Monday, February 13, 2012

How a ban over Graetz's history book led to detention in jail in 1876.

In October -November 1876 the following little notices appeared in successive issues of Der Israelit, Frankfurt's Orthodox newspaper edited by Rabbi Marcus Lehmman:

It seems that in Lancut in Galicia a Mr. I. Weissmann bought his copy of the 9th volume of Graetz's History of the Jews to a bookbinder. It was seen, denounced, and he was placed in cherem by the local rabbi (who may or may not have been R. Menachem Pinchas Spira, a son of the Bnai Yissaschar).

Trouble is, the cherem was against the law. Seven people were convicted; three received four weeks detention, three received three weeks, and the book-binder received two weeks. They appealed the conviction.

If we are talking about the same Weissmann, then we can identify this man as the "Weissmann Isak (aus Lancut)" described as בקי בחדרי תורה ובמשכלות ידיו רב לו in Lippe's Bibliographisches Lexicon (Vienna 1881) p. 528.


  1. I always wanted to market a "Don't talk to me I'm in Cherem" T-shirt. Alternatively, like the " I'm with Stupid" T-shirt, have one that says "He's in Cherem" with a big arrow. Somehow it seems like a good conversation starter. Imagine how many shidduch dates would go so much smoother with opening lines like, "so, now that I'm out of Cherem..." Is it on shidduch resumes yet? Question #23 Have you ever been put in Cherem? Pardon me, it's been a long day.

  2. "(who may or may not have been R. Menachem Pinchas Spira, a son of the Bnai Yissaschar)"

    What are the צדדים?

  3. Der Israelit was a Frankfurt paper? I thought Jeshurun was the Frankfurt paper (or merely more like a journal).

  4. Yeedle, he was the rav of Lancut in the period - I think.

    Baruch, no, Mainz. I misspoke/ typed for some reason, not quite sure why. I think it's because they eventually moved to Frankfurt, but that was decades later.

  5. The bookbinder's two-week sentence puzzled me until I looked at the first clipping, which explains that it was the bookbinder who ratted out Herr Weissmann to the rabbi.

  6. R. Menachem Mendel Pinchas Spira was not a son of the Benei Yisaschar but a grandson. His father was R. Elazar Spira. According to his Wikipedia page (Yiddish R. Menachem Mendel Pinchas was rav in Lancut from 1865 to 1910.

  7. 1) Can someone kindly tell me what the German says?
    2) With regards to Graetz, I much prefer the reaction of R Samson Raphael Hirsch: Collected writings volume five. Has anyone ever responded to RSRH's smackdown there? I think Dayan Grunfeld writes that Graezt called RSRH a "heresy hunting hermit" in his next book, but I've never heard of a substantive response to RSRH's point by point rebuttal.



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