Shabbos 31b: The Yerei Shomayim who is not so scholarly

Shabbos 31b: Rabbi Simon and Rabbi Elazar were sitting, when Rabbi Yaakov bar Acha walked by. One said to the other, “Let us stand up for him because he is a man who fears sin.” The other replied, “Let us stand up for him because he is a Torah scholar.” The first one retorted, “I tell you he is a man who fears sin, and you tell me he is a Torah scholar?”

שבת לא ע”ב רבי סימון ורבי אלעזר הוו יתבי, חליף ואזיל רבי יעקב בר אחא. אמר ליה חד לחבריה: ניקו מקמיה, דגבר דחיל חטאין הוא, אמר לו אידך: ניקו מקמיהֹ דגבר בר אוריין הוא. אמר ליה: אמינא לך אנא דגבר דחיל חטאין הוא ואמרת לי את בר אוריין הוא?

During World War I, Reb Elchonon Wasserman headed the yeshiva in Smilovitz, founded by the Chofetz Chaim. There was a debate in that period about whether to institute an official mussar seder in the yeshiva. However, either way, the students could learn mussar just by watching Reb Elchonon. One student from Smilovitz wrote, “The fear of G-d constantly hovered over him. One could almost touch with his fingers the fear of Heaven that suffused his face. Only on the rarest occasions, on Simchas Torah or Purim, could even the slightest smile be noticed on his face. His economy of words was truly astonishing. He would speak only to the point, and say only what was necessary. He regarded the fear of sin as the crown of all virtues. There was among us at the time a student who excelled in piety, observing the lightest mitzvah as punctiliously as the gravest, although his application to study was by no means great. Yet Reb Elchonon would always rise up before him. On the other hand, I once saw him expel a student who bordered on genius in ability, and was considered outstanding – but who had behaved improperly. Reb Elchonon did not put him to shame in public, and also refrained from communicating the expulsion order directly. Instead, he took a volume (the Shulchan Aruch or some mussar work), turned the pages until he found the relevant passage where the deed is censured, took the open book to the bochur and pointed to the text. The bochur took the hint and left.”

Source: Reb Elchonon (Artscroll), p. 91.

[The Gemara is not a source to say that one should stand up for an ignorant person who fears sin – after all, all agree that Rav Yaakov bar Acha was a Torah scholar too, and he is mentioned many times throughout Shas. Reb Elchonon was not advocating this either; the student in this story was at least somewhat scholarly. And in fact, there is no such thing as an ignorant person who fears sin, as Pirkei Avos (2:5) says, אין בור ירא חטא. Rather, Reb Elchonon’s chiddush is that even if the person is far below your level of learning, you should stand up for him because of his piety.]


Yuma 10a: Does a boat need a mezuzah?

Yuma 10a: Rabbi Yehuda holds that a succah on Succos is considered a house for the purposes of maaser (i.e. if one brings in produce to a succah, it becomes obligated in maaser). The Sages hold it does not. Rabbi Yehuda holds that a succah must participate in an eiruv and must have a mezuzah.

Rambam, Hilchos Mezuzah 6:9: A succah on Succos and a house on a boat are exempt from mezuzah because they are not made for permanent residence.

Rambam, Hilchos Berachos 11:2: There are some mitzvos that are not obligatory, but similar to optional, for example, mezuzah and building a fence around one’s roof. A person is not obligated to live in a house requiring a mezuzah in order to make a mezuzah; if he wishes, he may live his entire life in a tent or a boat. And he is not obligated to build a house in order to make a fence around his roof. 

יומא י ע”א סוכת חג בחג רבי יהודה מחייב וחכמים פוטרים. ותני עלה ר’ יהודה מחייב בעירוב ובמזוזה. רמב”ם הלכות מזוזה פרק ו הלכה ט: סוכת החג בחג ובית שבספינה פטורין מן המזוזה לפי שאינן עשויין לדירת קבע. וכן הובא ביו”ד רפ”ו סעיף יא.

רמב”ם הלכות ברכות פרק יא הלכה ב: ויש מצוה שאינה חובה אלא דומין לרשות כגון מזוזה ומעקה שאין אדם חייב לשכון בבית החייב מזוזה כדי שיעשה מזוזה אלא אם רצה לשכון כל ימיו באהל או בספינה ישב, וכן אינו חייב לבנות בית כדי לעשות מעקה.

