Friday, September 28, 2012

Who is Buried in the Vilna Gaon’s Tomb? A Contribution Toward the Identification of the Authentic Grave of the Vilna Gaon

Who is Buried in the Vilna Gaon’s Tomb?
A Contribution Toward the Identification of the Authentic Grave of the Vilna Gaon

Shnayer Z. Leiman

1. Prologue

           This essay attempts to identify the authentic grave of the Vilna Gaon (d. 1797).1 As will become apparent, it surely is not the grave that Jewish pilgrims are shown today when they visit Vilna. We shall attempt to identify his authentic grave by applying the biblical rule: על פי שני עדים יקום דבר “a matter is established by the testimony of two witnesses.” We shall cite two different kinds of witnesses. One witness will represent primarily  תורה שבכתב, i.e., literary evidence. The other witness will represent primarily תורה שבעל פה  , i.e., oral history.    

2. Introduction

            Three Jewish cemeteries have served the Vilna Jewish community throughout its long history. The first Jewish cemetery, often called by its Yiddish name der alter feld (Hebrew: בית עולם הישן), was north of the early modern Jewish Ghetto of Vilna, and just north of the Vilia River (today called the Neris) in the town of Shnipishok. It served as the main Jewish cemetery until 1830, when, due to lack of space, it was closed by the municipal authorities. The following photograph, taken in 1912, presents an aerial view of the first Jewish cemetery, looking north from Castle Hill in the old city. One can see the Neris River flowing south of the cemetery; portions of the fence surrounding the cemetery; and the house of the Jewish caretaker of the cemetery near the north-western entrance to the cemetery. (Each of the following images may be enlarged and viewed in higher resolution by clicking on them.)

            Such famous rabbis as R. Moshe Rivkes (d. 1671), author of באר הגולה, and R. Avraham Danzig (d. 1820), author of  חיי אדם, were buried in der alter feld. See the following photograph for the grave of the חיי אדם in the old cemetery. 

            The second Jewish cemetery, in use from 1831 until 1941, was east of Vilna proper, on a mountain overlooking the nearby neighborhood called Zaretcha. Here were buried famous Maskilim such as Adam Ha-Kohen Lebensohn (d. 1878), and famous rabbinic scholars such as R. Shmuel Strashun (d. 1872), R. Avraham Avele Pasvaler (d. 1836), R. Shlomo Ha-Kohen  (d. 1906), and R. Hayyim Ozer Grodzenski (d. 1940). With 70,000 graves in place in 1940, the second cemetery ran out of space, and a third Jewish cemetery was acquired and dedicated by the Vilna Jewish community shortly before the outbreak of World War II. It lies north-west of central Vilna, in Saltonishkiu in the Sheshkines region, and is still in use today by the Jewish community in Vilna.

            The Vilna Gaon, who died in 1797, was, of course, buried in the first Jewish cemetery. That cemetery was destroyed in the Stalinist period circa 1950, but just before it was destroyed we are informed by the sources that the Gaon was moved, perhaps temporarily to the second cemetery,2  but certainly to the third cemetery, where he rests today.

            Let us enter the third cemetery and stand before the Ohel ha-Gra.

            It is a modest and narrow Ohel. When one enters the Ohel, one sees seven graves laid out from left to right, with five tombstones embedded in the wall at the heads of the graves.

            The tour guides inform the visitors that the Gaon is buried in the fourth grave from the left. Indeed, directly above his grave, embedded in the wall, is a tombstone that clearly identifies the grave as that of the Gaon. One wonders who else is buried in the Ohel. The narrow confines of the Ohel, and the poor lighting in the Ohel, make it almost impossible to read the tombstones. One American publication identifies the others as R. Shlomo Zalman, the father of the Gra (d. 1758); R. Avraham, the son of the Gra (d. 1809); R. Yehoshua Heschel, Chief Rabbi of Vilna (d. 1749); R. Shmuel b. Avigdor, last Chief Rabbi of Vilna (d.1793); R. Avraham Danzig, author of חיי אדם; and Avraham b. Avraham, the legendary Ger Zedek of Vilna.  Another American publication presents a different list that includes R. Moshe Rivkes, author of the באר הגולה , and Traina, the mother of the Gaon. In Israel, several published lists know for a fact that R. Shmuel Strashun was moved together with the Gaon, and now rests in the new Ohel. All these accounts are imaginary.3

            When one reads the accounts of the reinterment of the Gaon, and of those buried in his Ohel today, it becomes apparent than more than bodies were moved. Wherever possible, the original tombstones were moved together with the dead and then reset at the head of the graves. All one has to do is read the tombstone inscriptions in order to identify who was moved. Reading from left to right, buried in the Ohel ha-Gra are:

1. R. Zvi Hirsch Pesseles (d. 1817). A relative of the Gaon, whose grandfather, R. Eliyah Pesseles (d. 1771), helped finance the Gaon’s study activity.

2. R. Yissachar Baer b. R. Shlomo Zalman (d. 1807). A younger brother of the Gaon, he was a master of rabbinic literature who was also adept in the exact sciences.

3. R. Noah Mindes Lipshutz (d. 1797). Distinguished Kabbalist, he was the author of  פרפראות לחכמה and נפלאות חדשות. He married Minda (hence: Mindes), the daughter of R. Eliyahu Pesseles, mentioned above (grave 1). A close associate of the Gaon during his lifetime, he and the Gaon share a single tombstone in death.

4. The Gaon.

5. Minda Lipshutz (date of death unknown).  She was the daughter of R. Eliyah Pesseles and the wife of  R. Noah Mindes Lipshutz.

