Thursday, March 27, 2014

A Manuscript written while in hiding from the Tsar's Army by Rabbi Tuvia Yehuda Guttentag Av Bet Din of Sochocin

Appended to the front and end of an 1884 edition of Samlah Chadasha and Tevuot Shor, I found 2 pages at each end of a manuscript of notes and commentary on the book. The manuscript was written by Rabbi Tuvia Yehuda Ben Alexander Tzvi Guttentag  Av Bet Din of Sochocin.

Otzar Harabbanim describes him as (6762): born in 1892, Rav Gaon VeHassid...Sofer Mahir, Rav in Sochochin, in 1936 made Aliyah to Tel Aviv.  Passed away in 1953, authored Tal Leyisrael, Ateret Tuviah and Eretz Tova and other Sefarim. He also published a Hesped on the Ger Rebbe, titled Evel Kaved.

R. Guttentag  signed several times on free-ends of the books and there are several stamps of his in the book as well. Several margin notes in his handwriting appear in the book as well. The handwritten pages contain his own commentary on the book Samlah Chadasha and Tevuot Shor.

At end of his writings, R. Guttentag writes "הערות אלו כתבתי בעיר קולשק בשנת תרס"ג בהיותי שם ימים אחדים מסתתר מחמת האורב הרוסי שבקש לתפסני לעבודת הצבא"

which translates as "These comments were written in the city of Kolshek, in my stay there for a few days in hiding from the Ambushing Russians who were searching for me to conscript me to the Army"

 "הערות אלו כתבתי בעיר קולשק בשנת תרס"ג בהיותי שם ימים אחדים מסתתר מחמת האורב הרוסי שבקש לתפסני לעבודת הצבא"

Free-end of book

Stamps of Rabbi Gottenberg 

Title page of book it is appended to

A Portrait of R. El'azar HaKalir (c. 570 – c. 640) on a Prayerbook Binding

There were numerous Editions of the famed Rodelheim Mahzorim Published, but I came across one with an interesting binding. On the binding appears a portrait of none other than R. El'azar HaKalir (c. 570 – c. 640).

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Some Rabbinic Responsa regarding American Jewry in the writings of Old World Rabbis

The Responsa literature offers a vast source of information on Jewish History, depicting real life issues and the Rabbi's methods and efforts of dealing with them. Some of the best sources on American Jewry can be found in Responsa. In general, Until the early 1900s, most of the major questions were sent to Rabbis in the Old World, and some of these questions ended up being published in these Rabbis works of Responsa. Much of the early Responsa has been written about extensively (See J. D. Eisenstein in Publications of the American Jewish Historical Society 1904), below are a few more recent ones.

In 1924 Mili Dezra was published, authored by Rabbi Ezra Hakohen Tarab, originally from Damascus. In the book are several questions from the newly arrived Jews in Argentina who hailed from Damascus.

One of the most interesting questions is that of when to celebrate Purim, on the 14th or the 15th of Adar. Apparently, the Jews of Damascus who always celebrated on the 15th seem to have gotten confused with this when arriving in South America. The author instructed them to celebrate on the 14th. Another of the questions he was addressed in this book (siman 10) discusses daily fights in the Damascus Synagogue in Buenos-Aires regarding which prayerbook to use, with a small and powerful group trying to impose the use of the Siddur Hukat Olam with Kabbalistic customs on the others.

The Response of R. Tarab regarding Purim

In 1858, Rabbi Yosef Shaul Nathansohn was asked if was permissible to convert the Welsh-Scotch Methodist chapel at 178 Allen Street in New York to a synagogue.

Rabbi Yosef Shaul Nathansohn, after describing the practice of this church in detail, concludes:
דשרי לעשות בהמ"ד ומצוה הוא לדעתי לקדש ש"ש
It is permissible to make it a house of study and it is a Mitzvah in my opinion, to sanctify the name of God.

In 1947 a curious book was published in Casablanca, titled Resise Layla, by Rabbi David Danino.

Being a commentary on Daniel and some chapters of Psalms, it includes a rather interesting interpretation of chapter 46 of Psalms, למנצח לבני קרח על עלמות שיר. The author writes how the Psalm in prophesying the Holocaust and America's fight against the Nazis. See below his entire calculation, and notice how he includes France on the "good side" with the Americans.

A Missionary's depiction of a Jew casting away his religion in a volume published in 1820

c1820 a Missionary volume was published, focusing on the conversion of Jews to Christianity.
The volume was titled: A selection of hymns adapted to divine worship : with a few poems
Part First. On the Bible, and on the conversion of Jews and heathen --
Part Second. On the Christian's walk with God.
Facing the title page is an illustration of a Jew casting away his Tallit, an interesting way to depict a Jew abandoning Judaism.
Illustration facing title page

title page of
A selection of hymns adapted to divine worship : with a few poems Part First. On the Bible, and on the conversion of Jews and heathen -- Part Second. On the Christian's walk with God.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

What did the Jews do after finishing with the hanging of Haman and his children? One Moroccan Jew's Idea

Joseph Lugassy in Casablanca c1940 published a nice small format printed Megillat Esther, with an entertaining illustration on the title page.

The artist shows a group of Jews dancing in a circle around the hanging corpses, perhaps a Hora or some type of Jewish war dance?

The Unintended consequences of the 1958 Massive Jerusalem Protest against the proposed Mixed Bathing Swimming Pool

In 1958, one of the largest protests of the Haredim in infant Israel took place, against a proposed public swimming pool that would allow mixed swimming of men and women. The protests did indeed work, and the swimming pool project was eventually called off, but I found a letter which shows some of the unintended causalities of such protests, which persist long after the dust from the protests have settled.

The letter is from the wife of Ben Zion Ashkenazi who was arrested in the protest. His wife describes how now, four months after his arrest, he is ill and lacks medical care, she and her son are are living in shame and sorrow from their many creditors......

The letter is signed and stamped on reverse by a member of the Edah Haharedit, Rabbi Yisrael Yitzchak Halevi Reisman (Otzar Harabbanim 12254) a dayan of of the Eidah, with 4 lines in his handwriting.

The letter is addressed to Rabbi Dov Zuckerman of Buffalo, NY.

Letter concerning a massive protest, against building a "swimming pool with mixed swimming" in Jerusalem the Holy City, signed by the heads of the "Mo'etzet Gedolei HaTorah" in Jerusalem: Rabbi "Zvi Pesach Frank" Rabbi of Jerusalem, Rabbi "Dov Berish Weidenfeld" the Tshebin Rav, Rabbi "Eliezer Yehuda Finkel" Head of Mir Yeshiva, Rabbi "Zalman Sorotzkin" the Rabbi of Lutsk and Rabbi "Akiva Sofer" the Rabbi from Pressburg.

Only in a bookstore: an unusual reason a customer is interested in a book

I have yet to hear of a customer walking in to a clothing store and request a pair of shoes or a cute outfit that he had good memories of as a child. But in a bookstore, this is a daily occurrence, with customers showing much joy in rediscovering a book they have read as a child hundreds of times and often their own children are brought along and forced to share the excitement.

This week, a typical looking Bais Yaakov Girl, with the uniform and all walks in to our store and requests books written by the Hozeh of Lublin. Not a standard reading for today's youth by any means, I innocently asked about the reason for her interest. "He has been appearing to me in my dreams for the last few months and I figured I should read some of his works to find out a bit about him".