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

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  • 03/27/07--14:34: New Or Yisrael
  • There is a new volume of the journal Or Yisrael (no. 47) out. First, it includes a back and forth on the issue of who wrote the Mekore Minhagim. It also includes an very interesting article discussing whether there is any rhyme or reason to the order of the Mesechtot haShas. Additionally, it includes a couple of articles discussing wheat for Pesach from Arizona(?). On the Pesach front there is also an article on whether one can eat maror on Erev Pesach. Finally, (although these are just a few highlights of the articles contain therein) the first part of an article discussing the custom of candle lighting.

    As a general matter, Or Yisrael consistently provides excellent articles, for instance they had a seminal series of the forged Yerushlami on Kodshim, important articles on customs, and halacha, as well as many other important articles. Issues of Or Yisrael are included in the Otzar haChochmah database for those who have access to it - or for free at under Journals.

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    What follows is a press release from Ofeq Institute regarding their new book

    תוספות ר"י הזקן ותלמידו

    וראשוני בעלי התוספות

    על מסכת שבת

    Tosafot R. Isaac b. Samuel of Dampierre

    (Ri the Elder)

    and early Tosafists on tractate Shabbat

    edited for the first time from

    MS Guenzburg, Mos 636


    references, notes and comments


    Rabbi Avraham Shoshana

    Rabbi Yehuda Amitai Shoshana

    Volume I

    Introduction · Chapters 1-6 · Indices

    This is a unique collection of the early Tosafists, a treasure trove of first-generation Tosafot from France and Germany. Published for the first time from Guenzburg Manuscript 636, considered by scholars to be the most important manuscript extant in the world today, especially in the field of Tosafot literature. The collection includes Tosafot Ri ha-Zaken and his disciple and first-generation Tosafists, such as RIBA, R. Porat, Rashbam, Rabbenu Tam, etc. [Volume II of this collection, to be published shortly, will include Tosafot Ri ha-Zaken and his disciple on chapters 7-17, and the Tosafot R. Yehuda Sir Leon of Paris, and Tosafot Riva, written by his disciple, R. Moshe b. R. Yoel Zaltman of Regensburg on the remainder of the tractate.]

    This collection of Tosafot preserves complex and novel material which served as the foundation for the redaction of all later collections of Tosafot on Tractate Shabbat. As proven in the scholarly introduction to this volume, Rishonim, such as Ramban, Rashba, Ritva and Tosafot Harosh, used these very Tosafot or a close genre. The author was a disciple of Ri ha-Zaken who transmitted his lectures in the Yeshiva and wrote down verbal exchanges he had with his mentor dealing with complex matters. Aside from his mentor’s Torah, the author included material from earlier Sages of Tosafot, such as Rabbenu Tam, Riva, Rashbam, Rabbenu Porat, etc. Another outstanding feature of this manuscript is the outstanding and profuse glosses (gilyonot) that accompany it. These glosses were intended to serve as supplementary material. They are drawn mainly from the early Sages of Ashkenaz. It may be said with certainty that there isn’t one passage in this collection that does not introduce novel ideas which open up new vistas for the understanding of the vast Tosafot literature and matters relating to Tractate Shabbat. All in all, this is an outstanding discovery of great consequences to rabbinical literature.

    The volume is accompanied by source references, comparisons to Tosafot literature and other Rishonim, notes and expanded illuminations, which comprise a comprehensive commentary to the entire work. The volume also includes a substantial scholarly introduction dealing with the manuscript provenance and its contents, the identification of the authors and an analysis of first-generation Tosafot in general. The discovery of Tosafot of Rabbi Yehuda Sir Loen of Paris included in this manuscript, is a first and a delightful surprise.

    The volume provides detailed indices. They include index of sources of the work itself, sources discussed in the notes, and an index of subjects classified by topics.

    Edited by Rabbi Avraham Shoshana and Rabbi Yehuda Shoshana

    58 + 479 double-columned pages

    Available now at Biegeleisen’s in Boro Park. It will have wider distribution after Pesach in bookstores or directly from Ofeq Institute.

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    The Pesach Drasha of the Rokeach
    by Eliezer Brodt

    Every once in a while we are privileged to have the venerable printing house Mikezei Nerdamim release something special from the great rishonim (aside from their great journal Kovetz Al Yad). Last year they published the drasha of R. Eliezer Rokeach for Pesach edited by Professor Simcha Emanuel. In this post I would like to discuss some of the many things of interest in the work and also comment on the great job of Simcha Emanuel did in general with this work.

    This drasha seems to have been an actual drasha that the Rokeach said although it is pretty obvious from the length that it was not said at one time but probably broken up over a few times. The style of the drasha is mostly halacha and a bit of aggdah in the beginning and also scattered in the middle and end. He goes through many halchos of Pesach starting with koshering the utensils getting rid of the chametz and baking the matzos. He than continues on at great length to discuss all the aspects of the Seder. Then he deals with what to do if one finds chametz on Pesach and he ends with some halchos of Yom Tov in general.

    First I would like to mention some of the interesting points found in the actual drasha. First, the Rokeach records that his family custom was when they burned the chametz they would do so with the lulavim and hoshanos which they had saved from Sukkos. [1]. While talking about the minhag to bake matzos Eruv Yom Tov he writes do not bake the matzos for the second night until the second night because of chavivah mitzvah bi’shaytah (pg 92). He writes that if the Yom Tov falls out on Shabbos we do not smell hadassim for besamim on Motzei Shabbos because there is no loss of the extra soul as the soul remains for the duration of Yom Tov. (pg 93). Professor Emanuel points out that others disagree with this point and hold one does in fact make a blessing on the besamim when Saturday night is still Yom Tov. While talking about the washing for karpas he writes that one should make a ‘al nitelas yadaim (pg 96) whereas we today do not. [2] He than goes on to say that we eat a full kazais for karpas something we also do not do – we eat less than a kazais. [3] (pg 97, 152). He notes his family minhag was to hold the cup of wine during the recitation of v’hei she’umdah (pg 99 and pg 126) [4]. He than goes on to describe how his family pours out the wine when we say the ten plagues. (pg 101 see also pg 127). The importance of this last custom is that until the publication of this drasha, although many have recorded this custom in the name of the Rokeach, it appeared in none of his writings (as I plan on discussing at length in a forthcoming article). In regard to washing mayim achronim although others argue he writes one should wash (pg 106). [5]

    Another point worth mentioning about this sefer and this edition is the inclusion of Professor S. Emanuel excellent and lengthy notes. He discusses and provides additional sources for various things mentioned in the drash such as making matzos with pictures on them (pg 129-134), about the nussach of the Haggdah that some said רבון עלומים וכו' after ביד חזקה (pg 53- 57) [6] and reasons for the issur of kitnyot (pg 51). One very interesting thing which he points out is the difference about how a name is spelled in various manuscripts. Specifically, whether the Rokeach’s father-in-law was Eliezer or Elazar. If it was Elazer than it turns out that the Rokeach, whose first name was also Elazer, apparently ignored the will of his teacher, Rebbi Yehuda ha-Hassid – who disallows such marriages. Although, most likely, the Rokeach was married prior to coming in contact with Rebbi Yehuda ha-Hassid, his practice demonstrates that people, prior to Rebbi Yehuda ha-Hassid’s pronouncement did not observe this custom. (pg 57- 59). In addition to this Professor Emanuel has included excellent exstensive notes and comments throughout the drasha. He references many important points related to the issues the Rokeach says also including interesting sources from manuscripts.

    Aside from this small work (152 pages) containing this very important drasha of the Rokeach it also includes many important pieces of information in regard to the Rokeach in general and especially to two works of his that until now were unknown. There is a lengthy discussion about a sefer of the Rokeach on shecitah and treifos as well as another sefer - Sefer Ma’seh Rokeach – and the many new items for it.


    [1] Page 79. For further on this custom see Sefer HaMaskil pg 33-34; the important comment of R Honig in Yerushasanu pg 208-209; Sefer Kushyuos pg. 168-169 and the notes therein; D. Sperber, Minhagei Yisrael, vol. 2 pg. 193.

    [2] See also the Haggdah Shivivi Eish in Me’orot HaRishonim, pg 152; see also Y. Tabory, Pesach Dorot, pg 216- 244.

    [3] See also Y. Tabory, Pesach Dorot, pg 264-265.

    [4] See also Haggdah Shivivi Eish pg 109.

    [5] See also Tabory, pg 244-249.

    [6] See also Pirush Miyuchas l’Rashi in the Torat Hayyim Haggdah, pg 110.

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  • 04/12/07--07:48: Mossad HaRav Kook Sale 2007
  • The Mossad HaRav Kook annual sale every year after Pesach is a major event for Seforim lovers in Israel, similar to the annual SOY Seforim Sale at Yeshiva University in New York. This year the sale marks the the 70th anniversary of Mossad HaRav Kook and will be the biggest sale ever. The sale will take place from the 22-29 of Nissan 5767 which is 10-17 April 2007.

    Again the Judaica Archival Project and VirtualGeula offers its active subscribers and members a chance to participate from anywhere in the world at the same discount prices you would pay as if you attended the sale yourself (and without the line-ups). See here to view the 30 page catalog and to place your order.

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    Rabbi Yosef Tzvi Dunner (1913-2007):
    The Final Surviving Musmakh of the Berlin Rabbinical Seminary
    by Menachem Butler

    HaRav Yosef Tzvi Dunner, who recently passed away in London at the age of 94, was the scion of a prominent European rabbinical family and father and grandfather of noted British Orthodox rabbis, Rabbi Abba Dunner and Rabbi Pini Dunner, respectively. In a recent email correspondence with Professor Marc B. Shapiro, author of the landmark biographical study of Rabbi Yechiel Yaakov Weinberg[1] and several articles related to the leaders of the Berlin Rabbinical Seminary,[2] he informed me that Rabbi Yosef Tzvi Dunner was the final surviving musmakh of the Berlin Rabbinical Seminary (Orthodox).

    In the April 12, 2007 edition of Hamodia: The Newspaper of Torah Jewry, there is a very nice obituary for Rabbi Dunner, (see PDF); however, it is interesting to note how they neglected to make mention of Rabbi Dunner's studies at Berlin Rabbinical Seminary as they write:
    At 19 he wanted to study in the yeshivos of Lithuania, but his father felt that due to the shortage of Rabbanim in Germany, it would be better for him to remain in the country and study in the beis medrash of Harav Yechiel Yaakov Weinberg, zt”l, author of Seridei Eish. For four years, the young Rav Yosef Tzvi studied in this beis medrash, where he was awarded semichah at a young age after astounding those testing him with his penetrating understanding of all four sections of the Shulchan Aruch. He was granted the title yoreh yoreh, yadin yadin.

    Professor Shapiro further noted that
    This appears to be the first time that the Berlin Rabbinical Seminary has been referred to as the Beis Medrash of R. Yechiel Yaakov Weinberg (with all that this implies). Next time they don't want to mention that someone received semichah at RIETS, they can say he studied in the Beis Medrash of (supply the name).
    For additional biographical information on Rabbi Dunner zt"l, see here and here.

    [1] Marc B. Shapiro, Between the Yeshiva World and Modern Orthodoxy: The Life and Works of Rabbi Jehiel Jacob Weinberg, 1884-1966 (London: Littman Library, 1999); For a brief discussion of the founding of the Hildesheimer Rabbinical Seminary of Berlin in 1873, see ibid., page 76. See also Michael Meyer, "The Establishment of Rabbinical Schools in Germany - A comparative Analysis" [Hebrew], in Immanuel Etkes, ed., Yeshivot and Battei Midrash (The Zalman Shazar Center for Jewish History and The Ben-Zion Dinur Center for Research in Jewish History, The Hebrew University, Jerusalem 2006), pp. 199-207.
    [2] For an assortment of Shapiro's article/reviews on leaders of the Hildesheimer Rabbinical Seminary of Berlin, see "Letters of Rabbi Jehiel Jacob Weinberg [Hebrew]," Ha-Ma'ayan 32 (Tammuz, 5752 [1992]): 6-20; Review of "David Ellenson, Rabbi Esriel Hildesheimer and the Creation of a Modern Jewish Orthodoxy," Tradition 26 (Spring, 1992): 104-107; "The Autobiography of Rabbi Esriel Hildesheimer [Hebrew]," Alei Sefer 17 (1993): 149-150; "Letters of Rabbi David Zevi Hoffmann, Rabbi Moses Feinstein, and Rabbi Jehiel Jacob Weinberg [Hebrew]," Ha-Ma'ayan 34 (Tevet, 5754 [1994]): 9-20; "Rabbi David Zevi Hoffmann on Torah and Wissenschaft," Torah u-Madda Journal 6 (1995-1996): 129-137; "Scholars and Friends: Rabbi Jehiel Jacob Weinberg and Professor Samuel Atlas," Torah u-Madda Journal 7 (1997): 105-121; "Responsa and Letters of Rabbi David Zevi Hoffmann [Hebrew]," Ha-Ma'ayan 37 (Tammuz, 5757 [1997]): 1-14; "On Targum and Tradition: J. J. Weinberg, Paul Kahle and Exodus 4:22," Henoch 19 (1997): 215-232; "Rabbi David Tsevi Hoffmann on Orthodox Involvement with the Hebrew University," Tradition 33 (Spring, 1999): 88-93; "Understanding the Life and Works of Rabbi Jehiel Jacob Weinberg," Algemeiner Journal (June 6, 2000); "Rabbi Esriel Hildesheimer's Program of Torah u-Madda," Torah u-Madda Journal 9 (2000): 76-86; "R. Jehiel Jacob Weinberg on the Limits of Halakhic Development," Edah Journal 2:2 (2002; online at; "Thirteen Additional Letters by Rabbi Jehiel Jacob Weinberg [Hebrew]," Ha-Ma'ayan 45 (Tevet, 5765 [2005]): 1-17.

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    Mossad HaRav Kook has just published the eighth and final volume of Rabbi Prof. Daniel Sperber's Minhagei Yisrael. This final volume includes a complete and comprehensive index of all eight volumes volumes of Minhagei Yisrael. For this reason alone this volume is worthwhile, as anyone who has used the prior volumes knows, at times topics are spread over multiple volumes, sometimes in footnotes, which makes it difficult to locate particular topics. The first index is comprised of multiple indices; Mishna, Talmud, and Midrashim/Zohar. Additionally, there is an index using the Tur/Shulhan Arukh. The second index is done topically. Aside from the index, this volume includes a rather nice introduction where Professor Sperber discusses most of the recent literature on minhagim. Although not intended to be a full bibliography, it does include almost all the important books published on this topic in the last 15+ years, a topic that we will return to in forthcoming posts at the Seforim blog.

    As with all the other volumes of Minhagei Yisrael there are also additional articles discussing minhagim. This volume starts off with a long quote from Rabbi Chaim Williamowsky. This quote, typifies the vast majority of Professor Sperber's articles in this volume. R. Williamowsky notes that it is important to trace the history of minhagim as some are non-Jewish in origin and instead were borrowed and adopted from foreign cultures. Sperber then spends the next 100+ pages discussing minhagim which fall into that latter category. Sperber discusses the following customs -- I have provided citations only if the custom is not the main focus of an article -- the groom stepping on the foot of the bride (p. 14 n. 4 [and should make this person happy that in fact it has non-Jewish roots]); upsherin; round-matzot which are not linked to a non-Jewish custom, only that there is no reason to prefer round over square (p. 29-30 n. 26); which day of the week to get married, including a discussion of Friday marriages (p. 33 n. 13); marriage during a waxing of the moon (p. 37-40); bride and groom fasting on their wedding day; the huppah canopy; not having knots at the wedding (p. 71 n. 11); throwing a shoe at a wedding; burning clothing at the graves site of R. Shimon bar Yochai; feeding mourners eggs after the burial (p. 72); the additional "holy" names in mezzuzot, tzizit as protection (p. 112 n. 61 - this one may have gone from Jews to non-Jews as well as the notion of a door post protect, see idem); the use of פי פי פי to concentrate during prayers (p. 113); dipping bread in salt to protect from evil spirits.

    Sperber is able to trace back almost all of these topics and offer why and when the Jews accepted what was common amongst from within the particular culture they were living. Sperber's sources are especially helpful as, at times, others have made arguments that customs are originally non-Jewish in nature but provide no sources. For instance, both R. Gavriel Zinner and then R. Benyomin Hamburger both note the possibility that upsherin comes from non-Jewish sources. But neither provides any detail on this point. Sperber fills a significant lacuna.

    Although the above makes up the bulk of this volume there are few other items of interest. Sperber offers a possibility why the custom arose to say the verse ויהי בנסע ארון at the removal of the Torah and then also discusses the recitation of the Ten Commandments at קריאה שמע על המטה. The rest of the articles are additions to this one. That is a discussion about the placement of the Ten Commandments generally by Professor Meir Schwartz. Additionally, as the source for the recitation is R. Yitzhak Klover, grandfather of the R. Shelomoh Luria (Maharshal), Dr. Meir Rapfeld provides biographical and bibliographical information about this important figure. Dr. Rapfeld also has a discussion about a custom in the synagogue of the Maharshal. There is an article from R. Meir Kodesh discussing the custom amongst mourners to wear black.

    Finally, as in all of the previous volumes, Prof. Sperber has included additions and corrections covering all of the volumes.

    In all, this is an excellent end to a terrific series on minhagim. The book is available in Israel directly from Mosad HaRav Kook who currently is running a sale and in the US at Biegeleisen books (and in due course) at your local seforim store.

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    Some have already pointed out that Columbia University Professor Michael Stanislawski has a new book/thriller.[1] This book describes the murder of R. Abraham Kohn and the events leading up to it and its aftermath.

    Prof. Stanislawski attempts to discern whether, in fact, R. Kohn was murdered -- Stanislawski thinks so -- and in doing so, provides a wonderful description of Lvov (Lemberg) during the mid-nineteenth century. The basic background is that R. Kohn was a Reform Rabbi who became the main Rabbi in Lemberg. This allowed him to enact various rules, some such as the abolition of the various Jewish taxes which were collected by Orthodox Jews and thus they profited from it at the expense of the poor could be viewed as postive. But, as he was Reform, even the poor who benifited from this, still complained about such changes. As Stanislawski shows, much of R. Kohn's actual reforms to Jewish practice were to be found in his articles (and his prior pulpit) rather than his public speeches or proclamations in Lemberg. While the book is interesting and Stanislawski does a good job on the whole, there are several points which I think need to be addressed.

    The first is his conclusion. Although he does allow there may be room to doubt whether Kohn was murdered, anyone reading the book comes away with the impression that Stanislawski thinks Kohn was murdered. Stanislawski chides prior authors who don't conclude Kohn was murdered. The problem with this, is Stanislawski provides the entire legal history after Kohn's death, which seriously questions whether Kohn was murdered. That is, after Kohn died one person stood trial for his murder and was convicted. However, on appeal this was overturned. After the verdict was overturned, it was again reviewed by the highest court and the appellate court's judgment was upheld.

    While there are some issues with both of these appellate decisions, I don't see how, after 150 years, and the fact that he admits he doesn't have all the documentation, Stanislawski could then chide these other authors for relying upon these contemporaneous decisions! If Stanislawski unearthed some document which pointed to the perpetrator that would be one thing, but that is not the case here.

    Additionally, Stanislawski intimates that as the accused was Orthodox, later Orthodox writers and publishers attempted to cover up the whole incident and label it as a death. He singles out the publishing house Mossad HaRav Kook and lays claim they also deliberately got it wrong. [2] Setting aside the possiblity that these Orthodox publications decided to rely upon the decision of the abovementioned courts, it is disingenuous to accuse Mossad HaRav Kook when in fact, another one of their publications -- one that they have reprinted just a few weeks ago -- includes the story as Stanislawski wants to believe it happened. Included in Prof. Meir Hershkovics' biography on R. Tzvi Hirsch Chajes (Maharetz Chajes) published by Mossad HaRav Kook, it is noted that Kohn and his child were murdered by Orthodox Jews.[3]

    While, a conspiracy theory makes for more exciting reading, the facts don't seem to support it.

    [1] Michael Stanislawski, A Murder in Lemberg: Politics, Religion, and Violence in Modern Jewish History (Princeton University Press, 2007)
    [2] See esp. id. p. 77
    [3] See Meir Hershkovics, Maharetz Chayot: Toledot Rabbi Tzvi Hirsh Chayot u-Mishnato (Mossad HaRav Kook, 2007), p. 103-05.

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    A Lively History of Reprinting Rabbeinu Yeruchem
    Rabbi Eliezer Brodt

    In recent years, a host of critical editions of works on various rishonim have been published on all topics – some seeing the light of day for the very first time – on topics related to halakha, kabbalah, and chiddushim on the Talmud. These works have been made available via the major printing presses such as Mossad HaRav Kook, Machon Yerushalyim, Machon Talmud Yisraeli, Machon Harry Fischel and others.[1] However, one very important work has noticeably been omitted from being reprinted, except for a photomechanical off-set of the second printing. This work is Sefer Toledot Adam ve-Chava and Sefer Meisharim, the halakhic works of Rabbeinu Yeruchem Meshullam (c. first half of the 14th century) who was a student of R. Asher ben Yechiel (Rosh), R. Shlomo ben Aderet (Rashb"a), and R. Abraham ibn Ismaeil – author of Chiddushei Talmid HaRashb"a on Baba Kamma. In this post I would like to discuss the story behind why it was never retype-set, until a few weeks ago.

    Rabbeinu Yeruchem authored his works many years ago, in years of the range of צד (1334). He was a student of the Rosh and his works are quoted extensively by the Beit Yosef throughout Tur and Shulhan Arukh. The Maggid (an angel who learned torah with the Beit Yosef) of the Beit Yosef told him ואוף ירוחם טמירי רחים לך אע"ג דאת סתיר מלוי בגין דמלאכת שמים היא (מגיד משרים פרשת צו).

    Rabbeinu Yeruchem’s work contains three parts one called Meisharim and the remaining two parts entitled Toledot Adam ve-Chava. The part Adam contains everything relating to the man from birth until marriage; whereas Chavah contains everything from after marriage until death. This work was first printed in Constantinople in רעו (1517) and is extremely rare; only two complete copies are known to be extant. It was reprinted a second time in שיג (1553) in Venice; this is the version available today in photomechanical off-set editions. But, the Chida already notes that “this edition is full of mistakes.”[2] He also writes that he saw a manuscript of this sefer and was amazed as to the large amount of missing text as well as gross errors in the printed edition. The question remains as to why this work was never retype-set as opposed to the works of other Rishonim?

    The answer might be found in the words of the Chid"a[3] where he brings as follows:
    שמעתי מרבנן קשישאי בעיר הקודש ירושלים שקבלו מהזקנים דספר העיטור וספר רבינו ירחום הם מבחינת סוד עלמא דאתכסיא וכל מי שעושה באור עליהם או נאבדו הביאור או ח"ו יפטר במבחר ימיו"

    I have heard from old Rabbi in the holy city of Jerusalem that they have a tradition that the books, Sefer haIttur and Sefer Rabbeinu Yeruchum, they are a high secret and anyone who writes a commentary on these books either the work will be lost or they will die in the prime of their life.
    He than goes on to list a few people who started working on expounding the sefer, and either died in middle or the work was lost. In a different place the Shem Hagedolim brings the words of the Maggid to the Beit Yosef in the Maggid Meisharim (end of parashat Vayakhel) where he writes as follows:
    וכן במאי דדחית מילוי דירוחם טמירי שפיר עבדת וכן בכל דוכתא דאת משיג עליה יאות את משיג עליה וקרינא ליה ירוחם טמירי דאיהו טמיר בגינתא דעדן דאית צדיקייא דלא משיג זכותא דילהון למהוי בגינתא דעדן בפרסום אלא בטמירו אבל במדריגה רבא ויקירא איהו
    This, says Professor Meir Benayahu, is the reason why there is a curse on retype setting the work. What is not understood is that this is a completely halakhic work, not kabbalistic in any way, so why was there such a curse?[4]

    One such work, which the Chida already mentions, is R. Hayyim Algazi’s Netivot Hamishpat.[5] The title page already records with regard to R. Algazi, “תנוח נפשו בעדן” (may his soul rest in heaven) intimating he died in the process of writing this commentary.

    Another work in this category is that of R. Reuven Chaim Klein’s Shenot Chaim.[6] Unfortunately, he also died amidst writing the sefer, at the age of 47. The title page also records that the author did not want his name to appear, one can suggest that perhaps he thought if his name did not appear, he would not be subject to the curse. What’s interesting to note is in the haskamah of R. Joseph Shaul Nathenson, author of Shu”t Shoel u-Meshiv, to R. Klein’s work, as he makes no mention of any cherem to this work, but does quote the Maggid Mesharim cited earlier. Additionally, R. Chaim Sanzer, in his haskamah to this sefer, makes no mention of any cherem.

    The other work which the Chidah brings was under this curse was the Sefer HaItur. This sefer was privileged to be reprinted with a critical edition by the great R. Meir Yonah, who called the glosses 'Shar Hachadash and Pessach Hadiveir.' Dr. Binyamin Levine, author of the Otzar Hagaonim series, writes in his short biography on him – as he used this work in many his own seforim – that he also suffered many tragedies; i.e. he lost many children.[7]

    Interestingly enough, I found a nice size work on Rabbeinu Yeruchem and the author did not die young. His name was R. Yehudah Ashkenazi (1780-1849) the work is called Yisa Bracha (available at, printed in Livorno 1822. He authored many famous seforim such as the Geza Yeshai (klallim) (Livorno, 1842), Siddur Beit Oved (Livorno, 1843), Siddur Beit Menucha (Livorno, 1924), Siddur Beit HaBechirah (Livorno, 1875), and Siddur Shomer Shabbat (Livorno, 1892).

    In spite of all the above, a portion of the Rabbeinu Yeruchum has now been printed based of the first printing as well as manuscript, by on R. Yair Chazan.

    Based on the above, we find ourselves asking the question 'why did this R. Yair Chazan decide to reprint this work?'

    The answer is found in the haskamah to the sefer from R. Ovadiah Yosef, who wrote that the whole curse is only if one is writing a pairush/commentary – expository text - on the work. But if one's whole intent is to just fix the printing mistakes, which is R. Chazan whole intention here, it's not a problem. Besides for the haskamah of R. Ovadiah Yosef, there are a few other haskamot; amongst them R. Shmuel Auerbach and R. Chaim Pinchus Scheinberg.

    Just to give a brief overview of this work, as mentioned before the earlier editions of the Rabbeinu Yeruchem are full of printing mistakes and is missing many pieces. What R. Chazzan did was to track down the existing manuscripts of the sefer and try to fix the mistakes and put in the missing pieces. He also puts in the sources of Rabbeinu Yeruchem and he brings down where it is quoted in various poskim. He retype-set it beautifully making it a pleasure to read and use in compared to the old print.

    So far only the third volume (the חוה section) has been printed I hope to see the rest of R. Yerucham printed soon.

    [1] See here for Marc B. Shapiro's appreciation for R. Yosef Buxbaum, founder and director of Machon Yerushalayim, posted at the Seforim blog.
    [2] Shem Hagedolim, Mareches Gedolim, letter yud, number 382, quoting the Ralbach, (siman 109); see also R. Chaim Shabtai HaKohen, Shu"t Mahrch"sh, Even HaEzer p. 153,b ("it is already known that the book of Rabbenu Yeruchum has many errors and unnecessary wordage"); R. Y. Sirkes, Bach Y.D. no. 241 s.v. U'mah Sechatav Avor Aviv ("I have already studied this work [Rabbenu Yeruchum] and it is full of error - too many to count"); Y.S. Speigel, Amudim B'Tolodot Sefer HaIvri : Hagahot U'Magimim p. 247 n.121 for additional sources.
    [3] idem.
    [4] Pirush Sifri, Rabbenu Eliezer Nachum, Meir Benayahu, ed., (Jerusalem, 1993), Introduction.
    [5] (Istanbul, 1669; reprinted by Pe'er HaTorah in Yerushalyim, circa 1975)
    [6] (Lemberg, 1871; reprinted by Machon Yerushalayim, Jerusalem, 1985)
    [7] Binyamin Levin, Mesivos: Talmud Katan leSeder Mo’ed, Nashim, u-Nezikin (Jerusalem, 1973), end of this book.

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    In previous posts at the Seforim blog, we have attempted to highlight some of the more recently printed books, which are fairly easy to come by. However, I thought it worthwhile to mention some slightly older books, which are generally more difficult to obtain and where they can be obtained. I will highlight the contents of one store -- Moznaim (718-438-7680) -- in Boro Park.

    First, for literature of the Geonim, they have the Teshuvot HaGeonim. In this set, the majority of volumes are fairly easy to get, but there are two volumes which are less common - Ginzei Schechter and Louis Ginzburg's Geonica. Both of these are available from Moznaim.

    Second, the four volume Auerbach's edition of R. Avraham b. Azriel's Arugat HaBosem, which is a key work on piyut/siddur, is available there as well.

