Thursday, January 31, 2008


S. has tagged me to:

Pick up the nearest book of 123 pages or more. (No cheating!) Find Page 123. Find the first 5 sentences. Post the next 3 sentences. Tag 5 people.

Then nearest book was Abraham Joshua Heschel: Spiritual Radical

"Moreover, Kohn grasped that Heschel's "indicative style" overcame the logical contradiction of speaking about the inexpressible. But Heschel's "fundamental fallacy" was the assumption "that ineffability is a criterion, indeed the criterion of religion."

The key issue was the authority of social science, and Rabbi Kohn, as would many of his colleagues [1] reproached Heschel for "disparaging" discursive reason.

(Note [1]- not from book- See Meyer Waxman "History of Jewish Literature" Vol. 5 (6) for a similar critique.)

Now following S. - I wil take an electronic book - the last one I've opened and do the same - this is Malki BaKodesh Vol. 6 (available on - containing some fascinating correspondance of R' Chaim Hirschenson:

והישוב הישן בארץ ישראל היתה הופעה ואור מבריק מאור הגנוז הזה אשר בלב עם ישראל גם בגלותו, אש המערכה אשר לא יכבה לעולם רק נגנז בלב להאיר מזבח ה' לעתיד לבא. לא כן עתה האויבים במקום לצור עיר מבצרינו הרוחני, מבחוץ התגנבו לתוכה ומשתדלים על ידי מכונת החיים לכבות או לקרר עכ"פ את האש הקדושה ולהחשיך את האור זרוע

I tag: Yediah, e-sefer

Saturday, January 26, 2008

A hechsher for Heschel

Nonetheless, The Kopizhnitzer Rebbe who could not read German wanted to evaluate Heschel's European writings. He asked Rabbi Shraga Feivel Mendelowitz, the head in the 1920's of a community in Williamsburg that had become a citidal of Orthodoxy, whether there was any apikorsus in them. The authoritave Rabbi Mendlowitz pronounced Heschel's writings to be kosher.

Abraham Joshua Heschel: Spiritual Radical pg. 81

Friday, January 25, 2008

לכבוד ט"ו בשבט

בס' אבן ישראל על מ"ב (ס' רכ"ה) יש שאלה אם לברך על פרי חדש כשאכל אותו פירי כיבוש (PRESERVED בתוך השנה. וכתוב שתלוי בב' תנאים בברכת שהחיינו שהביא המ"ב(ס"ק טז) א- "הנאה נרגשת בחידושו"- ולכאורה אם אכל אותו פירי כיבוש ג"כ לא נרגש חידוש ב- דבר שיש לו זמן קבוע לגידולו.

ולכאורה יש אותו שאלה אם שתה משקה מאותו מין בתוך השנה. שהרי מבואר במ"ב שעל יין חדש מברך וא"כ גם על משקים שייך ענין שהחיינו רק שאין לברך שאין ניכר (אבל אפשר יין שאני שהוא עיקר חשיבות של הענב) וא"כ אם שתה יין ישן באמצע השנה אין לברך על יין חדש שאין חידושו נרגש וא"א לומר כן שהרי יש קידוש כל שבוע ובכלל מנהגן היה לשתות יין כל השנה. וא"כ לכאורה יש ראיה שאף בדבר שאין חידושו נרגש צריך לברך כיון שרק עתה הגיע זמן גידולו ויש שמחה על זה (ואפשר יין חדש יש טעם אחר מיין ישן וחידושו נרגש)

How R' Yaakov Emden learned to read European languages

To complement to S's recent post on Solomon Dubno, I decided to post this fascinating passage from R' Yaakov Emden's Megillat Sefer which describes the way in which he aquired his vast secular knowledge.

"I yearned to know and to recognize the script of the German language in its own form, which my revered father never taught me, nor did I learn their handwriting from a teacher. It was necessary for me to learn by myself. My heart was always inclined to know (and) to examine worldly matters as well; the (various) nations and faiths, their characteristics and dispositions, their histories and sciences, all of whose matters cannot be known from our sacred books.

This was also (necessary) in order to know how to respond (to a heretic),to mingle comfortably
with people, to know the proper etiquette of each country, the nature of the lands and of their inhabitants, to reveal their secrets and to overcome any difficulties. All this I yearned to learn from their own books in the original. (Yet,) I found no way or manner to achieve this for I did not permit myself to hire a teacher for reading foreign books. I feared a great waste (of time from Torah studies). It was also abominable in my eyes to spend money for this (and), in addition to which, I was simply embarrassed to do so lest people find out.

Behold, I knew (that) a young lad from among the servants was learning to write and read the German language. I clandestinely took him aside and asked him to show me the shape of the printed letters in the foreign alphabet. He had just begun to learn from a Christian teacher who was a scribe and he still barely knew the shape of the separate letters,without knowing how to read the connected letters nor understand the meaning of their words. The lad showed me just once or twice to say this is A, this is B, this is C, etc. Nothing more. With the help of God, may He be blessed, who endows man with wisdom, I immediately grasped the recognition of the letters in their forms. I then struggled by myself alone to put together the words; I applied myself and understood the matter without any assistance from any tutor or teacher whatsoever. Within a short time, I acquired the ability to read a German book as well, as if I had a teacher for this for many years.

However, I succeeded in reading only their printed books and Latin script. But the German
script, with its swift connected flourishes, I still cannot recognize because of my inadequate study. Even in the printed Latin script there remained certain forms and markings or changes in the image of the letters that I do not know to this day.

For this matter I snatched surreptitiously and fleetingly. Even the lad who had shown me was not perfect.Afterwards, I was ashamed to ask anyone (to help me with) that which I failed to understand of their wisdom. With it all, I hastened to read all their printed books immediately by myself until I acquired the skill to read even the Dutch language and gazettes and also to understand much of the Latin language.

