Re-Presenting Judaic Law: Rabbi Yudel Rosenberg’s Popular Guides to Halakha and Their Significance
The nineteenth and twentieth centuries witnessed the re-presentation of halakha, in which rabbis compiled and synthesized many scattered halakhic teachings and created a new category of halakhic literature. This article examines this modern re-presentation of Judaic law through an analysis of a series of six popular halakhic guidebooks compiled in the early twentieth century by Rabbi Yehuda Yudel Rosenberg (1859–1935). All Rabbi Rosenberg’s halakhic guidebooks were responses to his perception of what the Jewish public wanted and needed to know. Taken together, these popular halakhic works give us an interesting and important perspective with which to better understand the ways in which turn-of-the-twentieth-century Orthodox rabbis sought to make halakha both relevant and accessible to ordinary Jews at a time when the halakhic process was being profoundly challenged and in the throes of significant change.
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Cf. Binyamin Brown, “From Principles to Rules and From Musar to Hakakha: the Hafetz Hayim’s Rulings on Libel and Gossip,” Dine Yisrael: An Annualof Jewish Law and Israeli Family Law 25 (2008): 171–256; and Ira Robinson, “Introduction” in Simcha Fishbane, The Boldness of an Halakhist: an Analysis of the Writings of Rabbi Yechiel Mechel Halevi Epstein The Arukh Hashulhan (Boston, Academic Studies Press, 2008), xiii-xxii.
Justin Jaron Lewis, “Verbal Exuberance and Social Engineering: Gossip in Hafetz Hayim,” Studies in Religion 44, no. 2 (2015), 208.
On Rabbi Rosenberg, see Ira Robinson, “Kabbalist and Communal Leader: Rabbi Yudel Rosenberg and the Canadian Jewish Community,” Canadian Jewish Studies 1 (1993): 41–58.
Yudel Rosenberg, Seder ha-Prozbul (Piotrków: Mordecai Zederbaum, 1910).
Alfred S. Cohen, “Pruzbul,” Journal of Halacha and Contemporary Society 28 (1994): 17–29.
Shulchan Aruch, Hoshen Mishpat 67:1.
Alfred S. Cohen, “Pruzbul,” 22–23. Cf. Simcha Fishbane, The Boldness of an Halakhist.
Rosenberg, Seder ha-Prozbul, 1.
It is to be noted that Rosenberg’s publication on prozbul is the first such publication devoted to this custom extant in the catalogue of the National Library of Israel, Merhav; accessed December 7, 2016, http://merhav.nli.org.il/primo_library/libweb/ action/search.do?srt=lso01&dscnt=0&frbg=&scp. scps=scope%3A(NNL)&tab=default_tab&dst- mp=1516975805074&srt=rank&ct=search&- mode=Basic&&dum=true&indx=1&vl(freeTex- t0)=prozbul&fn=search&vid=NLI
For a definition of the term, see Encyclopedia Judaica (2008) s.v. “sha’atnez,” accessed March 21, 2017, https://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/sha-atnez.
Jewish Encyclopedia, s.v. “Łódź,” accessed December 6, 2016, http://jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/ 10079-lodz-lodzi.
Yudel Rosenberg, Sefer Darsha’ Zemer u Fishtim (Lodz: Yitshak Shlomov. it.sh, 5672/1912).
Yudel Rosenberg, Der Krizis fun Lodz Warsaw (Piotrkow, H. anokh Folman, 1912).
Rosenberg, Der Krizis, 10.
Rosenberg, Darsha Zemer u Fishtim, especially 12–13. The National Library of Israel houses no publication on sha’atnez that is earlier than that of Rosenberg. Merhav, National Library of Israel, accessed December 7, 2016, http://merhav.nli.org.il/primo_library/libweb/action/search.do?srt=l-so01&fctN=facet_lang&dscnt=0&rfnGrp=1&scp.scps=scope%3A(Aviner)%2Cscope%3A(NNL)%2C-scope%3A(RAMBI)%2CEbscoLocal%2Cprimo_cen-tral_multiple_fe&fctV=heb&frbg=&tab=blend-ed&dstmp=1516975295184&srt=rank&ct=facet&-mode=Basic&dum=true&indx=1&r fnGrp-Counter=1&vl(freeText0)=shaatnez&fn=search&v-id=NLI
Yudel Rosenberg, Mikveh Yehuda (Toronto, 1917– 19?). A short article published in Toronto’s Yiddish daily, the Hebrew Journal, on November 27, 1916 entitled “Mikveh fir kontri iden” [“a Mikveh for Country Jews”] gives the gist of the book and advises people interested to contact Rabbi Rosenberg but does not specify the existence of the book. If the book were in print, it would surely have been mentioned. Thus, at the earliest, it could have been published sometime in late 1917.
Brad Sabin Hill, “Early Hebrew Printing in Canada” Studia Rosenthaliana 38/39 (2005/2006): 334. Yosef Goldman mistakenly stated that this book was the first Hebrew imprint in Toronto (Hebrew Printing in America 1735–1926: A History and Annotated Bibliography [Brooklyn: YG Books, 2006], entry 631, 558).
Rosenberg, Mikveh Yehuda, 3. Cf. Yudel Rosenberg, Sefer Omer va-Da’at (page proofs, Piotrków: Hanokh Henikh Folman, 5694); Rosenberg, Yeheveh Daat (page proofs, Piotrków, Hanokh Henikh Folman, 5694), 65.
Jenna Joselit, New York’s Jewish Jews: The Orthodox Community in the Interwar Years (Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 1990), 117–21.
Rosenberg, Mikveh Yehuda, title page.
Yudel Rosenberg, Sefer ha-Keriah ha-Kedosha hu Shulhan ‘Arukh ‘al halakhot u-minhagim shel keriat ha-Torah (New York: Rosenberg Printing Company, 5679).
Rosenberg, ha-Keriah ha-Kedosha, 5. On rabbinic poverty in North America, cf. David Zohar, Jewish Commitment in a Modern World: Rabbi Hayyim Hirschenson and His Attitude to Modernity [in Hebrew] (Jerusalem: Shalom Hartman Institute, 2003), 321, n. 67.
On the need for these basically nonobservant Jews on the part of the observant, see Rosenberg, Sefer Omer va-Da’at (page proof, Piotrków: Hanokh Henikh Folman, 5694); Rosenberg, Yabia Omer (page proof, Piotrków, Hanokh Henikh Folman, 5694), 18.
Rosenberg, ha-Keriah ha-Kedosha, 4.
Rosenberg, ha-Keriah ha-Kedosha, 8. Cf. Yudel Rosenberg, Sefer Refael ha Malakh (Piotrków, Shlomo Belkhatovski, 5671/1911). Cf. also Ira Robinson,“The Tarler Rebbe of Łódź and His Medical Practice: Towards a History of Hasidic Life in Pre-First World War Poland,” Polin 11 (1998): 53–61.
Rosenberg, ha-Keriah ha-Kedosha, 5a . On the printing of the Lurianic kavvanot, which had until then circulated only in manuscript, see Jonatan Meir, Kabbalistic Circles in Jerusalem (1896–1948) (Leiden: Brill, 2016), 140ff.
Rosenberg, ha-Keriah ha-Kedosha, title page.
Shulhan Arukh, Orah Hayyim, chapters 135-149.
Jacob Joseph Shacter, “The ‘Siddur’ of Rabbi Jacob Emden: from commentary to code” in Torah and Wisdom; Studies in Jewish Philosophy, Kabbalah and Halacha. Essays in Honor of Arthur Hyman, ed. Ruth Link-Salinger, 175–92 (New York: Shengold, 1992).
“Jacob Ben Jacob Moses of Lissa,” Jewish Encyclopedia, accessed December 6, 2016, http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/8417-jacob- ben-jacob-moses-of-lissa.
Immanuel Etkes, Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liady: The Origins of Chabad Hasidism (Waltham, MA: Brandeis University Press, 2014).
Ephraim ben Yakov haCohen, Sha’ar Ephraim (Lemberg, n.p., 1887).
Rosenberg, ha-Keriah ha-Kedosha, 5.
Rosenberg recognized that Sefardic men’s names were not prevalent in his time and place (ha-Keriah ha-Kedosha, 108).
In 1928, the Warsaw Kehilla published a list of Jewish names, eliminating many corruptions and nicknames that had led to confusion (see Robert Shapiro, Jewish Self-Government in Łódź, 1914–1939 [PhD diss., Columbia University, 1987], 311).
Rosenberg, ha-Keriah ha-Kedosha,107. Cf. ibid., sec- tion 2, chap. 5, para. 7, 52.
Yudel Rosenberg, k. eri'ah ha-k. edoshah: v. e-hu Shulh. an 'arukh 'al hilkhot u-minhagim shel k. eri'at ha-Torah ...Yerushalayim: Me'ir Yehoshu'a ben Me'ir, 5764 [2003 or 2004], edited and with additional notes by Meir Yehushua Ben Meir.
Rosenberg, Sefer Omer va-Da’at (page proofs, Piotrków, Hanokh Henikh Folman, 5694) Yeheveh Daat, 19.
Yudel Rosenberg, A Brivele Fun di Zisse Mame Shabbes Malkesa zu Ihre Zin und Tehter fun Idishn Folk (Montreal: City Printing Co., 1924). Cf. Ira Robinson, “A Letter From the Sabbath Queen: Rabbi Yudel Rosenberg Addresses Montreal Jewry,” in An Everyday Miracle: Yiddish Culture in Montreal, ed. I. Robinson et al., 101, 114 (Montreal: Vehicule Press, 1990).
Rosenberg, A Brivele, 15.
Rosenberg, Sefer Omer va-Da’at (page proofs, Piotrków: Hanokh Henikh Folman, 5694), Yeheveh Daat, 26–27.
Yudel Rosenberg, Me’or ha Hashmal/she’ela u-te- shuva/’al dvar me’or ha-‘elektrin be-shabat ve yom tov (Montreal: Rapid Printing Co., 1924); Me’or ha Hashmal/she’ela u-teshuva/’al dvar me’or ha-‘elektrin be-shabat ve yom tov, 2nd ed. (Jerusalem, 1929), revised version of 1924. Publication presented as a supplement to the monthly Shaarei Zion. Cf. Ira Robinson, “Halakha Adapts to Modern Technology in the Early Twentieth Century: Rabbis Yudel Rosenberg and Shlomo Zalman Auerbach on Electricity,”Journal of Modern Jewish Studies 6 (2007): 41–50. For a convenient summary of halakhic views of electricity, see Rabbi Michael Broyde and Rabbi Howard Jachter, “Electricity on Shabbat and Yom Tov,” Journal of Halacha and Contemporary Society 21 (Spring, 1991): 4–47, accessed January 24, 2018, http://daat.co.il/daat/english/journal/broyde_1. htm. Cf. also Ze’ev Lev, “Electricity and Shabbat,” Crossroads (Alon Shvut) 2 (1988), 7–28; H. J. Adler, “Some Halakhic Aspects of Electricity,” The Blessing of Eliyahu (London: Bet ha-midrash Golders Green, 1982), 197–210.
Nonetheless, even that consensus was not completely uniform. Thus, Rosenberg polemicizes against some Jews, whom he characterized as “light of intellect” (kalei ha-da’at) who sought grounds to utilize electricity in this manner also on the Sabbath. Rosenberg, Me’or ha Hashmal, 7.
Cf. Broyde and Jachter, “Electricity on Shabbat and Yom Tov,” footnote 49.
R. Hayyim Ozer Grodzinsky, She’elot u-Teshuvot Ahi’ezer (Jerusalem, n.p., 5720 [1959/60]), part 3, responsum 60.
Rosenberg, Me’or ha Hashmal, 2. Cf. Talmud Bavli, Horayot 3b.
Cf. Talmud Bavli, Pesahim 66a-b.
Cf. Daniel 12, 3.
Talmud Bavli, Yevamot 65b.
Cf. also Rosenberg, Me’or ha Hashmal, 3.
On the issue of the ideal versus the attainable in twentieth-century halakhic discourse, see Ira Robinson, “Because of Our Many Sins: The Contemporary Jewish World as Reflected in the Responsa of Rabbi Moses Feinstein,” Judaism 35 (1986): 35–46.
Yudel Rosenberg, Sefer Ateret Tiferet (New York: Reznick Menshil, 1931), 4. As Rosenberg also stated in a responsum: It is incumbent upon those who forbid to bring proof. Rosenberg, Sefer Omer va-Da’at (page proofs, Piotrków: Hanokh Henikh Folman, 5694), Yeheveh Daat, 26–27, 39.
Marc Shapiro, review of Jewish Commitment in a Modern World: Rabbi Hayyim Hirschenson and His Attitude to Modernity (Hebrew) by David Zohar (Jerusalem, 2003), The Edah Journal 5:1/Tammuz 5765, accessed March 25, 2016, http://www.edah. org/backend/journalarticle/5_1_shapiro.pdf, 2. Cf. Ari Ackerman, “‘Judging the Sinner Favorably’: R. Hayyim Hirschensohn on the Need for Leniency in Halakhic Decision-Making,” Modern Judaism 22 (2002), 261–80; David Zohar, Jewish Commitment in a Modern World: Rabbi Hayyim Hirschenson and His Attitude to Modernity [in Hebrew] (Jerusalem: Shalom Hartman Institute, 2003), 197–98.
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