    Third, Mordecai Wilensky's Hasidim u-Mitnagdim collects the various early polemics for and against the Hassidic movement, is available in two-volume paperback.

    Aside from the Geonim, Moznaim also has an extensive selection of Midrashim - most of the time the most important critical edition of a particular Midrash.

    Finally, although not out-of-print or the like, Moznaim also has redone the Mishnayot for Seder Zeraim and Teharot. These include the standard commentaries (e.g. Ra"SH and Rambam) and some other less common ones all with a nice layout. Additionally, they have made corrections based upon manuscript data and the older version of the text is available in footnote form.

    These are a sampling of a few which I came across, I am sure there are many more hidden gems to unearth.

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    As a followup to a previous post, here is an excerpt from the obituary for R. Yosef Tzvi Dunner, zt"l, that appeared in Dei'ah veDibur:
    At the age of 19 he wanted to leave home to study in one of the illustrious yeshivas of Lithuania, but his father felt that given the dearth of rabbonim in Germany communities, before going to yeshiva he should study at a place that provides rabbinical training (smichus). He sent the young man to Beis Hamedrash Lerabbonim in Berlin, which was headed by HaRav Yechiel Yaakov Weinberg, the author of Seridei Eish. There he continued his intensive learning day and night, amassing tremendous knowledge of Shas and poskim.

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    A Behind The Scenes Look at Two New Editions: Part One
    by Rabbi Eliezer Brodt

    A few weeks ago, while perusing through the new Seforim at the Girsa Seforim store in Jerusalem, I noticed a new מנחת פתים from ר' מאיר אריק. At first I thought it was another plain old reprint of the original one. But a few friends tipped me off to it being much more than a reprint. So off I went to purchase the seforim. This is a short review what this version is exactly.

    It's a well known fact that, ר' מאיר אריק left over a great deal of written works; as opposed to his brother ר' פישל who was also a great gaon, but wrote nothing. One of his more famous works is the מנחת פתים on ד' חלקי שלחן ערוך. The concept behind the sefer is a published listing of his comments on שלחן ערוך, some lengthy with the expected back and forth, others short with only references. Many of these citations are to rare seforim, or other not-usually available sources, all locally annotated with his tremendous בקיאות. One point of interest is his usage of new ראשונים such as the מאירי and אור זרוע. Anyone learning הלכה knows how valuable this work is- it does not require my personal הסכמה (who am I to even dare give it one!) as the work speaks for itself! The work on אורח חיים was reprinted a few times, most recently a few years ago by מכון עוז והדר. The part on יורה דעה חושן משפט ואבן העזר was also reprinted a few years ago in a photo-mechanical reproduction of the 5658 (1898). This new version only came out with two volumes so far – on אורח חיים ויורה דעה. The individuals responsible for its publishing have already proven themselves with the טל תורה החדש and שו"ת אמרי יושר (both the original editions as well as a new volume compiled from manuscripts and responsa published in rare journals) that they put out 10 years ago.

    There are many great additions to this new version of the מנחת פתים. Firstly, over the years ר' מאיר אריק had many additions to his מנחת פתים which he planned on printing. He never got around to it but right before WWII, two of his תלמידם gathered everything together including many manuscripts of his and they printed it, in Krakow in 1938. Being that it was right before the war it seems no copies survived the war – to the extant that no one seemed to even know about this edition. Miraculously, Rabbi Zweibel's own Rosh Yeshivah had found a copy of this print from Krakow, and gave it to his student for reproduction! Aside from this, Rabbi Zweibel was privileged to see the actual שלחן ערוך thatר' מאיר אריק used, which had many notes written in the margins. Further, he continued to track down other notes and novellas that ר' מאיר אריק had written related to שלחן ערוך. All of this was included in this new edition. In addition, the editors did the kind favor of letting one know before each piece from where it comes from a manuscript or the Krakow edition etc. Almost every page contains a few new pieces so one can easily see how much exactly was added to this new printing. Along with all additions, the publisher included notes from two of his talmidim ר' יהודה הורביץ andר' צבי פרומר , famous for his work שו"ת ארץ צבי. They also separated all the תשובות that ר' מאיר brings throughout the מנחת פתים from the body text, and put them in the back - so as not to confuse the user. In the back they include a תשובה from ר' מאיר אריק to his תלמיד, הגאון ר' משולם ראהט. Also included is an index of his other seforim, שו"ת אמרי יושר, ואמרי יושר חלק ג' collating the topics relating to אורח חיים ויורה דעה (each index in its specific volume). All in all, this is a beautiful job and a good buy for those whose interests include these kind of seforim.

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  • 04/30/07--21:33: Stolen Title Pages
  • "Stolen Title Pages":
    The Case of An Unknown Contemporary Plagiarist*

    The title of this post – “Stolen Title Pages” – is not mine, instead, I have borrowed it from Chaim Lieberman.[1] I have used this title because there are many forms of plagiarism – some, totally innocent – others involving lack of citation, borrowing a sentence here or there, but the plagiarism under discussion in this post is much worse than all of the above.[2] The plagiarism discussed in this post is limited to just changing the title page – that is, the entire book is the same with the only alteration being the name of the author and, at times, the title of the book. For example, if I republished Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet but instead of putting Shakespeare’s name I substituted mine.

    The kabbalistic work on the holidays of the year, by R. Yitzhak Isaac ben Yoel HaKohen, Brit Kehunat Olam, was recently republished. This work was first published in 1796 in Lvov, and has been reprinted many times since then. In the introduction of this new edition, the publishers list the various printings of this work. But, they neglected to mention one reprint of this work. One can’t really fault them as this reprint was not published under the name Brit Kehunat Olam, nor did R. Yitzhak Isaac’s name appear anywhere in this reprint. Instead, although the book is word for word the same as Brit Kehunat Olam, a totally different title and a totally different author is given. As we shall see this is not the only time this person has taken someone else book for his own. This reprint which was done sometime around 2000 is instead titled Pardes haMo’adim ‘al Moadi Yisrael. The author is הצב"ר which, according to the many approbations he has received, is an abbreviation of R. Tzyion ben Ratson Lahat.

    The Pardes haMo’adim contains approbations from R. Shimon Sherabi, the Rabbis of Kiryat Melachi – R. Hayyim Pinto and R. Yisrael Areyeh Gerstenkorn, R. Meshumar Tzubri, and R. Yisrael Sherabi. Some of these praise Lahat for his erudition in writing this work, others note his "great fear of sin," but none of these haskamot note that every word in this book is plagiarized.

    For purposes of accuracy, I must note, that Lahat did alter one thing aside from the title page. Perhaps in an effort to avoid detection he shifted the sections around. So, one can’t take page one and match it up, instead, you just need to find the section. This is not as hard as it would seem as Lahat used the same chapter headings as the original. So, for instance, the scan below you have the chapter titled מאמר מצות משוחים בשמן from both works. The newer type (on the right), without the commentary of the Sha’ar Shimon, is Lahat’s edition while the other (on the left) is the original.

    Lest one think it is just that section or just the Brit Kehunat Olam that Lahat copied, I have provided another section – מאמר סכת שלם. Again you can see it is copied word for word. But, I also want to point out it is not just the Brit Kehunat Olam he copied but the commentary, Shem miShimon by R. Shimon Englander as well. As one can see, the notes on the bottom provide citations as well as further elucidations of the Brit Kehunat Olam. Although Lahat did not use footnotes – he used endnotes – they are the same as well.

    I have provided below the pages from both Brit Kehunat Olam (on the left) which includes the Shem miShimon at the bottom. The other pages (to the right and bottom) are Lahat’s page from this section and the final page is Lahat’s notes which match up perfectly with the Shem miShimon.

    As I mentioned above this is not the first time Lahat has stolen a prior work and substituted his name for that of the author. Instead, I have found at least two other times, where he did the same thing. In fact, one of the approbations for Pardes haMo’adim actually makes mention of this prior plagiarized work. This other work is Lahat’s book Minhagei haAriza”l. This work was published sometime after 1996. It contains four parts. Again, הצב"ר appears on the title page and all the approbations are written to R. Tzyion ben Ratson Lahat (as an aside his last name may actually be רווה [Ravah] as he dedicates this book to his brother Naftali bar Ratson Ravah). This work, with one slight change which I will discuss in a moment, is word for word from the book Minhagei haArizal haNikrah Petura d’Abba by R. Uri ben Asher Strizinitzer [3] first published in Jerusalem 1905.

    This work takes fifth and the sixth sha’ar from R. Chaim Vital’s Shemonah She’arim which contain the bulk of the customs of R. Yitzhak Luria(Ari"ZaL). R. Strizinitzer, then includes his commentary, titled Beni Abba, which explains and offers sources for the customs of R. Yitzhak Luria. This work contains the approbation of R. Shalom Mordechi haKohen (the Braziner Rebbi). When he originally published this work, R. Strizinitzer did so anonymously. When he published a similar work Me'ori Tzion he revealed himself based upon an acrostic on the title page. The Meori Tzion was the fourth and final part of R. Strizinitzer’s work on the customs of R. Yitzhak Luria – as we shall see this was also copied. So R. Strizinitzer has three titles – Petura d’Abba, Beni Abba, and Meori Tzyion. The Petura d’Abba contains the portion from Shemonah She’arim and Beni Abba is Strizinitzer’s notes.

    Now, we go to sometime after 1996, and a new book, again re-typeset, comes out with the title Minhagei HaAri”Zal with the three works Darkei Tzyion, Sha’ari Tzyion, and Me'ori Tzyion with הצב"ר’s name as the author.

    The only thing Lahat did, however, was alter the titles of the first two sections, he didn’t even bother moving things around to avoid detection. In Lahat’s edition the Darkei Tzyion contains the portion from Shemonah She’arim and Sha’ari Tzyion contains the notes. Below, I have provided two pages, one from each book, to demonstrate the plagiarism.

    In fact, in Strizinitzer’s book at the end he has “השמטות” – things he left out. Lahat, also has at the end things he left out – and coincidentally, they are the same as well. There is one other small change aside from the title page, and that is in the introduction. In Strizinitzer’s introduction at the end he explains why he decided to title his books as he did. Now, Lahat’s titles are different, so Lahat (left) removed that one line from the original introduction (right). The relevant passages are below.

    Now, we return to the third title – Me'ori Tzyion, which Strizinitzer published separately in 1911,[4] and Lahat has included in this book. For this one, Lahat couldn’t be bothered with coming up with a new title so he uses the same title – perhaps to finally be able to say he really did copy everything perfectly. Both pages are below (Lahat, left; original, right).

    Finally, we get to the at least the third example of Lahat's stolen title pages. In this case it was fairly easy to locate the original. Lahat titled this work Pirush 'al Birkat Kohanim, which as the title implies is a commentary and discussion about Birkat Kohanim. But, Lahat was kind and at the top of each page he has כה תברכו. This title כה תברכו is the same as a book published in 1881 in Solenika by R. Chaim Hemzi. And, it turns out not only is the title the same but the content is as well.

    Lahat is by no means the first to merely switch the title pages – as I noted at the beginning of this post, Lieberman has examples of this phenomenon and there are other articles which discuss other instances of plagiarism as well.[5] What is perhaps unique about Lahat is that he seems to have done it more than once, in fact, I can not say for sure the rest of Lahat’s 13 (!) other books [6] are not merely copies as well. Additionally, many have assumed that in the digital age, when from the comfort of one’s home they can call up the card catalogs of almost every major library in the world and thousands books are available online or on one of hard drives – some of which are even searchable, this would have been detected. In fact not a single catalog entry in any library notes that these are copied – even when Lahat did not change the title of the book.

    Further, aside from the approbation to Lahat’s Pardes haMo’adim, in his Minhagei haAriZal, Lahat includes approbations from his other works. Some of these are leading Rabbis who also have failed to detect their approbations are on stolen works. These Rabbis include (aside from those already mentioned above): R. Ovadia Yosef, R. Mayer Getz, R. Shalom Messas, R. Yosef Tzubeyri, and R. Tzion Tzubeyri.

    Perhaps, now, this can be corrected and Lahat will cease stealing the works of others.

    * I apologize as most of this post appeared last week, however, as the images stopped working and they are important to this post I removed the post until I could correct it. In the interim, however, I was able to confirm another instance of Lahat's plagiarism. Also, prior to posting I have attempted to locate Lahat without success. His books generally provide none of the standard information such as publisher/printer or any contact information.

    [1] Chaim Lieberman, Ohel Roch”el, vol. 1 (New York, 1980), 477-480, 529-531.

    [2] There are no lack of examples, both real and imagined in this category. For one example of lack of proper citation, see R. Natan Neta Leiter, Tzyion l’Nefesh Hayyai (Jerusalem, 1964), no. 109.

    [3] His surname comes from a town outside of Lvov.

    [4] In some reprints of Strizinitzer’s Minhagi AriZal, Me’ori Tzyion is included.

    [5] See Lieberman supra n. 1. Lieberman notes [p. 477] the case of Hemdat Tzvi, where the original was printed in 1876 and the stolen version with the same title was printed in 1879. However, he leaves out one worthwhile point. Although in the stolen version he knew enough to remove the original authors name, apparently he didn't even read through the whole book as on p. 72b, the original author quotes his grandfather by name, and this same passage appears in the stolen version. Further, on p. 87, the original author includes a teshuva which he signs by name. In the stolen version it appears without change signed by the original author!). See also Kitvei Pinchas Turburg, ed. A. R. Malachi, 24-36; C. Leshem, Shabbat u’Mo’adi Yisrael (Tel Aviv, 1969), 379-409; Y. Sternhill, Kochavi Yitzhak (Brooklyn, 1969), Introductions to volumes I & II; Marc B. Shapiro, Saul Lieberman and the Orthodox (Scranton, 2006), 5 n. 9, discussing the example of Rabbi Nosson Dovid Rabinowich which was also discussed in a previous post at the Seforim blog; Shraga Abramson, "Chasad b'Ameirat Daver shelo b'Shem 'Omro," Sinai 112 (Nissan-Iyyar 1993): 1-24; Alei Sefer 16 (1990): 177-79; Moriah 83-84 (Adar I,1978) 79-80; A. Perls, "Das Plagium," in Monatsschrift für Geschichte und Wissenschaft des Judentums / MGWJ 28 (1879): 305-322; R. Margolis, Shem Olam, Jerusalem, 1989, introduction.

