Thursday, December 13, 2018

Seforim Blog 2.0: How You Can Help

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By David Roth[2]

I found a printed pamphlet in the National Library of Israel[3] entitled סליחות מה שאומרים כאן ק"ק לונדענבורג בי"א טבת בכל שנה והמאורע יבואר בתוך הסליחות …, translated as “the selihoth prayers that are recited here [in] the community of Lundenberg (Břeclav), on the 11th of Teveth every year, and the event [commemorated] will be told in the selihoth”.  The pamphlet was published in 5655 [1894-1895], almost two hundred years after the event took place, meaning that the practice of commemorating this date lasted for quite a long time, very possibly until the outbreak of World War II.[4]

What happened to the Jewish community of Lundenburg?

In the חטאנו piyyut contained in this pamphlet, we have a description of the events of 11 Teveth 5458, corresponding to January 23, 1698.[5]  On that day, the dome of the Synagogue collapsed, and the members of the community were almost killed, but they were miraculously saved.  As such, the community established for itself and future generations to fast half a day, and to celebrate the other half of the day, a construct commonly referred to as a “Purim”.  Note that this is the day after a public fast day, so by establishing this fast, the community accepted upon itself to fast half a day immediately after fasting a full day, something that is fairly unusual.  While the practice of establishing local fasts and Purim celebrations is well documented[6] and was practiced in many communities, this particular holiday celebrated in this community is not so well known.

About the order of the selihoth:

The order of the selihoth in the pamphlet is as follows:  

  • The pamphlet begins with an instruction that the chazzan repeats the Amidah until מחל לנו מלכנו כי פשענו and then begins the selihoth, something that was common to all selihoth for fast days.  
  • It then contains a selihoth service, including the full text of the piyyut איה קנאתך וגבורתך, the pizmon יי יי א-ל רחום וחנון, and the akeidah [7]אם אפס רבע הקן, with the thirteen attributes of mercy (י"ג מדות הרחמים) before and after each piyyut.  
  • The service then continues with זכור רחמיך, until חטאנו צורינו, at which point the חטאנו piyyut, described at length below, is recited.
  • After the חטאנו, the service continues with זכור לנו ברית אבות[8], שמע קולינו,and וידוי until הרחמים והסליחות, with an instruction to continue ואל יעכב, meaning that at this point the chazzan finishes his repetition of the Amidah.

In addition to the pamphlet already mentioned, in אוצר השירה והפיוט (index of piyyutim), Davidson makes reference to this piyyut (number 8498א), and he refers to an article where this piyyut was previously published – אוצר הספרות ח"ב, עמ' 112.  The article – entitled מקורות לקורות בני ישראל by דוד קויפמאנן, was published in תרמ"ח (1888), before the other pamphlet of the selihoth described above, meaning that it must have been based on an earlier printing or manuscript of this piyyut.  In the article, the earlier piyyutim (meaning everything prior to the chatanu) are not printed in full, but rather the service is summarized as follows:

והם הסליחות שאומרים בי"א בטבת
איה קנאתך וגבורתך, סימן ו
פזמון י"ג מדות יי יי א-ל, [סימן] פה
עקידה מצום גדליה: אם אפס, [סימן] מט
זכור: עד אל רשעו ואל חטאתו
ואחרי כך סליחה זו:
[טקסט השלם של החטאנו]

And for a rough translation of the service summary:

Ayei kinathecha u-gevorothekha – number 6
Pizmon – 13 attributes – [number] 85
Akeidah for the Fast of Gedaliah – im afes – number 49
Zekhor until el rish'o ve-el hatatho, and afterwards he says this: [the full text of the chatanu piyyut].

Based on this, we can infer that the selihoth service was originally distributed to members of the community as an insert to put in their selihoth book for yamim noraim.  Furthermore, the numbers listed in this description for the first three selihoth show that this community recited selihoth according to the Bohemian rite, one of the forms of the Eastern Ashkenazic rite.

Noteworthy observations:

The presence of one selihah, a pizmon, an akeidah, and a chatanu is in and of itself something very unusual, as usually a selihot service would have more than one selihah, and the presence of an akeidah would imply a longer selihot service since this type of piyyut is not always present in a selihot service.[9]

There are several unusual things that must be noted about this chatanu piyyut.  As discussed earlier, this community recited selihoth according to the Bohemian rite, one of the Eastern Ashkenazic selihoth rites. The existence of a חטאנו piyyut in an Eastern Ashkenazic selihoth rite is, in and of itself, a phenomenon that is worth noting.  While Western European rites recite a חטאנו piyyut at almost all occasions that they recite selihoth, חטאנו piyyutim in Eastern European rites, at least in print, rarely recite chatanu piyyutim.[10] It is surprising that somebody who is, most likely, not extremely familiar with this type of piyyut would see it fit to write one for this occasion.

