Thursday, July 31, 2008
"We must draw a clear distinction between R. Solomon’s Responsum 29, where he inserts a copy of an historical document that was written by a contemporary of R. Meir, and this statement in the ים של שלמה, which was based on an oral report, notoriously subject to error. An oral statement made almost three hundred years after the event is usually devoid of historical truth."
Although the above is virtually a dogma among historians, one must always keep an open mind. This is illustrated very nicely by one of my favorite authors, R. Kipling. In an article on his book Puck of Pooks Hill and its sequel, Lisa Lewis remarks:
The many ways history is recorded and interpreted are another major theme that permeates Puck of Pook's Hill. Written evidence is shown as less reliable than it seems. In "Old Men at Pevensey" an ambitious monk deliberately slants the record for political reasons. The manor rolls can also be falsified--De Aquila says of a girl "write her free," yielding to her family's importunity without examining the facts.
In "Hal o' the Draft" a magistrate decides not to prosecute villagers guilty of gun running, so that this crime would not be listed in the trial records for Henry VII's reign. A letter written by one character to another, but which may be read by hostile eyes on the road, carries an opposite message between the lines. When Maximus writes to Parnesius that he should not heed defeatist rumours, Pertinax comments: "He writes as a man without hope." 
The oral tradition represented by old Hobden, though it may seem full of superstitious nonsense, contains hints and suggestions that can carry more than symbolic meaning, as the Marsh, which looks so flat and plain, is full of hidden dykes. The land itself, with its traditional place names, its hills, fords and pathways, bears true witness to the past. Little Lindens farm, the parish church and the ruins of the old forge each contribute to the unspoken record.
At the end Dan refers to G. M. Ballantyne's adventure stories, in which he found his information about gorillas, offering an explication of the "Devils." "All people can be wise by reading of books," comments Puck. "But are the books true?" asks the knight. (27) Puck then leads him on to tell the third story in his cycle, "Old Men at Pevensey," in which writing is used to deceive: "tricked out and twisted from its true meaning, yet withal so cunningly that none could deny who knew him that De Aquila had in some sort spoken those words."
 This is the passage in question:
"Tell your Father that my destiny orders me to drive three mules or be torn in pieces by them. I hope within a year to finish with Theodosius, son of Theodosius, once and for all. Then you shall have Britain to rule, and Pertinax, if he chooses, Gaul. To-day I wish strongly you were with me to beat my Auxiliaries into shape. Do not, I pray you, believe any rumour of my sickness. I have a little evil in my old body which I shall cure by riding swiftly into Rome."
Despite the triumphal tone of the letter, he writes "as a man with out hope".
This is a translation of Prof. Jakob Barth's lectures in response to Friedrich Delitzsch's Babel und Bible. See Mordechai Breuer "Modernity within Tradition" pgs. 209-211 for a complete description of this episode.
Friday, July 25, 2008
The following letter was published as a photo in an article (See here - the online edition doesn't have the photos of the letters) about R' Chaim Yisroel Eiss Z"L:
To put the letter into context, R' Chaim Yisroel was one of the founding members of the Mizrachi (He apparently had a box full of correspondance with various Mizrachi Gedolim such as R' Reines and R' Mohilever. I do not know where those letters are today (if they still exist.)) He became disillusioned with the Mizrachi when "cultural issues" were raised at one of the Zionist conferences and he went on to become a militant Agudist. You can read about more of his activities in various articles here.
In the original letter (which I have seen), R' Eiss had complained that the Mizrachi leaders such as R' Herzog were being involved with corresponding with him about it first. To which R' Chaim Ozer responded -
."ע"ד מה שכתב הרב ר' מאיר קרליץ שי' בארה"ק ... . מובן כי הישיבות פנו להרב הרצוג אודות סרטיפיקטים ודעתם שיש לו השפעה בענין זה וגם אני כתבתי אליו ולהאגודה כמה פעמים ,באשר במקום של פקו"נ אין מדקדקים על פוליטיקה
Prof. Marc Shapiro explains (I thank him for allowing me to post this) that:
"The letter of R. Chaim Ozer is obviously written with an eye as to who is the recipient, because RCO also engaged in Torah correspondence with R. Herzog (and many other non-Agudists). the letter is probably referring to why he is engaged in political type activities with R. Herzog (which also involved the Mizrachi once removed). "
"I think the main point of the letter is not that RCO is explaining why he did what HE did, he is giving mussar to Eiss, that when it comes to pikuach nefesh, one doesn't concern oneself with politics. The Agudah, especially the German Agudah, we much too separatist for people like R. Chaim Ozer. That is what this letter is about."
