Thursday, May 03, 2007

Shadal and R' Leone Da Modena





Shemuel David Luzzatto
(1800-1865), known by his Hebrew acronym, 'Shadal' was an Orthodox Rabbi in Italy and a prolific writer, poet and scholar. While he supported the Wissenschaft des Judentums (science of Judaism) movement, he was a strict traditionalist who did not hesitate to attack Reform Judaism and its leaders with the harshest of terms (see later). I guess one can speculate that had he been alive today, he would have felt most comfortable in (a certain segment of) the Modern-Orthodox community.

Considering all of that, he should have naturally admired Rabbi Leone Da Modena of Venice (see previous post) and held him up as an early example of a "perfect maskil" , one possessing vast Torah knowledge as well as secular wisdom. Also, taking into consideration their similar views and backgrounds[1], the fact that they were both considered controversial by ultra-traditionalists and that they both held highly critical views of Kabballah and Zohar (in fact Shadal is credited for introducing a new rational anti-mystical approach to Judaism which had an indelible influence on Italian Jewry in the decades afterwards), an admiration for the man should have been a given, but instead Shadal held him in complete contempt.

The reason for this is that Shadal believed him (Da Modena) to be a hypocrite and a secret heretic(!).

To understand why, we need to discuss the curious case of the Sefer קול סכל Kol Sakhal. The book is an early anti-Rabbinic work whose author remains a mystery. There are differences of opinion among scholars about who the author could have been [2].

Shadal believed the author to be none other than Da Modena. What convinced him-beyond any doubt- that Da Modena was in fact the author of this book remains a mystery to me.

Shadal writes of him:

Have you seen שאגת אריה and קול סכל? Great novelty! It is clear beyond all doubt that קול סכל is also the work of Yehudah Aryeh Modena, and that this rabbi hated the sages of the Mishnah and the Talmud even more than the Karaites did, and that he was a bigger Reformer than Geiger! And this was 220 years ago! And in Italy!!

Should you copy it and bring it to the [Reform] Rabbinical Conference that will be held in Breslau, they will give you good money for it and will print it לְאוֹת לִבְנֵי־מֶרִי[from פרשת קרח: "a sign for the children of rebelliousness"]
[3]


Notes:

[1] It is interesting to note that both Shadal and Da Modena were descendants of Ashkenazic emigrants. The latter a descendant of Jews who were expelled from France and the former from Germany.
From the Jewish Encyclopedia:
According to a tradition communicated by S. D. Luzzatto (Shadal) the family descends from a German who immigrated into Italy from the province of Lausitz, and who was named after his native place ("Lausatia," "Lausiatus" = "Luzzatto"). The name "Luzzatti," which one branch of this family bears, can similarly be traced back to the plural form "Lausiati." The German rite is credibly reported to have been observed in the family synagogue (Scuola Luzzatto) in Venice.

[2] See Rivkin, Ellis. Leon da Modena and the Kol Sakhal (Hebrew Union College, 1952)

[3] Translated from the Hebrew in Talya Fishman, Shaking the Pillars of Exile: 'Voice of a Fool,' an Early Modern Jewish Critique of Rabbinic Culture (Stanford, 1997). See the original in 401 אגרות שד״ל, מס׳

12 Comments:

At Tuesday, May 08, 2007 4:47:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

A little more background on this by 'BaronPhillip':

R. Yehudah Aryeh Modena (1571–1648) writes that in 1622 someone traveling through Venice showed him a manuscript of a previously unknown book. This book, titled קול סכל, is a polemic against חז״ל and תורה שבעל פה. According to its title page, קול סכל was written in 1500 by a man from Alcalá, Spain named אמתי בן ידעיה אבן רז, obviously a pseudonym. R. Modena says that he copied the book for himself and two years later wrote a refutation of it, the ספר שאגת אריה. We have only a small fragment of the beginning of שאגת אריה; it's unclear whether R. Modena ever wrote any more than that.

קול סכל was not known to the public until 1846, when S. D. Luzzatto (שד״ל ) found it in manuscript in the Palatinate Library in Parma, apparently in R. Modena's own handwriting. Luzzatto concluded that it was all a hoax, that R. Modena had authored both קול סכל and שאגת אריה, and that R. Modena secretly had been a massive כופר. (See 401 אגרות שד״ל, מס׳). I. S. Reggio, who arranged for the first-ever printing of the two works in 1852 (under the title בחינת הקבלה), agreed with Luzzatto. Reggio held that R. Modena had written the weak and incomplete שאגת אריה only to make קול סכל more convincing. Many others, including the famous reformer Abraham Geiger, were also of the opinion that R. Modena had authored both.

