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My Machberes

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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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