Sunday, January 20, 2019

Who Wrote the Late Volumes of Igrot Moshe?

Who Wrote the Late Volumes of Igrot Moshe?

By: Moshe Schorr[1]

Moshe Schorr is a Computer Science student at the Technion, Research Assistant at University of Haifa, graduate of Yeshivat Har Etzion, and cofounder of HaMapah.

HaMapah aims to bring modern tools of quantitative analysis and geographic information systems to Rabbinic literature. The visual representations of the data we harvest show spheres of influence through time and across space. They have already yielded numerous insights and surprises about the shape of rabbis’ network of correspondence and the trajectory of their careers. These phenomena, which have never been noticed before, raise a host of new questions, large and small, for a new generation of scholars and historians to consider. Follow HaMapah via Facebook and get updates via WhatsApp.

Though this article deals with a factual question, it often seems to devolve into an ideological one. I therefore wish to state: I have no horse in this fight. I have not taken halakhic positions from Igrot Moshe volumes 7-9. I went into this with a genuinely open mind, and in the course of researching this question, I have taken the affirmative and negative sides of this question at different points.

Ever since Igrot Moshe volume 8 was published, and to a lesser degree volume 7, people have cast aspersions or directly accused it of being a forgery. The claim, generally, has been some variation of direct accusation or insinuation that somebody, usually either one of the Tendlers or R. Shabtai Rappaport, inserted his own teshuvot into the volume. Volume 9 is, as they say, ‘right out’. Some even call these volumes ‘Igrot Moshe David’.

As an example, Hirhurim several years ago published this quote from R. J.D. Bleich, though the comment thread is likely a better example.

Given the overwhelming consensus among latter-day authorities affirming the prohibition against drinking wine touched by a Sabbath-violator, Iggerot Moshe‘s position is surprising, to say the least. Moreover, the thesis developed in that responsum stands in sharp contradiction to Iggerot Moshe‘s earlier-cited multiple statements affirming the prohibition. Perplexed by Rabbi Feinstein’s surprising volte face, Rabbi Genut turned to a long-time, but unnamed, disciple of Rabbi Feinstein for clarification. Rabbi Genut quotes the disciple’s reply in which the latter writes that “it is known to me that many of the responsa [included in the posthumously-published eighth volume of Iggerot Moshe] were not before the eyes of my master and teacher… and there is also doubt with regard to many responsa in the seventh volume.”

The counterclaim, presented by the editors in the introduction to volume 8, is that the editors did exactly what their job entails: editing. While they added references, the teshuvot are by R. Moshe Feinstein.

I decided to test this. So the first thing I did was use an dataset given to me by Michael Pitkowsky, giving the dates, by year, of each teshuvah in volumes 1-8 of Igrot Moshe. This immediately yielded a stark result.


The spike in output in 1980-1981 is shocking. It is reminiscent of Barry Bonds’ late career.[2] It looks like a steroid year spike -- how does a man in his eighties suddenly have more productivity than ever before? This, the first thing I saw, made me extremely suspicious. For comparison, Hatam Sofer’s chart looks like this:


I have published more on this at HaMapah, but suffice it to say: we expect to see a good deal of statistical noise in the amount of output,[3] though we do not expect to see changes that drastic, certainly not massive increases from authors in failing health.

This gave me the impetus to take the analysis a step further. So Avi Shmidman and I applied authorship analysis to it.[4]

Let me give a brief explanation of the algorithm. We are trying to look at the differentiability of the two classes. So, we take the 250 most common words, and then we look at the ability of a fairly standard model to separate the two classes. We expect to see some flukes or minor differences, so we’ll remove the most useful features -- the words that are most predictive, and re-run. We will repeat this process ten times, removing three words each time. Different authors will have very substantially different linguistic usage -- how often do you use the word ‘הוא’, ‘אבל’, etc., so even after removing the 30 most predictive words out of the 250 we’ll start with, it’ll be easily differentiated. However, with the same author, by this point the flukes should be gone, and we’ll lose any meaningful ability to differentiate the two classes. After the ten rounds we will be barely better than random guessing. (You’ll see at one point 58% accuracy -- don’t be impressed -- coin tossing is 50% accurate.)

Let’s start with our null hypothesis. Nobody, as far as I am aware, believes that the authors of Igrot Moshe and Minhat Yitzchak were one and the same. When running them against each other (IM vol. 6 vs Minhat Yitzchak), we get a final round accuracy of 97%. As we would expect. Now if we look at Igrot Moshe until we get to our “steroid spike”, if we compare the 60s and 70s to the 50s, we can get a sort of parallel null hypothesis.


So then we can just turn to our suspicious sets, and see where they fall.

Igrot Moshe volume 6, being the most recent undisputed volume, is the natural choice to benchmark here in terms of volumes. So let’s look at the three disputed volumes against volume six, and for good measure, let’s look at our “steroid spike” in 1980-1981 against the 60s and 70s.


The results are pretty clear. Bupkis. Nada. Zilch. None of the potential ways to slice and dice any of the potential forgeries turn up anything at all. And for the icing on the cake, most people who’ve learned Igrot Moshe would probably tell you that his prewar stuff is pretty different. Let’s compare the 20s against the 60s & 70s (the gray line).


So we see that not only are the differences between the new volumes and volume six minimal to the point of nonexistence, they’re far less differentiable than parts of his own corpus which are otherwise not under any suspicion are.

Let’s look at one last thing. Let’s look at our top ten features in favor of volume 9 over volume 6 when we tell them apart:
  1. ע"א
  2. ע"ב
  3. ולכן
  4. תמה
  5. רש"י
  6. בעניין
  7. לו
  8. התוספות
  9. חייב
  10. ד"ה
We generally consider ע”אע”בד”ה -- markers 1, 2, and 10 -- to be markers of a good editor, and people pay good money for the expanded references in Mossad HaRav Kook editions. Numbers 5 and 8 are also components of references, as is 4, generally. So I’d like to suggest the following: the late volumes of Igrot Moshe bear substantial marks of editing. Having seen those, and generally getting a whiff of a difference, people justifiably viewed the late volumes of Igrot Moshe as tampered with, as fake even, with good reason, despite it just being editing. This isn’t without precedent. The common reyd, that the Terumat HaDeshen made up his own questions, has been disproven.[5] It seems to be from a similar reason - ‘good’ editing (as it was then considered) - stripping ‘unnecessary’ detail from the questions. So too here. The editor’s changes might be more immediately visible, but the consistent usage of simple function words - how often do you use function words like אניהואזה, etc. -- belies the true nature of the author.

Given the preponderance of evidence that the later Igrot Moshe volumes are real (and spectacular), I think we can put the various theories of alternative authorship to rest. The claims of the editors -- that the latest teshuvot were dictated[6] -- explains the ‘steroid spike’, and all available evidence supports their central contention, that they didn’t change the actual content. In short: it’s legit.

[1] Software by Avi and Shaltiel Shmidman. Data from Michael Pitkowsky. Algorithm as described in Koppel et al. (see below, footnote 4). With thanks to Elli Fischer.
[2] *
[3] To clarify: I’m not saying it didn’t happen, just it’ll fluctuate a lot without an actual cause or real reason.
[4] Koppel, Schler, Bonchek-Dokow: “Measuring Differentiability: Unmasking Pseudonymous Authors,” Journal of Machine Learning Research 8 (2007) 1261-1276.
[5] J. Freiman, Leket Yosher, Berlin ed. p. XIV. http://hebrewbooks.org/pdfpager.aspx?req=8860&st=&pgnum=10
[6] See volume 8, p. 3 in the introduction.

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Another Obvious Mistake, More Grammatical Points, Bubbe Mayseh, Apostates and the Zohar

Another Obvious Mistake, More Grammatical Points, Bubbe Mayse, Apostates and the Zohar

Marc B. Shapiro
1. In my last post here I gave an example of an obvious error in a recent book focusing on the letters of R. Kook. I found another example of an obvious error in R. Dov Eliach’s new book, Be-Sod Siah.


This is quite an interesting volume as it contains interviews with a number of leading haredi rabbis. I could have an entire post on the material in this book, but let me just call attention to a couple of things related to R. Jehiel Jacob Weinberg before dealing with the error. One of the rabbis interviewed is the late R. Moshe Shapiro. In discussing R. Weinberg, he states (pp. 126-127):
דוגמא לתלמיד שהסבא הרבה להשקיע בו לפי טיבו וכישרונותיו – הג"ר יחיאל יעקב ויינברג בעל ה"שרידי אש". עלוי וכוח גדולשהיה מה שנקרא "אאוט-סיידר" – חריג ויוצא דופן באופיושבקלות היה יכול להחליק ולמצוא עצמו בין ה"משכילים". ובזכות חכמתו ויגיעתו של הסבא הוא נשאר בבחינת "שלומי אמוני ישראל".
R. Shapiro tells us that R. Weinberg was an “outsider” and that he could have easily gone the way of Haskalah. It is fascinating that a haredi figure says this, because this is precisely the sort of comment that I think might have angered R. Weinberg’s now deceased right-wing students. Yet I have to say that R. Shapiro is exactly correct in his description. I don’t know if his knowledge of R. Weinberg’s life comes from my book or from R. Nathan Kamenetsky’s Making of a Godol – I only spoke to R. Shapiro once, and it was not about R. Weinberg – but he obviously knew something about the ups and downs of R. Weinberg’s life.
Here is p. 273 in the book, which includes a picture of R. Weinberg.
  
Not noted by Eliach is that this picture comes from my post herewhere I published it for the first time (and thanked the person who gave it to me). I realize that once the picture is on the internet it is there for anyone to use it, but it would still be nice if people would acknowledge where it came from.
Eliach also includes a lengthy interview with R. Bezalel Rakow of Gateshead which understandably has a good deal about R. Weinberg. (I have previously discussed R. Rakow here and here.) What I find fascinating is how people like Eliach simply can’t get a handle on R. Weinberg. On the one hand, they know that he was a great scholar and posek. On the other hand, they know that his views were not in line with the haredi world. Eliach asks R. Rakow the following (p. 274):
בשורה התחתונה – שאלתי את הרב ראקוב – האם הרב ויינברג מוגדר על ידכם כמנהיג תורני חרדי?
Eliach wants to know if R. Rakow regards R. Weinberg as a haredi Torah leader. R. Rakow responds very diplomatically:
בודאיהגאון הרב ויינברג היה ירא וחרד לדבר ה'. איש ההלכה הצרופה שחרד על כל סעיף בשלחן ערוך!
R. Rakow knew perfectly well that he was dodging the question, and if the definition of haredi is one who is completely halakhically observant, then R. Soloveitchik and R. Lichtenstein (and endless others) should also be regarded as haredi leaders. Only in the continuation of the interview does R. Rakow acknowledge that R. Weinberg’s views were not all in line with the haredi approach (p. 276):
ועדיין ניתן לומרשאי אלה ממחשבותיו לא עלו בקנה אחד עם הדרך המקובלת לנו מרבותינו.
Now for the obvious mistake in Eliach’s book. Here is pp. 66-67.




