Self-Censorship in the Arukh ha-Shulhan, ArtScroll’s Latest Betrayal, and Other Assorted Comments
Marc B. Shapiro
1. R. Mordechai Rabinovitch has recently published the second volume of his commentary on the Arukh ha-Shulhan, dealing with the laws of Hanukkah. I strongly encourage anyone who prepares for the holiday by studying the halakhot in the Arukh ha-Shulhan to use R. Rabinovitch’s valuable work.
Interestingly, R. Rabinovitch vocalizes the work as Arokh ha-Shulhan. This is based on the fact that these words, with this vocalization, appear in Isaiah 21:5. Yet this is incorrect. As R. Eitam Henkin has pointed out, when the work was published by R. Epstein himself, the title in Russian also appeared on the binding. R. Epstein knew Russian very well, and the Russian reads “Arukh”. Henkin also notes that in the edition published in Vilna by his daughter, the title appeared in Latin letters. Once again we see that it was pronounced “Arukh”. This latter point might have been known to some long-time readers of the Seforim Blog, as this page with the Latin letters was reproduced in this post from 2007. Here it is again.
The Arukh ha-Shulhan was the subject of a dispute between R. Shaul Yisraeli, a member of the Supreme Rabbinic Court (Beit Din ha-Gadol) and Menachem Elon, of the Israeli Supreme Court. The context was that France had requested that Israel extradite a criminal. Elon argued that this was permitted according to Jewish law. In support of this he cited Arukh ha-Shulhan 388:7, which states that there is no law of mesirah when dealing with a civilized government and legal system, such as in Czarist Russia[!] and England. Here is the text.
When challenged by R. Shaul Yisraeli that the text in the Arukh ha-Shulhan was written with an eye to the anti-Semitic government, Elon defended his position that the text is R. Epstein’s authentic opinion. I don’t wish to get into this dispute at present, and readers interested in the topic can consult R. Michael Broyde’s article “Informing on Others for Violating American Law: A Jewish Law View”, available here.
R. Rabinovitch’s new commentary is also relevant to this debate, since he identifies examples of what he regards as self-censorship in the Arukh ha-Shulhan, and these are in areas not as potentially problematic as the halakhot dealing with mesirah. In his discussion of the Hanukkah story, Arukh ha-Shulhan 670:3, R. Epstein writes: שכשנכנסו אנשי אנטיוכס להיכל. Yet in the Talmud it states שכשנכנסו יוונים להיכל. R. Rabinovitch suggests that this is an example of self-censorship. At first I thought that this was somewhat far fetched. I didn't think that there was any reason to fear that government officials would be offended by a simple historical description that mentions the ancient Greeks. However, S. wrote to me as follows.
Yevanim was a particularly loaded term in Russia (for historical purposes this includes regions outside of Russia proper, like Ukraine), because Jews called the non-Jews Yevanim. They did so because many Ukrainians were of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church (the Russian Orthodox Church is an Eastern Orthodox Church and in that way 'related' to Greece as well). It is for this reason that Hanover called his account of the Khmelnitzky massacres Yeven Metzula, and refers to the Cossacks as yevanim - but we can see it from other sources, too. For example, see attached for a horrifying account of a massacre on the second day of Pesach 1655. You can see he calls the Cossacks yevanim (from here).
Supposedly it was also a play on the name Ivan, but I'm not sure if that's just folk etymology. But more importantly, we can see that some works took it seriously and changed yevanim to something else, to avoid offending the censor. See here where changing yevanim to "yehirim" in Maoz Tzur was a somewhat common change.
And see here where it documents in the 1840s that Jews called the Russians yevanim - and doubtless you can show it from many Yiddish sources, too. See here where I discuss how the Slavuta Talmud actually changes a gemara; "Rabbi said, why speak Syriac in Eretz Yisrael? Speak Hebrew or Greek!" to "Speak Hebrew or Akum!"
So in my view the Arukh Ha-Shulchan definitely deliberately wrote Antiochos.
We can argue about whether this or that particular halakhah in the Arukh ha-Shulhan is an example of self-censorship, but there can be no doubt about the basic fact that R. Epstein did indeed censor himself for fear of the Czar. All one needs to do is see his fawning essay “Kevod Melekh”, at the beginning of Arukh ha-Shulhan, Hoshen Mishpat, to get a sense of the environment he had to operate in. In this essay he tells the reader how much the Jews love the Czar, and that is why they pray for him and his family every Shabbat and Yom Tov.
