Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Modena, Gilgul, and an Unpublished Letter

Someone in a comment to a recent post mentioned an article that appears in the latest issue of the journal Ets Hayyim. This journal is published by the “students and hassidim of Bobov.” [Supposedly this journal is a break-off of the excellent journal Kerem Shlomo.]
The journal is comprised of what most torah journals are today, there is a section publishing manuscripts hiddushei torah, general hiddushei torah, some articles on halacha etc. In this fourth and most recent issue there is an article that I think deserves wider dissemination.

R. Shmuel Aboab (1610-1694), author of the Davar Shmuel (as well as Sefer Zikrohonot, discussed here, and Tavat Dovid) was one of the leading rabbis in Italy and Europe of his day. He corresponded with numerous people, part of that correspondence was published in Davar Shmuel. Davar Shmuel, published posthumously by his son, was a mahdurah kama (first edition -that Spiegel doesn't mention in his discussion regarding mahdurah kama/tinyana - although it is a printed book and not a manuscript), and does not include all R. Shmuel Aboab's responsa (something that was not corrected in the latest reprint of the Davar Shmuel). For many years, a collection of R. Abaob's letters (approximately 300!) were in the Montefiore Library and now they have passed into private hands. (These letters are mentioned in Hartwig Hirschfeld's Descriptive Cataloue of the Hebrew Manuscripts in the Montefiore Library - but the Google books version is for some reason missing the relevant page.) According to the description provided in Ets Hayyim, many of these letters have never been published or used by scholars (see below for a discussion of this claim). In Ets Hayyim, they have published one of the letters in its entirety. A detailed introduction about the manuscript generally and R. Aboab is included. This was written by R. Betzalel Divlitski. R. Divlitski uses traditional as well as academic sources in his introduction. Also an index of all the letters from the Montefiore collection is provided that includes some important snippets of these letters. For instance, one letter (no. 125) includes information when R. Ya'akov Hagiz came to Italy, something, according to R. Divlitski, that was previously not definitively known (again, see infra for more on this claim). According to the index, this letter tells us R. Hagiz came to Italy in 1659 (see infra note 2 ). Moreover, the letter that is published is in no way pedestrian. Rather, it is about a controversial topic and takes, what can be seen, as a controversial position.

While the above comes from R. Divlitski’s introduction and notes, it is worthwhile pointing out some serious shortcomings in R. Divlitski’s comments. R. Divlitski claims that most of these letters have never been published. This is wrong, and R. Divlitski knows it is wrong. Most of these letters were published by Meir Benayahu in his Dor Echad B’Aretz. R. Divliksi is aware of Benahyahu’s work as he cites it throughout. Divliski also made the claim the letter discussing when R. Hagiz came to Italy [1] was unknown, while again Benayahu has it in his work and discusses its implications (Dor Echad pp. 304-5). [2] Moreover, although R. Divlitski is willing to use the book he is unwilling to say who actually wrote it. Thus, every time R. Divlitski cites Dor Echad he never mentions Benayahu’s name. Lest one think Benayahu is somehow “treif” (whatever that may mean), R. Shlomo Zalman Aurbach seem to have no problem with Benayahu and read Benayahu’s works. (See Benayahu, Yosef Becheiri, Jerusalem, 1991, p. 364, 380). [3]

A bit of history regarding Benayhu’s work - Dor Echad B'Aretz - published in Jerusalem, 1988. A while back Benayahu while traveling the world and discovered this excellent collection of letters of R. Shmuel Aboab. He even writes that he could not believe his luck on finding them - these untapped sources full of this incredible wealth of information.[4] He noted that they were extremely important for multiple areas. Therefore, Benahayu went ahead and started printing them in many different journals. These articles started appearing as early as 1954. He divided the letters into different topics, inter alia, history of Eretz Yisroel, seforim and Sabbatianism. In 1988 Benayahu collected many of these letters from these varied journals and added some more from this collection (over 100) and printed them in one volume – Dor Echad B’Aretz. In this volume he included a comprehensive history of R. Abaob and R. Moshe Zaccuto (as Benayahu is well-known for his comprehensive biographies and works). For some odd reason he did not print all the letters from this collection nor did he even print all the letters he had already published. It could be that he never noted this important letter (now published in Ets Hayyim) perhaps because he planed on coming to it in a future work as it is well known he has over thirty years worth of seforim in manuscript!

Turning back to the article, R. Divlitski is correct that the letter regarding Modena has never been published and is thus important. [It is unclear why Benayahu decided not to publish this letter.] Thus, what Diviltski should have done was prefaced his article stating that although much has been written on R. Aboab and on the letters formerly housed in the Montefiore Library and many were published by Benayahu, for some reason, a very important letter has thus far escaped publication and now to remedy that, the letter is now being published – now on to the actual letter.

The letter in question discusses the belief, or lack thereof, in gilgul (transmitigation of souls). This subject has been a hot topic for centuries and much has been written on it in general and will be the subject of a different post. [For now, see Kol Hanevuah from R. Dovid Hanazir pp. 230-36 for an excellent collection of material on this topic and see R. Reuven Margolis in Sharei Zohar, Bavaeh Metziah, 107a.]

One of the persons to have denied belief in gilgul was R. Yehudah Aryeh Modena in his work Ari Noham. While Modena explicitly denied gilgul, some questioned whether that was truly his position. The Hida, first in Shem HaGedolim and later on in his travelogue, Ma'agel Tov, (pg 113) Hida states that he saw Modena’s then unpublished autobiography and the Hida claimed that Modena wrote that he changed his opinion on gilgul because of an event he witnessed towards the end of his life. Joseph Michael Hayim in Or haHayyim (pg 443) mentions that he never found evidence of Modena’s change of heart in any manuscripts of Modena’s autobiography. [Divlitski alludes to Hayim, but like the other “academics” doesn’t cite to him or mention him explicitly.] Today, we have two printed editions of Modena’s autobiography and neither has any reference to Modena’s alleged change of heart. It is worth noting that the autobiography contains other fascinating material – much of which would not be considered flattering as it portrays Modena in a very human sense. Thus, in the Sefer HaTerumos published by Mechon Yerushalim with the commentary of the Gedulei Terumah, by R. Azariah Figo, a student of Modean, an amazing allegation is made to deal with Modena’s Autobiography. A. Goldschmidt in the introduction claims that because of the content of the Autobiography it is “a forgery.” The reason being “it is unconscionable that a qualified Talmid Hakham such as R. Yehuha Areyeh Modena [would write things] that [even] simple people would not want publicized.” (p. 25 n.8).

The letter now published in Ets Hayyim is not from Modena but instead from R. Aboab to R. Moshe Zacuto about R. Yehuda Areyeh Modena. [5] Specifically, R. Zacuto heard that R. Modena was denying and publicizing that gilgul was not a Jewish belief. R. Zacuto wanted to put Modena in herem or come out against him, and wrote to R. Aboab to get his opinion. As R. Divlitski demonstrates this letter is key to disproving the notion that although Modena initially did not believe in gilgul he changed his mind later. Due to the timing of this letter it appears that either literally at the end of Modena's life he repudiated his belief on gilgul or, the more likely conclusion is that Modena never did.

In the letter, R. Aboab counsels against disputing Modena. R. Aboab makes a simple argument in that there are sources that dispute the claim of gilgul. Thus, there have been others who don't believe. How then can we reconcile those positions with R. Aboab's and R. Zacuto's idea that gilgul is a central tenet - it must be that only worthy people appreciate and therefore believe in gilgul. It would be pointless to criticize someone for not believing when it is not really their fault.

Basically, this is a great article with important new material but proper credit is not given. Furthermore, as Divlitski notes, and in light of the fact Benayahu clearly has not yet published all these letters, hopefully, with this letter being published in Ets Hayyim someone will finally publish all these letters.


This post is the product of the combined efforts of myself and R. Eliezer Brodt.

