Rav Tzvi Pesach Frank, an Appreciation

Why do some people who keep cholov Yisroel use products made with regular powdered milk?

Can I wear a talis koton made out of nylon?

May one build an eruv around Manhattan?

These and thousands more shaylos were asked of the rav of Yerushalayim, Rav Tzvi Pesach Frank, whose yahrzeit is on the 21st of Kislev.

First, I will provide a brief biography of Rav Tzvi Pesach Frank, zt”l, followed by a discussion of some of his piskei halachah.

Rav Tzvi Pesach Frank was born in Kovno, Lithuania (then part of Russia), on the 4th of Tishrei, 1873 (5634). Kovno was a city full of talmidei chachamim, including Rav Tzvi Pesach’s father, Rav Yehuda Leib Frank. Rav Yehuda Leib had studied in the Volozhin Yeshiva for many years and, after his marriage, his wife supported the family while he continued to learn. As a youth, the young Tzvi Pesach outgrew the town’s melamdim at a young age and he continued to learn by himself in the shul, among married men much older than he.

Rav Tzvi Pesach’s early years were enriched by the contact he had with Rav Yisrael Salanter, who visited Kovno periodically to give shiurim, as well as by contact with Kovno’s rav, Rav Yitzchak Elchanan Spector. He later studied in the yeshivos of Rav Itzele Rabinowitz, known in Yeshivah world as Rav Itzele Ponovitcher, and in Telz, where he learned under Rav Shimon Shkop and Rav Leizer Gordon.

In 1892, Rav Yehuda Leib, Rav Tzvi Pesach’s father, decided that the time had come to move to Eretz Yisroel. He was particularly concerned for the welfare of his two older sons, Tzvi Pesach and Tanchum, who were in danger of being drafted into the Russian army. The two boys were therefore sent to the Holy Land ahead of the rest of the family. Rav Tzvi Pesach and Tanchum, together with a cousin, arrived in Yerushalayim in the fall of 1892.

Three years after he came to Yerushalayim, Rav Tzvi Pesach married. Two years after his marriage, several students of the Alter of Kelm, Rav Simcha Zissel Ziv, opened a Beis Mussar in Yerushalayim, and Rav Tzvi Pesach joined it. The Beis Mussar developed a kollel, where Rav Tzvi Pesach continued to grow in his learning.


The first Ashkenazi beis din in Yerushalayim was established in 1841 by Rav Shmuel Salant, the city’s rav. In 1907, Rav Tzvi Pesach, who had already begun teaching in Eitz Chaim Yeshiva, was appointed to the Yerushalayim Beis Din. He was to serve on this beis din until an advanced age, and from the start he was a well respected and astute dayan. When the Rabbonim and Beis Din of Yerushalayim organized the first modern Otzar Beis Din for Shevi’is in 5670 (1910), Rav Tzvi Pesach was one of the dayanim who signed as a member of the Beis Din.

He was a dayan and a poseik in Yerushalayim for over 50 years, the rav of Yerushalayim for 36 years, and a member of the Council of the Chief Rabbinate in Eretz Yisroel since its inception. In all these capacities, Rav Tzvi Pesach led and guided Klal Yisroel, teaching them what the Torah expected, even in the most challenging situations.

In the difficult years of World War I, he would not let hunger or worry distract him from learning. Quoting the sefer Akeidas Yitzchak, he said, “When a person is found in a situation of poverty, he will be able to learn and grow in Torah.” Following this teaching, Rav Tzvi Pesach gave shiurim and clarified halacha, even when there was no food to be had. He would sacrifice a bit of oil from his daily diet in order to learn by lantern, at night. When he lacked even this oil, he would learn by moonlight.

The Jews of Eretz Yisroel, and the rest of the world, rejoiced when the British captured the country from the Turks. The Balfour Declaration, which promised the Jews that Israel would become their national homeland, gave new hope to the war-weary people.

Anticipating new waves of aliya, Rav Tzvi Pesach began encouraging roshei yeshiva in Europe to move their yeshivos to Eretz Yisroel. Eventually, Rav Tzvi Pesach’s efforts bore fruit, and the Slobodka Yeshiva (under the leadership of Rav Moshe Mordechai Epstein and Rav Nosson Tzvi Finkel) moved first to Yerushalayim and then to Chevron, while the rosh yeshiva of Slutzk, Rav Isser Zalman Meltzer, moved to Yerushalayim.


In the years following World War I, the Chief Rabbinate was established in Eretz Yisroel. It was viewed with mixed feelings by the religious community. Rav Tzvi Pesach joined the organization with the hopes that it would represent the Torah beliefs on different aspects of life in Eretz Yisroel. In 1918, he became the head of the Yerushalayim Beis Din.

