Thursday, May 17, 2012

Kalir, False Accusations, and More

Kalir, False Accusations, and More
by Marc B. Shapiro

1. I now want to return to Kalir and the criticism of me. To recap, I had earlier mentioned how Artscroll originally correctly identified Kalir as post-tannaitic, but later changed what it wrote in order to be in line with Tosafot’s opinion that he was a tanna. Some think that it is wrong to criticize Artscroll by using academic methodology instead of judging them by traditional sources, since they don’t recognize the academic approach.

My first response is that this is nonsense and a textbook example of obscurantism. If there is evidence of a certain fact, one can’t say that it is only a fact if it appears in some “traditional” source, and therefore one who ignores this evidence gets a pass.

Furthermore, when it comes to Kalir one can also date him using traditional sources.[1] One of these sources is quite fascinating. Whether there is any truth to the event described, I can’t say, but the fact that a traditional source dates him after the tannaitic era is what is important for us at present. This shows that Tosafot’s dating is not the only traditional source in this matter. The source I refer to is the medieval R. Ephraim of Bonn who states that the paytan Yannai, who is usually dated to the seventh century but could even be a few centuries earlier (but still post-tannaitic), was the teacher of Kalir.

R. Ephraim notes that Yannai was not the most kind of teachers and he was jealous of his student Kalir, showing that the Sages’ statement that people are jealous of all, except for a son and student (Sanhedrin 105b), can have exceptions. In order to deal with his problem, Yannai decided to terminate Kalir, with extreme prejudice of course. He therefore put a scorpion in Kalir’s sandal which took care of matters. R. Ephraim reports that because of this murder, in Lombardy (Italy) they refused to recite one of Yannai’s hymns.[2]

אוני פטרי רחמתים. ואמר העולם שהוא יסוד ר' יניי רבו של רבי אלעזר בר קליר, אבל בכל ארץ לומברדיאה אין אומרים אותו, כי אומרים עליו שנתקנא בר' אלעזר תלמידו והטיל לו עקרב במנעלו והרגו. יסלח ה' לכל האומרין עליו אם לא כן היה.

R. Ephraim is the source for this report and as you can see from his final words, he took the report very seriously and literally, declaring that if it wasn’t true then those who spread this rumor were in need of repentance. Israel Davidson, however, claims that to take the report literally would be “absurd”, and the report of the scorpion is merely an “idiom, undoubtedly Oriental in origin, for expressing unfriendliness.”[3] The problem with this is, as we have seen, R. Ephraim and the community of Lombardy did take the report literally, so why should Davidson, living well over a thousand years after the supposed event, know more than people who lived in medieval times?[4] It is one thing to say that the murder never occurred, but that doesn’t mean that the story as told was not meant to be understood literally, and there is every reason to assume that it means what it says. If it happened, it would hardly be the first murder committed by a Jew. Thus, although the story is almost certainly a legend, our reason for making this determination is not because it is impossible to imagine one Jew doing such a thing to another.

Another important source is found in R. Hayyim Joseph David Azulai, Mahazik Berakhah, Orah Hayyim 112 (end). Azulai, as we all (should) know, had a keen bibliographical sense, and knew rabbinic history very well. After mentioning how Tosafot and the Rosh state that Kalir was really the tanna R. Eleazar ben Shimon,[5] the Hida quotes R. Isaac Luria as follows:

דהפייטן היה בו ניצוץ מנשמת ר' אלעזר ברבי שמעון.

In other words, it is not that Kalir was actually a tanna, but that his soul was connected with R. Eleazar ben Shimon. I presume that this is an attempt to preserve the old tradition identifying the two, while at the same time recognizing that historically they were two different people. We find the same approach among many commentaries that deal with aggadic statements that make all sorts of identifications, of what can perhaps be called the rabbinic “conservation of people.” In other words, there is a tendency to identify biblical figures with other known biblical figures, such as Elijah with Pinhas and Harbonah, Hagar with Keturah, Pharaoh with the King of Nineveh, Yocheved and Miriam with Shifrah and Puah, Mordechai with Malachi[6] and Ezra, Tziporah with the Cushite woman,[7] Balaam with Laban, Daniel and Haman with Memukhan, to mention just a few.[8]

I don’t think people should be surprised that also among traditional commentators one can find the viewpoint that these identifications are not to be taken literally[9]—kabbalists are often inclined to see these texts as referring to reincarnation[10]—and some modern scholars have spoken of these identifications as examples of what they term “rabbinic fancy.” Some of these identifications are so far-fetched that I have no doubt that R. Azariah de Rossi and R. Zvi Hirsch Chajes are correct that the Sages who expounded them never intended them to be taken literally.[11]  Although I haven’t investigated the matter, I assume one would find the same tendency to non-literal interpretation when dealing with Aggadot that insert historical figures into other biblical episodes, e.g., Balaam and Jethro becoming Pharoah’s advisors, or when the Aggadah identifies spouses, e.g., Caleb marrying Miriam and Rahab marrying Joshua (and having daughters with him[12]).

2. In the previous post I quoted what the late R. David Zvi Hillman said in the name of R. Shlomo Yosef Zevin regarding Saul Lieberman. Some people were incredulous, and this raises the question of how reliable Hillman was and if he would distort things for ideological purposes.[13] I have spoken about him before, and I reproduced his defense of the Frankel edition of the Mishneh Torah not citing R. Kook.[14] Despite his strong ideological leanings, as of yet I haven’t found any evidence that he would purposely distort. My sense is that he was quite honest in his scholarship (and the issue with R. Zevin and Lieberman might have been something he misunderstood or perhaps R. Zevin wasn’t clear in what he said. It simply is impossible now to reconstruct events.)

Even though I believe that Hillman was honest in his scholarship (i.e., not intentionally distorting as is so often the case with haredi writers), we do find that his ideology led him to unfounded conclusions. These are not intentional distortions because he really believed what he was saying, but they are distortions nonetheless. Here is one example.

In 1999 a memorial volume appeared called Ohel Sarah Leah. Beginning on p. 246 is an article by Hillman dealing with R. Joseph Saul Nathanson’s view of the International Date Line. In this article, he deals with a letter by R. Zvi Pesah Frank published by R. Menachem M. Kasher. He believes that Kasher added material to the letter so as to align it with his own viewpoint. The fact that Kasher published the letter in 1954, almost seven years before R. Zvi Pesah Frank’s death, does not deter Hillman from his argument. Other than Hillman, I think everyone realizes that if you are going to forge something in another’s name, you don’t do it when they are still alive![15] We can thus completely discount Hillman’s argument and see it as an ideologically based distortion.

