Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Review of a Recent work of Rav Zvi Hirsch Grodzinsky

Review of a Recent work of Rav Zvi Hirsch Grodzinsky

By: Eliezer Brodt

בית היין, על הלכות יין נסך עם ביאור קונדיטון, יצא לאור לראשונה מכתב יד, מאת הגאון רבי צבי הירש גראדזענסקי זצ"ל, מאנסי ניו יורק תשע"א, ש"ט עמודים.

In this post I would like to discuss an unknown Gaon - Rav Zvi Hirsch Grodzinsky, and a recently published manuscript of his on Hilchos Yayin Nessech. Not much is known about him except for what has been collected in a very nice article about him written by Jonathan Rosenbaum and Myron Wakschlag, “Maintaining Tradition: A survey of the Life and Writings of Rabbi Zvi Hirsch Grodzinsky,” AJH 82:1\4 (1994), pp. 263-288 which was of help to me when writing this post.

R. Hirsch Grodzinsky was born in Lithuania in the year 1857. He was an older cousin of the famous Gadol Hador, Rabbi Chaim Ozer, and he learned by R. Chaim Ozer's father for a few years. It is interesting to see what he writes about his younger cousin R’ Chaim Ozer:

ואת הגאון ר' חיים עוזר ז"ל הייתי מכיר אותו מימי ילדותו... וכבר הכרנו אז הכשרונות של הילד הזה ר' חיים עוזר ז"ל שעתיד להיות גדול בשיראל... (מקראי קודש, ג, הקדמה עמ' 6).

In 1891 he moved to Omaha, Nebraska where he served as the Rav until he died in 1947 (and was known as Rabbi Henry Grodzinski). It is unclear why he chose to move so far out in the US rather than to a major Jewish center like New York City; perhaps it was so that he would be able to devote most of his time to his own learning rather than the pastoral duties of a rabbi in a large Jewish community. Evidently this great gaon moved to the United States for parnassah, and is it perhaps due to this move he is basically unknown today. Had he remained in Europe he would likely have been better known and appreciated (but, of course, probably not with a peaceful end).

R. Grodzinsky was a prolific writer who authored many works on numerous topics. His first work, printed in 1898 was called Mikvei Yisrael, an in-depth work on Hilchos Mikvaos. He received haskamahs on this first work from various gedolim, among them R. Yitzchack Elchanan Spektor, (it is not established with certainty, but he might have even had semicha from him. According to one report R. Ephraim Oshry said that it was accepted as fact in the Litvishe yeshivos that R. Zvi Hirsch Grodzinsky had semicha from R. Yitzchak Elchanan). Either way, he was a great admirer of R. Yitzchak Elchanan, as he writes an incredible description about him in the introduction of his work on Hilchos Kriyas Hatorah, Mikroei Kodesh

לא כן רבותינו הרבנים והגאונים שהיו בדור שלפני דור זה, המה היו... ודעתם וסרותיהם הרחבה היה להלכה ברורה בכל מקצועות התורה בכל חלקי השלחן ערוך, כמו מרן הגאון האמתי רשכבה"ג מהרי"א זצ"ל אבד"ק קאוונא, שהיה ראשית דבר רב... בעל הוראה בכל ד' חלקי השלחן ערוך, כבח"מ ואה"ע, כן בש"ע או"ח וי"ד כבש"ך וסמ"ע כן במג"א ופרמ"ג כבקצות ונתיבות, כן בחו"ד ודה"ח וח"א, כל רז לא אנס ליה, ומי כמוהו מורה ממנו יצא אורה בכל מקצועת התורה דבר קטן ודבר גדול, כמו בעניני עגונה כן בה' ציצית ותפלין וקה"ת כו', הכל גלוי וידוע לפני כסא כבודו מראשונים עד אחרון שבאחרונים, הוא היה בר סמכא, לסמוך על הוראותיו האמתי בכל הפרטים... פנו אליו בשאלות וספיקות לדינא בכל מקצעות התורה, ועל כולם השיב כהלכה לקטן ולגדולן גם לעת זקנותו... (מקראי קודש, ג, הקדמה עמ' 5).