6. Devorah Pesseles (date of death unknown). She was the wife of R. Dov Baer Pesseles, a son of R. Eliyahu Pesseles, and the mother of R. Zvi Hirsch Pesseles (grave 1).

            The seventh grave is unmarked, that is, it is without a tombstone. The tour guides will tell you that it contains the ashes of Avraham b. Avraham, the legendary Ger Zedek of Vilna.4

            A pattern emerges. Clearly, the original plot in the Shnipishok cemetery belonged to the Pesseles family, one of the wealthiest and most distinguished in Vilna. The Gaon found his resting place here due to the generosity of his relatives and friends in the Pesseles family. More importantly, when a hard decision had to be made in 1950 or so regarding who should be moved from the old cemetery in Shnipishok, it was not the greatest rabbis who were moved and reinterred. It was neither R. Moshe Rivkes, nor R. Yehoshua Heschel, nor R. Shmuel b. Avigdor, nor R. Avraham Danzig, nor R. Shmuel Strashun. Nor was it the Gaon’s father, mother, or son. It was the Gaon and the persons to his immediate right and left; the Gaon saved not only himself, but also those buried in proximity to him.

3. The Problem

            While the identification seems reasonable, the ordering of the graves is problematic. Anyone familiar with traditional Jewish cemeteries will know that some keep men and women separate, while others are mixed. Clearly, the old Jewish cemetery in Shnipishok was mixed. But even when mixed, husbands and wives tended to be buried next to each other. So too mothers and sons. Yet in the Ohel ha-Gra, R. Zvi Hirsch Pesseles is buried at the extreme left, whereas his mother Devora is buried at the extreme right. Neither is buried next to his or her spouse. Even more puzzling is the fact that the Gaon rests in between Rabbi Noah Mindes Lipshutz and his wife Minda Lipshutz. Now it may be that Rabbi and Mrs. Lipshutz were not on speaking terms, but this was hardly the way to decide where the Gaon should be buried.

            The problem assumes prodigious proportions when we examine Israel Klausner’s קורות בית-העולמין הישן בוילנה, published in Vilna in 1935. Klausner visited the Shnipishok Jewish cemetery, recorded some of the tombstone inscriptions of its most famous rabbis and, more importantly, drew a precise map of the location of each grave. It is important to note his orientation, as he drew the map. Klausner stood at the northern entrance to the Jewish cemetery, looking southward toward the Vilia River. See the depiction of the Ohel ha-Gra in Klausner’s map.

            The graves in the Ohel ha-Gra, from left to right, are numbered 20-27. Some of those numbers represent two graves of persons buried immediately next to each other. Klausner, in his narrative, identifies the occupants of graves 20-27 as follows:

20. a)  ר' שלמה זלמן אבי הגר"א
       b)               ר' אליהו שתדלן                          

21. a)                ר' יהודה ב"ר אליעזר (יסו"ד)
       b) חיה אשת ר' יהודה ב"ר אליעזר (יסו"ד)  

22.          ר' צבי הירש פעסעלעס     

23.               דבורה פעסעלעס         

24.             מינדה פעסעלעס ליפשיץ

25. a)         ר' נח מינדעס ליפשיץ   
       b)            הגר"א                     

26.            ר' ישכר בער אחי הגר"א

27.        ר' יהושע העשיל ב"ר שאול

            This, then, is a complete list of all those who were buried in the original Ohel ha-Gra in the old Jewish cemetery. That Klausner has the order perfectly right can be seen from the following photograph.

            Notice the inscription פ"נ הגאון רבינו אליהו in the center of the photograph, near the roof-top of the Ohel. Turning to the extreme left of the Ohel, where the roof slopes down almost to the ground, one can see two grave markers above a single tombstone.

            When enlarged, the inscriptions above the tombstone clearly read (from left to right): פ"נ אבי הגר"א and   ר' אליהו שתדלן, exactly in the order recorded by Klausner (see above, grave number 20).  When we compare Klausner’s list with the present occupants of the Ohel ha-Gra, it becomes clear that those who moved the Gra from the first to the third cemetery, moved the graves numbered 22-26, a total of six persons altogether, from the original Ohel ha-Gra. The seventh grave, unmarked, remains unidentified and could have come from any part of the old cemetery, and not necessarily from the Ohel ha-Gra.

            When we enter the Ohel ha-Gra today, we need to bear in mind that we are entering from the south and looking north. We see the mirror image of what Klausner depicted on his map. Thus the expected order today should be:

            The expected order solves all our problems. On the extreme right, Devorah and her son R. Zvi Hirsch are buried next to each other. In the center, R. Noah and his wife Minda are buried next to each other. And the Gra is second from the left. It is the actual order that creates our problem. Devorah and R. Zvi Hirsch are separated; neither is buried next to his or her spouse. The Gra is buried in between R. Noah Lipshutz and his wife Minda. אין זה אומר אלא דרשני.

            One more piece of evidence needs to be introduced before we attempt to solve the problem. Israel Cohen, British Zionist and world traveler, visited Vilna twice before World War II. Regarding the Shnipishok cemetery, he records the following:

 Most famous of all is the tomb of the Gaon Elijah, who lies in the
 company of a few other pietists on a spot covered
 by a modest mausoleum which is entered by an iron-barred door.

The tombstones, with long eulogistic epitaphs,
 are not enclosed within the mausoleum, but stand at the back of it,
 in close juxtaposition and closely protected by a
 thick growth of shrubs and bushes.

Israel Cohen, Vilna (Philadelphia, 1943), pp. 415-416. Cf. his Travels in Jewry (New York, 1953), pp. 149-150.

