Friday, September 28, 2018

Simchas Torah & a Lost Minhag of the Gra

Simchas Torah & a Lost Minhag of the Gra
By Eliezer Brodt

Chol HaMoed Succos is the Yarzheit of the Vilna Gaon (for an earlier post on the Gra see here and here). In this post I hope to show a source for a “forgotten” Minhag of the Gra.
In 1921 the great bibliographer (and much more) Yitzchak Rivkind described a strange custom he saw during the time he learned in Volozhin (after it was reopened and headed by R’ Rephael Shapiro), in an article about Minhag HaGra. On Simchas Torah they would open the Aron Kodesh when saying Aleinu, both at night and during the day, and while singing the Niggun of Mussaf of Yom Kippur would bow on the floor exactly like we do on Rosh Hashonah and Yom Kippur. When he asked for the source of this Minhag he was told it comes from the Gra. When he visited Vilna sometime later he found the only place that they observed this unique Minhag was in the Kloiz of the Gra, but nowhere else in Vilna.[1] 

In 1933 R’ Meir Bar Ilan printed his memoirs in Yiddish for the first time (in book form); in it he describes the great Simcha in Volozhin on Simchas Torah, that of his father the Netziv and of the Talmidim. He then writes that when they got to Aleinu they would open the Aron and with Niggun of Mussaf of Yom Kippur would sing and bow on the floor exactly like we do on Rosh Hashonah and Yom Kippur.[2] However, this custom is not mentioned in the Maaseh Rav or any of the other collections of Minhagim of the Gra.

Earlier this year (2018) R’ Dovid Kamenetsky published a very important manuscript related to the Maaseh Rav. This work sheds light on how this important sefer of the Gra’s Minhaghim was written. The Gra had a very close talmid named R’ Saadyah who wrote up the various things he witnessed the Gra doing. This formed the basis of the Maaseh Rav who then went and added to it from other sources. This original manuscript work was recently discovered and printed by Rabbi Kamenetsky; in it we find that R’ Saadyah writes that on Rosh Hashonah and Yom Kippur the Gra would fully bow (prostrate himself) during Aleinu, and did the same on Simchas Torah at night. Thus we now for the first time have the actual exact source of the Gra doing this.[3] 

בר"ה וי"כ וש"י כשאומר הש"ץ זכרנו:... כשהגיע לכורעים היכורע ונופל על אפיו בפשיטת ידים ורגלים וכן בשמחת תורה בלילה היו אומרים מזמורים ותפילות ...בים ואח"כ היו נופלים על אפיהכנ"ל באימ[הבעלינו...

Here is a copy of the page in the manuscript (thanks to Rabbi Dovid Kamenetsky):

A possible explanation for this Minhag is that when things were getting a bit too wild, i.e. too leibedek, they did this to remind the crowd it’s a Yom Tov. This is not the only minhag done like Yomim Noraim, in one account we find “The Musaf was chanted with the music of the New Year's ritual.[4] 

[1] HaIvri, 10:35, (1921), pp. 6-7. See Yaari, Toldot Chag Simchas Torah, p. 366.
[2] MeiVolozhin Ad Yerushlayim, 1, p. 115.
[3] See TorasS Hagra, p. 212. On this work see Toras Hagra, pp. 127-226.
[4] Between Worlds, p. 93

Monday, September 17, 2018

Kol Nidrei, Choirs, and Beethoven: The Eternity of the Jewish Musical Tradition

Kol Nidrei, Choirs, and Beethoven:  The Eternity of the Jewish Musical Tradition  

On April 23, 1902, the cornerstone to the Taharat Ha-Kodesh synagogue was laid, and on Rosh Ha-Shana the next year, September 7, 1903, the synagogue was officially opened.  The synagogue building was on one of Vilna’s largest boulevards and constructed in a neo-Moorish architectural style, capped with a blue cupola that was visible for blocks. There was a recessed entry with three large arches and two columns.  The interior housed an impressive ark, located in a semi-circular apse and covered in a domed canopy. But what really set the synagogue apart from the other 120 or so places to pray in Vilna was that above the ark, on the first floor, were arched openings that served the choir.  In fact, it was generally referred to by that feature and was known as the Choral Synagogue.  The congregants were orthodox, most could be transported to any modern Orthodox synagogue and they would indistinguishable, in look – dressing in contemporary styles, many were of the professional class, middle to upper middle class, and they considered themselves maskilim, or what we might call Modern Orthodox.[1]

