Monday, April 30, 2007

Stolen Title Pages

"Stolen Title Pages":
The Case of An Unknown Contemporary Plagiarist*

The title of this post – “Stolen Title Pages” – is not mine, instead, I have borrowed it from Chaim Lieberman.[1] I have used this title because there are many forms of plagiarism – some, totally innocent – others involving lack of citation, borrowing a sentence here or there, but the plagiarism under discussion in this post is much worse than all of the above.[2] The plagiarism discussed in this post is limited to just changing the title page – that is, the entire book is the same with the only alteration being the name of the author and, at times, the title of the book. For example, if I republished Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet but instead of putting Shakespeare’s name I substituted mine.

The kabbalistic work on the holidays of the year, by R. Yitzhak Isaac ben Yoel HaKohen, Brit Kehunat Olam, was recently republished. This work was first published in 1796 in Lvov, and has been reprinted many times since then. In the introduction of this new edition, the publishers list the various printings of this work. But, they neglected to mention one reprint of this work. One can’t really fault them as this reprint was not published under the name Brit Kehunat Olam, nor did R. Yitzhak Isaac’s name appear anywhere in this reprint. Instead, although the book is word for word the same as Brit Kehunat Olam, a totally different title and a totally different author is given. As we shall see this is not the only time this person has taken someone else book for his own. This reprint which was done sometime around 2000 is instead titled Pardes haMo’adim ‘al Moadi Yisrael. The author is הצב"ר which, according to the many approbations he has received, is an abbreviation of R. Tzyion ben Ratson Lahat.

The Pardes haMo’adim contains approbations from R. Shimon Sherabi, the Rabbis of Kiryat Melachi – R. Hayyim Pinto and R. Yisrael Areyeh Gerstenkorn, R. Meshumar Tzubri, and R. Yisrael Sherabi. Some of these praise Lahat for his erudition in writing this work, others note his "great fear of sin," but none of these haskamot note that every word in this book is plagiarized.

For purposes of accuracy, I must note, that Lahat did alter one thing aside from the title page. Perhaps in an effort to avoid detection he shifted the sections around. So, one can’t take page one and match it up, instead, you just need to find the section. This is not as hard as it would seem as Lahat used the same chapter headings as the original. So, for instance, the scan below you have the chapter titled מאמר מצות משוחים בשמן from both works. The newer type (on the right), without the commentary of the Sha’ar Shimon, is Lahat’s edition while the other (on the left) is the original.

Lest one think it is just that section or just the Brit Kehunat Olam that Lahat copied, I have provided another section – מאמר סכת שלם. Again you can see it is copied word for word. But, I also want to point out it is not just the Brit Kehunat Olam he copied but the commentary, Shem miShimon by R. Shimon Englander as well. As one can see, the notes on the bottom provide citations as well as further elucidations of the Brit Kehunat Olam. Although Lahat did not use footnotes – he used endnotes – they are the same as well.

I have provided below the pages from both Brit Kehunat Olam (on the left) which includes the Shem miShimon at the bottom. The other pages (to the right and bottom) are Lahat’s page from this section and the final page is Lahat’s notes which match up perfectly with the Shem miShimon.

As I mentioned above this is not the first time Lahat has stolen a prior work and substituted his name for that of the author. Instead, I have found at least two other times, where he did the same thing. In fact, one of the approbations for Pardes haMo’adim actually makes mention of this prior plagiarized work. This other work is Lahat’s book Minhagei haAriza”l. This work was published sometime after 1996. It contains four parts. Again, הצב"ר appears on the title page and all the approbations are written to R. Tzyion ben Ratson Lahat (as an aside his last name may actually be רווה [Ravah] as he dedicates this book to his brother Naftali bar Ratson Ravah). This work, with one slight change which I will discuss in a moment, is word for word from the book Minhagei haArizal haNikrah Petura d’Abba by R. Uri ben Asher Strizinitzer [3] first published in Jerusalem 1905.

This work takes fifth and the sixth sha’ar from R. Chaim Vital’s Shemonah She’arim which contain the bulk of the customs of R. Yitzhak Luria(Ari"ZaL). R. Strizinitzer, then includes his commentary, titled Beni Abba, which explains and offers sources for the customs of R. Yitzhak Luria. This work contains the approbation of R. Shalom Mordechi haKohen (the Braziner Rebbi). When he originally published this work, R. Strizinitzer did so anonymously. When he published a similar work Me'ori Tzion he revealed himself based upon an acrostic on the title page. The Meori Tzion was the fourth and final part of R. Strizinitzer’s work on the customs of R. Yitzhak Luria – as we shall see this was also copied. So R. Strizinitzer has three titles – Petura d’Abba, Beni Abba, and Meori Tzyion. The Petura d’Abba contains the portion from Shemonah She’arim and Beni Abba is Strizinitzer’s notes.

Now, we go to sometime after 1996, and a new book, again re-typeset, comes out with the title Minhagei HaAri”Zal with the three works Darkei Tzyion, Sha’ari Tzyion, and Me'ori Tzyion with הצב"ר’s name as the author.

