Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Maccabean Psalms? (and more)

Maccabean Psalms? (and more)
By Marc B. Shapiro

(This post was originally part of the previous one, but since I know people don’t like reading posts more than twenty pages long, I split it up into two parts.)

1. I know that every year around Christmas time some people read my article on Torah study on Christmas eve. At the end of the article I raise the possibility that the various Nittel practices were actually based on non-Jewish superstitions. My suspicion was proven beyond any doubt in a wonderful article by Rebecca Scharbach, “The Ghost in the Privy: On the Origins of Nittel Nacht and Modes of Cultural Exchange.”[1] I recommend that everyone add this article to their “holiday reading”. (Due to reasons beyond my control, this post was not able to appear, as planned, before Christmas.)

As for our own holiday of Hanukkah, let me share something that I think people will find interesting. When it comes to the dating of various Psalms, for those in the Modern Orthodox/Religious Zionist world there don’t appear to be any dogmatic issues involved, much like there are no dogmatic issues raised if one assumes that the prophecies beginning in Isaiah chapter 40 come from a later prophet than those in the first part of the book.[2] Nevertheless, I think people generally assume that traditionalists will not speak about “Maccabean Psalms”. (Truth be told, I don’t know if there are even any academic scholars that still identify some of the Psalms as belonging to the Maccabean period.)

See S’s post here where he notes that Philip Birnbaum, in his siddur, does refer to a psalm as having been written in the Maccabean period. However, S. also quotes R. Samson Raphael Hirsch as stating that Orthodox Judaism rejects the notion of “Pseudo-Isaiah”, and of “Maccabean songs under the name of David.” On the other hand, R. Solomon Judah Rapoport believed that at least one psalm (and perhaps more) were written during the Maccabean period. He identified other psalms as dating from the Second Temple period and defended the religious legitimacy of this view. “If the sages of the Talmud advanced the date of a number of Psalms from the time of David to that of Ezra, a period of more than five hundred years, we must have no scruples in advancing them another two hundred years.”[3] R. Samuel Barukh Rabinkow also felt that “the religious value of any of the Psalms is independent of the time of its composition or any historical consideration or reflection.”[4]

I found a very interesting passage by R. Abraham Saba in his Tzeror ha-Mor.[5] He appears to be saying that Psalm 30, which we recite every day (and which many recite after Hanukkah morning tefillah and after lighting the Hanukkah candles) was written when the Temple was rededicated by the Hasmoneans.

אני סבור כי מזמור שיר חנוכת הבית לדוד נתקן על חנוכת הבית של חשמונאי . . . ולכן נעש' נס בשמן והדליקו ממנה שמנה ימים ועל זה סדר מזמור שיר חנוכת הבית

R. Saba continues by explaining the various verses in line with this conception. Now I realize that one can argue that what he means is that David prophetically wrote the psalm with the Hasmonean rededication in mind, and this interpretation is actually stated by R. Abraham the son of the Vilna Gaon.[6]

מזמור שיר חנוכת הבית לדוד: עשה המזמור הזה לשיר אותו בחנוכת הבית העתידה להיות בימי החשמונאים

Yet such an approach this does not appear to fit with the words of R. Saba:

נתקן על חנוכת הבית של חשמונאי

In his “translation” of this passage Eliyahu Munk writes: “I am convinced that David, in his holy spirit, foresaw such a period and dedicated Psalm 30, 1-13 to that period, therefore commencing with מזמור שיר חנוכת הבית לדוד ‘a song for the consecration of the House,’ the ‘house’ being the reconsecration of the Temple after the Hasmoneans’ victory.”[7] Yet all readers can see that in the original R. Saba does not mention David or his holy spirit.

R. Joseph Hayyim[8] believes that Psalm 30 as a whole was written by David, and he says it is possible that David also wrote the first verse. But he also says that it is possible that the first verse, which speaks of dedication of the Temple, was added to the psalm during the Maccabean period.

אפשר לומר לעולם דוד הע"ה לא אמר פסוק זה של חנוכת הבית, אלא גם הוא התחיל מן ארוממך, ופסוק זה בזמן בית שני כשעשה הקב"ה להם נסים וניצולו וחנכו הבית והמזבח מחדש הוסיפו על מזמור זה פסוק זה מפני שראו דכל דברי המזמור שייכים גם לעניינם.

