Monday, July 30, 2007

The Legend of R. Yehuda Halevi's Death: Truth or Fiction?

The Legend of R. Yehuda Halevi's Death: Truth or Fiction
Eliezer Brodt

Among the more famous kinos that we recite on Tisha B'Av is Zion Halo Tishali. This kinah was written by one of the greatest paytanim, R. Yehudah Halevi author of the classic Kuzari. This piyut is about the author’s passion to walk on the holy soil of Eretz Yisrael. In the Artscroll commentary on the kinos, R. Avraham Chaim Feuer writes
an ancient manuscript states that R. Yehuda Halevi composed this kina while journeying towards Eretz Yisroel and recited it when he reached Damascus, facing the direction of Zion. Although many historians believe that R. Yehuda Halevi only got as far as Egypt, never even reaching Damascus, tradition has it that he finally reached Jerusalem (in 1145). There he fell to the ground in a state of ecstasy. . . . As he was embracing the dust near the temple mount, he was trampled and killed by an Arab horseman.
In this post I intend to discuss the above legend of R. Yehuda Halevi's death, did he actually reach Eretz Yisrael? When did he compose the piyut of Zion Haloeh Tishali? I will conclude with a discussion on R. Yehuda Halevi's connection to R. Abraham Ibn Ezra. I do not, however, intend to discuss R. Yehuda Halevi's classic work the Kuzari nor his life in general for more on those topics one can see the excellent study by Adam Shear, "The Later History of a Medieval Hebrew Book, Studies in the Reception of Judah Halevi's Sefer HaKuzari" (PhD dissertation, University of Pennsylvania, 2003); soon to be printed in book form.

R. Abraham Zacuto (1452-1514) in Sefer Yuchsin (first printed in 1566) writes that "R. Yehuda Halevi was fifty [years old] when he came to Eretz Yisroel and he is buried together with his first cousin, the Ibn Ezra." (p. 217, Filipowski ed.). Later, however, R. Zacuto writes that R. Yehuda Halevi is buried with R. Yehudah Bar Elayh in Tzefat. (idem., p. 219). Setting aside the apparent contradiction regarding R. Yehuda Halevi's burial place, in both of these descriptions R. Yehuda Halevi actually made it to Eretz Yisrael. Nevertheless, the legend of an Arab horseman killing him is absent. The earliest source for Arab horseman legend appears in R. Gedaliah Ibn Yachi, Shalsheles Hakabbalah (first published in Venice, 1587) and he states that he heard this legend from "an old man" (p. 92). Although the Shalsheles Hakabbalah appears to be the source for the R. Feuer's statement, the Shalsheles Hakabbalah has one addition to the legend -- omitted by R. Feuer -- that R. Yehuda Halevi recited the kinah of Zion Halo Tishali right before the Arab horseman killed him.

The next time that this legend appeared, after the mention in the Shalsheles Hakabbalah, is by R. David Conforte (1618-c.1678) in Koreh Hadoros (first printed in Venice, 1746), p. 13, followed by R. Yechiel Halprin (1660- died sometime between 1746-1749) in Seder Hadoros (first printed in Karlsruhe, 1769), p. 201, it is then repeated by R. Wolf Heindheim in his edition of the Kinos. By the 19th century, this legend became perhaps the most famous story about R. Yehudah Halevi as not much else was known about him.

R. Matisyahu Strashun, however, questions the legend. He explains that Jerusalem, in the times of R. Yehuda Halevi, was ruled by Christians and not by Arabs. R. Strashun allows that although it is possible R. Yehuda Halevi composed Zion Halo Tishali when he got to Jerusalem -- not that we know that he did -- but the part of the story with the Arab killing him is certainly not true. As a general matter, R. Strashun notes that it is well known that the Shalsheles Hakabbalah is not a reliable sefer at all (Mivchar Kitavim, pp. 215-216). R. Shmuel David (ShaDaL) Luzzatto in his collection of poems from R. Yehuda Halevi, Besulas Bas Yehuda (Prague, 1840), also questions the the legend due to the Christian and not Arab control during the time of R. Yehuda Halevi. Further, even if there were Arabs around they would not have done such a blatant act right at the city gate (pp. 25-26). So Shadal concludes that he died on his way from Egypt never even reaching Eretz Yisroel. Interestingly enough, David Kaufmann uses other evidence to prove that the poems of R. Yehudah Halevi have Jerusalem under Christian rule (Mechkarim Besafrus Haivrit Byemei Habenyim p. 194).

Israel Zinberg writes that most likely R. Yehuda Halevi returned home to Spain, after visiting Eretz Yisrael, based on the fact that R. Shlomo Parcon, a student of R. Yehuda Halevi who lived in Spain, quotes a statement from R. Yehuda Halevi "after R. Yehuda Halevi was in Egypt" (Machberes Hauruch p. 5). Specifically, R. Yehuda Halevi had told Parcon that he was doing teshuva and therefore no longer composing. Independently, we know that during while R. Yehuda Halevi was in Egypt he composed much, Zinberg therefore argues that this statement to Parcon must have taken place after R. Yehuda Halevi was in Egypt, thus R. Yehuda Halevi must have returned to Spain (Toldos Safrus Byisroel, vol. 1, p. 115). David Kaufman also uses R. Shlomo Parcon to adduce how R. Yehuda Halevi died. Kaufman points out that had R. Yehudah Halevi died in such a spectacular fashion as the legend has it, R. Shlomo Parcon was sure to note it. As R. Parcon makes no note of an extraordinary death, R. Yehuda Halevi must have died a natural death. (Mechkarim Besafrus Haivrit Byemei Habenyim, p. 195). In Amudei Avodah, Landshuth also questions the legend due to lack of evidence that R. Yehuda Halevi ever made it to Eretz Yisrael. (p. 70).

In regard to the piyut, Zion Haloh Tishali, Landshuth brings different opinions where this was written, in Spain or Damascus, Syria (p. 76). Yitzhak Baer (Kinos p. 130) and David Kaufmann (supra, p. 195) cite an manuscript -- housed at Oxford -- which says that R. Yehuda Halevi said this piyut when he got to the Yerushalayim. Shadal writes it was written in Spain (supra).

Earlier I mentioned that the Sefer Yuchsin writes that R. Yehuda Halevi was fifty years old when he came to Eretz Yisrael and he is buried with his first cousin, Abraham Ibn Ezra. Later he writes that he is buried with R. Yehuda Bar Elayh in Tzefas. In the Travels of R. Benjamin of Tudela, written around 1170 - thirty years after the R. Yehuda Halevi died - Benjamin records that he visited the grave of R. Yehuda Halevi in Teveriah (there are actually various readings of these words in the manuscripts, but Adler accepts this as the correct reading; p. 29). In the travels of R. Yitzchak Ben Alfurah, written around 1441, he writes that he visited the grave of the Ibn Ezra and R. Yehuda Halevi (Avraham Yari, Masos Eretz Yisrael, p. 110). Both of these provide strong evidence that R. Yehuda Halevi actually made it to Eretz Yisrael. Nevertheless, an anonymous traveler in 1473 (Masos Eretz Yisroel, p. 113) and R. Yosef Sofer in 1762 (Iggrot Eretz Yisroel, p. 301) write that they visited the grave of the Ibn Ezra but make no mention that R. Yehuda Halevi is buried there as well. In the travels of R. Moshe Yerushalmi from 1769, he writes that he visited the graves of the Ibn Ezra and R. Shlomo Ibn Gabriel (Masos Eretz Yisroel, p. 438). I would venture to say the author confused R. Shlomo Ibn Gabriel with R. Yehuda Halevi both being famous composers and are sometimes confused. Furthermore, we have no source that R. Shlomo Ibn Gabriel ever came to Eretz Yisrael (aside from a very late letter written in 1747 printed in Egrot Eretz Yisrael, p. 273). (See also David Kaufmann, p. 205 and Sinai, vol. 28, p. 290). In a manuscript from the author of the Koreh Hadoros (printed in Sinai vol. 28, p. 284) it seems that the R. Yehuda Halevi was buried in Jerusalem.

Over one hundred years ago the Cairo Genizah was accidentally discovered and due to this incredible find every areas of Jewish Literature and History have been greatly enriched. Before this discovery the history of R. Yehuda Halevi written by the early scholars of Jewish History was based on the poems of Halevi that were printed by Shadal and others. However, much has been discovered in Geniza Manuscripts in the past sixty odd years which adds an incredible amount of detailed information to what we knew about the end of R. Yehuda Halevi's life including original autograph letters of Halevi. [One can view some of these online here, and here is an example of one of documents relating to R. Yehudah Halevi.] These discoveries were made by the great scholar of the Cairo Genizah, Shlomo D. Goitein. Starting in 1954, Goitein printed his discoveries with his explanations of the material, in various journals mostly in Tarbitz. Later on, in his classic A Mediterranean Society (volume V, pp. 448-468), he included an excellent chapter on R. Yehuda Halevi based on all the material which he had found over the years. Most of his interpretations of the material he discovered have been accepted by Professors C. Sherman and Ezra Fleischer. In A Mediterranean Society Goitein writes “a full publication of all the geniza letters referring to Judah Halevi would fill a book.” (p. 462). Although Goitein never got around to writing such a book, in 2001 Professors Moshe Gil and Ezra Fleischer did write such a book. The title of the book is Yehudah Halevei U'bnei Chugo this book is a six hundred and forty page study of all the material from the genizah discovered by Goitein. This book includes all the original documents with notes and an in-depth history of all that can be gleaned from these letters. It is simply incredible to read what Goitein and than Gil and Fleischer discover in these letters.

The relevant documents are from a Cairo business man named Abu Said Halfon who was a very close friend of R. Yehuda Halevi. What follows is a brief time line of R. Yehuda Halevi's journey to Eretz Yisrael based on the research of these professors. In 1129, when R. Yehuda Halevi was fifty four years old he decided to make the journey to Eretz Yisrael. In the year 1130, R. Yehuda Halevi began his journey. He intended to travel through Egypt. We don’t know why he didn’t. But we do know that he ended up in North Africa. In North Africa, he became good friends with the Ibn Ezra. For some unknown reason, he ended up back in Spain. Not too much information is known about why this journey to Eretz Yisrael did not end up happening. Ten years later, in 1140, R. Yehuda Halevi began the journey again. He ended up in Alexandria on September 8. He had intended to leave from Egypt to Eretz Yisrael immediately, but was delayed. He ended up going to Cairo until Pesach. After that he returned to Alexandria. A few days before Shavuos of 1141, he boarded the boat, and on Shavuos, he set sail to Eretz Yisrael. In a letter written about 6 months later indicates that R. Yehuda Halevi was no longer alive. It seems that he was alive for 2 months in Eretz Yisrael. We don’t have any information about his stay in Eretz Yisrael. It would seem that either he got sick or died a natural death. There is no clear answer whether the legend is true or not. It’s rather sad that with all the manuscripts discovered in the Cairo geniza that enriched us with an in-depth, heavily detailed history of R. Yehuda Halevi’s last years until he left to Eretz Yisrael, does not tell us anything more. However, there was one letter written three months after the death of R. Yehuda Halevi that does indicate that perhaps the legend is true. The letter (the ellipsis appear in the original) says as follows:
ולא נעלם ממנה אודות רבינו יהודה הלוי הצדיק החסיד זק"ל אשר עליו באמת ניבאו נביאי האמת עין לא ראתה, ההיה גבור ביראת אלהים ובתורתו, ומאמרי פעליו מעידים צדקו, באודותיו ירונו כצפורים בעתותן למנוחת עולם הוטע כבוד גן אלהים, וברמה הוא נשא נס גדולותיו והליכות גבורותיו, אשר תרונה ביקרו, והתיקר... וביקרו, ותמונת ה' הביט... בשדה צען להאירה... זק"ל לא... צור... מחנה שדי... להתנחל לרשת... עזי...וישם... בדמות השכינה ובמראה... בשערי ירושלים
This letter was first printed by Jacob Mann, Goitein highlights the line ולא נעלם ממנה אודות רבינו יהודה הלוי הצדיק החסיד זק"ל which would seem to indicate that his death was not natural (calling him a kodesh is typically reserved for a martyrs) and especially the end where it says בשערי ירושלים but the letter is damaged and hard to read so one can not say anything conclusively. But Fleischer (pg 255) is willing to use the letter even with it’s missing parts to support the legend! Especially, he says, the author of the letter using the word קודש twice in the phrase זק"ל instead of the usual ז"ל. From this concludes Fleischer that we are not far off at all about Halevi death. Fleischer concludes by noting that one should be careful not to make fun of legends!