The only thing Lahat did, however, was alter the titles of the first two sections, he didn’t even bother moving things around to avoid detection. In Lahat’s edition the Darkei Tzyion contains the portion from Shemonah She’arim and Sha’ari Tzyion contains the notes. Below, I have provided two pages, one from each book, to demonstrate the plagiarism.

In fact, in Strizinitzer’s book at the end he has “השמטות” – things he left out. Lahat, also has at the end things he left out – and coincidentally, they are the same as well. There is one other small change aside from the title page, and that is in the introduction. In Strizinitzer’s introduction at the end he explains why he decided to title his books as he did. Now, Lahat’s titles are different, so Lahat (left) removed that one line from the original introduction (right). The relevant passages are below.

Now, we return to the third title – Me'ori Tzyion, which Strizinitzer published separately in 1911,[4] and Lahat has included in this book. For this one, Lahat couldn’t be bothered with coming up with a new title so he uses the same title – perhaps to finally be able to say he really did copy everything perfectly. Both pages are below (Lahat, left; original, right).

Finally, we get to the at least the third example of Lahat's stolen title pages. In this case it was fairly easy to locate the original. Lahat titled this work Pirush 'al Birkat Kohanim, which as the title implies is a commentary and discussion about Birkat Kohanim. But, Lahat was kind and at the top of each page he has כה תברכו. This title כה תברכו is the same as a book published in 1881 in Solenika by R. Chaim Hemzi. And, it turns out not only is the title the same but the content is as well.

Lahat is by no means the first to merely switch the title pages – as I noted at the beginning of this post, Lieberman has examples of this phenomenon and there are other articles which discuss other instances of plagiarism as well.[5] What is perhaps unique about Lahat is that he seems to have done it more than once, in fact, I can not say for sure the rest of Lahat’s 13 (!) other books [6] are not merely copies as well. Additionally, many have assumed that in the digital age, when from the comfort of one’s home they can call up the card catalogs of almost every major library in the world and thousands books are available online or on one of hard drives – some of which are even searchable, this would have been detected. In fact not a single catalog entry in any library notes that these are copied – even when Lahat did not change the title of the book.

Further, aside from the approbation to Lahat’s Pardes haMo’adim, in his Minhagei haAriZal, Lahat includes approbations from his other works. Some of these are leading Rabbis who also have failed to detect their approbations are on stolen works. These Rabbis include (aside from those already mentioned above): R. Ovadia Yosef, R. Mayer Getz, R. Shalom Messas, R. Yosef Tzubeyri, and R. Tzion Tzubeyri.

Perhaps, now, this can be corrected and Lahat will cease stealing the works of others.

* I apologize as most of this post appeared last week, however, as the images stopped working and they are important to this post I removed the post until I could correct it. In the interim, however, I was able to confirm another instance of Lahat's plagiarism. Also, prior to posting I have attempted to locate Lahat without success. His books generally provide none of the standard information such as publisher/printer or any contact information.

[1] Chaim Lieberman, Ohel Roch”el, vol. 1 (New York, 1980), 477-480, 529-531.

[2] There are no lack of examples, both real and imagined in this category. For one example of lack of proper citation, see R. Natan Neta Leiter, Tzyion l’Nefesh Hayyai (Jerusalem, 1964), no. 109.

[3] His surname comes from a town outside of Lvov.

[4] In some reprints of Strizinitzer’s Minhagi AriZal, Me’ori Tzyion is included.

[5] See Lieberman supra n. 1. Lieberman notes [p. 477] the case of Hemdat Tzvi, where the original was printed in 1876 and the stolen version with the same title was printed in 1879. However, he leaves out one worthwhile point. Although in the stolen version he knew enough to remove the original authors name, apparently he didn't even read through the whole book as on p. 72b, the original author quotes his grandfather by name, and this same passage appears in the stolen version. Further, on p. 87, the original author includes a teshuva which he signs by name. In the stolen version it appears without change signed by the original author!). See also Kitvei Pinchas Turburg, ed. A. R. Malachi, 24-36; C. Leshem, Shabbat u’Mo’adi Yisrael (Tel Aviv, 1969), 379-409; Y. Sternhill, Kochavi Yitzhak (Brooklyn, 1969), Introductions to volumes I & II; Marc B. Shapiro, Saul Lieberman and the Orthodox (Scranton, 2006), 5 n. 9, discussing the example of Rabbi Nosson Dovid Rabinowich which was also discussed in a previous post at the Seforim blog; Shraga Abramson, "Chasad b'Ameirat Daver shelo b'Shem 'Omro," Sinai 112 (Nissan-Iyyar 1993): 1-24; Alei Sefer 16 (1990): 177-79; Moriah 83-84 (Adar I,1978) 79-80; A. Perls, "Das Plagium," in Monatsschrift für Geschichte und Wissenschaft des Judentums / MGWJ 28 (1879): 305-322; R. Margolis, Shem Olam, Jerusalem, 1989, introduction.

