Sunday, December 30, 2007

Review of R. Yosef Engel's Tiferes Yosef

Review of Tiferes Yosef
by Eliezer Brodt

Tiferes Yosef, Sefer Shemos, R. Yosef Engel, ed. Friedman, Mochon Ohavei Torah, Monsey, NY, 595 pages, 2007. [845. 426.6152]
About four years ago I noticed in the seforim store a sefer called תפראת יוסף. It caught my attention immediately because it said מאוצרות הגאון ר' יוסף ענגיל זצ"ל and I am a big חסיד of R. Engel as I am sure many are. I purchased the sefer after looking at it for a few minutes being satisfied with what I saw. This was the first volume which was just on חומש בראשית. A year ago the much awaited first volume of חומש שמות came out. What follows is a short review of this terrific work.

As is well known ר' יוסף ענגיל besides for being a tremendous גאון was also a prolific writer. See, e.g., N. Lamm, Seventy Faces, p. 61 (noting that R. Engel is "one of the most brilliant and underestimated figures of pre-World War II Europe"). On his tombstone it says he left behind over 101 works on all topics ready to be printed. His grandson lists in his book on ר' יוסף ענגיל what they were, including a 36 volume encyclopedia work to complete his בית האוצר. After his death his son in law was able to print a few of the works. Unfortunately, the rest, as was the case with many other great people’s works, the manuscripts were lost during WWII. The one exception being R. Engel’s work of his on מסכת קידושין that the grandson, R. Dovid Morgenstern, was able to save called שארית יוסף (it is also printed under the name חוסן יוסף. R. Morgenstern, however, writes that people who printed the חוסן יוסף stole it from him and even made mistakes when printing it). In the past few years some additional pieces of his have been discovered and printed in various torah journals such as ישורון and כרם שלמה.

In the past few years especially (although it was done to some seforim years ago) the seforim market has witnessed many attempts some successful and many not of systematically gathering torah of different גדולים and putting them in various orders. Meaning gaon x wrote much on shas so they gather all that he said on Chumash or hashkafic topics and put it in order making his torah much more accessible. Rabbi Friedman decided to do the same for all of ר' יוסף ענגיל works. He collected from everything that ר' יוסף ענגיל wrote on including some manuscripts he got a hold of and put it out according to the order of the torah – so far just on בראשית and part of שמות.

But you are probably wondering what is so special about this job? The answer is the amazing skill of Rabbi Friedman at piecing together everything. As is well know ר' יוסף ענגיל had a tremendous בקיאות in all areas of torah including ירושלמי and קבלה, nothing escaped him. Besides for all this he is known for having amazing perspective in everything going deep into understanding everything. Often R. Engel brings amazing proofs from all over. Many times, throughout his writings, he references something he wrote elsewhere and thus the only way to properly understand him is to see all the places he has written on the topic But many times he does not even tell you that he explains this more elsewhere. Many times the additional points are in places you would never expect him to talk about the point you’re looking into. What Rabbi Friedman did was to put it all together every piece is presented beautifully organized with footnotes where necessary including explanations from ר' יוסף ענגיל words elsewhere on the topic. Many times he brings how other אחרונים explain the words of ר' יוסף ענגיל other times he explains it himself.

Besides for all this Rabbi Friedman gives you the exact reference for all the wide range of sources that ר' יוסף ענגיל quotes. He also includes many other references from other people who talk about the same topics. Going thru this work one can find all types and styles of תורה that one might be interested in on the פרשה . Any מגיד שיעור or רב can find a wealth of information or at least a spring board to give lectures on חומש from here. There are also excellent indexes in the back of each volume because of the great wealth of topics included in each sefer. Besides for all this in the back of the first volume he includes a nice biography on .ר' יוסף ענגיל All in all I feel this is a great job and almost anyone can benefit from it. One can just hope that Rabbi Friedman is able to complete the entire חומש.

Friday, December 28, 2007

The Ongoing Debate on the Usage of Print vs. Electronic Journals: Perspective from Tradition's Online Editor

To the Editors of the Seforim blog:

I thank C.G. and Menachem for their thoughtful comments regarding Tradition at the Seforim blog (see "The Ongoing Debate on the Usage of Print vs. Electronic Journals: Perspective of an Ivy League PhD Student," available here). Since I understood the post to be using the example of Tradition for a larger phenomenon of deciding between print and electronic journals, I will also try to relate to this ongoing discussion in the context of explaining Tradition's situation. I should note from the outset that I write only from my limited experience and perspective as the online editor, and that these views are strictly my own, although they have certainly been shaped by discussions with Tradition's editor, Rabbi Shalom Carmy, and Rabbi Basil Herring, executive Vice President of the Rabbinical Council of America, publisher of Tradition.

When I first became Tradition's online editor this past spring, I asked the same questions regarding making Tradition free online. C.G. raises the issue in particular with regard to university students, who get electronic access to many journals through their university. I initially raised it, however, in the context of offering it online to the wider public.

This issue has been raised multiple times, by readers and editorial board members alike. Everyone would like to see Tradition available to as wide of an audience as possible. Unfortunately, it has been deemed unfeasible, at least for now, for the following reasons:


1) Despite the fact that Tradition is edited on a volunteer-basis, producing the journal 4 times a year costs tens of thousands of dollars. Rising printing and mailing costs as well as other factors have increased the cost of print journals, which is one of the major factors propelling different journals to publishing an online-only journal. While producing an online journal still costs money, the costs are definitely reduced - you do not have to pay for paper, ink, design, layout, shipping, etc...

If we made Tradition entirely free online, however, the feeling is that the print subscription would drastically decrease, especially with younger subscribers who are willing to print out journal articles for shabbat reading, and thereby undermine the financial stability of the journal.

Many people, however, continue to find a printed journal as a more enjoyable reading experience, as they do with magazines like The New Republic, Commentary Magazine, etc. This was, indeed, the concluding point of the article in The New Yorker by Princeton University professor Anthony Grafton, linked at the Michtavim blog. Yet the initial cost of printing even one copy of the journal is quite expensive, and one needs to preserve a minimum number of print subscribers in order to maintain the financial viability of the printing.

To a small extent, costs could be limited by reducing the number of editions published per year, but then you lose out on the joy of receiving a new edition on a more frequent basis, and the seasonal dialogue that it generates.

2) Tradition's sponsor, the Rabbinical Council of America (RCA), does not have the funding to entirely absorb these costs. While Tradition Fellows generously cover an important amount of these costs, we must still pass some cost on to the reader. We are, of course, regularly pursuing other sources of revenue, and our outside funding has increased substantially in recent years, but these resources are finite. Tradition also has to be sensitive to not accepting money from organizations or individuals that might attach ideological or editorial strings to their contributions.

If anyone, however, knows of potential donors or foundations, we'd of course be happy to hear from you.

Given that information, I proposed making a number of changes that we have adopted including offering online-only subscriptions for a reduced price, and giving a further reduction for students, which we have now implemented at www.TraditionOnline.org. We continue to have reduced prices for multi-year subscriptions.

We of course want to expand our reach deeper into the academic arena, and are currently working with our institutional subscribers to increase electronic access to affiliates of their universities, which we hope will ultimately happen, in one form or another, in the coming months. In addition to my duties at Tradition and as a Ram in Yeshivat Hakotel, I myself am also pursuing a PhD in Jewish Philosophy at The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and understand that our generation of students and professors prefer taking advantage of their electronic library priviliges.

In many ways, the rising costs of printing and digitalization have forced journals to ask themselves whether they are a magazine or a research journal. The former cater to a more popular audience, and expect subscriptions from a larger audience while seeking profits. The latter limits themselves to a more limited, academic audience, and therefore mostly seek library subscriptions (at extremely high prices) to cover the costs of issues that come out on a less frequent basis. I do not agree with C.G.'s assessment that academic journals exclusively (or almost exclusively) impact currents of thought. I think magazines with a scholarly tone but a clear "public intellectual" agenda have a tremendous amount of impact, like First Things.

Having never discussed this with the editors, I'd venture to say that Tradition is somewhere in between a magazine and a journal, leaning more toward the latter in both its frequency and tone. It is a scholarly (though not purely academic) journal with a public service agenda, addressed to an intellectual religious community rather than exclusively a professional academic coterie.

Whatever one might make of that assessment, it remains clear, however, that we do not publish Tradition for-profit, and continue to publish it, lishmah, for the sake of disseminating and encouraging Orthodox Jewish thought.

Another initiative was to "offer more," so to speak, for the subscription. In addition to creating the website to increase availability, we are now in the final stages of an extensive process to digitize all 50 years of Tradition in an indexed and searchable PDF online archives. The alpha release of the full archives will hopefully happen in the next month. When that happens, individual subscribers (both print and online-only) will have full access to all 50 years of Tradition, and non-subscribers will be able to purchase individual articles for a small fee (again comparable to other magazines), as they can do already for those issues currently online.

As Grafton noted in his piece, the OCR technology is far from perfect, and produces a number of typos, particularly when irregular fonts are used, like in footnotes. Hebrew can also be a problem. Nonetheless, the overall technology remains wonderful, and having spent numerous hours this past week going through the archives online, I can testify to the blessings of digitalization, and I think that this will be a wonderful service to both the academic and broader communities.

I should also note that all of Rav Soloveitchik's writings that were first published in Tradition will be available for free to the wider public. (For copyright reasons, The Lonely Man of Faith will be available in a read-only format).

Especially given access to 50 years of Tradition, we think that our subscription prices are pretty reasonable. You can check them out here.

Another new and popular phenomenon common to magazines, but not to journals, involves special online-only features on the website. Our new books of interest section has already begun and is in the process of being expanded, and we hope in the next months to have blogs and other online-only features, all of which will be available for free to the wider public. Obviously, these changes also cost money, and we have worked to procure grants for the archives scanning (over 1300 articles!).

Anyone interested in sponsoring or dedicating other features of TraditionOnline should please contact me.

When these changes go into effect, we plan to explore online advertising, which we hope will create revenue to keep subscription costs down or even reduce them. Of course, we want to make sure that all ads are appropriate for our site, and that our intellectual and religious integrity is not compromised by any of our financial affiliations. That is why we have, for now, elected not to use Google ads.

In other words, I think within its resources, Tradition is doing a thoughtful job of balancing its agenda, different audiences, and new technology. If at some point we can make Tradition available for free online, we will do it. We continue to explore different options, seeking to spread our articles to as broad of an audience as possible. Please feel free to contact me directly if you have further questions or suggestions.

On a separate but related note, another element of the online world is that it expands the opportunities of different people to be involved with the journal. TraditionOnline is looking for limited number of qualified volunteers to assist with certain editorial elements of our expanding online presence. If you are interested, please be in touch with me.

Shlomo (Myles) Brody
Online Editor, Tradition
TraditionOnline@rabbis.org
www.TraditionOnline.org

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Prof. Elliott Horowitz -- Edmund Wilson, Hebrew, Christmas, and the Talmud

In a previous post at the Seforim blog, Prof. Elliott Horowitz of Bar Ilan University and co-editor of Jewish Quarterly Review, responded to a discussion of Bugs Bunny's purported Jewish identity.

This is his second contribution to the Seforim blog. We hope that you enjoy.

