Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Initial Bibliography of Important Haggadah Literature

Initial Bibliography of Important Haggadah Literature
by Eliezer Brodt

All are aware of the proliferation of Haggadahs. Every year more and more are published thus making it difficult to know which versions are worthwhile. Thus, in this post I intend to focus on a listing a small bibliographical list of seforim relating to the Haggadah that are, in my mind, some of the most important ones.

In light of the fact I am going to select a few Haggadahs from the many, a caveat of sorts is in order. When discussing the "best" books it is good to keep in mind the comments of R. Eliyahu ben Avrohom Shlomo HaKohen (d. 1729) in his Shevet Mussar (ch. 28) who writes the following regarding affinities towards particular seforim:

ותראה בני אדם שלומדים ענין אחד מדרוש או ממוסר בספר אחד ואין טועמים ממנו ואין נרשם הדבר בשכלם. והענין או דברי המוסר בעצמו לומדים אותו בספר אחר הבא בשינו לשון ובמלות שונות וטועמים ממנו ונרשם הענין בדעתם ומגדלים ומשבחים אותו ענין. ובהפך אם אחד למד ענין בספר שלמד זה וטעם הוא אינו טועם כטעם הספר שלא טעם חבירו. טעמו של דבר שכל הטועם מענין הספר שלמד יש לו איזה שורש לנשמתו בנשמת מחבר הספר כיון שהם משורש אחד לכן טועם לשונו ונרשמים הדברים בליבו. לא כן מספר שלמד ולא טעם אף על פי שהענין אחד משום שאין לנשמתו שום קורבה ואחיזה בנשמת המחבר אותו ספר.

Basically, according each persons taste of a sefer could be different and the reason has to do with some sort of connection with the author of the sefer. Further, when it comes to the Haggadah and specifically the importance of the Haggadah the comments of the Sefer Hamaskil are instructive (p. 70):

מה טוב ומה נעים לעיין תמיד דבר בעתו בכל שבוע ושבוע בפירוש חומש ומחזיר וסליחות... ואגדת פסח

His basic point being that one should try to prepare before each occasion the tefilos we specific to that occasion – and for Pesach that is the Haggadah. (For more information regarding the Sefer Hamaskil see the excellent article from Rabbi M. Honig in Yerushcanu vol. 1).

One final point regarding the study of the Haggadah. The seder is at most two nights and thus some complain that they have no time to discuss or learn all the torah written about the seder in such a limited time. Many years ago I came across a interesting Netziv who writes that one should discuss Yetzis Mitzrim all Pesach not just the seder night [Hemaek Davar shimos 13:8]. Therefore, according the the Netziv, there is plenty of time to delve into the Haggadah and the seder.

As I have written before there is no other sefer which has more written on it than the Haggadah Shel Pesach. This year, on top of all the Haggadahs printed, Chaim Rosenberg has just added to his website of hebrew books 1000 more Haggadahs ! Moreover, the JNUL also has many rare Haggadahs online as well. Below are some of my recommendations of some good works on the Haggadah with some small points about them. I really should have a individual post about each one of these seforim but due to lack of time this should suffice for now.

Haggadahs discussing the historical development of the Haggadah & the Seder:

Many volumes have been written and will continue to be written about the Haggadah and its development. In 1954, R. Menachem M. Kasher had R. Shmuel Askenazi put together a Haggadah, Haggadah Shelama. [Virtually all of the work was done by R. Ashkenazi not by R. Kasher.] This Haggadah has an excellent introduction of forty chapters comprising 224 pages that discuss all aspects relating to the seder including much about the development of the Haggadah as we have it. As is the case with all R. Ashkenazi's works, this work is very well written and organized. It’s based on a very wide range of sources including manuscripts and genizah fragments. These introductory chapters have formed the bases for virtually all good Haggadahs printed since then. The second half of the Haggadah has an excellent collection of pirishim from many of the classic commentaries. This work has been reprinted many times, and is currently in print.

Another important Haggadah was edition by Professor D. Goldschmidt. This is a critical edition of the Haggadah [this is a updated version of previous editions that he had written] it also has much useful information on the development of the Haggadah and is a bit more scientific than Haggadah Shelama. But it is not nearly extensive as the Haggadah Shelama in what topics and information that it covers.

Another interesting work on the Haggada is called Haggadah and History by Professor Yosef Yerushalmi. This work contains 494 pages printed beautifully, describing five centuries of the Haggadah through facsimilie plates. Yerushalmi deals with many points of the particular Haggadahs. He also shows how the Haggadah is a mirror of Jewish history in general.

Another important volume was printed in 1998 by professors [father & son] Shemuel & Zev Safrai, Haggadah's Chazal. This Haggadah is excellent. In the past fifty years, since the printing of Haggadah Shelama, many more manuscripts and genizah fragments have come to light. The Safrai Haggadah makes prodigious use of this new information. It is well written and very user friendly. The Safrais deal with each part of the seder discussing at length the development of the Haggadah from times of Beis Hamikdash onwards. They also go through the entire text discussing various readings, sources, etc. In all, it is more scientific Haggadah then the Haggadah Shelama but less comprehensive. In the U.S. it is available here.