Additionally, the structure of the piyyut is extremely bizarre.  In general, chatanu piyyutim repeat the phrase חטאנו צורנו סלח לנו יוצרנו after every two stanzas; in this piyyut, there is an instruction to recite this phrase after every stanza.  Furthermore, in most חטאנו piyyutim, there is שרשור (anadiplosis), meaning that the last word of each stanza is identical to the first word of the next stanza; this poetic phenomenon does not exist in our piyyut.  This leads me to believe that our poet either wrote this as a chatanu without fully understanding the structure of a chatanu, or it is possible that he wrote it as a different type of piyyut and somebody else inserted it in this place and added the refrain of חטאנו צורנו after each stanza.

The piyyut is signed “אני אלעזר הלוי אב"ד בקהלתינו ל"ב חזק ואמץ, I am Elazar the Levite, Rabbi our community L.B. (=Lundenburg), be strong and courageous.”  Although special emphasis is not given to all of the letters, the letters אבד, which in the context of our piyyut means "was lost" but can also serve as the abbreviation for אב בית דין, “Rabbi of the community”, are written as א"ב"ד, making clear that it is supposed to be part of the acrostic.  Unfortunately, I was not able to find any additional information about this Rabbi, although he was presumably the Rabbi of Břeclav/Lundenburg at the time of this event or slightly afterwards, and the אוצר הספרות article says that he was the rabbi at the time of the event although doesn't cite a source for that claim.

Text and translation of Piyyut:

Below, I have typed up the text of the פיוט.  The אוצר הספרות version of the piyyut is unvocalized; the version in the pamphlet is vocalized, but the vocalization is at times problematic and contains obvious errors. As such, I have used the pamphlet as my base text, but corrected obvious problems to the vocalization.  I have also added notes on where I think there may be an alternative reading, and noted any major (anything other than מלא/חסר) variants in the other text of the piyyut I have available to me.  I have also added references to idioms from Tanakh and Rabbinic sources, and provided an approximate translation.

Text in Hebrew:

חָטָאנוּ צוּרֵנוּ סְלַח לָנוּ יוֹצְרֵנוּ

  אֶ֯ת יי נוֹדֶה בְּפִינוּ וּבְתוֹךְ רַבִּים נְהֲלְּלֶנּוּ
  אֲמִתְּךָ וְחַסְדְּךָ תָּמִיד יִצְּרוּנוּ
  יֵאָמְנוּ צִדְקוֹתֶיךָ אֲשֶׁר בְּךָ מִבְטָחֵינוּ
  מַה נְּדַבֵּר וּמַה נִּצְטַדָּק[11] אֶל אֱ-לוֹהֵינוּ חטאנו

5  נִ֯כְלַמְנוּ בַּעֲווֹנֵינוּ בּוֹשְׁנוּ בְּמַעֲשֵׂינוּ
  וְנָהִינוּ נָא אַל תִּזְכָּר לָנוּ אֶת עֲווֹנוֹתֵינוּ
  לְקִרְיַת נָוְךָ נַהֲלֵינוּ
  בְּךָ תוֹחַלְתֵּינוּ וְאַתָּה יי מְחוֹלֲלֵינוּ חטאנו

  י֯וֹם זֶה קָבַעְנוּ לָנוּ לְצוֹם וְלִזְעָקָה
10 חֲצִי לַיי וַחֲצִי לָכֶם[12] לְחַלְּקָה
   לְהוֹדוֹת וּלְהַלֵּל עַל הַנִּיסִים[13] שֶׁעָשָׂה לָנוּ לְתָמְכָהּ וּלְחָזְקָהּ
   לְבַל הָיָה[14] לָנוּ לְמִכְשׁוֹל וּלְפוּקָה חטאנו

