Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Change Has Come To Modena

Change Has Come To Modena

By Eli Genauer

I would like to thank S. of “On The Main Line” for his assistance and insightful comments.

The Kitzur Shelah by Rav Yechiel Michel Epstein, was first published in Fürth in 1683.[1] It was not truly an abridgement of the Shnai Luchos HaBris, but rather a Sefer which stood on its own. It was used for many years by people in smaller communities as a guide for what to do at different times of the year.[2] As many know, it is reputedly the source of the actual Pesukim recommended for the custom of saying Pesukim Lishemot Anashim. [3]

I have an old copy of this Sefer (Amsterdam 1707) whose title page looks like this:

In fact, this custom of reciting a Pasuk associated with one’s name is recorded there at the very end.

Chapter 5 of Post Sabbatean Sabbatianism by Rabbi Dr. Bezalel Naor goes into the reasons why Rav Yakov Emden blacklisted this book. It is based on the Hakdamah which uses the expressions Mashiach Ha'Amiti and Y'Mot HaMashiach, which equal 814 and is also the Gematria for Shabbetai Zvi.[4] The copy I have from 1707 comes with the original quotation marks, functioning like italics, on both Mashiach Ha'Amiti and Y'mot Hamashiach. (Starting from the third line from the bottom with the word V’Yizku.)


I was looking through the book to find the part that speaks about the Pesukim L'Shemot Anashim and found it at the very end. I was fascinated to see that immediately before the final section, Rabbi Epstein concludes his Sefer with a hope for the coming of Moshiach, and he refers to Moshiach as Nezer Rosheinu ( bottom line below).

I was curious about the words Nezer Rosheinu to describe Moshiach, and suspecting foul play, I did two things. Firstly, I wrote to Dr. Shnayer Leiman and asked him about the Kitzur Shelah and its use of the word Nezer Rosheinu. This is what Dr. Leiman answered (posted with permission).
“Briefly, Kitzur Shelah is a Sabbatian work. It is suffused with Sabbatian material, so one needn't look for evidence just at the beginning and end. It was already identified as Sabbatian by R. Yehezkel Katznellenbogen in the first quarter of the 18th century. See also Krengil's שם הגדולים השלם, vol. 2, p. 148, in הגהות עין חנוך, where the work is identified as Sabbatian.

נזר ראשינו (if that is the correct נוסח -- one always need to check the first 3 editions; Amsterdam, 1707 is the 4th edition) is surely a reference to Sabbetai Zevi. The latter name in gematria totals 814, a sacred number for Sabbatians. נזר ראשינו adds up to 824. Either the author wrote נזר ראשנו which totals 814, and the printer misspelled it ראשינו; or, the total 824 stands for ה"ה שבתי צבי. Sabbatians regularly wrote ה"ה before his name. It is an abbreviation for המלך המשיח.

What really needs to be noted is that in a recent edition of קיצור של"ה (Ashdod, 1998), the offensive phrase has been censored and replaced.”
It appears then that Kitzur Shelah has Sabbatean allusions right from the Hakdamah ( which anyone can see for themselves by the use of Mashiach Ha'amiti, etc.) to the last lines which use the words Nezer Rosheinu. It is almost as if it is Koheles in reverse where "its beginning is words of Torah and its end is words of Torah" (Shabbat 30b).

I also did a search online putting in the words “Shabbetai Zvi” and “Nezer Rosheinu”. I got one pertinent hit and it brought up an entirely new issue. I found referenced an article from the Israeli publication HaMaayan published by Mossad Yitzchak Breuer in Tammuz of 5743 (1983).

There we find an article by Rav Yosef Yehoshua Apfel (a Dayan in Leeds, and a noted Talmid of the Seridei Eish) on Yom Kippur Kattan, where he writes about the connection between Nezer Rosheinu and Shabbetai Tzvi. Rav Apfel references the famed Siddur Avodas Yisroel printed in 1868 by Dr. Yitzchak (Seligmann) Baer:

and specifically the Piyyut Yom Zeh Yehi Mishkal Kol Chatasai, included in the Yom Kippur Kattan service which appears there.

He writes as follows

Rav Apfel is at first puzzled a bit as to why Modena would write a Piyyut for a Kabbalistic service (“Ha’Inyan Hu K’tzas Muzar”). He then tells us that Dr. Baer changed the last line of the Piyyut by exchanging the phrase "נא א-ל שלח נושא נזר ראשנו" for "נא א-ל שלח נושא הוד ראשנו". Dr. Baer explains his reasoning for this change: because he wanted to restore the proper meter, and because he wanted to save the Piyyut from having a “Remez Passul.” Rav Apfel understands this to mean a hint of Shabbetai Zvi. Dr. Baer did this even though, as Rav Apfel writes, Rabbi Yehuda Aryeh MiModena could not have been referring to Shabbetai Zvi, because the Piyyut was written around 1614, and Shabbtai Zvi was only born in 1626. Rav Apfel writes that the Nussach of "נא א-ל שלח נושא נזר ראשנו" appears in many Siddurim (בהרבה סדורים). I recently looked at many Siddurim at the Library of Congress and found this to be true, especially in ones published pre-1868.

Rav Yakov Emden, who needed little prompting to find Sabbatean allusions, did not understand this phrase as referring to Moshiach, but rather to the Kohen Gadol. This booklet contains the Yom Kippur Katan service with the commentary of Rav Yakov Emden:

The Peirush of Rav Yaakov Emden on the words "נא א-ל שלח נושא נזר ראשנו" indicates as such. "שלח לנו כהן גדול הנושא הציץ כמו נזר".

The phrase "נא א-ל שלח נושא נזר ראשנו" is also used in the following book which is generally based on Kisvei Yad of Modena found in the Bodleian Library, although this particular Piyut is not from a Ksav Yad. [5]

(דיואן - יהודה אריה ב"ר יצחק ממודינא, courtesy of Hebrewbooks.org)

In this book, Professor Simon Bernstein takes on the change in phrase matter and writes[6]:

Probably the best proof as to what the original Nusach really was comes from a book named Seder Shomrim LaBoker printed in Cracow in 1626, only 12 years after the Piyyut was probably written.

As you can see, not only is the phrase Nosei Nezer Rosheinu used, the commentary actually explains that it refers to Moshiach and not to the Kohen Gadol (נושא נזר ראשינו הוא משיח שלו נאה נזר עטרה)!

All the many Siddurim that I looked at in the post-1868 period also have the phrase which includes the words Nezer Rosheinu. The new ArtScroll Siddur printed in August of 2010 which includes for the first time the Yom Kippur Kattan service, has the Nussach of Nezer Rosheinu. It seems that in the end, that Nussach won out. The only one I could find who used Hod Rosheinu, following Dr. Baer, was T. Carmi in the Penguin Book of Hebrew Verse (1981):

I am not sure what Dr. Baer’s main reason for changing the Nussach from what seems was the normative one. Could it have mainly been the fixing of the meter and the Shabettai Zvi issue was brought along Agav Urchay?[7] He introduces his comment on his version of the text with the abbreviation כצ"ל . Does this mean that he had a written source for his version? In the introduction to his Siddur, Dr. Baer lists more than 25 post-1650 Siddurim that he consulted in the process of putting together his work. I am curious as to why he did not cite a source for this textual variation. As stated by Rav Apfel and Dr. Bernstein, it is clear that this phrase when written in 1614, did not originally refer to Shabbetai Zvi who didn’t “appear” until a few decades later. Was Dr. Baer reacting to a later development in history and changing the past to reflect the present? We have seen that quite often lately, and example of which was pointed out by Dr Shnayer Leiman above: “What really needs to be noted is that in a recent edition of קיצור של"ה (Ashdod, 1998), the offensive phrase has been censored and replaced”

[1] Encyclopedia Judaica, Keter Publishing House, Jerusalem, 1972. Article entitled “Epstein, Jehiel Michal Ben Abraham Ha-Levi” attributed to Dr. Yehoshua Horowitz
[2] Ibid.
[3] This matter is in contention and is based on the question of when the book was first printed. S. wrote me “When was the Kitzur first published? Like the Encylopedia Judaica, many sources state that the book was first published in 1683, Steinschneider contends that it was published in 1693. He claims that this is what the chronogram on the title page adds up to. Since this is a dispute about a yud, my guess is that he is correct. The first significant bibliographer before him, Julius Fuerst (Bibliotheca Judaica v. 1 pg. 246 under Eppstein) listed the year 1683. However, shortly afterward Steinschneider cataloged the Hebrew books in the Bodleian Library and there he writes that it's 1693. He not only bases this on the chronogram, but also on the content of the haskamos. Following him is the next significant Jewish bibliographer, Isaac Benjacob, who in his Otzar Ha-seforim (pg. 535) agrees with Steinschneider. Whether or not Benjacob saw the book, I cannot say, but Steinschneider obviously did.

“What makes this interesting is that if this is true, then the Kizur Ha-shelah was actually published three years *after* the Sefer Ben Zion, (which lists actual Pesukim Lishmot Anashim) not seven years before. This would make the Ben Zion the first to list names and pesukim [that we know of so far].”

Be that as it may, here is an excerpt from the page on Names in my Kitzur Shelah (Amsterdam 1707):

[4] What I find fascinating is that the author of the Encyclopedia Judaica article cited above, completely ignores this point. He writes “It is very doubtful that he (Rav Epstein) had any associations with the Sabbatean movement, although he was suspected of it because of the wording of a certain passage in his Siddur”.
[5] Yom Zeh Yehi Mishkal, which is printed on page 199, is not from Modena’s Divan, which evidently didn't include this pizmon. Rather, the poem was so famous that the editor evidently thought he simply had to include it. He copied it from a Siddur, the 1845 Prague edition of Seder Tefilat Yisrael edited by Wolfgang Wessely.
[6] In the Introduction to the Divan, Bernstein also writes:

[7] S.’s conclusion was that Dr. Baer's primary concern was grammatical. There were at least two sources prior to him which alluded to a Sabbatean suspicion about Nezer Rosheinu in Yom Zeh Yehi Mishkal (and both of them reject it as absurd). If the concern was primarily about Sabbatianism, why then didn't he change Nezer to Keter? The answer must be that this change would not fix the problematic meter, but Hod does. Thus under the cover of removing even a “Shemetz” of a doubt, despite it not even being a real issue, he makes the change which soothes his grammarian's soul.


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