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Netzah Yisrael, R. Israel ha-Levi of Zamosc, Frankfort on the Oder 1741

נצח ישראל - Astronomy & Math in Talmud - Only Edition

Listing Image
  • Lot Number 52333
  • Title (English) Netzah Yisrael
  • Title (Hebrew) נצח ישראל
  • Note Astronomy & Math in Talmud - Only Edition
  • Author R. Israel ben Moses ha-Levi of Zamosc
  • City Frankfort on the Oder
  • Publication Date 1741
  • Estimated Price - Low 300
  • Estimated Price - High 600

  • Item # 2155803
  • End Date
  • Start Date

Physical Description

Only edition. [1], 58, [1] ff.folio 318:195 mm., nice margins, usual age and damp staining, diagrams. A very good copy bound in modern half leather and cloth over boards.


Detail Description

Only edition of this important work interpreting numerous Talmudic passages from a mathematical and astronomical viewpoint by R. Israel ben Moses ha-Levi of Zamosc. The title-page has an attractive architectural border with a crown at the top and immediately below it a laver and lavers at the bottom of each pillar, all indicative of R. Zamosc being a Levi. There are approbations from R. Moses ben Aaron of Lvov, R. Aryeh Leib ben Saul, R. Aryeh Leib ben Jehiel of Lublin, R. Joseph ben Avigdor, R. Jacob Isaac Hokh Gehrtlenter, and R. Joel Ba’al Shem ben Uri Heilperin foloweed by the author’s introduction and then the text, organized by tractate. R. Zamosc proclaims his fidelity to Maimonides and gives reason priority in interpreting tradition. He thus argued that the rabbis of the Talmud held true scientific views, so that, if interpreted correctly, even seemingly "odd" statements in the Talmud turn out to be consistent with science; by contrast, he boldly took to task venerated Talmud commentators who held, for example, that the earth was flat. Conservatives rightly identified this work as subversive and dubbed it Rezaḥ Yisra'el ("The Assassination of Israel"). The scientific knowledge displayed in Netzah Yisrael is astonishingly broad but outdated (his authorities are Aristotle and Ptolemy): it is drawn exclusively from Hebrew books, almost all medieval. (The only exception is R. Joseph Delmedigo's Sefer Elim (1629), on which Zamosc wrote a commentary, now lost.)

R. Israel ben Moses ha-Levi of Zamosc (Segal, c. 1700–1772) was a talmudist, mathematician, and one of the early Haskalah writers. R. Zamosc was born in Bóbrka (near Lvov) to an undistinguished family and studied in Zamosc, where he also taught at a yeshiva. The exceptional availability of books in R. Zamosc, many in manuscript, is perhaps a consequence of the earlier presence there of Sephardi Jew's, brought in by its founder, Jan Zamoyski (1541–1605). R. Israel Zamosc had followers and allies, among them R. Joel b. Uri Ba'al Shem (the younger). The town of Zamosc became a center of early Haskalah a generation later. In Zamosc, R. Israel composed a number of further works, of which the (geocentric) astronomical treatise, Arubbot ha-Shamayim ("The Windows of the Heaven"), is the only one to survive (in manuscript). His predilection for science notwithstanding, R. Israel Zamosc was conventional in his respect for the Kabbalah. In 1741 R. Zamosc went to Frankfurt an der Oder, where he had Netzah Yisrael published. He then settled in Berlin, where he taught Hebrew, science, and Jewish philosophy to Aharon Zalman Gumpertz (1723–1769) and Moses Mendelssohn (1729–1786), thus exerting a formative influence on two important figures of the early Berlin Haskalah. He studied (with Mendelssohn's help) German elementary books of science. In 1744 Zamosc published in Jessnitz his (commissioned) commentary on Ruah Hen ("A Spirit of Grace"), a 13th-century anonymous popular introduction to philosophy and science. In addition to simple textual interpretations, R. Zamosc "comments" on the Aristotelian principles in the medieval text by exposing totally incompatible findings of recent – namely, Wolffian – science. The "small animals" observable through a microscope in a droplet of semen elicit his exclamation, "How awe-inspiring is this statement, which our forefathers did not fathom." The new knowledge grounded in experience opened new unexpected horizons, refuting at the same time entrenched (Aristotelian) beliefs and thus undermining traditional authority, including that of Maimonides. R. Zamosc's is a subversive commentary: a venerated, authoritative text was used to legitimate the introduction of new ideas into a conservative community. This new literary genre was to be employed by later maskilim. Yet R. Zamosc's reception of the new science was limited to its descriptive aspects, and he failed to grasp mathematical physics or to accommodate contemporary philosophy. The breakdown of all received verities weakened Zamosc's commitment to Maimonides' philosophy and hence to reason and science. Zamosc's views became more conservative and fideist: the commentary on Ruah Ḥen paradoxically both exposes recent science and signals its author's turn toward the authority of traditional, including kabbalistic, texts. During the third, conservative, period of his life, spent between Berlin and Brody, R. Zamosc wrote two further (posthumously published) commentaries on medieval classics, which now accompany the traditional editions of these two works: Ozar Nehmad ("A Lovely Treasure"), on the Kuzari, and Tuv ha-Levanon ("Lebanon's Best"), on Ḥovot ha-Levavot ("The Duties of the Heart"). Although in these commentaries Zamosc replaced certain outdated medieval scientific ideas with facts from modern science, he held that belief and revelation are superior to reason and science. In 1764 Zamosc contacted R. Jacob Emden (1697–1776) on matters of halakhah. In an unknown period, R. Israel Zamosc also wrote Nezed ha-Dema' ("A Pottage of Tears"; published posthumously: Dyhernfurth, 1773), a bitter, pessimistic social criticism written in rhymed prose. Its obscure style and intertextual allusions have led to a dispute over the target of its critique. Some scholars have interpreted it as a fierce attack on the ḥasidic movement, which was then becoming prominent: it contains most of the claims against the Ḥasidim used by later opponents – e.g., the allegations that Ḥasidim fostered ignorance, were prone to drunkenness, made unjustified innovations in religious practice, and misled simple people. Other scholars see in Nezed ha-Dema' a critique of contemporary Jewish society generally. R. Zamosc, who often oscillated between a tone of melancholic discouragement and elation, saw himself as a reformer of the spiritual cum social state of contemporary Jews: he was not only enlightened, but also sought to enlighten his audience. In his last years, he was venerated as an erudite maskil in Brody, where he died on April 20, 1772. Later maskilim and secular historians rightly gave him a place of pride in the history of the Haskalah. At the same time, Orthodox circles have hailed him as the author of two classic commentaries on standard works of Jewish thought.


Hebrew Description

... באורי... שיטת התלמוד בבלי וירושלמי... התו' והרמב"ם וגדולי הקדמונים... לעורר בדבריהם על קושיות גדולות... ובישוב הדברי' הקשים... ובכללם מן הקשות שבקושיו' הראב"ד וזולתו על הרמב"ם... חברתי אני... ישראל במו' משה סג"ל מבוברקי אח"ד שבהמלמדי' בישיבה בזאמשט... בשנת וגם נצח יש'ר'א'ל לא ישקר

דף נב-נז: קונטרס אחרון... ראיתי להציג פה ביאור האגדות החמורו' אשר בש"ס... המדברים בחכמות התכונה ובשאר חלקי חכמות הלמודים. גם בארתי איזו היא הדרך שנכנן בנין הארון של ב"ה [בית הכנסת] בכד' שתהיה ההשתחוי' מכוונת מול ירושלים... אשר שגה בזה הלבוש [ר' מרדכי יפה ] והנמשכים אחריו.

הסכמות: ר' משה [לבוב] ב"ר אהרן מלבוב, פ"פ דאדר, ז תמוז תק"א; ר' אריה ליב [ב"ר שאול], לבוב, ראש-חודש מרחשון ת"ק; ר' אריה ליב ב"ר יחיאל מלובלין, זאמשט, ט סיון תצ"ט; ר' יוסף ב"ר אביגדר, טרניגראד, ראש-חודש [מר]חשון תק"א; ר' [יעקב] יצחק [הוך גילרנטר ב"ר משה חיים מלבוב], זאמשט, כה ניסן תק"א; ר' יואל ב"ש [בעל שם] ב"ר אורי היילפרין, זאמשט, ז אלול תצ"ז.



BE nun 639; EJ; Bibliography of the Hebrew Book 1470-1960 #000139538