Monday, August 22, 2016

Proprietors of Artscroll give money for a "real" sefer

I went to the Glueck Beth Midrash at YU today, and was looking for a copy of Tractate Rosh Ha-shana in the Talmud Yerushalmi. The only one that was on the shelf was the one with the commentary of R' Chaim Kanievsky. I have seen this edition on shelves, but don't think I have ever looked inside. I opened up to the front pages, and found the following dedication page:

לישרים נאוה תהילה
שלום רב לאוהבי תורתך
התודה והברכה התהילה והתפארת
לכבוד ידידינו היקרים והישרים,
הרבנים הגאונים, מגדולי מפיצי התורה בדורינו,
הרב נתן שערמאן שליט"א
והרב יעקב מאיר זלוטוביץ שליט"א
שנדבו בשמחה הוצאות הספר

That is, R' Nosson Scherman and R' Meir Zlotowitz, the proprietors of ArtScroll, gave the money to fund this book. The dedication goes on to list the various people in whose memory Scherman and Zlotowitz are dedicating the book. So, although they have devoted the last several decades to publishing ArtScroll books, they have financed the publication of this book. And who published this book? It is self-published! The title page says only the city and the year: בני ברק, תשס"א.

  Do Rabbis Scherman and Zlotowitz think that only a book like this is a "real sefer", as opposed to an ArtScroll book, and thus that funding it is a way to do something truly relevant with their lives? Now, who distributes the sefer? Apparently Rav Chaim Kanievsky, bikhvodo u-ve'atmzo, at his own home address (and one other distributor):  

את הספר אפשר להשיג ע"פ הכתובת:

הרב קניבסקי
רשב"ם 32

רב סעדי' גאון 11 בני ברק

So a man who is considered one of the greatest rabbis in the Israeli Lita'i world is self-publishing and self-distributing his works, and the proprietors of ArtScroll are funding the project.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Machol as name of Instrument

For posterity:

 Gabriel Wasserman On another topic: Do you know anything about the בתוף ומחול thing?

Fred MacDowell You mean to define them? No clue what you mean.

Gabriel Wasserman The Iyyun Tefillo, in the 19th or 20th century -- Reb Arye Leib Gordon of Jerusalem -- insists that מחול can't mean "dance", but must be some kind of musical instrument, and he insists that the Targum חנגין is a musical instrument. (But I'm pretty sure that that's the usual Targumic Aramaic word for "dance".)

Fred MacDowell Interesting. Should I look or is that it?

Fred MacDowell

Gabriel Wasserman And that makes its way, interestingly, into the Siddur Meforash of Weingarten, which I davvened out of from ages 13 to 17 or so, and learned tons from. But what's interested is that Weingarten presents it as a complete דבר פשוט. Until today, I assumed that it must be in Rashi, possibly even Chazal! Do you have an ArtScroll siddur? How do they translate it? Oh, let me look at your Haschiloah link; I assumed it would be about the maskil and the Gaon, but it's about musical instruments.

Fred MacDowell Artscroll, drum and dance.

Gabriel Wasserman Oh. Interesting! We should check some other translations of the siddur.

Fred MacDowell Especially old ones, English, French, Dutch, Italian, Spanish. See what the goyim say too.

Gabriel Wasserman Goyim say dance; I checked that earlier today. Interesting that in the old ones, they use "choir" for _dance_. (As in Greek _khoros_.) In Wycliffe, it's spelled "quire".

Fred MacDowell Ben Yehuda milon also. Sounds like one of those clever chiddushim type things. What do the Syriacs and the Old Slavonics say?

Gabriel Wasserman Yes, but fascinating that it made its way -- as a דבר פשוט -- into Weingarten. I assume the old ones all say "dance", though we could check. What I'm more curious about is how far this clever chiddush spread.

Fred MacDowell Yeah, worth checking.

Gabriel Wasserman Weingarten says: ומחול -- אולי הוא כלי השיר "מחלת" הנזכר בתהלים (פח:א). ובמשנה (ביכורים פ"ג מ"ג) נקרא "חליל". אך אין פירושו כאן בריקוד (עיין בתרגום כאן ובתרגום מ"א א, מ; ובפירוש עיון תפילה).

Fred MacDowell I just saw someone in the 19th century write "a small flute or a dance"

Gabriel Wasserman Who, a yit or a notzri?

Fred MacDowell Notzri. Jeremy Montagu's Musical instruments of the Bible seems to say that there is an argument to be made for instrument in Psalms, while dance elsewhere. I bet it was a 19th century scholarly thing that may or may not have been "borrowed" by R Aryeh Leib.

Gabriel Wasserman Fascinating. And then by Weingarten, in late 20th-century chareidi Israel. There's haskala-type stuff all around the Iyyun Tefillo, IIRC. He talks about the Hyksos when commenting on the Haggodo Shel Pesach.

