Monday, October 12, 2015

R. SY Zevin, R. Nissan Waxman, Sefarim Criticism & More

by Jacob D.

One of the unique roles that R. Shlomo Yosef Zevin filled with his prolific pen was that of a sefarim critic par excellence. A new Torah publication hits bookstore shelves and there's a good chance that it will be thoroughly reviewed, analyzed, criticized or praised, by a Torah giant with a mind of encyclopedic breadth, in an upcoming Friday morning Hatzofe. R. Zevin took his "מן הספרות התלמודית" column seriously, and week after week Hatzofe readers can expect a new thorough and exciting Zevin review. Most of these reviews  were eventually collected and published in his three volume סופרים וספרים (Tel Aviv, 1959). Even in the most positive of reviews on works that he seems impressed with, we can expect the occasional -

...ויש להעיר שכבר קדמו בזה...

With that small introduction I would like to share something I just came across, which to me was a little bit of a surprise. During a recent stop at a used Hebrew  bookstore, a small attractive copy of R. Moshe Cordovero's תומר דבורה caught my eye​ -

It's a critical edition published in NY,1960 (5720) by R. Nissan Waxman.
(see here)

On the title page we see that aside for the actual work by Ramak, and what's directly related to it (notes, a biographical sketch of the author, etc.), there's an additional section appended at the end, titled קונטרס האהבה והחסד. In one part of that last section R. Waxman relates an explanation of a Midrash about  עקידת יצחק in the name of R. Hayim Soloveitchik of Brisk -

At the end of the piece we read that R. Waxman heard this from R. Menahem Krakowski, a Rabbi from Vilna and student of R. Hayim. R. Krakowski published this piece of his teacher's Torah in his ארזי לבנון -

See starting from the second to last paragraph of this page-

R. Waxman notes that this explanation from R. Hayim is also related by R. Zevin in his אישים ושיטות, and in his "העקידה" essay in his לאור ההלכה.

In לאור ההלכה -

W. adds that although Z. includes some additional halakhic material at the beginning of this piece that R. Krakowski didn't relate, he leaves out this last point -

which in R. Waxman's words is quote "לב הדבר ויפיו"! -

I'm not used to R. Zevin being on the receiving end of this kind of criticism. (I also found it kind of ironic that this "לב הדבר ויפיו" that W. felt Z. should've included sounds very much like a ​R. ​Levi Yitzch​a​k of Berditchev classic. Z. the Hasid (also the author of  סיפורי חסידים) doesn't include it, but does include some additional halakhic material. And W. the Litvak is complaining!)

In R. Zevin's defense I will say that his אישים ושיטות wasn't  written to simply  share the Torah of the ten great אישים that are discussed therein. It was written to dissect and define their very specific and distinct  Torah  methodology. Hence, this omission, which if included wouldn't anyhow help to define R. Hayim's method of study is perfectly sound (of course I do entertain the possibility that this part wasn't known altogether to R. Zevin). ​And this aggadic twist wouldn't exactly belong in his  לאור ההלכה​ either​. In לאור ההלכה R. Zevin begins this R. Hayim Torah with ​-​

גוון הלכתי מיוחד להעקדה נתן רב חיים סולוביצ'יק ז"ל יחד עם מדה עקרונית בדרכי הלימוד

An addition of this sort​, as beautiful as it may be,​ would hardly belong there. It does fit nicely in R. Waxman's addendum to a mussar work, and l​ikewise, it's totally befitting for this aggadic "לב הדבר ויפיו" to be included in R. Krakowski's קובץ דרשות.


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  2. See Halakhic Man, Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik (translated by Lawrence Kaplan) page 143 footnote 5.