Thursday, May 05, 2016

Some Recollections of R. Jehiel Jacob Weinberg, Love Before Marriage, and More

Some Recollections of R. Jehiel Jacob Weinberg, Love Before Marriage, and More
Marc B. Shapiro

1. In my last post I mentioned R. Nosson Zvi Finkel, the Alter of Slobodka, so let me add the following. There is a transcript of a 1965 taped conversation between R. Jehiel Jacob Weinberg and R. Yaakov Herzog.[1] Herzog had come to Montreux to speak to R. Weinberg, and here is a picture from that meeting which appears in Michael Bar-Zohar, Yaacov Herzog: A Biography.


R. Weinberg, who knew R. Finkel very well, stated as follows.
הרב ויינברג: דער אלטער ז"ל (דער סלאבאדקער, זאגט מען דער אלטער), ר' נטע הירש, ער איז דאך א צדיק.
הרצוג: אבער נישט קיין למדן.
הרב ויינברג: נישט קיין גרויסער למדן. ער האט געקענט לערנען, אבער ער איז נישט געווין קיין גרויסער למדן. אבער ער איז געווען א חכם, א גרויסער.
הרצוג: יא, דער חכם פון סלאבאדקע.
הרב ויינברג: און ער איז געווען א איידעלער מענטש זייער.
Some sections of this conversation appeared in the English Yated Ne’eman, Nov. 5, 1999. Yet as is to be expected, they appeared in a censored form as Yated Ne’eman would never record R. Weinberg’s statement that R. Nosson Zvi Finkel was not a great talmudic scholar. This judgment is not to be regarded as a put-down, as everyone in the Lithuanian yeshiva world knew that R. Nosson Zvi Finkel's original insights were focused on Mussar, not analytical Talmud study.[2] Needless to say, the Alter always made sure that outstanding talmudic scholars were on the Slobodka faculty.
Speaking of censorship, here is another example. In the Yated Ne’eman article just mentioned, we find the following passage which is a quote from R. Weinberg.
I was intimately acquainted with R. Eizik Sher. . . . His son-in-law, R. Mordechai Shulman, visited me in Berlin and wanted to hear shiurim from me. I told him: This is not your place. Return to Slobodke.[!] Maybe you will some day become the son-in-law of R. Eizik.
This is what R. Weinberg actually said to Herzog:
ויינברג: ער איז ארויפגעקומען צו מיר אין סעמינאר. ער איז געווען אין בערלין, זיך ארומגעדרייט צוויי מאנאטן. געוואלט אריין אין סעמינאר. האב איך אים געזאגט: הערט זיך איין, ר' מרדכי, ער איז א טיקטינר. דו וועסט נישט ווערן קיינמאל קיין דאקטאר. און אויב דו וועסט זיין א דאקטאר אפילו, וועסטו קיינמאל נישט קריגן קיין רבינער שטעלע אין דייטשלאנד. וואס טויג עס דיר? וועסט נישט מאכן קיין קאריערע. איז גיי אוועק צוריק אין סלאבאדקע. אמאל קען זיין, דו וועס זיך פארליבן אדער זי וועט זיך אין דיר פארליבן, די טאכטער פון ר' אייזיקן, וועסטו ווערן ר' אייזיק'ס א איידים.
.הרצוג: וכך הווה
 .ויינברג: און איך האב אים דערמאנט דאס. אז איך האב עס אים אמאל פאראויס געזאגט
R. Weinberg tells us that R. Mordechai Shulman, who was from Tiktin and later became Rosh Yeshiva of Slobodka in Bnei Brak, wanted to enroll in the Rabbinical Seminary of Berlin. Yated doesn’t want its readers to know this, so it “translates” the passage as saying that R. Shulman “visited” R. Weinberg and “wanted to hear shiurim” from him. R. Weinberg told him that he would never get a doctorate, and even if he did he would not get a rabbinic position in Germany, so he should return to Slobodka. R. Weinberg adds that when he returns it could be that he “will fall in love” with the daughter of R. Isaac Sher, or she will fall in love with him, and he can then become the son-in-law of R. Sher, the rosh yeshiva of Slobodka. In fact, this is exactly what happened.[3]
The Yated “translation” omits anything about R. Shulman and R. Sher’s daughter “falling in love.” This is because there is no such concept in the haredi world (and in traditional Jewish societies, in both the Ashkenazic and Sephardic worlds, such a notion was hardly found at all). Any love between husband and wife is said to come after marriage, and the biblical support for this concept, repeated in numerous texts (both haredi and pre-haredi[4]), is found in Genesis 24:67: “Isaac brought her into the tent of his mother Sarah, and he married Rebekkah. So she became his wife, and he loved her.” This verse states that Isaac loved Rebekkah, but only after he married her.[5] R. Gamaliel Rabinowitz goes so far as to state that any love that is found before marriage arises from sin, as there is no room for “feelings” before marriage.[6]
האהבה באה רק לאחר הנישואין, כל אהבה שלפני הנישואין מקורה בחטא רח"ל, ענין ה"רגשות" בכלל אין לו מקום לפני הנישואין, וזה דבר פשוט וברור שאין צריך לבארו.
R. Reuven Margaliyot mentions an interesting interpretation in support of this perspective.[7] There are two contradictory biblical verses. Proverbs 18:22 states מצא אשה מצא טוב, while Ecclesiastes 7:26 states ומוצא אני את האשה מר ממות. The contradiction can be explained as follows.
In earlier years parents would arrange marriages for their sons, and the overwhelming majority of the marriages succeeded. This is alluded to by the verse in Proverbs: מצא אשה מצא טוב. Now, however, things are different, and young men find their own brides, “and most of the time there isn’t peace between them after the marriage.” This is alluded to by the verse ומוצא אני את האשה מר ממות . In other words, if I find a wife for myself, most of the time it will turn out to be “more bitter than death.”
I think there might be another text that speaks to this concept, though I have not seen anyone who has made this point. The sixth of the sheva berakhot recited at a wedding states שמח תשמח רעים האהובים. The words רעים האהובים mean “beloved friends” or “beloved companions.” I don’t think one would use the word רעים to describe a man and woman who are “in love.” I believe that the words of the blessing mean a love that is found between two friends, rather than romantic love. 
R. Moses Gruenwald writes as follows:[8]
וענין חתונה א"א אלא בין רעים האהובים דמי שאינם אוהבים זה את זה א"א להם להתחתן.
What he says is that people who do not love each other cannot get married. I believe that he means the sort of “friendship love” I mentioned in the previous paragraph, rather than romantic love. I find his formulation particularly interesting, since R. Gruenwald was a Hungarian rav typically viewed as being on the extreme side of things. Yet here he is saying that there needs to be a sort of love between the bride and groom.
Could this really have been the norm in R. Gruenwald’s Hungarian (non-hasidic) community? Maybe some readers who come (or descend) from this type of community can offer some comments. I have also wondered what hasidim mean when they say רעים האהובים, since the people getting married hardly know each other. A friend from the hasidic world acknowledged that he doesn't know if these words can be reconciled with the current reality. He also suggested that perhaps the words can be understood like יומת המת in Deuteronomy 17:6. In this verse the word המת does not mean one who is dead, but rather one who will soon be dead. So perhaps האהובים means “the ones who are in the process of becoming אהובים.”
I found another interesting passage that speaks about love of bride and groom. It is attributed to R. Isaac Luria by R. Hayyim Vital. As part of his explanation of a verse in Song of Songs, R. Luria writes:[9] מחמת רוב אהבת חתן לכלה. These words are explained allegorically, but their simple meaning also reflects a reality, one in which there is real love between bride and groom which could only have flowered prior to the wedding.
Returning to the traditionalist value that love only comes after marriage, this is all fine and good, but R. Weinberg specifically spoke of falling in love before marriage, and that this could lead R. Shulman to become R. Sher’s son-in-law. From the Yated "translation" the reader would assume that R. Weinberg was telling him to return to Slobodka and become a big learner, and that this might lead to him becoming R. Sher’s son-in-law.[10]
Regarding love letters, the following appears in R. Nathan Kamenetsky, Making of a Godol, p. 802, and was one of the passages that led to the book being banned:
A reliable source reported that R’ Aaron [Kotler] wrote a letter to his fiancée of which her father, R’ Isser-Zalman Meltzer, disapproved. When it was shown to the Alter, he rejoined, “I did not tell you he was a tzaddiq. I said he had other qualities, but he will yet become so frum that everyone will suffer from him.”
Many who read Making of a Godol assumed that the letter allegedly sent by R. Kotler was a love letter. In order to counter this understanding, in the second edition of Making of a Godol Kamenetsky added: “This author conjectures that the letter concerned an impressive hasbarah he had delivered.” This conjecture doesn’t seem to fit with the Alter’s reply about R. Kotler not being a “tzaddiq” and becoming “frum”. If R. Isser Zalman was upset because he thought that the young R. Kotler was a bit too impressed with himself, then the Alter would presumably have replied differently. The words that he allegedly used, “tzaddiq” and “frum”, have a certain meaning, and it thus is not surprising that the family of R. Kotler was so strongly opposed to the book and viewed this passage as insulting. (Another report has it that R. Kotler had suggested that his fiancée read a certain book and that was what upset R. Isser Zalman.)
In the second edition of Making of a Godol, the last sentence of the passage in question was altered to read, “But his frumkeit will yet become so great that everyone will suffer its brunt.” 
In my review of Making of a Godol, I wrote as follows:
Another problematic element of the book, admittedly found only on occasion, is its use of unnamed sources. This is acceptable in journalism, but not in scholarship. For example, the evidence for one of the most controversial passages in the book, concerning R. Aaron Kotler, his future wife, and his future father-in-law, R. Isser Zalman Meltzer, is "a reliable source" (p. 802). I understand why the source would not want his or her name to be given, but when repeating such a loaded story, which one knows will be controversial and its veracity challenged, the author is obligated to name the source, thus allowing the reader to judge its reliability. After all, if the source is R. Kotler's daughter, its authenticity is more apparent than if it is another example of what X heard from Y. If the source does not wish to go on the record, it is best for the story to be omitted. (In my own biography of R. Weinberg, I was forced to leave out a number of "juicy" details, precisely for this reason.)[11]

