Thursday, March 30, 2006

Gettting Kabbalah Customs Wrong, Removing Teffilin on Hol HaMoad

On the Main Line had a discussion regarding whether one should or should not follow customs based upon kabbalah. He brought up the custom of removing teffilin on Rosh Hodesh "before Mussaf." However, what is facinating about this custom of removing the teffilin is that most people actually get it wrong. That is, according to just about everyone that discusses this one should not remove ones teffilin right before mussaf.

The first to address this custom in a meaningful manner was R. Azariah m'Fano, one the leading kabbalists of his day.
This is what one should do if they want to properly remove their teffilin on Rosh Hodesh. One should remove the teffilin right after shemoneh esreh and one should not wait until after u'va l'tzyion like other days . . . it is proper to remove them before one reads from the torah the portion discussing the mussaf sacrifice . . . and if one removes them before hallel this is even better . . . u'va l'tzyion on the day of Rosh Hodesh is really part of the mussaf . . . and it is wholly improper to wait to remove the teffilin right before one is going to start mussaf as this is worse than Yeravam who removed his teffilin before the king (Sanhederin 101b), there he only removed them in front of an earthly king but one who waits to remove his teffilin until right before mussaf is doing so in front of God.
Thus, R. Fano has two basic points. First, one should not wear teffilin for any portion of the prayers connected with Rosh Hodesh and therefore one should preferably remove them before hallel but at the very least before reading the Torah. Second, one should certianly not remove them right before starting mussaf as this is highly disrespectful to God.

R. Mordechi Yaffo, in his Levush also says that one should remove them before the reading of the torah. R. Eliyahu Shapiro in his Eliyahu Rabba and Zuta quotes R. Fano and agrees that one should not remove them right before mussaf. R. Karo in Shulchan Orakh just states that one shouldn't wear them for mussaf but does not say when one should remove them. R. Moshe Isserles does the same. In fact, on Hol HaMo'ad, those who wear teffilin remove them not right before mussaf but instead before hallel.

So one may be asking themselves, well if everyone that disucsses when one should take them off says to do so much earlier than we do, how come no one does that now. And for that, we need to turn to R. Avroahom (hamechune Abeli) Gombiner in his Mogen Avrohom. The Mogen Avrohom cites a passage which is attributed to R. Issac Luria that one should wait to remove the teffilin until after the reading of the torah. Now, asute readers will realize that even according to this, one can still fullfill all the opinions (or close enough) and wait to remove the teffilin until after the torah reading but long before mussaf. However, again, most don't do this, instead they wait until right before mussaf, right at the time R. Fano, no lightweight said one is disrespecting God.

So we now turn to the another passage in the Magen Avraham for the answer. There is a custom to have the teffilin on for 4 kaddashim and 3 keddusot (kedusha in yotzer, kedusah in Shemoneh esreh, and the kedusah of u'va l'tzion). So the question becomes what does one have to do on Rosh Hodesh. Does one need to leave the teffilin on for those kaddashim or because of these other reasons, namely the mussaf can one ignore that requirement on Rosh Hodesh. The Mogen Avrohom says that Rosh Hodesh is different than Hol haMo'ad and on Rosh Hodesh one can not ignore that requirement and therefore one must keep the teffilin on until after the kaddish following u'va l'tzyion.

But here is the issue with the Mogen Avrohom, R. Yeshaya Horowitz (Shelah) holds that really this requirement is switched and one only need 3 kaddashim and 4 kedushot (he counts barakhu as the fourth). So according to him, one has already gotten their three kaddashim after the reading of the Torah.

So to recap, in order for one to require removal of the teffilin right before mussaf one needs to ignore R. Fano (and others who follow him), and ignore R. Horowitz as well.

[As an aside, R. David ben Levi in his Taz says that one need not remove his teffilin at all. R. Joseph Baer Soloveitchik held that if one doesn't have time to wrap them before begining mussaf one should follow the Taz and just say mussaf with them on.]

Sources and further reading: Shu't Rama M'Fano no. 108 (reprinted in Siddur R. Shabtai Sofer, vol. 2 p. 238-39; R. Mordechi Yaffo, Levush, Orakh Hayyim, no. 25 (at the end) and no. 423; R. E. Shapiro, Eliayhu Rabba, Zuta on the Levush; R. Y. Karo, Shulchan Orakh, no. 423:4; R. M. Isserlles Rama, 25:13; Shulchan Orakh Ari"zal, no. 423; R. A. (hamechune Abeli) Gombiner, Mogen Avrohom, no. 25:28; id. at 30; 423:6; R. Nerelanger, Yosef Omets, no. 696; R. J. Kierchheim, Minhagai Vermisia, p. קפג; R. B. Hamburger, Gedoli HaDorot 'al Mishmar Minhagi Ashkenaz, p. 102-03; R. Yom Tov Lippman Heller, Hilchot Teffilin, Ma'adeni Yom Tov. no. 74

Pesach Shir HaShirim Contest

Two other Pesach issues.

First, as we are discussing haggadas, if people have favorites or others they feel are worthwhile letting others know about please comment.

