Monday, April 24, 2006

Buring the Hametz and the Goan Book

To the left are pictures what are supposed to be the Klausenberger Rebbe burning the book HaGaon (discussed here previously) with the Hametz. Additionally the final picture is him saying the Yehi Ratzon from the Ateresh Yehoshua when burning books of heresy. If you click on the images you can see them enlarged. Here is the full text of the Yehi Ratzon
יהי רצון מלפניך ה' אלוקי ואלוקי אבותי, כשם שאנכי באתי לבער את ספרי החיצונים והמשכילים אלה, כן יסור את הצפוני מזרע ישראל, וביותר מן הבחורי חמד אשר ההשכלה מצאה קן בלבם ובמוחם והיצר מבלבל מחשבותם. בעל הרחמים ירחם עליהם ונטע בקרבם אמונת הבורא ואמונת הצדיקים כדכ(תיב), ויאמינו בה' ובמשה עבדו ועתה בזמן ביעור חמץ אשר היא עת מוכשר על זה לגרש ולבער את השאור שבעיסה הטמ(ו)ן בקרבנו, יעלה תפילה זו לרצון לפני אדון כל, אמן כן יהי' רצון

"עטרת ישועה על חמישה חומשי תורה", ח"ב, קראקא, תרפ"ה דף פז, ב' סי' א

Talk on the Valmadonna Trust Library

JACK LUNZER, Custodian
Opening remarks by Arthur Kiron, University of Pennsylvania.

The Valmadonna Trust Library, located in London, is the world’s foremost private collection of rare Hebraica and the most comprehensive collection of early books printed in Italy.

THURSDAY, APRIL 27 at 7:00 pm

Center for Jewish History - 15 West 16 Street - New York City
For more information see here

Monday, April 10, 2006

Old Haggadot for Free

Many of the haggadot that we have mentioned previously as well as many other interesting ones are available for free in there entirety at the JNUL's site here. All you need is a printer (just make sure to switch to landscape printing for the double paged ones) and you too can have a copy of 1482 haggadah, 1526 Prague haggdah (first fully illustrated haggadah), Venice Ladino haggadah, 1833 English translation, or the 1844 haggadah printed in Calcutta, India to name but a few.

Haggadah, First Hebrew Map, and Forgery

One of the most beautifully done haggadot is that of the Amsterdam, 1695. This haggadah for the first time used copperplate instead of woodcuts to produce the illustrations. Consequently, the illustrations are sharper and more intricate. The illustrator, Avrohom bar Ya'akov mimispchto shel Avrohom avenu, as is apparent from his name, was a convert. Before converting he was a preacher.

His edition of the haggadah was special not only for the copperplate and the illustrations, but for a specific illustration, one of the earliest Hebrew maps of Israel (the map on top, you can click to see a zoomable view). This haggadah included a fold out map (it was rather large) of the travels of the Jews through the desert and into Israel. Many (Yerushalmi and Yaari) incorrectly assert this was actually the first Hebrew map, however, as we will see in a moment that is wrong. But this map and the haggadah was rather popular and was reprinted four times in a little over one hundred years. [It was reprinted this year, however, the reprint is terrible. It seems they photocopied it and then had a three-year-old add color. The map is included in this reprint, not a fold out page, but as the end papers of the binding.]

The map itself has north on the right and east on the right as was common for maps of that time a compass is supplied in the bottom middle of the map. The legend on the top reads "This will allow every person to see the route of the forty year journey . . . " And in keeping with previous Jewish books there is a nude in the lower right hand corner perhaps representing an Egyptian(?).

This was not the first Hebrew map of Israel. Instead, that milestone goes to a book with its own interesting history. The Biurim on Rashi was published in 1593 in Venice and attributed to R. Nathan Shapiro. This work includes two illustrations. The first is of the menorah (reprinted many times to this day) and the second is a map of Israel. This is the first Hebrew map. However, although on the title page this book is supposedly written by R. Shapiro, this was not the case. Instead, R. Shapiro's son published his fathers comments on Rashi in 1697 in a work titled Imrei Shefer. In the introduction he explains why there are two books from his father both on the same topic.
ואתם קדושי עליון אל תתמהו על החפץ שזה שתנים ימים יצא בדפוס איזה ביאורים הנקראים על שם הגאון אדוני אבי ז"ל, כי המציאוהו אנשים, אנשי בלי עול מלכות שמים, חיבור אשר מצאו, ומי יודע המחבר אם נער כתבו ורצו לתלותו באילן גדול אדני אבי ז"ל, חלילה לפה קדוש להוציא מפיו דברים אשר אין בהם ממש, כי הכל תוהו ובוהו ומזויף מתוכו, כלו עלו קמשונים כסו פניו חרולים. וכאשר הגיעו הספרים ההם בגלילות אלו הכרוז בהסכמת כל רבני ורשאי המדינות שלא ומכרו ויהיו בבל יראה ובבבל ימצא בכל ארצות אלו. ואשר קנו מהם יחזר להם המעות ולא ימצא בביתך עולה

