Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Important New Book from the Ba'alei haTosafot

What follows is a press release from Ofeq Institute regarding their new book

תוספות ר"י הזקן ותלמידו

וראשוני בעלי התוספות

על מסכת שבת

Tosafot R. Isaac b. Samuel of Dampierre

(Ri the Elder)

and early Tosafists on tractate Shabbat

edited for the first time from

MS Guenzburg, Mos 636


references, notes and comments


Rabbi Avraham Shoshana

Rabbi Yehuda Amitai Shoshana

Volume I

Introduction · Chapters 1-6 · Indices

This is a unique collection of the early Tosafists, a treasure trove of first-generation Tosafot from France and Germany. Published for the first time from Guenzburg Manuscript 636, considered by scholars to be the most important manuscript extant in the world today, especially in the field of Tosafot literature. The collection includes Tosafot Ri ha-Zaken and his disciple and first-generation Tosafists, such as RIBA, R. Porat, Rashbam, Rabbenu Tam, etc. [Volume II of this collection, to be published shortly, will include Tosafot Ri ha-Zaken and his disciple on chapters 7-17, and the Tosafot R. Yehuda Sir Leon of Paris, and Tosafot Riva, written by his disciple, R. Moshe b. R. Yoel Zaltman of Regensburg on the remainder of the tractate.]

This collection of Tosafot preserves complex and novel material which served as the foundation for the redaction of all later collections of Tosafot on Tractate Shabbat. As proven in the scholarly introduction to this volume, Rishonim, such as Ramban, Rashba, Ritva and Tosafot Harosh, used these very Tosafot or a close genre. The author was a disciple of Ri ha-Zaken who transmitted his lectures in the Yeshiva and wrote down verbal exchanges he had with his mentor dealing with complex matters. Aside from his mentor’s Torah, the author included material from earlier Sages of Tosafot, such as Rabbenu Tam, Riva, Rashbam, Rabbenu Porat, etc. Another outstanding feature of this manuscript is the outstanding and profuse glosses (gilyonot) that accompany it. These glosses were intended to serve as supplementary material. They are drawn mainly from the early Sages of Ashkenaz. It may be said with certainty that there isn’t one passage in this collection that does not introduce novel ideas which open up new vistas for the understanding of the vast Tosafot literature and matters relating to Tractate Shabbat. All in all, this is an outstanding discovery of great consequences to rabbinical literature.

The volume is accompanied by source references, comparisons to Tosafot literature and other Rishonim, notes and expanded illuminations, which comprise a comprehensive commentary to the entire work. The volume also includes a substantial scholarly introduction dealing with the manuscript provenance and its contents, the identification of the authors and an analysis of first-generation Tosafot in general. The discovery of Tosafot of Rabbi Yehuda Sir Loen of Paris included in this manuscript, is a first and a delightful surprise.

The volume provides detailed indices. They include index of sources of the work itself, sources discussed in the notes, and an index of subjects classified by topics.

Edited by Rabbi Avraham Shoshana and Rabbi Yehuda Shoshana

58 + 479 double-columned pages

Available now at Biegeleisen’s in Boro Park. It will have wider distribution after Pesach in bookstores or directly from Ofeq Institute.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

New Or Yisrael

There is a new volume of the journal Or Yisrael (no. 47) out. First, it includes a back and forth on the issue of who wrote the Mekore Minhagim. It also includes an very interesting article discussing whether there is any rhyme or reason to the order of the Mesechtot haShas. Additionally, it includes a couple of articles discussing wheat for Pesach from Arizona(?). On the Pesach front there is also an article on whether one can eat maror on Erev Pesach. Finally, (although these are just a few highlights of the articles contain therein) the first part of an article discussing the custom of candle lighting.

As a general matter, Or Yisrael consistently provides excellent articles, for instance they had a seminal series of the forged Yerushlami on Kodshim, important articles on customs, and halacha, as well as many other important articles. Issues of Or Yisrael are included in the Otzar haChochmah database for those who have access to it - or for free at under Journals.

Haggadah and the Mingling of the Sexes

I have previously attempted to highlight some of the intricacies and history of illustration in haggadahs.

While many of the illustrations which appear in the haggadah are directly related to the text of the haggadah, some also pre-date the haggadah and seder service. That is, although searching for hametz (leaven) happens the night prior to the seder service many times an illustration of cleaning out the hametz and, in turn, searching for it, appears in many haggadahs. Another such illustration is that of the matzo making. There are five basic steps in this process, mixing the flour and water, kneading the dough, rolling out the dough, putting little holes in the dough, and then actually baking it.

In the Mantau, 1560 haggadah, an illustration presenting all these steps appears. As you can see, to the far left the process begins with the mixing of the flour and water. This continues through the far right, where the matzo is being put (taken out?) of the oven. An interesting facet of this illustration is the combination of the sexes. That is, both men and women are involved in this process. If one looks closely, (you can click on any of the pages below for a larger image) at the baking stage, a man and a woman are actually jointly operating the oven.

Mantua, 1560

This mixing of the sexes was actually highlighted in the next edition which used this illustrations. In the Mantau, 1568 haggadah the same illustration appears. In this edition, however, there is one addition which does not appear in the original. On top of the illustration appears a legend. It says,

"צורת אנשים המסרקים ונשים עשות חלות זקנים עם נערים בחורים גם בתולות"

“this is an illustration of the men making holes [in the matzo] and the women rolling the dough, the old with the young, both the bachelors and the virgins [unmarried women]”

Mantua, 1568

The editors of this edition felt that the inclusion of the sexes in this mitzvah, was a fulfillment of the verse from Psalms 148:12 “the old with the young, both the bachelors and the virgins.” Thus, the combination of a man and a woman at the oven may actually be by design to further highlight this point. It is worthwhile to note that in the Venice, 1609 haggadah, although the same basic illustration appears (the clothing worn is updated) there is no longer a woman at the oven. It is unclear whether this was intentional or not.

Venice, 1609

It is not a minor point that the editors of the Mantau, 1568 haggadah used this verse to explain the mixing of the sexes. The interpretation of this verse and specifically the use to justify the mixing of the sexes is the subject of some controversy.

R. Yosef Steinhardt [1] (1705-1776) records that soon after he became the Rabbi of a town in Alsace it was brought to his attention that it was “customary” to have mixed dancing on the Holidays. The only restriction on the mixed dancing was a government tax was required to engage in mixed dancing. R. Steinhardt, however, refused to allow for the dancing to proceed. As the government lost some of its revenue he was called to account for his actions. In an effort to convince the official of the correctness of his decision to prohibit mixed dancing, he appealed to the Bible. R. Steinhardt noted that the official was also fluent in the Bible and thus it was appropriate to use in this instance. He cited the verse in Jeremiah 31:13 “Then shall the virgin rejoice in the dance, and the young men and the old together.” He noted that it only says the young men and old engaged in dance together but not the virgin. He went on to cite other verses as well. Although he does not cite the above verse from Psalms, one can safely assume that he would explain this verse in a similar fashion to that of the verse in Jeremiah. Namely, it doesn’t state explicitly that the men and women were together only that they both took part in the praise of god.


[1] Shu”t Zikrhon Yosef, Fuerth, 1773, O.H. no. 17, it can also be found in Mishna Berura, Biur Halacha, no. 339. This work also contains an interesting introduction. He quotes his wife, Kreindal, who offered the well-known explanation as to why Yosef lost 10 years of his life for listening to his brothers referring to his father, Ya’akov, as Yosef’s master. For each time Yosef heard this inappropriate title used, he lost a year of his life. But, in the Torah, this title only appears five times. Kreindal explained that as Yosef, to keep the charade that he did not understand his brothers, used an interpreter, Yosef heard and understood it ten times, five times from his brothers and five from the interpreter.

