Wednesday, October 17, 2007

A New Blog that I Highly Recommend - No One Escapes Censorship - Not Even Rashbam

A very interesting and instructive new Blog has started with this cycle of Torah reading. This year it discusses Rashbam's Pirush on the Torah, selecting each week a few pertinent segments and discussing them in depth. I urge you to read it as it is an eye opener on how to read our great Rishonim and how they were fearless in their quest for truth.

Rashbam, the brother of Rabbeinu Tam, was a grandson of Rashi and one of the main Ba'alei Hatosafot. In spite of the high regard accorded to him as a Posek and his esteemed family position, his Pirush suffered at the hand of the religious censors. It was expunged from the Mikraot Gedolot Chumashim from Breishit through Parshat Vayerah. Not all agree that zealotry was the reason for it going missing. Some claim that the version the printer used to copy the Pirush had that part missing, a common occurrence with old Kitvei Yad. However, the modern frum censor is quite obvious, as we will see.

Parshanut discusses Rashbam on Breishit 1:5 and as you can see this comment goes against the Halacha that day follows the night. We always start Shabbat Friday at dusk while the simple translation of the verse indicates that as morning arrived the day was completed as Rashbam in fact explains it. Obviously Rashbam was not too bothered by this.

Zealous censorship is obviously alive and well nowadays. I noticed a revealing, pathetic and at the same time comical occurrence. Our shul has a set of the new Mikraot Gedolot recently published(Machon Hamaor, Mosdot Orot Hatorah) that contains a non-Chavel edition of Ramban. They printed Rashbam from the beginning but skipped his explanation on וַיְהִי-עֶרֶב וַיְהִי-בֹקֶר . They simply omitted a whole comment! They probably thought that a "Talmid To'eh" wrote that!

Rashbam however alludes quite clearly to his explanation in an earlier verse.

רשב"ם בראשית פרק א פסוק ד

ויבדל אלהים בין האור ובין החשך - שי"ב שעות היה היום ואח"כ הלילה י"ב. האור תחלה ואח"כ החשך. שהרי תחלת בריאת העולם היה במאמר יהי אור.

God separated between light and darkness – There was twelve hours daylight at first followed by twelve of darkness. Light came first and then darkness for the start of Creation was with the words “let there be light”.

In other words, Rashbam prepares his explanation in the following verse and confirms from here that in fact 12 hours daylight was the start of the first day. The religious censor missed this and left this passage in the “Frum” edition. Maybe it will disappear too in the next reprint!


  1. Speak out! Don't talk about censorship. Charedim wont listen to you if you do.

    You know what... put this Rashbam as poster Gelula and Bene Barak and say it is missing in some printed editions but existed in all manuscripts. You would get a much better response.

  2. R' Slifkin discusses this Rashbam in the Challenge of Creation