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

Embed this content in your HTML


Report adult content:

click to rate:

Account: (login)

More Channels


Channel Catalog

Articles on this Page

(showing articles 1 to 50 of 50)
(showing articles 1 to 50 of 50)

Channel Description:

All about Seforim - New and old, and Jewish Bibliography.
    0 0

    R' Orenstein, Author of the Yesuos Yaakov: The Controversy Over Publication of his Works
    by R. Yosaif M. Dubovick
    R. Y. Dubovick has published many articles on diverse topics. He is currently working on many projects including a critical edition of the Rabbenu Hananel's commentary on Bava Kama. Additionally, he has published a critical edition of the Mahrashal on hilchot shehita and Yoreh Deah (discussed here ) and R. Dubovick is working on some of the Mahrashal's other works. As R. Orenstein's yarhzeit is the 25th of Av, Tuesday, Aug. 26, R. Dubovick provides the following information on this personage and his works.

    Biographical Sketch of R'

    Perhaps the crown of pre-war Polish Jewry was the city of Lvov (Lviv, Lemberg). Settled in the dawn of our history in Poland, the city was renowned as a center of learning and piety, drawing from the elite of scholarship to its helm. The mere mention of the city's name draws to mind those Gaonim, such as R' Yehoshua, author of Shut Pnei Yehoshua, Sefer Maginei Shlomo (grandfather of the author of the noted Pnei Yehoshua on Shas), as well as R' Shmuel HaLevi author of Turei Zahav on Shulchan Aruch 1 (son-in-law of R' Yoel Sirkes2 the author of Bayis Chodosh on Tur)3. R' Zvi Ashkenazi (author of Chacham Tzvi, father of R' Yaakov Emden), R' Shlomo of Chelm, author of Merkeves haMishnah on Rambam (as well as homilies on the haftorot and a volume of responsa4), and R' Chayim Hakohen Rappoport5 all held the position of Av Beis Din and Rav of Lvov.

    The subject of Toldos Anshei Shem by R' Shlomo Buber, Lvov has had its history well written and studied. R' Buber went so far as to personally request from the Rav of Krakow, the noted historian and author, R' Noson Chayim Dembitzer to collate his own findings; the result, a sefer of immense value to any student of history and genealogy, Klillat Yofe.6 These seforim list prominent men of stature and renown, leaders of the kehillot, their works and ancestors, shedding valuable light on the city's history.

    From the beginning of the 5th century, (1640) Lvov's two communities ['inner' Lvov, and 'outer' Lvov] united under the leadership of one Rav. This period of grace between the communities lasted for close to two hundred years, and ended with the passing of the famed Gaon of Lvov, R' Yaakov Meshulem Orenstein in 5599 (1839), the focus of this article.

    Much has been written regarding this sage, with numerous accounts detailing his biography. Klillat Yofe details his father's position as Rav of Lvov, R' Mordechai Zeev, who took office after R' Shlomo of Chelm stepped down as Rav in order to embark on a journey to Eretz Israel.7 In 5547 (1787) R' Mordechai Zeev was taken suddenly from this world, leaving a young twelve year old Yaakov Meshulem an orphan. The youth's best interests in mind, whilst still in the shiva period he was betrothed to the daughter of R' Tzvi Hirsch of Yaruslav, who was financially well off and would support his son-in-law.8 As such, the young man developed in his studies, and gained repute as a scholar of stature. His opinion was sought in many difficult matters, and elders as well as his contemporaries flocked to his doorstep in Yaruslav to discuss various issues with him. Notably, R' Aharon Moshe Tobias of Satnin, author of Shut Toafos Reem, would spend much time conversing with R' Yaakov Meshulem.9 Additionally, he was friends with R' Yehonosan Shimon Frankel, author of Etz Pri Kodesh, Lember, 1838. See his haskmah where he referrs to him as "yidid nafshe." He was also friendly with R' Yaakov Tzvi Yalish, author of Melo haRoim who he refers to as "hu yedidi min'noar."

    R' Yaakov Meshulem mentions having been Rav AB"D of Zhalkov for a period, but the exact dates aren't clear. Later, he was appointed to take his father's seat as Rav AB"D of Lvov, and we find witness that in 5566 (1806) was already serving Lvov as its spiritual head, a position he held for over 30 years, until his passing.

    The hub of religious activity in Poland, R' Yaakov's opinion on halachic matters was sought out by the leading sages of his time. Halachic authorities such as R' Moshe Sofer (author of Shut Chasam Sofer), and R' Akiva Eiger, R' Aryeh Leibish of Stanislaw (as well as with his son and successor R' Meshulem Yissocher, author of Shut Bar Levai), as well as R' Yaakov's relative, R' Chaim Halberstam of Sanz all queried him on matters of grave importance. His opinions regarding rulings issued by R' Shlomo Kluger of Brody versus his dissenters are collected in sefer Shivas Eynayim, along with those of his son, R' Mordechai Zeev.

    While himself not a member of the Chassidic camp, R' Yaakov showed no animosity towards Chassidim and their leaders, and is purported to have met with Rebbe Yisroel Freidman of Ruzhin, as well as Rebbe Meir of Premshlyn.

    As the head of the most prestigious community in the area, R' Yaakov also held the position of Nasi or president of Eretz Israel, and was responsible for the collation and distribution of all tzedakah funds earmarked for the Holy Land's poor.10 In addition, being financially secure, R' Yaakov established a personal free-loan organization, a gemach.

    The apple of his eye, his only son R' Mordechai Zeev was taken from him at an early age on the 17th of MarCheshvan 5597 (Oct 28, 1836). Less than three years later, R' Yaakov passed away on the 25th day of Av, 5599 (Aug 5, 1839), and was buried next to R' Shmuel Halevi, author of Turei Zahav. Out of respect for their venerable leader, it was agreed upon that no longer would there be one Rav heading both communities, rather a new title called 'Rosh Bais Din', with less authority was implemented. In the succeeding line of leaders, Lvov called R' Yaakov's grandson, R' Tzvi Hirsch to take his rightful place. In turn, R' Tzvi Hirsch's son-n-law, R' Aryeh Leib Broide11 succeeded him.

    R' Orenstein's Works & the Controversy Over Their Publication

    A prolific writer, R' Yaakov is best known for his magnum opus, Yeshuos Yaakov, novella covering all four sections of the Shulchan Aruch. Published in his lifetime, R' Yaakov is said to have danced with a copy of a second edition, stating that he is now assured that this work is considered by heaven to be 'prophetic' in nature.12 He also penned chiddushim on the Torah in the order of the parshiyos, at first printed together with the chumash entitled 'Ein Yaakov', and later published as a separate volume. A new edition of these chiddushim was re-typeset in 5764 (2004), with a two page biographical sketch.

    Throughout Yeshuos Yaakov, R' Yaakov cites numerous times his chiddushim on Shas, Rambam as well as his teshuvos, responsa. Seemingly, these works remained in manuscript form, and over the course of the years were lost. Recently, an attempt was made to 'reconstruct' those chiddushim on Shas based on chiddushim and references gleaned from sefer Yeshuos Yaakov. Chiddushei Yeshuos Yaakov al Seder haShas, 7 volumes, printed by Machon leCheker Kisvei Yad - Chochmas Shlomoh, Yerushalayim, 5757-60/1997-2000.

    In the last months of 5666 (1906), R' Avraham Yosef Fisher, a well-known publisher, printed R' Yaakov's teshuvos from manuscript, in Peterkov. According to R' Fisher, he was given the autograph from the then Gerrer Rebbe, R' Avraham Mordechai Alter (author of Imrei Emes) for printing. The responsa were reordered according to the Shulchan Aruch, and in the end of the sefer, a table of contents as well as a list of errata and annotation was added. For reasons not fully explained, R' Fisher printed the book sans approbations that he claimed to have received from various leaders. He had applied to several sages for their approval, and while waiting for their response, decided to publish without them. In deference to those letters not at hand, he chose to omit those he did have, citing his desire to publish as taking precedence. This printing of the sefer was photo-mechanically reproduced in New York some forty years ago.

    Several months after his sefer was printed, R' Aryeh Leib Broide, the son-in-law of R' Yaakov's grandson and heir, R' Tzvi Hirsch, issued a variant title page, and introduction. Claiming that the book had been in his personal possession to date, he alone had sent it to a printer, one Shimon Neiman for publication. Seemingly, the book changed hands, R' Fisher took possession of the printed volumes, selling them under his name, with R' Aryeh Leib Broide receiving a mere thirty volumes. As rightful owner, R' Aryeh Leib decried this act, and wondered how the name of the Gerrer Rebbe had been brought in to the fray. The variant pages were then bound to these thirty volumes.

    Speculation as the behind the scenes reasoning would be an exercise in futility, as no word of it was mentioned by the Gerrer Rebbe himself.13 While it is possible that R' Aryeh Leib's claims are accurate, R' Fisher was a respected publisher, and would only stand to lose by stooping to theft. Further, the silence of the Gerrer Rebbe on the issue is deafening in its own right. What cause could he have had be still regarding this issue? If he did give the book along with a letter, why remain silent? On the other hand, if his name was simply being used, why did he allow himself to remain an accessory to theft, even if only a defacto one?

    One might postulate based upon the religious leanings of those involved. Lvov at the time was torn between the haskalah movement, and the majority of its opposition, the Chassidim. While R' Yaakov stood strong against the waves of the enlightenment, after his passing those safeguards he passed began to lose potency. The Rabbinate in Lvov became politically controlled by those with positions of power and wealth, and sentiment among the Chassidic community in Lvov was that even R' Tzvi Hirsch was suspect of leaning towards the maskilim.14 Certainly R' Aryeh Leib was considered controversial. His son Mordechai (Marcus) studied in Polish schools, received a doctorate, and married Martin Buber's sister, Gila. It is possible that R' Neiman had suspicions as to the religious opinion of the book, seeing how the main buyers market were Chassidim. Should the book be published under R' Aryeh Leib's name, it might not sell. Moreover, it could be he suspected R' Aryeh Leib of wanting to edit the text, based on his personal leanings. Perhaps he sent it to the Gerrer Rebbe, who in turn allowed for R' Fisher to print it, and use his name. In the event of exposure, R' Fisher would take the blame, while the Gerrer Rebbe would remain silent, thereby obfuscating the facts.

    This year, a new edition of this controversy-fraught sefer has been published. Completely re-typeset, with the annotations and corrections penned by R' Fisher added in their rightful locations. Additionally, an index has been set up, to reference the standard ensemble of basic halachic texts; Shas Bavli and Yerushalmi, Rambam, Tur and Shulchan Aruch.

    Many of the responsa are those alluded to by R' Yaakov in his Yeshuos Yaakov; some of the letters are replies to expound his thoughts in Yeshuos Yaakov. A veritable 'who's who' of Galitzian Rabbis can be listed among those querying R' Yaakov; R' Chayim Halberstam of Sanz, R' Aryeh Leibish of Stanislaw, and R' Moshe Sofer, to name a few.

    The current publisher did not feel the edition would be complete without scouring the available literature and storehouses for those novella and letters that are not readily available. Such, an addendum was appended to the sefer, with additional responsa, derashos, chiddushim and even witticisms and anecdotes not found in the more common seforim. Of note, is a particularly interesting piece R' Yaakov expounded upon in the main beis medrash of Lvov in honor of Kaiser Franz Joseph [Emperor Franz II], on June 29 1814 (the 11th of Tamuz 5). The spirit of the derashah is the miraculous victory the Emperor had over Napoleon Bonaparte, and how he was Divinely aided in battle. A lone copy of this sermon survived, and Dr. M. Balaban reproduced it in his volume in honor of Dr. Mordechai (Marcus) Broide.

    Other curios include novella that elaborate on those posed in Yeshuos Yaakov, and anecdotes from obscure works of that period. In one incident, while speaking with a local Rav of lesser standing, R' Yaakov offered a very insightful thought. The Rav, realizing the potential use of this thought in a personal derashah, asked of R' Yaakov to 'present' him with this thought and make it his "own". Understanding the Rav's motive, R' Yaakov agreed under one condition: that upon using the thought as his own, he must announce that he received it as a gift from R' Yaakov.

    As a final touch, the publisher added a photo of the original title page, as well as the variant pages printed by R' Aryeh Leib. The ability to locate an extant copy of one of thirty copies ever bound testifies to the sheer effort expended in this edition.

    [Available at Girsa Books, Jerusalem; Biegeleisen Books, Brooklyn NY USA, and fine bookstores worldwide]


    [1] Originally, the sefer was written as glosses and comments on Tur, much like the work by his father-in-law. [One might correlate the two works even more closely, and claim both emanated from marginal notes. See Prof. Y. S. Speigel, Amudim bToldot Hasefer haIvri, vol. 1, p. 297.] Later these notes were edited to form the present commentary.

    [2] R' Shmuel married R' Yoel's widowed daughter-in-law (m. R' Shmuel Tzvi Hertz, son of the Bach), and raised her orphan R' Aryeh Leib, author of Shut Shagas Aryeh (w/ Kol Shachal). R' Aryeh Leib was sent along with his brother by his stepfather to investigate the issue of Shabbtai Zvi.

    [3] During the outbreaks of 5424, two of his sons were massacred along with hundreds of the cities inhabitants. See D. Kahane, Sinai, 100 (Jubilee Volume), pp. 492-508.

    [4] Both published by Mossad HaRav Kook from manuscript.

    [5] Author of Shut R' Chayim HaKohen.

    [6] Indexed by Jacob B. Mandelbaum.

    [7] Unfortunately, he never made it to E. Israel, having passed away along with his wife in the city of Salonika, Greece, and is entombed there. See A. Brick, Sinai 61, pp. 168-84.

    [8] Introduction to Yeshuos Yaakov.

    [9] Citation in Klillat Yofe and see here as well.

    [10] Called "the charities of R' Meir Baal Hanes". There is uncertainty regarding the true name of this charity. Historically, the tanna Rebbi Meir was never called "Baal HaNes" and the name is not found in neither Geonic literature or in works by the Rishonim. Furthermore, geographical guidebooks that list gravesites in E. Israel mention TWO R' Meirs, one in Teveryah (this is the grave of the well known tanna, the student of R' Akiva and friend of R' Yehuda and R' Shimon Bar Yochai) and one in Gush Chalav, the second bearing the name "Baal Han

    0 0

    Responses to Comments and Elaborations of Previous Posts III

    by Marc B. Shapiro

    This post is dedicated to the memory of Rabbi Chaim Flom, late rosh yeshiva of Yeshivat Ohr David in Jerusalem. I first met Rabbi Flom thirty years ago when he became my teacher at the Hebrew Youth Academy of Essex County (now known as the Joseph Kushner Hebrew Academy; unfortunately, another one of my teachers from those years also passed away much too young, Rabbi Yaakov Appel). When he first started teaching he was known as Mr. Flom, because he hadn't yet received semikhah (Actually, he had some sort of semikhah but he told me that he didn't think it was adequate to be called "Rabbi" by the students.) He was only at the school a couple of years and then decided to move to Israel to open his yeshiva. I still remember his first parlor meeting which was held at my house. Rabbi Flom was a very special man. Just to give some idea of this, ten years after leaving the United States he was still in touch with many of the students and even attended our weddings. He would always call me when he came to the U.S. and was genuinely interested to hear about my family and what I was working on. He will be greatly missed.

    1. In a previous post I showed a picture of the hashgachah given by the OU to toilet bowl cleaner. This led to much discussion, and as I indicated, at a future time I hope to say more about the kashrut industry from a historical perspective.[1] I have to thank Stanley Emerson who sent me the following picture.

    It is toilet bowl cleaner in Israel that also has a hashgachah. Until Stanley called my attention to this, I was bothered that the kashrut standards in the U.S. had surpassed those of Israel. I am happy to see that this is not the case. (In fact, only in Israel can one buy a package of lettuce with no less than six (!) different hashgachot. See here)

    But in all seriousness, I think we must all be happy at the high level of kashrut standards provided by the OU and the other organizations. This, of course, doesn't mean that we have to be happy with what has been going on at Agriprocessors. I realize that this is a huge contract, but it was very disappointing to see that the first response of the OU to the numerous Agriprocessors scandals, beginning with the PETA video, has been to circle the wagons and put out the spin. Any changes from the OU only came after public outrage, and if the hashgachah is eventually removed from Agriprocessors, it will once again be due to this outrage. To be sure, we no longer can imagine cases of meat producers locking the mashgiach in the freezer,[2] but it does seem that the company was being given pretty free reign in areas where the hashgachah could have been using more of its influence. (Let's not forget that Agriprocessors needs the OU more than the reverse.) At the very least, we need some competition in the glatt kosher meat business. Agriprocessors has a near monopoly and as we all know, competition is what forces businesses to operate at a higher standard.

    In fact, the entire glatt kosher "standard" should be done away with and turned into an option for those who wish to be stringent. This has recently been tried in Los Angeles, with the support of local rabbis, but I don't know how successful it has been. The only way this can happen on a large scale is if the OU once again starts certifying non-glatt. The masses have been so brainwashed in the last twenty years that they will not eat regular kosher unless it has an OU hashgachah. There is no good reason – there are reasons, but they aren't good – why the OU does not certify non-glatt. As is the case with the Chief Rabbinate in Israel, the OU should certify both mehadrin (glatt) and non-mehadrin.

    It might be that people in Teaneck and the Five Towns don't feel the bad economic times. Yet there are many people who are having difficulty making ends meet. It is simply not fair to create a system where people are being forced to pay more money for meat than they should have to. The biggest problem Orthodoxy faces, and the factor that makes it an impossible lifestyle for many who would otherwise be drawn to it, is the enormous costs entailed. Anything we can do to lower this burden, even if it is only a couple of hundred dollars a year--obviously significantly more for communal institutions--should be done.
    Returning to Agriprocessors, while the current issue focuses on the treatment of workers, the problem of a couple of years ago focused on the treatment of animals. Yet the two should not necessarily be seen as so far apart. According to R. Joseph Ibn Caspi (Mishneh Kesef [Pressburg, 1905], vol. 1, p. 36), the reason the Torah forbids inflicting pain on animals is "because we humans are very close to them and we both have one father"! This outlook is surprising enough (and very un-Maimonidean), but then he continues with the following incredible statement: "We and the vegetables, such as the cabbage and the horseradish, are brothers, with one father"! He ties this in with the command not to cut down a fruit tree (Deut. 20:19), which is followed by the words כי האדם עץ השדה. This is usually understood as a question: "for is the tree of the field man [that it should be besieged of thee?] Yet Caspi understands it as a statement, and adds the following, which together with what I have already quoted from him will make the Jewish eco-crowd very happy.

    כי האדם עץ השדה (דברים כ' י"ט), כלומר שהאדם הוא עץ השדה שהוא מין אחד מסוג הצמח כאמרו כל הבשר חציר (ישעיה מ' ו') ואמרו רז"ל בני אדם כעשבי השדה (עירובין נד ע"א)
    Finally, in Rabbi Shmuel Herzfeld's op-ed on Agriprocessors in the New York Times (see here) he wrote as follows: "Yisroel Salanter, the great 19th-century rabbi, is famously believed to have refused to certify a matzo factory as kosher on the grounds that the workers were being treated unfairly." Herzfeld was attacked by people who claimed that there is no historical source to justify this statement. While the story has been garbled a bit, the substance indeed has a source. I refer to Dov Katz, Tenuat ha-Mussar, vol. 1, p. 358. Here R. Yisrael Salanter is quoted as saying that when it comes to the production of matzah, one must not only be concerned with the halakhot of Pesah, but also with the halakhot of Hoshen Mishpat, i.e., that one must have concern for the well-being of the woman making the matzah.
    אין כשרות המצות שלמה בהידוריהן שבהלכות פסח לבד, כי אם עם דקדוקיהן גם בדיני חשן משפט

    2. In my previous post I wrote: "With regard to false ascription of critical views vis-à-vis the Torah's authorship, I should also mention that Abarbanel, Commentary to Numbers 21:1, accuses both Ibn Ezra and Nahmanides of believing that the beginning verses of this chapter are post-Mosaic. Yet Abarbanel must have been citing from memory, since neither of them say this. In fact, Ibn Ezra specifically rejects the notion that the verses were written by Joshua." I made a similar point in Limits of Orthodox Theology, p.106 n. 102.

    I looked at Abarbanel again and would like to revise what I wrote. I don't think it is correct to say that Abarbanel was citing from memory, since he quotes Nahmanides' words. With regard to Ibn Ezra, I now assume that Abarbanel thinks Ibn Ezra is being coy. In other words, although Ibn Ezra cites a view held by "many" that Joshua wrote the beginning of Numbers 21, and then goes on to reject this view, Abarbanel doesn't trust Ibn Ezra. He thinks that Ibn Ezra really accepts the "critical" view. I see absolutely no evidence for this. Ibn Ezra has ways to hint to us when he favors a critical view, and he never does so with this section. Furthermore, I am aware of no evidence that the "many" who hold the critical view are Karaites, as is alleged by Abarbanel.

    What led Abarbanel to accuse Nahmanides of following Ibn Ezra in asserting that there are post-Mosaic verses in Numbers 21? As with Ibn Ezra, Abarbanel sees Nahmanides as hiding his critical view and only hinting to it. Numbers 21:3 reads: "And the Lord hearkened to the voice of Israel, and delivered up the Canaanites; and they utterly destroyed them and their cities; and the name of the place was called Hormah." Yet as Nahmanides notes, it is in Judges 1:17 that we see the destruction of the Canaanites and the naming of the city Hormah. How, then, can the city be called Hormah in Deuteronomy when it won't be conquered and named for many years?

    Nahmanides writes that the Torah here is relating "that Israel also laid their cities waste when they came into the land of Canaan, after the death of Joshua, in order to fulfill the vow which they had made, and they called the name of the cities Hormah." In other words, the Torah is describing an event, including the naming of a place, which will only take place a number of years later. This event is described in the book of Judges. The verse in Numbers is written in the past tense, which would seem to render Nahmanides' understanding problematic. Yet as Chavel points out in his notes to his English edition, this does not concern Nahmanides. "Since there is no difference in time for God, it is written in the past tense, for past, present, and future are all the same to Him."

    This is certainly true with regard to God, but what about the Children of Israel? How are they supposed to read a section of the Torah that speaks about an event as having happened in the past but which in reality has not yet even taken place? These are problems that the traditional commentators deal with, but Abarbanel sees Nahmanides as departing from tradition and offering a heretical interpretation. He is led to this assumption because Nahmanides uses the ambiguous words "Scripture continued" and "Scripture, however, completed the account." Why didn't Nahmanides say that Moses wrote this? It must be, according to Abarbanel, that Nahmanides is hinting that this was written down after Moses' death. In Abarbanel's words:

    כי הרב כסתה כלימה פניו לכתוב שיהושע כתב זה. והניח הדבר בסתם שהכתוב השלימו אבל לא זכר מי היה הכותב כיון שלא היה משה עליו השלום והדעת הזה בכללו לקחהו הראב"ע מדברי הקראים שבפירושי התורה אשר להם נמנו וגמרו שלא כתב זה מזה והרמב"ן נטה אחרי הראב"ע והתימה משלימות תורתו וקדושתו שיצא מפיו שיש בתורה דבר שלא כתב משה. והם אם כן בכלל כי דבר ה' בזה.

    From here, let me return for the third time to what some would see as an aspect of biblical criticism in Radak. To recap, in his commentary to I Sam. 4:1 Radak writes:

    על האבן העזר: כמו הארון הברי' והכותב אמר זה כי כשהיתה זאת המלחמה אבן נגף היתה ולא אבן עזר ועדיין לא נקראה אבן העזר כי על המלחמה האחרת שעשה שמואל עם פלשתים בין המצפה ובין השן שקרא אותה שמואל אבן העזר שעזרם האל יתברך באותה מלחמה אבל מה שנכתב הנה אבן העזר דברי הסופר הם וכן וירדף עד דן.

    Dr. H. Norman Strickman convinced me that Radak means that the words "and pursued as far as Dan" are a later insertion, since the city was only named Dan after it was conquered in the days of Joshua (Joshua 19:47). In a comment to the post, Benny wrote:

    There is no reason to assume that Radak is not referring to Moses prophetically writing the word Dan. It just means that in the time that the story took place, the name was not Dan. . . . I think that it is definitely possible that Radak understood that Moshe is the one who wrote "Et HaGilad Ad Dan".

    Dr. Yitzchak Berger wrote to me as follows:

    I think the commenter 'Benny' was right about Radak's view of Gen. 14:14. At I Sam 4:1 he's probably merely contrasting the author-narrator's [i.e. "sofer's"--MS] perspective with that of the players in the story, concerning the phrases in both Samuel and Genesis (in the case in Samuel there would be no reason for him to introduce a later editor)."

    As is often the case in these sorts of disputes, I find myself being moved by the last argument I hear. As I noted in the earlier post, Radak elsewhere insists on complete Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch. Thus, it is certainly easier to read this text in a way that would not create a contradiction.

    While on the subject of Mosaic authorship, let me also add the following. David Singer recently wrote an interesting article on Rabbi Emanuel Rackman.[3] With the recent passing of Rabbi Moses Mescheloff,[4] Rackman, born in 1910, might be the oldest living musmach of RIETS. If this is so, don't expect this to be acknowledged in any way by the powers at YU.[5] The ideological winds have blown rightward in the last thirty years, and Rackman has moved leftward. He is thus no longer regarded as representative of RIETS or worthy of any acknowledgment.[6]

    A similar thing happened at Hebrew Theological College in Skokie. Rabbi Eliezer Berkovits (died 1992) was, in my opinion, the most significant and influential person ever to teach on its faculty. (Unfortunately, they didn't let him teach Talmud, only philosophy.) Yet not only does HTC currently have no interest in recognizing him, in 2001, some eighteen years (!) after the appearance of Not in Heaven, a very negative review appeared in the Academic Journal of Hebrew Theological College.[7] To show how insignificant Berkovits is in Skokie, neither the author, Rabbi Chaim Twerski, nor any of the editors, realized that his last name is not spelled Berkowitz! Were he alive today, can anyone imagine that HTC would allow him to speak? (It would be interesting to create a list of people who founded or taught at institutions and today would be persona non grata there. A few come to mind, and for now let me just mention R. Zev Gold, the outstanding Mizrachi leader who was one of the founders, and first president, of Yeshiva Torah Vodaas. Gold, who was also a rabbi in Scranton, was one of the signers of Israel's declaration of independence.[8])

    Some people pointed out that in Twerski's negative review, Berkovits is never even referred to as Rabbi, only as Dr. (A cynic might add that in his zeal to use the title "Dr." instead of "Rabbi" for those he doesn't approve of, Twerski even gives R. Judah Leib Maimon a doctorate, referring to him as Dr. Maimon.) In the following issue, Twerski apologizes for any disrespect, noting that while some people took offense at how he referred to Berkovits, others "who know [!] him well have told me that he always preferred to be addressed as 'Dr. Berkovits.'" I think this is a fair response. After all, would anyone criticize an author for referring to "Dr. Lamm"? Yet I must also say that someone reading the article will not learn that Berkovits was a great talmudic scholar, and I don't even know if Twerski recognizes this.

    Returning to Singer, in his article he writes that Rackman accepted the Documentary Hypothesis. I discussed this issue with Rackman some years ago and this is definitely not what he told me. The most he would say was that he would not regard someone as a heretic if he accepted biblical criticism. Yet he personally was not a believer in the theory. In support of Singer's assertion to the contrary, he quotes the following passage from Rackman: "The most definitive record of God's encounters with man is contained in the Pentateuch. Much of it may have been written by people in different times, but at one point in history God not only made the people of Israel aware of his immediacy, but caused Moses to write the eternal evidence of the covenant between Him and His people." He also quotes another statement by Rackman: "[T]he sanctity of the Pentateuch does not derive from God's authorship of all of it, but rather from the fact that God's is the final version. The final writing by Moses has the stamp of divinity – the kiss of immortality."

    Singer misunderstands Rackman. There is no Higher Criticism here, no Documentary Hypothesis. What Rackman is saying is that the stories in the Pentateuch might have been recorded by various people before Moses, but that these stories were later included in the Torah at God's command, with Moses being the final author. In both of these passages Rackman is explicit that the Torah was written by Moses. Rackman's position in these quotations is very traditional, asserting that all that appears in the Torah is Mosaic. With this conception it doesn't matter if, for example, the stories of Noah or the Patriarchs had earlier written versions passed down among the Israelites, since what makes them holy and part of the Torah is God's command to Moses that they be included in the Holy Book. This was done by Moses' "final writing." I can't see anyone, even the most traditional, finding a problem in this.

    While on the subject of Rackman, let me make a bibliographical point. R. Moshe Feinstein, Iggerot Moshe, Yoreh Deah IV, no. 50:2 refers to:

    המאמרים של רב אחד שמחשבים אותו לרב ארטאדקאקסי שנדפסו בעיתון שבשפת אנגלית . . . והנה ראינו שכולם דברי כפירה בתורה שבעל פה המסורה לנו.

    R. Moshe goes on to further attack the heresy of this unnamed rabbi, who is none other than Rackman. This can be seen by examining Ha-Pardes, May 1973, p. 7, where R. Moshe's letter first appeared. It is not a private communication but is described as coming from Agudat ha-Rabbonim of the United States and Canada, and R. Moshe signs as president of the organization. Earlier in this issue (it is the lead article) and also in the April 1973 Ha-Pardes, R. Simhah Elberg published his own attack on Rackman, referring to him as ראביי ר. Elberg refers to Rackman's articles which appeared regularly in the American Examiner, and which so agitated the haredim – and also many of the centrist Orthodox. This paper then joined with the Jewish Week, and became known as the Jewish Week and American Examiner. Rackman continued to publish in the paper until around 2001. (His article discussing my biography of Weinberg was one of the last ones he would write, and it is reprinted in the second edition of One Man's Judaism [Jerusalem, 2000], pp. 402-404.)

    3. Many people were interested in the claim, quoted in an earlier post, that rabbis turned over their own children to become soldiers if these children were no longer observant. If something like this ever happened it would have been very heartless, and there were, of course, many children of gedolim who became non-religious. While in some cases the child choosing a different path led to estrangement with his father, in others, father and son remained close, and I think today everyone realizes that this is the only proper approach to take.

    R. Jehiel Jacob Weinberg thought that it might be a good idea for a father to attend his son's intermarriage, in order not to break ties completely. (Believe it or not, this statement was published in Yated Neeman.) Yet to see how different things were in years past, at least among some parts of our community, consider the following responsum by the important Hungarian posek, R. Jacob Tenenbaum.[9] The case concerned an Orthodox shochet whose son went to the בית האון (This means the non-Orthodox rabbinical seminary in Budapest, against which the Orthodox rabbis carried on a crusade.) The problem was that during his vacations the son came home to his parents' house. Tenenbaum was asked if this meant that the shochet was disqualified and could no longer serve the community. The father pleaded that he loved his son, and Tenenbaum replied that התנצלות זה הוא הבל. Tenenbaum also rejected the father's claim that if he doesn't show love to his son, the latter will go even further "off the derech."

    Tenenbaum demanded that the father make a complete break with his son (that is, if the father wanted to be regarded as a Jew in good standing). The choice was clear: The father had to decide between loving his son and making a living (for if chose the former he would be blacklisted throughout the country):

    ואם אביו יתן לו מקום בביתו או יתמכהו באיזה דבר בזה יגלה דעתו שגם בו נזרקה מינות [!] ובזה אין חילוק בין שו"ב לאיש אחר . . . אם יחזיק ידו או יתן לו מקום בביתו הנה ידו במעל הזה אשר בנו פנה עורף לדת ה' ועל כן צא טמא יאמר לו, ושלא יוסיף עוד ראות פניו אם לא ישמע לדבריו לעזוב דרך רשע.

    I know this sounds like a Hungarian extremist approach, but R. Kook had basically the same viewpoint. In Da'at Kohen no. 7, he too is asked about a shochet whose non-religious sons live at home. R. Kook replies that while technically the actions of the sons do not destroy the hezkat kashrut of the father, nevertheless, the matter is very distasteful (מכוער). Even if the father could not be blamed at all in this matter, nevertheless, it is a hillul ha-shem. Since the beit din has the power to legislate in matters beyond the strict law, "there is no migdar milta greater than this." He explains the reason for his uncompromising viewpoint:

    שלא ילמדו אחרים להפקירות עוד יותר, כשרואין שבניו של השו"ב הקבוע הם מחללים ש"ק, ע"כ לע"ד ברור הדבר, שכ"ז שבניו הם סמוכין על שולחנו, ואין פוסקין מחילול ש"ק, איננו ראוי להיות שו"ב קבוע, ומה גם בעדה חרדית.

    If this is said about a shochet, how much more would it apply to a rav of a community. It is therefore easy to understand why non-religious children of some well-known rabbis are no longer welcome in their parents' home. (Other well-known rabbis have a completely different outlook, and reject what they would categorize as the conditional-love approach of Rabbis Tenenbaum and Kook).

    4. Since I have mentioned R. Jehiel Jacob Weinberg a few times, I must call

    0 0

    Gravely Mistaken

    by Akiva Leiman

    R. Leiman teaches high school at the Yeshiva of Greater Washington in Silver Spring, Maryland.  Additionally, he leads trips to sites of Jewish interest in Eastern Europe. This is his first contribution to the Seforim blog.

    One hardly need go far to find errors in published materials, but when even moderate research would suffice to unearth correct information lack of such an effort would seem egregious. Jewish burial sites have often been lost: Nazis or indigenous peoples destroyed cemeteries, acid rain ravages stones, burning candles char monuments and, of course, people just simply forget where things are.[1] Misinformation, however, would seem to be the most preventable culprit in this ever-losing battle to maintain vestiges of our heritage.

    A few examples should suffice.[2]

    1. In Paul Johnson's A History of the Jews, in the very first paragraph of the actual text, he says,

    There in the Cave of Machpelah, are the Tombs of the Patriarchs . . . . Across the inner courtyard is another pair of tombs, of Abraham's grandson Jacob and his wife Leah. Just outside the building is the tomb of their[3] son Joseph.

    In an endnote he references L.H. Vincent and his depiction of the cave which has been reproduced in EJ XI p. 671. There the caption does read: "Tomb of Joseph." However, the text of the EJ explicates that, "A Muslim tradition maintains that Joseph was buried here... (t)his tradition is probably due to a corruption of the Arabic name for Esau, whose head, according to aggadic sources fell within the cave..." EJ's theory for the mistake aside, Johnson must not have read the text of the article (or: ignored it), for though the diagram's caption tells us that Yosef is buried in the Cave, the text belies this point.[4] Furthermore, see Joshua 24:32 (providing Shechem as Joseph's burial place),[5] which must, at the very least, be mentioned in any serious discussion of the final resting place for Yosef.[6]

    2. In בשבילי ראדין, by M. M. Palato, Machon B'Shvilai HaYeshivot, (2001), p. 25, we are provided a picture and told "that we are being shown the final resting place of R' Chaim of Volozhin (d. 5581 - 1821), the most esteemed student of the Vilna Gaon, and he is buried next to his mentor."[7]

    But, R' Chaim is actually interred in Volozhin[8] and his grave is a regular stopping point for those visiting the Byelorussian town. The picture shown is of the old Ohel over the grave of the Vilna Gaon in the since-destroyed Shnipishok cemetery of Vilna. Of course, R' Chaim's grave is not pictured at all.[9]

    3. Holy Stones: Remnants of Synagogues in Poland, drawings by Joseph Cempla, Dvir, Tel Aviv (1959) is a beautiful group of renderings of pre-war Poland. From the description for plate number 13 we read:

    The gravestone of Rabbi Shalom Shachna in the Lublin Cemetery: Rabbi Shalom ben Joseph Shachna[10] (1510-1550[11]) was one of the greatest Talmudists produced by Polish Jewry. He was the pupil of Rabbi Jacob Polak, head of the Lublin Yeshiva, who created the method of "Pilpul"[12] (casuistics)[13] employed in the study of Talmudic literature.

