Auction 65 Judaica - Books, Manuscripts, Rabbinical Letters, Ceremonial Art
Tuesday, 12.3.19 (Your local time)
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LOT 228:

Letter from Danish Jewry to the Livorno Community - The Ploy of Reform Jews in Germany - 1796

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Letter from the Jews of Helsingør, Denmark, addressed to the Livorno community, in the wake of a ploy machinated by Reform Jews in Germany, alleging that Italian rabbis had issued a ruling sanctioning Shabbat desecration and other grave transgressions. Helsingør, 11th Nissan 1796. The background of this scandal was a forged news item planted by Reform Jews in several German newspapers, which claimed that a conference of Italian rabbis had convened in Florence and decided to transfer the day of rest from Shabbat to Sunday, to permit pork, and to revoke several other fundamental principles of the Jewish religion. The objective of this deception was to cause the German authorities to exercise pressure on the Jews in their country to also make reforms in their religion. This affair is known to us from several sources. The Chida describes it briefly in a responsum printed in his book Yosef Ometz (section 7): "and slander which has recently been propagated in Germany is already known, that in Italy, Shabbat and other prohibitions have been permitted, and some proponents of these breaches approached the authorities, so that they should compel the Jews in their cities to allow this as well…". This news item was published in German newspapers on April 8, 1796 (29th Adar II). When Italian rabbis caught wind of this ploy, they hurriedly issued a strongly worded denial letter, in Iyar 1796. The letter was printed in Livorno, and sent to Germany, where it was again printed in Hamburg with the German translation (the response letter by Italian rabbis was publicized by Avraham Meir Vaknin, Letters of Italian Rabbis Against Reform Jews in Germany in 1796, Tzefunot, 1990, Issue V; see there for further details on this affair, including the translation of the news item published in German papers). This letter discloses the stage which preceded the publicizing of the letter of refutal from the Italian rabbis, wherein the Jewish community in Helsingør informed the Livorno community of the news item printed in the newspaper, enclosing a copy of it as a proof, and requested of the Livorno community and other Italian communities to issue a comprehensive rebuttal, and to act through other mediums against this ploy. In this letter, the writers include the translation of the libelous news item from a newspaper printed in Altona: "Florence… in a conference of the Jews here… the rabbi of Rome, the rabbi of Mantua, the rabbi of Modena, and other rabbis from other communities gathered here… and after ten days, they unanimously agreed not to uphold Shabbat as the day of rest, but rather to do business on it, and any other form of work, and Sunday will be set as the day of rest. They also decreed to trade and do all activities on festivals, and to shave with a razor, and women will go with their hair uncovered, and they even permitted to eat pork…". On the verso, inscription of the address in Hebrew and Italian ("to the community leaders of the Jewish community of Livorno"), and a piece of paper attached with the details of the sender. [1] leaf. 34 cm. Fair condition. Stains and tears, folding marks.

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