4. The Solution

            It seems obvious that those who moved the Gaon to the new Jewish cemetery made one slight adjustment relating to the ordering of the graves. They moved R. Zvi Hirsch from the extreme right to the extreme left. We will never know with certainty why they did so. What was gained, perhaps, is that now all the males were together on the left, and all the females were together on the right. By moving R. Zvi Hirsch to the extreme left, the Gra was now the third grave from the left. But the actual order today appears to have the Gra as the fourth grave from the left, and buried in between R. Noah and his wife Minda.

            We need to remember that in the old Jewish cemetery the tombstones were outside the Ohel ha-Gra, each tombstone opposite the remains of the person it described, with text of the tombstone facing in a northerly direction. Indeed, every tombstone in the old Jewish cemetery was placed opposite the remains of the person it described, with the text of the tombstone facing in a northerly direction.

            We also need to remember that the Gra and R. Noah shared one tombstone.5

            The Gra’s epitaph was on the right side of the tombstone; R. Noah’s epitaph was on the left side of the tombstone. This was in perfect order, since inside the Ohel, the Gra was to the left of R. Noah, and R. Noah was to the left of, and next to, his wife Minda. In the new Jewish cemetery, the six graves were laid out exactly as in the old cemetery, with the exception of R. Zvi Hirsch as indicated. But it was decided to place the original tombstones inside the Ohel, at the head of each of the graves. Instead of facing in a northerly direction, with texts that could be read only by standing outside the Ohel, the tombstones, now reversed, faced in a southerly direction, with texts that could be read only when standing inside the Ohel. Doubtless, this was done in order to protect the historic tombstones from exposure to the elements, from deterioration, and from vandalism. Also, the tombstones now immediately identified who was buried in each grave. Unfortunately, when the single tombstone shared by the Gra and R. Noah was reversed and set up inside the Ohel, it automatically (and wrongly) identified the third grave from the left as R. Noah, and the fourth grave from the left as the Gra, and caused a split between R. Noah and his wife. In fact, the Gra is the third grave from the left, and R. Noah is the fourth grave from the left – and R. Noah is properly buried next to his wife Minda. In other words, all Jews who visit the grave of the Gra today, pray, and leave qvitlach, at the wrong grave (i.e., at the grave of R. Noah Mindes Lipshutz).

            The above solution was based upon an examination of the literary evidence, and upon an examination of photographs preserved mostly in books. I call this עד אחד  (one witness), that is, the testimony of תורה שבכתב  (i.e., the literary evidence). But a matter established by only one witness is precarious at best.6 Intuitively I was persuaded by the one witness, but hesitated to put the solution in print until more evidence was forthcoming. Fortunately, a surprise second witness has come forward בבחינת תורה שבעל פה  (i.e., oral history). Rabbi Yitzhak Zilber (d. 2003) was a courageous Jew who lived most of his life under Soviet repression between the years 1917 and 1972, before ultimately settling  in Israel. He published a riveting autobiography in Russian in 2003. It has since been translated into Hebrew and English. In his autobiography, Zilber describes how in 1970, under Communist rule, he visited the Ohel ha-Gra in Vilna. The Jew who took him to the Ohel had participated in the transfer of the Gra from the first Jewish cemetery in Shnipishok to the third Jewish cemetery in Saltonishkiu. As they stood before the Gaon’s grave, the Jew turned to Zilber and said:7

            Remember the following forever: the Gaon’s tombstone is above the
           fourth grave from the left, but the Gaon’s body is in the third grave [from
           the left].

על פי שני עדים יקום דבר!  “A matter is established by the testimony of two witnesses.”


  This essay should not be confused with an earlier essay of mine with a similar title, “Who is Buried in the Vilna Gaon’s Tomb? A Mysterious Tale with Seven Plots,” Jewish Action, Winter 1998, pp. 36-41. The primary focus of the earlier essay was on the identification of the six persons buried together with the Vilna Gaon in his mausoleum (the Ohel Ha-Gra). The primary focus of this essay is on the identification of the  grave of the Vilna Gaon himself. A version of this essay was read at a conference in honor of Professor Daniel Sperber, held at Bar-Ilan University on June 13, 2011. It is presented here in honor of the Vilna Gaon’s  215th yahrzeit on 19 Tishre, 5773.

  The claim that the Vilna Gaon was moved temporarily from the first to the second Jewish cemetery appears, among many other places,
in Y. Alfasi, ed., וילנא ירושלים דליטא חרבה (Tel-Aviv, 1993), p. 9; Y. Epstein, ",דער יידישער בית-עולם אין ווילנע"   ירושלים דליטא, October-November 1996, pp. 5-6; and N.N. Shneidman, Jerusalem of Lithuania (Oakville, Ontario, 1998), p. 161. An examination of eye-witness accounts of the reburial of the Gaon, and of much other evidence, yields the ineluctable conclusion that the Gaon was moved only once, directly from the first to the third Jewish cemetery.
  See the references cited in the Jewish Action essay (above, note 1).
  So reads the Hebrew sign above the entrance to the Ohel Ha-Gra. But the Ohel Ha-Gra was constructed over a three-year period between 1956 and 1958. I cannot say with certainty when the sign first went up, but logic dictates it did not go up before there was an Ohel. In all the early photographs of the Ohel I have seen, there was no sign at all. It surely wasn’t there during the period of Soviet domination of Lithuania, which means it first when up sometime after 1991. As such, it is hardly evidence for who is buried in the Ohel Ha-Gra. More importantly, one of the participants in the reinterment of the Vilna Gaon testified that he and his colleagues wanted to move the remains of Avraham ben Avraham, the Ger Zedek of Vilna, but could not locate his ashes in the old Jewish cemetery. See R.Yitzchak Zilber, To Remain a Jew (Jerusalem, 2010), pp. 389-390.
  For side by side transcriptions of the epitaphs on their tombstone, in clear Hebrew font, see R. Noah Mindes Lipshutz, פרפראות לחכמה (Brooklyn, 1995), p. 17.

