Seforimchatter Blog

Book Review: Words For The Wise by Mitchell First (Kodesh Press, 2022)

Reviewed by Rabbi Moshe Maimon, Jackson, NJ I have never had the pleasure of meeting Mitchell First personally but after spending a good few hours with his new volume, Words for the Wise, it almost seems like I have known him for years. Mitchell writes openly and candidly, often including personal anecdotes and observations. Tellingly, he concludes his articles with his signature flourish; always a whimsical self-observation that somehow ties in humorously with the theme of the article. Mitchell, clearly a knowledgeable and well-read individual, has a wide variety of interests and appears to be at home in an equally wide spectrum of Jewish disciplines. Significantly, his witty and informal writing style lays bare the workings of his active mind in an inviting and comfortable way. The book meanders leisurely through lessons in Jewish history, from the ancient to the recent, weaving observations on minhag and halachah with insights into Hebrew language and liturgy. Indeed, as the title of this volume would indicate, a main focus of First’s is the Hebrew language, and the other courses as well are typically offered with a side of linguistic appetizer. The reader need not fear getting bogged down in overly technical etymological discussions, however, as our author has a keen practical sense and engaging style, and he is endowed with that uncommon knack for presenting even arcane topics clearly, cogently, and compellingly. The following summary of an article (pp. 83-86) dealing with the battle between the Israelites and the Amalekites, recounted at the

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Review of Makkabim Aleph מקבים א

By Shimmy Davis In this post, I would like to review a Chanukah-related work, which was published several years ago by Rabbi Levi Yitzchak Charitan of Jerusalem. Makkabim Aleph and Makkabim Beis Makkabim Aleph, also known as Sefer Chashmonaim or the book of Maccabees, was originally written in Hebrew around the beginning of the reign of the Hasmonean ruler John Hyrcanus (Yochanan Kohen Gadol), approximately 129 BCE (3631), and was translated into Greek shortly afterwards.[1] Although the Hebrew original is lost to us today, we know that it was originally written in Hebrew based on the fact that it’s written in the style of the biblical books, as well as the fact that the early Christian historians Origen and Eusibius describe a Hebrew original. The Greek translation was preserved in the Septuagint (Targum Hashivim), and later translated into Latin and Syriac together with the other books of the Septuagint. Although there is a Maccabees 1 and a Maccabees 2, these are not two volumes of one book, rather they are two separate accountings of the events of the same period. Maccabees 1 was originally written in Hebrew in the land of Israel, and relates the history of the Jews living in Israel from 175 BCE until 134 BCE. Maccabees 2 was originally written in Greek in Egypt, and it is an abridgment of an earlier 5-part historical work written by a certain Jason of Cyrene (Libya), and relates the history of the Jews living in Israel from 176 BCE until

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Book Review: Esek Hashechitah by Rav Dovid Shaffier

Reviewed by Mordechai Djavaheri  The aspiring shochet spends much of his time alone with his stones, sharpening and polishing his knife, only to be pogem it and start again. Mastering this skill has no shortcuts. Practice and the right tools are the only way to succeed. In Esek Hashechitah, Rav Dovid Shaffier, a seasoned professional shechitah instructor, knife maker, and sharpener, presents his method to his students on how to sharpen a shechitah knife (“chalif”) successfully using the appropriate angles and whetstones. This is not the only way to sharpen a shechitah knife (he aims for an uneven blade, for example, where as others prefer a 50:50 sharpening each side equally), but in effort to keep the student from trying to incorporate too many different ideas from different teachers, it’s important to have a clear comprehensive mehalech to follow.   The level of sharpness and smoothness, methods of holding the stone and checking the knife differ from culinary knife and tool sharpening when it comes to Shechitah. Shechitah knives need to start from the coarsest grit whetstone (#220 for example) and continue gradually and patiently to the highest grit natural finishing stones (10,000+), with care, precision, and the right maintenance tools for the knife and stones. It’s not enough to test for pegimot by cutting newspaper, when an animals life is on the line. The fingernail check and all of its facets need to be mastered to check for pegimot. Professional sharpeners have fancy sharpening setups with sink bridges and mats

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Shu’t Lachmei Todah – A Brief Review

For the first time in over 250 years the Shu’t Lachmei Todah of Rav Yeshayahu Bassan ZT’L, Av Beis Din of Reggio Emilia, Italy (Rebbe of the Ramchal) was republished. In fact, two brand new editions were published within just a few weeks of each other after it not having been republished for 250 years! (A facsimile edition was published in 1980/1). In this brief review I will outline and compare both editions. The first edition was published by Machon Shaarei Yitzchak. To my knowledge this may be one of the first “standard” seforim that they have published (please let me know if I am wrong) as they have published various Kisvei AriZal until now. This edition is based on the previous edition published in Venice, 1741, and includes some basic footnotes which mainly are sources. There is also a brief introduction, and the index from the original edition is included as well. The second edition was published by Ahavat Shalom. This edition also was edited based on the first edition, but also includes 28 additional Tshuvos. These are collected from various manuscripts that were never published before, as well as from other Seforim that published Rav Yeshayahu’s tshuvos (Sefer Shemesh Tzedakah of Rav Shimshon Morporugo of Ancona, Sefer Pachad Yitzchak of Rav Yitzchak Lampornti of Ferrara, and others). Additionally, there is one Tshuva from Rav Yeshayahu’s father, Rav Yisroel Chizkyahu, published from a manuscript (with an anonymous response) and 3 comments from Rav Yeshayahu’s son, Rav Yisroel Binyomin, from

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Rishonim Printed on the Daf of Mesechet Nedarim: A Closer Look

Written by Nathan Hirsch In honor of the start of Mesechet Nedarim in the Daf Yomi cycle, I’d like to present a short history of the printing of the Rishonim on the Daf, and explore why Nedarim is different from other Mesechtot, and how that came to be. For those familiar with the traditional layout of the Talmud, questions arise upon first glance at Mesechet Nedarim: On the outer portion of the page, where the Tosafot are normally printed, we find the commentary of the Ran. The Tosafot themselves have been pushed to the margins of the page. Additionally, the Rosh’s commentary can also be found on the margins. To these observations I would like to add another anomaly which is not as clearly visible, and that is that Rashi’s commentary on the tractate is falsely attributed to him. If so, a simple examination of the Rishonim printed on the Daf presents us with four oddities. Before we examine them separately, I’d like to take a look at the origin of this peculiar layout – the first printing of the Masechet. Masechet Nedarim was first printed by Daniel Bomberg in Venice of 1522, as part of the first printing of Sha”s as a whole. In each of his volumes, Bomberg printed a title page which typically read: “Mesechet [blank] with the commentary of Rashi and Tosafot…”. The title page of Masechet Nedarim, however, reads slightly different: “מסכת נדרים עם שלשה פירושים שונות וגם התוספות, אבל אינם במקומם כי אם בסוף

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THE KOREN SELIHOT MINHAG LITA

Reviewed by Rabbi Moshe Maimon, Jackson, NJ The new Koren Selihot Minhag Lita is a beautifully produced volume in which the meticulous care invested in it is evident from every aspect of the publication, with the result being an aesthetically superior volume from which it is a pleasure to daven.  The text, as well as punctuation, of the selichos has been thoroughly checked and revised with precision, and it has all been laid out in a crisp and attractive format. The translation is lucid, elegant, and easy to follow. The introduction is thorough and scholarly, and the notes are informative and lively.  Some of my impressions pertaining to various features of this handsome new edition will follow below with the hope that the few nitpickings that are interspersed in these impressions only serve to underscore the generally superb quality of this alluring 1300-page volume. Introduction Rabbi Jacob J. Schachter’s introductory essay is essentially a monograph detailing various recurring themes in the Selichos service. These include themes of general nature such as the essence of teshuvah and our relationship to God, as well as specific selichos genres including the centrality and function of the 13 attributes of mercy; the historical interpretations, and presentations, of the Akeidah throughout the course of history; and also, the anti-Christian overtones found in various selichos. This encyclopedic essay is a piece of first-rate scholarship, and the footnotes contain copious references to a good deal of scholarly literature available on the topic at hand from a rather wide array of sources, both English and Hebrew. The addition of this introduction

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