(NB: See the letter of R' Chaim Ozer published in Sefer HaZikaron for the Seridei Eish for R' Chaim Ozer's stance on R' Hirsch's Austritt policy.)
Thursday, July 24, 2008
שנה באבות (ה:כג), "מה בין תלמידיו של אברהם אבינו לתלמידיו של בלעם הרשע?" ושאלו המפרשים, מדוע לא כתוב, "מה בין אברהם לבלעם?" אלא, שבלעם עצמו יכול להיות נביא גדול, אולי אפי' גדול כמשה. ביוצר השיטה קשה להבחין לפעמים מהותו, אך בתלמידים כבר רואים מי הרב שלהם.
Some have thought that the following explanation ought to apply to Mendelssohn. Even if in his life he appeared to be an observant Jew, one can judge waht sort of person he really was by looking at his disciples (Most notably the notorious David Friedlander. Interestingly, Graetz refers to as Mendelssohn's Ape (Popular History V. 5) which presumably means to say that he lacked a real understanding into his mentors philosophy.)
This explanation has two difficulties. As Lion of Zion comments, the term disciple is not entirely correct, "most of his so-called disciples matured independently of his tutelage and some spent minimal time in berlin altogether."
The second is that if one is going to blame Mendelssohn for David Friedlanders tergiversation ;) then one would have to blame the Noda B' Yehuda for Aaron Choriner's actions, which is quite plainly ridiculous.
Tuesday, July 22, 2008
Perhaps the following quote would not be inappropriate:
Indeed the Book of Job avowedly only answers mystery with mystery. Job is comforted with riddles; but he is comforted. Herein is indeed a type, in the sense of a prophecy, of things speaking with authority. For when he who doubts can only say 'I do not understand,' it is true that he who knows can only reply or repeat 'You do not understand.' And under that rebuke there is always a sudden hope in the heart; and the sense of something that would be worth understanding.
G. K. Chesterton - The Everlasting Man
The riddles of God are more satisfying than the solutions of man
Saturday, July 19, 2008
The first and last pieces are from the Yaavetz' hagahot to Teshuvos HaRambam printed in Sinai (85) by A. Bick-Shauli. (Although Bick's work is unreliable, it certainly is not fraudulent as Goldstein claims in his discussion in Zoharei Yaavetz in Ohr Yisroel. Every example Goldstein quotes is simply carelessness and nothing more.)
Friday, July 18, 2008
When we consider with a religious seriousnesse the manifold weaknesses of the strongest devotions in time of Prayer, it is a sad consideration. I throw my selfe downe in my Chamber, and I call in, and invite God, and his Angels thither, and when they are there, I neglect God and his Angels, for the noise of a Flie, for the ratling of a Coach, for the whining of a doore, I talke on, in the same posture of praying; Eyes lifted up; knees bowed downe; as though I prayed to God; and, if God, or his Angels should aske me, when I thought last of God in that prayer, I cannot tell: Sometimes I finde that I had forgot what I was about, but when I began to forget it, I cannot tell. A memory of yesterdays pleasures, a feare of to morrows dangers. A straw under my knee, a noise in mine eare, a light in mine eye,. an any thing, a nothing, a fancy, a Chimera in my braine, troubles me in my prayer. So certainly is there nothing, nothing in spirituall things, perfect in this world.
Cf. the following Yerushalmi:
R. Hiyya said, “I never concentrated during prayer in all my days! Once I wanted to concentrate, but I thought about who will meet the king first: the Arkafta [a Persian high official] or the Exilarch [the head of the Jewish community in Persia]?”Shemuel said, “I count clouds [or “flocks of birds”] [during prayer].”Rabbi Bun bar Hiyya said, “I count the layers of stones in the wall [while I pray].”Rabbi Matnaya said, “I am grateful to my head, because it bows by itself when I read ‘Modim’!”[Yerushalmi Berakhot, end of 2:4 ]
(N.B. R' Chaim Kanievsky's explanation (one of those question and answer books) is that their minds were so concentrated on their learning that they had trouble focusing during davening.)
