Two Brit Milah (Circumcision) Notebooks of Rabbi Binyamin Wolf Tevin, Leader of the Pressburg Community – 1748-1803 – with Documentation of the Brit Milah of Rabbi Akiva Eiger

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Two milah notebooks in the handwriting of the Mohel Rabbi Binyamin Wolf Tevin, a leader of the Pressburg community. The notebooks have documentation of more than 1200 circumcisions performed by Rabbi Tevin encompassing a period of 55 years, 1748-1803.
The notebooks have thousands of entries of names and important details of hundreds of distinguished families in the area – Kischa (Bad Kissingen), Yergen, Vienna and Eisenstadt, including documentation of the brit milah of Rabbi Akiva Eiger.
The first notebook has documentation of 613 circumcisions performed by Rabbi Binyamin Wolf Tevin. It begins with the first brit performed on the 9th of Tamuz 1748: "Today, Friday Erev Shabbat Kodesh… I have begun performing this mitzvah of milah…G-d should fortify and strengthen my hands to bring many of His sons under the wings of the Shechina, amen".
The last brit entered in the notebook was performed on the third day of Chanuka 1779 and Rabbi Binyamin Wolf signs with a long list of prayer and thanks that "I have been privileged to complete the count of 613 as the number of mitzvoth (in the Torah)… and this should be considered as if I have brought this amount of sacrifices upon your altar and they shall be my advocates when the time of my death arrives…". At the end of the list, he writes the day of his birth: "Concluded today, Wednesday the third day of Chanuka 1779, in the month I was born in 1733".
The second notebook opens with a brit performed by Rabbi Binyamin Wolf on Tuesday, the 10th of Tevet (1779) to his grandson: "G-d has given me the privilege to begin the new count with my daughter's son and I was the sandak and the mohel…". The notebook ends on the 20th of Adar 1803. In the middle of the notebook (Brit 409) Rabbi Binyamin Wolf writes: "Thursday, the 28th of Adar, after G-d has raised me up from my very difficult illness I have been privileged to perform this mitzvah as in former years and have been a sandak and a mohel…". This notebook also documents 613 circumcisions which are followed by a long signature of Rabbi Binyamin Wolf who thanks G-d that he has had the merit "to complete for a second time 613 circumcisions of Jewish boys whom I have circumcised with His assistance, and I hope to G-d that in His goodness, these will join the first 613… and they will be my advocates". Further he writes that he expended much effort "the past 55 years performing this mitzvah" [gleaned from this source and from the date of his birth written in the previous notebook we see that Rabbi Binyamin Wolf started to circumcise at the age of 15!). After this paragraph is the beginning of the third count, one single inscription of a brit milah and sandaka'ut on Rosh Chodesh Nisan that same year.
Rabbi Binyamin Wolf mainly performed the circumcisions in his native city, Pressburg but he also did some britot in important neighboring communities such as the adjacent cities Yergen, Kischa, Eisenstadt and Vienna. Some of the circumcisions were performed together with various people as was the custom in those days to divide the mitzvah between two mohalim: One mohel performs the milah (the cut) and the other the Pri’ah. Among the individuals who shared this mitzvah: “HaRav HaGaon Av Beit Din of our community” – Rabbi Yitzchak HaLevi Landau (Rabbi Yitzchak Dukla) author of Amarot Tehorot and Mayanei HaYeshua who served as Av Beit Din of Pressburg at those times, (in the first notebook: Britot 185, 223, 228 and 230). Rabbi Zvi Hirsh Broide Av Beit Din of Kischa, author of Eretz Zvi and Te’omei Zviya (Notebook B, Britot 511, 572), Rabbi Hirsh Levov (dayan in Pressburg and brother-in-law of Rabbi Binyamin Wolf). Other mohalim: Rabbi Kalman Shtemfi, Rabbi Kopil, Rabbi Hirsh Flohen, Rabbi Moshe Trivtesh and Rabbi Isaac Raab (most were well-known rabbis in Pressburg, see Avnei Beit HaYotzer, according to the index).
An amazing entry was discovered in the first notebook – the brit milah of the famous Torah genius Rabbi Akiva Eiger in 1762. This is what is written at Brit no. 221: “Friday, Erev Shabbat Kodesh the 9th of Cheshvan, I was the sole mohel of the child Akiva ben Rabbi Moshe Ginz”. From this inscription arise new details of the history of Rabbi Akiva Eiger: 1. His brit milah did not take place in Eisenstadt where his parents resided but in Pressburg, the city where his mother’s parents lived (if not, Rabbi Binyamin Wolf would have noted that the circumcision took place in Eisenstadt as he always did when he performed a brit is another city). Probably, Rabbi Akiva Eiger was also born in Pressburg. 2. On the wimpel made by Rabbi Akiva Eiger’s mother in honor of his brit milah, his date of birth is on Thursday, Rosh Chodesh Cheshvan 1762. Consequently, the eighth day for the milah falls on the 8th of Cheshvan and not on the 9th as written in the notebook. Therefore, his milah was postponed unless he was born on Thursday “bein hashmashot” (twilight).