Fred MacDowell Yeah, in the 19th century they were all over machol as an instrument:

Gabriel Wasserman Etz Yoisef has it, too: ומחול. הוא חליל והוא נבוב וחלול. If any have illustrations, we could make this into a great post. Did you try "mahol", too?

Fred MacDowell The question seems to center around the idea that it means both, the instrument assuming the name of a dance, or even the opposite. No, I have not even begun to research, as John Paul Jones would say.

Gabriel Wasserman But you have! Anyway, Who was this Etz Yoisef guy? I once asked Prof. Hananel Mak:

בקרב לומדי מדרשי האגדה, סידור התפילה, ו"עין יעקב", ידועים פירושיו של חנוך זונדל, שקראם "עץ יוסף" ו"ענף יוסף". ברם, לא מצאתי אף אחד שידע פרטים על חיי האיש הזה. מסתמא הוא חי במאה הי"ט, אבל איפה? בליטא? מי היו רבותיו? מתי בדיוק הוא חי? האם כתב ספרים אחרים חוץ מן הפירושים "עץ יוסף" וענף יוסף?

(Wow, that email was about 4.5 years ago. I would have guessed *maybe* two years ago.)

He responded:


לצערי אינני יכול להוסיף הרבה על דבריך. כנראה היה האיש צנוע וכמעט שלא דבר על
עצמו וגם אחרים אינם מזכירים אותו בפרטים. אביו של ר' חנוך נקרא בשם יוסף ועל
שמו קרא הבן את ספריו הוא כתב גם חיבור בשם יד יוסף שהנו פירוש על מדרש איכה
וכן על "סדר עולם". ר' חנוך חי בביאליסטוק שבצפון מזרח פולין, סמוך לליטא
(שהיתה מאוחדת באותם ימים עם פולין) וברור שניכרת בכתביו השפעה ליטאית אבל יש
שם גם הרבה מאוד קבלה. הוא חי בסוף המאה השמונה עשרה ובתחילת התשע עשרה. כתב
גם מבוא נרחב לסידור התפילה בשם "בשמים ראש". בלי ספק ניתן וראוי למצוא חומר
נוסף על האיש, אולי ימצא משהו בספר הזיכרון לקהילת ביאליסטוק

Well, there you go. Next step is the Memorbuch of the Bialistok community.

Fred MacDowell Adam Clarke. Love him. 1833. "It never means dance."

Gabriel Wasserman "Never means dance" sounds like Weingarten. אך אין פירושו כאן בריקוד But at least Weingarten qualifies it by saying "here". Hey, this is retroactively a parasha-post for last week; after all, we had: ותצאן כל הנשים אחריה בתפים ובמחולות. I realized that only now.

Gabriel Wasserman What does Malbim have?

Fred MacDowell Have to wait and see.

Gabriel Wasserman And, on Exodus 15:20, what have Hirsch, Mecklenberg, the Netziv, Shadal, Reggio... This could definitely be a post.

Fred MacDowell Yup.

Monday, April 13, 2015

A single letter (and abbreviation sign)

Sometimes a single letter in a book has a story behind it.

Here is a passage from the seder vayyosha‘ of Meshullam bar Qalonymos, as it is printed in the 1832 Rödelheim Maḥzor (and followed in subsequent printings), for the seventh or eighth day of Pesaḥ:

As you can see, in the middle of the third line there is a little cursive letter ḥeth, with an abbreviation sign, indicating that the cantor (חזן) should begin reading here out loud.

If one examines the other sections of this composition, one will see that this printing does not have any explicit indication of where the cantor should begin. Rather, there is a long paragraph, and then a short paragraph, leading into the large letters indicating the first words of the next verse of the Song of the Sea. Presumably, the cantor is expected to begin out loud at the beginning of each short paragraph.

However, in this section, if the cantor begins at the beginning of the short paragraph, the following situation is likely to occur:

The people mumble the entire long paragraph, and the beginning of the short paragraph, but not the quote from the next verse, because they'll want to say the quote together with the cantor. Thus, they will say: נרדם ואבד שאון בוגדיך / ובני חסידיך: "The multitudes of those that betray Thee slumber and perish, / and [also] the children of Thy pious people." That is, both the Egyptians and the Israelites perish!

(The poem is meant to be understood thus: נרדם ואבד שאון בוגדיך. ובני חסידיך נחית בחסדך: "The multitudes of those that betray Thee slumber and perish. [But] Thou hast led, with Thy mercy, the children of Thy pious people.)