["Do not wonder why I am publishing what was published just two years ago, the Biurim, in my father's name. As wicked people, people who found a book, a book which may have been written by a child. However, they wanted to use my father's good name to publish their work. But, my father would never say such stupidities which appear in that book, their book is worthless and a forgery. When this was discovered all the Rabbis agreed that this book [Biurim] should be under a ban, no one should be allowed to keep it. Whomever purchased it should have their money returned, they should not allow a stumbling block into their home."]
So this book was actually a forgery and not really from R. Shapiro however, it still did provide the first map, albeit a crude one. In the Imrei Shefer there is no map.

His son was not the only one to question the authenticity of the Biurim. R. Yissachar Bear Ellenburg in his Be'er Sheva and in his Tzedah L'Derekh states unequivocally that R. Shapiro did not write the Biurim.

Sources: A. Yaari Maps of Israel in the Haggadah, Machanyim, 55 (1971) 152-159; (for more on converts in printing see Yaari, Mehker Sefer, 245-55); Introduction Imrei Sefer, Lublin 1697 (on differences in the printings of the Imrei Shefer see Yudolov, Areshet, 6 (1981) 102 no. 7); Biurim, Venice 1693; R. E. Katzman, "Rabbi Nathan Nata Shapiro - Ha-Megaleh Amukot" in Yeshurun 13 (Elul 2002) 677-700; Introduction [R. E. Katzman]Seder Birkat HaMazon im pirush shel R. Noson Shapiro, 2000 Renaissance Hebraica, 1-10; Yeushalmi, Haggadah and History, plate 69.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Review of Reckless Rites

While it is a bit out of season, I wanted to review Elliott Horowitz's new book Reckless Rites. In this book, subtitled "Purim and the Legacy of Jewish Violence," everything is viewed through the prism of the violence inflicted by the Jews upon their enemies at the end of Esther.

While arguably, the violence at the end is only a minor part of the story for some that aspect has clouded everything about the Book of Esther and Purim. First Horowitz looks at how the Book was viewed by non-Jews. Some had a very negative view due to the Jewish revenge. They considered that motif, un-biblical (read non-Christian). Horowitz goes through each of the characters and how first non-Jews interpreted their actions. For instance, Mordechi was treated rather harshly by many of these commentators as was Esther due to her passivity. What is especially fascinating is how these non-Jewish understandings, at times, crept into Jewish thought as well. Thus, Horowitz documents Jews parroting these rather un-Jewish, at it were, interpretations.

Horowitz then tackles the overarching theme of Amalek and how this has been understood throughout history. Some hold there is no obligation of destroying Amalek today while others are willing to label any perceived enemy of Jews as deserving of the harsh consequences of Amalek. Some of these examples are rather disturbing.

After dealing with the Book of Esther specifically, Horowitz turns his focus to Jewish practice on Purim. Specifically, he deals with Jewish violence or violent acts on Purim directed at non-Jews. He provides a discussion of the stereotype of the "mild" (read the wimp) Jew including its origins and whether it is borne out by history. He then discusses numerous, diverse examples spanning from the 5th century until today of Jewish violence. Some is not physical violence, instead it is host desecration or general enmity of non-Jewish symbols while other, most recently Barukh Goldstein is physical violence in its worst form.

In an effort to play down some of these incidents, we have Jewish historians who decided to avoid discussion of such matters, or at times downplay their significance. However, in light of the many examples here, it is very difficult to ignore such examples. Horowitz is very convincing in the scope of this idea and how prevalent this is. It is especially telling when tracing and seeing how systematically Jews have decided to sweep under the rug these examples, it demonstrates that censorship is not limited to any one group and even amongst supposedly dispassionate scholars, they too can fall prey to their own biases.