[1] For some reason it seems E. Carlebach did not use Dor Echad, although she does use Benayahu’s prior articles, and thus was unaware of Benayahu’s discussion of this particular letter. See Carlebach, The Pursuit of Heresy, New York, 1990, p. 21, 284 nn.11-12. Although Benayahu rejects using the dates of R. Hagiz’s works to place Hagiz in Italy, Carlebach does just that. See Benayahu, Dor Echad, pp. 304 and Carlebach, id. Additionally, Carlebach does not mention the letter discussed above that explicitly establishes Hagiz in Italy.

[2] For some reason Divlitski says the letter was written in 1659 while Benayahu says the letter was written in 1657. Additionally, Divlitski says that he can figure out who the recipient of the letter is, although “coincidentally” Benayahu uses the same materials to come to the same conclusion.

[3] This is not the only time Divlitksi leaves out the authors name. He also uses Tishby’s edition of Tzitz Novel Tzvi, but doesn’t mention Tishby.

[4] Divlitski uses similar language when discussing how important the letters are as an untapped resource.

[5] It is worth noting that Modena and Aboab corresponded directly see Benayahu, “Yediyah al Hadfasat Seforim vehafatzasm b’Italia” in Sinai, 34 pp. 157-58, 186-87.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Chaim Rapoport - From Ma’adanei Eretz to Kitvei Ma’adanei Eretz (5704-5767)

From Ma’adanei Eretz to Kitvei Ma’adanei Eretz (5704-5767)
Rabbi Chaim Rapoport
(London, England)

As Rabbi Eliezer Brodt has recently noted in a post at the Seforim blog the advent of the sabbatical year has been blessed with a plethora of new books and pamphlets related to the laws of shemitah.

Prominent amongst these is a publication entitled Kitvei Ma’adanei Eretz on Masechet Shevi’it, from the writings of the world renowned halachic authority, Rabbi Shlomo Zalman Auerbach (1910-1995), published by Zehav haAretz on the “eve of the shemitah year, 5768”.

The sefer (341 pages) is divided into two parts. The first part is arranged according to the order of Masechet Shevi’it and presented as a commentary on it. The second half is comprised of a series of chapters on a broad variety of halachic topics related to shemitah.

In the preface we are told that the editors received much support and encouragement from Rabbi Shlomo Zalman’s sons, including Rabbi Shmuel Auerbach shlit”a. We also learn that much of the material in the sefer was never intended for publication by Rabbi Shlomo Zalman. [It was often written in note-form for his own perusal etc.] Nevertheless, given the enormous interest in the writings of Rabbi Auerbach, it was decided that these chiddushim should be edited and published. This feat was accomplished to the delight of the publishers and their intended audience.[1]

For the sake of producing a comprehensive work the publishers inform us that they have included segments of the author’s previously published works that relate to the Masechet Shevi’it and its halachot.

Indeed, the second half of the sefer, which consits of chiddushim on Rambam and halachic discussions pertaining to shemittah, appears to have been gleaned almost entirely from Rabbi Shlomo Zalman’s earlier works, most particularly his Ma’adanei Eretz on the laws of shevi’it.

However the publication of this sefer raises two related bibliographical questions: (a) Rabbi Auerbach’s classic on Shevi’it, namely his celebrated Ma’adanei Eretz, published originally by the author himself in anticipation of the shemitah year 5704,[2] and republished with the blessing of the author in anticipation of the shemitah year 5733, has been out of print and unavailable for many years.[3] Why has this book not yet been re-published? (b) Why has only some, but not all of the material in the original Ma’adanei Eretz been reproduced in Kitvei Ma’adanei Eretz?

I cannot offer a definitive answer to these questions. Yet it is possible that two features of the original work are the cause for these ‘omissions’.

Firstly, the original Ma’adanei Eretz dedicates much discussion to the ‘heter mechirah’ and its dynamics. Although Rabbi Auerbach clearly expresses a preference for the observance of shemitah without recourse to the heter mechirah, he does recognise the plausibility of the ‘heter mechirah’ and seeks to buttress this mechanism with halachic argumentation. Moreover, (as is evident from his introduction), Rabbi Auerbach’s defense of the ‘heter mechirah’ - which he considered to have been endorsed by ‘minhag yisroel’ - was one of the primary purposes of his work.[4]

In times bygone, this apect of Ma’adanei Eretz apparently presented no cause for concern, even amongst the most chareidi Jews. Rabbi Zelig Reuven Bengis (1864-1953), then Rosh Beth Din of the ultra-Orthodox Edah Chareidit in Jerusalem, was aware of Rabbi Auerbach’s ‘agenda’ (towards which he was not particularly sympathetic), yet this did not prevent him from writing a complimentary letter of approbation in honour of the author and the book.[5] The same is true for Rabbi Isser Zalman Meltzer, (1870-1953), then rosh yeshiva of the Etz Chaim yeshivah in Jeruslaem. Yet nowadays this is no longer the case. Some of Rabbi Auerbach’s biological and/or 'spiritual' heirs who completely deny the validity of the heter mechirah and/or its application in the contemporary social and economic climate, may be deeply embarrassed by the original Ma’adanei Eretz.

Secondly, Rabbi Auerbach refers with the most reverential terms to the late Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak haKohen Kook (1865-1935), and attributes much weight to his halakhic opinions.[6] In contradistinction to many other illustrious authorities to whom Rabbi Auerbach refers to as “ha-gaon . . . of blessed memory’ his appellation for Rav Kook includes the honorific “maran [ha-gaon ha-Rav Kook of blessed memory].”[7]

In today’s ultra-orthodox climate, in which Rav Kook has almost been written out of existence[8] [or worse still, ‘demonised’], it should come as no great surprise that some would like to disassociate the prestigious Rabbi Auerbach from one of his primary mentors.[9] Accordingly, it is only natural that they would endeavour to orchestrate matters in such a way that the original Ma’adanei Eretz (with its ‘offensive’ contents) fades into oblivion.[10]

An examination of the ‘privileged’ segments of the original Ma’adanei Eretz that have been ‘preserved’ in the Kitvei Ma’adanei Eretz supports my thesis. Rav Kook, whose views and vision clearly inspired Rabbi Auerbach, has been wiped off the face of the map. Likewise the heter mechirah, a central feature of the original work, has, for all practical intents and purposes, become a non-issue in the new work.[11]

In a world in which honesty means little and history means even less, Kitvei Ma’adanei Eretz has performed a successful face-saving tactic, for ‘what the eye does not see, the heart does not grieve’! [12]

[1] The publication of this sefer seems to be in partial overlap with “Minchat Shlomo – Chiddusim uViurim al HaShas” on Masechet Shevi’it which was published by Rabbi Auerbach’s sons in Jerusalem, 5761.

[2] נוסח דף השער של הספר הוא: 'ספר מעדני ארץ כולל חדושים וביאורים וחקרי הלכות בעניני שביעית, ונלוה אליו קונטרס לאפרושי מאיסורא בענין הפרשת תרומות ומעשרות' חובר בס"ד מאת שלמה זלמן אויערבאך מישיבת עץ חיים בהרב הגאון המפורסם מוהר"ר חיים יהודה ליב שליט"א, יצא לאור על ידי ישיבת מדרש בני ציון בסיוע מוסד הרב קוק שעל יד המזרחי העולמי - ירושלים תש"ד – ערב שנת השמיטה

[3] A number of years ago I was fortunate enough to be able to find and purchase a somewhat worse for wear copy of Ma’adanei Eretz in a second hand seforim store in New York.