Additionally, the introduction to the Shu’T Zikrhon Yosef is also well known for his scathing comments about Hassidim. According to most auction catalogs, this introduction was ripped out by Hassidim. But, in every edition that I have seen, and every time it has come up for auction it always includes the introduction leading one to question whether this is merely apocryphal.

Rabbi Eliezer Brodt on Haggadah shel Pesach: Reflections on the Past and Present

Haggadah shel Pesach:
Reflections on the Past and Present

by Eliezer Brodt

Perhaps the topic which has engendered the most commentary in Jewish literature is the Haggadah shel Pesach. There are all kinds, in all languages, and with all types of commentary, pictures, etc. Whatever style one can think of, not one, but many Haggadahs have been written. So, whether it’s derush, kabbalah, halakha, mussar or chassidus there are plenty of Haggadahs out there. Then, there are people who specialize in collecting haggadahs although they do not regularly collect seforim. In almost every Jewish house today one can find many kinds of Haggadahs. In 1901 Shmuel Wiener, in A Bibliography of the Passover Haggadah, started to list all the different printings of the Haggadah. Later in 1960, Abraham Yaari, in his work titled A Bibliography of the Passover Haggadah, restarted the listing and reached the number 2700. After that, many bibliographers added ones which Yaari omitted. In 1997, Yitzchak Yudlov printed his bibliography on the Haggadah, entitled The Haggadah Thesaurus. This thesaurus contains a beautiful bibliography of the Pesach Haggadahs from the beginning of printing until 1960. The final number in his bibliography listing is 4715. Of course ever since 1960 there has been many more printed. Every year people print new ones; even people who had never written on the Haggadah have had a Haggadah published under their name, based on culling their other writings and collecting material on the Haggadah. When one goes to the seforim store before Pesach it has become the custom to buy at least one new Haggadah; of course one finds themselves overwhelmed not knowing which to pick!

Every year, besides for the new Haggadahs being printed, old ones are reprinted, some in photo off-set editions, others with completely retype set. One such Haggdah that has been reprinted and retype-set is the Haggadah Marbeh Lesaper. The author is R. Yididiah Tiyah Weil the son of R. Nesanel Weil, the author of the well-known commentary on the Ro”SH – the Korbon Nessanel. This Haggadah was first printed in 1791 and until 2002 it was never reprinted. See Yudolov, The Haggadah Thesaurus pg. 32 #355). Others point out an interesting bibliographical note, specifically that there is no mention of the author on the title page. There is, however, a haskamah (letter of approbation) from Reb Yididiah Weil to the sefer. However, we know that aside from giving a haskamah, he is also the author. R. Eliezer Fleckeles in his sefer Teshuva MeAhavah (vol. 2 siman 239) writes that Reb Yididiah Weil is the author. R. Fleckeles points out that in the Haggadah, the author cites from his father the Korbon Nessanel. Additionally, today we can be certain that R. Yididiah is the author as we have the original manuscript of this work in R. Yedidyah's handwriting is sitting at the Jewish National and University Library on the Givat Ram campus of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem (Ms. Heb. 8°2744).

A bit of biographical information about R. Yedidiah. He was born in 1722 and died in 1806 at the age of 84. He was a student of both his father the Korban Nesanel, and R. Yonason Eibyshutz, and served as the Rav of Karlsruh, and as the Rosh Yeshiva. He wrote much, however, aside for this Haggadah nothing else of his was printed until 1977.[1] And, although some has been published, much of his work remains in manuscript as is apparent here.

The style of this Haggadah is not limited to peshat, rather he includes much in the style of derush and remez. It has many original and interesting explanations on the Haggadah. He also quotes a few things from his father the Korbon Nessanel. Additionally he cites to “old manuscripts” which he found as well.

I would like to give a few samples of the many interesting points I found throughout this Haggadah not specifically related to Pesach. He brings that he heard Jews have one more tooth then non-Jews, 16 on top and 16 on bottom (pg. 33). While discussing if there was the plague of lice afflicted even the Jews, as it appears from the well known Midrash that Yaakov did not want to be buried in Egypt as he didn’t want his body affected by the lice plague. R. Weil wants to suggest that in fact the lice did enter even Goshen, however, this was limited to the animals and did not affect the people themselves. (pg 58). He has an interesting explanation regarding the Midrash that says Yishai, the father of Dovid haMelech, had planned a relationship with his handmaid which supposedly should have resulted in Dovid haMelech's birth; Dovid's mother having switched places with the handmaid resulted in Dovid haMelech being a suspect mamzer in his father's eyes. [2] (pg 100) He brings from an “old manuscript” that the author of Nishmas was ר' שמעון בן כיפא . (pg 114).[3] Another point which he cites to an “old manuscript” is that Shlomo Hamelech wrote ישתבח.(pg 121).[4] He writes that on Yom tov there is a נשמה יתירה although we do not make a מיני בשמים after Yom Tov (pg 115). He also says there are two types of נשמה יתירה on shabbos, although not everyone gets them (pg 115). He brings an interesting discussion from his uncle R. Avraham Brodie about the possibility that Sarah's pregnancy with Yitzchak lasted 12 months (pg 124- 125).[5] He says that he heard the פיוטים חד גדיא ואחד מי יודע were found on a manuscript from the Beis Medrash of the R. Elazar Rokeach (pg 140 and pg 151).[6] He writes that many do not like to say הרחמן הוא יקים לנו סוכת דוד הנופלת on Shabbos and Yom tov because the Beit Hamikdash can not be built on shabbat and Yom Tov. However he writes they are mistaken because Rashi and Tosafot both write (see Rosh Hashanah 30a) that the third Beit Hamikdash will be built by Hashem Himself, which could be even on shabbat and Yom Tov (pg 138). He poses an interesting question in regard to the minhag brought down in the Shulhan Arukh. On Pesach the custom is to use fancy flatware as well as other fancy utensils. The rest of the year, however, we refrain from doing so due to zecher le-churban. Why then, on Pesach can we ignore the concept of zecher l’churbon. He answers from his father that this is the hidden meaning behind חד גדיא, that we remember the churban of both batei mikdash. He then goes on to explain exactly how it is hidden (pg 148).

Feldheim Publishers is to be commended for their choice in investing to reprint this valuable Haggadah, and making it accessible to the Torah community. I heard the sefer has recently gone out of print; my hopes are that Feldheim will see to make the sefer available once again.

[1] See the Introduction to R. Weil’s Hiddushe Rabbi Yedidiah Weil: Masekhet Niddah (Machon Ahvat Shalom, 2003).
[2] Yalkut Mechiri 118:28. See also Birkei Yosef O"Ch 240:4, Siddur HaYaavetz; Siddur HaShL"H to Hallel, and Pesach Einayim to Sotah 10b and Shivli hamaneuh pg 61; Sefer Kushiyot pg 115 and the notes there and Alpha Bet Kadmitah D’Shumuel Zeira from R. Shmuel Ashkenazi pg 239 and onwards.
[3] See also Elbogen, Ha-Tefillah b’Yisrael, pg 86- 87; M. Bar Ilan, Sisrei Tefilah pg 84 and onwards; Mo’adim l’Simcha volume 5 pg 206 – 209 and the Mispacha, Kulmos, issue 34.
[4] See also the Siddur Rokeach pg 233; Siddur R. Shlomo M’Germazia pg 75 and Abudraham (with pairush Tehilah l’Dovid) pg 153 who say the same thing. See the Sha’ar HaKollel (chap. 6, no. 13) and Siddur Tzlusa d’Avraham (vol 1 pg 238) who bring others that argue. However I found that R. Yitzchak Sagi Nohar (the blind) who was the son of the Raavad writes in his pamphlet titled Sod HaDlakas Neros Chanukah at the end (printed in Sefer Zicharon to Rav Yitzchak Hunter and reprinted in back of the Shvut Yitzchak on Chanukah) that Avraham Avinu was the author. See also Ha-Tefillah b’Yisrael pg. 67 and Mo’adim l’Simcha volume 5 pg 210.
[5] see also the lengthy discussion in the recently printed Sefer Amaros Tohros Chitzonis U’Pnimis from R. Yehuda Ha’Chasid in the miluim at the end of the sefer from R. Stal, #6, pg 328-332.
[6] see also R. Yosef Zechariah Stern in his Haggadah Zecher Yosef (pg 30) who writes that he did not find this piut printed before the Sefer maseo Hashem. See also the Haggadah Shelaimah ad. loc.; Assufot, vol 2 pg 201-226; Mo’adim l’Simcha volume 5 chapter 11; Y. Tabory, Pesach Doros, pg. 341-342 and the note on pg 379.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

New Books from Mossad ha-Rav Kook AND Marc Shapiro lecture (online)

The rumour that we've all been waiting for has been confirmed!

Mossad ha-Rav Kook is publishing volume eight of Prof. Daniel Sperber's Minhagei Yisrael and also reprinting the late Prof. Meir Hershkovics' biography of Rabbi Zvi Hirsch Chajes (Maharetz Chajes); both will be available next week in Jerusalem. Copies of these volumes will be available at Mossad ha-Rav Kook (02-652-6231) starting the end of this week and should be arriving in America at Biegeleisen in Boro Park (718-436-1165) within a week or two of being published.

Additionally -- earlier tonight, Prof. Marc B. Shapiro delivered the second annual Dr. Asher Siev Memorial Lecture at Yeshiva University, entitled "A Non-Orthodox Traditional Approach: Reflections on the Authority of the Moroccan Rabbinate." The lecture was very well received by those in the audience and the lecture is available for download here [17 megabytes].

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Pesach Journals, Had Gadyah, Plagiarism & Bibliographical Errors

Two journals have put out special collections devoted to Pesach. The first, Moriah, has continued their holiday specific journals and collected their third volume of articles devoted to Pesach. Yeshurun, for the first time has also collected choice articles related to a specific holiday and published a volume devoted to Pesach as well.

Yeshurun’s effort, being their first, is the focus of this post. This volume is much smaller than their typical volumes. Usually, each volume of Yeshurun is huge – over 700+ pages – with this volume, however, the articles comprise a “mere” 300+ pages. Aside from articles related to Pesach, this volume contains an index to the first 10 volumes of Yeshurun. [1] The index contains indexes of persons, books, topics, and sources (Bible verse, Mishna, Talmud etc.). Although any index is most welcome (especially in light of how large the volumes are) and this index is pretty comprehensive but I am unsure why they decided to leave out an index of authors. That is, the index of persons is limited to persons discussed in articles, not those who actually wrote the articles. So if one wants to look up all the articles written by person X, they are out of luck for now.

Aside from the issue of lack of an author index I found a much more glaring problem in this volume. The volume includes an article discussing the song Had Gadyah. This article has numerous flaws. First, the author of the article is Tuvia Fruend. Tuvia Fruend has authored a series of books on the holidays “Mo’adim l’Simcha.” These books contain articles related to the holidays. Fruend’s modus operandi for Mo’adim l’Simcha is to find a good article on the topic and then repackage it – or at times – just plagiarize it. What is particularly surprising in this context is that one article he is clearly guilty of plagiarizing is one which appeared in Yeshurun – by one of the editors of Yeshurun! As I have previously shown, Fruend copied it verbatim, without citation, and even repeated typographical errors. Why then, Yeshurun would give Fruend a forum is difficult to understand.

Second, the article itself is problematic. This article appears in Fruend’s Mo’adim l’Simcha and this is a reprint of that article. [2] This time, however, all the footnotes are removed. Additionally, even though there are no footnotes, there are also almost no citations in this article. Instead, we have statements such as this “according to many scholars” [3] – without saying who those scholars are or where they can be found. Further, Fruend, in one of the few actual citations, says “in the journal Machnim issue 54, 1961 there appears” where he notes the article in Machnim records a different version of this song. Fruend doesn’t tell us who the author of the article was – A. M. Habermann. Additionally, Fruend makes it appear that the only value of this article is the alternative language. But, if one looks up the article, the article discusses not only the alternative reading but includes other sources which shed light on Had Gadyah, sources which Fruend uses in his article.

Further, Fruend’s reliance on Habermann’s article are apparent in the last part of Fruend’s article. Fruend lists (and discusses some) of the books devoted to explaining Had Gadyah. Fruend, although never notes that Habermann had complied a list previously – in an article that Fruend had already noted he had seen.

Finally, there are some bibliographical errors which appear in the article. First, while minor, Fruend, for the number of Haggadah published uses Ya’ari’s bibliography. Although Ya’ari’s bibliography of the Haggadah is a fine bibliography it is significantly incomplete. Yudlov’s, more recent, bibliography ("The Haggadah Thesaurus") contains almost double the amount of Haggadahs. Second, the bibliographical information Fruend provides for some of the books devoted to Had Gadyah are in error. The first book on the list is Mogen David by R. David b. Meshulam. Fruend gives the date 1745, this, however, is incorrect. The actual printing date is 1755. [4] The second bibliographical error is according to Fruend the commentary on Had Gadyah, Pesach Tikvah, was published in Frankfort in 1785. Again this is incorrect. The London edition was published in 1785, however, this was not the first edition. Instead, the first edition, which was published in Frankfort, was published in 1727. [5] All of these errors could have been easily corrected by looking in Yudlov or even Ya’ari, or even copying from Habermann correctly. Finally, if Fruend had actually used Yudlov he would have found an additional commentary on Had Gadyah unlisted by Habermann. Although Yudolov did not see it, he records a commentary Milas Even, Fuerth, 1730. [6]

[1] The editors note that the index to the balance of the volumes is in process and will be published in due time.

[2] It may be that Fruend also previously published this article in Yeshurun as well, but as they have no author index I was unable to confirm that this article appeared in Yeshurun before. Even if this the first time he published in Yeshurun, I don’t understand why some of the errors below were not corrected by any of the editors of Yeshurun.

[3] This statement also appears in the original article in Mo’adim l’Simcha without citation there either.

[4] In order to figure out the date one must add up the bold letters which appear in the legend בשנת ליל שמורים הוא לה' which adds up to 515 i.e. the year 5, 515 which converts to 1755. Perhaps Fruend’s date was due to a mathematical error.

[5] The date of publication may not actually be this date. This is so as included on the title page is a legend which reads “to know the week and the year [of the printing of this book] when it was finished completely.” Yudolov admits that he is unable to figure out what the publisher meant by this line. Yudolov, however, bases his dating on C.D. Friedberg. Although there may be some question about the exact date, the date offered by Freund is impossible. This is so, as the printer was Johann Kelner. Kelner printed between the years 1708-1730. Thus, Fruend’s date of 1785 is impossible – at least if Kelner printed this book.

[6] In truth there is a more troubling error to the whole article. Fruend fails to discuss the significant evidence that Had Gadyah is merely a popular folksong which was borrowed and converted for use at the Seder. While Fruend does discuss those who downplay this assertion, he doesn’t discuss any of the counter-evidence or fully explain the issue.