I read many of their books with all varied information about Europe, to understand all the views of people around the world in matters of their faiths and religious customs and to reveal their
thoughts about us and our holy faith. I also long, my soul yearns to know and to
understand the arrangement of the terrestrial globe which is determined by the celestial movements as described in their books. Although it is explained in our literature, it is done in a very brief manner. I also wanted to know and to perceive matters of nature; the nature of minerals; the qualities of plants and grasses; especially the science of medicine; the practices of nations and kings, their wars and history; their unique tales and the annals of (their) generations; the original ideas of those who write about the lands, oceans, rivers and deserts and those who describe their condition; the designer's craft, skills, cunning, fraud and deception and foolish stories of fabricated contrivances. All of this my eyes saw in their books. I have expert knowledge of them and their deeds. All their thoughts, their frauds and their good qualities are known and revealed to me so as not to be ignorant of the wisdom
of people the world over.

However, I am careful to read and study them only in a place where it is forbidden to meditate on words of Torah, nowhere else. Indeed, on several occasions, I extracted the sweet from the strong. The honey that I found in them I scooped into my hands to use it in the pursuit of the sacred task (to reveal) various esoteric and sealed matters. Above all, I thus succeeded in knowing how to refute (a heretic) and not to be considered a fool in their eyes. As mentioned above, I studied their books in times of leisure especially those in the fields of medical science and health preservation which is the (very) life of all creation. I studied the science of nature which I felt to be absolutely essential for the survival of the human species."

translated by Rabbi Dr. J. J. Schacter - "R' Jacob Emden: Life and Major Works"

Hat tip: S.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Rambam's Reasoning

A continuation of this post - On the the deviations in the Mishneh Torah from the reasons for a particular law given in the Talmud.

From -

"S. Ettinger, "On the Place of Sevarah (Logic) in Maimonides' Mishneh Torah" (Heb.), Shenaton Hamishpat Ha'ivri 14-15, (1988-89) 1-30. - Two pervasive themes in Maimonidean legal studies are the deviations in the Mishneh Torah from the reasons for a particular law given in the Talmud, and Maimonides' classification of commandments into Scriptural and Rabbinic categories. The present author suggests that the key to both problems lies in the notion of sevarah, which he defines as a general rational quality as distinct from the formal category of legal logic - also known as sevarah - which serves as a source for the development of laws and principles within the halakhic system. In dealing with Maimonides' tendency to provide original reasons for laws, the author distinguishes between "talmudic discussions" (masa umatan) and "definitive talmud" (talmud arukh) but concludes, following R. Abraham the son of Maimonides, that the underlying reason for Maimonides' choice of rationale for particular laws is general logic rather than criteria of a formal, legal nature. Similarly, Maimonides' categorization of Scriptural and Rabbinic laws is based upon the existence of a logical connection between the law in point and the text of the Torah, rather than on formal or semantic principles. The article concludes with an appendix criticising a recent attempt to develop a more formal approach to resolving the issue of Maimonides' deviations from the Talmudic reasons for particular laws. "

Friday, January 18, 2008

Our attitude towards the Gemara, Rishonim, and Achronim - Intro

The basic distinction between the academic and traditional methods of study is that of approach. The academic starts from bottom (i.e. starts with no assumptions about the person of which he writes) and moves up. The traditional scholar starts at the top (i.e. assumes the author commentary he studies had some type of omniscient knowledge). Ideally, the two worlds should meet somewhere in the middle.

I have already discussed this issue in this post. You can see quite clearly that whereas Buckwold - the Talmud Chacham assume an omniscient knowledge on the part of the Rabad, Soloveitchik the historian comes from the opposite direction.

I think R' Kooks view is simply crucial to this question. On the one hand we need to bear in mind the greatness of the people with whom we deal - Rishonim K' Malachim - any argument they make must have merit and properly worked upon we will find the explanation. We must assume that they mastered all the relevant texts that were available to them.

On the other hand, we must also realize the limitations of the conditions they were working in.
A prime example - those who study the Taz will realize that quite often a question he asks on a Ran which after careful examination of the Ran it is clear that there is no real difficulty. The traditional scholar of today would invent a pilpul according to which there would be a heretofore unseen difficulty with the Ran and this is what the Taz comes to answer.

The Maamer Mordechai take a different approach. He simply states that the Taz only had access to the Ran as cited in the Beis Yosef and therefore he had this difficulty that to us who have the complete Ran do not find difficult. A simple and obvious explanation that in no way detracts from the greatness of the Taz.

Rashi translates Kavyustos as a kidnapper. We can unequivocally state that Rashi is wrong. The correct explanation is like Tosafos that it refers to a gambler (as the root word Kuvya attests). Does this detract from Rashi's greatness? Certainly not. Rashi's ability to learn Greek was limited to the resources he had at his disposal. But it is simply silly to say that we who have these resources should not make use of them.

(To be continued)

Our attitude towards the Gemara, Rishonim, and Achronim - R' Kook

There is an interesting exchange going on at Seforim on this topic. This is a fascinating topic and one I can literally write volumes on.

I will begin with a quote of R' A. Y. Kook Zt"l. On the well known Talmudic phrase אם הראשונים כמלאכים אנו כבני אדם אם הראשונים כבני אדם אנו כחמורים - ולא כחמורו של פנחס בן יאיר

A popular explanation is that if in our eyes the Rishonim are like Malachim then in truth we are people. But if we view the Rishonim as people on more or less the same level as ourselves then we are no more then donkeys who have no understanding.

R' Kook explained it otherwise, He writes if the Rishonim are like Malachim - that as much as we respect them and realize their worth - we don't allow them to affect our "Bechira" (free will) then we are in truth people. But if the Rishonim are in our eyes like people that we allow them to affect our free will (e.g. we do not question their explanations and methods) then we are no more then animals - who also have no free will.

