Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Kitzur Shelah, Sabbatianism, and the Importance of Owning Old Books

R. Jacob Emden, in his Torat haKenot claims a well known and fairly popular book is written by a Sabbatian (a follower of the false-Messiah Sabbatai Zevi). This book, Kitzur Shelah, authored by R. Yehiel Michel Epstein, which although its title implies is merely an abridged version of the Shelah (Sheni Luchot HaBrit) by R. Isaiah Horowitz, is much more than that. While the Kitzur Shelah does include some content from the larger Shelah it also includes much else which appears no where in the Shelah. Perhaps the most well-known custom to come out of the Kitzur Shelah is the custom to recite a verse which beginning and end letters of the verse correspond to the first and last letters of ones name. (Although this does have another source as well, the Kitzur Shelah is the first to include actual verses and it is those verses which appear in the siddurim.)

R. Emden claims that R. Epstein makes a reference to Sabbatai Zevi in the Introduction to the Kitzur Shelah. R. Emden's exact language is "גם רמז על הצוא"ה בהקדמת קשל"ה" [R. Emden uses צואה (excrement) to refer to Sabbatai Zevi in that the numerical value of צואה is the same as צבי]. The Introduction is in fact but a single paragraph and at first glance it would seem to imply that the author was not a follower of Sabbatai Zevi. This is so, as the author expresses his hope that the publication of this book will be a merit for the coming of the Messiah. Such a line implies that the Messiah has not in fact come, which is counter to the idea of Sabbatai Zevi already coming and being the true Messiah.

But, with this, we need to start on our journey through multiple editions of the Kitzur Shelah. Although you will find it nowhere on the title pages of any of the editions, in fact there are at least four different editions of this work. (There was what is known as a מהדורה בתרא of the Kitzur Shelah, however, for our purposes that is irrelevant.) That is, there are at least four distinct versions.

First we need to understand where it is explicit in the Introduction that the author is a follower of Sabbatai Zevi, and for that we must turn to the early editions. In the early editions the very line which discusses the hope for the Messiah appears as follows, " ויזכו על ידי הספר הזה לראות משי"ח האמ"תי וגם יזכו אל ימו"ת משי"ח." If you note, you can see that four words contain quotation marks. These marks are the key to understanding R. Emden's claim. These marks, generally, have two purposes one to signify the use of an abbreviation and the second to indicate that aside from the plain meaning of the word, one should also use the gematria - numerical value of the word. This device is extremely common on title pages of books where verses are used to indicate the date of publication. The words which the printers wish to use have the marks.

In this instance, it is the same. That is, the value of the four words or more specifically, the two sets of two words, are equal to 814 (משי"ח האמ"תי = 814 and ימו"ת משי"ח = 814). Sabbatai Zevi is also equivalent to 814 (שבתי צבי = 814). Thus, the "true Messiah" the author is referencing is in fact Sabbatai Zevi.

Now, in the later editions, these quotation marks were removed. Thus, there is no longer a signal to the reader to use the value of the words. But, it seems the removal was insufficient for some. In at least one edition (Frankfurt am Main, 1745) the entire Introduction was removed.

So we now have three different versions, the early ones with the quotation marks, the later with those removed and the final without the Introduction. In 1998 the Kitzur Shelah was reprinted with some additional notes and nikkud. In this edition it seems it was no longer good enough to just leave out the quotation marks, instead, the text itself was altered. In place of the line we have been discussing in this edition the line reads "ויזכו על ידי הספר הזה לראות ביאת משיח צדקנו." I have been unable to locate this language in any edition I have checked, thus leading one to believe this change was deliberate to "address" the claim of R. Jacob Emden.

Thus, this is an example of why it pays to own (or at least have access) to multiple editions and that although subtle a minor change can have a major effect. All three versions appear on the side for the reader to see for themselves. The top is a copy of the Amsterdam 1724 edition (which is the same as it appears in the first edition). The second is a photo-mechanical reproduction of the Lember 1862 edition. And the final one is from the 1998 edition. You can click on the picture for a larger version.

Sources: Shnayer Z. Leiman "ספרים החשודים בשתאות: רשימתו של הגאון יעב"ץ זצ"ל" in ספר הזכרון לרבי משה ליפשיץ זצ"ל pp.885-894 esp. n. 12. On the topic of Sabbatianism in books see Naor, Post Sabbatian Sabbatianism

No comments:

Print post

You might also like

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...