He adds that this notion should not trouble anyone, as we know that according to one opinion in the Talmud the last eight verses of the Torah were added by Joshua, and he also notes that there were a couple of verses in the book of Joshua that were added after Joshua’s death. In other words, minor additions to abook after the death of the author are not religiously problematic.

Nevertheless, R. Meir Mazuz is indeed troubled by what R. Joseph Hayyim wrote.[9] He claims that the verses added to biblical books noted by R. Joseph Hayyim were added by prophets.[10] Yet in the case of Psalm 30, R. Joseph Hayyim is suggesting that an addition took place during Second Temple times after prophecy had already ceased and there was no longer the institution of anshei keneset ha-gedolah. According to R. Mazuz this is indeed religiously problematic. One can reply to R. Mazuz that while prophecy might have ceased, ruah ha-kodesh did not,[11] and therefore it was permissible for verses to be added to the book of Psalms even in the Maccabean period. After all, a standard view among rishonim is that the book of Psalms is not the product of prophecy but of ruah ha-kodesh.[12]

R. Mazuz adds a second reason why he cannot accept what R. Joseph Hayyim writes. He claims that R. Joseph Hayyim's position will give support to the modern biblical scholars who believe that verses in the book of Daniel were added in the Maccabean period, a position he also finds religiously objectionable. I don’t understand this objection as the modern biblical scholars do not need, and do not look for, support from traditional commentators. They are completely oblivious to what rabbis like R. Joseph Hayyim have to say on these matters, and have no reason to cite his view as a support for their own position.

R. Moses Isaac Ashkenazi discusses the authorship of Psalms in the introduction to his Ho'il Moshe on Tehillim (Livorno, 1880). Although he has his doubts, he says that one who assumes that Psalm 44 was composed during the Maccabean period "has what to rely on."

So much for Maccabean psalms, but what about post-Davidic psalms in general? R. Ashkenazi identifies Psalms 79 and 137 as having been written during the Babylonian Exile. He also thinks that Psalms 126 and 129 might have been written then. He is led to his view because he can find no evidence that David was a prophet. While David had ruah ha-kodesh, it is only prophecy that reveals future events, and thus the psalms that reflect a post-First Temple era must indeed have been written centuries after David.

ואין להניח שמזמורים כאלה נכתבו בנבואה, שלא מצאנו בשום מקום שדוד היה נביא ה', כלומר שה' דבר עמו כמו שדבר עם שלמה בנו רק שלח אליו נביאיו נתן וגד, אולי מפני ששפך דם הרבה, רק רוח ה' לבשתהו תמיד כשבא לחבר מזמוריו

As with R. Ashkenazi, his predecessor R. Eleazar ben Samuel Shmelke claims that Psalms 79 and 137 were composed after the destruction of the First Temple. He states that this was also Ibn Ezra’s opinion.[13] In Ibn Ezra’s introduction to Tehillim (which is not found in all mikraot gedolot editions) Ibn Ezra states that “others” held that Psalm 137 and a number of other psalms were written during the Babylonian Exile, yet he does not signal his acceptance of this view. 

One of those Ibn Ezra had in mind who held that some psalms were written during the Babylonian Exile was R. Moses Ibn Gikatilla.[14] R. Raphael Berdugo also states that a number of psalms, including Psalm 137, were composed during the Babylonian Exile.[15]

In addition, Malbim, introduction to Tehillim, states that some Psalms were written during the Exile:

התפלות אשר יסדו בגלות בבל על שרפת המקדש ועל הגלות, עד שוב ה' את שיבת ציון בימי כורש.

He refers in particular to Psalm 137 and also Psalm 85. After saying this, however, he has a footnote in which he states that what he just mentioned is only on the level of peshat, but that he really believes that these psalms were written prophetically in the days of David. I ask readers to examine the text and footnote, and tell me, does anyone think that Malbim is being frank in his comments in the note?

It appears to me that what he writes in the note does not reflect his actual view, which is indeed found in the text. The note is only apologetic, and designed to protect him from being attacked by those who would see his approach as heretical. He would therefore be able to say, “But look at what I wrote in the note.” 

