Tuesday, December 26, 2006

What books does the Bible quote or reference by name?

Here is a useful list of the books which are quoted in Tanakh either as sources or references for further reading. The only location I have seen handily compile the complete list is in Sid Z. Leiman's The Canonization of Hebrew Scriptures: The Talmudic and Midrashic Evidence,' and here is a reproduction of the list, so that it can endure in one useful, archiveable location: here!

‘ספר מלחמת ה Book of the Wars of the Lord (Num. 21:14)

ספר הישר Book of Jashar (Josh. 10:13 and i Sam. 10:25)

ספר השיר Book of Song (i K 8:53, in the LXX--some assume that the Hebrew vorlage, השיר, is a corruption of הישר)

ספר דברי שלמה Book of the Acts of Solomon (i K 11:41)

ספר דברי הימים למלכי ישראל Book of the Chronicles of the Kings of Israel (i K 14:19, 15:31 and more)

ספר דברי הימים למלכי יהודה Book of the Chronicles of the Kings of Judah (i K 14:29, 15:7 and more)

ספר היחש Book of Genealogy (Neh. 7:5)

ספר מלכי ישראל Book of the Kings of Israel (i Ch 9:1, ii Ch 20:34)

ספר דברי הימים למלך דויד Book of the Chronicles of King David (i Ch 27:24 acc. to LXX)

דברי שמואל הנביא Chronicles of Samuel the Seer (i Ch 29:29)

דברי נתן הנביא Chronicles of Nathan the Prophet (i Ch 29:29 and ii Ch 9:29))

דברי גד החזה Chronicles of Gad the Seer (i Ch 29:29)

נבואת אחיה השילוני Prophecy of Ahijah the Shilonite (ii Ch 9:29)

חזות יעדו החזה Visions of Iddo the Seer (ii Ch 9:29, probably same as 16 and 17 in list)

דברי שמעיה הנביא Chronicles of Shemaiah the Prophet (ii Ch 12:15)

דברי עדו החזה Chronicles of Iddo the Seer (ii Ch 12:15)

מדרש הנביא עדו Midrash of the Prophet Iddo (ii Ch 13:22)

ספר המלכים ליהודה וישראל Book of the Kings of Judah and Israel (ii Ch 16:11; probably not different from 5, 6 and 8 of list)

דברי יהוא בן חנני Chronicles of Jehu the son of Hanani (ii Ch 20:34)

מדרש ספר מלכים Midrash on the Book of Kings (ii Ch 24:27)

דברי עזיהו Acts of Uzziah (ii Ch 26:22)

דברי חוזי Chronicles of Hozai (ii Ch 33:19)

ספר הזכרנות דברי הימים Book of Records, the Annals (Est. 6:1)

ספר דברי הימים למלכי מדי ופרס Book of Chronicles of the Kings of Media and Persia (Est. 10:2)

Yup. Those are them.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Analyzing Saul Lieberman using his own method

In scholarship there is the idea that when examining a source, things said incidentally and are taken for granted impart information.

A practical example is the Gemara BT Rosh Hashana 26b which discusses the meaning of obscure Hebrew words, which the Hahamim were able to derive from listening to the regular speech of servants and others; Rabbi's maid, for example:

לא הוו ידעי רבנן מאי סירוגין שמעוה לאמתא דבי רבי דחזתנהו רבנן דהוו עיילי פסקי פסקי אמרה להו עד מתי אתם נכנסין סירוגין סירוגין לא הוו ידעי רבנן מאי חלוגלוגות יומא חד שמעוה לאמתא דבי רבי דחזית לההוא גברא דקא מבדר פרפחיניה אמרה ליה עד מתי אתה מפזר חלוגלוגך לא הוו ידעי רבנן מאי (משלי ד) סלסלה ותרוממך יומא חד שמעוה לאמתא דבי רבי דהוות אמרה לההוא גברא דהוה קא מהפך בשעריה אמרה ליה עד מתי אתה מסלסל בשערך לא הוו ידעי רבנן מאי (ישעיהו יד) וטאטאתיה במטאטא השמד יומא חד שמעוה לאמתא דבי רבי דהוות אמרה לחבירתה שקולי טאטיתא וטאטי ביתא לא הוו ידעי רבנן מאי (תהילים נה) השלך על ה' יהבך והוא יכלכלך אמר רבה בר בר חנה יומא חד הוה אזלינא בהדי ההוא טייעא הוה דרינא טונא ואמר לי שקול יהביך ושדי אגמלאי