ביקורת קלה על ההגהות שבתלמוד בבלי מהודרת עוז והדר

התלמוד החדשה של הוצאות עוז והדר הוא באמת יצירה מפוארת מעשה ידי אומן. ובלמודי אני לומד רק בתלמוד זה שיש בה מעלות ואין אני צריך לפורטם. ואני מקווה שבקרוב יוציא לאור תלמוד עוז והדר גם על ירושלמי (מכון ארטסקרול קנה זכויות יוצרים לעוז והדר לתרגום שלהם ואם הם באמת פועלים למען הלומדים אקווה שהם יחזרו השכויות לבעליו כדי כתתאפשר הוצאות גמרות עוז והדר על ירושלמי) אולם בכל זאת צריך להזהר סהשמשות בההגהות שם כי יש שם עירבוב דברים. קצת מן ההגהות הם על פי כתבי יד ודפוסים ראשונים וקצתם מאיזה ספרים מן האחרונים שהגיהו מן הסברא גרידא ואף שגם הגהות כאלו ע"פ רוב מכוונים אל האמת - ואפילו אם לא הם מועילים להבנת הסוגיא אך אם כל זה לא תמיד כיוונו לדעת התוספת
וכאן יש דוגמא קטנה שאף שבמקרה זה אין בו נ"מ בכ"ז לא ללמד על עצמו יצא אלא על הכלל כולו דהנה בתוס' למס' שבת נב: ד"ה וטובלי במקומן - בא"ד - "ואגב אורחיה אשמעינן שאר דיני כלים ומזין עליהם וטובלן במקומן בהגהות שם הגיהו "דמזין עליהן" ולכאורה כך צ"ל כי כוונת התוס' שמזין על הכלים לא שיש הזאה וגם יש כלים - ואף שדבריו נכון לגבי פשט התוס' וזה עוזר להבנה - אין זה כוונת תוס' כי תוס' ציין ללשון המשנה ושם כתב" ומזין עליהם" ואף שבמקרה זה נראה כדבר טפל שאין לו ערך אבל במקום אחר יכול לגרום טעות להבנת הענין ועל הלומדים להזהר
גם ראיתי שבמהודרות עוז והדר על בבא בתרא (האדום) חסר חידושי ר' מתתיהו שטראשון לב"ב (שמעתי שפעם אחת מציין
לעיר ה' של סט. אוגסטין אבל לא מצאתי) וחבל שחסר לנו חידודי רמ"ש לשאר מסכתות ולמה להם לחסר את חידושיו גם כאן רק משום שהיה משכיל (ל"ע) ובמהודות ששחור שלהם החזירו
גם להאיר שיש שתי סוגי עוז והדר- הישן שרשום על הצד "השלם והמפואר" והחדש שרשום על הצד "עוז והדר" ובהשני יש
תוספת הרבה בהגהות וציונים וגם הרי"ף הוא בהדפסה חדשה

Thursday, January 17, 2008

The Ibn Ezra, Rambam and the Karaites

R' Kasher in Torah Shelemah - addenda to Parshas Shemos -attempts to prove that the Ibn Ezra to Sefer Shemos ((Pirush HaAruch)-the long recension)) was written by his students[1a]. He cites a proof the fact that this commentary cites information from Karaim [1] that already have a source in Chazal and that it is unlikely that the IE (who was no friend to the Karaites) should have done this. See there at length.

In the verse that discusses the prohibition of eating חלב (certain fats) the Ibn Ezra records an extensive debate that he had with a Karaite. Basically he forces the Karaite to agree that Anan's maxim חיפוש במקרא הרבה is simply insufficient and that in the end even the Karaites must accept the Kabbalah of the Rabbis.

It seems logical to suggest that the Ibn Ezra purposely chose to cite from Karaite scholars explanations that originate in Chazal. This way he could emphasize that even the Karaite Gedolim essentially agree with the interpretations of Rabbinates.

In an article in the Sefer Zikaron L' Zecher R' Yitzchok Nissim, R' Nachum Eliezer Rabinowitz (better known for his commentary on the Rambam the Yad Peshuta) discusses one of the more perplexing issues that students of the Yad come across. The Rambam consistently cites reasons for halachos that are different from those given by the Talmud (e.g. Muktzeh,Kiddush HaChodesh,etc.). Rabinowitz's explanation is that the Rambam left out the reasons of the Talmud because the scholar is assumed to know them already and rather chose to add his own explanations to resolve other unseen difficulties in the text See there at length.

I find this interpretation difficult. First, the Rambam writes in his letter to R' Pinchas Dayan that he never added in anything from his own pilpul unless it is designated by a יראה לי. What Rabinowitz describes certainly sounds like Pilpul to me. Second, the Rambam writes in his Introduction to the Yad that in writing the Yad he intended to write a complete digest - so one should not have to pick up any sfer besides for this one [2]. He certainly could not have left out large amounts of information as Rabinowitz posits. Third, in most cases the Rambam does supply the standard Talmudic reason.

R' Zevin in his review of R' Kasher's "Ha'Rambam V'haMechilta D' Rashbi" [4] mentions that a "popular view that the Rambam ignores Chazal's exegesis and creates his own instead" has now been disproven. This is because now it is clear that the Rambam used this lost Mechilta as a source for many Halachos (Kasher counts more then one hundred). This being the case we cannot rule out the possibility that the Rambam had access to other Midrashei Chazal that we might not know of.

Particularly interesting is R' Chaim Tchernowitz (Rav Tsair)'s explanation in Toledot HaPosekim [5]. He refers us to the aforementioned letter to Pinchas Dayan in which the Rambam writes that "he purposely chose to leave the names of the Tannoim out of the Yad in order to refute the Karaites - because they say that your Kabbalah is from only a few Talmidei Chachomim (Yechidim)..." [6] Noting a definite Anti-Karaite intent in the Rambam, Rav Tsair proceeds to demonstrate that in many of the Halachot in which the Rambam expands on Chazal's explanation or provides his own explanation - there is a parallel polemical passage against these Halcahot in the Karaite works. This is not a panacea and does not answer all the problematic passages but it remains a fascinating starting point.

See also the post "On the Main Line" on Karaism I and II.

The Radbaz has several interesting Teshuvos on Karaim in one of which he describes his conversations with the leaders of the Bnei Mikra.

