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April 23, 2014 / 23 Nisan, 5774
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘bris’

The Metzitzah B’Peh Controversy

Wednesday, September 12th, 2012

Anyone who reads the text of the New York City Department of Health’s proposed rule regarding metzitzah b’peh will immediately notice that two fundamental concerns have been virtually ignored in all of the public debate over the measure.

Certainly there have been very public arguments over the propriety or impropriety of governmental regulation of a religious practice and over the evidence or lack of same linking the procedure to herpes. And there are many who have raised the “slippery slope” concern that regulating an adjunct of bris milah will inevitably lead to further restrictions on the core practice itself, even though the DOH proposal would only require that parents be made aware of the risks associated with the practice in order to be able to make an informed consent. But therein lies the rub.

In pertinent part, the proposed new rule provides as follows:

Consent for direct oral suction as part of a circumcision.(a) Direct oral suction means contact between the mouth of a person performing circumcision and the infant’s circumcised penis.

(b) Written informed consent required. A person may not perform a circumcision that involves direct oral suction on a child under one year of age without obtaining, prior to the circumcision, the written informed consent of a parent or legal guardian of the child who is being circumcised in a form approved or provided by the Department. The written informed consent must include notice that direct oral suction exposes the infant to the risk of transmission of herpes simplex virus infection and other infectious diseases.

(C) Retention of consent forms. The person performing the circumcision must give the parent or legal guardian a copy of the signed consent form and retain the original for one year from the date of the circumcision, making it available for inspection if requested by the Department.

For one thing, we do not know the language the actual consent form will contain. Indeed, after the adoption of the general rule, it would seem the DOH will have open-ended authority to come up with descriptions of the alleged risks and its choices will not be subjected to standard limitations on rule-making authority. The possibilities are enormous if not endless. This is especially problematic since the rule is not limited to the risk of transmission of the herpes virus but to “other infectious diseases” as well.

Also of great concern is the possibility of child-abuse charges being leveled against the mohel or parents should metzitzah b’peh be performed and, God forbid, one of the diseases described in the consent form is thought to have resulted. Indeed, there have been reports that the Brooklyn district attorney is looking into bringing criminal charges in a case where a child who underwent metzitzah b’peh died.

And it just seems incongruous that parents will be required to sign a form acknowledging that they are knowingly placing their child in harm’s way.

Moreover, what we have here is a government regulation that will declare – with unknown particulars – that a time-honored Jewish religious practice, albeit one not universally accepted and employed by all observant Jews, risks the health and well-being of newborns. This is never a good thing for Jews, particularly so today, as witness the outbreak of challenges to circumcision and schechita in a number of countries.

It is crucial that our community stand up in defense of our traditions. In this connection we are still uncomfortable with the election to the New York City Council three years ago of a Jewish candidate who never fully apologized for publicly describing bris milah as “the ritual violence of circumcision.” The Jewish Press at the time forcefully condemned the comments of that candidate, who ran in a majority Jewish district with the fulsome support of an elected official well known for his advocacy of Jewish causes.

Effective free passes like that are not helpful no matter who bestows them.

Orthodox Leaders Fear Precedent Of Gov’t Intervention On Bris Rite

Wednesday, September 12th, 2012

The New York City Board of Health was scheduled to vote this Thursday (two days after this issue went to press) on a measure requiring parents to sign a consent waiver before allowing a mohel to perform metzitzah b’peh, or oral suctioning, on their infants.

The proposal has created a firestorm in the Orthodox community. While some see the proposal as the first step toward an outright ban on metzitzah b’peh, others are simply leery of attempts by City Hall to legislate religious practices.

The proposed waiver reportedly is the result of a study published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that found that since 2000, eleven newborns contracted the herpes simplex virus after the metzitzah b’peh was performed on them. Two of the infants cited in the report suffered brain damage while two others died.

In a statement released on June 6, the City of New York urged that the practice be discontinued entirely and city-owned hospitals began distributing a booklet advising parents about the potential health risks of metzitzah b’peh.

The booklet, titled “Before the Bris, How to Protect Your Baby Against Infection,” details a direct link between oral suctioning by a mohel infected with herpes and both infection and death associated with herpes simplex type one virus (HSV-1); it warns parents that there is no proof that any precautions taken by a mohel to prevent transmission of the disease can reduce the risk of infection and counsels parents to ask their mohel if he performs metzitzah b’peh.