Second, as this blog is ostensibly about seforim and over Pesach we read Shir HaShirim I figured we could have a contest. While others concentrate on more important things, Shir HaShirim, to my knowledge has the greatest concentration of names of seforim in any book in the bible. So the contest is - who can come up with the largest list? The longest list is that one which uses the most amount of words in Shir HaShirim and not just the most seforim. So if you have multiple books with the same title that only counts as one. I think we can also count journal titles unless people think that is unfair.

Pesach posts

Also, if you haven't already seen it Menachem Mendal has a very interesting post about using oat matzo for pessach. He also has a great post on another story assumed to be of Jewish origin which is not (the story of the two brothers and the temple mount).
Also one hopes that Mississippi Fred McDowell will post on his excellent site English Hebraica, on the early haggadas printed with English or in England.
Finally, although not directly related to pesach, although it would not be that hard to tie it in, there is a new Mishna Berura Yomi blog for all those wishing to devel deeper into this work.

Prague 1526 Haggadah

The first fully illustrated haggadah was the Prague 1526 haggadah. This haggadah was reprinted in 1977 by Mekor and is now available for everyone at the Jewish National University Library site here. (They have other important haggadas available for viewing including some of the earliest haggadas).

The Prague haggadah is filled with fascinating and important illustrations. As we have seen previously, the Prague haggadah contained nudes, which when appropriated later were removed. This included in the haggadah context as well as in other works.

Aside from these illustrations, there is an illustration of Abraham when God takes him "from the other side of the river." In the Prague haggadah we have Abraham in a row boat. However, when this was appropriated in the Mantau, 1560 haggadah, the row boat was changed into a gondola.

Also, this haggadah contains brief comments or instructions as well as the text of the haggadah. There are two which bear mention. The first is the passage underneath the Tam - simple - son. Typically, the simple son is understood to be less than stellar. However, in this haggadah, the verse תמים תהיה עם ה' אלקך (One should be simple with God) (Devarim 18:13). As this verse is claiming this simplemindedness is a good attribute, this seems to indicate that the simplemindedness of the son is something positive.

The second passage comes in the form of an instruction. In the margin at the mention of marror the bitter herb, is the following "It is a universal custom to point at one's wife [at the mention of marror] as the verse says 'I have found the woman worse [more bitter] than death. (Kohelet 7:26)'"

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Eliyahu Drinking from the Cup

I hope to have a few posts in the coming days discussing some of the artwork found in various haggdah. While for hundreds of years artwork played an integral part of the haggadah recently this has fell into disuse. While there are few notable exceptions to this, Raskin, Moss Haggadahs, this practice of richly illustrating the haggdah has been replaced with a focus on commentaries.

One of the reasons, however, the practice of illustrating the haggadah, can be found in the discussion which sheds light on the custom of pretending or assuming that Eliyahu, who according to legend, visits each home on Pesach night.

The last cup of wine poured is for Eliyahu. While originally this cup was not necessarily connected to Eliyahu, today it has become associated with him. The cup of Eliyahu is not mentioned until the 15th century. Various reasons are given. The Gra explains as there is a controversy whether one must drink 4 or 5 cups, a controversy which will be resolved only when Eliyahu comes. (Divrei Eliyahu, Parshat Va'arah p. 35). The earliest source to discuss the cup, R. Zeligman Benga (student of Mahril), says that the custom to pour a cup for Eliyahu is as the night of Passover is an auspicious night for redemption, we await Eliyahu's coming and therefore we need a cup for him.

A rather interesting custom sprang up in connection with Eliyahu's visit on Pesach night. R. Jousep Schammes (1604-1678), records that the custom in Worms was to draw depictions of Eliyahu and the Messiah in order to bring to life the belief in these figures. As you can see from the pictures on the side, this was common in the Haggadah. The first picture is a depiction of Messiah on his donkey. This was originally depicted in smaller format in the Prague 1526 haggadah, but in this edition, Mantua, 1560 is greatly enlarged. The second picture comes from the Venice 1629 hagaddah. As you can see it is again the Messiah coming in to Jerusalem, but note the prominence of the Dome of the Rock in the center.

In Frankfort they went one step further than just drawing Eliyahu and the Messiah. R. Yosef Jousep Hahn (1570-1637) says they used to hang a dummy who looked like Eliyahu or the Messiah behind the door. When they would open the door for Eliyahu the dummy would drop down and seem as if he had appeared. (He then goes on to record a long story of a dybuk who invaded the body of a women who questioned whether the Exodus happened.) It is worthwhile noting that not everyone was thrilled with these depictions. R. Yair Hayyim Bacharach (1639-1702) who became the Rabbi in Worms at the very end of his life, says these types of things only make a mockery of the seder.

However, we see from the above, that there was, at least among some, an effort to create a feeling that Eliyahu actually would visit the seder. Some did it through pictures, others through reenactments. Although today those have fallen to the wayside, it would seem the idea that Eliyahu actually drinks from the cup is a form of those methods.

Sources: Yerusalmi, Haggadah and History; Shmuel and Zev Safrai, Haggadah of the Sages, p 177-78. Minhagei Vermisai, p. פז; R. Y. Bacharach, Mekor Hayyim.

Monday, March 27, 2006

The Ban on the book HaGaon

Now, as the Yiddish newspaper Der Yid has gotten around to commenting on the book HaGaon, I thought it would be worthwhile flesh out the entire controversy surrounding this book. Interestingly, R. Kamentsky in Making of a Godol actually discusses this very topic, although not in the context of HaGaon.

HaGaon written by R. Dov Eliakh in three volumes discusses everything and anything having to do with the Vilna Gaon. Most of the book is not controversial at all, instead, in painstaking detail R. Eliakh chronicles what we know about the Gra and the times he lived in. However, the third volume was the one that many took issue with. That volume, which discusses the controversy between the hassidim and the non-hassdim, also includes most of the primary literature on the topic. That means, R. Eliakh quotes extensively from many of the early anti-hassidic tracts which were published. Some of these contain scathing critiques of the hassidim and accuse them of rather disturbing acts.

However, as many are aware this was not the first time these were published. All of these, and more, have been published by Mordecai Wilensky, in his Hasidim u-Mitnagdim (which is now available again). In fact, much of this has even been translated into English in Elijah Schochet's The Hasidic Movement and the Vilna Gaon. But, for some who are unaware of these, Eliakh's book was highly disturbing.

The main complaints came, as is not a surprise, from hasidic circles. For instance, in the magazine Olam haHasidut, has three issues devoted to the book. On the cover of two of those issues, the book HaGoan appears in flames. Needless to say they were not fans of the book. The title reads אוי לדור שכך עלתה בימיו (how unfortunate we are to have this happen in our time). Among the major complaints about the book is that it is "written in the style of the maskilim (enlightenment)." I assume that means that as Eliakh documented everything he wrote that is in the style of the maskilim.

Additionally, they complain that as this controversy is no longer applicable (as the hasidim of today don't do what they did back then), it serves no purpose in relating this again.

Now, here is where Making of a Godol comes in. R. Nathan Kamenetsky records what his father, R. Yaakov's opinion on whether to discuss the history of the controversy between the hasidim and the non-hasidim. "My father [R. Yaakov] approved of snubbing of 'a book on the Goan of Vilna by an outstanding author' because 'the author had purposely omitted chapters dealing with the Gaon's opposition to Hasiduth and that he [R. Yaakov] said, 'It is prohibited to conceal substantive and important issues such as these. Such distortion is tantamount to falsehood.'" R. Nathan Kamentsky goes on to relate that the book in question was R. Landau's biography of the Gra and that his father [Rav Yaakov Kamenetsky] actually confronted R. Landau and accused him of "falsifying the image of the Gaon." See Making of a Godol vol. 1 pp. xxvii (available here).

Consequently, R. Yaakov felt that leaving out such a seminal fact in a biography was equivalent to lying. However, as we see, the publishers of Olam haHassidut appear to disagree. They are not the only ones. R. Yaakov Perlow, the Novominsker Rebbi, wrote a long article where he also takes issue with Eliakh's book. He also claims that R. Eliakh should have left out the details of the controversy.

It would appear that there is a fundamental controversy as to whether or not one should lie regarding history. In fact, in the journal Ohr Yisrael, there was an article addressing this very point - whether one should lie to tell stories that create yirat shamyim. The author concludes "if the teacher is telling stories which are not true, but is doing so leshem shamyim, so long as he doesn't make a habit out of it, there is a place to be lenient in this matter, however, one should try to minimize this."

Interestingly, in the next volume the Admor from Slonim has a stinging rebuttal of the article. He starts by saying, "Our tradition is based upon truth . . . how terrible it is to inject lies into our tradition." He then explains such a view undermines our entire religion "whomever permits [one to lie] it is as if he is creating uncertainty in the truth of our entire tradition, which is based upon the passing from generation to generation. My teachers have taught that one should only accept truthful stories."

So it would appear that there is an ongoing controversy, one which implicated the book HaGaon, with some arguing lying or covering up fundamental historical facts, is ok. While others claim this is totally unconscionable.

Sources: Olam haHassidut no. 88, Shevat 2002; 89, Adar 2002; 90, Nissan, 2002. Rabbi H. Oberlander, "HaIm Mutar l'Saper Ma'siyot shaninom amitim kedi l'orrer al yedi zeh l'Torah v'lyerat shaymim, Ohr Yisrael, 29 p. 121-123; R. Avrohom Weinberg (Admor M'Slonim Beni Brak), Letter, Ohr Yisrael, 30, 244. See also, Ari Zivotofsky, Perspectives on Truthfulness in the Jewish Tradition, Judaism 42:3 (Summer, 1993): 267-288. R. Yaakov Perlow, Yeshurun vol. 10 starting on page 831. Der Yid, Talumat Seftei Sheker haDovrot al Tzadik Atik, March 17, 2006. See also here for a discussion of the book. There are others that discuss this as well, and in R. Nathan Kamenetsky's introduction he quotes them. Further, as a helpful reader/movie buff has noted, I should have included R. Dr. Jacob J. Schacter's article on this topic available here.

