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Posts Tagged ‘Rav Chaim’

The Cow

Thursday, June 21st, 2012

Rav Chaim Soloveichik, the Torah luminary of the city of Brisk, was a legendary figure when it came to charity and good deeds.

Once, when he was still a student in Volozhin, he ate at the home of the Netziv (Rav Naftali Tzvi Yehuda Berlin). The Netziv, who loved the young scholar as his own son, brought a cow for Rav Chaim and his growing family. At least there would be sufficient nourishing milk for the scholar.

After a few weeks, as Rav Chaim was sitting at home deep in study, the village blacksmith came by. Excusing himself for troubling Rav Chaim in the midst of his studies, the blacksmith poured out a tale of woe. He was a miserably poor man and his long-suffering wife had fallen ill. She needed milk to help her get better and there was not a drop in the house.

Rav Chaim heard the sad tale with a heart filled with pain and quickly said, “Go to the barn and take my cow. Bring it home and have milk for your sick wife.”

The blacksmith was overwhelmed and ran to the barn where he found the cow and took it home with him immediately.

After a few hours Rav Chaim’s young wife came home and went to the barn to milk their prize – the cow. Horrified, she ran back home and cried out to her husband, “The cow is gone! Some thief has gotten into the barn and stolen our cow!”

Truth Is Told

Rav Chaim, fearing his wife’s wrath, kept silent but she would not let the matter rest. The entire neighborhood soon knew that the cow had been “stolen.” Someone reported having seen the blacksmith leading a cow away. Immediately, the family began to brand the blacksmith as the thief.

Rav Chaim felt terrible and confessed to his wife that he had given away the cow to the blacksmith so that his sick wife would have milk.

The wife was not pacified, however, and she sent word to the blacksmith that he was to return the cow immediately. The poor blacksmith, however, was adamant in insisting that the cow was his since Rav Chaim had given it to him as an unconditional gift.

After much haggling, the blacksmith finally agreed to return the cow for ten rubles but in order to make sure that Rav Chaim would not insist that the cow remain with the blacksmith or repeat the incident with someone else, the Netziv – who knew that Rav Chaim was poor himself – sent word to him as follows, “Know that the cow is my cow and I only lent it to you so you might have some use from the milk…”

The Love For The Torah

Thursday, June 21st, 2012

Many inspiring stories emanate from the Lubavitch chassidic movement. One of the stories published in Di Yiddishe Heim bulle­tin describes the early years of Rav Menachem Mendel of Lubavitch, known as the Tzemach Tzedek. This year marks the 146th anni­versary of his passing.

The Tzemach Tzedek was orphaned at an early age, and spent most of his childhood years in the household of his most eminent grandfather, the founder of the Lubavitch dynasty — Rav Shneur Zalman of Liadi (known as the “Alter Rebbe”). Some of the discourses and talks that the Alter Rebbe fre­quently gave were open to all chassidim who cared to come and listen. However, there were times that the Alter Rebbe would call into his private room a few of his greatest followers, all of them of giant intellectual and emotive capac­ity, and teach them a “Maamar,” a Chassidic discourse of the greatest depth. On those occa­sions the Tzemach Tzedek (then 8-9 years old) was not admitted to the room, which caused him much frustration. He desperately wanted to hear every word of Torah that fell from his holy grandfather’s lips. Even though he knew that much of his grandfather’s words would be far beyond his comprehension, he hoped that he would be able to grasp at least a few words that might have meaning to him.

In Oven

One day he thought of a plan. He would conceal himself in the large empty heating oven whose wall fronted with the wall of the Alter Rebbe’s room and whose opening was in the adjoining room. By pressing his ear to the thin oven wall, he might be able to hear a few words of his grandfather’s maamar. The next time one was scheduled the Tzemach Tzedek crawled through the aperture of the oven in the adjoining room and, pushing himself far into it, pressed his ear to the wall and listened with bated breath.

Meanwhile, the gentile janitor, whose task it was to heat up the ovens on those days that the weather warranted, came to stack up the oven with pieces of wood. The young boy and future Rebbe was so intent on listening to the maamar in the next room that he was completely unaware of the wood being pushed in the oven. The oven being duly stacked with firewood, the janitor set fire to the wood, however, since the Tzemach Tzedek’s body was blocking the chimney, the proper ventilation was not attained and instead of bursting into flames, the pile of firewood emit­ted a cloud of dense smoke. The janitor tried to push the mass of smoldering firewood deeper into the oven only to find that there was something blocking its path. He withdrew the wood piece by piece and spied the small body of the Tzemach Tze­dek lying in the oven — overcome by the fumes and smoke. He hastily pulled him out of the oven and with some difficulty managed to revive him.

