Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Dean of Historians of Jewish Philosophy: Necrology for Professor Arthur Hyman (1921-2017)

Dean of Historians of Jewish Philosophy:
Necrology for Professor Arthur Hyman (1921-2017).
By Warren Zev Harvey

Warren Zev Harvey is Professor Emeritus in the Department of Jewish Thought at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem where he has taught since 1977. He studied philosophy at Columbia University, writing his PhD dissertation under Arthur Hyman. He has written prolifically on medieval and modern Jewish philosophers, e.g. Maimonides, Crescas, and Spinoza. Among his publications is Physics and Metaphysics in Hasdai Crescas (1998). He is an EMET Prize laureate in the Humanities (2009).

This is his first contribution to the Seforim Blog.

Arthur Hyman, 1921-2017


Photo courtesy of Yeshiva University

Arthur (Aharon) Hyman was born on April 10, 1921 (2 Nisan 5681), in Schwäbisch Hall, Baden-Württemberg, Germany, the son of Isaac and Rosa (Weil) Hyman. In 1935, at the age of 14, three years before Kristallnacht, he immigrated with his family to the United States. He pursued undergraduate studies at St. John’s College, Annapolis, which had recently adopted its Great Books curriculum (B.A., 1944). He did graduate studies at Harvard University, studying there under the renowned historian of Jewish philosophy, Harry Austryn Wolfson (M.A., 1947; Ph.D., 1953). He concurrently studied rabbinics at the Jewish Theological Seminary under the preeminent Talmudist, Saul Lieberman (ordination and M.H.L., 1955). He taught at the Jewish Theological Seminary (1950-1955), Dropsie College (1955-1961), and Columbia University (1956-1991). His main academic affiliation, however, was with Yeshiva University, where he taught from 1961 until last year, was Distinguished Service Professor of Philosophy, and Dean of the Bernard Revel Graduate School of Jewish Studies (1992-2008). He also held visiting positions at Yale University, the University of California at San Diego, the Catholic University of America, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and Bar-Ilan University. I had the privilege of studying with him at Columbia University in the 1960s and early 1970s, and wrote my dissertation under his wise supervision. Among Hyman’s other doctoral students are David Geffen and Charles Manekin (at Columbia University), and Basil Herring and Shira Weiss (at Yeshiva University). Hyman received wide recognition for his scholarly accomplishments. He was granted honorary doctorates by the Jewish Theological Seminary (1987) and Hebrew Union College (1994). He served as president of both the Société Internationale pour l'Étude de la Philosophie Médiévale (1978-1980) and the American Academy for Jewish Research (1992-1996). He was married to Ruth Link-Salinger from 1951 until her death in 1998, and they had three sons: Jeremy Saul, Michael Samuel, and Joseph Isaiah. From 2000 until his death he was married to Batya Kahane. He died in New York City on February 8, 2017 (12 Shevat 5777).

Hyman was a scholar’s scholar. He was an outstanding historian of philosophy, thoroughly at home reading recondite philosophical texts in Greek, Latin, Hebrew, Arabic, German, French, or English. He masterfully taught classical, medieval, and modern philosophy. However, his great love and the main focus of his research was medieval Jewish philosophy. He is the author of more than fifty scholarly studies on diverse philosophical subjects. He was the editor, together with James J. Walsh, of the popular anthology of medieval philosophy, Philosophy in the Middle Ages: The Christian, Islamic, and Jewish Traditions (1967), a volume that did much to shape the study of medieval philosophy over the past four decades (a revised third edition appeared in 2010 with the collaboration of Thomas Williams). He edited and annotated the medieval Hebrew translation of Averroes’ Arabic treatise On the Substance of the Orbs (1986). He founded and edited the scholarly journal Maimonidean Studies (1989-), which became an important venue for interdisciplinary research on the Great Eagle. His book Eschatological Themes in Medieval Jewish Philosophy (2002) was his Aquinas Lecture, delivered at Marquette University. In addition, he wrote pioneering studies on Averroes, Maimonides, Spinoza, and other philosophers.

Hyman was staunchly committed to the teaching of Jewish philosophy as philosophy. He was not interested in appropriating it as a means to foster Jewish identity or religiosity. Similarly, he was not enamored of academic approaches that put too much emphasis on “esotericism” or “the art of writing,” which, in his view, served to distract one from the hard nitty-gritty work of analyzing the philosophic arguments. Medieval philosophy, he argued, is an integral part of the history of philosophy, and Jewish philosophy is an integral part of medieval philosophy. Thus, medieval Jewish philosophy should be taught in departments of philosophy. Hyman, in practice, did teach medieval Jewish philosophy in philosophy departments at Yeshiva University, Columbia University, and elsewhere. He also believed that modern Jewish philosophy should be taught in philosophy departments, but was less unequivocal about it. He thought that it is difficult to discern a “continuous tradition” of modern Jewish philosophy, and elusive to define the philosophic problems and methods common to it. He often noted that in most universities modern Jewish philosophy is not taught in philosophy departments, but in departments of Jewish studies or religion.

Hyman and Walsh’s Philosophy in the Middle Ages presents medieval philosophy as a tradition common to Jews, Christians, and Muslims. Of 769 pages (in the 2nd edition), 114 are devoted to Jewish philosophers (Saadiah, Ibn Gabirol, Maimonides, Gersonides, and Hasdai Crescas), 134 pages to Muslims, and the remainder to Christians. As a general textbook in medieval philosophy that included philosophers from all three Abrahamic religions, Philosophy in the Middle Ages was downright revolutionary.

In his essay “Medieval Jewish Philosophy as Philosophy, as Exegesis, and as Polemic,” published in 1998 (Miscellanea Mediaevalia 26, pp. 245-256), Hyman observed that medieval Jewish philosophy was originally of interest to historians of philosophy only as “a kind of footnote to medieval Christian philosophy.” This situation, he continued, began to change in the 1930s with the work of scholars like Julius Guttmann, Leo Strauss, and Harry Austryn Wolfson, and later Alexander Altmann, Shlomo Pines, and Georges Vajda. Owing to their pioneering work, he concluded, “Jewish philosophy…has taken its rightful place as an integral part of the history of Western philosophy” and “[i]n universities in the United States it is now [in 1998] taught regularly in courses on medieval philosophy.” Hyman, always modest, did not add that the anthology he edited with Walsh, Philosophy in the Middle Ages, was in no small measure responsible for enabling Jewish and Islamic philosophy to enter the curricula of courses in medieval philosophy in universities throughout North America. Hyman was mild-mannered and courteous in his personal relations, but as a scholar he was a revolutionary who helped redefine the academic field of medieval philosophy.

Writing on “The Task of Jewish Philosophy” in 1962 (Judaism 11, pp. 199-205), Hyman bemoaned the alienation in the modern world: “though the means for communication have increased immensely, communication itself has all but become impossible.” He argued that the cause of this alienation was the loss of Reason. Jewish philosophy, he urged, has a role to play in “the rediscovery of Reason.” He defined its task as “the application of Reason to the interpretation of our Biblical and Rabbinic traditions.”

More than three decades later, in a 1994 essay, “What is Jewish Philosophy?” (Jewish Studies 34, pp. 9-12), Hyman sought to clarify who is a Jewish philosopher. “One minimal condition for being considered a Jewish philosopher,” he suggested, “is that a given thinker (a) must have some account of Judaism, be it religious or secular; and (b) must have some existential commitment to this account.” Given his requirement of “existential commitment,” he unhesitatingly excluded Spinoza, Marx, and Freud. A second condition for being considered a Jewish philosopher, according to him, is simply that a given thinker must be a philosopher; that is, his or her account of Judaism must be interpreted “by means of philosophic concepts and arguments rather than in aggadic, mystic, literary, or some other fashion.”

The notion of “existential commitment” provides a key that enables Hyman to distinguish the historian of Jewish philosophy from the Jewish philosopher, that is, the scholar from the thinker or practitioner. The Jewish philosopher has an existential commitment to a particular account of Judaism, while the historian of Jewish philosophy must analyze the various accounts of different Jewish philosophers, without preferring one account over another. The historian qua historian remains uncommitted existentially, that is, he or she remains impartial and objective. “It should be clear,” Hyman concludes, “that for the historian of Jewish philosophy there is not one, but a variety of Jewish philosophies.”

Although Hyman excluded Spinoza from the category of Jewish philosophers, he wrote two of the most important studies on his debt to medieval Jewish philosophy, namely, his “Spinoza’s Dogmas of Universal Faith in the Light of their Medieval Jewish Backgrounds” (1963) and his “Spinoza on Possibility and Contingency” (1998). In these essays, he showed how critical arguments in Spinoza’s Theologico-Political Treatise and Ethics reflected arguments found in the Jewish and Muslim medieval philosophers, particularly Maimonides. In uncovering Spinoza’s covert debt to medieval philosophy, Hyman continued the line of research of his mentor, Wolfson. Hyman’s Spinoza was formatively influenced by Maimonides and other Jewish philosophers in his ethics, politics, and metaphysics, but he nonetheless was not a “Jewish philosopher” because he lacked an existential commitment to some account Judaism, whether religious or secular. Hyman’s insistence on an existential commitment is crucial. For a philosopher, according to him, to be considered a Jewish philosopher, it was not sufficient for him or her to be ethnically or culturally Jewish, or even to be well-educated in Jewish law and lore. An existential commitment was required.

In the introduction to the Jewish Philosophy section of Philosophy in the Middle Ages, Hyman gave a simple definition of medieval Jewish philosophy. “Medieval Jewish philosophy,” he wrote, “may be described as the explication of Jewish beliefs and practices by means of philosophical concepts and norms.” It is an explication, not a defense or apology. One might say that, according to Hyman, Jewish philosophy is a philosophic explication of a Jew’s existential commitment.

The medieval Jewish philosopher who stands in the center of Hyman’s research is Maimonides. He wrote important technical studies on Maimonides’ psychology, epistemology, ethics, and metaphysics. He always emphasized the difficulties involved in understanding Maimonides. As he put it felicitously in his 1976 essay, “Interpreting Maimonides”: “[The] Guide of the Perplexed is a difficult and enigmatic work which many times perplexed the very reader it was supposed to guide” (Gesher 5, pp. 46-59). The only way to understand Maimonides, he insisted, is by carefully analyzing his philosophic arguments, and comparing them with those of the philosophers who influenced him, e.g., Aristotle, Alfarabi, Avicenna, and Algazali. In Philosophy in the Middle Ages, he describes the purpose of the Guide of the Perplexed: “The proper subject of the Guide may…be said to be the philosophical exegesis of the Law.” Hyman quotes Maimonides’ statement that the goal of the book is to expound “the science of the Law in its true sense.” In other words, the purpose of the Guide is to give a philosophic account of Judaism. “Maimonides,” writes Hyman, “investigated how the Aristotelian teachings can be related to the beliefs and practices of Jewish tradition.” He sought, if you will, to explicate philosophically his existential commitments as a Jew.

Perhaps Hyman’s most well-known essay on Maimonides is his 1967 exposition of “Maimonides’ Thirteen Principles” (in A. Altmann, ed., Jewish Medieval and Renaissance Studies, pp. 119-144). Presuming the unity of Maimonides’ thought, Hyman shows that the famous passage on the “Thirteen Principles” in his early Commentary on the Mishnah coheres well with his later discussions in his Book of the Commandments, Mishneh Torah, Guide of the Perplexed, and Letter on Resurrection. He rejects the view that the Thirteen Principles were intended as a polemic against Christianity and Islam, and also rejects the view that they were intended only for the non-philosophic masses. He argues for a “metaphysical” interpretation according to which the Thirteen Principles are intended to foster true knowledge among all Israelites, thus making immortality of the soul possible for them all, as it is written in the Mishnah, “All Israel has a place in the world-to-come” (Sanhedrin 10:1).

A word should be said here about Hyman’s excellent edition of the Hebrew translation of On the Substance of the Orbs, written by Averroes, the great 12th-century Muslim philosopher who was Maimonides’ fellow Cordovan and elder contemporary. Averroes’ book contains profound speculative investigations into the nature and matter of the heavens. It is lost in the original Arabic, but was extremely popular in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance in its Hebrew and Latin translations, and several important commentaries were written on it by Jewish and Christian philosophers. Hyman offers a critical annotated edition of the anonymous medieval Hebrew translation accompanied by his own new English translation. His lucid English translation is based on the Hebrew translation but also uses the Latin translation. His erudite and instructive notes clarify the meaning of the text, and discuss the development of technical philosophic terms from Greek and Arabic to Hebrew and Latin.

In his eulogy for his revered teacher, Harry Austryn Wolfson, printed in the Jewish Book Annual 5736 (1975-1976), Hyman wrote as follows: “[He] showed himself the master of analysis who could bring to bear the whole range of the history of philosophy on his investigations. This scholarly erudition was combined with clarity of thought felicity of style, and conciseness of expression.” I think it would not be amiss if I now conclude my remarks by applying these very same words to Professor Arthur Hyman, my own revered teacher.

Yehi zikhro barukh

Thursday, February 09, 2017

The Rabbi, the Rebbe, and the Messiah

The Rabbi, the Rebbe, and the Messiah
By Brian Schwartz

If someone were to ask you of an instance where a rabbi was declared the messiah by his followers, the first example that would probably come to mind is the last Lubavitcher Rebbe, R’ Menachem Mendel Schneersohn, who to this very day many of his chasidim regard as the Messiah, despite his death.  Many people would struggle to point to any other similar times in history, besides for the Shabbethai Tzvi affair and his various successors[1], where someone was thought of as the Jewish Messiah. However, throughout the past few hundred years, there have been a handful of rabbis who have been explicitly or implicitly declared the messiah, suggested it, or have been accused of suggesting it. 

Messiahship was a chasidic and mystical phenomenon, with chasidic rebbes; R’ Yisrael Ba’al Shem Tov[2], R’ David of Tulna[3], R’ Yisrael of Ruzhin[4], R’ Nachman of Breslov[5], R’ Yitzchak Isaac Safrin of Komarna[6], R’ David Moshe of Chortkov[7], and mystics; R’ Chaim Vital[8], R’ Chaim ibn Attar[9], R’ Moshe Chaim Luzzato[10], Shukar Kuchayil I[11], and Shukar Kuchayil II[12], and more recently Yisrael Dov Odesser[13], all being labeled one way or another as the Messiah[14].  Despite the characterization of these individuals as the Messiah, most lived on without any scandal associated with the eschatological attribution.  There is one instance however, which unfortunately did cause a great uproar.  I refer to you the case of R’ Menachem Mendel Hagar, the scion of the Vizhnitz chasidic dynasty, and the Transylvanian town of Borşa.

Borşa was a mountain village located in Northern Transylvania, in the Maramureș region of Romania.  In 1830 it had a Jewish population of 250, rising to 1,432 in 1890.  Most of the people in Borşa were chasidim of the Kosov-Vizhnitz dynasty.  In 1855, R’ Yaakov Tzvi Waldman, a chasid himself, though an adherent of R’ Chaim Halberstam of Sanz, was chosen as rabbi of Borşa.  Considered a great talmid chacham by his peers[15], Rabbi Waldman was defrocked by his own kehillah because of his harsh words towards the Vizhnitz Chasidim of his town.  The story behind this is relayed by R’ Avraham Yehuda Schwartz, author of the Sh”ut Kol Aryeh, in two letters he sent; one to the townspeople of Borşa, and one to R’ Menachem Mendel Hagar, the Rebbe of Vizhnitz.  In the letters, he mourns over the great bizuy talmid chacham that transpired because of the people of the town removing Waldman from his position as rabbi, replacing him with a boor, and threatening anyone who still considered him rabbi with excommunication.  

What caused all this to transpire?  In the year 1870, the Chasidim of Borşa decided that since the gematria of “Menachem” (the Vizhnitzer rebbe’s name) is equivalent to that of “Tzemach” (a term used by the prophets to refer to the messiah, see Zachariah 6:12, and Midrash Eicha Rabbah 1:57), Menachem Mendel Hagar, the Rebbe of Vizhnitz must be the messiah.  Reacting to this, Waldman said, “כי אמונה כזאת ועבודת האנשים המאמינים בה זרה.”

Here are the two letters printed in the Toldos Kol Aryeh, and if you look at the footnote to the letter to Borşa on p.147, you’ll notice that it says that it was first printed in the beginning of Shu”t Vayitzbor Yosef:

The Vayitzbor Yosef was written by R’ Yosef Schwartz[16], the grandson of R’ Avraham Yehuda Schwartz.  The copy I initially had, was the second edition printed by R’ Yosef’s nephew in Brooklyn in 1987[17].  Here is the title page:

However, a thorough search for the letter through the entire work came up with nothing.  It seems to have vanished.  After an exhaustive hunt, I was finally able to procure a first edition of the Vayitzbor Yosef, and upon examination, I was able to realize the full extent of how doctored the second edition is.  In the second edition, there are approbations added from R’ Yosef Schwartz’s other work Ginzei Yosef, and the index is in the back of the sefer, unlike the first edition where they were printed in the front, right after the hakdamah and before the pesicha.  These changes are quite innocuous.  However, in the second edition, a picture of the original title page is presented with a glaring omission.

Here is how it is presented:

And here is it in actuality:

Notice anything different?  That’s right, on the original title page, there is mention of a separate part of the sefer, “Naftali Savah Ratzon” which is supposed to be a collection of things that the author heard from his father R’ Naftali Schwartz.  If you guessed that the second edition is devoid of this section in its entirety, you would also be correct.  Here is a picture of the beginning of that missing section, which also happens to be printed in the back of the New York edition of Toldos Kol Aryeh:

Having gone through the Naftali Savah Ratzon, I couldn’t find any objectionable material that would have motivated the publishers from removing it.  So what was their motivation?  Remember the missing letter from R’ Avraham Yehuda Schwartz, the Kol Aryeh?  Well, in the first edition, there is another small section right after the pesicha, called “Hashmatah V’hosafa L’kunteres Naftali Savah Ratzon.”

Here is how the second edition appears:

And here is how it’s supposed to look like:

This section is four pages long, and in it can be found the censored letter from R’ Schwartz to the people of Borşa.  It would seem that this sensitive letter was behind the publisher’s motivation to totally remove any mention of the Naftali Savah Ratzon, since it was officially part of it as a hashmatah.  So not only was an important document lifted from the sefer, a whole section became a casualty along with it.  Why the publishers couldn’t just take the letter out and keep the rest of the Naftali Savah Ratzon, I’m not sure.  I guess they wanted as “clean” of a job as possible.

I must point out how Leopold Greenwald, Yaakov Tzvi Abraham, Dr. Yehuda Speigel, and Gedaliah Stein explain the rationale of the people of Borşa’s belief that Menachem Mendel Hagar was the Messiah, and how their explanation is mistaken.  Greenwald[18], Abraham[19], Speigal[20], and Stein both suggest how the belief was formulated as a reaction to Hagar’s sefer, Tzemach Tzadik.  In his work Zichron Borsa[21], Stein explains that since Hagar gave no explanation to the title of his sefer, which was perplexing since it did not have Hagar’s name within its title as do other sefarim, such as “Kedushas Levi” by R’ Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev, or “Ahavas Yonasan” by R’ Yonasan Eibeshutz, his chasidim saw in it an esoteric meaning.  As the gematria of “Tzemach,” which is used to refer the Messiah in Zachariah 6:12, is equivalent to “Menachem,” and likewise the gematria of “Tzaddik,” which is also used in Zachariah 9:9 to refer to the Messiah, is equivalent to “Mendel,” this must mean that their rebbe, R’ Menachem Mendel Hagar is indeed the Messiah! 

This explanation is simply untrue.  In no way, could the work Tzemach Tzadik have had any influence on what happened in Borşa in 1870, when it was only published for the first time in 1885.  As for the reason why it was called Tzemach Tzadik, Hagar’s son Baruch, explains in the preface to the work that he simply named it because the gematria is equivalent to Menachem Mendel.  It is also untenable to argue that a manuscript, or knowledge of one with the title Tzemach Tzadik, was floating around at the time of the dispute, because  R’ Baruch Hagar writes in the preface that the material for the work was only written a few years before his father’s passing in 1885.  Consequentially, we must take the letters of the Kol Aryeh for their simple meaning, that the people themselves came up with the gematria of tzemach and its link to the Messiah and the Vizhnitz Rebbe.