He begins by mentioning that in his book on the Vilna Gaon he told a story that before World War II, R. Aaron Kotler was not sure where he should go, Eretz Yisrael or the United States. He therefore performed the goral ha-Gra and Exodus 4:27 came up: “And the Lord said to Aaron: ‘Go into the wilderness to meet Moses.’” He understood this to refer to R. Moses Feinstein, who at the time was living in the spiritual wilderness of New York.
Eliach states that it has been established that this story is not correct, and he cites the grandsons of R. Kotler who told him that their grandfather was never in doubt about where he was to go. They also pointed out that there is no way that the name “Moses” could have been seen as a reference to R. Moses Feinstein who was not well-known at that time.
So far so good (and these points are so obvious that one wonders how Eliach fell for a typical yeshiva bubbe mayse[1]). However, Eliach continues, and it must be that he is citing something that he was told by one of the current Kotlers, but he has completely mangled it. He writes:
אם היה מקום לסיפורהרי שהפוסק היותר ידוע בימים ההם באמריקההיה הג"ר יוסף רוזיןנשיא "אגודת הרבנים דארצות הברית וקנדה", ומחבר ספרי "נזר הקודש".
Eliach tells us that if the story is true, it would have been with reference to R. Joseph Rosen, who was the most well-known posek in America at the time, the honorary president of Agudat ha-Rabbonim, and the author of the books entitled Nezer ha-Kodesh.
The first thing to ask is how could the goral ha-Gra performed by R. Kotler have anything to do with R. Joseph Rosen when the verse that came up mentioned “Moses”? How Eliach did not see this is beyond me. Furthermore, R. Joseph Rosen not only was not a well-known posek, he was not even a little-known posek. He was also not the president of Agudat ha-Rabbonim, and he never wrote a book called Nezer ha-Kodesh. The only thing of interest, and accurate, in Eliach's discussion is that he somehow got a copy of the document appointing Rosen rabbi of Passaic, New Jersey, and he includes a picture of this in the book.
Here is what happened: Eliach was told that if the story of R. Aaron Kotler performing goral ha-Gra had any truth to it, the “Moses” referred to would have been R. Moses Rosen, who indeed was a great rav, author of Nezer ha-Kodesh, and served for a time as president of Agudat ha-Rabbonim.[2] R. Rosen is most famous for being the rabbi of Chweidan, Lithuania, where the Hazon Ish’s wife was from and where the Hazon Ish lived after getting married. R. Rosen and the Hazon Ish became close, and supposedly it was R. Rosen who first told R. Hayyim Ozer Grodzinski about the unknown genius, R. Abraham Isaiah Karelitz.[3] The Hazon Ish also proofread the volume of Nezer ha-Kodesh on Zevahim. This was published in Vilna in 1929 when R. Rosen was already living in the United States.[4] While R. Rosen is famous for his connection to the Hazon Ish, not so well known is that he was also a Zionist.[5]
3. My last post here gave examples of grammatical mistakes in the ArtScroll and Koren siddurim, which are the most popular in the English-speaking world. I received a lot of feedback about this, and I did not realize that so many people are interested in the often arcane points of grammar. (While I myself am quite interested in this, I am hardly an expert.) Here are a couple of more examples (and interested readers should consult the comments to the last post for additional instances).
In Ashrei we read עיני כל אליך, which comes from Psalms 145:15. The correct way to read עיני is with the accent on the ע, not on the נ. This word is commonly mispronounced, and neither ArtScroll nor Koren place the accent where it should be.[5a]
The second half of the ויברך דוד prayer incorporates a section from Nehemiah, chapter 9. Verse 9:7 reads ושמת שמו אברהם. There is a dagesh in the ש of שמו, yet this is mistakenly omitted in both ArtScroll and Koren.  
I found another mistake in the ArtScroll Machzor for Rosh ha-Shanah and Yom Kippur. In the prayer of the chazzan before Musaf, he says הפך [נאלנו ולכל ישראל. Some versions have the first word as הפוך. In both cases, since this is an imperative there needs to be a hataf patah under the ה. Yet in the ArtScroll Machzor there is a patah under the ה and the accent in הפך is mistakenly put on the first syllable, the ה. [After writing this I checked the second edition of the Machzor and was happy to see that it has been corrected. This shows that any errors we point out are valuable, as ArtScroll is prepared to correct them in future editions.]
Btzalel Shandelman wrote to me about ArtScroll’s comment on Genesis 39:8, which explains why there is a pesik following the word וימאן
The adverb adamantly is suggested by the staccato and emphatic Masoretic cantillation of this word: the shalsheles, followed by a psik [disjunction], both of which set off the word and enhance the absoluteness of its implication. It indicates that Joseph’s refusal was constant, categorical, and definite. He repulsed her with absolute firmness. Haamek Davar notes that the Torah gives no reason for his rejection; his sense of right and wrong was so clear that he did not even consider her pleadings. To her, however, he gave an explanation, trying to convince her to stop pestering him.
Shandelman correctly points out that this explanation is based on a mistake, as the vertical line found in the Torah after word וימאן is not a real pesik, as a pesik can never follow a shalshelet in the Torah (or the other twenty biblical books that use the Torah’s system of cantillation). The reason for this is that a pesik is only found after conjunctive te’amim, and in the Torah shalshelet is always disjunctive. So why is there a vertical line after shalshelet if it is not a pesik? Joshua R. Jacobson explains:
In the te’amim of the three books (ספרי אמ"ת), the shalshelet sign can serve as both a conjunctive and a disjunctive accent. To distinguish one from the other, a vertical line was added after the disjunctive shalshelet. Even though in the twenty-one books the shalshelet sign has only one use – as a disjunctive accent – nevertheless, the Masoretes retained the vertical line. . . . The vertical line after the shalshelet word is not a pasek: it does not indicate an extra pause.[6]
Another way to put this is that in the Torah the vertical line that always follows the shalshelet is not a separate symbol, but rather part of the shalshelet.
Nevertheless, pre-modern Hebrew texts that deal with masoretic matters seem to have no other way to refer to the vertical line, so it is called a pesik even by those who recognize that it does not function as a pesik. Thus, in the Masorah Gedolah to Lev. 8:23 it states:
זמלין בטעמא מרעימין ומפסיקין
מרעים is another word for shalshelet.
Returning to the example noted by Shandelman, I replied to him that the mistake is not that of ArtScroll. Although it is not clear in the excerpt printed above, the comment about a pesik following the shalshelet has its origin in R. Naphtali Zvi Judah Berlin's Ha’amek Davar.[7] This is actually a common mistake, as the rules of trop are not well known. Unless someone has studied these rules, he will have no reason to assume that a vertical line is not a real pesik. The next step is to offer explanations of verses based on this assumption that the vertical line represents a real pesik after the shalshelet.
I don’t think that any of the following explanations are based on the mere appearance of the vertical line. Rather, the authors assume that it is a real pesik and one can therefore base interpretations on it.
R. Tuviah ben Eliezer (12th century) writes:[8]
וימאן מיאון אחר מיאון הרבה פעמים דכתיב בפסיק ובשלשלת
Solomon Buber, the editor of the text, explains R. Tuviah’s words:
דורש הטעמיםכי על וימאן הוא שלשלת ואח"כ הוא בפסיק
R. Yeruham Levovitz stated as follows:[9]
ועל כן תיכף ל"וימאןיש פסיקכי הופסק אצלו כל הענין אף טרם ניתח העולה על הרוחאף טרם נתן כל טעם וביאור על המיאוןכי טרם כל וכל הוא ממאן על הדבר וחסלוהטעמים והביאורים יתן אחרי כןוזהו אמרו אחרי הפסיקואומר אל אשת אדוניו וגו'.
R. Samuel Borenstein writes:[10]
וימאן מוטעם בשלשלת ופסיקכדי להפרידו בפ"עוהיינו שהמיאון לא הימחמת הטעם אלא מצד עצם הנפש למעלה מהטעם.
R. Shlomo Zvi Schueck leaves no question that in his mind the vertical line is a real pesik.[11]
ואמרתי שחכז"ל דרשו זאת מן הטעם שלשלת העומדת על תיבת וימאן אם רצו להודיע בטעם שלשלת להפסיק שם בדיבור למה בחרו בניגון זה דוקאהא כמה טעמים מפסיקין הםועוד הא אחר תיבת וימאן הוא עומד הקו פסיקולמה לן תרי מפסיקין כאן?
R. Shlomo Amar writes:[12]
תיבת "וימאןהכתובה בפסוק מוטעמת בטעם שלשלתומיד לאחריה מופיע טעם פסקונראה דזה בא ללמדשיוסף הצדיק מיאן במיאון אדיר וחזקוגם מיאונו היה פסוק וחתוך.
I would only add that it is very difficult to say about so many great sages, ועפר אני תחת רגליהם, that they are wrong about the function of the pesik following a shalshelet. What I have written is based on the standard works on the topic. However, if anyone knows of an authentic tradition in which there is a pesik after shalshelet, please let me know. 

