Thursday, May 31, 2007

Sale On Seforim Hard Drives

As discussed previously, there are two hard drive systems which contain thousands of seforim. Both of these will be on sale starting on Sunday June 3 for two weeks. For more information one can contact Mr. Flohr, who provided the information which appears below. Here are the sale prices:

Otzar Hachochma - Hard Drive System
Full version (23,000 seforim)- $1380 (reg. $1980)
Bney Torah (21,500 seforim) - $1240 (reg. $1780)
G'mara V'Halacha (15,800 seforim) -$930 (reg. $1320)
Torah U'Midrash (15,800 seforim) - $930 (reg. $1320)
Library Edition (23,000 seforim) - $950 (no search option)
FREE shipping on all orders.

Updates for previous owners available at 20% discount (i.e. owners of Otzar HaChochma who have not updated to the latest version can now do so during the sale and receive a discount price on the update).

It should be noted that if someone buys any of the "smaller" versions, they can update the program whenever they wish to a "higher" version (i.e. from Bney Torah to Full, or Gmara Vhalacha to Bney Torah etc.). The price would be based on the current sale price at the time they do the update.

There is an option for paying for the program in THREE payments.

Otzrot HaTorah (Morgenstern) - Hard Drive System
Full version (13,000 seforim) - $1296 (reg. $1600)
(if payed by cash or check discount of $156, final price - $1140)
Small version (12,000 seforim) - $990 (reg. $1200)
(If payed by cash or check discount of $120, final price - $870)

Morgenstern is also giving a free upgrade to the next version (version 5) which will include an additional 2,000 volumes as well as the complete Bayis Molay Seforim (Rosenberg) and will also have an update to the Otzar HaShu"t program (inc. parts of Yoreh De'ah). There is an option for paying for the program in 36 payments (three years).

The sale for both Otzar HaChochma as well as Otzrot HaTorah is scheduled to last for TWO weeks. After the sale is over the prices will go back up so if anyone is interested NOW is the time.

Also, readers of the Seforim Blog who mention it when purchasing will be given an EXTRA bonus.
Thanks much.
Moshe Flohr / Computer Maven

Finally, both Bar Ilan and DBS have updated their respective databases and Mr. Flohr has those available as well
Bar Ilan ver. 15 update from ver. 14 is $99.
DBS ver. 13 update from ver. 12 is $80.
there are prices for updating for earlier versions as well but please contact Mr. Flohr for those specifics.

Monday, May 21, 2007

The Custom of Akdamut on Shavuot

R. Brodt has already discussed the custom of azharot on Shavous, I wanted to discuss another Shavous custom – akdamut. Akdamut is the poem in Aramaic which is said around the time of the reading of the Torah on the first day of Shavuot.

This poem, composed by R. Meir ben Isaac who lived in Worms in the 11th century. He was also know as R. Meir Sha”tz (Shiliach Tzibor). The poem itself describes what happens in heaven when the angels sing their praises to god as well as god’s relationship with the Jewish people. The earliest source which records the custom to say akdamut is R. Ya’akov Molin (MaHRiL). The custom is then mentioned in most of the traditional codifiers of Ashkenazic custom.

The placement of akdamut is the subject of some controversy. According to the earliest sources which record the custom, they place the recitation of akdamut after the first passuk is read from the Torah. This was the accepted custom for many years. In the 17th century some began to question the propriety of interrupting the Torah reading with this poem. This controversy was brought to head in Venice where there were both Ashkenazim and Sefardim. As the Sefardim did not say akdamut at all, they found it highly questionable whether one can insert such a late poem in the middle of the Torah reading. This became a large controversy in Venice. The question was raised about the propriety of Ashkenazi customs in general and whether the Sefardic majority (in Vencie) could pass judgment on customs which they do not follow.

R. Ephraim HaKohen was asked a host of questions related to this controversy. First, can a Sefardic court decide about the propriety of an Ashkenazic custom, or are they considered “suspect” as they do not follow that custom? Second, is the custom of akdamut correct – to read it after the first passuk? And, finally, what is the effect of Sefardic customs vis-à-vis Ashkenazic ones when one group is in the majority?
He responded that first, there is no issue of a Sefardic court deciding on the customs of Ashkenazim. But, he explained that although in Venice the majority is comprised of Sefardim, that fact alone does not affect the Ashkenazic custom – as majority is not decided by a raw majority of people, but rather, a majority of people who follow a particular custom. Thus, you would look only at the Ashkenazic community to decide this issue based on majority. Or as he puts it “the majority of Sefardim is nothing when it comes to Ashkenazim.”

Finally, he discusses whether it is correct to pause and recite akdamut during the Torah reading. He explains that this is a correct custom, in part, because those who decided to do this to begin with were obviously aware of this issue and decided to do so anyways. He concludes that as this is a well-established custom it should remain in effect.

While R. Ephraim HaKohen spent a considerable amount of time justifying this practice (it is a very long responsa), his descendant R. Ya’akov Emden felt, irrespective of his great-grandfather, that it was wrong to interrupt the Torah reading. In his siddur, R. Emden takes issue, recognizing that although his great-grandfather justified the practice, there can in fact be no justification. The only proper place is prior to the start of the entire Torah reading – but one can not interrupt the Torah reading for akdamut. R. Emden argues that R. Ephraim’s assumption that the ones who instituted akdamut also knew about this problem, is meaningless. R. Emden explains that the early Ashkenazim had no problem interrupting in all sorts of instances for piyyutim, thus it is unsurprising to find they did it again here. But, R. Emden, says when it is no longer acceptable to recite many piyyutim there can be no justification for reciting akdamut during the Torah reading.

A similar stance to that of R. Emden is found in R. David ben Shmuel haLevi’s work – Turei Zehav or TaZ. He also complains about interrupting the Torah reading with this piyyut.

Based himself upon the same concerns as R. Emden and the TaZ, R. Aryeh Gunzberg (Sha'agas Aryeh) when he took the Chief Rabbi position of Metz argued that the community should change their custom from reciting akdamut after the first passuk and move it before the Torah reading. The community, however, would have none of that and refused to agree to the change. The Sha'gas Aryeh then threatened to leave Metz. In the end, the "compromise" was the Sha'agas Aryeh only came to the main Shul four times a year to give a derasha in protest of the community keeping their custom of akdamut.

Although one may justify the practice, as R. Ephraim HaKohen did, based upon the notion this is an established custom, the ultimate question is why was this established in the Torah reading at all? In the journal Ve’Laket Yosef, an interesting explanation is offered. Akdamut is in Aramaic, and it was the custom to have a translator during the Torah reading. This translation was done into Aramaic. There are two rather estoric readings – the Torah reading of the first day of Shavuot and the haftorah of the second day of Shavuot. Perhaps, prior to attempting to translate these difficult readings, the translator offered a justification and request from the congregation to allow him to translate this. Akdamut was the translators introduction – thus as his first time he would translate would be after the first verse – his introduction, and akdamut is after the first verse.

