"And Artscroll Created Aleppo in its Own Image": The Positioning of Aleppo as a Holy Ultra-Orthodox Community in Aleppo, City of Scholars

By: Zvi Zohar

Introduction:

In 2005 an elegant book, in an album-like format, was published in the United States, bearing the title Aleppo, City of Scholars. Edited by Rabbi David Sutton with the assistance of Isaac Kirzner, the volume is presented as an extended and improved version of the groundbreaking LiKedoshim Asher Ba'aretz by Haham David Zion Laniado.

Close reading of the book reveals that we have before us not only a translation and expansion, but rather the expression of a worldview regarding the essence and characteristics of Aleppan Judaism. According to this approach, Aleppo in the past was a fully Ultra-orthodox community, in the current meaning of the term. The message conveyed by this book is, therefore, that authentic loyalty to Aleppo's ancient tradition entails the adoption of an Ultra-Orthodox lifestyle and outlook. It is no coincidence, then, that the book was published by Artscroll Press – the leading Ultra-Orthodox publishing house in the United States, and possibly in the whole world.

This article begins by providing some background regarding the two previous editions of LiKedoshim Asher Ba'aretz, and then presents and analyzes characteristic excerpts from the new book, that reflect its authors’ cultural and religious biases and preferences.[1] 

Background

Three works titled LiKedoshim Asher Ba'aretz have been published to this day. Rabbi David Ben-Zion Laniado published his pioneering book LiKedoshim Asher Ba'aretz in the year 5712/1952. 1980 saw the publishing of a work by the same title, which was presented as a second edition of LiKedoshim Asher Ba'aretz, edited by Rabbi Eliyahu Attiah. Twenty five years later, the book that occasioned the current article – Aleppo, City of Scholars – was published in the United States, bearing on its cover the Hebrew title LiKedoshim Asher Ba'aretz. This new book shall be the focus of the current paper. In order to enable the readers to understand the background and context of the latter publication, something should be said with regard to two earlier publications mentioned above.

The first volume: David Ben-Zion Laniado was born in the city of Aleppo towards the end of 1899,[2] and acquired his Torah learning there. In 1919 he came to Jerusalem and joined what might be called 'the Sephardi Old Yishuv', that is, those who continued to live their lives according to the venerable religious-traditional values and praxes of the local Sepharadim.[3] He continued to live within the context of this world until his death in 1969.

Laniado was aware of the decline of the Jewish community in the city of Aleppo, and was especially concerned lest the memory of the Rabbinical scholars who lived and wrote in that city over the course of centuries be lost. In order to erect a literary monument to these scholars, he traveled to the city of his birth a number of times over the 1920s and 1930s, and transcribed the wording of the epitaphs on the gravestones in the city's scholars' burial ground. With time, the goals of his venture became more complex and extensive, and expanded to include additional categories of deceased scholars: scholars of Aleppan origins who lived in Jerusalem, scholars of Damascus, Syrian scholars overseas, Sephardi-Jerusalemite (non-Aleppan) scholars, all Jewish victims murdered in the 1929 riots, the scholars of Izmir, the scholars of Baghdad, and more. Some of these lists were ready for publication as early as the 1930s, and were shown by Laniado to Moshe David Gaon.[4] However, it was only in the spring of 1948 that the author completed his work on the various parts of the book,[5] which was finally published four years later.

The book contains 416 small pages,[6] not continuously numbered;[7] the quality of the paper is poor. The entries are arranged alphabetically according to the scholars’ given names. The information provided about the great majority of the scholars is extremely concise. The structure of the book and the terse details cited for each biographical entry testify that the writer wished, through his work, to enable members of future generations to remember the deceased, and to commemorate the anniversaries of their deaths by reading mishnaiot and saying appropriate prayers. Those cherishing the deceased’s memory in this world will also benefit by merit of this commemoration.

As Laniado writes at the opening of the book:

Blessed is He who kept us alive and sustained us and brought us to implement this good thought of mine, in the publishing and commemoration of the good names of the pious and the devout, who are the holy people of the land [and of Aleppo – Aret"z], and from this their merit shall increase, because they will have satisfaction in heaven, and they [=the deceased] will arouse complete mercy on Israel.[8]

The second volume: The volume published in 1980 is significantly different from the 1952 volume. It bears the title Likedoshim Asher Ba'aretz – on the History of the Scholars and Rabbis of Aret"z (Aleppo), Second Edition. The book was edited by Rabbi Eliyahu (Ben-Mordechai) Attiah, at the request of Ephraim Laniado (son of the original author), and differs from its predecessor in its external and structural format: its pages are large,[9] the paper is high-quality, and it also includes photographs of many of the scholars. It has only two paginations: the first for the various introductions, and the second for the biographical entries. The biographical entries are ordered according to the scholars' family names. All scholars of non-Syrian origin were omitted.[10] The book contains 527 entries, including quite a few that did not appear in the previous edition. The character of the entries is different, too: they are composed as biographical narratives, beginning with the year and place of the scholar's birth, proceeding to describe his activities and the posts he held, and including stories and anecdotes about the scholar, when these were known to the editor. A scholar who authored books will also have the names of his books and their topics listed under his entry. Sometimes there are excerpts from the books' title pages, or words of praise about this scholar by other scholars. It appears that the editor (Rabbi Attiyah) was influenced by the biographical format of Moshe David Gaon's The Scholars of the East in the Land of Israel.[11] Ephraim Laniado (son of the original author) explains that the book's publication serves "a holy and high purpose", since a person who reads

[T]he good deeds [and] the virtues of the pious and the devout… there arises within him a spirit of holiness and purity, and he is favorably influenced by them.[12]

In other words: the book's goal is religious-moral: to awaken the reader to a higher quality of religiosity. Conversely, the goal of the first edition – to benefit the souls of the deceased and through this to bring blessing to those alive in the present – is relegated to secondary significance, although not totally forgotten.[13]

While the main goal of each of these editions is realized through the many hundreds of entries devoted to deceased scholars, the first two editions also contain additional compilations, including:

  1. A speech made by Rabbi David Laniado, shortly after the War of Independence, about the wonders of the IDF’s successes in that war and the divine redemption manifest in the establishment of the State of Israel (on the one hand), and (on the other hand) about the grief caused by the fall of the Old City of Jerusalem and its Jewish sites, and of the Arabs' attacks upon the Jews of Arab countries in general, and those of the city of Aleppo in particular;[14]
  2. A liturgical poem (piyyut) composed by Rabbi Moshe Sutton in honor of the ancient synagogue in Aleppo;[15]
  3. A liturgical poem about Aleppo, by Rabbi David Laniado.
  4. Quotations from the writings of Jewish scholars over the generations about Aleppo and its scholars, compiled by Rabbi Laniado.[16]
  5. Excerpts from a short work by Rabbi Abraham Dayan about the history of Aleppo, some of it of a fantastic-legendary quality and some of it of historical character;[17]
  6. A list of books composed by the scholars of Aleppo;[18]
  7. Rabbinical   documents composed by scholars of Aleppo;[19]
  8. Stories of praise about some of the scholars of Aleppo.

The first six compilations on this list are quite similar in both editions. However, of ten items included in the document section of the original edition (number 7 above), Rabbi Attiah omitted two. One of these is a document from 1876 describing a boycott (herem) by Aleppan Rabbis against Jewish cheese-makers, who when in the pastures among the Arab shepherds used to make cheese not only on weekdays, but also on Shabbat. The second was a document in which the Jews of Safed accept Rabbi Alfandri as their chief Rabbi. It seems that each of these documents was deleted by Rabbi Attiah for different reasons. Thus, he apparently regarded the first document as damaging to the image of Aleppan Jewry, whether because of the Sabbath violation described in it, or because of the use of a boycott. The second document was perceived as irrelevant, as it had nothing to do with Aleppo and its scholars; it was included in David Laniado's original edition because of his special personal connection to the (non-Syrian) Rabbi Alfandri.[20] The attribute common to all the documents included in both editions, is that they were written by Aleppan scholars, who lived in the town of Aleppo itself, rather than in any of the ‘Aleppan’ colonies abroad.

The eighth section -- "stories of praise" -- was added in the 1980 edition. Apparently, the editor wished to differentiate between the sort of information that is accepted as factual in contemporary Israeli society, and those stories in which the magical and super-natural dimension was prominent. Some of these “stories of praise” were included in the book's original edition, under the entries of those scholars about whom they were told.[21] But Rabbi Attiah collected additional stories of praise on top of those existing in the original edition and included them in the 1980 edition,[22] and also made use of oral traditions he received from various Rabbis.

In conclusion, Rabbi Attiah's edition (1980) is more systematically organized than the 1952 edition, and is written in Modern Hebrew. In addition, its contents and phrasing reflect an awareness of rational-critical thought, with a separation between data and historical facts on the one hand, and stories of wondrous content, which only believers of the appropriate spiritual inclinations would accept at face value, on the other hand.

The 2005 Edition: Aleppo, City of Scholars

 Aleppo, City of Scholars was published by ArtScroll press in 2005, and claims to be an extended and improved version of the original LiKedoshim Asher Ba'aretz by Haham David Zion Laniado. It was thus represented to Rabbi Yehudah Ades, head of the Kol Ya'akov Yeshiva in Jerusalem, who writes:

I herewith give my blessing to the project of translating the important book LiKedoshim Asher Ba'Aretz into English. The worthy Rabbi David Laniado of blessed memory worked many years to concentrate into a new and focused form the history of the scholars and Rabbis of Aram Soba… There is great value in translating this book into English in order to bring to the attention of our holy community's younger generation the long history of the community's great Torah scholars…[23]

But the 2005 edition (hereafter: Aleppo) is not a translation of the 1952 edition, and is not based on it.[24] It is the 1980 edition that served as point of departure for the English work, but Aleppo's editors do not feel a commitment to what is written in the 1980 edition, when it does not agree with their outlook and values. In addition, Aleppo includes many materials not to be found in either of the previous works.

The book presents itself as a sort of communal project: many people from the Syrian community of Brooklyn rallied to help prepare the book and support its publication.[25] The book in general is funded by the Adjmi family of Brooklyn, and in addition, each section is funded by a different "patron".[26] 

As described in the introductions to the volume, the process of preparing the 2005 edition was complex. First, it transpired that there was great interest among the members of the community to become familiar with 'Aleppan' Rabbinical   figures, as evidenced by the enthusiastic responses to a series of audiotapes about the scholars of Aleppo which was distributed by Mr. Rico Tousson and to a series of articles by Mrs. Victoria Dwek, edited by Mr. Jack Cohen, in the Syrian community's magazine.