[1a] I recall that one of the editions of Tzefunot contained an article arguing for this point based on a signature in one of the manuscripts.

[1] For example, he cites the Karaite Yefet Ben Ali forty-two times in his commentary of the minor prophets. See Wikipedia- Karaites "Though he opposed Karaism, the Rabbinic commentator Abraham Ibn Ezra regularly quoted Karaite commentators, particularly Yefet ben Ali, to the degree that a legend exists among some Karaites that Ibn Ezra was ben Ali's student."

[2] But see the letter to R' Pinchas Dayan mentioned previously and also the Maharitz Chajes's heated defense in Tifferet L' Moshe (his polemic against Shadal - The Yeshuos Yaakov's Haskamah is also worth reading.).

[4] Interestingly, R' Avraham Ben HaGra had already divined the Mechilta's existence in Rav Peolim. See also R' Mordechai Gifters review in the YU journal Talpiot and R' Kasher's response.

[5] Rav Tsair's knowledge of Karaite seforim stands him in good stead. He also notes Anti-Karaite polemics in the Sheiltos D' R' Achai and Halachot Gedolos as well as other seforim.

[6] See also the Chakira article on Dealing with Religious Dissenters.

Defense of Torah Temimah- Response to Dr. Shapiro

Dr. Shapiro was kind enough to respond to my post I will include his response in brackets.

First I refer you to several of the posts I have already edited on this issue - Historical fraud, Introduction -here, and Plagiarism -here.

Dr. Shapiro in his latest post has again raised this issue. First, surprisingly Dr. Shapiro added some extra proof to my defense of the Torah Temimah's "Plagiarism". For in my earlier post (well before Dr. Shapiro's post) - I wrote -

"Dan Rabinowitz’s has a far more balanced discussion in Tradition (Rayna Batya…An evaluation of R’ Baruch Halevi’s sources). Lacking access to a Mayin Ganim I cannot refute his sole proof [3]. Still being as her son R’ Chaim Berlin (and presumably other people who would have know her well) alive, R’ Baruch could not have entirely recreated her personality. This holds good for many of R' Baruch's accounts."

Now compare this to Dr. Shapiro's post:

"When Mekor Barukh was published there were still plenty of people alive who had known her and it would have been impossible to entirely fabricate her personality. The same can be said about Epstein’s report of the Netziv reading newspapers on Shabbat. This is not the sort of thing that could be made up. Let’s not forget that the Netziv’s widow, son (R. Meir Bar-Ilan) and many other family members and close students were alive, and Epstein knew that they would not have permitted any improper portrayal. It is when recording private conversations that one must always be wary of what Epstein reports."

Obviously Dr. Shapiro- who is a busy man- read my post (see his comment there) then forgot and thought it was his own idea - Exactly as I claim about the Torah Temimah. Thus the accusation of Plagiarism really holds very little water.

[Yes, I read your post, but I have been saying the same thing for a lot longer than your post, that is, that the TT couldn't have made everything up since people were alive who knew her. That is why I didn't feel a need to refer to your post (that is my rule: if I thought of something beforehand, and then weרe someone else mention it, I see no need to cite it. However, if someone says something and then I discover it on my own, I usually cite it.]

(I have also already noted the Aruch Hashulchans reference to Sefei Tav in an earlier post - See here)

I have already linked to the JNUL site containing the Netziv's letters to HaMagid and his article in HaLevanon - See my earlier post. I do not see why Dr. Shapiro leave the matter as inconclusive ("This is not the sort of thing that could be made up") It was very clearly not made up.

[The fact that he read newspapers was no chiddush. I was referring to Epstein's report that he read them on Shabbat. ]

[My response: What's the chiddush that he read newspapers on Shabbos - the Magen Avrohom already permits - Taanug, It's that he read a Maskilish newspaper like Hamaggid that is in truth surprising.]

I have already deconstructed Mondshine's deeply flawed article. I will now add one more point. Mondshine is surprised that the Aruch Ha-Shulchan who knew R' Zevin would not have told him the stories about the Tzemach Tsedek. But in the K'sav Haskamah to R' Zevin that Shapiro refers to - we see that R' Zevin never met the Aruch HasShulchan. Rather the AS refers to their correspondance. Those familiar with the AS's letters know that he doesn't go into extra details.

Dr. Shapiro cites Sicha Temimah and refers us to Bezeks article.

Bezek writes קונטרסו של זקהיים כתוב בחריפות יתירה ובעוקתנותו מרובה, אכן דבריו בסיום הקונטרס מעידים כי לפנינו איש נרגן, בעל מחשבות גדולות שאין להתייחס להאשמותיו ברצינות יתירה, "ואלה דבריו - "ואתם הקוראים בספרו - דע כי אנחי נתתי לכם את הספר. כי אשר לי בספר - ךי הוא. וגם אשר לא לי הוא - נתתי לכם אנכי וכו"

Now as to Shapiros main point - "I can only say that the entire report of Rayna Batya discovering the relevant text in Ma’ayan Ganim was made up by Epstein. This book, which was published in Venice in 1553, is an extremely rare volume. There would have only been a few copies of this book in all of Lithuania. (In Torah Temimah Epstein also says that it is a rare book.) It is therefore impossible to imagine that the rebbetzin, sitting in Volozhin, would just so happen to come across this volume on her husband’s bookshelf"

Dr. Shapiro is clearly not very familiar with Mekor Baruch for if he was he would recall the story of the TT and the Maggid concerning a recipe to turn copper into gold [1] - The TT writes "and I went over to the Seforim Shelf and dug under and brought up an old Sepharadic Sefer ... "

I do not recall when and where that story took place but it at least demonstrates that some very rare strange seforim travelled around the Lithiuania of R' Baruch's youth. As for the article in Ha-Tazefirah- obviously when R' Baruch was writing Mekor Baruch he did not have access to a Mayin Ganim anymore and he therefore made use of the Ha-Tzefirah article. I fully agree that the TT had a faulty memory (hence the whole - אולי story) and that he did make use of some artistic license.

[I certainly do recall the alchemy story, and Epstein had access to all sorts of rare books. But Maayan Ganim was not one of them. Until modern times everyone who cites Maayan Ganim cites it from Epstein. The book was literally impossible to find.]

[My response:מי גילה לך רז זה Clearly who ever wrote the HaTzefirah article had it so why not Epstein]

[1] For those interested - (I make the sole request that if it works the would-be-alchemist should please inform me so that I can arrange some investments)- 1. Take six large eggs, 2. Place them under a garbage dumb for the course of two weeks. 3. There should appear large worms within the eggs - Burn these and rub the ashes on to the copper.

[I think what it comes down to is that you are inclined to judge favorably and I am not. The rest is commentary.]

[My response: Since very few of the complaints against the TT really hold up against strong light - I see no reason not to fullfil the Mishna in Avot - אל תדין את חבירך עד שתעמוד במקומו)]

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Hillmans attack on Qafih - 2

The next step of Hillmans attack is an appeal to authority. R' Chaim Kanievsky dosen't cite RYK in his Derech Emunah nor did the descendants of the Kaf HaChayyim in their version of Mesectas Sheviis,etc and כמובן[!] they made use of his translation .

Now I have already mentioned in an earlier post two possible precedents to avoid providing proper attribution. The first is at the end of Horiyos - in which they had stopped citing the names of R' Meir and R' Nosson because of a trick that they had attempted against Rabban Gamliel. The Gemara's Maskona - מימיהן אנו שותין ושמותיהן אין אנו מזכירין is clearly that one must provide proper attribution. The other example is Acher (Elisha bar Avuyah). I think even H. would agree that R' Qafih is not to be compared th Acher.

Why then is plagiarism all to common in certain segments of the Orthodox community. The חכם העדיף מנביא the Maharal had already foretold this in his Tiferet Yisrael - pg. 168. He writes there:

People believe that one can develop into a Torah scholar only through the mental gymnastics of pilpul, which posits theories of halakha and then analyzes these empty contrived hypotheses. They create new explanations of Torah that are unfounded, claiming that this method is necessary to sharpen the mind. How can they think like that? A person should tear his heart out over this practice of turning truth into falsehood in order to sharpen the mind! Such a thing should not be found in Israel - to sharpen the mind with falsehood or to even spend time on falsehood - for the Torah is a Torah of truth. Indeed, as a result, they become more foolish, rather than wiser. It would be better to learn carpentry or another trade, or to sharpen the mind by playing chess [1]. At least they would not engage in falsehood, which then spills over from theory and into practice.."

(Translated in D. Katz's Ph.d - A case study in the...Nodah BeYehuda)

And as the Maharal has predicted -one starts by interpreting Tosafos with a method foreign to the Tosafists ,and the Rambam in a way that the Rambam had never imagined, and truth becomes unimportant in ones eyes and eventually it spills over into practice.

To give another example, I have seen two (non-academic) recent editions of the Avot D' R' Nosson containing the second Nusach that was discovered by S. Shecter (its existence had already been divined by Maharitz Chajes in Igeret HaBikoret). One of them very properly mentions S. Z. Shecter - the other does not. This is the one containing an effusive Haskamah from R' Y. E. Weintraub (a well known Mekubbal) and was apparently produced by a Talmud of his. (The term- חכמי האמת is more properly to be taken as a לשון סגי נהור)

Hillman points out that Kappah - "automatically assumes that the Sheimos referred to in Rambam Hilchos A"Z are Kabbalistic holy names." In light of Chacham Faur's discovery cited here (That name is already mentioned in the שרשי הרמ"ז) - Can one argue that MYQ was not completely on target over here?

[1] The Maharal's friend and adversary Eliezer Ashkenazy had a job as the sultans chess playerוז"פ

Hillmans attack on Qafih - prt. 1 Translation

By rights I ought to be Mekayim אל תענה כסיל כאולתי and remain silent. I refer by this to the vicious character assassination against Mori [1] R’ Yosef Qafih (see also the Hebrew wiki for more info) by D. Hillman that Dr. Shapiro has scanned in his latest post. But since the Kavod of an Adam Gadol is involved I cannot remain silent.

The majority of H.'s vicious attack consists of nitpicking כפשוטו וכמדרשו. The sole complaint of any substance is that MYK is inconsistent in his translations. And in this Hillman exposes his utter ignorance of the art of translation. For example, if I were to take the same word – Emunah – and place it into two separate phrases – 1. Emunat Chachamim 2. Emunah B’ Hashem. The first I would translate trust in the sages and the second, belief in Hashem. I could of course translate the first as belief in Chachamim – but such a translation is only valid in Bnei Brak והמבין יבין. Rashi understood this [3], as did the Rambam [4], and indeed any translator worth his salt must know this. And this is what MYK was trying to accomplish. But this Hillman despite the fact that he has no notion of this art feels authorized to "enlighten" us with his nonsensical criticism . ויפה אמרו חז"ל כל הפוסל במומו פוסל כי הכינוי "גאוון פאתולגי" שמכנה בה את רי"ק יותר שייך על עצמו

H. criticizes Qafih’s reference to a manuscript citing Ezra II since that division is a Christian invention. Undoubtedly correct. But he seems unaware that Chazal also did not know of any split between Ezra and Nechemia and counted them as one book. [5]. Clearly, R’ Qafih meant to say that Nechmia is the second part of Ezra and he was not referring to II Ezra as H. thinks.

See NEJ entry - Ezra and Nehemiah books of:

The Masoretic tradition regarded the books of Ezra and Nehemiah as one book and referred to it as the Book of Ezra. This was also the Greek tradition, and the same Greek name, Esdras, was given to both books (see below). The division into separate books does not occur until the time of Origen (fourth century C.E.) and this division was transferred into the Vulgate where the books are called I Esdras (Ezra) and II Esdras (Nehemiah). It was not until the 15th century that Hebrew manuscripts, and subsequently all modern printed Hebrew editions, followed this practice of dividing the books.