    Regarding the halakhic permissibility of plagiarism, see Nahum Visfish, Mishnat Zechuot haYotser (Jerusalem, 2002), esp. 95-115; Nahum Rakover, Zechut haYotsrim beMekorot haYehudim (Jerusalem, 1991), 17-72, a portion of which appeared as "Plagiarism of Torah Teachings," Areshet 6 (1980): 222-226; and idem., "Plagiarism and the Obligation to Cite Sources: Aspects of Copyright Law in the Halakhah," Dinei Yisrael 6 (1975): 93-120;

    [6] There is one book which is particularly suspect, as Lahat's book is titled מאיר לארץ and it is kabbalistic interpretations on ברכת המזון and there is another book with the same name on the same topic. Thus far, however, I have been unable to secure a copy to compare the two.

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    Many times the rarity of a book is due to a controversy; either because it was limited in scope, i.e. was a polemic, and thus was no need to print thousands of copies or because of bans and the like. One such book is Kuntres ‘al Inyan Shabbat HaChatuna by R. Eliezer Supino (d. 1746). Until recently, it was thought this book no longer existed. But, a single copy (Unicum) was located and it has now been reprinted.

    The book, as the title implies, discusses the Shabbat following ones wedding know as Shabbat HaChanutah or Shabbat haHatan. It was customary in many communities, mainly Sefardic but there is also evidence for some Ashkenazi as well, on this Shabbat, aside from the regular reading from the Torah, the parsha of V’Avrahom Zakan Bo B’Yamim was read for the groom. One may be asking so what could have possibly have been the controversy? In one community, Pisa, Italy, where R. Eliezer Supino was the Rabbi, rather then read the special parsha as the maftir, they read it for the 7th aliyah. That is, they finished the torah portion in 6 alyiot and for the seventh read the special parsha.

    The question is whether as part of the seven obligatory aliyot can you read a parsha that is merely a custom? To this, R. Supino said yes. Well, somewhere between 1735-36 on one such Shabbat, there was a vistor from another city, Livorno, who witnessed this. [There is some question who this person was.] What basically happened was he went back to Livorno and told R. Dovid Meldola (1714-1810), a hazan, judge, and teacher in the Yeshiva in Livorno. R. Meldola thought strongly that R. Supino was 100% incorrect in allowing for such a custom, and now we have the start of the controversy. In the end, R. Meldola, in his Divrei Dovid (Amsterdam, 1753) devotes a considerable number of pages (18 simanim) to this topic – all attempting to show that R. Supino is wrong. R. Meldola didn’t stop there, he first elicited the help of a host of other important Rabbis who would say he was correct. This include, inter alia, R. Aryeh Lowenstamm the chief Rabbi of Amsterdam, R. Ya’akov Yehoshu Rabbi in Frankfort and the author of the Peni Yehosha, R. Yehzkeil Katzenelllenbogen the chief Rabbi of the tripe community AH”W, and some additional, lesser known (today) Rabbis.

    R. Meldola didn’t stop at printing his own book on the topic, he wanted to make sure his book would be the only record of events. First, I must point out that R. Meldola published his book after R. Supanu (and other important figures) died so there was no one to dispute his events. Second, R. Supino, did not wait until anyone died, rather he published his version and the defense of his position in Kuntres ‘al Inyan Shabbat HaChatuna. Sometime around 1743, R. Supanu sent this to Amsterdam to be printed (Livorno, at the time didn’t have a printing press). But, after it was printed, R. Meldola got wind of the publication, and when it arrived by ship to Livorno, all the copies were seized. After reading it, word was sent to Amsterdam that all remaining copies should be destroyed. The printer gave everything up and all were destroyed. Thus, until now, it was thought this book was totally lost.

    Shmuel Glick, the editor of the new Kuntres haTeshuvot, was looking through all the libraries to find all the responsa literature, and in Schocken Library he found the only remaining copy in the world of this book. The copy he found also contains some annotations which Glick thinks are that of R. Supanu himself. In this republication, Glick has done a beautiful job (as well as Mossad HaRav Kook). First, he includes an extensive introduction where all the above is from. Second, as mentioned above, until now we had a one sided story of the events, now we have both sides. Glick discusses and highlights the various differences between R. Meldola’s and R. Supino’s versions of the events. Third, he has completely reset the type of the book and included notes as well. Fourth, he then includes a photo reproduction of the actual work. And, finally, he includes to letters from R. Supino which were in manuscript.

    In part, the reason this work is important aside from the actual question is its broader implications for the force of custom. R. Supino’s basic argument is the additional reading for the groom is a custom – but as a custom has the same status as the rest of the regular parsha. R. Meldola disputes this understanding of custom.

    While this edition is excellent, I want to point out two small things, one is typographical error and the other not an error but an elaboration. The main footnote (which is terrific in scope) which discusses the custom of the special reading for the groom is in the Introduction, footnote 6. But, the references to it in the actual Kuntres (e.g. footnote 2, 62, 158) it refers to it as footnote 2. The second minor point is in a footnote (p. 28 n. 146), Glick discusses the usage of the saying מנהג ישראל תורה, but left off perhaps the most comprehensive discussion of this usage in R. Shmuel Ashkenazi’s Alfa beta kadmita, pp. 210-18.

    In all, Shmuel Glick should be commended for an excellent work of a fascinating book. The book is printed by Mossad HaRav Kook and should be available wherever finer seforim are sold.

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  • 05/10/07--07:14: Anti Neturei Karta Book
  • There is a new book discussing the recent tactics of the Neturei Karta. What is perhaps unique about this book, Milchemet Charma by R. Daniel Biton, is that it devoted to demonstrating the Neutrei Karta are wrong; and doing so this from their own perspective. That is, he uses anti-Zionist texts – V’Yoel Moshe, letter of R. Elchonon Wasserman and the like – to show that although they are anti-Zionist they do not advocate praising anti-Semites or advocating for the demise of Israel.

    R. Biton pulls no punches when he discusses his views of He uses rather flowery language to attack the Neturei Karta for instance he says

    ככל הדברים . . . אצל כת החדשה שהתעטפו באצטלא של קנאות ונוטרי קרתא . . . [ו]נתכתרו בג' כתרים, כתר תורה עמי הארצות, וכתר כהונת כסילות, וכתר מלכות העזות . . . ובארבע אבות הנזיקין הללו, עמי הארצות, כסילות, עזות, ודמיונות, הולידו והצמיחו שורש פורה ראש ולענה

    The book is divided up into three works, Machrive Karta, Derech HaShem, and Ve’Yestarfu Rabim. The first book, discusses mostly the various events the Neturi Karta has recently participate in and how their philosophy runs counter to that of the R. Yoel Teitelbaum, the Satmar Rebbi. The second book which is a play on a Neturei Karta work describing their reasons titled Derech HaHatzolah, is comprised of letters and a speech R. Biton gave regarding the falicies of the Neturi Karta’s position. The third part is mainly an expansion on the prior section. R. Biton finishes with letters from members of the “old” Neturei Karta on how this new strategy of joining with anti-Semites etc. does not comport with their ideals.

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  • 05/16/07--10:27: Kabbalah Books Online
  • I am not sure why but it appears that a website in Czech (?) contains numerous Kabbalah seforim in their entirety free. These include the literature from Sefer Yetzirah, Zohar, R. Moshe Chaim Luzzato, Ari"Zal, R. Abraham Abulafia, and many others.

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    Review of a new edition of the Sefer Chasidim

    by R. Eliezer Brodt

    As recently mentioned on this blog this generation is privileged to have many seforim especially rishonim being reprinted in critical editions based on manuscripts etc. One of the publishing houses which has been involved in publishing such works is Mechon Otzar haPoskim. A few years ago they released a few volumes of a critical edition of the Mahzhor Vitri which to date its still not complete. And now, a few weeks ago they published two volumes (of eventually four volumes) of the Sefer Hassidim. In this post I would like give some background on Mechon Otzar haPoskim, the Sefer Chassidim in general and this recent version in particular.

    Mechon Otzar haPoskim was founded in the 1950’s by two great gedolim R. Isser Zalman Meltzer and R. Yitzchak Isaac Herzog. R. Herzog explained (introduction to Otzar haPoskim compendium on Even haEzer) the reason for founding of the organization was due to the almost limitless nature of Halacha and thus at times poskim find themselves having to deal with very difficult topics and do not have access to most of the seforim of the many great Gedolim of the past that would help them deal with these difficult topics. Attempts to deal with the vast amount of halacha literature had been previously attempted by the Peschei Teshuva and Darkei Teshuvah. But, today, both of these works are limited as the body of literature has expanded significantly since these earlier works came out. R. Herzog thus had the idea to create a modern compendium using what he had available. He then heard that R. Isser Zalman had the same thoughts so they decided to work together and gather a group of Gedolim to systematically go thru the teshuvot literature, abridge it, and place it in the parallel place in the order of the Shulchan Orach. R. Isser Zalman had an additional reason why he wanted to start this organization. He felt that many talmdei chachamim needed parnasah so this was a great way to help them by employing them to go thru all the seforim (Derech Etz Chaim vol. 2 p. 327).

    With the help of Dr. L. Magnes, R. Herzog was able to raise funds to start this organization. Card catalogs were made and the seforim were cataloged according to topics forming the now-famous Otzar haPoskim catalogs. These catalogs are the notes culled from thousands of seforim. A look in the index of earlier volumes of the Otzar haPoskim will show that they in the fifties were going thru more volumes of seforim than the Frankel edition of the Rambam did in their recent, final volume! Interestingly, R. Isser Zalman inherited an excellent library from R. Chaim Berlin which contained thousands of rare seforim which were unknown to most people. R. Isser Zalman made sure these seforim were used and quoted in the Otzar haPoskim (Derech Etz Chaim vol. 2 p. 328). R. Isser Zalman also the one who made the decision which works would make it into Otzar haPoskim and which would not. To date this catalog has helped many seforim such as the many volumes of Mo’adim l’Simcha.

    Otzar haPoskim’s main work has been the Otzar haPoskim on Even haEzer. Anyone needing sources on topics relating to Even haEzer; this has a tremendous amount of sources. One interesting point about this work is that one finds all kinds of Rabbonim getting along – quoted side by side. A few years ago they mentioned that the volumes of Otzar haPoskim on Orach Chaim are in preparation one only hopes that they will come thru to create such an important necessary work on Orach chaim [This is actually available on the Morgenstern, Otzrot haTorah, hard drive as well as on the Otzar haPoskim on Hoshen Mishpat.]

    Recently they have expanded their repertoire to include the publication of Rishonim such as the Machzor Vitri and, now, the Sefer Chasidim.

    The Sefer Chasidim has been reprinted many times ever since it was first printed in Bologna in 1538. R. Saadia Helvona in his introduction to his commentary on the Sefer Chasidim, Mishnat Chasidim, notes that the Sefer Chasidim is encyclopedic in nature as it includes both halacha and aggadah. The Sefer Chasidim is extremely popular and it is quoted by many rishonim and achronim for all kinds of things. Aside from quotations, there seems to be a certain awe about it which is hard to explain especially when it comes to the tzavah (the ethical will) which was printed in many of the editions (first printed in Yesod haTeshuva, Cracow, 1585).

    The tzavah itself is the subject of many teshuvot and even some entire seforim. Without going into the whole history of this topic (which R Gutman promises us will be one of the forthcoming volumes) its worth mentioning aside from the well-known teshuva in the Nodah beYehudah (Even haEzer Tinyanah no. 79), where he writes that there are many things in the tzavah which conflict with Chazal and those statements do not need to be followed. There is an additional, lesser known statement from the Noda BeYehudah about the tzavah. R Eleazer Fleckels (most well know for his Teshuvah m’Ahahva), in his Olat haChodesh (vol. 1 p.15) records that the Nodah beYehudah would respond when asked if there is a problem marrying someone if that will cause the future father-in- law and future son-in-law will share the same name (which the tzavah states is a problem) “before you ask me about following the tzavah of R. Yehudah haChasid ask me about the tzavah (or statement) of Chazal which decries marrying the daughter of a am ha’aretz! [This sentiment, however, is disputed in the Teshuvos Matzav haYashar (volume 2 pg 44) where he writes “in his old age that whenever he saw people going against various statements in the tzavah nothing good ever came from it!]

    The true authorship of the Sefer Chasidim is unclear. Some attribute it to R. Yehudah haChasid (Chida and others) but R Avrohm ben haGra records that his father, the Gra, held R. Eleazer Rokeach wrote it (Yeshurun, vol. 4 p. 250). R Frumkin also records this statement from the Gra– R. Frumkin’s source is a manuscript of R. Yisrael of Shklov’s Pas haShulchan (Toldos Chachmei Yerushalim, vol. 2 p. 102 the end of note 1; see also Chaim Michal, Or haChaim p. 456). Abraham Epstein writes that the Sefer Chasidim doesn’t have a single author but instead it is from three different people – R Shmuel haChassid, his son R Yehudah haChasid, and R. Eleazer Rokeach (Kitvei R. Avrohom Epstein, vol. 1 pp. 258-261). R. Gutman in the introduction to his new edition of the Sefer Chasidim brings many other different sources in regard to the authorship of this sefer. Recently Professor Haym Soloveitchik shows in a beautiful article based on Yakov Reifman that not only are is the work of different authors but there are completely different styles and what one writes completely contradicts what the other does. (JQR XCII no. 3-4 pp. 455-493).

    Many manuscripts exist of the Sefer Chasidim , however, from the 1538 until 1891 there was basically one version printed based on only one of the manuscripts. In 1891, Yehudah Wistinetzki printed a new edited from another manuscript - the Parma manuscript - published by Chevra Mekitsei Nerdamim.

    This Parma manuscript contains a almost double the material of the original edition. Aside from just adding material, the Parma edition is also important for the different versions of the previously published pieces. This edition was recently reprinted by Moznaim publishing house but without the important introduction of Y. Frieman. However, the Kest Leibowitz publishers also recently reprinted this edition and they reprinted the whole sefer including the introduction. Interestingly although the footnotes which appear in this edition are not that extensive as some of the prior editions, there are important notes on this edition albeit they don’t appear in the actual work. Instead, Wistinetzki, prior to printing this edition sent about fifty questions to R. Yosef Zechariah Stern in an attempt to locate sources for different statements of the Sefer Chasidim and the answers are included in R. Stern’s Zecher Yehosef (vol. 1 no. 78).