The Steipler was once asked whether one need put a mezuzah on the doorways of a yacht. The Steipler searched the poskim in Hilchos Mezuzah and could not find a source. Rav Chaim Kanievsky asked his father what he was looking for, and when he heard, Rav Chaim said that the Rambam writes explicitly that one doesn’t need to have a mezuzah on a boat. “But I just reviewed the Rambam’s Hilchos Mezuzah and it’s not there,” said the Steipler. Rav Chaim agreed that it is not there, however, the Rambam mentions in passing, as an example, in Hilchos Berachos 11:2, that if one chooses to life his whole life in a boat, he will not need a mezuzah.

Source: FJJ March 24, 2022, p. 12.

[The Steipler certainly saw the Rambam in Hilchos Mezuzah stating that a boat does not require a mezuzah. However, the Rambam adds “because they are not made for permanent residence”. Apparently the questioner here wanted to live in his yacht all year. The Steipler thought that perhaps the Rambam only meant that a boat is exempt when one lives in it temporarily, like a succah used only on Succos. It is only in Hilchos Berachos that the Rambam says explicitly that even if one lives his whole life in a boat, he will not need a mezuzah.

Why is the boat different from the succah? The answer may be that if one lives all year in a succah, he will certainly make it waterproof, and then it will become a regular house, not a succah. But the yacht will remain the same yacht even when used all year. The aspects of the yacht that make it unfit for permanent residence (the rocking of the boat etc.) will still be present.

Interestingly, the Rambam’s source for this halacha about boats – temporary or permanent – is unknown to us. The Bach says that he saw someone write that it is a Tosefta, but we don’t have it in our Tosefta. The footnote on the Tur Hashalem says that it is found in a version of the Gemara quoted in Midrash Hagadol, a 14th century Yemenite work, on Vaeschanan, but the author of that work may have taken it from the Rambam.]


Eiruvin 62a: Renting the City for an Eiruv

Eiruvin 62a: All agree that we may rent a courtyard from a non-Jew (to permit carrying on Shabbos) even for less than a perutah. The disagreement is on whether we need a strong rental, or even a weak rental suffices. “Strong” means that the Jew must stipulate that he is allowed to fill the courtyard with chairs. “Weak” means that he need not make this stipulation.

עירובין סב ע”א: הוו יודעין ששוכרין מן הנכרי אפילו בפחות משוה פרוטה… אלא בריאה ־ במוהרקי ואבורגני, רעועה ־ בלא מוהרקי ואבורגני. פירש רש”י: למלאות החצר בספסלין וקתידראות אם ירצה.

When Rabbi Moshe Heinemann made the eiruv in Baltimore, he went to rent the rights to the city streets from the mayor.  The state’s attorney protested, “If you rent it to them, they could block the streets and stop traffic!” Chaim Wallin, an observant Jew who worked in the state’s attorney’s office, spoke up and said, “Don’t worry, they’ve been doing this for centuries in cities all over the world, and it never happened that they blocked traffic.”

Then Rabbi Heinemann and his colleagues went to the County Executive, since some parts of the eiruv were outside the Baltimore city limits, and he agreed to rent the county. Then one of the rabbanim suggested they rent from the State of Maryland as well. The logic of renting from city officials is that they are in charge of the fire department and police, who have the right to enter anyone’s house in an emergency. Here, he argued, the state is an even greater authority because they can declare a state of emergency and send the National Guard to anyone’s house. So they went to the office of the governor. “I’ll sell you the whole state of Maryland,” he said. “But I can’t take any money from you.” The rabbis were not sure what to do: the halacha requires that the streets be rented for some amount of money, even if it be less than a perutah. Then they came up with an idea: they made a plaque of appreciation for the governor, with a silver dollar framed inside. The governor accepted it and agreed to hang it on his office wall, where it could never be construed as a bribe.    

Source: Shiur by Rabbi Heinemann

[It seems from this story that they needed to use actual money, and giving an item worth money – like the plaque alone – would not have sufficed.

We also see that when the mayor objected that the rabbis might block the traffic, the rabbis did not promise not to do so. It was only a bystander who assured the mayor that they would not block traffic. This would seemingly be against Rashi, who explains that a “weak rental” means that the Jew need not ask for the right to block the street with chairs. Tosafos quoting the Aruch says that “weak rental” means without a written document. The Beis Yosef says that the halacha follows the opinion that a weak rental is enough, according to all explanations. Perhaps Rabbi Heinemann understood that one need not explicitly ask for the right to block the street, but one should not explicitly waive that right either.]


Working at a Treif Restaurant

Chullin 106a: Not washing before a meal caused a Jew to eat pork. Rashi: There was a Jew who owned a restaurant serving kosher meat to Jews and neveilah meat to gentiles. Once a Jew came and did not wash his hands before eating, so the restaurant owner thought he was a gentile and served him pork.