[4]בהקדמתו ל'מעדני ארץ' כתב הגרשז"א: "לתועלת המעיינים אקדים סקירה קצרה לתולדות היתר ההפקעה משביעית שהותר לראשונה ע"י גדולי ישראל מגאוני הגולה ז"ל ושוכלל אח"כ ע"י רבותינו הגאונים מארי דארעא דישראל". לאחרי ה'סקירה הקצרה' הוסיף הגרשז"א, וז"ל: "אחרי כל האמור הנני מוצא לנכון להעיר לבל יתקבל ח"ו שום רושם כאילו הכנסתי ראשי בין הרים גדולים ורמים גדולי הדורות אשר מימיהם אנו שותים ומפיהם אנו חיים ואף גם את שמותיהם אזכיר במורא ופחד אלא מכיון שההיתר הזה שיסודותיו בהררי קודש נתקבל ונהוג למעשה בכל אה"ק [מלבד יחידי סגולה גבורי כח עושי דברו ששומרים שביעית כדת וכהלכה ד' יגן עליהם ותחזקנה ידיהם קודש וכל העוזרים והמסייעים להם אשרי חלקם] לכן הרשיתי לעצמי לבאר ולברר יסודותיו עד כמה שידי יד כהה מגעת ולהציע לגדולי תורה היושבים על מדין את אשר נלענ"ד לנכון להעיר".
בפתיחה ל'מעדני ארץ' סימן ט כתב הגרשז"א: "כידוע היו רבים מגאוני הדור הקודם שהתנגדו להיתר המכירה, וגם היו ביניהם כאלה שאמרו שאופן המכר הנעשה על ידינו אין לו שום ערך וחשיבות . . . אע"פ שבכמה מקומות מוכח יותר כדברי המחמירים עם כל זאת מנהג ישראל תורה, וכללא הוא דכל הלכה שהיא רופפת בידך צא וראה איך המנהג, והמנהג הוא מקדמת דנא לקולא . . . ואם היינו באים להחמיר הי' נראה הדבר כגזירה חדשה, וגם הלכה כבתראי שהכריעו רובם ככולם שההלכה מסכמת גם להמנהג . . . רק נתתי אל לבי לברר בפרק זה את יסודי הדברים של המתירים".
וראה בהסכמת הגרא"ז מלצר, בעל 'אבן האזל', הנדפס בתחלת ספר 'מעדני ארץ' שכתב בתו"ד: " עיינתי בכמה סימנים בספרו ונהניתי מאד מדבריו הנאמרים בהרחבה גדולה בכל פרטי ההלכות ובסברא נכונה וישרה, ואם אמנם לא אוכל להצטרף בקביעות דבריו להלכה משני טעמים, אחד בשביל שלא עסקתי הרבה במסכת זו בדברי הראשונים והאחרונים בהלכות אלו, עוד זאת בשביל שרוב דבריו הם לברר פרטי הדינים היוצאים לפי היתר המכירה שהנהיגו גאוני ארה"ק, ומכיון שיש בעיקר ההיתר מחלוקת גדולה בין גאוני הדור בדור שלפנינו לא אחפוץ להכניס ראשי בין ההרים גדולים".

[5] ראה בהסכמת הגרר"ז בענגיס, בעל 'לפלגות ראובן', הנדפס בתחלת ספר 'מעדני ארץ' שכתב בתו"ד: "ויהי' דברי אלה ליקר סהדותא על גודל ערך הספר ועל יקרת הגאון המחבר שליט"א. אבל חס לי להצטרף למסקנותיו גם להחמיר וכ"ש שלא להקל ובכונה רצוי' סלקתי א"ע מלחוות דעה באלה הלכות למעשה".

[6] גם בהקדמתו מסתייע הגרשז"א מזה שהרב אברהם יצחק הכהן קוק "נלחם מאד לחזוק ההיתר נגד הקמים עליו לבטלו, בחששו שבביטולו יחרב כל הישוב ח"ו וגם משום הוצאת לעז על הגאונים שהתירו שכבר פשטה ההלכה והמנהג כמותם".

[7] ראה 'מעדני ארץ' סימן א אות ו: "ועיין גם בס' משפט כהן למרן הגאון מוהרא"י הכהן קוק ז"ל שכתב בתשובה להגאון הרידב"ז ז"ל"; שם אות ז: "אולם בשנת תר"עיין סידר מרן הגרא"י הכהן קוק ז"ל את תיקון המכירה . . . "; שם אות טו: "ומשמטה רביעית היא שנת תר"עיין סודרו כל שטרי מכר ע"פ נוסחו של מרן הגאון מוהרא"י הכהן קוק ז"ל".

[8] Thus, for example, the Sefer HaMafteiach in the Frankel edition of the Rambam does not include any references to the chiddushim of Rav Kook on the Mishneh Torah. Present day works on shemitah rarely include the contributions of Rav Kook (even with regard to matters unrelated to the heter mechirah). Needles to say, Rabbi Chaim Kanievski’s Derech Emunah on Rambam’s Sefer Zeraim (inc. Shemitah veYovel) does not refer to Shabbat HaAretz etc.
Rav Kook’s haskamah that was, in his heyday, often the crown of glory on many seforim is now viewed with derision by many, and has even been ‘removed’ from later editions of the same works (sometimes, apparently, by the author himself!).

[9] Recent explorations into Rav Kook’s (heretofore) esoteric thought may add to the evident anxiety that exists in certain circles regarding the relationship between Rav Kook and Rav Auerbach. [See Avinoam Rosenak, "Hidden Diaries and New Discoveries: the Life and Thought of Rabbi A.I. Kook," Shofar: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Jewish Studies 25:3 (Spring 2007): 111-147. See also his review article, “Who’s Afraid of Secret Writings? Eight Files from the Manuscripts of Rabbi Kook,” Tarbiz 9:2 (2000): 257–291]. Most recently, see Yehudah Mirsky, "An Intellectual and Spiritual Biography of Rabbi Avraham Yitzhaq Ha-Cohen Kook from 1865 to 1904," (PhD dissertation, Harvard University, 2007), esp. 450-485.

[10] In the course of time we may yet witness the birth of reports to the effect that Rabbi Auerbach (and/or: the Rabbis who gave their glowing haskamot) regretted ever having published (written approbations for) his Ma’adanei Eretz. Clearly Rabbi Auerbach’s regret will have to have been expressed ‘be-sof yamav’, since in 1972/5732 he was evidently still enthusiastic about the project.

[11] לדוגמא בעלמא: סימן ט בספר 'מעדני ארץ' נערך מחדש "ע"י בן רבינו הגאון רבי אברהם דוב אויערבאך שליט"א רב ואב"ד טבריה", ונדפס בתוך 'כתבי מעדני ארץ' (בחלקו השני) סימן כג. בצורתו החדשה חסרים כמה דברים ובעיקר דברי הפתיחה לסימן זה ע"ד תוקף היתר המכירה (ראה מה שהעתקתי לעיל בהערה 4). גם לסימן יו"ד בספר 'מעדני ארץ' באו פנים חדשות בגלגולו החדש ב'כתבי מעדני ארץ' סימן כ"ד [ונשמט מ"ש ב'מעדני ארץ' שם אות א ע"ד היתר המכירה]. ואם כי לא זכיתי להבין את טעמי כל ההשמטות והשינויים שעשו העורכים בסימנים אלו, מ"מ נראה ברור שהטעם לחלקם הוא בגלל יחסם החיובי (או הקשרם) להיתר המכירה הנהוג למעשה.
להווכח מה היתה כוונת העורכים מחדש די להביט על השינויים שעשו בכותרות לשני הסימנים האלה:
בכותרת ל'מעדני ארץ' סימן ט כתב הגרשז"א: "יסודי ההיתר של תיקון המכירה כדי להפקיע את הפירות מקדושת שביעית, ובירור דעת הסוברים דאף שאין קנין לנכרי להפקיע ממעשר ושביעית, מ"מ כל זמן שהקרקע היא ברשות העכו"ם הרי היא מופקעת שפיר ממעשר ומשביעית", ואילו בכותרת לסימן כ"ג ב'כתבי מעדני ארץ' נדפס: "ביאור שיטת הכסף משנה בדין קנין הנכרי בארץ ישראל" [כאילו דברי הגרשז"א נכתבו במקורן מבלי כל קשר להיתר המכירה הנהוג למעשה].
בכותרת לסימן יו"ד ב'מעדני ארץ' כתב הגרשז"א: "המשך לסימן הקודם בבירור יסודי תיקון המכירה, עם עוד טעמים אחרים המועילים רק להפקעת דיני שביעית מגידולי שדות נכרים ולא לענין היתר עבודה, ובענין איסור האכלת פירות שביעית לנכרים, ודין פירות שביעית לאחרי הביאור", ואילו בכותרת ל'כתבי מעדני ארץ' סימן כ"ד כתבו העורכים: "עוד בשיטת הכסף משנה בהא דאין נוהג קדושת שביעית בפירות נכרים", והוציאו את הדברים מהקשרן הראשון.