I have previously discussed R. Samuel Archivolti’s book of melitzah letters, Ma’yan Ganim, and how it was misused by R. Baruch Epstein. See here.[12] This book is described in the Encyclopaedia Judaica as follows: “Archivolti’s most important works are . . . Ma’yan Ganim (Venice, 1553), divided into ‘passages’ containing 25 letters in metrical form designed to serve as models for students of this classic literary genre.”[13] It is worth mentioning Ma’yan Ganim now because on pp. 39ff. Archivolti includes two love letters. It appears clear to me that the focus of these letters is an unmarried couple, and first letter begins with the following heading: אגרת חושק לחשוקתה

Also of interest is this picture that appears at the beginning of each section of the book. As I learnt from Shimon Steinmetz, urinating putti were a common theme in the art of Archivolti's day. You can read about it here. 
While Ma’yan Ganim is a book of melitzah letters, not responsa, R. Archivolti (1515-1611) was indeed a halakhic authority who served as rabbi of Padua. His pesak in the famous Rovigo mikveh controversy appears in Palgei Mayim (Venice, 1608), p. 15a.
 



R. Archivolti is referred to as מ"ד which stands for מרא דאתרא. In Renaissance Italy this title was only used for very important rabbis,[14] unlike today when all communal rabbis are given the title.
Interestingly, I found that a Hebrew manuscript from R. Archivolti’s era includes a love charm. The woman is told to write יריש ליאוש פילוש on her left hand, and this will cause the man she desires to fall in love with her.[15]
R. David Cohen, the Nazir, is an example of one who fell in love before marriage. In fact, his relationship with his future wife, Sarah, is a great love story. They were separated from each other for twelve years. He was in Europe and Eretz Yisrael and she was in Russia and later trapped behind the Iron Curtain. Throughout these long years they remained committed to each other, and the Nazir kept her picture on his desk. As reported by R. Avraham Remer, R. Zvi Yehudah Kook saw fit to mention this last point at the Nazir’s funeral.[16]
אמר עליו: "אור מופלא", וציין אז שתי נקודות בחייו של רבי דוד: האחת, תחילת הנזירות בעת היותו באוניברסיטה, כדי לשמור על הפיאות והזקן. והשניה, שעל שולחנו הציב תמונת ארוסתו, כדי שחס-ושלום לא יתן עיניו באחרת.
R. Shear Yashuv Cohen tells us that the Nazir and Sarah also exchanged wonderful love letters during this time, letters which have not been made public:[17]
שמורים בארכיון המשפחה מכתבי-האהבה הנפלאים, ואף קטעי-יומן מלא רגש רוטט שנכתבו על ידי אבא מארי זצ"ל בימי הפירוד שנתמשכו הרבה מעבר למתוכנן ולמצופה . . . הכלה הצעירה מונה ימים ושנים, ונשארת בנאמנותה לבחיר לבה. אף הוא שומר לה אמונים ומתנזר מכל אפשרות של ברית או קשר אחר, בקפידה ובנאמנות יסודית.
When Sarah finally made it to Jerusalem, the Nazir was in the midst of a ta’anit dibur. R. Kook summoned R. Zvi Pesah Frank and R. Yeruham Fishel Bernstein so that they could sit as a beit din and void the ta’anit dibur, thus allowing him to speak to his soon-to-be bride.[18]

