Monday, April 30, 2007

Stolen Title Pages

"Stolen Title Pages":
The Case of An Unknown Contemporary Plagiarist*

The title of this post – “Stolen Title Pages” – is not mine, instead, I have borrowed it from Chaim Lieberman.[1] I have used this title because there are many forms of plagiarism – some, totally innocent – others involving lack of citation, borrowing a sentence here or there, but the plagiarism under discussion in this post is much worse than all of the above.[2] The plagiarism discussed in this post is limited to just changing the title page – that is, the entire book is the same with the only alteration being the name of the author and, at times, the title of the book. For example, if I republished Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet but instead of putting Shakespeare’s name I substituted mine.

The kabbalistic work on the holidays of the year, by R. Yitzhak Isaac ben Yoel HaKohen, Brit Kehunat Olam, was recently republished. This work was first published in 1796 in Lvov, and has been reprinted many times since then. In the introduction of this new edition, the publishers list the various printings of this work. But, they neglected to mention one reprint of this work. One can’t really fault them as this reprint was not published under the name Brit Kehunat Olam, nor did R. Yitzhak Isaac’s name appear anywhere in this reprint. Instead, although the book is word for word the same as Brit Kehunat Olam, a totally different title and a totally different author is given. As we shall see this is not the only time this person has taken someone else book for his own. This reprint which was done sometime around 2000 is instead titled Pardes haMo’adim ‘al Moadi Yisrael. The author is הצב"ר which, according to the many approbations he has received, is an abbreviation of R. Tzyion ben Ratson Lahat.

The Pardes haMo’adim contains approbations from R. Shimon Sherabi, the Rabbis of Kiryat Melachi – R. Hayyim Pinto and R. Yisrael Areyeh Gerstenkorn, R. Meshumar Tzubri, and R. Yisrael Sherabi. Some of these praise Lahat for his erudition in writing this work, others note his "great fear of sin," but none of these haskamot note that every word in this book is plagiarized.

For purposes of accuracy, I must note, that Lahat did alter one thing aside from the title page. Perhaps in an effort to avoid detection he shifted the sections around. So, one can’t take page one and match it up, instead, you just need to find the section. This is not as hard as it would seem as Lahat used the same chapter headings as the original. So, for instance, the scan below you have the chapter titled מאמר מצות משוחים בשמן from both works. The newer type (on the right), without the commentary of the Sha’ar Shimon, is Lahat’s edition while the other (on the left) is the original.

Lest one think it is just that section or just the Brit Kehunat Olam that Lahat copied, I have provided another section – מאמר סכת שלם. Again you can see it is copied word for word. But, I also want to point out it is not just the Brit Kehunat Olam he copied but the commentary, Shem miShimon by R. Shimon Englander as well. As one can see, the notes on the bottom provide citations as well as further elucidations of the Brit Kehunat Olam. Although Lahat did not use footnotes – he used endnotes – they are the same as well.

I have provided below the pages from both Brit Kehunat Olam (on the left) which includes the Shem miShimon at the bottom. The other pages (to the right and bottom) are Lahat’s page from this section and the final page is Lahat’s notes which match up perfectly with the Shem miShimon.

As I mentioned above this is not the first time Lahat has stolen a prior work and substituted his name for that of the author. Instead, I have found at least two other times, where he did the same thing. In fact, one of the approbations for Pardes haMo’adim actually makes mention of this prior plagiarized work. This other work is Lahat’s book Minhagei haAriza”l. This work was published sometime after 1996. It contains four parts. Again, הצב"ר appears on the title page and all the approbations are written to R. Tzyion ben Ratson Lahat (as an aside his last name may actually be רווה [Ravah] as he dedicates this book to his brother Naftali bar Ratson Ravah). This work, with one slight change which I will discuss in a moment, is word for word from the book Minhagei haArizal haNikrah Petura d’Abba by R. Uri ben Asher Strizinitzer [3] first published in Jerusalem 1905.

This work takes fifth and the sixth sha’ar from R. Chaim Vital’s Shemonah She’arim which contain the bulk of the customs of R. Yitzhak Luria(Ari"ZaL). R. Strizinitzer, then includes his commentary, titled Beni Abba, which explains and offers sources for the customs of R. Yitzhak Luria. This work contains the approbation of R. Shalom Mordechi haKohen (the Braziner Rebbi). When he originally published this work, R. Strizinitzer did so anonymously. When he published a similar work Me'ori Tzion he revealed himself based upon an acrostic on the title page. The Meori Tzion was the fourth and final part of R. Strizinitzer’s work on the customs of R. Yitzhak Luria – as we shall see this was also copied. So R. Strizinitzer has three titles – Petura d’Abba, Beni Abba, and Meori Tzyion. The Petura d’Abba contains the portion from Shemonah She’arim and Beni Abba is Strizinitzer’s notes.

Now, we go to sometime after 1996, and a new book, again re-typeset, comes out with the title Minhagei HaAri”Zal with the three works Darkei Tzyion, Sha’ari Tzyion, and Me'ori Tzyion with הצב"ר’s name as the author.

The only thing Lahat did, however, was alter the titles of the first two sections, he didn’t even bother moving things around to avoid detection. In Lahat’s edition the Darkei Tzyion contains the portion from Shemonah She’arim and Sha’ari Tzyion contains the notes. Below, I have provided two pages, one from each book, to demonstrate the plagiarism.

