Sunday, January 1, 2012

The Chasam Sofer Disparages R. Moshe Kunitz for his Anti-Discriminatory Opinions

About a week ago I posted about the Me’iri’s anti-discriminatory views. I wrote that there are some who say the Me’iri wrote what he wrote because he wanted to appease the non-Jews. I then added that this was already mentioned by the Chasam Sofer, and I commented on the Chasam Sofer’s referral to R. Moshe Kunitz’s Ben Yochai. Here’s what I wrote:

… regarding the notes printed in the name of the Me'iri in the Vilna edition of the Talmud Bavli, Bava Kama 38a and 113a[, the] Chasam Sofer writes as follows:

התם בב"ק... הפסק בשם המאירי מצוה למוחקו כי לא יצא מפה קדשו והוא דעת האומרים לרשע צדיק באמונתו יחיה, ויעוין בהקדמת בן יוחי.

It is interesting that the Chasam Sofer cites Ben Yochai. Ben Yochai was authored by R. Moshe Kunitz as a response and a challenge to R. Yaakov Emdin's anti-Zohar polemic Mitpachat Sefarim. As Dan Rabinowitz notes ("Nekkudot: The Dots That Connect Us", Hakirah vol. 2) "What is truly fascinating is that nothing in R. Kunitz’s biography would cause one to choose him as a defender of the authenticity of the Zohar. He was solicited by R. Aaron Chorin, a primary founder of the Hungarian branch of the Reform movement of Judaism, to write a responsum permitting various innovations. The fact that R. Kunitz allowed an organ in the synagogue is certainly indicative of his reformist tendencies". And the Chasam Sofer specifically didn't like him. As Dan writes in that article "R. Simeon Sofer (1842-1906) writes that his father, R. Moses Sofer (Hatam Sofer) had wistfully hoped the authorship of these two works could have been reversed, i.e., with R. Emden defending the Zohar from the attacks on it by R. Kunitz." Dr. Marc Shapiro also wrote recently about it, but he didn't elaborate as he is planning to write about it in the next issue of Milin Havivin. As he later wrote in the comments to the linked post, he will specifically address the Chasam Sofer's issue with R. Kunitz.

The said article has since appeared. While it cites two quotes reportedly said by the Chasam Sofer about R. Moshe Kunitz and Ben Yochai, it doesn’t deal substantially with the Chasam Sofer’s contempt for R. Moshe Kunitz.

When I wrote the post, I stole a quick glance at the short Hakdamah to Ben Yochai, I didn’t see anything that ties in with the Chasam Sofer’s or the Me’iri’s view. But an inquiry about it a few days later made me re-check. I discovered that I have missed a page that is entitled מודעה. It basically is a long disclaimer about how all the derogatory terms for non-Jews that Chazal say are only referring to the non-Jews of their times, etcetera. He finishes of with the following words:

The highlighted words כל צדיק באמונתו יחיה, every righteous should live by his faith, is a play on the verse in Chabakuk 2:4 which is traditionally interpreted to mean that whoever has faith, is considered as righteous (See BT Makkos 24a). R. Kunitz uses the verse to refer to the faith of the non-Jews, that we must let them live with their faith and beliefs and not hate them or belittle them because of it.

I’m not sure if R. Kunitz’s disclaimer is what he indeed believed, or he only wrote it because of the non-Jews, but the Chasam Sofer seemed to believe that this was R. Kunitz’s genuine opinion. Therefore the Chasam Sofer writes that the views printed in the Vilna edition of the Talmud in the name of the Me’iri could not have been said by the holy mouth of the Me’iri, rather they are the opinion of one who wrote about the villains (=non-Jews) that they are righteous and that they should live by their faith. We can see therewith how little the Chasam Sofer thought of R. Kunitz. (For a defense of R. Kunitz, see Dr. Shapiro's article, note 10.)

1 comment:

  1. This article was quoted here: