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December 7, 2016 / 7 Kislev, 5777

Posts Tagged ‘part’

Q & A: A Missed Torah Reading (Part III)

Thursday, December 1st, 2016

Question: If a person was ill on Shabbos and unable to go to shul to hear Keri’at haTorah, must he have someone read it to him in shul upon his recovery?

Isaac Greenberg


Last week we quoted from “Prayer: The Proper Way” by HaRav Yaakov Simcha Cohen zt”l who cites the Mishnah (Megillah 23b) stating that Keriat Ha’Torah is considered a form of kedushah and therefore requires the presence of a minyan. Rabbi Cohen wonders why Torah study requires two berachot and cites the Bach who explains that the first berachah is a birkat hamitzvah while the second is a praise of Hashem that satisfies the biblical mandate (Deuteronomy 4:7-10) to never forget that we were chosen, from all the nations, to receive Hashem’s Torah at Mt. Sinai.

* * * * *

Rabbi Cohen continues: Based upon this theory of the Bach, it is possible to clarify the raison d’etre of Keriat HaTorah. Since “asher bachar banu” is the basic berachah said prior to reading the Torah, it is logical to assume that it relates to the prime purpose of Keriat HaTorah: namely, to keep the revelation at Mount Sinai alive in the minds of the Jewish people.

The Ramban specifically states that Deuteronomy 4:7-10 – “Only take heed to thyself lest thou forget the things which thine eyes have seen, and lest they depart thy heart all the days of thy life, but bring them to the knowledge of thy children and thy children’s children – the day that thou stood before G-d at Choreb” – explicitly prohibits forgetting the revelation. Indeed, this exhortation is one of the 613 primary mitzvot. (Those who disagree with the Ramban contend that this verse does not refer specifically to the revelation; rather, it is a general prohibition against forgetting Torah.)

The Rambam rules that Moshe Rabbeinu enacted the original ordinance of Keriat HaTorah (Hilchot Tefillah 12:1). It seems that Moshe Rabbeinu wished to ensure that the Jewish people would cherish its holy legacy, the Torah, so he decided to make them read it constantly in a manner that would remind them of the revelation on Mt. Sinai. That is why Keriat HaTorah is classified as a form of kedushah and requires the presence of a minyan. Just like the Torah was given in public, so too must Keriat HaTorah be performed in public.

The Torah was not given to individuals on Mount Sinai; it was given to a people – Klal Yisrael – and all of them, therefore, were in attendance. Revelation, the ultimate source of our national soul and pride, is the true seed of kedushah. The blessing “asher bachar banu” does not relate to the private obligation of individual Jews. It is an affirmation that Jews are involved in Torah only because they are members of Klal Yisrael. Keriat HaTorah is a means of implanting the belief that the sanctity of the Jewish people is interrelated with the sanctity of the Torah.

(To be continued)

Rabbi Yaakov Klass

Games Galore: Chanukah Gift Guide (Part I)

Friday, November 25th, 2016

Jodie Maoz

Jewish Geography, Part I: Through The Mists Of Time

Friday, November 25th, 2016

Before “Jewish Geography” was a game played at simchas and other social gatherings, there were intrepid Jewish travelers who set out to explore the world. Sometimes they were in search of new markets for commerce, sometimes they were in search for glory – and sometimes they were seeking their long-lost brethren, descendants of the Ten Lost Tribes. In this four-part series, we’ll follow some of these adventurers.


Mystery Merchants

The Roman Empire was a dim memory. The gulf between Christian Europe and the Muslim world was growing wider every year. But wealthy people will always have a yen for exotic, luxurious things – rare spices and perfumes, soft silks and furs – and pay a good price to get them. Therefore, a group of Jewish merchants seized the opportunity and created a trade network that stretched from Spain in the west to China in the east, and from the northern kingdom of the Khazars to the southern lands of Arabia, India and Ceylon.