 
At Tuesday, May 08, 2007 9:13:00 AM, Blogger Mississippi Fred MacDowell said...

I think you greatly overstate the affinity that Shadal "should have" had for RLM.

Shadal did not fetishize secular studies, modern ways and manners. On the contrary, he was unimpressed by modern dress; in fact he wrote a whole polemic against "Derech Erets," which in Europe in the 19th century meant European culture. Yes, Shadal dressed like a modern European. But to him that wasn't virtuous, it wasn't classy. It was just the way he was raised and it was natural, but it wasn't something of value. The fact that RLM hobnobbed with prominent Christians meant nothing to Shadal. The fact that RLM was sophisticated meant nothing. Even the fact that he was a skeptic concerning the Zohar, for Shadal too was a skeptic on that count, but he was not a rationalist. Indeed, he detested rationalism. He believed that Religion is inherently arational. His opposition to the Zohar came from the fact that he believed it was 1) false and 2) a destroyer of true religion, meaning that it did not promote mercy and righteousness. He believed that the Zohar perverted the peshat of Scriptures, which is where Judaism's values come from--and that there were no multiple meanings to Scripture, only peshat. Worse, the Zohar even says that one who learns peshat is chayav missah! This was detestable to him, for he felt that the Zohar dishonestly attempted to supplant the true meaning of Tanakh with its own false interpretations, and worst of all, it did so by posing as a Tannaitic work.

However, RLM's opposition was on rational grounds, as were all the other Maskilim. Shadal agreed with them that the Zohar was false and a bad influence, but for very different reasons.

Finally, the biggest sin Shadal could find in a person was duplicity, as I said in the post below. It's one thing to be a heretic, but don't pretend to be pious. Obviously he was convinced that RLM wrote Kol Sakhal and that it represented his true views. That he nevertheless posed as a pious rabbi--according to Shadal--was inexcusable.

In fact, Shadal ultimately treated his great friend Shir in shabby way over the fact that he believed the latter may have been secretly harboring heretical views; yet he never treated outright Reformers, like Geiger, in that way, although he would tell them exactly what he thought of their views and how opposed he was to what they were doing. He was willing to have a working relationship with heretics and Reformers in principle. But he simply could not stand hypocrites and sneaks.

In terms of why he and the rest of the Maskilim were convinced that RLM wrote Kol Sakhal himself, obviously some of them were led to that belief simply because they sympathized with the views and were glad to think of it as written by RLM as opposed to some anonymous person. Shadal, of course, could not have had this motivation since he disagreed with Kol Sakhal. Others who thought it was written by RLM felt that such a talented polemicist basically fails completely in his Shaagat Aryeh response to such an extent that it is clear that his sympathy was with the Kol Sakhal.

As for the traditionalist view, one needs only to look in Artscroll's "The Acharonim" where it writes that Yashar (Reggio) must have written both and lied in ascribing it to RLM!

 
At Tuesday, May 08, 2007 9:18:00 AM, Blogger Mississippi Fred MacDowell said...

>Obviously he was convinced that RLM wrote Kol Sakhal and that it represented his true views. That he nevertheless posed as a pious rabbi--according to Shadal--was inexcusable.

In Israel Zinberg's discussion of RLM and Kol Sakhal (in his History of Jewish Literature Vol. IV) he conjectures--obviously with the assumption that RLM wrote it--that the reason why he hid his heresy is because he did not wish to be remembered for posterity as a heretic like the medeival Hivi al Balkhi or Acher, and Zinberg drew parallel to a notorious Catholic heretic who lived a quiet life as a village priest, only to leave behind the most blasphemous heresies that he had written, discovered posthumously in his chair in his church!

 
At Wednesday, May 09, 2007 11:43:00 AM, Blogger Ha-historion said...

Thanks Mississipi for your illuminating comments.

You certainly know more about this than I do and as I said before I consider you my Rebbe in these issues.

Re: the similarities between RLM and Shadal, I think the major differences cannot be discerned unless one digs for them. Yes, I am sure they both had differing views on how to relate to the secular world but on the face of it they both partook heavily in it. Motivations and reasons may have been different but theres more to compare than to contrast.

 
At Wednesday, May 09, 2007 11:47:00 AM, Blogger Ha-historion said...

