Tuesday, November 15, 2011

How Jewish communities ought to view one another, according to R. Yehuda Azsod

Here's a fantastic, interesting paragraph buried in a very lengthy responsum on the kashrut of the turkey and related birds. It is #92 in R. Yehuda Aszod's יהודה יעלה (link).

The issue concerns the apparent requirement of a mesorah, a tradition, of kashrut for any bird, despite the fact that this is not a Talmudic requirement (see Rema YD 82:3). Since the turkey is a New World bird, there could never have been a mesorah, and yet it is clear that the bird was accepted as kosher. By the 19th century the question was more about how or why it could be, rather than any serious attempt to rule that it isn't kosher. The question often focused on whether or not a community may rely on another community's tradition, and especially whether this is permissible when previously one's own community had not availed themselves of relying on another tradition. That being the case, maybe not eating the bird in question is itself a tradition, not to be discarded. (On this issue generally, see this article by Rabbi Ari Zivotofsky.)

In addition, the sources also reveal a certain confusion as to whether or not everyone is even speaking of the same bird, as well as what the actual place of origin of the bird is. It is no secret that the turkey was widely thought to originate in India, or somewhere else in the East. In this excerpt, addressed to R. David Deutsch, R. Aszod discusses the idea that perhaps we cannot accept a tradition from India, since it lacked great Torah scholars. He rejects this suggestion as worthless, because actually we don't know that they don't have Torah scholars. Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. He gives the analogy of Eretz Yisrael which at present has 7000 Sephardi men residing there. There is no doubt, he writes, that they have many gedolim, ge'onim in Torah and the two Talmuds and the posekim. We simply have never heard of them, and we never read their writings. Similarly, in India there are many cities and villages with Jews, in the thousands, as we can see in Sefer Shevilei Olam by Rabbi Samson Bloch. We also see this in Maggid Chadashos (the essay on the Cochin Jews) by Rabbi Naftali Herz Wessely Zatza"l, in Hameassef 5550 (1790). Israel is not orphaned in any place they reside. Every large settlement has posekim, gedolim, zaddikim, and scholars, in all times, even if we have not heard of them. If it is permitted in a location, it is because their Bes Din established that their mesorah is valid, with proper procedures, and therefore it was permitted to them.

He then cites an unnamed German rabbi who states that in locations where itis known that there are no Bnei Torah, gedolim or posekim, then you cannot bring proof from their practice.

All of this pertains, by the way, not only to India, but also to England. He had conducted a correspondence with Rabbi Nathan Marcus Adler of London about the kashrut of the English hen, and he was assured that in London they have a mesorah to eat it. He goes on to continue that this unnamed rabbi took London out of the equation, because it is and was a town full of Jewish sinners. He even quotes the Chasam Sofer to that effect, that even 80 years earlier, that was how London was to be characterized. R. Aszod dismisses that point, because at the time London had a great ga'aon for an Av Bet Din, namely Rabbi Tevele Schwar [sic; a printer or transcription error; I am pretty sure he means Tevele Schiff, who was the rebbe of R. Nathan Adler, the Chasam Sofer's own rebbe. On him, see here). This same rabbi exerted great efforts to make sure that things were conducted according to halacha.

We see important things here.

1. He expresses what I believe is the real traditional attitude toward other Jewish communities, that their status as kehila kedosha is real and undisputed (it derives from the presumed presence of scholars and pious people).
2. He quotes Samson Bloch and Wessely (from Hameasseph, no less) and he adds Zatza"l.

Rabbi Yehuda Aszod (1796-1866) wasn't some liberal, nor was he unaware of or disconnected from the struggles over Reform and other kinds of changes in the religion of the day.

Incidentally, the story around his portrait is pretty gruesome and outrageous. For pietistic reasons he refused to pose for a photograph. It is claimed that the following portrait was taken upon his death, when he was dressed, given a Gemara to hold, and his body arranged in the pose. However, it should at least be mentioned that reportedly the proceeds from the sales of this portrait were used to help marry off his daughters.

Another version, clearer photograph:

For more information, see the sources cited in Richard I. Cohen's Jewish Icons: Art and Society in Modern Europe. and this great Seforim Blog post (link).

