Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Attack on Rabbinic Judaism and Historical Orthopraxy

What is perhaps one of the more intreging sefarim ever published. Behinat HaKabbalah is two books in one. The first, Kol Shakal (the voice of a fool), is a scathing attack on Rabbinic Judaism. Basically, anything not found explictly in the Torah is claimed as false. For example, the requirment of mikva is deemed wrong as the verse only requires one to "wash one's body." This first portion takes up the majority of the book. The second half, Sa'agas Areyeh, (roar of the lion) is a defense of Rabbinic Judaism. However, the defense in some sense proves the first half as it is so sparse leaving the reader to posit that the author of Sha'agas Areyeh actually agreed with the author of Kol Shakal. Some even go so far to claim the author really wrote both works in an extremly sly attempt to gain wider readership. That is, they created a work which externally would be viewed as a defense of Rabbinic Judaism i.e. Sha'agas Areyeh, only to be able to slip in the most more persausive Kol Shakal.

Typically, the second portion is attributed to R. Yehuda Areyeh of Modena. (Mar Gavriel has an excellent post on him here). If that is so, some then argue he was a closet heritic or perhaps in today's vernacular- Orthoprax. That is, although R. Modena sat on the Venice Bet Din, wrote numerous traditional sefarim, and even authored on the selichot that is said on Yom Kippur Katan, in his heart he really did not believe in any of it. This, of course, is rather shocking.

In truth, the authorship of both of these works is somewhat up in the air. As mentioned, some attribute it to R. Modena, however, this is not certian. The reason being, this work was not published until 1852 and Modena died in 1648. The work was first published by Isaac Shmuel Reggio (YaSHar) a rather interesting character in his own right. [As an aside, Reggio was far from what many would consider "traditionally orthodox" he permitted shaving on Hol HaMoad which got him into trouble. (His father wrote a pamphelet against him on that issue). However, this year someone from Monsey reprinted his commentary on the Torah, apparently Reggio's biography was unknown to the sponser of the printing.] Reggio claimed to have published this from a manuscript in Modena's own hand. He has an extensive introduction as well as notes thourhout.

Others have questioned Reggio's assertion that it emenates from Modena. One has even pointed to Saul Berlin the author of the noted forgery Besamim Rosh as the author of this. However, that has been discredited.

In the end, whom ever the author maybe this work still stands as one the most interesting and entertaining attacks on Rabbinic Judaism.

There is much in this area and the interested reader can consult Reggio's introduction; T. Fishman, Or Hadash al Zemano shel Sefer Kol Shakal v'al Mekom Hibburo, in Tarbiz 59 (1990) 171-190; Fishman's book length treatment in "Shaking the Pillars of Exile'Voice of a Fool,' an Early Modern Jewish Critique of Rabbinic Culture;" E. Rivkin, Leon da Modena and the Kol sakhal; B. Kahlar, Shagas Areyeh al Kol Shakal in Mehkarim v'Inyuim (Tel Aviv, 1954) 357-378.

2 comments:

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