R. Eliyahu Zini, whose books I hope to discuss in a future post, points to a clear example of the Arukh ha-Shulhan’s self-censorship in Orah Hayyim 329:9. There he writes:
לסטים שצרו על בתי ישראל אם באו על עסקי ממון . . . אבל אם באו על עסקי נפשות להרוג ולאבד או אפילו באו סתם והיינו שאין ידוע לנו על מה באו הוה ג"כ כבבירור על עסקי נפשות דסתם לסטים הם הורגי נפשות יוצאים עליהם בכלי זיין ומחללין עליהם את השבת ובזמן הקדמון בזמן שבהמ"ק היה קיים ובאו לעיר העומדת על הגבול. . . .
This halakhah is derived from Eruvin 45a, but in this text there is no mention of bandits – לסטים. Rather, the Talmud is speaking of non-Jews – נכרים (an alternate reading cited by Dikdukei Soferim is גוים). Secondly, there is nothing in the Talmud about the last halakhah I quoted only applying in the era when the Temple stood. These changes made by R. Epstein were due of fear of creating problems with the government. I think this is as clear as it can be, which makes it very surprising that R. Ovadiah Yosef took the Arukh ha-Shulhan at face value that the latter halakhah only applied in the days of the Temple. R. Ovadiah then points out that the Shulhan Arukh disagrees, seeing the halakhah as also applying in contemporary times.
R. Zini cannot contain himself at this (mis)understanding of R. Ovadiah, and as he often does, he rejects R. Ovadiah’s point very strongly.
ומי פתי הוא זה שלא יבין שבעל ערוך השלחן "צינזר את עצמו" מפחד הצאר, כפי שעשה בעשרות מקומות בספרו זה . . . ופלא נשגבה ממני איך הגר"ע יוסף שליט"א לא הבחין בכך?!
As mentioned already, the Talmud, Eruvin 45a, uses the word נכרים. This means non-Jews, and only non-Jews. Imagine my surprise, therefore, when I saw that the Soncino translation has the following: “If foreigners besieged Israelite towns.” Since there is no way that the translator, who was a learned man, could have made such a mistake, I can only assume that this translation was also designed to avoid any non-Jewish ill will.
Since the author of the Arukh ha-Shulhan, R. Jehiel Michel Epstein, was the brother-in-law of R. Naftali Zvi Judah Berlin, now is a good place to note the problem with one of the titles of R. Berlin’s works. His commentary to R. Ahai Gaon’s She’iltot is העמק שאלה. How should these words be pronounced? Some scholars write Ha-Amek She’alah, basing themselves on Isaiah 7:11. However, Gil S. Perl argues that the correct pronunciation is Ha-Amek She’elah. As he puts it, if the pronunciation in Isaiah was intended, “the title would mean ‘sink to the depths,’ the ‘depths' (from the word she’ol) being a reference to the netherworld or Hell—a rather strange title for a work of halakhic commentary.” Perl therefore suggest that the Netziv “intended his title as a play on those words from Isaiah pronounced Ha’amek She’alah, meaning ‘delve into the question” or perhaps ‘delve into the She’ilta.’”
Speaking of proper pronunciation of titles, ArtScroll might play a positive role in this. Since today so many people studying Talmud are using ArtScroll, they will see that the tractates are pronounced “Arachin”, not “Eruchin”, and “Horayos”, not “Horiyos”. So I hope that these yeshivish pronunciations will soon be a thing of the past, at least among English speakers, and if so this will be thanks to ArtScroll. Furthermore, since their edition of the Midrash Rabbah has started to appear people in yeshiva circles will begin to use it, and slowly the pronunciation “Medrish” may go by the wayside (at least we can hope so). Now if we could only rid people of the pronunciation “ikrim” instead of “ikarim”.
Having said all this, it is also the case that general convention can sometimes trump proper grammatical pronunciation. For example, take the words נודע ביהודה which appear Psalms 76:2. These words are pronounced Noda Bihudah, yet when referring to the book by this title the convention is to write Noda bi-Yehudah, even though this is not the correct pronunciation.
For those who want to see a bit of “Sephardic supremacy” when it comes to pronunciation, see this video where R. Ovadiah really lets the Ashkenazim have it.
Returning to the Arukh ha-Shulhan, its significance has declined in the last two generations. While figures such as R. Joseph Elijah Henkin, R. Moses Feinstein, and R. Yaakov Kamenetsky regarded the Arukh ha-Shulhan as more authoritative than the Mishnah Berurah, not many poskim still have this perspective. Whereas the Arukh ha-Shulhan used to stand on its own, in our day we have seen the publication of an edition of the Arukh ha-Shulhan accompanied by the pesakim of the Mishnah Berurah, the point of which is to let the reader know that while one can study the Arukh ha-Shulhan as a theoretical work, when it comes to practical halakhah one must follow the Mishnah Berurah.
The truth is that one can use the Arukh ha-Shulhan as a work of practical halakhah just like one can use the Mishnah Berurah. This reminds me of an experience I had many years ago when I believe I was still in high school. I was at a shiur where the rabbi was learning Mishnah Berurah. After reading one halakhah in the Mishnah Berurah he pointed out that “we don’t hold like this”. A member of the audience asked how one who learns the Mishnah Berurah by himself is supposed to know when that is the case, that is, when “we don’t hold” like it. The rabbi replied that this is why it is important to have a rav, so that you will know when we follow the Mishnah Berurah and when we don’t.
Even though I was quite young I thought that this was a mistaken reply, and the many years subsequent have not changed my mind. It is of course important to have a rav, but not for the reason the rabbi said. There is absolutely nothing wrong with someone learning the Mishnah Berurah (or Arukh ha-Shulhan) and following everything in it. One doesn’t need, and it would be an impossible task, to ask his rabbi about each and every halakhah if this is what “we follow”. One who lives in an Orthodox community will learn that sometimes the community practice is more lenient than what appears in these works, and sometimes it is more strict. It is in those circumstances that I think that one should consult one’s rav, and ask him if despite common practice it makes sense to be lenient in accord with either of these texts, or if one should be strict as recommended by either the Mishnah Berurah or Arukh ha-Shulhan even though the common practice is not like this. But as a general rule, and I have never had a teacher who thought otherwise, one can rely on either of these classic halakhic texts.
2. Many people were distressed to see the sources from great pre-modern poskim that spoke about all sorts of physical mutilation, including R. Asher ben Jehiel agreeing that an adulteress’ nose could be cut off. I have mentioned in the past, but it bears repeating here, that the various punishments seen were also found in the contemporary non-Jewish society. I know this may be troubling to some readers, to see that leading rabbis had an approach to punishment that today people regard as barbaric. Yet there really is no alternative, as to a certain extent, every generation reflects the general values of society at large. Halakhah and Jewish thought are often likewise affected in this way. I have provided numerous examples of this throughout the years, so there is no need to go through it again.
3. In a question “ripped from the headlines", I was asked if I know of any past examples of someone secretly observing women in the mikveh. I don’t of any such cases, although in the anti-hasidic text Shever Posh’im it quotes a hasidic author as follows:
ואני אומר דראוי לעמוד בשעת טבילה. ויאמין לי שפעם אחת עמדתי בעת שטבלה אשה אחת וראיתי באותו מקום ודי עלי כאוות ולא כלום. ולאחר שהלכתי משם שרי עלי קדושה גדולה.
I have never heard of such a mikveh, where men would bathe on one side and women immerse on the other. In fact, I wouldn’t pay this text any mind, since I find it hard to believe that anyone who examines the citations from the work, which are supposedly notes on the Tur, will not conclude that it is a forgery designed to make the Hasidim look bad. There are so many outrageous things said in the text that nothing else makes sense. Did any hasid, even the most extreme, ever say that one who prays properly need not fast on Yom Kippur ?
כתב הטור: יוה"כ אסור באכילה ושתי'. וכתב המין: ומי שיוכל לכוין בתפלה כתיקונה מותר בכל, ואין אכילה רק שיהא עם רוחניות ולא עם גשמיות כידוע ליודעי חן.
It is difficult even to record the following shocking text, but we are not in the business of censorship here, and as mentioned, I have no doubt that this is a forgery.
כתב הטור: דבעל קרי מותר האידנא בתפילה . . . וה"ה אף להוציא זרע מחמת גודל החימום הק"ש והתפילה כי זהו העיקר לכבוד השי"ת, כידוע לחכמים השלימים.
Speaking of authentic texts, however, R. Joseph Hayyim does deal with a case of voyeurism and prescribes a teshuvah for this. I don’t want to get any more explicit, so for those who read Hebrew here is the text from Od Yosef Hai: Halakhot, parashat Shofetim, no. 51.