A Behind the Scenes Look at the Banning of HaGaon

It appears that at least one controversial book can not escape being criticized even after a significant passage of time. In this case, R. Dov Eliach's book the R. Elijah, Gaon of Vilna, published five years ago and, at the time, subject to some harsh criticism, is the subject of a new magazine - אמת מול שקר (Truth Against Lies) published by "the Institute for Truth and Faith." That is, the entire purpose of this magazine is to disproving and exposing alleged misstatements in R. Eliach's book.

The first issue -- see below for two excerpted pages -- contains, inter alia, the text of the various bans on the book. The editors also claim - according to the ban they reproduce - that R. Chaim Kanievsky issued a ban on the book. On the other side of this particular claim is an article which appeared in Dei'ah veDibur which states that the book was done with R. Kanievsky's approval. For an earlier discussion (circa August 2006) at the Seforim blog of the BaDaTz herem against R. Dov Eliach's HaGaon, see here; and for pictures of burning copies of HaGaon, see here. Aside from the various bans and the like, the magazine also contains examples where they attempt to show R. Eliach distorted sources or took out of context.

Additionally, I am unsure if the book is even available anymore, from my admittedly unscientific survey of Seforim stores, the book appears to be out-of-print.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Eliezer Brodt: Review of Halikhot Shlomo, by R. Shlomo Zalman Auerbach

Review of Halikhot Shlomo, by R. Shlomo Zalman Auerbach
By Eliezer Brodt

There is a well known joke which claims that some gedolim have actually been "writing from their graves."[1] The most famous person to be "guilty" of this charge is R. Moshe Sofer (Hatam Sofer) as he printed nothing[2] in his lifetime and yet we have volumes and volumes of his Torah on literally every area and - to this day - they continue to be published.[3] Obviously, all of this material has come to light through his own notes and those of his many students.

Non-Republished works of R. Shlomo Zalman Auerbach

Another such person, who has had a similarly prolific posthumous literary output – although he did publish Torah novella in his own life time – is R. Shlomo Zalman Auerbach (1910-1995). After his death there has been a printing explosion of his writings covering all topics, including reprints of everything he has ever written! The only works of his not to be reprinted are two amazing works: the Meori Aish – a classic study on electricity and muktzah – and his Madeni Aretz on Shevi'it, as these two works have connections to one of the more controversial gedolim of the past century, R. Avraham Yitzchak Ha-Kohen Kook. As the Meori Aish has a haskamah from Rav Kook and the Madenei Aretz deals at great length with Rav Kook’s views on Shevi'it.

Halikhot Shlomo

For this post, however, I would just like to limit my focus to one of these recent works on R. Shlomo Zalman Auerbach -- Halikhot Shlomo.

A few years ago R. Aron Auerbach and R. Y Terger started to print this work. It was printed by Feldheim for a rather low price. The first volume began with Hilkhot Tefilah and Berakhot. After that, they published a second volume discussing the Yom Tovim starting with Rosh Hashana until and including Purim. (Last year they released a limited edition of the Pesach section.) And this year, the third volume has just been published, completing the Yom Tovim, on Pesach and the rest of the year. The goal of this work is to collect everything spanning the gamut of R. Shlomo Zalman’s halakhic interests related to these topics of Tefilah, Berakhot and the Yom Tovim. These volumes are all well organized, culled from all the printed sources and from incidents recorded by his various students. Aside from these sources, they used many manuscripts and notes of R. Shlomo Zalman which have remained unpublished until this point. They try to reference exactly where everything came from; but, at times, this too becomes a bit confusing. The sefer has a nice layout the top part contains the statement of R. Shlomo Zalman, as well as his reasoning for the various pesakim. In the extensive footnotes, the editors demonstrate the breadth of where everything comes from. Sometimes they cite other sources on the topics under discussion. They also include many interesting stories, statements, and anecdotes of advice that R. Shlomo Zalman gave to different people. In addition to all this they include many interesting discussions of R. Shlomo Zalman on Aggadah. At the end of each volume, there is a collection of some lengthier pieces on relevant topics. Besides for all this they included a very thorough index assisting the interested reader in finding almost anything mentioned throughout in the sefer.

I would just like to quote a few interesting discussions from each volume for examples of what makes this work so special as there are literally thousands of gems scattered throughout this work.

Halikhot Shlomo, vol. 1

While talking about having perfectly squared tefillin, R. Shlomo Zalman says that its good enough if, according to viewing it with your eyes and that you do not have to measure the tefillin with a ruler. He than goes on to say - at great length - that the Torah goes according to ones eyes for everything including examining for bugs and checking etrogim (Halikhot Shlomo 1:53, and the footnotes therein).

On the topic of chumrot he writes that one should not just be machmir because he feels like it. Instead, such a position should be reached from one’s own understanding of the topic and that, in this instance, it is in fact the correct position. He contrasts this with the tendency, which can be attributed to many chumrot, which is a result of only utilizing secondary sources and not focusing on the primary sources. He goes on to write that he was very bothered when he would see people walking on shabbat and their wives would be pushing the baby carriages because the man held for himself it was prohibited to use an eruv. He writes that when he was young he was machmir and did not rely on the eruv but, when he got married, he was mater neder (annulled his vow) to be able to help his wife (Halikhot Shlomo 1:55).

Elsewhere they record, that R. Shlomo Zalman once met a chattan walking to shul without a shomer so he accompanied him until he got a shomer. R. Shlomo Zalman explained his actions that already the motzei shabbat before one gets married he is already called a chattan in regard to this that he needs a shomer (Halikhot Shlomo 1:63 [note 26]). He writes that a matmid is not one who learns many hours in the day but rather it is someone who learns set times carefully keeping them everyday (Halikhot Shlomo 1:67 [note 56]). He writes that a mourner can learn hilkhot aveilut in-depth during the week of shiva (Halikhot Shlomo 1:75 [note 11]). Also included is an interesting and in-depth step-by-step teshuva process (Halikhot Shlomo 1:77 [note 23]).

At the end of this volume, the editors printed a very interesting piece on the topic of saying ר' פלוני בן ר' פלוני – specifically the use of the Rabbi appellation – when calling someone up for an aliya at kriyat haTorah. R. Yosef Zechariah Stern writes that one should not say the title Reb because it is a problem of גבהות in front of God. R Shlomo Zalman, however, defends this custom at great length as we find everyone uses this title. He explains that the reason for its usage was because there are many different prayer customs that Chazal made to go against the tzedukim (צדוקים) to show that we have the Torah - both written and oral. So too, in the times of the Rishonim, there were people who denied the historicity of torah shebal peh, and these individuals were called Karaites; whereas the more-traditional sect of Jews were called Rabanim, and this is why when we call someone to the Torah we say “Reb” to show that he is not a karaite (Halikhot Shlomo 1:370-373; also included, in short, in the third volume, Halikhot Shlomo 3:33- 34).

Halikhot Shlomo, vol. 2

Some interesting points from volume two include: The famous topic of the prayer Machniseh Rachamim and how can it be said as it appears that we are praying to the angels. R. Shlomo Zalman responds to this concern and explains that one can pray to an angel if it is his job to carry the prayers – that is his job! Further, this is why one can sing the song Shalom Aleichem on Friday night as we are only asking them to do their job. However, he said the nussach which appears in kiddush levanah "כשם שאני רוקד כנגדך וכו' כל לא יוכל כל אויבי לנגוע בי לרעה" makes it appears as if we are praying to the moon and is a mistake! Instead, it should read כשם שאני רוקד כנגדה (Halikhot Shlomo 2:4). When asked which kavonot one should have during the blowing of the shofar he said just that the Torah simply says to blow shofar! (Halikhot Shlomo 2:24). Another interesting idea is that R. Shlomo Zalman did not bless people with sticking out his hands except on very infrequent occasions. He quoted R S Alphandrei that there is no source for giving ones hand in chazal but rather its chukat hagoyim! (Halikhot Shlomo 2:10). At the end of the sefer include, as well, is a very interesting selection as to why the holiday of Hoshanah Rabbah, as a day of judgment or not, is not mentioned in the Torah (Halikhot Shlomo 2:428-434).

Halikhot Shlomo, vol. 3

The third volume of Halikhot Shlomo is the largest thus far, comprising over six hundred pages with many, many interesting and fascinating pieces.

Just to list a few: R. Shlomo Zalman writes that it’s very important to learn Masekhet Moed Koton and Hilkhot Aveilut as well, even though the Hatam Sofer (and others) said that one should not learn it (Halikhot Shlomo 3:439). On Tisha B’Av, R. Shlomo Zalman would read books about the Holocaust (Halikhot Shlomo 3:440). There is also an interesting discussion about the reason of the Mishneh Berurah as to why we eat dairy on Shavuot (Halikhot Shlomo 3:380-381). In regard to Pesach there is an amazing original piece as to why the bechorim (first born) fast on Erev Pesach. R. Shlomo Zalman writes that if it is solely due to the fact that the bechorim were saved from death, then all of the descendants of the bechorim should also fast – not just bechorim! (The answer is a bit more complex and includes several other components to this answer, as well.) To this, R. Shlomo Zalman says that the reason for the fast is not for the fact that they were saved but rather it was because the bechorim were supposed to do the avodah in the Beit Hamikdash, but that they lost it due to the sin of the Golden Calf. So on the fourteenth day of Nissan when they came to the Beit Hamikdash and they saw the kohanim and levi’im doing the beautiful avodah they felt very sad so they did not eat. So they decided to make a day to remember this as there was one time they were able to do this – when Hashem skipped over the houses and to atone for the Golden Calf which caused them to lose this great job (Halikhot Shlomo 3:179-180).

In sum, the Halikhot Shlomo is an excellent work and all in all, I feel that this is a beautiful work and well worth the money.

[1] Upon hearing this aphorism, one cannot help but reflect on the passage in the Talmud: "R. Yohanan said in the name of R. Shimon bar Yochai: Any talmid hakham whose teachings are recited in this world, his lips move in the grave" (Yevamot 97a).
[2] Although the Hatam Sofer is the most popular target of posthumous publishing, in fact he did publish one work in his lifetime – although this is not well known. This is probably because his most famous work, his responsa volumes SHU"T Hatam Sofer, were published after he died. The Hatam Sofer died in 1839 and his teshuvot were not published until 1855. But, in the 1826 edition of the Hiddushei R”I Megash on Masekhet Shavout, there was appended a "Kuntres" which contains two Torah pieces and six teshuvot from the Hatam Sofer.
[3] For a discussion of the famous 1799 ruling of the Vilna beit din where they officially prohibited the ascribing any work to the R. Elijah, Gaon of Vilna which had not been personally sanctioned by that rabbinical body, see Gil S. Perl, "Emek ha-Neziv: A Window into the Intellectual Universe of Rabbi Naftali Zvi Yehudah Berlin," (PhD dissertation, Harvard University, 2006), pp. 219, 226. Notwithstanding this prohibition, works ascribed to R. Elijah, Gaon of Vilna continued to appear for over two centuries. See also the introduction Yeshayahu Vinograd, Ozar Sifre ha-GRA (Jerusalem, 2003) for an extensive discussion surrounding the 1799 ruling of the Vilna beit din.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Second Annual Dr. Asher Siev Memorial Lecture at YU

The Second Annual Dr. Asher Siev Memorial Lecture will be delivered by

A Non-Orthodox Traditional Approach:
Reflections on the Authority
of the
Moroccan Rabbinate
Dr. Marc B. Shapiro (University of Scranton)

Tuesday, March 20th 8:00 PM
Rubin Shul - Yeshiva University Wilf Campus
Refreshments will be served

Sponsored by the Torah u-Madda Lecture Series,
Center for Jewish Future

For more information, please contact

Dr. Marc B. Shapiro is the Harry and Jeannette Weinberg Chair in Judaic Studies and director of the Weinberg Judaic Studies Institute at the University of Scranton and author of "Between the Yeshiva World and Modern Orthodoxy: The Life and Works of Rabbi Jehiel Jacob Weinberg, 1884-1966" (Littman, 1999), "The Limits of Orthodox Theology: Maimonides' Thirteen Principles Reappraised" (Littman, 2004) and "Saul Lieberman and the Orthodox" (University of Scranton, 2006).

Marc B. Shapiro: Obituary for R. Yosef Buxbaum zt"l

Obituary: R. Yosef Buxbaum zt"l
by Marc B. Shapiro

The Torah world lost a very important figure earlier this month, with the passing of R. Yosef Buxbaum at age 62. In fact, I can’t think of anyone, in the entire history of Torah publishing, who achieved as much as he.

There is a lot that can be said about Rabbi Buxbaum, but for the purposes of the Seforim blog his relevant achievement is the founding, and directing for many years, of Machon Yerushalayim. While at one time Mossad ha-Rav Kook was the center for critical editions of the rishonim, this is no longer the case. Make no mistake about it: Mossad ha-Rav Kook deserves enormous credit for its wonderful Kafih and Chavel editions as well its the critical editions of the Ritva, Ran, Rashba and others. But in recent decades Machon Yerushalayim has taken center stage in this area and truly revolutionized Torah study. This is an amazing achievement that began some forty years ago with Otzar Mefarshei ha-Talmud.

Who can learn today without the Machon Yerushalayim edition of the Tur? Only in this editions has the Tur been restored to its pristine glory. Much like the Frankel Rambam -- finally completed earlier this month -- is now the only acceptable edition for those who are serious about Mishneh Torah, so too the Machon Yerushalayim edition of the Tur has become a requirements for serious Torah scholars.

The Machon Yerushalayim edition of the Shulhan Arukh is also indispensable (although in this case, other publishers are also involved in producing what will be, when complete, the only reliable edition). It is possible to go on about the numerous other important works, from rishonim and acharonim, published by Machon Yerushalayim, as well as the groundbreaking journal Moriah.[1] However, I would like to call attention to what I think is Rabbi Buxbaum’s most lasting achivement, and it has to do with sociology.

It was Rabbi Buxbaum who brought a central tool of crtical scholarship, namely, the ability to edit manuscripts, to the haredi world. He also who taught the haredi world at large how to appreciate a critical edition. It is now no longer regarded as “maskilish” to produce, or use, a critical text. In fact, to repeat what I have already said, those serious about learning know that when they need to examine a responsum of the Rosh, Rashba, Rivash and so many others the Machon Yerushalayim edition is the only place to turn.

Another great achievement — and it remains to be seen if it will last — was that he was able to preside over a unity in Torah scholarship in a way not seen in the last fifty years. Much like his teacher, R. Shlomo Zalman Auerbach zt”l, was unique in that all segments of the Torah world related to with the greatest esteem, Machon Yerushalayim was also able to achieve this rare feat. Rabbi Buxbaum did this by inviting gedolim from all the different camps, and from both the Ashkenazic and Sephardic worlds, to be involved with Machon Yerushalayim. Many of them were given honorary positions in the various sections most suited for them and there was a section devoted to Sephardic Jewry, German Jewry, Hungarian Jewry, etc.