Despite this defense of Kasher, it must also be pointed out that there are serious questions about the reliability of some things he published. In Between the Yeshiva World and Modern Orthodoxy I mentioned R. Eliezer Berkovits’ claim that the Weinberg letter Kasher published was not authentic. Berkovits clearly thought that Kasher forged it, but when I pressed him to say so openly, he wouldn’t. All Berkovits would say is that Weinberg never wrote such a letter, and it was fraudulent. When I asked, “So R. Kasher forged it?” he replied that he wasn’t going to speculate about this, and would only say that the letter did not exist. Being that Kasher claimed that Weinberg wrote the letter to him, this means that Berkovits was accusing him of forgery, but for whatever reason did not want to say so openly.

I have a 1982 letter from Berkovits to another rabbi, and in this letter he is not as circumspect as he was with me. Here he pretty much states that Kasher forged the letter “le-shem shamayim.”

בענין מו"ר הגאון זצ"ל אני בטוח שהוא מעולם לא כתב אותם הדברים שהרב כשר מוסר בשמו בנועם. אדרבה יראה לנו את מכתבו של מו"ר זצ"ל. לפני כשנה כתבתי לו בדואר רשום ובקשתי בעד צילום או העתק של מכתבו של הרב וויינברג זצ"ל. עד היום לא קבלתי תשובה ממנו. מבטחני שהדברים שנאמרו ושנכתבו בשמו אינם אמיתייים. בעונותינו הרבים הגענו למצב שגם אנשים ירא שמים וכו' מורים היתר לעצמם בכל מיני ענינים כשהם חושבים שכל כוונתם לשם שמים היא. והוא רחום יכפר וכו'.

In the recently published Genazim u-She’elot u-Teshuvot Hazon Ish, pp. 263ff. the unnamed editor also levels serious accusations against Kasher, in a chapter entitled הזיוף החמור והנורא. He puts forth a series of claims designed to show that another letter Kasher published on the International Date Line, this time a posthumous letter from R. Isser Zalman Meltzer, is also forged. I have to say that in this example, unlike the one dealt with by Hillman, there is at least circumstantial evidence, but no smoking gun. The most powerful proof comes from Kasher himself in which he tells of a meeting with the Hazon Ish and how at that meeting he told the Hazon Ish about the letter he received from R. Isser Zalman in opposition to the Hazon Ish’s position. Yet the letter Kasher publishes from R. Isser Zalman is dated from after the Hazon Ish’s death. There is clearly a problem here, but more likely than assuming forgery is that Kasher was simply mistaken in his description of his visit with the Hazon Ish. Let’s not forget that this element of the account of his visit was published thirty-three years after the event, and it is possible that Kasher didn’t recall everything that was said. The followers of the Hazon Ish have indeed always claimed that his description of his visit, in Ha-Kav ha-Ta’arikh ha-Yisraeli (Jerusalem, 1977), pp. 13-14, is not to be relied upon. Since his own recollection of his visit is the strongest evidence in favor of Kasher forging R. Isser Zalman’s letter, it is not very convincing.

In the previous paragraph I wrote that “this element” of Kasher’s account was published thirty-three years after his visit, so let me explain by what I mean by that. In Ha-Pardes, Shevat 5714, p. 30, soon after the Hazon Ish’s death, he originally published his account. Only when he later published his Kav ha-Ta’arikh ha-Yisraeli did he mention that he told the Hazon Ish that he received letters from R. Zvi Pesah and R. Isser Zalman, and this point is mentioned after his description of his visit. In his original description he mentions nothing about receiving letters, only that R. Zvi Pesah told him his opinion and R. Isser Zalman agreed with this. I think what likely happened is that in the passing decades Kasher forgot that the letters he received only arrived after the Hazon Ish’s death. As mentioned, if you look at what he wrote right after the death of the Hazon Ish, he doesn’t mention any letters, and he even states explicitly that he didn’t have anything in print from R. Zvi Pesah. I think this shows that while Kasher’s recollection was not exact, there is no evidence that he forged the letter.

I do, however, have to mention that in the 1977 version of the visit Kasher adds something that is not in the original recollection and must therefore be called into question. In the original recollection he reports that the Hazon Ish began reading Kasher's work on the dateline and then said that he is tired and asked if he could hold on to the work to read later. In the 1977 version Kasher then adds the following, which shows the Hazon Ish as not very committed to his own position, a point which is at odds with everything else we know about the Hazon Ish and the dateline:

והוסיף בזה הלשון: נו, יעדער מעג (קען) זיך האלטען ווי ער פערשטעהט. [כל אחד רשאי (יכול) להחזיק כפי הבנתו].

Kasher was also involved in another problematic episode related to his book Ha-Tekufah ha-Gedolah, which is dedicated to showing the messianic significance of the State of Israel. In the book, pp. 374ff., he includes a proclamation urging participation in the Israeli elections. This proclamation is signed my many rabbinic greats and states that the State of Israel is the beginning of the redemption. This is a very significant document and is often referred to, because among the signatories are some who were never identified with Religious Zionism.

But is the document authentic? Zvi Weinman has shown (and provided the visual evidence) that a number of the rabbis signed a document that did not mention anything about athalta di-geula but instead referred to kibutz galuyot.[16] In Kasher’s book, their names are listed together with those who signed the document referring to athalta di-geula, even though they never agreed with this formulation. This would appear to be a Religious Zionist forgery (unless it is simply a careless error), although it is impossible to know whether Kasher was responsible for this or if he was misled by someone else.

If it can ever be proven that Kasher was indeed responsible for a forgery, there is still a possible limud zekhut for this type of behavior (and I mentioned it in a prior post): If you are convinced of the correctness of your position, it is not hard to construct an argument, based on traditional Jewish sources, that false attribution and even forgery is permissible. In the book I am currently working on I bring all sorts of examples of this which I think will be very distressing for readers, as it is in complete opposition to what most of us regard as basic intellectual honesty.