The incorporation of the choir should be without controversy.  Indeed, the Chief Rabbi of Vilna, Yitzhak Rubenstein would alternate giving his sermon between the Great Synagogue, or the Stut Shul [City Synagogue], and the Choral Synagogue.[2]  Judaism can trace a long relationship to music and specifically the appreciation, and recognition of the unique contribution it brings to worship.  Some identify biblical antecedents, such as Yuval, although he was not specifically Jewish.  Of course, David and Solomon are the early Jews most associated with music.  David used music for religious and secular purposes – he used to have his lyre play to wake him at midnight, the first recorded instance of an alarm clock.  Singing and music was an integral part of the temple service, and the main one for the Levite class who sang collectively, in a choir.  With the destruction of the temple, choirs, and music, in general, was separated from Judaism.  After that cataclysmic event, we have little evidence of choirs and even music.  Indeed, some argued that there was an absolute ban on music extending so far as to prohibit singing. 
It would not be until the early modern period in the  16th century that choirs and music began to play a central role in Jewish ritual, and even then, it was limited – and was associated with modernity or those who practiced a more modern form of the religion. 
Rabbi Leon (Yehudah Aryeh) Modena (1571-1648) was one of the most colorful figures in the Jewish Renaissance. Born in Venice, he traveled extensively among the various cities in the region.[3] He authored over 15 books, and made his living teaching and preaching in synagogues, schools, and private homes; composing poems on commission for various noblemen; and as an assistant printer.  In 1605, he was living in Ferrara where an incident occurred in the synagogue that kickstarted the collective reengagement with music. Modena explained that “we have six or eight knowledgeable men, who know something about the science of song, i.e. “[polyphonic] music,” men of our congregation (may their Rock keep and save them), who on holidays and festivals raise their voices in the synagogue and joyfully sing songs, praises, hymns and melodies such as Ein Keloheinu, Aleinu Leshabeah, Yigdal, Adon Olam etc. to the glory of the Lord in an orderly relationship of the voices according to this science [polyphonic music]. … Now a man stood up to drive them out with the utterance of his lips, answering [those who enjoyed the music], saying that it is not proper to do this, for rejoicing is forbidden, and song is forbidden, and hymns set to artful music have been forbidden since the Temple was destroyed.[4]
Modena was not cowed by this challenge and wrote a lengthy resposum to defend the practice which he sent to the Venetian rabbinate and received their approbation.  But that did not put the matter to rest. 
In 1610, as he approached forty, Modena received his ordination from the Venetian rabbis and settled in Venice to serve not only as a rabbi but as a cantor, with his pleasant tenor voice.  In around 1628 in the Venetian ghetto, an academy of music was organized with Modena serving as the Maestro di Caeppella . Both in name and motto that academy embraced its subversive nature.  It was called the Academia degli Impediti, the Academy of the Hampered, named in derision of the traditional Jewish reluctance to perform music because of "the unhappy state of captivity which hampers every act of competence." In this spirit, especially in light of Modena's responsum on music in 1605, the Accademia took the Latin motto Cum Recordaremur Sion, and in Hebrew, Bezokhrenu et Tzion, when we remembered Zion, based paradoxically on Psalm 137, one of the texts invoked against Jewish music: "We hung up our harps.... How shall we sing the Lord’s song in a strange land?"
On Shemini Atzeret and Simchat Torah in October 1628, a spectacular musical performance was held in the Spanish synagogue, which had been decorated with silver and jewels. Two choirs from the academy sang artistic Hebrew renderings of the afternoon service, the evening service, and some Psalms. Their extensive repertoire lasted a few hours. A throng of Christian noblemen and ladies attended the Simchat Torah service. The applause was great, and police had to guard the gates to ensure order
Beyond his musical endeavors, Modena also served as an expert in Hebrew publishing. The two would create a confluence that enabled the first modern Jewish book of music. 
For Rabbi Leon Modena, his young friend, the musician Salamone Rossi, would herald the Jewish re-awakening. We know very little about Rossi’s life. He was born circa 1570 and died sometime after 1628, possibly in 1630. He is listed as a violinist and composer on the payroll of the Gonzaga dukes, rulers of Mantua, and was associated with a Jewish theater company, as composer or performer or both. In addition, Rossi was also writing motets – short pieces of sacred music typically polyphonic and unaccompanied – for the synagogue using contemporary Italian and church styles. He was specifically encouraged in this endeavor by Modena, who urged the composer to have this music published so that it could have an even greater impact.[5] In 1622 the publishing house of Bragadini in Venice issued thirty-three of Rossi’s synagogue motets in a collection, Shirim asher le-Shlomo, that Modena edited. This extraordinary publication represented a huge innovation. First, the use of musical notations that required a particularly thorny issue to be resolved right versus left. Rossi decided to keep the traditional musical notational scheme and provide those from left to right and write the Hebrew backward, because the latter would be more familiar to the reader.  Second, it was the first time the Hebrew synagogue liturgy had ever been set as polyphonic choral music. Polyphony in the Christian church had begun centuries earlier. Rossi’s compositions sound virtually indistinguishable from a church motet, except for one thing: the language is Hebrew – the lyrics are from the liturgy of the synagogue, where this music was performed.
There was bound to be a conflict between the modern Jews who had been influenced by the Italian Renaissance and who supported this innovation, and those with a more conservative theology and praxis. But the antagonism towards music, especially non-traditional music, remained strong. Anticipating objections over Rossi’s musical innovations, and perhaps reflecting discussions that were already going on in Venice or Mantua, Modena wrote a lengthy preface included the responsum he wrote in 1605 in Ferrara in support of music in which he refuted the arguments against polyphony in the synagogue. “Shall the prayers and praises of our musicians become objects of scorn among the nations? Shall they say that we are no longer masters of the art of music and that we cry out to the God of our fathers like dogs and ravens?”3 Modena acknowledged the degraded state of synagogue music in his own time but indicates that it was not always so. “For wise men in all fields of learning flourished in Israel in former times. All noble sciences sprang from them; therefore, the nations honored them and held them in high esteem so that they soared as if on eagles’ wings. Music was not lacking among these sciences; they possessed it in all its perfection and others learned it from them. … However, when it became their lot to dwell among strangers and to wander to distant lands where they were dispersed among alien peoples, these vicissitudes caused them to forget all their knowledge and to be devoid of all wisdom.”  
In the same essay, he quotes Emanuel of Rome, a Jewish poet from the early fourteenth century, who wrote, “What does the science of music say to the Christians? ‘Indeed, I was stolen out of the land of the Hebrews.’” Using the words of Joseph from the book of Genesis, Modena was hinting that the rituals and the music of the Catholic church had been derived from those of ancient Israel, an assertion that has been echoed by many scholars. Although it can be argued that Modena indulges in hyperbole, both ancient and modern with some attributing the earliest ritual music to Obadiah the convert who noted a Jewish prayer that was only then appropriated for use in Gregorian chants.[6] 
Directly addressing the naysayers, Modena wrote that “to remove all criticism from misguided hearts, should there be among our exiles some over-pious soul (of the kind who reject everything new and seek to forbid all knowledge which they cannot share) who may declare this [style of sacred music] forbidden because of things he has learned without understanding, … and to silence one who made confused statements about the same matter. He immediately cites the liturgical exception to the ban on music. Who does not know that all authorities agree that all forms of singing are completely permissible in connection with the observance of the ritual commandments? … I do not see how anyone with a brain in his skull could cast any doubt on the propriety of praising God in song in the synagogue on special Sabbaths and on festivals. … The cantor is urged to intone his prayers in a pleasant voice. If he were able to make his one voice sound like ten singers, would this not be desirable? … and if it happens that they harmonize well with him, should this be considered a sin? … Are these individuals on whom the Lord has bestowed the talent to master the technique of music to be condemned if they use it for His glory? For if they are, then cantors should bray like asses and refrain from singing sweetly lest we invoke the prohibition against vocal music.
No less of an authority than the Shulhan Arukh, explains that “when a cantor who stretches out the prayers to show off his pleasant voice, if his motivation is to praise God with a beautiful melody, then let him be blessed, and let him chant with dignity and awe.” And that was Rossi’s exact motivation to “composed these songs not for my own honor but for the honor of my Father in heaven who created this soul within me. For this, I will give thanks to Him evermore.” The main thrust of Modena’s preface was to silence the criticisms of the “self-proclaimed or pseudo pious ones” and “misguided hearts.”
Modena’s absurdist argument – should we permit the hazzan to bray like an ass – is exactly what a 19th-century rabbi, Rabbi Yosef Zechariah Stern, who was generally opposed to the Haskalah – and some of the very people who started the Choral Synagogue, espoused. Stern argues that synagogal singing is not merely prohibited but is a cardinal sin.  To Stern, such religious singing is only the practice of non-Jews who  “strive to glorify their worship in their meeting house [בית הכנסת שלהם] so that it be with awe, and without other intermediaries that lead to distraction and sometimes even to lightheadedness.  In the case of Jews, however, there is certainly be a desecration of G-d’s Name when we make the holy temple a place of partying and frivolity and a meeting house for men and women … in prayer. there is no place for melodies [נגונים], only the uttering of the liturgy with gravity [כובד ראש] … to do otherwise is the way of arrogance, as one who casts off the yoke, where the opposite is required: submission, awe and gravity, and added to this because of the public desecration of G-d’s Name – a hillul ha-Shem be-rabbim.” (For more on this responsum see here.)
 Similarly, even modern rabbis, for example, R. Eliezer Waldenberg, who died in 2006, also rejected Modena’s position, because of modernity.  Although in this instance, not because of the novelty or the substance of Modena’s decision but because of the author’s lifestyle.  Modena took a modern approach to Jewish life and was guilty of such sins as not wearing a yarmulke in public and permitting ball playing on Shabbos. 
Despite these opinions, for many Orthodox Jews, with some of the Yeshivish or Haredi communities as outliers, song is well entrenched in the services, no more so than on the Yomim Noraim. Nor is Modena an outlier rabbinic opinion of the value of music and divine service.  No less of an authority than the Vilna Gaon is quoted as highly praising music and that it plays a more fundamental role to Judaism that extends well beyond prayer.  Before we turn to the latter point it is worth noting that at times Jewish music was appropriated by non-Jews – among the most important composers, Beethoven.  One the holiest prayer of Yom Kippur, Kol Nedri, is most well-known not for the text (which itself poses many issues) but the near-universal tune.  That tune, although not as repetitive in the prayer can be heard in the sixth movement of Beethoven’s Quartet in C# minor, opus 131 (you can hear a version here).  One theory is in 1824, the Jews in Vienna were finally permitted to build their own synagogue and for the consecration asked Vienna’s most famous composer to write a piece of music.[7]  Although Beethoven did not take the commission, he may have done some research on Jewish music and learned of this tune.  We could ask now, is Beethoven playing a Jewish music?[8]
R. Yisrael M’Sklov, a student of the Gaon records that he urged the study of certain secular subjects as necessary for the proper Torah study, algebra and few other, but “music he praised more than the rest.  He said that most of the fundamentals and secrets of the torah … the Tikkunei Zohar are impossible to understand without music, it is so powerful it can resurrect the dead with its properties.  Many of these melodies and their corresponding secrets were among the items that Moshe brought when he ascended to Sinai.”[9] 
In this, the Gaon was aligned with many Hassidim who regularly incorporated music into their rituals, no matter where the origin.  Just one of many examples, Habad uses the tune to the French national anthem for the prayer Aderet ve-Emunah.  The power of music overrides any considerations of origin.  Indeed, they hold that not only can music affect us, but we can affect the music itself, we hold the power to transform what was impure, the source and make it pure.  That is not simply a cute excuse, but the essence of what Hassidim view the purpose of Judaism, making holy the world.  Music is no longer a method of attaining holiness, singing is itself holiness.[10]  
Today in Vilna, of the over 140 places of worship before the Holocaust five shul buildings remain and only one shul is still in operation.  That shul is the Choral Synagogue – the musical shul.  Nonetheless not all as it should be.  In the 1960s a rabbi from Israel was selected as the rabbi for the community and the shul.  When he arrived, he insisted that choirs have no place in Judaism and ordered the choir arches sealed up.  We, however, have the opportunity, as individuals and community to use the power of music to assist us on the High Holidays – that can be me-hayeh ma’tim.