This situation bothered R' Ḥayyim Mordecai Margolies, in the late 18th century, so he wrote, in his famous commentary Sha‘aré Teshuva on Shulḥan ‘Arukh Oraḥ Ḥayyim §490:

ויש ליזהר בפייט השירה באחרון של פסח בחרוז נרדם ואבד כו' רגילין ההמון להפסיק בתיבת חסידך ולהמתין בתיבת נחית בחסדך עד שיגמור החזן כמנהגם בשאר החרוזים ומשנה הוא כי כאן צריך לו' בדבור אחד כל החרוז דהיינו גם תיבות נחית בחסדך המקושר למעלה אל ובני זרע חסידיך כמובן:

One should be careful, in the piyyut of the Song of the Sea on the last day of Pesaḥ, in the stanza beginning "nirdam ve-’avad". For the masses are accustomed to stop after the word ḥasidekha, and wait until the cantor finishes, as they do in the other sections. But this is a mistake, for here one needs to say the whole sentence together, that is, one must include the words "Thou hast led with Thy mercy" [from the next verse of the Song of the Sea], which refers to the previous words, "the children of Thy pious people", of course.

R' Wolf Heidenheim, the editor of the Rödelheim Maḥzor, seems to have decided to solve this problem in an aggressive way: He indicated that the cantor should pick up several lines before the end, already at the words שדי המשלם לשונאיו. This way, the people will see the indication ח' before those words, and stop there, and expect the cantor to pick up there; so nobody will stop after the words נרדם ואבד. And thus, Heidenheim marks the cantor's beginning in this section of the composition, alone out of all the twenty sections (and it is in a different place from the implied place for the cantor's beginning in all the other sections).

A single letter. A story.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Medieval Tu Be-Av Poem

Perhaps it's a bit late, since Tu Be-Av is now over, but it's still worth my while to post this.

Here's a poem for Tu Be'Av by Avraham ben Khalfun, published by Israel Davidson in an article in ציונים : קובץ לזכרונו של י. נ. שמחוני ז''ל (Berlin, 1928-1929). Davidson says that this poet is "not earlier than the Spanish period" (i.e. no earlier than 950), and "not later than 1473". Maybe Egypt, maybe Yemen, maybe elsewhere. Clearly in an Islamic region.

I don't quite understand the context for the poem -- it's clearly not a Yotzer, Qerova, Ma'ariv, or any of the major genres which are inserted into berakhoth. Perhaps it is a table-song? Or a secular poem? I don't know....

The poem lists all the various events which the Gemara (Bavli, end of Ta`anith) says took place on the Fifteenth of Av.

הִתְבַּשְּׂרוּ בְנֵי עֶלְיוֹן כִּי נִיחַם יְיָ צִיּוֹן

אַזְכִּיר חֲסָדֶיךָ מַלְכִּי לְנֶגֶד כָּל נִבְרָאֶיךָ
וּדְבַר גְּבוּרוֹת יְחַו חִכִּי אֲשֶׁר פְּעַלְתֶּם לִירֵאֶיךָ
בַּחֲמִשָּׁה עָשָׂר בְּאָב כִּי נִמְלְצוּ לְחִכִּי פְלָאֶיךָ
וְאֶכְתְּבֵימוֹ עַל גִּלָּיוֹן וְאָשִׁיר בָּם עֲלֵי הִגָּיוֹן

הִתְבַּשְּׂרוּ בְנֵי עֶלְיוֹן כִּי נִיחַם יְיָ צִיּוֹן

בְּיוֹם זֶה נֶעְצַר מִקֶּדֶם נֶגֶף מִמֵּיתֵי מִדְבָּר
וּבִנְיָמִין צָעִיר רוֹדֵם לְשִׁבְטֵי יָהּ בּוֹ הִתְחַבָּר
וְרָצָה בָהֶם צוּר פּוֹדָם אַחֲרֵי בָמוֹ הִתְעַבָּר
כִּי טִיהֲרוּ לֵבָב וְרַעְיוֹן וְרָחֲצוּ כַפָּם בְּנִקָּיוֹן

הִתְבַּשְּׂרוּ בְנֵי עֶלְיוֹן כִּי נִיחַם יְיָ צִיּוֹן

רוֹן פָּצְחוּ שְׁבָטִים בְּיוֹם זֶה וְיֶשַׁע וְעוֹז הִתְאַזָּרוּ
כִּי בוֹ לָבוֹא זֶה בָזֶה וּלְהִתְחַבֵּר הֻותָּרוּ
וַהֲרוּגִים בְּיַד צָר נִבְזֶה בְּבֵית-תֵּר הַיּוֹם נִקְבָּרוּ
כִּי לֹא יַעֲשֶׂה כִּלָּיוֹן צוּר וְיָחוֹס עַל דַּל וְאֶבְיוֹן