I am aware of only two times that a woman (other than one’s wife) can be seen without her clothes. One is the sotah, when her top is removed. R. Judah states that if her breasts are attractive, they are not exposed, but his opinion is not accepted. The other time is that the kohen must examine both men and women for tzara’at, and in both cases they are to be naked.
As for the current controversy about whether dayanim need to see a female convert immerse, no one has yet referred to the following responsum from Kitvei R. Weinberg, vol. 1, no. 10. When I published this book I decided to have this short responsum translated from German, although I wasn’t sure if it was worth the trouble since all R. Weinberg was doing was repeating the halakhah as it appears in the Shulhan Arukh. Recent attempts to alter the traditional method of womens’ conversion, by arguing that the dayanim should not see the actual tevilah, show that even a simple responsum like this one can have value. I am very happy that it was translated and included in the sefer, so that it can now be part of the public conversation.
Regarding the sources that have been cited in support of changing the traditional practice, no one has yet referred to a responsum by R. Isaac Herzog in which in the specific case he discusses (and I don’t think it can be used le-khathilah for other cases) he allows that only women see the tevilah.
Also worth noting, even though in my opinion it has no halakhic significance, is Masekhet Gerim 1:4 which states:
האיש מטביל את האיש והאשה מטבלת את האשה
R. Hayyim Kanievsky points out, in his commentary ad loc., that this implies that men did not see any part of the immersion (unlike the current practice).
משמע שהאנשים לא יראוה כשהיא טובלת . . . משמע שאין רואין טבילתה רק הנשים.
R. Aryeh Leib Grossnass, Lev Aryeh, vol. 2, no. 11, argues that the beit din does not actually have to see the immersion in order for the conversion to be valid. It is this responsum that R. Moses Feinstein is responding to in Iggerot Moshe, Yoreh Deah vol. 2, no. 127.
S. also called my attention to this document from 1844 signed by Isaac Leeser and currently on auction at Sotheby's (link). It records how the conversion of a girl was only witnessed by two women, not by the beit din.
S. also called my attention to this document from 1844 signed by Isaac Leeser and currently on auction at Sotheby's (link). It records how the conversion of a girl was only witnessed by two women, not by the beit din.
4. Simcha Goldstein was kind enough to send me these pictures from a Passover Haggadah sent out to donors by Yeshiva Torah Vodaath. It hardly needs to be said that such pictures (check out how the women are dressed), not to mention the Zionist theme as a whole, would never appear today in anything sent out by this yeshiva.
Regarding Yeshiva Torah Vodaath, in the book Mi-Pihem shel Rabbotenu (Bnei Brak, 2008), p. 49, there in an interview with R. Don Ungarischer who states that when R. Reuven Grozovsky came to the United States during World War II, Torah Vodaath was the only yeshiva in America. This is incorrect and I am not just referring to the existence of Yeshivat R. Yitzchak Elhanan or Beit ha-Midrash le-Torah in Chicago, as Yeshivat R. Chaim Berlin also existed during this period.
5. The second volume of Haym Soloveitchik’s collected essays has just been published. This is a very important work, especially since nine of the essays have never before appeared in print. Among these newly published essays are those that put forth a new thesis about the origins of Ashkenazic religious culture. There is so much learning in this book, and it is written in such an engaging style, that anyone with an appreciation for the history of halakhah will be spellbound.
The essay “The ‘Third Yeshivah of Bavel’”, where Soloveitchik elaborates on his new thesis, is a particular favorite of mine. It could be that in the end the scholarly community will reject his position. Yet just to read how he develops his argument, and attempts to create an entirely new paradigm, is a treat. Here is one lengthy paragraph from the essay that I found quite significant (p. 161).