Another excellent work on the seder is Pessach Doros by R. Yosef Tabory published by Kibitz Hameuchad. This work focuses on many aspects of the seder and Haggadah. But this work does not only focus on the Pesach seder instead it discusses and provides sources for everything remotely touching on the seder – including, among others, the development of kiddish, lechem mishna, nitlas yadm on vegetables, and drinking wine in general this work to has a wealth of information on all these topics.

Turning now to non-scientific works on the seder. The first such work is Vayaged Moshe by R. M. Katz. This sefer is full of valuable information and is one of the first collections of all the halachah aspects of the seder. But since its printing there have been many more and better works written.

One such work written a few years back is R. Weingarten's three volume Seder Ha-aruch. The first volume is all about the halachaic aspects relating to the seder. The second volume discusses the aggadic parts relating to the seder. And the third volume is an excelent edition of the Haggadah. This third volume is based on many of the Haggdahs and includes all kinds of torah. It focuses on peshat based on rishonim and includes many other styles of learning as well including chassidius and kabalah. It is very easy to use and if one is leading a seder and has no time to prepare he will certainly find what to say. In general, this work it is very well researched and organized. It basically became a classic. A few works have come out since than I have not seen one done as well.

Another work on the seder is R. Ovadiah Yosef's Chazon Ovadiah. Many years back he printed two volumes under the same title but that was merely a bunch of articles on random topics. More recently, he printed a new edition of the Chazon Ovadiah where he goes through all the halachas of peasach in his encyclopedic style.

A Few Works on the Haggadah:

A few years back Mossad Harav Kook printed a beautiful edition of the Haggadah, Toras Chaim. This Haggadah contains 12 different prisushim of rishonim on the Haggadah based on manuscripts and contains many excellent notes on the texts. It is well worth one's time to study these commentaries which provide the Haggadahs simple peshat. It does, however, take much time and patience (and is confusing) to go through them all at the same time. Instead, it may be easier to divide it up pick one or two commentaries each year. These peshatim are very important as these are the main rishonim and how they understand each part of the Haggdah. They deal with many of the questions one has on the Haggadah but they are not full of sharp crowd catching stuff if one is trying to get the whole seder table into it. That is, when one learns the Haggadah there are many questions he will have as he has when learning any chazal these rishonim deal with many of those problems but they stick straight to peshat not dealing with fancy things or mussar points that people enjoy saying over to the crowd but they are extremely important to learn and in helping one understand the whole Haggadah.

Two minor complaints I have with this edition. Although the print is beautiful the layout is not. I find it a little annoying to use as when one is reading a particular pirish he has to keep on turning pages which is understandable but they are not all in the same place on each page which makes it kind of confusing. For example, some times the Ritvah you are in middle of you have to turn two pages etc. The best would have been to divide the sefer in half and make six pirushim per section making it much easier to use and easier to follow the notes. Another complaint is they should have printed a separate section of the halachos of the seder of these rishonim. This would make an excellent idea for a future work on Pesach and to include all the halchaic works of the rishonim on Pesach already printed by R. S. Stern.

The next Haggdah well worth ones time is the Abarbnel's Zevach Pesach. This Haggadah was the first printed in 1505 and is the first Haggadah printed with a commentary. Since then this Haggadah has been printed well over hundred times including in English. Last year Mossad Rav Kook printed a beautiful edition of this Haggadah.

This Haggadah provides excellent peshat in the well-known Abarbenel style. He begins by asking 100 questions on the Haggadah and than proceeds to answer each one in his clear manner. This Haggadah was and still is one of the most famous and most quoted in the various seforim. The Me'am Loaz Haggadah is heavily based on this Haggadah.

As far as other works of rishonim on the Haggadah, in the past few years, many have been printed by Professor Yakov Speigel. Speigel's editions are based on manuscripts and providedin critical editions. Recently Rabbi David Holzer printed a collection of rishonim from manuscript some of which had been printed by Professor Speigel and some never printed before.

Another work of rishonim printed is called Haggadahs Balei haTosfos also based on manuscripts of the Balei haTosofos on the Haggadah. This year a critical edition based on manuscripts was R. Yosef Gikatilla's Haggadah including many parts never printed before.

This year Mechon Yerushalim issued a new Haggadah, Otzar Mefrshi Haggadah. This collection is beautiful, well done and well organized. It has loads of information on the Haggadah. The style is the same as their Otzar Mifarshei Hatalmud. The editors write in the introduction that they intend to focus on peshat which they do a great job of it. They write they do not intend to bring down everything good as that would fill volumes but they are trying to put together what they could in a usable fashion. They use many hagdas of rishonim and achronim and they are not embarrassed to quote who they use - many times they quote from Seder Haruch etc. Although I think they did a great job and it is worth the money but I think if not for their time dead line the yarzheit of R. Buxbaum. It could have even been better (this is my opinon one can argue of course). For more on this see here.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Marc B. Shapiro - Responses to Comments and Elaborations on Previous Posts II

Responses to Comments and Elaborations of Previous Posts II

by Marc B. Shapiro

In a previous post I wrote as follows:

In Kitvei Ramban, vol. 1, p. 413, Chavel prints the introduction to Milhamot ha-Shem. The Ramban writes:

וקנאתי לרבנו הגדול רבי יצחק אלפאסי זכרונו לברכה קנאה גדולה, מפני שראיתי לחולקים על דבריו שלא השאירו לו כפי רב מחלוקותיהם ענין נכון בכל מה שדבר, ולא דבר הגון בכל מה שפרש, ולא פסק ראוי בכל מה שפסק, לא נשאר עם דבריהם בהלכות זולתי הדברים הפשוטים למתחיל פרק אין עומדין

In his note Chavel explains the last words as follows:

רק בסוף הפרק הזה נמצאה השגה אחת מבעל המאור

Yet what Ramban means by למתחיל פרק אין עומדין are the children who begin their talmudic study with Tractate Berakhot. In other words, it is only the explanations and pesakim of the Rif that are obvious even to the beginner that have not been challenged.[1]

Ephraim responded as follows
WRT the reference of Ramban to פרק אין עומדין, both you and R. Chavel are wrong. Ramban is clearly referring to the gemara's explanation of the Mishnah's ruling at the beginning of that chapter of אין עומדין להתפלל אלא מתוך כובד ראש, which is that one should learn an undisputed halakha prior to davening. It is only on those simple and undisputed halakhos that the Maor did not disagree.
Fotheringay-Phipps wrote:
The basic problem with Dr. Shapiro's (or R' Mazuz's, as the case may be) pshat is that Ain Omdin is the fifth chapter of B'rachos, not the first. If the Ramban meant the perek that a kid starting out learns, why would he choose the fifth perek? I think R' Chavel's pshat is somewhat of a better pshat, since Ain Omdin is somewhat unusual in that there is only one haga'a from the Ba'al Hamoar in the whole perek, and I incline to think that this is what the Ramban meant.
I presented these comments to R. Mazuz and he replied as follows:
לפי פירוש כת"ר היל"ל הדברים הפשוטים שבתחלת פרק אין עומדין. אולם ידוע שבעדות המזרח התחילו ללמוד מסכת ברכות (וכ"ה בשו"ת הרי"ף סימן רג"ג). בניגוד לנהוג היום בתלמודי תורה להתחיל פרק אלו מציאות. ואבא זצ"ל התחיל לתלמידים בפרק תפלת השחר (ומסתמא כך נהגו בג'רבא) שהוא הפרק הכי קל בין הפרקים א' ב' ג' ד' במסכת ברכות. לכן יתכן מאד שבימי הראשונים התחילו דוקא בפרק אין עומדין (שהוא קל אפילו יותר מפרק תפלת השחר, ורובו דברי אגדה). וזוהי כוונת הרמב"ן
With regard to his point about the Sephardim beginning their instruction from Berakhot, in R. Mazuz’s new book, Arim Nisi, p. 364, he notes that R. Shakh, Shimushah shel Torah p. 88, refers to the Maskilim’s attempt to institute this in Europe as a “reform.” Yet in reality, this practice has a long history. R. Mazuz writes:
ונעלם ממנו במחכ"ת שכן מנהג הספרדים עד היום הזה, והוא מנהג קדמון מימי הרי"ף והגאונים, ואולי מימי רבי מסדר המשנה שהתחיל בסדר זרעים במסכת ברכות. ולפני כששים שנה הדפיסו באי ג'רבא מסכת ברכות בהשמתטת הקטעים שאין רגילים ללמדם לתלמידים בהסכמת רבני העיר וט"ו מרביצי תורה שבעיר, ויצאו מהם פירות ופירי פירות
Since I mentioned R. Mazuz’s comment vis-à-vis what R. Shakh wrote, I should add that he criticized him on other occasions as well. These criticisms were always offered with proper respect. Yet there are those in the Lithuanian world who have no interest in hearing what another gadol has to say if it not in line with current Daas Torah.[2] R. Mazuz states that he once sent a letter to Yated Neeman pointing out an error R Shakh made, and they refused to publish it. After this paper refused to publish two more of his letters, he stopped sending them, as the hazakhah had been established.[3]

He also tells us that if the editors had a different attitude, he would have also sent in something dealing with the proper way to pronounce the word אחד in Shema, since there was a great deal of discussion in the newspaper by people who didn’t know what they were talking about. The truth is that a dalet without a dagesh is very similar to a zayin[4] and is still preserved among the elders of Yemen and Iraq. He cites one of Ibn Gabirol’s poems which reads:

לאטך דברי שיר דבורה

אשר קרית שמע מפיך יקרא

מיחדת ומארכת באחד

In Peter Cole’s translation:
Take, little bee,
your time with your song,
in your flight intoning the prayer called "Hear"
declaring and stretching "the Lord is one."[5]
In other word, the bee’s buzzing (zzz) shows us how one can extend the dalet. It is pronounced in the way that the letter can be extended, which cannot be done with a hard dalet.

