Friday, May 31, 2013

The Absurd verse chosen by Ariel Toaff for his bookplate

Above is a photo of the bookplate of the now infamous, Ariel Toaff. The theme, is very absurd, the title translates as Divine Providence and the verse below it is a Vulgate Latin translation of the Verse from the Tochecha . הָיְתָה נִבְלָתְךָ לְמַאֲכָל, לְכָל-עוֹף הַשָּׁמַיִם וּלְבֶהֱמַת הָאָרֶץ
I can understand the connection of the lion, to his name Ariel, but the choice of this verse seems to indicate something else might be going on.

While I'm at it, above is the bookplate of Rabbi David Shonak. Rabbi Shonak was in the book news recently when his congregation in Milan's synagogue had Judaica lifted by 4 young Israelis.
When Rabbi David Shonak found the exquisite ancient Torah ornaments from the ark in his Malan synagogue had been swiped, he did the logical thing: the ex-Israeli paratrooper kept his cool and called in the Italian police, but he also called a slew of leading Judaica dealers around the world.
Within ten minutes Shonak got the lead he was waiting for: The priceless hot merchandise had just been offered (over over-the-counter!) to a leading Jerusalem Judaica shop. Collared by the cops, it turned out the four young thieves had left their backpacks at the synagogue for safekeeping with the accommodating rabbi.  When they went to pick up their gear the next day, the ungrateful nogoodniks decided to take some 'souvenirs' with them.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Fascinating Maimonidian Rant in Mishmeret Kehunah 1753 Amsterdam, dismissing Talmudic Witchcraft

In 1753 R. Hiyya Kohen de Lara, of the Etz Hayyim Yeshiva in Amsterdam, published his Mishmeret Kehuna, a talmudic lexicon.  His introduction contains a remarkable rant, especially given the date it was written in, saying things I think many would have loved to say out loud, but feared to do so.

signature of author, at end of introduction

Here is from the introduction:
לא אביא מאמרים אשר הם על אדני כשפים מיוסדים וקצת רפואות שאין דעת הבריות נוחה מהן וכבוד אלהים הסתר דבר
וכל המאמרים אשר פירשם הרב המורה אני אומר לקורא עיין במורה הנבוכים כשמו כן הוא..... והיתה כאש בוערת עצורה
.בעצמותי עד שקראתי הרב המורה שלשה או ד פעמים
After lavishly praising the Rambam, he goes on to say that after he dies, ואני מבקש ממי שהוא ראשון והוא אחרון כשאכין צידה לנשמתי ויקחני מן העולם הזה שיתנני במחיצת הרב המורה כי יודע ועד שכל דבריו דברי נביאות

Notice how he dismisses a load of Talmud sections as witchcraft and with all his rationalism was still a great believer in the afterlife.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Book Readers vs Book Buyers

After several frustrating attempts of finding the best place to advertise to potential book buyers, I came to the depressing realization that people who read books and people who buy books are very often two very different sets of people.
It seems that a large portion of the people who buy books can not be reached via advertisements in printed form as they do not read.

Friday, May 10, 2013

A Haskamah from Rav Abraham Isaac Kook and the response of a Zealot with a pen

In 1935, Rabbi Gedalia Silverstone published a commentary on Tehillim with a Haskamah from Rav Kook. In this copy, from the collection of Dr S. Sprecher, the Haskamah of Rav Kook got a new makeover. The Haskamah is crossed out, Rav Kook's name is replaced with ימח שמו and a lengthy explanation was left under  the Haskamah. It reads thus "וכבר אמרו דורשי רשומות ולא תתורו אחרי לבבכם - הערצל ימ"ש ואחרי עיניכם - קוק ימ"ש
ועל אף גודל חסידותו החיצונית אבל בפנימיותו היה מקולקל מאוד והשבית אלפים ורבבות מישראל לרעיון הציונות ולשמד רח"ל כידוע"
Quite a rant!
Supposedly, it was the Minchas Elazar, who came up with levavchem-herzl-heart and aynaichem-kook-look "dvar torah" pun, a play on the Yiddish translation of the words.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

The Civil War, slavery and the 1863 New York Haggadah

I just acquired a nice old American Haggadah, printed in New York, L. H. Frank: 1863. Printed in the middle of the ongoing war, it makes an interesting note of Jewish Servants. (Yudlov 1189; Yaari 881; Goldman 132)

The final leaf contains the following interesting comment: “On these nights it is customary to allow even the meanest Hebrew servant to sit at table…as we were all equally alike in bondage.”

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

The Chassidic students' version of והיו עיניך רואות את מוריך A new trend?

Though the verse in Isaiah  (Isaiah 30:20) והיו עיניך רואות את-מורֶיך does not refer to teachers in any way, rather to G-d, in many circles, it has come to mean visualize your Rebbe in front of you all day. I have seen an increasing trend in recent years of students placing photos of their "Rebbe" in every Gemara volume they use. Yesterday, I acquired a library from a home and found a photo of the Satmar Rebbe placed neatly near every name in the Gemara volumes, I have found in the past various other Rebbe photos as well.
Is this a way of promoting a fear of G-d or perhaps bordering on idol worship?