Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Make sure not to confuse one Satanow with another.

This is pretty funny; it's the title page of an edition of Mendel Lefin of Satanov's Cheshbon Hanefesh, where you are told on the title page not to confuse him with Yitzchak Satanov:

The title page information is almost identical with the book's second edition, famously published in Vilna, 1844 at the impetus of R. Yisrael Salanter.[1]

Astute readers will notice that it also credits him with the book Refuot Ha-'am as well as Moda Labina, while the latter alone appears on the title of the 1844 edition. This comes from the title page of the 1937 edition, published by the Association for Slobodka Alumni, which it appears is responsible for removing the word המשכיל, so now it says חברו הרב החכם instead of חברו הרב המשכיל החכם. This in turn carried over to the newer edition, which improved upon that and instead of merely identifying the author by name and his other books, it adds ואין להחליפו ביצחק מסטנוב בן זמננו, "Do not confuse him with Isaac of Satanov, his contemporary."[2]

Satanov, evidently, has a pretty bad reputation. The second Lubavitcher rebbe was quoted in a now-famous letter as quoting his father to the effect that הדעסואי הוא הרע שבנוגה, הירץ וויזל טוב שבנוגה, סטנאב הוא כתר דקליפה. On the other hand, the Pri Megadim - whose haskama to Lefin's 1794 book Refuot Ha-am (which was an adapted translation of Tissot's 1761 popular medical work Avis au peuple sur sa santé - "Advice to People about Health" - is singled out. You can read the Lemberg 1851 edition of this work here. Fortunately Lefin did not translate Tissot's other famous work, L'Onanisme.

However, what many people don't know is that the Pri Megadim probably didn't regard Satanow (the other one) as the Crown of the Klipah. He quotes him many times and according to him, the two of them learned Kuzari and Moreh Nevuchim together in Daniel Itzig's Beis Midrash. Here is Daniel Itzig, by the way

The haskama of the Pri Megadim is in Satanow's Berlin 1795 edition of the Kuzari. He calls Daniel Itzig "Daniel Jafeh," which is also how he was known

To the charge that this haskama is forged, I say that even if it is, it hardly seems likely that Satanow made up the fact that he personally learned with him in view of the fact that they obviously both were denizens of Itzig's Beis Midrash at the same time (1772-73), and the Pri Megadim does in fact quote him numerous times. In fact I know of no real evidence that he forged haskamos. The charge was made by Reggio, amidst an inveighing against the very idea of haskamos as designed for flattery and susceptible to forgeries. The example he gives is Satanow:

In 1836 Franz Delitsch wrote of him, "Unter dem polnischen Kaftan, über den sein Bart herabwallte, trug er die feinste Kleidung eines deutschen petit maître . . .," or, "Under the Polish Kaftan, over his flowing beard, he wore the finest German "petit maître" (i.e., highly stylish clothing)." Many writers seemed to take this as a literal description of him, but I am pretty sure that Delitzsch, who gives no source, was born 8 years after Satanow died, and had a romantic and poetic streak, meant this figuratively.

Getting back to our first Satanov (Mendel Lefin), please see this post, and this one.

[1] I take everyone's word for it, since R. Yisrael's name appears nowhere in the 1844 edition.
[2] However, I'm not certain because there were editions between 1844 and 1937 which I haven't seen and perhaps they merely copied those.


  1. Hmmm, I wonder if Jeffrey Satinover, who wrote the book "Cracking the Bible Code," is related.


  2. You never know, but of course these place name surnames don't mean very much.

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