Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Announcement - Lecture by Rabbi Yechiel Goldhaber at the Sprecher home

The readership of the Seforim Blog is invited to a shiur that will be taking place Sunday November 29 at 8:00 PM. The shiur will be given by the noted scholar and author Rav Yechiel Goldhaber of Eretz Yisroel (link). He has authored many wonderful articles and works on a wide range of topics most notably Minhagei Kehilos about customs, and Kunditon (link) about the Titanic, and the Cherem on Spain. 

The subject of the Shiur is על חרדים ויום השואה, and it will include fascinating information from newly unearthed documents. 

It will take place in Brooklyn at the home of Dr. and Mrs. Shlomo Sprecher, at 1274 East 23rd Street.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Maimonides and Prophecy, R. Pinhas Lintop, R. José Faur, and More Examples of Censorship

Maimonides and Prophecy, R. Pinhas LintopR. José Faur,  and More Examples of Censorship

by Marc B. Shapiro

1. In my last post here I discussed whether Maimonides believed that the entire people of Israel experienced prophecy at Mt. Sinai. I neglected to refer to Hilkhot Yesodei ha-Torah 8:3, which states:

לפי שנבואת משה רבנו אינה על פי האותות כדי שנערוך אותות זה לאותות זה, אלא בעינינו ראינוה ובאזנינו שמענוה כמו ששמע הוא

This is one of those passages that presents problems for the interpreter, since what Maimonides says in the Mishneh Torah, that all Israel experienced prophecy as Moses did, is contradicted by what he says in the Guide. As is to be expected, R. Kafih takes note of this problem in his commentary to Yesodei ha-Torah 8:3 (p. 165 n. 13), and what he says is fascinating. Commenting on the passage I quoted above, R. Kafih writes:

הדברים אמורים כאן על דרך ההטפה, אבל ברור בדעת רבנו שכל אחד שמע כפי רמתו, וכמשפט כל חזון, ועיין מו"נ ח"ב סוף פ' לב, ופ' לג, שם הביא לשון חז"ל במכילתא שמות יט כט משה מחיצה בפני עצמה ואהרן מחיצה בפני עצמה.

What R. Kafih is saying is that Maimonides’ words in the Mishneh Torah, that all Israel “saw and heard[1] with [its] own eyes and ears as he did,” should be understood as rhetoric, designed to have an effect on the reader, but they do not reflect Maimonides’ actual view which is that all of Israel did not see and hear as Moses did.

Regarding this issue, see also R. Kafih's commentary to Guide 2:33, n. 5, where he writes:

לאו לדיוקא נקטה לא למין ההשראה באופן כללי, ולא לסוגיה

Further discussion of this matter, where R. Kafih elaborates on what he only hinted at elsewhere, can be found in his She'elot u-Teshuvot ha-Rivad (Jerusalem, 2009), nos. 24-26, where he explains to R. Mazuz what Maimonides had in mind.

In previous writings (books, articles, and posts), I have called attention to many examples where Maimonides writes things that he does not actually believe, so what we have just seen is nothing new. The significance of the example I have mentioned is that R. Kafih accepts this approach as a valid method of explaining a formulation of Maimonides in the Mishneh Torah. For another example from R. Kafih, see his note to Guide 2:45 (p. 268), where he writes:

וברור כי רבנו אמר את הדברים כאן על דרך הדרש וההטפה שדרך המטיף לגדיל ולהפריז בענין.

In Ketavim, vol. 2, p. 619, R. Kafih writes:

אמנם כתב הרמב"ם מה שכתב באיגרת תימן כדי להרתיע את מאמיני משיח השוא, וכדי להשקיט לבות החוככים אם להימין ואם להשמאיל. אבל באמת לא כן עמו.

2. R. Bezalel Naor’s translation of Orot is back in print. This time it is published with the Hebrew text as well. For those who don’t know this work, it is a masterpiece of translation. The introduction and notes are also fantastic. When people ask me what to read to get a sense of R. Kook’s thought and the conflicts it created, one of the things I always recommend is Naor’s introduction to Orot.

On the subject of Naor, I would like to call attention to another work of his which did not get the exposure it deserves. In 2013 he published Kana’uteh de-Pinhas, which focuses on the interesting figure R. Pinhas Lintop, rav of the hasidic (Habad) community of Birzh, Lithuania. R. Lintop was unusual among Lithuanian rabbis in that he intensively studied Kabbalah. He was also a supporter of the Mizrachi movement.[2]

Here is his picture.

Those who want to see a picture of his recently discovered tombstone can go here.

Anyone interested in Lithuanian rabbinic thought should examine Kana’uteh de-Pinhas. Among other things, it includes previously unknown letters from R. Lintop to the Chafetz Chaim and R. Kook. It also includes chapters by Naor on aspects of the philosophy of Habad, R. Tzadok, and R. Solomon Elyashiv. 

Naor calls attention to R. Lintop’s view of Maimonides’ Thirteen Principles. Unfortunately, I did not know of this when I wrote my book on the subject. R. Lintop is no fan of Maimonides’ concept of dogma or of Maimonides’ intellectualism in general. He rejects the notion that otherwise pious Jews can be condemned as heretics merely because they don’t accept Maimonides’ principles. He even makes the incredible statement that of the great rabbis, virtually all of them have, at the very least, been in doubt about one fundamental principle.

הנה לא הניח בן לאברהם . . . כמעט אין אחד מראשי חכמינו, החכמים הצדיקים כו' כו', אשר לא יטעה או יסתפק באחד משרשי הדת

Are we to regard them all as heretics? Obviously not, which in R. Lintop’s mind shows the futility of Maimonides’ theological exercise, which not only turned Judaism into a religion of catechism, but also indoctrinated people to believe that one who does not affirm certain dogmas is to be persecuted. According to R. Lintop, this is a complete divergence from the talmudic perspective.[3]

R. Lintop further states that there is no point in dealing with supposed principles of faith that are not explicit in the Talmud.[4]

הגידה נא, אחי, בלא משוא פנים, היש לנו עוד פנים לדון על דבר עקרים ויסודות את אשר לא נזכרו לנו בהדיא במשנה וגמרא?

As for Maimonides’ view that one who is mistaken when it comes to principles of faith is worse than one who actually commits even the worst sins, R. Lintop declares that “this view is very foreign to the spirit of the sages of the Talmud, who did not know philosophy.” As is to be expected, he also cites Rabad’s comment that people greater than Maimonides were mistaken when it came to the matter of God’s incorporeality.[5]

As part of his criticism of Maimonides and the Jewish philosophers in general, R. Lintop writes, in words similar to those earlier used by Samuel David Luzzatto:[6]

קרבו לנו דעות רבות נכריות וגיירו אותם עד כי היו לאמהות בישראל וגרשו את אמנו האמיתית

In his Pithei Shearim[7] R. Lintop criticizes Maimonides’ view, Hilkhot Melakhim 8:10, that given the power Jews must force non-Jews to adopt the Noahide laws. According to R. Lintop, this command only applied to the seven nations that inhabited ancient Canaan, but does not apply to any other non-Jew, even those living in the Land of Israel. Throughout his discussion, R. Lintop shows a strong moral sense and it is this which leads him to disagree with Maimonides. As he states:

  אין הקב"ה מקפח שכר כל בריה

As for those non-Jews who don’t observe the Noahide laws (referring in particular to the commandment against avodah zarah), R. Lintop sees them as blameless as they don’t know any better, having been born into their cultures.[8]

Among other things, I was surprised to see R. Lintop write:[9]

 הגאון המשכיל הנפלא בספרו בשמים ראש רנ"ב בשם אחד מהראשונים

He assumes that Besamim Rosh preserves authentic medieval responsa and yet he also recognizes that the publisher Saul Berlin was a maskil. This is significant since as far as I know, everyone else who believes Besamim Rosh to be authentic has no idea who Saul Berlin was.

Many who have heard of R. Lintop know of his correspondence with R. Kook and assume that they shared the same outlook. This is actually not the case, and in a letter to R. Yaakov Moshe Harlap R. Lintop said as much himself.[10]

כבודו הולך בזה ממש בדרך התחי' שהולך ידי"נ הגאון מוהרא"י קוק במאמריו וספריו, והנה אמנם יש לי הרבה לדבר בזה כי אינני מהמסכימים לדרכיו, ורבות פלפלתי עמו בזה. הוא חושב כי אהבתינו הגדולה היא מפני השתוות דעותינו, ואני השבתיו כי להיפך מפני אי השתוות דעותינו אנו שואפים אחד להתמלאות מחבירו.

