Tuesday, February 3, 2009

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.



zdub said...

How are the quality of the mp3s? I wrote TIM because the sample Shapiro lecture was all but un-listenable. Ironic, because they special tell you to check out the free ones as an indication of the quality of their mp3s!

Anonymous said...

They gave the R'Kook one out for free cuz of the bad quality. The rest are mostly quite good.

Joels W. said...

Thanks for directing us to Rav Herzog's article on Josephus. It's interesting that in the "Hominer" edition of Yossipon that was published in Jerusalem there are several citations from Italian Rabbis as to the saintliness of Josephus, some even refer to him as Yosef "Hacohen Hagadol"!

Of course the editors of that volume took it for granted that Yossifon was the work of Josephus and not a medieval work based on Josephus- as most scholars assert.

Joels W. said...

By the way, Rabbi Greenwald was a pretty interesting character. Bezelal Naor mentions him as going off to find sites of Jewish historical interest (iirc, Naor, mentions that he visited the house of Shbtai Sevi in Smyrna) while being stationed in various corners of Europe as a soldier in the Austro-Hungarian army.

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