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January 17, 2017 / 19 Tevet, 5777

Posts Tagged ‘Chasam Sofer’

The Claim Of The Daughters Of Tzelaphchad

Wednesday, July 11th, 2012

The Gemara in Baba Basra 119b relays the following conversation that took place in this week’s parshah: Moshe Rabbeinu was teaching the halachos of yibum when the daughters of Tzelaphchad approached him with the following question: Our father died in the midbar and did not have any sons. Why then is our mother not required to fulfill the obligation of yibum? And if the fact that he had daughters is the reason that she is not obligated to fulfill this requirement, why then can we (his daughters) not receive an inheritance – just like sons would?

The Gemara in Shabbos 96b says in the name of Rabbi Akiva that Tzelaphchad was the individual who was mekoshesh eitzim (the gatherer of wood) in the midbar on Shabbos. This act of Shabbos desecration was the reason he was put to death.

The Chasam Sofer (Teshuvos 6, likutim 56) was asked the following question: The Mordechai’s opinion is that a mummar’s wife does not fall into the category of yibum since the deceased husband is not worthy of having his name upheld. How then could the daughters of Tzelaphchad have asked that their mother be required to fulfill yibum when their father was, in Rabbi Akiva’s view, a mummar due to having been the mekoshesh? Why didn’t Moshe Rabbeinu simply answer that their father was considered a mummar, thus negating their mother’s requirement to fulfill yibum?

One answer that the Chasam Sofer offers is that the halacha of the Mordechai only applies when one dies while still a mummar, for only then is he not worthy of retaining his name. However, Tzelaphchad did teshuvah before he died and therefore his wife could fall to yibum even according to the Mordechai. We see this from the fact that the Torah listed with him all of his ancestors – who were all tzaddikim.

Another answer that the Chasam Sofer suggests is that the Mordechai’s halacha does not apply to a mummar unless he leaves the religion and joins a different one. Only such a person is not worthy of having his name upheld. But a mummar who does not leave the religion to join another one, even if he desecrates Shabbos or does avodah zarah, is still worthy of having his name upheld. Thus, even the Mordechai would agree that his wife would fall to yibum; hence Tzelaphchad’s wife was able to fall to yibum.

The Chasam Sofer also points out that the question is based on a premise that is not necessarily true. He says that it is not clear whether the mekoshesh acted in public or in private when desecrating Shabbos. Had he acted in private, he does not attain the status of a mummar. There is a machlokes as to which melachah the mekoshesh transgressed; one says he carried four amos in reshus ha’rabim, another says he cut off the branches, and a third says he was making piles. According to the opinions that he cut off the branches or that he made piles, there is no indication that he acted in public. Therefore he would not be considered a mummer and his wife could fall to yibum.

On face value it seems that the Chasam Sofer forgot a Tosafos in Sanhedrin (78b d”h lo). There Tosafos says that Moshe Rabbeinu reasoned that the mekoshesh should deserve death by stoning, since a mechalel Shabbos in public is likened to one who does avodah zarah (who is stoned). The Chasam Sofer’s father-in-law, Rabbi Akiva Eiger, understands the Tosafos to mean that he acted in public. We see this from his question on Tosafos. He asks that since according to Tosafos a mechalel Shabbos can be killed (just as one who does avodah zarah, since a mechalel Shabbos is likened to a practitioner of avodah zarah), how do we then know what Hashem’s answer to Moshe was? Perhaps Hashem agreed with Moshe that the mekoshesh should be stoned only because he acted in public, thereby likening him to one who did avodah zarah. However, one who desecrates Shabbos in private but who is not compared to one who does avodah zarah would receive death by strangulation (the form of death given when the Torah does not specify which form of death).

Rabbi Raphael Fuchs

My Machberes

Thursday, December 8th, 2011

Fighting Home Foreclosures

Today’s weak economy affects almost everyone, including members of the observant community. Being unemployed, or just not earning enough, can cause uncomfortable predicaments, including that of not being able to pay one’s mortgage bills. Should enough months pass without one’s fiscal profile improving, the holder of the mortgage will move to foreclose on the underlying property.

