Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Latest Ha'Mayaan

The latest issue of Ha'mayan is available and appears to be especialy interesting.

Update: I see Hershkowitz in his reply to Posen cites the Jewish Obserever article on Mendelssohn that I discussed here. Most of Hershkowitz's response is nonesense so I won't bother discussing it.

The Seforim She'Niskabel section has some particularly interesting stuff and includes a lengthy discussion of a new sefer of R' Y. Ratzhabi against Chacham Ovadiah.

It is interesting that Y. Laufer's "defense" of R' Zalman Hannau uses a similar argument as that which I used in connection to the Torah Temimah.

Ma'aneh L'igrot's biggest (and only) fan

(See my earlier post here - this based on Bar Ilan search and thanks to a comment by Prof .Marc Shapiro in his E-Tim lecture on R' Moshe)

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שות יביע אומר חלק ו - אורח חיים סימן מח

מופע ראשון: ח"ג (ד"צ ע"ד) שהעולם טועים וחושבים שבנ"ר פוטרת הכל, וליתא, וכמבואר בראשונים הנ"ל. ע"ש. וכ"כ עוד הרבה פוסקים רוא"ח. וכמש"כ להעיר בפנים. וכעת נדפס ס' מענה לאגרות, וראיתי אליו (בסי' כז) שהשיג כן על האגרות משה, (אלא שהיה לו לדבר בלשון כבוד כלפי הגאון הנ"ל, ובכל ספרו מטיח דברים קשים...
שות יביע אומר חלק ח - אורח חיים סימן כג

מופע ראשון: ח"ד (סימן צד) שאף הוא הביא ראיה מפסחים (קו א) לנידונו כעין ראית החיד"א הנ"ל, ודחיתי ראיתו ע"פ דברי ספר המכתם ועוד. וכנ"ל. ושו"ר בספר מענה לאגרות. (סימן עג דף קמט ע"א) שהעיר כן מדנפשיה על דברי האגרות משה. ע"ש. ודו"ק). אשר על כן נראה דשב ואל תעשה עדיף, ולא...
שות יביע אומר חלק ח - אורח חיים סימן לא

מופע ראשון: לקדש תחלה, וכהוראת המשנה ברורה בביאור הלכה, אבל אם די לו במיני תרגימא ובמזון מבושל שאין עליו שם פת, לא יקדש, וכו'. ע"ש. אך בספר מענה לאגרות (סימן נז) כתב לחלוק עליו, ועל המשנה ברורה, ע"פ היסוד שקבע, שלא תיקנו חז"ל מעיקרא לקדש אלא לאחר התפלה, וכשם שהמשכים לקום קודם...
שות יביע אומר חלק ח - אורח חיים סימן לח

מופע ראשון: נוגע לו כלל, הו"ל כמבשל וקוצר שלא לצורך כלל אלא כדי לזרקם ולהשליכם אל הים, לכן נחשבת כמלאכה שאצל"ג וכו'. ע"ש. ובא רעהו וחקרו בשו"ת מענה לאגרות (סי' לו אות יג), וכ' לתמוה ע"ד מהריק"ו, והעלה ע"פ דברי התוס' (שבת צד א) דבכה"ג הואיל והישראל באשר הוא שם זקוק לאותו...
שות יחווה דעת חלק א סימן מה

מופע ראשון: אגרות משה (חאו"ח סי' קס"ו) שדחה ראית הב"ח דההיא דגרדאי מיירי ברגילים בכך וכו'. וזכה לכוין לדברי המהרש"ל בים של שלמה. ובחנם השיג עליו בספר מענה לאגרות (סי' מ"ז) ע"ש. ומ"מ לפ"ד רב האי גאון טעם אחר יש בדבר וכנ"ל. [וז"ל הארחות חיים (הל' ט' באב סי' י"ד): העוסק במלאכתו...
שות יחווה דעת חלק ב סימן כב

מופע ראשון: סימן ד' אות טו), שכשאינו יודע לברך מעין שלש, או כשמסופק, מברך בורא נפשות רבות. ע"כ. ואינו נכון להלכה, וכמו שביארנו. וגם הלום נדפס ספר מענה לאגרות, וראיתי אליו (בסימן כז) שהשיג לנכון על דברי האגרות משה הנ"ל, והעלה שאם אינו יודע לברך מעין שלש, אין לברך בורא נפשות רבות...
שות יחווה דעת חלק ה סימן ז

מופע ראשון: הרגיש מדברי הרמב"ם הנ"ל שמוכח להיפך, שאף באופן שרוב המנין לא התפללו, והמיעוט התפללו כבר, נחשבת תפלתם תפלה בצבור. והניח בצריך עיון. ע"ש. אולם בספר מענה לאגרות (סימן יב ויג) השיג לנכון על דברי האגרות משה הנ"ל, והעלה להלכה שגם כשיש רוב מנין שלא התפללו והמיעוט התפללו, רוב המנין ככולו...

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Some interesting articles

The turn to conceptualism in 19th century Jewish Law

Maharam of Padua v. Giustiniani: The Sixteenth-Century Origins of the Jewish Law of Copyright (Looks interesting - FROM MAIMONIDES TO MICROSOFT; JEWISH COPYRIGHT LAW SINCE THE BIRTH OF PRINT, Neil W. Netanel and David Nimmer, eds., Oxford University Press, 2009)

Where's the Mechitza - early twentieth century Jerusalem

In an earlier post, I linked to Biblicalia's quotation from the Rev. Alexander Keith . In a fascinating comment, he adds the intersesting information that Keith was among the first to photograph the Holy Land. These photos were made into a sort of slide show, or as it was called then a magic lantern show, and exhibited in order to raise funds usually to support the missionary movement.

Here are some interesting photo's from the Matson collection of the Library of Congress. The interested reader will no doubt be able to unearth many more interesting photos at that site.

Here is one of the Kotel at the beginning of the century:

As you can see, there is no Mechitza (they seem to be davening anyway), as the Arabs would not allow it. Attempts to build a Mechitza in 1928 lead to serious conflict.

This is a Samaritan (Kuti) high priest:

Presumably, he would have supervised the Korban Pesach at Har HaGrizim, like this one:

Finally , here are some "alte Yerushalyme Yidden" clearly posing for the Shaygetz:

Once can read a lot more about the Yishuv HaYashan in Nima Adlerblum's (Chaim Hirschenson's daughter) Memoirs of my Childhood, and probably in a lot of other places.

Rabbinische Gutachten uber die Beschneidung

Just came across this fascinating sefer on Google books.For the background of this controversy see J. Bleich's article here. We have letters here from all the major figures of that period, including HKesav V'HaKabbakah, Shir, Shadal, R' Nosson Adler of Hanver, and much more.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

האם יש ספרים שאסור להכניסם חבית היהודי

The primary source is the Mishna in Sanhedrin "הקורא בספרים חיצוניים..." , (see Tiferes Yisroel there). I am convinced however that this refers (as I believe Radal writes) to the apocryphal books, and this out of fear that they would make their way into the canon. R' MM Kasher has a lengthy addendum on the subject somwhere in his Torah Sheleimah.

If the Yerushalmi on that Mishna is in fact permitting the reading of Homer (ספר הומירוס as explained by S. Lieberman, Hellenism) one wonders what can possibly be forbidden?

See here on the Yaavetz's vast reading. R' Yaakov Kamenetsky is said to have commented that he "read a whole lot, perhaps more then was permitted" (MOAG) but in this he refers to the issue of Bittul Torah, while the issue under discussion is if there are books with forbidden content (obviously excluding דברי חשק).

I know of SA OC 307:17 (and see Mor U' Ketziah there) but even there the matter requires further study. For instance, I am inclined to wonder if the ban against the despised Sefer Immanuel is indeed because of questionable content (as argued by Mekor Baruch) or is it rather a reaction to the author's opposition to Kabbalah?

Comments welcome (For Hungarian posekim, as is obvious, the question doesn't start.)

Who removed (some) of "the maskilim" from the Otzar Hachochma?

Scanning through an old catalogue of the Otzar HaChochma, I was surprised at the number of Seforim that were removed from the "repository". These include all of Shadal's seforim (although a polemic against Shadal "אשתדלות עם שד"ל" does remain (the author - Bachrach - has an interesting correspondence with S'deh Chemed in Pekuot HaSadeh)), Naftali Hertz Wiesel's seforim, Renak, Shir etc., etc.

At the end of a rather silly thread complaining of all the terrible stuff available on Otzar Hachochma, etc. ,etc, I saw a link to the following letter from an OC staff member:

ובכן, כבר הסביר ידיד נפשי כאח לי הרב דוד סופר שליט"א, כי הקו המנחה שלנו (בין שאר הקוים המנחים) – שלא להכניס ספרים שאסור להכניסם לבית יהודי. ואם נכנסו דברים כגון אלו הרי זה מחמת טעות אנוש. עוד בטרם יצא המאגר לאור הושבנו ביבליוגף חרדי, בעל שכל חריף ובעל ידע מדהים, שעבר על הרשימה ועשה סימון לספרים הפסולים. צריך להבין, מדובר בהיקף עצום של חומר ולפעמים עלולים לטעות בשיקול הדעת. לדוגמא, חלק גדול מספרי ההשכלה הודפסו כדוגמת ספרי קודש לכל דבר, ולפעמים בשם מחבר מוסווה היטב, ובנקל ניתן לטעות בהם. מיד כשיצא המאגר להפצה לפני יותר מחודשיים, הובאו לידיעתנו מספר ספרי מכשול שהשתרבבו למאגרינו, כגון ספרי לווינזון ודרויאנוב. ספרים אלו הוצאו כבר אז מן המאגר, ובתקליטור העדכון ששלחנו לאלו שכבר קנו את התכנה, הם נמחקו. שגינו בכך שלא מחקנו ספרים אלו מן הרשימה שבאתר, ומקטלוג הספרים עב הכרס שהופץ בבתי מדרשות. עם זאת, אינני מסכים עם הרשימה המלאה של הספרים שהוצגו כאן כאפיקורסות, הרבה מהספרים שהוזכרו ברשימה אין להם שום קשר להשכלה, אלא אדרבה הם ממש נגד כת המשכילים.

בחלק מן הספרים נפלה טעות אצל אותו תלמיד חכם שהכין לפנטון את הרשימה (הוא חשב על ספר מסויים בעוד שהספר שבמאגר הוא בעל אותו השם אבל ממחבר אחר). בהחלט נרשמו כאן מספר ספרים נוסף שראוי להוציאם מן המאגר, ומספר ספרים צריכים שיקול מחודש. אבל מכאן עוד הדרך ארוכה מלומר שאנו מכשילים ומטעים את ציבור יראי ה'. מעניין לספר, שממש בימים אלו, ובלי קשר לווכוח שהתרחש כאן, עבר על קטלוג הספרים שלנו, תלמיד חכם מן המיוחדים שבדור, ללא הגזמה ולכל הדעות. וסימן כחמישים ושבעה ספרים כספרים בעייתיים (הכוללים גם את עשרים הספרים שכאמור כבר הוצאו מהמאגר). כמובן שאנו מוציאים לאלתר בנפש חפצה ובלב שמח את 37 הספרים הנותרים אותם סימן אותו גאון.

I don't question Otzar HaChochma's decision, at that time, to remove the Seforim that their more close-minded customers would find problematic. But at this point, when we already have a Bnei-Torah and non-Bnei Torah (I would assume R' Yosef Zechariah Stern (and many others) was not a Ben Torah by their standards (see Sdei Chemed Pe'as - s.v. Aba Mezakeh)) versions, perhaps they could place the already scanned seforim back onto the program.

Parenthetically, Levinsohn (Rival - author of Teudah B'Yisroel) seems an odd person to pick as the arch-representative of the evil Maskilim. Levinsohn was highly respected by such famous scholars as R' Dovid Luria (Radal), and R' Mattisyahu Strashun as can be seen by their letters to him in Be'erot Yitzchok and R' Yisroel of Ruzhin even supported the publication of his works.

Monday, December 22, 2008

jus primae noctis, droit se seignour, חיבעל להגמון תחילה - in Midrash and Talmud

אוצר המדרשים (אייזנשטיין) עמוד קפה
תנו רבנן: בימי מלכות יון הרשעה גזרו על ישראל שכל מי שיש לו בריח בתוך ביתו יחקוק עליו שאין לשונאי ישראל חלק ונחלה באלוקי ישראל. מיד הלכו ישראל ועקרו בריחים שבבתיהם. ועוד גזרו שכל מי שיש לו שור יכתוב על קרנו שאין לשונאי ישראל חלק באלוקי ישראל, הלכו ישראל ומכרו שוריהם. ועוד גזרו עליהם שיהיו בועלין נשיהן נידות. הלכו ישראל ופרשו מנשיהן. ועוד גזרו שכל מי שנושא אישה תיבעל להגמון תחילה ואח"כ תחזור לבעלה. ונהגו בדבר הזה שלוש שנים ושמונה חודשים, עד שנישאת בתו של יוחנן כוהן גדול. כיוון שרצו להוליכה אצל אותו ההגמון, פרעה ראשה, וקרעה בגדיה, ועמדה ערומה בפני העם. מיד נתמלא יהודה ואחיו חימה עליה, ואמרו: הוציאוה לשרפה ואל יתגלה דבר זה למלכות מפני סכנת נפשות, שהעזה פניה להיות ערומה בפני כל העם הזה. אז אמרה לו: היאך אתבזה לפני אחי ורעי ולא אתבזה בעיני ערל וטמא שאתם רוצים למעול בי ולהוליך אותי לשכב אצלו? כיוון ששמע יהודה וחבריו כך, נועצו יחדיו להרוג ההגמון. מיד הלבישו הנערה בלבוש מלכות ועשו חופה של הדס מבית חשמונאי עד ביתו של הגמון, ובאין כל בעלי נבל וכינור ובעלי זמר, והיו מזמרים ומרקדים, עד שבאו לבית ההגמון
(and see the Kovetz Genuzot V. 1 pgs. 165- 168 for another version of this Midrash and the extensive discussion by N. Rabinowitz in his Binu Shenos Dor V' Dor)
From a historical perspective, this Midrash is exceedingly puzzling. There is no record of any decree of jus primae noctis among the Greeks (see section one of this article). Nor is this decree mentioned in the book of Judith which is the basis of this Midrash.
From L. Rabinowitz, "The study of Midrash" JQR, 58 pg. 154 ff. we have the following (footnotes not included except one- brackets mine):

We are not concerned, however, with the truth of these allegations insofar as they refer to the Middle Ages in Europe, but with the possibility of its having existed during the Talmudic period, and in that respect the undeniable fact is that it has entered massively both into the Halacha and the Aggada. The outstanding example of its halachic aspect is found in the Talmud.
The regulation is laid down in the Mishnah [Lekket.com had a fascinating article from the WCJS on the reason behind this decree based on one of the Qumranic documents. Unfortunately, the site doesn't seem to be functional at present- W.] that the marriage of virgins was to take place on Wednesdays, so that, if the bride-groom found that he had been deceived with regard to the virginity of his bride, he could have immediate recourse to the Beth Din which met regularly on Thursdays. This law was changed, and the day altered to Tuesday, the reason given being that it was to circumvent the custom of jus primae noctis by the prefect, (tafsar).

In the Jerusalem Talmud 48 the same reason is given for the institution of the custom that the wedding should take place in the house of the bride-groom. In the Aggada the references are more numerous. Halfway between Halacha and Aggada is the vague statement of the Talmud with regard to the Festival of Chanukah. To the general rule that women are exempt from the performance of such commandments as depend upon a specific time for their performance, 49 the Talmud makes three exceptions, the reading of the Megillah on Purim, 50 the Foul Cups on Passover, 51 and the Kindling of the Lights on Chanukah 52 and in all three cases the identical reason for the exception is given, "since they also were included in that miracle".

Wherein, however, lay the particular role which they played in the events leading up to Chanukah? Rashi explains, "The Greeks decreed that all betrothed virgins should be subjected to the jus primat noctis by the prefect, and the miracle was effected through a woman.
A late scholium to Megillat Ta'anit actually says that it was this decree which was the immediate cause of the raising of the standard of revolt by Mattathias [Cf. E. Brodt's post no. 3 here - W.], and it has even been suggested that there may be a vague but historic reference to it in the Book of Maccabees itself: 56-"And the rulers and elders groaned, the virgins and young men were made feeble, and the beauty of women was changed. Every bridegroom took up lamentation; she that was in the marriage chamber was in heaviness... and all the house of Jacob was clothed in shame".

In the purely Aggadic sphere there are two references. The one, in the name of R. Judah, purports to explain the difficult verse 57 "There were giants on the earth in those days, and after that, when the sons of the overlords 58 came in unto the daughters of men and they bare children unto them", to the effect that "when they prepared a woman for her husband, the overlord used to enter and have intercourse with her first". 59 The other is-Bethuel the father of Rebecca. Says the Yalkut, 60 "Bethuel was king of Aram Naharaim, and he used to exercise the jus primae noctis over every virgin and then hand her over to her husband". 61 To complete this portion of the picture it is convenient here to add that Bethuel is cast as the villain of the piece, as will be abundantly shown. There is no villainy of which he is incapable, from theft to murder to rape of his own daughter, albeit, according to one version, under threat of death. That his fell designs are not executed is due to no virtue on his part. Other circumstances intervene.
(Footnote: I have searched in vain for some authority for my idea that the basis of this interpretation lies in the name Bethuel, with its suggested connection with Bethulah, a virgin. It does not need overmuch Midrashic imagination to suggest that they regarded the name as conveying "Lord of the virgins". The nearest I have found is a statement ascribed to I. Levi in R.E.J. 30.220-23I that "it may have been derived from the Roman legend of Virginius". (J.E. loc. cit.) Certainly the male name Virginius is as suggestive as Bethuel, but I have so far failed to trace this legend of Virginius.) [Rabinowitz fails to note that the story of Judith takes place in a city known as "Bethulia" - W.]

The next scholar to write about this subject is Tal Ilan - Premarital Cohabitation in Ancient Judea: The Evidence of the Babatha Archive and the Mishnah (Ketubbot 1.4) , HTR 86:

This mishnah attests different matrimonial practices in Galilee and Judea and suggests that premarital cohabitation was sometimes practiced in Judea, but certainly not in Galilee. The Palestinian Talmud interprets the mishnah, obviously apologetically, by assigning the Judean practice of premarital cohabitation to the aftermath of the Bar Kokhbah revolt, as a result of the imposition of the jus primae noctis ("the right of the first night"). The contract from the Babatha archive predates the Bar Kokhbah revolt, however, and thus attests a Judean practice of premarital cohabitation that is not connected to the Roman decree. In the article I shall suggest two possible interpretations for this practice. I shall conclude by arguing that the jus primae noctis in Jewish sources belongs, as has been shown for all other instances of the motif, to folklore and not to history.

Some sources suggest that after the Bar Kokhbah revolt the Romans introduced in Palestine the jus primae noctis, namely, the right of the local governor to deflower all maidens entering wedlock.34 The Palestinian Tamud refers to this "event" when it deals with the mishnah on the husband's residing at his father-in-law's house

(Footnote 34: The date of the alleged event is subject to some controversy. For example, Samuel Krauss ("La fete de Hanoucca," REJ 30 [1895] 37-43) dated it to the aftermath of the Jewish revolt in the days of the emperor Trajan (115-117 CE). On the other hand, Samuel Belkin (Philo and the Oral Law [Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1940] 246) saw in it one of the Antiochean decrees (168 BCE). The Bar Kokhban date, championed, among others, by Raphel Patai ("Jus Primae Noctis," Studies of the Center for Folklore Research 4 [1974] 177-80), seems to me, on account of the word 'nt usually associated with the Bar Kokhbah revolt, to be the correct interpretation. )

This tradition connects the imposition of the jus primae noctis with the 'nr decrees, which are usually associated with the aftermath of the Bar Kokhbah revolt. As a result, the rabbis enacted an emergency measure (nMpn), which was intended to avert the danger of Jewish maidens' losing their virginity to Roman soldiers and possibly even conceiving by them. In such a case, the prospective couple was actually encouraged to practice sexual inter-course and cohabit out of wedlock in the very house of the bride's father. The quasi-historical justification for this Judean custom, the jus primae noctis, belongs, however, in my opinion, to the apologetics of the Galilean rabbis, because in the next sentence the talmudic commentators go on to claim that althought he destruction( '1n) was discontinued,t he custom was not. (y. Ketub. 1.5, 25c) This claim means that in Judea men and women continued to practice some sort of premarital cohabitation before the nuptials.

