Friday, July 13, 2007

Mammoths in the news and in 19th century rabbinics.

An old post by Yoinoson Schreiber cites Derush 'Or Ha-hayyim by R. Yisrael Lifschuetz (1782-1860) writing in the 19th century about palaeontological discoveries likes wooly mammoths. (Now in the news.)

I have uploaded a copy of his Derush 'Or Ha-hayyim for your perusal. It is nine pages long, and the relevant discussion about this issue begins on page 7.

From the relevant passage:

DovBear translation of part of it:

In the year 1807... they found in Siberia... a great elephant... whose skeleton now stands in the Zoological Museum in Petersburg... We already know of a giant creature found in... the city of Baltimore... bones of this creature have been found in Europe, too. This creature had been named mammoth... they have found... iguanodon... whose height was 15 feet, and whose length was as much as 90 feet...there is yet another creature called megalosaurus... from all this it is clear... [citing kabbbalists, Gemarahs, Rabaynu B'chaya, the Ramban, and Ibn Ezra] that the world has been destroyed and renewed over and over again as many as four times...

However, see my comments beginning here.

Encyclopedia Judaica biography:

LIPSCHUTZ, ISRAEL BEN GEDALIAH (1782–1860), German rabbinic scholar. Lipschutz served as rabbi in the towns of Wronki (1821), Dessau and Colmar (1826–37), and Danzig (1837–60). His fame rests upon his commentary to the Mishnah, entitled Tiferet Yisrael, one of the finest of its class. In this work, he explains the words of the Mishnah briefly, offers new interpretations to difficult passages, particularly in the orders of Zera'im, Kodashim, and Tohorot, and adds everywhere the halakhic ruling as decided on in the Shulhan Arukh and its commentaries. To each of the orders of Mo'ed, Kodashim, and Tohorot, he prefaces general introductions comprising a methodic summation of all the principles of the order, after the manner of *Maimonides in his introduction to his commentary on the Mishnah. A considerable portion of the commentary is taken from that of his son, Baruch Isaac *Lipschutz, as well as from Akiva *Eger, *Elijah b. Solomon (the Gaon of Vilna), and others. Tiferet Yisrael became the most widespread Mishnah commentary and is regarded as an invaluable adjunct to that of Obadiah *Bertinoro. Lipschutz's commentary to Zera'im, Zera Emunah, and to Tohorot, Ta'am ve-Da'at, with a general preface entitled "Yevakkesh Da'at," was published in Hanover (1830). His commentary to Nashim, Hosen Rav, was published later (Danzig, 1843). Appended to it was Avi Ezer, a work by Lipschutz's father on the Shulhan Arukh, Even ha-Ezer. The commentary to Mo'ed, Davar be-Itto (ibid., 1844), included an introduction dealing with topics relevant to the Sabbath and intercalations. Nezikin was published in Danzig in 1845, along with a treatise on immortality and the resurrection. Kodashim, under the title Hokhmat Elohim (Koenigsberg, 1850), includes laws of the order entitled Homer ba-Kodesh at the beginning, and diagrams of the Temple and altar at the end. The commentary was republished in its entirety (Berlin, 1862) with additions by Lipschutz's son Baruch Isaac. Lipschutz also composed an extensive commentary to the order Tohorot, Ateret Tiferet (Vilna, 1887–95), in which he separated the plain interpretation from the pilpul, calling the former "Yakhin" and the latter "Bo'az,"and added a section giving the halakhic rulings, "Hilkheta Gevirta," at the end of each chapter. In later editions of the Mishnah Tiferet Yisrael was similarly divided. He also published a brief commentary to the Mishnah called Zera Yisrael (Vilna, 1852), and his ethical will was published in Koenigsberg in 1861. His son mentions that Lipschutz left in manuscript sermons, notes on the Talmud, on Maimonides and on the Shulhan Arukh, and many responsa. He apparently also compiled Rashei Avot, a commentary on Avot, and Megillat Setarim.

B.I. Lipschutz, in: Ha-Maggid, 4 (1860), 170–1; H.N. Maggid-Steinschneider, Ir Vilna, 1 (1900), 38–39; Brann, in: MGWJ, 50 (1906), 375; H. Albeck, Mavo la-Mishnah (1959), 253; Posner, in: Shanah be-Shanah, 4 (1963), 395–401.

[Abraham David]

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