Thursday, April 29, 2010

Sefer HaNer on Mesechet Bava Kamma

 Sefer HaNer on Mesechet Bava Kamma: A Review

 by:Rabbi Yosaif Mordechai Dubovick


          Not every important work written by a Rishon is blessed with popularity.[1] While many texts were available throughout the generations and utilized to their utmost; others were relegated to obscurity, being published as recently as this century, or even this year. Nearly a month doesn't pass without a "new" Rishon being made available to the public, and often enough in a critical edition. While each work must be evaluated on its own merit, as a whole, every commentary, every volume of Halachic rulings adds to our knowledge and Torah study.[2]

          From the Geonic era through the Rishonim, North Africa was blessed with flourishing Torah centers, Kairouan in Tunisia (800-1057),[3] Fostat (Old Cairo) in Egypt, and many smaller cities as well. Perhaps the crown jewel of "pre-Rambam" Torah study was the sefer Hilchot Alfasi by R' Yitchock Alfasi (the Rif).[4] Many Rishonim focused their novella around the study of Rif,[5] the Rambam taught Rif in lieu of Talmud,[6] and a pseudo-Rashi and Tosefot were developed to encompass the texts used and accompany its study.[7]

          In Aghmat, a little known city in Morocco, circa the Rambam's lifetime, rose up a little known Chacham whose work is invaluable in studying Rif, and by correlation, the Talmud Bavli as a whole. Yet, this Chacham was unheard of, for the most part, until the past half century. R' Zechariya b. Yehuda of Aghmat, authored a compendium of Geonim, Rishonim, and personal exegesis on Rif. Spanning a period of 200 years of Talmud commentary of the first order, this work was also unique in its approach. Various editors have justly compared it to a work of similar nature and provenance, Shittah Mikubetzet by R. Betzalel Ashkenazi.

          However, this source of Talmudic material from an almost blank period remained unknown until HaRav Prof. Simha Assaf published several leaves on Mesechet Berachot.[8] This followed by a semi-critical edition of a complete manuscript, by Meir David Ben-Shem bearing its rightful title, Sefer HaNer.[9] Later, J. Leveen published a facsimile version of a manuscript in the British Museum[10] on the three "Bavot" along with an English preface, indexes and a brief critique of Ben-Shem's edition of Berachot. Since, many articles have been written about the work[11] and the Torah world has been blessed to see several volumes in print.

          To date we are in possession of Sefer HaNer on Berachot,[12] Shabbat,[13] Eruvin, Moed Katan[14] and Mesechet Nezikin; namely the three Bavot.[15] In general, R' Zechariah complied his work from the following sources, most of which were unknown as a work, and sometimes even the author was unknown. These Pirushim include Geonim; Rav Hai in particular, Rabbeinu Chananel,[16] R' Yosef ibn Migash, R' Baruch Sefardi (RB"S),[17] R' Yitzchok Ghiyyat, Rav Natan author of Sefer ha Aruch, Rashi,[18] Rambam,[19] as well as material of unknown authorship.[20] Further, a notable portion of the material is in Judeo-Arabic of that period, including Geonic response and commentary, citations from R"Y ibn Migash, the Rambam's commentary on Mishnah, and even short remarks within other commentaries as well. Accurately translating the material is a handicap, limiting the sefer's use, and perhaps played a part in its falling into disuse at the decline of a Judeo-Arabic speaking Talmudist audience. [Much like the loss of many (non-translated) Judeo-Arabic Geonic works over time].

          Recently, a new edition of HaNer on Mesechet Bava Kamma has been published; this article will attempt a comparison between the two printed editions, focus remaining upon the newer edition. While parts of the material of the manuscript (British Museum OR 10013) have been utilized in the past,[21] never has the manuscript been published as a whole, with critical notes. In 5761, as a part of Ohel Yeshayahu, a compilation of works on B"K, R. Hillel Mann published the relevant portion of Sefer HaNer from this manuscript. While this edition was surprisingly accurate to the mss. (the facsimile published by Leveen is available on Otzar HaChochmah), his notes are exceptionally lacking, with only the barest citation to what could be best described as "yeshivishe reid"; the common knowledge on the topic as discussed in the Yeshivot of today. Certainly not the optimal choice when editing and annotating a work based on Geonic and early Rishonic material, with many variant readings in the Talmud, as well novel commentaries hitherto unutilized.

          Upon perusal of this edition, one cannot help but notice that in sharp contrast to the remaining nine chapters, the first chapter seems well edited, and the material in the footnotes is richer. The answer to this oddity is found in Mann's preface; in 5752, an article containing a critical edition of the first perek was published by R' Yehoshua Hutner of Machon Talmud Yisraeli[22]. This material had been meticulously edited by R' Dov Havlin shlit"a and R' Yosef haKohen Klien ob"m. Mann made use of the extensive notes, gleaned what he felt valuable, and ignored what he deemed he could.[23] According to Mann, R' Tzvi Rotstein[24] copied the mss., and R' Yosef Kafich translated the Arabic text.

          Several months ago, a new edition of this work graced our tables. R' Dov Havlin, the editor of the Talmud Yisraeli article, and his family[25] received permission to publish the work in its entirety.[26] Using the material previously assembled, and R' Kafich's translations, a preface was added, and the book printed. A mere glance at the first footnote to the preface shows the thoroughness and care taken when approaching a Rishon. As opposed to an "on-the-job training" attitude displayed by some authors, here the appropriate material was gathered and made use of in order to assess the task at hand.

          The preface offers the uninitiated a précis of the academic papers written on R' Zechariah, and deals with the author, his era and his works. Alongside, a chapter is devoted to R' Baruch Sefardi, if only for the sake of providing the public exposure to Abramson's pamphlet.[27] In one paragraph, the editor explains his decision to title the work "Shitta MiKubetzet Kadmon" although the author R' Zechariah named it "HaNer". I must confess I was not persuaded to concede to the change, and regret the license taken.[28]

          Another liberty taken is the exclusion of the abbreviation "Pir'", short for "Pirush". This nomenclature has been edited out and replaced with a dash, although no mention was made of this in the preface.[29] This is not the case in the original article, and it would appear that this was done solely by the new editor(s). In addition, Arabic pieces, be they ever so brief, are replaced with the translation, and while the replacement is noted the original text is lacking. Mann's edition reproduces the original, and relegates the translation to a footnote as the original article. By way of comparison, the original sports 261 footnotes on the first perek, the newer model, 98, and Mann's version contains 102. Clearly, editing has been done, and while citations previously footnoted are now in the body of the text (parenthesized and font size lowered), one wonders what else has been omitted, and at what cost.[30]

Diacritics found in the mss. are sorely lacking in all three editions, and HaShem's name, typically written as three letters "yud", is modernized to two.[31] Further, abbreviations have been expanded; Mann remained true to the text. Many of Mann's mistaken readings are especially accurate in the new edition, yet typographical errors (as is wont) remain.

As the work is based upon Rif, and collates many authorities, attempts to correlate the work to the Talmud's present pagination is daunting. Many times R' Zechariah will continue to copy a commentator, covering material spanning several folios, only to backtrack in order to begin a parallel commentary. Special attention need be given to this, and often Mann has rearranged material to fit within the parameters of one page; Havlin et al reproduce the original order.[32] The mss, while largely legible, has many additions, in different hands. Some addenda are written perpendicular to the text as marginal glossa, in a smaller hand. Mann has lost text in this fashion, as opposed to the Havlin edition wherein they are preserved.

Publishing any edition of a manuscript reverts at some point to become eclectic. The editor is forced to decide on punctuation placement, and sentence/paragraph breaks, causing differing interpretations. While I cannot agree to the many changes made in the new edition,[33] this treasure trove of valuable material has now been made available to the public, and our thanks due. The text is highly accurate to the manuscript, the notes offer useful information, cross references and variant readings. This new addition to the Talmudic bookcase is most welcome, and while the implication given by the publisher that the next two meschtot are not on the agenda, may any continuation of so worthy a project be expediently brought to light.

[1] See Zohar, Bamidbar (3:134a) "everything is dependant upon fate, even the Sefer Torah in the Heichal".

[2] See E. Soloveitchik, 'Al Pirush Kadmon lMesechet Sukkah', Tzfunot 18 (5752), pp 9-13. See also Prof. R' S. Z. Havlin, Sefer Vaad lChachomim, Yerushalayim 5763, p 13-35/

[3] Home of the Yeshiva of R' Chananel and R' Nissim Gaon, among others. See M. Ben-Sasson, Tzemichat haKehillah haYihudit bArtzot haIslam, Yerushalayim 5757.

[4] See Ta-Shma, Sifrut Ha-parshanit le-Talmud vol. 1, Yerushalayim 5760, pg 156-159.

[5] See E. Chwat, Doctoral Dissertation, Bar-Ilan University, Ramat Gan 5750. See also S. Gottesman, Yeshurun 9 (5761) and Nitzutzei Aish, Memorial Volume, (Newhouse) Israel 2004.

[6] See E. Chwat, Yeshrun 20 (5768); M.A. Friedman, Tarbiz 62 (4) (5752).

[7] Chwat ibid. see also TaShma, 'Klitatam shel Sifrei haRif, Rach, vHalachot Gedolot bTzarfat ubAshkenaz bMaot 11 v12' (Knesset Mechkarim 1, Yerushalayim 5764, previously, Kiryat Sefer 54 (a)). See also Prof. Shamma Yehuda Freidman, 'MiTosefot Rashbam lRif', Kovetz al Yad 8 (5736).

[8] S. Assaf, 'Chelek miPirush Kadmon liMesechet Brachot liEchad miBnei Zemani shel haRambam', in 'L'Zichron R' Z' P' Chayyes, Yerushalayim 5693.

[9] Yerushalayim, 5718 [available here at hebrewbooks]

[10] A digest of commentaries on the tractates Babah kamma, Babha mesi’a and Babha bhathera of the Babylonian Talmud, compiled by Zachariah Ben Judah Aghmati; reproduced in facsimile from the unique manuscript in the British Museum OR. 10013; edited, with an introduction by Jacob Leveen, London 1961.

[11] C. Z. Hirschburg, Tarbiz 42 (5733); Ta Shma 'Sifrut Haparshanit' pg 156-159.

[12] Ben-Shem ibid.

[13] S. Eidison, Yerushalayim 5770.

[14] N. Sachs, Harry Fischel Institute, Yerushalayim 5726.

[15] B"M in Kovetz Sakosah lRoshi, Bnei Brak 5763. B"B (ch. 1-3), R' Yekutiel Cohen, Yerushalayim 5748

[16] One of the more problematic references in HaNer is to "Miktzat", see Abramson, 'Pirush Rav Baruch b"r Shmuel haSefardi lTalmud', who offers a possible theory that Miktzat means R' Chananel's pirush "brought in part", as opposed to "some [commentators]", at least in some instances.

[17] See S Abramson 'Pirush Rav Baruch b"r Shmuel haSefardi lTalmud', Bar Ilan Annual 26-27 (YD Gilat Jubilee volume) 5754.

[18] See Y. Malchi, 'R, Zechariah Aghmati, haIsh, Yitzirato, haParshanit, vYachasah lPirushei Rashi', Shanan 14 (5769) pg 65-73.

[19] See Abramson, Mechkarei Talmud 3.

[20] See Abramson 'Pirush Rav Baruch b"r Shmuel haSefardi lTalmud'.

[21] R. M.Y. Blau, Shittas HaKadmonim B"M, B"B (2 volumes) and Three Bavot. See also TaShma, Kovetz al Yad, 10.

[22] Sefer Zikaron le R' Yitzchok Yedidyah Frankel, Tel Aviv 5752.

[23] This explains the unintelligible note no. 81, citing Rav Nissim Gaon on B"K. After searching through Prof. Abramson's work on RN"G, the passage (then) existed only in a re-creation of RN"G based upon Prof. Abramson's hypothesis. Comparison to the article in the Frankel volume revels not only the true source material (Abramson), but also an additional citation to Abramson's work Inyanut (Yerushalayim 5734, p 300), wherein a fragment of RN"G is published, verifying Abramson's earlier thesis. All this is lacking in Mann's note, leaving the reader at a loss.

[24] Of Rif reknown. It was Rotstein who brought the fragment mentioned in the above note to Abramson, under the impression the material was Rif. Additionally, R' Rotstein is listed translator of the Arabic material in HaNer Bava Metziea (Sakosa lRoshi). R' Eliezer Brodt once mentioned to me in the name of R' Shmuel Ashkenazi that R' Rotstein was not fluent in the language and had others translate the Rif material for him. Assumedly, one can rely on the accuracy.

[25] I am not clear as to the involvement and responsibility of each party. The preface is unsigned, R' Havlin's daughters are credited with copying the mss. and notes, and at the close of the preface, one R' Bunim Shwartz's passing is lamented, being cited as with the acronymic usage of "father". One tends to understand that R' Havlin's son in law was instrumental in the ultimate publishing. This is corroborated by the disclaimer on the inside of the title page.

[26] The publication was done privately, and mention of the Machon is due to having used material penned under their auspices and ownership. However, the volume does not bear the logo nor name of the Machon and carries a private publisher (HaMesorah) on the title page's reverse.

[27] While the original publication was in the Gilat volume [see above note no.[17], Abramson re-published the article (privately?) as a pamphlet, with corrections and additional material. I have only a photocopy of it, and welcome any information towards procuring an original.

[28] Similarly is "Chochmat Betzalel", R' Betzalel of Rensburg, Mossad HaRav Kook. The author had titled the book "Pitchay Niddah" and the manuscript owner and publisher, R' Maimon took the liberty of changing the name.

[29] The dash has been implemented as a punctuation tool as well; I am unclear why this was done at all.

[30] From the outset, it seems notes detailing textual emendations based on the text of the Talmud have been omitted, and the reader is required to infer from the standard "[…]" that the text has been altered with some "self-evident" basis. It is noteworthy that the editors chose to revise the text of R' Chananel in this fashion, by use of parentheses. Even in the case where the mss. (Add. 27194) used by the Vilna Shas is identical with the print, variant readings of Rach are common between mss, and may be based upon provenance. See J. Rovner 'An Introduction to the Commentary of Rav Hananel ben Hushiel of Kairawan of Tractate Bava Metzia, Accompanied by a Reconstruction of the Lost Commentary to the Second Part of the Tractate based upon Cairo Genizah Fragments and Citations in the Rishonim' (1993) Ph.D.

[31] See Y. S. Spiegel, Amudim bToldot Hasefer HaIvri, vol. 2 pg 565-632.

[32] C.f. 42b. However, on 94b, Havlin transfers text as well.

[33] It escapes me the need for semi-colon usage in Talmudic text, especially enmass.


Monday, April 26, 2010

Benefits of the Internet: Besamim Rosh and its History

Benefits of the Internet: Besamim Rosh and its History
By: Dan Rabinowitz & Eliezer Brodt
    In a new series we wanted to highlight how much important material is now available online.  This, first post, illustrates the proliferation of online materials with regard to the controversy surrounding the work Besamim Rosh ("BR"). 

[We must note at the outset that recently a program has been designed by Moshe Koppel which enables one, via various mathematical algorithims, to identify documents authored by the same author. We hope, using this program, to provide a future update that will show what this program can demonstrate regarding the authorship of the BR and if indeed the Rosh authored these responsa.]


    Before turning to the BR and discussing its history we need to first discuss another work.  R. Raphael Cohen the chief rabbi of triple community, Altona-Hamburg-Wansbeck ("AH"W"), [1] published a book, Torat Yekuseil, Amsterdam, 1772 regarding the laws of Yoreh DeahTorat Yekuseil is a standard commentary and is unremarkable when compared to other works of this genre.  While the book is unremarkable in and of itself, what followed is rather remarkable. 

    Some years later, in 1789, a work with the putative author listed listed as Ovadiah bar Barukh and titled Mitzpeh Yokteil [2] was published to counter R. Raphael Cohen's Torat Yekuseil ("TY")Mitzpeh Yokteil ("MY"), was a vicious attack both against the work TY as well as its author, R. Raphael Cohen.  R. Raphael Cohen was a well-known and well-respected Rabbi. In fact, he was the Chief Rabbi of the triple community of AH"W.  The attack against him and his work did not go unanswered.  Indeed, the beit din of Altona-Wansbeck placed the putative author, Ovadiah, and his work, under a ban.

    The Altona-Wansbeck beit din could not limit the ban to just Altona-Wansbeck as the attack in the MY was intended to embarrass R. Raphael Cohen across Europe.  Indeed, the end of the introduction to MY indicates that copies were sent to a list of thirteen prominent rabbis across Europe.  Specifically, copies were sent to the Chief Rabbis of Prague, Amsterdam, Frankfort A.M., Hanover, Bresslau, Gloga, Lissa, etc., "as well as The Universally Know Goan haHassid  R. Eliyahu from Vilna."  Thus, the intent of the book was to diminish R. Raphael Cohen's standing amongst his peers. 

    The Altona-Wansbeck beit din, recognizing the intent of the book, appealed to other cities courts to similarly ban the author and book MY - the ban, entitled, Pesak mi-Beit Din Tzedek, the only known extant copy was recently sold at Sotheby's (Important Judaica, Nov. 24, 2009, lot 136).[3]

These concerns lead the ban's proponents to the Chief Rabbi of Berlin, R. Tzvi Hirsch Berlin, and to solicit him to join the ban. Initially, it appeared that R. Tzvi Hirsch would go along with the ban.  But, as he was nearing deciding in favor of signing the ban, someone whispered in his ear the verse in Kings 2, 6:5, אהה אדני והוא שאול - which R. Tzvi Hirsch understood to be a play on the word "שאול" in the context of the verse meaning borrow, but, in this case, to be a reference to his son, Saul. That is, the real author of MY was Saul Berlin, Tzvi Hirsch's son.  Needless to say, R. Tzvi Hirsch did not sign the ban. [4]

    Not only did he not sign the ban, he also came to his son's defense.  Aside from the various bans that were issued, a small pamphlet of ten pages, lacking a title page, was printed against MY and Saul. [5]  Saul decided that he must respond to these attacks.  He published Teshuvot ha-Rav. . . Saul le-haRav [] Moshe  Yetz,[6] which also includes a responsum from R. Tzvi Hirsch, Saul's father.  Saul defends himself arguing that rabbinic disagreement, in very strong terms, has a long history.  Thus, a ban is wholly inappropriate in the present case. 

    R. Tzvi Hirsch explained that while MY disagreed with R. Cohen, there is nothing wrong with doing so.  The author of MY, as a rabbi - Saul was, at the time, Chief Rabbi of Frankfort - Saul is entitled to disagree with other rabbis.  Of course, Saul's name is never explicitly mentioned. Moreover, in the course of R. Tzvi Hirsch's defense he solicits the opinions of other rabbis, including R. Ezekiel Landau.  R. Landau, as well as others, noted that aside from the propriety of disagreement within Judaism, the power of any one particular beit din is limited by geography.  Thus, the Altona-Wansbeck's beit din's power is limited to placing residents of Hamburg under a ban but not residents of Berlin, including R. Saul Berlin, the author of MY.[7]

    The controversy surrounding the MY was not limited to Jewish audiences. The theater critic, H.W. Seyfried, published in his German newspaper, Chronik von Berlin, translations of the relevant documents and provided updates on the controversy.  Seyfried agitated on behalf of the maskilim and editorlized that the Danish government should take actions against R. Cohen. It appears, however, that Seyfried's pleas were not acted upon.[8] 

The Publication of Besamim Rosh

    With this background in mind, we can now turn to the Besamim Rosh.  Prior to publishing the full BR, in 1792, Saul Berlin published examples of the responsa and commentary found in the BR - a prospectus, Arugat ha-Bosem.  This small work whose purpose was to solicit subscribers for the ultimate publication of BR. It appears that while Saul may have been trying for significant rabbinic support, the majority of his sponsors were householders. 

    In 1793, the BR was published.  The BR contains 392 responsa (besamim equals 392) from either R. Asher b. Yeheil (Rosh) (1259-1327) or his contemporaries.  This manuscript belonged to R. Yitzhak di Molina who lived during the same time period as R. Yosef Karo, the author of Shulchan Orakh.  Additionally, Saul appended a commentary of his own to these responsa, Kasa de-Harshana

    The BR contains two approbations, one from R. Tzvi Hirsch Berlin and the other from R. Yehezkel Landau.  R. Landau's approbation first explains that Rosh's responsa need no approbation.  With regard to R. Saul Berlin's commentary, he too doesn't need an approbation according to R. Landau.  This is so because R. Saul's reputation is well-known.  R. Landau's rationale, R. Saul's fame, appears a bit odd in light of the fact that among some (many?) R. Saul's reputation was very poor due to the MY. 

    R. Tzvi Hirsch's approbation also contains an interesting assertion. Saul's father explains that this book should put to rest any lingering question regarding his son.    

    In addition to the approbations there are two introductions, one from di Molina and the other from Saul. Di Molina explained the tortured journey of the manuscript. He explains that, while in Alexandria, he saw a pile of manuscripts that contained many responsa from Rosh that had never before been published. He culled the unpublished ones and copied and collected them in this collection.  What is worthy of noting is that throughout the introduction di Molina repeatedly asks "how does the reader know these responsa are genuinely from Rosh." 

    R. Saul, in his introduction, first notes that the concept of including introductions is an invention long after Rosh, and is not found amongst any of the Rishonim. 

    As mentioned previously, the BR is a collection of 392 responsa mostly from Rosh or his contemporaries.  Additionally, R. Saul wrote his own commentary on these responsa, Kasa diHarshena. [9]  This commentary would contain the first problem for Saul and the BR.  In responsum 40, Rosh discusses the position of Rabbenu Tam with regard to shaving during the intermediate days (ho ha-moad).  While Rosh ultimately concludes that one is prohibited from shaving on hol ha-moad, R. Saul, in his commentary, however, concludes that shaving on hol ha-moad is permissible.  In so holding, R. Saul recognized that this position disagreed with that of his father.  Almost immediately after publication, R. Saul printed a retraction regarding this position allowing for shaving on hol ha-mo'ad.  This retraction, Mo'dah Rabba, explains that Saul failed to apprise his father of this position and, as Saul's father still stands behind his negative position, Saul therefore retracts his lenient position. [Historically, this is not the only time a father and son disagreed about shaving on hol ha-moad.  R. Yitzhak Shmuel Reggio (YaSHaR)and his father, Abraham, disagreed on the topic as well.  As was the case with Saul and his father, the son, YaSHaR took the lenient position and his father the stringent.  Not only did they disagree, after YaSHaR published his book explaining his theory, his father attacked him in an anonymous response.  For more on this controversy see Meir Benayahu, Shaving on the Intermediary Days of the Festival, Jerusalem, 1995.] 