Who else but Rabbi Buxbaum would have been able to bring together in one undertaking, gedolim with such different hashkafot as R. Yitzhak Yaakov Weiss (author of SHU"T Minhat Yitzhak), R. Ovadiah Yosef (author of, among other works, SHU"T Yabia Omer and SHU"T Yehave Da'at), and R. Avraham Shapira, Rosh Yeshiva of Merkaz ha-Rav (who edited Machon Yerushalayim’s edition of Zekher Yitzchak by the gaon of Ponovezh, R. Isaac Jacob Rabinowitz).

Machon Yerushalayim, at one and the same time, has projects with the Edah Haredit, various haredi yeshivot, Yeshivat Shaalvim and Yeshiva Beit El, among others. Where else but under the auspices of Machon Yerushalayim can you find yeshiva bachurim with such divergent hashkafot engaged in the holy work of editing the writings of rishonim and acharonim?

Machon Yerushalayim’s wings extend to the Diaspora as well, and let me just note one example: The R. Yitzhak Elhanan Spektor project is being carried out together with Yeshiva University and when completed will include ten volumes.

To learn more about this incredible man whose loss must be mourned by the entire Torah world, see here (Hebrew).

[1] Some might wish to compare Moriah with Yeshurun, and indeed they do have a lot in common. But note that while Yeshurun is more liberal than the typical haredi journal, and will thus publish writings by R. Kook, articles by contemporary gedolim of the religious-Zionist camp, not to mention leading figures of Yeshiva University, are still regarded as off limits by this publication.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Upcoming Kestenbaum Auction and FREE sefer!

Kestenbaum & Company will be holding a auction on March 22 and their catalog is available online here.

For those interested in a free sefer, someone is offering the KeMotzei Shalal Rov for free[!], you can contact them at

Rabbi Adam Mintz: Rabbi Henkin and The First Heter Agunot in America

Rabbi Henkin and The First Heter Agunot in America
By Adam Mintz

The tragedy of the agunah, the woman who is unable to receive a get from her husband, has plagued the Jewish people since time immemorial. Rabbis and scholars throughout the centuries have contended with this issue in an attempt to free agunot to remarry. In the United States this issue was first formally addressed following World War I. European Jews soldiers, fighting on both sides of the war, were among those killed in battle. As soldiers are generally young, they often left childless widows who required a halitzah from the dead husband’s brother in order to remarry. A number of these brothers had immigrated to the United States where visas were difficult to acquire. Therefore, the Agudath HaRabbanim sent a letter to its membership in 1922 alerting them to this situation and offering assistance in helping these women acquire temporary visas to the United States thereby allowing these women to obtain a halitzah and to remarry.

With the growth of the American Jewish community in the early part of the twentieth century, Jews began to assimilate and the predicament of the Jewish wife whose husband had abandoned her to live with a non-Jewish woman became an ever increasing phenomenon.[1] Many rabbis attempted to free the Jewish wife to remarry, even though she was unable to find the husband and receive a get. Some of the solutions were based on broad institutional enactments, while others dealt with the problem on a case-by-case analysis. One of the principles underlying the foundation of much of this discussion is the halakhic status of civil marriages and of weddings performed by Reform rabbis. Rabbis Feinstein and Henkin disagreed about the status of these marriages and this disagreement played an important role in their view of the agunah problem. Understanding their particular views is vital for the understanding of the agunah issue and for the appreciation of the important roles that these two American rabbinic giants played on this issue.

Rabbi Henkin discussed this issue in a number of articles and teshuvot. His earliest treatment of civil marriage appears in a series of articles in Hapardes in 1934, where Rabbi Henkin argued that a civil marriage is considered a marriage according to Jewish law and that a get would be required to terminate such a marriage.[2] He explained that a couple is considered halakhically married even though they did not have a Jewish ceremony and do not intend to be married according to Jewish law. According to Rabbi Henkin, the validity of the marriage is achieved by the fact that the couple lives together as husband and wife. He added that the Jews who see them together as a couple satisfy the requirement of witnesses in establishing the halakhic status of the marriage. In an article in his book, Perushei Ibra, Rabbi Henkin explained the rational for his position through the comparison to a similar historical situation.[3] He quoted a fascinating responsum of Rivash, Rabbi Isaac ben Sheshet Perfet (1326-1408), communal rabbi in Algeria who had fled Spain following the anti-Jewish riots of 1391.[4] Rivash described that he was approached by a woman who had been a converso in Majorca. After she had escaped to North Africa she asked whether she could remarry even though she did not have a get from her first husband. She explained that she had been married by a priest after both she and her husband had been forced to convert to Christianity. After the marriage they had lived together as a married couple. The husband was not available to give her a get. Rivash decided in this case that the woman could remarry and did not require a get. Rabbi Henkin argued that Rivash’s case is unique as this couple was married by a priest and no longer lived among Jews. This situation, argued Rabbi Henkin, cannot be compared to the American situation where a man and woman are married by a civil authority and live together among Jews.

Rabbi Feinstein responded to Rabbi Henkin’s decision in a number of teshuvot in Iggerot Moshe. In the earliest teshuvah, dated June 28, 1959, Rabbi Feinstein argued that a civil marriage does not require termination via a get.[5] Rather, the couple can remarry even without a get. He explained that in the United States where people easily move in and out of relationships, the fact that a couple gets married in a civil ceremony and then lives together is not considered proof that they are married according to the halakhah. He relied on the precedent of Rivash and argued that American civil marriages can be equated to that situation of the fifteenth century. Interestingly, he wrote that even though the halakhah does not require a get, if it is possible for the wife to obtain a get she should follow the opinion of Rabbi Henkin and terminate the marriage through a get. It would appear that Rabbi Feinstein would agree that in a situation where the wife received a get she would not be able to marry a kohen.

Concerning a couple that was married by a Reform rabbi, Rabbi Feinstein wrote in a number of teshuvot that this wedding is not recognized according to the halakhah and a get is not required to terminate this marriage.[6] He explained that the only time the wedding would be valid is in a situation where there are two observant Jew who witness the ceremony. However, he claimed that even in that case the Reform rabbi often does not perform the marriage ceremony properly so the wedding would not be valid. Concerning the question of whether the fact that the couple lives together as husband and wife is a factor, Rabbi Feinstein wrote that a Reform ceremony is worse than a civil ceremony. A couple that gets married in a civil ceremony understands that this ceremony is not a Jewish one and that the fact that they live together binds them as a Jewish couple. However, a couple that is married in a Reform ceremony believes that this ceremony is a religious one and do not have the necessary intention of consummating the marriage when they live together. Nevertheless, he believed that if possible the woman should arrange to receive a get.[7]

In 1964, Rabbi Henkin wrote a letter to an unnamed rabbi who had ruled that a get is not needed to terminate a marriage when the ceremony had been performed by a Reform rabbi. Rabbi Henkin explained:
And the wonder of wonders, which makes one’s hair stand on edge, is that you are lenient regarding a marriage performed by a Reform rabbi. Is there really a need for an officiating rabbi? If a Jewish man says to a Jewish woman “you are mine” in front of witnesses, then she becomes his wife. And, if there are no witnesses at the ceremony, the fact that they live together as a married couple for many years is considered acceptable testimony. What difference does it make if the witnesses were Reform?[8]
Rabbi Henkin admonishes this unnamed rabbi that he must not allow other rabbis to rely on this incorrect lenient opinion.

Rabbis Feinstein and Henkin disagreed regarding both civil marriages and Reform ceremonies. While the issues are connected, they revolve around different considerations. Rabbi Feinstein looked at American society as a promiscuous one in which a man and woman living together did not reflect a relationship of commitment while Rabbi Henkin saw a more traditional society where relationships reflected commitment. It is fascinating that two Torah scholars who lived several blocks from one another could see American society so differently. The generation of rabbis and scholars who immigrated to the United States from Eastern Europe were forced to reconcile their recollections of the past with the realities of the present. That reconciliation took different forms for different rabbis.

