Comments on This and That, part 1
by Marc B. Shapiro
Regarding the character of Isaac, Hirschensohn writes:
I will return in a future post to discuss Rosenfeld, who was very unconventional and expressed all sorts of provocative notions. He was also unusual among those born in Eastern Europe in that he published many books in English. Here is his picture, which appears in his Sefer ha-Hayyim, showing that despite his unusual ideas he certainly had the rabbinic look.
2. I want to now go back to one of my earliest posts, from four years ago, in which I discussed the meaning of the word olam in the Bible and how the words Adon Olam should be translated. See here.
Soncino translates: “The whole world is not as worthy as the day on which the Song of Songs was given to Israel.” Others translate similarly. Yet A. S. Halkin renders it: “All of time is not as worthy as the day on which the Song of Songs was given to Israel.” Halkin’s opinion is noted in a comprehensive article devoted to the very issue here being discussed. Fuderman and Gruber, the authors of this article, also point to two biblical texts “of Hellenistic date” in which they claim olam means “world.” One of them is Dan. 12:7: .חי העולם They translate this as “the life/vital force of the world,” and note that this usage is found in the Jewish liturgy where it has been transformed into חי העולמים, with the same meaning.
This essay is excerpted from Kunitz’ Beit Rabbi (Vienna 1805), most of which is actually a play in six acts. Kunitz is best known for his Ben Yohai which is a valiant, if unsuccessful, defense of the ancient dating of the Zohar against R. Jacob Emden’s Mitpahat Sefarim. He was a very pious man and in his lifetime was treated with great respect.
Kunitz is also famous as one of the rabbis whose responsum to the early Reformers is printed in Nogah ha-Tzedek. This was from a time when the Reformers made it seem that all they were looking for was a more lenient halakhic approach. They also succeeded in receiving letters from two Italian rabbis. Just as these rabbis were not Reform in any way, neither was Kunitz. Not knowing who the Reformers were, he fell into their trap, which is perhaps the best way to put it. Yet as I mentioned, this didn’t greatly affect his standing in the rabbinic world, because people assumed that his was an innocent error. In fact, in all the polemics against the Reformers, none of the great rabbis of the day even mention Kunitz.
What he is alluding to in this note is that Ecclesiastes is a late biblical book, and thus could not have been written by Solomon. To show this he points to the word חוץ, which in its usage in Ecclesiastes 2:25 is an Aramaism, and thus post-dates the biblical Hebrew of Solomon’s day. To use an expression of the Sages, we live in an olam hafukh. Kunitz’ essay was thought worthy of censorship, and at the same time this note remains in every printing of the Vilna edition of the Mishnah. Yet as I mentioned above, let’s see how long it is before this note, or even the complete essay, is also removed.
Based on the passage just mentioned, I initially assumed that Maimonides is indeed saying that Ecclesiastes was not written with divine inspiration. I also found that the important commentator R. Masud Hai Rakah is of this opinion. Yet then there is a problem, because according to the Tosefta, Song of Songs was written with divine inspiration and yet Maimonides also refers to this book as “words of wisdom.” Rakah himself raises this problem and can offer no solution, but it is likely that when Maimonides speaks of these books as being “words of wisdom” it does not mean that they are lacking in divine inspiration. We can see this from Hilkhot Talmud Torah 5:4, where he quotes Song of Songs and writes regarding it אמר שלמה בחכמתו. The same words are found in Hilkhot Yesodei ha-Torah 2:12 and Hilkhot Deot 3:3, 4:15, 19 and in these cases Maimonides is quoting verses from Proverbs. Maimonides believed that both Song of Songs and Proverbs were written with divine inspiration, and yet we see that he uses the term “wisdom” with regard to them. The truth is that this phraseology comes directly from the Talmud, and need not have anything to do with whether the text being described is divinely inspired. This whole problem is dealt with by the brilliant R. Meshulam Roth in an article in Sinai 17 (1945) pp. 267ff. With his typical erudition, Roth shows that Maimonides indeed regarded Ecclesiastes as being divinely inspired and in fact states so explicitly in Guide 2:45. Roth also shows how in a few places he describes Solomon as a prophet.
Similarly, the assumptions of academic Talmud study lead, in theory, to the undermining of many talmudic conclusions. But the practitioners of this form of study have always insisted that since they don’t seek to change the accepted halakhic practice, there can be no religious objection to their approach.