    This retraction, while may be interperated as evidence of Saul humbleness in his willingness to admit error and not stand on ceremony, others used this retraction against him.  The first work published that questioned the legitimacy of BR is Ze'ev Yetrof, Frankfort d'Oder, 1793, by R. Ze'ev Wolf son of Shlomo Zalman.  (This book is very rare and, to my knowledge, is not online.  Although not online, a copy is available in microfiche as part of the collection of books from the JTS Library, and on Otzar Hachomah see below)  The author explains that eight responsa in BR are problematic because they reach conclusion that appear to run counter to accepted halahik norms. In addition, the author states in his introduction, "that already we see that there is something fishy as it is known that the author [Saul Berlin] has retracted his position regarding shaving." It should be noted that no where does R. Ze'ev Wolf challenge the authenticity of the manuscript for internal reasons - it is incorrectly dated, incorrectly attributed etc.  Apparently, Ze'ev Yetrof, was not well-known as it is not cited by other contemporaries who too doubted the authenticity of BR.  Samat theorizes that either wasn't printed until later or, was destroyed.[10]  
    The second person to question the legitimacy of BR was R. Rafael Hamburg's mechutan, R. Ya'akov Katzenellenbogen.  In particular, he wrote to R. Cohen's student, R. Mordechai Benat. As was the case with Wolf, R. Katzenellenbogen located 13 responsa where he disagreed with the conclusions.  R. Katzenellenbogen indicated that R. Benet shold review the BR himself and apprise R. Katzenellenbogen regarding R. Benet's conclusions. 

    R. Katzenellenbogen also wrote to Saul's father, Tzvi Hirsch, and Tzvi Hirsch eventually responded in a small pamphlet.  R. Tzvi Hirsch first deals with the predicate question, is the manuscript legitimate. That is, prior to discussing the conclusions of particular responsum, regarding the manuscript, R. Tzvi Hirsch testifies that he is intimately familiar with this manuscript. He explains that for 11 years, the manuscript was in his house.  In fact, R. Tzvi Hirsch created the index that appears in BR from this manuscript.  Additionally, he had his other son Hirschel (eventual Chief Rabbi of London) copy the manuscript for publication.  Thus, R. Tzvi Hirsch argues that should put to rest any doubt regarding the authenticity of the manuscript.

    R. Tzvi Hirsch then turns to the issue regarding conclusions of some of the responsa. He first notes, that at most, there are a but a small number of questionable responsa.  Indeed, it is at most approximately 5% of the total responsa in BR.  That is, no one questions 95% of the responsa (at least not then).  Second, with regard to the conclusions themselves, that some conclusions are different than the halahik norms, that can be found in numerous books, none of which anyone questions their authenticity.  Thus, conclusions prove nothing.

Leaving the history and turning to the content of BR.  One of the more controversial responsa is the one discussing suicide.  In particular, according to the responsum attributed to Rosh, the historic practices that were applied to a suicide - lack of Jewish burial, no mourning customs - are not applicable any longer.  This is so, because suicides can be attributed to the poor conditions of the Jews and not philosophical reasons.  Thus, we can attribute the motivations of a suicide to depression and remove the restrictions that applied to suicides. 

    This responsum was what lead some, including R. Moshe Sofer (Hatam Sofer), to conclude that the entire BR was a forgery.  Indeed, this responsum was one of the two that were removed in the second edition.  Others, however, point out this responsum and its conclusions are not in any conflict with any accepted halakhic norms.  And, instead, while providing new insight into the current motivations of a suicide, the ultimate conclusion can be reconciled with all relevant laws.  [11]  

This particular example illustrates the problematic nature of merely relying upon a particular conclusion to demonstrate the authenticity or lack thereof of a work. Although R. Sofer was certain this responsum ran counter to a statement of the Talmud, others were easily able to reconcile the Talmudic statement with the conclusion of the responsum.

    Another controversial responsa deals with someone who is stuck on the highway as the Shabbat is fast approaching.  The traveler is thus faced with the following dilemma, stop in a city where he will require the charity of strangers or continue on and get home.  The BR rules that the traveller can continue and is not required to resort to charity.  This, like the responum above, was similarly removed from the second edition. These are the only two responsa removed from the second edition.  Of course, this removal isn't noted anywhere except that the numbers skip over those two.  In fact, the index retains the listing for the two responsa. 

    Other controversial responsa include one dealing with belief in the afterlife and messianic era, kitnoyot - BR would abolish the custom, and issues relating to mikvah. 

Today, common practice regarding suicide appears, for the most part, to conform with the position of BR.

Status Today

    After its publication in 1793, it would be almost one hundred years before the BR would be reprinted.  In 1881, the BR was reprinted in Cracow.  This edition was published by "the well-known Rabbi Yosef Lazer from Tarnow'" R. Lazer's was part of a well-known Hassidic family.  His grandfather, R. Menachem Mendel Lazer was the author of Sova Semochot, Zolkiov, 1845.[12] It appears that the BR was the only controversial book that R. Yosef Lazer published.  Although he published approximately 30 books, the are mainly run-of-the mill works, Machzorim, haggadot, as well as some standard rabbinic works. It is unclear what prompted R. Lazer to republish the BR.  Lazer provides no explanation.  Although Lazer's publishing activities are difficult to reconcile with his publication of the BR, the printers, Yosef Fischer and Saul Deutscher, other publications indicate that they were more open to printing all types of books. For example, the same year they published BR, they published a translation of Kant, Me-Ko'ach ha-Nefesh, Cracow, 1881.  In all events, it appears that Lazer (or perhaps the printers) was aware of the controversy surrounding the BR as he removed Saul Berlin's introduction as well as two of the more controversial responsa, one discussing suicide and the other allowing one to continue to travel home after sunset on Friday to avoid having to rely upon the charity of strangers.  In addition, one responsa was accidentally placed at the end of the volume, not in its proper order.[13]  Although the two responsa were removed in the text, they still appear in the index. A photo-mechanical reproduction of this edition was published in New York in 1970, and a copy is available on Hebrewbooks. 

    In 1984, the BR was reprinted for only the third time.  This edition, edited by R. Reuven Amar and includes an extensive introduction, Kuntres Yafe le-Besamim, about BR.  Additionally, commentary on the BR by various rabbis is included.  The text of this edition is a photo-mechanical reproduction of the first edition.  This edition contains two approbations, one from R. Ovadiah Yosef, who in his responsa accepts that BR is a product of R. Saul Berlin, but R. Yosef holds that doesn't diminish the BR's value.  The second approbation is from R. Benyamin Silber.  But, R. Silber provides notes in the back of this edition and explains that he holds the BR is a forgery and that he remains unconvinced of Amar's arguments to the contrary.

    In his introduction, Amar attempts to rehabilitate the BR.  Initially, it should be noted that Amar relies heavily upon Samet's articles on BR, but never once cites him.  Samet had complied a bibliography of works about BR as well as where the BR is cited, Amar also provides the latter in a sixty four page Kuntres, ריח בשבמים, in the back of his edition. In his introduction Amar relates the history of the BR and attempts to demonstrate that many accepted the BR and those that did not, Amar argues that many really did accept BR.  This introduction contains some very basic errors, many of which have been pointed out by Shmuel Ashkenazi in his notes that appear after the introduction.  

Difficulties in Authentication   

    Today, various theories have been put forth to demonstrate that the BR is a forgery.  Specifically, some have pointed to "hints" or "clues" that R. Saul left for the careful reader which would indicate that BR is a carefully created forgery.  For example, some note that the number of responsa, 392, the Hebrew representation of that number is שצ"ב which can be read to be an abbreviation of Saul's name - Saul ben Tzvi.  Others take this one step further and point to the was R. Asher (Rosh) is referenced - רא"ש - which again can be read R. Saul.  Obviously, these clues are by no means conclusive.  In the academic world, the BR is written off as a "trojan horse" intended to surreptitiously get R. Saul's masklik positions out in the masses or something similar.  All of these positions, however, rely upon a handful of responsa at best and no one has been able to conclusively demonstrate that the entirety of BR is a forgery. At best, we are still left with the original criticisms - that a few of the responsa's conclusions espouse positions that appear to be more 18th century in nature than 13th century. [14]   

 R. Yeruchum Fischel Perlow aptly sums up much of what has been written regarding the question of authenticity of BR:
Just about all who have examined [the question of the authenticity of BR] walk around like the blind in the dark, and even after all their long-winded essays, they are left with only their personal feelings about the BR without ever adducing any substantive proofs in support of their position. And, on the rare occasions that they actual do provide proofs for their positions, it only takes a cursory examination to determine that their is nothing behind those proofs. [R. Yeruchum Fischel Perlow, "Regarding the book 'Besamim Rosh,'" Noam 2 (1959), p. 317. For some reason this article is lacking in some editions of Noam]
    Assuming that one discounts the testimony of Saul and his father regarding the manuscript, it is not easy to determine if the BR is authentic or not.  For example, responsum 192, according to R. Moshe Hazan, one of the defenders of BR, this responsum "is clear to anyone who is familiar with the language and style of the Rishonim, from the Rishonim." Responsum 192, is attributed to R. Shlomo ben Aderet (Rashba), and discusses the opinion of Rosh that allowed for capital punishment for pregnancy out of wedlock.  Thus, according to R. Hazan, 192 is conclusive proof that BR is authentic. 

    Simcha Assaf, however, has shown that responsum 192 is a forgery - or there is a misattribution.  Assaf explains that if one looks at the date of this incident, responsum 192 could not have been written by Rashba.  Rashba died 10 years prior to this event.  Simcha Assaf, Ha-Onshim Ahrei Hatemat ha-Talmud, Jerusalem, 1928, pp. 69-70.  Thus, the very same responsum whose "language and style" demonstrated that it was from the times of the rishonim has attribution problems.  To be sure, Assaf isn't saying this responsum isn't necessarily from the rishonim period, however, it surely isn't from Rashba.[15]

    Or, to take another example. Talya Fishman argues that "[halakhic literature of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries . . . climbed to new (and fantastic) heights of theoretical speculation, creating, in effect, a body of non applied law."  Talya Fishman, "Forging Jewish Memory: BR and the Invention of Pre-emancipation Jewish Culture," in Jewish History and Jewish Memory, ed. Carlbach et al., Hanover and London: 1998, pp. 70-88.  Based on this understanding of seventeenth and eighteenth century literature, as contrasted with literature from the period of Rosh, she turns to the BR and finds such speculative responsa.  This, according to Fishman, implicitly demonstrates that BR is a product of the seventeenth or eighteenth century. Indeed, Fishman concludes "[i]n short, [BR], has an unusually high concentration of eyebrow-raising cases."  Id. at 76. 

    But, if one subjects Fishman's argument to even a minimal amount of scrutiny, her argument, as presented, is unconvincing.  First, in support of Fishman's "high concentration" of odd responsa, Fishman provides three examples.  That is, Fishman points to three out of 392 responsa that contain "eyebrow-raising cases" and concludes this represents "an unusually high concentration."  I think that most would agree that less than 1% does not represents an unusually high concentration.  Second, of the three examples Fishman does provide, one is from Kasa deHarshena, which everyone agrees is a product of the eighteenth century.  Third, one of the examples, no. 100, it appears that Fishman misread the responsa.  Fishman provides that responsa 100 is a "bizarre question about whether a one-armed man should don tefilin shel yad on his forehead alongside tefilin shel rosh."  Id. at 76.  Indeed,  responsa 100 is about a one-armed man and whether because he cannot fulfill the arm portion of tefilin if that absolves him of the head portion.  Nowhere, however, not in BR or Kasa de-harshena, does it mention the possibility of putting the tefilin shel yad on one's forehead.  Thus, if we discount these two responsa, Fishman is left with a single responsum to prove her generalization about BR.[16]   

    Regarding the manuscript, that too is an unsolved mystery.  We know that a manuscript that may have been the copy which R. Hirschel made is extant but the manuscript from di Molena is unknown.  Additionally, although we know that the Leningrad/St. Petersberg library had Tzvi Hirsch's copy with his annotations, the current location of that book is unknown. See Benjamin Richler's post regarding the manuscript here.

    The BR's most lasting effect may be in that this was to be the first of many newly discovered manuscripts to be accused of forgery because of the conclusions reached.  Subsequent to the BR, responsa or works in other areas of Jewish literature were tarred with cry of forgery because of their conclusions. [See Yaakov Shmuel Spiegel, Chapters in the History of the Jewish Book, Writing and Transmission, Ramat-Gan, 2005, 244-75, ("until the publication of BR, there were no questions raised regarding the authenticity of a book") Spiegel also demonstrates that we now know that in many instances that the charge of forgery was wholly without basis and today there is no question that some of the books that are alleged forgeries are legitimate.]

Other Works by Saul Berlin

    One final point.  While we discussed Saul's work prior to BR, there was another book that he wrote, that was published posthumously.  This work, Ketav Yosher, defended Naftail Wessley and his changes to the Jewish educational system.  Indeed, Ketav Yosher, is a scathing attack on many traditional sacred cows. [17]  Ketav Yosher, like MY, was published without Saul's name, but again, we have testimony that Saul was in fact the author.  In light of the position Ketav Yosher takes, it is no surprise that this book doesn't help Saul's standing among traditionalists.  

    Saul may have written additional works as well, however, like the BR itself, there is some controversy surrounding those additional works.  R. Saul's son, R. Areyeh Leib records an additional 11 works that Saul left behind after he died.  The problem is these very same works - although all remaining in manuscript - have been attributed to someone else.  But, before one jumps to conclusions, it should be pointed out that this story gets even more complicated.  The book which attributes these works to another is itself problematic.  Indeed, whether this list attributing the books to another even exists is a matter debate.  And, while that sounds implausible, that, indeed is the case.  Ben Yaakov, Otzar ha-Seforim (p. 599 entry 994) says there is a 1779 Frankfort Order edition of Sha'ar ha-Yihud/Hovot ha-Levovot that includes an introduction (and other material) that lists various manuscripts which the editor, according to Ben Ya'akov, was a grandson of Yitzhak Yosef Toemim, ascribes to his grandfather - and not Saul. Weiner, in his bibliography, Kohelet Moshe, (p. 478, no. 3922) says that Ben Ya'akov is wrong - not about the edition, Weiner agrees there was a 1779 Frankfort Oder edition, just Weiner says there is no introduction and Toemim wasn't the editor (and other material is missing). Vinograd, Otzar Sefer ha-Ivri lists such a book - 1779 Frankfort Oder, Hovot ha-Levovot/Sha'ar ha-Yichud, but there is no such edition listed in any catalog that we have seen including JNUL, JTS, Harvard, British Library etc. It appears that Samat couldn't locate a copy either as although he records the dispute between Weiner and Ben Yaakov, he doesn't offer anything more.  Thus, Saul's other writings, for now, remains an enigma.

    It is worthwhile to conclude with the words of R. Matisyahu Strashun regarding Saul and the BR:
"After all these analyses, even if we were able to prove that the entire BR from the begininning to end is the product of R. Saul, one cannot brush the work aside . . . as the work is full of Torah like a pomegranate, and the smell of besamim is apparent, it is a work full of insight and displays great breadth, the author delves into the intricacies of the Talmud and the Rishonim, the author is one of the greats of his generation."  Shmuel Yosef Finn, Kiryah Ne'amanah, notes of R. Strashun, p. 93.
The Internet

    As hopefully should be apparent, most of the books discussed above or referenced below are available online.  These include the rare retraction that R. Saul published regarding his position on shaving on hol ha-ma'od, Ketav Yosher, the prospectus for BR, as well as the BR itself.  Indeed, not only is the BR online but both editions are online. And, the BR exemplifies why one should be aware of multiple internet sources.  Hebrewbooks has a copy of BR which they indicate is the first edition "Berlin, 1793," however, in reality it is the later, 1881 Warsaw edition of the BR.  As noted above, that edition, however, is lacking two responsa.  This highlights an issue with Hebrewbooks, the bibliographical data is not necessarily correct.  The JNUL, has the first edition. Indeed, in the case of the JNUL, the bibliographical information is much more reliable than Hebrewbooks. Thus, one needs to use both the JNUL as well as Hebrewbooks if one wants to get a full picture of the BR. Or, another example.  Both the JNUL site as well as Hebrewbooks has MY online; but, the JNUL version was bound with two rare letters at the end and those appear online as well.  Additionally, when it comes to Hebrewbooks, one must be aware that they have removed books that someone presumably finds objectionable so although MY and KY are there now, there is no guarantee it will be in the future.  Similarly, although not online, and unlike the MY the JNUL has, Otzar haChomah has the Ze'ev Yitrof with additional material bound in the back. Besides for all these rare seforim mentioned, many of the other seforim quoted in this post, as is apparent from the links, can now be found on the web in a matter of seconds instead of what just a few short years ago would have taken a nice long trip to an excellent library.

Saul's Epithet, he was buried in the Alderney Road Cemetery in London, next to his brother, Hirschel, Chief Rabbi 

[1] For more on R. Raphael Cohen see the amazingly comprehensive and insightful bibliography by the bibliophile R. Eliezer Katzman, "A Book's Luck," Yeshurun 1 (1996), p. 469-471 n.2. See also R. Moshe Shaprio, R Moshe Shmuel ve-Doro pp.103-110 especially on the BR see 108-09. C. Dembinzer, Klielas Yoffee, 1:134b, 2:78b writes that the work on TY caused R. Saul to lose his position as Chief-Rabbi of Frankfort and his wife divorced him because of it. See also, S. Agnon, Sefer Sofer Vesipur, p.337. On R. Raphael Cohen and his connection with the Gra and Chasidus see D. Kamenetsky, Yeshurun, 21, p. 840-56. As an aside this article generated much controversy for example see the recent issue of Heichal Habesht, 29, p.202-216 and here.
[2] Regarding the correct pronunciation of this title see Moshe Pelli, "The Religious Reforms of 'Traditionalist' Rabbi Saul Berlin," HUCA (1971) p. 11.  See also R. Shmuel Ashkenzi's notes in the BR, Jerusalem, 1983 ed., introduction, n.p., "Notes of R. Shmuel Ashkenzi on Kuntres Yefe le-Besamim, note 6.  
Additionally, MY was not Saul's first literary production, nor was it his first that was critical of another's book.  Instead, while he was in Italy in 1784, he authored a kunteres of criticisms of R. Hayyim Yosef David Azulai's Birkei Yosef.  See R. R. Margolis, Arshet pp. 411-417; Moshe Samat, "Saul Berlin and his Works," Kiryat Sefer 43 (1968) 429-441, esp. pp. 429-30, 438 n.62.  On Chida's opinion of the BR see for example Shem Hagedolim:

עתה מקרוב נדפס ספר זה בברלין... ועוד יש הגהות כסא דהרסנא. ואשמע אחרי קול רעש כי יש בספר זה קצת דברים זרים ואמרו שהמעתיק הראשון בארץ תורגמה מכ"י הרב יצחק די מולינא ז"ל יש לחוש שהוסיף וגרע. ולכן הקורא בסי' זה לא יסמוך עליו דאפשר דתלי בוקי סריקי בגדולים עד אשר יחקור ויברר הדברים ודברי אמת ניכירים ודי בזה... (שם הגדולים, ערך בשמים ראש, וראה שם, ערך מר רב אברהם גאון)

See also the important comments of R.Yakov Chaim Sofer, Menuchas Sholom, 8, pp. 227-230 about the Chida.
[3]  Eliezer Landshut, Toldot Anshei Shem u-Puolotum be-Adat Berlin, Berlin: 1884, 89-90 for the text of the ban as well as its history.  Additionally, for the proclamation read in the main synagogue of Altona see id. at 90-1. This proclomation has been described as "one of the harshest condemnations" of the time.  See Shmuel Feiner, The Jewish Enlightenment in the Eighteenth-Century, Jerusalem: 2002, p. 310. 
[4]  Id. at 91. Samat, however, notes that neither Saul nor his father ever admitted Saul's authorship of MY.  Samat, "Saul Berlin and his Works," p. 432, 4.  
[5] According to A. Berliner, the author of this pamphlet is R. Eliezer Heilbot. See Samat, id. Saul and MY were not the only ones attacked. The publisher of MY, Hinukh Ne'arim, was also attacked and, not only MY but all the books they published were prohibited by some. The publishers, however, defended their decision to publish MY.  They argued that the whole point of MY was to ascertain if R. Raphael Cohen's book was riddled with errors or, the author of MY was mistaken.  The publishers pointed to the above mentioned introduction to MY wherein the MY's author explains that he has sent copies of the book to leading rabbis to determine the question regarding R. Cohen's book. Thus, MY is either right or wrong, but there can be nothing wrong with merely publishing it.  See id. at 92-3.
Additionally, it should be noted that according to some, Saul authored a second attack on R. Raphael.  R. Raphael published Marpeh Lashon, Altona, 1790, and was soon after attacked in the journal Ha-Meassef by someone writing under the pen-name EM"T.  Many posit that this is none other than Saul.  Katzman, Yeshurun 1, 471 n.3, disagrees and points to internal evidence that it is unlikly that Saul is the author of this critique. 
According to Feiner, these attacks were not one-sided.  Feiner argues that R. Cohen criticizes Saul, albeit in a veiled manner, in Marpeh Lashon.  See Feiner, Jewish Enlightenment, op. cit., 314-15.  
[6] Landshuth, id., suggests that Moshe is a non-existent figure like MY's putative author Ovadiah. See also, Samet, "Saul Berlin and his Works," 432 n.4 who similarly questions the existence of Moshe.  Carmilly-Weinberg makes the incredible statement that his Moshe is none other than Moses Mendelssohn.  Carmilly-Weinberg, Sefer ve-Seiyif,  New York, 1967, p. 215, (Carmilly-Weinberg's discussion about both MY and BR are riddled with errors).  As Pelli notes this is impossible as the letter is signed 1789, the same year MY was printed, and Mendelssohn died three years prior. Pelli resurrects Moshe and links him with a known person from Amsterdam, Saul brother-in-law. See Pelli, HUCA (1971) p. 13 n.75.  Ultimately, however, Pelli rejects this and demonstrates that Moshe is indeed a pseudonym but a well-selected one.  See id.  
[7]  See Landshuth, 93-9; Pelli, 13-15.  See also R. Alexander Sender Margolioth, Shu"t ha-RA"M, Lemberg, 1897, no. 9.    
[8] See Feiner, The Jewish Enlightenment, op. cit., 312-13.  This newspaper is online here, and Feiner provides the relevant issues which are 1789 pp. 484-88, 520-24, 574-81, 680-82, 768-74, 791-802, 867-92, 932-72.   
One of which includes this portrait of R. Cohen.

Which is a very different portrait, both in time and look, to the one appearing in E. Duckesz, Ivoh le-Moshav, Cracow, 1903.

[9] For the deeper meaning of the title Kasa de-Harshena, see Moshe Pelli, The Age of Haskalah, University Press of America, 2006, 183 n.51.
[10] See Samat, who discusses the exact progression of the ban.
[11] See Yechezkel Shrage Lichtenstein, Suicide: Halakhic, Historical, and Theological Aspects, Tel-Aviv, 2008, pp. 438-44. See also,Yeshurun 13:570-587 especially pp.578-581; Marc B. Shapiro, "Suicide and the World-To-Come," AJS Review, 18/2 (1993), 245-63. 
On the issue of suicide there are others who similarly reach the same holding as the BR see Strashun in his מתת-יה pp. 72a-72b (this source is not quoted by Samet or Amar).
[12] Biographical information on R. Yosef Lazer is scant.  For information on his father and grandfather, see Meir Wunder, Me'orei Galicia, Israel, 1986, vol. III, pp. 456, 462-3. See also T.I. Abramsky, "'Besamim Rosh' in the Hassidic Milieu," Taggim, (3-4), 56-58.   
[13] Samat only notes the removal of one responsum, he fails to note that exclusion of the second.  He does, however, note the misplaced responsum.  Additionally, Kuntres ha-Teshuvot ha-Hadash, fails to record that any are missing or that one responsum was moved to the end. 
[14] See Pelli, Age of Haskalah, pp. 185-89, comparing a few responsa with 18th century haskalah literature.
[15] Assaf was not the first to use this responsa and note its historical anacronisms.  Leopold Zunz, also highlights the issues with this responsum (as well as others).  Leopold Zunz, Die Ritus des Synagogalen Gottesdienstes, Geschichtlich Entwickelt, Berlin: 1859, 226-28.  Zunz's critique is quoted, almost in its entirety by Schrijver, but Schrijver appears to be unaware of Assaf's additional criticisms of the responsum (and others).
Assaf provides one other example where he shows through internal data that there is a misattribution.  Assaf concludes that he has other examples of historical anacronisms in BR but doesn't provide them here or, to our knowledge, anywhere else.
[16] For another critique of Fishman's position see Emile G.L. Schrijver, "Saul Berlin's Besamim Rosh: The Maskilic Appreciation of Medieval Knowledge," in Sepharad in Ashkenaz, Netherlands: 2007, pp. 249-259, esp. pp. 253-54. 
[17] Regarding Ketav Yoshor see Pelli, Age, 176-79. See also here and here.

Additional Bibliography:
M. Samet has two articles on the topic, R. Saul Berlin and his Writings, Kiryat Sefer, 43 (1969) 429-41; "Besamim Rosh" of Saul Berlin, Kiryat Sefer 48 (1973) 509-23, neither of which are included in the recent book of Samet's articles.

To add to Samet's and Amar's very comprehensive lists of Achronim who quote BR: (I am sure searches on the various search engines will show even more): Malbim in Artzos Hachaim, 9:41 (in Hameir Learetz); Shut Zecher Yosef,1:32b; Keter Kehunah p. 30; Matzav Hayashar 1:2a; Pischei Olam 2:218,228; Birchat Yitchcak (Eiskson), pp. 6,14,24; Maznei Tzedek, p.26,45,254; R.Yakov Shor, Birchat Yakov, pp.212  Sefer Segulos Yisroel pp.116b; R. Rabinowitz, Afekei Yam 2:14; R. Leiter, Zion Lenefesh Chayah# 43; Shut Sefas Hayam, OC siman 14; R Meir Soleiveitck, Hameir Laretz 45a, 45b, 54b, 55a; Emrei Chaim p.26; R. Sholom Zalman Auerbach, Meorei Eish p. 108 b

In general on BR see: R.Yakov Shor,Eytaim Lebinah (on Sefer Haeytim) p. 256; Pardes Yosef, Vayikrah 220b Pardes Yosef, Shelach p. 517; R.Yakov Chaim Sofer, Menuchas Sholom, 8, pp. 222- 230; Shar Reven p. 54; A. Freimann, HaRosh ; Y. Rafel, Rishonim Veachronim, pp. 123-130; B. Lau, MeMaran Ad Maran, pp.133; S. Agnon, Sefer Sofer Vesipur, pp.337-339.

R. Pinhas Eliyahu Horowitz writes:
ולפעמים תולים דבריהם באילן גדול וכותבים מה שרוצים בשם איזה קדמון אשר לא עלה על לבו... כספר בשמים ראש שחיבר בעל כסא דהרנסא לא הרא"ש וזקני ישראל תופסי התורה יעלו על ראשם... (ספר הברית, עמ' 232).

The Steipler was of the opinion in regard to the BR that:
שבאמת ניכר מהרבה תשובות שהם מהרא"ש ז"ל רק כנראה שיש שם הרבה תשובות מזויפות שהמעתיק הכניס מעצמו כי ישנם שם דברים מאד מזורים ואיומים  (ארחות רבנו, א, עמ' רפה)

R Zevin writes in Sofrim Veseforim (Chabad) p.354 :
אלא שבתשובות בשמים ראש המיחוס להרא"ש ושכידוע נמנו וגמרו שמזוייף הוא

R. Yakov Kamenetsky said: "Do you think Just we (he meant people of his own caliber) were fooled? Even R. Akiva Eiger was fooled." (Making of a Godol, pp.183-184)

About Rav Kook and the BR see:

R. Avigdor Nebensal writes:
כשמביאם את הבשמים ראש ראוי להזכיר שיש מסתייגים חריפות מהספר הזה (השתנות הטבעים, עמ' 16).
R Zalman Nechemiah Goldberg writes:
אכן בעיקר הענין אם להביא דברי בשמים ראש בודאי צדק הג"א נבנצל שליט"א שיש להביאו בהסתייגות, ובפרט בענינים אלו שהוחזק למזייף ולמביא עקומות וכוזבות (השתנות הטבעים, עמ' רסד).

Thursday, April 22, 2010

More on Chaim Bloch

More on Chaim Bloch
By Marc B. Shapiro

In a previous post I mentioned how the non-Jewish Austrian minister Leon Bilinski was descended from the rav of Posen, R. Samuel ben Moses Falkenfeld, the Beit Shmuel Aharon. More information about Bilinski’s Jewish roots is found in Chaim Bloch’s Ve-Da Mah she-Tashiv (New York, 1943), p. 74 n. 1. In general, I have found that when Bloch is reporting about other people’s biographies and history in general, he is very reliable. It is only when he is somehow involved in the story that he is full of lies.1 His Ve-Da Mah she-Tashiv is a good example. Here is the title page.

In this book he makes up an entire story that he was asked by an important Catholic figure to answer questions from the Vatican dealing with Judaism. The whole story is a fiction, as is so much else he writes about himself. As for Bilinski, Bloch tells us that he is in possession of Bilinski’s 1146 page (!) unpublished diary. As Bloch himself notes, he provided various scholars (e.g.., N. M. Gelber) with selections of this diary which they then used in their own works, thus misleading the world. In these selections, Bilinski comes off as a strong anti-Zionist, who even warns Herzl about how the Arabs will never accept a Jewish state in Palestine.2 In an article in the Herzl Year Book, Bloch published what he claimed was an 1893 letter from Herzl and uses this to prove that Herzl was interested in the Jewish problem already in 1893, a year before the 1894 Dreyfus trial which is usually cited as having turned Herzl to Jewish matters.3 Various scholars have cited this letter, as they understandably regard it as significant in understanding Herzl, but of course it is a forgery. Another way Bloch misled scholars, in particular Gelber, is with regard to an anonymous booklet that speaks of a return of the Jews to the Land of Israel and the establishment of a state.4 According to Billinski’s diary, so Bloch tells us, the author of this booklet was Benjamin Disraeli. Bilinski would certainly have been in a position to know this information, and therefore a number of people have been misled by this, thinking the diary authentic

Look how Bloch’s forgeries were able to have such an impact. I think, in the end, this is what gives the forger satisfaction, watching everyone taken in by his creation. In 1948 no one would have believed that Bloch was capable of this. In fact, if not for his blatant forgeries in Dovev Siftei Yeshenim, some people today would still assume that he is reliable. As the Talmud tells us, tafasta merubah lo tafasta! Bloch should have stuck with his smaller forgeries, because when he decided to publish complete volumes of forged material, that’s when people really began to take notice. It is therefore very surprising that no less a scholar than Robert S. Wistrich, who is aware of the accusations of forgery against Bloch, nevertheless cites material from Bloch’s Mi Natan li-Meshisah and states that in his opinion at least some of the material must be considered authentic. Why he thinks this he doesn’t tell us. The truth is that this book, like Dovev Siftei Yeshenim, is full of Bloch’s forgeries, and not only of rabbis but also of political leaders (including summaries of supposed letters from Bismark about Zionism!)5

Just to illustrate that you can’t judge people by appearances, here is a picture of Bloch, which previously appeared in Dr. Shnayer Leiman’s post on the Seforim Blog.6

Throughout Bloch’s various books, he quotes numerous letters from gedolim who were no longer alive, and none of these letters are found in his archives, currently kept at YIVO and the Leo Baeck Institute. In other words, he simply made up these letters, as he did with the entire volumes of anti-Zionist letters of gedolim that he published. The rule is that whenever Bloch cites a previously unpublished letter from someone, either addressed to himself or to another, and the author of the letter is no longer alive, you can assume that the letter is forged. We know this now, after Shmuel Weingarten’s exposé of Dovev Siftei Yeshenim.7 Yet the evidence was there all along, had people paid attention. But people had no reason to assumed that Bloch was not reliable. R. Joseph Elijah Henkin, however, who was involved in a terrible dispute with Bloch, did accuse Bloch of dishonesty, and pointed out that he would attribute quotes to rabbis who were no longer alive so that he couldn’t be contradicted. In the late 1930’s Bloch published a letter from R. Kook. R. Zvi Yehudah Kook was very skeptical of its authenticity and requested that Bloch send him a copy of it. Bloch replied that he was unable to do so since he had lost the original.8 This was Bloch’s pattern, and I assume that all of the many letters he published from leading rabbis and hasidic leaders, beginning in the early part of the twentieth century, are forgeries.9

Here is another example of Bloch’s tendency to fabricate things. It comes from his Heikhal le-Divrei Chazal u-Fitgameihem (New York, 1948), p. 9. Everything he reports here is a fantasy. As with some of his other forgeries, Bloch is obviously motivated here by good intentions, but it is all complete nonsense.

Ve-Da Ma she-Tashiv also contains forged letters. I am certain that the letter of R. Chaim Ozer Grodzinski on pp. 52-53 is an example of this. Anyone can look at the style of R. Chaim Ozer’s many letters and see how he consistently used certain formulas in concluding his letters. Nowhere does R. Chaim Ozer conclude a letter with
ונזכה כולנו לראות בישועת עמנו במהרה
He does use the expression
ועיניהם תחזינה בישועת עמנו במהרה

and this is found in a letter that Bloch would have had access to, the letter of R. Chaim Ozer to Agudat ha-Rabbanim about the Louis Epstein proposal.10 I assume he used the concluding portion of this letter to help him create his forgery. But in other areas he wasnt so careful. For example, in the supposed letter of R. Chaim Ozer to Bloch, he refers to the latter as a צנא מלא ספרא , yet this expression does not appear in R. Chaim Ozers other letters (based on Otzar ha-Hokhmahs database, which only has the first edition of R. Chaim Ozers letters, not the expanded Iggerot R. Chaim Ozer.)

We should assume the same for all of the other letters in this book from people who were not alive when the book was written. It is fascinating that on p. 44 n. 1 Bloch refers to the anti-Zionist letters he would later publish in Dovev Siftei Yeshenim. Ve-Da Mah she-Tashiv was published in 1943 and the first volume of Dovev Siftei Yeshenim didnt appear until 1959, meaning that this forgery was very long in the making, and Bloch was setting the stage for it many years prior.

There is more to say about this book, in particular his argument that there are passages in the Talmud that were inserted by heretics  a viewpoint earlier mentioned by R. Joseph Zvi Duenner, as I have pointed out elsewhere, see here.

I will leave that for another time, but to give you an example of what I am referring to, here is a passage from p. 39 (emphasis in the original):

אופינית היא "המעשיה" בר' שמעון בן גמליאל "שהיה על גב מעלה בהר הבית וראה נכרית אחת נאה ביותר. אמר: מה רבו מעשיך ד'" (ע"ז כ ע"א) המאמר הזה זיוף  . . . לא יעלה בדעתנו, שר' שמעון בן גמליאל הביט על אשה, היינו הך, נכרית או ישראלי לשם יפיה. ומצאתי עוד מאמר בשם רב, שזיופו עומד מחוץ לכל ספק: "בשעה שבקש נבוכדנצר לעשות לאותו צדיק (צדקיהו) כך, נמשכה ערלתו ש' אמה והיתה מחזרת על כל המסבה כולה שנאמר: שבעת קלון מכבוד, שתה גם אתה והערל" (שבת קמט ע"ב). מלבד הנבול שבמאמר זה, הוא חסר טעם, ולא יתכן, שמפי רב יצאו הדברים.

I dont know which position is frummer? To defend the honor of the sages and therefore deny that these obscene passages are authentic, or to defend the Talmud as we have it and thus have to deal with these passages.

Yet whatever the answer to this is, if Bloch were alive today, the haredi world would put him in herem for another reason. Here is what he writes on p. 38, with regard to how to view Aggadah in contrast to the halakhic sections of the Talmud. (What he says is nothing other than the Geonic and Spanish tradition, which is largely unknown in todays yeshiva world.):

היא אינה נחשבת ליסוד קיומה של היהדות ויש לה אופי של ספר עם . . . לחלק האגדה נכנסו דברי מוסר ודרך ארץ, מליצות ובדיחות, סגולות ורפואות, אזהרות ועצות, פתרון חלומות ואגדות, שלהרבה מהם יש ערך גם מחוץ להיהדות. יתכן שהרבה הושפעו בעלי התלמוד בזה מהעמים שכניהם.

Also interesting is that in Ve-Da Mah she-Tashiv, p. 44 n. 1,  he refers very positively to R. Henkin, something that would later change when their great battle began.

Bloch claimed that he had a close relationship with the great R. Judah Leib Zirelson of Kishinev (Speaking for myself, Zirelsons greatest achievement had to have been standing up to the extreme anti-Zionist elements in Agudat Israel, led by R. Elhanan Wasserman and R. Aaron Kotler. They wanted the Agudah to officially oppose the creation of a Jewish state. Zirelson, as president of the 1937 Kenesiah Ha-Gedolah in Marienbad, was able to convince the Moetzet Gedolei ha-Torah to agree with his own position, which was not to oppose a state but to attempt to bring Torah values into it. See Ha-Pardes, Oct. 1937, p. 8). In this book, Bloch cites a number of things from Zirelson of which, again, I have no doubt that he has made them up. For example, can anyone imagine that Zirelson would offer the following Haskalah-Reformist interpretation that Bloch puts in his mouth (p. 34)?

יתכן שהיתה כוונתו של ר' שמעון בן יוחאי, בחפשו יסוד במקרא שהנכרים אינם מטמאים באוהל, כדי שלא ימצאו הרומיים תואנות ואמתלאות חדשות על ישראל, ומאימת המלכות הורה כן.

Although I cant go into it in any detail now, the truth is that we do on occasion find Haskalah-Reformist types of interpretation even in traditional sources,11 but since these are very rare and we have no evidence that Zirelson ever said what is attributed to him, I assume it is another of Blochs forgeries. In other words, as he did so often, Bloch attributed his own understanding to one of the great Torah sages.

In chapter fourteen of Ve-Da Mah She-Tashiv, where he stresses the need for honesty in ones dealings with non-Jews, he claims that Zirelson told him about a Zoharic passage in parashat Lekh Lekha that states:

כל מאן דמשקר בהאי עלמא בערל כמאן דמשקר בשמיה דקוב"ה

This is a beautiful thought. The only problem is that it doesnt exist anywhere in the Zohar. I am certain that Zirelson would never have misquoted the Zohar and that the mistake is Blochs. I assume that the mistake is unintentional, perhaps quoting from memory, since a great forger like Bloch would never have dared falsely attribute anything to the Zohar, the accuracy of which could easily be checked.

Here is the actual Zohar text (vol. 1, p. 93a):

דכל מאן דמשקר בהאי כמאן דמשקר בשמיה דקב"ה

If you examine the entire passage you will find that it has nothing to do with being honest, and the word משקר here does not mean to lie, but to betray. The text is actually speaking about berit milah and how one is obligated to treat it properly, especially דלא עייל ליה ברשותא אחרא, which certainly refers to refraining from having sex with non-Jewish women. What the text is saying is that if you have illicit sex you betray the mark of the circumcision, and this is like betraying Gods name.

Since I mentioned Haskalah-Reformist interpretations in traditional texts, let me note one of the most famous of these. In Shabbat 140b, R. Papas states that if one can drink beer but instead drinks wine, he violates the prohibition on baal tashchit. Maharsha explains that R. Papa said this because he was a beer salesman! What this apparently means is that R. Papa lied about the halakhah in order to drum up more business for himself. How else to interpret Maharshas explanation?

ורב פפא לטובת עצמו אמרה שהוא הי' עושה שכר.

This explanation is, to be sure, quite shocking. If you want to stretch things a bit you can say that according to Maharsha, R. Papa didnt consciously alter the halakhah to benefit himself, but since he was a beer maker he was unconsciously led to this position, as it would benefit him. This explanation which could easily have been offered by Jacob Katz is suggested by the noted Yemenite posek, R. Yitzhak Ratsaby12:

והנה כל העובר ישום וישרוק, היתכן כדבר הזה שרב פפא יפסוק הלכה משום ריוח ממונו?! . . . ובודאי גם לדעת מהרש"א לא יתכן שרב פפא יאמר פסקי הלכה רק מתוך נגיעה, חלילה לו. אלא היה זה כעין "שוחד סמוי", שלא הרגיש בו הוא עצמו, שמתוך כך בא לידי טעות בהלכה זו. כמו שהכתוב צווח ואומר (שמות כג, ח): "כי השוחד יעוור פקחים ויסלף דברי צדיקים", ועל דרך שמצינו בכתובות (קט, ב) בגדולי עולם שאמרו על עצמם שהשוחד היטה את ליבם.

I think most people will tell you that this sort of explanation, which points to unconscious factors influencing halakhic decisions, was not how people thought in the days of the Maharsha. I myself do not see this as an anachronistic explanation, as the Talmud, Ketubot 105b, already discusses precisely this sort of unconscious influence.13  I believe that this is also how we are to understand all the discussions about נוגע בדבר, and how it applies even to the greatest tzadikim. It is not that these people will consciously twist the truth, but that unconsciously this is what can happen. Presumably, this is also the meaning of Hullin 49a:  ישמעאל כהנא מסייע כהני

I think this is also how we are to understand R. Moses Isserles, Yoreh Deah 242:36:

תלמיד חכם שאמר דבר הלכה בדבר השייך לדידיה . . . אין שומעין לדידיה דלמא מדמי דברים להדדי שאינן דומים

See also Ritva, Yevamot 77a:

דחיישינן שמא מתוך שנושא ונותן בהלכה כדי לקיים את דבריו אמר בדדמי כסבור שקיבל מרבו

I am not going to analyze the Maharsha in any depth, because either way you explain him, this is the exact sort of explanation that according to the Rav is heretical as it falls under the Rambams category of מכחיש מגידה.14 And it is not just the Rav who would be shocked by what Maharsha wrote. R. Yehoshua Heschel of Monistritch15 states:
ועל מאמר המהרש"א הזה צווחי קמאי 

R. Abraham Vengrober16 says concerning the standard explanation of Maharsha (before offering a different understanding of his words):

ופריצי עמנו מצאנו בקעה לדבר סרה על רז"ל . . . גם רבינו המהרש"א ז"ל לא כיוון בזה ח"ו להכוונה אשר העולם סוברים שבשביל זה שהי' מסחרו שבח את הדבר לטובת עצמו.

R. Samuel Strashun in his commentary to the passage takes strong issue with Maharsha, and R. Hayyim Hezekiah Medini17 is astounded by what Maharsha wrote:

הדבר תמוה לפרש דנחשד רב פפא לדבר שקר חלילה לטובת עצמו.

I assume it is only a matter of time before this explanation of Maharsha is deleted from a future printing.

Here is another example (Taanit 14a-14b):

In the time of R. Judah the Prince there was distress. He ordained thirteen fast days and their prayer was not answered. He thought of ordaining additional fasts but R. Ammi said to him, Did not [the Sages] declare we should not trouble the community unduly. Said R. Abba the son of R. Hiyya b. Abba, R. Ammi [in saying this] was studying his own interests.
Rashi explains R. Abbas declaration:
לעצמו דרש: דלא אמר אלא לפי שהוא לא היה רוצה להתענות

If anyone other than Rashi wrote this, wouldnt it be regarded as an example of מכחיש מגידה?

Here is another example, from the Jerusalem Talmud, Shabbat 6:1:

R. Abbahu in the name of R. Yohanan, It is permitted for a man to teach Greek to his daughter, because such learning is an ornament for her Simeon bar Ba heard and said, It is because R. Abbahu wants to teach his daughter such that he has assigned the teaching to R. Yohanan.

R. Abbahu responded quite sharply to Simeon bar Ba, proclaiming: May a curse come upon me, if I did not hear it from R Yohanan. But I am more interested in Simeon bar Bas accusation. He assumed that the great R. Abbahu would falsely attribute a halakhic ruling to an earlier sage in order that his daughter would benefit. When Geiger and Graetz said things like this, no one was surprised, and the Orthodox condemned them for these type of interpretations. Yet here you have a Haskalah-Reformist type of interpretation offered by one of the Sages.

Returning to Bloch, another example where he deceived the world is found in his Heikhal le-Divrei Hazal u-Fitgemeihem, pp. 591-592. In line with his apologetic approach to Jewish sources, he claims that he saw an old version of the Passover prayer Shefokh Hamotkha, that went as follows:

שפוך אהבתך על הגוים אשר ידעוך

Even a great scholar such as Naftali Ben-Menachem was taken in by Bloch (and if you search online you will find a number of others who assume that Shefokh Ahavatkha is a real text, rather than another Bloch forgery18). Ben Menachems article appears in Mahanayim 80 (1963), and here is the page where he refers to Blochs version.

Incidentally, in Heikhal le-Divrei Hazal Bloch claims that he wrote about this version at length in his 1935 book Der Judenhass im Spiegel der Jahrtausende, and also printed a copy of the manuscript there. (In 1935 Bloch was living in Vienna.) Although he mentions this book in a couple of his other writings, there is no evidence that any such book ever appeared. Now we have the internet which allows us to check all the greatest libraries in a minute, yet in a prior era, simply mentioning that he had published such a book and that it contained a copy of the manuscript would have been enough to convince everyone. After all, it was not like people in the United States, England, or Palestine/Israel could easily check the holdings of libraries in Austria and Germany.

Meir Hershkovitz, in his fine book on R. Zvi Hirsch Chajes, also quotes Bloch a number of times. Bloch claimed to have seen unpublished material from Chajes and he included some of it in his Heikhal, but everything he mentions is fraudulent, and some of the comments are really outrageous. For example, on p. 565 he quotes Chajes as saying as follows about Rabbi Akiva19:

ר"ע מבני בניו של סיסרא היה ולמרות קדושת התורה ששלטה בו נשאר בו משהו מאופיו של סיסרא

(Some are probably wondering why I didnt underline the first part as well, which states that R. Akiva was descended from Sisera. After all, in a few weeks Daf Yomi will reach Sanhedrin 96b and there you find the following, with no mention of R. Akiva: Descendants of Sisera studied20 Torah in Jerusalem; descendants of Sennacherib taught Torah to the multitude. Who were these? Shemaya and Avtalion. Descendants of Haman studied Torah in Bnei Brak.Yet numerous texts21 record a version of this passage that identifies R. Akiva as among the descendants of Sisera.)

What motivated Bloch to invent this negative comment about R. Akiva? I think that this too can be attributed to anti-Zionist motivations (an anonymous commenter on Soferim u-Seforim offered a similar explanation; see the link in n. 1). R. Akiva was associated with Bar Kokhba's rebellion, and in the popular mind at least, this was a matter of pride for twentieth-century Jews. The thrust of the comment attributed to Chajes is to see this "warlike" aspect of R. Akiva as a throwback to Sisera. In other words, this is not something good. We see another example of Bloch's anti-Zionism in his attempts to argue that a passage in Maimonides' Letter on Astrology is not authentic. In this passage, Maimonides states that the Temple was destroyed and the Jews exiled because instead of focusing on "the art of military training and conquering lands," they involved themselves with astrology, thinking it would help them. (Iggerot ha-Rambam, ed. Sheilat, vol. 2, p. 480) This passage was too "Zionistic" for Bloch, and not surprisingly he argues that it is a forged interpolation. See his article in Ha-Pardes 34 (April 1960), pp. 39-42, where once again it is Bloch who is the forger, citing a supposed letter from a Christian scholar to Dr. [Daviid?] Kaufmann and also telling us about the support he supposedly received from the Tchortkover Rebbe. (This Rebbe, incidentally, happened to be a one of the leading Agudah supporters of settlement in the Land of Israel.) One of Bloch's major proofs that Maimonides could not have written this passage is his assumption that Maimonides was not impressed with R. Akiva's support of Bar Kokhba. He bases this argument on Mishneh Torah, Hilkhot Melakhim 11:3. Yet Maimonides' viewpoint in this matter is not enough for Bloch, and to achieve his purpose he has to actually find fault with R. Akiva's character, something Maimonides would never do. Bloch even attacks some modern writers (such as Aaron Zeitlin and Hillel Seidman) who had stressed the contemporary significance of Maimonides' words. In Bloch's mind, by doing so they were showing the non-Jews that the Protocols of Elders of Zion were correct, namely, that Jews really did want to conquer the world! Bloch's Neturei Karta side comes out very well in this article.

As a way of covering himself, so that people will believe the manuscripts of Chajes are authentic, Bloch states that he assumes that the material he is quoting from has survived in Israel, either with the family or at the National Library (Heikhal, pp. 520, 560). Yet in Hershkovitz, this supposition is stated as fact (Rabbi Zvi Hirsch Chajes, p. 438). It is quite surprising that Hershkowitz, who wrote such a comprehensive biography of Chajes, didnt attempt to track down these manuscripts. Had he done so, he would have realized that they dont exist.
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This is a blog about seforim, but with Dan's permission, in a future post I am going to write about the various blogs and news sites, both haredi and Modern Orthodox, that focus on Jewish matters (halakhah, hashkafah, etc.). In the last six months I have visited them a good deal, left a number of comments (some quite provocative and opposed to my own outlook [e.g., dealing with sexual abuse, Zionism, Daas Torah, Torah mi-Sinai, etc.], and always under a pseudonym) and gathered the reactions. I also corresponded with people I met on the sites and with various anonymous baalei ha-blogs. I tried to be a bit of a reporter, gathering information, and just like a reporter sometimes has to hide his identify, I felt that in this circumstance it was permissible, especially as almost everyone I was dealing with was also anonymous. We all know that the ability to be anonymous is basic to the internet (and there has been a good deal of discussion recently about whether this is a good idea). I also felt that if I got involved in a debate on a haredi or Modern Orthodox site, my name would be recognizable to some of the people and they might respond differently than if I was some anonymous person.

Most of the information is publicly available (as are my comments), but I won't cite any names, as I am not interested in individuals but in some of the thought processes that I observed. As always, I will tie this in with seforim, especially the phenomenon of anonymous and pseudonymous (as opposed to pseudepigraphal) seforim and articles, and also discuss the modern anonymous halakhic questions that R. Yuval Sherlow has written about. (He has also published a couple of volumes of his answers to these questions.) How is Judaism perceived and portrayed when people can live in two worlds, the public one and the private anonymous world of the internet? What does it mean when most people who comment about controversial topics choose to do so under a pseudonym? I think that what I found also has implications to an issue I have been concerned with for a long time, namely, the value of private letters and conversations vs. published word in seeking to evaluate the personality of an individual. This directly relates to David Holzer's book on the Rav and was also a topic that became a dispute between the late Prof. Twersky and myself when writing my dissertation on R. Weinberg--more on that to come.

I mention all this because I have a request: If anyone is aware of a similar study with regard to Christian or political blogs and websites, please let me know. As a friend commented to me when I told him about my project, "we all know that there are registered Democrats on the Upper West Side who secretly vote Republican, but in order not to scandalize their friends, will only post their true opinions anonymously." Yet has anyone written about this? There are serious methodological issues that must be dealt with in any such inquiry.
*    *    *

My new Torah in Motion class begins this Monday. I invite all who are free on Monday nights at 9PM Eastern to join us. This semester we are covering R. Eliezer Berkovits, R. Chaim Ozer Grodzinski, R. Elijah Benamozegh and R. Joseph Messas. You can sign up for it here
If you want to watch or listen to previous classes, to get a sense of how they work, you can download them here.

1 For a recent discussion of Bloch, see here which contains a number of informative comments.
2 See Bloch, Mi Natan li-Meshisah Yaakov ve-Yisrael le-Vozezim (Bronx, n.d.), pp. 54ff.
3 Herzls First Years of Struggle: Unknown Episodes and Personal Recollections Herzl Year Book 3 (1960), pp. 77-90.
4 The booklet is found in N. M. Gelber, Tokhnit ha-Medinah ha-Yehudit le-Lord Beaconsfield (Tel Aviv, 1947),  pp. 35ff. Gelbers book is devoted to this booklet.
5 Zionism and its Religious Critics in Fin-de-Siècle Vienna, in S. Almog, et al., eds., Zionism and Religion (Hanover, 1998), pp. 150, 157 n. 45.
6 See here.
7 Mikhtavim Mezuyafim Neged ha-Tziyonut (Jerusalem, 1981).
8 See Weingarten, Mikhtavim, pp. 164-165. In Ha-Posek 11 (1950), p. 802, Bloch published another letter from R. Kook. It is also found in Heikhal le-Divrei Hazal u-Fitgamehem, p. 614. Again he tells us that he only has a copy of the letter, as the original was lost, and here too the letter in unquestionably a forgery. Bloch had R. Kook sign the letter עבד לעם קדוש , which he knew is found in numerous authentic letters. But the letter also contains the phrase כל יקר ראתה עיני , and this does not appear in any of the almost 2000 letters and responsa of R. Kook, as can be determined from the new database of R. Kooks writings
9 I don't know whether this also applies to halakhic writings, e.g., the supposed manuscript from R. Shalom Schwadron that came from Bloch and is published in R. Isaac Liebes, Beit Avi, vol. 3 no. 157. Incidentally, a few responsa after this, in no. 161, Liebes discusses whether a rabbinic organization could publicly advocate the institution of the death penalty, since it might happen that a Jew would also be sentenced to death (sound familiar?). Liebes begins his reply:

לא רק שמותר להתריע בכיוון זה רק מצוה לעורר את דעת העם את חומר הסכנה המרחפת על תושבי הארץ.

During the discussions about the Grossman execution, I looked at some of the haredi websites (until the comments made me sick). What I found interesting was the incredible level of ignorance of most of the writers, all of whom had been in yeshiva and many of whom had studied there for years. They were able to declare that a murderer cant be executed unless he was observed by two kosher witnesses and was given warning, which they thought settled matters. Had these people known a bit of responsa literature, there would have understood how things worked in the real world, and especially what was done in the days of the rishonim. Do these people think that if a guy stood up in shul and opened fire with a machine gun, killing 20 people, that a Jewish court couldnt execute him because he was never given a warning? Lets continue with R. Liebes:

יש כח להבי"ד בזמן שרואין צורך השעה לענוש עונש מות אפילו בכל יום אפילו אם מן התורה פטורין הם כדי שעל ידי זה כל העם ישמעו וייראו ולא יזידון עוד.

As for the possibility that a Jewish man will be executed:

מצוה וחיוב לעורר את דעת הקהל להתריע את בתי המשפט שיראו להעביר בכל המדינה משפט מות ולענוש בכל החומר הרוצחים והפושעים ואת מדינתינו ארצות הברית אשר מאמינה בתנ"ך יכולים לשכנע אותה ולהראות לה עד היכן תוה"ק מקפידה לבער את רשעי הארץ בתור חיוב ומצוה. ומש"כ כת"ר לחשוש דלפעמים ימצא רוצח יהודי א"כ אנחנו נהיה אשמים במיתתו זה אינו כלום . . . מוכח מזה דהמחוייב מיתה עפ"י דין המלכות מותר למסרו להם מטעם דינא דמלכותא. מובן ממילא שכל דברינו מוסבים רק על המדינות שיש להם שוויון הזכויות לכל אזרחיה בלי שום אנטישמיות ושנאת ישראל ולכן אם ח"ו יהודי נתפס באיזה עון ופשע הרי הוא נידון כמו כל אזרחי המדינה.

Many who commented on the various sites were people who never opposed the death penalty before and do not oppose it now, yet they were anti-death penalty in this case because, quite simply, they think the death penalty is just fine except when it is a Jew being executed. They vote for all the right wing candidates and then have the chutzpah to complain when their man actually follows through on his support of capital punishment and doesnt share their view that a supposed baal teshuvah (whose last meal on earth was a non-kosher chicken sandwich bought from the prison canteen) should not be executed. Some of them cited Sanhedrin 17a, סנהדרי שראו כולן לחובה פוטרין אותו , as if this had any relevance. First of all, this passage only means that he is not executed in the normal fashion, but he can certainly be executed as an emergency measure. In addition, some understand this passage to mean that if on the first day of deliberations all conclude that he is guilty, he is not condemned to death immediately but the case is revisited on the next day. If then, all find him guilty, he is executed. None of the commenters who mentioned this law quoted the view of R. Meir ha-Levi Abulafia (cited in many sources) and the Tosafot Hakhmei Anglia that the meaning of פוטרין אותו is ממהרין אותו להורגו .  This understanding is praised by the Reisher Rav, R. Aharon Lewin, Ha-Derash ve-ha-Iyun, Deut. no. 119:5, and R. Baruch Epstein, Torah Temimah, Ex. 23:2. Epstein is convinced that this understanding is correct because otherwise היש לך חוטא גדול ונשכר מזה .  For more on the subject, see Zorach Warhaftig, Rov u-Miut be-Veit ha-Din, in Itamar Warhaftig, ed., Minhah le-Ish (Jerusalem, 2001), pp. 100ff. See also R. Reuven Margaliot, Margaliyot ha-Yam, Sanhedrin 17a, no. 19, who cites the Tashbetz:

שהם ז"ל לא אמרו ב"ד שהסכימו כולם לחובה פטור, חלילה להם שיאמרו ככה, ואם על פי הרוב הורגים כל שכן ע"פ כולם ויותר טוב ויותר משובח הוא שיהיה הפסק דין מוסכם מהכל ולא שיהיה שום חולק.

There is a good deal more to say on this topic, but in the interests of space I will leave it for another time. Suffice it to say that as in all such matters one can find a variety of viewpoints. See e.g., R. Yair Hayyim Bacharach, Havot Yair, no. 146. Some poskim have even ruled that when a murderer has been sentenced to death it is forbidden to try and save him. See R. Nathan Leiter, Tziyun le-Nefesh Hayah, no. 121. (Others disagree, see e.g., Teshuvot Hatam Sofer, vol. 6, no. 14.) Obviously, such a ruling has no relevance to people who oppose the death penalty on principle, but it does speak directly to those who normally support itas I daresay includes most, if not virtually all of the people who were commenting so outrageously on the haredi sites. Let me close by citing a responsum of R. Meir Zak in Teshuvot Eitan ha-Ezrahi, no. 45. What he said in the seventeenth century, in a case involving a Jewish murderer, is just as relevant today, and it is incredible how this responsum speaks to the Grossman case (he even uses the term hillul ha-shem!). Notice how he also includes the manhigei ha-dor in his criticism.

מאחר שניתן ביד גוים ערכאות הם יעשו בו משפט וידינו לא תהיה בו . . . ואפשר שעל נדון דידן נאמר מורידין מאחר שכתב הרב מהר"ד ה"ל האב"ד דק"ק ה"ל שדעתו לעשות כפרה והיה כל ימיו חוטא גדול ופושע, נאמר לישרי' ביה גודא רבא ואף אם יאמר שרוצה לעשות תשובה ולפי דעתי על אלו אמרו חז"ל אין נחת רוח בתשובתן של רשעים להקב"ה כי ראה עצמו ביד גוים רוצה לרמות אותנו, אבל להפריז ממון לפדות אותו בשביל שאומר שרוצה לעשות תשובה זה הוא חילול השם שיאמרו אין עונש שפיכות דמים אצל יהודים נחשב חטא והיה אם גוי יהרוג ח"ו ליהודי ג"כ לא ידונו לעשות נקמה. ותמיד אני צועק ככרוכיא על מנהיגי הדור שכל גנב או חוטא שבא למאסר עושין השתדלות לפדות אותו ע"י שחדים דבר זה בעו"ה מרבה פשעים וגניבות כל א' עושה מה שלבו חפץ ורבו פריצי הדור כאלו אנחנו רואים בעו"ה רוב גנבי ישראל ע"כ שלא לתת פרוטה לפוטרו ממות.

Isnt it amazing that hundreds of years ago he was condemning the leaders who think that every thief or sinner who goes to jail should be the focus of pidyon shevuyim? From this responsum we learn that the warped values we have seen these last few years go back a long time. And what is one to make about his statement that the majority of thieves are Jewish? (using the language of Avodah Zarah 70a). I pray we never reach this point, although we probably have to do keriah over the fact that the Agudah spokesmen have been insistent in letters to the editor and in interviews that Orthodox Jews are not more dishonest than anyone else. In other words, no one, neither Jew nor non-Jew, even assumes anymore that being an Orthodox Jew means that you hold yourself to a high ethical standard. Their goal now is to convince the public that when it comes to obeying the law, Orthodox Jews (and their institutions) are simply no worse than everyone else. If that is not an indictment of our entire educational system, I dont know what is.

For those interested in pursuing further the topic of Jewish murderers, here is a nineteenth-century responsum by the Moroccan R. Joseph Berdugo (Divrei Yosef no. 381).

10 Le-Dor Aharon (Brooklyn, 1937), p. 36. In this letter R. Chaim Ozer uses the expression והנני חותם בברכה , and this also appears in his supposed letter to Bloch.
11 In my Studies in Maimonides, I tried to show that academic interpretations of Maimonides can also be found in the most traditional sources. The same thing can be done with regard to the Talmud, and Prof. Halivni has cited many examples of traditionalists who offered explanations of the sort he focuses on (Higher Criticism). When academic explanations are found in rishonim, even the most conservative will be hesitant to attack them. But that was not always the case a few hundred years ago. For example, R. Nissim writes as follows in his commentary on the Rif, Megillah 26a, s.v. zo divrei R. Menahem:

ודאמרינן במעמדות לאו דוקא ומשום אשגרת לישן נקטיה

(This same view is actually advocated by Ramban, as noted in Gilyon ha-Shas, Megillah 26a.) This was too much for R. David Pardo, Mikhtam le-David, Orah Hayyim no. 14:

מלבד הלחץ זה הדחק שסובל הדבר בעצמו לומר דהש"ס וכל הפוס' מעתיקי הש"ס נקטו באשגרת לישן מלתא דשקרא ממש דבר זר ורחוק.
12 Paamei Yaakov, Adar II 5768, p. 108.
13 The Talmud deals there with how even the desire of one of the parties in a dispute to give a gift to a rabbi who will rule on the case impairs his objectivity. This talmudic passage provides all the explanation one needs to understand how so many learned rabbis remained silent as the Tropper scandal played out. If amoraim admitted that they couldnt properly judge a matter if they had only been offered a gift, certainly one in our day who actually received such a gift is not capable of judging the case of his benefactor. The Steipler refused to take as much as a cigarette from one of his admirers whose case he was to judge, and continued to refuse gifts from this person even after the case was concluded. See Avraham Yeshayahu Kanievsky, Toldot Yaakov (Bnei Brak, 1995), p. 208.
With regard to the more troubling (and I believe rare) circumstance of rabbis who will actually lie to benefit themselves, I have a number of sources on this. For now, let me just cite the words of the Shulhan Arukh, Yoreh Deah 314:1:

הכהנים חשודים להטיל מום בבכור אפילו אם הוא חכם ויושב בישיבה

As for the sordid details of the Tropper scandal itself, and those who refused at first to believe what they heard with their own ears (not to mention the Elon scandal as well as others), here is what the hasidic master, R. Meshulam Feivish Heller (died 1794), had to say in an earlier era, a presumably holier era as yet uncontaminated by television and the internet (Yosher Divrei Emet [Jerusalem, 1974]), p. 113:

והלא ידוע ומפורסם שיש בעוה"ר כמה לומדים שהם בעלי ניאוף רח"ל, ובעלי עבירות ידועים.

R. Hayyim Eleazar Shapira, Divrei Torah 5:82, writes about

הרבנים ובפרט האדמורי"ם הגונבים דעת ולבות הבריות, וכל כונתם אך לטובתם, בעצמם בגופם ובשרם וממונם ותאותם.

This is what the Ropshitzer is reported to have said:

דעו כי קודם ביאת המשיח יתרבה כ"כ השקר בעולם עד שרב העיר יסע יחדו עם אשה נכריה בעגלה אחת, ורבים מבני העיר יאמרו אחריו אין קדוש כמוהו.

R. Isaiah Asher Zelig Margulies, Ashrei ha-Ish (Jerusalem, 1927), p. 49, who records the saying, assumes that the Gentile woman spoken of really means heresy, but I dont know why it should not be understood literally. It is not like the Ropshitzer was confronted with many secularly educated rabbis that he would need to make such a statement. (I assume that Margulies was led to his assumption by Maimonides famous letter to R. Jonathan of Lunel, where he speaks of non-Torah studieswhich for Margulies equals heresyas being נשים נכריות . See Iggerot ha-Rambam, ed. Sheilat, vol. 2, p. 502.)

Since a concern with kavod is also so often present in the various scandals, the following comment by R. Elimelech of Lizhensk is noteworthy (quoted in Or Elimelekh [Jerusalem, 2003], no. 75):

מצוה עם כבוד גרוע יותר מעבירות ניאוף רח"ל.
14 See the text of the Ravs lecture here.
15 See R. Aharon Perlow, Margaliyot ha-Shas al Masekhet Shabbat (Jerusalem, 2005), p. 471.
16 Likutei Avraham (Jerusalem, 1976), p. 319.
17 Sedei Hemed, maarekhet lamed, kelal 108.
18 See also Alan Brills recent post here.
19 For an example of genealogy in the reverse direction i.e., from righteous to wicked, see Rashi to I Kings 10:1, where it very strangely states that Nebuchanezar was the son of Solomon and the Queen of Sheba. This only appears in the later printed editions of Rashi, and is cited in the name of R. Isaac Luria. It is difficult to know what to make of this. I find it hard to believe that the passage ever could have been meant literally, since Solomon lived some three hundred years before Nebuchadnezar. Even legends, if understood literally, have to make chronological sense. Perhaps it means that the origin of the later disaster involving Nebuchadnezar can be traced to Solomon involving himself with foreign women such as the Queen of Sheba. In other words, not that Solomon is the literal father of Nebuchadnezar, but rather he is his ultimate cause.

As for the ultimate origin of the notion that Solomon was Nebuchadnezars father, I have been unable to find any other source that records that this was stated by R. Isaac Luria. R. Menahem Azariah de Fano (1548-1620), Asarah Maamarot (Jerusalem, 2005), pp. 412-413 (Maamar Eim Kol Hai 2:23), states that Nebuchadnezar descended from Solomon. Two points are significant here. First, he does not say that Solomon is his father, and second, he does not attribute this to any source, which presumably means that it was a well-known kabbalistic idea. R. Jehiel ben Solomon Heilprin, Seder ha-Dorot, year 2935, states that according to a Midrash, Solomon fathered a daughter with the Queen, and Nebuchadnezar was her son. R. Hayyim Joseph David Azulai, Midbar Kedemot, maarekhet yod, no. 47, claims that Nebuchadnezar was descended from this daughter. See also R. Joseph Palache, Yosef et Ehav (n.p., 2005), maarekhet bet, no. 17.
20 למדו תורה . This should probably be read as לימדו תורה , taught Torah, since in the parallel text in Gittin 57b it has למדו תינוקות, which means taught children. See also Dikdukei Soferim, Sanhedrin 96b.
21 To give just one, here is a page from R. Nissim Gaons Sefer ha-Mafteah to Berakhot 27b.

Note how Jacob Goldenthal, the editor, assumes that it is actually Haman from whom R. Akiva is descended! Jacob Reifman agreed with this. See Iggeret Bikoret, ed. Ben Menahem (Jerusalem, 1969), p. 17. Louis Finkelstein, Akiba, p. 321 speaks of the R. Akiva-Sisera connection as a "legend widely repeated in medieval works." He doesn't seem to realize that the medieval works were citing from their texts of the Talmud. See also Dikdukei Soferim, Sanhedrin 96b, which cites one such manuscript.

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