Finally, as I am writing this post not long after Hanukkah, here is an example of a translation where ArtScroll gets it right and pretty much everyone else I have checked gets it wrong (though we can understand why they intentionally get it wrong). In Maoz Tzur we read:
לעת תכין מטבח מצר המנבח
אז אגמור בשיר מזמור חנכת המזבח
ArtScroll translates:
When you will have prepared the slaughter for the blaspheming[13] foe,
Then I shall complete with a song of hymn the dedication of the Altar.[14]
Here is Koren’s translation of the first line:
When you silence the loud-mouthed foe.
This a much more comfortable rendering, and if you examine other siddurim you will find similar “softer” translations. Given the choice between “slaughter” and “silence,” most people will pick the latter. Yet unfortunately for them, the text does not say “silence.” It says “slaughter,” and the words תכין מטבח are based on Isaiah 14:21: הכינו לבניו מטבח, “Prepare ye slaughter for his children.” Koren’s translation is thus a politically correct distortion of the text’s meaning.
This is not a matter that started with Koren. For a long time now, translators have been afraid that if people knew what the text actually said that they would not want to sing the song. Yet how can you have Hanukkah without Maoz Tzur? It is even recited publicly at the White House Hanukkah party. (It is amazing to me that no one has yet made an issue of publicly singing these politically incorrect words.) So, a little bit of creative “translating” was thought necessary. Isn’t it interesting that ArtScroll – which has shown us many times that it has no difficulty censoring and distorting texts it finds problematic – has the courage to give us the correct, uncensored translation?
Interestingly, R. Joseph Hertz in his siddur, p. 950 in the note, tells us what the words mean. Yet was uncomfortable with this, and therefore instead of תכין מטבח he changed it to תשבית מטבח. This is not a version attested to in any old text. It was simply made up by Hertz or perhaps suggested by an unnamed collaborator on his siddur commentary. Hertz writes: “By a slight change, this is now ‘when Thou shalt cause all slaughter to cease, and the blaspheming foe, I will complete, etc.’”[15]
4. Since I have been discussing the ArtScroll and Koren siddurim, it is only right for me to mention that there is a new siddur on the market. The new RCA siddur, called Siddur Avodat Halev, has just appeared. For decades, Modern Orthodox synagogues had to make do with the RCA ArtScroll siddur. However, other than including the prayer for the State of Israel, there was nothing in that siddur that made it a good fit with Modern Orthodox synagogues.
The new RCA siddur, which will come to be the standard at hundreds of synagogues for decades to come (especially as the RCA ArtScroll siddur is no longer being sold), is a siddur that the Modern Orthodox community can embrace. The commentary and essays – including essays by R. Jehiel Jacob Weinberg, R. Joseph B. Soloveitchik, R. Aharon Lichtenstein, and R. Yehudah Amital – include both traditional learning and historical scholarship, something that is not found in any siddur on the market. There is also an attention to the role of women that is welcome.[16] Relevant to my last post, this siddur tells women to say מודה אני with a kamatz under the ד. The siddur also offers the option of women forming a mezuman and reciting חברותי נברך. Of particular importance is the inclusion of prayers for Yom Ha-Atzmaut and Yom Yerushalayim. In the instructions before Tahanun, we are informed that Tahanun is omitted on these two days. For Hallel, readers are given the option of reciting with a berakhah or without. I will return to discuss this siddur in a future post, as there is something in it that will be of particular interest to Seforim Blog readers.
Excursus
Earlier in this post I used the expression bubbe mayse. The origin of these words is not “grandmother’s tale,” although that is what is commonly thought. Bubbe mayse is a later corruption of what was originally Bove mayse. I can do no better than quote from the Wikepedia entry here.
The Bovo-Bukh ("Bovo book"; also known as Baba Buch, etc.; Yiddish: בָּבָא-בּוּךבּוֹבוֹ-בּוּך ‬), written in 1507–1508 by Elia Levita, was the most popular chivalric romance in Yiddish. It was first printed in 1541, being the first non-religious book to be printed in Yiddish. For five centuries, it endured at least 40 editions. It is written in ottava rima and, according to Sol Liptzin, is "generally regarded as the most outstanding poetic work in Old Yiddish". [Liptzin, 1972, 5, 7]
The theme derives from the Anglo-Norman romance of Bevis of Hampton, by way of an Italian poem that had modified the name Bevis of Hampton to Buovo d'Antona and had, itself, been through at least thirty editions at the time of translation and adaptation into Yiddish. The central theme is the love of Bovo and Druziane. [Liptzin, 1972, 6], [Gottheil] The story "had no basis in Jewish reality", but compared to other chivalric romances it "tone[s] down the Christian symbols of his original" and "substitute[s] Jewish customs, Jewish values and Jewish traits of character here and there..." [Liptzin, 1972, 8]
The character was also popular in Russian folk culture as "Prince Bova".
The Bovo-Bukh later became known in the late 18th century as Bove-mayse "Bove's tale". This name was corrupted into bube mayse "grandmother's tale", meaning "old wives' tale". [Liptzin, 1972, 7]
Here is the title page of the Bovo Bukh.