Getting back to the idea I was discussing, we may find a similar thing in the writings of the Chasam Sofer. An issue arose concerning whether or not a shaliach tzibbur should not wear wool, which developed as a Chasidic custom. The Yismach Moshe defended it, and also claimed that the Sephardim have such a custom, and it is Lurianic. The Chasam Sofer writes (OC 16) that he knows that of the Western Sephardim of Amsterdam, London and Hamburg, this is not true. What do we see from this? Even though the Western Sephardim were clean-shaven, even though they were mostly descended from Conversos, even though they didn't cover their heads all the time, even though they dressed like English or Dutch or German gentlemen, even though their rabbis were called Reverend Dr (at least in London) - they are the Sephardim, and their customs will tell us what the authentic Sephardic custom is, and that's how to establish the facts.

This, by the way, was the Haham of the London Sephardim at the time:


  1. > It is claimed that the following portrait was taken upon his death, when he was dressed, given a Gemara to hold, and his body arranged in the pose.

    Taking photos of dead people in lifelike poses was fairly common. They’re typically sharper than photos of live people, because exposure times were long and corpses don’t move.

  2. It doesn't say זצ"ל after Wessley's name but rather זל"ל. I have no idea whether it's a typo or intentional and if זל"ל is an actual acronym.

    Kol Tuv,

  3. I know what it says. It may have been intentional, but זל"ל is no acronym. I looked in Heilprin's Sefer Notarikon and he does give "זרעו לכם לצדקה" (Hosea 10:12) but that's obviously not applicable. The lamed and tzade look very close in Rashi letters. Even as some kind of intentional just-can't-bring-myself to put Zatzal, it's hard to see how that was what R. Yuda wrote, as opposed to how the type was set. It was published by his son; whether he is responsible, or it really is a typo, as it probably is, is unknowable.

  4. I own an original edition of שבילי עולם
    I'm not sure if it's worth much.

  5. Nothing is worth anything unless there is a buyer who wants it. That's the interwebs for you. It's probably not super rare, if that's what you mean, but if its the first edition then its 180 years old, and that alone makes it at least somewhat rare. But the point is that you would need to find someone who really wants something by Samson Bloch, whether someone who collects haskalah stuff, or ethnography type things. And you have to be sure that there is no online competition offering it at a lower price.

  6. No turkey and tradition post would be complete with R. Shlomo Kluger's analysis of USA turkey:
    which can be found here: http://www.hebrewbooks.org/pdfpager.aspx?req=1354&st=&pgnum=179&hilite= (at Siman 112 - not 111)
    משא״כ עתה הנה מדינת
    אמעריקא נתיישב בישראל זה ערך מאה שנים
    ומקודם לא הי׳ שם ישוב ישראל ומנץ להם
    מסורות ועוד זאת ידוע כי אז באו לשם רק כל
    מרי נפש ובל אשר לו נושה וקלי הדעת רובן ואין
    כדאי לסמוך עליהם ועל דבריהם שיש להם מסורת
    לכך בזה לכ״ע אסור לסמוך ולמעט בפלונתא
    עדיף לכך בודאי אסורים ומי שלא ישמע לדברנו
    עתיד ליתן את הדין

    Just one step up from the Australians.

  7. Just in time for Thanksgiving turkey shopping. Thanks!

  8. This is very different from the Chazon Ish's view.

    Lawrence Kaplan

  9. Indeed. I would say it was different times, but actually, it was circa 1860 (as best I can guess).

    Of course he was probably wrong about India and Talmudic scholars and posekim.

  10. I wonder if his (or rather Bloch's) characht. of Cochini Jewry played a role in the controversies regarding their Jewish status several decades ago upon their arrival in Israel.

  11. By the way, I always wondered if there was any connection between his personal name and his surname (assad, means 'lion' in Arabic), but I see that it is merely the name of a town in Pest County, Hungary.

  12. Re names, one of my pet peeves is inaccurate renderings of Jewish surnames that are nothing more and nothing less than the name of a city, because it obscures its origin. When I was a kid I had the multivolume English translation of Gerlitz/ Getz's Yerushalayim Shel Maalah. I noticed a picture of Mahri Aszod, and it was written "Assad." Wow, I thought. Just like the Syrian president.

    I understand that sometimes it's tricky to figure it out, and there also might be some reluctance to use the particular European spelling, which may appear odd in English. But at least nowadays you can figure it out in a minute of Googling.

  13. Fotheringay-Phipps1:53 PM, November 16, 2011

    The Ramban writes, concerning the issue of whether RH was one day or two in EY, that the tradition of the EY community (to keep one day) was unreliable, since the community there was "few and not b'nei torah".

  14. I checked the tshuva on Bar-Ilan Responsa and they have it as זצ"ל. I'm wondering if they didn't notice the 2 lameds or if they had another source for this. Usually when there is a typo in the source they write their correction between 2 forward slashes.