Regarding falling in love before marriage, R. Jehiel Jacob Weinberg, in his Oct. 12, 1960, letter to Samuel Atlas, states that R. Soloveitchik came to Berlin intending to marry R. Hayyim Heller’s daughter:
השידוך בטל. ס' התאהב בזו שהיא עתה אשתו.
According to members of the Soloveitchik family, there is no truth to this, and R. Weinberg was simply repeating a rumor. But it is true that the Rav fell in love with his future wife in Berlin. R. Ronnie Ziegler writes as follows here:
The Rav's most important and fateful encounter in Berlin was that with his wife, Dr. Tonya (Lewit) Soloveitchik (1904-1967). A student at the University of Jena, where she obtained a Ph.D. in education, she was introduced to Rav Soloveitchik by her brother, a fellow student at University of Berlin. Although a scion of the illustrious Soloveitchik family was expected to conclude a match with the daughter of a prominent rabbi or at least a successful businessman, Rav Soloveitchik fell in love with Tonya Lewit and married her in 1931 despite her family's undistinguished lineage and lack of means.
R. Ziegler continues by describing the deep connection between the Rav and Tonya.
As mentioned in the previous lecture, the Rav's relationship with his wife was one of the two most significant relationships in his life. He had unlimited esteem for her - his dedication of "The Lonely Man of Faith" reads: "To Tonya: A woman of great courage, sublime dignity, total commitment, and uncompromising truthfulness." He respected her opinion and heeded her advice, both in practical and in intellectual matters. It was on her advice that he changed the topics of his annual Yahrzeit (memorial) lectures for his father, which attracted thousands of listeners, to matters which non-scholars could relate to (such as prayer, Torah reading, and holidays). [The halakhic portions of some of these lectures are collected in the two volumes of Shiurim Le-zekher Abba Mari z"l.] In a poignant passage in a teshuva lecture delivered after his wife's death, he recounted how he used to consult her before speaking:
The longing for one who has died and is gone forever is worse than death. The soul is overcome and shattered with fierce longing. . . . Several days ago, I once again sat down to prepare my annual discourse on the subject of repentance. I always used to discuss it with my wife and she would help me to define and crystallize my thoughts. This year, too, I prepared the discourse while consulting her: “Could you please advise me? Should I expand this idea or cut down on that idea? Should I emphasize this point or that one?” I asked, but heard no reply. Perhaps there was a whispered response to my question, but it was swallowed up by the wind whistling through the trees and did not reach me." (On Repentance [Jerusalem, 1980], p. 280)
Rav Soloveitchik's wife was his best and perhaps only real friend. His natural proclivity towards loneliness, which we will encounter repeatedly in his writings, was heightened in his philosophy to an ideal, which expresses itself in an invigorating sense of one's own uniqueness. One can be lonely even, or perhaps especially, when surrounded by friends, colleagues, and family. This is a constructive force which propels a person toward his individual destiny, while also propelling him to seek a depth-connection with God and with his fellow man. Aloneness, as opposed to loneliness, is a disjunctive emotion - it is a sense of lacking companionship, of being abandoned and forlorn. The passage above highlights the Rav's almost unbearable sense of aloneness following his wife's death in 1967 after a long struggle with cancer. He is reported to have said, "After my father's death, I felt like a wall of my house had fallen down. After my wife's death, I felt like the entire house had collapsed."
Concerning the matter of falling in love before marriage, it is noteworthy that the great R. Hayyim Joseph David Azulai (the Hida) was in love with the woman who would later be his wife, and whom he knew for a number of years before they were married. Here is what Meir Benayahu has to say about this.[19]
את אשתו השניה, רחל בת משה הלוי מפיסה, הכיר כחמש שנים לפני שנשא אותה ונקשר עמה בקשרי אהבה. החלומות שחלם עליה לפני הנישואין מעידים על יחסו הנכבד לאשה. הוא שאף ל"נשואים רעננים" ובהנשאו לה ראה שהוא מתעטר בכבוד והדר. בנסיעותיו רכש לה מתנות ומסר לה אותם לפני הנישואין. כסף הרבה הוציא עליה למלבושיה ולהנאותיה, ומותה בשנת תקס"ד הקדיר עליו את עולמו.
Benayahu mentions the Hida’s dreams. Here is a passage that the Hida recorded from one of his dreams.[20]
תשרי תקל"ו . . . וראיתי בחלומי שהייתי בא על אשתי [שהיתה כבר נשואה עמי ולא זכרתי מי] ומוציא בתוליה ורואה דם. [קמ]תי והלכתי אצל אמ"ן [אבי מורי נ"ע] ושאלני ברמז והשבתיו ברמז . . . ונתעוררתי. ותכף הבנתי שהוא תשו' שאלה מיום [ראש השנה?] לטובה. וב"ה שלא אירע לי שום מקרה ח"ו. הוא ית' ירחם וייטיב אחריתי מראשיתי לאי"ט וש"ח.
Most people will probably feel uncomfortable reading this sort of passage. Yet the performance of the mitzvah the Hida discusses appears very natural to him and nothing to be ashamed of. Perhaps it is only uncomfortable to read because we have become overly puritanical regarding these matters which are also part of Torah. Nevertheless, it does remind me of other “uncomfortable” passages found in R. Jacob Emden’s autobiography.
I found another interesting passage that deals with love between a bride and groom in R. Aaron Fried’s Zekan Aharon (Munkacz, 1904), p. 52a. Here is the passage.
I am quite surprised by the example the author uses. In commenting on the rabbinic derashah connecting the words מורשה and מאורסה,[21] he uses an example that portrays a romantic relationship. He tells of a rich man, apparently newly married, who loved his wife and tried to woo her by telling her how greatly he loved her. “His love for her increased in quantity and quality beyond how other grooms love their brides.”