Shift back now to the mid-tenth century and the original characteristics of Ashkenaz. I have noted that the new settlers saw no difference between the aggadic sections of the Talmud and the halakhic ones and exegeted both in equal detail. We take this, too, for granted because we find a commentary on both sections on every printed page of the Talmud that we have seen since early youth. Think, however, what this entails lexically. The halakhic portions of the Talmud are strongly formulaic, as is any unpunctuated text. If one knows some thirty to forty idiomatic phrases in Jewish Babylonian Aramaic, most halakhic passages will pose few linguistic problems. (Understanding their legal content is a different matter.) However, the aggadic narratives entail a wide-ranging and detailed knowledge of the Aramaic language—all the terms of different household utensils, farm equipment, agricultural practices, domestic animals, flora and fauna, to mention just a few areas of life that are reflected in the narratives of the aggadeta. We are talking about a vocabulary of some 10,000-12000 words, if not more. (Actually, much more, as one should count meanings rather than words or roots [shorashim]. Most words have multiple meanings, and commanding a language means precisely controlling the numerous meanings of its words, as well as its idioms.) Unless these settlers had a vast dictionary, alongside which the Sefer he-Arukh would seem a Berlitz phrase book, and unless this enormous dictionary and even the memory of it got lost in the Mainz academy within one generation, we must conclude that these immigrant founders of Ashkenazic culture were Aramaic speakers. Precisely because Aramaic was their native tongue, they could readily undertake what the scholars of Kairouan, Fez, and Lucena (all native Arabic speakers) could only attempt with trepidation, namely, to exegete the entire Talmud, leaving no phrase, halakhic or aggadic, unexplained.
6. The most recent issue of Milin Havivin has appeared. My article “Torah im Derekh Eretz as a Means of Last Resort” can be seen here.
These are important letters as they show R. Weinberg’s strong belief that in the modern world rabbis need to have a secular education in order to be effective. Those who read Hebrew will see very clearly where R. Weinberg stood on this issue, and that for all his love and respect for the haredi roshei yeshiva, intellectually and spiritually he was not part of their world.
7 Finally, we come to what I have termed ArtScroll’s latest betrayal. These are harsh words, but I believe them to be entirely justified. It is one thing to censor R. Zevin, or to cut out passages from other recent works. But to do this with rishonim is a completely different matter. After my book appears, I will discuss a number of examples of censorship that for one reason or another I did not include in the book, as well as examples that I only became aware of after the book was in press. However, this is such an important example that I did not want to wait. Its importance is such that I have no doubt that according to halakhah, anyone who demands a refund from ArtScroll is entitled to his money back, as what I will show you is nothing less than a betrayal not only of the reader, who paid good money to get what he thought was a complete mikraot gedolot chumash, but also of one of the greatest rishonim, R. Samuel ben Meir (Rashbam).
Soon after Rosh ha-Shanah 2014, ArtScroll released the first volume of its mikraot gedolot chumash. It is a beautifully typeset edition, completely punctuated. The response was so positive that within a month the volume was reprinted, and it would not be a surprise if the ArtScroll mikraot gedolot became the new standard.
One of the new elements of this edition is that Rashbam to Genesis chapter 1 is included, which is not the case with the old mikraot gedolot chumashim. (It is found in the Mossad ha-Rav Kook Torat Hayyim mikraot gedolot). As you can see on this page, the Rashbam’s commentary is taken from the Rosin edition (which is where the commentary to Gen. ch. 1 first appeared).
In his commentary to chapter 1 Rashbam advances the notion that according to the peshat of the Torah, the day does not start in the evening, but in the morning. This is only one of many examples where Rashbam’s commentary explains biblical verses in accordance with the peshat, and in opposition to the rabbinic understanding. He even states that according to the peshat the commandment of tefillin in Exodus 13:9 is not to be understood literally. Of course, Rashbam put on tefillin, but in this case he was only explaining what he thought the peshat was. Similarly, he began Shabbat in the evening, not in the morning, but this did not stop him from offering a peshat that differed from the halakhah.
For some reason, ArtScroll finds this difficult to take, and therefore decided to delete all of Rashbam’s “problematic” comments regarding the beginning and end of the day. I repeat, since I know this will be hard for people to believe: ArtScroll omitted portions of Rashbam’s commentary from its mikraot gedolot.
Now look at ArtScroll’s version of Rashbam’s commentary to Gen. 1:4 and 1:5. Entire sections of his commentary to each of the verses have been omitted!
Again you can see that a section of the commentary has been deleted.
ArtScroll completely omits this short comment.
It is not only in Genesis chapter 1 that Rashbam’s that has been tampered with. I only skimmed a few other places and I found the following problem with Gen. 49:16. The first words in ArtScroll’s version of Rashbam commentary are המפרש על שמשון.
Small emendations such as this are obviously not acceptable, but they are in an entirely different category than the censorship in Genesis chapter 1.