R. Shakh was a man of truth, and he certainly would have wanted to be corrected. All true scholars are happy when this happens, and this is what intellectual honesty is all about. But Yated Neeman has never been interested in truth or intellectual honesty, but in pushing a religio-political agenda, and therefore not only do they refuse to print such corrections of their gedolim, but they have even published material which they know is untrue. I refer in particular to their slander of R. Kook, stating that he applied the verse Ki Mitzion Tetze Torah to the Hebew University. Even though the truth was pointed out to them they continued to print the slander. One can read all about this in Moshe Maimon Alharar’s book Li-Khevodah shel Torah.

Returning to R. Mazuz and R. Shakh. R. Shakh had written
Whence did Hazal know that the earth was forty-two times larger than the moon, and that the sun was approximately one-hundred-and-seventy times larger than the earth (as explained in the Rambam, Hilkhot Yesodei Hatorah 3:8), if not from the power of the Torah?
Some might recognize this passage as it was subject to a very strong critique by R. Aharon Lichtenstein. I am sure that many in the haredi world were very upset by what R. Lichtenstein wrote, but it pales in comparison to what R. Shakh wrote about the Rav’s Hamesh Derashot.[6] Among his negative comments, he referred to Rav’s Zionist ideas as ממש דברי כפירה.

R. Lichtenstein actually has two replies to the quote from R. Shakh. They are both found in the same essay, but the essay has appeared in two different versions. In the original version he wrote as follows.

Upon reading the passage, one can only reflect, first, that the description cited is nowhere to be found in Hazal, but derives, rather, from medieval astronomers; second, that it is in conflict with the rudiments of contemporary scientific assumptions, and, third, that it hardly consorts with the fact that the selfsame Rambam had explicitly stated, with respect to these very issues, that they were beyond the pale of Hazal’s authority. . . . The high regard properly due the author of the Avi Ezri notwithstanding, one can only conclude that, evidently, when their reach exceeds their grasp, even acknowledged and esteemed talmdei hakhamim may falter.[7]

Yet when this essay was reprinted in Leaves of Faith, vol. 2, the criticism was softened:
In raising this question, he is wholly oblivious not only of the rudiments of astronomy but also of the fact that the selfsame Rambam explicitly states, with respect to these very issues, that they are beyond the pale of Hazal’s authority.

כן בדברי חז"ל. וכמבואר להדיא בהקדמתו לפירוש המשניות (בש"ס ברכות דפוס ווילנא דף נה סע"א וע"ב) שהמקור לזה מספר אלמגסט"י. והוא ספרו של בטלמיוס הידוע בחכמת האסטרונומיא. ועפ"ז כתב הרמב"ם בהלכות יסודי התורה (שם) שהשמש גדולה מן הירח פי 6800. ורלב"ג עה"ת (בפסוק ויאמר אלקים יהי מאורות) חולק על זה וכתב כי השמש גדולה מהירח פי חמשים אלף, כמו שביאר בח"א ממאמר חמישי מס' מלחמות ה' ע"ש. וכיום ידוע שהשמש גדולה מן הארץ פי מליון שלש מאות אלף
In response to this citation of R. Shakh in Yated Neeman, R. Mazuz wrote as follows (Or Torah, Adar 5753, pp. 461-462):
והנני להעיר שהרמב"ם כתב כן ע"פ חכמי המדע בימיו ולא נצמא כן בדברי חז"ל. וכמבואר להדיא בהקדמתו לפירוש המשניות (בש"ס ברכות דפוס ווילנא דף נה סע"א וע"ב) שהמקור לזה מספר אלמגסט"י. והוא ספרו של בטלמיוס הידוע בחכמת האסטרונומיא. ועפ"ז כתב הרמב"ם בהלכות יסודי התורה (שם) שהשמש גדולה מן הירח פי 6800. ורלב"ג עה"ת (בפסוק ויאמר אלקים יהי מאורות) חולק על זה וכתב כי השמש גדולה מהירח פי חמשים אלף, כמו שביאר בח"א ממאמר חמישי מס' מלחמות ה' ע"ש. וכיום ידוע שהשמש גדולה מן הארץ פי מליון שלש מאות אלף
R. Mazuz’s second letter deals with the nature of darkness. Yated Neeman had printed the Vilna Gaon’s opinion that darkness is not simply the absence of light but its own creation. R. Mazuz responded that this is in opposition to the opinions of the Rambam, Ramban, R. Joel Sirkes, R. Elijah Mizrahi and the Siftei Hakhamim. Subsequent to writing the letter he learnt that this view was also held by R. Saadiah Gaon, Ibn Ezra, Radak, and the Kol Bo (see ibid., p. 946) After pointing out that the Vilna Gaon’s view is held by R. Jacob Emden and the Hida. He concludes:

מכל מקום אין לקרוא לסברא. שהחשך הוא העדר "דברת המינים" ח"ו. ואלו ואלו דברי אלקים חיים

As already mentioned, Yated Neeman does not like to print letters from those who are able to show that the newspaper has erred. Only newspapers interested in the truth do that.

In his Kovetz Ma’amarim, pp. 102ff., R. Mazuz includes another letter he sent to Yated which also was not printed. The paper had published the view of the Steipler and R. Chaim Kanievsky that even Sephardim should pronounce the final vowel of אד-ני as Ashkenazim pronounce the kamatz, since otherwise it appears as it if there is more than one God.

