Saturday, February 28, 2009

Picture of R' Mattisyahu Strashun (different then the JE picture) , hesped , and will

On Rev Jeffrey Wolf, missionary to the Jews

The following portrait of this very interesting character was drawn by one who intimately knew him.:—

" A man who, at Rome, calls the Pope ' the dust of the earth,' and tells the Jews at Jerusalem that the Gemara is a lie ;* who passes his days in disputation, and his nights in digging the Talmud; to whom a floor of brick is a feather bed, and a box a bolster; who finds or makes a friend alike in the persecutor of his former or present faith ; who can conciliate a pasha, or confute a patriarch; who travels without a guide, speaks without an interpreter, can live without food, and pay without money; forgiving all the insults he meets with, and forgetting all the flattery he receives ; who knows little of worldly conduct, and yet accommodates himself to all men, without giving offence to any; such a man,—and such and more is Wolff,—must excite no ordinary degree of attention in a country, and among a people, whose monotony of manners has remained undisturbed for centuries. By such an instrument, whom no school has taught, whom no college could hold, is the way of the Judean wilderness preparing." Wolff, for laboriousness has been classed with Wesley and Whitefield, and for eccentricity has been ranked with Ber- ridge of Everton, and Eowland Hill.

From Letters on Palestine

S. has a great post on Wolf (here).

Friday, February 27, 2009

כך היא דרכה של תורה - ב

I mentioned in my earlier post, the book דרכה של תורה of Pineles - a book that someone of the erudition of Prof. Saul Lieberman refers to with great admiration. I now see that Hebrewbooks has added the refutation by his brother-in-law - כך דרכה של תורה (Vol. 1, and 2). Chanan Gafni in his excellent dissertation on Talmud study in the 19th century describes the polemic like this (click to enlarge - pages maybe out of order):

See there for a lot more of the same.
Some other new books:
Kisvei R' Yehuda Aryeh Modena (I think this was already at Seforimonline)

Rediscovery of Chida on Birkat HaChammah

In a letter to Yitzchak, Dr. Ezra Chwat writes:

"A most recent finding is the rediscovery of ms HUC 795 - the complete Birkat HaHamma attributed to the HIDA. Upon our request, the staff of HUC found after it was misplaced at least 30 years ago, and have generously sent us color scans (it's illuminated). You can post this note if you wish."

Somewhat related a Yiddish sefer on Birkat HaChammah (1897) has recently been placed online and can be found here.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Extra stanza for Selichot on Taanis Esther - Thanks to the IMHM blog:

תַעֲנֶה לְקורְאֶיךָ וְהַסְכֵת מִמְעונִים:
תִשְמַע שַוְעַת צועֲקֶיךָ שומֵעַ אֶל אֶבְיונִים:
תְרַחֵם בָנֶיךָ כְרַחֵם אָב עַל בָנִים:
עֲנֵנו כְמו שֶעָנִיתָ לְמָרְדְכָי וְאֶסְתֵר וְתָלוי עַל הָעֵץ חֲמִשִים הָאַב עִם בָנים
[Update: Yitzhak writes to me that:
"I'm not sure I understand what has been newly discovered. The stanza תענה לקוראך is well known, with many (most?) modern Siddurim includingit, often in parenthesis and / or with an accompanying note that customs vary over its inclusion. אוצר התפילות has it in parenthesis, although עבודת ישראל doesn't have it at all. קול יעקב החדש, סידור ווילנא and (at least one edition of) the Artscroll Siddur have it (with parentheses and / or notes), while (at least one edition of) תקון מאיר does not." ]

Monday, February 23, 2009

On R' Chaim Ozer Grodzinsky

אמר שכשהיה צעיר חשב שללמוד זה הדבר הכי חשוב וכשגדל גילה שלעזור ליהודי זה הדבר הכי חשוב. כך שאפשר לתאר מה הפסדנו לו היה פנוי לתורה בלבד.
He used to say "when I was younger I thought to learn was the most important thing I could do, but when I grew up it became clear that to help a Jew is still more important."