I also found problems with ArtScroll’s punctuation of Rashbam. For example, in his commentary to Gen. 37:2, which is one of his most famous passages, Rashbam states that he heard from his grandfather (Rashi) that if he had time he would write new commentaries לפי הפשטות המתחדשים בכל יום. The word הפשטות is to be vocalized as ha-peshatot, i.e., the plural of peshat. ArtScroll has the mistaken vocalization ha-pashtut. Later in this verse Rashbam writes (in the Rosin version) לפי דרך ארץ קורא אחיו. ArtScroll has קרא, changing the verb from participle to perfect. I have not gone through even one chapter of the book, comparing Rosin’s edition to ArtScroll (not to mention other commentaries). If I were to do so, I am sure many more such examples would be revealed.
This post does not need any long conclusion, as the evidence speaks for itself. I would only add that when modern publishers feel that they can start deleting commentaries of rishonim, then we have reached a new low. Will students of Torah, those who treasure the words of Rashbam, tolerate this betrayal? I think (hope) not, which is why it is imperative that in the next printing ArtScroll reinsert the words of Rashbam.
 “Sifrei Arukh ha-Shulhan – Seder Ketivatam ve-Hadpasatam,” Hitzei Giborim 7 (2014), p. 518.
 See Elon, “Dinei Hasgarah be-Mishpat Ivri,” Tehumin 8 (1987), pp. 263-286, id. “Bisus ha-Ma’arekhet ha-Mishpatit al Dinei ha-Torah,” ibid., pp. 304-309; R. Yisraeli, “Hasgarat Avaryan le-Shiput Zar,” ibid., pp. 386-297. (also found in Yisraeli, Havot Binyamin, no. 23). R. Eliezer Waldenberg agreed with Elon. See Tzitz Eliezer, vol. 19, no. 52 (end).
 Among those who agree with R. Yisraeli is R. Menasheh Klein, Mishneh Halakhot, vol. 17, no. 108. (Look who this responsum is addressed to.)
Since I just mentioned R. Klein, let me present another responsum of his, from 1987, which unlike the others he sent me was not included in Mishneh Halakhot. It is published here for the first time.
The reason he did not include it in his responsa was undoubtedly because the “letter” he disputes is by none other than R. Kook, and R. Klein did not want to be associated with R. Kook even if he disputes with him. That explains why he won’t even mention his name here. In fact, when R. Klein cites a book published by Mossad ha-Rav Kook, he simply writes הוצאת קוק. See Mishneh Halakhot, vol. 10, p. 382. See also vol. 8, p. 78 where he writes הוצאת רמב"ן קוק.
 See also p. 20 n. 13, where R. Rabinovitch points to another example where he thinks that R. Epstein’s formulation was influenced by fear of the government.
 Eretz Hemdatenu (Haifa, n.d.), p. 139.
 Masa Ovadiah (Jerusalem, 2007), p. 341.
 Eretz Hemdatenu, p. 139.
 The Pillar of Volozhin (Boston, 2012), pp. 17-18, n. 37. This too is perhaps not the best transliteration, as in most texts the ayin in העמק has a sheva. In a minority of texts it has a hataf patah.
 Regarding R. Henkin, see my post here.
After that post appeared a member of R. Moshe Feinstein’s family wrote to me as follows:
I spent a great deal of time learning with and talking to Reb Moshe, both on the East Side and in the mountains. He unambiguously told me exactly what you quote from Rav Henkin. He explained that the Aruch Hashulchan was a Rav, while the Mishna Berura was a Rosh Yeshiva, and the psak of a Rav is better authority. Therefore, when he was unwilling to make his own determination, he would follow the AH over the MB. I mentioned this story to Rabbi Dovid Zucker, Rosh Kollel of Kollel Zichron Shneur in Chicago, and he told me that he heard precisely the same thing from his Rebbi, Rav Yaakov Kaminetzki.
R. Yehudah Herzl Henkin wrote to me as follows:
I notice in Seforimblog from Jan. 26 '08 that you quote R' Ratzabi, concerning the superiority of MB [Mishnah Berurah] over AH [Arukh ha-Shulhan], as stating that the CI [Chazon Ish] wrote that MB is 'like the Sanhedrin.' He is undoubtedly referring to Igrot CI pt. 2 no. 41 which is widely misquoted in this regard. The CI says only that a ruling of the Bet Yosef and MA and MB all together-- and that no one disagrees with-- is like a ruling of the Sanhedrin, ayen sham. (The CI could hardly have thought that MB alone is like the Sanhedrin, as he disagrees with him in practice dozens of times.) By coincidence, I wrote this in Hatzofeh on Feb. 8 '08. Incidentally, R' Menashe Klein, in comments in BB [Bnei Banim] vol.1 p. 225, attributed the popularity of MB almost to a bat kol. I expressed my surprise. Later when he reprinted his comments in Mishne Halachot he omitted the term.
