Monday, November 20, 2017

Ancient Jewish Poetry & the Amazing World of Piyut: Interview with Professor Shulamit Elizur

ANCIENT JEWISH POETRY & THE AMAZING WORLD OF PIYUT: Professor Shulamit Elizur explores the Cairo Genizah and other obscure places for hidden gems


Just as the mountains surround Jerusalem, so G-d surrounds his people, from now to all eternity —Tehillim 125:2

This piece originally appeared in14 TISHREI 5778 // OCTOBER 4, 2017 // AMI MAGAZINE #337
Thanks to Ami for permission to publish this here.This version is updated with a few corrections and additions

Inside the Old City of Jerusalem one cannot see the mountains that surround it, only its many confining walls. Yet even for someone who has a phobia of confined places, as I do, this part of the Holy City is liberating. Many years ago, the great Jewish poet Rabbi Yehudah Halevi wrote longingly about Jerusalem, “I wish I could fly to you on the wings of an eagle, and mingle my tears with your dust.” Today, one can readily fly to Jerusalem, but to have a chance to explore its poetic and emotional underpinnings is a rare treat.

Professor Shulamit Elizur, whom I am visiting this morning in her book lined apartment, is not only one of the foremost experts in the world on piyut but she is also a talmidah chachamah and scholar, whose fear of sin precedes her wisdom.

“I was around 16 years old when I realized that if you want to learn something, it isn’t wise to try to absorb too much at one time,” she shares with me without a hint of pretension. “I decided to study the Mishneh Torah of the Rambam, so I learned one perek a day until I got to the end. I did the same thing with Nach, learning two perakim a day, and I’ve gone through the entire Shishah Sidrei Mishnah numerous times. The same applies to piyutim: If you divide them up and study them over time, you will eventually succeed in understanding all of them.”

She then asks me not to mention some of her other scholarly undertakings so that she doesn’t come across as if she were bragging. And she’s not; she is simply a brilliant scholar who loves to learn every spare minute, and the world has been tremendously enriched by that. As the head of the Fleischer Institute for the Study of Hebrew Poetry, a member of the Academy of the Hebrew Language and a member of the editorial board of the Mekitze Nirdamim publishing house, she has her hands full. But she still finds time to write books and study, as well as to talk to me this morning about her ongoing research. Indeed, her energy is laudable as she keeps on getting up to fetch one book after the other to prove a point.


Anyone who is familiar with contemporary Israeli culture knows that there has been a revival of the singing of piyut. Jewish liturgical poems that were composed to be recited during tefillah are now being performed by Israel’s top singers in clubs and at concerts. But Shulamit Elizur insists that what she does has nothing to do with this trend.

“The modern performers are mainly interested in the piyutim that have tunes, and those that are printed in our siddurim. But I’m involved in doing research into the piyutim that were lost and haven’t been said in many years. My field is kitvei yad, primarily those that were found in the Cairo Genizah.”

I ask her if after all these years it’s still possible to find new things.

“We have an organization that takes all the fragments and deciphers them. For example, I found a fragment of a page and then much later I found another piece of the same page. It turns out that the page is part of a sefer written by Rabbeinu Saadyah Gaon against the Kara’im. We don’t have the entire book, but the two pieces I was able to put together are from a previously unknown part of that sefer, which was very exciting for me.”

“So it’s all about putting pieces together,” I state.

“Yes, although we do sometimes find complete pages as well. For example, I discovered a piyut for Tefillat Geshem on Shemini Atzeret that isn’t found in our siddurim and predates the great paytan Rabbi Elazar Hakalir, who lived in Eretz Yisrael close to the Muslim conquest. It is very unique and I published it in one of my articles.

“When we go through the Genizah, we examine each piece individually to try to understand what it is. We have a catalogue with over 160,000 entries. That doesn’t mean that there are that many piyutim, because if we find the same piyut five times it gets five separate entries. But there are tens of thousands of them, most of which are unknown, and we are constantly finding more. The next step is to upload them onto a website to make them accessible to the public, but right now we don’t have the funds to complete the project.

“We still have a few years of research left, because even though we’ve gone through every fragment found in the Genizah that was known to be a piyut, there are still many more that weren’t known to be parts of piyutim. In Cambridge, the Genizah was organized according to category: There are contracts, letters, parts of Tanach, Talmud and piyutim. My teacher, Ezra Fleischer, began the work of examining all the other categories for fragments that were previously unrecognized as piyutim, and the work is not yet finished. For example, when a contract was no longer needed, the other side of it could then be used to write piyutim, but it was still categorized as a contract. So we still need to find all of those fragments of lost piyutim and piece them together.”

“How many fragments are in the Genizah?”

“Tens of thousands, and sometimes there can be as many as 50 piyutim on a single one. This is a very large undertaking. Ezra Fleischer worked on it for 40 years, and before he passed away he asked me to continue his work.”

“So you’re his successor.”

“For this project, but I don’t claim to come close to his stature. He was unbelievably knowledgeable in piyut, nusach hatefillah, secular poetry and languages; he spoke more than ten.”

“Was he born in Eretz Yisrael?”

“No. That’s another story, which is really deserving of its own article. He was born and raised in Romania. His father was Yehuda Leib Fleischer, who did research on Rav Avraham ibn Ezra, which is why he named his son Avraham Ezra.

“As a bachur, Ezra was an activist for immigration to Eretz Yisrael, so he was arrested and put in jail under extremely dangerous conditions. He was kept in solitary confinement for a number of years, so during that time he composed a number of Hebrew songs and poems in his head. When he was finally freed, he wrote three books of songs and poems from memory.

“He also wrote a book against the Communists, which he was able to put into the hands of the Israeli ambassador, who sent it to Israel and had it printed under a pen name. It received such wide acclaim that he received the Israel Prize for it anonymously while he was still in Romania. But he couldn’t reveal to anyone that he was the author, because he knew that the Romanians would kill him if word got out.

“A year later he was allowed to go to Israel, where he became friends with my parents. I was five years old when I first met him. He told me that he had studied law in Romania because that was the only exam that wasn’t held on Shabbat. He actually hated law, but he had to study something in university so he chose that. Still, even after he graduated he couldn’t get a job in a prestigious law office, which would have necessitated working on Saturdays, so he became the official secretary of the kehillah under Rav Rosen. He really had unbelievable mesirat nefesh to keep Shabbat.”

“How did you become interested in the study of piyut?”

“When I went to university I wanted to study the Hebrew language. But because I was required to add another subject I decided to add Hebrew literature, which my mother taught. Then Professor Fleischer invited me to join his project and I loved it. I took several courses with him and became more and more interested. I finished my bachelor’s degree after only two years and had to decide what to do next.

“In the meantime I had gotten married, and I wanted to make sure that whichever professor I learned under would help me advance in my studies. I also had a choice between studying for a master’s and a more difficult program that would allow you to start working towards your doctorate after a year of study. By then I was expecting, and I realized that the harder program would actually be easier for me because it allowed for much more study to be done at home. The problem was that the language department didn’t want to work with me within the parameters of this program. Since I loved the piyutim, I decided to try to do my doctorate with Ezra Fleischer and he agreed. After the initial year of post-graduate study it took me another three and a half years to receive my doctorate. So the whole thing from undergraduate to PhD took six and a half years, which was also when I gave birth to my third child.”

“Did you find that you had a harder time as a woman in a man’s field?”

“There were never any problems because of that.”

“Are you the highest-ranking professor of piyut in Hebrew University?”

“Yes. There are professors emeritus, but I’m the only one left who is still teaching. Aaron Mirsky, who was related to me, and Ezra Fleischer have both passed away. Then there’s Yosef Yahalom, but he is now retired.”

“Aaron Mirsky internalized the language of the paytanim, but people don’t write like that anymore.”

“That’s true, and sometimes it wasn’t easy to understand him. I remember that my mother once won a prize and Aaron Mirsky was one of the judges who gave a speech. He used the word ‘shigush,’ and throughout the entire evening my aunt kept asking what it meant. I told her that it was an Aramaic word from the piyutim. Incidentally, having a knowledge of targum is also very helpful when trying to understand the piyutim. I make sure to learn shnayim mikra v’echad targum every week. My father taught me Targum Onkelos when I was a young girl, and I taught it to my children as well.”

“Are most of your doctoral students at the university secular?”

“No. Most of them are religious.”

“Do your secular students look at all of this as simply another subject, or does it bring them closer to Yiddishkeit?”

“I really don’t know. Sometimes it does bring them closer. I’ve had students who told me that they weren’t familiar with any Tanach, so I told them to study two perakim a day to catch up. But only one person actually took my advice. I remember that it really bothered me at the time that she was the only one, because she wasn’t Jewish, but in the end she became a giyoret kahalachah and is a shomeret mitzvot.”

“Do you face any difficulties as a woman in this field in the world at large?”

“It’s a bit more complicated. I never go anywhere I’m not wanted.


“You must really have a lot of Torah knowledge for all of this,” I tell her.

“I need to learn all the time, so I do.”

“There certainly aren’t many women in the world who know as much Torah as you do,” I insist.

“Baruch Hashem, there are many women who are very knowledgeable today, although they might not be familiar with piyutim. At the last Siyum HaShas, the organizers realized that a lot of people were bringing their wives along, so they decided to have a separate women’s program and asked me to speak. I talked about a mesorah that emerges from the piyutim that Hillel and Shammai were actually brothers, and I explained what it really means. The paytan says that just as the Torah was originally given to two brothers, Moshe and Aharon, so too was it later given to Hillel and Shammai, who were also brothers. Then I showed them how Hillel is a continuation of Aharon and Shammai is a continuation of Moshe, and I brought many mekorot showing how each one had his own direction and how the two of them coming together b’achvah is the epitome of the entire Torah.”

“Where did you find all of those sources? In midrashim?”

“Some of them are from the Midrash, but there are a lot in chasidut as well.”

“In order to understand piyutim a person would have to study them for many hours, but we usually say them too quickly to really understand them.”

“That’s true. That’s why they should be learned properly before Yom Tov. But you don’t have to learn everything in a single year. You can do it gradually. I apply the same principle to the kinot of Tishah B’Av; each year, two should be studied properly. While we’re on the subject, I’d like to share something very interesting. The first kinah we say in the morning is alphabetical in order, but it only starts from the letter samech. What happened to the previous letters? Well, if you look in the machzorim of Nusach Italia you’ll find that they recite a krovetz for each brachah of Shmoneh Esrei. The paragraphs are arranged alphabetically from alef through nun, but they end at Bonei Yerushalayim. That’s because the original place to say kinot was in the middle of the brachah of Bonei Yerushalayim during Shmoneh Esrei! They didn’t say as many kinot as we do, though; they’d recite a few piyutim of kinot and then a few piyutim of nechamot. Similarly, the original minhag in Ashkenaz for Selichot on a taanit was to say it during the brachah of Slach Lanu.

“Studying piyutim reveals minhagim that have been forgotten. For example, on Rosh Hashanah they would blow the shofar in the Beit HaVaad (where the Sanhedrin of Eretz Yisrael sat) even when it occurred on Shabbat. But how was it actually done? There’s a piyut, published by Ezra Fleischer in Tarbiz 54 (reprinted in a volume of his collected writings, Statutory Jewish Prayers) that describes how they would bring the shofar before Shabbat and tie it securely to an amud so that it couldn’t move at all. When it came time to blow the shofar, the baal tekiah would blow the shofar with his mouth without touching it so there would be no issue of carrying.”

“There are many other minhagim as well. In the foreword to every sefer I write, after I describe the literary points, I go into the tochen and the many lost midrashim and so on. I also write about lost minhagim, but what minhagim could I write about for Rosh Hashanah? However, as everyone knows, the way we often find things we’re looking for is through hesech hadaat. You just have to be aware that there’s a problem, because otherwise you might see it without understanding what you’re seeing.

“There’s a question that has bothered researchers for many years. In Masechet Megillah (30b) there is a machloket as to whether to read the parshat hashavua on the arba parshiyot and take out two sifrei Torah—as we do—or to take out only one sefer Torah and read just the special kriah for that week. The question is, according to the second opinion, how could they call up seven people to the Torah on Parshat Shekalim, for example? This question has been examined and much has been written about it.

“The researchers found kitvei yad that say that they simply read longer parshiyot for the arba parshiyot. For example, it says that according to that opinion they would read from Zachor until ba’eir heiteiv in the next parshah [Devarim 27:8]. It says that for Hachodesh they would also read more and Parah is long enough. However, it doesn’t say what they would do for Shekalim.

“A couple of years ago I found a piyut for Parshat Shekalim that I wanted to work on for something else. As I was working on the peirush, I began to wonder why it talks so much about the ketoret if it’s supposed to be about shekalim. Then I realized that it goes from the kiyor to the shemen hamishchah and the ketoret and concludes with ‘V’shamru Bnei Yisrael et haShabbat.’ So I suddenly realized that it must have been the kriah for Parshat Shekalim according to the second opinion—until V’shamru. This piyut was able to help me find a minhag without even searching for it.

“Similarly, the piyutim can give us a picture of what the nusach hatefillah was like. I wrote a paper saying that the nusach of Shmoneh Esrei used to have pesukim before the end of every brachah, just as there are pesukim before the end of birchot kriyat Shema. I proved this from the piyutim, although I was strongly criticized. Then I showed it to one of my former students who told me he’d heard something similar from a researcher who had found a Christian prayer in Greek from the fourth century that was based entirely on Shmoneh Esrei and also had pesukim at the end of each brachah. Another researcher subsequently found a papyrus from that era that also showed one of the brachot with pesukim. There are researchers who still disagree, but I feel that there are now three proofs for this idea.

“I also wrote a sefer called Piyutei Pinchas Hakohen. Pinchas Hakohen was a rosh yeshivah and paytan in Eretz Yisrael during the eighth century. There are many minhagim that can be found in his piyutim as well. He has many beautiful piyutim for Rosh Chodesh, one nicer than the next. However, he also has piyutei kiddush yerachim that are very difficult. In that group, there is a kiddush for each month. But when would kiddush be said on Rosh Chodesh?

“In Masechet Sofrim [19:7] it says that the zekeinim and the talmidim would make a seudah on the night of lamed and after Birkat Hamazon they would pour a cup of wine, say the brachah of Hagafen, and then they would say a brachah that concluded with Baruch atah Hashem, mekadeish Yisrael v’roshei chodashim. So he composed a special nusach of kiddush to be said each month with that brachah. In Masechet Sofrim it says that this wasn’t a regular kiddush but a special praise of Hashem, which had to include something about the tuvei ha’ir, the shevatim, the months of the year and the mazalot.

“You can see in his piyutim that each month contained something about its mazal, the corresponding sheivet, its stone in the Choshen and so on. He goes through it in alphabetical order, and in each month when he reaches the letter tzaddik he discusses the tzom, the fast that occurred in that month. They had a list of fasts that were observed in commemoration of whatever took place in that month. I did some research and eventually found the list in a kinah for Tishah B’Av written by Rabbi Elazar Hakalir. Then I started looking through kitvei yad and found a lot of them describing these fasts. I ultimately wrote a whole book on these fasts, because there are a number of different versions, including one that’s quoted in Shulchan Aruch [Orach Chayim 580:2]. I even gave a full seminar on this topic. One of my students told me she expected it to be boring, but in the end it was the most interesting one she’d ever taken!

“Not everyone observed those fasts; only the talmidei chachamim fasted. Eventually it turned into a list of yahrtzeits of tzaddikim that grew longer and longer, because once they weren’t fasting anyway it didn’t really matter how long the list was. But the original list was quite short. This was something I only found out about thanks to the piyutim of Pinchas Hakohen. I’ve also learned a lot of other interesting things, including some gezeirot the Jews suffered from in those days. The first part of the sefer on the fasts is just texts with philological explanations. The second part is a discussion of all the fasts.

“Are they all yahrtzeits?”

“Most of them are, but some of them commemorate other events that took place. For example, the fast of 8 Teves is observed to commemorate the writing of the Torah in Greek, which is mentioned in Shulchan Aruch.

“Incidentally, I wrote a sefer for the bar mitzvah of each of my sons—although not for my grandsons, because that would be too much for me, ka”h! One son’s bar mitzvah was on Parshat Hachodesh so I wrote about the piyutim of the arba parshiyot. Another one was in Parshiyot Acharei Mot-Kedoshim, so I wrote about a paytan who wrote a lot for Acharei Mot and Yom Kippur.”


“How far do the piyutim go back?” I inquire.

“We have some that go back to the fifth century and maybe a bit earlier, but probably not much earlier than that. The sixth century has quite a lot of piyutim, and by the tenth century we find an explosion, to the extent that every small community had its own piyutim. They were very important to each kehillah. Think about what happens now during chazarat hashatz. People don’t listen with the proper kavanah, and it’s only natural because the chazan is simply repeating what everyone just finished saying. But if the tzibbur expected to hear a new piyut, it would cause everyone to concentrate much better. In those days they didn’t simply repeat the piyutim of the previous year; every year they came up with something new. Just for Shachris of Shavuot we have six piyutim that were written by Rabbi Elazar Hakalir to be said before Kedushah. One of those reached Ashkenaz, but the Genizah has more.”

“Many cultures have been built on the oral transmission of tradition through song. Is that something that existed in our history as well?”

“The paytanim originally knew their songs b’al peh, because as the Gemara says [Shabbos 115b], ‘Kotvei brachot k’sorfei Torah,’ those who write the brachot of Shmoneh Esrei are considered to have burned the Torah [because they are not allowed to be saved if there is a fire on Shabbos]. And the piyutim were actually said within chazarat hashatz instead of the nusach of the middle of the brachot and then they concluded with the matbei’a of the brachah.

“We know this because some piyutim are meshorsharim, linked together by beginning each one with the last word of the previous piyut, which means that nothing was said between the ending of the brachah and the beginning of the next piyut. Additionally, we see that the piyutim mentioned tal and geshem, depending on the time of the year, because that was the only way to mention them. They also said all of the piyutim by heart, which is why they are usually arranged alphabetically to make them easier to remember.

“As we know, it was forbidden to have written siddurim in those days. They only started writing them down much later. If they were written down, it was usually done in secret. But of course, if they hadn’t been written down at all we would never know about them, so they were at least sometimes written down, but the typical person didn’t have one. We have a letter from a chazan to a friend asking him to send him piyutim before the chagim, and to do so quickly, so he would have enough time to learn them by heart.”

“Why did they have to be recited from memory?”

“It’s a matter of kavod not to read words that are meant to be coming from the heart from a piece of a paper. To use a modern example, until the last 20 years or so it was accepted that the President of the United States doesn’t give a speech by reading from a paper. The same applies to a chazan.

“I have a student who is blind. He just sits and listens to my courses, and he’s one of my top students. He knows a lot of midrashim b’al peh. I’ll read a piyut, and he’ll interrupt every couple of words and point out which midrash it’s referring to. He’s used to knowing everything b’al peh, and the same was true for everyone when these piyutim were written. This only changed in the middle of the Geonic period.

“In those days everyone was trained to remember everything. Today, with computers, it’s only getting worse. Everyone relies on the computer and on Bar Ilan’s Responsa Project. The worst part is that without remembering, we don’t even know what to search for. That’s why it’s still so important to commit things to memory. Children used to know the entire Tanach b’al peh before they even began to learn mishnayos, and then they learned that by heart as well.”