The Rabbis did not know what was meant by serugin, until one day they heard the maidservant of Rabbis household, on seeing the Rabbis enter at intervals, say to them, How long are you going to come in by serugin?

The Rabbis did not know what was meant by halugelugoth, til one day they heard the handmaid of the household of Rabbi, on seeing a man peeling portulaks, say to him, How long will you be peeling your portulaks? (halugelugoth).

The Rabbis did not know what was meant by, salseleah (and it shall exalt). One day they heard the handmaid of the house of Rabbi say to a man who was curling his hair, How long will you be mesalsel with your hair?... [Then comes a similar example which does not involve Rabbi Judah’s maidservant. I

The Rabbis did not know what was meant by we-tetethia bematate (of destruction), til one day they heard the handmaid of the household of Rabbi say to her companion, Take the tatitha (broom) and tati (sweep) the house.

The Rabbis did not know what was meant by Cast upon the Lord thy yehab and he shall sustain thee. Said Rabbah b. Bar Hanah: One day I was travelling with an Arab and was carrying a load, and he said to me, Lift up your yehab and put it on [one of] the camels.

What does this Gemara take for granted and what, perhaps, doesn't it take for granted? I would say it takes for granted that Hebrew was used in regular conversation among servants--or perhaps this servant was the last of the (naturally Hebrew speaking) mohicans, so to speak.

But what is not taken for granted is that the speech of maids can teach us what words in the Bible mean. The former is incidental to the story, the latter is the point of it. Therefore we can know something about spoken Hebrew from this story. What precisely that is? We need to be cautious and we need to examine other evidence. But one thing is clear: it is taken for granted that such a person spoke such a dialect. Thus, we can safely assume it to be reflective of the true situation and we now know something about spoken Hebrew in Rabbi's time, although dating the story is another matter; in theory it could be from a later time when it was assumed that the vernacular of maids in an earlier period was Hebrew. But the salient point is that the incidental information which the story-teller takes for granted tells us things.

If I am not mistaken, this principle was applied by Saul Lieberman in many of his studies on talmudic-era Israel in the Greco-Roman world, in his analysis of both rabbinic texts and non-Jewish sources.

So I thought I'd apply this same principle to determine something about R. Dr. Lieberman himself.

First, the background. In the biography of Saul Lieberman by Spiro and Schochet (pp. 175-76) one find the following distillation of his attitude towards modern scholarship in the service of Torah study, how necessary it is:

In his introduction to Tosefta Kifshuta, Zera'im, Lieberman acknowledges his indebtedness to the early commentators: "the first pioneers ... upon whose shoulders we stand and from whose wine we drink." Lieberman attributed errors on their part to the conditions of their time and to the lack of manuscripts that are available today. In particular, Lieberman calls our attention to the difficult working conditions of Moses Samuel Zuckermandel, the first scholar to publish a scientific edition of the Tosefta. Yet, in the interest of truth, Lieberman points out the limitations that constrained the scholarship of previous generations.

  • They possessed little knowledge of the Greco-Roman world.
  • They failed to understand or appreciate the uniqueness of the Talmud Yerushalmi's style and language.
  • They failed to appreciate how the traditions of the Jews of Palestine differed from those of Babylon.
  • They lacked manuscripts of the Talmud Yerushalmi.
  • They did not pay sufficient attention to gaonic writings in order to determine accurate texts of the Talmud Yerushalmi.
Lieberman informs us of how shockingly full or errors is our text of the Talmud Yerushalmi, and how great the needs is for one to painstakingly and properly elucidate the text--and he clearly had every confidence in himself and his abilities to be the one to do so.

