Monday, June 25, 2007

“Rational inference,” “The rules of grammar,”--On neither knowing what Rashi wore nor what Rashi said.

I must repost the introduction to this post
If you wish to know what brand of tobacco Rashi used, ask Leopold Zunz. If you wish to know the interpretation of Rashi's writings, ask me.

--remark traditionally attributed to...R. Jacob Ettlinger (1798-1871) of Altona (quoted from Bernard Revel Builder of American Jewish Orthodoxy by Aaron Rothkoff, pg. 241)
The great historian of the Jewish past, Heinrich Graetz, got most of his facts right in his monumental work, History of the Jews. But his obvious bias against traditional Judaism and his almost obsessive hatred of the rabbis of Israel spawned a school of Jewish history that did great damage to the Jewish people. They may have known what color shirt Rashi wore, but they ignored what Rashi really stood for and his immortal contribution to Jewish survival and destiny.

--R. Berel Wein, published originally in the Jerusalem Post and reprinted here
in light of new facts (in old flasks; from 2004):
Gedolei Yisroel Warn Against Series of Books Containing Alterations in Siddurim and Chumoshim

“Woe to a generation in which every man does as he sees fit. And the matter should be publicized to prevent others from being drawn in by their ways,” write maranan verabonon gedolei Yisroel headed by Maran HaRav Yosef Sholom Eliashiv shlita, in a letter opposing the publication of “precise” (“meduyak”) editions of Chumoshim and Tehillim as well as new siddurim and machzorim that contain grave breaches and changes from the accepted tradition handed down to us.

The letters appear at the beginning of a leaflet titled,
“Ligdor Peretz,” distributed in Torah halls and botei medrash of every stream and background. Gedolei Torah encouraged the publication of the leaflet to express opposition to attempts to introduce new versions and foreign ideas in what is billed as a “precise siddur” (“Hasiddur Hameduyak”) in the nusach of Eidot Hamizrach containing “emendations” of the accepted nusach -- changes that threaten to damage the foundations of Judaism and cause breaches beyond our forefathers' imagining.

Similarly, emendations in the books Tikkun Sofrim Hameduyak, Tehilim Hameduyak and Hachumash Hameduyak were based on
“rational inference” and “the rules of grammar,” contradicting the accepted tradition practiced by Klal Yisroel.

The publishers declared their intentions to disseminate the books widely in an attempt to replace the Chumoshim currently used by all kehillos. The book, Hachumash Hameduyak, represents an additional breach by supplanting Rashi's age-old commentary with a new commentary called Peninei Rashi Umidrashim, which leaves out numerous entries from Rashi's classic commentary and includes other midroshim of the editor's choosing instead.

About ten years ago, following an attempt to publish a Chumash with a similar commentary, Maran HaRav Shach, ztl, and ylcta HaRav Eliashiv, wrote a letter reading, . . . And this is a terrible breach that should strike dread in the hearts of all who hear, for who can predict what it could lead to?

Talmidei chachomim asked to examine these books were dismayed, and when the matter was brought to the attention of gedolei Yisroel they were told the changes are cause for serious concern, particularly since the publishers openly declare that all of Klal Yisroel should adopt the new nuscho'os.

The letters written by gedolei Yisroel express unyielding opposition to the books, whose editors failed to heed various warnings by the leading Acharonim not to alter the tefilloh by abandoning the nuscho'os we received from our forefathers. . . . And even more shocking is that they [grant themselves] the power, like Chazal, to issue decrees and to uproot, by omission, the nuscho'os of the Kadmonim due to what they assert to be the needs of the hour.

Among the alterations was the deletion of the word meheiroh from the Sephardic nusach of Bircas Ahavat Olom before Shema. Although Shaar Hakavonos of HaRav Chaim Vital includes the word, the editors insist on removing it despite HaRav Chaim Vital's assertion it was brought down from the Arizal himself.

The editors also altered Oleinu Leshabei'ach, based on the rules of grammar and speech,replacing the words
vegoroleinu kechol hamonom with velo goraleinu kechol hamonom. This alteration contradicts Rav Yehuda Hachossid and the Rokeach, both Rishonim who stated that Yehoshua Bin Nun formulated this prayer with exactly 152 words. This same emendation is recorded in the history books as one of the changes proposed by Nosson Ho'azosi, a talmid of Shabsai Tzvi yimach shemo.

The leaflet Ligdor Peretz quotes poskim from various generations who say that one should strictly adhere to the tradition handed down to us from our forefathers and practiced in Klal Yisroel for generations and who rule out making changes even in cases where the text contradicts the rules of grammar. Some poskim even write that one who alters seforim based on logical inference should be excommunicated. The various medakdekim have always been known for initiating dangerous trends that must be stopped to keep them from entering the botei medrash.

The rabbonim said the revisions to Rashi's classic commentary are in the spirit of the Haskoloh.

The letter was signed by [rabbis].

Appended to the letter is a note by the leading Sephardic rabbonim which reads, We hereby remonstrate against the changes in the holy writings and the longstanding nuscho'os of the tefilloh, based on logical inference they invented and the rules of grammar, and particularly against the terrible disdain, Rachmono litzlan, in the nusach of bircas Ahavas Olom appearing in Shaar Hakavonos. And all the words of those who make changes have no significance. This addition was signed by [rabbis].

In a separate letter HaRav Shmuel Halevi Wosner backed the letter by maranan verabonon and wrote, Today nobody has the power to undo decrees by our Kadmonim, even through mere omission, and this sin marked the beginning of the attempts to innovate that brought destruction upon all of Knesses Yisroel.
In reference to the text I highlighted in red above it occurs to me: today there are those who neither want to know what color Rashi's shirt was nor what Rashi said.

Then again, do they even know that they don't even say
“rabbi” the way Yisroel Sabbo did a mere seven generations ago? (see.)

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