Thursday, June 12, 2014

Assorted Comments

Assorted Comments
Marc B. Shapiro

1. In this post I mentioned the strange comment of R. Shabbetai Bass in his Siftei Hakhamim, Exodus 33:13, Moses thought that God was joking with him.[1] A few readers emailed me that in the new Mikraot Gedolot Ha-Maor this passage has been deleted, i.e., censored. Here is how the passage looks in the first edition of Siftei Hakhamim, published in R. Bass’ lifetime..

Here is the passage as it appears in the censored Mikraot Gedolot Ha-Maor.

Fortunately, the new English translation of Siftei Hakhamim published by Metsudah includes the passage in its entirety.

2. In a recent post I referred to the Yemenite Rabbi Shlomo Korah and his experience in Lakewood. R. Korah has also published a commentary on Maimonides’ Mishneh Torah entitled Sefat Melekh. Although R. Korah presumably knows Arabic, for some reason he didn’t know what to make of the word שָם found throughout the Mishneh Torah, including right at the beginning:

יסוד היסודות ועמוד החכמות לידע שים שם מצוי ראשון

Numerous commentaries struggle with the word, and R. Korah offers his own interpretation, stating that it should be vocalized with a tzereh under the shin, not a kamatz.[2] Yet R. Samuel Ibn Tibbon, in the introduction to his translation of the Guide, already explained what the word means.

שבערבי כשירצו החכמים לומר שיש בעולם דבר או בנמצא דבר אחד, יאמרו שיש שם דבר אחד, רומזים במלת "שם" אל המציאות.

See also R. Joseph Kafih’s commentary to Hilkhot Yesodei ha-Torah 1:1. Confusion about the word שם goes back to medieval times, and in a recently published text of the Provencal sage R. Meir ha-Meili we see that he too did not know its meaning.[3]

R. Shlomo Korah should not be confused with R. Ezra Korah who is the translator of a new edition of Maimonides’ Commentary on the Mishnah that was published in 2009. The new translation is not very different than R. Kafih’s translation and is obviously based on the latter. It is also not an improvement on what R. Kafih provided us with. What makes this edition valuable is that each page is full of helpful notes compiled by a team of scholars. In fact, I don’t think anyone can seriously study Maimonides’ Commentary on the Mishnah without making use of this new edition.

Yet there is something deeply problematic about this edition. As is well known, R. Kafih’s translation of Maimonides' Commentary sparked a new interest in study of this work, and for decades was the text that everyone used.[4] R. Korah’s new edition, which as already indicated is based on that of R. Kafih, only mentions R. Kafih once in the lengthy introduction.[5] Throughout the notes to the Commentary, R. Kafih is not mentioned, but is referred to as יש מי שכתב or יש מי שתרגם.

When will these people ever grow up and realize that just because you don’t agree with someone’s outlook doesn’t mean you can’t be a mensch and give him the scholarly credit he deserves? To give an idea of who R. Kafih was, R. Mordechai Eliyahu went so far as to state that was greater than R. Abraham Maimonides![6]

אנו, שאנו מכירים את הרב יוסף קאפח, הוא יותר טוב מבנו של הרמב"ם, איזה בקיאות יש לו בדברי הרמב"ם, הבן שלו לא ידע והוא ידע.

Here is the English dedication page of the new translation and the Hebrew title page.

Look at what it says in the dedication page. Is it possible that they told the donor that the translation that he was funding would be the first time that the Commentary on the Mishnah would be translated into Hebrew?

3. I have many unpublished rabbinic letters that readers will find interesting. Some of them need to be published in a journal, complete with an introduction and footnotes, as I have done in Milin Havivin, Or Yisrael, and elsewhere. (Discerning readers will note the incongruity of the two journals just mentioned.) For others, I don’t need to do anything but post them, as they are easy to read and self-explanatory.