To be continued
* * * *
In my last post, available here, I wrote about the issue of lo tehanem. As far as the Modern Orthodox are concerned, based on the Meiri and others, these laws are no longer regarded as applicable in modern times. (Although as I mentioned, the Centrists are trying to bring them back.) Someone sent me a link to Dov Bear’s post available here. Dov Baer included the following text that recently appeared (and highlighted certain sections).
I have already mentioned the Slifkin controversy in this post, and regarding matters of science and Torah there definitely are differences between the Modern Orthodox and the haredim. However, I think that when it comes to matters like lo tehanem, the divide is much more significant. If the haredi/ hasidic world really accepts the outlook of the page printed above, then its understanding of what “Jewish values” are all about is far removed from that of the Modern Orthodox. We can also see how secure haredi Jews in America must feel in order for them to put this sort of material in the English language, for all to see.
 Here is what Louis Ginzberg wrote about the unusual aggadot (On Jewish Law and Lore [New York, 1970], p. 77 (I thank Gershon Bacon for reminding me of this passage.) There is a lot one can say about this comment.
 See Torah Shelemah, Gen. ch. 49, note 47.
 Do any of the readers know where the Talmud picked up this piece of folklore? I assume it was a common notion in ancient times. See Bereshit Rabbah 45:5, where the matter is disputed. Noda bi-Yehudah, Even ha-Ezer no. 22, recognizes that there are women who do become pregnant after first intercourse, and therefore claims that the Talmud was only giving a general rule, but there are exceptions. See R. Neriah Gutel, Hishtanut ha-Tevaim (Jerusalem, 1995), pp. 88ff.
 I assume that the rebbe’s response was due to the fact that the passage quoted by Rashi is a Midrash. If it was Rashi’s own explanation, I don’t think he would have regarded it as a disrespectful question. In general, and readers can correct me if I am wrong, I don’t think that the opponents of Slifkin assume that together with Hazal the greatest rishonim are also infallible on scientific matters (the one exception perhaps being the Lubavitchers when it comes to the Rambam). When I was in yeshiva I never came across a rebbe who thought that, although I can’t remember anyone actually spending time on one of the rishonim and explaining why what he says is not correct scientifically, or, to take a different issue, that perhaps the rishon’s view of women doesn’t reflect how we currently think. Had they done so, it would have had an enormously positive influence on some of the students who instead came to believe that the Torah was out of date and not relevant to their lives.
 See also the various Midrashim cited in Torah Shelemah, Gen. 47:29, where Jacob is speaking to Joseph and he too says שים נא ידך תחת ירכי.
 There are other ways of dealing with the Midrash. See e.g., R. Paragi Alush, Ohev Mishpat (Djerba, 1928), vol. 1, no. 3, that Eliezer only touched the organ from outside of Abraham’s clothes. R. Eliyahu Katz, Amar ve-Amarta (Beer Sheva, 1994), Gen. 24:2, finds the Midrash so strange that he can’t take it literally, and even uses the term has ve-shalom with reference to the literal meaning. He does so even though, as far as I can tell, all the standard commentaries on the Midrash and Rashi do take it literally. Here are his words:
 For now, here is one just one example. He assumes that Gen.36:31-43 is post-Mosaic.
 See Sacha Stern, Time and Process in Ancient Judaism (Oxford, 2003), pp. 75 n. 43, 109ff.
 Mordecai Spitz called my attention to Neh. 9:5, where the traditional commentaries also understand olam to mean world.
 See Saul Lieberman, Hilkhot ha-Yerushalmi, p. 5 n. 7.
 I should also mention that there is dispute about how the word חבלי should be translated in Adon Olam. According to Salomon Speier the meaning is “my portion” and not “my pain” See his note in Journal of Jewish Studies 4 (1953), pp. 40-41. Zebihi, Mi-Zahav u-mi-Paz, at the end, also argues for this understanding. None of the many translations I have checked agree with this. [S. of On the Main Line calls my attention to David Levi's London 1794 Rosh Hashanah Machzor, where the passage is translated as "Rock of my portion in time of distress."]
 The meaning of olam in Avot 1:2 – על שלשה דברים העולם עומד – has also been called into question. See Judah Goldin, Studies in Midrash and Related Literature (Philadelphia, 1988), p. 34.
 Kirsten A. Fudeman and Mayer I. Gruber, “’Eternal King/ King of the World’: From the Bronze Age to Modern Times” A Study in Lexical Semantics.”REJ 166 (2007), pp. 209-242.