חולין קו ע”א: מים הראשונים ־ האכילו בשר חזיר. רש”י: שהיה חנוני ישראל מוכר בשר שחוטה לישראל ומבשל ומאכילם וכשהעובד כוכבים בא בחנותו מאכילו נבלות ובא יהודי אחד לאכול ולא נטל ידיו וכסבור זה שעובד כוכבים הוא והאכילו בשר חזיר.

Someone once asked Rav Ovadiah Yosef: “If I can’t find another job, may I work in a treif restaurant, provided that I will not be cooking meat and milk together?”

The question hinges on whether there is any Rabbinic prohibition on working with treife food lest he come to eat it.

Rav Ovadiah quotes the Kesef Mishnah (Tumas Mes 1:2) who says that the reason why it’s forbidden to cook meat and milk together is out of fear that one might come to eat it. This goes into the category of gezeiros made by the Torah itself – similar to yichud. Yet, cooking a non-kosher animal’s meat with milk is allowed (Yoreh Deah 87:3). The prohibition is only on kosher meat (at least a kosher animal) and milk, because people are used to eating it each separately and may accidentally come to eat them together. This shows that there is no prohibition on working with treife food.

The Rashba (3:223) does say that the prohibition on doing business with forbidden food is because one might come to eat it. If so, “doing business” would include even an employee who does not own the business, because he too might come to eat. However, this is only the Rashba, who holds that doing business is a Rabbinic prohibition. According to most Rishonim, it is a D’oraisa, so “one might come to eat it” may not be the reason.

The Gemara in Chullin 106a seems to address this exact question. The Gemara quotes a saying, “Not washing before a meal caused a Jew to eat pork,” and Rashi tells the story of a Jew who owned a restaurant serving kosher meat to Jews and neveilah meat to gentiles. Once a Jew came and did not wash his hands before eating, so he thought the proprietor mistook him for a gentile and served him pork. The Maharsha asks: why did Rashi begin by saying that this Jew served neveilah to gentiles, and then end by saying that he served pork to this customer? He explains that the Jew usually sold neveilah meat – not pork – because one may not deliberately do business with non-kosher, so he sold only the neveilah that resulted from mistakes in shechitah. It was only this time that he happened to have some pork on hand. So we see that the Maharsha was assuming that this proprietor was an observant Jew. If so, we see that it’s okay for a Jew to cook and serve non-kosher food to gentiles.

However, the Beis Yosef (end of 117) argues that the restaurant owner may have been a non-observant Jew, and besides, this story is no proof because, as the Midrash (Bamidbar 20:21) says, the story took place during the period of Greek persecution. The Jew sold pork deliberately in order to hide his Jewish identity, and the hand-washing was a secret cue for the Jews to show him they were Jewish, so that he should serve them kosher meat.

In the end, Rav Ovadiah paskened that this unemployed person should try his hardest to find a different job, in order to follow the stricter opinion. But if there was no other way, he could rely on the Maharsha and take the job in the treif restaurant.  


Kesubos 21a: Advice on Where to Sign

Kesubos 21a. When a witness signed on a loan document needs to verify his signature, he can write it on a potsherd and give it to the Beis Din and they will compare it to the signature on the document. Only on a potsherd, but not on a parchment, lest a criminal find it and write a loan document above the signature, as it says in the Mishnah (Bava Basra 175b): If the lender produced a document signed by the borrower that he owes him, he may collect from the borrower’s property, provided that the property has not been sold to anyone else.

כתובות כא ע”א: ודוקא אחספא, אבל אמגלתא לא, דלמא משכח לה איניש דלא מעלי וכתב עילויה מאי דבעי, ותנן: הוציא עליו כתב ידו שהוא חייב לו, גובה מנכסים בני חורין.

In the autumn of 2001 after suffering a stroke, Rav Chaim Kanievsky was recuperating in the Mayenei Hayeshua Hospital in Bnei Brak. His therapist asked Rav Chaim to write something on a sheet of paper to accustom him to once again using his hands and fingers. Slowly and painstakingly, he wrote these words, “Yekum purkan min shemaya.” The therapist was taken aback. “I have been doing this work for years,” he said to the great sage. “Every single person – without fail – whom I ask to write something, always signs his name. Why did the Rov not do that?” Rav Chaim answered, “Chazal teach that a person should not write his name on a blank sheet of paper, lest a dishonest person find and write above the signature that the undersigned owes him money, and then he would be liable.”

