Rabbi Boruch Oberlander, a leader of contemporary Hungarian Jewry, discussed a controversy which unfolded in his community in the early twentieth century. A man calling himself Shlomo Yehuda Algazi-Friedlander published manuscripts purported to be the tractates of Seder Kodashim of the Jerusalem Talmud. Though these manuscripts were initially regarded by some great scholars as genuine, there were other scholars who launched severe critiques against Friedlander and his work. These critiques, which began to appear within six months of the  publication, revealed the tractates to be a skilled forgery which Friedlander had compiled and composed. Oberlander identified a few different critical methods employed in these critiques. The text-critical approach examined the language of the text and uncovered Friedlander’s textual sources, the rabbinic critique questioned the Talmudic reasoning found in the new tractates, and a personal attack detailed Friedlander’s true biographical information and previous misdeeds, including prior forgeries. Oberlander also noted that Friedlander may have specifically chosen Hungary as the site to disseminate his forged manuscripts for several reasons. Hungarian scholars were interested in manuscripts and critical reading of texts. The insular Hungarian community could allow for Friedlander’s Transylvanian roots to go unnoticed. The new split between the Orthodox and Neolog Jews in Hungary and the stereotype that the Hungarian Rabbinate was foolish were also factors. Within a little over a decade, the manuscripts were generally rejected as forgeries. Rabbi Yekutiel Yehuda Greenwald reports that Friedlander even admitted his guilt. But there is no historical evidence to support this claim, and there is reason to dispute it.

 

 

Rabbi Boruch Oberlanderplayed a leading role in the Hungarian Jewish community for nearly three decades. With a PhD from the University of Debrecen, he has published studies in Hebrew and Hungarian on the application of halakhah to contemporary society, on Jewish liturgy and customs, and on the history of Jewish forgeries. He is co-author of Hasiddur—Mivne veNusach Sidduro shel Harav Miliadi (Monsey 2003); Zsidó jog és etika (Jewish Law and Ethics; Budapest, 2009); and Early Years: The Formative Years of the Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson (New York 2017).

 

 

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