Tuesday, September 16, 2008

The Tree Murderers I

This post introduces a new series of posts discussing recently published seforim.  Specifically, we shall focus on seforim that should never have been printed.

The first such sefer is R. Aaron Levine's Kol Bo le-Yarhzeiht, Toronto, Canada, 2006.  This two volume work weighting in at a mere 1177 pages (needlessly killing all those trees) is entirely devoted to the custom of yarhzeit.  First a bit about the layout of the book. The first volume of the book opens with 18 pages of dedications and then 19 pages of approbations.  So the reader, who presumably paid money for this book, has to get through 40 pages before coming to any substantive content.  Moreover, the need for 19 approbations on a book that is supposedly merely a "likut" boggles the mind.  Perhaps the most amazing thing is that the author wasn't satisfied to include these dedications at the opening of the first volume - yes, at the start of the second volume, again the reader needs to first see all the very same dedications that appear at the beginning of the first, another 20 wasted pages.  To be clear, these 20 pages (at the start of the two volumes) are not the only dedications, no, at the end of each volume are 36 additional pages of dedications. And, yes, the same 36 pages appear at the end of each volume.  So, in total there are 112 pages of dedications!  That still leaves over 1000 pages for material about yarhzeit. 

As is apparent the author did not feel constrained by space (or environmental concerns) but that doesn't stop him from failing to include relevant sources.  For example, there is a section devoted to the using the mikveah before serving as a hazan on a yarhzeit.  What is amazing is that the section only speaks in terms of obligation - how one is obligated to do this.  It never mentions or includes any sources that not everyone does this. Apparently there were no more trees left for the other views.

A more troubling section is the lead section of the book discussing the history of the yarhzeit custom. As the author demonstrates, yarhzeit is a custom that started with the Ashkenazim sometime around the 13th century.  It is not a talmudic or geonic custom.   As such, there is no Hebrew or rabbinic term for the custom and unsurprisingly, yarhzeit or the German for aniversery is employed to describe the custom.  But there is still a dissenting view brought that it is improper to use a non-Jewish term to describe such a holy custom. 

Finally, it should be pointed out that throughout the book Pesach Krohn's stories are used as valid sources for halachos and customs.

Least one think that the needless killing of trees will end with this book, the author indicates that he plans on publishing an English edition and is soliciting dedications.  So if you want your dedication - and it may appear multiple times, perhaps the English will be three volumes allowing you the reader to see the same dedication three time - send your money in now.  

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