This applies as well to homeowners who are current with their mortgages but in default on real estate property taxes. New York City auctions off default tax bills, many of which are purchased by banks with aggressive collection arms. Banks want to get paid. After a deluge of threatening notices, legal letters begin to appear. How one deals with those legal letters can determine eventual results.

In Brooklyn, many such situations end up in the courtroom of New York State Supreme Court Justice Arthur M. Schack. Judge Schack is widely quoted in the national media on his handling of mortgage foreclosures. The New York Times noted in 2009 that he “tossed out 46 of the last 102 foreclosure motions that have come before him.”

Judge Schack feels that as a judge, his “job is to do justice.” legal papers presented to him must conform to legal requirements. He requires that the papers introduced in his Court must (a) prove there is a mortgage, (b) prove who owns the mortgage, and (c) prove the mortgage is in default. At times the actual owner of the mortgage is difficult to determine, especially after subsequent assignments.

Presently there are approximately 12,000 mortgage foreclosures in various stages of process in Brooklyn. Twenty-five percent of those cases are assigned to Judge Schack’s courtroom. Each case is unique. Some are adjudicated by modification, some are dismissed, and others are foreclosed.

Many judges across the country have followed his lead and have intensified their scrutiny of the paperwork being presented. As a result, more cases are dismissed. According to Judge Schack, there is no backlash. Banks are free to appeal. Favoring neither the big guy nor the little guy, he says his mission is to achieve justice – something that cannot be accomplished with faulty paperwork.

Justice Schack’s Background

Justice Schack is a Brooklyn native, a product of Brooklyn’s public schools and Brooklyn College, earning his law degree from New York Law School. He has served as counsel for the Major League Baseball Players Association and maintained a general law practice, primarily in the areas of tax and real estate law. Judge Schack is also active in community affairs. In addition to being closely affiliated with the Boy Scouts of America, he has been a member of Community Board 10, serving in many capacities.

NYS Supreme Court Justice Arthur M. Shack

In 1998 Judge Schack was elected to New York City’s Civil Court for a 10-year term. In 2003 he was elected to the New York State Supreme Court. (In both elections, his candidacy was endorsed by The Jewish Press.) Impressively, more than 250 of his decisions were published by New York State Official Reports and the New York Law Journal. More than 50 of those decisions deal with foreclosure issues. In addition, he has been a guest speaker on foreclosure issues for the New York Judiciary, the Vermont Judiciary, the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, and major national business and financial media.

Greatly respected, he has been appointed an officer of the Brooklyn Bar Association and an executive of the New York City Association of Supreme Court Justices.

Judge Schack gives straightforward counsel, advising anyone in a difficult predicament to respond to all legal challenges. The courts will advise legal counseling, arbitration, compromises, settlements, and modification. All these possibilities are unavailable if the delinquent homeowner hides. The chances of holding on to one’s home are infinitely greater if one responds. The process, according to Judge Schack, can only help, and, of course, the sooner the better.


History Is Repeated In Hungary

The present Jewish population of Hungary is approximately 100,000, with most residing in Budapest. The first Jews settled in Hungary in the 11th century. The first record of an officially appointed rabbi for Buda, one of the three cities that eventually combined to become Budapest, was Rabbi Akiva ben Rabbi Menachem Hakohen zt”l in the 1400s. The first sefer to be published in Hungary was Minhagim Shel Kol Hamedina, in 1421, by Rabbi Rabbi Isaac Tirna, zt”l. This was before the printing press. The sefer was hand copied and circulated.

Chasam Sofer, zt"l

There were 45,000 Jews living in Budapest in 1869; 102,000 in 1890; 204,000 in 1910; and 205,000 in 1930. The Emancipation Act of 1868 granted the Jews equality before the law, and they were no longer excluded from owning property and holding public office.

Rabbi Gershon Tannenbaum

How Did Yitzchak Eat From Eisav’s Shechitah?