    In 1955, Rabbi Avrahom Price from Toronto with the permission of Mekitsei Nerdamim reprinted the Parma edition in three massive volumes with extensive footnotes. But, one thing which R. Price stays clear from – which he admits in his introduction – is the kabalah aspects of the Sefer Chasidim as he was not familiar with this part of torah. These three volumes are available for free download at seforim online at

    In 1924, R. Reuven Margolis first published in Lemberg, what would become the most popular version of the Sefer Chasidim, in a critical edition . Subsequently, this was corrected and updated and eventually published by Mossad HaRav Kook. This edition to date is the best job done on the Sefer Chasidim. He has excellent notes, as many are familiar with from his many seforim - he writes straight to the point referencing all kinds of sources from everywhere – showing the sources which form the basis of the Sefer Chasidim. He also shows, with his unbelievable bikyus, whether the various authorities - rishonim and achronim - agree with the statements of the Sefer Chasidim. Besides for all this he has many excellent and original comments on the Sefer Chasidim which he is famous for in all of his works. He also includes notes from nine different people on the Sefer Chasidim. Until now, there was one other worthwhile addition to the Sefer Chasidim. In 1984, R. Moshe Herschler printed in his Kovetz Genuzot (vol. one) some thirty more pieces of the Sefer Chasidim which he found in a different manuscript.

    We now come to this most recent version published by Otzar HaPoskim and edited by R. Gutman. As mentioned above, thus far, two volumes have been issued of what is supposed to be four volumes of the Sefer Chasidim. The first impression one has when one picks it up is this is a beautiful job as the print is very clear and the layout it very organized. This is keeping with the famous statement of R Akiva Eiger where he writes to his sons in the introduction of his teshuvot that “one should print his sefer on nice paper and ink because one learns much better from such a sefer”. Although this statement is attributed to R. Eiger, in fact, this idea is found much earlier in the famous introduction to the Maeseh Efod (p. 13) of where he writes this concept at great length it’s quoted by R Yakov Emden in his work Migdal Oz (p.50 ) in short.

    Prior editions of the Sefer Chasidim included the perush of the Chida, Bris Olam, but it seems that many pieces were missing. R Gutman corrects these omissions. In addition to those corrections to that commentary, another common commentary Pirish Kadmon by R. Dovid Greinheit also suffered from lack of completeness and R. Gutman has correct that as well. Besides for all this R. Gutman includes a collection of comments of R Eliezer Papua from his Yalkut Chasidim that relate to the Sefer Chasidim and the Perush Mishnat Chasidim from R Sadiah Chalonah (it is only on the first seven simanim in the sefer).

    Rabbi Guttman includes many notes (totaling twenty-nine) from different gedolim on the Sefer Chasidim many of them which he obtained from unpublished manuscripts amongst them from the Adres and R. Y. Palagai. In the back of volume two he includes a sixty page kuntres of notes from R. Chaim Sofer who is famous for his incredible bikyus. In addition to all this he has many lengthy comments on the whole sefer from a wide rang of sources to explain the Sefer Chasidim. He also has a section on each page where he brings down various readings from the different manuscripts on the particular pieces.

    All the above are the positive things about this reprint, unfortunately, there are notable points of criticism. It is true its is always easier to criticize than to the actual work oneself but here are some points I feel worthy of mentioning.

    To begin with the entire history and literature of the Chasidei Ashkenaz in general have been the subject of many articles and books. However, even today after all that has been published there is much left unclear. Just to list a few of the people who were and are involved in the study of the Chasidei Ashkenaz, Moritz Gudemann (haTorah v’Hahayim, vol. 1, pp. 119-156), A. Epstein (vol. 1 pp. 245-269), Y Y Frieman (introduction to Sefer Chasidim Meketzei Nerdamim ed.), Gershom Scholem, Y Baer, Ivan Marcus (all in Da’as v’Chevrah b’Mishnat Chasidei Ashkenaz), E. E. Aurbach (Balei haTosfos, vol. 1, pp. 345- 447 and volume four of his edition of Arugot haBosem), Yisroel Ta Shema (Keneses Mechkarim, vol. 1 pp. 181-317), E. Kanarfogel (Peering thru the Lattices), Yosef Dan (in his recent book on R. Yehudah haChasid published by Zalman Shazar), Eric Zimmer, Simcha Emanuel (in his introduction to the recently published Drasha of Rokeach) and Haym Soloveitchik (AJS Review vol. 1 (1976) pp. 311- 357).

    Some of what has been found in these manuscripts has been the subject of great controversy causing great people to claim these manuscripts must be forgeries (see Kovetz Minchas haKayitz vol. 6 pp. 251-252). But besides for this there has been a great many manuscripts found in the past twenty-five years and printed such as the Rokeach al haTorah and Megilos or the Rokeach’s work on siddur and many other of his works, R. Efraim al haTorah. Other works by the Chasidei Ashkenaz have been put out in critical editions such as the Sefer Gematriyos of R. Yehudah haChasid and the Amaoros Tehoros (which I hope to return to in later posts) all containing many important explanations about all sorts of topics from the Chasidei Ashkenaz.

    To date there is no way to many unknowns (for me at least) to even paint a brief picture of this group of rishonim but one hopes with the help of the recent seforim printed and what will be printed in the future we will be able to get a clearer understanding of these great rishonim. Being aware of the explosion in this genre of literature, any version of the Sefer Chasidim should keep this companion literature in mind and should take it in account as much of the printed torah of the Chasidei Ashkenaz as it relates to this most famous work, Sefer Chasidim, of this school.

    Now R. Gutman seemed to be aware of this and he does use some of these new seforim. For example, he quotes the Sefer Gematriyos many times however the rest of this no mention to the many other recent seforim of Chasidei Ashkenaz. [For a comparison see the recent edition of the Sefer Gematriyos where the footnotes are full of such cross-references (although he might of done to much).] The purpose of referencing the other literature of the Chasidei Ashkenaz is many times they can help understand certain comments if one can see all the ways similar ideas are brought down by the different talmdim. In learning Gemara with rishonim this is very important to help one understand the particular shitos and so to here.

    For example, the Sefer Chasidim (siman 548) writes if one wants to see if he will live the year light a candle during assert yemih teshuvah if it remains lit you will live the year if not, not. On this R. Gutman references nothing. Where as without going much into this topic I will just give a reference to the Sefer Hashem of the Rokeach (recently printed from manuscript for the first time) where he talks about this (p.140) which complements the statement found in the Sefer Chasidim.

    I feel this is a very important part to anyone writing on the Sefer Chasidim and R. Gutman should have put in more work in regard to this part. If he could not do it himself because he is not trained in this sort of work he should of gotten people who are familiar with such this field. R. Reuven Margolis who did know how to do this in general unfortunately could not do this as most of these seforim of Chasidei Ashkenaz were not available in his lifetime.

    Another point that I would like to highlight is the many times R. Gutman cites to the Sefer Gematriyos he almost never references the exact page (see, e.g, pp. 23, 35, 39) in the Sefer Gematriyos making it very hard to find the piece he is quoting as it’s a massive two volume work. The same failing is apparent when R. Gutman quotes from the Sefer Amoros Tehoros (p. 23) or when R. Gutman cites the Sefer Hashem of the Rokeach (p. 429).

    A more glaring omission is when Sefer Chasidim (p. 424) discusses the weird creature called שטריאה R. Gutman references the Sefer Gematriyos again not quoting the page and then R. Gutman writes ובסוף המאמר נשים הליליות ברושאם הנ"ל כתב which is an unintelligible citation. What R. Gutman means to say is that R. Stal in the back of his edition to the Sefer Gematriyos has a whole chapter devoted to this topic, however, this is totally unclear to the reader. Aside from the cryptic citation R. Gutman should have mentioned this is a comprehensive article on the topic.

    Another point I would like to criticize is the use or lack thereof of R. Reuven Margolis edition. As I have mentioned earlier the Margolis edition is the best work to date on the Sefer Chasidim. It’s quite interesting that there is not a single mention of R. Margolis’s name in the introduction mentioning that R. Gutman used this work. However, it is obvious from hundreds of places throughout this Gutman’s edition that in fact he did use this edition.

    What is perhaps even stranger is the many times that R. Gutman says nothing on a very important point and R. Margolis has already discussed it in depth. Some examples are on page 180 -181 where the Sefer Chasidim (siman 158) writes against tefilah בקול רם and the Margolis edition references the famous collection on this topic called Yanenu B’kol there is no reason why R. Gutman could not mention this. Another example is on page 172 where the Sefer Chasidim (siman 155) has a long discussion about stealing torah from someone so R Gutman has a lengthy note of sources about this but once he is on the topic one should quote the Sefer Shem Olem of R. Margolis where he discusses this topic at great length. This omission is even more bizarre as later on R. Gutman does cite this work (p. 744).

    One more example is on page 274 the Sefer Chasidim (siman 258) ויום כיפור קרוי כמו כן ראשית דכתיב ביחזקאל בעשרים וחמש שנה לגלותינו בראש השנה בעשור לחדש אלמא בעשור קרוי ראש השנה on this R Margolis references a comment of his from other places (see his Toldos haMahrsha p. 51 and the notes therein and his Nitzozei Or p. 158) proving that sometimes it says Rosh Hashanah and it refers to Yom Kippur affirming the statement in the Sefer Chasidim –again no mention at all on this by R. Gutman. Another such example is where the Sefer Chasidim (siman 822) talks about wiping ones feet off before entering a shul in the R. Margolis edition there are many sources on this topic. But, again R. Gutman mentions nothing about this custom.

    Another example is where the Sefer Chasidim (Siman 858) talks about saving seforim from a fire on Shabbos again R. Gutman does not quote the excellent reference of R. Margolis citing in turn the Adres who says that if one has manuscripts of his own that he worked hard on he may save them from the fire first because it’s like pikuach nefesh! Throughout R. Gutman’s edition there are many such examples. Perhaps R. Gutman assumed what whomever purchases his edition already has R. Reuven Margolis edition and R. Gutman was merely adding to that. Even so, he should mention it in the introduction.

    Another deficiency in this edition is R. Gutman, in the section he includes comments collecting sources etc., his style is difficult as much of what he has could have been done shorter and more to the point. Unfortunately, this is a common weakness that many authors have today as I have previously mentioned on this blog. Besides for that I feel there are many more sources that he could have added to this part making it a true encyclopedic work that it should be.

    Just to list a few examples of sources that he missed and on this there for sure is an element of lo alechu hamlacha ligmor. One where R. Gutman talks about the cherem to live in Spain (p. 394) he misses much on the topic amongst the omissions is the famous discussion of the Teruos Melech in Rosh Hashanah (siman 13 sec. 2) (for more on this see the great article of Marc B. Shapiro in Sefarad 49:2(1989) pp. 381-394).

    Another such example is both times where the Sefer Chasidim talks about stealing torah from someone (pp. 172 and 774) he could have added the piece of R. Efraim Zalman Margolis in his introduction to the edition of the Maseh Rokeach which he printed. Another such example is where the Sefer Chasidim (siman 822) talks about wiping ones feet off before entering a shul so besides for not mentioning R. Margolis’s comments at all he could of referenced to the excellent discussion in the Minhaghei haKehelos of R. Golhaber (vol 1 pp. 3-8).

    Another example is where the Sefer Chasidim (siman 158) writes against tefilah בקול רם he missed the very original discussion of the Matzevh Hayashar (volume 2 pg 28 and onwards). One last example is where the Sefer Chasidim (siman 461) discusses the topic of if something bad happens three times it is a bad sign he could of added the teshuvah of the Avnei Chefetz from R. A. Levine (siman 64). Many more examples could be given but this is not the place.

    Some minor bibliography points one on page R. Gutman records a statement from the Shach al haTorah which he attributes the Shach (p. 173). But, it is obvious he did not check into this source because the Shach did not write this sefer rather a talmid of talmid of the Ari”zal did which R. Gutman himself quotes correctly later on page 774.

    Another point is in the introduction R. Gutman speculates that based on the pieces he has included it seems that the Adres wrote an entire work on the Sefer Chasidim called Mishnat Chasidim. There is no need for speculation – this is correct – as the Adres in his autobiography (pg 33) writes “I bought a Sefer Chasidim with wide columns and I learnt it twice and I wrote a biur on it with sources … and I called it the Mishnat Chasidim.” Unfortunately, later in his autobiog

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    The Custom of Azharot on Shavous
    by R Eliezer Brodt

    The Yom tov of Shavous called Yom Matan Torahsenu as it is the day we received the Torah thousands of years ago at Har Sinai. It has many minhaghim that we do to remind us of this such as putting up grass and flowers or eating dairy dishes. Another minhag which many Jews have is to say azharot today. In this post I would like to discuss a bit of interesting bibliographic information about some specific azharot and their authors. On this topic, we will (1) discuss the numbering of the mitzvos in general; (2) next the meaning of azharot; (3) those who took exception to reciting the azharot; and (4) specifically which azharot are frowned upon.

    In order to understand this topic a small introduction is needed. According to most opinions Jews are commanded to follow 613 mitzvos from the Torah. While 613 the most common number used, it is actually disputed by a few people. R Yeruchem Fischel Perlow records that R Yonah Ibn Ganach questioned the number. A little later than R. Ibn Ganach, we find that the Ibn Ezra questions this number and does so at great length in his Yesod Moreh, Shar Shenei (pg 91 and onwards). After that we find that the famous kabbalist R. Yosef Gikatilla, says (in his K'lalei Hamitzvos Erech Manah) that it’s impossible to give a number to the mitzvos. The Ramban also questions this number at length in the beginning of his work on the mitzvos. Gersonides (RaLBaG) in his commentary on shmos also questions the number (pg 76 Mossad Harav Kook edition). If we now skip a few hundred years, there is an interesting statement, attributed to the Gra, recorded by his brother R Avrohom at the beginning of his work Ma’alos haTorah where he has the Gra saying that the 613 is only the shoroshim (see there at length and the menucha vekedusha pg 20). R Shlomo Zalman Auerbach writes that this is the reason why we do not find that the Gra wrote on this area although he wrote on every other area of torah (Halichos Shlomo, Shavous, pg 374) due to its unending nature.

    Aside from the above opinions, the 613 number has been accepted by most. After one agrees on a final number, the next question is commandments are included in this number. There was two main groups of numbers counters - the BaHaG who gave one listing of the 613 mitzvos and for a few hundred years this was the accepted method of counting the commandments. Then along came the Rambam with many arguments on the BaHaG’s method of counting which he devotes his introduction to his Sefer haMitzvos where he explains why he why he argued against the other shitos and counted the ones he did. Afterwards a whole collection of literature has been written on this topic from many rishonim and achronim.

    Besides for the actual count of the mitzvos, there were many composers in the era of the Geonim and Rishonim who composed poems (piyyutim) counting the mitzvos some of these poems are known as azharot.