Regarding the halakhic permissibility of plagiarism, see Nahum Visfish, Mishnat Zechuot haYotser (Jerusalem, 2002), esp. 95-115; Nahum Rakover, Zechut haYotsrim beMekorot haYehudim (Jerusalem, 1991), 17-72, a portion of which appeared as "Plagiarism of Torah Teachings," Areshet 6 (1980): 222-226; and idem., "Plagiarism and the Obligation to Cite Sources: Aspects of Copyright Law in the Halakhah," Dinei Yisrael 6 (1975): 93-120;

[6] There is one book which is particularly suspect, as Lahat's book is titled מאיר לארץ and it is kabbalistic interpretations on ברכת המזון and there is another book with the same name on the same topic. Thus far, however, I have been unable to secure a copy to compare the two.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Eliezer Brodt: A Behind The Scenes Look at Two New Editions: Part One

A Behind The Scenes Look at Two New Editions: Part One
by Rabbi Eliezer Brodt

A few weeks ago, while perusing through the new Seforim at the Girsa Seforim store in Jerusalem, I noticed a new מנחת פתים from ר' מאיר אריק. At first I thought it was another plain old reprint of the original one. But a few friends tipped me off to it being much more than a reprint. So off I went to purchase the seforim. This is a short review what this version is exactly.

It's a well known fact that, ר' מאיר אריק left over a great deal of written works; as opposed to his brother ר' פישל who was also a great gaon, but wrote nothing. One of his more famous works is the מנחת פתים on ד' חלקי שלחן ערוך. The concept behind the sefer is a published listing of his comments on שלחן ערוך, some lengthy with the expected back and forth, others short with only references. Many of these citations are to rare seforim, or other not-usually available sources, all locally annotated with his tremendous בקיאות. One point of interest is his usage of new ראשונים such as the מאירי and אור זרוע. Anyone learning הלכה knows how valuable this work is- it does not require my personal הסכמה (who am I to even dare give it one!) as the work speaks for itself! The work on אורח חיים was reprinted a few times, most recently a few years ago by מכון עוז והדר. The part on יורה דעה חושן משפט ואבן העזר was also reprinted a few years ago in a photo-mechanical reproduction of the 5658 (1898). This new version only came out with two volumes so far – on אורח חיים ויורה דעה. The individuals responsible for its publishing have already proven themselves with the טל תורה החדש and שו"ת אמרי יושר (both the original editions as well as a new volume compiled from manuscripts and responsa published in rare journals) that they put out 10 years ago.

There are many great additions to this new version of the מנחת פתים. Firstly, over the years ר' מאיר אריק had many additions to his מנחת פתים which he planned on printing. He never got around to it but right before WWII, two of his תלמידם gathered everything together including many manuscripts of his and they printed it, in Krakow in 1938. Being that it was right before the war it seems no copies survived the war – to the extant that no one seemed to even know about this edition. Miraculously, Rabbi Zweibel's own Rosh Yeshivah had found a copy of this print from Krakow, and gave it to his student for reproduction! Aside from this, Rabbi Zweibel was privileged to see the actual שלחן ערוך thatר' מאיר אריק used, which had many notes written in the margins. Further, he continued to track down other notes and novellas that ר' מאיר אריק had written related to שלחן ערוך. All of this was included in this new edition. In addition, the editors did the kind favor of letting one know before each piece from where it comes from a manuscript or the Krakow edition etc. Almost every page contains a few new pieces so one can easily see how much exactly was added to this new printing. Along with all additions, the publisher included notes from two of his talmidim ר' יהודה הורביץ andר' צבי פרומר , famous for his work שו"ת ארץ צבי. They also separated all the תשובות that ר' מאיר brings throughout the מנחת פתים from the body text, and put them in the back - so as not to confuse the user. In the back they include a תשובה from ר' מאיר אריק to his תלמיד, הגאון ר' משולם ראהט. Also included is an index of his other seforim, שו"ת אמרי יושר, ואמרי יושר חלק ג' collating the topics relating to אורח חיים ויורה דעה (each index in its specific volume). All in all, this is a beautiful job and a good buy for those whose interests include these kind of seforim.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Obituary for R. Yosef Tzvi Dunner, zt"l (Dei'ah veDibur)

As a followup to a previous post, here is an excerpt from the obituary for R. Yosef Tzvi Dunner, zt"l, that appeared in Dei'ah veDibur:
At the age of 19 he wanted to leave home to study in one of the illustrious yeshivas of Lithuania, but his father felt that given the dearth of rabbonim in Germany communities, before going to yeshiva he should study at a place that provides rabbinical training (smichus). He sent the young man to Beis Hamedrash Lerabbonim in Berlin, which was headed by HaRav Yechiel Yaakov Weinberg, the author of Seridei Eish. There he continued his intensive learning day and night, amassing tremendous knowledge of Shas and poskim.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Some Harder to Get Seforim and Where to Obtain

In previous posts at the Seforim blog, we have attempted to highlight some of the more recently printed books, which are fairly easy to come by. However, I thought it worthwhile to mention some slightly older books, which are generally more difficult to obtain and where they can be obtained. I will highlight the contents of one store -- Moznaim (718-438-7680) -- in Boro Park.

First, for literature of the Geonim, they have the Teshuvot HaGeonim. In this set, the majority of volumes are fairly easy to get, but there are two volumes which are less common - Ginzei Schechter and Louis Ginzburg's Geonica. Both of these are available from Moznaim.

Second, the four volume Auerbach's edition of R. Avraham b. Azriel's Arugat HaBosem, which is a key work on piyut/siddur, is available there as well.

Third, Mordecai Wilensky's Hasidim u-Mitnagdim collects the various early polemics for and against the Hassidic movement, is available in two-volume paperback.

Aside from the Geonim, Moznaim also has an extensive selection of Midrashim - most of the time the most important critical edition of a particular Midrash.

Finally, although not out-of-print or the like, Moznaim also has redone the Mishnayot for Seder Zeraim and Teharot. These include the standard commentaries (e.g. Ra"SH and Rambam) and some other less common ones all with a nice layout. Additionally, they have made corrections based upon manuscript data and the older version of the text is available in footnote form.

These are a sampling of a few which I came across, I am sure there are many more hidden gems to unearth.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Eliezer Brodt - A Lively History of Reprinting Rabbeinu Yeruchem

A Lively History of Reprinting Rabbeinu Yeruchem
Rabbi Eliezer Brodt

In recent years, a host of critical editions of works on various rishonim have been published on all topics – some seeing the light of day for the very first time – on topics related to halakha, kabbalah, and chiddushim on the Talmud. These works have been made available via the major printing presses such as Mossad HaRav Kook, Machon Yerushalyim, Machon Talmud Yisraeli, Machon Harry Fischel and others.[1] However, one very important work has noticeably been omitted from being reprinted, except for a photomechanical off-set of the second printing. This work is Sefer Toledot Adam ve-Chava and Sefer Meisharim, the halakhic works of Rabbeinu Yeruchem Meshullam (c. first half of the 14th century) who was a student of R. Asher ben Yechiel (Rosh), R. Shlomo ben Aderet (Rashb"a), and R. Abraham ibn Ismaeil – author of Chiddushei Talmid HaRashb"a on Baba Kamma. In this post I would like to discuss the story behind why it was never retype-set, until a few weeks ago.

Rabbeinu Yeruchem authored his works many years ago, in years of the range of צד (1334). He was a student of the Rosh and his works are quoted extensively by the Beit Yosef throughout Tur and Shulhan Arukh. The Maggid (an angel who learned torah with the Beit Yosef) of the Beit Yosef told him ואוף ירוחם טמירי רחים לך אע"ג דאת סתיר מלוי בגין דמלאכת שמים היא (מגיד משרים פרשת צו).

Rabbeinu Yeruchem’s work contains three parts one called Meisharim and the remaining two parts entitled Toledot Adam ve-Chava. The part Adam contains everything relating to the man from birth until marriage; whereas Chavah contains everything from after marriage until death. This work was first printed in Constantinople in רעו (1517) and is extremely rare; only two complete copies are known to be extant. It was reprinted a second time in שיג (1553) in Venice; this is the version available today in photomechanical off-set editions. But, the Chida already notes that “this edition is full of mistakes.”[2] He also writes that he saw a manuscript of this sefer and was amazed as to the large amount of missing text as well as gross errors in the printed edition. The question remains as to why this work was never retype-set as opposed to the works of other Rishonim?

The answer might be found in the words of the Chid"a[3] where he brings as follows:
שמעתי מרבנן קשישאי בעיר הקודש ירושלים שקבלו מהזקנים דספר העיטור וספר רבינו ירחום הם מבחינת סוד עלמא דאתכסיא וכל מי שעושה באור עליהם או נאבדו הביאור או ח"ו יפטר במבחר ימיו"

I have heard from old Rabbi in the holy city of Jerusalem that they have a tradition that the books, Sefer haIttur and Sefer Rabbeinu Yeruchum, they are a high secret and anyone who writes a commentary on these books either the work will be lost or they will die in the prime of their life.
He than goes on to list a few people who started working on expounding the sefer, and either died in middle or the work was lost. In a different place the Shem Hagedolim brings the words of the Maggid to the Beit Yosef in the Maggid Meisharim (end of parashat Vayakhel) where he writes as follows:
וכן במאי דדחית מילוי דירוחם טמירי שפיר עבדת וכן בכל דוכתא דאת משיג עליה יאות את משיג עליה וקרינא ליה ירוחם טמירי דאיהו טמיר בגינתא דעדן דאית צדיקייא דלא משיג זכותא דילהון למהוי בגינתא דעדן בפרסום אלא בטמירו אבל במדריגה רבא ויקירא איהו
This, says Professor Meir Benayahu, is the reason why there is a curse on retype setting the work. What is not understood is that this is a completely halakhic work, not kabbalistic in any way, so why was there such a curse?[4]

One such work, which the Chida already mentions, is R. Hayyim Algazi’s Netivot Hamishpat.[5] The title page already records with regard to R. Algazi, “תנוח נפשו בעדן” (may his soul rest in heaven) intimating he died in the process of writing this commentary.

Another work in this category is that of R. Reuven Chaim Klein’s Shenot Chaim.[6] Unfortunately, he also died amidst writing the sefer, at the age of 47. The title page also records that the author did not want his name to appear, one can suggest that perhaps he thought if his name did not appear, he would not be subject to the curse. What’s interesting to note is in the haskamah of R. Joseph Shaul Nathenson, author of Shu”t Shoel u-Meshiv, to R. Klein’s work, as he makes no mention of any cherem to this work, but does quote the Maggid Mesharim cited earlier. Additionally, R. Chaim Sanzer, in his haskamah to this sefer, makes no mention of any cherem.