According to another version, this story happened after Rav Chaim was awakened from anesthesia by his doctor. The doctor gave him a blank piece of paper and told him to sign his name, in order to see if he was fully alert. Rav Chaim wrote the letters ב”ב קעה ע”ב – the place where the Mishnah says that one’s signature may be used as a proof to collect money from him.

Source: FJJ 3/24/2022, p. 14 and p. 36.


Pesachim 23a: Doing Business With Treif

Pesachim 23a: Hunters or fishermen who accidentally caught non-kosher animals are allowed to sell them to gentiles. Rashi: This is only if they caught them accidentally, but deliberately doing business with non-kosher food is forbidden, as stated in the Mishnah (Sheviis 7:3). 

פסחים כג ע”א: ציידי חיה ועופות ודגים שנזדמנו להם מינין טמאין ־ מותרין למוכרן לנכריםִ.

רש”י: שנזדמנו ־ דווקא שנזדמנו דלא מצרכינן להו להפקירן, אבל לכתחלה אסור לחזר אחריהן, כדתנן התם במסכת שביעית (פרק שביעי משנה ג): אין עושין סחורה לא בנבילות וטריפות, ולא בשקצים ורמשים.

Rabbi Yehoshua Falk was asked a shailah by the Jewish owner of the kosher slaughterhouse in his town. Sometimes there was no shochet available, but the gentiles of the town wanted meat, and his gentile employees wanted work. Could he tell his employees to slaughter animals and sell them as treif?

Jewish slaughterhouses typically sell to gentiles whatever animals are declared treif, as well as the parts of the animal that Jews don’t eat. This is not considered doing business with treif, because it is an “accidental” by-product of kosher shechitah. But here he would be deliberately slaughtering non-kosher.  

The rav reasoned that although it is forbidden to do business with treif, in this case the Jew would be doing nothing, only telling his gentile employees to do the work. This would depend on the question of whether אמירה לעכו”ם (telling a gentile to do an act forbidden to the Jew) is prohibited only for Shabbos, or applies to all types of aveiros. This question is posed in Bava Metzia 90a (regarding telling a gentile to muzzle a cow while it treads out the grain). He reasoned that we can rely on the Rishonim who say that the question was unresolved, and therefore we are lenient because “telling a gentile” is a Rabbinic prohibition. However, he sent the question to his rebbe, the Chasam Sofer.

The Chasam Sofer replied that if “telling a gentile” had been relevant here, he would have agreed to permit it, both because of the opinion of the Raavad, quoted by the Rosh, that the question is unresolved and we are lenient, and also because many say that the entire prohibition of doing business with non-kosher food is Rabbinic. However, “telling a gentile” doesn’t help us here because in the end, the Jew is the business owner and he is the one making the money off the sale of the meat. The fact that he is not doing the physical work himself is immaterial.

Rather, the Chasam Sofer proposed a different solution: to sell all the animals to the gentiles and have them slaughter, sell and keep all profits for themselves.

Source: Chasam Sofer, Likutim 6:24


Beitzah 16a: Do We Get Reimbursed for Seudas Rosh Chodesh?

Beitzah 16a: All of a person’s food is allotted to him between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, except for Shabbos and Yom Tov expenses, and tuition for his children to learn Torah. In those matters, if he spends less, they will give him less, and if he spends more, they will give him more.  

ביצה טז ע”א: כל מזונותיו של אדם קצובים לו מראש השנה ועד יום הכפורים, חוץ מהוצאת שבתות והוצאת יום טוב, והוצאת בניו לתלמוד תורה. שאם פחת ־ פוחתין לו, ואם הוסיף ־ מוסיפין לו.

משנה ברורה תי”ט סק”א: וכתבו הפוסקים בשם מדרש פסיקתא כל מזונותיו של אדם קצובין לו מר״ה עד ר״ה חוץ ממה שמוציא בשבתות ויו״ט ור״ח וחוה״מ ומה שהתינוקות מוליכין לבית רבן אם מוסיף מוסיפין לו ואם פוחת פוחתין לו וכתב הב״י דמה שאמר מה שהתינוקות מוליכין וכו׳ קאי על שכר לימוד והב״ח פירש דקאי על ר״ח והכונה על מה שאנו נוהגין לשלוח ע״י התינוקות מעות של ר״ח לרבן ואין לבטל המנהג ע״כ:

שער הציון סק”ב: ובמ״א משמע שהיה לו הגירסא בטור מה שהתינוקות מוליכין לבית רבן בר״ח ובאמת לא מצאתי גירסא זו בשום מקום עיין מקור הדברים באו״ז וברוקח ובפסיקתא דרב כהנא בפרשה ולקחתם לכם ומצאתי במבאר לפסיקתא שתמה ג״כ עליו:

פסיקתא דרב כהנא כח,א: תני מראש השנה נקצצין מזונותיו של אדם חוץ ממה שהוא מוציא בימים טובים ובשבתות ובראשי חדשים ובחולו של מועד ומה שהתינוקות מוליכין לבית רבן, אם פחת פוחתין לו ואם הוסיף מוסיפין לו.

Someone once asked Rav Chaim Kanievsky if there is anything wrong with quoting Rabbi Shlomo Buber, since he was “a controversial figure.” Rav Chaim replied immediately that the Chofetz Chaim quotes Buber, so he is clearly acceptable. The questioner went and searched through all the writings of the Chofetz Chaim, but could not find it, so he gave up and came back to Rav Chaim, who replied on the spot, “It’s an explicit Shaar Hatziyun in 419:2.”

There the Mishnah Berurah brings down the Tur who says that not only does one get reimbursed for Shabbos and Yom Tov expenses, as our Gemara says, but also Rosh Chodesh as the Pesikta says:

“It is taught: From Rosh Hashanah a person’s food is allocated, except for what he spends on Yom Tov and Shabbos and Rosh Chodesh and Chol Hamoed and what the children carry to their rebbe’s house. In these matters, if he spends less, they will give him less, and if he spends more, they will give him more.”  (Pesikta Derav Kahana 28:1)

The Magen Avraham, however, quotes the Tur as saying that the term “Rosh Chodesh” should be at the end of the sentence and refers to a tip or tuition payment that children used to bring to their rebbe every Rosh Chodesh. According to this, there remains no source to say that a person will be reimbursed for money spent on a Rosh Chodesh meal.

The Shaar Hatziyun says, however, that he didn’t find this text in the Tur and in fact, all earlier Rishonim who quote the Pesikta, as well as our Pesikta itself, have the words Rosh Chodesh earlier in the sentence. He also mentions that “the commentator on the Pesikta” (meaning Rabbi Shlomo Buber, who published the Pesikta in 1868 with explanatory footnotes) makes this point as well.

Source: FJJ, March 24, 2022 p. 12

[What is hard to understand here is why anyone would have thought that Rabbi Shlomo Buber was controversial. He was a religious Jew who dedicated himself to researching and publishing all the Midrashim, determining the meaning of obscure words, the correct version of the texts, as well as when and where they were compiled. Perhaps it was because he referred to himself as a maskil and had friends who were maskilim.]  


Shabbos 152a: Someone to Sit Shiva

Shabbos 152a: Rav Yehuda said: If someone dies and has no relatives to sit shiva, ten people should go to his place and sit shiva for him.

 שבת קנב ע”א: אמר רב יהודה מת שאין לו מנחמין הולכין י’ בני אדם ויושבין במקומו.

Rabbi Simcha Wasserman and his Rebbetzin were not blessed with children. The Rebbetzin at first used to say she hoped to predecease Reb Simcha so that she shouldn’t have to live without him. Then she changed her mind and said, let me outlive him so that I can sit shiva for him. In the end, she passed away exactly nine days after him.

Source: A Canopy of Stars

[We see here that aveilus is not just for the aveilim; it’s for the niftar. That is why the Gemara says that if there are no aveilim, ten people should go and sit shiva. And by the same token, the Rebbetzin wanted Reb Simcha to have someone to sit shiva for him. See my notes on the story “Learning Torah is Better than Kaddish” brought on Sanhedrin 104a, where it seems that this is a dispute between the Rambam and the Ramban.

In fact, in Yoreh Deah 376:3 the Mechaber quotes our Gemara (that ten people should sit shiva), and the Rema comments that he has not seen people do this; however, there is a minhag to hold daily minyanim in the niftar’s house for seven days. It could be that the Gemara and the Mechaber are going with the opinion that aveilus is for the niftar, while the Rema is going with the opinion that aveilus is for the aveilim.]


Sanhedrin 66a: Using the Goral HaGra

Sanhedrin 66a: “Do not attempt to discern the future from random events” means, for example, taking a weasel or birds or fish as a sign of good or bad fortune.

Chullin 95b: Any fortunetelling that is not similar to Eliezer, servant of Avraham, and Yonasan ben Shaul, is not fortunetelling.

Rambam Avodah Zarah 11:4: Making signs for oneself, saying if such and such happens to me then I will do such and such, and if not I will not, like Eliezer the servant of Avraham, it is forbidden, and whoever acts on this is punished with lashes. Raavad: This is permitted, and the Gemara calling it fortunetelling does not mean that it’s forbidden, but rather that it’s reliable.

