Friday, August 31, 2012

Lady Rebbetzin Montefiore's gefilte fish recipe

Yes, I jest. However, here is Lady Judith Montefiore's recipe for something that seems fairly similar to gefilte fish, in her 1846 cook book, The Jewish manual; or, Practical information in Jewish and modern cookery, with a collection of recipes relating to the toilette. Although it was published anonymously, "Edited by a Lady," as per the title page, it is known that this lady was our Lady in question.

She also offers this advice, in the introduction:
The difference between good and bad cookery is particularly discernible in the preparation of forcemeats. A common cook is satistified if she chops or minces the ingredients and moistens them with an egg scarcely beaten, but this is a very crude and imperfect method; they should be pounded together in a mortar until not a lump or fibre is perceptible. Further directions will be given in the proper place, but this is a rule which must be strictly attended to by those who wish to attain any excellence in this branch of their art.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

A Yiddish pamphlet against circumcision from 1737

Given some of the current talk about circumcision, it is interesting to contemplate a tactic that those who oppose circumcision don't seem to be thinking much about today: persuading people not to do it, in Yiddish, and using rabbinic texts. Yet this is exactly what a convert named Fromann did in this 1737 publication by Callenberg's Halle institute for converting Jews.

How to inscribe a book to a Rothschild

Here's Michael Creizenach's fairly fawning dedication of his own book on algebra (link) to pupil Meir Kalonymos Rothschild, who was probably 14 or 15 at the time.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

The novelty of a Jew Rabbi in the hat, wig, and band of an English bishop

Rabbi Raphael Meldola, the Haham of London's Spanish-Portuguese community in the early 19th century looked like this:

If you found it surprising (and I doubt too many readers of this blog do), you would not be alone. When this portrait was made and published (people hung gedolim pictures up then too) a review of it was posted in the Monthly Magazine and British Register (March 1807, p. 175):

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Get a new name, sheesh!

From this book.

Erotic imagery in seforim

Here is Chacham Tzvi's approbation to the 1713 Amsterdam Machzor with Yiddish translation - it says on the title page it is for, "be-frat far veiber und kinder und gemeine zeit," women, children, and common people, "for those who don't understand loshn ha-kodesh" - printed by Chaim "Druker" and his partner Shimon, and Shlomo Proops, the king of the Amstaelodami printers.

Chacham Tzvi writes a defense, in the middle, of the idea of translating into the debased language generally.

Of note is the adornment featuring a pair of well endowed winged females. The truth is, there are not one or two or ten such examples in early modern seforim, but hundreds. Such imagery was fairly standard. The same Proops also printed Chacham Zvi's responsa the year before.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Thursday, August 23, 2012

The Houdini Bible

On the one hand, maybe not the most interesting thing ever. On the other hand, I guess this could be somewhat interesting. This Bible in the Library of Congress was owned by Harry Houdini's father. Says so right there.

Found this on the LoC website; but someone else seems to have taken an even more interesting snapshot, which shows that it actually contained Houdini's ex libris sticker. See at the end.

In terms of what edition it is, this seems to me to have been Die Bibel: oder Die ganze Heilige Schrift des Alten und Neuen Testaments published throughout the 19th century by the Amerikanischen Bibel-Gesellschaft.

Some good 18th century rabbi fiction

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

A million impresses me

I noticed that, statistically speaking, good old OTML exceeded 1 million page views. By the looks of it, this momentous moment occurred a couple of days ago.

Now I know that 1 million is kind of small internetally speaking. I know this blog is a small fish in a small pond. Or maybe it's a good sized fish in a somewhat niche corner. And it's been years. Still - a MILLION. Nice.

Shinu es shemam

Someone should make a list of the Hebrew names of notable Jewish scholars and academics who are better known by their shem chol.

Let's start.