[12] The purpose of this article was to explore one example of a particular trend in contemporary rabbinic censorship. It was not written in order to express a view on, or assess the virtues of, the heter mechirah or its proponents. [Whilst this is totally irrelevant (at least to the subject matter at hand), I will attempt to save the time of many potential speculators by putting on record that I personally do not rely on the heter mechirah. The Lubavitcher Rebbe zy”a, whose rulings I attempt to follow, was far from enthusiastic about the heter mechirah and encouraged all Jews to observe the shemitah without recourse to the heter mechirah].

Monday, October 22, 2007

The Animals

"A man enters synagogue on Yom Kippur with his dog and tells the gabbai this is a very smart dog, he can talk. "If he will talk for you," says the man, "will you let him sit next to me?" The gabbai says "let's hear him." Man turns to dog and says what is on top of this building which keeps the rain out? the dog says ruf ruf. The guy says see he said it was a roof. But if you are not satisfied with that, I will have him answer another question. He says to the dog, who was the most famous baseball player of all time? Dog says ruf ruf. Man says see he said Babe Ruth. The gabbai throws man and dog out. Dog looks up at the man and says, "Should I have said Willie Mays?"
-- Jewish Joke
I thought it may be instructive to examine what Judaism says about animals. In the course, I hope to highlight some lesser known bibliographical items. The Torah appears to place significant obligation on people vis-à-vis animals. For instance, we are commanded to remove an overburdened animal (Deut. 22:4), we are told to feed one’s animals prior to one eating themselves (TB, Berachot, 40a), and finally there is a general injunction against mistreating animals. It is from this final prohibition – tzar ba’alei hayyim – that we continue with the remainder of our discussion.

Although we are commanded to treat animals well, Jews are also not prohibited from eating animals. The combination of these two ideas were for some rishonim an understanding of how and why shehita is the obligatory process for eating meat. They explain that purpose of shehita is to minimize pain to the animal even when we do kill it.[1] They point to law of a smooth knife as well as cutting specifically on the neck as trying to minimize pain. The issue of animal pain, was raised on numerous occasions for some to argue that shehita should be prohibited. In the defense of shehita the idea that it is the least painful method of killing was usually marshaled. In at least one instance, at the turn of the 20th century, this defense “caused even non-Jews to only use Jewish shehita and the Society for [the prevention] of Cruelty to Animals in America attempted to obligate this in all places.”[2]

In America as well there was a question of the legitimacy of shehita as a humane method. A book was published, originally in Hebrew and subsequently to English, which bore the title Tub Taam, or Vindication of the Israelitisch Way of Killing Animals by R. Aaron Zev Friedman (downloadable here). According to a family legend, this book convinced Ulysses S. Grant to eat only kosher meat.[3]

While all the above is true, there appears to be an opposite view of animals, one which places less respect to the animal world. R. Moshe Isserles, in his commentary on Shulhan Arukh, states “Anything that is necessary for health, or for anything else there is no prohibition against inflicting pain on animals; therefore, it is permissible to pluck quills from live duck and there is no consideration of causing pain to the animal. But, it is best to avoid all this as it is heartless.”[4] Thus, according to Rama, whenever there is any need, there is no prohibition of causing pain. According to this understanding, one need not understand the commandment of shehita to have anything to do with minimizing pain, as there is no need to minimize pain as the meat will be used.[5]

The view of Rama was applied by R. Yaakov Reischer when he asked [in an undated responsum] whether it is permissible to use an animal to test the efficacy of a drug.[6] He responded that based upon this Rama, animal testing is permitted. He explained that the caveat of Rama, that “it is heartless” and therefore should be avoided, is inapplicable to this case; as in the case of animal testing, the animal may not feel pain immediately, and as a result, according to R. Reischer, poses less of an issue of tzar ba’alei hayyim.

R. Ezekiel Landau, in his Noda BeYehudah[7] similarly applies Rama to a different question. He was asked whether it is permissible for a Jew to hunt animals. R. Landau says based upon Rama, there is no issue of tzar ba’alei hayyim. While he counsels against this practice for other reasons[8] these reasons are not out of concern for animals. R. Naftali Tzvi Yehuda Berlin, in Haamek Davar, places Noah as the first to own pets. R. Berlin explains that the raven and dove were Noah's own pets and not part of the animals he collected into the ark. R. Berlin alleges that the dove was actually trained similarly to a homing pigeon. (Haamek Davar, vol. 1, 8:7)

In discussing animals and Judaism there is a related discussion concerning the propriety of dog ownership and dogs in particular in Jewish thought. R. Jacob Emden rails against dog ownership.[9] He decries dog ownership solely for pleasure or as a companion and goes so far to claim that dog owners are suspect of engaging in bestiality.[10]

On the other hand, historically, the dog specifically, has actually been used as a positive icon. For instance, in the Hamburg Miscellany, there is a depiction of a wedding scene with a dog at the feet of the groom.[11] Similarly, the Washington Haggadah contains a depiction of a dog (see here).

The Sefer Hasidim claims that all animals can teach humans positive traits.[12] He singles out the dog for teaching loyalty, which is easily what the depiction in the Hamburg Miscellany could be depicting in the wedding scene – a scene which describes what is essentially a loyalty ceremony.

While the positive aspect of a dog can be found in some illustrations, the negative view of animals and specifically dogs can also be found in illustrations. In the Prague 1526 haggadah we find a depiction of a hare hunt being used for the mnemonic YaKNeHaZ (the order the blessing are recited when Pesach night falls on a Saturday night). The usage of the hare hunt is in German, the term for hare hunt or Jagen-has sounds like YakNeHaZ. In Augsburg, 1534 haggadah, Yosef Hayim Yerushalmi notes it not only shows a hare hunt, but the hare escaping.[13] He says the hare is representative of the Jewish people and the dogs their enemies and therefore, “it is plausible to conclude that hate two successive representation of the Jagen-has are not only an innovation in themselves, but together comprise an allegory of the persecution and salvation of the Jewish people.”[14] In this depiction the dogs are actually the enemies of the Jews conforming with the prior negative views of dogs.

Finally, in the apocryphal work Tobit, in many versions there is a positive mention of a dog. In some editions, however, the dog is missing. One scholar posits the removal was deliberate in that, according to him -- and as we have seen above this is not universal -- Jews (and other Eastern cultures) do not depict dogs positively.[15] Thus, the dog had to go. Again, this follows the negative view of dogs.

In conclusion, there appears to be two schools of thought regarding animals and specifically dogs. Some view them and animals positively and is borne out in practice, while there is another tradition inapposite.

I wanted to thank Eliezer Brodt and Menachem Butler for their additional insights and sources which added significantly to this post.

