Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Review of Amudim be-Toldot Sefer ha-I...

Review of Amudim be-Toldot Sefer ha-Ivri Haghot u-Maghim

by Eliezer Brodt and Dan Rabinowitz

Yaakov S. Spiegel, Amudim be-Tolodot Sefer ha-Ivri Haghot u-Maghim (Chapters in the History of the Jewish Book Scholars and their Annotations), Ramat Gan, 20052, 689 pp.

In 1996, Bar Ilan Press published Amudim be-Toldot Sefer ha-Ivri Haghot u-Maghim from Professor Yaakov S. Spiegel. Shortly thereafter, this edition sold out due to its popularity. A few years later Amudim be-Toldot Sefer ha-Ivri Kitevah ve-haTakah (volume two) was published.  More recently, Amudim be-Toldot Sefer ha-Ivri Haghot u-Maghim was reprinted with over seventy five pages additional pages full of many important additions. In this new edition, Spiegel apologizes to the people who purchased the first edition of his work and would now have to buy the new one if they want the updates.  Spiegel offered that the requirement for a completely new edition rather than an addendum was out of his control.


Although the importance and quality of the book will be obvious shortly, it has not been reviewed or discussed properly in academic journals except for a short review on Hamayan (37, 3: 69-75). This post hopefully is a start in rectifying this omission.


This volume is the first of two (current) volumes discussing the History of the Jewish book - specifically the creation and alteration of the Jewish books.  That is, this volume covers annotating or editing texts.  Essentially, this work is divided into two parts, (Spiegel divides it into four parts) the first, discusses the permissibility of editing texts and the second discusses annotators and editors. 


The first portion begins with the sugyah of editing texts in the time of the Mishana (sifrei torah) and moves into the topic of the prohibition of having a unedited sefer. These two chapters play an important role in the background of this topic of editing seforim.  Spiegel then moves into the era of the geonim and rishonim dealing at great length with there methods of editing or annotating texts. He discuses at great length the methods of Rabbenu Gershom, Rashi and Rabbenu Tam.  As is well known Rabbenu Tam prohibited the editing or annotating texts Spiegel discusses the complete background of Rabbenu Tam's opinion going through the myriad of sources when Rabbenu Tam's restriction applies. This discussion includes an analysis of Rabbenu Tam's work Sefer Hayashar and his famous disagreement with R Meshulem. Spiegel, as he does in each of the chapter, quotes all the previous sources on the topics and rechecks it all carefully and comes out with many new important conclusions.


Spiegel then proceeds to deal with the different works of haghot in the times of rishonim and the nature of these works. Of particular interest is his sections on the Haghot Ashrei (pp. 183-90) and on the Ravad's comments on the Ramabam discussing if those comments are plain haghot or hasaghot (pp. 198-207).


The second section of the book surveys the story of Haghot u-Maghim from the beginning of the printing press, in approximately 1456, until 1840. He begins with chapters on the importance of the printing press (see also pp. 300-06) and moves in to the job of the annotators and editors and their methods. Dealing with topics such as, did Rabbenu Tam only speak to instances where one is erasing the text and substituting another but if one merely notes an alternative reading and preserves the original that is OK? Or, is it only applicable to manuscripts or does it apply to printed works as well?  The distinction being, in the case of a manuscript, that manuscript may be the only copy and, if one alters the text, the original is forever lost.  Additionally, Spiegel discusses at length the important question of whether one can correct texts based on logic or textual support. An interesting section is where he brings a bunch of sources that there is a special will from God that these mistakes happened and should remain (pg 262-269).


There are chapters on the various 'editors' such as R. Betzalel Ashkenazi, R. Yoel Sirkes (Bach), Maharshal, Maharsha, Maharam, R. Jacob Emden, R. Y. Pick, Gra, Rashash, and a host of others.  For each one Spiegel discusses which version of the Talmud they were addressing their emendation and whether their emendations were based on manuscript evidence or their own determination that the text was corrupted. These questions are very important. For example, Spiegel notes that the Maharshal (p. 315) and Maharsha (p. 323) did use manuscript evidence many times whereas the Maharam (p. 325) did not use manuscript evidence frequently.



As to the Bach's emendations, Spiegel notes that weren't published until the 19th century, but the Bach's comments were addressed at earlier, different version of the Talmud.  Thus, at times, it is unclear what the Bach is changing.  Indeed, Spiegel shows how some commentaries have misunderstood the Bach's comments. Spiegel deals with at length what the Bach's goals were. Spiegel also shows that there were additions to the work after the Bach's death. As to the Bach's usage of manuscripts Spiegel shows it's still not proven that the Bach  used them as most of the changes can be found in Ein Yakkov. 



Spiegel devotes a long chapter dealing with the Gra notes amongst the topics he discusses are what was the Gra's point in his comments, and to why there are contradictions in his notes on Shas to his other writings (pg 450). As to the question of whether the Gra used manuscripts Spiegel concludes that it appears that he did not [although he did visit libraries and saw old seforim (pg 454-457)].


Another whole section Spiegel devotes to is discussing Rabinowich's Dikdukei Soferim at length. This is especially important in that Dikdukei Soferim is a collection of variant readings of the Talmud.  As many great Rabbis of Rabinowich's time praised this work, this tends to show these Rabbis' position on emending texts. Spiegel shows the may people who used it and how those who did not use it could have benefited from availing themselves to Dikdukei Soferim. Spiegel deals with various theories why it was not used widely. He concludes that it appears that the Dikdukei Soferim is becoming more widespread. He even quotes recent sales of Dikdukei Soferim and notes how quick it sold out after being reprinted after being out of print for quite a while. Although a Otzar haChochma search comes up with well over 2000 hits in over a thousand seforim (of course not all this are good hits as there search engine is still limited although useful). It still does not appear that the Dikdukei Soferim is used widely in the main yeshiva circles. Perhaps that will change.

Spiegel deals extensively with the position of the Hazon Ish regarding manuscripts.  This topic, one which has gotten much attention (see, e.g. the Shnayer Z. Leiman, Kook, Moshe A. Bleich articles in Tradition, Hevlin in Meah Shearim as well as the articles in Beis HaVaad), is discussed in detail with the backdrop of all the nuances Spiegel raises throughout this work. Spiegel discusses the curious fact that the Chazon Ish himself did sometimes use the manuscripts of Gemarah when learning (p. 567 n.126).

Spiegel concludes this section with a discussion on to more recent printings of the Shas such as the shas Vilna, Frankel and Oz veHadar. It appears that the methodology of both Shas Vilna (the original one) and Oz veHadar in deciding which texts to use etc are not clear. This is especial important to know with Oz veHadar what the methods that they use as they advertise as if they are making incredible important changes but one only wonders what they are ad on what basis they are made.


The last section of the sefer is devoted to the various annotators and editors to various editions of the Ramabam including the editions of Bragadin and Justintine. Spiegel also deals with when were the divisions of halachot put into the Rambam (pp. 637-638).  He also deals at length with the Amsterdam edition and the comments of R. Sholom Leon and showing its influence on later editions. R. Sholom Leon authored other seforim  including Mesectas halacha Le moshe miSinia which was recently printed in a annotated edition including a nice introduction. The editor of this new edition was not aware of Spiegel discussion regarding R. Leon. Spiegel has an interesting discussion about a third work called Merkevet ha-Mishna by R. Leon that was not known to many people and thus people made a mistake attributing a source (pp. 648-49).


It is amazing to see Spiegel's mastery of the Talmud and the sources with all its nuances throughout the book. The amount of classical seforim quoted and discussed is breathtaking many very rare works are quoted. Another point is the respect and tone he uses when he speaks about all the authors, a problem some have with many academic books. Another thing is he is not embarrassed to admit mistakes he made – he could have easily left out a specific footnote instead he writes it and explains that he made a mistake (see, e.g., p. 259).



From the above, it should be apparent that this book contains a wealth of information regarding the issue at hand, emending texts.  While that alone would be enough to recommend in the strongest terms this book, it must be noted that Spiegel, mainly in the many footnotes, covers an amazing amount of tangential topics.  Here are some examples:

p.29 n. 8 Spiegel has a discussion about the sefer Kol Dodi quoted by Agnon (for more on this work see this post ).

p. 41 n.12 sources regarding the custom of placing a possul sefer torah in the ark and whether this violates the prohibition of "al tiskon be-ohelkha" (one should not have uncorrected texts in their home).
p. 65 n.105 testimony from R. Yaakov Katz that Rav Hai Goan was a copyist. 
p. 75 n.153 noting that la"z the term used to indicate a translation should not contain the quote mark as it is not an abbreviation. 
p. 80 n.177 noting that Krochmel in his Moreh Nevukeh haZeman quotes the Mahritz Heyos only as "Hakham Eched."
p. 89 n.29 discusses R. Zevin's offhanded comment that the rishonim did not use "nusach aher."
p. 102 n.110 discusses "nusach Sefard" and whether it is more reliable.
p. 103 n.115 notes that although a statement from the Rosh (responsa, klal 20, no. 20) is used by multiple authors to show that Ashkenazik customs have a long history, those many authors ignored the other implication of the statement regarding

the "nusach haTalmud shel beni Ashkenaz."
p. 105 n.123 who authored rashi on Horyois.

p.105 n. 126 if one learnsa small daf is it considered a Complete daf.

p.107 n.132 discussing the issue of when the Talmud records a pusuk differently than our Sifrei Torah. 

p. 131 n.14 corrections of rashi that were later added into the printed edition of Shas.

p. 142 n.55 when Rashi says Hachei Garseninon did he have a different version in front of him.
p. 170 n.64 the common meaning of the word "sefer" - as in yodeah sefer which sefer?
p. 218 n.7 Spiegel explains the melitza used by the printers of the 1494 Nevim to describe what they did.  The melitza includes the line "lower the high and raise the lower" (Ezekiel 21:31).  Dr. M. Glaser explained that in the early printing presses the letters would be set and they faced upwards, the printer would coat them in ink and then place the paper on top.  This is in contrast to how writing was done previously - from above. 
p. 230 n.67 citing examples of books where the Soncino press accused the Bomberg press of using (illegally?) Soncino editions.
p. 234 n.79 discussing the alleged apostasy of Yakkov ben Hayyim Ibn Adoniyahu, the editor of the Mikrot Gedolot and other seminal texts.
p. 268 n.95 many sources that say the Havah Minah of the gemarah is true and important. 

p. 318 -21  he discusses the methods of R Dovid Meubin a talmid of the Maharshal in annotating the Gemarah including many general rules that he mentions in his sefer.

p. 329 -35 discuses the notes of the Levush on shas if they were really from him and dealing with R. Zechariah criticism on this.

p. 426 n.18 discuses about Fogelman work on R. Menasha Milyah.

p. 464 n.167 the Gra's opinion on the laining on Rosh Chodesh.

p. 540 n.29 the plagiarism of the Tolodos Adam.

p. 587 n.41 deals with a bit if Chaim Bloch was a forger.

p. 652 n.185 Kapach opinon on the Teshuvos of Rambam to Chachemei Lunel.



