Friday, June 24, 2016

Rav Avraham Chai Reggio Brings A Sefer To Life

Rav Avraham Chai Reggio Brings A Sefer To Life
By Eli Genauer

Note: I would like to thank Rabbi Gad Bouskila of Congregation Netivot Israel in Brooklyn for helping me decipher Rav Avraham Reggio’s handwriting

Rav Avraham Chai (Vita) ben Azriel Reggio  (1755-1842) was the Rav of Gorizia, in northern Italy for over forty years. During that time period, he answered Sha’aylot both locally and from abroad, wrote a Sefer Torah, performed 300 circumcisions, and gave many Drashot that changed people’s lives.[1] We are told that the Derashot he gave before Neilah were so inspiring that

  ! החוטאים נתעוררו לשוב לה׳ בתשובה שלימה, והשונאים חבקו זה לזה ונשארו באהבה ואחוה ושלום

We are also informed that the townspeople ascribed their being saved from a Cholera epidemic by Rav Avraham’s righteousness.

Rav Avraham wrote a Sefer on the prohibition of shaving on Chol Hamoed called “Tiglachat Hama’amar” printed anonymously in Livorno (either 1839 or 1844) which was a refutation of his son Isaac Samuel Reggio’s  book “Ma’amar HaTiglachat” (Vienna 1835 ) which argued for permitting it.[2]

One of the arguments put forward in his son’s book was that “times have changed”, therefore the Halacha could be different.  Rav Avraham responds to this argument and writes as follows about changing the Halacha:

I have a Mishnayot Zeraim which was printed in Amsterdam in 1646 as part of the printing of the entire Babylonian Talmud by Immanuel Beneveniste.

As you can see, there are numerous stamps on the title page, but aside from those marks of ownership, we know that the book at one time belonged to Avraham Reggio by this handwriting on the back page.

פלפולה כל שהוא ממני הז׳ אברהם ריגייו
פיאה-פרק א׳ משנה ו׳
לעולם הוא נותן משום פיאה ופטור מן המעשרות עד שימרח ע״כ

הרמ׳ב׳ם פירש ז׳ק׳ל שכל מי שלא הניח פיאה וקצר כל השדה כלו יוציא הפיאה ממה שקצר וכן אם לא הוציא מן השבלים הקצורים יוציא מן החטה אחר שידושו אותה וימרחוה ויבררוה ואפילו טחנה וכו׳ 

קשיא לי טובא שהפירוש הזה מנגד המשנה האומרת   ופטור מן המעשרות עד שימרח. א״כ המריחה קובע למעשר. ומה זה שאומר יוציא הפיאה אפי׳ אחר המריחה ויהא פטור מן המעשרות! 
אם לא שנוסיף תיבת קודם שימרחנה ויבררוה או שנוסיף אחר אומרו מן הקמח התיבות כלו׳ ובלבד שיוציא  קודם המעשרות הראויות וצ״ע 

The matter under discussion is Mishnayot Peah 1:6 and deals with whether Maaser has to be taken from that which is designated as Peah. Rav Avraham understands from his reading of the Peirush Hamishnayos on this Mishneh, that the position of  the Rambam is that Maaser does not have to be separated from that which is designated as Peah even after Merichah has been done.[3]

The Rambam writes as follows:

 In asking his question, it is clear That Rav Avraham understands the Rambam to be saying that you are obligated to separate a portion for Peah even after the flour made from harvested wheat is ground and that you are never obligated at any stage to separate Ma’asrot. This is not clear to me from the Lashon of the Rambam who might be saying normally one does not have to separate Maaser from Peah and adding that Peah always has to be separated even at the latest stage of crop production. The Rambam actually makes his comment דע שהפאה לא תחחייב להוציא ממנה מעשרות on our Mishneh which says לעולם הוא נותן משום פיאה ופטור מן המעשרות עד שימרח. One would have to agree though, that the Lashon of the Rambam is confusing.

There are many diagrams that are drawn by hand in the book which fill in the blank spaces left by the printer. Here is an example of a fairly complex one which I believe was drawn by Rav Avraham Reggio.[4]

This particular volume of Mishnayot needed some special Siyata D’Shemaya to survive the Nazi annihilation of both Jews and their property. After being owned by Rav Avraham Reggio, the book was the property of the library of the Jewish community of Berlin.

We are informed by the present day website of the Berlin Jewish Library that most of the holdings belonging to this library did not survive the war. This makes this book akin to an ״אוד מוצל מאש״ (זכריה ג:ב).
“The library of the Jewish Community of Berlin was founded in 1898. It opened its doors in 1902 in the community’s administration building on Oranienburger Strasse and quickly became a highly popular scientific resource, open to Jewish community members and the general public. By the time the National Socialist regime dissolved the Jewish community and forced its library to close, the institution had nine branches with more than 100,000 volumes, nearly all of which were lost in the war.” 
The book became part of the restitution efforts of the Jewish Cultural Reconstruction after the war and was eventually sent to Israel to be part of the library of the “Encyclopedia Hatalmudit”
Is it possible that just as Rav Avraham Reggio saved his town from a cholera epidemic, that his writings saved this book from being destroyed in the war?

[1] The main source for his biography is from a series of two articles written in the journal “Yerushalayim HaBenuyah” printed in 1844( Choveret Rishon, Zolkiew) and 1845 ( Choveret Sheniyah, Lemberg) The articles appeared under the title of “Toldot Avraham” whose author was Mordechai Shmuel Ghirondi (1800-1852) Ghirondi laments at length the loss of his teacher and goes into great detail of his life. The two specific example cited above are on page 80 of the “Choveret Rishon”
[2]   For a discussion on shaving on Chol HaMoed including quotations from both Avraham and Isaac Reggio’s books see here

Bibliographic Information on Tiglachat Hama’Amar comes from the Israel National Library website.

Note the date of death of 1846 which is incorrect as the eulogies on him by Mordechai Shmuel Ghirondi appeared starting in 1844. Ghirondi gives the date of death as Asarah b’Tevet in 5602 ( 1841). I am confused as to the date of publication of Tiglachat Maamar as the NLI site gives it as תקצ"ט  but פ'ק'ד'ת'ך' would indicate (5)604 or 1844. This date is what is listed in Beit Eiked Sefarim.
The forward of the “Motzei L’Or” indicates that it was written in 1836.

[3]    Tosfot Yom Tov gives us a summary of how Merichah is understood by the various Meforshim. (From Mishnayot Zecher Chanoch) As you can see, Rambam’s definition differs from other Meforshim.

[4]   We know he was a Sofer and the ink looks very similar to writing in the back of the book. (Additionally, his son Isaac Samuel was a skilled artist, and perhaps his artistic talent ran in the family. - Ed.)

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