Setting aside when one is supposed to say akdamut, who was R. Meir the author? R. Meir lived in Worms, but the custom in Worms was not to say akdamut. This is a bit strange as one would assume the author’s home town would say his piyyut. R. Yehuda Leib Kirchheim, one of the recorders of Worm’s custom and history, says that once someone read akdamut in a beautiful fashion, and with a tremendous amount of concentration and right after he finished – he died. Thus, they stopped saying akdamut in Worms. However, R. Kirchheim, argues that this can not be the reason akdamut is not said as this would only prove how great akdamut is, it would not justify not saying it (although one could argue that it is a great piyyut, but after the person died, in Worms, they couldn’t find anyone else to recite it).

There are all sorts of legends told about R. Meir. Although it is typically understood that R. Meir Shatz was a chazzan, there is another explanation to this name. There is a legend which has a priest challenging the Jews in Worms to a debate. This threw the Worms Jewish Community into a tizzy, they didn’t know what to do. R. Meir stood up and said someone should go to the other side of the sambatyon river. The rabbi responded, fine – you be the one to go. Well R. Meir went off, first to Israel to ask a kabbalist where the sambatyon river is and then on to the sambatyon. When he got there, sure enough, the river was impassable, except on Shabbos. Although he would have been prohibited from crossing the river on Shabbos, as he was doing so only to save the lives of those in Worms, he did so. He found someone to go back and defend the Worms community. But, R. Meir got stuck, as he no longer had a dispensation to cross the river – there was no longer any mortal danger as he had found someone, so he remained behind the sambatyon river. According to this legend, Sheliach Tzibor – or the community emissary is literal and not a chazzan.

It is unclear where R. Meir is buried, some say in Tiberius, others place him somewhere in Europe.


R. Ephraim HaKohen, Sha’arei Ephraim, no. 10; Va'yelaket Yosef, no. 175 (1916); Landshuth, Amudei Avodah, pp. 164-65; Jacobson, Netiv Benah, vol. 4, pp. 99-105; R. Weinstock, Sheni Asar Shevtei Yisrael, pp. 70-77; Yuspah Shames, Minhagi Worms, vol. 1 ; Grossman, Hakmei Ashkenaz, 292-96; Frankel ed., Goldschmit Shavous Machzor, pp. 28-35; T. Rabinowitz, Iyunei Halacha, vol. 2 pp. 452-67; Hamburger, Gedolei haDoros 'al Mishmar Minhag Ashkenaz, pp. 108-112.

Also, see A. Habermann, Toldos HaPiyyut V'hashirah, vol. 2, p. 184 where he says that akdamut is in Aramaic as it is such a marvelous piyyut if it was in Hebrew (a language the angels can understand) the angels would be jealous.

For further online sources see here, here and here.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

The Custom of Azharot on Shavous

The Custom of Azharot on Shavous
by R Eliezer Brodt

The Yom tov of Shavous called Yom Matan Torahsenu as it is the day we received the Torah thousands of years ago at Har Sinai. It has many minhaghim that we do to remind us of this such as putting up grass and flowers or eating dairy dishes. Another minhag which many Jews have is to say azharot today. In this post I would like to discuss a bit of interesting bibliographic information about some specific azharot and their authors. On this topic, we will (1) discuss the numbering of the mitzvos in general; (2) next the meaning of azharot; (3) those who took exception to reciting the azharot; and (4) specifically which azharot are frowned upon.

In order to understand this topic a small introduction is needed. According to most opinions Jews are commanded to follow 613 mitzvos from the Torah. While 613 the most common number used, it is actually disputed by a few people. R Yeruchem Fischel Perlow records that R Yonah Ibn Ganach questioned the number. A little later than R. Ibn Ganach, we find that the Ibn Ezra questions this number and does so at great length in his Yesod Moreh, Shar Shenei (pg 91 and onwards). After that we find that the famous kabbalist R. Yosef Gikatilla, says (in his K'lalei Hamitzvos Erech Manah) that it’s impossible to give a number to the mitzvos. The Ramban also questions this number at length in the beginning of his work on the mitzvos. Gersonides (RaLBaG) in his commentary on shmos also questions the number (pg 76 Mossad Harav Kook edition). If we now skip a few hundred years, there is an interesting statement, attributed to the Gra, recorded by his brother R Avrohom at the beginning of his work Ma’alos haTorah where he has the Gra saying that the 613 is only the shoroshim (see there at length and the menucha vekedusha pg 20). R Shlomo Zalman Auerbach writes that this is the reason why we do not find that the Gra wrote on this area although he wrote on every other area of torah (Halichos Shlomo, Shavous, pg 374) due to its unending nature.

Aside from the above opinions, the 613 number has been accepted by most. After one agrees on a final number, the next question is commandments are included in this number. There was two main groups of numbers counters - the BaHaG who gave one listing of the 613 mitzvos and for a few hundred years this was the accepted method of counting the commandments. Then along came the Rambam with many arguments on the BaHaG’s method of counting which he devotes his introduction to his Sefer haMitzvos where he explains why he why he argued against the other shitos and counted the ones he did. Afterwards a whole collection of literature has been written on this topic from many rishonim and achronim.

Besides for the actual count of the mitzvos, there were many composers in the era of the Geonim and Rishonim who composed poems (piyyutim) counting the mitzvos some of these poems are known as azharot.

First, what is the meaning of the word Azharot? Professor Ezra Fleischer writes (Shirat Hakodesh Haivrit B'yemi Habenyayimm pg 73) that it’s not clear from where did the name אזהרת come from, it appears to be the opening sentence of a piyyut now lost. Others point out that אזהרת is the gematriah of 613. Moritz Steinschneider writes (Jewish Literature pg 159) that these piyyutim were based on halachic subjects which instruction was to be given on the Shabbos before the Yom tovim therefore they were called azharot meaning instructions. There are also azharot said on Shabboas Hagodal. A sample of one from R Klonomius can be found in the Shomer Zion Haneman (issue 95-97 year תרטו) (see also Davidsin Otzar Hashira Vhapiyyut vol 2 # 1042). Professor Ezra Fleischer also writes (Shirat Hakodesh Haivrit B'yemi Habenyayimm pg 384) that others such as R Yehudah Halevi wrote azharot for Pesach.

Zunz says the earliest azharot we have are from the end of Eighth century called אתה הנחלת (see also Otzar Haseforim from Ben Yakov pg 33). Amongst the other early ones we have are from R Saddiah Goan, R Binyomin ben Shmuel, R Eliyha haZaken R Shlomo Ibn Gabriel and R. Yitchack Albargeloni.