“What do you think was the point of the piyutim?”

“To sing beautiful praises of Hashem, although they were also educational.”

“Did they have special melodies?”

“Not exactly songs with actual notes, but they had tunes in the same way that when we daven or learn Gemara there are certain tunes to the words; we don’t just say them. For example, my grandfather would work in the orchards all day long, come home, open a Gemara and chant the words in his special tune. He would also pay his workers to take a break to learn Torah, so anyone who loved to learn wanted to work for him! We don’t really know the melody to which piyutim were chanted, but there was definitely a tune.”

“Did any women write piyutim?”

“No, because the paytan had to be the shliach tzibbur, which obviously precludes women.”

“Rabbi Elazar Hakalir was a shliach tzibbur?”

“Yes, he and the great early paytan Yanai even sometimes signed their works with the word ‘chazan.’ They wrote their piyutim for themselves. When they stood at the amud, the tzibor had no idea what they would say before they heard it.”

“The piyutim of Rabbi Elazar Hakalir are very similar to those of the German Rishonim.”

“That’s because the Germans copied his style. A number of his piyutim made their way from Eretz Yisrael to Italy and from there to Germany, where they imitated him.”

“It takes a real talmid chacham to be able to understand the depth hinted at in his piyutim.”

“That’s true. I am working right now on his piyutim, so I can show you some. There’s a book I published together with Dr. Michael Rand. I wrote the peirush and he examined the kitvei yad. The book consists only of piyutim written by Rabbi Elazar Hakalir for Rosh Hashanah. It was very difficult, because it requires careful examination of all of the midrashim to be able to understand what he’s saying. Interestingly, there are very few piyutim said today that don’t have additional parts that are no longer recited.”

“In other words, they were abbreviated?”

“Yes, in later generations. For example, Ta’ir V’taria, which is said during Shachris of Rosh Hashanah, is just the refrain of a lengthy piyut that is no longer said. Another example is Melech zechor achuz keren. You can see what a great poet the author was, as in those four words he was able to mention malchiyut, zichronot and shofarot, as well as the remembrance of Akeidat Yitzchak. After that we say Melech Elyon, which we can see was censored because each line originally had a corresponding line about the melech evyon—the poor king of flesh and blood—of which we now only say two lines at the end. However, if we look at the kitvei yad we find that there was an additional piyut before Melech Elyon, which apparently was never brought to Germany and isn’t said by any community in the world to our knowledge.”

“I would imagine that if we were to say all of Rabbi Elazar Hakalir’s piyutim for Rosh Hashanah it would probably take us an entire week.”

“Or it could take us an entire year to choose which piyutim we wanted to say in a particular year! He didn’t say everything he’d ever written each year; he apparently alternated.”


“There’s another amazing thing I find when doing research. I am constantly coming across midrashim that were lost to the ages. Sometimes I’ll only find the source years later. For example, there’s a piyut that says that the moon disappears on Rosh Hashanah so that we should not be reproved in judgment. What does that mean? I looked and looked but could not find any such midrash. Eventually I found that Machzor Vitry and others write that Hashem established Rosh Hashanah on Rosh Chodesh so that when the Satan will try to prosecute the Jews by saying they sinned, Hashem will tell him to bring witnesses. The Satan then says, ‘Who should I bring? I can’t bring the sun and the moon, because the moon is in hiding and the sun can’t testify on its own.’ When the Satan comes back on Yom Kippur, Hashem tells him that it’s too late because Bnei Yisrael already did teshuvah. Here we see a source for it in 11th-century Germany, but Rabbi Elazar Hakalir lived in the seventh century. Another paytan, Yannai, who lived in the sixth century, also mentions this idea in a piyut. So without these piyutim we would have thought it was a chiddush of rabbanei Tzarfas, but now we know that it probably originated in a lost midrash.

“Another interesting example: Everyone knows that Haman was referred to as ‘the Agagi’ because Shaul allowed Agag to live one extra night, which allowed Haman’s ancestor to be born. However, the earliest makor we find in writing in the 16th century; this fact was discovered by Rav Shmuel Ashkenazi of Yerushalayim. But I found a ktav yad of a piyut about Purim that describes this very story and explains how Haman’s ancestor was born, which gives us a source from 1,000 years earlier! And there are many similar examples of lost midrashim being kept alive through unknown piyutim.”

“Is it possible that the later chachamim wrote things based on these lost piyutim?”

“That’s very unlikely, because these kitvei yad were never disseminated. But what these piyutim prove is that there was a mesorah that people knew about and may have even been set down in midrashim that were subsequently lost, and the later chachamim who did write about them were familiar with the original mesorah.”

“Do you give shiurim on the meanings of the piyutim?”

“Only in the university, although tonight there will be an event in preparation for Rosh Hashanah where I will be speaking about Unetaneh Tokef.”

“Let’s talk about Unetaneh Tokef for a moment.”

“Everyone knows the story of Rabbeinu Amnon and his mesirat nefesh that led to his writing this piyut. Everyone also knows that he lived in the city of Mainz, Germany, which means that he had to have lived towards the end of the tenth century, because we don’t find any piyutim from that region before that time.”

“He is also a personality about whom we know almost nothing.”

“Exactly. We don’t know anything about him except this story. However, we found Unetaneh Tokef in the Genizah near a collection of piyutim by Yannai. We even began to think that maybe Unetaneh Tokef was written by Yannai, which I still think is true, but at the very least it seems to have come from the era of Yannai. Other researchers argued and said that because of its length and the lack of rhymes and verses it was really from Ashkenaz. Then we found incontrovertible proof that it did not originate in Ashkenaz: a very long piyut from Rabbi Elazar Hakalir to be said right before Kedushah of Musaf that takes the words of Unetaneh Tokef and enlarges upon each line. This clearly shows that while he was not the composer of Unetaneh Tokef, he was familiar with it and it was significant enough in his lifetime that he felt it worthy of being adapted and enlarged upon.”


“I see that you enjoy the piyutim of Rabbi Elazar Hakalir very much, but it would seem that most people appreciate Rabbi Yehudah Halevi more because his style is easier to understand.”

“We’ve found new things from Rabbi Yehudah Halevi as well. Incidentally, not everything he wrote is so easy to understand. Everyone knows Tziyon Halo Tishali, which is easy to understand, particularly in contrast with Rabbi Elazar Hakalir. But many of his piyutim also require study.

“I wrote an article a number of years ago about the piyutim that were written to be said before Kedushah. With all those references to hidden midrashim, they could not have been intended for just anyone sitting in a beit knesset. As I tell my students, ‘You’re all sitting in front of me right now, but when it comes to the test, some of you will get 100% while others might only get 70%.’ The paytanim understood this as well, so in the beginning of those piyutim you’ll find the references hinted at very obliquely. Then, as the piyut continues, those remazim will be fleshed out a bit more, and by the time you get to the end there are concepts that can be understood by anyone. In this way, more and more people can feel a connection.”

“Are all of your books on piyut?”


“But your sefer on the parshah, Shirah Shel Parashah, is something that is accessible to everyone, not just scholars.”

“Absolutely. I wrote another book like that on secular poetry from Spain.”

“How long did it take you to write the sefer on the arba parshiyot for your son’s bar mitzvah?”

“A couple of months. I work very quickly.”

“Which sefer do you consider your biggest accomplishment— your magnum opus?”

“The one I’m in the middle of writing right now. It’s a sefer on the history of the kedushta, which are the piyutim composed to be recited right before Kedushah. There are many chiddushim in that sefer and also things about Rabbi Elazar Hakalir that I discovered.”

“From examining his kisvei yad?”

“We don’t have any kitvei yad from him personally. He passed away in the middle of the seventh century, and the earliest kitvei yad we have are from the ninth century. However, I was able to figure these things out from the style and verses of his piyutim. It’s very complicated; I’ve been working on this for decades.

“Which ones are nicer? The ones he wrote when he was younger, or the ones he wrote when he was older?”

“Although the two styles are very different, they are both very nice, and I wouldn’t say that one is nicer than the other. In between there was a time when his style was very complicated, and I don’t really appreciate it, but I like to say that he was engaged in developing his later style. His later style is much easier to understand and is very lyrical. He wrote piyutim for chatanim and for the seven weeks of nechamah after Tishah B’Av. I wrote a sefer on those. I’m currently working on Rabbi Elazar Hakalir’s piyutim for Yom Kippur, and I daven that Hashem should give me the koach to finish it.”


“Was your father a learned person?”

“Yes. He was a talmid chacham who had studied in Yeshivas Chevron as a bachur, but after that he learned entirely on his own.”

“What was his name?”

“Meir Chovav. My grandfather, father and uncle were all very interested in piyut and zemirot. They had special tunes for all of the zemirot of Motza’ei Shabbat. I don’t know many people who sing all of the zemirot in the siddur, but my grandfather did. When I got married I asked my mother to teach me all of her father’s tunes so I’d be able to pass them onto the next generation, and now all of my children know them as well.”

“I’ve heard of your father. He wrote many sefarim.”

“Right, and he was also an editor. He taught me piyutim as soon as I started to read. He davened in Yeshivat Eitz Chaim and I used to sit next to him as a young girl. They would say the piyutim for the Arba Parshiyot after davening rather than during chazarat hashatz. As they said them, my father would show me the words and explain them to me. My mother was also a teacher of literature and she wrote her master’s thesis on the Selichot of Rabbi Shimon ben Rabbi Yitzchak. So I grew up in a home where piyutim were of the utmost importance. My father had a theory in chinuch that the world needs to hear: When you tell children that if they learn you’ll give them candies, you’re teaching them that the goal is the candies, and that Torah is something that needs to be paid for and isn’t good on its own. My father’s approach was the exact opposite. If you do something correctly, I will stay and learn Torah with you. If you are dressed and ready to go to school early, you can come to my room and I will learn with you. This taught us that Torah itself was the reward. I did the same thing with my children and I’ve seen amazing results.