    It is correct that R' Shalom Shachna was a student of R' Yaakov Polak, but the stone sketched by Cempla is not R. Shalom Shachna. Here is Cempla's drawing:

    And here is a picture of R' Shalom Shachna's grave today in the Old Cemetery of Lublin:

    The grave today stands without the adornments found in Cempla's rendering: no pillars, no arch and no artistic flair filling the arch. Also, Cempla seems to indicate ten or twelve lines of etching while the current stone shows at least fifteen; puzzling, if not insurmountable issues.

    A bit more research revealed the obvious error. Within twenty feet of R' Shalom Shachne stands this prominent headstone:

    This is the grave of Rabbi Yaakov Yitzchak Horowitz (d. 9 Av 5575 – 1815), the Chozeh of Lublin.[14] It seems almost certain, upon comparing Cempla's drawing with that of the Chozeh's headstone is that Cempla drew the Chozeh's headstone mistaking it for the tomb of R' Shalom Shachna which lies in its close proximity.

    [1] I can recall, as a young man, visiting the old cemetery in Tzfat immediately after havdalah. I encountered a middle-aged Chassidic Jew at that strange time, and inquired after the grave of Rabbi Chaim Vital (d. 5380) the eminent student and chronicler of R' Yitzchak Luriah – the Ari Hakadosh (d. 5332). He told me to go up the road and after a bit to ask for directions to Damascus...

    [2] For another example see אבי מורי, Dr. S.Z. Leiman, in Who is Buried in the Vilna Gaon's Tomb? Originally published in Jewish Action, Winter (1998), 59(2), and which can be found online at:

    [3] Sic, he was the son of Rachel not Leah.

    [4] See Z. Vilnai, מצבות קודש בארץ ישראל, pp. 167-176, where (p. 170) sightings of the burial place in Shechem date to 320 AD.

    [5] ואת עצמות יוסף אשר העלו בני ישראל ממצרים קברו בשכם

    [6] For further discussions, see L. Ginzberg, Legends of the Jews, V1, JPS (2003) p. 430 n. 443. Also, Vilnai pp. 141-144. To come full circle, in Acts 7:16 we are told that Jacob was also buried in Shechem!

    [7] See note 1 above.

    [8] For a nice photo, see Mishpacha, Special Supplement Succos 5767, pp. 24-25.

    [9] The caption also tells us that R' Zalmaleh of Volozhin, the brother of R' Chaim and most brilliant student of the Vilna Gaon, is in the photo as well. He is neither in Volozhin, next to his brother, nor in the Gaon's Ohel. See note 1. His grave has sadly been lost.

    [10] I would assume that Shachna was his second, not family name; the stone reads:שלום המכונה שכנה, which would seem to be a nickname rather than a surname.

    [11] See S. B. Nissenbaum's Lekorot HaYehudim B'Lublin, p. 19 for the exact wording on his tombstone. He actually died on Friday Rosh Chodesh Kislev 5319, which was in 1558. See A. A. Akavia לוח לששת אלפי שנה p. 485.

    [12] Quotes in original

    [13] Parenthetic translation in original

    [14] Interestingly, in Y. Alfasi החוזה מלובלין p. 107 nt. 9 there is a discussion if the Chozeh is in fact buried near R' Shalom Shachna. He relies on a pre-war witness. Today one can go and see for himself, ואין לדיין אלא מה שעיניו רואות.

    0 0

    Can A Segulah Free an Agunah? Jewish Beliefs and Practices for Locating a Drowned Body

    By Bency Eichorn

    Bency Eichorn learns in kollel and, on the side, has been researching about various segulos. For his wedding he authored a book, Simchas Zion, discussing the segulah of keeping the afikomom from year-to-year. The post below is a small part of a much larger project on this segulah and has been adapted for the blog.

    In light of the recent drowning of Los Angeles's Naftoli Smolyansky A"H, much discussion has ensued about the segulah performed to recover his body. This same segulah, which involves floating a loaf of bread and candle in the water to locate the missing corpse, last year when Toronto Rabbonim considered performing it in order to locate the missing body of Eli Horowitz A"H, who had drowned the previous year. There is much skeptism regarding this segulah, some consider it witchcraft and claim that it has no basis in Judaism, deriving instead from non-Jewish sources. In this article, I will outline the development of similar segulot used throughout the ages and discuss how these methods were practiced by Jews and non-Jews alike. As my research on this topic is ongoing, I do not attempt to draw conclusions, but rather I hope to draw attention to primary and little-noted sources for these segulot. In effect, this will indicate how wide-spread these segulot were, specifically among Jews. This will suggest that their origins extend further than the tale recounted in Twain's Hucklebery Finn and can be traced to early Jewish sources.

    The Floating Wooden Dish

    Among the segulot noted in Jewish sources used to locate a missing drowned body, is a practice involving taking a wooden dish and floating it in the water above the general area where the body went missing. According to the tradition surrounding this segulah, the dish will float to the spot where the body lies and then stop. The first and earliest source for this segulah that I could presently locate is from the year 1618 in a well known sefer minhagim written by R' Yosef Yuzpa Han Norlingen[1]. He writes, that "I have a tradition of a segulah to locate a body that drowned; and this is the correct way it should be performed: Take a wooden dish [ke'oh'rah],[2] place it on the water to float by itself, until it rests on the spot where the body is lying." The work continues with an anecdote about a certain man named Meir, who drowned in Lake Pidikof and whose body was found using this particular segulah. Interestingly, the passages closes with the note "that if this segulah really works, it could have amazing implications, for it could help women who would otherwise have to be agunot for the rest of their lives."

    The procedure for this segulah is rather straightforward; all that must be done is to place a dish on the water and it will float to the drowned body. This segulah seems to have been quite popular as it is mentioned in many seforim, particularly sifrei segulah such as the Noheg Ketzon Yosef (grandson of R' Yosef Yuzpa Han Norlingen),[3] the Taamai Haminhagim,[4] Refuah Vechaim,[5] Rafael Hamalach,[6] Hoach Nafshainu,[7] Mareh Hayeladim,[8] Yosef Shaul,[9] and the Segulas Yisroel.[10]

    This amazing segulah is the earliest Jewish method noted as having been used to locate a drowned body and seems to be an exclusively Jewish practice. A search of a number of non-Jewish sources, works of history, superstition, and mythology, has not brought to light an instance of this particular practice of locating a drowned body. Thus to my knowledge, it does not seem to have ever been used by a non-Jew.[11]

    The Floating Loaf of Bread

    The second segulah attested to in the Jewish sources as being used to locate a drowned body is to float a loaf of bread instead of a bowl. Similar to the previous method it is believed that when the bread is left alone in the water it would float to the location of the body.

    The earliest source for this segulah that I have found thus far can be traced to the year 1734 by Rabbi Dovid Tebal Ben Yaakov Ashkenazi.[12] He writes, "to locate one that drowned, throw a loaf of bread into the water [where he drowned] and the place where the bread stops [sholet] that is where the body is located."

    This segulah is later recorded in Over Orach, a sefer of segulot, teffilot and halachot regarding traveling. In his discussion of general segulot, the author writes "[i]f one drowned, a segulah to find the body is to take a loaf of bread and throw it in the area of water where the person drowned, and the bread will float to the location of the drowned body." He finishes his description of the segulah by testifying that, "[t]his segulah has been performed in the past and it is known that it produced positive results"[13].

    A similar practice of using bread to locate a drowned body is recorded in a Yizkor book for the community of Mlawa, a shtetl in pre-World War II Poland. In this book, under the subject of communal beliefs in segulot, the following is recorded, "if someone drowned while bathing, people would come there [to the place he or she drowned] with long iron poles, to search for the body. To aid in their search, they would throw a loaf of bread, on top of which was a burning candle, into the pool next to the brick factory.[14]" I found this belief, of using bread to locate a drowned body, recorded in a number of sifrei segulot, including, the Hoach Nafshainu,[15] Mareh Hayeladim,[16] Rafael Hamalach,[17] Yosef Shaul,[18] and the Segulas Yisroel.[19]

    Thus, in the Jewish sources this method of locating drowned bodies is evidenced in a few but reputable sources. In contrast, it is mentioned in many non-Jewish sources. As early as 1586 we find that Thomas Hill mentions this practice as he records "[t]o find a drowned person...take a white loaf, and cast the same into the water, neer ye suspected place, and it will forth-with go directly over the dead body, and there abide.[20] Not long after in the year 1664, Oliver Heywood records an instance in which this practice was actually used to help find a missing corpse.[21]

    Alternative Versions of the Floating Bread

    As time went on, the method used by non-Jews seems to have changed. As early as the year 1767, the belief developed that a loaf of bread was not enough, but that the loaf of bread should be filled with quicksilver and only then should it be set afloat on the water. Sylvanus Urban, in The Gentleman's Magazine, describes this change in a testimony. He writes that in Newbury, Berkshire, "After diligent search had been made in the river ...a two penny loaf, with a quantity of quicksilver put into it, was set floating from the place where the child, it was supposed, had fallen in, which steered its course down the river upwards of a half a mile... when the body happening to lay on the contrary side of the river, the loaf suddenly tacked about ... and gradually sank near the child."[22] This loaded loaf was called by many 'a St. Nicholas'[23] and its occasional effectiveness was attributed by the cynical to eddies in the water.

    This method was practiced and recorded many times over in the non-Jewish sources. Occasionally, it was even recorded that it worked. However, on most occasions, this practice yielded no positive results. Recorded testimonies of this method in the non-Jewish sources include the years 1849[24], 1878[25], 1879[26], 1884[27], 1885[28], 1891[29], 1921,[30]-[31] and 1925.[32] There are many more recordings of this procedure, but the above sources should suffice to indicate the widespread belief in the efficacy of the practice.[33]. Indeed, according to scholars of Mark Twain, the belief that quicksilver, or mercury, would make bread float to a point over a submerged body was widely held in Britain.. This particular version of the method to locate drowned bodies was apparently based on an purported etymological connection concerning the biblical ''bread of life'' and ''quick'' or ''living'' silver, so called because of the flowing form of mercury.[34]

    The method of using bread with a candle on top of it, as recorded above as a practice of the Jews of Mlawa, is recorded in non-Jewish sources as well. However in the non-Jewish sources it is supplemented with the addition of quicksilver. The first record of this practice is in the year 1886, written by Henderson. He writes, "A loaf weighted with quicksilver, if allowed to float on the water, is said to swim towards and stand over, the body; when a boy, I have seen persons endeavoring to discover the corpse of the drowned in this manner in the River Wear...and ten years ago, the friends of Christopher Lumley sought for his the aid of a loaf of bread with a lighted candle in it"[35]. Again, in the year 1891, in the Journal of Science,[36] it is written, "[i]n Brittany, when the body of a drowned man cannot be found, a lighted taper is fixed in a loaf of bread, which is then abandoned to the retreating current. When the loaf stops, there it is supposed to the body will be recovered.[37]The lit candle was referred by some, as just being a way to mark the course of the floating loaf at night.[38]

    However, in Belgium, they would merely float a lit candle accompanied by the reading of a formula.[39] Indeed, already in 1578, Bornenisza recorded that a candle alone was used to locate the drowned. He writes, "[i]n Hungary if somebody drowns, a lighted wax candle is placed in a dish and where the flame goes out, there the drowned man lies."[40] This may indicate that the method recorded above of a loaf of bread together with a candle on it, was a corruption of the method to use just a candle. It is interesting to note that the record in the Jewish sources of using the method of a candle is from the people of Mlawa, if so more research is needed to ascertain whether this method originated with Jews. In any event, the method of using a candle alone can be viewed as separate, third, method of locating a missing, drowned body.

    The Use of an Amulet to Locate Missing Bodies

    A fourth method used by Jews to locate a missing drowned body involves floating an amulet. R' Yonathan Eibeshutz, remembered by Jews today as an eminent Talmudist, distributed many such amulets. He issued them in Metz, where he was Rabbi, and later in Hamburg, Altona, and Wandsbeck, where he later served as chief Rabbi.

    During this time R' Eibeshutz, together with a number of other Rabbis, was condemned by R' Yaakov Emden as being a follower of Shabtai Tzvi and his Messianic cult. This led to the famous controversy between these two great Rabbis. One of the complaints of R' Emden was R'Eibeshutz's writing and distributing of amulets. Among the many amulets, one was shaped like a written parchment and was used to find the missing body of one who had drowned.[41]

    In a treatise written by R' Emden against R' Eybeshutz's amulets, which he named Sfas Emes,[42] he mentions the amulet that R' Eybeshutz supposedly wrote to find a missing, drowned body.

    Interestingly, a similar usage of amulets is found in the non-Jewish sources as well. In a correspondence of Notes and Queries, it is recorded how a corpse in Ireland was discovered by means of a wisp of straw around which was tied a strip of parchment, inscribed with certain kabalistic characters written by a parish priest.[43]-[44]

    Aside from the practices that bear a similarity to those evidenced in Jewish sources, many additional methods for locating drowned bodies are attested to in the non-Jewish records. Among such non-Jewish practices for locating a drowned body, one that is akin to the previously mentioned methods, includes placing a shirt of the person who drowned in the water so that it will float to the spot of the missing body.[45] It was also believed that straw or a bundle of straw should be floated on the water so that it would float to the spot of the body.[46] Some people have thrown in a lamb (or goat) in an attempt to locate a missing body.[47] A curious custom, practiced in Norway, is to row to and fro with a rooster in a boat, expecting that the bird will crow when the boat reaches the spot where the corpse lies in the water.[48] Certain Native American tribes would float chips of wood, while other groups would float wooden cricket bats or wooden bowls.[49] The effectiveness of the method of floating bread or any other item in the water to find a sunken corpse was attributed by many to natural and simple causes. In all running streams there are deep pools formed by eddies, in which drowned bodies would likely be caught. Any light substance thrown into the current would consequently be drawn to that part of the surface over the centre of the eddy hole.[50]

    Another interesting method involves the use of drums. People searching for a drowned body would row down the river slowly beating on a big drum and according to the belief, if they came to the part of the river in which the dead body was immersed, a difference in the sound of the drum would be distinctly noticed.[51]

    Another non-Jewish practice is related in one of the classics of American literature, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain, which was published in the year 1884. The novel relates the story of a of a young boy from St. Petersburg, Missouri (a thinly veiled cover for Hannibal, Missouri, where Twain spent most of his youth) who tries to run away from civilization with an escaped slave named Jim. The book paints a picture of the pre-Civil War South through the dialects and habits of the characters, through their adventures and misadventures, and through their attitudes and the way their attitudes change during the story. One of those attitudes is the inclination to superstition.

    In one of the most humorous episodes, Huck has run away from being 'civilized' by Miss Watson, his foster aunt, and is hiding on an island. He has covered his tracks with the blood of a pig, so that it looks as if he has been murdered:

    "Well, I was dozing off again, when I thinks I hear a deep sound of "boom!" away up the river. I rouses up and rests on my elbow and listens; pretty soon I hear it again,. I hopped up and went and looked out a hole in the leaves, and I see a bunch of smoke laying on the water a long ways up- about the area of the ferry, and there was the ferry boat, full of people, floating along down. I know what was the matter now. "Boom," I see the white smoke squirt out of the ferry-boat's side. You see, they was firing cannon over the water, trying to make my carcass come to the top."

    Shortly after the canon firing, "Huck happened to think how they always put quicksilver in loaves of bread and float them off because they always go right to the drowned carcass and stop there."

    I have discussed earlier the latter belief of using bread with quicksilver to locate a missing drowned body. As Twain writes in the preface to Tom Sawyer, "[t]he odd superstitions touched upon were all prevalent among children and slaves in the West at the period of this story."[52] The first method mentioned by Twain of using a canon was actually not only a belief he heard about, but something he experienced firsthand. In the annotated Huckleberry Finn, Hearn observes that once when he was thought to have drowned, young Mark Twain witnessed a similar scene as the townspeople of Hannibal fired cannons over the water to raise him to the surface. He recalled in a later letter on February 6, 1870, "I jumped over board from the ferryboat in the middle of the river that stormy day to get my hat, and swam two or three miles after it [and got it] while all the town collected on the wharf and for an hour or so, looked out across toward where people said Sam Clemens (Mark Twain) was last seen before he went down."[53]

    The method of shooting a canon to locate a drowned body is also recorded in Notes and Queries. "A few years ago when two men were drowned in the Lune, I believe the same experiment was tried [bread with quicksilver]. Guns also were fired over, and gunpowder was so contrived as to explode in the bottles containing it beneath the surface, but one of the bodies has never been found."[54] In a second citation in Notes and Queries, it is written, "Heavy gun firing was in progress yesterday in the marshes, and there is a strange but widespread belief among the riverside residents that a cannon tends to bring the drowned to the surface." [55] The superstition is also mentioned in Edgar Allen's Poe's 1842 story, Mystery of Marie Roget.[56]

    A reason for the purported effectiveness of this method is offered in Radford's Encyclopedia of Superstition,[57] where he describes a widespread British superstition that, "a gun fired over a corpse thought to be lying at the bottom of the sea or a river, will by concussion break the gall bladder, and thus cause the body to float."

    It seems Radford took the above fact for granted, for, scientifically, firing a canon over water is not likely to cause a gall bladder to burst. Even if it does rupture, it is strictly internal and there is no effect on the buoyancy since the body's overall density remains unchanged. However, if the skin is broken and the bowels come loose, then the body's density may increase due to water entering the body and air and other gasses escaping. This actually allows for a greater chance of the body sinking.[58] Accordingly, firing the cannon over the water would cause the opposite affect than what the superstition alleges. The only factor that could aid in the retrieval of the body that the firing of the cannon could cause a concussive effect which might jar loose a body snagged in weeds on the bottom of the water. So firing a canon might raise a body, although not for the reasons that the superstition gives.[59]

    To returning to the Jewish sources, there seems to have been four different segulot used to locate a drowned body, each one involves floating an object in the water, either a wooden bowl, bread, a candle or an amulet. Each individual method seems to have once been a separate practice of its own. However in a number of instances the separate segulot are recorded as being performed together. It can be assumed that in these instances the person performing the segulah was aware of methods and combined them in the hopes of a more effective result.

    There is limited testimony as to the effectiveness of these segulot; this may be due to the fact that they have rarely been subjected to controlled experimentation in the past. Like many segulot, they remain shrouded in mystery. The questions that remain are: From where did these segulot develop? Are all of them of early origin? Are they all solely of Jewish origin?

    I would like to conclude this article, by stating that the world of Segulot and Kemi'ot [amulets] is very large and unexplored. Many of the seforim on this topic are rare and unavailable, while others remain in manuscript form. These seforim may have the missing pieces to the entire puzzle of the methods and sources of segulot. As material is continuously printed and made more available, my hope is the history of segulot will be made much more clear.[60]

    [1] Rabbi Yosef Yuzpa Han Norlingen, Yosef Ometz, Jerusalem 1975 ed., pg. 352. Born in Frankfort 1570. It is probably correct to assume, the fact that the sefer was finished in 1618 [even though it was only first printed in 1648 see intro. Ibid.], and he was born in 1570, that this belief in this segulah was current before 1618 and certainly in the late 1500's.

    [2] The word used in the Yosef Ometz is ke'oh'rah, which can be translated as a dish or bowl. The word ke'oh'rah comes from the root kar which means sunk, compared to keeka'ah which means to engrave (etch inside). See The Kunkurdantzyah Dictionary to The Tanach by Dr. Shlomo Madelkarn, Jerusalem 1972, pg. 1035, ke'oh'rah. See also Marcus Jastrow, Dictionary of The Talmud, Jerusalem, pg. 1397, ke'oh'rah, therefore it would be correct to assume that ke'oh'rah is a dish, that is a slightly sunken in, like a bowl or even a plate that's center is lower then it's border.

    [3] R' Yosef Yuzpa Dashman Segal, Noheg Ketzon Yosef, Tel Aviv, 1979,pg. 122, s.v. "segulas."

    [4] R' Avraham Yitzchok Sperling, Sefer Taamai Minhagim, Jerusalem 1957 ed. [f.p. Lvov 1894], pg. 569.

    [5] R' Chaim Palagi, Refuah Vechaim, Jerusalem 1997 ed. [f.p. Izmir 1879], pg, 141.

    [6] R' Yehudah Yudal Rosenberg, Rafael Hamalach, Jerusalem 198? ed. [f.p. Piotrkow 1911], pg. 41, s.v. "yedeyot."

    [7] R' Avaraham Chamuoy, Hoach Nafshainu, Jerusalem 1981 ed., [f.p. Izmir 1870], pg. 185 s.v. "water."

    [8] R' Rafael Uchnah, Mareh Hayeladim, Jerusalem 1987ed. [f.p. Jerusalem 1900], pg, 48a, s.v. "drowned;" id. at 66b s.v. "water."

    [9] R' Shaul Feldman, Yosef Shaul, Piatrikov 1911, pg. 83. It is interesting to note that he adds there "take hot bread."

    [10] R' Shabtzi Lifshutz, Segulas Yisroel, Jerusalem 1991 ed. [f.p. Jerusalem 1946], pg. 132. s.v. "drowned." He brings it in the name of the Refuah Vechaim.

    [11] The only similar (but note the same, for they are only similar in the fact that they consist of floating a piece of wood or pot similar to a bowl) methods found in non Jewish sources is in Notes And Queries, Oct. 4, 1851, pg. 251, The Journal of Science, NY, Dec. 4, 1891. Nicolas B. Dennys, The Folklore of China, Amsterdam 1968. "Sir James Alexander, in his account of Canada [L' Acadie, 2 vol., 1849, Pg. 26] writes: "The Indians imagine that in the case of a drowned body, its place may be discovered by floating a chip of cedar wood, which will stop and turn round over the exact spot. An instance occurred within my own knowledge, in the case of Mr. Lavery of Kingston Mill, whose boat overset, and himself drowned near Cedar Island; nor could the body be discovered until this experiment was resorted to." See also Linda J. Ivanits, Russian Folk Belief, 1989, pg. 73 (pg. 222 note 64) "A pot (or wooden cup) filled with hot coals and incense and with candles attached to the sides was placed on the surface of the water; the victim's body was believed to lie under the spot where the pot stopped floating."[Thanks to Professor Daniel Shvarber for pointing out this source to me.] Also the use of a wooden cricket bat in 1925 as recorded by Notes And Queries, Oct. 18. 1851, Pg. 297 [Also in Jan 30, 1886, Pg. 95] " An Eton boy, named Dean, who had lately come to school, imprudently bathed in the river Thames where it flows with great rapidity under the 'playing fields,' and he was soon carried out of his depth, and disappeared. Efforts were made to save him or recover the body, but to no purpose; until Mr. Evans, who was then, as now, the accomplished drawing-master, threw a cricket bat into the stream, which floated to a spot where it turned round in an eddy, and from a deep hole underneath the body was quickly drawn.

    [12] Beis Dovid, Rabbi Dovid Tebal Ben Yaakov Ashkenazi, Wilhermsdorf, Pg. 31.

    [13] R' Shimon Ben R' Meir, Over Orach, Lemberg 1865, pg. 8. The Sefer Over Orach was really an adaptation and extension of a sefer printed about 1646 in Krakow, by R' Yaakov Naftoli Ben Yehudah Leib of Lublin the Sefer was originally called Derech Hayoshor. [see Kiryat Sefer, 1933/34, 10, pg. 252]. It seems that segulah is one of the added segulas of R' Shimon Ben Meir, as this segulah only first appears in Over Orach by R' Shimon Ben R' Meir in the Karlsaruah 1764 ed. pg. 172, which seems to be the first or at least the second printing of the sefer in the life time of the latter Auther . In addition to the fact that this segulah is not brought at all by R' Yaakov Naftoli Ben Yehudah Leib in Derech Hayosher.

    [14] David Shtokfish, Jewish Mlawa, Tel Aviv 1984, pg. 486.

    [15] Ibid. pg. 55.

    [16] Ibid. sub. Of water, pg. 66b.

    [17] Ibid , the author brings this belief in the name of a earlier source however I had trouble locating his source.

    [18]Ibid, pg. 83.

    [19] Ibid. pg. 195 sub. Water. Also see his Kuntres Even Segulah pg. 406.

    [20] Thomas Hill, Natural Conclusions, 1586, D3. Qouted by Iona Opie and Moira Tatem, A Dictionary of Superstitions, Oxford University Press 1989, pg. 34, subject, Body: locating in water.

    [21] Oliver Heywood, Autobiography c.a. 1664, Turner ed., III 1883, pg. 89. 'Mr. Rawsthorne of Lumb and Mr. Thomas Bradshaw walked out and after they had drunk a cup of ale returned home. Going in the night by a pit side Mr. R. fell in; Mr. B. leaped after him to take him out because he could swim, they were both drowned. Mr. R. swam at top, Mr. B. could not be found. A women made them cast in white loaf and they doing so it would it would not be removed from over the place where he was, so they took him up, and they were buried together. A sad family it was, my brother being eye witness there of.

    [22] Gents. Mag, 1767, pg. 189. Quoted in A Dictionary of Superstitions ibid. See also Notes And Queries [Oct 4, 1851, Pg. 251, 1851-s1, iv, pg. 148, June 15, '78 5th s. Ix. pg. 478] "In looking through the chronicle of the Annual Register for 1767, I came across the following entry, which clearly shows that the superstition referred to by...was at the time current in Berks: The following odd relation is attested as a fact. An inquisition was taken at New Bury, Berks, on the body of a child near two year old who fell onto the river Kennet and was drowned. The jury brought in their verdict, accidental death. The body was discovered by a very singular experiment, which was as follows. After diligent search had been made in the river for the child to no purpose, a two penny loaf with a quantity of quicksilver put into it was set floating from the place where the child it was supposed had fallen in, which steered its course down the river upwards a half a mile, before a great number of spectators, when the body happening to lay on the contrary side of the river, the loaf suddenly tacked about and swam across the river, and gradually sunk near the child, when both the child and loaf were immediately brought up with grabbers ready for that purpose."

    [23] Collin de Plancey, 'Dictionnaire Critique des Reliques et des images miraculeuses.' tom:ii, pg 212, Paris 1821. "In rural regions of France a perforated loaf called St. Nicholas is thrown in the river, which it would float down on, and stop as soon as it gains the spot with the corpse underneath, after turning three times around." Quoted in the Notes And Queries July 26, 1924 pg. 61.

    [24] Notes And Queries [5th s. IX June 15, '78 pg. 478] " In January 1849, when the pier at Morecambe was being constructed, the stone for which was procured near Halton, the boat conveying the workmen from the quarry across the river Lune to the village was upset, and eight of the men were drowned. The villagers were confident that quicksilver placed inside a loaf would enable them to find the bodies, but the last corpse was not discovered until nearly three months after the accident." Also See June 29, 1878 pg. 516.

    [25] Notes And Queries [ibid.] "A few years ago, when two young men were drowned in the Lune, I believe the same experiment [ a loaf with

    0 0
  • 09/16/08--06:03: The Tree Murderers I
  • This post introduces a new series of posts discussing recently published seforim.  Specifically, we shall focus on seforim that should never have been printed.

    The first such sefer is R. Aaron Levine's Kol Bo le-Yarhzeiht, Toronto, Canada, 2006.  This two volume work weighting in at a mere 1177 pages (needlessly killing all those trees) is entirely devoted to the custom of yarhzeit.  First a bit about the layout of the book. The first volume of the book opens with 18 pages of dedications and then 19 pages of approbations.  So the reader, who presumably paid money for this book, has to get through 40 pages before coming to any substantive content.  Moreover, the need for 19 approbations on a book that is supposedly merely a "likut" boggles the mind.  Perhaps the most amazing thing is that the author wasn't satisfied to include these dedications at the opening of the first volume - yes, at the start of the second volume, again the reader needs to first see all the very same dedications that appear at the beginning of the first, another 20 wasted pages.  To be clear, these 20 pages (at the start of the two volumes) are not the only dedications, no, at the end of each volume are 36 additional pages of dedications. And, yes, the same 36 pages appear at the end of each volume.  So, in total there are 112 pages of dedications!  That still leaves over 1000 pages for material about yarhzeit. 

    As is apparent the author did not feel constrained by space (or environmental concerns) but that doesn't stop him from failing to include relevant sources.  For example, there is a section devoted to the using the mikveah before serving as a hazan on a yarhzeit.  What is amazing is that the section only speaks in terms of obligation - how one is obligated to do this.  It never mentions or includes any sources that not everyone does this. Apparently there were no more trees left for the other views.

    A more troubling section is the lead section of the book discussing the history of the yarhzeit custom. As the author demonstrates, yarhzeit is a custom that started with the Ashkenazim sometime around the 13th century.  It is not a talmudic or geonic custom.   As such, there is no Hebrew or rabbinic term for the custom and unsurprisingly, yarhzeit or the German for aniversery is employed to describe the custom.  But there is still a dissenting view brought that it is improper to use a non-Jewish term to describe such a holy custom. 

    Finally, it should be pointed out that throughout the book Pesach Krohn's stories are used as valid sources for halachos and customs.

    Least one think that the needless killing of trees will end with this book, the author indicates that he plans on publishing an English edition and is soliciting dedications.  So if you want your dedication - and it may appear multiple times, perhaps the English will be three volumes allowing you the reader to see the same dedication three time - send your money in now.  

    0 0

    The Enigmatic R. David Lida

    by Tevie Kagan

    Tevie Kagan works in the Seforim industry.  This is his first post for the TraditionOnline Seforim blog.

    Part I: R. David of Lida and Plagiarism

    R. David ben Aryeh Leib of Lida (c.1650-1696) is a fascinating and enigmatic figure. He was the rabbi of multiple communities over the course of his lifetime including Lida, Ostrog, Mainz, and the Ashkenazic community in Amsterdam. He was forced to leave Amsterdam under a cloud of alleged plagiarism and possible Sabbatean beliefs; though he was acquitted of these charges by the council of the four lands (Va'ad Arba Ha-Aratzot), he never recovered from the various accusations. He is not a well-known individual today, yet many of his works survive and are still available in print. This post (the first of two) will present a detailed account of his life and will attempt to see if both the accusations of plagiarism and heretical beliefs have merit.

    R. (David) Lida was born in Zwollen, Lithuania into a prominent rabbinical family. His uncle was R. Moshe Rivkes, author of the Be'er Ha-Golah. Other family members that Lida cites within his works include R. Yeshaya Horowitz, author of the Shnei Luchos Habris (Shelah), R. Yosef of Pozna, R. Naftali Hertz of Lemberg, and R. Yaakov Cohen of Frankfurt. He was married to Miriam the daughter of R. Wolf Yuspef of Lvov (Lemberg) and had two sons, Nathan and Pesachya, and two daughters. One of the daughters was married to R. Yerucham b. Menachem, who helped prepare Shomer Shabbos (one of Lida's early works) for printing, and the other was married to R. Abraham b. Aaron, who helped with the printing of Shomer Shabbos in Amsterdam. In his work Ir David, Lida testifies[1] that his primary teacher was R. Joshua Hoeschel b. Jacob of Cracow (c.1595-1663), who was one of preeminent rabbis of the time.[2]

    From 1671 until 1677, R. David was rabbi in Lida. He then served as a rabbi in Ostrog and Mainz, replacing R. Samuel David b Chanoch of Lublin, the author of Divrei Shmuel who had passed away. In 1681, Lida left Mainz and became a rabbi in Amsterdam. After being forced out of Amsterdam, Lida appealed to the council of the four lands. By doing so he succeeded in getting himself reinstated in Amsterdam. However, his position was untenable, so he reached a financial agreement and moved to Lvov, where he lived until his death in 1696.[3]

    The following is a list of Lida's works (with the topic covered in parentheses):

    ¨ Beer Esek – Frankfurt on the Oder/Lublin, 1684 (apologetic)

    ¨ Beer Mayim Chaim- lost, never printed (on Code of law)

    ¨ Chalkei Avanim- Fuerth, 1693 (on Rashi's commentary on bible) reprinted in Yad Kol Bo under the title Migdol Dovid

    ¨ Divrei David- Lublin, 1671 (ethics)

    ¨ Dovev Sifsei Yesheinim- lost, never printed (mishnah)

    ¨ Ir David- Amsterdam, 1683 (incomplete), 1719 (complete) (Homiletics)

    ¨ Ir Miklat – Dyhernfurth, 1690 (613 commandments)

    ¨ Migdol David –Amsterdam,1680 (Ruth)

    ¨ Pitschei She'arim - Pirush Tefilos- partially printed in Yad Kol Bo (prayer)

    ¨ Shalsheles Zahav

    ¨ Shir Hillulim- Amsterdam, 1680 (poem in honor of dedication of a new Torah)

    ¨ Shomer Shabbos – Amsterdam, 1687 printed with Tikkunei Shabbos, reprinted in Yad Kol Bo, and reprinted separately in Zolkolov, 1804 (laws of Sabbath)

    ¨ Sod Hashem Sharbit Hazahav– Amsterdam, 1680 (on circumcision)

    ¨ Tapuchei Zahav kitzur reishis chochma – Fuerth, 1693

    ¨ Yad Kol Bo- Amsterdam/Frankfurt on the Oder, 1727(Collection)

    While in Amsterdam (about 1694), Lida was accused of libel, plagiarism and Sabbatean leanings. Since many of the documents surrounding both controversies no longer exist, we can only attempt to recreate what happened.

    Lida is Accused of Libel

    R. Yaakov Sasportas (c.1610-1698) has a series of responsa[4] that refer to the libel case. One of the prominent members of the Sephardic congregation, R. Nissan ben Judah Leib, the brother in law of R. Isaac Benjamin Wolf ben Eliezer Ashkenazi (Chief Rabbi in Berlin and the author of the Nachlas Binyomin (Amsterdam, 1682)), claimed that on a trip to Wessel R. Nissan had found defamatory letters about himself and R. Isaac Benjamin Wolf, which R. Nissan alleged were written by Lida. Lida denied having written these letters. R. Nissan submitted copies of the letters to the Sephardic court, presided over by R Yitzchak Abuhav, R Yaakov Sasportas and R Shmuel Deozida. The court requested the original letters, and when they could not be produced, the court decreed that Lida did not write the letters and that he was an upstanding rabbi of the community. The court also demanded that R. Nissan apologize, which he did. Subsequently the Sephardic court sent a letter to both R Wolf Lippman and the Council of the Four Lands requesting they revoke all bans against Lida and to forgive both themselves and Lida. This letter included the signatures of many prominent rabbis of the time, though many of these rabbis may have been influenced by Lida's famous brother-in-law, Yitzchak b. Abraham of Posnan, who was the first signature on the list.

    Additionally, Lida himself wrote a work entitled Beer Esek,[5] in which he attempts to clear his name.The work begins with an introductory homily, after which Lida then proceeds to defend himself from the charges of plagiarism. Lida's letter ends off with letters and signatures of approbation..

    Charges of Plagiarism

    Charges of plagiarism hounded Lida regarding many of his works. The first work that this charge was leveled at was Divrei David (Lublin, 1671), an ethical treatise broken up into seven parts, corresponding to the days of the week. On the title page of this work, Lida states that it is culled from the words of Rishonim upon which he added his own additions. The bibliographer, Joseph Zedner (1804-71), in his Catalogue of the Hebrew Books in the Library of the British Museum (London, 1867), was the first to note that the text of the Divrei David is identical to a part of the text of the Sefer Yirah published by Aryeh Judah Loeb ben Aryeh Priluck.