Many leading rabbis of the time came to R’ Waldman’s defense, including; R’ Moshe Schick[22], R’ Chaim Sofer of Munkatch[23], R’ Chaim Halberstam of Sanz[24], R’ Yosef Shaul Nathansohn[25], and the previously mentioned R’ Avraham Yehuda Schwartz. It seems that the only rabbi that came to the defense of the Vizhnitz Chasidim, was R’ Yehuda Modern[26].  What happened next isn’t very clear, but it seems that a tribunal was held by Schwartz to settle things[27], and Waldman was reinstituted as rabbi of Borşa.  Waldman died in Vienna in 1883.

As a side note, take a look at the last page of the letter of R’ Schwartz, printed in the first edition of the Vayitzbor Yosef, on the very bottom:

That is a stamp referring to the responsum of R’ Moshe Schick to Borşa!  I don’t know if this appears in every first edition copy, or if some private owner went to the trouble to specially stamp this, but it would be interesting to find out!

[1] Mordechai Mochiach of Eisenstaedt, Baruchia Russo, Jacob Querido, Abraham Cordozo, Yehuda Leib Prossnitz, and Jacob Frank
[2] See Ba’al Shem Tov Al Hatorah (Jerusalem 1998) in the Hakdamah #23 in the name of Nachum from Chernobyl, though this is seemingly a contradiction to the Iggeres Hakodesh of the Ba’al Shem Tov where he writes that he spoke with the Messiah.
[3] See Aharon Wertheim, Halachos V’halichos B’Chasidus (Mossad Harav Kook, 2002), pp. 20-21 fn. 52
[4] See David Assaf, The Regal Way (Stanford University Press, 2002), pp. 257-261
[5] See Yehuda Leibes, Studies in Jewish Myth and Jewish Messianism (State University of New York Press, 1993) p. 115
[6] See the hakdamah to Chumash Heichal Bracha (Lemberg 1864), "וגם דודי מורי החסיד השלם הצדיק אא"ק מוהר"ר משה הוא קרא אותי בפעם הראשון בשם מורה מורנו בפ' בהר וקרא לפני או דודו יגאלנו ואמר עשיתי אותך גואל ואמר זה באנפין נהרין.".  See Heichal Bracha on Leviticus 25:49 where he says that the verse is referring to Mashiach ben Yosef.  See also Megilas Starim (Jerusalem 1944) where he says he was born in the year משיח בן יוסף,  here.
[7] See Nochum Brandwein, Imrei Tov (1891) p.29a where he writes, "כמו ששמעתי מפי מרן הק' והטהור איש צדיק תמים שמו נאה לו מוהר"ר דוד משה שליט"א. וזאת ידוע כי "משה" עולה :"אלקים אחרים", כי בכוחו נמתק אלקים אחרים , "משה דוד" עולה: "שטן",כי בכוחו להמתיק את השטן מישראל, ואז נמשך גאולה לישראל, כי: "משיח" עם הכולל עולה: "משה דוד", ואז יקויים "ועינינו תראינה מלכותך" ע"י דוד משיח צדקך .  here.
[8] See Chaim Vital, Sefer Hachizyonos (Jerusalem, 2001) pp. 8, 17-18
[9] See Ohr Hachaim, Deuteronomy 15:7 at the end, here.
[10] See Isaiah Tishby, Messianic Mysticism (Littman Library, 2014) pp. 196-199
[11] See Yaakov Sapir, Iggeres Teiman Hasheni (Mainz, 1873)  here and Amram ibn Yachya Kerach, Sa’aras Teiman  (Jerusalem. 1954) pp.36-39 here.
[12] See ibid.
[14]  Though R’ Shalom Shachna of Lublin allegedly wrote on his gemara about the debate in Sanhedrin 98b over the name of the Messiah, "אני אומר שכנא שמו שנאמר לשכנו תדרשו", referring to Deuteronomy 12:5, See Reuven Margolyos, Margolyos Hayam, Sanhedrin 98b #14, it was probably from a disciple in jest.  See Asher Ziv, Rabbeinu Shalom Shachna Milublin, Hadarom No.57, p.119.
[15] His two volume halachic work, Shu”t Tzvi V’Chamid, was printed from a manuscript in 2008.
[16] Here is a picture of R’ Schwartz with his wife:

[17] Unfortunately, hebrewbooks.org doesn’t yet have the sefer online. You can still look at the first forty pages for free on Otzar Ha-Hochma online with this link, here, even if you don't have a subscription.
[18] Matzevat Kodesh (New York 1951) p.24 fn.57 here,  L’toldos Hareformatzian Hadatis B’Germania U’bungaria p.20 fn.40 here.
[19] L’koros Hayahadus B’trasylvania (New York) p.84
[20] Toldos Yisrael V’hispatchus Hachasidus B’Rusia H’Karpatis p.32
[21] (Kiryas Motzken, 1984) part 2 pp.68-71
[22] Shu”t Maharam Schick, Yoreh Deah #219,  here.  The published teshuva is written to an anonymous kehillah, though it is attributed to the town of Borşa.
[23] Toldos Sofrim (London, 1962) pp.37-38, here.  From Sofer’s letter we see how this was also part of the greater dispute between the Sanz and Sadigura chasidim, on this see David Assaf, Heitzitz V’Nifga Ch.19.
[24] Measef Ha’be-er year 7 p.42,  here.  I was very pleased when I first saw this letter. In it, Halberstamm argues that even an evil person that learns torah, his torah isn’t נמאסת, how more so then to a righteous person.  He brings a proof from the famous gemara in Chagiga 15b where a fire came down from heaven in front of Yehuda Hanasi to defend Elisha ben Avuya from disparagement.  I always made the same argument to fanatics who would say disparaging remarks about R’ Joseph B. Soloveitchik.
[25] Shu”t Shoel U’Meishiv Sheviah #16, also in Kerem Shlomo Tamuz 5743
[26] Tzfunos no.10 Teves 5751 p.118, here.
[27] See Toldos Kol Aryeh p.79 #122, here.

Sunday, January 08, 2017

Kaddish – His Will

Kaddish – His Will
Leor Jacobi

Note: I wrote the following essay outline several years ago, but shelved it upon discovering that most of its novelty and much more had already been published by David de Sola Pool over a hundred years ago.[1] On the sad occasion of the recent passing of my beloved mother I offer it now in her memory. Prayer and divinity were close to her heart. May our prayers be deepened by their study.

The Kaddish is one of the most familiar and repeated prayers in the liturgy. In various forms, it concludes both the main body of the prayer and smaller sections. It is also recited by mourners and upon the conclusion of learning a tractate or a sermon.

Despite, or perhaps due to its familiarity, few are aware of an alternate interpretation and syntax at the beginning of the Kaddish, accompanied by altering the pronunciation of one word slightly, but significantly. This study will describe and analyze these two interpretations and propose a third.

1. The “Standard” interpretation. R. Yehudah ben Yakar (Ramban's teacher), Rokeah, and Avudraham all followed the standard interpretation. See R. Shmuel Eliezer Stern's concise compilation of their perspectives.
2. The GRA's interpretation
3. Alternate interpretation

1. The Standard Interpretation

...יִתְגַּדַּל וְיִתְקַדַּשׁ שְׁמֵהּ רַבָּא בְּעָלְמָא דִּי בְרָא כִרְעוּתֵהּ, וְיַמְלִיךְ מַלְכוּתֵהּ

May his great name be exalted and sanctified in the world which he created according to his will. And may his kingship reign ...

The deity is not referred to directly, but his great name is to be exalted and sanctified in the very world which he himself created, according to his own will and volition. The fact that the world was created according to the will of the deity seems rather obvious, pshita. However, in the liturgy of the evening prayers, we find the divine will associated with the maintenance of the celestial bodies:

ברוך אתה … אשר בדברו מעריב ערבים בחכמה פותח שערים ובתבונה משנה עתים ומחליף את הזמנים ומסדר את הכוכבים במשמרותיהם ברקיע כרצונו

This may be referred to in the Kaddish. Perhaps the divine will is mentioned in the Kaddish to emphasize that the details of the physical world were planned by the creator, not happenstance, hence it is fitting to exalt and praise his great name.

A more serious difficulty with this standard interpretation is found in the prayer על הכל based on the Kaddish which is recited upon removing the Sefer Torah from the Aron Ha-Kodesh. In modern prayerbooks it is found among the Sabbath prayers. In surviving synagogues of Tikocyn (טיקטין) and Krakow and in in other Polish synagogues the text was painted on the wall along with other “extra” prayers and sayings.[2] This prayer clearly parallels the Kaddish, but does not follow the standard interpretation, as will be explained in the next section. R. Yehudah ben Yakar (Ramban's teacher), Rokeah, and Avudraham all followed the standard interpretation. See R. Shmuel Eliezer Stern's concise compilation of their perspectives.

2. The GRA's Interpretation

...יִתְגַּדַּל וְיִתְקַדַּשׁ שְׁמֵהּ רַבָּא בְּעָלְמָא דִּי בְרָא, כִּרְעוּתֵהּ, וְיַמְלִיךְ מַלְכוּתֵהּ
May his great name be exalted and sanctified, according to his will, in the world which he created. And may his kingship become regnant...

Notice the additional comma and the concomitant hard vocalization of the כּ with a dagesh in the following word: כִּרְעוּתֵהּ. Here the phrase “according to his will” refers back to the first clause of the preceding phrase, the exaltation and sanctification. It does not refer to the immediately preceding clause as per the standard interpretation.

The minor conceptual difficulty of the standard interpretation is now transformed into a deep and compelling concept. The purpose of the creation of the world was so that the creator's name be exalted and sanctified within it.

This interpretation can be attributed to the Gaon, R. Elijah of Vilna, GRA in Ma'ase Rav 54, where it is noted that he was particular about the pronunciation of the hard כּ. GRA’s Diyyuqim b’nusḥey ha-tefilah v’ha-berakhot were first printed in the first edition of Shulhan Arukh with Biyur ha-GRA, Shklov 1803, and appear at the bottom of the first page of Priy Chodosh in later editions.

There, the concept it is explained more fully, with a proof is presented in the aforementioned על הכל prayer recited upon removing the Torah from the Ark:

עַל הַכּל יִתְגַּדַּל וְיִתְקַדַּשׁ וְיִשְׁתַּבַּח וְיִתְפָּאַר וְיִתְרומַם וְיִתְנַשּא שְׁמו שֶׁל מֶלֶךְ מַלְכֵי הַמְּלָכִים הַקָּדושׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא. בָּעולָמות שֶׁבָּרָא הָעולָם הַזֶּה וְהָעולָם הַבָּא. כִּרְצונו וְכִרְצון יְרֵאָיו וְכִרְצון כָּל בֵּית יִשרָאֵל. צוּר הָעולָמִים אֲדון כָּל הַבְּרִיּות אֱלוהַּ כָּל הַנְּפָשׁות. הַיּושֵׁב בְּמֶרְחֲבֵי מָרום הַשּׁוכֵן בִּשְׁמֵי שְׁמֵי קֶדֶם. קְדֻשָּׁתו עַל הַחַיּות וּקְדֻשָּׁתו עַל כִּסֵּא הַכָּבוד

Note that this Hebrew prayer generally follows the structure of the Kaddish. However, the phrase “According to his will” is accompanied by “the will of those who fear him” and “the will of all of the house of Israel.” This cannot refer to the creation of the world, for mortals were not party to that event. Perhaps it refers to the post-facto consent of men. If so, it would differ conceptually with כרצונו, the will of the creator at the time of the creation. Also, stressing this point runs counter to the thrust of the prayer, exalting and praising the creator.

Wall of Tykocin synagogue, Poland, Leor Jacobi

This source suggests that an ancient tradition does not follow the standard interpretation. Furthermore, we find an association of the words כרצונו and יתגדל in Daniel 11:36, applied to an earthly king:

...וְעָשָׂה כִרְצוֹנוֹ הַמֶּלֶךְ וְיִתְרוֹמֵם וְיִתְגַּדֵּל עַל כָּל אֵל וְעַל אֵל אֵלִים יְדַבֵּר נִפְלָאוֹת

Some medieval prayer books do contain a hard כּ in כרעותיה. In the National Library of Israel there are examples from Provence, Italy, and Ashkenaz on microfilm. I refer to this interpretation as the GRA's, although it probably preceded him by hundreds of years, because he related to the issue and is understood to have favored this interpretation. It should be noted that many early siddurim were not precise in following grammatical rules so the mere presence or absence of a dagesh should not in and of itself be taken as an indicator of syntax or interpretation.

GRA's interpretation, while not well known, was endorsed somewhat in Arukh haShulhan 56 (where much of the previous discussion is found). GRA-oriented prayerbooks also reflect this interpretation via the punctuation, such as Siddur Vilna and Ezor Eliahu. However, Siddur Tefilat Yosef features the hard כִּ but without a comma before it, possibly a compromise approach: have it both ways or either way.

I now raise a couple of difficulties. The most striking aspect of this approach is its awkward word order. A much more straightforward formulation of GRA's interpretation would be:

...יִתְגַּדַּל וְיִתְקַדַּשׁ שְׁמֵהּ רַבָּא. כִרְעוּתֵהּ, בְּעָלְמָא דִּי בְרָא, וְיַמְלִיךְ מַלְכוּתֵהּ

Perhaps the word כִּרְעוּתֵהּ was a later addition, hence not deemed proper to insert in the middle of the first phrase. In any case, GRA's interpretation does not fit the text as well as the standard interpretation, where no re-ordering is required.

A minor difficulty with the GRA's interpretation emerges upon comparison with the “Great Kaddish” recited upon the completion of a Tractate or Seder. The word כִּרְעוּתֵהּ does not appear in that text at all. This is explainable, and perhaps even necessary, according to the first interpretation, because the Great Kaddish does not refer to the creation of the world at all, but rather to the future redemption:

יִתְגַּדַּל וְיִתְקַדַּשׁ שְׁמֵהּ רַבָּא בְּעָלְמָא דִּי הוּא עָתִיד לְאִתְחַדְתָּא, וּלְאַחֲיָאה מֵתַיָּא, וּלְאַסָּקָא יַתְּהוֹן לְחַיֵּי עָלְמָא, וּלְמִבְנָא קַרְתָּא דִּי יְרוּשְלֵם, וּלְשַׁכְלְלָא הֵיכָלֵהּ בְּגַוָּהּ, וּלְמֶעֱקַר פּוּלְחָנָא נוּכְרָאָה מִן אַרְעָא, וּלְאָתָבָא פּוּלְחָנָא דִּי שְׁמַיָּא לְאַתְרָהּ, וְיַמְלִיך קוּדְשָׁא בְּרִיךְ הוּא בּמַלְכוּתֵה וִיקָרֵהּ בְּחַיֵּיכוֹן וּבְיוֹמֵיכוֹן וּבְחַיֵּי דְכָל בֵּית יִשְׂרָאֵל

However, if כִּרְעוּתֵהּ refers back to יִתְגַּדַּל וְיִתְקַדַּשׁ, as per GRA’s interpretation, the absence of the word in the Great Kaddish version is puzzling, or at least conspicuous. This suggests that כִּרְעוּתֵהּ refers back to בְּעָלְמָא דִּי בְרָא and hence, disappears in the Great Kaddish along with it.

