World of Halacha Series

Resources for the World of Halacha Series given at DAT Minyan in the summer of 2017.

Click Here for Class 2 Audio (July 10, 2017)
Click Here for Class 2 Additional Notes
Click Here for Class 2 Homework

Click Here for Class 3 Audio (July 17, 2017)
Click Here for Class 3 Additional Notes

Click Here for Class 4 Audio (July 24, 2017)

Click Here for Class 5 Audio (August 7, 2017)
Click Here for Class 5 Additional Notes

Click Here for Class 6 Audio (August 14, 2017)
Click Here for Class 6 Additional Notes

PDF handout for the entire series:
World of Halacha Series (Complete handouts)
Handout Page 6b

[Audio for Class 1 not available – class took place on Shabbat]

Audio for Class 2 (July 10, 2017)

(Second half of “Class 1” in the handouts)

Additional Notes for Class 2

Addendum on Origins of Mishna Berurah and Aruch Hashulchan: We spoke during Class 2 about the Mishna Berurah and the Aruch Hashulchan, but we did not have time to discuss the mysterious origin of how the Aruch Hashulchan came to be published and why some sections are missing from the set. See this link for an interesting article on that topic. I would add to this article that as recently as 1992 some missing sections were discovered, so it is possible that the remaining missing sections will still be found and the set will someday be complete. (The parts still missing are on Nedarim, vows – not a heavily traversed area of Halacha anyway.) The different ways in which the Mishna Berurah and Aruch Hashulchan came to be published might explain why the MB tends to be learned more nowadays than the AHS.

A word about the Levush: We did not talk about the Levush during the class because the world at large does not consider the Levush to be on the level of the books that we did discuss. However, as I think the Levush is highly underrated, I will add a word or two here about the Levush. In the fascinating introduction to the Levush, the author, Rabbi Mordechai Yaffe, a contemporary of Rav Yosef Karo, describes how he came to write his own work. He says that he began writing his own “Shulchan Aruch,” shortening the Tur and Beit Yosef for people to have an easier time learning. Then he heard that Rav Yosef Karo himself was working on such a work, so he stopped, believing that it would be better for the original Beit Yosef to shorten his own work than for someone else to do it. When Rav Karo’s Shulchan Aruch was finally released, Rabbi Yaffe writes, he was highly disappointed, as Rav Karo did not give any reasons or background for what he was writing, relying entirely on the Tur and Beit Yosef. As Rabbi Yaffe complains in the introduction, Rabbi Karo makes it seem as if the Halachot fell from the sky without any reason or basis behind them. So Rabbi Yaffe went back to writing his own version, but then he heard that the great Rav Moshe Isserles in Krakow was working on a project that would modify the Shulchan Aruch, and Rabbi Yaffe assumed this would be primarily to add reasons and background to the Shulchan Aruch. When the Rama finally released his work, Rabbi Yaffe saw that this, too, was inadequate, as it served primarily to correct the Shulchan Aruch for Ashkenazim and not to add reasons for the Shulchan Aruch’s own words. So Rabbi Yaffe went back yet again and completed his Levush. This history is to make the point that the advantage in learning the Levush is that, in contrast to the Shulchan Aruch, the Levush always gives the reason for every Halacha, and yet without going into as much debate or discussion as the Tur before him or the Aruch Hashulchan after him. His purpose is not to analyze Halacha from the prism of whether it is quoted correctly in the first place in the Tur and Beit Yosef, but simply to add reasons that the Halachot are what they are. He even follows the Shulchan Aruch’s order, not just in the Siman (chapter) but even in the Seif (paragraphs). If he wants to add something original, he does it at the end of an existing Seif, rather than mix us up by adding a new Seif and thus changing the numbering and order that the Tur and Shulchan Aruch had already devised. By maintaining the order of the Shulchan Aruch but adding in reasons (which he maintained makes it easier to learn and remember Halachot), the Levush becomes a great, readable resource, either on its own or as a companion volume to the Shulchan Aruch.
The name “Levush” (the full set is really called “Levush Malchut”) is based on words from Pesukim in Megillat Esther. The Levush is subdivided into sections with matching names – Levush HaTechelet on the beginning of Orach Chaim, Levush HaChur on the later parts of Orach Chaim, Levush Ateret Zahav on Yoreh Deah, Levush HaButz V’ha’argaman on Even Ha’ezer, and Levush Ir Shushan on Choshen Mishpat. There are also several parts of the set of Levush on other topics, such as Levush Ha’orah on Rashi’s Chumash commentary, Levush Pinat Yikrat on Rambam’s Moreh Nevuchim, and a super-commentary on Rikanati’s Chumash commentary, Levush Even Yikrah. There are ten “Levushim” in all. The non-Halachic ones, he explains in the introduction, he wrote in the years that he was waiting for Rav Yosef Karo and Rav Moshe Isserles to produce their own works, which he ultimately found disappointing.

Homework for Class 2

Those who would like to do a little review homework using the same skills on a new topic (using the sukkah on Shemini Atzeret), click here.

Audio for Class 3 (July 17, 2017)

Halacha – Comparing MB and AHS

Additional Notes for Class 3

1) Ein Mishpat Ner Mitzvah: Regarding the authorship of the navigational tools, this link describes briefly the life of Yehoshua Baruch (16th century Italy), who compiled three important navigational tools – Ein Mishpat Ner Mitzvah (Gemara –> Halacha), Torah Ohr (Gemara –> Tanach), and Mesoret HaShas (cross references between similar sugyot within the Gemara). It is interesting that although today we have a combined “Ein Mishpat Ner Mitzvah,” it was originally compiled as two separate glosses and was only combined later. Here is a screen-grab from HebrewBooks from a 1548 printing of the Gemara, which would make this about the earliest insertion of the Ein Mishpat / Ner Mitzvah on the page. Notice that all the way on the left is “Ein Mishpat,” which, when needed, informs us that a particular Halacha (“Heivi’u Lifanav Pat …”) can be found in Rambam Perek 3 of Hilchot Berachot and Tur Orach Chaim Chapter (Siman) 240. But there is also “Ner Mitzvah,” closer to the Gemara text, which informs us that the same Halacha is #292 (I assume in Masechet Berachot). Keep reading below the picture.

Halacha Early Ein Mishpat Ner MitzvahNow here is the same page in a modern-day Gemara, with the combined Ein Mishpat Ner Mitzvah. Keep reading below the picture.

Halacha New Ein Mishpat Ner Mitzvah

Comparing the two pages of Gemara, there are many things to notice: The Ner Mitzvah component has indeed been combined with the Ein Mishpat into a single gloss on the left side of the page, but the 292 number has been replaced with the number 35. It seems that over time, the numbers went from continuing through the entire volume to instead enumerating the Halachot chapter by chapter. Furthermore, there are many changes to the gloss itself. The words with the Ein Mishpat and Ner Mitzvah in the earlier printing (“Heivi’u Lifanav Pat …”) do not have Ein Mishpat Ner Mitzvah on the new page, but the same reference in Rambam and Tur/Shulchan Aruch is now pointed to from earlier words on the same page (“Aval Itay …”). Where there was only one Ein Mishpat and Ner Mitzvah reference on the earlier version of this page, there are now seven, so clearly much emendation of the Ein Mishpat has taken place over the centuries. Not to mention the fact that the earlier references to “Tur” have now given way to “Tur and Shulchan Aruch,” because the Shulchan Aruch was first printed in 1563 and this earlier printing of the Gemara page was from 1548! So again, quite a lot has happened to the Ein Mishpat and/or Ner Mitzvah over the centuries. What seems to have started out as a considerably more modest project to highlight the major Halachic decisions on the page (hence only one reference on the 1548 page) mushroomed over time to include every possible Halachic decision on the page, including ones that might be very tangential to the overall flow of the Gemara’s discussion (hence seven references on the new page). Even today, each new edition of the Gemara seems to unearth new Halachic references on the page which become added to the Ein Mishpat Ner Mitzvah on the side of the page.

2) Be’er Hagolah: It turns out the compiler of the Be’er Hagolah, the notes which send the reader from the page of Shulchan Aruch (or Mishna Berura) backwards to the source of the Shulchan Aruch’s words, was Rabbi Moshe Rivkash (1640-1672), who lived a very fascinating (and very tragic) life. See this link to read about him.

3) Gemara Page: As a review of the major features and tools on the Gemara page, check out this nice (if technically dated) web page (link). Mouse over the page and click to learn about the different features of the Gemara page.

4) Beracha in a new place during a meal: We touched on the subject of whether a new beracha needs to be made if one moves to a new place during a meal. Although various opinions and scenarios are presented in Tur and Shulchan Aruch (remember, same order) Orach Chaim (the part about daily routine) Siman (Chapter) 178, the Rama (for Ashkenazim) in Seif (Halacha) #2, as explained by Mishna Berurah #26, differentiates between one who was previously eating bread and one who was eating fruits or other non-Birkat Hamazon foods. In the first case, one knows when he leaves that he will be returning for Birkat Hamazon, so his leaving is not considered a break (hefsek) in the meal and he does not make a new beracha. If he is eating fruits or vegetables or drinking something, on the other hand, which do not require one to return to where he started to say Borei Nefashot, he is considered to have made a hefsek by leaving and he would therefore need to make a new She’hakol. See later on the same page of Gemara that we were discussing during the class, Pesachim 101a, which is Page 6b of the handouts.

5) Mishna Berurah Cross-SectionClick here for a new cross-section diagram of the page of the Mishna Berurah.

Audio for Class 4 (July 24, 2017)

Audio for Class 5 (August 7, 2017)

Additional Notes for Class 5

Changing from the Nusach of the Shul: At the end of the class we discussed briefly the question of how to act when one’s family’s nusach is not the same as the Shul in which he or she is Davening. In Iggerot Moshe (the Teshuvot [Responses to Questions] of Rav Moshe Feinstein), Orach Chaim, Volume 4, Teshuva 34, Rav Moshe makes clear that a person should not make it obvious to others that he is deviating from their nusach, but that it is acceptable to differ from them if they do not know. He gives the example of saying viduy after daily Shemoneh Esrei, which nusach Ashkenaz usually does not do but nusach Sefard does. Rav Moshe says that a “Sefard” person should say viduy, but without hitting his chest as he normally would during viduy. Hitting the chest would make it obvious that he is deviating from the nusach of those around him. Viduy alone, however, is not a problem. So again, as we said last night, if there is a way to preserve one’s nusach in a way which is not an obvious deviation, including saying different words of Kedusha, one can and should do so. As to whether or at what point a person’s fealty to a nusach can or should be overridden by their relationship to a new Shul or community, this is a sensitive, case-by-case question which should be handled only by a competent Halachic authority whom one knows personally and trusts.

Audio for Class 6 (August 14, 2017)

Additional Notes for Class 6

1) Here is the Mordechai which we looked at during class:

2) On the question of Berachot on unappetizing or inedible foods which came up during the class:

Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 202:2 tells us the following:

שולחן ערוך אורח חיים הלכות ברכת הפירות סימן רב סעיף ב
ושאר כל האילן, משיוציאו פרי, מברכין עליו “בורא פרי האדמה,” ובלבד שלא יהא מר או עפוץ ביותר, עד שאינו ראוי לאכילה אפילו עד ידי הדחק, דאז אין מברכין עליו כלל

In other words, if something is unable to be eaten even under the most dire of circumstances (and yet is apparently being eaten now, as evidenced by this line of Shulchan Aruch), no Beracha should be made. The Mishna Berura (#19) posits that such foods are “כעץ בעלמא חשיב,” “considered like mere wood,” although he does offer that if one sweetens such a food to make it somehow edible, a She’hakol could be made (but not the regular Ha’adamah or Ha’etz).

See also this link for more on this topic.

3) On the reason for the Beracha on (fruit) trees:
The Ra’ah (a commentary on Gemara) makes the following point:

וקבעו ברכה זו לפי שהוא ענין בא לזמן, והוא ענין מחודש, שאדם רואה עצים יבשים שהפריח הקדוש ברוך הוא

And this Beracha was established because this is a matter which arrives at a certain point in time, and it is an idea of renewal, that a person sees trees which were dry and which Hashem has now caused once again to blossom.

The Aruch Hashulchan points to a different aspect of gratitude inherent in the Beracha:

כלומר, שנותן שבח והודאה לה’ יתברך, שברא בשביל האדם אפילו דברים שאין בהם הכרחיות לחיי האדם, כמו פרי אילנות. ולכן, אין מברכים ברכה זו על זרעים וירקות, דאלו הם כהכרחיות, ולא כן הפירות. ומברך בשעת הפריחה, דאז ניכר שיוציאו פירות

Meaning to say, that we give praise and thanks to Hashem that He created for people’s sake even things which were not absolutely necessary for the life of man, like fruit of the trees. And therefore, we do not make this Beracha on plants and vegetables, because those are considered basic and necessary to sustaining life, as opposed to fruits. And we make the Beracha at the time of blossoming, because it is then clear that the fruits will grow.

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