Later, the young lad’s grandmother, the Rebbetzin of the great Alter Rebbe, admonished her husband for not letting his own grandson satisfy his thirst for Torah. The Alter Rebbe replied that such was the true path of Jewish education — one must have mesiras nefesh — self sacrifice — for learning Torah.

Daf Yomi

Wednesday, March 7th, 2012

The Rambam That Engendered Fifty Novella
‘He Says to His Maidservant: You Are Free’
(Temura 25b)

 

Our sugya treats various possibilities of freeing slaves. According to the sages, and this is the halacha, a person cannot write a writ of emancipation for his slave freeing only half of him or her. A writ of emancipation can only serve to free a slave entirely.

 

A Pregnant Maidservant: The Contradiction

The Rambam seems to contradict himself. He rules (Hilchos Avadim 7:5): “If someone wrote to his pregnant shifchah, ‘You are free and your fetus is a slave,’ his statement is valid; ‘You are a slave and your fetus is free,’ he said nothing since it is as if he frees half of her.”

But why is this so? If freeing the fetus alone is considered like freeing half a slave and therefore invalid, why is freeing the mother without the fetus valid? Why isn’t that like freeing half a slave as well?

 

Rav Chaim of Brisk

Rav Chayim HaLevi of Brisk, zt”l, says we must examine the reason for the halacha that one cannot free half a slave with a writ of emancipation. The existence of a half-free, half-not-free person is not the problem, he says. Indeed, we encounter many such people in various sugyos in Shas. The problem is the act of freeing someone partially.

 

Uber Yerech Imo

Rav Chayim says that the Rambam maintains that a fetus is a limb of its mother. Therefore, someone who tries to free the fetus alone is regarded as having tried to free half of her. The reverse, however, is not true. The mother is a not a limb of its fetus (just like a fruit is part of its tree but the tree is not part of its fruit).

The Rambam, therefore, makes perfect sense. An owner can free the mother alone because he is freeing a whole slave. It is impossible, though, to free the fetus alone since it derives its existence from its mother and it would be like freeing half a slave (see Lechem Mishneh, Chidushei Rabbeinu Chayim HaLevi and Or Sameiach; and Kehilos Yaakov, Temurah 9:9).

At Odds With Our Gemara

We should mention that this Rambam’s ruling explicitly contradicts our Gemara, which explains that one cannot free a female slave and retain her fetus! Many people have toiled to solve this quandary. Sefer Hamafteiach, which cites Acharonim who address the Rambam’s rulings, mentions more than 50 works that discuss the issue!

 

 

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‘Not Everyone Is Meant To Sit And Learn’: An Interview With Popular Blogger Rabbi Harry Maryles

Wednesday, October 6th, 2010

Of blogs there is no shortage (roughly 130 million, in fact, according to the latest statistics). Good blogs that address contemporary issues relevant to the Orthodox Jewish world, however, are harder to come by. Emes Ve-Emunah – haemtza.blogspot.com – is one such blog.

The blog’s author, Rabbi Harry Maryles, lives in Chicago, and studied under Rav Ahron Soloveichik (1917-2001) in the Skokie Yeshiva from 1968-1972, ultimately receiving semicha from him. After leaving the yeshiva, Rabbi Maryles remained close with his former teacher – who also was his next door neighbor – and considers him to have been his primary mentor.

The Jewish Press recently spoke with Rabbi Maryles.

The Jewish Press: Why did you start Emes Ve-Emunah?

Rabbi Maryles: I have very strong opinions about the Jewish world and some of the problems I see going on in it. The Internet has given me the opportunity to voice my opinion, and I do so in a way that seems to strike a chord with many people.

What kind of readers do you have?

It’s hard to say because most of the readers don’t reply. I get about 1,500 hits a day and, of those, maybe 20 or 30 are commenters, so it’s hard to gauge my readership based on the commenters. Commenters tend to comment when they disagree with me. Rarely will they say, “Yeh, I agree with everything you say.”

But I would say the majority of my readership is what I would call right-wing Modern Orthodox.

What kinds of issues rile up your readers the most?

Haredi misdeeds. Whenever an ultra-Orthodox Jew does something in public that is an embarrassment to the Jewish people – that’s what gets them riled up the most. And there’s been a lot of instances of that, unfortunately.

I notice that you often attack the yeshivish world on your blog. Why?

I don’t attack it. I really don’t. I note things which I think are problematic that need repair. Most of this is in Israel, but some of it is here – this move away from secular knowledge. In Israel, it’s almost unheard of for a yeshiva student to study secular subjects. Through 8th grade they barely have anything, just a little math basically, and after that, they have no secular subjects at all. It’s Gemara all day long for the rest of their lives, if possible.

And what, in your view, is the problem with that?

It’s a question of how you can best serve God. Not everyone is meant to sit and learn. Rav Ahron Soloveichik was against people being forced – whether by peer pressure or the rosh yeshiva – to sit and learn when that wasn’t their best way of fulfilling their destiny. People have destinies, they have things they’re good at, they have interests that they can utilize in the service of God. But if they are indoctrinated to ignore those feelings and indoctrinated instead to stay in yeshiva and then in kollel for as long as they can, they’re not achieving their ultimate purpose and making the finest contribution they can.

The best way a person can make a contribution is by doing that which he’s good at, that which his aptitude is most developed for. In other words, if a person has an aptitude for medicine, let’s say, that shouldn’t be sublimated; it should be followed up. If that’s what your tachlis is in life, don’t reject it in favor of learning. On the other hand, if somebody is really a great talmid and his tachlis is to become a gadol and someone pushes him towards medical school, that’s just as wrong.

A doctor might be saving lives. But most jobs seem more mundane in nature when compared to studying Torah.

Every job benefits somebody. Is accounting, for instance, not a valuable service to somebody? A good accountant will service a person and save him money, and the money of Israel is precious – the Gemara is full of quotes like that. Servicing klal Yisrael is, I think, part of a Jew’s job in this world. It isn’t just serving God. It’s serving klal Yisrael, too, to the best of one’s ability, and providing for one’s family.

What was Rav Ahron Soloveichik’s view on secular studies?

His hashkafa was that secular subjects are not only permissible but necessary, but at the same time not necessary for everyone. There are some people, like his grandfather Rav Chaim Soloveitchik, [who don't need to study secular subjects]. But for many of us it’s a necessity, and Rav Ahron lists why according to the Torah: to build up the world, to be a light unto the nations, to better oneself . Parnassah, he said, is not really a good reason to study secular subjects. For example, he said he would not go to a doctor whose sole purpose was to make money.

He said that his grandfather was very much misunderstood about secular subjects. Many people say that Rav Chaim Soloveitchik was very against university and college, but he wasn’t per se against it. He was afraid that people who went to college in that era would leave Yiddishkeit. But just to study the secular subjects, he was not at all opposed to. If somebody was a committed Jew and that was what he wanted to do, he very much was in favor of it.

There was a nephew of Rav Chaim’s who had the same name as Rav Ahron – his name was Ahron Soloveitchik – who learned by Rav Chaim and wanted very much to go to medical school. He went to Rav Chaim and asked him if he should go to medical school, and without hesitation Rav Chaim said, “Of course you should go, you’ll be saving lives.”

What about those select individuals who seem destined to become great Torah scholars? Is it your view, or was it Rav Ahron’s view, that these people need not study secular subjects at all?

It depends on the individual. When Rav Ahron said that his grandfather, Rav Chaim, didn’t need to go to college, what he meant was: He was going to be Rav Chaim anyway; he didn’t need to go to college. Would he have benefited by college? Who knows? Maybe, maybe not. But the point is he was as great as he was without college. But let’s look at his brother [Rav Joseph B. Soloveitchik, who served as rosh yeshiva at Yeshiva University]. Some people say he would’ve been even greater without having gone to college and getting his PhD in philosophy. But, in my view, he was as great as he was because he had the secular knowledge.

Although Rav Ahron Soloveichik believed in studying secular subjects, he still was, generally speaking, more right wing than his brother, Rav Joseph B. Soloveitchik. Is that correct?

I would say he was a little more right wing.

He also, incidentally, differed with his brother on the State of Israel and on land for peace. Rav Ahron Soloveichik said Hallel on Yom Ha’Atzmaut. His brother did not.

Rav Ahron was also a kana’i against giving up even one inch of land of Eretz Yisrael. He was very strong on that and sided with the settlers on all issues. His brother, on the other hand, was just the opposite. He agreed with land for peace if it produces peace.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/interviews-and-profiles/not-everyone-is-meant-to-sit-and-learn-an-interview-with-popular-blogger-rabbi-harry-maryles/2010/10/06/

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