The Chida in Shem Hagedolim says that the recitation of azharot on Shavous, is done by most Jews. Much earlier we find in the Tzeda laDerach (mamar 4 klal 4 perek 6) that in Spain they said from R Shlomo Ibn Gabriel’s and in Ashkenaz and France they said the one from R. Eliyahu Hazakan The Abudrham (p. 246) also brings that they said from R Shlomo Ibn Gabriel. Even earlier we find both the Siddur Rav Amram Goan (Goldshmidt edition pg 131) and R Saddiah Goan (pg 156 and onwards) also discuss when exactly azharot were said during mussaf. R Saadiah Goan went even further he writes that he saw that everyone says during mussaf the 613 mitzvos from a piyyut called אתה הנחלתה (the earliest known azharot) but saw that it was missing a bunch of mitzvos so he composed a completely new version including all the mitzvos. One of the versions he composed was showing the 613 mitzvos in the asres hadebros (see the article of R Shmual Askenazi in Kovetz Beis Aaron V'yisroel 1991 issue 5 pg 109-114).

The Shelah, Sedar Hayom, and Chida bring that there were those that said the azharot of R Shlomo Ibn Gabriel when they stayed up Shavous night (See Shorshei Minhag Ashkenaz Vol 3 pg 296-298).

The reason for saying the azharot on Shavous suggests Profesor Frankel is perhaps based on a medrash which says that at matan torah the Jews were told after every mitzvah do you accept it with all its applications and after each one they said yes so it could be on shavous the day we got the torah we do this as its like a review of what happened than (Goldshmidt Machzaor Pg 11).

Aside from all the above, not everyone was so enamored with azharot. Two people specifically – Ibn Ezra and the Rambam – were against at least some azharot.

The Ibn Ezra writes in his Yesod Moreh (Bar Ilan 2002 pg 107) “that the authors of azharot are like people who count the blades of grass mentioned in the medical books not realizing the purpose of each one thus these people count the same thing twice because its mentioned twice.” The Rambam writes in his introduction to Sefer haMitzvos while talking about the different minyan hamitzvos that “there are many azharot from Spain and you can not blame them for making mistakes as they were composers not Rabanim.”

It is possible that the Rambam’s opinion was influenced by Ibn Ezra. In the Rambam’s last will and testament, he spoke highly of Ibn Ezra and recommended his son R. Abraham study Ibn Ezra. (See the Koreh haDoros pg 19 and R Emanuel Abuhav in his Bemavak Al Archa Shel Torah pg 247). But, using this source would be a mistake. As was already noted by the Mahrshal who questions whether in fact the will attributed to the Rambam is in fact from the Rambam. Similarly, R Yakov Emden in his Mitpachas Seforim (pgs 101-02) also writes that it must be a forgery. Today, Yitchzach Shilat, has demonstrated conclusively that in fact the will, attributed to the Rambam is a forgery. (Iggros Harambam vol 2 pg 697-698; see also G Scholem in Mechkeria Kabblah Vol 1 pg 190). While the will may not be real, this is still some evidence that the Rambam was influenced by the Ibn Ezra’s work Yesod Moreh in general (see R Yeruchem Fischel Perlow in his introduction to his work on R Saddaih Goan pg 15).

Setting aside where the Rambam got this anti-azharot idea, the next issue is which azharot were the Rambam and Ibn Ezra disapproving of?

R Chaim Heller in his notes (#34) on the Sefer Hamitzvos references a teshuva written by the Radbaz (vol. 3 siman 645) where the Radbaz writes that the Rambam is referring to Reb Shlomo Ibn Gabriel. R Y. Kapach also writes the Rambam is referring to R Shlomo Ibn Gabriel and R Yitzchack Albargeloni. The Sefer HaYechsin (pg 219) also assumes the Rambam was referring to both R Shlomo Ibn Gabriel and R Yitzchack Albargeloni. The Koreh Hadoros when quoting the Rambam’s above statement about the azharot takes this attribution one step further where the Koreh Hadoros just includes in the quote from the Rambam R. Shlomo Ibn Gabriel and R Yitzchack Albargeloni making it appear as if the Rambam says these names specifically. Landshuth, in his Amudei Avodah also assumes the Rambam is referring to R Shlomo Ibn Gabriel (pg 313).

The attribution to R. Shlomo Ibn Gabriel is problematic, mainly because it seems both him and his piyyutim where highly regarded. Although the Tashbatz already writes in his Zohar Harokea (a commentary on azharot of R Shlomo Ibn Gabriel) that this composer was not a great expert in Talmud; most others dispute this characterization. The Rogachaver Goan in his notes (see also Tiferes Zvi on the Zohar Vol 1 pg 189) on the Tashbatz writes that it’s a chutzpah to write such a thing on this amazing composer! [In a joking manner I wanted to suggest its strange that the Rogatchver would stick up for a a rishon as its well known he argued on Rishonim all the time so I wanted to suggest that he wanted to defend R Shlomo Ibn Gabriel so that he would be able to argue on the Tashbatz.]

But one thing we see from this for certain is that the Rogatchver held he was a great Talmud Chacham. Further more there is a different teshuvah (vol 3 siman 532) from the Radvaz where he writes that R. Shlomo Ibn Gabriel was a great person and Ibn Gabriel’s words are holy! This would seem to contradict the previously quoted words of the Radbaz. R. Matsyahu Strashun (Mivchar Kesavim Pg 116-118) suggests because of this apparent contradiction and some others that the Radbaz lived a very long life of 110 years and he wrote over 2000 teshuvot so its possible that over this great length of time he forgot his own earlier words.

R. Shlomo Ibn Gabriel’s contemporaries also held him in high regard. The Ravad (Sefer Hakablah pg 81) Meiri (Sefer Hakablah, Ofek ed., pg 136) Avudraham and Yechsin all call him a great chacham. In one place the Sefer haYeuchsin writes that לא קם כמוהו לפניו ואחריו. The Chida also writes that it can not be that the Rambam was referring to R Shlomo ibn Gabriel. R Yeruchem Fischel Perlow in his work on the Sefer haMitzvos of the Rasag he calls R Shlomo Ibn Gabriel a Godal. The Yechsin writes (and from there the Tzemach Dovid and Koreh Hadoros) that he was the rebbi of Rashi! However R Shmuel Askenazi already points out that the years are impossible because Rashi was ten years old living in France when R Shlomo Ibn Gabriel died in Spain (see his notes to the Kav Hayashar pg 20).

The Kav Hayashar writes that R Shlomo Ibn Gabriel was a great mekubal. The Sefer Metzref Lechochma even (pg 9b) brings that he created a woman golem! (see M Idel, Golem pg 200 and 343) This story shows he was familiar with kabblah maseyois.

There is a famous story brought down by many people [Shalsheles Hakablah (pg 89) Yesod Yosef (perek 87) Kav Hayashar (perek 86) Sefer Zechirah (pg 243) others bring down this story with R Shlomo Alkabetz see Amodei Ha'avodah pg 310.] in regard to R. Shlomo Ibn Gabriel’s death. A non-Jew was jealous of Ibn Gabriel’s wisdom so he killed him burying him under his fig tree. In time, the tree started bearing excellent figs, so great were these figs, that the king heard about it. The king wanted to know what his trick to get such good figs. The fig tree owner obviously did not want to reveal his secret. The king was not satisfied and had the fig tree owner tortured. The fig tree owner eventually confessed that he killed a Jew and buried him there. The king had the fig tree owner killed.
The Kav Hayashar and others use the above story to demonstrate the authors of our piyyutim were great people so we should be say them having the authors name in mind and that his merits should help us. However R. Shmuel Ashkenazi has already pointed out based on the Sefer Tachmoni that this story is not true and instead, R. Shlomo Ibn Gabriel died at the age of twenty nine from a harsh sickness in 1040 (see his notes to the Kav Hayashar pg 19 not the date 1070 given by the Sefer Yuchsin and Zinberg Toldos Hasafros B'yisroel vol 1 pg 72 For more on his sickness see Chaim Shirman in Toldos Hashira Haivrit b'Sefard Hamuslamit pg 265-268).