    The work itself contains information that is inconsistent with Lida's biography. For example, the author talks about trips to Israel (nos. 6, 77, and 85), serving as rabbi in Israel (no. 46), and refers to a work that he wrote called Zer Zahav on the Bible (no.72). At the time Divrei David was published Lida was 21 and, as far as we know, never visited Israel, as he never mentions it anywhere else in any of his works. Even more puzzling is that he never authored a work on the Bible called Zer Zahav! Interestingly, Gershom Scholem argues that whoever the author of Divrei David was the author had Sabbatean leanings as there is a possible Shabbati Zevi reference in the beginning of the section on Shabbos.[6] Was this work stolen from a previous work? It would appear so; but, in defense of Lida, he admits that he culled his work from other sources. Nevertheless, this would not account for his borrowing of accounts of positions, travels or works written.

    The Sefer Yirah was first published from manuscript in 1724 (Lida had published Divrei David in 1671). The publisher of the Sefer Yirah, Priluck, clearly states on the title page that he found a manuscript and had no idea as to whom was its author. Priluck adds statements and revises the original work where he saw fit. One example is in the "morning half" of the "first day," where he adds (in the fifth section) that he already printed a prayer book which was grammatically correct. Most of the other additions are merely clarifications of the earlier work [for example, in the "night section" of the first day he clarifies that the Shema referred to is the one said in bed before sleep (Kriat Shema al Ha'Mita)]. Within the section of the fourth day Lida mentions (part 77) that he was in Jerusalem, and he concludes that one should cover their head with a hat when saying grace (birkat ha'mazon); yet this last item is not found in the Priluck version of Sefer Yirah. In total, there are about twenty slight differences, but most are stylistic, with Priluck changing particular words and verses. The Sefer Yirah concludes with a statement that this is where the manuscript ends and that he does not want to add from other sources. The Warsaw edition of 1873 of the Divrei David adds an entire section of good traits (minhagim tovim). Interestingly the most recent reprinting (Brooklyn, 2006 by R. N.M., German) adds 2 more pages of character traits not found in the Warsaw edition. This would not be the only work that would come under suspicion that Lida wrote.

    Lida's most famous work that is under the suspicion of plagiarism is his Migdol David, published in 1680 while Lida was still rabbi in Mainz. The work was published with 17 approbations (haskamot). While some of the approbations do not mention the work Migdol David specifically, by reading them one gets the idea that many felt it was an original work. In his Beer Esek, Lida alludes to R. Nisan's claim that accused Lida of stealing the work (R. Nisan did so by saying that Lida "wears the talis of another"). Many believe that this work was really a copy of R. Hayim Ben Abraham Ha-Kohen's (c.1585-1655) [7]Toras Chessed. For instance, R. Hayyim Yosef David Azulai, ,writes "truthfully [Migdol David] is the work of R. Hayim Kohen, author of the Tur Barekes..." (Shem ha-Gedolim, Marekhet Seforim, s.v. Migdol David). ,Azulai also cites the Yaavetz (R. Yaakov Emden) and his charge in Toras Hakanaos (see below). The Menachem Tziyon attempts to clear Lida's name by showing that many great rabbis attested to his kabalistic knowledge, but ultimately he too leans towards the plagiarism charge. [8]

    The Yaavetz, in his Toras Hakanaos, lists a group of works that he charged with having Sabbatean leanings and allusions. He includes Lida's work, not as a potential Sabbatean work,[9] but rather as a plagiarized one, and, more specifically, to support his claim that Lida's character was suspect, and even possibly Sabbatean. Sabbateans were known to have "double natures," one being outwardly righteous, while the inner being corrupt and immoral (more about this to come in part 2 of this post, R. David of Lida and Sabbatianism). The Yaavetz shows that Lida took the work but left an allusion to Hayim Kohen's name in the introduction, which states, "ממקור מיים בריכה העליונה כה"נא רב"א" Lida's choice of words is suspect, as Lida was neither a Kohen nor named Hayim.

    More recently, Marvin Heller[10] has argued that a parable in the introduction to Lida's work alludes to the fact that it is not an original work. The allegory (from the Zohar) regards a rooster who finds a pearl while searching for food. Startled by the pearl's beauty, the rooster recoils and wonders what caused the pearl to be hidden. A man, seeing the rooster recoil, stops to see what caused the reaction; when he sees the pearl, he proceeds to give it to the king. As a result, the king honors the rooster. Lida writes: "So to I found in this scroll blossoms and fruit which give forth a brightness, delightful to the sight and desirable to the eye, 'its fruit is good for food' (Genesis 2:9)...when this distinguished book comes to the hand of one who appreciates its value ... and also who publishes it will be remembered for good before the King, King of the universe" (emphasis added). This choice of language seems to be referring to a publisher not an author. In Lida's Ir Miklat, in the glosses where Lida mentions "my book Migdol David,"[11] Azulai (in his comments) interjects: "He printed it." Eisner seeks to defend Lida, even though he had never seen a copy of the rare Migdol David. Eisner argues that since all the charges were found to be groundless in the first case against Lida, so too the plagiarism charges must be false. He attempts to buttress this by showing that Lida had a reputation for being a Kabbalist. In 1681, the notorious anti-Semite Johann Andreas Eisenmenger (ca.1654-1704) visited Amsterdam and wrote about meeting Lida in his Entdecktes Judentum (Frankfurt am Main, 1700). He speaks of Lida and how he was a great scholar and Kabbalist. Interestingly, towards the end of the introduction of Ir David, Lida states that he hopes that this work will be printed without the mistakes and errors that the printers added to his work Migdol David, which he was unable to fix. Is Lida attempting to lay the groundwork for the argument that any troubling pieces within Migdol David are not his, but rather the work of the printers?

    Slightly more telling about both of the works that are suspected of being stolen is that Lida references them in his other works very infrequently. In contrast, Ir David is referenced quite frequently within his other writings. When themes or interpretations are referenced in Chalkei Avanim that are supposedly printed in Lida's other works (specifically Migdol David) he does not give the work's name, but just the statement "and it is understood."[12]

    Even after his death Lida's works have encountered problems. His son Pesachya printed a collected volume of his works entitled Yad Kol Bo (Amsterdam 1727) in which was included a work on Psalms called Assarah Hillulim. According to Brill, this was actually written by the Calvinist-Hebraist, Heinrich Jacob van Bashuysen (1679-1750) and published in Sefer Tehilim im Pirush ha-Katzar, Hanau, 1712.[13]

    [1] Ir David, First Sermon

    [2] See Dembitzer Kelilas Yofi Krakow:1893 pg59a-59b

    [3] For the date of Lida's death, see Solomon Buber, Anshei Shem (Krakow, 1895), where he recreates the correct date based on approbations Lida had given, which are marked after the date on his tombstone.

    [4]Ohel Yaakov 75-76

    [5] Reprinted in Abraham Eisner, Toledot Hagaon R. David Lida (Breslau,1938) and in Aaron Freimann, Sefer Hayovel for Nahum Sokolow (Warsaw, 1904)

    [6] See Warsaw edition that actually puts Lida as author and includes that he wrote Zer Zahav and Bris Yitzchok, which Lida did not.

    [7] See Encyclopedia Judaica entry where Scholem states that Lidas plagiarism was well known in Kabalistic circles before H.J.D. Azulai made it public. Scholem offers no source or examples for this statement. Also interesting to note is that whatever Azulai's thoughts on Lida's character may have been, he still wrote glosses to Lida's work Ir Miklat.

    [8] See also Ohr Hayim (Hayim Michael), where he unequivocally states that it is a stolen work from R. Hayim Kohen.

    [9] Yehuda Liebes, in "Sefer Tzadik Yesod Olam- Mythos Shabetai" (reprinted in On Sabbateanism and its Kabbalah: Collected Essays (Jerusalem, 1995), pg. 303-304, note 22) shows that even Migdol David is not free of possible Sabbatean leanings. These could not have come from R Hayim Kohen as he died before Sabbateanism grew to the movement that it later became.

    [10] Marvin J. Heller, David Ben Aryeh Leib of Lida and his Migdol David: Accusations of Plagiarism in Eighteenth Century Amsterdam, Shofar (Jan. 1, 2001) (translation of text is his).

    [11] Commandment 190

    [12] For examples see Brooklyn edition 2006-pg. 5, fn 1; pg. 8, fn 8.

    [13] For more on Bashuysen, see Encyclopaedia Judaica under his name entry. Eisner strongly disagrees and says that it clearly is not a Christian work, and that it includes many ideas from Lidas other works.

    0 0

    Notes on Rabbinic Epitaphs: I

    by: Shnayer Leiman

    The newly recovered tombstone of R. Yosef Trani (1568-1639), the Maharit, among the greatest of the early aharonim,1 is a truly remarkable event. The discoverer, the noted bibliophile and book dealer R. Shlomo Epstein, had searched all the Jewish cemeteries in Istanbul (formerly: Constantinople), but could not locate the Maharit's grave. On a recent visit to Safed, where he went to pray at the tomb of R, Moshe Alshekh (circa 1520-1593), he noticed nearby a fragmented, barely legible tombstone (see figure 1). As he began to decipher the text, he realized that it was the tombstone of none other than the Maharit. In fact, the Maharit died and was buried in Constantinople, but his sons later transferred his remains to Safed (as he had requested) so that he could be interred near his father, R. Moshe Trani (1500-1580), the Mabit.2


    There is much to learn from tombstone inscriptions. Often they are the only source of precise information about an ancestor or about a gadol be-yisrael. Sadly, tombstones are often neglected, lost, or destroyed. Despite all the claims otherwise, we do not know where Rashi (d. 1105), Ibn Ezra (d. 1164), R. Eleazar b. Yehudah of Worms, author of Sefer Rokeah (d. circa 1230), or Don Isaac Abarbanel (d. 1508) are buried.3 Moreover, no one took the trouble to copy their tombstone inscriptions – and they can no longer be recovered. In a much later period, the tombstone of R. Aryeh Leib b. Asher Gunzberg (d. 1785), noted author of the Sha'agat Aryeh, was destroyed.4 Again, no one took the trouble to copy his tombstone inscription before it was destroyed – and it can no longer be recovered. Similarly, Sarah Schenierer's (see figure 2)5 headstone in Plaszow (a suburb of Krakow), erected in 1935 and destroyed by Nazi orders in 1942, was neither photographed nor copied during the seven years it stood undisturbed. When the stone was reset in 2003 (see figure 3), a newly invented text, based in part on eye-witness testimony, had to be prepared for it. We need to learn from these instances that it is crucial that we preserve Jewish cemeteries the world over, to the best of our ability. Moreover, tombstone inscriptions in particular need to be photographed while still legible, and – at least in the case of gedolei yisrael – restored or redone so that visitors can read and be inspired by what was said about those gedolei yisrael. When tombstones are restored, the original text is always preferable to a newly invented text.

    figure 2 figure 3


    In my travels, I often photograph rabbinic epitaphs, and present some samples in this posting.

    I. R. Akiva Eger (d. 1837).

    There is no need to rehearse here biographical information about R. Akiva Eger.6 Sadly, his grave in Poznan (formerly: Posen), which was still standing before World War II (see figure 4),7 figure 4 was destroyed by the Nazis. Tombstones from the Jewish cemetery were used to pave roads, and the nineteenth century Jewish cemetery itself – it opened in 1804 – was incorporated into Poznan's Trade Fair grounds after the war.8 Ultimately, a housing project and shopping center figure 5were built on the grounds of the Jewish cemetery, today at ul. Glogowska corner ul. Sniadeckich. Fortunately, the rabbinic section of the cemetery served as a parking lot (rather than as the foundation of an apartment house), and it was possible to transform the lot into a grassy knoll and to set new tombstones over the old graves (see figure 5). At best, the tombstones are approximately over the gravesites they describe. Even so, it is a great kiddush ha-Shem that this sacred site has been restored. The graves restored include R. Akiva Eger (see figure 6), his second wife Breindel (d. 1836), his son and successor R. Shlomo Eger (d. 1852; see figure 7), and his son R. Avraham Eger (d. 1854). Also restored were the graves of two predecessors of R. Akiva Eger as Chief Rabbi of Posen: R. Yosef b. Pinhas of Posen (son-in-law of R. Yehezkel Landau Prague; see figure 8), d. 1801, and R. Moshe Shmuel, author of בית שמואל אחרון, d. 1806 (see figures 9 and 10 for the original and the restored tombstone inscriptions).9

    We would be remiss if we didn't mention that R. Akiva Eger's likeness is on permanent display in Poznan's Town Hall (see figure 11). The excerpt in figure 11 is part of a larger mural painted by Julius Knorr (1810-1860) and entitled Marktplatz in Posen. The painting was done during the lifetime of R. Akiva Eger and was first displayed in 1838. R. Akiva Eger can be seen at the bottom right, walking with cane in hand and accompanied by the two other members of his rabbinic court.10

    figure 6 figure 7 figure 8 figure 9  figure 10

      figure 11

    II. R. David Hoffmann (d. 1921).

    The recent announcement that R. David Hoffmann's פירוש על ספר שמות (based upon his lecture notes in German) is about to be published by Mosad Harav Kook has brought great joy to biblical and rabbinical scholars alike.11 Yet another sefer by the Master! It matters not that more than a century has passed since he first taught Exodus at the Hildesheimer Rabbinical Seminary. Of course modern Bible scholarship has changed drastically in the interim. R. David Hoffmann's commentary will not reflect modern archaelogical advance, will not grapple with the textual readings of the Dead Sea Scrolls, and will not deal with the latest philological discoveries of Semitic linguistics. But those who have read his commentaries on Genesis, Leviticus, and Deuteronomy, and learned from them, will know that regarding R. David Hoffmann "כל מקום שאתה מוצא דבריו עשה אזנך כאפרכסת."12 Master of the Oral Law, he of course read the Torah through rabbinic lenses. At the same time, he listened to dissenting voices, weighed all the evidence, and never disparaged others even as he dismissed their arguments. He always judged judiciously and graciously. And even when one disagrees with him, one always gains insight from his comments.

    It is sad that this seminal figure, Rector and Rosh Yeshiva, Bible scholar and Posek, Literary Critic of the Mishnah and Restorer of Lost Tannaitic Midrashim, Defender of the Faith and Public Servant, has never been the subject of an intellectual biography worthy of the name.13 Here we publish, apparently for the first time, his epitaph. R. David Hoffmann is buried in the Adass Jisroel cemetery in the Weissensee section of Berlin.

    Obverse (see figure 12):


    גאון ישראל נר המערב מורה מהור"ר14

    דוד צבי

    בן מוה"ר ר' משה יהודה



    ראש בית המדרש

    לרבנים בברלין זכרונו לברכה

    נולד ביום ב' דר"ח כסלו התר"ד

    ועלה למרום ביום תשעה עשר

    לחדש מרחשון ה' תרפ"ב לב"ע


    דור לדור ישבח אורו

    ותורתו ילמדנה

    דעתו שפטה תועי דורו

    צדקת עמו יגידנה

    באר תורה ללבב עמו

    יסד עז במשנת קדומים

    זך מדעו נעם טעמו

    לנצח יחיו בעלומים


     figure 12

    Reverse (see figure 14):



    geb. 24. November 1843.

    gest. 20. November 1921.

    figure 14



    1. According to R. Avraham Yeshayahu Karelitz (d. 1953), "גדול האחרונים הוא המהרי"ט." See Z. Yabrov, מעשה איש, Bnei Brak, 2001, vol. 4, p. 90.

    2. See E. Zalman, "המהרי"ט קבור בצפת," Qulmos 65 (2008), pp. 18-21. The photograph in figure 1 is taken from the Zalman essay.

    3. In the case of R. Eleazar b. Yehudah of Worms, he was certainly buried in the Worms Jewish cemetery, standing to this very day. The portion of the cemetery he was buried in was appropriated by the non-Jewish authorities. See R. Juspa Shammes, מעשה נסים, Amsterdam, 1696, p. 20.


    See N. Netter, "Les Anciens Cimetieres Israelites de Metz," REJ 51(1905-6), pp. 280-281. Cf. S. Schwarzfuchs, (תנאי הרבנות של השאגת אריה בק"ק מיץ",מוריה 15(1986", pp. 81-90.


    The only extant authentic photograph of Sara Schenierer, which scholars in Israel and the United States have kept under wraps for years, was recently published in T. Lesniak, J. M. Malecki, J. Purchla, and A.B. Skotnicki, eds., Swiat przed katastrofa:Zydzi krakowscy w wudziestoleciu miedzywojennym (A World Before a Catastrophe: Krakow's Jews Between the Wars), Krakow, 2007, p. 128 – and is reproduced here.


    See, e.g., Y. Strasser and A. Perl, eds., מאורן של ישראל: רבינו עקיבא איגר, New York, 1990, 2 vols. Cf. J.H. Sinason, The Gaon of Posen: A Portrait of Rabbi Akiva Guens-Eger , Jerusalem, 1991.


    Figure 4 is taken from T. Sztyma-Knasiecka, Miedzy tradycja a nowoczesnoscia: Zydi poznanscy w XIX i XX wieku, Poznan, 2006, p. 23.


    See Z. Pakula, , The Jews of Poznan, London, 2003, pp. 1-21 and 109. Cf. anonymous, "Jewish Poznan," Poznan in Your Pocket, July-October 2008, p. 6.


    The photograph of the original tombstone inscription is taken from Sztyma-Knasiecka, p. 22.


    See Sinason, pp. 100-103; cf. Sztyma-Knasiecka, p. 13.


    See A. Wasserteil's introduction to R. David Hoffmann, (שיעבוד בני ישראל במצרים, המעין 48(2008, number 3, p. 25.


    R. David Hoffmann used to apply this Talmudic phrase to the רש"ש, but it surely applies to Hoffmann as well. See his שו"ת מלמד להועיל, Frankfurt, 1932, vol. 3, §71. Cf. R. M. Roth, מבשר עזרא, Jerusalem, 1968, p. 167.


    Useful information can be gleaned from the following:

    H.J. Bechtoldt, "David Hoffmann," in his Die jüdische Bibelkritik im 19. Jahrhundert, Stuttgart, 1995, pp. 363-438; D. Ellenson and R. Jacobs, "Scholarship and Faith: David Hoffmann and his Relationship to Wissenschaft des Judentums," Modern Judaism 8(1988), n.1, pp. 26-70; L. Ginzberg, Students Scholars and Saints, Philadelphia, 1928, pp. 252-262; L. Jung, The Path of a Pioneer, London, 1980, pp. 20-27; J. Marmorstein, "David Hoffmann, Defender of the Faith," Tradition 8(1966), n.4, pp. 91-101; A. Marx, Essays in Jewish Biography, Philadelphia, 1947, pp. 185-222; Idem, Studies in Jewish History, New York, 1944, pp. 369-376; M. B. Shapiro, "Rabbi David Zevi Hoffmann on Torah and Wissenschaft," Torah U-Madda Journal 6(1995-6), pp. 129-137; C. Tchernowitz, מסכת זכרונות, New York, 1945, pp. 244-264; and Y. Wolfsberg-Aviad, "David Hoffmann," in L. Jung, ed., Guardians of Our Heritage, New York, 1958, pp. 363-419 (cf. Wolfsberg-Aviad's דיוקנאות, Jerusalem, 1962, pp. 57-66). Much more bibliography can be added; the items listed here are intended to get the interested reader started.



    For the honorific title מורה מורנו, see figure 13, also from the Adass Jisroel cemetery. Cf. the very interesting responsum in שו"ת מהרש"ם 2:56.

    figure 13

    0 0

    Repackaged Rulings: The Responsa of R. Elyashiv

    by: Yitzhak of בין דין לדין

    Wolf2191 recently wrote:

    N.B. I believe I noticed that some of the pesakim that R' Elyashiv issued when he was part of the Beis Din Ha-Gadol together with Chacham Ovadiah and Harav Kappach were republished in a kovetz under R' Elyashiv's name only, but I would need to check again.]

    The קובץ תשובות

    Three volumes of Rav Elyashiv's responsa have been published in Yerushalayim under the title קובץ תשובות, the first in 5760, and the latter two in 5763. None contain any preface, introduction or critical apparatus, except for the following brief prefatory paragraph, which appears verbatim in all three volumes:

    קובץ זה נאסף ונלקט מספרים קובצים וכו'. וזאת למודעי כי ברוב התשובות לא היה גוף כתה"י לנגד עינינו, וסמכנו על הנדפס ויש מהם שבאו בחסר ושינויי לשון, כך שאין מקום כלל לקבוע דבר מהם. התשובות נלקטו ונסדרו ע"ד בלבד ואם שגינו אתנו תלין משוגתנו, ואנו תפלה להשי"ת שלא יצא דבר תקלה ח"ו מתח"י.
    The title pages state merely that these responsa have been
    נאספו נלקטו וקובצו מספרים וקובצים תורניים
    No editors are named, and copyright is claimed anonymously, although a mailing address is given.

    A striking difference between the three volumes is in the sourcing of the individual responsa. The table of contents of the first volume contains sources for all the responsa, that of the second leaves many unsourced, particularly in the Even Ha'Ezer and Hoshen Mishpat sections, and that of the third dispenses entirely with sources.

    Why does the second volume omit some sources? Rav Dovid Soloveitchik used to say (and probably still does) "We may only ask 'what does it say', not 'why'", so let us rephrase the question; which sources does the second volume omit? The crucial clue is in the fact that the table of contents of the first volume mysteriously gives the sources for many of the responsa as 'פ"ד', whereas that of the second volume contains no such references. 'פ"ד' clearly stands for פסק דין, or perhaps more precisely, פסקי דין, and indeed, most of the unsourced responsa in the second volume seem to be excerpts of rulings originally published in the פסקי-דין של בתי הדין הרבניים האיזוריים בישראל, which explains their concentration in the aforementioned sections.

    I have hunted down the sources for a half dozen responsa from the beginning of the Hoshen Mishpat section of the second volume of the קובץ תשובות:

    קובץ תשובות פסקי דין
    p. 310 Vol. 5, p. 322
    p. 314 Vol. 4, p. 225
    p. 321 Vol. 3, p. 289
    p. 327 Vol. 5, p. 3
    p. 342 Vol. 1, p. 108
    p. 351 Vol. 3, p. 170
    The remainder are left as an exercise for the reader.

    Of the six cases listed above, five were apparently decided unanimously, and the published opinions are recorded simply as the courts' rulings. The third case in the above list yielded a split decision; one opinion appears over the names of R. Elyashiv and a colleague, and another opinion over the name of the third member of the panel. The קובץ תשובות' inclusion of these opinions implies that they have been authored by Rav Elyashiv himself, although the careful reader will notice that the editors do not explicitly attribute them to him; his signature is not appended, as it is to many of the responsa in the work.

    The פסקי דין

    We have mentioned the פסקי דין; a few words about this invaluable work are in order. At more than eight thousand pages in more than twenty volumes, it is the largest, and unquestionably the most important, published collection of casefiles in the areas of Hoshen Mishpat and Even Ha'Ezer. The decisions are lengthy and intricately argued, and they include copious citations of earlier literature as well as much important original analysis. Many of the בתי הדין הרבניים are represented, as are many of the most eminent Talmidei Hachamim and experts on Hoshen Mishpat and Even Ha'Ezer of the latter half of the twentieth century. Here is a list of some of the best known of these scholars:

    Current Status and Availability

    According to the Hebrew University catalog entries (See the Main Catalog entries (not JNUL) here and here) twenty two volumes of rulings have been published to date, plus three index volumes. I believe that the cost of the print version is exorbitant, but the wonderful people at have made most of the volumes available for free download, in PDF format; search for פסקי דין. They apparently have the same material that my local library has, nineteen volumes of rulings plus index volumes. [My library has one index volume, covering volumes one through fifteen, they have two, covering volumes one through five and six through ten, and the Hebrew University collections have all three.] They seem to have duplicate copies of volumes eleven through eighteen, and the publication dates of their first series, titled אוסף פסקי דין, are all given as תש"י, which is obviously incorrect (this is the date of the appearance of the first volume, as we shall presently see), but this is mere carping; their making (most of) the work available for free online is a great boon for anyone interested in Hoshen Mishpat and Even Ha'Ezer.

    Present At the Creation

    Wolf2191 has shown me Dr. Zerah Warhaftig's personal account of the founding and subsequent evolution of the project:

    An important innovation in the history of the responsa literature was inaugurated in Israel with the decision to publish the rulings of the Rabbinical High Court of Appeal and those of the district rabbinical courts. The rulings are published together with the arguments on which they are based, as presented in court. Indeed, I myself proposed the publication project, and was charged with its implementation, a responsibility I viewed as a great privelege and sacred trust.

    Previously, the Rabbinical High Court of Appeal followed the traditional system of issuing brief rulings while at the same time compiling a full account of the halakhic deliberation on the case in pamphlet form for circulation among judges. Deliberation and discussion are an essential part of the legal process, allowing the individual judges an opportunity to convince their colleagues of the validity of their arguments, so that a decision can be reached. The pamphlets were intended to facilitate this process, rather than explain the rulings to the litigants involved, so that they could understand why they had won, or lost, their cases.

    There was no appeal against a ruling of the Rabbinical High Court, nor were there establishe procedures for appealing the rulings of district rabbinical courts. (Interestingly, these pamphlets often served as the basis for volumes of responsa published by their authors years later.)

    The idea of publishing, in an organized fashion, both the courts' rulings and their grounds, and that of appending abstracts of the laws cited in the rulings, as is customary in law reports, to allow for ease of reference and study, was thus entirely new. Accordingly, the Chief Rabbinate, which had to approve the proposal, had to be convinced of its merits. This entailed some negotiation, in which, as head of the Ministry of Justice's Research Institute for Jewish Law, I was much involved.

    In due course an agreement in principle was reached between myself and the Chief Rabbinate. After some administrative changes were carried out, the first collection of rulings of the Chief Rabbinate's Rabbinical High Court of Appeal was finally published in 1950. Assisted by S. B. Feldman, S. Z. Cahana and P. Galevsky, I served as editor. In the foreword to the volume, I wrote:

    The selection of the rulings herein published was guided by the desire to accurately portray the workings of the court. Most of the rulings relate to family law and public endowments; the others are devoted to monetary matters. The opinions of the judges, with a few exceptions, are not published as written, but have been abstracted by the editors from the contents of the pamphlets appended to the case files. This volume thus does not constitute a formal record and the editors assume full responsibility for the adaptation and wording of the judicial opinions.

    It was found that publication encouraged rabbinical courts judges to communicate their opinions in a clear and orderly manner comprehensible to those unschooled in Jewish law, whether jurists or members of the public. Over time, rulings of the Rabbinical High Court of Appeal and the district rabbinical courts began to be handed down in a form that allowed them to be published as written, with no editing. Accordingly, it was decided to publish the rulings of the district rabbinical courts, and later, those of the Rabbinical High Court of Appeal, on a monthly basis. ...

    In addition to the inaugural volume of rulings of the Rabbinical High Court of Appeal, eleven volumes of rulings of Israel's rabbinical courts had been published by 1960. These well indexed volumes alone contain a wealth of decisions on questions of family and monetary law and on matters of vital public interest.

    [Warhaftig, Zerah "Precedent In Jewish Law." in Authority, Process and Method: Studies in Jewish Law Ed. Hanina Ben-Menahem and Neil S. Hecht. Harvard Academic Publishers. 12-16]

    So in addition to Wolf2191's point about the republication of the panels' rulings as specifically Rav Elyashiv's, Warhaftig tells us that the rulings in the first volume of the פסקי דין (at least one of which is included in the קובץ תשובות, as above) are actually abstracts written by the editors, and not the original opinions penned by the Dayyanim in the first place!

    0 0
  • 09/28/08--13:16: Post on my sefer
  • Announcing The Publication of Eliezer Brodt's Bein Kesah L'Asur

    by Eliezer Brodt

    This post is not a review of a sefer as one can not review ones own sefer. Rather it is a simple announcement and book description. Last year I posted a chapter from my sefer about the minhaghim of Rosh Hasnaha. I was hoping to complete that work this year but as the material grew I realized that would not be possible. Around Pesach time I decided that I would take some of the parts about aseret yemei teshuvah and print it as its own pamphlet. The pamphlet grew into its own 286 page sefer. The name of the sefer is Bein Kesah L'asur. The central topics of the sefer revolve around the chumras (stringency) that people practice during aseret yemei teshuvah.

    The sefer begins with a chapter to explain why we observe these chumras even though right afterwards we revert back to our old ways. This follows with a chapter about the special power of Teffilah during this period. In the next chapter I trace at length the source of the minhag to take on chumros during this period starting with the Yerushalmi and up until recent literature showing how this minhag developed over time. Throughout I discuss many topics that were inter related to this Yerushalmi such as baking challos for shabbos that it should be specifically Pas yisroel, the minhag of people of Tzefas to eat chulin B'taharah, going to the Mikvah erev Yom Tov especially Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, and if there was Efar Parah Adumah after the destruction of the Bes Hamikdash. Besides this I deal with other topics such as the time period one has to observe these chumros. After which I have a few chapters disusing at length the actual chumras that people did, such as washing hands before eating vegetables, giving tzedakah in asret yemei teshuvah, checking ones tzizits before putting it on, sleeping during the day and on shabbos. There are some interesting appendixes in these chapters such as where the source for sleeping on Shabbos is considered oneg shabbos, wearing teffilin the whole day or at least during mincha. The last two chapters are about chumras in general (the pros and cons), and about the famous Asrah Mili Dechasdusad'Rav (the 10 pious practices of Rav) – in particular "Rav Lo soch Sicha Bitalha Miyomov" (Rav never spoke unnecessary words his whole life). I conclude the sefer with a chapter about the sefer Simachat Ha-nefesh which I used many times through out this work. I included an index of some 40 entries of some obscure seforim and topics that I discuss in the footnotes.

    The sefer is available in Girsa, Otzar haseforim, next to the Mir and Shankies. It is en-route (arriving right after Rosh ha-Shana) to Biegeleisen and Judaica plaza. For all information about this sefer including donations for this one or the upcoming volume contact me at

    What follows is a sample chapter based on one of the most famous things everyone learns about in school about asret yemei teshuvah that if you do teshuvah each day of the week has power to fix all of those days of that year.

    החומרות בעשרת ימי תשובה ככפרה על ימות השנה

    א. אלולא דמסתפינא הייתי אומר, שהסיבה שישראל קדושים לאחוז בחומרות יתירות בעשרת ימי תשובה היא משום היסוד המפורסם על שמו של האריז"ל:

    אמר לי הרב משה גאלאנטי, ששמע ממורי ז"ל: שאם האדם יתענה בשבעת ימים שבין ראש השנה ליום הכפורים ויעשה בהם תשובה גמורה, כל יום מהם מכפר על כל העונות שחטא כל ימיו, ביום שכיוצא בו... ואם התענה ועשה תשובה בכל שבעת הימים ההם, יתכפרו לו כל עונותיו שעשה כל ימיו1.

    ומשום כך נהגו בחומרות יתירות בימים אלו, כדי שיעלה להם שעשאום בכל ימות השנה. ואכן ראיתי שהדברים נתבארו בכתבי ר' דוד מנובורודוק (רוסיה הלבנה, תקכה-תקצג), בעל 'גליא מסכת': ועוד ראיתי, שענין הזה שאמרו דורשי רשומות, דכל יום מימי עשרת ימי תשובה עומד ומעותד שיהיה ניתקן בו כל מה אשר עיות, חס וחלילה, בכל יומו מימות השנה. ויש לזה סמיכות בירושלמי... דרבי חייא רבה מפקיד לרב: אי אתה יכול למיכל כולה שתא חולין בטהרה - אכול, ואם לאו - תהא אכיל שבעה יומין מן שתא. וכתב ראבי"ה: קבלתי, שאלו שבעה ימים בין ראש-השנה ליום כיפור... אם כן נראה, שבחר שבעה ימים מעשרת ימי תשובה כדי שכל יום ויום, הן יום ראשון או יום שני וכן כולם, יתקן כנגדו מכל ימות השנה2.

    ב. רעיון זה שר' דוד מנובורודוק הביאו בשם "דורשי רשומות" הוא באמת מתורת האריז"ל, וכאמור. ונוסיף בכך דברים. ר' רפאל עמנואל חי ריקי (תמז-תקג), מגדולי מקובלי איטליה שגם שהה בצפת ובירושלים מספר שנים, כותב בשנת תפב בספרו משנת חסידים: "ובעשרת ימי תשובה... המתענה בהם ועושה תשובה גמורה, מוחלין לו בכל יום מימי השבוע שבעשרת ימי תשובה מה שחטא ביום ההוא לעולם"3. כמו חיבורים אחרים, גם משנת חסידים הינו סיכום מתורתו של האר"י כפי שקיבלו המחבר מתלמידי תלמידיו בארץ-ישראל ובאיטליה, ולפיכך אנו מוצאים את הרעיון המדובר גם בכתבים אחרים שאספו לקרבם מתורת האר"י. ר' מאיר פופרש כותב: "מי שיחזור בתשובה גמורה ויתענה בשבעת ימי התשובה, נמחלו לו כל עונותיו. דהיינו, אם חל ביום ראשון משבעת ימי התשובה ביום א דשבת - מתכפרים לו כל עונותיו שחטא ביום א דשבת... וכן כולם. זה וודאי בלי ספק"4. הדברים הובאו גם במקורות מאוחרים יותר, ולא תמיד בשמו של האריז"ל. כך כותב הגר"א (ליטא, תפ-תקנח) בלשונו התמציתית: "...ולכן המעשים הנאותים הנפעלים בימים אלו [=בעשרת ימי תשובה], חשובים ככל השנה"5. אחריו כותב תלמיד-תלמידו, ר' יצחק אייזיק חבר (ליטא, תקמט-תריג): "לכן בימים המקודשים האלו... מחויב כל איש... לטהר עצמו מכל חטא ואשמה על-ידי תשובה גמורה... בימים אלו [ש]הם כלל כל ימות השנה, וכמו שכתב האריז"ל, שבשבעת הימים - כל יום ויום נתקן בו מה שפגם באותו יום מכל ימות השנה..."6. גם באחד מספריו של ר' יוסף תאומים (פולין ואשכנז, תפז-תקנב), בעל 'פרי מגדים', נאמר: "כי יקר הזמן מאד מאד, על כן ימהר יחיש מעשיו לתקן את כל אשר עיות בכל השנה. כי בעשרת ימי תשובה, בכל יום יתקן מה שפגם בכל השנה באותו יום"7.וכך אצל עוד רבים מרבותינו האחרונים8.


    ג. אמנם ראוי לציין שהיסוד המובא על-שם האריז"ל מצוי, ברמיזה, באחד מספרי בן-דורו המבוגר, ר' משה קורדובירו (הרמ"ק; שאלוניקי-צפת, רפב-של)! וזה לשונו: עשרת ימי תשובה... ועשרה ימים אלו הם עשרה ימים שבהם עשר ספירות ודאי. ואולם מלת 'תשובה' נודע פירושה: תשובת הדברים אל שרשם... וכפי פעולת האדם בימים ההם כן יפגום בימים או ישלימם במעשיו הטובים... [ו]נתן הקב"ה לישראל עשרה ימים אלו, שהם של תשובה, שמתגלה המקור, שהיא הבינה, על הימים - שהם העניפים, להמשיך להם שפע רב, ולתקן על ידי התשובה כל פגם שפגם בימים הנזכרים שחלפו9.

    אך הפלא הוא, שהמקור הראשון המזכיר ענין זה בשם האריז"ל הוא ר' משה גלנטי10, שרבותיו המובהקים היו: ר' יוסף קארו (בתורת הנגלה) והרמ"ק (בתורת הנסתר)!11.