There was certainly a strong connection between the Ibn Ezra and R. Yehudah Halevi. Professor D. Kaufman (supra p. 206) gives a listing of the many times which the Ibn Ezra quotes Halevei throughout his works. R. Azariah de Rossi, in his Me'or Eynaim, writes that R. Yehuda Halevi was the Ibn Ezra's father-in-law (chapter 42). Koreh hadoros also brings that he heard this (p. 13). Shalsheles Hakabblah brings a whole legend which he had heard how exactly the Ibn Ezra became the son-in-law of R Yehudah Halevi (pp. 92-93). Interestingly enough the Meiri in his Seder Hakablah and the Sha'ari Zion make no mention of this relationship between the Ibn Ezra and R. Yehuda Halevi. Both Goitein and Fleischer say that although R. Yehuda Halevi was not the father in law of the Ibn Ezra the son of the Ibn Ezra, Yitzhak did marry R. Yehuda Halevi's only daughter (see Yehuda Halevei U'bnei Chugo pp. 247-251). However, M. Gil writes that in the end Goitein changed his mind and realized there was no relation through marriage (p. 250-251). Also, see N. Ben Menachem, Inyai Ibn Ezra, pp. 224-240, 346-356 regarding the relationship between Ibn Ezra and Yehuda Halevi including any relationship through marriage.
It is worthwhile noting that R. Immanuel Aboab in his Bemavak 'al Erko shel Torah, written in 1615, claims that the Ibn Ezra was both R. Yehuda Halevi's son-in-law as well as a cousin. (p. 247).

On this topic in general see also: Adam Shear, The Later History of a Medieval Hebrew Book, Studies in the Reception of Judah Halevi’s Sefer Ha Kuzari, pp. 95, 513-514; C. Shirman, Toldos Hashirah Haivrit Besefard Hamuslamit, pp. 441-443. On the Ibn Ezra and Eretz Yisrael in general, see N. Ben Menachem, Sinai, vol. 10 p. 276 and onwards; see also N. Ben Menachem, Inyai Ibn Ezra, pp. 182-190.

More sources on R. Yehuda Halevi and Eretz Yisrael see: Adam Shear, supra, pp. 516-517; C. Shirman, Letoldos Hashirah Vehadramah Haivrit, vol. one, pp. 319-341; C. Shirman, Toldos Hashirah Haivrit Besefard Hamuslamit, pp. 466-480. Franz Kobler, A Treasury of Jewish Letters, vol. one, p. 155; Abraham Haberman, Toldos Hashirah Vhapiut, vol. one, p. 185;

On the reliability of Shalsheles Hakabbalah in general see: A David’s doctorate and E. Yassif in Sippur Ham Haevrei pp. 351-371)

Thursday, July 26, 2007

New Book on Weddings

Now, with the passing of Tisha B'Av and the three week period, we now enter the wedding season. Appropriately, there is a new book on the laws and customs of weddings. The book, Beyom Chasunaso, by R. Zev Cinamon, is in English with Hebrew footnotes. The book is highly readable and covers just about every practical aspect of a modern Jewish wedding. There is a discussion about untying knots, the recent emphasis on praying under the Chuppah, removing jewelry and the list goes on. The book does a very good job of distinguishing which customs and laws are obligatory and well-accepted and which are not. Thus, for example, the custom of praying under the Chuppah with long lists of names or having singles go under the chuppah after the ceremony, R. Cinamon notes that this is a new custom and carries with it some possible halakhic problems. Or he discusses the custom some have of singling out the wedding witnesses to the exclusion of all others and why one would do that.

The footnotes are all in Hebrew as has become common in a growing number of English Judaica books. The notes, while not comprehensive do provide ample basis for one to look further into a particular topic. The English written in a very clear fashion which makes this accessible for almost anyone. It is also nice that each time a person is quoted, his birth and death dates are included which enables one to put the comments in perspective. Included are the opinions and customs of modern day rabbis including R. Joseph Baer Soloveitchik, R. Shlomo Zalman Auerbach, and R. Yisrael Chait of Far Rockaway.

The book can be purchased directly from R. Cinamon's Yeshiva, Yeshiva Gedolah of West Hempstead by calling 516-882-3765 or emailing and indicating you want the book. The book is $12.

Monday, July 23, 2007

The Besamim Rosh's Son What Can Be Gleaned from an Introduction

Most books, and Hebrew books are no exception, contain introductions. The introduction may lay out the author's vision for the book, or describe the motivation for publication. Additionally, it is not uncommon to find material which has little to nothing to do with the work which follows. One example, is the introduction to the third edition of the work Or Enayim.[1] This work by R. Shlomo b. Abraham Peniel discusses "the fine attributes of the Jews and the good that is awaiting for them in the world to come." It is divided into three parts, the first part discusses the heavens and their effects on the Jews, the second part discusses the Creation story, and the final part discusses the Avot.

In 1806, this work was republished with an introduction from the editor of this edition. The editor was R. [Yisrael] Aryeh Leib ben Saul, the Chief Rabbi of Stettin.[2] The editor was the son of R. Saul Berlin, the latter who is perhaps most well-know for editing/authoring the Teshuvot Besamim Rosh. (For earlier discussions of the Besamim Rosh at the Seforim blog, see here.) The introduction contains some unusual items. It mentions Thomas Paine, Aristotle and other Greek philosophers, as well as the French Revolution and the bloody aftermath.[3] He specifically vocalises the name Abarbanel with that reading.[4] As is common in introductions, R. Aryeh Leib includes a brief history of his upbringing and eduction. He notes that he studied with both his grandfathers, R. Tzvi Hirsh Levin the Chief Rabbi of Berlin, as well as his maternal grandfather. Additionally, R. Aryeh Leib studied with R. Pinchas Horowitz, the author of the Haflah.

While all the above is interesting in its own right, the more interesting and important portion of the introduction discusses R. Areyeh Leib's father, R. Saul. R. Aryeh Leib notes that his father left numerous works in manuscript and specifically lists them. R. Saul himself also discusses his unpublished works in his last will and testament - although only to issue a warning that "all of [his] writings, however... shall be forbidden to anybody to take even one leaf and to read it. Everything shall be left in paper, be sealed up and sent to my above-named father or to my children..." R. Saul doesn't provide any other information about these "writings." R. Aryeh Leib, however, discusses them in detail. First, he explains his father left notes and thought on the entire Sha's titled Perek Hasheg Yad. The other titles, also on GeFeS, include Deh Lachmo, Resisi Lilah, as well as Ateres Zekanim on various aggadot. Finally, R. Saul left "his piskei dinim."

R. Aryeh Leib continues that his father left extensive notes on a work, Or Zarua of R. Isaac of Vienna. At this time the Or Zarua had not been published, instead, the Or Zarua although well-known, wasn't actually first published until 1862 and then only a portion of it. R. Aryeh Leib wanted to publish this work, it seems with his father's notes.[5] As R. Aryeh Leib was well aware of the controversy his father prior works had caused, he took a proactive stance and sent the manuscript to two persons, R. Chanina Lipman Meisels of Peiterkov and R. Tzvi hirsch David HaLevi of Krakow. R. Aryeh Leib was fearful of "the kat ha'tzvoim who are unfortunately very common in this generation, they always treat as suspect the holy works as perhaps they will find something objectionable in these works, and [when they locate something they claim is objectionable] they stir up the populace with this."

R. Aryeh Leib never was able to publish the Or Zarua, however, his discussion enabled one scholar[6] to cast serious doubts on the traditional story associated with the discovery and printing of the Or Zarua. Specifically, in the introduction to the Or Zarua, there is a description of the travels of the manuscript, and the relevant part states "[i]n earlier days this beautiful book used to be the proud possession of the author of the work Besamim Rosh, R. Saul, son of Tzvi Hirsch, Chief Rabbi of Berlin, as it is written on the cover of the [manuscript].... After [R. Saul's] death the book was sent to another city ... by ship over the sea, and the ship and everything that was in it was wrecked, and the manuscript that was inside went under the sea and the waves went over it ... God ... protected this book and prevented it from going down to the depths and saved it from destruction. He sent a stream through the mighty waters a brought the book to the border ... and led a fisherman to the place. He saw the book, lifted it from the sea and brought it to a certain Jew." From there it was transfered to another and was then published. While this story makes for good reading, based upon the introduction in the Or Enayim it seems that it is not true. Contrary to the story, R. Saul did not send the manuscript only to have the ship wreck - instead, as R. Aryeh Leib says, he received the book from his grandfather, R. Yitzhak Yosef Toemim who R. Saul had given it to. It was not then lost in the sea, rather, as we have seen, in 1806 R. Areyeh Leib had it and was hoping to publish it.

What is true from the above story, and is confirmed in part by R. Aryeh Leib, is that the manuscript which the Or Zarua was published from, contains the notes of R. Saul. These notes have never been published although the manuscript is still extant in the Bibliotheca Rosenthalina in Amsterdam and is available at the JNUL (Mss. R. R. Film No. F 10455).

[1] On the title page of this edition it states that it is the second edition of this work. This is incorrect. The Or Enayim was first published in Istanbul in approximately 1520. It was then published for a second time in Cremona in 1557. In 1806, we reach the edition discussed above. Thereafter, in 1967, a photomechanical reproduction of the Cremona edition was published together with R. Emmanuel Benevento's Leviat Chen. [It is worth noting that although the Leviat Chen is also a photomechanical reproduction of the earlier, and only, 1557 Mantua edition, for some reason there are two pages missing at the end. Specifically, these two pages are a dirge bemoaning the 1554 burning of the Talmud in Ancona.]

[2] On the title page his name appears as Aryeh Leib - as the two approbations address him, while he signs the introduction with the additional Yisrael Aryeh Leib. R. Aryeh Leib had a rather colorful life, including converting to Christianity later in life. According to some, however, he repented and returned to Judaism. For more on Aryeh Leib, see Landshuth, Toldot Anshe ha-shem u'Polosum (Berlin, 1884) pp. 109-110. Landshuth cites E. Rosenthal, Yode'a Sefer p. 16 no. 93 as the source for the story that Aryeh Leib converted and that at the end of his life returned to Judaism. R. Saul also had a daughter, Hena, who married R. Abraham Hertz and they had a son, Saul.

[3] These persons and events are included to highlight the distinction, according to R. Aryeh Leib, between Jews and non-Jews. He claims that although one may find wisdom in non-Jewish as well as Jewish sources, in order to fully appreciate wisdom one can only do so through the study of the Torah and fulfilling its commandments. Thus, Duschinsky's conjecture that R. Areyeh Leib mention was "to impress the reader with his profound knowledge in all subjects," has little basis. See Charles Duschinsky, "The Rabbinate of the Great Synagogue, London, from 1756-1842," Jewish Quarterly Review (n.s.) 9:3/4 (January - April, 1919): 383.

[4] See S. Z. Leiman, "Abarbanel and the Censor," Journal of Jewish Studies (1968): 49, n. 1.

[5] Although Schrijver, see next note p. 78 n. 63, alleges there is "no clear textual evidence to support [the] assumption that Aryeh Leib wanted to include his father's notes in a printed edition." It seems from the fact R. Aryeh Leib went so far out of his way to defend the work against possible detractors I don't think it far fetched to understand that the detractors would question the work of his father.
The above noted works are not the only works of R. Saul, R. Saul himself mentions other works he authored, none of which were published, in his notes Kasa D'harsena. For a complete list see Landshuth, supra n. 2, pp. 105-106.

[6] Emile G.L. Schrijver, "Some Light on the Amsterdam and London Manuscripts of Isaac ben Moshs of Vienna's Or Zarua'," Bulletin of the John Rylands University Library of Manchester, 75:3 (Autumn 1993): 53-82, esp. 73-82 where he includes an appendix on "The Story of the Shipwreck of the Rosenthaliana Or Zarua' and its Demystification."

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Iggeres Ha'Mussar: The Ethical Will of a Bibliophile

Iggeres Ha'Mussar: The Ethical Will of a Bibliophile
by Eliezer Brodt

A few days ago, the sefer Iggeres Ha'mussar from R. Yehudah Ibn Tibbon, was reprinted. What follows is a short review of this beautiful work.

R. Yehudah Ibn Tibbon was born in 1120. Not much is known about him but from this work one learns a few more things about him, he was a doctor, close to the Ba'al Ha'meor (pp. 50, 63). R. Yehudah appears to have been working on another work (see p. 46) although it is unclear whether this work was a full work. He also loved his only son R. Shmuel Ibn Tibbon very much and wanted him to succeed him as a doctor and translator of seforim -as Yehudah Ibn Tibbon was famous for his own translations. R. Yehuda ibn Tibbon's son, Shmuel, refers to his father as "father of translators" as he translated many classics, among them, the Tikun Nefesh of Ibn Gabreil, Kuzari, Mivhar Peninim, Emunah Ve'dais of Reb Sa'adia Gaon, Chovos Halevovos, and two works of R. Yonah Ibn Ganach.

In general, most people do not enjoy reading ethical wills for a few reasons. Amongst the reasons given is that wills, by nature, can be a depressing reminder of death and the like, topics most people would rather not focus on. Another reason given is (and this they say they find applies to many older mussar seforim as well) is people feel the advice is dated and does not speak to them at all. In this particular case, however, the Iggeres Ha'mussar is not a typical will as it does not focus on death at all. Furthermore, although it was written around 1190, over 800 hundred years ago, it is full of valuable advice that speaks to one even today. Besides for all this, there are some interesting points found in this will that are very appropriate for a seforim blog to talk about- specifically, how one should maintain their library.

Iggeres Ha'mussar is an ethical will which R. Yehudah Ibn Tibbon wrote to his son R. Shmuel Ibn Tibbon. This work has been printed earlier, but not that many times. [1] The most recent reprint is Israel Abrahams' Hebrew Ethical Wills, originally printed in 1926 and reprinted in 2006, with a new forward by Judah Goldin. Now, Mechon Marah has just reprinted this work based on four manuscripts. This edition also includes over three hundred comments from the editor, R. Pinchas Korach, which explain the text and provide sources for many statements in the book. This new version also includes an introduction, short biography of the author, and a listing of R. Yehudah Ibn Tibbon sources. Additionally, this edition also includes a letter from R. Yehudah Ibn Tibbon to R Asher M’luniel regarding Ibn Tibbon's translation of Chovos Halevovos.

Some of the many points found in this work. Regarding learning and other areas of ruchnius R. Yehudah Ibn Tibbon writes to his son make sure to learn torah as much as possible, (p. 38), make sure to teach it to your children, (p. 59) to one's students (p. 61). One should study chumash and dikduk on Shabbos and Yom Tov (id.). R. Yehudah writes to make sure not to waste your youth as at that stage of life it is much easier to learn than later in life (p. 38). He also exhorts him to be on time to davening and be from the first ten for the minyan (p. 67).

He tells his son to study medicine (p. 38). Elsewhere he writes that his son should learn the ibur – how the calendar works (p. 57). R. Yehudah is very concerned, throughout the will, that his son learn how to write clearly and with proper grammar and R. Yehudah offers many tips on how to accomplish these goals (pp. 33-36,45-48). R. Yehudah tells his son to learn Arabic (pp. 34-35) and to do so by to studying the parsha every Shabbos in Arabic (p. 43). R. Yehudah expresses the importance of double checking written material prior to sending it as one tends to make mistakes (p. 45) and notes that "even the Ba'al Ha'meor, who was the godal hador, showed R. Yehudah writings before they were sent out" (p. 50).

On life in general, R. Yehudah Ibn Tibbon writes that one should be very careful with the mitzvah of kibud av v'em going so far as to tell his son to review the parsha of Bnei Yonoduv (which deal with this topic) every Shabbos (pp. 62 and 32). He tells him to make sure to seek advice from good people, people whom he's confident in their wisdom (pg 42). Not to get in to arguments with people, (id.), dress oneself and their family nicely, (p. 43), acquire good friends (p. 39), be careful to eat healthy, (p. 54), and make sure to keep secrets people tell you (p. 70). He advises his son to treat his wife respectfully and not to follow the ways of other people who treat their wives poorly. (p. 57) Later on, R. Yehudah adds to make sure not to hit one's wife (a unfortunate practice that was all too common in that period, see A. Grossman, "Medieval Rabbinic Views on Wife Beating, 800-1300," in Jewish History 5, 1 (1991) 53-62) and, if one must rebuke their wife to do so softly (p. 58).

Regarding seforim and libraries R. Yehudah Ibn Tibbon writes many interesting things. He writes that he bought his son many seforim which covered a wide range of topics, at times buying multiple copies of the same book in order his son would not need to borrow from anyone else (pg 32-33). He writes that "you should make your seforim your friends, browse them like a garden and when you read them you will have peace” (pg 40 - 41). It’s important to know the content of seforim and not to just buy them (pg 33). He also writes “that every month you should check which seforim you have and which you lent out, you should have the books neat and organized so that they will be easy to find. Whichever book you lend out ,make a note, in order that if you are looking for it you will know where it is. And, when it is returned make sure to note that as well. Make sure to lend out books and to care for them properly” (pp. 60 – 61).

One rather strange point throughout the Iggeres Ha'mussar is the tone R. Yehudah Ibn Tibbon uses, the tone leaves the impression that his son, R. Shmuael Ibn Tibbon, was very lax in the area of kibud av (see, e.g., pp. 33, 34, 52). Although, I highly doubt that his son completely failed at honoring his father, one thing is certain that in the end R. Shmuel listened to his father and read and fulfilled the suggestions in the will. Specifically, R. Shmuel became fluent in Arabic and became the most famous translator of his generation, translating many works, the most well-known being the Rambam's Moreh Nevukim, making his father quiet proud of him in the Olam Ha'elyon.

This new print of the Iggeres Ha'mussar is aesthetically very appealing - the print is beautiful and the notes are very useful. But, this edition, which claims to have used multiple manuscripts, should not be mistaken for a critical edition as it has serious shortcomings in this area. For example, the will many times references the poems of R. Shemuel Ha'naggid's Ben Mishlei but R. Korach, in this edition, never provides a citation where they are located in Ben Mishlei. This deficiency is in contrast to Israel Abrahams' edition where Abrahams does cross-reference these external works. The latest edition states that they used four different manuscripts but do not explain what, if any, major differences are between the manuscripts. Nor do they explain the differences with Abrahams' edition and theirs. The history in the introduction is very unprofessional, quoting spurious sources - this part in too could have been a bit better. Although the introduction includes some nice highlights of the will they should also have included a full index, which is standard in most contemporary seforim. All in all, however, aside for these minor points this ethical will, and this edition, is worth owning and reading from time to time as R. Yehudah Ibn Tibbon wanted his son to do.


[1] This work was only first published by the famed bibliographer Moritz Steinschneider in 1852. Steinschneider did so as part of a larger work VeYavo Ya'akov el Ha'A"Yan, which Moritz Steinschneider published in honor of his father Yaakov [which is rather appropriate as this will contains much on the obligation to honor one's parent] reaching age 70. The work was then republished in 1930 by Simcha Assaf under the title Mussar haAv.

Friday, July 20, 2007

S.Z. Havlin - Additional Notes on the New Encyclopeadia Judaica

הערות על אנ"י
מאת: ש"ז הבלין

הרב הנקין הזכיר מכשול בערך מערכי האנצ"י, ואולי ראו להוסיף, כי אכן נכון הדבר, ואף הרב הנקין שליט"א בעצמו, נכשל בעבר בהסתמכו על מידע שלקח מאצ"י. באחת מחוברות 'קושט', עלון רבני שעורך הרב הנקין (לצערי איני זוכר את מס' חוברת, ואף אני עכשיו רחוק מביתי ומארצי), ציין הרב כמקור ראשון ל'אני מאמין' שבסידורים, את הגדת ונציה שכ"ו. פרט זה לקוח מהערך על י"ג העיקרים שבאנציקלופדיה יודאיקה (שכתב פרופ' אלטמן מברנדייס). והנה לא זו בלבד שאין שם ה'אני מאמין', אלא שככל הנראה אף אין הגדה שנדפסה בונציה בשנה זו!

ציון זה הכשיל גם את עורך הסידור היפה מאוד, הן בתוכנו ובמקורותיו והן בצורתו הנאה מאוד, 'עליות אליהו',[1] שציין פרט זה כמקור ל'אני מאמין'.

מקורו של 'אני מאמין' לענ"ד עדיין נעלם. אמנם רבים חושבים שהוא הוא על פי דעת הרמב"ם, אך מי שיעיין וישוה ימצא ניגודים לא מעטים ואף חשובים בין דברי הרמב"ם ובין נוסח ה'אני מאמין'. בסידורים שבדפוס, דומני שהקדום מהם שראיתי בו את השיר הזה הוא סידור פראג רצ"ו (אני כותב כנ"ל מרחוק ומחוסר ספרים[אני בדקתי וזה אמת ד.ר.]), וכנראה הוא מצוי גם בכתבי יד של הסידור, אך מסופקני אם יימצא בהם קדום יותר מאשר המאה הט"ז.

במיוחד חשוב פרט אחד, שנאמר בשם הגאון מבריסק ר' וולוולע זצ"ל, ואשר רבי מ"מ שולזינגר בספריו הפך אותו לאחד מעיקרי הדת ופלפל בו הרבה מאוד, והוא שהצורה הנכונה של האמונה בביאת המשיח, היא כמו שנאמר בסידור: 'בכל יום שיבוא', והיינו לפי פירושו שיש להאמין שמשיח יבוא בכל יום, היינו היום הזה, וכך יש להאמין בכל יום. ידוע ששאלוהו על דברי הגמרא בעירובין שאין משיח בא בשבתות או בערבי שבתות, והשיב, קודם כל יבוא, ואנו כבר נמצא תירוץ מתאים!

על כל פנים יש לעיין, מיהו מחבר ה'אני מאמין' ומה סמכותו כפוסק בענין זה, והלוא ברמב"ם לא נאמר שיש להאמין שמשיח יבוא בכל יום! (פרט לכך אפשר לדחוק ולומר שגם ב'אני מאמין' הפירוש להאמין בכל יום, שיבוא, ולא שיבוא בכל יום. . .)

וגם ברצוני להגיב על מאמרו היפה של פרופ' ש"ז ליימן, על האנציקלופדיה יודאיקה החדשה. חשוב מאוד לדון כך, באנציקלופדיה שמהווה מקור עיקרי למידע, ובעיקר לחשוף מגמות ונטיות לא ענייניות ולא אובייקטיביות. כמובן שיש לבקר גם את הרמה ואת המקצועיות.

מסקנתו של פרופ' ליימן, שרמתה של המהדורה הישנה גבוהה יותר מהחדשה. וזה פרדוכס שכמדומני מאפיין במידה רבה את המצב במדעי היהדות בכלל, לרבות התחומים הטכניים והאינפורמטיביים. בנהוג בעולם, בעיקר במדעי הטבע והרפואה,שמקיימים את צו התורה, וישן מפני חדש תוציאו. לא אחת ראיתי בספריות, שהגיעו מהדורות חדשות, ואף של סדרות גדולות,ומיד השליכו החוצה את הישן, כאבן שאין לה הופכים. אין הדבר כך לא ביהדות, לא במדעי היהדות, ואף לא בביבליוגרפיה שעדיין עלינו למשמש ולהשתמש בספרים הישנים, כגון ספרי הרחיד"א, חיים מיכל ועוד, ומוצאים בהם לעתים, גילויים שחוזרים ומתגלים כעת מחדש, ואין מחסור בדוגמאות.

כדי לשבר את האוזן, הרי אירוע שאירע לי בערך שכתבתי למהדורה הישנה (כתבתי בה למעלה מחמישים ערכים). הזמינו ממני ערך 'הגהות'. נושא זה היה חדש, ולא מצאתיו בספרים קודמים (ראה למשל אצל יעקב שפיגל, עמודים בתולדות וכו'. הע' 1, שלא מצא שכתבו על נושא ההגהות פרט ל'ערך' זה באנצ"י), הסתפקתי אם הכוונה היא לתופעת ההגהות, או לתולדות ספרות ההגהות והשתלשלותה. פניתי למערכת ומתשובת העורך הבנתי שהשאלה לא הובנה, ואי לכך כתבתי על שניהן (ובמיוחד שנוכחתי שיש כנראה קו ישר והתפתחותי מהתופעה אל הספרות).

לאחר הכתיבה, לאחר העריכה, התרגום, הבדיקה וההגהה, לקראת סגירת העבודה, קבלתי קריאה בהולה מן המערכת, שקרתה תקלה, וכלל לא התכוונו לערך זה. אמנם מאחר שכבר נכתב ונערך וכו' הם ישמחו להדפיסו, אך בגלל הטעות נמצא שעכשיו חסר להם הערך 'הגהות מיימוניות' שאותו התכוונו להזמין בשעתו. בקשוני אפוא להכין להם בדחיפות ובמהירות ערך כזה . . .

זוכר אני את הרעש ואת המהומה שהתחוללה בארץ, כאשר נודע שפרופ' י' לייבוביץ שהיה אז אחד מעורכי האנציקלופדיה העברית, מתעתד לכתוב בעצמו את הערך על דוד בן גוריון באנציקלופדיה. היו צעקות רמות, שלא יתכן שאדם בעל דעות כשלו, ושעמדותיו הפוליטיות והערכותיו לראשי המדינה היו ידועות ברבים, יקח על עצמו כתיבת ערך חשוב זה.

ברור שיש להבליט בכל מקרה כזה כמו לפנינו, את המגמות המעוותות, חוץ מהכשלונות האובייקטיביים, והשקפות מסוימות של חוגים מסוימים, שמשתמשים בהזדמנויות להשליט את דעותיהם על הצבור.

הערות [1]סידור 'עליות אליהו' הוא גם סידור הגר"א, היינו שאמנם אינו סידור שעשה הגר"א, שכידוע אין סידור כזה, אלא סידור על פי מה שמשוער להיות נוסחת הגר"א ודעתו בהלכות הנוגעות לסידור, כמו שנהגו בסידורי הגר"א כולם.
והנה לאחרונה הופיעה מהדורה חדשה של סידור, זה, על ידי המחבר והמהדיר של 'עליות אליהו' ובהשתתפות האדמו"ר מנוואומינסק שליט"א, בשם 'קרני הוד', ובנוסח ספרד. הרי לנו אפוא, סידור הגר"א בנוסח ספרד! ת

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

No more Bentchers: A Review of a Sefer Given as a Wedding Gift

No more Bentchers: A Review of a Sefer Given as a Wedding Gift
by Eliezer Brodt

A wedding carries with it many customs, one of which is an attempt to use this ceremony to disseminate Torah. There was an old custom in many communities for people to write poems in honor of the simchas chasan and kallah. Others even wrote plays in honor of the bride and groom. One example is the Ramchal who wrote the play Ma’ashe Shimshon (as well as other poems for various weddings). In other communities there was a custom for someone to say a derasha at the chasunah for the same reason (in certain circles this still exists). Recently a newer custom evolved to print a sefer and give it out at the wedding.

It used to be a plain old bentcher was given out at a wedding, some, wanting something more substantial than a bentcher began giving out siddurim or chumashim. Today, in many circles, a sefer of some sort is given out to the wedding guests. Some times it’s an old work of some old famous relative of the family that has never been printed before, other times is a reprint from a relative of one of the wedding parties work which had been out-of-print. Some times its it’s torah from the groom or from some family member that’s making the wedding. What’s even more interesting about these seforim is many times they never reach the stores even the famous Biegeleisen who generally gets close to everything printed (to some known as Gan Eden). The market for these seforim many times is very small so the family never bothers bringing it to any stores. [Although, recently, various works of R. Reuven Margoliyot were reprinted for a wedding. It seems these were more widely disseminated as the republication forced Mossad HaRav Kook to reprint the works and to note that, according to them, the wedding reprint was a violation of their copyright.] The only way one gets the sefer is by being at the wedding or knowing someone who has been there. Other times it’s just pure luck - somehow one gets lucky and stumbles upon it. It’s a shame that a complete bibliography of such works can not really be written because there is no way to know all the works that have been published for these occasions.

A few months ago I was at the wedding of a good friend. As is now commonplace, the guests received a sefer – more correctly a collection of seforim – at this wedding. What follows is a review of that wedding gift.

First, I can only refer to this work as Mazkeret Nisuin Yehudah Vyael Hershowitz (a keepsake from the wedding of Yehudah and Yael Hershkowitz) as no other title is provided. The sefer is a paperback and is one hundred and thirty six pages long. It includes a few parts some of which have never printed before. The book was edited by the groom - R Yehudah Hershkowitz. R. Hershkowitz has authored many articles some of which appeared in Or Yisroel and Yeshurun dealing with many areas of learning and history.

The sefer contains four sections: section one is the sefer Ashes Chayil from R. Avrohom Yagel, section two are Shelios Uteshuvot from R. Avigdor Kara, section three is the Mamar al targum from R.Yakov Ben Chaim (ibn Adonijah), and section four is a Kuntres from R. Noach Berlin. I assume the reason why he printed it in this order is because Ashes Chayil is the most relevant to the wedding and then the other placement is based on chronological order. Prior to each section R. Herskowitz includes an excellent historical introduction to the work which follows.

The first part is the sefer Ashes Chayil from R. Avrohom Yagel. This work has been printed a few times even at a chasunah in 1994 of Zvi and Sarah Friedman in this edition R Herskowitz reset the type, which had not been done in the prior reprint, and added some notes.

The author R. Avrohom Yagel has been discussed at great length by Professor David Ruderman in his book Kabblah, Magic and Science. R. Avrohum Yagel was born in 1553. He corresponded with many gedolim of the time, amongst them the Ramah Mepano and R. Mordechai Dato. He was highly respected by the Ramah Mepano. He wrote many works on all areas especially science, many of which are still in manuscript and await publishing. One of his seforim is called Gaie Chezyon this work has been recently reprinted in English and Hebrew by Professor David Ruderman. It is a highly original work written in the form of dreams dealing with many topics. Many aspects of R. Yagel’s personal life can be gleaned from this work.

Ashes Chayil was first printed in Venice in 1606 and is a commentary on the thirty-first chapter of Mishlei which contains the verse of Ashes Chayil . R. Yagel wrote this work in honor of a friend’s wedding. The main idea of the work is to discuss what the role of a wife in marriage, to fear and love god, fear and love her husband and not to sit idle. R. Yagel notes that these same attributes apply not only for marriage but also when serving God. In the work there are many interesting explanations to different aggados of Chazal. Besides for this he writes many practical pieces of advice relating to marriage. For example, he writes, how the wife should get up early to prepare the household needs (pg 36). He writes that her voice should not be heard outside (Pg 40). Another point he makes is she should be careful to dress in a ts’neius manner and not to dress up like many woman to impress everyone (pg 49-50).

The next section are the Shelios u’Teshuvot of R Avigdor Kara. These teshuvot are printed here for the first time from manuscript. Here too R. Hershkowitz includes an excellent historical background about R. Avigdor Kara and his times. Although not much is known about R Avigdor Kara, R. Hershkowitz includes a brief history as well as a listing of the writings of two of his contemporaries which help with R. Kara's biography: R. Yom Tov Melehuzan and R. Menachem Shalem. They were all active on the beis din in Prague during the same time periods (approx. 1390-1439). Besides for this R. Yom Tov Melehuzan was involved in kabblah as many of his works show whereas R. Menachem Shalem was more involved in philosophy. R Avigdor Kara was somewhere in between them as he was involved with both areas. In one of the teshuvot printed in this collection we see how R Avigdor Kara struggled trying to reconcile contradictions between Kabblah and philosophy. In the end R. Kara writes that he was successful and felt that he was able to show that there were no contradictions between the two. Both R. Yom Tov Melehuzan and R. Menachem Shalem were close with R Avigdor Kara quoting him in their respective works. R Avigdor Kara wrote many works on all areas. Some were printed many others remain in manuscript. One work, the Sefer Hapliah (more on this in a future post) was attributed to him but as has been recently proven is certainly not from him. The Sefer Hapliah although many write it is from R Nechunyah Ben Hakonah (see the many sources R Hershkowitz cites) but Professor Ta Shema (see his Kneset macharim Volume 3) and others have demonstrated that it’s a much later work.

R Herskowitz was perhaps unaware of some more sources on R Avigdor Kara. R. Yididiah Tiyah Weil brings that R Avigdor made a golem (Levushim Levadim pg 37). There is a nice chapter on R. Avigdor Kara in the controversial book Hachasidus from R. Ahron Marcus (chapter 28). Another point R. Hershkowitz missed is that the Zemir Achud Yuchud is attributed to him . This song is sung in many circles when the chasun gets an aliyah and has been subject to an excellent article by one of the experts on minhagim, R. Hamburger in his Shorshei Minhag Ashkenaz (volume 3 Pg 373- 397). While these contemporary sources are not mentioned, R. Herskowitz does provide many other sources.