The detail and research is amazing , Horowitz leaves no stone unturned. All in all, this book sheds new light of the story of Purim, the Book of Esther and Jewish history. It provides a new way of viewing the story of Esther and Jewish ideas towards violence.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Separate Beds More on Illustrated Haggadot

As part of the hagadah there is an extensive discussion where various verses are discussed in depth. One of the verses, Devarim 26:7, says that "God heard our pain" (וירא את ענינו), this is interpreted in the hagadah as refraining from martial relations. In the Venice 1629 edition of the hagadah this is illustrated by having husband and wife sleeping in separate beds.

[As you can also see, for some reason the text of this edition has two yuds in the word ענינו I don't know why.]

Also, you can see in the top left hand corner of the illustration (click on the picture for a more detailed view) a lamp is lit as well. I assume this was also to show the lack of marital relations. The law on Yom Kippur is that one needs to have a light on, according to one understanding this is so one will not come to have relations with ones wife. Perhaps this was used here for the same effect. This understanding is bolstered by the fact the Talmud in Yoma learns the prohabition against marital relations on Yom Kippur from the Eygptian slavery. (Yoma, 74b)

According to one scholar, Israel Yuval, this understanding of the verse is polemical in nature. He explains that when the Jews were prohibited from martial relations this was "pain" as this "counteracts the claim of Jesus' miraculous birth." If one could have a child born through miraculous means, then it would mitigate the effect of abstinence. Consequently, we are emphasizing the Jewish view is that such abstinence is harmful.

[However, some have questioned Yuval's emphasis on finding Christological elements in the hagadah.]

Sources: Yerushalmi, Haggadah and History, plate 50; Joshua Kulp, The Origins of the Seder and Haggadah, Currents in Biblical Research, 4.1(2005) 109-134 (discussing Yuval and summarizing the state of the current literature); Safrai and Safrai, Haggadah of the Sages, 136-138.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Az Yashir, Another Kabalah Custom Gone Wrong?

One of the most common and troublesome customs based upon kabalah is the addition of verses and targum to אז ישיר.

Everyday, at the end of pesuki de’zimra we recite az yashir. However, we for one, don’t start at the beginning of the shira. The beginning is at the verse that starts ויהי באשמורות הבוקר we begin at the אז ישיר. Secondly, we don’t end at the end of the shira either. Instead, we add either 4 or 6 verses at the end.

The threshold question is why was this change effected? Rashi, R. Shlomo Yitzhaki (1040-1105) in his Sefer haPardes (p. 321) explains, “Whenever we finish anything we end by reciting the verse twice [the end of tehillim, for example] for this reason we double the verse of ה' ימלוך the reason being that really the entire parsha of the shira that is, from ויהי באשמורות הבקר has 18 mentions of gods name. Every name has 4 letters thus forming the 72 letter name of god. The רשאונים, the early ones, enacted that we recite the shira everyday to remember this great miracle . However, we only recite the important or ikar portion thus we start from az yashir. We are therefore lacking 4 mentions of gods name. Therefore we repeat the verse twice and add the four verses afterwards. The last verse’s mention of God’s name does not count as it is future tense.” Thus, according to this passage, we now understand why it is we add the four verses at the end and repeat the verse and why we left out the first four verses. There are many other rishonim that offer similar explanations for this.[1]

Importantly, according to Rashi, the end of the Shira is at ה' ימלוך thus he repeats that verse. It is also clear that he did not say the verse that follows, כי בא סוס as a) he would not have repeated ה' ימלוך as it would not have been the end and b) because there is a mention of God’s name in that verse and thus we would have too many mentions and therefore we lose the numerology as we do not get the 72 letter name.

The many רשונים follow this understand and thus end the שירה and the daily recitation of אז ישיר at ה' ימלוך. In fact, early Ashkenazi Siddurim all end at ה' ימלוך. For example, the earliest printed siddur in Prague, 1513 does that. As does the סידור of R. Shabbti Sofer, first published in the mid-16th century, who was considered the סידור for his time, has the same reading.[2] The Rama, R. Moshe Isserles (1525-1572) in his מפה also cites the custom of repeating ה' ימלוך. Thus, up until the late 16th century we were only repeating ה' ימלוך and not saying כי בא. However, two people changed that. The first was the ארי"זל and the second was R. Yakkov Emden. The R. Avrahom Gombiner (1635-1682), in his commentary the מגן אברהם, (who cites numerous customs from the ארי), on the comments of the רמ"א previously mentioned, states that the ארי said the verse of כי בא after he repeated ה' ימלוך. R. Gombiner does not offer any explanation as to why theארי did so. However, R. Shmuel Kelin (1720-1806), in his מחצית השקל a super-commentary on the מגן אברהם, does offer an explanation. Before we look at his explanation we need to look at one other source for proper background.