This type of description would be unusual enough in a rabbinic work. Yet it gets even more unusual when R. Fried continues by telling us that the rich man showered her with hugs and kisses and placed an expensive necklace around her neck as a sign of his love. R. Fried also elaborates on why, despite all these signs of affection, the woman did not reciprocate with any feelings of love. Later he explains that since the Torah is to us like one bound with erusin, that is why we show it love, decorate it with silver and gold, and even kiss it, just like a groom does with his bride! It happens to be a clever derashah, and ends with how if you want the Torah (i.e., God) to love you back, it is not enough to only support the Torah. One must also support the poor Torah scholars, the “relatives” of the Torah.
Is it just me, or is anyone else surprised by this derashah? I can’t imagine using the imagery found here as part of a derashah before a haredi audience in order to inspire them to be generous with their support of Torah scholars. With the mention of hugging and kissing the bride, I don’t even think this would go over well in front of a Modern Orthodox audience. [22]
I am doubly astounded by the fact that the derashah we have just seen was written by an outstanding student of the Hatam Sofer, one who also showed his halakhic expertise by authoring a volume of responsa titled שו"ת מהרא"ף.
I found the derashah so unusual that I was curious to see if anyone cited it. Using Otzar ha-Hokhmah I found two citations. The first is by a Hungarian rabbi, R. Efraim Balati, who authored Hamudei Efrayim (Galanta, 1935). In vol. 1, p. 35, he cites R. Fried’s comment.
Once again, I am surprised that a Hungarian rabbi would include such information in a derashah, even if, in R. Balati’s retelling, he leaves out the words ומחבב אותה בחיבוק ונישוק. Even though he doesn’t mention how the rich man showed his affection with hugs and kisses, he does include the rest of R. Fried’s words, including how we kiss the Torah just like a groom kisses his bride.
The other source I found that cites R. Fried’s passage is R. Barukh Moskovits, Tenuvot Barukh (Jerusalem, 1969), vol. 2, pp. 326-327.
If you examine the passage, you will see that he is quoting from R. Fried’s text, not R. Balati’s version. Yet R. Moskovits also alters R. Fried’s words ומחבב אותה בחיבוק ונישוק. In R. Moskovits’ text this appears as ומחבב אותה מאד. Since R. Moskovits copied R. Fried’s text basically word for word, I don’t understand why at the end of the passage he writes שמעתי. Why doesn’t he tell the reader the source of the passage? 
To be continued
2. The most recent book to appear in my series with Academic Studies Press is Maxine Jacobson, Modern Orthodoxy in American Judaism: The Era of Rabbi Leo Jung. Anyone with an interest in the history of Orthodoxy in America will want to read this book, and I am very happy that I was able to include it, together with other high quality works, in my series, “Studies in Orthodoxy.” Rather than offer my own description of the book, here is an “official” description, which appears on Amazon.
This work presents the issues of Modern Orthodox Judaism in America, from the decades of the twenties to the sixties, by looking at the activities of one of its leaders, Rabbi Dr. Leo Jung, pulpit rabbi, community leader and writer, whose career spanned over sixty years, beginning in the 1920s. Jung is a fulcrum around which many issues are explored. Rabbi Jung’s path crossed with some of the most interesting people of his time. He worked with Chaim Weizmann, the first president of Israel, with Albert Einstein to promote Yeshiva College, with Herman Wouk, American author and Pulitzer Prize winner, and with Pearl Buck, a Nobel Prize laureate and Pulitzer Prize winner.
Modern Orthodoxy went from being a threatened entity on the American scene to a well- recognized and respected force in Judaism. Orthodoxy, at first, was seen as alien to the American environment. Marshall Sklare, perhaps the most influential exponent of this notion, wrote in the 1950s that the history of Orthodoxy in America could be written in terms of a case study of institutional decay. He realized the errors of his ways in the 1970s. This is the story of the renaissance of American Modern Orthodoxy, from the disorganization of the older Orthodoxy to the new spirit of confidence that emerged after World War Two. The phenomenon of Modern Orthodoxy is examined in the context of Orthodox invigoration and change. This book has relevance for further studies in various areas. It is part of the study of religious acculturation, of the conflict between tradition and modernity and of religious reinvigoration in a secular society.
Another noteworthy recent book is Michael J. Harris, Faith Without Fear: Unresolved Issues in Modern Orthodoxy. In my blurb that appears on the back cover, I write: “A proud and sophisticated manifesto of Modern Orthodoxy, one which builds on past thinkers but does not hesitate to chart new ground as well.” Rabbi Harris deals with a number of issues such as the role and status of women, mysticism, academic biblical scholarship, and religious pluralism. He generally comes down on the more “liberal” side of what is known as Modern Orthodoxy. (An exception to this generalization is his chapter on academic biblical scholarship.) Anyone who is interested in the intellectual trends of Modern Orthodoxy will want to read Harris’s book, as it is engaged scholarship at its best.

I would also like to call attention to R. Shimon Szimonowitz’s just published Haggadah shel Pesah: Aleh Zayit.[23] I know that there are a lot of Haggadot out there, but for talmidei hakhamim this is one of the special ones. I say this because of the many learned comments, including full-length essays, that are found in the volume. Of particular interest to me is R. Szimonowitz’s lengthy article on le-shem yihud. It is crucial reading for anyone interested in the dispute over the le-shem yihud formulation, in particular the positions of R. Ezekiel Landau, R. Eleazar Fleckeles, and R. Moses Sofer. Among other noteworthy things found in this Haggadah are an article by R. Chaim Rapoport and the Yiddish version of a few beloved Passover songs.

3. On June 5, 2016, in honor of Yom Yerushalayim, I will be speaking at the Community Synagogue of Monsey, 89 West Maple Avenue. The title of my talk is “R. Shlomo Goren: The Revolutionary Chief Rabbi.” The talk will follow minhah which is at 8:15pm.





[1] Israel State Archives, Yaakov Herzog Collection, 2989-4/פ. R. Yaakov David Herzog was the son of R. Isaac Herzog. He was named after R. Yaakov David Wilovsky, the Ridbaz, from whom R. Isaac Herzog received semikhah. In addition to his public role in government and as a diplomat, Yaakov Herzog was also a rabbinic scholar. In 1945 he published a translation and commentary of Mishnah Berakhot, Peah, and Demai. This translation was actually ready for publication by the end of 1942, before Herzog was even 21 years old (he was born Dec. 11, 1921). See Michael Bar-Zohar, Yaacov Herzog: A Biography (London, 2005), p. 50.

In Iggerot Moshe, Hoshen Mishpat no. 1, R. Moshe Feinstein critiques an article of R. Isaac Herzog that appeared in Ha-Pardes. R. Moshe’s own article originally appeared in installments in Ha-Pardes, Tamuz and Av 5703. Yaakov Herzog defended what his father wrote in Ha-Pardes, Elul 5704, pp. 36-38, and Tishrei 5705, pp. 25-27. He was only 23 years old when he wrote these articles.