Under the proposed regulations, mohels would be required to distribute consent forms to parents and to keep those waivers for a minimum of one year. The precise wording of the form, which would warn of the potential risks, would be drafted by health officials, not rabbis.

An earlier challenge to metzitzah b’peh on the state level was resolved in 2006 when the New York State Department of Health issued an official protocol for the practice of oral suctioning, developed in conjunction by a team of doctors and rabbis. New York State Commissioner of Health Dr. Antonia C. Novella praised the rabbis involved in the process for their cooperation, saying the meetings gave her a better understanding of the importance of metzitzah b’peh and that she was confident the newly developed protocols would respect tradition while still protecting the health of the public.

It is precisely the lack of rabbinical involvement in the proposed regulations that Rabbi Moshe Chaim Friedman of NYmohel.com finds unsettling.

“The problem with the way this is being done is that the city is not engaging in a dialogue with the people that this affects: the rabbonim, those involved in bris milah,” said Rabbi Friedman.

“What was done in 2006 was negotiated with a proper dialogue and was done in a mutually beneficial fashion. This isn’t being discussed with anyone. They are just ramming it down the collective throats of the Orthodox community. Our common goal is the safety of our children, so why mandate this instead of working with us?”

He said another concern was that “the controversy has scared away irreligious people from having a bris altogether, no question about it. They have been led to believe that the rabbi performing the ritual harms babies.”

“This isn’t about defending metzitzah b’peh,” he added. “This is about defending our right to freedom of religion.”

Rabbi Friedman said that regulating any part of bris milah is a dangerous precedent.

“I see this as the beginning of the end. Once they insert themselves into religious practices there is no limit to what they can mandate.”

“We need to protest this vociferously,” added one prominent Brooklyn posek, who asked that his name not be used.

“It is dangerous for the Jewish community to let this go by unchallenged. The moment they have a foot in the door to say anything about religious practice, we face the risk of serious problems.”

Rabbi Romi Cohn, a member of the American Board of Ritual Circumcision, a rabbinic board that has been regulating the practice of bris milah for over 50 years, called the proposed regulations a blood libel.

“Two children died in a twelve-year period,” said Rabbi Cohn. “Mayor Bloomberg says he wants to protect Jewish children from getting hurt? If he is really concerned about the welfare of children, perhaps he should look at New York City hospitals that are under the jurisdiction of the Department of Health. Significantly more children have died of staph infections they contracted at New York hospitals than have ever died as a result of a bris milah.

Assembly Candidate Tischler Calls on AG to Move on DOH Circumcision, Criticizes Hikind

Wednesday, September 12th, 2012

State Assembly candidate Moshe Tischler is calling on New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman to explore all legal options against Mayor Bloomberg’s attempt to regulate the millennia – old religious practice of bris milah.

Over the last couple of weeks, hundreds of rabbis have signed a Kol Koreh (religious proclamation) that condemned the Department of Health’s effort to set conditions on Jewish religious practices by spreading misinformation.

The New York City Department of Health is expected to issue an order this week with regards to the religious ritual of metzitza b’peh which may require written parental consent.

“For the government to infringe on our religious practices is absolutely unacceptable,” said Tischler, “this is an attack on our religious liberties. The Bloomberg administration’s impending order needs to be stopped immediately. The Attorney General should take a close look at the legal options the state has to stop such regulations.”

Mr. Tischler also added, “It was unfortunate that Dov Hikind supported Brad Lander for City Council in 2009, who openly criticized bris milah and called it “ritual violence.” The NYC Council has direct jurisdiction over the Department of Health and Bloomberg now has another rubber stamp for his policy on bris milah.

“Unfortunately, having a proponent of this policy on the City Council is to the Orthodox community’s detriment. It’s incredibly ironic that my opponent is railing against this policy considering his past support for a candidate who’s view on this issue was criticized by Jewish leaders and The Jewish Press and Mr. Hikind chose to disregard their concern nevertheless and to continue to support Mr. Lander.

“Our community needs leaders who understand that we can never afford to send a signal that such views are acceptable in the name of a political accommodation. We need leaders who won’t compromise our values for a backroom deal. We need leaders who are pro-active; not reactive.”

