By Rabbi Yair Hoffman
Rav Chaim Kanievsky, shlita, was born 87 years ago (January 8, 1928) in Pinsk to his father, the Steipler Gaon, and his mother, Rebbetzin Miriam Karelitz, the sister of the Chazon Ish. Rav Chaim married Rav Elyashiv’s daughter, Rebbetzin Batsheva, a’h. Rav Chaim completes a review of Talmud Bavli, Talmud Yerushalmi, Tanach, and Shulchan Aruch every year, and he has authored numerous seforim. He receives tens of thousands of visitors each year from Jews all over the world.
As mentioned in last week’s Five Towns Jewish Times, publisher Larry Gordon met very recently with Rav Chaim Kanievsky and presented a number of written questions. Below we find some background information about these questions, as well as the text of both the questions and Rav Chaim’s answers.
The Mi SheBeirach
Many people are aware that Rav Yom Tov Lippman Heller, zt’l, the rav of Cracow and the author of the Tosfos Yom Tov, composed a special prayer, a Mi SheBeirach, for those who refrain from talking during davening. Unfortunately, not all of us have reached this ideal yet, which is why the tefillah of the Tosfos Yom Tov was necessary.
The Shulchan Aruch (O.C. 124:7) discusses the terrible aveirah of talking during Shemoneh Esreih. Indeed, it is the only place in Shulchan Aruch where Rav Karo uses the expression “v’gadol avono minso—his sin is too great to carry.” It would seem that Rav Karo employed the language used by Rabbeinu Yona in his Igeres HaTeshuvah (section 6). The Mishnah Berurah (124:27) cites the Eliyahu Rabbah that a number of shuls ended up being destroyed on account of this violation.
The tefillah of the Tosfos Yom Tov was composed during the Chmielnicki Massacres of 1648–1649 (Gzeiras tach v’tat) in which some 300,000 Jews were murdered by Cossacks under his leadership. The Chida explains that it was revealed to the Tosfos Yom Tov from Heaven that the talking was the cause of the terrible tragedy. We still recite the special Mi SheBeirach to this day in many communities throughout the world.
The question arises, however, as to when the ideal time for this Mi SheBeirach is. Many shuls recite it in between aliyos on Shabbos morning. Others recite it after the silent Amidah, before the reader’s repetition. The advantage of saying it then is that is when the actual challenge for the people arises. It is wrong to converse and disturb the tzibbur during the chazzan’s tefillah. Wouldn’t it be best to recite this Mi SheBeirach right before the chazzan begins?
The downside is that the time between the silent Amidah and Chazaras HaShatz should not be interrupted by a tefillah that is not necessary at that time. The Alter of Slabodka, zt’l, addresses the fact that people engage in frivolous activity during this time before the Chazaras HaShatz, and he decries the situation (Or HaTzafun Bereishis p. 59). Because there should be no interruptions at this time, Rabbeinu Yosef of Posen, zt’l, son-in-law of the Noda BiYehudah, ruled that one should not auction off the opening of the aron kodesh then (Likkutim on Shulchan Aruch, p. 333).
There are also poskim (Shulchan HaTahor cited in Binyan Ephraim, p. 83) that hold that, if one speaks between the two Shemoneh Esreihs (on a weekday), he does not do nefilas apayim for Tachanun. Other poskim write that if one did so, then b’dieved he still does nefilas apayim. The halachah is like the latter poskim, but still, we see that it is quite a serious matter.
Below we find the transcript of the written query to Rav Chaim:
האם מותר לרב של קהילה לומר את המשברך של התוספות יום טוב לפני חזרת הש”ץ
Q. Is it permitted for the rabbi of a congregation to recite the special Mi SheBeirach of the Tosfos Yom Tov before Chazaras HaShatz but after the silent Shemoneh Esreih?
למה לא? טוב מאד לעשות!
Rav Chaim responded:
A. “Why not? This is a good thing to do!”
It is clear that Rav Chaim is of the position that it is good and proper to say it when it would be most effective.
The Name ‘Shira’
אומרים בשם הרב ש”שירה” אינה שם. מה הרב סובר לגבי “רינה” או “גילה” או “ביילא
Q. The rabbi has said in the past that “Shira” is not a name. What about Rina, Gila, or Baila?
ביילא זה שם תרגום מ”יידיש” ושה בסדר גמור. שירה אין שם כזה – רינה וגילה לשון הפסוק
A. Baila is a translation of a Yiddish name. Shira—there is no such name. Gila and Rina [are names]—they are in the pesukim.