According to Rashbam, Commentary to Pesahim 117a s.v. Yehoshua, R. Yose ha-Gelili was of the opinion that the Hallel in Psalms (Ps. 113-118) originated with Mordechai and Esther, i.e., in the Persian period.[16] 

In Rashbam’s commentary to Tehillim (which we can expect ArtScroll to censor if it ever publishes it), he points to psalms which were composed during the Babylonian Exile and also states that other psalms were written after Ezra’s return to Jerusalem. For example, Psalm 122:3 states: “Our feet are standing within thy gates, O Jerusalem. Jerusalem, that art builded as a city that is compact together.” According to Rashbam, these references to Jerusalem must date from after the return from exile.[17]

2. Here is a provocative passage quoted in the name of the hasidic master R. Uri of Strelisk (1757-1826).[18] Would any hasidic leader speak this way today?

והרה"ק מסטרעטן זצ"ל אמר משמו עה"פ שומר נפשות חסידיו מיד רשעים יצילם, שאמר: לפני ביאת המשיח יהיו רבי"ס רשעים גמורים ר"ל, אבל הן החסידים הם בתמימותם סוברים שרבם הוא עובד ה' ולכן נוסעים אליו, לזאת התפלל דהמע"ה שומר נפשות חסידיו כי השי"ת ישמור את החסידים ומיד רשעים יצילם שלא שלא יכשלו ח"ו ברבי"ס כאלו

His comment was only applicable to the phony rebbes. But for an authentic rebbe it is worth travelling great distances and missing out on Torah and tefillah just to hear one bit of wisdom.[19]

אמר שיש ליסע לצדיק אמת אפילו אלפיים פרסאות ולבטל בהליכתו ובחזירתו מתורה ותפלה והכל כדי דיבור אחד של אמת אשר ישמע מפי צדיק אמת

3. Every year there is discussion about the moment of silence in Israel in memory of the soldiers and Holocaust victims, and we always hear about how this is not a Jewish thing to do. Here is a page from R. Ovadyah Hadaya’s Yaskil Avdi, vol. 6, p. 300 (hashmatot Yoreh Deah 2:2).

He regards the moment of silence as entirely appropriate, seeing it as similar to the silence in a house of mourning which shows acceptance of God’s decree.

See also my post here where I wrote that in November 1965 R. Jehiel Jacob Weinberg gave a hesped for four recently deceased rabbis, among them R. Yerucham Warhaftig and R. Eliezer Yehudah Finkel. These latter two were good friends of R. Weinberg, and R. Weinberg’s friendship with R. Finkel went back to their youth. After the eulogy R. Weinberg asked everyone in the room to stand up. They stood silently for around ten seconds and then he asked them to sit down.

In this post I wrote: “I presume this was intended as a show of respect rather than as a moment of silence, since the latter could be done sitting down.” I now think that my statement is probably incorrect, because a moment of silence is also intended as a show of respect, i.e., the two are not in contradiction. In thinking of the story now, it appears that R. Weinberg’s request to stand in silence is really no different than what takes place in Israel.

4. A haredi biography on R. Isaac Blazer has recently appeared. Here is its title page.

Needless to say, R. Jehiel Jacob Weinberg is quoted a good deal in the book. Here is page 410 which contains a picture of R. Weinberg.

The book does not mention that this picture first appeared on the Seforim Blog; see my post here.

In the quotations from R. Weinberg, the book has no problem making “improvements”. For example, R. Weinberg sometimes refers to R. Isaac Blazer as רי"ב, and the new book has altered this to הגרי"ב. R. Weinberg certainly regarded R. Blazer as a gaon, and he sometimes does refer to him as הגרי"ב. However, he did not feel that it was necessary to always refer to R. Blazer this way. The author of the book therefore decided to “correct” what R. Weinberg wrote. I guess this author (who is unnamed) did not think that R. Weinberg showed proper kavod to R. Blazer, which itself is a crazy thought.

Speaking of R. Weinberg and kavod, I think readers will find the following interesting. R. Weinberg stated: “We are all human. I too like kavod. I try not to chase after it, but if it is put on my plate, I will take it.”[20] How many other great rabbis would be honest enough to admit that they are not at the level of the Hafetz Hayyim and R. Elijah David Rabinowitz-Teomim,[21] and that they too like kavod? What R. Weinberg was saying is that this is normal and nothing to be ashamed of, and that for “mere mortals” what is important is not to chase after kavod.