   אֶ֯ל֯ בֵּית מִקְדָּשֵׁינוּ מְעַט[15] לְהִתְפַּלֵּל מִנְחָה הָלַכְנוּ בְּאוֹרַח יְשָׁרָה
   דָּפַקְנוּ דַּלְתוֹת הַבַּיִת יָבֹא אֶל הַקֹּדֶשׁ בְּיִרְאָה וּבְמִצְוַת בָּרָה
15 פִּתְאוֹם הָיִינוּ נִלְכָּדִים ח"ו בִּמְצוּדָה רָעָה[16] זוּ תּוֹרָה וְזוּ שְׂכָרָהּ[17]?!
   בְּי"א בְּטֵבֵת שְׁנַת חָתָ"ן תּוֹרָה

חָטָאנוּ צוּרֵנוּ סְלַח לָנוּ יוֹצְרֵנוּ[18]

   עֵ֯זֶ֯ר וּתְרוּפָה הָיָה לְכוּלָּנוּ
   לוּלֵי יי עֶזְרָתָה לָּנוּ
   כִּמְעַט כִּסְדוֹם הָיִינוּ וְלַעֲמוֹרָה דָּמִינוּ
20 יְהִי חַסְדְּךָ יי עָלֵינוּ[19] חטאנו

   הַ֯לְ֯וִ֯יִּ֯ם וְאַהֲרוֹנִים, וְכָל הָעֵדָה רוּבָּם כְּכוּלָּם הָיִּינוּ עוֹמְדִים לִפְנֵי הַר הַבַּיִת לַעֲרוֹךְ
   וּבְיַד צִיר נֶאֱמָן[20] הַמִפְתֵּחוֹת לִפְתּוֹחַ בּוֹנִים[21]
   וּבְפָתְחוֹ הַדְּבִיר עָמְדוּ כָּל הָעָם לִכְנוֹס לִפְנַי וְלִפְנִים[22]
   כִּי לְכָל דָבָר שֶׁבִּקְדוּשָּׁה[23] הֵמָּה רִאשׁוֹנִים חטאנו

25 אָ֯בַ֯ד֯ הָיָה כִּמְעַט תִּקְוָתֵינוּ וּמִבְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל[24] וּמֵהוֹנוֹ כָּל אֶחָד יוּפְרָשׁ
   כִּי בְּזוּ הָרֶגַע נָפְלָה הַכִּיפָּה מִבֵּית יי וּכְמוֹ טִיט הַיּוֹצֵר הָיִינוּ רְמָס
   לֹא נִשְׁאַר מִשֹּׂנְאֵינוּ[25] שָׂרִיד וּפָלִיט רַק צָרָה וְצַלְמָוֶת יִירָשׁ
   וְאַתָּה יי בִּזְכוּת נָשֵׁינוּ וְטַפֵּינוּ הִצִּיל אוֹתָנוּ וְשָׁפַךְ חֲמָתוֹ עַל עֵצִים וַאֲבָנִים[26] וְהָיוּ לְמִרְמָס

   בִּ֯קְ֯הִ֯לָּ֯תֵ֯י֯נ֯וּ֯ הַקְּדוֹשָׁה קִבַּלְנוּ עָלֵינוּ וְעַל זַרְעֵינוּ
30 לִגְזוֹר תַּעֲנִית[27] בְּזֶה הַיּוֹם בְּכָל שָׁנָה וְשָׁנָה עַד בִּיאַת מְשִׁיחֵנוּ
   קְרָאנוּךָ בֶּאֱמֶת מְהֵרָה חוּשָׁה לְעֶזְרָתֵינוּ וּלְהוֹשִׁיעֵנוּ[28]
   פָּנֶיךָ אַל תַּסְתִּיר אֵלֶיךָ בְּשַׁוְעֵינוּ חטאנו

   לֵ֯ב֯ חָכָם יַשְׂכִּיל פִּיו וְעַל שְׂפָתָיו יוֹסִיף לָקְחָה
   אֲשֶׁר הִצִּיל אֹתָנוּ מִמָּוֶת לְחַיִּים מַעֲרָכָה מוּל מַעֲרָכָה[29],[30]
35 כְּבִימֵי הָמָן עָמַד לָּנוּ הַצָּלָה וְהַרְוָחָה
   עַל כֵּן קָבַעְנוּ אַחַר חֲצוֹת הַיּוֹם לְמִשְׁתֶּה וּלְשִׂמְחָה וְלִיתֵּן הוֹדָיָה וּשְׁבָחָה חטאנו