The other work which the Chidah brings was under this curse was the Sefer HaItur. This sefer was privileged to be reprinted with a critical edition by the great R. Meir Yonah, who called the glosses 'Shar Hachadash and Pessach Hadiveir.' Dr. Binyamin Levine, author of the Otzar Hagaonim series, writes in his short biography on him – as he used this work in many his own seforim – that he also suffered many tragedies; i.e. he lost many children.[7]

Interestingly enough, I found a nice size work on Rabbeinu Yeruchem and the author did not die young. His name was R. Yehudah Ashkenazi (1780-1849) the work is called Yisa Bracha (available at, printed in Livorno 1822. He authored many famous seforim such as the Geza Yeshai (klallim) (Livorno, 1842), Siddur Beit Oved (Livorno, 1843), Siddur Beit Menucha (Livorno, 1924), Siddur Beit HaBechirah (Livorno, 1875), and Siddur Shomer Shabbat (Livorno, 1892).

In spite of all the above, a portion of the Rabbeinu Yeruchum has now been printed based of the first printing as well as manuscript, by on R. Yair Chazan.

Based on the above, we find ourselves asking the question 'why did this R. Yair Chazan decide to reprint this work?'

The answer is found in the haskamah to the sefer from R. Ovadiah Yosef, who wrote that the whole curse is only if one is writing a pairush/commentary – expository text - on the work. But if one's whole intent is to just fix the printing mistakes, which is R. Chazan whole intention here, it's not a problem. Besides for the haskamah of R. Ovadiah Yosef, there are a few other haskamot; amongst them R. Shmuel Auerbach and R. Chaim Pinchus Scheinberg.

Just to give a brief overview of this work, as mentioned before the earlier editions of the Rabbeinu Yeruchem are full of printing mistakes and is missing many pieces. What R. Chazzan did was to track down the existing manuscripts of the sefer and try to fix the mistakes and put in the missing pieces. He also puts in the sources of Rabbeinu Yeruchem and he brings down where it is quoted in various poskim. He retype-set it beautifully making it a pleasure to read and use in compared to the old print.

So far only the third volume (the חוה section) has been printed I hope to see the rest of R. Yerucham printed soon.

[1] See here for Marc B. Shapiro's appreciation for R. Yosef Buxbaum, founder and director of Machon Yerushalayim, posted at the Seforim blog.
[2] Shem Hagedolim, Mareches Gedolim, letter yud, number 382, quoting the Ralbach, (siman 109); see also R. Chaim Shabtai HaKohen, Shu"t Mahrch"sh, Even HaEzer p. 153,b ("it is already known that the book of Rabbenu Yeruchum has many errors and unnecessary wordage"); R. Y. Sirkes, Bach Y.D. no. 241 s.v. U'mah Sechatav Avor Aviv ("I have already studied this work [Rabbenu Yeruchum] and it is full of error - too many to count"); Y.S. Speigel, Amudim B'Tolodot Sefer HaIvri : Hagahot U'Magimim p. 247 n.121 for additional sources.
[3] idem.
[4] Pirush Sifri, Rabbenu Eliezer Nachum, Meir Benayahu, ed., (Jerusalem, 1993), Introduction.
[5] (Istanbul, 1669; reprinted by Pe'er HaTorah in Yerushalyim, circa 1975)
[6] (Lemberg, 1871; reprinted by Machon Yerushalayim, Jerusalem, 1985)
[7] Binyamin Levin, Mesivos: Talmud Katan leSeder Mo’ed, Nashim, u-Nezikin (Jerusalem, 1973), end of this book.

Review of Dr. Michael Stanislawski, "A Murder in Lemberg: Politics, Religion, and Violence in Modern Jewish History"

Some have already pointed out that Columbia University Professor Michael Stanislawski has a new book/thriller.[1] This book describes the murder of R. Abraham Kohn and the events leading up to it and its aftermath.

Prof. Stanislawski attempts to discern whether, in fact, R. Kohn was murdered -- Stanislawski thinks so -- and in doing so, provides a wonderful description of Lvov (Lemberg) during the mid-nineteenth century. The basic background is that R. Kohn was a Reform Rabbi who became the main Rabbi in Lemberg. This allowed him to enact various rules, some such as the abolition of the various Jewish taxes which were collected by Orthodox Jews and thus they profited from it at the expense of the poor could be viewed as postive. But, as he was Reform, even the poor who benifited from this, still complained about such changes. As Stanislawski shows, much of R. Kohn's actual reforms to Jewish practice were to be found in his articles (and his prior pulpit) rather than his public speeches or proclamations in Lemberg. While the book is interesting and Stanislawski does a good job on the whole, there are several points which I think need to be addressed.

The first is his conclusion. Although he does allow there may be room to doubt whether Kohn was murdered, anyone reading the book comes away with the impression that Stanislawski thinks Kohn was murdered. Stanislawski chides prior authors who don't conclude Kohn was murdered. The problem with this, is Stanislawski provides the entire legal history after Kohn's death, which seriously questions whether Kohn was murdered. That is, after Kohn died one person stood trial for his murder and was convicted. However, on appeal this was overturned. After the verdict was overturned, it was again reviewed by the highest court and the appellate court's judgment was upheld.