The Talmud then goes on to state that even the daughter-in-lawo f Rabbi Oshaiah entered (the bridal chamber) pregnant. (y. Ketub. 1.5, 25c) This indicates that these matrimonial practices were followed in families of the Judean rabbis themselves. The admission of the talmudic sources that the custom of cohabitation prior to marriage was not easy to uproot even when the conditions that had brought it about, namely, the jus primae noctis of the aftermath of the Bar Kokhbah revolt, ceased to exist, also proves, in my opinion, that the custom did not arise from these conditions. Salome Komais' marriage contract, which is dated to August 131 CE and suggests a similar reality of premarital cohabitation, predates the Hadrianic decrees by four years and severs all previously assumed connections between the two. We have now surveyed another form of rabbinic apologetics, one which argues that premarital cohabitation was only practiced in Judea under the extremely hazardous conditions brought about by the jus primae noctis imposed by the Romans in the aftermath of the Bar Kokhbah revolt.

..question has been tackled by Raphel Patai,37 who formulated a remarkable theory. He was well aware of the fact that all medieval literature that evokes the custom of jus primae noctis has been proven to be folkloristic and has no historical basis.38 On the whole, Patai abided by these conclusions. He argued, however, that a special case should be made for the talmudic sources describing the same sort of custom. He claimed that since all the sources that are now considered legend and depict the practice in Christian medieval Europe were composed much later than the period they propose to describe, it is acceptable to discard them. In Judea, on the contrary, in the aftermath of the Bar Kokhbah revolt, the Romans actually put into practice such a law, as the "reliable" rabbinic sources claim. Patai, as a folklorist, should have known better. If a motif of this sort could have appeared in a sixteenth-century document and upset the entire history of medieval Europe for the next two centuries, the same motif likewise could have cropped up in the fourth- or fifth-century Palestinian Talmud, falsely describing events of the second century.39 In my opinion, the conclusions of the present article, which make the jus primae noctis narrative of the Palestinian Talmud nothing more than an apology for an inconvenient Judaic custom that is described cryptically in the Mishnah, undermine Patai's claim.40 From a large repository of folkloristic material circulating worldwide, the jus primae noctis was conveniently drawn in order to explain and justify a custom that seemed to the rabbis to under-mine their view of proper conduct in Jewish society.

[W. - Ilan's thesis seems to me to be exaggerated. As one can see from the copious citations in Rabinowitz - jus primae noctis is a recurring motif in the Midrashic literature and can hardly be attributed solely to an "invention of the Rabbis to gloss over an inconvenient custom". One is inclined to wonder if the frequent appearance of this particular bit of folklore in countries that were very much under the yoke of the Roman Empire (Medieval Europe, Palestine - as opposed to Persia and Babylonia) is not in fact an inheritance from the Roman conquerors.]

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Talk about a "Lachrymose conception of Jewish history"

Commentaries to Midrash - Recommendations, anyone?

Rav Tzair has a an excellent series of posts that analyse the conceptual basis underlying a Midrash of the weekly Parshah. Thanks to him, I now set aside some time every week to study Midrash. The commentarues on the page are usually good for deciphering the basic meaning of the text but very rarely go beyond that.

I know Saul Lieberman has an edition of Midrash Rabbah published by Mossad R' Kook [? - or so I thought, actually by Harry Fischel] but I'ven never seen it [Found it on Otzar HaChochmo thanks to andy - introduction + notes , he is at his most useful when explaining an obscure Greek term] so I don't know what its about. There are critical editions of a few chapters of different Midrashim created as doctoral dissertation but I don't know if any of these have been published. From the traditional sphere, Midrashim are fodder for drash and so their p'shat aspect is very rarely explored. Is the notes to Kasher's Torah Sheleimah worth looking into? How about Ginzberg's Legends, there must be valuable material in the notes there?

So, has anyone got any recommendations?

Isaiah Berlin (Rabbi)

As per R' Yitzhaks footnote, I created a wiki entry for him, Isaiah Berlin (Rabbi). I do not know of any full-length studies, hagiographical or otherwise on this fascinating figure. If anyone has info please comment.

See no. 2 of this post for a rather interesting comment of his. As I wrote then, I am [still] looking for a Kovetz Beis Halevi V. 3 which should contain R' Berlin's hagahot to Mitpachat Seforim. If anyone has seen this I would be interested to hear something of the nature of thes notes, as these should have important information concerning R' Berlin's Weltanschauung.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Comment to letter in recent Yerushaseinu

I was very surprised that the last letter in Yerushaseinu 3:395 was published without response. Even if we ignore the nasty swipe at Dr Berliner, about whom he admits he knows nothing at all,who by all accounts was a ת"ח עצום שיראתו היה קודמת לחכמתו – this ironically, in a letter complaining of a supposed deficiency of respect towards great Rabbis. His complaint that Rabbis and Chokrim are mentioned side by side as if equals was already leveled against R' Dovid Tzvi Hoffmann, it is quite n order that a periodical dedicated to Minhag Ashkenaz should follow the precedent of האחרון בזמן והראשון במעלה של הגאוני אשכנז. (The oft-repeated and over-inflated complaint that they follow the academic protocol of leaving of title after first mention of a name is simply nonsensical, since as ought to be obvious to anyone with a modicum of good sense is a matte of style and has nothing to do with respect.)

More serious I think, is the attitude that insists that certain Rabbinic figures were so very great that any attempt to study and analyze their methodologies, sources, etc. is futile, or worse disrespectful.. First, nobody would protest against this mistaken notion as vehemently as these Rabbis themselves, as the Nodah B' Yehuda was fond of saying – דין (להקשות ולדון בדבריו) הניין לי ומסייע אין בו ממש. But even worse, is that the attitude that insists that great men are/were so very great that it is impossible to reach their level is the best way to stifle future greatness. See this very apt quote from G. K. Chesterton, and I once posted something similar from R Kook.

Friday, December 12, 2008

More forbidden then “Chazir” – On Y. L.Maimon's Sarei HaMaios

In a small pamphlet of Hanhagos of the Steipler (I do not know if its also in Orchas Rabbeinu). The following question was asked:

Q. If one receives one of Maimon's books, such as Sarei HaMaios, for a Bar Mizvah gift, what shold be done with it?

A. It should be burned – these books are worse then “Chazir”.

I am not certain if Maimon's role as the propounder of the “Sanhedrin HaGedolah..” and subsequent controversy with the Brisker Rav (leading to the following “clever” retort by a prominent Rabbi – His name (his original name was Fishman) ought to be read with a Mapik.) Or if it is the very strong pro-Zionist bias in his books (for some reason all of the Rabbis he discusses were in some way favorable to Zionism).

In a short favorable review of Sarei HaMaios in Talpiot, Prof. S. Mirsky decries Maimon's decision t leave out the sources (and see note 3 here). My own opinion is that Maimon left out the source because he had none. In his books he writes that he had the custom when visiting any village of conversing with the older inhabitants for any village lore on the famous Rabbis that lived in them. As such, these stories are often unreliable (as anyone familiar with this genre knows, names of famous Rabbis tend to be switched around – the same story (Selling Olam Habah for an Esrog Mehudar, etc.) for instance is told in the names of the Baal Shem Tov, Kedushas Levi, and somewhat ironically, the Gra) but one cannot discount them entirely.

דבר תורה לפרשת וישלח מאת מרת קריינדל שטיינהארדט

ע' כאן לביוגרפיה קצרה עליה ויש מידע נוספת בספר שרי המאות של ר י. ל. מימון
רש"י בראשית לב,ה גרתי - לא נעשיתי שר וחשוב אלא גר, אינך כדאי לשנוא אותי על ברכות אביך שברכני (לעיל כז כט) הוה גביר לאחיך, שהרי לא נתקיימה בי.
פ' מרת קריינדל - לא נתקיימה בי - האותיות "בי" מהמלה גביר לא נתקיים - שהרי לא נעשיתי שר.. אלא גר

Friday, December 5, 2008

Half fish - half earth?

ע"ז לט. - אלא משום דלא מרבה טינא דג טמא

רש"י - קרקעית של אותו הנהר אין מגדל דגים טמאים

This is usually understood as eaning that the earth of the river under discussion isn't a suitable breeding enviroment for non-kosher fish but since Chazal seem to have believed that certain animals are "born" from their surrounding environment (bugs from fruit, worms from fish, etc.) I wonders if this might not be the correct interpretation here and well?

More from Hebrewbooks.org and Shir on R' Meir Baal HaNes

1 - In the first volume of ShuT Kochvei Yitzchok there is a small article on plagiarism in which he hints at the name of several authors who he believes were guilty of this. In the Hebrewbooks edition someone penciled in the full names on the side. From what I can make out they don't seem to be very famous. See the follow up in the introduction to V. 2. There is also a section on plagiarised books in the Mevo to Mekor Baruch (some might consider that a bit ironic.)

2 - Otzar haChochma has the sixth volume of Kobek's Yeshrun which contains a lengthy letter from Shir on the origins of the charity R' Meir Baal HaNes as well as the alleged ban of Beis Yosef against using money from RMBH for other charities. (See here (fn. 10) for an ingenious explanation on the origins of this term from RR Margolies.)

