What should we be doing during the lifting of the Torah (Part 2)

לעילוי נשמת אבי מורי הכ’’מ ר’ שאול זעליג בן יהודה הכהן

As we stated in the previous post, from the language of Maseches Sofrim, which is quoted by the Mechaber in Shulchan Aruch verbatim, it would seem that the proper action of the congregation would be to bow one’s head during Hagba—לכרוע. Rabbi Moshe Isserles, (1500’s) otherwise known as the Ramoh, doesn’t make any comment and one might ask, if it was not the Minhag in Ashkenaz to bow one’s head during הגבה he may have mentioned this in his addenda to the Mechaber. Perhaps the opposite is true. The Ramo also authored the דרכי משה on the טור and in 147:4 the Ramo is happy to mention the minhag recorded by the Maharil (mid 1300’s) which was not just to bow, but also to prostrate oneself at the time of הגבה (and to follow the Torah back to its Aron). The Maharil was the celebrated and authoritative recorder of Ashkenazi Minhagim. It would seem, possibly, that the Ramo in quoting the Maharil, had no issue with the more sedate suggestion of the Mechaber to simply bow during הגבה. The Ramo begins that section ad loc. by noting that

In the Mordechai, at the end of Hilchos Tefilin, page 98b, he quotes that the Maharam used to lift the Torah in order to show it to all the people, and this was the opinion of the Kol Bo who stated “in Masechta Sofrim, when the Chazan was on on the Bima he opened the Sefer Torah and showed the text to both men and women, and then they said “Vzos HaTorah” etc. And from this is a source for why women would commonly push themselves forward at that time, although they (the women) often didn’t know why they were doing so. And from Maseches Sofrim it appears that this occurred before layning (as per the times of the Gemora and Minhag HaSefardim) but we (the Ashkenazim, notes the Ramo) perform Hagba after layning.

The Ramo in Darkei Moshe goes also notes that a community is entitled to sell the Kavod of passing the Torah cover to the Golel (the one who rolls the Torah back from the unwound Hagba) and the person who was given the honour of Gelila, cannot complain, as he only purchased the right to rewind the Torah. Someone else can purchase the right to pass on the Torah’s clothing to the Golel.

I looked up the Kol Bo and, as quoted by the Darkei Moshe and he is quoted accurately by the Ramo. Importantly, although he purports to be quoting Maseches Sofrim he doesn’t use the word ולכרוע—that the people should bow. Was that intentional?

The “plot” thickens when we examine the language of the קיצור שלחן ערוך. Again, the author, Rav Shlomo Ganzfried, intentionally appears to omit the word ולכרוע—that the people should bow.

לאחר קריאת התורה, אומרים חצי קדיש, ומגביהין את הספר-תורה. המגביה פותח את הספר-תורה שיהיו שלושה עמודיט מן הכתב גלוי, ומראהו לימינו ולשמאלו, לפניו ולאחריו, כי מצווה על כל האנשים לראות את הכתב, ואומרים “וזאת התורה” וכו’.

Why? In his introduction to the קיצור Rav Ganzfried

R’ Shlomo Ganzfried ז’ל (wikipedia)

explains the primary sources upon which he bases his decisions. I haven’t got an edition of the Kitzur with that introduction (nor could I find one), however, R’ Shea Hecht told me that the Kitzur bases himself on three other Seforim and sides with the majority if there is a dispute between. The three are:

  1. Shulchan Aruch HoRav (from the Ba’al HaTanya)
  2. Siddur Derech Hachaim (the Chavas Daas)
  3. Chayei Adam

Sadly, there is no existing Shulchan Aruch HoRav on this section, as it was lost or burnt. Incredibly, the Chayei Adam says absolutely nothing about Hilchos Hagba. That means, the Chayei Adam doesn’t even present a Seif about Hilchos Hagba. This in of itself is very strange.

In the authoritative Siddur Derech Hachaim by R’ Ya’akov MiLissa (late 1700’s) who is well-known as the author of the Chavas Daas on Yoreh Deah and the Nesivos HaMishpat on Choshen Mishpat, writes

When he lifts up the Sefer Torah he should show the lettering to the people and say וזאת התורה …

It could be argued that the Kitzur is therefore just copying the words of the Siddur Derech Hachaim. On the other hand, the directions at that point in the Siddur are for the person lifting the Torah, that is to say, the notes are directed at the person performing Hagba as opposed to the people who are witnessing the Hagba. He doesn’t, for example, say that the people should say וזאת התורה. It is not conclusive, perhaps, then to draw a conclusion from these words of the Chavas Daas. In point of fact, in the Halacha section, the Derech Hachaim explicitly says:

ויש מדקדקים לראות האותיות עד שיוכל לקרותם ולכרוע ולומר וזאת התורה

The Maharikash, R. Ya’akov Kastro (mid 1500’s) in his Tshuvos  אהלי יעקב, 57 states

Whoever doesn’t bow, because he thinks (bowing) is forbidden, should be put in Cherem!

The Siddur of the Shulchan Aruch HoRav makes no comment about the need to bow during Hagba. This point bothered the Ketzos HaShulchan, HaRav Avraham Chaim Naeh ז’ל

Rav Chaim Naeh ז’ל (wikipedia)

who wrote in his בדי השלחן, אות נ’ה in סימן כה

Why didn’t the Admor (Ba’al HaTanya) mention the imperative to bow in his Siddur? Furthermore, it isn’t mentioned in the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch either. We (Chabad?) also don’t have a custom to bow …. I haven’t seen anyone raise this issue. Later on, I saw that in R’ Ya’akov Emden’s Siddur (Yaavetz) on the word לכרוע, R’ Emden refers us to the Shyorei Knesses HaGedola, but I (R’ Chaim Naeh) don’t have that Sefer with me to look into the matter.

