Discover more from Rationalist Judaism
Miscellaneous Selective Citations of Authorities
Rewriting Jewish Intellectual History: A Review of Sefer Chaim Be’Emunasom
Part 11: Miscellaneous Selective Citations of Authorities
There are several sections in which R. Schmeltzer displays extreme selectivity in his citation of sources, only bringing those that are in line with his ideological goal. This is unacceptable in a work that claims to be presenting the definitive and sole authentic approach based on the writings of Rishonim and Acharonim throughout the generations.
I. Me’or Einayim
R. Schmeltzer quotes several authorities who followed Maharal in opposing R. Azariah de Rossi’s Me’or Einayim as a work of “utter heresy.” He gives the overwhelming impression that the condemnation of Me’or Einayim was unequivocal. But subsequent to Maharal’s condemnation, Me’or Einayim was still cited by many prominent Torah authorities, often positively, including R. Yosef Shlomo Delmedigo, R. Yissachar Baer Eilenburg, R. Avraham Gombiner, R. Chaim Benveniste, R. Yechezkel Feivel; R. Malachi ben Yaakov HaKohen, R. Yitzchak Lampronti, R. Pinchas Hurwitz, R. Yishayahu Basan, R. Yaakov Emden, R. Elazar Fleckeles, Rav Shmuel Yitzchok Schorr, R. Avraham Dayyan, Maharatz Chajes, R. Yishayahu (Pik) Berlin, Chida, Chassam Sofer, and Netziv, and even by the Maharal’s own disciples, such as R. Yom Tov Lippman Heller and R. Dovid Gans. Quoting the condemnation of Maharal and a few others does not give a remotely accurate picture of Jewish history.
II. The Signs of Kosher Fish
On p. 112, in a chapter devoted to showing the extent of Chazal’s scientific knowledge, R. Schmeltzer cites two views that the Gemara’s declaration that any fish with scales also has fins is an absolute statement. He does not mention the view of R. Yonasan Eibeschitz (Kreisi, Y.D. 83:3) and R. Yaakov Tzvi Mecklenberg (HaKesav VeHaKabbalah, Vayikra 11:9) that the Gemara’s statement is merely a general rule that can have exceptions. Since both these views were in my book The Camel, The Hare And The Hyrax that R. Schmeltzer arranged to have banned, he is certainly aware of these views.
On p. 113 in this chapter on the extent of Chazal’s scientific knowledge, R. Schmeltzer cites a view that the Gemara’s description of dolfins, which Rashi explains to refer to mermaids, has been confirmed by Spanish explorers who (allegedly) discovered such creatures. R. Schmeltzer neglects to cite the far more straightforward view of Mussaf haAruch (which he knows of from my book, and which is brought in the ArtScroll Gemara) that the Gemara is referring to dolphins, not mermaids.
On pp. 298-299, R. Schmeltzer cites Rabbi Yehudah Brill’s position on Chazal’s scientific infallibility vis-à-vis lice spontaneously generating – without mentioning that we only know of this position from its citation in Pachad Yitzchak by Rabbi Yitzchak Lampronti, who disagreed with it and felt that there may well have been a scientific error! While some attempt to claim that Rabbi Lampronti rejected his own opinion in favor of Rabbi Brill’s, this is not how it is generally understood, and with good reason; after citing Rabbi Brill’s position, Rabbi Lampronti again explains why he believes that one should be concerned for a scientific error. In any case, Rabbi Lampronti’s view should certainly be cited!
 Matzref Le-Chachmah 8b; Novelos Chachmah 111a; Michtav Achuz p. 22.
 Tzedah leDerech, in numerous places, e.g. his comment in parashas Vayera, on tikkun soferim. My thanks to Rabbi Dr. Shnayer Leiman for this and many other references.
 Magen Avraham.
 Kenesses HaGedolah.
 Toldos Adam. See Shraga Abramson’s essay in Sinai 72 (1973), pp. 106-107.
 Yad Melachi.
 Pachad Yitzchak, sv. kelayos 72b.
 Sefer HaBris in numerous places.
 Lachmei Todah, no. 19.
 R. Yaakov Emden cites Me'or Enayim regularly, mostly to argue with him, but sometimes to praise him. For a good sample of the praise, see M. M. Goldstein, “Hagahos HaRav Yavetz KeSav Yad al sefer Me’or Einayim," Kovetz Tiferes Mordechai 3 (2000), p. 400.
 Meleches Ha-Kodesh 2:3.
 Minchas Shai, Zekhariah 14:5.
 Zichron Divrei Aretz, printed in Holech Tamim U’Po’el Tzeddek (Livorno 1850) p. 66b.
 Toras Nevi'im, 7b; Mevo Ha-Talmud in numerous places.
 Minei Targima, likkutim at the end.
 Kisei Rachamim, (Jerusalem 1990), Perush on Maseches Sofrim 1:8, p. 41.
 Responsa Chasam Sofer, vol. 5, hashmatos 193.
 Ha'amek Davar to Ex. 28:36 and five times in his commentary to Sifrei.
 Tosafos Yom Tov, Menachos 10:3.
 Tzemach David, vol. 1 pp. 7, 19; vol. 2 pp. 9b, 11a; Nechmad Ve-Na'im, no. 90.
 They were probably referring to manatees, which Christopher Columbus also thought to be mermaids.