Friday, February 20, 2009

R' Hirsch's school in Frankfurt and eulogy for R' Tzvi Hirsch Auerbach

(HaLevanon 16 October 1872 - See also HaLevanon of 30 April 1873 )

בזכות נשים צדקניות

I don't think the Nashim chevra have picked up on this Rebbetzin. Perhaps, I will be cited in the next issue ;)

Birkas HaChammah in Lvov

(Translation can be found in Tradition)

I also suggest doing a search for ברכת החמה at הלבנון for some interesting correspondence relating to the event of the decade.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Abravanel's Ateret Zekeinim

Just in time for Parshat Mishpatim, uploaded Abravanel's Ateret Zekeinim. This book is discussed at length in Eric Lawee's Harvard dissertation (also published in book form) - "Inheritance of the Fathers": Aspects of Isaac Abarbanel's stance towards tradition and the subject of his article - Isaac Abarbanel's "Stance toward Tradition": The Case of "'Aṭeret zeqenim" (AJS Reveiw '97). As Lawee describes it:

Written in Lisbon sometime in the middle or late 1460s or early 1470s, the tract is, in its outer structure, a study of a single biblical passage (Exodus 23:20-24:18), but it treats a host of broader themes: providence, prophecy, the uniqueness of the Jewish people and their Land, ultimate human felicity, and the like.17

In later life, Abarbanel would look back on 'Ateret zeqenim as a "small composition" written in his early manhood.18 Yet if short and circumscribed by the standards of later works, Abarbanel's first work is well worth studying inasmuch as it introduces well both its author and his vast literary corpus, broaching many of the subjects that Abarbanel would treat thematically in later writings and exemplifying the literary character which his subsequent biblical commentaries (of which it should be considered the first) would take.

In addition, 'Ateret zeqenim calls attention to the theme of Abarbanel's relationship to the Jewish past in diverse ways, among them by making a case for exegetical independence and intellectual innovation in its introduction; by presaging principles that Abarbanel used to delimit midrashic authority in later works, and by revealing points of contact and conflict that animated Abarbanel's relationship with his most revered medieval predecessor, Maimonides, and with Maimonides' late medieval "esoteric" interpreters. (Still another prefigurative feature of the tract not touched on in the following is the stance of formal but qualified allegiance to Kabbalah adopted by Abarbanel therein as it resurfaces in later writings.)19

In short, 'Ateret zeqenim provides a unique and revelatory glimpse of Abarbanel at the earliest stage of his literary career standing before time-honored rabbinic traditions and the main medieval claimants to the mantle of Jewish tradition, the philosophers and kabbalists.

Finally, 'Ateret zeqenim points to larger questions summoned by the wide-ranging and elusive term "tradition"20( e.g., when do traditions re-main stable? why do they change? what patterns of change are evinced?)2' and, more specifically, highlights characteristic quandaries faced by writers working within a religious tradition: when and in what areas is critical thinking concerning traditional texts sanctioned? who are the authoritative interpreters of tradition? what is the basis of their authority? at what point does reinterpretation of tradition subvert it? what theological justifications exist for modem-day efforts to discover and advance new insights?22

[Update: ואברבנאל הואיל ואתא לידן - See here for a letter and testament of Abravanel. A critical edition of Abravanel's letters can be found here.]

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

R Nachman Krochmal's descendants


Perhaps someone might want to track down the picture of his son. It is a pity that the Bible was sold, Ravidovich never does say if there were any notes.

מיר האלטען, אז מען דארף ניט בעווייזען: אז אלע מענשע; זיינען בעשאפען גלייך

ווען עם קומט פאר אין דעס לעבען פון דער מענשהייט, אז עס איז נויטיג פיר א פאלק צו צורייסען דיא פאליטישע באנדען, וועלכע האבען זייא פערבונדען מיט אן אנדער פאלק. און צו גרינדען א בעזונדערע רענירונג צוגלייך מיט אנדערע פעלקער פון דער וועלט — אויף וואס זייא האבען א רעכט פון דער נאטור — איז לויט מענש־ ליכקייט זייער פליכט צו ערקלערען דיא אורזאכען וועלכע ברייננען

Guess -Link to follow

[Update: As "Yiddishe Letz" comments, these are the "historic words of the Declaration of Independence". Translated by Alexander Harkavy with a biography of וואשינגטון (Here). Also author of "Olendorf's methode zikh grindlikh oystsulernen di Englishe shprakh ohn a lerer".]

