Page 30 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 25

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T
h e
M
ahar sha
All literary creations in Israel up to and including those of
Maharsha (Rabbi Samuel Eliezer Edels, 16t h17־th century) were
written under Divine inspiration. Subsequent works were also
divinely inspired, but even those that were not, attained an
aura of sanctity if they were accepted by a single congregation.
Every Jewish community, however small, is vested with the pre-
rogative to endow with Divine sanction any work it accepts, pro-
vided the contents do not divert the Israelites’ hearts from their
Maker. (Sheerit Yisrael)
“S
ifte
K
oh en
I once heard from Rabbi Naftali Herz Simhoni, may he rest
in peace, but I do not recall whether he said he had read it or
had heard it from his grandfather, Rabbi Naftali Herz Bern-
stein, that the gaon Rabbi Aryeh Leib ben Asher (18th cen-
tury), author of
Shaagat Aryeh,
was in vehement disagreement
with the book
Sifte Kohen,
written by Rabbi Shabbetai ben
Meir ha-Kohen (17th century). He vigorously disapproved this
work and kept it out of reach on the highest shelf of his book-
case. One day a notion occurred to him which he thought would
refute a statement in the book. He climbed on a ladder to
check the relevant passage, but the ladder tumbled and the
gaon fell, exclaiming, “Shabbetai, what a vile temper you have!”
As a result of this fall, he is said to have contracted an illness
from which he never recovered, and his soul ascended to heaven.
S
hamefacedness
Rabbi Simhah Bunam of Parsischa (18th-19th century) re-
lated: “As I sat before my master, the saintly Yehudi of blessed
memory, he noticed that I appeared crestfallen. When he in-
quired as to the reason, I told him someone had shamed me
with his words. He asked who had perpetrated such a hurt, but
I would not disclose his identity. Although my master urged me
strongly, intending to reprove the offender, I remained silent.
However, when I finally revealed that I had kissed him twice,
the saintly Yehudi was astounded and ordered me to expose the
humiliator, which I could no longer refuse to do. I informed
him that while reading the book
Shevet Musar,
the author’s
words shamed me into realizing how derelict I had been in not
serving the Creator properly, and how deficient I was in those
attributes which according to our sages, peace be unto them,
every good Israelite is expected to cultivate. I was chagrined to
the point where I almost despised myself; but I finally picked
up the volume, kissed it with fervor, and gently set it down.”
(Ramataim Tsofim)