Maccabee's Wars

A venting rage against the ills of our society with some hopeful observations.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Try As We Might, Sometimes We Just Can’t Get It Right

Dr. S.Z. Leiman, in his shabbos shiur today, reiterated the mistakes people so often make when quoting others.

David Ellenson, in two separate works on R’ Ezriel Hildesheimer, mentioned that R’ Hildesheimer, in one of his teshuvoth, (Shailoth u’teshuvoth R’ Ezriel Hildesheimer, volume A, Siman 238) accused Zacharias Frankel of being an apostate.

This was repeated in a volume of Tradition in 1992 and most recently by Dr. Marc Shapiro of Scranton University in “Saul Lieberman and the Orthodox."

Being a subscriber to Tradition and having read two of Dr. Shapiro’s works, I have no doubt, that this error as espoused by Dr. Leiman, was based on Ellenson’s misrepresentation or, at best, misunderstanding of R’Hildesheimer’s works or character.

Dr. Leiman pointed out that R’ Hildesheimer, though he disagreed with Frankel, always had great reverence for Frankel, both while Frankel was alive and posthumously.

Ellenson, on the other hand, who is president of Hebrew Union College, has an agenda against the Orthodox.

Ellenson (in Tradition in Transition – The Orthodox Rabbinate and Apostasy pg. 171) stated:

…”Frankel’s rejection of these views and his insistence that Jewish law had developed over time were sufficient to allow Hildesheimer to label him a meshummad [an apostate]. Frankel, as a non-orthodox Jew in matter of belief, had, in the eyes of the Orthodox, somehow stepped beyond the boundaries of the Jewish religious community. As late as 1873 an Orthodox leader thus felt constrained to utilize a term of apostasy to describe the leader of another Jewish religious viewpoint. Hildesheimer’s use of meshummad to characterize Frankel is a direct result of the legacy he received from his medieval rabbinic forebears on this issue. As such it reveals the limitations inherent in this approach, even from the perspective of Hildesheimer, in the changed circumstances of the nineteenth century.”

What was only revealed, however, was Ellenson’s bias. After Dr. Leiman reviewed the Teshuva, it became quite clear that R’ Hidesheimer was referring to another Frankel who had written a book in German and was by his own admittance an apostate.

In a volume by Wolfgang Ber Frankel aka Binyamin Yissacher Halevi Frankel, (his name, prior to his conversion to Christianity), this other Frankel wrote a volume which spelled out the Tetragammon throughout the book in German.

The question before R’ Hildesheimer was whether the book should be put into a Genizah because of the use of G-d’s holy name.

R’ Hildesheimer’s response was that we can be lenient with such a book since it was not written with any holy intentions, and possibly in part because this fellow was a meshummad, and because of its content, that it actually should be burned.

Well it just goes to show you. We can’t get it right all the time.

Maybe next time I’ll just email Amiel Hirsch and Yosef Reinman.

Maybe they can clear up what is the necessary criterion to become a real meshummad.