Tuesday, August 04, 2015

Mishloah Manot: An Insight of the Rav zt"l

Mishloah Manot: An Insight of the Rav zt"l

By Nathaniel Helfgot
Rabbi Helfgot is Chair of the Dept. of Torah SheBaal Peh at SAR High School and rabbi of Congregation Netivot Shalom in Teaneck, NJ. He has served as editor of Or-Hamizrach and associate editor of The Meorot Journal. He has written and edited a number of sefarim and volumes including  Divrei Berakha U-Moed: Iyunim Be-Nosei Berakhot U-Moadim (Yeshivat Har Etzion, 2002),  Community, Covenant and Commitment: Selected Letters and Communications of Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik (Toras HoRav Foundation, 2005), The YCT Rabbinical School Companion to Sefer Shmuel  (Ben-Yehuda Press, 2006), Mikra and Meaning: Studies in Bible and Its Interpretation (Maggid Publishers, 2012), Al Saf Ha-Aretz (Maggid Publishers, 2014)
One of the abiding contributions of Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik , the Rav zt"l, to halakhic thought was the introduction of the notion that there exists a category of mitzvot that though expressed in external action (maaseh ha-miztvah) is geared to fulfillment in the inner recesses of the heart and soul (kiyum she-ba-Lev). The external act is meant to engender and lead or in other instances to be a concrete expression of an inner emotional experience. Most famously the Rav developed these notions in relationship to the areas of aveilut, simchat yom tov and the experience tefillah and  teshuvah.  Rabbi Reuven Ziegler has noted that the Rav himself, (or in citations by students) used this distinction in print in relation to fifteen distinct mitzvot[1].

I would like to add one more to the list based on two unpublished letters of the Rav. In the year 2000 when I was deep into my research on the letters of the Rav zt"l for the volume that would be published in 2005 entitled Community, Covenant and Commitment : Selected Letters and Communications of Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik )Toras HaRav Foundation-Ktav, 2005), I received copies of a number of letters that the Rav sent to Mr. Aaron Schreiber z"l in the mid 1950's and early 1960's.[2]  Mr. Schreiber z"l was a resident of the West Side of Manhattan and an active and devoted member of  the Rav's celebrated weekly Talmud shiur for the general community held each Tuesday night at the Moriah Shul on West 80th street from  1952 through early 1980. The short letters were notes of good wishes and greetings for Rosh Hashanah and other events and thus not published in the volume mentioned above.

In two of these letters the Rav argued that the mitzvah of משלח מנות  also fell into the paradigm of maaseh ha-mitzva and kiyum she-ba-lev.

Below are the texts of the letters (including the original spellings):

1.                                                                                                             עשרה באדר שני, תשי"ד
                                                                                                                March 14, 1954
Dear Mr. and Mrs. Schreiber:
Thank you so much for the beautiful  basket of fruit which you sent us for Purim. We appreciate greatly the thought behind your kind gesture. As an attentive and intelligent participant in our weekly class, Mr. Schreiber, you certainly recall my remark about a unique group of mitzvoth which display a dual aspect; the technical performance asserts itself in a physical deed whereas the intrinsic content of the mitzvah expresses itself in a state of mind, a thought, a feeling or an emotion.

I believe that the precept of משלח מנות belongs to this category of  dual mitzvoth-the actual sending or giving of the present is an external act, in itself irrelevant, yet the full sublime meaning of it is attained in the manifestation of warm -hearted and sincere friendship. For such sentiments I am always very thankful.  Mrs. Soloveitchik  joins me in wishing you a very happy and joyous Purim.

                                                                       With kindest personal regards, I remain
                                                                       Sincerely yours
                                                                        Joseph Soloveitchik
שמחת פורים וחדות ד' מעוזכם!
2.                                                                                                                                             
                                            יום שני, יג' אדר, זמן קהלה תשט"ו                                                                                
  Dear Mr. Schreiber:
     We received the basket of candy which you sent to us for Purim. Permit me to convey to you and to Mrs. Schreiber our sincerest thanks for remembering us at this time of the year. The Halachah has introduced the  practice of  משלח מנות  as an objective symbol of a subjective feeling, as an expression of a sentiment, as a manifestation of friendship, the greatest of all gifts that human beings can bestow upon each other. As such we cherish your present  and are thankful for it.

                                                                    With kindest personal regards to you and Mrs. Schreiber, I remain
                                                                          Sincerely yours,
                                                                          Joseph Soloveitchik
                    




[1] Majesty and Humility (Urim, 2012) pg. 86-87.
[2] My thanks to his son Mr.  Joel Schreiber for sharing the letters with me at that time.

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