Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Early Reform Responsa - Rabbi Dr Simon (Shimon Aryeh) Schwabacher has uploaded a fascinating sefer - תקנות עגונות. The Sefer (only volume two is available online -Update: Both volumes are available here [2]) revolves around the difficult issue of a woman who is required to do Yibum with an apostate[1]. R' Yitzchok Elchonon Spektor was initially one of the mattirim but was forced to retract for reasons that are not entirely clear.

What I find particularly interesting is that the editor of this pamphlet and the correspondent in many of the letters is R' Shimon Aryeh Schwabacher, the successor of R' Avraham Kohn of the infamous Temple of Lemberg.

His picture (from his biography Pnei Aryeh - available here)

As you can read in his biography, he was much more moderate then his predecessor. Even so, it is really nice to see that the great Rabbis of the time such as Netziv and R' Yosef Zechariah Stern saw no problem in corresponding with him and even providing all the customary honorifics.

A third volume was promised but to the best of my knowledge was never published.

[1] A similar case came before R' Samson Raphael Hirsch. You can see his great efforts on behalf of the agunah in a series of letters in Shemesh Marpeh (one can also see the letters sent to R' Hirsch on this case in a separate pamphlet published by Bar Ilan. This was also the subject of the acrimonious correspondence between the Rogatchover and the Seridei Eish. There the Rogatchover castigates the SE for his insistence that we must follow the Rema and Chasam Sofer, (the Rogatchiver refers to them as נמושות ). I see that the Netziv (pg. 63) argues similarly to the SE that:

אפילו אם יש בזה עיגון ודעתי לסמוך על גאוני קרמאי שאין המומרים זוקקים בכ׳ז אחר שהוא ננד פיסקי השו"ע מה אני כשאני לעצמי לצאת בהוראה כזה ומראש כתבתי בתשובתי שהעתקתי כי אפ' בהצטרף דעת גאוני הדור יצ׳ו אהיה נם אני כיהודה ועוד להני תנאי ור׳ שלום ישכון שלום וברכה בישראל
but I am not certain if the cases are identical.

[2] The "Maskil who was close to the Rabbonim" referred to in the Introduction in the section against the Maskilim was Chaim Zelig Slonimski. Yaakov Reifman also wrote a response to this article which was published posthumously in Ohr Hamizrach by Meir Hershkowitz.

Some Links

1 - Eitam Henkin has a great post on censorship in the new work of R' Kook L'Nevuchei HaDor.

2 - Kevin has an interesting comment on the Bible and its commentaries.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

This is scholarship...

"Mr. Heilman maintained that Lubavitcher accounts can’t be trusted because they are hagiographies and said that he and Mr. Friedman did not examine the rebbe’s extensive writings on scripture because they were interested in his personal history, not his scholarship."

(Review - here)

An idiotic statement to put it mildly. Personal biography can hardly be divorced from scholarly writings. Many biographies are largely based on scholarly writings. It is largely in such writings that we can see the thought process of the subject and track their interests, ideals and beliefs.

PS - An interesting thread concerning one of the topics under debate (the Rebbe's Semicha from the Rogatchover) can be found here.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Chafetz Chaim on the correct attitude to "Off the Derech" children

ודע דעצה זו האמור בקרא כולל מור לכמה סוגי אגשים שהם אינם סריסים בעצם ואעפ״כ לא עדיפי מהם ואדרבה גדועים מהם כגון שיש לו בנים שסרו מדרך התורה [לפי מה שמצוי בעונ״ה שהולכים למדינות רתוקות ונעשה בעיניהם הפקר התורה ומצותיה וכל כי האי גוונא] דשם אף בלתי עצה זו שנתן לנו הש״י לא יוכל הסריס לחשוב בעצמו רק שהוא עץ יבש ולא יעשה פרי לנצח אבל מ״מ אין להקב״ה צער ממנו משא״כ בזה שיש לו בנים שמורדם בה׳ ומפירים תורתו בודאי אין להש״י נחת מצאצאיו כלל וכלל וגם כבודו בעצמו מתחלל בזה מאד כמו דכתיב באשה זוגה את אביה היא מחללת ואחז״ל [סנהדרין י״ב] שאומרים ארור שזה ילד ארור שזה גדל ונם יהיה לו ממנו בזיון גדול אח״כ בעולם העליון שיצא ממנו בן ממרה ומכעיס להש״י, וכמו שכתב הגר"א ז״ל באגרתו הקדושה שאף אם ידריך תמיד בניו במוסר ולא יקבלום אוי לאותה בושה והצער והבזיון בעוה״ב.

וע״כ העצה היעוצה לאיש כזה שישכח את תולדותיו הראשונים לגמרי אחרי שלא יועילוהו ולא יצילוהו ליום הדין העתיר ואדרבה יגדילו התבערה עליו יקיים מה שאמר שהמע״ה כל אשר תמצא ידך לעשות בכחך עשה בכחך דייקא דהיינו שעכ׳יפ יתאמץ בעצמו בכל כחו להחזיק ישיבות ות״ת ושאר דברים האמורים בקרא הזה ויזכה שיהיו נקראים אלו הבנים על שמו וכמ״ש למעלה ועי״ז יהיה לו יד ושם למעלה בבית ה׳ טוב מבנים ומבנות וכמ״ש בקרא ובזה יניח רוגזו של הש״י מעליו אמרי שהוא עשה כל מה שבכתו,

שם עולם פרק טז

In sum, if your children go off the derech - you will burn in hell for their sins, and your honor is violated. The solution is to disown them entirely and support the Yeshivos instead!

Monday, June 7, 2010

Recent Publications, Tradition, TUMJ and the Rebbe

1 - Tradition - has become more disappointing with each issue. It seems a pity that a publication which has published many fascinating articles and editorials in the past, can give us nothing better then a stale argument against the Documentary hypothesis , and some obscure halachic analysis. Its sole saving grace is Prof. Leiman's column which unfortunately does not appear in this latest issue.

2 - The Rebbe, etc. - Although I cannot form a full opinion until I get a copy of the book, this seems to suffer from the same problem of most writing on both the Rebbe and Lubavitch community to date. That is, an excessive focusing on Messianism losing site of the many other important aspects. The Rebbe was a great leader, and a really impressive scholar for whom all "rooms of Torah were open before him". A majority of his many letters, speeches and writings have no connection to his Messianism.

He wrote many chiddushim on Rambam, Rashi on Torah, Kabbalah, etc and often had a highly original and interesting approach. I remember a particular chiddush that views the disagreement about the method of Biur Chametz based on the ancient idea of 4 elements and the original hylic element which I thought highly original. The Rebbe was also a great leader and was able to connect to each person on a personal level and provide advice and guidance as can be seen in his letters.

The excessive harping on Messianism obscures this and it would be nice to see a real intellectual profile. It is likely that the authors' profession as sociologists makes them unfit for the task of biographer. See here for a criticism of some of the research on the Rebbe's Paris-Berlin years.

3- TUMJ - is finally up after a 4 year (?) hiatus. Marc Shapiro translates R' Hirsch's speech in honor of Schiller. Schiller was also very much beloved in Poland as can be seen here and in numerous other sources, and in Lithuania, see Paula Wengeroff's Memoirs:

Regarding the girls singing in Hirsch's school (fn. 10), A similar report* is in HaLevanon of October 16, 1872 -

There are many other interesting articles such as on Chasam Sofer and copyright, and others which I will perhaps discuss in a later update.

[*] I mistakenly translated שירים as songs. The report is actually referring to poetry recital. My thanks to Prof. Shapiro for bringing this error to my attention.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Chafetz Chaim and Chassidus

Seforim has a nice post on Chafetz Chaim's attitude toward Chassidus. I am not certain why R' Brodt left out the following excerpts from Dugma M'Darkei Avi which show the Chafetz Chaim to have been something of a Misnagid (although his opinion softened somewhat when he saw the Chassidim were a great ally in the struggle against Haskalah).

1 - "Who told you to got to the Shtiblach, I do not deal with them" (the Chassidim). After his son describes some incidents in which Chassidim had disparaged Lithuanian Gedolim.

2 - Against those who daven late with the excuse that it is necessary for proper Kavanos (classic Misnagdic complaint)

3 - Chassdim on the right, Haskalah on the left. Neither is a positive trend. Also, he was shown a Sefer of of the Admorim and said "What is missing in the Torah of the Tannoim and Amoraim" (i.e. who needs this new stuff?)

Although, it must be noted that his son was not a fan of Chassidim (as per story in 1) and is not an impartial observer.

I'd also note that the expressions "Gaon Echad", "Gadol HaDor Echad" and the like appear frequently in the Chafetz Chaim's Shem Olam. It woudl be interesting if someone can identify who this refers to and why the Chafetz Chaim chose to withhold his name.
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