Edmund Wilson, Hebrew, Christmas, and the Talmud
by Elliott Horowitz

As is well known, during the 1950's Edmund Wilson, the great (and perhaps greatest) American man of letters, began studying Hebrew, both in order to read the Hebrew Bible on his own, and in order to write in an informed manner about the controversies surrounding the recently discovered Dead Sea Scrolls. As Shalom Goldman noted in his excellent chapter on Wilson in God's Sacred Tongue: Hebrew and the American Imagination (Chapel Hill, 2004), Wilson "delighted in teasing his Jewish friends" about their having jettisoned their (usually limited) Hebraic learning while he was steadily increasing his. As an example, Goldman cites the Christmas card Wilson sent to Alfred Kazin in 1952, which included (in Hebrew) the words "I shall learn Hebrew," followed by the Wilsonian barb: "I'll bet you can't read this."

If one consults the card itself, reproduced in Edmund Wilson, Letters on Literature and Politics, 1912-1972 ed., Elena Wilson (New York, 1977), it may be seen that before the oddly vocalized words "elmod lashon yisrael," Wilson added, in the same square script, the blessing "barukh ata la-shem" - probably the first time these words (with the actual tetragrammaton) were used in a Christmas greeting.

Readers of the Seforim blog may also be interested in a subsequent letter of Wilson's to the Brooklyn-born Kazin, written from the New Yorker office in October 1954, shortly after the article on the Dead Sea Scrolls was completed.

"I am still struggling in the toils of the three thousand years of Jewish history. Once you get into it, you find there is no easy way of getting out again. Have you ever tried reading the talmud? It is a very strange work - difficult at first to get the hang of - but it exercises a certain fascination. I think that I may settle down to reading it through. There seems to be no other way of really finding out what is in it..." (Ibid., 528).

Of course, daf yomi tapes were not yet available...

Monday, December 24, 2007

Bibliography of Articles and Books on Nitel

There are three books devoted to the topic of Nitel.

Mordechai Menachem Goren, Hefaru Torasecha, Ma'amar Makif miMinhag Avosanu b'Yadanu Odos Lil haAfel Nitel Nacht UMinhag Yisrael l'Vatel meEsek haTorah,[4],52, [10] pages, 2004.

This first contains a two page introduction and the next 52 pages discuss the custom, its sources, and the various opinions. The final 10 pages are some sources that are quoted in full.

[Mordechai Menachem Goren], Hefaru Torasecha, (helek bet, b'inyanei haTekufa) . . . u'Migilas Nitel, [40] pages, 2005. This is the last chapter from the prior book and discusses the tefkufa. Additionally, it includes some additional sources about nitel, quoted in their enterity and some Rabbinic statements about Jesus. The work "Megilat Nitel" is also included. This Megilah comes from the work Iggeret R. Yochonon ben Zackai, that work is discussed by Prof. Meir Bar-Ilan in an article here, where he provides, as well, a bibliography of the various editions of Iggeret R. Yochonon ben Zackai.

Yisrael Barukh Messinger, Nitel uMerosroso, Union City, NJ, 251, [4] pages, 1999.
This work is similar to the above and based substantially on Marc B. Shapiro, "Torah Study on Christmas Eve," Journal of Jewish Thought and Philosophy 8 (1999): 319-353. At the end there is a highly charged discussion about R. Kook and Jesus in note 137 [for more on R. Kook and other controversial statements regarding Jesus, Shabbetai Zevi and others, see Bezalel Naor, Post-Sabbatian Sabbatianism (Spring Valley, NY, 1999), pp.109-13, 203-05].

In Messinger's book he provides a bibliography of other articles that discuss the topic. One final article that is not mentioned as it came out after Messinger's book is the chapter in R. Freund's Moadim l'Simcha, vol. 2, pp. 397-427.

The Ongoing Debate on the Usage of Print vs. Electronic Journals: Perspective of an Ivy League PhD Student

I recently had an enjoyable conversation with a former roommate and friend, back from our days at Yeshivat Kerem B'Yavneh, who is currently nearing completion of a doctorate at the graduate school of an Ivy League institution in computer science, about his views on using print vs. electronic journals. Our discussion centered on the notion that a journal Tradition, published by the Rabbinical Council of America (RCA), a leading institution of American Modern Orthodox Judaism, charges a fee of $25.00 per year (or $15.00 to students) for non-Tradition subscribers. Parallel journals from within the Modern Orthodox community, like The Meorot Journal (formerly The Edah Journal), published by Yeshivat Chovevei Torah and the Torah u-Madda Journal, published by the Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary (RIETS) of Yeshiva University, are published in both print and electronic formats, thus allowing their publications to be read by individuals from throughout and beyond the geographic and ideological world of Orthodox Judaism.

Below is a lightly-edited version of a letter that I received from my roommate and friend C.G., posted at the Seforim blog with his express permission.
Dear Menachem,

Regarding our conversation about Tradition, we discussed whether graduate students use online journal access through their universities. In my experience, not only do they use the online access, they only use the online access. I know that in 4 years as a PhD student at Columbia I have looked up an article that wasn't online exactly once. There is just too much material online and too many accessible journals for me to bother going to the library to photocopy a journal that is behind the times. (The one time I did go was for a seminal article from the 70's that it is de rigueur in my field to cite.) If I had to pay for the article, even a few dollars, there is no way I would have done so. My experience is that other PhD students take the same approach - for all intents and purposes, an article that isn't freely available to us online doesn't exist. (By free, I mean "free to me," as in either free or available through a University's e-journals program.) Free abstracts isn't much of a help either, if the article isn't free. It isn't even that I'm particularly cheap - it simply makes no economic sense for me to pay. There is always another article you can cite, and considering the hundreds of articles I read before each paper I write, the cost of a few dollars per article would add up pretty fast. It's the equivalent of replacing a library with a bookstore - if I have to pay for every book I read, I'll read a lot fewer books, and if most of the books I want are free but a few cost money, it would take a lot to interest me in the ones that I need to pay for.

The New York Times discovered this recently; charging even a small fee for their opinion pages drastically reduced the impact of their columnists on popular thought, which is part of the reason that they are suddenly free again. (Incidentally, they were smart enough to make themselves free to academics even when they were charging the general public). New York Times continues to charge (the general public) for archived articles and I guarantee that this has reduced the frequency that archived articles are cited by non-academic researchers. New York Times can afford to do this because the fact is that they were the paper of record for more than a century and if you are researching news from the 1930's you don't have a lot of other choices. However, a small journal that isn't widely known outside of a relatively small circle doesn't have the same power.

I will admit that $15 a year is a fairly nominal cost, and if I was planning on citing Tradition a lot I would pay it, much as I pay for various magazines. However, the key here is that I would only do that if I already knew that Tradition was full of material for me. If I came across a Tradition article and I wasn't familiar with the journal or didn't think I'd be citing many Tradition articles, I'd just click along to the next result on Google. This is the reason that it's standard practice in my field to make your own articles available online for free - the easier it is for someone to get it, the more likely it will have an impact. I also concede that my field (computer science) is more "online" than other fields. However, a lot of my friends are in graduate programs and an informal straw poll says that the same is true for other fields. A friend in psychology told me that an article that isn't free online "doesn't exist" and a close friend who was researching a Jewish Studies topic in conjunction with the chair of a university department told me that anything he needed to pay for or even needed to go to the library for wasn't worth his time when there were ten other articles that were free.

My opinion: Tradition's current pricing is perfectly fine for a magazine. If that's the model they are aiming for, it's entirely sustainable, and it's what most magazines do, as their goal is to maximize subscriptions and revenue. However, an academic journal usually has a different goal of having an impact on the currents of thought in the broader field, and in that respect, if even 25% of researchers are like me and my friends (though, to be honest, I suspect that 95% are) then Tradition is making a big mistake.

Just my opinion of course. Be well,

C.G.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

New Torah u-Madda Journal, available online in PDF; and Criticisms of Menachem

After I posted the Table of Contents to the latest volume of the Torah u-Madda Journal, no. 14 (2006/2007), at the Michtavim blog last week -- note, this post has been updated with the links to the PDFs, hosted at YUTorah.org -- I received some very harsh criticisms for my laxity in providing links to the PDFs, including one noteworthy email.

To add insult to injury, the accuser sent me criticisms via an anonymous email address! See here [PDF].

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Moritz Steinschneider and Ugaritic

ManuscriptBoy:
Moritz Steinschneider's online presence has been significantly augmented by the Jewish National Library's Digitized Book Repository. They seem to have scanned all of his German books, as well as the Hebrew translation of his general work 'Sifrut Yisrael'.
And also includes an interesting anecdote that
someone once told me how Prof. Moshe Bar Asher shut himself in a room for a couple of days, and emerged having taught himself Ugaritic.

Rabbi Hillel Goldberg on Prof. Saul Lieberman

Published several weeks ago, Rabbi Hillel Goldberg, Executive Editor of both the Intermountain Jewish News and of Tradition, has written a 'Review Essay' ("Discontinuities: The Case of Saul Lieberman," reviewing Elijah J. Schochet and Solomon Spiro's Saul Lieberman: The Man and His Work), in Tradition 40:3 (Fall 2007): 69-75. A PDF of this article is only available to subscribers to TraditionOnline and/or members of the Rabbinical Council of America.

While the aim of a "Review Essay" is usually focused on broadening the perspective of a particular topic with the author making use of the most recent contributions from within the extant scholarly literature, "Discontinuities: The Case of Saul Lieberman" lacks any such focus.

Continue reading this post ("Rabbi Hillel Goldberg on Prof. Saul Lieberman") at the Michtavim blog.

An Attack and Defense of the ArtScroll Talmud and Addendum to the Dec. 2007 Book List

Ohr Yisrael no. 50 (Tevet, 5768); 256 pages.

The new issue of Ohr Yisrael, no. 50. has a couple of articles I wanted to highlight. First, they have a section devoted to essentially whether the ArtScroll Gemara is a good thing or not. While in the United States the English version has been around for awhile, only recently has the Hebrew edition been on the market and it appears that it is very popular. Thus, there are those who are questioning if this is a positive step or not. Many of the articles are highly negative towards Artscroll and some even claim that if a person cannot learn Gemara without such an aid they should not be doing so at all.

The final article in this section is by R. Chaim Rapoport, a frequent contributor at the Seforim blog, and is the most comprehensive of the bunch. R. Rapoport demonstrates that ArtScroll -- and he points out it is not only ArtScroll anymore but others have published Gemaras that explain the text -- is not new. Rather, in the late 19th and early 20th century a similar work, HaMadrich, was published with many outstanding approbations. [This portion of the article, as R. Rapoport notes, is heavily based upon R. Yehoshua Mondshein's article on HaMadrich that appears in Kovets Zekhor l'Avrohom, (2000-2001), 349.]

Thus, R. Rapoport argues if those gedolim gave approbations then, they would have no problem today with the ArtScroll.

R. Rapoport in the second half of the article does point out a few (according to him) deficiencies in ArtScroll Gemaras as well as the ArtScroll Siddur. R. Rapoport notes that ArtScroll Gemaras use an academic commentary to explain the half flesh/half dirt mouse discussed in the Mishnah in Hullin (9:6). Specifically, ArtScroll quotes approvingly R. Samson Raphael Hirsch's comments on how to understand such Aggadot. Additionally, R. Rapoport notes that, at times, ArtScroll appears to have selectively quoted Rishonim to "conform with modern sensibilities."