R. Elijah Levita (1469-1549), who thought it worth his time to produce Yiddish romances – in addition to the Bovo Bukh he published Paris and Vienna – is also the well-known author of, among other works, the Tishbi, the Hebrew dictionary that is still used today.[17] It was recently reprinted by Yeshivat Kise Rahamim together with comments by later authors including R. Meir Mazuz. Here is the title page.


At the end of the volume, there is a collection of critical comments on the Tishbi by R. Solomon Zvi Schueck, and responses to R. Schueck by R. Aryeh Mazuz. Interestingly, there were two printings of the Kise Rahamim edition of the Tishbi. The one intended for sale in certain haredi neighborhoods did not include the comments of R. Schueck, as he is persona non grata among extremist haredim. Regarding the two editions, see Dan Rabinowitz's earlier Seforim Blog post here.
For more on Levita, who even has a street named after him in Tel Aviv, see the Seforim Blog post by Dan Yardeni here. It is also worth noting that former British Prime Minister David Cameron is descended from Levita. See here.
I would be remiss in not mentioning that two grandsons of Levita also played a role in Jewish history. One was named Vittorio Eliano (which means “from the house of Elijah”), and the other was his brother Giovanni Battista. They were both apostates. Eliano became a priest as did Battista, who was actually a Jesuit.[18] Battista testified before the Inquisition in Venice and stated that “the Talmud teaches them [Jews] that it is legitimate to orally swear false oaths, even if they do not come from the heart, along with hundreds of thousands of other things which are injurious to Christianity.”[19]
During the great sixteenth-century dispute in Venice between two Christian printers of Hebrew books – a dispute that also involved R. Meir Katzenellenbogen and R. Moses Isserles – both Christian sides denounced the other to Rome “for producing works which contained matter offensive to the Holy Catholic Faith.”[20] Eliano and Battista ended up giving testimony about supposedly blasphemous material in the Talmud, which in turn led to the Talmud being burned in Rome, in the Campo de Fiori, on September 9, 1553. Soon after that the Talmud was burned in Venice and in other places in Italy, and the work itself became an illegal text.[21]
In 2011 the following plaque was placed on the ground in the Campo de Fiori in commemoration of the burning of the Talmud.


Although the Talmud was illegal, the Zohar was not. It was none other than the apostate Eliano who had a central role in the second printing of the Zohar in Cremona in 1559-1560, as he was a proof reader.[22] (The first printing was in Mantua in 1558-1560.) This edition “was the preferred of the two editions by eastern European kabbalists.”[23] Contrary to what appears in many books, the Cremona Zohar was published by Jews (although the actual printing was done by a non-Jew, which was standard practice in Italy).[24]
Here is the title page of the Cremona Zohar. You can see at the bottom the statement that the publication was approved by the Inquisition.


Here is the last page of the Cremona Zohar. You can see that Eliano is mentioned as one of the two people who prepared the text for publication.


הבחור כמ"ר ויטוריי אלי"אנו נכדו של ראש המדקדקים הח"ר אליהו המדקדק סג"ל זצ"ל
You can also see the actual Latin approval from the Inquisition.
Seeing how Eliano made sure that he was referred to as הבחור כמ"ר, one who did not know better would assume that he was Jewish. Meir Benayahu chalks this up to one of the paradoxes of Jewish Italy:[25]
משומד שמשתבח במלאכת קודש זו ומזכיר שמו בנוסח רבני ועולה על כך שייקרא בתואר "כמ"ר" (בקולופון הזוהר), הוא מן הנפלאות שרק הפאראדוכסים המצויים אצל יהודי איטליה יכולים להסבירם.
Graetz,[26] followed by others, states that Eliano wrote the following Hebrew introduction to the Cremona Zohar.

Graetz does not tell us how he knows that Eliano wrote the introduction, and I find it difficult to believe that this is the case. As we can see from the last page of the Cremona edition (printed above), a Jew was also involved with preparing the text for publication. So why not assume, with Isaiah Tishby,[27] that the Jew wrote the introduction, which is a typical pious introduction that one would expect for the Zohar?
In fact, there is evidence that Eliano did not write it. Avraham Yaari called attention to the fact that in the introduction it subtly tells us that there are printing errors because the book was also prepared for publication on Shabbat, a time when Jewish proofreaders would not be able to examine it.[28]
וחסרון חלוף או השמטת אות יוכל להמנות על היות דבר הדפוס נחוץ לכל שומרי שבת כהלכתה וד"ל.
The word נחוץ here means something along the lines of “harried”. (See I. Sam. 21:9, for the use of the word in the Bible, which has a different meaning than in modern Hebrew.) He is saying that the reason there are mistakes in the text is due to the problems confronted by shomer Shabbat proofreaders (who do not work on Shabbat). In other words, the mistakes in the text are due to the one who did work on Shabbat. Such a line, criticizing the proofreader who worked on Shabbat, could not have been written by the apostate Eliano. On the contrary, it must be seen as directed against Eliano. This is an important point which I have not seen anyone make. There is another point which no one has made, and that is that on the second line of the introduction the author left an allusion to Eliano:
ואותיות ידועות לפי צורך המקום א"לינו
Another book Eliano was involved with was Hizkuni,[29] printed in Cremona in 1559.[30] Here is the last page of the book which states:
הוגה ברוב העיון ע"י הבחור ויטוריו אליאנו נכד ראש המדקדקים הח"ר אליהו בחור אשכנזי סג"ל זצ"ל


While on the topic of apostates and the Zohar, here is another interesting point. The Soncino Press of London published a translation of the Zohar. For some of this translation they had the assistance of Paul Levertoff. Here is the title page of one of the volumes.


What makes this so significant is that Levertoff, who began life as a Habad Hasid and later studied in Volozhin, was an apostate.[31] If you search on the internet you will find that Levertoff continues to have a real influence among Messianic Jews.
I find it astounding that the Soncino Press, which was identified with British Orthodoxy, chose to collaborate on the Zohar translation with an apostate, especially an apostate who was a “true believer,” not simply an opportunist like Daniel Chwolson. Supposedly, late in life Chwolson was asked what he came to believe that led him to adopt Christianity. He replied: “I believed that it was better to be a professor in St. Petersburg than a melamed in Anatevka [insert whatever shtetl name you wish].” He also famously said about himself, punning on the words from the Yom Kippur liturgy,[32] “Ve-Akhshav she-Notzarti [= converted to Christianity] ke-Ilu lo Notzarti.”[33]

________________
[1] See Excursus.
[2] See Ha-Pardes (January 1953), p. 52.
[3] Shlomo Kohen, Pe’er ha-Dor, vol. 1, p. 191. As far I as I know, the report in Asher Rand, Toldot Anshei Shem (New York, 1950), p. 62, that R. Rosen and the Hazon Ish established a yeshiva together, is without foundation.
[4] Orhot Rabbenu (2014 edition), vol. 5, p. 138. This source does not mention which volume of Nezer ha-Kodesh it was, but the volume on Zevahim was the only one printed in Vilna. Since R. Rosen was living in the United States, this explains why it would have been much more convenient for for the Hazon Ish to do the proofreading. According to Cohen, Pe’er ha-Dor, vol. 1, p. 270, some of the material in the book in brackets is from the Hazon Ish. Cohen also states regarding these comments:

רובן פותחות ב"מיהוולפעמים צויין בראשי-תיבות שו"ר (שוב ראיתי). כששאלו אותואיך זה תואם את האמתהשיב החזון-איש באירוניהלא "שוב ראיתי", כי אם "שוב וראה".