Abraham Haberman brings down in his Toldos Hapiyyut V'haShira (vol 1 pg 179) a legend from a Temani manuscript that describes the story behind R Shlomo Ibn Gabriel writing of his azharot. R Shlomo Ibn Gabriel was learning in a Yeshivia where the Rebbe had a daughter of marriageable age. The Rebbi said who ever gives me a new fruit can marry her. That night R Shlomo Ibn Gabriel wrote the azharot gave it to the Rebbe and the Rebbe announced the engagement. They got married eruv Shavous!

Another piyyut which R Shlomo Ibn Gabriel is famous for is Keter Malchus which in nusach Sefard machzorim it was said on Yom Kippur at night others say it during the day (see I. Davidson, Otzar Hashira Vehapiyyut # 581). Many people discuss how there are many kabblastic concepts in this piyyut (see Chaim Shirman, Toldos Hashira Hivrit B'sefard Hamuslmit pg 331-345).

Besides for composing songs R Shlomo Ibn Gabriel authored a few seforim one called Tikin Midos Hanefesh others attribute to him the Mivchar Pinenim. However besides for this he authored another sefer which was a classic in philosophy called Mekor Chaim. An interesting thing happened with it it was translated to Latin called Fons Vitae and it became a world classic but the authors name was written as Avicebron and know one knew that a Jew was the real author. In 1846, S Munk figured out that it’s really from R Shlomo Ibn Gabriel and he printed it. Eventually it was printed in Hebrew. There has been much written on this sefer to show that R Shlomo Ibn Gabriel was familiar with kabblah (see G. Scholem, Mechkeria Kabblah Vol 1 pg 39-66).

[For more on R Shlomo Ibn Gabriel see Elbogen, Hatefilah B'yisroel pg 258-259: Zinberg in Toldos Safrus B'yisroel vol 1 pg 34-73: A Haberman Toldos Hapiyyut Vehashira vol 1 pg 175-180: Chaim Shirman in Toldos Hashira Hivrit bsefard hamuslmit pg 257-345.]

From all this, it is clear that neither the Rambam or Ibn Ezra were referring to Ibn Gabriel, so we now turn to another candidate - R Yitzchack Albargeloni. R. Albargeloni lived in the era of the Rif and Ravad. The Sefer Hakabalah also says that R. Albargeloni was a great talmid chacham who wrote works on Kesuvos and Eruvin. The Meiri in Sefer HaKabbalah also (pg 134) writes that he was a great chacham. These works of his on kesuvos and eruvin were lost however Profesor Ta-Shma has found some pieces of his in other works of Rishonim (See his Hasafrut Haparshnut Le'talmud volume 1 pg 168-169). Besides for this he also translated the sefer Mekeach umemkar of Rav Hai Goan from Arabic to Hebrew when he was thirty five years old (see amudei havodah pg 126 and Or hachaim Chaim Michael pg 510). Thus the Chida writes the Rambam was not referring to R Yitzchack Albargeloni.

Another early composer of azharot which was recently found active before R Shlomo Ibn Gabriel and R Yitzchack Albargeloni was from R Binyomin Ben Shmuel. Professor Ezra Fleischer printed them in kovetz al yad (vol 11 pg 1-77) R Binyomin lived according to Zunz before Rashi in the first half of the eleventh century. According to some he was the brother of R Yosef Tov Elem. [For more on this Rishon see Fleischer in his extensive intro to his work and Professor A Grossman in Chachmei Tzarfat Harishonim pg 47-51.]

Another early composer of azharot – before R Shlomo Ibn Gabriel was R Eliyayhu Hazakon his azharot are quoted in Tosafot throughout shas and by many other Rishonim so its highly unlikely that the Ibn Ezra and Rambam were referring to him. The Marshal (shut siman 29) and Chida write that he was the brother in law of Rav Hai Goan but recent historians show that he might have been mistaken and he was a bit later than that See Prof A Grossman in Chachmei Tzarfat Harishonim pg 88-90 . [For a listing of the rishonim who bring him down see Amudei Avodah pg 14-15: Chaim Michael, Or Hachaim pg 180: Davidson, Otzar Hashira Vehapiyyut vol 1 #6022 and the introduction of the Mezack Azharot by R Yisroel Shaprio.] Professor A Grossman discusses his life and works at great length in his work Chachmei Tzarfat Harishonim pg 84-107.

Many commentaries were written on these different azharot by Rishonim and Achronhim. On the azharot of R Saadiah Goan we have the excellent encyclopedic work of R Yeruchem Fischel Perlow where he basically has and average of ten pages per every word of R Saadiah Goan he also discusses all the other opinions of the geonim and rishonim on the relevant topics. On the azharot of R Yitzchack Albargeloni we have the commentary Nesiv Mitzvosecha from R Shaul Hakohen from Gerba (he also wrote on the azharot of R Shlomo Ibn Gabriel.) On R Eliyhau Hazakan we have an early in depth commentary from him printed in the Kovetz al Yad (vol 11 part 1) from E Kuffer from some talmidim of talmidi Rabenu Tam. In 1900, R Mordechaei Slutski printed a pirish called Hiddur Zakon. This work has haskamas from the Meshech Chochma and Minchas Borouch. In 1972 R Yisroel Issur Shaprio (son of R Refael Shaprio) wrote an excellent in depth work called Matzack Azharot where he has a lengthy commentary on every word of R Eliyahu Hazakan. In 2001, Yitzhach Meiseles put out a complete critical edition of these azharot.

On the azharot of R shlomo Ibn Gabriel we have many works amongst them the Tashbatz's Zohar Ha'rokeah. The Zohar Ha'rokeah has its own recent extensive edition from R A David including many useful footnotes and the notes of the Shoel U'mashiv, Rogatchver, R Yeruchem Fischel Perlow and R Menachem Kasher. A while back in a sinai a few pieces of the Adres's notes were printed on the azharot of R Shlomo Ibn Gabriel.

Another person who we find wrote a commentary on the azharot of אזהרת ראשית was R Shmuel Chassid the father of R Yehudah Hachassid but they are only in manuscript as of now (see E E Aurbach ed., Arugot Habosem vol 4 pg 89 ) For a complete history of R Shmuel Hachassid see the article from Abraham Epstein in his Ketvim vol 1 pg 247-268.

