Friday, October 28, 2005

Minhagim Books No. 1

I hope to present a couple of post on various Minhagim books. Some will focus on communal Minhagim books, and others on the minhagim of specific people.

The Tashbetz, also known as the Tashbetz Koton to distinguish between this the teshuvot haTashbetz, are the customs of R. Meir of Rothenburg as recorded by his disciple. The disciple's name formed the title, however, it is unclear what exactly was his name. Obviously, it is linked to the title, Tashbetz. Some explain the title as Talmid Shimon ben Tzodok others say he was Talmid Shmuel ben Tzodok, or Tosefot Shimon ben Tzodok, Tosefot Shimon ben Yoitz, orTikkun instead. The book was supposedly written when R. Meir was imprisoned.

The book collects all the customs of R. Meir dealing with the holidays, prayers and everything in between. As R. Meir is one of the gedoli Ashkenaz many of his customs were followed by subsequent generations. Of course, his customs were generally highly influential also due to his students, R. Mordechi ben Hillel haKohen, author of the Mordechai code on the Talmud, R. Asher b. Yehiel (Rosh) as well as his son R. Jacob (Tur) as well as many others.

There are many fascinating customs, whose sources are from the Tashbetz. , standing during the recitation of the Torah, washing ones hands after the kiddush, eating head of a ram on Rosh haShana, saying Zikhron Terura when Rosh haShana is on Shabbat, reciting both Eloki 'ad shelo netzarti and aloki netzor on Yom Kipppur and the list goes on. There are also some key passages, which explain other unclear customs. For instance, Naftali Wieder explains a rather cryptic passage in the Tashbetz as offering a totally new rational for why some people switch the word b'Fie (Bet-Peh-Yud) in Barukh She'amar to b'Feh (Bet-Peh-Hey). According to Wieder, Fie, is a curse in numerous languages, [think fie fi fo fum] and thus, the Tashbetz is saying for that reason one must alter the word.

There is actually a new edition of this book, however, it has some rather glaring flaws. The editor of this edition, [Sefer Tashbetz haKoton, Israel, 2005 Machon Torah S'beketav] states that he used a specific manuscript for this version, namely the one that he matched up with R. Yosef Karo. From the fact that this manuscript conformed with R. Karo's readings, this was the manuscript of the Tashbatz. Why the manuscript R. Karo, who lived some 300 years after the time of the transcription of the book, is left wholly unanswered. Further, aside from matching up a couple of passages from the Tashbetz with that of R. Karo, nothing further is offered about this manuscript. The editor never dates the manuscript, talks about where it was written and by whom. In fact, the reader is left to guess whether this manuscript was written after the Shulhan Orakh and Bet Yosef and was done with the specific purpose of conforming with the readings of R. Karo. The editor never says which of the "hundreds" of manuscripts there are of the Tashbetz is actually the oldest. Only that if R. Karo may have used one then that one is dispositive of R. Meir of Rotenberg's statements. Obviously, this is absurd.

This fundamental flaw aside, there are some positive points of this reprint. The first is that they have reproduced the first edition of the Tashbetz, Cremona 1556. This is reproduced fully, including a interesting title page which can be added to a previous post of mine. The editor has also added some notes, which at times are helpful. He generally uses abbreviation in referencing other books, he includes a key to explain these abbreviations. However, he cites to R. Daniel Goldsmit's Machzor as well as Weider (cited above) but for those abbreviations, the reader is left on there on. I assume he did not want to "taint" anyone with citations to scholars that although he saw fit to use, did not wish to fully reveal to his readers.

