Friday, November 02, 2007

Towards A Reappraisal of the Recent Works of Rabbi Shelomoh Luriah (Maharshal)

Towards A Reappraisal of the Recent Works
Of Rabbi Shelomoh Luriah (Maharshal)

By Rabbi Eliezer Brodt

As previously mentioned on the Seforim blog by myself and others, our generation is privileged to something no previous generation has seen, a sheer volume of Jewish books being printed and reprinted. Many of these works are seeing print for the first time - works of Rishonim and Achronim on all sorts of topics brought to the public eye from manuscript form. Some of these printings are beautiful editions, critically edited, and even glossed with illuminating marginal annotations. Other times the only benefit is to see the change from an illegible typeface to a clear block print (oft as not without any particular in the editing). In many cases, specific institutions are founded solely to deal with works from a particular religious group, while at other times, entire publishing houses are established that deal with the writings of one particular author. Recently one Godol, the great prolific writer, the Aderet (Rabbi Eliyahu David Rabinowitz-Teomim), famous for, amongst many things, being the father-in-law of R Kook, has had over five distinct groups working on printing his writings although almost none of his writings were published in his lifetime.

Recently, a rather modest institute called Makhon Iyay HaYam has begun reprinting as well as publishing for the first time, the many writings of the great gaon R. Shelomoh Luria, Maharshal. To date, this Makhon has already printed a few of his works and is currently working on many more. In this post, I would like to discuss this great person, the Maharshal, some of his printed works, and the current and future projects of this particular Makhon. As much has already been written on this great goan, including several biographical sketches, as well as a dissertation by Dr. Meir Raffeld on the Maharshal's magnum opus, Yam Shel Shelomoh (more later), I have limited myself to but a few highlights.

The Maharshal was born circa 1510 (most likely in the city of Brisk or Posen), and died in 1573 in Lublin. He was a Rav in many cities, including Brisk,[1] Ostra and Lublin.[2] Alongside the rabbinate, the Maharshal established and ran yeshivot, training many famous students. Amongst these students are, notably, R. Yehoshuah Falk Katz (author of the Preisha), R. Moshe Meis (author of Mateh Moshe on minhagim as well as Hoel Moshe on Rashi; more on him later), R. Shelomoh Efrayim Lunschitz (author of the Kli Yakar), R. Chayim of Friedberg (author of Sefer HaChayim and brother of the famous Maharal of Prague), and R. Eliyahu of Chelm (the great-great-grandfather of the Hakham Zvi and Rabbi Jacob Emden, famous for being the only latter day Godol to have created a documented golem (see here for Prof. Shnayer Z. Leiman’s post, "Did a Disciple of the Maharal Create a Golem?" at the Seforim blog) all studied in the Maharshal’s Yeshiva. As an historical aside, it is worth pointing out that in the biography printed by R. Chechik, Sefer Chasdei Hashem (Yerushalayim, 5767, pg. 3), R. Chechik makes the claim that the major talmidim of the Maharshal studied in his yeshiva in Lublin. This appears highly implausible as the Maharshal only came to Lublin in 1569, and by then most of his talmidim were already accomplished poskim. More likely these students studied in one of the Yeshivot the Maharshal headed prior to the Maharshal’s Yeshiva in Lublin.

R. Shelomoh Luria was a contemporary of and related to R. Moshe Isserles, the Rama. In his Maalot Hayuchsin (Yerushalayim, 5764), p. 15, R. Efraim Zalman Margolis traces the various ways in which the Rama and the Maharshal were related. Among those was through the marriage of Maharshal's daughter Miriam to Rama's brother Eliezer. Additionally, these two Gedolim carried on extensive correspondence between themselves, some taking a rather sharp tone (most noted are those letters regarding the study of philosophy and dikduk). Yet, as R. Efraim Zalman Margolis notes, the utmost respect and esteem was maintained between the two. In fact, they seem to have been keenly interested in the other’s works, there is evidence that they read the other’s work prior to publication. (See Klilas Yoffe p. 9b and Maalot Hayuchsin of R. Efraim Zalman Margolis, pp. 27-28.) [3]

While both the Rama and the Maharshal were well respected and many of the Poskim of that generation were the Maharsha’s students, in a choice between the two regarding how to decide halakha, the Rama is the clear winner. The Shelah HaKadosh, however, bemoans the fact the Maharshal’s decisions were not accepted. This is so as the Maharshal followed the Rama (i.e. the Maharshal died later) and, as such, should have been awarded consenting rulings out of principle (halachisha k’basrayi). As a result, the Shelah HaKadosh calls upon those who fear Hashem to take upon themselves all stringent dissenting opinions of the Maharshal in opposition to the Rama (Shnei Luchot HaBrit, Shaar Ha’Otiyot, #100, Kedushah).

The Maharshal is well-known for his caustic tone in his writings. Many biographers note his use of rather sharp epithets in his works concerning other Gedolim. R. Chaim Dembitzer cites many instances where the Maharshal writes sharply against various Rishonim (Klilas Yoffe p. 11). But, some have questioned the focus on the Maharshal’s tone. For instance, Shmuel Abba Horedesky, who authored a biography on the Maharshal, Kerem Shlomo, included a discussion of the Maharshal’s caustic tone. Horedesky sent his book to the Sdei Chemed, and in a recently published letter, the Sdei Chemed sharply critiques Horedesky’s inclusion of that portion on the Maharshal.[4] (Dr. M. Raffeld, in his dissertation also bemoans the misguided focus of previous historians at these caustic remarks instead of researching the more unknown eras of the Maharshal’s life).

Aside from his goanus, the Maharshal was an extremely prolific writer, writing on many areas. Some of his more famous works include an outstanding work on Shas called Yam Shel Shelomoh. For itself, the work is pretty well known, unfortunately it is not used to its full potential in today’s yeshivah world (this due to many reasons, most importantly the current mahalach halimud) although of late it has been reprinted in a nice block print edition. The style of the Yam Shel Shelomoh is oriented toward halakha. Typically, each topic is examined systematically from its beginning sources, through the Rishonim and through (the then) current minhag (see further Dr. M. Raffeld). This work has not reached us in its entirety, as parts are missing from those mesechtos present. Furthermore, it is clear from many places in his writings as well as quotes from his talmdim that he wrote more than what we have. (To date we have volumes on seven masekhtot, but according to various sources, the Maharshal wrote on sixteen masekhtot. Dr. Raffeld attempts to construct a list of the remaining nine; not all agree to this listing and several substitutes have been suggested). I seem to recall that recently they discovered the volume of Yam Shel Shelomoh on masekhet Baba Batra, but the collector who owns it does not allow anyone to print it and is only willing to sell it for a very large sum of money. Likewise, rumors of Yam Shel Shelomoh on masekhet Shabbat have been circulating among professional circles, without any concrete evidence.

In addition to the Yam Shel Shelomoh on the Gemara, the Maharshal penned many other notes on many masekhtot, dealing with, among his personal novella, the correct girsa’ot of the Gemara. Known today as Hagahot Hokhmat Shelomoh, this work was originally printed as a separate volume. Present-day editions of Gemara find some of the comments having added into the text of the Gemara and Rashi over time, and the authorship erased along with the original gloss. The remaining glosses are printed in the back of almost all recent editions of the Gemara. In his editing, the Maharshal used old manuscripts, as well as variant texts. In a lengthy article in Alei Sefer, vol. 15, Y. Ron deals with this work. Later on Professor Yaakov Shmuel Spiegel dealt with this work in his classic Amudim be-Toldot ha-Sefer ha-Ivry, Hagot u-Maghim (pp. 279-285). Hokhmat Shelomoh on Masekhet Gitten has been recently reprinted by R. Y. Satz, (Toronto: Otzreinu, 1990). The foreword includes a detailed article elaborating on the need to reprint this work, basing the glosses on the exact comments of the Gemara used by the Maharshal. Large amounts of the glosses have been deleted by editors who mistakenly attributed them to lines already corrected, while in fact the Maharshal had another point in mind.

A partial list of the Maharshal's other famous works include Teshuvot Maharshal, responsa quoted by all poskim; glosses on Rashi al haTorah called Yerios Shlomo, reprinted several times of late; glosses to Sefer Shaarey Dura by R. Yitzhak of Duren called Ateret Shelomoh. He also wrote glosses on the Sefer haMitzvot haGadol (SMaG) by R. Moshe of Coucy, called Amudei Shelomoh. Makhon Yerushalayim has issued a critical edition of this work, in three volumes, based on manuscripts and first prints, replete with footnotes by R. Yosef Luban. In addition to stand-alone volumes, the Makhon has also included the Maharshal's valuable glosses in their critical edition of the Sefer haMitzvot haGadol.

