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August 4, 2015 / 19 Av, 5775
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My Machberes

Chanukah, Hatzolah, And Deep Freeze In Uman

Despite forecasts of sub-freezing bitter cold weather, thousands of Breslover chassidim sojourned in Uman for Shabbos Chanukah, December 14-15, at the gravesite of Rabbi Nachman of Breslov (1772-1810). Shabbos Chanukah is one of three times during the year when Breslovers gather there, coming from Israel, Europe, the U.S. and Canada.

The Uman Hatzolah facility was established on Pushkina Street to serve all Bresover chassidim and other visitors. Since the 1990s there has been a small but growing year-round Jewish population in Uman, concentrated around Rebbe Nachman of Breslov’s tomb. The local Jews are mostly involved in providing services to Jewish tourists. In addition, several manufacturing and import-export businesses have been established.

Because of the frosty weather, Hatzolah Uman issued a directive to all visiting Breslover chassidim to bring warm clothing. The directive instructed pilgrims to bring along an adequate supply of prescription medications, noting that filling prescriptions in Uman may be impossible. Further, the directive stressed that visiting Uman at this time of year is physically challenging due to the inclement weather; several years ago a Breslover chassid suffering from breathing difficulties passed away.

Skverer Rebbe’s Eldest Son Visits Israel

As chassidishe communities grow, with branches blossoming in cities in Israel, Europe, and America, the personal participation by Rebbes in all the various events becomes impossible. As a result, we are increasingly seeing sons of Rebbes leading events their fathers are unable to conduct. Rabbi Menachem Mendel, eldest son of Rabbi Aaron Teitelbaum, Satmar Rebbe; Rabbi Aaron Mordechai Rokeach, only son of Rabbi Yesachor Dov Rokeach, Belzer Rebbe in Jerusalem; and Rabbi Aaron Menachem Twersky, firstborn son of Rabbi Dovid Twesky, Skverer Rebbe, seem to be in perpetual motion attending numerous events around the world representing their fathers.

Rabbi Aaron Menachem Twersky arrived in Israel on Monday, December 3, to participate in a family simcha. Rabbi Menachem Ernster, son-in-law of Rabbi Moshe Yehoshua Hager, zt”l (1917-2012), Bnei Brak Vishnitzer Rebbe, is Rabbi Aaron Menachem’s uncle. Rabbi Ernster is the Bnei Brak Vishnitzer Rosh Yeshiva. Rabbi Ernster’s granddaughter was being married. The kallah is the daughter of Rabbi Chaim Meir Ernster, Manchester Vishnitzer Rav, who is also a mechutan to Rabbi Aaron Menachem.

In addition, Rabbi Aaron Menachem attended the wedding of a grandchild of the Erlauer Rav and of Rabbi Eliyahu Shternbuch, Antwerp Rosh Bet Din. Rabbi Aaron Menachem also attended the wedding of a grandchild of the Rachmestrivka Rebbe of Boro Park and of the Jerusalem Chernobler Rebbe.

Once in Israel, Rabbi Aaron Menachem visited the holy sites in Yerushalayim, Teverya, Tzefas, Meron, Har Hazeisim, Har Hamenuchos, and the gravesites of the Vishnitzer Rebbes. He was joined by a large number of Skverer chassidim who came from America, Europe, and cities in Israel. He visited Skverer shuls and institutions in Jerusalem, Bnei Brak, and Beth Shemesh, where he addressed students regarding Chanukah. On Thursday, December 13, he returned home.

Nikopolis, Bulgaria, Honors The Beis Yosef

The city of Nikopolis in Bulgaria is historically significant in that the last of the crusades was defeated there in 1396. The last Bulgarian tsar defended what remained of the once extensive Bulgarian Empire from the fortress of Nikopolis. He was captured and the town was conquered by the Ottomans. After the expulsion of the Jews from Portugal in 1497, the Ottoman Empire welcomed Jews. Rabbi Yosef Karo, (1488-1575), author of Beis Yosef, went with his parents to Nikopolis in Bulgaria, then under Ottoman rule.

The Beis Yosef, zt”l

During World War II, Bulgaria’s Jewish population was saved by the heroism of the Bulgarian government and the Bulgarian people.