So at least these few authors can not be the ones the Ibn Ezra and Rambam were referring to. So the Chida writes it must be they were referring to the many other composers of azharot. It is clear that this is the case as the Ramban writes in the beginning of his notes on the Rambam shorshim that there were many piyyutim and azharots written of the mitzvos.

General sources see: Chida in Shem Hagedolim Erech Azharot: Elbogen, Hatefilah b'yisroel pg 163: Extensive introduction of Prof. Yonah Frankel in the Goldshmidt Machzor on Shavous pg 11-14 and pgs 36-48: Introduction of R. A. David to his Zohar Harokeah.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Review of a new edition of the Sefer Chasidim

Review of a new edition of the Sefer Chasidim

by R. Eliezer Brodt

As recently mentioned on this blog this generation is privileged to have many seforim especially rishonim being reprinted in critical editions based on manuscripts etc. One of the publishing houses which has been involved in publishing such works is Mechon Otzar haPoskim. A few years ago they released a few volumes of a critical edition of the Mahzhor Vitri which to date its still not complete. And now, a few weeks ago they published two volumes (of eventually four volumes) of the Sefer Hassidim. In this post I would like give some background on Mechon Otzar haPoskim, the Sefer Chassidim in general and this recent version in particular.

Mechon Otzar haPoskim was founded in the 1950’s by two great gedolim R. Isser Zalman Meltzer and R. Yitzchak Isaac Herzog. R. Herzog explained (introduction to Otzar haPoskim compendium on Even haEzer) the reason for founding of the organization was due to the almost limitless nature of Halacha and thus at times poskim find themselves having to deal with very difficult topics and do not have access to most of the seforim of the many great Gedolim of the past that would help them deal with these difficult topics. Attempts to deal with the vast amount of halacha literature had been previously attempted by the Peschei Teshuva and Darkei Teshuvah. But, today, both of these works are limited as the body of literature has expanded significantly since these earlier works came out. R. Herzog thus had the idea to create a modern compendium using what he had available. He then heard that R. Isser Zalman had the same thoughts so they decided to work together and gather a group of Gedolim to systematically go thru the teshuvot literature, abridge it, and place it in the parallel place in the order of the Shulchan Orach. R. Isser Zalman had an additional reason why he wanted to start this organization. He felt that many talmdei chachamim needed parnasah so this was a great way to help them by employing them to go thru all the seforim (Derech Etz Chaim vol. 2 p. 327).

With the help of Dr. L. Magnes, R. Herzog was able to raise funds to start this organization. Card catalogs were made and the seforim were cataloged according to topics forming the now-famous Otzar haPoskim catalogs. These catalogs are the notes culled from thousands of seforim. A look in the index of earlier volumes of the Otzar haPoskim will show that they in the fifties were going thru more volumes of seforim than the Frankel edition of the Rambam did in their recent, final volume! Interestingly, R. Isser Zalman inherited an excellent library from R. Chaim Berlin which contained thousands of rare seforim which were unknown to most people. R. Isser Zalman made sure these seforim were used and quoted in the Otzar haPoskim (Derech Etz Chaim vol. 2 p. 328). R. Isser Zalman also the one who made the decision which works would make it into Otzar haPoskim and which would not. To date this catalog has helped many seforim such as the many volumes of Mo’adim l’Simcha.

Otzar haPoskim’s main work has been the Otzar haPoskim on Even haEzer. Anyone needing sources on topics relating to Even haEzer; this has a tremendous amount of sources. One interesting point about this work is that one finds all kinds of Rabbonim getting along – quoted side by side. A few years ago they mentioned that the volumes of Otzar haPoskim on Orach Chaim are in preparation one only hopes that they will come thru to create such an important necessary work on Orach chaim [This is actually available on the Morgenstern, Otzrot haTorah, hard drive as well as on the Otzar haPoskim on Hoshen Mishpat.]

Recently they have expanded their repertoire to include the publication of Rishonim such as the Machzor Vitri and, now, the Sefer Chasidim.

The Sefer Chasidim has been reprinted many times ever since it was first printed in Bologna in 1538. R. Saadia Helvona in his introduction to his commentary on the Sefer Chasidim, Mishnat Chasidim, notes that the Sefer Chasidim is encyclopedic in nature as it includes both halacha and aggadah. The Sefer Chasidim is extremely popular and it is quoted by many rishonim and achronim for all kinds of things. Aside from quotations, there seems to be a certain awe about it which is hard to explain especially when it comes to the tzavah (the ethical will) which was printed in many of the editions (first printed in Yesod haTeshuva, Cracow, 1585).

The tzavah itself is the subject of many teshuvot and even some entire seforim. Without going into the whole history of this topic (which R Gutman promises us will be one of the forthcoming volumes) its worth mentioning aside from the well-known teshuva in the Nodah beYehudah (Even haEzer Tinyanah no. 79), where he writes that there are many things in the tzavah which conflict with Chazal and those statements do not need to be followed. There is an additional, lesser known statement from the Noda BeYehudah about the tzavah. R Eleazer Fleckels (most well know for his Teshuvah m’Ahahva), in his Olat haChodesh (vol. 1 p.15) records that the Nodah beYehudah would respond when asked if there is a problem marrying someone if that will cause the future father-in- law and future son-in-law will share the same name (which the tzavah states is a problem) “before you ask me about following the tzavah of R. Yehudah haChasid ask me about the tzavah (or statement) of Chazal which decries marrying the daughter of a am ha’aretz! [This sentiment, however, is disputed in the Teshuvos Matzav haYashar (volume 2 pg 44) where he writes “in his old age that whenever he saw people going against various statements in the tzavah nothing good ever came from it!]

The true authorship of the Sefer Chasidim is unclear. Some attribute it to R. Yehudah haChasid (Chida and others) but R Avrohm ben haGra records that his father, the Gra, held R. Eleazer Rokeach wrote it (Yeshurun, vol. 4 p. 250). R Frumkin also records this statement from the Gra– R. Frumkin’s source is a manuscript of R. Yisrael of Shklov’s Pas haShulchan (Toldos Chachmei Yerushalim, vol. 2 p. 102 the end of note 1; see also Chaim Michal, Or haChaim p. 456). Abraham Epstein writes that the Sefer Chasidim doesn’t have a single author but instead it is from three different people – R Shmuel haChassid, his son R Yehudah haChasid, and R. Eleazer Rokeach (Kitvei R. Avrohom Epstein, vol. 1 pp. 258-261). R. Gutman in the introduction to his new edition of the Sefer Chasidim brings many other different sources in regard to the authorship of this sefer. Recently Professor Haym Soloveitchik shows in a beautiful article based on Yakov Reifman that not only are is the work of different authors but there are completely different styles and what one writes completely contradicts what the other does. (JQR XCII no. 3-4 pp. 455-493).

Many manuscripts exist of the Sefer Chasidim , however, from the 1538 until 1891 there was basically one version printed based on only one of the manuscripts. In 1891, Yehudah Wistinetzki printed a new edited from another manuscript - the Parma manuscript - published by Chevra Mekitsei Nerdamim.