In the academic world Spiegel work has gotten some attention for his discussion of the Chazon Ish and manuscripts.  Specifically, Benny Brown in his unpulished dissertation, The Hazon Ish Halakhic Philosophy, Theology and Social Policy As Expressed in His Prominent Later Rulings  (Hebrew) pp. 129-40, & Appendix pg 111- 113  deals with Spiegel's discussions with comments and additions. As has been noted here Sperber in his recent work Nesivos Pesikah uses Spiegel's discussions on this topic. And, in his doctorate on R. Betzalel Askenazi B. Toledano uses Spiegel's comments on R. Betzalel. Finally, others have used Spiegel's work, but as Spiegel notes only sometimes do they give Spiegel credit, (see here for more and see the introduction p. 13 and the notes therein and page 183 n.132).



Finally, although Spiegel's work is very comprehensive, there are some additions to some of the topics discussed in the sefer:



In the beginning of the book Spiegel has a chapter about אין כותבין ספרים תפלין ומזוזות במועד ואין מגיהין אות אחת אפילו בספר העזרה בספרים אחרים גורסים ספר עזרא

To add to his long list of sources see Archaei Tanamim Vamorim (Rebbe of Rokeach) (Blau edition 2:666-67) and R. Meshulam Roth, Shut Kol Mevaser 2:2823.


For the chapter (pp. 39-83) about המחזיק בספר מוטעה אל תשכן באהליך עולה see Efodi in his Maseh Efodie p. 18 in the introduction.


For his chapter about Rabbenu Tam's methods of amending texts see also R. Yakov Shor (intro to Sefer haIttim p. vii) where he says he followed Rabbenu Tam's method in his edition of the Sefer haIttim and did make corrections on the actual text.



In chapter twelve where he discusses the Mesectos which are not learned (407-414) Spiegel mentions Nedarim as not being learnt (p. 407). See also the Merei in his Seder Hakabbalah (p. 128 Ofek Edition) where he writes

דעו בעדות נאמנה שלא נשנית מסכת נדרים בישיבה זה ק' שנה

On Nedarim see also R. Reven Margolis, Mekharim beDarkei HaTalmud, pp. 81-84; R. Zevin, Sofrim Veseforim (geonim) pp. 46-48; the extensive discussion of R. Zev Rabanovitz in his Shaerei Toras Bavel (pp. 299-310).


About Meschates Moed Koton see the important comment of R. Yissacar Tamar, Alei Tamar Moed Koton pg 312; and Yeshurun 20:702.


Another mesectah not really learnt in the time of the Rishonim was Mesectas Avodah Zarah see; Professor Chaim Solovetick, Hayayin Byemei Habenyaim pp. 133-36.


When discussing Meshtas Chagigah (pg 409) he brings the famous story from the Menorot haMeor that:

מעשה בתלמיד אחד, שהיה מתייחד במקום אחד, והיה למד בו מסכת חגיגה. והיה מהדר ומהפך בה כמה פעמים, עד שלמד אותה היטב והיתה שגורה בפיו, ולא היה יודע מסכתא אחרת מן התלמוד זולתה, והיה שונה בה כל ימיו. כיון שנפטר מן העולם הזה, היה לבדו באותו בית שהיה לומד בו מסכת חגיגה, ולא היה שום אדם יודע פטירתו. מיד באה אשה אחת, ועמדה עליו, והרימה קולה בבכי ובמספד, ותרבה אנחתה וצעקתה, כאשה שהיא סופדת על בעלה, עד אשר נקבצו ההמון, ואמרה להם, ספדו לחסיד זה, וקברוהו בכבוד גדול, וכבדו את ארונו, ותזכו לחיי העולם הבא, שזה כבדני כל ימיו ולא הייתי עזובה ולא שכוחה בימיו. מיד נתקבצו כל הנשים וישבו עמה סביב למטתו ועשו עליו מספד גדול, והאנשים נתעסקו בתכריכיו ובכל צרכי קבורתו, וקברו אותו בכבוד גדול. ואותה אשה בוכה במר נפש וצועקת. אמרו לה, מה שמך. אמרה להם, חגיגה שמי. וכיון שנקבר אותו חסיד נעלמה מן העין אותה אשה. מיד ידעו שמסכת חגיגה היתה, שנראית להם בצורת אשה, ובאה בשעת פטירתו לספוד לו ולבכותו ולקברו בכבוד, מפני שהיה שונה בה ושוקד עליה ללמוד אותה. והלא דברים קל וחומר, ומה חסיד זה שלא למד אלא מסכתא אחת בלבד כך, הלמד תורה הרבה ותלמוד הרבה ומעמיד תלמידים הרבה על אחת כמה וכמה.