The teshuvos which are included in this volume are on some very interesting topics. He discusses davening to angels and in general what function they serve exactly in tefilah. This is another great source for the well-known discussion of Machnesei Rachamim which has been treated thoroughly in the classic article of R. S. Sprecher (Yeshurun, vol. 3, pp. 706-29). It is also an important source for the debate, recently restarted again on this blog, regarding Professor Marc B Shapiro book. Another teshuvah deals with a work of R. Avigdor Kara’s which we do not have called Even Sappir. R. Avigdor explains what this work was, it appears to be rectifying contradictions between Kabblah and philosophy. For both these teshuvot R. Hershowitz provides some excellent background behind these topics. One other (of the many) interesting points found in this section is a early source that one should remove ones shoes before entering shul. This subject has been treated by many, most recently by R. Yecheil Goldhever in his now classic Minhaghei Hakehilos (volume one pg 3-7).

The next section is the Mamar Al targum from R.Yakov Ben Hayyim. This Mamar was very rare and exists in less than five chumushim in the world. R. Yakov Ben Hayyim was the famous editor for the Bomborg publishers in Venice. Much has been written about Bomberg, but suffice it to say it played a very important role in the history of the printing of seforim. Many of the seforim printed in this printing house have remained the same layout to this day such as the Mikros Gedolos Chumash, Shas Bavli and Yerushalmi and Rambam. R. Hershkowitz has a nice discussion on how exactly did R.Yakov Ben Hayyim edit the seforim. One of the famous points of interest with R.Yakov Ben Hayyim is that he became a Christian, not much is known as to when and why. R. Hershkowitz wants to suggest an interesting possibility that R.Yakov Ben Adoneiah did not do so willingly but rather was forced. [The inclusion of R. Yakov and R. Yagel has another connection, in that R. Yagel was erroneously accused of converting to Christianity.]

The Mamar Al targum discuses many interesting things amongst them when was Targum Onkelos given and written. He also has a big chidish L’ehalacha that sh'naim mikra ve'achad targum needs to be done during K'reias hatorah.

The last section is a Kuntres from R. Noach Berlin. This kuntres was never printed before. In this section R Hershkowitz does not provide that much of a biography about R. Noach Berlin as he and a friend are currently working on another work of R. Berlin the Meyin Hachacmah (which we eagerly await). R. Noach Berlin authored many famous works amongst them the Atzei Arazim (on Shulchan Orach Even Ezer) and Aztei Almughim (on eruv chaserios and netlayas yadaim). R. Chaim Volozhiner writes that after the Gra died the only person he had to consult with was R. Noach Berlin. This kuntres is on the topic of woman doing semicha. While discussing this topic he goes thru many others (as was the style of learning in those days) and deals with woman and mitzvos aseh sheha'zman grama especially Tefilin.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Rabbi Yehuda Henkin -- Opposite of Plagiarism

Rabbi Yehuda Henkin is the author of Shu"T Bnei Banim in four volumes and the commentary Chibah Yeteirah on the Torah. He learned privately with his grandfather, Rabbi Yosef Eliyahu Henkin, and served as Area Rabbi of the Bet Shean Valley in Israel. He now lives in Jerusalem.

Rabbi Henkin has two degrees from Columbia University, and has written extensively in English: Equality Lost--Essays in Torah Commentary, Halacha and Jewish Thought, (Urim Publications); New Interpretations on the Parsha (Ktav); Responsa on Contemporary Jewish Women's Issues (Ktav); and the forthcoming Understanding Tzniut--Modern Controversies in the Jewish Community (Urim).

This is his first contribution to the Seforim blog.
Opposite of Plagiarism
Rabbi Yehuda Henkin

Plagiarism is a lack of attribution; less common is its opposite, mistaken attribution; rare indeed is the attribution of a defamatory work to the object of the defamation himself! An example of the latter can be found in the entry in the Encyclopedia Judaica [1] concerning my grandfather, R. Yosef Eliyahu Henkin zt"l.

The offending sentence reads: "His published responsa appear in Chaim Bloch's Even me-Kir Tizak (1953) and his own Perushei Lev Ivra (c. 1925)."[2] But in fact, not only does the pamphlet Even me-Kir Tizak contain no responsa of R. Henkin, it is an unbridled personal attack on him on the part of one who lost a din Torah heard before him. Bloch refused to accept the verdict, and resorted to defamation of the judges. If I recall reading correctly about the affair, he was subsequently put in cherem by the Agudas HaRabbonim.

How did the mix-up in attribution occur? Since the card-catalogue of the Jewish Reading Room of the 42nd Street Library in New York listed Bloch's pamphlet under R. Henkin, one can surmise that the researcher[3] for the EJ copied the listing without bothering to look up the reference.

Since then the mistake has been copied in Rafael Halperin's Entziklopedia l'Bet Yisrael and, earlier this year, in the new edition of the EJ (2007). Surely a case of shigegat talmud oleh zadon [4].

[1] First published in 1972, vol. 8 column 324. The EJ contains a number of incorrect or partial biographical details; for a comprehensive account see my Equality Lost (Urim), chap. 16. See here for Shnayer Z. Leiman's review of the NEJ at the Seforim blog.
[2] This confuses two separate works: Perushei Ivra [PDF] (1925) and Lev Ivra [PDF] (1957). Together with Edut leYisrael (1946), all were reprinted in Kitvei haGri"a Henkin, vol. 1 (1981). In addition, Kitvei haGri"a Henkin, vol. 2 (1989) is a collection of his responsa and articles, edited by his son (my father) Avraham Hillel zt"l. (The volumes may or may not be available from Ezras Torah in NY. I have some of vol. 1 and a few more of vol. 2.)
[3] Not to be confused with the rosh yeshiva of the same name, but an otherwise reputable academic scholar.
[4] Avot 4:13.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Prof. Marc B. Shapiro response to Rabbi Chaim Rapoport

In response to Rabbi Chaim Rapoport's recent response to Prof. Marc B. Shapiro's response to Rabbi Zev Leff (see original review), Prof. Marc B. Shapiro has shared with the Seforim blog his original response to Rabbi Chaim Rapoport from several years ago.
ועש"ק פרשת בא תשס"ד

לכבוד ידידי אהובי הרה"ג החסיד המפואר, איש חמודות ונדיב לב, אוצר בלום לתורה ולחכמה, מוה"ר חיים ראפפורט שליט"א, אב"ד דק"ק אילפורד יע"א
אחדשה"ט באהבה נאמנה

תחילה אני מודה למע"כ על טירחתו לכתוב לי ולהעיר על דבריי הפעוטים . . . וכעת אבא לעיקר הנידן במכתבו, וטרם אתייחס לטענתו במישרין, הנני מצהיר שדבריי בזה הם כיהודה ועוד לקרא, שהרי רבנו הגר"א, אשר כל רז לא אניס ליה, כתב בפירוש שהרמב"ם מכחיש את הקמיעות והשמות, ואנן מה נענה אבתריה. וכל הנידון אינו אלא האם אפשר למצוא את זה במפורש בדברי הרמב"ם. ויאמין לי ידידי, כי אני זהיר מאד בכל לשונותי, ולפני שאני כותב דבר בשם הנשר הגדול יושב אני שבעה נקיים, ורק אח"כ הנני מעלה את הדיו על הנייר. וכמובן, מוכן אני להודות שטעיתי, כי אין אדם תחת השמש שיכול לומר שלא שגה, ולא אפונה כי יש בספרי דברים הצריכים תיקון, ושגיאות מי יבין, כל קבל דנא מחזיקנא טיבותא לך אם יעמידני על האמת, ואת הצריך תיקון אשוב ואתקן, אבל בנידון דידן, אינני חושב שטעיתי.

כתב האג"מ שהרמב"ם מודה שאיכא שמירה בשמות מלאכים ושמות קדושים ופסוקים, ובפירושו לסוטה ז, ד כתב הרמב"ם נגד אלה הטפשים שכותבים קמיעות ושמים בתוכם שמות קדושים ושמותיהם של מלאכים. זה פירושו של קמיע. וכשהאג"מ כותב "שמות קדושים" כוונתו לאלו השמות שנזכרים ע"י גדולי אשכנז, ולפי דעת הרמב"ם הכל הבל ואלו הכותבים קמיעות טפשים הם כי בדו מלבם כל השמות הללו, שמות ה' ושמות מלאכים, ורבים הם וא"א לפורטן. ובספרי כתבתי שהרמב"ם שלל את כחם של שמות המלאכים ושמות קדושים (או "קדושים") ואכן בפיהמ"ש ובמו"נ ברור מללו, וראה גם בפירושו של הרב קאפח להלכות מזוזה פרק ה אות יד.

נכון, כמו שכתב כת"ר, שהרמב"ם אינו שולל בפירוש את סגולת השמירה של שם המפורש או א' משמות ה' הנמצאים בתורה. אולם. כל מי שמכיר את דרכו של הרמב"ם יודע שמושג זה ממנו והלאה, וע"כ במבט לשעבר הנני מודה שכדאי היה לי להאריך קצת ולכתוב שאע"פ שהרמב"ם אינו שולל בפירוש את כח השמירה של שם המפורש, בכ"ז לפי הפילוסופיה שלו והשקפת עולמו אין מקום לרעיונות כאלו, כמו שהבין הגר"א ובעל שומר אמונים (א, יג) וכל אלו שהעמיקו בדברי הרמב"ם בלי יוצא מן הכלל, וע"כ תמהתי על האג"מ.

והנני בזה ידידו מוקירו דושה"ט באהבה, מודה ומכיר טובה על ענותנותו וטוב לבו לעיין ולהעיר בדברי.

מלך שפירא

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Rabbi Chaim Rapoport on Prof. Marc B. Shapiro and Rabbi Zev Leff

In response to Prof. Marc B. Shapiro's recent response to Rabbi Zev Leff (see original review), Rabbi Chaim Rapoport has submitted the following letter exclusively posted at the Seforim blog.
בס"ד. שלהי חודש תמוז ה'תשס"ז
לכבוד הרבנים מנהלי 'בלוג הספרים', וכל העוסקים במלחמתה של תורה לשם שמים, ה' עליהם יחיו ויחיינו מיומים

בקשר להמחלוקת שפרצה מחדש בין המשפתים, בענין שיטת הרמב"ם ע"ד פעולת השמות הקדושים והטהורים, אף שאינני רוצה להכניס ראשי בין הרים גדולים[1], אבל הנני בזה כמעיר ובא לפני חכמים, להביא לכללות שיטת פרופ. שפירא סמוכין, מדברי הגאון יעב"ץ בספרו 'לחם שמים'.
בפירושו 'לחם שמים' עמ"ס סוטה פרק שביעי כתב היעב"ץ על דברי הרמב"ם בפיהמ"ש שם משנה ד[2] בזה"ל: "לכאורה יראה מלשונו זה, שהי' [הרמב"ם] מהביל כתיבת קמיעות לגמרי, ואם כן נגע ח"ו בכבוד חכמי התלמוד. ועיין מה שכתבתי ב'עקיצת עקרב', משם תראה קצת התנצלות על מה שכתב גם בספר מורה נבוכים מענין זה כדומה לזה. אך מה שהפריז על המדה בענין באור שם המפורש, עם שהאמת אתו בזה שכן קורין חז"ל לשם הוי"ה ב"ה, אבל ניקודו ודאי צריך למסורת עכ"פ כמו שנראה בבירור בכמה מקומות בתלמוד, ביחוד ביומא ובפ"ד דקידושין וזולת. דוק ותשכח . . . וכמדומה שהי' חושב גם כן משתגע למי שעוסק בידיעת צרופי שמות וכן שם בן ע"ב וכ"ב (והמה מוזכרים בתלמוד שהפליגו חז"ל בשבח היודעם וזהיר בהם) והדומים הידועים ומקובלים ליחידי סגולה, והנם אצלו נחשבים מהבילים ומשוגעים חלילה. אבל מחשבה כזאת היא חסרון ידיעה מסתרי תורה ודאי והעדר קבלה שלא זכה אלי', היא שגרמה לו לשום במלאכי ה' תהלה, שרי לי' מרי' וימציא לו מחילה. ופעולת השמות אמנם מפורש במקרא [3] מאז בעלי המגדל ידעו מזה כמ"ש (פ' נח יא, ד) 'ונעשה לנו שם' (אלא שרצו להשתמש בו לפנייה חיצונית, לכן לא עלתה בידם, ע"י בלבול שפתם נתבטלה, לולי זאת היתה מחשבתם מתקיימת, כי חכמים גדולים היו כמ"ש בס"ה) בסוד 'ויעש דוד שם' (שמואל-ב ח, יג), המ"י [=המשכיל יבין]". עכ"ל היעב"ץ.
מלשון היעב"ץ וסגנונו נראה בעליל, שהרמב"ם לא האמין בכח השמות וביטלו כליל, וזאת בגלל שהי' לו חסרון מסורה, העדר הידיעה בחכמת האמת וסודות התורה.
[על דבר "העדר הקבלה" של הרמב"ם - ראה גם מ"ש היעב"ץ בספרו 'מטפחת ספרים' פי"ד המדבר "במעשיו הגדולים של הר"מ ז"ל ומדותיו האלקיות, כן הודיע גם בספר צדה לדרך בהקדמתו. גם האר"י ז"ל גלה עמוקות בסוד אחיזת נשמתו כי גבהה מאד, יעוין ספר הגלגולים. לכן חובה ודאי להפך בזכותו, ולא לתלות בי' בוקי סריקי דספר מורה נבוכים[4], כי אמנם זולת זה כל חבוריו בתורה ובאמונה, ממנו יתד ממנו פנה. כולם נכונים למבין וישרים ליודעי בינה. חוץ איזה פרטים ומעטים, שלא יפלא אם שגה בהם מחסרון קבלה[5], ושכל אנושי עלול לחטוא, גם מבחר מין האנושי טעה איזה פעמים, לכן לא יחסר ממעלתו דבר. בפרט דרחמנא לבא בעי, וכל כוונתו ז"ל היתה לטובה, וכל מגמתו לחזק מוסדי הדת"].

בכבוד ובברכה לכל העוסקים בפרפראות לחכמה, יישר חילכם לאורייתא – הן הן גופי תורה, עלי ה'בלוג' לא יבולו, ותורה יבקשו מפיהו
הרב חיים רפופורט
לונדון, אנגלי'.

נ. ב. לתועלת הרבים הנני בזה להעתיק קטע ממכתבי ששלחתי בשעתו לפרופ. שפירא כצורתו וכצלמו:
ב"ה. ג' שבט ה'תשס"ד
שלום לרחוק בגשם וקרוב ברוח,
ידידי ורעי, ברכה על ראשו תנוח,
חוקר חריף ובקי, משנתו קב ונקי,
מפענח צפונות ופותר תעלומות,
קנה לו חבר, עט סופר מהיר,
הרב דר. מלך שפירא שליט"א
. . . ספרך על קצה הגבול של התיאלוגיה (האורטדוקסית), בו הבקיאות והחריפות משמשים בעירבוביא, קנה שביתה על שולחני, באמת - אוצר בלום של תורה ומחקר מדעי. וכבר הודעתי לחברים מקשיבים לעצתי, שעליהם לקנות את הספר היסודי, - גם זקנים שכבר קנו חכמה, גם מתחילים שיודעים לדבר בדברי תורה. ובעז"ה אם ירשה הזמן אכתוב דברי סקירה וביקורת כפי מסת ידי, אבל עכשיו באתי לפרש שיחתי, לבאר ביתר פירוט את שאלתי. ובהקדם:
בשו"ת אגרות משה (יו"ד ח"ב סימן קמא, ענף ג, עמוד רלט) כתב לאמר "שגם הרמב"ם מודה שאיכא שמירה בשמות מלאכים ושמות קדושים ופסוקים, ולכן פשוט שגם פרשיות דמזוזה לא גריעי משאר פסוקים ושמות ששייך לכותבם בקמיע לשמירה, ורק מה שסוברין שהנחת המזוזה בפתח הבית היא לשמירה גשמית דהנאת עצמן הוא בטול המצוה, ולכן שלא במקום המצוה אף ששם נכתבו לשמירה דקמיע אין בזה גרעון וחסרון לכתיבת הפרשיות והנחתן בפתח הבית למצוה, כדחזינן דפסוקים ושמות הם דברים שיש בהן ענין שמירה אף להרמב"ם ממה שכותבין בצד השני, שא"כ יש להבין מזה שגם הפרשיות יש בהו ענין שמירה אף שלא מצד המצוה, ומ"מ מודה הרמב"ם שאין בזה בטול וגריעותא להמצוה דאף דאיכא בה גם שמירה עכ"פ הוא מניחן בפתח למצוה ולא לקמיע, א"כ גם כשכותב אחד את הפרשיות לקמיע מה בכך הא כן הוא האמת שאיכא בהו ענין שמירה. ולכן אין למילף שהרמב"ם יאסור שם לכתוב פסוקי הפרשיות לקמיע כשמניחים במקום שלא שייך ענין מצות מזוזה, דאין ראי' שסובר דאסור להאמין שכתיבת פסוקים ושמות יועילו לשמירה בכלל ואף לא שפסוקי הפרשיות יועילו, היפוך מה שמפורש בגמרא בשבת דף סא שהיו כותבין קמיעין מענינות הרבה ויש בהן משום קדושה ואיפסק כן ברמב"ם פ"י מס"ת ה"ה [הקמיעין שיש בהם ענינים של כתבי הקודש אין נכנסין בהן לבית הכסא אלא אם כן היו מחופות עור], וגם בכאן אינו כותב שהן טפשין שמאמינים בדבר שאין להאמין, אלא כתב שהן טפשין במה שמבטלין המצוה שעושין מצוה גדולה שהיא יחוד השם כאילו הוא קמיע שזהו הטפשות וגם איסור גדול לדעתו".

ובספרך אשר כתבת (עמוד 157 בשולי הגליון) ציינת, לדברי האג"מ הנ"ל כ"דוגמא מדהימה", לאי-ידיעתו של הגרמ"פ זצ"ל בספרי החקירה, של הנשר הגדול בעל משנה תורה. כתבת שהרמב"ם שולל בפירוש את כוחן של השמות הקדושים, לשמור מפגעים רעים ושאר מרעין בישין. (1) בפיהמ"ש סוטה פ"ז מ"ב ו(2)במו"נ ח"א פס"א.
והנה, כפי שכבר אמרתי: לית דין צריך בושש, שאם באנו להביא ראיות ואותות, לאשר דברנו ולקבעם במסמרות, מוכרחים אנו לתוקף של יתד בל תמוט. אמת נכון הדבר, שלפי השקפת עולמו ה'רציונליסטית' של הרב המורה, קשה למצוא 'מקום' בהגיון, לפעולה על-טבעית של שמות העליון. גם מצינו בספריו דברי ביקורת חריפים, דברים כדרבונות כחיצים יורים, כנגד בעלי הקמיעות למיניהם, ביד החזקה הל' מזוזה ובספריו הנ"ל שציינת אליהם.
אבל הנידון עלי' עמדתי היתה, האם שלל הרמב"ם בפירוש את השיטה, המייחסת כח שמירה נסי לשמות ופסוקים, וע"ז טענתי שבמקומות שהזכרת אין הדברים מפורשים. ניתי ספר ונחזי:
בפיהמ"ש שם קאי על מה ששנינו בסוטה, "במקדש אומרים את השם ככתבו", וע"ז כתב: "וכתבו [=השם ככתבו] הוא מה שנהגה מן יוד הא ואו הא, וזהו שם המפורש המרומם, דע זה, ואל תטריד את מחשבתך במה שהוזים כותבי הקמיעות וטפשי בני אדם". וכוונתו במ"ש ["ואל תטריד את מחשבתך וכו'"] פשוטה, דכנגד הטפשים דיבר המורה, כלפי שאמרו בעלי הקמיעות, שהשם המפורש מרובה באותיות. לפי דבריהם שם בן ד' קדושתו פחותה, משמות המרובים באותיות שחיברו לשמירה, "השם ככתבו" הינו שם ארוך בכמות, ולא שם הוי' שאין בו אלא ארבע אותיות. וע"ז כתב הרמב"ם – להד"ם, אל תשגיחו בדברים חסירי טעם, את שם המפורש המירו הטפשים, בשמות שבדו להם הוזים בכוכבים. גם הרמב"ם מודה שישנן שמות קדושים לבורא, וכמ"ש בהלכות יסודי התורה; "השם ככתבו" דהיינו שם בן ארבע המורה על עצמו, בנוסף לשאר שמות ותוארים המורים על פעלו, שבעה שמות הם הקדושים במעלה, ושם המפורש העולה על כולנה.
איפה מצאת בדברי הרמב"ם בפירוש המשנה, ביטול דעת האומרים שהשמות האמיתיים כחן יפה, לשמור את האדם בשמירה מעולה, הלא מזה לא דיבר הרמב"ם מאומה?!
שמא תאמר הלא קרא לכותבי הקמיעות "טפשים", ועל כרחך שלל מכל וכל את ערכן של הקמיעות והמחברים, לזה אני אומר המוציא מחבירו עליו הראיה, וכבר אמרו דברי תורה עניים במקום זה ועשירים במקום אחר. הלא עוד יצא כברק חצו במורה הנבוכים, לתקן הדיעות וליישר המעקשים, לא חס על הקמיעות וה'מכשפים', הטועים ומתעים את העם בדברים מסולפים. שם (פס"א) נטה ידו לבאר החילוק בין שאר שמותיו שהם "שמות הנגזרים מן הפעולות . . . שהם כולם שמות הונחו לפי הפעולות הנמצאות בעולם" לשם המפורש המתייחס להבורא עצמו, "לא יהיה לו שם נגזר בשום פנים, אבל שם אחד מיוחד להורות על עצמו, ואין אצלנו שם בלתי נגזר אלא זה והוא יו"ד ה"א וא"ו ה"א אשר הוא שם המפורש גמור, לא תחשוב זולת זה". ובהמשך לזה כתב: "ולא יעלה במחשבתך שגעון כותבי הקמיעות, ומה שתשמעהו מהם או תמצאהו בספריהם המשונים, ומשמות חברום, לא יורו על ענין בשום פנים, ויקראו אותן שמות, ויחשבו שהם צריכים קדושה וטהרה, ושהם יעשו נפלאות, כל אלה הדברים לא יאות לאדם שלם לשמעם, כל שכן שיאמינם, ואינו נקרא שם המפורש כלל זולת זה השם בן ארבע אותיות הנכתב אשר לא יקרא כפי אותיותיו". עוד מתח עליהם את שבט הביקורת בסוף פרק סב: "וכאשר מצאו האנשים הרעים הפתאים אלו הדברים התרחב להם הכזב, והמאמר שיקבצו אי זה אותיות שירצו ויאמר שזה הוא שם יעשה ויפעל כשיכתב או כשיאמר על תאר כך, ואחר כך נכתבו הכזבים ההם אשר בדאום הפתאים הראשונים, ונעתקו הספרים ההם לידי הטובים רכי הלב הסכלים אשר אין אצלם מאזנים ידעו בהם האמת מן השקר, והסתירום ונמצאו בעזבונותם ונחשב בהם שהם אמת".

שתים רעות עשו אלו, בעלי הקמיעות - במעלם אשר מעלו, על כן בצדק קרא להם הרמב"ם טפשים, גם לפי דעת האג"מ שאינו חולק על כחן של השמות הקדושים. (א) בדו להם שמות אשר "לא יורו על ענין בשום פנים", והטעו את "רכי הלב הסכלים אשר אין אצלם מאזנים", (ב) את השם המפורש המירו ברעתם, באותיות פורחות באוויר לעומתם.
ועוד בה שלישיה, מ"ש הרמב"ם בהלכות מזוזה, שהכותב שמות בפנים המזוזה עבודתו פסולה, ואם קבעה בדלת ביטל את המצוה. ואת רובע עשו האוילים, מוכרי הקמיעות והאלילים, במקום מצוות לאו ליהנות, החליפו ועשו ונתנו 'סגולות'.
מקום הניח להגרמ"פ לבא ולטעון, שהרמב"ם לא חלק על הנסיון, וכפי שהעיד לנו בעצמו, בהלכות שבת אשר כתב ידו בחיבורו: "יוצאין בקמיע מומחה, ואי זה הוא קמיע מומחה זה שריפא לשלשה בני אדם או שעשהו אדם שריפא שלשה בני אדם בקמיעין אחרים, ואם יצא בקמיע שאינו מומחה פטור, מפני שהוציאו דרך מלבוש" (הלכות שבת פי"ט הי"ד).
הלא הוא הדבר אשר דברתי בתחלה, שאני הקטן לא מצאתי להדיא, בפירוש המשנה או במורה, ביד החזקה – משנה תורה, שלילת הדברים שכתב הגאון רבי משה. כולי עלמא מודים, ששמות בדויים אינם עוזרים, פיסול המזוזה ה"ה עון פלילי, הלא הגמרא (שבת לב, ב) אומרת שע"י ביטול מזוזה ימות ערירי.
הרואה באג"ם יווכח לדעת, שלא הצדיק ר' משה את כותבי הקמיעות, במעלם אשר מעלו להמיר ולהחליף, ולעשות ככל העולה על דעתם הכוזב. אלו השמות לא יועילו, ואת כח השמירה לא יכילו, לא דיבר הגרמ"פ אלא מפסוקים הכתובים בתורה, ומשמות שנכתבו בקדושה ובטהרה.

בוודאי לא יקפיד כת"ר על המעורר, הלא כך הוא הדרך – זה בונה וזה סותר, נא אל תשיבני ריקם מלפניך, תורה היא וללמוד אני צריך ממך.
אסיים מעין הפתיחה, בכבוד ובברכה לכת"ר ולכל המשפחה, המקום ירחם עליהם ועל כל הנמצאים מאמיתת המצאו, ברוך עדי עד שם תהלתו
ידידו דושה"ט בלונ"ח תכה"י
חיים רפופורט.
ה"ה הרה"ג ר' זאב לעפ שליט"א ממושב מתתיהו באה"ק תובב"א והרב פרופ. מלך שפירא שליט"א מארה"ב יצ"ו.
וזה לשונו שם (לפי מהדורת קאפח): ". . . ואל תטריד את מחשבתך במה שהוזים כותבי הקמיעות וטפשי בני אדם".
ראה גם מ"ש היעב"ץ – ע"ד פעולת השמות - בספרו 'בירת מגדל עוז' חלק 'אוצר הטוב' אות יו"ד: ". . . ההוא יקרא מעשה בראשית כשיושג ענין היצירה בעצם ובסבותיו, באופן שיגיע האדם לתכליתו ויוכל להמציא ג"כ יצירה חדשה מעיקרה, כענין ר"ח ור"א דעסקי בס' יצירה ומיברי להו עיגלא, להורות יכות וחכמת הממציא העליון אשר חלק מחכמתו ליראיו, וגלה להם סודו לפרסם כח שמותיו הקדושים, ולידע שחולק לאוהביו מכבודו להשתמש בשרביטו שיתדמו לבוראם להוציא הוייות חדשות, ונתן כח בידם לברוא עולמות בכח צירוף השמות המתבאר בספר יצירה למי שיודעו, זוהי חכמת עצמת מעשה בראשית שהפליגו חז"ל בשבחה והעלימוה מאד, (כי אמנם עוונותינו הבדילו בינינו לבין אלקינו, וחטאתינו מנעו הטוב הגמור ממנו עד שאין אתנו יודע עד מה, ולא אחד בדור שראוי וכדאי להבין אותה חכמה), ועלי' צוו חכמים במשנה (חגיגה רפ"ב) 'אין דורשין במעשה בראשית בשנים', לא על ידיעת שמות חומר וצורה ולידע שכל הגופים השפלים מורכבים מארבע יסודות ארמ"ע ושחומר הגלגל הוא גשם חמישי בלתי מושג ומנין גלגלים המדומה שבזה נכללו שני פרקים גדולים מהלכות יסוד התורה באריכות גדול ואין בהם עומק כלל ורובן סברות קלות והשערות מבני אדם חכמי העכו"ם אשר חכמת מה להם, אינן מקנות שלמות לא באמונה ולא בשכל ולא אפילו חידוד".
השווה מ"ש על דבר הרמב"ם ב'אגרת בקורת' ו, רע"ב: "חלילה לתלות בוקי סריקי ברבן של ישראל [!] ולהעמיס בלשונו הצך מה שאין במשמעו ושלא עלה על דעתו ז"ל".
להעיר ממ"ש היעב"ץ בספרו 'בירת מגדל עוז' (הנ"ל הערה 3) על דברי הרמב"ם בהל' יסוה"ת פ"ג ע"ד הגלגלים, וז"ל היעב"ץ שם: "כל הגלגלים אינן לא קלים ולא כבדים כו', לא אוכל לדעת מניין לו דברים הללו, מי עלה שמים וירד ויגידה לנו גבהי שמים, מי ידע מה טבעם . . . אכן באמת הוא נטוי' מדעת התורה ששמה מים מעל לרקיע, ואין מקרא יוצא מידי פשוטו, ואיני יודע מה בא הרב ללמדנו בכך, וכי כבוד הבורא תלוי בכך אם הגלגלים כבדים או קלים".
ועל דבר מי שמאמין בפירוש הרמב"ם להמושגים מעשה מרכבה ומעשה בראשית –פשוטו כמשמעו, כתב היעב"ץ בספר 'מטפחת ספרים': "תכלית הדברים, כל המעלה בדעתו שהבלי הפלוסופים הם מעשה בראשית ומעשה מרכבה, הוא ודאי אפיקורוס. כופר לא לבד בדברי חכמים, כי גם בתורת משה, שריבוי השמות והכינויים, ופעולות הנראות גשמיות ומסורות יתרות וחסרות, ותיבות ולשונות זרות, ואותיות מלופפות ונזורות ונוספות, ונקודות ותגים ופרשיות, ומאמרים המתנכרים ומשקלות מורכבות והנקראים אצל בעלי הפשט זרים, הלא כל אלה צווחות ואומרות, דע כי לא דבר רק הוא, ואם הוא, מכם הוא. ואולם ודאי שחכמת הטבע תתכן להקרא מעשה בראשית ביחס אל מדרגת פשט המקרא. וכמו שלא יכול הפשטנים לתת טעם וסבה לזרים הנמצאים בו לרוב, וככה בטבע ימצאו זרים למהלך הטבעי, לא ידעו הטבעי, לא ידעו הטבעיים עלתם. אמנם חכמת הטבע של אנשי העולם, היא מלבוש הגס העב למעשה בראשית, שהוא הפרי הגנוז ועצם הענין במהותו, וחכמת מה היא הטבעית של פלוסופים, שעוסקים בקליפות החיצונות הנזרקות, שאינן למאכל ולא נחמדים להשכיל, כי אין להם השגה רק במקרים, ככל מעשה החושים החיצונים". ואכ"מ להאריך בכ"ז.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Marc B. Shapiro -- Response to Rabbi Zev Leff

Response to Rabbi Zev Leff
by Marc B. Shapiro

Rabbi Zev Leff (of Moshav Matityahu) reviewed my book, The Limits of Orthodox Theology: Maimonides' Thirteen Principles Reappraised, in the most recent issue of Jewish Action [see review]. I don’t feel that he gave the readers a correct sense of what the book is about. To rectify that, I can only ask people to read for themselves and determine if his portrayal is accurate. For now, I would like to challenge him on the specific points he makes.

1. He writes “The Chatam Sofer in his responsa (Yoreh Deah 356) cites a source even older than Rambam who refers to Thirteen Principles of Faith.” As I noted in the book (p. 36 n. 176) the Hatam Sofer was mistaken about this. The source he refers to was actually composed by R. Yom Tov Lipmann Muelhausen (14th-15th cent.) and has recently been published. (I also point out that in another responsum, Even ha-Ezer II, no. 148, Hatam Sofer himself realizes that the source we are talking about has nothing to do with the Thirteen Principles which, he acknowledges, originate with Rambam.) The fact that R. Leff could include such a sentence, even though I showed it to be incorrect, leaves me with some doubts as to how closely he read my book.

2. He writes: “Today the [Thirteen] Principles are universally accepted.” I do not believe this to be the case, and whenever I hear prayers or selihot directed towards angels (a violation of the fifth principle), I am reassured of the correctness of my belief. If one is simply using the Thirteen Principles as a loose term to define traditional Jewish belief, then yes, R. Leff is correct. The purpose of my book was to show that, despite the widespread acceptance, there has nevertheless been a great deal of dispute regarding the Principles throughout Jewish history.

3. He writes: “One who denies any of them is outside the pale of the faith community of Torah Judaism.” Yet this sentence is followed by another sentence which contradicts it: “The Sages [1] do not agree whether to deem one a heretic for harboring this belief.” Which is it? Is one who believes in a corporeal God a heretic or simply an ignorant person who must be enlightened? As I discuss in my book, our sages have disputed this very point, with no less a figure than R. Arele Roth rejecting the Rambam’s view that such a belief turns a person into a heretic.

4. R. Leff then says that I misunderstand “so many Torah sources.” The first one he refers to Rashbam to Numbers 22:1. I referred to Rashbam as an example of one who believed that certain small parts of the Torah are post-Mosaic. Rabbi Leff writes that Rashbam “does not even intimate when this section was written. Rather, Rashbam simply explains that ‘beyond the Jordan’ was written to reflect what would be in the future.” Here are Rashbam’s exact words, as found in Martin Lockshin’s translation:
“The phrase ‘across the Jordan’ is appropriately written after they [i.e. the Israelites] had crossed [to the west side of] the Jordan. From their point of view the plains of Moab [on the east side of the Jordan] are called ‘across the Jordan’”

I assume that R. Leff’s understanding of Rashbam is based on David Rosin’s text (or one of the other editions or CD-Roms that use this text). Rosin’s edition removes anything radical from Rashbam. But as Lockshin has written, Rosin’s “reading is based on a conjectural emendation... I am convinced that Rosin’s emendation is based on his desire to make Rashbam’s comment here seem less heterodox.”

In my book, I also noted that according to a medieval Tosafist collection of Torah commentaries, Rashbam also identified Gen. 36:31-39 as post-Mosaic; yet R. Leff does not mention this.

5. I quoted sources that indicate that the notion of tikkun soferim is to be taken literally. Among these sources are Midrash Tanhuma and Yalkut ha-Makhiri (as well as the Arukh and a number of other texts which R. Leff does not mention, leaving the reader with the wrong impression).

He writes: “What Dr. Shapiro fails to mention is that those portions of the Tanchuma and Yalkut are not found in most early editions.” Let’s assume that this is correct (although to prove this one would need to actually examine the manuscripts, not simply refer to two apologetic comments found in the standard rabbinic commentary to Tanhuma). This would make perfect sense, as later copyists would be inclined to leave out that which they regarded as controversial or even heretical. What then does this prove?

Furthermore, the sources R. Leff mentions are only referring to Tanhuma. Neither of them mention anything about Yalkut ha-Makhiri. Of course, I am sure that he will also assert that this text is a forgery, or was written by a “mistaken student,” and will do the same with any other text that presents an alternate understanding of tikkun soferim.

6. The next section of his review concerns how to understand a passage in R. Nissim and the Midrash. In presenting this, I wrote that it was hard to see how the approach of these sources can be brought into line with Rambam’s understanding of revelation of the entire 5 books of Moses. Nothing that R. Leff writes has changed my mind in this respect. The reader should note, however, that before discussing this I stated that these views “seem to contradict Maimonides’ Principle” (emphasis added). I was well aware that the matter was not completely certain, for exactly the reasons that Rabbi Leff sets out.

7. R. Leff completely misunderstands my view about Principles of Faith and halakhah, so let me try to clear it up. I have said, and I repeat now, that no rishonim that I am aware of, and certainly not Rambam, believed that Principles of Faith can be decided in a halakhic fashion. Hatam Sofer says that they can. According to the Hatam Sofer, Principles of Faith can change in accordance with the halakhic decisions of the times; what used to be an obligatory belief can cease being so, and what is now an obligatory belief need not have been so in the past.

Yet nothing could be more at odds with the Rambam’s understanding. According to the Rambam, Principles of Faith are eternal truths. They define the essence of what Judaism was, is, and forever will be. If the majority of poskim determine that God has a body, this will not change the fact that it is still a basic principle of the Jewish faith to assert the opposite. For the Rambam, Principles of Faith don’t depend on the majority, be they right or wrong, for they are part of the essence of Torah. Principles of Faith have not, and indeed can never, change. Unlike the Hatam Sofer's pan-halakhic approach, in the Rambam’s conception, one doesn’t need a halakhic decision for the Principles to be binding. As Menachem Kellner has put it, “Dogmas, it must be recalled, are beliefs taught as true by the Torah; is the truth taught by the Torah historically conditioned?”[2]

We can see that the rishonim held this view by how they dispute with the Rambam. When they want to show that one of his Principles is mistaken, they cite a talmudic passage to show that one of the tannaim or amoraim disagreed with him. Thus, to give an example which I only saw after my book was completed, R. Isaiah ben Elijah of Trani’s proof that belief in God’s incorporeality is not a Principle, denial of which is heresy, is that there were sages of the Talmud who held this belief![3]
אבל אם יחשוב אדם שהקדוש ברוך הוא בעל תמונה, לא הקפידה תורה בכך, וכמה היו מחכמי התלמוד הקדושים, שמהם תצא תורה לישראל, שלא נתנו לבם להתבונן בענין האלהות, אלא הבינו המקראות כפשוטם, ולפי תומם חשבו כי הקדוש ברוך הוא בעל גוף והתמונה, וחלילה שנקראו מינים לאשר נאמר עליהם לקדושים אשר בארץ המה

R. Isaiah doesn’t assume, or even raise as a possibility, that it used to be permitted to believe this, but now, since the halakhah has been decided, it is forbidden. On the contrary, he asserts, based on the fact that some talmudic sages believed in a physical God and they are not, Heaven forbid, to be regarded as heretics, that God’s incorporeality cannot be a Principle. This, to him, is the greatest proof that the Rambam is wrong in declaring that all who deny his third Principle are heretics. In other words, R. Isaiah also believes that for something to be a Principle of Faith, it has to be eternally true.

Thus, R. Leff is incorrect (with regard to the Rambam and other rishonim) when he writes that “faith and belief are mitzvot like all other mitzvot. Hence, the halakhic decision-making process applies to matters of faith in the way it does to other mitzvot.” In my book I acknowledge that this was the Hatam Sofer’s opinion, but it was not the Rambam’s view. In fact, the Rambam could not be more opposed to Rabbi Leff’s statement, as it means that his own Principles of Faith can be “voted out.” I can only wonder, after explaining my position, why Rabbi Leff sees this as “yet another example of Dr. Shapiro’s misunderstanding of Torah sources.”

Incidentally, R. Leff quotes from my book (p. 142 n. 15) that R. Abraham Isaac Kook also held the Hatam Sofer’s opinion. But in that note, I also call attention to other sources from R. Kook that have a different approach. Why does Rabbi Leff ignore them?

6. Finally, R. Leff claims that I “make a brazen attack on Rabbi Moshe Feinstein.” I am not sure why a valid criticism of R. Moshe qualifies as a brazen attack, but let’s move onto substance. (Anyone who has heard my lectures on R. Moshe at, can have no doubt as to my great esteem for him.)

R. Moshe stated that the Rambam believed in the protective power of holy names and the names of angels, as used in amulets. R. Leff, in his criticism of me, states that in Hilkhot Mezuzah 5:4 “Rambam rules that God’s name ‘Shakai’ should be placed on the outside of the mezuzah, indicating his belief that the Shem does have protective powers.”

Yet the Rambam never says that the name of God “should be placed” there; rather, he permits people, in accordance with the widespread custom, to do so if they want to, as this action has no relevance to the mitzvah per se and does not violate any halakhic prohibition. But to say, as R. Leff does, that the Rambam believes that a name of God can protect you (and R. Moshe even says this about names of angels) is a complete distortion of Rambam’s philosophy. Relevant in this regard are R. Kafih’s short remarks in his commentary to Mezuzah 5:4, which could also be seen as a reply to R. Leff.
והדברים תמוהים מי זוטר תפקידה של המזוזה דתנטריה לבעל הבית בצאתו לרה"ר מלשגות בהרהורים, מי זוטר מה שמזכירה לאדם בצאתו למרחב את יחוד ה' ואהבתו ולא יבוא לידי חטא אפילו במחשבה

In his commentary to Mezuzah 6:13 he writes:
ואין כוונת חז"ל לדעת רבנו שהמזוזה מהנה בעניני העולם הזה, אלא שבזהירות במזוזה ישווה ה' לנגדו תמיד, ובכך תהיה השגחת ה' עליו גדולה

Two hundred years ago, the great R. Wolf Boskowitz wrote:[4]
אלא ודאי מוכח מזה דרבינו ז"ל סובר דמצות מזוזה אין בו תועלת השמירה כלל בטבעה ובסגולתה, רק כי היא כמו אחת מכל מצוות ה' אשר צוה אשר אין בהם תועלת לעניני עולם הזה רק לעשות רצון קונו יתברך אשר צוה על כך וקבלת פרס בעולם הבא, שתי אלה הם תכלית כל המצוות, ותכלית תכליתן היא קרבת אלקים כי זה חפצו יתברך וזה הוא גם כן תכלית מצות המזוזה ואפס זולתו

In his Commentary to Sotah 7:4, the Rambam speaks strongly against those who write amulets. These people put various holy names and names of angels in the amulets. In fact, this is the definition of a Jewish amulet. When R. Moshe speaks of holy names he is referring to the names of God that are mentioned in medieval works (such as כוזו במוכסז כוזו ). Yet according to the Rambam, this is all nonsense.

The Vilna Gaon recognized this.[5] Although he notes that the Talmud has stories of special powers associated with holy names, he also states that according to the Rambam .הכל הוא שקר R. Joseph Ergas wrote:[6]
הרמב"ם ז"ל, כיחש בזה, ולגלג הרבה על המאמין שיש כח בשמות לעשות שום פעולה
In my book, I assumed that R. Moshe’s position could be explained by the fact that he, like so many other poskim, did not immerse himself in philosophy. The fact that R. Leff could also assert this leaves me speechless. What is at issue is not the meaning of a citation of the Rambam from here or there, but a proper understanding of his entire philosophical worldview.

[1] According to the scholarly convention, the word “sages” is only capitalized when referring to the Sages of the Talmud.
[2] See his review of my book ("Returning the Crown to its Ancient Glory: Marc Shapiro's The Limits of Orthodox Theology: Maimonides' Thirteen Principles Reappraised") in The Edah Journal 4:1 (2004): 6.
[3] Sanhedrei Gedolah le-Masekhet Sanhedrin (Jerusalem, 1972), volume 5, section 2, p. 118. On the previous page, in direct contradiction to Rambam, he writes:
מי שיטעה בכך ולא ירד לעמקו של דבר, ומבין המקראות כפשוטן וסבור שהקדוש ברוך הוא בעל תמונה, לא נקרא מין, שאם כן הוא הדבר, איך לא פרסמה תורה על דבר זה ולא גילו חכמי התלמוד להודיע דבר זה בגלוי, ולהזהיר נשים ועמי הארץ שלא יהוא מינים ויאבדו עולמן. הלא כמה איסורים קלים כגון איסור מוקצה וכיוצא בו, חיברו חכמים כמה הלכות והרבו כמה דקדוקין להעמיד כל דבר על מכונו, ועל דבר זה שכל האמונה תלויה בו ויש בו כרת בעולם הזה ובעולם הבא, איך לא הורו חכמים על דבר זה בגלוי. אלא ודאי לא הקפידו לכך, אלא יאמין אדם [את] הייחוד כפי שכלו, ואפילו הנשים כפי מיעוט שכלן . . . שלא צותה תורה להורות על אלה הדברים
[4] Seder Mishneh, ad loc. (p. 197).
[5] See Beur ha-Gra, Yoreh Deah 179:13.
[6] Shomer Emunim 1:13.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Critique of the Oz VeHadar Edition of the Arukh HaShulhan

In some of the recent posts we have discussed various new publications of Rabbi Yehiel Mihel Epstein, author of Arukh HaShulhan.

Recently, Makhon Oz VeHadar reprinted the Arukh HaShulhan, and that reprint has been the subject of some harsh criticisms. The critique points to two major problems. First, this edition includes the Piskei Mishnah Berurah which, in the reviewer's mind, unconscionable. His reasoning is as the Arukh HaShulhan is a "piskei" work in its own right, there is no need to include the work of someone else as it undermines the force of the Arukh HaShulhan's pesak.

Second, the review highights the biography which is included in the introduction. The reviewer demonstrates that much of this biography comes from two sources, R. Meir Bar-Ilan's MiVolohzhin l'Yerushalim and R. Maimon's Sa'are haMeah, neither of which are ever mentioned. R. Lior posits the reason for this exclusion is both of these works are "Zionist" works and thus can not even be cited by some.

Of course, this would not be the first time Oz VeHadar is guilty of such viewpoint censorship. As pointed out previously, another recent Oz VeHadar edition has similar flaws.

You can read the entire article here.

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