    על פרט נוסף ראוי להתעכב מעט. במובאות הראשונות שמשם האריז"ל הודגש, ששבעת ימים אלו מתקנים את כל ימות השנה רק "אם האדם יתענה" בהם "ויעשה בהם תשובה גמורה"12. ואילו מתורתו של הרמ"ק אנו שומעים ש"ישלימם במעשיו הטובים" בלבד, וניתן להבינם כמחייבים רק את התשובה ולא גם את התענית. ולמרות כל זאת, רוב המקורות המאוחרים המביאים יסוד זה בשם האריז"ל13, ואף-על-פי-כן אינם מציינים שיש להתענות, אלא רק מחייבים את התשובה!

    ד. היה שמצא את שורש יסודו של האר"י בתורת הנגלה, וזולתו מצאה בתורת הנסתר. הראשון הוא ר' יחזקאל לנדא (פראג, תעד-תקנג), בעל 'שו"ת נודע ביהודה', המוצא לכך סמך מהמסופר בתלמוד בבלי (חגיגה ה סע"ב):

    רב אידי, אבוה דרבי יעקב בר אידי, הוה רגיל דהוה אזיל תלתא ירחי באורחא וחד יומא בבי רב. והוו קרו ליה רבנן: 'בר בי רב דחד יומא'. חלש דעתיה... נפק רבי יוחנן לבי מדרשא ודרש: "ואותי יום יום ידרשון ודעת דרכי יחפצון" (ישעיה נח ב), וכי ביום דורשין אותו ובלילה אין דורשין אותו? אלא לומר לך: כל העוסק בתורה אפילו יום אחד בשנה - מעלה עליו הכתוב כאילו עסק כל השנה כולה...

    מסיק מכך ר' יחזקאל לנדא: "הרי מפורש בגמרא, שיום אחד יוכל לתקן כל השנה. ואם כן יפה כתב האר"י, שיוכל לתקן בימים הקדושים הללו מעשה כל ימות השנה"14.

    מאידך, ר' רפאל כ"ץ (המבורג, תפג-תקסד) מוצא סמך לדברי האריז"ל בנאמר בספר הזוהר15:

    בכל יומא ויומא כרוזא נפיק וקרי ולית מאן דישגח. דתניא: אינון יומין דבר-נש כד אתברי בההוא יומא דנפק לעלמא, כלהו קיימין בקיומייהו ואזלין וטאסין בעלמא נחתין ואזהרן לבר-נש כל יומא ויומא בלחודוי. וכד ההוא יומא אתי ואזהר ליה ובר נש עביד בההוא יומא חובא קמי מאריה, ההוא יומא סליק בכסופא ואסהיד סהדותא וקאים בלחודוי לבר. ותאנא בתר דקאים בלחודוי, יתיב עד דבר-נש עביד מניה תשובה. זכה - תב ההוא יומא לאתריה; לא זכה - ההוא יומא נחית ואשתתף בההוא רוחא דלבר ותב לביתיה ואתתקן בדיוקניה דההוא בר-נש ממש... בין כך ובין כך, אתפקדן אינון יומין וחסרים ולא עאלין במניינא דאינון דאשתארו. ווי לההוא בר-נש דגרע יומוי קמי מלכא קדישא ולא שביק לעילא יומין לאתעטרא בהו בההוא עלמא - - -

    מסיים ר' רפאל הכהן ואומר: "והנה, כתבו בעלי מוסר, שסגולת הימים האלו [=עשרת ימי תשובה], שאם שב לפניו ברוך הוא, מוחלין לו כל מה שחטא באותו יום בשבוע כל ימות השנה. נמצא על ידי מה ששב בימים הקדושים האלו, גורם שחוזרים הימים שחטא בהן במנין הימים, כמבואר בזוהר. ועל ידי זה נכון הוא לקרוא לאותן הימים 'ימי תשובה', כי על ידי ימים האלו משיבין לו הימים שנאבדו ממנו בחטאתו בהן"16.

    ה. יסודו של האריז"ל, ששבעת הימים מעשרת ימי תשובה מתקנים את היום השבועי שכנגדו, שימשו שורש ועיקר גדול; ממנו נוספו כמה הנהגות טובות ואף נתבארו על-ידו כמה מהִלכות ימים אלו.

    1. ביטול השינה ב'שבת תשובה'. המחבר האנונימי של ספר חמדת ימים הבין מיסוד זה, שבשבת החל בעשרת ימי תשובה ('שבת תשובה') אין לקיים בו את מצוות 'שינה בשבת תענוג':

    בשם הרב ז"ל, כי כל יום מעשרת ימי תשובה, מה שיעשה האדם בתשובה בהם - מתכפר מה שפגם באותו יום כל ימות השנה. וכן על זה הדרך בכל עשרת הימים. והאיש השלם עם השם, צריך לתת אל לבו אם פגם באיזו משבתות השנה בשיחת חולין ודברים בטלים או כעס

    0 0
  • 10/07/08--17:21: Eliezer Kallir - Updated
  • Eliezer Kallir, is considered one of the greatest paytanim.  He authored some of the most well known piyyutim including those said for geshem and tal, as well as many others (although most of his piyyutim that were included in the Rosh haShana and Yom Kippur prayers are no longer said by most).  While his literary output is well-known, "[b]iographical facts about Kallir are shrouded in mystery."  E.J. (new ed.) vol. 11, p. 743. There are many theories about who R. Kallir was and I would like to touch on some of these in this post. (Also see below for a bibliography on R. Eliezer Kallir - provided by a kind reader of the blog.)

    R. Shmuel David Luzzato (Shadal) in his Mevo l'Machzor Beni Roma, discusses Kallir and the history of piyyutim at length.[1]  "If you will ask who authored the first piyyut and who followed them, I will answer that the first is Yanni or Yinai, and the second is R. Eliezer Berebi Kalir.  The product of both is apparent to all in the Haggadah as the piyyut "Az Rov Nissim" is from Yanni . . . and the piyyut "Ometz Gevoroteha" is from R. Eliezer berbi Kallir . . ."  Interestingly, "regarding Yanni a nasty rumor has been spread (Zunz found it in a manuscript commentary to the Mahzor), however, anyone who hears it will laugh,  . . . [and the rumor is] that Yanni became jealous of his student R. Eliezer and [Yanni] put a scorpion in [Eliezer Kallir's] shoe and the scorpion killed Kallir."  Shadal, however, dismisses this rumor in light of the fact that Yanni's piyyutim are still said, especially the one mentioned above during Pesach.  Shadal argues that if Yanni was a murderer then there is no way Yanni's piyyutim would be so popular.  Additionally, Rabbenu Gershom mentions Yanni and uses honorific terms, something Rabbenu Gershom would not have done if the rumor is true. 

    Shadal then turns to the details of R. Eliezer Kallir's biography.  "In many places R. Eliezer signs his name as 'R. Eliezer beribi Kallir from Kiryat Sefer.' Many of the early ones believed that this indicated Kallir was from the biblical town of Kiryat Sefer, and many thought that Kallir was a tanna, either R. Eliezer the son of Simon ... or R. Eliezer ben Arakh, both of these opinions are recorded in the Sefer HaYuchsin."  Shadal, however shows that it is highly unlikely that R. Eliezer Kallir was a tanna or that he was from the biblical town of Kiryat Sefer. Instead, Shadal quotes the opinion of R. Moshe Landau (grandson of the Noda Be-Yehuda) in his commentary to the Arukh, Maarkhe Lashon.[2]  According to Landau Kallir is a reference to the Sardinian city Cagliari.  Shadal disagrees with Landau.  In the end, after citing other opinions, including identifying Kallir with an Italian city, Pumadisa in Babylon, and Sippara also in Babylon, and to those it should be added, Bari, Ostia, "Civitas Portas, the former port of Rome (Derenbourg); Constantinople; Civita di Penna in the Abruzzi; . . . Normandy, Speyer in Germany . . . Lettere in Souther Italy,  . . . Antioch and Hama in Syria . . . Kallirrhoe in Palestine . .. [and finally] Tiberias."  E.J. p. 744.  As should be apparent, there is no consensus on where Kallir was from.

    Turning to his name - Kallir - the starting place is R. Nathan and his Arukh.   He explains that Kallir, means cake (indeed in Greek kalura means cake).  And, Kallir was called "cake" because "he ate a cake that had written on a kemiah (amulet) and, as a result, he became smart."  Arukh erekh klr.  The idea to feed children cake with inscriptions is a well documented one.  R. Eliezer from Worms, the author of the Rokekh records the custom to feed children cakes with the verses from Isaiah 50:4, id.50:5, and Ezekiel 3:3.  The children would eat these when they were indoctrinated into Torah study on Shavout.  [2]  Of course, as noted above, some view the name Kallir as an indication of where Kallir was from.  Indeed, many, including Shadal did not swallow (if I may) the Arukh's interpretation of Kallir.

    Again, as we have seen there is a bit of debate when it comes to Kallir, one of the more interesting debates regards which piyyutim can be attributed to him.  While in many Kallir provides his name in an acrostic, according to R. Shelomo Yehuda Rapoport (Shir) one can also attribute those piyyutim that there is a gematria that equals some permutation of Kallir's name.  That is, Kallir sometimes signed his name Eliezer haKallir, Eliezer beribi Kallir, Eliezer Kallir me-Kiryat Sefer, and a combination of any of these.  Thus, according to Shir, if in the first line equaled any of these Kallir was the author. 

    R. Efraim Mehlsack, however, took issue with Shir's use of gematria. Specifically, Mehlsack wrote Sefer ha-Ravyah, Ofen, 1837, against Shir.  Mehlsack was a prolific author, he supposedly authored some 72 seforim, but the only published sefer was this one.  But before we get into the details regarding Mehlsack we need to discuss his critique of Shir.  Mehlsack went to town on Shir and showed that using the gematria for the first line of a book, Mehlsack could make Kallir the author of just about every important Jewish book.  Mehlsack goes through Tanakh and uses the first verse of each book to equal some form of Kallir's name.  For example, the first verse in Berashit equals 913 which equals "meni ha-katan Eliezer Kallir." The first verse in Joshua equals 1041 which equals "ha-katon Eliezer beribi Kallir."  Mehlsack doesn't stop with Tanakh, he then moves to Mishna noting that the first mishna in Berkhot is 2362 which equals "ani Eliezer berbi Ya'akov ha-Kallir mi-Kiryat Sefer yezkeh be-tov amen."  As a final shot at Shir, Mehlsack has the gematria of I am Shelmo Yehuda Rapoport = 1164 to Eliezer beRebi Yaakov Kallir =1164.  Indeed, Mehlsack was not content to provide some 40 odd examples, he had even more and as a result of already printing the pages, the Sefer Ravyah is an interesting bibliographical oddity in that these gematrias appear on page 18 and then continue.  Well Mehlsack includes an alternative page 18 in the back which has more examples of these gematrias. Thus, the book goes until page 32 and then there is another page 18.  Both versions appear below.

    Turning now to Mehlsack.  As I mentioned Mehlsack supposedly authored 72 books.  We know of 34 titles from that list.[4] Although most of those works have been lost, there are a few, around five, that are available in manuscript.  In Boaz Hass's recent book on the history of the Zohar, he mentions Mehlsack's translation of the Zohar (Scholem also discusses this work).  One of the works lost, is a work permitting one to travel via train on Shabbat.  The introduction of this work has been published (in part) and appears below. Additionally, Sefer Ravyah was not Mehlsack's only attack on Rapoport, Mehlsack attacked Rapoport in a few of his works, and some of his critiques were published in Bikkurei Ha-Ittim.

    Returning to Kallir, it goes without saying that Kallir's piyyutim were controversial.  Most famously, the Ibn Ezra complained about them and offered that one should refrain from saying Kallir's piyyutim.  Ibn Ezra's critique is discussed by R. Eliezer Fleckels, who defends Kallir, and Heidenheim thought it important enough to include this lengthy responsum in Heidenheim's edition of the Machzor.[For more on the Ibn Ezra see צבי מלאכי "אברהם אבן-עזרא נגד אלעזר הקליר - ביקורת בראי הדורות" פלס (תשם) 273-296)  

    Bibliography on R. Eliezer Kallir (provided by a kind reader of the blog.)

    אלבוגן, התפלה בישראל בהתפתחותה ההסטורית, 233 - 239

    יוסף זליגר, "לתולדות הפיוט והפיטנים (ר' אלעזר קליר)", כתבי הרב ד"ר יוסף זליגר, לאה זליגר מו"ל, ירושלים תרצ, צז - קב

    שלמה דוד לוצאטו, אגרות שד"ל א, 464 ואילך

    ---, הליכות קדם, גבריאל פאלק, אמסטרדם תרז, מחלקה שניה, 56 - 64.

    צבי מלאכי, "הפייטן אלעזר הקליר - לחקר שמו ומקומו", באורח מדע: פרקים בתרבות ישראל מוגים לאהרן מירסקי במלאות לו שבעים שנה, צבי מלאכי, מכון הברמן למחקרי ספרות, לוד תשמו, 539 - 543

    אהרן מרקוס, ברזילי: מסה בתולדות הלשון העברית, ירושלים: מוסד הרב קוק תשמג, 346

    עזרא פליישר, תרביץ נ, 282 - 302

    ---, "לפתרון שאלת זמנו ומקום פעילותו של ר' אלעזר בירבי קיליר", תרביץ נד ג, ניסן - סיון תשמה, 383 - 427

    שלמה יהודה ראפאפארט, תולדות גדולי ישראל, 24 - 55

    יעקב שור, ספר העתים, 364 – 365


    בנועם שיח: פרקים מתולדות ספרותנו, מכון הברמן למחקרי ספרות, לוד תשמג, 114 - 156

    המעין טז א, תשרי תשלו, 3 - 14. המשך: ב, טבת תשלו, 32 - 52.

    [1] Mevo leMachzor Beni Roma, Habermann ed. Jerusalem

    [2] For more on this commentary see S. Brisman, History & Guide to Judaic Dictionaries & Concordances, KTAV Publishing House, Inc. 2000, pp. 19-20.

    [3] For more on this custom see Assaf, Mekorot le-Tolodot ha-Hinukh be-Yisrael, Jerusalem 2002, pp. 80-1 n.9 and the sources cited therein.  See also, E. Kanarfogel, Peering through the Lattices, Wayne State University Press, Detroit, 2000 pp. 140-41 and the notes therein (discussing the ceremony generally); id.p. 237 n.47 (discussing some of the halakhik issues with this custom including the "issue" of "excret[ing] these verses")

    [4] See G. Kressel, "Kitvei Mehlsack," Kiryat Sefer 17, pp. 87-96.


    0 0

    Pini Dunner B.A (Hons), formerly rabbi of London's Saatchi Synagogue, is an avid collector of polemical and controversial Hebraica, with a very large, diverse private collection of such material. Many items in his collection are unknown and unrecorded, and relate to long forgotten, obscure controversies.

    This is Pini Dunner's third post at the Seforim blog. His first post, "Mercaz Agudat Ha-Rabbanim Be-Lita, Kovno, 1931," is available here; his second post, "Unknown Picture of the late Lubavitcher Rebbe, c.1930s," is available here.

    For background on the controversy over Corfu etrogim, see Yosef Salomon, "The Controversies Regarding the Corfu and Eretz Yisrael Etrogim 1875-1891," Zion 65.1 (2000): 75-106; Yosef Salomon, "The Controversy Regarding the Corfu Etrogim and its Historical Significance," AJS Review 25 (2000-2001): 1-25; Yitzhak Refael, "Corfu Etrogim and Eretz Yisrael Etrogim," Sheragi 2 (1985), 84-90; Dan Porat, "The Controversy over Israeli Etrogim from 1875-1889," (MA thesis, Hebrew University of Jerusalem, 1993); H. Hamel, "R. Yosef Zehariah Stern's Position in the Corfu Etrogim Controversy," in Sefer Refael (Jerusalem, 2000), 242-251. For a brief discussion about the broadsides authored by R. Gershon Henoch Leiner and his son R. Mordechai Joseph Eliezer Leiner of Izbica-Radzin that were posted throughout Poland, see Pearl Preschel, "The Jews of Corfu," (PhD dissertation, New York University, 1984), 111-112, 113-114, 159.

    Regarding the Russian text at the bottom of the broadside, the following is a translation that was obligatory to appear on all non-Russian books:
    Condemnation by M.I.Leiner of those rabbis, which, as the revenge for the dwellers of the Greek islands for the disturbances on the island of Corfu, prohibited the paradise apples originating from those islands for using them in the religious ceremony of the holiday of Sukkot.
    Included is a protest letter by the rabbi of Corfu about the matter.
    Permitted by the censorship, Warsaw, 15 July 1891 -- printing of M.I. Galter Nalevki [St.] 23.

    for post
    Handbill Defending the Use of the Corfu Etrogim authored by R. Mordechai Joseph Eliezer Leiner of Izbica-Radzin  published in Izbica, July 1891

    This broadside contains a vigourous and impassioned defence of the practice of using etrogim from Corfu in preference to those from Eretz Yisrael. For centuries the most prized etrogim used by Jews of all communities were those grown in Corfu, and the etrog industry on the island was a mainstay of the local economy. It was said that the etrogim grown in Corfu traced their origins to those used during the second temple period, and were therefore of the most reliable pedigree. The untainted pedigree of an etrog is of primary importance, and as a result Corfu etrogim were highly sought after, making them expensive. Furthermore, the owners of the orchards - many of them non-Jews - fiercely guarded their monopolies, and were extremely careful that their etrogim were of unimpeachable pedigree.

    This broadside was issued as a result of the drift away from using etrogim grown on the island of Corfu in the late nineteenth century. Initially this began with a ban on their use that was issued c.1875 and that had its roots in the growing suspicion that Corfu etrogim were no longer reliable in their pedigree and that growers had secretly begun grafting them with other citrus fruits to boost the numbers of fruit that were fit for use, and in addition would be outstanding in their appearance, boosting their value.

    Then in 1891, the year of this broadside, the ban against Corfu etrogim was strengthened as a result of the terrible anti-semitism on the island that had led to a vicious blood libel. Jewish communities formerly loyal to Corfu etrogim switched their allegiances to the ever expanding etrogim market of Eretz Yisrael and it was this that R. Leiner was trying to prevent. R. Leiner (1877-1929) was the scion of the Izbica/Radzyn dynasty and in this broadside he quotes his recently departed father, R. Gershon Henoch (1839-1891), the famous 'Baal ha-Techeilet', as saying that there were no better and more kosher etrogim than those that grew in Corfu. He added that those grown in Eretz Yisrael were probably unfit for use and, furthermore, the excuse that they provided income for poor farmers there was utterly inappropriate in light of their unfitness. He added that the chief rabbi of Corfu, R. Elisha mi-Pano, had written to him to say that the ban effected against Corfu etrogim (the annual market for etrogim was of major economic significance to the small island) as a result of the blood libel was making matters worse for the Jews of Corfu.

    Despite attemps by R. Leiner and other advocates of Corfu etrogim, the Corfu etrog business went into terminal decline. By the early twentieth century the rival industry in Eretz Yisrael had grabbed the overwhelming majority of the etrogim market, and with the upheaval of the two world wars, and following the creation of the State of Israel, Corfu etrogim disappeared completely from the scene.

    Recently, I understand, there has been some effort to revive the fortunes of the Corfu etrog. It would seem that an emissary of R. David Twersky of New Square annually acquires etrogim from Corfu for R. Twersky to use on sukkot. No doubt this action is motivated by R. Twersky's well-known desire to strictly follow the customs of his illustrious forebears who, in the years when the etrogim controversy raged, were devotees of Corfu etrogim over their Eretz Yisrael counterparts. Nevertheless, as any etrog grower will tell you, once an etrog orchard has been abandoned, any fruit that emerge from it in the years that follow, especially if many years pass, no longer have a chezkat kashrut, and more than likely they are murkavim. It would be interesting to know if R. Twersky makes a bracha on these questionable etrogim, or if he first uses an etrog of reliable pedigree and then switches to the murkav simply for sentimental purposes.

    0 0

    In a recent post, Dr. Leiman noted that Rabbi Dr. Dovid Tzvi Hoffmann's commentary on Shemot is being translated into Hebrew and printed in the near future.  While the volume on Shemot will be published, a commentary of one of R. Hoffmann's student on Koheles has recently been translated and printed.  Indeed,  there are two editions of the same commentary that have been recently been printed.  The fact that someone who has been ignored for a while then merits to have competing editions of their work is not that uncommon. For example, recently, there has been a renewed interest in the works of the Aderet.  The Adret's commentary on teffilah, Tefilat Dovid, there are three editions when five years ago there were none.

    In this case, there are two editions, one in Hebrew and one in English of Dr. Gerson Lange's commentary on Kohelet.  The English edition titled, "The Book of Koheleth," is edited by Yosef Binyamin Fagin and includes a short biography about Dr. Lange. A slightly different version of this biography was printed in volume two of Yeruhaseinu (English section, pp. 22-31). Dr. Lange was a student of Rabbis Hoffmann and Hildesheimer and eventually took over as Director, after the death of R. Dr. Mendel Hirsch of the Israelitischen Religionsgessellschaft Realschule in Frankfort.  In this role as teacher, Dr. Lange taught Kohelet to his students, this work is a product of those classes. 

    This is not Dr. Lange's only book, he also translated the Ralbag's Ma'asei Choseiv, a work on mathematics.  Dr. Lange, after obtaining semikh, studied mathematics at the University of Berlin.  In his commentary on Koheleth, he makes use of his mathematical background and even discusses Newton's Theory of Emission in the introduction.The commentary is one of peshat and many times focuses on eytomology to find the peshet.  The English version produces a highly readable translation. 

    The Hebrew version, titled Gerash Yerachim, although the original title was, as the English version renders it, The Book of Koheleth, the editor decided to come up with a new title - a point that is not mentioned anywhere in this version. Additionally, this version, according to the editor, is not a translation but adapts Dr. Lange's commentary.  This version contains an introduction and background on Dr. Lange.  The introduction appears to take on a more apologetic tone than the English version.  Specifically, when discussing Dr. Lange the introduction points out that although Dr. Lange went to university buty that "going to university was common amongst the German Jews and without obtaining an advanced degree they could not function in any communal role, even amongst the Orthodox communities . . . [Dr. Lange] was following in the footsteps of his teachers, Rav Ezreil Hedesheimer and R. Dovid Tzvi Hoffmann and going up in holiness the Goan R. [Yaakov] Ettlinger."  Additionally, the introduction goes on to recount how R. Meir Shapira visited a resort near Frankfort, "Dr. Lange would get up at four a.m. and go to R. Shapira to study with him.  When R. Meir [Shapira] came back into Frankfort he proclaimed 'A Jew like [Dr. Lange] shows that there are still beni aliyah amongst the German Jews!'" Whether or not this tone was the intent of the editor, is of course, difficult to discern but worth noting. Finally, a short review of the Hebrew edition appeared in volume three of Yeruhaseinu pp. 399-400.

    Both of these versions should be available in your local seforim stores, or the English can be purchased by contacting     

    0 0

    Review of Amudim be-Toldot Sefer ha-Ivri Haghot u-Maghim

    by Eliezer Brodt and Dan Rabinowitz

    Yaakov S. Spiegel, Amudim be-Tolodot Sefer ha-Ivri Haghot u-Maghim (Chapters in the History of the Jewish Book Scholars and their Annotations), Ramat Gan, 20052, 689 pp.

    In 1996, Bar Ilan Press published Amudim be-Toldot Sefer ha-Ivri Haghot u-Maghim from Professor Yaakov S. Spiegel. Shortly thereafter, this edition sold out due to its popularity. A few years later Amudim be-Toldot Sefer ha-Ivri Kitevah ve-haTakah (volume two) was published.  More recently, Amudim be-Toldot Sefer ha-Ivri Haghot u-Maghim was reprinted with over seventy five pages additional pages full of many important additions. In this new edition, Spiegel apologizes to the people who purchased the first edition of his work and would now have to buy the new one if they want the updates.  Spiegel offered that the requirement for a completely new edition rather than an addendum was out of his control.


    Although the importance and quality of the book will be obvious shortly, it has not been reviewed or discussed properly in academic journals except for a short review on Hamayan (37, 3: 69-75). This post hopefully is a start in rectifying this omission.


    This volume is the first of two (current) volumes discussing the History of the Jewish book - specifically the creation and alteration of the Jewish books.  That is, this volume covers annotating or editing texts.  Essentially, this work is divided into two parts, (Spiegel divides it into four parts) the first, discusses the permissibility of editing texts and the second discusses annotators and editors. 


    The first portion begins with the sugyah of editing texts in the time of the Mishana (sifrei torah) and moves into the topic of the prohibition of having a unedited sefer. These two chapters play an important role in the background of this topic of editing seforim.  Spiegel then moves into the era of the geonim and rishonim dealing at great length with there methods of editing or annotating texts. He discuses at great length the methods of Rabbenu Gershom, Rashi and Rabbenu Tam.  As is well known Rabbenu Tam prohibited the editing or annotating texts Spiegel discusses the complete background of Rabbenu Tam's opinion going through the myriad of sources when Rabbenu Tam's restriction applies. This discussion includes an analysis of Rabbenu Tam's work Sefer Hayashar and his famous disagreement with R Meshulem. Spiegel, as he does in each of the chapter, quotes all the previous sources on the topics and rechecks it all carefully and comes out with many new important conclusions.


    Spiegel then proceeds to deal with the different works of haghot in the times of rishonim and the nature of these works. Of particular interest is his sections on the Haghot Ashrei (pp. 183-90) and on the Ravad's comments on the Ramabam discussing if those comments are plain haghot or hasaghot (pp. 198-207).


    The second section of the book surveys the story of Haghot u-Maghim from the beginning of the printing press, in approximately 1456, until 1840. He begins with chapters on the importance of the printing press (see also pp. 300-06) and moves in to the job of the annotators and editors and their methods. Dealing with topics such as, did Rabbenu Tam only speak to instances where one is erasing the text and substituting another but if one merely notes an alternative reading and preserves the original that is OK? Or, is it only applicable to manuscripts or does it apply to printed works as well?  The distinction being, in the case of a manuscript, that manuscript may be the only copy and, if one alters the text, the original is forever lost.  Additionally, Spiegel discusses at length the important question of whether one can correct texts based on logic or textual support. An interesting section is where he brings a bunch of sources that there is a special will from God that these mistakes happened and should remain (pg 262-269).


    There are chapters on the various 'editors' such as R. Betzalel Ashkenazi, R. Yoel Sirkes (Bach), Maharshal, Maharsha, Maharam, R. Jacob Emden, R. Y. Pick, Gra, Rashash, and a host of others.  For each one Spiegel discusses which version of the Talmud they were addressing their emendation and whether their emendations were based on manuscript evidence or their own determination that the text was corrupted. These questions are very important. For example, Spiegel notes that the Maharshal (p. 315) and Maharsha (p. 323) did use manuscript evidence many times whereas the Maharam (p. 325) did not use manuscript evidence frequently.



    As to the Bach's emendations, Spiegel notes that weren't published until the 19th century, but the Bach's comments were addressed at earlier, different version of the Talmud.  Thus, at times, it is unclear what the Bach is changing.  Indeed, Spiegel shows how some commentaries have misunderstood the Bach's comments. Spiegel deals with at length what the Bach's goals were. Spiegel also shows that there were additions to the work after the Bach's death. As to the Bach's usage of manuscripts Spiegel shows it's still not proven that the Bach  used them as most of the changes can be found in Ein Yakkov



    Spiegel devotes a long chapter dealing with the Gra notes amongst the topics he discusses are what was the Gra's point in his comments, and to why there are contradictions in his notes on Shas to his other writings (pg 450). As to the question of whether the Gra used manuscripts Spiegel concludes that it appears that he did not [although he did visit libraries and saw old seforim (pg 454-457)].


    Another whole section Spiegel devotes to is discussing Rabinowich's Dikdukei Soferim at length. This is especially important in that Dikdukei Soferim is a collection of variant readings of the Talmud.  As many great Rabbis of Rabinowich's time praised this work, this tends to show these Rabbis' position on emending texts. Spiegel shows the may people who used it and how those who did not use it could have benefited from availing themselves to Dikdukei Soferim. Spiegel deals with various theories why it was not used widely. He concludes that it appears that the Dikdukei Soferim is becoming more widespread. He even quotes recent sales of Dikdukei Soferim and notes how quick it sold out after being reprinted after being out of print for quite a while. Although a Otzar haChochma search comes up with well over 2000 hits in over a thousand seforim (of course not all this are good hits as there search engine is still limited although useful). It still does not appear that the Dikdukei Soferim is used widely in the main yeshiva circles. Perhaps that will change.

    Spiegel deals extensively with the position of the Hazon Ish regarding manuscripts.  This topic, one which has gotten much attention (see, e.g. the Shnayer Z. Leiman, Kook, Moshe A. Bleich articles in Tradition, Hevlin in Meah Shearim as well as the articles in Beis HaVaad), is discussed in detail with the backdrop of all the nuances Spiegel raises throughout this work. Spiegel discusses the curious fact that the Chazon Ish himself did sometimes use the manuscripts of Gemarah when learning (p. 567 n.126).

    Spiegel concludes this section with a discussion on to more recent printings of the Shas such as the shas Vilna, Frankel and Oz veHadar. It appears that the methodology of both Shas Vilna (the original one) and Oz veHadar in deciding which texts to use etc are not clear. This is especial important to know with Oz veHadar what the methods that they use as they advertise as if they are making incredible important changes but one only wonders what they are ad on what basis they are made.


    The last section of the sefer is devoted to the various annotators and editors to various editions of the Ramabam including the editions of Bragadin and Justintine. Spiegel also deals with when were the divisions of halachot put into the Rambam (pp. 637-638).  He also deals at length with the Amsterdam edition and the comments of R. Sholom Leon and showing its influence on later editions. R. Sholom Leon authored other seforim  including Mesectas halacha Le moshe miSinia which was recently printed in a annotated edition including a nice introduction. The editor of this new edition was not aware of Spiegel discussion regarding R. Leon. Spiegel has an interesting discussion about a third work called Merkevet ha-Mishna by R. Leon that was not known to many people and thus people made a mistake attributing a source (pp. 648-49).


    It is amazing to see Spiegel's mastery of the Talmud and the sources with all its nuances throughout the book. The amount of classical seforim quoted and discussed is breathtaking many very rare works are quoted. Another point is the respect and tone he uses when he speaks about all the authors, a problem some have with many academic books. Another thing is he is not embarrassed to admit mistakes he made – he could have easily left out a specific footnote instead he writes it and explains that he made a mistake (see, e.g., p. 259).



    From the above, it should be apparent that this book contains a wealth of information regarding the issue at hand, emending texts.  While that alone would be enough to recommend in the strongest terms this book, it must be noted that Spiegel, mainly in the many footnotes, covers an amazing amount of tangential topics.  Here are some examples:

    p.29 n. 8 Spiegel has a discussion about the sefer Kol Dodi quoted by Agnon (for more on this work see this post ).

    p. 41 n.12 sources regarding the custom of placing a possul sefer torah in the ark and whether this violates the prohibition of "al tiskon be-ohelkha" (one should not have uncorrected texts in their home).
    p. 65 n.105 testimony from R. Yaakov Katz that Rav Hai Goan was a copyist. 
    p. 75 n.153 noting that
    la"z the term used to indicate a translation should not contain the quote mark as it is not an abbreviation. 
    p. 80 n.177 noting that Krochmel in his
    Moreh Nevukeh haZeman quotes the Mahritz Heyos only as "Hakham Eched."
    p. 89 n.29 discusses R. Zevin's offhanded comment that the rishonim did not use "
    nusach aher."
    p. 102 n.110 discusses "
    nusach Sefard" and whether it is more reliable.
    p. 103 n.115 notes that although a statement from the Rosh (responsa,
    klal 20, no. 20) is used by multiple authors to show that Ashkenazik customs have a long history, those many authors ignored the other implication of the statement regarding

    the "nusach haTalmud shel beni Ashkenaz."
    p. 105 n.123 who authored rashi on Horyois.

    p.105 n. 126 if one learnsa small daf is it considered a Complete daf.

    p.107 n.132 discussing the issue of when the Talmud records a pusuk differently than our Sifrei Torah

    p. 131 n.14 corrections of rashi that were later added into the printed edition of Shas.

    p. 142 n.55 when Rashi says Hachei Garseninon did he have a different version in front of him.
    p. 170 n.64 the common meaning of the word "sefer" - as in
    yodeah sefer which sefer?
    p. 218 n.7 Spiegel explains the
    melitza used by the printers of the 1494 Nevim to describe what they did.  The melitza includes the line "lower the high and raise the lower" (Ezekiel
    21:31).  Dr. M. Glaser explained that in the early printing presses the letters would be set and they faced upwards, the printer would coat them in ink and then place the paper on top.  This is in contrast to how writing was done previously - from above. 
    p. 230 n.67 citing examples of books where the Soncino press accused the Bomberg press of using (illegally?) Soncino editions.
    p. 234 n.79 discussing the alleged apostasy of Yakkov ben Hayyim Ibn Adoniyahu
    , the editor of the Mikrot Gedolot and other seminal texts.
    p. 268 n.95 many sources that say the Havah Minah of the gemarah is true and important. 

    p. 318 -21  he discusses the methods of R Dovid Meubin a talmid of the Maharshal in annotating the Gemarah including many general rules that he mentions in his sefer.

    p. 329 -35 discuses the notes of the Levush on shas if they were really from him and dealing with R. Zechariah criticism on this.

    p. 426 n.18 discuses about Fogelman work on R. Menasha Milyah.

    p. 464 n.167 the Gra's opinion on the laining on Rosh Chodesh.

    p. 540 n.29 the plagiarism of the Tolodos Adam.

    p. 587 n.41 deals with a bit if Chaim Bloch was a forger.

    p. 652 n.185 Kapach opinon on the Teshuvos of Rambam to Chachemei Lunel.



    In the academic world Spiegel work has gotten some attention for his discussion of the Chazon Ish and manuscripts.  Specifically, Benny Brown in his unpulished dissertation, The Hazon Ish Halakhic Philosophy, Theology and Social Policy As Expressed in His Prominent Later Rulings  (Hebrew) pp. 129-40, & Appendix pg 111- 113  deals with Spiegel's discussions with comments and additions. As has been noted here Sperber in his recent work Nesivos Pesikah uses Spiegel's discussions on this topic. And, in his doctorate on R. Betzalel Askenazi B. Toledano uses Spiegel's comments on R. Betzalel. Finally, others have used Spiegel's work, but as Spiegel notes only sometimes do they give Spiegel credit, (see here for more and see the introduction p. 13 and the notes therein and page 183 n.132).



    Finally, although Spiegel's work is very comprehensive, there are some additions to some of the topics discussed in the sefer:



    In the beginning of the book Spiegel has a chapter about אין כותבין ספרים תפלין ומזוזות במועד ואין מגיהין אות אחת אפילו בספר העזרה בספרים אחרים גורסים ספר עזרא

    To add to his long list of sources see Archaei Tanamim Vamorim (Rebbe of Rokeach) (Blau edition 2:666-67) and R. Meshulam Roth, Shut Kol Mevaser 2:2823.


    For the chapter (pp. 39-83) about המחזיק בספר מוטעה אל תשכן באהליך עולה see Efodi in his Maseh Efodie p. 18 in the introduction.

    For his chapter about Rabbenu Tam's methods of amending texts see also R. Yakov Shor (intro to Sefer haIttim p. vii) where he says he followed Rabbenu Tam's method in his edition of the Sefer haIttim and did make corrections on the actual text.