Now for the works printed by Makhon Iyay HaYam:

As previously mentioned, the Maharshal routinely wrote marginal notes on a vast number of seforim. Of the most popular, were his glosses on the side of the Tur. In large, these notes are quoted by his talmid, R. Yehoshua Falk Katz, the Preisha, as well as the Bach (Sefer Bayit Chodosh) and many other Poskim, but until this century, these notes were never printed. In 1957, the editors of Tur HotzaatEl Hamikoros’ commissioned R. S. Werner to ‘liberate’ these notes from manuscript ‘captivity,’ allowing for a tremendous find for the halakhic world. Unfortunately, thirty simanim in Yoreh Deah were lost from the copyist, and were listed as missing in the manuscript. In 1995, R. A. Chavatzelet published these simanim in a Sefer Zikaron for R. Werner, with the intention of completing the sefer on Yoreh Deah.

While researching another work, R. Y. M. Dubovick found citations to glosses not printed in R. Chavazelet's addendum. Further perusal revealed the existence of more manuscripts in libraries worldwide that R. Werner was unaware of, and of which R. Chavatzelet had not availed himself. With more accurate texts, and numerous additional pieces not found in the manuscripts R. Werner had been given, it was clear of the need to edit the hagahot from the beginning. R. Dubovick decided to print this whole work again with all the corrections and missing pieces. First, R. Dubovick published an expository article in the journal Yeshurun (vol. 11) listing many missing parts on Yoreh Deah. In 2000, he issued a limited printing of the hagahot on Even HaEzer (including hagahot on the last ten simanim, a notable lack in R. Werner's edition). More recently, he released a critical print of the first sixty simanim of Tur, Yoreh Deah with footnotes, surrounding the text of the Tur (Crimea, 1558) as used by the Maharshal. Therein, he references all the relevant writings of the Maharshal and his talmidim to the glosses on the Tur, as well as citations of these glosses by the poskim.

R. Dubovick intends to conclude the rest of Yoreh Deah in the near future and deal with Orah Hayyim and Hoshen Mishpat next, and finally, a reissue of Even HaEzer.

The focus of this recent volume on Yoreh Deah is the Sefer Ateret Shelomoh a commentary on the Shechitos u'Bedikos of R. Yaakov Weil, the hagahot on Tur an addendum to this rare work. As little as less than a hundred years ago every shochet had been tested specifically on this work, and virtually every small-town rav had to be an expert in this area as well. Many of the she’elot presented to a local rav were on these very topics and could not be referred to another Rav, as by than the animal would spoil. Nowadays, a shochet is tested on Sefer Beit David (R. David Tschechovitz), and unfortunately, the shechitot and bedikot of R. Yaakov Weil are almost unknown by anyone today, save for the occasional excerpt in other seforim.

Seeing how this valuable work has not been reprinted with the Maharshal's notes in the past 400 years, Makhon Iyay HaYam recently undertook this project to enrich the public with yet another one of the Maharshal's many invaluable works, reprinting the text based on the only two printings, and a manuscript fragment. R. Dubovick set himself to the task, painstakingly annotating along the way with extremely thorough notes on the entire sefer. Albeit some times his notes are a bit lengthy, there is a wealth of singular information contained in them, both on the halakhic field as well as the bio-bibliographic, which the editor could not deny the public, and did not omit them from print. A few examples; when the Maharshal quotes his grandfather, R. Yitzchok Klauber, noted are many of the places where the Maharshal cites his grandfather, throughout his many seforim (p. 3, n.6), along with a brief biographical sketch. [5] The same style note can be found when the Maharshal mentions his father-in-law R. Kalonymus (Kalman) Havarkstein-Yerushalmi; a listing of other citations, along with a thumbnail bio, including the Maharshal's wife's name (p. 38, n.28). With an eye on the halakhic ramifications of reprinting this sefer, R Dubovick notes that R. Efraim Zalman Margolis highlighted the importance of studying this sefer for those learning shechita, and yet, due to the sefer having been published as an addendum to the sefer, Sha’arei Dura, and not having a distinct title page from the Sha’rei Dura, remained unknown. (Introduction to Ateres Shlomo, see also Ma’alos haYhuchsin, p. 35) Additionally, regarding R. Efraim Zalman's work on treifus in lungs (Rosh Efraim), R. Efraim Zalman states that Shechitot u'Bedikot were written last, even after Yam Shel Shelomoh, and the Halakha should be fixed accordingly, even against a dissenting opinion in Yam Shel Shelomoh (p. 38, n.27). In addition, he includes interesting sources to the practice of watering cattle before shechita (p. 55, n.92), as well as bringing to light a fascinating source to the puzzling minhag of peeling off sirchos (lesions) from the lung (p. 64, n.129).