I hope to write up a more complete discussion of Prof. Firedman's work, the new Mesivta Gemaros, and a general discussion of the merits or demerits of academic versus traditional scholarship some day when I'm less rushed and more awake.
For the moment, I want to thank Prof. Friedman for making available his work to those of use who do not have easy access to a full academic library. He is one of the greatest Marbitzei Torah of our generation and I wish his enterprise much success.
Thursday, July 10, 2008
On the comment in the parentheses I shall have more to say soon, for the moment see R' Reuvein Margolies's pamphlet "Sibas Hisnagdus R' Yaakov Emden L' R' Yehonasan Eibischutz" (and I presume Scholem's counterattack Lekket Margolies is also relevant.)
This post is modeled after this one (Imitation being the sincerest form of flattery,etc.)
Sunday, July 6, 2008
Abraham Geiger would be very pleased.
N.B. A slightly related recent discovery - here.
Friday, July 4, 2008
His hasagot on the reasoning of the Tosafists is as follows:
1. It's remarkably unusual for the aggadot to be cited as a normative source.
2. The inferences drawn by the Tosafists from aggadic material are systematically and grossly flawed, in that the stories cited are not cases in which a choice was given to "transgress or be killed",etc.
I believe neither of these hasagot are serious for the following reason. The term יהרוג of יעבור ואל יהרוג is somewhat ambiguous (as Soloveitchik points out regarding יעבור at the end of Part 2 of his article) - the words "he should be killed" can refer either to 1. allowing oneself to be killed or, 2. Suicide. The problem facing the Tosafists was as follows: Is suicide also included within the rubric of the term יהרוג or only murder?
To solve what is basically a question of terminology, there is no reason that the aggadot shouldn't be used (somewhat akin to the giluy milsa (See Ritva Kiddushin 2a and Birurei Hamidos V. 2 Chapter 3) which is merely cited as a lexicographical proof as opposed to the Gezeirah Shaveh which is an actual source.) In this case the fact that in a general manner (even if the specifics don't always match) we see in several aggadot that suicide is an option, is enough of a proof that יהרג refers to suicide.
Thursday, July 3, 2008
That is - the word העלמה can be found three times throughout T'nach. This is a sentence created by stringing together words from all three Pesukim. Roughly translated as - The girl "went out" (Targum translates זונה as נפקת ברא) was called "Mother" (reference to the Virgin Mary) and gave birth to a son.
This is a rather ingenious bit of polemic on the part of the Tiberian Masoretes (and one of the few bits of biographical information that we have on them). Living in 7th century Roman Palestine they must have heard the הנה העלמה הרה speech in the course of their "Seder Hayom" -(referring to the debates the Christians would raise on this subject?) and they took this opportunity to voice their own opinions on the "immaculate conception". Source: Igrot Shir.
2. Sefer Ha-Tishby - s.v. יתוש
In the notes of R' Yeshaya Pick Berlin  we have the following comment:
אם תזוח דעתו עליו אומרים יתוש קדמך (סנהדרין לח
to which the copyist adds:
והבן זאת שבא לתרץ כמו שהק' בשרש זקק וחרף
as is explained in the notes there. The entry for Yitush precedes the entry for Yeshu even though alphabetically Yeshu comes first. The "hint" is obvious.
This is interesting in light of Bachur's supposed conversion to Christianity - here, and his close friendship with a Cardinal - here (that comment was removed in many editions as noted in the Mazuz edition).
3. Daat has a good many original polemical documemts online - here. My personal favourite is the אל תהי כאבותיך. This is what Graetz has to say about it (History of the Jews V. 4, Ch. VI):
In the entire history of Judeo-Christian controversy no such stinging satire had been produced on the Jewish side as that now issued by the physician, astronomer, historical student, and grammarian Profiat Duran. During the bloody persecution of 1391 in Catalonia, Profiat Duran, otherwise Isaac ben Moses, or, as he called himself in his works, Efodi (Ephodaeus), had been forced to simulate conversion to Christianity. He was joined by his friend David Bonet Buen Giorno. Both resolved at a convenient opportunity to abandon their hated mask and emigrate to Palestine, where they could freely acknowledge Judaism. Their affairs being arranged, Profiat Duran traveled to a seaport town in the south of France, and there awaited his friend. The latter, in the meantime, was sought out by or came across the Jew-hating apostate, Solomon Paul de Santa Maria, and was prevailed upon to remain a Christian.
