Thursday, May 05, 2011

What the British Chief Rabbi was allowed and not allowed to do in 1827.

New HebrewBooks update, more fun stuff. This time there are several Takkanos (regulations) books, such as the following one.

Printed in 1827, the Laws of the Congregation of the Great Synagogue, Duke's Place, London (A. M. 5587), or, תקנות לעדת ישורון דק"ק בהכ"נ הגדולה דוקס פלעהס בלאנדאן, are the revised statutes of this center of Ashkenazic Jewish life in England (or at least it's elite).

This edition (revised from prior ones) is interesting because for the first time it was translated to English (the text is in Hebrew and in English). Contrast it with the 1791 edition, with only a few English words in sight. That text is almost entirely in Yiddish - plus small amounts of Hebrew, with occasional English words, by my count 10. They are:

the casting vote,
Minute Book,
Hearse Driver,
Extract and

The 1827 one has this very interesting one:

I will post all the regulations concerning the rabbi. The one I just showed is #163, for non-Hebraist readers. I will also show the entire regulation concerning the appointment and regulations of the chief rabbi since, after all, the appointment of rabbis is so interesting. If there's one thing everyone can agree on, it's that.

As you can see, #163 (in Hebrew, above) states that the Chief Rabbi is not empowered to enact a cherem against any person without the consent of the Commitee. Interestingly, #161 says that "In case the Chief Rabbi should think to confer the degree of חבר or מורינו on any Member of the Congregation, it is expedient that he obtain the concurrence of the Wardens thereto." That is, the granting of semicha in its greater or lesser form (in case the Chief Rabbi should think to do so) must be approved. Ouch. No wonder the Chief Rabbi of that time preferred to sit and learn all day.

Another regulation concerns the responsibility of the Chief Rabbi to conduct investigations into unspecified bad rumors about potential brides or grooms, and then has the right to decline to perform the marriage; instead he may hand it off to someone else (subject to approval). Read the rest, concerning his other duties, privileges and responsibilities. Indeed, read the entire book. And you thought your shul was a pain in the neck?

and the titles:


  1. Although the English version (item 163) speaks of denouncing herem against "any person," the Hebrew uses the term "yehidei ha-kehillah." At least in Sephardic usage, the "yehidim" were not just any people, but members of the congregation. Some interesting rules about yehidim may be found in the Ascamot of the Spanish and Portuguese synagogue of London (1872):

  2. Doesn't mean that here since members of the Congregation were called "baalebatim", these were Ashkenazim (Minhag Poilin), and presumably English was their first language and thus that version would be more accurate.

  3. It is interesting that when talking about the days on which the chief gives a drasha, the takanot refer to Shabbat Teshuva. Which name, this or Shabbat Shuva is the original?

    I had always learnt that it was Shabbat Shuva, named after the first word of the haftara (a la Shabbat Chazon and Nachamu), but obviously Shabbat Teshuva would make sense and it is easy to see how the taf at the beginning of teshuva could come to merge with that at the end of shabbat (although I suppose my theory wouldn't work for Ashkenazi pronunciation.)

  4. They are both attested to in the sources, not surprisingly. Actually, searching for the term on Google Books, prior to 1800, I found slightly more results for "teshuva" rather than "shuva." Furthermore, 1827 is sufficiently late that in my opinion "teshuva" should not be surprisingly, regardless of which is earlier in time.

    In my opinion teshuva would seem to have priority in time, since it is the shabbos of aseres yemei teshuva, and the name works even with the haftarah. I looked in Sperber's Minhage Yisrael to see if he mentions it, but I didn't find it.



Related Posts with Thumbnails