For מיהו see pp. 69, 82, 88. For שו"ר see pp. 84, 86.
[5] See Entzyklopedia shel ha-Tziyonut ha-Datit, vol. 5, cols. 597-598.
[5a] It could be that עיני is not to be read with full stress on the ע, but only a partial stress, with the real accent on the connected word כל (in the Aleppo Codex עיני is joined to כל with a makef). Yet there certainly is no accent on the נ of עיני. See R. Yedidyah Solomon Norzi, Ma'amar ha-Ma'arikh in Norzi, Ha-Nosafot le-Minhat Shai, ed. Zvi Betser (Jerusalem, 1997), pp. 97ff.
[6] Chanting the Hebrew Bible: The Art of Cantillation (Philadelphia, 2002), p. 105 n. 14, 107. See also ibid., p. 233 n. 2, and Mordechai Breuer, Ṭaʻamei ha-Miḳra be-Khaf-Alef Sefarim u-ve-Sifrei Alef-Mem-Taṿ (Jerusalem, 1982), p. 19.
[7] See the Jerusalem, 2005 edition, p. 534. 

ומשום הכי איתא פסיקכדי שלא נפרש דמשום הכי מיאן בשביל "ויאמר וגו'", אבל הפסיק מלמד שהמיאון היה בפני עצמו.

This comment was not part of the original commentary but was added later by the Netziv. In this edition, the editors have inserted the comment in the text of Ha’amek Davar, but inside brackets that look like this {} to show that it is a later addition.
[8] Lekah Tov, ed. Buber, p. 198.
[9] Da’at Torah: Bereshit (Jerusalem, n.d.), p. 230.
[10] Shem mi-Shemuel (Jerusalem, 1992), parashat Va-Yeshev, p. 69.
[11] Torah Shelemah (Satmar, 1909), vol. 1, p. 179a.
[12] Birkat Eliyahu (Jerusalem, 2007), vol. 1, p. 260.
[13] The word נבח, which literally means “bark” (see Isaiah 56:10, Eruvin 86a), had an anti-Christian connotation in medieval Hebrew. See Eli Yassif, ed. Sefer ha-Zikhronot (Tel Aviv, 2001), p. 404 n. 87; Daniel Goldschmidt and Avraham Frankel, eds., Leket Piyutei Selihot me-et Paytanei Ashkenaz ve-Tzarfat (Jerusalem, 1993), vol. 1, p. 398. Thus, in Maoz Tzur the “blaspheming foe” refers to the Christians.
R. Shlomo Fisher, Derashot Beit Yishai (Jerusalem, 2004), p. 234 writes:

ויבואר ע"פ כל זהדברי הפייטן בזמר לחנוכהתכון בית לתפלתי ושם תודה נזבחלעת תכין מטבח מצר המנבחדהיינו טביחת היצה"ר

This would make a very nice derashah on Hanukkah, and had Hertz known of it, he could have offered this perspective in his commentary and kept the original version of the song. Yet in its historical context, this is hardly what the author is referring to. Similarly, R. Raymond Apple is not correct when he writes that the words refer to “the defeat of Gog and Magog who will attempt to overcome Israel before the coming of the Messiah.” See here. When Maoz Tzur speaks of the destruction of the “barking [i.e., blaspheming] foe,” it is referring to a real flesh and blood enemy of the Jewish people, which in the medieval Ashkenazic context means the Christian world. The word “barking” is used in this song as throughout pre-modern Jewish literature dogs were portrayed in a negative way. See also here.
[14] I do not know why ArtScroll capitalizes “Altar”.
R. Meir Mazuz recently commented that while Maoz Tzur is a wonderful song, “it contains small [grammatical] errors, as is the practice with the Ashkenazim who do not know Hebrew well.” Bayit Ne’eman, no. 139 (30 Kislev 5779), p. 1 n. 1. One example he gives is לעת תכין מטבח מצר המנבח. It should say לצר המנבח. He adds:

מאיפה אני לומד את זהמפסוק בישעיה "הכינו לבניו מטבח בעוון אבותם" (י"ד כ"א), לא מבניו אלא לבניו.

Regarding Hanukkah, I recently found that R. Naphtali Zvi Judah Berlin suggests the possibility that when the Maccabees entered the Temple they did not light the menorah, as we are accustomed to think, but rather only lit one candle. See Ha’amek She’alah, Va-Yishlah, no. 24, p. 173:

ולכאורה היאפשר לומר שלא היו מדליקים אז במנורה כלל . . . וא"כ הימקום לומר שלא השתמשו באותם שמונה ימים במנורה כלל משום שלא הילהםוהדליקו באותו פך הטהוראו בכלי גללים וכלי אבנים וכלי אדמהוא"כ לא היאלא נר אכדי לקיים להעלות נר תמיד

Also of interest is R. Joseph Messas, Otzar ha-Mikhtavim, vol. 2, no. 1305, who cites midrashic sources that there will not be a menorah in the future Temple.