[1] See Sefer haHinuch, commandment 451; see also Eshkoli, Tzaar Baalei Hayyim, [], 2002, 79-80 (collecting sources).
[2] See Greenwald, ha-Shohet ve-haShehita be-Safrut ha-Rabbunut (New York, 1955), p. 19.
[3] For the source and a description of this book in general see Yosef Goldman, Hebrew Printing in America (New York, 2006), 2:1092. See also, Shnayer Z. Leiman, "Montague Lawrence Marks: In a Jewish Bookstore," Tradition 25:1 (Fall, 1989): 66, 69, nn.12-13.
For more on the German attempt to ban shehita and R. Y.Y. Weinberg's response, see Hirsh Jakob Zimmels, The Echo of the Nazi Holocaust in Rabbinic Literature (New York, 1977), 181-193 and Marc B. Shapiro, Between the Yeshiva World and Modern Orthodoxy (Littman Library, 1999), 117-129; and regarding the highly controversial nature of R. Weinberg's responsum, Chief Rabbi Isaac Herzog hesitated to allow it in print at all, see p. 192. Shapiro also cites a letter where it is suggested that "Herzog later agreed that publishing the responsum would not create difficulties" (ibid., n.86).
[4] Rama, Even haEzer, 5:14; see generally Eshkoli, supra n.1, chapter 12.
[5] R. Yosef Toemim, in his introduction to Pri Megadim discussing shehita cautions against applying rationales generally for commandments, and specifically for shehita. Pri Megadim, Peshiha Kollelet l’Hilchot Shehita.
[6] R. Yaakov Reischer, Shevut Ya’akov, vol. 3, no. 71.
[7] R. Ezekiel Landau, Noda b’Yehuda, Mahdurah Tinyana, Yoreh Deah, no. 10.
[8] He offers that Biblically, the only hunters were Esau and Nimrod thus hunting is not a “Jewish pastime.” Further, he argues that one is prohibited from putting himself in danger. He goes so far to claim that the simple reading of Esau’s statement “I am going to die” as an expression that Esau was aware that he was involved in a dangerous profession.
David Katz recently noted that R. Ezekiel Landau "laughingly applied" to R. Jacob Emden the Talmudic dictum (BT, Yoma, 30b) concerning mad dogs: "They bark and bark but no one hears!" David Katz, "A Case Study in the Formation of a Super-Rabbi: The Early Years of Rabbi Ezekiel Landau, 1713-1754" (University of Maryland, 2004), 17, 420-421.
[9] R. Jacob Emden, She'elat Ya’avetz, vol. 1 no. 17; Eshkoli, supra n.1, pp. 221-224; id. 225-28 (discussing cats).
[10] There is a related discussion about the Antisemitic use of the dog to depict Jews. See Ruth Mellinkoff, Antisemitic Hate Signs in Hebrew Illuminated Manuscripts from Medieval Germany (Jerusalem, 1999), pp. 38-9; now, see generally, Kenneth Stow, Jewish Dogs: An Image and Its Interpreters (Stanford, California, 2006), 28-32 and passim. Additionally, it is worth noting that there is actually a Jewish explanation as to why non-Jews have called Jews dogs. See R. Y.Y. Stahl, ed., Sefer Kushiyot (Jerusalem, 2007), no. 128 p. 100 (finding scriptural basis for the dog epithet!).
[11] Bezalel Narkiss, Hebrew Illuminated Manuscripts (Israel, 1984) plate 59 p. 185; this illumination also appears in Encyclopaedia Judaica (Jerusalem, 1967), vol. 16, opp. col. 616. Sperber notes other instances of dogs in Jewish items but attributes it to Christian ideology. See Daniel Sperber, Minhagei Yisrael, vol. 4 pp. 84-5, n.12. But, as is shown above from the Sefer Hasidim, the use of a dog to display loyalty has Jewish roots as well.
[12] Margoliyot ed., no. 47, p. 106. See also, Sefer Hasidim (Sefer HaMaskil) p. 12 "at all times one should have in their home animals or birds, at the very least a rooster or duck. One should then feed the animal first to fulfill the obligation to feed animals prior to one eating themselves." For a discussion regarding this Sefer Hasidim vis-a-vis the Sefer HaMaskil, see R. M.M. Honig, in "al Mahduroso haHadasha shel Sefer HaMaskil (Sefer Hasidim) l'R' Moshe Bar Eliezer HaKohen," Yerushashanu, vol. 1 (2007): 196-240.
[13] Both of these are available in their entirety from the JNUL site.
[14] Yosef Hayim Yerushalmi, Haggadah and History (Jewish Publication Society 1997), plate 15. For a fuller discussion of this imagery, see Elliott Horowitz, "Odd Couples: The Eagle and the Hare, the Lion and the Unicorn," Jewish Studies Quarterly 11:3 (August 2004): 243-258, and idem., "The People of the Image," The New Republic 223:13 (September 25, 2000): 41-49.
[15] Israel Abrahams, "Tobit's Dog," Jewish Quarterly Review (old series), I, 3 (1888/1889): 288.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Mad magazine and Peanuts – moralists for today?

Mad magazine and Peanuts – moralists for today?

By Dov Silberman*

With all the messianic overtones that the Jewish people are regaled with over Tishrei, one beloved by Chassidim is the Zohar's view (I, 117a) is that we are privileged to live in an era where similar results occur in both the natural and religious worlds, where "the gates of knowledge above, and the fountains of knowledge below, will be opened".

Academics and scientists are always aware that similar breakthroughs in knowledge occur at approximately the same time in different places without either party knowing about the other.

But it can occur in the realms of book methodology as well. Many readers will be familiar with the utilization by Rabbi Abraham Twerski of the Charlie Schulz "Peanuts" cartoons to make his points in several of his popular selling self help books.

In an interview in the Wisconsin Jewish Chronicle in 2000, Twerski said that Schulz's wisdom first appealed to him when he was trying to teach students and found that the cartoons made effective tools. The first time was in his 1988 book When Do the Good Things Start.

But this was not the first time a religious writer used popular culture in the form of comic strip characters to illustrate religious ideas for students. Not twenty years before Twerski used Schultz cartoons, in 1970 Vernard Eller B.A., B.D., M.A., Th.D. (1927-2007) wrote "The Mad Morality" first published by Abingdon Press, subsequently by Signet in the 1970's Mad book form. It was a book trying to explain the Ten Commandments which illustrated them with examples of similar messages from Mad magazines.

Eller was an Xtian professor of religion at La Verne College in California. He was trying to reach teenagers at church camps without success, so he asked them what popular culture they were interested in.

On being shown Mad magazines, he found that Mad's satires of deceptive advertising, racism, phoniness, white lies and hypocrisy taught morality but did so without preaching. "...Beneath the pile of garbage that is Mad there beats, I suspect, the heart of a rabbi."

But Mad publisher William M. Gaines and editor Al Feldstein, were uncomfortable with that. "We reject the insinuation that anything we print is moral, theological, nutritious, or good for you in any way, shape, or form."

Compare this to what Schulz told Twerski before he died, "Abe," he said, at their last meeting, "you keep on saying I'm wise. That's just not true. I'm not a philosopher or a psychologist. I'm just a cartoonist."

Similar scenarios. We must truly be living in wondrous times.

*Dov Silberman is a commercial litigation lawyer in Melbourne Australia, and is overjoyed to find that he can now justify the time he spends at second hand bookshops.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Who Wrote the Mekore Minhagim?(Part II)

This is a continuation of this prior post, in order to fully understand the following it may pay to reread the older post here.

Previously, I had attempted to reconstruct when Finkelstein had published his seforim and thus deduce that Finkelstein copied the Mekore Minahgim. Now, through internal evidence I can further bolster that theory and, perhaps, explain exactly what happened. Additionally, I hope to demonstrate that although Finkelstein copied, he was unaware the work Mekore Minhagim had ever been published. As one "fact" that supports Finkelstein's position is that if he did merely copy why does his edition only have 41 entries, how hard would it have been to copy the others? This is so, as Lewyson's was printed first with 100 entries and Finkelstein's was printed close to five years after Lewyson's.

In the earlier edition by Lewyson (the Dr./Rabbi in Germany) (henceforth ML) there are more entries than in the later edition by Finkelstein ("MF"). Now if Finkelstein had copied why did he leave out so many? If you recall, Finkelstein explained how he got this book and really it is his although he published later. Finkelstein explained that while his edition was published later, really he wrote it first. Finkelstein said that while he was traveling he stayed with Lewyson and Lewyson saw a copy of the manuscript and asked to borrow it. According to Finkelstein it was at that time Lewyson copied Finkelstein's manuscript. Thus, although ML was published first really MF was written first.

As I said, if that was the case, isn't at the very least Lewyson a bigger Talmid Chochom as in ML there are 100 question and answers while MF only has 41 of the 100? This of course assumes that Finkelstein told the story correctly but I think there is some truth in the story the story is actually slightly and materially different.

The real story was Finkelstein did in fact travel through Germany and did stay at Lewyson's house. But, it was Finkelstein that at that time saw Lewyson's manuscript and copied it then. Unlucky for Finkelstein, Lewyson had not finished thus Finkelstein only took what he had (or perhaps ran out of time to copy it).