After the retirement of R. Israel Brodie, Herzog was offered, and accepted, the position of British Chief Rabbi. The common view is that Herzog’s health problems prevented him taking up the post, but the truth is more complicated. See Bar-Zohar, Yaacov Herzog, ch. 13.

Since I have spoken in prior posts about religious men not wearing kippot, Herzog should be added to the list. Not only did he go bareheaded when representing the State of Israel in the Diaspora (and also in his famous debate with Toynbee), but as you can see from pictures in Bar-Zohar’s book, he also did so in Israel, while at work in various important government positions. Bar Zohar writes, “Even as a very young man, when he was working at the Foreign Ministry and then in the Prime Minister’s office, Yaacov did not wear a skullcap, except when saying blessings or praying.” (Yaacov Herzog, p. 111) Because of the vast changes that have taken place in Israeli society, it is hard for us to appreciate why, in the early decades of the State of Israel, some religious men, even those who were not of German background, felt that government work required removing their kippah.

You can listen to the Herzog-Toynbee debate here.

In a previous post here I referred to Yitzhak Nebenzahl as not wearing a kippah, and I mentioned that this German practice continued into his old age. In 1974 Nebenzahl was a member of the Agranat Commission which investigated the Yom Kippur War. In pictures of him from this time you can see that he was still without a kippah. A couple of people emailed me to say that by the 1980s he had abandoned the galut custom and indeed wore a big black kippah. One of them even sent a picture of him and Nebenzahl together.

In the post referred to in the previous paragraph, I also discussed Aharon Barth, who like Nebenzahl came from Germany and did not wear a kippah while at work. Subsequent to the post I found that Zorach Warhaftig mentions that after the death of Chaim Weizman, Ha-Poel ha-Mizrachi recommended to Ben Gurion that Barth be a candidate for president of the State of Israel. Warhaftig reports that Ben Gurion rejected this since Barth was too religious and thus not an appropriate representative for the average citizen. See Warhaftig, Hamishim Shanah ve-Shanah (Jerusalem, 1998), p. 116.
[2] Shlomo Tikochinski, Lamdanut, Musar ve-Elitizm (Jerusalem, 2016) p. 111 n. 131, cites Israel Zissel Dvortz and Dov Katz who claim that R. Finkel was indeed a "gadol" in talmudic learning, but he hid this knowledge even from those who were close to him. Some will no doubt regard this judgment as motivated by "religious correctness," especially as R. Weinberg had a particularly close relationship with R. Finkel and was privy to all sorts of private information. See, however, Nathan Kamenetsky, Making of a Godol, pp. 777ff., who cites additional sources testifying to R. Finkel's talmudic knowledge.
[3] R. Shulman’s early shiurim were not very successful in drawing a following. Ben-Tsiyon Klibansky writes (Ke-Tzur Halamish: Tor ha-Zahav shel ha-Yeshivot ha-Lita’iyot be-Mizrah Eiropah [Jerusalem, 2104], p. 342):

בסלבודקה הורגשה אי-נחת כשמינה בה הרב יצחק אייזיק שר את חתנו מרדכי "טיקטינר" שולמן לר"מ בשנת 1935. בישיבה הוא היה תלמיד ותיק נודע, ולאחר נישואיו ב-1929 הועיד את כל זמנו להתעלות בלימודיו. אולם משהחל להרצות את שיעוריו בישיבה לא מצאו בחוריה הדעתנים לנכון להשתתף בהם, ובשיעורים הראשונים נכחו חניכים יחידים בלבד.

Here is a picture of R. Weinberg and R. Shulman in Montreux. It appears in Joseph Friedenson, Heroine of Rescue (Brooklyn, 1984), p. 230.


[4] R. Samson Raphael Hirsch, in his commentary to Gen. 24:67, writes as follows:

Like the marriage of the first Jewish son [Jacob], Jewish marriages, most Jewish marriages, are contracted, not by passion but by reason and judgment. Parents, relations and friends consider which young people are really suited to each other, bring them together, and then love grows more and more, the more they get to know each other. But most non-Jewish marriages are made by what they call “love”, and one has only to glance at the novels depicting life to notice what a gulf there usually yawns between the “love” before marriage and after, how rapid and insipid everything then seems, how different from all the glamour one had imagined etc. etc. Such “love” is blind, every step into the future brings disappointment. But of Jewish marriage it says: ויקח את רבקה ותהי לו לאשה ויאהבה. There the wedding is not the culmination but the seed, the root of love!

The Malbim is another pre-haredi figure who speaks of love coming after marriage and cites Gen. 24:67. See his commentary to Deut. 24:1 (p. 169b). Yet he differs from others who make the same general point in that he acknowledges that at the beginning (which appears to mean even before marriage) there is indeed a “spark of love,” זיק אהבה. In context, these words might only mean a healthy attraction. The Malbim continues that the essence of love between a man and woman comes only after marriage:

ונמצא שעקר האהבה היתה נגלית רק אחר הנשואין.