    In chapter twelve where he discusses the Mesectos which are not learned (407-414) Spiegel mentions Nedarim as not being learnt (p. 407). See also the Merei in his Seder Hakabbalah (p. 128 Ofek Edition) where he writes

    דעו בעדות נאמנה שלא נשנית מסכת נדרים בישיבה זה ק' שנה

    On Nedarim see also R. Reven Margolis, Mekharim beDarkei HaTalmud, pp. 81-84; R. Zevin, Sofrim Veseforim (geonim) pp. 46-48; the extensive discussion of R. Zev Rabanovitz in his Shaerei Toras Bavel (pp. 299-310).


    About Meschates Moed Koton see the important comment of R. Yissacar Tamar, Alei Tamar Moed Koton pg 312; and Yeshurun 20:702.


    Another mesectah not really learnt in the time of the Rishonim was Mesectas Avodah Zarah see; Professor Chaim Solovetick, Hayayin Byemei Habenyaim pp. 133-36.


    When discussing Meshtas Chagigah (pg 409) he brings the famous story from the Menorot haMeor that:

    מעשה בתלמיד אחד, שהיה מתייחד במקום אחד, והיה למד בו מסכת חגיגה. והיה מהדר ומהפך בה כמה פעמים, עד שלמד אותה היטב והיתה שגורה בפיו, ולא היה יודע מסכתא אחרת מן התלמוד זולתה, והיה שונה בה כל ימיו. כיון שנפטר מן העולם הזה, היה לבדו באותו בית שהיה לומד בו מסכת חגיגה, ולא היה שום אדם יודע פטירתו. מיד באה אשה אחת, ועמדה עליו, והרימה קולה בבכי ובמספד, ותרבה אנחתה וצעקתה, כאשה שהיא סופדת על בעלה, עד אשר נקבצו ההמון, ואמרה להם, ספדו לחסיד זה, וקברוהו בכבוד גדול, וכבדו את ארונו, ותזכו לחיי העולם הבא, שזה כבדני כל ימיו ולא הייתי עזובה ולא שכוחה בימיו. מיד נתקבצו כל הנשים וישבו עמה סביב למטתו ועשו עליו מספד גדול, והאנשים נתעסקו בתכריכיו ובכל צרכי קבורתו, וקברו אותו בכבוד גדול. ואותה אשה בוכה במר נפש וצועקת. אמרו לה, מה שמך. אמרה להם, חגיגה שמי. וכיון שנקבר אותו חסיד נעלמה מן העין אותה אשה. מיד ידעו שמסכת חגיגה היתה, שנראית להם בצורת אשה, ובאה בשעת פטירתו לספוד לו ולבכותו ולקברו בכבוד, מפני שהיה שונה בה ושוקד עליה ללמוד אותה. והלא דברים קל וחומר, ומה חסיד זה שלא למד אלא מסכתא אחת בלבד כך, הלמד תורה הרבה ותלמוד הרבה ומעמיד תלמידים הרבה על אחת כמה וכמה.


    It should be noted that there are eleven versions of the story see S. Askenazi notes to Kav Hayashar and updated to 15 versions in his Alpha Beta Kadmita Deshmuel Zeria pp. 331-36. [These sources were not know to Y. Hacohen in his new annotated edition of the Magid Mesharim (p. 292). The Otzar Yad Chaim (pg 198) goes so far as to say that because of this story some say it's a segulah to learn this Mesechtah on a yarzheit. [See also Megedaim Chadashim introduction to Chaggiah.]


    In regard to The famous abrevation ענ"י which Mescetas were hard add R. Emden who writes on the Zohar which says

    עני איהו תמן בסימן עירובין נדה יבמות

     "בנה סוד על הלצה בעלמא, שהיתה מצויה בפי עוסקי התלמוד בישיבה, שלא יכלו לירד לעמקן של מסכתות הללו החמורות מאד, מחמת ריבוי החלוקות החדודות שבהן, הודו ולא בושו בעניות דעתם וקוצר יד השגתם, שלא יכלו להשוות כל הסוגיות השונות והסתירות הנמצאות בהן, לתרצם וליישבם כדרך שעשו בשאר כל המסכתות, חוץ מאלו קשות ולא מצאו כל אנשי חיל ידיהם. ונתנו בהן סימן על דרך הצחות, שלא יתפלא אדם, גם אם יאמר החכם למצוא פשר דבר לא יוכל, שכבר צווחו בהן קמאי דקמאי ולא אסקו בידייהו, אלא כמאן דמסיק תעלא מבי כרבא ועניא דקרי אבבא, היאומן שדברים כאלה יצא מפי תנא, אין צריך לומר מפי משה רבנו וא משאר נשמות מעולם הנעלם".  (מטפחת ספרים עמ' מו).



    See also S. A

    0 0
  • 11/13/08--13:47: Baranovich Auction
  • Yeshiva Ahavas Torah, Baranovich is having an auction Wednesday, November 19th.  One can download the catalog here.  While I don't intend to cover the whole catalog, I want to briefly highlight a few items. Those interested in early Hebrew/English primers (or English Hebraica) and the like should take a look at lots 12-17.  For those interested in early 20th century American figures, such as Rodkinson and Eisenstein, see lot 62 for Eisenstein's quasi-autobiography, Otzar Zikronoti .  And for a polemic against Rodkinson by R. Yosef Kohen Zedek (of London, a fascinating figure in his own right) see lot 52, Sefat Emet.  For other polemical material, no auction is complete without the rare (but, again, somehow appear in every auction) polemics on the Emden-Eybshutz controversy, lots 35-36.  Another controversial piece is the 1535 Constantinople edition of the Machberet Emanuel , lot 66. While this is not the first edition which was published in 1491, it contains different material than the first edition.  See Machberet Emmanuel, Yardeni ed., Jerusalem, 1957 p. 20.  For those interested only in first editions, the first edition of the Hafetz Hayim, Vilna 1873, lot 72 is available. For earliest mention of the Ba'al Shem Tov see lot 81, Maayim Hayyim , discussed at length here. Finally, for those interested in illustrated seforim, the Maayan Ganim, with its fountain illustrations as well as a mention of women studying torah is lot 102.

    0 0

    Rabbis & History: A Review of the Koreh HaDorot, Ahavat Shalom ed.

    by Eliezer Brodt

    This is the first post in what I hope to be a series on various attitudes towards studying history.  The prism through which we will examine this issue is that of the many works written by gedolim discussing history.  The subject of this post is a new edition of the classic work Koreh Hadoros (KH) by R. Dovid Conforte (printed recently by Ahavat Sholom).  After discussing the actual sefer and its author,  I will conclude with a few comments about this recently printed edition.


    R. Conforte was born in Salonika around 1617 and died sometime after 1678. Throughout his life he traveled to many places (including Eretz Yisroel), and in KH he describes his meetings with many great personalities, including R. Menachem Lonzano, author of Sheti Yadot, and R. Hayyim Benevisti, author of the Keneset Hagedolah. As he enumerates throughout the book, R. Conforte studied with R. Moredcahi Kalai and many others (see, for example, pg. 163, 175, 176, 179; all page references are to the new edition).  At times he also emphasizes with whom and when he studied Kabalah (pg. 172-73), which he started to learn at the young age of seventeen (p. 150). He seemed to have authored a few other works, most of which are lost. Recently, a responsum of his was printed in the journal Yeshurun (vol. 7, pg. 55ff). [In that article, the authors write of a plan to collect all R. Conforte's torah as well as to reprint the KH]. In Sinai (28:279-295), R. Toledano published a manuscript called Zikhron Yerushalim about gravesites in Eretz Yisroel, which the author proves was written by R. Conforte.


    The KH is one of the most famous historical works written by a talmid chacham and continues to be studied to this day. This sefer was printed a few times (once even under a mistaken name -  see R. M. Strashun, Mivchar Kesavim, p. 240), and remains very popular amongst gedolim and scholars alike. Most notably, the Chida quotes this work extensively in all his seforim (as an aside, it's rather strange that his entry on R. Conforte in Shem Hagedolim is very small and uninformative). Indeed, when, many years ago, R. Meshulam Roth created a curriculum for his yeshiva, he included the Koreh Hadoros as an essential sefer for his talmidim to read (among other interesting things in the program; see Mivasar Ezra, pg. 176, and Mivasar Vomer, pg. 119); R. Meir Shapira even asked R. Roth if he could use the latter's curriculum for Yeshivat Chachemei Lublin (see Mivasar Ezra, pg. 172).  Even today scholars use this work extensively; check the index of almost any of the works of Meir Benayhu and one can see how often he quotes the KH. 


    KH begins with the era of the Rabbonan Savorei ("Saboraim"), continues with the geonic period and the rishonim, and ends with R. Confotre's own generation, in total covering a period of a few hundred years. The idea of this work is to list the different gedolim from each period and include basic information about them, such as when they were born and died, with whom they stiudied, and what they wrote. At times the KH includes a more lengthy entry on a specific person. Much of this information, especially that of R. Conforte's own period, is very important,  as we have no other such sources for it.  Much of the other material is taken from other classic "history" works, as R. Conforte himself notes (e.g. Igerres R. Shreriah Goan, Sefer Hakablah l'Ha'Ra'avad, Sahlsheles Hakablah, and Sefer Yuchsin, all of which will hopefully be subjects of their own posts in the future); yet, though R. Conforte uses these works extensively, he will at times disagree with these works. One work which, for some unknown reason, R. Conforte does not use, and which R. D. Kassel already pointed out, is the Zemach Dovid, obvious from the fact that the section on Askenaz achronim is quite weak. Finally, throughout the sefer he quotes many interesting things he heard from purportedly reliable sources, rare seforim, and manuscripts which he saw. In the recent Ahavat Sholom edition, they discuss about fifty such works which R. Conforte mentions. Indeed, Koreh HaDoros shows an incredible bikiyut in shas, rishonim, and achronim (and all of this in the pre-Bar-Ilan days!).


    In 1842, D. Kassel printed an annotated version of KH. Though he included many short notes on various points in the sefer, his additions included nothing extensive. Among the reasons Kassel provides for this is that he was told Leopold Zunz was working on his own edition.  However, Zunz never ended up publishing his own edition and, as such, Kassel's edition, which still left room for much work, became the standard edition. More recently, this sefer was reprinted by Ahavat Sholom. One of the benefits of the Ahavat Shalom edition is that it collects all the Chida's comments on the sefer (scattered throughout his writings) and prints it here in the proper places. The truth is that Kassel already references when and where the Chida discusses particular points in KH; still, the Kassel edition only includes citations to the Chida's works without reproducing what the Chida says.  The Ahavat Shalom edition, on the other hand, includes the full text of the Chida's relevant comments. To be sure, even a cursory Bar-Ilan project search shows that the Ahavat Shalom edition missed a few of the Chida's comments, and I am sure that this is true of the many other seforim of the Chida not included the in the Bar-Ilan database.  Another plus of their edition are the indexes, which are very extensive- over a hundred pages (which include every time any sefer or name is mentioned)! Finally, the edition also has a retyped set,  making the sefer  more readable and clearly marking paragraph and topic breaks. They were also kind enough to reference pages numbers of the first edition, a useflul tool in tracking down quotes from the original edition.

    Another positive aspect of this edition is a very thoroughly researched introduction about the author and the sefer. The Ahavat Shalom printing includes an entire section devoted to many of the manuscripts and seforim that R. Conforte may have seen (discussing what happened with the seforim if they were printed since then, etc.). Just to point out some additions to their discussion: The KH mentions a sefer from R. Yisroel Nigra which is a collection of his derashos called Mikveh Yisroel. They write (p. 35) that it exists in many manuscripts and that one derasha was printed already in Yeshrun (10:134). The truth is that this manuscript was printed partially in the early 1900s, but, more recently, S. Regev printed all the dershos (Bar Ilan Press, 2004) in a critical edition (675 pgs.), including an excellent introduction to the work Interestingly, R. Y. Goldhaver seems not to have been aware of this edition as he only quotes the manuscript (see his Minhaghei Hakehilos, 1:287). Another sefer that the KH mentions, also authored by R. Yisroel Nigra, is Sheris Yisroel, which is a collection of Nigra's songs. In the Ahavat Sholom introduction they mention that it exists in manuscript. It is interesting to note that the manuscript was in the collection of R. Aryeh Lipshiz, as mentioned in his Avos Atrah Lebanim (p. 109).


    The main weakness of this new edition are the notes. Aside for putting in all the comments of the Chida taken from Shem Hagedolim, there is almost nothing as far as notes go. On the one hand, one could argue that Ahavat Shalom did not feel it is necessary to put in more notes than they did. However, in a recent issue of a journal called Mikabsel (# 32) - published by Ahavat Shalom - the editors include the introduction to KH, including the history of the author and a sampling of over fifty notes on various topics in the sefer. Even these notes, too, could have been more comprehensive, they are still very useful. For some odd reason, most of these notes were not included in the published edition of KH. In sum, Ahavat Sholom should be thanked for printing an important sefer which has not been around for some time; nevertheless, a critical edition is definetely still needed and eagerly awaited.

    I would just like to give a list of some of the many points and discussions which R. Conforte brings up in the sefer. As previously mentioned, he deals with the Geonic period, mostly basing himself on the earlier works available to him such as Iggerot R. Sherirah Gaon and Sefer Hakablah of the Ra'avad.  


    He records the famous puzzling statement about the death of R. Sherirah Goan that:

    ונתלה רב שרירא מידו אחת והוא כבן מאה שנה, ולא הוסרו מגאונות.


    For a recent summary of the discussions of this statement and a new suggestion as to its interpretation, see R. Nosson Dovid Rabonvitz, Rishumot Teshuvos R. Sherirah Gaon, pp. 42-45.


    Another one of the interesting things R. Conforte brings up, and which is rather famous (and hopefully the subject of its own post shortly), is the dictum:

    ומצאתי כתוב שיש אומרים כי הגאונים נקרא כל אחד מהם בלשון גאון על שם שהיה יודע שם ס' מסכתות כמנין תיבת גאון (עמ' יח).


    In a footnote of the Ahavat Sholom edition, the editors note that the Meiri makes the same point in his Seder Hakablah. In the introduction, they note (p. 31) that the KH probably saw this in the Meiri's  manuscript. However, from R. Conforte's discussion of the Meiri, it appears to me that he never saw the sefer (see p. 83). Furthermore, if he had seen this particular sefer of the Meiri (which, parenthetically, could have helped him much in this work), he would have quoted it as he quoted from his other sources. A more likely source where R. Conforte could have seen this phrase is from the Sefer HaTishbi (pg. 122), which he did see and from which he often quotes. 


    He includes a nice amount of information on the Rambam, including the famous legend regarding him being buried in Tevariah (Tiberias) and why the Ra'avad wrote a critical work on the Rambam. One of the things R. Conforte points out (as do many others) is that the Rambam studied under the Ri Migash (though the Chida comments that this is not chronologically possible).  What is less well known is what R Avraham Ben Ha-Rambam wrote about this:

    ואבא מארי זצ"ל למרות היותו נמנה עליהם וקורא להם בחיבורו הגדול רבותי משום שאביו שהוא רבו הנו תלמידו של רבינו יוסף ז"ל  (המספיק לעובדי השם מהדורת נ' דנה עמ' 177-178).


    KH mentions the famous legend about the death of R. Yehudah Halevi (already discussed previously here ). He also includes many interesting points about Rashi. Amongst them, he deals with a famous question that many ask: if Rashi died in middle of writing his work on Baba Basra, how is it that others say he died while working on Makos? R. Conforte's seemingly obvious answer is that Rashi must have been working on both at the same time (p. 56).

    He includes an extensive list (almost fifteen pages) of all the various Rishonim quoted by Tosofos, including places where they quote from the Rambam and Ibn Ezra., further portraying the author 's tremendous bekiyut in Shas. In the new Ahavat Sholom edition, the editors actually provide the exact sources for all these pages.


    The KH writes a very interesting possibility about the authorship of the Kol Bo:

    ושמעתי אומרים שאשה חכמה חברה ספר זה, אבל אין דעתי נוטה לזה, מפני שחכמת הספר ההוא אינו מדעת אשה אלא מדעת איש חכם גדול ורב מובהק, ומחמת ענוה יתירה שהיה בו לא רצה להזכרי ולפרסם שמו בתוך הספר


    For more on this point, see Y. Levine in her introduction to Simchat Torah L'yad Rivkah Tiktiner, pg. 17 (as well as my Ben Keseh Lassur, pg. 143). Although the possibility is mentioned (and dismissed) by the KH that a woman wrote this work, A. Grossman's excellent book Chasidos U'morodos (pp. 282-289) does not mention it at all, though he provides a lengthy list of many of the learned woman in times of Rishonim (as an aside, I did not see a discussion of this list in the Sefer Toras Emechah, which deals with at length with the issur to teach Torah to women).


    The KH has a lengthy discussion of the authorship of the Sefer Tanya, as it is well known that it appears to be a direct copy of the Shibbolei Ha-leket (pg. 76-77). In the latest volume of Yeshurun (20:696-697), R. Yakov Chaim Sofer goes so far as to discuss whether a similar point made by both the Shibbolei Ha-leket and the Sefer Tanya can "count" as two Rishonim or only as one. He proves at the end that the Eliyahu Rabah (in many places) counts them as two Rishonim. R. Conforte concludes that the author was most likely R. Yecheil, the author of the Malos Hamidos, and perhaps more famous as the sofer who copied the Yerushalmi Leiden. Throughout the past few centuries, the authorship of this sefer has been constantly aruged and discussed. Recently, Profesor Feintuch (Mesoros Venuscos B'talmud, pp. 65-76) proved conclusively that the KH is certainly correct (see also, I. Ta-Shma, Creativity and Tradition, pp. 77-79).


    When discussing the place where the Reshis Chochma is buried, he mentions, as an aside, that the Matnes Kehunah is buried next to him (p. 146). Others disagree on this point, showing that the Matnes Kehunah was actually buried in Poland (see Zev Gris, Safrus V'hanhagos, pp. 41-42).


    When talking about R. Shlomo Halevi, R. Conforte writes (p. 165):

    וצוה בשעת פטירתו... שהספסל שהיה משים עליו הספרים כשהיה לומד, שיעשו ממנו ארון כדי לקוברו בו.



    On this topic of burying one using the table on which one studied, see the many sources of R. S. Askenazi in his notes on the Kav Hayashar, and his updates in his Alpha Beta Kadmidta Deshmuel Zeria, pp. 487-93.


    When discussing the Lechem Mishna, R. Conforte brings down an incredible story which he heard (pg. 153):

    ושמעתי מפי זקנים כי נפטר בערב שבת במגפה ונקבר בין השמשות ובא השמש, והתחילו מצטערים לומר שחללו את השבת. וכשחזרו מבית הקברות לבתיהם זרחה השמש והאיר להם היום ושמחו על שלא חללו את השבת.


    As D. Tamar notes (Areshet, Vol. 1, p. 474), the KH is the first historical sefer (p. 127) to attribute the Magid Mesahrim to R. Yosef Karo (contrary to what R. Y. Greenwald writes in his book R. Yosef Karo Ve'doro, pg. 192). Of course today we have much earlier and excellent proof as to the authenticity of this work; see, in partiuclar, the works of R. J.Z. Werblosky and M. Benayhu (in Yosef Becherei).


    The KH also brings (p. 128) an incredible tidbit about the Beis Yosef which he heard from the Beis Yosef desendants:

    ספר לנו קצת משבחי זקנו ז"ל, ובכלל שבחיו אמר לנו שהרב זקנו אמר בשעת פטירתו שזכה ללמד התלמוד כלו שלשה פעמים.


    In the introduction to the Ahavat Sholom edition, the editors note that this sefer was also used to learn halacha, such as in the discussion of teaching torah to Karaties. They reference, for example, how the first source on this topic in the Sdei Chemed is the KH (Sdei Chemed, Klal Beis, Siman 34:13). While it is true that the Sdei Chemed does quote the KH, in reality he is only quoting Shut Mizrachi as brought in the KH. However, a Bar-Ilan search does show a few cases where the Shut Minchat Yitzcahk uses this sefer in his works. As far as Halachos of Klalei Ha'pesak, I am certain that KH could play a role.

    In the recent ("controversial") book Reckless Rites Elliot Horowitz has a excellent extremely comprehensive chapter on local Purims throughout history. One of the Purims he discusses is the Purim of Cairo (pp. 286-89) he mentions that we have various sources showing it was observed over several centuries. Another source, not mentioned by Horowitz, is that a reference to this Purim can be found in the KH where he mentions that in his times it was also celebrated (p. 119).

    One last point of great interest about R. Conforte is that although he lived in the time of Shabetai Tzvi, no mention of Shabetai Zvi can be found in the entire sefer. This point was made by B. Deblitski in his article in Mekabseil (pg. 606); however, the introduction of the Ahavat Sholom edition omits this very important and interesting point.




    0 0

    A Note Regarding R. Menahem de Lonzano
    by Jordan S. Penkower

    I would like to call attention to the following points in reference to R. Menahem de Lonzano, as mentioned in Koreh HaDorot by R. David Conforte.
    (1) In his recent post on TSB, Eliezer Brodt, in his review of the new edition of Conforte's Koreh HaDorot (2008), made the following statement (in the second paragraph):
    R. Conforte was born in Salonika around 1617 and died sometime after 1678. Throughout his life he traveled to many places (including Eretz Yisroel), and in KH he describes his meetings with many great personalities, including R. Menachem Lonzano, author of Sheti Yadot,...
    This seems to be a "slip of the pen", for it assumes an impossibilty. Conforte was born in 1617 (or 1618) in Salonika, and Lonzano died before 1624 (apparently in Eretz Israel; he was buried there at the foot of the Mount of Olives). Thus, Conforte was still a young lad in Salonika when Lonzano died elsewhere (apparently in Eretz Israel). In short, these two scholars never met, and Conforte certainly does not mention any such meeting between them.
    In an interesting turn of events, these two scholars were, nevertheless, connected; for Conforte married Lonzano's granddaughter, the daughter of Lonzano's son, Adonikam. Conforte mentions his father-in-law (and the fact that he died young) in Koreh HaDorot, at the end of his entry on R. Menahem de Lonzano.
    (2) In his introduction to the new edition of Koreh HaDorot, p. 32, R. Bezalel Deblitzki lists as one of the manuscripts used by Conforte:
          שבלי הלקט בכתיבת יד מהר"ם די לונזאנו   
    When one goes to verify this assumption, one finds, on p. 76 of the new edition, the following quote:

     ומצאתי כתוב בתחלת ספר אחד מס' שבלי הלקט מכתיבת יד ה"ר מנחם די לונזאנו ז"ל וז"ל = וזה לשונו
    At first glance, one could possibly understand this statement as R. Deblitzki did, i.e. that Lonzano copied the whole manuscript of Shibbolei HaLeket.

    Nevertheless, a closer look yields the following interpretation:
    Conforte is describing a manuscript (written by an anonymous scribe) which was in the posession of Lonzano. At the beginning of this manuscript Lonzano added a gloss (quoted here at length by Conforte) about the author of the work and his teachers. Lonzano also mentions in the gloss that Zedekiah HaRofeh (author of Shibbolei HaLeket) wrote another work (=volume two; in manuscript) and that he (Lonzano) owns a copy. Lonzano further makes an observation at the end of his gloss concerning the state of the work - that people later changed the order of the work, just as they did with Sefer Yerei'im.
    In short, the phrase
    ומצאתי כתוב.. מכתיבת יד ה"ר מנחם די לונזאנו ז"ל
    refers only to the gloss of Lonzano - which was subsequently quoted at length by Conforte.
    The inserted phrase: בתחלת ספר אחד מס' שבילי הלקט  simply informed the reader what were the contents of the manuscript (Shibbolei HaLeket, volume 1), and where the gloss was inserted (at the beginning of the manuscript).
    I later discovered that already HID"A (R. Hayyim David Azoulai) correctly interpreted this passage in Conforte's Koreh HaDorot, and understood that Lonzano possessed a manuscript copy of Shibbolei HaLeket. See Azoulai's remarks in Sheim HaGedolim, s.v. רבינו צדקיה ב"ר אברהם הרופא
    וב' ספרים אלו (=שבלי הלקט, על שני חלקיו) היו ביד מהר"ם די לונזאנו כמו שהביא דבריו בס' קורא הדורות דף כ"א ע"א ע"ש
    It should be noted that this phenomenon, of Lonzano adding glosses in books (manuscripts and printed) that he owned, can be documented in many other cases as well.

    0 0

    The Enigmatic R. David Lida Part II
    by Tevie Kagan

    R. David of Lida and Sabbateanism

    The case for Sabbatean leanings in R. David ben Aryeh Leib of Lida's works are somewhat cloudy. The first clear accusation in this regard is from R. Yaakov Emden in his Toras Hakanaos. [1] Specifically, R. Emden, dealt with the conclusion of one of Lida's poem's entitled Shir Hillulim, which was printed with his Migdol David. Shir Hillulim was written in honor of a torah dedication in Amsterdam in 1680. It was comprised of verses to be recited by the congregation and cantor. The letters at the end that are enlarged spell out "Tishbi," and says "Tishbi, he will redeem us." In traditional Jewish literature, Tishbi (Elijah) is referenced as a forerunner for the messiah. Emden saw this as an allusion to Shabbetai Zevi, as the letters in "Tishbi" form "Shabbetai" when transposed. Emden continues and notes that the letters between the last lines (spelling out "David") demonstrate that Lida was attempting to equate David with Tishbi, and, consequently, with Shabbetai Zevi.

    There are those who argue with Emden's assertion that Shir Hillulim displays Sabbatean tendencies. Specifically, they note that David de Castro Tartas, who routinely printed prayer books and other works of sabbatean nature, [2] printed Shir Hillulim. Eisner, for example, postulates that Tartas added the problematic lines and that Lida knew nothing about it. [3] However, as Heller [4] points out, it would seem unlikely that a printer would modify such a small work, and that of the chief rabbi, meant for immediate distribution. Even more so, if this were the case, why would Lida use the same printer again, as he did with for his Shomer Shabbos in 1687?

    Indeed, it is especially difficult to determine whether a work is Sabbatean in nature.  Within Sabbatean writings there are certain recurring themes. There is often a thematic fixation on the Messiah. The writings often focus on King David, and explain how he did not sin with Bat-Sheba (Samuel II, Chapter 11). They also frequently discuss the concept of "mitzvah ha-ba'ah be-averah," the notion of reinterpreting biblical figures actions as foreshadowing Shabbetai Zevi's acts (particularly Esther or King David), and the rabbinic dictum that "greater a sin done for heavens sake than a commandment done other than for the sake of heaven." Writing about any one of these topics alone does not deem one to be a Sabbatean. However, a recurring reference to these beliefs within ones writings, combined with a less then stellar character, may deem one suspect.  Coupled with actual accusations from one of the foremost experts on Sabbateanism (R. Yaakov Emden), one must be wary and investigate further.

    Aside from the obvious reasons for not overtly stating the sabbatean nature of a work, inherent in Sabbateanism is the notion of a "dual nature."  Scholem describes this dualism as having one side bordering on nihilism and another that is outwardly religious. Elsewhere, [5] Scholem states that "[a] double-faced nature came to be seen as a characteristic trait . . . [to] live in a high tension between outward orthodoxy and inward antinomianism." This corresponds with the paradox that the followers of Shabbetai Zevi were left with after he apostatized in 1666. This also follows Sabbatean teachings that corrupted the Lurianic doctrine of tikun, using sin as the preferred medium for rectification, as opposed to mitzvoth. Shabbetai Zevi sought to abolish many commandments, stating that since it was the messianic age they no longer were applicable. He instead preached a doctrine of "mitzvah ha-ba'ah be-averah," asserting that the path to a mitzvah is through a sin.[6] This is one of the many ways that Shabbetai Zevi's followers attempted to rationalize his apostasy.  They argued that he was merely gathering "sparks" from within the broken shards that reside in the Islamic faith. Shabbetai Zevi advocated certain sins outright, such as eating chelev, the forbidden fat of an animal, and abolishing the fast of the 9th of Av (Tisha B'Av"). Thus, it is unsurprising that it is difficult to uncover what truly is a Sabbatean work and what is not.  


    Migdol David was Lida's first major work that was disseminated widely. It was written on the book of Ruth and seeks to explain the Davidic lineage. Migdol David does have messianic tones; yet, if the author was truly a Sabbatean, one would expect to find it overflowing with Sabbatean references. Oddly enough, though, through most of the work there are few Sabbatean references.  The ending lines are what lead to its Sabbatean suspicion, as they include the words "שבתי בבית ה'" This verse is in of itself not problematic, but the choice of  "שבתי" would fit with a common trait of Sabbatean writing to identify ones work to those who knew of certain code words. This was a fairly common tactic as can be adduced from Emden's list in Toras Hakanaos, where many books were banned for similar reasons.[7]


    Within Lida's Sod Hashem, a manual of the rules of milah (circumcision)  with a running commentary called Sharbit Hazahav, there are a couple of problematic themes. While describing the kabalistic reasons behind mila, Lida explains that the foreskin is as an offering to Samael and, because of the phrase "nachash efer lachmo," the foreskin is placed in dirt. Sabbatean Kabbalah often equates the nachash (snake) with the messiah, as both have the same numerical value. This does not mean that every reference to the nachash is suspect; in this case, though, clearly equating it with Samael and the offering is odd. Slightly more problematic is the quote[8] from R. Yehoshua Heshel from Vilna that discusses the verse: "Abraham was ninety-nine years old and the Lord appeared to him" (Gen. 17:1). He proceeds to give an interpretation explaining its significance within the sefiros of the numbers involved. Now, one would assume this to be the same R. Heshel under which Lida studied. However, it is R. Heshel Zoref[9] (c.1663-1700), the noted Sabbatean Kabbalist, and supposed prophet of the Sabbatean movement in Poland, to whom Lida is referring. Zoref wrote the Sefer Ha-Zoref where, among other things, he proclaimed himself Messiah b. Joseph and Shabbetai Zevi as Messiah b. David. Lida's quoting of Zoref is not a damning piece of evidence on its own, as it is one isolated quote, and as Naor points out,[10] classic works such as Kav Hayashar contain quotes from Zoref as well.  Still, this does not help Lida,s case.


    Quite possibly the most egregious piece of suspect Sabbateanism that Lida published is the homily at the beginning of his Be'er Esek.[11] After discussing the Medrash that the Yalkut Shimoni brings in Samuel (151) that David climbed the olive crop and cried, Lida goes into detail about why David would cry and why these do not suffice as reasons. Lida brings quotes from the Zohar and Peliah that say that David did not sin with Bat-Sheba, but that rather she was prepared for him from the six days of creation and that, indeed, it was a good thing that he had relations with her. David saw himself as Adam, Bat-Sheba as Eve, and Uriah the Hittite as the nachash. By having relations with Bat-Sheba, David rectified the sin of Adam and the act of the Snake having relations with Eve, ultimately bringing death to this world. Next Lida equates David, Adam and Messiah, explaining how David did not sin, but in fact effected a great tikun (rectification). Lida continues in this vein for at least another page and a half, equating his own travails with David being maligned for taking Bat-Sheba and running from Absalom.[12] This work is ostensibly setting out to clear his name of all Sabbatean charges, yet within the work Sabbatean charges are never mentioned, and the work opens with the epitome of a Sabbatean sermon!


    Lest one think this is an isolated instance, one has but to look at much of Lida's Ir David to see this is more the norm than the exception. Ir David was Lida's magnum opus. He was only able to bring the first third to print, as he states in the introduction. Lida's son Pesachya ended up printing the entire work in Amsterdam in 1719, through the press run by Solomon Proops.[13] In the introduction Lida discusses the rabbinic claim that when the messiah comes all holidays will be nullified except for Purim. This saying had become a popular adage among the Sabbateans, since Shabbatai Zevi had abolished all holidays (including the 9th of Av), as he believed he was the Messiah. Lida proceeds to expound on a passage (#143) in the Megaleh Amukos (by R. Nathan Nata Shapiro) that the Merkavah Chariot is alluded to in the letters שב"ת implying, therefore, that the redemption is connected to the Jews keeping shabbos. Lida proceeds to equate this using the gematria  שין, בית, תיו and אליהו משיח בן דוד   which equal 496. The equation of these two sets of words is suspect, since a popular "pastime" of Sabbateans was to show that Shabbetai Zevi's name was numerically similar to the numerical value of the word "messiah." If we suppose that Lida had a Sabbatean mindset, than one more passage in the introduction is suspect as well. Lida bring uses a statement from R. Isaac Luria, the Ari, that states that all souls stem from the same 248 souls, which are mired in impurities and kelipot, except those of certain individuals, one of them being the messiah. Scholem, in his article on Shabetai Zevi in the Encyclopaedia Judaica, explains how Sabbateans viewed the messiah's soul within their own kabalistic view:[14]

    "He is essentially different from all those souls which play their part in the process of tikkun. In fact, he was never under the authority of the Torah, which is the mystical instrument used by the power of the thoughtful light and the souls connected with it. He represents something utterly new, an authority which is not subject to the laws binding in the state of cosmic and historic exile. He cannot be measured by common concepts of good and evil and must act according to his own law, which may become the utopian law of a world redeemed. Both his history and his special task explain his behavior after he had freed himself from the prison of the kelippah."

    This can be used as a rationale for Shabbetai Zevi's apostasy, for if his soul was not from among the "regular souls," it could not be influenced by the impurities inherent in regular souls. Accordingly, he had the ability to save those who needed to be saved. Lida ends with one of his favorite verses, "ושבתי בבית ה'" with, once again, his "favorite letters" standing out. As mentioned previously, all of this is innocuous on its own, but taken within the larger picture, gives one pause.

    Within Ir David there are certain recurring pieces. As in his Be'er Esek, the concept that King David didn't sin with Bat-Sheba is an important and recurrent trope. In part 42,[15] for example, Lida argues that the reason David was perceived to have sinned was to inspire the concept of repentance in individuals. Similarly, the Israelites were perceived to have sinned by the golden calf to inspire repentance among larger groups. In part 54, Lida explains that David came to replace Adam and rectify the snake's relations with Eve. This discussion continues in part 55 where Lida discusses two interpretations of what happened with the snake and Eve, and how this affects, depending on the interpretation, our interpretation of whether or not David sinned. Lida continues with this theme in part 58, which also combines one of Lida's favorite aspects of David's life, that of David being persecuted by Absalom (perhaps a reference to Shabetai Zevi or Sabbateans being persecuted). In part 64 we are reminded that King David knew he was not sinning and that, on the contrary, he was eventually rewarded with a spot in the merkavah with the forefathers. Part 86 continues this theme by asserting that David, Moses, and the Israelites all did not sin because their motivations were right; through this, Lida sets forth the concept of "better a sin done for the sake of heaven than a mitzvah done with the wrong intention." Finally, part 88 references the Talmud in Shabbos 56 that asserts that anyone who says David sinned is wrong, as well as referencing a passage in the Assarah Maamaros that discusses why David's name is not invoked in prayer.

     If one views Lida as a Sabbatean, then David is not the one speaking, but rather the Messiah, Shabbetai Zevi.[16] This further complicates much of Lida's sermons, since this implies that he is no longer merely using Psalms as a springboard for simple rabbinic-homiletic discourse; on the contrary, this gives everything he states a double meaning.


    It cannot be disputed that Lida was a great scholar and a prolific author. Whether he plagiarized works or held Sabbatean beliefs remains up for discussion. However, much of his writing lends proof to the fact that he did. Why his works are still in print today, as opposed to the works of other possible Sabbateans, has more to do with the luck that Lida had of being reprinted early on by the Hasidic Rabbi Tzvi Hirsh of Liska (1808-1874) (and why a Hasidic rabbi chose to latch on to such a controversial figure may have to do with the similar ideological mindset of early Hasidism and Sabbateanism).[17]

    *The author would like to thank the editors of the seforim blog who make this great forum available. I would like to thank Professor S.Z Leiman for helping me with the idea for this post and guidance throughout, and Efraim Keller at the Habad Library who helped with attaining Eisner's Toldos of Lida. and Achron Achron Chaviv Eli Meir Cohen who has been a tremendous asset with his wealth of knowledge of everything seforim related especially getting out of print items.