This theory is I think provable. While 41 of the 100 appear in both works, even those there are slight differences. The differences point to an earlier or rougher draft of the work.
Let's take a couple of examples. in no. 16 of ML (and in no. 11 in MF) the question is why do we sell Mitzvot in shul during the week and on Shabbat. In both ML and MF both have a vort on the verse Isaih 29:13, in fact the very same explanations appears in both. The only difference is in the ML he tells us where this comes from the Misphat Tzedek, while in the MF that is missing. Or later the ML says that something appears in the Sefer Shushan HaEdut and the Sefer Haradim and he has it as follows

ואתי' בס' שושן עדות סי' קפ"ז וז"ל: לא יעשה המצות בקלות ראש ובביזוי כמו דגרסינן בפ' כיסוי הדם . . .ושפכת את דמו וכסהו בעפר, במה ששפך יכסה, שלא יכסנו ברגל, שלא יהיו המצות בזויות עליו וכו' ע"ש וכ"כ החרדים ומסיים: זה בנין אב לכל המצות, ובמדרש תנחומא
Now in MF we have it like this:
ואיתא בספר שושן עדות ובספר חרדים ומדרש תנחומא

That is it, the author expects you will know where in the obscure sefer Shushan Edut this appears and what it says. Obviously, no author would do that, instead, in a rough draft not everything had been filled in. Or, another possibility is in the haste to copy some of the content got lost.

Another example from the same siman. The author is explaining a further reason to do away with selling the mitzvot is due to the fights that arise over the selling.
In the ML he says

ובפרט כבר בימיהם נסתעפו מחלוקות ע"י מכירת המצות, עיין בס' החסידים סי' תשס"ד שכ' וז"ל: גברה יד עוברי עבירה ובקשו להם כבוד ושררה לגלות ס"ת וקשרו קשר ורצו להרבות כבודם ונתוועדו יחד שנים עשר מהם לגלות ס"ת, כל אחד בחודש שלו וליתן כ"א זקוק, כדי שיעלו שנים עשר זקוקים לשנה לצדקה וכל זה לא עשו אלא למצא טענה וערעור לומר אנו נותנים יותר ממך וכו' ע"ש והב"י באו"ח סי' קל"ה וז"ל: וכתב מהר"י קולון בשרש טית על הקהל שהיו נוהגים
while in the MF it only reads
בפרט כבר בימיהם נסתעפו מחלוקות ע"י מכירת המצות עיין בס' חסידים ובמהר"י קולון מה שאירע מזה

So although the Mahri Kolon appears in the Bet Yosef, all MF has is see Mahri Kolon (nor does it include where in the Sefer Hassidim or the quote). Again, it is missing any hint to where this is located, and unlike the ML where the text is included and thus it is less necessary to include a citation, in MF the text doesn't appear.

Lest one say this is limited to that single entry, a similar pattern appears in other entries as well. For instance, in the entry discussing spitting during the Alenu prayer. Both editions have a quote from the sefer Teffilah Nehora, however, the ML (no. 20) edition includes more of the quote and then additionally has one more source the Kitzur Shelah. In the MF edition (no. 13), however, a shorter quote from the Teffilah Nehora appears and there is no Kitzur Shelah. Now, if Lewyson is the copier, why would he include a bit more of a quote? But, if the shorter quote was a product of an earlier unfinished draft it is understandable.

In entry no. 23 (ML) and 16 (MF) ML has a three part quote from Sefer Hassidim, while MF has only the first part.

Now the final example. In the entry discussing wearing special clothing for Shabbat and Yom Tov. First, ML (no. 24) explains why Shabbat and then he turns to Yom Tov clothing and the ML reads as follows:
וביו"ט משנים עוד למעליותא משבת כדאית' באו"ח ס' תקכ"ט סעי' א', והוא מהגה"מ פ"ו
now in MF (no. 17) it reads like this
וביו"ט משנים עוד למעליותא משבת והוא מהגה"מ פ"ו
the והוא is lacking a predicate in this version.

Again, all these examples, and there are additional examples of shorter quotes, missing citations, missing lines, are found in MF. [1] Assuming Finkelstein's story is correct, how was it that Lewyson was magically able to add all the missing citations, and in some cases add additional material, when Lewyson was unable to come up with part of 41 of the entries on his own? And, if Finkelstein was the author why couldn't he fill in the citations? Didn't he know them as he was providing the sources to begin with?

Moreover, it seems that Finkelstein did not in fact copy from the printed ML. As if Finkelstein had the printed edition why are all these omissions found in his edition? Instead, Finkelstein must have only had access to a slightly different edition, and based upon Finkelstein's own story, it seems that he saw it in Lewyson's house and thus it must have been an earlier draft.


[1] Compare for example MF (no. 14) with ML (no. 21). ML contains an entire extra section. Furthermore, even in the part that does appear in MF, it is lacking significant portions. As in ML it has quotes from Rabbenu Bachya and Eliayahu Zuta and then a quote from Hechel HaKodesh. Whereas in MF on the Hechel HaKodesh appears.

Compare MF (no. 16) with ML (no. 23). Both discuss whether on Yom Tov a woman first lights or first makes the blessing on the candles. They cite the wife of the author of the Sema
in ML it states:
דביו"ט תברך ואח"כ תדליק, ומג"א בסי' רס"ג ס"ק י"ב חולק עליו . . . ובעל משפט צדק מביא המג"א הנ"ל וכתב שהדגול מרבבה הסכים להלכה כאותה הצדיקות ודלא כהמג"א
now in MF it says:
דביו"ט תברך ואח"כ תדליק, ומג"א בסי' רס"ג ס"ק י"ב חולק עליו . . . והדגול מרבבה הסכים להלכה כאותה הצדיקות ודלא כהמג"א
so it is missing the Mishpat Tzedek.
Compare MF (no. 24) with ML (no. 85). ML contains about four times the amount of content.
Compare MF (no. 37) with ML (no. 40) again missing significant parts.

Compare MF (no. 38) with ML (no. 42). In this case some citations are missing in Finkelstein (see the discussion of the Chok Ya'akov) as well as the material regarding waiting 6 hours and whether it means a full 6 or something else.

Compare MF (no. 32) to ML (no. 5). ML has triple the material.

Compare MF (no. 5) to ML (no. 8) the additions and missing portions are rather clear.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

R. Yaakov Lipshitz and Heter Mechirah

R. Yaakov Lipshitz and Heter Mechirah
by R. Eliezer Brodt

As per Sheuy R's request a short post on shemitah:

It is virtually impossible to write up a review of the literature out there on shemitah seforim as the seforim keep on coming out. For some odd reason people out there feel this is their place to contribute to our vast torah literature. As of last shemitah in the middle of the year I inquired at a local seforim store how many books did he get on the topic of shemitah. He said over seventy five! By now that number has certainly doubled. My personal recommendation is if someone is working on a sefer on shemitah, unless it is incredible, do not waste your time printing it.

I will list just one recent very important reprint, the sefer Torat Yonasan (originally printed in Vilna, 1888) written by R. Yonasan Abelmann (1854-1903). This sefer was not without critics. R. Abelmann , however, responded in his teshuvot, Zikhron Yonason, Vilna, 1904, Kuntres Devar HaShmita (see pages 158b-187b). He discusses, among others, the opinion of the Bet HaLevi.

Interestingly enough with all the reprints and new stuff coming, out the Madanei Eretz of R. Shlomo Zalman on Mesechtat Shmitta has yet to be reprinted. The sefer, as everything this godal Hador (not that he needs my recommendation) wrote is excellent and very important to many issues of Shemitah but being that it deals with R. Kook so chas vesholom they could not reprint it.