Here is one such example. It is a 1950 letter from Chief Rabbi Isaac Herzog to R. Isser Yehudah Unterman, chief rabbi of Tel Aviv. I found it in the R. Herzog archive in Jerusalem and I thank the archive for allowing me to reproduce the letter. It is significant in that we see how impressed R. Herzog was with R. Elyashiv, and he hopes that R. Elyashiv will agree to move to Tel Aviv to serve as a dayan.[7]

Recently there was talk that if the Israeli draft bill was passed that the Belzer Rebbe would leave the State of Israel. Here is a February 14, 1948 letter from R. Herzog to a previous Belzer Rebbe. As you can see, R. Herzog was very upset when he heard that the Rebbe was thinking of leaving Eretz Yisrael due to the deteriorating security situation. He thought that this would create a hillul ha-shem and break the spirits of some of the Rebbe's followers.

According to the Steipler, R. Isaac Zev Soloveitchik (the Brisker Rav) also wanted to leave Israel during the 1948 war, and even traveled to Haifa to receive his exit permit. In the end, he was prevented from leaving for reasons beyond his control, and didn’t continue his efforts in this regard. The Steipler explained that his desire to leave Israel was not because he was afraid but because he thought that the halakhah requires one to leave a place of danger to life.[8] I have difficulty understanding this view, as it would mean that all the Jews in Israel would have been required to leave. Presumably, R. Velvel’s point was that one who has no civilian or military role has to leave, since there is no justification for such a person to put his life in danger as he is not in any way contributing to the military cause.

4. In his latest article criticizing the haredi mentality, R. Berel Wein writes:

The great struggle of most of Orthodoxy in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries against Zionism influenced all Orthodox thought and behavior. As late as 1937, with German Jewry already prostrate before Hitler’s madness and Germany already threatening Poland, the mainstream Orthodox rabbinate in Poland publicly objected to the formation of a Jewish state in the Land of Israel on the grounds that the heads of that state would undoubtedly be secular if not even anti-religious.

A number of people wanted details about this rejection of a Jewish state by the Polish rabbinate in 1937. Let me begin by saying that there is no truth to what Wein reports. The mainstream Polish rabbinate, represented by the Agudat ha-Rabbanim of Poland, never publicly objected to the creation of a Jewish state. The Agudat ha-Rabbanim included many rabbis who were Zionist and thus would never act in the way Wein describes. In fact, R. Yehezkel Lifshitz, author of the respected work Ha-Midrash ve-ha-Ma’aseh, was the head of the Agudat Rabbanim until his death in 1932. He was also a great lover of Zion who supported the creation of a Jewish state.[9]

In 1937, not only did Agudat ha-Rabbanim of Poland not reject the idea of a Jewish state, but it issued a public letter affirming the Jewish right to the Land of Israel. This letter also stated that under no circumstances could Agudat ha-Rabbanim agree with the removal of any part of the Land of Israel from future Jewish sovereignty.[10] Here is part of this letter, containing the Agudat ha-Rabbanim’s strong endorsement of a Jewish state.

ישמעו העמים הנאורים שהצהירו בסן-רימו על זכותנו הישנה והמוחלטת על נחלתנו הקדושה בגבולותיה שהציב בורא עולם ית' את העוולה הנוראה שרוצים לעשות לנו. מחאתנו הכבירה צריכה להגיע לועדת המנדטים, למלך אנגליא, לנשיא ארצות הברית של אמריקה ולבישוף מקנטרבורי

Even Agudat Yisrael at its 1937 international convention in Marienbad (the third Kenesiyah Gedolah) did not reject a Jewish state, even though it was urged to do so by R. Elchanan Wasserman and R. Aaron Kotler. Neither R. Wasserman nor R. Kotler reflected the outlook of the mainstream Lithuanian or Polish rabbinate in this matter. In fact, according to the report of R. Samuel Aaron Pardes who attended the convention, R. Kotler agreed with R. Wasserman that acceptance of a Jewish state before the coming of the Messiah, even a State that would be completely Torah observant, is a denial of the messianic belief.[11] In other words, they both shared what would later be identified as the Satmar philosophy.