Cecil Roth - Betzalel.
Salo W. Baron - Shalom.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

The Jewish Observer on the JTS on R. Yisrael Salanter

Here's a bit of vintage Jewish Observer, displaying indignation that the JTS might feel that it has an interest in R. Yisrael Salanter, and his portrayal on a radio show. Touches on an important legend about R. Yisrael Salanter, much treated in the literature. May 1978. Some Spinoza thrown in at the end for good measure.



Monday, August 20, 2012

Rabbi Judah's Will

In 1859 a translation of Judah Touro's Last Will & Testament was printed in Hamaggid, with a clever title, showing how he charitably disposed of $458,000:

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Advertisements for lost husbands; agunos helping themselves through the pages of the Hebrew newspaper Hamaggid

The founder and editor of Hamaggid decided to use the pages of his newspaper to print notices from agunot, chained women, whose husbands had gone missing. These notices are heartbreaking, even as we appreciate the humanity of Eliezer Lipmann Silbermann in trying to do something to help these women. Sadly, there were many, many of these notices. Occasionally they seem to have worked and the whereabouts of a missing husband was located.

Here is a sample, from Hamaggid June 17, 1858:

Two women write that in 1849 their husbands left their town of Ponovezh to sell merchandise. Chaya Yenta's husband is named Shmuel ben Nisan. He was born in Troki and grew up in Vilna. He married her, the daughter of Reb Shalom Finfer of Ponovezh, a merchant. Physically, he is short, has a thin, long face, with pockmarks, a small beard, and blonde hair, and light eyes. He has a wart on one side of his head. He is a ben Torah, very learned.

The second one, Yehudis, is married to Aryeh Leib. She is the daughter of Reb Binyamin Slauker, also based near Ponovezh. He grew up in Kurland. Physically, he is very fat, with a ruddy face and black hair.

They say that when they reached their destination they received letters from them stating that they planned to return, but that was the last they ever heard from them. Thus, they have been left as agunos, chained women. Therefore they ask all Jews, wherever they may be, to do them a kindness for they and their children are as two widows of living men. If anyone recognizes these men and knows if they are alive, please speak to them and encourage them to return home, or to send them a divorce. If they are already deceased, perhaps someone knows the date and place of death and can inform the rabbi, editor of Hamaggid.

"This is the request of the afflicted agunos,
1) Chaya Yenta, wife of Shmuel.2) Yehudis, wife of Aryeh Leib."

In the July 15, 1858 issue a reply was printed:

A man called Meshulam Kaufman writes that he may have information about Yehudis' husband, Aryeh Leib of Kurland. He says that here in Kvil (sp) in Poland a man has been living for three years, and he says he was raised in Kurland. He also knows from the man's own words that he has been dwelling in Poland for about nine years. He works as a melamed (teacher) for small children, and gives a shiur in Gemara and Tosafos, and conducts himself properly (i.e, religiously). He is unmarried, and Kaufman does not know why, and physically he matches her description  exactly; except that he is not called Aryeh Leib; rather, here the man is known as Tzemach, and nicknamed "Chayma." Nevertheless, the fact that this man has a different name is no proof, of course. Kaufman says that he spoke to him about it, and implored him that if it is true then he should face up to it, and if not then in order to clear his reputation, he ought to inform the Beit Din in their city and clarify the matter, if he is really named Tzemach and so on. The man responded, what business is it of yours? If I decide to get married here, sure, let them investigate me. But barring that, what business is it of yours if I am really named Tzemach or Aryeh? So, Kaufman wishes this be made known to Yehudis and maybe with the help of the editor inquiries can be made and perhaps the matter, the disgrace of this scorned Jewish (Yehudis) woman can be ameliorated.

I don't know if anything came from it, but it is nice to have seen a glimmer of hope.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

On 19th century James Randis - a 500 dollar challenge to Spiritualism reported in a Hebrew newspaper from 1857

This is an interesting piece in an 1857 issue of Hamaggid. The correspondent, from Boston, writes about Spiritualism, which was very popular in the 19th century. More specifically, about a $500* challenge from skeptics, sponsored by the Boston Courier.