In fact, in Strizinitzer’s book at the end he has “השמטות” – things he left out. Lahat, also has at the end things he left out – and coincidentally, they are the same as well. There is one other small change aside from the title page, and that is in the introduction. In Strizinitzer’s introduction at the end he explains why he decided to title his books as he did. Now, Lahat’s titles are different, so Lahat (left) removed that one line from the original introduction (right). The relevant passages are below.

Now, we return to the third title – Me'ori Tzyion, which Strizinitzer published separately in 1911,[4] and Lahat has included in this book. For this one, Lahat couldn’t be bothered with coming up with a new title so he uses the same title – perhaps to finally be able to say he really did copy everything perfectly. Both pages are below (Lahat, left; original, right).

Finally, we get to the at least the third example of Lahat's stolen title pages. In this case it was fairly easy to locate the original. Lahat titled this work Pirush 'al Birkat Kohanim, which as the title implies is a commentary and discussion about Birkat Kohanim. But, Lahat was kind and at the top of each page he has כה תברכו. This title כה תברכו is the same as a book published in 1881 in Solenika by R. Chaim Hemzi. And, it turns out not only is the title the same but the content is as well.

Lahat is by no means the first to merely switch the title pages – as I noted at the beginning of this post, Lieberman has examples of this phenomenon and there are other articles which discuss other instances of plagiarism as well.[5] What is perhaps unique about Lahat is that he seems to have done it more than once, in fact, I can not say for sure the rest of Lahat’s 13 (!) other books [6] are not merely copies as well. Additionally, many have assumed that in the digital age, when from the comfort of one’s home they can call up the card catalogs of almost every major library in the world and thousands books are available online or on one of hard drives – some of which are even searchable, this would have been detected. In fact not a single catalog entry in any library notes that these are copied – even when Lahat did not change the title of the book.

Further, aside from the approbation to Lahat’s Pardes haMo’adim, in his Minhagei haAriZal, Lahat includes approbations from his other works. Some of these are leading Rabbis who also have failed to detect their approbations are on stolen works. These Rabbis include (aside from those already mentioned above): R. Ovadia Yosef, R. Mayer Getz, R. Shalom Messas, R. Yosef Tzubeyri, and R. Tzion Tzubeyri.

Perhaps, now, this can be corrected and Lahat will cease stealing the works of others.

* I apologize as most of this post appeared last week, however, as the images stopped working and they are important to this post I removed the post until I could correct it. In the interim, however, I was able to confirm another instance of Lahat's plagiarism. Also, prior to posting I have attempted to locate Lahat without success. His books generally provide none of the standard information such as publisher/printer or any contact information.

[1] Chaim Lieberman, Ohel Roch”el, vol. 1 (New York, 1980), 477-480, 529-531.

[2] There are no lack of examples, both real and imagined in this category. For one example of lack of proper citation, see R. Natan Neta Leiter, Tzyion l’Nefesh Hayyai (Jerusalem, 1964), no. 109.

[3] His surname comes from a town outside of Lvov.

[4] In some reprints of Strizinitzer’s Minhagi AriZal, Me’ori Tzyion is included.

[5] See Lieberman supra n. 1. Lieberman notes [p. 477] the case of Hemdat Tzvi, where the original was printed in 1876 and the stolen version with the same title was printed in 1879. However, he leaves out one worthwhile point. Although in the stolen version he knew enough to remove the original authors name, apparently he didn't even read through the whole book as on p. 72b, the original author quotes his grandfather by name, and this same passage appears in the stolen version. Further, on p. 87, the original author includes a teshuva which he signs by name. In the stolen version it appears without change signed by the original author!). See also Kitvei Pinchas Turburg, ed. A. R. Malachi, 24-36; C. Leshem, Shabbat u’Mo’adi Yisrael (Tel Aviv, 1969), 379-409; Y. Sternhill, Kochavi Yitzhak (Brooklyn, 1969), Introductions to volumes I & II; Marc B. Shapiro, Saul Lieberman and the Orthodox (Scranton, 2006), 5 n. 9, discussing the example of Rabbi Nosson Dovid Rabinowich which was also discussed in a previous post at the Seforim blog; Shraga Abramson, "Chasad b'Ameirat Daver shelo b'Shem 'Omro," Sinai 112 (Nissan-Iyyar 1993): 1-24; Alei Sefer 16 (1990): 177-79; Moriah 83-84 (Adar I,1978) 79-80; A. Perls, "Das Plagium," in Monatsschrift für Geschichte und Wissenschaft des Judentums / MGWJ 28 (1879): 305-322; R. Margolis, Shem Olam, Jerusalem, 1989, introduction.

Regarding the halakhic permissibility of plagiarism, see Nahum Visfish, Mishnat Zechuot haYotser (Jerusalem, 2002), esp. 95-115; Nahum Rakover, Zechut haYotsrim beMekorot haYehudim (Jerusalem, 1991), 17-72, a portion of which appeared as "Plagiarism of Torah Teachings," Areshet 6 (1980): 222-226; and idem., "Plagiarism and the Obligation to Cite Sources: Aspects of Copyright Law in the Halakhah," Dinei Yisrael 6 (1975): 93-120;

[6] There is one book which is particularly suspect, as Lahat's book is titled מאיר לארץ and it is kabbalistic interpretations on ברכת המזון and there is another book with the same name on the same topic. Thus far, however, I have been unable to secure a copy to compare the two.


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