R. Mazuz shows how mistaken this is, and illustrates though various texts that the way the Sephardim pronounce the kamatz today is precisely how it was pronounced in medieval times. For example, he cites one of Ibn Gabirol’s Azharot:

אנכי ה' / קראתיך בסינַי/ ולא יהיה על פנַי / לך אלהים אחרים

One can easily see that the words are designed to rhyme, so obviously the last syllable of Ado-nai was pronounced the same way as Sinai and panai.

2. Since I just mentioned R. Aharon Lichtenstein, let me quote something else he wrote that relates to what I noted in a previous post.[8] I pointed to the common phenomenon of people rejecting the authenticity of texts that don’t agree with their preconceptions. R. Lichtenstein states:

The Rav had no patience for philosophies that glorified passivity and reliance on miracles. At the beginning of the 1960’s, a few years after the launch of Sputnik, I had occasion to talk with the Rav about those people who claimed that man should not reach out for the heavens, for “the heavens are the heavens of God,” and only “the earth is given to human beings.” The Rav heaped scorn upon them. One of those present jumped up to protest: “But Rabbi, the Ramban in Bechukotai (Vayikra 26:11) speaks about how a person should have faith in the Holy One, and not to delve into matters that are too wondrous for him.” The Rav replied, “I heard from my father, in the name of my grandfather, that the Ramban never uttered that statement!”

Although not identical to the Ramban’s position, there was also a medieval Jewish view that doctors should only be consulted for things like sprained arms, but that when it came to internal diseases one should only resort to prayer. Lest one think that this idiosyncratic position has totally disappeared, I have even found a twentieth-century author who adopts it,[9] leading R. Ovadiah Yosef to strongly reject this view in his haskamah.

3. In a previous post[10] I called attention to an error made by H. Norman Strickman and Arthur Silver. They claimed that according to Radak’s commentary to Gen. 14:14, after the conquest of the Land of Israel the reading of this verse was changed to read “and pursued as far as Dan.” Dr. Strickman has informed me that in the Afterword to his translation of Ibn Ezra to Leviticus, p. 291, he himself corrected the errror. The correct reference is to Radak’s commentary to I Sam. 4:1. Here Radak leaves no doubt that he indeed believes that the text of the verse was changed.

על האבן העזר: כמו הארון הברי' והכותב אמר זה כי כשהיתה זאת המלחמה אבן נגף היתה ולא אבן עזר ועדיין לא נקראה אבן העזר כי על המלחמה האחרת שעשה שמואל עם פלשתים בין המצפה ובין השן שקרא אותה שמואל אבן העזר שעזרם האל יתברך באותה מלחמה אבל מה שנכתב הנה אבן העזר דברי הסופר הם וכן וירדף עד דן

With this text, we can now understand Radak’s commentary to Gen. 14:4 as also referring to a post-Mosaic change. Without this text, there would be no reason to assume that Radak in Gen 14:14 is not referring to Moses’ prophetically writing the word “Dan.”

As I pointed out in my previous post, in the introduction to his Commentary on the Torah Radak insists on complete Mosaic authorship. In order that there be no contradiction between the sources, we must assume that Radak means that no sections (or even verses) were written by someone other than Moses, but not that there are no minor post-Mosaic changes. In my book I pointed out that Radak understood tikkun soferim literally, that is, the Scribes actually made minor changes to the text of the Torah.[11]

(With regard to false ascription of critical views vis-à-vis the Torah’s authorship, I should also mention that Abarbanel, Commentary to Numbers 21:1, accuses both Ibn Ezra and Nahmanides of believing that the beginning verses of this chapter are post-Mosaic. Yet Abarbanel must have been citing from memory, since neither of them say this. In fact, Ibn Ezra specifically rejects the notion that the verses were written by Joshua.)

4. In a previous post I mentioned R. David Zvi Hillman’s strong attack on R. Kafih. It is only fair to point out that Hillman’s letter was the impetus for an even sharper attack on Hillman. See here, here, and here for the relevant documents.

R. Kafih was a follower of the Rambam who wrote that one should be “among those who are insulted, but not among those who are insulting” (Deot 5:28). While the articles make many good points, the crude language used is entirely unacceptable.

5. With regard to the Netziv and reading newspapers on Shabbat, Dr. Yehudah Mirsky has called my attention to the Netziv’s article in R. Kook’s journal, Ittur Soferim (1888), pp. 11-12, where the Netziv offers halakhic justification for this practice. Unfortunately, this short article was not included in Meshiv Davar, vol. 5, which appeared in 1993. (Presumably, the editors were unaware of it.) This most recent volume of Meshiv Davar is a bit strange, because the editors don’t tell us anything about where they found previoiusly unpublished responsa included here. From a historical standpoint, the most interesting responsum is no. 44. Here the Netziv blasts the new analytic approach of R. Isaac Jacob Reines, which is found in his Hotam ha-Tokhnit and Urim Gedolim.