It would appear that with regard to a couple married in a Reform ceremony, the differing rulings of these two Torah giants were based on their understanding of the Reform movement. Rabbi Feinstein believed that Reform rabbis were attempting to undermine halakhic Judaism and anything that they did was problematic and needed to be avoided. On the other hand, Rabbi Henkin, while rejecting the religious positions of the Reform movement, did not feel that the Reform rabbis were a threat to the Orthodox. Consequently he felt that whether a wedding was conducted by a Reform rabbi was immaterial. Rabbis Feinstein and Henkin disagreed as to the extent to which the Reform movement created a risk to the Orthodox movement.[9]

The positions of Rabbis Feinstein and Henkin had critical implications for the issue of agunah. According to Rabbi Feinstein, if a couple was married civilly or by a Reform rabbi and then the husband refused to give a get, the wife may remarry as this marriage is not considered halakhically valid. According to Rabbi Henkin, in such a situation, the woman would require a get. It would appear that Rabbi Henkin’s understanding of civil and Reform marriages stands as a serious impediment to the resolution of the agunah problem. However, in an article written in 1928, Rabbi Henkin alerted the community to the fact that he was very much concerned with the problem of the agunah and began by describing the current situation:
In the past few years the problem of the agunah has increased in Europe and here in America. This is a question that burns in the entire world as to what we can do for our sisters to save them from the chains of agunah when their husbands disappear…For this reason there have been leniencies suggested here [the termination of civil marriages without a get]. However, since we have proven that these leniencies have no basis in halakhah, these leniencies are really stringencies to destroy lives and such should not be done in Israel.[10]
According to Rabbi Henkin, since civil marriages require a get, to allow women to remarry without a get creates illegitimate children from the second marriage.

While Rabbi Henkin felt that this approach of terminating civil marriages without a get was not a legitimate one, he was deeply committed to trying to find an acceptable solution to the agunah problem. Accordingly, Rabbi Henkin was the first American rabbi to offer a proposal to solve the Agunah problem. This proposal was suggested in the above article written in 1928 soon after his arrival in the United States. Henkin noted that the problem of agunah, experienced by women whose husbands had disappeared or by women who were unable to receive the necessary halitzah, was “a daily occurrence,” and he made the following suggestion: at the time of the wedding the husband must authorize that a get may be written and delivered in the future. He must allow the get to be written to cover a number of situations including one in which the husband refuses to provide a get to his wife for three years. At that time, the claim would be brought to a central beit din (in the original proposal, he wrote that this should be the Jerusalem beit din) and, if the beit din agrees, then a get would be written even if the husband opposes the writing at that time. Rabbi Henkin called for this proposal to be discussed and voted upon in a meeting of rabbis and that if approved, it would remain the standard practice for fifty years.[11]

However, in 1930 a development impacted on Rabbi Henkin’s proposal before it had the chance to be acted upon. Rabbi Louis Epstein, a leading Conservative rabbi from Boston and the president of the Rabbinical Assembly and its Committee on Jewish Law, suggested that prior to every marriage, the husband should appoint his wife as an agent to execute a divorce on his behalf. Thus, if the husband disappears or refuses to grant the get, the wife can, in effect, divorce herself. In that same year, Rabbi Epstein published a volume entitled Hatza’ah Lemaan Takanat Agunot that attempted to prove the halakhic foundation for this proposal. In 1935, the Rabbinical Assembly, the rabbinic body of the Conservative movement, initially voted to accept this proposal.

In his volume, Rabbi Epstein described how he sent copies of his book to close to 1,000 rabbis asking for their opinions on his proposal. He explained that he received very few responses. While one of the letters was critical of his work, most of the letters were complimentary but argued that he could not proceed without the consensus of the leading halakhic authorities. He seemed encouraged by the nature of these responses inasmuch as they were not critical of his halakhic reasoning.[12] Among the letters that he received was a letter from Rabbi Henkin dated February 18, 1931. In this letter, Rabbi Henkin apologized for not having the time to study the book carefully. While Rabbi Henkin proceeded to make certain halakhic suggestions to Rabbi Epstein, the letter was in no way dismissive of his efforts. He even concluded the letter with the practical advice that if he wanted to send copies to all the rabbis of Europe as he proposed, it would become a very expensive undertaking.[13]

The Orthodox rabbinate responded to Rabbi Epstein’s proposal with disapproval and the Agudath HaRabbanim convened a meeting of rabbis during which various halakhic presentations were made arguing that Rabbi Epstein’s proposal was both impractical and halakhically unsound. In 1937, a volume was published by the Agudath HaRabbanim entitled Le’Dor Aharon which included correspondence from leading rabbis around the world opposing Rabbi Epstein’s proposal. In 1940, Rabbi Epstein published Le’Sheelat Ha-Agunah in which he attempted to support his view in light of the strong rabbinic opposition. The Orthodox rabbinate did not respond to this second volume and Rabbi Epstein’s proposal was never actually adopted in practice by the Conservative movement.[14]

Rabbi Henkin wrote an article that was included in Le’Dor Aharon.[15] In his lengthy essay, he explained his halakhic opposition to Rabbi Epstein’s proposal. Among other considerations, he concluded that it is nonsensical for the husband to appoint his wife to serve as the agent to write the get as she is the one who will be receiving the divorce.

Then he added:
“And I have already written that the reason that I have become involved in this battle is due to the fact that he [Rabbi Epstein] mentioned my proposal for the freeing of agunot … and I must escape from this comparison…My proposal was merely a suggestion and not meant as a halakhic decision…and when the volume Ain Tnai Be-Nisuin was published, I retracted from my position for even the greatest scholar has to follow the majority view.”[16]
Ain Tnai Be-Nisuin is a volume published in Vilna in 1930 by Judah Lubetsky, an Eastern European rabbinic scholar who served for many years as a rabbi in Paris. The volume was published in response to a decision by the Agudat Rabbanei Tzarfat in 1908 to allow a Jewish woman to remarry after a civil divorce based on a condition made at the time of the wedding that if the couple where to be divorced by the civil authorities then retroactively the original marriage would be nullified.[17] Rabbi Lubetsky collected letters from rabbinic scholars from around the world condemning this opinion and explaining that such a condition at the time of the marriage would not be valid and that the couple would still need a get.

Indeed, it would seem probable that in 1931 when Rabbi Henkin had written his initial letter to Rabbi Epstein he had not yet seen Ain Tnai Be-Nisuin and therefore did not reject Rabbi Epstein’s proposal at that time. By 1937, he had read Ain Tnai Be-Nisuin and felt compelled to both reject Rabbi Epstein’s proposal and to retract his own view. In the reprinted edition of Perushei Ibra, the pages that contain his initial proposal are bracketed with the words “hadru be” (I have retracted) written in the margin. While it is not clear whether this remarkable editorial decision was made by Rabbi Henkin or the editor of the later reprinted volume, it reflects both the seriousness and the sensitivity with which this issue was taken.

In the Iggerot Moshe, Rabbi Feinstein never made any reference to Rabbi Henkin’s proposal regarding agunot. While Rabbi Feinstein did not arrive in America until 1936 and may not have been aware of Rabbi Henkin’s proposal before it was retracted in 1937, Rabbi Henkin was well-known among Eastern European rabbis and his decisions would have been available to Rabbi Feinstein even before his arrival in New York.[18] However, there is another variable that must be considered to explain Rabbi Feinstein’s lack of reference to this proposal. Rabbis Feinstein and Henkin took different approaches to the attempt to solve the agunah problem. Rabbi Feinstein tried to free individual agunot as they approached him with their unique situations. As a posek, Rabbi Feinstein responded to individuals on a case by case basis and did not look for institutional policies. As a communal rabbi, Rabbi Henkin dealt both with individual cases and broad policies. His position concerning civil and Reform marriages was important for American Jewish life but did not impact on his institutional proposal for the resolution of the agunah problem. His agunah proposal was never enacted but nevertheless reflects the rabbinic approach that Rabbi Henkin embodied.

