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?
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