The רמב"ן in his commentary on the Torah on the verse of כי בא, notes that although some hold that כי בא is part of the שירה he holds it is not.[3] Some may be questioning why this all matters. However, it is actually quite important. The rule is that in order for a ספר תורה to be כשר the שירה portion must be written in a specific manner. That is called ריח על גבי לבינה or as brickwork. One writes words then leaves a space and then directly underneath that space one writes the next line and so forth. Thus, according to Rashi, and those other cited by רמב"ן one cannot write the verse of כי בא in the שירה format. And according to רמב"ן one MUST write it in the שירה format.

It would appear that in deciding whether to say or not to say כי בא would depend on how our ספר תורה is written.

Getting back to the מחיצת השקל, he argues this very point. He states that the reason that the מגן אברהם and the ארי said to recite כי בא is for the sake of consistency as in our ספרי תורה we include it in the שירה4 However, there is a difficulty with this position or understanding of both the מגן אברהם and the ארי. As both are still advocating repeating ה' ימלוך but also saying כי בא which as we discussed disrupts the numerology and also, if you include כי בא, it makes little sense in repeating ה' ימלוך as it is no longer the end. Because of these questions some commentators note that R. Hayyim Yosef David Azulai (HIDA), the well-known bibliographer, stated that many statements attributed to the ארי are not actually from the ארי. These commentators claim that this is one of those statements that can not be relied upon.[5]

R. Yakov Emden (1698-1776) published his own edition of the siddur. This siddur included both a commentary and notes on the נוסח. 6 He had many alteration in the נוסח. However, his commentary became very popular and was reprinted numerous times. But in these reprints instead of using his נוסח they would put his commentary and notes on the bottom of a regular סידור 7 Thus, one could read in the bottom “don’t say such and such” and on the top you would have that very thing. In regards to the אז ישיר issue, R. Emden notes that his father, the חכם צבי, only said ה' ימלוך once and he included כי בא as because that is how it appears in our תורה. This, of course, works with the numerology, the מסורה, and the correct ending of the שירה. [In the new edition of R. Emden’s siddur which was supposed to utilize his נוסח and correct all the years of neglect, does not correct his error, nor many others. Instead it includes the double recitation and the תרגום and כי בא.]

In truth, it was not clear how we should write our תורה. For instance, the noted Mesora scholar and משומד– Jewish convert to Christianity, Christian David Ginsburg in his edition of the Tanach which is based upon over 70 manuscripts and 19 of the earliest printed editions does not include כי בא. In fact, numerous manuscripts, mainly of Italian or Sefardic origin, which as a side note are generally not considered מידויק , have only up to ה' ימלוך. For us, however, the Rambam includes כי בא in the שירה. Furthermore, the oldest complete and מדויק manuscript, the Leningrad Codex which is very similar to the Allepo Codex which the Rambam based his תורה on has כי בא as part of the שירה.8

For us, as is apparent by looking at any תורה today, we all include כי בא as part of the שירה thus, if we wanted to be consistent we would only say ה' ימלוך once and include כי בא.

In conclusion, the purpose of this was not for anyone to change what their current custom may be, as has been demonstrated there is authority for all practices. Instead, I think that this discussion is demonstrative of how complex and nuanced the תפילות are. If this one verse has so much behind it, there are treasure troves of complexity throughout the סידור.


1] See e.g. from the school of Rashi, Machzor Vitri, 2004, p. 10; see also אבודרהם , אורחת חיים.

[2 See also סדור תפילות כמנחג אשכנז, Hanover, 1616; סדר תפילות לכל השנה כמנהג אשכנז ופולין, Frankfort 1691 available at

3] The Ibn Ezra and Rasbam hold that is part and the Ramban and Rashi hold it is not.

4] R. Kelin argues that if one wants to repeat any verse, according to the Ari, one should repeat the verse of כי בא as that is the end.

5] For more on the Ari’s writings and the transmission of those writings, see R. Hillel, כתבוני לדורות.

[6 This was published in 1745-1747.

7] This edition was known as סידור בית יעקב, the original was called עמודי שמים.

[8 Although, there is some discrepancy on this point in the manuscripts of the Rambam. That is, the manuscripts mainly from אשכנז do not include כי בא which would be in agreement with Rashi and the Ramban. However, many of the Rambam’s manuscripts do include כי בא, especially of note is the signed copy of the יד which includes it. See Jordan Penkower, עדות חדש בנוסח כתר ארם צובא chapter 3.

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