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:
Creative Commons License
Ishim V' Shittos by is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 United States License.
Based on a work at