While there are some issues with both of these appellate decisions, I don't see how, after 150 years, and the fact that he admits he doesn't have all the documentation, Stanislawski could then chide these other authors for relying upon these contemporaneous decisions! If Stanislawski unearthed some document which pointed to the perpetrator that would be one thing, but that is not the case here.

Additionally, Stanislawski intimates that as the accused was Orthodox, later Orthodox writers and publishers attempted to cover up the whole incident and label it as a death. He singles out the publishing house Mossad HaRav Kook and lays claim they also deliberately got it wrong. [2] Setting aside the possiblity that these Orthodox publications decided to rely upon the decision of the abovementioned courts, it is disingenuous to accuse Mossad HaRav Kook when in fact, another one of their publications -- one that they have reprinted just a few weeks ago -- includes the story as Stanislawski wants to believe it happened. Included in Prof. Meir Hershkovics' biography on R. Tzvi Hirsch Chajes (Maharetz Chajes) published by Mossad HaRav Kook, it is noted that Kohn and his child were murdered by Orthodox Jews.[3]

While, a conspiracy theory makes for more exciting reading, the facts don't seem to support it.

[1] Michael Stanislawski, A Murder in Lemberg: Politics, Religion, and Violence in Modern Jewish History (Princeton University Press, 2007)
[2] See esp. id. p. 77
[3] See Meir Hershkovics, Maharetz Chayot: Toledot Rabbi Tzvi Hirsh Chayot u-Mishnato (Mossad HaRav Kook, 2007), p. 103-05.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

The Eighth and Final Volume of Daniel Sperber's Minhagei Yisrael Has Appeared

Mossad HaRav Kook has just published the eighth and final volume of Rabbi Prof. Daniel Sperber's Minhagei Yisrael. This final volume includes a complete and comprehensive index of all eight volumes volumes of Minhagei Yisrael. For this reason alone this volume is worthwhile, as anyone who has used the prior volumes knows, at times topics are spread over multiple volumes, sometimes in footnotes, which makes it difficult to locate particular topics. The first index is comprised of multiple indices; Mishna, Talmud, and Midrashim/Zohar. Additionally, there is an index using the Tur/Shulhan Arukh. The second index is done topically. Aside from the index, this volume includes a rather nice introduction where Professor Sperber discusses most of the recent literature on minhagim. Although not intended to be a full bibliography, it does include almost all the important books published on this topic in the last 15+ years, a topic that we will return to in forthcoming posts at the Seforim blog.

As with all the other volumes of Minhagei Yisrael there are also additional articles discussing minhagim. This volume starts off with a long quote from Rabbi Chaim Williamowsky. This quote, typifies the vast majority of Professor Sperber's articles in this volume. R. Williamowsky notes that it is important to trace the history of minhagim as some are non-Jewish in origin and instead were borrowed and adopted from foreign cultures. Sperber then spends the next 100+ pages discussing minhagim which fall into that latter category. Sperber discusses the following customs -- I have provided citations only if the custom is not the main focus of an article -- the groom stepping on the foot of the bride (p. 14 n. 4 [and should make this person happy that in fact it has non-Jewish roots]); upsherin; round-matzot which are not linked to a non-Jewish custom, only that there is no reason to prefer round over square (p. 29-30 n. 26); which day of the week to get married, including a discussion of Friday marriages (p. 33 n. 13); marriage during a waxing of the moon (p. 37-40); bride and groom fasting on their wedding day; the huppah canopy; not having knots at the wedding (p. 71 n. 11); throwing a shoe at a wedding; burning clothing at the graves site of R. Shimon bar Yochai; feeding mourners eggs after the burial (p. 72); the additional "holy" names in mezzuzot, tzizit as protection (p. 112 n. 61 - this one may have gone from Jews to non-Jews as well as the notion of a door post protect, see idem); the use of פי פי פי to concentrate during prayers (p. 113); dipping bread in salt to protect from evil spirits.

Sperber is able to trace back almost all of these topics and offer why and when the Jews accepted what was common amongst from within the particular culture they were living. Sperber's sources are especially helpful as, at times, others have made arguments that customs are originally non-Jewish in nature but provide no sources. For instance, both R. Gavriel Zinner and then R. Benyomin Hamburger both note the possibility that upsherin comes from non-Jewish sources. But neither provides any detail on this point. Sperber fills a significant lacuna.

Although the above makes up the bulk of this volume there are few other items of interest. Sperber offers a possibility why the custom arose to say the verse ויהי בנסע ארון at the removal of the Torah and then also discusses the recitation of the Ten Commandments at קריאה שמע על המטה. The rest of the articles are additions to this one. That is a discussion about the placement of the Ten Commandments generally by Professor Meir Schwartz. Additionally, as the source for the recitation is R. Yitzhak Klover, grandfather of the R. Shelomoh Luria (Maharshal), Dr. Meir Rapfeld provides biographical and bibliographical information about this important figure. Dr. Rapfeld also has a discussion about a custom in the synagogue of the Maharshal. There is an article from R. Meir Kodesh discussing the custom amongst mourners to wear black.

Finally, as in all of the previous volumes, Prof. Sperber has included additions and corrections covering all of the volumes.

In all, this is an excellent end to a terrific series on minhagim. The book is available in Israel directly from Mosad HaRav Kook who currently is running a sale and in the US at Biegeleisen books (and in due course) at your local seforim store.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Rabbi Yosef Tzvi Dunner (1913-2007), the final surviving musmakh of the Berlin Rabbinical Seminary

Rabbi Yosef Tzvi Dunner (1913-2007):
The Final Surviving Musmakh of the Berlin Rabbinical Seminary
by Menachem Butler

HaRav Yosef Tzvi Dunner, who recently passed away in London at the age of 94, was the scion of a prominent European rabbinical family and father and grandfather of noted British Orthodox rabbis, Rabbi Abba Dunner and Rabbi Pini Dunner, respectively. In a recent email correspondence with Professor Marc B. Shapiro, author of the landmark biographical study of Rabbi Yechiel Yaakov Weinberg[1] and several articles related to the leaders of the Berlin Rabbinical Seminary,[2] he informed me that Rabbi Yosef Tzvi Dunner was the final surviving musmakh of the Berlin Rabbinical Seminary (Orthodox).

In the April 12, 2007 edition of Hamodia: The Newspaper of Torah Jewry, there is a very nice obituary for Rabbi Dunner, (see PDF); however, it is interesting to note how they neglected to make mention of Rabbi Dunner's studies at Berlin Rabbinical Seminary as they write:
At 19 he wanted to study in the yeshivos of Lithuania, but his father felt that due to the shortage of Rabbanim in Germany, it would be better for him to remain in the country and study in the beis medrash of Harav Yechiel Yaakov Weinberg, zt”l, author of Seridei Eish. For four years, the young Rav Yosef Tzvi studied in this beis medrash, where he was awarded semichah at a young age after astounding those testing him with his penetrating understanding of all four sections of the Shulchan Aruch. He was granted the title yoreh yoreh, yadin yadin.

Professor Shapiro further noted that
This appears to be the first time that the Berlin Rabbinical Seminary has been referred to as the Beis Medrash of R. Yechiel Yaakov Weinberg (with all that this implies). Next time they don't want to mention that someone received semichah at RIETS, they can say he studied in the Beis Medrash of (supply the name).
For additional biographical information on Rabbi Dunner zt"l, see here and here.

[1] Marc B. Shapiro, Between the Yeshiva World and Modern Orthodoxy: The Life and Works of Rabbi Jehiel Jacob Weinberg, 1884-1966 (London: Littman Library, 1999); For a brief discussion of the founding of the Hildesheimer Rabbinical Seminary of Berlin in 1873, see ibid., page 76. See also Michael Meyer, "The Establishment of Rabbinical Schools in Germany - A comparative Analysis" [Hebrew], in Immanuel Etkes, ed., Yeshivot and Battei Midrash (The Zalman Shazar Center for Jewish History and The Ben-Zion Dinur Center for Research in Jewish History, The Hebrew University, Jerusalem 2006), pp. 199-207.
[2] For an assortment of Shapiro's article/reviews on leaders of the Hildesheimer Rabbinical Seminary of Berlin, see "Letters of Rabbi Jehiel Jacob Weinberg [Hebrew]," Ha-Ma'ayan 32 (Tammuz, 5752 [1992]): 6-20; Review of "David Ellenson, Rabbi Esriel Hildesheimer and the Creation of a Modern Jewish Orthodoxy," Tradition 26 (Spring, 1992): 104-107; "The Autobiography of Rabbi Esriel Hildesheimer [Hebrew]," Alei Sefer 17 (1993): 149-150; "Letters of Rabbi David Zevi Hoffmann, Rabbi Moses Feinstein, and Rabbi Jehiel Jacob Weinberg [Hebrew]," Ha-Ma'ayan 34 (Tevet, 5754 [1994]): 9-20; "Rabbi David Zevi Hoffmann on Torah and Wissenschaft," Torah u-Madda Journal 6 (1995-1996): 129-137; "Scholars and Friends: Rabbi Jehiel Jacob Weinberg and Professor Samuel Atlas," Torah u-Madda Journal 7 (1997): 105-121; "Responsa and Letters of Rabbi David Zevi Hoffmann [Hebrew]," Ha-Ma'ayan 37 (Tammuz, 5757 [1997]): 1-14; "On Targum and Tradition: J. J. Weinberg, Paul Kahle and Exodus 4:22," Henoch 19 (1997): 215-232; "Rabbi David Tsevi Hoffmann on Orthodox Involvement with the Hebrew University," Tradition 33 (Spring, 1999): 88-93; "Understanding the Life and Works of Rabbi Jehiel Jacob Weinberg," Algemeiner Journal (June 6, 2000); "Rabbi Esriel Hildesheimer's Program of Torah u-Madda," Torah u-Madda Journal 9 (2000): 76-86; "R. Jehiel Jacob Weinberg on the Limits of Halakhic Development," Edah Journal 2:2 (2002; online at; "Thirteen Additional Letters by Rabbi Jehiel Jacob Weinberg [Hebrew]," Ha-Ma'ayan 45 (Tevet, 5765 [2005]): 1-17.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Mossad HaRav Kook Sale 2007

The Mossad HaRav Kook annual sale every year after Pesach is a major event for Seforim lovers in Israel, similar to the annual SOY Seforim Sale at Yeshiva University in New York. This year the sale marks the the 70th anniversary of Mossad HaRav Kook and will be the biggest sale ever. The sale will take place from the 22-29 of Nissan 5767 which is 10-17 April 2007.

