Thursday, December 27, 2012

Advertisement from 1858, for a book "Fit to Eat"!

Here is an advertisement I found that was published in Hamagid, March 18, 1858
The ad is for the book Hamashbir by Yosef Sheinhak. After the extended praise for the work, the newspaper informs us, that it is such a great book that it is fit to be eaten!

Sunday, December 23, 2012

a Case of Jewish Murder in Germany in the 15th Century

Murder of a Jew by a Jew was an extremely rare occurrence during the Middle Ages, here is a mention of one I found, with the case brought before Rabbi Israel Bruna (1400–1480). See his Responsa Siman 265 below.

Superstitions in 17th Century Poland: Tobias Hakohen's remark

Tobias ben Moses Cohn (1652–1729) in his "medical" book Ma'aseh Tuviah, makes this interesting remark in reference to the country of Poland. " There is no country in the world, where people occupy themselves with demons, amulets, incantations, conjurations, and dreams more than in this country" He notes, that even if there were no such things as demons, they should have been created for the sake of this country.

Maaseh Tuvia, Yesnitz 1721, page 86c

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Can you steal Manuscripts so you can copy them? a responsa of the Ri"f

Here is an interesting Responsa of the Ri"f : Question: one of the students stole books of commentaries from his friend and when asked to return them, he swore that he will not return them until he is allowed to copy them, and there was a Rabbi who permitted stealing them for this cause, what is the Halacha?
Teshuva: The thief and the one who permitted it were both wrong. The Ri"f goes on to say that the thief transgressed 3 commandments of the Torah.

Immanuel di Romi and his stealing of books

Here is an account of the ways Immanuel di Romi in the 13th century got his books to read and his response when getting caught. Quoted from the Jewish Quarterly Review vol 4, page 76

Monday, December 17, 2012

Please look out for this book stolen from our store

This book was stolen from our store recently, please keep an eye out for it, if history holds itself, it is bound to show up somewhere soon. The book is Mayan Ganim by Rabbi Reuven Mizrahi printed in Kushta, 1721. Beautiful copy.



Saturday, December 15, 2012

A burnt book as the source of an Ashkenazi Minhag for Chanukah

The Havot Yair of Yair Chayim Bacharach brings down a fascinating source for a certain custom of the community of Worms came about (Havot Yair siman 238): Once when speaking with a scholar in Worms, he expressed his wonder at the minhag in vogue there of commencing the recital of the Meorah on the Sabbath of Hannukah with the middle of the Piyut, and was informed that this custom was based on the following event. During one of the persecuations, all the existing handwritten prayer-books were destroyed, and when after the persecution the reorganization of the community began, only one prayerbook was found, in which unfortunately the first part of the Meorah for the Sabbath of Hannukah was missing. Because of this, the Jews in Worms had to content themselves with the recital of the second part of the piyyut only. From then onwards, this became a general custom, although books containing the whole text were available.
Here is the text of the original Teshuvah:
אף כי לדעתי מנהג אמירתם בקהילות ישנות באשכנז אין ראיה מכרחת שנעשה בהסכמת חכמי הקהילה או הדור כ׳ כמה מנהגים כאן מהמון עם אחר גזרות תתכ׳ו וק״ט ששלוכי השמד חזרו ונתישבו מתי מספר ונהגו לפי ידיעתם ורצונם ונקבע אח"כ למנהג בלי משים על לב
ובימי חרפי היה לי פתחון פה עם זקן אחד   בעל תורה ודיין בק״ק ווירמ״שא ועל שתמהתי מאד על מנהג זר שמתחילן מאורה לשבת חנוכה ממלכה ממושכה והוא באמצע הפיוט כ׳ התחלתו שני זיתים וכו והישיבני כי שמע מפי זקני גדולי הקהילה כי בשעת הגזירות נשרפו כל סררי תפילות ומחזורים
 וכאשר לא היה נמצא הדפוס היה מחזור א׳  וסידורים מעריבי' ויוצרות א׳ לקהל או למשפחהזמן רב אחר שעבר זעם שחזרו ונתיישבו מתי מספר אמרו מה שמצאו מפיוטים שנשאר וכאשר מצאו מאורה הנ״ל רק חציה כאור מוצל מאש אמרו רק חציה שלא לבטל המנהג לפי שעה ונקכע אח״כ למנהג קבוע
  כי הנלפע״ד כתבתי ־ נאם הטרוד יח״ב

Friday, December 14, 2012

Mountain Jews יהודי ההרים and Bircat Shehecheyanu on a New Harvest

At times, a good way to find the customs of Jews 2000 years ago is to compare it with the customs of old isolated Jewish Communities in the world. One such community if that of the Mountain Jews which have been living in their remote towns since at least the 5th century. In 1884 in St Petersburg, יוסף יהודה הלוי טשארני Yosef Yehuda Charney published his book of travels and correspondence with the Mountain Jews. The natives, describe their customs and beliefs and one such custom which I had not seen elsewhere was that of making the Blessing Shehecheyanu on the new harvest.

There seems to be no source for such a custom, other than the blessing that was made in Eretz Yisrael on the harvest while separating the Ma'asrot. Perhaps the Jews who emigrated from Eretz Yisrael towards the Caucasus kept the custom of making Shehecheyanu not realizing the reason no longer applied.
There is much discussion in the Poksim today if to make a Blessing of Shehecheyanu when tithing today. The story goes, that when the Imrei Emes visited Israel, he met with Rav Kook and mentioned that he will be making the Mitzvah of separating the Ma'asrot for the first time, if so Rav Kook said, you can make Shehecheyanu as well. After a heated debate in which the Imrei Emes siding with the opinion of those who do not make Shehecheyanu, he got up and said, if the Rabbi of Jerusalem, was Posek that you do make a Beracha, I accept his authority and did indeed make Shehecheyanu.

Another possibility might be that the blessing they made was an extension of the Shehecheyanu made on purchasing a new home, clothing etc which they extended to be any happy occasion. There seems to be a consensus though with the Poskim that on eating a new vegetable or other non-fruit that Shehecheyanu does not apply (BaCH OH 235).

Thursday, December 13, 2012

A description of the Jewish Community in Salonica, January 29, 1921

I stumbled across this great description of the now gone community of Salonica, Greece, published in the Reform Advocate, January 29, 1921. It is interesting to note that the article states that mixed marriages are unknown, though anti-semitism was non-existent. Apparently, the lack of Antisemitism in the city, didn't prevent 98% ! of the Jewish Community of Salonica from dying in the Holocaust.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

An outsider teaches me what is wrong with our society

Sometimes it takes someone from the outside to point out our problems to us. I received this email from a customer, and was left at a loss as to what to answer him.
"My children have auto immune issues so I had my DNA tested. Although I was raised as a Christian I have loved Hebrew and the"Old Testament" since my early 20s when I took a Hebrew class at college- it just came natural. I even ate virtually 100% Kosher, went to Synagogue and studied Torah on my own. My DNA came back with a stunning amount of Jewish markers-mostly Ashkenazi and eastern Europe/Western 'Russia'. However there is some Sephardic and Mizrochi. I was relating this to a Jewish friend and received a very odd comment at the Revelation of the Sephardic but especially Mizrochi. Why is this a problem? Why would someone who is observant look down on Mizrochi?"
Though much less prevalent in the diaspora than in Israel, it is odd, that just when we have our own homeland, and our enemies are less out in the open, we choose to quarrel between ourselves. May G-d protect us from ourselves.