Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Torah Under Wraps

Torah Under Wraps
by Yoav Sorek
translated by Daniel Tabak

Their publications are not allowed to get out. Their roiling Internet forums are blocked by filters. The articles they publish omit the names of professors considered verboten. A cohort of Haredi scholars [1] challenge the academy and their natural surroundings, unafraid to deal with subjects deemed taboo in the yeshiva world. Few Religious Zionists have penetrated this alternative ivory tower, but one of them—Eitam Henkin, may his blood be avenged—succeeded in breaking down barriers.
“One needs to strengthen oneself with faith; one should not entertain philosophical questions nor even glance at the books of philosophers,” said Rabbi Nahman of Bratslav already at the end of the eighteenth century. This motto is particularly popular today, in the post-modern era of “religious strengthening,” in which religiosity is perceived as synonymous with simplicity and unsophistication. Yet that very approach also runs counter to the Jewish mind, which is by its nature anything but naive. The legacy of Jewish erudition constitutes part of the DNA not only of the academy, but of even the most Haredi sectors of the yeshiva world, and it finds expression in the spirited Jewish Studies scholarship flourishing under the radar in circles that are presumed to recoil from it.

            Israelis distant from the world of Jewish Studies were offered a glimpse of it in the amusing film “Footnote,” but it portrayed only the nerve center of the field’s academic milieu, when in reality a great deal more is out there. In the reading rooms of the National Library, and in many houses in Bnei Brak and Jerusalem, many scholars sit and study the same topics as academics but without academic degree, without traveling to conferences, without aspirations toward an academic appointment. The history of medieval and modern rabbinic authorities, the stories of their compositions, the manuscripts and their provenances, variant customs, disputes both ancient and alive—all of these preoccupy a non-negligible group of yeshiva graduates, Haredi in dress and behavior, who publish articles in “non-academic” journals of Torah scholarship and produce corrected editions of sacred texts, some of which can even be considered quasi-critical editions.

            They number Hasidim and Mitnaggedim, the truly God-fearing and those trapped in the Haredi lifestyle who cut corners, those lacking any academic title and others who have earned one—sharp and knowledgeable one and all, still faithful to, and actively participating in, the intra-Haredi discourse. Some of them evidence a dual non-conformism in their lives: on the one hand, they have opted to put distance between themselves and the safe space of the yeshiva, pasturing in the treacherous fields of scholarship; on the other hand, they are Haredim who hail from circles thoroughly suspicious of academia and would not dream of lending credence to its guiding assumptions. Nearly every remarkable personality in the field originates in the circles of Ashkenazi religious zealots, yet the scholarly discussion—which takes place not only on journal pages but in the lively Internet forums of Be-Hadrei Haredim and Otzar HaHochma—is not private, and sometimes a handful of others participate. Rabbi Yoel Catane of Yeshivat Sha‘alvim, editor of the journal HaMa’yan, is one of those others, as his home is in the Religious Zionist world, and his publication represents the enlightened German Zionist Orthodoxy of bygone years. The late Eitam Henkin also was one of them—a Torah scholar and brilliantly wide-ranging scholar who took prominent part in the back and forth of these torani scholars.

            In National-Religious society, there are, to be sure, many others involved in Jewish Studies scholarship, but one would be hard-pressed to find the same kind of polemical verve that exists amongst Haredi scholars. According to K., a young Haredi scholar, the passion attests to the fact that the scholarly endeavor is for them an existential need:

“The Haredi does his research in order to mask his own crisis of faith in a world that forbids thinking. Those who try to identify the composer of a liturgical poem or the copyist of an unknown manuscript, and those who uncover a forgotten rabbinical position held by R. Joel Sirkes, and those who wade through tomes to reconstruct a partially extant word in an Akkadian inscription, are all really fleeing forbidden thoughts. They release the tension between the silent extinguishment of faith in the Haredi world and the soul aflame with newly forged ideas by running for the hills of manuscripts and book archives.”

K.’s criticism begins with the Procrustean bed of Haredi yeshiva education:

“The Haredi kollel fellow is force-fed a diet of Torah study characteristic of the Lithuanian yeshivas of the previous century. Should he not be of a mind to rebel completely, the only somewhat legitimate pursuit open to him is Jewish Studies. In that way he can edit the novellae of the Rosh to tractate Nazir without raising too many eyebrows. For that reason Haredi scholars, at least initially, are more involved in editing and less with research or writing articles. And if they are open to producing scholarship, the closer the subject matter is to our time, the better: better on the modern rabbinic authorities than the medieval ones, better on the medievals than the Ge’onim, and God forbid not on the Talmud—don’t even mention the Bible. Preference is given to writing biographical pieces and endless discussions of historical chronology, such as clarifying the years of rabbi X’s rabbinic post in town Y, rather than anything deep about his method of study.”

Not everyone agrees with K.’s psychological diagnosis. “Some have ventured into the academic world not out of frustration with the kollel world, but because they were introduced to scholarship in minute doses and became enchanted by it,” says R. Yosef Mordechai Dubovick, a Boyaner Hasid who recently completed his doctorate on Rabbenu Hananel. He says that this field presents something the young prodigy would find difficult to resist.

“We have been taught and trained to question, explore, plumb the depths and not be satisfied with a superficial reading or understanding. When the intellectual yeshiva student is exposed to new tools and unfamiliar hermeneutical lenses and modes of understanding, his natural curiosity—nurtured so well—gobbles them up.”

“It’s ‘spontaneous academia,’” says Rabbi J., who would prefer to avoid equating it with academia. “It develops independently, without institutional bodies to dictate rules and regulations. It is anarchic, autodidactic, and exhilarating. It is a breathtaking demonstration of unfettered intellectual ability.”

A Scholar is Born

Rabbi Dr. Zvi Leshem, Director of the Gershom Scholem Library at the National Library of Israel, has occasionally bumped into scholars from the very heart of the Haredi world. “They are not the typical kollel fellow because the scholarly approach is not that of yeshiva students,” he says. He continues:

“Look, when I began working here I met a senior rosh yeshiva from a respected hesder yeshiva, and I told him about those who come from the yeshiva world to do research here. He was at a loss. “What sort of thing do they research?” he asked me, and I responded in turn with the example of Hemdat Yamim.[2] “Why would they research Hemdat Yamim,” the Torah scholar asked me, “when they can buy it in any seforim store?” That is the mainstream approach. Those who embark on scholarship are atypical.”

They may be exceptional and individualist, but one unmistakable quality binds them all together: they are autodidacts. This is evident in how they handle material in a foreign language. Some of these scholars have never studied English or German systematically yet refer to non-Hebrew sources in their articles. Each apparently bridged the gap in his own way.

            Anyone interested in this phenomenon is invited to open, for example, a volume of Yerushaseinu, an annual tome published by the Institute for German Jewish Heritage (Machon Moreshet Ashkenaz). Some of the articles published therein would be perfectly suitable for any standard academic journal; among the numerous footnotes adorning the pages one finds references to scholarly literature in Hebrew and other languages. Other publications include Yeshurun, Moriah (published by Machon Yerushalayim, which for decades already has been involved in the professional editing of medieval and modern rabbinic literature), the Chabad journal Heikhal Ha-Besht, and others. Torani scholars fondly remember the journal Tzfunot, which met its demise over a decade ago, and in the meantime they publish in Torah supplements to Haredi newspapers, primarily in Kulmos of the newspaper Mishpacha. Likewise, the new scholarly journal Chitzei Gibborim - Pleitas Soferim, published in Lakewood, NJ, is at the moment taking its first steps.

            Prominent names in the field include Mordechai Honig, a Hasid from Monsey who is extremely knowledgeable in medieval rabbinic literature; Yaakov Yisrael Stahl, a scholar of Franco-German Jewry forced to lower his profile in connection with academia; Moshe Dovid Chechik, a historian who until recently co-edited Yerushaseinu and currently co-edits Chitzei Gibborim; Yehudah Zeivald, a Boyaner Hasid who is quite busy with philosophy and Hasidism; Yitzchak Rosenblum, who had to move from Kiryat Sefer to Bet Shemesh on account of the library he opened, and currently teaches at the Haredi yeshiva high school Nehora; Yaakov Laufer, a scholar who focuses on linguistics and on the conceptual mode of Torah study; Betzalel Deblitsky, a prodigious zealot from Bnei Brak who runs the forum associated with Otzar HaHochma (the monumental digitization project of the Jewish library); Nachum Grunwald of Lakewood, NJ, a Chabadnik who grew up a Satmar-Pupa Hasid and serves as editor of Heikhal Ha-Besht; Aharon Gabbai, a rising star from Bnei Brak who graduated from a Lithuanian yeshiva, of course; Yechiel Goldhaber, slightly older than the rest, a historian and bibliographer whose scholarship is famous, and for whom the National Library is a second home; and Avraham Shmuel Taflinsky, who has toiled for the past few years in uncovering the sources of the aforementioned Hemdat Yamim.

            Once we are mentioning the denizens of the National Library, mention must be made of the all-important tool in their scholarly work—the Internet. The global web of knowledge enables Haredi men from conservative yeshivas, whose library holdings are what you would expect, to come in contact with Jewish Studies scholarship and its historical-critical mindset. Most Haredi scholars have a home Internet connection, but not all. Zvi Leshem relates that some come to the library not to peruse ancient manuscripts or converse with the university’s scholars who use it as their place of study, but simply to work at a place that provides Internet access.

            “In the digital age, Jewish Studies scholarship has successfully managed to wiggle its way, however constrainedly, into Haredi and yeshiva circles via databases such as Otzar HaHochma,” Mordechai Honig relates. “Until recently, it was the books. The birth of a Haredi scholar was generally triggered by incidental exposure to academic scholarship that invitingly charmed him. For me, it was Ephraim Urbach’s The Tosaphists, which I purchased at age fifteen.”

            No one can deny the love story between digital media and the world of Haredi scholarship, with the latter exercising its acumen also in its use of technology. Along those lines, a weekly Internet journal popped up several years ago which, in the course of a couple years, became an especially favored forum for the group of torani scholars. It bore the name Datshe (ДАЧА), a Russian word that made its way into yeshivish slang, which evokes a leisurely space in which people enjoy life, a kind of rare legitimation of self-indulgence and letting loose a bit. The journal, founded and edited by Yitzchak Baruch Rosenblum, was, according to its subtitle, “where sages of Israel come to relax.” The publication insisted upon respectable discussion and high-caliber argumentation, but one also could find among the directives to its readers and writers the following note of caution, which furnishes an additional explanation to the choice of digital format: “Please preserve the low profile of this publication. One can print it for ease of reading but should not show it to just anyone. Wisdom belongs to the discreet.”[3]

Instead of Polemic, Shock

Along with Internet databases and online journals, forums also have an important place in the discourse of these scholars. After many long years in which the forum Soferim u-Sefarim on the site Be-Hadrei Haredim served as the water cooler for torani scholars, the baton was passed to the forums of Otzar HaHochma. A lengthy, fascinating thread recently began there, for example, whose purpose is to generate a list of “dissenting opinions [made by lone rabbinic scholars],” that is, halakhic positions taken by well-known decisors over the generations when their colleagues were of a different mind. The thread reveals the foundational analytic-halakhic erudition of the discussants, expert not only in bibliography and history but also in a wide range of positions expressed by medieval and modern rabbinic authorities on scores of issues.

            The administrator of the Otzar HaHochma forums is, as was said above, Betzalel Deblitsky (under the username “Ish Sefer”). What had been permissible on Be-Hadrei Haredim the fearless zealot Deblitsky bans, censoring discussions and silencing voices he deems unworthy of being heard. But even those who miss the great openness that marked the forum of yore understand that the change is permanent—discussions of relevance within the scholarly community take place principally on the new forum.

            Zeal, parenthetically, is a relative matter: the strict filter Netiv, which runs according to the guidance of a confidential rabbinic board, blocks the Otzar HaHochma forum on account of its content being deemed subversive and problematic. To take but one example, the forum has an intense, politically-charged discussion surrounding one of the veteran decisors of the Edah Haredit in Jerusalem—R. Yitzhak Isaac Kahana. A broadside that circulated in Jerusalem against R. Kahana’s book Orhot Tohorah and his lenient rulings on questions regarding menstruation inflamed not only the physical Haredi street but the virtual one as well, engendering scathing posts on the forum in support of each side. A symptom of one of the forum’s pathologies is partially manifest in this case: the deletion of threads by the moderator, who perceived them as deviating from the Haredi party line. Over three pages of posts inexplicably disappeared from the site, only to return the next day, redacted.

            Rabbi Eitam Henkin was among those disappointed by the limits set on the forum’s discourse as compared with past fora, but he nevertheless realized that this was the place to be. Under the username “Tokh Kedei Dibbur,” Henkin took part in discussions on the forum, and at the same time carried on extensive personal e-mail correspondence with scholars who were active on it. This became the gateway through which Israeli reality penetrated the Haredi ivory tower—users discovered that the man murdered together with his wife, in front of his children, in the middle of Sukkot, was none other than “their very own” Rabbi Eitam. The forum was filled with emotional threads of eulogy and anguish, memorial initiatives and activities to be done in his merit, and the revelation of the many connections that Henkin had weaved amongst his Internet friends.