Second, this issue contains an article on the customs surrounding Brit Milah by R. Yaakov Hayyim Sofer. Additionally, there is a very comprehensive article on the publication of R. Wolf Boskowitz's works.

Finally, there is a section on Shemittah and "Amirah leAkum."

Menachem Mendel Krochmal, Zemer Na'ah l'Kovod haTorah, (Brooklyn, NY, 2007); 73 pages. This is a reprint of the Amsterdam, 1675 edition and includes an introduction that includes biographical information on R. Krochmal. Additionally, as this work is for Simchat torah and when dedicating a new Torah, included are R. Krochmal's teshuvot discussing hilchot sefer torah. The book can be purchased at Biegeleisen or by contacting Shmuel Stefansky at 718.437.4044

Dovid Felbarbaum, Halichot Kodesh (Brooklyn, NY, 2007), 20, 316 pages. A collection of customs, nusachei teffilah, and other daily acts by Chief Rabbi of Kassan, R. Yisrael Tzvi Rattonberg. To purchase this book, aside from Beigeleisen, the following are provided, 718.336.8971 or 718.972.4078.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

New Book List December 2007

December 2007 New Book List
By Eliezer Brodt

As previously mentioned before from time to time we hope to write up lists of new seforim with a short description. Here is a list of some new seforim that came out in the past few weeks [some of these seforim will be the subject of their own longer posts].

Iggeret Hamussar (Jerusalem, 2007); 269 pages. This sefer is the last will and testament of the Rambam (with nikkud) that he wrote to his son R. Avraham. This work has a lengthy commentary from R. H. Kupperman – 269 pages. The authenticity of this work will be discussed in a future post at the Seforim blog.

Tosaot Chaim from R. Eliyahu De Vedasch author of the Resheis Chochmah. This edition is 437 pages and contains 183 chapters from R. Akiva Yitzchak about various topics in this sefer mostly relating to Orach Chaim topics.

The Sefer Mitzvot Tefillen by R. Yeshaya Horowitz, author of the Shelah HaKadosh, was reprinted. This work was first printed by R. Kreizer over thirty years ago with notes from manuscript for the first time. It’s a complete work on the halakhot of tefillen written by the Shelah. Now R. Kreizer reprinted it with almost double amount of material in the notes than the original printing.

Yerushateinu vol. 2 (Beni Brak: Machon Moreshet Ashkenaz, 2007); 462 pages. Machon Moreshet Ashkenaz released the second volume. This journal will soon be reviewed at greater length at the Seforim blog.

R. Yadler has just printed his fourth volume of the popular work Meor HaShabbas. This work focuses on electrical products and Shabbas.

A new volume of R. Tzvi Pesach Frank's Har Tzvi has been printed. This work is a collection of his notes on various classical acharonim, many of which have been printed before.

A new sefer called Nasiach BeChukechah was just printed by the Rosh Kollel of the kollel in Palo Alto, California, Rabbi Avi Lebowitz. This work is an excellent basic work on the klalaei hamitzvos. The volume is very organized and clear, but not overly exhaustive or encyclopedic. The author focuses on the kelalim that the Chayei Adam brings (in siman 68) and Nasiach BeChukechah has chapters on each of these kelalim, providing citations for the basic sources and relevant discussions on the various kelalim. He also has some chapters on some of the Kelalim that the Chayei Adam omitted. For some samples of this work see here.

Another volume from the Eitz Hadas Tov by R. Hayyim Vital was printed for the first time from manuscript. The introduction to this volume deals with, among other topics, the time when this work was written by R. Vital -- before or after R. Vital studied kabbalah. [A topic which has already been sharply debated between R. Y. Hillel and R. Montzur]. This edition of Eitz Hadas Tov also includes a hundred page work on the history of R. Hayyim Vital and his writings.

Ahavat Sholom released two more volumes, numbers seven and eight, of their set of seforim of the Aderet. Other publishers are putting out other volumes of the Aderet's writings as well. Amongst the seforim in these two volumes is a work of the Aderet's father and a work on klalei Hamitzvot. All the works of the Aderet will be reviewed shortly at the Seforim blog.

HaMeor HaGodol, R. Meir son of R. Jacob Emden, ed. R. Shmuel Dovid Friedman (Brooklyn, NY, 2007), [30], 352, [6]. This is a commentary on Mishnayos Seder Nashim and the Rambam's Mishneh Torah by R. Meir, the first born son of R. Jacob Emden. Included is a biography of R. Meir.

the Michtavim blog, an affiliate of the Seforim blog

In addition to my work that will continue at the Seforim blog -- we've got some great posts going up soon -- I have recently started a new blog, the Michtavim blog, an affiliate of the Seforim blog, where I hope to provide interested readers with up-to-date references and discussions of the latest scholarship from the world of academic Jewish studies and Orthodox Judaism.

Over the next weeks, in addition to posting my musings on a daily basis, I will be adapting a selection of my previous posts from my AJHistory blog (a"h) and the Seforim blog and placing them at the Michtavim blog.

For now, see the following few links for my new posts at the Michtavim blog.

-- "From the Archives of the Royal Library in Metz" (link)
-- "305th yahrzeit of R. Yair Hayyim Bacharach (1638-1702)" (link)
-- "The Sermons and Yeshivot of R. Aharon Kotler" (link)
-- "When a Rabbi is Accused of Heresy: The Latest in the Emden-Eybeschütz Controversy" (link)

I hope that you enjoy and I appreciate your feedback.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

The Customs Associated with Joy on Chanukah and Their More Obscure Sources

The Customs Associated with Joy on Chanukah and Their More Obscure Sources
by: Eliezer Brodt

In previous posts we have discussed some of the customs relating to Chanukah, in this post I wanted to address those customs connected to Simcha (joy) and do so by highlighting some rather unknown sources. Amongst the topics I will discuss are eating a seudah, dairy products, sefuganiot, playing cards and dreidel.

1. Seudah


R. Eliezer Ashkenazi (1512-85) writes in the introduction to his classic work on Megliat Esther, Yosef Lekakh (first printed in Cremona, 1576), the reason that only on Purim do we celebrate with a seudah and not on Chanukah is because
שעם היות שהמלחמה חשמונאי נצחה, ועל ידו היתה הרוחה אף גם זאת בהיותה על ידי מיתת כמה מישראל לא נס יגון ואנחה. מה שאין כן בזמן מרדכי ואסתר ובימיהם היתה נח מאויבהם והרוג בשונאיהם ואין שטן ואין פגע במחניהם ואיש לא עמד בפניהם


What R. Eliezer Ashkenazi is saying is that since on Chanukah we suffered many causalities so we do not celebrate with a seudah as opposed to Purim where there were no casualties.

The R. Mordechi Yaffa (1530-1612) in his Levush gives a different reason why there is no seudah on Chanukah:
ומפני שלא נמסרו ישראל באותו זמן ביד מושל אחד שהיה מושל עליהם להריגה כמו שהיה בימי המן אלא שבא האויבים עליהם למלחמה ואל בקשו אלא הכנעה ולהיות ידם תקופה על ישראל ולהבערים על דתם כידוע ממעשה אנטיוכס שלא גזר עליהם להרוג ולהשמיד רק צרות ושמדות כדי להמיר דתם
Meaning that since on Purim there was no option to convert as opposed to Chanukah so therefore Chanukah was not as bad as Purim and we do not celebrate with a seudah. [Much has been written on this Levush but we will have to deal with this on a different occasion.]


Many Rishonom hold there is no obligation to eat a seudah and that is what the Mechaber in Shulchan Orach writes ריבו הסעודות שמרבים בהם הם סעודת הרשות שלא קבעום למשתה ושמחה

The Rambam (Hilcos Chanukah Perek Gimel Halacha gimel), however, writes:
ומפני זה התקינו חכמים שבאותו הדור שיהיו שמונת הימים האלו שתחלתן מליל חמשה ועשרים בכסלו ימי שמחה והלל
At first glance it does not appear that the Rambam is saying one has to eat a seudah rather its just days of "simcha and joy." However, R. Zev Boskowitz (1740-1809) in his work Seder Hamishana (recently printed from manuscript in 1989) writes the Rambam in fact means a seudah is required and furthermore such a seudah would considered a seudas mitzvah.


While until now, we have been parsing the words of the Rambam to locate an authority that holds there is an obligation to have a seuda, other Rishonim write straight out that there is an obligation to eat a seudah on Chanukah amongst them, Rashaba (vol 1, Siman 699) Tosofos (Tanis 18b), Marshal and Chanukas Habayis (p. 71). Additionally, R. Yeshuah Ibn Shu’eib, a talmid of the Rashaba, in Ibn Shu'eib's Derashot al HaTorah (first printed in Istanbul, 1523 - end of parsha Meketz) also writes ותקנו ז"ל... ולעשותן כמועדים שהם ימי שמחה this could imply a seudah.[1]


Some have used the Megilas Antioches [2] to adduce a seudah obligation on Chanukah. The Megilas Antioches (first printed in Mantau 1557 and typically dated sometime between the 2nd and 5th centuries of the Common Era, for more see the sources in note 2) describes Chanukah as ימי משתה ושמחה thus, according to some, the "משתה" would obligate a meal. But, this line in Megilas Antioches is only found in the Hebrew translations, whereas in the older Aramaic versions it only says שמחה and is lacking the key word משתה


2. Instruments and Jokes.


As far as other aspects of Simcha on Chanukah in the Sefer Hamaskil (end of the 13th century) from the nephew of the Rosh, writes that although during the rest of the year it is prohibited to tell jokes (pg 12) or play musical instruments (pg. 22) on Chanukah it is permitted. This implies that Chanukah is days of joy, a joy on some level more than rest of the year.


3. Maseh Yehudis and eating Dairy products.


Rabenu Bechayu (lived at the end of the 13th century) writes in his work Kad haKemach (first printed in Istanbul, 1515) that וכן דרשו ז"ל בנס חנוכה שהיה על ידי משתה. It is unclear, however, what the source in Chazal for this statement is. R. Chaim Bright in his pirish on the Kad haKemach called Tzipchas Hasheman (first published in the Lvov, 1880 edition of the Kad haKemach) brings that the source for Rabenu Bachayu is the sefer Maseh Yehudis (Book of Judith) [3] as part of what she did was tied to food. Specifically, Yehudis gave the enemy General Holofernes food and then proceeded to cut off his head.(p. 92) All this could be another possible source to make a seudah on Chanukah. The truth is the story of Yehudis is the source for another Halacha related to Chanukah and food. The Ramah writes some eat milchig (dairy) products as the miracle (of Yehudis) came about thru dairy products. Much has been gathered on this topic just to add one more source, R. Avrohom Saba (1440-1508) in his work on Megilas Esther, Eshkol Hakofer, (p. 40) writes
כמו שאמרו בירושלמי על בתו של ר' יוחנן שהי' בימי היונים וגזרו על כל בתולה שתבעל להגמון תחלה... ויהי כאשר נתפסה בתו של ר' יוחנן להבעל להגמון אמרה לו שקודם שישכב עמה היא רוצית שיאכלו וישתו ביחד והאכילתו תבשיל של גבינה... ונרדם והוציאה סכין... ונעשה נס לישראל... ולכן תקנו לאכול תבשיל גבינה בחנוכה זכר לאותו נס.
The Chanukas haBayis also writes to eat Milchigs (p. 136). Chaim Chemerinsky [early 1900’s] also writes that in his home they specifically ate dairy products during their seudah on Chanukah (Eiyuriti Motele p. 181). [4]


However, it is not so clear if one can use the sefer Maseh Yehudis as a source because many write the event in question did not even happen during Chanukah. The Meor Eynaim (end of ch 51), R. Yehudah Aryeh Modena (Shulchan Orach, p. 83), R. Yakov Emden (Meor Uketziah beginning of Hal. Chanukah) and the Orach Hashulchan (siman 670, 8) all write the event was not on Chanukah.