The Maharshal's extreme regard for maintaining minhagei Ashkenaz and their halakhic impact are spread throughout both his and his talmidim’s many writings. One can especially find this true with regard to R. Moshe Meis’ classic work Mateh Moshe. A while back, a manuscript was discovered of some minhaghim of the Maharshal called Hanhagot HaMaharshal. Dr. Y. Refael printed this work in a Sefer Hayovel and then later on as a separate pamphlet. These minhagim were written anonymously, and the editor attributes them to R. Moshe Meis, author of Mateh Moshe, and known to have been a personal member of the household of his teacher, R. Shelomoh Luria. As these minhagim do not cover the whole year, Dr. Refael concludes that the text is only a segment of a much larger work, which had unfortunately been lost. Interestingly enough, R. Shmuel Ashkenazi told me recently he did all the work in annotating this sefer and preparing it for print, although for some reason he wasn't credited for it. (While this edition was printed from a manuscript, copied expressly for R. Nachum Ber Friedman of Sadigura (Areshet, vol. 1 397-98), there is another, variant edition, printed in the back of some copies of Nagid uMitzaveh (Sinai, vol. 63, p. 96)).

Among the interesting minhagim included in here is: [6]

מורי מוהר"ש אמר שקצת מינות באמירת י"ג עיקרים שתקנו באני מאמין שיש בו י"ג עיקרים, כי קצת אומרים וחושבים בלבם כשמאמינים בי"ג עיקירים אף על פי שעשו כל התועבות שבעולם ר"ל מכל מקום יש להם תקנה ואינו כן אלא אפילו מדברי חז"ל הוא עיקיר אחד, כמו שמצינו שאמר מה נאה הלכה זו ולא משבח האחרות גם כן אינו עושה כהוגן. ולא נתקנו אלו הי"ג עיקירים רק בשביל פילסוף מימים הקדמונים שהיו עושים עיקרים בכללים ולא עשו כמנין הללו באו חז"ל ותקנו גם כן בכלליהם וכן ביגדל אלקים חי נתקן י"ג עיקירם גם כן ולא אמר מורי אחד מהם ולא יגדל ולא אני מאמין".

Also, the Maharshal discusses the Shir HaYichud, and offers a rather radical explanation of who the author of Shir HaYichud was: [7]

ביום טוב אחרון של פסח ביום ב' אירע שנפל נר על דף של סידור ואמר בחור אחד בבית הכנסת של מורי מהר"ש לכבות אותו ולהציל ספרי קודש מדליקה. ואמר אפשר מותר ובפרט ביום ב' של יום טוב שהוא דרבנן ובחור אחד אמר שהוא משיר היחוד ואמר מורי מהר"ש אל תבכו, גם זה לטובה שנשרף, שהוא סובר שלא בר סמכא עשאו, שמין עשאו

Similarly, in the Siddur Siddur Shabtei Sofer, vol. 1 pp. 89-90, R. Shabtei records in the name of the Maharshal:

והנה נוהג' ברוב קהלות אשכנז לומר שיר היחוד הזה בכל יום רק במדינת רוסיא בקהלות אשר נהג בהם רבנות הגאון מהר"ר שלמה לוריא ז"ל אין אומרים אותו כל עיקר. ושמעתי מפי רבים מזקני הדור שהגידו לי ששמעו את מהרש"ל שהיה דורש בק"ק לבוב ובק"ק לובלין בתחלת בואו לנהוג שם רבנות ואמר בדרשותיו שאין לומר שיר היחוד מפני שמצא שחיבר אותו מין, ובעבור זה היה מוחה בכל הקהלות מושבותיו מלאמרו