That Qafih in referring to the "Nusach HaDefus" meant the standard (censored) versions is obvious and I don't see why H. considers this a problem.

[1] I was never had the honor to meet HaRav Kappah but I have used his translations. Mori is the standard honorific among the Yemenites.

[2] I doubt H. know any language besides Ivrit – he is clearly unfamiliar with the art of translation

[3] There is an interesting article in Tsefunos (I forget which issue) discussing Rashi’s Laazim. Rashi frequently cites a Laaz when the Hebrew would seem to be sufficient. The article describes at length that Rashi was mindful that the Hebrew term could have two different implications in the French and he therefore cited a laaz to point out which of the two he had in mind. See there at length.

[I’ve always wondered what Rashi’s sources for his translations were. How did he find the definition of even the most uncommon herbs and the like mentioned in the Talmud? and What caused Rashi to think that te word Kuviyostos means kidnapper when the root word – Kuvya – clearly signifies a gambler – as Tosafos explain? ]

[4] See his famous letter to Ibn Tibbon in which he writes that a translator must be familiar with 1. language he translates from 2. the language to which he is translating and 3. the content of the work he is translating. וז"פ

In Ibn Tibbon's time, Hebrew was not a spoken language and had not so many different words to emphasize different shades of meaning. Therefore the Ibn Tibbon translation is more consistent but at the same time does not succeed in coveying all the shades of meaning existing in the original text.

[5] See the Sugyah in Bava Basra 15a in which the authors of the Biblical books are cited but the book of Nechemia is not mentioned separately.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Finding the historical Tosafos- The view of the Maharsha

מהרש"א -שבת מז: ד"ה מפני שמקרב
"ועוד האריך המהרש"ל לפי דרכו שאינו מדרך התוספת ואין להאריך בהן כי הדברים ברורים"

On Dr. Shapiro's latest post

See Here

On the word "Geshem":

R' Yaakov has a fascinating Heorah on this in Emet L'Yaakov on Shulchan Aruch.
Part of it is quoted here.

In short, Geshem indicates a continuation to the next sentence and Gashem would make a break between the two statements. R’ Yaakov writes that the term Gashem erroneously entered the liturgy because in Tefillas Geshem that we say on Shemini Atzeres the term used is Gashem because there there is no continuation. Alternatively, the Chazzan when announcing “Mashiv HaRuach..” as a reminder would say Gashem because he was saying this as a standalone statement.

On the Eshkol:
There is a story that R' Yosef Dov Soloveitchik once mentioned to R' Chaim Heller that he had noticed Shach's and Taz's in the Eshkol. R' Heller responded that he'd noticed Pri Megadim's as well.

In addition to the infamous Eshkol, R' Auerbach produced several other interesting seforim. One of them entitled Mishnat R' Nosson contains the notes of R' Nosson Adler - Rebbe of the Chatam Sofer - on Seder Zeraim and include an elaborate commentary. The notes consist of terse one to two words statements (frequently no more then an "עיין" ) and R' Auerbach shows tremendous ingenuity in deciphering them. Some of R' N. Adlers hagahos have been incorporated into the new Oz' V' Hadar Shas on Mesechtos Berachos.

On the Sitra A Choriner:
עיין שו"ת מהר"ם שיק סימן א' והדברים עתיקים

על הכינוי ס"ט:
המקור הראשון שמצאתי לכינוי זה הוא בשו"ת רא"ש כלל נ"ה- מהמזכירה של הרא"ש ר' ישראל ס"ט (חכם פאור כתב על תשובה זו דברים שאסור להעלות על הדעת וכ"ש להעלות על מכבש הדפוס ואכ"מ
גם מצאתי בכתבי הערוך השולחן שהוציאו מחדש שבתשובה להגאון בעל השדה חמד כינוי אותו"סופ"י טב טבא הוא וטבא ליהוי" ובתשובה הבא כינוי אותו ס"ט וכנראה הם אותו דבר (מה שמעניין שהרי בנו כתב בספרו מקור ברוך שס"ט ר"ת ספרדי טהור) התשובה הוא מלא "תוכחה מגולה ואהבה מוסתרת" נגד מה שהדפיס הדש"ח בערך - אמוראים אם היו בקיאין בפסוקי- וכתב שם שלא היו נקודות לפני האמוראים והערוך השולחן הוכיח אותו על כך
גם הגאון ר' אליעזר ליפמאו פרינס (עיין עליו בספר פרנס לדורו ופרנס לדורות) כינוי עצמו ס"ט והרי הוא לא היה ספרדי

Saturday, January 5, 2008

The Imre Emes's Library

As mention has recently been made in the Seforim Blog of the Imrei Emes's missing library. I will try to summarize the little I know of it. (Hopefully some commentors can fill in the rest). Before WW2 the Imrei Emes took a large group of his Chassidim and buried his entire library in an unknown place some distance from Gur. The library contained many old and rare manuscripts and seforim as well as the Sefas Emes on the remaining sedarim of Shas (Zeraim, Nashim, Nezikin) and Imrei Emes's Chiddushim on all of Shas and on Chumash as well. After the war, it was found that most of those that had knew of the burial site had been muredered HY"D. Search parties sent out later on (after the Iron Curtain came down)with those few remaining survivors who had seen the burial proved unsuccesful.

According to a Gerrer Legend, the Imrei Emes had told his Chassidim -who were slow in printing out Sefas Emes Al HaShas- that if you don't hurry the Sefas Emes will take his chiddushim back.

It would appear that the Sefas Emes "took them back".

On the Buckwold-Soloveitchik exchange

In the Journal Beis HaVaad, in appendix 2 of his article, Prof. Havlin discusses the conflict between scientific and traditional methods of Torah study as brought to fore in Chaim Potok's "The Promise".

His final statement there:לצערנו לא הועמד עדיין הויכוח על בסיס נכון ומבוסס

Nowhere does this conflict stand out as clearly as in the recent Torah-U Maddah article containing the exchange between R' Buckwold and Prof. Soloveitchik on the Rabad. S. comes to the forum as a historian - with no small Talmudic ability, and R' Buckwold as a traditional scholar - but with a good historical background.