I have vocalized the title of the Netziv’s book as Ha’amek She’alah, which is how scholars have been accustomed to write it, based on Isaiah 7:11 where these words appear.

However, Gil S. Perl argues that the correct pronunciation is Ha’amek She’elah. As he puts it, if the pronunciation in Isaiah was intended, “the title would mean ‘sink to the depths,’ the ‘depths' (from the word she’ol) being a reference to the netherworld or Hell—a rather strange title for a work of halakhic commentary.” Perl therefore suggest that the Netziv “intended his title as a play on those words from Isaiah pronounced Ha’amek She’alah, meaning ‘delve into the question’ or perhaps ‘delve into the She’ilta.’” See Perl, The Pillar of Volozhin (Boston, 2012), pp. 17-18, n. 37.
[15] Regarding how Maoz Tzur appears in British siddurim, see John D. Rayner, “Liturgical Emendation: The Case of the Ma’oz Tzur,” available here.
[16] For more on the new RCA siddur and women, see the anonymous post here.
[17] The Tishbi was first printed in Isny, Germany in 1541. It is one of the first Jewish books to cite biblical passages by chapter. As most people know, the chapters are a Christian innovation. According to Abraham Berliner, the first Jewish scholar to publish a book using the chapter divisions was R. Isaac Nathan, who published a biblical concordance between 1437 and 1448. See Berliner, Ketavim Nivharim (Jerusalem, 1969), vol. 2, p. 134. On this page Berliner also writes:

החלוקה לפרקים של כל ספרי המקרא נתקבלה ונתפשטה רק עם הדפסת המהדורה השניה של המקראות הגדולות (ויניציא רפ"ד).

Yet the first edition of the Mikraot Gedolot, published in Venice, 1518, is on Otzar ha-Hokhmah, and you can see that it too has the chapter divisions.
[18] See Heinrich Graetz, Geschichte der Juden (Leipzig, 1907), vol. 9, p. 320; Encyclopaedia Judaica, vol. 6, col. 615; Meir Benayahu, Ha-Defus ha-Ivri bi-Kremona (Jerusalem, 1971), pp. 95ff.. For sections of an autobiography written by Battista, in which he describes his apostasy, see Isaiah Sonne, Mi-Paʾulo ha-Reviʻi ad Piyus ha-Hamishi (Jerusalem, 1954), pp. 150-155.
[19] See Amnon Roz-Krakotzkin, The Censor, the Editor, and the Text: The Catholic Church and the Shaping of the Jewish Canon in the Sixteenth Century, trans. Jackie Feldman (Philadelphia, 1007), pp. 42-43.
[20] Cecil Roth, The History of the Jews of Italy (Philadelphia, 1946), p. 291.
[21] See Roth, The History of the Jews of Italy, p. 292. For detailed discussion of this matter, which shows all the other factors that were present, see Kenneth Stow, “The Burning of the Talmud in 1553, in the Light of Sixteenth Century Catholic Attitudes Toward the Talmud,” Bibliothèque d'Humanisme et Renaissance 34 (1972), pp. 435-459.
[22] Regarding Allessandro Franceschi, another sixteenth-century Italian apostate who supported the printing of the Zohar, see Yaakob Dweck, The Scandal of Kabbalah (Princeton, 2011), pp. 166-167.
[23]  Marvin J. Heller, The Sixteenth Century Hebrew Book (Leiden and Boston, 2004), vol. 1, p. 503.
[24] See Yitzhak Yudelov, “Al Sefarim, Madpisim, u-Mo”lim,” in Yosef Eliyahu Movshovitz, ed., Ha-Sefer (Jerusalem, 2008), vol. 2, p. 557 n. 22.
[25] Ha-Defus bi-Kremona, p. 97.
[26] Geschichte, vol. 9, p. 345.
[27] “Ha-Pulmus al Sefer ha-Zohar,” Perakim 1 (1967-1968), p. 147 n. 54.
[28] Mehkerei Sefer (Jerusalem, 1958), pp. 170-171. Yaari also mentions other Hebrew books that were printed on Shabbat.
[29] Regarding how חזקוני is to be pronounced, see my post here.
[30] For other examples of Hebrew books whose printing Eliano was involved with, see the index of both Roz-Krakotzkin, The Censor, the Editor, and the Text and Benayahu, Ha-Defus ha-Ivri bi-Kremona.
[31] See Elliot R. Wolfson, “Paul Philip Levertoff and the Popularization of Kabbalah as a Missionizing Tactic,” Kabbalah 27 (2012), pp. 269-320. On p. 272, Wolfson states that Levertoff received semikhah from R. Naphtali Zvi Judah Berlin. He provides no evidence for this assertion so I cannot judge its accuracy. As far as I have been able to determine, Levertoff never received semikhah.
[32] The passage originates in the Talmud, Berakhot 17a, where it is attributed to Rava, and Yoma 87b, where it is attributed to R. Hamnuna.
[33] See Zvi Hirsch Masliansky, Memoirs, trans. Isaac Schwartz and Zviah Nardi (Jerusalem, 2009), p. 138.

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