In 1916 he printed another work called Likutei Tzvi. In 1923 he printed another work called Mili Debrochos which is on part of Masseches Berachos (part two of this work was printed later). In 1936 he began printing his massive, three volume Mikraei Kodesh on Hilchos Kriyas Hatorah which he completed in 1941. This work is exceptional in both its breadth and depth. There are other important books on this topic from great gedolim such as the Chida and R. Ephraim Zalman Margolis, but none compare to this work. His later works do not have haskamos, as he writes against them in the introduction to the third volume of his Mikraei Kodesh.

ועתה בעו"ה נוהגין המחברים באמעריקא מנהג יפה מאד... לקבל הסכמה על חיבוריהם מהאי הדיוט בעל הלשון... דמיום שחרב בית המקדש גברו בעלי הלשון, ואל תהי הסכמת ההדיוט קלה בעינך ובדין הוא משום דלפנים היו מחברים ספרים בשביל ת"ח והיו צריכין להסכמת ת"ח הגדול בדורו, אך עתה במדינתנו שרוב המחברים מחברים ספריהם בשביל הדיוטים, לכן צריכין ליקח הסכמה ג"כ מהדיוט גדול, ובזכות זה יזכו שההדיוטים יקפצו לקנות חבוריהם ויראו שכר לעמלם, אשרי שככה לו, ואשרי הדור שיפתח בדורו כשמואל בדורו.

He left behind many complete manuscripts on different topics. After he died in 1947 his manuscripts were taken to Mechon Otzar Haposkim in Eretz Yisrael. Unfortunately almost nothing of his was printed except for a few teshuvos of his in various Torah Journals.[1]

A few months ago a complete manuscript was printed, the Beis Hayayin, a complete work on Hilchos Yayin Nessech. This volume was published by Shalom Jacob, who has put out important and special works in the past (see here). The production of this work was a truly beautiful job. The work consists of two parts; the top is the Halachos in short, and the bottom part is called Kunditon. In the Kunditon, R. Grodzinsky goes through all the sources of each Halacha, starting from the Gemarah and going forward through the sugyos with the Rishonim and Acharonim. A small section was added by the editor at the bottom of each page called Mekorei Habayis which adds some additional sources and quotes related to the topics in the Kunditon section. The print and paper is beautiful, including small summaries on the side of each piece, making it a pleasure to use. Besides for these, there is an extremely thorough index of the work.

To mention some of the interesting side points in this work; R. Grodzinski has a nice discussion of the way wine was made in the U.S. in his time (p. 42-43), as he was a rav hamachshir, he traveled to wine companies in California, to check out the exact way they made the wine.

Another important piece is a lengthy discussion of the various levels of Mechalelei Shabbos in the U.S. (pp. 31-32, 190) in his time. This discussion gives us a sad but realistic glimpse of the level of American Jewish observance in those times. He writes that there were three categories; one group that came with the full intention of remaining frum, but due to the parnassah problem were forced to work on Shabbos, virtually having no other choice. This group he says, was very disturbed about having to be mechalel shabbos and whatever was not related to parnassah they were careful to observe the prohibitions. This group has a din of an oness. A second category were people who though initially forced to work on Shabbos due to parnassah issues kept on working on even when they became wealthy. Though they kept Shabbos in their homes, they do not have a din of an oness. The third category were people who besides for working on Shabbos for parnassah never bothered to keep anything of Shabbos in their homes. These people, he writes, are the worst level of the three.

Another piece of interest to me was how he suggests a textual change in the girsa of a Yerushlami (p. 155). He is not one that is fast to do so in general, as a bit later where he quotes the Shach saying that there was a printing mistake, he goes out of his way to show that there is no need to suggest such a thing (p. 162).

