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September 2, 2014 / 7 Elul, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘Rav Yosef’

Israel to (Possibly) Select New Chief Rabbis Today

Wednesday, July 24th, 2013

If all goes well, the 150 person committee, made up of rabbis, politicians, and rabbinic judges may select two new chief rabbis for Israel today, one Ashkenazi, and one Sephardi.

The race to the top has been considered very ugly this time around, as it’s about more than just about selecting a new chief rabbi or two. This race is the battleground between the National-Religious and Secular on one side, and the Ultra-Orthodox on the other, on what face the Rabbinate will have for the next 10 years.

There are a lot of candidates, and its not clear at this point, who, if anyone, has the best shot at the title.

The results will be announced at 8 PM tonight.

In an interesting development, Justice Minister Tzipi Livni (Hatnua), and Religious Minister Naftali Bennett (Bayit Yehudi) are working together to implement MK Moshe Feiglin’s (Likud) plan to only have one chief rabbi next time around.

In their version of the proposal, there are still Ashkenazi and Sephardic candidates, but one will be the chief rabbi, while the other will be president of the High Rabbinic Court.

Rabbi Ovadia Yosef Hospitalized after Collapsing at Home

Sunday, June 2nd, 2013

Shas spiritual leader and former Sephardi Chief Rabbi Ovadia Yosef collapsed at his Jerusalem home early Sunday evening, lost consciousness for a short while and was rushed to Hadassah Ein Kerem Hospital. He is conscious, but doctors are concerned he may have broken his leg when he fainted.

His condition is stable.

The revered rabbi, one of the most influential rabbis in Israel and in Sephardi  communities around the world, was on his way from his study room to prepare fore the evening Maariv prayers when he fainted and lost consciousness for a short while.

He is suffering from weakness and pains in his leg.

Knesset Member Aryeh Deri, who is the political powerbroker in the Shas party, was by his side on the way to the hospital, along with Rav Yosef’s personal physician, Dr. Yochanan Shtesman.

Earlier this year the rabbi, the 92-year-old Iraqi-born Torah sage collapsed in a synagogue during Shabbat prayers and was rushed to the emergency room, where he was said to have suffered a minor stroke.

The rabbi lives in the Har Nof neighborhood in Jerusalem.

Rabbi Yosef, or Rav Ovadia as he is affectionately known, is highly  controversial but even more highly respected as one of the greatest rabbis in recent generations.

One of his projects on Jewish law is an attempt to create a unified Halakhic codex subject to the rulings of Rabbi Yosef Karo and the unification of the customs of the various Jewish groups in Israel by calling upon them to relinquish traditions, often rooted in Kabbalah and practiced in the lands where they resided prior to their immigration to the Land of Israel.

Celebrating A Bar Mitzvah

Thursday, June 7th, 2012

Question: Why do we celebrate when a boy becomes bar mitzvah?

Answer: The Gemara (Kiddushin 31a) states that Rav Yosef, who was blind, found himself troubled at the thought that blind men are exempt from performing mitzvot. He therefore declared that if anyone could tell him that we don’t pasken like Rabbi Yehudah – who ruled that blind men are indeed exempt – he would make a “yom tov” for the rabbis. (Rashi interprets “yom tov” to mean a “banquet.”)

The Maharshal, Rav Shlomo Luria (Yam Shel Shlomo, Bava Kamma, M’ruba), argues that this Gemara demonstrates that one should celebrate when one first learns of one’s obligation to perform mitzvot. He argues further that this Gemara is the source for celebrating one’s bar mitzvah. We celebrate this day just as Rav Yosef planned on celebrating the day he learned that he was obligated to observe mitzvot.

In our prayers, we say, “Lishmo’a, lilmod, u’l’lameid, lishmor v’la’asot et kol divrei talmud Toratecha b’ahavah.” It is a prayer for God to imbue love of Torah and mitzvot within us. The purpose of a bar mitzvah celebration is to manifest our love and joy in observing the Torah. That’s why we give gifts to a bar mitzvah boy. We thereby demonstrate how overjoyed we are at his new status. The youngster who receives these gifts, in turn, learns of the importance of loving Torah and mitzvot.

Giving gifts is a form of chinuch in ahavat haTorah, which every Jew is obligated to instill in children. By giving a present, one fulfills a chiyuv mitzvah.

Rabbi Cohen, a Jerusalem Prize recipient, is the author of seven sefarim on Jewish Law. His latest, “Shabbat the Right Way: Resolving Halachic Dilemmas” (Urim Publications), is available at Amazon.com and Judaica stores.

Birthday Parties (Keritut 2a; Shabbat 25a; Moed Katan 28a; Ta’anit 5b)

Thursday, April 12th, 2012

Each morning at about 7:10 a.m. my mother, still in her housecoat and slippers, would wake me for school. One wintry Monday morning I opened my eyes to see her leaning over my bed. She was in hat and coat and her hands were cold from the weather outside.

“Where did you go, Mum?” I asked.

“I have just come back from the hospital,” she replied. “Dad was rushed to the emergency room early this morning.”