In 2013 the fourth volume of Reuven Dessler’s Shenot Dor va-Dor appeared. This volume contains two lengthy letters from R. Lintop to R. Kook (pp. 414-437). R. Lintop does not hesitate to criticize R. Kook’s understanding of hasidut. One of his criticisms is particularly noteworthy (pp. 435-436). R. Kook had written about how Hasidism is based on the idea of ahavat Yisrael for both the collective and the individual. R. Lintop replies that this is incorrect, as hasidut is not based on ahavat Yisrael but on ahavat avodat Yisrael and ahavat avodat ha-hasidut.

Then comes the following incredible passage, incredible since R. Lintop was at the time serving as rav of a Habad community and was generally quite connected to Habad philosophy, although he himself was not a Habad hasid. Some readers might see this as a purely academic type of statement, but anyone who knows the thought of R. Lintop will realize that this is, if not actually criticism, certainly disappointment with some of R. Shneur Zalman of Lyady’s statements.

הכי נוכל לחשוב את חסידות מורנו ורבנו אדמו"ר הזקן לחסידות אהבת ישראל אחרי הניח ליסוד מוסד באגרת הקודש (בתניא ח"ב) וז"ל לא זו הדרך ישכן אור להיות חפץ בחיי בשרים ובני ומזוני כו' וראשית הכל שישמח האדם ויגל בכל עת ובכל שעה ויחיה ממש באמונתו כו' ומי שעצב ומתאונן מראה בעצמו שיש לו רע ויסורין וחסר לו איזה טובה והרי זה ככופר ח"ו כו' ומי שאין שוין לו מראה בעצמו שהוא מערב רב דלגרמייהו עבדין כו' וע"כ הוא חפץ בחיי בשרים ובני ומזוני . . . בפ' כ"ד מספר התניא משריש כי האדם העובר על רצון ה' אפי' עבירה קלה מד"ס הוא בהתכלית הפירוד מיחודו ואחדותו ית' יותר מס"א וקליפה הנקראה אלהים אחרים ויותר מבהמה טמאה שקצים ורמשים (ובאגרת הקודש מג פוסק שכל העובר על ד"ס אפי' באיסור קל של דבריהם חייב מיתה כעובר על חמורות שבתורה והדברים נוראים. גם בא ופוסק להלכה בספרי [!] אורח חיים [צ"ל חושן משפט] חלק ו' הלכות נזקי גוף ונפש ט' ישראל שעומד ברשעו תמיד כגון רועה בהמה דקה כו' וכן כל כיוצא בהם אין כישראל דתם הוציאם מכלל ישראל ורחוק הדבר מאהבת ישראל הכללי.

There are many Habad adherents who read this blog and maybe some of them will want to weigh in on this.

Since, in the passage just quoted, R. Lintop cites the Tanya, let me share something interesting that appears in R. Mazuz’s recently published Asaf ha-Mazkir, p. 558. He mentions having heard that mitnagdim made fun of the Tanya since it begins as follows:

תניא משביעים אותו תהי צדיק ואל תהי רשע ואפילו כל העולם כולו אומרים לך צדיק אתה היה בעיניך כרשע

This comes from Niddah 30b and is stated by R. Simlai. The reason for the mitnagdim’s mocking is that R. Simlai was an amora so therefore the term תניא, which begins R. Shneur Zalman’s work, is inappropriate, as this term is used to introduce a baraita. (R. Mazuz argues that contrary to popular belief R. Simlai was a tanna, yet this is impossible.)

Finally, R. Isaac Nissenbaum tells us that R. Lintop was not a fan of R. Samson Raphael Hirsch.[11] (I wish I knew of this source earlier so I could have included it in my forthcoming article – already with the publisher – on Orthodox responses to Hirsch):

[הוא] הניא אותי מלהמשך אחרי "החורב" של רבי שמשון רפאל הירש, באמרו: "היהדות האמתית היא יהדות התורה ולא יהדות הרגש. היהדות תתקיים בתלמידי חכמים ולא ברגשנים דתיים. . ."

Just as I was finishing this post, a new book by Naor appeared entitled Mahol la-Tzaddikim. It focuses on the controversy between R. Moses Hayyim Luzzatto and R. Eizik of Homel regarding the purpose of creation.
3. In my new book I give examples of passages that were not translated properly, or not translated at all. After reading the book, Joel Wolowelsky sent me an edition of Birkat ha-Mazon, first published in 1946 (i.e., right after the Holocaust). The translation is by Rabbi Chaim Brecher, who is mentioned in my book in another context. Brecher’s edition of Birkat ha-Mazon actually became quite popular and was reprinted many times. In fact, the bentchers handed out at my own bar mitzvah were reprints of this edition.
At the beginning of Birkat ha-Mazon for weekdays, Psalm 137 (Al Naharot Bavel) appears (although almost no one says this). The final verse of this psalm reads:
 אשרי שיאחז ונפץ את עלליך אל הסלע
A proper translation of this verse is: “Happy shall he be, that taketh and dasheth thy [the Babylonians’] little ones against the rocks.”
I think it is fair to say that in modern times most people would be uncomfortable with the feeling expressed here. That explains the false translation of the verse provided by Brecher: “He will be as joyous as were you when you dashed our little ones against the stones.”

Was it a general humanistic feeling that impelled this false translation or was it the impact of the Holocaust that was responsible? In other words, with the then recent murder of so many Jewish children, perhaps it was not thought proper to give publicity to a verse that spoke of killing children of another people. Whatever the reason, it is obvious that this is an intentionally false rendering of the verse.
Regarding my book, let me also note the following:
Pp. 38-39. I wrote that there are no Ashkenazic siddurim, even those published in the State of Israel, that have an uncensored version of Birkat ha-Minim in the Amidah. As people know, I was working on this book for many years, and when I originally wrote this sentence it was correct (or so I believe). However, by the time the book appeared it was no longer correct. Rabbi Barry Gelman called my attention to the fact that in 2012 a nusach Ashkenaz siddur appeared without the censored text. Here it is.

Over the summer I was in Vienna and learnt that a couple of years ago Rabbi Schlomo Hofmeister, one of the community rabbis of Vienna, published Siddur Tefilat Yeshurun, and this siddur also includes an uncensored text of Birkat ha-Minim. I had never before seen this siddur, and what led me look at its version of Birkat ha-Minim were the following words that appear on the title page:
כמנהג בני אשכנז ללא שיבושי הצנזורה ושינויי המשכילים והמדקדקים המאוחרים
P. 55 n. 34: I somehow missed the fact that Esther Farbstein, Be-Seter Ra’am, pp. 614-616 n. 92, indeed discusses the story of the 93 Bais Yaakov girls committing suicide in Cracow. She also shows the fictional character of the story. (Thanks to R. Yaakov Taubes for calling this to my attention.)
P. 83: I refer to a responsum by R. Samuel Aboab who states that the words minhag shel shetut regarding kapparot were added by the printer. My language was not precise as this comment is not found in a responsum of Aboab but is quoted in Aboab’s name in a responsum of his student, R. Samson Morpurgo, referred to on p. 83 n. 11.
p. 131 n. 45: I report Derek Taylor’s claim that Chief Rabbi Joseph Hertz once attended a non-Jewish event without a head covering. I also note that Taylor does not provide documentation of this claim. Rabbi Dr. Benjamin Elton, who has recently been appointed rabbi of the prestigious Great Synagogue of Sydney, called my attention to this photograph in which Hertz is not wearing a kippah (source).
This was not even a non-Jewish event, but a lunch sponsored by the Polish-Jewish Refugee Fund. Hertz is also wearing a clerical collar.
Here is another picture of Hertz without a kippah (source).
Here he is wearing a kippah (source).

The men sitting behind him with the clerical collars are not Anglican priests. As you can see they too are wearing kippot. This is how Jewish “men of the cloth” used to dress in England. In this picture Hertz also has a clerical collar.
On p. 138 n. 64 I write that this photo from the Lubavitcher Rebbe’s student file at the University of Berlin[12] recently had a kippah placed on it.

The picture I referred to is the following, from R. Abraham Weingort, ed., Haggadah Shel Pesah al Pi Ba’al ha-Seridei Esh (Jerusalem, 2014), p. 53.
Regarding my discussion of the German Orthodox practice of not wearing a kippah, only after my book was in press did I read the memoir of the rabbinic scholar R. Shmuel Weingarten.[13] Weingarten describes coming to the Berlin home of R. Meier Hildesheimer and finding him and two other men drinking coffee with uncovered heads. Only when the Hungarian Weingarten entered the room did they pull their kippot out of their pockets and place them on their heads.
There is one more interesting text I would like to call people’s attention to. In R. Judah ben R. Asher, Zikhron Yehudah, no. 20, we see that R. Judah was asked if it is permitted to learn Torah with an uncovered head. R. Judah replied that it is not proper to do so, but his language makes it clear that there is no prohibition in this. He also adds that sometimes the heat will be such that one may feel unable to keep his head covered.
וטוב הוא שלא לישב בגילוי הראש בשעת הלימוד למי שיוכל לסבול לפי שילמוד יותר באימה ולפעמים מפני כובד החום אינו יכול לסבול
In R. Judah’s day they did not have small kippot like we have. It is obvious that the head covering was a significant item and when removed the man would be bareheaded.

In R. Azriel Hildesheimer’s responsa[14] the publisher included a note from Hildesheimer that informs us that in a copy of R. Judah ben R. Asher’s responsa (from the edition published in Berlin, 1846), there is a handwritten comment to the responsum just discussed. The author of the comment is described as הגאב"ד but it is not known whom this refers to. Alongside the words quoted above, that one who can bear the heat should cover his head, the unknown גאב"ד wrote:

לשון זה הוסיפו המגלים ראש ובכ"י כתוב בזה"ל: וטוב שלא לישב בגלוי הראש בשעת הלימוד כדי שישב באימה יותר ולפעמים מפני כובד החום נראה להקל. כבר נהגתי בעצמי לישב בכובע של פשתן דק כקופוצא בעתות החום לצאת ידי כולם

The Hebrew passage just quoted begins by stating that the comment in Zikhron Yehudah that one can take off one’s head covering if it is hot was added by “those who are bareheaded”.[15] This is followed by a quotation from the manuscript in which R. Judah says that on hot days he would sit with a lighter head-covering than normal. However, even this version has the language וטוב שלא לישב בגלוי ראש which also implies that there is no prohibition to be bareheaded during Torah study. This manuscript also has ולפעמים מפני כובד החום נראה להקל, which implies that one can be completely bareheaded if it is hot, to which it then adds that R. Judah himself did not sit bareheaded but wore a lighter head-covering. I therefore don’t see any substantial difference between the two versions of the responsum, yet the unnamed גאב"ד did see a problem with the first version and assumed that the text had been tampered with by a heretic.

In many prior posts I have discussed the assumption that heretics altered manuscripts (most recently in my posts regarding ArtScroll’s censorship of Rashbam). The example I have just given is one of the first where a rabbinic figure makes this argument about a halakhic text.[16] I have to say that in all of the numerous cases where modern rabbis claim that medieval texts written by great rabbinic figures have been altered by heretics, there is not even one instance where they make a compelling argument. Their approach is always along the line of, “This position goes against what we know to be true, so Rabbi X couldn’t have said it.” In this case there are actually two manuscripts in existence, and the words of one are exactly what we find it in the printed version of Zikhron Yehudah, while the other has the text mentioned by the גאב"ד.[17]

P. 218: I wrote that even a circumcised non-Jew is referred to as an arel. I was asked what my source for this is. I did not need to provide a source for my statement in the book, as it is a basic fact, and can be confirmed by looking in dictionaries. However, for those who want a rabbinic source see Mishnah Nedarim 3:11:

קונם שאיני נהנה לערלים מותר בערלי ישראל ואסור במולי עובדי כוכבים. קונם שאיני נהנה למולים אסור בערלי ישראל ומותר במולי עובדי כוכבים שלא היתה הערלה קרויה אלא לשמם שנאמר כי כל הגוים ערלים וכל בית ישראל ערלי לב

This Mishnah is explicit that even circumcised non-Jews are referred to as arelim.[18]

I would like to thank all those who have sent comments about my book. Only a small amount can be posted but I do try respond to all emails. I believe that I have mentioned all of the corrections. I hope that R. Menahem Lonzano would regard me as one of the ישרים בלבותם, for he wrote:[19]

הישרים בלבותם יאהבו החולק עליהם בדעת וישנאו העוזרם בלי דעת

4. In Saul Lieberman and the Orthodox I discussed the dispute over R. José Faur. I also published a letter in support of Faur by R. Jacob Kassin (who would later retract this support). It is well known that R. Faur’s greatest backer was R. Matloub Abadi, an important figure in the Syrian community and author of the halakhic work Magen Ba'adi. R. Abadi is mentioned in this regard by R. Kassin, in the letter of R. Kassin that I published in Saul Lieberman and the Orthodox. Here are two additional documents relevant to this matter. The first one is a 1966 letter from R. Abadi in praise of R. Faur.[20] I transcribed the document but was unable to make out some of the words.

The second document is a 1969 letter from R. Abadi to Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Nissim defending R. Faur. I found this document in the R. Nissim archive at Yad ha-Rav Nissim in Jerusalem. Together with the letter is a note that provides the following identifications.
ר"פ נ"י = R. José Faur
אויבו ורודפו = Rabbi Abraham Hecht
יוסף בן א' = R. Yosef Harari-Raful (יוסף בן אהרן)

One more point about R. Faur that is worth noting is that he was such a close student of R. Aaron Kotler that he was one of the people chosen to carry R. Kotler’s coffin at his funeral.[21]
I have many more interesting documents that have never before appeared in print. I hope to publish some of them in future posts.
5. Let me share another example of censorship. It comes from a recently published book (too recent to be included in Changing the Immutable).
R. Joseph Messas has a passage, now famous among the Orthodox feminists, in which he refers to an unnamed book that mentions that in Spain there were places with women’s prayer groups at which each woman wore a tallit and some wore tefillin. It appears in his Nahalat Avot (Haifa, 1980), vol. 5:2, p. 268.

In 2015 the multi-volume set of Nahalat Avot was reprinted in Jerusalem. Take a look at the following page and you will see that the passage dealing with the women’s prayer groups has been deleted in its entirety.

Unlike Ashkenazic internal censorship of this sort, Sephardic censorship is a relatively new phenomenon (only a few decades old). Here is another example. R. Isaac Abraham Solomon’s book Akim et Yitzhak was published in Baghdad in 1910. On pages 112b-113a he rejects a position of the recently deceased R. Joseph Hayyim, the Ben Ish Hai.

R. Solomon appears to even cast doubt on R. Joseph Hayyim’s integrity when he writes:

וקי"ל ת"ח שאמר מילתא לאחר מעשה אין שומעים לו להחזיק דבריו

This book was reprinted in 1971, and here is how the pages look.

R. Eliyahu Sheetrit reports that R. Ovadiah Yosef was upset with this censorship and annoyed that the publisher thought that he could do as he wished with someone else’s book.[22]

6. There has been a lot written about the murder of Eitam and Na’ama Henkin הי"ד. There has even been a song dedicated to them. See here. Quite apart from the incredible family and personal tragedy, the murder of Eitam is a tragedy for the world of Torah and scholarship. I was planning on writing about this, but people who knew Eitam much better than I have already spoken and I don’t have much I could add to their moving words. I would only note that the amount of significant material published by Eitam is astounding, and I learnt so much from him, both from his printed work and from the many emails we exchanged. It is hard to think of anyone who accomplished so much in so short a period of time. I encourage all who can read Hebrew to examine his website here where many of his writings are found.

In my post here I posted this picture of the grave of R. Joseph Elijah Henkin’s son, Hayyim Shimi, which Eitam kindly sent me.

Someone asked me about the name שימי. We all know this as a nickname for שמעון but this is not something that you would put on a tombstone. I inquired about this from Eitam and here is his reply
אכן השם שלו היה חיים שימי, ואין זה קיצור חיבה של 'שמעון' (כמובן לא היו עושים כן על מצבה). הוא נקרא כך, למיטב ידיעתי, על שם סבתו (אם-אמו, חותנתו של הרב הענקין) שימא קריינדל, שנפטרה כשנה וחצי לפני הולדתו.
פעם שאל אותי חסיד אחד, מילא לקרוא לבן ע"ש בת אינו חידוש ומצאנו כן במעלה הדורות, אבל להמציא בשביל זה שם חדש, היכן מצאנו דבר כזה אצל שלומי אמוני ישראל?! והשבתי לו, אולי הגמרא לא מלאה ברב שימי בר אבין [צ"ל אשי] וכיו"ב?
In the post I wrote: “It is noteworthy that R. Henkin saw fit to mention on the tombstone that Hayyim was a student at Yeshiva College (= Yeshivat R. Yitzhak Elhanan).” R. Elazar Meir Teitz correctly pointed out that when Hayyim Shimi (or did they pronounce it “Simi”?) died in 1927, there wasn’t yet a Yeshiva College. This was only established in 1928.[23] However, R. Henkin’s other two sons did attend Yeshiva College.

Eitam also called the following to my attention. In R. Yitzhak Dadon’s Athalta Hi, vol. 2 (Jerusalem, 2008), p. 339,[24] this picture appears.

The rabbi on the right is identified as R. Shlomo Goren and the one on the left as R. Dovid Lifshitz. While the one on the right does look like R. Goren, it is actually R. Lifshitz (a fact confirmed to me by Dr. Chaim Waxman, R. Lifshitz’s son-in-law). Eitam informed me that the one on the left is R. Moshe Margolin, the secretary of Ezras Torah. Why did Dadon assume that the rabbi on the left was R. Dovid Lifshitz? He must have seen this photo somewhere with R. Lifshitz identified as appearing in it, and since he assumed that the man on the right was R. Goren, he concluded that the one on the left must be R. Lifshitz.

7. In recent weeks there has been a good deal of outrage after the appearance of an article in Mishpachah that appealed to the Palestinians not to kill haredim since they don’t go on the Temple Mount.[25] There is also an effort underway, supposedly authorized by the Edah Haredit, to publicize the same message in Arabic newspapers. See here. With this in mind, readers should examine the following document, which is found in the Central Zionist Archives S25/4752.[26]

It is a copy of a letter sent to the Supreme Muslim Council in Jerusalem from Aryeh Leib Weissfish. Weissfish was later to become famous as one of the leaders of the Neturei Karta, and strangely enough he was also a great fan of Nietzsche. You can read about his colorful career here, where it mentions how he illegally entered Jordan in 1951 to bring a message from the Neturei Karta that Jordan should invade Jerusalem and the Neturei Karta would be its ally in this. When he was deported to Israel he was put on trial and sentenced to six months in prison.

In view of the fact that there was a fear that Germany would invade the Land of Israel and that this would also lead to the Arabs persecuting Jews, Weissfish wrote to let the Muslim leaders know that the Old Yishuv type of Jews that he is speaking about are not involved in politics and oppose the Zionists. They have always treated the Arabs with respect and he therefore requests that these Jews be protected. He also offers to provide the names of the families who should be given this special treatment. As you can see from Yitzhak Ben-Zvi’s handwritten note at the bottom of the letter, Ben-Zvi copied this from the original letter which he found in the Supreme Muslim Council’s archives.

8. Information about my summer 2016 tours to Central Europe, Italy, Spain, and Germany will soon be available on the Torah in Motion website here.

9. For those who do not own Between the Yeshiva World and Modern Orthodoxy, you might be interested in knowing that Amazon is now offering it at a 36% discount ($15.92). See here

[1] This refers to the revelation at Sinai. The Touger translation of the Mishneh Torah mistakenly explains that these words refer to Moses’ “appointment as a prophet.”
[2] See Y. L. Fishman, Sefer ha-Mizrachi (Jerusalem, 1946), p. 120.
[3] Kana’uteh de-Pinhas, p. 75. When an earlier work of Lintop is quoted in Naor, Kana’uteh de-Pinhas, I have referred to the latter.
[4] Kana’uteh de-Pinhas, p. 75.
[5] Yalkut Avnei Emunat Yisrael, pp. 66-67.
[6] Yalkut Avnei Emunat Yisrael, p. 99
[7] (Vilna, 1881), pp. 14a-b.
[8] Pithei Shearim, p. 14b.
[9] Kana’uteh de-Pinhas, p. 78.
[10] Hed Harim (Jerusalem, 1953), pp. 30-31.
[11] Iggerot ha-Rav Nissenbaum (Jerusalem, 1956), p. 260 n. 7.
[12] The picture first appeared in Shaul Shimon Deutsch, Larger than Life (New York, 1997), vol. 2, p. 204.
[13] Perurim mi-Shulhanam shel Gedolei Yisrael (Jerusalem, 2004). The passage referred to is on p. 95.
[14] She’elot u-Teshuvot Rabbi Azriel: Even ha-Ezer, Hoshen Mishpat (Tel Aviv, 1976), no. 253.
[15] Eric Zimmer refers to this comment in his “Men’s Headcovering: The Metamorphosis of This Practice,” in J. J. Schacter, ed., Reverence, Righteousness, and Rahamanut (Northvale, N.J., 1992), p. 331 n. 28: “Hildesheimer claims that Reform Jews who advocated bareheadedness tampered with the original text in order to justify their own.” There are a couple of problems with Zimmer’s formulation. First, Hildesheimer does not make any claim. He simply reports what the גאב"ד wrote. Second, there is no mention of Reform Jews. The reference might be to them but it could also refer to maskilim. I assume that the quotation from Zimmer is missing a final word and what it means to say is that they “tampered with the original text in order to justify their own behavior”? 
[16] Regarding aggadic texts, we find a number of earlier examples. One well-known instance is R. Samuel Jaffe’s comment about the “Midrash” that in the future pig will become permitted:

למה נקרא שמו חזיר מפני שעתיד להחזירו לישראל

R. Jaffe writes (Yefeh Toar: Va-Yikra Rabbah 13:3, p. 78b):

לפי דעתי לא היה ולא נברא . . . היה מי שהיה רוצה להתחכם ממציא איזה מאמ' [מאמר] שיפור' [שיפורש] בו פי' הלציי והיה תולה אותו מאיזה מהמדרשי' הרחוקים להמצא ביד כל אדם

[17]  See R. Avraham Yosef Havatzelet, “Limud be-Rosh Meguleh – Ha-Omnam Ziyuf bi-Ketav Yad?” Yeshurun 7 (2000), pp. 735-738, and the note in the Makhon Yerushalayim edition of Zikhron Yehudah, no. 20.
[18] See also Da’at Mikra: Yirmiyahu, to Jeremiah 9:25, and R. Ratzon Arusi, Ha-Torah ve-Halikhot Ameinu (Kiryat Ono, 1998), vol. 1, p. 27 (second pagination).
[19] Shetei Yadot (Venice, 1618 ), p. 81.
[20] I thank R. Moshe Shamah for providing me with this document.
[21] After having heard this report, I confirmed its accuracy with R. Faur.
[22] Sheetrit, Rabbenu (Jerusalem, 2014), p. 203.
[23] See Jeffrey S. Gurock, The Men and Women of Yeshiva (New York, 1988), p. 94.
[24] In volume 1 there is a chapter on R. Jehiel Jacob Weinberg in which the author makes great use of Kitvei ha-Gaon Rabbi Yehiel Yaakob Weinberg. I jokingly tell people that I like Athalta Hi because the author refers to me as המו"ל שליט"א. See ibid., vol. 1, p. 259.
[25] See here for R. Eliyahu Zini’s statement that the editors of Mishpachah have lost their share in the World to Come. Regarding the Temple Mount, there is a shocking statement in the geonic era Pitron Torah, ed. Urbach (Jerusalem, 1978), p. 339. 

שגם היום הזה אותם האנשים שהבית בידם עשו אותו בית עבודה ומובחר ומעולה ומכובד, ואותה העבודה כך אמר שנעבד לא-ל אחד, שברא שמים וארץ ולו בריות, לכך אמ' כל היום, עד ביאת מורה צדק ויום העתיד ואותו היום תתחדש בו עבודת הצדקה ותהיה מקובלת לפני ש-די

Rather than being upset at seeing the Muslims in charge of the Temple Mount, Pitron Torah seems to see this as a good thing that will last until the messianic era..This passage was noted by Daniel J. Lasker, "Tradition and Innovation in Maimonides' Attitude toward Other Religions," in Jay Harris, ed., Maimonides After 800 Years (Cambridge, MA., 2007), p. 182. As I noted in Studies in Maimonides and His Interpreters, p. 151, Pitron Torah, p. 241, contains the earliest recorded Jewish use of the term משוגע with regard to Muhammad. 

Ron C. Kiener claims that the following passage in Zohar Hadash 27d is referring to Muslim control of the Temple Mount. Its view is exactly the opposite of what we saw in Pitron Torah:
אבנא אבנא אבנא קדישא עילאה על כל עלמא בקדושתא דמארך זמיני בני עממיא לאתזלזלא בך ולאותבא גולמי מסאבין עלך לסאבא אתרך קדישא וכל מסאבין יקרבון בך ווי לעלמא בההוא זמנא
Oh stone, oh stone! Oh holy stone, greater in the world in the holiness of your Master. In future times the nations will humiliate you and place upon you defiled objects, defiling your holy place. And all the defiled ones will come unto you. Woe to the world at that time!
Translation by Kiener, "The Image of Islam in the Zohar," Mehkerei Yerushalayim be-Mahashevet Yisrael 8 (1989), p. 51.
[26] Many years ago I saw a reference to this letter in a book, but I can no longer remember where.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Finders Keepers? The Itinerant History of Strashun Library of Vilna, Pt I

Finders Keepers? The Itinerant History of Strashun Library of Vilna
by Dan Rabinowitz
            Since the 1990s, the issue of reparation of items looted by the Nazis has become a high-profile issue, with numerous successful attempts at reuniting owners with their stolen possessions. The recent movie, Monuments Men, fictionalized the Allies’ post-war efforts that led to the locating some of these looted treasures. While some of the best-known examples of these recovered treasures are related to art, gold, or Swiss bank accounts, Hebrew books were also part of the Nazi’s appropriation scheme, and were included in the items recovered after World War II. Some of the books recovered belonged to a unique institution, the first Jewish public library, and tracing the journey of these books, up to present day, parallels that of its patrons, tortured, uncertain, and yet despite all odds, surviving.  

Matisyahu Strashun the Library’s Architect and Founder

Matisyahu Strashun[1] was born in 1817 in Vilna.  His family was among the Vilna elite.  His father, Samuel Strashun (also known as Rashash), whose notes/annotations – he never published a stand-alone work – to numerous classic rabbinic works, including Midrash Raba, Mishna, and Maimonides’ Mishna Torah, and Talmud Bavli.[2]  In terms of breadth, the latter are most impressive, as his notes cover nearly every single page[3] of the Talmud Bavli.[4]

Matisyahu too was a Talmudist, his comments to Baba Batra and Eruvin are incorporated into the Vilna edition of Talmud Bavli, and was proficient in the entire corpus of rabbinic literature.[5] Matisyahu espoused views that were consistent with the haskalah movement.[6] For example, Matisyahu supported Max Lilienthal’s controversial attempt to reform “the Jewish educational system within the Pale Settlement,”[7] and Matisyahu help found and financially supported two schools in Vilna aligned with the haskalah.[8] Matisyahu corresponded with leaders of the haskalah movement, Isaac Ber Levinsohn, among others, and Strashun’s articles appeared in both rabbinic as well as haskalah newspapers and journals.[9] And, his home was a salon of sorts for traditionalists and the maskilim of Vilna.[10]

Strashun was independently wealthy and derived his substantial income from commercial and banking activities rather than rabbinic activities.  Yet he was considered a leader of the Vilna community.  He served on a number of communal institutions including the Vilna Tzedakah Gedolah.  And, at his death, he donated over 50,000 rubles to charity (approximately $1 million today). Leading Eastern European rabbis, R. Yitzhak Elchonon Spector and R. Jacob Joseph (later Chief Rabbi of New York) among them, eulogized Strashun.[11]] Posthumously, a street in Vilna was named after him.[12]

Throughout his life, he was an avid book collector, and, at the time of his death, amassed a collection of over 5,700 books and manuscripts.[13] His collection included incunabula, rare and controversial works (e.g. Me’or Eynaim), and manuscripts – from his father in addition to other authors. As reflected in his outlook during his lifetime, Strashun’s collection included rabbinic and haskalah works, and books in non-Hebrew languages.[14]

During Strashun’s lifetime numerous printing houses and bookstores populated Vilna, providing access to most contemporary books, including in languages other than Hebrew.[15]  But, unfortunately, we do not have much information regarding how and when Strashun amassed his collection that extended well beyond those contemporary books, beyond that when he travelled he took the opportunity to seek out and purchase books. For example, when he took therapeutic trips to the spa he also took that opportunity to seek out and purchasing books.  In addition to Strashun’s spa trips, in 1857 he went on a Rabbinic tour of Eastern Europe and visited R. Shlomo Yehuda Rappaport (Shi”r) in Prague and R. Tzvi Hirsch Chajes.[16] But, R. Rapahel Nathan Rabinowicz, a book dealer and noted book collector, commented after visiting Strashun that while Strashun’s collection was larger than Rabinowicz’s, his collection was richer in rare and older books.[17]




Creation of the Vilna Jewish Public Library

At his death in 1885, Strashun left no direct heirs.  He did, however, provide for the disposition of his library in his will.  In the past, those with large libraries had sold or left it to relatives,[18] Strashun elected a novel approach, rather than an individual or individuals he bequeathed his library to the Vilna Jewish community writ large, with instructions to establish a stand-alone public library.[19] His vision for the library was modeled on “the non-Jewish libraries that he saw[20] in the Diaspora.”[21] To that end, Strashun provided not only the books but also the funds to support the creation and sustainment of the library.[22]  Immediately the impact of this decision was apparent. At his funeral, among other enumerated good deeds and scholarship mentioned was, “the large library he left after death for the benefit of the community,” and which will “provide a lasting legacy beyond that of any actual blood descendants.[23]

            The creation of a public library out of Strashun’s personal collection was not a swift one, for seven years following Strashun’s death “the books remained under lock and key” and were available only to those with special access.[24]  It remained in this state even though there were trustees and enough money to cover its operations.[25] Although the library did not open to the public, the trustees were not idle during this time; and in 1889, published a complete catalog of Strashun’s collection.  His collection was comprised of 5,753 items, 63 of which contained marginalia in his hand.[26]

            The Library is Open to the Public

In 1892, the Library was finally opened to the public.  At the time, however, it remained in Strashun’s home.[27]  For years after the library was opened to the public, in legal documents, the listed owner was not the Vilna community but one of the Library’s trustees. Although Strashun’s intent was clear - that the Library belonged to the community and not a trustee or any other individual – the Library’s legal status clouded that directive. In the late 1890s, there was a successful campaign to correct that issue, and the community become the sole owner of the Library, fulfilling Strashun’s wishes regarding ownership.[28]

The Library & Its Impact on the Vilna Community

In 1902, the Library finally moved into a building of its own in the courtyard of the Great Synagogue of Vilna.[29]  From this point forward, the Strashun Library would be one of Vilna’s most important institutions. 

            The Strashun Library was a Jewish public institution and, to fulfill the needs of the public, additional steps were required beyond building and maintaining infrastructure and clarifying ownership.  Specifically, although Strashun’s collection was substantial both in terms of size and breadth, it was still the product of one man’s idea of a library.  For this reason, Hillel Noach Steinschneider, one of Vilna’s leading scholars and historians, pleaded with the public to donate books and ensure the completeness of the library and fulfill its mission of serving the entire community.  He acknowledged that Strashun amassed a very impressive private collection, but that for a public library his collection alone was insufficient because “it is lacking in books for people” whose interests did not align with Strashun’s.  That is, a public library is not only a place open for all but also one that provides value for all.  Consequently, the library’s composition must reflect the entirety its audience and not a single collector. Apparently, this plea was successful,[30] many Vilna scholars donated their collections to the Library in addition to the general public, and, by the 1930s, the Library had grown to over 35,000 volumes.[31] Additionally, Vilna’s Tzedakah Gedolah organization also provided funds for acquisitions.  Books acquired through those funds contain a special stamp or receipt. 

The Library was open seven days a week and became the central meeting location for the residents of Vilna.[32]  The Library’s visitors were representative of Strashun’s commitment to both traditional and modern ideas and ideals.  Patrons included “rabbis and talmudic scholars who were studying responsa and Halakhic works” and who sat side-by-side with the “younger generation who were reading haskalah works.”[33] When dignitaries came to Vilna, the Strashun library was a waypoint.[34]

 The intent was to have Herzl be the first visitor to the Library, however, the Russian government prohibited him appearing at the Library.[35]  Other famous Jewish personalities did visit, and signed the guest boo, known as the Golden Book, including Sholem Yankev Abramovitsh (Mendele Mokher Seforim), and Hayim Nachum Bialik, in addition to more traditionalists, R. David Friedman of Karlin, R. Shlomo Ha-kohen, and the Chafetz Chayim.[36] The Library was not only known for its visiting Jewish celebrities, but also for its well-regarded holdings.  According to A.J. Heschel, it was the largest public Hebraic library in Eastern Europe reported to hold over 40,000 volumes.[37]  On the one hand, the Strashun library was recognized as one of the greatest cultural institution in Eastern Europe, on the other, like so many public institutions, the Library struggled raising sufficient funds throughout the early part of the 20th century, consistently hampering its ability to maintain and build its collections in addition to limiting its public access.[38]  But, it would not be funding that led to its demise but the Nazis and their campaign to appropriate Jewish cultural treasures. 

The Nazi’s Looting of the Strashun Library

            During World War II, Vilna was occupied and controlled first by the Soviets, then the Lithuanian government, the Soviets again, and finally by the Germans.[39]  While under Lithuanian and Soviet rule, the Library had its share of challenges, but none of those compared to the Nazi’s systematic campaign to identify, collect, and appropriate important Jewish treasures –specifically books – and, consequently, important libraries. The intent was that these pillaged libraries would supplement the already substantial Judaic holdings of Frankfort City Library.[40]  Immediately after the Nazis occupied Vilna, the Strashun Library as Vilna’s “oldest and perhaps most distinguished” library was identified as a target for this campaign.[41]

            Less than a month after occupying Vilna, the Nazis “enlisted” the Library’s librarian, Chakil Lunski, who had served in that capacity for over forty years, in addition to others, to select, identify and catalog important books including “the incunabula and mansucripts in the Strashun Library” to be sent back to Germany.[42]  Needless to say, Lunski was “distraught” that “he [was] supposed to help remove the treasures from ‘his’ Strashun Library that he protected for 45 years!”[43] Consequently, a number of books from the Strashun Library ended up in Frankfort, Germany.[44]

Post War Efforts to Reclaim Heirless Jewish Property 

            The Library’s building did not survive the war, but some of its books did.[45]  After WWII, the Allies recovered thousands of items the German’s looted, and collected them at the Offenbach Depot outside of Frankfort.[46]  Much of what was recovered was likely heirless and the Allies faced with the dilemma of restitution. Initially, the Americans took the position that heirless property should return to the country from which it was looted.[47]  This position raised the specter of rare and important Judaica and Hebraica returning to Poland or even Germany.  This outcome was unacceptable to many Jews.[48]  Some elected to influence the fate of looted heirless books through traditional democratic means, others took matters into their own hands.[49]

Free For All? The Disposition of Other Significant European Libraries

The Strashun Library was by no means the only library identified at the Offenbach depot.  There were numerous other libraries, both public and private that ended up at Offenbach, without any clear method of repatriation. This lack of clarity lead to inconsistent results at best.  Indeed, first hand accounts of post-war Germany confirm the ad-hoc, doubtful legal grounds and sometimes completely lawless reparation regime in the post-war chaos.  In many instances, individuals made many of the decisions regarding disposition with little information and virtually to no oversight.

For example, Solomon B. Freehof, who himself amassed one of the greatest responsa collections in the 20th century, spent time in post-war Germany and encountered heirless property and describes attempts of repatriation. He indicates that half of the heirless Jewish books recovered by the Allies went to the Jewish National and University Library (“JNUL”) at the Hebrew University (now the National Library of Israel),[50] which was “quite right” because some unnamed person or entity had determined “that clearly the [JNUL] should take the place of the vanished Jewish communities of Europe.”[51]

            Others agreed with Freehof that the natural repository for heirless books of European origin was the JNUL in Jerusalem.  Most notably, Judah Magnes, and the trustees of the JNUL wanted to recover and claim for the JNUL as much heirless Judaica as possible.  The JNUL dispatched Gershom Scholem, the eminent Kabbalah scholar and bibliophile, to Europe to locate and return heirless property.  He discovered a significant number of important books and manuscripts in the Offenbach Depot and did everything in his power, including employing very underhanded means, to repatriate items to Hebrew University.[52]

Initially, Scholem had a very difficult time securing authorization to even enter Germany and the Offenbach Depot.[53]  When he was eventually granted permission to view the contents of the Depot, it was with the explicit condition that he could not remove any items.  But, for Scholem, some items proved too enticing. 

Scholem identified a number of rare and important books and manuscripts.  He was concerned that if the disposition of these items were left to the Allied authorities the items would not end up in Jerusalem, but, instead, at the Jewish Theological Seminary, or some other institution, in the United States.  This was unacceptable to Scholem. To facilitate transfer of these items to the JNUL, Scholem colluded with a Jewish American serviceman to smuggle the works out of Offenbach. Scholem placed the collection into five boxes but did not label their contents and provided a fake name on the invoice.  The American serviceman personally ensured that the boxes were shipped to Paris, after which they were sent to the JNUL.  Eventually the Allies found out about the theft, and demanded the return of the five boxes, even lodging a formal diplomatic complaint.  In the end, after much back and forth, the boxes remained at the JNUL.[54]

As germane here, eventually the boxes’ content were cataloged and it was determined that a third of the works were not heirless – their ownership was clear and restitution was possible.[55]  Nevertheless, the content of the five boxes were incorporated into the JNUL.

Another example of unilateral ostensive benevolent restitution occurred with the “library of the prestigious Klaus synagogue of Mannheim, [that] ended up with U.S. Army Chaplin, Rabbi Henry Tavel.”  Who, “on his own authority . . . shipped it to his alma mater, the Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati.”[56]

The Lost & Found: The Strashun Library Post-WWII

The determination regarding the disposition of the Strashun library after the Holocaust was no different from other heirless property, ad hoc and questionable.  Lucy Dawidowicz, worked for YIVO before WWII and spent time in Vilna.  After WWII, on behalf of the Jewish Distribution Committee after World War II, she went to the Offenbach Depot to assist with identification of heirless books.  Prior to coming to Offenbach, she had “promised [herself] that [she] would do [her] best to safeguard the rights of possible owners and heirs.”[57]  And, when she came upon some of the remains of the YIVO collection,[58] she “was in a state of exaltation” and in a letter home wrote that she “had ‘a feeling akin to holiness, that [she] was touching something sacred.’”[59]

Dawidowicz also came upon books that she “could identify came from the Strashun Library.”  Whereupon she recalled “a strange story” that the head of YIVO, Max Weinreich,[60] had told her “back in 1940.” Weinreich told her that during the brief period of time when the Soviets had returned Vilna to Lithuanian control, YIVO attempted to move its library out of Vilna.[61]  And, that “the trustees of the Strashun Library, also fearing for the sake of their library, asked the Vilna YIVO to ship [the Strashun Library] too.” Unfortunately, the shipment never occurred and both libraries remained in Vilna and ultimately plundered by the Nazis. 

While the shipment never occurred, in Dawidowicz’s telling the attempted shipment was an irrevocable act with significant implications regarding the Library’s ownership.  She inferred that the Strashun trustees request to join the YIVO shipment also implicitly ceded ownership of the Strashun Library to YIVO.  Thus, there she had no doubt regarding the proper disposition of the Strashun Library. Based entirely upon the “strange story” she heard, and even though according to her retelling the Strashun trustees had only intended YIVO to act as a shipper,[62] Dawidowicz told the Director of the Offenbach Depot that the heirless “remains of the Strashun Library ought to be considered as YIVO property.” She appealed to the Allied authorities and her position carried the day and the remnants of Strashun Library went to YIVO in New York.[63]

In a recent exhibit devoted to YIVO’s Strashun collection, the issue of the Strashun Library’s provenance is not discussed in any detail.  Instead, the book accompanying the exhibit simply states that all the remnants of the Strashun Library “were rescued from the ruins of Europe and brought back to YIVO in New York in 1947.”[64] YIVO’s library catalog again implies that all the recovered books went to YIVO and links the disposition of the Strashun Library with that of YIVOs, the provenance note explains that “[t]he Strashun Collection, along with the YIVO Vilna collections, were liberated by the American Army, and re-repatriated to YIVO in New York in April 1947.”[65]

            In reality, not all the remaining Strashun books went to YIVO, nor did everyone agree with the determination that YIVO was the rightful heir of the Strashun Library.

To be continued in Pt. II...

[1] For biographical information and sources see Tzvi Harkavy, Le-Heker Misphahot, (Jerusalem: Hotsa’at ha-Sefarim ha-Erets-Yisre’elit, 1953), 47-48 and n.79.
[2] A complete bibliography of his works, both published and unpublished, appears in Tzvi Harkavy, Le-Heker Misphahot, (Jerusalem: Hotsa’at ha-Sefarim ha-Erets-Yisre’elit, 1953), 45-46. Rashash’s comments on Rambam were printed in Mekorei Rambam, first published in 1870 in Vilna, and while not a true stand alone work, Rashash’s comments appear alone, without the Rambam’s text.  See Mekorei ha-Rambam, Harkavy ed., (Jersualem, Hatsa’at ha-Sefarim ha-Erets-Yisre’elit, 1957, Im ha-Madurah, and p. 59.
[3] For a list of the handful of pages he omitted, see Rafael Katzenellenbogen, Rash”sh le-Shitato, in Mekori Ha-Rambam Le-Rash”sh, ed. Harkavy, (Jerusalem, 1957), 64.
[4] For general biographical details on the Strashun family, see Frida Shor, From “Likute Shoshanim” to “The Paper Brigade” The Story of the Strashun Library in Vilna, (Tel Aviv: Ariel, 2012), 15-28, and the sources cited therein.  See also Shua Engelman, “Rabbi Samuel Strashun and his Haggahot on the Babylonian Talmud,” (PhD dissertation, Bar-Ilan University, 2009; Hebrew); regarding Samuel’s Talmudic annotations as compared to others, see Yaakov Shmuel Spiegel, Chapters in the History of the Jewish Book, Scholars & their Annotations (Ramat-Gan: Bar Ilan University, 2005), 421-22. Cf. Mordechai Zalkin, “Samuel and Mattiyahu Strashun: Between Tradition and Innovation,” in Mattiyahu Strashun, 1817-1885: Scholar, Leader, and Book Collector, (New York: YIVO Institute, 2001), 6-7.
[5] Moshe Shimon Anktokolski, Evel Kaved, infra n.12, 23.
[6] Mordechai Zalkin, “Samuel and Mattityahu Strashun: Between Tradition and Innovation,” in Yermiyahu Aharon Taub, ed., Mattityahu Strashun, 1817–1885: Scholar, Leader, and Book Collector (New York: YIVO Institute, 2001), 1-27. Samuel has made a very small number of comments that can be read to be consistent with ideas of the haskalah, but these do not approach Matisyahu’s active involvement with the movement, including his very public support of the movement.  Additionally, it is unclear if Samuel’s comments are simply limited to their specific context.

Indeed, the examples Zalkin provides regarding Samuel’s alignment with haskalah do no support Zalkin’s thesis. Id. at 25 n.10. First, Zalkin, cites Strashun’s comment in Gitten 6b, that “we find many amora’im who did not know how to read scripture” as proof of his “unorthodox” views.  But we find a similar statement from the medieval period.  See Tosefot, Bava Batra, 113a.  Zalkin’s second citation is to Rashas’s comments, Rosh ha-Shana 26a, “certain things that were uttered in a particular time and particular place are inserted by editors of the Talmud in their appropriate location in the text.” This misrepresents the Rashash.  Rashash is attempting to answer how the Talmudic sage, Levi, was unaware of an explicit verse as the TB in RH 26a implies.  Rashash explains that although there is no explicit mention of the time or place that this story occurred, Rashash posits that the story in Rosh Hashana occured at the same time as another story with Levi, Yevamot 105a, where he had a moment of senility. Rashash is not offering his opinion regarding the redaction of the Talmud, instead he is merely dating the story in Rosh ha-Shana. Finally, it is unclear the relevance of Zalkin’s third example, “you will find many contradictions between different locations is (sic) Rashi’s text.” Locating and alleging contradictions in Rashi is hardly remarkable. 
[7] Zalkin, id., at 15.
[8] Shalom Pludermacher, Zikaron le-Hakham: Zeh Sefer Tolodot ha-Rav ha-Go’an, he-Hakham ha-Kollel Rabbi Matitayahu Strashun Z’L, in Mattiyahu Strashun, Matat-Ya, Haghot, Hidushim ve-He’arot Me’irot ‘al Midrash Raba Pri Eito Shel Matityahu Strahsun, (Vilna: The Widow and Brothers Romm, 1893), 15.
[9] A partial bibliography of Strashun’s articles appears in his Sefer Matat Yah (Vilna, 1893), 41-74 (Hebrew), available online here.  Reading, and certainly actively participating with, haskalah related newspapers was considered inconsistent with Ultra-Orthodox values and was grounds for expulsion from Volozhin Yeshiva. Shaul Stampfer, The Lithuanian Yeshiva, Revised & Expanded Edition, (Jerusalem: The Zalman Shazar Center for Jewish History, 2005), 176. 
[10] Aviva Astrinsky, “A Brief History of the Strashun Library,” in Yermiyahu Aharon Taub, ed., Mattityahu Strashun, 1817–1885: Scholar, Leader, and Book Collector (New York: YIVO Institute, 2001), i. 
[11] Duberosh ben Aleksander Torsh, Me’arat ha-Makhpelah, shnei Hepadim . . ., (Warsaw, 1887), 50.
[12] Moshe Shimon Antokolski, Evel Kaved, (Vilna: be-Defus Avhram Tzvi Katzenellenbogen, 1886), 8; Tzvi Harkavy, Le-Heker Misphahot, supra n.1, 47.  During his lifetime he also donated to public institutions, among them, the yeshivot of Mir and Volozhin.  Id. at 24.
[13] Moshe Shimon Antokolski, Evel Kaved, supra n.12, 11.
[14] Mordechai Zalkin, supra n.6, 17-8. 
[15] Hagit Cohen, At the Bookseller’s Shop, The Jewish Book Trade in Eastern Europe at the End of the Nineteenth Century, (Jerusalem: The Hebrew University Magnes Press, 2006), 48-52.
[16] Shalom Pludermacher, Zikaron le-Hakham, 1893), 17. His meetings are reflected in Strashun’s ownership of their works. See Likutei Shoshaim, nos. 386,1024,1178, 2522, 3352, 3650, 3781, 4377, 5399, 5592.

Regarding other well-known Hebrew book collectors and their collections, see Alexander Marx, “Some Jewish Book Collectors,” in his Studies in Jewish History & Booklore, (New York, 1941), 198-237; Cecil Roth, “Famous Jewish Book Collections & Collecztors,” in Essays in Jewish Booklore, (New York: Ktav Publishing House, 1971) 330-35.
[17] “A Collection of Letter from Jewish Scholars to ShZH”H,” in Yad ve-Shem, reprinted in Yeshurun.
[18] David Oppenheimer’s library was the first library that was posthumously sold intact – to the Bodleian Library.  See Alexander Marx, “Some Notes on the History of David Oppenheimer’s Library,” Revue des Études Juives 82 [=Israel Lévi Festschrift] (1926): 451-460; Charles Duschinsky, “Rabbi David Oppenheimer: Glimpses of His Life and Activity, Derived from His Manuscripts in the Bodleian Library,” Jewish Quarterly Review 20:3 (January 1930): 217-247; Alexander Marx, “The History of David Oppenheimer’s Library,” in Studies in Jewish History and Booklore (New York: Jewish Theological Seminary of America, 1944), 238-255; and more recently in Joshua Teplitsky, “Between Court Jew and Jewish Court: David Oppenheim, The Prague Rabbinate, and Eighteenth-Century Jewish Political Culture (PhD dissertation, New York University, 2012); and Abraham Schischa, “Rabbinic Writings from the Collection of Rabbi David Oppenheim,” Yeshurun 31 (2014): 781-794 (Hebrew).

For other significant personal Hebrew libraries and their purchasing history, see Binyamin Richler, Hebrew Manuscripts: A Treasured Legacy (Clevland/Jerusalem: Ofeq Institute, 1990) 66-67.
[19] For earlier examples of private libraries see Nehemya Allony, The Jewish Library in the Middle Ages, Book Lists from the Cairo Genizah (Jerusalem:  Ben-Zvi Institute, 2006); S.D. Goitein, A Mediterranean Society (Berkley: University of California Press, 1967), vol. II, 206, 248; vol. V 3-4, 425.
[20] It is unclear whether Strashun meant this literally because while the 19th century witnessed the modern period of the public library, there were not any public libraries in Eastern Europe during Strashun’s lifetime.
[21] Shor, supra n. 4, at 26. 
[22] Sefer Matat Yah, supra n. 9, at 35, listing Strashun’s bequests. 
[23] Moshe Shimon Anktokolski, Evel Kaved, supra n.12, 17. 
[24] Among those who had access during this time was Ya’akov Wallensky.  During this time, Wallensky was writing his supplement to Piskei Teshuvot on Yoreh De’ahPiskei Teshuvot itself is a collection of obscure and rare works discussing issues appearing in Yoreh De’ah. Because Wallensky’s materials were even more obscure and rare, the only place he could access these was the Strashun Library. Ya’akov Wallensky, Daltei Teshuva, (Vilna, 1890), Introduction, 5-6, (link).
[25] Shor, supra n. 4, at 29
[26] Cf. Aviva Astrinsky, “A Brief History of the Strashun Library,” in Yermiyahu Aharon Taub, ed., Mattityahu Strashun, 1817–1885: Scholar, Leader, and Book Collector (New York: YIVO Institute, 2001), iii, who provides that his collection was only comprised of 5,739 items.
[27] Shor, supra n. 4, at 29.  Regarding the conflicting reports of the Library’s locations during this period, see id., n.71. 
[28] Shor, supra n.4, 32-3. 
[29] While the Library moved to the new building in 1901, and its dedication ceremony occurred on April 14, 1902, it would not be until October 20, 1902 that the Library secured the necessary governmental permits to fully open to the public.  See Shor at 34-35.  The government license is reproduced in Layer Ran, Jerusalem of Lithuania, vol. 2, (New York: Laureate Press, 1974), 346. 
[30] Frida Shor, supra n.4, 51-65,174-87. See Berger, “The Strashun Library in Vilna,” in Zevi Scharfstein, ed., Hebrew Education and Culture in Europe Between the Two World Wars (New York: Ogen Publishing House of Histadrut HaIvrit BeAmerica, 1957), 513 (Hebrew), who discusses the varied subject matter of the Library’s collection.
[31] Id.
[32] According to one account, the Library had over 200 patrons daily, but only 100 seats, forcing people to share chairs and encounter waits of over a half-hour just to enter the Library.  Id. at 513. 
[33] Ben Tzion Dinur, “Yerushalim de-Lita,” in Layzer Ran, Jerusalem of Lithuania, vol. 1 (New York: Laureate Press, 1974), XVI; but see the English translation of Dinur’s article that comingles the two groups and has both the Orthodox and younger generation studying “respona or modern Hebrew novels.”  Id. at XX.  It is unclear what accounts for this discrepancy in translation.

Lucy S. Dawidwowicz, From That Place And Time, A Memoir 1938-1947, (New York: Bantam Books, 1991), 119, provides a remarkably similar account to Dinur’s (“On any day you could see, seated at the two long tables in the reading room, venerable long-bearded men, wearing hats, studying Talmudic texts, elbow to elbow with bareheaded young men and even young women, bare-armed sometimes on warm days, studying their texts. The old men would sometimes mutter and grumble about what the world had come to. The young people would titter.”).

For a breakdown of the Library’s readership by type (i.e. students, academics and public intellectuals, workers, etc.), see Berger, supra n. 28, 514-15.   
[34] See Shor, supra n. 4, 174, see also the description of David Wolfson’s Vilna visit, Israel Klausner, “The Zionist Movement in Lithuania,” in Yahdut Lita (Tel Aviv: Am Hasefer Publishers, 1950), 522 (Hebrew). For a photo of one such visit, see Layzer Ran, Jerusalem of Lithuania, vol. 2 (New York: Laureate Press, 1974), 416. 
[35] Shor, supra n. 4, 174-75. 
[36] Berger, “The Strashun Library in Vilna,” at 519; Shor, MeLekutei, supra n. 4, 169; Khaykl Lunski in Yeshurin’s ‫ווילנע (New York, 1935 – in Yiddish), p. 286-7 
[37] Abraham Joshua Heschel, “Yerushalim de-Lita,” in Ran, Jerusalem, vol. I, XVII; David E. Fishman, The Rise of Modern Yiddish Culture (Pittsburgh, PA, University of Pittsburgh Press, 2005), 143, provides that the holdings of the Strashun Library prior to the Holocaust was comprised of “some forty thousand volumes.”
[38] See Shor, MeLekutei, 38-9; 42 (discussing a 1926 public appeal that the Library undertook where it described its financial condition as “dire and catastrophic”); id. at 43 (“The Strashun Library underwent many difficult financial periods throughout the nineteen years of Polish rule (10/9/1920- 9/19/1939).  But, it continued to major Vilna cultural institution.”).
[39] Shor, MeLekutei, 44-7.
[40] Sem C. Sutter, “The Lost Libraries of Vilna and the Frankfurt Institut zur Erforschung der Judenfrage,” in Lost Libraries, The Destruction of Great Book Collections Since Antiquity, ed. James Raven (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2004), 220-22.
[41] Id. at 223 & 224 discussing other Vilna Libraries that were targeted by the Nazis.  See also Dov Schidorsky, Burning Scrolls and Flying Letters (Jerusalem: Magnes Press, 2008), 165-201; David E. Fishman, The Rise of Modern Yiddish Culture (Pittsburgh, PA: University of Pittsburgh Press, 2005), 141-44; Frida Shor, supra n.4, 189-200.  
[42] Sem C. Sutter, “The Lost Libraries of Vilna,” supra n.38, 224.
[43] Id. at 226.
[44] Berger, “The Strashun Library of Vilna,” at 517.  The books that were not deemed important we pulped or used as heating fuel.  Schidorsky, supra 39, 182. The exact date of when the Strashun Library was transferred to Germany is unclear; however, it was some date after April 1943.  See David E. Fishman, supra n.39,173 n.9. Similarly unclear is the exact number of books that were sent to Frankfort.  Sem C. Sutter, “The Lost Libraries of Vilna,” supra n.38, 228.  But, according to Aviva Astrinsky, “almost all of the Strashun books were crated and shipped by rail to Germany.  Aviva Astrinsky, “Mattitayahu (Mathis) Strashun,” supra n.24, i. 
[45] See Ran, Jerusalem, vol II, 522, for a photo of post-war building. For a discussion regarding the numbers of books that survived from the Strashun Library, see Frida Shor, supra n.4, 204-05.    
[46] Dov Schidorsky, supra n.39, 225, listing the countries and libraries who books were deposited at the Offenbach Depot. Sem C. Sutter, “The Lost Libraries of Vilna,” supra n.38, 229-32.  
[47] Lisa Moses Leff, The Archive Thief: The Man who Salvaged French Jewish History in the Wake of the Holocaust (United States:  Oxford University Press, 2015), 121.
[48] Id. at 124-30, 136-40.
[49] Id.
[50] Dov Schidorsky, supra n.39, 233, provides the numbers and location of heirless books returned by the Jewish Culture Reconstruction.  For a listing of U.S. institutions that received heirless cultural property from the Offenbach Depot, see Herman Dicker, Of Learning and Libraries, The Seminary Library at One Hundred, (New York: The Jewish Theological Seminary, 1988), Appendix B. See also F.J. Hoogewoud, The Nazi Looting of Books and its American ‘Antithesis’. Selected Pictures from the Offenbach Archival Depot’s Photographic History and Its Supplement,” Studia Rosenthaliana 26:1-2 (1992): 158-192; and F.J. Hoogewoud, “Dutch Jewish Ex Libris found among looted books in the Offenbach Archival Depot (1946),” in Chaya Brasz and Yosef Kaplan, eds., Dutch Jews as Perceived by Themselves and by Others (Leiden: Brill, 2001), 247-261.
[51] Solomon B. Freehof, On the Collecting of Jewish Books, (New York, NY: Society of Jewish Bibliophiles, [196-]), 17; regarding the books that Hebrew University received, and its efforts to locate and claim heirless works throughout Europe through its Otzrot Ha-Goleh committee, see Shlomo Shunami, About Libraries and Librarianship, (Jerusalem: Rubin Mass, 1969), 56-65; Zvi Baras, A Century of Books, The Jewish National & University Library 1892-1992, (Jerusalem: Jewish National & Univ. Library,1992), nos. 94-101; Dov Schidorsky, supra n.39, 212-91.
[52] Dov Schidorsky, supra n. 39, 250-51.
[53] Id. at 248-50.  According to Scholem, Abraham Ya’ari, Scholem’s partner on behalf of Hebrew University and its Goleh ha-Otzrot program, returned to Israel, in part, because of the difficultly in securing the necessary authorizations to enter Germany.  Id. 248; 351.
[54] Id. at 250-51. 
[55] Id. at 251 n.51. 
[56] See Druker, Of Learning and Libraries, 58.  Druker, however, concludes that Tavel’s unilateral decision “resulted in no real harm.”  One wonders if any surviving heirs who had legal claims to the Manheim collection would reach the same conclusion.  
[57] Lucy S. Dawidwowicz, From That Place And Time, A Memoir 1938-1947, (New York: Bantam Books,1991), 314-16. 
[58] See David E. Fishman, supra n.39, 143-53 174 n.20, discussing the YIVO Library under the Nazis and its ultimate transfer to YIVO in New York.   
[59] Id. at 318. 
[60] For more information regarding Weinreich and YIVO, see id. at 126-39.
[61] Id.; for a fuller treatment of this attempt see Shor, From ‘“Likute Shoshanim”, 44. 
[62] Aside from Dawidowicz’s telling, according to the documents that discuss YIVO’s efforts to save its library and the Strashun and the Lithuanian government’s response throughout this attempt, the Strashun Library is described as a Vilna community library and not the property of one institution or another.  See Shor, From “Likutei Shoshanim”, at 44.
[63] Her argument has the perverse effect that the trustees attempt to save the library immediately resulted in completely losing control of the library. 
[64] Aviva E. Astrinsky, Mattistyahu Strashun 1817-1885, Scholar, Leader, and Book Collector, YIVO, New York: 2001, ii, iv.  But, Astrinsky also indicates that YIVO recovered “a substantial part of the Strashun Library.”  Id. at i.  According to YIVO’s website, however, YIVO only received part of the Strashun Library and the remainder “were transferred to the library of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. (link). Similarly, Berger, “The Strashun Library in Vilna,” p. 517 claims that part of the Strashun Library went to YIVO and the other part to Hebrew University.

Beyond these unsupported statements, there is no evidence that any books from the Strashun Library were sent to the JNUL.  While the JNUL’s post-war efforts at obtaining heirless books are well documented, see supra, there is no mention of the Strashun Library.  Similarly, the JNUL catalog does not list any items whose provenance extends to the Strashun Library. It is possible that YIVO and Berger confused the JNUL with the Jerusalem Central Library discussed below.  Or simply conflated the Strashun Library with the numerous other European libraries that the JNUL successfully rescued.
[65] See, e.g., the YIVO catalog entry for Solomon Adret’s Hidushe Nidah leha-Rashba, Altona, [1737].  

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