To summarize so far, we have seen two competing interpretations of the same (orthographic) text of the Kaddish. Some evidence contradicts each of the two, with no clear tilt of the scales in favor of either. It seems to me more likely that the GRA’s interpretation would develop into the standard one in order to “correct the syntax” than the reverse direction. Lectio dificilior potior. This situation suggests exploring other alternatives.[3]

3. An Alternate Interpretation

...יִתְגַּדַּל וְיִתְקַדַּשׁ שְׁמֵהּ רַבָּא בְּעָלְמָא דִּי בְרָא, כִּרְעוּתֵהּ יַמְלִיךְ מַלְכוּתֵהּ

May his great name be exalted and sanctified in the world which he created. May his kingship become regnant according to his will ...

Rather than throwing the word כִּרְעוּתֵהּ back to one clause or another of the previous phrase, in this interpretation the word applies to the text that follows, a prayer for the establishment of the divine kingdom.

This interpretation is aided by the omission of the ו in the word ימלך following the word כרעותיה. The emendation is minor, and we do find an early textual example from a manuscript in the Cairo Geniza, JTS ENA 1983.2:

The absence of the ו assists this interpretation but it does not in and of itself negate the others. However, the interpretation is also suggested by another rabbinic source. The על הכל prayer discussed previously appears to be a later adaptation, an earlier version of which appears in Masekhet Sofrim 14:6:

ועוד צריך לומר, על הכל יתגדל ויתקדש וישתבח ויתפאר ויתרומם ויתנשא ויתהדר ויתעלה ויתהלל ויתקלס שמו של מלך מלכי המלכים הקדוש ברוך הוא הנכבד והנורא בעולמות שברא בעולם הזה ובעולם הבא. כרצונו וכרצון יראיו וכרצון כל עמו בית ישראל תגלה ותראה מלכותו עלינו במהרה ובזמן קרוב, והוא יבנה ביתו בימינו ויחון פליטתינו ופליטת כל עמו בית ישראל בהמון רחמיו וברוב חסדיו לחן ולחסד ולרחמים לחיים ולשלום והוא ירחם עלינו ועל כל עמו בית ישראל בעבור שמו הגדול ואמרו אמן

I added some punctuation above and would translate part of the prayer literally as follows:

… in the worlds that he has created, this world and the next one. According to his will, the will of those in awe of him, and the will of his entire people, the house of Israel, his kingship shall be revealed and appear to us speedily and soon. He shall rebuild ...

One may argue that, here too, the phrase: “According to his will...” refers back to the previous clause. In the adapted form that appears in prayer books, the phrase must be understood as referring back to the previous phrase, since the following phrase simply doesn't appear. However, in this expanded and seemingly earlier form in Masekhet Sofrim, we would expect a connecting ו to follow the phrase, even more so than in the Kaddish itself, yet we do not find one. When על הכל was adapted from this prayer, the syntax was adjusted or corrupted.

The difficulty noted above in reconciling the GRA's interpretation with the Great Kaddish is relieved via this approach, if not eliminated. The absent word כרעותיה is explained if the substantial additions in the Great Kaddish are an expansion[4] of כרעותיה.

May his great name be sanctified and exalted by the reign of his kingdom in the world he created, according to his will.

[1] David de Sola Pool, The Kaddish, Leipzig 1909, pp. 28, 33-35, 111-112. Among issues not covered here, see especially parallels in various verses and to the Christian Lord’s Prayer (Paternoster). [2] In the “Isaac Shul” of Krakow על הכל was written in three different locations which have been restored and are all visible today. It may have moved from location to location at different periods and different layers were restored. Alternatively, it may have been painted in different locations for the convenience of the worshippers, so that they would not have to strain or move to another location during the procession after removing the Torah scroll from the Ark. [3] My first attempt was to propose that the word כִּרְעוּתֵהּ is itself an erroneous later scribal addition. An ancient tradition maintains that one should bow during the Kaddish at several places. Sefer Kra’ Ravaṣ, by Rabbi Yehuda Lavi Ben-David is an excellent modern halakhic compendium of the various laws of bowing, accompanied with much original analysis.
The book lists no fewer than seventeen different opinions as to where exactly to do the bowing. Some medieval prayer books have a Hebrew instruction to bow written in the margin: כרע. These might have been misinterpreted as Aramaic and incorporated into the text of the Kaddish itself. However, since I have not located any significant textual evidence to support this theory, I mention it here solely for the reader’s edification and entertainment. [4] If the third alternative is a genuine interpretation of the text of the Kaddish, and an early one, it could hypothetically have developed into the other interpretations.
First, the standard interpretation developed. The word כרעותיה was understood as referring back to the immediately preceding creation of the world and in tandem a ו was introduced verbally in וימלך. Alternatively, the Great Kaddish may have been composed or edited in accordance with the first, standard interpretation. This development may have been the result of a growing influence of the written texts, without vocalization and punctuation, as opposed to earlier oral forms which would have preserved the original interpretation.
Next, this new interpretation collided with the original, possibly in written form, with the ו in וימלך being introduced where the original interpretation was preserved orally along with the hard כּ of כרעותיה. This friction would have been resolved by artificially throwing back כרעותיה to the beginning of the first phrase, giving birth to the GRA's interpretation.
Or כרעותיה originally went in both directions, following both GRA and the alternate interpretation, as De Sola Pool proposed (see note above).

Print post

You might also like

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...