Tuesday, May 26, 2009

The Ninth Annual Manfred R. Lehmann Memorial Master Workshop in the History of the Jewish Book - Shivhe ha-BeSHT

This past May 10-11, the Jewish Studies Program at the University of Pennsylvania, in conjunction with the University of Pennsylvania Library and the Herbert D. Katz Center for Advanced Judaic Studies at the University of Pennsylvania, presented:” The Ninth Annual Manfred R. Lehmann Memorial Master Workshop in the History of the Jewish Book”. The title of this year’s workshop was “Traditional Eastern European Jewish Book, 1500-1900”. The workshop was led by Prof. Moshe Rosman of Bar Ilan University in Israel.
One of the sessions focused on the work Shivhe ha-BeSHT (hereafter S.HB.) – Praises of the Baal Shem Tov. This work is a hagiography that collects approximately 200 stories relating to Rabbi Yisrael ben Eliezer Baal Shem Tov (ca. 1700-1760), the BeSHT, who is considered the founder of the Hasidic movement. S.HB. was first published in 5575 (1814) in Kapust (Kopys).
S.HB. became an important work for scholars of the Hasidic movement since it furnished biographical information about the BeSHT and other early Hasidim. Since the work was based on oral tales that were only written down many years after the BeSHT’s passing, scholars examine each story critically in order to determine what to accept as factual.
One factor contributing to the difficulty in properly appraising S.HB., is the collaborative nature of its production. The original manuscript was written by Dov Ber ben Shemuel of Linits based on stories he had heard from many sources, especially from Rabbi Gedalyahu of Linits (d.1788). Many copies of the original manuscript had been made by the time Yisrael Jaffe decided to print the work. We see from his introduction to the work that Jaffe had to set the text based on the manuscript(s) that he had access to, and fix mistakes that had crept in during the copying process. Also, Jaffe added approximately 17 stories, relating to the Besht’s early biography, to the beginning of the work. These stories were primarily heard in the name of Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi. Even though these stories were added as one piece to the beginning of SH.B., other stories taken from Dov Ber of Linits’ original work seem to have been mixed with them. Furthermore, it seems that additions to Dov Ber of Linits’ work can also be found later in S.HB. Prof. Rosman, in his workshop, discussed how to differentiate between the various sources and thereby to gain a clearer understanding of S.HB.
Prof. Rosman also discussed some later editions of S.HB. that were published in Yiddish (especially the Ostraha/Korets editions of 5575/76). These editions contained some differences from the Hebrew version. Some scholars believed that these differences pointed to the use of a different, perhaps more accurate, manuscript than that used for the Hebrew version. Prof. Rosman, is of the opinion that it has been conclusively shown by Yehoshua Mondshine, among others, that this is not the case. The Yiddish version merely reflects a literary reworking of the stories in the Hebrew version and is not based on a different source.
A number of modern editions of S.HB. have been published and Prof. Rosman discussed the merits and deficits of each edition. Here is a descriptive list of some of these editions:

- Shivhe ha-BeSHT : arukh u-mesudar me-hadash be-tsiruf mevo ve-haarot / me-et Sh. A. Horodetsky [Berlin : Enot, 1922] BM755.I8 D6 1922
[Edited and annotated by Samuel A. Horodezky, this edition contains an extensive introduction and explanatory endnotes. Prof. Rosman noted that this edition has since been reprinted and, at one time, it enjoyed significant popularity. However, since Horodezky made changes in the arrangement and language of the original, this edition can not be used for scholarly purposes.]
- Shivhe ha- BeSHT : im hosafot ; mavo / me-et Binyamin Mints [Tel Aviv : Talpiyot, 721 (1960 or 1961)] BM755.I8 D6 1961
[contains introduction that outlines the history of the work and its various printings, and discusses various figures that the BeSHT had relationships with. In addition to the text of S.HB., also included are collections of material relating to the BeSHT based on the works Porat Yosef, Keter Shem Tov, Tsavaat ha-RIVaSH, and the Kuntres Meirat Enayim found in the Sefer Baal Shem Tov.]
- In praise of the Baal Shem Tov [Shivḥei ha-Besht] : the earliest collection of legends about the founder of Hasidism / translated and edited by Dan Ben-Amos & Jerome R. Mintz. [Bloomington : Indiana University Press, 1970] BM755.I8 D613 1970
[this English translation has a number of helpful additions, including: explanatory notes; an index; a bibliography; a chart showing the source each story is attributed to, together with the page number the story is found on in the first edition and in the Horodezky edition; and an Index of Motifs for the stories based on the Stith Thompson Motif-Index of Folk-Literature.]
- Shivhe ha-BeSHT : faksimil mi- ketav ha-yad ha-yehidi ha-noda lanu ve-shinui nusahav le-umat nusah ha-defus / me-et Yehoshua Mondshayn [Yerushalayim : Y. Mondshayn, 742 (1981 or 1982)] OVERSIZE BM755.I8. D6 1982
[Mondshine’s edition contains a facsimile of an MS version of S.HB. that was obtained by the HaBaD- Lubavitch library in Brooklyn. In addition, Mondshine prints a synoptic apparatus. The apparatus contains a facsimile of the first edition of S.HB. shown opposite the variants found in the MS. The work also contains an introduction comprising many chapters. The introduction discusses many issues relating to the MS and to the S.HB. in general. At the end of the work are a number of additions, including the text of the BeSHT’s letter to his brother-in-law that was originally printed in Porat Yosef. Mondshine prints three versions of the letter’s text in synoptic columns.]
- Shivhe ha-BeSHT : mahadurah mueret u-mevueret / Avraham Rubinstin [Yerushalayim : Reuven Mas, 1991] BM755.I8 D6 1991
[Rubinstein attempts to give us a critical edition of S.HB. In his notes he makes comparisons between the textual variants found in various editions. Prof. Rosman noted, however, that Rubinstein subscribed to the theory that the Yiddish text found in the Ostraha/Korets editions of 5575/76 represents an urtext of S.HB. It is now commonly accepted, as mentioned above, that the Yiddish text is merely a later, literary, reworking of the Hebrew edition.]

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Jewish Tombs In the Middle East

This year the JTS Reference Desk received inquires about two Jewish tombs located in the Middle East. We were asked to identify who was buried at Sojod, in Lebanon, about 22 km north of Metullah, and if there are any plans to rebuild that shrine; we were also asked to provide background information about the tomb of Nahum, in Iraq, and its inscription.

Regarding Sojod:

According to an article by Zvi Ilan “Towards a History of the Jewish Community in Lebanon in Modern Times” [translation of a Hebrew article’s title] in a journal called Kardom (March 1983) vol 26-27, p. 134-144: In Ottoman times Sojod was one of the most important sites of pilgrimage for Jews in southern Lebanon, being, according to tradition, the tomb of Oholiab Ben Ahisamakh. He was a Biblical figure mentioned in Exodus 31:6, 35:34, 36:1-2, 38:23; he was described as a skilled artist and craftsman (engraver and embroiderer), appointed by God, to help Bezalel construct the Tabernacle.

Additional documentation connecting Sujud with the biblical Oholiab is from a website about the nearby village of Mlikh
http://www.mlikh.com/history.html#_ftn29, which cites Dr. Estee Dvorjetski, of the University of Haifa esteed@research.haifa.ac.il as verifying the traditional connection between Sujud and Oholiab.

You may note that various sources have spelled the site differently: Sojod, Sajad, Soujud, Sijud, Sujud, Soujad. I am assuming that these differences are due to differences in local dialect, and the passage of time.

I have not found reference to Sujud in current gazetteers or maps, but I have found a location called Sijud (about 22 km north of el-Mutallah ) in an older map: map 16 in Atlas of the Historical Geography of the Holy Land, edited by George Adam Smith (London, Hodder and Stoughton, 1915).

Nineteenth century travelers to the Holy Land, who have chronicled their journeys, have also mentioned Sijud: Edward Robinson and Eli Smith, in Later Biblical Researches in Palestine and the Adjacent Regions: A Journal of Travels in the Year 1852 (Boston, Crocker & Brewster, 1856), p. 44 mention a wely called Neby Sijud [neby means prophet in both Hebrew and Arabic].

William M. Thomson, a missionary, mentioned that local Jews sometimes make pilgrimages to the shrine of Sijud; now [1886] the location is the tomb of a Moslem saint (The Land and the Book, or Biblical Illustrations Drawn from the Manners and Customs, the Scenes and Scenery of the Holy Land, New York: Harper and Brothers, 1886, p. 168).

I have read many such travelers’ chronicles, and these two excerpts are quite typical.

A contemporary explanation of the term “wely” [also spelled weli] can be found in Karl Baedeker’s Palestine and Syria: Handbook for Travelers (1906). In short, it is the tomb of a saint, or holy man, held in veneration by the local population. “In Syria, almost every village has its weli, venerated alike by Moslems, Christians and Jews.” p. lxxv. [At the time this was published, Syria referred to what is now Lebanon, Jordan, and Israel, as well as Syria].

I have not found reference to any specific plans to rebuild this tomb.
Restoration plans for other synagogues were mentioned on the Jews of Lebanon blog http://www.thejewsoflebanon.org/me/ in Fall 2008, but nothing about Soujad. Another website discussing restoration is the Lebanese Jewish Community Council site http://www.thejewsoflebanonproject.org/ , especially the “Renovation” section.
Here is a photo of what remains of the Sojod site:

Regarding the Tomb of Nahum:

We received recent photographs of an inscription at the Tomb of Nahum in Iraq along with a request to identify the inscription and provide background information. My colleague Rabbi Jeremy Meyerowitz identified three lines in one of the carved inscriptions as Biblical quotes from Kings and Leviticus. The 3rd line is also a date (1680):

[1]בנה בניתי בית זבול לך
[2]מכון לשׁבתך עולמים
[3]שנת ג˙א˙ו˙ל˙ת˙ עולם

[1] Cf. I Kings 8:13, זבול is here spelled plene
[2] ibid.
[3] cf. Leviticus 25:32, גאולת is here spelled plene and each letter is marked to indicate its numerical value 440. This seems to be a reference to the year 5440 AM (1680 CE)

A book entitled Tombs of Saints and Synagogues in Babylonia: Studies and Documentation, edited by Zvi Yehuda (Or Yehuda, Israel, The Babylonian Jewry Heritage Center, 2006) briefly mentions the tomb of Nahum and Sarah (according to one tradition, his sister) in Elkosh."The earliest reports on the tomb date from the twelfth century CE. The enclosure, which also contains a synagogue, was in the hands of the Jews and remained so until the exodus in the mid-twentieth century…The Jews of Mosul and Kurdistan used to visit the tomb on the feast of Pentecost..they acted out the revelation of the Torah at Mt. Sinai" p. 15.

Haya Gavish has written an analysis of the significance of this pilgrimage in her article "Pilgrimage to the Tomb of Nahum Elkoshi in the Folk Narratives of the Jews of Zakho" in Jerusalem Studies in Jewish Folklore vol. XXII (2003) p. 25-46 [in Hebrew]. The English summary states: "this article deals with how the members of one Kurdish Jewish community, that of Zakho, related to the prophet Nahum, and how their attitude toward the prophet shaped their centuries-old religious connection to the Land of Israel. The prophet Nahum gave meaning to Jewish life in Zakho and served as a substitute for the unattainable Eretz-Yisrael--and that once Eretz Yisrael became a reality the community in effect discarded Nahum and the rituals connected with him" (p. viii ).

Tel Aviv at 100

Sara said...
Now that Tel Aviv is 100 years old, any suggestion on finding documnetaries about Tel Aviv? ~Sara Spiegel

Ina said...
The Steven Spielberg Jewish Film Archive at the Hebrew University http://www.spielbergfilmarchive.org.il/ has a vast collection of films on the history of the Yishuv, including archival footage from Tel Aviv’s early days. Many films are available for viewing on your computer, at no charge, via their website’s Virtual Cinema.Another source is the Israel Film Archive http://www.jer-cin.org.il/ In addition to being repository of past productions, they have also produced/reissued videos on the history of the Yishuv http://www.jer-cin.org.il/Video_Eng.aspx and Tel Aviv, with historical footage.The Steven Spielberg Film and Video Archive at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum http://resources.ushmm.org/film/search/index.php?search=simplepielbergalso includes archival footage from Tel Aviv’s early days, available for viewing on your computer.

Rita said...
Regarding the 100th anniversary of Tel-Aviv - Stanford University Library's Eliasaf Robinson Collection has recently gone live and may be viewed at: http://collections.stanford.edu/telaviv. It includes links to the online exhibit and to the collection's digitized content of books, photos, posters, archival documents, printed ephemera, maps and more. The focus of the collection is on the decades prior to 1948 though it does include some later materials.