    [1] Emden, Toras Hakanaos (Amsterdam, 1752), 71b

    [2] See Rosenthaliana Studia-

    [3] Eisner, Toldot ha-Goan Rabbi Dovid Lida, pg.12

    [4] pg.123

    [5] 'Shabbetai Zevi," Encyclopaedia Judaica, pg.1251

    [6] See Scholem, Mitzvah Habah Beaverah: Mechkarim Umekoros Letoldos Hashabsaut Ugilgoeha (Jerusalem, 1982)

    [7] For an examination/explanation of Emden's list, see S.Z. Leiman, Sefer Hazikaron R. Moshe Lipshitz (New York, 1996)

    [8] David Lida, Sod Hashem (Kiryath Joel, 2002), pg. 25

    [9] Strashun, Mivhar Kesavim (Jerusalem, 1995), pg.128, n 2

    [10] Betzalel Naor, Post-Sabbatian Sabbatianism (Spring Valley, 1999), pg.43

    [11] Aaron Freimann, Sefer Hayovel for Nahum Sokolow (Warsaw, 1904), pg. 464

    [12] While this is most probably just a standard writer's convention, it lends credence to Emden's contention that Lida may have had some messianic aspirations. See Emden's Toras Hakanaos, discussing Shir Hillulim.

    [13] For more about Solomon Proops, see Richard D. Abraham, "Selomoh Proops, Corrector or Copyist?" Hispanic Review, Vol. 43, No. 3. (Summer, 1975), pp. 317-320; Quaerendo, Volume 37:2 (April, 2007), pg. 96-110; Marvin J Heller, Printing the Talmud: A History of the Individual Treatises Printed from 1700

    [14] pg. 1242

    [15] All numbers refer to the paragraphs assigned in Amsterdam edition.

    [16] See Naor, Post-Sabbatian Sabbatianism, pg. 168, n 16

    [17] See Scholem, Major Trends in Jewish Mysticism (New York, 1967), "Ninth Lecture- Hasidim: The Latest Phase"

    0 0

      Two Editions of R. Chaim Berlin's Responsa: An Egregious Example of Censorship
    by Eliezer Brodt



    R. Chaim Berlin, Sefer Nishmat Hayyim, She'elot u-Teshuvot, R. Ya'akov Kosovsky-Shachor ed., Beni-Brak, 2002, 412 pp.
    R. Chaim Berlin, Sefer Nishmat Hayyim, Mamorim u'Mechtavim, R. Ya'akov Kosovsky-Shachor ed., Beni-Brak, 2003, 424 pp.

    R. Chaim Berlin, Otzar Reb Hayyim Berlin, Shu"t Nishmat Hayyim, Jerusalem, 2008, 4 vol., 446, 462, 449, 298 pp.

    R. Chaim Berlin (1832-1912), the son of the R. Naftali Tzvi Yehuda Berlin (author of the Netziv), although well known until recently none of R. Chaim's extensive torah has been published.  To be sure, some of R. Chaim's torah can be found scattered throughout the seforim of his time, but never in a book of its own.  In 2002, R. Kosovsky-Shachor ("R. KS") published a collection of R. Chaim's responsa entitled Nishmat Hayyim.  These responsa were collected from various manuscripts in many collections as well as correspondences which R. KS found in the Rabbinic literature from R. Chaim's era. A year later R. KS printed a second volume of letters, derashot, articles and approbations of R. Chaim Berlin also entilted Nishmat Hayyim. In the back of the volume of responsa, R. KS includes a nice historical write up of R. Chaim Berlin's life (corrections and additions to the biography appear in the back of the second volume). 

    A few months ago another collection of R. Chaim Berlin's respona were published by Yeshivat ve-Hegaditah le-Vinkha entitled Otzar Reb Hayyim Berlin. This version was published in four massive volumes on all areas Shulchan Orach, Shas and more. In this post I will discuss a bit about the two versions, some of the interesting teshuovs found in them and many instances of censorship in the later edition. Regarding these examples of censorship, I can only assume that there are many more examples as I haven't compared every line of the four volumes with the original.  But, as will be apparent, the examples provided below are fairly egregious. Additionally, these works touch on the important topic of the reason behind the closing of Volozhin Yeshiva.  


    For purposes of this post, I will refer to the Nishmat Hayyim as the older edition and the Otzar Reb Hayyim Berlin as the new edition.  The earlier edition contains about 200 responsa while the new version has well over 800 responsa. In the earlier edition they printed a volume of letters and haskamos which the new version did not do yet include but promises to print shortly. The newer version has an excellent index based on the order of shas and topics. Just a quick glance shows the tremendous wealth of topics discussed. They also included a list of all the people R. Chaim corresponded a veritable "who's who" of the gedolim from that time period.

    Some Highlights

    Amongst the many interesting teshuvos there is one about riding on a train on Shabbas (1:171-172), creating something via the Sefer Yetzira on Shabbas (1:418), asking an agent to give a Get via a phonograph (4:39), throwing grass when one leaves the cemetery (2:359) and burning dead bodies as opposed to burial (2:353-355).


    In the new edition there is a lengthy discussion (1:70-77) about answering Amen when one is in middle of davening.   In the midst of this responsa  (1:73) R. Berlin notes a very interesting thing :

    נראה לענ"ד שאף במקום שמותר להפסיק בפשיטות ואין שם בית מיחוש כלל להחמיר כמו להפסיק מפסוקי דזמרה לקדושה, אין זה אלא רשות שמותר להפסיק אבל לא חיוב, וטעמא דידי, משום דקי"ל העוסק במצוה פטור מן המצוה....


    Another interesting statement found in a correspondence between him and R. Sholomo Hakohen where R. Shlomo writes (#67 in the old edition and # 191 in the new edition):


    כן שמעתי מפי אביו הצדיק זצ"ל (הכוונה להנצי"ב) שאמר בשם חמיו זקנו הצדיק מו"ה חיים מוואלזין זצ"ל שיש לומר פירוש בלשון הרמב"ם והשו"ע אם הוא עולה ע"פ ההלכה אף שבודאי לא כוונו לזה משום שרוח הקודש נזרקה על לשונם, וכן מצאתי כעין זה ממש בס' בית אלוקים להגאון המבי"ט זצ"ל בסוף פ' ס"ד ע"ש".


    While discussing the topic of gramophones, R. Chaim Berlin (#1 in old edition) writes that they had these already in the time of Chazal:


    ובזה נראה לי לפרש לשון הש"ס בפ' ראוהו ב"ד רה"ש כ"ח ב' דמשני הש"ס על הא דתנן הי' עובר אחורי בית הכנסת ושמע קול שופר או קול מגילה, אם כיון לבו יצא ואם לאו לא יצא מאי לאו אם כיון לבו לצאת, ושמע מינה מצות צריכות כונה, ומשני לא לשמוע, והא שמעי, סבור חמור בעלמא הוא, ופירש רבינו חננאל בש"ס החדשים דפוס ווילנא אם כיון לבו לשמוע ולהבחין אם הוא תקיעת בן אדם או צהלת סוס, ותמוה דהא ניחא בקול שופר שיש לטעות שהוא צהלת סוס, אבל בקול מגילה דלא שייך לטעות שהוא צהלת סוס, מאי איכא למימר, ותפשוט מינה דמצות צריכות כונה, וכבר תמהו בזה הטורי אבן במקומו, והפרי חדש או"ח (סי' תר"צ סעי' י"ג). ונראה דבימי הש"ס הי' כלי זו של הגרמפון עשויה כצורת חמור והליצנים היו משתמשין בו, וזהו חמרא דאכפא דאמר ר' אבהו בפ' במה אשה שבת ס"ו ב' ופירש"י חמור הנישא בכתפים והליצנים עושים אותו ובמקומנו נקרא ארדפיסא, ותרגם בש"ס החדשים דפוס ווילנא שזה קומנדינט או פארשטעלונג, וביותר היו עושין כן בפורים לבדח ולשמח את ההמון, והיה הדבר מצוי לשמוע מהחמור הזה גם קול מגילה, ומבואר דאם הוא קול החמור הזה, אינו יוצא ידי חובתו, כנלע"ד, וה' יודע האמת


    Another nice point is found while dealing with the issue of reciting the tefilah of Birkat Rosh Chodesh in light of the general prohibition against praying for one's livelihood on Shabbos. R. Chaim Berlin writes (#23 old version):


    ע"ד אשר שאל, היאך מצלינן בשבת שמברכין החודש על חיים של פרנסה, לפלא שלא שאל גם על נוסח מי שברך שאומרים בכל שבת אחר יקום פורקן, דמצלינן וישלח ברכה והצלחה בכל מעשי ידיהם, וגם על נוסח בריך שמי' שאומרי' בהוצאת ס"ת דמצלינן יהא רעוא קדמך דתוריך לן חיין בטיבותא. אבל כבר כתבו האחרונים ליישב מנהג ישראל, שלא אסרו לתבוע צרכיו בשבת, אלא ביחיד העושה לעצמו תפלה מיוחדת על איזה מקרה, הנחוצה לו באותה שעה לפרנסה או לרפואה וכדומה, אבל נוסח תפלה הקבוע לכולם בשוה בנוסחא אחת, אין קפידא בזה, וגם זה נכלל בלשון הירושלמי טופס ברכות כך הוא.


    Another nice piece (# 52 old version) I found is in regard to the famous discussion for those who observe gebrucks how can they make kneidel on Chol Hamoed Pesach?


    והנה, קרבו ימי המועד לבוא, אשר לא אאחוז עט בידי לכבודו משך שמונת ימים, ע"כ אמרתי להודיעו מה שעוררתי את בני עדתי בדרשת שבת הגדול העבר, ע"ד האנשים הנזהרים ממצה שרוי' כל ימי הפסח לבד מיום האחרון, ויש גם נשים הנזהרות בזה. ואותן הנשים שנזהרות בזה ואין להם משרתת בבתיהם ואופות ומבשלות בעצמן, הנכון שיזהרו בשביעי של פסח מלהכין תבשילי מצה שרויה על יום המחרת, מאחר שאין התבשילין הללו ראויין להן ביו"ט, ואפי' אם יקלעו להם אז אורחים ביו"ט שביעי של פסח, ג"כ לא יתנו להם מצה שרוי', הרי לא מהני עירוב תבשילין בזה, כמש"כ הרמ"א בסי' תקכ"ז סעי' כ' לענין מי שמתענה ביו"ט ועי' מגן אברהם שם.

    It is also apparent from this teshuvah  that R. Chaim did not even write Torah on Chol Hamoed.


    Another very interesting Teshuvah (new edition 3:1-3) is where he deals with the Tzavas R. Yehudah Hachassid, as he was asked about marrying someone where it would be against one of the statements in the Tzavah. To which he replied:

    מכאן נלמוד לכל האזהרות שהזהיר רבינו החסיד ז"ל בעניני זיווגים, שאם אין בדבר זה שום מצוה, אלא שחפץ בה לשם ממון או לשם נוי, ודאי יש ליזהר בכל אזהרותיו, אבל מי שעושה מעשיו לשם שמים, ומכוין למצוה, עליו לא הזהיר החסיד כלל.


    Another interesting piece found (#24) is about a piece of the Netziv in the journal of Rav Kook, Iyutur Seforim where the Netziv wrote that it is permissible to read newspapers on Shabbas.  Regarding this point R. Chaim Berlin wrote:


    ועל דבר לעיין בשבת בהרהורא בעלמא בלי קריאה בפה באגרות רשות ובמכתבי העתים לא הי' כלל דעת מר אבא הגאון שליט"א, לקבוע מסמרים בהלכה זו ככל דבריו שבעטור סופרים, ולא בא אלא ליישב מנהג העולם שקוראים במכתבי העתים בשבת שסומכים בזה על משמעות תלמודא דידן עפ"י דעתם, שמפרשים דתלמודא דידן פליג בזה על תלמוד ירושלמי, אבל להלכה גם הוא יודה דקיי"ל כהירושלמי, וכה"ג מצינו בהרבה מקומות שכתבו הפוסקים ליישב מנהג העולם, שסומכים על דעה יחידית אף שלא כהלכה.


    The Netizv defends his opinion in the Shut Bikurei Shlomo (1:2). Interestingly enough there is testimony to the contrary from R. Baruch Halevei Epstein who writes how on Shabbas his uncle the Netziv used to read the Hebrew newspaper, Hamagid (Mekor Baruch 4:1794). R. Meir Bar-Ilan echoes R. Baruch Halevi's testimony about his father the Netziv that he would read newspapers on Shabbas (Me-Volzhin LeYerushalim 1:138).


    Much has been written about how the responsa literature can aid in reconstructing the history of the period, this sefer also shows us this. Just to cite one example in volume one (p. 88) of the newer version (which shockingly was not edited out) someone wrote to R. Chaim:

    גלוי וידוע לכבודו עד כמה פשתה הנגע בארצינו וביתר שאת בארצות אוירפפה ושדה תיכלה כמעט בכל בנות ישראל שוע ודל אשר גם בעליהן ואבותיהן המה משלומי אמוני היהודים המחזקים בדתינו הקדוש והמה גם הנה אינן ח"ו מפורקי עול בדרך כלל, ובכל זאת עברו ושנו ונעשה להן כהתיר לילך בגליות שער ראשיהן אחת המרבה ואחת המטמעטת, עיר ועיר ומדינה ומדינה כמנהגה וכפי חוקות המאדע שלה. ולא ישמרו את נפשותיהן מזה לילך כן גם בבתי כנסיות ובבתי מדרשות ובמסיבות אנשים שרים סביב לשלחן בעת סעודות נשואין שבת ויום טוב...


    We see from this that the well known phenomena of woman not covering their hair in previous generations. The question which was posed to R. Chaim was what one should do about saying berokhot or Shema in front of such a woman. To which R. C. Berlin replied:

    לענין קריאת שמע גופא יש מקילין בזמן הזה שכבר נהגו לגלות ראשן ודומה לשער שמחוץ לצמתן... ומעתה למעשה בזמן הזה, מי שאינו מחפש למצוא לו יתד על מה לסמוך, ומקלו יגיד לו, יוכל לסמוך על המקילין. ומי שהוא ירא חטא, ורוצה לצאת ידי שמים גם  בסתר כבגלוי, ודאין אין לו לסמוך על המקילין.


    This is similar to the famous controversial pesak of the Aruch Hashulchan (O.C. 75:7):


    עתה בואו ונצווח על פרצות דורינו בעוונותינו הרבים שזה שנים רבות שנפרצו בנות ישראל בעון זה והולכות בגילוי הראש וכל מה שצעקו על זה הוא לא לעזר ולא להועיל ועתה פשתה המספחת שהנשואות הולכות בשערותן כמו הבתולות אוי לנו שעלתה בימינו כך מיהו עכ"פ לדינא נראה שמותר לנו להתפלל ולברך נגד ראשיהן המגולות כיון שעתה רובן הולכות כך והוה כמקומות המגולים בגופה... וכיון שאצלינו גם הנשואות כן ממילא דליכא הרהור


    Censorship in the New Edition

    Of course this post would not be complete without mentioning some censorship in the new edition. Although I mentioned that the later edition has much more material than the first edition it seems a few teshuvos got "lost" in the later edition. [The family involved with the printing of this sefer is the same one mentioned by Dr. Gil S. Perl, in his Emek ha-Neziv, A Window into the Intellectual Universe of Rabbi Naftali Zvi Yehudah Berlin (PhD, Harvard, 2006), on pages 49-50, in light of Dr. Perl's comments, it is of no surprise that they edited out these particular teshvot].


    In the first edition (# 135, see volume 3:5 of the new edition) there is a discussion about shaking woman hands which has been a very controversial topic [See the recent Bina Ve-das p. 117]. Perhaps shockingly to many R. Chaim Berlin replied:


    ואשר שאל על דבר נתינת ידו לרשעים או לנכרית, הנה ליתן יד לפושעים אין שום איסור בזה אם אין בזה הודאה וחיזוק להנהגותיהם בשרירות לבם. ולתת יד לאשה לשון הש"ס הוא ברכות ס"א א' המרצה מעות לאשה מידו לידה כדי להסתכל בה, מבואר דאם אינו מכוין לשום דבר וכש"כ שאינו עושה כדי להסתכל בה כמו מעלתו שכל מעשיו לשם שמים אין איסור בזה לרצות מעות מידו לידה. ודאי אם יוכל להזהר בזה מה טוב, אבל אם אי אפשר לו להנצל מזה כגון אם הנכרית הקדימה והושיט לו את ידה ואין דעתו לשום הרהור ח"ו אין להחמיר בזה, ודרכיה דרכי נועם, ואהבת את ה' אלקיך אמרו חכמים יומא פ"ו א' שיהא שם שמים מתאהב על ידך, ולא יאמרו על יראי ה' שהם משוגעים ואינם בעלי דרך ארץ.


    Two other pieces edited out from that same teshuvah in the new edition I am not sure as to why, are:

     ועל דבר כסוי ראש האשה במטפחת אחת, אם אין שערה נראין אין בזה שום איסור, ועדיף טובא מפיאה נכרית, ואין צריך כלל שני כסויין, ואם אך אין השער נראה בחוץ די בכסוי אחד אף ברשות הרבים, ורשאי גם לקרות ק"ש כנגדה, ואין להחמיר עוד בזמן הזה.


    ולדבר עם אשה בשוק לא נאסר אלא לתלמיד חכם ולא למי שאינו מוחזק בתלמיד חכם, וכשם שתלמיד חכם המדבר עם אשה בשוק גורם בזה חלול השם כן מי שאינו מוחזק לתלמיד חכם הנזהר בזה שלא לדבר עם אשתו לעיני הבריות הוא מיחזי כיוהרא, ויש בזה גם כן חלול השם...


    Another very interesting statement which was edited out of the second edition is about Chasidim (# 7 in the old edition) where he writes:


    ולהתפלל בבית הכנסת של החסידים אין שום חשש בזה, וגזירת רבינו הגר"א ז"ל לא הי' אלא בזמנו שהקילו אז בכבוד תלמידי חכמים לומדי תורה, ולא כן בימינו שהחסידים חולקים כבוד לכל לומדי תורה והם יראי ה' ושומרים תורה ומצוה. אך על דבר שינוי נוסחת התפלה, אסור לשנות בפרהסיא ממנהגיהם ומנוסחאותיהם ובנוסח הקדושה יאמר קדושת כתר בשביל שנאמרת בקול רם ויש בזה איסור לא תתגודדו, וגם שלא לעורר מחלוקת ח"ו, אבל בתפלה בלחש לא ישנה כבודו ממנהג אבותיו וממנהגו מעולם, ויתפלל שמונה עשרה בלחש כנוסח אשכנז.


    Another piece which was censored out although I am not sure what is so bad with it (#200 in the old edition) where he writes that there were additions to Mishnayos after Rabeenu Hakodesh edited it:


    שביארתי מאמרם ז"ל התמוה מאד בשלהי מס' סוטה מ"ט ב' על משנתינו משמת רבי בטלה ענוה ויראת חטא א"ל ר"י לתנא לא תיתני ענוה דאיכא אנא א"ל ר"נ לתנא לא תיתני יראת חטא דאיכא אנא. והתמיה מפורסמת איך אמוראים קדושים כאלה ישבחו עצמם בענוה ויראת חטא, והמלך החכם אמר יהללך זר ולא פיך. וביארתי בס"ד על פי מש"כ הרע"ב ז"ל על האי בבא משמת רבי בטלה ענוה שתלמידיו של רבי הוסיפו וכתבו זה במשנה, וכ"כ בתוס' רע"ק בשם הרמב"ן בחי' ע"ז ל"ז א' שהוא תוספת שהוסיף בר קפרא או לוי במשנה, והמה היו תנאים אחרונים תלמידי רבי. ואמרתי שהוא הוא התנא שדברו עמו רב יוסף ורב נחמן, שרב יוסף א"ל לזה התנא שהוסיף במשנה משמת רבי בטלה ענוה א"ל לא תיתני ענוה שאתה מסתיר מדותיך הטובים ושונה במשנה משמת רבי בטלה ענוה ואנא ידענא שגם אתה ענוותן כרבי ועדיין לא בטלה ענוה משמת רבי, וכן א"ל רב נחמן לזה התנא שהוסיף במשנה משמת רבי בטלה יראת חטא א"ל לתנא לא תיתני יראת חטא שאתה מסתיר מדותיך הטובים ושונה במשנה משמת רבי בטלה יראת חטא ואנא ידענא שגם אתה ירא חטא כרבי, ועדיין לא בטלה יראת חטא משמת רבי, כן ביארתי זה המאמר לפי חומר הנושא.


    This censorship or editing goes the other way as well. In the first edition there is a piece (#120 old edition) about being a vegetarian but the whole question is not included for some odd reason but in the new version (#222) the whole question is printed out in full. R. Chaim Berlin was asked by R. Menashe Grossburg:


    אם ראוי לישראל להיות מהחברה צער בעל החיים, ואם מותר לאכול בבית מרזח שלהם, שאין אוכלים אפילו חלב ובצים. לדעתי נראה לי בחפזי לפי מה שכתב הט"ז כמה פעמים דמה שמפורש התיר בתורה אין כח לשום אדם לאסור ובתורה מפורש התיר לאכול בשר מזמן נח. והם אומרים שכשם שאסור רציחה באדם גם כן אסור בבהמה אפילו בשחיטה, וזה נגד דעת תורתנו. ועוד ששמחת יום טוב מצות עשה גם בזמן הזה בבשר.


    To which R. Chaim Berlin answered:

    נראה דעד כאן לא אמר הט"ז אלא דאין כ

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

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

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

    0 0

    Book Review: The Koren Sacks Siddur

    by Elli Fischer

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

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

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

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




    את צמח דוד עבדך מהרה תצמיח וקרנו תרום בישועתך

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

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

    כי לישועתך קווינו כל היום

    For we wait for Your salvation all day.

    For we hope for your salvation all day long.




    שים שלום טובה וברכה

    Grant peace, goodness, and blessing

    Establish peace, goodness, blessing

    חן וחסד ורחמים עלינו ועל כל ישראל עמך

    Grace, loving-kindness and compassion

    To us and all Israel your people.

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

    ברכנו אבינו כלנו כאחד באור פניך

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

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

    כי באור פניך נתת לנו ה' אלוקינו

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

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

    תורת חיים ואהבת חסד

    The Torah of life and love of kindness,

    The Torah of life and a love of kindness

    וצדקה וברכבה ורחמים וחיים ושלום

    Righteousness, blessing, compassion, life and peace.

    Righteousness, blessing, compassion, life, and peace.

    וטוב בעיניך לברך את עמך ישראל

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

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

    בכל עת ובכל שעה בשלומך

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

    In every season and in every hour with Your peace

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    0 0

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    To Admit and Reveal!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    [For additional posts regarding Chanukah see here.]


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

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

    0 0

    The Chanukah Omission
    by Eliezer Brodt

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    R. Alexander Moshe Lapidos answers:

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

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

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

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

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

    R. Dov Berish Askenazi writes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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


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


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


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

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

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

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

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

    [14] Iyunim B'divrei Chaz

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

    Review: Me'achsanya Shel ha-Torah

    by Eliezer Brodt

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


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


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

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


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


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

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

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



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


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

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


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

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

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

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



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

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

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

    0 0

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    0 0

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    0 0

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

    by: Jordan S. Penkower

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    0 0

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

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

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

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

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

    Another nice piece is (p. 67):

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    0 0

    Thoughts on "Confrontation" and Sundry Matters, Part I

    By: Marc B. Shapiro

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

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

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

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

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

      "Confrontation": A Mixed Legacy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    * * *

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    * * *

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Weintraub writes:

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

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

    0 0

    Thoughts on "Confrontation" and Sundry Matters Part II

    By: Marc B. Shapiro

    What follows is a continuation of this post.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Jerome Mintz records the following from a Satmar informant:

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

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

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

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

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

    * * *

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    0 0

    Message From Professor Haym Soloveitchik

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

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

    Haym Soloveitchik (
    Merkin Family Research Professor at Yeshiva University

    0 0

    A Brief Response To Marc B. Shapiro 
    by David Berger

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

    This is his first contribution to the Tradition Seforim blog.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Milah Manuals

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

    0 0

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

    by Daniel J. Lasker

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

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

    לזכר אבי מורי ז"ל

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

    0 0

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


    Modern Amalekites: From Adolf to Avigdor

    by Elliott Horowitz

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    0 0

    See here for the previous lists.

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

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

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

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

    0 0

    As we have discussed on numerous occasions, Hebrew books contain a fair amount of non-Jewish iconography and imagery that is of non-Jewish origin.  See, for example, here, here, here and here.  Of course, Marvin Heller's article on Mars and Minerva appearing on Hebrew title pages, Marvin Heller, "Mars and Minerva on the Hebrew Title-Page," in Papers of the Bibliographical Society of America, 98:3, Sept. 2004, reprinted in Heller's collected articles Studies in the Making of the Early Hebrew Book (which will be reviewed separately in the very near future), is the starting point for much of this discussion. There is an article in this week's Jewish Press that also discusses this issue.  The article is available Judaica Store

    It is, however, worth noting a few things.  First, the article discusses the hare hunt motif that is found in various Jewish books, most notably in the Prague 1526 haggadah and the Mantua 1560 haggadah.  This illustration appears in manuscripts as well, and in the Darmstadt Haggadah, it is not a hare hunt but a deer hunt.  The deer, of course, is a more well known Jewish motif and thus would obviate the issue of representing Jews as a hare.  That said, it is unlikely that the deer hunt in the Darmstadt haggadah can be used to explain the hunting motif as it is likely that the illustrations in that haggadah are of non-Jewish origin.  Indeed, Gutmann notes that the illustrations accompanying this haggadah have no connection to the text and are likely non-Jewish. 

    Additionally, it is worth noting,with regard to the Prague 1526 haggadah and its illustrations, there is a book that is devoted to explaining the history and meaning of the Prague 1526 haggadah, Charles Wengrov, Haggadah and Woodcut, Shulsinger Bros., New York, 1967.  Wengrov discusses all the illustration in this, seminal, haggadah.  Additionally, he discusses the history of the various woodcuts, both in their forms in the Prague haggadah as well as the motifs they employ.  Wengrov's discussions encompass both printed and manuscript haggadahs.

    Returning to non-Jewish iconography, a most radical but intriguing theory related to this topic can be found in Ruth
    Mellinkoff, Antisemitic Hate Signs in Hebrew Illuminated Manuscripts from Medieval Germany, Center for Jewish Art -Hebrew University, Jerusalem, 1999.  Mellinkoff offers a completly different theory for the bird's heads in the famous Bird's Head Haggadah. Mellinkoff opines that in reality these are not bird's heads but bird's beaks on human heads.  Thus, she offers that the bird's beaks are substitutions for large or beak-like noses.  She explains that in reality these illustrations are the work of a non-Jewish illustrator who was attempting to subtly use well know anti-Semitic tropes like large noses and, in some illustrations, pigs ears.  See id. pp. 11-29, 35-37.  Aside from the Bird's Head Haggadah, Mellinkoff provides other Hebrew manuscripts that apparently have similar anti-Semitic signs as well. 

    0 0

    Wine, Women and Song: Some Remarks On Poetry and Grammar - Part I

    by Yitzhak of בין דין לדין

    [This is the first of three parts; I am greatly indebted to Andy and Wolf2191 for their valuable comments, many of which I have incorporated into this paper, and for obtaining for me various works to which I did not have access.]

    Rhyme and Grammar

    This is the opening stanza of one of Rav Yehudah Halevi's (henceforth: Rihal) best known poems:

    יום ליבשה

    נהפכו מצולים

    שירה חדשה

    שבחו גאולים!1

    This seems to contain a blatant grammatical error; מצולה is a feminine noun, and its plural form is clearly מצולות, not מצולים. In fact, מצולה appears six times in Tanach in plural form,2 twice in the context of קריאת ים סוף - both instances of which are recited daily as part of the Pesukei De'Zimrah section of the liturgy:

    והים בקעת לפניהם ויעברו בתוך הים ביבשה ואת רודפיהם השלכת במצולות כמו אבן במים עזים.3

    תהומות יכסיומו ירדו במצולות כמו אבן.4

    Rihal was surely aware of the ungrammaticality of מצולים; it seems obvious that he was taking a liberty with the language in order to rhyme with גאולים (and גאולות would have been just plain silly).

    In a similar vein, it is related that someone once asked the Brisker Rav why, in the Shabbas hymn ברוך קל עליון, the refrain is:

    השומר שבת הבן עם הבת

    לקל ירצו כמנחה על מחבת5

    After all, there are several standard types of מנחות:

    • סלת

    • מאפה תנור

    • מחבת

    • מרחשת

    Why, then, does the poet single out the מחבת?

    The questioner was probably expecting some brilliant and incisive Brisker Lomdus, but if so, he must have been disappointed; the Brisker Rav is said to have responded simply that the poet required a rhyme for the word הבת, and מחבת is the only type of Minhah that answered.

    Formal Structure and Meter in Jewish Poetry

    It is noteworthy that Rihal himself elsewhere maintains that poetic form and meter are actually alien to Jewish poetry:

    אמר הכוזרי תכליתך בזה ובזולתו שתשוה אותה עם זולתה מהלשונות בשלמת, ואיה המעלה היתירה בה, אבל יש יתרון לזולתה עליה בשירים המחוברים הנבנים על הנגונים (נ"א הלחשים):

    אמר החבר כבר התבאר לי כי הנגונים אינם צריכים אל המשקל בדבור, ושבריק (נ"א ושכריק) והמלא יכולים לנגן (נ"א בנועם) בהודו לד' כי טוב בנגון (נ"א בנועם) לעושה נפלאות גדולות (נ"א כי לעולם חסדו). זה בנגונים בעלי המעשים, אבל בשירים הנקראים אנשארי"א והם החרוזים האמורים, אשר בהם הוא נאה החבור, לא הרגישו עליהם, בעבור המעלה שהיא מועילה ומעולה יותר: ...

    אמר הכוזרי ... אני רואה אתכם קהל היהודים שאתם טורחים להביע (נ"א להגיע) אל מעלת החבור (ס"א הסדור) ולחקות זולתכם מהאומות, ותכניסו העברית במשקליהם:

    אמר החבר וזה מתעותנו ומריינו, ...

    אמר החבר אבל השיגנו באמירת המחובר מה שהשיג את אבותינו, במה שנאמר עליהם ויתערבו בגוים וילמדו מעשיהם:6

    As Rabbi Haim Sabato puts it, in his lovely and wonderful The Dawning of the Day:

    When [Doctor Yehudah Tawil] became a scholar he was in thrall to the poetry of Sepharad with his entire mind and all his means. He spent months deciphering the meaning of a single verse of HaLevi, and entire years combing through manuscript fragments of newly discovered poems bearing the acrostic Yehudah or HaLevi. As much as a single verse in a stanza of HaLevi was precious, so the contemporary poems published in journals were worthless. These poems seemed to him like collections of words, without order or meaning. He did not like poems without rhyme schemes or an established meter, and the words of his learned friends who were partial to these poems were of no consequence. Although his own son showed him, in the most triumphant manner, what HaLevi had written in his philosophical treatise, The Kuzari - that he preferred the poems in Scripture, which have no rhyme scheme or fixed meter, to formal poems, and wrote about the adoption of meter in Hebrew poetry: But they mingled among the gentiles and learned their ways - nevertheless, he remained unappeased. He used to say, are they writing biblical poetry nowadays?7

    [Emphasis added.]

    Abravanel expresses a similar view, although he expresses pride in the purported fact that the alien form of highly structured poetry that the Jews have borrowed from the Muslims has actually reached its greatest perfection in the hands of the former, and that the poems of no other language are on the same level as ours:

    [יש] אתנו עם בני ישראל שלשה מינים מהשירים.

    המין האחד הוא מהמאמרים הנעשים במדה במשקל ובמשורה אף על פי שיהיו נקראים מבלי ניגון לפי שענין השיר בהם אינו אלא בהסכמת הדבורים והדמותם והשתוותם בסוף המאמרים רוצה לומר בקצוות בתי השירים שנדמו זה לזה בשלש אותיות אחרונות או בשתים כפי נקודם ואופן קריאתם עם שמירת משקלי המלכים והתנועות עם צחות הלשון ונפילתו על לשון פסוק מכתבי הקדש ונקראו השירים ההם חרוזים לפי שהם שבלים מסודרים מלשון צוארך בחרוזים שהם אבנים טובות ומרגליות נקודות מחוברות ומסודרות בסדר ותבנית ישר. וכן בדברי חז"ל (בבא מציעא י"ח) מחרוזת של דגים שהם שורות של דגים מחוברים זה לזה בסדר קשורים בחוטמיהם בגמי ומפני הדמוי הזה נקראו השירים מזה המין חרוזים להיותם שורות שוות ומתיחסות כי היו הדברים בזה המין מהשיר שקולים בענין המלכים והעבדים אשר בנקודות. והמלאכה הזאת בזה המין מהשירים שקולים היא מלאכה משובחת והם מתוקים מדבש ונופת צפים ונעשו בלשוננו הקדוש העברי בשלימות גדול מה שלא נמצא כמוהו בלשון אחר.

    הן אמת שמזה המין משירים לא מצאנו דבר בדברי הנביאים וגם לא מחכמי המשנה והגמרא כי היתה התחלתו בגלותנו בין חכמי ישראל שהיו בארצות הישמעאלים שלמדו ממעשיהם במלאכת השיר הזה ויעשו גם המה החכמה בלשוננו המקודש ויתר שאת ויתר עז ממה שנעשו הישמעאלים בלשונם

    וגם בין חכמי לשון הלאטי"ן ובלשון עם לועז עם ועם כלשונו נמצאו גם כן מאלו השירים השקולים אבל לא באותו שלמות מופלג שנעשו בלשון העברי

    ואחר כך נעתקה המלאכה היקרה הזאת אל חכמי עמנו שהיו בארץ פרובינצייא וקאטילונייא וגם במלכות אראגון ומלכות קאשטילייא וידברו באלקים ובכל חכמה ודעת כפלים לתושיה מה מתוק מדבש ומה עז מארי.

    ולהיות המין הזה מהשירים מחודש בגלות והם חדשים מקרוב באו לא שערום נביאינו וחכמינו הראשונים ז"ל לכן אין לנו במקום הזה [ר"ל, מחקר בגדר שירת הים - י'] צורך לדבר בהם כי לא התה מהם שירת הים.8

    [Emphasis added.]

    Milton on Rhyme

    The particular poetic technique of rhyme, as opposed to other formal elements of structure, was magisterially disparaged by one of the very greatest English poets, a man perhaps best known to many readers of The Tradition Seforim Blog as a subject of Rav Aharon Lichtenstein's doctoral dissertation:9

    THE Measure is English Heroic Verse without Rime, as that of Homer in Greek, and Virgil in Latin; Rhime being no necessary Adjunct or true Ornament of Poem or good Verse, in longer Works especially, but the Invention of a barbarous Age, to set off wretched matter and lame Meeter; grac't indeed since by the use of some famous modern Poets, carried away by Custom, but much to thir own vexation, hindrance, and constraint to express many things otherwise, and for the most part worse then else they would have exprest them. Not without cause therefore some both Italian, and Spanish Poets of prime note have rejected Rhime both in longer and shorter Works, as have also long since our best English Tragedies, as a thing of itself, to all judicious ears, triveal, and of no true musical delight; which consists onely in apt Numbers, fit quantity of Syllables, and the sense variously drawn out from one Verse into another, not in the jingling sound of like endings, a fault avoyded by the learned Ancients both in Poetry and all good Oratory. This neglect then of Rhime so little is to be taken for a defect, though it may seem so perhaps to vulgar Readers, that it rather is to be esteem'd an example set, the first in English, of ancient liberty recover'd to heroic Poem from the troublesom and modern bondage of Rimeing.10

    Rhyme and Grammar in Conflict

    Even if we disagree with Milton and grant the value of rhyme, we must still consider whether it is right to sacrifice grammar on the altar of rhyme. Rav Avraham Ibn Ezra, in his notorious, sarcastic diatribe against the Kallir is quite clear that he does not think so:

    יש בפיוטי רבי אליעזר הקליר מנוחתו כבוד, ארבעה דברים קשים: ...