They were called the Rhadhanites in a document penned by ibn Khordadbeh, a 9th century postmaster and spymaster for the Caliph in Baghdad. Not much is known about them, besides their trade routes and the fact that they were multilingual. For instance, was the word “Rhadhanite” a general term for Jewish merchants, or did it refer to a specific family or clan? Were these Jewish merchants from the area around Baghdad, or did they originate near the Rhone River, the end point of their various trade routes? Historians have studied ancient documents, languages and maps to solve the puzzle, but so far the Rhadhanites have kept their secrets.

astaire-112516-drawingWhile no one doubts their role in bringing brocades, furs and swords to the Orient, and carrying back musk, aloes and cinnamon to Europe, other claims remain in the realm of conjecture. Was it the Jewish Rhadhanites who brought the Chinese art of papermaking to the Western world and not the Arabs? It’s possible, although it’s also possible that both Jewish and Muslim traders were involved. What about those Hindu-Arabic numerals that replaced Roman numerals in Europe? According to Avraham ibn Daud, a 12th-century Jewish astronomer and historian from Spain, it was Joseph of Spain who brought the simpler 10-digit system of counting from India. But who, exactly, was this Joseph of Spain? We know he was a merchant during the Rhadhanite era, but whether or not he was a Rhadhanite – there were other traders abroad – and whether or not he was the Joseph of Spain who authored several medieval mathematical treatises, which would explain his interest in numbers, is not known.

For the Rhadhanite trade network to work, the merchants needed a relatively stable world order, one that would allow them to move freely across borders and cultures. That stability was shaken in the 10th century by the fall of China’s Tang Dynasty and the destruction of the Khazar Empire. The rise of mercantile Italian city-states such as Venice and Genoa also led to the Rhadhanites’ demise. But for a 500-year period that lasted from approximately 500-1000, the Rhadhanites played an important role in the continuation of international trade, and they may have been a conduit for the flow of new ideas and inventions as well.


The Elephant in the Room

While the Rhadhanite traders usually liked to buy and sell luxury items that could be easily transported, Isaac the Jew, an emissary of the Frankish King Charlemagne, had the task of transporting an unwieldy elephant from Baghdad to Northern Europe. By all accounts, it wasn’t easy.

The incident is recorded in the Royal Frankish Annals, which cover the years 741-829 and are an important source for Charlemagne’s reign. Charlemagne, like other rulers before and after him, invited Jewish merchants to settle in his mainly agricultural kingdom to develop its commerce and trade. Jews could also be found in various positions at the royal court, thanks to their knowledge of languages and their international connections.

We don’t know the official title Isaac the Jew held, but he seems to have been a trusted diplomat because when he set out in 799 for Baghdad, he had been charged with an important mission. Along with two other diplomats, he was sent to establish friendly diplomatic relations with Harun-al-Rashid, the fifth Abbasid Caliph in Baghdad, so that Charlemagne could have access to the Holy Land.

Avraham ibn Daud

Avraham ibn Daud

Harun al-Rashid ruled during the peak of the Islamic Golden Age and it is his court that is described in the fictional One Thousand and One Nights. As was customary, the diplomats from the Frankish kingdom exchanged gifts with the Caliph. Harun al-Rashid got Spanish horses, hunting dogs and Frisian cloaks – expensive woolen cloaks that could be dyed white, gray, crimson or sapphire. In return, he gifted Charlemagne with silks, perfume, ivory chessmen, a water clock with mechanical knights that announced the hour, a huge tent with many-colored curtains and an Asian elephant named Abbul-Abbas.

Unfortunately, the other two members of the diplomatic mission died before the return trip began. It was therefore up to Isaac to bring the elephant and the other gifts safely home. Researchers have retraced his steps, following his progress from Baghdad across northern Africa, where he boarded a ship from Tunisia to cross the Mediterranean Sea. After Isaac and Abbul-Abbas landed in Genoa, it was just a hop, skip and a jump over the Alps to Charlemagne’s royal residence in Aachen. They arrived on July 20, 802.

The elephant became an immediate sensation, and its name was frequently mentioned in writings of the time. As for Isaac, who passed away in 836 when he was in his mid-eighties, not much else is known. But at least one writer, Jeff Sypeck, author of the book Becoming Charlemagne, has an appreciation of the difficult feat Isaac accomplished: “Whatever reward awaited him for leading an elephant across 3,500 miles, it could not have been enough.”


An Eye for Travel

There were other Jewish diplomats who traveled extensively for their monarchs, such as Jacob ibn Tariq, who was sent by the Caliph to Ceylon during the 9th century to pick up some books on astronomy. There were also many other Jewish merchants doing business along the ancient trade routes. Indeed, the medieval period is sometimes described as a time when the Jews were constantly on the move. But during the 12th century, a new kind of Jewish traveler took the stage – people who recorded their experiences while on the road, describing the people and communities they encountered, along with the sights. One of the most famous of these early travel writers was the 12th century author of Book of Travels, Benjamin of Tudela.

Benjamin left his native Spain around the year 1160 and was on the road for more than a decade. His final destination was Eretz Yisrael, which was then ruled by the Christian Crusaders. Some historians suggest Benjamin might have been a merchant and that doing commerce was another reason for his trip. Marcus Nathan Adler, in his 1907 book The Itinerary of Benjamin of Tudela: Critical Text, Translation and Commentary, suggests yet another reason. During those uncertain years, when many of northern Europe’s Jewish communities had been destroyed by the Crusaders and the Jews of Cordoba were being persecuted by their Moorish rulers – the Rambam’s family fled Cordoba, along with many other Jews who chose exile over forced conversion – Benjamin was perhaps searching out safe havens for Jews to flee to, if necessary.

Benjamin’s travels followed a Mediterranean route, visiting cities with established Jewish communities, such as Barcelona and Gerona, Narbonne and Montpellier, Genoa and Rome and Salonika and Constantinople, before arriving in Jerusalem. On his return trip, he visited Damascus, Baghdad and Basra and Alexandria. While he writes about Persia, China and other parts of the Far East, it is generally thought that this part of his travel diary relies on hearsay rather than eye-witness reporting.

Yet, it’s not only the number of places visited that gives Benjamin’s diary an important place on the medieval bookshelf; the breadth of his interests and observations offers us a rare glimpse into medieval communities and their everyday life. Thus, we are told the names of the Torah scholars who were prominent in each city and learn about medieval Jewish professions, such as silk weaving in Thebes and glass-working in Aleppo. He also describes the way synagogues were organized in Egypt.

A highlight of the diary is his detailed description of his travels in Eretz Yisrael, which included a visit to Har Tzion, where he hears a legend about King David’s burial place, and to Chevron, where he describes his visit to the Cave of Machpelah:

The custodians tell the pilgrims that these are the tombs of the Patriarchs, for which information the pilgrims give them money. If a Jew comes, however, and gives a special reward, the custodian of the cave opens unto him a gate of iron, which was constructed by our forefathers, and then he is able to descend below by means of steps, holding a lighted candle in his hand. He then reaches a cave, in which nothing is to be found, and a cave beyond, which is likewise empty, but when he reaches the third cave behold there are six sepulchers, those of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, respectively facing those of Sarah, Rebekah and Leah.


On the Move

Benjamin of Tudela

Benjamin of Tudela

Benjamin of Tudela’s travel diary was translated into many languages and can still be purchased today, which is probably why he is the best-known medieval Jewish traveler. But there were others. For instance, Rav Petachiah of Regensburg (also known as Ratisbon) made a journey around the same time, which probably began in Prague and took him through Eastern Europe until he headed south to reach Eretz Yisrael.

Yet another traveler was a Barcelonian Jew named Yuceff Faquin, also known as Yosef the Physician. According to a document of King James IV of Majorca, dated 1334, Faquin was sent by the king to circumnavigate the entire known world, making him one of the best-traveled people of his day.

But that day would soon be coming to an end. European monarchs were searching for a better way to reach the Indies, either by sea or by new overland routes. What they found instead was a new world – and they did it with the help of a new kind of Jewish geographer, whom we’ll meet next month in Part II of Jewish Geography: the mapmakers who made those long-distance voyages possible.

Libi Astaire

Working Boy (Part II)

Friday, November 25th, 2016

Last week I published a letter from a young man who felt he was treated unfairly in his quest for a shidduch. A yeshiva graduate who excelled in learning, he was also determined to become a professional and that is where his woes commenced. He complained that the Torah community was intolerant of someone who earned a livelihood and was not a full time learner.