Returning to the recently published Genazim u-She’elot u-Teshuvot Hazon Ish, the editor also makes an outrageous accusation and I am surprised that no one has yet publicly protested. The canard is leveled at Chief Rabbi Isaac Herzog, whose saintliness was universally acknowledged even by those who opposed his Zionist outlook. It was R. Herzog who in early 1940 flew to London and was able to convince the English government to grant a number of visas for Torah scholars. He was thus directly responsible for saving the lives of, among many others, R. Velvel Soloveitchik and R. Shakh.[17] This fact alone should have been enough to prevent any scurillous accusations directed against R. Herzog.

On pp. 226ff. there appears a 1941 letter, dated 24 Elul, from R. Shlomo Yosef Zevin to the Hazon Ish asking him about the problem of Shabbat in Japan for those who had escaped the Nazi clutches. R. Zevin wrote to the Hazon Ish at the request of R. Herzog, who said that only two people in the Land of Israel were expert in this matter, R. Tukatchinzky and the Hazon Ish.

There is a good deal that can be said about R. Zevin’s letter and the Hazon Ish’s response, but that is not my concern at present. Yet I must at least mention that the editor provides another letter from the Hazon Ish in which he expresses his displeasure that R. Zevin’s Torah writings had appeared in the newspaper Ha-Tzofeh. According to the Hazon Ish, these should have been published as a special booklet, as it is inappropriate to publish Torah articles in a newspaper that in the end is used to wrap food in. He also mentions that Ha-Tzofeh itself is not suitable, referring obviously to its Religious Zionist outlook. (R. Zevin would, over his lifetime, write hundreds of articles for Ha-Tzofeh, many of which have not yet been collected in book form.)

Also noteworthy is that in his reply to R. Zevin the Hazon Ish raises the possibility that the viewpoint of the rishonim would have to be rejected if it turns out that they were mistaken in their understanding of the metziut.

העומד עדיין על הפרק הוא אם טעם הראשונים ז"ל הוסד על המחשבה שאין ישוב בתחתית הכדור, ואז נקח עמידה נועזה לנטות מהוראת רבותינו ז"ל ולעשות למעשה היפוך דבריהם הקדושים לנו ולכל ישראל, או שאין לדבריהם שום זיקה לשאלת ישוב התחתון.

(In a later letter, quoted on p. 231, we see a different perspective.) In R. Zevin’s letter he mentions why the issue of Shabbat in Japan was so pressing. R. Herzog had recently received a telegram from Kobe, Japan, asking on what day the Jewish refugees should fast.[18] Here is a copy of the telegram, as it appears in David A. Mandelbaum’s Giborei ha-Hayil, vol. 1.

Genazim u-She'elot u-Teshuvot Hazon Ish, p. 227, makes the astounding assertion that this telegram was a scheme cooked up by the Chief Rabbinate (i.e., R. Herzog).This would enable R. Herzog to call a gathering a great Torah scholars at which time he could push them to accept his opinion in opposition to the viewpoint of the “gedolei Yisrael.” It is hard to imagine a more outrageous accusation directed against a man of unquestioned piety such as R. Herzog.

Quite apart from the slander I have just pointed to, the volume also contains a good deal of ideologically based distortion, which is why it is noteworthy that it not only includes the letter from the Hazon Ish to Saul Lieberman (p. 330) that I published in Saul Lieberman and the Orthodox,,[19] but even identifies him in the following respectful way:

המכתב נשלח לבן דודו פרופ' ר' שאול ליברמן ז"ל מחה"ס תוספתא כפשוטה, ירושלמי כפשוטו וש"ס.

Considering how Lieberman is persona non grata in the haredi world, I find this identification, as well as mention of his books, nothing sort of remarkable.[20]

In fact, the story gets even more interesting. A couple of months ago volume two of Genazim u-She'elot u-Teshuvot Hazon Ish appeared. Before I was able to get a copy, people emailed me to let me know that this volume contained a lengthy letter from Lieberman to the Hazon Ish. (I thank Ariel Fuss for sending me a copy of the letter.) It appears on pages 207-209 and is really fascinating. Leaving aside the talmudic analysis, the end of the letter shows the different outlooks of these cousins. We see that the Hazon Ish had criticized Lieberman for referring to Prof. Jacob Nahum Epstein as mori ve-rabbi. Lieberman didn’t understand why the Hazon Ish found this objectionable, since Epstein was a pious Jew and Lieberman learnt many things from him, “true Torah and not the path of the maskilim but that of our teachers of blessed memory, who search for the truth in the words of Hazal, in all possible ways, and many obscure places in the Jerusalem Talmud were explained to me precisely through this approach.”[21]

Lieberman then turns to another criticism of him by the Hazon Ish, that he was not devoting himself adequately to his Torah study. It is hard to know what to make of this critique, as who was more devoted to his studies than Lieberman. Lieberman defends himself from this accusation, noting:

אני לפעמים נופל על הספסל מחוסר אונים מרוב התאמצות ויושב אני לפעמים כמה ימים על סוגיא אחת עם ראש חבוש.

Here is Lieberman’s grave, in the Sanhedria cemetery. Note who he is buried next to. (As I mentioned in Saul Lieberman and the Orthodox, according to Chaim Herzog, Lieberman was R. Herzog’s closest friend. It is therefore fitting that he be buried next to R. Jacob David.)

3. Regarding the last post, a number of people emailed me pointing out other “immodest” title pages and also learned women that I didn’t mention. I thank all who emailed. Many of the other title pages I knew about and might refer to at a future time, but the post was specifically concerned with censorship of title pages, and this explains the ones I cited. One of the commenters did refer to a title page that I did not know, from a 1731 Hamburg manuscript. See here (the rest of the Haggadah has other interesting pictures). If you ever needed an example of how what we today regard as unacceptable is not necessarily how people hundreds of years ago viewed matters, this is it.[22]

Regarding learned women, a great deal has obviously been written about this and I don’t see it as my purpose to simply repeat what others have written elsewhere. I hope that in the prior post (and indeed in all my posts), people find new material and learn things that they wouldn’t know from elsewhere, even those who are experts in the various topics.

Since the matter has been raised again, le me mention something that I originally was going to write about. At the last minute I took it out, as I was convinced (by both a scholar who will remain anonymous and Prof. Shamma Friedman) that I was in error.

Tosefta Ketubot 4:7 (and the parallel passage in J. Ketubot 5:2) reads:

נושא אדם אשה . . . על מנת שתהא זנתו ומפרנסתו ומלמדתו תורה.