5. The internet is an amazing thing. Yechezkel Moskowitz, who listened to my Torah in Motion classes on R. Hayyim Hirschensohn, asked me where he was buried. I didn’t know but after only a couple of minutes online I found the answer: Riverside Cemetery in Saddlebook, N.J. The cemetery was very helpful and sent both me and Yechezkel a picture of the grave. Seeing that it needed to be cleaned up, Yechezkel took the opportunity to do this mitzvah, and here is how the grave currently looks.

Yechezkel also sent the picture to and it can be found here here.

Here is a picture of R. Hirschensohn.

There is so much to be said about R. Hirschensohn and his enormous literary output and fascinating ideas in all areas of Torah. (I also have a number of unpublished responsa of his.) I have never seen anyone refer to the many short musings of R. Hirschensohn that appear in the Budapest journal Apiryon. I could have a lengthy post discussing any number of his short comments, that remind me both of R. Kook’s Shemonah Kevatzim and also of Nietzsche. Here is musing no. 46, which appears in Apiryon 3 (1926) p. 183:

יש עיקרי אמונה לישראל אשר אינם בספר רק בדם ובמורשה, ואם הספר מתנגד להם ישבקו לקראי דאינהו דחוקים ואוקמי אנפשייהו

The final words of the sentence are derived from Pesahim 59b, and the translation is (based on Artscroll) “Leave the verses alone, for they force themselves to be interpreted this way.”

What R. Hirschensohn is saying in the first part of the sentence is that there are Jewish principles of faith that are not to be found in a book, but are intuitive, i.e., part of our heritage and our blood. We can each come up with our own examples. One which comes to my mind is that it is a principle of faith not to try to settle Jewish problems by involving the non-Jewish authorities. Over thousands of years we have learnt that such an approach leads to all sorts of negative consequences, both foreseeable and unintended.

The second half of the sentence tells us that when a “book truth” contradicts the principle of faith we know intuitively, then the “book truth” is to be understood (reinterpreted if necessary) to conform to our intuitive faith. One can find similarities to this idea in the writings of R. Kook (see here and here where I discussed the observant Jewish masses’ innate natural morality and how according to R. Kook it is superior to the book-learning-based morality of the scholars).

The significance of R. Hirschensohn’s words is in 1) the denial that basic principles of faith are all found in books, and 2) the assertion that intuitive truths can effectively trump what appears in the canonical books. It is obvious that what when R. Hirschensohn writes of דם ומורשה he is speaking about the experience of the Jewish people as a whole, not about the Torah scholars. The Torah scholars are to be viewed as part of this experience of דם ומורשה , not something apart.[12]

In previous posts I have commented that one of the novelties of haredi ideology is the notion that the “Gedolim” are the carriers of all truth. See here where I quote R. Itzele of Ponovezh’s assertion that it is the people, עמך, not the Gedolim, who represent what today is referred to as Daas Torah.[13] This idea can be found in the Talmud and later rabbinic literature as well. When the Talmud and post-Talmudic authorities state
אם אינם נביאים בני נביאים הם  or
פוק חזי מאי עמא דבר  or
 קול המון כקול ש-די  or
מנהג ישראל תורה  they are not referring to the Gedolim but to the masses of pious Jews, the ones who make up the kehillah kedoshah.

Earlier in this post I referred to R. Kook and Nietzsche. Some readers might be thinking that I should write "R. Kook and Nietzsche lehavdil." Yet R. Hirschensohn rejects the notion that this word should be used to distinguish Jews from non-Jews. See his commentary to Horayot (Jerusalem, 1926), part 3, p.6a.