Rambam Avodah Zarah 11:5:  One who asks a child which verse he is learning, and if he says a verse of blessing, he will be happy and take it as a good omen – this is permitted because he didn’t act or refrain from acting based on the omen. 

סנהדרין סו ע”א: תנו רבנן: (ויקרא י״ט) לא תנחשו ולא תעוננו ־ כגון אלו המנחשים בחולדה בעופות ובדגים.

חולין צה ע”ב: כל נחש שאינו כאליעזר עבד אברהם וכיונתן בן שאול אינו נחשִ.

רמב”ם הלכות עבודת כוכבים יא,ד: אין מנחשין כעכו״ם שנאמר לא תנחשו, כיצד הוא הנחש כגון אלו שאומרים הואיל ונפלה פתי מפי או נפל מקלי מידי איני הולך למקום פלוני היום שאם אלך אין חפציי נעשים, הואיל ועבר שועל מימיני איני יוצא מפתח ביתי היום שאם אצא יפגעני אדם רמאי, וכן אלו ששומעים צפצוף העוף ואומרים יהיה כך ולא יהיה כך, טוב לעשות דבר פלוני ורע לעשות דבר פלוני, וכן אלו שאומרים שחוט תרנגול זה שקרא ערבית, שחוט תרנגולת זו שקראה כמו תרנגול, וכן המשים סימנים לעצמו אם יארע לי כך וכך אעשה דבר פלוני ואם לא יארע לי לא אעשה, כאליעזר עבד אברהם, וכן כל כיוצא בדברים האלו הכל אסור וכל העושה מעשה מפני דבר מדברים אלו לוקה.

השגת הראב״ד וכן המשים לעצמו סימנים אם יארע לו כך וכך וכו׳. א״א זה שבוש גדול שהרי דבר זה מותר ומותר הוא ואולי הטעהו הלשון שראה כל נחש שאינו כאליעזר ויונתן אינו נחש והוא סבר שלענין איסור נאמר ולא היא אלא ה״ק אינו ראוי לסמוך ואיך חשב על צדיקים כמותם עבירה זו ואי הוו אינהו הוו מפקי פולסי דנורא לאפיה.

רמב”ם שם הלכה ה: מי שאמר דירה זו שבניתי סימן טוב היתה עלי, אשה זו שנשאתי ובהמה זו שקניתי מבורכת היתה מעת שקניתיה עשרתי, וכן השואל לתינוק אי זה פסוק אתה לומד אם אמר לו פסוק מן הברכות ישמח ויאמר זה סימן טוב כל אלו וכיוצא בהן מותר הואיל ולא כיון מעשיו ולא נמנע מלעשות אלא עשה זה סימן לעצמו לדבר שכבר היה הרי זה מותר.

ובשו”ע יו”ד קע”ט ס”ד: מותר לומר לתינוק פסוק לי פסוקיך (טור) י״א דאדם מותר לעשות לו סימן בדבר שיבא לעתיד כמו שעשה אליעזר עבד אברהם או יהונתן (טור והר״ד קמחי) ויש אוסרין (רמב״ם וסמ״ג) וההולך בתום ובוטח בה׳ חסד יסובבנו:

ולכאורה גורל הגר”א במקום שמכוין מעשיו על פיו יהיה תלוי במחלקת הרמב”ם והראב”ד.

Rav Elazar Shach heard the following story from Rav Reuven Feinstein, rav of Suvolk, R’ Moshe Feinstein’s brother, with whom he studied in Slutzk.  World War I began on Tisha B’av 5674. During the Aseres Yemei Teshuva, the advancing German army drew close to Radin and confusion reigned. No one wished to remain in a battle zone. The civilian population knew that their food and other vital supplies would be commandeered by one side or another. No one could know in whose favor the fighting would go, and being at the mercy of an enemy army was an unpleasant prospect. On the other hand, for hundreds of yeshivah students to suddenly take flight was itself fraught with danger. Transportation was in turmoil and military forces were everywhere. Nor could one know in which direction safety lay or where a Jewish community capable of harboring them might be found. Shortages of vital commodities existed everywhere, and no community would be able to accommodate a sudden mass influx of Torah students. The responsibility rested squarely on the shoulders of the roshei yeshiva. The fate of hundreds of students rested in their hands.

The critical time drew close yet no decision had been made. Finally a delegation of bochurim went to Rav Tzvi Hirsch Levinson to ask what they should do, but he was at a loss as to how to answer them. He went to confer with his father-in-law the Chofetz Chaim, but he too said that he was not sure what the plan of action should be. 