   חִ֯זְ֯ק֯וּ וְ֯אֲ֯מְ֯צ֯וּ[31] לְבַבְכֶם אֶל יי אֱ-לוֹהֵינוּ
   שְמַע יי קוֹל תַּחֲנוּנֵינוּ
   בְּשַׁוְעֵינוּ אֵלֶיךָ נוֹרָאוֹת בְּצֶדֶק תַּעֲנֵינוּ
40 הֲשִׁיבֵנוּ יי אֵלֶיךָ וְנָשׁוּבָה וּכְקֶדֶם חַדֵּשׁ יָמֵינוּ[32] חטאנו

   רְצֵה נִדְבַת שְׂפָתֵינוּ בְּשִׁלּוּם פָּרִים
   סְלַח וּמְחַל לְכָל קְהַל הֲמוֹנִים
   וְאַל תְּבִיאֵנוּ בָּאֵשׁ וּבַמַּיִם[33] הַזֵּדוֹנִים
   כִּי שֹׁמֵעַ אֶל אֶבְיוֹנִים חטאנו

45 חַסְדֵּי הַקַּדְמוֹנִים זְכוֹר וּמִלְפָנֶיךָ רֵיקָם אַל תְּשִׁיבֵינוּ
   לְמַעַנְךָ עֲשֵׂה חִישׁ וּפְדֵנוּ
   יָשׁוּב נָא אַפְּךָ וּתְנַחֲמֵנוּ
   וְסָלַחְתָּ לַעֲו‍ֹנֵנוּ וּלְחַטָּאתֵנוּ[34]

חָטָאנוּ צוּרֵנוּ סְלַח לָנוּ יוֹצְרֵנוּ

Translation of Piyyut:

            We have sinned, our Creator, forgive us, our Maker.

   We will thank G-d our mouths and praise Him publicly.
   Your mercy and truth have always preserved me
   We rely on your righteous ways
   What should we say and how can we justify ourselves to G-d

(We have sinned …)

5   We have perished with our sins, and we are embarrassed by our actions
    And we cried out to G-d not to remember our sins
    To Your chosen place, you should guide us
    We rely on You, for You are our creator

(We have sinned …)

    This day we established for fasting and prayer
10 To be divided half for G-d and half for you [to enjoy]
    To praise and give thanks for the miracles He did to support us
    So that we shouldn't stumble

(We have sinned …)

    To our Synagogue we went to pray Mincha, we went in a direct route
    We were about to go inside with fear and trembling
15 Suddenly we were, Heaven forbid, trapped in a bad trap. Is this Torah and its
    On the 11th of Teveth the year of Chatan Torah [5458 – 1698]

(We have sinned …)

    Help and healing was given to all of us
    Were it not for G-d we would have been in trouble
    We were almost overturned like Sodom and Gomorrah
20 G-d's mercy should be upon us

(We have sinned …)

    The Levites and Kohanim and all of the people we were standing in front of the
         synagogue to pray
     And with the hands of the reliable shepherd the keys were held
     And when they opened the Synagogue everyone stood up to go inside.
     They were first for all holy matters.

(We have sinned …)
25 We almost lost hope and at this time everyone will be separated from his wealth
    The roof of the Synagogue collapsed and we were trampled
    And nobody would have survived
    And You G-d, in the merit of our wives and children, saved us and let out Your
         anger on wood and stones and they were trampled.

(We have sinned …)

    In our community, we accepted upon ourselves
30 To accept a fast day every year on this day until the coming of Messiah
    We called to You to listen to our prayers
    And to save us and listen to our prayers

(We have sinned …)

    The smart ones will thank G-d who saved us from death to life
    In battle after battle[35]
35 Like in the days of Haman he brought about a salvation
    Therefore, in the afternoon we established a feast to give praise and thanks.

(We have sinned …)

    Strong and courageously pray to G-d
    G-d should listen to our prayers
    When we pray to You, you should answer us
40 G-d should return to us and we will return, and like old He will return things to
         the way they used to be

(We have sinned …)

    Accept the saying of our mouths as if we brought sacrifices
    Grant forgiveness to all of the people of the multitudes
    And do not bring us to the destructive fire and waters
    For He hears the pleas of the needy

(We have sinned …)

45 The good deeds of the forefathers remember and do not return our prayers
    For your own sake do, listen, and redeem us
    You should return from your wrath and comfort us
    And forgive us for our sins.

