Sunday, June 10, 2012

Ami Magazine draws on an old tradition?

The current issue of Ami Magazine has as striking image illustrating the cover story, "Orthodox Community Under Attack By The Press," depicting a young Chareidi man in stocks.

I thought it might be interesting to discuss the Kuna a little bit, the stocks which were often found outside Polish and Lithuanian synagogues (and Churches). Wrongdoers were places in the kuna, and sometimes people were enjoined to spit at them during the period they were confined. People could be placed in it for things ranging to financial misconduct (such as defaulting on loans) to religious misconduct, as well as things like theft.

Here is an image of the actual kuna which was used in/ by the main synagogue in Vilna during the time that - allegedly - Salomon Maimon was placed in it on orders of the Vilna Gaon for saying that the Talmudic Sages erred in giving ditza as a Hebrew synonym for "joy." The story about that story is complex; the second edition of Aliyos Eliyahu (where the story is related) acknowledged that Salomon Maimon, given as the  protagonist in the first edition, could not have been the hapless prisoner, but that it was the mysterious Glusker Maggid (aka Abba, Maggid of Hlesk) who is famed in legend elsewhere as the man whom Rabbi Yaakov Emden throw down a flight of stairs, composing a Hebrew poem as he fell. 

And here is a depiction of a man confined in a kuna, printed in Tausent Jahr Pinsk (New York 1941) by Benzion Hoffmann (from here).

And one from the synagogue in Przysucha (i.e., Peshischa):


  1. "man whom Rabbi Yaakov Emden through down a flight of stairs"


  2. Fixed to "throw"?

  3. Joe in Australia11:00 PM, June 10, 2012

    Third thyme lucky!

  4. Perhaps the Pesischa Rabbis should have been put in the pillory for being over the lav of not punishing on Shabbos.

  5. Asifa aftermath?12:44 AM, June 11, 2012

    You sure the guy isn't a blogger being punished?

  6. See the Rema at the end of OC Siman 319 that discusses spitting on Shabbos (at least when there is a breeze.) I wonder what these people would do when it was windy and a guy was locked up outside the shul on Shabbos. Did they still spit?

  7. You sure these guys know what a kuna is? I figure they think that's how guillotines looked, which they know about from the stories of the Spanish Inquisition. (Though I believe the kuna also originated in Spain)

    1. I would guess that they have no idea. It was a convenient starting point for a post that I had not gotten the chance to do for a couple of years. The imagery they used evokes the kind of pillory you see in drawings from America's Colonial period, not the kuna, although they are related confinement punishments.

  8. There were two types of stocks or pillories in use in the colonial period. One where you sat on a bench and stuck your legs through the holes, and where your head and arms went through. I wonder how often these punishments were actually invoked. Maybe its my modern day thinking showing through, but I cant imagine the citizens would let a rabbi get away with physical punishment like that too often. i always think of the famous teshuvah of the Rosh, ordering some woman to have her nose and ears cut off.

  9. Jordan Penkower wore shorts to work again today. If he does it again tomorrow, it will be a chazaka.

  10. It wouldn't surprise me if Chareidi shuls bring back the kuna for those with unfiltered internet connections.

  11. The man in the second-to-bottom pictures looks way too much like Rav Chaim Soloveitchik for my comfort.



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