The main point of this post is to share with you an incredible story relating to shemitah that I read a while back. This story is found in one of the best and most honest books (at least in my humble opinion) written about many gedolim from Yakov Mark. Dan has posted on this book a while back. There is much to add to what he wrote, perhaps I will return to it another time. For now just the story. Yakov Mark records a story (Gedolim fun Unzer Tzeit, New York, 1927, pp. 117-18 and translated into Hebrew, B'Mechtizah shel Gedolim, Jerusalem, 1958, p. 104) of a meeting he had with R Yakov Lipshitz, the famous secretary of R Yitchack Elchonon Spector (and for purposes of the story below, it is important to note that R. Lipshitz was an anti-Zionist):

פעם אחת היתה לי שיחה מענינת עמו בענין שאלת השמיטה. הדבר היה בשנת השמיטה של שנת תרמט, והוא גילה לי סוד, שלו חלק גדול בהיתר שהוציא ר' יצחק אלחן מפני שהוא הפציר בו שיתן היתר ואם תאמר: איך זה מתיישב שיענקל ליפשיץ ישתדל עבור הציונים? מפזם לו ליפשיץ בניגון של גמרא, הענין הוא:שהציונים עשו נזק לעצמם בזה שחיפשו היתר יותר משהיה יכול להזיקם כל מתנגד שהוא. שער בנפשך, אלו היה הסטודנטים מכרכוב חוזרים ומקיימים את מצות השביעית אחרי אלף ושמונה מאות שנה, והרי מסורת היא שבעון שמיטה חרב הבית דומה שהיו מטילים על יענקל ליפשיץ כל האבנים הנמצאות ברחוב קובנה, כיצד הוא העיז לדבר על צדיקים כאלו? ומלבד זאת איזו פרסומת טובה היתה יוצאת מזה: כל העולם החרדי היה נושאם על הידים והיו ממש טובעים בזהבר, אבל יצרם הרע דחפם לבוץ ואני סייעתי בו

Where's Shai Agnon?

In the latest issue of Yeshurun (a fuller review will be coming shortly), they published a letter from R. Y.M. Gordon to Shai Agnon. In light of this, an erudite reader, Yisroel Rottenberg, was kind enough to provide another instance where Agnon is quoted and in this instance, where Agnon's name was then removed from a later edition.

In the Pirush Ba'al HaTurim al HaTorah by Y. Reinetz, in his introduction (p. 10) he relates the well-known story that R. Ya'akov composed the portion of his commentary "parparot" - numerologies and the like - in a single night. In the second edition (1971), he includes an endnote (p. 494) where he provides a source for this statement. He says (reproduced below)

בס' "ספר סופר סיפור" לש"י עגנון דף ס"ח מובא סיפור זה בשם ספר קול דודי וז"ל פעם אחת הוכיח הרא"ש ז"ל את בנו ר' יעקב בעל הטורים על שכל עיסוקיו אינם אלא בתורה שבעל פה בלבד אינו עוסק בתורה שבכתב. נתן הדברים אל לבו ובליל חמישי ישב כל הלילה וחיבר את ספרו על התורה

"in the book 'Sefer, Sofer, Sippur' from Sha"i Agnon p. 68 this story is recorded in the name of the work Kol Dodi [and then he provides a fuller accounting of the story]. . . ."

(second edition endnote - click to enlarge)

In the third edition (1974) of R. Reinetz's book, there is a major change. Instead of relying upon the endnote, he has moved up part of the endnote to the text in the introduction. In this edition, the introduction (p. 10) contains a parenthetical, which reads (reproduced below):

כן מובא בס' קול דודי וז"ל פעם אחת הוכיח הרא"ש זצ"ל את בנו ר' יעקב בעל הטורים על שכל עיסוקיו אינם אלא בתורה שבע"פ בלבד אינו עוסק בתורה שבכתב. נתן הדברים אל לבו ובליל חמישי ישב כל הלילה וחיבר את ספרו על התורה

"this is brought in the Kol Dodi [and then he provides a fuller accounting of the story]."
(third edition introduction - click to enlarge)

While essentially the same, the words "In the book 'Sefer, Sofer, Sippur' from Sha"i Agnon" have somehow gone missing when the text appears in the introduction. Perhaps, in the course of the move, like socks, they were lost.

Monday, October 08, 2007

International Conference in Memory of Moritz Steinschneider

In memory of Moritz Steinschneider's unrivaled studies in Hebrew Bibliography and the actuality of his research 100 years after his death an International Centennial Conference will be held in Berlin (November 20-22, 2007). For the conference program, see here.

Benjamin Richler and Charles H. Manekin, among others, will be presenting at the conference and Dr. Manekin will covering the conference for the Seforim blog. See also Dr. Charles H. Manekin's earlier post ("Moritz Steinschneider's Indecent Burial") at the Seforim blog.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

New Books

1. Machon Yerushalayim has begun to publish a new edition of the Ramban on the Torah. In this edition they include the Ramban, based mostly on the Lisbon, 1489 edition. The commentaries of the Techeles Mordechai, Kur HaZahav, Kesef Muzukkah, and R. Meir Arik's are included. For an earlier post at the Seforim blog touching on the Chavel-Mossad HaRav Kook edition of the Ramban, see here.

2. The Onkelos translation has come out on Bereishit, I have previously discussed this translation here. This new volume includes an introduction discussing Onkelos more generally.

3. A newly typeset edition of the Siddur haArizal Rebi Shabbati has come out.

4. All four volumes (complete) of the Siddur HaArizal Kol Ya'akov are now available in a newly typeset edition.

5. The Siddur Vilna has put out a Rosh HaShana machzor.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

The Pitfalls of Disagreeing with the Gra

Sunday, the second day of Hol HaMo'ad, was the 210th yahrzeit of the Gra. The Gra, a towering figure in modern Judaism, was not immune from criticism. His views, like any other's were subject to scrutiny. And, at times, there were those who disagreed with the Gra's conclusions. While this criticism should come as no surprise (and especially so in light of the Gra's dim view of deference to prior authorities), some felt the Gra should be immune from any criticism. Thus, we find the Gra's dissenters taken to task for merely arguing with the Gra's position.
Additionally, this post will be the beginning of a series of posts devoted to reviewing and highlighting one of the most important books in the history of the Jewish book to be published in recent memory. Dr. Yaakov Shmuel Spiegel (who has a terrific Hebrew Wikipedia entry here)has published two volumes of Amudim b'Tolodot Sefer HaIvri. Both volumes are tremendously rich in material and appear to have gone virtually unnoticed. (Unfortunately, Spiegel soon after the publication of the first volume came out with a revised edition. All citations are to the first edition of the first volume.)
As mentioned above, the first part of this post, is the first in a series discussing Spiegel's book. The second part, although related to Spiegel is not discussed by Spiegel, and instead, is from another important bibliography work, Ohel Rochel.
There is but one review in HaMayaan [and in the latest AJS review of Spiegel's second volume]. In fact, although those who have read it have recognized its import it has not stopped some from hiding their use of the book. Thus, a couple of weeks ago the Hiddushei HaBach were published on portions of the Talmud. Spiegel has an amazing discussion about the Hagot haBach. Spiegel discusses the history, what the Bach was doing, which edition of the Talmud he had. Perhaps most importantly, Spiegel discusses the errors that have crept into the Bach - mainly because the editors of the Vilna Shas removed the introduction to the work. The introduction explains certain devices that were employed to make clear which words the Bach was removing. Both the device (quotation marks) as well as the explanatory notes no longer appear, thus Spiegel provides numerous examples of people who based their Torah on an incorrect understanding of what the Bach was doing.

Returning to the new Hidushei HaBach, in the introduction they discuss the Bach's other works. Of course, they discuss the Hagot HaBach and they rely heavily (read almost in entirety) on Spiegel. But, the only times they cite (p. 19 n. 1; p.43 n. 55; p. 46 n.65, n. 67) to Spiegel they use the following abbreviation עמודים בתולדות ה"ה. They do not provide what that means, and only a reader who was already aware of Spiegel's book would have any idea. This is deliberate as although they are willing to use his book they are unwilling to let others know that.

In this post, however, I will not focus on the Bach, rather as mentioned above, we are going to discuss the Gra, and the first example focuses on the Hagot HaGra. This portion of the post mainly comes from Spiegel (Amudim: Haghot u'Maghim pp. 422-426, 461).

R. Gershon Henoch Leiner, the Radzyner Rebbi, published Sidrei Tahros. Sidrei Tahros is an attempt to fill a gap in the talmud. There are some mesechtot that do not have any talmudic commentary. While some, Zeraim for instance, have at least Yerushalmi, the mesechtot of Tahoros do not. Thus, R. Leiner culled the corpus of Rabbinic literature, Talmud, Midrash, Zohar, etc. and collected the relevant statements to create a "talmud" (it is even labeled as such - the legend on the page reads Gemara) on the two mesechtot of Ohelot and Kelim. Additionally, he wrote his own commentary on these volumes. The volume on Kelim was published in 1873 and included a map that can be seen here. The volume on Ohelot was published in 1903. After that both books were not republished until 1960 in a photomechanical reproduction.