4. Seufgoniot


Another food eaten by Jews on Chanukah is Seufgoniot (doughnuts). In Eretz Yisroel they start selling them a month before Chanukah and incredible amounts of these sefgoniot are sold each year. This custom also has very early sources just to mention two of them. R. Mamion the father of the Rambam writes[5]
אין להקל בשום מנהג ואפילו מנהג קל. ויתחייב כל נכון לו עשית משתה ושמחה ומאכל לפרסם הנס שעשה השם יתברך עמנו באותם הימים. ופשט המנהג לעשות סופגנין, בערבי אלספינג, והם הצפחיות בדבש ובתרגום האיסקריטין הוא מנהג הקדמונים משום שהם קלויים בשמן לזכר ברכתו - כלומר לנס שבפך שמן
[Additionally, from this source, it appears from this that R. Mamion holds one should make a seudah on Chanukah.] Another early source who writes that people used to eat these סופגנין on Chanukah is R. Kalnomus Ben Kolumnus (1286 - died after 1328) in his Even Habochen (p. 30) [more on him in a future post].


5. Latkes

Based on the words of R, Mamion it’s easy to understand how the minhag of eating latkes came about as they are fried in oil as R. Maimon's highlights that the sufganiyot are "fried in oil."

Pauline Wengeroff records in her excellent memoir, Rememberings: "On the fifth night my mother invited all our friends and relatives…. The Invitation read, 'You are invited for latkes.'" It’s very likely that this is the food described by R. D. Sassoon in his travels that people in Baghdad ate on Chanukah (Maseh Bavel p. 183).


6. Getting drunk and Cross-dressing


Besides for eating elaborate seudos and special foods we find other methods of entertainment that Jews did on Chanukah. R. Kalnomus Ben Kolumnus writes in his Even Habochen (p. 30) that people used to get drunk. The Sefer Hamaskil (end of the 13th century) [6] indicates that although he strongly disapproves of the customs, there was a custom to cross-dress on Chanukah. He writes:
טובה תנחל ושלוה תירש אם תשמור מלאו דלא ילבש גבר שמלת אשה כגון בחורים הנותנים צעיך בראשיהם ולובשים בגדי נשים בחנוכה... ואל תהיה כאחד מהם בדבר הרע הזה ואפילו אם תעשהו לשם מצוה יצא השכר בהפסד

Meaning do not this terrible sin of cross dressing on Chanukah. [7]


7. Card Playing


Another pastime observed on Chanukah was card playing. [8] Professor M. Breuer brings early sources for card playing on Chanukah (Ohelei Torah p. 355). R. Yehudah Aryeh Modena writes about himself in his autobiography how "during Chanukah of the year 5355 (1594) Satan fooled me into playing games of chance causing me no small amount of damage.” (The Autobiography of a Seventeenth Century Venetian Rabbi, p. 97). R. Yakov Emden writes against this custom in his Meor Uketziah which he says people used to do on Chanukah [introduction to hilchos Chanukah and end of siman 670].

Eliezer Friedman [1870’s] describes in his memoirs (Zikhronos, Tel Aviv, 1926) how his grandfather, an old litvack taught him one Chanukah exactly how to play cards (p. 61).


Both Chaim Chemerinsky (Eiyruti Motele pp. 43, 178) and Pauline Wengeroff (op. cit., pp. 65-6) elaborately describe the card games that used to take place in their homes on Chanukah. R.M. Braver describes in his autobiography [mid 1800’s] how in Galicia the yeshiva boys used to waste their whole Chanukah playing cards (Zecronot Av U'beno p. 67). His son, R. A. Braver in his autobiography also describes the card games that used to take place in Galicia on Chanukah (pp. 244-45). Elsewhere in his book he describes when the month of Kislev began how the boys started getting their cards ready for card playing on Chanukah (p. 352).


8. Dreidel


Another game played by Jews until today is Dreidel although it’s unclear from where it came from but some sources of playing this game are: M. Zlotkin printed an autobiography from a Litvish Rav (available here) who supposedly lived in the time of the Vilna Goan who writes how how in an effort to try to connect to the children on Chanukah he used to give them Dreidels (pp. 244- 245). In 1824 an extremely cynical parody work was printed called Sefer Kundes [in a future post I hope to write an elaborate post on this work] it describes things found in the pocket of a kundes – a trickster one of the items is a dreidel [In 1997, M. Zalkin thru the Dinur Center printed a critical edition of this very rare work, see p. 48].

R. Y. Weiss brings that the Chasam Sofer used to play dreidel on the first night (Eleph Kesav p. 145) Pauline Wengeroff writes that another popular game on Chanukah was dreidel (op. cit., p. 66). R. A. Braver in his autobiography writes before Chanukah they used to prepare their dreidels (p. 231) Later on he describes exactly how the game was played (p. 244).


R. Y. Falk in his Choshvei Machshovos (printed in 1970), an excellent unknown work on minhaghim writes a few reasons for playing dreidel on Chanukah at the end he writes
מה שמשחקין בחנוכה בדרעדרל כי אי' בספרים שהאותיות נגה"ש שכותבים עליו הוא ר"ת נס גדול הי' שם וי"ל משום שראו חכמים שבאותו דור שהנס של חנוכה התחיל להתמעט בעיני העולם על כל קבעו מסמרות והנהיגו לעשות דרעדרל ולכתוב עליו נגה"ש שהוא ר"ת... להזכיר ולעורר בני ישראל שלא יוקטן בעיניהם הנס של חנוכה שהי' באמת נס גדול
(p. 160)




Some recent sources on these topics [just to whet ones appetite]:

[1] On eating a Seudah on Chanukah See; R. S. Shick, Seder Haminhagim p. 32b; Eleph Kesav, 1, p. 37 ; M. Rafeld in Minhaghei Yisroel, vol. 5, pp. 85-101; R. Nosson D. Rabinowitz, Benue Shnos Dor Vdor pp. 47-48; Moadim Lisimcha pp. 230-252; Pardes Eliezer pp. 463- 556; Chazon Ovadiah pp. 15-18.

[2] On this point see: R. Nosson D. Rabinowitz, Benue Shnos Dor Vdor pp.140-142 :M. Rafeld in Minhaghei Yisroel, vol. 5, pp. 85-86; Moadim Lisimcha pp 258- 259; R. M. Leiter, Mamlechet Kohanim pp. 56,117-19.

On this Megilah in general see R. M. Strashun, Mivchar Kesavim p. 144; N. Fried in Minhaghei Yisroel, vol. 5, pp. 102-20; Areshet vol.4 p. 166; R. Nosson D. Rabinowitz, Benue Shnos Dor Vdor pp. 121- 151; R. M. Leiter, Mamlechet Kohanim pp. 40-159.

[3] On Maseh Yehudis in general see R. Nosson D. Rabinowitz, Benue Shnos Dor Vdor pp. 80-105 (especially p. 109); Moadim Lisimcha pp. 276-312; Chasmunu Ubobov pp. 114-129; R. M. Leiter, Mamlechet Kohanim pp. 359-442.

[4] For more on eating Milchigs see Moadim Lisimcha, pp. 286-292; Pardes Eliezer, pp. 557-581.

[5] On this statement of R. Mamion see S. Abramson, Rav Nissim Goan p. 328.

[6] On the Sefer Hamaskil see the excellent article by R. M. M. Honig, Yerushcanu, 1, pp. 196-240.

[7] On cross dressing and yom tovim see the excellent forthcoming article of Y. Speigel.

[8] On card playing in general see; I. Davidson, Parody in Jewish Literature, pp.148-151;Y. Rivkind, Yiddishe Gelt; A. Shochet, Em Chelufei Tekufos (pp. 40-41) ; L. Landman J.Q.R.Vol. 57, No.4.(Apr.,1967) pp. 298-318 and J.Q.R.Vol. 58, No.1.(Jul.,1967) pp.34-62.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Mitzvat Ner Ish uBeto: When A Revised Edition is Not Revised:

What follows is a guest post discussing a "revised" edition of the sefer Mitzvat Ner Ish uBeto, a work devoted to the laws and customs of Chanukah. For an earlier post on Chanukah see here, here, and here.


על ספרו של הרב אליהו שלזינגר:

מצות נר איש וביתו, חנוכה בהלכה ובאגדה

מאת: עקביא שמש


אחד המאפיינים את הספרות הרבנית ההלכתית בדורנו הוא חיבור ספרים סביב נושא הלכתי אחד.[1] העובדה שהמחבר מרכז את כל הידוע לו סביב אותו נושא, הופכת את הספר למבוקש ושימושי ביותר, לא רק ל"עמך", אלא גם לציבור הלומדים.[2] חלק מספרים אלו יוצא לאור במספר מהדורות, דבר המלמד על חשיבותו הרבה של הספר, ועל הצורך הרב שיש בו. הנה כי כן בהתקרב חג מסוים, אנו עדים להופעת מספר ספרים הלכתיים על ענייני החג, או אף על הלכות מיוחדות בודדות הקשורות עם אותו חג. אחד מהספרים הללו הוא ספרו של הרב אליהו שלזינגר: מצות נר איש וביתו, חנוכה בהלכה ובאגדה. ספר זה, היוצא לאור במספר מהדורות החל משנת תשל"ח, דבר המעיד על חשיבותו הרבה של הספר, יצא לאור זה עתה במהדורה נוספת, ירושלים, תשס"ח. ברצוני לייחד את הדיבור על ספר זה אך ורק בענייני צורה, מבנה וסגנון, ותו לא. מובן מאליו שאין בכל האמור לקמן לגרוע ולו במשהו מערכו וחשיבותו הרבה של הספר. נהפוך הוא, דווקא מפני חשיבותו הרבה של הספר, ודווקא מפני ריבוי המשתמשים בו, ראוי הוא שידקדקו בו.


א. תיאור קצר של הספר

הספר מורכב מארבעה חלקים. חלק ראשון: הלכות חנוכה. חלק שני: בירורים הלכתיים. חלק שלישי: מאמרים ודרשות. חלק רביעי: מדרש לחנוכה. בשערו נאמר: "מהדורה ראשונה יצאה בשנת תשל"ח, מאז נדפסו מהדורות רבות, מהדורה חדשה מורחבת ומשוכללת, עם הוספות וחידושים רבים י"ל בשנת תשס"א ועתה פנים חדשות באו לכאן, מהדורה חדשה ומחודשת עם עוד הוספות וחידושים רבים".

ואכן מהדורה זו היא בת תקפג (583) עמודים, ואילו המהדורה הקודמת שיצאה לאור בשנת תשס"א היא בת תסד (464) עמודים. אין ספק שלפנינו גידול מרשים של כמאה ועשרים עמודים בהיקפו של הספר, וכדברי המחבר בשער הספר שהובאו לעיל: "עם עוד הוספות וחידושים רבים". השוואה בין שתי המהדורות מלמדת כי החלק שלישי והחלק רביעי אינם שונים בשתי המהדורות, ונמצא כי גידולו של הספר הוא בשני החלקים הראשונים.