It then follows by telling us that R. Joshua son of R. Akiva arranged exactly this sort of marriage. I think that if you show this passage to people, and cover up the commentaries, they will translate it to mean that a man can marry a woman on the condition that she will take care of his physical sustenance “and will teach him Torah.” (This is how Neusner translates in his Tosefta and Yerushalmi translation, and is also found in some academic articles.) Yet all of the traditional commentaries understand this text to mean that the woman provides the financial support her husband needs in order that he is able to study Torah on his own. For a while I assumed that this was an apologetic understanding by the commentators, and we know that the Talmud does offer a few examples of learned women. Yet as mentioned, I was convinced of my error.[23] In email correspondence, Friedman also called attention to other unusual Hebrew formulations which don’t mean what they literally say. For example, Yevamot 13:12 states: בא על יבמה גדולה תגדלנו. Yet this does not mean that she has to raise the boy, but only that she has to wait until he is of age to give her a divorce. He also pointed to Nazir 2:6 (and see also 2:5) which uses the language of הרי עלי לגלח חצי נזיר and this has nothing to do with shaving the Nazir.

One final point I would like to make about learned women is that before drawing any conclusions about their knowledge, we must be sure that we are not dealing with ghost writers. For example, Dov Katz, Tenuat ha-Mussar (Jerusalem, 1982), vol. 1, p. 242 n. 30, refers to the wife of R. Aryeh Leib Horowitz (the son of R. Israel Salanter) as a “learned woman” based on the introduction she wrote to her deceased husband’s Hayyei Aryeh (Vilna, 1907). Here is the text.

I can’t prove it, but I am very confident that someone wrote this on behalf of the wife, who was a traditional rebbetzin, not a maskilah.

4. In preparation for the trip I am leading to Italy in July (we still have room for some more people, and also for the August trip to Central Europe), I thought it would be helpful to read the letters of R. Ovadiah Bartenura. Right at the beginning of the first letter[24] I found something very interesting. I immediately suspected that this passage would be omitted from a translation directed towards the Orthodox masses. I checked, and lo and behold, the passage is indeed deleted. Here is the text:

Note how R. Ovadiah testifies that while the Jews in Palermo were careful about not drinking non-Jewish wine, which was noteworthy since elsewhere in Italy Jews routinely consumed this, their sexual morality and observance of the Niddah laws left something to be desired. He claims that most young women there were already pregnant at their wedding.

Here is how the page appears in the translation by Yaakov Dovid Shulman:

This text was censored even though the preface to the book states: “In publishing these letters in their entirety, including the critical comments made by Rabbi Ovadiah Bartenura of those people and practices of which he disapproved, the assumption is made that these criticisms were written to instruct the reader and not to denigrate any individuals.” As you can see, the letter has not been published in its entirety, and if one were to go through the text carefully, perhaps some other deleted passages would be discovered.[25]

5. I have done six posts on R. Kook and from email I receive I know that some people want me to return to this. I plan to, but I still have a few more posts to do before I get to that. In the meantime, however, I want to inform readers that a new volume of R. Kook’s writings has just appeared. It is called Ginzei ha-Rav Kook and I thank R. Moshe Zuriel for drawing my attention to it. My sense is that this volume does not have much importance, as much of it, and maybe even the majority, has already appeared in other collections, particularly the Shemonah Kevatzim. I was able to determine this using the R. Kook database, which except for the most recently published material includes all of R. Kook’s writings.

I did find one passage (p. 87, no. 85) which I am pretty sure has not yet appeared, even in the most recent writings. It relates back to a point I already called attention to in R. Kook, namely, his privileging of the pious masses over the Torah scholars in certain ways. One rabbinic text that would appear to oppose R. Kook’s conception is the famous Avot 2:5: ולא עם הארץ חסיד. See how R. Kook neutralizes this text, pointing out that there are a lot of things more important than being a hasid. Here is R. Kook, a member of the rabbinic elite, nevertheless insisting that the am ha-aretz can have just as much holiness as the Torah scholar, be visited by Elijah, and even have ruah ha-kodesh:

"ולא עם הארץ חסיד". אבל מה שהוא למעלה מהחסידות, כמו קדושה וענוה ותחית-המתים וגילוי אליהו ורוח-הקודש, מפני גודל קדושתם הם שוים לכל נפש. כי כל לבבות דורש ד', ואחד המרבה ואחד הממעיט ובלבד שיכוון לבו לשמים, ומעיד אני עלי שמים וארץ, אמר אליהו, בין איש בין אישה, בין עבד בין שפחה, בין נכרי בין ישראל, הכל לפי מעשיו רוח הקודש שורה עליו. וכיון שלא יצאו שפחה ונכרי מכלל רוח-הקודש, קל-וחומר שלא יצא עם-הארץ שהוא מזרע קודש, מעם ה' וצבאותיו אשר הוציא ממצרים להיות לו לעם נחלה כיום הזה, סגולה מכל העמים.

(The reference to Elijah is from Tanna de-Vei Eliyahu, ch. 9.)

P. 112, no. 104, returns to a theme I have also dealt with, that study of halakhic details can be problematic for a mystical personality such as R. Kook.[26] Yet he adds that this is still the job of the righteous ones, and we can see here an autobiographical reflection.

אף על פי שלימודם של המצוות המעשיות בדקדוק קיומם מכביד לפעמים הרבה על הצדיקים הגדולים השרויים תמיד באור המחשבה העליונה, מכל מקום מתוך כח היראה העליונה שבלבבם, מתגברים הם גם על שפע קדושתם, ועוסקים בתורה ובמצוות במעשה ובדקדוק, אף על פי שהם צריכים למעט על ידי זה את אורם העליון.

Can we also see an autobiographical reflection on p. 114, no. 106, where R. Kook speaks about the righteous who want the world to recognize their greatness and holiness?

לפעמים מתגלה בצדיקים גדולים תשוקה גדולה, שיכירו הכל את מעלתם ושיאמינו בקדושתם. ואין תשוקה זו באה כלל משום גסות הרוח או אהבת כבוד המדומה, כי אם מפני החשק הפנימי של התפשטות האור הטוב שבהם על חוג היותר רחב האפשרי. וזהו מעין התשוקה של הופעת החכמה על ידי המצאות טובות וספרים טובים שכשהיא אידיאלית היא עומדת בנקודה היותר עליונה שבאור הנשמה הא-להית.

He then returns to the difficulty the Tzaddik has with halakhic particulars (p. 115):

ישנם צדיקים גדולים כאלה, שהם למעלה מכל שרש הדינים, ועל כן אינם יכולים ללמוד שום דבר הלכה. וכשהם מתגברים על טבעם ועוסקים בעומקא של הלכה, מתעלים למעלה גדולה לאין חקר, והם ממתקים את הדינים בשרשם.

[1] R. Yaakov Yisrael Stoll, in his recently published Segulah (Jerusalem, 2012), pp. 50ff., takes it as a given that Kalir is post-tannaitic.
[2] Israel Davidson, Mahzor Yannai (New York, 1919), p. xlix                     
[3] Ibid, p. xxv.
[4] Unless R. Ephraim was misinformed about Lombardy, this practice must have changed at some time because we know that in Lombardy the piyut was recited on Shabbat ha-Gadol. See R. Moshe Rosenwasser, Le-Hodot u-le-Halel  (Jerusalem, 2001), p. 379. As Rosenwasser points out, R. Ephraim is also the source for the story of R. Amnon of Mainz writing U-Netaneh Tokef.
[5] This is impossible as in one of his hymns he tells us that is father’s name is Jacob. See R. Simon Federbush, Ha-Lashon ha-Ivrit be-Yisrael u-ve-ha-Amim (Jerusalem, 1967), pp. 70-71.
[6] This identification explains how in Italy Jews with the Hebrew name Mordechai were sometimes given the vernacular name Angelo (= מלאכי). See Cecil Roth, Venice (Philadelphia, 1930), p. 168.
[7] This identification is rejected by Rashbam. See his commentary to Num. 12:1. Regarding Rashbam’s comment, see the lengthy discussion of Lockshin in his translation. While Rashbam rejects the notion that the Cushite is Tzipporah, he apparently has no problem repeating the legend  that “Moses reigned in the land of Cush for forty years and married a certain queen [from there].” He knew this legend from the work Divrei ha-Yamim de-Moshe Rabbenu, although as Lockshin mentions, it is also found in more “kosher” sources, such as Yalkut Shimoni. Ibn Ezra also cites the legend of Moses ruling in Cush in his commentary to Num. 12:1, despite the fact that in his commentary to Ex. 2:22 he writes:

Do not believe what is written in the book called the History of Moses. I will give you a general rule. We should not rely on any book not written by prophets or by the sages who transcribed traditions passed on to them. We definitely should not rely on these books when they contradict reason. The same applies to the Book of Zerubavel, the Book of Eldad ha-Dani, and similar compositions.

In a previous post I discussed Rashi’s understanding of the word Cushite, and how it is not to be taken literally. Ibn Ezra does take it literally (and still thinks that it refers to Tziporah). As with Rashi, he assumes that Cushites are not very attractive and explains that Miriam and Aaron, who spoke negatively about Moses, “suspected that Moses refrained from sleeping with Tzipporah only because she was not beautiful.” (Commentary to Num. 12:1).

Regarding the Cushite woman, I found something strange in R. Joseph Solomon of Posen’s Yesod Yosef (Munkacs, 1907), p. 8b. This is how he explains Aaron’s and Miriam’s talk against Moses on account of the Cushite he married (Num. 12:1):

מרים ואהרן רצו לתלות בוקי סריקי במשה ולהטיל מום בקדשי' לפי דברי התרגום שני שפירש אשה כושית מלכה כוש שטימא את ברית קודש ובעל בת אל נכר וכל ביאה שאינה בהיתר נקרא הוצאת זרע לבטלה

R. Joseph Solomon goes on to explain why Aaron and Miriam were mistaken in their judgment.
[8] See R. Joseph Zekhariah Stern, Zekher Yehosef, Orah Hayyim no. 121 (p. 34a). R. Shmuel Avraham Adler, Aspaklaryah, vol. 27, s.v. shem, pp. 119ff
[9] R. Menahem Azariah of Fano acknowledges that when it comes to Elijah-Pinhas, most scholars understood this literally. Yet he rejected this position, perhaps because it would require Pinhas to have lived at least 350 years.) See Asarah Ma’amarot, Hikur Din section 4 ch. 18:

ואף על פי שיש מרבותינו אומרים בפשיטות פינחס הוא אליהו אין הדבר כמחשבת המון החכמים שפינחס לא מת ושקיים בעצמו שנוי השם.

[10] Opponents of gilgul had argued that if this was an authentic Jewish doctrine, certainly the Talmud would have mentioned it. R. Elijah Benamozegh argues that these texts, identifying various people as one and the same, are the proof that the talmudic sages indeed accepted reincarnation. He assumes that for many of these passages, where the different eras of the individuals mentioned is an obvious problem, no one with any intelligence can believe that the Talmud meant these passages to be understood literally. The meaning must therefore be reincarnation. See Eimat Mafgia, vol. 2, p. 2b:

איככה יוכל האיש לא טח עיניו מראות להניח כי לבן הארמי אשר חי בימי יעקב אבינו הוא עצמו בלעם הרשע, אשר היה בימי בני בניו האחרונים . . . וחירם שהיה בימי שלמה הוא אשר היה בימי יחזקאל . . . כיצד נוכל לייחס הבנתם הפשטית לחכמינו הקדושים אשר גם לפי דעות המנגדים לא יתכן לתלות בהם חסרון ושגעון כ"כ עצום כאשר כל אחד יראה בדמיונות האלה.

There are two books entitled Eimat Mafgia, one by Benamozegh and the other by R. Moses ben Ephraim of Brody (Warsaw, 1888). Both of them are directed against R. Leon Modena’s Ari Nohem. The title comes from Shabbat 87b: אימת מפגיע על ארי
[11] Meor Einayim, ch. 18; Mevo ha-Talmud, ch. 21, in Kol Sifrei Maharatz Chajes, vol. 1. In other words, the peshat is not literal. According to traditional commentaries, we find plenty of examples of this in the Bible also. Thus, when the Torah speaks of God’s outstretched arm, Maimonides insists that the peshat is that these words are not to be understood literally. Many have argued that even according to the peshat “an eye for an eye” is not to be understood literally. I think that most people today who read the book of Job will conclude, as did Maimonides, that the peshat is that it is not a historical tale.
[12] See Megillah 14b, Tosafot, Megillah 3b s.v. melamed, Maharsha, Hidushei Aggadot, Eruvin 63b (why does he quote Tosafot and not the Talmud in Megillah14b?), R. Samuel Strashun’s note to Eruvin 63a.
[13] Some people might have been led to thinking this because his letter was published in Yeshurun, which has in the past published articles that have engaged in censorship and ideological distortion. In the most recent volume, Nisan 5772, which also contains the Hillman letter, we find another instance of the disrespect for Torah scholars that is routine, and almost required, in haredi literature, and which in previous posts I have provided numerous examples of. (I refer obviously to Torah scholars not in the haredi camp.) On pp. 456-467,  there are letters from five deceased rabbis to R. Avraham Zeleznik. Four of them have the acronym זצ"ל put after their name. The only one who doesn't merit זצ"ל, and instead is given ז"ל , is the Zionist R. Avraham Shapira (who incidentally was by far the most distinguished Torah scholar of the five.) R. Shapira also wasn’t provided with a short biography, presumably because then his position as Rosh Yeshiva of Merkaz ha-Rav and Chief Rabbi of the State of Israel would have to be mentioned.
[14] See here. With regard to Hillman, in this post I misstated his genealogy. Prof. Shlomo Zalman Havlin wrote to me as follows:

יש לתקן: הגרד"צ אינו נכד של הגרמ"מ חן הי"ד כפי שכתב [ע"פ האיזכור מבטאון חב"ד שהשתבש.] הוא בנו של ד"ר אשר הילמן בעל משרד רו"ח בת"א, נינו של הגרד"צ, רבה הידוע של צ'רניגוב, אביו של הרמ"מ. אגב, גם המשוררת זלדה [מישקובסקי] היתה נכדת הגרד"צ מצ'רניגוב, ואף אחיינית האדמו"ר האחרון מליובאוויטש.מאחיו של הגרמ"מ היה הרב אברהם חן, שהיה סופר מעולה, מחבר 'במלכות היהדות', קונטרס יפה ומרגש על אביו  
הגאון. היה רבה של שכונת בית הכרם [כמדומה שהיתה זו שכונה שלא נזקקה לרב]. מעניין לעניין, כדאי להוסיף, כי לגרמ"מ דובר בשעתו שידוך עם בתו של ר' חיים מבריסק. לצ'רניגוב בא שליח להכיר את החתן המיועד, ולפי התיאורים ששמעתי ,הוא היה כנראה הגאון ר' זלמן סענדר, אביו של הגאון ר' אברהם בעל דבר אברהם, ורבה של קובנה [הוזכר ג"כ במאמר זה]. וכמה נשים ממשפחת הגרד"צ נסעו לבריסק להכיר את הכלה ומשפחתה. בגלל שיבושי הדואר הרוסי, חשבו בצ'רניגוב שאין תשובה, בעוד התשובה החיובית נדדה לעיר אחרת, והשידוך כידוע לא יצא אל הפועל. אגב, שמעתי, כי הנשים ממשפחת הגרד"צ כששבו אמרו, שלאור המסופר על גדולת ר' 'חיים וכו', הרי כאשר שמעוהו בתפילת ערבית, אמרו, אצל אבא רואים יותר אפילו ב"אשר יצר

[15] See the response to Hillman by R. Ephraim Greenbaum (Kasher’s grandson), in Ohel Leah Sarah, pp. 942-943.
[16] Mi-Katovitz ad Heh be-Iyar (Jerusalem, 1995),  pp. 130ff.
[17] See A. Bernstein et al., Yeshivat Mir: Ha-Zerihah be-Fa’atei Kedem (Bnei Brak, 1999), vol. 1, pp. 218-219.
[18] One of my high school teachers was with the Mir yeshiva during the War. He told us how on Yom Kippur some people actually fasted for two days, eating pahot mi-ke-shiur after the first day so that they would be able to fulfill both the opinion of R. Herzog and the rabbis aligned with him as well the Hazon Ish’s view.

Fasting two days on Yom Kippur is actually not new. Ibn Ezra records how certain people did it in medieval times. He minces no words about what he thinks of them. See Sefer ha-Ibur, ed. Halbertam, pp. 4a-b:

ואם טען טוען הלא אתם אומרים כי שני ימים טובים צוו לעשות קדמונינו בעבור הספק למה לא קבעתם צום כפור שני ימים גם יש טפשי עולם מחברינו שיתענו שני ימים ואני אראה להם שלא יועיל להם תעניתם כי הוא שוא ושקר.

[19] This letter was previously printed in Sefer Zikaron Tuv Moshe (Bnei Brak, 2008), p. 253, and here too Lieberman is referred to respectfully. This book does not inform the reader where it found this letter, although Genazim u-She’elot u-Teshuvot Hazon Ish informs us that its source is Sefer Zikaron Tuv Moshe. I know that a number of copies of Saul Lieberman and the Orthodox made their way around Bnei Brak, and one of them apparently found its way to the editor of Sefer Zikaron Tuv Moshe.
[20] With reference to the Hazon Ish’s family, in Saul Lieberman and the Orthodox I noted how the Steipler stated that one should not study Lieberman’s books since he left the Orthodox world. Last year a new edition of the Tosefta was published and included some questions to R. Chaim Kanievsky. In the original question the authors spoke negatively about Lieberman. When they gave the page with their question and R. Hayyim Kanievsky’s reply to the typist (who might even have been a woman) they added the word להשמיט with reference to the comment about Lieberman. Perhaps this was because they didn’t want people to know about the family connection between the Hazon Ish and Lieberman. However, the typesetter didn’t understand their intention and included the word להשמיט, thinking that this word was to be added to the text. Here is the page (click to enlarge, or see detail directly below it).

Portions of the letter of the Hazon Ish to Lieberman, referred to on this page, are also found in Kovetz Iggerot Hazon Ish, vol. 3, no. 2.

I just mentioned women typists, which is common in the haredi world (Kitvei R. Weinberg vol. 1, which was printed by a Satmar company, was typed by a woman.) Let me now turn to what I think is an example of a woman translator, and I thank Elchonon Burton for bringing this text to my attention. Here are two pages from R. Shakh’s Lule Toratekha.

In it he mentions how the Hafetz Hayyim famously referred to Adam ha-Kohen as yemah shemo. Adam ha-Kohen was the pen name of Abraham Dov Baer Lebensohn, and for more on how the Hafetz Hayyim viewed him, see S.’s post here. Note how R. Shakh adds שר"י  to Adam ha-Kohen's name. This stands for שם רשעים ירקב (“the name of the wicked shall rot” – Prov. 10:7) and is only applied to the most wicked.

Here is how this passage appears in Artscroll’s English translation, Rav Shach on Chumash.

The translator did not understand what שר"י means and assumed that it was part of his name, creating a previously unknown maskil, Adam HaKohen Sherry. Based on this error, I assume that the initial translation was done by a woman who knew modern Hebrew but not “rabbinic code.” The final translator, who is a talmid hakham, probably just revised the initial translation. Now knowing anything about the Haskalah, when he saw the name Sherry it didn’t raise a red flag leading him to check the original. S. pointed out to me that in the Wikipedia entry for Yimach Shemo, Adam HaKohen Sherry also makes an appearance.
[21] While on the topic of Lieberman, let me note that he has an unknown article in Otzar ha-Hokhmah 10 (1934), pp. 83-84, signed ש. ל.. In this short article he criticizes some of what R. Leopold Greenwald wrote about the Jerusalem Talmud. I refer to this article as “unknown” because I have never seen anyone refer to it, and it is not found in Tuvia Preschel's bibliography of his writings included in Sefer ha-Zikaron le-Rabbi Shaul Lieberman, ed. Shamma Friedman (New York and Jerusalem, 1993).
 [22] After writing these words I saw that the title page of this haggadah was included in Leon Wieseltier’s article in the most recent Jewish Review of Books (Spring 2012), which is presumably where the commenter saw it. See here. See also this post regarding a different Haggadah, and see also Dan’s post here.

Here are some other pictures that I think people will find interesting. They appear in R. Leon Modena’s Tzemah Tzadik (Venice, 1660). This is not found on but is on Otzar ha-Hokhmah (at least for now). This particular copy was originally part of Elkan Nathan Adler’s collection. (Adler used for his middle name the name of his father, R. Nathan Adler, chief rabbi of England. This was not unusual. To give another example, R. Samson Raphael Hirsch’s father’s name was Raphael.) Here is Adler’s book plate. His Hebrew name was Elhanan.

From Tzemah Tzadik, here is an illustration showing love of people.

Here is one showing love of man and wife.

Here is an “immodest” picture showing mermaids, which Modena, like so many others of his time, believed in.

Modena’s name does not appear on the title page of Tzemah Tzedek, but he reveals his authorship at the beginning of ch. 1, where first letters of the first sixteen words read: יהודה אריה ממודינא

Here is the page.

[23] He had already corrected Tal Ilan in this regard. See “A Good Story Deserves Retelling – The Unfolding of the Akiva Legend,” Jewish Studies Internet Journal 3 (2004), p. 85 n. 96.
[24] Darkhei Tziyon (Kolomea, 1886), pp. 5a-b
[25] As part of my preparations for the trip I have also been reading Elliot Horowitz’ many important articles on Italy. Not long after finding the censored text I saw that Horowitz had already discussed this passage and showed that there is indeed a history of omitting and distorting it. See “Towards a Social History of Jewish Popular Religion: Obadiah of Bertinoro on the Jews of Palermo,” Journal of Religious History 17 (1992), pp. 140ff. While the examples Horowitz discussed are motivated by a Victorian style of writing, the example I give is probably motivated by a desire to shield the masses from the knowledge that even in pre-Reform Europe violation of halakhah was in many places a common phenomenon. It never ceases to amaze me how little knowledge of history some otherwise very intelligent people have, which I guess means that the censorship and rewriting of history is having an effect. Not long ago I was with someone who had spent a number of years in yeshiva, and he really believed that in 19th century Eastern Europe the porters and wagon drivers were all great talmidei hakhamim whose free time was devoted to mastering Shas.
[26] See also Tomer Persico, “Ha-Rav Kook: Al Tzadikim Gedolim ve-Yishrei Lev – be-Ma’alah ha-Hasagah ha-Mistit,” Moreshet Yisrael 5 (2008), available here.

Post-script by S. of On the Main Line:

Two points may be of further interest.

1) Regarding the Western Askenazic custom of using the father's name as a middle name ala  the aforementioned R. Hirsch and Elkan Nathan Adler, E. N.'s two older half brothers also used  their father's name, Nathan, as middle names; there was Marcus Nathan Adler, best known for his edition of Benjamin of Tudela's Travels. In addition, Chief Rabbi Herman Adler also used it as a middle name, especially in his earlier years. In his university matriculation record from 1856 he is listed as "Hermann Nathan Adler."

2) In addition to the coded acrostic self-reference by the author of Zemach Zedek in the opening lines referred to above ('יושר האהבה וכו), R. Yehuda Aryeh Modena also refers to himself in the opening lines of the hakdamat ha-mekhaber: נודע ביהודה אלקים ובישראל אריה שאג.


Yaacov Dovid said...

Thank you to Marc Shapiro for referring to my translation of Rav Ovadiah of Bartinura's letters, published by CIS. Marc Shapiro notes that the translation appeared in a censored form.

I translated the letters in full, but the publisher chose to leave out a few passages. I can understand why, since this edition was meant as family reading, but I wish that he would have at least used ellipses to indicate that something was missing.

I put up my full translation at

Marc said...

Thanks for lettting us know this. By the way, for those who want to access R. Shulman's full translation, copy and paste the link, leaving out the period at the end. If you click on the link it won't take you to the right place (because of the final period).

I have no problem if CIS wants to cut things out (if they put in an ellipsis). The problem is that the preface specifically states that they have not cut anything out.

Lawrence Kaplan said...

Great article Marc: I found your discussion of the Hazon Ish, whose writings I havebeen  studying again  lately, particularly fascinating.  I cannot agree with you, however, that the possibility he raised in his letter  to Rav Zevin that the  Rishonim were mistaken  about this basic matter of geography  was a real possiblility. From everything we know about the HI's  views on this subject and, indeed,  from  his wording of the possibility in the letter,  it seems that the HI  only raised the possibility to show how unacceptable it is. 

In ths connection, I had always wondered which sefer was it on whose title page the HI had written  "Ha-Sefer ha-zeh  hu neged Hazal, ve-ayn lismokh alav." ("This sefer contradicts the Sages, and one may not rely on it,") Kovetz Iggerot Vol. 2, p. 141. In Genazim  I found the answer. Rav Tochockinski's Yoman! 

Anonymous said...

Re: women scholars.
When Artscroll started  working on its Shas, it wanted that it should be fully understood by someone who had never learned Gemorrah before, but to whom the concepts were not entirely new. They therefore did not want a b'al teshuvah as a reviewer since all the concepts were new to him. But where do you find a FFB who never learned gemorrah? The answer: a frum lady! They received a "heter" for a frum lady to review their work once, and if she doesn't understand it, it has to be rewritten. That lady works for Artscroll, and is quite a bright lady, and her sons are all great talmidei chachomim! 