My Machberes

Wednesday, September 5th, 2012

Rabbis Defend Metzitzah B’Peh

One hundred twenty-five chassidishe and yeshivish rabbis have signed a kol koreh proclamation stating there will be no compliance with a proposed New York City Department of Health requirement for parents and mohelim (practitioners of circumcision) to sign an “informed consent” document before metzitzah b’peh is performed on infant males. The message they wish to convey is that many Orthodox Jews will not be intimidated into changing any aspect of the practice of bris milah with metzitzah b’peh.

Metzitzah b’peh is the oral suction of topical blood from the open wound of the removed foreskin. Immediately prior to the suction of topical blood, the mohel rinses his mouth with wine or alcohol.

The kol koreh

Rabbi Aaron Teitelbaum, Satmar Rebbe, is not a signatory to the kol koreh. Instead, he issued his own statement proclaiming his readiness to defend the minutest phases of the traditional custom with his very life, if necessary, in accordance with the Talmudic dictum (Gittin 47b). The Satmar Rebbe says he will never allow the signing of any document by a parent or mohel of his flock that might even hint at any compromise.

The kol koreh has the signatures of 125 chassidishe and yeshivish rabbis and promises more signatures to come. The list includes religious leaders such as Rabbi Zalman Leib Teitelbaum, Satmar Rebbe; Rabbi Yisroel Belsky, rosh yeshiva Torah Vodaas; Rabbi Yechezkel Roth, Karlsburger Rav; Rabbi Mordechai Dovid Ungar, Bobover Rebbe; Rabbi Matisyahu Salomon, mashgiach Beth Medrash Govoha; and Rabbi Yisroel Avrohom Portugal, Skulener Rebbe.

In a separate statement the Igud HoRabbonim – The Rabbinical Alliance of America – while acknowledging views on both sides of the issue, declared its opposition to any government regulation of the circumcision rite. This echoes a similar statement issued recently by the Agudath Israel of Amerca.

Vishnitzer Chassunah

The Shabbos Shoftim aufruf of Aaron Teitelbaum, August 24-25, was celebrated in Williamsburg together with his father, Rabbi Yaakov Dovid Teitelbaum, Spinka rosh yeshiva in Boro Park, and his grandfather, Rabbi Shmuel Teitelbaum, rosh kollel Me’orer Hashachar, and son-in-law of Rabbi Chaim Moskowitz, Shotzer Rebbe in Williamsburg and son-in-law of Rabbi Mordechai Hager, Monsey Vishnitzer Rebbe.

On Tuesday, August 28, the chassan was brought under the chuppah in front of the Vishnitzer Beis Medrash in Monsey, where he met his kallah, the daughter of Rabbi Yitzchok Yechiel Mechel Moskowitz, Monsey Shotzer Rav; son of the Shotzer Rebbe in Williamsburg.

The chassan and kallah are grandchildren of the Shotzer Rebbe in Williamsburg and both are great-grandchildren of the Monsey Vishnitzer Rebbe. Shabbos Ki Seitzei Shevah Berachos were celebrated in Monsey. Motzaei Shabbos Shevah Berachos were held at the Shotzer Beis Medrash to honor the grandfather and Sunday night Shevah Berachos, honoring the great-grandfather, were celebrated at the Vishnitzer Beis Medrash in Monsey.

Yerushalayim Nadvorna Rebbe Visits N.Y.

Rabbi Meir Yitzchok Isaac Rosenbaum, Yerushalayim Nadvorna Rebbe, arrived at Kennedy Airport at noon on Sunday, August 26, and was met by a large group of chassidim. He was brought to the home of Rabbi Naphtali Zvi Rubin, Monsey Dombrover Rav, where he stayed for Shabbos Ki Seitzei until Sunday, September 2, when he proceeded to the home of Moshe Beilush in Boro Park, where he remained until Monday, September 3. This is his first visit to America after being crowned as Yerusahalyim Nadvorna Rebbe upon the passing of his father in March.

The newly anointed Yerusahalyim Nadvorna Rebbe has earned a reputation as a chassidishe personality unique to the Nadvorna dynasty. His leadership in Jerusalem is the fulfillment of his grandfather’s original aspirations. In 1947, when the Devar Chaim came to Eretz Yisrael, he had hoped to rebuild his dynasty in Jerusalem. Sixty-five years later, it is his grandson who is cultivating Nadvorna chassidus in the holy city.

The Shabbos Ki Seitzei tefillos and tisch were conducted at the Dombrover Beis Medrash in Monsey. Rabbi Meir Yitzchok Isaac is the son of Rabbi Yaakov Yisochor Ber Rosenbaum, zt”l (1930-2012), Bnei Brak Nadvorna Rebbe and author of Beer Yaakov; son of Rabbi Chaim Mordechai Rosenbaum, zt”l (1903-1977), Nadvorna Rebbe and author of Devar Chaim who survived the Holocaust and moved to Palestine in 1947, establishing Yeshiva Mamar Mordechai in Bnei Brak; son of Rabbi Isomor Rosenbaum, zt”l (1886-1973), Nodvorna Rebbe who was anointed at age 15; son of Rabbi Meir Rosenbaum, zt”l (1852-1908), Kretchnifer Rebbe; son of son of Rabbi Meir Rosenbaum, zt”l (1852-1908), Kretchnifer Rebbe, the only person authorized by his father to issue kameyos (written amulets) to chassidim petitioning for heavenly help; son of Rabbi Mordechai Rosenbaum, zt”l (1824-1894), Nadvorna Rebbe and author of Mamar Mordechai; son of Rabbi Yesochor Bertche Leifer, zt”l (d. 1848), founding Nadvorna Rebbe and author of Sisrei Torah.

Preparations For Satmar Chassunah

The first shidduch of a grandchild of Rabbi Zalman Leib Teitelbaum, Satmar Rebbe, was realized on Sunday, November 6, 2011, when Chaim Hersh (Chaim Zvi) Rosenberger was engaged to the daughter of Rabbi Asher Anshel Scher, Classoner Rav. The chassan is the son of Rabbi Yitzchok Rosenberger, Lee Gardens Satmar dayan and son of Rabbi Yehoshua Rosenberger, rav of Kiryas R’ma in Beit Shemesh and member dayan of the Eidah Hacharedis of Jerusalem. Rabbi Yitzchok Rosenberger is a son-in-law of the Satmar Rebbe and also serves as rosh yeshiva in the Satmar Yeshiva.

Routes And Roots To The Truth

Wednesday, September 5th, 2012

The five-year-old boy was in a church in Puerto Rico with his parents. As they and his grandparents were Catholics, that made him Catholic – as far as his young mind could figure.

With an independent mind at such a young age the boy would not do as his parents did, namely bow down to a statue. Looking back decades later, he would say, “It seemed ridiculous” to do. But to avoid his parents’ probable spanking, he had to do something to appear as if he was interested in what was going on. So he moved his lips, pretending to pray.

Child number 10 of 19, he would not eat the pork his mother would cook. He would say later, “All my brothers would eat it and I wouldn’t.”

Why not? Why not just go with the program? Was he just a rebellious kid trying to be different from everyone else?

After many years of seeking his own way, he arrived at some startling facts and recalled certain remembrances. Research into his family background revealed that his ancestors on his mother’s side came from southern France. A key recollection was having seen his mother’s mother light candles on Friday night. When he asked her why she did this, she said she didn’t know.

After more research the fateful day arrived when, at the age of 40, he contacted a cousin in Florida who was also trying to understand his family history. She asked him, “Did you know we’re Jewish?” A short time later he confirmed his cousin’s statement, and after spending some time learning about his heritage he has been living the life of a shomer Shabbos Jew for nearly 15 years.

What a path the life of “Reuven” has taken! Brought up as a Catholic in a very religious home, his goal throughout that time was to search for Hashem. “I wanted the truth,” he said.

He read the New Testament and discovered that some central characters were Jewish but deviating from the right path. “They were trying to deviate from the path,” he said. “No one’s going to deviate from my path.”

The searching and learning processes went on. In the years before learning he was Jewish, Reuven went from being Catholic to being a Seventh Day Adventist in California. He kept learning from their leaders but they could not answer certain questions, raising his suspicions about what they were telling him.

Reuven felt like he was finding the truth when he began studying Jewish sources. “My family was very upset with me,” he said. “Some of them didn’t want to talk to me. I didn’t care. This is my life and I live it as I want. But it wasn’t easy.”

Of course it wasn’t easy. He was leaving behind the very foundation of his life’s first decades. And he was leaving it for what? For the joy of learning that he’d been Jewish all along.

While he lost some contact with his family, he found a new family among the people who warmly welcomed him in Brooklyn. It was there that he continued to investigate even more into his religious roots. And how has he taken to his new lifestyle of religious discovery and commitment? “The best part of being a Jew is that you know this is what Hashem wants.” Quite a statement from someone seeking the truth!

Reuven has faced many challenges along the way. Before ascertaining his Jewish roots, he was married with children – with whom he now has limited contact. In his new setting, rabbis urged him to undergo a bris milah. He complied.

And then there was the significant amount of property in Puerto Rico to be managed (before attempting to sell it). This forced him to live there, cutting him off from being involved in any type of meaningful Jewish life. Shabbos after Shabbos was spent sitting alone in his apartment – davening, eating and learning. But instead of this challenging period being a negative part of his experience, it strengthened his resolve and commitment to religious Judaism.

Things changed for the better and thankfully, over time, this gregarious and friendly man found a small religious community in San Juan. Warmly received there, he now spends Shabbos and other parts of the week in the company of fellow Jews.

‘Personally Unique’

Thursday, August 30th, 2012

Phil and Mike were part of a team of construction workers building a skyscraper in the middle of the city. When it was time for their lunch break they sat down together with their feet dangling twelve stories from the ground. Phil opened his lunch box and peered in, “Peanut butter and jelly?! Again peanut butter and jelly! I have had enough! If I get peanut butter and jelly again tomorrow, so help me I’m going to jump right off this structure.” Mike then opened his lunch box and peered in, “Tuna fish?! Again Tuna fish! I can’t take it anymore. If I have tuna fish for lunch one more time I’m going to jump off with you.”

The next day when it was time for their lunch break, the duo sat down together and opened their lunch boxes. Phil was aghast, “Peanut butter and jelly again! That’s it!” With that he leapt off the building. Mike then looked in his lunch box. “Tuna fish again! That’s it!” And before anyone could stop him, he too jumped off the building.

The families decided to hold a joint funeral for Phil and Mike. Before the eulogies began Mike’s wife walked up to his casket sobbing, “Michael, I didn’t know you didn’t like peanut butter and jelly. If I would have known I never would have given it to you for lunch.” With that she walked away crying bitterly. Then Phil’s wife walked over to his casket, “Phillip… you made your own lunch every day!”

It sounds like a silly inane joke. But perhaps there is more truth to the joke then it may seem. The sefer Sha’ar Bas Rabim[1] relates a powerful insight: He explains that every person wants to be created exactly as he/she is created. Before a soul descends into the body of a newborn baby, it is shown what it needs to rectify and what its unique role will be while it is alive in this world. The soul then decides what it requires – i.e. its familial, social, economic, intellectual, and physical state, and G-d responds accordingly.

Thus when challenges arise in life and one questions G-d, “Why me? How could You do this to me?” the question is really misdirected. In truth it is not G-d who has determined the situation, but rather the person himself, from the pure vantage point of heaven, before descending into this world. Essentially, we make our own lunch.

The Torah instructs (22:5), “A woman shall not wear the garments of a man, and a man shall not wear the dress of a woman, for it is an abomination of Hashem, your G-d, anyone who does these things.”

Targum Yonason explains the verse: “The clothing of tzitzis and tefillin, which are affixed for men, should not be donned by women… for it distances one from before Hashem, your G-d, anyone who does these things.”

Rabbi Chaim Shmuelevitz zt’l commented that the Torah is reminding us that each person has his own mission to fulfill in life. For one person performing a certain task can be extremely holy, while for another person performing that same task can be considered an abomination. Every person needs to foster feelings of joy and appreciation for his own uniqueness and abilities. How can one compare himself to another if his role is so vastly different? A man needs the constant spiritual injections of holiness that are garnered through wearing tefillin and tzitzis. A woman however, does not require those measures[2], and therefore for her to wear tefillin and tzitzis can be deemed an abomination.

There are many conscientious students in school who struggle with the notion that their peers have superior scholastic acumen than they do. They work and struggle much harder for grades and do not score as well as others who achieve high grades with minimal effort. Those students must be taught that G-d gives every person what he needs. [Truthfully, those who are trained to struggle and expend effort to reach levels of success are better suited and prepared for the challenges of life. Often it is the students who did not have to work hard during their formative years who are in for a rude awakening when they step into “the real world.”]

