Photo Credit: Israel Mizrahi

A pair of sefarim I came across recently, bear an unusual and intriguing relationship. In 1903, a volume titled Shemen Rosh was published in Munkatch, containing responsa and sermons by R. Asher Anshel Ashkenazi. At the end of book, appears a section titled besamim rosh, containing the author’s sermons, followed by the will and testament of R. Moses David Ashkenazi, R. Asher Anshel’s grandfather.

R. Asher Anshel ben Mordecai Ashkenazi (1833-1901) was a grandson of the renowned R. Moses David Ashkenazi (c. 1780–1856) who was born in Galicia where his father Asher served as rabbi. From 1803 to 1843 R. Moses David Ashkenazi was the rabbi of Tolcsva, Hungary, thereafter he settled in Eretẓ Yisrael where he became a rabbi of the Ashkenazi community in Safed, a position he held until his death in 1901. R. Asher Anshel was also the ancestor of R. Yoel Teitalbaum, the Satmar Rebbe, and his cousin and well known gabbai for many years, R. Yosef Ashkenazi.


During WWI, Rabbi Yitzchak Ashkenazi, the son of R. Asher Anshel, was displaced and found himself in Frankfurt. During his stay, he published just the portion containing the sermons, a total of 30 pages, titled besamim rosh, and text on the title page translating as: “Behold this is the one portion of the work saved from the flaming thrashing sword of war that engulfed our hometown, this printed portion, shall serve as a testimony to the balance of the work.”

On the bottom of the title page, it states:

“Rabb. Isaac Aschkenasy, Frankfurt a.M. ” and a text translating as “Currently, during this period of emergency, the address of the author and publisher is…” For some unknown reason, in the besamim rosh, these same sermons are now clearly attributed to the author’s son and not to his father.

A possible theory can be that the son R. Yitzchak Ashkenazi found himself in dire needs during the turmoil and displacement of the great war, that this was an attempt to attain enough recognition, to be able to find the financial and physical support needed to survive the horrors of the war.


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Israel Mizrahi is the owner of Mizrahi Bookstore in Brooklyn, NY, and He can be reached at