Friday, March 16, 2007

Eliezer Brodt: Review of Halikhot Shlomo, by R. Shlomo Zalman Auerbach

Review of Halikhot Shlomo, by R. Shlomo Zalman Auerbach
By Eliezer Brodt

There is a well known joke which claims that some gedolim have actually been "writing from their graves."[1] The most famous person to be "guilty" of this charge is R. Moshe Sofer (Hatam Sofer) as he printed nothing[2] in his lifetime and yet we have volumes and volumes of his Torah on literally every area and - to this day - they continue to be published.[3] Obviously, all of this material has come to light through his own notes and those of his many students.

Non-Republished works of R. Shlomo Zalman Auerbach

Another such person, who has had a similarly prolific posthumous literary output – although he did publish Torah novella in his own life time – is R. Shlomo Zalman Auerbach (1910-1995). After his death there has been a printing explosion of his writings covering all topics, including reprints of everything he has ever written! The only works of his not to be reprinted are two amazing works: the Meori Aish – a classic study on electricity and muktzah – and his Madeni Aretz on Shevi'it, as these two works have connections to one of the more controversial gedolim of the past century, R. Avraham Yitzchak Ha-Kohen Kook. As the Meori Aish has a haskamah from Rav Kook and the Madenei Aretz deals at great length with Rav Kook’s views on Shevi'it.

Halikhot Shlomo

For this post, however, I would just like to limit my focus to one of these recent works on R. Shlomo Zalman Auerbach -- Halikhot Shlomo.

A few years ago R. Aron Auerbach and R. Y Terger started to print this work. It was printed by Feldheim for a rather low price. The first volume began with Hilkhot Tefilah and Berakhot. After that, they published a second volume discussing the Yom Tovim starting with Rosh Hashana until and including Purim. (Last year they released a limited edition of the Pesach section.) And this year, the third volume has just been published, completing the Yom Tovim, on Pesach and the rest of the year. The goal of this work is to collect everything spanning the gamut of R. Shlomo Zalman’s halakhic interests related to these topics of Tefilah, Berakhot and the Yom Tovim. These volumes are all well organized, culled from all the printed sources and from incidents recorded by his various students. Aside from these sources, they used many manuscripts and notes of R. Shlomo Zalman which have remained unpublished until this point. They try to reference exactly where everything came from; but, at times, this too becomes a bit confusing. The sefer has a nice layout the top part contains the statement of R. Shlomo Zalman, as well as his reasoning for the various pesakim. In the extensive footnotes, the editors demonstrate the breadth of where everything comes from. Sometimes they cite other sources on the topics under discussion. They also include many interesting stories, statements, and anecdotes of advice that R. Shlomo Zalman gave to different people. In addition to all this they include many interesting discussions of R. Shlomo Zalman on Aggadah. At the end of each volume, there is a collection of some lengthier pieces on relevant topics. Besides for all this they included a very thorough index assisting the interested reader in finding almost anything mentioned throughout in the sefer.

I would just like to quote a few interesting discussions from each volume for examples of what makes this work so special as there are literally thousands of gems scattered throughout this work.

Halikhot Shlomo, vol. 1

While talking about having perfectly squared tefillin, R. Shlomo Zalman says that its good enough if, according to viewing it with your eyes and that you do not have to measure the tefillin with a ruler. He than goes on to say - at great length - that the Torah goes according to ones eyes for everything including examining for bugs and checking etrogim (Halikhot Shlomo 1:53, and the footnotes therein).

On the topic of chumrot he writes that one should not just be machmir because he feels like it. Instead, such a position should be reached from one’s own understanding of the topic and that, in this instance, it is in fact the correct position. He contrasts this with the tendency, which can be attributed to many chumrot, which is a result of only utilizing secondary sources and not focusing on the primary sources. He goes on to write that he was very bothered when he would see people walking on shabbat and their wives would be pushing the baby carriages because the man held for himself it was prohibited to use an eruv. He writes that when he was young he was machmir and did not rely on the eruv but, when he got married, he was mater neder (annulled his vow) to be able to help his wife (Halikhot Shlomo 1:55).

Elsewhere they record, that R. Shlomo Zalman once met a chattan walking to shul without a shomer so he accompanied him until he got a shomer. R. Shlomo Zalman explained his actions that already the motzei shabbat before one gets married he is already called a chattan in regard to this that he needs a shomer (Halikhot Shlomo 1:63 [note 26]). He writes that a matmid is not one who learns many hours in the day but rather it is someone who learns set times carefully keeping them everyday (Halikhot Shlomo 1:67 [note 56]). He writes that a mourner can learn hilkhot aveilut in-depth during the week of shiva (Halikhot Shlomo 1:75 [note 11]). Also included is an interesting and in-depth step-by-step teshuva process (Halikhot Shlomo 1:77 [note 23]).