R. Hayyim Hirschensohn, whose outlook was as far from a haredi perspective as can be imagined, also points to Gen. 24:67 as providing the proper approach to love and marriage. He even throws in a negative comment about American mores which is not what most would expect to come from him. See Apiryon 3 (1926), p. 29:

ותהי לו לאשה ויאהביה, לא כמנהג אמריקא שהאהבה בא קודם הנשואין ומתה עם הנשואין, אבל יצחק אהב את רבקה אחרי הנשואין.

Reading all of these passages shows us how much has changed both culturally and sociologically. I don’t think there is a parent in the Modern Orthodox world who would support a child’s marriage if the son or daughter was not convinced that he/she loved the future spouse.

I asked a friend if in the haredi world people would ever say that the bride and groom loved each other (i.e., before marriage). He replied:

לא היו אומרים, אבל אצל הישיבתיים זה בסדר גמור - ואולי גם יותר טוב - שיהיה אהבה ביניהם, אבל לא היו מביעים את זה, קוראים לזה chemistry, רוצים שיהיה chemistry ביניהם לפני שסוגרים את השידוך. אצל חסידים זה לא מקובל.

Radak, in his commentary to Gen. 24:67, is not concerned with using the verse to show that love should only come after marriage, and indeed, in his day this was generally not even an option. Yet in discussing the verse he makes a very telling comment, as true today as in his times:

רוב בני אדם אוהבים נשותיהם.

Most men love their wives.” If you read Hirsch’s grand rhetoric you feel carried away with the purity and perfection of Jewish love after marriage. Radak, however, brings you down to the real world, where unfortunately the truth is that not all men really love their wives.

[5] See, however, Gen. 29:18, 20, where it says that Jacob loved Rachel, and this was before he married her. In Gen. 29:30 the verse states: ויאהב גם את רחל מלאה. Most understand this to mean that while Jacob loved Leah, he loved Rachel more. However, according to one interpretation of the Tosafists, Jacob did not love Leah at all. See Tosafot ha-Shalem al Torah, Nevi’im, u-Khetuvim, vol. 3, p. 145:

ויבא גם אל רחל ויאהב גם: ב' פעמים גם, אין ריבוי אחר ריבוי אלא למעט, מיעט את לאה מן האהבה, שלא אהב אותה כלל, שנאמר "וירא ה' כי שנואה לאה".

See also Nahmanides, Commentary to Genesis 29:31: ולכן שנאה יעקב. He also offers an alternative explanation.
[6] Tiv ha-Emunah (5769 ed.), p. 142.                                         
[7] Devarim be-Itam (Tel Aviv, 1959), p. 57.
[8] Arugat ha-Bosem (Huszt, 1913), parashat Emor, p. 52a.
[9] Humash in Perush ha-Arizal (Jerusalem, 1993), Song of Songs 6:5 (p. 295).
[10] There is a story in yeshiva circles that before R. Isaac Hutner went to Berlin, he was supposed to marry R. Sher’s daughter, whose name was Chava Miriam.
R. Weinberg mentions both R. Sher and R. Shulman in his letter to Samuel Atlas, dated Jan. 17, 1950. (The letter is found in the Jewish Theological Seminary Library, Samuel Atlas collection.) The young rosh yeshiva R. Weinberg refers to is R. Chaim Kreiswirth, who was the son-in-law of the martyred R. Abraham Grodzinski. In this letter R. Weinberg frankly explains why he could not accept a position at Hebrew Theological College in Chicago.

וכן הדבר בשיקאגו. הרב המנוח שאול זילבר כתב לי קודם פרוץ המלחמה ואח"כ כמה וכמה מכתבים ובקשני שאבוא אליהם. גם ידידי הרב רגנסבורג כתב לי. ויש לי שם ידיד אוהב ומעריץ גדול, הרב ר' אפרים עפשטיין, אחד מחבשי הקוראטוריום של בית המדרש לתורה וגם הוא הפציר בי לבוא לאמיריקה. ובכ"ז לא זכרו אותי בשעה שנפנתה משרת "ראש הישיבה" ונתנוה לאחר. אפשר שרצו באדם צעיר ואפשר שיד סלאבודקי באמצע. הראש ישיבה החדש הוא חתנו של ר' אברהם ווארשאווער הי"ד, מי שהי' מנהל ישיבת סלאבודקי. שמעתי שהוא דרש שיתנו לו משרה בישיבת סלאבודקי אשר בבני ברק. טען טענת ירושה. אבל ר' אייזיק שער נ"י וחתנו ר"מ שולמן שהם כוננו את ישיבת סלאבודקי בבני ברק דחוהו ולפיכך הצטרכו למצוא לו מקום חדש . . .

עכ"פ אי אפשר לי עכשיו לחשוב ע"ד קבלת מינוי בביהמ"ד אשר בשיקאגו. הנ"ל הוא ראש הישיבה ולי אי אפשר לעמוד תחת מרותו של אדם צעיר, ואפילו יהי' גדול שבגדולים. וצריך אתה לדעת, כי לביהמ"ד זה יש אופי של ישיבה ונוהגים בה כל מנהגי ישיבה, בכבודים ובתוארים וכו' וכו' וא"כ איך אפשר לי לעמוד במחיצתם והם ינהגו בי מנהג זלזול כנהוג בישיבה למי שאינו "הראש".

