Why did Rabbi Jacob Emden not publish his Megillat Sefer?*
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On the face of it, the book seems curiously unbalanced and the selectivity of its contents somewhat strange. Why is it, for example, that Emden devoted roughly the first fifty pages, fully one quarter of the entire book, to a biography of his father?4 True, Ḥakham Tsevi was a very important figure in his son’s life, but the amount of attention devoted to him seems well out of proportion in a book purported to be about Emden himself. ¶ Second, how does one explain what appears to be a disproportionately large amount of space devoted to degrading, destroying, and vilifying Rabbi Ezekiel Katzenellenbogen, a recognized rabbinic and communal authority of the period who served as Chief Rabbi of Emden’s Triple Community (AH”W: Altona, Hamburg, and Wandsbeck) for over three and a half decades, from 1713 until his death on July 9, 1749? In a long and rambling tirade, Emden repeatedly poked fun at what he characterized as Katzenellenbogen’s unintelligible speech and handwriting; accused him of greed, theft, perversion of justice, and other major violations of Jewish law; asserted that he lacked simple common sense; claimed that he unfairly took advantage of his position; and charged that he was abysmally ignorant of even basic, elementary features of Jewish law and tradition.5 Why this tremendous animus against Katzenellenbogen in the first place and, also, why is it here, expressed in such extremes in a book ostensibly devoted to the story of Emden’s own life? (from Introduction)
Schacter, J. J. (2020). Why did Rabbi Jacob Emden not publish his Megillat Sefer? In Y. Berger, & C. Milikowsky (Eds.), ‘In the dwelling of a sage lie precious treasures’: Essays in Jewish studies in honor of Shnayer Z. Leiman (pp. 147-169). Michael Scharf Publication Trust of Yeshiva University Press
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