Born into a good, observant family in which he witnessed his parents’ devotion to Torah and their commitment to the work ethic, he wondered how earning a livelihood could be regarded as a negative.

This young man never anticipated that he would encounter difficulties finding a shidduch. To his dismay, however, shadchanim informed him that “good girls” were simply not interested in “working boys” even if they followed a disciplined regimen of daily Torah study.


My Dear Friend:

I understand and sympathize with your disenchantment. It’s very hurtful to be treated unfairly. Obviously, you are devoted to Torah study and are at a loss to understand why you are being labeled. But in all fairness, aren’t you doing some labeling yourself when you write, “All the good girls are looking for full-time learners”?

Is that really a fair statement? I happen to know many girls committed to Torah who come from excellent families and who are desirous of marrying young men like you who maintain a regular regimen of daily learning, daven with a minyan, and at the same time have become professionals. So it’s not as black and white as you make it out to be.

I believe we have altogether too little tolerance for anyone who doesn’t fit into our mold. So while you may have been unfairly judged, I am afraid that you are also judging unfairly.

As for your claim that most girls who spend a year studying in Israel are inculcated with the notion that “the only way a girl can obtain the kind of yiras Shamayim required of her as a Jewish wife and mother is to marry a boy who will learn in kollel or, at the very least, for several years after marriage,” here again it depends on how you view things.

Certainly, rabbis and teachers have the right to impart to their students the values their institutions represent. Girls and their families generally do their homework when choosing a seminary, so they are aware of and agree with the values espoused by the school of their choice.

Today, Baruch Hashem, there are many seminaries in Israel reflecting various shades and attitudes, and people are free to choose the school that best reflects their priority. What is important to remember, however, is that even if we do not personally subscribe to that particular point of view, we should regard it with respect.

We read in the Torah that even though each of the tribes of Israel had its own flag that symbolized its own unique gift and mission, the tribes were united as one. They were united because at the center of their encampment was the Mishkan – the Tabernacle of Hashem. Similarly, we too must forge our unity through our common love of Torah. The classic example of this is Yissachar and Zevulun. The tribe of Yissachar was devoted purely to Torah study, while Zevulun undertook to support Yissachar, but the Torah regards them as equal – as one.

So let us not deride those rabbis or seminary teachers who focus on learning, and by the same token, let us not label yeshivas and seminaries that are supportive of programs committed to learning and work.

We are too few in number to allow ourselves to be further fragmented by finger pointing and labeling. The Torah is the center of our lives and every Yid has a place in the great mosaic of Klal Yisrael.

After our liberation from Bergen Belsen, my beloved father, HaRav HaGaon, HaTzaddik Avraham Halevi Jungreis, zt”l, with tears flowing down his holy face, would say in Yiddish: “Noch a zoie churbon, men darf kushen yeden Yid” – after such a catastrophe, we have to kiss every Jew.

Now let’s get down to tachlis – a shidduch for you. May I suggest you come to our Hineni Heritage Center in Manhattan. We offer Torah classes, lectures, singles events, and so much more. As I mentioned above, there are many fine and good girls who would cherish someone like you, someone committed to learning, davening with a minyan, and giving tzedakah, and at the same time pursuing a profession.

B’Ezrat Hashem, we would be honored to help find your shidduch.

Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis

Q & A: A Missed Torah Reading (Part II)

Thursday, November 24th, 2016

Question: If a person was ill on Shabbos and unable to go to shul to hear Keri’at haTorah, must he have someone read it to him in shul upon his recovery?

Isaac Greenberg


Answer: My late dear friend, colleague, and Jewish Press columnist HaRav Yaakov Simcha Cohen zt”l was asked (Prayer: The Proper Way, p, 177): “Is it necessary to have a minyan present for Keriat Ha’Torah? What is the purpose of Keriat Ha’Torah?”

He responded: “Yes. The Mishnah rules that Keriat Ha’Torah may not take place unless a minyan (quorum of ten Jews) is present, The Gemara provides the rationale by contending that Keriat Ha’Torah is a form of kedushah (sanctification of the holy Name) and there is a general rule that all matters of kedushah require a minyan (Megilla 23b). What is not immediately apparent is why Keriat Ha’Torah is categorized as a form of kedushah, while the personal study of Torah is not vested with such status. One may assume that even if a Rabbi taught Torah to a thousand students, this would not transform the Torah study to a status of the same type of kedushah. At issue is the fine distinction between Keriat Ha’Torah and the mitzvah of Talmud Torah.”

The Tur (Orach Chayim 47) discusses the various berachot that must be recited prior to Torah study each day. He notes: “There is another berachah over Torah, namely “asher bachar banu – who has selected us [the Jewish people].” When reciting this blessing one should keep in mind the revelation on Mount Sinai when He selected us from all the nations, brought us to Mount Sinai, and made His words heard…and gave us His Holy Torah, which is our life and treasure.”

The Bach contends that the Tur is actually providing a solution to a major halachic question, namely: Why does Torah study require saying more than berachah when every other mitzvah requires only one berachah to be said beforehand. The Bach suggests that:

“The first berachah [“la’asok b’divrei Torah”] is a typical birkat hamitzvah recited before the observance of a mitzvah. The second berachah [“asher bachar banu”] is not a birkat hamitzvah. It is a form of thanksgiving and praise for receiving the Torah on Mount Sinai. Scripture states, ‘Only take heed to thyself lest thou forget the things which thine eyes have seen, and lest they depart thy heart all the days of thy life. Bring them to the knowledge of thy children and thy children’s children – the day that thou stood before G-d at Choreb…’ (Deuteronomy 4:7-10).”

Thus, concludes the Bach, the second berachah is a means of observing the Biblical mandate of never forgetting the revelation at Mount Sinai (Orach Chayim 47).

(To be continued)

Rabbi Yaakov Klass

Q & A: A Missed Torah Reading (Part I)

Friday, November 18th, 2016

Question: If a person was ill on Shabbos and unable to go to shul to hear Keri’at haTorah, must he have someone read it to him in shul upon his recovery?

Isaac Greenberg


Answer: No, but let us look at the sources on this topic. The Rambam (Mishneh Torah 12:1) writes: “Moses enacted that the Jewish people read from the Torah in public on Shabbos, Monday, and Thursday in order that three days not go by without hearing the Torah. And Ezra enacted that they also read from the Torah every Shabbos afternoon at Mincha as a benefit to the idlers. He enacted, as well, that three people should read the Torah on Monday and Thursday and they not read less than 10 verses.”

The Kesef Mishnah (ad loc.) refers us to a baraita (Bava Kamma 82a): “Ten ordinances were enacted by Ezra: that the Torah be read publicly at Mincha on Shabbos; that it be read on Monday and Thursday; that the Courts sit on Monday and Thursday….” He then writes that the Gemara states that the enactment to read the Torah on Shabbos at Mincha was made for the yoshvei keranot (lit., those who sit at the corners). Rashi writes that this term refers to shopkeepers who are so occupied with their businesses the entire week that they are unable to go to shul on Mondays and Thursdays.

The baraita states that the enactment to read the Torah on Mondays and Thursdays was made by Ezra, but the Gemara finds this difficult to believe and asks: “Was this an enactment of Ezra? Surely, this was enacted earlier. As we were taught in a Baraita: The Torah (Exodus 15:22) states: ‘vayel’chu sheloshet yomim ba’midbar v’lo motz’u mayyim – and they traveled three days in the desert and they did not find any water.’ Those who expound the verses explain that ‘water’ refers to Torah as Isaiah 55:1 states: ‘hoi kol tzomei l’chu la’mayyim – Ho, everyone who thirsts go to the water.’ When three days passed without Torah, they immediately became exhausted. Therefore, the prophets among them rose and enacted that they read the Torah on Shabbos, skip a day, read on Monday, skip Tuesday and Wednesday, read yet again on Thursday, and then skip Friday, in order that they not go three days without Torah.”

The Kesef Mishna explains that “the prophets among them” actually refers to Moses who was the greatest of the prophets. Now if Moses enacted the thrice-weekly reading, what did Ezra enact? The Gemara answers that the original enactment was that one person read three verses, or that three men read three verses corresponding to the priests, Levites, and Israelites. Ezra enacted that three men be called up and between them a minimum of 10 verses be read corresponding to the 10 batlanim (lit. idle ones).

