Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Book Review: Pischei Tefilah u-Mo’ad by Y. S. Spiegel

Book Review

by Eliezer Brodt

פתחי תפילה ומועד, יעקב שמואל שפיגל, ירושלים תש"ע, 540 עמודים.

Pischei Tefilah u-Mo’ad, Y. S. Speigel, Jerusalem: 2010, 540 pp.

Professor Speigel is one of the most prolific writers in the Jewish academic scene, as the author of over 160 articles and 18 books (16 of those are publications for the first time of works which remained in manuscript. The other two are his own original and important studies; one of the latter is reviewed here). His articles cover an incredibly wide range of subjects related to many areas of Jewish Studies, including history of Rishonim, piyutim authored by Rishonim, bibliography and minhaghim, to name but a few. His uniqueness lies not only in the topics but also that his work has appeared in all types of publications running the gamut from academic journals such as Kiryat Sefer, Tarbiz, Sidra, Alei Sefer, Assufot, Teudah, Kovetz Al Yad and also in many prominent Charedi rabbinic journals such a Yeshurun, Yerushasenu, Moriah, Sinai and Or Yisroel. It is hard to define his area of expertise, as in every area he writes about he appears to be an expert! His doctorate was related to later additions in the Talmud by the Savoraim but most of his subsequent work focused on completely different areas. He has edited and printed from manuscript many works of Rishonim and Achronim on Massekhes Avos and the Haggadah Shel Pesach. He is of the opinion, contrary to that of some other academics, that there is nothing non-academic about printing critical editions of important manuscript texts. Although there is a known “belief” in the academic world, “publish or perish,” which some claim is the cause of weak articles and books, at times, Spiegel’s prolific output does nothing to damper the quality of his works. Another point unique to Speigel's writings, besides his familiarity with all the academic sources, he shows great familiarity with all the classic sources from Chazal, Geonim, Rishonim and Achronim, to even the most recent discussions in Charedi literature – this bekius (breadth) was apparent well before the advent of search engines of Hebrew books and Otzar Ha-hochmah. Alongside all this is his penetrating analysis and ability to raise interesting points.

This new collections contains 32 articles related to tefilah, kriyas ha-Torah, halacha and minhaghim related to the mo’adim. Four of these articles are entirely new, and some of the reprinted articles are already classics, quoted and used many times in recent literature.

I would just like to list and describe some of the topics, found in this excellent collection. There are parts of the Zecher Tzadik (written in 1467) which is still in manuscript. The section on Pesach was printed by Speigel in a separate book via Ofek. In this collection the Halachos of tefillin and Rosh Hashana were printed. Other articles are various Shu"t from manuscript on a wide range of topics, amongst them, where the Kohanim should say Nesiat Kapayim, a Kotton davening for the Amud, washing when eating vegetables, the fast of the Bechor on erev Pesach, and consumption of sesame oil on Pesach. Each piece has a thorough introduction about the author and topic and the texts contain many useful notes.

There is a great article of Hilchos Rosh Hashnah in the Azharot form from Reb Pinchas Halevei, the brother of the Reah. The notes and introduction are very good. I should point out that in the introduction to this piece, Spiegel deals a bit with the famous question of who was the author of the Sefer Hachinuch. Similar pieces in this collection are Azharot from other Rishonim which contains Hilchos Yom Kippur and another on HILchos Succos.

Another piece worth mentioning is a teshuvah printed for the first time about the Beracha on Coffee. In the introduction of this piece, Spiegel collects many different aspects of coffee that early Halachic works dealt with. But we should note that his discussion regarding the appropriate shiur (amount) that would require making a beracha acharona really requires an examination of the various forms in which coffee was historically drank. Some coffees are meant to be consumed in small doses while others in larger formats. Today, for example, a typical espresso shot is just an ounce, while a standard cup of coffee is 12 ounces. While espresso is a more recent, it would be helpful to know if one’s position regarding beracha achrona is more a function of size of common cup where the person lived than a sweeping position on coffee generally.

There is an article discussing the piyut Achlu Mashmanyim which is customarily recited on Shabbos Chanukah. As an aside, he provides an early source for eating sufganiyot on Chanukah.

For Purim he has a large collection of Halachos pertaining to the concept of Venahaphechu - that we do the opposite of what we would think. Another special article related to Purim is a very comprehensive discussion on cross-dressing on Purim and other happy occasions throughout the year.

He prints in this collection a Derasha of a talmid of the Rosh on Pesach for the first time (the Halacha part was printed by Speigel in a recent issue of Moriah). One interesting passage in this Derasha which I found was:

אם אנשי' באים ללמוד ונשים באות לשמוע טף למה בא, כדי לתת שכר טוב למביאיהן, אלמא שהתינוקות כמו כן יש שכר גדול למביאיהן לחנכם במצות. ויותר חביב לפני הב"ה בשעה שהתינוקות עונין קדיש או קדושה יותר מגדולים, שאינו דומה הבל שיש בו חטא להבל שאין בו חטא...

Hopefully in the future I will return to this topic of bringing kids to shul.

Amongst my favorite pieces in this collection is his article on the piyut which we say on the Yomim Noraim of Useshuvha Usefilah Utzedaka. In this piece he deals with piyutim and Halacha- namely, did Paytanim say things contrary to halacha. He deals with the Rambam's negative opinion of Baalei Azharot (see here). He also deals with the sources of the famous story of Reb Amnon and Unesaneh Tokef.

Another favorite piece is his discussion of saying Chazak! when we finish reading each book of the Chumash. A side topic of interest dealt with in this same piece is saying Yashar Koach to the Kohanim after they do nesiat kapyim.

Other pieces worth mentioning are his discussions of saying Parsahas Hazinu daily. Another important part of this piece is a discussion of sources for saying Maamodos daily.

Another comprehensive piece deals with when the crowd says a Passuk during Krieas Hatorah and Megilot.

One last piece worth mentioning is an excellent collection of sources dealing with who decided where the baal koreh stops by each Aliyah.

We can only hope that Professor Speigel collects the rest of his articles into a few volumes similar to this collection.

No comments:

Print post

You might also like

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...