 R. Elijah Benamozegh translates Ps. 106:48: ברוך ה' אלקי ישראל מהעולם ועד העולם as “Blessed is the Lord, God of Israel, From World to World,” and Ps. 145:13 מלכותך מלכות כל עולמים as “Your kingship is a kingship of all worlds.” See Israel and Humanity, trans. Maxwell Luria (New York, 1995), p. 184. I wonder if Benamozegh meant these as scientific translations, or if this is to be regarded as derush.
 See also Robert Gordis, Koheleth—The Man and His World (New York, 1968), pp. 231-232.
 The version of Kunitz' essay that appears in the Vilna Mishnayot is not identical to that which appears in Beit Rabbi. In particular, a few footnotes have been added. This is not the only example where the editors of the Vilna Mishnayot (Romm) tampered with texts. See Kalman Kahana, Heker ve-Iyun (Tel Aviv, 1960), vol. 1, p. 134 (called to my attention by Eliezer Brodt).
 Anyone who wants to visit Kunitz’ grave can find it in the Kozma cemetery in Budapest. For people looking to visit graves, the most famous in the Kozma cemetery is R. Shimon Oppenheim, and he is easy to find. He is not that well known and yet his grave is visited more than many other gedolim who were of much greater significance. This is because R. Shimon promised, as it states on his tombstone, that whoever comes to his grave and recites the Menuhah Nekhonah, his prayers will be answered. (The E-l Male Rachamim commonly recited is an abridged version of the Menuhah Nekhonah, which is found in the kabbalistic work Maavar Yabok) . Since this is a guarantee from a holy rabbi, it is not surprising that his grave would attract people.
 See R. Meir Mazuz, Kovetz Ma’amarim (Bnei Brak, 2003), p. 60. There are a number of other unusual words in Ecclesiastes, such as pardes (2:5) and pitgam (8:11; both Persian loanwords), which academic scholars have pointed to to show that the book is post-Solomonic. (Pardes is also found in Song of Songs 4:13.) See Shadal in Otzar Nehmad 3 (1860), p. 19, who discusses this and among other points notes that the words כבר and ענין do not appear in any other biblical book. See also Robert Gordis, “Koheleth: Hebrew or Aramaic?” Journal of Biblical Literature 71 (1952), pp. 93-109. In Amos Hakham’s introduction to the Daat Mikra Shir ha-Shirim, pp. 12-13, he rejects the significance of Persian loanwords in dating the text.
Incidentally, R. Moses Isaac Ashkenazi, Ho’il Moshe: Hamesh Megilot ve-Sefer Mishlei (Livorno, 1880), pp. 80-81, states that you can also find some Aramaic words and expressions in Proverbs, as well as later Hebrew forms, none of which could originate in Solomon’s era. Yet this discovery did not trouble Ashkenazi in the slightest.
 “Defilement of the Hands, Canonization of the Bible, and the Special Status of Esther, Ecclesiastes, and Song of Songs,” Judaism 44 (Winter 1995), p. 70.
 Ma’asah Rakah,ad loc.: לא ידעתי למה קרי שיר השירים דברי חכמה דהלא ברוח הקודש נאמר וקדש קדשים הוא He does not ask this question about Ecclesiastes, which shows that he assumes that according to Maimonides Ecclesiastes is only divrei hokhmah.
 See R. Zvi Hirsch Chajes, Kol Sifrei Maharatz Chajes, vol. 1, p. 439; Sid Z. Leiman, The Canonization of Hebrew Scripture (New Haven, 1991), p. 173 n. 317.
 For examples from the Talmud where Solomon is described in this fashion, see R. Betzalel Zev Safran, She’elot u-Teshuvot ha-Rabaz, vol. 1, Yoreh Deah no. 64 (in the note). Regarding R. Meshulam Roth, it is unfortunate that almost nothing has been written about him. The Tchebiner Rav is reported to have stated that had R. Meshulam been a member of Agudat Israel, the haredim would have crowned him gadol ha-dor. I hope to discuss him in a future segment of my Torah in Motion classes.
 Pretty much everyone also seems also to assume that a divinely inspired book included in the Canon had to be have been written in Hebrew. Yet Ibn Ezra, Job 2:11, thinks that the book of Job is a translation from another language, and that is why it is so difficult to understand.
 See Leiman, Canonization, p. 113.
 Megillah 7a.
 Shadal originally thought that Ecclesiastes taught heretical doctrines and was fraudulently attributed to King Solomon. Along these lines, I should note that there were talmudic sages who thought that Solomon had sinned so grievously that he lost his share in the World to Come. See Saul Lieberman, “Hearot le-Ferek Alef shel Kohelet Rabbah,” in Studies in Mysticism and Religion Presented to Gershom G. Scholem (Jerusalem, 1968), pp. 163ff. If someone today expressed agreement with this rabbinic position, I am certain that he would be roundly condemned.
 See Broyde, “Defilement of the Hands,” p. 68.
 By the same token, someone I know once commented that while in practice he accepts the halakhah as recorded in the Talmud and Shulhan Arukh, some of these halakhot relating to economic matters derive from a very different circumstance than what we have today. He assumes that a future Sanhedrin will revise some of these halakhot which are economically counterproductive and out of touch with how markets work.
 See Seridei Esh, vol. 3 no. 54 where R. Weinberg admits that a halakhah in the Shulhan Arukh causes him anguish.
 Interestingly, Daniel Boyarin has argued that the earliest rabbinic approach to the book was not allegory. He writes as follows:
See Boyarin, “The Eye in the Torah: Ocular Desire in Midrashic Hermeneutic,” Critical Inquiry 16 (1990), pp. 543, 549. See also Gerson D. Cohen, Studies in the Variety of Rabbinic Cultures (Philadelphia, 1991), pp. 3-17.
 Li-Frakim (1967 edition), pp. 232-233.
 “Hartzaotav shel Yaakov Barth al Sefer Yishayahu ba-Beit Midrash le-Rabanim be-Berlin” in Uriel Simon and Moshe Goshen-Gottstein, eds., Iyunei Mikra u-Farshanut (Ramat Gan, 1980), pp. 83-85. (Regarding the dating of Ecclesiastes, discussed earlier in this post, see ibid. for Barth’s view that Ecclesiastes was written ca. 200 BCE.) I have elsewhere discussed the controversy that broke out when R. Raphael Breuer published a commentary to the Song of Songs that interpreted the book in a literal fashion. See Between the Yeshiva World and Modern Orthodoxy, p. 83, and my article on the Frankfurt rabbinate in Milin Havivin 3 (2007), available here.
Incidentally, once when a cantor at a wedding sang some words from Song of Songs as the bride walked around the groom, R. Soloveitchik “was not happy. This, after all, was a passuk [verse] in Shir Hashirim which he felt should not be applied to a man and woman in a literal sense.” See Heshie Billet, “Rav Yosef Dov HaLevi Soloveitchik (The Rov) ZT”L: Role Model Par Excellence,” in Zev Eleff, ed., Mentor of Generations (Jersey City, 2008), p. 152. The same opinion is expressed by R. Yosef Lieberman, Mishnat Yosef, vol. 7, no. 101. See also R. Moshe Feinstein, Iggerot Moshe, Yoreh Deah II, no. 142. In addition, Sanhedrin 101a states הקורא פסוק של שיר השירים ועושה אותו כמין זמר . . . מביא רעה לעולם (Avot de-Rabbi Nathan, ch. 36, states that such a person has no share in the World to Come.) However, Kallah Rabati: Baraita, ch. 1, explains this passage as follows: היכי דמי כמין זמר כגון דזמיר ביה ודעתיה על הרהור See also R. Jacob Emden’s note to Sanhedrin 101a:
See R. Ovadiah Yosef, Yabia Omer, vol. 3, Orah Hayyim 15:5, that in Egypt the practice was to sing verses from Song of Songs in the synagogue between Passover and Shavuot. He also quotes R. Meir Abulafia, Yad Ramah, Sanhedrin 101a who writes:
 אפריון and פרדס (3:9, 4:13) are among the late Hebrew words he points to show that some sections of the book were composed in the post-exilic period, many centuries after Solomon. R. Moses Isaac Ashkenazi, introduction to Ho’il Moshe: Hamesh Megilot ve-Sefer Mishlei, rejects the notion that based on a couple of individual words one can establish the book’s date. Yet while Ashkenazi defends the Solomonic authorship of Song of Songs and Proverbs (see above, n. 19), he does not believe that Ecclesiastes was written by Solomon. One of his proofs is from Eccl. 1:16: “Lo, I have gotten great wisdom, more also than all that were before me over Jerusalem.” According to Ashkenazi, since Solomon was only the second king to reign in Jerusalem, he never would have written in this fashion. See also 2:7. 9 where the author writes about how he differs “from all who were before me in Jerusalem.” Again, Jerusalem had not been in Israelite hands for that long so it is hard to see Solomon saying this. Ashkenazi also points to the numerous Aramaic words in the book as showing that it had to have post-dated Solomon.
 I found a difficult passage in the Netziv’s commentary on Song of Songs, (Metiv Shir). Commenting on the first verse, he writes: