Sunday, December 27, 2009

More on Rebbetzin Diskin

A complete discussion of Rebbetzin Diskin's role in Yerushalmi politics can be found in a Touro dissertation, Maharil Diskin, the man and his era (1994) , David Rotloy(?) pg.s 125-133.

In her youth, she was pretty, and dressed in the latest fashions (even with some pritzus), and was fluent in French. She married RYL Diskin at the age of 40,a nd went up with him to Jerusalem. There she is referred to in many newspapers as the commander of the kannoim, with quotes such as this one:

He quotes a source that as her saying "Let a fifth of Yerushalayim be destroyed but I won't send away any of "my" men." when asked to send away some of the kanoim.

Rotloy suggests that the reason the newspapers of the time gave her such an inflated role in the politics, is that Maharil Diskin was too great a figure to attack directly so they preferred to attack his wife. In addition, R Diskin rarely left his house, so it was his wife who asked him questions and transmitted his answers. Many suspected her of doctoring the answers or the questions.

A hesped of her can be found here (although I don't get the tea story), and another report concerning her can be found in Moriah.

(N.B. Her name and that of couple of other women is mentioned here, I don't know of any parallel.)

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Another rocking Rebbetzin - Rebbetzin Sarah/Sonia Diskin

In the history of Yerushalmi politics, much is made of the role of Rebetzin Diskin as a large cause of the trouble. Sources abound, but I found the following source (from here ) to be the most revealing.

"Rabbi J.L. Diskin's second wife Sarah was famed as the Brisker Rebbetzen. She was learned and knowledgeable in all the laws. She was very strict in the matter of orthodoxy and mixed into all the community affairs. She had very strong mind; she came from a very prestigious family – she was the granddaughter of the rabbi “Nodah BeYehudah” – and she also came from the wealthy family of Joshua Zeitlin. When she married Joshua Diskin she brought with her a sum of 40,000 rubles (a huge amount in those days), with which they built the J.L. Diskin Orphanage in Jerusalem.

Although she had very strong opinions, she was very knowledgeable in the laws of what was forbidden and what was permitted – she would even at times give her opinion in front of her husband the rabbi. And it would happen that she sometimes disagreed with her husband's rulings. Joshua Lieb's method was to try and make things easier for people – the Rebbetzen was far stricter.

Once, on the eve of Passover, a Jew came and asked a question - a kernel of corn had fallen into the soup…. Rabbi Diskin considered and decided that the soup remained kosher for Passover. When his wife the rebbetzen heard this, she jumped into the conversation and said:” Although I'm not allowed to give my opinion in front of my husband the rabbi, if we should follow Rabbi Diskin's verdict, then God forbid, the whole city would eat Chometz during Passover!”

After the writing of the marriage contract, she said to her husband the groom Joshua Leib: “ Mazal Tov! Don't take your brides blessing lightly….”

On the eve of Passover she would even scour the door handles, afraid that there was a residue of Chometz on them.

It was said that she was responsible for the majority of disputes and fights between the Neturei Carta and the leaders of the new Zionist settlements.

She passed away in Jerusalem in 1907, and was accorded much honor after her death. She once asked her husband: ” why did the sages create the blessing that is said every morning by males thanking God for not making me a woman? Is the shoemaker who can't learn the Torah or Gemarra better then me who is educated and learned? Or is it because I am I woman that I am inferior? ”

The rabbi replied: “every man says this blessing, but only in regards to his own wife. The rabbi thanks God that he is not his wife the Rebbetzen! The shoemaker thanks God that he is not his wife….”

One Passover eve, after the burning of all the Chometz, the rabbi said: “I have already cleaned all the Chometz that is in my property, except this Chometz (pointing at his wife) which I can't get rid of….”. ” You are wrong” she answered her husband, “this Chometz doesn't have to be cleaned out because my father already sold it long ago to a Gentile!"

(Its pretty obvious why she her first marriage ended in divorce)

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

On the Greek-Roman-Jewish connection

I see that Alan Brill has a review of a new book on cultural borrowing between the Talmud and the Greek and Roman literature. To the best of my knowledge, Talmudic "borrowing" from Socrates was first noticed by S. Lieberman in GJP/HJP (expanded in Azzam Yadin, “Rabban Gamliel, Aphrodite’s Bath, and the Question of Pagan Monotheism,” Jewish Quarterly Review 96 (2006), 149-179), in that case the satire was used against the "philosoph." (There is also some discussion of possible borrowing from Aesop's fables but as many of these fables originate in the Near East
this is not relevant here.)

As Brill notes, many saw the parallels as early as the 19th century. My favorite example of this is the borrowing of the Tantalus myth by the Yerushalmi. This parallel was noted by Shir in passing in a very evocative passage of his letters (follow link - I really think this is worth the read). The imagery is so very compelling that is hardly surprising that the Talmud would borrow it despite its pagan origins.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Chasam Sofer's Pashtanim?

In Chasam Sofer Gittin 12a s.v. kol, he refers to a novel explanation of the pashtanim on Tehillim 45:13 כל כבודה בת מלך פנימה namely - that internal beauty (middos) is more important then the external beauty of the gold chains in the end of the passuk. I could not find this explanation in Ibn Ezra or R'dak on that passuk, any ideas which commentary Chasam Sofer might be referring to?

Monday, November 30, 2009

On Chasam Sofer's Derekh HaLimud

From Gittin 11a:

You can see from here the way the Chasam Sofer would actively look for Halachic implications even during his theoretical learnining. In this case, he comes out with a Chumra that you wouldn't be able to believe a military court that reports that a Jewish soldier was killed.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Reish Lakish on the joys of marriage

Yitzhak's provocative post reminded me of the famous disagreement between R YB Solveitchick and R E Rackman as to whether the principle of Reish Lakish - "tav l'meisiv tan du mil'meisiv armalo" - and to whether it is a "transient psychological behavioral pattern" or a "permanent ontological principles rooted in the very depth of the human personality, in the metaphysical human personality [!]".

First, some basic philological analysis. The expression is in the "lashon ketzarah" of Yerushalmi (although it does not appear in Yerusahlmi) which I think proves that this is an exact recording of Reish Lakish's statement. The translation is that it is better to carry a "load" (Tan being a contraction of either To'en - a load, or perhaps Ten - a basket?) of grief (Du being related to the word - Devai - as in "Al Eresh Dvai" - on a bed of grief (deathbed), then to live as a widow.

Its unclear in which context the statement was made, and whether it is Reish Lakish's own observation on the joys of marriage or some type of received tradition (unlikely). Its unclear how much grief the basket/load is supposed to include. R' Mohe Feinstein (on whose rulings R' Rackman supposedly relied (see the summary in this article) believs it to be finite, and in a case where the husband is impotent or homosexual, R' Moshe ruled that Reish Lakish's principle does not apply and you can claim Mekach Ta'us.

I am far from an expert in R' YB Soloveitchik's p'sak, but I would guess that he would disagree with R Moshe in the above two case, as the woman will still have company, if nothing else.

In the Talmud, the statement is cited in relation to engagement by proxy (Kiddushin 41a), one who is "mezakeh" a get to his wife in the midst of a quarrel (unclear - a quarrel of which intensity) (Yevamot 118b), that a woman would be willing to accept a levirate marriage with a brother with a terrible skin disease for a woman is happy with anything (Bava Kamma 111a) - this last statement ought to be clarified in light of the interesting Gemara that states that a woman is pleased to receive the honor bestowed on a married woman, even if she marries a very short husband - but with the addition that she will cheat" and use her husband as cover, an addition that shows that a moral woman would perhaps not be satisfied with such a husband?, the last case is (Kiddushin 7a) that a woman will be willing to get engaged for minimal payment (adam chashuv).

It would seem that the Talmud at least placed the basket of grief to be quite large, and that as long as the man can act in at least some of the roles of a husband, the marriage will stand. The fact that all this is observably not the opinion of women today (metaphysical personality or no) makes for a real challenge.

[Update: I see that there are many great sources on this topic in Otzar HaPoskim V. 13 pg. 109 ff. I hope to update this post soon.]

Monday, November 16, 2009


Those interested in early American Jewish history will find the pamphlet Toldeos Yaakov Yoseph in New York of great interest. For more on New York's first Chief Rabbi -

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Clever Haskama from R Chaim Berlin

The following Haskamah was written for a commentary on Targum Yonoson/Yerushalmi called Yanchenu (by Yochonon Eisenberg) written by R C Berlin in the language of the Targum.

In his introduction, the author argues with Mahartz Chajes on the late dating of the Targum, and note the response of R' Shlomo Buber.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

The secret behind Chabads success

From an interview with the Lubavitcher Rebbe zt"l in Jewish Forum (about 1960)

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Heresy in Slabodka Yeshiva

According to this report:

At the time of my father's boyhood, the Haskalah movement had already commenced to penetrate the walls of the ultra-Orthodox Yeshiva where even the study of the Prophets were prohibited. My father often related how he and other students would keep the Tanach hidden within the Talmud volume from prying eyes of their teachers in order to study this literature clandestinely. To read Isaiah or Jeremiah with the Malbim commentarywas blasphemy.

and further:

"Students at the Yeshiva would forego many a meal, made available to them by generous families to whom serving meals to Yeshiva students was considered a great privilege or mitzva, to take special lessons in modern Hebrew and grammar from dedicated young men. This was particularly prohibited"

The statements seem odd considering the fact that R Yaakov Kamenetsky seems to have focused on learning T'nach and Grammar during his time at Slabodka. Although, there are reports of the Alter trying to prevent RYY Weinberg from learning Russian , and of controlling R Aharon Kotlers correspondence with his sister, i do not recall anything like what is described above. (The Alter himself had an interest in Haskalah at one point - see Benny Browns article on Slabodka.)

Friday, October 30, 2009

On the Triangle K Hechsher on juices

For some reason, Triangle K is something of the "Gadfly" of Kashrus organizatons, with a good deal of Lashon HaRah spread concerning the reliability of the Hechsher (see for example this interview and comments). I would assume that part of the reason for its poor reputation is its certification of the Hebrew National meat products, the only Orthodox supervision of non-glatt meat available on the market. (It is worth noting that R Moshe Feinstein was always a strong supporter of the Ralbags who are in charge of the hechser, and I have heard from a relative of R Reuvein Feinstein that he said that if not for the fact that he is makpid on Glatt, he would have no problem eating Hebrew National.)

I was always specifically concerned about its hechsher on fruit juices, many of which contain grape juice. Although there are some leniencies in regards to grape juice (it can be nullified in less then a sixth, and if mevushal it could be OK according to some Posekim), I have never seen any other certification on juices containing grape juice.

Marc Shapiro told me that he asked R Ralbag and was told that: "all the grape juice in HiC, Minutemaid, etc. is made specially under Triangle K hashgachah, in a special "crush" for these, companies. They make all the grape juice they need for the year in a month, under a mashgiach temidi.

I did not see this information anywhere else on the web so I decided to place it here.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Source on R' Mattisyahu Strashun

The following sources are from בתוך ראשית התחיה:

שקלו וטרו אל מי מקדושים יפנו, כי בוילנה היו אז שני כחות מתנגדים זה לזה: הגאון ר' מתתיהו שטרשון, מגדולי היחס, שעמד בראש האורתודוכסיה, ורבני המו"צ וכל אביזרייהו היו משכימים לפתחו, וכבודו גדול בחו"ל, כי היה צנא מלא ספרא, אבל היה קנאי ומחסה לחלוקה, ואמרכלי קופת הרמב"ן היו מקורביו וידידיו, וספק גדול הוא, אם יתן ידו להאגודה, ובניגוד לו הרב החכם הכולל ר' שמואל יוסף פין (הרשי"פ) היה ראש המשכילים, עורך ומו"ל "הכרמל", מלומד אצל המפקח על בתה"ס מטעם הממשלה, מתון ונוח לבריות, גבאי ראשי בצדקה גדולה וכבודו גדול בוילנה ומחוצה לה.

Misnaged refers to his opposition to Zionism, not to Fuenn personally. R Mattisyahu Strashun was friendly with Fuenn as can be seen from his comments to Fuenn's Kiryah Nemanah. Fuenn could be called Orthodox himself. See Shmuel Werses collection of his writings.

וילנה מתפארת בבית עקד הספרים של שטראשון, המכיל בקרבו לערך עשרים אלף כרכים מלבד כתבי ידי הרבה, שערכם גדול מאד. אוצר הספרים הזה הנהו גאונה והדרה של העיר וילנה. בו נפגשים רבנים וחכמים, סופרים ובעלי בתים, המוצאים בו מזון רוחני לנפשם השוקקה והצמאה לדעת. ויותר מחמשים אלף קוראים בשנה נמנו לפי הספירה קודם המלחמה.

הגאון ר' מתתיהו שטראשון היה מגדולי הדור בזמנו. הוא היה שלשלת היוחסין, בנו של הגאון ר' שמואל שטראשון, שהדפיס הגהות הרש"ש על התלמוד, ובנא כרעיה דאבוה היה גם הוא צנא מלא ספרא, בור סיד, שאינו מאבד טפה. בחו"ל קראו אותו החכמים בשם "ספריה חיה", כי היה בקי בחדרי התורה והחכמה להפליא, ומלבד גדולתו בתורה ירש מאביו הון גדול, שני חצרות ובתים גדולים וגם כסף מזומן כשמונים אלף רובל. עי"ז אפשר היה לתמוך בסופרים ובתלמידי חכמים, שהיו כרוכים אחריו והרבו לפרסם את גדולתו, חכמתו וצדקתו ברבים.

הוא היה חשוך בנים וקודם פטירתו – ה' טבת תרמ"ו – מסר את כל הונו וגם את אוצר הספרים שלו, שהכיל אז ששת אלפים אכז' עברית ואלף אכז' יודאיקה, לזקן ביתו הנאמן ר' יהושע חיים אפשטיין הלוי, שהיה סרסורו בחייו בהלואת כספים. בו בטח ומנה אותו לאפוטרופוס לעשות ברכושו לפי שקול דעתו.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

R Dovid Frankel - Korban Eidah

I'd always been curious about R Dovid Frankel, author of the monumental commentary Korban HaEidah, and the teacher of Moses Mendelssohn (according to a recent article, Mendelssohn's philosophy is based to some extent on the teachings of R Frankel, See Gad Freudenthal, "Rabbi David Fränckel, Moses Mendelssohn, and the Beginning of the Berlin Haskalah: Reattributing a Patriotic Sermon (1757)," European Journal of Jewish Studies 1:1 cited here). A nice biographical article was written by Max Freudenthal from the David Kaufmann Sefer Yovel from which I take the following "Google translated" excerpts:

Frankel "coat of arms" [?!] from seal of letter.

He chooses the words to the title of his Yeruschalmi commentary Korban ha-Edah, because the initial letters of the names of his parents, Naftali Hirsch and Edel (KorbanN Ha Edah) are intertwined in that, and moving sentences he devoted to the dead father during in the obituary added in the 2nd edition.

He showed himself to be stern and firm solid teacher who held captivated the attention of students without ceasing to his questions and discussions and their mental faculties constantly spurred sharply. ... But with just as much energy, the rabbi also watched over the outside caring for his charges in the community. They all had their regular weekly support in money and free meals in the families, and his own house went all others in setting a good example. There was even the scholars of the night lit up a room and heated through, in what could give every three hours alternately eager to study, and even out the teacher's care felt that they always ready to make the body comfort hot water rose. Here they could also use the books to treasure that David Franckel possessed. For the possession of books was so expensive that poor students who could treat him, and even absolutely necessary for studying and expensive works were sold out so that the lack of it in the academies is very palpable and perceptible made.

Frankel had many chiddushim on Talmud Bavli and the Halachic codes, his father insisted he publish the Yerushalmi commentary first.

He has a hard time connectin Frankel and Mendelssohn, but does claim that Frankel was involved with the republishing of Moreh Nevuchim for the furst time in 200 years and transferred his love of the Moreh to Mendelssohn. He searches hard for secular knowledge in the part of R Frankel but could only come up with two half-scientific statements.

He cites two bans from Frankel apparently concerning some form of games, and a problem concerning servants?:

Demnach, weil sich Männer, wie auch Weibs-Leuten befleissen, DienstBothen zu verführen, wie gethan hatt Jacob Radegast seine Frau mit Samuel Moses sein Gesinde, wie auch Nathan Beer seine Tochter mit Kauff-Mann Jacob seine Magd, wie auch ein solches dem Moses Abraham Hirsch begegnet hatt, und sie suchen dadurch die Hausswirthe zu Ruiniren; dieses allein ist noch nicht genug; So geschieht, alss Ehr-Leuten-Kinder anleitung gegeben wirdt, mehrer Schlimmes zu thun, auch solche, wo sie mit Diebe Theillen, giebet es, mehrer Unzucht darbey: sie Stehlen, sie leben unkeysch, sie Stecken andre Leuten-Sachen in ihre Säcken, Sie verläugnen den Herrn und Sprechen: Er seye es nicht. Solche Kinder seinen Leydiger ihre Eltern.

Someone wh understands German can probably find more.

[A Mendelssohnian Korban Eidah might be his commentary to Nedarim 9, that interprets Ben Azai's - זה ספר תולדות אדם as Kol HaTorah Kulo to have a universalist sentiment that all people are created equal which opposes R' Akiva's particularist - ואהבת לרעיך כמויך which seems to only include Jews . But this is not a great proof because it is called for by the text.]

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Appendix - small article by R ' E Hurwitz

Se his comments on the acronym S"T
(from Orient)

The communal activities of Chief Rabbi of Vienna, Elazar Hurwitz

R' Elazar Hurwitz is best known for being the recipient of the "famous" teshuva of Chasam Sofer allowing the omission of Metzitzah B' Peh[1], however he was quite an interesting personality in his own right (there is a short biography of R Hurwitz in HaShachar, and Meir Hershkowitz has an article on him in Areshet.)

Here is the only picture I have available at the moment (another picture appears in HaShachar but I don't have access to this.):

I got the above image from a book on Chasam Sofer and descendants - זכרו תורת משה. Note the inclusion of R Moshe Kunitz and Shir under Gedolei Yisroel.

(Here is another page from the same book:

and his signature and seal:

The greatest controversy of his Rabbinate involved an article by Graetz in the journal of Wertheimer and Kompert, who explains the prophecies of Isaiah 53 - "servant of God" as referring to the people of Israel as whole, and not to a personal Messiah. This lead to a indictment of the editor for blasphemy against both Christianity and Judaism. Testimony concerning this question was solicited from R Shir and Z Frankel, as well as from the Chief Rabbi Hurwitz, and preacher Isaac Mannheimer.

The reply of Hurwitz can be found here , he insists that there is no division between Reform and Orthodox, rather there are religious Jews and less religious Jews. That this statement should be contested by the Orthodox tells you a lot about the Hungarian zealots. Weiss wrote a really nice pamphlet (linked above) in defense of R Hurwitz, who was also a teacher in Weiss's Rabbinical seminary.

Another testimony that was given by Hurwitz in relation to this trial (that I think even the great bibliophile Herskowitz was unaware of) concerns the exact status of the Talmud, and contains some interesting remarks concerning the Aggados. The testimony can be found here, under the name of the Rabbis of Vienna. Although some would prefer to believe that this speech with its "problematic" comments on Aggadah, was authored by Mannheimer, I have irrefutable proof that it was written by R Hurwitz.

In the Geschicte der Juden in Kremsier Vol. 2 we have a number of document relating to the trial. (The first letter pg 143 is from the prosecutor of the trial to R Abraham Plasczek of Boskowitz, and contains the interesting statement that he suspects the testimony of the Rabbis for the accused was "not entirely Orthodox".) The next letter contains the original German copy of the article on Talmud with a letter at the end from R Hurwitz stating that he authored the Teshuva, and was in fact quite pleased with it (יפה כיוונתי בדברי ) - implying I think that this was not just written to fend off the government but what he actually believed.

[1] Even in the History of the Jews of Vienna, Hurwitz's - "Yichus" is as the recipient of this Teshuva see pg. 161 which also writes Hurwitz was a gentle, mild mannered personality. He was practical and willing to compromise [?]. (Note the office of Chief Rabbi as - zum Rabbiner, oder wie es damals hiess, zum „Koscher-Fleischaufseher" ernannt - basically ashgiach in chief.)

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Two letters from R Yaakov'ke Landau and request for help with translation,

From EJ - Ezekiel Landau's sons were JACOB (known as JACOBKE; 1745 or 1750–1822), who was ordained rabbi but was friendly with the Galician maskilim. After living in Hamburg for a time, he settled in Brody, where he became a prosperous merchant. Some of his novellae on the Talmud are included in works by his father and other contemporary authorities. He also contributed to Bikkurei ha-Ittim . - as in here)

1 - To obtain Eichorn's bibkiography of biblical literature.

2 - omething more complicated. More on the book - a reference to the fact that he is descended from the great Landau. Inquiries about the ms, of Rambam, and the genealogy of the Shlah?

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Teshuva of R Natronai Gaon Regarding Kapparos

From Halachot Peskuot min HaGeonim quoted here. And see also my earlier post on Kapparos here

Below is Lauterbach's conclusion regarding the origin of Kapparos. I do not know if there are any more recent studies:

To state briefly what I discuss elsewhere" at greater length, therecan be no doubt that the Kapparot-ceremony, especially as it wasperformed in the earliest gaonic time with a horned animal, ram or goat,13 or with a rooster,1'* was a revival of the ancient ritual of sendinga goat to Azazel.IS And like the goat for Azazel it was a sacrifice toSatan, a sort of ransom or bribe sent to him to persuade him to desistfrom accusing the people whom he would claim as his prey.Such an offering naturally had to be accompanied by some messageor petition addressed to the party for whom the offering was intended.And so indeed it was. An incantation was recited, composed of appro-priate biblical phrases16 suitable to express the thoughts to be con-veyed to Satan and his cohorts, the degraded sons of God, or thefallen angels who had rebelled against the words of God and in pun-ishment for their sins were dwelling in darkness, chained in iron fetters."In this incantation or message, these "dwellers in darkness" weresubtly reminded that they themselves, though sons of God, created" In the work on Tashlik referred to above note 1.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Guardian of Jerusalem or... Part 2 - HaLevanon petitions

In the last post, I showed how many reports portray RYCS as a moderate zealot, by this term, I woud refer to someone who can disagree politely and cordially, whereas the radical actions were taken by zealots surrounding him without his permission. I would like to bring reports regarding an earlier controversy* relating to R Chaim Hirschenson, as well as some correspondence with Halevanon that shows a somewhat different side of RYCS.

At the age of 31, RYCS was one of the signatories on a letter to the editor of HaLevano, R Marcus Lehman complaining of an article stating that a person that doesn't know the language of his home country is "no better then an animal". The letter was published in HaLevanon with a response by the second editor of HaLevanon, R' Y Brill. This article and the ones that follow (HaLevanon July 30, Sept. 17, and Oct. 1 1880) contain much highly interesting information on the old yishuv of the time. Brill doesn't mince any words, and responds quite harshly. He says that Maharil Diskin because of his lack of worldliness, was easily manipulated by Kannoim, who deceived him as to the nature of the Arabic language, hence his ban on learning Arabic (An interesting side point is the claim (in a different article on the same page), that the wife of Maharil Diskin was responsible for all sorts of quarrels, etc. The same had been claimed about the wife of Yeshuas Yaakov as well (see J. Perl in Tarbitz, On Joseph Perl's Even Bochen.)

We also have the same complaint, also put forth by the R YI Halevy, the Dorot Rishonim in his letters to R Kook (analyzed here - in sum because there is no elite as everyone was learning, and no reward for genius, as opposed to Eastern Europe where only the elite studied and everyone else worked. I believe the same problem exists in contemporary society as well.) that Yerushalayim produces no Gedolim, ad all the Gedoim (R Shmuel Salant, Maharal Diskin) were "imported" from Europe. We also have various interesting facts on the knowledge of languages of the Gedolei Yerushalayim.

Returning to R Sonnenfeld, the issue of learning languages was one of such importance that he either joined (and was very likely the instigator) of a petition to HaLevanon, that may (although this was never fully clarified) have actually used forged signatures to support their project.

Brill in his rather nasty response, actually cites reports in regards to R Sonnenfeld (who was of course of no great importance at that time) from his youth in Hungary that he was "משוגע ממש ובימי הקיץ שומר נפשו ירחק ממנו וגם בימי החורף הו מסוכן כאחד הדערוושים

This is obviously a nasty piece of slander (I really don't know what the Dervish reference is supposed to mean) but I assume it does tell you that RCS was already quite a Kannoi back in Hungary.

[I now see that in האיש על החומה .V 2 Pg. 242 a letter from R Shmuel Salant to Brill is cited (I cannot tell if the whole letter is quoted as there are some ellipses) condemning his language against R YCS whose actions are L'Shem Shamayim, although I don't agree with him...). I also see in HaLevanon of Sept. 7 1881 a letter from the grandson of R Shmuel Salant concerning Maharil Diskin and the Kanoim.]

* There is another Cherem against R Chaim Hirschenson that has as yet not been recorded:

(Machzikei HaDas 4, November 1886)

The signature of R Shmuel Salant is almost certain forged. For R Shmuel Salant was "known for his moderation and liberal-mindedness" (Memoirs of Childhood, by RCH's daughter Nima Adlerblum pg, 197, the same book described R Shmuel Salant's relationship with her family as positive), and we will see in the letter from RCH cited within that Kannoim would cite R Salant without his permission.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Guardian of Jerusalem or... Part 1 - his relationship with R Kook

In regards to R Yosef Chaim Sonnefeld, I've always been confused by some conflicting reports regarding his role in the various nasty conflicts by the zealots of Jerusalem. In some reports, he appears as an innocent bystander, manipulated by the zealots for their purpose, in others it seems even clearer that he was a driving force behind many of the demonstrations.

The official biography of R Yosef Chaim האיש על החומה seems to be mildly apologetic. R Kook is "misguided" but R Yosef Chaim maintained a friendly relationship with him anyway. In a famous report published in R Hirschenson's Malki BaKodesh (for reasons that will become clearer in the next post) R Tzvi Pesach Frank (who was of course not an uninterested party) describes R Yosef Chaim as a pawn in the hands of the zealots.

I found another report (ShuT HaMaor Volume 2 pg. 434 a brief biography of R Bentzion Goldwicht of Montreal):

The "Rishmi HaGadol" refers to the Chief Rabbi (i.e. R Kook), According to these reports, the conflict was started by troublemakers, etc. R Sonnenfeld had the greatest respect for R Kook and only argues with him for reasons of friendship, etc.

In all this, R Sonnenfeld appears to be a moderate zealot who was "used" by the Kannoim for their purposes. In the next post, I will describe a more active role on his part.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Letters from R Tzvi Hirsch Kalischer to R Eliyahu Guttmacher, HaTzaddik M'Graiditz

The following is from an old issue of Hed HaMizrach and has not been republished to the best my knowledge. I did not have time to try to identify all the people and issues referred to in the letters. For instance, he says רק אל הגאון מווירצבורג דראוי לגלות לו סוד I assume that implies that R Yosef Dov Bamberger was on the side of R Tzvi Hirsch. The R' Auerbach referred to is R Meir Auerbach of Jerusalem who opposed the plan because of possible repercussions from the Sultan and because of the difficult Halachic issues that farming the land would raise. I do not know what the כתבים נגד הגאון מאלטונא refers to. I would assume that this refers to R Yaakov Ettlinger who is the last person worthy of the totle but I did not find anything Rebbetzin Bleich's book on Ettlinger that this could be referring to.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Jewish Warsaw December 1868(?) from the letters of Miriam Merkel

The following is an excerpt from the letters of Miriam Merkel from here. I believe that the article I posted here was also written by the same Miriam but I am not sure about the last name. An interview with the publisher of Miriams letters can be found here:

"הימים אשר אשבה פה יחלופו לי כתמורות קדחת; פעם אבקר בבתי הטיאטראות, ושם אשבע עונג ממראה עיני וממשמע אזני; או אבקר בבתי רעים ומכירים אשר נודעו לי מכבר, ואשר הכרתי זה מחדש; או אשוטט ברחובות קריה בחברת אחי, ושם יקדמוני מחזות ממחזות שונים, כדעת לנבון נקל בעיר גדול לאלהים כווארשא, אשר תהום מאדם רב, והמון לאומים יתערבו ויתבוללו בה, שונים בלשונותם ומלבושיהם; וביתר שאת אשתעשע אם אפגוש ברחוב איש חסיד, שלש אמה ארכו וטפחים עביו, מעילו ארך שולים יורד על רגליו, ויסחב על רצפת האבנים כסרח העודף; והוא עולה מן הרחצה, הלוך וטפוף ילך; פאות ראשו דקות ושדופות קדים, משחק לרוח הנה, ונוטפות מי מקוה, ובפגשו אשה על דרכו, יעות פניו ויסב ראשו אחורנית כאלו אחזהו השבץ".
Translation (sort of):

The days that I reside here [in Warsaw] go by like the passing of a fever. Sometimes I go to he theatre and I revel in what my eye sees and my ear hears, or I visit friend that I knew in the past but recognize only recently, or I go travel through the streets of the city together with my brother, and I am greeted by many different sights, as one can expect to see in a great city like Warsaw, that clamors with many people, and many nationalities mix together divided by their clothing and language. And still greater is my enjoyment when I meet in the street a Chassid, 3 Amos wide and 2 Tefachim thick[1], his coat long, the lapels going down to his legs, dragiing on the floor like the train of a gown, arising from washing [in the mikvah], walking with exact steps. His pe'ot thin and windblown, like a game for the wind, dripping waters of the mikvah water, and if he meets a woman, he will turn hs face and jump backwards as if he was grabbed by a seizure.

[1] Miriam was a misnagid like most maskilim as can be seen by her condemnation of Eliezer Zweiful for his Shalom Al Yisrael defneding Hasidism. I don't quite get this expression, I assume she means "short and fat".

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Letter of HaRav baal HaShach to a Christian scholar

can be found here with a follow up from the Noda B' Yehuda's son.

The letter is really interesting and I hope to get back to it.

(Would appreciate if anyone can tell me if the letter has been discussed anywhere else?)

From EJ:

During the period he was rabbi in Holesov he became friendly with a Christian scholar. In the library of the academy in Leipzig there is a holograph of a Hebrew letter dated Feb. 3, 1660, which Shabbetai wrote "to him whom I love as myself, the philosopher magister Valentino Wiedreich." Shabbetai informs him that he has sent him the book of Elijah Baḥur and asks him to keep in touch with him (Bikkurei ha-Ittim, 10 (1829), 43–44).

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Ashes to Ashes: On controversies surrounding cremation

In the old Jewish cemetery on the Island of Lido in Venice, I noticed the following Urn which appears to contain ashes from a cremation.

The explanation as it seems is that there was a movement for cremation among Italian Jews around a century ago. My freind S. sent me the following report from the Reform Rabbi Gotthard Deutsch's Scrolls V. 2 pg. 24-5:

Highly significant is the recently recorded fact that the chief rabbi of Rome, Vittorio Castiglioni[1], had ordered that his body be cremated. An orthodox paper chronicled the fact that this rabbi was considered a conservative, and had declared to a correspondent of that paper his regret at his inability to guide the congregation according to orthodox principles, and not long before his death, he participated in a discussion on the prohibition of solemnizing marriages during the closed season between Passover and Shabuoth, saying that a Minhag must be kept sacred. Nowhere has the transition from a strict orthodoxy and mystic conception of religion to complete abandonment of religious life been more marked than in Italy.

This is very much a minority opinion. In fact, cremation is consideredso very antithetical to normative Judaism, that the mere suggestion that a Cremated Jew be buried in a Jewish cemetery set off a wave of protest.

In 1904, the Rabbi of Altona, R Meir Lerner published an article in HaMeasaf and then a pamphlet containinga Teshuva that A - Permitted moving corpses from a cemetery if the Gov't required this (very much a contemporary issue as well), 2 - forbidding the burial of cremated ashes in a Jewish cemetery. This ruling was in direct contradiction to the rulings of his predecesors R' Yaakov Ettlinger and R Mordechai Hirsch who forbade removing the graves under any circumstances. The son-in-law of the aforementioned R' Hirsch, Rabbi Dr. Ehrentrau published a small pamphlet refuting R Lerner entitled Cheker Halacha that can be found here.

In response, Rabbi Lerner published a volume Chayei Olam (obviously referring to the denial of Techiyas HaMeisim that cremation is supposed to represent) in which he gathered a nice mix of letters from such diverse Rabbis as the Rogatchover, Aruch Hashulchan, Beis Yitczhak, Aderet and Sdei Chemed agreeing with his p'sak. However these letters are abridged (a second volume containing the full text of the letters was planned but never appeared.) and have a tendency to repeat the same phrases that Lerner used in his article (cf. Shnayer Leiman's article on the Gra and R Yonoson Eibschutz.)

Interesting is Lerner's comment that:

וידעתי כי במדינות הנאורות נקל למצוא לעומת רב אחד שאוסר לקבור אפר הנשרפים הרבה מורים המקילים, ולא בלבד המורים המכחישים בתורה שבכתב או כתורה שבע"פ אלא נם מאלה אשר עודם מחזיקים ביסודי תורתנו הקדושה, כי יותר נוח לאמר מותר לכל אשר יאבה רוב המון העם ולנטות אחריהם, מלעמוד כנגדם ולעצור בעדם ולהטותם בע־כ מני דרך עקלתון כי דרך מרוצת המים כל ספינה תוכל ללכת בלא משוט וחבלים, אבל הספינה הבאה ללכת גנד מרוצת המים תצטרך למנהיג המוליכה בכח ידו. ומה שאמרו חז"ל העולםירון אחר רובו(קדושין מ׳ עיב) ראיתי למי שפי׳ דאינו דוקא רוב המספר בכמות אלא בתר רוב זכיות אזלינן, וכמ"ש הרמבים בהאי תשובה שאין חשבון הזכיות במספר אלא במשקל וכל מה שתתמעט היראה אצל הרכים, יוםיפו היהירים המחזיקים בתומתם זכות על זכות, וא"כ אף במדינות הנאורות יחידי סנולה האלה המה הרבים באמת, וכ"ש בנ"ד שרוב נחלי ישראל בכל ארצות פזורנו כבר הסכימו לאמור זיל בתר רוב בניין, אפי׳ לא הוי רוב מניין.

Rabbi Lerner neglects to name these Rabbis in "the enlightened countries who follow the masses"which include such luminaries as R Yitchak Elchonon and R Ezriel Hildesheimer(the following is from the response volume published by Shimon Deutsch defending Rabbi Ehrentrau):

אבל אז באשר הוכ־חתי ייתת פסק בדין אפר הנשרפין כבר נעשה מעשה בדין זה בעיר לונדון עפ״י ב־ד צדק דשם, והרב הגאון מרה יצחק אלחנן זציל הסכים עמהם. וגם בקהלתך פיורדא יע״א ראיתי בעיני שיש שם מצבת אבן רחוקה משורת הקברים וכאשר שאלתי מה הציון הלז, אמרו לי ששם מונח אפר איש אחד שצוה לשרוף את גווייתו אחר מותו, וגם בעיר פראנקפורט דמיין נעשה מעשה בקהלתו של הדר האראוויטץ עפ״י הוראת הרהיג מרה עזריאל הילדעסהיימער זציל כאשר הוגד לי,

Interesingly, R' Lerner insists that Meiklim ought to retract their p'sak for the sake of Jewish unity:

ומי יתן שהסורים שהקילו עד עתה יפתחו עיניהם וישוכו ויתאחדו עם כל עדת הרבנים היראים האוםרים, ולא תהיה תורה שלנו כשתי תורות אלא תורה אחת והמחזיקים בחורה שבע״ט לא יהיו כשני בתים אלא לבית אחד.

Wheras R Ehrentrau insists that iti is R Lerner who is the בעל מחלוקת

אחדש״ה קבלתי מכתבך וראיתיך מאונן ומקונן על פירוד הלבבות. על המריבות והמחלוקות שנתהוו בימינו אלה. וכי כנים דבריך כי על זאת ידוו כל הדווים ולא די שנחלקו קהלות ישראל לשתים ושלש כתות אלא שגם אותן שנאמנים לה׳ ולתורתו המה הולכים איש לדרכו, כל אהד בונה במה לעצמו, ואין להביאם במסורת האחדות, זה בונה וזה סותר, זה מתיר וזה אוסר. וכי לא ד׳ לנו במחלוקת הראשונים מדורות שלפנינו אשר השחיתו את כל חלקה טובה והשפילו את כבוד התורה דל, האם לא די הוכחנו בכל התוכחות ולא הוזהרנו בכל האזהרות שהזהירו לנו קורות הזמן ופגעיו

[1] Rabbi Castigolioni (or Yitzchak as he usually signed his articles) was quite a fascinating figure in hiw own right. He published a book Pe'er Adam on Darwin's theory of evolution (I can't find this online yet) and was also a close friend of the great poet Rachel Morporgu (he published a colection of her writings under the name Ogev Rachel)

Monday, August 3, 2009

Chavos Yair's Yair Nesiv

is finally online...

This is the introduction to his Eitz Chaim - which would have been one of the greatest Encyclopedia's on Jewish subjects ever created and shows the wide breadth of CY's interests and his great skill as a critical scholar.

A full length biography in German of R YC Bachrach by Prof D Kaufmann can be found here abridged in English (two parts) in the JQR.

מצבת הרב בעל הסמ"ע ובנו

The Sema (AKA Derisha U Perisha):

Some notes:

1 - I wonder what is refered to by Keser Malchus, I assume this refers to his position as "Reish Mesivta" (apparently having 300 students,a huge amount for the time.) He was also very much involved in the ועד ארבעה ארצות hence the reference to תקנות לדורו and perhaps the Keser Malchus refers to this.

2 - The reference to commentaries on all Posekim - earlier and later - would imply that, at the very least, he also had commentaries on Rambam and Rosh. Presumably these were lost in the same fire with many of his other writings. Some of his Teshuos are in ShuT Geonei Basrai (IIRC), I would guess the rest are missing.

3 - No mention of his wife, Baila, the Sema cites her in the HaKdamah to Sema. Wikipedia quotes her son that:
אחרי מותו ישבה אשתו בתענית שבע עשרה שנים, והתפללה שעות רבות בבית כנסת, ועסקה הרבה
בגמילות חסד, ביקור חולים ושאר מצוות. בהיותה בת חמישים עלתה לארץ ישראל, וכעבור שמונה שנים נפטרה שם בגיל 58, ונקברה סמוך לקברו של זכריה הנביא בהר הזיתים בירושלים (מתוך הקדמת בנו, ר' יוזפא, לחיבור דרישה ופרישה).

Sema's Son

Friday, July 31, 2009

Hesped for Moreinu HaRav R Shir HaKohen

Note the maspidim, R Elazer Horovitz of Venna and Dr Aharon Jellnick - Its the way he would've wanted to go.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Letter from HaGaon HaRav Shmuel Mohilever to Dr. Yosef Shmuel Bloch

I found a facsimile of he following letter from ms. in an old copy of HaHed. I transcribed it to the best of my ability (corrections welcome) and place it here, on the day of commemoration for all bad happenings that occurred to the Jewish people, to honor of those who made the best effort to fight for their nation.

R Shmuel Mohilever - one of the spiritual founders of Religious Zionism, he was partly motivated by the pogroms of 1881 (See NEJ s.v. Pogroms)

R Dr Joseph Samuel Bloch - A Rabbi and Member of the Austrian Parliament, one of the most valiant fighters against anti-Semitism.

The following letter dated 31, March 1890 congratulates Dr. Bloch for his courageous fight against the anti-Semites:


My transcription (The symbol ? refers to words that I had difficulty reading) [Updated. My thanks to Shimon for his help.]:


יום ב' י' ניסן התר"נ שנת את דכאי רוח יושיע

כבוד אדון ורב, מליץ יושר לעמו, אדם גדול ומאד נעלה, מפורסם לשם ולתהלה, הרב חכם הכולל מו"ה שמואל מ'[כונה] דר. בלאך, נבחר לבית הנבחרים אשר באוסטרייך, נרו יאיר לעד

רב נכבד! באתי לצקת לפניך את תודתי מעמקי לבי על דבריך הנפלאים אשר יצאו מלב איש הרגש כמוך להמליץ טוב על עמך האומלל והנדכא. בו הראת לכל באי עולם כי עוד לא הפקר הוא ישראל, אשר כל איש צר ומסטין דרוך עליו ברגל גאווה! כי עוד ימצאו אנשי מעלה בקרבו אשר יתבעו עלבונו בעז וכח. וחרפת מחרפיו אל תוקם תצור. ובמושב שרים ורוזנים גדולי המדינה בבית הנבחרים יצאת אזור בכלי נשק נפלאים, האמת בימינך, והחכמה בשמאלך, ומפיך יצא אש לוהט ויבער את כל דברי שוא ועמל אשר הוציאו עליך בני בלי שם, עד תומו. מה גדלו מעשיך איש רם! ומה רמו ויקרו דבריך רב נעלה, ותודת איש שפל כשוה מה הוא לגדל ערכ'ך. אבל האם התודה רק מלבבי יצאה. הלא רבואי אלפים בעולם יודוך ויעריצו את שמך! ושמך הטוב יהיה חקוק לעד על לוח זהב באותות אבני ספיר בקורות עמינו, הן בחג הבע"ל נאמר בתפלתינו "אתה בחרת מכל העמים" , ואתה רב נעלה הנך הנבחר להעם הזה! ואתה דבריך המחכימות הראית לעין כל אמיתת דברים כי הנה העם הנבחר חיה בהשק"ט והצלחה,

והיה לברכה ולתפארת בקרב עמך לאורך ימים ושמח בחגיך
מוקירך ומכבדיך כערכך הרם והנישא שמואל בהרב מוהרטי[?] מוהליווער

Tisha B' Av in the University of Leipzig

From a translation of a Memoir by YY published in Tradition 25:4 by Prof SZ Leiman

Friday, July 24, 2009

על רבו האחרון של ההשכלה הישנה ואשתו

A biographical and bibliographical sketch of R SB can be found here. I saw (but unfortuantely neglected to note the exact source) a memoir by one ויינלאו (as near as I can spell) of which I recall only two stories. Apparently, R Buber's wife was a מלומדת who spoke a perfect Hebrew, when he expressd surprised, she answered that "today, it is even more surprising that a young man should know Hebrew since the attitude has become -כל המלמד את בנו תורה כאלו מלמדו תפלות

In another anecdote, she disagreed with her husband on some matter and the writer expressed surprise since זכה נעשה לו עזר and how could it be that RSB was not "Zoch". The Rebbetzin responded that he had wrong p'shat, the correct p'shat is: זכה if the husband is correct then her responsibility is to be an עזר but לא זכה if the husband is wrong on the matter, כנגדו it is her responsibility to set him straight.

I regret not copying down the whole piece (It was either in HaHed or HaToren but I don't really remmeber).

Friday, July 17, 2009

Concerning the personality of R Tzvi Hirsch Auerbach

On Auerbach and his Eshkol - see this thread from Seforim v Soferim and Marc's post here.
The following excerpt from a letter of Raphael Kirscheim (published in Kiryat Sefer 4) implies that he had some form of problems with Auerbach -

"who spoke words of peace concerning Frankel, and then set an ambush against him. This man was my friend who I trusted and honored for his great wisdom. Even though he was ruled by his bad character traits which caused him to be removed from office by the minister. During this time, I defended him from those who embrassed him - and these men were not from the "Mechadshim" but from the "Mekadshim U Metaharim" - and now money flows from his (their) purse.."

Monday, June 29, 2009

The Ritva as apologist

I saw a fascinating piece of Ritva. In regards to BT Rosh HaShana 22b:

דא"ר יוחנן מאי דכתיב (איוב כה) המשל ופחד עמו עושה שלום במרומיו מעולם לא ראתה חמה פגימתה של לבנה ולא פגימתה של קשת פגימתה של לבנה דחלשה דעתה

The challenge here is that as noted by Tosafos Yom Tov to the same Mishna, the light of the moon comes from the rays of the sun, and so by definition the sun cannot see the פגימה of the moon which is only there from lack of sun. Apparently, the Modox crowd in Provence (I assume Provence based on the Meiri who was from Provence) who rather casually refers to the view of the astronomers who disagree with Chazal. Meiri doesn't seem to find this at all troublesome.), were making some trouble about this issue.

In response, Ritva takes the a similar line to that championed by Descartes who said he was discovering the laws that God had put into nature. In a similar way, Chazal were explaining why God created the light of the sun and the moon to come about in this fashion:

מעולם לא ראתה חמה פגימתה של קשת כו וי"ל שבראה הבורא בדרך ההוא מפני הענין הזה ולאו למימרא שלא ידעו רז"ל טעם הדבר וטבעו כמו שבודין המחפין עליה ועל חכמתם דברים אשר לא כן

Friday, June 26, 2009

Dating the Zohar and Chajes' mistake

From Hutner-David's Ph.d on Chajes:

"In an attempt to establish the Geonic era as the period for the composition of the Targum on the Book of Ecclesiastes, Chajes states : "I found [ in this Targum] names of angels not mentioned in the Talmud, such as . . . Raziel . . . in Chapter Ten. . . . "46 Citing the name of Raziel in the Tarqum as an argument for the Targum ' s Geonic origin makes sense only if one takes for granted that the name of Raziel first appeared i n Hebrew writings dating from the Geonic era. It is true that Raziel is not mentioned i n the Talmud, , but it does appear countless times in the Zohar. 47 Accordingly, Chajes ' comment implies that he must have believed the Zohar also to date back only to the Geonic period rather than to the Tanna, Shimon bar Yohai."

In fact Raziel appears in one of the incantation bowls dating to the 5th century:

Rav Ashi b. Mahlafta (Tarshish bowl JA1). A Rabbi of this name appears in the Bavli and seems to have lived at the end of the fourth to early fifth centuries. Incidentally, he was a contemporary of Huna b. Natan. This case is probably the most significant, since Ashi is not a common name, and only one person in rabbinic literature, of extreme importance for talmudic history, carries the title. The text of the bowl is itself fascinating. Typical beginning:אסו[תא] מ[ן שמיא תהוי לר]ב אשי בר מחלפתא... but things quickly get interesting. There is a visionary, hekhalot poetic section about God:

"? is his name, ש is his name, Amotz is his name, rwy is his name, Raziel is his name....King of king of kings is his name, kzyh is his name, which burns he repairs (it) above and over the highest heavens, in the palace of fire and hail, including its chariots and the heaven..."

[Notes: The above discussion is not to be confused with the Sefer Raziel which is supposed to have been authored by the angel Raziel. Shadal is rather sarcastic about Raziel's rather un-angelic habit of careless plagiarism (Shadal refers here to his plagiarism from Shabsi Donnelo, and elsewhere to his plagiarism from R Eliezer Rokeach's writings.) ]

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Its a love story...

The following scans come from the Aderet's journal, Seder Eliyahu. I do not know if this sort of marriage (the girl was engaged at 12, to be married at 15) was common in Lithuania at the time but its a fascinating description both of Aderet's personality (though it is surprising how impassively this episode is written) and of his generation.
I do not undestand Aderet's comment that he did not take his father-in-laws offer for a tutor in secular studies - for who knows what time will do?

Monday, June 22, 2009

Avnei Zikaron - Altona - Hamburg - and epigraph of R' Raphael HaKohen

This is a fascinating tool. For instance, for R' Raphael HaKohen of Hamburg (although this may already be in Ivah LaMoshav, I didn't check):

‎‏פ״נ אדמ״ו הרב הגאון המפורסם החסיד האמתי נר ישראל ופאר הדור כמוהר״ר רפאל הכהן זצ״ל בעה״מ ספר תורת יקותיאל ושב הכהן שאלת הכהנים תורה מרפא לשון דעת קדושים אשר היה אב״ד בג׳ ק״ק אה״ו יע״א כ״ג שנים והרים המשרה מעל שכמו ד׳ שנים ומחצה לפני מותו ללכת לאה״ק תוב״ב וישב לו פה כי לא יכול לעבור מפני רעש המלחמות בארץ ביום ד׳ ך״ד מרחשון תקס״ד מלאו לו פ״א שנה למחרתו חלה את החולי אשר מת בו ביום ו׳ ך״ו מרחשון ואבל כבד וכבוד גדול נעשה לו במותו ונקבר ונספד כהלכה ביום א׳ ך״ח מרחשון שנת הגדל ליהודים ורצוי לכל אחיו לפ״ק פה חלקת מחוקק ספון נשיא הוא בישראל איש חיל לא חת מכל ותועפות לו כהררי אל חמשים ותשע שנה שפט את ישראל מלחמת ה׳ נלחם צדקות ה׳ עשה הרים קרן עמו טורח משאו נשא רבים השיב מעון הורה חטאים דרכי אל איש מופת עשה גדולות אך למען שם כבודו לא ירא מפני איש בלתי את ה׳ לבדו על כן אהבוהו גם כבדוהו כל בית ישראל רוח אלהים בו אך לה׳ לבדו כל מעשהו בז לכל מחמדי תבל דורו ראו כן תמהו הסיר העטרה ויבחר הסתופף במקדשי אל תנצב״ה‏‎

and much more can be found. The Milchamos HaShem...Lo Yarei ,etc. probably refers to his attacks on Mendelssohn.

[I see they actually have a photograph of the tombstone as well as a mini bio - here. Note the hands stretched out in Birkas Kohanim]

A hesped for the Ketzos's daughter - from Shadal

In V. 2 of Igrot Shadal which is now at Google books (hopefully V. 1 will appear soon. I see that the beginning of the Shefer edition of Graetz is there as well - and more keep being added by the day.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Kohelet Shlomo - A bibliography of the Halberstam collection. This is especially interesting as the entire collection was given to JTS decades ago and has many treasures waiting to be uncovered.

A conversation between R Kook and Aderet regarding Eruvin

The following is from Aderets diary - Seder Eliyahu. Does anyone know where this Chasam Sofer is to be found. It sounds more like R' Kooks own opinion. The opinion of the Mishkenot Yaakov referred to has been anlayzed in a great series of posts at Eruv Online.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Interview with R Saul Lieberman

New blog - דובב שפתי ישנים

I started a new blog דובב שפת ישנים. I am planning on placing various smal pieces from Gedolei Yisroel that have been lying dormant in various newspapers and articles that are now easily accesible online. Any and all suggestions for future additions would be most appreciated (ishimshittos at yahoo dot com).

Monday, June 8, 2009

New Hebrewbooks update

Some interesting seforim from the latest update:

1 - Lots of R A Ibn Ezra material (Ibn Ezra folklore?)

2- Mevaseret Tzion from Elykim Karmoli - apparently containing letters relating to the "lost" ten tribes. But Karmoli was known to be a forger..

3 - An "expose" on Sir Moses Montefiore by Ephraim Deinard. This is an extremely rare book (only five copies). Make sure to take a look at the last page.

4 - R NH Wiesel's Sefer HaMidot.

5 - Pesher Davar by Yaakov Reifmann

6 - R' Chaim Heller's Peshitta

7 - Solomon Schecter's first Genizah publication

8 - R' Yosef Zechariah Stern - Maamer Al Tahluchei Aggadot.

9 - Malter's critical edition of Taanis

10 - Palm Reading - for Dummies

[Update: Yitzhak suggests:

Four volumes of the בית עקד ספרים

Steinschneider's אלפא ביתא דבן סירא

Bernstein's editions the Diwans of Emanuel Frances and Leon Modena

The דור רביעי

Shraga Abramson's edition of the Nagid's בן משלי

Four more editions of the מבחר הפנינים, three attributed to the Bedarsi, and one to Ibn Gabirol

Rav Meir Arik's מנחת פתים ]

11 - HaTzofeh L'Chochmas Yisroel

Friday, June 5, 2009

Biblical criticism - Scholarship or thinly veiled anti-semitism - 2

[Continuing from here]

" It's an attitude that infects all modern "critical" scholarship on ancient Israel. That picture is of an Israel, alone among its neighboring nations, that couldn't build, couldn't field and army, couldn't have a king, couldn't write, couldn't do anything that all the other small nations around them were doing at the Biblically indicated times. At core, this is antisemitic, the claim that instead of Israel possessing a distinct civilization of its own, it was uncivilized, incapable of art or literature, and certainly nowhere as accomplished as its writings (cobbled together out of borrowed themes and stories from other cultures, and full of falsehoods and later inventions, of course) would indicate. The claim of critical scholarship thus comes down to the evaluation of Israel as at the very least less capable than its neighbors, and at the very most, subhuman.

I think that not only the faithful are oblivious to this, but most of the well-intentioned people involved in scholarship, so many of them being Jewish themselves. The problem consists of several parts: 1.) most people don't know that the foundational scholars were actually German (and other national) antisemites; 2.) the circular nature of critical scholarship as currently conceived is completely immobile, and considers the consensus to be completely proven and unchangeable truth; 3.) the consensus is enforced by a kind of intellectual intimidation: "if you don't believe this, you are an unintelligent fundamentalist"; 4.) this shared mentality is inculcated early in the training, so that the new scholar becomes a drone of the hive mind as well, an unquestioning adherent to the foundations.

The revelation that various of these scholars were antisemites will be a blow, but look for this attempt to recover: "Ah, but their antisemitism is something that was separate from their intellectual achievements. It's as in the case of someone like Ezra Pound, a wild antisemite, but who wrote excellent poetry." This is misdirection. Ezra Pound was not writing about the origins of Israel! The antisemitism of these scholars is profoundly interwoven in their work, which is precisely in the area that their antisemitism would affect. Aside from the kind of miasma or taint that arises from this connection, one must concede also that their ideas were not based in an objective state to investigate the evidence, and to construct rational (i.e. untainted by the irrationality of antisemitism) hypotheses. This applies to both OT and NT studies, as the New Testament was, at the time it was written, a compilation of books written by Jews, every single one. Reconstructions of the early church based in the maunderings of Luther, the vicious antisemite [ See here - W.] who bequeathed his filth to an entire nation, are based in a completely antisemitic view of Jews of the days of Jesus, and of, indeed, the Jewish aspects of the New Testament itself."

Biblical criticism - Scholarship or thinly veiled anti-semitism - 1

Kevin has an important series on the Roots of Theological Anti-semitism. I thank him for kindly permitting me to quote some important segments from a private email.

"Unfortunately, the Germans and the mentality that they inculcated in the academy regarding all things Biblical has even affected archaeology, with the interpretations of the "minimalists" of various stripes. Their theories of the texts determine their reading of the remains. How is this different than a "Bible-based archaeology"? It's just as literarily determined. They're blind to this, though, and find their theories a better model for the world than the preserved ancient texts not only of Israel but of the other nations. We don't, for instance, find "minimalists" and "maximalists" arguing over the dating of the ruins of Ugarit, Thebes, or Babylon. Again, the Israelites come under an urealistically critical eye, that never looks anywhere else. And that eye, whether it knows it (whether mumbling about "Jews" during faculty parties, or excusing current and past antisemitism as unrelated to the intellectual achievements of the individuals and groups in question: a foolish thing) or not (being ignorant, as most young Protestant religious scholars are, of the roots of these ideas among the truly repulsive antisemites of the past) what it is doing, needs correction. The entire field needs to be saved from these rotten foundations. It'll take some more thought on how to propose an alternative, however. Their fingers are everywhere. What people need is a new philosophical-academic approach to the Scriptures.

My statement "their fingers are everywhere" is exactly the kind of thing that those people said, preposterously, of Jews in their day, yet it is something that is only true of their own evil plots, machinations, and influences. Their work has soiled the golden treasury of Scripture with their filth.Source criticism certainly needs to be chucked out the window. The whole thing is preposterous and unrealistic. People simply don't write that way. But, they thought Jews did because they're illiterate, uncreative parasites. Yet it's shocking how many people still accept tacitly this inhuman characterization of a civilization through their reliance upon such source criticism. It's repulsive."

[W. - The view that the Jew is an "illiterate, uncreative parasites" was widespread in the 19th century. The best example being Wagner's disgusting Judaism in Music For example:

"In this Speech, this Art, the Jew can only afterspeak and after-patch — not truly make a poem of his words, an artwork of his doings."

Isn't the connection between this quote and the idea that the Old Testament was together out of borrowed themes and stories from other cultures, and is full of falsehoods and later inventions, etc. glaringly obvious?]

Monday, June 1, 2009

Lous Ginzberg and the Aryan Jesus

My thanks to Kevin for informing me of this new book by Susannah Heschel:

Aryan Jesus: Christian Theologians and the Bible in Nazi Germany

The following is from a letter of Louis Ginzberg on the subject:

A response to Haupts work on the subject from Chacham Moses Gaster can be found in the Jewish Chronicle of 25 September 1908 pg. 30. I'd be grateful to anyone who can get me a copy
of that article.
Update: My thanks to S. for providing the following:

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Kevin has an important post on the anti-semitic orientation of some biblical scholars.

Or in the oft-cited words of Solomon Schecter - Higher criticism = Higher anti-semitism:

Our great claim to the gratitude of mankind is that we gave to the world the word of God, the Bible. We have stormed heaven to snatch down this heavenly gift, as the Paitanic expression is; we threw ourselves into the breach and covered it with our bodies against every attack; we allowed ourselves to be slain by hundreds and thousands rather than become unfaithful to it; and we bore witness to its truth and watched over its purity in the face of a hostile world. The Bible is our sole raison d'etre, and it is just this which the Higher anti-Semitism is seeking to destroy, denying all our claims for the past, and leaving us without hope for the future.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

The Warsaw "Black list"

"And we need to strengthen religion.. and we should have a black list, like they had in Warsaw.. and anyone who desecrates Shabbos in public, we will not bury hm, and we will separate him from the rest of Israel..and the bring close those who have severed the cords that attach them to our religion and our Torah, that is against the law.."
If I had time, I would cite sources that show that the vast majority of Posekim vehemently disagree with this position - but anyone is welcome to comment...

Monday, May 25, 2009

Quote of the month

But the academy finds its own way in these things, and often prefers the maunderings of nineteenth centry antisemitic German alcoholics to anything else.


I second!!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Does anyone have Ze'ev Rabiner's biography of R Yosef Zecharia Stern? If so, what information is there on R' Yosef Zechariah's wife/ves?

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

New Hebrewbooks update

I don't have time for a full list but a god many of Leopold (YY) Greenwalds books have been added including his two volume work on the relationship between Bavi and Yerushalmi (see most recently, Alisssa Gray's dissertation for a continuing discussion of the subject) and his books on Hungarian Jewry.

Feel free to comment with any other interesting titles ou might find.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Way cool!!

Check out the - Collection of pictures of Jerusalemites -

This is the first picture I've seen of R' Chaim Hirschenson pg. 15

Thursday, May 7, 2009

A prophecy unfulfilled - on Rachel Morporgo

Morporgo was a great poet (and a bit of a feminist, see this poem which is somewhat similar in style to the beginning of Yeleg's later Kutzo Shel Yud). She was also an adherent of the Kabbalah, and was well-versed in Talmud, Zohar, Chovos HaLevavos and more.

The following "prophecy" seems to be predicting some type of war between the Arabs and the Germans [?]

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Ephraim Deinard on Abraham Geiger

See Wiki for some biographical info on Ephraim Deinard who was one of the most interesting people of the last century (you can read some of his stuff over at Ben Yehuda and more at Google Books and Hathi).

In the second volume of his Memoirs he has a sort of Shem HaGedolim on the scholars and Rabbis of his century. I place the entry on Avrham Geiger here as it sort of mirrors the complexity of the man as I discussed in my earlier post on Geiger.)

Sunday, May 3, 2009

HaMayaan and more Hebrewbooks.

Rav Tzair reviews a new issue of Ha'Mayaan. updates with Saul Lieberman's Tosefos Rishonim as well as Chazon Yechesekel from Dayan Abramsky, Kitvei R' Yosef Dov M' Wurzberg, Yashar Regio's Toras Elokim (his commentary on Chumash), Bernard Revel's edition of Targum Yonoson (his doctorate on Targum Yonoson is available at Google books), J D Eisensteins Tamtzis Shulchan Aruch, Toldos R' Akiva Eiger put together by his sons, an edition of Agudah with notes by R Y C Sonnefeld (which is weird because I think R' Chaim Hirschenson also published a part of Agudah in the back of his Chiddushei Racha on Chumash, but perhaps that was a different Sefer), and much more

The first electric generator - the Mishkan (or not)

A rather amusing article in the Edison Monthly. A whole book by Imber written along the same lines was published as Master of Hope
I think that he is confusing statement concerning Har HaMoriah mentioned here, משם תצא הוראה with משם תצא אור ?

Friday, May 1, 2009

R AY Heschel's and Torah Min HaShamayim

Hirhurim posts a mini-review of the translation of A Y Heschel's Torah Min HaShamayim. (I highly suggest that anyone who can seek out the Hebrew original as the beauty of Heschel's Melitzah, as well as many of the notes, is lost in the translation.)

Here is Lieberman's opinion of the book(s).

I agree with Hirhurim that Heschel doesn't seem to have made any especial effort to connect the transmittor of the pericope with a specific shool. Eg. He will quote a "rationalist" statement of R' Huna and then place it within the school of R' Yishmael without showing how R' Huna would e connected with the disciples of R' Yishmael.

A more significant criticism can be found in Menachem Kahana's entry on Midrashei Halachot in NEJ. Here is a relevant quote:

"R. Ishmael and R. Akiva also differ regarding the permissibility of expounding certain topics in public. R. Ba, in the name of Rav Yehuda (TJ Hagigah 2:1, 77a), attributes the law in M. Hagigah 2:1: "The forbidden sexual relationships may not be expounded before three persons" solely to R. Akiva, and as opposed to the opinion of R. Ishmael. Sifra (from the school of R. Akiva) accordingly did not include expositions regarding the forbidden sexual relationships in the portions of Aḥarei Mot (Lev. 18:7–23) and Kedoshim (Lev. 20:10–21), while the second midrash on Leviticus (from the school of R. Ishmael) does contain in these portions expositions of this subject, some of which were artificially included in several manuscripts of Sifra. Several explanations were offered for the reason behind this disagreement. I maintain that R. Akiva's position is to be understood in light of his extreme exegesis and his fear that the publicizing of such expositions on the subject of forbidden sexual relationships, that human nature craves, was liable to result in licentious behavior "and may come to permit that which is prohibited," in the words of TB (Hagigah 11b) on this mishnah. In contrast, R. Ishmael, who adopted a more moderate exegetical method, did not fear publicly expounding the passage of forbidden sexual relationships, presenting its prohibitions and concessions based on his hermeneutical rules. The halakhah in M. Hagigah loc. cit that "the Story of Creation is not expounded before two" is similarly attributed by R. Ba in the name of Rav Yehuda in TJ idem as following the view of R. Akiva exclusively, in opposition to the opinion of R. Ishmael. This dispute is reflected in the disagreement between the two tannaim concerning the legitimacy of the exposition in Gen. R., p. 12, of the word "et" in Gen. 1:1. R. Akiva explains his position that the word is intended to prevent an erroneous Gnostic interpretation, that "we would say that the heaven and earth also are divinities," and therefore nothing can be derived from it, while R. Ishmael has no qualms in expounding the word et in this problematic verse of the act of Creation. Gen. R. p. 206 and p. 574 also contains a similar disagreement between these tannaim concerning the exposition of the word "et" in two other verses that are likely to be understood as supporting the view of the heretics; here as well, the dispute between R. Akiva and R. Ishmael is based in the different nature of the hermeneutical method of each Tanna. R. Ishmael was not wary of expounding these verses, while R. Akiva was apprehensive that the public exegesis of such sensitive verses in accordance with his extreme expositional method would be liable to serve as justification for the extreme interpretations of the heretics, following their methodology, and he therefore refrained from expounding them in public.

In light of the above, we cannot accept the opinion of Heschel that R. Ishmael was a rationalist who vigorously opposed esoteric expositions of the Torah and matters that cannot be attained by the intellect. More generally, the drawing of unnecessary connections between simple and literal interpretation and religious rationalism should be avoided."

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Is the Moreh Nevuchim a Guide for the "perplexed" - The views of R Y. Sarna and S. Lieberman

In the Preface to his biography of Maimonides, J. Kramer records a conversation he had with Saul Lieberman:

I told him that my main interest was Maimonides' philosophy. He asked me, "For whom did Maimoides write the Moreh Nevukhim"."For the Nevukhim " I responded. "Kraemer," he asked, "do you want to be a Navokh". [Possibly playing with the yiddish word Nebich? - W.], &C.

By contrast, in Volume 5 of R' Yecheske Sarna's Daliyot Yecheskel,there is is a discussion on many important works of Machshavah, including of course the Moreh. Section 3 pg. 148 - 142 is titled "For whom did Maimonides write the Guide."

[I wonder if an analysis of the Biblical trm "Navokh" ( as in) כי נבוכים הם בארץ is relevant or is the Arabic term - دلالة الحائرين - dalālat alḥā’irīn - of greater importance here.]

He argues based on Maimonides' statements in his introduction that the Rambam doesn't write ofr those with mistaken beliefs (תועים) but for those who are of strong belief but are not sure of the correct meaning of various unclear pesukim, and the like.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Yehuda Leib Gordon's series - B'Zchuso Shel Ha Rabonim and ML Lilenbaum's contribution

The initial article (Some of it was too harsh even for HaMelitz and it was ublished as a Hasmatah in HaShachar instead.)

(Note that he castigates R Y Z Stern, (Erez BaLevanon since R YZ Stern had a column there) for some case involoving a Get, also the subject of his Kutzo Shel Yud, (Later, I saw that C. Chamiel, Gevilin 4, עלילת קוצו של יו"ד - already points out the Teshuva inSdei Chemed that I refered too in my earlier post..)

MLL's contribution:


פרידלנדר, יהודה
מאבקו של יהודה ליב גורדון ברבני ליטא : ’בזכותן של הרבנים’
‫ סדן 3 (תשנח) 263-273 ‬
‫ חלק ב: מאבקו של יהודה ליב גורדון ברבני ליטא; ’בינה לתועי רוח’. מווילנה לירושלים (תשסב) 285-313. ‬

‫ נוסח מואר של המאמרים שפורסמו לראשונה ב"המליץ", 1869 ו- 1870-1871. ‬

‫ שני החלקים פורסמו גם בתוך קבץ מאמריו "בין הלכה להשכלה" (תשסד). ‬

for a critical edition that deciphers many of the references.
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