5. In my post here. I discussed Haym Soloveitchik's newly published volume 2 of his collected essays. I neglected to mention that on pp. 285-287 he deals with R. Yitzchak Grossman's criticism of one of his essays, criticism that appeared on the Seforim Blog here here. Soloveitchik shows his scholarly honesty in that he is prepared to acknowledge that in two of his criticisms Grossman is correct. He also responds to another criticism of Grossman, and I ask people to read what Soloveitchik says very carefully. It was precisely this sort of interpretation, now standard in the academy, that R. Samson Raphael Hirsch was so opposed to. You can be sure that if these words were stated by R. Dov Linzer or R. Ysoscher Katz, that a certain author, on a certain website, would go after them for "undermining the mesorah".
Ben sorer u-moreh, according to the setam mishnah, nidon al shem sofo. This runs contrary to every principle in Jewish law and, indeed, in most Gentile law. People are executed for crimes that they have committed, not for crimes that they might commitpreventive detention for the criminally inclined perhaps, but preventive execution?! If I find tanna'im attempting to make the implementation of this law impossible, does it strain the imagination to think that they did so because it contradicts their elementary sense of right and wrong? I, for one, think not. 
Rabbi Grossman argues that we find a similar ruling about nig'ei battim and there is no ethical problem in this realm. Indeed, there isn't; however, no one claimed that all instances of "never was and never will be" (lo hayah ve-lo nivra) are a result of ethical issues. Only those in which we find this type of problem, such as ben sorer u-moreh and, to add to the roster, the "apostate city" (ir ha-niddahat) as R. Eliezer Berkovits has contended (as noted by R. Grossman). . . . An exegesis that makes execution of a law more difficult may be simply a matter of interpretation; an exegesis that makes execution impossible has that in mind to begin with. One plausible reason that one might have sought to render a Divine directive inoperable is that such a dictate appeared inconceivable for a just God.

6. I want to call readers attention to the recently published Kovetz ha-Mashbir, vol. 1, edited by Yissachar Dov Hoffman and Ovadyah Hoffman. This volume is devoted to the writings and teachings of R. Ovadiah Yosef and is full of valuable articles. It can be purchased at Biegeleisen.

[1] Jewish Studies Quarterly 20 (2013), pp. 340-373.
[2] The point about Second-Isaiah has recently been made by R. Amnon Bazak, Ad ha-Yom ha-Zeh: She’elot Yesod be-Limud Tanakh (Tel Aviv, 2013), pp. 161-172. There is a good deal that can be said about this book, which deals with a number of themes we have discussed in previous posts. See e.g., p. 274 n. 60, which accepts the notion that sometimes the numbers given in the prophetic books are only symbolic and don’t reflect historical reality.
[3] Quoted in Isaac Barzilay, Shlomo Yehudah Rapoport (Shir), 1790-1867, and his Contemporaries ([Israel], 1969), p. 54.
[4] See Fritz Gumpertz’s recollections in Jacob J. Schacter, ed., “Reminiscences of Shlomo Barukh Rabinkow,” in Leo Jung, ed., Sages and Saints (Hoboken, N.J., 1987), p. 110. Gumpertz, ibid., also notes that Jacob Barth dated a number of psalms to the Second Temple period.
[5] Parashat Noah, p. 13a in the Venice, 1522 edition, and p. 13a in the Warsaw 1879, edition.
[6] Tehillim: Be’er Avraham (Warsaw, 1887), Psalm 30:1.
[7] Tzror Hamor, vol. 1 (Jerusalem, 2008), p. 156.
[8] Rav Pealim, vol. 3, Orah Hayyim no. 5.
[9] See his Emet Keneh on Psalm 30:1 (p. 513), and his recently published Asaf ha-Mazkir (Bnei Brak, 2014), p. 283. (My thanks to Dov Weinstein for kindly sending me a copy of Asaf ha-Mazkir.)
[10] I have discussed the matter of later prophets adding material to the Torah and other biblical books in a number of posts. This is the phenomenon of multiple authors for one book. What do readers make of the following example, which appears to be an example of attributing one verse to more than one prophet? The Av ha-Rahamim prayer states ועל ידי עבדיך הנביאים כתוב לאמור (“your servants the prophets) and then proceeds to only cite a verse from the book of Joel. Does this make any sense? Jacob Reifman did not think so and he actually found a manuscript that had עבדך הנביא. He claimed that  this must be the authentic text and the one that printers should now use when they publish siddurim. See Ha-Magid, Jan. 23, 1861, pp. 14-15, Feb. 12, 1862, p. 55. Yet we also find in the liturgy for a ta’anit dibur that the words עבדיך הנביאים are used and this is followed by three verses from the book of Micah ch. 7. In other words, הנביאים is again used with regard to only one prophet. See this page from Seder ha-Selihot ha-Shalem Ateret Paz, p. 103 (second pagination).