This Parma manuscript contains a almost double the material of the original edition. Aside from just adding material, the Parma edition is also important for the different versions of the previously published pieces. This edition was recently reprinted by Moznaim publishing house but without the important introduction of Y. Frieman. However, the Kest Leibowitz publishers also recently reprinted this edition and they reprinted the whole sefer including the introduction. Interestingly although the footnotes which appear in this edition are not that extensive as some of the prior editions, there are important notes on this edition albeit they don’t appear in the actual work. Instead, Wistinetzki, prior to printing this edition sent about fifty questions to R. Yosef Zechariah Stern in an attempt to locate sources for different statements of the Sefer Chasidim and the answers are included in R. Stern’s Zecher Yehosef (vol. 1 no. 78).

In 1955, Rabbi Avrahom Price from Toronto with the permission of Mekitsei Nerdamim reprinted the Parma edition in three massive volumes with extensive footnotes. But, one thing which R. Price stays clear from – which he admits in his introduction – is the kabalah aspects of the Sefer Chasidim as he was not familiar with this part of torah. These three volumes are available for free download at seforim online at

In 1924, R. Reuven Margolis first published in Lemberg, what would become the most popular version of the Sefer Chasidim, in a critical edition . Subsequently, this was corrected and updated and eventually published by Mossad HaRav Kook. This edition to date is the best job done on the Sefer Chasidim. He has excellent notes, as many are familiar with from his many seforim - he writes straight to the point referencing all kinds of sources from everywhere – showing the sources which form the basis of the Sefer Chasidim. He also shows, with his unbelievable bikyus, whether the various authorities - rishonim and achronim - agree with the statements of the Sefer Chasidim. Besides for all this he has many excellent and original comments on the Sefer Chasidim which he is famous for in all of his works. He also includes notes from nine different people on the Sefer Chasidim. Until now, there was one other worthwhile addition to the Sefer Chasidim. In 1984, R. Moshe Herschler printed in his Kovetz Genuzot (vol. one) some thirty more pieces of the Sefer Chasidim which he found in a different manuscript.

We now come to this most recent version published by Otzar HaPoskim and edited by R. Gutman. As mentioned above, thus far, two volumes have been issued of what is supposed to be four volumes of the Sefer Chasidim. The first impression one has when one picks it up is this is a beautiful job as the print is very clear and the layout it very organized. This is keeping with the famous statement of R Akiva Eiger where he writes to his sons in the introduction of his teshuvot that “one should print his sefer on nice paper and ink because one learns much better from such a sefer”. Although this statement is attributed to R. Eiger, in fact, this idea is found much earlier in the famous introduction to the Maeseh Efod (p. 13) of where he writes this concept at great length it’s quoted by R Yakov Emden in his work Migdal Oz (p.50 ) in short.

Prior editions of the Sefer Chasidim included the perush of the Chida, Bris Olam, but it seems that many pieces were missing. R Gutman corrects these omissions. In addition to those corrections to that commentary, another common commentary Pirish Kadmon by R. Dovid Greinheit also suffered from lack of completeness and R. Gutman has correct that as well. Besides for all this R. Gutman includes a collection of comments of R Eliezer Papua from his Yalkut Chasidim that relate to the Sefer Chasidim and the Perush Mishnat Chasidim from R Sadiah Chalonah (it is only on the first seven simanim in the sefer).

Rabbi Guttman includes many notes (totaling twenty-nine) from different gedolim on the Sefer Chasidim many of them which he obtained from unpublished manuscripts amongst them from the Adres and R. Y. Palagai. In the back of volume two he includes a sixty page kuntres of notes from R. Chaim Sofer who is famous for his incredible bikyus. In addition to all this he has many lengthy comments on the whole sefer from a wide rang of sources to explain the Sefer Chasidim. He also has a section on each page where he brings down various readings from the different manuscripts on the particular pieces.

All the above are the positive things about this reprint, unfortunately, there are notable points of criticism. It is true its is always easier to criticize than to the actual work oneself but here are some points I feel worthy of mentioning.

To begin with the entire history and literature of the Chasidei Ashkenaz in general have been the subject of many articles and books. However, even today after all that has been published there is much left unclear. Just to list a few of the people who were and are involved in the study of the Chasidei Ashkenaz, Moritz Gudemann (haTorah v’Hahayim, vol. 1, pp. 119-156), A. Epstein (vol. 1 pp. 245-269), Y Y Frieman (introduction to Sefer Chasidim Meketzei Nerdamim ed.), Gershom Scholem, Y Baer, Ivan Marcus (all in Da’as v’Chevrah b’Mishnat Chasidei Ashkenaz), E. E. Aurbach (Balei haTosfos, vol. 1, pp. 345- 447 and volume four of his edition of Arugot haBosem), Yisroel Ta Shema (Keneses Mechkarim, vol. 1 pp. 181-317), E. Kanarfogel (Peering thru the Lattices), Yosef Dan (in his recent book on R. Yehudah haChasid published by Zalman Shazar), Eric Zimmer, Simcha Emanuel (in his introduction to the recently published Drasha of Rokeach) and Haym Soloveitchik (AJS Review vol. 1 (1976) pp. 311- 357).

Some of what has been found in these manuscripts has been the subject of great controversy causing great people to claim these manuscripts must be forgeries (see Kovetz Minchas haKayitz vol. 6 pp. 251-252). But besides for this there has been a great many manuscripts found in the past twenty-five years and printed such as the Rokeach al haTorah and Megilos or the Rokeach’s work on siddur and many other of his works, R. Efraim al haTorah. Other works by the Chasidei Ashkenaz have been put out in critical editions such as the Sefer Gematriyos of R. Yehudah haChasid and the Amaoros Tehoros (which I hope to return to in later posts) all containing many important explanations about all sorts of topics from the Chasidei Ashkenaz.

To date there is no way to many unknowns (for me at least) to even paint a brief picture of this group of rishonim but one hopes with the help of the recent seforim printed and what will be printed in the future we will be able to get a clearer understanding of these great rishonim. Being aware of the explosion in this genre of literature, any version of the Sefer Chasidim should keep this companion literature in mind and should take it in account as much of the printed torah of the Chasidei Ashkenaz as it relates to this most famous work, Sefer Chasidim, of this school.

Now R. Gutman seemed to be aware of this and he does use some of these new seforim. For example, he quotes the Sefer Gematriyos many times however the rest of this no mention to the many other recent seforim of Chasidei Ashkenaz. [For a comparison see the recent edition of the Sefer Gematriyos where the footnotes are full of such cross-references (although he might of done to much).] The purpose of referencing the other literature of the Chasidei Ashkenaz is many times they can help understand certain comments if one can see all the ways similar ideas are brought down by the different talmdim. In learning Gemara with rishonim this is very important to help one understand the particular shitos and so to here.

For example, the Sefer Chasidim (siman 548) writes if one wants to see if he will live the year light a candle during assert yemih teshuvah if it remains lit you will live the year if not, not. On this R. Gutman references nothing. Where as without going much into this topic I will just give a reference to the Sefer Hashem of the Rokeach (recently printed from manuscript for the first time) where he talks about this (p.140) which complements the statement found in the Sefer Chasidim.

I feel this is a very important part to anyone writing on the Sefer Chasidim and R. Gutman should have put in more work in regard to this part. If he could not do it himself because he is not trained in this sort of work he should of gotten people who are familiar with such this field. R. Reuven Margolis who did know how to do this in general unfortunately could not do this as most of these seforim of Chasidei Ashkenaz were not available in his lifetime.

Another point that I would like to highlight is the many times R. Gutman cites to the Sefer Gematriyos he almost never references the exact page (see, e.g, pp. 23, 35, 39) in the Sefer Gematriyos making it very hard to find the piece he is quoting as it’s a massive two volume work. The same failing is apparent when R. Gutman quotes from the Sefer Amoros Tehoros (p. 23) or when R. Gutman cites the Sefer Hashem of the Rokeach (p. 429).

A more glaring omission is when Sefer Chasidim (p. 424) discusses the weird creature called שטריאה R. Gutman references the Sefer Gematriyos again not quoting the page and then R. Gutman writes ובסוף המאמר נשים הליליות ברושאם הנ"ל כתב which is an unintelligible citation. What R. Gutman means to say is that R. Stal in the back of his edition to the Sefer Gematriyos has a whole chapter devoted to this topic, however, this is totally unclear to the reader. Aside from the cryptic citation R. Gutman should have mentioned this is a comprehensive article on the topic.

Another point I would like to criticize is the use or lack thereof of R. Reuven Margolis edition. As I have mentioned earlier the Margolis edition is the best work to date on the Sefer Chasidim. It’s quite interesting that there is not a single mention of R. Margolis’s name in the introduction mentioning that R. Gutman used this work. However, it is obvious from hundreds of places throughout this Gutman’s edition that in fact he did use this edition.

What is perhaps even stranger is the many times that R. Gutman says nothing on a very important point and R. Margolis has already discussed it in depth. Some examples are on page 180 -181 where the Sefer Chasidim (siman 158) writes against tefilah בקול רם and the Margolis edition references the famous collection on this topic called Yanenu B’kol there is no reason why R. Gutman could not mention this. Another example is on page 172 where the Sefer Chasidim (siman 155) has a long discussion about stealing torah from someone so R Gutman has a lengthy note of sources about this but once he is on the topic one should quote the Sefer Shem Olem of R. Margolis where he discusses this topic at great length. This omission is even more bizarre as later on R. Gutman does cite this work (p. 744).

One more example is on page 274 the Sefer Chasidim (siman 258) ויום כיפור קרוי כמו כן ראשית דכתיב ביחזקאל בעשרים וחמש שנה לגלותינו בראש השנה בעשור לחדש אלמא בעשור קרוי ראש השנה on this R Margolis references a comment of his from other places (see his Toldos haMahrsha p. 51 and the notes therein and his Nitzozei Or p. 158) proving that sometimes it says Rosh Hashanah and it refers to Yom Kippur affirming the statement in the Sefer Chasidim –again no mention at all on this by R. Gutman. Another such example is where the Sefer Chasidim (siman 822) talks about wiping ones feet off before entering a shul in the R. Margolis edition there are many sources on this topic. But, again R. Gutman mentions nothing about this custom.

Another example is where the Sefer Chasidim (Siman 858) talks about saving seforim from a fire on Shabbos again R. Gutman does not quote the excellent reference of R. Margolis citing in turn the Adres who says that if one has manuscripts of his own that he worked hard on he may save them from the fire first because it’s like pikuach nefesh! Throughout R. Gutman’s edition there are many such examples. Perhaps R. Gutman assumed what whomever purchases his edition already has R. Reuven Margolis edition and R. Gutman was merely adding to that. Even so, he should mention it in the introduction.

Another deficiency in this edition is R. Gutman, in the section he includes comments collecting sources etc., his style is difficult as much of what he has could have been done shorter and more to the point. Unfortunately, this is a common weakness that many authors have today as I have previously mentioned on this blog. Besides for that I feel there are many more sources that he could have added to this part making it a true encyclopedic work that it should be.

Just to list a few examples of sources that he missed and on this there for sure is an element of lo alechu hamlacha ligmor. One where R. Gutman talks about the cherem to live in Spain (p. 394) he misses much on the topic amongst the omissions is the famous discussion of the Teruos Melech in Rosh Hashanah (siman 13 sec. 2) (for more on this see the great article of Marc B. Shapiro in Sefarad 49:2(1989) pp. 381-394).

Another such example is both times where the Sefer Chasidim talks about stealing torah from someone (pp. 172 and 774) he could have added the piece of R. Efraim Zalman Margolis in his introduction to the edition of the Maseh Rokeach which he printed. Another such example is where the Sefer Chasidim (siman 822) talks about wiping ones feet off before entering a shul so besides for not mentioning R. Margolis’s comments at all he could of referenced to the excellent discussion in the Minhaghei haKehelos of R. Golhaber (vol 1 pp. 3-8).

Another example is where the Sefer Chasidim (siman 158) writes against tefilah בקול רם he missed the very original discussion of the Matzevh Hayashar (volume 2 pg 28 and onwards). One last example is where the Sefer Chasidim (siman 461) discusses the topic of if something bad happens three times it is a bad sign he could of added the teshuvah of the Avnei Chefetz from R. A. Levine (siman 64). Many more examples could be given but this is not the place.

Some minor bibliography points one on page R. Gutman records a statement from the Shach al haTorah which he attributes the Shach (p. 173). But, it is obvious he did not check into this source because the Shach did not write this sefer rather a talmid of talmid of the Ari”zal did which R. Gutman himself quotes correctly later on page 774.

Another point is in the introduction R. Gutman speculates that based on the pieces he has included it seems that the Adres wrote an entire work on the Sefer Chasidim called Mishnat Chasidim. There is no need for speculation – this is correct – as the Adres in his autobiography (pg 33) writes “I bought a Sefer Chasidim with wide columns and I learnt it twice and I wrote a biur on it with sources … and I called it the Mishnat Chasidim.” Unfortunately, later in his autobiography the Adres writes (pg 56) that it was burned in a fire that destroyed most of his writings!

Another minor point on page 181-182 where he talks about a story brought down from various sources including the Kav haYashar he should of included the comments of R. Shmuel Askenazi appended to the Kav haYashar (end of volume 2 pg 8). Another example is where the Sefer Chasidim speaks (Siman 768) against singing tunes of non-Jewish origin, R. Gutman (pg 645) includes a number of nice sources on this topic at the end he mentions R. Yisroel Najara that he was a nizutz of Dovid haMelech. He should have at least referenced the Sefer Chizyonos of R. Chaim Vital against R. Najara (and this was actually the person the Shtei Yodos was writing against who R. Gutman quoted earlier in that same piece!) – which was discussed at greater length in an earlier post.