Yeshiva Students’ Tanach Study
The Shulchan Aruch (Y.D. 246:4) writes that a person should divide his learning to include one-third in Torah. Although the meforshim understand his words to refer to the 24 books of Tanach, the ruling only refers to the beginning of his learning. In other words, when he begins to learn he should spend a third of his time studying Tanach, but later on in life, he does not do so.
But what about in contemporary times?
Rav Shlomo Kluger in his Haelef Lecha Shlomo (Y.D. 259) writes that in contemporary times we should be learning Tanach, and the Gemara that seems to discourage it refers only to making it the central part of one’s study. He writes that an adult who studies Gemara may study Tanach for an hour or two a day.
The Yesod v’Shoresh HaAvodah (6:2) writes that everyone should be fully fluent in Tanach and review it every year. Indeed, he writes that the first year, he should complete the entire Tanach seven times to ensure his fluency in it! It should, of course, be stressed that Tanach should be studied with Rashi or the other commentaries that are faithful to Chazal.
In Sefer Chinuch Yisrael (chapter 9), the Satmar Rav is quoted as saying that nowadays the apikorsim have no connection whatsoever to Tanach, and therefore every melamed in a Jewish school should be teaching Tanach on a daily basis. Here is the question posed to Rav Chaim:
האם ראוי לבן-ישיבה ללמוד תנ”ך שיהיה בקי בתנ”ך. וא”כ מתי ילמד
Q. Should a yeshiva boy learn Tanach to know it? If so, when should he be learning it? What schedule should he keep?
כן – בן ישיבה צריך ללמוד תנ”ך – וילמד בשבת
A. Yes, a yeshiva boy needs to learn Tanach. He should learn it on Shabbos.
A few weeks ago, the Five Towns Jewish Times ran an article about the tendency for young men and their mothers to ask for a picture of any potential shidduch (“The Picture of Perfection,” December 19).
The article cited the Chebiner Rav, who responded in writing to a shadchan who conveyed such a request with a message to the other side: “Lo y’aseh kein bimkomeinu, laseis ha’tzurah lifnei ha’bechirah”—“This shall not be done in our place, to give the tzurah (the appearance of the girl—a photograph—pronounced in chassidishe havarah as “tzirah”) before the bechirah (chassidishe pronunciation for bachurah—the young lady).” The Chebiner devised a clever play on words using tzurah, photograph, instead of tze’irah, younger one, referencing Lavan’s response to Yaakov Avinu in Bereishis 29:26. However, his message was clear: This is not something that Jewish people should be doing and is very far from the Torah way of life.
The article further explained that such a request demeans and cheapens the young lady under discussion. Each human being was created in the Divine image, and to debase a bas Yisrael in such a fashion runs counter to many fundamental yesodos in Yiddishkeit.
Finally, the article cited a few contemporary poskim:
Rav Dovid Feinstein, shlita, was not happy when he heard of this growing practice and responded, “Why are we making things more difficult? There is a certain chein that young ladies have that often does not come across in a photograph, and can only be seen in person. We are making the shidduch crisis worse with these new requirements.” He did not forbid it from a halachic perspective, but he was clearly very much against it.
Rav Shlomo Heinemann, shlita, of Baltimore responded, “I do not think that it is within the framework of tznius for a girl to give a picture out where others can possibly see it. This is not with the ruach of Torah.”
Rav Shmuel Fuerst, a dayan in Chicago stated, “This wasn’t the mehalech for doros, and I think it is lacking in tznius. I don’t think it is a proper hanhagah and, besides, a picture can be very deceiving.”
האם ראוי לבן-תורה לפני שיוצא עם בחורה בשידוכים לשאול את השדכן בשביל תמונה של הבחורה שיכול לברר אם תמצא חן בעיניו מטעם היופי שלה? והחשבון של הבחור שזה יחסוך לו זמן. או האם זה דבר מכוער לבן תורה או בן ישיבה לעשות? וגם אולי אפשר שיש לבחורה חן שלא נמצא בתמונה
Q. Is it proper for a Ben Torah, before he dates a girl for shidduchim, to ask the shadchan for a picture of the girl so that he can determine whether he will find her attractive? His reasoning is so that it will save him time. Is this an inappropriate thing for a ben Torah or ben yeshiva to do? Perhaps also a girl has a certain type of beauty that is not found in a picture.
!שטויות! הוא לא יראה כלום – צריך לפגוש
A. Nonsense! He will not see anything! They have to meet in person.
Learning From The ArtScroll Talmud
מגיד שיעור של דף היומי שיש לו תלמידים שלומדים מתוך ה”שוטנסטיין” האם כדאי לומר להם שיתרכזו גם כן לתרגם את הדף גמרא בעצמם גם בלי השוטנסטיין – אף שיהיה מאוד קשה להם? מה בדיוק הגדרים מתי ראוי לה”מגיד שיעור” להתייאש על זה
Q. For a daf yomi instructor who has many students who use the ArtScroll, is it worthwhile to tell them to focus on translating the daf by themselves without the ArtScroll, even if it will be hard for them? What exactly are the parameters for when to do it and when to relinquish such a goal?
לא צריך להגיד להם. הם לא ישארו עם השוטנסטיין. לא להגיד להם
A. There is no need to tell them. They will not stay with it for longer than they need. (As interpreted later by a talmid chacham who was present.)
בחו”ל כל וועד של כשרות סומכים לכתחילה על היתר הדלקת האש של הרמ”א [וזהו שלא כהחיי אדם והגר”א]. האם ראוי להם להחמיר – או אינו כדאי
Q. In America, every va’ad ha’kashrus relies l’chatchilah on the leniency of the Rema of a Jew lighting the pilot light to avoid the prohibition of bishul akum. This is not in accordance with the Chayei Adam and the Vilna Gaon. Should they be stringent or is it not worthwhile?
A. It is proper to be stringent.
In The Mechitzah
יש בחו”ל הרבה בתי כניסיות שהקיר שבאמצע בית הכסת כעין ווילון עבה שפותחים וסוגרים. ובתוך הקיר יש בו דלת שגם זז ונסגר ושוב אינו פותח לחדר. האם כשפותחים את הקיר הזה יש בעיה במזוזה שזה תעשה ולא מן העשוי
Q. In America, there are many shuls with a movable wall that they open and close. This curtain-wall has a door that is folded, and when folded no longer provides entry to the room. Does the mezuzah on that door have to be reaffixed each time the wall is unfolded (since the entry is being created with the mezuzah already in place)?
אין שום בעיה
A. There is no problem.
Rabbanim And Technology
בזמן הזה הרבה מהשאלות שמביאים לפני פוסקי הדור הם בעניני טכניי או באיזה שום מציאות (כגון באוכלים ואומרים לפוסק שאין זה מאכל אדם – ואפשר שבאמת זה כן נחשב למאכל אדם). ולפעמים האדם שמציג את השאלה אינו בעצמו מבין את המציאות – האם אנחנו אומרים שיש לגדול בישראל סייעתא דשמיא לא רק בפסק ההלכה אלא גם בבירור המציאות
Q. In our times, many of the questions brought to the poskim are very technical or relate to a reality that sometimes even the person presenting it does not understand himself. Do we say that the gadol has siyatta d’Shmaya, Divine assistance, not just in the halachah but in a clarification of the metzius, the reality?
לא רק בפסק הלכה – אבל גם בבירור המציאות
A. A gadol has Divine assistance not just in the answer but in the metzius behind the question as well. (It is interesting to note that I had previously posed this question to Rav Feinstein, and received a different response. –YH)
לפעמים שומעים פסק הלכה באיזה ענין ויש מורה הוראה בחו”ל שברי לו כחמה שטעו במציאות כשהביאו את השאלה לפני הפוסק בא”י. מה עליו לעשות
Q. At times, a rabbi will hear of a ruling and it will be clear as day to him that there was an error in understanding the metzius when the question was brought to the posek in Eretz Yisrael (and the p’sak was made based on this erroneous understanding). What should he do?
.עליו לפרסם את דעתו
A. It is incumbent upon him to publicize his opinion.
The author can be reached at Yairhoffman2@gmail.com.
By Rabbi Yair Hoffman