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.
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