The next morning Rav Tzvi Hirsch decided that the time had come to cast the Goral HaGra to determine the proper course of action. Normally, the commandment, “You shall be complete with Hashem your G-d” (Devarim 18:13) prohibits attempts to foretell the future. But in a situation where the correct course of action is totally unclear and so much is at stake, there was little other choice.

The lot was cast and it came out on the verse, “For with my staff I crossed this Jordan and now I have become two camps” (Bereishis 32:11). This seemed a clear indication that the yeshiva should split in two. Just then, the Chofetz Chaim entered Rav Tzvi Hirsch’s house and announced that he had come to a decision as to what should be done. He expressed his decision by quoting a verse from the Torah: “For with my staff I crossed this Jordan and now I have become two camps.” The bochurim were amazed at this coincidence. Rav Tzvi Hirsch informed the Chofetz Chaim that he had performed the Goral HaGra and that the result has been that very same verse from the Torah. The Chofetz Chaim was heartened when he heard about this and declared, “If so, then it is very good.” Nevertheless, since the stakes were so high and the situation so dangerous, Rav Tzvi Hirsch suggested that the Goral HaGra be performed again by the Chofetz Chaim himself. But the Chofetz Chaim demurred, telling them, “Ich vil nisht matriach zein der Eibershter tzvei mol – I don’t want to trouble the Almighty a second time.”

Source: The Rosh Yeshiva Remembers, p. 178

[There are many stories about the Goral HaGra, but I chose this one because it mentions the reason for the hesitation to use it: because of the verse תמים תהיה עם ה’ אלקיך. Actually the Rambam’s reason to forbid it is לא תנחשו. And the problem is not attempting to tell the future; the problem is acting on a sign one has set up for himself. But perhaps those who cited the posuk תמים תהיה meant that the Rema recommends following the Rambam because of תמים תהיה.

The Chida in Shiurei Bracha (Yoreh Deah 179:6) quotes the Maharikash who says that all opinions – even the Rambam – would agree that it is allowed to open the Torah randomly and follow whatever posuk comes up. His proof is from the story of Yoshiahu Hamelech, who was shocked by the discovery of a Sefer Torah in the Beis Hamikdash, and tore his garments. Chazal say that he found the sefer open to the Tochacha, with the posuk, “Hashem will lead you and your king that you will appoint over you to a nation that neither you nor your fathers ever knew…” at the top of the column.

One can argue, however, that although Yoshiahu certainly saw that verse as a prophecy, he did not make any decision based on it, other than to consult a navi and lead a mass teshuva movement – things that were correct to do in any case.

(It’s interesting that although this story – that the Sefer Hatorah was found open to the Tochacha – is quoted as a Chazal by many of the commentaries on Tanach, such as Radak, Metzudas Dovid and Malbim, it is not to be found in any extant Gemara or Midrash. The Gemara (Yuma 52b) merely says that because Yoshiahu saw the Torah’s prophecy “Hashem will lead you and your king…” he hid the Aron so that the conquering enemies shouldn’t get their hands on it. It does not say that the Torah was found open to those words.) 

The Chida goes on to bring a proof from the Yalkut on Mishlei 219: “If you want to take counsel from the Torah, take; and similarly it states of Dovid, I will speak about Your commandments.” He argues that one way of taking counsel from the Torah is to open the Torah and pick a posuk at random. However, the simple meaning is to use one’s knowledge of the Torah and apply it to life, as the Chofetz Chaim said, quoted by Reb Elchonon in Ikvesa D’meshicha: “The Torah contains advice for every situation; all is hinted in the Torah. One who has to make a difficult decision should consult the Torah, and what he finds there is Hashem’s own advice.”   

