Sunday 28 August 2022

397) Italian Chasidim, coffee, chocolates and Sabbatians


A section of the Padua eruv document of 1720 discovered by Dr David Sclar.


This article is based extensively on the research by Dr David Sclar[1] who discovered a fascinating document in Padua’s Jewish community archives[2] describing an eruv (a ‘closed off area’ allowing Jews to carry on Shabbat) which R. Isaiah Bassan (a teacher of R. Moshe Chaim Luzzatto) had established in Padua (northern Italy) in 1720.

Sunday 21 August 2022

396) Which Ovadiah the Ger?


Obadiah the Norman Proselyte who entered the covenant of the God of Israel in the month of Ellul, year 1413 of Documents which is 4862 of Creation

Obadiah the Norman Proselyte and Maimonides - a Case of Non-Intersection

Guest Post by Professor Larry Zamick[1]


I meet such interesting people through this blog. One such personality is Professor Larry Zamick, a distinguished professor of physics at Rutgers University in Piscataway, NJ. Born in Winnipeg, Canada in 1935, he attended the University of Manitoba as an undergraduate and received his PhD in nuclear physics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1962.

In his own words, Professor Zamick describes himself as “definitely not a Hebrew scholar.” However, his research and findings on the famous twelfth-century Ovadiah the Ger (Convert) contribute towards, if not change the way we understand this chapter of Jewish history. It seems that many confuse two very different Ovadiahs who were both gerim (converts). Some of the errants are distinguished scholars. The first Ovadiah was a former Christian monk born in Oppido Lucano (Southern Italy) as Johannes, the son of a Norman aristocrat named Dreux. He lived just before the second Ovadiah, a former Muslim, who is famous for interacting with Maimonides (when he inquired if, in the prayers, he was permitted to refer to Abraham as his 'father').

Sunday 14 August 2022

395) The Alter Rebbe’s great-grandson who became a proto-Zionist and developed a form of 'natural' messianism.


Rabbi Chaim Tzvi Schneersohn


R. Chaim Tzvi Schneerson (1834-1882) was a fourth-generation descendent of R. Shneur Zalman of Liadi, the founder of the Chabad movement (Gartner 1968:33).[1] He was known as the נין של בעל התניא, or great-grandson of the Baal haTanya.[2] Born in Lubavitch, Belarus in 1834, he emigrated to Palestine with his family in 1840 and was ordained as a rabbi at his Bar Mitzvah. Later, he taught himself English and became an important emissary and fund-raiser for Collel Chabad, which was founded in 1788 by R. Shneur Zalman, and is to this day the oldest continuously operating charity in Israel. 

During one of his fundraising trips outside of the Holy Land, R. Schneersohn became convinced that the Jews would be redeemed - not by messianic forces(!) - but instead by a series of natural and human events eventually culminating in the fulfilment of the Jewish eschatological dream of the final redemption.

Sunday 7 August 2022

394) Berachia’s attempt to replace ‘Midrashic fantasy’ with ‘naturalistic rationalism’


Mishlei Shu’alim (“Fox Fables,” Hebrew Version Of Aesop’s Fables) By Berachia Ben Natronai HaNakdan.


This article is based extensively on the research by Professor Tamás Visi[1] and explores the thought of Berachia ben Natronai haNakdan who lived around the twelfth and thirteenth centuries in Normandy, England and Provence (southern France). Berachia bases himself on some of the more rationalist ideas of Rav Saadia Gaon (882-942) and develops them further in his Sefer haChibur, Mussar, Sefer haMetzaref as well as his Dodi veNechdi (a work of twelfth-century scientific questions and answers, supposedly between an uncle and his nephew).[2]