A year later, Rabbi Binyamin Wolf inscribed the brit of “the child Shmuel ben Rabbi Moshe Ginz” – Rabbi Akiva Eiger’s brother (Brit 233).
Besides for Rabbi Akiva Eiger, other children circumcised by Rabbi Binyamin Wolf who are mentioned in the notebook, later became famous leading Torah scholars: Rabbi Avraham Litch Segal Rosenbaum, disciple of the Maharam Bennet and of the Chatam Sofer, author of the Ben Yehuda response (see: Ishim B’Teshuvot HaChatam Sofer, p. 28; Notebook B, Brit 606), Rabbi Mordechai Leib Lashbrin, disciple of the Maharam Bennet, Av Beit Din of Zsámbokrét (see: Ishim B’Teshuvot HaChatam Sofer, p. 275; Notebook A, Brit 569); sons of Jewish leaders such as the sons of Rabbi Mordechai Task Ra’avad of Pressburg (Britot 287, 478, 506, 511), sons of Rabbi Daniel Prostitz who also served as Ra’avad of Pressburg (Britot 521, 582) and the child Hirsh ben Rabbi Ya’akov Kapil Altkunstadt Av Beit Din of Carlsberg (Brit 603) and the sons of other distinguished members of the Pressburg community.
At the end of the second notebook are two interesting historical inscriptions, signed by Rabbi Binyamin Wolf Tevin. In the first inscription, Rabbi Binyamin Wolf tells of the decree of Franz Joseph II in 1783: "The Jews who live in this country must shave their beards… and this order was sent to all the commanders of this country and they are rejoicing and celebrating in anticipation of this day…". Rabbi Binyamin Wolf relates of his participation in a special delegation which traveled to Vienna to meet the Caesar to attempt to annul the decree. He describes the meeting with the Caesar on the seventh day of Passover when they stood before him "imploring him with tears until his compassion was aroused". He quotes the words of the Caesar (in German, in Hebrew letters).
In the second list, Rabbi Binyamin Wolf tells a wonderful story which occurred in the city of Pressburg, in Nissan 1785 at the time of the Blessing of the Sun (which takes place once every 28 years). At the designated time, the weather was snowy and the heavens were very cloudy, no part of the sun could be seen. "A doubt arose concerning the law of the blessing if the sun does not appear on that day". Rabbi Meir Barabi Av Beit Din of Pressburg, ordered all the community to awaken early on the next day and gather in the Great Synagogue and after morning prayers go out together to bless the sun. The next day, amazingly, exactly at the designated time, the sun suddenly shone.
The writer of the notebook, a public activist and leader of the Pressburg community, Rabbi Binyamin Wolf Tevin, was born in 1732 (as entered in this notebook) to a distinguished Pressburg family whose sons served as leaders and public activists of the community. He was related through marriage to the Nodah B'Yehuda. He was known for his piety and meticulousness in fulfilling the mitzvah of brit milah and was very charitable particularly in supporting Torah study. His lobbying on behalf of Austro-Hungarian Jewry succeeded in revoking several decrees (such as the story he relates at the end of the second notebook about the decree of shaving beards). After the death of Rabbi Meir Barabi, Av Beit Din of Pressburg, Rabbi Tevin was appointed guardian of his estate according to Rabbi Barabi's testament and he published the Maharam Barabi novellae Part II (Prague 1793). He died in 1809 and was eulogized by the Chatam Sofer who wrote "A tsaddik famous for his praiseworthy qualities, a community leader for many years".
These milah notebooks were owned by Rabbi Yitzchak Weiss Av Beit Din of Vrbové, who used them for gleaning much material on the history of the community for writing his book Avnei Beit HaYotzer (Paks 1900, ibid Chapter 57).
Two notebooks. Notebook A: [58] leaves. 14 cm. Gilded edges. Adorned contemporary leather binding. Notebook B: [59] leaves. 15 cm. Gilded edges. Adorned contemporary leather binding. Impression of owner's name, "This belongs to the officer Rabbi Wolf Tevin, done on Rosh Chodesh Tevet 1779 here in Pressburg". General condition of both notebooks - good. Spotting, slight wear. Damages and wear to bindings.
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