Rabbi Yaakov Emden Was Almost Seduced By His Cousin

I’m listening to a lecture by Dr. Marc B. Shapiro (for Torah in Motion) on the Nazir, Rabbi David Cohen (1887-1972).

Dr. Shapiro talks about the diary of Rabbi Jacob Emden (a great Talmudist of the 18th Century): "We have nothing compared to Augustine’s Confessions. The closest thing we have to Augustine’s Confessions, someone talking about their spiritual life and their growth, is Rav Dovid Cohen’s spiritual diary… The whole notion of an autobiography is not a traditional [Jewish] genre. Yaakov Emden is the first to do it but it is not something rabbis have traditionally done… That’s the exception that proves the rule because it is so unusual. And that is not a spiritual autobiography. That’s an autobiography that discusses all the machlochet (arguments) he had in his life. He talks about various sexual things that you couldn’t imagine a gadol Yisrael (great one of Israel) writing about. Very strange. Whether it ever appears in English. [Rabbi] J.J. Schachter was supposedly going to publish it in English but nothing seems to have happened.

"Yaakov Emden wanted people to read this. He thought this was part of Torah also."

Dr. Shapiro does not note this, but Yaakov Emden’s autobiography was very much the XXX-Communicated of the 18th Century. This "Rebel Without A Shul" spiritual autobiography by a great sage in Pico-Robertson is the closest thing we have as Jews to Augustine’s Confessions.

Dr. Shapiro: "Reading about how he was almost seduced by his cousin and he was able to overcome it makes for strange reading, but he then uses it to prove a point that the yetzer hara (evil inclination) has no power over him. Of course you have all sorts of other attacks on rabbis."

"I don’t know if the Chafetz Chaim ever had semicha (rabbinic ordination)."

Dr. Shapiro says Rav Kook was not a vegetarian.

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see Amazon.com). My work has been covered in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and on 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (Alexander90210.com).
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