יום רביעי י"ז בשבט תשפ"ב 19/01/2022
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  • The Mission Continues

    As in the past so it remains today - we were and still are under the selfsame commitment to adhere to the directions of the Gedolei Yisrael, who stand guard against breaches of purity threatening our camp. When we were required to ask – we asked. When we were instructed to depart – we left. The moment we are summoned back to raise the flag, every other consideration is pushed to the side and we answer: We are ready!

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בראי היום

  • Harav Yisrael Friedman zy”a, the Rebbe of Husyatin

    מוטי, ויקיפדיה העברית

    The ancestral chain of Harav Yisrael Friedman, the founder of the Husyatin chassidic court, originates with the holy Baal Shem Tov. The Husyatin chassidus has its roots in Galicia and eventually came to Tel Aviv, during the turbulent years between the two World Wars.

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  • Maccabi'im Gravesite

    In honour of Chanukah, we will discuss a fascinating, ongoing investigation attempting to establish the place of burial of Mattisyahu Kohen Gadol and his family.

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Reflections

The Burning of the Talmud

In the course of history, many of the enemies of the Jews have attempted to harm our holy Torah, through the method of burning our holy books. Their attempts have, however, not met with success, since the kol Torah, the voices of Jews raised in learning, continues to reverberate throughout the ages and indeed only strengthens itself in the face of hostility and opposition.

Motty Meringer 02/11/2009 10:37
The first instances of burning of our holy books for anti-Semitic reasons took place before the Talmud was compiled, in the era of the Roman domination over Eretz Yisrael. In the Mishnah, maseches Taanis, it is written that on the seventeenth day of Tammuz, Apostomus burned the Torah; during this same period, Rabbi Chanina ben Teradyon was burned on a pyre together with a Sefer Torah. Before his soul departed him, his students asked their teacher; “Rabbi – what do you see?”, to which he replied that he saw that “the parchment burns, but the letters ascend on high”.

The most infamous case of the burning of the Talmud was that which occurred in Paris, as a result of the ‘Parisian trial’. This trial was instigated by the apostate Jew Nikolas Donin, and the leaders of French Jewry of the time were forced to participate. These included Rav Yechiel of Paris and Rav Moshe of Kochin; they were to debate the authenticity of the Talmud with the sages of christianity. The debate was, however, not conducted as a fair and balanced disputation, but instead became essentially an indictment of the Babylonian Talmud by the gentile authorities, who accused the Torah of containing defamatory statements about non-Jews and commanding Jews to hate gentiles. In addition, the christians asserted that the Torah had no moral content whatsoever.

The Jewish sages forced to participate were only permitted to defend their own writings from criticism; to attack their opponents was forbidden.

The way in which the trial concluded provided clear evidence of the original intentions of its organisers. On the ninth of Tammuz in the year 5004, which in that year fell on the erev Shabbos of parshas Chukas, twenty-four wagon-loads filled with sifrei Talmud were burned in huge pyres on the streets of Paris.

 
Paris Municipality Square [צלם]

This conflagration had a great impact on the Jews of Europe of the time, propelling Rav Yechiel of Paris to join the aliya of the baalei Tosefos to Eretz Yisrael. There he settled in Acco and established a yeshiva. His talmid the Maharam of Rottenburg wrote the kinah ‘sha’ali s’rufah b’eish shalom evlayich’ in the aftermath of this incident which is recited in the shacharis service of Tisha b’Av.

This event also caused the fixing of a ta’anis for righteous individuals on that day, as the Magen Avraham mentions in Hilchos Ta’anis. There he recounts the ‘sheilas cholom’, the inquiry in a dream, that the sages of that generation made, in order to be informed of the reason behind the decree. They were answered from Heaven with the words; “this is the statute [Hebrew: chukas] of the Torah which should be interpreted as a firm decree”. The sages concluded from this response that the essence of the particular day on which the conflagration had occurred, which had been in the week of the parsha of Chukas, was the determining factor in the events, and therefore, they established a fast-day upon it.

Some three hundred years later, Maximilian, the first emperor of Germany, as a result of the incitement of the apostate Johann Feferkorn, banned the Talmud. The emperor came under intense petitioning by the Jews, led by the court Jew Rabbi Yoselman of Rosheim, which led him to order the establishment of a special commission to investigate the Talmud. One of the appointees to the commission was the christian philosopher Johannes Roichlin, who came out in defense of the Talmud and persuaded the emperor to rescind his decree, even though he personally paid a high price for his stance, which greatly angered the powerful Dominican monks.

In the year 5313 there was further burnings of the Talmud in several cities in Italy, instigated by the christians at the orders of the Pope Julius the Third,. The background to these new decrees was a quarrel that had erupted between two printing houses that both functioned in the city of Venice. Both were Christian-owned but also published Jewish seforim. They competed with each other, until in the year 5313 the competition evolved into a major rift concerning the rights to the publication of a particular sefer of the Rambam. Both publishers appealed separately to the Pope in Rome, with the complaint that their competitor was engaged in the publication of Jewish texts that ridiculed Christianity. Several apostates added fuel to the fire and the entire web of slander led Pope Julius to set up a commission of inquiry, whose mission was to investigate whether the Talmud did in fact denigrate the Christian religion. The commission found that the Talmud did indeed constitute a harmful force to christianity, and Pope Julius then issued an edict commanding all sifrei Talmud to be confiscated and destroyed. Many copies of the Talmud were then collected, and the Christians in their ignorance also included many other sifrei kodesh that were not part of the Talmud at all. All the confiscated texts were gathered in the central square in Rome, and on the first day of Rosh HaShanah, which in that year, 5354 fell on a Shabbos, they were put to the flames.

After this conflagration in Rome, books were gathered and burned in other Italian cities; on the thirteenth of Cheshvan in Venice, in Shevat in Ancona and later in other towns.

It was during this period that the church published a list of forbidden works, which included the Babylonian Talmud. This list was only officially rendered obsolete forty-four years ago.

After these latest events, Jewish intermediaries placed great pressure on the Pope to replace the decree calling for the burning of the Talmud with a form of censorship. A special committee was established to this end, whose members indeed set about the work of ‘correcting’ and deleting any parts of the Talmud which their obtuse minds felt to be critical of Christianity.

In the aftermath of these developments, Jews the world over engaged in much soul-searching endeavouring to discover which specific sins of theirs had given rise to such terrible decrees. Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzatto, the Ramchal, was of the opinion that the events had come to pass as a result of Jews becoming too entrenched in the physical world and its pleasures, and he therefore hastened to establish a group of talmidei chachomim who would totally dedicate themselves to limud haTorah with the greatest intensity and devotion, withdrawing themselves entirely from the allures and attractions of the world around them.

In modern times, a great burning of seforim took place on Pesach Sheni, the fourteenth day of Iyar in the year 5693 in Opera Square in Berlin (today known as Babylon Square). This was carried out by the accursed Nazis yimach shemam, and some twenty-thousand books were burned, mostly secular works written by either Jews or political opponents of the Nazi regime, but also including holy seforim.

The kinah composed by Maharam of Rottenburg includes the phrase “it has yet been decreed to burn the holy works; therefore, happy is the one who receives his just dues. My rock in the burning flames; this was decreed upon us, that the fires not reach our own borders”.