Other than an anonymous article in Ha-Peles 5 (1903), pp. 673-674, in which Reines’ approach is regarded as falling into the category of “that which is new is forbidden by the Torah,” I don’t know of any other attacks on him. For some strange reason, Saul Lieberman thought that R. Yaakov David Wilovsky’s famous attack against the Brisker method, found in the introduction to his Beit Ridbaz, was directed against Reines. Shaul Stampfer quoted this in Lieberman’s name in the first edition of his masterpiece, Ha-Yeshivah ha-Lita’it be-Hithavutah (Jerusalem, 1995), p. 113 n. 29, but omits Lieberman’s comment in the second edition of this book (Jerusalem, 2005).

6. In a previous post I wrote about the issue of kosher sturgeon. Shortly after the post appeared I read David Malkiel’s article on R. Isaac Lampronte’s Pahad Yitzhak.[12] Malkiel, p. 129, points out that the most famous entry in the work deals with the authority of customs, and focuses on whether a certain type of sturgeon is kosher. Lampronte tell us that the custom in Ferrara was to eat it.

I wrote the post without doing an internet search, which is now the first place people go when beginning their research. Only after the post appeared did I do such a search and I came up with the following very interesting post by Rabbi Seth Mandel.[13] He writes as follows:
I have asked several rabbonim about how it came to pass that if the Noda' biY'hudah paskened unequivocally that sturgeon is kosher, every book says black on white that it is not. Of the two rabbonim who even were aware of the issue, one said that of course sturgeon is kosher, and the fact that there is none with a hekhsher is either because the rav hamakhshir doesn't know about the issue, or you can't get a rav hamakhshir to the fishing plants. . . . The other rov said that of course, no recognized halakhic authority would contradict the Noda' biY'hudah on this, but since Jews believe they are not kosher, and the only ones pushing their kashrut are the C or R, why should an O rov fight to show they are kosher, as if we accept the way they arrive at their decision? . . . 
I challenge anyone to find a posek who deals with the issue and refutes the Noda' biY'hudah. I am _not_ saying that I "know" that there is no one; what I am saying is that I have been looking for years, and have found no one. Please do not hesitate to correct me if anyone knows of a source (but one that knows that the Noda' biY'hudah had a t'shuva on this). The books on the kashrus of fish just take it as a given that since sturgeon, as R. Josh says, do not have scales but rather bony tubercules, they are not kosher. My bottom line is I don't care if people hold that they are not kosher (I don't like fish eggs, anyway), but it seems to me inexcusable for these books to distort the Torah by giving the impression that everyone agrees on this issue. The Noda' biY'hudah is not just anyone. My goodness, he is not even MO, L, or Chareidi, so there go most of the opportunities for saying “WADR to the Noda' biY'hudah, he is MO/L/ wears a grey hat, and so cannot be representative of true Torah." The only thing you can say is that he was an opponent of chasidus, but even according to the Chasidim, that is not an issue, since a famous story of the Chasidim is that he repented on his deathbed from all the not nice things he said condemning chasidus (and the story _must_ be true, since it is retold in the CIS Shulman "authorized" biography of him).
Rabbi Mandel wrote this before he was appointed to his current important position in the OU kashrut organization. Somehow, I don’t think he would have expressed himself this way if he was then working in the kashrut industry.[14]

7. I was fortunate to spend back-to-back Shabbatot with Prof. Daniel Sperber. I learnt much from my conversations with him, and I think people will enjoy listening to his presentations. He is currently president of the Jesselson Institute for Advanced Torah Studies at Bar Ilan University, and was kind enough to give me a recent volume published by them, Mi-Sinai le-Lishkat ha-Gazit by Shlomo Kassierer and Shlomo Glicksberg. This book analyzes the relationship between the written and oral law, and the nature of rabbinical authority. What makes the book significant is the combination of traditional and academic study. Anyone who wants to understand the latest thinking on this topic would be wise to consult this book.

8. Many people contacted me following my last post on Rabbis and Communism, so let me add a few further comments. R. Baruch Oberlander called my attention to Likutei Sihot, vol. 33, pp. 248-249. Here the Lubavitcher Rebbe states that there is no contradiction between Judaism and socialism. He adds that in Russia, before the Revolution, he knew many socialists, even radical ones (which I assume means real communists), who were completely Torah observant. See also Iggerot Kodesh, vol. 22, p. 497.

Since my last post mentioned R. Jacob Emden and Abraham Bick’s communist ties, I should also mention Mortimer Cohen, the author of Jacob Emden: A Man of Controversy. This was the first academic defense of Emden, and was subjected to withering criticism by Scholem. Marvin Antelman, who has made attacking Eybschuetz one of his life’s goals, also sets his guns on Cohen, accusing him of having been the “’rabbi’ of a secret sect of Sabbatean communists, who carried on the Frankist conspiracy in Philadelphia” (Bekhor Satan, p. 44).