  I was plagued by the remote possibility that the movers, precisely because the shared tombstone required the Gaon to be to the right of R. Noah, switched the remains of the Gaon and R. Noah, and deliberately buried the Gaon in between Minda and R. Noah. (I considered this a remote possibility, because it is highly unlikely that any rabbi would allow such tampering with who was buried to the immediate left and right of the Gaon. As is well known, R. Hayyim Zvi Shifrin [d. 1952] presided over the reinterment of the Gaon. See R. Yaakov Shifrin, קול יעקב [Jerusalem, 1981], pp. 26-30.) If so, all the tombstones are accurately positioned in the Ohel Ha-Gra, even today. Cf. my deliberations in American Jewish Monitor , October 24, 2003, p. 18.

  R. Yitzchak Zilber, op. cit. (above, note 4), p. 389.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

On some new seforim, Copernicus, saying Ledovid , Moses Mendelssohn and other random comments

On some new seforim, Copernicus, saying Ledovid , Moses Mendelssohn and other random comments
By Eliezer Brodt

Here is a list of recent seforim and books I have seen around in the past few months. This is not an attempt to list everything or even close to it; rather it's just a list of seforim and books on many random topics, which I have seen while shopping for seforim. I enumerated a few titles which I have a Table of Contents for. Please feel free to e-mail me for them.

1.   רשב"ץ על מסכת ברכות, אהבת שלום, עם הערות של ר' דוד צבי הילמן

In this work they claim to have double checked the manuscript, thereby fixing some mistakes in the earlier edition of Rav Hilman. They included all of Rav Hillman's notes

2.    חידושי הריטב"א, מהדורא בתרא, על מסכת קידושין מוסד רב קוק
3.   מנחת יהודה פירוש לתורה לר' יהודה בן אלעזר מבעלי התוסופת, מכתב יד, על ספר בראשית, מוסד רב קוק, מהדיר: פר' חזוניאל טויטו, מבוא של 176 עמ' ורכ עמודים טקסט
4.     אבן עזרא, קהלת, מוסד רב קוק
5.    ספר המחלוקות, ספר הפשוטים, ר' יהושע בועז [בעל ה'שליטי גיבורים'] ג' חלקים, נדפס לראשונה מכתב יד על הספר ראה כאן
6.    אגרות ותשובות רבינו חיים בן עטר, בעל האור החיים הקדוש מכתב יד, כולל תפילה, ליקוטי
שמועות, תשובות ופסקים, מכתבים, קינות, הספדים, רעה עמודים.

This volume is nicely done, and it contains many new pieces never before printed. One thing that I found strange is when citing the sources for the various pieces, he did not bother to mention that some of them were already printed many years ago by Binyomin Klar in various journals. Later on they were collected in a volume called Rabbi Chaim Ibn Attar, printed by Mossad Rav Kook in 1951. Oddly enough they do quote some of the original places where Klar had printed the pieces first

7.    עטרת ראש לר' לוי מקאנדי, על מסכת ברכות.
8.   יין ישן בקנקן חדש, על מסכת ברכות, מכון הדרת חן, תתקצב עמודים, אסופות חיבורים עתיקים מגדולי האחרונים שהיהו גנוזים מעיני הלומדים, בעריכה חדשה בתוספות מראה מקומות מפתחות ותולדות, [עשרים ספרים]. בין הספרים, ולא עוד אלא, בכור שור, גפן פוריה, ויאמר שמואל, לווית חן, מלך שלם, מירא דכיא, גנזי יוסף, למנצח דוד, זרע יעקב, ארץ החיים, איי הים, רוב דגן, מעיל שמואל, קהלת יעקב, צרור החיים, לשמוע בלימודים, ברכת דוד, מכתב לחזקיהו, ילקוט הגרשוני.
9.     מבוא המסורה, ר' יוסף קלמן מקאסוויע, נדפס בווארשא תרמ"ט, 112 עמודים.

This work, first printed in 1862 and again in 1889 deals, with the subject of the Masorah by Rabbi Yosef Kalman. One of the points of interest to me about this work is that it received many different haskamot from gedolim of the time. This of interest because the first 15 pages of the work quotes many passages from R. Eliyahu Bachur’s classic work on the subject, including his controversial opinion about the post-Talmudic origin of the nekkudot. Now in the comments on the bottom of the page the author writes that this was already disproven (more on this shortly) but he had no problem to quote this controversial opinion in the main text of the work without arguing on it in the main body or censuring the Tishbi in any form. This is in sharp contrast to the work Nekudot Hakesef printed in 2001.

Now what is interesting is that the person who just printed this new work (someone from Bnei Brak) felt he had to add in one comment to this sefer, so right in the beginning of this long quote from R. Eliyahu Bachur he added in the following:

עיין בספר מגדל עוז מר' יעקב עמדין בעלית הכתיבה ראיות מכריעות נגד דעת הנ"ל של רא"ב

What's interesting is that on the next page the original author of the sefer writes:

אמר המאסף וכבר השיג עליו בזה בעל אמרי בינה מהזוה"ק והאידרא שהנקודות היו קודם חתימת התלמוד ע"ש באורך הביאו הרמבמ"ן בהקדמתו על התורה ע"ש

I am positive that the recent printer of this sefer did not realize who this was. The original author of this sefer is quoting the Meor Einayim from Rabbi Azariah Min Hadomim who is quoted by Moses Mendelssohn in the introduction to his Chumash, where Mendelssohn quotes him in regard to the origin of the Nekudot. Possibly we can see from this another piece of evidence that it was not considered so bad to quote from Mendelssohn at that time, and especially how well known Mendelssohn’s introduction was. Apparently the printer did not realize the initials הרמבמ"ן refers to Mendelssohn. For a recent case of someone not realizing what these initials are see he work on the Koheles falsely attributed to the Malbim by Oz Vehadar [See Yeshurun 25 pp. 724-735, (PDF available upon request)]

One more addition to all this, in 1870 Rabbi Yosef Kalman put out another sefer on the subject called Shaar Hamesorah which received haskamot from Litvish Superstars of the time. In the introduction he returns to the subject of the origin of nekkudot and again he quotes the Meor Einayim of Rabbi Azariah, who is quoted by Moses Mendelssohn. However here he makes a strange mistake of thinking that the Rabbi Azariah quoted by Mendelssohn was the Rama Mepano!

Returning to the work Mevo Hamesorah, one last discussion of his worth nothing is about Ibn Ezra and his opinion of the origin of Nekudot (pp. 104-105).

[For more on the subject of Nekudot see Dan Rabinowitz's excellent article available here; Jordan Penkower, The Dates of Composition of the Zohar and the book Bahir (Heb.) Cherub Press; Rabbi Dovid Rothestein work available here. See also my Likutei Eliezer, pp. 71-72]

10. יד יהודה, ר' יהודה לנדא, תשובות פסקים וכתבים, מכתב יד, קלו עמודים
11. חמודי דניאל עם פ' רחבת ידים
12.  חמודי דניאל על הלכות נדה, נדפס לראשונה מכתב יד בתוך ספר מעין בינה על מסכת נדה
13. קשר תורה, [לקשר סוף התורה לתחילתה] נדפס פעם ראשונה ווילנא תרסז, ר' יצחק מו"צ בעיר ריטווא, 112 עמודים.
14. קול חיים, סדרי לימוד ותפילות להגיע האדם לגיל שבעים שנה ואילך, ר' חיים פאלאג'י, מכון אהבת שלום
15. הקללה לברכה, הלכות איסור קללה, ר' מרדכי גרוס, קמה עמודים
16.  מנהג אבותינו בידינו, ר' גדלי' אבעלראנדר, ביאורים ובירורים במנהגי ישראל מקורותיהם ושרשי טעמיהם, שבת, נישואין שונות, תסד עמודים, ניתן לקבל תוכן העניינים.

This volume is a collection of Rabbi Oberlander's articles originally printed in the journals Or Yisroel and Heichel HaBesht as well as other places. These essays are very organized and well written on a wide range of interesting topics, all based on a nice collection of sources. I highly recommend this work. Of course one can always add to such collections of material here but לא המלאכה עליך לגמור .

17. אני לדודי, שיחות מוסר וחיזוק לחודש אלול וימים נוראים, ר' שריה דבליצקי, קעג עמודים
18. ישא יוסף, אורח חיים חלק ב, ר' יוסף אפרתי, רכו עמודים
19. הטבילה בהלכה ואגדה, ר' משה סופר, תסד עמודים
20. ביד נביאך, בעניני הפטרות ונביאים, כולל אסופות תשובות ומאמרים בהלכה ואגדה, פרקי הלכה בעיני הפטרה וכתיבת נביאים, כולל כת"י של האדר"ת  על נביאים וכתובים בשם 'נביאים טובים', הלכות הפטרה להגר"ש דבליצקי, וס' סימנים על עניני הפטרה  ונביאים, תרב עמודים
21. שעות שוות בהלכה, כולל מחקר וסקירה על תולדות הפחתות מדידית הזמן לאורך הדורות, ר' יצחק זילבער, שצ עמודים
22. שמות בארץ, שמות אנשים, ממשנתו של מרן ר' חיים קניבסקי, דיני וענייני שמות  אנשים ונשים ובשווי שמות בשידוכין, וקו' שמות נשים, ר' צבי יברוב, קלט עמודים
23.  ברכת הלבנה, הלכות ומנהגים, ר' יוסף אדלר, קב עמודים
24.  בים דרך, מאמרי עולם חלק א, ר' מיכל זילבר, שסז עמודים
25. גם אני אודך על ענייני ברכת כהנים, ר' גמליאל רבינוביץ, תרלב עמודים
26. ספר פת שחרית כהלכה, ר' יששכר דוב הופמן, צו עמודים

This is another work from the author of the now-famous recent work all about sneezing in Jewish law..

27. מאורות הגר"א, חלק ב, ר' רובין, שפ עמודים
28. ר' ראובן פרידמן, כי עת לחננה, הליה וישיבה בארץ ישראל, 490 עמודים, מוסד רב קוק
29. ר' ישראל גארפינקל, כיצד מרקדין, בענין ריקודין של מצוה מצוה טאנץ, רמח עמודים
30. חזון עובדיה, שבת חלק ה, ר' עובדיה יוסף הל' צובע, קושר ומתיר, תופר צד ממחק כותב ומוחק, השמעת קול, בונה, אוהל, מתקן מנה, תד עמודים
31.הלכה ברורה חלק יג, ר' דוד יוסף, סי' רמב-רנב, תקלו +צ+נד עמודים
32. זהב לבושה, איסור פאה נכרית, הלכה הגות מחשבה, שכד עמודים
33. לוח ההלכות והמנהגים לשנת תשע"ג, 372 עמודים
34. קוטנרס האינטרנט בהלכה, קב עמודים
35. ישועות כהן, ר' יהושע אדלר, ביאור סוגית קוי התאריך, צג עמודים
36. ספר תהלים עם פירוש מפורש, כולל ביאורים על תרגום כתובים ר' לייביש דיייטש, תק"ח עמודים
37. שערי חג הסוכות, הלכות סוכה, ד' מינים הו"ר שמיני עצרת ושמחת תורה, ר' יהודה טשזנר, תקל עמודים
38. קובץ תשובות חלק ד, ממרן ר' אלישיב זצוק"ל,  שכט עמודים, כולל מפתחות על לארבע כרכי קובץ תשובות, 73 עמודים
39. הערות במסכת ברכות, מר' אלישיב זצוק"ל, תקמא עמודים
40.  כתבי הגרי"ש, בהלכה ואגדה, מכתבי יד של ר' אלישיב זצוק"ל, ימים נוראים וסוכות, קס עמודים
41.  אשרי האיש, פסקי מרן הגרי"ש אלישיב זצוק"ל, יורה דעה, ב' חלקים נלקט ע"י ר' יחזקאל פיינהנדלר
42.  רישא דגולתא הספדים על ר' אלישיב זצ"ל
43. שו"ת פוע"ה מניעת הריון, קובץ שאלות רבני פוע"ה ותשובות של פוסקים, 141 עמודים
44.  באמונה שלימה, ר' יוסף בלאך, תרם עמודים

This work is written by Rabbi Yosef Bloch, who is a well-known Talmid Chacham from Monsey. In this volume Rabbi Bloch deals with many "hot" issues related to Emunah, bringing many interesting discussions to the table. Just to list a few side points of his: he brings that some say that the Chazon Ish's work Emunah Ubitachon was never supposed to be printed (pp. 69-70) as the Chazon Ish never wanted it printed. He also deals with a piece that was censored from later versions of the Emunah Ubitachon (p. 39). He brings numerous sources against the Ralbag (pp. 140-141). He has a radical statement about what chazal mean when they say "there is wisdom by the Gentiles" (pp. 301-302):

דכל חכמת הגוים הוא בדברים גשמיים דוקא וכגון מכוניות סעלפאון כלי השחתה למלחמה וכדומה, שם ורק שם יש להם חכמה,... ברוחניות אין להם שום מגע והבנה כלל, ותיקון העולם הוא עצמו איבוד חכמיהם וזה כלל גדול בהבנת ענין חכמת האומות בברזל ובעצים ואבנים ובאלקטריק יודעים קצת, בצומחים יודעים פחות מזה בגופות בעלי חיים יודעים הרבה פחות מזה, בגוף האדם עוד הרבה פחות מזה, בחכמת התכונה השמיימית עוד הרבה פחות בנפשיות האדם
יודעים משהו ממשהו ממש , בחכמה עליונה אפס מוחלט לא כלום!

He has a radical explanation for the famous Gemarah about killing lice on Shabbas (pp. 305-307). Another very interesting discussion of his is about the sugyah of Elu Ve-elu Divrei Elokim Chayim (pp. 308-323).

A few years ago I wrote a few comments (here) about Rabbi Bloch's work against Copernicus. I recently revisited the topic in the last issue in Hakirah. In this new volume Rabbi Bloch includes his anti-CopernicanEssay but with various updates. If one reads the essay carefully one can see many of these updates he is referring to points in my article. Hopefully in the future I will deal with all the issues he raises but for now I would just like to mention two points at one point he writes (p. 358):

ולא מצאתי אחד מגדולי ישראל מכל הדורות שיחזיקו אפילו במקצת דמקצת כדעת התוכנים ומה שהעידו בשם קדוש ה' המהרי"ל דיסקין זצוק"ל דהיהו סבר ככה, שקר העידו בו דלא כך היה מעשה אלא שענה שלואל דאין הכרח נכד
התוכנים מלשון הברכה כמדומה ממה שנקראת ברכת החמה אבל מעולם לא יצא מפיו הקדוש דנקט איהו כהתוכנים.

I honestly have no idea what he is talking about but as I brought in my article (p.29) the source says as follows:

"וכן אמר לי ידידי הרב וכו' ר' אבנר נ"י בעל המחבר סי' ציר נאמן, בתורת עדות ששמע מפי רבנו הקדוש רשכבה"ג מהרי"ל דיסקין זצוק"ל שהשיטה החדשה אינה מופרכת. ושאל לו מן הכתוב בקהלת א' וזרח השמש ובא השמש וכו' הולך על דרום כו' וענה לו שהכתוב אמר לפי ראות עיני האדם".

I also explained there (p. 31) why this sources is very reliable. But what bothered me even more was what he writes there on pg. 359.

 ומה שכמה מהמשגיחים וראשי הישיבות מהדור הקודם נ"ע כתבו דרך אגב בין הדברים בספריהם... כשיטת קופעריקוס, אין מזה שום הוכחה כלל לדעת התורה בענין הזה, דלא באו אותם הגאונים זללה"ה ליקח עמדה בהדיון הזה, דלא היתה זו הסוגיא שלהם ולא ידעו שיש בזה סתירה להשקפת התורה שלא ניסו בכגון אלו ולא עיינו בה, ונסתמכו דכיון דככה אומרים הכל מסתמא הוכיחו התוכנים דהאמת כן הוא, ולא ירדו לסוף דעתם של התוכנים לידע שכוונתם עקירת האמת ואין מדבריהם ז"ל הוכחה של כלום, וכאילו לא אמרו כלום בנידון הזה

Now besides for the haughtiness of this statement the only Rosh HaYeshiva I quoted in my article that wrote an essay very pro Copernicus was Rabbi Yonah Mertzbach someone who had a college degree in these areas so I am not really sure what he is talking about.

