Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Plagiarism, Halakhic Paradox, and the Malbim on Kohelet

Plagiarism, Halakhic Paradox, and the Malbim on Kohelet
Marc B. Shapiro

1. A story recently appeared alleging plagiarism in the writings of R. Yonah Metzger.[1] Such accusations are nothing new and the topic of plagiarism in rabbinic history is of great interest to me. Many of the scholars of Jewish bibliography have also written about the phenomenon,[2] and a good deal on the topic has appeared on the Seforim Blog.[3] Suffice it to say that every generation has had problems in this regard, and we see even see apparent instances of it in the Talmud.[4] The examples range from taking another’s ideas (including one’s teacher[5]), to copying sections of another work, to reprinting an entire book and changing the title page.[6] It is interesting that R. Moses Sofer, unlike others, is reported not to have been troubled by people plagiarizing from him. As he put it, he doesn’t mind if they attach his hiddushim to their names, as long as they don’t attribute their own hiddushim to him.[7]

R. Isaac Sternhell, in the introduction to his Kokhvei Yitzhak, vol. 1, gives a good illustration of how widespread the problem of plagiarism has been in explaining why R. Joseph Karo and R. Moses Isserles don’t mention anything in the Shulhan Arukh about the obligation to repeat a Torah teaching in the name of one who said it (itself of great importance, not to mention the geneivat da’at involved if one doesn’t give proper credit [8]). R. Sternhell states that that since so many people plagiarize, including תלמידי חכמים שיראתם קודמת לחכמתם, therefore, just like it is a mitzvah to say that which people will listen to, so too it is best to be quiet about something they won’t pay attention to [9]. R. Sternhell reports that this reason was actually given by R. Yissachar Dov Rokeah of Belz in explanation of why there is nothing in the Shulhan Arukh about the prohibition of leshon hara.[10]

והם מתוך שחששו מלהביא קטרוג על כלל ישראל התעלמו מדינים אלה בפסקי הלכה והשמיטום. ובכך קיימו דברי הנביא עמוס (ה' ג') והמשכיל בעת ההיא ידום

R. Sternhell then lists a few books that plagiarized, and the books from which they stole. The problem is that he only identifies the plagiarizing books by their initials, which makes identifying them quite hard.

Today we have Otzar ha-Hokhmah which makes spotting plagiarism easier. Let me share with you one example. I am a long time reader of the journal Or Torah, which is where so many of R. Meir Mazuz’s writings have been published. In Tamuz 5758 an article appeared by a certain R. Daniel Weitzman. Here are the first two pages. On the second page there is something suspicious, which I don’t know if anyone other than me would take notice of. He cites R. Weinberg’s famous responsum on abortion but instead of citing it from Seridei Esh, he refers to an earlier appearance in Ha-Pardes. This sort of thing immediately sets off bells for me, since how would a rabbi in Israel in the and pre-Otzar ha-Hokhmah era have access to a thirty-year-old issue of Ha-Pardes? How would he ever come to that? In fact, if you look at the article, it seems that he doesn’t even know what Ha-Pardes is, referring to it as Pardes. The title he gives to R. Weinberg's article is also not correct and is taken from the source he plagiarized from.

Now compare what Weitzman wrote with what appears in R. Shmuel Hayyim Katz’s Devar Shmuel (Los Angeles, 1986).

Weitzman has not just plagiarized, but he has copied word for word from Katz. Needless to say, I was quite distressed when I saw this. Since it is rare that someone plagiarizes only once, I decided to check Weitzman’s other articles that appeared in Or Torah.

Here is an article from Tamuz 5757 (first page, but here is a link to the complete article).

This article is also plagiarized from R. Katz’s Devar Shmuel.

And here Weitzman’s article from Or Torah, Av 5758, and it too is plagiarized from R. Katz’s Devar Shmuel.


Here are the pages from Devar Shmuel:

With the aid of Otzar ha-Hokhmah I was able to find the following. Here is the first page of Weitzman’s article that appears in Or Torah, Heshvan 5761.

It is taken almost word for word from R. Mordechai Friedman’s Pores Mapah (Brooklyn, 1997).


Pores Mapah is not a well-known book (although it has much to recommend it), and having been published in the U.S. was probably hard to come by in Israel. This is the perfect sort of book for an Israeli to plagiarize from, and years ago it would have been virtually impossible for anyone to realize what had happened. Yet with Otzar ha-Hokhmah I was able to locate the plagiarism in a matter of seconds.

I think the explanation for plagiarisms like this is simply because people are greedy. They not only want that which they can achieve, but want to take from others as well. To once again cite the Gaon R. Mizrach-Etz, “a man’s got to know his limitations.”

Yet I must also note are cases of men who plagiarized in their early years but later became great Torah scholars, showing that a youthful error need not determine the course of one’s subsequent development.[11]
Sometimes, what appears to be a plagiarism has a much simpler explanation.[12] Here is a page from R. Moses Teitlebaum’s Heshiv Moshe, no. 87.

Compare this responsum with what appears in R. Abraham Bornstein, Avnei NezerHoshen MishpatLikutei Teshuvot no. 101. The responsa are basically identical except for the dates and addressee.

What is going on here? I think it is obvious that R. Bornstein had a handwritten copy of the responsum, which he presumably copied out of Heshiv Moshe, a work published in 1866. After his death the one who put together his responsa did not realize that this was a responsum of R. Moses Teitelbaum, so he published it adding Bornstein’s signature and a new date. He also assumed that when the original responsum referred to the questioner as ש"נ it meant שינאווי when in fact it means שיאיר נרו or שיחיה נצח. Furthermore, in the original responsum it states דבר זה מתורת משה ילמדני which is an allusion to the one being asked the question, R. Moses Teitelbaum. Yet this was overlooked when the responsum was included in the Avnei Nezer.

Here is another example of what has been alleged to be plagiarism.[13] It is a passage from the Beur Halakhah, 494, s.v. מבחודש השלישי.

Now look at the Shulhan Arukh ha-Rav, 494:8-11, and you can see that it has been copied word for word, even though at the end of the Beur Halakhah it states: זהו תמצית דברי האחרונים


What to make of this? One of the commenters on the site that calls attention to this text sees here an indication that the Hafetz Hayyim’s son was also involved in the writing of the Mishnah Berurah (as he claimed), since the Hafetz Hayyim himself would not do such a thing. Yet matters are more complicated than this, as there are also other places where the Mishnah Berurah copies word for word from the Shulhan Arukh ha-Rav (and presumably from others sources as well).[14] Are we to assume that these were all inserted by his son?

It appears that the Hafetz Hayyim’s conception of what was proper in using earlier sources differed from what is accepted today, much like standards were also different in medieval times. Furthermore, since the Hafetz Hayyim writes זהו תמצית דברי האחרונים, even from a contemporary perspective we are not dealing with plagiarism. But the question is – and I don’t have the answer – why in some places the Hafetz Hayyim did not indicate when he was taking material from the Shulhan Arukh ha-Rav. He does mention in the introduction that the Shulhan Arukh ha-Rav is one of the sources from which his own commentary derives its material, and he constantly refers to it, so why in this case is there no indication of his source? Maybe one of the readers can answer if the Shulhan Arukh ha-Rav is unusual in this regard, or if this is done with other sources as well. As far as I know, we don’t yet have an edition of the Mishnah Berurah that provides all the sources used in the text.

2. In Ha-Ma’ayan, Tishrei 5771 and Tevet 5771 there are articles on the idea of “Halakhic Paradox” by R. Michael Avraham and R. Meir Bareli. You can see Ha-Ma’ayan online here.

Here is another halakhic paradox that I found in the journal Ohel Yitzhak, Sivan 5668, p. 4b. Take a look at R. Menahem Ratner’s second question. I tried to actually put what he is asking into English but was unsuccessful as my mind kept going in circles. As with all such cases, and one immediately thinks of Zeno’s paradoxes, the problem is to determine if we are indeed dealing with a real paradox or if the paradox is only apparent. So I ask those readers who want to try to get their head around what Ratner is saying, is this a real paradox or is he missing something?

3. In the past few years there were many topics I wanted to get to, but simply didn’t have the time. These matters are not much in the news now so I won’t discuss them in detail as I had originally hoped to. However, I will make a few comments as I think readers will still find the topics of interest.

Let’s start with the commentary of the Malbim on Kohelet that was published in 2008. Here is the title page.

Understandably, there was much excitement when this book appeared since it is quite an event when an unknown commentary of such a major figure is discovered. However, the excitement was short-lived, as it soon became known that the commentary was not by the Malbim but by a nineteenth-century maskil, Jonah Bardah. Even more embarrassing for the publisher, Machon Oz ve-Hadar, is that Bardah’s commentary even appeared in print in 1850. Here are the title pages.


This would be bad no matter who the publisher was, but the fact that Machon Oz ve-Hadar is from New Square, which is as far removed from Haskalah imaginable, makes the mistake drip with irony.

How did such a blunder happen? Today, it seems that everyone is looking for unknown material to publish. There are a number of journals that devote a good deal of space to this, and I often wonder what will happen when we run out of unpublished documents. With this mindset you can imagine how excited the publisher was when he was informed that someone had located a previously unknown commentary by the Malbim. The assumption that this was the Malbim’s text was due to the similarity between the method of commentary in the newly discovered work and other commentaries of the Malbim. Without careful examination, the Kohelet commentary was published and this would in turn lead to great embarrassment, not to mention a lot of wasted time and money.

The story of this mistake is found in a document entitled Sheker Soferim. Here is the title page.

(A softened version of this article appeared in Yeshurun 25 [2011], pp. 724ff., and there the author’s name is revealed: R. Avraham Yeshaya Zecharish.[15]) This is really a damning document as it shows that the publisher had already been told that the handwriting of the commentary was not that of Malbim. I am not going to say that the publisher knowingly printed a fraud in order to profit by the Malbim’s name. But I think it is obvious that that the publisher’s great desire to publish the work caused him ignore what he had been told and to instead rely on his own “experts.” Whoever edited the work also showed his (their?) ignorance, since when the commentary referred to רמבמ"ן , not knowing that this referred to Mendelssohn the text was “corrected” to read רמב"ן!

Despite my sense that there was no intentional fraudulence in this publication, I don’t entirely discount the possibility that the publisher knew the commentary was not by Malbim but printed it anyway. I say this because as shown in Sheker Soferim there is one passage in the commentary where the “Malbim” claims that there is a mistake in the biblical text. The editors censored this passage, and this to be expected as from a haredi perspective such a comment is heretical. But if so, could the publisher actually believe that the Malbim wrote that which was censored?

Lest people think that things like this don’t have real effects in the world, let me just note that, as pointed out by Eliezer Brodt, an entire chapter of a doctoral dissertation is devoted to the false Malbim commentary on Kohelet.[16] Just think of how many hours were devoted to this dissertation chapter, all of which were wasted.

While Zecharish points to various “problematic” elements of the commentary that the publisher should have been aware of, he misses one right on the first page.

The notes at the bottom of the page are found in the original manuscript and publication. Here is the page.

In the commentary to the first verse the “Malbim” explains how the beginning of biblical books, where the author is introduced, is written by a later person.

.ואדמה כי לא יטעה כל משכיל לחשוב אשר המחבר בעצמו דיבר אלה הדברים

In the note the “Malbim” adds:

.עיין בהראב"ע בהתחלת ספר דברים

The beginning of Deuteronomy states: “These are the words which Moses spoke unto all Israel beyond the Jordan.” Upon these words Ibn Ezra introduces his “secret of the twelve” which focuses on post-Mosaic additions to the Torah. It is incredible that while the "Malbim's" intention is crystal clear, namely, that the beginning of Deuteronomy was written after Moses, the editors didn’t catch this and see anything problematic in the comment, a comment that would never have been made by the Malbim.[17]


[1] See here. For former French Chief Rabbi Gilles Bernheim’s plagiarism, see the statement in First Things available here.

I think this sentence, from the article, is particularly apt:
One of the perversions of our era is to make a god of intellectual property. Most commentators described Bernheim as “stealing” words and sentences. This is wrongheaded. Plagiarism is a sin against truth, not property. It’s first and foremost a kind of lying, not a kind of stealing. He violated our trust by speaking in a voice that was not his own, which is why in this and other cases of plagiarism the writer loses intellectual and moral authority broadly.
The importance of our spiritual leaders speaking the truth cannot be stressed enough. R. Kook writes about how forces of heresy were strengthened when people saw unethical behavior among בעלי תורה ואמונה. See Eder ha-Yekar, p. 43.

R. Joseph Ibn Caspi explains at length how a prophet, who models himself on God who is called א-ל האמת, always speaks the truth, even when speaking to his wife and children (!). See Shulhan ha-Kesef, ed. Kasher (Jerusalem, 1996), pp. 146, 163. This is so important to Ibn Caspi that he deals with a number of biblical examples where it appears that a prophet did not speak truthfully, and he argues that the meaning is not what appears at first glance. The one case where he acknowledges that we are dealing with a lie is Jacob telling Isaac, “I am Esau your firstborn” (Gen 27:19). Yet this does not affect Ibn Caspi’s thesis because he claims, p. 150, that when Jacob told this lie he was not yet a prophet.

.הנה כחש אבל עדין לא הגיע למדרגת הנבואה עד היותו בדרך חרן וראה הסולם

After his discussion about prophets and how they were always truthful, Ibn Caspi concludes, p. 163, that this is also how a חכם should behave. Our rabbis now stand in place of the prophets of old, thus they too much be paragons of truth.

With regard to Ibn Caspi’s Shulhan ha-Kesef, I would like to make one further point. In a previous post, see here, I discussed how, according to Ibn Caspi, the Torah contains statements that are not actually true, but were believed as such by the ancients. We see another example of this in Shulhan Kesef, p. 147, where he writes, in seeking to explain an example where it appears a prophet lied:

.כי הנביא שם משותף וכבר הרחיב הכתוב ואמר "חנניה הנביא" בסתם

What Ibn Caspi is saying is that even though the Bible refers to someone as a prophet, this doesn’t mean he was really a prophet. It could be that he is referred to as such because this is what the people believed, even though the people were incorrect. In other words, the Bible incorporates the incorrect view of the people in its narrative. The proof he brings is from Jeremiah 28 where Hananiah is referred to as a prophet but in reality he was a fraud.
[2] See most recently Shmuel Ashkenazi, “Ha-Gonev min ha-Sefer,” Yeshurun 25 (2011), pp. 675-690.
[3] See here.
[4] See e.g., Bekhorot 31b, Menahot 93b; R. Moses Zweig, Ohel Moshe, vol. 1, no. 41. The fact that the Sages had this problem in their own day is probably also why they stressed the importance of proper attribution. This is pointed out by R. Nathan Neta Olevski, Hayei Olam Nata (Jerusalem,1995), p. 241:

מזה נראה כי גם בימיהם כבר פשתה המספחת להתגדר בגנבי גנובי את תורת אחרים ולכן ראו חז"ל להגדיל ערך המשתמר מזה ולחשוב דבר זה בין המ"ח דברים שהתורה נקנית בהן

[5] See e.g., R. Yekutiel Yehudah Greenwald, Mekorot le-Korot Yisrael (n.p., 1934), p. 48.
[6] See e.g., Nahum Rakover, Zekhut ha-Yotzrim bi-Mekorot ha-Yehudi’im (Jerusalem, 1991), pp. 38ff.
[7] Otzrot ha-Sofer 14 (5764), p. 91:

.זה אני מוחל לכם אם אתם אומרים חידושיי בשמכם, אבל אם אתם אומרים חידושים שלכם בשמי זה אינני מוחל לכם

For a communal rabbi, who was expected to prepare his own derashot, it was unacceptable to inform his listeners that he was using material from others. However, R. Asher Anshel Yehudah Miller, Olamo shel Abba (Jerusalem, 1984), p. 187, reported one tongue-in-cheek justification of this practice if due to circumstances beyond his control the rabbi was unable to properly prepare for his Shabbat ha-Gadol derashah. Since the Talmud, Pesahim 6a, states שואלין ודורשין בהלכות פסח, one can derive from this that מותר "לשאול" מאחרים בשעת הדחק ולדרוש בהלכות פסח
[8] I mention geneivat da’at, yet according to some one who plagiarizes actually violates the prohibition against actual geneivah. See R. Yaakov Avraham Cohen, Emek ha-Mishpat, vol. 4, nos. 2, 24; R. Yaakov Hayyim Sofer, Hadar Yaakov, vol. 5, no. 38. R. Isaiah Horowitz, Shenei Luhot ha-BeritMasekhet Shevuot, no. 71, writes about plagiarism:  יותר גזילה מגזילת ממון

R. Eleazar Kalir states that the plagiarizer violates a positive commandment. See Havot Yair (Vilna, 1912; printed as the second part of the Malbim’s Eretz Hemdah), p. 26a:

ואומרים חידושי תורה מה שלא עמלו בו רק מפי השמועה שמעו ואומרים משמיה דנפשם ועוברים על עשה . . . שכך אמרו כל האומר דבר בשם אומרו מביא גאולה לעולם

See also the very harsh comments of R. Joseph Hayyim David Azulai in his Berit Olam to Sefer Hasidim, no. 224, which should be enough to scare away at least some of the plagiarizers:

אם כותב ספר וגנב תורת אחרים . . . בחצי ימיו יעזבנו ואחריתו יבא בגלגול אחר ויהיה נבל ויהיה מזולזל כי נבל הוא ונבלה עמו. רחמנא ליצלן

[9] Robert Klein called my attention to the final part of R. Solomon Ephraim Luntshitz’s introduction to his Keli Yekar, where he suspects that some of the commentators who preceded him were guilty of plagiarism. See also his Olelot Ephraim, at the end of the introduction, where he claims that all the plagiarisms are delaying the arrival of the Messiah. He plays on the verse עשות ספרים הרבה אין קץ  and explains that since so many new books are full of plagiarisms, עשיית ספרים הרבה גורם איחור קץ הימים.

R. Solomon Alkabetz, Manot ha-Levi (Lvov, 1911), p. 91b, also refers to the plagiarizers of his day. I called attention to R. Eliyahu Schlesinger’s plagiarism in my review of Avi Sagi’s and Zvi Zohar’s book on conversion, available here. See p. 9 n. 29. See also my post from June 25, 2010, available here, where I cite another case of plagiarism from Schlesinger. I found these examples by chance, and I am sure that if I were to carefully examine the latter’s writings I would come up with more. Yet there doesn’t seem to be much point in doing so, since in the haredi world there simply is no accountability in matters like this.

A number of scholars have discussed plagiarism with regard to Abarbanel, and I hope to return to this. For now, let me just note the following. In his introduction to Trei Asar, p. 13, Abarbanel explicitly denies that he plagiarized, while at the same time accusing R. David Kimhi of doing so.

שהמובחרים והטובים מהפירושים שזכר רבי דוד קמחי מדבר [!] הראב"ע לקחה [!], עם היות שלא זכרם בשמו ואני איחס כל דבר לאומרו פן אהיה ממגנבי דברים

At the end of his commentary to Amos, he repeats the accusation:

ומה שפירש עוד בהלא כבני כושיים בשם אביו הנה הוא לקוח מדברי הרב רבי אברהם בן עזרא ומה לו לגנוב דברים