    והדבר השלישי, אפילו המלות שהם בלשון הקודש יש בהם טעויות גדולות ...

    ועוד כי לשון הקודש ביד רבי אליעזר נ"ע עיר פרוצה אין חומה, שיעשה מן הזכרים נקבות והפך הדבר ואמר "שושן עמק אויימה", וידוע כי ה"א שושנה לשון נקבה וישוב הה"א תי"ו כשיהיה סמוך שושנת העמקים, ובסור הה"א או התי"ו יהיה לשון זכר כמו צדקה וצדק. ואיך יאמר על שושן אויימה, ולמה ברח מן הפסוק ולא אמר שושנת עמק אויימה. ועוד מה ענין לשושנה שיתארנה באימה, התפחד השושנה? ואין תואר השושנה כי אם קטופה או רעננה או יבשה.

    אמר אחד מחכמי הדור, הוצרך לומר אויימה, בעבור שתהיה חרוזתו עשירה. השיבותי אם זאת חרוזה עשירה, הנה יש בפיוטיו חרוזים עניים ואביונים מחזרים על הפתחים, שחיבר הר עם נבחר. אם בעבור היות שניהם מאותיות הגרון, אם כן יחבר עמה אל"ף ועי"ן, ועם הבי"ת והוי"ו שהוא גם מחבר לוי עם נביא, יחבר עמם מ"ם ופ"ה, ויהיו כל החרוזים חמשה כמספר מוצאי האותיות. ואם סיבת חיבור ה"א עם חי"ת בעבור היות דמותם קרובות במכתב, אם כן יחבר רי"ש עם דל"ת, ואף כי מצאנו דעואל רעואל דודנים רודנים. וכן יחבר משפטים עם פתים, כי הם ממוצא אחד, ונמצא הטי"ת תמורת תי"ו במלת נצטדק הצטיידנו ויצטירו. וכן חיבר ויום עם פדיון ועליון, גם זה איננו נכון, אע"פ שנמצא מ"ם במקום נו"ן כמו חיין וחטין, איך יחליף מ"ם יום שהוא שורש עם נו"ן עליון, פדיון שהוא מן עלה ופדה והוא איננו שרש. ועוד, מה ענין החרוז רק שיהיה ערב לאוזן ותרגיש כי סוף זה כסוף זה, ואולי היתה לו הרגשה ששית שירגיש בה כי המ"ם כמו הנו"ן ואינמו ממוצא אחד. ועוד חבר עושר עם עשר תעשר, גם זה איננו נכון, רק אם היה המתפלל אפרתי.

    יש אומרים אין משיבין את הארי אחר מותו, התשובה: רוח קל עשתנו כלנו, ומחומר קורצו הקדמונים כמונו, ואוזן מלים תבחן. וכלנו נדע כי דניאל היה נביא, ורב על כל חרטומי בבל וחכמיה. והנה אמרו חכמים ז"ל, טעה דניאל בחשבונו, והחשבון הוא דבר קל. ועוד כי ירמיה הנביא בזמן דניאל היה, ואחר שהראו חכמינו הראיה על טעותו, האמור יאמר להם אילו היה דניאל חי היה מטעה המטעים אותו?! ואחרים אמרו רחמנא ליבא בעי, א"כ למה נצטרך לדבר כי הוא יודע תעלומות לב, והלא תקנו הקדמונים לאמר בצום כפור, היה עם פיפיות שלוחי עמך בית ישראל, ואל יכשלו בלשונם.11

    [Emphasis added.]

    We see that Ibn Ezra criticizes the Kallir for alleged grammatical lapses, and in response to a defense by “one of the sages of the generation” that his deviations were compelled by the rhyme, he sneers that many of his rhymes are actually of very poor quality. It seems clear, however, that Ibn Ezra believes that even exemplary rhyming does not justify disobedience to the laws of grammar.

    A Poetical Romance

    This apparent disagreement between Rihal and Ibn Ezra about the strictness with which poetry must adhere to grammatical conventions is quite ironic in light of the delightful, albeit preposterous, legend which relates Ibn Ezra's winning of the hand of Rihal's beautiful daughter to his impressing her father with his poetical prowess:

    ושמעתי אומרים שרבי יהודה הלוי בעל הכוזר היה עשיר גדול ולא היה לו זולתי בת אחת יפה וכשהגדילה היתה אשתו לוחצתו להשיאה בחייו. עד שפעם אחת כעס הזקן אישה וקפץ בשבועה להשיאה אל היהודי ראשון שיבא לפניו. ויהי בבוקר ויכנס ר' אברהם ן' עזרא במקרה לבוש מלבושי הסחבות. ובראות האשה העני הלז נזכרה משבועת אישה ויפלו פניה עם כל זה התחילה לחקור אותו מה שמו ואם היה יודע תורה ויתנכר האיש ולא נודע ממנו האמת. ותלך האשה אל בעלה למדרשו ותבכה לפניו וכו' ויאמר אליה רבי יהודה אל תפחדי אני אלמדנו תורה ואגדיל שמו. ויצא אליו רבי יהודה וידבר אתו ויגנוב ן' עזרא את לבבו ויכס ממנו את שמו ואחר רוב תחנוני רבי יהודה הערים ן' עזרא להתחיל ללמוד ממנו תורה והיה מתמיד בערמה ומראה עצמו כעושה פרי.

    לילה אחת ויתאחר רבי יהודה לצאת מבית מדרשו וזה כי נתקשה לו מאד על חבור תיבת ר' שבפזמון אדון חסדך. והיתה אשתו קוראה אותו לאכול לחם ולא בא והלכה האשה ותפצר בו עד כי בא לאכול וישאל ן' עזרא אל רבי יהודה מה היה לו במדרש שנתאחר כל כך ויהתל בו הזקן ון' עזרא הפציר בו עד שהאשה החשובה ההיא הלכה אל מדרש אישה כי גם היא היתה חכמה ותקח מחברת אישה ותרא אותה לן' עזרא ויקם ן' עזרא ויקח הקולמוס והתחיל לתקן בב' או בג' מקומות בפזמון וכשהגיע לתיבת ריש כתב כל הבית הראשון ההוא המתחיל רצה הא' לשמור כפלים וכו' וכראות רבי יהודה הדבר שמח מאד ויחבקהו וינשקהו ויאמר לו עתה ידעתי כי ן' עזרא אתה וחתן אתה לי ואז העביר ן' עזרא המסווה מעל פניו והודה ולא בוש ויתן לו רבי יהודה את בתו לאשה עם כל עשרו.

    ורבי יהודה לאט לו חבר הבית של תיבת ריש בפזמונו שמתחיל רחשה אסתר למלך וכו' ורצה שגם תיבת ריש תשאר שם בכתובים לכבודו12

    The entire hymn can be found here; the two stanzas for the letter 'ר' are:

    רצה האחד לשמור כפלים

    משמרתו ומשמרת חברו שתי ידים

    והשני סם בספל המים

    שׁם שׂם לו


    רחשה אסתר למלך באמרי שפר

    בשם מרדכי ונכתב בספר

    בקש ונמצא לפני צבי עופר

    כי בול הרים ישאו לו

    Of course, this charming, romantic account is almost certainly not true, as already noted by Rav Yair Haim Bacharach:

    רבי יהודה הלוי חתנו של רבי אברהם ן' עזרא [צריך לומר חותנו, כי הרבי אברהם ן' עזרא לקח בתו. ובפסוק אנכי [שמות כ:ב] הביאו ולא זכרו בשם חמיו וכתב עליו 'מנוחתו כבוד', לכן נראה שאחר מותו לקח בתו. ועיין הקדמת הרבי יהודה מוסקאטי לפירושו קול יהודה לספר הכוזרי, גם מה שכתב מאמר א' סימן כ"ה וסוף מאמר ג' סימן ל"ה.

    ומה ששמעתי וקריתי בספר שעל ידי חיבור נפלא דפורים שכל החרוזות סיימות בפסוק במלת 'לו' והוא בתפלה ספרדית, דפעם אחת שנתארח הרבי אברהם ן' עזרא אצלו וחקר ופשפש ומצא הפיוט חסר אות ריש בסדר א"ב הראשון, והניח הרבי יהודה הלוי מקום פנוי כי לא ידע לחבר לשם אות ריש, וכתב הרבי אברהם ן' עזרא 'רחשה אסתר למלך' ונודע לרבי יהודה ונתן לו בתו, כזב הוא]13

    It is interesting that although Rav Bacharach dismisses the fanciful tale out of hand, he still takes for granted that Ibn Ezra did actually marry Rihal's daughter, even after acknowledging that Ibn Ezra does not refer to Rihal as his father-in-law, an omission which he needs to explain away by positing that the marriage occurred after Rihal's death. This acceptance of their relationship is seemingly based on earlier sources, such as Rav Yehudah Moscato (whom he mentions, as we have seen), who have mentioned it without the accompaniment of the implausible context:

    [וריהל] היה חותנו של רבי אברהם ן' עזרא לפי מה שקבלנו. וכבר נזכרו שניהם סמוכים זה לזה בסוף קבלת הראב"ד, וכתוב בספר יוחסין שהיו בני שני אחיות14

    והביטה לראות כי מה שכתב הרבי אברהם ן' עזרא פרשת יתרו על פסוק אנכי ד' אלקיך כי שאלה זו עצמה נשאלה לו מאת חותנו רבי יהודה הלוי מנוחתו כבוד ...15

    We should also note that the Syrians apparently accept the basic tradition of Ibn Ezra's hand in the composition of the Purim hymn in question, but without the romantic element of the marriage; here is Rabbi Sabato's version:

    [Doctor Yehudah Tawil's] community in Aleppo had customarily recited this hymn before the reading of the Torah on the Sabbath of Remembrance, for it told the story of Esther in an alphabetic acrostic. When he reached the letter w he read: "Wonderful sayings whispered Esther the Queen." He remembered the Aleppo prayer book that contained two renditions of the verse for the letter W. The el

    0 0

    “The Howling Place of the Jews” in the Nineteenth Century:

    From William Wilde to Ahad Ha’am

    by Elliott Horowitz

    In previous posts at the Seforim blog, Elliott Horowitz of Bar Ilan University, co-editor of Jewish Quarterly Review, and author of Reckless Rites: Purim and the Legacy of Jewish Violence (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2006), has described Modern Amalekites [here], Isaiah Berlin on Meir Berlin (Bar-Ilan) and Saul Lieberman [here], Edmund Wilson, Hebrew, Christmas, and the Talmud [here], and Bugs Bunny [here].


    This is his fifth contribution to the Seforim blog. We hope that you enjoy.

    Late in the first half of the nineteenth century Jewish prayer and mourning at the Western Wall began to attract the interest of Christian visitors to Jerusalem, many of whom imposed upon it their own theological interpretations. In the Memorandum on the Western Wall (1930) that he prepared on behalf of the League of Nations Dr. Cyrus Adler (1863-1940), the recently elected President of the American Jewish Committee, included a list of modern travel accounts in which Jewish prayer at the Wall was described (pp. 44-67). Due presumably to Adler’s many responsibilities (he was also editor of the Jewish Quarterly Review as well as president of the Jewish Theological Seminary) the list was far from complete.

    One of the important accounts he missed was Dr. William Wilde’s Narrative of Journey…along the Shores of the Mediterranean (1840). The young Irish physician singled out Jewish prayer at the Western Wall as one of the scenes that had most moved him during his extensive journey. “Were I asked what was the object of the greatest interest that I had seen, and the scene that made the deepest impression on me, during my sojourn in other lands,” wrote Dr. Wilde (father of the future playwright Oscar), “I would say that it was a Jew mourning over the stones of Jerusalem.”[1] Shortly afterwards the Anglican minister George Fisk of Lichfield (England) who had visited Jerusalem in 1842, provided his own comments on the weekly spectacle, which he described as  “humiliation and supplication.”  The Jews, he reported, “are said to have a persuasion that their prayers will find especial acceptance when breathed through the crevices of that building of which Jehovah said ‘Mine eyes and mine heart shall be there perpetually’ (II Chron. 7:16).” Although among the “aged Jews sitting in the dust” Fisk saw no signs of the “outward manifestation of strong emotion” there were also present “several Jewesses, enveloped from head to foot in ample white veils,” who “stepped forward to various parts of the ancient wall,” and kissed them with great fervency.”[2]

    Fisk’s comments about prayer at the Wall, also unnoticed by Adler, were soon echoed by the children’s writer Favell Lee Mortimer (1802-1878), in the second part of her Far Off (1852), devoted to Asia and Australia – neither of which she had visited.  Addressing her “little readers,” Mrs. Mortimer (a daughter of Barclay’s bank cofounder David Bevan and wife of London minister Thomas Mortimer) informed them that “every Friday evening a very touching scene takes place” in Jerusalem, near the Mosque of Omar. “There are some large old stones there,” wrote Mrs. Mortimer, “and the Jews say that they are part of their old temple wall, so they come at the beginning of their Sabbath…and sit in a row opposite the stones.” Upon arriving, the Jews “read their Hebrew Old Testaments, then kneel low in the dust, and repeat their prayers with their mouths close to the old stones; because they think that all prayers whispered between the cracks and crevices of these stones will be heard by God. Some Jewesses come, wrapped from head to foot in long white veils, and they gently moan and softly sigh over Jerusalem in ruins.”[3] Her “little readers” were likely to think of Jerusalem’s Jews as involved in the cultic worship of large “stones” (a word used no fewer than four times in the brief passage), which served as intermediaries between them and God.

    Some two decades later James Creagh (1836-1910), a native of Ireland who had studied at Sandhurst, wrote of his own visit to what he called “the Howling-place of the Jews at Jerusalem.” Unlike Dr. Wilde and Rev. Fisk before him, Captain Creagh, in his colorfully titled Scamper to Sebastopol and Jerusalem, described not only the local Jews (and Jewesses) who participated in the weekly event, but also “whole families of Jews, some dark and some fair, some wearing the English and some the Asiatic costume, and coming from every part of the world.” In a remark that would have appealed to some of the Hebrew poets of medieval Spain, Creagh reported that among those who were “crying and wailing in the most bitter accents” were some “lovely Jewish girls, who wept and sobbed with an appearance of real grief that would appear more natural for the loss of a lover than for the misfortune of their nation in the remotest times.” And although he, unlike Fisk, was evidently a Catholic, Creagh (perhaps under the influence of the latter) was also critical of the “vain hope” on the part of those praying “praying fervently through the crevices…that their earnest supplications, by penetrating to the inside and ascending to heaven from that hallowed spot, would be received more favourably at the throne of grace.[4]

    Creagh arrived in Jerusalem shortly after the departure of Albert Rhodes, who was born in Pittsburgh in 1840 and who had served as US consul in Jerusalem between 1863-65.[5] In his appropriately titled Jerusalem As It Is (1865) Rhodes presented a penetrating (and perhaps still relevant) comparison of the Holy City’s Sephardim and Ashkenazim,[6] and also described the weekly prayers at “the wailing-place of the Jews…a spot of interest to every traveler,” focusing particularly on what today might be called “women who weep.”  On Fridays afternoons, he wrote, “every available spot along the foot of this wall is occupied by weeping Jews,” adding that “the greater part of these are women, who often sit in little circles around a Talmud-learned Jew, who reads to them – for a consideration… - portions of the Jewish chronicles.” Rhodes also reported that ‘those who arrive early, particularly the women, commence at one end of the wall and kiss and touch every stone within reach, from one end of the wall to the other.” Like Fisk and Creagh, the former US consul also stressed the importance to many of physical contact with the Wall, adding that some of the Jews “almost hide their heads in the fissures, and remain for some time in this position, sobbing in the most affecting manner.”[7]

    A decade after the appearance of Rhodes’s book his fellow Pennsylvanian Richard Newton (1812-87), who had studied at New York’s (Episcopal) General Theological Seminary after graduation from the University of Pennsylvania, published his Illustrated Rambles in Bible Lands (1875), in which he too offered his critical comments on the Jews’ weekly wailing at the Western Wall. Like his (by then) late colleague in Christ the Rev. Fisk, Dr. Newton, criticized the Jews for thinking that prayers offered at the Wall “would be more acceptable to God…than if offered in any other place,” but he was more blatant in his attempt to utilize this “mistake” as a means of saving fellow Christians from similar error:


    Some people think that part of a church where the minister stands or kneels…is more holy than the pews where the people sit. But this is a mistake. God is no more present in one place than he is in another.  Prayers offered in the city of Jerusalem will not be heard any sooner by God than prayers offered in the city of London, or New York, or Boston, or Philadelphia.[8]


    Dr. Newman, who was then serving as rector of the Epiphany Church in Philadelphia, carried away with him, and imparted to his readers, two lessons that he learned from his visit. One was “the sin of the Jews which brought upon them all the evil that they are suffering now,’ and “which has caused them to be despised and persecuted in every nation.” The second lesson, of course, was the nature of the “great sin of the Jewish people” – namely, that “they neglected Jesus.”[9]


    Another late nineteenth-century visitor to the Western Wall who was concerned with the question of what had caused the Jews “to be despised and persecuted in every nation” was Asher Zvi (Hirsh) Ginsberg (1856-1927), by then known as Ahad Ha’am. The leading ideologist of Cultural Zionism, who had been born to a Hasidic family in the Russian Ukraine, was quite critical of much that he saw during his first tour, in 1891, among the Jewish colonies in land of Israel. As Ginsberg later wrote in his controversial essay Emet me-Erez Yisrael “filled with melancholy thoughts,” he “arrived on the eve of Passover in Jerusalem, there to pour forth my sorrow and rage before the…remnants of our former glory.” Although he clearly knew what to expect at the Wall, the visit nevertheless affected him greatly, provoking painful questions that remain largely unanswered: 


    There I found many of our Jerusalem brethren standing and praying in loud voices. Their haggard faces, their strange gestures, and their odd clothes – all this merged with the ghastly picture of the Wall itself. Looking at them and at the Wall, one thought filled my mind. These stones testify to the desolation of our land; these men testify to the desolation of our people. Which of these desolations is worse? For which should we lament more bitterly? [10]

    [1] William R. Wilde, Narrative of a Voyage to Madeira, Tenerife and along the Shores of the Mediterranean (Dublin, 1840), quoted in Linda Osband, ed., Famous Travellers to the Holy Land (London,1989), 155. Osband’s book includes an introduction by the distinguished British travel writer Jan Morris, who has also written under the name James Morris. On the remarks by modern travelers about the Jews of Jerusalem see also Elliott Horowitz, “As Others See Jews,” in Nicholas de Lange & Miri Freud-Kandel, eds., Modern Judaism: An Oxford Guide (Oxford, 2005), 415-425, esp. 415-419.

    [2] George Fisk, A Pastor’s Memorial, Of Egypt, The Red Sea… Jerusalem, and Other Principal Localities of the Holy Land, Visited in 1842 (third edition, London, 1845), 290-91. In a later edition (1865) the pious pastor wrote less cautiously that “the Jews have a persuasion…” (ibid., 199). For an annotated Hebrew translation of Fisk’s comments on Jerusalem and its Jews see Michael Ish-Shalom, Christian Travels in the Holy Land (second ed., Jerusalem, 1979), 539-43.

    [3] F. L. Mortimer, Far Off , or Asia and Australia Described (London, 1852), 21.

    [4] James Creagh, A Scamper from Sebastopol to Jerusalem in 1867 (London, 1873), 405-06. On the participation of women in prayer at the Western Wall see Stuart Charmé, “The Political Transformation of Gender Traditions at the Western Wall in Jerusalem,” Journal of Feminist Studies in Religion 21:1 (Spring 2005): 5-34, who, relying on Adler’s outdated list, misses the testimonies of  both Fisk and Creagh.

    [5] Ruth Kark, American Consuls in the Holy Land, 1832-1914 (Jerusalem and Detroit, 1994), 314

    [6] “There is no entente-cordiale,” wrote Rhodes, “between the Sephardim and Aschkenazim. The former are cleaner, more indolent, and ignorant than the latter. The Aschkenazim pride themselves on their Talmud learning, are dirty, and fond of dispute. From long residence in the East, the Sephardim have acquired something of the ease and dignity of its inhabitants…The Aschkenazim are often seen poring over the Talmud, and are consequently full of its traditionary (sic) lore, but know little of the Bible…The Sephardim,  as a race are healthy-looking, and many of them are handsome…Of the two the Aschkenazim are more corrupt.” idem, Jerusalem As It Is (London, 1865), 363-64. Ish-Shalom, Christian Travels, contains no passages from Rhodes’s book.

    [7] Rhodes, Jerusalem, 373-74. On Rhodes in Jerusalem see Lester I. Vogel, To See a Promised Land; Americans in the Holy Land in the Nineteenth Century (Pennsylvania, 1993), 166, 172.

    [8] Richard Newton, In Bible Lands (London, 1880), 60-61. I have quoted from the first British edition, published with a slightly different title.

    [9] Ibid., 62.

    [10] The translation I have provided is a composite of those by Steven J. Zipperstein, Elusive Prophet: Ahad Ha’am and the Origins of Zionism (Berkeley, 1993), 62, and Reuven Hammer, ed., The Jerusalem Anthology: A Literary Guide (Philadelphia, 1995), 206.

    0 0

    חילול השם בעיני אומות העולם (א)

    מאת ר' יחיאל גולדהבר

    וְלֹא תְחַלְּלוּ אֶת שֵׁם קָדְשִׁי וְנִקְדַּשְׁתִּי בְּתוֹךְ בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל אֲנִי ד' מְקַדִּשְׁכֶם (ויקרא כב, לב). כך בא הכתוב לומר, כאשר רוצים בני ישראל לבנות בית הכנסת כדי להרבות קדושת השם, עליהם להשמר שבניית בית הכנסת לא תגרום חילול השם (חתם סופר).

    האיסור היסודי

    איסור חילול השם, הנלמד מן הפסוק בפרשתנו שצוטט למעלה ונחשב בין האיסורים החמורים בתורה1, מהותו להזהר שלא לגרום ששם ה' יהיה חולין2.

    בגדרו של חילול השם כתבו הראשונים שהאיסור מתחלק לשלשה חלקים, שנים מהם כוללים ואחד פרטי: א. עבר עבירה באונס, במקום שאמרו שחייב למסור את נפשו והוא עבר ולא נהרג. ב. עבר עבירה במזיד באופן שיש בה חילול השם, כגון שעשה להכעיס, שמלבד העבירה עצמה עבר על לאו של חילול השם. ג. בנוסף לשני אלו האמורים כלפי כל אדם, מוטל חיוב מיוחד על אדם חשוב – שהבריות מביטות עליו – שלא יעשה מעשים שיבואו לרנן אחריו בשבילם, אע"פ שאינם עבירות3.

    סוג נוסף של חילול השם הוא זהירות בפני נכרים. אם יהודי מתנהג בצורה שלילית כלפי הגוי (אף במקום שאינו איסור), והוא גורם לרואיו לתלות את התנהגותו הכעורה באמונתו, ובכך מזלזלים באמונה ובשם השם – הרי זה חילול השם. גם דברים המותרים, אולם הגוי סובר שהם אסורים, אסור לעשותם מפני חילול השם. כגון גזל הגוי4 או שבועה מתוך אונס5.

    כבוד ישראל

    בגמרא כבר מצאנו שאסור לחלל את כבוד ישראל בעיני הגוים, ומטעם זה אסור לישראל ליטול צדקה מן הגוים בפרהסיה6, וכתבו הראשונים בטעם הדבר שהוא משום חילול השם7. ושני הסברים ניתנו למהות חילול השם שיש בזה: א. היהודי מבזה את עצמו בלקיחת הצדקה8. ב. לקיחת צדקה מגוים מוציאה לעז על ישראל שאינם בעלי צדקה וחסד9.10

    האיסור המחודש

    בכתבי הגאונים אנו רואים שצעדו צעד נוסף בחילול השם וחידשו פן שאין לו שורש בחז"ל – הוא חילול הדת בעיני הגוים. היינו דבר שעל פי דין מותר לעשותו, אלא הואיל ואצל הגוים הנהגה זו אינה ראויה ונמצא שיש בה משום לעג לדת, שהגוים סוברים שהיהודים מזלזלים בדתם, על כן יש להתייחס לדעתו של הגוי ולהמנע ממנה. למשל, במקום שאין דרכם של בני המדינה להכנס לבתי תפילותיהם במנעלים, אין לעשות כן גם בבתי הכנסת, משום ביזוי. במרוצת הגלות התפתח איסור זה, עד שבימינו הוא מוכר כעיקר המושג של "חילול השם".

    היו שתמהו על הגדרה מחודשת זו כחילול השם; ראשית, הרי איסור מחודש זה נוגד לאיסור ההליכה בחוקות העכו"ם, ועוד, מה טעם יש לנהות אחרי מנהגי הגוים ולהעדיפם על פני המסורת היהודית11. ההסבר לכך הוא פשוט: אין חיוב להנהיג הנהגות מחודשות לגמרי משום חילול השם. המדובר הוא במקום שאינו אלא ענין שהוא תלוי-תרבות, כהליכות ונימוסים המשתנים ממקום למקום. לפיכך, במקום שמושג הכבוד מחייב חליצת נעלים בבית הכנסת, יש לעשות כן משום כבוד בית ה', שהוא דבר שנצטווינו עליו מן התורה.

    אסמכתא לאיסור המחודש

    לבו של רעיון זה פועם בהלכה המובאת במסכת כותים (פרק א). מדין תורה מותר לאכול בשר השליל – שהוא בן פקועה שנמצא במעי אמו – בלא שחיטה. אבל היות והוא נאסר אצל הכותים ללא שחיטה, הרי שאם ישראל יקנוהו מהם, ייראה שהכותים קדושים יותר מישראל. וזו לשון הברייתא: "אלו דברים שאין מוכרין להם... ולא שליל, אף על פי שישראל אוכלין אותם... שנאמר כי עם קדוש אתה לה' אלהיך, כשאתה קדוש, לא תעשה עם אחר קדוש למעלה ממך"12.

    המקור לנאמר בספר חסידים (סי' תתכט): "אם יש דבר שהנכרים נהוגים בו איסור וליהודים אינו אסור, אסור ליהודי שיאכל, פן יתחלל שם שמים על ידו. כגון נכרי שראה שנכרי חברו רבע בהמה ואמר לנכרים שלא לאכול אותה ונמכרה ליהודי, לא יאכלנה ישראל". קשה להסיק מכאן האם בזמנם אכן שללו הגוים אכילת בהמה שנרבעה, או שמדובר במקרה בודד. מה עוד שדברי ספר חסידים לא הובאו בדברי נושאי כלי השולחן ערוך13.

    פנים חדשות אלו למושג "חילול השם" גרמו לשינויים רבים באורחות חייהם של יהודי התפוצות, ובפרט באופני כיבוד בית השם, שראו לנכון להתחשב בכיבוד שהללו מכבדים את בית תיפלתם! להלן אמנה כמה מנהגים שנגזרו מהיבט זה של חילול השם:

    א. ביטול חזרת הש"ץ

    דוגמא נוספת מתקופת הראשונים שחששו משום חילול השם מפני הגוים, היא התקנה שביטלה את חזרת הש"ץ. רבינו הרמב"ם מביא בתשובותיו כמה מנהגים בהסדרת י"ח ברכות וחזרת הש"ץ, וביניהם נמצאת התקנה ששינתה את סדר התפילה, ומאז אומר הש"ץ לבדו את התפלה בקול רם בעוד שהיחידים הבקיאים מלווים אותו בלחש. הרמב"ם מסביר באריכות את תקנתו וחשיבותה14, ואחד ממניעיו לביטול חזרת הש"ץ היה חששו מפני חילול השם. הוא מסכים לסברת "אחד החכמים מארצות אדום, שיתפלל הש"ץ פעם אחת בקול רם וקדושה ושלא יהי שם לחש כלל", ונימוקו עמו: "כשיחזור ש"ץ להתפלל בקול רם, כל מי שהתפלל ויצא ידי חובתו יהפוך פניו לספר עם חבירו... ויחזור פניו מהמזרח וירוק ויסיר כיחו וניעו". אמנם כאשר יתקנו שלא יתפללו בלחש רק יתפללו הקהל עם הש"ץ, "ותמנע אריכות החזרה ויוסר חלול השם שנתפשט בין נכרים, שהיהודים רוקקים וכחים ומספרים בתוך תפלתם, שהרי הם רואים זה תמיד, וזה יותר נכון אצלי באלו הזמנים מצד הסבות"15.

    ב. טהרה לפני התפלה

    דוגמא נוספת לחשש לעג מהסביבה הנוכרית, נמצא בכתבי הגאונים. דעת רוב הגאונים שטבילת עזרא בטלה בזה"ז, מלבד בעל קרי שהוא צריך להתרחץ באותו מקום. בכמה מקורות בכתבי הגאונים הובא הסבר לרחיצה זו מן הטעם שמתגוררים בסביבת נוכרים המקפידים על נקיות, מפני שהנכרים נוהגים בטבילה זו. ואלו דברי רב כהן צדק גאון – גאון סורא בתקופת רה"ג – בדונו אודות בעל קרי ביוה"כ: "מי שמבקש לקנח ביוה"כ במים אם אסטניס הוא ואין דעתו מיושבת עליו עד שמקנח במים, צריך לקנח ולטהר א"ע ביותר, אבל כל אדם לא... והוראה קרי ביוה"כ חייב לטבול... וכן בשאר ימות השנה משום נקיות ומפני קידוש השם בגוים"16. נוסח דומה נמצאה בתשובה לרב האי גאון, אחרון גאוני בבל17. כמו כן, כשהרמב"ם מתייחס לטבילת קרי הוא מרמז לענין זה, וכה לשונו באגרתו לר' פנחס ב"ר משולם דיין באלכסנדריה18: "והלא אין הדבר אלא מנהג בשנער ובמערב בלבד, אבל בכל ערי רומי... מעולם לא נהגו במנהג זה. ומעשים תמיד שיבואו חכמים גדולים ורבנים מֵעָרֵיכֶם להפָּרֵד, וכשיראו אותנו רוחצים מקרי, שוחקים עלינו ואומרים: 'למדתם מנקיות הישמעאלים'... וכל ישראל שבין הישמעאלים נהגו לרחוץ, וכל ישראל שבין הערלים לא נהגו לרחוץ"19. גם רבי יהודה הלוי מתבטא בייחודיותה של הרחיצה, וקובע: "ולולא שאמרו עזרא תיקן טבילה לבעל קרי, לא היינו חייבין בה חובת תורה, אך חיוב טהרה ונקיות"20.

    ג. רחיצת הרגלים לכבוד התפילה

    דוגמא נוספת למנהג טהרה היא רחיצת רגליים לכבוד תפלת שחרית. מנהג זה נהג רק בקרב הראשונים שגרו בארצות האסלאם21, שהושפעו ממנהג המוסלמים מטעם חילול השם, וכפי שביטא זאת לנכון המקובל המשורר רבי מנחם די לונזאנו בפיוטו לאדם המתקדש לקראת תפלת שחרית: "ואחר כך רחץ טנוף נקבים / ומרק מקרה לילה בשרים. ואל יהיו קדושים ממך ישמעאלים / פוט ולוד והגרים. אשר הם ירחצו מים ידיהם / ורגליהם וראשם בשחרם. צהרים ערבים וגם בלילות / בעת שלג וקרה ממזרים"22.

    לפנים אלו של חילול השם לא מצאנו דוגמאות נוספות מתקופת הראשונים.

    ד. חליצת הנעלים בכניסה לבית הכנסת

    בסוף תור הזהב בספרד מצאנו עוד דוגמא של חילול השם דידן, והוא בענין חליצת נעלים בבית הכנסת. מעיקר הדין אמנם אסור להיכנס להר הבית במנעלים, אבל לבית הכנסת מותר23. רבי שלמה ב"ר שמעון דוראן, המכונה רשב"ש24, נשאל על בית הכנסת שנוסד באלג'יר ע"י יהודים שבאו מספרד, שחלק מהמתפללים דרשו שלא להיכנס לבית הכנסת בנעלים, כמנהג המקום, שהיא מדינה מוסלמית שתושביה נוהגים לחלוץ נעליהם לפי כניסתם לבית תיפלתם, ורואים פחיתות כבוד בכניסה למקום קדוש בנעלים, ויהודי הסביבה נהגו אחריהם במנהג זה25 . הרשב"ש השיבם: "דבר ידוע שבית הכנסת ראוי לפארו ולרוממו ולכבדו ולהרחיק ממנו כל בזיון. אמנם הכבוד הוא כל דבר אשר נחשב אצל בני אדם כבוד... והכבוד והבזיון האמיתי הוא כפי מחשבת בני אדם וכפי המקומות ... והנה בארצות הנוצרים, שאין אצלם בזיון כשנכנס אדם ואפילו לפני מלכם במנעל אם נכנס כן בבית הכנסת בעירם אינו בזיון. ובארצות אלו (האיסלם) שהיא בזיון ליכנס לפני גדוליהם, וכש"כ לפני מלכם, במנעל, אסור ליכנס בעירם לבית הכנסת במנעל... על כן טוב הדבר אשר רצו לעשות להסיר חרפת האומה אשר חרפונו". הוא מדגיש שתקנה זו נתקנה בידי אביו – הרשב"ץ – בעירו אלגי'ר. למעשה הוא מסיים: "איך אפשר שבבית ישמעאל אחד פחות שבפחותים לא יוכל אדם ליכנס במנעל, ובבית אלהים יכנס? איזהו כבודו ואיזהו מוראו? ואפילו לא היה הדבר איסור, היה ראוי לעשות תקנה בדבר משום חרפת האומה"26.

    בדורות האחרונים

    בין הפוסקים האחרונים ניצב המגן אברהם, שקבע מדעתו שבהליכות הנוגעות לכיבוד הדת יש להתחשב בתרבות הסביבה כדי שלא לגרום חילול השם בעיניהם. הנידון הוא בניית בית הכנסת, והחתם סופר נקט הלכה כמותו למעשה.

    וכך היא השתלשלות הדברים: מעיקר הדין מותר לגוי המועסק בקבלנות לעבוד בשבת, אלא שגזרו על עבודות הנעשית בפרהסיה במקום שיש יהודים, משום חשד, שהרי לא הכל יודעים שהעבודה נעשית בקבלנות27.

    המגן אברהם עוסק בהיתר שנוהגים בעירו קאליש, "לשכור גוים בקבלנות ליקח הזבל מן הרחוב היהודי והגויים עושים מלאכתם בשבת, ואע"ג שמלאכה דאורייתא וכו', וצ"ל שגדול אחד הורה להם כך, משום דבשל רבים ליכא חשדא28 וכו' וא"כ היה נראה להתיר לבנות בית הכנסת בשבת בקבלנות".

