Thursday, May 11, 2006

R. Y. Emden, Hassidim & the Vilna Shas

The Vilna edition of the Shas printed by the Romm Press has become the standard edition of the Shas. This Shas had many important additions and corrections that prior ones did not. One of those was the inclusion of the comments of R. Jacob Emden.

However, it appears that one comment, a rather important one was left out. R. Emden in Gitten page 60 made a comment regarding the Hassidim, this does not appear in the Vilna Shas. In the Mozonim edition they partially rectified this by providing a partial transcription of the passage. But it seems they were unable to reproduce the entire passage and thus, even in their edition it contains numerous ellipses. Now, in the most recent volume of the journal Ohr Yisrael, R. M.M. Goldstein has provided the complete passage. As will be apparent, this is a very important passage. R. Goldstein got this from the manuscript of R. Emden's comments which is now housed in the Oxford Library. In the article, R. Goldstein provides of copy of the original manuscript.

In it R. Emden discusses Kabbalah and that this subject is really only for a select few. (He also explains the term aggadah in relation to kabbalah). He then continues to explicate the limited distrubution of kabbalah and says
ואינו מתגלה אלא ליחידי סגולה לא עמוד איש בליעל ורע בסודה, ולהוציא גם ממה שנהגו מתחסדים חדשים מקרוב באו לעסוק בספר הזוהר ואר"י בקבע, ועשו תלמוד והלכות עראי וטפל, אין חפץ ה' בהם, הלא מזקנים נתבונן שעיקר למודם ותורתם לא היה אלא בנגלה בלבד, וסתרי תורה לא היה נמסרים אלא ליחיד עמוד בחצי ימיו על פי תנאי פרישות הרבה כמו שאמרו פרק אין דורשין, ואף זה לא אשכח ותני רק למבין מדעתו וחכם, והללו עשו פומבי לדבר פתאים בל ידעו מה, כסילים נעדרי דעת, השה אלוה חכמה ולא חלק להם בבינה

[kabbalah] should only be given to a limited set of person, one who can understand its secrets, this excludes the new hassidim who spend their time reading the Zohar and the works of the AR"I, but only spend amount of time on the Talmud and the laws, God does not want them, from our ancestors we have learnt that the majority of ones time should be only in the revealed Torah, the seceret Torah was only for special ones, who where older [at the mid point in life] with conditions of ascetism as is described in the Talmud Haggiah, it is only given to those who can understand by themselves, however, these [the hassidim] they make public things which should be private to those who don't know anything, idiots totally lacking in knowledge, God who gives wisdom did not give them understanding.
While this is not the only critique R. Emden had of Hassidim it is curious that the Romm printers did not inlcude it. Unfortunatly we don't know why. It was not as if the Romm press was considered particularly friendly with Hassidim. In fact, one of the reasons Hassidim used the Shapira press was they viewed the Romm one as not in line with Hassidic values. This was so, as the Romm press printed works of maskilim. But, now that this passage has been printed one can hope that in future editions of the Shas this will be included, in it entirety.

Sources: R. M.M. Goldstein, Iyunim u'Biurim b'Mishnato shel Rabbenu haYavetz, in Ohr Yisrael vol. 43 (Nissan 5766) 203-215; for another passage in R. Emden's writings discussing Hassidim see Wilensky, Hassidim u'Mistnagdim, p. 380; for more on what the Romm edition included see their Achrit Davar at the end of Niddah.

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