two). This part consists of הלכות ומוסר in the form of songs for שבת, יום נוראים, סוכות, פסח, חנוכה, פורים, חתונה, מילה, וכל השנה. He even included the musical notes for the songs. The inclusion of musical notes was an innovative method of giving mussar. The author’s goal was to reach the masses, even the people who lived in the villages he had visited and had seen that they were negligent in many of the areas discussed in the sefer.

    שמחת הנפש, is a practical, down to earth book. We can see this through many points mentioned in the sefer such as: when doing תשובה , one should do it slowly and not be too hard on oneself with excessive fasting (ירושלים ed., p. 154); don’t hit a child before age four (Idem at p. 175); a recurring theme throughout the book is the author comforting people who lost children (Idem at pp. 27,28,30,55,62), which was a common occurrence in those days. The author mentions that he himself also lost a child (Idem at p. 47). שמחת הנפש contains many interesting topics, such asנשמות, ניסים , andשדים . The sefer is full of interesting stories about these topics, some of which the author was eyewitness to or was actually involved in. For example, in the chapter on demons, the author writes that he personally saw a boy of three speaking about concepts of Torah and Kabbalah that he didn’t understand (Idem at p. 52). He also mentions that when he was in Poland, there was a woman whose children were killed by a demon (Idem at p. 53). Also mentioned in שמחת הנפש is the famous legend that when the רמב"ם died, his ארון traveled to ארץ ישראלby itself (Idem at p.106). [For more on this legend see ספר יוחסין עמ' 220;שלשלת הקבלה עמ' ק ;במאבק על ערכה של תורה עמ' 246;אגרת ארץ ישראל (יערי) עמ' 302;ארשת חלק ו עמ' 63]

    The book quotes from a wide range of sources: חז"ל, ראשונים, ספרי קבלה, and many interesting seforim such as: צרי היגן, שבט מיהודה, נשמת חיים, מקוה ישראל, מסעות ר' בנימן and many others. It is evident that the author must have had access to an unusually extensive library for his time.

    שמחת הנפש is a pretty much untapped wellspring of מנהגים of Germany. The reader can also get a clear picture of life in those times, especially in the small villages. As the author traveled, he wrote מוסר based on what he felt the people he met on his travels were lax in.

    One of the first people who tapped into this source was Zinberg (תולדות ספרות ישראל חלק ד עמ' ,144-146,102-110). After that, Professor Simcha Assaf quotes the שמחת הנפש once in his masterpiece, (מקורות לתולדות החינוך בישראל, א, עמוד 164-165). Professor Yaakov Shatsky printed his edition after that. After Professor Shatsky,אברהם יערי used it a few times in his classic work תולדות חג שמחת תורה (pp. 320, 328, 378, 465, 476, 505). Then Professor Jacob Rader Marcus introduced it to Herman Pollack who quotes from it extensively in his book, “Jewish Folkways in Germanic Lands,” as a quick look in the Pollack’s book and its footnotes will show. Despite this, today the שמחת הנפש is a pretty much unknown book in the field, with the exception of Rabbi Shlomo Hamburger, who uses it as a source in his books on minhagim. To the extent that Professor Zev Gris in his book ספרות ההנהגות which is devoted to the topic of the seforim of מוסר והנהגות and their impact, does not even mention it. But later on, it seems that the book was brought to his attention. He discusses the שמחת הנפש in a later book of his, called הספר כסוכן תרבות (pp. 58, 69, 96). In his analysis of Jewish Attitudes toward Gambling, Leo Landman refers to שמחת הנפש as he writes:
    "A seventeenth century German moralist complained bitterly about some professional gamblers who would pawn their Talit and Tefillen or their Arba Kanfot in order to raise money for gaming."
    See his "Jewish Attitudes toward Gambling the Professional and Compulsive Gambler," Jewish Quarterly Review 57:4 (April, 1967): 311.

    Some interesting samples of מנהגים and daily life that are mentioned in the sefer are: saying יגדל every day ירושלים) ed., p. 89), dinnim of זכר לחורבןsuch as leaving a spot in the house unpainted (Idem at pp. 75,123), חתן and כלה fasting on the day of their chupah (Idem at p. 174). The reader is able to see from the book which areas people were negligent in. For example: they were not careful about shaving with a razor (Idem at p. 94), and people used to play cards all night (Idem at p. 121). The author describes how the people dealt harshly with each other in business matters (Idem at p. 149). He speaks againstחזנים that do not understand what they’re davening and says that this is a cause for the long galus (Idem at pp. 153-154). Interestingly, he writes that parents sent their kids to dance school (Idem at p. 122).

    All of the above is in the first part of volume one. The following are examples from the second part of the volume which is, in a sense, a complete handbook on אורח חיים andיורה דעה . When the author talks about ראש השנה, he says, “we do not sleep onראש השנה, rather we learn the whole day but it’s worse not to sleep and talk".דברים בטלים (See הלכות ראש השנה עמוד נח סוף העמוד.)

    He also includes an extensive chapter on תחומין as it seems many villages were lax in this area (See “Jewish Folkways in Germanic Lands,” p. 323 note 104; ירושלים ed., pp. 30-31). In the third part, (called volume two) which is written in song, as previously mentioned, the author speaks against women that drank excessive amounts of alcohol at wedding and בריתי מילה (vol. two, p. 18). People in the villages children dealt with the farm animal’s onשבת (see תולדות ספרות ישראל עמוד 145), and people wrote מגלת אסתר on paper (Idem).

    One topic which is dealt with throughout the sefer is tznius. The author goes so far as to say that the reason why many Jews died in ת"ח ות"ט and other גזירות was because of lack of tznius (ירושלים ed., pp. 64, 124). Examples of tznius the people of his times were lax in include: men and women who weren’t married to each other danced together in public, some women were very involved in dressing in order to be attractive to men. In contrast to all this, the author was told that in Turkey, the people were so careful with tznius that men hardly ever saw women. Women didn’t go to shul, and when guests stayed in someone’s house, the man of the house didn’t allow his wife and daughters to see the guests (Idem at p. 64).

    Another issue the author takes a strong stance was the education system. In the first part of the sefer, he recommends that when starting to teach children to learn, you ought to begin with תנ"ך and דקדוק. Only after that should one continue on to משנה and גמרא. That’s the only way people will have success in learning. He states that many people leave the field of learning at a young age, and because they don’t know the basics of תנ"ך and דקדוק, they can’t understand the tefillos they say daily. To quote the sefer, “I’m writing this in German so that everyone can understand, especially women who are busy with child raising. The women should not think that their sons have to learn גמרא at an early age. The מהר"ל and others already said that one should first learn תנ"ך, then דקדוק, and only then move on to משנה and גמרא.” He repeats this in the third part of the sefer, in short, where he mentions that people only teach their children גמרא and not תנ"ך. (See מהדורת תפז עמוד יח. Professor Simcha Assaf in מקורות לתולדות חינוך בישראל only quotes the last source on education.)

    In conclusion, the שמחת הנפש is a truly unique sefer. The first part of שמחת הנפש was translated but it could use much more extensive notes. It would be very worthwhile for someone to undertake to translate all three parts of the sefer with extensive footnotes, as was recently done to Gluckel von Hameln.

    Many editions of the שמחת הנפש is available online here, including the first - the 1707 edition as well as the rare 1727 edition. Aside from שמחת הנפש the site, from the Frankfurt University Library, contains over 700 Yiddish prints, all free.

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    Yigdal: A Case Study in Modern Customology
    by Dan Rabinowitz

    Another blog recently raised the question was raised about the origin of saying Yigdal at the end of services on Friday night. Specifically, they wanted to demonstrate that this custom is not a “modern” or “Young Israel” custom and instead was very old. Although in practice today, this view is perhaps the prevalent custom, with most yeshivot and similar minyanim not reciting this and Young Israel and those similar do. In an attempt to refute this, the Hertz siddur was marshaled as Chief Rabbi Joseph H. Hertz records that in 1722 in England they said Yigdal Friday night, thus, according to that post, the custom is old.

    While the above provides a basic introduction, this topic, and that of Yigdal in general, deserves a great explication.

    First, we should establish when people said Yigdal on Friday night, to do so we should check early siddurim. Today this is fairly easy via the JNUL’s digital project where they have online numerous early siddurim. The earliest I have located this was in the 1486 edition of the siddur, and then in just about every subsequent edition of the siddur, Yigdal appears at the end of Friday night prayers. This is the case irrespective of the nusach. So it would appear historically, at least from the late 15th century on, the almost universal custom was to say Yigdal Friday night. [This is not to say the recitation Friday night is the only custom, in fact there are others, but merely to point out the custom of reciting Yigdal on Friday night has a clear precedent.]

    We now must turn to see if there are other issues with the recitation of Yigdal which would label it as “modern.” Admittedly in this search we are somewhat handicapped in that we don’t know what would qualify as a “modern” or as some refer to it “Young Israel” custom, thus, we are forced to utilized gross generalizations, which unfortunately may not be the exact definition of “modern.” Perhaps, as the study of Hebrew grammar has been referred to by some as “modern” it is an emphasis upon grammar which makes Yigdal “modern.” This, however, is not borne out by the commentaries. R. Yitzhak Satanow, in both his earlier work on prayer – Iggeret l’Bet Teffilah – and his later and more comprehensive work – V’etar Yitzhak decries the grammar in Yigdal. He notes that Yigdal, among other Hebrew poems, uses incorrect grammar to satisfy the meter of the poem. R. Shelomoh Zalman Hanau also makes the same point. So it would appear there is not an overemphasis on grammar, rather the opposite is the case, it actually presents some grammatical problems.

    R. Jacob Emden disapproves of Yigdal because it makes it seem that there are only thirteen requirements to Judaism, while in fact there are many, many others. While this may be an issue with Yigdal it would equally be a problem with reciting the Ani Ma'amin prayer which many do at the end of the daily prayers. Additionally, this does not speak to the specific question at hand – reciting Yigdal on Friday night. Even though many do not say Yigdal Friday night, and in some siddurim today it does not appear there, many still include it as part of the morning prayers. Again, it appears this would not be the issue with the Friday night recitation.

    Now, we must turn to the authorship of Yigdal. For many years it was an open question who actually authored Yigdal. As there is no clear acrostic it was difficult to prove conclusively who was the author. Some said since it is based upon Maimonides’s formulation of the Thirteen Principles of Faith he must also be the author. Others said it was R. Yehiel b. Barukh. They argued his name appears in the last verse of Yigdal – יחי אל and "ברוך" עדי עד. The first option is somewhat problematic for two reasons. The first, is that although the Maimonides did formulate Thirteen Principles that does not mean he then wrote every single thing about them which followed. In fact Yigdal is not the only poem to use the Rambam’s principles – there are about ninety-one some poems which utilize the Rambam’s principles. Second, at first glance it appears that one of the principles is actually missing from Yigdal. The one which does not appear is that one can only pray to God and to nothing else. But, this has been solved by noting there is in all likelihood a very small error in the text of Yigdal. Two very similar letters – the Resh and the Daled – have been switched. Instead of יורה למכותו it should read יודה למלכותו.

    In the 19th century, R. Samuel David Luzzatto (“Shadal”) claimed to have discovered the real author of Yigdal. He did so based upon two manuscripts he called attention to. These state that ר' דניאל בן יהודה הדיין was סדר Yigdal. Thus, we now have explict evidence of who was the author – we have a author byline as it was.

    Although this would have appeared to settle the issue, it did not. Soon after, Shadal’s thesis was challenged and instead another person was claimed to be the true author of Yigdal – Immanuel b. Isaac of Rome. The basis for this assertion was Immanuel has a similar poem to Yigdal which actually contains the word Yigdal and then continues to go through the Thirteen Principles of Faith. Additionally, Immanuel’s name can be found in Yigdal – לעמו אל.

    But what to do with the manuscript Shadal found which explicitly states it was not Immanuel but instead Daniel b. Yehudah? According to those who espouse Immanuel as the author, they note the word is not חיבר – authored- but instead סדר – which typically means edited.

    Now if in fact Immanuel did author Yigdal it would be somewhat understandable why some may take issue with Yigdal. The Yigdal corollary appears in Immanuel’s Machberet, which also contains some risqué poems. This was offensive to some and R. Yosef Karo actually mentions this book by name, a somewhat unusual occurrence in his Shulhan Arukh, and says one should not read it on the Shabbat.

    Nevertheless, it appears the consensus on the authorship of Yigdal follows Shadal and declines to read סדר as edited. So we are left with a rather innocuous author of Yigdal. So, on its face it seems there is nothing which leads to the conclusion that Yigdal is a “modern” custom. Instead, in all likelihood the reason that some do not say Yigdal is not due it modernity but rather due to a modern concern. This concern is that of the 16th century Kabbalist, R. Isaac Luria, ("Ari"). The Ari states that certain poems were written without the necessary kabbalistic intent and therefore they should not be recited – Yigdal is one of them. Thus, it would seem that this modern concern is why some have stopped saying Yigdal on Friday night.

    Sources: As mentioned above, one can see the siddurim which include Yigdal Friday night at the David and Fela Shapell Family Digitization Project at the Jewish National and University Library; Iggeret l’Bet Teffilah (Berlin, 1772): 7b-8a; Y. Satanow, V’etar Yitzhak (Vienna, 1815): 9; Landshuth, Amudei Avodah (Berlin 1857): 101; D. Oppenheim, “Ha’arot ve-Heherot ‘al Shir Yigdal v’Yud Gimel Ikkarim,” in HaMaggid 11:21 (29th May 1867): Immanuel of Rome, Machbarot, Steinschneider ed. (Lemberg, 1870): 39, end of the fourth section; Samuel David Luzzatto, Mevo l’Machzor Beni Roma, p. 44; Reifmann, Michtavim, in HaKarmel, Shana Bet, 103-04, 165-66; Hartwig Hirschfeld, "Immanuel of Rome and Other Poets on the Jewish Creed," Jewish Quarterly Review (n.s.) 5:4 (April, 1915): 529-542; idem., “The Author of the Yigdal Hymn,” Jewish Quarterly Review (n.s.) 11:1 (July, 1920): 86-88; Alexander Marx, “A List of Poems on the Articles of the Creed,” Jewish Quarterly Review (n.s.) 9:3-4 (January, 1919): 305-36; Jacob J. Schacter, Rabbi Jacob Emden: Life and Major Works (unpublished PhD dissertation, Harvard University, 1988), 327; Marc B. Shapiro, The Limits of Orthodox Theology, pp. 17-20.

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    Review: ספר קושיות (Rabbi Yaakov Stal)
    By Rabbi Eliezer Brodt
    Recently a new sefer hit the stores called ספר קושיות. The publisher, Rabbi Yaakov Stal, is well known, having already established his name with his editions of two seforim by ר' יהודה החסיד one called ספר גימטריאות and another called אמרות טהורות חיצוניות ופנימיות. Like his previous works, once again he has done a great job. I would like to discuss his latest book a bit.

    While Rabbi Stal was working on his various projects a friend introduced him to a recently discovered manuscript which was in the form of questions and answers. His interest raised, he immediately began working on editing it for print. Unfortunately, when he was close to finishing the sefer, another more complete manuscript was found forcing him to go through the whole volume again comparing, correcting, and adding the additions. (A third manuscript has been located, but he was not able to see it as it resides in a private collection). The result of all this labor is this beautiful sefer titled ספר קושיות.

    The author of the קושיות is unknown, but based on various ways of identifications he seems to be from the time period of the תלמידים of the מהר"ם מרוטנברג thus dating the book to approximately the 14th century. The way this was deduced was by examining which works the author quotes. Not finding any quotes later than the רא"ש, it can be assumed that the author is from the same era. Along these lines, Rabbi Stal composed a list of all sources quoted by name thereby showing that the author had been heavily influenced by חסידי אשכנז, thus giving the reader yet another clue as to the identification of the author

    The idea of the sefer, in short, is explanations of accepted halakhot and minhagim as well as various מדרשים ואגדות. These explanations are all posed in the form of questions and answers. Some of the answers are very simple; straightforward quotes from the Gemara; others are more interesting, questions that no one else discusses. The range of topics is amazing; there are 392 questions and answers some of the 392 topics include a few parts. The topics are about many areas such as תפילה, שבת יום טוב, קבורה, מילה and נישואין.

    While some of the topics the author does not add much to what has already been said by earlier sources, many times he adds interesting points. There are also many things that Rabbi Stal could not find any similar sources to (I will give examples soon). All in all, this sefer is very interesting and easy to go through, many of the topics are things many people are curious about. The sefer comes included with an extensive index; with just a quick perusal one is appraised to the many interesting topic there are in the sefer.

    I would like to give a partial list of some of the things found in this volume; just to give one a taste of this wonderful work.

    First, in the area of מנהגים that we have other sources for include: wearing white on שבת (pg 24), covering the knife during ברכת המזון (pg 73), how many נרות one should light ליל שבת (pg 85), candles by the חתונה (pg 209), the order how one should cut his fingernails (pg 130) and burning the לולב with the חמץ (pg 168).

    Second, topics that, as of now, this sefer is the only source for include: hitting the עדים during the קידושין (pg 8), putting ashes on ones head ערב תשעה באב (pg 136), signs how to tell if an animal is כשר (pg 190), that a חתן should not go to the בית הקברות during שנה ראשונה (pg 206) and if one is sitting in the bathroom and hears someone learning he has to cover his ears (pg 221).

    In other areas there are many gems of great interest such as אברהם was מגייר הגר before marrying her (pg 270). Another point of interest is a discussion of the sources for the names of the months (pg 75-79). (I really would like to include much more but I want to save some of these gems for the reader to see himself.)

    The footnotes are beautiful; Rabbi Stal attempts to reference almost everything relevant to the topic discussed in the body of the text. He provides the בעל הקושיות sources, and expounds on what the בעל הקושיות is trying to add. He includes all the cross-references in חז"ל through the help of the Bar Ilan Responsa program (which he uses expertly). He also cross-references all the ראשונים who deal with these topics; here we can see Rabbi Stal's great knowledge and בקיאות in many ראשונים not searchable on any computer program to date. One can only find this by going through these seforim and indexing the מציאות as he finds them. He does the same with theפיוטים and נוסחות התפילה quoted by the author; all annotated against the best editions printed to date. Aside from this, Rabbi Stal has beautiful discussions on many topics, such as whether persons in גיהנם rest only on שבת or on Yom Tov as well, (pg 59), why the תפילה והוא רחום was written (pg 27-31) and why one should use הדסים for בשמים (pg 38).

    Another point of interest worth mentioning are the many nice points provided from Prof. Simcha Emanuael, a recognized authority in the field of unknown manuscripts. Many of these points are from otherwise unknown sources in manuscripts.

    It is often stated that it's much easier to criticize someone else's efforts rather than doing so oneself. Further, in this case critique was particularly difficult, as (Full Disclosure:) Rabbi Stal is also a good friend. Still, I would like to point out two issues with his work on this sefer.

    A point I feel lacking is that while at times he does the reader the favor of referencing articles on the topics that the ספר קושיות discusses, many times, however, he failed to reference relevant articles. For example, when discussing the topic of fasting during אלול he quotes extensively from the classic article of Professor יעקב גרטנר (pg 49) but when talking about the מנהג of throwing wheat on theחתן (pg 174) he fails to mention the extensive article by ר' בנימן המברגר in שרשי מנהג אשכנז (volume 3, pp. 392-429). There are two answers why Rabbi Stal did not quote this article. One, unfortunately when he works he does not have all his seforim in front of him. Two, had he quoted all of the interesting sources on each topic, this sefer would have been 1000 pages long, so he had to cut down the sources. This leads me to the next criticism; the length of the notes.

    While talking with ר' שמואל אשכנזי regarding this sefer he mentioned the following point. The footnotes although they are good and very interesting many times the same exact thing could have been written shorter. He said that we find this ability to write in an exact way was very hard even many ראשונים did not have this ability such as ר' שמואל בן חפני גאון הר"י ברצלנוני and the אברבאנאל. The most famous person who excelled at writing very little and including everything in his words was רש"י. The main reason why Rabbi Stal did not do such is simple editing takes a lot of time (more time than writing lengthier) which he wants to use to put out more works. So in the end, the lengthy footnotes could have been better served by including more material but at the same time careful editing.

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    The Perils of Ignoring Precedent:
    Alterations in the Kaddish Prayer

    by Dan Rabinowitz

    Recently there has been a renewal in interest in the structure and make up of the liturgy or siddur. While there have previously been critical editions of the siddur or articles on topics related to the siddur,[1] today’s renaissance of the siddur has been precipitated by a different series of events. Specifically, this has been fostered by the publication and republication of some important source material on the topic; these include, among others R. Shabbetai Sofer of Przmysl’s Siddur Rav Shabbetai Sofer and R. Jacob Emden’s Luach Eresh.[2] The Siddur Rav Shabbetai is key in the development of the siddur, in so far that this edition was considered by many to be considered the edition par excellence of the siddur.[3]

    While there has been a flurry of source material, at the same time there has been movement in the opposite direction - a movement which tends to ignore this rich legacy and instead has decided issues of the siddur not based upon critical investigation but rather on reliance on sources that my not be trustworthy. The results have been less than salutary.

    One example of both of these trends – the new evidence as well as a seemingly blindness to this evidence – can be found regarding the punctuation of the kaddish prayer.

    The Early Evidence Regarding Kaddish

    There is a dispute how to punctuate the first two words in kaddish – yisgadel v’yiskadesh (as well as other words in the kaddish, as will become apparent). The controversy is whether they have a patach or a tzeirei under the letter dalet.

    The historical evidence is absolute – all the early siddurim punctuate these words with a patach.[4] For example, starting from the 1475 (?) Selichot,[5] the 1486, Soncino Machzor,[6] 1519, Prague Teffilot m’Kol HaShana,[7] 1536, Ausberg Machzor k’seder HaAshkenazim, [8] 1541 Bolonga Machzor k’fei Minhagi k’k Roma, [9] and the 1616 Hanau Seder Teffilot k’Minhag Ashkenaz u’Polin [10] all punctuate the first two words of the kaddish with a patach.[11]

    The first to raise and discuss the issue of the punctuation was R. Shabbetai Sofer.[12] In his monumental introduction he discusses the proper pronunciation of the kaddish.[13] He cites the two possibilities mentioned above – a patach or a tzeirei. He explains that the evidence from the Bible seems to point to both. Specifically, he points to contradictory verses in the Book of Daniel. One verse has the word yisgadal with a tzeirei while the other has it with a komatz. R. Sofer explains that the latter must have been punctuated with a patach. The reason is this word appears at the end of the verse. When words appear at a stopping point with a komatz, their regular form can only be with either a segol or a patach. In this case it would be a patach. Thus, we have two verses which seem to lend credence to both readings.

    R. Sofer, continues and explains that although one may argue that since the verse has the word yisgadal with a tzeirei that would be the more correct pronunciation, this is not the case. He rejects this due to other grammatical considerations. R. Sofer explains that at least one word in the kaddish passage must be punctuated with a patach and thus, “to keep the words the same (l’zaveg et ha’melot) all should be punctuated with a patach.”[14]

    Thus, R. Sofer was the first to entertain the notion the word should be punctuated with a tzeirei and he rejected this reading. Additionally, based upon the proof texts R. Sofer marshals from numerous biblical verses, it is clear that he made no distinction between whether the words are Hebrew or Aramaic. In fact, it seems R. Sofer was treating the bulk of kaddish as Hebrew. He discusses other words in kaddish and their counterparts in the Bible.[15]

    Perhaps, aside from the grammatical considerations, R. Sofer also wanted to justify the long standing practice regarding the pronunciation. If this is the case, he does not mention precedent. But, one can not rule this out as a possible subconscious motive.[16]

    The First Change to Kaddish

    For the first to actually advocate for the alteration of the pronunciation to a tzeirei, we need to wait until the early 18th century.[17] In the early 18th century, R. Shlomo Zalman Hanau (Katz) published a work on Hebrew grammar entitled, Binyan Shlomo.[18] He published this at the relatively young age of 21.[19] In this work he advanced that the correct pronunciation of the kaddish is with a tzeirei.[20] But, it is not only the first two words. Instead, based upon the rules of grammar all similarly constructed words in kaddish should also have a tzeirei. Thus, yisbrach, yispaer, and v’yisromam all have a tzeirei.[21]

    While at first R. Hanau only wrote a grammar work, he eventually incorporated his alterations into both his work on the siddur – Sha’ari Teffilah[22] – as well as his edition of the siddur – Bet Teffilah.[23] In this instance, this alteration to the kaddish only appears in his siddur.[24] In his siddur, he punctuates the kaddish with a tzeirei throughout.[25] Thus, he has a tzeirei for yisbrach, yispaer, and v’yisromam in the kaddish. Additionally, he is thoroughly consistent in his siddur, any other instance of either the same formulation or the same word, R. Hanau always uses the tzeirei. For example, the same opening words of kaddish appear in the prayer after the removal of the Torah. There R. Hanau has a tzeirei for ‘al ha-kol yisgadel v’yiskadesh.[26] In the Shemoneh Esreh where a similar formulation appears – v’al kulam yisbrach v’yisromam again R. Hanau has a tzeirei.[27] As we shall see, most who followed him were not nearly as careful in their punctuation even when they adopted R. Hanau’s understanding of the kaddish punctuation.

    Before we leave R. Hanau, we must first understand how his contemporaries viewed his alterations. When he published his Binyan Shlomo aside from the change in kaddish he also took issue with many of his predecessors understanding of Hebrew grammar. It seems that he did so in a less than respectful fashion. In light of this, he was threatened with a ban on his book unless he would print a retraction of his harsh comments. Needless to say, R. Hanau complied. At the end of his Binyan Shlomo he inserted a page (somewhat smaller than the rest of the book) asking forgiveness from those he may have offended.[28]

    Not only was his Binyan Shlomo controversial, but his works on the siddur were as well. R. Jacob Emden’s Luach Eresh is a rebuttal of many of R. Hanau’s changes.[29] R. Emden whose was well known for his acerbic remarks spared none for R. Hanau. He accused Hanua of even forging an approbation Hanau received from R. Emden’s father- R. Tzvi Ashkenazi (Hakham Tzvi).[30]

    Thus, it seems far from clear whether R. Hanau’s alteration regarding kaddish would in fact be accepted.[31] In fact, based upon his reputation and the historical precedent this alteration would not be accepted. But, due to two unrelated events, his change has gained more and more credence as time has passed.

    The Siddurim Which Followed R. Hanau

    While R. Hanau was a singular individual whose own edition of the siddur was printed once, he still had a tremendous impact on the development of the siddur. His influence was felt through the inclusion of some of his changes in two important editions of the siddur. The first is Wolf Heidenheim’s and the second is Seligmann Baer. Both of these siddurim included many[32] of Hanau’s changes.[33]

    But, for this change to kaddish these siddurim which did not have qualms about incorporating other changes did not for this. Instead, the prevalence of this change is due to two entirely different events. In fact, Seligmann Baer in another of his works, defends the use of the patach.[34]

    The Two Events Which Precipitated the Inclusion of R. Hanau’s Change

    The first event[35] which promoted R. Hanau’s alteration was the inclusion of it in R. Yosef Teomim’s Peri Megadim. In his comments on the kaddish, R. Teomim includes R. Hanau’s alteration of a patach to a tzeirei.[36]

    While at first glance this may appear strange, incorporating a change of questionable accuracy from a questionable source, a closer look at both R. Teomim’s life as well as his own comments, clarifies why he did so. Originally of Eastern European stock, R. Teomim spent two years in Berlin. During this time he studied in the Beit Medrash of Daniel Yaffo. At the time, this Beit Medrash was populated by the leading maskilim of Berlin. It seems that R. Teomim studied with them and may have been exposed to some of the literature. At the very least, R. Teomim appears to have studied one on one with R. Yitzhak Satnow, a leading maskil and a propend of numerous alterations to the siddur.[37]

    R. Teomim absorbed the some of the general ideas which were flourishing in Berlin at the time. R. Teomim advocates for a sweeping reform of the education system. He advocates for a more structured system which includes an emphasis on Bible and proper Hebrew.[38] This is reminiscent of some of the later changes advocated by R. Naftali Hertz Wessley another of the leading Berlin maskilim. It is one of these suggestions which returns us to R. Hanau.

    R. Teomim provides a list of books he recommends one teach their child. One of these is one of the works of R. Hanau. Specifically, R. Teomim lists R. Hanau’s work on grammar, Tzohar L’Tevah,[39] as one of these texts.[40] Therefore, far from rejecting the innovations of R. Hanau, R. Teomim embraced him and his works. Thus, his citation to R. Hanau in the kaddish is not an anomaly but instead perfectly in line with R. Teomim’s general view of R. Hanau and these sorts of innovations.

    While R. Teomim’s citation to Hanau should not be viewed as an anomaly, a later citation should be. R. Yisrael Meir Ha-Kohen (Kagan), otherwise known as the Hafetz Hayyim, in his Mishneh Berurah discusses the proper pronunciation of the kaddish. In doing so, he cites the comments of R. Teomim that the words yisgadel v’yiskadish should be pronounced with a tzeirei.[41] The Hafetz Hayyim did not display the same view towards the haskalah or to innovation as R. Teomim did. Thus, his comment which, when properly traced to its source, should be viewed as nothing less than shocking. One can not say, as was the case with R. Teomim, that the Hafetz Hayyim agreed with or advocated for any of the books or application of R. Hanau. One imagines had the Hafetz Hayyim been aware of the true nature of this comment, he would not have followed it.[42]

    Furthermore, one assumes that had the Hafetz Hayyim known of the clear and unambiguous tradition regarding the pronunciation of the kaddish he would not have offered this alternative reading. But, rather ironically, due to the import and the popularity the Hafetz Hayyim’s Mishneh Berurah enjoys today, R. Hanau’s alternation has become the norm in some circles.

    We have now discussed the first strange use of R. Hanau’s position on the kaddish. The second to advocate for this pronunciation was allegedly the Vilna Gaon or the Gra. In the posthumous collection of his customs, Ma’aseh Rav, the Gra is recorded as saying the first two words of kaddish with a tzeirei. The rational offered is that these words are in Hebrew as opposed to the rest of kaddish which is in Aramaic.

    As an initial matter, it bears mentioning, that although today many have blindly accepted anything mentioned in this collection of customs, Ma’aseh Rav, as in fact the practice of the Gra, this is far from a certainty. When this book was first printed R. Hayyim of Volozhin, in his approbation,[43] already noted at least two possible errors. It is unclear whether the two he mentions explicitly are the only ones or there are others as well.[44]

    Putting aside, however, the problems with the Ma’aseh Rav generally, in this specific instance it is far from clear the comment attributed to the Gra is actually correct. According to the Masseh Rav the rational for the change in the punctuation is the classification of the words as Hebrew and not Aramaic. Yet, we have seen already that R. Sofer makes no such distinction. In fact, he assumes they are in fact Hebrew, but still one should pronounce them with a patach. Thus, the fact that these words may or may not be Hebrew is a distinction without difference. It does not immediately follow that once one has decided the words are Hebrew they must be pronounced using a tzeirei.

    The Strange Repercussions of the Alteration of the First Two Words of the Kaddish Elsewhere in the Siddur.

    Even assuming the custom as recorded in Masseh Rav is correct, the change in punctuation of those two words raises additional problems. As mentioned before there are other words which are either similar to the grammatical structure of the first two words in kaddish and in at least one case in the siddur the very same words appear – all of which are in Hebrew. Thus, these words should get the same treatment as the kaddish words, i.e. be punctuated with a tzeirei. But, in siddurim which claim to follow either the position of the Gra[45] or that of the Chofetz Hayyim, only the kaddish has been altered and the rest retain a patach.

    As here has been a renewed interest in the Gra and his customs and those who follow him, there is no lack of siddurim which this point has been borne out. In the first siddur based upon the Gra – Ishe Yisrael – kaddish (the first two words) get a tzeirei while the other instances throughout the siddur all get a patach. In the more recent Siddur Vilna although the change appears in kaddish in the Shemoneh Esreh where the similar formulation appears there is no change.[46] The Siddur Aliyot Eliyahu which was “edited and reset from anew . . . with great care . . . based upon the text of . . . the Gra” changes the first two words of kaddish. Yet, when it comes to both the Shemoneh Esreh and the very same words – yisgadel v’yiskadesh after the removal of the Torah – it employs a patach.[47]

    In the recently printed Yom Kippur Machzor which includes the commentary and customs of R. Joseph B. Soloveitchik the same result occurs. This Machzor which also includes a list of R. Soloveitchik’s relevant customs, includes that of R. Soloveitchik’s views on kaddish. One these customs “based on the tradition of the Vilna Gaon that the opening two words of Kaddish” should be pronounced with a tzeirei. This is so because those “two words are Hebrew words . . . and the proper Hebrew pronunciation of each of those words is with a tzeirei.”[48] The editors are not satisfied with the mention of this custom at the beginning of the book, instead, each and every time kaddish appears they make mention of this custom. While they are punctiliousness regarding kaddish they make no mention by either the shemoneh esreh nor by the very same words after the Torah is removed.[49]

    To be fair at least one siddur which is based upon the Gra has been partially[50] consistent. In the Siddur Ezor Elyiahu, when the actual words yisgadal v’yiskadah appear during the removal of the Torah, the editor changes those as well to a tzeirei. He notes explicitly that this change is an extension of the Gra’s custom regarding the kaddish.[51]

    The problem of altering the kaddish text but retaining the other examples in the siddur was already noted in the late 18th century! R. Isaac Satanow in decries the “haughty simpletons (am aratzim)” who change the kaddish to a tzeirei but fail to note the others. These who “speak in contradictions,” Satanow applies the verse in Proverbs (18:2) “a fool does not delight in understanding.”[52] The expression “better leave well enough alone” is extremely apt.[53]

    In conclusion, it would seem that perhaps what may be viewed as a minor change has much broader implications. These implications include the propriety of the change itself as well as the consequences of the change. It seems that many were unaware of these outcomes and both made the change without full awareness of the history. Further, they were also oblivious to the necessity to alter other portions of the text as well. As one scholar has put it “the critical study of Jewish liturgy is in any case too important to be left exclusively to the ‘daveners’!”[54] In the end, unfortunately, these words have proven to be extremely prescient.

    [1] For critical edition of the siddur see, e.g., Seligmann Baer, Avodat Yisrael (Rödelheim, 1868); Wolf Heidenheim’s series on siddurim and machzorim published in the 19th century; Machzor l’Yamin Noraim, ed. Daniel Goldschmit (Jerusalem, 1970); Shlomo Tal, Rinat Yisrael (Jerusalem, 1972).
    There has also been a significant amount written on the siddur, both its development as well as the text itself. See, e.g., Leopold Zunz, Die Ritus des Synagogalen Gottesdienstes (Berlin, 1859); Abraham Berliner, Ketavim Nivcharim (Jerusalem, 1969); Ismar Elbogen, Jewish Liturgy: A Comprehensive History (Philadelphia, 1993), trans. of the original 1913 German edition; B.S. Jacobson, Netiv Binah (Tel Aviv, 1964); Daniel Goldschmidt, Mehqerei Tefillah u’Piyyut (Jerusalem, 1978); Naftali Wieder, Hitgabshut Nusach HaTefillah ba-Mizrach uva-Ma’ariv (Jerusalem, 1998); Stefan Reif, Judaism and Hebrew Prayer: New Perspectives on Jewish Liturgical History (Cambridge, 1995).
    [2] D. Yitzhaki ed., Luach Eresh, Otzoranu (Toronto, 2001). This edition includes other works related to R. Emden’s work as well. While both of these speak to the Ashkenaz Rite (more correctly the Ashkenaz-Polish Rite) there has also been a renewed interest in the Nusach Sefard Rite (the Hassidic not to be confused with those who originated in the Eastern countries) as well. Some of these early prayer books have been republished including Y. Koppel, Kol Ya’akov (Jerusalem, 2005-2006); Siddur Admor HaZakan, Kehot (Brooklyn, 2005). There has also been a critical edition of the Siddur haAriZal published as well, Siddur ha-Ari, ed. Daniel Rimmer (Betar, 2004).
    [3] On the import of this edition see S. Reif, Shabbetai Sofer and his Prayer-book (Cambridge University Press, 1979); Siddur Rav Shabbetai Sofer, ed. Yitzhak Satz, vol. 1 (Baltimore, 1987): 7-10 (all citations to the Siddur R. Shabbetai are to this edition).
    [4] There is one exception – the Lisbon 1490 (?) Teffilot m’Kol HaShana. In this edition these two words have a komatz. This appears to be in error. This error is based upon the use of the verse in Daniel 11 which has the word yisgadal with a komatz. But, the only reason for the komatz there is due to its placement in that verse, at the end. Shabbetai Sofer records that this error continued to his day. He says “one should not pronounce the word with a komatz like I heard one incorrect hazzan do, perhaps [this hazzan] did so due to the verse in Daniel, but the hazzan was unaware that the reason it was punctuated with a komatz was because it was at the end of the verse.” Siddur R. Shabbetai Sofer, vol. 1, no. 17, p. 83.
    [5] Non-paginated, appearing on the Hebrew University copy (which I have used for the other citations and all are available online) at page 10 (all page citations are to the “page” the relevant quote appears in the online version).
    [6] Non-paginated Hebrew University copy at page 10. Only the second word – v’yisgadash is punctuated (with a patach) in this edition. Yet, there is no reason to assume the first word would be punctuated in a different manner.
    [7] Non-paginated Hebrew University copy at page 196.
    [8] Non-paginated Hebrew University copy at page 2.
    [9] Non-paginated Hebrew University copy at page 13.
    [10] Non-paginated Hebrew University copy at page 55.
    [11] Additionally the following twenty-four machzorim or siddurim use the patach: 1490 Napoli, Seder Teffilot; 1503 Fano, Machzor; 1526, Venice Machzor k’Minhag Roma; 1527, Venice, Machzor k’Minhag Aram Soba, 1527 Prague; 1527 Pissarro; 1528 Constantinople, Seder k’Nusach Romania, 1530 Prague; 1532 Constantinople, Machzor l’Rosh HaShana v’Yom Kippur k’Minhag Sefardim; 1551 Lublin; 1562 Mantua, Teffilot m’Kol HaShana; 1566 Lublin; 1567 Lublin; 1584 Venice Machzor; 1585 Cracow Machzor l’Sholosh Regalim; 1598 Venice, Machzor; 1601, Venice, Seder Teffilot k’Minhag K’K Sefard; 1608, Hanau, Machzor l’Sholosh Regalim; 1623, Hanau; 1647, Amsterdam, Teffilot; 1661, Amsterdam, Seder Teffilot Sefardim; 1699/1700, Venice, Machzor Hadrat Kodesh; 1713, Berlin, Teffilah Derekh Si’ah ha-Sadeh; 1727, Amsterdam, Siddur HaShelah. As is apparent, the use of the patach is not dependent upon custom – sefard versus ashkenaz – or geographic location.
    [12] R. Sofer lived from c. 1565-1637. His death date reflects the find in the Jewish Theological Seminary library of a manuscript of R. Sofer’s defense of R. David Kimhi’s Sefer HaShorashim which R. Sofer notes was completed in 1637. Reif, in his work on R. Sofer had dated R. Sofer’s death as 1635. R. Sofer’s siddur was first published in 1617 in Prague although nothing remains of this edition. The current edition was published from a manuscript.
    [13] Siddur R. Shabbetai Sofer, vol. 1, no. 17, p. 83.
    [14] Idem.
    [15] See Rief, op. cit., at p. 29-38 discussing considerations in punctuating the siddur.
    [16] R. Sofer’s student, R. Hayim Bokhner also defends the use of a patach even though he also considers the first two words of kaddish to be in Hebrew. See R. Hayim Bokhner, Or Hadash (Amsterdam, 1671): 46b. Specifically, R. Bokhner cites to the verse in Psalms 104:1 as a similar conjugation which contains a patach. On R. Bokhner see Yitzhak Yudolov, "HaGa’on Rebi Hayim Bukhner Z’tl Mehaber Sefer Or Hadash," in Birkat HaMazon l’Mh”r Shabbetai Sofer (2002): 274-276.
    [17] This was noted by Hayim A. Cohen, “Yitgadal v’Yitkadash (Iyun b’Zemichat shel Mesorot HeGiyah Hadasha),” Mesorot 8 (1994): 59-69. While Cohen’s article contains some of the history of this change, he neglects some of the historical evidence and does not note what perverse consequences the changes have had on modern-day siddurim.
    [18] Binyan Shlomo (Frankfort a. Main, 1708).
    [19] He was born in 1687.
    [20] Binyan Shlomo (Frankfort a. Main, 1708): 79b-80a. Hanau does not deal with R. Sofer. The reason for this omission is that in all likelihood he was unaware of R. Sofer’s comments. Instead, R. Hanau address the comments of R. Yitzhak b. Shmuel of Posen in his Siach Yitzhak. There, R. Yitzhak makes the claim the words in kaddish should be punctuated with a patach.
    [21] See id.
    [22] First published (Jessnitz, 1725).
    [23] Also published in Jessnitz that same year.
    [24] This is contrary to the incorrect assertion in the Makhon Yerushalayim edition of the Shulhan Arukh. They erroneously claim this comment appears in his Sha’ari Teffilah. This appears no where in the Sha’ari Teffilah. Instead, it seems the editor of this edition was unaware of R. Hanau’s siddur and thus was forced to locate any place they could attach as a source for R. Hanau.
    [25] Bet Teffilah p. 29a.
    [26] Idem., p. 40a.
    [27] Idem.,at 21b.
    [28] See non-paginated page which follows page 108 in his Binyan Shlomo.
    [29] See David Yitzhaki’s Introduction to the Luach Eresh p. 26-66. While Yitzhaki is incorrect in some of his assertions – he is correct in that Hanau’s changes were viewed with distain by some. For more on this issue, see Jacob J. Schacter, Rabbi Jacob Emden: Life and Major Works (unpublished PhD dissertation, Harvard University, 1988), chapter four, passim.
    [30] This was later proved to be incorrect. The actual approbation was located and it appears that in fact R. Hanau did receive it. See Dukkes, Hakmei AH”V (1908): 55. This source appears to have escaped the notice of Jacob J. Schacter; see his introduction to the new edition of Luach Eresh (24), where he credits Yekutiel Yehudah Greenwald’s 1954 biography with this find. Additionally, see Jordan Penkower, "Minhag and Massorah: On the Recent Ashkenazic Custom of Double Vocalization of Zekher Amalek," in Iyuni Mikra U’Parshanut 4 (1997): 127-128 [Hebrew], where he provides other examples of R. Emden’s over zealousness and questionable tactics in this debate. Yitzhaki, supra n. 29, appears to either have been unaware of Penkower’s article or chose to ignore it. Many of Penkower’s findings contradict Yitzhaki’s assertions.
    [31] Prior to the discussion below, there is but one siddur which incorportates R. Hanau’s change. In the Altona 1826 edition of the Machzor edited by R. Meir Ganz, he changes kaddish as well as the other permutations to a tzeirei. R. Ganz in his introduction says he was careful with the grammar of the Machzor, however, he does not provide a source for this or any of his alterations.
    [32] These include, inter alia, the change in the yehi ratzon following birkat ha-sachar from yashlet to tashlet.
    [33] These siddurim also included some of the changes of R. Isaac Satanow, who will be discussed in more detail below. The inclusion of these changes has disturbed some. This is so, as these siddurim were considered the “gold standard” and the lack of deference towards precedent many found difficult to reconcile. Additionally, Heidenheim’s edition received the blessing of one of the great opponents toward change, R. Moshe Sofer (Hatam Sofer). In the Haredi press there has been some discussion on how to reconcile these seemingly incongruous events.
    [34] See Seligmann Baer, Tosa’ot Hayyim, reprinted in R. Jacob Emden, Luach Eresh (2001), Kitzerat haOmer, pp. 497-500.
    [35] It is noteworthy that Heidenhiem did not include this change in any of his editions of the siddur. While Heidenhiem did include other such alterations this one was apparently went too far.
    [36] Misbetsot Zahav, no. 55. Although it is unclear why, R. Teomim only applies R. Hanau’s proposition for the first two words in the kaddish and not the complete kaddish as R. Hanau actually has it.
    [37] See Satnow’s comments in his edition of the Kuzari (Berlin, 1795) p. 2, where he claims to have studied with R. Teomim. Additionally, many of Satanow’s books contain approbations from R. Teomim. While some of these are undoubtedly forgeries, there is no reason to assume they all are. On Satnow see Zinberg, A History of Jewish Literature vol. 5, chap. 7, p.112 et. seq.; Fuenn, Kennest Yisrael, Vilna 1886, s.v. Yitzhak Satanow. For biographical information on R. Teomim see R. Tzvi Yehezkel Michelson, Toledot Yosef, in R. Teomim’s Sefer Notrikin (Bilguria, 1910 [Jerusalem, 1964; photomechanical reproduction]), non-paginated introduction.
    [38] See his introduction to his commentary on the Shulhan Arukh especially Iggeret Shnei no. 6. R. Teomim provides to lists of recommended reading/teaching materials in his letters. The recommendation for R. Hanau’s book only appears in the second listing.
    [39] First printed (Berlin, 1733). It seems the famed town of Volozhin had as their single book of Hebrew grammar present in the Beit Medrash, this work of R. Hanau. See Gershon David Hundert, “The Library of the Study Hall in Volozhin, 1762: Some Notes on the Basis of a Newly Discovered Manuscript,” Jewish History 14 (2000): 237.
    [40] Id.
    [41] See Mishna Berurah, 56:2; Sha’ar haTzion, id.
    [42] It is unclear whether R. Teomim would have either followed this in practice. The siddur Hegyon Lev, ed. Eliezer Landshuth (Königsberg, 1845) which is based upon the comments of R. Teomim, does not alter the punctuation of the kaddish. While it is possible that Landshuth was either unaware or ignored the comments of R. Teomim, it is at least worthwhile to point out this incongruence.
    [43] Perhaps it was to avoid his criticism that his approbation was removed from the 1857 and the 1858 editions. See Vinograd, Thesaurus of the Books of the Vilna Gaon (Jerusalem, 2003), #812, 814 (while Vinograd notes the missing approbation in the 1857 edition he neglects to mention it was missing in the 1858 edition as well).
    [44] See Penkower, op. cit., at 85-87 discussing problems with the Ma’aseh Rav.
    [45] The Gra never wrote or published his own edition of the siddur. Instead, the siddurim which purport to be that of the Gra are only attempting to reconstruct what they view what the Gra would have done had he in fact edited a siddur.
    [46] Siddur Vilna (Jerusalem, 1994): 55 (kaddish), 107 (Shemoneh Esreh passage).
    [47] Siddur Aliyot Eliyahu (Jerusalem, 1999): 45 (kaddish where the editor notes his change is based upon the Chofetz Hayyim and the Gra), p. 79 (shemoneh esreh), p. 297 (yisgadel v’yiskadesh with a patach).
    [48] Yom Kippur Machzor with Commentary Adapted from the Teachings of Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik, (New York, 2006): xxxv. The formulation of this custom is in and of itself problematic. One assumes that R. Soloveitchik did not alter kaddish due to the Maaseh Rav, but instead he followed the custom of his own father and grandfather.
    [49] See, e.g., p. 18 (shemoneh esreh) and p. 464 (v’al ha’kol yisgadal v’yiskadah with a patach).
    [50] There is no change to the Shemoneh Esereh or the other words in kaddish which contain the same grammatical structure.
    [51] Ezor Eliyahu ‘al pe Nusach HaGra (Jerusalem, 1998): 216. Additionally, it bears noting that ArtScroll retains the correct punctuation utilizing a patach for kaddish.
    [52] Isaac Satanow, Iggeret l’Bet Teffilah (Berlin, 1769): 21a,b. Satanow himself in his later work, Va’Yetar Yitshak (Vienna, 1815): 47- 48, advocates change to a tzeirei of the kaddish. He claims, contrary to R. Sofer, that there are three verses which illuminate this question of punctuation. While one, Daniel 11:36 points to the patach th

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    Once again we have two new incidents of censorship in the Hebrew book world.

    R. Eliezer Waldenberg, who recently passed away, is well-known for his teshuvot "Tzitz Eliezer," and also authored another work - which has recently been reprinted. This book, Hilkhot HaMedinah, originally published in 1952, deals with issues affecting the Jewish state. The book is three volumes in one and includes topics such as the renewal of semikha (Rabbinic ordination), the question of drafting men and women (he includes an exemption for those decedents from the Levite class!), and this issue of voting rights. [For those interested in R. Reuven Margoliyot, there is a letter to R. Waldenberg (vol. 2 pp. 240-41 and see also R. Tzvi Pesach Frank's letter, p. 20)].

    This work was only printed in 1952 and until last week remained somewhat unknown (although is included in R. Waldenberg's wikipedia entry here). But then last week, someone decided that this book should be available to the wider public and had it reprinted.

    On Thursday, however, a few hours after the reprint became available R. Waldenberg's family had it removed from all the stores claiming it is an embarrassment to them!

    The second incident of censorship also concerns a older contemporary of R. Waldenberg - R. Tzvi Pesach Frank.

    Makhon Oz ve-Hadar has reprinted Megilat Tannis. This reprint, which is available separately as well as part of their series Mesivta, targeted at those studying Daf Yomi, would be unremarkable. This edition they included punctuation to the text and included some standard commentaries. One of those commentaries - "Eshel Avraham" by R. Avraham Bornstein was originally printed in Jerusalem in 1908. In this edition they have included the haskamot (approbations) from the original book which include, inter alia, R. Yosef Hayyim Sonnenfeld and R. Hayyim Berlin. But, for some reason they have decided to remove the haskama from R. Tzvi Pesach Frank. To be fair Oz ve-Hadar thought the haskama good enough as they include the text of it - they just leave out the signatories. First, anyone can see this omission as the book is available for free at (see here). Second, R. Tzvi Pesach Frank did not only give a haskama, R. Bornstein also included a letter from R. Frank in his commentary (see p. 120b in the original). Now, aside from removing the haskama Oz ve-Hadar was able to avoid having this mention of R. Frank by not including half of R. Bornstein's work. Instead, R. Borenstein's work is split into two parts the first a simple commentary more to just explain the text of Megilat Tannis and the second half is a more in depth discussion. Oz ve-Hadar only included the first part and not the second. R. Frank's letter appears in the second part. Of course, this is not to say they did not include this portion solely because R. Frank's letter, instead, this is merely to point out how R. Borenstein viewed R. Frank. This exclusion of the second half is still somewhat ironic in that Oz ve-Hadar note on the title page of Megilat Tannis as one of the commentaries they include is that of R. Avraham b. Yosef haLevi which they included based upon the first edition "as later editions left out almost half of his commentary." Oz ve-Hadar could say the same about themselves and R. Borenstein's commentary.

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    In light of the previous post regarding the Hilkhot HaMedinah, I have been able to obtain further information of the ban. The BaDaTz issued an Issur (reproduced below) noting that Hilkhot HaMedinah was published without the permission of the descendants of R. Waldenberg and the descendants object to its publication. Although Hilkhot HaMedinah is not mentioned by name - instead only "the books printed after his [R. Waldenberg's] death" - to my knowledge the only book published after his death has been Hilkhot HaMedinah.

    What is ironic is R. Waldenberg appears to have addressed this very issue - people printing books of those who have died without the permission of the descendants. R. Waldenberg (in Tzitz Eliezer, vol. 20, no. 51, pp. 129-130) was asked about books published where the author reserved the right to publication and is now dead and his descendants are not going to publish it can it be published without their permission? R. Waldenberg responded that in such a case one is allowed to republish such a book. R. Waldenberg marshals the case of the where the author of the Kitzur Shulhan Orach, R. Ganzfried, was asked to republish his own work with the commentary of the Mesgeret haShulhan. R. Ganzfried declined. But, when R. Ganzfried died the author of the Mesgeret haShulhan did exactly that - he republished the Kitzur with his own commentary. The Mesgeret haShulhan obtained haskamot to justify what he did, one from the author of the Shaul u-Mashiv who explicitly permitted the republication even though the author objected during his lifetime.

    Thus, R. Waldenberg argued that in cases where the author objected to the republication of his work, such objections are insufficient to stop publication after his death. Consequently, it would appear that if R. Waldenberg's descendants are not otherwise intending on republishing Hilkhot HaMedinah, at least according to R. Waldenberg, one would be permitted to republish the work, even without their permission, even if they object.

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    Uncensored Books
    Marc B. Shapiro

    Dan Rabinowitz has provided many examples of censorship in seforim (examples which I look forward to using – with acknowledgment of course – in my own forthcoming book on the subject). What I would like to call attention to are two examples where the publishers would have certainly censored these texts had they known whom was being discussed. Presumably, what I mention now has already been pointed out to them and will be excised if the books are reprinted.

    1. In the recently published volume of R. Eliyahu Dessler’s letters (Bnei Brak, 2004), p. 166, there is a 1942 letter to Dr. Dov Hyman discussing the Gateshead Kollel. After mentioning how the kollel includes the best young bochurim in England, those who studied in the great yeshivot in Eastern Europe, he writes:
    יש שמה צעיר א' יליד מנשסתר (הוא היחיד מילידי המדינה) ולא אגזם אף מה שהוא אם אומר שמעודי לא ראיתי עלוי בעמקות יחד עם שאר הכשרונות כמוהו זולתי אחד, הוא גדול גדול ממש וכמעט א"א לרדת לסוף עומק דעתו
    This passage is referring to none other than the late Rabbi Louis Jacobs -- then referred to as Leibl -- who was born in Manchester in 1920. In Jacob’s autobiography, Helping with Inquiries (London, 1989), pp. 42, 54, 59 he writes:
    When I joined the Kolel, soon after its inception, the other members had all studied at one or other of the famous Lithuanian Yeshivot – Telz, Mir, Slabodka, Kamenitz, Baranowitz, Grodno, and Radin – before coming to England, with the exception of a fiery young Hungarian, Zusya Waltner. . . . As the “babe” of the Kolel (I was only twenty years of age, while some of my colleagues were several years older) and as one who had only studied in a Lithuanian Yeshivah in spirit (I was, so to speak, an honorary Telzer) I was welcomed very good-heartedly by the other members, but with an amused tolerance. . . . Before leaving my account of the Gatesehad Kolel, I feel it would be incomplete unless I said something more about Rabbi Dessler, one of the most remarkable men I have ever met. . . . .I cannot and do not want to forget what I owe to Rabbi Dessler. Although I was never officially his pupil, he was, in many respects, my teacher par excellence. He taught me and so many others to see Judaism in sophisticated terms. He was a great man whose place among the Gedoley Yisrael of the twentieth century remains uncontested.

    2. Recently many books by the Gaon R. Eliyahu Rabinowitz-Teomim (the Aderet) have appeared, by publishers with very different hashkafot. The volume of teshuvot, Ma’aneh Eliyahu, was published by Yeshivat Or Etzion in Israel, whose Rosh Yeshivah is R. Hayyim Druckman. It is obvious that the editors have no knowledge of American Jewish history, otherwise, the words I quote (from p. 352) would never have been allowed to appear. The editors no doubt assumed that the Aderet was attacking some phony. The name Jacob Joseph means nothing to them.

    וידענו היטב היטב את האיש ואת שיחו תהלוכותיו ותחבולותיו מתחילה ועד סוף . . . ואותו הרב ר' יעקב, שלא שמש תלמידי חכמים ומלך מעצמו, ע"פ תבונתו, כי פקח גדול הוא, אינו מגיע לקרסולי תלמידי תלמידיו של הגאון חתם סופר ז"ל, לא בתורה ולא במעשים טובים, והרי לפנינו שעזב עיר ווילנא תפארת ליטא, והלך לנוע אל ארצות אמעריקא להיות שם רב ראשון בנויארק כחלומו אשר חלם. והרואה דברי הר"מ פ"ו ה"א מדיעות, יעוי' שם היטב בלשונו, יראה עד כמה מלאה לבו יראת שמים לעשות כן
    He goes on demeaning the Chief Rabbi of New York, but you get the picture.

    As long as I am talking about the very interesting sefer Ma’aneh Eliyahu, let me also call attention to something in it that is relevant to what is in the news today. I refer to the problem of rabbis covering up cases of sexual abuse. In no. 32 the Aderet deals with a case where a girl was raped by two young Jewish men. Her family wanted to report this to the police, so that the rapists would receive a fitting punishment. The Aderet writes:
    ודברתי אל לבם להשקיט הדבר, לבל יתחלל שם ישראל בעמים מהפקרות ופריצות צעירי הנערים, לאנוס ולנאוף ולחלל שבת ולרצוח, וגם יש סכנה בדבר לריב עם עזי פנים כמותם, ושמעו אלי
    We see from this that the practice of covering up these sorts of things is hardly a recent phenomenon.

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    Merkaz Zalman Shazar has published Jay Berkovitz's book מסורת ומהפיכה-תרבות יהודית בצרפת בראשית העת החדשה discussing French Jewry and specifically the changes and challenges of modernity. This book is an expanded version of the English Rites and Passages: The Beginnings of Modern Jewish Culture in France, 1650-1860 (UPenn Press) which is available at the previous link and here. Both versions are invaluable for viewing French Jewry and France gernally, a county typically neglected in milieu of Jewish history which tends to focus on Central or Eastern Europe. But, as France experienced emancipation in the late 18th century it is important to see how French Jews dealt with their new found freedom. As Berkovitz correctly points out to understand the impact of emancipation, one needs to examine the history beforehand as well – thus he begins in the 17th century.

