Sunday, January 31, 2010

Update on R Yaakov Kamenetsky and the Biur

R Eliezer Brodt points out that in pg. 292 in Tha Making of A Godol it is brought down that R Yaakov read the Biur :

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Suggested Orthodox Maskilim for post of Chief Rabbi of NY

JD Eisenstein suggests some candidates for post of Chief Rabbi of NY: Hildesheimer of Berlin,(Marcus) Lehman of Mainz, (Isaac Hirsch) Weiss of Vienna. I doubt they would have been to interested (see also here).

I also saw an interesting Yiddish Memoir regarding the first candidate the Mablim and his relationship with the Sadigura Chassidim[1] (here):

He writes how most Chassidim viewed Malbim's commentary as being "not as treif as Mendelssohn's biur" but not as kosher as the Metzudos Dovid". The "old" Sadigura Rebbe did like Mabim and allowed his children to be taught T'nach with Malbim.

The story of how the Rebbe was "machshir" te Malbim goes as follows:

Because the Malbim would not bend before the rich men of Bucharest, there was a good deal of dissension during the 5 years he was Rabbi. The Rebbe was impressed and decided that it was a Mitzvah to help Malbim out.

When Malbim was placed in prison (tale of chassidishe mofes about informer dying when the Rebbe said Tehillim), the Rebbe wrote to Sir Moses Montefiore to speak to the Romanian Government on Malbim's behalf.

I also noticed this sefer that has many interesting letters from various Gedolei Lita that I have never seen before.

[1] Heichal HaBesht 5:3 has a comprehensive article on the subject of Malbim and Chassidim, I don't remember if this piece is quoted.

Monday, January 25, 2010

R Yaakov Kamenetsky, Mendelssohn and Jastrow's dictionary

There seems to be a story circulating to the effect that:

When R. Yaakov Kamenetsky zt”l was Rosh Yeshiva of Torah Vodass, students used to help him prepare his house before Pesach. One group checked for chometz the seforim that might have been brought to the table. The work proceeded without event, until one bochur let out a shriek, having discovered a copy of Mendelsohn’s famous (infamous?) and ground-breaking German translation of Chumash, known today simply as “The Biur.” While there are likely fewer students in Torah Vodaas today who would know about the Biur and its author, that particular bochur did, and his horror was visceral. Rav Yaakov immediately understood, and reportedly smiled (he seemed always to smile) and said, “They are surprised that I would own such a work. If only they knew how many difficulties it helped me solve.”

Although not an irrefutable proof, the following excerpt (Emes L' Yaakov YD 281) would seem to falsify the above to some extent:

The ruling that the Biur should be left in a place where it will rot ought to preclude the possibility of R Yaakov owning a copy himself.

Even in his famous permissive ruling allowing usage of the Jastrow dictionary, R' Yaakov does not appear to be exceptionally tolerant of heresy. He writes (YD 246):

I assume R Yaakov was told that Jastrow was the head of a Reform congregation which would render him a heretic, although at that time being connected with the Reform movement was not necessarily synonymous with heresy (as can be seen from the wiki entry on Jastrow).

The distinction made between Torah and lexicography seems somewhat difficult. According to this, one can learns the following Talmudic passage Kesubot 17a:

מאי הינומא סורחב בר פפא משמיה דזעירי אמר תנורא דאסא רבי יוחנן אמר קריתא דמנמנה בה כלתא

without reciting Birkas HaTorah (but see the commentary of Rebbenu Chananel there) and there are many other passages in which lexicography is of great value.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

People's Republic of Egypt

הנה דס״ל מקודם לא היה למצרים מלך גמור כשאר מלכים אלא הי׳ ריפובלי׳ק כמו שיש עתה במלכת אמריכא״ן ובמלכות פראנס״ה והראש של ריפובלי׳ק היה נקרא פרעה ואח״כ קודם ששעבדו בישראל שינו תכסיס שלהם ומינו עליהם מלך ולז״א חדש ממש, ואע״ג דכתיב בפרשת וישב בענין שר המשקים ושר האופים חטאו לאדוניהם למלך מצרים לא היה עדין מלך ממש אלא היו ריפובליק ולהראש קרי ליה מלך מצרים בלשון מושאל שדינו כמלך

בן יהוידע - עירובין נג

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

א קעלמאר מעשה

I introduced myself as an author of Warsaw Haynt and I said to them more or less this:

- Dear Jews of Kelm! I heard a whole life so much about the fools of Kelm. Today in the early morning I came to Kelm and I wanted to use the opportunity to have a talk with the fools. Finally, I walked around the whole day and could not find any fool. All Jews of Kelm whom I met have a keen mind and are clever like the world. I will leave Kelm disappointed. Tell me the truth, Jews: Is there really not a single fool in Kelm?

Then one of the Jews ironically examined me with the eyes from my had to my feet and answered with a smile: - Usually when there is a fool in Kelm, he is from Warsaw...

But not all Jews of Kelm were content with a witty answer. Others scolded on a truth.

The popular Haynt-author and folksinger Menachem Kipnis was strongly liked in Kelm like in whole Poland. When he came to give a concert with his wife Zmira Seligfeld, they had there big success. All of a sudden Kipnis lost the favor in Kelm and he was accommodated angrily. What happened? That's what happened: Kipnis enjoyed to write in Haynt a long series humorous tales about Kelm, old and new ones.

Because of this a part of Kelm's Jews was angry with Kipnis. They wrote him letters with reproaches and claimed that they have enough disgrace and shame because of the old fools, new tales are not needed.

The biggest anger about Kipnis had a young author from Kelm Moshe Lerer, a collector of Jewish folklore. The Moshe Lerer, whom Zalmen Reyzen brought to Vilnius and employed him in "YIVO", really pestered Kipnis. He proved scientifically that Kipnis faked up the tales historical, or deluded the geography; he took fools of other cities and assigned them to Kelm.

Only I wrote once in Haynt a feature about the city Kelm. I asked a question: "Korakh shepike'ach haya, ma ra'ah leshtut zo? (Korakh [a name of a biblical figure which protested against Moses's leadership], which was wise, what did he see in such nonsense?)" Kelm is after all a city of sages, Why one made fools out of them? Thereon, I made such an assumption: It happened due to a typo.

Once a Jew, an author, presumably long ago printed a holy-language book (Koheles 9:11), in which he used the saying:"Lo lekhakhamim lachem (There is no bread for the wise.)". The young typesetter changed by mistake the word "lakhem" and instead of "lakhem" was printed "Khelem". The Jews read: "Lo lekhakhamin khelem" - Khelm is not for sages.

Source - here

Friday, January 15, 2010

The political strategy of R Shmuel Salant

Following is report in the periodical HaHed regarding an attempt by Chief R' Hermann Adler to have the ban against secular studies (see note 6) rescinded. R Adler was most likely motivated to protect the honor of Ferdinand Rothschild , who founded one of the banned schols in honor of his wife Evelina:

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Greco-Judaica - to be or not to be

Has any mention been made of this parallel?

Not to be born surpasses everything, but when a man has been born, to return to whence he came as soon as possible is by far the next best thing, since when youth is present bringing light folly, who escapes being full of troubles ? what labour is absent from him ? Murders, seditions, quarrel, battles and envy, and last on the top of all comes detestable, powerless, unsociable, friendless old age, where all evils coexist together, in which this wretched man (not I alone) being, as some northern wave-battered stormy coast is agitated from all quarters, so also terrible calamities like vast seas ever with him overwhelmingly agitate him} same coming from the setting of the sun, some from the east, some from the mid-day south, and some from the sunless Rhipae.

Tragedies of Sophocles (A common theme in Greek tragedies)


Our Rabbis taught: for two and a half years, the house of Shammai and the house of Hillel argued. One side said: “It is (“Noach”) better for man not to have been created than to have been created,” and the other side said, “it is better for man to have been created than not.” They voted and concluded: better for man that he had not been created. (Eruvin 13b)

In this case, the parallel may not be significant. Already Yirmiyahu (20:14-18), lamented his birth and it is a short step from there to philosophical speculation on the merits of existence.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Censorship in a new edition of the Aderet's autobiography - Seder Eliyahu

A good story deserves retelling?

The following appears in Midstream Spring, '9 - Tales of Rav Tzair from A Rosenthal (his granddaughter):

and the following appears in All for the Boss, R. Shain pg. 126

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