Sunday, June 21, 2015

An Inscription in a Hebrew Book Feb 18 1944, from Nyírmeggyes, Hungary - Days before total deportation

Found in a copy of Igra DePirka, by R. Zevi Elimelech Shapiro of Dynow printed in 1942 in Munkatch, was a brief inscription:
לדהו"מ קניתי את הספר הקדוש הזה לכבוד צורי וקוני ממעות מעשר שלי בעד 3.90 אשר התניתי מתחלה גם על זה
ב תצוה תש"ד נירמעציעיש יע"א
"To G-d is the world and all it encompasses, I purchased this holy book for the honor of my lord and master, with money set aside for tithes, for the price of 3.90, as per the condition I originally made,
Monday, Parashat Tezaveh (Feb 18, 1944) 5744, Nyírmeggyes, May G-d protect us"

Nyírmeggyes, had a Jewish Population of approximately 250 in 1910. Selective murder and deportation of Hungarian Jews was already taking place since 1941, but shortly after this inscription was written, on March 19, 1944, the total deportation of all Hungarian Jews was decided upon and swiftly carried out.

The Hapsburgs vs. the Romanovs Or: Why the Sprecher Shas Beats the Romm Shas

                                             by Dr. Shlomo Sprecher (whose wife purchased a pristine Lemberg Sprecher Shas for her husband’s birthday)

The Lemberg Sprecher Shas (printed in the 1860s) came into immediate use in last week’s Daf HaYomi cycle. The Tosefot on Ketubot 98B cites a query that Rabbeinu Yaakov-Yisrael directed to the Rabbeinu Tam regarding a significant inadvertent over-payment made by an unsuspecting Gentile debtor in paying off his debt to a Jewish moneylender. The moneylender’s agent wished to share in the unexpected windfall, whereas, of course, the moneylender wanted the over-payment for himself in its entirety. What is notable about the query are five Hebrew words “the Gentile could no longer be found,” and so the only issue to be resolved was into whose pocket was the excess to be deposited. What triggered an investigation into this Tosafot was the Rishon with two personal names, Rabbeinu Yaakov-Yisrael, seemingly a feature he shared with no other Rishonim. Turning to Urbach’s classic Ba’alei Tosefot  revealed Urbach citing Haberman citing Urbach that there is internal censorship in that passage. Sure enough, comparing the Lemberg Shas version of Tosefot with the Romm version, quickly proved that the five-word passage was created out of whole cloth by the editors of the Romm Shas not to offend the Russian authorities. Rav Dovid Cohen, in his comprehensive sefer on censored alterations in the Shas missed this one.

A classic Vilna Edition of the Talmud

Sprecher Lemberg Shas

The Sprecher Printing of the Talmud

The Sprecher Printing of the Talmud

R. Dovid Cohen's work on censored Talmudic Portions

The Golem Tackles Nedarim

by Dr. Shlomo Sprecher

At the start of every new Masekhta in the Daf-Hayomi cycle, a member of the Shiur invariably asks, “which Aharonim are needed to do this one right?”

Well, for Nedarim the answer is “elementary.” We need the Mehaber of the Yadot Nedarim! Of course, our indispensable Nedarim problem solver, R. Yudl Rosenberg, is much better known (in our community, at least) as the promoter of the 16th –century’s greatest Superhero – the Golem of Prague. Unfortunately, as in so many other issues affecting the Jewish community, the New York Times just doesn’t get it. The evidence – a review of This Year in Jerusalem, a memoir by Mordecai Richler, a grandson of R. Rosenberg, that appeared in the Times Book Review of November 13, 1994.  Although the review was laudatory, one chapter of the memoir raised the reviewer’s ire: “there was only one dull stretch, a wandering story by Rabbi Rosenberg that the author saw fit to include. Relatives, like dreams, are most interesting to the people who had them, and the rabbi was not the storyteller his grandson is.”

My attempt at correcting the reviewer’s disparagement of a riveting tale of the Golem’s successful intervention to prevent the shmad of a beautiful Jewish girl apparently was not considered “newsworthy" enough. And so, it remained stashed away in my copy of the Yadot Nedarim, that is, until now, when it can finally be shared through the blogosphere.

Keeping up to date in Golem studies is essential, and so the recent publication of the 600-page Maharal compendium by the Zalman Shazar Center should be consulted to avoid error. In particular, Moshe Idel’s article, “On Astral Golems, Dalai Lama, and the Maharal” is not to be missed. As someone whose confusion regarding the correct  R. Eliyahu Ba’al Shem had to be corrected by Prof. Leiman, I speak from experience.

Importing Jewish Books to Iran - The Casablanca Route

Following the Iranian Revolution in 1979, Persian Jews were legally prevented from importing Jewish Books from Israel or the USA, the two main centers of Hebrew Printing. Lacking much of a printing press of their own, Morocco became the only viable source of Hebrew Printing that still had an active Press and was not under a trade embargo.
I found recently a Siddur which was a living example of this, the Prayerbook was printed in Casablanca in 1962 and had several stamps of the Otzar Hatorah school in Tehran, part of the network of schools founded by Isaac Shalom, an American Jewish lay-leader of the Syrian Jewish Community in New York.

A Clear Sign of a very confused Jew

A local G-d fearing Jew gave a knock on the store door this week asking if I can assist him. He was looking for someone who can give some holy books he had that were no longer in use a proper burial. Between the prayerbooks and standard Rabbinic Texts, I found a New Testament, an "Orthodox Jewish Version".