ואכן בחלק השני נוספו עוד יג בירורים חדשים. היינו, כז בירורים היו בשנת תשס"א, לעומת מ' בירורים במהדורת תשס"ח. סידרם ותוכנם של הבירורים בשתי המהדורות זהה עד לסימן כה. סימן כו וסימן כז במהדורת תשס"א, הם סימן לט וסימן מ במהדורת תשס"ח. כך שהבירורים החדשים הם סימנים כו-לח.

ומה ביחס לחלק הראשון? בחלק זה יש הלכות, וגם מקורות ודיונים בהלכות הללו שנדפסו בהערות. במבט ראשון קשה לדעת מה נוסף בו. אכן מצאתי בו אגב עיוני הוספות בהערות, ועל כך אדבר עוד לקמן. לא בדקתי אם יש תוספת בהלכות עצמן.

בדיקת גודלה של תוספת הבירורים החדשים מראה שהיא בת 65 עמודים, ונמצא כי זו היא רק בערך מחצית מכמות העמודים שנוספה במהדורה זו. מכאן עולה כי שאר העמודים שנוספו הם בחלק הראשון. נמצא כי בשני החלקים הראשונים שבספר נמצאים כל החידושים הרבים, והם מתחלקים כמעט באופן שוה בין שני החלקים הללו.


ב. הערות על הספר

1. גופן הספר

בארבע המהדורות האחרונות של הספר, שיצאו לאור בשנים: תשנ"ג, תשנ"ח, תשס"א, תשס"ח, לא נדפס הספר באותו גופן (פונט), אלא כל מהדורה הודפסה בגופן אחר. נכון הוא שלפעמים יש אילוצים מסוימים לשינוי הגופן, אבל דומה כי מן הראוי להשתדל להדפיס את הספר באותו גופן, כך שאדם שרכש את הספר במהדורה קודמת יוכל לראות בצורה נוחה, מה נתחדש במהדורה שאחריה. לא ברור מדוע יש לשנות את הגופן, או את גודלו, ממהדורה למהדורה. כך לדוגמה במהדורה האחרונה הוגדל הגופן בעיקר בחלק הראשון של הספר, וההגדלה היא רק בחלק העליון של העמוד שבו נמצאות ההלכות, אבל בהערות נשאר הגופן הקודם. הגדלה זו הגדילה את מספר הדפים של הספר, אם כי, כאמור, עיקר הגידול של הספר הוא בתוכן עצמו.

2. כפילויות בספר

לספר יש שתי הקדמות, האחת בשם: "דברים אחדים", והשניה בשם: "הקדמה". הראשונה דומה מאוד לזו של מהדורת תשס"א, אלא שנוספה בה פיסקה בתחילה שאינה ענייננו כאן. בשתי המהדורות הללו כותב הר"א שלזינגר: "במהדורה זו נוספו ענינים חדשים רבים. כמו"כ הרבה מהמאמרים שנדפסו במהדורות קודמות בחלק "בירורי הלכה", הוכנסו הפעם בתוך הספר עצמו למען הקל את העיון".

מהדברים הללו עולה כי כל מה שהיה במהדורת תשנ"ח נשאר גם במהדורה החדשה (אלא שנוספו בה הרבה דברים חדשים). אולם השוואת שתי המהדורות מלמדת אחרת.

המעיין במדור בירורי הלכה במהדורה הקודמת לה, היא מהדורת תשנ"ח, ימצא כט עניינים. כז מהם נמצאים ככתבם וכלשונם במהדורת תשס"א, ושניים מהם: ו, כח, חסרים. בירור ו כולל שני מכתבים של רא"י הופמן ביחס לחובת הדלקה בחוץ. בירור כח מכיל מכתב מרי"ש שרגא הלוי, ושני מכתבים מרח"צ אוללמאנן, ובהם הערות שונות על האמור בספר. על פי דברי המחבר ב"דברים אחדים", היה מקום לצפות כי שני הסימנים שהושמטו ממדור הבירורים, יודפסו עתה במהדורת תשס"א בחלק הראשון, או בהלכות עצמן או בהערות. אבל בחלק ראשון של הספר, סי' ה סוף הערה ה, נאמר: "וראה עוד אריכות דברים בח"ב מספרינו זה סימן ו' וסימן כ"ח". אבל אין מובן למשפט זה, שהרי שני סימנים אלו נמצאים אמנם במהדורת תשנ"ח, אבל הושמטו במהדורת תשס"א, וכיצד יכול המעיין לראותם? נמצא אם כן כי במהדורת תשס"א, חסרים שני בירורים שהיו במהדורה הקודמת.

עתה נבדוק מה כוונתו של המחבר באומרו ש"הרבה מהמאמרים שנדפסו במהדורות קודמות בחלק "בירורי הלכה", הוכנסו הפעם בתוך הספר עצמו".

עיון בחלקו הראשון של הספר מגלה כי סימנים שלמים מתוך מדור בירורים, נדפסו גם בתוך ההערות עצמן, כדמותן וכצלמן. לדוגמה, בירור ב: פרסומי ניסא - הידור מצוה או חלק מהמצוה, נדפס בחלק ראשון בהערות בעמ' יא-יח. כמו כן, בירור ג: הדלקת נר חנוכה - חובת הבית או חובת הגוף, שיש בו מכתב ארוך החתום: א. א. ירושלים, ותשובת המחבר שארוכה הרבה יותר, נדפס כולו בעמודים צ-צד (הערה לד). כדי לא להאריך לא אביא דוגמות נוספות, והמעיין ימצא עוד כהנה וכהנה.

נמצא כי יש בירורים שהודפסו פעמיים. פעם אחת במדור בירורים עצמו, ופעם אחת גם בהערות. נמצא אפוא שכוונת המחבר במשפט דלעיל ש"הרבה מהמאמרים שנדפסו במהדורות קודמות בחלק "בירורי הלכה", הוכנסו הפעם בתוך הספר עצמו", שונה לחלוטין מההבנה הפשוטה. הקורא לתומו משפט זה סבור כי יש בירורים שהוצאו ממדור בירורים והודפסו רק בהערות. ואילו אנו רואים כי כוונתו שונה לגמרי. לאמור, דברים שנדפסו קודם רק בבירורי הלכה, נדפסו הפעם גם בתוך ההערות. השאלה היא אם על דבר זה ניתן לומר, כפי שכתב המחבר, שעשה כן "למען הקל את העיון". איני יודע אם יש כאן הקלה, אבל ודאי הוא שיש כאן יותרת הכבד. יש כאן דברים מיותרים שמגדילים את נפח הספר. דומה בעיני שיש כאן צורה חדשה של סידור ספר, שלא ראינוה עד הנה.

מעניין הדבר שגם במהדורת תשס"ח המשיך המחבר באותה שיטה. חלק מבירורי ההלכה נדפסו פעמיים - גם בחלק הראשון בתוך ההערות, וגם בחלק השני הנקרא בירורי הלכה. הדוגמות שניתנו לעיל ביחס למהדורת תשס"א, שרירות וקיימות גם ביחס למהדורת תשס"ח. נתייחס לשתי הדוגמות שניתנו לעיל: בירור ב נדפס כולו בהערות בדפים יא-יח. בירור ג נדפס כולו בדפים קכא-קכד (הערה לד).[3]

ואם תאמר שמא מצאנו כפילות זו רק בבירורים של מהדורת תשס"א, שאותם משום מה הדפיס המחבר בכפילא, אבל בשלושה עשר הבירורים החדשים שנוספו במהדורת תשס"ח אין הדבר כן. ולכאורה סיוע לכך ניתן למצוא בהקדמה למהדורת תשס"ח, שבה אכן יש דברים מסוימים השונים מההקדמה של מהדורת תשס"א. הנה מצאנו בהקדמה, בעמ' 28, את המשפט הבא, שאינו במהדורת תשס"א: "בחלק השני שבספר זה הבאנו "בירורי הלכה", בו נתבררו הרבה מן ההלכות שבגוף הספר הובאו בקצרה וכאן נתבררו בהרחבה ובפירוט, וגם בפלפולא דאורייתא כדרכה של תורה". מכאן מתקבל הרושם כי במהדורה הזו שינה המחבר את דרכו, והקדיש את החלק השני של הספר, "בירורים", להרחבה ודיון מפורט בהלכות שונות, בעוד "שבגוף הספר הובאו בקצרה".

אבל לא כך הם פני הדברים. גם ביחס לבירורים החדשים חוזרת התופעה של הדפסה כפולה. צא וראה, לדוגמה, את בירור כו במהדורת תשס"ח: חיוב ברכה על נר שמדליק מחמת חשד, שהוא בירור חדש שנדפס רק במהדורה זו. והנה כל הבירור כולו נדפס כדמותו וכצלמו גם בחלק הראשון, סימן ה, בהערה לב, בעמודים קנא-קנד. כן הדבר ביחס לבירור כז, שנדפס כולו גם בחלק הראשון, סימן ד, בהערה לא, בעמודים קיז-קכ. גם בירור כח נדפס כולו גם בחלק הראשון, סימן ו, בהערה טז*, בעמודים קפ-קפה.[4] הגדיל לעשות המחבר בבירור כט, שהכניסו כולו בחלק הראשון, סימן ג, הערה א (פרט לשתי הפיסקאות הראשונות), והוא בן שלושה עשר עמודים! (סוף עמ' סג ועד עמ' עו). והמעיין ימצא עוד בכגון אלו.

3. משפטים שאינם בהירים

כפילות זו, שאותו עניין נזכר הן בהערות והן בבירורים, גורמת שקיימים משפטים שאינם מובנים ואינם בהירים די הצורך.

הנה בסוף בירור ל נאמר: "ובכל זה הארכנו בדברי מרן הגר"ש ואזנר שליט"א בספרינו [5] "מצות נר איש וביתו" חלק בירורי הלכה (סימן ז)" וכו'. המשפט תמוה. הרי אנו נמצאים בספר "מצות נר איש וביתו", ומלשון המחבר עולה כאילו עלינו לפנות לספר אחר. זאת ועוד, הרי אנו נמצאים בחלק "בירורי הלכה", ואם כן די היה לכתוב: ובכל זה הארכנו... לעיל סימן ז, ללא המלים: חלק בירורי הלכה. אלא נראה שהסיבה לכך היא, שבירור זה כולו נדפס גם בחלק ראשון בהערה כח, בעמודים קצב-קצד, ושם הסיומת: "ובכל זה הארכנו בדברי מרן הגר"ש ואזנר שליט"א בספרינו "מצות נר איש וביתו" חלק בירורי הלכה (סימן ז)", מתאימה קצת יותר, כי המחבר מפנה אותנו מההערות הנמצאות בחלק הראשון, לחלק השני שהוא "בירורי הלכה".[6]

הבה נראה דוגמה נוספת שהיא מלמדת על עניין נוסף. בחלק הבירורים סוף סימן ה, עמ' שנו, נאמר: "בספרי [7] ציינתי בהערות שישנן גם דעות אחרות... והבאתי כאן את הדברים למען יראה הקורא דישנן כמה דעות בנושא". הקורא מבין מדבריו שבחלק הראשון של הספר קיצר המחבר בהערות, ואילו כאן הביא את הדברים בהרחבה. אלא שהבנה זו שלנו בדבריו אינה נכונה, שהרי כל האמור כאן בחלק הבירורים, נמצא ככתבו וכלשונו בחלק הראשון, בסוף הערה לד, בעמ' קסא-קסב. אם כן, כבר הובאו הדברים קודם, וכבר ראה אותם הקורא, ואין זה נכון לומר "והבאתי כאן את הדברים למען יראה הקורא", שמשתמע שרק כאן הם הובאו, ורק כאן יראה אותם הקורא לראשונה. נראה שהיה לו לומר: והבאתי כאן שוב את הדברים.

4. הפניות שאינן מעודכנות

מכיון שאנו נמצאים בבירור ה, נוסיף בו עוד עניין. בפתח בירור ה, עמ' שנה, נאמר: "בספרי [8] סימן ה' סעיף ט' אות כ"ד הבאנו דעה" וכו'. אלא שהמחפש את העניין, אליו רומז כאן המחבר, לא ימצאנה בהערה כד. זאת משום שעניין זה אכן נמצא בהערה כד במהדורת תשנ"ח, אבל במהדורת תשס"א, ולאחריה במהדורת תשס"ח, עניין זה נמצא בהערה לד. לפי דרכנו למדנו מדוגמה זו, כי לא כל ההפניות עודכנו ממהדורה למהדורה.

בהקשר לכך אנו יכולים להוסיף, כי את הבירורים אשר השמיט במעבר ממהדורת תשנ"ח למהדורת תשס"א, הלא הם בירורים ו, כח, וכבר הזכרנו השמטה זו לעיל, המשיך להשמיט גם במהדורה זו. אבל גם כאן המשיך לציין אליהם, וכפי שעשה כן גם במהדורת תשס"א. כך כתב בחלק ראשון, סי' ה, סוף הערה ה: "וראה עוד אריכות דברים בח"ב מספרינו זה סימן ו' וסימן כ"ח". מובן שהמעיין באותם סימנים במהדורת תשס"ח, לא ימצא קשר בינם לבין האמור בהערה זו. היינו, חוסר העידכון ממהדורת תשס"א, נמשך גם כאן.

אכן ידוע הוא, שעידכון של הפניות ממהדורה למהדורה, כרוך בטירחה יתירה ובבדיקת כל מראי המקומות, ולכן כמעט אין לך ספר שיצא במספר מהדורות, שלא ימצאו בו הפניות שאינן מעודכנות.

אסיים במה שפתחתי. כל האמור כאן לא בא אלא להצביע על מספר עניינים של צורה, מבנה וסגנון בספר הנדון, שנראה לי כי מן הראוי לתת עליהם את הדעת. אכן ברור לכל, שחשיבותו של הספר אינה נגרעת במאומה מכל האמור.

הערות
[1] ראה עוד י"ש שפיגל, 'משהו על כיווני היצירה התורנית בדורינו', סיני, קז (תשנ"א), עמ' צב-צד.

[2] ר"ג ציננער, שפירסם ספרים רבים בשם "נטעי גבריאל", כשכל אחד מהם מוקדש לנושא הלכתי מסוים, כתב בספרו המוקדש לפורים המשולש, וערב פסח שחל בשבת, ירושלים, תשס"ה, בהקדמה עמ' כג: "בשנת תשנ"ד, בהיותי בארה"ק בשלהי חודש אדר, והבאתי ספרי על ער"פ שחל בשבת לגאון ישראל הגרש"ז אויערבאך זצ"ל... ואז גם מסר לי איזה הלכות והנהגות, כאשר הובא בפנים הספר. ובנו הרה"ג רבי ברוך זצ"ל מסר לי בשעתו שאביו עיין רבות בספרי הנ"ל ונהנה מזה". אם זכרוני אינו מכזב לי, דומני גם שראיתי באחד מהספרים מסוג זה, שמחברו כתב בשם אחד מגדולי הדור שאמר שיש לעיין בספר מסוג זה, כי רבה בו התועלת, משום שהמחבר הקדיש עצמו לנושא אחד, ומסתמא הקיף את כל האמור בזה.

[3] אנו רואים כי קיים אי שויון בעימוד שבין שתי המהדורות. הרי הסיבה לכך: כפי שאמרנו הגופן של ההלכות במהדורת תשס"ח גדול במעט יותר מזה של מהדורת תשס"א. לכן בתחילת החלק הראשון ההשפעה עדיין אינה ניכרת כל כך, ומספרי העמודים של שתי המהדורות תואמים זה לזה. אבל בהמשך נוצר לאט לאט הבדל, ואנו רואים כי מספרי העמודים של ההערה המתאימה לבירור ג, אינם מתאימים בשתי המהדורות. בספרנו.

[4] במהדורת תשס"ח זהה מיספור ההערות למיספור שהיה במהדורת תשס"א. השמירה על המיספור הקודם גם במהדורה זו, יצרה למחבר בעיה בכל מקום שבו הכניס בירור חדש. ברוב המקרים הוכנסו הבירורים החדשים לתוך הערות קיימות. אבל יש מקרים שבהם נאלץ המחבר ליצור הערה חדשה, כמו בדוגמה זו. נמצא כי הערה טז, שהיתה במהדורה תשס"א, נשארה כפי שהיא גם במהדורת תשס"ח, ואילו הערה טז*, נוצרה במיוחד רק כדי להכניס בתוכה את כל הבירור החדש - בירור כח.

[5] היינו: בספרנו.

[6] אם כי ההפניה לספר "מצות נר איש וביתו" עדיין אינה מובנת, שהרי בספר זה קיימינן.

[7] נראה לי שהיה עדיף לנסח: בספר, או: בספר זה, או: בחלק ראשון של הספר. והניסוח שלפנינו אולי יכול להטעות שכוונתו על ספר אחר, וכפי שאראה כן בהמשך.

[8] ראה הערה קודמת על הניסוח הזה.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Daniel J. Lasker - "December 6 Is Coming: Get Out the Umbrellas"

December 6 Is Coming: Get Out the Umbrellas
By Daniel J. Lasker
Daniel J. Lasker is Norbert Blechner Professor of Jewish Values at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Beer Sheva, and is chair of the Goldstein-Goren Department of Jewish Thought. His landmark work Jewish Philosophical Polemics against Christianity in the Middle Ages, originally published in 1977, was recently republished with a new introduction in 2007.

This is Professor Lasker’s first post at the Seforim blog.
We Jews in Israel have been praying for rain since the seventh of Marheshvan (the night of Thursday, October 18), but, unfortunately, so far the prayers have generally not yet been answered (especially in Beer Sheva where I live). Next week, it will be the chance of Jews who live in the Diaspora to pray for rain, beginning in Maariv of the night of Wednesday, December 5 (the eve of December 6). As undoubtedly all readers of the Seforim blog know, the dates for asking for rain (adding the words ve-ten tal u-matar li-verakha to the ninth blessing of the Shemoneh Esreh, in the Ashkenazi and Nusah Sefarad rites; or changing the form of that blessing from Barkheinu to Bareikh Aleinu, in what is now usually known as the Edot ha-Mizrah rite) are different for the Land of Israel and for the Diaspora. Perhaps not all readers know 1) why there is a difference; 2) why most years one begins the prayer in Maariv of December 4 (the eve of December 5); and 3) why one begins on December 5 this year.

Why is there a difference?

Mishnah Ta’anit 1:3 reads: “On the third of Marheshvan one is to begin praying for rain; Rabban Gamaliel says: ‘On the seventh of that month, fifteen days after the feast of Tabernacles, so that even the tardiest Israelite may reach the Euphrates [on the return journey from the pilgrimage to Jerusalem].’” The Talmud (Ta’anit 10a) records Rabbi Eleazar as stating that the law follows Rabban Gamaliel. Despite the fact that the pilgrimage on Sukkot is no longer binding, and modern methods of transportation obviate the need to wait two weeks for the pilgrims to return home, the practice has remained constant: in the Land of Israel, she’elat geshamim (the prayer for rain) begins on the eve of the seventh of Marheshvan.

The same Talmudic passage records that, in the Golah, the practice was to wait “until the sixtieth [day] of the [autumnal] equinox (ad shishim ba-tequfah)” before beginning the prayer. No explanation is given for this difference between Israel and Babylonia, but there are good reasons to believe that it has to do with the meteorological and agricultural differences between the countries. Jews in Babylonia did not need, nor did they want, the winter rains to begin until two thirds of the autumn season had passed; therefore, they waited longer before beginning the prayer. Both communities, however, began “mentioning” rain (mashiv ha-ruah) on Shemini Atzeret, and they ceased mentioning rain and saying the special prayer for rain at Passover.[1]

What about Jews in other countries? Should Jews in these areas pray for rain according to the needs of their own country of residence, as did Jews in the Land of Israel and in Babylonia, or should they employ an already established schedule? Since Babylonian procedures were usually followed in the whole Diaspora, it became the practice of Jews almost everywhere outside the Land of Israel to offer their prayers for rain on the same dates as did their Babylonian coreligionists.[2]

This generalization did not go unchallenged, and the most noteworthy attempt to alter the practice was made by Rabbeinu Asher ben Yehiel (Rosh, c. 1250-1328). He tried to establish the principle that each Jewish community would pray for rain when they actually needed it in their country; this attempt was rebuffed by his contemporaries. The Rosh’s failure to innovate a change in the practice, no matter how sensible it might have seemed, was a major reason why no one in the northern hemisphere ever again challenged the prevailing practice. Questions did arise, however, when Jews migrated to areas in the southern hemisphere, when the order of the seasons is reversed. Rabbinic opinion has usually held that the Babylonian pattern should be followed even when the local winter occurs during summer in Babylonia and vice versa. The result is that to this day, Jews throughout the Diaspora set their liturgical calendar in this regard according to the agricultural needs of Iraq, a country which is now almost devoid of Jews.[3]

On most years...

But why December 4? The Talmud says “the sixtieth day of the autumnal equinox,” and the autumnal equinox this year fell on September 23, 2007, at 5:51 AM, on the American eastern seaboard, making the sixtieth day on November 21.[4] The answer to this question is to be found in a miscalculation of the length of the year. Present-day astronomers calculate the mean solar year to be 365.2422 days (365 days, 5 hours, 48 minutes and 46 seconds). This is slightly shorter than the 365.25 days (365 days, 6 hours) assumed by Samuel, the third century amora and astronomer, who gave the rules for calculating the equinoxes and solstices (Eruvin 56a). This is the same assumption which is at the basis of the Julian calendar as well.

The discrepancy between the assumed length of the year and actual length may not seem like much; it is only .0078 days (11 minutes, 14 seconds) a year. Yet, over a period of a thousand years, a difference of 7.8 days (1000 x .0078) exists between a system based on assumed length (the Julian calendar or Samuel’s tequfot) and one based on actual length. It is this difference which led the Catholic Church under Pope Gregory XIII to correct the Julian calendar by dropping 10 days in 1582 (the day after Thursday, October 4 became Friday, October 15), thus creating the Gregorian calendar. To prevent further problems, three leap years were eliminated every 400 years, so that only century years divisible by 400 were leap years. This system, which eventually caught on in the whole world, is not perfect, since in 3300 years another one day discrepancy accumulates.

In Samuel’s calculation, however, there are exactly 365 ¼ days in a year, and each tequfah (solstice or equinox) lasts exactly 91 days and 7 ½ hours (despite the disparate lengths of the various seasons). One autumnal equinox (tequfat tishrei) falls exactly 365 ¼ days after the previous one. Samuel’s calculation has kept in step with the Julian calendar throughout the centuries, and, therefore, just as in Samuel’s time tequfat tishrei fell on the Julian September 24, so, too, today it invariably falls on that date. In this century, however, the Julian September 24 is the Gregorian October 7. The sixtieth day after October 7 is December 5, and one generally begins saying tal u-matar in the Maariv before December 5, namely on December 4.

... but this year.

So why is this year different from all other years, or at least the last three years? This is a function of the exact hour when the equinox falls. Although it is always on October 7, in a four year cycle the tequfah will come at 03:00, 09:00, 15:00 and 21:00 (check your synagogue luah for the times). The fourth year is always a Hebrew year divisible by four (5768), or the year before a civil leap year (2008); in that year, tequfat tishrei is after dark (21:00) and, therefore, it is considered the next day (October 8). Fifty-nine days later is December 6 and tal u-matar begins in Maariv of December 5. Since the coming civil year adds an additional day, next year’s calculated autumnal equinox will again fall on October 7 at 03:00, and tal u-matar will again begin in Maariv of December 4. In the nineteenth century, the prayer for rain began in Maariv of December 3 or 4; since 1900 was not a leap year, it jumped to December 4 or 5 in the twentieth century. 2100 will also not be a leap year, and in the twenty-second century, tal u-matar will begin in Maariv of December 5 or 6. Given enough time, and no calendrical reform, eventually Jews outside Israel will start praying for rain only on the eve of Passover, just in time to stop this prayer when Passover begins.[5]

A few observations can be added to this description of the beginning time of the prayer for rain in the Diaspora. First, the same miscalculation which causes the “sixtieth day of the autumnal equinox” to move forward vis-à-vis the sun is at the base of another Jewish ritual, the once in 28 years “Blessing of the Sun” (Birkat ha-Hammah), scheduled to occur again in one year and five months on Wednesday, April 8, 2009 (coincidentally, fourteenth of Nisan, the eve of Passover; the last time was on Wednesday, April 8, 1981). In the nineteenth century, the Blessing of the Sun occurred on Wednesday, April 7, every 28 years; in the twenty-second century it will be on Wednesday, April 9, every 28 years. Despite the fact that the Blessing commemorates the cyclical repetition of the first vernal equinox at creation, it now falls 18 days after the actual astronomical equinox.

Furthermore, it is clear from the sources that each Jewish community is actually praying for rain for its own needs, and not for rain in the Land of Israel. Nevertheless, many Jews, even relatively knowledgeable ones, think that adding tal u-matar to the prayers on December 5 marks the beginning of the rainy season in Israel, not realizing that she’elat geshamim had already begun in Israel on the seventh of Marheshvan. Perhaps one of the sources of this widespread misconception is the fact that the astronomical sixtieth day of the equinox has meaning only for Iraq, if even there, and the calculated sixtieth day has no meaning anywhere. Thus, when Jews in the Diaspora start praying for rain on December 4, they mistakenly think that they are doing so for the residents of the Land of Israel.

Perhaps their prayers are still valuable. From my experience, often November is a dry month in Israel, and the winds pick up and the rain starts falling only in the first week of December. The sages tell us that the reason Israel has distinct wet and dry seasons and is so dependent upon rainfall (as compared to Egypt; cf. Deut. 11:10-12) is that God delights in hearing the prayers of the righteous who turn to Him in supplication for rain. Perhaps, the beginning of serious rain in the Land of Israel at the beginning of December, just as the prayer for rain starts in the Diaspora, is a sign that God actually delights in the prayers of the ignoramuses, who believe that their supplications for rain at that time are directed for the good of the Jews in the Land of Israel, not realizing that their prayers should be intended to bring rain to their own countries of residence. Whatever the case, we wish along with the High Priest on Yom Kippur that this year in Israel will, indeed, be very wet and not too cold, and that the rain will be only for a blessing!

Notes:
[1] For a discussion of the Babylonian custom, and the reasons behind it, see Arnold A. Lasker and Daniel J. Lasker, "The Jewish Prayer for Rain in Babylonia," Journal for the Study of Judaism in the Persian, Hellenistic and Roman Period 15 (1984): 124-144.
[2] In the words of the commentary attributed to Rashi on Ta’anit 10a: “Thus we act since all our customs follow the Babylonians (kol minhageinu ahar benei bavel).”
[3] For a fuller description of the long process described in these few sentences, see Arnold A. Lasker and Daniel J. Lasker, "The Jewish Prayer for Rain in the Post-Talmudic Diaspora," AJS Review 9:2 (Fall 1984): 141-174.
[4] The equinoxes and solstices fall at the same instant all around the world, so in Israel, the autumnal equinox was at 12:51 PM; in Hawaii, at 12:51 AM; all times are daylight savings times.
[5] Details can be found in Arnold A. Lasker and Daniel J. Lasker, “The Strange Case of December 4: A Liturgical Problem,” Conservative Judaism 38:1 (Fall 1985): 91-99.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Review of Kuntress Ha-Teshuvot He-Hadash

Kuntress Ha-Teshuvot He-Hadash, A Bibliographic Thesaurus of Responsa Literature published from ca. 1470-2000, ed. Shmuel Glick, vol. II, Jerusalem & Ramat-Gan, 2007, [4], 11, 483, [4].

I have briefly mentioned previously the bibliography on the Teshuva seforim, Kuntress Ha-Teshuvot He-Hadash ("KTH"). The second of four volumes has been published and I wanted to provide a more in-depth review of this work. KTH is an update of Boaz Cohen's earlier bibliography, Kuntres Ha-Teshuvot, of Teshuvos seforim. In truth, however, this is far from a standard bibliography and when viewed as merely a bibliography it falls short. There are two basic types of Jewish bibliography works. The first is a "standard" bibliography and contains a meticulous entry of the publication information of a book. So in this type the reader gets the title, author, page count, size and various editions. The second type, while sometimes less exact on the technical side makes up for that by including additional information either about the contents of the book or the author. An shining example of the second type is the Hida's Shem HaGedolim. KTH, while it has some of the first type is much stronger if viewed as in the Shem HaGedolim category.

KTH provides the basic information for each entry. The information includes: title, author, place[s] the author lived, years the author lived, a description of the book, sources for biographical information on the author, various printings of the book, and where the editors have seen the book recorded. In the bibliographical sense, KTH does not attempt to provide information on every printing of a particular book. Thus, one looking for a complete history of printing will be disappointed. That said, today, with the ease of viewing almost every major library's catalog online locating a particular edition is not too difficult.

Instead, what KTH provides is something a typical library catalog cannot - detailed information on the content of the books. For many, although not all, of the books listed in KTH there are detailed description of many of the questions that appear in the book in question. And, I cannot emphasis enough how much information they provide at times it is amazing as not only do they provide the details of the book itself the editors also provide articles on the topic in question or citations to other books that discuss the same or a similar question. A few examples from the literally hundreds of such entries. In the entry for מלחמות אלקים by R. Bernard Illowy (2266) they list some of the teshuvos in the sefer one is teshuva no. 4:

סי' 4: תשובות מאת המחבר ומאת ר' שמשון רפאל הירש ור' נתן אדלר בעניין כשרות עוף הברברי . . . על הפולמוס בעניין עוף זה, ועל תשובות המחבר, ראה ז' עמר וא' זיבטפסקי, "כשרות הברברי והמולרד", המעין מד, א (תשס"ד) עמ' 35-42, נ"י וינברגר, "והעוף ירב בארץ", ישורון יד (תשס"ד) עמ' תתקט-תתקלא

KTH is full of such entries. Another example, is the entry for מקוה ישראל (no. 2438) one of the books on the controversy regarding the mikvah in Rovigo. Again not only is the controversy mentioned merely as it appears in the book, instead, a nice bibliography on the controversy generally is provided. To wit,

על הפולמוס ראה: גרשון כהן, "לתולדות הפולמוס על סתם יינם באיטליה ומקורותיו," סיני עז (תשל"ה) עמ' סב-צ, יהודה בלוי, כתבי הרב יהודה אריה ממודינא, בודאפשט תרס"ו, עמ' 127-137, י' זנה, "הבדותה על דבר הספר מלחמות ה' בעניין המקוה מרוויגו", קרית ספר י (תרצ"ד), עמ' 360-364, מ' בניהו,"ספרים שחיברם ר' משה חאג'יז וספרים שהוצים לאור", עלי ספר ב (תשל"ו) עמ' 132 הע' 31, וראה עוד על הפולמוס ועל הדף "בשם ה'" שצורף לספר, מחקרי ספר, עמ' 420-429. וראה גם י' יודלוב, "פסקי דין של רבני ויניציאה משנת שס"ט" סיני מג (תשל"ט) עמ' קסו-קעב הע' 11

Or, the entry for the נודע ביהודה, the editors (no. 2627) document the well-worn and imaginary story that some editions of the נודע ביהודה were changed. Specifically, the famous teshuva discussing the recitation of לשם יחוד ends with a sharp barb at Hassidim. R. Landau substituted חסידים for פושעים. Many have recorded that in some editions this was changed back to the original reading. While that might be a good story there is no evidence that in any edition the passage in question was ever altered from the original. The entry lists many of those who record the story albeit with slightly different facts (they analyze the following sources: Beis Rebbi, Mekor Barukh, MiDor Dor, Medi Hodesh b'Hodsho, Imrei Shammai, and Mofesh HaDor) and then demonstrates the falicy of the story. Just two small additions to the entry are worthwhile pointing out. First, although many who record the story are listed, Dr. Sperber, in Minhagei Yisrael also was taken by this story (vo. 2 p. 118). Second, the only source provided that discusses the permissabilty of reciting לשם יחוד is the Hida in Machzik Berakha, O"C, 231:1. At the very least, R. Chaim Czernovitz, Sha'ar Ha-Teffilah should be mentioned as it is an attempt to rebut the position of R. Landau. See also Sperber's discussion in Minhagei Yisrael, vol. 2 115-18, vol. 3 186-209.

The entry for מספד תמרורים (no. 2366) states:
עמ' 7-8: "נשאלתי בהא דנוהגי' הגבאי' בהלוי' המת כשיש בידם הקופות שקוראי' 'צדקה תציל ממות' דהרי הוי לועג לרש וחרף עושהו וממש דמגרה עם המת שלכן מת כיון שלא נתן צדקה ואלו הי' נותן צדקה לא הי' מת? ע"כ

Aside from the "extraneous" information, information about various printings is provided as well. In the entry for the נחלת שבעה (no. 2667) the editors note that Efrahim Koffer found an autograph manuscript of the work that contains additional teshuvot and information. The editors also note that this new material was included in the 2006 edition of the נחלת שבעה. The editors point out, however, that in the 2006 edition they were "unaware" that Koffer found and published this additional material first. Moreover, the editors provide additional information on other manuscripts of the נחלת שבעה. Other entries contain which editions are lacking or have been changed.

The entries also provide sources for biographical information of the authors. The sources run the gamut from academic sources to biographies in the Yated Ne'eman (see, e.g. no. 2057).
All the information provided makes this a highly readable work and more importantly, provides the reader with much information that is difficult to locate otherwise. This work when competed in four volumes, will be the standard work in the field.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

A Review of Beis Havaad by Eliezer Brodt

Beis Havaad, Le'arechat Kitvei Rabboseinu, ed. Yoel Hakoton and Eliyahu Soloveitchik, (Jerusalem, 2003); 272 pp.

Beis Havaad is a collection of articles based on a series of lectures that were delivered in Yerushalayim dealing with many aspects of the proper way seforim should be published. Beis Havaad was originally intended to be a journal but, to date, no other issue has appeared. With its focus on books, it is only proper that a review of this book should appear at the Seforim blog -- albeit somewhat belatedly -- and discuss some of the many important points raised in this book.

This book is a collection of articles from many of the top names in the field of printing and editing of seforim and includes articles by both rabbanim and professors. This sefer is basically a must have for anyone who wants to understand how seforim are printed, how to write them, how to find information and the importance of printing proper texts. Although I believe it is currently out of print, The sefer is available at Beigeleisen and many of the articles can be accessed online here. I will list some of the many points of interest raised in the various articles in the book.

The book begins with an excellent article by Professor S.Z. Havlin regarding the importance of establishing the correct text of the seforim and using manuscripts. He gives some great practical samples demonstrating his points. Havlin also explains and examines the Hazon Ish’s position regarding the use of manuscripts and the need (or lack thereof) to establish a correct text. At the end of the article, Havlin highlights a source not typically used in the discussion about manuscripts etc. Havlin notes that the topic was touched upon in Chaim Potok’s novel The Promise. Havlin is not the only one to deal with this topic in Beis Havaad, R. Eliyahu Soloveitchik, in his article also discusses this topic. Both of these discussions add some more points to this ongoing discussion amongst talmidei hakhamim and scholars alike regarding the use of manuscripts and correcting texts. [I shall return to this topic at greater length in a forthcoming post at the Seforim blog.]

Professor Havlin also mentions a bit about the derech halimud of R. Avraham Eliyahu Kaplan. Additionally, included in this journal is a reprint of much of R. Kaplan's work on the topic. This work of R. Kaplan is a very special blueprint of how to print an extensive commentary on shas. [This great goan and his works will be the subject of a forthcoming post at the Seforim blog.] With permission of the family, they printed parts of this fascinating project which unfortunately never came to full fruition.

Another important article in this journal is from R. Hillel Parush of Machon Harav Herzog and deals with other aspects of the nusach of the Talmud. Amongst the topics that he discusses is the the Hagahos of the Maharshal on the gemara, if they were from based on logical deduction or manuscripts. [For more on this topic, see Yaakov Shmuel Spiegel, Amudim b’Toldot Sefer HaIvri, Haghot u’Maghim, pp. 279-85.]

There are at least three articles discussing exactly how one should edit seforim. Each of these articles contribute different, yet offer very important points for discussion. The first is from R. Y. Weiss who was the editor of the excellent journal, Tzefenous. He gives many practical samples on mistakes found in various classical seforim and how he would suggest these mistakes be corrected. Following R. Weiss’s article on the topic is another article on the topic from Professor Robert Brody of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, famous for his work on the geonim. Specifically, Brody's article discusses how after tracking down all the manuscripts of a specific sefer, the next step is to establish which manuscript is the most accurate text to base the actual text of the sefer. He also points out how one has to be very careful to be crystal clear when printing a sefer to note one's methods in coming to the decision of which manuscript to use. [As Prof. Brody notes, this whole topic is a very complicated one, one that takes him a few months to teach how exactly this is done. Here, however, he provides an outline of some of the more salient points.]

R. Yoel Koton, co-editor of this volume and editor of the Hamaayan, has an in-depth article with all the rules of writing an article or sefer. Amongst the topics are all rules of grammar and how to quote the sources exactly. This is an extremely important article and anyone who is printing anything for the public should look at it as he raises many important issues. Amongst the points he raises are: the need to cite exactly what source is being quoted, including the edition used as many times there can be many works with the same name or even of the same author with different printings and one trying to track it down has great difficulty doing so; and, consulting experts on particular topics. Koton gives the example of if one is working on Mesechtas Rosh Hashana and comes to the topics relating to Hilchos Kiddush Hachodesh, he should consult people who are familiar with astronomy. [One who looks at the work of R. Chaim Kanivesky on Hilchos Kiddush Hachodesh will see how he consulted an expert on these topics.] As R. Zev Lev writes, in his introduction to Marchei Lev, how he used to explain and discuss the various aspects of science with R. Shlomo Zalman Auerbach when he was working on his teshuvos about opening a refrigerator on Shabbos.

Another article of interest is from Benjamin Richler where he discusses the history of the Institute of Microfilmed Hebrew Manuscripts (IMHM), situated in the Manuscripts and Archives Wing on the ground floor of the Jewish National and University Library, of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.[2] Richler writes that 95% of the Jewish manuscripts in the world can be found there, either through microfilm, or actual text. This was written a few years ago. More recently, Richler writes only 90% can be found here. Be that as it may, an extremely large percentage of the Jewish manuscripts in the world are found there. He writes that a very large percentage of the halachic works of the Rishonim have been printed. But on kabbalah and other topics there are still many works in manuscript. Richler encourages anyone working on a work of the Rishonim or Achronim to check if perhaps there’s another manuscript that will help them print a more accurate text of the work. See also Benjamin Richler's posts (here and here) offering some examples on the benefits of the JNUL manuscript room. The catalog is available online, and it is very easy to navigate through. The staff of the manuscript room is very helpful.

Another article is by Ezra Schwat, also of the JNUL Manuscript Room. His article has a list of all the different helpful websites for one to find different manuscripts. These sites are very helpful for all different kinds of research related to all Jewish areas. Another article is from Professor Spiegel, one of the heads of the Bar Ilan Responsa project. He writes that it is very important for any person working on a sefer to use the Bar Ilan program and similar programs, as they are extremely helpful, especially for locating sources. This article was written before the waves of hard drives from Otzar Hachochma, Otzar Haposkim, Otzros Hatorah, and Hebrewbooks.org which are also important to use.

Another important article was written by Rabbi Mordechai Honig. This article is a continuation of an article from Professor Simcha Emanuel, available here, about the great necessity of an updated version of the sefer Sarei Haelef from Rabbi Menahem M. Kasher. The last updated print edition of the Sarei Haelef was in 1979 and much has been printed since then. Emanuel began to list in his article some of the updates and Hoenig gives another few hundred additions. The work is extremely important. Many times when one is working on a topic, one is curious to know if a work quoted by a Rishon was actually printed, or if there was any historical information about the Rishon. One can turn to this reference. But, as both Emanuel and Hoenig show, Sarei Haelef really requires an comprehensive update.

Included in this journal is an article from Rav Yitzchak Shilat dealing with one of his pet projects, the reprinting of the Perush HaMishnah of the Rambam. There is also an article describing the important project of Halacha Berurah based on R. Kook.

One of the articles which seems to be completely out of place of the spirit of this journal is written by R. Yehuda Liba ben Dovid. This author has written many excellent articles in different Torah journals, some of which he collected and printed in a very interesting sefer called Shevet Mi’Yehuda. Reprinted here is an article that was printed many times before, which is his macha’a (objection) on the way many frum authors write their works. His first problem is on two works printed from Machon Ofek, one called the Teshuvos Hagaonim Hachadashos by Prof. Simcha Emanuel and another called Teshuvos R’ Naturnai Gaon by Professor Robert Brody. His main complaint is that both of these works use Christian, Greek, Karai and Maskilic sources. He says that there’s no reason for a frum work to quote any of these works today. He writes that there is a reason why these works aren’t found in the local beis medrash or yeshiva library. Another example he gives is Ahavat Shalom reprinted a work on minhagim called Kesser Shem Tov from Shem Tov Gagen. This author also brings quote in his work from Christians, Karaim, and Reform Jews. Again, R. ben Dovid writes that he doesn’t understand how a respected publishing house could reprint this work. He goes on to list some other examples and complaints.

In my humble opinion I beg to differ on this point. The basic problem with R. ben Dovid’s article is that what he is suggesting runs directly counter to a significant portion of Beis Havaad and general common sense. As the Rambam teaches: Halomed Mikol Adam. Even if the sources aren’t religious or Jewish at all, if they have a good point, they may be quoted. Granted, this approach has been debated throughout the generations by many. In litvish circles, most notably, R. Yosef Zecharia Stern held that one may quote all sources as long as one realizes who he is quoting. Today in the field of Jewish academics and printing new seforim, there’s much to be learned from the way scholars, even non-Jewish ones, have presented their works, and sometimes they might have good point or two that’s beneficial for the work at hand. For example, if one is working on medical halakhic questions, he can’t just rely on the words of the poskim, but he must be familiar with updated studies in the scholarly world of medicine and to be at least aware of what they write about the various medical conditions before he reaches his conclusions. Knowledge of history is also very important especially in learning halakha as one needs to know who learnt by whom and who was born first, all of which plays a great role in deciding halakha. It is quite obvious to all that the Chida in his classic work Shem Hagedolim was not wasting his time when he wrote it.

There are many other examples of why this is important. For another example, see the excellent Haskamah of R. Shlomo Cohen to the Otzar Haseforim [a bibliography of Hebrew books] by Ben Yakov a Maskil - yes, a maskil – how, according to R. Yehudah, could he give a haskamah to such a work. So to in printing these works of Gaonim, Rishonim and even Achronim many times it is very helpful to be aware of history of the time in order to understand there words. Many times statements of the Geonim it has been proven how many things they wrote were specifically against the Karaim (there are numerous examples of this). Of course, no one is suggesting to pasken based on these Karaim or Christian sources, but it just helps one understand the specific words of the Gaonim and Rishonim. Great people had no problem using works that quoted such sources just to list a few: R. Mordechai Gifter, R. Shlomo Zalman Auerbach, R. Shlomo Yosef Zevin, R. Yechiel Yaakov Weinberg and R. Reuven Margoliyot all quote Prof. Saul Leiberman in their writings, as they did not seem to be bothered by R. ben Dovid's concern. (many others have hid it see Marc B. Shapiro, Saul Lieberman and the Orthodox).

Another example is when Professor A. Sofer, who also taught at JTS, passed away late at night. R. Shlomo Zalman Auerbach, who was a good friend of his, was feeling very weak than yet he made it his business to attend the funeral as a hakarat hatov for all R. Sofer’s work on the Meiri’s writings. (See Yeshurun, vol. 15, p. 501). When one works on minhagim it’s very helpful to be familiar with the history of the time in order to understand the development of certain things as Professor Daniel Sperber ably demonstrates time and time again in his now-eight-volume set of Minhagei Yisrael. Recently an excellent work on minhaghim came out from the ultra-Orthodox -- as opposed to academic -- circles called Mihnaghei Hakehilos by R. Yehiel Goldhaber. R. Goldhaber also uses such sources and he has received many haskamot from various gedolim. In sum it is important to use all available sources to understand what ever topic one is working on.

Of course, there is the very important point to all this which Professor Lieberman said many times, that the most important thing is to learn real Torah. All of these things are helpful but only a tafal to the learning. All of Professor Lieberman's excellent writings on Greek in Jewish Palestine were on the side his main learning goals was to complete his works on the Tosefta and Yerushalmi.

In all, Beis Havaad, is an extremely important collection of articles on the topic of seforim in general.


Print post

You might also like

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...