The city fathers of Nikopolis have decided to honor the history of their city’s embrace of persecuted Jews and to note the achievement of one of those refugees, who served as the city’s Rav and is today recognized as one of Judaism’s greatest authorities.

The main thoroughfare of the city’s center was renamed Beis Yosef, this in addition to Bulgaria’s having renamed a main thoroughfare in Silistra in honor of Rabbi Eliezer Papo. Between 1819 and 1826, Rabbi Papo, author of Pela Yoetz, was the Rav of Silistra, making the town an important Jewish site. His gravesite is a popular destination of pilgrims coming to pray for good health and salvation

Rabbi Yosef Karo is renowned as the author of the Shulchan Aruch, the authoritative Code of Jewish Law. He was born in Toledo, Spain. His family fled Spain in 1492. After the expulsion of the Jews from Portugal in 1497, the Ottomans invited Jews into the Ottoman territory and Rabbi Karo went with his parents to Nikopolis in Bulgaria, then under the rule of the Ottoman Empire. A brilliant student, he was appointed as the Rav of Nikopolis at a very young age. Having remarried after losing his first wife, Rabbi Karo moved to Edirne, Turkey, and then to Tzefas in 1537. In Tzefas he became the head of the beis din and he was recognized as the final arbitrator of halacha for all of Eretz Yisrael as well as the Diaspora.

Rabbi Karo authored the Beis Yosef, which was an in-depth commentary on the Arba Turim, written by Rabbi Yaakov ben Rabbi Asher, renowned as the Tur. The Arba Turim was a systematic codification of the Talmud divided into four groups. Based on the Tur’s outline, Rabbi Karo, in creating a framework for study and review of his thoroughly extensive Beis Yosef, compiled the Shulchan Aruch, first published in 1555. Every discussion of halacha must be developed from within the structure established by the Shulchan Aruch. Rabbi Karo, considered the greatest halachic authority since the Rambam, invested more than 20 years, beginning in 1522, in writing the Beis Yosef.

The Issue Of Stomach Stapling

Rabbi Nissan Karelitz

A recent halachic response from Rabbi Nissan Karelitz, Rosh Kollel Chazon Ish and widely respect Rosh Beis Din in Bnei Brak, has been extensively reported. One of his married students was having a weight problem. The student felt continuous dieting was an impossible. Instead, the student hoped he would get permission to have stomach stapling performed, enabling him to finally lose and keep off his excess weight.

Rabbi Karelitz, together with his beis din, deliberated the pros and cons of surgery and ruled that one is not permitted to potentially endanger one’s self when determined dieting can achieve the same results.

Years ago I was asked by a married student whether he was allowed to give his extremely overweight wife permission to undergo weight loss surgery. The student was afraid the surgery might interfere with his wife’s ability to have children. Researching the surgery and its applicable halachos, I inquired of Rabbi Yitzchok Isaac Liebes, zt”l (1905-2000), Greidinger Rav and Rosh Beis Din of the Igud Horabbonim, considered one of the great decisors of halacha in America. Rabbi Liebes responded, citing many Rishonim and Acharonim, that if one’s metabolism makes it difficult to lose weight, and the weight is dangerously taxing the heart and other organs, the surgery would be permissible. Rabbi Liebes’s responsa was included in his five volume Beis Avi 3:158, published in 1980.

Mikvah U.S.A.

Mikvah U.S.A., headquartered at 1461 42nd Street in Brooklyn, is one of the leading organizations in the building of new mikvehs in the United States. Its efforts in Nashville, TN (Jewish population: 8,000) led to the establishment of a beautiful modern mikveh there. The organization is presently participating in the building of kosher mikvehs in Berkeley, CA (Jewish population: 22,000); Oakland, CA (Jewish population: 32,500); Eugene, OR (Jewish population: 3,250); as well in the rebuilding and updating of a mikveh in Michigan.

Previous projects included mikvehs in Ashland, OR; Bakersfield, CA; Yorba Linda, CA; Irvine, CA; Redondo Beach, CA; Dayton, OH; East Denver, CO; Dunwoody, GA; Springfield, NJ; Hillside, NJ; Voorhees, NJ; Philadelphia, PA; Port Washington, NY; Fairfield, CT; and Stamford, CT. The organization has received more than 100 additional applications for financial and design assistance in the building of mikvehs in communities across the United States.

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