Another rather unknown work of the Maharshal, is his Zemirot for Shabbat. While this work has been printed many times, not one of these editions has been reprinted based on the first printing and manuscript and many of the modern printings have actually detracted from the sefer's integrity. This rare sefer is comprised of songs the Maharshal composed for Shabbat and Motzei Shabbat, with the author's commentary to those songs. Included in his explanations are many halakhot and minhagim of Shabbat. Some examples of which are; women should wear a special garment when lighting the Shabbos candles; a reference to the custom of wearing a kittel on Shabbos. Another example, he praises the people of Ashkenaz for having a set system with regard to hosting yeshiva students for Shabbat meals. (Interestingly enough, while Prof. Simha Assaf mentions this minhag in his biographical sketch of the Maharshal printed in Sefer haYovel Lichvod Prof. L. Ginzburg, he makes no note of it in his Mekorot LeToldot HaChinuch biYisrael, even though he does mention several other sources to this custom pp. 229, 236, 633). [8]

Here too, R. Dubovick is working on reprinting these zemirot, along with an excellent commentary of his own on this work. A few samples of his efforts have been published in the journal Yeshurun (vol. 16). Here, I was simply amazed at the sources and comments of R. Dubovick regarding the various points of the Maharshal. One only hopes he will finish this work soon along with all his many projects relating to the Maharshal.

I would like to thank R Y. M. Dubovick and Dan Rabinowitz in for their extremely helpful suggestions and sources in writing this post.

[1] On the Maharshal’s tenure in Brisk see the letter of R. Nosson Rabinovitch (author of Dikdukei Sofrim) in Eyur Tehilah p. 198.

[2] On the Maharshal’s time in Lublin, see the story brought in Simchas Hanefesh (see here for an earlier post, "Simchat ha-Nefesh: An Important But Often Ignored Work on German Jewish Customs," at the Seforim blog) from R Yehudah Chassid pg 109-110. A similar story is quoted by the Chida in Shem haGedolim, erech R Avrhoum Mocher Yerokos.

[3] For a recent lengthy discussion of these correspondences, see Y. Elbaum in his Pisichut Vehistagrot (pg 156 and onwards), as well Dr. Asher Siev's biography of the Rama (1972). For the exchange of letters between Rama and Maharshal on philosophy, as part of the appendix of translations of primary texts from 16th-century East-European Jewish Thought, see Leonard Levin, "Seeing With Both Eyes: The Intellectual Formation of Ephraim Luntshitz," (Ph.D., Jewish Theological Seminary of America, 2003), 299-284, esp. 299-311.

[4] On the caustic comments of the Maharshal see Iggerot S’dei Chemed, vol. 1, siman 11, pp. 24-25; see also R. Barukh haLevi Epstein, Mekor Barukh, Introduction, pp. 89-93.

[5] For more on the Maharshal’s grandfather see M. Rafeld, in Daniel Sperber, Minhagei Yisrael (Jerusalem: Mossad Harav Kook, 2007), 8:174-96.

[6] For more on Ani Manmin see HaSiddur, pp. 232-36; Marc B. Shapiro, The Limits of Orthodox Theology: Maimonides' Thirteen Principles Reappraised (Oxford: Littman Library of Jewish Civilization, 2004), pp. 19-20 (citing opinion of the Maharshal).

[7] For more on this topic see: A. Berliner, Kesavim Nevcharim, vol 1 pg 145-170; R. Dovid Hanazir , Kol Haneveha pgs 124, 143-144; H.J. Zimmels, Askenazim and Sephardim, pp. 132-134; A Haberman, Shiur Hayichud Vhakovod (intro), Y. Dan, Shiur Hayichud (facsimile edition) with the commentary of R. Yom Tov Muelhausem, Introduction; R.Y. Stal, Sefer Gematryios L'Rabenu Yehudah Hachassid, vol 1 pg 32-38; R. Y. Golhaver Minhaghei Hakehlos, vol 1 p. 132: and my forthcoming article in the Yerushasenu volume two.

[8] Another person who missed this source while discussing this topic is Mordechai Breuer, in his comprehensive book on the Yeshivot, Oholei Torah: The Yeshiva, Its Structure and History (Merkaz Zalman Shazar 2003), pp. 405-409.

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