            It is difficult not to resort to superlatives when speaking about Eitam Henkin. Anyone who had followed his abundant Torah publications — which were marked by eloquent prose, intellectual honesty, and the self-confidence of someone on home turf — had trouble believing the subject of conversation was so young. Even the conversation about him on the forums sketches a fascinating profile. The user known as “Meholat Ha-Mahanayim wrote:

“The distinguished victim, may God avenge his blood, was wondrously knowledgeable about the entire history of our people, and specifically the history of Lithuanian Torah scholars and their writings. I merited corresponding with him a bit here, and as much as he was honest, fair, and truth-seeking, he was also intensely and diligently exacting […]  None of his responses contained any triviality; his prose was shot through with words of Torah and wisdom, brimming with old wine […] One could discern his constant drive for the truth from his responses. He was never too flustered for a retort, and he always based what he said on the most solid of foundations. Even when he argued for an alternative position, he was a fair and honest opponent, unafraid to admit he was wrong when necessary.”

None other than Deblitsky (“Ish Sofer”), who is so distant from Henkin’s worldview and rarely treats anything with a velvet glove, eulogized Henkin at length. The forum’s moderator wrote:

“His statements stood out in their richness, sharpness, and precision—they have no equal. The wide range of people who corresponded with him is astounding. Despite their working in various fields, his correspondents unanimously attested to the immense benefit they gained from him and to the rich sources with which he magnanimously and pleasantly inundated them. Many a time in answering some inconsequential question, he would—as soon as you could say Jack Robinson[4] whip out one of his many lists, chock-full and cornucopian, while noting that he was collecting additional material on the matter and it would have to wait until a future opportunity […]

Many have mentioned honesty and artlessness among his noble qualities. I would like to emphasize one thing that no one like me realized until they fell prey to it: his sharp and resolute style tended to invite polemic, but anyone who responded harshly as a tit-for-tat comeback found himself embarrassed and pathetic upon discovering the affable and unpretentious man behind those words.”

Further on, Deblitsky touched on Henkin’s transcendence of the entire sectoral framework. According to him, Henkin noted in a personal communication “that his unique pedigree as a son and grandson of American rabbis who did not fit in with any of the specific groups of Torah-observant Jews enables him to view himself as free of the shackles of sometimes artificial classification and group affiliation. One could say that this feeling largely allowed him to cast a critical eye upon and evaluate phenomena from all sectors without bias.” Deblitsky claimed this to be evident in the independent stance Henkin took in a slew of polemics, in which his misgivings and speculations were spelled out numerous times in private messages, as he took pains to publish in the forum only those things that he could wholeheartedly stand behind.

            “I, for one, find exaggeration on both sides,” wrote Henkin to Deblitsky regarding the polemic within the forum surrounding the figure of the late Rabbi Aharon Lichtenstein. “Be it the disparaging vitriol about him […] or, on the other side, those feigning innocence, as if he was just another link in the chain of Torah sages throughout the ages, some of whom have always engaged to some degree in general culture.” Henkin conceded to Deblitsky that even within the National-Religious community opposition to Rabbi Lichtenstein had existed: “It was undoubtedly quite grating for a regular yeshiva student (excluding those from Har Etzion and to “the left”) to see citations from non-Jewish culture and the like in a Torah article. In this case (of criticism within the National-Religious community—Yoav Sorek), however, opposition to that approach was disjoined from ad hominem attacks.”

            “We should be very sad that ‘sectoral’ boundaries make no exceptions for Torah giants,” wrote Henkin in another e-mail to Deblitsky.

“The definitive assignment of each person into specifically this community or that one is often artificial. It is absurd that the public considers many comedians, musicians, and low-brow entertainers (for purposes of this example) as “Haredi” because they attended heder and wear a hat in the synagogue, while thousands of families who give their all for Torah and are punctilious about every jot and tittle (not to mention that for them television, secular newspapers, and the like are not even up for discussion) are “not Haredi" because they wear a colored shirt and also rejoice on Yom Ha-‘Atzma’ut. Although people can only see externals, they can ascertain what they will have to account for in the Heavenly court, whether they will be asked about Torah study, honesty in business, and hoping for the redemption,[5] or whom they cast their vote for in national elections.”

Henkin wrote the following when describing Rabbi Dov Lior’s Torah greatness. “I can say unhesitatingly that we are talking about a serious heavyweight in Torah erudition and jurisprudence who has the entire Talmud and Shulhan Arukh in his head—incredible!” Still, he noted that the Haredim do not respect him simply because his stance on Zionist matters “meant he was to be associated with only one camp and perforce rendered off-limits for the other camp, even if for him the only thing in his world is Torah, pure and simple. (Elements of Western culture or academia, which are accepted in large segments of his camp, he derides at every turn.)”

            In these citations of Henkin one can hear the Haredi lilt. As Deblitsky and others in the forum pointed out multiple times, Henkin had the ability to converse with various people in language they were comfortable with. In private communication with another user in the forum, Henkin disclosed that when he would write on Otzar HaHochma, he would adopt the appropriate style and cautiously promote topics close to his heart.

            What motive could there be for entering this lion’s den? Henkin had faith that every place has its bright spots, and he was happy to become acquainted with people he would not have otherwise met. He described himself as “attempting to pursue peace, even in a place where they pursue the likes of me.” As he wrote another time under the username “Tekhelet Domah” in the somewhat-calmer forum of Be-Hadrei Haredim: “I try my utmost not to hate anyone and not to write off any community that believes itself to be doing God’s will, even those which, in accord with their own aforementioned belief, would write me off and disparage my Rebbe in an unacceptable way.”

Professor in All But Name

            After Henkin’s murder, a debate arose between his acquaintances and family over the the respective value he assigned to the two antipodes of academic study and religious study. Not surprisingly, the tension between the two constantly taxes many torani scholars. In the Otzar HaHochma forum and others, it is not uncommon to find a venomous and disparaging treatment of classic academics, who are caricatured as wasting their time on the trivial or unnecessary because they do not know how to study Torah, plain and simple. In the acerbic language of one forum contributor: “they are incapable of studying a page of Talmud without Schottenstein and a dictionary.”

            In this way, the methodology of the elderly professor David Halivni, for example, has been pilloried and subject to sharp ridicule, perhaps also on account of his past affiliation with the Conservative movement. Along the lines of the approach with which he is associated (which presumes that most Talmudic passages were edited by a generation of anonymous sages, termed stamma’im, during the Savoraic period), the user “Afarqasta De-‘Anya” writes that he read Halivni’s introductions to two tractates and concluded: “Halivni did not write them himself; rather, he composed specific passages in which even he did not fully understand what he was writing or what he intended. His editor and publisher added stammaitic passages, thereby integrating the scattered pieces into what appears to be a single, unified text.”

            This derision may, of course, result from an inferiority complex afflicting those with no proper academic training, or from the ignorance of those whose intellectual horizons do not extend beyond the narrative in which they were raised. In any case, it is far from being the consensus of the community of torani scholars: some have integrated into academia in recent years, others recognize that the yeshiva world’s disdain toward Jewish Studies is outdated. As Dubovick notes, Jewish Studies of this past generation is not what it had been previously, when scholars had no connection to the traditional study hall, and their scholarship at times revealed their ignorance and at other times could not sort the wheat from the chaff. In this generation, the preeminent scholars in the field are also serious Torah scholars.

            Yet, anyone who publishes in Haredi journals or seeks legitimacy from the Haredi street cannot write without inhibition. “They must be careful about how they write, whom they cite, and even what titles they bestow,” explains Zvi Leshem. “I recall someone here who wanted to cite Rabbi Saul Lieberman’s Tosefta Ki-Feshutah, but he could not figure out which was the worse option—writing Rabbi Lieberman or Professor Lieberman. In the end he simply omitted his name.”

            Though many of them already bear the title Dr., generally the torani scholars are not in the academic race for positions and recognition, and that fact profoundly impacts their lives. “The disconnect from the academic world and all its rivalry makes it easy for a scholar to share his wisdom with his colleagues, without having to worry about material or future scholarship being stolen, as well as to partake of his colleagues’ wisdom,” says R. Yoel Catane. “At the same time, the pressure to publish quality articles in the academic world, and the need to subject one’s research to peer review, occasionally yields excellent results that cannot be achieved in torani scholarship.”

            “The fact that we are not part of that competition,” explains G. to me, “grants us peace of mind, intellectual freedom, the freedom to choose our areas of research without the need for prerequisite courses that are not entirely necessary, and the freedom to develop our ideas as we see fit. I see Haredi scholars benefitting from the sort of freedom enjoyed by the first generation of scholars in the Wissenschaft des Judentums movement.”

Between Seclusion and Entrenchment

The heightened awareness of Jewish sages to the development of their tradition preceded by centuries the Wissenschaft des Judentums movement, which set the critical modern gaze upon the Jewish library. Across the generations there were Ge’onim, medievals, and moderns engaging in textual criticism, historicizing customs, unearthing deep-rooted errors, and looking askance at what the ignorant perceived as a “Judaism” that could not be questioned.

            Even from the narrower, more modern perspective of relations between the academy and Haredim, the group that forms the subject of this article certainly cannot claim originality. The “Bibliography of the Hebrew Book,” a superb academic project that catalogs all titles printed in Hebrew and other Jewish languages through the ages, is currently led by Yitzchok Yudlov, an erudite Haredi with no academic schooling. Among the founders of the project Rabbi Shmuel Ashkenazy (Deutsch), raised in Batei Ungarin, stands out. Ashkenazi, one of the most famous Haredi scholars of the book, serves today as an honorary member of the Mekize Nirdamim Society, a venerable publisher identified with the Wissenschaft movement. Two Haredi scholars also stand out among the employees of the National Library: Yehoshua Mondshine, an independently-minded Habadnik known for his scholarship on Hasidism, who passed away this past Hanukkah[6] after a terrible illness; and Meir Wunder, may he live a long life, a bibliophile and historian who wrote, among other things, his monumental project Meorei Galitziya (Luminaries of Galicia). A similar undertaking for Hungarian sages was brought into being by the late Haredi scholar Yitzchak Yosef Cohen, who worked within the framework of Machon Yerushalayim, the most famous of the Haredi publishers with a scholarly inclination. Also worthy of note are Yitzchak Yeshaya Weiss and Moshe Alexander Zusha Kinstlicher, both prolific scholars in the field of rabbinic history, who edited the now-defunct Tzfunot.

            What, then, distinguishes the members of this young group from all their predecessors? Perhaps it is the fact that the integration that had once seemed so organic has become more complicated as a result of two parallel processes: the seclusion of Haredi society, and the entrenchment of the academy’s formality. The world of the learned, from all walks of life, for whom knowledge and curiosity are essential, has been replaced by the reality of evaluative categories within the halls of the academy, and an inflexible, censorial “hashkafah within the Haredi camp. Few are those who seek to restore the former glory of scholarship, back when its throne did not have to be an academic chair nor its crown a black hat.


The doctoral advisor of Eitam Henkin, may God avenge his blood, was convinced that his student had chosen academia over the halakhic discourse of the yeshiva. Others attest that Henkin viewed halakhic discourse, in fact, as paramount.
Although his world was built upon foundations quite different from those of his Haredi interlocutors, Eitam Henkin had no difficulty finding a shared language with torani scholars. An autodidact to the core, he also held fast to the truth, was intellectually curious, loved profound discussion, and was prepared to swim against the tide. And as can be expected from anyone who has an independent love for knowledge, it turns out that he also wrote for—or at least corrected and made changes to—the Hebrew Wikipedia. On his user page, under the username “Shim‘on Ha-Eitan" (which he used in other contexts, such as on the site Mida), he opted for a pithy self-description that speaks volumes: “a Jerusalemite with diasporic roots, whose world is Torah and whose occupation is writing and research.”

            Henkin began his doctoral research under Prof. David Assaf of Tel-Aviv University. He dedicated it to the biography of R. Israel Meir Ha-Kohen of Radun, the Hafetz Hayyim (1839-1933), one of the mythic personalities who have exercised incredible influence on contemporary Orthodoxy. Assaf, who deeply admired Henkin, published a eulogy on his blog Oneg Shabbat that aroused immediate contention. He wrote:

“Eitam was a wunderkind. I first met him in 2007. At the time he was an avrekh meshi (by his own definition), a fine young yeshiva fellow, all of twenty-three years old. He was a student at Yeshivat Nir in Kiryat Arba, with a long list of publications in Torah journals already trailing him. He contacted me via e-mail, and after a few exchanges I invited him to meet. […] We spoke at length, and I have cared about him ever since. From his articles and our many conversations I discerned right away that he had that certain je ne sais quoi. He had those qualities, the personality, and the capability—elusive, unquantifiable, and indefinable—of someone meant to be a historian, and a good historian at that.

I did not have to press especially hard to convince him that his place—his destiny—did not lie between the walls of the yeshiva, and that he should not squander his talents on the niceties of halakha. He needed to enroll in university and train himself professionally for what truly interested him, for what he truly loved: critical historical scholarship. […]

Eitam, hailing from a world of traditional yeshiva study that is poles apart from the academic world, slid into his university studies effortlessly. He rapidly internalized academic discourse, with its patterns of thinking and writing, and began to taste the distinct savors of that world.”

In the continuation, Assaf heaps praise upon his young student. The sharp opposition that he posed between “the niceties of halakha” and critical scholarship, however, engendered grievances on the part of several Oneg Shabbat readers, particularly those familiar with Henkin’s other side. His brother Dr. Yagil Henkin criticized Assaf’s piece relatively delicately. “He believes Eitam saw himself primarily as a scholar, not a rabbi with plans to fill a rabbinic post,” he told Yosef Ehrenfeld in the newspaper Shevi‘i. “I have a different take on the matter […] His first and foremost desire was to be a Torah scholar, but he also wanted to be an academic scholar. In everything that interested him and everything he engaged in, he strove to do his best, to go the extra mile.”

            Rabbi Dr. Michael Avraham protested Assaf’s denigration of Torah discourse, leading with the following cynical preface:

“I am unable to restrain myself from making the objective academic comparison (apparently the product of systematic methodology and critical-historical scholarship) between “squandering one’s time on the niceties of halakha” and “entering the precincts (heikhalot) of the academy.” I won’t lie: a quiver of holiness washed over me upon reading those words, but I nevertheless summon my courage and dare to murmur something in the heart of the sanctuary (heikhal). May its priests, Levites, and prophets forgive me after kissing their sacred, perfumed feet.”

Offended, Assaf responded with a stinging riposte of his own, explaining that he was not deriding the yeshiva’s methods of study; rather, he was convinced that Eitam, as a young man who had needed to choose his intellectual path, was inclined more towards academic methods of study and writing. This assertion would seem to fit the activity of Eitam’s final years, but it somewhat contradicts the testimony of Deblitsky, according to which Henkin viewed his thoroughly halakhic composition about Sabbath law—a book that has yet to be published[7]—as his most important work.

Translator’s Notes:

This article was first published in Hebrew in Mekor Rishon (30 October 2015), and is translated here with permission of Mekor Rishon and the author. The translator would like to thank Shaul Seidler-Feller for his invaluable assistance. A groysn shkoyekh!

[1] A preliminary terminological distinction in order to forestall confusion:
       A hoker is someone with the skills to conduct sustained research on a topic of interest and produce noteworthy scholarship. Such a person may have academic training and credentials, but the subjects of this article, for the most part, do not. I translate ‘hoker’ as ‘scholar.’
       A hoker torani is such a scholar who happens to be firmly ensconced in the world of Torah, and whose research interests center around topics related to that world. Owing to the lack of suitable English adjective, I will leave the adjective in the Hebrew, yielding “torani scholar.”
       A talmid hakham is someone with measurably significant Torah erudition, but that knowledge does not necessarily have any bearing on his ability to produce scholarship. I will retain the standard translation of ‘Torah scholar.’
[2] A compilation of customs, prayers, and kabbalistic practices printed about 300 years ago that has had tremendous influence ever since. It nevertheless generated controversy regarding its author’s identity and its content due to suspicions of Sabbateanism.
[3] Cf. Prov 11:2.
[4] The closest idiomatic equivalent of tokh kedei dibbur, Henkin’s username.
[5] cf. Shabbat 31a.
[6] Hanukkah 5775 (24 December 2014). A tribute has been published on these pages by Eli Rubin, “Toil of the Mind and Heart: A Meditation in Memory of Rabbi Yehoshua Mondshine,” the Seforim blog (13 December 2015), available here.

[7] The book, Zeh Sefer Esh Tamid, has since been published by Mossad HaRav Kook in April 2016.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

עוד שמועות נדירות, ופנינים וסיפרים מדור שעבר ששמעתי ממו"ר הרב שמרי' שולמאן שליט"א בעמ"ס באר שרים ועוד, ומשיירי כנסת הגדולה

עוד שמועות נדירות, ופנינים וסיפרים מדור שעבר ששמעתי ממו"ר הרב שמרי' שולמאן שליט"א בעמ"ס באר שרים ועוד, ומשיירי כנסת הגדולה
מאת: אברהם י. וילנר
Part two
Continued from here

א] מו"ר נפגש פעם עם רבי דוד קאגאנאוו זצ"ל מבחירי תלמידי רבי איסר זלמן מלצר באירופא, ולימים ר"מ בבית מדרש לתורה בשיקאגא, וסיפר לו שבעת מלחמת העולם הראשונה, הרוסים גייסו אותו להצבא, לכן ברח מרוסיא לאמעריקא, ובדרכו לאמעריקא כשעבר דרך וילנא נכנס לבקר אצל רבי ברוך בער לייבאויץ ששהה שם ביחד עם ישיבתו, ודיברו בלימוד למשך זמן רב עד שרב"ב אמר לו שהוא מבקש מחילה אבל צריך לצאת למסור השיעור, ויצא מהבית, אחר דקות ספורות חזר רב"ב לביתו ואמר לר' דוד, כשיצאתי מהבית התכוונתי שבשיעור אזכיר את החידוש שאמרת לי ואגיד בשם אומרו, אבל בדרך הרהרתי שאולי אינו כדאי להזכיר את שמך ברבים מאחר שאתה עריק הצבא והרוסים מחפשים אותך, ומי יודע מי יכול להיות בשיעור ולמי הדברים יתגלגלו וכו' לכן חזרתי לבקש מחילה ורשות להגיד החידוש בלי להגיד ממי שמע. כזה המידות הרוממיות של הגרב"ב.

ב] מו"ר הכיר בוואשינגטאן רב מרדכי מנובארדוק (שהיה ממקורבי הערוך השולחן, ומחשובי הבע"ב שבוואשינגטאן ומארחו של רבי אלחנן וואסארמאן ורבי אהרן קוטלר ורבי מנדל זאקס בשיהותם בוואשינגטאן), והיה רגיל לומר מהחפץ חיים ביאר על הגמרא ברכות דף לא עמוד א' אל יפטר אדם מחבירו אלא מתוך דבר הלכה שמתוך כך זוכרהו, שפירושו הוא רק מדברי הלכה אפשר להזכיר חבירו, שודאי אסור להזכירו לגנות אלא גם להזכיר בשבחו אסור כדאיתא בערכין דף טז עמוד א' לעולם אל יספר אדם בטובתו של חבירו שמתוך טובתו בא לידי גנותו, לכן הרוצה להזכיר את חבירו הדרך היחיד הוא לזכרו תוך דבר הלכה[א].

ג]  מו"ר שמע מהרב יצחק גרינבלאט זצ"ל (מבריסק ורב בוואשינגטאן, ואביו של יבל"ח רב נטע שליט"א ממאמפיס) שאמר בשם הגר"א, שכידוע כל דברי חז"ל בגמרא מרומזים הם בהמשנה[ב], וחז"ל אמרו ביצה דף טז עמוד א' כל מזונותיו של אדם קצובים לו מראש השנה ועד יום הכפורים חוץ מהוצאת שבתות והוצאת יום טוב והוצאת בניו לתלמוד תורה שאם פחת פוחתין לו ואם הוסיף מוסיפין לו, מאיזה משנה הוציאו לימוד זה, ואמר הגר"א, מהמשנה בבמה מדליקין (שבת דף כט) כחס על הנר כחס על השמן וכו' מה הלשון כחס עם כ"ף הדמיון, היה צריך לומר חס על הנר, אלא שבאמת היא כ"ף הדמיון, שאם מכבה את הנר שחושב שיחוס על השמן, אינו אלא דמיון, ומה שקצוב לו יהיה בין כך ובין כך ולכן הוא רק כחס בכף הדמיון. ומכאן אמרו חז"ל כל מזוניתיו של אדם קצובים וכו' מהכ"ף של כחס[ג].

ד] שאלתי את מו"ר אם היה לו איזה קשר אישי עם הרב משה ראזין זצ"ל בעמ"ס נזר הקודש ומחשובי הרבנים דאז[ד], ואמר שרק פעם א' התכתב איתו, וזה היה בשנת תשי"ד כשערב פסח היה בשבת באותו שנה, ולקראת החג פירסם הגר"מ פיינשטיין הוראות להציבור מה לעשות, ובתוכם להשתמש במצה עשירה ("אייער מצה") ללחם משנה להג' סעודות. ויצא הרב משה ראזין בתוקף נגד השתמשות במצה עשירה, מחששות הלכתיות (ומהם חשש בל תוסיף[ה]) ובתוך דבריו שנדפסו בהפרדס שנת כח חוברות ז ובספרו שו"ת נזר הקודש סימן נב ערער הרבה לא לשנות מהנהוג בכל תפוצות ישראל לאכול חמץ בערב פסח שחל בשבת. ועל פרט זה התווכח מו"ר איתו ושלח לו מכתב אז, שאין דברים כאלו בכלל "מנהג", דברים שעשו עקב המצב המציאותי שהיה, אינו נהפך להיות מנהג, ובאירופא פשוט מצה עשירה לא היה בנמצא לרוב בזול וכו' לכן לא השתמשו בה ולא מחמת מנהג. (ודימה זה לאלו שמקפידין לאכול דווקא תפוח אדמה לכרפס משום "מנהג אבותם בידם" ואמר שא"א לקרוא דבר בזה מנהג, פשוט היו מקומות רבים באירופא שהירק היחיד שהיה להם אחרי החורפים האירופאים היה תפוח אדמה, לכן השתמשו בהם לכרפס.)  

ה] כשהתחיל מו"ר לעסוק במכירת מניות לפרנסתו, אמר לי שהלך ליעיץ עם הרב מנדל זאקס זצ"ל חתן החפץ חיים, מה לעשות עם חברות הפתוחות בשבת, וחמץ בפסח וכו' ואמר לו רבי מנדל שכל זמן שאין לו מעל חמישים אחוז מהחברה אין לו לדאוג מכל הנ"ל.

[ א"ה מדי דברי בענין עסקו של מו"ר במכירת מניות, אציין סיפור ששמעתי מפיו של הרב פרץ שטיינבערג שליט"א רב בישראל הצעיר בקווינס ובעמ"ס פרי עץ חיים, אודות גדלותו של מו"ר שליט"א. הרב פרץ זכה לשמש רשכבה"ג מרן רבי משה פיינשטיין זצ"ל, ופעם א' כשרב פרץ ישב ליד רבי משה נכנס שואל אחד לשואל אם מותר לו לעסוק במכירת מניות לפרנסתו (האם זה בגדר משחק בקוביא, ע' במשנה סנהדרין כד ע"ב) וענה לו רבי משה בזה הלשון "א סימן אז מיר מאג איז וויל שמריה' שולמאן פארקויפט סטאקס" (סימן שיכולים הוא, ששמריהו שולמאן מוכר אותם)[ו] ]

ו] בעסקו במניות, עלה ספק מה לעשות לגבי מה שנקרא בלע"זopen order  והוא כשקובעים מראש שאם המחיר של החברה יגיע לסכום מסויים מיד הוא נמכר, מה יהיה אם זה יקרא שיגיע להסכום ביו"ט שחל באמצע השבוע (בשבת א"א שהשוק סגור) והמניות נמכרו, אם זה עושה סחורה ביו"ט ושאל אז מרן הגר"מ פיינשטיין זצ"ל ואמר לו שמותר [ז].

ז] מו"ר היה מבקר הרבה אצל רבי דוד רקמן זצ"ל בעמ"ס קרית חנה דוד, והכיר אותו היטב, וסיפר שלרב דוד היה כמה מניות בחברה, וכשעלו מחירי רצה למכורם, אבל היסס משום שאינו בהתאם ממה שאמרו חז"ל בברכות דף ה עמוד א' אדם מוכר חפץ לחבירו מוכר עצב ולוקח שמח, וכאן הוא בדיוק הפוך, הוא שמח למכורם והלוקח אינו שמח . ופעם א' כשמו"ר סיפר זה  בשיעורו בקווינס הוסיף שאף אם לא נסכים לחשבונו עדיין כדאי לספר ולשמוע סיפר כזה לידע מה זה "יהודי של פעם" שחיו עם הדף גמרא ועל כל תנוע ותנוע ביררו אם תואמים לדברי חז"ל.

עוד אמר לי שהרב רקמן היה " א ערוך השולחן איד" כל סוגיא שלמד בגמ' למד הערוך השולחן השייך לו.
ח] מו"ר הכיר היטב הגאון רבי יהושוע קלעווין זצ"ל רבה של וואשיגנטאן הבירה, וגם שמע שיעורים ממנו במשך תקופה קצרה בנר ישראל כשהראש ישיבה הרב  רודערמאן יצא לאסוף כסף עבר הישיבה, ושמר קשר איתו ועם בניו. אחרי פטירת הרב קלעווין בקשו בני הרב ממו"ר לסדר כתביו ולהוציאם לאור, ומצא בכתביו שו"ת בינו ובין הרב רודערמאן אודות מילה ביום טוב שני והמוהל הוא דר רחוק מהעיר שדר התינוק ואין שום אפשרות שיבוא המוהל בערב יום טוב אם אפשר שיסע ע"י עכו"ם ביו"ט שני וצידד הרב רודערמאן להקל בזה, ומו"ר חשש שיגרום מזה זלזול ביו"ט שני וקשה להדפיס דבר כזה בימנו שרבים מבקשים התירים על כל דבר וכו' וכמובן שמו"ר לא רצה לשלוח יד בכתבי רבו, לכן שלח לו מכתב, ופתח עם שכמובן ח"ו הוא לא אומר לרבו מה לפסוק וכו' רק שהוא מסביר לו חששיו מהתקלה שאפשר לצאת מזה, והרב רודערמאן השיב לו להוסיף בסוף התשובה "אבל קשה להקל לעשות מעשה בזה דאוושא מילתא". וכן עשה ונדפס בדברי יהושע חלק התשובות סימן ט' דף צו מדפי הספר. (ותמיה רבה מצאתי בדברי יהשוע הנדמ"ח ע"י מכון ירושלים בתשובה זו (סימן נב בדפוסם) ששינה הרבה מהתשובה הנמצאת בדפוס ראשון שי"ל ע"י נאמן ביתו של הרב קלעווין, ממו"ר שליט"א).

אגב אציין, כשנגמר הספר לדפוס ביקשו בני הרב קלעווין ממו"ר לבחור שם להספר, ובחר מו"ר בדברי יהושע לכבד את אשת המחבר ששמה היתה דבורה.

ט]  סיפר לי מה שהגאון רב נפתלי צבי יהודה ריף זצ"ל (אב"ד דקעמדאן, ומגדולי רבני ארצה"ב, מו"ר גם שמע כמה שיעורים ממנו כשהיה מבקר אצל ישיבת נר ישראל והיה ידי"נ של הראש ישיבה הרב רודערמאן) בעצמו סיפר לו,כשאביו הרב ישראל ריף היה בחור שהגיע לגיל השידוכים הציעו לו שני הצעות, אחד בתו של הרב רפאל שפירא ראש ישיבת וואלאזין והשני בת מו"ץ אחד מקלאצק ולא ידע באיזה מהן  לפגוש, ושאל את הרב המקומי שלו וענה לו שהוא שמגדיר את השני הצעות כך, א' הוא שידוך חורפי (א ווינטעארדיגא שידוך) והשני שידוך קיצי ( א זומערדיגא שידוך) ,ר"ל בת הרב רפאל שפירא היא שידוך חורפי שאם תצא איתה,  ומתארס אותה ואתה הולך ברחוב ופוגש מישהו ,ואתה אומר לו "מזל טוב התארסתי" וכדרך העולם ישאלו אותך למי?  ובדרך כלל זה לוקח זמן להסביר מי הוא מאיפו הוא, איפו הוא למד וכדומה, ובהחורפים הליטאים א"א לעמוד בחוץ כזה זמן רב מחמת הקור לכן הבת של הרב שפירא אתה לא יצריך להסביר מי הוא כי מיד ששומעים את השם הרב רפאל שפירא יודעים מיד מי זה וגדלותו משא"כ בת של הרב השני אף שהוא גם כן חשוב אבל יקח זמן להזדאות אותו לאחרים מי הוא אצל מי הוא למד וכו' לכן זה מתאים רק להקיץ שיש האפשרות לעמוד בחוץ ולדבר וסיים שעדיף שידוך חורפי מעל שידוך קיצי.  (פעם לפני כמה שנים הגיע מו"ר לליקוואד ביארצייט של רב אהרן וישב ביחד עם ראשי הישיבה ועוד, וביקשו ממנו לדבר קצת על רב אהרן ועל הישיבה וכו' והוא סיפר להם הסיפור הנ"ל והוסיף שעל ישיבות אחרות צריכים להאריך ולהסביר מי הם ומה הם פעלו וכו משא"כ ישיבה כלייקוואד מיד כששומעים את השם ואת שמו של רב אהרן יודעים מיד כל גדלותם, ואמר שהישיבה היא ישיבה חורפית) וכמה חמור לדרוש יש בסיפור זה!

י] מו"ר סיפר לי שהגאון מווילנא בגלותו היה בעיר מזעריטש והתארח אצל משפחה אחת, ופעם הגאון עבר ליד תינוקת קטנה שבכתה כדרך התינוקיות, והגאון להרגיעה אמר " אל תבכי עוד תמצי שידוך טוב". אחר בערך י"ח או י"ט שנים הגאון שלח מכתב לאותו משפחה בידי בחור א', ובו כתוב שמלפני י"ח שנה בערך הייתי אצלכם ואמרתי להתינוקת שעוד תמצי שידוך טוב, לכן עלי לקיים מה שהבטחתי ופרט שלא אמרתי בלי נדר, לכן הבחור שהביא לך המכתב הוא שאני מציע לבתך. הבחור נפגש איתה ונשאו. מו"ר שמע סיפור זה מפי הרב בוקאוו (אחיו של רב אהרן בוקאוו רב של ברידגפארט קאננ. לא רחוק מנורויטש שמו"ר היה רב) שבעצמו בתור בחור למד במזעריטש והיה סועד אצל משפחה שהיו נכדי אותו זוג שהגאון שידך, והם סיפרו לו כמה פעמים. אגב כל פעם ששמעתי הסיפור ממו"ר תמיד הדגיש שהלימוד מהסיפור הוא מה זה מילה אצל הגאון "א ווארט ביים גאון איז הייליג" (מילה אצל הגאון הוא קדוש, אמר משהו אז עליו לקיימו)

[א]  מצאתי ביאור זה בספר שדה אליהו על מסכת מגילה דף טו עמוד א' בשם הגר"א, וכשהזכרתי זה למו"ר אמר לי שהרב מרדכי היה אומר זה מהחפץ חיים, ואולי החפץ חיים עצמו היה אומר אותו בשם הגר"א, אבל מו"ר אמר כשהרב מרדכי היה אומר ביאור זה לא אמר שהוא מהחפץ חיים בשם הגר"א. וח"א העיר לי שהמקור שהספר שדה אליהו מביא ד"ז מהגר"א אינו מהספרי הגר"א עצמו, רק שהוא מפי השמועה, והיו כמה שמועות נפוצות בליטא שמייחסים אותם לרבנים שונים  
[ב]  וכמו שכתב רבי חיים מוואלזין בהקדמתו לספרא דצניעותא ע"פ הגר"א, וז"ל שם וברוח ה' אשר דיבר בו כלל בהם כל התת"ק סדרים ששנו דורות הראשונים, ליכא מידי מנייהו דלא רמזה במתניתין וכו'
[ג]  ביאורו של הגר"א על מילת כחס מצאתי מובא בכמה ספרים, אבל הנקודה הזאת שבא להמציא מקור לדברי חז"ל שמזנותיו של אדם קצובים וכו' הוי פנים חדשות.
[ד]  אגב, מו"ר גם הכיר בנו יחידו של הנזר הקודש, הרב חיים זצ"ל בעמ"ס ביכורי חיים ועין חיים ומו"ר שיבח אותו כמה פעמים, ופעם אמר לי שסיגנון לימודו דומה לדרכו של החזון איש. ופעם א' שאלתי מו"ר לספר לי קצת על הגר"ח ראזין שרציתי לדעת יותר אודותו ענה לי שאין על מה לספר הוא פשוט ישב ולמד ועמל בתורה כל חייו.
[ה]  שהוא באמת פלא ותמוה לחשש מבל תוסיף, ע' מה שכתב ידיד נפשו של מו"ר, רבי שלמה שניידער זצ"ל בספרו שו"ת דברי שלמה חלק ד סימן תקיח שהאריך לתמוה על הנזר הקודש, וגם מו"ר כשדיברנו אודות פסקו של הנזר הקודש אמר לי שאין מקום גם לחששות ההלכתיות שהיה לו.
[ו]  הרב פרץ שליט"א טען אז להגר"מ שמהרב שולמאן א"א להביא ראיה, שכל הפסול של משחק בקוביא וכדומה אינו אלא במי שאין לו אומנות אלא הוא כמבואר בחושן משפט סימן לד סעיף טז, ואילו הרב שולמאן תורתו אומנתו אלא מה שצריך לחם על שלחונו לכן מוכרח הוא לעשות מה שהוא לפרנסתו, אבל אין זה עיקר עסקו, והגר"מ חייך מדבריו.
[ז]  מו"ר הדגיש לי כמה פעמים שהוא בעצמו שאל את הגר"מ זצ"ל, וזאת משום שהוא שמע שבנו של הגר"מ, הרב דוד שליט"א פסק לאסר. (ואולי פסקו של הרב דוד הוא פסק שלו ולאו דוקא שזהו משום שאביו אסר)

Sunday, July 03, 2016

Who can discern his errors? Misdates, Errors, Deceptions, and other Variations in and about Hebrew Books, Intentional and Otherwise: Revisited

Who can discern his errors?
Misdates, Errors, Deceptions, and other Variations in and about Hebrew Books, Intentional and Otherwise: Revisited[1]
by Marvin J. Heller
Marvin J. Heller is the award winning author of books and articles on early Hebrew printing and bibliography. Among his books are the Printing the Talmud series, The Sixteenth and Seventeenth Century Hebrew Book(s): An Abridged Thesaurus, and collections of articles.

 R. Eleazar once entered a privy, and a Persian [Roman] came and thrust him away. R. Eleazar got up and went out, and a serpent came and tore out the other’s gut. R. Eleazar applied to him the verse, “Therefore will I give a man (אָדָם adam) for thee (Isaiah 43:4).” Read not adam [a man] but אֱדֹם edom [an Edomite = a Roman] corrected by the censor to “but a Persian.” (Berakhot 62b)

 “R. Eleazar said: Any man who has no wife is no proper man; for it is said, Male and female created He them and called their name Adam” corrected by the censor to “any Jew who is unmarried” (Yevamot 63a).[2]
Sensitivity to the contents of Jewish texts by non-Jews, and apostates in their employ, was a feature of Jewish life at various periods, one particularly notable and noxious time being in the sixteenth century when, during the counter-Reformation, the Church undertook to censor and correct those Hebrew books that were not placed on the index and banned in their entirety. In the first example, the understanding based on the reading of adam אָדָם as edom אֱדֹם (Rome) is completely lost by the substitution of Persian for Edom. In the second example “Any man who has no wife is no proper man” was deeply offensive to a Church that required an unmarried and celibate clergy. In both instances the text was altered to adhere to the Church’s sensibilities despite the fact that not only was the original intent lost but that, particularly in the first case, it ceased to be meaningful.

            Books, and even more so Hebrew books, often underwent modifications, textual changes, due to the vicissitudes and complexities of the Jewish condition, frequently involuntary. The subject of “Misdates, Errors, Deceptions, and other Variations in and about Hebrew Books, Intentional and Otherwise,” addresses textual changes, as well as other errors, intentional and unintentional, that may be found in Hebrew books. Addressed previously in Hakirah, this is a companion article, providing additional examples of book errors, variations, and discrepancies. As noted previously, errors “come in many shapes and forms. Some are significant, others are of little consequence; most are unintentional, others are purposeful. When found, errors may be corrected, left unchanged, or found in both corrected and uncorrected forms. . . . Other errors are not to be found in the book per se but rather in our understanding of the book. This article is concerned with errors in and about Hebrew books only. It is not intended to be and certainly is not comprehensive, but rather explores the variety of errors, some of consequence, most less so, providing several interesting examples for the reader’s edification and perhaps enjoyment.”[3]

Among the errors discussed in this article are 1) those dealing with the expurgation of the Talmud; 2) expurgation of other Hebrew works; 3) internal censorship, that is, of Hebrew books by Jews; 4) accusations of plagiarism and forgery; 5) misidentification of the place of printing;  6) confusion due to mispronunciations.


            Returning to the beginning of the article, the Talmud, initially banned in 1553 and placed on the Index librorum prohibitorum in 1559, was subsequently permitted by the Council of Trent in 1564, but only under restrictive and onerous conditions. Reprinted in greatly censored form, the introductory quote refers to modifications in the Basle Talmud (1578-81). A condition of the Basle Talmud was that the name “Talmud” be prohibited. Heinrich Graetz explains the Pope’s and Council's considerations in forbidding the name.

the Council only approved the list of forbidden books previously made out in the papal office, the opinion of the pope and those who surrounded him served as a  guide in the treatment of Jewish writings. The decision of this point was left to the pope, who afterwards issued a bull to the effect that the Talmud was indeed accursed - like Reuchlin's ‘Augenspiegel and Kabbalistic writings’ - but that it would be allowed to appear if the name Talmud were omitted, and if before its publication the passages inimical to Christianity were excised, that is to say, if it were submitted to censorship (March 24th, 1564). Strange, indeed, that the pope should have allowed the thing, and forbidden its name! He was afraid of public opinion, which would have considered the contradiction too great between one pope, who had sought out and burnt the Talmud, and the next, who was allowing it to go untouched. At all events there was now a prospect that this written memorial, so indispensable to all Jews, would once more be permitted to see the light, although in a maimed condition.[4]
            Among the most egregious examples of censorship of the Talmud is Bava Kamma 38a. That amud (page) of the Talmud, dealing with financial relations between Jews and non-Jews, was expurgated, almost in its entirety. Prior to the much censored Basle Talmud (1578-1581) the text was completely printed, for example, in the 1519/20-23 Venice edition of the Talmud published by Daniel Bomberg. After the censored Basle Talmud was published, initially, rather than contract the text, large blank spaces were left, clearly indicating that text had been expurgated.  
            Abraham Karp notes that in some editions of the Talmud “many expurgated passages are restored, and where deletions are retained, blank spaces are left to indicate the omission to the reader and, no doubt, to permit him to fill in by pen what they dared not to print.”[5] An example of the blank spaces can be seen from the Frankfurt an der Oder Talmud 1697-99, printed by Michael Gottschalk. Such omissions are to be found in almost all seventeenth and early eighteenth editions of the Talmud, a notable exception being the Benveniste edition (Amsterdam, 1644-47).[[6]  Rabbinovitch too notes that blank spaces were left for expurgated text, those omissions being consistent with the Basle Talmud. He adds, however, that this policy was followed until the 1835 Vilna Talmud. At that time government officials prohibited the practice so that the omissions would not be so obvious.[7]  In fact, text was consolidated much earlier, as evidenced, by the illustrations of Bava Kama 38a from the 1734‑39 Frankfurt an der Oder Talmud. This expurgated material is restored in current editions of the Talmud.