[1] See Cohen-Mushlin, Synagogues in Lithuania N-Z, 253-61. For more on the founding of the congregation see Mordechai Zalkin, “Kavu le-Shalom ve-ain:  Perek be-Toldot ha-Kneset ha-Maskili ‘Taharat ha-Kodesh be-Vilna,” in Yashan mi-Pnei Hadash: Mehkarim be-Toldot Yehudei Mizrah Eiropah u-ve-Tarbutam: Shai le-Imanuel Etkes, eds. David Asaf and Ada Rapoport-Albert (Jerusalem:  Merkaz Zalman Shazar, 2009) 385-403. The images are taken from Cohen-Mushlin. 
[2] Hirsz Abramowicz, Profiles of a Lost World (Detroit:  Wayne State University Press, 1999), 293.
[3] Regarding Modena see his autobiography, translated into English, The Autobiography of a Seventeenth Century Rabbi, ed. Mark Cohen (Princeton:  Princeton University Press, 1988); and the collection of articles in The Lion Shall Roar: Leon Modena and his World, ed. David Malkiel, Italia, Conference Supplement Series, 1 (Jerusalem:  Hebrew University Press, 2003).
[4] His responsum was reprinted in Yehuda Areyeh Modena, She’a lot u-Teshuvot Ziknei Yehuda, ed. Shlomo Simonsin (Jerusalem: Mossad Harav Kook, 1956), 15-20.
[5] See generally Don Harrán, Salamone Rossi:  Jewish Musician in Late Renaissance Mantua (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999); Michelene Wandor, “Salamone Rossi, Judaism and the Musical Cannon,” European Judaism 35 (2002): 26-35; Peter Gradenwitz, The Music of Israel:  From the Biblical Era to Modern Times 2nd ed. (Portland: Amadeus Press, 1996), 145-58. 
The innovations of Rossi and Modena ended abruptly in the destruction of the Mantua Ghetto in 1630 and the dispersion of the Jewish community. The music was lost until the late 1800s when Chazzan Weintraub discovered it and began to distribute it once again.