“Last week we went on vacation up north. When we arrived at the hotel, there was a beit knesset there. Whoever hadn’t davened Minchah yet went and davened, and then they needed a minyan for Maariv, so they waited for a minyan. Our family has seven men over bar mitzvah between our children and grandchildren, so they only had to wait for three more people. In the meantime, I walked in to see what was happening and found my son-in-law learning with a group of children and teaching them the story of tanur shel Achna’i [Bava Metzia 59a]. One of my sons was sitting and learning Gemara with his ten-year-old son. Two grandchildren—cousins—were learning Gemara; everyone was learning. They all know that whenever there’s free time it’s for the purpose of learning. I felt so fortunate. This was exactly my father’s shitah in chinuch. Whenever I see things like this it makes me really happy. Seeing the grandchildren laughing and playing during the vacation was very nice, but seeing them learning like that was so much better.”

“I’m sure the fact that they have a mother like you also helps.”

“And it’s not just my sons; my daughter is also very learned. She is now finishing her doctorate on how to teach family purity in today’s day and age.”

“How many children do you have?”

“I have four, baruch Hashem; one daughter and three sons. My daughter and her 17-year-old daughter daven in the beit knesset three times a day, sitting bitzniut in the ezrat nashim.”

“How long have you been living here in the Old City?”

“Forty-one years.”

“This is a very nice house. Are all the homes here similar?” “Each one is different. No two are the same.”

“Are there any problems with the Arabs in the neighborhood?”

“Almost none.”

“Do people who live here go to the Kotel every day?”

“Some do. There were years when I went every day, but I want to be able to daven properly with a minyan and that’s very difficult to do from the ezrat nashim of the Kotel, so I go to the Churva. I’ve been davening there every day since they renovated it. There are many women in the neighborhood who daven with a minyan every day and even three times a day. Between the Kotel and the Churva, it’s very easy. My husband goes to the Kotel because on the men’s side it’s much easier to daven.”

“What does your husband do?”

“He works at the Academy for the Hebrew Language. They are working on a historical dictionary of the Hebrew language. They have a collection of every word used by Chazal, all of the midrashim, all of the piyutim, megillot genuzot and more. They want to upload as many texts as possible into the computer and then analyze where and how many times every single word can be found. What’s unique is that they don’t just put up every word on the website; they dissect them. So, for example, as I’m working and come across a certain word, I can search for it and see every context in which it is used. They check each text according to the most accurate kitvei yad and give an explanation for every word. This is my husband’s biggest project. They also publish sefarim of the kitvei yad from time to time. For example, they printed the Talmud Yerushalmi from the only full ktav yad in existence. If there are mistakes in the ktav yad they point them out. Right now my husband is working on an index that explains each mistake; he’s constantly working on the Yerushalmi.”

“Was your husband also born in Yerushalayim?”

“Yes. His mother was a Holocaust survivor and his father was a survivor of the Chevron massacre; he was learning in Yeshivat Chevron at the time. My husband was their only son.”

“And now, to sum things up...”

“What can I really say in summary? I thank Hashem for ‘placing my portion among those who sit in the beit midrash,’ and for giving me the ability to teach and explain piyutim. I daven that Hashem should give me the koach to continue with my work.”

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

The Rogochover and More

The Rogochover and More

Marc B. Shapiro

In a recent Jewish Review of Books (Summer 2017), I published a translation of an interview R. Joseph Rozin, the Rogochover, gave to the New York Yiddish paper, Der morgen zhurnal. You can see the original interview here. The fact that the Rogochover agreed to the interview is itself significant. As is to be expected, the content of the interview is also of great interest.

In the preface to the interview, I mentioned that the Rogochover famously studied Torah on Tisha be-Av and when he was an avel, both of which are in violation of accepted halakhah. When he was once asked why, while sitting shiva, he learnt Torah, he is reported to have replied:[1]

ודאי, עבירה היא זו, וכשאקבל עונש על שאר עונותי יענישוני אף על עון זה, אבל אני אקבל באהבה וברצון את העונש על חטא זה, וכדאית היא התורה להלקות עליה

R. Yissachar Tamar cites an eye-witness who reported that the Rogochover said basically the same thing in explaining why he learnt on Tisha be-Av, and noted how wonderful it will be to be punished for studying Torah.[2]

ומה נעים לקבל צליפות על עסק התורה

The Hazon Ish was told that the Rogochover learnt Torah when he was in mourning and that he made another antinomian-like comment in justification of his behavior, namely, that he wants to be in the gehinom of those who learn Torah. The Hazon Ish replied that “this gehinom is the same gehinom for the other sins.”[3]

The various comments quoted in the name of the Rogochover show his great need for studying Torah, a need that simply did not allow him to put aside his Torah study, even when halakhah required it. Yet the antinomian implication of the Rogochover’s comments was too much to be ignored. R. Gavriel Zinner’s reaction after quoting the Rogochover is how many felt.[4]

ולא זכיתי להבין, הלא מי לנו גדול מחכמי הגמ' שנפשם ג"כ חשקה בתורה ואפ"ה גזרו שבת"ב ובזמן אבל אסורים בלימוד התורה, ועוד שאחז"ל הלומד ע"מ שלא לעשות נוח לו שלא נברא.

It is thus to be expected that some authors deny that the Rogochover could have really said any of what I have quoted. And if he did say it, they feel that it must have been merely a joke or a comment not meant to be taken seriously, or that he did not want people to know the real reason he studied Torah while in avelut (namely, the Yerushalmi which will soon be mentioned).[5] R. Abraham Weinfeld goes so far as to say, with reference to one of the comments I have quoted that “It is forbidden to hear these words, and Heaven forbid to suspect that Rabban shel Yisrael [the Rogochover] would say this.”[6] 

Those who refuse to accept that the Rogochover meant what he said are forced to find a halakhic justification for his behavior, and indeed, when it comes to an avel studying Torah (and this would also apply to Tisha be-Av, the halakhot of which are not as stringent as those of personal mourning), there is a passage in the Yerushalmi, Moed Katan 3:5, that permits Torah study for one who has a great need.[7]  (This heter is not recorded in the Shulhan Arukh, but this would not have concerned the Rogochover.[8]) Yet it is important to remember that as far as we know the Rogochover never cited this passage in the Yerushalmi as justification for his studying Torah when he was sitting shiva.[9]

Now for something disappointing and even a bit shocking: Here are the two pages from R. Shlomo Yosef Zevin, Ishim ve-Shitot (Jerusalem, 2007), pp. 75-76, where you can see one of the“controversial” quotations (which as R. Zevin notes is taken from an article in Ha-Hed).

R. Menahem Kasher quoted the entire two pages from Ishim ve-Shitot in his Mefaneah Tzefunot (Jerusalem, 1976), pp. 1-2 in the note.

Look at the end of the first paragraph of the note on p. 2. The "problematic" quotation of the Rogochover, saying that he will happily be punished for his sin in studying Torah, as the Torah is worth it, has been deleted. Instead, the Rogochover is portrayed as explaining his behavior as due to the passage in the Yerushalmi. While all the other authors who discuss this matter and want to “defend” the Rogochover claim that his real reason for studying Torah was based on the Yerushalmi, in R. Kasher’s work this defense is not needed as now we have the Rogochover himself giving this explanation!

Yet the Rogochover never said this. R. Zevin’s text has been altered and a spurious comment put in the mouth of the Rogochover, By looking carefully at the text you can see that originally R. Zevin was quoted correctly. Notice how there is a space between the first and second paragraphs and how the false addition is a different size than the rest of the words. What appears to have happened is that the original continuation of the paragraph was whited out and the fraudulent words were substituted in its place. Yet this was done after everything was typeset so the evidence of the altering remains.

Look also at the third paragraph where it says

ההד, שם

However, this makes no sense as R. Zevin’s reference to Ha-Hed has been deleted. I do not see how anyone other than R. Kasher could have been responsible for this particular "editing." 

As mentioned, many were troubled by the Rogochover’s antinomian-like comment.[10] Yet he is not the only one to speak like this. R. Joseph Hayyim (the Ben Ish Hai) in his Benayahu refers to an unnamed gaon who also learnt Torah when he was in avelut. When asked about this he did not refer to the Yerushalmi but answered in an antinomian fashion just like the Rogochover: “I know that I am violating the words of the Sages, and I know that on the day of judgment I will certainly be punished for this, but he [!] is prepared and willing to suffer and receive this punishment whatever it will be, because he is not able to withstand the pain of avoiding the study of Torah which is as difficult for him as death.”[11] Benayahu appeared in 1905. I do not think it is possible that at such an early date R. Joseph Hayyim could have heard a story about the Rogochover, so he must have had another great rabbi in mind.

The Lubavitcher Rebbe told a similar story.[12] When he was a youth, he had a teacher from Lithuania who lived in his home. He once found this teacher learning on Tisha be-Av. Young Menachem Mendel asked the teacher how is it that he was learning Torah on that day. The teacher replied: “When I come to the World to Come, I will be punished for one reason or another. I will be happy if I know that the reason I am being punished is because I learnt on Tisha be-Av.”[13]

The following subversive story with R. Israel of Ruzhin is also of interest, as it too shows a violation of accepted halakhah regarding Torah study on Tisha be-Av. It appears in R. Mordechai Hayyim of Slonim, Ma’amar Mordechai, vol. 2, p. 206.

הרה"ק מרוזין שהה פעם בימי בין המצרים במעינות המרפא, וביום צום תשעה באב אחר חצות היום, אמר לאחד מבני לוויתו שילמוד מסכתא משניות, ויעשה סיום בליל מוצאי התענית, ויסמכו על זה הקהל אשר שם ויאכלו בשר ואמר בלשו"ק: רבי שמואל קאמינקער אמר, שסיום מסכתא משניות חשוב כמו סיום מסכת גמרא, ועל רבי שמואל קאמינקער יכולין לסמוך כמו על אחד מגדולי הפוסקים. ועל האיסור ללמוד בתשעה באב אחר חצות, דאס נעם איך אויף מיר, און לאזן אידן עסן פלייש . . .

Returning to the interview with the Rogochover, he cites Maimonides who says that the word “Germany” is derived from the Hebrew word gerem, meaning “bone.”

Mishnah Negaim 2:1, in a passage that tells us how things used to be, says that Jews are neither black nor white, but in the middle (meaning, a Middle Eastern look). At the beginning of the Mishnah it speaks of a white spot that appears on a white man and on a black man. The word the Mishnah uses for “white man” is גרמני (German), and for “black man” it uses כושי. Germania was the Roman term for the area we call Germany, so it makes sense that the Mishnah, in describing a white man, would use that term.[14]

Apparently, Maimonides did not know the word גרמני. Thus, in his commentary to Negaim 2:1 he offers the explanation mentioned by the Rogochover, that גרמני is related to the word for bone. (In the interview, the Rogochover says that Maimonides refers to the Hebrew word גרם, but I wonder if this was a mistake on the interviewer’s part, as the word used by Maimonides is the Aramaic גרמא). Here is R. Kafih’s translation:

גרמני שם הלבן ביותר מיוחס אל העצם אשר שמו גרמא

Leaving aside the matter of the correct historical etymology, I wonder if Maimonides saw a problem with his explanation, namely, that for “black man” the Mishnah uses an ethnic identification, so one would expect it to also use such an identification in describing a white man. Furthermore, why would the Mishnah use an Aramaic word instead of the Hebrew עצם?

R. Elijah Benamozegh wonders how Maimonides did not realize what גרמני is referring to:[15]

והפלא על חכמת הרמב"ם שכתב כן ועשה עין של מעלה כאלו אינה רואה שדברי חז"ל מעידים ומגידים שגרמני שם אומה, לא זולת, ומה ענין לגרמא עצם בל' ארמי?

R. Meir Mazuz asks, “How could Maimonides not have thought of this?” namely, that גרמני means German.[16] He explains that Maimonides was an Arabic speaker, and the way he knew Germany was by the term Alemannia. As such, when he saw the word גרמני in the Mishnah, since he did not know the term “Germany” he was forced to come up with a different explanation tying גרמני to “white.”[17]

What R. Mazuz did not know is that this explanation is not original to Maimonides and must reflect an earlier tradition.[18] I say this because R. Hillel ben Elyakim of Greece, who lived in the twelfth century (that is, contemporaneously with Maimonides) independently mentions this explanation. In his commentary to Torat Kohanim, ed. S. Kolodetzky, vol. 1, p. 190, he writes:

ומנלן גרמני הוי לבן כדגרסי' בכל מקום גרמני מוכר כושי וכאן כושי מוכר גרמני דהיינו לבן דעצם מתרגמינן גרמא ועצם הוי לבן.

R. Hillel cites Bereshit Rabbah 86:3 which states: “Everywhere a white man (גרמני) sells a black man (כושי), while here a black man is selling a white man.” He also says דעצם מתרגמינן גרמא. If you look at Onkelos and Targum Ps. Jonathan to Genesis 2:23 this is exactly what you find.

When I found what R. Hillel wrote, I was quite excited, as I thought I had discovered something that no one else had taken notice of. Yet I later found that Jacob Nahum Epstein had already called attention to this in his notes to the commentary attributed to R. Hai Gaon to Seder Toharot (Berlin, 1921), p. 94 n. 32. He assumes that R. Hillel predates Maimonides:

ר"ה מארץ יון בפי' ספרא דף קי"ג ב' ור"מ אחריו הוציאוהו מן "גרמא", עצם!

Returning to the Rogochover, everyone knows that the he put Maimonides above all other authorities. However, R. Zevin, Ishim ve-Shitot (Jerusalem, 2007), p. 125, calls attention to an example where in a practical halakhic matter the Rogochover rejected Maimonides’ view. See She’elot u-Teshuvot Tzafnat Paneah, vol. 1, no. 34:[19]

ואף דרבותינו הראשונים ז"ל וגם רבנו הגדול הרמב"ם לא ס"ל כן עפר אני תחת רגליו אך העיקר כמ"ש לדינא

The Rogochover’s sharp tongue is well known. For an example of how the Rogochover could even speak disrespectfully about the Tosafists, see Rav Tzair, Pirkei Hayyim (New York, 1954), p. 163.[20] Rav Tzair recalls how as a yeshiva student he went to meet the Rogochover where, we can only say, he was “blown away.” He writes:

אחר כך פנה אלי ואמר לי: ואתה בחור למה באת? יש לך קושיא, אמור! מלמלתי בבהלה את הקושיא שהיתה, כפי שאני זוכר, בתוספות של מסכת בבא מציעא, בדיני הפקר ומציאה. על זה השיב לי בבהלה כדרכו. הא, בתוספות? התוספות לא ידעו מה הם סחים; ("תוספות האט געפלוידערט"). נבהלתי, כמובן, לשמוע את הדיבורים הללו, ומלים נעתקו מפי. אמר לי, מה אתה נבהל? אני אראה לך כמה וכמה תוספות שלא הבינו את הגמרא, והתחיל להביא תלי תלים של דברי תוספות מכל הש"ס, והכל בעל פה, על פי הדף ודיבור המתחיל, ועירבב דבר אחד בשני ובבלי בירושלמי, עד שראה שראשי היה עלי כגלגל וחדלתי להבין את המשך הענינים.

Rav Tzair, ibid., p. 164, also mentions the Rogochover’s negative comment about R. Isaac Elhanan Spektor:

הנה הזקן יושב לו בקובנה וכותב ומדפיס וכותב ומדפיס עד אין סוף! מי מבקש זאת ממנו? כלום ספרים חסרים בעולם? הנה זקנך, ששמעתי עליו שהוא בעל-הוראה, יושב ופוסק שאלות. זה הכל מה שצריך. כל הרבנים הכותבים ספרים אינם יודעים בין ימינם לשמאלם.

Zvi Hirsch Masliansky, Maslianky’s Zikhroynes (New York, 1924), p. 107, who has a very negative view of the Rogochover, also records how he denigrated R. Isaac Elhanan as well as R. Samuel Mohilever and the Hibbat Zion movement. He further mentions that the Rogochover disparaged his own rebbe, R. Joseph Baer Soloveitchik:

צוזאמען מיט זיין גוואלדיגען זכרון, האט זיך ענטוויקעלט אין איהם זיין ווילדער עזות און חוצפה צו מבטל זיין אלע גאונים צוזאמען מיט זיין גרויסען רבי' רבי יוסף בער.

See also R. Nathan Kamenetsky, Making of a Godol, pp. 743, 747, for other times that the Rogochover insulted R. Joseph Baer Soloveitchik. (On p. 744 Kamenetsky writes that the Rogochover received semikhah from R. Soloveitchik.)

Masliansky’s Hebrew autobiography is not an exact translation of the original Yiddish. (The English version is a translation from the Hebrew.) The Hebrew edition does not contain the passage just quoted. It also does not contain Masliansky’s concluding negative comment, p. 108:

ער האָט זיך צושריען און צוהיצט, און האָט צומישט און צופלאָנטערט פערשיעדענע ענינים, און ער האָט מיר אויסגעוויזען ווי א פאציענט פון א משוגעים הויז. איך האב אים נאָר ניט גענעטפערט; איך בין ארויס א פערטרויערטער און געדעקט: "אָט דאָס זיינען דיינע גאונים, מיין פאָלק ישראל!"

Kamenetsky, Making of a Godol, p. 747 n. b, mentions the Hebrew edition's deletion of these "revolting lines of the original text." We have a number of descriptions of the Rogochover from people who met him, and while all portray him as unusual, none have the negative spin of Masliansky. Perhaps it was the Rogochover’s anti-Zionism that turned Masliansky against him.  
R. Moshe Maimon called my attention to She’elot u-Teshuvot Tzafnat Paneah ha-Hadashot (Modi’in Ilit, 2012), vol. 2, p. 391 (unpaginated), where we see that in newly published material the Rogochover referred to the Vilna Gaon as “Rabbenu ha-Gra.” This is significant because in the interview I published the Rogochover was hardly complimentary to the Vilna Gaon.[21]
She’elot u-Teshuvot Tzafnat Paneah ha-Hadashot is quite an interesting publication and includes the Rogochover’s notes to some poems of R. Judah Halevi. It is not that the Rogochover had any great interest in Halevi’s poetry. However, the Rogochover was one of those people whose mind was such that he had something to say about everything he read.
I encourage anyone interested in the Rogochover to watch this wonderful video by Louis Jacobs. The Rogochover was one of Jacobs’ heroes, and somewhere he mentions that the Rogochover was one of the people he would have loved to have met.
Regarding Bialik’s visit with the Rogochover that I mentioned in the Jewish Review of Books article, Maimon called my attention to this article by Noah Zevuluni [22]. For more on the meeting of Bialik and the Rogochover, see Doar ha-Yom, Jan. 10, 1932, p. 2, and Davar, April 17, 1935, p. 16 (where it mistakenly states that Bialik said that you could make ten Einsteins out of one Rogochover. He actually said that you could make two Einsteins out of one Rogochover.). The last two sources were brought to my attention by R. Shimon Szimonowitz.
Yossi Newfeld called my attention to the following two works focused on the Rogochover: Regarding the Rogochover and the Lubavitcher Rebbe, there is an MA dissertation by Yisrael Ori Meitlis, “‘Ha-Lamdanut ha-Filosofit’ shel Rabbi Yosef Rozin bi-Derashotav shel Rabbi Menahem Mendel Schneersohn (ha-Rebbe mi-Lubavitch),” (Bar-Ilan University, 2013). There is also the volume Ha-Tzafnat Paneah be-Mishnat ha-Rebbe (Brooklyn, 2003). In a previous post I called attention to R. Dovber Schwartz's wonderful book The Rogatchover Gaon.
It is often said that the Rebbe received semichah from the Rogochover, yet there is no documentary evidence of this. The origin of this notion might be the Rebbe’s mother, who stated as such. See the comprehensive and beautifully produced new book on the Rebbe by R. Boruch Oberlander and R. Elkanah Shmotkin, Early Years.
In my article I mentioned the Rogochover’s unique perspective on the halakhic status of civil marriage. Those interested in this topic should consult R. Menahem Mendel Tenenbaum, Nisuim Ezrahiyim be-Mishnato shel Ha-Rogochovi z”l (n.p., 1988). This book contains an analysis of six responsa of the Rogochover on the topic.
One final point I would like to make about the Rogochover relates to his view of secular studies. He was one of those who responded to R. Shimon Schwab’s query about the halakhic validity of the German Torah im Derekh Eretz approach.[23] You can find his letter in Ha-Ma’yan[24] 16 (Nisan 5736), pp. 1ff. Among the significant points he makes is that, following Maimonides, a father must teach his son “wisdom.” He derives this from Maimonides’ ruling in Mishneh Torah, Hilkhot Rotzeah 5:5:
הבן שהרג את אביו בשגגה גולה וכן האב שהרג את בנו בשגגה גולה על ידו. במה דברים אמורים בשהרגו שלא בשעת לימוד או שהיה מלמדו אומנות אחרת שאינו צריך לה. אבל אם ייסר את בנו כדי ללמדו תורה או חכמה או אומנות ומת פטור.
He adds, however, that instruction in “secular” subjects is not something that the community should be involved in, with the exception of medicine, astronomy, and the skills which allow one to take proper measurements, since all these matters have halakhic relevance. In other words, according to the Rogochover, while Jewish schools should teach these subjects, no other secular subjects (“wisdom”) should be taught by the schools, but the father should arrange private instruction for his son.
רואים דהרמב"ם ס"ל דגם חכמה מותר וצריך אב ללמוד לבנו אבל ציבור ודאי אסורים בשאר חכמות חוץ מן רפואה ותקפות [!] דשיך [!] לעבובר [צ"ל לעבור] וגמטרא [!] השייך למדידה דזה ג"כ בגדר דין.
He then refers to the Mekhilta, parashat Bo (ch. 18), which cites R. Judah ha-Nasi as saying that a father must teach his son ישוב המדינה. The Rogochover does not explain what yishuv ha-medinah means, just as he earlier does not explain what is meant by “wisdom,” but these terms obviously include the secular studies that are necessary to function properly in society.
The publication of this letter of the Rogochover was regarded as quite significant. Yet as far as I know, no one has pointed out that the main point of the letter had already appeared in print. In 1937 R. Judah Ari Wohlgemuth published Yesodot Hinukh ha-Dat le-Dor. On p. 250 he included the following comment of the Rogochover, found in the margin of Rogochover's copy of the Mishneh Torah, Hilkhot Rotzeah 5:5.
נראה לי דר"ל שאר חכמות גם כן חייב האב ללמדו
Excursus 1
For another example of Maimonides offering a speculative etymology for a word he did not know, see his commentary to Yadayim 4:6 regarding the word המירם. In his commentary to Sanhedrin 10:1, Maimonides explains the term אפיקורוס as coming from an Aramaic word. This is surprising as Maimonides knew of the Greek philosopher Epicurus and refers to him in Guide I:73, II:13, 32, III:17. (Even if Maimonides had not heard of Epicurus when he wrote his commentary on the Mishnah, we know that he revised this work throughout his life and yet he never altered his explanation of אפיקורוס.) See Arukh Shalem, ed. Kohut (Vienna, 1878), s. v. אפיקורוס. See also R. Yitzhak Sheilat, Hakdamot ha-Rambam (Jerusalem, 1992) p. 185, who believes that Maimonides knew the real origin of the word but was only following the Talmud’s “midrashic” derivation of the term from the Aramaic word אפקירותא  (see Sanhedrin 100a). See also R. Hayyim Yehoshua Kasowski, Otzar Leshon ha-Mishnah, s.v. אפיקורוס:
וע"פ דמיון השם הזה אל הפעל פקר בארמית השתמשו בו לכנוי נרדף למין וצדוקי ובייתוסי
R. Simeon ben Zemah Duran, Magen Avot (Livorno, 1785), 1:2 (p. 4b), and the section of this work on Avot 2:14also called Magen Avot (Leipzig, 1855), and R. Joseph Albo, Sefer ha-Ikarim I:10, point to Epicurus as the origin of the term אפיקורוס.
In his commentary to Kelim 30:2 and Parah 1:3, Maimonides explains two Greek words with Hebrew etymologies. I see no reason to accept R. Kafih’s opinion, expressed in his notes ad loc., that in these cases Maimonides knew that the words were Greek and was simply offering a “remez.” In fact, in his commentary to Kelim 30:2 he writes explicitly:

והוא לדעתי מלה מורכבת  

If he was simply offering a “remez” he would not have written, “In my opinion,” followed by the etymology. At other times, however, it is possible that Maimonides knew that the words were Greek and he did not intend to offer a scientific etymology. This is the approach of Dror Fixler, who applies it even to the case from Kelim 30:2 just mentioned.[25]
R. Kafih is, of course, correct that the talmudic sages would at times offer a Hebrew etymology for a word that they knew was not Hebrew. The example he offers is Megillah 6a: “Why is it called Tiberias? Because it is situated in the very center of the land of Israel.” The Sages obviously knew that the city was named after a Roman emperor, and the Hebrew etymology can only be regarded as a form of midrash. Apart from modern scholarly sources that discuss the phenomenon of “judaizing” non-Hebrew words, see R. Jacob Emden, Lehem Nikudim, Avot 2:14:
וכן הוא מנהג החכמים ז"ל לגזור ממלות יוניות שמות ופעלים עברייים וארמיים.
R. Emden’s comment was precipitated by the word אפיקורוס which appears in Avot 2:14. R. Emden also mentions the word סנהדרין. See also R. Samuel Moses Rubenstein, Torat ha-Kabbalah (Warsaw, 1912), pp. 29ff. Some of R. Rubenstein’s examples are themselves speculative. For instance, he claims that the words בן דינאי in Kelim 5:10 are a “judaization” of the word “Bedouin.” 

R. Rubenstein notes a number of examples of post-talmudic authorities not realizing the real origin of a word and offering a Hebrew etymology. One of these appears in R. Ovadiah Bertinoro’s commentary to Sotah 9:11, where R. Bertinoro writes as follows regarding the Greek word “Sanhedrin.”
ונקראים סנהדרין ששונאים הדרת פנים בדין
(ש and ס are interchangeable.) Yet I wonder, is R. Rubenstein correct that R. Bertinoro is offering an actual Hebrew etymology for the word “Sanhedrin”? The passage just quoted might be no more than a “midrashic” etymology, which R. Bertinoro would acknowledge is not the real origin of the word. Jacob Reifman refers to R. Bertinoro's etymology as a דרש רחוק מאד. See Reifman, Sanhedrin (Berditchev, 1888), p. 3. He then adds:
ולא אדע עתה מאין לקח, ואולי הוא אך יליד הר"ע עצמו
Reifman was unaware that this etymology is also recorded by R. Jacob Moelin, so it could not have been original to R. Bertinoro. See Sefer Maharil, ed. Spitzer (Jerusalem, 1989), p. 611.
Even if we conclude that the etymology mentioned by R. Moelin and R. Bertinoro was simply “midrashic,” there is no reason to assume that they knew that the word סנהדרין was Greek, knowledge of which was not common among Jews of their time and place. See R. Avigdor Tzarfati, Perushim u-Fesakim le-Rabbenu Avigdor ha-Tzarfati (Jerusalem, 1996), p. 233, who does not know the word’s Greek origin and writes:
ואני שמעתי סנהדרין לשון סני דרין פי' שהיו שונאין דורונות
In this case, it does seem that R. Avigdor is offering what he thinks is the actual etymology of the word. R. Yom Tov Lippman Heller, Tosafot Yom Tov, beginning of Sanhedrin, writes that סנהדרין is an Aramaic word, so he too did not know its Greek origin.
Returning to R. Bertinoro, in his commentary to Avot 2:14 he offers an unscientific etymology of the word אפיקורוס, but he must have known who Epicurus was, so I assume that this is a “midrashic” etymology. 
לאפיקורוס: לשון הפקר שמבזה את התורה ומחשיבה כאילו היא הפקר. אי נמי משים עצמו כהפקר ואינו חס על נפשו לחוש שמא תבוא עליו רעה על שמבזה את התורה או לומדיה.
To turn to a different question, are there any examples in the Talmud where an etymology is not simply “midrashic” but intended to be taken seriously, and yet we know that it is mistaken? The Mishnah in Ketubot 15b mentions a “hinuma.” On 17b the Talmud asks what a hinuma is, and quotes R. Johanan who says: “A veil under which the bride [sometimes] slumbers (דמנמנה).” As Rashi explains, R. Johanan is making a connection between the word הינומא and מנמנה which itself is related to the word תנומה (slumber).[26]

ופעמים שמנמנמת בתוכו מתוך שאין עיניה מגולין ולכך נקרא הינומא על שם תנומה

The Arukh, s.v. הנמא, cites R. Hananel who states that hinuma is a Greek word. It is possible to understand R. Hananel as meaning that R. Johanan’s explanation was no more than a “midrashic” etymology. (This is on the assumption that he understood the passage as Rashi did.) However, this passage in R. Hananel also assumed a life of its own, as some saw it as providing support for the assumption that the Sages were not always correct in their etymologies. This matter has recently been discussed by Hanan Gafni in his fine book, “Peshutah shel Mishnah,” pp. 184ff., so there is no need for me to repeat what he has written.
Excursus 2
R. Raphael Mordechai Barishansky was shocked to read what the Rogochover said about the Vilna Gaon, as I think we all are. He responded strongly in an article in Der morgen zhurnal which was later reprinted in his Osef Mikhtavim Mehutavim (New York, 1952), pp. 167-169. Even though his words are strong, R. Barishansky shows great respect for the Rogochover. 

This is not the case with R. Abraham Aaron Yudelevitz whose attack on the Rogochover is quite sharp. It needs to be said, however, that this came after the Rogochover referred to R. Yudelevitz – who was himself an outstanding scholar – in a very negative way. In printing the Rogochover’s letter, R. Yudelevitz tells us that he cut out some of Rogochover's harshest words, but we still get the picture. The Rogochover was responding to R. Yudelevitz’s novel view that halitzah can be done with an agent, and the Rogochover referred to R. Yudelevitz as a בן סורר ומורה. See R. Yudelevitz, Av be-Hokhmah (New York, 1927), p. 82. [27]
Here is some of what R. Yudelevitz said in response, ibid., pp. 83,85-86. The language is very sharp (and also refers to how the Rogochover rejected something the Vilna Gaon wrote):
פער פיו בזלזולים כהאשה בת בוזי היושבת בשוק ומוכרת עיגולים בשער האשפתות ואולתו כפרתו כי אין קץ לשטותו ולגאותו.
אבל הוא אינו חושש לזה, לא להרמב"ם ולא להשו"ע, כי הוא חושב כי עד שבא הוא לעולם לא היתה לישראל תורה כלל כי לא הבינו תורה מאומה וממנו התחילה התורה ובו תסיים וראוי היה לו לומר דכל מי שאינו אומר כמותו יתכן כי הוא עוד גאון אבל אינו עוד גאון עצום ויחיד בדור כמוהו, אבל גאות אדם תשפילנו כתיב לכן הוא בגאותו שחקים משפיל את עצמו כי אמר רק דברים פשוטים הגונים לבור ולא גאונות והאיש שאינו אומר כמוהו הוא פחות מתלמיד בור ולא שייך בו גדר זקן ממרא ורק הוא שאומר דברי בורות יכול להיות זקן ממרא ח"ו ובאמת כי כל התורה שלנו מונחת במוחו בכח זכרונו הנפלא אבל כח הבנתו קטנה מהכיל זה (כי כח הזכרון וכח הבנה באדם הם שני כחות נגדיים זה לזה כידוע), ולכן הוא מבולבל ומשוגע ומקיים מ"ע והיית משוגע בכל פרטיה ודקדוקיה כראוי לצדיק ובגודל חסידותיה הוא מבטל גם דברי הגר"א מווילנא זצ"ל והוא יושב בעינים על הדרך כי תורתו מלאה עינים, עיין עיין, אבל אינה ברה מאירת עינים רק סמיות עינים.
Regarding the Vilna Gaon, I know of only one other figure in the twentieth century who expressed a somewhat critical view of him and that is R. Nahum Ben-Horim. Here is his picture.
I found the picture on this website, which is an ongoing translation of the important eight volume Leksikon fun der nayer yidisher literatur, which contains over 7000 names. The translator is Professor Joshua Fogel who, you might be surprised to learn, is not a Yiddishist. He is a professor of Chinese and Japanese history at York University in Toronto. In addition to his numerous publications in Chinese and Japanese Studies (almost fifty books written, translated, or edited), he has also published four volumes on the Talmud. See here. I think readers will find the introduction to his book on Tractate Avodah Zarah particularly interesting. See here. Fogel is just one of the many people whose lives have been enriched by the ArtScroll translation of the Talmud.
Ben-Horim, the author of Hakhmei ha-Talmud (Jerusalem, 1922) on R. Yohanan ben Zakai (among other books), was a very minor figure, but it is interesting nonetheless to see what he had to say. The following is a letter that I found here in the Chaim Bloch papers at the Leo Baeck Institute, AR7155-7156, p. 950.

As you can see, he writes as follows about the Vilna Gaon.
והוא בעצמו היה רחוק מאורחא דמהימנותא והראיה כי רדף צדיקים תמימים באף והחרים אותם. הגר"א היה בעל שכל חריף וגאון בידיעות אולם הוא לא היה מעיילי בלא בר לפני ולפנים וטעה והטעה רבים.
When he writes that the Gaon was not מעיילי בלא בר לפני ולפנים, this is a disparaging remark which comes from Sanhedrin 97b and means that the Gaon was not among those “who enter [the heavenly court] without restriction.”
It is also shocking to see Ben-Horim write:
מי שיודע ללמוד מעט או הרבה אסור לו להיות טפש ובעל גאוה וכאלה היו רבים בין הראשונים.
Returning to R. Yudelevitz, here is a picture of him that I previously posted.
He is on the right and R. Gavriel Zev Margulies is on the left. The picture is from 1925 and was taken outside the White House. R. Yudelevitz and R. Margulies were part of a delegation that met with President Calvin Coolidge. For a detailed discussion of R. Yudelevitz and the halitzah controversy, see R. Yoel Hirsch's Yiddish article here. For another informative article by Hirsch on R. Yudelevitz, see here.
Everyone assumes that the idea of halitzah with an agent originated with R. Yudelevitz. However, R. Isaac Raphael Ashkenazi, the rav of Ancona, refers to this notion in a responsum from 1884.[28] He mentions that the rabbi of Modena (whose name is not mentioned) suggested doing halitzah with an agent. R. Ashkenazi strongly rejects this suggestion:
כי דבר זה מתנגד לפשט הכתובים ולשורש המצוה כאשר יבין בנקל כל מבין
Regarding halitzah, you can see an actual ceremony here and here, with R. Aryeh Ralbag presiding.
* * * * * *
1. It has been a while since I had a quiz, so here goes. In the current post I mentioned the prohibition of Torah study on Tisha be-Av. This is an example where the halakhah of Tisha be-Av is stricter than that of Yom Kippur. Many authorities rule that there is also something else that is forbidden on Tisha be-Av but permitted on Yom Kippur. Answers should be sent to me.
2. In my last post I raised the question as to why Middot and Kinnim are the only Mishnaic tractates included in Daf Yomi. Menachem Kagan, himself a Daf Yomi magid shiur, wrote to me that only these tractates of the Mishnah are included in the Vilna Shas as if they are talmudic tractates, by which I mean that they continue the page numbers of other talmudic tractates. We do not know why these mishnaic tractates were included in the Vilna Shas in this fashion, but this is certainly the reason why they were included in Daf Yomi. As to why only Shekalim from the Jerusalem Talmud is included in Daf Yomi, Kagan correctly notes that by including Shekalim the entire order of Moed is complete.
3. Betzalel Shandelman sent me the title page of a vocalized edition of the Mishnah Berurah. As you can see, R. Moses Rivkes’ name is vocalized as Ravkash. Shandelman also sent me the title page of the Oz ve-Hadar edition of the Mishnah Berurah and it does the same thing. I have never seen this vocalization before and it is incorrect. His name was Rivkes, which is from the word Rivkah, supposedly the name of his mother. Similarly, R. Joel Sirkes was called this, as his mother’s name was Sarah. R. Moses Isserles was called this as his father’s name was Israel. The pattern is clear: Rivkes, Sirkes, Isserles.[29] In each case the final letter is a sin, not a shin.

4. Readers have sometimes asked for a list of places where I will be speaking. It happens that there are a number of places in the next couple of months.
December 1-2, 2017, Shaarey Zedek, Valley Village, CA.
December 15-16, 2017, Ohel Leah, Hong Kong

December 29-30, 2017, Shaare Shalom and Kingsway Jewish Center, Brooklyn. On Saturday night, Dec. 30, 7:30pm at Kingsway Jewish Center I will be speaking on "Are We Really One? Orthodox Separatism from Germany until Today."
January 5-6, 2018, Young Israel of Holliswood, Queens
January 19-20, 2018, Skylake Synagogue, North Miami Beach.
I will also be at Majestic Retreats’ wonderful Passover program in Fort Lauderdale.

[1] R. Shlomo Yosef Zevin, Ishim ve-Shitot (Jerusalem, 2007), pp. 75-76. R. Zevin, p. 75, also mentions that the Rogochover learnt Torah on Tisha be-Av.
[2] Alei Tamar, Berakhot, vol. 1, p. 96b.
[3] Orhot Rabbenu: Ba’al ha-“Kehilot Ya’akov” (Bnei Brak, 2001), vol. 4, p. 184.
[4] Nit’ei Gavriel, Avelut, p. 551 (ch. 106). In his discussion, R. Zinner calls attention to the fascinating information in R. Hayyim Karlinsky, Ha-Rishon le-Shoshelet Brisk (Jerusalem, 1984), p. 321, that when R. Joseph Baer Soloveitchik (the Beit ha-Levi) was sitting shiva for his father, he wanted people to tell him Torah insights from his father. When asked if this is not forbidden as Torah study during avelut, R. Soloveitchik replied:

חידושי תורה של הנפטר לא זו בלבד שמותר לבנו האבל לשמוע, אלא אדרבה! מצוה לו לשמעו. שכן מלבד שיש בהם משום זכות לנשמתו של הנפטר . . . הרי הם מגדילים ומרבים את צערו ויגונו של האבל בהעריכו יותר את אבידתו הגדולה בפטירת אביו.

[5] See e.g., R. Avraham Yekutiel Ohev Tziyon, Ya’alat Hen, vol. 1, p. 290; R. Hayyim Kanievsky. Derekh Sihah (Bnei Brak, 2004), 487.
[6] R. Abraham Weinfeld, Lev Avraham, no. 98.
[7] See R. Chaim Rapoport, “Sipurim Temuhim . . .,” Hearot u-Veurim 33:2 (2013), pp. 55-67, for an excellent discussion of the matter.
[8] R. Joseph Karo cites the passage from the Yerushalmi in Beit YosefYoreh Deah 384, but adds that this view was not accepted. Shibolei ha-Leket, ed. Buber (Vilna, 1887), Hilkhot Semahot no. 26 (p. 177), appears to be the only rishon to accept the Yerushalmi’s position. See R. Ovadiah Yosef, Yabia Omer, vol. 2, Yoreh Deah no. 26:3.
[9] R. Hayyim Kanievsky. Derekh Sihah, p. 487, thinks that the Yerushalmi's position is why the Rogochover studied Torah while sitting shiva, but he did not want to tell people that this was his reason, presumably, because this would seem haughty. There are examples of other great scholars who studied Torah while sitting shiva, and they indeed explained their behavior by citing the Yerushalmi. See e.g., R. David Falk, Be-Torato Yehegeh (Jerusalem, 2012), p. 76. Yet this still remains problematic for some. See e.g., R. Moshe Shulzinger, Peninei Rabenu Yehezkel (Zikhron Meir, 1992), vol. 1, p. 48, who cites an unnamed “gaon” who did not approve of using the heter of the Yerushalmi and commented:

איך אפשר שהדין הנפסק שאבל אסור בת"ת נאמר רק ליושבי קרנות, ולא לת"ח המבינים ומרגישים בתורה כי היא חייהם ולהוטים אחרי', אתמהה.

It is reported that while sitting shiva, R. Hayyim Soloveitchik studied in depth those Torah subjects that are only permitted to be studied in a perfunctory way. See Kamenetsky, Making of a Godol, p. 932. Kamenetsky also quotes R. Joseph B. Soloveitchik that according to R. Hayyim study that is not in depth is not even regarded as Torah study
[10] Speaking of antinomianism, see Yehudah le-Kodsho (Tel Aviv, 2001), vol. 3, pp. 117-118, where the hasidic rebbe R. Shlomo Eger of Lublin writes to the Rogochover arguing that as long as some prayer is said in the morning in the זמן תפילה, one can recite the morning Amidah after this time: יכולין להתפלל אימת שירצה. Unfortunately, we do not have the Rogochover’s response to R. Eger, in which he certainly would have blasted this unprecedented suggestion.
[11] BenayahuBerakhot 24b (p. 8a(.
[12] See Rapoport, “Sipurim Temuhim,” (above, n. 16), pp. 63-64. See ibid., note 50, for the numerous places in the Rebbe’s works where the story is found.
[13] For an interesting hasidic passage that includes Tisha be-Av but focuses on fasting rather than learning Torah, and includes a shocking comment about the Anshei Keneset ha-Gedolah, see R. Abraham Yelin, Derekh Tzadikim (Petrokov, 1912), pp. 13b-14b (emphasis added):

ושמעתי מחסיד ישיש א' שנסע להרה"ק ר' יחזקאל מקאזמיר ז"ל שהוא היה מקיל גדול בתעניות, ואמר שאנשי כנסה"ג שתקנו התעניות מתביישין על שלא הסתכלו בדורות אלו, וסיפר כמה ענינים מקולותיו שהיה קשה לי לכתוב, ובשם רבינו הקדוש ז"ל מפאריסאב שמעתי שאמר בזה"ל מוזהר ועומד אני מהה"ק ר' נתן דוד ז"ל משידלאווצע לדרוש ברבים ששום אשה שראויה עדיין לילד לא תתענה כ"א ביום הקדוש, ולכן עכ"פ אדרוש זאת לידידיי.

I will deal with fasting in my next post.
[14] See the Vilna Gaon’s commentary and Tiferet Yisrael, ad loc. See also the Vilna Gaon’s commentary to I Chron. 1:4.
[15] Em la-Mikra, Gen. 10:2.
[16] Bayit Ne’eman 41 (17 Kislev 5777), p. 2. R. Mazuz cites R. Benamozegh. See also R. Mazuz, Mi-Gedolei Yisrael, vol. 3, p. 55.
[17] See Excursus 1.
[18] Kohut, Arukh ha-Shalem, s.v. גרמן, also did not know this, as he writes:

הרמב"ם גוזרו מלשון גרם עצם, וקשה להלמו!

[19] There are two “volume 1” of the Tzafnat Paneah. The one I refer to is the volume published by Mrs. Rachel Citron, the Rogochover’s daughter.
[20] See Yair Borochov, Ha-Rogochovi (n.p., n.d.), p. 179, for a report that the Rogochover suggested that the head pains he suffered from were punishment for perhaps having treated rishonim and aharonim without the proper respect. There is something very strange in this book on p. 176, which is cited מפי השמועה (see sources on p. 419). Borochov states that the Rogochover’s opinion was that Muslims are worshipers of avodah zarah, as they worship the moon! This is so absurd that it is difficult to believe that the Rogochover could have said it. Borochov then states:

והגאון המשיך: הרמב"ם לא פסק שהם עובדי עבודה זרה, כיוון שהוא התגורר בארצות האיסלם ופסק כזה היה בגדר סכנה ופיקוח נפש.

It is simply impossible to believe that the Rogochover could have said something so outlandish.
[21] See Excursus 2.
[22] Regarding the Rogochover's harsh comments about other great Torah scholars, and how he referred to these scholars,  Zevuluni writes:

  התבטאויותיו החריפות כלפי רבים מגדולי התורה בדורו ואף בדורות הקודמים, לא גרמו בדרך כלל למרירות ולנטירת  איבה . . . הוא היה נוהג לקרוא לגדולי הדור ואף בדורות הקודמים בשמותיהם הפרטיים

Zevuluni records the following story that he heard from the Rogochover. The Rogochover was once a dayan in a large monetary dispute. After a compromise was reached, the litigants put a significant amount of money on the table as payment to the dayanim. The other two dayanim refused to take the money and the Rogochover therefore took it all. He explained that the Talmud, Hagigah 4a, states: Who is [deemed] an imbecile (shoteh)? One that destroys all that is given to him. The Rogochover said that one would have expected the Talmud to say, One that destroys all that he has rather than all that is given to him. From here, the Rogochover stated, there is a proof that if someone gives you something and you refuse to accept it, that you are an imbecile. The Rogochover added, I do not want to to included in this category.

Kamenetsky, Making of a Godol, also records comments of the Rogochover about other Torah scholars. See e.g., p. 743 n. i, that in 1934 the Rogochover said that there is no one in Eretz Yisrael who knows how to learn.

Interestingly, on p. 739, Kamenetsky quotes his father that R. Hayyim Soloveitchik and R. David Friedman of Karlin were greater scholars than the Rogochover.
[23] I discuss this matter in Between the Yeshiva World and Modern Orthodoxy, pp. 152-153, and in “Torah im Derekh Eretz in the Shadow of Hitler,” Torah u-Madda Journal 14 (2006-2007), pp. 85-86.
[24] In Modern Hebrew the word מעין is pronounced ma’ayan, as if there is a patah under the ayin. In reality, there is a sheva under the ayin. See Yehoshua Blau, “Al ha-Mivneh ha-Murkav shel ha-Ivrit ha-Hadashah le-Umat ha-Ivrit she-ba-Mikra,”Leshonenu 54 (2000), pp. 105-106.
[25] See Fixler, “Perush ha-Rambam le-Milim ha-Yevaniyot she-ba-Mishnah,” Asif 2: Tanakh u-Mahashavah (2015), pp. 384-393.
[26] Rashi’s explanation is not without problems. See R. Weinberg, Seridei Esh, vol. 3, p. 87.
[27] R. Elijah David Rabinowitz-Teomim also was very critical of the Rogochover, yet any such comments have been censored in his published writings. However, one passage was published from manuscript in Shmuel Koll, Ehad be-Doro (Tel Aviv, 1970), vol. 1, p. 202:
 והרב ר' יוסף ראזין נ"י הנקרא הראגאצובער מדינאבורג, אמר שדברי הח"ס הם דברי שטות  ונבהלתי לשמוע קלות הדעת ממי שהוא רב יושב כסאות למשפט הוראה לדבר דברים כאלה על אור עולם הח"ס ז"ל, אשר בצדקתו ורוחב לבבו כפתחו של אולם הוא כאחד הראשונים ומי כמוהו מורה בכל חדרי תורה, ובעוה"ר רבו הקופצים בראש שלא למדו כל צרכן, ולא שימשו כל עיקר שמוש ת"ח, אשר לחד מ"ד עדיין הוא ע"ה כבברכות מ"ז ב', חבל על דאית לי' דרתא ותרעה לדרתי' ל"ע, ואף למאן דל"ל גם דרתא

[28] Va-Ya’an Yitzhak, Even ha-Ezer, no. 15.
[29] When I say “the pattern” I mean the pronunciation of the first syllable, as Isserles was actually probably pronounced “Israls.” The final “s” is a possessive so Moses Israls (Isserles) = “Moses of Israel”, Joel Sirkes = “Joel of Sirka (Sarah), and Moses Rivkes = “Moses of Rivkah.” See R. Hayyim Yitzhak Cohen’s letter in Or Yisrael 45 (Tishrei 5767), p. 252. Other surnames that come from a female progenitor are, as Shimon Steinmetz reminded me, Chajes, Edels, and Pesseles. I assume that Perles is also to be included in this list. I do not know about the name Fleckeles, but there is a place in Germany called Fleckl, so that might be the origin.

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