Monday, April 26, 2010

Another attempt at solving the authorship of Responsa Besamim Rosh

[Seforim Blog has a very thorough post on Besamim Rosh which links to some earlier posts of mine on the subject. Following is a rewrite of those posts]

Another attempt at solving the question of the authorship of ShuT Besamim Rosh

Besamim Rosh was first attacked as a forgery by R' Mordechai Banet [1]on the grounds that the book contains many halachic leniencies and heretic ideas that could not have been written by the Rosh. Even if this is sufficient proof to show that the Rosh cannot have written it, we still do not know if Saul Berlin forged it or if he was taken in by some earlier forgery.

I think I can show that R Saul Berlin who forged the letter. R' Berlin wrote a satirical work K'tav Yosher in which he attacks the Rabbis who placed Naftali Hertz Wessely's Divrei Shalmo V' Emet under ban. In the midst of this work, he refers sarcastically to several stringencies such as Chalav Akum:

pg. 8a - לו יאבה מלך לתת לי עד חצי המלכות ואשתה מחלב שחלבו גוי לא אעשנו

for which in Besamim Rosh No. 36 he has the Rosh ruling leniently in regards to Chalav Akum

pg. 4a – in response to a suggestion to Wessely's suggestion that Jews should become acculturated with the nation in which they are living, he writes:

- ולא עוד אלא שדרש ברבים להתקרב אל הגוים, ואנו אין לנו אלא שנתרחק מהם ב־תכלית הריחוק , ולא נבקש שלומם וטובתם כל הימים , ואם בשנאתם אותנו רבים צרינו הקמים עלינו לכלותינו, אדרבא זה הוא לטוב לנו כי עי׳׳ז נזכה לקדש שם שמים לעיני הגוים ומיום שחרב המקדש ובטלו הקרבנות , אין נחת רוח להשי"ת גדול מזה בהיותינו נהרגים ונשחטים כקרבן ועולה על קדושת שמו הגדול

and in Besamim Rosh no. 301 he writes that there is no obligation to die for the sake of heaven even during a time of שמד, but he repeats a similar point to that in K'tav Yosher that Mesiras Nefesh is a means to avoid assimilation:

אבל ישראל קדושים. מעצמם מותרים נפש. שלא להטמעות בין הגוים שזה הוא כאלו

מת ועבר ובטל

From the above, we see that the issues discussed in Besamim Rosh line up with the concerns of Saul Berlin in his K'tav Yosher. The discerning reader can probably find many more parallels.

[1] R Banet's letter to R Tzvi Hirsch Berlin was first published by Salomon Rosenthal in the literary supplement of “Der Orient” No. 6 53-55 No. 9 140-141 , and then later republished in Parashat Mordechai (1889) No.5. Another similar letter was published in והמה בכתובים, העתקות כתבי־יד מנחלת האחים לבית יעללעש pg. 20.

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