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

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