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 R. Saul himself also discusses his unpublished works in his last will and testament - although only to issue a warning that "all of [his] writings, however...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."

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