It started with a snippet from a sheltered letter

My journey has almost done a full circle. The topic concerned two of the greatest leaders of our generation: the Rav (Soloveitchik) and the Rebbe (Lubavitcher).

It was 2011. I conveyed some thoughts back then in this blog post. My impression was that the Rebbe was not at one with the Rav’s approach to Yahadus, as exemplified by an issue which was the subject of a revealing letter published in that post and reproduced again below.

Certainly the Rav wasn’t a Chossid; he had a strong connection with Chabad through the Rayatz, the Rebbe’s father in law and this also stemmed from his youth in a Chabad town. There are many anecdotes and written accounts of a certain closeness. I would tend to categorise it as mutual admiration and respect. I don’t think the Rebbe and his romantic nostalgic relationship with Chabad were the same notion. The Rebbe was  single-minded in his approach. The Rav, ironically given his heritage, had a more pluralistic acceptance of different segments of Orthodox Jewry, and was often a featured as the star orator. The Rebbe could be described as reclusive or too busy, at the same time he was warm and insightful. He was tethered to his headquarters in 770 to the extent that he eventually decided he would not leave 770 for various purposes, apart from the daily cup of tea with his dear wife, and rare occasions. There are those who surmise that each of these revolutionary Rabbis’ wives were their only true confidants. The Rav’s wife had a PhD and was an educator whose mission revolved around the excellence of the Maimonides School that was established to resuscitate the Boston she and the Rav met on their arrival. The Rebbetzin was ever reclusive and kept to herself in an understated way.

One day, I became privy to what I (and  others) considered to be some clearer views from the Rebbe about the Rav in the form of a snippet from a letter. This letter, as I understand it, was not known and rather sequestered. I surmise with some confidence based on the secrecy, that it was placed under an unofficial embargo. What made the snippet  so interesting to me? As noted in that blog post, it clearly implied that the Rebbe had his differences and criticisms with the Rav (from the vantage of the Rebbe’s Weltanschauung and approach).

The Rebbe was a Manhig, a global director with firm views, and was not limited to Crown Heights, Brooklyn or the USA. The Rav described himself a “Melamed.” Everyone knew this was a self-deprecating description of a most brilliant Torah Rosh Yeshivah steeped in the Brisker tradition of his illustrious family. The Rav described how he was struck  and impressed by the Lubavitcher Chassidim who lived in the town where his father, Reb Moshe, the elder son of Reb Chaim Brisker, was Rav for a few years. The Rav experienced  the Chassidim’s Emesdike, heart-felt, even romantic approach to Judaism, though many were not apparent scholars (the antithesis of the highly intellectual Brisk he had been exposed to). That’s not to say that Chabad didn’t include high calibre Talmidei Chachomim, rather, they also embraced simple people within those people’s abilities and made them all realise that they could achieve plenty. They managed to produce outcomes that were somewhat foreign to Beis HoRav, Volozhin and Brisker tradition. Whilst Rav Chaim, the Rav’s grandfather was far from a “snob” and embraced the impoverished with all his might and kindness, Chabad made them feel holy.

I speculated more about the relationship between the Rav and the Rebbe in another blog post of 2011. The letter below  appeared (and I might say curiously) later as a page in a pamphlet given out as a wedding memento (of all things).

Letter from the Lubavitcher Rebbe ז'ל mentioning the Rav ז'ל
Letter from the Lubavitcher Rebbe ז’ל mentioning the Rav ז’ל

The cat was out of the bag through that snippet. Would anyone notice it or comment, I thought.

The central questions given the letter  were,

  • how was a Lubavitcher now meant to relate to the Rav, and vice versa,and
  • how was someone from Yeshivas Yitzchak Elchonon meant to relate to the Rebbe, given what had been written.

I was unable to advance knowledge of the context of the letter and those who I asked from both sides, seemed unaware or were reluctant. I suspect in Lubavitch some were aware, but I doubt that this snippet was ever seen by the Rav or indeed his Talmidim.

An anonymous Chabad researcher of note, recently revealed the issue as being in the context of the Rebbe writing disapprovingly of the Rav’s alleged predilection to “change his mind on matters of Halacha“, for various reasons, although the “Rav himself is a complete Yiras Shomayim.”

The study of Chabad Chassidus was growing. It appeared in some Hesder Yeshivos over the last ten years, and before long there were  students who studied Tanya. This was not surprising given that the current generation of some youth seemingly less pre-occupied with minutiae and seeking a more mystical understanding of their faith. My Posek, Rav Schachter, a Talmid of the Rav, often quotes the Tanya, so it was certainly an important Sefer in Yeshivas Yitzchak Elchonon.

More recently, Yeshivas Yitzchak Elchonon (RIETS) had no issue with a Tanya Chabura, and past lectures can be heard online and were taught by YU Rabbonim. Certainly, Rabbi Reichman, one of the Roshei Yeshivah has been teaching a variety of Chassidus for many years, even though he describes himself as a Litvak. One of his sons has studied Tanya in Israel through both Lubavitch and non Lubavitch spectacles (if I’m not mistaken he studied it also with another Chassidic Rebbe, one on one)

A Symposium was held at YU on the Rav and the Rebbe. I blogged about that symposium. Again, I felt that to talk about this topic and not  mention this letter left a gaping hole. The academic in me felt it was verging on dishonest because I was sure the Chabad speakers knew about the letter. Its absence could be considered, purposefully misleading. Rabbi Yossi Jacobson disagreed with me on that point in private correspondence.

A new book was recently announced on the Rav and the Rebbe by Rabbi Chaim Dalfin. I reviewed the book. Rabbi Dalfin knew about the letter and had asked me a while back if I knew more about it. I did not. The letter existed, however, and he knew about it. The letter was not mentioned in Rabbi Chaim Dalfin’s book. In subsequent correspondence with me, Rabbi Dalfin claimed that without knowing the full letter and its context he didn’t think he should include it. I disagreed vehemently. Perhaps that’s due to my academic training. Whichever way one looks the Rebbe makes clear statements. I appreciate that a Chassid doesn’t want to double guess what their Rebbe meant.

Rav Shlomo Yosef Zevin
Rav Shlomo Yosef Zevin ז׳ל

The mystery is now revealed. The letter was addressed to the famous Rav Zevin, the master editor and compiler of the earlier volumes of the Encyclopaedia Talmudis. [ Later volumes, whilst very good, don’t quite reach his enormous ability and articulate summarisation]

It can be argued that there are other things in the letter, but that is immaterial, at least, to me. If it had to do with the same issue it would also have been published (unless it said worse things!). Either way, choosing not to include this snippet can be viewed as a form of sublime revisionism, parading behind a façade of ‘I need full research on the letter’.

The reality is that the comments addressed in the letter were known in Chabad, but kept quiet. I again surmise that it was kept quiet because nobody wanted such comments in the public sphere.

As I have written, a full understanding of the Rav, encompasses his enormous strength and integrity in being able to change his mind if he felt a situation was different, or he felt a compelling new reason. This makes him stronger in my eyes; not wishy-washy by nature, as seemingly implied in the letter. That being said, it would seem that was not even the case here, anyway.

Let’s call a “spade a spade”, and I don’t just mean Rabbi Dalfin. I include Rabbi Jacobson. Who are we kidding? When Lubavitch poached the head master of Maimonides in Boston there was  acrimony that lasted some ten years. The Rav would never have allowed this in reverse in this way. The Rav went to Chinuch Atzmoi as a Mizrachist, albeit a nuanced variety thereof.

As to the Rav being some type of closet Chabadnik. The Rav stated many times he was a Litvak, who liked lots about Lubavitch and had a romantic attraction to them stemming from his youth. He was also a big fan of the writings of the Alter Rebbe.

The agenda of Rabbi Dalfin’s book was to gloss over these things and convince the reader through some dubious logic that they were much closer than they were (even though the Rebbe wrote a letter saying they were closer than people knew). The Rav’s head was in Shas and Poskim, all his life. Only certain Rishonim mattered, and he didn’t read the others. Philosophy was a wrapper to make sense of Judaism through a modern prism and paradigm.

[Hat tip anonymous] The snippet was about the Zim Israeli Shipping Company controversy. Zim proposed to sail also on Shabbos. In response to the fact that sailors, engineers etc would have to be mechalel shabbos to do so, Zim claimed that the ship could travel on auto-pilot. The Lubavitcher Rebbe completed an Engineering degree in a Paris College (not the Sorbonne) and, as the Ramash, worked in the Naval Shipping Yards in the USA as an engineer when he arrived. The Rebbe clearly had technical scientific expertise and of course was also a Gaon in Torah. As such, he vociferously held, and mounted a wide campaign to stop Zim, enlisting the help of many other Rabbis of note, including Rav Hertzog the then Chief Rabbi. According to the Rebbe, it was impossible for the ship to travel in “auto pilot” without some chillul shabbos from staff.

[Hat tip DH and AR] The Rav was asked to offer his view. The Rav had a policy of not paskening about matters pertaining to Israel. He felt that this was the domain of the Chief Rabbinate and not that of a resident of Boston and Rosh Yeshivah in RIETS. He also held the policy that Rabbis must consult experts in questions of Halacha involving matters that were not known by them. This is reflected in his view that the question of returning territories was a matter of Pikuach Nefesh that had to be determined by Generals and not Rabbis or Politicians. The Lubavitcher Rebbe was a Rebbe and Manhig and proffered his Halachic opinion that no inch of land be ceded. The Lubavitcher Rebbe had a different approach.

Unless someone has more information: I have consulted world-wide authorities on the Rav, and  knowledgeable people about the Rebbe, I cannot understand how the Rebbe could come to his conclusion about the Rav. The Rebbe obviously expected the Rav to join him, as he knew this would be very powerful. The Rav was always his own man. He had views  on protests for Russian Jewry as did the Agudah, and the Lubavitcher Rebbe had different views. This, however, does not make him prone to change his opinion, as implied by the snippet.

I have already covered the microphone issue, and that is a long bow. I can’t find the blog post though 🙂

In conclusion, those who wish to argue that they were close, can do so, but my view is that they held fundamentally opposing approaches and views and to intimate a special bond through a symposium or through Rabbi Dalfin’s book doesn’t stand up to academic muster.

Accounts of the Lubavitcher Rebbe’s campaign re Tzim and influencing the Chief Rabbinate can be seen here and here and here (in Ivrit).

Unfortunately, in correspondence from Rabbi Aaron Rakeffet, he advised me that the two people who would have known more details about the Rav’s involvement have both passed away. He referred me to a son who shed some light.

If anyone can elucidate with any more material on this I’d be interested. At this stage, I stand by the feelings expressed in blog posts dating back to 2011.

Rabbonim when the Bride is flashing Erva D’Orayso?

I have seen pictures even official Shule pictures in their magazines of Rabbonim officiating at weddings where the Bride is rather “fully out there” in respect of lack of Tzniyus. What gives?

Rav Soloveitchik refused to officiate at such weddings. Once when he found himself caught out, he kept asking others to get him a bigger and bigger Siddur (he also refused to do Chuppas in a Shule). When he had a really big Siddur he then officiated in a way that he could not see the bride (rather than embarrass her) and looked into his Siddur and said the Brachos etc. The Rav didn’t compromise his Judaism or our holy Mesora. The word fidelity to Judaism comes to mind.

I do not know why Kallah teachers, and every Rabbi don’t insist that each bride go to a proper inspiring Kallah teacher, where they are all told that they must wear some sort of fancy scarf covering up the parts that should be covered under the Chuppa. What are they afraid of, that they go to a Reform ceremony instead? Reform are empty. Everyone knows that. The RCV should adopt this stance as a matter of policy and no Rabbi should break the rule.

I bumped into a “Jewish” celebrant at the chemist. I looked at her and her face rang a bell. I asked her “where do I know you from?”. She then told me what she did. I then remembered. It was one wedding I did at the last minute, where they had the “ceremony” on the dance floor just before we started playing. The bride was marrying a gentile unbeknown to me and it was one of the very few times I was caught out. I told the celebrant that for the entire week after that wedding I was literally ill. She asked me why. I said

“because you are a great pretender, and you have zero to do with any authenticity, you are a blender of bull, who makes up things as you go along. That couple were never married Jewishly and all you facilitated was an impending assimilation. Your little Tallis and your blowing a Shofar were as authentic as Michael Jackson’s skin colour.”

She looked at me like I was from Mars and scowled. I told her to have a nice day, and to discover real Judaism rather than the concocted monstrosity she was selling for a fee.

It’s time some Rabbonim in  our community who are so concerned about populist interfaith dialogue, LGBT, aboriginal rights, and social justice, actually bothered to also be concerned about Mesora and implement proper Jewish Laws and customs at a Chuppa and were not “afraid” of putting Yiddishkeit first.

I remember the days when Rabbonim specified there was to be no mixed dancing until Benching and no female singers until then. Yes, you can definitely bench before dessert and have the “King Street Disco” until midnight. Why are we so bashful to make our weddings JEWISH in flavour? I know gentiles who come home from such weddings wondering why Jews were imitating them, except that for them a wedding is big with 70 people and for us it’s at least 300 כן ירבו.

I’ve watched standards drop alarmingly over the years. Holocaust survivors had MORE questions about God than our modern Gen kids, but they didn’t abandon Mesora. Our young Gen call their children by any name that sounds more gentile than a gentile, and need to be shaken up. Sometimes you don’t even see the Jewish name in the Jewish News. Did they ever get one or is it   טיפני בריטני׳ (Tiffany Brittania)

If they are having a Jewish Wedding, then make them do it properly. No “Kosher Style”, no weak compromises. Strength begets strength. It’s not the Orthodox who are assimilating, it is the Reform that assimilate in alarming levels, and the Conservative who become Reform.

It’s time Rabbonim realised that whilst it’s great to be “cool” and “friendly” and “populist” there are strict lines and they should insist on them. Frankly, it used to be unthinkable not to have the Rabbi at a Simcha in the days of old. Today, even the friendly Rabbi often isn’t invited so they don’t see the “shrimp” and pritzus.

Rav Schachter told me that it is preferable to have a Bar Mitzvah call up on a Monday or Thursday than cause חילול שבת … Maybe the father will even put on Tefillin and they can video the entire event. Is there something holy about Maftir on Shabbos? It’s not even from the main Aliyos.

PS. I don’t attend weddings that are Treyf and they offer to order me a Kosher Meal double wrapped while I sit at a table struggling with the silver foil, tape, and glad wrap, as everything spills on me, and others think I’m a Charedi weirdo. I’d rather give a present and say enjoy your party, but don’t call it a Jewish Wedding Simcha. It’s a wedding populated by Jews.

Inviting Jewish Politicians to speak on Shabbos

I noticed an advertisement by a Shule in Melbourne, where a Jewish Federal Member of Parliament (from the Liberal party) was invited to speak as follows:

Cholent n’ Chat Kiddush after Shabbat

With the dynamic and resourceful Federal Resources Minister Josh

“Brave New Year: Economic and Strategic Challenges facing Australia”

Firstly let me say that this particular Shule does a great job creating interesting programs to attract people to Shule. They are to be commended for that. They are professionally run, and have full pews on Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur.

Now, I do not know Josh Frydenberg. I am hoping that he or a relative lives close to the Shule. In the least the Rabbi or a board member should have invited him for Shabbos. If this is not the case, then the creation of such an event serves to potentiate a Halachic abuse of Shabbos. I will assume Josh or his family live within walking distance or some other arrangement has been made. It is the responsibility of the Rabbi of the Shule to make sure that the Halacha is followed here. If Josh were not to be within walking distance, Rav Soloveitchik was very clear that it would be forbidden to invite a person when they “knew” such an invitation would induce Shabbos desecration.

The last issue is that of the topic. The Navi Yeshayahu 58:13 tells us:

אִם תָּשִׁיב מִשַּׁבָּת רַגְלֶךָ עֲשׂוֹת חֲפָצֶיךָ בְּיוֹם קָדְשִׁי, וְקָרָאתָ לַשַּׁבָּת עֹנֶג לִקְדוֹשׁ ה’ מְכֻבָּד, וְכִבַּדְתּוֹ מֵעֲשׂוֹת דְּרָכֶיךָ, מִמְּצוֹא חֶפְצְךָ וְדַבֵּר דָּבָר

from which the Talmud (Shabbos 113B) and Codifiers conclude that one’s topics of speaking, should be “Shabbosdik”. A clear explanation of this can be found in (‘שולחן ערוך הרב’ או”ח סי’ שז ס”א), What I have written is short of an exact definition. At the same time, unless the organisers know exactly what Josh will be talking about, they may be causing an infraction for Josh. The speaker is the one who is enjoined not to speak about matters which involve or may come to involve acts forbidden on Shabbos. On the other hand, those who attend, also take part in this activity. If they were not in attendance, then there would be no talk. To be clear, if Josh was to speak about the Government’s attitude to Israel or Jewish multiculturalism or security that would be quite pareve. If, however, he were to speak about the likelihood of, say, changes to death duties or superannuation, then this would induce people to consider acting on their investment portfolios, and that may be forbidden. As I mention, I am not a Rabbi, so do take every thing I say with a grain of salt, and make sure you speak with your own learned Posek/Halachic Decisor.

The purpose of this post isn’t to seek out and unearth things that might be wrong in an Orthodox setting. For all I know, Josh may in fact be a member of Caulfield Shule and attend every now and again, in the same way that Michael Danby attends Elwood Shule regularly. I am simply noting that the planning of topics and events needs careful halachic attention.

Another aspect of  וְדַבֵּר דָּבָר is to make sure that people are not brought to צער (feeling bad) by the speech. As such, I would suggest that any Labor voters (I hope there is no such thing as a tree hugging anti semitic Greens voter among our people) would probably not be permitted to attend the talk as they would get annoyed by the Conservative platform that will be espoused. Causing yourself צער on Shabbos is contraindicated halachically as well.

Perhaps I am being over pedantic. Note though that I tend to look at things through the prism of Halacha especially when I had learned these laws only one week ago!

I repeat what I said at the beginning of this article: the particular Shule in question does a great job in bringing innovative new ideas to entice people to enfranchise with Judaism. I wish them only success.

Shabbos clean up

I saw this cute story on Rav Aviner’s web post:

There was once a young couple who was very close to the Bostoner Rebbe and Rebbetzin. The couple was also close to Ha-Rav Yosef Solovietchik, who was Rav in Boston, along with teaching at Yeshivat Rabbenu Yitzchak Elchanan. The couple was once invited to Rav Soloveitchik’s home for a Shabbat meal. The Bostoner Rebbetzin asked the young woman: What did you see there? She answered: It was quite similar to what you do but there was one difference: They use disposable utensils. The reason is that Rav Soloveitchik’s wife wants to participate in her husband’s Motzaei Shabbat class, and if she needed to wash dishes, she wouldn’t be able to do so. The Bostoner Rebbetzin went to her husband and told him this practice of Rav and Rebbetzin Solovietchik and asked: I am willing to eat on China every meal, but we have 30-40 guests every Shabbat and I wash dishes until Tuesday. Why can’t I use disposable dishes? The Bostoner Rebbe said: You can use disposable dishes. The Bostoner Rebbetzin said that she is so grateful to this young woman who told her what she saw at the house of Rav and Rebbetzin Soloveitchik (The Bostoner Rebbetzin Remembers pp. 165-166).

Undoubtedly this was before the days of dishwashers, but even so, there is plenty to do Motzei Shabbos, and the salient lesson was that Rav Soloveitchik’s wife Rebbetzin Tonya, has more of a תשוקה, a strong desire to hear her husband’s shiur, than washing up dishes. The Rav, however, had a duty to give his superlative shiurim.

I have to admit, I was brought up in a very old-fashioned way. I don’t ever recall my father ע’’ה doing these sorts of things. He worked extremely hard, going to work at the crack of dawn and coming home in the evening when it was dark, including a good half day on a Sunday. I am an only son, and inherited this tendency, although I have improved in minuscule ways, and never worked as hard as my father. In reality, there really is no excuse to help unless you have the means to hire some home help.

I plead guilty as charged.

Rehabilitation Scooter on Shabbos

I know this all sounds self-indulgent, but that’s not the purpose. As I’ve always said, I post what happens to be “invading my head space”. One can see Chassidishe Rebbes, especially the rotund ones, or the graceful Ruzhiner types, walking with a fancy walking stick, which may have gold or silver on the handle. Looking back at old footage, there was a preponderance of people using plain old walking sticks. They were far more in use than today.

I believe the major reason was that a common injury, such as a medial meniscal tear, which isn’t operated on, will allow you to walk, but with a limp. There was also lots more Tragers (carriers) who bore loads which would breach our Occupational, Health and Safety Regulations.

If someone broke an ankle, as I did, I would imagine the resultant pain and arthritis would be life-long, and, again, the ubiquitous walking stick would make it’s entry.

What happens on Shabbos? One can’t carry of course. Is using a walking stick considered carrying? It’s certainly not a “garment”. This is an old question which Acharonim have discussed variously. My feeling is that the consensus is that it is permitted. The reason being that, if the person needed the stick to get around inside the house, it becomes part and parcel of that person’s being, and is permitted also outside the house.

I can well remember my late Zeyda Yidel Balbin ע’ה

I believe this picture was at the setting of the stone for Katanga
I believe this picture was at the setting of the stone for Katanga. My Zelda is in the front on the right, with Rabbi Chaim Gutnick looking into his Tehillim

and his reluctance to use the stick, even though he needed to. I could feel the “guilt” he seemed to exude, even as a little boy.

This now brings me to my situation. I no longer have a cast; I’m in that moon boot contraption. I’m not allowed to put weight on the foot (and boy did I break those rules at a recent Simcha and feel it after) and indeed putting weight on the foot, actually hurts. It makes no difference whether I am inside or outside. The situation is the same.

I also have fractured ribs, which B”H are improving, but this, and my general clumsiness meant that crutches were not an option for me. Enter the rehab scooter

Rehab ScooterThe idea is that I place my damaged leg horizontally on the “seat” and use the other leg to push me to my destination. There is a brake.

As well as I recollect, it is forbidden to ride a bike on Shabbos, Miderabonnon, because there is a concern the chain may come off, and various maintenance activities may be necessary.

I started to wonder whether this scooter, was included (perhaps it is not included because it wasn’t originally and the chances of any maintenenance being needed are close to zero) or whether it had the same Din as a stick. My feeling was that on Shabbos, even in a Reshus HoRabbim D’Orayso, it would be permitted, but I wasn’t about to pasken for myself, despite my self-assuredness.

Mori V’Rabbi, Rav Hershel Schachter paskened I could use the contraption (his words).

Please note: I did not ask, nor did he comment about the use of scooters in a place which has an Eruv. That may involve עובדין דחול as well, and people need to ask their Moreh HoRo’oh.

Opening a Fridge door which operates an LED light

Picture the scene. It was during our holiday in Miami, and we were invited out for one meal on Shabbos, but my wife had bought things for the other meal, and many of these had to be in the fridge.

Just before Shabbos, my wife reminded me to “remove the light bulb” from the fridge, or tape up the switch. These are those small bar fridges in Motels. I opened up the fridge and noticed that it was nothing I had seen before. There were 4 tiny LED lights which had all manner of wiring to them which seemed inaccessible to me (without breaking anything) and I didn’t have time to try and see how the mechanism worked etc.

What do you do. It was one of those cases where I had to “pasken” on the spot.

Firstly I reasoned that the prohibition was not a Torah prohibition because LED lights cannot be considered a flame, so they must be a DeRabbonon (I knew that in Minchas Asher Chelek 1, he felt that LED lights were forbidden because of Makeh B’Patish. This was a big Chiddush which he acknowledged, and I didn’t understand the reasoning behind it. At the time I had just received the Minchas Asher and skimmed the Tshuva. Now I can look it up and study it in some depth. Something tells me that others won’t agree with that reasoning because מכה בפטיש is essentially the act of completing a vessel of sorts and I can’t see how the vessel (LED) is not complete. To me, it is complete, it is just not activated.)

Then I ran downstairs and got some pieces of cardboard (promotional cards for tours etc) and stuck them together with tape and completely covered the LED light. In my mind, I was thereby indicating that this was a Psik Reishe D’Lo Ichpas Lei, a direct action that I didn’t care about. That is generally worse than a Psik Reishe D’Lo Nicha Lei in the sense that it is generally forbidden, but there are opinions that for a Miderabbonon it is okay. See for example קג, א; עה, א, ‘הצד חלזון’  מאירי מסכת שבת. Clearly, by covering this LED light up, I was indicating it was something I didn’t need or want to derive benefit from (we had another light on all shabbos so we could easily see what was in the fridge).

Finally, it was for a צורך גדול a great need, given that it was our food source.

Putting these three together, that’s what we did, and opened and shut the fridge door.

Yes, one could close it with an elbow, or have two people closing it, but I’m not sure the two people further Hetter would work here because it’s something that can be done easily by one person.

I haven’t asked Rav Schachter if I did the right thing or whether my reasoning was sound B’Dieved. I will bank it up with other questions as they arise, and then ask them as a group because I don’t like to bother such a busy man.

Interestingly, a frum fellow, a Chabadnik, turned up the Shabbos after, and asked my wife what we were doing about the fridge. My wife told him what I had done the week before and he said he could not see how that helped. I sought him out on the first floor (we were on the second floor) and explained my reasoning, and he insisted I was wrong because the LED light was forbidden by Torah Law as a Tolda of fire. I explained there was no heat or filament, but he was insistent that I didn’t know what I was talking about, and told me that he was a Talmid Muvhak of the famous Rav Hirshprung. I persisted that I thought he was not up to date with his knowledge of electricity on Shabbos, and that this was really like turning on a fan on Shabbos (a Rabbinic prohibition unless one follows the view of the Chazon Ish).

On Shabbos, I ended up in the same Shule as him “the shule” in Miami led by Rabbi Lipskier, and he approached me and said “you were right. I spoke to him” (and he pointed to a youngish person who apparently came from a family of Talmidei Chachomim) and he affirmed that it was D’Rabbonon as you claimed. I responded that maybe both of us should review Shmiras Shabbos Kehilchoso and electricity when we got home.

I’m still not sure if what I did was permitted in the particular circumstance. Happy to hear your views.

Finally a sophisticated positive way to deal with חילול שבת

You don’t have to be Einstein to work out that throwing rocks, shouting shabbos, spitting, overturning Rubbish bins and every bit of meshugass the paleontological neanderthals  attempt to “increase holiness” is a complete ביטול זמן and serves to sever them more from the rest.

Here, is an approach I like. Hats off, as they say

Hygienic toilet flushing additives on Shabbos

As I generally do, I read the Heichal HaTorah publication, with sections from Rav Donenbaum, the respected Brisker Moro D’Asro of Heichal HaTorah on Friday nights. In last week’s section, he discusses the issue of the different types of toilet cleansers available on the market designed to keep the bowl/water fresh and clean. As I recall, the article started off with an assumption which I question, and which I believe is a key point in the analysis. Specifically, he assumes that a resultant colouring that may emanate from these solid chemical inserts adds to the hygienic “feel” of a toilet after flushing: Rav Donenbaum put the word hygienic in inverted commas.

My personal feeling, and I stress I am not a Posek, is that the colour itself adds absolutely nothing to any hygiene or feeling of such. In fact, from my perspective, it’s actually more of a divergence from the real state of the cleanliness of the toilet bowl as it serves to camouflage! I know many people who refuse to use it during the week because it’s horrid to look at, and really doesn’t tell you much.

If and when I go to a toilet, and the water looks crystal clear, I have far more confidence in the cleanliness, than when I see some dark blue (or other colour) water which may well be masking. Indeed, there are products that don’t have colour that are just as efficacious. Therefore, I would say that it’s hardly a situation of ניחא ליה based on ‘hygiene’ as Rav Donenbaum assumes and if you want to argue that it is ניחא or then go down a path of גרמא when it’s in the cistern then I’d say that in the least one should not make an objective ruling on an aspect which is entirely subjective.

The Halacha is clear. There is no prohibition in colouring food or liquid foods. This is the overwhelming opinion, as held by both the Mechaber and the Rama. Yes, it is true that the Sha’ar HaTziyun of the Chafetz Chaim says that someone who is punctilious should seek to avoid these situations. Others, such as the Aruch Hashulchan, Tzitz Eliezer, Chacham Ovadia and many more disagree and blankly permit it as noted in a footnote by Rav Donenbaum.

The same permission is applied to Molid Reach (creating a smell) especially when that smell is hardly lasting even if you buy a rolls royce version of such products. The cohanim used to use perfumed water on Shabbos when they washed their hands. This is an open Gemora (which I can’t remember the source of). Putting a smell on clothes or hair is a different category, because it lasts. A Melocho that doesn’t last, is considered by Rishonim and Acharonim as not a Melocho.

There is some discussion about the different types of devices and certainly the ones where the chemical device is placed in the uppermost bowl is argued as less problematic, as the water is already coloured, and it could be argued that one doesn’t care about what happens next and it is Gromo, rather than an intentional colouring. I am not sure that this argument is correct.

I don’t believe that the colouring serves the purpose that Rav Donenbaum is working with, namely, to give the feel that the bowl is now “hygienic”.

As a musician and frequent traveller, I have been to many putrid toilets in hotels and function rooms, where the water in the bowl is a “fresh” blue or green. I have never felt it cleaner simply because of the colour. They are often foul and stink. One might argue that if hygiene and smell was an issue, then using a toilet brush is the way to go, followed by another flush (I assume that Rav Donenbaum permits flushing toilets, although some Poskim are against it full stop).

If my memory serves me correct, some Chazon Ish types prefer to line the bowl with cotton wool so no “noise” is created (or is that one of those apocryphal jokes?)

I discussed the matter with Mori V’Rabbi Rav Schachter who felt that it was not permitted but for the simple reason that it is ניחא ליה whether it’s in the cistern or below because the colour shows whether the device is still working and hasn’t lost it’s efficacy. When one sees the colour fade, one knows they have to replace it.

I asked Rav Schachter whether I should speak to one of the companies, such as Harpic, and ask them why their blue module colours the water blue and to use the argument of מסיח לפי תומו and he said this was a very good idea. I went to the harpic site and lo and behold they stated explicitly

Let’s you know when it needs replacing by fading

Accordingly we see this mentioned explicitly. There is no doubt in my mind, that a chemical doesn’t have to be blue (coloured) to deodorise and kill germs and emit a pleasant smell. The primary purpose is to tell you when it needs replacing and is therefore forbidden. Rav Schachter mentioned this was different to a cup of tea, where the colour and colouring is immaterial.

Of course, I haven’t paskened in any way, I have quoted from my personal discussion with Mori Rav Schachter. תורה היא וצריכים ללמוד

Which Melocho?

[Hat tip BA]


How would it be possible, someone does this Melocho on Yom Tov he is Chayav Malkos. If he does the exact same Melocho on Shabbos , not only is he not Chayav, he may go ahead and do it Lekatechila?

לז”נ האשה צארטל בת ר’ אליעזר הלוי הי”ד


                                                             יום השנה ח”י מנחם                                                                    

1)There are two fruits, one is attached to a tree in a Reshus Hayachid the other one is not attached to a tree but is in a Reshus Harabim

2)There is a Choleh  (in the Reshus Hayachid) who needs to eat the fruit.

3)On Shabbos there is no difference which fruit the Choleh is given and one is allowed to be Mechallel Shabbos Lekatechila

4)On Yom Tov one must take from the unattached fruit in Reshus Harabim (no Chilul Y.T.) and may not take from the attached fruit in the Reshus Hayachid. On Shabbos you may remove the fruit from the tree Lekatechila

On Yom Tov you may not  remove the fruit from the tree, because you can bring the cut fruit from the Reshus Harabim (no Chilul Yom Tov) If he removed the fruit from the tree, he is Chayav Malkos.

Beit Raphael: An act of Chessed from Adina and R’ Shimon Allen

I sit next to Shimon Allen at Yeshivah Shule, in Melbourne Australia. I have done so for many years, as has my father. We’ve developed a rapport and he teases me about the fact that my wife doesn’t offer Griven (a heart attack causing, cholesterol laden morass of congealed and fried chicken fat, which happens to be delicious (think of it as real chicken bisli). I’ve mentioned it before. I point out that whilst he has herring on occasion, his isn’t the real McCoy because there aren’t copious lashings of Tzibelle (onion). We also share our “delight” that when invited to modernishe houses, they serve copious amounts of rabbit food, and one is expected to force a smile through the mountains of lettuce leaves, broccoli, pine nuts and every meshugass they find at the vegetable shop. Yes, they are “healthy for you” but when was the last time that you felt “full” one hour after such a meal? Why do our bodies require this gas-forming roughage. Is this Oneg Shabbos, let alone Kavod Shabbos? Sometimes I feel the right response is “Moo” while eating, as opposed to a hearty greps after a good choolent, washed down by some Bromfen, and followed by an antacid (pareve of course) and two cholesterol tablets.

Enough of the mirth.

Erev Shabbos, and my father took gravely ill due to a series of life threatening blood infections. I rushed from work to be at his bed side, as were my siblings and all our children. I was still in my work clothes, and asked many to say Tehillim, while I did so myself. We rang R’ Shimon and his wife, and immediately the key to their apartment across the road was made available to us. After davening Mincha and then Kabolas Shabbos, my stomache reminded me that I had not had anything all day other than a single cup of coffee. Baruch Hashem, I asked my incredible wife to organise 24 Vurst Sandwiches so that team Balbin, Leibler and Waller would not go hungry. Diana and Yirmi Loebenstein, for whom my parents are like a second set of parents (they live across the road and are very close) brought a stack of Schnitzels and some Challah etc. My own incredible wife even managed to buy little electric incandescent lights and relying on (at least) R’ Chaim Ozer, we made brachos over the licht.

Words cannot describe the effort that Adina and R’ Shimon have put into the unit directly across the road from Cabrini. Every last thing was available. The fridge was stocked a plenty. There was wurst, and drinks, and beer and nash, you name it, it was there. It was on the bottom floor. The key had already been made into a shabbos belt. There was a Shabbos light next to the beds. I can go on and on. None of us should ever need to use such a facility, but it gave us a dose of menuchas hanefesh and meant my father had more support than he could ever have dreamed about. It was also a rather hot day, and yet we didn’t feel any heat. We only felt true warmth.

Baruch Hashem, my father is slowly but surely improving, albeit slightly, each day.

Shaul Zelig HaCohen Ben Toba Frimet, may he have a Refuah Shelema B’Karov.

All the grandchildren brought sleeping bags, and were able to sleep in the lounge room. It was amazing, really. I’ll stop here because Shimon and Adina will be angry that I have written the above anyway and mentioned them explicitly.

That they are able to use their financial resources and care for the community in such a way is simply inspirational. I’m sure that in Gan Eden, their teacher and mentor, R’ Zalman Serbryansky is alerting HaKadosh Baruch Hu to their Mitzvah and is lobbying for appropriate Brachos to come their way.

Shimon and Adina Allen are pleased to advise of the opening of Malvern Beit Rafael Hospital Accommodation.

All members of the community are welcome to avail themselves of this fully furnished apartment which is situated close to Cabrini Hospital, whilst they have family members receiving treatment at the hospital.

A pantry stocked with kosher non-perishables and a fridge/ freezer containing kosher meals will be at your disposal.

Beit Rafael continues to offer accommodation at North Melbourne assisting families with loved ones receiving treatment at the Royal Children’s Hospital,

Royal Melbourne Hospital and the Royal Women’s Hospital.

Please enter the contact numbers into your telephone:

0421 408 522 – Shabbat: 0421 327 859

Beit Raphael

CPAP Machines on Shabbos/Yom Tov

Medical research into sleep apnea and what it can be responsible for is established and continuing to develop. Sleep apnea can cause:

  • Heart arrhythmias
  • Heart failure
  • High blood pressure
  • Stroke
  • Depression
  • Hyperactivity

The use of CPAP (or these days APAP machines) is now widespread and the relief that the devices provide is real, including:

  • Restoration of normal sleep patterns.
  • Greater alertness and less daytime sleepiness.
  • Less anxiety and depression and better mood.
  • Improvements in work productivity.
  • Better concentration and memory.
  • Patients’ bed partners also report improvement in their own sleep when their mates use CPAP, even though objective sleep tests showed no real difference in the partners’ sleep quality.

Current machines are turned on by pressing a button and then “wait” for you to start breathing. Once you breathe, air is pumped into you (at a pre-set measured level depending on whether you are moderately or severely impaired) and this keeps a flap open so that the air you breathe during the night is unobstructed. The obstruction is also one cause of snoring. The machines are relatively quiet.  Some machines build up to the required pressure gradually. There is an LCD or LED style readout on the machine that is activated once it is turned on. There is no “visible” fire/filament. Some patients also use a humidifier which is attached to the machine. This warms and wets the pumped air in patients who are unable to breathe through their nose, and whose mouths become dry and irritated as a result.

Can these machines be used on Shabbos/Yom Tov? Let’s note first that the accepted opinion is that of R’ Shlomo Zalman Auerbach ז’ל that Electricity is forbidden מדרבנן unless there is flame involved (or filament, as opposed to incandescence). The Chazon Ish isn’t disregarded, but his opinion that all electricity is forbidden דאורייתא is not followed when it comes to medical issues.

What about the status of the patient? Is he (most patients are men 40+) a חולה at the time he is using the machine? What type of חולה is he? Is he a חולה שיש בו סכנה or שאין בו סכנה?   Is he considered “sick all over”, that is חולה של כל הגוף? Perhaps he is a ספק סכנה? The answer to these questions will probably depend on the severity of the apnea. For example, it might be questionable if the patient was only “mild” as opposed to moderate or severe. On such matters, one needs to consult with experts, that is, Doctors. Preferably, one should see a Sleep Physician.

Using a shabbos clock doesn’t really help. It can’t turn on the machine. Furthermore, many machines turn off automatically anyway if left on.

I am pretty sure that if you asked a Brisker Posek, they would tell you that there was no שאלה and to go ahead and use it. There is a tradition from R’ Chaim Volozhiner through to R’ Chaim Brisker, the Griz and the Rav, that the Brisker way is to be מחמיר when it comes to looking after health and avoiding illness. There are many stories told in this regard. One that comes to mind was R’ Chaim making his eldest son R’ Moshe Soloveitchik (the father of the Rav) absolutely swear that he would never ever be מחמיר on issues of סכנת נפשות or ספק סכנת נפשות. Only after R’ Moshe did that, was he given permission from his father to take up his first Rabbonus.

There have been a few articles written on this topic. R’ Moshe Heineman (who was close to R’ Moshe Feinstein) from the Star K, is lenient, see here. See the opinion of R’ Halperin and R’ Prof. Abraham over here and here who are also lenient.

One is required to turn on the machine with a שינוי (change) to minimise any infraction. [I also think one could consider getting two people to turn it on together].

I rang R’ Hershel Schachter to ask his opinion. He stated that if there is no choice but to use such a machine, then what can one do. He quoted the שולחן ערוך of the Baal HaTanya  who is lenient in Dinim of a חולה and said that this opinion is defended by the אגלי טל from Sochatchow (the Kotzker Rebbe’s son-in-law). He also suggested turning it on with a Shinui.

Some might argue that “what is one night” although this year we know it can be three nights as it is this evening. It seems that the Poskim are wary about interrupting medical treatment and consider such interruptions as contributing cumulatively to the danger (סכנה).

I haven’t considered the issue of the humidifier and whether it boils the water to יד סולדת and if there are ramifications thereby.

Does anyone out there know of other Psakim?

Disclaimer: The above is not L’Halacha and not L’Maaseh. Ask your own Rabbi for advice if you have an issue.

This should happen once a month

I applaud R’ Metzger for this initiative, although, I believe that this was originally the journey undertaken by Rav Kook ז’ל in 1913. Bridging gaps is efficacious; spitting and sending to the back of the bus, breeds resentment. Just to name drop, R’ Metzger sat a few rows behind me at Kerem B’Yavneh, although he was in fifth year, as I recall.

The story is told of how Rav Kook, upon one of his visits to an anti-religious kibbutz, was approached by one of the leaders who greeted him as follows: “With all due respect Rabbi, you shouldn’t waste your time trying to convince us to be religious. It’s not that we don’t know what Torah is, most of us were raised in observant homes. We know Torah, rabbis, mitzvot and we don’t like them!” Rav Kook questioned,”Why?” The kibbutznik replied: “We simply can’t stand your old-fashioned, meaningless, outdated rituals!” Exclaimed Rav Kook, “I agree”. “What?”, asked the surprised rebel. Explained the Rav, “I also hate the “religion” that you describe. But the dynamic, idealistic and deep Torah is so beautiful that anyone who is exposed to it cannot but love it!”.

Plunger Coffee on Shabbos

Disclaimer: I am not a Rabbi and my pitputim on Halachic matters should always be viewed as such: not להלכה and not למעשה. In all instances, I recommend investigating the issue yourself (if possible) and then approaching your local orthodox Rabbi.

Are you permitted to make plunger coffee on shabbos? I was asked this question a while back. The term “plunger coffee” isn’t universally known. The device is more commonly known as a French Press.

French Press with screen filter on stem

The method employed to make plunger coffee is

  1. Obtain ground coffee (not instant)
  2. Insert ground coffee into an empty french press
  3. Pour in boiled water
  4. Place the lid with stem/screen onto the top of the press
  5. Allow to sit for some time
  6. Slowly plunge the stem down to the bottom of the press
  7. Pour out the resultant coffee into a coffee cup

The stem and mesh screen assembly can move up and down while the lid remains in place. The first halachic issue is that of cooking on shabbos, that is, cooking the roasted ground beans. This aspect isn’t a problem on Yom Tov. More accurately, in this instance, the coffee has already undergone one form of ‘cooking’ which we can call אפיה (roasting/baking). There is a dispute whether there is indeed halachic cooking after a prior process of some form of cooking (roasting or baking, for example). The practical ashkenazi consensus is that we are concerned about the possible infraction of halachic cooking after a prior cooking. To mitigate this possibility, halachic cooking is not considered to be germane if the boiled water is not directly from an primary source כלי ראשון but is derived from a ternary source כלי שלישי. This leniency is not universally held, but is far and away the most common position (approved by the משנה ברורה and שמירת שבת כהלכתה) and is utilised by many if not most Shabbos observers, in general. In practical terms:

  1. The shabbos urn is the primary source כלי ראשון
  2. After pouring the water from the urn into a dry cup, the cup is considered a secondary source כלי שני
  3. Water poured from the כלי שני is considered ערוי מכלי שני and some define the resultant boiled water as not being halachically capable of cooking, but we will assume a further step
  4. Water poured from the כלי שני into a second dry cup is considered a כלי שלישי a ternary source, and such water is not considered halachically capable of cooking, as mentioned above. This water can, it would seem, be poured onto roasted ground coffee at the bottom of the plunger.

There is another consideration in respect of the ground coffee. Halacha defines a concept called קלי הבישול these are food items that are eminently susceptible to cooking. The הלכה of קלי הבישול is a גזרה Rabbinic decree. The Gemara lists foods that are not susceptible: meat (as opposed to chicken), salt, spices, water and oil. According to some ראשונים (notably the יראים) anything which the Gemorah does not list is considered as קלי הבישול. This is also the opinion of the משנה ברורה. Some opinions, such as the חזון איש, contend that any food that our eye sees is cooked very quickly should pose a halachic concern. In other words, the issue of קלי הבישול is one of מציאות according to the חזון איש and others.

What sets קלי הבישול apart is that they are deemed to become halachically cooked even in a secondary source כלי שני. Notwithstanding this, it could be argued that since coffee beans have been roasted (and thereby undergone a halachic process of cooking prior to Shabbos) they are not considered קלי הבישול. Some Poskim allow קלי הבישול in a כלי שלישי while others do not. As an aside, an interesting question pertains to spearmint or peppermint tea leaves which are generally considered קלי הבישול as they are unprocessed from a cooking perspective and are either susceptible to easy cooking or not listed in the גמרא. There are authorities who allow קלי הבישול in a ternary source, a כלי שלישי. Others, such as the חזון איש and חיי אדם disagree. The point of disagreement relates to how we view the process of halachic cooking. If we look at it as a מציאות a quasi-scientific observation, then there ought to be no difference between a כלי שני and a כלי שלישי. On the other hand, if we look at it as a pure דין in בישול then there is a difference between the כלי שני and כלי שלישי perhaps on account of the latter being removed from the a halachic definition/concern of cooking. The Rav was of the opinion that the הלכה of כלי שלישי is derived from דין and is a pure halachic determination as opposed to an observational phenomenon מציאות that might otherwise lend itself to scientific conjecture.

The next issue that needs to be considered is the one known as בורר selecting. The laws of בורר are very complex and also apply to non-food stuff. On both Shabbos and Yom Tov (although the latter has some leniencies close to a meal/consumption) the הלכה permits the removal of the desirable from the undesirable. If someone removes the undesirable from the desirable, however, then the הלכה considers this to be forbidden as an אב מלאכה a primary shabbos Torah prohibition.

An example close to the one we are looking at. Consider an old-fashioned tea-pot which is sitting on the shabbos blech or a covered source of fire. The pot contains tea leaves and water. Over time, the tea leaves tend towards the bottom of the pot. As the water boils the tea essence seeps into the liquid. The tea leaves themselves are undesirables; people do not eat them. Assume this pot was placed on the blech on Erev Shabbos on a low heat with the intention of drinking freshly brewed tea at the end of the friday night סעודת שבת meal. Nobody wants to find bits of undesirable tea leaves in their cup. Is there a permitted way to serve the tea without the leaves. This question was particularly burning (sic) before the advent of tea bags.

Based on the above, one is forbidden to remove the undesirable tea leaves from the desirable tea essence/brew. This is בורר. So, if there was a thought of inserting a big spoon to removing only the tea remnants and subsequently placing the pot on the table so that people can be served, this is not allowed. On the other hand, if the desired liquid/essence/brew is removed from the pot, and the tea leaves remain in the pot, then one is separating the good from the bad, and separating the good from the bad is permitted and not בורר. To enable separation of the good liquid from the bad tea leaf remnants, some pots have a spout which contains a wire mesh. As one pours, the wire mesh prevents any tea leaves that have risen from leaving the pot and thereby facilitates a permitted form of separation. This is the opinion of the חזון איש in הלכות שבת סימן נ’ג towards the end . The חזון איש if I have understood him correctly, feels that since there remains a mixture of some liquid with tea leaves (at the bottom of the pot) effectively, the liquid that emerges through the spout is a separate entity and only if the leaves were floating all about and hadn’t settled would this technically be forbidden as בורר. On the other hand, the Sefardic posek, the בן איש חי (parshas Beshalach 18) prohibits this methodology. The reason for the בן איש חי is that the actual tea-pot contraption which includes the mesh, is considered a specific vessel for the purpose of separation, כלי המיוחד לבורר. Sefardim generally follow the בן איש חי although Rav Ovadya sometimes disagrees with him and has the broad shoulders to do so.

The Mishnah in :שבת קלט discusses devices that can be used to effect separation/straining/בורר it discusses this in the context of משמר. Specifically, the removal of grape dregs from wine. We mentioned that separating desirable from undesirable is one requirement for a permissive ruling for בורר. The other two requirements are that it be done

  1. close to consumption
  2. by hand

In the case of a coffee plunger, we are confident that the coffee will be consumed almost immediately after being poured from the plunger. The more vexing question is whether the device per se can be considered by hand. Chazal proscribed the use of an implement כלי המיוחד לבורר. Use of a specific device falls under the rubric of עובדין דחול and is a Rabbinic prohibition as opposed to the act of separation בורר which is a Torah prohibition. At first and second glance it would seem that clearly the handle of the plunger, with its attached mesh screen, is a classical כלי המיוחד לבורר device for separation and should be prohibited, at least Rabbinically. This is the opinion of R’ Moshe Heinemann, the Posek of Star K, based on my communication on this issue. Tangentially, R’ Moshe Heinemann is also the long-term Posek consulted by Melbourne’s Lakewood Rosh Kollel for non-standard questions. A respected Posek, Rabbi Heinemann was the author of the controversially lenient Psak regarding Shabbos Ovens (for Yom Tov use) which was the target of Rabbinic protest.

I have some questions on R’ Heinemann’s view regarding the French Press. For the stem to be considered a prohibited בורר device it would seem to me that one has to first ascertain that the stem is being used for בורר. If the stem is being used for something that is permitted, then in my limited understanding the device doesn’t fall under the category of עובדין דחול.

Consider two distinct stages in the birth of the final coffee product. The first is when the stem is pushed down into the glass press, thereby forcing the ground coffee to the bottom of the glass. What act is being performed during this stage. In my opinion, this is an act of סילוק diversion/casting aside. The coffee is moved down to the bottom, but at no time does has it become separated from the coffee liquid above. For there to be an act of בורר, I understand that the undesirable needs to be removed from the desirable. I would argue that it has not been removed, but has been forced into a new section of the glass environment. I have mentioned my סברה to some local Rabbis and haven’t yet received a rejoinder.

The next act involves the pouring out of the liquid into the coffee cup. This is certainly involving the desirable leaving the environment of the undesirable through the act of pouring whilst aided and abetted by the static barrier of the screen. I am working on the assumption that the plunger is pushed down in a way that there is always some liquid remaining together with the lower section of ground coffee even after the top most liquid has been poured into the coffee cup.

Following my logic סברה, we are perhaps now in the same situation as that described by the חזון איש in respect of the tea-pot with the mesh screen at the spout which the חזון איש permits on Shabbos. In discussion, I learned (I haven’t seen this inside) that the ארחות שבת testifies that many have difficulty understanding the permissible ruling of the חזון איש (which as I said above is not the view of the Sephardic בן איש חי. I saw the בן איש חי quoted in ילקוט יוסף when I was in the Sephardic Singapore Shule a few months back—ילקוט יוסף is an amazing sefer). The ארחות שבת goes onto quote R’ Shmuel Auerbach (one of the sons of the late and great R’ Shlomo Zalman Auerbach ז’ל) to the effect that R’ Shmuel cannot understand the lenient opinion of the חזון איש and feels that since we are dealing with a ספק דאורייתא Torah doubt, we should be מחמיר and forbid the tea-pot/strainer device.

For reference, Rav Aviner does permit a coffee plunger on Shabbos and agreed with my reasoning (I didn’t send all my thoughts at that stage). Rav Heinemann doesn’t permit it, as described above. Rabbi Michael Broyde in a series of communications to me, contends that there is a problem of בישול even in a כלי שלישי because following the roasting of beans, they are not edible. I’ve been back and forth with him on this, but I’m not sure I fully understand Rabbi Broyde’s reasoning. The famed Eretz Chemda sent me the following (at that stage, I hadn’t sent them my fuller analysis including the חזון איש).

1. Regarding the use of a French press on Shabbat

The Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chaim 319: 10) writes that it is permissible to filter on Shabbat something that must people do not bother filtering. This applies even to one who would not drink without filtering. Some say that use of the French press is comparable to this citation in the Shulchan Aruch and therefore may be used on Shabbat. Nevertheless, this is on condition that one waits the duration of time in which the majority of coffee grounds will become submerged in the water and only a few coffee grounds will remain. However, some Rabbis say that the cited halakha applies only to drinks that most people don’t mind drinking what is being filtered. But in the case of coffee, many drink without filtering, but none drink the actual grains, and therefore the use of the French press is prohibited on Shabbat.

The reasons that you mentioned are good reasons. However, they’re insufficient. First of all, the Issur that we’re dealing with is Meshamer , not Borer, that applies regardless of what is being removed. Secondly, pressing the grains down is considered removing the waste material. The fact that a bit of the waste remains isn’t enough, since the removal is what rendered it drinkable.

2. Regarding roasted items

One can be lenient and place them into a third-degree vessel. Despite the Ramah’s stringency stating that there is cooking after baking and roasting lechatchilah in a secondary vessel, the Mishnah Berurah (sif katan 47) writes that everyone agrees that it is permissible in a third-degree vessel. There is no practical difference between coffee grounds and a large item.

I’m not sure I still understand what Eretz Chemda are saying vis-a-vis משמר versus בורר because the act occurs inside the vessel with everything still joined. That is likely to be my lack of understanding. If any of you have asked this question before and/or have some contributions to make to the topic, I’d love to hear from you. I will ask Rav Schachter soon. I’m not expecting that he will permit it.

Disclaimer: I am not a Rabbi and my pitputim on Halachic matters should always be viewed as such: not להלכה and not למעשה. In all instances, I recommend investigating the issue yourself (if possible) and then approaching your local orthodox Rabbi.

Relations with Shabbos Desecrators: Rav Kook vs Rav Elyashiv

Rav Elyashiv is considered by many to be the most important current Posek. Israeli Litvaks and Misnagdim certainly follow his Piskei Halacha to the letter. Sefardim turn to Chacham Ovadya Yosef, whereas Chassidim have an array of Poskim they consult. The most important Posek for the so-called Centrist Orthodox is Rav Hershel Schachter.

I have one volume of R’ Elyashiv’s פסקי תשובות at home. Apparently, many are in fact תשובות for cases R’ Elyashiv was involved with when he was a member of the Rabbanut of the State of Israel. Those who know much more than I, advise that many of the תשובות are drawn from פסקי-דין של בתי הדין הרבניים האיזוריים בישראל.

R' Shlomo Elyashiv ז’ל

The מסדר קידושין at R’ Elyashiv’s own wedding was none other than R’ Kook ז’ל who was also the שדכן. R’ Elyashiv’s grandfather, R’ Shlomo Elyashiv ז’ל was the בעל לשם שבו ואחלמה a very famous מקובל (of all things). When Rav Kook became Rav of Yerushalayim, R’ Shlomo Elyashiv wrote:

To my dear, long-time friend, the brilliant rabbi, the great luminary whose name is renowned for praise and glory, our venerable master and teacher, R. Avraham Yitzchak HaKohen Kook shlita…

I was [just] informed that Your Eminence has been appointed Chief Rabbi of Jerusalem, and I was very happy to hear this. Let me, therefore, have the honor of blessing Your Eminence: May you hold this rabbinic post for a long time, and may your good name reach [near and] far, and may you go higher and higher. Amen, so may it be G-d’s will.

It is clear that both R’ Elyashiv and his father had a very close connection to Rav Kook. R’ Elyashiv also worked for the State of Israel’s Rabanut. He can be seen here fourth from the right on the top row at the opening of Heichal Shlomo (click to enlarge).

R' Yosef Sholom Elyashiv שליט’’א at the inauguration of Heichal Shlomo

It has been widely reported that R’ Elyashiv issued a Psak as follows:

until now the public, as well as seminaries and other educational institutions, had been instructed not to visit places that desecrate Shabbos, but now that the chareidi public has grown and unfortunately the major sites in the country desecrate Shabbos while those that do keep Shabbos cannot accommodate the larger groups. Thus if they stand firm in not going to places that desecrate Shabbos, trips and weekends of the major schools may have to be canceled, despite their vital importance in maintaining a proper framework for students during the summer.

When presented with the dilemma, HaRav Eliashiv said, “Since a directive not to visit places that desecrate Shabbos has been established and it is widely known that this is to keep a distance from ugly and unseemly things, this wall should not be breached by contravening the takonoh in any way.”

The rabbonim then pointed out that having schools and seminaries arrange summer programs to safeguard girls is also an important takonoh and if they are not in these programs they could spend their time at other, unsuitable places. “Since we are in a state of war against those who breach the walls of Shabbos,” replied Maran, “we must continue with the battle, which is more important than this concern, and not allow breaches in a time of war to uphold the sanctity of Shabbos.”

“Even in the case of a place that is not publicly known to be a Shabbos desecrater,” he continued, “if we know that Shabbos desecration takes place there, `ein tevunoh ve’ein chochmoh’ – and it should not be patronized.”

To be sure, R’ Elyashiv is often misquoted. I know some people who do not listen to anything said in R’ Elyashiv’s name. Instead, they seek to see things in writing only. Be that as it may, I read the above, and was somewhat נבוך—perplexed. R’ Elyashiv was perhaps suggesting that for בני and בנות ישיבות it was fitting that they not only not be מסייע לדבר עבירה (help someone indirectly commit a sin) but also that they not תומך עוברי עבירה (support those who sin) and thereby distance themselves from non conducive environments. What of Israeli society? R’ Elyashiv’s alleged view could perhaps be summarised by the command to נח that he should enter the ark and separate himself and his family from the sinners around him. The isolationist approach is certainly self-preserving. It’s a pretty safe approach.

I feel that ironically, Rav Kook’s approach was diametrically opposed. R’ Kook would have echoed the command of צא מן התיבה go forth from the ark. Is it a sin to visit an establishment whose owners don’t keep Shabbos? That is the salient question. R’ Hershel Schachter in his shiurim explains that a Cohen who is a Shabbos desecrator is (these days) commanded to Duchan (ברכת כהנים), even though Shulchan Aruch states that such a Cohen isn’t eligible to perform this Mitzvah. The reasoning is that unless the congregation is repulsed by the fact that someone desecrated Shabbos, the Shabbos desecrator is no longer the classical מחלל שבת בפרהסיא and it is better that he keeps one more Mitzvah (to bless the people with love) than to sit on the sidelines and be estranged and do nothing.

Certainly, the environment addressed by R’ Elyashiv is nothing like the environment addressed by R’ Schachter. The type of people R’ Elyashiv is talking to are indeed repulsed by and revile those who commit Shabbos desecration.

How does one classify the people who live and God forbid die for the State of Israel and their people? R’ Kook had, I would suggest, a different approach. Let’s use just one well-known and hugely controversial example. This example was used by the opponents of R’ Kook to suggest that he associated with sinners and promoted secular studies.

Just imagine. The fledgling Yishuv in Israel was opening up the Hebrew University. Who would attend such a University? Surely, the Shabbos desecrators and those who do not sit in Yeshivos. Based on the sentiments attributed to R’ Elyashiv, the very thought of an important Rabbi, let alone a Chief Rabbi, attending and speaking at such a ceremony would be anathema. Surely, הלא משנאיך ה’ אשנא—ascribe scorn and hate to the sinner! R’ Kook saw the light among the darkness. R’ Kook, ironically, in contrast to R’ Elyashiv, took a different view (admittedly at a different time).

R’ Kook perceived opportunity in these Jews and the institution. R’ Kook discerned the sliver of light, as encapsulated by their adherence to קדושת הארץ, to attempt to influence them in a way that would be for the good. Did R’ Kook delude himself to the extent that he thought that after his speech, they would listen to him? I doubt it. Did he expect that Hashem would shine his countenance on the people and aid them to stay loyal to our מסורה despite the fact that they were immersing themselves in the Weltanschauung of the modern world? I would say he definitely  did.

I can’t express the sentiments anywhere nearly as beautifully as R’ Kook did. Accordingly, I present a translated excerpt from his speech at the opening of the Hebrew University. After you’ve read it, ask yourself whether R’ Kook should have been condemned by the Charedim? After that, ask yourself whether R’ Kook would have wanted religious Jews in Israel to avoid the establishments of those who transgress and miss the opportunity to also create a kiddush hashem, as opposed to locking oneself up in the proverbial Ark of Noah.

Rav Kook speaking at the opening of the Hebrew University

There are two paths to the spirit of Israel.

One path goes inward, entirely holy, serving in its entirety to deepen its spirit and shine the light of its Torah deep within. This was the function of all of the Torah institutions that ever existed, the spiritual fortresses of Israel, the yeshivas of the past, present and future, serving amongst us to magnify and glorify the Torah, in the full meaning, greatness and richness of this holy yearning of the Jews in every generation. This path of the spirit is entirely confident-“great peace to those who love Your Torah and they will never stumble.” Yet, even with all of this confidence, Rabbi Nechunia ben Hakaneh would pray when entering the beit medrash that no error may come about through him.

The second path of the spirit in the nation serves not only to deepen the holiness of the Torah within deep within, but also serves as a path for a two-way traffic: to bring concepts and values of Judaism from our private domain to the public domain of the world in general, since it is for this that we stand as a light to the nations; and to bring in the general sciences from the breadth of humanity, and adapt that which is good and elevated to the treasure of our life in its purity; for ultimately doing so makes it possible for us to bring forth a logical and lovely expression from our world to the world at large.

To this end, this university can serve as a great and elevated tool.

But here, my friends, is the place for fear.

We had experience in previous days when our most valued and holy concepts were exported from our realm to the public domain. That is what occurred with the translation of the Torah into Greek. At that time, two paths in Judaism grew clear in regard to this issue. The Judaism of the land of Israel was afraid, and its world grew dark (Masechet Sofrim). But the Judaism of the Greek world experienced a happiness of heart and greeted this work with great joy.

We have also had the experience of importing streams of various cultures, Greek wisdom and other cultures of the nations of the world that we have encountered in the course of our history, which penetrated deeply into us. And this absorption has also been met with fear in many circles and with happiness of heart in others.

When now, after these eras have passed, we come to evaluate them, we see that the fear was not without cause-even though the happiness of heart was also not without cause. Although we gained from those streams in some ways, we also forfeited a great deal.

And it is clear that of those who exported the streams of [our culture] and imported those of [gentile culture] without any fear but solely with an optimistic, banal joy and happiness of heart only, very few of their grandchildren are partners at this time with us in our difficult and holy work of building our land and supporting the renaissance of our nation, for most of them were assimilated amongst the nations and swept away by the “richness of the nations.”

Only those who sat confidently in our inner fortresses, in the tents of Torah, in the holiness of the mitzvot and divine decrees, and those who, while exchanging values and concepts via the spiritual pathway linking Israel to the nations, maintained an attitude not only of happiness of heart but also of a fear that accompanied the happiness of heart and joy of the spirit which came from the power of that great vision of oncoming “richness of the nations” brought forth all of those faithful powers of creativity that are being applied to our great building [of the Holy Land] with our entire heart and soul, and the entire great bloc of the Jewish nation that is faithful to the banner [of this movement].

And so the prophet justifiably said, “Then you will see and be radiant, and fear, and your heart will be happy, for the wealth from the west will be will cast upon you, the richness of nations shall come to you.”

But how can we silence the fear? How do we assure the that the Jewish people will withstand that great current [of gentile influence]?

In regard to this, sirs, I stand as an representative of the public on this honorable stage, and transmit to you the expression of the heart of faithful Judaism, as expressed by many of its parts, which are its finest parts.

We must know that this university will not, by itself, encapsulate all that is necessary for our national life. That comes, first and foremost, from the great and strong yeshivas of Torah, those that exist and those that are yet to be created (amongst them the Central Yeshiva-Merkaz Harav-which we are struggling to establish, with the help of God, may He be blessed, in Jerusalem, to act as a shining light in the light of the Torah of Israel in all of its topics, in halachah and aggadah, in wisdom of deeds and wisdom of mind), yeshivas that, as their name implies, that now, as they did in the past, will establish the spirit of the nation in its full confidence.

And alongside that, this university must function at a level where it will cause God, the Jewish people and the land of Israel to be publicly sanctified and not profaned in any manner-whether by the administration, the teachers, or students. And this applies in particular to those who will teach Judaic studies-from the book of books, Tanach (the light of our life) to the breadth of the Babylonian and Jerusalem Talmud and all of their branches, as well as the wisdom of Israel and its history. These must be people who, in addition to their great knowledge in their respective fields, will be completely committed to the faith of Israel in their views, in their feelings and in the way that they conduct their lives. This will indicate a “happiness of heart” and the greatness of the purified expression of the intellectual disciplines. Then our fear, together with our great sight of the “glorious” vision of this day, and together with the illumination shining upon our souls from the radiance of the lights of the various and multi-hued currents of spirit that pass over us, will bring us to that very “happiness of heart” that we seek, and which contains a blessing within itself.

And we hope that this institution, which is crowned today in the glory of Israel, will take on that character, as it receives the “wealth of the gentiles,” and that we may be assured that, as Rabbi Nechuniah ben Hakaneh prayed, “that no error will come about because of me.”

“My nation will sit in the field of peace and in tranquil resting places and in secure homes” (Isaiah 32:18). And may we merit to see the joy of our nation, and the building of our Temple and its beauty, to which all the nations will stream to take Torah from Zion and the word of Hashem from Jerusalem. Amen.

Help! the power is off

Some of you would have read that there has been calamitous flooding in parts of Northern Australia (Queensland). The tail end of some of that activity reached Melbourne on Friday. Of course, such events always occur either on Shabbos or 2 minutes before Shabbos comes in. It’s like the injuries that people seem to find; those last-minute emergencies couldn’t have occurred 2 hours before Shabbos, they have a way of happening 2 nanoseconds into Shabbos. Hakadosh Baruch Hu seems to have an unnatural sense of humour כביכול and wants to make sure the Torah is always relevant and that we have to wrestle with Hilchos Shabbos together with all its consequent complexity.

Torrential Rain in Melbourne

We had an honoured guest on Friday Night, and as Shabbos dared impose itself on the torrential downpour, we realised we’d be sitting under the sole illumination of the Shabbos licht, once the electricity flickered and departed.

The electricity returned about 1.5 hours into the meal. My wife usually transfers the soup pot from the flame into the oven just before shabbos. This meant that given the “ovenly”  insulation, her delicious lockshen mit yoech were not cold.

We started to wonder about food that would subsequently be “warmed up” once the electricity came back on when I was informed of an incident that had occurred the previous week. At a family lunch after the Aufruf of my cousin, a fuse decided to fail thereby endangering the obligatory Glezele Teh following lunch. At worst there would be no glezele and at best it would be rendered a tepid taciturn excuse for a hot drink. The lunch was formally catered under the supervision of the hungarian charedi establishment in Melbourne. There were ample goyim to enlist should that have been deemed appropriate. The mashgiach was a young unmarried man, no doubt a Yorei Shomayim, but I am not sure whether he had come across or been trained to address this situation before. I had already gone home, so I don’t know if the caterer himself was still there. The caterer would undoubtedly have come across this issue in the past and would have discussed it with the Rav Hamachshir of the Hungarian Charedim, Rabbi A. Z. Beck, Shlita.

It seems (I haven’t been able to ascertain whether this is precisely what happened) that a goy was enlisted to save the urn by flicking the fuse switch. Subsequently, it was ruled (I assume through the authority of the mashgiach), much to the chagrin of those pining for a Gloos Tay, that the Urn could no longer be used, and that no tea of coffee would be available.

I had  a few simchas to perform for during the week (ברוך השם) and coupled to my day job, you can well imagine that by the time our Friday Night Seuda was over, I was snoozing ever so comfortably with my Neshoma Yeseira. On Shabbos morning I began looking to see if the urn sheyla had been addressed in the halacha seforim. Eventually, I did find it in ספר מאור השבת in חלק א at the back in the letters to R’ Shlomo Zalman Auerbach z”l where the author, Rav Yadler, had asked a similar question to R’ Shlomo Zalman.

In a short response, R’ Shlomo Zalman wrote that if a Goy was asked about the fuse and he understood to flick the switch so that (in the Goy’s mind) a range of appliances (eg lights) would come on, then as long as the Goy was not specifically doing it for the purposes of the urn (food) and the re-ignition of the urn was simply a side-effect, it would be permitted to benefit from the hot water of the urn. On the other hand, if the fuse was tripped and panic set in and the goy was effectively asked to fix the fuse so that the urn would go back on (very likely if the goy was in the room hearing all the commotion) then according to R’ Shlomo Zalman, in the latter case it would then be forbidden to benefit from the Melacha of the Goy.

Of course, this doesn’t factor in if we say יש בישול אחר בישול with a דבר לח even if  נצטנן לגמרי  for which there are some Rishonim who are lenient but whose Halacha we don’t follow. It also doesn’t factor in if there was a need for hot water for a חולה שיש בו סכנה in the form of a young baby, etc.

Anyway, I thought it was interesting. Your thoughts? Mekoros?