By Rabbi Yair Hoffman
Rav Elyashiv, zt’l, may have passed on to the Olam HaEmes, but his Torah lives on. Indeed, thanks to the efforts of his son-in-law, Rav Yitzchok Zilberstein, shlita, we are privy to new and remarkable rulings of Rav Elyashiv in a just-off-the-press sefer entitled Kav V’Naki, Vol. II, by Rav Zilberstein. Some of the rulings deal with fundamental issues that all members of Klal Yisrael should be aware of. Below are some of the questions, divided into the categories of three of the four sections of Shulchan Aruch.
Regarding the minhag of fasting for all who witness a sefer Torah falling, may the Merciful One protect us, are women included in this custom? Rav Elyashiv responded that this is the custom now in Klal Yisroel that all men who observed it fall do fast, but the absolute halachic requirement was only for the person who actually dropped it to fast. He also ruled that only men are included in this custom and women who see a sefer Torah fall do not fast. (OC 13) [Editor’s note: Perhaps Rav Elyashiv is expressing a similar notion to that of the author of the Alei Shor that the custom of 100 blessings a day was never instituted for women because they have more natural yiras shamayim than do men and were not in need of the takanah of 100 blessings per day to increase their yiras shamayim].
Can a child with Down Syndrome be included in a minyan of ten? Rav Elyashiv answered that if the following two criteria are met, not only may he be counted but he may even be motzi the masses with krias haTorah: 1. If he can shop without losing money and can accept and hold on to change, or if he can travel alone on a bus and 2. if he understands a little bit of what he studies (OC 15).
A ba’al teshuvah went back to his home community where the only minyan that existed was made up of people that drive back home on Shabbos. Is it preferable to daven with them or to daven without a minyan? Rav Elyashiv responded that it is preferable to daven alone, although he noted that Rav Moshe Feinstein argued with that position. In Rav Elyashiv’s published shiurim on Berachos, however, he stated that under very very pressing circumstances one may include such people in a minyan (OC 16).
There is a principle that non-kosher food is metamteim—causes intellectual dullness in Torah study (See Gemara in Yuma 39a). What if someone is eating these foods on account of a dangerous illness (choleh sheyeish bo sakanah)? Does it still dull the mind? Rav Elyashiv responded that although the Maharal in Tiferes Yisrael, (chapter 8) writes that it does not, Rav Elyashiv has a proof from the Rama YD 81:7 that it does (YD 253).
If someone is marrying off a son and his own father is a famous Torah scholar, yet he wants another famous Torah scholar to be honored with siddur kiddushin, and his own father may be insulted, what should be done? Rav Elyashiv answered that there is no question that his own father should be engaged for the siddur kiddushin (YD 273).
At the Shabbos table, both his mother is present and a Kohein is present. Who should get the first piece of challah—his mother or the Kohein? Rav Elyashiv answered that although technically we honor a Kohein first (See Gittin 59b), since in our times we are not sure whether the Kohanim are real Kohanim, we give the mother first, since we know with certainty that she is the mother (YD 274).
A chassan and kallah got engaged, but on a condition that since the groom’s mother was a widow they would live near his mother. The bride even signed a paper to that effect. Since the wedding, however, the groom’s mother intervenes in numerous issues between the two of them and the husband always sides with his mother against the opinion of his wife. Is the wife in violation of the initial agreement if she states that she no longer wishes to live next to her mother-in-law? Rav Elyashiv responded that the wife had never agreed to these terms where the husband would be siding with his mother against her at every turn. She is thus within her full rights to request that they move, and the husband must do so. He brought a proof to this from the words of the Pischei Teshuvah in EH 75:3 (YD 276).
In Israel there exists something called evening kollels. The gedolei Yisrael have stated that kollel men should take one evening off each week to participate in outreach. What happens if the rosh kollel of the evening kollel wishes to reduce the pay of the kollel person who is taking off one evening a week to participate in outreach? Rav Elyashiv responded that they are doing so incorrectly and are wrong! Are they doing it for themselves? They are taking off that night for Klal Yisrael! When asked if the rosh kollel does it anyway, may the kollel student take off that amount from ma’aser? Rav Elyashiv responded that if kollel students do not have the funds, they are exempt from giving ma’aser (YD 276).
Two brothers, both married, were assigned to the same army tank. They were concerned that if the tank were to be attacked neither one would be left to support the children and spouse of the other. “Should we opt for separate tanks?” they asked Rav Elyashiv. He responded, “Au contraire! If you both daven fervently and act with the middah of tzniyus, the merit of your combined families will keep you safer! Stay in the same tank!” (CM 454)
Rav Elyashiv held that streets are public property and it is absolutely forbidden to drive on them without the permission of the public. This is particularly true since cars are inherently considered quite dangerous and there are issues of pikuach nefesh and murder involved in the illegal use of cars on the road. (CM 452).
He held that looking at someone else’s mail by means of amirah l’akum is a violation of the ban of Rabbeinu Gershom. (CM 451) One may not ask a gentile to look at the contents even if they are potentially damaging.
A single woman living in a bad neighborhood is concerned for her life and wanted to know if she could electrify the entrance to her home. Rav Elyashiv answered not the outer entrance, but the inner one would be permissible (CM 249).
May a woman whose husband is not yet observant secretly pay for the cost of an outreach seminar even though her husband does not wish to spend a penny on it? Rav Elyashiv answered that the ends are good and proper, but the ends do not justify the means, and it is considered absolute theft (CM 245). v
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