(We have sinned …)

[1] Lundenburg is the German and Yiddish name for the city, but the Czech name is Břeclav.  See, for example, here, accessed 19 October 2017.
[2] I would like to thank my Mother, Avraham Fraenkel, and Gabriel Wasserman for their invaluable comments and suggestions for this article.
[3] See here, accessed 19 October 2017.
[4] Nevertheless, I did not find any mention of this holiday in the ledger of the Hevreh Kadisha (Burial Society) of this community (Budapest - Orszagos Rabbinkepzo Intezet Konyvtara K 47), a microfilm of which is found in the Institute of Microfilmed Hebrew Manuscripts (47032).  This is not extremely surprising since this ledger only begins with 5522 (1762), some sixty-five years after the occurrence of the miracle, but the community was certainly still commemorating these events during this time period, so it would not have been surprising if I would have found something about this holiday in the manuscript.
[5] 11 Teveth 5458 corresponds to January 23, 1698 on the Gregorian calendar.  At this point, many countries in Europe were still using the Julian calendar, according to which this Hebrew date would have corresponded to January 13, 1698.
[6] See, for example, חיי אדם, כלל קמה, סי' מא.  See also Zunz, Ritus, pages 127-130 (131-133 in Hebrew edition) for a list of many such local holidays.
[7] The fact that the akeidah piyyut appears after the pizmon is an indication that this community recited selihot according to an Eastern Ashkenazic rite, as Western Ashkenazic rites (as well as the Lithuanian Eastern rite) always recite an akeidah before the pizmon.
[8] The presence of שמע קולינו is also an indication that this community recited סליחות according to one of the versions of the Eastern Ashkenazic rite, as שמע קולינו is not found in the selihoth of Western Ashkenazic rites.
[9] Akeidah piyyutim are generally not recited at all on fast days, or on the days of selihot up until Erev Rosh Hashanah.
[10] Chatanu piyyutim are recited in the Eastern Ashkeanzic rite at all of the prayers of Yom Kippur.  In addition, the piyyut of א-ל נא רפא is recited in Eastern Ashkenazic communities on fast days, especially the Fast of Esther or if children are ill within the community.  Aside from these, I am not aware of any chatanu piyyutim in any printed Eastern Ashkenazic rite.
[11] בראשית מד:טז.
[12] ע"פ פסחים סח ע"ב ועוד.
[13] ע"פ פסחים קטז ע"ב.
[14] במהדורת אוצר הספרות: יהיה.
[15] ע"פ יחזקאל יא:טז.
[16] ע"פ קהלת ט:יב (ובפס' כתוב מצודה רעה עם חולם, אבל בקונטרס הסליחות מנוקד עם שורוק).
[17] מסכת שמחות ח:יב.
[18] משום מה, אחרי מחרוזת זו, 'חטאנו' מודפס בשלימות במהדורת תרנ"ה, וכך העתקתי פה.
[19] תהלים לג:כב.
[20] משלי כה:יג.
[21] כך כתוב, אבל אולי צ"ל לפתוח כֵּוָנִים, ובמובן המשנה תמיד ג:ו שפותח כֵּיוָן היינו לפתוח ישר = directly.
[22] ברכות ז ע"א ועוד.
[23] מו"ק כח ע"ב ועוד.
[24] במהדורת אוצר הספרות במקום "ומבני ישראל": ומבי'.
[25] ע"פ שמות יד:כח.
[26] ע"פ איכה רבתי פרשה ד, סי' יא.
[27] ע"פ משנה תענית טו ע"ב ועוד.
[28] במהדורת אוצר הספרות: חושה להושיענו (ולא גרסינן לעזרתינו).
[29] ע"פ שמואל א יז:כא. הפייטן מדמה את המות והחיים לקרב שעומד כמו בין שני אויבים, והקב"ה הציל אותם בנצחון החיים.
[30] החרוז 'מערכה' לא מתאים לחרוז 'לקחה' 'והרוחה' 'ושבחה'.  ואם כן אולי זה לא סוף שורה, ובמקום חיתוך זה צריכים לחתוך את שורה 36 ב-'למשתה ולשמחה', אבל אם כן הסימטריה של אורך השורות לא הגיונית, וצ"ע.
[31] הניקוד פה יכול להיות וְאֲמְצוּ או וְאִמְצוּ.  ובמקור מנוקד וְאַמְצוּ.
[32] ע"פ איכה ה:כא.
[33] ע"פ תהלים סו:יב.
[34] שמות לד:ט.
[35] The poet is metaphorically comparing life and death to two enemies standing at battle, and G-d saves them and makes life win.

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