Sunday, September 21, 2008

More on R' Yosef Zechariah Stern

[continues from here - all brackets my comments]

From Y. Miirsky's PHD:

On him, see the brief biographical volume by Zev Rabbiner, Ha-Rav Yosef Zekharia Stern (Jerusalem: WZO & Mossad Ha-Rav Kook, 1943), A. Yerushalmi, “Yosef Zekharia Shtern,” in Lita, pp. 1366-1370, and the introduction to the critical edition of his responsa to Even Ha-Ezer, Zekher Yehosef (Jerusalem: Makhon Yerushalayim, 1994). There is also lengthy discussion of the ups and downs of his rabbinic career in Mordechai Zalkin, "Social Status and Authority in Nineteenth-Century Lithuanian Jewish Communities," in J. Verbickiene et. al., eds., Central and East European Jews at the Crossroads of Tradition and Modernity (Vilnius: The Center for Studies of the Culture and History of East European Jews, 2006), pp. 174-187 (hereinafter Zalkin, "Social Status"). My thanks to Prof. Zalkin for sharing this essay with me.

Stern read the works of Mapu, Micha Yosef Levenson and J.L. Gordon and subscribed to Ha-Tzefirah. He published a book an Aggadah, which I will discuss in chapter four. By all accounts, he did not suffer fools gladly, but was thought of as a man of the people, kind to the masses and regularly withering to his colleagues. In his Bible commentaries published in 1874-1875 he defends Rabbinic tradition while adopting Maskilic categories of plain sense of the text, reading texts in terms of their political meanings and explicitly doing so in order to write things "that will win the hearts of all the parties." See Yehuda Galinsky, "Darko be-Parshanut shel Yosef Zekharia Stern" (unpublished paper). [I'd love to see this]

He was a good friend of Hayim Hezekiah Medini (see introduction to Medini’s Sdei Hemed, vol. 10, (Warsaw 1900), p. 4. On his far-flung correspondence with his Rabbinic peers, see Hayim Hamiel, "Yahasei RY"Z Stern ve-Rabbanei Doro be-Shu"t," in Yitzhaq Refael, ed., Sefer Shragai, vol. 4, (Jerusalem: Mossad Ha-Rav Kook, 1983), pp. 133-167. My thanks to Dr. Galinsky for directing me to this article as well as for sharing his paper with me. [Chamiel has several other articles on R' Stern as I mentioned in my initial post. I would particularly like to see what he has to say on עלילת "קוצו של יו"ד" - see my initial post for my take.]

Among his regular correspondents was Rav Kook's father-in-law, Aderet, see Shlomo Albert, Aderet Eliyahu (Jerusalem, n.p. 2003), pp. 45-47. A brief, interesting article by Shraga Abramson argues that Stern wrote much of his work without recourse to books, working largely from memory, and proves this by showing his various mistakes, see "Tiqunim b-Teshuvah Ahat shel HARY"Z Shtern," Ha-Maayan 32:1 (Fall 1991), pp. 49-52. [I noticed that his famous apology for quoting Mendelssohn in Sdei Chemed s.v. Aba Mezakeh is reproduced almost word for word ( almost as if he had "copied and pasted") in his Tahluchot HaAggadot (and some similarities with this). Shai Agnon has a complicated story in Sefer Sappur Sippur according to which R' Stern was forced to write in a series of "Ayins" due to lack of funds for printing. This is clearly incorrect as both the Teshuvot in Sdei Chemed as well as those published from manuscript in Zecher Yosef Ibn HaEzer share the same tendency.]

Stern’s Tahalukhot Ha-Aggadot (Warsaw: Meir Yehiel Halter & Partners, 5662/1902), running to 41 folio pages, is part of his Talmud commentary, Zekher Yehosef, published as an appendix to volume four of his reponsa on Orah Hayim of the same name. The introduction [not really, first page] to it was published in the introduction to volume one of the responsa collection of the same name (Vilna: Dov Berish Torsch Nalkavy, 5659/1898 [sic]), pp. 3-4. (vol. 2, Vilna: Yehudah Leib son of Eliezer Lipman Metz, 1899, vol. 3, Vilna: Pyrzhnykov, 1901). Rav Kook specifically requested Stern's "new book," presumably these first two volumes; see the postscript to his letter to Stern of 20 Sivan 5659/May 29, 1899, reprinted as addendum to Ezrat Cohen, 1969 edition, p. 486.

Stern says in the introduction to his Aggadah commentary that one should study aggadot for the essentials of faith – reward & punishment, resurrection, universal revelation at the end of days –for piety, and for righteous interpersonal behavior. Just as one cannot study astronomy (tekhunah), geometry (medidah) or algebra without preparation, so too, he says, is the case with aggadot. In the remainder of Tahalukhot he continues to develop the notion of the inherently oral character of aggadah as accounting for many of its allusions, peculiar features, etc.

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