הקדוש בעל חפץ חיים זצ”ל היה רגיל לומר: יש בחיי אדם רגעים אשר הוא נאלץ להחליט בענין ידוע ואינו יודע מה להחליט, יש והענין נוגע לו עד נפש ומשאינו יודע מה לעשות, הוא בא לידי יאוש. והנה לוחש לו אחד על אזנו: הרי תוכל לשאול בעצתו של השי”ת בכבודו ובעצמו. איכה זה? ישתומם האדם. ובאמת, אמר החפץ חיים זצ”ל, נתנה אפשרות זו לכל אדם ואדם. יש לנו תורה, הכוללת תשובות על כל שאלות שבעולם. ליכא מידי דלא רמיזא באורייתא. הפתרון שמוצאים אותו בתורה, הוא עצת ה’. יש לדעת, כי מלבד המצוות והאסורים הכתובים בתורה, רשומות שם גם עצות, עצות מנוסות וכשם שהתורה נצחית היא, כך גם עצת התורה נצחית היא. לדוגמא: לעולם ישליש אדם מעותיו, שליש בקרקע, שליש בפרגמטיא ושליש בכספים (בבא מציעא מ”ב ע”א). כי במקרה שיפסיד עסק אחד והיה הנשאר לו לפליטה. זאת היא עצה מנוסה. מי שלא נהג לפי כלל זה לא בטל מצוה, אלא סרב לקבל עצה טובה. ועוד מרגלא בפומי’ של החפץ חיים: דרושות עינים מאירות לראות את הכתוב בתורה ואיפה שכתוב בה, כי הכל כתוב בה. (מאמר עיקבתא דמשיחא)

The Chida also quotes a manuscript of Rabbi Eliyahu Hakohein (d. 1729), author of Shevet Mussar, where he writes that he received a tradition from his teachers that whenever they were faced with a hard decision, they would open a Chumash or a Tanach, see what posuk comes out at the top of the page and follow what it said. Thus they took counsel with the Torah, in keeping with the Midrash in Mishlei.

In passing, we see from this that the basic concept of the “Goral HaGra” did not start with the Gra. In fact, we don’t really have any proof that the Gra taught this Goral (“Hagaon” by Dov Eliach, p. 1117).

Even though it does seem to be a machlokes in Shulchan Aruch, with the Rema recommending following the Rambam, the Biur HaGra brings a number of proofs to the Raavad and seems to rule that way. 

It seems that Reb Tzvi Hirsch Levinson and all those gedolim who used the Goral did not completely hold like the Raavad and the first opinion in Shulchan Aruch (which the Shevet Mussar evidently followed) that one may use the Goral in all situations. They reserved it for especially difficult circumstances.

It’s fascinating that in this very same story, the Chofetz Chaim followed his own method, as conveyed by Reb Elchonon, and “consulted with the Torah” not by a goral but by finding the correct advice in a posuk. In fact, according to the version of this story printed in the book “Hagaon” p. 1122, the Chofetz Chaim replied the first time too, when casting the Goral was suggested, that he did not want to trouble the Almighty.  

Nevertheless, the same book on pages 1110 and 1116 brings cases when the Chofetz Chaim did use the Goral.]


Nedarim 27a: Writing Styles in Shas

Nedarim 27a: Who is the Tanna of this baraisa that the Rabbis taught? “If one vowed not to benefit from five people, and he annulled the vow for one of them, all of them become annulled. But if he originally made the vow excluding one of them, he is permitted and the rest are forbidden.”

נדרים כז ע”א: מאן תנא להא דתנו רבנן: נדר מחמשה בני אדם כאחד ־ הותר לאחד מהם הותרו כולן, חוץ מאחד מהן ־ הוא מותר והן אסורין.

Two boys in the Mirrer Yeshiva were sitting in the Beis Medrash, Gemaras open on their shtenders, but they were schmoozing and wasting time. Suddenly, Reb Nochum walked by. The boys quickly pretended to be learning, chanting loudly, “Tanu Rabanan…” Reb Nochum said, “I know you’re not learning, because there is no Tanu Rabanan anywhere in Nedarim!”

When this story was told to Rav Chaim Kanievsky zt”l, he commented, “It’s true that there is no Tanu Rabanan, but there is one D’tanu Rabanan.”   

Source: FJJ March 25, 2022 p. 44

[There are only two masechtas where “Tanu Rabanan” does not appear: Nedarim and Tamid. Otherwise, it appears 1,979 times, which is on average once every 1.3 blatt. There is clearly a significant difference here. As Tosafos says (Nedarim 7a), Nedarim is written in a different style (לשון נדרים משונה). The Tiferes Yisroel on Avos 2:4, Boaz, writes about the virtues of chazarah and explains the Mishnah אל תאמר לכשאפנה אשנה as referring to chazarah. And an author must certainly check over his sefer to eliminate errors. Even the great Rav Ashi with his yeshiva went through Shas twice in his life, each time for 30 years, in order to compile and perfect it. The masechtas Nedarim, Nazir, Erechin, Krisos, Temurah, Me’ilah and Tamid, he proposes, have a different style because Rav Ashi didn’t get to edit them a second time. We can theorize that maybe in his second edition he decided to distinguish a certain kind of Baraisa from others using the code words “Tanu Rabanan”. Nedarim, since it is from the first edition, does not contain these words.]