Review of Where there's Life there's Life

Rabbi David Feldman, who is well known for his book on issues relating to Jewish law and the beginning of life (abortion, birth control etc.), has now published via Yashar Books, a book on end of life issues and Jewish law. This book covers such topics as reproductive technology, stem cells, organ transplants, suicide, and determining death. Although it covers such weighty topics it is a rather easy read. Rabbi Feldman eschews highly technical discussion and instead has opened the book for everyone. Each topic gets about ten pages of treatment and Rabbi Feldman lays out the basic principles underlying each of these issues.

He begins with an extensive introduction on pikuach nefesh which much of the subsequent discussions are premised upon. The book is a little over 130 pages, which means none of the topics are treated in great depth. However, as Rabbi Feldman states in the introduction his purpose was not to provide a comprehensive book on the topic, rather to give some general guidance on this hot button issues. In this area he succeeds. He does provide a very basic introduction to the topics and does provide some of the key sources. Consequently, one who reads this book will have the basics to further investigate these issues.

However, with this approach there are some significant draw backs. Rabbi Feldman, while stating what he feels the commentaries say, does not provide sources for these. He give almost no citations to any source he quotes (there are two exception to this, once he gives a citation to R. Feinstein's responsum and once he gives a cite to a responsum from R. Moshe Sofer). For example, when discussing organ transplants he tells us the key responsum is from R. Yechezkel Landau (Noda Biyehudah) where he holds when the organ donor is "in front of us." That is, on a simple level, one can only do a transplant when one has a ready person to accept the organ. Rabbi Feldman then goes on to discuss others who have applied this statement all without ever providing where R. Landau said it, nor where the subsequent discussion can be found. This seriously hampers any follow up a reader wishes to do or for that matter, to ensure Rabbi Feldman's reading is the correct reading.

To be fair, Rabbi Feldman does offer that is one contacts him via email he will provide citations and additional sources, however, his email doesn't appear anywhere in the book. Assuming these citations were omitted to enable easier reading, why they could not be included on a page or two at the end I do not understand. Instead, we are left to blindly trust Rabbi Feldman in his assessment of the sources.

Further, Rabbi Feldman is far from the first to write on these topics. Instead, a simple search of RAMBI one can see there are numerous articles on all of these topics, none of these are provided. While Rabbi Feldman is not obligated to cite the works of others, it is difficult to understand Rabbi Feldman's claim that "the need to address [these issues] is both urgent and constant," as these very issues have been already comprehensively discussed by many, many others.

Additionally, as I mentioned previously, this book does provide an excellent starting point for these discussions. We are bombarded with many who claim to know what the Bible says for these important topics, but most are blissfully unaware of what the Bible and more specifically Jewish law says and has said about these topics, this cures that. But, it is hard to say it will facilitate further discussion when one doesn't know where to go next.

In the end, this book, in a clear and straightforward manner, if a bit curt, which provides the groundwork for understanding extremely important issues regarding the end of life and new technologies relating that implicate life and death.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Dei'ah veDibur on the MOAG Ban

Not that this is surprising, as Dei'ah veDibur is the English version of the Yated Neeman, but they have also posted the article and the new ban from below on their site in English.

Plagiarism II (Talmudic Terminology)

In 1988, Rabbi Nosson Dovid Rabinowich published a book titled Talmudic Terminology. However, as was noted in brief by Dr. Marc Shapiro, this was plagiarized from Moses Mielziner's Introduction to the Talmud, first published in 1894. This omission, however, has been corrected in Rabinowich's reprints of his Talmudic Terminology where the title now reads that Rabinowich's work is "adapted" from Mielziner's.







While this would appear to be the end of the matter it is not. Dr. Shapiro has investigated this issue further and has sent the following:
After I published my book on Saul Lieberman and the Orthodox a number of people pointed out to me that Nosson Rabinowich's plagiarism of Mielziner is more extensive than what I point out. I didn't know what they were referring to since I had the first edition of his book M. Mielziner's Talmudic Terminology, published in 1988 (in my kuntres there is a typo, as it says 1998). Or so I thought. I succeeded in locating another copy by interlibrary loan, and lo and behold, the title page does not say M. Mielziners Talmudic Terminology adapted by N. Rabinowich but it identifies him as the author. What's even more fascinating is that the other edition has haskamot of Rabbis Ovadiah Yosef and Aharon Feldman. Obviously when the scandal broke, Rabinowich quickly produced a new title page and took out the haskamot (and also added a note on p. xv and made a slight change in note 2 on. p. xv (replacing "some" with "most".) It is obvious why the haskamot were taken out, since they praise Rabinowich for producing a book which he didn't write. In fact, Rabinowich is responsible for something very interesting. We find here the first example in history where gedolim put a haskamah on a work written by a Reform rabbi! Unknowingly Rabbis Yosef and Feldman gave a haskamah to Mielziner. You can be sure this is not something that makes them happy.
Additionally, in an effort to keep the two "editions" the same, Rabinowich did not alter the pagination, this is so, even though he removed the haskamot. Consequently, the "new" edition is missing those pages. I have provided both title pages as well as Rabbis Yosef's and Feldman's haskamot (as one can no longer get them).

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Latest MOAG Ban Runs Counter to an Agreement with R. Eliyashiv

A reader has sent me the following letter from R. Kamenstky discussing the possiblity of a ban on the improved edition of MOAG. The letter says "if people will come to complain to R. Eliasiv about the new edition and say such and such is written there, he will not listen to them until he first calls me, and I will need to present when they translate my book for him."

