Latest update: November 14th, 2011
Title: Shabbat The Right Way:
Resolving Halachic Dilemma
Author: Rabbi J. Simcha Cohen
Publisher: Urim Publications
Shabbat The Right Way: Resolving Halachic Dilemma is the latest book of Rabbi J. Simcha Cohen, a Jewish Press columnist and recognized posek, as well as the author, previously, of How Does Jewish Law Work, vol. 1-2 and The 613th Commandment.
The book demonstrates his original analysis and creative psak and answers many common halachic questions. Using various sources, Rabbi Cohen discusses a wide range of halachot, minhagim, and contemporary Shabbat issues.
This book is unique in its question and answer format and clear explanations. It is readily understandable by those familiar with the sources, as well as those who are not yet well versed in them.
The book is divided into two categories. The main category includes short answers to questions about such Shabbos-related halachot and minhagim such as Kiddush and the correct nusach of Friday night prayers.
Because he presents opinions, sources, and explanations according to the Ashkenazi tradition, however, Rabbi Cohen does not include the original sources for some of the halachot and minhagim, such as the recitation of Mizmor Shir Leyom HaShabbat, the manner in which one holds the kiddush cup, etc. Their origins are found in kabbalistic writings, such as the Zohar and hechalot literature. These kabbalah-based halachot and minhagim, and their spiritual significance, are discussed at length in the works of Moshe Halamish, Daniel Sperber, Gilat Yitshak Dov, and others.
The second category of Rabbi Cohen’s book covers contemporary issues in great detail, such as employing a Shabbat goy, using a Shabbat timer for a dishwasher, carrying muktzeh objects, saving lives on Shabbat, registering in a hospital on Shabbat, and many more.
One of the major questions that Rabbi Cohen discusses is the use of a bus with a non-Jewish driver on Shabbat to transport elderly or sick people to shul. The issue involves not only purely halachic considerations, but also medical and psychological implications. What if mental anguish would be caused, or the health of an elderly, or sick Jew would be impaired by not going to shul on Shabbat?
This question has been discussed by contemporary poskim. Rabbi Cohen quotes some of them, and prints their responses in his addenda. Almost all of them are stringent, and most of them disagree with the author. The Institute of Halacha and Technology in Jerusalem and the Tsomet Institute offer other solutions for this problem.
Rabbi Cohen shows courage and genuine originality in analyzing these Shabbat questions and offers his opinion and psak even though he is aware that many poskim will disagree with him. That is the way of our Oral Torah. The posek must compare a new issue with earlier piskey halachot in the method of dimui milta lemilta, analyze the sources, learn the opinions of other poskim, and conclude with a psak.
I wholeheartedly recommend Rabbi Cohen’s book; it will strengthen Jewish life and the observance of Shabbat kodesh.
Rabbi Meir Kadosh received his semicha from Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik of Yeshivat Rabbenu Itzhak Elchanan (RIETS), and from the Israeli chief rabbinate. He holds a Ph.D. in Jewish philosophy and kabbalah from Bar Ilan University. He is the rav of Kol Shadday Synagogue and rabbi of the Maale religious high school in Jerusalem.
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