Sunday 24 March 2024

467) Lechu Neranena on Wednesday


 Guest post by Moshe Tzvi Wieder


I thank Moshe Tzvi Wieder for sharing with us his research into the early Siddur (prayer book). Moshe Tzvi Wieder is the author of “The Siddur from Its Sources” (הסידור ממקורותיו) a unique Siddur which provides the earliest known sources for every part of the Siddur.  To learn more about הסידור ממקורותיוsee the site here.


Lechu Neranena on Wednesday


The Siddur from Its Sources, by Moshe Tzvi Wieder, Wieder Press, 2023.

The Mishna (Tamid 7:4) delineates which chapters of Tehillim the Leviim would say for each day of the week. While it does not explicitly state the ending of each section, both logic and early manuscript evidence bear out that the Leviim would stop at the end of each chapter.  

Sunday 17 March 2024

466) Separating the text from the context: an early Chassidic approach to Torah study


Toledot Yakov Yosef: The first Chassidic book to be published. Koritz 1780.


We examine Chassidic sources that show how early Chassidism reworked the traditional methodologies of classical Torah study. They did this by separating the text from the context and focusing, instead, on the divine light contained within the letters and the words themselves. They did this regardless of the position and meaning of these words in the sequence of the biblical storyline. This approach was generally used to enhance the experientialism of the study process which now became a spiritual, as opposed to an intellectual, enterprise. It also opened a space for the theurgic or ‘magical’ use of Torah study to benefit the student (or perhaps more appropriately, the practitioner) to utilise the exposed light or energy to effect a change in their material reality. 

Sunday 10 March 2024

465) Did R. Chaim of Volozhin intentionally alter the image of the Vilna Gaon?


A 1704 manuscript of an early Hebrew translation of Euclid’s Elements. Later, in 1780, the first printed Hebrew edition of Euclid's Elements, was published in Amsterdam, translated into Hebrew by R. Baruch Schick of Shklov, on the instruction of the Vilna Gaon. 


Based on a comparison between the various representations of the Vilna Gaon’s worldview by his different students, it seems that his main student, R. Chaim of Volozhin, meticulously selected, if not shaped, only certain aspects of his teacher’s ideology to present to future generations. We shall examine how R. Chaim of Volozhin crafted an image of the Vilna Gaon as: 

1) a religious scholar not interested in the secular scholarship; 

2a) a theoretical or theosophical master of mysticism with no interest in theurgical or practical Kabbalah;

2b) a master practical Kabbalist (the previous characterisation of the Vilna Gaon as a 'theoretical Kabbalist' was later changed to present him as 'practical Kabbalist'), and

3) a spiritual innovator who intended to present an ‘authorised’ version of mysticism, in lieu of Chassidism, to the Lithuanian Mitnagdim. 

These representations are then compared to how other students and family members charactersied and witnessed the Vilna Gaon, and to what the Gaon himself had expressed on these matters.

464) Interesting math in the Hebrew Bible


Guest Post by Professor Larry Zamick

There are numerous examples in the Bible of lists of numbers with totals that don't add up correctly. For example, when God asked Moses to count the descendants of Levi, the results were given in a table. 

Sunday 3 March 2024

463) The discovery of R. Nachman’s Secret Scroll

Megilat Setarim - The Secret Scroll of R. Nachman of Breslov


This article based extensively on the research by Professor Zvi Mark[1] − examines the relatively recent emergence of a work by R. Nachman of Breslov, Megilat Setarim, that was thought to have either been lost or hidden away. 

A cloud of secrecy has always hung over this enigmatic work, particularly concerning the reasons for it to have remained a secret document, but as we shall see, many elements of secrecy surrounded the personality of R. Nachman of Breslov in general. For some reason, secrecy seemed to often go hand in hand with R. Nachman and his teachings:

“We know of one book which R. Nachman hid away, another which he burnt, as well as tales he forbade to reveal to outsiders. So it was that Breslav Chasidim, as a group, enshrouded themselves within a certain air of mystery and kept up a continual discourse concerning hidden works and hidden meanings in their Rebbe’s teaching” (Mark 2010:23).