Of particular interest here is the last part of this article. In this, we are pointed to a statement of the Rabad which bases itself on a Rif that appears to be irrelevant. Buckwold's solution - typical of a traditional scholar - is to point to a Ramban with a clear-cut source, consider a reason why this source alone would not be sufficient and then explain that the Rif is cited by the Rabad to resolve this difficulty.

Or as Soloveitchik puts it (see pg 233 ff.) -
"R. Buckwold claims that Rabad knew of the argument subsequently advanced by Ramban, that he further perceived a flaw in Ramban’s explication of the proof text and then tried to resolve that problem with a citation from Alfasi. The assumption of R. Buckwold is that any convincing proof of a talmudist’s position adduced by another talmudist, be it a decade or a half century or even centuries later, was known to the first talmudist but rejected by him. This indeed is how one “does law,” “does Talmud” and “does philosophy.” One postulates total knowledge on the part of great thinkers, and then one proceeds to analyze their positions. Every new argument is judged first on its own merit, and if it passes muster, it is then retrojected onto the original proponent of the position.

A historian looks at a thing as it is at the time of its occurrence or formulation, and the first thing that he takes care not to do—is to project the subsequent onto the precedent, the present or what was once in the future onto the past. History means seeing things as they evolve, it entails a realization that institutions and ideas often achieve clarity only slowly. A correct position may be intuited, but only later will the convincing argument for that position be discovered..."

We have here the conflict between the two methods of study clearly spelled out. Soloveitchik writes that the ideas and sources that the traditional scholar will uncover are certainly valid in and of themselves - but as a way of understanding what the Ravid himself was saying - i.e. the historical Ravid they are wholly insufficient.

Soloveitchik's continues:
"The question for a historian is not: What is the best argument that can be made for Rabad’s position, but what did Rabad actually think? Rabad wrote short responsa, longer responsa and very long responsa, all as occasion demanded.50 He also did not write in runes. He could express himself with remarkable bite and clarity. Indeed, no one in the history of Halakhah could say more in fewer words than he. In his glosses to Mishneh Torah, he often formulated memorable doctrines in ten to fifteen words. If the writer could express himself well and the surviving text isn’t fragmentary, then what isn’t there can’t be entered on his ledger."

Soloveitchiks' point here is somewhat self-contradictory. On the one hand - "the Rabad did not write in runes". On the other, he formulated memorable doctrines in ten to 15 words.

I have studied enought Hasagot to say that Soloveitchik severely understates the case. The Rabad could express memorable doctrines- not only in ten to fifteen words- but in less then five words. I do not have the time now to search for relevant examples but it is not uncommon for a brief statement of the Rabad to require all the ingenuity of the Nosei Kelim to attempt to uncover exactly what the Rabad was intending to be Masig. The Rabad unquestionably did speak in runes and riddles (at least in Hasagot) that assumed the reader would automatically take note of the relevant sugya he refers to.

Additionally, I cannot easily accept Soloveitchik's claim that if a proof isn't cited we must assume that it escaped the Talmudists mind for the moment. This may be the historians POV but it is nonetheless no more correct. Those immersed in the field of Rabbinics will know how frequently a prominent Talmudist appears to have forgotten a clear proof- but in fact it turns out that he had seen it but had found it difficult (The Responsa contatain many illustrations of this. I will try to search for good examples). It is rare (though possible) for a Talmudist when asked to say that he simply hadn't thought of the point. One cannot forget that we deal here with men who devoted their entire lives towards the study of the Talmud. A clearly relevant sugya to their discussion (as the sugyot in Kiddushin are here) could not have escaped their mind.

Soloveitchiks own explanation is simply inadequate. It is certainly true that the Rabad who famously declared כבר שרתה רוח הקדש בבית מדרשינו (there is some disagreement as to how literally this is to be taken) might have relied on his own intuition as Soloveitchik suggests, but it is difficult to understand why he would have cited a Rif that would clearly seem to be irrelevant to the topic at hand (Shechiv MeRa is a special case that cannnot be extrapolated to other areas).

We have here in this article a clear exposition on the differences between Talmudist and Scientist. The relevant value of each to the study of Talmud still needs to be fully evaluated.

R' Zevin on Zionism

"He [R' Zevin] used to say that one should really say both Tachnun and Hallel on Yom Atzmaut. Hallel on the Medinah, and Tachnun on the Memshalah"

Ishim V' Shittos - Introduction

תערומות נגד ספרי בעל תורה תמימה - מה שטוב אינו חדש

יש בו מן הטוב ומן החדש אבל מה שטוב אינו חדש ומה שחדש אינו טוב – ח. אלבק (נגד ספרי רי"א הלוי

By far the most common criticism against R’ Baruch Epstein (henceforth RBE) is that of Plagiarism [1]. I admit that it is unquestionably the case that RBE frequently fails to provide proper attribution when quoting other authors. My work here is to attempt to prove that this aspect of his work was entirely unintentional. [2]

Most of the studies mentioned in footnote [1] focus solely on his Torah Temima. As far as his other works, I found that a comparison between his Tosefes Bracha and HaMeor Hagadol [3] demonstrates that many Divrei Torah in the TB were taken from the Gra . His other works {Mekor Baruch, Baruch Sheamar) are (as far as I can tell) almost entirely original.

The obvious question is -why is it that these two -and only these two – works show significant signs of plagiarism? It would appear that we must take RBE’s statement in his introduction at face value.

There he writes, (roughly translated) “the book has taken me 15 years to write and has gone through many drafts. During the course of this time much information has gathered in my mind and although I have made an earnest attempt to provide proper attribution the reader is requested to judge me favorably in this.”