Additionally, I have received the following relevant information.
"The letter quotes Rav Elyashiv as saying that the request that the author should be called and given a fair chance to defend himself is just. This was repeated by a number of meetings that the author had with R' Elyashiv. Before the letter was sent out it was shown to Aryeh Elyashiv - the grandson in charge of all the appointments and present in the room during all meetings to assist his grandfather - and he stated that the quote was correct and it conveys faithfully his grandfather's say on the matter.

The letter was delivered to the following Rabbis:
Steinman
Sheinberg
Karelitz
Kanyevsky
Markowitz
Auerbach
It was not sent to Rabbi Shapiro because he already apologized for the first time that he signed against the book, and had already said that he will not have anything more to do with this affair. Sure enough he kept his word now and didn't sign.
R' Wolbe was omitted because he's not alive.
R' Elyashiv didn't have to receive this letter because he was the subject of the letter.
R' Lefkowitz was not sent this letter because he was very vicious the time before, and could not be expected to be fair.

The author has made it his habit to daven in the morning in R' Elyashiv's minyan from time to time, so that if anything arises he can be informed of immediately.

This last Friday and Sunday he was at the minyan and no one (including Yisroel Elyashiv - another grandson) said anything when asked if everything is fine. It was only after he came home that he found out about the ad and article in Yated Neeman."

Plagiarism I

As some of you have brought up in the comments regarding other works that had been plagiarized I thought it would be appropriate to discuss some of the more famous and those less so of instances of plagiarism.

The first example, is perhaps the most well-known one, that of the work Mekore Minhagim. This work which in question and answer form, discusses the sources and reasons for various customs was first printed in 1846 in Berlin by R. Avrohom Lewysohn (1805-1861). This work contained 100 of these questions and answers and consequently ended with a , ויזרע אברהם מאה שערים ויברכו ה and Avrohom planted 100 gates. This, of course referenced the authors name and the fact he wrote 100 questions. This is lifted from the verse in Genesis 26:12 ויזרע יצחק . . .מאה שערים ויברכו ה.

However, if today one tries to purchase this book (any one still can it has been reprinted many times) instead of a photocopy of the 1846 edition by Lewysohn, one gets a book with the same title but the author's name is actually Yosef Finkelstein (originally published in Vienna in 1851). Also, instead of 100 questions there are only 41. Those differences aside, the remaining 41 questions and answers are word for word the same as Lewysohn's.

This plagiarism was noted almost immediately in MGWJ vol. 1, 1852 p. 34(available here.) However, this did not stop Finkelstein, and his edition was published possibly twice in 1851 alone and from then on numerous times to this day.

While Finkelstein's is word for word, he was forced to change a few minor things. One in particular was the play on the verse at the end, his reads, ויזרע ויסף מא' שערים. Although he attempted to retain the play on the verse, this fails as there was only 41 gates in his edition.

Finkelstein did not stop there. When his treachery was revealed in the paper HaMagid, he actually went on to argue that it was Lewysohn who copied from him and not the other way around. Finkelstein claimed when he was passing through Berlin, Lewysohn asked to borrow his manuscript and surreptitiously copied it. Finkelstein, however, does not explain how Lewysohn was able to add the additional 59 question and answers. Additionally, we will see in the next installment on this book, how Finkelstein gives himself away.

For more on plagiarism especially the halakhic discussion see here.

(Continued here)

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Text of the New Ban on Making of a Godol

A helpful reader has scanned the Yated with the latest ban against Making of a Godol ("MOAG"). It is notable that R. Eliashiv has signed again as have others who were part of the original ban. Also, as you can see this appeared on the top of the front page as well as a separate article. Those who signed claim that this edition of MOAG although ostensibly "fixed" the "problems" it was unsuccessful and they state "the second edition is the same as the first." Addtionally, the orignal ban is reprinted with a note that it is still in force. You can click on the scans for a larger view. For some of the differences between MOAG I and MOAG II see here, here and here.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Upcoming Auctions

There are three upcoming auctions. Two of those have their catalogs online. Kestenbaum whose auction will happen this Thursday has some very nice pieces, including R. Hirsch's manuscript on Devarim est. $50,000, you can view the catalog here. And Asufa will have their auction this Sunday the 26th, and their catalog is here. They also have some unique pieces, well worth checking out. The final auction is Jerusalem Judaica which will take place the 30th but unfortunatly their catalog is not online so you will have to find a store which carries it (Biegeleisen has it).

Making of a Godol Banned - Again

An astute reader emailed me that it appears the new and improved edition of Making of a Godol has been banned. Although this edition attempted to "fix" some of the "problems" of the first, it appears that it has not satisfied it detractors. See here. I hope to get a copy of the letter referenced in the article, when I do I will post it.

Comparison Between De'ah veDibur and Shafan haSofer

While I don't have the time to go through the entire Dei'ah veDibur article and demonstrate the extant of the copying, I will provide some of the more egreious examples.

Here is a quote from the Dei'ah veDibur article (in italics) with the orginal Hebrew intersperced and my commnets in bold. One should remember that the original article was written in first person.

The first manuscript that the Romm family obtained was Rabbenu Chananel's commentary which now appears alongside the gemora on many masechtos. The manuscript was kept in the Vatican archives but it had not been well preserved. The pages were very worn and were marked by rust stains, while the edges of the sheets had been eaten away. Moreover, the commentary was written in Latin characters, which made deciphering and copying it much harder.

כי הנה בראשית שמנו לבנו להעתיק כתב יד פירוש של רבנו חננאל בר חושיאל ז"ל על מסכת רבות מתלמוד בבלי שנמצו באוצר ספרים שבוואטיקאן ברומו והכתב באותיות רש"י בצורות איטאליאניות [נוסח איטלקי] אשר רוב ישראל בזמננו לא כהלין כתבא דא למקריה.


Now, the article continues on to explain who they found who was still able to read this script. The article discusses that the person, R. Mordechi Yakov Yosef, was in the midst of copyingfor Solomon Buber for his Midrash Tanchuma and worked with R. Raefal Nata Rabinowitz. As Buber was also a Maskil, this entire discussion is left out as is the name of the copyist.


Instead, we have the following which sums up this discussion without mentioning the "sorrid" details of who and what they were busy with.


Permission was also not granted to remove the manuscript from the Vatican, which necessitated bringing copyists in to do the work there. The few copyists in Rome who were sufficiently qualified to do the job, were fully occupied with other work and it seemed that things had reached an impasse. The copyists however, accorded great significance to the printing of the Shas and they agreed to interrupt their other work in order to devote their time to copying Rabbenu Chananel's commentary.

After several months of work, another problem loomed with the approach of the official holidays in Rome. The Vatican library would be completely closed for their duration; nobody at all had access to it at this time. A four-month stoppage of the work at that stage would prove very harmful to the printing house. Missing the deadline for the appearance of the first volumes might lead subscribers to cancel, wreaking havoc with the whole project.

ויהי בהגיענו להעתקת פירוש רבנו חננאל למסכת עירובין והנה עצרה חדשה קמה נגדה, כי הגיעו ימי הסגר האוצר בימי המנוחה בקיץ לארבעת חדשי השנה אשר לא יותן לאיש לבוא אל בית האוצר כל הימים ההם, ויצר לנו מאד, כי עצרת ההעתקה את פירוש רבנו חננאל לכמה מסכתות שבאוצר ההואתחבל את כל סדר הדפסת הש"ס וחלוקת חלקיו להחותמים על מקנתם בזמניהם אשר יעדנו להם


The members of the Romm family tried to reach every contact they had that might possibly be of assistance in this situation. They succeeded in obtaining special permission, contrary to the Vatican's laws, to open up the library during the recess for them alone, so that work could proceed on copying Rabbenu Chananel's commentary. The Romm family would have to pay the cost of a guard for the archives but otherwise, the place would be completely open to them, even during hours that it was usually closed to the public.

והנה שלח ה' מלאך מושיע לנו את הג"מ רפאל נטע ראבינאוויץ ז"ל אשר לו מודע הגענעראל-קאנסול במינכן לממלכת זאכסען, הוא השוע החכם הר, מאיר ווילמערסדארפער והוא השיג בעדו מכתב-מליצה מהנסיך האהענלאהע לאחיו הנסיך הקארדינאל האהענלאהע ברומו וגם הפרופיסור ג"ר שעג במינכען נתן לנו מכתב מליצה להקארדינאל הערגענרעהטער ושני הקארדינאלים הששתדלו לפתוח לו לבדו או לבא כוחו את שער האוצר לכל ימי הסגרו. והוא הושיב תחתיו את המעתיק הנ"ל לפירוש רבינו חננאל על הש"ס בעדנו ורק הוטל עלינו לשלם שכר שומר האוצר לזמן ההוא ועוד יותר הגדילו לעשות להעתקותינו, להפר בעדה עוד שני חוקים אשר לבית האוצר ההוא מעולם לסגרו אחר הצהריים וגם בימי חגיהם, ולהמעתיק שלנו הרשו לעשות בו גם אחרי צהרים וגם בימי חגיהם הקטנים

So this time the discusion with the detail regaring R. Rabinowitz and the cardinals has been compressed into "they tried to reach evey contact they had that might possibly be of assistance."


One of the workers on the project wrote, "Looking in retrospect, the Vatican had always been the source of deadly hatred of the Jewish nation and even more so of our literature, [hatred] that spread to every Christian land, often leading kings to level decrees of forced apostasy, slaughter, killing, destruction and harsh exile . . . Worst of all, they confiscated and burned Jewish books on many occasions, sometimes decreeing that the Jew be burned together with the holy books . . .

This unamed "worker" is of course Shafan haSofer והנה בהביטנו אחרינו אל הוואטיקאן הזה אשר ממנו ירדה מעולם

שנאת מות לישראל, וביותר לספרותנו, בכל ממלכות הנוצרים, ובעטיו גזרו מלכיהם על ישראל פעמים אין מספר גזירות שמד, הרג, חרב ואבדן וגלויות קשות עד. . . ! ועל כלם החרימו ושרפו את ספרי ישראל פעמים רבות גם גזרו לפעמים לשרוף באש את היהודי יחד עם הספר העברי


"Now, wonder of wonders, out of the very furnace into which they always threw Jewish books for burning, kindness and goodwill that are unparalleled even towards Christian rulers lehavdil are being extended towards those very same seforim. The only explanation is that the great merit of Rabbenu Chananel -- everything written by whom is faithful transmission -- is standing him and his commentary in good stead, so that his powerful light be thus revealed from the darkness to illuminate the Talmud, so that the eyes of its scholars be illuminated to see Torah's truth."

This quote is taken from Shafan haSofer.


Widow Rom and Shafan haSofer

As per Menachem's suggestion I have posted the pictures of the Widow Rom (Devorah) and Shafan HaSofer. These appear in Yahadut Lita, 1960, p. 296.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Haredi Robbers

Although we have alluded to the fact that Haredim "borrow" from others without attribution, I have come across a particularly egregious example. Here, is an article discussing the Romm Press and what became known as the Vilna Shas. Although the byline states that it was written "by Yated Ne'eman Staff" this is a wholesale reproduction of R. Shmuel Feigenshon's article on this topic. Shmuel Feigenshon (Shafan HaSofer) was the editor of the Rom press for many years. He wrote a history of the press which first appeared in part in the journal HaSofer (vol. 1 27-33 and vol. 2-3 46-57, 1954-55). It was then published in its entirety in Yahadut Lita vol. 1. 1959.

The Yated via Dei'ah veDibur, has in turn copied this word for word, including the title headings. Of course, as some of the discussion may be deemed unpalpable to it Haredi readership they skipped a couple of things and in turn this ended up conflating some of the history. And, importantly, although Safan HaSofer wrote some of the article from a first person perspective as he was intimately involved in some of the facts, the Yated has removed that. In fact, there is absolutely no mention of Shafan HaSofer at all. I assume this is because he was a bit of a Maskil and although it is fine to plagerize from a maskil his name should never escape one's lips.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Dei'ah veDibur Fabrication - Dr. Leiman

As I noted previously, the Haredi mouthpiece Dei'ah veDibur had a rather insightful piece on the falicy of the Golem of Prauge. However, although the article ended with the hope that after bringing this fabrication to the readers attention people will only tell true stories. Shnayer Z. Leiman, however, notes that the story itself in Dei'ah veDibur contains a rather glaring inaccuracy.
The March 1, 2006 issue of _Dei'ah Ve-Dibur_ -- a haredi journal -- includes an essay entitled: "The Golem of Prague -- Fact or Fiction?." Adducing evidence from a variety of sources, the essay concludes that "it is unclear whether or not the Maharal ever made a golem."

Much of the blame for leading people to think that the Maharal had made a golem, the essay suggests, rests with Y.Y. Rosenberg [sic: while all the other rabbis mentioned in the essay are entitled "Rav" or "Rabbi," only Y.Y. Rosenberg, who was a distinguished rabbi with ordination from the greatest rabbis in Poland, is defrocked], whose 1909 volume on the Golem of the Maharal (Sefer Nifla'ot Maharal) is identified as a forgery. The essay concludes with appropriate warnings that one should rely only on literature that is "historically reliable."

Such a critical reading of Jewish literature -- and concern with Historical truth -- is certainly a welcome breath of fresh air from a circle that has not always covered itself with glory regarding such matters. Alas, the essay fell into the very trap about which it was warning others: beware! One paragraph reads:

"At one point the author [Y.Y. Rosenberg] of the book actually admitted that he had invented the story. In _Halelu Avdei Hashem_, which contains stories in Yiddish about HaRavMoshe Aryeh Freund zt"l, av beis din of the Eida HaChareidis, Rav Yechezkel Halberstam zt"l of Shineveh, author of _Divrei Yechezkel_, is quoted as having made the following comment. "A shochet ubodek from Antwerp heard from the Rov z"l, who heard from his father the Rov of Honiad (an important Jewish community in Hungary), who heard from the Rov of Shineveh (eldest son of the Divrei Chaim zt"l of Sanz). The Shinever Rov said that whenever he sees the book _Niflo'os Maharal_ it pierces him because the author of the stories personally admitted to him that he fabricated the whole thing."

Leaving aside significant errors of translation, the Shinever Rov -- Rav Yechezkel Halberstam, author of _Divrei Yechezkel_ and eldest son of the Divrei Chaim -- died on 6 Teveth, 1898. Rabbi Yehudah Yudl Rosenberg published his _Nifla'ot Maharal_ for the first time in Warsaw, 1909. It can easily be proven that the book did not exist until shortly before it was published in 1909. The Shinever Rov never heard of the book, never saw it, and was not "pierced" by its content.

Indeed, one should rely only on literature that is "historically reliable."

Monday, March 06, 2006

Purim, Mixed Dancing and Kill Joys

Although the Megilah only lists mishloch monot, matnot l'evyonim, and reading the Megilah as the customs on Purim, many others have become accepted. Most are of the ilk of boofunery or merrymaking. From making noise to drinking in excess, all have become part of the Purim landscape. With these, however, there are some lesser known customs. What is perhaps of interest is that it seems that there are those authorities that permit much if not all of these types of customs, there are others who seem set on shutting down much of the Purim fun.

For instance, the Rabbi Judah of Minz permits cross-dressing on Purim. This is so, even though this runs counter to a law in the Torah prohibiting these actions. What is lesser know, is that R. Minz also permits mixed dancing on Purim as well. In the Taknot of Padua it says "we decree that no one is permitted to dance with a married woman, no man with any married woman, with the exception of Purim." (emphasis added).

Rabbi Yehuda Herzl Henkin in his Beni Banim vol. 1 no. 37 (5), links the two statements of R. Minz. R. Henkin says, just as R. Minz permitted cross-dressing as it was done for the joy of Purim, he permitted the mixed dancing under the same rational. That is, the dancing was just an outgrowth of the joy and not for licetnioius purposes.

Or, in the Customs of Worms, they not only celebrated Purim on the day, on the Shabbat after Purim they celebrated with similar merrymaking. Including, after the Friday night prayers all the people would first go to the Rabbi for a blessing, and then proceed to the women's section where the Rabbi's wife "would place her hands on their heads and bless them." Additionally, R. Hayim Yosef Azulai in his travelogue, Ma'agel Tov, records that the Jews in Amsterdam would party all night long on the Friday night after Purim.

Although R. Minz was a proponent of happiness and its outgrowth on Purim, there were others that did not view Purim in the same vein. Rather, they seem bent on outlawing as much as possible even on Purim.

For instance, R. Samuel Aboab takes issue with at least two such Purim customs. First, he says in his Sefer Zikhronot, an ethical work and published anonymously, that he was befuddled his entire life how R. Minz and in turn R. Moshe Isserles in his Rama could allow for cross dressing on Purim. He spends at least four pages to demonstrating why this is incorrect. He states even if R. Minz is correct he should have kept that to himself. This is not his only negative opinion regarding Purim. In his responsa, Devar Shmuel, he says it is absolutely prohibited to read or even own the parody Mesachat Purim. He says any such copies should be destroyed.

Another person who looked with askance on the merry making was R. David ben Shmuel haLevi (Taz). He first follows the ruling of his father-in-law, R. Joel Sirkas (Bach), that cross-dressing is prohibited. R. Levi then also states in the law of Tisha B'av, that the prohibition of filling ones mouth with joy, is applicable even at at wedding and even on Purim.

So it seems that just as in society at large there are those who dislike the merrymaking on Purim, this is reflected in the Halakhic authorities as well. And conversely, there are those that viewed the merrymaking as a positive thing and therefore permitted many other things in connection with that merrymaking.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

More on story fabrication - The Golem

As some have mention in the comments to my previous post, the story of the Mahral and the Golem although many take it as true, it is not. Popularized by Rabbi Yudel Rosenberg, the work is a work of fiction, something even noted in a bibliography published of Rabbi Rosenberg's works. Some of the people who discuss this are Ira Robinson, "Literary Forgery and Hasidic Judaism: the Case of Rabbi Yudel Rosenberg," Judaism 40 (1991), pp. 61-78), Shnayer Z. Leiman, "The Adventure of the Maharal of Prague in London; R. Yudl Rosenberg and the Golem of Prague," Tradition 36:1 (2002): 26-58 and Eliezer Segal.

However, surprisingly, in the online publication Dei'ah veDibur, there is also an article on this topic (hat tip A Simple Jew). The article "borrows" heavily from the above mentioned articles (without citation). It also references some early sources which cast doubt on the veracity of the story, the article does so without identifying the source. One of the unnamed sources I think is a reference to R. Shlomo Yehuda Rappoport's introduction to Kalmen Leiben's Gal Ed however, the dates don't work out exactly (Gal Ed 1856). It would make sense to leave this unidentified, as though R. Rapoport was the son-in-law of the famed author of the Ketzot HaHoshen and even added the index and some notes to his Aveni Milumim, R. Rapoport is not considered the most traditional Jew (See Barzaily typically terrible biography on Rapoport). Additionally, although the article in Dei'ah veDibur is rather detailed it also leaves out R. Shlomo Schick's criticism (based upon Rapoport) of the story as well. Again this may be due in part to some people's views regarding Schick (see this post where some of Schick's work was censored). [Additionally, the article mentions a small book by R. Eckstein titled Sefer Yetzirah which appears to be available on the Rare Hebrew Books from Harvard's Collection Microfilm].

But perhaps the most surprising thing in the entire article is its conclusion
Rabbi Eshkoli emphasizes that we should be raising our children with literature that is historically reliable, for which our extensive traditions about the greatness and holiness and the powerful prayer of the tzakkikimand Torah giants of earlier times amply suffice. Niflo'os Maharal therefore ought no longer to be circulated unless each copy carries a clear disclaimer stating that the story is fiction. Neither, he also points out, should the book be quoted from as though it was reliable information.
Dei'ah veDibur bills itself as "A Window Into The Charedi World," so perhaps this emphasis on truth will signal a new trend in haradei biographies only time will tell.

[One interesting side note a Polish TV crew went into the attic of the Altena Shul in Prague and filmed the contents. The pictures they found were published in a Polish book. These pictures show a big mound of dirt but no Golem as far as I can tell.]

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