ב"ה יש לי תלמידים שתופסים משרות רבנות בערים גדולות וגם בבמשלה העברית שבא"י יש לי תלמידים. ומשום כבודם בלבד אסור לי להעשות אסקופה בשביל פרנסה.

Regarding broken engagements, here is the front page of Doar ha-Yom, April 28, 1926 (called to my attention by Moshe Dembitzer).


As you can see, there is an ad wishing R. Kook mazal tov on the engagement of his daughter, Basya, to R. Hayyim Walkin, the son of R. Aaron Walkin. R. Hayyim Walkin would later break this engagement and marry the daughter of R. Yaakov Shapiro, who was the Rosh Yeshiva of Volozhin. After R. Shapiro’s death R. Walkin became Rosh Yeshiva (and was later martyred in the Holocaust). See here.           
[11] Edah Journal 3:2 (Elul 5763), p. 8, available here.
[12] Regarding R. Baruch Epstein’s supposed conversations with his aunt, Rayna Basya – conversations that I have argued here were invented by R. Epstein and thus cannot be regarded as having any historical value – see also Eliyana Adler’s fine article, “Reading Rayna Batya: The Rebellious Rebbetzin as Self Reflection,” Nashim 16 (Fall 2008), pp. 130-152. Another completely fictional account is provided by R. Hayyim Haikel Greenberg in Beit Yaakov 8 (Tevet 5720).


Greenberg has R. Hayyim Ozer Grodzinski pull out Ma’yan Ganim from his bookshelf and read from it during a discussion about the Beis Yaakov school system. Had R. Hayyim Ozer actually had this rare book in his library he would have known that it is a book of melitzah letters, not a book of responsa as stated by Greenberg. (R. Epstein was responsible for creating the false notion that Ma’yan Ganim is a book of responsa. As shown in my post referred to in the previous paragraph, R. Epstein never actually saw Ma’yan Ganim, and I can now add, neither did Greenberg.)
[13] Encyclopaedia Judaica, vol. 3, col. 397.
[14] See Robert Bonfil, Rabbis and Jewish Communities in Renaissance Italy, trans. Jonathan Chipman (London and Washington, 1993),  p. 139.
[15] See Max Grunwald, “Kleine Beiträge zur jűdischen Kulturgeschichte,” Mitteilungen zur jűdischen Volkskunde 19 (1906), p. 112. We know of love charms from ancient times as well. Sefer ha-Razim, which was written in either the tannaitic or amoraic period, records a spell that will cause a woman to fall in love with you. See Michael Satlow, Jewish Marriage in Antiquity (Princeton, 2001), p. 130. Mif’alot Elokim is a book of segulot that has been printed many times since first appearing in 1710. Here is the title page of the Lemberg 1858 edition.


In ma’arekhet aleph, s.v. אהבה, it contains a number of segulot to help women get rid of their “love sickness.” Shimon Steinmetz pointed out to me that R. Jacob Zahalon (17th century), Otzar ha-Hayyim (Venice, 1683), p. 58b, also explains איך יתרפא חולי אהבה. Yet unlike the segulot that appear in Mif’alot Elokim, Zahalon actually has some real psychological insight. His advice is to think about the flaws of the person you are infatuated with, to occupy yourself with other things (that way you won’t be focused on the object of your infatuation), and to move to a different city.

The phrase חולי האהבה is used by Maimonides in Mishneh Torah, Hilkhot Teshuvah 10:3 (חולת אהבה appears in Song of Songs 2:5). He states:

What is the love of God that is befitting? It is to love the Eternal with a great and exceeding love so strong that one’s soul shall be knit up with the love of God, and one should be continually enraptured by it, like a love-sick individual, whose mind is at no time free from his passion for a particular woman, the thought of her filling his heart at all times, when sitting down or rising up, when he is eating or drinking.

Although some have described Maimonides as akin to Spock when it comes to emotions, anyone who reads the passage just quoted will see that Maimonides understood very well what being in love is all about.
[16] Gadol Shimushah (Jerusalem, 1994), p. 47. 
[17] Mishnat ha-Nazir (Jerusalem, 2005), pp. 26-27.
[18] See Mishnat ha-Nazir, pp. 27-28.
[19] Rabbi Hayyim Yosef David Azulai (Jerusalem, 1959), vol. 1, p. 161.
[20] Ibid., p. 559. Benayahu informs us that the first passage in brackets is written above the text in the manuscript.
[21] Actually, מאורשה, see Berakhot 57a.
[22] A friend in the haredi world commented as follows: "Why is this different than the imagery used in שיר השירים? Or in the zemer written by the אריז"ל and sung at my Friday night seudah every week: יחבק לה בעלה?" To this I replied that if someone today would write an erotic poem and say that it really represented God's love for Israel, it would nevertheless be put in herem.
[23] Regarding the words עלה זית (and עלה תאנה), Samuel David Luzzatto points out that in Biblical Hebrew the word עלה is used for singular and plural. This is similar to how the word פרי is singular and plural in biblical Hebrew. Later Hebrew created the words עלים and פירות. That is why people began to write עלי זית, something which upsets the purist Luzzatto. See his letter at the end of R. Abraham Bedersi, Hotem Tokhnit (Amsterdam, 1865).

No comments:

Print post

You might also like

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...