I would like to illustrate my next point with the following personal account. This happened around Purim time several years ago. I had been reading up on the Czar Nicholai’s attempt to Russify the Jews (by way of dress, language and education) which he hoped would help him maintain control over Poland. It occurred to me that this information could be used to clarify a difficult point in the Megillah. Many have been puzzled at Ahaserus’s surprise at the end of the Megillah on the plot to eradicate to Jews. After all, hadn’t he himself agreed to this decree earlier on in the Megillah. I noted that the word used earlier was לאבדם whereas Haman used the word להשמיד. I suggested that by the word לאבדם Ahaserus was simply advocating a Persification of the Jews – to make them lose- אבד -their distinctive appearance and traditions. [4]

I said this over by the Purim Seudah and everyone was much impressed. Several days later my brother informed me that the same explanation (without the historical point- though one wonders if this may not have given him the idea) was given by the Malbim in his commentary. Now, I hadn’t learnt the Malbim on Esther at that point but I recalled that a year ago I had listened to a series of lectures on the Megilllah by R’ Uziel Milevsky Zt”l which had been largely based on the Malbim. I must have heard the explanation there, forgotten the idea although the distinction between these two words remained in my mind and the late made use of it- thinking it was my own explanation the next year.

Now if this was my own experience from one year to the next and involving one explanation– one can only imagine the situation of RBE in a work spanning 15 years and involving literally thousands of explanations.

One must also point out that the Gra’s personality dominated the Lithiuania of RBE's era tremendously. His "vertlach" must have been affectionally retold countless times. RBE would have heard many of these “vertlach” in his youth and “absorbed” them much in the way I “absorbed” the Malbim.

It is simply impossible to suggest that RBE consciously would plagiarize the Gra’s Torah in a sefer printed in Lithuania [5]. That would be the equivalent of my attempting to pass off Hamlet as my own production - in Victorian England. Obviously impossible. [6]

I would like to posit (based on this and other considerations) that TB was composed by making use of that part of his notes that he had not made use of in TT [7]. I believe that this would adequately explain why both of these works show an inordinate amount of “plagiarism”.

Stay tuned for the last installment – ומה שחדש אינו טוב

[1] See the sources cited in D. Rabinowitz – “Rayna Batya and other learned woman: A reevaluation Rabbi Barukh Halevi Epstein’s sources” Tradition – footnote 4. See also Yaakov Chaim Sofer (הרב היח"ס) in Shem Betsalel pgs 165-66 and the sources cited there.

[2] My only predecessor in this is Yaakov Bezek Sinai- Issue 66 – “Al Derech Kesivas Sefer Torah Temimah”.

[3] Yissocher Ber Kreuser - This Sefer attempts to track down various Divrei Torah of the Gra that were scattered in various books of his Talmidim.

[4] Come Purim I will post an amusing explanation from Chacham Faur on this point.

[5] Bezek has pointed out one of the “plagiarized” statements comes from the Sefer HaMitzvos L’Harambam. Something that RBE would have hardly intentionally concealed. I would add that it is equally unlikely that he attempt the same for the Maharsha, Minchas Chinuch or any of the other prominent seforim that he “plagiarizes”.

[6] The note to TB Shemos 8:17 “some years after I thought of this chiddush, a book of Likkutim from the Gra was printed containing this chiddush” also confirms my theory.

[7] In addition to making use of the “grammatical rules” (more on these later) that he devised in Mekor Baruch.

Friday, January 4, 2008

A defense of the Torah Temimah - Introduction

In place of an introduction to my next post - defending the TT from the charge of Plagiarism - I will post a relevant section from Derech Sichah (discussion on the Parsha with R' Chaim Kanievsky).

שמות כג,כא -שאלה: יש מערערים על פירוש תורה תמימה על התורה , ושמעתי בשם גדול אחד ביטויים חריפים, האם יש להימנע מללמוד ספריו או שלא לומר דבר משמו
תשובה: הוא עסק עם המשכילים אבל היה יהודי ירא וחרד ות"ח, ואפשר ללמוד ולומר משמו מספריו. הרינונים עליו אינם נכונים . סיפרו לי שבשואה כל גרמני ימ"ש שניגש אליו להרגו - התפגר מיד, ולכן לא יתכנו הרינונים עליו, ולבסוף נפטר מצד עצמו
From other places in the book it is clear that the Steipler had a close relationship with the TT. R' C. Kanievsky himself (who was about ten when he left Lithiuania) may have known the TT personally.
For those who are surprised at the question at to whether he should cite the TT without mentioning his name- his source is most likely R' Meir citations of Acher. See also the story at the end of Horiyos - מימיהם אנו שותין ושמותיהן אין אנו מזכירים ואכ"מ

Response to Yehuda

In a comment to the last post, Yehuda wrote:

"That the מקור ברוך is fictitious is obvious to any casual reader of the book. I personally began reading it with the assumption that it was reliable history but after a while I saw that the stories did not ring true. For example, he claims that the name Epstein comes from Benebashte and the he's a descendant of the כנסת הגדולה (I don't have the book in my possession so I'm writing from memory). Epstein is really a town in Germany. Furthermore the ערוך השולחןwas a levi and the כנסת הגדולה does not sign his name as הלוי.In addition, the מהר"ש of Lubavitch, the son of the צמח צדק spoke harshly of the גר"א (mentioned by his son the רש"ב in the unpublished portion of תורת שלום). It does not make sense that his father, הצמח צדק, would defend the gra's persecution of Chassidim."

אבל מה דפשיט ליה למר לדידי איבעיא לי

First the MB doesn't write (IIRC) that the name Epstein comes from Beneviste at all. He says that they took the name Epstein as a sort of mark of thanks to the town that gave them refuge. I refer you again to Sarei Hamaios who corroborates this info (though he may have been relying on Epstein).

You forget that the Baal HaTanya spoke favorably of the Gra. The Tzemach Tsedek may have been following him.

בכגון דא אמרינן יפה כח הסב מכח הבן

I'd also like to point out this study that demonstates that the Aruch HaShulchan takes a compassionate stance towards woman in his AS. It is possible that he had his extraordinary sister-in-law in mind when he wrote these points.
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