To be continued.

Biographies and autobiographies

A clear difference between chassidic and non chassidic groups used to be the importance attached by the former to stories. Whether these were ‘Ba’al Shemsker’ Mayses or ‘Booba’ Mayses, the promulgation of stories about the wondrous acts and מופסים accredited to Rebbes was and remains a powerful ingredient in the glue known as אמונת חכמים

In the other extreme, due to the unreliable nature of many stories, anti chassidic groups often conclude a לא היה ולא נברא approach to any story; they don’t believe any of them.

The Rav used to treat chassidic stories with a large grain of salt. He would even assume a mirthful tone about these. In Brisk, there was a general feeling of derision towards describing the mundane. There was no room to read about someone’s יחוס or similar. They disdained the concept of biographies or תולדות אנשי שם. If there was something to learn about another person this was achieved through learning Torah. If they had not published Torah, then learn Torah. In Brisk, Torah was everything. Torah subsumed Mussar, and there was not even a Mussar Seder as part of the curriculum (let alone Chassidus).

Ultimately, Briskers would say למאי נפקא מינה, why do you need to know? If you seek inspiration, derive this from Torah itself.

Times have changed. Whereas once upon a time, תולדות אנשי שם was the purview of Chassidim, this is no longer the case. Stories and Biographies of Gedolim are no longer limited to Chassidic Rebbes. The emergence of Artscroll and Feldheim (in response to the needs of the masses) has meant that the non and anti chassidic student can now derive similar חיזוק from stories about the life of an arch Misnaged. Gone are the days that מופסים only happened among Rebbes. Now we have stories which are “moredik” among the misnagdim and non chassidim. We read about R’ Aryeh Levin ז’ל and are inspired. He wasn’t a Rebbe. We read about R’ Kook ז’ל and are inspired, and he was derided by anti Zionist elements common to Chassidim and Misnagdim. Books about R’ Shlomo Zalman ז’ל and others abound. Do they do any harm? I doubt it; as long as they tell the whole truth and only the truth.

Ironically, large volumes are written about people like R׳ Velveler Brisker ז’ל, the Rav’s own uncle, a scion and paragon of Brisk. It is difficult to see R’ Velvel approving of volume 1, let alone a volume 2, about him.

There have also been the so-called controversial books, such as ״the making of a gadol” by the now maligned Rosh Yeshivah, R’ Noson Kaminetzky. From the episode of banning his book, we see the opposite effect: as long as books never ever show a gadol in a human or fallible way, they are kosher. If they also tell the whole truth, this can mislead or deflate readers and the book then gets shelved in the Apikorsus Cabinet or burned.

Applying the yardstick used in our day and age towards the Torah itself, one might well imagine many sections would be banned. Who would publish the story of Moshe Rabbeinu and the rock, or the pilegesh B’Givah or indeed Shir HaShirim? Luckily, these were authored through Ruach HaKodesh and stay unimpeachable and impervious to bans.

This brings me to my point. It is one thing for the students or followers of a Rabbi or Rebbe to write a biography about him (or her, as was the case with Nechama Leibovitz and ‘Tales of Nechama‘) but what about an auto biography? Biographies, especially today, are sanitised and homogenised so that the subject of the biography is painted in only a positive (and often unrealistic) light.

Autobiographies are much rarer (see “Jewish Autobiography: The Elusive Subject,” Jewish Quarterly Review 95:1 (Winter 2005): 16-59 by Mosely). There is the well researched edition of R’ Yehuda Aryeh of Modena‘s auto biography, Chayei Yehuda. More recently, there was the scandal surrounding the editing of the second edition of R’ Kook’s (first) father in law, the Aderes‘s autobiography, Seder Eliyahu. Questioning the “real audience” of the auto biography, family members contrived to edit and remove crucial elements of the auto biography.

Recently, I finished reading R’ Ya’akov Emden‘s autobiography of 1896, Megilas Sefer. My copy was the new translation.

R' Ya'akov Emden

Some have claimed that this wasn’t an autobiography written by R’ Emden, as seen in this book. Serious researchers, however, pay no credence to that attempted besmirching.  Indeed, as I understand it noted historian, R’ J. J. Schacter (not to be confused with R’ Hershel) is completing a scholarly work on Megilas Sefer in the not too distant future. The Ya’avetz, as he was commonly known, was a famous son of the equally famous Chacham Tzvi. R’ Emden is known for his fierce opposition to the alleged neo-sabbatean R’ Yonasan Eybeshutz. What struck me, though, about the autobiography was how human R’ Emden was and yet, how much of a Tzadik and upright example he was despite the revelation that he was a fallible human being, albeit a Rabbinical Giant. To give you a feel for what I mean, I’ve copied a few random pages from the translated version. Ask yourself when the last time you read a biography from Artscroll or Feldheim which basically told the whole truth. Does our generation need only sanitised versions of human beings? Are we likely to have less יראת שמים if we read that someone was angry, jealous, sad, moaning, groaning, in pain, in fear or the like? Our generation is crying out for more אמונת חכמים. We do ourselves a great disservice if we don’t tell the whole truth and instead portray them all as מלאכים.

 כי אדם אין צדיק בארץ אשר יעשה טוב ולא יחטא

is not a statement of weakness! It is a statement of human condition.

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