Friday, March 22, 2013

What do you call an Author who doesn't own a copy of his own book?

What do you call an Author who doesn't own a copy of his own book?
If you own a bookstore, you call him a customer.
 For years, my good friend Prof. Richard Tomback has told me how he does not own a copy of his magnum opus; A comparative Semitic lexicon of the Phoenician and Punic languages. He would have liked to purchase one, but the publisher's stock was depleted decades ago and the few copies available online were priced in the heavens up to $1400.
This week I discovered a copy in a library we acquired and had the pleasure this morning of united the book with the man who made it all happen.

Monday, March 18, 2013

An interesting variation on a hand made vintage Seder Plate

I chanced upon a handmade Seder Plate, c1940 which the family it was owned by say it was passed down in the family from Europe. There is an interesting variation on the items chosen to be placed on the plate, in place of Hazeret, is the salt water.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

A Unique offer by a Jewish Bookstore in Williamsburg

I might take the free delivery, but I don't think I'll be demanding rapes from them with my order.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013


Rabbi Elchanan Wasserman, in his first edition of his Kobetz Iggerot, equates Bookdealers and those learning Torah. See photo here

The price of the book was 5 Zloty, but for booksellers and Yeshiva Students; just 3.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Can books be given as Mishloach Manot? a case in Point

The debate over whether one can or can not give a book to a friend to fulfill the obligation of Mishloach Manot is an old one, but here is a photo of an inscription in a book given to the Ohr Hachaim, Rabbi Chaim ibn Attar on Purim.
it reads  ""הועל קדם חד מן קדמיה ה"ה החכם השלם הותיק גזע ישישים בנן של קדושים אוהב טהור לב ביום פורים משנת פת"ח אהל מועד לפ"ק לקיומי ביה מצות שלוח מנות ה"ה ידידנו כמוה"ר חיים ן' עטר נר"ו לא יכבה, מאת נרצע לאהבתו שמעיה מאימראן ס"ט".
"Raised as a gift from me to the complete Chacham, son of Kedoshim, pure hearted on Purim in the year 1728… as mishloach manot to my dear friend Rabbi Chaim Ebn Atar, from one who is tied to his love Shemaya Meimran".
The writer of the dedication is Rabbi Shemaya Meimran a chacham in the city of Meknes, father-in-law of Rabbi Chaviv Toledano, a rabbi in Meknes

Here is another example of a Rabbi passing on a book as Mishloach Manot

The book, Eretz Hayyim, was inscribed by the author, Rabbi Hayyim Sutton and then re-inscribed by the receiver, Shmuel Pollack as Mishloach Manot

Another book I came across which was given as Mishloach Manot, was given by Rabbi Avraham Yehoshua Heschel Twerski to his son the Maliner Rebbe, Rabbi Chanoch Henoch Twerski
 Mishloach Manot, was given by Rabbi Avraham Yehoshua Heschel Twerski to his son the Maliner Rebbe, Rabbi Chanoch Henoch Twerski

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Awash in new prayerbooks, synagogues ponder how to dispose of old ones

Below is an article by Chavie Lieber which appeared in
NEW YORK (JTA) -- After years of watching synagogue members die or move away, the Sephardic Jewish Center of Canarsie made the difficult decision to downsize.

The 50-year-old Brooklyn synagogue had been a thriving center for the area’s Sephardim. But after accepting that it could no longer pull together enough money to cover expenses, let alone muster the 10 men necessary for daily prayer, the synagogue disposed of most of its belongings and began holding Shabbat services in a nearby Ashkenazi congregation.

But what was the center to do with its prayer books? It owned several hundred volumes in the Spanish-Portuguese liturgical style -- some tattered, some like new and some belonging to older members that may have had significant worth.

“We donated some to a local shul, but we had to get rid of a lot of them and bury them,” Rabbi Myron Rakowitz told JTA. “It was difficult because we didn’t just want to throw them out or claim them unusable. We want other people to use them, to give them purpose when we no longer can.”

What to do with old books is a growing problem for synagogues across the United States. In the last six years, the three major American Jewish denominations all have released new prayer books. More than 1,500 synagogues have purchased the books, in some cases making older versions obsolete.

More than 700 congregations have bought copies of the Reform movement’s new Mishkan T’Filah, and hundreds more are expected to buy. The Conservative movement’s new High Holiday prayer book, the Lev Shalem Mahzor, has sold nearly 260,000 copies to some 500 congregations since its 2010 release. And more than 200,000 copies of the Koren siddur released in 2009 have been purchased by more than 300 Orthodox synagogues.

The problem isn't going away. The Reform movement is working on a new High Holiday prayer book, or machzor, that it expects to release in 2015.

According to Jewish tradition, prayer books are holy and cannot just be thrown out. Traditionally, they must be placed in a geniza, a repository for holy books awaiting burial. It's the only religiously acceptable way to dispose of them.

“This problem is just rampant because now is the greatest time for creativity in writing new prayers and liturgy, and it’s going to get worse when the new machzor comes out,” said Rabbi Elaine Zecher of Boston, who is leading a committee working on the new Reform movement prayer book. “But our solution to bury them shouldn’t be looked at negatively. This is an intentional disposal, not a mindless disposal.”

Some synagogues have sought alternatives to the burial option. Congregation Beth Israel in San Diego takes its old books and those of several nearby congregations, and mails them to Jewish Prisoner Services International in Seattle. Congregation Netivot Shalom in Berkeley, Calif., sent their old prayer books to Hillel chapters throughout the state two years ago when it bought new machzors.

But finding a new home for all the leftover books, some of them decades old, can be difficult.

“Our machzorim we’re looking to get rid of now are usable, but they are from the 1940s version,” said Rabbi Philip Scheim of Beth David B’nai Israel Beth Am in Toronto, which is planning to upgrade to the new Lev Shalem machzor this year. “The English translation is incredibly hard for people to get through.”

For most synagogues, if the books don’t eventually find a home, to the ground they go. Some buy pricey lots in a Jewish cemetery; others bury them near their synagogue. Sometimes a gravedigger is hired to do the work.

“It’s really a shame if we have to end up burying our books. They’d be of good use, but we just can’t find anyone to take them in,” said Marjie Cogan of Congregation Beth Shalom in Seattle, which has been trying unsuccessfully for years to unload 700 old machzors. “It’s a huge problem for us because we don’t have the means to store them."

That’s not true of Beth Am, a Conservative synagogue in Baltimore. The synagogue’s rabbi, Daniel Burg, says there is space to temporarily store 1,200 books that are no longer used by the congregation. Burg hesitates to bury the books because he feels it would be wasteful.

“On the one hand, we don’t want to destroy God’s name or have it fade by the books just sitting there,” Burg said. “But on the other hand, there’s a concept of ba’al tashchit, of not wanting to just waste things. And it’s difficult to just get rid of things that could still have use.”

Rabbi Daniel Freelander, the vice president of the Union for Reform Judaism, says his movement is confronting the problem of book disposal for at least the third time: first in 1975, when Gates of Prayer replaced the old Union Prayer Book; in 1990, when a new gender-neutral version was released; and again with Mishkan T’Filah.

“No weeks pass by without us being contacted by people looking to get rid of their old Jewish books,” Freelander said. “A good majority of them get donated, but we’ve come to terms that many will get buried, and the ceremony can actually be educational for kids. Those books can’t just sit in your attic forever.”

At Temple Emanu-El in Dallas, the congregation gathers each year before Passover to collectively dispose of unused books. A communal prayer is recited, as is the Mourner’s Kaddish, and there’s a moment of reflection.

“We gather together at the synagogue where members bring tattered prayer books and other sacred books that can no longer be used,” Rabbi Debra Robbins said in an email. “We developed a creative liturgical ceremony for families and members of all ages to participate in together, and we have a special grave site labeled sifre kodesh,” or holy books.

Zecher noted that Jews have been burying books for centuries to make room for new ones, and the practice will continue to grow as the religion continues to evolve.

“It might seem wasteful,” Zecher said, “but like everything we do, it’s with intention.”

How many people does it take to sell a Jewish Manuscript? More than You think

You know you are underselling your stock, when you find items you sold show up at auctions throughout the world. I just received the latest Kedem Auction catalog and was amused to see several items which I have sold on my site being offered. See here one of the items for example. We sold it on our site for $50 just a few months ago, it is being offered here for a starting bid of $200. It appears, that often there can be several dealers and auction houses in between the original owner and the end buyer

Overall a beautiful catalog, with lots of quality items. The focus of the auction house seems to be signatures and handwriting of lesser-known Eastern European Rabbis. It will be interesting to see how much this subject will pick up amongst collectors.