For further reading on both R. Meir and the Tashbetz, see Arbach Ba'alei haTosefot, 552-564; Yode'a Sefer (in vol. 2 of the Roest Catalog) no. 2525; Encyclopedia Judaica 11:1247-53; N. Wieder, Hisgabsut Nusakh haTeffila b'Mizrak u'Ma'ariv (The Formation of Jewish Liturgy in the East and the West) Jerusalem 1998 469-491.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Simchat Torah Book

I was going to post about the most comprehensive book on Simchat Torah, Avraham Ya'ari's Toldot Hag Simchat Torah, however, Miriam has already posted a very nice summary of it.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Besamim Rosh

In the previous post, I mentioned a new book which is a collection of articles by Moshe Samet, who is well-known for his studies of the Besamim Rosh. In the comments section it appeared that some wanted more information regarding the Besamim Rosh. I hope this will answer some of the questions raised and give a more comprehensive background.

The Besamim Rosh is a book of reponsa first published in Berlin in 1793. It contained two parts, the teshuvot and a commentary titled kasa d'harsena. The person who published it, R. Saul Berlin was the Berlin Chief Rabbi's son. R. Saul claimed the teshuvot were from a manuscript which he attributed to the Rosh, R. Asher ben Yehiel. The commentary, kasa d'harsena, was from R. Saul. Right after it appeared there were some that doubted the authenticity of atleast some of the teshuvot. They claimed that those teshuvot were not from the Rosh.

There were many novel teshovot. Among these was one permitting shaving on Hol haMo'ad, permitting kitneyot and claiming kitneyot was actually a Karite custom, and relaxing the restrictions on a suicide.

The first book to come out against the Besamim Rosh was written by R. Ze'ev Wolf, titled Ze'av Y'trof and was published that same year, 1793. In it he takes issue with some of the teshuvot that are in the Besamim Rosh. He also, claims that R. Saul retracted one, the teshuva permitting shaving on hol haMo'ad. However, it is unclear whether R. Saul admitted it was a forgery or he retracted in a less sensational manner.

After this book, there were numerous others who doubted either the entirety or at least portions of the book. However, R. Saul's father, R. Tzvi Hirsch Levin (Berlin) defended the work of his son and vouched for the authenticity of it. He claimed to have seen the actual manuscript, something that no one else had seen. There were others who also supported the book. It appears that R. Yosef Hayyim David Azulai, Hida, also vouched for it, based upon the testimony of R. Tzvi Hirsch.

R. Saul, actually had a history that may explain why some were suspect of him. He published under a pseudonym a book title Mitzpeh Yekutel which attacked R. Rafeal Hamburg, the chief Rabbi of Altona, Hamburg, Wansbeck (AH"U). This book was put in herem and burned in some cities. [As an aside after he was unmasked there were at least two teshovot published by different authors dealing with jurisdiction in herems. That is, whether the herem of one city, namely AH"U, can be enforced in another, namely Berlin. Obviously, this has many modern day implications, but it appears that many are not aware of such jurisdictional limitation of herems.]

Thus, it appears that some people already had rather negative opinions of R. Saul and this may have influenced their opinion of the authenticity of the Besamim Rosh.

As mentioned above, the Besamim Rosh was first published in 1793, however, it was not republished until 1881, nearly 100 years later. In this edition, two teshuvot were removed. The teshuva relaxing the rules for a suicide as well as one that permitted one riding on a horse on Shabbat. This second teshuva dealt with a case where one was riding on a horse and the Shabbat was approaching. The rider was faced with a dilemma, should he stop and thus have to scourge and rely on the hospitality of others or continue on to avoid that type of "embarrassment." The teshuva permits him to continue based upon the rule kovod habreiot dokhe l'o s'ashe. That is, for respect one can violate certain prohibitions.

Finally, the Besamim Rosh was republished from the original edition in 1984. This edition has an extensive introduction that attempts to rehabilitate the Besamim Rosh. However, there are numerous flaws with the introduction. The publisher twists and in some instances perverts statements of those that question the authenticity of Besamim Rosh. He also make absurd arguments in support of his goal.

For example, one of the people that doubted the authenticity of the Besamim Rosh was R. Moshe Sofer, Hatam Sofer. Hatam Sofer calls the Besamim Rosh the Ketzvi haRosh -the lies of the Rosh. (Orakh Ha'ayim no. 154) However, the publisher claims this is an error. He explains that the Vienna edition (1895) of the Teshvot Hatam Sofer don't read kitzvi haRosh, rather it reads kitvei haRosh- the writings of the Rosh. Thus, according to the publisher, all the editions of the Hatam Sofer that people relied upon were incorrect.

