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I heard from a reliable source that a great Rosh Hayeshiva (who I personally knew) temporarily banned a set of seforim from the Yeshiva's beit midrash.

The Talmud in shabbat 56a states that it is wrong to say that David sinned with Batsheva:

אָמַר רַבִּי שְׁמוּאֵל בַּר נַחְמָנִי אָמַר רַבִּי יוֹנָתָן: כׇּל הָאוֹמֵר דָּוִד חָטָא אֵינוֹ אֶלָּא טוֹעֶה, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר: ״וַיְהִי דָּוִד לְכׇל דְּרָכָיו מַשְׂכִּיל וַה׳ עִמּוֹ וְגוֹ׳״. אֶפְשָׁר חֵטְא בָּא לְיָדוֹ וּשְׁכִינָה עִמּוֹ?! Rabbi Shmuel bar Naḥmani said that Rabbi Yonatan said: Anyone who says that David sinned with Bathsheba is nothing other than mistaken, as it is stated: “And David succeeded in all his ways; and the Lord was with him” (I Samuel 18:14). Is it possible that sin came to his hand and nevertheless the Divine Presence was with him? אֶלָּא מָה אֲנִי מְקַיֵּים ״מַדּוּעַ בָּזִיתָ אֶת דְּבַר ה׳ לַעֲשׂוֹת הָרַע״ — שֶׁבִּיקֵּשׁ לַעֲשׂוֹת וְלֹא עָשָׂה. However, how then do I establish the meaning of the rebuke of the prophet Nathan: “Why have you despised the word of the Lord, to do that which is evil in My sight? Uriah the Hittite you have smitten with the sword, and his wife you have taken to be your wife, and him you have slain with the sword of the children of Ammon” (II Samuel 12:9), indicating that David sinned? The Gemara answers: David sought to do evil and have relations with Bathsheba while she was still married to Uriah but did not do so.

Rashi explains per the Gemarra that soldiers would give conditional bills of divorce that worked retroactively. Thus, when David slept with Batsheva, technically, she was not married.

The Abarbanel states that in truth he did commit adultery. 2 Samuel 11 :10

, ולכן לא יסבול דעתי להקל בחטאת דוד, ולא אכחיש האמת הפשוט,… טוב לי שאומר שחטא מאד והודה מאד ושב בתשובה גמורה וקבל ענשו ובזה נתכפרו עונותיו:

Upon reviewing this Abarbanel passage, per a reliable source, this Rosh Hayeshiva banned the set temporarily from the yeshiva’s study hall. I did not have a chance to ask him about his decision. A thought: there are many examples of commentators favoring pshat over drash; but because adultery is a grave sin (and accusing David of this is a big deal), the Rosh Hayeshiva must have felt compelled to act. Moreover, there are examples of achronim repudiating rishonim. But a temporary book ban is unique.

Is there a precedent for such a temporary banning?

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  • Do they have masheches Kesubos in the yeshiva (kesubos 9)? If they don't have the Abarbanel then they probably don't have the Moreh Nevuchim either...
    – sam
    Feb 11 at 15:17
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    Why temporary? What was going to change later on?
    – N.T.
    Feb 11 at 16:13
  • In that specific passage, the Malbim is highly critical of Abarbanel from a pshat perspective too.
    – N.T.
    Feb 11 at 16:14

1 Answer 1

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I think it is up to the leader of any institution to decide what to allow on the shelves. Rav Ruderman zt"l of Ner Yisroel in Baltimore banned many books he did not want the students to learn, and for various reasons. Sometimes just because he felt they would be too distracting. Others because he disagreed with their philosophy. In my time, there was no Abarbanel on the shelves. I don't know if it was this passage, or the many others where Abarbanel takes a non-standard approach.

Rav Shach zt"l did not allow copies of his own seforim, Avi Ezri, on the shelves of the yeshiva he headed, Ponovezh. He wanted students to focus on learning Gemara, and not spend so much time on works such as his own.

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    Bingo. Ner Israel did not say "you may not learn Abarbanel"; they said "hey this is our house, we will choose what books to pay for, and this is not one of them."
    – Shalom
    Feb 11 at 11:08
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    I don't see how this answers the question. The question acknowledged the idea of banning books. It asked specifically about temporary bans, and asked specifically whether there's precedent for such a temporary ban. This answer post doesn't discuss temporary bans at all. (Unless you mean to say that Rav Ruderman and Rav Shach intended their bans to be in place only so long as they were rashe y'shiva, in which case yes this is an answer but I think you should make that more explicit.)
    – msh210
    Feb 11 at 11:30
  • @msh210 Yes, but the question appears to be based on a faulty premise. The only "ban" on Abarbanel that any of us have heard of is a yeshiva that didn't buy it for its shelves. If the question is simply "has anyone temporarily banned a book -- as in declared it prohibited for anyone to read for a certain amount of time, no matter who owns the book?" -- then that can be asked independently. (Akin to "what are the largest objects made of green cheese?"). But the current question looks like this: "I heard the moon is made of green cheese; are there other large objects made of green cheese?"
    – Shalom
    Feb 11 at 12:02
  • @ msh210. Thank you for your thoughts. I agree. Some of the comments here don't address the question and/or fail to understand it.
    – GratefulD
    Feb 11 at 17:32
  • I missed the part about the ban being temporary, mainly because I can't see why that matters. If you can ban a book you can also ban it temporarily, although I don't know why you would (unless you just had an emotional reaction). The book will say the exact same thing after the ban.
    – N.T.
    Feb 12 at 7:09

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