Thus started a six-month period in which Dad fought for his life, Mum stayed at his side and I was shunted from relative to friend. After six months, grayer and slower, Dad came home. Two years later he invited relatives and friends to celebrate his 60th birthday and recounted that while asleep in his hospital bed he received a visit from Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch in a dream. He told Dad told that he would recover but that he must pledge to spend the rest of his life disseminating Rav Hirsch’s works in English.

Dad made that pledge at that party.

Such celebrations are not new. The Talmud relates that when Rav Yosef reached the age of 60, he threw a party for his students. “I have made it through the danger zone of karet,” he said.

Karet is premature death inflicted at the hand of God rather than by a human court of law. There are 36 Torah commandments which, if intentionally violated, incur the punishment of karet. For some of these violations, such as not performing circumcision, working or eating on Yom Kippur, or eating chametz on Pesach, karet is the prescribed punishment.

For other intentional violations that carry the punishment of death at the hand of a human court, karet is the punishment, by default, when certain conditions for the application of the death penalty (the evidence of two witnesses and a warning to the violator immediately before perpetrating the act that the act carries the death penalty) are not met.

If karet is premature death at the hand of God, until what age can it strike and at what age can one celebrate emerging from the danger zone?

Since by definition karet is left in the hands of God, there is no definitive halachic answer to this question.

According to the Talmud Yerushalmi, the definition of karet is premature death at the hand of God between the ages of 40 and 50. The Yerushalmi derives this from the chapter in Leviticus that assigns to the Levi’im the task of carrying the Holy Ark and other contents of the Sanctuary during the Israelites’ travels in the desert. The Levi’im were eligible for this task until the age of 50, at which point they were retired from this assignment.

The Sanctuary utensils they carried were so holy that the Levi’im would incur karet if they carried them or even looked at them before the kohanim had covered them in wraps. From the fact that the Torah warns Moshe and Aharon to supervise the Levi’im so that their careers as bearers of the Sanctuary utensils should not be cut short, the Yerushalmi derives that karet occurs before the age of fifty.

According to the Talmud Bavli, however, the definition of karet is premature death at the hand of God between the ages of 50 and 60. This is derived from the words God speaks to Job, “Tavo bekelach eilei kever” – “you will go to the grave at a mature age.” The word “bekelach” has a numerical value of 60.

Even after a person reaches 60, and until he or she reaches 79, such a person may still be subject to karet in the form of sudden death or as result of an illness that kills within five days. Karet before the age of 60 is called “karet of years” and karet due to sudden death after the age of 60 is called “karet of days.” A person who dies between the ages of 60 and 79 from an illness that lasts longer than five days has not been struck by karet. So too a person who dies at or after the age of 80 has not been struck by karet.

Even though reaching the age of 60 only gets one through the danger zone of karet of years and not karet of days, for those whom the cup is half full rather than half empty it is an achievement worth celebrating.

“Granted that you have made it through the karet of years, but have you made it through the karet of days?” asked one of Rav Yosef’s students. “I’ll take half,” replied Rav Yosef. “Avoiding karet of years is worth celebrating.”

Although life between 50 and 60 is in the karet danger zone, this does not by any means warrant the conclusion that death before sixty is inevitably due to karet. The Talmud is so concerned that people do not arrive at this superficial, pejorative conclusion that it states that karet occurs at the age of 60 when, in fact, it means between the ages of 50 and 60. This is out of deference to Shmuel the prophet, who died at the age of 52. He did not die as a result of karet but rather because God did not want to cause him the pain of witnessing the death of his disciple Shaul in his own lifetime.

Rav Yosef Hochgelanter

Friday, April 6th, 2012

Rav Yosef Hochgelanter, the rav of the city of Zamushet, where Rav Akiva Eiger received his early training while still a young boy, was a great scholar and the author of Mishnas Chachamim. At the time he was chosen to be rav of the city he was the son-in-law of a very wealthy man who was very generous with his support.

Because he had no need of money, Rav Yosef insisted that he would only take the position on condition that he not be paid a salary. Oddly enough, however, he did insist on the implementation of one particular custom. For many years it had been the rule in the city that all the butchers had to supply the rav with a set amount of meat each week. Rav Yosef was particularly adamant about the butchers’ faithful fulfillment of their obligation.

Wife Surprised

Rav Yosef’s wife could not understand why her husband was so insistent on this point. “Tell me, my husband,” she asked, “Why is it that when it comes to a salary you absolutely refuse to accept money, a decision that I fully agree with, since we have no need of it. When it comes to the butchers’ quota of meat, however, you are adamant and insist that they pay it. Why is this so?”

“It is not for myself that I insist on this meat, my wife. Thank G-d we have enough money to support ourselves and have no need of the meat.

“What, however, will be the situation if the rav who follows me is a poor man? If the butchers get into the habit of disregarding their obligation because I do not insist, they will cause the poor rav to suffer terribly.”

The Seder Meal

It was this Rav Yosef who recognized quite early that his young student, Shlomo Kluger, would grow to be a giant of Torah in Israel.

Because of this, he took great pains to encourage and show warmth to his young student. It was the custom of the rav, each Pesach, to invite the best of the students to his home to participate in the Seder. Young Shlomo was also invited to attend.

As the evening progressed and the Haggadah was read, they reached the part that told of the four sons – the clever, the wicked, the simple and the one incapable of asking. One of the students turned to Rav Yosef and asked:

“Why does the Haggadah call one of the sons’ ‘wise’ and the other ‘wicked’? After all, what is the difference between them? The Haggadah says that the wicked son ‘took himself out of the general congregation of Israel since he asked: ‘What is the meaning of the service to you?’ If we look carefully, however, we will notice that the wise son also used this language when he asks: ‘what are the witnesses and commandments and law that the L-rd our G-d commanded you?’ After all, does the wise son not take himself out of the general congregation when he used the term ‘you’ instead of ‘us’”.

The Answer

Rav Yosef, who was expert in the Rambam, immediately answered that according to the Rambam, the version that we have in our Haggadah is, indeed, incorrect and that the correct version is that instead of ‘you’ the wise son says ‘us.’ “We see, therefore, that there is a very great difference between what the wise son and the wicked son said,” the rav concluded.

When Rav Yosef finished, young Shlomo shyly said: “If I may be permitted to add something, I believe that there is an additional difference between the two sons, even using the version that is found in our Haggadah.”

All those assembled looked to the young Shlomo to see what he had to add to the conversation. In a soft and low voice, the young scholar said: “If we look carefully we see that while the wicked son never once uses the name of the Almighty, the wise son does say that ‘the L-rd our G-d commanded.’”

As Rav Yosef nodded in satisfaction, Shlomo continued: “A similar difference is found, I believe, in the very first chapter of the Torah in the story of the creation of light and darkness. It says there: ‘And G-d called the light day, and the darkness He called night.’

“Note that in the description of the light the name of G-d is mentioned whereas in the phrase that mentions the darkness, the Holy Name is not.

“It appears to me that this is the reason that Chazal say: ‘and G-d called the light, day – these are the deeds of the righteous, whereas the darkness in the verse refers to the deeds of the wicked.’ The meaning of Chazal is that it is the custom of the righteous to always speak with G-d on their lips, unlike the wicked.”

They Will Take My Shas

Wednesday, September 21st, 2011

Rav Yosef, shlita, born in Krakow in 1919, was 18 years old when the Nazis invaded Poland. He came from an illustrious Belzer family of talmidei chachamim (Torah scholars), dayanim (judges), and people renowned for their charity and kindness. He had the privilege of meeting the Belzer Rebbe, zt”l, a number of times, as well as spending yamim tovim in Belz. All this left a deep and holy impression on him.

Rav Yosef’s Torah learning did not stop with the war. Torah learning was so deep within him, so intrinsic to his soul, that even the horrors of the Nazis could not eradicate it. On many occasions, he commented that it was his learning and faith that helped him survive.

As he was being physically broken and tortured by the Nazis, learning Torah kept him alive. As the kapos were standing over them, my father and other inmates learned among themselves, talking Torah at every available opportunity. Each one would bring another chiddush that they recalled from their yeshiva days.

The starving, tortured prisoners studied among themselves from memory. There were no spacious batei midrash. There were no comfortable tables and chairs. There were no Gemaras or seforim to use as reference. All they had was their deeply embedded love of Torah. This love was so strong that not even the fear of the Nazis and kapos could eradicate it.

“Ki hem chayeinu v’orech yameinu, u’vahem ne’he’ge yomam v’laila – For they are our life and the length of our days, and we will learn them day and night.” The Torah gives life, even in our darkest moments.

Recently, Rav Yosef had a visitor from the neighborhood.

He had received a large bill from the hospital, which greatly upset him. The

visitor tried to reassure him that it was probably an insurance mix-up that could easily be rectified.

But Rav Yosef could not be comforted. He looked at his guest with clear blue eyes and quietly repeated in Yiddish, “But I am very worried! Ich hob agmas nefesh!”

“Farvus?” asked the guest. “Why are you worried?” Rav Yosef lifted his arm and pointed to his bookcase.

“I’m afraid that if I can’t pay the bill, they will come and take away my Shas (Talmud set).”

At that moment, the visitor felt a tremor go through his being.

Rav Yosef had spent 1939-1945 in five concentration camps. He had witnessed the unspeakable – beatings, mass murder, starvation and illness. His family was butchered in his presence. He’d experienced the depths of evil and horror. Yet his face shone with purity and faith. After all he had endured, he was not afraid that the insurance company would come and take away his car, his home, or his bank account.

He was only afraid of losing one thing – his precious Shas.

Rav Yosef’s simple sentence, “I’m afraid they will come and take away my Shas,” rumbled like the awesome sounds of the shofar, the lightning and thunder from Sinai, emanating throughout the universe.

Hashem will surely soon bring Moshiach – in His love for Rav Yosef.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/judaism/jewish-columns/lessons-in-emunah/they-will-take-my-shas/2011/09/21/

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