This, of course, is silly. The first edition of the Teshvot Hatam Sofer of this volume, was NOT the Vienna edition, rather it was Presburg, 1855. In that edition, which the publisher conveniently ignores, it says "kitzvei haRosh" the lies of the Rosh. This is but one of the numerous examples that can be found in this 1984 reprint.

In conclusion, there is a long running debate about the authenticity of this work, which has not been fully resolved, although at least one blogger may have a method to do so.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Moshe Samet and Manuscripts vs. Books

Manuscriptboy has two very nice posts today. One discusses a new book and various talks connected to the book. The book is a collection of articles by Moshe Samet. Moshe Samet has written some of the best pieces most notably on the Besamim Rosh, the teshuvot that were atributed to R. Asher b. Yehiel (Rosh) but are most likely a forgery and the product of the publisher, R. Saul Berlin. Samet has also written on the R. Moshe Sofer (Hatam Sofer) and more generally on the clash between the Reform movement and the Orthodox movement.

The second post discusses the conference held in honor of Benjamin Richler, the head of the manuscript department at the Jewish National University Library at Hebrew University. There was, what appears to have been, a facinating talk on the "evils" or more correctly the effect of printing on the preservation of manuscripts.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Update- Temple Service on Yom Kippur

Amshinover has a very nice post on the piyyutim connected to the temple service on Yom Kippur.

Temple Service on Yom Kippur

A significant portion, and perhaps the highlight, of the repetition of the Yom Kippur mussaf is the description of the Yom Kippur service as preformed in the temple. Many, however, are unfamilar with this service. There is an excellent book on the korbonot generally which devotes a portion to describing the Yom Kippur service, including the disagreeements amongst some Medievil commentors. The portion on the Yom Kippur service is highly readable and full of facintating details.

R. Raphael Nathan Nata Rabbinovicz, famous for his Dikdukei Soferim, (also recently reprinted) published the work of his Rebbi and father-in-law, R. Yosef Fadua, Ikrei haAvoda, in 1863.

The first printing was titled Ikrei haAvoda and the second printing in 1910, the book's title became Ikrei haKorbonot.

R. Yisrael Meyer Kagan, (Hafetz Hayyim) promoted the republication in 1910 and according to the publisher, the Hafetz Hayyim himself wanted to republish this book due to its importance. The Hafetz Hayyim thus allowed for the inclusion of his introduction to his own work on the korbonot, "Asefat Zekanim." This introduction includes why studying the korbonot is so important event today when one can't offer them. The publisher also states that at that time (1910) the first edition was exteremly rare and thus there was a need to republish the book.

Although, the printer does not offer why he changed the title, perhaps due to the inclusion of this additional materials that he felt he was kone b'shinu ma'ashe.

This book was recently republished by Mochon Mishnat Rebi Ahron. In this new edition they have reset the type and added footnotes and some minor corrections. (Although, they have also added some typograpical errors as well. (See, e.g. pp. 82 and 83)). They have kept the second title, Ikrei haKorbonot. I purchased this book at Beigeleisen books in Boro Park.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Collection of Articles on Sabbatianism Online

The book The Sabbatian Movement and Its Aftermath: Messianism, Sabbatianism and Frankism, edited by Rachel Elior, is available online, in its entirety, for free (see here).

The book includes articles by Elisheva Carlebach, "The Sabbatian Posture of German Jewry," Jacob J. Schacter, "Motivations for Radical Anti-Sabbatiansim: The Case of Hakham Zevi Ashkenazi," as well as an excellent article in Hebrew by Moshe Fogal "Sabbatianism of the book Hemdat Yamim: A New Exploration."

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Where to get out-of-print seforim

Question: Where can one get out-of-print seforim?

Answer: Some can be purchased via auction. There are a few auction houses that specialize in seforim. Kestenbaum, Baronovitch, Asufa, and Jerusalem Judaica are some.

Then there are dealers and stores. I would always first check Biegeleisen (718) 436-1165 to see if it is truly out-of-print. Then there is Seforim World, which is right next door to Biegeleisen who has out-of-print seforim.

Then there is also Pinters Hebrew Book Store, 4408 14th Avenue (718)-871-2260 who in theory is a repository of seforim people no longer want, however, if you dig one can find some gems there.

I also use Rabbi Eliezer Katzman (718)-851-0490 and R. Wigder in Mount Kisco (914) 242-0324. I have also received via email, a catalog from a dealer in Melbourne Australia, Adir, the catalog has some terrific items, and the contact email is sba-at- sba2-dot-com

One can also try bookfinder which has some Judaica dealers as well as well as Ebay.

The easiest place to get out-of-print seforim is at the library, most major university libraries contain Judaica.

These are some of the ones that I am familiar with, if you know of others please let me know.

Book on Yeshivot

Shaul Stampfer has republished a revised and expanded edition of his HaYeshiva haLita'ot b'Hitavato. The book which is devoted to three yeshivot, Volozhin, Slobodka, and Telz, as well as the Kovno kollel. The book tracks the Volozhin yeshiva from its inception to its closure and the Slobodka and Telz yeshivot until the turn of the twenteenth century.

This book was originally Stampfer's dissertation, Shlosh Yeshivot Litayot b'Meah haTisha Asarah (1981) and was published in book format in 1995. This edition includes numerous updates as well as much new information, especially regarding the closure of Volozhin. Stampfer now argues, based upon new Russian governmental documents, which he includes Hebrew translation of, that the Yeshiva was closed due to the its own internal upheaval. This internal strife was caused by R. Naftali Tzvi Yehuda Berlin (Netziv) attempting to install his son as Rosh haYeshiva. At Telz a similar fight broke out also regarding succession, as well as in Volozhin itself, on two separate occasion. However, the last fight caused such a rapid decline in the internal going ons of the Yeshiva, the government had it shut. The closure did not have to do with the haskala, the Russian government wanting to meddle into Jewish education or any of the other reasons offered. Instead, as has been borne out throughout Jewish history, the Jews brought it upon themselves. For example, the burning of the Talmud in France after the controversy regarding Rambam's writings as well as the banning of the Talmud in the 16th century were caused or at least the catalyst was internal fighting amongst the Jews.

The book also debunks other theories regarding the opening of Volozhin. Some claim the R. Hayyim Volozhin ask R. Eliyahu of Vilna (Gra) and received his blessing to open the what was the first Yeshiva. Stampfer, however, questions this and notes that in the initial Kol Koreh R. Hayyim Volozhin makes no mention of this, something that would have bolstered his fundraising efforts. Second, Stampfer also proves that the opening of Volozhin was not in response to the Hassidic movement.

Aside from the above, the book is full of first hand accounts of the Yeshivot. These include, Volozhin started praying in the morning at 9 am and the prayers only ran 15-20 minutes. Stampfer qualifies this by noting haNetz haHama in Vilna (just north west of Volozhin) during the winter is 9:17 and also notes the 15-20 minutes is probably slightly exaggerated. Telz yeshiva was the first to institute grade levels in a yeshiva. Also, according to Simcha Assaf's account, R. Lazer Gorden encouraged him to learn Russian and had his son teach Assaf in his own home. Stampfer includes much about the influence of Zionism and the haskalah on the yeshivot. All you ever wanted to know about all the infighting in the Yeshivot. The first to move to establish a kollel was R. Yitzhak Ya'akov Reines, who was highly controversial with the establishment of his yeshiva in Lida - arguably a precursor to Yeshiva University. These are only a tiny portion of the terrrific nuggets that can be found in this book.

I purchased this book at Beigeleisen in Boro Park (718-436-1165)

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