In short, a perfect manifesto about the need fo using modern scholarly methods to properly understand the Talmud Yerushalmi (and Tosefta).

On page 190-91 of the book, we are given an abstract of a speech R. Dr. Lieberman gave called "A Talmud Written by the People in Their Own Land:"

He "listed the publication of the Escorial manuscript of the Palestinian Talmud Nezikin as one of the '[t]hree important events [that] have taken place in the last two years with regard to the Palestinian Talmud. First, a very important manuscript was discovered by the late Professor Rosental [sic] of blessed memory of the Hebrew University, a manuscript of a part of the Talmud that will greatly enhance our knowledge and understanding of the Talmud in general. Second, a concordance of that Talmud is now being published in Jerusalem by the Israel Academy of Sciences and the Jewish Theological Seminary of America....Third, an international assembly of Orthodox rabbis has suggested that the Palestinian Talmud should be studied daily by all Jews who study the Babylonian Talmud.

Now, I'm not sure what exactly this tells us about his relationship with Orthodoxy, but I am suggesting this tells us something of his scale of values. To him, an important manuscript of the Yerushalmi, a concordance of the Yerushalmi and a call to study the Yerushalmi daily by Orthdox rabbis were important events.

Critics from a right-leaning perspective are probably not too impressed by this, but I think it incidentally imparts something about how he balanced his scales. (Not that this is surprising to those who knew him, by every account.)

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Whatever happened to Maven Yavin? Also, don't use a password which can be guessed.

Once upon a time there was a blog called Maven Yavin. From November 2005 through January 2006 (with some continued limping in February and March of this year) myself, Krum as a Bagel, ADDeRabbi and LamedZayin held court. At its heydey Maven Yavin was getting several times more hits than any of our individual blogs and there were some great discussions and posts.

Silly us: we used a very, very easy password (at least in regard to the relationship between the password and the character of the blog). To my chagrin I noticed today that MY was 'hacked,' and the blog has all but disappeared. So, I decided to mirror the posts for posterity.

They can be found at Maven Yavin Archive.

The politics of dreidels

I'm told that in the weekly 'Alim Litrufah[1]' newsletter that one finds in some shuls there was an article about dreidels which helpfully explained that a dreidel is a [2] ס .סביבון בלע"ז.

[[1]1Not to be confused with 'Alim Litrufah,' the prospectus and introduction of the Pentateuch translation and commentary by Moses Mendelssohn.
1[2] לע"ז means "the vernacular," but is often seen as an acronym which means לשון עם זר. Which is to say, in this case, modern Hebrew is being called a foreign language, or more precisely, the language of a foreign nation.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

R. Jeremy Wieder's Concise Methodological Manifesto

There's a very interesting audio at YU Torah called 'Concise Methodological Manifesto by R. Jeremy Wieder. It runs about 15 minutes long and was apparently spoken off the cuff at the end of a shiur. It's worth listening, to or you could read this transcript:

I just want to take two minutes to address something that I'm told the rumor mill is very active [about]. I'm not going to address the larger issue right now; I just want to address the issue that's nogeah to shiur. Everything I say is repeatable in a public forum because I want to be very clear. It doesn't need to be repeated, but it may be repeated in a public forum.

There are people who seem to have, and perhaps its my fault, a misunderstanding of the nature of shiur, of my shiur. I value very highly that which I do outside of the beis midrash as well, in all sorts of disciplines and arenas, not in any particular studies, even though that's where most of my work is. I also value very much what is known in some circles as mehqar, in other circles as academic Talmud. I think they're very interesting--to me it's very interesting because I love learning Gemara--for over two decades--and to me, when you love learning a text you tend to be attracted and interested in all the various and sundry aspects of the text; how it came to be, not just the ideas that are floating in the air. Klal Yisrael, many of our frumme Yidden have learned Gemara for a very, very long time. The baalei ha-tosafos were very concerned about how the Mishna formulates things, whether it says arbaah roshei shana hem or, whether you have a hem or you don't have a hem. Now, those questions may not fascinate me so much, but you can see what an attachment there was to the language and sometimes they're [unclear]. But it interested them. And it interests me as well. And, I look up to Rava and Abbaye and I would be interested in seeing pictures of Rava and Abbaye (even though we never will) and maybe I'd be curious in what Rava and Abbeye wore as well. However, many of those aspects themselves are not talmud Torah. I don't believe, as I think you all know, that just because something is not talmud Torah doesn't mean it isn't a worthy enterprise and worthy of our time. But there are some things which are basically--some would call it secular disciplines--even if they relate to Torah, evne if they have some value in connection with Torah. Many of the things, however, that are often associated with academic Talmud, and some of us come to them via our exposure to academic Talmud, some of us come to it via other exposure, sometimes intuitively, are tools that can be very valuable in--and yes, I used the word tools because tools are good things--are very valuable things in properly understanding the devar Hashem in all of its manifestations as has been expressed by Klal Yisrael throughout the centuries. And as such, if there's a particular tool that might now be more currently prevalent in the academy, but it is useful for a ben Torah studying, then I think it's a very valuable tool to use when one learns Gemara. One does not spend his time engaged in playing with those tools, but you rather take them and you use them in the context of your talmud Torah.

Most of these tools, if not all of them, should be non-controversial, even if somehow they have become. So, for example (and I've mentioned this before), even though we don't spend our shiur doing girsaos, nontheless, when you look at the Dikdukei Sopherim, when it was published, it had the haskamos of all the gedolei ha-dor there, starting with R. Yitzhak Elhanan Spektor, for whom our yeshiva is named. Now, R. Shlomo Kluger, R. Yaakov Ettlinger--major, major gedolim in Europe. It was a wonderful enterprise; all this tedious labor, R. Rabinovich had undertaken to produce an amalgamation of kisvei yad on the Gemara that was relevent to their beis midrash. And frankly, for the most part, he did actually what was interesting, of value to Torah study; he didn't have every vav and yod and every variant spelling; he had those things which he thought had impact on the meaning of Gemara, the part that's relevent for the beis midrash. It doesn't really matter whether or not the Gemara ohi ending or the oy ending contracted. It's very interesting if you're a linguist; its not interesting in the beis midrash because it doesn't really matter in 99.99% of the contexts.

When one talks about recognizing the layers in sugyos--this was a tool in the arsenal of the baalei ha-tosafos. It was not a invented in the 20th century by some hoqrim in the academy. It was something that was well known to many, many rishonim and they use it to explain frequently problems in sugyos and between sugyos. There's nothing new about it. It is not the end-all and be-all of talmud Torah, but it is another useful and valuable skill in learning Gemara. This can be said for--almost everything, not everything. For many things that certain people in the academy have been machshiv. Someone like David Weiss Halivni, was not interested in a lot of the modern academic Talmud, but was interested in--again, I am not commenting about specific persons--but in learning Gemara. These were different methodologies that one can add to one's arsenal. Despite my occasionally making fun (maybe more than occasionally) of myself for sounding Brisk and making fun of Brisk, conceptual analysis plays a very important role in learning. Anyone who has been in this shiur for any period of time, maybe not for one or two days--it could look different--knows that it plays a regular role because, especially you learn Nezikin and Nashim, there's no other way around it. You have to engage in it some of the time. Perhaps, some people are more inclined to see it everywhere and some people are inclined to see it in fewer places and sometimes seek out alternative solutions. But it plays a major, major role even if it didn't come down mi-Sinai, like this is the only aspect of talmud Torah one shoudl engage in, it's still very important.

So--hence, some people might walk away because what makes this shiur different, among other things, is that these are tools and methodologies that are acceptable to use. They're acceptable. Now, to supplement, to enhance and to magnify the scope of our talmud Torah, and therefore they may be emphasized because what characterizes our shiur is not--maybe it does, actually--that we learn Gemara, but let's assume for the moment that it doesn't characterize the shiur to say "What do you do in your shiur?" "I learn Gemara," because that's not really helpful, it doesn't really tell you anything--"Yeah, but so does everybody else" and say "I learn rishonim," and even if those two enterprises take up, you know, 90% of the time or more it's not useful in characterizing it, so one of the things which stands out, which gives the shiur a particular flavor, is the presence of the question of layers in sugyos more so, perhaps, than any of the other issues which come up in mehqar, but other issues as well.

Some, perhaps, have come to a misunderstanding based on that, that this is an academic shiur. We have a yeshiva, and we have many shiurim--maybe all the other shiurim that are engaged in talmud Torah--and we do academic Talmud. But unfortunately that's a false impresison, and one that, if you spend time here I think you'll figure out pretty quickly, doesn't reflect the reality. And to the extent that there are people in the institution, talmidim who seem to be under this impression , that this is an academic Talmud shiur, you might--especially if they raise the issue--point out that--in fact, you should invite them to come in, they should sit in the shiur for a week. Not to come, but just to visit and see--at the very least like you'd come into a museum to see--and this way they would be most welcome to understand what it is that we do in this shiur. Because, from my perspective, this is my passion, this is my talmud Torah, this is what I spend much of my life doing--I hope to spend most of my life doing, and I hope that my talmidim, those who continue not in Torah will walk away, enriched with their experience of talmud Torah, but not of academic Talmud. Not because academic Talmud is bad, but academic Talmud is not what you do in a yeshiva, it's what you do in the academy. Some people don't really like it there either, I don't have the same problems with that, but that's not what takes place in the koslei beis ha-midrash. The koslei beis ha-midrash is a makom for talmud Torah--in the traditional beis midrash, for the most part, although I don't see the need to restrict it to Bavli or even restrict it to Torah she-be-'al peh, but traditionally we study Gemara, we study Bavli (we do study Yerushalmi here too)--I don't think the Yerushalmi was written by a bunch of academic scholars in the 4th or 5th century of the Common Era in Palestine, I think it was written by our holy ancestors, the Amoraim, and it was studied by our holy ancestors, the Rishonim, and it was once again brought into the curriculum by the Vilna Gaon--maybe some think the Vilna Gaon was an incredible Maskil--but the Vilna Gaon was a big talmid chochom, and was a very frum man and he and his circles, those who preceeded him and followed him, thought that the Yerushalmi and all these other texts were a valuable part of talmud Torah--Torah she-be-'al peh, it belonged in the beis midrash. Maybe not Torah she-be-khetav, but Torah she-be-'al peh, certainly, in expanded scope. But that is what we do here. So if anybody is not clear on what it is, so if you can perhaps clarify that misimpression because I don't people to think, either about this shiur or about the talmidim in this shiur, that somehow they're not engaged in talmud Torah but they're engaged in something else. Because this is talmud Torah, and if someone is in fact looking for that they should go to a different address, I'm not sure where they'd go, but this is the wrong place to come. So in case someone should happen to come under that misimpression, if you could clarify that for them I would greatly appreciate it. But I think in general, sheker and lashon hara and motzi shem ra are things that are generally to be avoided, whether or not they are bemezid or beshogeg--it could be beshogeg too, but I think it's very important that people understand what exactly it is that I am about and what the shiur is about. If somebody thinks it's appropriate for them, that's wonderful. If it's not appropriate, that's fine. But this is our talmud Torah, and very much in the tradition of our ancestors even if its not what some people want it to be or not, actually, what some people realize it is.

Are there any questions?