R. Nathan Kamenetsky wrote to me pointing out that when R. Dovid Leibowitz was let go from Yeshiva Torah va-Daas in the 1930s, one of the complaints against him was that he was promoting communism (whether the complaint was justified I cannot say. Kamenetsky continues: “My son, R' Yoseph, pointed out that the Torah divides wealth evenly when it sets the law of Yovel. At the conquest of Canaan, the land was divided evenly, and every fifty years thereafter, by which time there would be wealthy lanlords and poor ones, the Torah redistributed the land in its original lots. (The difference between large estates and small ones would then result only from family sizes, by which families with many children would have smaller fields than and those with many children.)”

I had wondered about the meaning of the word ,סוללים and suggested that it refers to a white-collar profession. Kamenetsky writes:
You do not base your suggestion on philology - and nor will I. I also do not think that you are correct sociologically that white-collar workers were assumed to be less religiously observant than other Jews. I believe that Rabbi Graubart meant pharmacists, because, like doctors, they were not expected to be observant. I know this from my father's attitude (which was grounded in the pre-World War I Jewish environment). For example, when my father would speak of my native Tzitevian, the town where he served as rabbi, and telling an involved story about how a Jewish woman who was suspected by my mother of not using the mikveh found that her husband was carrying on with their goyisheh maid, he added, (not in these exact words) "Naturally, besides the pharmacist's wife, all the women in the shtetl used the mikveh." Insofar as doctors, and likely pharmacists too, they weren't trusted to be profesionally reliable if they were observant! See my Making of a Godol, page 557, (within my discussion about Dr. Einhorn, a mysterious figure), where I quote an article about that doctor which said, "The [townspeople] realized that [Dr. Einhorn's] way of life, his devoutness, did not harmonize with his profession."
9. Dr. Yehudah Mirsky called my attention to Mordechai Zalkin, "Bein 'Bnei Elohim' li-Vnei Adam': Rabbanim, Bahurei Yeshivot ve-ha-Giyus le-Tzavah Ha-Russi ba-Meah ha-19," in Avriel Bar-Levav, ed., Shalom u-Milhamah be-Tarbut Ha-Yehudit (Jerusalem/Haifa, 2006), pp. 165-222. I was unaware of this fabulous article which is a detailed survey of the issue of rabbis and the Cantonist problem. Let me just quote his concluding paragraph, which I was happy to see supports a suggestion I made. Coming from Zalkin, who is an expert in the history of Russian Jewry, it should be taken very seriously.

אין בידינו כלים לבחון את מידת השפעתו ארוכת הטווח של תהליך זה על מערך היחסים הבסיסי בחברה היהודית המזרח אירופית משלהי המא התשע-עשרה. אולם יש מקום להניח שלתחושת האכזבה והתסכול מאופן תפקודה של הרבנות המזרח אירופית בפרשת הגיוס היה חלק לא מבוטל במגמות החילון ובנהייה אחר תנועות אידאולוגיות שהציעו מודלים מנהיגותיים אחרים, שרווחו בקרב יהודי מזרח אירופה במחצית השנייה של המאה התשע-עשרה


[1] See R. Meir Mazuz’ note in R. Hayyim Amselem, Minhat Hayyim, vol. 2, p. 15.
[2] I stress the “current” Daas Torah, since Daas Torah has been known to change. For example, Yated Neeman will, for obvious reasons, no longer mention the Daas Torah set forth by the Brisker Rav, the Steipler, and R. Shakh, and which was the official haredi position for many decades, namely, that one is not permitted to serve in the Israeli government batei din. With regard to Daas Torah, the quote from R. Itzele that I mentioned in my last post is very interesting

החלק הפוליטי נחוץ, כי על ידו נמשוך את בני הנעורים והרחוב להסתדרותנו. גם הלא אנו רואים, כי כלל ישראל חפץ בו, בוודאי מאת ד' הייתה זאת. וכלל ישראל הוא גבוה ונעלה מגדולי התורה. ישראל אם אינם נביאים, בני נביאים הם

In the haredi version of Daas Torah, the opinions of the masses are meaningless, indeed they are said to be – by definition – in opposition to Daas Torah (which always makes me wonder how laypeople such as Jonathan Rosenblum are able to understand and explain Daas Torah). Yet R. Itzele places the opinion of the religious masses on a higher level than that of the rabbis (à la kol hamon ke-kol shadai). One reader informed me that R. Avraham Shapira quoted this passage in defense of Zionism, i.e., the religious intuition of the people, who supported Zionism, trumped the view of the gedolim, most of whom opposed Zionism.
[3] Or Torah, Adar 5753, pp. 461ff., 946.
[4] See Shamma Friedman, “Le-Inyan ha-Devorah be-Shiro shel Ibn Gabirol, u-Minhag Ehad bi-Keriat Shema,” Lashon ve-Ivrit, Dec. 6, 1990, p. 31.
[5] Selected Poems of Solomon Ibn Gabirol (Princeton, 2000), p. 69.
[6] See Mikhtavim u-Ma’amarim, vol. 4, p. 107. See also his strong attack on the Rav’s ideology, ibid., pp. 35ff.
[7] “Legitimization of Modernity: Classical and Contemporary,” in Moshe Z. Sokol, ed., Engaging Modernity (Northvale, 1997), pp. 21-22
[8] See here.
[9] R. Reuven ben David, Meshiv Davar (Jerusalem, 1979), no. 2.
[11] Limits of Orthodox Theology, p. 99. I also note that Radak doesn’t usually mention the various tikkunei soferim, which probably means that he did not accept them.
[12] “The Burden of the Past in the 18th Century: Authority, Custom and Innovation in the Pahad Yitzhak,” Jewish Law Annual 16 (2006), pp. 94-132
[13] See here.
[14] In a future post I hope to deal with the history of the kashrut industry. For now, let me just note that among the many ways we are more fortunate than those of previous generations is that we can even buy toilet bowl cleaner with a hashgachah (it is parve.). See here. Here is the actual letter of certification.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

A Puzzling Example of Plagiarism

One of the strange facts connected with plagiarism is that, at times, it is hard to discern what the motivation is to plagiarize. For example, we have seen a person today that continuously plagiarizes entire books even though he is well-known and, if the approbations on his books are any indication, well-respected. Still, he has plagiarized, in their entirety at least three books and seems to continue to do so. While monetary gain may be a reason, I don't see this as making him rich.

Another example where it is hard to figure out why the person plagiarized is an earlier case, a case from the early 19th century. Again, we are dealing with a book that was plagiarized in its entirety. Such examples, where the whole book is appropriated, makes it easy to show that this is a case of plagiarism and not merely that a sentence or two was not cited properly. This particular example also has the benefit that although an entire book was stolen and then republished under the very same title, it appears that detection of this eluded some experts in the field of Jewish books. Specifically, as we shall see that Israel Zinberg, had no knowledge of this. First, the original.

The book in question is a small work, Ha-Matzah Hadasha, published in Amsterdam as part of a collection of works. The entire collection, that includes three other works, is Shir Emunim. The author of these works is R. Moshe Piza. Ha-Matzah Hadasha is a book whose purpose is to demonstrate and list the words that contain the letter Shin and to distinguish between a Shin and a Sin. Additionally, R. Piza included a short commentary on the bottom that provides translation for some of the words he lists. Finally, R. Piza includes a poem of sorts at the end that lists the Sins in Tanach.

Ha-Matzah Hadasha, Amsterdam, 1793

Now, the plagiarized version. For this we travel from Amsterdam to Vilna. Zinberg, (A History of Jewish Literature, New York, 1975, vol. 6, pp. 282-84) in discussing the early rumblings of the Haskalah movement points to an "interesting person" Naftali Hertz Shulman. Shulman was very well-read and may have been proficient in Russian, German and Latin, something very uncommon for Jews of the time. He gave classes in the Rambam's Moreh Nevukim and was a teacher to many wealth students. Shulman attempted to start a journal that would provide information "about commerce and political events, and the lover of science about scientific discoveries." The stated purpose of the journal was so that "much knowledge in the realm of various languages, mathematics, geography, the natural sciences, etc. will be disseminated among our people."

Now, in 1804, Shulman published R. Benyamin Mussafia's lexographic work, Zekher Rav. Additionally, in 1804, under his own name, Shulman published Ha-Matzah Hadasha. On the title page Shulman states that "he gathered the information [in Ha-Matzah Hadasha] from many places" but never says that the entire work is word for word from R. Piza's earlier work. Zinberg, in his three pages on Shulman - most of glowing with Shulman's accomplishments - never mentions this fact. This is so, although the fact that Shulman plagiarism was already noted by Roest in his catalog of the Rosenthal collection, Yodeh Sefer no. 520. Roest notes that Shulman plagiarized Piza's entire work. It is worth noting that in truth Shulman did not plagiarize R. Piza's entire work - Shulman left out the final poem (I have provided it below).

Even auction catalogers, whose job presumably is to increase the value of auction items, were unaware of this fact. In the Judiaca Jerusalem catalog (April, 2008) they had Shulman's work for sale. They merely note that Shulman probably wrote this work - a work to differentiate between a the two similar letters of Shin and Sin - due to the unique Lithuanian pronunciation. Not only do that not mention the work is not original to Shulman, their explanation fails to account for the fact the work was never written in response to Lithuanian pronunciation as it was originally written in Amsterdam by a Sefardic author, R. Piza.

Ha-Matzah Hadasha, Sklov, 1804

Now, in light of Zinberg's description of Shulman, Shulman appears to have been well respected in Vilna, as I mentioned he taught many wealthy children, Shulman published his own works and was involved with many members of the early Haskalah even going so far as to suggest publishing the journal mentioned above. It is therefore perplexing then he would plagiarize an eight page book that for the most part is merely a list of words from Tanach that merely highlights whether there is a Shin or a Sin. Below, are scans from the original and Shulman's edition.

A Page from Shulman's edition

The same page from Piza's original version

The poem that appears at the end of Piza's Version
Additionally, it may be that he actually plagiarized another book as well. While this is highly speculative, another book, discussed here, was plagiarized from R. Abraham ben HaGra in 1804 by a Yehuda ben Naftali Hertz. I don't know if this Yehuda ben Naftali Hertz is related to the Naftali Hertz above but the similarity in name, place of publication, as well as the timing may be an indication that either it is the same person or somehow connected.

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