When the phrase עבדיך הנביאים כתוב לאמר is used in the mussaf of Rosh ha-Shanah, in both the silent amidah and the repetition (two times in each), it is followed by citations from different biblical books.
[11] Although Yoma 9b (and parallels) states that ruah ha-kodesh ceased after the days of Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi, it was always assumed that there were exceptions to this general statement (and some believed that when the Talmud stated “ruah ha-kodesh” it actually meant real nevuah). Also, the Talmud itself, ibid., states that even without ruah ha-kodesh people still had access to a “bat kol”. See R. Reuven Margaliyot’s introduction to his edition of She’elot u-Teshuvot min ha-Shamayim, pp. 25ff. See also R. Meir Ibn Gabai, Avodat ha-Kodesh, vol. 4, ch. 24; R. Isaac Sternhell, Kokhvei Yitzhak, vol. 2, p. 186; R. Aaron Maged, Beit Aharon, vol. 11, pp. 704-705. R. Joseph Engel, Gilyonei ha-Shas, Yerushalmi Shevi’it, 9:1, writes: צ"ל דתרי גווני רוח הקודש הם
[12] See Maimonides, Guide of the Perplexed 2:45, R. David Kimhi, introduction to his commentary on Psalms, Ritva, commentary to Rosh ha-Shanah 32a (col. 296 in the Mossad ha-Rav Kook edition) commentary to Moed Katan 16b, R. David Abudarham, Abudarham ha-Shalem (Jerusalem, 1963), p. 272. See also Meiri’s introduction to his commentary on Psalms, p. 9:

זהו דעת הקדומים בענין דוד המלך ע"ה ר"ל שלא להיות בכלל הנביאים [אבל] ברוח הקדש

[13] Ma’aseh Rokeah (Amsterdam, 1730), p. 65a. See his Ma’aseh Rokeah al ha-Torah (n.p., n.d.), parashat Va-Yehi, where he does not attribute this view to Ibn Ezra. See also Aharon Marcus, Barzilai (Jerusalem, 1983), pp. 271-272.
[14] See Uriel Simon, Four Approaches to the Book of Psalms, trans. Lenn. J. Schramm (Albany, 1991), pp. viii, ix, 120-121, 130ff.
[15] See Mesamhei Lev (Jerusalem, 1990), pp. 141, 222 (both of these page numbers are from the second pagination).
[16] See Yisrael Moshe Ta-Shma, Keneset Mehkarim (Jerusalem, 2004), vol. 1, pp. 286-287.   
[17] See the selections of the commentary printed in Aharon Mondshine, “Al Gilui ha-Perush ha-‘Avud’ shel Rashbam le-Sefer Tehillim,” Tarbiz 79 (2010-2011), pp. 130, 133.
[18] Imrei Kadosh ha-Shalem (Jerusalem, 1961), Or Olam, no. 11.
[19] Imrei Kadosh ha-Shalem, no. 42. Regarding phony rebbes, see R. Pinhas Miller, Olamo shel Abba (Jerusalem, 1984), p. 245, regarding a rebbe in Bucharest who drank non-kosher wine.
[20] Hidushei Ba’al Seridei Esh (Jerusalem, 2012), vol. 3, p. 28 n. 21.
[21] See R. Kook, Eder ha-Yekar, p. 64.

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