וזה אין לנו לומר כי הלא אב אחד לכלנו א-ל אחד בראנו

For those who do want to use the word, R. Hirschensohn says that it is wrong to say הגוי להבדיל since it is precisely the Jews whom God chose to separate as his special people. Therefore, one should say (if he want to use the word),  "Nietzsche and R. Kook lehavdil." Yet as mentioned already, R. Hirschensohn rejects the usage of this word when it comes to Jews and non-Jews. In addition to what I already quoted, he writes:

כונת האומר "להבדיל" הוא כמו להבדיל בין הקדש ובין החול, ואין הבדלה כזאת בין ישראל לעמים, כי כל בני תמותה נבראו בצלם אלקים וחייבים בשבע מצות רק אותנו הבדיל אלקים לו לחייבנו בתרי"ג מצות

R. Hirschensohn is assumed by everyone to be very liberal, in both his outlook as well as in his halakhic decisions. Yet this is not the entire truth, as we can see from his comment in Apiryon 3 (1926), p. 101, where he describes the “New Orthodoxy”, also known as “Conservative”, as akin to Christianity!

היהדות היא פעולת המוח על הלב הנצרות היא פעולת הלב על המוח, אך רבים מחליפים המושגים, לזאת נמצאים יהודים כשרים רבים אשר הם באמת לדאבון לבבינו נוצרים במסוה יהודית אשר קוראים בשם אורטודוקסיה חדשה או קאנסירוואטיף.

He states that in traditional Judaism  the mind is the center, and the heart is influenced by it, while in Christianity it is the reverse, with the heart influencing the mind. The problem with the “New Orthodox” is that they too put the stress on the heart over the mind. As we all know, when the heart is the determining factor, then Jewish law must be constantly updated in accord with people’s changing feelings.

His very next musing (ibid.) is undoubtedly directed against Hasidism, which he sees as mixing up the heart and mind.

עוד כת אחת יש בישראל אשר אם שהם שומרי תורה, אבל יש בהם עירבוב המושגים והתנגשות הלב והמוח

And finally, what is one to make of the following statement (ibid.) that removes Christian belief (as opposed to worship) from the status of avodah zarah?

אין בהנצרות ע"ז רק אולת ושגעון, אבל ההשתחויה מול התמונות הקדושות להם היא עבודה זרה גמורה ע"כ אמרו יום נצרי לעולם אסור.

Does this mean that a belief alone can never rise to the level of avodah zarah?

There is a lot more I want to say about R. Hirschensohn. In the Limits of Orthodox Theology I mentioned his view that even in Messianic days animal sacrifices would not be reinstated. He also has some significant comments about sacrifices in the introduction to his Nimukei Rashi, vol. 3. (This four volume commentary on Rashi is an outstanding work of scholarship.) 

In discussing the origins of sacrifices, R. Hirschensohn sees no reason to assume that Cain and Abel actually brought sacrifices in the sense we think of. While for us, a sacrifice means placing something on an altar and burning it, R. Hirschensohn states that there is no evidence that this is what Cain and Abel did. It is possible that all Cain did was bring his vegetable offering to the top of a mountain where he would commune with God, and left it there. With Cain’s “meager religious philosophical knowledge” he perhaps thought that after he left it there, God would take it. This is how R. Hirschensohn explains that Cain concluded that his sacrifice was not accepted. He reascended the mountain after a few days and lo and behold, the sacrifice had not been taken by God. For Cain, this meant that God didn’t accept it. And what about Abel’s sacrifice? Here, too, R. Hirschensohn says that there is no reason to think that it was burnt on an altar. Rather, it was a gift to God, and what Abel did was send his offering away, so that it would wander freely. This was the gift to God, not that he killed an animal. If you look at Genesis ch. 4, all it mentions is that Cain and Abel brought their offerings to God, not that they were ever burnt as a sacrifice.

How then did the idea of offering animal sacrifices come to be? The first example we have in the Bible is that of Noah when he leaves the ark. At this time he was not yet permitted to eat meat and yet he concluded that it would be proper to kill animals and birds for God. Where did he get this notion? The question is especially sharp as one would have assumed that Noah would be more interested in ensuring that the species multiply, rather than killing members of them. After Noah offers his sacrifices, we are told (Gen. 8:21), “And the Lord smelled the sweet savour; and the Lord said in His heart: ‘I will not again curse the ground any more for man’s sake; for the imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth; neither will I again smite any more every thing living, as I have done.” This would seem to imply God’s approval of Noah’s sacrifices. R. Hirschensohn’s suggested understanding of this episode is, I think, shocking in its boldness:

ואם שלא רחוק לפרש פסוק זה כמו שהקב"ה צחק בלבו ורחם על קטון דעת האדם החושב להודות לו על ידי עולה וזבח עולת הבהמה ועולת העוף לשורפם ולכלותם בעת אשר הם כל כך מעט בעולם וחושב זה לטובתו, שזה בכלל יצר לב האדם רע מנעוריו שגם מנחה לאל עושה בדרך אכזריות, אמנם צריכים לעמוד על מחשבת האדם ודעתו בהתפלספותו בפליסופיא [!] אלקות איך יוכל לחשוב שבזה יתרצה אל אדוניו?

R. Hirschensohn’s suggested explanation assumes that part of man’s heart being “evil” from his youth was the thought that he should serve God is such a cruel fashion as killing an animal, and God accepting this sacrifice was an example of God being kind to the simpleton Noah who didn’t know any better.

R. Hirschensohn continues by saying that he in no way rejects the sacrificial system. His explanation is only applicable to an era when eating meat was not allowed. However, once the Torah makes clear that killing an animal to eat it is not cruel, we cannot say otherwise. Furthermore, he says, it makes no sense for people who eat meat to object to sacrifices on philosophical grounds.

R. Hirschensohn still has to explain the origin of sacrifices, and his position is quite original. He states that in ancient days people showed their loyalty to one another by a ceremony in which blood was drawn from each of them and mixed together. Later it developed that instead of using human blood to seal covenants, animal blood was used. The next natural development was the notion that sacrifices to the deity should also involve blood, and this is why the nations began to offer sacrifices to their gods, including sacrifices for all the good the god did.

R. Hirschensohn adds that sacrifices represent instinctual religious feelings, and no one who believes in God can degrade such a sign of faith.[14]

Let me now return to what I wrote here concerning R. Hirschensohn’s discussion of the comment of Rashi to Genesis 26:8. The verse states that Abimelech looked out his window and saw that Isaac “was amusing himself with Rebekah.” Upon this verse, Rashi, based on a Midrash, states that Abimelech saw them having marital relations. In the earlier post I expressed surprise that some commentators thought it was appropriate for them to discuss the Patriarch’s sexual life. One reader called my attention to R. Levi ben Hayyim, Livyat Hen: Eikhut ha-Nevuah ve-Sodot ha-Torah, ed. Kreisel (Beer Sheva, 2007), p. 672, which is another example of what occasioned my surprise.

R. Levi contrasts Isaac negatively to both Abraham and Jacob. He regards the latter two as on a higher spiritual level, and thus closer to God, than Isaac, and brings a number of biblical proofs to support this contention. In a really outrageous comment, much more objectionable than R. Levi’s allegorical passages that R. Solomon ben Adret was so upset with (and which don’t appear at all problematic when seen in context), R. Levi suggests that Isaac’s blindness was brought on by the fact that he was so attracted to Rebekah’s beauty[15] that it led to him having too much sex! (Although R. Levi reflects an old superstition, there is actually a medically documented phenomenon of temporary blindness following sex.)

גם תראה היותו נמשך לתענוגים, עד שאהב עשו בעבורם ואמר (בר' כז, ג): "ועשה לי מטעמים כאשר אהבתי". ואפשר שזה סבב לו להרבות המשגל עד שכהו עיניו מראות, כי נמשך אחרי יפי רבקה, שהעיד עליה הכתוב שהיתה יפת תואר מאד, הלא אבימלך ראהו מן החלון מצחק עם רבקה אשתו

Finally, let me make one more point about sexual matters in the Torah. Genesis 35:22 states that “Reuben lay with Bilhah.” The Artscroll multi-volume commentary on Bereshit (i.e., not the Stone Chumash), p. 1522, states that in Shabbat 55b “the Sages emphatically declare that Reuben did not commit the sin of adultery. They proclaim that מי שאמר ראובן חטא אינו אלא טועה.”

