I am writing in regards to the featured picture of your last newspaper issue. It shows the “Munkaczer Rebbe” inspecting an esrog with a magnifying glass.
Simply put, this activity is completely misguided and in my opinion is symptomatic of a larger issue within our community. The facts are that a magnifying glass or microscope could not possibly have been required for a halachic inspection, as it has only been around for several hundred years.
Anything that cannot be seen by the naked eye is not considered present. This isn’t my opinion but rather those of the vast majority of our contemporary authorities.
The issue of microscopic items/bugs isn’t a new one and has addressed by Rav Shlomo Kluger ,Chochmas Adam,Tiferes Yisrael, and the Aruch Hashulchan among others (*sources listed below) All of the aforementioned sages emphatically state that the Torah would not require something that could not have been kept at all times.
Re’iiyah – seeing – can only be natural G-d given eyesight, any magnifying tool will not change the halachic status of whatever needs to be checked, whether an Esrog, Tefillin, Sefer Torah, Flour, etc.
It’s especially perplexing to me that the people who tend to defend this type of behavior are the ones who completely ignore an essential mitzvah of Succoth. If you haven’t guessed which one I am referring to, it’s that of sleeping in the Succah. This EXPLICIT mitzvah has been around long before the invention of the microscope yet somehow its seems to have been completely overlooked (no pun intended)!!!
I am aware of one rebbes opinion that sleeping isn’t required though this highly controversial opinion is in direct contradiction to ALL of our Taaniim, Amaoriyim, Geonim, Rishonim, Achronim and Shulchan Aruch! These examples go on and on and display a new attitude in Torah where our pure system of Halacha is being distorted by introduction of foreign practices no matter how well intentioned they might be.
Why are our rabbinic leaders more concerned with removal of female pictures in yeshiva dinner ads who are dressed completely tzinus then speaking out on a repeated advertisements in this orthodox paper of a “holy” lady who “specializes” in pouring lead to heal people which is complete avodah zarah (To his credit, the editor of this paper did not publish this ad again after it was brought to his attention) Again, we see a clear deviation, where a completely acceptable halachic activity is made taboo yet an advertisement which should stir tremendous disgust and shock is left unaddressed!
If our leaders continue to be silent, the “segula” keys will continue to be placed in challas, the red bendels continue to be worn, and our reputation of ohr la-amim destroyed.
Sincerely, Guy Tsadik (With Permission)
Shu”t Tuv Ta’am V’Daas (Tinyana, kuntress acharon, 53)
Binas Adam (34, to klal 38)
Tiferes Yisrael on Maseches Avoda Zarah (Ch.2 Mishna 6, Boaz 3).
Aruch Hashulchan (Y”D 84, 36)
Dear Mr. Tsadik
Firstly, we at the Five Towns Jewish Times want to thank you for being a reader. It is always refreshing to know that our readers are intelligent, sharp, and on the cutting edge of the issues of the day. Your erudite letter reinforces this.
But let’s get to your specific points. While most leading Poskim agree with you in regard to use of the microscope or magnifying glass as a requirement for any form of halachic inspection, here the situation is quite probably very different. The Munkaczer Rebbe was, in all probability, looking at the magnifying glass to determine that the black dot spotted on the esrog was, in fact, just dirt.
Historically, Jews have not been afraid to use technology for their benefit and this is a typical example of just such a use. Without the magnifying glass the dot would appear to render the esrog either posul or not mehudar. The Rebbe’s use of technology here probably helped in the determination that the dot was actually dirt, and therefore the esrog was perfectly fine. The Munkaczer Rebbe thus demonstrates to us an important principle – Koach d’heteira adif – we should not always look to forbid things.
Rather than attacking the Rebbe, it might do all of us well to learn from him.
This is all on the heter end. As far as the assuring end of things – it gets a bit more complex. All authorities are in agreement that when there is no halachic question per se that has arisen at all, the use of the microscope or magnifying glass is completely unwarranted. When there is, say, a visible dot that appears which may give rise to a question – there is a debate among Poskim. Rav Vosner holds that the dot is permitted when you don’t see that it is a bug – even though under the microscope it is a bug. See Shaivet HaLevi Volume VII #122. Rav Elyashiv held that it was forbidden when you saw it first as a dot but later saw that it was a bug. Rav Chaim Ozer held that it was a safek.
Many authorities agree with Rav Vosner, as it seems is your position too. We are not 100% sure of the Muncazcer Rebbe’s position on the latter point, but it is our belief that he stands with Rav Vosner on it. Hence your characterization of his practice as the blind leading the blind, may not be an accurate assessment.
As far as the sleeping in the Sukkah, we have to understand that the Gemorah was discussing the Mitzvah in a certain geographic location where it was very hot. When a good segment of Jewry migrated north, the issue of Mitztaer, suffering due to the cold, while sleeping, became much more of an acute issue. In the centuries before penicillin, a cold could quite often turn into something more serious and cause deaths.
The Chassidim and religious authorities who were more lenient with sleeping in the Sukkah in northern, colder climates believed that “VeChai Bahem” is a greater imperative than forcing others to sleep in a Sukkah during dangerous weather. The point is that these great leaders were proponents of a rationalism that should not be dismissed by those of teh younger generations who insist upon chumrah after chumrah even when it entails danger.
Thank you, once again
The 5TJT Editorial Staff