Frankfurt an der Oder - 1697-99

Frankfurt an der Oder - 1734-39

Another example of interest, one that has not fared as well, the text not yet restored in most editions of the Talmud, is to be found in Shabbat 104b and Sanhedrin 67a. The reference there is to Ben Satda, beginning, in the latter tractate “and so they did to Ben Satda in Lod, and hung him on erev Pesah. Ben Satda? He was the son (ben) of Padera . . .”[8] Popper notes that Gershom Soncino, when publishing “a few of the Talmudic tracts at Soncino during the last decade of the fifteenth century, he took care not to restore any of the objectionable words in the MSS. from which he printed.”[9] Here too the text is complete in the Bomberg Talmud. Two subsequent exceptions in later editions of Sanhedrin where the Ben Satda entries do appear are in the Talmud printed by Immanuel Benveniste and in the edition of Sanhedrin printed in Sulzbach in or about 1696. 

Sanhedrin 67a, Benveniste Talmud

However, in two complete editions of the Talmud (1755-63, 1766-70) printed in Sulzbach, the Ben Satda entries are omitted, as is the case of most modern editions of the Talmud.[10]


            The Talmud isn’t the only work to have been censored. Amnon Raz-Krakotzkin provides several examples of text in books that were modified due to the censor’s ministrations. Among them is R. Abraham ben Jacob Saba’s (d. c. 1508) Zeror ha-Mor, a commentary on the Pentateuch based on kabbalistic and midrashic sources.[11] On the passage “They would slaughter to demons without power, gods whom they knew not, newcomers recently arrived, whom your ancestors did not dread” (Deuteronomy 32:17), referring to “Christians in general and priests in particular as ‘demons’ (shadim): ‘For as the nations of the world, all their abominations and vanities come from the power of demons, hence, the monks would shave the hair of their heads  and leave some at the top of the head as a stain.’” This passage continues, referring to bishops and popes, concluding that their entire heads are shaved like a marble with only a bit of hair about their ears, so that they have the appearance of demons, hairless, and like demons, provide no blessings, are like a fruitless tree, and “thus, it is fitting that they bear no sons of daughters.” Raz-Krakotzkin informs that this passage appeared in the first two editions of Zeror ha-Mor printed by Bomberg, and the Giustiniani edition (1545) but was already expurgated by the Cavalli edition (1566), a blank space in place of the text. That space subsequently disappeared and, although a Cracow edition based on the Bomberg Zeror ha-Mor restored the text it remains missing from most later editions.[12] Raz-Krakotzkin continues, citing additional examples.

            Early halakhic works were also subject to the ministrations of the censor.[13] Among them are such works as R. Samson ben Zadok’s (thirteenth century) Sefer Tashbez (Cremona, 1556). Samson was a student of R. Meir of Rothenburg (Maharam, c. 1220-1293). When the latter was imprisoned in the tower of Ensisheim, Samson visited him regularly, serving as his attendant and carefully recording in Tashbez Maharam’s teachings, customs, and daily rituals, as well as what he heard and observed, from the time Meir rose in the morning until he retired at night, on weekdays, Sabbaths, and festivals. Although a relatively small work (80: [6], 55 leaves), it consists of 590 entries beginning with Sabbath night (1-17), Sabbath day (18-98), followed by festivals, Sefer Torah, priestly benedictions, prayer, slumber, talis and tefillin, benedictions, issur ve-heter (dietary laws), redemption of the first born, hallah, vows, marriage and divorce, monetary laws, and piety. Expurgation by the censor of Tashbez was done sloppily, for terms such as meshumad and goy, normally excised, remain, but with a disclaimer near the end that they refer to idol worshipers only.[14]


Not all errors are due to the ministrations of the censor. Jews, too, at times, have taken their turns at modifying the text of books.

            A recent and perhaps quite surprising example of internal censorship is to be found in R. Solomon Ganzfried’s (1804–1886) Kizzur Shulḥan Arukh. First printed in 1864, that work an abridgement of the Shulhan Arukh for the average person, went through fourteen editions in the author’s lifetime, and numerous editions since then, as well as translations into many languages and has been the subject of glosses.[15] Marc B. Shapiro informs that in the Lublin (1904) edition of the Kizzur Shulḥan Arukh and several other editions the entry (201:4) that “apostates, informers, and heretics –for all these the rules of an onan and of mourners should not be observed. Their brothers and other next of kin should dress in white, eat, drink, and rejoice that enemies of the Almighty have perished,” the words “apostates, informers, and heretics” have been removed. In the Vilna edition (1915) the entire paragraph is removed and the sections renumbered from seven to six. In the Mossad Harav Kook vocalized edition a new halakhah was substituted, but that has since been corrected to reflect the original text. The reason, according to Shapiro, is that with the expansion of Jewish education to include girls, it was felt that schoolchildren, with assimilated relatives, would see this as referring to family members.[16] Several recent editions of the Kizzur Shulḥan Arukh that were examined, in both Hebrew and English, have the original text.

            R. Abraham Isaac Kook (1865–1935), chief rabbi of Jerusalem and first Ashkenazic chief rabbi in Israel (then Palestine), was a profound, influential, and mystical thinker. Highly regarded by his contemporaries, his strongly Zionist views also resulted in some opposition, but even most of his contemporaries who disagreed with him held him in high regard. Shapiro notes that with time, Kook’s reputation changed. Despite the fact that such pre-eminent rabbis as R. Solomon Zalman Auerbach (1910-95) and R. Joseph Shalom Elyashiv (1910-2012) were unwavering in their high regard of Kook, strong anti-Kook sentiment developed later in religious anti-Zionist circles. Shapiro notes that “Kook has been the victim of more censorship and simple omission of fact for the sake of haredi ideology than any other figure. When books are reprinted by haredi and anti-Zionist publishers Kook’s approbations (hascomas) are routinely omitted.” One of several examples of this modified opinion Shapiro cites is a lengthy eulogy delivered by R. Isaac Kossowsky (1877-1951) praising Kook. When the eulogy was reprinted in She’elot Yitzhak, a collection of Kossowsky’s writings, the name of the subject of the eulogy, Rav Kook, was omitted. In the reprint of She’elot Yitzhak the eulogy is deleted in its entirety.[17]

            Shapiro’s observation about Rav Kook’s approbations is confirmed in several books. R. Eliezer Mansour Settehon’s (Sutton, 1860-1937) Notzar Adam: Hosafah Notzar Adam (Tiberius, 1930), discourses on spiritual development, has approbations from R. Abraham Abukzer, R. Moses Kliers, and R. Jacob Hai Zerihan, and R. Abraham Isaac ha-Kohen Kook. In a description of Notzar Adam in in Aleppo, City of Scholars (Brooklyn, 2005), Kook’s name, Kook’s name is omitted from a list of the book’s approbations.[18]

In a variation of this, two internet sites that reproduce the full text of Hebrew books both include Rav Isaac Hutner’s (1906-80) Torat ha-Nazir (Kovno, 1932). This, the first edition, has three approbations; a full page hascoma from R. Hayyim Ozer Grodzinski (1863–1940), and the following page two approbations, side by side, from R. Abraham Duber Kahana (1870–1943) and Rav Kook. The first internet site, with more than 53,000 books for free download, follows R. Grodzinski’s approbation with a blank page and then the text. The second, a subscription site with more than 76,000 scanned books, goes directly from R. Grodzinski’s hascoma to the text, dispensing with the blank page, also not reproducing the second page of approbations. It is not clear whether the copies scanned were faulty, the scanning incomplete, or the omission intentional. Nevertheless, to conclude this section on a positive note, surprisingly, given the omission of Rav Kook’s approbation in both scans of Torat ha-Nazir, both sites list and provide an extensive number of Rav Kook’s works.


Accusations of plagiarism accompany the publication of two works by and/or attributed to R. Nathan Nata ben Samson Spira (Shapira, d. 1577). Spira, born to a distinguished family that was, according to the Ba’al Shem Tov, one of the three pure families throughout the generations in Israel (the others being Margulies and Horowitz), served as rabbi in Grodno (Horodno) until 1572, when he accepted a position in Posnan. His grandson was R. Nathan Nata ben Solomon Spira (Megalleh Amukkot, c. 1585-1633). Among Nathan Nata Spira’s works is Imrei Shefer (20: [1], 260 ff.), a super-commentary on Rashi and R. Elijah Mizrahi (c. 1450–1526). The book was brought to press by Spira’s son R. Isaac Spira (d. 1623), Rosh Yeshiva in Kovno and afterwards in Cracow. Work on Imrei Shefer began in Cracow in 1591 but before printing was finished Isaac Spira accepted a position in Lublin where publication was completed at the press of Kalonymus ben Mordecai Jaffe (1597).[19]

The title-pages states that Spira, “gives goodly words (Imrei Shefer)’ (Genesis 49:21) and he gives, ‘seed to the sower, and bread לזורע ולחם (357=1597) to the eater’ (Isaiah 55:10) of Torah.” In the introduction, Isaac informs that the work is entitled Imrei Shefer from the verse, “he gives goodly words” (and the word “he gives הנתן” in the Torah is without a vav), implying the name of the author [Nathan נתן] and Shefer שפר is language of Spira שפירא the family name of the author. Isaac then addresses the existence of an unauthorized and fraudulent edition ascribed to his father, printed in Venice (Be’urim, 1593),

found and brought out by men who lack the yoke of the kingdom of heaven. A work discovered, who knows the identity of the author, perhaps a boy wrote it and wanted to credit it to an authoritative source אילן גדול), [my father my lord]. God forbid that his holy mouth should bring forth words that have no substance, vain, worthless, and empty, a forgery, “[And, behold], it was all grown over with thorns, and nettles had covered it over” (Proverbs 24:31).

Isaac Spira took his complaint to the Va’ad Arba’ah Artzot (Council of the Four Lands), requesting they prohibit the distribution of the Be’urim in Poland. The response of the Va’ad is printed at the end of the introduction,

It has been declared, by consent of the rabbis, and the [communal] leaders of these lands, that these books shall neither be sold nor introduced into [any Jewish] home in any of these lands. Those who have [already] purchased them shall receive their money back and not keep [such] an evil thing in their home.

What was and who wrote the Be’urim, the reputedly plagiarized copy of R. Nathan Nata ben Samson Spira’s Imrei Shefer? The title-page of the Be’urim (40: 180 ff.), printed in Venice in 1593 “for Bragadin Giustiniani by the partners Matteo Zanetti and Komin Parezino at the press of Matteo Zanetti,” states that it was written by ha-Rav, the renowned, the gaon, R. Nathan from Grodno in the year, “For you shall go out with joy בשמחה (353=1593), and be led forth with peace” (Isaiah 55:12). Be’urim does not have an introduction nor a colophon that provides any additional information.

Isaac Spira’s accusation that the Be’urim is a forgery, not to be ascribed to his father, but rather was written by an unknown young man who then attributed it to Spira, is confirmed by R. Issachar Baer Eylenburg (1550-1623), who writes in his responsa, Be’er Sheva (Venice, 1614) and also in his commentary on Rashi, Zeidah La-Derekh (Prague, 1623) that it is obvious that the Be’urim were not the work of the holy Spira, but rather of an erring student “who hung (attributed it) to himself, hanging it on a large tree” (cf. Pesahim 112a).[20]

Among the distinguished sages of medieval Sepharad is Rabbenu Bahya ben Asher ben Hlava (c. 1255-1340). Best known for his popular, multi-faceted, and much reprinted Torah commentary, written in 1291 and first published in Naples (1491),  Rabbenu Bahya was also the author of Kad ha-Kemaḥ (Constantinople, 1515) and Shulḥan shel Arba (Mantua, 1514). The former, Kad ha-Kemaḥ, is comprised of sixty discourses on varied subjects, among them festivals, prayer, faith, and charity, all infused with ethical content. Among the numerous editions of Kad ha-Kemaḥ is a scholarly edition entitled Kitvei Rabbenu Baḥya (Jerusalem, 1970) edited and with annotations by R. Hayyim Dov Chavel (1906–1982).

Among the essays in Kad ha-Kemaḥ is one entitled Kippurim, on Yom Kippur. Part of that discourse includes a commentary on the book of Jonah, read on Yom Kippur. Chavel, in the introduction to his annotations on Rabbenu Bahya’s commentary on Jonah, suggests that Rabbenu Bahya took his commentary from R. Abraham ben Ḥayya’s (d. c. 1136) Hegyon ha-Nefesh, first published by E. Freimann (Leipzig, 1860). Abraham ben Ḥayya, a resident of Barcelona, was a philosopher, mathematician, and astronomer, reflected in his several works, including translations from the Arabic. Hegyon ha-Nefesh “deals with creation, repentance, good and evil, and the saintly life. The emphasis is ethical, the approach is generally homiletical – based on the exposition of biblical passages – and it may have been designed for reading during the Ten Days of Penitence.”[21] Kitvei Rabbenu Baḥya and Hegyon ha-Nefesh are sufficiently alike to support Chavel’s contention that

Rabbenu utilized the Sefer Hegyon ha-Nefesh (or Sefer ha-Mussar) of the earlier sage R. Abraham ben Ḥayya ha-Nasi, known as ṣāḥib-al-shurṭa . . . In it is found this commentary on the book of Jonah. This was already noted by the author of Zaphat ha-Shemen – the usage by Rabbenu of this book is comparable to his use of other works: according to his needs. The reason that he does not mention it in his commentary is, perhaps, because the books of R. Abraham ha-Nasi were well known, and the leading sages, such as the Rambam, Ramban and other leading rabbis utilized it, comparable to “Joshua was sitting and delivering his discourse without mentioning names, and all knew that it was the Torah of Moses” (Yevamot 96b).[22].

We leave accusations of plagiarism and turn to forgery, a well-known case involving a person of repute, Saul Hirsch (Hirschel) Berlin’s (1740-94) Besamim Rosh.[23] Berlin was a person of great promise; the son of R. Hirschel Levin (Ẓevi Hirsch, 1721–1800), chief rabbi of Berlin, ordained at the age of twenty and in 1768 av bet din in Frankfurt an der Oder. At some point Berlin became disillusioned with what he believed to be antiquated rabbinical authority. He gave up his official rabbinic position in Frankfurt, removing to Berlin. There Berlin was an associate of Moses Mendelssohn (1729–1786), providing, in 1778, an approbation for Mendelssohn’s Be’ur (Berlin, 1783) and was a supporter of the enlightenment figure Naphtali Herz Wessely (1725–1805), writing an anonymous pamphlet in defense of  Wessely’s Divrei Shalom ve-Emet (Berlin, 1782) entitled Ketav Yosher (1794).[24]

An earlier forgery of Berlin, described by Dan Rabinowitz, this under the pseudonym of Ovadiah bar Barukh Ish Polanya, was Berlin’s Mitzpeh Yokteil (1789), a vicious attack on R. Raphael Kohen, rabbi of the three communities, Altona-Hamburg-Wansbeck, who had opposed Mendelssohn’s Be’ur, and on Kohen’s Torat Yekuteil (Amsterdam, 1772) on Yoreh Deah. The Communities’ beit din placed Ovadiah, the presumed author, under a ban. The ban’s proponents approached R. Tzevi Hirsch, the chief rabbi of Berlin and Saul Berlin’s father, seeking his signature on the ban.[25] It appears that Tzvi Hirsch initially concurred with the ban, but, as he was close to deciding in favor of signing the ban, someone whispered in his ear the verse “woe is me, my master, it is borrowed שאול” (II Kings 6:5), - which he understood to be a play on שאול (borrowed), referring to his son, Saul, the true author of Mitzpeh Yokteil.[26]

Turning to Besamim Rosh Saul Berlin’s infamous forgery, it claims to be the responsa of R. Asher ben Jehiel (Rosh, c. 1250–1327), among the most preeminent of medieval sages of European Jewry. The title-page describes it as the responsa Besamim Rosh, 392 responsa from books from the Rosh and other rishonim (early rabbinic sages) compiled by R. Isaac di Molina and with annotations Kasa de-Harshana by the young Saul ben R. Ẓevi Hirsch, av bet din, here (Berlin).[27] It is dated “and will keep you in all places where you goושמרתיך בכל אשר תלך  (553 = 1793)” (Genesis 28:15), note Asher אשר in the date. In Besamim Rosh Berlin, having become an adherent of the haskalah, presents ideas inconsistent with and at variance with traditional halakhic positions. Among the novel responsa are removing the prohibition on suicide due to the difficult conditions of Jewish life; permitting shaving on Hol ha-Mo’ed; requiring a shohet to test the sharpness of his knife on his tongue; saying a blessing over non-kosher food; disregarding commandments that are upsetting; not taking Megillat Esther seriously; and that Jews beliefs can change. An example of the responsa, albeit a brief one and without Berlin’s Kasa de-Harshana, is the much quoted responsum concerning “legumes, rice, and millet which some Ashkenazic rabbis prohibit and is the practice in some communities. . .” (105b: no. 138): The responsum states:

This is very strange, for the Talmud permits it and no bet din is known to have made such an enactment. It is not for us to inquire why such an enactment was made and why it was followed by some. Possibly because of the exiles and the confused גירושים והבלבוחים, weighed down in poverty . . . and also due to the small community of Karaites in their midst who were also exiled. . . . unable to distinguish between bread and bread and all leavening from which it is possible to make flour and bread. But, God forbid, that we freely prohibit that which is permitted, and all the more because of the poor and needy, who lack sufficient meat and bread all the days of the festival. . . . “who eat [but] a litra of vegetables for at a meal” (Sanhedrin 94b). Also “a leap year is not intercalated in the year following a Sabbatical year for this reason.” All the more (kal ve-homer) to prohibit most types of food to the poor and needy on festivals and the overly strict (mahmerin) will have to answer on the day of judgement.

            How has Besamim Rosh been received? Soon after its publication R. Wolf Landsberg, in Ze’ev Yitrof (Frankfurt an der Oder, 1793), stated that Besamim Rosh was a forgery, and R. Mordecai Benet (1753-1829) wrote to Berlin’s father, that Besamim Rosh was “from head to foot only wounds and grievous abscesses from sinful, vile men.”[28] R. Hayyim Joseph David Azulai (Hida, 1724–1806) in his Shem ha-Gedolim, one of several works in which he mentions Besamim Rosh, states “I have heard ‘a voice of a great rushing’ (Ezekiel 3:12) that there are in this book strange things. . . . Therefore the reader should not rely on it.”[29] The Hatam Sofer (R. Moses Sofer, 1762–1839), based on the responsum on suicide, also concluded that Besamim Rosh was a forgery.[30] Among the varied modern authorities who quote Besamim Rosh, albeit critically, are R. Solomon Joseph Zevin (1885–1978) and R. Ovadia Yosef (1920-13) the latter writing an approbation for the 1984 edition of Besamim Rosh.[31]

How influential was Besamim Rosh? Fishman writes that “Besamim Rosh is of itself cast as a work of rabbinic literature, a Trojan horse of sorts, capable of injecting reformist viewpoints directly into the camp of halakhic discourse. Indeed, the sheer frequency with which Besamim Rosh has been cited in subsequent halakhic writings [documented by Samet] raises the question of whether the work may not have been effective in introducing unconventional perspectives into rabbinic thought.”[32] Similarly, Shmuel Feiner notes that “Some scholars regard Besamim Rosh as the beginning of the reform of Judaism.”[33] Finally, knowledge that Besamim Rosh was a forgery was so widespread, that it is even so described in a book dealers catalogue, that of Jakob Ginzburg, in Listing of Rare and Valuable Books (Minsk, 1914), stating “565 Besamin Rosh attributed to the Rosh, poor condition Berlin, 1792, 50 1.”

Of less consequence is a common error, if it may be so described, that is, the misleading identification of the place of printing on the title-pages of late seventeenth through the early nineteenth century books. Amsterdam, from the early seventeenth century, was the foremost center of Hebrew printing in Europe. Its reputation was such that printers in other lands, often with the only the most tenuous, if any, connections with Amsterdam, attempted to associate their imprints with that city. In a wide variety of locations the actual place of printing is minimized; what is enlarged is that the letters are באותיות אמשטרדם Amsterdam letters. Mozes Heiman Gans describes this practice,

Amsterdam may have had an embarrassing lack of rabbinical training facilities, but thanks to the Hebrew printing works it nevertheless had a great name in the world of Jewish scholarship. Moreover, the haskamot (certificate of fitness) was also sought by Jewish printers abroad, and so highly-prized were books ‘printed in Amsterdam’ or ‘be-Amsterdam’ that cunning rivals invented the phrase ‘printed ke-Amsterdam’, i.e. in the manner of Amsterdam, hoping to deceive the readers by relying on the similarity of the Hebrew k and b.[34]

            An early example of this practice is in Dessau, where the court Jew, Moses Benjamin Wulff, established a Hebrew press in Anhalt-Dessau.[35] Approval for the press was given on December 14, 1695 by Princess Henriette Catherine of Orange, Prince Leopold I’s mother, acting as regent in her son’s frequent absences in the service of the Prussian army. The first books were published in 1696, among them R. Jacob ben Joseph Reischer’s (Jacob Backofen, c. 1670–1733) Hok Ya’akov and Solet le-Minhah ve-Shemen le-Minhah, and the following year R. Shabbetai ben Meir ha-Kohen’s (Shakh, 1621–1662) Gevurat Anashim, each with a title-page, with a pillared frame topped by an obelisk and the statement,

Printed here [in the holy congregation of] Dessau
with AMSTERDAM letters
Under the rule of her ladyship, the praiseworthy and pious Duchess,
of distinguished birth HENRIETTE CATHERINE [May her majesty be exalted]

Another notable instance are the title-pages of R. Judah Leib ben Enoch Zundel’s (1645–1705) Hinnukh Beit Yehudah (Frankfurt am Main, 1708), a collection of one hundred forty-five responsa, among them several by the author. Zundel (1645–1705), who succeeded his father as rabbi of the district of Swabia in 1675, subsequently relocated to Pfersee, where he remained until his death. Judah Leib was also the author of Reshit Bikkurim (Frankfurt, 1708), homilies by Judah Leib and his father. The sermons in that work are on festivals and Sabbaths based upon R. Joseph Albo and includes excerpts from a commentary on the Bible which Judah Leib had intended publishing.[36]

 The publisher of these books was Johann Koelner, the distinguished Frankfurt am Main printer (1708-27), credited with publishing half of the Hebrew books printed in Frankfurt up to the middle of the nineteenth century as well as a fine edition of the Babylonian Talmud.[37] Koelner began printing with Hinnukh Beit Yehudah; it is unusual in that there are two title-pages for the book, one noting that it was printed in Frankfurt am Main, the other stating that Hinnukh Beit Yehudah was printed, in an enlarged font with, Amsterdam, in a smaller font, letters, and the place of printing, Frankfurt am Main, also set in a smaller font.[38]

Another way of emphasizing Amsterdam fonts rather than the city in which a book was printed is evident from R. Jacob Uri Shraga Feival’s ben Menahem Nachum’s Bet Ya’akov Esh (Frankfurt an der Oder, 1765) on Job. Here, somewhat unusually, even the reference to the source of the fonts is highlighted, saying with Amsterdam letters. The place of printing is given below in abbreviation in a slightly smaller font as printed here פ"פ דאדר (Frankfurt an der Oder).

In addition to several locations in Germany, such as Hamburg and Jessnitz, we also find this practice in such varied locations as in Zolkiew, for example, R. Aaron Moses ben Zevi Hirsch of Lvov (Lemberg) Ohel Moshe (1765) on grammar; in Lvov, on the title-page of R. Jacob ben Baruch of Tyczyn’s (c. 1640-1725) Birkat Yosef (1784) on Shulhan Arukh Hoshen Mishpat; and with a mahzor that states, in large red letters, that it was printed in Slavuta and, in a small font in German only, that is, it was printed (gedrukt) in Lemberg. We also find this done, somewhat far afield, in Livorno; the title-page of Seder Nezikin of the Jerusalem Talmud (1770), printed with a frame that is like but not exact of the Amsterdam edition of Seder Nashim (1754), by Carlo Giorgi, stating “printed here, Livorno, with Amsterdam letters.

            And then there are inadvertent errors, such as misreading a colophon. Popular books, frequently reprinted, go through numerous editions. At times it is difficult to identify early editions and, as might be expected, books are occasionally misidentified, attributed to the wrong press, misdated, and there are instances when editions are recorded that never existed. All of these errors can be found in R. Leon Modena’s (Judah Aryeh, 1571-1648) Sur me-Ra.[39]

Sur me-Ra, a popular and much reprinted tract opposing the snares and consequences of gambling, was written by Modena when, according to his autobiography, he was only twelve or thirteen years old. Paradoxically, Modena would later become a compulsive gambler, even gambling away his daughters’ dowries. Translated into Latin, German, Yiddish, French, and English, Sur me-Ra is not a straightforward denunciation of gambling but rather a dialogue between two friends, one opposed to games of chance, the other a proponent of such games, both positions well argued, accounting for its popularity. It was first published in Venice in the year בשמחה (with joy, [5]355 = 1594/95) by the Venetian press of Giovanni di Gara as an anonymous tract on the evils of gambling, Modena initially choosing to be anonymous. Sur me-Ra was republished, not long afterwards, twice, according to several bibliographic sources, in 1615. One edition, attributed to a Venice press, appears to be dubious, it not being recorded in any library collection and the sources that list it do so without descriptive details.[40]

The two 1615 Prague editions are recorded in a library listing, one published at the press of Moses ben Bezalel Katz, octavo in format, here consisting of ten unfoliated leaves. The second Prague edition, a bi-lingual Hebrew-Latin edition, is not so much dubious as mislabeled, having been printed several decades later and elsewhere. The Katz edition has an introduction from R. Jacob ben Mattias Treves which concludes “And it came to pass, because the midwives feared God, that he made them houses” (Exodus 1:21) at a goodly בשע"ה (375 = 1615) time, “a time to cast להשלי"ך (75 = 1615) away stones” (cf. Ecclesiastes 3:5).