    Additionally, this book is important in some of the persons it discusses. For instance, there is an extensive discussion of R. Aaron Worms the author of the Me'ori Or. The Me'ori Or – a seven volume work which some may be familiar due to his suggestion that one should recite the blessings of "thank God for not making me a woman or a non-Jew" silently. (See Tradition 29:4 and the articles by Joel B. Wolowelsky and Emanuel Feldman and Shu"t Beni Banim 4:1).

    While this is perhaps his most well known opinion, this work contains a treasure trove of information. As is evident from R. Yosef Zechariah Stern, a rather erudite person in his own respect, who cites the Me'ori Or extensively. As one can tell from R. Aaron Worm's opinion for the blessings, he was a sort of iconoclast. While there have been a handful of articles discussing R. Aaron, this book now places him in his full historical context. Berkovitz fleshes out how R. Aaron fits with French change generally and further develops the thought and impact of R. Aaron. Aside from his Me'ori Or, R. Aaron was also part of the Sanhedrin which Napoleon convened, and Berkovitz includes R. Aaron's address to that body. And while Rabbi David Sintzheim is perhaps the most well known, Berkovitz discusses the (important) impact R. Aaron had on this body. This impact is not limited to the Sanhedrin, but a deeper understanding of what R. Aaron was advocating places him in the forefront of modernity.

    All in all, Berkovitz's book is a worthwhile contribution to understanding modernity and some of the methods that prior generations have adopted in dealing with its challenges.

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    Seforim blog contributor Dr. Marc B. Shapiro, professor of Judaic Studies at the University of Scranton, has just published a review essay ("Mi-Yosef ad Yosef Lo Kam ke-Yosef") in English of the following three books Hayyav, Mishnato u-Mahalkhav ha-Politiyim shel ha-Rav Ovadiah Yosef by Zvi Aloush and Yossi Elituv (Ben Porat Yosef: Or Yehudah, 2004); Maran Ovadiah Yosef: Ha-Biographyah by Nitzan Chen and Anshil Pepper (Jerusalem, 2004); Mi-Maran ad Maran: Mishnato ha-Hilkhatit shel ha-Rav Ovadiah Yosef by Binyamin Lau, (Tel Aviv, 2005) in Meorot Journal - A Forum of Modern Orthodox Discourse, formerly The Edah Journal, published by Yeshivat Chovevei Torah.

    To download Professor Shapiro's article, see here [PDF].

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    Magnes Press is having a sale on the Goldschmidt Yom Tov Machzorim (edited by Yonah Frankel). The sale price is $43 for all three - Pesach, Shavout, and Sukkot. They can be purchased here.

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    A library of approximately 1,700 books all either prayer books themselves or books about prayer are for sale. These include סדורים ,קינות ,תיקון ליל שבעות as well as some manuscripts. The date range of the books range from ש's (1540) until recent. Additionally, there are Slavita and Zhitomer prints as well. As this entire collection is devoted to a single subject - prayer, it is somewhat unusual and important. For more information (there is a complete catalog of all the books) you can email or call 845-729-0817.

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    Hillel Noach Magid Steinschneider's Ir Vilna
    by Dan Rabinowitz

    Vilna being one of the most important cities in Jewish history has a fair amount written about it. One of the classic works discussing the history and persons of Vilna is that of Hillel Noach Magid Steinschneider's Ir Vilna. This book was originally published in 1900 by the Romm press. This was only the first volume and Steinschneider envisioned publishing a second volume in short time, however, due to financial constraints he was unable to do so. Steinschneider did was not a historian by profession and instead was employed as a stone etcher for burial monuments - hence his surname Steinschneider which means "stone cutter." [1] Although he was not a professional historian, his work on Vilna was universally recognized. He not only write this book on Vilna but was also intimately involved with Shmuel Yosef Fuenn's work on Vilna - Kiryah Ne'emana. Steinschneider gave Fuenn material and eventually, in the second edition, wrote extensive notes. [2]

    As for Steinschneider's own work, it was not until 2003 Magnes published the second volume of this work (and included a nice introduction both about Steinschnider and his work). In part, the reason Steinschneider was unable to publish the second volume, was because people were hesitant to purchase just one volume of a multi-volume work. I have heard people make the same comment about the second volume, namely, they don't only want the second of two volumes. But, now this has been remedied as someone has republished the first so both are now in print. (Both are available at Biegeleisen of Boro Park 718-436-1165.)

    Aside from the importance of this work for the history of Vilna, there is also something curious in this addition - the publishers introduction. Steinschneider included information about all the important (and lesser important) people in Vilna. In doing so, he includes information [3] which from an Orthodox perspective some would find objectionable. Rather than censor this material out or not reprint this at all, the editors deal with this up front. In the introduction they note that Steinschnider was a maskil and that his writing was influenced by the haskalah. They also note that he included people who others found objectionable. For instance they state that Steinschneider discusses the poet "Abraham Dov Lebensohn (Adam HaKohen)" of whom the Hafetz Hayyim would add ימ"ש (may his name be erased).

    But, at the end, the publishers explain they decided that even though there was "פסולת" (lit. chaff) the good content outweighed the bad and therefore they have decided to republish this book.

    Of course, this is stark contrast to numerous contemporary instances of either removal of the פסולת or not reprinting books that contain any פסולת at all.

    Hillel Noach Magid Steinschneider

    [1] See Ir Vilna vol. 2 p. 1.
    [2] Id. at 4-7 for how extensive Steinschneider's involvement was.
    [3] Although it is the second volume which is more or less dedicated to biographies and history of maskilim the first volume also contains some of that information as well.

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    What follows is a short essay by Prof. Shnayer Z. Leiman, whose article on this topic, "The Adventure of the Maharal of Prague in London: R. Yudl Rosenberg and the Golem of Prague," appeared in Tradition 36:1 (2002): 26-58 [PDF].
    Did a Disciple of the Maharal Create a Golem?
    Shnayer Z. Leiman

    I. In March 2006, Dei’ah VeDibur, a Charedi internet newsletter, published an essay on the Maharal and the Golem. Its conclusion was that “it is unclear whether or not the Maharal ever made a golem.”[1]

    At the time, I responded on the internet with a congratulatory note praising Dei’ah VeDibur for its sober assessment of the evidence, and for its readiness to admit that it may be that the Maharal did not create a Golem.[2]

    Shortly thereafter I received what appeared to be an angry email note from a distinguished academician at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. It read
    “You still haven’t responded to the evidence that a talmid of the Maharal is known to have created a Golem and that this factoid is documented.”

    Since I had never claimed that a disciple of the Maharal either did or did not create a Golem, it was unclear to me why I had to respond to such a claim. Nonetheless, I knew precisely what my academic colleague had in mind. The author of the Dei’ah VeDibur essay mentioned in passing that the story connecting the Maharal to the making of a Golem was ”invented at some stage or, alternatively , it was mistakenly attributed to the Maharal while in fact it was his talmid HaRav Eliyahu Baal Shem of Chelm who made a golem (though the Maharal might have played a part).”[3]

    Alas, we know precious little about R. Eliyahu (b. R. Aharon Yehudah) Ba’al Shem of Chelm (16th century).[4] In 1564, he joined a coalition of distinguished rabbis including R. Solomon Luria (the Maharshal, d. 1574) -- that permitted an agunah to remarry.[5] Most importantly, he was an ancestor of R. Yaakov Emden (d.1776), who preserved the following tradition about him:[6]
    As an aside, I’ll mention here what I heard from my father’s holy mouth regarding the Golem created by his ancestor, the Gaon R. Eliyahu Ba’al Shem of blessed memory. When the Gaon saw that the Golem was growing larger and larger, he feared that the Golem would destroy the universe. He then removed the Holy Name that was embedded on his forehead, thus causing him to disintegrate and return to dust. Nonetheless, while he was engaged in extracting the Holy Name from him, the Golem injured him, scarring him on the face.

    Thus, there clearly existed a 16th century rabbi by the name of R. Eliyahu Ba’al Shem of Chelm (contemporary sources prove this), and the creation of a Golem was ascribed to him (so according to 17th and 18th century sources).[7] Not a word is mentioned about his being a disciple of the Maharal.

    So I sent off a note to my academic colleague in Jerusalem. It read in part:
    “There is no evidence that any talmid of the Maharal created a Golem. You write: “this factoid is documented.” Let me assure you that no such “factoid” is documented. The claim has been made – I am well aware of that, but the claim is based on a misreading of texts that I plan to expose in a footnote or essay in a future publication.”

    The remainder of this essay is devoted to fulfilling the promise I made to my academic colleague in Jerusalem.

    II. The claim that a disciple of the Maharal created a Golem appears most prominently in an essay published by a close friend -- and scholarly colleague – of mine, Dr. Shlomo Sprecher, in the Torah periodical Yeshurun. [8] I am certain he will forgive me for correcting him, if I am right. And if I am wrong, I urge him to correct my error publicly, thereby advancing discussion, and pray that he forgives my indiscretion.

    The ישורון essay reads in part:[9]
    “Regarding R. Eliyahu of Chelm, we know that he studied Torah under the Maharal and that he was a colleague of the Rabbi, author of the Tosafot Yom Tov.... The “true” Golem -- according to a reconstruction based upon trustworthy sources -- was the creation of R. Eliyahu Ba’al Shem, Chief Rabbi of Chelm, who was a disciple of the Maharal (as mentioned earlier). For whatever reason, the Master and the disciple were confused, with the resulting confusion [as to who created the Golem.]”
    In fact, R. Eliyahu of Chelm was neither a student of the Maharal nor a colleague of the Tosafot Yom Tov. Sprecher can hardly be faulted; he was misled by the source he quotes, namely R. Menahem Mendel Krengil (d. 1930) in his commentary to R. Hayyim Yosef David Azulai’s Shem Ha-Gedolim.[10] In turn, Krengil was misled by the source he quotes, R. Yitzhok Shlomo of Ozorkov’s introduction to Mikhlol Yofi (Warsaw, 1883).[11] In turn, R. Yitzhok Shlomo was misled by the source he quotes, R. Yehiel Heilprin’s (d. 1746), Seder Ha-Dorot.[12] In common, all these sources – and others not mentioned here – confused two different rabbis with the same name and cognomen, Eliyahu Ba’al Shem, and compressed them into one person. Despite the best efforts of nineteenth and twentieth century Jewish historians to expose this error,[13] shabashta keyvan d’al ‘al.

    The above-mentioned R. Eliyahu Ba’al Shem of Chelm, the ancestor of R. Jacob Emden, may have created a Golem. But he was not a disciple of the Maharal, and he was not a colleague of the Tosafot Yom Tov, and -- so far as anyone knows – he never set foot in Prague. Yet another R. Eliyahu Ba’al Shem was R. Eliyahu (b. R. Moshe) Loanz (1564-1636) of Worms.[14] Distinguished kabbalist and author, he was a disciple of the Maharal[15] and a colleague of the Tosafot Yom Tov, but no one ever suggested that he created a Golem! This is not even a case of the proverbial “two Yosef b. Shimons.” For R. Eliyahu Ba’al Shem of Chelm’s father’s name was R. Aharon Yehudah, whereas R. Eliyahu Ba’al Shem of Worms’ father’s name was R. Moshe.[16] Moreover, each was buried in the city where he served as Rabbi. Pilgrimages to the grave of R. Eliyahu Ba’al Shem of Chelm -- in Chelm --were commonplace until World War II.[17] The tombstone inscription on the grave of R. Eliyahu Ba’al Shem of Worms – in Worms – was published in the nineteenth century.[18]

    Other famous disciples of the Maharal include his son, R. Bezalel; his son-in-law, R. Yitzhok b. R. Shimshon; R. Yom Tov Lipmann Heller, author of Tosafot Yom Tov; and R. David Ganz, author of Tzemah David.[19] No source prior to the twentieth century ever imagined that these -- or any other – disciples of the Maharal were involved in creating a Golem. In sum, until new evidence is forthcoming, the answer to the question raised in the title of this note appears to be: “No.”


    [1] B.Y. Rabinowitz, “The Golem of Prague – Fact or Fiction?” Dei’ah VeDibur, March 1, 2006.

    [2] Posting on Mail-Jewish, March 6, 2006.

    [3] See note 1.

    [4] In general, see J. Günzig, Die Wundermänner in jüdischen Volk, Antwerpen, 1921, pp. 24-26; A. Brik, "רבי אליהו בעל שם זצ"ל מחעלם," Moriah 7 (1977), n. 6-7, 79-85; and M.D. Tzitzik, "מהר"ר אליהו בעל שם מחעלם," Yeshurun 17 (2006), 644-667.

    שו"ת ב"ח החדשות, ס' ע"ז [5]


    שו"ת שאילת יעב"ץ, ח"ב, ס' פ"ב. Cf. his בירת מגדל עוז, Altona, 1748, p. 259a; מטפחת ספרים, Altona, 1768, p. 45a; and מגילת ספר, ed. Kahana, Warsaw, 1896, p. 4. See also שו"ת חכם צבי, ס' צ"ג, and the references cited in שו"ת חכם צבי עם ליקוטי הערות, Jerusalem, 1998, vol. 1, p. 421 and in the periodical כפר חב"ד, number 351 (1988), p. 51.

    [7] See the sources cited by M. Idel, גולם, Tel Aviv, 1996, pp. 181-184 (English edition: Golem, Albany, 1990, pp. 207-212).

    [8] S. Sprecher, בסתר בצל':קווים לדמותו הסמויה של הג"ר בצלאל בנו יחידו של המהר"למפראג זצ"ל in Yeshurun 2 (1997), 623-634.

    [9] See the text on p. 629; and the end of note 24 on p. 632.

    [10] R. Menahem Mendel Krengil, ed., שם הגדולים השלם, Podgorze, 1905, vol. 1, p. 11b, n. 85. Cf. Krengil’s remarks at p. 12a, n. 90, and at p.117a, n. 12.

    [11] R. Eliyahu Loanz, מכלול יופי, Warsaw, 1883, introduction. R. Yitzhok Shlomo of Ozorkov (near Lodz), who wrote the introduction, arranged for this reissue of R. Eliyahu Loanz’ commentary on Koheleth. The introduction is particularly confused and misleading.

    [12] סדר הדורות , Karlsruhe, 1769, p. 64a. Cf. סדר הדורות השלם, Jerusalem, 1985, part 1, p.248. The passage reads:
    הג"מ אליהו בעל שם אב"ד דק"ק חעלם בווירמז חבר ספר אדרת אליהו פירוש על הזוהר כ"י (הוא היה מקובל גדול ובעל שם וברא ע"י שמות אדם.)
    [13] See, e.g., H.N. Dembitzer, כלילת יופי , Cracow, 1888, part 1, pp. 78b-79a; H. Michael, אור החיים , Frankfurt, 1891, pp. 170-171; and E.L. Gartenhaus, אשל הגדולים, Brooklyn, 1958, pp. 92-94.

    [14] See J. Günzig, op. cit. (above, note 4), pp. 37-39; N.Y. Ha-Kohen, אוצר הגדולים, Haifa, 1966, vol. 2, p. 184; and the entry in Encyclopaedia Judaica, Jerusalem, 1971, vol. 11, column 420.

    [15] See R. Barukh b. R. David of Gniezno, גדולת מרדכי, Hanau, 1615, letters of approbation (reissued: Jerusalem, 1991, p. 3). R. Eliyahu Loanz, in his letter of approbation to this volume, writes:
    “ והנה ידוע שמ"ו ה"ה הגאון מהר"ר ליווא מפראג היתה תורתו אומנותו מיום הכיר את בוראו.”
    For legendary accounts of R. Eliyahu Loanz and his meetings with the Maharal of Prague and the author of the Tosafot Yom Tov, see R. Moshe Hillel, בעלי שם, Jerusalem, 1993, pp. 10-87.

    [16] Already noted by A. Brik (above, note 4), p. 81.

    [17] A. Brik (above, note 4), p. 85. Cf. J. Günzig, op. cit., p. 26.

    [18] L. Lewysohn, נפשות צדיקים, Frankfurt, 1855, p. 59-60. Cf. E.M. Pinner, כתבי יד, Berlin, 1861, p. 166 and notes.

    [19] See A. Gottesdiener, המהר"ל מפראג, Jerusalem, 1976, pp. 88-97.

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    Hagahot notes the appearance of a new study by two Tel Aviv University scholars, Arye Edrei and Doron Mendels, "A Split Jewish Diaspora: Its Dramatic Consequences," Journal for the Study of the Pseudepigrapha 16:2 (2007): 91-137, wherein the authors demonstrate
    that the Jewish diaspora in Europe basically disappeared after the destruction of the Second Temple. Probably, they felt cut off from the spiritual center in Jerusalem, and eventually melded into their host culture.

    This is very significant for medieval Jewish history, especially those interested in the roots of Ashkenazic halakhah. The Jewish settlement along the Rhine identified itself as being rooted in Northern Italy, and when it first surfaces in literary form, the Ashkenazic halakhah is already a hoary tradition. On the other hand, while we have extensive epigraphical remains from the Jews of Roman Italy, they don't reflect what we know about rabbinic Judaism. So this theory suggests that there was a break between Roman Italy and early medieval Italy, with the later Jewish population coming from a totally different, more rabbinic culture.
    For those interested, the abstract of this article reads:
    This article proposes that a language divide and two systems of communication have brought to a serious gap between the western Jewish Diaspora and the eastern one. Thus the western Greek-speaking Jews lost touch with the Halakhah and the Rabbis, a condition that had far-reaching consequences on Jewish history thereafter. The Rabbis paid a high price for keeping their Halakhah in oral form, losing in consequence half of their constituency. An oral law did not develop in the western diaspora, whereas the existing eastern one was not translated into Greek. Hence it is not surprising that western Jews contributed nothing to the development of the oral law in the east. The Jewish communities that were isolated from the Rabbinic network served as a receptive basis for the development of an alternative Christian network by Paul and the apostles, which enabled it to spread throughout the Mediterranean basin. The Jews that remained ‘biblical’ surfaced in Europe in the Middle Ages.

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    A Censored Work by a Student of R. Hayyim of Volozhin:
    The Case of Menuchah u-Kedushah
    By Eliezer Brodt

    A few years ago (c2000) a fascinating sefer was reprinted called Menuchah u-Kedushah. The sefer was written by R. Yisrael Isserl from Ponevezh. Not much is known about the author except that he was a talmid of R. Hayyim of Volozhin. It’s clear from the sefer that he was a very special person and a big talmid hakham. The haskamot that he received from the R. Naftali Zevi Yehudah Berlin (Neziv), R. Bezalel HaKohen and R. Avraham Eisenstadt, author of the Pitchei Teshuva, show that he was a very prominent, well-known person (for some reason these haskamot were omitted in the reprinted edition). R. Shlomo Elyashiv, the author of the Leshem, also writes that he was an Ish Kadosh, a Holy Man. It appears that he was a melamed [teacher], and (as we will see) it seems that he must have been an excellent one. In the recent reprint, R. Shmuel Auerbach writes that the sefer was famous in particular as a guide in raising children and many followed it and became true Ovdei Hashem. Interestingly, the sefer was originally published anonymously (Vilna, 1864).

    In this post I would like to discuss this sefer a bit. The author in his introduction (which, oddly enough, was omitted in the newest reprinted version of the sefer) outlines very clearly what he had wanted to accomplish with this work. Divided into three parts, the first is called Sha’ar HaTefillah, an explaining as to what one should do in order for his tefillot to be accepted. Included are many explanations on different parts of Tefillah. The second part is called Sha’ar HaTorah, which is the way the author feels one should teach children. The third part is called Sha’ar Yichud HaMa’aseh which includes advice how to battle the Yetzer Hara in all different situations.

    The sefer reviews many interesting things especially vignettes from R. Elijah Gaon of Vilna (the Gra) and R. Hayyim of Volozhin. Also, included are many beautiful explanations on different areas of Tanakh and Aggadah. Aside from the explanations, this the sefer also includes many halakhot and minhagim. The sefer begins with a nice collection of halakhot of kavod seforim including that the prohibition to use one sefer under another one to bring it closer to you, or leaning completely on seforim like a shtender. To list a few examples of Ta’amei Minhagim brought throughout the sefer: the reason behind the mitzvah to eat on Erev Yom Kippur (pg 51) and giving tzedakah (pg 204). He is very against talking at all during davening; even talking in learning between aliyot (pg 75). The author also wrote a lengthy discussion regarding the proper time to light the Chanukah menorah; opining to light after ma’ariv. The author states that the only reason why R. Elijah Gaon of Vilna lit earlier was because of concern that if he would have waited until after ma’ariv he would have this on his mind the throughout davening, similar to a groom who is exempt from kriat shema (pg 160) due to his preoccupation. When he discusses sitting shiva on ones parents he exclaims 'do not just sit there making the same mistake most do'; namely, they claim that since it is prohibited for a mourner to learn Torah, they leave a Sefer Iyyov on the stool nearby just to glance at from time to time and fall asleep. Rather, one is supposed to learn the topics that a mourner is allowed to so that one could give one's parent many merits; there is enough material to learn for three weeks (pp. 88-89)! He writes to his son any shiur that he goes to after he dies he should always say the kaddish de’rabbanan for him; not only the first year (pg 95-96).

    Many interesting discussions on various topics, such as the Neshama Yetairah that one gets on shabbat (pp. 49-50) are found throughout the sefer. He also has a lengthy discussion on the now-famous topic (in light of all the biographies on the gedolim) that no great person achieved anything great in life without working very hard for it. The talmudic use of the term "Noch Nafshei" a term of resting, was not hapenstance. Instead, it was used to demonstrate that, in many instance, those persons did not have easy lives, and thus only after death is it approriate to use a term of rest - hence Noch Nafshei. This is in reference to Tana’aim and Amoraim; how much more so in regard to regular people (pp. 79-82). Elsewhere in the sefer he has a long discussion on chumrot, writing very strongly: “one should be concerned that the yetzer hara is bribing him and allowing him to do them so he will be too occupied to observe the ikkar.” As an example for this he gives, he points out that in Minhagei Ha-Gra that he had eaten Matzah Shemurah the whole Pessach. Whereas the author realizes that if because of this chumrah he will have to eat separately from the rest of his family and not have proper simchat yom tov which is a de’oraita, he should not be makpid on eating matzah shemurah which is just a pious action (pp. 155-156).

    Another point of interest that he writes is that the Messilat Yesharim was written with ruach hakodesh so listen to what he says (pg 158). When he talks about the sefer Nefesh Ha-Hayyim from his teacher R. Hayyim of Volozhin, he writes “listen to his holy mouth as the sefer is exactly like its name 'life for the soul' and one should know that ruach hakodesh is in all the words in the sefer so that it should be accepted by its readers” (pg 69).

    After reading all this it would seem to appear that this is a very good work and there should be no problems with anything written in it. However this is not the case. The people who printed it write that in the section called “Sha’ar HaTorah” we were advised by gedolim not to print some parts. This is very strange because as mentioned earlier he had very prominent haskamot from some big gedolim and as the Leshem writes he was a Holy Man, and he was also a known student of R. Hayyim of Volozhin. One is left wondering what in the world could have been wrong with what he had written prompting censor?

    In the 1967 reprint of the original edition by Meir Kleiman, the missing pages are included, about five all together. In short, what the deleted material is as follows, he saw many people who had no business becoming teachers taking the job only for the money. He writes that he was a teacher and he would spend a few weeks trying to understand each student what was the best way to deal with him. Another thing he writes is the importantance that boys have a proper understanding of the Hebrew language; not that he has to be a baki in dikduk just to know the basics than it’s easier to learn chumash. Once the boy knows chumash only than should you go on to learn Gemara. When he begins this limud, be careful to go slowly so as not to over burden him. The main point is not to learn enmass, rather emphasis on making sure the student fully understands everything before going further. Instead what happens is the boy only knows how to parrot what the teacher says and on shabbos he shows this off to the father; however nothing of value ever comes out of this. Another thing he writes is in regard to the failure to teach the boys tanakh; not only Gemara as the study of Tanakh is extremely important. Professor Simha Assaf brings much of this edited part in his Mekorot le-Toledot ha-Hinnukh be-Yisrael (vol. 1 Pg 607-613). R. Yitzchak Abadie discusses this whole section in his Teshuvot Ohr Yitzchak (pp. 444-450), available for download at

    Reading all of the above, one can only wonder as to what was wrong with printing these parts; the author can not be accused of having haskalic leanings for a few reasons: One, if he did have haskalic leanings, then why allow the rest of the sefer be reprinted. In all honesty, the very thought is quite ridiculous; the Leshem writes he was a Holy Man and a reading of the sefer will show how true that is. Also he was very against learning philosophy saying that only the Rishonim were they on the level to learn it (pg 47).

    What’s interesting about all this is many schools in the United States would do well to follow this advice in their educational methods; I am sure it would help many. Not that it’s the solution to all the problems with the children of today but it's certainly a good start. Interestingly enough R. Yakov Horowitz in a recent article in his column 'Chinuch Matters' in the English Mishpacha 143 (Pg 10) called 'It Doesn't Start in Tenth Grade' writes the same point. R. Yakov Horowitz continues with this theme in the next issue in an article called 'Training Wheels'. Of course these columns have been met with opposition. One reader writes (English Mishpacha 145, pg 6) "Torah is acquired thru yegia through no other method can Torah become yours. Making torah easy at the beginning only makes it harder later on. The author mentioned that he is backed by various Achranoim who have suggested alternative methods for teaching torah. It should definitely be mentioned that these methods were unaccepted in Klal Yisroel. Mesorah means tradition passed on Midor Ldor not looking in seforim for unaccepted methods.”

    One only wonders what this reader is talking about as shown here a Holy Man and talmid of R. Hayyim of Volozhin wrote these same suggestions as R. Yakov Horowitz and received good haskamot from important known gedolim. Further more as I have mentioned R. Shmuel Auerbach writes that the sefer was famous, in particular, as a guide in raising children and many followed it and became true Ovdei Hashem.

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    ManuscriptBoy has an interesting post on photocopying manuscripts from the Institute of Microfilmed Hebrew Manuscripts at the Jewish National and University Library, Hebrew University of Jerusalem (Givat Ram campus).

    Read all about it here.

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    Rabbi Adam Mintz is a visiting professor of Jewish History at Queens College and the immediate past president of the New York Board of Rabbis. He lectures widely on a variety of topics in Jewish History and his weekly streaming video entitled "This Week in Jewish History" is featured on the internet at Rabbi Mintz served in the pulpit rabbinate for over twenty years and is one of the founders of Kehilat Rayim Ahuvim on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. He has recently published a book entitled Jewish Spirituality and Divine Law (Ktav, 2005) and is completing his dissertation “The Evolution of the American Orthodox Community: The History of the Communal Eruv” (New York University, forthcoming). Rabbi Mintz serves on the advisory committee of Sh'ma and is a member of the Board of Directors of The Orthodox Caucus, Kehilat Rayim Ahuvim and Plaza Memorial Chapel.

    The post below on Rabbi Yosef Eliyahu Henkin was previously delivered as part of his lecture series "History of American Poskim." We hope that Rabbi Mintz will contribute several posts, based on this fantastic series, to the Seforim blog.

    --Dan Rabinowitz
    Rabbi Yosef Eliyahu Henkin:
    A Forgotten American Posek
    by Adam Mintz

    Rabbi Yosef Eliyahu Henkin died in his apartment on the Lower East Side of Manhattan on Shabbat Nachamu, August 12, 1973. Rabbi Moshe Feinstein and Rabbi Yaakov Kaminetzky delivered eulogies at his funeral and Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik attended the funeral but did not speak. Rabbi Henkin was born in White Russia in 1881. He studied, primarily, in the yeshiva in Slutzk and spent ten years as a rabbi and rosh yeshiva in Georgia on the Black Sea. Rabbi Henkin emigrated to America in 1923 and was appointed the rabbi of Congregation Anshei Shtutsen on the Lower East Side. In 1925, he became secretary and then director of Ezras Torah, a rabbinic organization founded in 1915 to assist Torah scholars imperiled by the turmoil of World War I. The organization was later expanded to assist rabbis and their students who attempted to flee Europe during the dark years surrounding World War II. Rabbi Henkin remained at the helm of Ezras Torah for the next forty-eight years. He served as a posek for rabbis and laymen throughout America and wrote numerous articles for a variety of Torah journals. Many of his essays and teshuvot are reprinted in a two-volume work entitled Kitvei ha-Gaon Rabbi Yosef Eliyahu Henkin (New York, 1980).

    In spite of Rabbi Henkin’s illustrious rabbinic career, we live today amidst a Torah and scholarly community "who knew not Yosef." When poskim from the Lower East Side are considered, it is Rabbi Feinstein whose name and works are still authoritative twenty years after his passing. Yet, the first volume of Iggerot Moshe was published in 1959, when Rabbi Henkin was almost 80 years old and had spent a lifetime answering rabbinic questions and recording them for others.

    The reasons for the popularity of a posek depend on the culture of the contemporary Orthodox community as much as on the quality of the p’sak. Rabbi Feinstein lived for thirteen years after Rabbi Henkin’s passing. Those years, from 1973-1986, were critical years in the growth of the Torah community of America. Many of Rabbi Feinstein’s teshuvot date from that period and many more teshuvot became known during the last years of his life. Most of Rabbi Henkin’s teshuvot date to an era when interest in the intricate questions of halakhah in America was limited to the scholarly rabbis of the time. Yet, these teshuvot remain relevant for all students of halakhah and of the history of American Orthodoxy. The richness and originality of those teshuvot give us insight into the challenges of that generation of American Orthodoxy and into the pivotal role played by Rabbi Henkin during this period.

    I would like to address three issues in which Rabbi Henkin and Rabbi Feinstein reached different halakhic conclusions concerning areas of grave importance to American Orthodoxy.

    1. The Mehitzah

    While Orthodox leaders have always defined mixed seating in synagogue as the great divide between the Orthodox and the non-Orthodox, the 1950’s and 1960’s saw a growing number of Orthodox synagogues which introduced mixed seating. One source claims that in 1961 there existed "perhaps 250 Orthodox synagogues where family seating is practiced." While it is difficult to verify the accuracy of this report, it is certain that rabbis serving in mixed-seating synagogues continued to belong to the Rabbinical Council of America without fear of expulsion.[1] The tide began to turn in the late 1950’s as many Orthodox leaders declared their opposition to congregations with mixed-seating. A major step in this direction was introduced by Baruch Litvin, a businessman who belonged to Beth Tefilas Moshe, an Orthodox congregation in Mt. Clemens, Michigan which voted to introduce mixed-seating in 1955. Litvin took up the battle against this ruling based on an established American legal principle that a religious congregation cannot introduce a practice opposed to the doctrine of the congregation against the wishes of even a minority of the congregation. His attorneys, supported by the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America (OU), introduced a significant amount of evidence to support the claim that mixed-seating was "clearly violative of the established Orthodox Jewish law and practice." The lower courts sided with the congregation and refused to become involved. However, the Michigan Supreme Court unanimously reversed the decision and accepted the minority’s claim.[2]

    Litvin gathered the evidence that he had collected and published it, in 1962, in a volume entitled The Sanctity of the Synagogue. Included in this book are letters from rabbis and roshei yeshiva on the necessity of a mehitzah in an Orthodox synagogue. Litvin incorporated an article by Rabbi Feinstein on the background and requirements of a Mehitzah. Rabbi Feinstein’s opinion is summarized by a personal communication to Litvin dated June 17, 1957 and printed at the conclusion of the article.[3] The correspondence states:
    Dear Mr. Litvin,

    In reference to what is written in my name, that "the prohibition of mixed pews is Biblical law," it would be better to change the words to read: "the prohibition against praying in a synagogue without a mechitzah of at least eighteen tefachim (handbreadths) or sixty-five inches high is a Biblical law." Stronger emphasis should be put on the point that it is prohibited to pray in a synagogue without a proper mechitzah, even though there is separate seating.

    Sincerely yours,
    Rabbi Moshe Feinstein
    This view of the necessity for a mehitzah is shared by Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik and Rabbi Aharon Kotler whose letters are also included in Litvin’s volume.

    Rabbi Henkin’s view is not recorded in Litvin’s volume. Rabbi Henkin does, however, take a stand on the issue of mehitzah in a responsum dated 1961 which is included in the second volume of his collected writings.[4] The teshuvah addresses the question whether a Shabbat violator can receive an aliyah. He responds that in our generation in which the Reform movement has "cast its net upon the Jewish people to ensnarl them in their ways" it is incumbent upon the Orthodox community to welcome all Jews without reservation into our synagogues and our communities. In this way many have returned to Orthodoxy and hopefully many will continue to return.

    He continues in the following way:
    Every individual should live in a place of observant Jews if possible. However, if this is not possible, we should not be strict concerning these matters because it will lead to a potential catastrophe.

    However, if the place itself is corrupt in that it has mixed-seating, it has already been established that it is preferable to pray by yourself at home. But, if this is the only synagogue in the area and you will always have to pray at home, you must examine the situation and evaluate the corruption versus the hope that through the involvement of the observant in this congregation, the community will become Orthodox. Yet, in all situations you must reprimand them if you pray in their midst.
    While the details of the question addressed to Rabbbi Henkin differ from the issue directed by Mr. Litvin to Rabbi Feinstein, these two great poskim take two very different approaches to the mehitzah issue. Rabbi Feinstein defends the principle of mehitzah and argues that it is a Biblical requirement with no room for compromise or flexibility. Rabbi Henkin, on the other hand, while arguing in favor of the importance of mehitzah and the risks inherent in the movement toward mixed-seating in the synagogue, clearly understands the complexity of the social situation and the possibility that prohibiting someone from praying in a non-mehitzah synagogue may ultimately force that person out of the organized Jewish community and prevent him or her from influencing the community toward observance. Rabbi Henkin argued that the principle of mehitzah must be balanced with an appreciation of the social complexities of the situation and the potential for religious outreach while Rabbi Feinstein contended that the principle is so critical that it cannot be influenced even by the difficult practical problems that may arise.

    [to be continued]


    [1] Jonathan D. Sarna, "The Debate over Mixed Seating in the American Synagogue," in The American Synagogue: A Sanctuary Transformed, ed. Jack Wertheimer (Cambridge, 1987), 380-81; For a recent overview of the mehitzah within historical context, see Gil Student, "The Mehitzah Controversy: Fifty Years Later," Bekhol Derakhekha Daehu/BaDaD 17 (September 2006): 7-43.
    [2] Jonathan D. Sarna, "The Debate over Mixed Seating in the American Synagogue," 384.
    [3] Baruch Litvin, The Sanctity of the Synagogue (New York, 1962), 125.
    [4] Yosef Eliyahu Henkin, Kitvei Hagri’a Henkin (New York, 1989), II: 11.

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