Following this, discussions took place between Rabbi David Sutton and his father in law Rabbi Nosson Scherman, one of the heads of the Ultra-Orthodox Artscroll publishing house. Rabbi Sherman encouraged his son in law to take the enterprise upon himself, and partnered him with an experienced editor, Issac Kirzner. Kirzner was in charge of "translating and editing" most of the materials included in the book, and also of organizational management.[27] Two scholars, Rabbi Abraham Ades and Rabbi Ephraim Levy, were in charge of verifying the facts appearing in the book, and experts were consulted on various sub-topics.[28] Members of the community were asked to contribute photographs in their possession and to deliver testimonies as to figures worthy of being included in the book, and many of them did so. Rabbi Sutton reports that he also made use of materials he found in The Diaspora Museum, in the National Library in Jerusalem, through the Moreshet Aram Soba Heritage Center, and in the archives of the Sephardic [=Syrian] Community Center in Brooklyn.[29] 

In addition, much attention was devoted to the graphical-visual editing. The result is impressive, a large book, in album format, including almost 450 large pages[30] rich with photographs, text boxes, colorful sub-titles, and more. According to the general editors of Artscroll Publishing House, not only is the cover pleasing to the sight, the book itself is remarkable too: "we have worked with many authors, but none of them have been more zealous in producing a work of such impeccable accuracy and high quality."[31]

There is no doubt that the book before us includes information never before printed, and especially information based on testimonies and stories from members of the Syrian community living in Brooklyn or in Israel. Some of these testimonies are surprisingly frank and revealing.[32] In addition, the editor added details to the biographies of scholars and community leaders, whom he found worthy of this.[33]

But unfortunately, this impressive work is characterized by certain traits, which require utmost caution on the reader's part and significantly damage the credibility of the information conveyed in the book, so much so that anyone who relies on the book's contents without checking and rechecking, risks conveying erroneous, biased, and/or distorted 'facts'. Let us consider some of the work’s problematical aspects.

Unidentified Sources of Information

A significant flaw in the book is a total lack of footnotes, and an almost complete disregard for the citation of sources. Thus, we are informed (on p. 147) regarding Rabbi Shalom Chasky that “because of his great piety he would not look at the face of any young man whose beard had not yet grown”. Why is this a sign of piety, and, how does Rabbi Sutton know this about Chasky? Since Rabbi Chasky died in 1872, Sutton must have read this somewhere, and copied it to Aleppo. Is the information reliable? Based in hearsay? Stated by Rabbi Chasky himself? The reader has no way of judging this – and is expected for some reason to have full faith in Sutton as the revealer of impeccable truths. Some of these are clearly very problematical, to say the least. Thus, Aleppo’s description of the wonderful relationship between Rabbis Abulafia and Alfandari in Damascus is presented in a manner that is both saccharine and misleading (the relationship between Rabbi Alfandary and the local Damascene Rabbis was basically stormy and antagonistic, with some lulls).[34] Despite the words of praise in the introduction of ArtScroll acclaiming the in-depth research on which this work is grounded, there is no way of knowing what the various statements in the book are based on. This critique can be multiplied with regard to thousands if ‘facts’ provided in the book, and therefore, anyone relying upon anything asserted by Sutton beyond bare biographical outlines – does so at their own risk. [35] Indeed, even relying upon biographical data can be problematic.[36]

Censored Bibliography

On pp. 424-426 of Aleppo there is a bibliographic list. However, it contains only items originating from sources accepted by Ultra-Orthodox circles. Academic studies about Syrian Jews, about the Rabbis of Aleppo and Damascus, about Aleppan communities in the Diaspora and in Israel – are not mentioned.[37] Omitted also are diaries and journals of people who visited Aleppo over the course of the 20th Century, and reports of Aleppan Jewry which were published in magazines and newspapers – unless the authors are Ultra-Orthodox.

To illustrate the censorship involved, let us consider the photo that appears on p. 23 of Aleppo with the caption "Rabbis of Aleppo". On p. 427 the source for this photograph is given as “Joseph Segal”. Who is this Joseph Segal? A personal acquaintance of the editors? – Aleppo gives no clue.[38] However, anyone who knows something of the sources pertaining to Syrian Jews in the 20th century knows that this is none other than the missionary Joseph Segall, a converted Jew. After many years of serving as head of the Damascus mission on behalf of the London Society for Promoting Christianity Among the Jews, Segall made a journey to Northern Syria. When he arrived in Aleppo he turned to the center of the Jewish life, the ancient synagogue named after Yoab ben Seruyah, and there in the synagogue's courtyard he set up stalls and distributed missionary literature. There, too, he associated with the scholars of Aleppo, took their picture at the request of the Chief Rabbi, and was also permitted to photograph the ten commandments out of the revered Keter Aram Soba.[39] Perhaps Sutton does not want to admit that he read through the book of an apostate-Jew-turned-missionary, and even took materials from such an 'improper' book for publication in Artscroll. In addition, the calm and friendly attitude of Aleppo's scholars towards this same missionary is very different from the Ultra-Orthodox image that Sutton takes pains to attribute to the scholars of Aleppo throughout the book. Apparently, since these are the only photographs of the scholars of Aleppo from before WWI, Sutton does not want to leave them out – but does his best to conceal their origin. Similarly, the bibliography does not include Encyclopedia Judaica – although it is clear that Sutton made use of this source too.[40] It is likely that a systematic examination would yield further examples of such covert sources.

While totally lacking reference to all serious research concerning the Jews of Aleppo and of Syria, Aleppo’s bibliography does include several items whose link to the Jews of Aleppo is completely trivial: a hagiographic biography of Rabbi Yosef Chaim Sonnenfeld (a leader of the Ultra-Orthodox community in Jerusalem in the late 1800s and early 1900s), and a similar biography of Rabbi Abraham Kalmanowitz, head of the Mir yeshiva in New York. The role of these works, in the book's context, is to point out the strong connections between the scholars of Aleppo and these holy and ‘kosher’ figures, their mutual appreciation, and the concern of these Ultra-Orthodox Ashkenazi leaders for the wellbeing of Aleppo's Jews (in general) and scholars (in particular).[41]

Censorship and 'Correction' of 'Improper' Sources Cited in Previous Editions

Not only does Rabbi Sutton ignore academic literature and conceal his use of non-religious sources, he also censors 'improper' sources mentioned in previous editions of LiKedoshim Asher Ba'Aretz. For example: both previous editions quote in full the short work Zichron Divrei Aret"z, by Rabbi Abraham Dayan, which first appeared in 1850.[42] In that composition, Rabbi Dayan included a variety of anecdotal information that had reached him regarding the city of Aleppo and the Jews within it, from antiquity until his own times.[43] Inter alia, Dayan relates that one elderly scholar told him of a tradition according to which, in each one of the old city's gates was preserved a wondrous ancient object. Thus, in one of the gates there was the tooth of an ancient fish, two feet long, in another gate 'the nail of one of the giants, as [large as] a pillow and a duvet', and in a third gate, a jug of sand from the river Sambatyon. Rabbi Dayan knew that some people tend to discount the factuality of information such as this, and so he wrote:

And as I have seen some persons, wise in their own eyes, who say that “the world goes according to its ways”,[44] and they believe nothing unless they see it with their own eyes or unless it's written in the books of Hamirs,[45] therefore I shall transcribe for them here what was written in the book of Me’or Eynayim by dei Rossi on p. 88, in the name of the head of the Christian scholars,[46] book 15 chapter 9, about the size of the giants' body. That [scholar reported that] he saw the tooth of a man which, if cut according to the measurement of our teeth, could be divided into one hundred [of our] teeth.

In other words, in order to put an end to these skeptics' criticism, Rabbi Dayan reveals that he read Azariah dei Rossi's Me’or Eynayim, and that the author quoted there information from the book of a very major Christian scholar. This Christian scholar reported that he saw a huge human tooth, and this finding verifies the fact that giants existed in the past. From this, the above-mentioned skeptics may conclude, that there is no reason to doubt the report about the giant's nail found in one of the gates of the City of Aleppo.

Let us now see, how the paragraph quoted above is paraphrased in Aleppo:  

I have seen some people, convinced of their own intelligence, who think that nothing exists beyond nature and don't believe what they haven't seen with their own eyes or in secular sources. Therefore, for these skeptics I cite a book which quotes secular sources concerning the existence of ancient giants. He writes of scientific finds of the teeth of giants that are one hundred times the size of average human teeth.[47]

The contrast between this "translation" and the original text is striking! The title Me’or Eynayim has been exorcised and it is now cited anonymously as "a book", and the information dei Rossi attributed to “the head of the Christian' scholars” is now attributed to "secular sources". Furthermore, while that Christian scholar reported [one!] giant tooth that he saw with his own eyes, in Aleppo's rewriting this report became "scientific finds" of "teeth of giants" [=many teeth of many giants].

In order to explain this amazing transformation we should recall, that the book of Me’or Eynayim raised a huge debate when it was published, for the writer was of independent critical thought and dared to raise difficult questions regarding various traditions found in Rabbinical literature. The Rabbis of Venice imposed a ban (herem) upon ownership of the book and upon reading it, and the same was done by Rabbis in other towns in Italy, as well as by the Rabbis of Safed. The Mahara"l of Prague attacked Azariah dei Rossi and Me’or Eynayim in his book Be'er haGola.[48] The fact that Rabbi Abraham Dayan, son of the most aristocratic Jewish family in Aleppo and author of several 'kosher' religious books, read Me'or Eynayim, treated it as a reliable source and attributed credibility to information quoted in it in the name of a major Christian scholar – does not at all cohere with the portrait of the characteristics of the Aleppo community and its scholars, which Rabbi Sutton would like to cultivate among his readers. Based on his (not unfounded) confidence that nobody within the English speaking Aleppan community would be likely to discover the change, Sutton permitted himself to 'purify' the original text by Abraham Dayan – a text that neither David Zion Laniado nor Mordechai Attiah had thought to change. Furthermore, knowing that English readers in the early 21st century attribute credibility to scientific findings, Sutton decided to write that in this anonymous text there are "scientific finds of the teeth of giants" – even though all that really appears there is the testimony of one man who saw one tooth.