I believe this to be a conscious distortion of what appears in the Talmud, in the name of “frumkeit”, of course. If you open up the Talmud to Shabbat 55b you find that, first of all, it is not the “Sages” who proclaim מי שאמר ראובן וכו' but one of the Sages, R. Samuel Bar Nahmani in the name of R. Jonathan. This is a very minor point, since following this statement in the Talmud we find other Sages who agree with this statement, i.e., they also assume that Reuben never actually had sexual relations with Bilhah (and they are quoted in the Artscroll commentary to Bereshit). However, from the Talmud we also learn that there were Sages who disagreed with R. Jonathan and took the biblical text literally. It is none other than the Artscroll Talmud that, quoting Maharsha, explains that according to R. Eliezer, Reuben did have sexual relations with Bilhah.

The Artscroll commentary on Bereshit is a very long work (2232 pages), providing numerous perspectives on every verse. Yet in this case they chose not to include the view of R. Eliezer and R. Joshua that Genesis 35:22 is to be taken literally, and Reuben indeed had sexual relations with Bilhah. A conscious choice had to be made to exclude this view, and I think we all understand why. But doesn’t Artscroll’s choice in this regard show a real lack of respect for R. Eliezer and R. Joshua? Maybe others see things differently, but it appears to me that Artscroll stood in judgment, as it were, over R. Eliezer and R. Joshua, and decided that their view was not worthy of being included since Artscroll did not like what they said. This is hardly the sort of kevod ha-Torah that Artscroll is supposed to represent.

[1] In a comment to my post, Cyril Fotheringay-Phipps noted that Siftei Hakhamim’s interpretation is actually based on a misreading of what appears in R. Elijah Mizrachi’s commentary on Rashi.
[2] See similarly R. Menahem Krakowski, Avodat ha-Melekh, ad loc. R. Hayyim Kanievsky, Kiryat Melekh, ad loc., also apparently has this view, as both he and R. Krakowski refer to Pirkei de-Rabbi Eliezer, ch. 3:

עד שלא נברא העולם היה הקב"ה ושמו הגדול לבד

See Va-Ya’an Shmuel 1, pp. 63-64, where R. Meir Mazuz writes to R. Korah to correct his error.
[3] See Yehudah Hershkovitz, “Ma’amar Meshiv Nefesh le-R. Meir ben R. Shimon ha-Meili,” Yeshurun 27 (2012), p. 78.
[4] I should say “almost everyone”. See Mesorat Moshe, p. 612, that R. Moshe Feinstein only used the old translation because he (mistakenly) assumed that the translators were “geonim” and thus superior to any modern translator. In Iggerot Moshe, Yoreh Deah, vol. 1, no. 63, R. Moshe assumes that the word “wine” in Maimonides’ Commentary on the Mishnah is a later insertion. Yet examination of R. Kafih’s edition shows that Maimonides indeed wrote this word. According to R. Yisrael Genos, R. Velvel Soloveitchik used to consult with R. Kafih as to the correct translation of Maimonides’ Commentary. See his haskamah to R. Kafih’s She’elot u-Teshuvot ha-Rivad (Jerusalem, 2009). See also R. Joseph Karo, Beit Yosef, Orah Hayyim 26, who assumes that a passage in the Commentary on the Mishnah was put in by an “erring student”. Yet this is incorrect. See R. Kafih’s note to Commentary on the Mishnah, Menahot 4:1.
[5] See p. 32 n. 162.
[6] “Ma’alat Beuro shel Mahar”i Kafih al ha-Rambam,” Masorah le-Yosef 8 (2014), p. 16.
[7] See the similar letter R. Herzog sent to R. Judah Leib Maimon in Ha-Shakdan, vol. 3, pp. 20-22.  
[8] A. Horowitz, Orhot Rabbenu, vol. 5, p. 74.
[9] See Moshe Tzinovitz, Ishim u-Kehilot (Tel Aviv, 1990), p. 209. See also Geula Bat Yehudah, Ish ha-Hegyonot (Jerusalem, 2001), p. 19.
[10] Ha-Hed, Elul 5697 (1937), p. 13.
[11] See Ha-Pardes, October 1937, p. 8. The October and November 1937 issues of Ha-Pardes contain a detailed report from the convention. See also Zvi Weinman, Mi-Katowitz ad Heh be-Iyar (Jerusalem, 1995), ch. 21
[12] R. Kook offers a different perspective (which does not seem to be in line with the passages I earlier referred to that focus on the masses’ natural morality). See Ma’amrei  ha-Re’iyah, p. 91:

שמא תאמר ליישב ע"פ הנוסח הרגיל מיסודו של מר אחד-העם: הספר הוא ספר, והלב עושה את החיים, וכיון שהלב נלחם בספר – הראשון הוא המנצח. במטותא מנך חביבי, אל נא תרפא שבר גדול על נקלה. הספר וכל אגפיו – גילוייו של הלב הם, ואיזה לב – לב האומה, הלב של נשמתה, הלב של תמצית כל הוייתה, של מעמק חייה, זה הלב דוקא בספר הוא מונח וגנוז, ותוך כל גרגיר המתגלה מאוצר הספר המון רב של לב ושל חיים מונחים.

[13] Those who are interested in R. Itzele should read R. M. S. Shapiro’s article on him in Ha-Mesilah 2 (Shevat, 5697), pp. 2ff. Among other things, Shapiro discusses how R. Itzele went from a supporter of Zionism to a strong opponent. One of the reasons he offers was the influence of Jacob Lifshitz, the askan par excellence. As Shapiro notes, the great rabbis were afraid of Lifshitz, for anyone who didn’t follow his orders was in danger of having Lifshitz destroy his reputation. The other reason Shapiro gives for R. Itzele’s rejection of Zionism was the fact that R. Chaim Soloveitchik was such a strong opponent of it
[14] For another comment of R. Hirschensohn on sacrifices, see Malki ba-Kodesh, vol. 1, p. 37:

זה פשוט שבימי דעה אלו [ימות המשיח] לא יהיה בהם המושג לרצות פני א-ל ברבבות נחלי שמן

See also Nimukei Rashi, vol. 3, parashat Va-Yikra, nos. 10-12. I think many will be surprised to see Rashi’s somewhat negative view of sacrifices. See his commentary to Psalms 40:7 (called to my attention by R. Moshe Shamah) and Amos 5:25. R. Isaac Sassoon refers to this latter passage in his Destination Torah (Hoboken, 2001), p. 202. Sassoon regards it as unlikely that the sacrificial system will ever again be reinstituted.

For Ibn Caspi’s negative view of sacrifices, see his Mishneh Kesef, vol. 2, p. 229, translated here.
[15] Speaking of physical beauty, in R. Yaakov Fink’s recently published Tiferet Yaakov, Introduction, p. 20, we are told that when his future wife was described to him by the shadchan as not being too good-looking, he replied: נו – אתרוג צריך להיות יפה. As a result of this, R. Fink’s wife made sure every year to find a beautiful etrog for him! (R. Fink was a student of R. Jehiel Jacob Weinberg.) 

See also Hokhmat Manoah to Ketubot 16b (found in the back of the Vilna Shas) who discusses Ketubot 17a, which states that according to Beit Hillel (and this is the halakhah) even regarding a bride who is not attractive one says that she is “beautiful and graceful,” נאה וחסודהHokhmat Manoah suggests that the two words, נאה and חסודה, mean two separate things. He explains that one says to the groom כלה נאה. However, to everyone else one says חסודה, which means חרפה, just like we find with the word חיסודא in Aramaic (see Onkelos, Genesis 30:23, 34:14, and Jastrow. This is also one of the meanings ofחסד  in Hebrew). In other words, while one tells the groom that his bride is beautiful, to everyone else at the wedding one says that she is repulsive! This is done, Hokhmat Manoah tells us, so that the men at the wedding don’t desire her:

שלא יתאוו ולא יחמדו לה שלא יעברו על לא תחמוד אשת רעך

Even in our age of increasing humrot, I can’t imagine Hokhmat Manoah’s suggestion being adopted anytime soon.