    בהמשך הדברים מביא המגן אברהם בשם "גדולים", היות והגוים אינם מניחים אפילו לישראל ולכל מי שאינם מבני דתם לעשות מלאכה ביום חגם ואידם, על כן נראה בעיניהם כגנאי ובזיון לדתם אם יעשה מלאכה ביום אידם. לכן נעשה ק"ו לעצמנו: אם אנו מניחים לגוי לעבוד אצלנו בשבת במה שאפשר לנו למונעו, הרי נחשב בעיניהם כזלזול בשבת.

    ואלו דבריו: "מכל מקום ראיתי שהגדולים לא רצו להתיר, כי בזה"ז אין העכו"ם מניחים לשום אדם לעשות מלאכה בפרהסיא ביום חגם, ואם נניח אנחנו לעשות, איכא חילול השם29. אבל תיקון הרחוב אין נקרא על שם ישראל כל כך30. מ"מ במקום שאין נוהגים היתר ברחוב, אין להקל"31.

    דברי המ"א המחודשים32 שימשו לפוסקים האחרונים כבסיס לשאלות שונות שצצו ועלו במשך הדורות, בנוגע לצורך להתחשב בדעתם, שלא יחולל השם בעיניהם. ואי"ה בשבוע הבא אביא דוגמאות רבות לשאלות מסוג זה, ואת דברי הפוסקים עליהן.

    1 בתורה מתייחס האיסור למעשי עבודה זרה הנעשים ע"י ישראל. אולם חז"ל הרחיבו ודרשו את המושג לכל התנהגות שאינה ראויה.

    2 את ההגדרה הקולעת לשורש 'חילול' כתב רבי יעקב צבי מעקלענבורג, 'הכתב והקבלה' (בראשית מט, ד), בפירושו לפסוק אז חללת יצועי אביך: "הורדת דבר מיקרו וחשיבותו".

    3 בה"ג ל"ת קלז; רס"ג ל"ת לג; סהמ"צ לר"מ ל"ת סג; החינוך מצוה רצה. וראה רמב"ם הלכות יסודי התורה ה, א.

    כאשר נתמנה רבי ישראל אלתר לאדמו"ר על מקום אביו הגדול בעל 'אמרי אמת', ביקש מאת אחד ממכיריו (ר' פישל כהן, תלמידו של האוסטרובצי) שהיה ידוע בבקיאותו המופלגת, שימציא לו רשימה של כל המקומות שחז"ל מנו הנהגות ואזהרות ל"אדם חשוב"... (מפי ש"ב הרב שמעיה טויסיג).

    4 רש"י סנהדרין דף נז ע"א ד"ה ישראל; תוס' ב"ק דף קיג ע"ב ד"ה הכי. וראה ירושלמי ב"מ ה, ה; דברים רבה פ"ג מעשה ב"ר שמעון בן שטח.

    5 שו"ע יו"ד רלב, יד. וכן בגוי שנשבע שלא כדין, אין לחלל שבועתו, בגלל שגוים אחרים אינם מבחינים בטעות. ועד"ז מצינו שנענשו ישראל בימי דוד, שהיה רעב שלש שנים בעון שהמית שאול את הגבעונים, על אף שנשבעו בשקר; אמרו: מוטב שתיעקר אות אחת מן התורה ואל יתחלל שם שמים בפרהסיה. ראה יבמות דף עח ע"ב.

    6 סנהדרין דף כו ע"ב; שו"ע יו"ד רנד, א.

    7 רש"י, יד רמ"ה, תוס' שאנץ, רבי יהונתן מלוניל, נמוקי יוסף.

    8 ש"ך יו"ד ראש סימן רנד.

    9 ר"י מלוניל, לבוש סי' רנד, חכמ"א קמו סעיף ד, ערוה"ש סי' רנד.

    יש להעיר ממקור נוסף לאיסור נטילת צדקה מגוי, הוא במסכת ב"ב דף י ע"ב, משום הפסוק "ביבוש קצירה תישברנה", כלומר בלא מעשה הצדקה תכלינה זכויותיהם של הגוים.

    ר"י מלוניל, בסנהדרין שם, הביא פירוש נוסף לחילול השם שיש בדבר, שהוא מטעם "ביבוש קצירה תישברנה", היינו לפי פירושו - שתי הסוגיות אחת הן! ויהיה הבדל למעשה בין טעמים אלו, באופן כשהגוי יוזם מעצמו את מתן הצדקה, שאין חילול השם, שאין מקום לטענה שאין היהודים עושי צדקה וגם המקבל את הצדקה אינו מתבזה, אולם זכות הצדקה נזקף לגוי.

    10 ענין נוסף של חילול השם כלפי הגוים אנו מוצאים בדאגה שלא יתחלל השם בעיני הגוים, מפני הפורענות שהוא מביא על ישראל ואומות העולם יאמרו: "עובדים לשמו והוא הורגם". אבינו הראשון אברהם אמר (בראשית יח, כה): "חלילה לך מעשות כדבר הזה להמית צדיק עם רשע"; ולפי פירוש רש"י הכוונה "חולין הוא לך". היינו, כאשר השופט כל הארץ לא יעשה משפט, הרי שמו מתחלל, ומכאן השורש הלשוני למילה 'חילול'. גם משה טען אל הקב"ה (שמות לב, יב): "למה יאמרו מצרים לאמר ברעה הוציאם להרוג אתם". וכן ניבא יחזקאל שרצון ה' להתקדש בגוים ולתקן את חילול שמו אשר נגרם בעצם הימצאות ישראל בגלות במקום לשבת בארצו (יחזקאל לו, יז). פייטנים רבים השתמשו בטיעון של חילול שמו יתברך בגוים בגלל הגלות ושיבצוהו בפיוטיהם, ובעיקר במזמורי הסליחות שנתחברו על רקע הפורענויות השכיחות שליוו את הקהילות.

    11 ראה הערה .

    12 מצאנו בחז"ל רעיון דומה – כלפי איסור ע"ז בלבד. הגוים לעגו לישראל כשהם נכשלו בע"ז. בסנהדרין (דף צג ע"א), במעשה חנניה מישאל ועזריה שקדשו ש"ש, שואלת הגמרא: אחרי שיצאו מן הכבשן, להיכן הלכו? משיב שמואל: "ברוק טבעו". פירש"י: "באותו רוק שרקקו אומות העולם בישראל שאומרים אלוה כזה יש לכם והשתחויתם לצלם". במסכת תענית (דף ה ראש ע"ב) הובא שע"ז של ישראל חמורה פי שתים משל נכרי, נכרי אינו ממיר את אמונתו אע"פ שהן אמונות פחותות ושפלות, ואילו ישראל הממיר את האמונה באלוקי אמת באמונה של הבל. ונוראים המה דברי הרד"ק (מלכים ב ג,

    0 0

    Wine, Women and Song: Some Remarks On Poetry and Grammar - Part II

    By: Yitzhak of בין דין לדין

    [In addition to reiterating my thanks to Andy and Wolf2191 for their assistance and encouragement, I wish to thank Eliezer Brodt for a number of valuable suggestions, several of which have been incorporated into this part of the essay.]

    Great Men and Grammar

    In the first part of this essay, we discussed Ibn Ezra's slashing attack on the alleged grammatical lapses of the Kallir. Rabbi Ya'akov Weingarten has a good survey of the responses of subsequent thinkers.1 One is that of Rav Shimon b. Zemah Duran (Tashbaz), who discusses the criteria for one to be considered a תלמיד in the context of תלמיד חכם שנידה לכבודו; he argues that one can be a great scholar although ignorant of grammar, citing the Kallir as an example:

    ואם לפעמים כותב [החכם שעליו מדבר רבי שמעון דוראן - י'] בקצת כתביו קצת שגגות לא מפני זה יוצא מגדר תלמיד, לפי שהוא גר ומנעוריו לא גדל על לשון הקודש. והלל היה אומר מלא אין מים שאובין שחייב אדם לומר בלשון רבו, כך היא הגרסא בנוסחאות ישנות אין באל"ף, ולפי שהיו שמעיה ואבטליון גרי צדק ולא היו יכולין לומר מלא הין והיו אומרים אין, הלל שלמד מהם היה אומר בלשונם.

    ומדקדקי הלשון השיבו כמה תשובות על רבי אלעזר הקליר שהיה מגדולי התנאים שמצאו בפיוטיו כמה שגגות לפי הדקדוק, לפי שאין זה פוגם מעלת החכם אם אינו יודע דקדוק הלשון והמלות.2

    Yirmiyahu As A Man Of Letters


    Don Yitzhak Abravanel goes so far as to argue that even a great prophet can have a poor grasp of grammar and literary style. He unfavorably contrasts Yirmiyahu with Yeshayahu and other prophets, arguing that the clear poetic and literary superiority of the latter is due to Yeshayahu's aristocratic education and the other prophets' greater age and experience of society prior to the onset of their prophetic careers, whereas Yirmihahu was merely a priest, and but a youth at the onset of his. In the course of his explanation, he discusses the phenomena of קרי ולא כתיב and כתיב ולא קרי and declares categorically that the original authors of the various Scriptures certainly composed but one version of their respective texts, and he provocatively proposes that the alternate versions were added by Ezra to correct perceived deficiencies in the texts' grammar or syntax. These problematic phrasings may simply be a reflection of the relatively poor literary skills of some of the Bible's authors, or alternatively, they may be deliberate, from esoteric motivations:

    ואמנם בשלמות והחקוי השני שהוא בצחות המליצה ושפת יתר אחשוב אני שלא היה ירמיהו שלם מאד בסדור הדברים ויפוי המליצה כמו ישעיהו הנביא וגם נביאים אחרים ומפני זה תמצא בדברי ירמיהו פסוקים רבים שלפי דעת המפרשים כולם יחסרו להם מלה או מלות עם היות שאני אשתדל לישבם כאשר הם ותמצא בדבריו פעמים רבות מאד מאד מלת על תשמש במקום אל והזכר בלשון נקבה והנקבה בלשון זכר והרבים בלשון יחיד והיחיד בלשון רבים ועבר במקום עתיד ועתיד במקום עבר ודבור אחד בעצמו פעם לנכח ופעם לנסתר ותמצא בדבריו גם מן המוקדם מאוחר והמאוחר קודם כי הנה אחרי שזכר חרבן הבית ותשלום מלכות צדקיהו חזר לספר מעניני המלך יהויקם שקדם אליו ועם היות שכבר באו כיוצא מהזריות האלה בשאר הנביאים הפרש גדול יש ביניהם בין רב למעט והוא שבשאר הנביאים תמצא זה על המעט ובדברי ירמיהו הוא על הרוב כפלי כפלים ממה שנמצא בשאר הנביאים

    ואני אחשוב שהיתה הסבה בזה היות ירמיהו נער בשנים כשהתחיל בנבואה ולכן לא היה עדין שלם בדרכי הלשון ובסדריו וביופי המליצה ועל זה באמת אמר הנה לא ידעתי דבר כי נער אנכי כי הנה ישעיהו להיות מזרע המלוכה ונתגדל בחצר בית המלך ולכן היה דברו ערב ולשונו נאוה ושאר הנביאים נבאו אחרי שהושלמו בעניני העולם ובעסקיו ונשאו ונתנו עם בני אדם ולכן ידעו לסדר דבריהם אמנם ירמיהו היה מן הכהנים אשר בענתות ובקטנותו קודם שירגיל הדבור וידע מוצאיו ומובאיו באתהו הנבואה והוכרח לדבר מה שצוהו השם בלשונו דרגיל בו:

    ואמנם בחקוי והשלמות הג' שהוא ביושר הכתב ודקדוקו אחשוב גם כן שירמיהו לא נשלם בו מהסבה אשר זכרתי רצוני לומר להיותו נער כשהתחיל לנבא ולזה לא לימד בדקדוק הלשון ובסדר הכתיבה כראוי והנה יורה על זה הקרי והכתיב וכתיב ולא קרי וקרי ולא כתיב שתמצא בספרו יותר מבשאר הנביאים כי הנה תמצא שספר ירמיהו בכמותו בכתיבה הוא דומה בכמות הכתיבה לספר התורה מבראשית עד תחילת בא אל פרעה עוד תשוב תראה שספר ירמיהו זה הוא כמו ספרי יהושע ושופטים בקרוב בכמות הכתיבה דוק ותשכח שבאותו חלק מהתורה אשר זכרתי נמצאו כ"א קרי וכתיב ואמנם בספר ירמיהו שהוא בכמותו דומה לזה נמצאו פ"א קרי וכתיב וכן בספר יהושע ושופטים תמצא מ"א קרי וכתיב ובאו אם כן בספר ירמיהו הכפל מהם

    וכדי להעמידך על אמתת הטענה הזאת וחזקה ראיתי לבאר פה ענין הקרי והכתיב ומה הסבה שבספרי התורה והנביאים והכתובים נמצאו בספרים מלות באופן אחד ומבחוץ בגליון הוא באופן אחר ואין ספק שהנביא או המדבר ברוח הקדש באופן אחד דבר דבריו ולא בשנים

    והנה הרד"ק כתב בטעם זה וז"ל ונראה כי המלות האלה נמצאו כן לפי שבגלות הראשונה אבדו הספרים ונטלטלין טלטול והחכמים יודעי המקרא מתו ואנשי הכנסת הגדולה שהחזירו התורה לישנה מצאו מחלוקת בספרים והלכו בהם אחר הרוב לפי דעתם על הבירור כתבו האחד ולא קראוהו או כתבו מבחוץ ולא כתבו מבפנים וכן כתבו בדרך אחד מבחוץ ובדרך אחר מבפנים ע"כ וכמו שזכרו בהקדמת פירושו לנביאים ראשונים ומסכים לזה כתב האפוד בפרק ז' מספרו בדקדוק ...

    והדעת הזה אשר הסכימו בו החכמים האלה ועצתם רחקה מני כי איך אוכל בנפשי להאמין ואיך אעלה על שפתי שמצא עזרא הסופר תורת האלקים וספרי נביאיו ושאר המדברים ברוח הקדש מסופקים בהפסד ובלבול ... וזהו כח העיקר הח' מעיקרי הדת שהניח הרב הגדול בפירוש המשנה שיחייב כל בעל דת להאמין והוא שהתורה שבידינו היום היא הנתונה למשה בהר סיני מבלי חילוף ושנוי כלל ...

    [ועיין שם שהאריך לדחות דעתם, והעלה:] אלא שאין הדבר כאשר חשבו החכמים האלה ושרי להו מריהו בדעת הזה אבל אמתת הענין אצלי הוא שעזרא ואנשי כנסת הגדולה מצאו ספרי התורה בשלמותם ותמותם כמו שנכתבו וקודם שהתעורר עזרא לעשות הנקוד והטעמים וסופי הפסוקים עיין במקרא והדברים אשר נראו אליו זרים כפי טבע הלשון וכונת הספור וחשב בעצמו שהיה זה לאחד מב' סברות אם שכיוון הכותבים בדברים הזרים ההם סוד מן הסודות מסתרי התורה כפי מעלת נבואתו ועומק חכמתו ולכן לא מלאו ידו לגשת ידיו למחות דבר מספרי האלקים כי הבין בדעתו שבחכמה יתירה נכתבו כן ושלסבה מן הסבות נכתבו האותיות החסרות והמיותרות והלשונות הזרים ההם ולכן הניחם בכתב מבפנים כמו שנכתב האמנם שם מבחוץ הקרי שהוא פירוש הכתוב הזר ההוא כפי טבע הלשון ופשיטות הענין ומזה המין תמצא כל הקרי והכתיב שבתורה [ועיין שם שהאריך לפרש כמה מהקרי והכתיב שבתורה על פי דרך זה] ...

    גם אפשר שחשב עזרא שהיו בספרי הקדש תיבות ומלות שלא נכתבו כן בזרותם לסבה מן הסבות כי אם להיות האומר אותם בלתי מדקדק כראוי אם בקצור ידיעת הלשון עברית ואם בקצור ידיעת דקדוק הכתיבה בסדרה וישרה והיה זה מהנביא או המדבר ברוח הקדש כשגגה יוצאת מלפני השליט ...

    והנה רוב הקרי והכתיב שבא בספר ירמיהו זה כשתעיין בשם ובענינם תמצא כולם שהם מזה המין שכתבם ירמיהו כן בטעות ובשגגה [ועיין שם שהאריך לבאר כמה מהם על פי דרך זה] ... ובזה הדרך תראה כשתחפש כל הקרי וכתיב שנמצא בספר ירמיהו שענינו פירוש והיה בסבת שלא דוקדק הלשון והכתיבה כפי זה שזכרתי [ועיין שם שביאר על פי דרך זה גם הקרי ולא כתיב והכתיב ולא קרי] ...

    ומזה תדע שהספרים אשר נפל בהם הרבה מזה הוא לחסרון המדבר בחקוי הב' מידיעת דרכי הלשון או הג' בידיעת דקדוק הכתיבה ולכן היו בספר ירמיהו פ"א מקרי וכתיב ובספר שמואל שכתבו ירמיהו כפי מה שביארתי והוכחתי בהקדמתי לספר יהושע שהוא בכמות הכתיבה בספר ירמיהו רבו בו הקרי וכתיב בכמו קל"ג וכן בספר מלכים שכתב ירמיהו גם כן באו ע"ד [ועיין שם שביאר הטעם למספר הקרי והכתיב בכמה מספרי התנ"ך על פי דרך זה] ... וכל זה יורה הראות מבואר אמתת מה שזכרתי

    ואפשר עוד לומר שלא נכתב בספר הקדש תורה ונביאים וכתובים דבר בטעות ושגיאה אבל שכל המלות והתיבות הזרות בלשונם ובכתיבתם כתבום הנביאים כן בכונה וחכמה ולסבה מהסבות ואנחנו לא נדע כי הם מסתרי התורה והנבואה וידיעתנו קצרות מהשיגם האמנם הסופר עזרא במופלא ממנו לא דרש והניח הדברים כמו שנכתבו כדי שירמזו לענינים שכונו בהם הנביאים והמדברים ברוח הקדש אבל הוא רצה לפרש המלות ההם כפי הפשט והוא מה שעשה בקרי

    הנה נתתי לך ב' דרכים בדבר הזה כולם נכחים למבין וישרים למוצאי דעת3

    Various later thinkers, however, were vehemently opposed to the entire attitude of Abravanel, to the basic presumption that we mere mortals can critique Divine prophets, as we shall see.4

    Ya'akov Ben Haim Ibn Adoniyahu

    Ya'akov Ben Haim Ibn Adoniyahu sharply criticized Abravanel in his introduction to his famous second edition of the Mikraos Gedolos:

    ולא אשיב על דברי השר האבר"בנאל בסבה הב' באומרו כי המלות נכתבו כן בזרותם לסבה מן הסבות אם להיות האומר אותם בלתי מדקדק כראוי אם בקצור ידיעת הלשון העברית ואם בקצור ידיעת דקדוק הכתיבה כי תמהני עליו אם דבר זה יצא פי אדם דוגמתו ז"ל היעלה על דעת כי הנביאים קצרה ידם בכל אלה. אם כן הוא ז"ל היה גדול מהם בדקדוק הלשון העברית וחיי ראשי כי לא אאמין דבר זה. ואם היה בשגגה כמו שכתב הוא ז"ל למה הנביא או המדבר ברוח הקדש לא תקנו האם השגגה נפלה בספר ירמיה פ"א פעמים ובספר שמואל שכתבו ירמיה כמו שהוכיח הוא ז"ל רבו בו הקרי והכתב בכמו קל"ג כמו שמנה הוא ז"ל היעלה על לב נביא שנאמר עליו בטרם אצרך בבטן ידעתיך ובטרם תצא מרחם הקדשתיך נביא לגוים נתתיך יפול בשגגות כאלה. סוף דבר נראה חס ושלום כאלו השר ז"ל לא ראה הגמרא [בסוף פרק כל הקורא, שהוכיח ן' אדוניהו ממנה לעיל דאין ענין קרי וכתיב תיקון של מהדיר מאוחר, כמו שסובר האברבנאל - י'] ואליבא דגמרא לא נהיר ולא צהיר מה דתירץ ואולי כי השר ז"ל היתה רוח אחרת עמו ולא נעלם ממנו חס ושלום הגמרא כי דרך בדרך הרב הגדול הרמב"ם ז"ל במורה הנבוכים להראות כחו כי זולת הגמרא יש דרך לתרץ.5

    Rav Zalman Hanau

    Rav Zalman Hanau followed in Ibn Adoniyahu's footsteps:

    ומה שטען האברבנאל מהנביא ירמיה שלא היה נשלם בדקדוק הלשון וביושר המכתב ... אמנם אין הפרש אצל המתאמתים בין שיהיה הכזב רב או מעט [זה קאי על דברי האברבנאל שבשאר ספרי תנ"ך גם כן נמצאו דברים שאינם מתוקנים, אלא שבירמיהו נמצאו הרבה פעמים יותר - י']. ואולם כל מה שנמצא בספרי המקרא אשר איננו הולך אחרי עקבות דקדוק הלשון יש לו דרש או סוד ודרוש וקבל שכר וכל הקוצר מלוא ידו ותולש מלוא קומצו מהם יתן הודאה על חלקו ולולא כובד האריכות הייתי מתקן ומיישב כל הזריות הנמצאו בספר ירמיהו להוציא מלב האברבנאל. כמו שכתב בעל האפוד ראוי שנשתדל תמיד ליישב הזריות האלה אם אפשר ומה שלא נוכל לישבו על נכון ולתת בו טעם מספיק נדע שהוא מפאת חסרוננו לא שיהיה הזרות הזה בכתבי הקדש מבלי סבה חלילה ע"כ. והנה האברבנאל עצמו הביא דברי האפודי הנ"ל בישעיה סימן א' פסוק כי יבושו מאלים אשר חמדתם ע"ש. עם כל זאת פער פיו לבלי חק על הנביא ירמיהו ושכח בדברי האפודי.

    והנה גם בהקדמת מקרא גדולה שהדפיס הבומב"ירגי השיג על האברבנאל בענין קרי וכתיב ע"ש. ואנכי לא אוכל להתמהמה לאהבת הקצור ודי בזה למשכילים.6


    Malbim did not let "אהבת הקצור" get in the way of expressing his full-throated, impassioned rejection of Abravanel's position:

    והנני אומר (ועם האדון אשר היה משלומי אמוני ישראל הסליחה) ... בדבר אשר זדה עליו להוריד כבוד מליצתו והדר ספרו, כי לא שלם בנועם המליצה ודרכי הלשון, לא נשמע לו ולא נאבה. ובטרם אשיב על דבריו בעצמם אומר, כי החקירה הזאת בכללה, לתור ולבקר את כתבי הקדש כתבו הנביאם ביד ד' ורוחו עליהם, להגביל את מדרגתם ולחרוץ משפט על מחברם אם היה שלם בשלשת החקויים הנאמרים, אין לה מציאות רק אם נסכים אל דברי המבקר אשר השוה השגת הנביאים את החזון אשר קבלו מאת ד' והטפתם אל העם והעלותם הדברים על ספר, כהשגת החכמים והתלמידים את דברי החכמה אשר יקבלו מפי מורם בשכלם האנושי וילמדוה לרבים ויחרתו הדברים בספר למשמרת כפי מה שהתחקו הדברים בשכלם וכפי מה שיעיר להם אזן רוח בינתם לדבר בלשון למודים ולכתוב בחרט אנוש באר על הלוחות, שכל זה תלוי לפי שלימותם או חסרונם בשלשה החקויים הנזכרים, כי רק אז נוכל להחליט אומר על ספרי הנביאים כעל ספרי החכמים כותבי הספרים, שדבריהם באו חסרים לפעמים, מצד שלא הבינו עומק דברי ד' המנבא אותם ולא ציירו כונתו ציור שלם בשכלם לדעת אותם על אמתתם, או מצד שלא היו מהירים בלשונם לדעת לעות את יעף דבר ולשמוע כלמודים ולהציע הדברים בטוב טעם ודעת, או מצד שלא היה בידם עט סופר ולא ידעו תהלוכות הלשון חקיו ומשפטיו, המישרים הכתיבה מכל טעות ושגיאה הבא לרגלי הכתב והמכתב. אבל איך יעלה כזאת על לב איש שלם בתורתו ואמונתו לדמות את השפע האלוקית הנבואיית אשר ישפוך את רוחו על חוזיו ומלאכיו עת יגלה להם סודו וישלחם במלאכת ד', אל שפע השכל האנושי אשר הוא עליל לטעות וחסרונות מצד היותו כח חומרי מוגבל שוכן בית חומר אשר בעפר יסודו? מה לתבן את הבר ואם נסך ד' עליכם רוח הרדמה, עליכם! הדורשים והמעיינים על פי כח השכל האנושי, ויעצם את עיניכם מהביט אל האלקים, הכי גם את הנביאים ואת ראשיכם החוזים והצופים במראות אלקים כסה, עד שתהיה להם חזות הכל כדברי הספר החתום, אשר אם יתנו אותו אל יודע ספר ואמר לא ידעתי ספר כן קרא הנביא אל אנשי דורו, וכן אקרא אל המעפילים לעלות בהר ד', לאמר אל תגעו במשיחי ובנביאי אל תרעו, כי לא כאשר ישכיל האדם בשכלו האנושי אשר ישיג השגה הדרגיית מן המאוחר אל הקודם, השגה כלואה במכלא הזמן והמקום ותנאי הגשם, ישכיל החוזה ברוח ד', כי הוא ישיג השגה [פתאומית] מן הקודם אל המאוחר מופשטת מכל עניני החומר, כי יתן ד' את רוחו עליו בענין נעלה מדרך הטבע. כי השפעת הנבואה תלויה ברצון האלקי ובכחו הגדול, אשר יברא בריאה חדשה מה שהוא למעלה מהשגת השכל המוטבע בחומר, כי אז נפשו יצאה ותפרד מחברת החומר ותהי כאחד מן השכלים הנפרדים אשר אין מסך ומעצור בעדם מלראות באור הבהיר, כי סר הענן והערפל ונסו הצללים כי רוח ד' עברה ותטהרם

    Malbim now addresses an apparent contradiction to his position - the view of Rambam, who apparently understands that the nature of any particular prophecy is indeed dependent on the moral and intellectual character of the prophet receiving it:

    ואף למה שכתב המורה שהנבואה לא תחול כי אם כפי ההכנה וכפי שלימות מזג הנביא ודמיונו ושכלו ומדותיו, בכל זה הלא סתר דעת הפילוסוף אשר החליט שכל המוכן מוחלט שינבא, רק שהדבר תלוי ברצון האלקי, כי גם המוכן מצד שכלו וכחתיו אינו מוכרח שינבא, באשר הנבואה אינו דבר טבעי, רק ענין אלקי למעלה מן הטבע, ואחר אשר על ידי טוב הכנתה מצאה נפש הנביא חן בעיני ד' וירצה ויבחר ותשוב בעת החזון להיות שכל נפרד שכל משכיל בפועל, (כי בלעדי זה מן הנמנע שתשיג השגה נבואיית שהיא השגה פתאומיית מן הקודם אל המאוחר), איך תאמר כי בעת ההיא לא תשכיל ותחקה צורת המושכל וההשגה על אמתתה? שזה לא יצוייר רק בשכל המשכיל בכח, שהוא ישכיל בהשגה הדרגיית, משכיל ובלתי משכיל גם יחד, לא בשכל המשכיל בפועל, שאצלו לא יצוייר שבלתי ישכיל עתה ושהוא רק בכח להוציא ההשכלה אל הפועל, שזה דבר הסותר את עצמו?

    With all due respect to Malbim, his understanding of Rambam's position on prophecy is exactly backward. Rambam's divergence from the philosophers with respect to prophetic determinism is not based on his viewing prophecy as a supernatural, Divine phenomenon; on the contrary, it is precisely because prophecy is a purely naturalistic phenomenon that God can override its normal rules, just as all miracles that He performs violate the natural order. This is perfectly clear from his analogies to the immobilization of the hand of Yeravam at the altar7 and the blinding of the host of Aram upon its attempt to capture Elisha8:

    והדעת השני דעת הפילוסופים והוא שהנבואה הוא שלמות אחד בטבע האדם, והשלמות ההוא לא יגיע לאיש מבני אדם אלא אחר למוד יוצא מה שבכח המין אל לפעל, אם לא ימנע מזה מונע מזגי או סבה אחת מחוץ, במשפט כל שלמות שאפשר מציאותו במין אחד, כי לא יתכן מציאות השלמות ההוא עד תכליתו וסופו בכל איש מאישי המין ההוא אבל באיש אחד, ואי אפשר מבלתי זה בהכרח, ואם היה השלמות ההוא ממה שיצטרך בהגעתו למוציא, אי אפשר מבלתי מוציא, ולפי זה הדעת אי אפשר שינבא סכל ולא יהיה האדם מלין בלתי נביא ומשכים נביא כמו שימצא מציאה, אבל הענין כן, והוא שהאיש המעולה השלם בשכליותיו ובמדותיו, כשיהיה המדמה על מה שאפשר להיות מן השלמות, ויזמין עצמו ההזמנה ההיא אשר תשמענה, הוא תנבא בהכרח, שזה השלמות הוא לנו בטבע, ולא יתכן לפי זה הדעת שיהיה איש ראוי לנבואה ויכין עצמו לה ולא יתנבא, כמו שאי אפשר שיזון איש בריא המזג במזון טוב ולא יולד מן המזון ההוא דם טוב ומה שדומה לזה:

    והדעת השלישי והוא דעת תורתנו ויסוד דתנו הוא כמו זה הדעת הפילוסופי בעצמו, אלא בדבר אחד, וזה שאנחנו נאמין שהראוי לנבואה המכין עצמו לה, אפשר שלא יתנבא וזה ברצון אלקי, וזה אצלי הוא כדמות הנפלאות כלם ונמשך כמנהגם, שהענין הטבעי שכל מי שהוא ראוי לפי בריאתו ויתלמד לפי גדולו ולמודו שיתנבא, והנמנע מזה אמנם הוא כמי שנמנע מהניע ידו כירבעם

    0 0
  • 06/02/09--02:22: A Gemeinde Gemeinheit
  • A Gemeinde Gemeinheit

    by Shlomo and Mati Sprecher


    We are delighted that the occasion of our son’s wedding (Uri Sprecher to Rivi Zand, 4 Kislev 5769) solved a 150-year-old bibliographic mystery. When we chose to provide our guests with the opportunity to engage in limmud Torah during the course of the wedding by reprinting and distributing “Tshuvah Be’Inyan Kriat HaKetubah,” we assumed that, just as the title page and the publisher’s introduction indicated, it represented an actual Halakhic Responsum issued in 1835 by the Chief Rabbi of Bialystok, Rabbi Nechemiah, to a query submitted to him by Rabbi Shalom, the Chief Rabbi of Novgorod. The Responsum had been brought to print, some 2 ½ decades later, by Rabbi Nechemiah’s devoted disciple, Nehorai Zechnech-Lefavitch, who had just taken up residence in Vienna, a city in which the necessity of the public reading of the Ketubah was coming under question.


    Nehorai Zechnech-Lefavitch, informs us that he had long sought to share his teacher’s wisdom with the world at large, and so he seized this opportunity to enlighten his Viennese hosts with his Rebbi’s lengthy and learned psak, which after closely examining all the arguments ruled that such a public recitation of the Ketubah was entirely and appropriately dispensable. This Tshuvah (aside from its scarcity as an example of ephemera,[1] i.e., a solitary Responsum appearing in print) was taken at face value and duly registered as such in all the standard bibliographies of Hebrew printing and Responsa literature. Even A.H. Freimann, in his authoritative work, Seder Kiddushin VeNissu’in (Jerusalem, 1964) cites this work (on page 41) and Daniel Sperber, in his magisterial Minhagei Yisrael (Jerusalem 1995), 4:89, follows Freimann’s lead in referencing this Teshuvah. Further attestation of its acceptance as an authentic Responsum is its inclusion in an anthology of rare Halakhic material bearing on Kiddushin and Nissu’in issued by Rabbi Yitzchok Herskovitz, Mili deVei Hillulah, (Brooklyn, 1998), adorned with the Haskamah of his illustrious father, Rabbi Ephraim Fishel Herskovitz, the noted Hasidic Posek of the Klausenberger Kehillah (who is also an acclaimed expert on Seforim).


    However, our close reading of this Tshuvah led us in an entirely different direction. To us, the work’s style manifested clear Maskilic echoes, and its arguments rejecting the binding nature of centuries-old Minhagim were clearly not in accord with 19th –century Halakhic thought. Our reaction was that the work must certainly be pseudepigraphical and could not have arisen from the pen of the Chief Rabbi of Bialystok. In fact, a quick perusal of the reference literature demonstrated that there never was any Chief Rabbi of Bialystok named Nechemiah, nor, for that matter, was there any Chief Rabbi Shalom of Novgorod. As for Nechemiah’s disciple, Nehorai Zechnech-Lefavitch, well, one didn’t need to do much research in order to recognize the pseudonymous nature of this publisher’s name.[2] But who was really behind this masterful forgery, which deceived so many discerning readers for a century and a half?[3] Our initial thought was to place the blame on the notorious Abraham Krochmal or his erstwhile partner in literary crime, Yehoshua Heschel Schorr. They certainly had the requisite Talmudic knowledge to perpetrate a learned forgery.[4] But the tone of the work did not reflect their slashing, acerbic style. Our Tshuvah evinced a genuine love for Talmudic learning, albeit with a clear intent to utilize earlier sources to eliminate the prevailing Minhag of Kriat HaKetubah and replace it with an edifying sermon.


    At an impasse, we reached out to Professor Shnayer Z. Leiman, who suggested that the scholar most likely to solve the mystery would be the doyen of Israeli bibliographers, Rabbi Shmuel Ashkenazi.[5] We were rewarded thanks to the tireless efforts of Eliezer Brodt who, on our behalf, pestered the aged Jerusalem sage until he successfully unmasked the name, but not quite the identity, of the author. Rabbi Ashkenazi concluded that the first line of the introductory poem that prefaced the Halakhic query contained the acrostic – “Meir Ish-Shalom.” (His initial contention was that this could not be the noted 19th –century Viennese scholar, Meir Ish-Shalom, because his heretofore known literary output began only some five years later, with his publication of the Sifre in 1864.)


    Once Rabbi Ashkenazi had provided the key to the author’s name via the acrostic, it became apparent that all along the title page had been proclaiming that very same message. Let us recall the passage in Bavli Eruvin 13b where it is recorded that the celebrated Tanna, known to us as Rabbi Meir, was actually named Nehorai, according to one opinion; or alternatively, that both Meir and Nehorai were laudatory appellations reflecting his enlightening wisdom, whereas his actual name was Nechemiah. Recall also that the query first originated with Rabbi “Shalom” of Novgorod, and the word shalom” appears twice more on the title page and is highlighted by the placement of a circle above one of its appearances.


    Although none of the biographies[6] and bibliographies[7] devoted to the life and works of Meir Ish-Shalom attributes the Tshuvah Be’Inyan Kriat HaKetubah to him, we believe that a re-examination of Meir Ish-Shalom’s life supplies overwhelming confirmation that he is indeed the actual author of this Tshuvah. Born, as Meir Friedmann, in 1831, to a simple village couple in Krasna, his formative years were strained by extreme material and spiritual deprivation. At the age of Bar Mitzvah, his great desire to study Torah was realized by his acceptance to the Yeshiva in Ungvar, which was led by a distant relative of his mother, Rabbi Meir Asch-Eisenstadter, a noted disciple of the Hatam Sofer. Meir’s brilliance was soon recognized by his teachers, and he made great strides in Torah scholarship and adopted many stringent ascetic practices such as prolonged fasting, ritual immersion in ice-covered rivers and hours of un-interrupted Torah study and prayer. At the age of 19, he was granted Rabbinic ordination. Unfortunately, this phase of his life was cut short by a spiritual crisis induced by his exposure to Mendelssohn’s Biur and Wess