    First, what is the meaning of the word Azharot? Professor Ezra Fleischer writes (Shirat Hakodesh Haivrit B'yemi Habenyayimm pg 73) that it’s not clear from where did the name אזהרת come from, it appears to be the opening sentence of a piyyut now lost. Others point out that אזהרת is the gematriah of 613. Moritz Steinschneider writes (Jewish Literature pg 159) that these piyyutim were based on halachic subjects which instruction was to be given on the Shabbos before the Yom tovim therefore they were called azharot meaning instructions. There are also azharot said on Shabboas Hagodal. A sample of one from R Klonomius can be found in the Shomer Zion Haneman (issue 95-97 year תרטו) (see also Davidsin Otzar Hashira Vhapiyyut vol 2 # 1042). Professor Ezra Fleischer also writes (Shirat Hakodesh Haivrit B'yemi Habenyayimm pg 384) that others such as R Yehudah Halevi wrote azharot for Pesach.

    Zunz says the earliest azharot we have are from the end of Eighth century called אתה הנחלת (see also Otzar Haseforim from Ben Yakov pg 33). Amongst the other early ones we have are from R Saddiah Goan, R Binyomin ben Shmuel, R Eliyha haZaken R Shlomo Ibn Gabriel and R. Yitchack Albargeloni.

    The Chida in Shem Hagedolim says that the recitation of azharot on Shavous, is done by most Jews. Much earlier we find in the Tzeda laDerach (mamar 4 klal 4 perek 6) that in Spain they said from R Shlomo Ibn Gabriel’s and in Ashkenaz and France they said the one from R. Eliyahu Hazakan The Abudrham (p. 246) also brings that they said from R Shlomo Ibn Gabriel. Even earlier we find both the Siddur Rav Amram Goan (Goldshmidt edition pg 131) and R Saddiah Goan (pg 156 and onwards) also discuss when exactly azharot were said during mussaf. R Saadiah Goan went even further he writes that he saw that everyone says during mussaf the 613 mitzvos from a piyyut called אתה הנחלתה (the earliest known azharot) but saw that it was missing a bunch of mitzvos so he composed a completely new version including all the mitzvos. One of the versions he composed was showing the 613 mitzvos in the asres hadebros (see the article of R Shmual Askenazi in Kovetz Beis Aaron V'yisroel 1991 issue 5 pg 109-114).

    The Shelah, Sedar Hayom, and Chida bring that there were those that said the azharot of R Shlomo Ibn Gabriel when they stayed up Shavous night (See Shorshei Minhag Ashkenaz Vol 3 pg 296-298).

    The reason for saying the azharot on Shavous suggests Profesor Frankel is perhaps based on a medrash which says that at matan torah the Jews were told after every mitzvah do you accept it with all its applications and after each one they said yes so it could be on shavous the day we got the torah we do this as its like a review of what happened than (Goldshmidt Machzaor Pg 11).

    Aside from all the above, not everyone was so enamored with azharot. Two people specifically – Ibn Ezra and the Rambam – were against at least some azharot.

    The Ibn Ezra writes in his Yesod Moreh (Bar Ilan 2002 pg 107) “that the authors of azharot are like people who count the blades of grass mentioned in the medical books not realizing the purpose of each one thus these people count the same thing twice because its mentioned twice.” The Rambam writes in his introduction to Sefer haMitzvos while talking about the different minyan hamitzvos that “there are many azharot from Spain and you can not blame them for making mistakes as they were composers not Rabanim.”

    It is possible that the Rambam’s opinion was influenced by Ibn Ezra. In the Rambam’s last will and testament, he spoke highly of Ibn Ezra and recommended his son R. Abraham study Ibn Ezra. (See the Koreh haDoros pg 19 and R Emanuel Abuhav in his Bemavak Al Archa Shel Torah pg 247). But, using this source would be a mistake. As was already noted by the Mahrshal who questions whether in fact the will attributed to the Rambam is in fact from the Rambam. Similarly, R Yakov Emden in his Mitpachas Seforim (pgs 101-02) also writes that it must be a forgery. Today, Yitchzach Shilat, has demonstrated conclusively that in fact the will, attributed to the Rambam is a forgery. (Iggros Harambam vol 2 pg 697-698; see also G Scholem in Mechkeria Kabblah Vol 1 pg 190). While the will may not be real, this is still some evidence that the Rambam was influenced by the Ibn Ezra’s work Yesod Moreh in general (see R Yeruchem Fischel Perlow in his introduction to his work on R Saddaih Goan pg 15).

    Setting aside where the Rambam got this anti-azharot idea, the next issue is which azharot were the Rambam and Ibn Ezra disapproving of?

    R Chaim Heller in his notes (#34) on the Sefer Hamitzvos references a teshuva written by the Radbaz (vol. 3 siman 645) where the Radbaz writes that the Rambam is referring to Reb Shlomo Ibn Gabriel. R Y. Kapach also writes the Rambam is referring to R Shlomo Ibn Gabriel and R Yitzchack Albargeloni. The Sefer HaYechsin (pg 219) also assumes the Rambam was referring to both R Shlomo Ibn Gabriel and R Yitzchack Albargeloni. The Koreh Hadoros when quoting the Rambam’s above statement about the azharot takes this attribution one step further where the Koreh Hadoros just includes in the quote from the Rambam R. Shlomo Ibn Gabriel and R Yitzchack Albargeloni making it appear as if the Rambam says these names specifically. Landshuth, in his Amudei Avodah also assumes the Rambam is referring to R Shlomo Ibn Gabriel (pg 313).

    The attribution to R. Shlomo Ibn Gabriel is problematic, mainly because it seems both him and his piyyutim where highly regarded. Although the Tashbatz already writes in his Zohar Harokea (a commentary on azharot of R Shlomo Ibn Gabriel) that this composer was not a great expert in Talmud; most others dispute this characterization. The Rogachaver Goan in his notes (see also Tiferes Zvi on the Zohar Vol 1 pg 189) on the Tashbatz writes that it’s a chutzpah to write such a thing on this amazing composer! [In a joking manner I wanted to suggest its strange that the Rogatchver would stick up for a a rishon as its well known he argued on Rishonim all the time so I wanted to suggest that he wanted to defend R Shlomo Ibn Gabriel so that he would be able to argue on the Tashbatz.]

    But one thing we see from this for certain is that the Rogatchver held he was a great Talmud Chacham. Further more there is a different teshuvah (vol 3 siman 532) from the Radvaz where he writes that R. Shlomo Ibn Gabriel was a great person and Ibn Gabriel’s words are holy! This would seem to contradict the previously quoted words of the Radbaz. R. Matsyahu Strashun (Mivchar Kesavim Pg 116-118) suggests because of this apparent contradiction and some others that the Radbaz lived a very long life of 110 years and he wrote over 2000 teshuvot so its possible that over this great length of time he forgot his own earlier words.

    R. Shlomo Ibn Gabriel’s contemporaries also held him in high regard. The Ravad (Sefer Hakablah pg 81) Meiri (Sefer Hakablah, Ofek ed., pg 136) Avudraham and Yechsin all call him a great chacham. In one place the Sefer haYeuchsin writes that לא קם כמוהו לפניו ואחריו. The Chida also writes that it can not be that the Rambam was referring to R Shlomo ibn Gabriel. R Yeruchem Fischel Perlow in his work on the Sefer haMitzvos of the Rasag he calls R Shlomo Ibn Gabriel a Godal. The Yechsin writes (and from there the Tzemach Dovid and Koreh Hadoros) that he was the rebbi of Rashi! However R Shmuel Askenazi already points out that the years are impossible because Rashi was ten years old living in France when R Shlomo Ibn Gabriel died in Spain (see his notes to the Kav Hayashar pg 20).

    The Kav Hayashar writes that R Shlomo Ibn Gabriel was a great mekubal. The Sefer Metzref Lechochma even (pg 9b) brings that he created a woman golem! (see M Idel, Golem pg 200 and 343) This story shows he was familiar with kabblah maseyois.

    There is a famous story brought down by many people [Shalsheles Hakablah (pg 89) Yesod Yosef (perek 87) Kav Hayashar (perek 86) Sefer Zechirah (pg 243) others bring down this story with R Shlomo Alkabetz see Amodei Ha'avodah pg 310.] in regard to R. Shlomo Ibn Gabriel’s death. A non-Jew was jealous of Ibn Gabriel’s wisdom so he killed him burying him under his fig tree. In time, the tree started bearing excellent figs, so great were these figs, that the king heard about it. The king wanted to know what his trick to get such good figs. The fig tree owner obviously did not want to reveal his secret. The king was not satisfied and had the fig tree owner tortured. The fig tree owner eventually confessed that he killed a Jew and buried him there. The king had the fig tree owner killed.
    The Kav Hayashar and others use the above story to demonstrate the authors of our piyyutim were great people so we should be say them having the authors name in mind and that his merits should help us. However R. Shmuel Ashkenazi has already pointed out based on the Sefer Tachmoni that this story is not true and instead, R. Shlomo Ibn Gabriel died at the age of twenty nine from a harsh sickness in 1040 (see his notes to the Kav Hayashar pg 19 not the date 1070 given by the Sefer Yuchsin and Zinberg Toldos Hasafros B'yisroel vol 1 pg 72 For more on his sickness see Chaim Shirman in Toldos Hashira Haivrit b'Sefard Hamuslamit pg 265-268).

    Abraham Haberman brings down in his Toldos Hapiyyut V'haShira (vol 1 pg 179) a legend from a Temani manuscript that describes the story behind R Shlomo Ibn Gabriel writing of his azharot. R Shlomo Ibn Gabriel was learning in a Yeshivia where the Rebbe had a daughter of marriageable age. The Rebbi said who ever gives me a new fruit can marry her. That night R Shlomo Ibn Gabriel wrote the azharot gave it to the Rebbe and the Rebbe announced the engagement. They got married eruv Shavous!

    Another piyyut which R Shlomo Ibn Gabriel is famous for is Keter Malchus which in nusach Sefard machzorim it was said on Yom Kippur at night others say it during the day (see I. Davidson, Otzar Hashira Vehapiyyut # 581). Many people discuss how there are many kabblastic concepts in this piyyut (see Chaim Shirman, Toldos Hashira Hivrit B'sefard Hamuslmit pg 331-345).

    Besides for composing songs R Shlomo Ibn Gabriel authored a few seforim one called Tikin Midos Hanefesh others attribute to him the Mivchar Pinenim. However besides for this he authored another sefer which was a classic in philosophy called Mekor Chaim. An interesting thing happened with it it was translated to Latin called Fons Vitae and it became a world classic but the authors name was written as Avicebron and know one knew that a Jew was the real author. In 1846, S Munk figured out that it’s really from R Shlomo Ibn Gabriel and he printed it. Eventually it was printed in Hebrew. There has been much written on this sefer to show that R Shlomo Ibn Gabriel was familiar with kabblah (see G. Scholem, Mechkeria Kabblah Vol 1 pg 39-66).

    [For more on R Shlomo Ibn Gabriel see Elbogen, Hatefilah B'yisroel pg 258-259: Zinberg in Toldos Safrus B'yisroel vol 1 pg 34-73: A Haberman Toldos Hapiyyut Vehashira vol 1 pg 175-180: Chaim Shirman in Toldos Hashira Hivrit bsefard hamuslmit pg 257-345.]

    From all this, it is clear that neither the Rambam or Ibn Ezra were referring to Ibn Gabriel, so we now turn to another candidate - R Yitzchack Albargeloni. R. Albargeloni lived in the era of the Rif and Ravad. The Sefer Hakabalah also says that R. Albargeloni was a great talmid chacham who wrote works on Kesuvos and Eruvin. The Meiri in Sefer HaKabbalah also (pg 134) writes that he was a great chacham. These works of his on kesuvos and eruvin were lost however Profesor Ta-Shma has found some pieces of his in other works of Rishonim (See his Hasafrut Haparshnut Le'talmud volume 1 pg 168-169). Besides for this he also translated the sefer Mekeach umemkar of Rav Hai Goan from Arabic to Hebrew when he was thirty five years old (see amudei havodah pg 126 and Or hachaim Chaim Michael pg 510). Thus the Chida writes the Rambam was not referring to R Yitzchack Albargeloni.

    Another early composer of azharot which was recently found active before R Shlomo Ibn Gabriel and R Yitzchack Albargeloni was from R Binyomin Ben Shmuel. Professor Ezra Fleischer printed them in kovetz al yad (vol 11 pg 1-77) R Binyomin lived according to Zunz before Rashi in the first half of the eleventh century. According to some he was the brother of R Yosef Tov Elem. [For more on this Rishon see Fleischer in his extensive intro to his work and Professor A Grossman in Chachmei Tzarfat Harishonim pg 47-51.]

    Another early composer of azharot – before R Shlomo Ibn Gabriel was R Eliyayhu Hazakon his azharot are quoted in Tosafot throughout shas and by many other Rishonim so its highly unlikely that the Ibn Ezra and Rambam were referring to him. The Marshal (shut siman 29) and Chida write that he was the brother in law of Rav Hai Goan but recent historians show that he might have been mistaken and he was a bit later than that See Prof A Grossman in Chachmei Tzarfat Harishonim pg 88-90 . [For a listing of the rishonim who bring him down see Amudei Avodah pg 14-15: Chaim Michael, Or Hachaim pg 180: Davidson, Otzar Hashira Vehapiyyut vol 1 #6022 and the introduction of the Mezack Azharot by R Yisroel Shaprio.] Professor A Grossman discusses his life and works at great length in his work Chachmei Tzarfat Harishonim pg 84-107.

    Many commentaries were written on these different azharot by Rishonim and Achronhim. On the azharot of R Saadiah Goan we have the excellent encyclopedic work of R Yeruchem Fischel Perlow where he basically has and average of ten pages per every word of R Saadiah Goan he also discusses all the other opinions of the geonim and rishonim on the relevant topics. On the azharot of R Yitzchack Albargeloni we have the commentary Nesiv Mitzvosecha from R Shaul Hakohen from Gerba (he also wrote on the azharot of R Shlomo Ibn Gabriel.) On R Eliyhau Hazakan we have an early in depth commentary from him printed in the Kovetz al Yad (vol 11 part 1) from E Kuffer from some talmidim of talmidi Rabenu Tam. In 1900, R Mordechaei Slutski printed a pirish called Hiddur Zakon. This work has haskamas from the Meshech Chochma and Minchas Borouch. In 1972 R Yisroel Issur Shaprio (son of R Refael Shaprio) wrote an excellent in depth work called Matzack Azharot where he has a lengthy commentary on every word of R Eliyahu Hazakan. In 2001, Yitzhach Meiseles put out a complete critical edition of these azharot.

    On the azharot of R shlomo Ibn Gabriel we have many works amongst them the Tashbatz's Zohar Ha'rokeah. The Zohar Ha'rokeah has its own recent extensive edition from R A David including many useful footnotes and the notes of the Shoel U'mashiv, Rogatchver, R Yeruchem Fischel Perlow and R Menachem Kasher. A while back in a sinai a few pieces of the Adres's notes were printed on the azharot of R Shlomo Ibn Gabriel.

    Another person who we find wrote a commentary on the azharot of אזהרת ראשית was R Shmuel Chassid the father of R Yehudah Hachassid but they are only in manuscript as of now (see E E Aurbach ed., Arugot Habosem vol 4 pg 89 ) For a complete history of R Shmuel Hachassid see the article from Abraham Epstein in his Ketvim vol 1 pg 247-268.

    So at least these few authors can not be the ones the Ibn Ezra and Rambam were referring to. So the Chida writes it must be they were referring to the many other composers of azharot. It is clear that this is the case as the Ramban writes in the beginning of his notes on the Rambam shorshim that there were many piyyutim and azharots written of the mitzvos.

    General sources see: Chida in Shem Hagedolim Erech Azharot: Elbogen, Hatefilah b'yisroel pg 163: Extensive introduction of Prof. Yonah Frankel in the Goldshmidt Machzor on Shavous pg 11-14 and pgs 36-48: Introduction of R. A. David to his Zohar Harokeah.

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    R. Brodt has already discussed the custom of azharot on Shavous, I wanted to discuss another Shavous custom – akdamut. Akdamut is the poem in Aramaic which is said around the time of the reading of the Torah on the first day of Shavuot.

    This poem, composed by R. Meir ben Isaac who lived in Worms in the 11th century. He was also know as R. Meir Sha”tz (Shiliach Tzibor). The poem itself describes what happens in heaven when the angels sing their praises to god as well as god’s relationship with the Jewish people. The earliest source which records the custom to say akdamut is R. Ya’akov Molin (MaHRiL). The custom is then mentioned in most of the traditional codifiers of Ashkenazic custom.

    The placement of akdamut is the subject of some controversy. According to the earliest sources which record the custom, they place the recitation of akdamut after the first passuk is read from the Torah. This was the accepted custom for many years. In the 17th century some began to question the propriety of interrupting the Torah reading with this poem. This controversy was brought to head in Venice where there were both Ashkenazim and Sefardim. As the Sefardim did not say akdamut at all, they found it highly questionable whether one can insert such a late poem in the middle of the Torah reading. This became a large controversy in Venice. The question was raised about the propriety of Ashkenazi customs in general and whether the Sefardic majority (in Vencie) could pass judgment on customs which they do not follow.

    R. Ephraim HaKohen was asked a host of questions related to this controversy. First, can a Sefardic court decide about the propriety of an Ashkenazic custom, or are they considered “suspect” as they do not follow that custom? Second, is the custom of akdamut correct – to read it after the first passuk? And, finally, what is the effect of Sefardic customs vis-à-vis Ashkenazic ones when one group is in the majority?
    He responded that first, there is no issue of a Sefardic court deciding on the customs of Ashkenazim. But, he explained that although in Venice the majority is comprised of Sefardim, that fact alone does not affect the Ashkenazic custom – as majority is not decided by a raw majority of people, but rather, a majority of people who follow a particular custom. Thus, you would look only at the Ashkenazic community to decide this issue based on majority. Or as he puts it “the majority of Sefardim is nothing when it comes to Ashkenazim.”

    Finally, he discusses whether it is correct to pause and recite akdamut during the Torah reading. He explains that this is a correct custom, in part, because those who decided to do this to begin with were obviously aware of this issue and decided to do so anyways. He concludes that as this is a well-established custom it should remain in effect.

    While R. Ephraim HaKohen spent a considerable amount of time justifying this practice (it is a very long responsa), his descendant R. Ya’akov Emden felt, irrespective of his great-grandfather, that it was wrong to interrupt the Torah reading. In his siddur, R. Emden takes issue, recognizing that although his great-grandfather justified the practice, there can in fact be no justification. The only proper place is prior to the start of the entire Torah reading – but one can not interrupt the Torah reading for akdamut. R. Emden argues that R. Ephraim’s assumption that the ones who instituted akdamut also knew about this problem, is meaningless. R. Emden explains that the early Ashkenazim had no problem interrupting in all sorts of instances for piyyutim, thus it is unsurprising to find they did it again here. But, R. Emden, says when it is no longer acceptable to recite many piyyutim there can be no justification for reciting akdamut during the Torah reading.

    A similar stance to that of R. Emden is found in R. David ben Shmuel haLevi’s work – Turei Zehav or TaZ. He also complains about interrupting the Torah reading with this piyyut.

    Based himself upon the same concerns as R. Emden and the TaZ, R. Aryeh Gunzberg (Sha'agas Aryeh) when he took the Chief Rabbi position of Metz argued that the community should change their custom from reciting akdamut after the first passuk and move it before the Torah reading. The community, however, would have none of that and refused to agree to the change. The Sha'gas Aryeh then threatened to leave Metz. In the end, the "compromise" was the Sha'agas Aryeh only came to the main Shul four times a year to give a derasha in protest of the community keeping their custom of akdamut.

    Although one may justify the practice, as R. Ephraim HaKohen did, based upon the notion this is an established custom, the ultimate question is why was this established in the Torah reading at all? In the journal Ve’Laket Yosef, an interesting explanation is offered. Akdamut is in Aramaic, and it was the custom to have a translator during the Torah reading. This translation was done into Aramaic. There are two rather estoric readings – the Torah reading of the first day of Shavuot and the haftorah of the second day of Shavuot. Perhaps, prior to attempting to translate these difficult readings, the translator offered a justification and request from the congregation to allow him to translate this. Akdamut was the translators introduction – thus as his first time he would translate would be after the first verse – his introduction, and akdamut is after the first verse.

    Setting aside when one is supposed to say akdamut, who was R. Meir the author? R. Meir lived in Worms, but the custom in Worms was not to say akdamut. This is a bit strange as one would assume the author’s home town would say his piyyut. R. Yehuda Leib Kirchheim, one of the recorders of Worm’s custom and history, says that once someone read akdamut in a beautiful fashion, and with a tremendous amount of concentration and right after he finished – he died. Thus, they stopped saying akdamut in Worms. However, R. Kirchheim, argues that this can not be the reason akdamut is not said as this would only prove how great akdamut is, it would not justify not saying it (although one could argue that it is a great piyyut, but after the person died, in Worms, they couldn’t find anyone else to recite it).

    There are all sorts of legends told about R. Meir. Although it is typically understood that R. Meir Shatz was a chazzan, there is another explanation to this name. There is a legend which has a priest challenging the Jews in Worms to a debate. This threw the Worms Jewish Community into a tizzy, they didn’t know what to do. R. Meir stood up and said someone should go to the other side of the sambatyon river. The rabbi responded, fine – you be the one to go. Well R. Meir went off, first to Israel to ask a kabbalist where the sambatyon river is and then on to the sambatyon. When he got there, sure enough, the river was impassable, except on Shabbos. Although he would have been prohibited from crossing the river on Shabbos, as he was doing so only to save the lives of those in Worms, he did so. He found someone to go back and defend the Worms community. But, R. Meir got stuck, as he no longer had a dispensation to cross the river – there was no longer any mortal danger as he had found someone, so he remained behind the sambatyon river. According to this legend, Sheliach Tzibor – or the community emissary is literal and not a chazzan.

    It is unclear where R. Meir is buried, some say in Tiberius, others place him somewhere in Europe.


    R. Ephraim HaKohen, Sha’arei Ephraim, no. 10; Va'yelaket Yosef, no. 175 (1916); Landshuth, Amudei Avodah, pp. 164-65; Jacobson, Netiv Benah, vol. 4, pp. 99-105; R. Weinstock, Sheni Asar Shevtei Yisrael, pp. 70-77; Yuspah Shames, Minhagi Worms, vol. 1 ; Grossman, Hakmei Ashkenaz, 292-96; Frankel ed., Goldschmit Shavous Machzor, pp. 28-35; T. Rabinowitz, Iyunei Halacha, vol. 2 pp. 452-67; Hamburger, Gedolei haDoros 'al Mishmar Minhag Ashkenaz, pp. 108-112.

    Also, see A. Habermann, Toldos HaPiyyut V'hashirah, vol. 2, p. 184 where he says that akdamut is in Aramaic as it is such a marvelous piyyut if it was in Hebrew (a language the angels can understand) the angels would be jealous.

    For further online sources see here, here and here.

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  • 05/31/07--08:37: Sale On Seforim Hard Drives
  • As discussed previously, there are two hard drive systems which contain thousands of seforim. Both of these will be on sale starting on Sunday June 3 for two weeks. For more information one can contact Mr. Flohr, who provided the information which appears below. Here are the sale prices:

    Otzar Hachochma - Hard Drive System
    Full version (23,000 seforim)- $1380 (reg. $1980)
    Bney Torah (21,500 seforim) - $1240 (reg. $1780)
    G'mara V'Halacha (15,800 seforim) -$930 (reg. $1320)
    Torah U'Midrash (15,800 seforim) - $930 (reg. $1320)
    Library Edition (23,000 seforim) - $950 (no search option)
    FREE shipping on all orders.

    Updates for previous owners available at 20% discount (i.e. owners of Otzar HaChochma who have not updated to the latest version can now do so during the sale and receive a discount price on the update).

    It should be noted that if someone buys any of the "smaller" versions, they can update the program whenever they wish to a "higher" version (i.e. from Bney Torah to Full, or Gmara Vhalacha to Bney Torah etc.). The price would be based on the current sale price at the time they do the update.

    There is an option for paying for the program in THREE payments.

    Otzrot HaTorah (Morgenstern) - Hard Drive System
    Full version (13,000 seforim) - $1296 (reg. $1600)
    (if payed by cash or check discount of $156, final price - $1140)
    Small version (12,000 seforim) - $990 (reg. $1200)
    (If payed by cash or check discount of $120, final price - $870)

    Morgenstern is also giving a free upgrade to the next version (version 5) which will include an additional 2,000 volumes as well as the complete Bayis Molay Seforim (Rosenberg) and will also have an update to the Otzar HaShu"t program (inc. parts of Yoreh De'ah). There is an option for paying for the program in 36 payments (three years).

    The sale for both Otzar HaChochma as well as Otzrot HaTorah is scheduled to last for TWO weeks. After the sale is over the prices will go back up so if anyone is interested NOW is the time.

    Also, readers of the Seforim Blog who mention it when purchasing will be given an EXTRA bonus.
    Thanks much.
    Moshe Flohr / Computer Maven

    Finally, both Bar Ilan and DBS have updated their respective databases and Mr. Flohr has those available as well
    Bar Ilan ver. 15 update from ver. 14 is $99.
    DBS ver. 13 update from ver. 12 is $80.
    there are prices for updating for earlier versions as well but please contact Mr. Flohr for those specifics.

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    The New Encyclopaedia Judaica: Some Preliminary Observations


    Shnayer Leiman

    1. In 1972, the first edition of the Encyclopaedia Judaica appeared in print. With 25,000 entries, it moved well beyond its distinguished predecessors, such as the Jewish Encyclopedia (New York, 1906), the Universal Jewish Encyclopedia (New York, 1939-43), and the short-lived German language Encyclopaedia Judaica (Berlin, 1928-34). Its special focus on the Holocaust and its aftermath, on the State of Israel, and on the centrality of the Jewish community in the United States, rendered it the most current and useful of all the Jewish encyclopedias. But 35 years have passed since its publication, and there was a felt need for a new version that would update many of the entries in the light of scholarly advance. Also, new entries had to be provided for all that was new in Jewish life during the past 35 years. Early in 2007, the 22-volume second edition of the Encyclopaedia Judaica appeared in print – in hard copy and electronic versions – and it was heralded as yet another milestone in the history of Jewish encyclopedias.

    2. A striking difference between the first edition of the Encyclopaedia Judaica (henceforth: EJ) and the second edition of the Encyclopaedia Judaica (henceforth: NEJ [= new Encyclopaedia Judaica]) is the almost complete lack of visual images in NEJ. Whereas EJ contained some 8000 photographs and portraits (judiciously selected from a larger pool of 25,000), NEJ has only 8 pages of photographs in the center of each volume. Thus, for example, the entry on Solomon Dubno (d. 1813) in EJ is accompanied by a striking portrait of him [reproduced below]. The portrait is lacking in NEJ. Similarly, the entry on Vilna in EJ is accompanied by some 9 photographs that make the city come to life; none appear in the NEJ entry on Vilna. The almost complete lack of visual images in NEJ is a fatal flaw that renders it the least attractive (and arguably, the least informative, for often pictures inform even more than words) of all the Jewish encyclopedias listed above in paragraph 1.

    3. One of the key selling points of NEJ is that it updates – and allegedly supersedes – the 1972 edition of EJ. In the general introduction to NEJ, we are informed that more than 2,650 new entries were incorporated into NEJ, and that over half of the original entries (in EJ) were revised and updated for NEJ. Indeed, it is a delight to see entries in NEJ for Dina Abramowicz, Zvi Ankori, Gerson Cohen, Lucy Dawidovich, Marvin Fox, Ismar Schorsch, Yosef Yerushalmi and the like – none of whom were accorded entries in EJ. But upon inspection, it turns out that many key entries that needed to be revised and updated were neither revised nor updated. And regarding the new entries, there are serious errors of commission and omission.

    Samples of entries that should have been updated, but were not, include:

    a) Abraham b. Elijah of Vilna (d. 1808). NEJ reprints EJ, apparently unaware that some 130 printed pages of Abraham b. Elijah of Vilna’s writings on Bible, Talmud, Midrash, and Jewish bibliography were published for the first time, from manuscripts, in 1998 (see Yeshurun 4[1998], pp. 123-254). EJ and NEJ list Abraham b. Elijah of Vilna’s date of birth as 1750. Recent historical studies indicate otherwise and suggest he was born in 1766 (see, e.g., Yeshurun 14 [2004], pp. 982-996). These and other post-1972 studies on Abraham b. Elijah of Vilna surely merited mention in a revised and updated entry. In this instance, NEJ does not reflect the present state of modern scholarship.

    b) Adam Ba’al Shem. NEJ reprints the EJ entry by Gershom Scholem, who – in one of the most controversial passages he ever wrote – identified the writings of the Sabbatean prophet Heshel Zoref (d. 1700) with the writings ascribed by Hasidic lore to the legendary Adam Ba’al Shem. The latter’s writings, according to Hasidic legend, formed the basis for the uniquely Hasidic teachings of R. Israel Ba’al Shem Tov. Scholars were quick to challenge Scholem’s identification during his lifetime and after his death. None are cited in the NEJ entry. An entire literature has grown around this particular issue. Much (but not all) of the relevant bibliography appeared in Y. Liebes, ed., גרשם שלום: מחקרי שבתאות, Tel Aviv, 1991, pp. 597-599. None of this appears in the NEJ entry. Once again, NEJ does not reflect the present state of modern scholarship.

    c) Chajes, Zevi Hirsch (d. 1855). NEJ reprints the EJ entry. In the intervening years, numerous studies and two major books were published on Chajes, none of which is mentioned in NEJ. Here it will suffice to mention the titles of the two books:

    Bruria Hutner David, The Dual Role of Rabbi Zvi Hirsch Chajes: Traditionalist and Maskil, Columbia University Ph.D., University Microfilms, 1971.

    Mayer Herskovicz, רבי צבי הירש חיות, Jerusalem, 1972 (reissued: Jerusalem, 2007).

    Here too, NEJ does not reflect the present state of modern scholarship.

    d) Kalmanovitch, Zelig (d. 1944). NEJ reprints the entry in EJ. The diary (mostly in Yiddish and partly in Hebrew) of this Yiddish scholar -- and victim of the Holocaust – is one of the most poignant of the Holocaust diaries. In 1977, Kalmanovitch’s son, Shalom Luria, publish an annotated Hebrew translation of the diary, together with a 50 page introduction that reveals much about Kalmanovitch that was not previously known. See Z. Kalmanovitch, יומן בגיטו וילנה, Tel Aviv, 1977, pp. 9-59. A sizeable and significant fragment of the diary, entirely in Hebrew, was discovered in the Lithuanian Central Archive in Vilna, and published in 1997. See Yivo Bleter 3(1997), pp. 43-113. None of this information appears in the NEJ entry. Regarding the Kalmanovitch entry, then, NEJ does not reflect the present state of modern scholarship.

    e) Luria, David b. Judah (d. 1855). NEJ reprints the entry in EJ. No mention is made in either EJ or NEJ that a portrait of Luria is extant (in Vilna) and has been frequently published. See, e.g., Yahadut Lita,Tel Aviv, 1967, vol. 3, p. 62. More importantly, some 230 printed pages of Luria’s hiddushim on Bible, Mishnah, the Jerusalem Talmud, and Midrash Mishle, as well as responsa, were published for the first time, from manuscripts, in 1998-9. See Yeshurun 4(1998), pp. 489-647 and 6(1999), pp. 285-359. NEJ does not reflect the present state of modern scholarship regarding this entry as well.

    4. Sins of commission are inevitable in any encyclopedia. The name of the game is to keep them at a minimum, and it is largely the responsibility of the editors to check and recheck possible misspellings, mistaken dates and facts, discrepancies, imaginary references, exaggerated claims, and the like. NEJ is not lacking in sins of commission in all of the above categories. One amusing instance will have to suffice for our purposes.

    NEJ contains two entries of interest that appear several pages apart in volume 3. The first entry is entitled: Bloch, Chaim Isaac. The second entry is entitled: Bloch, Hayyim Isaac ben Hanokh Zundel Ha-Kohen. Innocent readers will assume, as they have every right to assume, that these represent two different persons. Alas, they are one and the same person. The first entry is a new one, designed especially for NEJ. The second entry is the old one, reprinted from EJ (minus the handsome photograph [reproduced below] that accompanied the original EJ entry). There are some interesting differences between the two entries. In the first entry, the reader is informed that Rabbi Bloch was born in 1867. Several pages later, however, Rabbi Bloch aged some 3 years, as we are informed that he was born in 1864. In the first entry, we are told mostly about essays he contributed to a variety of Torah journals – though mention is made of the fact that he published books as well. None of their titles are listed. In the second entry, not a word is said about his contribution to Torah journals. Instead, the titles of all his published works are listed. In the bibliographies appended to

    the two entries, each lists an item not in the other. The primary blame here hardly rests with the authors of the entries; presumably, they performed their assigned tasks as best they knew how. It is the sloppiness of the editors that allowed for the publication of two (sometimes contradictory) entries for one and the same person. Given the premium placed on space in any encyclopedia, this is a sin of no small import.

    5. Sins of omission are inevitable in any encyclopedia. As the editors indicate in the general introduction to NEJ: “An obvious problem in the compilation of any encyclopedia is the decision as to which entries are to be included and which excluded …there is always a body of “borderline” entries which potentially could fall in either category. This problem becomes particularly sensitive when dealing with biographies of contemporaries. Which scholars receive entries and which do not? Where is the line to be drawn for rabbis or businessmen or lawyers or scientists? In some subjects, it was possible to fix objective criteria. For example when it came to U.S. Jewish communities, it was decided to include only those numbering more than 4,500.”

    One can only sympathize with the impossible task before the editors. It was a no-win situation for them; whatever their decision, they would surely be open to criticism. If nonetheless I join the chorus of critics, it is not because of “borderline” entries. My own sense is that serious sins of omission occurred throughout NEJ, and in a broad range of categories. I shall attempt to illustrate this by selecting at random 5 categories of Jewish life that were of sufficient interest to me that I was even willing to leaf through the pages of NEJ in order to see how they were treated. I am well aware that others may consider unimportant what I consider important. What follows is no more than the personal opinion of one observer. The names listed below have no independent entry in NEJ and, at best, are mentioned in passing in other, often thematic entries.

    a) Women. In the publicity relating to NEJ, it was stated openly that in earlier encyclopedias, including EJ, Jewish women were marginalized. They accounted for no more than 1.25% of the entries in EJ. This was a matter that would be rectified in NEJ. I do not know whether, in fact, this has been rectified in NEJ. But here are some omissions that seem striking to me.

    1. Adele Berlin. A noted Bible scholar in the Department of Hebrew and East Asian Languages at the University of Maryland, her published books include:

    Biblical Poetry Through Medieval Jewish Eyes; Dynamics of Biblical Parallelism; Poetics and Interpretation of Biblical Narrative; JPS Bible Commentary: Esther; Lamentations: A Commentary; Zephaniah: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary; and more.

    2. Esther Rubinstein (1883-1924). An early advocate of religious Zionism, she was a leading Hebraist, Zionist, educator, and social activist in Vilna. Her learned essays on women’s suffrage paved the way for a change in rabbinic attitudes toward this issue. She founded the first religious day school for Jewish women in Lithuania. See the entry in אנציקלופדיה של הציונות הדתית, Jerusalem, 1983, vol. 5, columns 582-585.

    3. Rivka Schatz-Uffenheimer (d. 1992) served as Edmonton Professor of Jewish Mysticism at the Hebrew University. Her many books on Kabbalah and Hasidut (e.g., Hasidism as Mysticism; The Thought of R. Moshe Hayyim Luzzatto [Hebrew]; The Messianic Idea from the Spanish Exile On [Hebrew]; R. Dov Baer of Mezhirech’s Maggid Devarav Le-Yaakov: An Annotated Edition [Hebrew] ) are landmarks in the history of Jewish mysticism.

    4. Sara Schenierer (1883-1935), educator and author, founded the first Beth Jacob school in Cracow in 1917. In 1923, she founded the first Beth Jacob teacher’s seminary, also in Cracow. By 1927, there were 87 Beth Jacob schools, with over 10,900 students, in Poland alone. The movement spread throughout Europe, and ultimately to the United States and Israel, where it continues to thrive – with well over 50,000 students – to this very day. She also spearheaded a Jewish youth movement for young girls in Poland, wrote children’s literature and plays. Her collected writings were published in 4 volumes in Hebrew in Tel Aviv, 1955-60.

    b) Rabbis.

    1. R. Shneur Kotler (1918-1982) succeeded his father, R. Aharon Kotler, as Rosh Yeshiva of the Lakewood Yeshiva. He served in that capacity from 1962 until his death. Under his watch, the Lakewood Yeshiva grew from a student body of 200 students to a student body of over 1000 students. He established a system of Kollels throughout the larger Jewish communities in the United States. He was active in Agudat Israel, Chinuch Atzma’i, Torah U-Mesorah and other educational organizations. It was largely due to his leadership that the Lakewood yeshiva and its affiliate institutions number today well over 4000 students.

    2. R. Eleazar Menachem Shach (1898-2001) was Rosh Yeshiva of the Ponevezh Yeshiva in Bnei Brak. From 1970 until his death, he was generally recognized by the Yeshiva world and by much of the Haredi world as the Gadol Ha-Dor. He was an occasional supporter of the Shas party, and was the founder of the Degel ha-Torah party. As such, he wielded enormous power in Israeli politics and the world over. He was the author of a monumental commentary on Maimonides’ Code, entitled Avi Ezri.

    3. R. Yosef Shalom Elyashiv (b. 1910) succeeded Rabbi Shach as Gadol Ha-Dor. He is, arguably, the single, most powerful figure in the Yeshiva world and in much of the Haredi world. An expert in Jewish law, he has published some 26 volumes of hiddushim on the Talmud and Shulhan Arukh, as well as collections of responsa.

    c) Academic Scholars. Two of the women listed above, Adele Berlin and Rivka Schatz-Uffenheimer, could just as easily have been listed under this rubric, with absolutely no bending of the rules. They were listed above only because of the claim that a special effort was made to include as many women as possible in the new entries for NEJ. Despite the claim, they were not accorded entries in NEJ.

    1. Gerald Blidstein holds the Miriam Martha Hubert Chair in Jewish Law at Ben-Gurion University. His publications are simply too numerous to be listed here. Suffice to say that he was awarded the Israel Prize in Jewish Thought in 2006.

    2. Menachem Cohen, Professor of Bible at Bar-Ilan University, is the head of the Mikra’ot Gedolot Ha-Keter Project – a project that is preparing for publication the Aleppo Codex and its Masorah, the Aramaic Targums, and critical editions of medieval Jewish commentaries on the Bible. Some 10 volumes have already appeared in print under his aegis. They represent the finest edition of Mikra’ot Gedolot ever produced.

    3. Yehuda Liebes holds the Gershom Scholem Chair in Kabbalah at the Hebrew University. His many publications include: Studies in the Zohar; Studies in Jewish Myth and Jewish Messianism; and Elisha’s Sin (Hebrew). His annotated versions of Scholem’s studies are indispensable for scholarly research.

    4. Haym Soloveitchik, University Professor at Yeshiva University, taught for many years at the Bernard Revel Graduate School of Yeshiva University. His published books include: Halakhah, Economics, and Communal Self Image (Hebrew); Pawnbroking in the Middle Ages (Hebrew); Wine of Non-Jews (Hebrew); Responsa as Historical Sources (Hebrew). Some of his shorter essays (e.g.

    “Three Themes in Sefer Hasidim”; “Rupture and Reconstruction”) have stimulated more discussion than books by others on the same topics. He was a recipient of the prestigious National Foundation for Jewish Culture Jewish Cultural Achievement Award in Jewish scholarship.

    5. Yaakov Sussman is a world class Talmudic scholar who was awarded the Israel Prize for Talmudic Research in 1997. His many publications on the manuscripts, editions, and the history of the publication of the Mishnah, the Jerusalem Talmud, and the Babylonian Talmud; his edition of the “Miqsat Ma’aseh Torah” fragments of the Dead Sea Scrolls; and his edition of the Rechov inscription are the point of departure for all scholarly discussion of those topics.

    d) Jewish Communities. As noted above, NEJ allows for an entry on any Jewish community in the United States with 4,500 Jewish residents or more. Thus, e.g., there is an entry on Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania which, perhaps, once had that many Jewish residents. According to the entry in NEJ, there were only 3000 Jewish residents in Wilkes-Barre in 2005. It is therefore somewhat surprising that there are no separate entries in NEJ on:

    1. Monsey, N.Y.

    2. Teaneck, N.J.

    3. Far Rockaway, N.Y.

    4. Lawrence, N.Y.

    5. Cedarhurst, N.Y.

    6. Woodmere, N.Y.

    7. Kew Gardens Hills, N.Y.

    I do not know the exact Jewish population of any of the towns listed above, but I suspect that each has at least 3000, and in all likelihood more than 4500, Jewish residents. In all fairness, NEJ presents a somewhat detailed discussion of Monsey and Teaneck under other rubrics (Rockland County and Bergen County). But I could not locate any discussion of Far Rockaway, the Five Towns, or Kew Gardens Hills. Each of these communities has a rich history, with many
    synagogues, schools, and often institutions of national and international repute. They surely merit entries in NEJ.

    6. The previous paragraph presents a rather long list of sins of omission relating to women, rabbis, academic scholars, and Jewish communities. One could easily add more names to each of the categories; and certainly so if yet other categories are examined. Doubtless, some will argue that there is simply no room in a 22-volume encyclopedia for so many “borderline” entries. In order to counter such an argument, I will list here four entries – exactly as they appear on the printed page – that found their way into NEJ.

    1. Calwer, Richard (1868-1927). German socialist, economist, and politician. He belonged to the reformist wing inspired by Ferdinand Lasalle within the German Social Democratic Party (SPD). Calwer harbored a strong anti-Jewish bias. In a brochure published in 1894, he attacked the SPD’s radical wing as having been “incited by a few Jews who make slander their business,” and deplored that such “specific” Jewish characteristics as “zealousness, contentiousness, and commercial craftiness” had found their way into the party press and literature. He also criticized the SPD for combating anti-Semitism to the extent of creating the impression that Social Democracy had been “Judaized” (verjudet). Calwer left the SPD in 1909. He was a pioneer in Western socialist non-Marxian economics, which he taught until his suicide in Berlin.

    2. Cohen, Philip Melvin (1808-1879), pharmacist and civic leader in Charleston, South Carolina. Cohen, born in Charleston, was the son of Philip Cohen, lieutenant in the War of 1812. During the Second Seminole War Cohen served as surgeon to a detachment of troops in Charleston Harbor (1836). In 1838 he became city apothecary. He was a member of the city board of health (1843-49). Cohen was a director of the Bank of the State of South Carolina (1849-55). He was one of the citizens who served as honorary guard at the funeral of John C. Calhoun in 1850.

    3. Nagin, Harry S. (1890- ), U.S. civil engineer. Born in Romny, Russia, Nagin went to the U.S. in 1906. From 1924 he was executive vice president of a large steel products company in Pennsylvania. He took out over a hundred patents on steel structures, bridge floors, gratings, concrete, and plastics.

    4. Abrams, “Cal” (Calvin Ross; 1924-1997), U.S. baseball player, lifetime .269 hitter over eight seasons, with 433 hits, 32 h

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