Aderet's autobiography was first published in its entirety in 1983 by Mossad ha-Rav Kook. The Mossad received the manuscript from Aderet's grandson. As will become apparent, much of what was written, prior to 1983, regarding Aderet is lacking because prior to its publication in 1983, his autobiography was virtually unknown. As an aside, the New Encyclopaedia Judaica reuses the article on Aderet from the original Encyclopaedia Judaica and is but one example of the shortcomings of the New Encyclopaedia, for more examples see Dr. Leiman's critique here, and Dr. Havlin's critique here, and Dr. Richler's critique here of the New Encyclopaedia Judaica.
The 1983 edition, however, has been out-of-print for years, and this year, some of Aderet's desendents republished Seder Eliyahu (additionally, they also reprint Nefesh David in this volume). The editors of this new edition thank Mossad ha-Rav Kook for allowing them to reprint this work. But, in their introduction, they argue that Aderet "never intended to publish this work and allow others to read it, instead, it was meant for his family." Seder Eliyahu, Jerusalem, 2010, at 7 ("Jer. ed." or "New Edition"). Based upon this assertion, the editors of this edition justify "removing various passages that were never intended for outsiders to read." Id. at 9. They explain that whenever they removed text "three lines (- - -) serve to indicate missing text." Id. As we shall see they are inconsistent at best at using the three dash device and many instances of removal are not noted.
Regarding the claim that Aderet never intended this book to be published. The original publication in 1983 includes the entire text with no omissions. Recall that this text was obtained by Mossad ha-Rav Kook from Aderet's grandson, we have no indication that he objected to publishing the entire text. Moreover, the first time the autobiography (partially) appeared in Ha-Peles much of the "offensive" material was included. Recall that Aderet's nephew was the editor of Ha-Peles and he saw no need to censore anything. Finally, although there may be some indications that an autobiography was merely written for family members and not intended for broader publication, this device is common in autobiographies. R. Emden also implies that he didn't intend his autobiography to be widely distributed, but as Dr. Schacter demonstrates, Emden wanted others to read it. Indeed, according to Schacter, R. Emden's autobiography can be classified as "that of 'autobiography as polemic.'" As Emden writes of his purpose, "[i]n order that the sun of my righteousness should shine forth . . . [and because] many of [my enemies] libelous writings will certainly remain extant in the world for some time. Therefore, necessity has compelled me to clarify my case before God and man. . . . Behold [this autobiography] will serve as a vindication for me, for my children and my descendants." Thus, "there is equally no question that the overriding primary impetus behind Megillat sefer was a desire on the part of Emden to clear his name and vindicate himself in his controversy with Eybeschutz," and "[t]here is no doubt that it is the Emden-Eybeschutz controversy that serves as the 'center of gravity' for" Megillat Sefer. Of course, for R. Emden to be publicly vindicated, presumably the public would need to be aware of the work.
With Emden's motives in mind, it is important to distinguish Aderet's work. While Aderet includes descriptions of others in his work, and, at times, some of these descriptions are far from flattering, it does not appear that Aderet was looking for vindication or had a polemic motive in mind. While Aderet did not get along with his constituents in Ponovitch, that dispute was mainly surrounding Aderet's salary and how the community treated him. Aderet wasn't involved in any global disputes like the Emden-Eybeschutz controversy and thus Aderet wasn't required to vindicate himself. Moreover, Aderet ultimately came out on top, becoming Chief Rabbi of the Ashkenazim in Jerusalem. Thus, he was well-respected and had no reason to resurrect his image - his image was already good.
Perhaps a better understanding of some of the material as it relates to others in Seder Eliyahu may be better understood by looking at Marcus Mosley's comments and quote from Rousseau:
Autobiography operates upon an entirely different set of criteria. For the autobiographer, the significance of the other is determined solely by the role that he or she plays in the formation of the self, regardless of social standing. Thus Rousseau, in the "Neuchatel" variant of the preamble to the Confeinddow: "The relationships I have had with several people compel me to speak as freely of them as of myself. I can only succeed in making myself known by making them known also." Many of the more decisive encounters with the other in the shaping of the autobiographer's self occur in the years of childhood and adolescence. Parents, teachers, schoolmates, and domestic staff may thus achieve a prominence in the autobiography that would, in the memoir, be reserved for generals and prime ministers, renowned men of letters, and so on. This is not to say that the formative encounters with the other in an autobiography are restricted to the historically obscure. But when the great do drift in and out of the pages of an autobiography, it is often not on account of the qualities that granted them this status that they are recalled.
The new edition of Seder Eliyahu, however, leaves out much of Aderet's comments about others, depriving the reader of fully understanding the Aderet as well as distorting history. We will provide all the examples of where the new edition has altered or removed material from the 1983 edition.
Aderet is known as having a phenomenal memory. He was also a prolific author, but much of his writings remained in manuscript. In the last decade or so, many of his books have been published, a bibliography of which will appear soon.