הִתְבַּשְּׂרוּ בְנֵי עֶלְיוֹן כִּי נִיחַם יְיָ צִיּוֹן

הַיּוֹם בִּיטֵּל בֶּן אֵלָה שׁוֹמְרֵי אוֹרַח תַּהֲלוּכָה
שָׂם יְרָבְעָם עַל מְסִלָּה לְהַשְׁמִיד חַג מֵעִיר בְּרוּכָה
וּבוֹ פָסְקוּ שָׂרֵי סְגוּלָּה לִכְרוֹת עֵצִים לְמַעֲרָכָה
כִּי מָצְאוּ בַשֶּׁמֶשׁ רִפְיוֹן וְחֻומָּהּ נִסְתַּר בְּתוֹךְ חֶבְיוֹן

הִתְבַּשְּׂרוּ בְנֵי עֶלְיוֹן כִּי נִיחַם יְיָ צִיּוֹן

מָתַי יְחֻודַּשׁ הוֹד בּוֹלֶה לְבֵן בַּגּוֹלָה זָנוּחַ
וּמָתַי יְנוּחַם לֵב חוֹלֶה וּמֵעוֹל אוֹיְבַי אָנוּחַ
מְהֵרָה מְשִׁיחִי יִגָּלֶה וְנָחָה עָלָיו הָרוּחַ
וְיִקְרָא לַאֲסִירַי פִּדְיוֹן קוּמוּ וְנַעֲלֶה צִיּוֹן

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

American Orthodox Wedding Rituals (AOWR)

It is interesting that the non-Jewish world, and the non-Orthodox world, and now the Orthodox world have this whole thing with engagement rings and wedding rings. Engagement rings are always in one direction: The bridegroom buys a very expensive item, with real economic value, for the bride -- and receives nothing in exchange.

Then (except in certain sectors of the Orthodox world), afterwards, the two parties perform a ceremony, in which each gives the other a ring, which is much less expensive than the engagement ring.

Thus, the engagement-ring thing is really a sort of a קנין -- the husband buys the wife with a 20K diamond ring. On the other hand, the wedding-ring thing is just a ceremony.

This is parallel to the halakhic Jewish way, in which Qiddushin (a קנין) is followed by Nissu'in (some kind of ritual).

But it's interesting, because the Orthodox Jews of today's America have grafted the WESTERN nissu'in onto the JEWISH qiddushin, by doing the wedding-ring ritual at the moment of the qiddushin

Isn't that interesting?

Thursday, January 1, 2009

New book

Kabbalat HaAri - Yosef Avivi

Kabbalat HaAri is an entirely new work which after decades of research appeared for the first time in Kislev 5768 (12-08). R. Yosef Avivi one of the foremost authorities on Kabbala in the world has documented for the first time which all of the writings of the ARI and his students, their origins, their relationship andhow they were edited and printed. An entirely new theory to explain the system of thought of the ARI is presented.The Sefer appears in 3 volumes comprising 1568 pages (weighing almost 5 kilo) and includes 40 facsimile pages from manuscripts. It is available for a limited period through VirtualGeula for 350 shekels which is significantly less than the price in bookstores.

I think they mean "Kislev 5769". It seems that the book just came out. I was looking at it at the YU library — very interesting and well researched, and beautifully printed.

I was just now reading the section about what the Ari preferred from the Ashkenazic liturgy (viz. piyyutim on Yomim Nôro'im, 3 Regolim, and Purim), and what he preferred from the Sephardic liturgy (daily viddui in Shaharit and Minha, and more mizmorim).

Thursday, December 18, 2008

La Traviata

When Alfredo first sings the "Di quell'amor", in "Un di, felice" ( , p 40 ff.), at the syllable "cro-" (of "croce") he reaches the high "mi" note of the scale, which, in this case, is a high A, because we are in the key of F major. The same is true (albeit one octave higher) when Violetta repeats the tune (and words) as part of "A fors' è lui".

Later on, Alfredo sings the same "Amor, amor è palpito" tune from the balcony, in the middle of "Sempre Libera" (p. 66), which is in the key of A-flat major. In order to reach the "mi" note of the scale on "cro-" (of "croce"), the tenor would need to sing a high C. Either Verdi did not want to impose this on the tenor, or he had some other (artistic?) reason to not write in the high C (perhaps to diminish Alfredo's rôle here, since he's only on the sidelines), so he wrote in an G, which always sounds terribly unsatisfying to me.

But that's the whole point -- the tension between whether the tenor will sing the G or the high C! Most tenors should do the G, because most of them would sound bad on the high C. But there's an implicit high C there, because, of course, it's the same tune from before, which reached the "mi" note every time it was merely in the key of F.

And thus, one waits there to hear whether the tenor will or will not sing the higher note, and there's a time-period of tension, and then disappointment if he sings the G, but orgasmic release-of-tension if he sings the high C.

When I was growing up, we had a recording of Maria Callas and Alfredo Krauss, in which he does sing the high C. I looked on Youtube, and found no other recordings with the high C, but I did find the Callas/Krauss one: