Thursday, December 4, 2014

The participation of Yeshiva Bachurim in the Six Day War - Yeshivat Hanegev

I recently found an insightful letter, photographed below. The letter was written by Rabbi Yisachar Meir, Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshivat Hanegev. R. Meir was born in Hamburg, though as a young man, he was a Rosh Yeshiva in Morocco with over 300 talmidim. Ultimately he settled in Netivot where he literally transformed a desert wasteland into a town that embodied the essence of Torah.

The letter was written on June 3rd, 1967, a few hours before the state of Israel declared war, on what was to become the six day war. Rav Meir describes in the letter the struggles of having a Yeshiva on the Gaza Border, in the then immigrant settlement of Netivot. He describes the time, as "this time of imminent danger".

From the letter: "At this crisis in addition to studying day and night and bringing moral comfort to citizens of the town to prevent panic our Talmidim who intend to become the spiritual leaders for the entire Negev, now guard the town at night, render first aid to the citizens, dig trenches and assist the mayor in administration and the importance of this fortress of Torah on the Gaza Border is now recognized by all".

Intriguing Inscription from Rabbi Hayyim Hacohen of Tripoli, Algeria to Leo Herzberg-Frankel Secretary of Trade and Commerce Chamber in Brody

I recently acquired a copy of the book מצות המלך Mitzvat Hamelech printed in Livorno in 1879. It is a commentary on the Azharot authored by Rabbi Chaim Hakohen (died in 1905), a Dayan and Rabbi in the city of Triploli, Libya.

This copy has a beautiful inscription by the author to Leo Herzberg-Fränkel, a famous Austrian writer and journalist.

Leo Herzberg-Fränkel

Here is his entry in the Jewish Encyclopedia: Austrian writer; born at Brody, Galicia, Sept. 19, 1827. At the age of seventeen he went for a year to Bessarabia, and on his return published "Bilder aus Russland und Bessarabien," and made contributions to Wertheimer's "Jahrbuch für Israeliten." After the Vienna revolution in 1848 Herzberg-Fränkel went to the Austrian capital and was employed on Saphir's "Humorist," and then on the "Oesterreichischer Lloyd"; later he became one of the editors of the "Reichszeitung." In 1856 Herzberg-Fränkel was appointed chief clerk of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry at Brody. For forty years he continued to occupy this post; was then pensioned, and now lives in summer at Teplitz, Bohemia, and in winter at Meran, southern Tyrol, occupying his leisure with literary work. In recognition of his long services as member of the city council, inspector of schools, and president of the musical society, he received from the Emperor of Austria the gold medal of merit, and a special medal of honor for his faithful work in the Chamber of Commerce. He died in 1915.

I found no connection between these 2 people living on different continents and of a very different nature. What brought the author to inscribe the book to Frankel?

The inscription of the author, Hayyim Hacohen to Leo Herzberg-Frankel

The Stamp of Rebbetzin Freide Lea Schwadron, daughter in law of Rabbi Shalom Schwadron

It is not unusual to see Rabbinical Stamps that trace the Rabbi's lineage, but such stamps of Rebbetzins', the wives of these Rabbis are rather scarce.

I recently came across this set of unusual stamps of the wife of Rabbi Yitzchak Schwadron, son of Rabbi Shalom Schwardon. Rabbi Yitzchak Schwadron was the author of Minchat Yitzchak and Sheyare Mincha on the Tosefta. He also edited and published much of his father's writings as well.

The tradition regarding the books of the Tashbetz, Simeon ben Zemah Duran and it's refutation

There is a popular tradition in the book world, that the Tashbetz, R. Shimon ben Zemah Duran  (1361–1444) was very careful to respect holy books in his lifetime, spreading out an attractive cloth under the books that he was learning from. In return for this good deed, his book was printed in a very attractive form and in a unique high quality binding. His printed books never get wormed, moth eaten or moldy. Rav Shalom Baer Schneersohn is said to have searched through numerous libraries and found, that even if the Tashbetz was placed between other books that were moth eaten, the Tashbetz was left untouched.

Here are some of the sources that discuss this tradition:
"גוילי ספרים - נפתלי בן-מנחם" עמ' יא:
רבי שמעון בן צמח דוראן, בעל ספר התשב"ץ אמסטרדאם תצ"ח,היה מכבד ספרים ומוקירם. יום-יום היה מנקה את ספריו במטלית שלמשי מיוחדת לשם כך, שלא יצטבר עליהם אבק. בשכר זה זכה רבי שמעון, שהעש והרקבון אינם שולטים בתשב"ץ. הצדיק ר' שלום בער שניאורסון מליובאביץ בדק בספריות רבות ומצא, שאפילו אם ספר התשב"ץ עומד בין ספרים אחרים ששלט בהם העש ועשה בהם נקבים נקבים חלולים חלולים - ספר התשב"ץ נשאר עומד שלם ויפה 

יפה ללב' חלק ג', יורה דעה סימן עזר אות ג דף צא סוף ע"ד: "ואני שמעתי על הרב הגדול הרשב"ץ אבי הרשב"ש ז"ל, דמה שזכה לספר שו"ת גדול הנקרא תשב"ץ, בדפוס וכריכה נאה אין כמוה, לפי שהיה נזהר לפרוש מפה מטפחת יפה נאה וחשובה על הספרים שהיו פתוחים לפניו ללמוד בהם זיע"א

Today, I had just sold a copy of the first edition Tashbetz that was rather heavily wormed. Photos of it appear below. Perhaps the version that the Yafeh Lalev brings down is the more correct one, where the reward the Tashbetz received was that his books were printed in extraordinary beauty, rather than a protection from nature and the elements.


Rabbi Ahron Hyman and the quote אין נביא בעירו in his Bet Vaad Lechachamim

Rabbi Ahron Hyman ( 1863-1937) was a Rabbi, Scholar and author of numerous books. One of his most popular works is בית ועד לחכמים Bet Va'ad Lachachamim, an alphabetical collection of 30,000 Rabbinic sayings, found in the Talmuds, Medrash etc.

One of the phrases brought down in his book stands out. It appears that Hyman brought down the source to inform people that it's origin is indeed in the New Testament and not in Rabbinic Writings. The phrase אין נביא בעירו became widespread enough that it needed to be let known that the source is in the book of Mathew.

hat-tip: Menachem Silber

Corresponding with the Rebbe, Menachem Mendel Schneerson

Below are photos of a copy of Likute Sichos that came with a recent collection just acquired. The book was stuffed with numerous postcards with very detailed and personal requests and correspondence that the writer sent to the Rebbe via the stick in a book method. The letters are unsigned, apparently signing is not a requirement when using this method of communication.

An Odd Approbation in Darke Hakadosh Baruch Hu by Refael Halperin

Rafael Halperin (1924 – 20 August 2011) was a prominent Israeli businessman, Orthodox rabbi, and the author of several religious books and an encyclopedia. In the 1950s, he worked in the United States as a professional wrestler in Vince McMahon Sr.'s Capitol Wrestling WWE.(wiki)

The book דרכי הקדוש ברוך הוא (quite an impressive title) authored by Halperin, contains a rather unusual Haskamah. While Haskamot today have generally evolved in to receiving an approbation from a well known and respected Rabbinical Figure who vouches for the book and praises the author, this one differs. The Haskamah presented in this book lavishly praises the author, but is given anonymously, with the reader not knowing who is this Rabbi who is praising the author.

An unusual sin which Rav Meir Arik said to be careful about during WWI

Brought down in Halichot Chanoch by Rabbi Chanoch Dov Padwa, Rav Padwa recalls how during WWI, Rav Meir Arik and other contemporary Rabbis warned of specific sins to be wary of during the dangers of war.

Rav Meir Arik warned to be careful especially during the period of war, not to interrupt the placing of Tefillin Shel Rosh by giving the Tefillin a kiss before placing it on your head.

Hat-tip: Dovie Hoffman

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

The Origin of the Mis-Attribution of Got fun Avrohom to Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Berdichev

The Prayer Got fun Avrohom is a prayer in Yiddish traditionally said on Motzae Shabbat for good luck and is attributed to R. Levi Yitzchok of Berditchev. The prayer predates him by centuries though and is found in early Ashkenaz Prayerbooks, for example in the 1723 Amsterdam ברכת המזון כמנהג אשכנז ופולין.

An early version of Got fun Avrohom in the Amsterdam 1723 Birkon
1727 Frankfurt Birkon also with Got fun Avrohom

The mis-attribution is a result of a book titled Shene Hameorot published in Kishinev in 1896. At the end of the book, the editor of the book writes how he found an old "trusted" manuscript in which it was written that this prayer was authored by R. Levi Yitzchok of Berditchev and he is certain that one who says the prayer 3 times prior to Havdalah is guaranteed to succeed. 

The editor apparently was not aware that the prayer was around for centuries, but his attribution to R. Levi Yitzchak stuck and from shortly after we see many other books attributing to him the prayer as well. Despite the error, the prayer has since been published in numerous Prayerbooks and Zemirot vols with the error in attribution as well. 

Title Page of Shene Hameorot, 1896 Kishinev

At end of book where the prayer is brought down

Below is Yad Shalom printed in 1910 in Piotrikov, quoting the Shene Hameorot and spreading the mis-attribution

An Entry in a Journal Book for the date of founding of state of Israel ה אייר תש"ח

title page of the Daily Planner/Journal from 1948
The handwritten entry in the Journal

Discovered in an old diary/daily planner from the year 1948 (תש"ח) is a fascinating hand-written entry, by a person who apparently did not view the founding of the Zionist State too favorably. In a play on words on the words of the Bible in Kings I chapter 6, the entry reads:
ויהי בשמונה שנה ושבע מאות שנה וחמשת אלפי שנה לבריאת העולם. בשנה ההיא בחדש זיו הוא החדש השני למלך השטן על נדחי ישראל ויבן הבית לכבודו, והבית אשר בנה המלך בן גוריון לכבודו אגורה שויו והרס אחריתו וקלון ובוז נפלתו .ואולם הכנסת על פני היכל הבית מחריב אומה יעודו על פני רחב הבית מעקר דת תורה על פני הבית

For comparison, here is the text from Kings I: ויהי בשמונים שנה וארבע מאות שנה לצאת בני ישראל מארץ מצרים בשנה הרביעית בחדש זו הוא החדש השני למלך שלמה על ישראל ויבן הבית ליהוה ב והבית אשר בנה המלך שלמה ליהוה ששים אמה ארכו ועשרים רחבו ושלשים אמה קומתו ג והאולם על פני היכל הבית עשרים אמה ארכו על פני רחב הבית עשר באמה רחבו על פני הבית

hat-tip:Menachem Silber

Pages from the 1523 Bomberg Edition of the Alfassi being used as a binding

In the binding of a copy of Berit Avot by Rabbi Avraham Coriat, published in Livorno in 1862 by Elijah ben Amozag, I found 2 pages from the 1523 Bomberg Edition of the Alfassi being used as backing for the covers.
The Alfassi survived centuries only to end up buried in a binding.
The 2 leaves are from Masechet Ketuvot.

Steimatzky סטימצקי‎, the oldest and largest bookstore chain in Israel sold at a $40,000,000 loss

Steimatzky סטימצקי, is the oldest and largest bookstore chain in Israel, founded by Yechezkel Steimatzky in 1925. Currently, the chain has over 160 stores throughout Israel. It is estimated that the company holds a 40% share in the Israeli book retailing market and employs over 700 people worldwide.

Perhaps a reflection of the current issues that bookstores worldwide are facing, Steimatzky recently sold after incurring heavy losses in the last few years. The chain was purchased only several years ago by markstone capital at $55 million, it currently is estimated to have debt amassing to over $90 million. The new purchasers are Yafit Greenberg and her investment group G. Yafit.

Steimatzky has gotten itself in to a burden of troubles recently, with several of the largest publishers in Israel withholding stock from the chain after their balances went unpaid. There were accusations hurled at it's president Iris Barel of misuse of funds and extravagant salaries as well.

It remains to be seen if Steimatzky will be able to survive the times and become profitable again.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Selections of Piyutim said in Germany under Nazi Rule

Within a Wilhemsdorf, Germany edition of a Selichot volume, I found 3 separate sheets of paper. Each contains the list of Piyutim chosen by the congregation to be recited that year on Yom Kippur for each of the prayers. Over the generations, German Jewry had accumulated numerous different Selichot Prayers and the custom developed to rotate the selections for each year, thus ensuring that none would be forgotten and that all shall be said at least occasionally. The 3 sheets were for the year 5736 (1935), 5737 (1936) and 5739 (1938).

below are other such selections from the period which I came across, one printed and one typewritten

hat-tip: Dr. S. Sprecher

Pepsi-Cola being used as a medical cure for stomach illnesses in Morocco 1940s

Going through a batch of Hebrew Documents from Morocco from a recent collection I acquired, I came across this entertaining letter. The writer, is writing of his reminiscences of a childhood friend with whom he grew up with in Ben-Ahmed, a small town in Morocco in the 1930s and 1940s.

Here is a portion of the 4 page letter: (the spelling mistakes in original have been corrected)
אני גם זוכר שרצה ללמוד לנהוג ברכב. היה לנו אוטו רנו מודל 1935 היה נוסע בו קדימה ואחורה, עד שיום אחד נכנץ בעץ ונבהל נורא, הכחשנו את המקרה מאבא ז"ל
"I also recall how he wanted to learn to drive an automobile. We had a Renault 1935 Model, he was able to go forwards and backwards, until one day he drove in to a tree and was frightened greatly. We denied this occurrence from our father, may he rest in peace."
היה סובל מהקיבה, לגבי תרופות רק מספרי הרמב"ם. העדיף לשתות פפסי-קולה הטיב לו לקיבה. רבים פנו אליו בשאלות רפואיות ולכולם היה לו תשובה...
"He suffered from stomach pains, and used only medicines brought down in the works of Maimonides. He preferred to drink Pepsi-Cola and this helped his stomach. Many people approached him with medical questions and for all he had an answer.........."

File:Renault celtaquatre 1935 lateral izquierdo.jpg
1935 Model Renault