It should be noted that there are eleven versions of the story see S. Askenazi notes to Kav Hayashar and updated to 15 versions in his Alpha Beta Kadmita Deshmuel Zeria pp. 331-36. [These sources were not know to Y. Hacohen in his new annotated edition of the Magid Mesharim (p. 292). The Otzar Yad Chaim (pg 198) goes so far as to say that because of this story some say it's a segulah to learn this Mesechtah on a yarzheit. [See also Megedaim Chadashim introduction to Chaggiah.]


In regard to The famous abrevation ענ"י which Mescetas were hard add R. Emden who writes on the Zohar which says

עני איהו תמן בסימן עירובין נדה יבמות

 "בנה סוד על הלצה בעלמא, שהיתה מצויה בפי עוסקי התלמוד בישיבה, שלא יכלו לירד לעמקן של מסכתות הללו החמורות מאד, מחמת ריבוי החלוקות החדודות שבהן, הודו ולא בושו בעניות דעתם וקוצר יד השגתם, שלא יכלו להשוות כל הסוגיות השונות והסתירות הנמצאות בהן, לתרצם וליישבם כדרך שעשו בשאר כל המסכתות, חוץ מאלו קשות ולא מצאו כל אנשי חיל ידיהם. ונתנו בהן סימן על דרך הצחות, שלא יתפלא אדם, גם אם יאמר החכם למצוא פשר דבר לא יוכל, שכבר צווחו בהן קמאי דקמאי ולא אסקו בידייהו, אלא כמאן דמסיק תעלא מבי כרבא ועניא דקרי אבבא, היאומן שדברים כאלה יצא מפי תנא, אין צריך לומר מפי משה רבנו וא משאר נשמות מעולם הנעלם".  (מטפחת ספרים עמ' מו).



See also S. Askenazi, Alpha Beta Kadmita Deshmuel Zeria pp. 422-24.


For General sources on this topic of which Mesctas were learnt (partially based on Spiegel) see M. Breuer, Ohelehi Torah, pp. 90-94.


On page 280 Spiegel discusses the famous correction of a godal that the beracha of Pidyon Haben is אשר קרש עובר and not אשר קדש he brings some attribute it to R. Chaim Berlin. In the Zecher Daver, the Aderes has a fascinating chapter showing fifty seven examples how a kutzo shel yud makes a difference.  The Aderes cites his friend, R. Chaim Berlin, who told him this (p. 20). On this see also R. Chanoach Erentru in his Eiyunim Bdevrei Chazal Vleshonoim pp. 144-45; R. Yissacar Tamar, Alei Tamar Shekalim (p. 17) writes he does not believe it's a mistake.Additionally, although Spiegel cites to one of Prins' books discussing this issue, פרנס לדורו p. 460 a discussion regarding this topic appears on page 455 of the same book as well as the other book from Prins, פרנס לדורות on page 270. 


On pp. 287-88 Spiegel discusses the Tana De be Eliyeahu with the perish Zikukin Denoroah Ubiyorin. But, see the strong words of the Radal against this pirish in his intro to Pirkei de Reb Eliezer p. 11 saying how this is what the Cherem against changing texts was referring to. See also A. Epstein (Kesavim vol 2, pp. 368-69); M. Ish Sholom, intro to his edition of Tana De be Eliyhu (pp. 4-7).


Although Spiegel writes at the outset of his list of those who used Dikdukei Soferim that its not complete - the following can be added: R Sholom Albeck in his incredible sefer, Mishpachet Sofrim where he used the Dikdukei Soferim on almost every page (this sefer has a very warm haskamahs from the Maharsham and R Eleyahu Meisles amongst others). Another work well worth mentioning is the Shaerei Toras Bavel from R Zev Rabanovitz he also used Dikdukei Soferim extensively [in his work on Yerushalmi he also amends texts – but according to R Zevin in Sofrim Vseforim a bit to much]. Another person who used the Dikdukei Soferim was R. Greubart in Chavalim Beniymim (last page of volume 3, he also mentions seeing a shas from 600 hundred years ago in Chicago). Another person who used it was R. Yeruchem Leiner in his Tifres Yeruchem (pp. 115, 189). Another is R. Elyashiv in his teshuvot (1: p. 478) and in his work on Sotah he uses the Munich ed. in the Talmud HaYisraeli edition (p. 234). A Bar Ilan search shows that others not included in Spiegel list use or used it such as Beis Mordechaei and Shevet haLevei (four times), the latter being very interesting as he is close to the camp of Chazon Ishnicks. Bar Ilan search also shows that some of the Gedolim which Spiegel shows used it used it even more than he shows such as R Zodok and the Or Someach.  


In Spiegel's discussion of the Adres using Dikdukei Soferim Spiegel does not have too many sources (p. 491). To add to this: first in Knesses haGedolaih the Adres uses it in at least two places – these two pieces are now printed in back of his Har haMorieah printed by Ahavat Sholom pp. 253 and 254. In his sefer Megilat Simanim which explains all the Simanim in Shas he used the Dikdukei Soferim numerous times (see index) this work was printed after Spiegel printed his sefer. In his Tefilah leDovid (Ahavat Sholom edtion pp. 8-9,23, 25, 121, 125, 137) (which is the best edition of thos work) we see he was involved in switching texts some times based on manuscripts of Rishonim.