[6] See Golb who questions this attribution and argues the reverse and also describes the earlier scholarship on Obadiah.  Golb, “The Music of Obadiah the Proselyte and his Conversion,” Journal of Jewish Studies 18: 43-46.
[7] Such ceremonies were not confined to Austria.  In Italy since the middle of the seventeenth century, special ceremonies for the dedication of synagogues had become commonplace.  See Gradenwitz, Music of Israel, 159-60.
[8] Jack Gotlieb, Funny, It Doesn’t Sound Jewish, (New York:  State University Press of New York, 2004), 17-18; see also Theodore Albrecht, "Beethoven's Quotation of Kol Nerei in His String Quartet, op. 131:  A Circumstantial Case for Sherlock Holmes," in I Will Sing and Make Music:  Jewish Music and Musicians Through the Ages, ed. Leonard Greenspoon (Nebraska:  Creighton University Press, 2008), 149-165. For more on the history of the synagogue see Max Grunwald, Vienna (Philadephia:  Jewish Publication Society of America, 1936), 205-21.
[9] R. Yisrael M’Sklov, Pat ha-Shulhan  (Sefat, 1836).
[10] See Mordechai Avraham Katz, “Be-Inyan Shirat Negunim ha-Moshrim etsel ha-Goyim,” Minhat ha-Kayits, 73-74.  However, some have refused to believe that any “tzadik” ever used such tunes.  Idem. 73. See also our earlier article discussing the use of non-Jewish tunes “Hatikvah, Shir HaMa’a lot, & Censorship.” 