Again the Judaica Archival Project and VirtualGeula offers its active subscribers and members a chance to participate from anywhere in the world at the same discount prices you would pay as if you attended the sale yourself (and without the line-ups). See here to view the 30 page catalog and to place your order.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Eliezer Brodt - Pesach Drasha of the Rokeach

The Pesach Drasha of the Rokeach
by Eliezer Brodt

Every once in a while we are privileged to have the venerable printing house Mikezei Nerdamim release something special from the great rishonim (aside from their great journal Kovetz Al Yad). Last year they published the drasha of R. Eliezer Rokeach for Pesach edited by Professor Simcha Emanuel. In this post I would like to discuss some of the many things of interest in the work and also comment on the great job of Simcha Emanuel did in general with this work.

This drasha seems to have been an actual drasha that the Rokeach said although it is pretty obvious from the length that it was not said at one time but probably broken up over a few times. The style of the drasha is mostly halacha and a bit of aggdah in the beginning and also scattered in the middle and end. He goes through many halchos of Pesach starting with koshering the utensils getting rid of the chametz and baking the matzos. He than continues on at great length to discuss all the aspects of the Seder. Then he deals with what to do if one finds chametz on Pesach and he ends with some halchos of Yom Tov in general.

First I would like to mention some of the interesting points found in the actual drasha. First, the Rokeach records that his family custom was when they burned the chametz they would do so with the lulavim and hoshanos which they had saved from Sukkos. [1]. While talking about the minhag to bake matzos Eruv Yom Tov he writes do not bake the matzos for the second night until the second night because of chavivah mitzvah bi’shaytah (pg 92). He writes that if the Yom Tov falls out on Shabbos we do not smell hadassim for besamim on Motzei Shabbos because there is no loss of the extra soul as the soul remains for the duration of Yom Tov. (pg 93). Professor Emanuel points out that others disagree with this point and hold one does in fact make a blessing on the besamim when Saturday night is still Yom Tov. While talking about the washing for karpas he writes that one should make a ‘al nitelas yadaim (pg 96) whereas we today do not. [2] He than goes on to say that we eat a full kazais for karpas something we also do not do – we eat less than a kazais. [3] (pg 97, 152). He notes his family minhag was to hold the cup of wine during the recitation of v’hei she’umdah (pg 99 and pg 126) [4]. He than goes on to describe how his family pours out the wine when we say the ten plagues. (pg 101 see also pg 127). The importance of this last custom is that until the publication of this drasha, although many have recorded this custom in the name of the Rokeach, it appeared in none of his writings (as I plan on discussing at length in a forthcoming article). In regard to washing mayim achronim although others argue he writes one should wash (pg 106). [5]

Another point worth mentioning about this sefer and this edition is the inclusion of Professor S. Emanuel excellent and lengthy notes. He discusses and provides additional sources for various things mentioned in the drash such as making matzos with pictures on them (pg 129-134), about the nussach of the Haggdah that some said רבון עלומים וכו' after ביד חזקה (pg 53- 57) [6] and reasons for the issur of kitnyot (pg 51). One very interesting thing which he points out is the difference about how a name is spelled in various manuscripts. Specifically, whether the Rokeach’s father-in-law was Eliezer or Elazar. If it was Elazer than it turns out that the Rokeach, whose first name was also Elazer, apparently ignored the will of his teacher, Rebbi Yehuda ha-Hassid – who disallows such marriages. Although, most likely, the Rokeach was married prior to coming in contact with Rebbi Yehuda ha-Hassid, his practice demonstrates that people, prior to Rebbi Yehuda ha-Hassid’s pronouncement did not observe this custom. (pg 57- 59). In addition to this Professor Emanuel has included excellent exstensive notes and comments throughout the drasha. He references many important points related to the issues the Rokeach says also including interesting sources from manuscripts.

Aside from this small work (152 pages) containing this very important drasha of the Rokeach it also includes many important pieces of information in regard to the Rokeach in general and especially to two works of his that until now were unknown. There is a lengthy discussion about a sefer of the Rokeach on shecitah and treifos as well as another sefer - Sefer Ma’seh Rokeach – and the many new items for it.


[1] Page 79. For further on this custom see Sefer HaMaskil pg 33-34; the important comment of R Honig in Yerushasanu pg 208-209; Sefer Kushyuos pg. 168-169 and the notes therein; D. Sperber, Minhagei Yisrael, vol. 2 pg. 193.

[2] See also the Haggdah Shivivi Eish in Me’orot HaRishonim, pg 152; see also Y. Tabory, Pesach Dorot, pg 216- 244.

[3] See also Y. Tabory, Pesach Dorot, pg 264-265.

[4] See also Haggdah Shivivi Eish pg 109.

[5] See also Tabory, pg 244-249.

[6] See also Pirush Miyuchas l’Rashi in the Torat Hayyim Haggdah, pg 110.

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