The above provides a basic outline of Aderet's biography, but a close examination of his autobiography provides additional detail.
Autobiography of Aderet
Some biographies make it appear that Aderet had a great relationship with the people of Ponovitch. These biographies point to the fact that when Mir approached him, Ponovitch tried its hardest to keep Aderet. But, in his autobiography Aderet explains how horrible the people of Ponovich were to him. They paid him almost nothing and even that little amount wasn't always timely. He was so poor that he didn't have his own bed and had to sleep on a few chairs. Although Aderet had some of his children die and others were sick, for the most part, the people of Ponovitch made his life even more difficult. The town didn't help when he had sick children. One particularly shocking incident was one of the Ponovitch community members became gabbi. Aderet didn't like waiting between Kabbalat Shabbat and Ma'ariv because waiting only meant that people ended up talking and not acting as one should in Shul. The gabbi, however, wanted to talk and wanted a break. Thus, when Aderet asked the hazzan to immediately begin ma'ariv, the gabbi told the hazzan "it's not time yet." This type of maltreatment by the Ponovitch community members was not uncommon. Therefore, when Mir came knocking, and, although Mir was a significantly smaller community, Aderet wanted to get out of Ponovitch and accepted Mir's offer.
As Aderet was almost always looking to leave Ponovitch, he competed for a job in Riga. And, although he was the most qualified candidate, the position was given to someone else. Aderet lost out on the position because R. Yitzhak Elchonon Spector backed Aderet's rival. Aderet was extremely upset at R. Yitzhak Elchonon and even sent a very nasty letter to R. Yitzhak Elchonon. R. Yitzhak Elchonon's reaction was that "the letter was so disrespectful that but for Aderet's reputation as a talmid hakham, he [R. Yitzhak Elchonon] would see to it that Aderet couldn't even get a job a beadle in a bet midrash." Aderet was so embittered by this episode he remarks that he never forgave R. Yitzhak Elchonon. This was not the only time Aderet had a falling out with R. Yitzhak Elchonon. At a rabbinic conference, led by R. Yitzhak Elchonon, there was a miscommunication which R. Yitzhak Elchonon took personally. As such, R. Yitzhak Elchonon refused to entertain anything else during the conference and the conference was totally unsuccessful. Aderet was appalled that R. Yitzhak Elchonon's personal feelings didn't allow the conference to produce anything of value.
Aside from making Aderet's life miserable, the treatment of the town of Ponovitch also forced Aderet to allow his son-in-law, R. Abraham Isaac Kook, to leave and take up his own rabbinic position. Although Ponovitch had promised Aderet a higher salary, the town never came through and thus Aderet couldn't support his daughter and son-in-law. In his autobiography, he describes how heartbroken he was when his son-in-law and daughter left.
Comparison of the New Edition and 1983 Edition of Aderet's Autobiography
As noted above, the editors of the New Edition provide that they have removed material from Seder Eliyahu, and that they have noted any time anything is removed. This is false. Although it is true that the editors have removed material but they have not always noted when they did so. At times removed material is noted by "- - - " in the text, many times there is no indication that anything is missing. Moreover, the editors are inconsistent when they alter the text. That is, in correcting typos or when removing abbreviation, sometimes they note they are altering the text and other times they do not. Of course, this omission is less serious than wholesale removal of text, but consistency is still important. For example, in the 1983 edition many persons are only referred to in abbreviated form, while in the New Edition their full name is used; thus the original reads "my uncle רפ"ק" while in the New Edition it reads "my uncle Rabbi Pinchus Cantor." The editors don't note that they have inserted his full name; however, whenever the text uses an abbreviation to refer to R. Shmuel Mohilever - "הגרש"מ" in the New Edition they provide his full name but do so in brackets indicating an insertion into the text. Compare 1983 ed. pp. 84 & 92 & Jer. ed. at 71 & 76. It is unclear why they decided to consistently indicate this insertion and not others.
Ehad be-Doro, vol. 1, 191-202
Seder Parsheyot le-Aderet, vol. 1, Machon Yerushalyim, Jerusalem, 2004, 329-99 (includes bibliography)
Shlomo Albert, Aderet Eliyahu, Jerusalem, 2003
Hiddushei ha-Gaon ha-Aderet, Machon Kitvei Yad ha-Aderet be-Artzot ha-Brit, Israel, 2003, Katzman 1-42.
Moshe Tzinovitz, Ishim u-Kehilot, Tel Aviv, 1990 128-30
Moshe Tzinovitz, Mir, Tolodot Yeshivat Mir, Tel Aviv, 1981, 175-83
Rabbotenu she-beGoleh, Jerusalem, 1996, vol. 1, 121-28
Asher Yetzaveh, Mechon Ahavat Shalom, Jerusalem, 2004, vol. 1, pp. 395-425 (Nefesh David is reprinted in this work, however, the editors fail to mention that they copied it from the 1983 ed.).