On page 500 Spiegel leaves one thinking that A. Epstein was not pro the Dikdukei Soferim, which is not true at all (see Epstein's Kesavim vol 2  p. 354) where he criticizes Halevei for בכל ספרו לא נמצא זכר החיבור הנחמד דקדוקי סופרים, שנאספו ובאו בו נוסחאות כתבי יד שונים וספרים עתיקים. (see also pgs 83,51,357).


 Another very interesting passage in regarding Dikdukei Soferim was written by A. Berliner:

בדרכי לברלין השתמשתי בשעת הכושר לבקר במינכן את ידידי המלומד רבינוביץ ולהציץ למעבדתו הרחונית בה נעשית היצירה הגדולה דקדוקי סופרים שהכרך הששי מאותו הספר הענקי יצא בזמן האחרון. כאן השתוממתי והתפעלתי מאוסף כתבי היד ודפוסים יקרי המציאות, המשמשים יסוד לרבינוביץ בעבודתו. ובאמת ניתן לומר, שאותו מפעל גדול ונהדר, להוציא את התלמוד הוצאת ביקורתית על יסוד כתבי היד ואינקונאבלים הוא מפעל לאומי, הראוי לתמיכה מצד כל אלה, שיש להם הבנה למדעי היהדות ולב פתוח ועד לקידומם. איני יודע חתימה נאה לפרשת מסעי מאשר להביע את משאלתי מי יתן ואותו מפעל גדול יוכתר בהשלמה וסיום מוצלחים". (ששה חדשים באיטליה עמ' עב).


On page 426 Spiegel deal with the reliability of M. Fogelman (Plungin) see the interesting piece by A. Korman in Musagim Behalcha p. 203. See also the recent article from D. Kamentsky in Yeshurun vol 20. 


On pages 428-29 Spiegel deals a little with the Kol Hatohar.  It should be added the recently printed work Olam Nistar Bemaddei Hazman by R.Shucat pp. 262-91 (see also this post discussing Shucat's work generally.)



To the disscusion of Chazon Ish and manuscripts see also Maseh ish 1:93; 2:72, 218; 3:92



Finally to add to Spiegel's sources on pages 555, 569 regarding the yarhzeit of Yehoshua bin Nun. R. Hamburger, in his Shorshei Minhag Ashkenaz (3:262) points to one such source that Lag b'omer is the yarzeit. Additionally, in the Megillas Ta'anis, the last section, there's a section called Megilas Taanis Basra. In many versions of this text, the death of R' Yehoshua bin Nun is on Lag b'omer. Professor Shulamis Elitzur, in a recent incredible book, Lama Tzamnu, deals with this at great length and brings many early sources from ancient piyutim which verify this (pp. 18, 26, 34, 39, 66, 120, 126, 172).


Sunday, October 26, 2008

Dr. Lange's Commentary on Koheleth

In a recent post, Dr. Leiman noted that Rabbi Dr. Dovid Tzvi Hoffmann's commentary on Shemot is being translated into Hebrew and printed in the near future.  While the volume on Shemot will be published, a commentary of one of R. Hoffmann's student on Koheles has recently been translated and printed.  Indeed,  there are two editions of the same commentary that have been recently been printed.  The fact that someone who has been ignored for a while then merits to have competing editions of their work is not that uncommon. For example, recently, there has been a renewed interest in the works of the Aderet.  The Adret's commentary on teffilah, Tefilat Dovid, there are three editions when five years ago there were none.

In this case, there are two editions, one in Hebrew and one in English of Dr. Gerson Lange's commentary on Kohelet.  The English edition titled, "The Book of Koheleth," is edited by Yosef Binyamin Fagin and includes a short biography about Dr. Lange. A slightly different version of this biography was printed in volume two of Yeruhaseinu (English section, pp. 22-31). Dr. Lange was a student of Rabbis Hoffmann and Hildesheimer and eventually took over as Director, after the death of R. Dr. Mendel Hirsch of the Israelitischen Religionsgessellschaft Realschule in Frankfort.  In this role as teacher, Dr. Lange taught Kohelet to his students, this work is a product of those classes. 

This is not Dr. Lange's only book, he also translated the Ralbag's Ma'asei Choseiv, a work on mathematics.  Dr. Lange, after obtaining semikh, studied mathematics at the University of Berlin.  In his commentary on Koheleth, he makes use of his mathematical background and even discusses Newton's Theory of Emission in the introduction.The commentary is one of peshat and many times focuses on eytomology to find the peshet.  The English version produces a highly readable translation. 

The Hebrew version, titled Gerash Yerachim, although the original title was, as the English version renders it, The Book of Koheleth, the editor decided to come up with a new title - a point that is not mentioned anywhere in this version. Additionally, this version, according to the editor, is not a translation but adapts Dr. Lange's commentary.  This version contains an introduction and background on Dr. Lange.  The introduction appears to take on a more apologetic tone than the English version.  Specifically, when discussing Dr. Lange the introduction points out that although Dr. Lange went to university buty that "going to university was common amongst the German Jews and without obtaining an advanced degree they could not function in any communal role, even amongst the Orthodox communities . . . [Dr. Lange] was following in the footsteps of his teachers, Rav Ezreil Hedesheimer and R. Dovid Tzvi Hoffmann and going up in holiness the Goan R. [Yaakov] Ettlinger."  Additionally, the introduction goes on to recount how R. Meir Shapira visited a resort near Frankfort, "Dr. Lange would get up at four a.m. and go to R. Shapira to study with him.  When R. Meir [Shapira] came back into Frankfort he proclaimed 'A Jew like [Dr. Lange] shows that there are still beni aliyah amongst the German Jews!'" Whether or not this tone was the intent of the editor, is of course, difficult to discern but worth noting. Finally, a short review of the Hebrew edition appeared in volume three of Yeruhaseinu pp. 399-400.

Both of these versions should be available in your local seforim stores, or the English can be purchased by contacting langebook-at-aol.com     

Monday, October 13, 2008

Pini Dunner - Handbill Defending the Use of the Corfu Etrogim

Pini Dunner B.A (Hons), formerly rabbi of London's Saatchi Synagogue, is an avid collector of polemical and controversial Hebraica, with a very large, diverse private collection of such material. Many items in his collection are unknown and unrecorded, and relate to long forgotten, obscure controversies.

This is Pini Dunner's third post at the Seforim blog. His first post, "Mercaz Agudat Ha-Rabbanim Be-Lita, Kovno, 1931," is available here; his second post, "Unknown Picture of the late Lubavitcher Rebbe, c.1930s," is available here.

For background on the controversy over Corfu etrogim, see Yosef Salomon, "The Controversies Regarding the Corfu and Eretz Yisrael Etrogim 1875-1891," Zion 65.1 (2000): 75-106; Yosef Salomon, "The Controversy Regarding the Corfu Etrogim and its Historical Significance," AJS Review 25 (2000-2001): 1-25; Yitzhak Refael, "Corfu Etrogim and Eretz Yisrael Etrogim," Sheragi 2 (1985), 84-90; Dan Porat, "The Controversy over Israeli Etrogim from 1875-1889," (MA thesis, Hebrew University of Jerusalem, 1993); H. Hamel, "R. Yosef Zehariah Stern's Position in the Corfu Etrogim Controversy," in Sefer Refael (Jerusalem, 2000), 242-251. For a brief discussion about the broadsides authored by R. Gershon Henoch Leiner and his son R. Mordechai Joseph Eliezer Leiner of Izbica-Radzin that were posted throughout Poland, see Pearl Preschel, "The Jews of Corfu," (PhD dissertation, New York University, 1984), 111-112, 113-114, 159.

Regarding the Russian text at the bottom of the broadside, the following is a translation that was obligatory to appear on all non-Russian books:
Condemnation by M.I.Leiner of those rabbis, which, as the revenge for the dwellers of the Greek islands for the disturbances on the island of Corfu, prohibited the paradise apples originating from those islands for using them in the religious ceremony of the holiday of Sukkot.
Included is a protest letter by the rabbi of Corfu about the matter.
Permitted by the censorship, Warsaw, 15 July 1891 -- printing of M.I. Galter Nalevki [St.] 23.

for post
Handbill Defending the Use of the Corfu Etrogim authored by R. Mordechai Joseph Eliezer Leiner of Izbica-Radzin  published in Izbica, July 1891

This broadside contains a vigourous and impassioned defence of the practice of using etrogim from Corfu in preference to those from Eretz Yisrael. For centuries the most prized etrogim used by Jews of all communities were those grown in Corfu, and the etrog industry on the island was a mainstay of the local economy. It was said that the etrogim grown in Corfu traced their origins to those used during the second temple period, and were therefore of the most reliable pedigree. The untainted pedigree of an etrog is of primary importance, and as a result Corfu etrogim were highly sought after, making them expensive. Furthermore, the owners of the orchards - many of them non-Jews - fiercely guarded their monopolies, and were extremely careful that their etrogim were of unimpeachable pedigree.

This broadside was issued as a result of the drift away from using etrogim grown on the island of Corfu in the late nineteenth century. Initially this began with a ban on their use that was issued c.1875 and that had its roots in the growing suspicion that Corfu etrogim were no longer reliable in their pedigree and that growers had secretly begun grafting them with other citrus fruits to boost the numbers of fruit that were fit for use, and in addition would be outstanding in their appearance, boosting their value.

Then in 1891, the year of this broadside, the ban against Corfu etrogim was strengthened as a result of the terrible anti-semitism on the island that had led to a vicious blood libel. Jewish communities formerly loyal to Corfu etrogim switched their allegiances to the ever expanding etrogim market of Eretz Yisrael and it was this that R. Leiner was trying to prevent. R. Leiner (1877-1929) was the scion of the Izbica/Radzyn dynasty and in this broadside he quotes his recently departed father, R. Gershon Henoch (1839-1891), the famous 'Baal ha-Techeilet', as saying that there were no better and more kosher etrogim than those that grew in Corfu. He added that those grown in Eretz Yisrael were probably unfit for use and, furthermore, the excuse that they provided income for poor farmers there was utterly inappropriate in light of their unfitness. He added that the chief rabbi of Corfu, R. Elisha mi-Pano, had written to him to say that the ban effected against Corfu etrogim (the annual market for etrogim was of major economic significance to the small island) as a result of the blood libel was making matters worse for the Jews of Corfu.

Despite attemps by R. Leiner and other advocates of Corfu etrogim, the Corfu etrog business went into terminal decline. By the early twentieth century the rival industry in Eretz Yisrael had grabbed the overwhelming majority of the etrogim market, and with the upheaval of the two world wars, and following the creation of the State of Israel, Corfu etrogim disappeared completely from the scene.

Recently, I understand, there has been some effort to revive the fortunes of the Corfu etrog. It would seem that an emissary of R. David Twersky of New Square annually acquires etrogim from Corfu for R. Twersky to use on sukkot. No doubt this action is motivated by R. Twersky's well-known desire to strictly follow the customs of his illustrious forebears who, in the years when the etrogim controversy raged, were devotees of Corfu etrogim over their Eretz Yisrael counterparts. Nevertheless, as any etrog grower will tell you, once an etrog orchard has been abandoned, any fruit that emerge from it in the years that follow, especially if many years pass, no longer have a chezkat kashrut, and more than likely they are murkavim. It would be interesting to know if R. Twersky makes a bracha on these questionable etrogim, or if he first uses an etrog of reliable pedigree and then switches to the murkav simply for sentimental purposes.


Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Eliezer Kallir - Updated

Eliezer Kallir, is considered one of the greatest paytanim. He authored some of the most well known piyyutim including those said for geshem and tal, as well as many others (although most of his piyyutim that were included in the Rosh haShana and Yom Kippur prayers are no longer said by most). While his literary output is well-known, "[b]iographical facts about Kallir are shrouded in mystery." E.J. (new ed.) vol. 11, p. 743. There are many theories about who R. Kallir was and I would like to touch on some of these in this post. (Also see below for a bibliography on R. Eliezer Kallir - provided by a kind reader of the blog.)

R. Shmuel David Luzzato (Shadal) in his Mevo l'Machzor Beni Roma, discusses Kallir and the history of piyyutim at length.[1] "If you will ask who authored the first piyyut and who followed them, I will answer that the first is Yanni or Yinai, and the second is R. Eliezer Berebi Kalir. The product of both is apparent to all in the Haggadah as the piyyut "Az Rov Nissim" is from Yanni . . . and the piyyut "Ometz Gevoroteha" is from R. Eliezer berbi Kallir . . ." Interestingly, "regarding Yanni a nasty rumor has been spread (Zunz found it in a manuscript commentary to the Mahzor), however, anyone who hears it will laugh, . . . [and the rumor is] that Yanni became jealous of his student R. Eliezer and [Yanni] put a scorpion in [Eliezer Kallir's] shoe and the scorpion killed Kallir." Shadal, however, dismisses this rumor in light of the fact that Yanni's piyyutim are still said, especially the one mentioned above during Pesach. Shadal argues that if Yanni was a murderer then there is no way Yanni's piyyutim would be so popular. Additionally, Rabbenu Gershom mentions Yanni and uses honorific terms, something Rabbenu Gershom would not have done if the rumor is true.

Shadal then turns to the details of R. Eliezer Kallir's biography. "In many places R. Eliezer signs his name as 'R. Eliezer beribi Kallir from Kiryat Sefer.' Many of the early ones believed that this indicated Kallir was from the biblical town of Kiryat Sefer, and many thought that Kallir was a tanna, either R. Eliezer the son of Simon ... or R. Eliezer ben Arakh, both of these opinions are recorded in the Sefer HaYuchsin." Shadal, however shows that it is highly unlikely that R. Eliezer Kallir was a tanna or that he was from the biblical town of Kiryat Sefer. Instead, Shadal quotes the opinion of R. Moshe Landau (grandson of the Noda Be-Yehuda) in his commentary to the Arukh, Maarkhe Lashon. [2]According to Landau Kallir is a reference to the Sardinian city Cagliari. Shadal disagrees with Landau. In the end, after citing other opinions, including identifying Kallir with an Italian city, Pumadisa in Babylon, and Sippara also in Babylon, and to those it should be added, Bari, Ostia, "Civitas Portas, the former port of Rome (Derenbourg); Constantinople; Civita di Penna in the Abruzzi; . . . Normandy, Speyer in Germany . . . Lettere in Souther Italy, . . . Antioch and Hama in Syria . . . Kallirrhoe in Palestine . .. [and finally] Tiberias." E.J. p. 744. As should be apparent, there is no consensus on where Kallir was from.

Turning to his name - Kallir - the starting place is R. Nathan and his Arukh. He explains that Kallir, means cake (indeed in Greek kalura means cake). And, Kallir was called "cake" because "he ate a cake that had written on a kemiah (amulet) and, as a result, he became smart." Arukh erekh klr. The idea to feed children cake with inscriptions is a well documented one. R. Eliezer from Worms, the author of the Rokekh records the custom to feed children cakes with the verses from Isaiah 50:4, id.50:5, and Ezekiel 3:3. The children would eat these when they were indoctrinated into Torah study on Shavout. [3]Of course, as noted above, some view the name Kallir as an indication of where Kallir was from. Indeed, many, including Shadal did not swallow (if I may) the Arukh's interpretation of Kallir.

Again, as we have seen there is a bit of debate when it comes to Kallir, one of the more interesting debates regards which piyyutim can be attributed to him. While in many Kallir provides his name in an acrostic, according to R. Shelomo Yehuda Rapoport (Shir) one can also attribute those piyyutim that there is a gematria that equals some permutation of Kallir's name. That is, Kallir sometimes signed his name Eliezer haKallir, Eliezer beribi Kallir, Eliezer Kallir me-Kiryat Sefer, and a combination of any of these. Thus, according to Shir, if in the first line equaled any of these Kallir was the author.

R. Efraim Mehlsack, however, took issue with Shir's use of gematria. Specifically, Mehlsack wrote Sefer ha-Ravyah, Ofen, 1837, against Shir. Mehlsack was a prolific author, he supposedly authored some 72 seforim, but the only published sefer was this one. But before we get into the details regarding Mehlsack we need to discuss his critique of Shir. Mehlsack went to town on Shir and showed that using the gematria for the first line of a book, Mehlsack could make Kallir the author of just about every important Jewish book. Mehlsack goes through Tanakh and uses the first verse of each book to equal some form of Kallir's name. For example, the first verse in Berashit equals 913 which equals "meni ha-katan Eliezer Kallir." The first verse in Joshua equals 1041 which equals "ha-katon Eliezer beribi Kallir." Mehlsack doesn't stop with Tanakh, he then moves to Mishna noting that the first mishna in Berkhot is 2362 which equals "ani Eliezer berbi Ya'akov ha-Kallir mi-Kiryat Sefer yezkeh be-tov amen." As a final shot at Shir, Mehlsack has the gematria of I am Shelmo Yehuda Rapoport = 1164 to Eliezer beRebi Yaakov Kallir =1164. Indeed, Mehlsack was not content to provide some 40 odd examples, he had even more and as a result of already printing the pages, the Sefer Ravyah is an interesting bibliographical oddity in that these gematrias appear on page 18 and then continue. Well Mehlsack includes an alternative page 18 in the back which has more examples of these gematrias. Thus, the book goes until page 32 and then there is another page 18. Both versions appear below.

Turning now to Mehlsack. As I mentioned Mehlsack supposedly authored 72 books. We know of 34 titles from that list.[4] Although most of those works have been lost, there are a

few, around five, that are available in manuscript. In Boaz Hass's recent book on the history of the Zohar, he mentions Mehlsack's translation of the Zohar (Scholem also discusses this work). One of the works lost, is a work permitting one to travel via train on Shabbat. The introduction of this work has been published (in part) and appears below. Additionally, Sefer Ravyah was not Mehlsack's only attack on Rapoport, Mehlsack attacked Rapoport in a few of his works, and some of his critiques were published in Bikkurei Ha-Ittim.

Returning to Kallir, it goes without saying that Kallir's piyyutim were controversial. Most famously, the Ibn Ezra complained about them and offered that one should refrain from saying Kallir's piyyutim. Ibn Ezra's critique is discussed by R. Eliezer Fleckels, who defends Kallir, and Heidenheim thought it important enough to include this lengthy responsum in Heidenheim's edition of the Machzor.[For more on the Ibn Ezra see צבי מלאכי "אברהם אבן-עזרא נגד אלעזר הקליר - ביקורת בראי הדורות" פלס (תשם) 273-296)

Bibliography on R. Eliezer Kallir (provided by a kind reader of the blog.)

אלבוגן, התפלה בישראל בהתפתחותה ההסטורית, 233 - 239

יוסף זליגר, "לתולדות הפיוט והפיטנים (ר' אלעזר קליר)", כתבי הרב ד"ר יוסף זליגר, לאה זליגר מו"ל, ירושלים תרצ, צז - קב

שלמה דוד לוצאטו, אגרות שד"ל א, 464 ואילך

---, הליכות קדם, גבריאל פאלק, אמסטרדם תרז, מחלקה שניה, 56 - 64.

צבי מלאכי, "הפייטן אלעזר הקליר - לחקר שמו ומקומו", באורח מדע: פרקים בתרבות ישראל מוגים לאהרן מירסקי במלאות לו שבעים שנה, צבי מלאכי, מכון הברמן למחקרי ספרות, לוד תשמו, 539 - 543

אהרן מרקוס, ברזילי: מסה בתולדות הלשון העברית, ירושלים: מוסד הרב קוק תשמג, 346

עזרא פליישר, תרביץ נ, 282 - 302

---, "לפתרון שאלת זמנו ומקום פעילותו של ר' אלעזר בירבי קיליר", תרביץ נד ג, ניסן - סיון תשמה, 383 - 427

שלמה יהודה ראפאפארט, תולדות גדולי ישראל, 24 - 55

יעקב שור, ספר העתים, 364 – 365

בנועם שיח: פרקים מתולדות ספרותנו, מכון הברמן למחקרי ספרות, לוד תשמג, 114 - 156

המעין טז א, תשרי תשלו, 3 - 14. המשך: ב, טבת תשלו, 32 - 52.

[1] Mevo leMachzor Beni Roma, Habermann ed. Jerusalem

[2] For more on this commentary see S. Brisman, History & Guide to Judaic Dictionaries & Concordances, KTAV Publishing House, Inc. 2000, pp. 19-20.

[3] For more on this custom see Assaf, Mekorot le-Tolodot ha-Hinukh be-Yisrael, Jerusalem 2002, pp. 80-1 n.9 and the sources cited therein. See also, E. Kanarfogel, Peering through the Lattices, Wayne State University Press, Detroit, 2000 pp. 140-41 and the notes therein (discussing the ceremony generally); id.p. 237 n.47 (discussing some of the halakhik issues with this custom including the "issue" of "excret[ing] these verses")

[4] See G. Kressel, "Kitvei Mehlsack," Kiryat Sefer 17, pp. 87-96.

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