Thursday, May 15, 2014

A Self-Censored copy of Lev Haivri לב העברי by Akiva Yosef Shlesinger, Ungvar 1864

I recently acquired a copy of the first edition of Lev Haivri by Akiva Yosef Shlesinger, a commentary on the will of the Chatam Sofer. A previous owner of the book apparently found several passages of the book not to his liking and these passages were neatly burned out.
several lines burned out in this copy of לב העברי

The offending lines describe a story in the name of the Chatam Sofer, where he stated that if a Jew decides that he will no longer be religious, it is preferable if he converts to Christianity.

The censored text, from a later edition

Recent Acquisition: The library of Rabbi Dr. H. Norman Strickman

Rabbi H. Norman Strickman is Rabbi emeritus of Marine Park Jewish Center, Professor of Jewish Studies at Touro College and past president of the Rabbinic Board of Flatbush. He received his M. H. L. from Yeshiva University, a Phd from Dropsie University and was ordained at Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Seminary. He is the recipient of the Histadrut Haivrit prize in Hebrew Literature and his writings have appeared in Jewish Quarterly Review, Midstream, Bitzaron and Hadarom. He has also translated and annotated Ibn Ezra's commentary on the Pentateuch, Psalms and the Yesod Mora.
Rabbi Strickman is currently in the process of making Aliya to Israel.

Rabbi Strickman's large library consists of several thousand books including nearly any book a Scholar of the Bible and Jewish History will ever see quoted as well as an astounding selection of books a Pulpit Rabbi would find of use. All politics and debates were aside in his library where books were judged by what can be learned from them and not by political considerations. A splendid collection of books that can only be built through decades of searching for and building book by book. Best wishes to Rabbi Strickman and his family upon their Aliya.

One of the many books published by Rabbi Strickman

Recent Acquisition: The library of Rabbi Dr. Stanley Greenstein

Rabbi Dr. Stanley Greenstein with his wife, Judy

Rabbi Dr. Stanley Greenstein, studied at the Jewish Theological Seminary and received Rabbinic ordination at Leo Baeck College in London. Rabbi Greenstein served many congregations in the World during his long career, including in Shreveport, Louisiana; Salt Lake City and at the Laurelton Jewish Center. Rabbi Greenstein was also Professor of Theology and Religious Studies at St. John's University. Born in to a family of Rabbis, his father, a graduate of the 1930 JTS class, Rabbi Manuel Greenstein, was Rabbi for many years in West Palm Beach, FL as well as serving congregations in Steubenville, Ohio; Battle Creak, Michigan and Gloversville, NY. His grandfather, Rabbi Samuel Greenstein was Rabbi in Warren, Ohio. Rabbi Greenstein passed away in March of this year, he was 79.

There are two types of people in the world, those who love and read books and those who do not understand them. Rabbi Greenstein could have made a perfect poster boy for the former, a true booklover. His home, seemed to have been a home for his books first and family second. Every available space contained a neat bookshelf with books. His wife related how they stopped counting their books when they surpassed 10,000 volumes.

Every book was used. There was scarcely a book in the house that did not hold several bookmarks. Nearly every Scholarly Jewish Book published in the last 100 years reached his collection, with a special focus on Jewish History, from the very ancient to the Holocaust and Israel. A product of the early JTS, his library reflected his extensive study of all Rabbinic texts, with a library that would not feel lost in a Hasidic Yeshiva in Williamsburg. Of note, was the timelessness of the books purchased, with books from the early 1900s as well as many books published in the last decade. May his books serve as his memory.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

An Interesting Dedication in Na'eh Doresh נאה דורש by Rabbi Gedaliah Silverstone 1938

In 1938 Rabbi Gedaliah Silverstone published one of his many sermon books, titled Na'eh Doresh. The book includes an interesting dedication to the author's grandson, an interesting look at the massive generation gap between the young American Born grandchild and the European trained Rabbi who was his grandfather

dedication in honor of the author's grandson
Rabbi Silverstone writes in the dedication: "Just as our father Yaakov, blessed his grandchildren the sons of Yosef with the blessing of the Guardian Angel...that they shall not be ashamed of their Hebrew names, so too I shall bless you my dear grandson, that from now on your name shall be Yitzchak and not Elwood, and you shall keep the commandment of wearing Tefillin every day (aside from Shabbat and Yom Tov)..."

The thought that the Chief Rabbi of Washington D.C. had to inform his grandson not to wear his Tefillin on Shabbat and Yom Tov is quite amazing to me.

Dedication in Peninim Yekarim by Rabbi Gedaliah Silverstone
Above is another dedication in another book of Rabbi Gedaliah Silverstone. The wording is rather unusual  הספר הזה מוקטר ומוגש למנחה ולמזכרת עולם . Though the word would be more appropriate when used to remember a deceased, it appears the blessing was for a young man, alive and well....

From Wiki: R. Gedaliah Silverstone (1871, Jasionowka, Poland - 1944, Jerusalem, Palestine) was a prominent Orthodox rabbi and author in the United States at the beginning of the twentieth century.
R. Gedaliah b. Isiah Meir Silverstone, Chief Rabbi of Washington D.C. He was born in 5631 [1871] in Jasionowka, Poland, where his maternal grandfather was the rabbi. At the age of two, he moved to Sakot, Kovno Province, where his father served as a rabbi. Silverstone studied in the yeshivot in Ruzhany and Telz until 1891, when his father moved his family to Liverpool. Silverstone was appointed the rabbi of the Orthodox Congregation of Belfast in 5661 [1901]. He visited America in 5665 [1905] to sell his books. The following year he decided to settle there because he could not support his large family in England and he was appointed rabbi of the Combined Congregations of Washington, D.C. R. Silverstone, a popular rabbi, was on good terms with his congregants.
As opposed to other American rabbis of the period, his publishing endeavors were supported by the community at large and he issued pamphlets of sermons on an almost annual basis. He had little difficulty in attracting benefactors to defray the publishing costs. R. Dov Ber Manischewitz of Cincinnati and Noah [Nathan?] Musher were among his patrons and he repeatedly reported that his works were eagerly sought after by preachers. He generally published only sermons because he knew that most American Jews would not read his more scholarly works and because "many rabbis and sages from other states [or countries?] write to me that my approach to aggadah is the only one that can be used to influence the masses and lure them to their Father in heaven" (Mesamhai Lev, St. Louis 1925, pp. 5–6). A vocal opponent of non-Orthodox synagogues, seminaries and rabbis, his sermons contain many polemical statements.
R. Silverstone was a vice president of the Agudath Harabbonim, a director of the Hebrew Sanitarium of Denver and the Hebrew Home for the Aged of Washington, D.C., and a member of B'nai B'rith. He also founded the first talmud torah in Washington, D.C. and many of his sermons refer to the poor state of Jewish education. An active Zionist, Silverstone attended the Sixth Zionist Congress (1903) as a delegate from Belfast. He later sent two of his sons to study in Jerusalem and, after visiting the Land of Israel ca. 1921, he announced that he would soon be immigrating there (Darke be-Kodesh, St. Louis 1922, pp. 4, 6). Though he was unable to carry out his plans right away (Doresh Tov, St. Louis 1923, p. 5), he did visit again within a year, this time together with R. Zevi Hirsch Masliansky.
He finally settled in Jaffa by Elul of 1923 and he was invited to preach a number of times at the Neveh Tzedek synagogue. A few months later, however, he was compelled to return to Washington because his wife became ill. Attempts to settle in Safed in 1936 and in Jerusalem in 5698 [1938]-5699 [1939] failed as well and he returned to America each time. He returned once more a few years later, this time remaining until his death in 1944. R. Silverstone was a grandson of R Elijah Abramsky; a nephew of R Hayyim Zevi Hirsch Braude; the father of R. Dr. Harry Silverstone; a cousin of R Zelig Reuben Bengis; and an in-law of R Gershom Ravinson of Cleveland.

A reader has since emailed me the following corrections to the above biography of R. Silverstone incorporated from Wikipedia:
To the best of my knowledge he never studied in Ruzhany.  At around the age of 12 and before he went to Telz, he studied in what today would be termed a Yeshiva Ketana in the Lithuanian town known to Jews as Rassein  (need to check the official name.  I think it was something like Rossieny under the Russians and, then, Rasseiniai under the Lithuanians, but this needs checking).  There seems to be confusion here between to not-too-differently sounding names.  My source for this is Silverstone’s handwritten autobiography of which I have a copy.

For the sake of accuracy, Rabbi Silverstone was a cousin by marriage of Rabbi Z R Bengis.  Rav Bengis’ first wife was a daughter of R’ Chaim Zvi Hirsh Broide and R’ Silverstone was a son of R’ CZHB’s brother R’ Yeshaya Meir Silverstone, so R’ Gedaliah and Rebbetzin Bengis were first cousins.

Rabbi Ravinson’s first name was GershoN not GershoM!  Incidentally, he was a Rav in Liverpool before Cleveland (where he passed away and is buried) and that’s how he became personally acquainted with the Rabbis Silverstone, father and son.

The final words of the piece are “and an in-law of Rabbi Gershom Ravinson of Cleveland ”.  A basic knowledge of the relative ages and family situations of these 2 Rabbis shows that it’s physically impossible for them to have been “in laws”!  This error arises from the mysterious use of the term “mechutani” by R’ Ravinson in his haskama to R’ Silverstone’s “Pirchei Oviv” published in 5661 when R’ Gedaliah Silverstone was serving in his first rabbinical position in Belfast.  R’ Silverstone was then aged about 30 and had a few very young infant children.  There is no way “mechutani” here could have the conventional meaning of being parents of a young couple.  The usage out of the conventional context is rare but not unique and R’ Ravinson means they were connected via marital relationships.  It wasn’t they had no relationship but, on the other hand, they had no “blood” relationship.  I assume that the latter was the reason he didn’t use the more conventional Shin”Bet (she’er besori”) as they were not really related.  Their family connection was convoluted and connected to the Latvian Tsiuni rabbinic family.  I don’t have the details to hand and they’re not really relevant.

Record Set for highest price paid for Hebrew Printed Book, with sale of 1482 Bologna Chumash for $3.87 Million


A newly discovered, large and complete copy in very fine condition of the first printed edition of the Pentateuch - the first five books of the Bible aka Torah - in Hebrew sold by Christie's-Paris in its Importants livres anciens, livres d'artistes & manuscripts, Wednesday, April 30, 2014.

Printed on vellum in Bologna by Abraham ben Hayim of Pesaro for Joseph ben Abraham Caravita, this, the Hamishah humshe Torah was published on January, 25, 1482 with Aramaic paraphrase (Targum Onkelos) and commentary by Rashi (Solomon ben Isaac).

Rarer than copies of the Gutenberg Bible (49, per last census), and one of only twenty-eight surviving copies on vellum (with eleven survivors on paper), most incomplete, it was estimated to sell for $1,400,000 - $2,000,000 (€1,000,000-1,500,000;  £900,000-1,300,000), but ended up breaking several records with it's sale for $3.87 million, breaking the record for highest price paid for Hebrew Book as well as highest price paid for any printed work sold in France.

Arguably the most important book in the history of Hebrew printing and publishing, it incorporates the first appearance in print of the ancient Targum attributed to Onkelos. Rashi’s commentary, also included, was first published in Rome around a dozen years earlier. This first edition of the Pentateuch in its original language is the first Hebrew book with printed vowel and cantillation signs (those symbols beneath the letters).

Abraham ben Hayim may have started as a textile printer and dyer and/or bookbinder in Pesaro. His first recorded printing press stood at Ferrara in 1477, which produced two books, beginning with Levi ben Gershom’s Be’ur sefer lyov (Commentary on the Book of Job), edited and/or financed by Nathan of Salò; then it completed - about two thirds of the text - Jacob ben Asher’s Tur yoreh de’ah (Teacher of Knowledge), which had been started at the press of Abraham ben Solomon Conat in Mantua. At his second press, in Bologna, Abraham ben Hayim worked for Joseph ben Abraham, a member of the Caravita, an influential Jewish family of bankers.

3 bidders bid the book up to it's final sale price, the buyer choosing to remain anonymous. Over the last hundred years only two copies of this rare edition have come to auction: the first in
1970, printed on vellum and complete, the second in 1998, printed on paper and missing eight
pages. The Pentateuch to be presented next April is printed on vellum, complete (apart from the
rear free end paper) and in exceptionally fresh condition.


On the Afterlife Visit of Rabbi Yosef Shmuel of Cracow author of Masoret Hashas

In 1898 Be'er Yitzchak, by Rabbi Yitzchak Isaac Billitzer, Rav of Nagiada, in Slovakia was published, including a lengthy biography of the author. In the biography, an interesting story is brought down about Rabbi Yosef Shmuel of Cracow, the author of מסורת הש"ס who passed away in the 564 (1703-04).

דף ג עמוד ב in Be'er Yitzchak Billitzer

Rabbi Yosef Shmuel was Rabbi in Frankfurt and in his days, there were great Torah Scholars who learned together every day. After his soul departed, the group of Torah Scholars gathered together to learn as was their custom and found the deceased sitting in his chair as usual. They trembled in fear but the deceased told them, not to be afraid as I will return immediately to my place but I must let you know what transpired.
"When I reached heaven, there was an announcement to clear room for Rabbi Yosef Shmuel of Cracow and they immediately set me a place near Rabbi Isaiah Halevi Horowitz, author of the Shelah but the Shelah refused that I would be his neighbor and said how he wrote the book Shelah full of Mussar for the masses... and Rabbi Yosef Shmuel not once gave over words of Mussar to the people.... I took upon myself to come down to this world and fix this... the group immediately accepted this upon themselves and the deceased immediately returned to heaven and has not been seen since."