Re: his authorship of KS, I am assuming that there are 3 main opinions on it:

1. He authored it and was indeed a secret heretic.

2. He authored it in order to shlug it up 'Boneh binyanim umefarakan'. (Compare with the Talmudic interpretation of the "Mekoshesh Eitzim").

3. He found the book in Manuscript as he claimed.

 
At Wednesday, May 09, 2007 2:29:00 PM, Blogger Mississippi Fred MacDowell said...

My point was that the similarities are trivial from Shadal's point of view.

Shadal didn't see secular studies as something that needed to be justified even remotely. He had no vaguely guilty feeling that, takka, "Torah Only" might really be the derekh ha-yashar. Such thinking could only arise in the mind of other European Jewrys and their heirs, because in Italy these things were just not issues. Therefore there was no special affinity, there was no need for consolidation of those frum Jews who also valued madda, as one might expect today--when people who are Zionists find inspiration in Rav Hirsch, when people who are Wissenschaft-y find inspiration in Rav Soloveitchik, when both these opposed Zionism and Wissenschaft (kind of) respectively. The best analogy I can think of is Rabbi Saul Lieberman and Abraham Joshua Heschel. The former did not care for the scholarship and point of view of the latter. Ay, you might say, both were Wissenschaft-y scholars, both were non-fundamentalist observant? But in their environment--so what? Neither of them needed or felt the need to justify modern scholarship, so why should those birds of a different feather need to flock together? Sure, if somehow they had both ended up teaching in Chaim Berlin, they might have needed to stick together, so to speak, and enjoy the common ground they had. Is the nimshal clear?

The other point is that Shadal valued authenticity over all else. It is for this reason that Rashi was his absolute hero over all other exegetes, even though le-ma'aseh his own exegesis more closely resembled Ibn Ezra. Shadal made it clear many times then when it comes down to it he far prefers the simple emunah and deep piety of the East European Jews, even though he thought that Chassidus was a sham and that the Zohar placed a covering over "true Judaism."

This sounds strange because, well--he was a philologist! He thought he Zohar was baloney. He made emendations in the text of the Bible. He wrote poetry in honor of Dante. And so much more. So from our point of view, where we actually wonder if there *really* is enough proof that a sort of TuM philosophy is correct, where we still write and read article showing that this or that godol did this or that maddadike thing, we might assume he *should* have found more rather than less common ground with RLM.

But that is because we are not 19th century Italian Jews. And we are not using his perspective, but ours. ;)

 
At Thursday, May 10, 2007 2:01:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"As for the traditionalist view, one needs only to look in Artscroll's "The Acharonim" where it writes that Yashar (Reggio) must have written both and lied in ascribing it to RLM!"

Are you talking about Yashar Delmedigo?

 
At Thursday, May 10, 2007 8:45:00 AM, Blogger Mississippi Fred MacDowell said...

Another Yashar--Yitzchak Shmuel Reggio.
see
.
The first Yashar, Yashar (Yoseph Shlomo Ropheh) of Candia, is treated in an entry in that Artscroll book.

 
At Thursday, May 10, 2007 9:07:00 AM, Blogger Mississippi Fred MacDowell said...

Of course I neglected to mention that Reggio was actually the one to publish both Kol Sakhal and Shaagas Aryeh in a volume he called Bekhinas Ha-kabbalah.

This is why he can be accused of having written it himself. But, in fact, Shadal discovered the manuscript in a library and both were written in the same hand (that of R. Leone Modena). Of course this does not mean that RLM authored Kol Sakhal, but it does mean that Reggio didn't forge it.

 
At Thursday, May 10, 2007 4:58:00 PM, Blogger Ha-historion said...

How ironic that Artscroll is trying to defend RLM (and doing a pretty shabby job at it)..

A couple of questions for you in the order that you commented:

1. You say Shadal believed Judaism to be 'arational'. What precisely do you mean by that. I understand the basic definition of the term to mean something beyond rationale but in terms of what we are talking about , a more precise explanation would be appreciated. It would shed some more light on Shadal's weltsanschaung (as opposed to RLM's).

2. From where do you glean-in RLM's volumnious writings- that the latter was of the opinion that Judaism is rational, logical etc.('hegyoni' 'mitkabel al hadaat')

3. You also mentioned that Shadal believed that there are no legitimate interpretations for scripture other than 'simple' pershat. How does that jive with the Talmudic tradition. What about Pardes? is that of purely Kabbalistic origin? (I would think not, since the Talmud mentions it 'arba nichnesu lepardes' etc.)

4. "when people who are Zionists find inspiration in Rav Hirsch, when people who are Wissenschaft-y find inspiration in Rav Soloveitchik, when both these opposed Zionism and Wissenschaft (kind of) respectively".

I know this is a bit off-topic and probably warrants a whole new post, but what do you mean by Rav YBS opposing (religious) Zionism? my (albeit limited) knowledge indicates otherwise. As for Rav Hirsch, I am aware that he opposed his contemporary Rav Tzvi Hirsch Kalisher but other than that, he does not have much to say about the subject (though it's safe to say that he felt no sympathy toward the movement- this in line with a large number of Hungarian and German Orthodox and non-Orthodox Rabbis opinions).

5. It is interesting that you put Liberman and Heschel together in your analogy. Again, from my limited knowledge of these 2, I understood one (Heschel) to be more drawn toward the emotional (heart rather than head). Heschel draws heavily on Chassidic literature, this probably due to his illustrious Chassidic background, while Lieberman (of a litvish mitnagdic background) tends to be more rigid and intellectual.

 
At Tuesday, May 15, 2007 3:40:00 PM, Blogger Mississippi Fred MacDowell said...

Sorry for taking so long to reply.

>1. You say Shadal believed Judaism to be 'arational'. What precisely do you mean by that. I understand the basic definition of the term to mean something beyond rationale but in terms of what we are talking about , a more precise explanation would be appreciated. It would shed some more light on Shadal's weltsanschaung (as opposed to RLM's).

Shadal believed that religion (ie, Abrahamism, ie, true religion, which takes it highest form in Judaism) is about promoting righteous, kind and compassionate behavior, not about building beautiful buildings or logical arguments or accruing power. Shadal begins his Torah commentary (Ha-mishtadel) with a disclaimer that the Torah is not a science book, thus attempts at reconciling it with science--or concluding that it is bunk because it is contradicted by science--are simply missing the point. I think this is a relatively commonplace idea today, but I believe he was mechadesh it. In addition, in one of his letters he makes mention that the Torah even contains "illusion," meaning things which aren't true. In this he is similar to the Rambam in Moreh Nevukhim; but his view is different because the Rambam's perspective was that the Torah uses untruth in order to keep social order among the masses, while Shadal felt that it is because righteousness and kindness is the object of the Torah, not true facts about the past. Important caveat: he did not doubt the historicity of the narratives in the Torah, including even a literal nachash in a literal Gan Eden. Religion for him is not rational. It is not to be reconciled with fine thought. It is just a vehicle--God's vehicle--for spreading good acts.

However, this does not mean he lacked a historical sense. On the contrary, he had a historical sense. Perhaps it was this historical sense that even led him to believe that there are ahistorical elements in religion. In contrast, rationalists needn't have a historical sense. The Rambam certainly didn't have much of that. This is indicated both by his decrying the study of history (ie, what happened?) and by his own writings. For example, although he was on the right track in believing that something could be learned about the Torah by looking at pagan writings, he was not justified in using Sabean writings, for what did the practices of the Sabeans have to do with the Canaanites? I don't think he was able to sense an anachronism like that.

>2. From where do you glean-in RLM's volumnious writings- that the latter was of the opinion that Judaism is rational, logical etc.('hegyoni' 'mitkabel al hadaat')

As for RLM, I confess that I don't know so much about him. If he was indeed a rationalist, then he was more a follower of the Rambam, the 'av ha-rationalists,' while Shadal specifically eschewed rational religion.

>3. You also mentioned that Shadal believed that there are no legitimate interpretations for scripture other than 'simple' pershat. How does that jive with the Talmudic tradition. What about Pardes? is that of purely Kabbalistic origin? (I would think not, since the Talmud mentions it 'arba nichnesu lepardes' etc.)

The fourfold interpretation of pardes is indeed kabbalistic. How does 'arba nichnesu lepardes' mean "peshat, remez, derush and sod"? Evidently some mystical experience is intended, but it has nothing to do with modes of exegesis.

Your question then is really about derash. How does his belief that there is only one meaning of the text, the peshat, jibe with all the derashos in the Gemara? I believe he felt--like the Rambam and others--that these were asmachtos; and that was the point behind 'en mikra yotzi midei peshuto.'

Furthermore, he had a strong belief that the reason why the Talmud records multiple viewpoints, particularly in Aggadah, was to show that these matters are not closed debates, but dynamic, living discussions. EVen if you could show--as you probably could--that Tannaim and Amoraim believed there were multiple meanings to the words and verses of the Torah, it wouldn't matter to Shadal, because for him one may disagree with Tannaim and Amoraim. Certainly not in fixed matters of halakhah, but in theology, interpretation, etc. Shadal felt that the gadlus of the Tannaim and Amoraim--aside from being the carriers of mesorah--lay in their goodness as human beings, their warmth, kindness, love of humanity, which he drew sharpt contrast with the ancient philosophers who (he felt) despised humanity.

Although he would *always* carefully document whenever one of his peshats agreed with an earlier pirush--he was very careful to say things be-shem omro--many of his interpretations were original, and he certainly didn't feel that he was not able to comprehend the true intent of pesukim simply because it had not been said before.

>I know this is a bit off-topic and probably warrants a whole new post, but what do you mean by Rav YBS opposing (religious) Zionism? my (albeit limited) knowledge indicates otherwise. As for Rav Hirsch, I am aware that he opposed his contemporary Rav Tzvi Hirsch Kalisher but other than that, he does not have much to say about the subject (though it's safe to say that he felt no sympathy toward the movement- this in line with a large number of Hungarian and German Orthodox and non-Orthodox Rabbis opinions).

I see that I wasn't clear. I meant that RYBS opposed Wissenschaft and RSRH was opposed to Zionism. Although RYBS's actual position on Wissenschaft is a bit of an enigma, it is safe to say that he eschewed it completely in limmud ha-torah, and didn't have much sympathy for others who liked to use it. In matters of theology, evidently he was less opposed.

As for R. Hirsch, his anti-Zionism is no mystery. He was a German rabbi and that meant being a good, nationalist citizen. Of course as a believing Jew it also meant that he could not give up on the coming of the meshiach, but he certainly could, and did, oppose the idea that Jews from all over the world are going to join each other today, now, in Palestine and form a sovereign nation. That was totally incompatible with derech erets.

My point, then, was that it is interesting that TUMniks will find inspiration and affinity with each of them, despite, let us say, being interested in Wissenschaft or being religious Zionists. Not that there is anything wrong with that--accept the truth whomever says it, right? But one also senses that when people act as if Rav Hirsch is their madrich, despite being a Zionist, or R. Soloveitchik, despite being into mehqar--well, one senses that they are looking for "gedolim" because they are not so sure of their convictions. In contrast, a Shadal didn't need to find a rabbi from centuries ago who learned "chochma," to prove to anyone else or himself that it was okay for him, for a Jew, to learn chochma. It was basically just a perfectly natural thing for him to do.

Thus, while he certainly was capable of respecting great rabbonim with whom he didn't share everything in common, he felt no need to band together with those whose positions he could "use." He had no need to use anyone's positions. This brings me to my analogy:

>5. It is interesting that you put Liberman and Heschel together in your analogy. Again, from my limited knowledge of these 2, I understood one (Heschel) to be more drawn toward the emotional (heart rather than head). Heschel draws heavily on Chassidic literature, this probably due to his illustrious Chassidic background, while Lieberman (of a litvish mitnagdic background) tends to be more rigid and intellectual.

The possibility that the reason they didn't necessarily care much for each other or appreciate each other's work (particularly on Lieberman's end) stems from the Chassidische/ Misnaggdische divide has some merit. Whether or not this is entirely true--a story has it that one afternoon RSL and others were waiting for a tenth man for a minyan for mincha. Someone suggested that he go upstairs and fetch Heschel, who was probably in his office. RSL said "Heschel knows how to pray, but he doesn't daven."

Whatever that means, my point is that if they had been colleagues in a yeshiva then you might expect that each would sort of use the other as support for their scholarly proclivities. Such support is necessary in a yeshiva, where such methods are suspect. But at the JTS? Each one had the luxury not to need the other as support.

Someone like Shadal would probably have loved a Leone Modena--if he lived in Poland. But in Northern Italy? What did Shadal care that Leone Modena was a cultured man, that he was willing to take a non-traditional position on the Zohar, that he knew languages? This was in Italy; it was like being in the JTS as opposed to a yeshiva.

That's an oversimplification, of course. I mean, in Italy the Zohar was greatly esteemed. They also hunted heretic in Italy. But there was a totally different, much freer, much more natural and less farchnyakt attitude in Italy.

 
At Tuesday, May 15, 2007 11:53:00 PM, Blogger Ha-historion said...

Todah al hamaamatz!
Thanks for the effort.

There is plenty of food for thought in your post.

 

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