Page 19 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 28

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a rm il l y
e inberger
— C
en sor sh ip
The controversies which raged around the writings of Maimoni-
(Sepher Hamada
Moreh Nevukh im )
are proof of this
attitude: first, that the rabbis were not afraid to ban the books
of an authority like the Rambam, and second, that not all the
rabbis accepted the decision, and fought back with a
Books were criticized, attacked, and their authors were
sometimes forced to change or omit passages before they could
be republished. For example, Azariah ben Moses de Rossi (c.
1513-1578), a scholar and poet, provoked the opposition of some
rabbis and had to alter parts of his
Meor Enayim
which was for-
bidden to readers under twenty-five. Their number was compara*
tively small (about 250-300 books in 600 years) and we can classify
them according to the point of view from which the rabbis dis-
sented: ideological, halakhic, erotic, economic, and political.
I. Ideological Opposition
Some Rabbis reacted frenetically to the study of philosophy.
They opposed the publication of philosophic works, lest the masses
be led astray. In this category we find the works of Rambam:
Sefer Hamada
Moreh Nevukhim;
Rabbi Levi ben Gershon’s
Sepher M ilhamot Hashem,
and Yitzhak ben Moses Arama’s
Akeda t Yitzhak.
Rabbi Shlomo ben Adret restricted the study of
philosophy to those over the age of twenty-five, the ban to last for
a period of only fifty years.
The censorship of books that threatened the orthodox establish-
ment’s hold on the intellectual life of the Jewish communities
was rationalized as being for the good of the people. Kabbalists,
Hasidim, Frankists, and Reformists fitted into this class of ideologi-
cal bans. Rabbi Moses Hayyim Luzatto, Nehemiah Hayyah
Hayyun, and Abraham Cardoso were authors of kabbalistic litera-
ture. Yaakov Yoseph of Polonnoye was the author of
To ledo t
Yaakov Yoseph,
one of the sources for the teachings of the Baal
Shem Tov, which led the Vilna Gaon to issue a ban on Hasidism.
II. Halakhic Grounds
Incorrect renderings of halakhic decisions and incorrect expla-
nations were cause for banning a book, as in the case of the
Sepher Or Israel
by Rabbi Israel ben Eliezer Lifshitz (Cleve,
1770). Books written by apostates, such as Shmuel ibn Azariah-
Shmuel al Maghribi’s
Ifham al-Yahud
(Silencing the Jews, New
York, 1964), books published by apostates (the Helitz family), and
books which were printed on Shabbat such as
Sefer Yetaw Lev
(M. Sziget, 1835) by J. L. Teitelbaum, were banned or destroyed.6
®About bibliophagy (destruction of books by the authors themselves) by
the Jews, see the article by Moshe Carmilly-Weinberger, “Sepher, Sepher
ve-Goralo” (Book; Book and Its Fate),
vol. 48, no. 3 (November 17
1967), p. 49.