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

A Compromise in Halacha - On Menachot 33a

A Compromise in Halacha - On Menachot 33a
By Eli Genauer

A common D’var Torah delivered at a wedding goes something like this: “Dear Chatan and Kallah. You are standing beneath a Chupah which is representative of the home you will build within the Jewish people. When you walk into your home, you will notice that that Mezuzah is placed in a diagonal position on the doorpost. There is a disagreement between Rashi and his grandson Rabbeinu Tam as to whether the Mezuzah should be affixed in a vertical or horizontal position. Later decisors ruled that a compromise between those two opinions was in order and therefore prescribed that the Mezuzah be affixed diagonally. This lesson of compromise is an important one as you embark upon you marriage and the Mezuzah on your door is an important reminder of this principle. Mazal Tov!”

This wedding Dvar Torah is based on a Gemara in Menachot 33a
אמר רב יהודה אמר רבעשאה כמין נגר פסולה.
איניוהא כי אתא רב יצחק בר יוסף אמר כולהו מזוזתא דבי רבי כמין נגר הוו עביד……. ?
לא קשיאהא דעבידא כסיכתאהא דעבידא כאיסתוירא
Rav Yehuda says that Rav says: If one affixes a Mezuzah like a bolt, it is invalid. Is this so? But when Rav Yitzchak bar Yosef came ( from Eretz Yisroel ) he said that all Mezuzot in the house of Rebbe ( Yehuda HaNasi) were affixed like a bolt……? This is not difficult. This ruling (where it is ruled as being unfit) is where it was prepared like a peg; that ruling (in the house of Rebbe where it is ruled as being fit) is where it is prepared like an ankle. [1] 

Rashi explains that a “נגר” is something that is embedded in a wall “שתוחבין הנגרין בכותל”[2] 2. He then writes the word “כזה” and illustrates this with a drawing showing a horizontally placed Mezuzah. This is one of many times here that Rashi tells us something and then uses the word “כזה” which is then followed by a diagram. In this case, the illustration shows a horizontally affixed Mezuzah and it is a mezuzah affixed in this direction that is improper.

Rabbeinu Tam (תוסד״ה "הא דעבידא כסיכתא) is bothered by the explanation of Rashi because he feels that it is more honorable to have the Mezuzah affixed in a horizontal position just as it is more honorable to have a Sefer Torah lying horizontally than standing vertically. He therefore translates the word “נגר” as a “peg” and says that the disqualification of a Mezuzah affixed כמין נגר is that it is affixed vertically, like a peg. He also translates the word כסיכתא as a peg and therefore disqualified because it is vertical, and the word איסתוירא, which is considered to be proper, as the part of the foot below the ankle which is horizontal.

The idea that affixing the Mezuzah diagonally is a compromise between the positions of Rashi and Rabbeinu Tam is based on the Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh Deah 289:6

צְרִיכָה לִהְיוֹת זְקוּפָהאָרְכָּהּ לְאֹרֶךְ מְזוּזַת הַפֶּתַח..... הַגָּהוְכֵן נָהֲגוּ. (בֵּית יוֹסֵףאֲבָל יֵשׁ אוֹמְרִים שֶׁפְּסוּלָה בִּזְקוּפָהאֶלָּא צְרִיכָה לִהְיוֹת שְׁכוּבָהאָרְכָּהּ לְרֹחַב מְזוּזַת הַפֶּתַח (טוּר וְהַפּוֹסְקִים בְּשֵׁם רַבֵּנוּ תָּם). וְהַמְּדַקְדְּקִיןיוֹצְאִין יְדֵי שְׁנֵיהֶםוּמַנִּיחִים אוֹתָהּ בְּשִׁפּוּעַ וּבַאֲלַכְסוֹן (טוּר וְהַגָּהוֹת מַיְמוֹנִי ומהרי''ל ות''ה סינ''ב), וְכֵן רָאוּי לִנְהֹגוְכֵן נוֹהֲגִין בִּמְדִינוֹת אֵלּוּ.

In truth, it is not really a compromise but rather an effort to affix the Mezuzah in a way in which both Rashi and Rabbeinu Tam would approve. Rashi says that vertical is the proper way, horizontal is Pasul, but bent ( or diagonal) is also Kosher. Rabbeinu Tam says that horizontal is the proper way, vertical is Pasul, but bent is also Kosher. Some Meforshim take this idea even further by saying that since in the house of Rebbe the Mezuzot were affixed כאיסתוירא, this was some sort of Hidur and therefore something to be emulated.

The classic edition of the Vilna Shas (Vilna 1885) renders this Sugya and the accompanying diagrams as such

Here are the words of Rashi which correspond to these two diagrams which show the positioning of four Mezuzot
  1. עשאה כמין נגר שקבעה ותחבה בסף כנגרשתוחבין הנגרין בכותל כזה.
  2. פסולה דמצותה לתתה באורך בסף כזהנגרקביליא
  3. עבידא כסיכתא נגר כשל אומנים כזה פסולה
  4. איסתוירא היינו מקום חיבור השוק והרגל ומעומד הוא כזהכשירה:
  5. ל"א איסתויראכי היכי דמקום חיבור השוק והרגל הוי השוק זקוף מלמעלה והרגל שוכב כזה כך הניחה למזוזה כשירה הואיל וראשה אחד זקוף:
The doorframe in the top illustration shows the position of two Mezuzot.

The one on top is horizontal which is improper, and the one on the bottom is vertical which is Kosher.
  1. עשאה כמין נגר שקבעה ותחבה בסף כנגרשתוחבין הנגרין בכותל כזה.
He affixed and inserted it in the doorpost like a bolt, for workmen who work with bolts insert it in the walls like this[3] 
  1. פסולה דמצותה לתתה באורך בסף כזה.
It is improper- Because the Mitzvah is to affix it vertically in the doorpost like this….

The doorframe in the lower illustration also shows two Mezuzot.

The one on top is horizontal and therefore improper and the one on the bottom is bent (it looks like the Hebrew letter Nun), and therefore Kosher. Here are the words of Rashi which correspond to these two Mezuzot.

עבידא כסיכתא נגר כשל אומנים כזה פסולה
A bolt as fashioned by workmen like this is disqualified

ל"א איסתויראכי היכי דמקום חיבור השוק והרגל הוי השוק זקוף מלמעלה והרגל שוכב כזה כך הניחה למזוזה כשירה הואיל וראשה אחד זקוף

Another explanation of איסתוירא – like the point at which the “Shok” joins the ”Regel”, where the “Shok” is upright and the “Regel” rests, like this, so too if he affixes the Mezuzah like this it is Kosher because the top part is upright.

There is no diagram associated directly with this comment of Rashi

איסתוירא היינו מקום חיבור השוק והרגל ומעומד הוא כזהכשירה:

Whether a נגר is normally inserted horizontally or vertically is also “illustrated” in Jastrow’s explanation of the word

In Bava Batra 101a he describes it “like an upright bolt” and in our Gemara he describes it as “like a bolt shoved into a case, i.e. horizontally

There are two issues with the standard depiction of the two diagrams in the Vilna Shas. Rashi uses the word כזה five times and there are only four “illustrations” (2 in each diagram) Also, we would expect that there would be a diagram after each time it says כזה.

This problem is solved when we look at the only handwritten manuscript we have of Rashi on this part of Menachot.

The National Library of Russia, St. Petersburg, Russia Ms. EVR IV 25:

It contains five depictions of the placement of the Mezuzot and each כזה is followed by a depiction.

The problem is also solved when we look at the first printed edition of Menachot ( Bomberg 1522) whose source had to be a manuscript. [4] 

This printed edition leaves space after every כזה. It even includes a rudimentary depiction of the last כזה looking like a “Nun” which is supposed to depict where the ankle meets the leg.

It looks very much like the Nun in the National Library of Russia manuscript and may have emanated from the same source.