One last source related to this topic of Copernicus was brought to my attention in a collection of things by Rabbi Zerach Shapiro who was close with the Chazon Ish (part of this booklet was printed in Yeshurun volume 26) where he asked the Chazon Ish about Copernicus:

בענין מה מסתובב השמש או כדור הארץ, אמר שאין הכרעה בדברי חז"ל.

One last point in regard to Rabbi Bloch's book is he prints an unprinted essay of his father's, extremely anti Zionistic and the Mizrachi from 1943 (p. 115-116). I think the reason why he is printed this letter here, while it may otherwise seem out of place, is rather simple. In the same issue of the Hakirah where my essay about Copernicus appeared he saw another article froms Elazar Muskin, When Unity Reigned Yom ha'azmaut 1954 which deals with Rabbi Bloch positive attitude to Yom ha'azmaut.

1  המעין גליון 203, ניתן לקבל תוכן העניינים
2. אור ישראל גליון סה, שפג עמודים, ניתן לקבל תוכן העניינים
3.  היכל הבעל שם טוב, גליון לד, קצב עמודים
4.  מוריה גליון שעג-שעד
5.  ארזים, גליון א, גנוזות וחידושי תורה, מכון שובי נפשי, תקפח עמודים [כולל רס עמודים של כת"י על ענינים שונים]
6.    קובץ בית אהרן וישראל גליון קסב, ניתן לקבל תוכן העניינים.
This issue includes another attack on Rabbi Dovid Kamentsky (PDF available upon request].

7.  עץ חיים גליון יח, ניתן לקבל תוכן העניינים
8.   ישורון חלק כז,  תתקמ"ב עמודים, ניתן לקבל תוכן העניינים

One piece worth mentioning in this issue is the complete manuscript of the Meishiv Nefesh printed for the first time, edited by Rabbi Yehudah Hershkowitz (59 pp).

מחקר ועניינים שונים
1.  גאון ההוראה אחרי 50 שנה:  היסטוריה, הגות, ריאליה; קובץ מחקרים בעקבות יום העיון במכללת אפרתה על הרב צבי פסח פראנק / עורך - ישראל רוזנסון, קע עמודים, מכללת אפרתה.
2.  המסע האחרון, מאתיים שנה למסעו בעל התניא בעיצומה של מלחמת נפוליאון תקע"ב-תשע"ב, [לאור מסמכים ותעודות, חדשים גם ישנים, וגם סיפורים ושמועות דרושים ומאמרים], יהושע מונדשיין, 378 עמודים.
3.  נתיבי מאיר, אסופות מאמרים, מאיר רפלד, 456 עמודים ]ניתן לקבל תוכן העניינים]

This is a beautiful collection of Dr. Rafeld's articles on a very wide range of topics. Some of the articles relate to Rishonim on Chumash and many others relate to the world of minhag and Tefilah. There is also a nice collection of important articles related to the Maharshal and his generation (one of Rafeld's specialties). All these articles show a great breadth and depth in each of their perspective subjects.
4.  הרב פנחס הירשפרונג, מעמק הבכא הנאצי, זכורנות של פליט, 215 עמודים
5.  ר' יחזקאל סופר, במאי קמיפלגי, הפולמוס המשיחי בתנועת חב"ד, 408 עמודים
6.  הלבוש היהודי באירופה במהלך הדורות, הלכה, מנהגים, גזירות מאבקים, תקנות, מנחם מקובר, ניתן לקבל תוכן העניינים.
7. אביר הרועים, קורות העתים הנהגתו ומשנתו של ר' עובדיה יוסף, משנת תרפ"א-תשי"א,יעקב ששון, 320 עמודים
8.  רבן של ישראל, מראות קודש ממרן פוסק הדור הגרי"ש אלישיב זצוק"ל, 219 עמודים
9.  יש"א שלום, הערכתו של הגרי"ש אלישיב זצ"ל כלפי מרן הראי"ה קוק זצ"ל, 58 עמודים
10.  הדף היומי, ר' דוד מנדלבוים
11.  רועה ישראל, על ר' ישראל יעקב פישר, חלק ב
12. יהדות התורה והמדינה, ר' אוריאל צימר, בירור רעיוני קצר בשאלת היחס לציונות ולמידנה עם קצת פרקי היסטוריה מן העבר הקרוב, 47 עמודים,
13.  מפיהם אני חיים, ר' משה קנר, מאמרים על תלמוד בבלי וירושלמי, רב האי גאון, רבינו גרשום, רש"י בעל התוספות, מהר"ם מרוטנבורג וגדולי ספרד, 375 עמודים.
14.   משונצינו ועד וילנא, תולדות הדפסת התלמוד, ר' יעקב לופיר, 310 עמודים,

I hope to review this book at length here shortly.

15.   משה אידל, שלמויות בולעות קבלה ופרשנות, ידיעות ספרים, 695 עמודים
16.   רשימת הפירסומים, יוסף דן, תשי"ח-תשע"ב, 205 עמודים
17.   יעקב לאטס, פנקס קהילות רומא, שע"ה-תנ"ה, כולל מבוא והערות, מכון יצחק בן צבי, 409 עמודים
18.   משנת ארץ ישראל, שמואל, זאב, וחנה ספראי, מסכת פאה
19.    משנת ארץ ישראל, שמואל, זאב, וחנה ספראי, מסכת כלאים

After recently completing Seder Moed they are now almost finished with Seder Zerayim.

