Thursday, June 23, 2005


Section 44 in the Prague edition of Maharam's responsa is a missive penned by R Yoel ha-Levi of Bonn. He describes people who go into the fields of non-Jews and cut willow twigs for Hoshana Rabba. His conclusion is that this is forbidden, since stealing from non-Jews is precisely the same as stealing from Jews. In the printed edition, this comparison is qualified by "lehavdil":

מה לי מגוי מה לי מישראל להבדיל, שהרי שניהן תורת גזל נוהג בהן

Lest anyone think that Jews are the same as non-Jews, "lehavdil" comes to say that though someone may be drawing a comparison between them, they are truly incomparable.

The passage is found in Sefer Ra'avya, written by R Yoel's son. There there is no "lehavdil", and R Prof Victor Aptowitzer points out (no. 690, II p. 395, n. 4) that the word was surely added by a later scribe, since the expression is not a medieval one.

Anyway, in a manuscript of Teshuvot Maharam that I'm reading through now (ed. Berlin, p. 121, no. 54), the word is missing too.

Just thought I'd share that with you.


Anonymous francine marino said...

It is truly a loaded word, "lehavdil". It deftly raises one onto a pedestal while demeaning the other. Today it is commonly used to distinguish the name of a living person from a dead one. ostensibly an innocuous usage, intended, I presume to somehow "protect" the living one. But when you hear it used to distinguish between the name of your dead child and someone else's living one (as I have) it can deliver an offensive blow too. And there you have a link between your two most recent entries.

6:45 PM  

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