An Appreciation: Remembering HaRav Yosef Sholom Elyashiv, A Torah Giant, On His Shloshim

Wednesday, August 15th, 2012

It’s hard to believe that for the past 30 days we have been living in a world without HaRav Yosef Sholom Elyashiv, zt”l, who died at the age of 102. We may never realize the effect his longevity had on our generation. Reb Elyashiv was a true gaon and masmid beyond most people’s comprehension. Although many could not relate to his advanced levels of learning or hasmada, he represented the essence of a true Torah giant. Many revered him as the greatest posek of the generation. For years Klal Yisrael had a leader whom they relied on for guidance and halachic issues. Scores of rabbanim from around the world would flock to hear his rulings. His humble abode was the attraction of thousands who would come merely to witness his greatness or receive his berachos.

It is crucial that we recall some of Reb Elyashiv’s attributes lest we forget, as we are not accustomed to the magnitude of his greatness.

Rabbi Elyashiv, born in 1910, was an only child born to parents after 17 barren years in their marriage. At the age of 12 his family moved to Eretz Yisrael and with the advice of the Chofetz Chaim changed their last name from Erener to Elyashiv, his mother’s maiden name, to aid them in attaining visas. At a young age he was recognized as a master in Talmud study. Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak Kook suggested a shidduch for him with Sheina Chaya Levine, one of the daughters of Rav Aryeh Levine, the tzaddik of Yerushalayim. The shidduch materialized and Rav Kook was mesader kiddushin at their wedding.

Rabbi Elyashiv accepted the position of rav of Ramle for a short while. He was thereafter appointed a Rabbinic Court judge on the Beit Din Hagadol of the Chief Rabbinate. Rabbi Yitzchak Herzog, the chief rabbi of Israel, excused him from court examinations and other protocol, saying that they were unnecessary for someone of his caliber. In 1970 he resigned from that post and did not hold any official positions for the remainder of his life. He knew no greater pleasure than to sit and learn Gemara alone while singing his trademark melody.

Rabbi Elazar Menachem Man Shach urged Reb Elyashiv to join the Degel HaTorah political party. After Rabbi Shach’s passing in 2001 Rabbi Elyashiv became the spiritual leader of the party. His influence was felt in many aspects of Israeli politics.

His daily schedule began at around 2 or 3 a.m., his day filled with many hours of intense learning. One of Rabbi Elyashiv’s grandsons noticed that his grandfather – in his 90s – arose half an hour early one morning. When he inquired as to why, Rabbi Elyashiv responded that on the previous day he had met with a government minister for half an hour – and now he was making up for that lost time from learning.

Rabbi Elyashiv always thought in terms of halacha. Upon hearing the news that a great-grandson was born he immediately said, “kosher l’eidus – fit for testimony.” (Sons and grandsons are unfit to testify or have testimony said about them, as they are considered related regarding issues of testimony.)

Rabbi Elyashiv ruled on many of the major halachic quandaries of the modern world. Here are some: Although he did not write his rulings, many were recorded by his students in Kovetz Teshuvos and Ashrei Ha’ish. Many people stopped smoking on Yom Tov after Rabbi Elyashiv ruled that since most people do not smoke, more people are forbidden to do so.

Rabbi Elyashiv approved ArtScroll’s English translation of the Gemara. Without his approval the project may not have ever developed into the amazing work that it has become – and have the international impact it has today. Rabbi Elyashiv advised bnei Torah to adhere to the moment of silence held on Israel’s Yom Hazikaron. After noticing several software piracy abuses, Microsoft joined those who asked Rabbi Elyashiv for a halachic ruling on this matter. After his prohibition a significant reduction in software piracy was noticed.

Rabbi Efraim Holtzberg, a close talmid of Reb Elyashiv, related a story of a young father donning a kippah serugah who asked Reb Elyashiv about 20 years ago to accept the honor of being the sandik (godfather) for his two baby boys. Reb Elyashiv answered that he had to attend the bris of one of his great-grandsons on that very day and was therefore unable to attend. The father pleaded with him. “Rebbe, don’t you remember me? Seven months ago I came to seek your guidance regarding my wife, who was pregnant with triplets. The doctors told us that we must kill one of them in order to save the other two. You told me with great encouragement that we should not kill any of them. I have come to you now because we just had two healthy boys and one girl and I want you to be the boys’ sandik.” Upon hearing this Reb Elyashiv agreed to be the sandik and made arrangements to be at both brissim.

My Machberes

Thursday, July 26th, 2012

Memories Of Rav Elyashiv, ZT”L

On Wednesday, the 28th of Tammuz, July 18, 2012, the Torah world was cast into profound mourning upon receiving the sad news from Shaarei Tzedek Hospital in Jerusalem. Rabbi Yosef Sholom Elyashiv, zt”l(1910-2012), preeminent Torah sage of the Lithuanian and yeshivish communities throughout the world, had ascended to the greatest yeshiva in heaven, completing a life of immense and intense Torah scholarship and leadership.

Personal Reminiscence (I)

Wednesday morning, the 22nd of Kislev 5763 (November 27th, 2002) the third Shacharis of the Jerusalem Rabbinical Conference of the National Council of Young Israel: My distinguished conference roommate, Rabbi Yitzchok Feldman, rav of Congregation Emek Beracha in Palo Alto, California, accompanied me to the Meah Shearim Shtiblech, where minyan after minyan can be found.

On the street level, the building contains six shtiblech with a larger beis medrash above them. Access to the upstairs beis medrash is by way of an outdoor narrow metal staircase. The upstairs shtibel had the distinction of having Rav Elyashiv as its presiding personality. Rav Elyashiv participated in the only Shacharis minyan conducted upstairs, the hashkama (sunrise) minyan that begins immediately before daybreak. As can be imagined, Rav Elyashiv was always one of the first to arrive every morning.

The downstairs shtiblech were renovated in the mid 1990s and are absolutely beautiful – picturesque and memorable. During the renovations, a pious mispallel of the shtieblech wished to participate, contributing his ma’aser (tithe) funds, usually used to feed the poor, toward the purchase of the new stunning bench chairs. He sought permission from Rav Elyashiv to contribute. Rav Elyashiv responded that since the old benches, though worn, were still functional, ma’aser money could not be used for the purchase of new benches.

Wishing to speak advice from Rav Elyashiv, my learned roommate and I arose in the early hours that morning and journeyed to the Meah Shearim Shtiblech as earnest and reverential pilgrims.

The shailo (halachic query) that was the focus of my attention pertained to my shul, B’nai Israel of Linden Heights in Boro Park, Brooklyn, organized in 1924. The shul’s chevra kadisha started a Sefer Zikaron, a parchment Scroll of Remembrance dating back to 1924, for members who had passed away. The entire list of names recorded in the Sefer Zikaron is read aloud at every Yizkor service. As the shul was 78 years old at the time, the list of names had grown very long and was growing even longer.

My paternal great-grandfather was Rabbi Shraga Zvi Tannenbaum, zt”l (1826-1897), Chahter (Mezo-Csat) Rav and renowned author of Netah Sorek. In chapter eight of his responsa, the Netah Sorek dealt with a similar question, allowing a chevra kadisha to recite one kel moleh for all names it was obligated to pronounce at Yizkor. That decision is quoted widely and used in application to similar situations.

I sought some method of compressing the time required to recite aloud the long list of names at my shul. One suggestion was having several men read the names aloud simultaneously, thus dividing the time necessary to have all the names read aloud by the number of men pronouncing them. If the reading of the names aloud would take one hour, having them read aloud by six men would reduce the time by a factor of six, to a reasonable ten minutes.

We found Rav Elyashuv surrounded by an entourage. Those wishing to speak with him in the mornings had to wait until he concluded his supplementary prayers and undid his Rabbeinu Tam tefillin, which were handed to an assistant who put them neatly away. Petitioners could then walk up the aisles and wait between the benches to speak with him.

Interestingly, after prayers Rav Elyashuv strode forward, requiring the petitioner to walk backward during the discussion. The several people who surrounded and attended to Rav Elyashuv followed him and studiously took notes of what he said, continuously comparing transcripts with each other to ensure that every word was correctly captured for posterity.

Once Rav Elyashiv reached the door of the beis medrash,the petitioner would have to retreat backward down the outdoor narrow metal staircase, literally hanging on the side rails with both hands, all the while focusing attention on the every word of Rav Elyashiv’s response.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/community/my-machberes/my-machberes-34/2012/07/26/

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