Meiri on Manipulating a Rov

Emes V EMunah discusses a case where as he cites it: "In any case, this well known English-speaker translated my shailah and details to R' Elyashiv in such a clearly biased manner that there was almost no way for R' Elyashiv to answer anything but that it's ossur altz "yoiser michdai dmayhen". The fellow practically told R' Elyashiv that it was assur within the context of my shailah"

Surprisingly, the "well know English speaker" can find some Rabbinic support for his actions. See Meiri to Yevamot 115a:


Monday, February 16, 2009

Rashbam and Vulgate

A fascinating Rashbam in (Exodus 11:13) writes:

לא תרצח - כל רציחה - הריגה בחנם היא בכל מקום. מות יומת הרוצח. הרצחת וגם ירשת. צדק ילין בה ועתה מרצחים. אבל הריגה ומיתה יש בחנם כמו: ויהרגהו דקין. ויש בדין כמו: והרגת את האשה. ומה שכתוב: אשר ירצח את רעהו בבלי דעת, לפי שמדבר בענין רוצח במזיד, לכך הוא אומר: ואם רציחה זו בבלי דעת פטור. זו תשובה שהשבתי לאפיקורסים והודו לי. ואף על פי שיש בספריהם אני אמית ואחיה בלשון לטי"ן של לא תרצח, הם לא דקדקו

And this is a refutation of the heretics, and they have conceded the point to me. Even though their own books state "I kill, and I make alive" (in Deuteronomy 32:39) --using the same Latin root as for "thou shalt not murder"--they are not being precise

(taken from Daat and translation from Segal)

See here for Rosin's critical edition of Rashbam. If someone has Martin Lockshin's edition of Rashbam I 'd be interested to hear his take.

[Update: Prof. Lockshin was kind enough to send me his note to that Rashbam:

Klausner (Leshonenu 21 {1957], p. 201) concludes from this pasage that Rashbam knew Latin. As far as I know there is no evidence to prove such an assertion other than this passage. Arguably Rashbam may not have really known Latin but may have discussed this exegetical issue sufficiently with his Christian interlocutors to know that the Vulgate does not distinguish between רצח and הרג. On the issue of the knowledge of Latin by medieval Jews, see the many sources cited by Ephraim Kanarfogel in Jewish Education and Society in the High Middle Ages, footnote 37, pp. 169-170. In any case one does see clearly from this passage that Rashbam discussed issues of biblical exegesis with Christians, even a passage such as this that is not a central one in the hio\story of Jewish-Christian polemics.

Ad kan.

In my Hebrew version of Rashbam with Notes, to be published very soon by חורב, I say even more clearly that I really doubt that Rashbam knew any significant amount of Latin. And I remain convinced that it is doing a disservice to Rashbam to suggest that he was interested in discussing with Christians only those verses that are central in Jewish-Christian polemics.

He also directs us to an article by Gerald Bildstein in Judaism 14 (1965) and to this article by Eliezer Segal]

At the moment I have Morris Berger's Harvard Ph.d on Rashbam who writes pg. 156:

(He points to the words "the Minim told me" as possible proof that the Rashbam did not understand Latin and only knew of the Vulgate from others.)

I had thought that the verse "I kill and make live" had been somehow used by the Christians as proof for the birth, death, and 2nd coming of Yeshu but the Rashbam is only bringing this verse incidentally so I don't think this is correct. Suggestions?

[Yitzhak sends us to Philologos's column where he writes:

The conventional wisdom on the Jewish side has been that Christian translators preferred “Thou shalt not kill” for religious reasons: namely, that as representatives of the religion of “turn the other cheek,” they were uncomfortable with the distinction made by the Hebrew Bible between murder, which is the forbidden taking of human life, and killing, the sometimes permissible taking of human life in self-defense. ]

[A similar polemical Rashbam which refers to the Vulgate can be found in Genesis 49:10 (the polemical passage does not appear in all editions). Another reference to the minim can be found in Leviticus 19:19]

Friday, February 13, 2009

כך דרכה של תורה has added some important new Seforim. This is one of the most important. I will try to update with some more info later.

They also have the original Leipzig edition of Zechariah Frankel's Darkhei HaMishna, although it is best to see the Warsaw edition as well as there are important additions there.

Also of interest is a response by Mordechai Weissman Chajes to Chaim Zelig Slominsky, containing important treatise re: the dateline. Mondshine's biography of Kamehler is also worth examining.

These are only some of the important Seforim added too I will try to update this post significantly later today.

Monday, February 9, 2009

כי זה האיש משה לא ידענו מה היה לו - על העיתון המאור

The great people at have now made available important periodical Ha'Maor. In an earlier post, I referred to the attacks on R' Moshe following his controversial ruling on articificial insemination. Besides for the prank calls, and such described in the beginning of Igrot Moshe V. 8, he was also attacked by some Rabbis in HaMeor. R; Mshe writes in his eshuvos that this caused him much pain.

Here you have a letter of complaint from R' Ephraim Greenblatt against R' Amsel for writing with such a lack of Kavod about R' Moshe. In R' Amsel's response he lists all the places where R' Moshe rules leniently against the opinion of earlier generations, presumably as proof that R' Moshe can't be relied on. The same motif appears in many ther letters.

Amsl refers to a responsa of Reform Rabbi Solomon Freehoff who had also ruled leniently following a similar line of reasoning as R' Moshe so we have an anti-Reform component at work here as well. [I refer the reader to Mayim Chaim V. 2 for a polemic-less Responsa on the subject . More generally, see Steinberg's encyclopedia s.v. Hazra'ah]

R' Serayah Deviltsky refers to a Kuntres that was supposed to be published against R' Moshe I do not kow if this is the same as the Maanot. R' Moshe Sternbuch brings a report from the Brisker Rov saying that bans are preferable to Halachic decisions so as not to give the impression that there is any room for discussion. Of interest as well, is a letter from R' Avigdor Miller (in an earlier issue) supporting Amsel.

There is also the usual rumour that R' Moshe reversed his decision. In Yad Moshe there is a Teshuva that Eidensohn (who runs a blog) refers to as a possible reversal but it is not entirely clear.

Of great interest as well is R' Amsel's review of R' Yosef Dov Soloveitchik's address to Mizrahi which is full of אהבה גלויה ותוכחה מוסתרת (or maybe he's just being sarcastic, I will let the reader judge)

קאנט מן התורה מנין

כן נפשי תערוג אליך אלהים - ר"ת כנת (KANT)
או כנ"ת היפך תנ"ך- שד"ל

Nancy Sinkoff: Out of the Shtetl

A note on R' Herzog's notes

In a ulogy on R' Herzog printed in Shanah B' Shanah, I saw a rather funny story on R' Herzog's trip to America. Apparently, he had to visit the Mayo Clinic and since he couldn't read anything heavy the Rabbi who was with him got him a copy of the Readers Digest. He said that when he returned a bit later, every page of the Readers Digest was covered with notes pointing out that the ideas mentioned in various articles could already be found in Shas or were contradicted from Shas.

To some extent, R' Herzog's work in Mishpa Ha'Ivri follows a similar pattern. He places a great deal of effort into demonstrating the uniqueness of the Jewish Law, fiercly attacking any view that see non-Jewish jurisprudence as superior to the Jewish sources or to show that the Jewish law is derived from Gentile laws.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Title pages, and Steinschneider

The new periodical - Kuntres - has an excellent article by Shmuel Glick. Here is one footnote (7)that caught my eye:

ראה למשל שם הגדולים השלם, פיעטרקוב תר״צ, עמ׳ 18-17 , בהגהות ]
מנחם ציון, אות כו. בערך ”שו״ת הב״ח הישנות“ נכתב שיד הצנזור היהודי היתה
בו ובמהדורות שנדפסו אחרי שנת תנ״ז הוחלף השער, ”בשביל שהיה השער
שבשו״ת הב״ח מצוייר בציורים שונים וכעין צלמי ע״ז שלהם, ע״כ חכמים שבאו־
תו הדור היו אוסרים מלבוא שעריו בשער מחנה ישראל וע״כ בל יראה ובל ימצא
שו״ת הב״ח עם השער“.

For more on exciting title pages, see this post at Seforim (and the linked Chadrei thread).

There is also an article on Moritz Steinschneider but I think publishing some of the correspondence they have in their archives would be a more fitting tribute: דבריהן הן הן זכרונם

One can find lots of Steinschneider's books on Google, including this one that he wrote while under Shir's patronage in Prague.

R' Yitzchok Isaac Herzog - 1

I've started to listen to some of Prof. Marc Shapiro's fascinating lectures on various "Ishim V' Shittos" available at Torah in Motion. I would like to discuss the subjects of these lectures basing myself somewhat on the lectures but generally providing my own comments. Menachem has some excellent bibliographical studies on various Rabbinic figures at his Michtavim. Here is the entry for R' Herzog.

I first "found out" about R' Herzog through Prof. Avraham Steinberg's fantastic Encyclopedia of Medical Halacha (some of his material is available on Daat). He was discussing the famous opinion of R' Avraham ben HaRambam on the Aggadot and quotes R' Herzog who says that this opinion is "נר לרגלי ואור לנתיבתי". R' Herzog was discussing the dateline question which was first raised in his house and he was referring to the opinin of the Baal Ha'Meor. For some reason, he never completed that specific Teshuva. R' Herzog discusses the "Torah and Science" question in various other locations. One of the most interesting is in his correspondence with R' Untermann who denied the value of blood tests for establishing paternity on the basis of the sugya in Niddah "שלשה שותפים באדם ." I was quite pleased to hear about this since I found the entry in Steinberg's encyclopedia on אבהות to be quite frankly depressing.

The area of R' Herzog's studies that I personally find the most fascinating is his brief foray into the field of Irano-Judaica. The only Posek to my knowledge to express any interest in the field. In his Pesakim V' Kesavim V. 2, he has a very interesting essay on Mar Shmuel's connection to King Shapur 1 of Persia which he explains based on the fact that Shapur was very interested in the sciences, and Mar Shmuel was known to be an expert in Astronomy (נהירין לי שבילי דרקיע) - see there at length. He also investigated the charge that the Dina D' Bar Metzra originated from the Persians by writing to an Iraqui expert on the subject. Here is a letter from him on the subject from Radzyiner's article (see Menachem's post):

Letter to R' Herzog:

Dear Dr. Herzog
Your very kind letter dated the 14th October 1945 reached me
sometime ago und I immediately made a reference to Sir

Jamshedji Kanga who is a very eminent Parsi advocate in Bombay
and was for many years Advocate general ofthe province.
He is a great Parsi scholar and himself belongs to the priestly
caste. I have now heard from him in reply and quote below what
he says on the point referred to him:

"I have referred to several books and several Parsi authors and
lawyers on the point on which you desire infonnation for
transmission to the Chief Rabbi of the Holy Land. The result of
my enquiry has been of a negative character. In none of the books
on ancient Persian history and ancient Persian laws could I fmd the
slightest reference to any rule of law conferring the right of
preemption in respect of immoveable property on the ground of
vicinage. Dr. S.J. Balsara's "THE LAWS OF THE ANCIENT
PERSIANS" which is a standard work on the subject, does not
make any reference to any such provision of law. I think the
absence of any reference to the rule of Pre-emption in Balsara's
comprehensive volume may be taken to afford a strong
presumption that such a rule of law did not exist among the ancient
Persians and that the Babylonian Jewish Jurists could not have
derived the institution from contemporary Persian law. Kathalay's
'PRINCIPLES OF PROPERTY" mention the law of pre-emption
among the ancient Jews, Romans, IUyrians and Italians, but not
among the ancient Persians. Simcox's "PRIMITIVE
CIVILIZATION" also is silent on the point. I have looked up the
articles on ancient law in the volumes of the "JOURNAL OF
LAW" and the sources of Jewish law in Gulak's "JEWISH LAW
OF PROPERTY" but they were not helpful for the purpose of the
inquiry. On the whole, I am inclined to believe that very probably
the rule of pre-emption on the ground of vicinage did not exist
among the ancient Persians.

I trust you are flourishing. If I can be of any service to you at this
end, please do not hesitate to command me. I often recall with
great pleasure your very gracious kindness and hospitality to me
on the occasion that I had the honour to call on you.

R' Herzog's response:

Dear Sir Zafrulla
Many thanks for your kind reply of the 26* ult. which I deeply
appreciate. It transpires now that my opinion was correct, vis. that
the law in question is original with the Jewish Babylonian jurists
based upon the general sublime ethical trend of the Mosaic law
and the prophetic teachings. . . .

I am, by the way, deeply interested in Persian history during the
Talmudic Period. Particularly when it has a direct bearing upon
religion and law. If Sir Jamshedji has published anything in that
line, kindly ask him to let me have it. Needless to say I shall pay
for it, with pleasure.

This coincides with R' Herzog's special interest in "T'chuka L' Yisroel Al Pi Torah" which I will discuss in my next post.

R' Herzog also expressed in interest in Josephus and in a short article משהו על יוסף בן מתתיהו (available at Daat) passes judgement that Josephus was no great scholar. This arose the ire of R YY Greenwald who wrote a line by line refutation of R' Herzog in his Toledot HaKohanim Gedolim.


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