But this Ultra-Orthodox censorship led the writers of the book to a place where they would surely be surprised to find themselves. For who is this Christian scholar, whose words they converted to "scientific finds"? If one reads the text of Me'or Eynayim one finds that Rabbi Azariah dei Rossi is citing none other than … Augustine of Hippo! Indeed, in his City of God, book 15 chapter 9, Augustine seeks to confirm belief in the veracity of the Bible's reports about the bodily measurements and the life spans attributed by the Bible to pre-diluvian humans. He testifies that on the sea shore by Utica (a city sited in what today is Northern Tunisia) he saw the molar of a human being, apparently one of the giants of yore, that was one hundred times larger than one of 'our' teeth. The bottom line is, then, that the Syrian community inBrooklyn and elsewhere were treated, thanks to Sutton's efforts at censorship, to a text in which the words of St. Augustine in his book 'City of God' were raised to the level of "scientific finds" with an Ultra-Orthodox "hechsher" from Artscroll Publishing! To which we can only say: "this is 'Torah' and this is its reward."

"Blind" Reliance on pseudo-Rabbinic Sources

When he didn't find improper characteristics in the sources before him, our author indiscriminatingly espoused their contents. Any 'scientific' source was disqualified; but any source printed in Rashi script and/or perceived as a religiously kosher text – might as well have been given to Moses at Mt. Sinai. Sometimes, the erroneous results are quite insignificant; thus, in describing Maimonides's pupil Yosef Ben Yehuda (the addressee of The Guide for the Perplexed) the book relies on Laniado and Attiah – while ignoring scientific research.[49] Therefore, it identifies this pupil as Yosef Ben Yehuda ibn Aknin, and not as Yosef Ben Yehuda ibn Shimon; a lot of the biographical information given about this pupil is erroneous because of this disregard.

But this detail is nothing in comparison with the unchecked freedom, devoid of critical caution, with which Sutton presents what is written in arcane, obscure pseudo-Rabbinic texts as factual historical truth. He does this even when these texts are not at all canonical, and when his predecessors refrained from attributing to them unequivocal credibility.

Thus he attributes to Rabbi Dayan's work a much more decisive validity than did Rabbi Dayan himself. To take an example: the Bible does not explain, why King David sent his army under Yoab ben Seruyah on a campaign against Aram Soba. The Jews of Aleppo identify their city as Aram Soba, and thus the above question is of interest to them. Rabbi Dayan reported that he had come across a work that offered an answer:

And I have seen a book in manuscript that wrote, that at that time there were Amalekites there [in Aram Soba], and that is why he fought them.[50]

Is that really why Yoab attacked Aram Soba? Rabbi Dayan is non-committal about the truth-value of this information and does not claim that this was indeed the case. Rather, he informs his readers that an anonymous manuscript conveyed this information so that those who wish can use this to solve for themselves the mystery of what inspired King David to fight for a city so far away from the borders of the Land of Israel. However, in the English edition, this same issue is presented thus:

The city of Aram Soba was at that time occupied by Amalek, the ancient enemy of the Jewish people. And so it was that King David conquered Aram Soba, with Yoab ben Seruyah leading the army.[51]

There is no mention here of an anonymous manuscript, but rather a portrayal of the Amalekite rule of Aram Soba as a concrete historical fact, and as the direct reason for David's decision to conquer the city. Needless to say, this determination has no historical, biblical, or even midrashic basis.

The same is true of information provided by Aleppo as to the city's earliest origins.

At this point it is proper to mention, that according to historical research that has been accepted for decades, there is no connection between the town of Aleppo in Northern Syria and the place "Aram Soba" mentioned in the Bible. The town of Aleppo has existed since the Third Century BCE (at least), and was never under the rule of Aram Soba. The biblically mentioned Aram Soba is a wide ranging area in modern day Southern Lebanon and Central Syria, in which Aramean tribes resided and established a kingdom.[52] There is no known source (Jewish or other) from before the 11th Century C.E. identifying Aleppo with Aram Soba; only from that century onwards do we find Geniza texts in which Aleppan Jews identify themselves as living in Aram Soba.[53] Indeed, a search of Rabbinic sources included in Bar-Ilan University's Responsa Project reveals that in the days of the Rishonim, there were major scholars such as Rashi, Maimonides and Rabbi Joseph Colon who did not identify Aleppo with Aram Soba.[54]

In the original edition of LiKedoshim Asher BaAretz Rabbi Laniado offered the information he had about the city's origins as "as far as we managed to attain and to know, with regard to its foundations in the mountains of holiness from the day of its founding".[55] Laniado clearly identified his sources and also quoted them word for word. In comparison, in Aleppo this same 'information' is presented as credible historical fact, and the sources mentioned in previous editions are both omitted from and added to. Laniado writes:

The author of Seder HaDorot wrote in number two thousand and eighty three – and these are his words that are relevant to our matter:

And Terah the father of Abraham took another wife in his old age, and her name was Pelilah. And she had a son whose name was Soba. And Soba son of Terah, at the age of thirty, begot Aram and Achlin and Marich. Aram son of Soba had three wives, and he begot 12 sons and three daughters. And God gave Aram wealth and assets and much livestock, and he proliferated greatly. And Aram and his brothers went, and they found a valley beyond the land of Kedem. And they built a city called Aram. That is Aram Soba etc.

Until here are his words, may he rest in peace.

The book Seder HaDorot was written by Rabbi Yehiel Heilprin (1660-1746), and was first published in 1769. Its goal was to describe the history of humanity according to the years from creation, which he does based on an eclectic variety of sources, some of them canonical and some not. A perusal of the original text of Seder HaDorot reveals, that the information about Terah's second wife appears a little before the note for the year 2083 from creation – the year in which Terah died, according to Heilprin. According to Seder Hadorot, Terah married Pelilah 25 years before his death, and she had Soba by him. The author of Seder HaDorot calculated that upon Terah's death, Isaac (son of Abraham) was 35 years old, that is, the marriage with Pelilah took place when Isaac was about ten years old. Be that as it may, the information about Soba son of Terah, his offspring and their deeds, is identified by Laniado as originating in Seder HaDorot, and he links Terah’s marriage with Pelilah to the closest date mentioned in Seder HaDorot. And how is all this conveyed in Aleppo?

This is how it reads:

The earliest reference to the name Aram Soba dates from the time of our Patriarch Abraham. Rabbinical   sources tell us, that in his old age Terah, the father of Abraham, took another wife by the name of Pelilah. According to Seder HaDorot, this occurred in the year 2083 after creation, which is 1677 years before the Common Era (B.C.E.) Furthermore we are told that Pelilah bore a son, named Soba. When Soba was 30, three sons were born to him, whom he named Aram, Achlin and Marich. The family expanded quickly. Aram ben Soba had three wives, who gave birth to 12 sons and three daughters. Hashem blessed Aram and his brothers with great wealth. In their ongoing search for pasture for their expanding flocks, they came upon a distant valley, which they found suitable for their needs. The settlement that they established there was given the name Aram, which became the forerunner to the present city of Aram Soba (Aleppo).[56]

It is clear that Sutton (editor of Aleppo) did not look up the original source in Seder HaDorot, for he refers to 2083 as the year in which Terah married Pelilah, which is not as it is written in Seder HaDorot; in this matter, Sutton relied on Laniado. Indeed, from the wording we might understand that besides the date the author of Seder HaDorot does not teach us anything new, and that the information is known to Sutton from "Rabbinical   sources". Yet anyone examining Rabbinical sources from the days of Haza"l, or even examining halachic and commentary literature from the Middle Ages, will not find a word about Terah's wife Pelilah or about her offspring. As far as I could ascertain, these ‘facts’ are mentioned for the first time in Sefer HaYashar, which was first published in 1625 and was probably written around that time by Yosef son of Shmuel HaKatan from the city of Fes.[57] Since the publisher (who is probably also the author) presented Sefer HaYashar as an ancient source, and the book is written in an attractive and interesting style, integrating midrashic elements with themes from gentile chivalrous literature, it became very popular among Jewish readers, was reprinted many times – and is also considered to be a 'proper' and 'Rabbinical  ' book by the Haredi (Ultra-Orthodox) public. In 2001 an English edition of the book was published by an Ultra-Orthodox publishing house situated in Lakewood, one of the bastions of the North American Haredi yeshiva world.[58] In validating the authenticity of this work, the Haredim are on common ground with the Mormons, many of whom believe that this book is an authentic ancient source, from biblical times. [59] Thanks to Aleppo, the Syrian Jews in Brooklyn and elsewhere can now also join the select community of believers in Sefer HaYashar.

Depicting traditions originating in the Middle Ages or later as historical-factual reports of events in Aleppo and its surroundings in biblical times, while ignoring 'improper' (i.e. academic) sources of knowledge, is not limited to this one case, but rather is characteristic of the general attitude of Aleppo. This is the case also regarding Ezra HaSofer's stay in the village of Tedef near Aleppo,[60] regarding the source of the name Haleb (Abraham distributed milk – halav – to the poor there),[61] regarding Yoab ben Seruyah as the original builder of the great synagogue in Aleppo,[62] and more.  

'Correction' and Omission of Biographical Information about Figures Mentioned in the Book

Loyal to its method and its outlook, Aleppo: City of Scholars tries to ‘purify’ the Rabbinical figures mentioned in the book, in order to eliminate any taints that might damage their image. This tendency of Sutton's is most clearly expressed in two areas: general education, and political Zionism.

General education:

According to the classic Sephardic point of view, the ideal Jew is widely educated both in Rabbinical literature and in general high culture. On the contrary, according to the outlook accepted in the contemporary Ultra-Orthodox world, general education (and especially in the 'humanities') is damaging and harmful to an authentic religious faith. Thus, it is not praise but rather an insult to say of a scholar or a Rabbi, that he was familiar, or even interested, in such improper realms of knowledge. And indeed, the book tries to withhold from its readers any information that might cause a general education (or interest in matters of non-Jewish or non-traditional culture) to be attributed to any of the scholars mentioned in the book.

Here are a few examples:

He was great in Torah learning, of a sharp mind, and clear and deep in his Talmudic analysis (‘iyyun); he did not content himself with the learning accepted in the world of yeshivot. Together with his friend Rabbi Yitzhak Dayan he studied Hebrew in depth, the history of Israel and of the nations, and Jewish philosophy. Together they studied the books of the giants of philosophical-religious thought, Maimonides' Guide for the Perplexed, Rabbi Yehuda HaLevy, Rabbenu Bechaye, Rabbenu Saadiah Gaon, and more.[67]

All this has no trace in the 2005 edition, in which it says of his years of study in Aleppo only this:

He studied Torah in Aram Soba under R' Ezra Shayo, and rapidly developed into a brilliant and learned scholar. He studied with R’ Yitzhak Dayyan as well.[68]

It is clear, that Rabbi Sutton does not want his readers to know of Rabbi Abadi's occupation with the studies mentioned in the 1980 edition, nor of his engagement with the Jewish philosophical literature of the Middle Ages – literature that is considered dangerous in the contemporary world of Ultra-Orthodox yeshivas.

Comparing both editions will also reveal, that in the 1980 edition there is a photograph of Rabbi Abadi (that appeared also on the title page of his book Magen Ba'adi, published shortly after his death) in which he looks at his best, with a book open before him and his eyes, full of wisdom and confidence, gazing directly at the camera. On the other hand, in the 2005 edition there is a different photograph, in which Rabbi Abadi looks like a nice old man with protruding ears. It is hard to avoid the impression that abandoning the Rabbi's original and 'official' photograph was no coincidence.

Zionism

Sympathy for Zionism was very much widespread among Sephardi/Mizrahi scholars in the 20th century.[70] However, some of the Aleppan scholars who immigrated to Jerusalem deviated from this attitude, joined together with the Rabbis of the anti-Zionist Ashkenazi Ultra-Orthodox community, and internalized a negative attitude towards Zionism. Later in the 20th century, their attitude radiated back to Aleppo and affected the positions of some Rabbis who remained there.[71] At the same time, there were Aleppan scholars – whether in Aleppo itself, in Jerusalem, or in the communities of the Aleppan Diaspora – who were very much in favor of political Zionism. The position of Aleppo on this matter is, that any information implying that an "Aleppan" scholar supported Zionism should be downplayed as much as possible, and even completely omitted.

Here are a few examples:

We must praise the Lord etc.[of all, acknowledge the greatness of the] Maker of creation,[72] for the miracles and the release and the braveries and the salvations and the wonders and the consolations that you have done for us in these days and in this time.[73] In the War of Independence of the People of Israel, who were liberated from the enslavement of kingdoms and the rule of arrogance was removed from the land.[74] Cruel and tyrannical and wild strangers, the evil kingdom, all the nations surrounded us, circled and surrounded us… they were standing upon us to annihilate us. And the Divine, Blessed is He, saved us from their hands[75], and said, “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways, Not by might, nor by power, but by My spirit, saith the LORD"[76] and he turned the bowl over and turned their bad thought upon them… and he gave us power and courage to fight them and we drove them from the land. And our victory was with His help, blessed be His name… and God helped us through the three groups of ELH, which are Etze"l, Lech"i, Haganah, may God protect them, who stood in the breach and fought with great power and with a strong hand.[77]

Laniado continues in this vein; and these words of his were included also in the 1980 edition, pp. 7-10 (first pagination). But the editor of the 2005 edition completely omitted this speech, and in all of the detailed biographical description of Rabbi Laniado and his works, [78] his Zionist positions are totally erased.

The sentiment of national honor has died within us. The recognition of our selfness has gone from us. We have lost the passion and the aspiration for nationality, for a homeland. The sentiment has died within us so much that we no longer wish to improve our situation by our own selves. We only wait for assistance provided by others, or for miracles and wonders.[80] 

It is important to note that the words "to improve our situation by our own selves" are a Hebrew translation of the term “auto-emancipation” – title of Pinsker’s 1882 classic Zionist manifest.[81] Aleppo makes no mention of Rabbi Dayan's Zionist views.

He published a booklet called Mahashavot Shalom which contains a collection of relevant thoughts from the Gemara and Midrashim to demonstrate that historical events are not random occurrences but are a part of Hashem’s Divine plan.[86]

As in this quotation, so too in the other parts of the entry dedicated to him in Aleppo, Rabbi Attiah's Zionist view is completely omitted.[87]

Highlighting Ultra-Orthodox Attitudes as the Main Characteristics of Aleppan Jewish Culture

Omitting the "maskil"ic and Zionist dimensions of 'Aleppan' scholars is but one aspect of a basic, comprehensive and systematic tendency of Aleppo, which is: to depict the Aleppan Jewish tradition as an Ultra-Orthodox one, in the modern contemporary meaning of the term. As we shall see below, these characteristics are reflected in the way realms of activity, beliefs, and opinions are described. But as an overall introduction to this section of the article we must note, that according to Aleppo's editors, the ultimate yardstick of Jewish authenticity is:  the leaders of the Ultra-Orthodox Rabbinical   Ashkenazi world, who are the most important reference group in the Jewish world. Therefore, one of the ways in which the book attempts to prove the importance and worth of the scholars of Aleppo and of the Aleppan Rabbinical   tradition, is to show the strong connection between these Ashkenazi "Torah Greats" (Gedoilim) and the scholars of Aleppo. This attitude is found in many places throughout the book;[88] and it is wonderfully reflected in the story cited by Aleppo to elevate Rabbi Ezra Attiah.

Haham Ezra Attiah, head of the Porat Yosef yeshiva, was beyond doubt one of the 20th Century's greatest 'me'aynim' (analytical Talmudic scholars), and it is doubtful whether there was any Rabbi from any country who could equal him in this. In the 1980 edition it is said of him: "Rabbi Ezra was blessed in his days to bring back the Golden Age of Spanish Jewry".[89] In the 2005 edition, many stories of praise are quoted about him, but this above sentence is omitted. On the other hand, there is one paragraph, which reflects the editors' Haredi attitudes more than anything else. And this is what it says:

The Moetzet Gedolei Torah, the group of top Torah scholars of the generation, would meet regularly to discuss matters of the Jewish community at large. The group mostly spoke in Yiddish. Although he didn’t understand the language, R’ Ezra would attend these meetings. “I get spiritually uplifted to see all the great Rabbis together,” he would explain.[90]

The Moetzet Gedolei Torah did not, of course, bring together all the top scholars of the generation, but rather was the leading body of the Agudat Yisrael movement, an entirely Ultra-Orthodox organization, while many top scholars were not members of the Aguda. But, for the editor of Aleppo, the Rabbis who call themselves “Torah Greats” are not the leaders of a specific political/ideological group, but rather the most important Torah scholars of the generation – in general. In the story, Rabbi Attiah sits among them. They know he can't understand Yiddish. Do they switch to a language he can speak, then? No. Is this perceived by Aleppo as problematic? No. On the contrary: the story's moral is, how much Rabbi Attiah venerated these Rabbis, so much that he spent his time sitting with them even though he didn't understand what they were saying, and they showed no consideration for him. His veneration of them and belittling himself before them – are a sign of his Ultra-orthodox 'kosherness', according to Aleppo's criteria.

After this introduction, let us proceed to examples of the connection that the book makes between the Ultra-Orthodox Ashkenazi world and the authentic Aleppan attitude.

1) Rejection of Modern Education and Support of Rabbinical Education of an Ultra-Orthodox Character

In his work In Ships of Fire to the West [Heb.] Yaron Harel demonstrates, that the scholars of Aleppo unequivocally supported the existence of Alliance schools in the city. Some of them sent their children to learn in these schools, and others expressed their support for the schools and for the Alliance Israélite Universelle on various occasions. Harel writes that there is a widespread misconception that since the very beginning there was resistance towards modern education on the part of "the conservatives, who were zealous for traditional education"; however, "an in-depth examination of the sources documenting Alliance's history in Syria leads to a complete rejection of this perception".[91] 

He notes, that "in principle, Syrian scholars did not see modern education itself as wrong. The fact that they were the successors to the Sephardi humanist Jewish view towards culture led them to be open to the encounter with western culture, not shut themselves off… when zealotry did arise in the Syrian communities, its strength was not great, as those who led it were students from the back rows, who tried to play on fanatical prejudice based on the ignorance of the masses. The religious leaders as a rule supported Alliance… only at the end of the 19th Century, when the Alliance staff began to disregard the local Rabbinical   leadership and neglect religious studies, and when the Aleppan community in Jerusalem started to grow closer to the Ashkenazi Ultra-Orthodox and to support their battle against general education, did the scholars of Syria begin to oppose Alliance and its educational enterprise. In order to cover up the previous support of Alliance, the later attitude was projected onto the past".[92] 

Aleppo reflects an essential internalization of the Haredi Ashkenazic position by a certain sector of the members of the present day Aleppan community. According to Aleppo, the original ‘Aleppan’ religious position entails the rejection of general education, and regards the modern world as a threat to Judaism. The chapter dealing with Jewish education in Aleppo (pp. 49-54) reflects such a viewpoint. It is based entirely on 'the writings of Rabbi Yitzhak Zafrani', whose father Rabbi Shlomo Zafrani taught for many years in the Degel Torah LeTalmidim yeshiva in Aleppo.[93] Yitzhak studied with his father and also with Rabbi Moshe Me'Eli-HaCohen Tawil (1896-1977), who headed the yeshiva from the day it was established in 1921 until 1956.[94] It is clear, that the educational-cultural worldview of Rabbi Yitzhak Zafrani corresponds to the positions of his father and teacher. What were the attitudes of his Rabbi, Haham Moshe Tawil, on matters of education? Rabbi Yom Tov Yedid Halevy, who served as the last chief Rabbi of Aleppo, described Rabbi Tawil's character, and among other things he wrote:

Who more than he was an enthusiastic zealot, who more than he was brave of heart and great in strength in zealotry for the honor of God and his Torah? Who like him had no fear of anyone, and was not forgiving towards any person in any case involving desecration of God and disgrace of the commandments and the Torah?... Who does not remember full well, that when the Alliance Israélite Universelle association wished to influence the poor children of the Talmudei Torah, the youngest of the flock, to attract their heart with smooth talk to leave their Talmudei Torah schools and join with them to have them drink foul waters and fill themselves with bitter food, who does not remember that he was almost the only one who felt the danger looming from this, and with an agitated heart he rose up like a lion and girdled his loins and went to battle against them and overcame his enemies… and he fought them with a strong hand, and did not give them the possibility to influence, and his strengths were sufficient to rescind their council and undo their thought.[95] 

From these words we can infer an acknowledgement of Yaron Harel's description, that the scholars of Aleppo as a rule did not oppose Alliance, and that the opposition only arose at a relatively late stage, and even then was not common to all. We can also infer, that the battle was not for the education of all the community's children – since the upper and middle classes, while traditionally observant of religion, were convinced of the value of secular studies -- but rather only for the education of the poor.[96] Indeed, it is clear that of all the scholars of Aleppo, Rabbi Moshe Tawil was the greatest zealot and the toughest in his opposition to his enemies, the teachers of Alliance and their despicable supporters. His student and colleague Moshe Zafrani, who in his early days was misled by Alliance and taught there for a short while, also ‘saw the light’ and became a staunch opponent of modern education. It is no wonder, then, that this extremist view is also the one expressed in the writings of Rabbi Yitzhak Zafrani.

In Aleppo, the Alliance schools are demonized as institutions whose main goal was to bring about cultural assimilation, dilution of Jewish identity, and secularization.[97] In contrast, the traditional religious educational institutions, both the Talmudei Torah and the Degel HaTorah yeshiva, are portrayed in positive, glowing colors.[98] However, contemporary sources (from the 1920s, 1930s, and 1940s) describe the situation in these institutions, and the situation of 'the world of Torah' in Aleppo during this period, in a very different light.[99]

An example of the gap between the situation as portrayed in Aleppo and as described in contemporary sources can be found in the one occasion in which the book attempts to support its assertions with quotations from a non-Ultra-Orthodox source. Aleppo reports that:

In 1943 the [Talmud Torah] school was visited by Janet Ben-Zvi, the wife of the second president of Israel. In her book, BiShelichut LeLebanon VeSuria, she gave a glowing description of the Talmud Torah and her impressions. The school was housed in a building of broad dimensions, surrounded by beautiful gardens and fruit orchids. The fragrance of the fruit blossoms pervaded the entire Talmud Torah. She described the principal, R’ Yitzhak Chehebar, as a young man who had achieved his position through his own efforts. She found him to be both pious and intellectual. In the school she saw hundreds of students.[100]

The book "quoted" here -- On Mission to Lebanon and Syria (1943) [Heb.] -- can be found in many Israeli libraries.[101] The author is indeed Mrs. Ben-Zvi. But where did Aleppo get the idea that her name was Janet? The answer is clear: Sutton, or one of his assistants, saw that the author's name was Rachel Yanait Ben-Zvi. They had never heard of the name "Yanait". But on the other hand, they did not want to ask a ‘secular scholar' about this name, or felt prevented from doing so. Therefore they sat and wondered: what sort of name is this? Finally, they decided that it must be an alternate spelling of a name they knew well from Brooklyn: Janet. And so the 'Hashomer' activist, leader of the women laborers' movement, was transformed from Yanait (a name she chose for herself because of her admiration for the Hasmonean king Yanai) to "Janet". This small issue teaches a lot about the cultural world of Aleppo's editors, and about their research. And now, let us open the book and see: what's written in Rachel Yanait's original account, about the Talmud Torah in Aleppo's old city?

The author describes that the Talmud Torah, the yeshiva, and the Alliance school for the girls of the Old Jewish Quarter, were all situated near the city's main brothel. First she visited the Alliance girls' school, which was 'an ancient house, like the remains of the citadel's layers. Half darkness, heavy walls, the plaster was peeling off and hung in tatters'.[102] Then she continues:

I move on to the "Talmud Torah" school nearby. More spacious. In the middle of the courtyard a tree, whose branches provide shade. The principal, local born, who rose up by his own merits, is religious and educated. I couldn't help myself: "Sir, how so? A school adjacent to a brothel?" He is full of grievance at this, just like the headmistress [of the Alliance school for girls]; but he has gotten used to it, for there is no other building to be found. There are hundreds of children in the school, most of the teachers are local, students of the Talmud Torah and the yeshiva... We go through the classes, the principal's diligence and devotion are palpable.[103]

All in all, Rachel Yanait's report of the Talmud Torah is not negative, and she is indeed admiring of the principal, his diligence and his devotion. But as for the school's physical conditions, she doesn't say that it was a building of broad dimensions, only that it was more spacious than the Alliance school. And where are the beautiful gardens and fruit orchids surrounding the building? And where is the fragrance of the fruit blossoms, pervading the entire Talmud Torah? One fruitless tree, shading the courtyard with its branches, becomes beautiful gardens and fragrant orchards at the stroke of Aleppo’s editor's pen![104]

We mentioned above, that Rabbi Moshe Tawil is depicted in Aleppo as the knight of devotion and of religious zealotry, thanks to whom the Ultra-Orthodox character of Aleppo's community was preserved. The reader might think, that Haham Tawil was of central and important public standing, and that his attitude was accepted by the wider public and by the community's leadership. Rachel Yanait traveled to Aleppo, in order to find girls who wanted to immigrate to Israel under the auspices of the Youth Aliyah (Aliyat HaNoar). She writes, that:

This "scholar" [=Rabbi Moshe Tawil] tried, this last Shabbat, to instill some turmoil in the hearts of the Jews of Aleppo – "woe, how can they give over Jewish girls to wanton life in the Land of Israel?!" but he was promptly shut up. With me in my actions were already Mr. Rahamim Nehmad, head of the community, and all the members of the local council, and also many of the parents themselves – with whom I had already come into contact.[105]

From this description we learn, that Rabbi Tawil was indeed of anti-Zionist and rejectionist attitudes, and inter alia opposed the girls' immigration to the Land of Israel; however, this was not the position of the community's leaders, or of the girls' parents... Why, then, did Aleppo choose Haham Tawil of all people as representing the authentic ‘Aleppan’ attitude? Clearly: because his attitude fits well with the Haredi outlook that Sutton seeks to attribute to the Aleppan tradition in toto.[106]

Especially prominent in their negative attitude towards general education were those Rabbis of Aleppan origins who settled in Jerusalem; previous tendencies towards religious conservatism, which may have inspired them to chose to take up residence in Jerusalem, were strengthened and amplified there as an influence of their connections with the Ashkenazi Ultra-Orthodox Community (Edah Haredit). There are numerous examples of this in the book, and we shall mention a few.

The pamphlet The Way of the Torah [Heb.], rejects modern education even if it is ‘disguised’ as religious, and asserts that Ultra-Orthodox education is the only authentic Jewish education. It was first published in Vilna in 1902, and then republished in 1920 in Jerusalem by persons associated with the Edah Haredit. Rabbi Yosef Yedid (son of Mordechai) Halevi (1867-1930) emigrated from Aleppo to Safed in 1890, and from 1900 took up residence in Jerusalem. In preparation for the 1926-7 school year (late in the summer of 1926) a proclamation appeared in Jerusalem, opening with a resolute declaration signed by Rabbi Yedid Halevi, to wit: all that is said in the pamphlet The Way of the Torah is complete truth, and therefore, anyone who believes in the Torah and in God

must educate his children with the heritage of our Rabbis, may they rest in peace, the curriculum of old. Anyone who speaks, interprets or teaches in accordance with his own views as he might teach chronicles and history that people fabricate with their own minds, is denying the Torah and is called is a heretic and an apostate and has no part in the World to Come… No study at all is better than such study, for it is better to be a total ignoramus than to be a heretic and an apostate.[107] 

This declaration by Rabbi Yedid-Halevi is followed by the testimony of Rabbi Yosef Chaim Sonnenfeld, leader of the Ultra-Orthodox anti-Zionist faction in Jerusalem. Rabbi Sonnenfeld writes that the contents of The Way of the Torah are generally acknowledged to be extremely worthy from a religious perspective, and that all who support its publication will be blessed. Finally, the proclamation features the signatures of 23 Sephardi/Mizrachi Rabbis, five of them from Baghdad, one from Hebron, and the others from Jerusalem.

The impression one gets from casually looking over the proclamation is that these 23 Rabbis also signed in support of Yedid-Halevi and Sonnenfeld's views, encouraging Sephardic parents to enroll their children in Haredi schools for the 1926/7 school year. But a more careful reading reveals that these scholars were no longer alive when this proclamation was written, but rather that their signatures had adorned other proclamations and documents, published years earlier, against modern/heretical education.[108] It is thus the case that the 1926 proclamation was signed by only two Rabbis: Rabbi Yedid Halevi and Rabbi Sonnenfeld. Now, at that time quite a few Rabbis of Aleppan descent lived and worked in Jerusalem, many of whom held quite conservative views – and not one of them added his signature to the proclamation. Furthermore: looking through the Laniado edition and the Attiah edition one finds, that the whole tale of Rabbi Yedid Halevi's zealotry and his closeness to the Ashkenazi Edah Haredit is not mentioned there at all. It is therefore clear that the emphasis on this matter, presenting that proclamation as reflecting the authentic spirit of the Aleppan tradition, is an intentional decision made by the editors of Aleppo.

In this context we must mention, that two years later (in 1928) a book was published in Jerusalem including two religious works by members of the Tawil family: E"t Sofer by Rabbi Ezra Eli-Hacohen Tawil (Aleppo, 1830-1890) and Matza Haim by his son, Rabbi Haim Tawil, who was serving at the time as a Rabbi in Brooklyn. At the end of this book the pamphlet The Way of the Torah was appended, with the accompanying explanation that "since it was published in 1920 for the second time with the approval of the Rabbis, and did not spread among our brothers the Sephardim, therefore our community now wish to grant the public this opportunity." The phrasing clearly indicates, that these words were written from an Ashkenazi perspective, and that the writers are quite simply admitting that the (Ultra-Orthodox) messages conveyed in the pamphlet are not accepted by 'our Sephardic brothers' and therefore the pamphlet should be disseminated among them, so that they may achieve the hoped-for identification with its position.[109] A perusal of Aleppo confirms that by the year 2005 some sectors of the Syrian Jewish community had succumbed to this attempt.[110]

2) Rejection of Zionism

Opposition to Zionism is considered to be a great virtue, according to Aleppo. We have already seen (above) how much the editors toiled in order to remove this 'taint' from some important Aleppan scholars. In a similar manner, Aleppo praises scholars who oppose Zionism, such as Rabbi Haim Shaul Dweck (1857-1933) who warned against connections with political parties and 'against being drawn into the schemes of the Zionists', some of whom pretend to be defenders of the Torah and of tradition – only in order to more effectively damage Judaism, in the future.[111]

In addition, Aleppo's editors devoted efforts to add ‘new’ sources to the “documents” section of the book, sources that had not been included in the two previous editions. In contrast to the policy of the earlier editions, the ‘Aleppan’ sources added by Sutton were not written by Rabbis residing in the city of Aleppo, but rather by Jerusalemite [Ashkenazic] Haredi Rabbis, joined by certain 'Aleppan' Jerusalemite scholars who were closely connected to the Edah Haredit. As an example, let us consider document 24, dealing with the internal political situation of the Jewish public (yishuv) in Eretz Israel.[112] As necessary background we shall remind the reader that since the end of WWI the Jewish Yishuv in the Land of Israel started to organize in order to establish an elected body (Asefat ha-Nivharim) to represent the Yishuv vs. the British government. The establishment of this body, and controversies as to its constitution and the means by which it should be elected, stirred up the Yishuv throughout the 1920s.[113] Here is the preamble of the original Hebrew document, as photographed on p. 399:

Many honorable people from our community have come before us, the undersigned, scholars and Rabbis of the Sephardi community, and asked us whether it is permitted according to the law of our holy Torah to participate in the elections for the elected assembly, as they have agreed that it should be constituted by both men and women, including also people who desecrate Shabbat in public…

In other words, those raising the question assumed that the participation of women in political life might be antithetical to Torah, and that non-observant Jews are halakhically ineligible to be elected to public office. Therefore, they asked the Rabbis if it was halakhically permissible for observant Jews to vote in the elections for the assembly.

This document is introduced as follows, by the editors of Aleppo:

Proclamation Against Participation in the Secular Zionist Party (1926)

In the year 1926, the secular Zionists organized a political party known as the Vaad Leumi. The Sephardic Rabbis of Israel signed a proclamation against participating in it, due to the irreligious practices of the candidates. An English translation of the proclamation is provided here.

These words are rife with ignorance and misleading. It is clear that the editors know nothing of the history and life of the yishuv. There was never anything called "the Secular Zionist Party", but rather there was a wide variety of Zionist parties, some secular, some of a traditional character, some religious. In addition, the words "Vaad Leumi" do not appear anywhere in the proclamation, and there is no need to say that the Vaad Leumi was not a political party, nor was it secular, nor was it established in 1926. Rather, it was the executive body of the Elected Assembly, it was founded in 1920, and it included representatives of almost all parties and groups within the Yishuv, with a wide spectrum of attitudes and praxes vs. the Jewish religion. In addition, the signers of the document were not "the Sephardic Rabbis of Israel" but rather certain Sephardic Rabbis who endorsed the position of the Haredi anti-Zionist Agudat Yisrael on this issue. Interestingly, less than a decade later, Agudat Israel backtracked and decided to join the Vaad Leumi, in 1935.

It is clear, that the editors of Aleppo know nothing of these matters: what were the institutions of the Jewish Yishuv during the British mandate, what is the elected assembly, what is the Vaad Leumi, what were the developments and the processes in the relationships between the Old Yishuv and the New Yishuv, etc. It seems that it didn’t occur to them to take an interest in these things, or even to ask someone who might enlighten them. The main thing as far as they are concerned is to highlight the notion that "the Sephardic Rabbis of Israel" opposed the Zionist "Vaad Leumi", and to impress upon their readers, that the true Aleppan tradition is reflected in anti-Zionist texts such as this one.

Similarly, the editors of Aleppo depict the true "Syrian" position as opposing the teaching of religious studies in the Hebrew language, because "Hebrew had become the means by which Zionists introduced antireligious ideas and vulgar language into common speech".[114] Yet already in 1914 Rabbi Matloub ‘Abadi had opened in Aleppo itself a Talmud torah school Magen David in which all subjects were taught in Hebrew, and after his emigration to Brooklyn in 1921 this method became the cornerstone of Jewish education in the Syrian community there, with the community’s chief Rabbi Jacob Kassin fully endorsing this method of Ivrit b’Ivrit.[115] So, why is it that Aleppo presents the Haredi position held by certain Jerusalem Rabbis of Syrian extraction as the clear voice of Aleppan Torah?

3) Rejection of non-Ultra-Orthodox Modern Jewish Organizations

The B'nai B'rith organization is a pillar of Jewish public life in the United States. It was established there in the 19th Century, and worked to unify middle class Jews to act for the good and the future of Jews wherever they may be. The members of this organization were of various political views and various levels of religious observance. B'nai B'rith lodges were established in the Middle East as early as the 1880s, with the participation of the most prominent members of the local Jewish communities, including many fully observant persons and prominent Rabbis. In 1924 the organization's leadership in the Middle East initiated the establishment of new lodges in Syria, which was then under French mandatory rule.[116] The celebration of the establishment of the Damascus lodge was a great success, conducted with the enthusiastic participation of the city's Chief Rabbi. But in Aleppo the initiative roused the suspicion of the community's Rabbis. To convince them of the religious legitimacy of the endeavor, the B'nai B'rith organization obtained letters of support from the Chief Sephardic Rabbi of the Land of Israel, Rabbi Yaacov Meir, and from the Chief Rabbi of Turkey, Rabbi Haim Bejerano. As a result Rabbi Hamwi, chief Rabbi of Aleppo, revoked his opposition, and the lodge was established. But this did not go over well with the Aleppan Rabbis in Jerusalem, and especially with Rabbi Haim Ades. And thus we are told in Aleppo:

In 1924, a B’nai B’rith office was established in Aleppo. The Torah sages of the Aram Soba community who were living in Eretz Yisrael, among them R’ Ades, disapproved of this organization. R’ Ades was very close with R’ Yosef Chaim Sonnenfeld and visited him frequently. When R’ Ades learned about the founding of B’nai B’rith in Aram Soba, he, R’ Yosef Yedid and R’ Ezra Harari-Raful asked R’ Sonnenfeld for his opinion about it. When he heard that R’ Sonnenfeld vehemently opposed it, R’ Ades publicized R’ Sonnenfeld’s opinion, and it was quoted in a proclamation entitled Koshet Dibrei Emmet, which publicly decried it.[117]

As usual, Aleppo's editor does not inform us on what this account is based on. If we accept that this is what indeed happened, we now realize that the prolonged and resolute opposition to the B'nai B'rith office in Aleppo originated not with the Rabbinical authorities in Aleppo itself, but rather with Rabbi A.H. Ades, who was closely connected to Rabbi Sonnenfeld. The views of Rabbi Sonnenfeld, as adopted by Rabbi Ades and his colleagues, were the main source for the proclamation of opposition to B’nai Brith, titled Koshet Dibrei Emmet, signed anonymously by "the Committee for the Light of the Torah in Aram Soba".[118] Aleppo's editor summarizes the story thus:

Due to the far-reaching wisdom and courage of R’ Ezra and the other Aleppo sages, the attempt to found a B’nai B’rith branch in the city failed. The association’s representatives were forced to return to their cities and countries, and the Aleppo Jews were saved from their detrimental influence.[119]

But this is untrue. The B'nai B'rith office in Aleppo was not closed down, but rather continued to exist. A tumultuous relationship characterized its connections with its conservative opponents, and reports of this can be found in many sources and documents from the 1920s and 1930s.[120]

Based on what, then, did Aleppo write the opposite of the truth? Is it the case here too, like in many other places in the book – some of which we have reviewed, and most of which would require a whole book if we were to review and analyze them – that its authors are simply convinced that this is what reality must have been, and therefore feel that they can print it with no examination or documentation and with no critical assessment or regard for fact? Or was this done knowingly, assuming that no member of the Aleppan community in Brooklyn would be able to check up after it?

Be that as it may, this article has already expanded far beyond my original plan, and it is time to conclude it. I could not find a more appropriate ending than Aleppo's translation of the caption of the 1924 proclamation of opposition to the establishment of the B'nai B'rith lodge in Aleppo. As one might remember, the (original) Hebrew title, alluding to proverbs 22:21, is Koshet Divrei Emet, that is: very correct words of truth.[121] And how is this title translated in Aleppo? With total lack of comprehension of the biblical allusion and of its meaning, the authors render the caption as The Adorned Words of Truth, a title that speaks not only for itself but for the entire volume of Aleppo.

Translated from the Hebrew by Inbal Karo


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[1] Nonetheless, there are many additional examples that are not discussed in this article, due to lack of space.

[2] On the 28th of Kislev 5660 (Nov. 11th 1899).

[3] About the difficulty in attributing the term "Yishuv Yashan" to the Sepharadim see Hana Herzog, 'The Terms Yishuv-Yashan and Yishuv-Hadash in a Sociological Light' [Heb.] Katedra 32 (1984). One of the reasons for this difficulty stems from the fact that among the Ashkenazim, the dichotomy "Yishuv Yashan – Yishuv Hadash" also signifies a dichotomy regarding the Zionist venture, which was not the case with the Sephardim, who were by and large sympathetic towards this enterprise.

[4] See: Moshe David Gaon, The Scholars of the East in the Land of Israel [Heb.], vol. II, 1938, p. 312. Gaon states that vol. I (which is apparently equivalent to pp. 1-96 in the 1952 edition's fourth pagination) was published in 1934, and that Laniado also had completed writing vol. II, devoted to the Aleppan scholars in Jerusalem (equivalent to pp. 97-124 in the above pagination) and vol. III devoted to the Rabbis of Izmir (= pp. 1-16 of the sixth pagination in the 1952 edition). The work that Gaon mentions as having appeared in 1934 has no record in the United Catalogue of Israel's Libraries (ULI).  

[5] The last line of the last page of the book reads "and it was completed on Tuesday, Purim Katan, 14 Adar A, 5708th year of creation [1948]".

[6] The pages measure 4.6 X 6.4 inches.

[7] There are six separate paginations, containing 8, 16, 40, 176, 96, and 80 pages respectively.

[8] First edition, p. 7 (first pagination). Similarly, he writes in the book's internal cover page that its goal is "to arouse their virtue in the world, may their souls rest in goodness and their offspring inherit the land, the memory of the pious and holy for life of the world to come, and may their souls be bound in the bundle of life, may their memory protect us, amen. May their virtue and the virtue of their scholarship and holiness protect us and our offspring till the end of all generations.'

[9] About 8 X 10.4 inches.

[10] In the first edition, 161 pages were devoted to scholars of non-Syrian origin, and the exact same number of pages was dedicated to Syrian scholars. In other words: half of the scholars were omitted, following the decision to focus only on Syrian scholars and their offspring.

[11] And indeed, he often quotes from this work, without citing it. See for example the 1980 entry for Shabbetai Bohbout.

[12] From: introduction by the author's son, Likedoshim Asher Ba'aretz, 1980, p. 1 (first pagination).

[13] In the appendix, Rabbi Attiah brings an organized list of the dates of death of the scholars appearing in the book (pp. 222-225, second pagination).

[14] Pp. 1-8 in the first edition (first pagination) = pp. 7-11 (first pagination) in the second edition.

[15] Pp. 1-8 (third pagination) in the first edition = pp. 11-17 (first pagination) in the second edition. In the second edition, photographs of the Aleppo synagogue are interspersed between the poem's stanzas.

[16] The liturgical poem and the quotations, in pp. 1-16 (second pagination) in the first edition = pp. 18-23 (first pagination) in the second edition. Rabbi Attiah performed a linguistic-scientific editing of the Rabbinical   quotations brought by Rabbi Laniado, probably in order to present things in a manner acceptable to the more widely educated readers. Accordingly, stories of a magical-legendary character were omitted from this part, and some of them were moved to the "Rabbis' praises' appendix. Nonetheless, Rabbi Attiah omitted a reference by Rabbi Laniado (on p. 12) to Frumkin's History of the Scholars of Jerusalem [Heb.] – just as in other places he omitted references to 'scientific' sources (see above, note 12).

[17] Pp. 9-18 (third pagination) in the first edition = pp. 23-28 (first pagination) in the second edition. The excerpts are from the work Zichron Divrei Eretz  printed by Rabbi Abraham Dayan in his book Holekh Tamim Ufoel Tzedek, which was first published in 1850, Livorno.  

[18] Pp. 137-148 in the first edition (fourth pagination) = pp. 219-221 (second pagination) in the second edition. Apparently, Rabbi Attiah did not update this list, despite the fact that additional books were quoted in the actual entries in his edition. However,Yaron Harel has published a sophisticated bibliographic work, including all the works of 'Aleppan' scholars (whether they lived in Aleppo or in other places). See: Yaron Harel, Sifrei Are"tz [Heb.], Jerusalem, 1997.

[19] Pp. 163-168 (first edition, fifth pagination) = pp. 184-188 in the second edition (second pagination).

[20] About this special connection see: Abraham Ades, 'on the Character of the Author', in Likedoshim Asher Baaretz (1980 edition), p. 4 (first pagination). Rabbi Attiah included excerpts from this document in the entry devoted to Rabbi Alfandri.

[21] Thus, wondrous stories about Rabbi Nissim Lofez appear in the 1952 edition in pp. 62-64 (fourth pagination), as part of the factual information about Rabbi Lofez, while in the 1980 edition these stories appear in pp. 195-196 (second pagination), while the entry "Nissim Lofez" appears on p. 70 (second pagination).

[22] Among the books he used: Shivchei Mahara"m [Labaton] by Rabbi Eliezer Yedid (Jerusalem 1932); Ohel Yesharim by Rabbi Abraham Antabi (Jerusalem 1961); Kessef Tsaruf by Rabbi Yosef Bechor Yosef (Jerusalem 1926) and more.

[23] Letter dated 9 Shevat 5765 (2005), published in the opening pages of the 2005 edition.

[24] Thus for example, the epitaph of each of the scholars of Aleppo, which was so central to Laniado, and which was carefully transcribed in the 1980 edition as well, is completely missing in the 2005 edition.

[25] These are listed in pp. III-V of the introduction.

[26]  Ibid, p. III.

[27] Ibid.

[28] Such as: religious liturgy and hazanut, the transcription of documents from the oriental-Rabbinic Solitreo script into more familiar Hebrew letters, everyday life in Aleppo under the French and Syrian regimes, and more.

[29] According to the acknowledgements of these institutions, on p. IV. And as the general editors of the Artscroll series write in their introduction (p. II): "Rabbi Sutton has not been content to rest on the laurels of Rabbi Laniado; he has done considerable research in America and Israel, unearthing nuggets of information and collecting a wealth of photographs, many of them never before published."

[30] 8.5 X 11 inches, most of them with two columns of text.

[31] P. II.

[32] Thus for example, the very instructive description, highly interesting and rich in detail, by Mr. Ralph Tawil, in which he details the methods through which Mr. Isaac Shalom deceived the board members of the community center of Aleppan Jews in Brooklyn, in order to advance his plans for establishing the communal Magen David school. See Aleppo, pp. 313-314. Similarly instructive is the story, presented by Aleppo in a very positive light, of how it was proven that the principle of the Alliance school in Aleppo did not put on his tefillin: a piece of raw meat was placed in his tallit and tefillin bag, and left there until the meat rotted and its stench spread throughout the school (p. 356). Surprisingly, the disgrace of the tefillin was considered worthwhile in order to disgrace the principle.

[33] An example: Rabbi Eliyahu Lofez (1890-1938). In the 1952 edition, only the wording of his epitaph appears (p. 69 in the last pagination). In the 1980 a column and a half (about 400 words) are dedicated to him (p. 68). In the 2005 edition he is allotted more than six columns (about 2400 words). (pp. 264-267).

[34] See Yaron Harel, Between Intrigues and Revolution (Heb.), Jerusalem 2007, p. 203-235. (and compare: Zvi Zohar, Masoret U-Temura, Heb., Jerusalem 1993, p. 72). Sutton probably based his entry upon Shraga Weiss, Hahmei HaMizrah, Jerusalem 1982. But that work is completely hagiographical – and thus very much in tune with Aleppo.

[35] A few further examples, with regard to historical information cited in Aleppo. The book gives the population of Aleppo in the early 1930s as 18,000 people, and its population in 1947 as 10,000. However, the highest number of Jews that ever resided in Aleppo was c. 12000, on the eve of WW1; in the early 1930’s they numbered 7500 and by 1938 no more than 6000 remained (See: Zvi Zohar, A Socio-Cultural Drama in Mandatory Aleppo (Heb.), Jerusalem 2002, p. 6). Due to emigration to Eretz Israel during the 1940’s, the number of Jews in Aleppo in 1947 was no more than 5000. Aleppo mentions that economically-motivated emigration from Aleppo only started in the 1880s, while in truth it had started before that to closer destinations such as Egypt and Beirut. The book mentions a massive emigration from Aleppo from the end of WWI until the mid 1920s "when the world economic crisis began", and almost completely ignores the large immigration from Aleppo to Israel in the 1930s, despite the fact that this accounted for most of the emigration in the interwar period (see my article ‘Illegal Immigration from Syria to Eretz Israel in the 1940’s’ (Heb.),  Pe'amim 66, 1996. 43-69). .

[36] Thus, dates from earlier editions of Likdoshim Asher Ba’Aretz may be miscopied. Several instances upon which I happened to chance: Rabbi Yehudah Franco (p. 191) died on 16 Adar (not 6 Adar); Rabbi Yaakob Mounsa was born in 1879 (not 1839 or 1874, two conflicting dates cited in Aleppo at p. 281) and died in 1954 (not 1949). His son Joseph was born in 1909 (not 1879 as per Aleppo p. 282); Rabbi Hizkiah Shabbetai was appointed chief Rabbi of Aleppo in 1908 (as noted correctly on p. 307) and not in 1914 (as noted incorrectly on page 183); Abraham Sutton died in 1935 (not 1938 as per Aleppo p. 333); Rabbi Aharon Yedid died in 1873 (not 1871 as cited by Aleppo p. 351 who apparently relied on a mistaken calculation in the 1980 edition).

[37] The only 'secular' exceptions to this rule: Amnon Shamosh's Haketer; Hebrew Printing in Middle Eastern Lands (Abraham Ya’ari); catalogue of the 'Treasures of the Aleppo Community' exhibit which took place in the Israel Museum.

[38] And it might be no coincidence that his name was misspelled, which makes identifying him even harder (the spelling should be Segall).

[39] About the whole matter, see: Joseph Segall, Travels Through Northern Syria, London, London Society for Promoting Christianity Among the Jews, 1910.

[40] This is clear from comparing the wording of the paragraph in Aleppo describing Rabbi Saadiah Gaon's connection to Aleppo (p. 12) with the wording of the entry "Saadiah Gaon" in the 1973 edition of Encyclopedia Judaica.

[41] And see below the descriptions of the connections between Aleppan scholars and major Ashkenazi Ultra-Orthodox Rabbis as confirmation of the Aleppan scholars' worth and authentic Ultra-Orthodoxy.

[42] The work was published in Livorno in 1850, together with other works by the author: Holech Tamim and Poel Tzedek.

[43] This is how Yaron Harel summarizes the contents of this work: 'a random enumeration of various historical events which took place in Aleppo, as traditionally told in the city. Beginning with legends about the city's conquest by Yoab ben Seruyah, and ending with events which took place in the author's times' (Yaron Harel, ibid n. 19, p. 48).

[44] Hebrew: Olam ke-Minhago Noheg, i.e., reality follows the laws of nature (and thus, such anecdotes are suspect).

[45] The books of Hamirs = the books of Homerus = books considered to be credible by the educated world.

[46] Examining the source in the Me’or Eynayim  (Mantova 1674 p. 88) reveals that Rabbi Dayan omitted one word here, maybe because it seemed unclear to him. And here is the original text: "the head of the Christians' scholars wrote in his City in book 15 chapter 9, about the size of the body of giants, that he saw the tooth of a man which if cut to the size of our teeth, would be divided into one hundred teeth." For further identification of this source, see text below.         

[47] P. 11.  

[48] See Joseph Dan, ROSSI, Azariah, in: Encyclopedia Judaica (1973) 14:315-31, and see also the editor/translator's introduction in Light of the Eyes, Azariah de´ Rossi; Translated from the Hebrew, with an introduction by Joanna Weinberg, Yale University press, 2001.

[49] See: Maimonides Guide of the Perplexed, translated into Hebrew by Michael Schwarz, Tel Aviv, Tel Aviv University press, 2002, p. 5 note 3.

[50] Zichron Divrei Are"tz, p. 66.

[51] Aleppo, p. 11.

[52] See, for example: Carta’s Atlas of the Bible, (Heb.), Jerusalem 1974, map 104. And compare map 105 that indicates how much closer biblical Aram Soba was to Damascus than to Aleppo.

[53] I am grateful to Dr. Miriam Frenkel who gave me this information, which is based on her research of the Geniza sources.

[54] See for example BT Avoda Zara at the bottom of p. 20b, where Rashi explains the term "Syria" thus: 'Aram Soba. And it is adjacent to the Land of Israel.' This was also the understanding of Rabbi Yosef Colon (Italy, 15th Century) who wrote (Shu"t Mahari"k 170): 'so you see that the whole land of Syria is Aram Soba (as Rashi has written there), it is called "a place" although there were quite a few towns there.' Maimonides also unequivocally distinguished between 'Aram Soba' and the city of Aleppo (see: Mishne Torah, Terumot 1:3). In his letter to the scholars of Lunel, Maimonides also refers to the city as Aleppo and not Aram Soba.

[55] 1980 edition, p. 20 (first pagination) (= 1952 edition, p. 5, second pagination).

[56] Aleppo, p. 9.  

[57] That is the opinion of Carmela Saranga, Sefer HaYashar as a Literary-Historiographic Work, Phd. thesis, Ramat Gan (Bar-Ilan) 2000, pp. 67-70.  

[58] Ancient Tales: Amazing Torah Stories from Sefer Hayashar, Yosher publications, Lakewood, New Jersey, 2001.

[59]  In order to be convinced of this, one must only search the internet for the words "Book of Jasher".

[60] Aleppo, pp. 11-12.

[61] Ibid, pp. 9-10. This legend is current also in Muslim circles.

[62] Ibid, p. 23. Laniado tells that this tradition was reported to him as originating from a Rabbinic emissary from the Land of Israel who came to Aleppo (LiKedoshim, p. 6 second pagination), that is, the story was not known in the local Aleppan tradition! After some searching I found another book which quotes this story: in p. 563 of Rabbi Mordechai Abadi's Ma'ayan Ganim part 2, Hoshen Mishpat (Jerusalem 1991) the person bringing the book to print notes that he found this story in the manuscript of a talk given by Rabbi Moshe Sutton Dabbah at the occasion of the re-consecration of the great synagogue of Aleppo (after its renovation in the middle of the 19th Century). Thus, this ‘ancient tradition’ is of 19th century origin!

[63] Laniado p. 8 (second pagination); Attiah p. 21 (first pagination).

[64]  Aleppo p. 13.

[65] Ibid, p. 339.

[66] As is evident in his book Mahberet Pirhei Shoshanim, Damascus 1910. This has already been noted by Yaron Harel, In Ships of Fire to the West [Heb.], p. 122 n. 312.

[67] Attiah, p. 120 (second pagination).

[68] Aleppo, p. 79.

[69] Nonetheless, we must note that it is not mentioned in the 1980 edition either.

[70] See my article: 'The State of Israel and Zionism in the Eyes of Sephardi-Mizrachi Scholars' [Heb.] in: Mordechai Bar-On and Zvi Zameret (eds.), The Two Sides of the Bridge – Religion and State in the Early Days of Israel, Jerusalem, Yad Ben-Zvi, 2002, pp. 320-349.  

[71] See my work The Luminous Face of the East, Tel Aviv 2001, especially pp. 85-90, 93-95.

[72] Hebrew: “aleinu le-shabeah [l-Adon haCol. Latett gedulah] le-yotzer breishit – the formula opening the major liturgical poem “Aleinu”, recited in every service of the daily liturgy.

[73] ‘Al ha-nissim ve-a’l ha-purqan etc….  This is a clear paraphrase of the ‘Al haNissim prayer, recited on holidays celebrating miracles of Providential salvation of the Jewish people, such as Purim and Hanukka.

[74] Memshelet zadon min ha-aretz – a clear allusion to the third blessing of the Amida prayer of the High Holy Days, describing the advent of messianic times.

[75] ‘Omdim ‘aleinu lekhaloteinu, ve-haQadosh Barukh Hu hitzilanu mi-yaddam – a clear reference to the Passover Hagada.

[76] Allusions to Isaiah LV:8 and Zechariah IV:6.

[77] Laniado p. 1 (first pagination). The description of the three armed groups as fighting ‘with great power and with a strong hand’ – b’yad hazaqa u-bi-zro’a netuyya  – assigns to these human actors characteristics of Divine salvific intervention; cf. Deuteronomy IV:34; V:14; XXVI:8.

[78] Aleppo, pp. 248-252.

[79] About him and his views see The Luminous Face of the East (above n. 67), pp. 99-114.

[80] Rabbi Yitzhak Dayan, The Torah of Israel and the People of Israel [Heb.], pp. 22-23. This work was printed in: Rabbi Yehuda Attiah, Minchat Yehuda, Aram Soba 1924.

[81] I discuss and analyze Rabbi Yitzhak Dayyan’s views, including his Zionist position, in my article ‘A Rabbi and Maskil in Aleppo: Rabbi Yitzhak Dayan's 1923 Programmatic Essay on Jewish Education’, in:  George Zucker and Yedida K. Stillman (eds.), New Horizons in Sephardic Studies, SUNY Press, New York 1993, 93-107

[82] Rabbi Shaul-Matlub Abadi, Magen Ba'adi, Brooklyn 1970, p. 304.

[83] Attiah, p. 123 (second pagination).

[84] See: Attiah pp. 136-138 (second pagination). And in further detail: Yizhak Dadon, It is the Beginning [Heb: Athalta Hi], Jerusalem 2006, pp. 73-81.

[85] Attiah, 137.

[86]  Aleppo, p. 135.

[87] The Zionist position of other Rabbis was also left out, among them Rabbi Obadiah Hedaya, Rabbi Eliyahu Pardes, Rabbi Aharon Choueka, and more.

[88] Here are a few examples: the only person in the world described as stepping in to help the Jews of Aleppo after the pogroms that took place after the Nov. 29th decision on a Partition Plan – is the head of the Mir yeshiva in New York, Rabbi Kalmanowitz (Aleppo, p. 19). Mr. Isaac Shalom had close connections to the heads of the Ponevezh yeshiva (pp. 311-312) and appointed Rabbi Kalmanowitz and his disciples to take charge of the religious-Ultra-Orthodox education of North African Jewish boys after WWII (p. 310). The Aleppan scholars in Jerusalem during the British Mandate were close to the head of the haredi (Ultra-Orthodox) community, Rabbi Yosef Sonnenfeld (see more below). Rabbi Eliyahu Harari-Raful and Rabbi Eliyahu Shrem were close to Rabbi Shach and received religious-spiritual guidance from him (p. 323).

[89] Attiah edition, p. 139.

[90]  Aleppo, p. 133.

[91]In Ships of Fire to the West, pp. 110-111.  

[92] Ibid, pp. 121-123.

[93] Aleppo, p. 355.

[94]  Ibid, pp. 348-349.

[95] Rabbi Yom Tov Yedid Halevi, Me'ir Tov – Commentary on the Book of Psalms, Jerusalem 1999, p. 10.

[96] And indeed, this statement is supported by documentation from the 1920s and 1930s. See: Zvi Zohar, Social Cultural Drama in Mandatory Aleppo [Heb.], Jerusalem (Dinur Center) 2002.

[97] Aleppo, pp. 52-53.

[98] Ibid, pp. 49-52.

[99] See Zvi Zohar, 'Education of Jews in Syria: from the mid 19th Century until the beginning of the 21st Century' [Heb.], in: Pe'amim 109, pp. 5-32 (2007).

[100]  Aleppo, p. 50.

[101] Tel Aviv (Milo Publishing), 1979.

[102] Ibid, p. 35.

[103] Ibid.

[104] Besides the shocking forgery itself, one must wonder: the Talmud Torah was located in the crowded quarter of Bahsita inside the Old City of Aleppo, not in the modern Jamileyé suburb outside the city walls. Is it possible that orchards and wide spreading gardens could be found within a crowded ancient Eastern city? And on the other hand: where in Aleppo is there any mention of the Talmud Torah's proximity to the brothel…?

[105] On a Mission, ibid, p. 37.  

[106] Indeed, Rabbi Tawil is not the only scholar, who wins much honor and glory in Aleppo because of his Ultra-Orthodox positions. Rabbi Yaakob Dweck [1828-1919] is highly praised because of his hostility towards Alliance, as well as his resolutely negative attitude towards desecrators of Shabbat and towards women's immodest dress (see: Aleppo, p. 183). Rabbi Yaakob Ades (1898-1963, one of the leaders of the Porat Yosef Yeshiva) is praised as one who unequivocally rejected the study of foreign languages by the Yeshiva's students, even though this was intended to enable them to fulfill Rabbinical   missions abroad (Aleppo, p. 99).

[107] The proclamation is brought in Aleppo on pp. 369-370, with a photograph of the original proclamation on p. 370.

[108]  Many of these proclamations, published over the course of the Nineteenth Century, were compiled in Ma'ase Avot, published in Jerusalem in 1901.

[109]  The pamphlet includes the main parts of the 1902 and 1920 editions, together with the 1926 proclamation, and also a piece written by Rabbi Nachman of Breslev against 'maskilic' education. In the words of introduction by Rabbi Haim Tawil, there is no mention of this pamphlet's being included in the book that he sent to be printed in Jerusalem. It seems that those who handled the printing of the book in Jerusalem added the pamphlet without Rabbi Tawil's knowledge, to further its dissemination.

[110]  So much so, that Aleppo elevates the struggle led by a few Jerusalem scholars in 1926 against a God-fearing Jew from Frankfurt, who was asked by the World Leadership of Agudath Yisrael to be principal of the Bnei Zion Talmud Torah in Jerusalem, but ‘sinned’ in that, like so many other German Jews, he held the title of "Dr.". (See: Aleppo, p. 371).

[111]  Aleppo, p. 176.

[112] A copy of the Hebrew original of this document is shown on p. 399, and it is interpreted and "translated" into English on p. 400.

[113] In another place I have written about Rabbi Uziel's position regarding the participation of women in the elections for such a body; see The Luminous Face of the East pp. 237-250, where I also refer to literature on the matter. As to the positions of the Ultra-Orthodox public in Israel regarding the elected assembly, see Menacham Friedman, Society and Religion – the Non-Zionist Orthodoxy in the Land of Israel, 1918-1936 [Heb.]. Jerusalem 1977, pp. 83-146.

[114] Aleppo, p. 353.

[115] I discuss this in my article on Hakham ‘Abadi, currently being translated into English.

[116]  About the whole matter, see: The Luminous Face of the East, pp. 85-90.

[117] Aleppo, p. 92.

[118] See B'nai B'rith's periodical in the Middle East, Hamenora, 1924, p. 228-229.

[119] Aleppo, p. 396.

[120]  See The Luminous Face of the East pp. 90-92 and the sources quoted there. See also Social Cultural Drama, the introduction, and also on p. 77, p. 101, and more.

[121]  Koshet is an Aramaic root meaning truth.