[Avodah] Reading Newspapers and Other secular Literature on Shabbos

Toby Katz t613k at aol.com
Mon Nov 5 19:18:40 PST 2018

From: Micha Berger <micha at aishdas.org>

: The Levanon and the Magid were both Torah publications. So no, the
: Netziv's Shabbos relaxation did not consist of reading maskilishe
: newspapers! [--old TK]

HaMagid was an shomer Shabbos *Haskalishe* newspaper....

Not JO. (Which also isn't reading the news on Shabbos, regardless of
whose paper.)

About my earlier mention of the Netziv's Zionism, both were Zionist

You are using <<haskalasha>> in a somewhat misleading way.  When we speak of the Haskalah or of maskilim we are generally speaking of a secular intellectual and academic movement and of  people who were not religious and who were often virulently anti-religious.  Wissenschaft des Judentums types. There definitely were secular, anti-religious journals being published in Europe in the 19th century, some in Hebrew, others in European languages.  These were not the journals that the Netziv was reading and discussing with his talmidim on Shabbos morning after kiddush.
You are also using <<Zionist>> in a somewhat misleading way.  These were pre-Herzl days, when something was in the air, some stirring to return to Eretz Yisrael, but not the secular or even Mizrachi Zionism we know today.
The journals the Netziv read were a little on the modern side, moderate-charedi, showing an interest in worldly matters, but they were definitely Orthodox.  However, the use of words like modern, worldly, charedi, Orthodox and Zionist is anachronistic.  Those terms weren't used in the 19th century as they are today.  Nineteenth century Europe was not 21st century America.  Yechiel Brill, the editor and publisher of the Levanon, was a <<maskil>> only in the loosest sense of having worldly interests and being a little bit on the modern side of the frum spectrum, but he was anti-Haskalah and anti-Reform.  
I don't know why you want to paint the Netziv as an avid consumer of secular newspapers.  That is just not accurate.
Now, Ben Waxman <ben1456 at zahav.net.il> wrote:
>> I have never looked at these papers so I have no idea what their content
>>is like.

>>If their content was anything like what today's so-called Torah
>>publications (Yated, HaModiya, etc) are like, much or even most of their
>>content was similar to what any other newspaper put out. These papers all
>>write about the daily news with some restrictions on sexual content. In
>>addition to the regular content, they have some additional Torah based
>>articles. But these articles are definitely the minority of the content.

>>So if the papers that the Netziv read were anything like today's papers,
>>he read mainly the news and in addition maybe some other Torah-based

Since these journals were published more than a century ago, no one alive today has seen these papers except for a few academic researchers with access to old library archives.  They were weeklies and even though they did carry some news, they were more like today's intellectual journals of opinion, with long articles discussing the issues of the day from a philosophical, hashkafic point of view.  The letters to the editor could be long, weighty essays themselves.  You can't really compare them to Hamodia or Yated.  They were more like an Orthodox version of today's _Commentary_ magazine, but with more flame-throwing.
The main thing they had in common with today's charedi newspapers is that they did not carry pictures of women.  But then again, they did not carry pictures of men, either. No pictures of anything!  Just pages and pages of words.   :)
Ah, I remind myself of that song from <<My Fair Lady>>  
Words Words Words
I'm so sick of words
I get words all day through
First from him, now from you
Is that all you blighters can do
All of us here are busy talking about things we have never seen, like the far side of the moon.
--Toby Katz
t613k at aol.com
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