Thursday, November 24th, 2011

In this week’s parshah we read about the berachos that Yitzchak had intended to give Eisav, but instead (unintentionally) gave to Yaakov Avinu. Yaakov was able to receive the berachos instead of Eisav because Yitzchak had requested Eisav to go out to the field and hunt game for him. This provided Yaakov sufficient time to prepare everything in order for him to receive the berachos. When Yitzchak requested of Eisav that he hunt game for him, he told him to “…sa na keilecha telyecha vekashtecha – sharpen your gear, your sword, and your bow” (Bereishis 27:3). Rashi explains that Yitzchak was telling Eisav to sharpen his knife so that he would shecht (slaughter) properly; thus the food would not be a neveilah. The Sifsei Chachamim explains that by sharpening his knife he would ensure that there were not any nicks on the knife. Regarding this pasuk, the ba’alei Tosafos and the Rush add that the word in the pasuk, “tzayid,” is written with the letter “hay” although it is not pronounced. This is to inform us that Yitzchak taught Eisav the five (the numerical value of the letter “hay”) halachos of shechitah that can disqualify a shechitah.

The Chasam Sofer (She’eilos U’teshuvos, Yoreh De’ah 15) asks the following question regarding Yitzchak’s request to Eisav: Why did Yitzchak have to tell Eisav to sharpen his knife now? For if Yitzchak was indeed concerned that Eisav would otherwise not have sharpened his knife, how could he trust him now? And if Yitzchak felt confident that Eisav would generally check his knife, why was he compelled to remind him now? Similarly, one could ask why Yitzchak would now teach Eisav about hilchos shechitah. Shouldn’t he have taught him many years earlier, as Eisav was already 63 years old at the time of the berachos? Additionally, the ba’alei Tosafos ask another question on this episode. The Gemara in Chullin 5a says that a mumar (heretic) is unfit to shecht. How then could Yitzchak have eaten from Eisav’s shechitah, since the Gemara in Kiddushin 18a says that Eisav was a mumar?

As a result of this and other questions, the Chasam Sofer disagrees with the Sifsei Chachamim, saying that Yitzchak told Eisav to sharpen his blade for a different reason other than to ensure that it did not contain nicks. He explains that the purpose of telling Eisav to sharpen his knife was to remove the fat that was remaining on the knife from the avodah zarah foods that Eisav’s wives would serve. Generally this would not have prohibited the meat if it was rinsed, but since Yitzchak had asked for tzeli (roasted meat), as it was a korban Pesach, the meat would otherwise be prohibited unless the knife was cleaned via sharpening.

I would like to suggest the following solution to explain the opinion of the Sifsei Chachamim: The Gemara in Chullin 4a says that there are two types of mumars: a mumar leteiavon – one who sins out of temptation – and a mumar lehachis – one who sins without temptation but solely to spite Hashem. The halacha that a mumar is disqualified from shechting only applies to a mumar lehachis. A mumar leteiavon may shecht, provided that a trustworthy person checks his knife. In order to shecht properly there must not be any nicks on the blade of the knife. If there is, the shechitah is invalid. Therefore one must carefully check the blade prior to shechting, to ensure that there are no nicks on the blade. Since the process of checking the blade is burdensome, we may not rely on a mumar leteiavon exerting himself and checking his knife properly. Thus if a mumar leteiavon shechts without anyone checking his blade for him, the shechitah is invalid – for we assume that he did not properly check his blade and there may have been a nick on it. However, if someone else checks the blade, a mumar leteiavon may shecht.

Jewish Press Staff

In Praise Of Bubby

Wednesday, December 15th, 2010

The Gemara in Brachos says that one is not allowed to add his own praises of Hashem while davening. The Gemara explains that by doing so it could seem that what one added was the only praise missing, and that there are no more praises of Hashem. Similarly, Bubby, for one to try to mention all of your praises would be impossible. With that said I would like to mention a few points, without implying that this is all there is to be said.


In Shemos the pasuk tells us, “Vayakam melech chadash b’Mitzrayim.” Rashi explains that there is a machlokes as to whether it was a new king or the old king who made new laws. We can understand those that say it was an old king with new laws. However, how do those who say it was a new king explain that he did not know of Yosef? It was only a few years since Yosef’s death and he had saved the entire country from a famine. He was second in command and made Mitzrayim into a superpower. The answer is that, of course, he heard of Yosef but, because he had not witnessed Yosef’s greatness personally, he could not truly fathom it.


Bubby, this can be said of your greatness and of your chesed and maasim tovim, for they, too, were so awesome and great. Bubby, you were zoche to see five generations – for which it is said you will go to Gan Eden. But I’m worried that the next generation won’t be able to comprehend fully how great you were. For those who were fortunate to witness Bubby it is incumbent that we constantly review and remind ourselves of her great deeds, lest we forget. Hopefully, we will be able to properly pass down to our children who Bubby was.


When I got engaged, Bubby asked me whether I had mentioned to my kallah that we come from a long lineage of rabbis, including the Chasam Sofer, the Divrei Chaim, and the Aruch Hashulchan. I”yH, I hope to tell my children and their children, do you know who you come from, besides the above mentioned list I will tell them they come from you, Bubby and Zaidy.


We bless our children every Friday night, “Yasimcha Elokim k’Efraim uk’Menashe.” The question is: why do we ask that our children be likened to Efraim and Menashe over all the other shivatim? Rabbi Moshe Feinstein answered that, generally, there is an inherent yeridas hadoros. The further away one is, the weaker the mesorah. Yaakov Avinu felt that this was not the case with Efraim and Menashe. Although they were his grandchildren, he felt that they were on the same level as if they were his children, and the mesorah was not weakened.


Bubby, you were marich yomim and it was a zechus for everyone whose lives you were able to touch. You have helped keep the mesorah alive for us. I hope that we will be able to keep vibrant the mesorah that is from you.


I remember Bubby and Zaidy saying you should go m’chayil el chayil. Now it is our turn to wish it upon you Bubby, may you go m’chayil el chayil. However, I would like to add the end of that pasuk (from Tehillim), “yirah el Elokim b’Tzion.” The Gemara at the end of Brachos interprets this to mean those who go from multitudes of good deeds to multitudes of good deeds will merit to be mekabel pnei haShechina.


Bubby, you have definitely conducted your life in this manner – going from multitudes of greatness, good deeds, chesed and mitzvos to another. You shall now go and receive your reward, be mekabel pnei haShechina. May you bring with you your armies of zechusim and be a meylitz yosher for the family and for all Klal Yisroel and help bring the geula sh’leima b’karov.

Rafi Fuchs

‘We Desperately Need To Get Back To Theology’: An Interview with Rabbi Chaim Miller

Wednesday, December 2nd, 2009

“My particular passion was the teachings of the late Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson.” Born to an unobservant family in London, Rabbi Chaim Miller first encountered the Lubavitcher Rebbe’s teachings as a student at Leeds University. “His discourses impressed me in terms of their tremendous intellectual depth and brilliance,” he recalls.

Today, he is dedicated to disseminating these teachings to as wide an audience as possible. His Kol Menachem publishing house, which he founded in 2002 with philanthropist Meyer Gutnik, has already produced a number of popular works with extensive commentary culled from the Lubavitcher Rebbe’s public discourses and writings – the Gutnik Chumash, the Kol Menachem Haggadah and two books on the Rambam’s 13 principles of faith.

The Jewish Press recently spoke with Rabbi Miller about his background and Kol Menachem’s latest volume, The 13 Principles of Faith: Principles VI & VII.

The Jewish Press: What inspired you to become observant?

Rabbi Miller: I was searching. I was a spiritual seeker, philosophizing about life. It never struck me that Judaism really had it. Judaism to me was just dry ritual, attending this soul-destroying synagogue and standing up and down when the ark opened. It didn’t strike me that there was anything profound there.

But then at Leeds University I attended a series of lectures on the theological elements of Judaism run by Ohr Sameach. Then, through some Chabad shluchim, I discovered Lubavitch and the chassidic idea, which I found very compelling. It was really this strange discovery that there could be this philosophical depth in Judaism.

Why are you currently writing a series on the Rambam’s 13 principles?

Well, this is getting back to my original passion. You see, I embraced Orthodoxy because of the brilliance of its theology. The first thing all kiruv organizations teach you is theology – the meaning of life, G-d, theodicy, revelation, etc. They get to the essence of Yiddishkeit. But then, after you’re done with those introductory courses, they say, “Now you’ve graduated, go learn Gemara.”

The mainstream Orthodox community is not particularly theologically orientated and [beliefs are] largely retained by social consensus and social pressure, and there was an element of disillusionment when I discovered that. So there’s two things you can do. You can sit and grumble, or you can try to redress the balance.

How would you characterize your contribution? In what way, for instance, is your book different than other books on the Rambam’s principles?

There are two strands of theology. There’s the medieval philosophical tradition – Rambam, Saadia Gaon, Kuzari, etc. – and then you have the kabbalistic, chassidic tradition. I’m interested in both, but they’ve never really been presented together in one whole unit. So half the book is just little passages of classic texts from both the philosophical and the kabbalistic traditions. The other half is lessons, or shiurim, based on the teachings of the Lubavitcher Rebbe.

One of the Rebbe’s passions was theology; most of his discourses veer off at some point into a theological discussion. But there’s almost 200 volumes of his teachings, and his theological discussions are scattered all over the place. They were never organized, systematically analyzed, or laid down before.

Professor Marc Shapiro wrote a popular book on the Rambam’s 13 principles, in which he demonstrates that many great rabbis throughout the generations rejected various elements of the Rambam’s principles. Have you read that work, and, if so, what’s your opinion of it?

I think he’s incorrect. In one of his footnotes he quotes the Chasam Sofer, who writes that there is an idea of consensus regarding matters of faith. [Shapiro dismisses the Chasam Sofer as a lone opinion], but I think the Chasam Sofer was essentially presenting the traditional Orthodox view.

There is a process of consensus. Obviously you can’t just decide what the truth is by a vote. But what actually happens is that the arguments get refined over the years. There’s a debate, various viewpoints are put out there, and then it’s thrashed out. So you actually get a consensus through discussion. It becomes clear what the truth is.

So although there are rishonim who held that God has a body, I think it’s universally accepted today that God doesn’t have a body.

Elliot Resnick

The Fifth Commandment

Wednesday, May 27th, 2009

The Aseres HaDibros, the Ten Commandments, comprise the cornerstone of our edifice of life. Every clear-thinking individual is cognizant of the fact that a home built on a shaky foundation is in danger of crumbling. Absent the divinely communicated belief system that forms the basis of our day-to-day existence, our humanity would be diminished and we would become malleable, essentially physical creatures – much like a heartless and soulless golem.

God Himself relayed the Aseres HaDibros, disseminating them to us all at once. According to a midrash, the bulk of the people gathered at Mt. Sinai in anticipation of receiving God’s word discerned only the first two commandments before losing consciousness. The remaining eight were delineated in suspended words of fire that hung in the atmosphere surrounding the mountain.

When the Torah complained to Hashem that it was to be granted to living and breathing entities, God availed Himself of the dew reserved for the resurrection of the dead to resuscitate those whose soulshad left them. The Sefas Emes suggests that the reason the masses were thus affected was to teach all forthcoming generations that only through self-sacrifice could one hope to draw near to the Torah.

How is it that not all Torah scholars beget children who go on to become talmidei chachamim? One reason stated is that some fathers preoccupy themselves with learning to the point of neglecting to say the blessings recited each morning over the mitzvah of studying Torah. A sincere and heartfelt rendering of the blessings, which includes a plea for success in sweetening the words of Torah for us and our offspring, is indispensable if one is to merit children who will follow in their father’s footsteps. – Nedarim 81

In reaction to the heavenly enunciation of “Ani Hashem Elokecha” – I am Hashem your God – the nations rolled their eyes and scoffed, “Is there then a king who does not crave recognition?”

Equally unimpressed with the injunction of “Thou shalt have no other gods before me,” they sneered, “Which god is interested in sharing his glory? They all want to be the only one!”

Of the commandment to keep the Shabbos day holy, they declared, “Every king wants his special day, like his birthday, to be remembered and celebrated.”

But upon hearing the words “Honor thy father and thy mother,” the nations stood at attention and began to praise God, readily admitting that were any of them to be elevated to the highest station in the land, they would cease to heed their parents altogether, let alone pay tribute to them.

At the giving of the Torah, the envious nations wanted to know why they could not be the recipients of the Torah. Hashem responded by demanding that they produce a letter of yichus(privileged ancestry). The Yalkut Shimoni asks why yichus would figure as a requisite for learning Torah – should not a desire and willingness to learn suffice? The Ramban posits that belief in the Torah is only sustainable when earlier generations transmit their knowledge and traditions to later generations.

Our elders validate the true meaning of acceptance of the Torah by illustrating their own reverence and adherence to the belief system. A nation whose children regard themselves as being more perceptive and intelligent than their forebears lacks that laudable lineage essential to receiving the Torah.

On one of Rav Yaakov Kaminetsky’s flights back to America from the Holy Land, he was seated next to a prominent secular Jew. From time to time, a man accompanied by a young woman would approach Reb Yaakov to inquire about his state of comfort.

Rav Kaminetsky’s seatmate was intrigued by such absorption in the rabbi’s welfare, so Reb Yaakov explained that the man was his son and the young lady his granddaughter.

“Really?” exclaimed the secular gentleman, who then related that he seldom got to see his children, who didn’t show much interest in their father, and that his grandchildren hardly ever stopped by to visit their grandfather.

Reb Yaakov responded, “We believe God created the world and gave us the Torah on Har Sinai. As such, a father is closer to the generation that stood at Har Sinai and one’s grandfather even closer to his forbears of that significant time. In fact, the farther back one goes, the higher esteemed the ancestor.

“You, on the other hand, believe you evolved from the family of apes. Stands to reason that your son would consider himself to be of greater stature than his father or grandfather who are closer descendents of the animal and subsequently less refined as humans – and therefore less deserving of any respect.”

The Chasam Sofer lost his father as a child and his mother remarried. Renowned as a scholar and tzaddik, the Chasam Sofer was a sought-after prospect by affluent members of the community eager to gain him as a son-in-law. Even his stepfather wished to win his wife’s worthy son for his own daughter from a previous marriage. The Chasam Sofer’s brother was against this shidduch for he felt his acclaimed brother ought to marry a girl from a well-to-do family, an arrangement that would enable him to continue learning with ease.

In the interest of kibud eim – to spare his mother any shalom bayis upheaval – the Chasam Sofer turned down all the offers he received from wealthy families and married his stepsister. He later attributed his success in Torah learning to his wife, who never made any demands on him and allowed him a peaceful existence – whereas had he married into wealth, his wife would have expected to be supported in the lavish style in which she was raised, stifling his lofty ambition and holy works.

* * *

“… ushnei tzmidim al yadeha asarah zahav mishkalam …” When the camels had finished drinking, the man took a gold nose ring, weighing half a shekel, and two bracelets for her arms, weighing ten gold shekel (Bereishis 24:22). These words describe the gifts Eliezer bestowed on Rivkah, the virtuous maiden.

Rashi connects this gift that Eliezer gave Rivkah – two bracelets for her arms, each weighing in at 10-gold shekel – to the two tablets etched with the Ten Commandments.

The Talmud (Yerushalmi Nedarim) discusses the issue of whether a man can be mekadesh a woman with a Sefer Torah. The idea is subsequently negated since the Torah could not belong exclusively to her, as many others would have a share in it.

Yet the two gold bracelets alluded to Yitzchak’s being a living Torah and to his and Rivkah’s union resulting in the birth of Klal Yisrael who would, by virtue of accepting the Torah, be made a holy nation unto God. The bracelets were thus symbolic of the living Torah – by which Eliezer, Yitzchak’s messenger, was mekadesh Rivkah.

Moreover, there are exactly 613 Torah verses from the beginning of Bereishis to the particular verse that speaks of the bracelets, backing up Rashi’s contention and essentially corroborating that promise that the shidduch of Yitzchak and Rivkah would result in a people who would keep the Torah holy and observe its 613 commandments.

The two tablets of the Ten Commandments are reflective of one another. The commandment of Kabed es Avicha v’es Imecha (honoring one’s parents) thereby relates to the commandment of Lo Sachmod (do not covet). What possible connection is there between the two?

Regarding the latter, it is written that one who covets that which belongs to another will have a son who will curse him. How does such punishment fit the crime? According to Shimon HaGadol, the only possession one can unequivocally claim as his own is his children (literally a part of him). When one covets that which does not belong to him, his own son – his true possession – will, in turn, display behavior in a contradicting nature.

* * *

When the Sochatchover Rebbe, later to become the Baal Avnei Nezer, was a young child, he studied with his father, the Rav of Biala. The Rav once posed a difficult question to his son who was by then already an outstanding student. The son proceeded to explain it without hesitation, but the elder dismissed the hasty commentary and additionally admonished his son with a light slap on the cheek to teach him to refrain from hurried elucidations.

The child remained calm and continued learning as though nothing extraordinary had transpired.

Many years later, when the youngster had grown to become a gadol hador, he paid his aged and ailing father a visit. The Biala Rav recalled the incident of long ago and revealed how he had shortly thereafter discovered that his son had accurately interpreted the Gemara. However, he had held back from telling him so for fear of imbuing the child with an air of self-importance and smugness. Now he wanted to ask his son’s forgiveness for having chastised him without justification.

The Avnei Nezer replied that he had known at the time that his answer was correct and the slap unwarranted – and, he added, he’d forgiven his father on the spot. He nevertheless abstained from deliberately pointing out that his father had erred because of his deference to the mitzvah of kibud av (according a father respect and honor).

* * *

“Honor your father and mother so that your days will be lengthened.” Various sources in the Torah indicate that Hashem regards the honoring of one’s parents to be on par with honoring our Father above.

The creation of a human being occurs through the three-way partnership of Hashem and the biological father and mother. The child derives his bones, nails, brawn, brain and the white of his eyes from his father; skin, flesh, blood, hair and the black of his eyes from his mother; endowment of eyesight, hearing, speech, movement of limbs, understanding, spirit, soul and physical appeal by his heavenly Father. – Niddah 31

When the Brisker Rav, Reb Yehoshua Leib Diskin, was to become the Rav of Jerusalem, he moved to a new home. Among his instructions to the mover was the stipulation that two specific oversized cases stacked one upon the other were to remain in that same order during transport and delivery.

Despite the issuance of his strict order not to reposition the cases, Reb Yehoshua Leib accompanied them all the way.

The mover’s curiosity was aroused. What could the cases possibly contain to warrant such care and vigilance? And what could possibly occur if their order were reversed?

The Rav explained that the container that lay on top carried all of his father’s holy writings while the bottom case held all of his own. And it wouldn’t be right for his own to be placed atop his father’s – even for just the briefest of time.

* * *

Rabbi Tarfon, the renowned Mishnah sage, was said to revere his elderly mother to such a degree that he would stoop low to the ground so that she could use him as her stepping stool whenever she had need to ascend to or descend from her bed. When he reached the Bais Hamidrash and discussed the great honor he gives his mother, he was told that he was still far from fulfilling the mitzvah. Were he to keep silent and not embarrass his mother if she took his wallet filled with money and tossed it into the river, he would then be on his way to discharging the commandment properly.

The eldest of many children of a prominent family in Jerusalem was an accomplished young lady, well rounded in both character and intellectual capacity, and was expected to find a shidduch with relative ease. To everyone’s surprise, she rejected countless match proposals by invoking every excuse in the book: He was not compatible; she did not feel anything; she was not ready; she still needed to further her education; etc., etc. The pleas of her parents and rabbonim were duly ignored; regardless of how illustrious or well-suited the potential match proffered, the girl did not bend or break.

Soon, the second in line came of age, and the oldest daughter granted her categorical consent and approval for her younger sister to proceed. This pattern repeated itself down the line with all her siblings as their time of maturity approached, until they all were married.

When the still-single daughter turned 32, her mother initiated a heart-to-heart dialogue with her firstborn. “Do you recall when many years back I suffered a terrible illness and doctors just about gave up every hope for my recovery? I visited a tzaddik who granted me a blessing that I would regain my health and would merit to see all my children to the chupah. Your incomprehensible delay has been causing me so much grief that I would sooner prefer death over continuing to live with this heartache.”

When the daughter heard her mother’s words, she agreed immediately to be receptive to any offer that would come her way. Before long, a suitable 34 year old was suggested, and, true to her word, the match was concluded.

At the wedding, everyone’s joy was boundless – save for the bride, who emanated an unmistakable aura of underlying sadness. Her mother, escorting her daughter to the chupah, remarked that this day was the happiest of her lifetime. These were the last words she would utter, for shortly thereafter she collapsed and departed this world. The week of Sheva Brachos was transformed into a week of mourning.

The daughter finally revealed the secret behind her refusal to marry – she had hoped to prolong her mother’s life on earth, as the tzaddik whom her mother had seen had verbalized that she would live long enough to see all her children marry. With her mother’s expressed desire to die rather than watch her daughter become an aged single, the daughter’s noble objective lost its purpose and she found herself with no alternative but to honor her mother one last time.

(This essay is dedicated l’ilui nishmas Sara bas Bentzion, z”l, my wonderful mother, who was an exceptional human being and my greatest inspiration. May her memory be a blessing in the life of the World to Come.)

Rachel Weiss is a frequent contributor to The Jewish Press.

Rachel Weiss

Title: Bircas Hachammah/Blessing Of The Sun

Wednesday, February 25th, 2009

Title: Bircas Hachammah/Blessing Of The Sun

Author: Rabbi J. David Bleich

Publisher: ArtScroll/Mesorah



   Of all the challenges to an author and publisher of a book of this genre, none may be as great as offering this brilliantly written, multi-discipline (mathematics, physics, astronomy, hashkafa and emunah) volume to a worldwide Jewish readership, comprised of different backgrounds, hashkafos and education.


   Normally, topics so diverse are geared to a specific audience, i.e., students, scientists, teachers, rabbis, etc. Yet ArtScroll and Rabbi Bleich have successfully blended all of these subjects into an elegant and compact volume that can be understood by most, and enjoyed by all.


   Most readers of The Jewish Press know that on erev Pesach, April 8, 2009 at 6 a.m., Jews throughout the world will publicly assemble outdoors to recite Birkas HaChammah, a blessing said once every 28 years.


   But how many understand what thebracha is all about, and why it is recited only once every 28 years? Moreover, what exactly are we commemorating with this blessing? The answers to these questions and so much more are found in this volume.


   I have no particular expertise in physics, mathematics, astronomy or philosophy, and was overwhelmed with Rabbi Bleich’s erudition in these areas. I was also delighted to discover, as I plowed ahead, that the book artfully harmonizes scientific fact with emunas Hashem ve’chachamim.


   The book is divided into three parts. The first section involves two overviews by Rabbi Nosson Scherman that relate to both emunas Hashem and some of the scientific aspects of Bircas HaChammah. The second features Rabbi Bleich’s text. The third features charts and tables that date back to Creation, but also extend to beyond the 6th millennium.


   This harmony between the overviews, text, charts and tables enables the reader to digest basic astronomical and calendrical phenomena, including physics, mathematics and the lunar/solar interaction called “lunisolar” by Rabbi Bleich – and at the same time marvel at the wonders of Hashem’s creation.


   The author cites our great teachers, including, among many others, the Vilna Gaon, Chasam Sofer, and Chazon Ish. Kepler and Newton are also cited to round out the scientific background necessary to understand the total scientific context of Bircas HaChammah.


   This review cannot convey to the reader the complex and multiple issues involved with this topic, but at as a result of my reading this book, I believe I now understand what the bracha commemorates, and why it occurs only once every 28 years.


   I quote Rabbi Scherman:


   On the fourth day God created the sun . Tradition teaches that the sun’s first appearance in the newly-created heaven is reckoned from Nissan, the month of Passover and springtime . Every 28 years, the sun would begin its spring season at the very same moment in time, when it was emplaced in the cosmos.


   Therefore, we say Bircas HaChammah to commemorate this anniversary. But why not, you can ask, every single year on Wednesday? Why must we wait 28 years?


   According to Rabbi Bleich:


The Gemara (Eruvin 56a) records the statement of Shmuel to the effect that there are always 91 days and 7

Daniel Retter

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/books//2009/02/25/

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