Soon after it came out, people took issue with the entire concept - the concept of "creating" a gemara. Those who came out against him, did so in the newspaper Halevonon (available here - see the 1875 nos. 34, kovod levonon (machberes sheni year 11) 6 tamuz edition and see Ir Vilna vol. 1 p. 60 n. 7 for some choice quotes). Someone responded in Hamaggid (also available online see 17 Av, 1875). Much of this criticism was more focused on the concept of the Sidrei Taharos, (creating a "new" gemara) for our purposes, however, we are going to focus on one point, R. Leiner's disagreements with the Gra.

In his commentary, R. Leiner takes issue with some of the Gra's textual emendations. For instance R. Leiner states:
ודע דדברי הגר"א ז"ל בזה בספרו . . . לא איתברר לן ולא זכינו לעמוד בסוד דבריו ז"ל . . . דרכו בקודש נסתרה ונעלמה מאתנו

This is but one of the times R. Leiner disagrees with the Gra. At one time, R. Leiner is willing to attribute his disagreement not to the Gra, but instead, R. Leiner claims that perhaps the difficult statements in the Gra were not made by the Gra. Instead, a student misunderstood and thus it is now necessary to figure out what in fact the Gra said. Setting aside this justification (which, when it comes to the Gra's notes on the Talmud is difficult to believe in light of the fact much comes from the Gra's hand itself), R. Leiner still disagreed with the Gra for whatever reason it may be.

R. Yosef Refael and R. Betzalael HaKohen, Dayanim in the Vilna Bet Din were against the whole notion of the Sidrei Tahros. But, they also singled out R. Leiner's disagreements with the Gra. Specifically, they say
ובהשגות המחבר [ר' גרשון] על רבינו מאור הגולה הגר"א ז"ל כתב הרבה נגד כבוד הגר"א ז"ל בכמה מקומות ומדקדק עליו בדקדודי עניות לבד אשר אין מהצרוך להשיב עליהם כלל, וגם במהלליו את רבינו הגר"א ז"ל התנכר כנגדו כובד וכאילו היה חלילה אחד מחבריו . . . ובכמה מקומות תלה דברים זרים בפירוש הגר"א ז"ל, אשר לא יטעה כל המתחיל ללמוד לפרש כזאת

Another example is that of R. Barukh Brody in his book Bet Ya'akov where he states:

ועל של עתה באתי כי זה לא כביר נדפס ילקוט על מס' כלים . . . והנה בעברי על פני דבריו באיזה מקומן ראיתי כי יצא בילקוטו באבני נגף נוכח תורת הגר"א ופגע ונגע בכ"מ [= בכמה מקומות] בכבוד רבינו הגר"א ומשיג על דבריו בעזות וחוצפה מאד, ושמתי עיוני על השגותיו ומצאתי ראיתי כי מלבד שאין קטן ערך כמוהו ראוי להתוכח עם ארי ארי[ה] דבי עילאה הגר"א ז"ל, בר מכל דין לא הבין ולא רצה להבין דברי הגר"א הקדושים רק שנאה וחוצפה מדברת מתוך גרונו . . . חכמתו המעט נסתקלה ממנו ולא הבין אפילו פשט הפשוט שבדברי הגר"א ז"ל

R. Brody thus accuses R. Leiner of brazeness, chutzpah, and that R. Leiner "is unable to understand even the simplest explanations." Harsh words indeed all for disagreeing with the Gra.

The second example deals with a recently discussed book. In our discussion of Teffilah Zakah, we noted that various editions of the Hayye Adam were altered. In this case, we are going to deal with R. Danzig's other well-known work the Hokhmat Adam. In the prior discussion the removal was due to the inclusion of a controversial book, in this case it was R. Danzig's own words. [1]

The Hokhmat Adam was published after the Hayye Adam. In the Hayye Adam at various times, he take issue with the opinions of the Gra. R. Danzig was no stranger to the Gra, R. Danzig's son married the grand-daughter (Gittel Vilner) of the Gra. It appears that R. Danzig's disagreements with the Gra did not go unnoticed or unopposed.

In the first edition of the Hokhmat Adam, R. Danzig addresses criticisms. R. Danzig notes, inter alia, that the Gra himself would be more than happy to have people disagree with him. It appears, however, that only one copy remains of R. Danzig's original words. This copy was discovered by Chaim Lieberman, one of the great bibliographers of the past generation, in what was R. Shmuel Straushun's former library (a portion of the library is now housed in YIVO). The page, in relevant part, reads as follows:

והנה לא נמצא בחיבור זה מדברי מחותני הגאון רשכבה"ג מו' אלי' החסיד, והוא לסיבת כי שמעתי דבת רבים המתרעמים עלי שהשגתי עליו באיזה מקומות בחיבורי [חיי אדם] ובלתי ס[פק] שהאנשים המתרעמים לא ידעו דרך הפוסקים שכך דרך תה"ק זה בונה וזה סותר והתלמיד חולק על הרב כמש"כ בש"ע [יו"ד ס' רמ"ב סע' ג] ודרך זה היה נוהג אף בזמן תנאים ואמורים, ובודאי ניחא להגר"א מה שאני מפלפל בדבריו ממי שהוא אומר שפיר קאמר כדאר"י [=כדאמר רבי יוחנן] על בר לקישא. ולכתוב דבריו אף אם לא יהיה נ"ל זה לא אוכל, ולכן אחזתי במדת השתיקה להסיר תלונתם מעלי והם עתידים ליתן את הדין כי מנעו נ"ר [=נחת רוח] להגר"א לפלפל בדבריו, ודין אותי לכף זכות ידונו אותו משמים לזכות

This is not the text that appears in Hokhmat Adam, rather a slightly different text appears. These changes, however, as been demonstrated by Ch. Lieberman are significant. The following is how it appears (prior to the Binat Adam section):

והנה דברי מחותני גאון ישראל וקדושו אשר מימיו אנו שותים המקובל אלקי החסיד המפורסם מהו' אלי' חסיד דקהילתינו לא הבאתי כלל דבריו כמעט רק איזה גרגרים והוא לסיבה כי שמעתי דיבת רבים המתרעמים עלי על שבאיזה מקומות בחיברי חיי אדם השגתי עליו, ובלתי ספק שאנשים האלה אינם בקיאי' בלימוד הפוסקי' שכן דרך תה"ק זה בונה וזה סותר והתלמוד חולק על הרב והטור על אביו הרא"ש כמש"כ בש"ע ובפוסקי', וזה ניחא להון כדאמר ר' יוחנן על ר"ל דמיני ומיני' רווח שמעתתא, ובודאי זהו נחת רוח להגואן יותר ממי שיאמר שפיר קאמר ועתידין ליתן את הדין על שמונעים נחת רוח מהגואן, והדן לכף זכות ידונו משמים לזכות

Lieberman points to four major changes. First, the honorifics surrounding the first mention of the Gra. Second, in the first iteration, R. Danzig decided to totally avoid any mention of the Gra while in the second iteration he cites "some small statements" of the Gra. Third, in the later iteration the statement of R. Yochonon is filled in. That is it provides the text. Lieberman allows that perhaps this was done to avoid "confusion" with another statement of R. Yochonon. R. Yohonon (Ketubot 84,b) says about Resh Lakish "what can I do my peer disagrees with me." Rashi explains that "peer" means equal. Thus, perhaps the reader would think that R. Danzig was comparing himself with the Gra. Instead, the reader is now directed to the statement of R. Yohonon (Pesachim 88,a; Megilah 14,b) generally discussing Resh Lakish providing numerous answers to questions. Finally, in the later iteration the language "it is impossible for me to write what I don't actually believe" is missing in it entirety. (For Lieberman's article see Ohel Rochel, vol. 1, 473-74 [first printed in Kiryat Sefer, 37 (1962) pp. 413-14]).

[1] For examples of R. Danzig's disagreements and some responses see Eliach, HaGoan, vol. 2 pp. 706-09.

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