See R. Dovberish Tursch, Moznei Tzedek (Warsaw, 1905), p. 195; Abraham Lipshitz, Pirkei Iyun be-Mishnat Rabbi Avraham Ibn Ezra (Jerusalem, 1982), p. 131.
[10] It is hard to take this explanation seriously. Talking during the repetition of the Amidah has always been common, yet rather than omit mention of this matter, the Shulhan ArukhOrah Hayyim 124:6, writes:

לא ישיח שיחת חולין בשעה שש"צ חוזר התפלה ואם שח הוא חוטא וגדול עונו מנשוא וגוערים בו

R. Zvi Yehudah Kook reported that his grandfather, R. Shlomo Zalman Kook, once strongly rebuked someone for talking during the repetition of the Amidah. When it was pointed out to him that דברי חכמים בנחת נשמעים, he replied that the Shulhan Arukh uses the word גוערים and that does not mean a gentle suggestion but a sharp rebuke. See R. Yair Uriel, Be-Shipulei ha-Gelimah (n.p., 2012), p. 32. (The story immediately following this one is also of interest. It records that R. Zvi Yehudah opposed the common practice [at least in America] of singing אשמנו בגדנו:

יש לומר את הדברים ברצינות, בצער ובכאב, ולא מתאימה לזה שירה 

It seems that R. Abraham Isaac Kook followed in the path of his father. See ibid., pp. 58-59, for the famous story of how R. Kook, while rav in Bausk, once slapped a “macher” in the face when he insulted R. Zelig Reuven Bengis. (The story is told in great detail in R. Moshe Zvi Neriyah, Sihot ha-Re’iyah [Tel Aviv, 1979], ch. 22.) R. Kook later explained that he did not slap the man in a fit of anger, but was of completely sound mind and did it in order to follow the Sages’ prescription of how to respond to one who degrades a Torah scholar:

"וכך אמר: "דינא הכי, מי ששומע זילותא של צורבא מרבנן צריך למחות

All I would say is that one must be careful with who one slaps. R. Yekutiel Yehudah Greenwald, Li-Felagot Yisrael be-Ungaryah (Deva, 1929), p. 25, records a story from mid-eighteenth-century Hungary where in the synagogue and in front of the congregation the head of the community slapped the rabbi in the face. This was the last straw for the rabbi (who was really a phony), and he, his wife, and children converted to Christianity.

R. Naphtali Zvi Judah Berlin would occasionally slap a student in the face. On one occasion it even led to a noisy protest by the students. Because the students refused to back down, the Netziv unable able to deliver his shiur. This led to him making a public apology to the students, which they happily accepted. See M. Eisenstadt, “Revolutzyah bi-‘Yeshivah,’” Ha-Tzefirah, June 2, 1916, pp. 1-2 (referred to by Shaul Stampfer, Lithuanian Yeshivas of the Ninteenth Century [Oxford, 2012], p. 113).

Since we are on the subject of slapping in the face, and since I mentioned R. Yitzhak Zilberstein in my last post, here is something else from his Hashukei Hemed on Bava Kamma, pp. 492-493.


I think it is quite interesting that he takes it as a given that policemen in Israel will beat thieves until they confess. Is there any truth to this at all? He himself thinks it is good that thieves be given a good slap in the face.

There are many more examples I could cite of people being slapped in the face, including by rabbis. One thing that is clear is that face-slapping has gone out of style.. It is like fainting, which was common in old movies. But when was the last time you saw a woman faint? It just doesn’t happen anymore.

Returning to R. Bengis, it is noteworthy that he and R. Kook were great friends from their days in Volozhin.  See the booklet Or Reuven (Jerusalem, 2011), which is devoted to their relationship R. Bengis’ letters to R. Kook in Iggerot la-Rei’yah show that he regarded R. Kook as rav of Jerusalem and chief rabbi of the Land of Israel. Only after R. Kook’s death did R. Bengis become Rosh Av Beit Din of the Edah Haredit in Jerusalem. His life-long admiration for R. Kook, even in his new position with the Edah Haredit, is, of course, not usually mentioned in haredi discussions of him. Since in the past I have criticized Yeshurun for its conscious distortions (all in the service of the haredi cause), let me now praise it for including the following in vol. 12 (2003), p. 156 n. 35.

Rabbi Nathan Kamenetsky, Making of a Godol, pp. 305-306, reports in the name of R. Yosef Buxbaum that R. Bengis knew the poetry of Pushkin. (He also quotes a report that R. Bengis did not know Russian and when tested by a government official to ensure that secular studies were being taught in Volozhin, he just repeated the page of Pushkin from memory which he had prepared ahead of time by having another student read it for him. This strikes me as an apologetic attempt to “kasher” R. Bengis, as followers of the Edah Haredit will not take kindly to the knowledge that R. Bengis knew Russian poetry.)

For a recent discussion of R. Bengis and his brother, who went by the name of “Ben Da’at”, see here.

According to an unpublished collection of Brisker stories in my possession, R. Velvel Soloveitchik said about R. Bengis that just because one is a great talmid hakham does not mean that he is also a leader. Perhaps R. Velvel had this view of R. Bengis because the latter’s extremist credentials left something to be desired.
[11] Marvin J. Heller, Studies in the Making of the Early Hebrew Book (Leiden and Boston, 2008), p. 204, writes as follows about R. David Lida: “I would suggest, and this is highly speculative and certainly not a justification, that Lida’s acts of literary piracy were youthful improprieties, albeit of a most serious nature. A young man, inexperienced, perhaps immature, from whom much was expected, hoping to impress others and to further a burgeoning career, erred and claimed authorship of works he had not written, but rather discovered in manuscript.”
[12] The following example, with some of the explanations I give, is found here.
[13] This too was noted here.
[14] In a comment to my last post, someone wrote:
"The part about Anshei Keneset ha-Gedolah requiring the Amidah to be recited twice a day and that women are also obligated in this is not from Nahmanides. This is the Mishnah Berurah speaking.”
Actually, these are the words of the Shulchan Aruch HaRav (או"ח קו,ב), quoted here verbatim.
This practice of the MB citing whole paragraphs from the SAH - without attributing the author - is common throughout the his work, in leads many times to run-on sentences and disambiguation such as the one at hand.
[15] See also the online discussion here.
[16] “Ha-Sinonomyah bi-Leshon ha-Mikra al Pi Shitat Malbim,” (unpublished doctoral dissertation, Bar Ilan University, 2009).
[17] See here where I mention how R. Yosef Reinman also didn’t know anything about Ibn Ezra’s “critical” views. In the post I also discuss the controversy regarding Reinman co-authoring a book with a Reform rabbi. In the introduction to his Avir Yosef (Lakewood, 2008), Reinman defends himself.


Shimon Reit said...

The reason that the M"B does not attribute the quote to the RS"A is that it is NOT a quote from the RS"A! It is a quote from the writings of Zalmon Hena. (I believe the it is from an appendix to the Sharae Zimra.) Since the text appears in at least two places, the M"B attributes it to the "Latter Writers" plural.

Anonymous said...

Anybody who studies both the Acharonim and the Mishnah Berurah knows that approximately 95% of the text is lifted from one of three Acharonim, the Chayei Adom, the Graz or the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch. In his introduction to the Chofetz Chaim he explains why he does this. He believed that certain Rishonim and Acharonim were very powerful writers who practiced what they preached. He felt their words would make a far greater impression on the readers than anything he could write himself. Therefore, he used their words as much as possible, adding just connecting words or phrases.

It has been said that this is the reason he did not write about the new (in his time) shailos like technology and electricity, since he did not have earlier sources that he could copy from. (It is extremely rare that the Chofetz Chaim quotes a contemporary source.)

Another point is that very often when the Mishnah Berurah does not attribute a quote there are minor differences between the quote and the source. Sometimes these differences are designed to resolve the attacks of the later Acharonim on that opinion, other times they are done to shtim the words of an Acharon with other halachos as presented in the Mishnah Berurah that the author of the quote may not agree to . In Yeshiva we spend a lot of time analyzing these differences. There are other finer nuances as to why he does not attribute quotes.

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