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Kiddush Hahodesh in the the Gulf States



Kiddush Hahodesh is alive and well in the Gulf States. From Gulf News:

The Saudi Arabia Supreme Court announced that Friday May 26 will complete the month of Sha’baan and that the first day of Ramadan will be on Saturday May 27.
The UAE Moon Sighting Committee announced on Thursday that the moon crescent, which marks the beginning of Ramadan, was not sighted in the UAE on Thursday night.
The committee will again convene on Friday, May 26, to sight the crescent moon of Ramadan.

HT: here and here

Israel’s Broadcast University on Yom Hashoah

Israel’s Broadcast University, האוניברסיטה המשודרת, has posted a number of episodes (in Hebrew) on Yom Hashoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day. Each episode is on Holocaust Memory, one on Holocaust memory and Israeli society in general, one focusing on Haredi Society with Kimmy Caplan, and another on Israeli Arab Society. They can be found here.

Burning Hametz on the Night of the 14th of Nisan

I previously mentioned my connection to Jews whose roots are in the community of Djerba and tonight I learned about a custom of theirs of which I had previously been unaware. Apparently, Jews from Djerba, along with some from Yemen, burn their hametz on the evening of the 14th of Nisan after they do bedikat hametz. Some of them burn hametz again on the day of the 14th, while others only burn it on the night of the 14th. On the website of Yeshivat Kissei Rachamim there is a responsum with some sources that describe this custom. The following book gives a good overview of the practice.

חג כשר ושמח.

Darchei Daniel in Honor of Daniel Sperber

The Twitter account Seforim Chatter has brought our attention to the recently published jubilee volume in honor of Daniel Sperber, The Paths of Daniel
Studies in Judaism and Jewish Culture in Honor of Rabbi Professor Daniel Sperber
. It looks like a thousand pages that many will enjoy reading through.

This volume is dedicated to Daniel Sperber, the world-renowned, Israel Prize-winning Jewish studies scholar, rabbinic authority, and mentor to many in Bar-Ilan University and beyond. It illustrates some of his frequently trodden and diverse paths. The editorial board members and writers are colleagues from Israel and abroad, former students, fellow scholars, as well as family members—all who have studied his work intensively, and deeply admire Sperber both for his wisdom and exceptional ethical and interpersonal example. The book itself is divided into four main topics: Talmud and realia, Halakhah and custom, history and thought, and Jewish art. While all of the articles are scientifically sound and have undergone double-blind evaluation by noted authorities in their respective fields, the topics chosen and some of the discussions themselves are not only scholarly endeavors, but also reflect and engage Sperber’s public activism. Among the topics that receive attention in multiple articles are the following: Jerusalem and the Land of Israel in ancient and modern times, synthesis between Jewish and secular learning in ancient and modern times, Greek and Latin and rabbinic sources, the status of women in Jewish religious life in medieval and modern times, prayer and synagogue, and change and evolution in Jewish law and custom. The section on Jewish art is more eclectic, although here too one of the common themes is the contribution of visual art to understanding the history of Jewish customs and theological concepts.

More info and a table of contents can be found here.

Zusha: Online Repository of Hasidic Tales

Today a new website was unveiled that hopes to be the ultimate online repository of Hasidic tales, at least in Hebrew. Zusha, the brainchild of the Israeli journalist Sara Beck, wants to make the Hasidic tale available in a modern and accessible digital format. Each story is presented in a more modern and accessible Hebrew language version than the original, along with the original source itself, some basic explanations about language or terms, and sometimes commentary by different individuals. The stated goal is to collect “tens of thousands” of Hasidic tales and make them available to the public.

Ruth Ben David and R. Amram Blau

A few years go while looking for something in the stacks of the JTS Library z”l, I came across a fascinating book. I don’t remember why I took this book off the shelf, but it was a gem. The book the I had found was the transcribed autobiography of Ruth Ben-David, a convert to Judaism who is best known as one of the people who helped hide Yossele Schumacher after he was kidnapped from his parents and smuggled to Europe, and as the woman who later married Rabbi Amram Blau, the leader of Neturei Karta. As an aside, if you are interested in Neturei Karta and the whole Ben David-Blau episode, I highly recommend Motti Inbari’s Jewish Radical Ultra-Orthodoxy Confronts Modernity, Zionism and Women’s Equality.

Inbari’s research into Neturei Karta was fascilated by the depositing of Amram Blau’s archive at Boston University. See this article by Yair Ettinger for a description of the archive and the relationship between Ben David and Blau. This Thursday Kestenbaum Auction House is conducting an auction with some great material and among the items being auctioned are a number of letters from Ben David and Blau, along with some correspondance with other rabbinic figures.

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I guess that these are letters that weren’t included in Amram Blau’s archive and are now up for sale. Hopefully they’ll be made available to scholars for use in their research because this is a fascinating episode in the lives of two fascinating people.

Update: Although the original post was written a few months ago, Prof. Kimmy Kaplan has just published a book on Amram Blau and Neturei Karta.


A Rare Letter of Rav Kook, Yoel Moshe Solomon, and Zionist Mythmaking

The recent issue of Asif, the annual publication of the Yeshivat Hesder association, contains the publication of a rare letter from 1904 written by Rav Kook to the leaders of Jaffa after he accepted the position as rabbinic leader of their community. There are many interesting aspects of the letter, one of them being that the negotiations between Rav Kook and the leadership of Jaffa lasted two years. Even taking into consideration the speed of communication in the early 20th century and a cholera outbreak at the time, this may shed light on some aspects of Rav Kook’s arrival in the Land of Israel. Rabbi Yehoshua Weisberger’s article (Hebrew) contains not only a transcription of the letter but also some historical background to the decision to offer the position to Rav Kook. Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda Kook, Rav Kook’s son, was aware of this letter’s existence, but neither he or anybody else was able to locate it. It was recently located in the archive of Rabbi Raphael Hacohen Kook, Rav Kook’s nephew, and Rabbi Weisberger has now made it available to the larger public.

One of the figures who was instrumental in offering the position to Rav Kook was Yoel Moshe Solomon.

Except for those who are interested in the history of early Zionist settlement in Palestine, most people are familiar with Yoel Moshe Solomon from the song the Ballad of Yoel Moshe Solomon that describes the founding of Petah Tikva or the street named after him in downtown Jerusalem.

Yoel Moshe Solomon is a fascinating figure and the story that the song describes, the purchase of the land for Petah Tikva and its settlement, has been the subject of much historical speculation and controversy. To summarize a very interesting story, Yoram Taharlev, who wrote the song, relied upon the description found in the great historian and bibliographer Avraham Ya’ari’s Zichronot Erez Yisrael. While the description found there is based upon something written by one of Solomon’s sons, there are a number of other versions of what transpired the day in 1879. If you’re interested in learning more about Yoel Moshe Solomon and the myth and history surrounding the founding of Petah Tikva, I highly recommend this episode (Hebrew) of Ran Levy’s excellent podcast Osim Historiah that includes a lecture by Eli Eshed in which he talks all about what may have really happened to Yoel Moshe Solomon and his companions when they set out to create the historical settlement of Petah Tikva and the genesis of Yoram Taharlev’s song.

New on the Shelf: Abudarham and Torah Reading

I recently discovered Rabbi Yoel Katan’s column Kiryat Sefer in the newspaper Besheva. In each column Rabbi Katan recommends some new books that have been published. In a recent column Rabbi Katan mentioned two books of interest.


1. Sefer Abudarham-Written by David Abudarham/Abudirham, there have been numerous editions of this important commentary on the liturgy and a recent one is a partial edition of the book that includes a comprehensive commentary and variant readings from MSS and early printed editions. I have the first volume of this edition and apparently the second volume has been published and a third volume is on the way. Rabbi Katan does mention that this edition isn’t based upon the MSS, although some variant readings from MSS are brought, and that it would be good for an edition based upon MSS to be published.

Screen Shot 2017 03 09 at 12 04 55 AM

2. Vezot ha-Torah: Minhagei Keriat ha-Torah be-Eidot Yisrael-This recent book by Rabbi Dr. Hayyim Talbi is a comprehensive examination of the different customs surrounding the reading of the Torah. There are discussions about calling people up to the Torah, selling aliyot, and just about anything else related to the Torah reading. On Twitter I saw a tweet about this book and that is how I arrived at Rabbi Katan’s column. So Twitter can be good for Torah learning.

Drinking on Purim

I recently gave a talk about the issue of drinking on Purim in which I tried to show that based upon a reading of rabbinic literature there is no clear mitzvah to get drunk on Purim. The source sheet that I used can be downloaded from here or viewed below.


Drinking on Purim

New Journals from Magnes Press-Spring, 2017

Some new journals from Magnes Press:

Tarbitz 84, 3

Nili Samet – New Light on the Administrative Term bÄ“n bayît in Biblical and Rabbinical Sources

Bezalel Bar-Kochva – The Religious Persecutions of Antiochus Epiphanes as a Historical Reality

David Henshke – Between Blessings and Prayer: On the History of the Amidah Prayer

Mordechai Sabato – On the Inclusion of the ‘Mikan Ameru’ Homilies in the Halakhic Midrashim

Michael Rand – Surviving Fragments of the Qillirian Heritage in Provence/Catalonia and in Spain: In the Wake of New Materials from the Genizah

Jonathan Vardi – Between Shemuel Ha-Nagid and the Poets of Zaragoza

Textus XXVI

Emanuel Tov – The Development of the Text of the Torah in
Two Major Text Blocks

Michael Segal, Emanuel Tov, William Brent ת Seales, Clifford
Seth Parker, Pnina Shor, Yosef Porath, with an Appendix by Ada
Yardeni – An Early Leviticus Scroll from En-Gedi: Preliminary

Kristin De Troyer – Reconstructing the Older Hebrew Text of the
Book of Joshua: An Analysis of Joshua 10

Armin Lange – 4QXIIg (4Q82) as an Editorial Text

Gary A. Rendsburg – How Could a Torah Scroll Have Included
the Word? זעטוטי

Nancy Benovitz – Psalm 91:1 and the Rabbinic ShemaÊ¿ in Greek
on a Byzantine Amuletic Armband

Yosef Ofer – A Fragment of the Aleppo Codex (Exodus 8) that
Reached Israel

Rachel Hitin-Mashiah – Main Division in the Verse in the 21 Prose
Books: Syntactic Study

Jordan S. Penkower – An Esther Scroll from the 15th
Century: Determining its Type among Five Traditions (Oriental,
Sefardi, Ashkenazi, Italian, Yemenite)




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