  15. There might have been more than one edition, but I think I used the first one (1873).

    Anyway, people just need to realize that Wessely did one controversial thing, and apart from it actually had a reputation for being very pious. Kifshuto, not everyone thought he was a rasha.

  16. Fotheringay-Phipps3:44 PM, November 16, 2011

    R' Lifshutz in Zichron Yaakov writes about Wessely at some length, and he presents him pretty sympathetically, despite being a pretty big kanoi.

  17. Another angle to consider is that Wessely went Sepharadi-native. One of the points of this post is to point out that traditionally speaking, other communities were allowed to be themselves, and no one expected otherwise or really judged them for it. So if Wessely cast his lot with the Western Sephardim, what was wrong with that? (In fact, he was even offered the Hahamship of the London synagogue.)

    Arguably his foray back into Ashkenazi "politics" was what did him in. The stuff he was saying was really little different from the sort of Sephardi education described by R. Shabsai Bass and others who marveled at what they were doing in Amsterdam and elsewhere. Perhaps it would be like going into Monroe and saying, "We really should implement a great sports program."

  18. Thanks for that reference.

    By the way, there's also a lesson in the one-mistake*-doesn't-have-to-make-you-evil thing.

    *If that's your view.

  19. He wasn't that different (in that regard) from Rabbi Natan Adler Sr.

  20. I blogged about this 'sephardophilia' among Central European Jewry (its earliest proponents, although controversial, were far from maskilim) here:


  21. It's remarkable in support of me to have a website, which is useful designed for my experience. thanks admin
    Also visit my webpage loans for bad credit

  22. Thanks , I've recently been searching for information approximately this topic for a while and yours is the greatest I've dіscovered
    so far. Howeveг, what conсerning thе conclusion?

    Are you сertain in regards to the source?
    Also visit my blog ... Bad Credit Loans

  23. What's up, I would like to subscribe for this website to get newest updates, thus where can i do it please help.
    Here is my page ; how to stop snoring

  24. What's up to every one, the contents existing at this web page are really amazing for people experience, well, keep up the nice work fellows.
    Also visit my page - 1 month loan

  25. I do not evеn know hoω I еnded up here, but I thought thіs post ωas gгeat.
    I do not knoω ωhο you are but definitely you're going to a famous blogger if you aren't already ;) Cheerѕ!
    Feel free to visit my site ... loans for bad credit

  26. Thanks in suрport of shaгіng ѕuch a fastidious iԁea,
    artiсle iѕ nice, thаts whу i have гeaԁ it fully

    My page - short term loan
    Also visit my web blog - short term loan

  27. Thanks fοг sharing your infо. I truly aρpгeciate youг
    еfforts anԁ I will be waiting foг yоur next post
    thаnkѕ oncе again.

    My blog post; keyword
    my site :: keyword

  28. Aрpreciate this post. Let me try it out.

    Also visit my wеb blοg :: payday loans

  29. I would recommend that you kind of Occupy these sources is key to any home business movement.
    In both cases, ovalbumin pronounce able to bring forth
    excellent capacity for the web pages and articles.

    my blog: www.greecesmostproductive.com

  30. Hеllo, і believe that i saw you νisited
    my webѕite thuѕ i came to return
    the desire?.I'm trying to find things to improve my website!I guess its ok to make use of a few of your concepts!!

    Also visit my web page payday loan

  31. Hі therе, simρly becamе аwаrе of your blog thru Google,
    and locateԁ that it is truly іnformаtivе.
    I am goіng to bе careful for brussеlѕ.
    I'll appreciate for those who proceed this in future. Lots of people might be benefited out of your writing. Cheers!

    Feel free to surf to my blog ... same day loans

  32. The diеt 2 weeks has garnered a huge body of adherеnts оver the past fеw week.

    Feеl fгеe to visit my homepage - sociologuesdusuperieur.Org

  33. Armstrong continued," Arianna paleo is a remarkable person and she will continue to improve the stamina as well as knowing what to expect and how to maximize your chances for success. Even Inuit used seal oil and blubber to fuel fires and candles.

    Feel free to surf to my web site - how to do the paleo diet

  34. Thanκs for fіnally tаlkіng about > "How Jewish communities ought to view one another, according to R. Yehuda Azsod" < Liked it!

    My site - payday loans

  35. Heуa i'm for the first time here. I came across this board and I in finding It really helpful & it helped me out much. I am hoping to give one thing again and help others such as you aided me.

    My web page :: Payday Loans



Related Posts with Thumbnails