Amazingly, something was lost in the translation, as there was no Chacham Professor Adon Fonton involved in this. From American newspaper accounts it seems that one of the representatives of the Spiritualist side, none other than H. F. Gardner, was based in Fountain House and as far as I can tell that it where a "Fonton" comes in. The other names are correct.

*I know it says/implies "pounds sterling," but from the newspaper accounts we see it was $500.

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Cuba in the Bible? In a book eulogizing R. Chaim Volozhiner, 1821

Here's something interesting. In 1821, R. Zvi Hirsch Katzenellenbogen of Vilna (1796-1868) published his  sermonic and poetic eulogies for R. Chaim Volozhiner, Nachal Dim'ah (link). Katzenellenbogen was one of the circle of early Vilna maskilim, which of course is not polite to say nowadays, since his works were used by Torah scholars. I note that in truth lines were blurry in those days, and circles overlapped, and some would say that he shouldn't be flatly categorized as an early Vilna Maskil (see, e.g., Gil S. Perl's dissertation on the Neziv, pg. 138 n. 330; I assume this is included in the book version, the recently published The Pillar of Volozhin).

However, the same way the story is that R. Yisrael Salanter declined to be Instructor of Talmud at the maskilic Rabbinical Seminary in Vilna, indeed fleeing into exile to avoid it, Katzenellenbogen was the one who filled a very similar position at the Seminary. Similarly, he represented the Vilna maskilim when Montefiore made his famous trip through the Pale in 1845, reportedly conversing and conferring with Montefiore's secretary Louis Loewe in Latin.

In any case, after the 40 pages devoted to R. Chaim, he included about ten pages of his own chiddushim on Talmud, Midrash and Tanakh, with the title Nachal Adanim. On page 24 (Hebrew pagination) he writes the following:

No doubt he captured many excited hearts with his attempt to identify the obscure places mentioned in Ezekiel 35:5. But it surely is of interest, at least some, that he thinks that it refers to the archipelago near Australia which was - then - known as the "Gesellschaftliche Inseln." I think he may mean Indonesia, although I am unsure. He also suggests that it is the Freundschaftliche Inseln, which is a straight translation of the "Friendly Islands," so-called by Captain Cook. Finally, he suggests that Cub (Qub) could be a reference to . . . Cuba! (In the "West Indies," says he.)

Here seems like a good place to note that Ezekiel 30:5 (eretz ha-berit) is the scriptural basis for the term "Artzot Ha-berit," which has been used in Hebrew to refer to the United States for over 150 years. See my earlier post (link) on developing the Hebrew name for the United States, which takes us from   מדינות נארד אמעריקא  in the 1820s to ארץ אנשי הברית in the 1840s, and finally, ארצות הברית.

Finally, it should be noted that Katzenellenbogen (or Katzenellen Bogen [קאצענעלין בוגין], as he styled himself, using the now-archaic version of this surname) also wrote and published a eulogy for Hayyim Parhi (link) the wealthy Acre communal leader, treasurer and adviser to the Ottoman Pasha governing the Sidon province. He writes that after Farhi died, they said eulogies in the main Beit Midrash in Vilna. His own teacher, R. Saul, asked him to deliver a eulogy as well, which he did. He decided to write a poem, which takes the form of a conversation between Sefarad and Ashkenaz, with the theme that also these two branches of one family are separated, ultimately they are one. On pg. 10 he writes (under the rubric of "Sefarad and Ashekenaz" [together]) that

A voice on high is heard, there is no peace, only fear
A voice of dirge, from Sefarad and Ashkenaz, saying, "These two edges have been consumed by flames
In the North . . . and the South . . .
Living (chaim) they were, their souls departed . . ." 
While I don't vouch for the quality of the verse, there is a footnote, and he explains that here he refers to the departures of R.Chaim of Volozhin in the North (i.e., Lithuania) and his counterpart Chaim, the righteous, wealthy, Hayyim Farhi, of the Land of Splendor.

A Chief Rabbi's final instructions for his family

A few years ago I posted some excerpts from the Ethical Last Will and Testament of British Chief Rabbi Nathan Marcus Adler, and I also summarized parts of it (link).