Another particular piece of interest for me was his using a piece of Rabbenu Chananel, from the fairly recently (in his time) printed manuscript on Avoda Zara (p. 54). There are two reasons why I found this interesting. One, in the journal Yeshurun (v. 2, pp. 202-205) there is a teshuva of his in regard to the custom of standing when the ba'al keriah recites the Aseres Hadibros (see here for more on this minhag). Someone had shown him a newly printed manuscript of the Shu"t Ha-Rambam who said it is improper to stand. R. Grodzinsky writes:

כי תשובות המיוחס להרמב"ם ז"ל לא נמצא אצלי ומעולם לא ראיתיו. רק פעם אחד הביא אלי השו"ב מק"ב את תשובות הנ"ל וראיתי כי נמצא שם כמה דברים הסותרים למ"ש הרמב"ם בספרו הגדול משנה תורה. ולבי אומר לי כי כמה דברים הנמצא שם ע"ש הרמב"ם הוא לא אמת רק איזה תלמיד טועה כתבם ויחסו ע"ש הרמב"ם ע"ד שאמרו חז"ל אם בקשת וכו' התלה באילן גדול...

From this piece I generalized that he was opposed to "new rishonim" and the like. However, from this work I see it was not the case, or so simple, as he used the newly printed Rach.

It is important to note that the Chazon Ish was against using the Rach[2] as he writes:

"וכן ראיתי בל' ר"ח הנדפס בדפוס ראם, אבל לא ידענא אם אפשר לסמוך על הנדפסין מחדש שכבר הפסיקה המסורה בינינו, ואין אנו יודעין מי המה המעתיקים, שמלאכת ההעתקה כבדה מאד, ואף על ידי זריזין ומדקדקים מצוי ט"ס הרבה, ואם יעבור הדבר ע"י איזה רפיון בדקדוק הדברים יכול הדבר להשתנות לגמרי, ולכן הפוסקים שלא הפסיקה המסורה בינם ובינינו בכל הדורות, ששקדו עליהם חכמי דור דור, לשמרם ולנקותם, צריכים אנו לחשוב את ספריהם ליותר דוקנית, וכש"כ במקום שאין ללמוד מכונת הדברים אלא מדקדוק לשונם, שקשה לסמוך על החדשים..." (חזון איש, הל' עירובין סי' ס"ז, אות י"ב).

The Mishna Berurah argues, as we find numerous times he brings from the

ר"ח הנדפס מחדש [ביאור הלכה, סי' ש"ב, ד"ה עליה; סי' שט"ו, ד"ה טפח; סי' תרכ"ו, ד"ה צריך; סי' תרמ"ח, ד"ה מיהו, ועוד].

One thing I was rather surprised about was that there was no mention of the famous teshuva of the Rema on yayin nessech anywhere in this work. I was hoping to see his take on it.

To summarize, this work is extremely important for anyone learning the complicated laws of yayin nessech and it is well worth the money.[3] The sefer is available for purchase at Biegeleisen in the U.S., and at Girsa and Otzar Haseforim in Jerusalem.

I would just like to end by wishing Rabbi Jacob much success in printing the rest of the Rav Grodzinsky's wonderful works from manuscripts.[4]

[1] Worth noting is the teshuvos printed in the Sefer Zicrhon Iyunim Beta'anis, pp. 174-183 regarding the fast that the Rabbonyim made during World War Two.

[2] For more on this topic see what I wrote in the Yeshurun 24 (2011), pp. 430-431

[3] I cannot neglect to mention that besides for this new work on YN, one's understanding of the sugyos of YN, in the rishonim and the realia of their time would be greatly enhanced by using the special works of Professor Haym Soloveitchik on the topic (which will hopefully be translated into English in the future).

[4] Some of the notebooks have gone "missing" in recent years. If anyone knows their whereabouts it would be greatly appreciated if they would let me know.


miriam cofsky said...

i am doing research on my husband's great grandmother named leah gordzinskky yatkofsky who also came from LIta and died in 1940.  Her father's name was aron.  Do you know R' ZH Grodzinksy's father's name? 

Ploni said...

Is Beis Hayayin available on Hebrewbooks.org?

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