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Letter from the Chafetz Chaim

This is from Shem M'Shimon, a Sefer Zikaron put out by David and Abba Leiter for the author of Mashbiach on Yerushalmi. This letter wasn't published in the standard collection of the Michtavei Chafetz Chaim. As it is somewhat interesing I thought I would put it here. (I'm afraid its a bit blurry but it should still be legible.)

לפעמים צריכין אנו להם - השואל ומשיב ושד"ל

Sunday, November 30, 2008

On shaking hands with women among the German-Orthodox

And see here

Anyone know who this - גאון מפורסם מאלט שטאט was?
[The source is from a letter in HaDarom 64 by J. Appel of Leeds containing various comments on different articles.]

Friday, November 28, 2008

Chasam Sofer and R' Mordechai Banet on the study of Geography

and here is something so interesting that I had to make it into its own post. Shimshon Halevi Bloch (one of Shirs pals - the first volume is dedicated to him and the second to Renak) wrote a two volume work on Geography called Shvili HaOlam 1, 2. He recieved an interesting Haskamah from R' Mordechai Banet - Chief Rabbi of Moravia as well as a letter of support from Chasam Sofer (I have never seen this letter quoted in any of the studies on Chasam Sofer), as well as R' Eliezer Fleckles of Prague (Talmud of Noda B' Yehuda), R' Shmuel Landau and others.

More from Hebrewbooks.org

4 - Shalu Shalom Yerushalayim - regarding the forged Yeushalmi to Kodshim

5 - The Seforim of R. Moshe Leiter (search for משה לייטר or לייטער) - I don't know very much about him but the articles I've seen from him are generally very good. His Zuto Shel Yam is not dissimilar to R. Reuvein Margolies's style of Mechkar and his B'Shulei Gilyonei is also worth checking out.

6 - Chiddushei Rachah 1, 2- R' Chaim Hirschenson on Horiyos - Volume 3 contains many interesting letters.

7 - HaMisderonah (search for המסדרונה)- This is the periodical published by R' Hirschenson while still in Yerushalyim. See the end of the 3rd volume for an very interesting letter. In the same volume we have Chiddushim of Michah Yosef Berditchovsky on Kesubos in which I think one can already see some of the ideas that he will develop in his later writings.

8 -Ohel Moshe 1, 2 - R' Eliezer Moshe Horowitz of Pinsk, father-in-law of Torah Temimah (a hesped by the latter of the former is available at Seforim Online). Judging by his hagahot to Shas this should also quite interesting.

Hebrewbooks.org - Some interesting new seforim and on R Y. Halevy

Hebrewbooks.org has updated their site to include many more seforim. Here are some of the many interesting seforim available:

1 - Maamer HaTigalachas - Y. S. Reggio - See here for an excellent description of this sefer.

2- Tocho Ratzuf Ahavah - M. S. Gerondi - I don't know anything about this particular book but based on the authors reputation (see M. Hershkowitz's article in HaDarom) it should be worth looking into.

3-Igrot R' Yitzchok Isaac Halevi (Note: All volumes of Dorot HaRishonim are also available there) - This is based on A. Recihel's doctoral dissertation and has been out of print for years. It includes in extensive biography and letters. It is generally believed that Halevi's harsh polemics against the Maskilim was because he was angry at their role in the closing of Volozhin (although it is hard to see a connection between Graetz and the Russian Maskilim who were very different in style). My own impression from the letters is that Halevy had a far too high opinion of his own abilities as in historian and a far too low opinion of anyone elses (see the comments in the letters on R' Dovid Tzvi Hoffmann who was unquestionably far greater then him). In point of fact, little remain of Halevy's theories - S. Albeck (and later Halivni) destroyed his theory regarding the redaction of the Talmud (Sinai), R. YY Weinberg - his theory of Yesod Mishna (Seridei Esih 4), L. Ginzberg - his theories regarding the Geonim (Geonica - English part). Note also that when referring to the German Rabbis he refers to them by their last name whereas the Lithuanian Rabbis are referred to with their proper titles. His Sefer on Sefeikos - Batim Levadim has been published a few years ago.


Thursday, November 27, 2008

Still more Irano-Judaica: On Biblisch-talmudische Medizin

For those interested, in "Biblisch-talmudische Medizin" J. Preuss's groundbreaking study has long all that is available. I now see that M J Geller wrote a very thorough article entitled "Akkadian Healing Therapies in the Babylonian Talmud". The article is available here.

Of especial note is pg. 19 ff. which explains a puzzling piece of Talmud as being based on an Akkadian pun.

Friday, November 21, 2008

David Kaufmann and his collection

מי שבירך for his holiness the Archbishop

And another:

On R' Moshe Sternbuch's Halachic Novellae and on a conversation with him

If you would like a clear and concise summary of virtually any issue in Halacha, no matter how complex, then I highly recommend R' Moshe Sternbuch's Teshuvos V' Hanahagos. He generally cites and discusses only the important sources on an issue with little or no sidetracking (see his introduction).

In many of his earlier Teshuvos (dating from his tenure as a Rov in S. Africa), he demonstrates the sensitivity that Prof. Daniel Sperber seems to value so much in a posek. My favourite Teshuva concerns a Baal Teshuva who was raised for many years by a step-mother before becoming frum. The dificulty is that he is not even able to shake hands, let alone kiss or hug her, something that would obviously casue no few problems. R' Sternbuch suggests that he give half a hand which is not derekh chibah and therefor permitted. Lest this seem like no big deal, note that as opposed to the German posekim[1], R' Sternbuch considers handshaking to be not only a Torah violation but an actual אביזרייהו דעריות and he is now Raavid of the Edah HaChareidis not well-known for leniency in these matters.

In D. Horowitz's article on "R. Moshe Sternbuch's Halakhic Novellae", he discusses the innovative nature of R' Moshe's novellae which, as opposed to the novellae of the yeshivos, have direct halachic ramifications.

Prof. Sual Lieberman used to say:

כשאדם אומר חידוש הרי לבטח כבר קדמו אדם אחר, ואם לאו - הרי שאין החידוש אמיתי. אם בכל זאת חושב הוא שהחידוש נכון, אזי צריך הוא לשאול את עצמו מדוע לא אמרו את החידוש הזה לפניו

Perhaps, this might be true of some of R' Sternbuch's chiddushim. As I was studying Yevamos[2], the following occurred to me. [Although after reviewing the sources, I see that this is not a very good example as R' Sternbuch is following the strict ruling of the MB who resolves the apparent contradiction, but I decided to write this anyway - בשביל דבר שנתחדש בו.]

[In one of his Teshuvos (4:118 and other places), he suggests that if on Shabbos one needs to have a child turn on a light, it is best to have someone else's child, in order to avoid the extra prohibition of שביתת בנו. This prohibition, although mentioned in Mechilta, is nowhere mentioned in the Mishna or Talmud. In fact, in Yevamos 114a we read:

ש <עובד כוכבים> {נכרי} שבא לכבות אין אומרים לו כבה ואל תכבה מפני שאין שביתתו עליהם קטן הבא לכבות אומרים לו אל תכבה ששביתתו עליהם א"ר יוחנן בעושה על דעת אביו

as Rashi explains , the problem is that it is as if the father directly commands the kid to extinguish but w/o this difficulty, it would be permitted and the father does not have to stop his son because of שביתת בנו. The exact status of the Halachic Midrashim, when in conflict with the Talmud still needs to be clarified.]

R' Sternbuch is a descendant of the Gra [3], so when I had an opportunity to meet him I asked him what he considers to be the purpose of the hagahot hagra on Shas (Bavli). The hagahot seem to differ very much in style between tractates. At the time I was learning Bava Metzia in which most of the hagahot simply mention that "the Rambam disagrees and the Rosh is in doubt" and the like, which don't seem to add anything substantial to the sugya. R' Sternbuch suggested that the Gr"a means to pasken like that Shita in these cases but I must confess that this doesn't seem to me to be sufficent explanation. Can anyone check if Y. S. Spiegel discusses this type of hag'ah in his Amudim?

[1] See here, I have unearthed some more sources on this Minhag Ashkenaz (not one you will find mentioned in Shorshei) which I hope eventually to place here.

[2] It is interesting that the difficulty of Yevamos was so well-known that it is even referred to in Karaite polemics - see Shraga Abramson's article in Sinai 52.

[3] As he signs his name, נין ונכד להגר"א, I saw R' Chaim Kanievsky refer to a "certain Gadol who signs this way and I told him they are both false" - as in Bereishis 21:23 that the terms refers to the 2nd and 3rd generation but not beyond (see here).

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Rashba's response to the Bible critics

Menachem Mendel refers to Rashba's polemics against Ibn Hazm - or more precisely against -
"an Ishmael[ite] who composed a work on the religions; a fool, for he spoke [disparagingly] even of our perfect religion."

B. Naor has recently published the full text of the polemic (available at Biegelesien) - see here for an excerpt.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Lubavitcher Rebbe in college

Menachem Friedman on the early years of the Lubavitcher Rebbe (here) - via this thread. See also this post where I suggest that the Lubavitcher Rebbe went to study in Berlin to investigate the conflict between Torah and Science.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Correspondence between R' Yaakov Reifmann and the Aderet

There ia a fascinating piece from the Seforim V' Soferim Forum (see also these posts on Reifmann)
[Update: Another piece of a fascinating letter discussing Rabbenu Tam's Sefer HaYashar and the Aruch HaShulchan's edition has been added here.]

Avraham's mother, Shimshon's sister and the "Immaculate Conception"

Parshablog has an interesting post on the post-talmudic designation of Lot's wifes name as Idith. There is an interesting wiki on the subject of post-biblical designations for biblical characters here (hebrew) and here (english - they bring the source for Lot's wife back to the Sefer HaYashar).

On this subject, R' Reinman (One People Two Worlds) argues for the strength of Rabbinic tradition - because even a minor detail like the fact that Avrohoms mother's name was Amatlai bas Karnebo (see end of Ch. 5 of Bava Basra) has been verified by the discovery of a similar name in ancient Sumerian records.

I innocently mentioned this "source" on Wikipedia at one point, to which I got the following response:

"You mentioned that this was the name of Abraham's mother and that it had been found to be a name in Sumerian times. I am interested in following up on this as I can find no Sumerian called Amatlei Bas Karnebo (linguistically it looks very un-Sumerian too). Do you have a reference? "

Does a more scholarly source exist for this claim?

In the same sugya, we have the following cryptic tidbit:

The mother of Sampson, Z'llpunith, and his sister N'shiin. To what purpose was this said? For an answer to the Epicuristen (censored - should be minim - based on the shoddy and overly apologetic - Rodkinson ).

One might understand the need for the names of the mothers as per Rashi but what is the importance of the nameof Shimshon's sister?

R' Yaakov Kamenetsky has the following brilliant interpretation (B'Mechitzos Rabbenu pg. 212 - and this is a foreshadowing of what we can expect from EY on Nach which I am eagerly awaiting):

Minim generally refer to the Christians [Rashi, for instance, seems to learn that it is an acronym for M'Talmidei Yeshu HaNotzri - see the Rashis removed by censor. See the second part of R. Kimelmans diss. for a more comprehensive discussion]. In Judges 13 - it first states

verse 2 - הנה נא את עקרה ולא ילדת והרית וילדת בן

verse 4 - כי הנך הרה וילדת בן

In the first verse we are told that she is going to conceive a child - in the future. The second verse seems to say that she has already conceived - in the past tense. Chazal (Bamidbar Rabbah 10) explain that the seed that was already there "gathered" so as to form a child. But the Christian explain (although I see no nore of this distinction in the AKJV), that we have here mutatis mutandis a beautiful proof for the doctrine of the Virgin Birth - since we see that the word of an angel can cause conception. Therefore, by citing the sister of Shimshon -whose birth was preumably natural - we can prove that Tzlilpones's conception was of the normal kind.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Updated Shadal list to include Ohev Ger - Thanks to S.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Yaltha, the wife of R' Nachman: A woman of spirits (1)

I had often wondered why in the (excessive) modern focus on proto-feminist figures (here is the earliest article I know on the subject) I have rarely seen mention the name of Yalta, the wife of R' Nachman. After a quick internet search, I see that there is some discussion but surprisingly, no full-length study.

The name Yalta is acc. to Kohut - Aruch Ha-Shalem) is derived from the aramaic for doe or mountain-goat. Yalta was the daughter of the Reish-Galusa and wife of R' Nachman (bar Yaakov). Babylonia was the bread-basket of the Sassanian empire and hence of vital importance. The Reish Galusa as head of a significant minority group weilded considerable power (see wiki). Yalta, a princess of sorts, would have had a considerable sense of her own importance. This is crucial for understanding her action in many of the stories cited. She acts not as a proto-feminist but as a princess [1].

One full-length article analysing one of the Yalta stories is: Yalta's Ruse: Resistance Against Rabbinic Menstrual Authority in Talmudic Literature", in Women and Water: Female Rituals of Purification in Jewish History and Culture,ed. by Rachel Wasserfall, University Press of New England, 1999, pp.60-82 (here).

An over the top typical feminist analysis of the story in Berachot 51b (which I refer to in the title) is in R. Adler's Engendering Judaism (and see here). Adler's exposition involving cups and wombs is all very nice and Da Vinci Code-ish but it is also utter nonsense. It is all too easy to find hidden messages and symbolisms where none exist. I would like to discuss this source in detail in a future post.

There is an interesting thread here that collects R' Nachman's statements about woman whether there is a correlation between these statements and his famous wife is anyone's guess. (I saw one scholar insists that Yalta was not necessarily his wife, etc. ,etc. This is nonsense. It is clear from numerous statements is the Talmud that R' Nachman was the son-in-law of the Reish Galusa (see Graetz's lovely biography)) - or at the very least close to his court.

This is all that I have found of the scholarship on the subject. In the next post, I will discuss some of the other Yalta statements and see what we can make of them.

[1] I do not have Tal Ilan's - Mine, yours, and hers (see pgs. 121- 129 - basing herself on Shamma Friedman's "good story deserves retelling" hypothesis) but agree with her basic thesis.

Friday, November 7, 2008

גם להו"א יש משמעות

I once posted on a theory that in many cases the הו"א and מסקנא of the Gemara are identical except that the language of the original statement wasn't sufficiently clear. See there where I provided one example.

I see now that the Aderet in Kuntres Zecher Davar pg. 64 also makes use of this rule.

On the Gemara in Kesubos 40b:

אבוה דשמואל אומדין כמה אדם רוצה ליתן בין שפחה בתולה לשפחה בעולה לשמשו שפחה בעולה לשמשו מאי נפקא ליה מינה אלא בין שפחה בעולה לשפחה שאינה בעולה להשיאה לעבדו ולעבדו מאי נפקא ליה מינה בעבד שיש לו לרבו קורת רוח הימנו

The Aderet explains that לשמשו should actually be read with a Kametz under the Mem - so instead of to serve him, it would be saying for his servant - as per the מסקנה

ודפח"ח-ע' שם לעוד דוגמאות

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Another NT-Tannaitic Parallel?

Thomas 53 - His disciples said to him, "is circumcision useful or not?"
He said to them, "If it were useful, their father would produce children already circumcised from their mother. Rather, the true circumcision in spirit has become profitable in every respect."

Parallels to Thomas 53 are found in Paul's Romans 2:29, Philippians 3:3, 1 Corinthians 7:19, Galatians 6:15, Colossians 2:11-12. (From WP)

בתנחומא, פרשת תזריע

"אמר לו (טורנוסרופוס לר' עקיבא) למה אתם מולים, א"ל אף אני הייתי יודע שאתה עתיד לומר לי כן, לכך הקדמתי ואמרתי לך מעשה בשר ודם הם נאים משל הקב"ה, הביאו לי שבולים וגלוסקאות, ]אמר לו אלו מעשה הקב"ה ואלו מעשה בשר ודם אין אלו נאים, הביאו לי[ אנוצי פשתן וכלים מבית שאן, א"ל אלו מעשה הקב"ה ואלו מעשה בשר ודם, אין אלו נאים, א"ל טורנוסרופוס הואיל הוא חפץ במילה, למה אינו יוצא מהול ממעי אמו, א"ל ר' עקיבא ולמה שוררו יוצא בו, לא תחתוך אמו שוררו, ולמה אינו יוצא מהול, לפי שלא נתן הקב"ה לישראל את המצות אלא כדי לצרף בהן, לכך אמר דוד (כל) אמרת (אלוה) [ה'] צרופה וגו' (תהלים יח לא"), ואברהם היה האשון שהוכיח כי מעשי אדם יפים יותר"!
Malbim - Peshat or Derash


Sunday, November 2, 2008

מילי מעלייתא דאית בה דרשינן

וזו כוונת הפתגם אין נביא בעירו או לעירו שהוכא בפוסקים, ואינו בדברי חז"ל אבל הוא בברית החדשה להבדיל בין הטהור לטמא
שו"ת בני בנים ח"ד ז' כו
[Yitzhak send us to a fascinating Ha'aretz article on the subject]

Saturday, November 1, 2008

בא"י אמ"ה שעשיתני אשה ולא איש


Autonomy and Precedent in P'sak - A programmatic post -1

The general trend in the modern study of Halacha has been focused on the possible impact of external factors on halachic decision making. These include, Haym Soloveitcik writings which focus on the influence of socio-economic factors in the writings of the Medieval posekim, and Jacob Katz and his disciple who focused on the anti-Reform component in the writings of the Enlightenment Posekim. While I do not dispute the importance of these external factors, I think it is vital to also identify the "internal" factors that govern halachic decision making.

Awhile back, I posted on one such internal factor[1], the relative weight of autonomy and precedent in the decision making process. Although this is an important factor in any judicial system (as can be seen here), in Halacha the question is more complicated since we have the added component of the quasi-canonic status of the texts. This must compete with the posek's own self-perception as an "agent of God" who is empowered to make orginal decisions.

In studying this issue, it is important to differentiate between those parts of Orach Chaim which carry the extra factor of Minhag making precedent much more powerful and Choshen Mishpat issues which as a judicial system has somewhat different rules then the rest of Shulchan Aruch.

In studying this (and any other meta-halachic question), it is important to cite support both from programmatic statements of posekim and from analysis of actual responsa or codes.

An excellent demonstration of the necessity for such double support can be found in footnote 28 here which shows that although in his programmatic statements, the Maharshal insists on absolute autonomy, analysis of his responsa shows a healthy respect for precedent as well.

Background - stages of codification

1 - The Talmud - The debate here centers around the cryptic statement in "Sifra D' Adam haRishon" - רבינא ור' אשי סופר הוראה. This has traditionally been interpreted as referring to the redaction of the Talmud. But according to Tosafos in A"Z (beginning of Ch. 2) this refers to Pesak. In an (un-scientific) experiment here, I showed that the later Saboraim did argue with R' Ashi and Ravina so that it would seem that one should not attribute to much weight to this statement (as Halivni suggests see Mekorot U' Masoret - Bava Basra - Introduction. I mentioned this point to him when I met him and he agreed but unfortunately I didn't take down his exact comment.)

2. Geonim - See the sources in cited in Encyclopedia Talmudit - S.V. Halacha - last section. Note that the Rambam has no qualms of arguing with the Geonim. Since as I mentioned in the previous note the Geonim who authored the והלכתא statements and these argue on the Amoraim, by way of as syllogism of sorts the Rambam should technically be able to argue on the Amoraim!!!

3. Rambam - See Yitzchok Zev Kahana - הפולמוס מסביב קביעת ההכרעה כהרמב"ם סיני, לו-לח

4. Shulchan Aruch - The מאסף לכל המחנות here (as in everywhere else) is Chacham Ovadiah in the various Pesichos and Hakdamos to his Yabia Omer - See esp. Pesicha to Vol. 5 and sources cited there

[1] Even here external factors can also be involved. Thus, in two seperate studies on the role of precedent in Halacha, the Orthodox writer (Jeffrey Woolf) insists that the judge retains significant judicial discretion whereas the Reform writer says that they do not. This is because of the system itself has a mechanism for change then there would be no need for a large scale Reform. [Taken from Larry Rabinovich, The Judge as Educator, JLA, 04 - Note 52. My thanks to Mr. Rabinovich for making his article available to me.]

אם הראשונים כמלאכים... פירוש חדש

We are then able to answer in some manner the question, "Why have we no great men?" We have no great men chiefly because we are always looking for them. We are connoisseurs of greatness, and connoisseurs can never be great; we are fastidious, that is, we are small. When Diogenes went about with a lantern looking for an honest man, I am afraid he had very little time to be honest himself And when anybody goes about on his hands and knees looking for a great man to worship, he is making sure that one man at any rate shall not be great.

G. K. Chesterton

Thursday, October 30, 2008

בין רשי"ר לרשר"ה - הקרע שלא נתאחה - הקדמה

[Note: 1 - I tried experimenting with my Hebrew, with the results as you see them. I hope this is at least somewhat decipherable. The continuation will be in English.

2 - I saw in Shlomo Spitzer's article on R' Hirsch in Moravia that Bar Ilan has published some of the letters sent to R' Hirsch during this period:

Diese stammen teils aus Mähren, teils aus dem Ausland, besonders aus Ungarn. Hirschs Antworten, die in einem schönen und besonderenhebräischen Stil geschrieben sind, sind größtenteils von Eliahu Meir Klugman veröffentlicht worden; die Anfragen an ihn, die bei Klugman meist fehlen, sind im Jahre 2007 durch den Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch Chair an der Bar?Ilan University (Ramat?Gan, Israel) herausgegeben worden (Heft Nr. 8).

If anyone has this or knows where to get it, please contact me (ishimshittos-at-yahoo dot com)? Thanks.]

בניגוד לשאר ערכי יהדות שבהן ההלכה הוא המכריע היחידי, שונה הוא השאלה של היחס ליהודים שאינם שומרי תורה ומצות שבו גם ההיסטוריה יש בכחו להכריע. ברצוני להמחיש זה במעשה ששמעתי בשם אחד שהיה מקורב מאד לאגו"י.

בערך כלפני עשירם שנים ה"ציונים" עשה איזה מין כנסיה ושלחו שתי הזמנות למשרד אגודת ישראל. שאלו (המספר ועוד אחד) ר' משה שרר מה לעשות וענה שעליהם להתייעץ עם הג"ר יצחק הוטנר אם כדאי ללכת . כששאלו ר' הוטנר הוא ישב ודן לכשעה על כל אורך ההיסטוריה מתי ואיך הסכימו המאמינים לשתף פעולה ביחד אם ה"לא מאמינים" כדי לדעת אם גם ענין זה בכלל. לבסוף החליט שעליהם לקנות שתי כיפות בצבע אדום ולשלחם להכנסיה כי "הם לא מענינים בדעות שלנו, הם רק רוצים להראות שיש להם הסכמה גם מאת הכיפות (החרדים)". עכ"פ רואים שלגבי שאלה זו ההיסטוריה ולא רק ההלכה הוא המכריע (אולי במילים אחרים בענין זו היסטוריה הוא ההלכה) [א

ברצוני להבהיר כמה נקודות בנוגע לשיטת ההפרדה של הר' הירש כפי מיעוט ידיעתי בענין [ב]. כפי שכתב חמיאל (דף קלג), ר' הירש,"לא כלל את כל הרפורמים בקטגוריה אחת" , הוא מצטט את הרמב"ם ב"הלכות ממרים" פ"ג ה"ב-ג [ג], ובעקבות רבו הרב עטלינגר, מכנה במכתביו הגלויים לבמברגר את בניהם ותלמידיהם של מנהיגי הרפורמים, הרחוקים שנים ושלושה דורות מהמייסדים, במונח "תינוקות שנשבו". הוא מבחין בכך בין המטיפים והאידאולוגים המדיחים, והממסד הקהילתי הרפורמי המאורגן, לבין הפרטים שהודחו. את הפרטים יש לקרב ולנסות להחזיר בתשובה, כי הם עדיין יהודים באופן פורמאלי. אך את "המדיחים והארגון יש לנדות ולהתפלג מהם בקהילה נפרדת
גם ביחס להמנהיגי הריפורמה לא היה ההפרדה דבר קל בשביל הר' הירש וע' באגרתו ב"תורת הקנאות (נערך ע"י הערו"נ נגד אסיפת הרבנים הרפורמים הראשונה בבראונשוויג ב1844

"הלא תדעו ולא תבינו כי לו דבריכם יעשו פרי, הפעם יקרע בית ישראל לשני קרעים, לשמצה בקמינו, ולאבדן נחלתנו...לא תהי עוד תקומה לבריתנו יחד, ובדמע נפרד איש מאת רעהו."

מצאתי תשובה מענינית בשמש מרפא (עט) בו רואים עד כמה היה הר' הירש מוכן לוותר אפ' על עניני הלכה בכדי לקרב את הרחוקים. (ע' כאן איך שתקף ריז"ש את הרב שי"ר על שהתיר חופה בבית הכנסת

[א] היסטוריה הוא נקודה חשובה בהגות ר' הוטנר. ראה למשל הסכמתו ל"בינו שנות דור ודור" ובקונטרם החנוכה שנדפס שם. גם בתוך מאמרו על דעת תורה והשואה (עליו כתב פרופ. קפלן תגובתו הידוע ב"טראדישן") ההיסטוריה תופס מקום נכבד. ר' הלל גולדברג במאמרו המאלפת על הגותו של הר' הוטנר (טראדישן וגם בספרו מברלין לא עמד על נקודה תשובה זו...)

ב] הסתמכתי על עבודתו של א. חמיאל על הגותו של חיות הירש ושד"ל. עדיין חא קראתי את ההתכבות בין ר' הירש ור' במברגר בעיון הראוי. גם לא ראיתי את ספרו של יעקב כ"ץ "הקרע שלא נתאחה" ומאמרו 'רבי שמשון רפאל הירש, המימין והמשמאיל', תורה עם דרך ארץ, התנועה, אישיה,רעיונותיה, מרדכי ברויאר (עורך), רמת-גן תשמ"ז, עמ' 13-31

Also cf. L. Levi, “The Relation of the Orthodox to the Heterodox Organizations,” Tradition 9 (fall 1967): 95-102.

ג] דברי הרמב"ם נאמרו ביחס לקראים, ע' כאן למאמר חשוב על שיטת הרמב"ם בזה ויש להאריך ואכ"מ

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Parallels between the Gospels and Avos?

In an earlier post[1a], I noted a possible parallel between the language of the New Testament and that of Chazal. I believe that these parallels might attest to the veracity of the story in the Talmud according to which Jesus, in his earlier years, was in fact a member of the Pharisees, as a student of R' Yehoshua ben Perachya.

Although one must take care in drawing parallels [1], the appearance of parallels in Avot which contains the oldest Rabbinic traditions [2] would seem to be important.

In Avot 4:20:

רבי אומר, אל תסתכל בקנקן, אלא במה שיש בו: יש קנקן חדש, מלא ישן; וישן, אפילו חדש אין בו.

In Luke: 5:33-39:

33They said to him, "John's disciples often fast and pray, and so do the disciples of the Pharisees, but yours go on eating and drinking."

And no one pours new wine into old wineskins. If he does, the new wine will burst the skins[4], the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. 38No, new wine must be poured into new wineskins. 39And no one after drinking old wine wants the new, for he says, 'The old is better.'

It would seem that the use of this particular parable, in the context of a polemic against the Pharisees, using a phrase that we know was adopted by the Pharisees, is particularly significant. But I am not certain how to interpret this? Ideas, anyone.

[I thought of one possibility. Luke was the companion to Paul who is most famous for propagating the the abrogation of Jewish law (satirized in BT Shabbos - Ch. 16) [Since as Kevin notes, it also appears in Mathhew - this is nonesense]. Following the explanation mentioned in Note 3 that wine = the law\content and vessel = the form of the transmission of the law. In this polemic, the Pharisees are protesting Jesus's disregard of the law (of fasting). To which Jesus (acc. to Luke) responds that new Wine - i.e. the new doctrine that Jesus (acc. to Paul/Luke) was propounding cannot be stored in old vessels - i.e. the laws of the old testament. This is then an argument in support of the abrogation of the law[5].

This interpretation depends on the (admittedly questionable) assumption that the Wine parable was current in the circles of the Pharisees before Rebbi. An alternative explanation would have Rebbi differentiating between himself and the Christians by stressing that he is merely changing the form of the law, not the law itself. But the expression isn't formulated correctly for such a polemic.
Incorrect - as in comments, still think basic parallel interesting.]

[Note that the parable of wine and its vessel is also used in the argument between R' Yehoshua ben Chananya and the princess - Taanis 7a]

[1a] The credit for the idea behind that post goes to my friend, SL Rubinstein.

[1] For instance one cannot deduce anything from the "eye of a needle" parallel as this is likely a popular expression that was in wide use.

[2] See R' Dovid Tzvi Hoffmann "HaMishna Rishonah". I will discuss this sefer when I continue my series on him at some future time.

[3]According to some commentaries, the connection between this phrase and Rebbi is that Rebbi as redactor of the Mishna was pointing out that despite the "new" form of his creation it is still full of "old"er traditions. This perhaps has important implications regarding the question of Rebbis actions as redactor of the Mishna. Perhaps this is proof that the original form of the traditions were as a Midrash and Mishna is a new form originated by Rebbi. [I erred in ignoring the context in which Rebbi is clearly responding to R' Yosi B'R' Yehuda who says there is no point in learning from a young person (as it is used by Baal HaMeor in his intro). (I am reminded of the Gemara in Bava Metzia (Ch. 4) where Rebbi says - "ילדות היתה בי והעזתי את פני ר' נתן הבבלי" - i.e. he is admitting the deficiencies of youth.]

It is clear that Rebbi didn't originate this phrase since it appears aleady in Luke, before Rebbi was born.

[4] Now we need to understand Rebbi's - אפילו - even - new wine, if new wine would damage the vessel why should new wine be placed there at all? Is anything besides wine stored in a Kankan? See comments

[Update: Potentially interesting book (Google books will only let me see so much), some of his claims in the page linked are invalid. Jesus's anti-divorce sentiment may reflect the opinion of Beis Shammai (see Rosen-Tzvi's article in JSIJ), the fasting is the subject of my discussion here but is not simple (if he believed himself Messiah then, like the later Shabsai Tzvi, he would naturally believe fasts need be abolished - "Can you make the wedding guests fast while the bridegroom is with them " - note the parallel to Mishna Sukkah where guests at a wedding are also exempt from Sukkah).]

[5] But if the thesis in this book is correct my whole argument has no basis. I don't know waht to do with the preceding parable about clothes and with the concluding statement that "old wine is better".

Perhaps: "The old is good: this saying is meant to be ironic and offers an explanation for the rejection by some of the new wine that Jesus offers: satisfaction with old forms will prevent one from sampling the new." (here) but this is difficult since it is well-know that old is better (and this can be seen in both the Bible (Esther), and Rabbinic documents). This is clearly a Paulian apologetic

עבד עבדים יהיה לאחיו - מקורות

1 - Essays and speeches on the eve of the civil war - Pro - R. Raphall , R. Illowy, Anti - M. Heilprin, Dr. Einhorn.

2 - Einhorn's article is particularly well argued. Regarding this point:

Only on one point has Dr. Raphall shown a friendly disposition towards the negro; at the expense of his holiest duty, he has failed to call to the attention of the Jewish slave-holders that they must have their slaves circumcised.

I have heard of (but not seen - nor can I find) a Teshuva to the Noda B' Yehuda [?] sent by a Jewish slave-owner in the south. I believe the NY paskened like Dr. Einhorn that circumcision is required. The end of the story is that the slaves heard of this plan and revolted. See also J. Schorsch "Jews and Blacks in the early modern world".

3 - R' Yaakov Kamenetzky said (in a lecture) that the בני כנען also have a צלם אלהים and it is therefore absolutely forbidden to embarass or discriminate against them in any way.

Monday, October 27, 2008

1 - Why a really good Posek has to know Akkadian

2 - על גדולתו של ר' משה פיינשטיין Interestingly, he uses the same example that I used - here.
A Midrash in a Maaseh

Apollo Min HaTorah minayin, Venus Min HaTorah minayin

A fasinating piece of Shadal:

כ] ותלד עדה וגו' : נ"ל, שהזכיר הכתוב את האנשים האלה ממציאי קצת המלאכות, מפני שהיו האנשים האלה בימים ההם נעבדים כאלהים, ורצה הקב"ה להודיע לישראל כי אנשים היו, ומי אביהם. אבי : ראשון, ומלמד, כטעם בני הנביאים. יושב אהל ומקנה : יושבי אהלים ההולכים כה וכה עם מקניהם אשר ימצאו מקום מרעה. ומקנה : איש מקנה.

[כא] יובל : נראה שהוא אפולו. תופש : מנגן ביד. ועגב : נראה, שהוא מין כנור משונה מעט בצורתו.

[כב] תובל קין : נראה שהוא וולקאנוס, ודע כי קיניא בל' סורי וערבי ענינו צורף זהב וכסף גם חרש ברזל. אין ספק, כי הבלים הרבה נאמרו בימים קדמונים על האנשים האלה, והתורה טיהרה את הסיפורים ההם מחלאתם. לוטש : לשון מירוק וחידוד. כל חרש : על כרחנו צריך לפרש חורש כלי אומנות שבו החרטים עושים מלאכתם. נעמה : גם היא נראה, שהיתה נעבדת, ואולי היא וינוס ושמה מעיד עליה.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Shul bans "racist" Tanya

Shul bans "racist" Tanya but see here.

I believe that this is a basic Kabbalistic doctrine and is not specific to Tanya at all.

For instance from Eitz Chaim (R' Chaim Vital) 48:2 -

אמנם עכו"ם אין בהם רק בחי' נפש לבד מצד הנוקבא של הקליפות

R' Kook

בס' 'אורות', אורות ישראל פ"ה פיסקה י (ע' קנו) כותב הרב קוק: "ההבדל שבין הנשמה הישראלית, עצמיותה, מאוייה הפנימיים, שאיפתה, תכונתה ועמדתה, ובין נשמת הגוים כולם, לכל דרגותיהם, הוא יותר גדול ועמוק, מההבדל שבין נפש האדם ונפש הבהמה, שבין האחרונים רק הבדל כמותי נמצא, אבל בין הראשונים שורר הבדל עצמי איכותי".

And many more - see here

[See LazerA's insightful comment. I saw something similar in the Ben Ish Chai's ShuT Teshuvas Torah L'Shmoh (see the last מקבציאל) in which he suggests that someone with small handwriting is only "b'bechinos nefesh" whereas someone with big handwriting is "b'bchinos neshomoh" and another similar analysis based on the shape of the beard.

It is further important to note that many of the peasants in pre-modern times were "illiterate, unwashed, permanatly drunk" and similar adjectives and so it is not hard to understand where the above sentiment is coming from. (cf. the following from H. Soloveitchik's - Halacha, Hermenutucs and Martyrdom:

Then there was the revulsion. Franco-German Jewry saw themselves as living among murderous barbarians, little different from beasts [emphasis mine - W.]. The pride of place given to the warrior in feudal society was in their eyes an endorsement of violence and bloodshed. Judgment by ordeal revealed a people bereft of rational thinking and a society devoid of justice. Christians of the Midi, proud heirs of a millennia old Roman culture, despised the northern barbarians, Jews even more so. Perhaps the view of the ‘‘natives’’ held by white settlers in Africa in the late nineteenth century came closest to those of Jewish parents in the medieval German Empire. The thought that their child might grow up a murderous savage must have filled them with horror.)

See Kevin's post for an excellent, nuanced presentation of the position of the Gentile in the world-view of the Sages (based on J. Neusner's Theology of the Oral Torah).

See also Emes L'Yaakov Genesis 9:25 for a very sharp refutation of the claim that Judaism is a "racist" religion.]
Indeed, the Babylonian Talmud, which makes possible a study of Babylonian Judaism, presents a monumental impediment to the study of that very history. It is mostly a commentary upon the Mishnah, and the historically useful data are limited by the concentration on what was relevant to Mishnah and other legal study, interpretation, and application. So the available literature leads us to suppose that we know more than we actually do. One could learn as much about American history and culture from approximately similar sources: minutes of some learned societies and faculty meetings of Harvard and Yale Universities, pious stories of Parson Weems, fragments of the Congressional Record and some court reports, and, chiefly, Blackstone's Commentaries in an American annotated edition. Our knowledge would be partial and impoverished for America as it is for Babylonian Jewry.

J. Neusner - Jews and Judaism Under Iranian Rule

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Interesting site- for instance on חסורי מיחסרא, on Rashi. and more.

New Ha'Mayaan

Latest issue of the periodical Ha'Mayaan available here.

R' Shlomo Zalman Auerbach's stance on heter mechirah is fully clarified. R' Posen (author of a great book on Targum Onkelos) has a fascinating letter in which he discusses changes in Tefillah,Mendelssohn (note esp. the letter from R' Yonoson Eibschutz in fn. 12). He mentions as an example the correct pronounciation of Geshem, there is quite a useful post on the subject here.

On the issue of fixing the nusach of tefillos, given the difficulties with the nusach that is called Sefard, I am surprised that no effort has been made to fix this. (See ShuT Minchas Eliezer for a fascinating responsa in switching nuschaos)

[Hat tip: Rav Tzair]

Monday, October 20, 2008

על יו"ט שני של גליות

Two interesting articles on the controversies (Karaites, Reformers, and, strangely, even among traditionalists) surrounding Yom Tov Sheini are - Hirsch Jakob Zimmels, "The Controversy about the Second Day of the Festival," in Samuel Belkin, ed., Abraham Weiss Jubilee Volume (New York, 1964), 139-168, and Jacob Katz, "The Orthodox Defense of the Second Day of the Festivals," Divine Law in Human Hands: Case Studies in Halakhic Flexibility (Jerusalem: Hebrew University Magnes Press, 1998), 255-319 (My thanks to Menachem Butler for telling me about these).

In the recent volume of the journal (אלול תשס"ח) Nezer HaTorah, several letters of R' Yaakov Schorr (wiki is excellent but see the intro to Mishnas R' Yaakov by Tzvi Michelson) to Rav Dr. Chanoch Ehrentrau (wiki on grandson only) [1] were published. In one of them he castigates R' Ehrentrau for offering a "strange and impossible explanation" of Beitzah 4b on Yom Tov Shein (that it refers to the time in which Kiddush HaChodesh was through testimony) which opens a door to those who want to abrogate it, etc.

[1] There are fascinating letters from both of these great Geonim in Parnes L' Doro. See eg. in letter 108 - he has a fascinating chiddush that the Bavli cites Mishnayos from those Mesechtos for which there are no Gemara in order to explicate them. (See more recently Y. Sussmans studies of the sugyos of the Bavli conecrning Zeraim and Taharos in Mechkarei Talmud 3) Schorr was very much the critical scholar. See for example his Mishnas R' Yaakov on the Tosefta and its relation to the Bavli (see more recently Y. Elman's doctoral dissertation).

From R' Ehrentrau we have a fascinating explanation of the machlokos in Pesachim 53a concerning the ripening of olives. Based on Josephus and Gesenius, he shows that each of Tanna was explaining based on his specific geographical location. We also have a lengthy mathematical exposition on the shiur of revi'is acccording to Tosafos. Parnes L' Doro is a fascinating intellectual treasure house for 19th-20th century Rabbis and a must-have for anyone interested in the subject.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Biblicalia on theology of the Oral Torah

Biblicalia has a very interesting series reviewing J. Neusner's – Theology of the Oral Torah. Several general observations:

1 – There are significant theological differences between different parts of the Oral Torah.. For example, Yaakov Elman has shown that the Bavli and the Yerushalmi have different attitudes regarding the question of theodicy.

2 – An essential point to any discussion of Jewish theology is the fact Jewish thought is always concentrated primarily within the exegetical form. This is as opposed to the Greeks whose thought was primarily systematic. This suggestive point was discussed at length by Yeshaya Wolfsberg in an important article in Talpiot 5 pgs. 288 ff. (see also Talpiot 6 pgs. 179 ff. - and also the article following by G. Churgin).

As is well known, Neusner is notorious for his harsh polemical articles (and books!!) against many of his colleagues and teachers [1]. In his criticism of such well-respected figures as Prof. Saul Lieberman or R' JB Soloveitchik he harps on the fact that their major works of scholarship is in the (old-fashioned) exegetical rather then the (modern) systematic form and this reflects some type of failue on their part to engage with modern scholarship. I do not understand why Neusner considers the systematic form to be inherently stronger then the exegetical form as each accomplishes a different task.. But in any event, this has nothing to do with the conflict between the old and the new but rather, as Wolfsberg explains, with Jewish as opposed to Greek methods of thought.

[1] See for example “When Paradigms meet...”. Interestingly, the same people who he castigates so harshly in these later articles are praised and held up as models to emulate in his earlier articles (see his Bibliographical reflections..”). I believe the key to understanding this surprising about-face is in an article in BAR. ואכמ"ל

[Update: My thanks to Kevin for his informative comment.]

Friday, October 17, 2008

H. Soloveitchik on sitting in the Sukkah on Shemini Atzeres

Review of Olam K'Minhago Noheg

Zimmer attributes to the colder climes of Poland the desuetude, in many Hasidic circles, of sitting in the sukkah on Shemini Azeret. If climate were a sufficient explanation,there should have been a disappearance of sitting in the sukkah on Sukkot itself. Climate, then, is a necessary but scarcely sufficient condition for this deviation from the norm. I would suggest that sukkah-sitting on Shemini Azeret was established on an original fault line, and its observance ultimately cracked under the joint pressure of colder climate and the change in religious calendar that occurred in eastern Europe as the Safedian kabbalah made ever greater inroads, especially among Hasidim. Allow me to explain. The Talmud( Shabbat2 3a), when discussing the second day of yom tov (yom tov sheni shel galuyyot), states that, strictly speaking, one shouldn't recite a blessing on the commandments performed that day,a s, for example, the second night of the seder. However, were the rabbis to have instituted the second seder, for example,without the appropriate blessings over matzah and maror, people would not take the second-day ceremonies seriously (de-lo 'le-zilzulei bah). They made one exception to this policy, sukkah on Shemini A zeret-where they instituted sitting without the blessing, and, in the fullness of time, the exception prove the wisdom of the rule.

It did not have to happen, and in most lands, ideed, it did not happen. In Poland, however,t he frequently, bitter autumn cold made sukkah-sitting a genuine burden. Jews had sacrificed much for their religion, and no one dreamed that severe chills suspended the demands of religion, and Jews dutifully sat in sukkot throughout the Sukkot holiday. Shemini Azeret,however,was a different matter.Sukkah-eating on that day was clearly a second-class commandment. Evidence-it did not even merit a blessing,unlike all other second-day misvot.And by the 1640s,t he laxity in sukkah-sitting on Shemini Azeret was widespread in Poland,as the remarks o f the super-commentators on the Tur and the Shulhan Arukh clearly indicate (pp. 168-169). Common though it was, it was not yet characteristic of any group. In the course of the next century, the growing influence of Safedic kabbalah transformed HoshanahR abbah into a day equal to-indeed, greater in its momentous irreversibility than Yom Kippur. On this day, the final and irrevocable judgment on every individual was rendered. The tension of Judgment Day stretched now, not from the first of Ellul (when selihot began) to Yom Kippur, but some fifty-two days-all the way to Hoshanah Rabbah. Just as mos'ei Yom Kippurin Temple times became an occasion of celebration, as the accumulated tensions of that awesome day found release, so mos'ei Hoshanah Rabbah, the night of Shemini Azeret, became an eve of Hasidic celebration. Haqqafot were shifted from SimhatT orah,a nd the festivities of Shemini Azeret far exceeded those of its sister holiday. Such celebrations could scarcely be held outside in the cold October nights, and the festive eating and drinking could take place in the sukkah only with difficulty And so sukkah-eating on Shemini Azeret fell into desuetude among large bodies of Hasidim. The northern climate, indeed, played a role in this disuse, but without the original fault line of "no-berakhah"and the shift in date of the religious climax of the year, the sharp autumn cold, by itself.I would suggest, would have been insufficient to effect any large-scale change .

Pp. 163-74. In his treatment of sukkah on Shemini Azeret,our author has omitted the characteristically original position of R. Judah ben Kalonymus in his Yihusei Tannaim ve-Amoraim( ed. Y. L. Maimon),p p. 329-330. It deserves wider currency, as it is the most cogent argument ever made for eating indoors on Shemini Azeret

Notes (from me):
1 - The postion of Yichuse Tannoim is that since the V'Hilchsos are a later Saboraic\Geonic they may be disregarded. This position if accepted has major halachic implications. (Y. S. Spiegel said in a lecture that he left his doctoral work on Saboraic additions because he did not want to get involved with these halachic problems.)

2 - See B'Mechitos Rabbeinu pg. 135 and Emes L' Yaaov Vayikra 23:24 for an interesting explantion from R' Yaakov on why Hoshana Rabbah is not mentioned in the Talmud. (Note his comment that the question is a קנטור נגד הזוהר. I have an email R' Nosson about his fathers relation to Kabbalah but I would have to ask him before placing it here.)

Writing on the walls - the biography of the Magen Avrohom and on his sources

I am not aware of any scholarly biographies of the MA but see here for a general overview from R' Zvi Hirsch Michelson [1]. Note especially his comments on the MA's reverent attitude towards SA and Rema.

I also noticed that in MA 284:7 he writes:

..כי בכל העולם יש יהודים - ע' מאור עינים

The relevant quote is in the Meor Einayim (de Rossi) in Imrei Binah 3:55. Not a source that one usually associates with the MA.

[1] I don't own part 3 of C. Tchernowitz's Toledot HaPosekim but I would imagine he has useful information. (NB - It is surprising that Tchernowitz doesn't discuss the Mishna Berurah, although he does discuss the Aruch HaShulchan. TP was reviewed by J Katz in KS.)

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Jewish Observance in 19th century America 1 , 2 . This letter is particulalry interesting in light of the recent controversy.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Some notes - Rambam and Kabbalah and on the thought of R' MM Schneerson Zt"l

1 - On Rambam and Kabbalah - I saw in V. 3 of Igrot Kodesh of the Lubavitcher Rebbe (letter to R' Y Leiner - earlier note in same letter discounting Redak and Abravanel (on Yirmiyahu) on Keri and Ksiv is alos of interest) that he has a tradition in his family going back to the Besht that the Rambam was "a great Mekubal". He questions this based on the statement in Shar HaGilgulim that the Rambam was משמאלא דדיקנא דזעיר אנפין ,etc.

2 - On Precedent and Autonomy - In a letter to R' Zevin the Rebbe cites ShuT Divrei Nechemiah that the Alter Rebbe admitted that he placed to much weight in the opinion of the Achronim (especially the Magen Avrohom) and that he later decided to follow his own opinions to a greater extent (usually for Kabbalistic reasons - this is why his Siddur which was written later is considered more authoritave)

3 - I am surprised that so little attention has been given to the discussion of the conflict of Torah and Science in the thought of the Rebbe (this is what Rambi has I , II). I believe that it was in order to investigate this that the Rebbe went to Berlin.

In the first letter in Igros Kodesh V. 1 to the Rogatchover [1] he points out that all the Rambam's science is taken from the Aristotle [2] . I erred in my previous post when I wrote that he believed the Rambam's science infallible. It seems his desire to defend the Alter Rebbe was so very great that he was even willing to violate his own anti-apologetic stance [3].

The Rebbe's use of medievel scientific concepts is in general in need of clarification. For instance, he has a really brilliant explanation of the Mishna in Pesachim 2,1 based on the Greek idea of four elements and the fifth element of the "hylic matter". The explanation is eminently plausible and quite possibly an excellent example of "Hellenism in Jewish Palestine" but I can't quite see the Rebbe taking a "positive-historical stance".

There is an entire book on the subject of Emunah U' Maddah in the Otzar HaChochmah (and one in English as well.)

I'd also like to point out that in all of the letters that I looked over I didn't catch a single Messianic reference (except for one negative statement about Messianism). Contrary to Deutsch, I believe the Messianism must be a relatively late development in his thought. [4]

[1] Interestingly, the Rebbe realized right away that the letter of the Rogatchover in Dovev Sifsei Yeshonim was a forgery see his sharply worded letter (there are two) to Bloch in Igrot Kodesh (V. 19 or thereabouts)

[2] R' Deutch, Larger then Life printed several fascimiles of the Rogatchover's letters I don't remember if he has the reply to this one.

[3] In a different letter he writes that the Hirschian model of "raising difficult questions and providing insufficient answers" is no good either for Israel or the US. It is true that apologetic was very important to German Orthodoxy (see Prof. Breuer's book on the subject) but I don't know why he identifies R' Hirsch as the founder of this approach.

[4] It is almost impossible to engage extensively in Kabbalah without involving some level of Messianism - cf. R' Avrohom Abulafia, Ramchal, R' Kook, the Rebbe. etc.
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