L. M. said...

Are you serious! That is fascinating, how do you know?

m landy said...

Concerning identification of HaKalir as a Tanna: besides Tosfos in Chagiga, the Rosh in Brachos, there is a Tesuvah in Rashba (469)identifying HaKalir as Rav Elezar ben Aruch. With such a powerful front three: Tosfos at center, the Rosh at point guard, and the Rashba at power forward, it is difficult for one to believe Shadal, Heidenheim and Azulai have a chance.

TK said...

In regards to the comment of R Ovadia Mi Bartenura see also Elliott Horowitz "Between Cleaniness and Godliness: Aspects of Jewish Bathing in Medieval and Early Modern Times" in Tov Elem:Memory, Community and Genderin Medieval and Early Modern Jewish Societies Essays in honor of Robert Bonfil.

Anonymous said...

I heard it from the woman's husband.

Lawrence Kaplan said...

What troubles me about Rav Kasher's account in 1977 is not that he confused some dates, which is perfectly understandable , but his "recollection" that the  HI said that  everoyne can hold his own opinon. This, as Marc pointed out, is so much against everything we know  the HI believed re this matter, starting with the famous telegram he sent, that it is difficult to understand how Rav Kasher could have made such a mistake. It seems like wishful remembrance of the worst sort.

Yitzhak said...

"Fasting two days on Yom Kippur is actually not new. Ibn Ezra records how certain people did it in medieval times. He minces no words about what he thinks of them."

Ibn Ezra is hardly the most significant source for the medieval custom of fasting two days - it is quite widely discussed by the Franco-German Rishonim and their followers (Maharam of Rothenberg, Hagahos Maimonios, Tashbatz Katan, Rosh, Tur, Semak, Hagahos Semak, Or Zarua - see Tur, Bais Yosef and Darke Moshe OH end of Siman 624)! Ibn Ezra may call the custom's adherents "fools", but many of the aforementioned Rishonim referred to them as "Hassidim and Anshe Ma'aseh" and looked rather favorably upon the practice, and while Rema (following Or Zarua) does recommend against it, considering it dangerous, he certainly does not mock it.

I of course do not mean to suggest that Ibn Ezra's view should be suppressed, downplayed or marginalized, but your comment seems to suggest that people who fast two days are unbalanced humrah-mongers without serious, responsible Rabbinic support, which is quite unfair.

"[R. Ovadiah Bartenura] claims that most young women [in Palermo] were already pregnant at their wedding."

An identical claim is made by R. Haim Benveniste regarding Smyrna (and it appears on the page of modern editions of the Shulhan Aruch, as it is cited in Ba'er Hetev in the beginning of EH Siman 66).

Nachum said...

What does "ש"ס" mean in the list of R' Leiberman's writings?

Alex said...

ושאר ספרים, maybe?

Fotheringay-Phipps said...

I once found a Tosafos from which it's clear that they held that RE Hakalir was after the Talmud. (They allude to the fact that he is against the Talmud on a certain point and rspond that he "relied on" the Yerushalmi.)

I don't remember where it is just now, but I have it written down somewhere.

asher said...

I am also aware of a very well known misconception that was traced back to R'MMK and his Hataarich HaYisrayli. He claims that the previous Lubavitcher Rebbe when asked told his talmidim to keep 1 day of YK like the bnei hamakom. B"H when this issue came up in beis medrish there were still kamah of the Otwock/Kobe/Shanghai talmidim around, and we asked at least 2 of them who were know to be very big daykanim and they said lahadam they had no contact with the Rebbe at all there was no direct way to contact NY, and they relied on the rabonnim from EY. In that case when he wrote the book there were tens of talmidim still alive and either he didn't bother to verify or it was more expedient for his thesis

Maimon said...

Lawrence: it's not too hard to imagine a scenario where the Hazon Ish, possibly out of frustration, told R. Kasher that anyone can say what they want, (meaning please leave me alone,)and R. Kasher took that as an implicit haskama on his own shitta. It should be noted that the Hazon Ish writes often that it is not his 'derech' to enter into talmudic disputes with people because there is little benefit and even less chance that someone will be persuaded to change his opinion. This may have been the context for the supposed remark to R. kasher.

CGS said...

Concerning the coment of the Bartenura, see שו"ת נודע ביהודה אבה"ע מהדו"ק סי' ז:
לברר דין זה צריך אני להאריך קצת, כי בעו"ה במדינות הללו הדבר מצוי, ואם באנו לפסול הולד יצא מזה כמה מכשוליים

batshl said...

Avraham chen's bmalchut hayahadut is a 3 volume collection of essays on all types of topics his writing is gorgeous
in one volume appears a piece about his father the radatz called l'menachamai".

Avrohom said...

By the way, the edition of the tosefta with the accidentally included compliment to Saul Lieberman is the work of a talmid chochom in Bnei Berak with impeccable Wissenschaftlich credentials. His father was Dr Ernst Freimann, a very orthodox physician, and his grandfather Rabbi Jacob Freimann was a renowned bibliophile and scholar as well as a a prominent rabbi in Berlin.

ZA said...

I appericiate the fact that we all try to give CIS and other similar publishers the benefit of the doubt although, after so many examples that I have seen, I am not sure I really believe in that.
However, my main point about all these censors, truth manipulators and their likes is that they commit four sins
1. By censoring something that a great Hakham of previous generation had said, they ard, in fact, declaring that this Hakham had said inappropriate things and in that they are telling Lashon Hara about that Gadol
2. By not showing those words to their readers the are declaring that their audience consists of stupid people who do not understand what they are reading and may come to wrong conclusions.  By doing so they tell Lashon Hara about their audience
3. By appointing themselves as guardians of the aforementioned Hakham and reader, they are declaring that they, the censors are smarter and better then both.  In doing so they commit the sin of Azuth Panim, or simply Hutspah (chuzpah as it usually written)
4. And the worse in my opinion, by disregarding the truth, they distance themselves from the Seal of Go-d.  And sorry, in my humble opinion, whatever is not truth, must be a lie.

Jacob said...

I, along with many others in my sephardic community, use my father's name as my middle name.  In cultures that name after the living that is the best way to distinguish between cousins with the same first and last name.

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