A bi-lingual Hebrew-Latin edition of Sur me-Ra was purportedly printed in Wittenburg in 1665 by Johannis Haken. This edition is physically small, octavo in format, measuring 18 cm.; otherwise it is an expanded edition of Sur me-Ra, being comprised of [134] pp. and ending on quire Q3 followed by several index pages. There is a Latin title-page with a Hebrew heading, giving the place of printing, printer’s name, and date, followed by considerable preliminary matter in Latin. There is a second Hebrew-Latin title page, lacking all of these particulars about the edition and with a somewhat dissimilar briefer Latin text.

This Wittenburg edition of Sur me-Ra has been incorrectly recorded in at least one major library as a second 1615 Prague Hebrew-Latin edition of that work. The reason for the error appears to be twofold. First, the library copy lacks the first descriptive title-page and the second title page, as noted, lacks identifying information. Moreover, the introduction to the Prague edition is included, with its reference to Prague at the beginning and, at the end, two highlighted dates, although the first “at a goodly בשע"ה (375 = 1615) time” is not highlighted here and a close reading indicates that the second date was set improperly, that is, the Prague edition which concludes with the date “a time to cast להשלי"ך (375 = 1615)” here, reading להשלי"ך, the final khaf being emphasized as if to be included in the enumeration of the letters, which likely misled a reader looking at it too casually, as it results in a figure (395) too large for the Prague edition and too small for the Wittenburg edition.[41]

Another edition of Sur me-Ra was printed in Leiden by Johannes Gorgius Nisselius. An orientalist, Nisselius, poor and unable to obtain a post as a teacher, became a printer. The title-page is misdated תנ"ו (456 = 1696) instead of 1656, attributed by L. Fuks and R. G. Fuks‑Mansfeld to Nisselius’ unfamiliarity with Hebrew chronology, and causing Moritz Steinschneider to describe it as an “edition negligenitissime curate (a very slipshod edition).[42]

Three reported bi-lingual editions of Sur me-Ra, Hebrew with Latin translation, quarto format, are recorded in bibliographic sources. The dates given are 1698, 1702, and 1767. These editions are listed, without further details, in Julius Fürst’s Bibliotheca Judaica, Benjacob’s Otzar ha-Sefarim, and Vinograd’s Thesaurus of the Hebrew Book, each likely repeating the entries in the previous earlier work.[43] That three editions of Sur me-Ra were printed in Oxford within this time frame seems highly unlikely, given that from the first Hebrew book reported for Oxford, Maimonides’ commentary on Mishnayot, with Latin, printed in 1655, concluding with a Bible in 1790, only sixteen titles with Hebrew text are reported. One printing of Sur me-Ra seems reasonable, two less so, three unlikely.

            Mispronunciations and misunderstandings are the source of numerous errors, a problem that persists from biblical times, as in the following passage from Judges (12:36) 

And the Gileadites took the passages of Jordan before the Ephraimites; and it was so that when those Ephraimites who had escaped said, Let me cross over; that the men of Gilead said to him, Are you an Ephraimite? If he said, No; Then said they to him, Say now Shibboleth; and he said Sibboleth; for he could not pronounce it right. Then they took him, and slew him at the passages of Jordan; and there fell at that time of the Ephraimites forty two thousand.

R. David Cohen observes that not all typesetting errors can be attributed to the compositor selecting the wrong letters. In Kuntres ha-Akov le-Mishor: le-Taken ta’uyot ha-Defus shel ha-Shas Hotsa’at Vilna he observes that there are mistakes that can only be attributed to hearing. Many printers realized that it was possible to save hours of labor by having type set by a pair of workers, one reading to the setter, who either did not hear correctly or misunderstood due to different dialects. Cohen provides several examples from the 1880-86 Vilna Talmud, for example, פסח in place of פתח, and comments that much ink has been has been spent resolving apparent difficulties that are in reality nothing more than printers’ errors. Among the numerous examples are:[44]

Rosh HaShanah 14a: Rashi בקוביא (dice-playing) – a piece of עצם (bone) . . . other reading עצים (wood).
Megillah 14a: Many prophets arose for Israel מי-הוה, (it should say מיהוי) [double the number of [the Israelites] who came out of Egypt].
Zevahim 48a: Rashi Midrasha – (Leviticus 4) . . . Should say 6.
Similarly, R. Menahem Mendel Brachfeld (Brakhfeld, 1917-84), in his two volume work, Yosef Halel, based on the Reggio di Calabria (1475) and other early editions, provides a lengthy listing of emendations to current texts of Rashi. He informs that numerous errors in more recent editions of Rashi are due to errors in transmission, frequently compounded by editors, printers, and the unkind modifications of censors. Indeed, R. Solomon Alkabetz, the grandfather of the eponymous author of Lekhah Dodi, in his edition of Rashi’s Torah commentary (Guadalajara, 1476), admittedly corrected it according to his own reasoning. Furthermore, explanations of Rashi are often based on these faulty editions.[45] At the beginning of each volume are the detailed emendations and at the end a brief summary of the changes, for example:

Leviticus 10: 16) The goat of the sin-offering, the goat of the additional service of the month and the three goats of sin-offering sacrificed on that day, the he-goat, the goat of Nahshon, and the goat of [Rosh Hodesh], etc. According to this version it is not clear what Rashi is suggesting by the he-goat. In the first edition (Reggio di Calabria) and the Alkabetz edition, the text is three goats of sin-offering sacrificed on that day, take a he-goat and the goat of Nahshon, etc. and with this Rashi alludes to the verse at the beginning of the parasha that speaks about the obligatory offerings of the day, writing take “a he-goat.”[46]

Leviticus 26: 21) Sevenfold according to your sins, seven other punishments, etc. Seven שבע is in the feminine, and others ואחרים is male. In the first edition and in the Alkabetz edition the text is seven other punishments, as the number of your sins חטאתיכם.[47]

Our text
16) the he-goat, the goat of Nahshon,  and the goat of [Rosh Hodesh].
21) Sevenfold according to your sins, seven other punishments,
Text first edition
16) take a he-goat and the goat (RH) of Nahshon, the goat of Rosh Hodesh.
21) seven other punishments as the number of your sins.[48]

            Another, quite different, inadvertent, error is of interest. In the late seventeenth- early eighteenth century a small number of printers of Hebrew books employed monograms, formed from the Latin initials of the Hebrew printer’s name, as their devices. Several were mirror-image monograms, which can be read directly and in reverse (mirror) image, resulting in more attractive and certainly more complex pressmarks than the simple interlacing of letters; perhaps graphic palindromes.[49] They are, however, often difficult to interpret; the undiscerning reader is often unaware that the mark is a signet rather than an ornamental device.

Gottschalk device correct usage – Frankfort am Main  

 Gottschalk device inverted - Zolkiew

The first usage of a monogram in a Hebrew book is that of the Frankfurt-am-Oder printer, Michael Gottschalk, noted above. Over several decades his mirror-image monogram appears in 
all of his Talmud editions, in three forms, all consisting of Gottschalk’s initials interwoven in straight and mirror images (MG), that is, it can be read in straight and reverse images. The last of his mirror-image monograms, employed on the title-pages of the Berlin and Frankfurt an der Oder Talmud editions (1715‑22, 1734‑39) is an elongated form of his initials. Gottschalk’s place in Frankfurt was taken by Professor F. Grillo, who, in association with the Berlin printer Aaron ben Moses Rofe of Lissa, completed the third Talmud. The printer’s device on the title pages of this edition is the elongated Gottschalk Mirror-monogram.  It is correctly placed on most tractates but inverted on tractate Niddah.  The error was quickly corrected, for on the title page of Seder Tohorot, printed immediately after and bound with Niddah, the monogram is right side up. We also find the elongated Gottschalk monogram, inverted, employed in Zolkiew on the title-page of  the responsa of R. Saul ben Moses of Lonzo’s Givat Shaul (1774) by David ben Menahem, who, in this instance, likely did not realize that it was comprised of Gottschalk’s initials.[50]

            At the beginning of the article it was stated that “this article is concerned with errors in and about Hebrew books only.” While the following example might tend to belie that statement, that is so only if the reader does not accept that the Bible is a Hebrew book, even if in translation. With that caveat, we bring an interesting and, from the printer’s perspective, an especially unfortunate error. For centuries the King James Bible was the authoritative English translation of the Bible by and for English speaking non-Jews. First published in 1611 by Robert Barker, it was reissued in 1631 by Barker, together with Martin Lucas, then the royal printers in London. This edition of the King James Bible is now best known as the Wicked Bible, but is also referred to as the Adulterous Bible or Sinners’ Bible. The error is in the Ten Commandments, in which the prohibition against adultery (Exodus 20:14; Heb. Bible 20:13) reads “Thou shalt commit adultery,” the “not” having been omitted, thus accounting for this edition of the King James Bible being referred to as the wicked Bible.

King Charles I was made acquainted with the error and the printers were called before the Star Chamber, where, upon the facts being proved, the printers were fined £3,000 about 34,000 pounds today). Subsequently, Barker and Lucas lost their printer’s licenses. The Archbishop of Canterbury, angered by the mistakes in this edition of the Bible, stated:

I knew the tyme when great care was had about printing, the Bibles especially, good compositors and the best correctors were gotten being grave and learned men, the paper and the letter rare, and faire every way of the beste, but now the paper is nought, the composers boyes, and the correctors unlearned.[51]

Printed in a press run of 1,000 copies, the wicked Bible was subsequently ordered destroyed; a handful of copies only are extant today.[52]

This article began with censorship, primarily of the Talmud and other Hebrew books, followed by internal censorship of Hebrew books, plagiarism and forgery, errors intentional (misleading) and unintentional, of varying levels of consequence. As noted in the previous article, “what they have in common is the consequence of inadvertently or deliberately misleading the reader. This is a subject that fascinates and certainly deserves further study. Nevertheless, even this overview should caution the reader that not everything in print, no matter how innocuous or well received, is necessarily so, for,”

Who can discern his errors? Clean me from hidden faults. Keep back Your servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me; then shall I be blameless, and innocent of great transgression (Psalms 19:13-14).[53]

[1] I would like to express my appreciation to Eli Genauer for reading the article and for his many corrections, my son-in-law, R. Moshe Tepfer at the National Library of Israel, Israel Mizrahi of Mizrahi Book Store, and R. Yitzhak Wilhelm and R. Zalman Levine, reading room librarians, Chabad-Lubavitch Library for providing me with facsimiles of the rare books described in this article.
[2] William Popper, The Censorship of Hebrew Books (New York, 1899, reprint New York, 1968), pp. 59, 60.
[3] “Who can discern his errors? Misdates, Errors, and Deceptions, in and about Hebrew Books, Intentional and Otherwise” Hakirah: The Flatbush Journal of Jewish Law and Thought 12 (2011), pp. 269-91, reprinted in Further Studies in the Making of the Early Hebrew Book (Brill, Leiden/Boston, 2013), pp. 395-420.
[4] Heinrich Graetz, History of the Jews IV (Philadelphia, 1956), p. 589.
[5] Abraham J. Karp, From the Ends of the Earth. Judaic Treasures of the Library of Congress (Washington, 1991), p. 47.
[6] Despite having a more accurate text than later seventeenth and eighteenth editions, the Benveniste Talmud is, with exceptions, not always highly regarded due to its small size. An interesting early example of this relates to the handsome Lublin Talmud (1617-39), from the perspective of the seventeenth century. In correspondence between a representative of Duke Augustus the Young of Braunschweig [1635-66], founder of the Ducal Library in Wolfenbuettel and R. Jacob ben Abraham Fidanque, author of a super-commentary on the Abarbanel’s commentary on Nevi’im Rishonim and a dealer, Fidanque writes “My lord’s letter arrived today, Wednesday, Erev Rosh Hodesh Tevet, concerning the Lublin edition of the Talmud. I have one to sell, and it is very fine in its beauty and its paper, in sixteen volumes and new. If my lord wishes to give me 40R, that is, forty R. I will send it to him immediately upon receipt of his response. I will sell it for less, but if my lord wants to purchase an Amsterdam edition I will sell it for 14R. . . .” (K. Wilkelm, “The Duke and the Talmud” Kiryat Sefer, XII (1936), p. 494 [Hebrew).
[7] Rabbinovicz, p. 100.
[8] Ben Satda, a surname of Jesus of Nasereth, is, according to Marcus Jastrow, A Dictionary of the Targumim, the Talmud Babli and Yerushalmi, and the Midrashic Literature (Brooklyn, N.Y., n. d.), p. 972, probably of Greek origin. The section on Ben Satda (Sanhedrin 67a) begins “and so they did to Ben Satda in Lod, and hung him on erev Pesah. Ben Satda? He was the son (ben) of Padera . . ., Padera being a name given to both the mother and father of Jesus.” As noted above, neither this or comparable entries appear in many current editions of the Talmud.
[9] Popper, p. 21.
[10] A somewhat inconsistent exception is the Soncino translation of the Talmud. In the edition of Sanhedrin published by the Traditional press (New York, n. d.) the Ben Satda entry is omitted from both the Hebrew and English text. However, in the Judaic and Soncino Classic Library (Judaica Press, Brooklyn, NY) edition, translator David Kantrowitz, the Ben Satda entry is available in Hebrew but not in English. However, in the Rebecca Bennet Publications (1959) Soncino edition of Shabbat and the Judaic and Soncino Classic Library edition of that tractate the Ben Satda text appears in both the Hebrew and in the English translation, as well as in the Art Scroll Schottenstein edition of Shabbat. That entry, however, is incomplete, and the Hebrew portion of the Judaic and Soncino Classic Library edition notes that the censor has removed part of the text.
[11] Abraham Saba rewrote Zeror ha-Mor in Portugal from memory, having lost his writings after the expulsionof the Jews from Spain.. Saba was imprisoned in Portugal for refusing to accept baptism. Eventually released, he resettled in Morocco. Less well known is what occurred afterwards. R. Hayyim Joseph David Azulai (Hida, 1724–1806) informs that Saba, after residing in Fez for ten years, traveled to Verona, Italy. En route, a storm arose. The captain, in despair, requested Saba pray for the ship’s safety. He agreed, but on the condition that, if he were to die at sea, the captain should not bury him at sea, but rather take him to a Jewish community for proper burial. The captain agreed, Abraham Saba’s prayed and the storm abated. Two days later, on the eve of Yom Kippur, Saba died. The captain took his body to Verona, where the Jewish community buried him with great honor. (Hayyim Joseph David Azulai, Shem ha-gedolim ha-shalem with additions by Menachem Mendel Krengel I (Jerusalem, 1979), pp. 13-14 [Hebrew].
[12] Amnon Raz-Krakotzkin, The Censor, the Editor, and the Text: the Catholic Church and the Shaping of the Jewish Canon in the Sixteenth Century, translated by Jackie Feldman (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2007), pp. 142. My edition of Zeror ha-Mor, published by Heichel ha-Sefer (Benei Brak,1990) includes this passage.
[13] Among other censored halakhic works are R. Menahem ben Aaron ibn Zerah’s (c. 1310-1385) Zeidah la-Derekh (Ferrara, 1554). The entry in Zeidah la-Derekh on malshinim (slanderers, informers), comprising almost an entire leaf, was removed and the enumeration of the prayers comprising the Amidah was correspondingly adjusted when the second edition (Sabbioneta, 1567) was printed. The expurgated material has not been restored in subsequent editions. Another contemporary halakhic work that was also censored is R. Isaac ben Joseph of Corbeil (d. 1280) of the Ba’alei Tosafot’s Amudei Golah (Cremona, 1556), in which objectionable terms, and occasionally entire paragraphs, were either substituted or suppressed. Concerning Zeidah la-Derekh and Amudei Golah see my “Concise and Succinct: Sixteenth Century Editions of Medieval Halakhic Compendiums,” Hakirah: The Flatbush Journal of Jewish Law and Thought 15 (2013), pp. 122-24 and 114-16 respectively.
[14] Isaiah Sonne, “Expurgation of Hebrew Books,” in Hebrew Printng and Bibliography, Editor Charles Berlin (New York, 1976), p. 231.
[15] Jacob S. Levinger, “Ganzfried, Solomon ben Joseph,” Encyclopaedia Judaica. Ed. Michael Berenbaum and Fred Skolnik, 7 (Detroit, 2007), 379-380.
[16] Marc B. Shapiro, Changing the Immutable: How Orthodox Judaism Rewrites its History (Oxford, Portland, 2015), p. 85-89.
[17] Shapiro, pp. 142 ff.
[18] David Sutton, Aleppo, City of Scholars (Brooklyn, 2005), p. 334 no. 539.
[19] 1575, Birkat ha-Mazon, Lublin - Birkat ha-Mazon, facsimile reproduction (Brooklyn, 2000), with introductions by Dovberush Weber and Eliezer Katzman, pp. 6-23, 1-10 [Hebrew].
[20] Katzman, facsimile, p. 3; Meijer Marcus Roest, Catalogue der Hebraica und Judaica Rosenthalishen Bibliotek. Bearbetet von M. Roest, with Anhang by Leeser Rosenthal (Amsterdam, 1875, reprint Amsterdam, 1966), II p. 42 n. 243  [Hebrew].
[21] Geoffrey Wigoder, “Abraham Bar Ḥiyya,” EJ 1, pp. 292-294.
[22] Hayyim Dov Chavel, “Kitvei Rabbenu Baḥya (Jerusalem, 1970), pp. 213-14 [Hebrew]. These remarks are preceded by Chavel in the introduction to Kitvei Rabbenu Baḥya (p. 13), where he writes similarly that “the entire commentary on Jonah (in the essay on Kippurim) is from this author (R. Abraham ben Ḥayya). It is not clear to me why he concealed his name. Perhaps the reason is that his books were very well known. . . .”
[23] Besamim Rosh was briefly referred to in “Who can discern his errors? . . .” in footnote (25). It is addressed here in greater detail. Besamim Rosh has been the subject of considerable interest. A sample biography includes the following: Raymond Apple, “Saul Berlin (1740-1794) - Heretical Rabbi,” Proceedings of the Australian Jewish Forum held at Mandelbaum House, University of Sydney, 8-9 February 2004, Mandelbaum Studies in Judaica 12, published by Mandelbaum House, here; Samuel Joseph Fuenn, Kiryah Ne'emanah (Vilna, 1860). pp. 295-98 [Hebrew]; Reuben Margaliot, “R. Saul Levin Forger of the book ‘Besamim Rosh’,” Areshet, ed. Isaac Raphael, (1944) pp. 411-418 [Hebrew]; Moses Pelli, The age of Haskalah, (Lanhan, 2010) pp. 171-89; idem., “Intimations of Religious Reform in the German Hebrew Haskalah Literature” Jewish Social Studies 32:1 “(Jan. 1970), pp. 3-13); “No Besamim in this Rosh,” On the Main Line May 12, 2007, here; Dan Rabinowitz, “Besamim Rosh,” The Seforim Blog, October 21, 2005, here; Moshe Samet, “The Beginnings of Orthodoxy,” Modern Judaism, 8: 3 (1988), pp. 249-269;
[24] Abraham David, “Berlin, Saul ben Ẓevi Hirsch Levin,” EJ 3, 459-460.
[25] The ban called for Mitzpeh Yokteil to be burned  and destroyed with “great shame,” and, in Berlin, it was so burned in the old synagogue courtyard (Israel Zinberg, A History of Jewish Literature VIII (New York, 1975), translated by Bernard Martin, p. 195.
[26] Dan Rabinowitz, “Benefits of the Internet: Besamim Rosh and its History,” The Seforim Blog, April 26, 2010, here.
[27] Talya Fishman suggests that Berlin selected di Molina because little was known about him and “it is probably of significance that this halakhist was ridiculed by the Shulhan arukh’s (sic) author as one who failed to understand the teachings of his predecessors and who said things of his own opinion, as if ‘prophetically, with no basis in Gemara or poskim [i.e. decisors]’. Halakhically erudite readers of Besamim Rosh who learned that it was discovered and compiled by R. Isaac di Molina might not have suspected the volume’s dubious provenance, but they might well have been negatively prejudiced in their assessment of its reliability as a legal source.” (Talya Fishman, “Forging Jewish Memory, Besamim Rosh: and the Invention of Pre-Emancipation Jewish Culture” in Jewish History and Jewish Memory: Essays in Honor of Yosef Hayyim Yerushalmi, ed. Elishiva Carlebach, John M. Efron, David N. Myers, pp. 78). Zinberg (p. 197) suggests that this di Molina is a fabricated person, noting that the gematria (numerical value) of di Molina equals di Satanow, (137), a maskilic collaborator of Berlin.
[28] Zinberg, p. 197.
[29] Azulai, Shem ha-Gedolim II, p. 34 no. 127.
[30] Dan Rabinowitz, “Benefits of the Internet.”
[31] Fishman, p. 75.
[32] Fishman, p. 81.
[33] Shmuel Feiner, The Jewish Enlightenment, tr. Chaya Naor (Philadelphia, 2011), p. 336.
[34] Mozes Heiman Gans, Memorbook. History of Dutch Jewry from the Renaissance to 1940 with 1100 illustrations and text (Baarn, Netherlands, 1977), p. 140.
[35] Concerning Moses Benjamin Wulff see Marvin J. Heller, “Moses Benjamin Wulff - Court Jew in Anhalt-Dessau,” European Judaism 33:2 (London, 2000), pp. 61-71, reprinted in Studies in the Making of the Early Hebrew Book (hereafter Studies, Brill, Leiden/Boston, 2008), pp. 206-17.
[36]  Yehoshua Horowitz, “Judah Leib ben Enoch Zundel,” EJ 11.

[37] Richard Gottheil, A. Freimann, Joseph Jacobs, M. Seligsohn, “Frankfort-on-the-Main,” JE.

[38] The left image is courtesy of Israel Mizrahi, Mizrahi Book Store.
[39] For a more detailed discussion of Leon (Judah Aryeh) Modena and Sur me-Ra see my “Sur me-Ra: Leone (Judah Aryeh) Modena’s Popular and Much Reprinted Treatise Against Gambling” (Gutenberg-Jahrbuch, Mainz, 2015), pp. 105-22).
[40] Isaac Benjacob, Otzar ha-Sefarim: Sefer Arukh li-Tekhunat Sifre Yiśraʼel Nidpasim ṿe-Khitve Yad (Vilna, 1880), p. 419, samekh 314 [Hebrew]; Ch. B. Friedberg, Bet Eked Sefarim, (Israel, n.d.), samekh 331 [Hebrew]; Yeshayahu Vinograd, Thesaurus of the Hebrew Book. Listing of Books Printed in Hebrew Letters Since the Beginning of Printing circa 1469 through 1863 II (Jerusalem, 1993-95), p. 266 no. 1084 [Hebrew].
[41] The library in question was contacted and has since modified their catalogue.
[42] L. Fuks and R. G. Fuks‑Mansfeld, Hebrew Typography in the Northern Netherlands 1585 – 1815 (Leiden, 1984-87), I pp. 47-48 no. 53; Moritz Steinschneider, Catalogus Liborium Hebraeorum in Bibliotheca Bodleiana (CB, Berlin, 1852-60), no. 5745 col. 1351:24.
[43] Isaac Benjacob, Otzar ha-Sefarim, p. 419, samekh 317 [Hebrew]; Julius Fürst, Bibliotheca Judaica: Bibliographisches Handbuch der Gesammten Jüdischen Literatur . . .II (1849-63, reprint Hildesheim, 1960), p. 384; Vinograd, Thesaurus of the Hebrew Book. II pp. 14-15 nos. 6, 8, 15.
[44] David Cohen, Kuntres ha-Akov le-Mishor: le-Taken ta’uyot ha-Defus shel ha-Shas Hotsa’at Vilna (Brooklyn, 1983), pp. 4, 18, 22, 40.
[45] Menahem Mendel Brachfeld, Yosef Halel I (Brooklyn, 1987), pp. 8-9.
[46] Brachfeld, II p. 36. An accompanying footnote notes that this is also the order in the Rome, Soncino, and Zamora editions, as well as in many manuscripts on parchment.
[47] Brachfeld, II p. 102. The accompanying footnotes states that this is also the text in the Rome and Zamora editions.
[48] Brachfeld, II, pp. 13, 33.
[49] A palindrome is a word, line, verse, number, sentence, etc., reading the same backward as forward, for example, Madam, I’m Adam; able was I ere I saw Elba; and mom.
[50] Concerning the usage mirror-image monograms see Marvin J. Heller, “Mirror-image Monograms as Printers’ Devices on the Title Pages of Hebrew Books Printed in the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries,” Printing History 40 (Rochester, N. Y., 2000), pp. 2-11, reprinted in Studies, pp. 33-43. The title-page of Givat Shaul, as does other of works printed in various locations, as noted above, states that it was printed, in Zolkiew, in small letters, with fonts, again small letters, and then Amsterdam, in a very large font.
[51] Louis Edward Ingelbart, Press Freedoms: a Descriptive Calendar of Concepts, Interpretations, Events, and Courts Actions, from 4000 B.C. to the Present, (Greenwood Publishing, 1987), p. 40.
[52] A copy was recently offered for sale for $99,500. here. Among other errors in early editions of the Bible are the “Cannibal Bible,” printed at Amsterdam in 1682, with the sentence “If the latter husband ate her [for hate her], her former husband may not take her again” (Deuteronomy 24:3); a 1702 edition has the Psalmist complaining that “printers [princes] have persecuted me without a cause” (Psalm 119:161); and  an edition published in Charles I’s reign, reads “The fool hath said in his heart there is a God” (Psalm 14:1) here.
[53] Having pointed out the errors of others, I thought, in all fairness, to note some errors in my own work, both those of consequence and those less so. Those errors, however, in both categories, being too numerous, might, given the length of this article, prove excessive and tedious for the reader. They need, therefore, to be saved for a later day, for a possible future article.

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