["Chaim" asks what academic Talmud study it]

Studying what Rava and Abbaye wore, studying the economics of Mechoza, studying the sociology of Mechoza, is not Talmud Torah--its very interesting--if we could actually get to the bottom of it it'd be fascinating, because people like to watch other people's lives generally. There's a kind of voyeuristic tendency that people have--I don't know if it's a kind of vicarious enjoyment--whatever it is. So, you know, I would love to see a video of life in Mechoza. But the fact is that's not studying of mitzvos Hashem, that's not studying on the Aggadah, which is meant to teach ethics and morality, it's not study of halakhah--it's, I think, sort of--there's Torah she-be-khetav and Torah she-be-'al peh. Torah she-be-khetav is, I think, clearly defined as Scripture, Torah she-be-'al peh is the interpretation of Torah she-be-khetav, plus halakhah in general, plus Aggadah and mussar, if you want to call it that, but sociology and history and realia in their own right are not talmud Torah. They're very interesting; but they're not talmud Torah.

[questioner starts to ask something about "if one uses..."]

Derekh agav, you might learn a Gemara, if you're studying to write a paper on how the terminology of which generations quote which generations of the Gemara, you're gonna learn a lot of Gemaras in the process, there's no doubt about. On a personal level, one of the reasons I chose to PhD, in the end, in academic--in Rabbinics, and not in computer science, is because I did not think I'd have the koach to work in two completely different disciplines where there was really no overlap in the substance of them. In other words, when you work in rabbinics you do get to learn a lot of the time, in doing so. But the study, per se, itself--you know, when you sit down and actually work on the problem and you tabulate your data; when you make a table of yeush kedi kani and yeush kedi lo kani, and all the possibilities, that's talmud Torah. When you make up a table of the quotations, of which amora quotes which amora, that's not talmud Torah. It may be a very useful tool,just as science is very useful for understanding, for paskening halakhah, for understanding many things. So is it a kind of mitzvah in its own right of some general rubric? Sure. It's a machshir. But if you talk about talmud Torah itself, it is the study of Torah she-be-khetav and Torah she-be-'al peh. I think machshirim are very good as well; there's no question about that. I think studying knowledge for its own right is a wonderful thing. You know, that's what distinguishes man from animal, aside from speech, its the broad thirst for abstract knowledge. It's wonderful. But nontheless, there's talmud Torah and there's chochmas ha-olam, which is wonderful, which is not talmud Torah, and its okay. It doesn't have to be talmud Torah to be a worthwhile pursuit. But what we do in a beis midrash is talmud Torah.

Are there any other question?

[Someone asks, "there's actually a deah that Rabbi Lamm brings in his book Torah U-Madda that you would make a bracha on machshirim."]

You know, I happen to have a nice relationship with Dr. Lamm, and I won't want to do what one of my no-longer-present colleagues did who got up, and, you know, made fun of the book and something like that, I think it was one of the things he picked on--I don't know what deah that is, I think its a silly deah [student tries to interject] I understand that, I understand that. I think that part of the problem that disturbs me about that point of view is that it makes the assumption that if it weren't talmud Torah then maybe we shouldn't be doing it. That may not be what the deah says, but I don't think you make a bracha on your calculus or your physics--even though I think they are magnificent subjects, I don't mean to exclude history either, it's of a different nature--I'm belying my science and math roots here--I like things that tend more towards absolute truth then not, postmodernists aside, but the fact is that I think they're incredibly valuable, I think the study of--particularly the natural sciences--for many people, maybe the humanities for others--can be incredibly religiously inspiring, spiritually inspiring, morally furthering and they're wonderful enterprises. They're just not talmud Torah. For me, personally, what I've chosen as my life's enterprise is talmud Torah. But I think that there are many different darkhei ha-chayim, and even for the person whose primary occupation is talmud Torah there are other valuable subjects to study, but you don't have to call them talmud Torah for them to be valuable.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Denominationalism stinks

DovBear decries the separation between Jews caused by stringencies, particularly in kashruth, comparing it with the Temple-era when divisions were created between conscientious kohanim and `amei ha-'aretz over similar matters.

My thinking is that problem is denominationalism in Judaism. While most people then were not Perushim and were not Tzedokim, they were the `am. It was not realistic to see them as part of another interpretation of Judaism, as opposed to a simple, uneducated class. In a sense, in pre-war eastern Europe this existed a little bit as well, even though obviously there were denominations and ideological movements. But there was still a large class of people who weren't knowledgeable at all and maybe who weren't even close to meticulously observant, but who co-existed alongside those who were both. They too were viewed as simply the `am and not Zionists or Bundists or Maskilim or Hassidim.

Unfortunately this is not true today because most Jews seem to be identified with a label of some sorts, as well as the fact that most Jews are either quite removed from tradition or are wedded to other traditions.

DB points out that "This is one advantage the catholics have over us. They still have the sence of the am - even for people who are knowledgeable, and dissenters, and attached to other traditions. No one doubts that they are "real" catholics."

Perhaps that is overly idealized, and I wouldn't mind if a Catholic reader weighed in (are you there? :) ), but there's something to the idea, even if it isn't true on the ground from the perspective of Catholics. Denominationalism stinks, even if some of our own denominationalists claim on principle that there are no denominations in Judaism! The trouble is that this principle relies on a claim, that only our own interpretation is entitled to be called Judaism, which in itself is seen as divisive (rightly or not). Note that in large measure this is an Ashkenazic problem; the Sepharadim and `edot ha-mizrah also never split and have much more of a sense of `am, as far as I can tell.

By the way, Martin Buber believed that `am was etymologically derived from `im, which means 'with.' Therefore 'am connotes unity and attachment. It's a nice midrash, even if it might not be linguistically correct.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

The importance of the Vilna Ga'on to Haskalah

You can find some interesting stuff on Google book search nowadays, as they scan more and more books. I found a chapter from The gaon of Wilna; a review of his life and influence by Mendel Silber (1905), which I decided to upload:

'Elijah Gaon of Wilna; His Importance.' You can download it or read it here.

Aside from the interest of the information contained in these ten pages in itself, it might also be of interest to readers in that it is a lucid example of how non-traditionalist Jews idealized the Vilna Gaon from an entirely different angle than traditionalists (Silber was an American Reform rabbi in St. Louis).


It really is worth reading the entire chapter.

The phenomenon of individuals who people with all sorts of opposing views feel kinship with is interesting. I have previously posted about how the Rambam was one such figure. The Ga'on was another. More recent figure were R. Samson Raphael Hirsch and R. J.B. Soloveitchik. Interesting it would be to investigate all such figures and contrast them with those who opposites never tried to co-opt for their own.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Look it up!

"Reading and translating with my young teacher the book of Job, I commenced in my eighth year to enjoy a foretaste of poetical beauties, and, incited by the political events of the time, I would scribble wretched rhymes in both Hebrew and Italian. "

"The study of Job impressed me forcibly with the necessity of new elucidations to the Scriptures, and I can distinctly recall having said one day to my schoolmates, that as I grew older, I would write comments better than those of Rashi. "

"To give a specimen of the forthcoming exegesis, I told him that I would prove that the country of Job was Beth-El; for, I added, in Genesis we read that "Utz" was formerly the name for "Beth-El." To convince my juvenile audience, who listened closely, I opened the Bible; but what was my surprise and confusion when I found that Luz and not "Utz" was the appellation by which Beth El went previous to Jacobs' vision! The childish arrogance received then a due reprimand, but the spirit of research and criticism was not quenched nor discouraged."

From Autobiografia di S.D. Luzzatto (Autobiography of Samuel David Luzzatto). Translation into English by Sabato Morais, published in The Jewish Record, Philadelphia, August 3-10, 1877.


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