 See R. Eitam Henkin’s (unsigned) review of this edition in Alonei Mamre 120 (2007), pp. 119-124. The Hafetz Hayyim was aware of the fact that the popularity of the Mishnah Berurah led to a decline in study of the Magen Avraham. See Meir Einei Yisrael (Bnei Brak, 2004), vol. 5, p. 403.
 One reader called my attention to Tory Vandeventer Pearman, Women and Disability in Medieval Literature (New York, 2010), p. 80, who discusses how cutting off the nose of an adulterous woman was a common punishment and parallel to male castration. R. Menachem Sheinkopf reminded me of Hut ha-Meshulash (Munkacs, 1984), p. 38a, which records how the Hatam Sofer in his youth witnessed the sentencing to death of an informer. This text was deleted from the next edition of Hut ha-Meshulash. See Meir Hildesheimer, “The Attitude of the Hatam Sofer toward Moses Mendelssohn,” PAAJR 60 (1994), p. 155 n. 50. It is also reported that as a youth, the Hatam Sofer personally killed an anti-Semite. See Siah Sarfei Kodesh (Bnei Brak, 1989), vol. 4, p. 154. (I don’t think that this report has any substance).
 One example I have often given to illustrate this was that today every rabbi will be happy to speak about how Judaism opposes slavery, and that the slavery mentioned in the Torah was far removed from the slavery in pre-Civil War days. Yet two hundred years ago, plenty of rabbis would have found nothing objectionable with Southern slavery. (When I write “every rabbi” in the first sentence of this note, it is an exaggeration. See my post here. See also R. Avigdor Miller, Q&A, vol. 2, p. 12, that it was a mistake for Lincoln to free the slaves, as they could have used another 50 or 100 years of slavery in order to “civilize” them.)
 Published in Mordechai Wilensky, ed., Hasidim u-Mitnagdim (Jerusalem, 1970), vol.. 2 p. 117. This strange passage is mentioned by David Biale, Eros and the Jews (Berkeley, 1997), p. 125.
 Wilensky leaned in this direction, see ibid., p. 112.
 Ibid., p. 120.
 Ibid., p. 119.
 (Jerusalem, 1910), p. 51b (second pagination)
 Mishnah, Sotah 1:5.
 Mishnah, Sotah 1:5.
 Ibid. Although the Mishnah states אם היה לבה נאה this is obviously a euphemism for breasts. As is to be expected, R. Jacob Emden, Lehem Shamayim, ad loc., has something to say on this passage. How does the kohen know that she has attractive breasts, to know whether or not they can be revealed? Emden states that he heard as much from her husband. But this answer does not satisfy him, for סתם אשה כל יופי שלה שם הוא. As support for this notion, he cites Berakhot 10b שאחזה בהוד יפיה, which Rashi explains to mean “breasts” If he was more of a fan of the Zohar perhaps he would have cited Zohar, Bereshit 45a: ושפירו דאתתא באינון שדים . Zohar, Shemot 80b, states
ר' אבא פתח (שיר השירים, ח,ח) אחות לנו קטנה ושדים אין לה מה נעשה לאחותנו ביום שידובר בה. אחות לנו קטנה דא כנסת ישראל דאקרי אחות לקב"ה. ושדים אין לה היינו דתנינן בשעתא דקריבו ישראל לטורא דסיני לא הוה בהון זכוון ועובדין טבין לאגנא עלייהו דכתיב ושדים אין לה דהא אינון תקונא ושפירו דאתתא ולית שפירו דאתתא אלא אינון
See also R. Yitzhak Ratsaby, Olat Yitzhak, vol. 2, p. 390. The second quote from the Zohar shows the importance of understanding the literal meaning of Song of Songs in order to appreciate the allegory.
 See Mishneh Torah, Tum’at Tzara’at 9:12.
 Pesakim u-Khetavim, Yoreh Deah no. 99 (p. 327). On this page R. Herzog also states we should require all ba’alei teshuvah, especially public Sabbath violators, to immerse themselves in the mikveh. This is the upshot of the Vilna Gaon’s comment to Shulhan Arukh, Yoreh Deah 268:30.
 Commentary to Ex. 13:9.