Important to this discussion is how many people are called up to read from the Torah on Shabbos morning when we read the entire parshah. The Mishnah (Megillah 21a) states: “On Monday, Thursday, and Shabbos at Mincha three are called to read, no fewer and no more, and we do not call to read the Haftara from the Prophets. The one who is called to read recites the opening blessing and the closing one. On Rosh Chodesh and Chol ha’Moed four are called to read, no more and no fewer, and we do not call to read the Haftara from the Prophets. The one who is called to read recites the opening blessing and the closing one. This is the rule: Any situation where there is the additional [Musaf] service and it is not Yom Tov, four are called to read. On Yom Tov five are called, on Yom Kippur six are called, on Shabbos seven are called. We may not detract from that number but we may add to it. Additionally, regarding Shabbos and Yom Tov, the additional aliyah of maftir is not included in any number limitations of those called to read from the Torah.”

The Rema (Orach Chayim 282:1), based on the fact that the Mishnah sets no upward limit on those called to the Torah for the Yom Tov reading opines (in the name of the Rambam, Maharam, and Beit Yosef ) that the number of those called may be increased – just like on Shabbos. He also cites the Ran, though, who rules that we may not call up more than five people on Yom Tov; he states that not doing so is the custom in Ashkenaz lands. The only exception is on Simchat Torah when many additional people are called.

Regarding the 10 batlanim: Rashi (sv “asara batlanim”) explains that these were 10 people of fine, impeccable character who were engaged purely in the needs of the community and, as such, were charged to come posthaste to shul to always assure the presence of a minyan. In consequence of their service, the community provided for their livelihood.

The Rambam – with his statement that “Moses enacted that they read from the Torah in public” – infers very clearly that the reading of the Torah may only be with a minimum quorum of 10 since 10 people constitutes a rabim/tzibbur.

(To be continued)

Rabbi Yaakov Klass

Q & A: Replacing A Monument (Part III)

Friday, November 11th, 2016

Question: Is there anything in Jewish law that prohibits replacing an old, existing matzeivah (tombstone) with a new, better one? I would greatly appreciate your response to this question.

A Reader
Tucson, AZ

Answer: In the Kuntres Acharon of Ta’amei Haminhagim (Inyanei Semachot 1070), the author cites the Imrei No’am who quotes the Ari Hakadosh: “Tzaddikim who have a monument on their grave are considered to be of the revealed world whereas those who do not have a monument on their grave are considered to be of the hidden world, for the monument at the site of the grave reveals the place of the departure of the soul.”

Ta’amei Haminhagim also quotes the She’arit Yisrael’s comment on the baraita of chapter 2 of Tractate Shekalim (Jerusalem Talmud), which refers to the tziyyun, the monument or grave marker, as “nefesh” The nefesh has three parts, often referred to by the acronym nr”n. Nun refers to the nefesh, the life-spirit, that always flutters above the grave with the exception of Shabbatot, Yamim Tovim, and certain other times when it ascends on high l’hit’aden, to seek the pleasures of Gan Eden with the other life-spirits. In order to honor this nefesh, we identify the place where it usually rests by marking the grave with a monument or by building a structure.

The second letter, resh, refers to the ruach, the spirit, that clothed itself with the study of Torah and Avodah, the service of G-d, with which it was diligently occupied during the years of its sojourn on this world.

The third letter, the second nun, refers to the neshama, the soul, which has ascended upon high to derive pleasure from Ziv HaShechina, the glory of the Shechina. The neshama constantly rises from level to level.

Ta’amei Haminhagim further explains that the Gemara (Shekalim, ad loc.), in its citing of R. Natan’s opinion that we erect a nefesh on the grave, is hinting at the well-known position mentioned in the Zohar: The supplications of the living at the grave of the dead cause the nefesh to inform the spirit whereby the soul attains an additional measure of light. This phenomenon is achieved because “kol hamevakesh rachamim al chaveiro, vehu tzarich l’oto davar, hu ne’anah techilah – a person who solicits mercy for his friend while he himself is in need of the same thing will be answered first” (Bava Kama 92a). The assumption underlying this principle is that the departed pray on our behalf as well (that is, they act as a meilitz yosher, an advocate of good and justice), and thus they benefit.

In accordance with this explanation of R. Natan’s comment, R. Shimon ben Gamliel states that we do not erect a nefesh for the righteous since they attain their highest level without our intervention. The righteous can accomplish good without the interaction between the life-spirit and the spirit, and between the spirit and the soul, because the spirit of each righteous person is enclosed in that person’s remembrance and words of Torah.

The above seems to imply that we ought not to place monuments at the graves of the righteous. Our custom, however, is to do so. Ta’amei Haminhagim offers several possible explanations. It quotes Ikrei Ha’Arba Turim (to Yoreh De’ah 35:19), which, citing the Arizal in Sha’ar Hamitzvot on Parashat Vayechi, states that it is necessary to place a monument on a grave. Possibly, argues Ta’amei Haminhagim, the opinion of the sages that one need not erect a nefesh, an actual monument, for the righteous can be reconciled with this opinion: all might agree that we should at least place some sort of stone (a tombstone) on the grave. The objection is to elaborate structures such as mausoleums.

Ta’amei Haminhagim also mentions Responsa Chayyim Sha’al (71:6), which cites the Maharash Vital on Parashat Vayechi, who states emphatically that the monument is a tikkun for the soul.

In a similar vein, Ma’avor Yabok (cited in Imrei Noam, ch. 40) states that monuments upon the graves of the righteous serve as a great benefit for the living, who upon encountering the burial sites of such great people are moved to pray for Heaven’s mercy for both the living and the dead. Surely the righteous agree to the honors accorded since this stirs them to pray for the entire generation and all departed souls who still need tikkun (correction). We can thus understand the ruling of Rabbi Yosef Caro (op. cit. 348:2) that erecting a stone is considered a burial requirement for which we can force the deceased’s heirs to pay. The gaon Rabbi Naftali Katz, in his last will and testament, nevertheless cautions that one should not engrave the stone with excessive praises since the deceased pay dearly in Olam Haba as a result.

At the outset, we quoted the Talmud (Mo’ed Katan 5a), which cites Ezekiel 39:15 – “Whenever one shall see a human bone, he shall set up a sign near it” – as a source for erecting a monument on a grave. We asked why the Gemara does not cite Genesis 35:20, “Jacob set a monument upon her grave; this is the monument of Rachel’s grave to this day.” Indeed, Rabbi Moshe Feinstein (Igrot Moshe, Yoreh De’ah 4:57) cites this verse, rather than the verse in Yechezkel, as the source for our practice.

He asks a number of questions about this verse, though. In particular, he asks why Jacob erected a monument for Rachel. Was this merely his heart’s desire, or did Hashem command him to do so? Rabbi Feinstein concludes that Jacob probably acted under Divine instruction – just as Rachel’s burial site was Divinely chosen for the sake of future exiles. The stone was important to mark the spot so the exiles would be able to pray there.

Rabbi Feinstein concludes, after discussing many sources, that wherever there is a custom to erect a monument – which includes America and Israel – one must do so. Even if no money is left by the deceased, the heirs are required to place a monument at the gravesite. And since the source for this law is Jacob placing a monument at Rachel’s grave, the requirement is Biblical. Even if there were a safek about this requirement, we have a principle that “safek d’oraita lechumra” (that is, we opt for stringency whenever there is a doubt about whether a Biblical command applies), so placing the monument is necessary. Rabbi Feinstein adds, however, that he does not believe there is a safek; it is clear that the requirement is definite.

With reference to exchanging an existing monument for a better one, Rabbi Feinstein (Igrot Moshe, Yoreh De’ah 1:245), quoting some of the sources mentioned above, postulates that it is permitted. He also discusses whether the original stone can it be reused. He points out that problems can arise when the original tombstone needs to be reworked by grinding away the original names. He argues that since grinding thins and thus weakens the stone, it would not be feasible to use that stone for another purpose or for someone else. He writes that it is better to bury the stone; even doing so in a different location would suffice.

Rabbi Yaakov Klass

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/judaism/ask-the-rabbi/q-a-replacing-a-monument-part-iii/2016/11/11/

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