20.  צדיק יסוד עולם, השליחות הסודית והחוויה המיסטית של הרב קוק, סמדר שרלו, 444 עמודים, אונברסיטה בר אילן
21.  דעת גליון 73
22.  מקראות גדולות - `הכתר`-שמות א`-מהדורה מוקטנת
23.  משה פלאי, עטרה ליושנה, המאבק ליצירת יהדות ההשכלה, 501 עמודים, קיבוץ המאוחד
24.  ללמוד את שפת המולדת, מאמריו של י"ל גורדון בשנים 1881-1882, [מאמרי ביקרות על ספרים ועוד], מוסד ביאליק, ספריית דורות, 367 עמודים
25.  כִּתַאבּ אַלנֻּתַף: פירושו הדקדוקי של ר' יהודה חיוג' לספרי נביאים בעיבוד עלי בן סלימן מאת אהרן ממן ואפרים בן-פורת, אקדמיה ללשון העברית
26.   פרקי עיון בעברית החדשה ובעשייה בה מאת משה בר-אשר, אקדמיה ללשון העברית  
27.  מקורות ומסורות, סדר ניזקין, דוד הלבני, מגנס
29.  סידור תפילות בלאדינו, סלוניקי, המאה השש עשרה, מכון יצחק בן צבי
30.  רעואל וחבריו פרשנים יהודיים מביזנטיון מסביבות המאה העשירית לספירה, גרשון ברין, אוניברסיטת תל-אביב
31.    רבי חיים בן עטר ופירושו אור החיים על התורה, אלעזר טויטו, 291 עמודים, מכללת אורות ישראל
32.  מחשבת ישראל ואמונת ישראל, בעריכת דניאל לסקר, אוניברסיטת בן גוריון, 293 עמודים בעברית, 186 עמודים באנגליש, ניתן לקבל תוכן העניינים.

This volume has many interesting articles. Worth mentioning is Marc Shapiro's Is there a Pesak for Jewish Thought and  David Shatz 's article Nothing but the truth? Modern Orthodoxy and the Polemical uses of History. In the first footnote Shatz mentions Marc Shapiro's posts on the Seforim Blog. Much can be added to this essay but of note is footnote 28 where he writes:

To be clear, academics, I find, generally shun blogs that are aimed at a popular audience because the comments are often, if not generally, uninformed (and nasty). A few academics do read such blogs, but do not look at the comments. One result of academics largely staying out of blog discussions is that non-experts become viewed as experts. Even when academics join the discussion, the democratic atmosphere of the blog world allows non-experts to think of themselves as experts and therefore as equals of the academicians. Some laypersons, though, as I said earlier, are indeed experts in certain areas of history.

33. חקרי קבלה ותפילה, משה חלמיש, אוניברסיטת בן גוריון, 458 עמודים ניתן לקבל תוכן העניינים

This work is a collection of twenty five articles by Professor Hallamish about tefilah and kabbalah. Some of these articles appeared in print in various journals, festschrifts and memorial volumes, others are supposed to appear soon, and some were written specially for this volume. They all share the common denominator that they are based on research of an incredible amount of manuscripts and rare volumes. I have no idea how he had patience to open up that many books! Based on these discoveries Hallamish shows the influence of Kabbalah on tefilah. One can also find wealth of information on nussach of Tefilah in these volumes. There is a lot to comment on different points on this volume.

Just to make one small comment as it relates to Elul and a subject I have written about. In chapter thirteen he deals with sources for the custom of saying Ledovid in Elul. He brings early sources for saying it all year around. He quotes the Siddur Shaarei Rachamim which brings this custom to say Ledovid. Now the importance of this find is that this siddur is based on R.Chaim Hacohen who was a Talmid of Rabbi Chaim Vital. If this source is reliable then we have an earlier source for this custom. The first person (not noted by Hallamish) to point to this siddur for an early source for saying Ledovid in Elul was Rabbi Yakov Rokeach in his work Shaarei Tefilah, first printed in 1870. Now it's well known that the editor of this siddur, Chaim Abadi, added in lots from the Chemdas Yamim and other sources so it's not so simple if one can consider this siddur a reliable source. However, recently Rabbi Goldhaber checked up the many manuscripts of the actual siddur of R. Chaim Hacohen and found that the custom of saying Ledovid does not appear anywhere in it. Recently part of this siddur was printed by Mechon Zichron Aharon and the custom of Ledovid does appear inside this siddur. So based on this new printed siddur Hallamish has a very early source for saying Ledovid.

First of all what is clear is this is not a source to say Ledovid specifically during Elul but rather an early source to say Ledovid the whole year around. Earlier in this siddur where R. Chaim Hacohen has various chapters of Tehilim to be said on special days he does not include Ledovid to be said during Elul. However at the end of davening Ledovid appears in this new siddur. But more importantly one has to be careful to read the fine print on the page as above where it is printed to say Ledovid in small print the editor adds in that saying Ledovid here does not appear in the original manuscript! Now all this is rather strange; why did he bother adding this in? This is not the place for it as it should be earlier in the siddur with the other chapters said on special days. Even more interesting is that the editor of this siddur says that they decided that four of the manuscripts are authentic but all others have parts added in so they are not going to print all added in pieces  so the question is why did they choose to add in Ledovid
and add nothing else in this printed version.

A few months back I mentioned that the new work by David Assaf Hazitz Unifgah appeared in print. I noted that a complete bibliography of the sources that were used for writing this book was printed in the recent volume of Mechkarei Yerushalayim 23 (2011) pp. 407-481. This was not included in this new work. Recently this bibliography appeared on line here.


1. The Tent of Avraham, Gleanings from the David Cardozo Academy, edited by Nathan Cardozo, Urim Press. 232 pp.
2. Inside Stam, A complete buyers Guide, Rabbi Reuvain Mendlowitz, Israel bookshop, 440 pp.
3.Edward Fram, A Window on Their World: The Court Diaries of Rabbi Hayyim Gundersheim Frankfurt am Main, 1773-1794, Wayne State Univ Press, 653 pps.

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