At the end of this volume, the editors printed a very interesting piece on the topic of saying ר' פלוני בן ר' פלוני – specifically the use of the Rabbi appellation – when calling someone up for an aliya at kriyat haTorah. R. Yosef Zechariah Stern writes that one should not say the title Reb because it is a problem of גבהות in front of God. R Shlomo Zalman, however, defends this custom at great length as we find everyone uses this title. He explains that the reason for its usage was because there are many different prayer customs that Chazal made to go against the tzedukim (צדוקים) to show that we have the Torah - both written and oral. So too, in the times of the Rishonim, there were people who denied the historicity of torah shebal peh, and these individuals were called Karaites; whereas the more-traditional sect of Jews were called Rabanim, and this is why when we call someone to the Torah we say “Reb” to show that he is not a karaite (Halikhot Shlomo 1:370-373; also included, in short, in the third volume, Halikhot Shlomo 3:33- 34).

Halikhot Shlomo, vol. 2

Some interesting points from volume two include: The famous topic of the prayer Machniseh Rachamim and how can it be said as it appears that we are praying to the angels. R. Shlomo Zalman responds to this concern and explains that one can pray to an angel if it is his job to carry the prayers – that is his job! Further, this is why one can sing the song Shalom Aleichem on Friday night as we are only asking them to do their job. However, he said the nussach which appears in kiddush levanah "כשם שאני רוקד כנגדך וכו' כל לא יוכל כל אויבי לנגוע בי לרעה" makes it appears as if we are praying to the moon and is a mistake! Instead, it should read כשם שאני רוקד כנגדה (Halikhot Shlomo 2:4). When asked which kavonot one should have during the blowing of the shofar he said just that the Torah simply says to blow shofar! (Halikhot Shlomo 2:24). Another interesting idea is that R. Shlomo Zalman did not bless people with sticking out his hands except on very infrequent occasions. He quoted R S Alphandrei that there is no source for giving ones hand in chazal but rather its chukat hagoyim! (Halikhot Shlomo 2:10). At the end of the sefer include, as well, is a very interesting selection as to why the holiday of Hoshanah Rabbah, as a day of judgment or not, is not mentioned in the Torah (Halikhot Shlomo 2:428-434).

Halikhot Shlomo, vol. 3

The third volume of Halikhot Shlomo is the largest thus far, comprising over six hundred pages with many, many interesting and fascinating pieces.

Just to list a few: R. Shlomo Zalman writes that it’s very important to learn Masekhet Moed Koton and Hilkhot Aveilut as well, even though the Hatam Sofer (and others) said that one should not learn it (Halikhot Shlomo 3:439). On Tisha B’Av, R. Shlomo Zalman would read books about the Holocaust (Halikhot Shlomo 3:440). There is also an interesting discussion about the reason of the Mishneh Berurah as to why we eat dairy on Shavuot (Halikhot Shlomo 3:380-381). In regard to Pesach there is an amazing original piece as to why the bechorim (first born) fast on Erev Pesach. R. Shlomo Zalman writes that if it is solely due to the fact that the bechorim were saved from death, then all of the descendants of the bechorim should also fast – not just bechorim! (The answer is a bit more complex and includes several other components to this answer, as well.) To this, R. Shlomo Zalman says that the reason for the fast is not for the fact that they were saved but rather it was because the bechorim were supposed to do the avodah in the Beit Hamikdash, but that they lost it due to the sin of the Golden Calf. So on the fourteenth day of Nissan when they came to the Beit Hamikdash and they saw the kohanim and levi’im doing the beautiful avodah they felt very sad so they did not eat. So they decided to make a day to remember this as there was one time they were able to do this – when Hashem skipped over the houses and to atone for the Golden Calf which caused them to lose this great job (Halikhot Shlomo 3:179-180).

In sum, the Halikhot Shlomo is an excellent work and all in all, I feel that this is a beautiful work and well worth the money.

[1] Upon hearing this aphorism, one cannot help but reflect on the passage in the Talmud: "R. Yohanan said in the name of R. Shimon bar Yochai: Any talmid hakham whose teachings are recited in this world, his lips move in the grave" (Yevamot 97a).
[2] Although the Hatam Sofer is the most popular target of posthumous publishing, in fact he did publish one work in his lifetime – although this is not well known. This is probably because his most famous work, his responsa volumes SHU"T Hatam Sofer, were published after he died. The Hatam Sofer died in 1839 and his teshuvot were not published until 1855. But, in the 1826 edition of the Hiddushei R”I Megash on Masekhet Shavout, there was appended a "Kuntres" which contains two Torah pieces and six teshuvot from the Hatam Sofer.
[3] For a discussion of the famous 1799 ruling of the Vilna beit din where they officially prohibited the ascribing any work to the R. Elijah, Gaon of Vilna which had not been personally sanctioned by that rabbinical body, see Gil S. Perl, "Emek ha-Neziv: A Window into the Intellectual Universe of Rabbi Naftali Zvi Yehudah Berlin," (PhD dissertation, Harvard University, 2006), pp. 219, 226. Notwithstanding this prohibition, works ascribed to R. Elijah, Gaon of Vilna continued to appear for over two centuries. See also the introduction Yeshayahu Vinograd, Ozar Sifre ha-GRA (Jerusalem, 2003) for an extensive discussion surrounding the 1799 ruling of the Vilna beit din.

No comments:

Print post

You might also like

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...