Monday, January 22, 2007

Two New Books - Two Further Examples of Censorship

Once again we have two new incidents of censorship in the Hebrew book world.

R. Eliezer Waldenberg, who recently passed away, is well-known for his teshuvot "Tzitz Eliezer," and also authored another work - which has recently been reprinted. This book, Hilkhot HaMedinah, originally published in 1952, deals with issues affecting the Jewish state. The book is three volumes in one and includes topics such as the renewal of semikha (Rabbinic ordination), the question of drafting men and women (he includes an exemption for those decedents from the Levite class!), and this issue of voting rights. [For those interested in R. Reuven Margoliyot, there is a letter to R. Waldenberg (vol. 2 pp. 240-41 and see also R. Tzvi Pesach Frank's letter, p. 20)].

This work was only printed in 1952 and until last week remained somewhat unknown (although is included in R. Waldenberg's wikipedia entry here). But then last week, someone decided that this book should be available to the wider public and had it reprinted.

On Thursday, however, a few hours after the reprint became available R. Waldenberg's family had it removed from all the stores claiming it is an embarrassment to them!

The second incident of censorship also concerns a older contemporary of R. Waldenberg - R. Tzvi Pesach Frank.

Makhon Oz ve-Hadar has reprinted Megilat Tannis. This reprint, which is available separately as well as part of their series Mesivta, targeted at those studying Daf Yomi, would be unremarkable. This edition they included punctuation to the text and included some standard commentaries. One of those commentaries - "Eshel Avraham" by R. Avraham Bornstein was originally printed in Jerusalem in 1908. In this edition they have included the haskamot (approbations) from the original book which include, inter alia, R. Yosef Hayyim Sonnenfeld and R. Hayyim Berlin. But, for some reason they have decided to remove the haskama from R. Tzvi Pesach Frank. To be fair Oz ve-Hadar thought the haskama good enough as they include the text of it - they just leave out the signatories. First, anyone can see this omission as the book is available for free at (see here). Second, R. Tzvi Pesach Frank did not only give a haskama, R. Bornstein also included a letter from R. Frank in his commentary (see p. 120b in the original). Now, aside from removing the haskama Oz ve-Hadar was able to avoid having this mention of R. Frank by not including half of R. Bornstein's work. Instead, R. Borenstein's work is split into two parts the first a simple commentary more to just explain the text of Megilat Tannis and the second half is a more in depth discussion. Oz ve-Hadar only included the first part and not the second. R. Frank's letter appears in the second part. Of course, this is not to say they did not include this portion solely because R. Frank's letter, instead, this is merely to point out how R. Borenstein viewed R. Frank. This exclusion of the second half is still somewhat ironic in that Oz ve-Hadar note on the title page of Megilat Tannis as one of the commentaries they include is that of R. Avraham b. Yosef haLevi which they included based upon the first edition "as later editions left out almost half of his commentary." Oz ve-Hadar could say the same about themselves and R. Borenstein's commentary.

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