What was Profiat Duran's astonishment when he received a letter announcing, with much exultant vaporing, the definite acknowledgment of Christianity by En Bonet, who exhorted him also to remain in the pale of his adopted faith. The letter contained an enthusiastic panegyric of Paul de Santa Maria, who had been taken into the favor of the king of Castile. Profiat Duran could not remain silent.
In reply, he inflicted punishment on his friend, and more particularly on the proselytizing Paul, in an epistle characterized by the keenest irony, which has not yet lost its sting. It pretends to assent to everything advanced by Bonet, and to confirm him in his resolve to remain a Christian, " Be not ye like your fathers" (Altehi ka-Abothecha) is the refrain throughout, and so artfully is this admonition employed that Christians used it (under the title Alteca Boteca) as an apology for Christianity. Whilst thus pretending to criticise the errors of the older faith, Profiat Duran dwells on the Christian dogmas, naively describing them in their most reprehensible form. He concentrates on the weaknesses of Christianity the full light of reason, Scriptural teaching and philosophic deduction, apparently with no desire to change his friend's intention.
A portion of the satire is directed against the Jew-hater Paul de Santa Maria, upon whom Bonet had bestowed unstinted praise. "Thou art of opinion that he may succeed in becoming pope, but thou dost not inform me whether he will go to Rome, or remain at Avignon " — a cutting reference to the papal schism distracting the church. " Thou extollest him for havingr made efforts to free Jewish women and children from the obligation of wearing the Jew badge. Take the glad tidings to the women and children. For myself, I have been told that he preached mischief against the Jews, and that the cardinal of Pampeluna was compelled to order him to be silent. Thou art of opinion that he, thy teacher, will soon receive the miter or a cardinal's hat. Rejoice, for then thou also must acquire honors, and wilt become a priest or a Levite."
Towards the end Profiat Duran changes irony into a tone of seriousness : he prays his former friend not to bear as a Christian the name of his respected father who, had he been alive, would sooner have had no son than one faithless to his religion. As it is, his soul in Paradise will bewail the faithlessness of his son. This satirical epistle was circulated as a pamphlet. Its author sent copies not only to his former friend, but also to the physician of the king of Castile, the chief rabbi, Don Meir Alguades. So telling was the effect produced, that the clergy, as soon as they dis- covered its satirical character, made it the subject of judicial inquiry, and committed it to the flames.
 The notes were recently discovered and published in the edition of מכון הרב מצליח. The edition contatins the notes of R' Meir Mazuz as well as loads of other stuff (the letters of the Pri Megadim, Shlomo Buiber's Toledot R' Elyah Bachur,etc. Ironically, the Bedatz wouldn't give a Haskamah on the edition containing the notes R' Shlomo Shick refuting Tishby's position on the date of the nekkudot becausd (from here):
יצויין שבראש הספר כתבו שקיבלו הסכמה מהבד"צ של העדה החרדית, "אלא שמאחר וביקשו מאתנו שלא להדפיס הסכמתם הנזכרת עם "קונטרס תורה שלימה" הנדפס כאן בסוף הספר (עמוד רצה), מחמת שמחבר הספר "תורה שלימה" התנגד מעט לדרכי הרבנים החרדים באירופה לפני כמאה שנה (עיין בסוף הספר עמוד שח בהערה), לכן לא הדפסנו כאן את הסכמתם כדמותה בצלמה. ומ"מ הם עצמם אמרו לנו שקונטרס זה חשוב ויפה מאד, וכדאי להדפיסו בקונטרס נפרד, אלא שכך דרכם שלא לתת הסכמות לספרים שהובא בהם דברי חכמים שלא לרוחם".
(i.e. he belongesd to the status-quo (non-secessionist) Orthodox) indirectly supporting Ha-Bachur's position.
An interesting source on the dating of the nekkudot issue is in the (I think Dan missed this in his article in Hakirah) is the Kuntres Pekuot HaSadeh no. 4 printed in the back of V. 9 of Sdei Chemed. ואכ"מ
[I am looking for a Kovetz Beis Halevi V. 3 which should contain R' Pick's hagahot to Mitpachat Sefroim, also a Kovetz Tiferes Mordechai V. 3 which contain the Yaavetz's hagahot to Me'or Einayim. If anyone's got them please leave a comment.]