Tuesday, August 03, 2010

An apostate rabbi's guidelines for censoring rabbinic and Jewish literature.

Several copies exist of a 16th century manual for Catholic censorship of Jewish books called ספר הזיקוק, the Book of Purging. It was mostly written by a monk who signed his name דומיניקו ירושלמי. As implied by his surname, Domenico Yerushalmi (1555-1621), who is also known as Domenico Gerosolimitano a Venezia and various other Latinized versions, was in fact born a Jew in Jerusalem.

He gives his personal history in a manuscript, which was printed by Gustavo Sacerdote in an 1893 article called I codici ebraici della Pia Casa de' Neofiti in Roma. He writes about his education, and as you can see he said he was a posek, dayyan and rabbi before converting to Christianity close to the age of 40. Prior to his conversion, he was also a physician in Egypt and Constantinople, and later worked as a censor of Hebrew books for the Church.

His conversion documents are extant, and they reveal that his name was Samuel Vives (or Vivas), and that he converted at age 38. In addition, he wrote what he calls a ספר ישר ונאמן, a ספר זיקוק which is the subject of our post.

The Sefer Ha-zikuk, which has never been published in full to this very day, gives instructions for how to go about censoring Hebrew books. Here is some of the instructions as published by N. Porges in an article called "Der hebraische Index expurgatorius ספר הזיקוק" in the 1903 Abraham Berliner Festschrift called ברכת אברהם.

The following are the introductory guidelines, which are fascinating even as they are horrific to those who value freedom of speech, thought and conscience.

1. Every instance of the term עבודה זרה which is not explicit that it is referring to ancient paganism shall be changed to עכו"ם, which means worshippers of stars and constellations. however, where it is clear that it is referring to avoda zara (paganism) prior to the coming of our Lord, it's no matter.

2. To the term צלמים (idols) and the like should be added "belonging to worshipers of stars and constellations."

3. Whenever the words נכרי ,גויים , גוי, or נכרית appear, if the context seems negative, insulting or critical of a Gentile the word should be erased and replaced with עכו"ם. However, if the passage deals with Hebrew laws, such as the laws of Sabbath, prohibited foods or wine touched by a Gentile and the like, it's no matter.

The preceding is so long as the term avoda zara is not mentioned, such as "the thoughts of the נכרי are turned toward ע"ז" or "a גוי pours wine for ע"ז," etc., which should be totally erased.

4. All mentions of the term משומד (apostate) which are not insulting should be replaced by עכו"ם, but if it is insulting it should be erased entirely.

5. The term עכו"ם should be added to all instances of the word אומה or אומות (peoples).

However, if the term peoples can be understood as referring to the nations of the world today, or to our specific nation in this generation, the entire thing should be erased, because it's made worse by the addition of עכו"ם (worshipers of stars and constellations).

6. Any praise to the people of Israel which implies disgrace for us, and is understood to be referring to the present time, should be entirely erased.

7. Any derogatory words about foreskins must be clarified to refer to earlier times. For example, the term מאוסה היא הערלה needs to be changed to מאוסה היתה הערלה. ("I was bald.")

8. Any place in the Bible where debate and difference exists between the Jewish faith and ours, if there is an explicit challenge to our understanding, or if it brings a proof for the Jewish view, even if the names of Christian scholars are not mentioned openly, the entire matter must be erased. But if the matter is explained according to their opinion, but without a challenge to our faith then it is no matter.

9. Any instance of an insult against a law of the laws of our faith, or our teachings, or any custom or practice, or an insult toward a king, officer or one of the holy priests of our nation should be entirely erased.

10. Any place that mentions something which is a great heresy, such as transmigration of souls (gilgul) or the idea that all souls were created during the six days of creation, or that God cries, or that the souls of the wicked are turned into demons (shedim and mazikim), or that the evil spirits which possess people are the souls of the wicked deceased and the like, the entire thing should be erased.

11. Any places that mentions Edom or Rome or Italy in a negative sense should be erased.

12. Any place that mentions that God is pained over the loss of Israel should be erased.

13. Any place which mentions men who died for their faith, such as those who died in Portugal and Spain, if it is mentioned that they died sanctifying God's name (kiddush ha-shem), or if they are called by the name Holy or Righteous (kedoshim and tzadikim) should be completely erased.

14. Any place that mentions festivals, holidays or celebrations of ours in an insulting way, such as lifnei eideihem and the like, or if it says "it is prohibited for an Israelite to transact business with them on those days," should be erased.

15. Likewise, the names of festivals mentioned, such as Calenda and Saturnalia, should be erased.

16. Any place mentioning monks, priests, cardinals, dukes or popes, which cannot be understood as referring to the period before the coming of our Lord should be erased.

17. Any place that mentions a Jew who lived after the coming of our Lord, and refers to him as Holy, Righteous, or calls a congregation kehila kedosha, or adat ha-shem, all this must be erased.

18. All this [work] requires great research with understanding and knowledge, especially wherein the term עבודה זרה is used. I await the face of our Lord, etc.


  1. What goes around comes around. We (=orthodox rabbinate) would be censoring them if we could.


  2. Wasn't Sefer ha-Zikuk published by Gila Privor?

  3. Fascinating post!

    Here are some typos I found, just to help make the post a wee bit better:

    > 3. Whenever the words נכרי ,גויים , גוי, or נכרית appea
    > 10. ... are the souls of the wicked deceases
    > 11. Any places that mentions Edom
    > 12. Any place that mentiones


  4. >Wasn't Sefer ha-Zikuk published by Gila Privor?

    Was it? I haven't read it. My impression according to the abstract was that she analyzes it, but not that she published it - however if so, I stand corrected.

    Phil, thanks. I will correct them.

  5. I posted last year on a World Congress lecture dealing with Christian censorship which talked about Domenico Yerushalmi (http://izgad.blogspot.com/2009/08/fifteenth-world-congress-of-jewish_366.html)

  6. "freedom of speech, thought and conscious." should be "conscience"

  7. 7
    >the term מאוסה היא הערלה needs to be changed to מאוסה היתה הערלה. ("I was bald.")

    What's bald got to do with it?
    Try "the foreskin was abhorrent"

  8. Why no mention of Raz-Krakotzkin's excellent book, published in Hebrew in 2005 and more recently in English?
    Perhaps Mississippi Fred is influenced by Beersheba Daniel, who outed Raz-Krakotzkin as a dangerous leftist in Zion.

  9. LOL I just didn't read it, so I couldn't reference it. I would never ignore someone's apolitical writings on account of their views. And who knows, maybe I agree with Raz-Krakotzkin's politics.

  10. What goes around comes around. We (=orthodox rabbinate) would be censoring them if we could.

    What's your point? We'd do more than that. We have a positive commandment from the Torah to exterminate avoda zara from the world.

    וניתצתם את-מזבחותם, ושיברתם את-מצבותם, ואשריהם תשרפון באש, ופסילי אלוהיהם תגדעון; ואיבדתם את-שמם, מן-המקום ההוא.

    וכן ציווה משה רבנו מפי הגבורה, לכוף את כל באי העולם לקבל כל מצוות שנצטווה נוח, וכל מי שלא קיבל, ייהרג.



Related Posts with Thumbnails