In conclusion I feel that although there are some areas which this edition is weak in but there are a great many pluses to owning it the including the many sources that R. Gutman does add and especially the notes of 29 different gedolim. However there is definitely a need for an expert on the Chasidei Ashkenaz to put out a critical edition quoting all the relevant sources from Chasidei Ashkenaz.

Kabbalah Books Online

I am not sure why but it appears that a website in Czech (?) contains numerous Kabbalah seforim in their entirety free. These include the literature from Sefer Yetzirah, Zohar, R. Moshe Chaim Luzzato, Ari"Zal, R. Abraham Abulafia, and many others.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Anti Neturei Karta Book

There is a new book discussing the recent tactics of the Neturei Karta. What is perhaps unique about this book, Milchemet Charma by R. Daniel Biton, is that it devoted to demonstrating the Neutrei Karta are wrong; and doing so this from their own perspective. That is, he uses anti-Zionist texts – V’Yoel Moshe, letter of R. Elchonon Wasserman and the like – to show that although they are anti-Zionist they do not advocate praising anti-Semites or advocating for the demise of Israel.

R. Biton pulls no punches when he discusses his views of He uses rather flowery language to attack the Neturei Karta for instance he says

ככל הדברים . . . אצל כת החדשה שהתעטפו באצטלא של קנאות ונוטרי קרתא . . . [ו]נתכתרו בג' כתרים, כתר תורה עמי הארצות, וכתר כהונת כסילות, וכתר מלכות העזות . . . ובארבע אבות הנזיקין הללו, עמי הארצות, כסילות, עזות, ודמיונות, הולידו והצמיחו שורש פורה ראש ולענה

The book is divided up into three works, Machrive Karta, Derech HaShem, and Ve’Yestarfu Rabim. The first book, discusses mostly the various events the Neturi Karta has recently participate in and how their philosophy runs counter to that of the R. Yoel Teitelbaum, the Satmar Rebbi. The second book which is a play on a Neturei Karta work describing their reasons titled Derech HaHatzolah, is comprised of letters and a speech R. Biton gave regarding the falicies of the Neturi Karta’s position. The third part is mainly an expansion on the prior section. R. Biton finishes with letters from members of the “old” Neturei Karta on how this new strategy of joining with anti-Semites etc. does not comport with their ideals.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Kuntres ‘al Inyan Shabbat HaChatuna - A "Found" Book

Many times the rarity of a book is due to a controversy; either because it was limited in scope, i.e. was a polemic, and thus was no need to print thousands of copies or because of bans and the like. One such book is Kuntres ‘al Inyan Shabbat HaChatuna by R. Eliezer Supino (d. 1746). Until recently, it was thought this book no longer existed. But, a single copy (Unicum) was located and it has now been reprinted.

The book, as the title implies, discusses the Shabbat following ones wedding know as Shabbat HaChanutah or Shabbat haHatan. It was customary in many communities, mainly Sefardic but there is also evidence for some Ashkenazi as well, on this Shabbat, aside from the regular reading from the Torah, the parsha of V’Avrahom Zakan Bo B’Yamim was read for the groom. One may be asking so what could have possibly have been the controversy? In one community, Pisa, Italy, where R. Eliezer Supino was the Rabbi, rather then read the special parsha as the maftir, they read it for the 7th aliyah. That is, they finished the torah portion in 6 alyiot and for the seventh read the special parsha.

The question is whether as part of the seven obligatory aliyot can you read a parsha that is merely a custom? To this, R. Supino said yes. Well, somewhere between 1735-36 on one such Shabbat, there was a vistor from another city, Livorno, who witnessed this. [There is some question who this person was.] What basically happened was he went back to Livorno and told R. Dovid Meldola (1714-1810), a hazan, judge, and teacher in the Yeshiva in Livorno. R. Meldola thought strongly that R. Supino was 100% incorrect in allowing for such a custom, and now we have the start of the controversy. In the end, R. Meldola, in his Divrei Dovid (Amsterdam, 1753) devotes a considerable number of pages (18 simanim) to this topic – all attempting to show that R. Supino is wrong. R. Meldola didn’t stop there, he first elicited the help of a host of other important Rabbis who would say he was correct. This include, inter alia, R. Aryeh Lowenstamm the chief Rabbi of Amsterdam, R. Ya’akov Yehoshu Rabbi in Frankfort and the author of the Peni Yehosha, R. Yehzkeil Katzenelllenbogen the chief Rabbi of the tripe community AH”W, and some additional, lesser known (today) Rabbis.

R. Meldola didn’t stop at printing his own book on the topic, he wanted to make sure his book would be the only record of events. First, I must point out that R. Meldola published his book after R. Supanu (and other important figures) died so there was no one to dispute his events. Second, R. Supino, did not wait until anyone died, rather he published his version and the defense of his position in Kuntres ‘al Inyan Shabbat HaChatuna. Sometime around 1743, R. Supanu sent this to Amsterdam to be printed (Livorno, at the time didn’t have a printing press). But, after it was printed, R. Meldola got wind of the publication, and when it arrived by ship to Livorno, all the copies were seized. After reading it, word was sent to Amsterdam that all remaining copies should be destroyed. The printer gave everything up and all were destroyed. Thus, until now, it was thought this book was totally lost.

Shmuel Glick, the editor of the new Kuntres haTeshuvot, was looking through all the libraries to find all the responsa literature, and in Schocken Library he found the only remaining copy in the world of this book. The copy he found also contains some annotations which Glick thinks are that of R. Supanu himself. In this republication, Glick has done a beautiful job (as well as Mossad HaRav Kook). First, he includes an extensive introduction where all the above is from. Second, as mentioned above, until now we had a one sided story of the events, now we have both sides. Glick discusses and highlights the various differences between R. Meldola’s and R. Supino’s versions of the events. Third, he has completely reset the type of the book and included notes as well. Fourth, he then includes a photo reproduction of the actual work. And, finally, he includes to letters from R. Supino which were in manuscript.

In part, the reason this work is important aside from the actual question is its broader implications for the force of custom. R. Supino’s basic argument is the additional reading for the groom is a custom – but as a custom has the same status as the rest of the regular parsha. R. Meldola disputes this understanding of custom.

While this edition is excellent, I want to point out two small things, one is typographical error and the other not an error but an elaboration. The main footnote (which is terrific in scope) which discusses the custom of the special reading for the groom is in the Introduction, footnote 6. But, the references to it in the actual Kuntres (e.g. footnote 2, 62, 158) it refers to it as footnote 2. The second minor point is in a footnote (p. 28 n. 146), Glick discusses the usage of the saying מנהג ישראל תורה, but left off perhaps the most comprehensive discussion of this usage in R. Shmuel Ashkenazi’s Alfa beta kadmita, pp. 210-18.

In all, Shmuel Glick should be commended for an excellent work of a fascinating book. The book is printed by Mossad HaRav Kook and should be available wherever finer seforim are sold.

Print post

You might also like

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...