Fortunately, I found that the complete text was printed in the January 9, 1891 issue of the Jewish Standard. Full of beautiful sentiments, it is well worth reading. Here it is (click to enlarge):

Tuesday, August 07, 2012

This is Moloch?


For more on Moloch, see pp. 37 - 39 in Bamot Ba'al, one of the most unusual seforim ever written.

Monday, August 06, 2012

On a proposed new term for "anti-Semitism," and "It's all Greek/ Hebrew to me"

"I'm not an anti-Semite just because I oppose the hooknosed pimping thieving imperialist rabbi Freemason Zionist pig-monkeys. I'm a Semite myself."

This argument did not turn up in 1965, apparently. Or at least it was anticipated. Israel Zangwill, writing in 1890 as Marshallik, discusses a proposed term for Jew-hatred, "Hebrew-phobia," as opposed to "anti-Semitism."

Interestingly, he notes that while the English say of a language or something they don't understand that "it's Greek to me," the French say "it's Hebrew to me."

Although "it's Greek to me" has its roots in the English language at least as early as Shakespeare, the purportedly French version, was also used in English, well into the 19th century.

In fact, here is a French work from 1728 which explains that the French expression "C'est du bas Breton pour moy" - "It is English to me" - is equivalent to the British expression "That's Hebrew to me."

Next we see an English translation of a French letter sent by the Prussian king - got it? - in 1742. As we can see, he employed the same idiom.

Finally, here is Wikipedia's list of "Greek to me" in various language (link). In Iceland they say it's all Spanish to them. I didn't know that either.

Friday, August 03, 2012

Shadal series #14 - daf yomi edition; on Shadal's linguistic commentary on מס' ברכות

In honor of the start of the 13th Daf Yomi cycle today, which begins with Berachot 2, I thought this Shadal post would be about his linguistic commentary to the beginning of Massechet Berachot.

Excerpts from his manuscript were printed in the 1829 volume of Bikure Ha-ittim #9 (link). Later, more of the complete commentary was printed by his son in the second, posthumous volume of Bais Haotzar (1887) under the title Beur Ketzat Leshonot Mi-leshon Hakhamim. This included an introduction by Shadal, written more than 30 years later. Finally, it was published in its entirety (including the very lengthy introductory Hebrew title which Shadal gave to it) in R. Chaim Hirschensohn's periodical Hamisderonah, from a manuscript provided to him by Abraham Berliner, and it includes Hirschensohn's own annotations. The manuscript itself bears the date 5587/ 1827.

What this commentary does is go through word by word the first few mishnayos of Berachos and explain them linguistically. The lengthy title indicates that it was an ambitious project: 
"Ma'arekhet Leshon Hakhamim; a book which includes all the words and expressions that are found in the six orders of the mishnah, the beraitos and tosefta, and in the sayings that are written in Hebrew scattered all over the Talmud, which are neither Scriptural in origin, or explained elsewhere, with a commentary explaining all aspects of them, and their useage, and to show if they are derived from Hebrew, Aramaic, Arabic, Greek or Latin, with researches and new explanations in various matters of  Torah and Wisdom; arranged alphabetically."
In the introduction to the version he submitted to Bikure Haittim, he begins with a tribute to the Rambam whom, he says, began the linguistic study of the Mishnah. He continues by noting/ claiming that the rabbis were linguists and offering a variation on a popular defense of the Oral Law:
"Whoever does not believe that our Rabbis received knowledge of [the meaning of] words from their predecessors, masters of language, I don't know how they can believe in Torah she-be-'al peh. For if they forgot the language, how did they not forget the halachos? Not only that, whoever disagrees that the rabbis had traditional, oral knowledge of the meaning of the words, even the Written Torah he does not have! For if they forgot the language, then how did they understand the [simple meaning of] words? How did they know what a gamal and chazir were, that are prohibited, and a shor or seh which are permitted? If you say, well look at the signs of these animals, well, how do we know what is maaleh gerah or mafris parsah? It is clear that to believe in the written Torah already requires belief in oral Torah. And this is what Hillel answered to he who told him that written Torah he believes in, but not oral Torah. Hillel did not object to this, but taught him Aleph Beth, and after he mastered all the names of the letters, Hillel reversed it, saying that the shape of an aleph is really called tav, etc. When the man objected, Hillel pointed out that he only knew the letters becaue he had previously accepted what Hillel had taught him. What choice did he have then but to accept that these things are known by oral tradition?"
He continues:
"If you will say, how can you include in Leshon Hakodesh words from the Sages' Hebrew vernacular, knowing that many of their expressions were adopted from foreign tongues? The response is, why did [the Bible] accept many of these such terms, Nisan and Sivanpitgam and patshegen [etc.], and also many other terms directly from Aramaic? Just as it was fitting for our linguistic predecessors to accept this gracefully, so to we ought to accept the words which the sages of the Mishnah - who dwelled Eretz Yisrael and were linguists - and which they transmitted to us, all we know is from them."
It continues in this vein. This last part is addressing an issue at the time, which was whether only purely biblical forms of Hebrew are worthy, while later, rabbinic, Hebrew is not. Shadal was an early proponent of the idea that rabbinic or Mishnaic Hebrew was important and legitimate and also that it was a genuine vernacular, rather than a literary creation of the rabbis. While proponents of Mishnaic Hebrew as a fake language pointed to its foreign borrowings, he pointed to the genuinely Hebrew terminology for so many detailed descriptions of actual life, farming and so on, which are found all throughout the Mishnah. In fact, he even paid linguistic respect to the Hebrew of the poskim, an attitude which was probably singular among maskilim. Shadal's attitude toward language was quite modern in that it was descriptive.

In the work itself, he literally goes through the Mishnah, word by word. I thought it would be worth translating two entries. One of the things I really like about this, or at least the approach attempted, is that very often defining the most common words or terms proves the most devilish and the most interesting. Did you ever think of what, precisely, is the Shema? Maybe, but I don't know if I did. His explanation:
Shema. A noun, feminine (due to the word keriat before it). Inclusive of three paragraphs of the Torah, with the first beginning with the words "Shema yisrael," this reading is well known. In the Temple they preceded the reading of these three paragraphs by the reading of the Ten Commands, but this was not established in all of Israel so that no one could privilege the Ten Commandments alone over the rest of the Torah (Berachos 12). Reading these paragraphs evening and morning fulfills that which is written in the Torah "You shall teach them to your sons . . . " (Deut. 7). Really, the Torah did not intend reading these three paragraphs specifically, but to command fathers to speak words of Torah to their sons in all their spare time, when not at work, as we find in the Talmud (Ber. 21) "Rab Judah said: If a man is in doubt whether he has recited the Shema', he need not recite it again. If he is in doubt whether he has said 'True and firm', or not, he should say it again. What is the reason? — The recital of the Shema' is ordained only by the Rabbis, the saying of 'True and firm' is a Scriptural ordinance. R. Joseph raised an objection to this,  'And when thou liest down, and when thou risest up'. — Said Abaye to him: That was written with reference to words of Torah." - the explanation is that the Sages saw that all the masses of Israel could not truly fulfill this commandment to its literalness, so they ordained something for everyone (i.e., to recite the three paragraphs of the Shema). Something like this was said (Menachos 99): "Even though a man but reads the Shema’ morning and evening he has thereby fulfilled the precept of ‘[This book of the law] shall not depart’.It is forbidden, however, to say this in the presence of ‘amme ha-arez. But Raba said, It is a meritorious act to say it in the presence of amme ha-arez." This does not diminish the importance of the Shema relative to other mitzvos, which encapsulates the essence of the Torah. My father, my master, zatsal, learned by heart all the 613 mitzvos which were ordered according to the Ten Commandments in the book Keter Torah by R. David Vital (Constantinople 1536). Each night he would lie on his bed and recite the shema, as was customary, but he would also explain five or six mitzvos to his wife and children.
Elsewhere, he writes that his father seemed to be going blind in his youth. Alarmed at the prospect, he composed a list of the 613 mitzvos, based on the plan of this work, so that in case he could never see he would have Torah memorized. Lucky for him, he was healed.

Another entry:
Rabbi. A title of obvious meaning. It's root is RBB, from which is derived Rav. When noted sages wanted to give honor to one of their students, to indicate that he has entered their ranks, that their words ought to be heard by all the nation as from one of the great ones, they would call him Rabbi. Being called by this name indicated ordination, and it was prerequisite for a scholar to be able to judge dinei kenasot, for so long as one was not ordained and not called rabbi, he was not allowed to judge such cases, and was not called a hakham, but [merely] a talmid, as it is written in Kiddushin 79: "‘On condition that I am a disciple [talmid],’ we do not say, such as Simeon b. ‘Azzai and Simeon b. Zoma." Rashi ad loc explains, Talmidim who were bachelors, and not ordained, and there were none in their day like them in Torah [accomplishment]." 
There was no ordination outside of Eretz Yisrael, therefore they only used the title Rabbi in Eretz Yisrael. The sages of Babylon were called Rav. Since they were not ordained in EY, and would not judge dinei kenasot, no one was [really] their subordinate, and were not obliged to call them Rabbi, which meant something like "My superior, my master." So they called them Rav, meaning that these men are great and honorable, even though they aren't so great that they are worthy of judging their fellow man according to their knowledge.
We do not find the term Rabbi in use until the last days of the Second Temple, in the generation which witnessed its destruction, such as Rabbi Tzadok, Rabbi Hanina segan kohanim, Rabbi Eliezer, Rabbi Yehoshua, and their peers (see the reason in my entry "Rav"). Prior to this they only called sages by their name, such as Shemaya and Avtalyon, Hillel and Shammai, and Shimon [Hillel's son]. Three hundred years after the Destruction the formal institution of ordination came to a halt, and the title Rabbi was abolished. The last of those called by the title seem to be Rabbi Hillel the son of Rabbi Judah the Prince [II}, son of Rabban Gamliel, son of Rabbenu Hakadosh. This Rabbi Hillel was the 10th generation from Hillel the Elder. Since ordination was abolished and technically no one was greater than another, the entire nation began to use the title Rabbi [i.e., as a term of honor, rather than a strictly technical term].  
Regarding the pronunciation of the term, there were many arguments about it among the later grammarians. Some (i.e., R. Jacob Emden) read it rebhi from the root RBH on the pattern of peri (fruit). Some read it robbi and some (i.e., Rabbi Solomon Hanau) rubbi and both derive the reading from the word Rav, which is of the root RBB. Others [i.e., Isaac Satanow] read rabbi, deriving it from the term rabbei ha-melekh. Still others read ribbi along the lines of pat [becoming] piti (i.e., 'my bread'). It appears that this last reading is the authentically earliest one, for Rabbi Elazar Hakalir acrostically signed his verse "Elazar beribbi Kalir," with a yud after the resh. Like him, other composers of Kerovot, who lived not less than 800 years ago, signed their verse. Even though the author of Vaye'etar Yitzhak [i.e., Satanow]  in #79, strongly argues against this reading, reasoning that since we find the [scriptural expression] rabbei ha-melekh with a patach [i.e., the vowel "a"] we may only read it rabbi. Nevertheless it is difficult to simply argue with the older reading. It seems possible for me to resolve it this way: perhaps the true oldest reading was with patach under the resh (i.e., rabbi) but after the custom spread to call all people, small and great, with the title "rabbi", they wisely devised a way to distinguish between sacred and profane, and called plain folk "ribbi" with a chirik, and reserved "Rabbi" with a patach for ordained scholars. And with this we can explain why a patach is used in variations on this title, like Rav or a term like "moreh ravcha ke-moreh shamayim," etc. For we never find or hear of a term like "ribkha" or "ribbo" with a chirik. This seems to me to be a correct reconciliation between the views.
I note first of all that his explanation for how "rabbi" could be the truly oldest term, even though the evidence shows "ribbi" seems to contradict what he wrote earlier, namely that the spreading of the title among non-ordained people occurred after the abolition of semikha. I assume that since this is all a speculative reconstruction, he is not wedded to a position on when the term began to be used by all. 

Now, in the 1887 edition of Bait Haotzar, a little introduction to the Maarekhet Hakhamim is included, written by Shadal 32 years later. In it he corrects one thing he had written in this entry, namely the bit about Rabbi Elazar Hakalir using "biribbi" with a yud, in his verse. Shadal indicates that he was relying on R. Elijah Levita's entry Rav in the Tishbi, where this line of evidence for the readding "ribbi" is stated. However, after 30 years of scrutinizing piyutim he had to acknowledge that Levita made a mistake. You do not find bet-resh-yud-bet-yud in Kalir's piyutim. He was not the first person to notice Levita's apparent error. In the famous "Letters" from the Pri Megadim which are printed in standard editions of the Shulchan Aruch, the Pri Megadim writes that he too could not find these acrostics - yet, "ha-tishbi ne'eman yoser mi-me'ah edim," "[Levita] is more reliable than one hundred witnesses" - which says more about the Pri Megadim's esteem and admiration for Levita than the actual evidence in Kalir's verse. My guess is that Levita just made a mistake from memory, confusing the yud which is often found after the bet in ברבי, like בירבי, and is indeed sometimes found in Kalir piyutim, as if it were written after: בריבי.

I would be remiss if I did not mention an interesting observation I once read in an article on Aramaic by Yohanan Aharoni. He pointed out that in Aramaic very often the final yud is dropped altogether, as compared to its cognate in Hebrew. If so then all the spiel about rav being the Babylonian title because of the difference in ordination may have a very simple explanation - it is nothing but the exact equivalent of "Rabbi," only it is Aramaic. This doesn't necessarily preclude the explanation about ordination being correct, but it could be that it is really only the difference between Hebrew and Aramaic.

Incidentally, the pronunciation of the title "rabbi" is a topic which I have accumulated much material on, far more so, I believe, than anyone has ever written about it. Perhaps one day it will come to light.

Thursday, August 02, 2012

What time does shabbos begin and end in the 19th century? The Sabbath itself was confused

A few years ago I wrote about how in 1842 the time for ushering in the Sabbath was determined by half hour intervals (link). They had pretty good clocks, but no one said "light candles at 7:21." It was, light candles at 7 for a couple of weeks, and as it got later, you'd light at 7:30, and so on.

I found something very, very interesting. Same city - London - fifty years later. In his Jewish Standard humor column Israel Zangwill printed a letter he says he received from Shabbat ("Shobbos") himself. Or herself, since the Sabbath is a queen. Maybe. (Malka vs malkah, who can tell?).  This cynic tends to think that it was Zangwill himself who wrote it, but what do I know.

In any case, the Sabbath wanted to call attention to the fact that three separate sources gave three separate times for the end of the Sabbath. That December 20th of 1890, one said 4:30, one said 4:41, and one said 4:49.

No, the end time is not the same as the beginning. But what I am thinking of is the precision of the numbers.  Interesting.

Wednesday, August 01, 2012

On Solomon Judah Rapoport's humor (?)

I found this little aside in a notice about a memorial event for the 100th anniversary of Shir's birth, in 1890. Acting Chief Rabbi Hermann Adler was a musmach of Shir, which is why he chaired the event; he is mentioned giving some of the highlights from his rebbe's Erech Millin, and also the humorous - if you think it is - anecdote.

In any case, the anecdote is about two students named Shmuel. Rapoport called them Shmuel Aleph and Shmuel Bais, which is cute/ expected. But in this case it was also a pun, since one of them had a temper, and he was the one who got called "Bise" which was meant to pun on the German word böse, which means angry.


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