Thursday, September 4, 2008

What Was the Rosh Yeshiva Reading?

An interesting excerpt from Shaul Stampfer's book on "The Lithuanian Yeshiva" concerning R' Eliezer Gordon:

(cf. the approbation of R' Chaim Ozer to Dor Yesharim - a polemical work against Weiss's Dor Dor V' Dorshav)

NB. I have almost definitely seen the "Spring" criticism of Graetz in another quite different source (perhaps the first volume of S. Baron's Social and Religious History)

Thanks to Z, I now know that the Rosh Yeshiva was also reading the Jewish Encyclopedia! Actually, since this must have been a famous criticism against Graetz, and since as Z points out there are sources that it was in fact Spring, which R' Gordon would not have missed, I have reason to suspect the entire story.

RE:The connection to between R' Kook and R' Gordon mentioned by Andy. I will quote the relevant passage from Y. Mirsky's excellent dissertation on R' Kook (I will be using this dissertation a good deal in my next couple of posts):

Interestingly, in 1903, Eliezer Gordon (1841-1910), dean of the Telz yeshiva, itself wracked by internal controversies over the study of Mussar, offered Rav Kook the position of instructor in Jewish thought and Mussar. He visited the yeshiva for several days, before turning the position down; several suggestions have been offered as to why; the likeliest, put forth by Zev Rabbiner (and echoed by Zvi Yehudah Kook) is that the rabbinical post in Jaffa was simply more attractive.47 Rav Kook did suggest to Gordon that he institute a curriculum of Bible, Midrash, Zohar, Ha-Levi's Kuzari, Se'adyah's Emunot Ve-De'ot, Maimonides' Eight Chapters and Bahya's Hovot Ha-Levavot.48 Interestingly, the position remained unfilled, perhaps indicating that Rav Kook's mix of theology and Talmud was uncommon among Lithuanian Talmudists of his generation.

Note 47 - Zev Aryeh Rabbiner, Ha-Gaon Rabbi Eliezer Gordon (Tel Aviv: n.p., 1968), pp. 67, 192. Another version has it that Rav Kook's wanting to teach theology ended his chances, but that is likely a conflation of the aftermath of the two pieces of information recorded by Rabbiner.

According to yet another version, the offer was rescinded because Rav Kook's practice of helping his wife in the kitchen on Friday afternoons was considered conduct unbecoming a rabbinical authority. This story, derived from Rabbi Yeshayahu Hadari, was related to me by Rabbi Nathan Kamenetsky, author of Making of a Godol, in a phone conversation, Jerusalem, Sunday, April 27, 2003.

The multiple versions of the story are perhaps related to Rav Kook's own preference for a yeshiva position over the rabbinate. In a letter dating from 1907, three years after his move to Palestine, Igrot 1, p. 89, Rav Kook expresses an interest in leaving the Jaffa post and succeeding the recently deceased Isaac Blazer (one of Salanter's leading disciples) as head of the Kollel Vilna in Jerusalem, because he doesn't want to be a working rabbi but rather to study and teach


LazerA said...

Very interesting. Not only was R' Lazer personally familiar with these works, but he was discussing them in his drashos!

Anonymous said...

It might be worth noting that, according to Z. Rabiner in his bio of REG, R' Lazer offered R' Kook a position in Telz to give shiurim on 'machshava.' R' Kook decided instead to take the position in Jaffa and the rest is history.

Anonymous said...

The "Spring" criticism is in the Wikipedia article about him.

A certain imaginative faculty, which so markedly assisted him in his textual emendations of the Bible, led him to make a great number of purely arbitrary statements. Typical in this respect is the introductory statement in the first volume: "On a bright morning in spring nomadic tribes penetrated into Palestine," while the Bible, which is his only source, states neither that it was in spring nor that it was on a bright morning.

Actually that it was spring does have rabbinic sources.

Anonymous said...

And since there are sources that it was spring and we know that it rains very rarely in spring in that region it's pretty safe to say that it was a bright morning. So the criticism is pretty weak.

Anonymous said...

I forgot to mention that, again according to Rabiner, when R' Kook turned down the job REG gave up the idea of a 'machshava' department because he did not feel there was anyone else qualified for such a position!

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