Rabbi Henkin’s proposal, although "officially" retracted, has been cited in halakhic literature since 1937. Rabbi Eliezer Berkovits, the foremost disciple of Rabbi Yehiel Yaakov Weinberg and a leading Jewish philosopher of the American Orthodox community, offered a resolution to the agunah problem in 1967 in a volume entitled Tnai Be-Nisuin u-ve-Get. In this volume he reviewed the history of halakhic literature concerning the validity of a conditional marriage and argued for the introduction of a conditional marriage to prevent the tragedy of agunah. At the end of the book, he referred to Rabbi Henkin’s retraction of his proposal in 1937. Rabbi Berkovits wrote “We revere Rabbi Henkin’s greatness and piety. Yet, one is not permitted to sway from the truth as it appears to him.”[19] Rabbi Menachem Kasher, in his critique of Rabbi Berkovits’ thesis, relied on the fact that Rabbi Henkin had rejected conditional marriages.[20] Rabbi Henkin, thirty years after he retracted his proposal, is still being utilized for both sides of this argument.

Finally, in an article in The Edah Journal in 2005, Rabbi Michael J. Broyde, an Atlanta-area rabbi, professor of law at the Emory University Law School and dayan in the Beth Din of America, offered a theoretical proposal to help free agunot. He explained that for the proposal to have any chance of acceptance among the rabbinic community it would need to combine three mechanisms into a single document:
"The three elements would be: conditions applied to the marriage (tenai be-kiddushin), authorization to give a get (harsha’ah), and broad communal ordinance to void a marriage (taqqanat ha-qahal)… Indeed, in the twentieth century alone, one can cite a list of luminary rabbinic authorities who have validated such agreements in one form or another, including Rabbi Yosef Eliyahu Henkin…”[21]
While this proposal is still only in the theoretical phase, Rabbi Henkin’s argument plays an important role in its formulation.

In the introduction to Perushei Ibra, Rabbi Henkin explained that he wrote this volume to correct the mistakes that have arisen in America in the area of marriage and divorce and to restore “the law to its proper foundations.”[22]

Rabbi Henkin’s innovation and courage continue to set a model in this difficult yet critical area.

[1] One rabbi who tirelessly dealt with issues of husband desertion was Rabbi Shaul Yedidyah Shochet, author of the Responsa volumes Sefer Tiferet Yedidyah (St. Louis, 1920), where nearly two-thirds of the first volume relates to agunot and gittin. See Jeremy Bressman, “‘Hurled into a World of Freedom’: Marital Breakdown in the American Jewish Immigrant Community,” (unpublished seminar thesis, Columbia University, 2006), 18. I thank Menachem Butler for providing this source.
[2] Hapardes 8:6 (September, 1934): 3-4; Hapardes 8:7 (October, 1934): 7-10 and Hapardes 8:8 (November, 1934): 10-12, reprinted in Lev Ivra (New York, 1956), 12-20. For an extensive and well-researched analysis of the disagreement between Rabbis Feinstein and Henkin concerning both civil marriages and Reform ceremonies, see Norman Frimer and Dov Frimer, “Reform Marriages in Contemporary Halakhic Responsa," Tradition 21:3 (Fall 1984): 7-39.
[3] Perushei Ibra (New York, 1943) pp. 87-117. Perushei Ibra was reprinted as the first volume of Kitvei Hagri’a Henkin (New York, 1981).
[4] Rivash, no. 4; For a brief discussion of this period, see Philippe Wolff, "The 1391 Pogrom in Spain: Social Crisis or Not?" Past & Present 50 (1971): 4-18.
[5] Iggerot Moshe (New York, 1961), Even Haezer I, no. 74.
[6] Iggerot Moshe Even Haezer I, no. 76.
[7] Iggerot Moshe, Even Haezer IV, no. 75.
[8] Hapardes 38:7 (October, 1964): 5-6 and reprinted in Kitvei Hagri’a Henkin vol. 2, pp. 123-125.
[9] Neither Rabbi Feinstein nor Rabbi Henkin discussed whether their decisions would be extended to a ceremony officiated by a Conservative rabbi. According to Rabbi Henkin there should be no difference. However, the question remains whether Rabbi Feinstein would have required a get to terminate a wedding officiated by a Conservative rabbi.
[10] Perushei Ibra, p. 110
[11] Perushei Ibra, pp. 110-117.
[12] Le-She'elat Ha-Agunot (New York, 1940), p. 16
[13] This letter can be found in Tzvi Gertner and Bezalel Karlinsky, “Ain Tnai Be’Nisuin,” Yeshurun 9 (2001): 888.
[14] See Moshe Meiselman, Jewish Women in Jewish Law (New York, 1978), 105-107, and Marc B. Shapiro, Saul Lieberman and the Orthodox (University of Scranton Press, 2006), 11-13, for various descriptions (and full documentation [!] in the latter source) of the events surrounding -- and the Orthodox responses to -- the Epstein proposal.
[15] Le’Dor Aharon (Brooklyn, NY, 1937), pp. 105-110.
[16] Le’Dor Aharon, p. 109
[17] The events leading to the writing of this volume are described in the introduction to Ain Tnai Be-Nisuin (Vilna, 1930), 11-15. According to a letter in the London Jewish Chronicle written by a longtime rabbinical judge on the London Beth Din, Ain Tnai Be-Nisuin first appeared in 1928. The reissued 1930 edition appeared in an enlarged edition with a new forward by Rabbi Hayyim Ozer Grodzensky. See Dayan Harris M. Lazarus, "Liberalism and Orthodoxy: The Problem of the Aguna," London Jewish Chronicle (November 1, 1946), 11.
[18] Rabbi Aharon Kotler, who did not arrive in the United States until 1941, was aware and sharply critical of Rabbi Henkin’s proposal. See Mishnat Rabbi Aharon, vol 2 (Lakewood, NJ, 1985), no. 60. It is possible that Rabbi Kotler’s criticism influenced Rabbi Henkin’s decision to retract.
[19] Eliezer Berkovits, Tnai Be-Nisuin u-ve-Get (Jerusalem, 1967), p. 170.
[20] “Be-Inyan Tnai be-Nisuin,” Noam 12 (1970): 148. For a plethora of meticulous citations and a lucid description of the debate between Rabbis Berkovits and Kasher, see Marc B. Shapiro, Between the Yeshiva World and Modern Orthodoxy: The Life and Works of Rabbi Jehiel Jacob Weinberg 1884-1966 (Littman Library, 1999), 190-192, especially the extensively researched footnote 83.
[21] Michael J. Broyde, "Review Essay: An Unsuccessful Defense of the Bet Din of Rabbi Emanuel Rackman: The Tears of the Oppressed," The Edah Journal 4:2 (Winter, 2005): 17, available here.
[22] Perushei Ibra, p. 16.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

C.D. Ginsburg: Demuto Shel ha-Meshumad

OnTheMainLine has an informative post about C.D. Ginsburg, with links to some of the latter's publications, and includes a stellar picture of the famous apostate. For his The Massorah Compiled from Manuscripts, Lexically and Alphabetically Arranged, see I, II, III, IV, V, VI [PDF].

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