It was very exciting for me personally to discover this “diagram” which clearly was added to illustrate the כזה. In his Maamar 'al hadpasat ha-Talmud with Additions, (ed. A.M. Habermann, Mossad ha-Rav Kook, Jerusalem: 2006, p.41)  Rav Natan Nata Rabbinowicz, writing about the first Bomberg edition, states as follows:
״ובכל התלמוד (וכן בכל הדפוסים הישנים עד דפוס בערמןנשמטו הציורים בגמרארש״י ותוספות,ונשאר מקומם חלקמלבד בסוטה מגשישנו הציור ברש״י
In all of the Talmud (and in all other older printed editions of the Talmud until the Berman edition ( Frankfurt an Der Oder 1697-99) the diagrams were not included in the Talmud, Rashi and Tosfot, and their space remained empty, except for Sotah 43A, where we find a diagram in Rashi.”
It turns out there was a diagram included in the second Bomberg edition of Zevachim( 1528) on 53b, which Rabbinowicz probably never saw. See my article here.
He may have also missed this one because it does not look much like a diagram, but just a letter, or perhaps he felt it was of no significance.
This depiction of the last כזה looking like a “Nun” was maintained by subsequent editions of the Talmud printed in Basel 1580, Cracow 1605, Amsterdam 1644, and Frankfurt an der Oder in 1699.
It was only dropped and replaced with the two larger diagrams we have today in the Frankfurt am Main edition of 1720.

Since many people follow the advice of the Rema and affix the Mezuzah diagonally, it is important to understand the source. This is the word in the Gemara which state that in the house of Rebbe, the Mezuzot were affixed כאיסתוירא. This word is etymologically related to the Latin word astragalus which is described as “the bone in the ankle that articulates with the leg bones to form the ankle joint”. It is more commonly known today as the Talus and looks like this:[5] 

As used in the Gemara, it probably meant the entire area where the bottom of the foot ( which is horizontal) met the bottom of the leg ( which is vertical) at the ankle, thereby looking like something that was bent.

Finally, there is a fascinating story about the Talus bone related by Rav Yisroel Shachor in the Sefer “Dovair Yesharim”.[6] In discussing the איסתוירא, he writes that he was in a terrible automobile accident and בחסדי ה׳ escaped death by climbing out of the rear of the car only seconds before it burst into flames. The only injury he sustained was a broken bone in his foot, which he identified as the Talus. He had many opportunities to view x-rays of his broken foot and concludes “I see this as a source of amazement that the only bone of all 248 bones in my body which was broken, allowed me to understand the words of Torah, and to understand that this was the איסתוירא which is mentioned in Gemarot.”[7]

[1] Translation courtesy of and follows the interpretation of Rashi.
[2] There is discussion on whether what is shown as Rashi in our editions of Menachot was actually written by Rashi. Rav Natan Nata Rabbinowicz ( author of Dikdukei Sofrim) writes that our “Rashi” was written by a student of Rabbeinu Gershom. ( Dikdukei Sofrim on Menachot 86a note 6 where he writes ...מפני שהפרוש הזה המיוחס לרש״י הוא כנראה מתלמיד הרבינו גרשום מאור הגולה והעתיק ברובו לשון הרבינו גרשום מאור הגולה) Rav Betzalel Ashkenazi (the author of the Shita Mekubetzet) writes that for chapters 7-10, the “Rashi” in the standard editions was not written by Rashi and he substitutes his own version which is indicated by the words “Rashi Ktiv Yad” in the Vilna Shas. The editors of the Vilna Shas record this opinion at the beginning of the 7th chapter ( Menachot 72a) as follows: וזה לשונו "זה הפּרוש אשר הוא בדפוס מפרק אלו המנחות עד שתי הלחם אינו מפי׳ רש״י ז״ל והוא של פרשן אחר, וזה לשון רש״י כּ״י".But Rav Ashkenazi seems to indicate that the Rashi of other chapters was in fact written by Rashi. ( see his note to the beginning of Menachot chapter 11 where he writes מכאן ואליך הוא פירוש רש״י ז״ל).
[3] We only know that it is affixed in a horizontal direction from the picture, not from Rashi’s words.
[4] The Soncino family printed many tractates of the Talmud from 1483-1519 before Bomberg printed the complete Talmud in 1520-1522, and those Soncino editions often formed the basis for the text of the Bomberg edition. But the Soncino family did not print tractate Menachot meaning the Bomberg edition was based solely on manuscripts.
[5] My source for this information is Dr. Carol Teitz who is a member of my Shul. Dr. Teitz is an orthopedic surgeon and most recently, the dean of admissions at the University of Washington Medical School
[6] Doveir Yesharim, Sefer Shemot, Jerusalem. 2014, page 128
[7] This source was brought to my attention by a Torah scholar named Aharon who has helped me immensely in my research on diagrams.

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