Regarding the matter of desiring other men’s wives, the following is also relevant. When someone gets married, Ketubot 7b tells us that the following words appear in one of the blessings recited:
והתיר לנו את הנשואות על ידי חופה וקידושין  [נ"א בקידושין]

These are the words recorded by Maimonides, Hilkhot Ishut 3:24, and are found in almost all early sources from the Sephardic world, as well as in many from the Ashkenazic world. However, at Ashkenazic weddings (and I believe at all Sephardic weddings as well, see R. Ovadiah Yosef, Yabia Omer, vol. 5, Even ha-Ezer no. 6) the following is recited:

והתיר לנו את הנשואות לנו על ידי חופה וקדושין

Why do we repeat the word לנו as it is not part of the original blessing? R. Nissim, in his commentary on the Rif to Ketubot (p. 2b in the Alfasi pages), writes:

ורבינו תם ז"ל הגיה והתיר לנו את הנשואות לנו

What this means is that R. Tam altered the text of a blessing that had been in use for probably a thousand years. This is obviously a very radical step, so what led him to do it? As R. Meir Mazuz, Or Torah, Av 5772, p. 1012, points out, the original formulation is somewhat ambiguous. It states והתיר לנו את הנשואות, which could be understood to mean that through this blessing one can now have sexual relations with all married women. (This reason for R. Tam’s emendation is also noted by the Taz, Even ha-Ezer 34:3, R. Samuel ha-Levi, Nahalat Shiv’ah [Bnei Brak, 2006], 12:6, and many others.) Ritva, Ketubot 7b, wonders why the blessing is so ambiguous:

ותימה גדולה למה תקנו לשון סתום בזה הברכה הנאמרת ברבים

Not noted by R. Mazuz is that Rashi is cognizant of the problem and on the words והתיר לנו explains:

את נשותינו הנשואות לנו על ידי חופה וקידושין

What R. Tam did was take the explanation of Rashi and insert it into the blessing by his addition of the word לנו. It is, of course, difficult to imagine that anyone would have really assumed that the blessing allowed him to sleep with other married women. Yet according to R. Tam, the fact that the words could be understood in an improper way was reason enough to alter them. R. Abraham ben Nathan notes that R. Tam’s emendation was directed towards the stupid people. See his commentary to Kallah Rabbati (Tiberias, 1906), p. 7:

ומנהג צרפת בברכה לומר והתיר לנו את הנשואות לנו, לרווחא דמילתא שלא להטעות הפתיים

Although by now R. Tam’s emendation is the standard version recited by Ashkenazim and Sephardim, neither R. Joseph Karo nor R. Moses Isserles, Shulhan ArukhEven ha-Ezer 34:1, refer to it.


Anonymous said...

As an unadulterated "truth-seeker," your comment about sources referencing "the people" as "da'as Torah" is misleading, and, I believe,falacious. The sources quoted refer to minhagim and halachos, not principles of hashkafa affecting major decisions. These decisions require a knowledge of halacha as well as practicality. Why was the king required to ask the sanhedrin, urim vetumim, etc. before going out to war? Why not simply take a straw poll and ask "da'as Torah" of "the people"? ("Puk chazi mai ama dabar...") The question of trading known murderers for hostages, of giving up land in Israel for possible benefits, of attempting the rescue of hostages while endangering their lives, of establishing a state before the coming of Moshiach...These are serious sheilos with sources in the literature. The sources quoted here are taken out of context. Please elucidate.

שלום בערגער Zackary Berger said...

In the interest of medical truth, I should comment that the New England Journal of Medicine case report refers to transient blindness not after sex, but during.

Zackary Berger (MD)

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