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.


  1. Thanks for the interesting post.

    "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."

    R. Silverstein/Silverstone was exhorting his grandson to wear the tefillin daily, and that is where the stress should be placed. The note excepting Shabbos and Yom tov is parenthetical, and I think it is an error to read too much into it.

    P.S. It seems that the grandson was a dentist in Silver Spring, MD, and was niftar about eight years ago.

  2. Look at this book review on Amazon:

    "As a fellow Washingtonian, I was quite interested in reading about another Jewish family who grew up in the Nation's capitol.
    The book is written rather simplistically and is often repetitive but a clear description of the Silverstone family is given. I would have liked to have heard more about the childhoods of various members of the family.Since my husband was a dental patient of Elwood Silverstone, I too bacame his patient when we married in 1968. My paternal grandmother was also a Silverstone, though I don't know if there is any relationship to the author's family. This book needed "more meat". (By that I don't mean sex and violence) I mean a clearer description of individual's emotions and true family feelings about one another would have been good."