Rav Tzvi Pesach’s love for Eretz Yisroel knew no bounds. He encouraged the creation of agricultural settlements, particularly among frum Jews, and he was always pained by the sight of settlements that did not keep the halachos pertaining to the Land properly. The way to improve the situation, he believed, was to increase the awareness and knowledge of these halachos.

In a letter, he explained his position clearly: “We must establish regular shiurim on these halachos, as our master and teacher, the gaon Rav Yisrael Salanter, wrote in his letter of mussar — the most exalted and fundamental cure…for the wiles of the evil inclination is to learn the Gemara and poskim on the subject vigorously and with great depth….”

Rav Tzvi Pesach also encouraged the purchase of Jewish products over non-Jewish products.


In 1935, Rav Avraham Yitzchak Kook passed away, leaving the positions of rav of Yerushalayim and chief rabbi of Eretz Yisroel vacant.

Rav Tzvi Pesach Frank was considered the best candidate for these positions. However, when he was approached with the request that he fill the roles, he declined the offer. He felt that the job of chief rabbi would involve too much time that could better be spent learning. In the end, he agreed to become the rav of Yerushalayim, but not to accept the rabbanus of Eretz Yisroel, which was eventually filled by Rav Herzog.

One of the most difficult things that Rav Tzvi Pesach had to contend with was chillul Shabbos. There had been virtually no chillul Shabbos in Yerushalayim prior to World War I, so the desecration of Shabbos in the holiest city on earth pained him terribly. He tried to minimize it, however he could.

In the days of the British Mandate, Rav Tzvi Pesach wrote letters to the British rulers, begging them to enact a law against public Shabbos desecration. He wrote them that his goal was not to compel every individual to observe Shabbos, but that he wanted stores to be closed and that the Hebrew radio hour should not be broadcast on Shabbos.


In 1939, World War II broke out, bringing with it the destruction of European Jewry. Rav Tzvi Pesach, in Yerushalayim, organized days of prayer and fasting on behalf of the Jewish people. He urged his fellow Jews to improve their service of Hashem, in the hope that this would avert disaster. In a letter, Rav Tzvi Pesach wrote comfortingly, “For the Jews, a day is composed of night and then day. For non-Jews, a day is a day and a night. Why is this so?

“The main realm for Jews is the World to Come. Therefore, darkness precedes the light, and we consider a day to begin with the night and end with the day. Non-Jews, however, enjoy only this world, and afterwards they will be in darkness. They experience first day, and then night.”


Later, as the fledgling country of Israel began to develop, organizing its government, army, industry, economy, education and health care, Rav Tzvi Pesach emerged as one of the, and perhaps the foremost, halachic authorities of his generation. He answered numerous shailos on technology, medicine and industry, covering every subject from powdered eggs to hydroponics.

At this point, let us examine some of his well-known halachic positions:


Those who allow use of non-chalav Yisroel powdered milk follow the opinion presented by Rav Tzvi Pesach Frank. Rav Frank assumed that the halacha follows the Chasam Sofer, who requires Jewish supervision to permit non-Jewish milk, and did not accept the heter of the Pri Chodosh (Yoreh Deah 115:15), who understands that one needs to be concerned about chalav akum only when the non-kosher milk is less expensive than the kosher variety, nor the heter of the Igros Moshe and the Chazon Ish that the takanah did not specifically require that a Jew attend the milking, but that it is permitted when one is completely certain that there is no admixture of non-kosher milk (Igros Moshe, Yoreh Deah 1:47). Nevertheless, Rav Frank permitted powdered milk from an unsupervised gentile source for a different reason.

The poskim permit using cheese that is gevinas Yisrael and butter (I explained  both these topics in other articles), even when these products were made from unsupervised milk. Why did they permit this? Because non-kosher milk is low in casein; it does not curd, which is the first step in producing cheese; and it is also low in milk fat (also called butterfat or cream), which makes it non-profitable to make butter from non-kosher milk.

Rav Frank notes that there is a significant qualitative difference between cheese and butter, on the one hand, and powdered milk, on the other, in that there is an inherent problem with making cheese and butter from non-kosher milk, whereas one can powder any milk. Thus, one could argue that the leniency that applies to cheese and butter should not apply to milk powder, as indeed the Chazon Ish concludes.

However, Rav Frank quotes the Ritva (Avodah Zarah 35b), who pointed out that, technically, one could make cheese even from non-kosher species, but the cheese yield from these milks is very poor, and when the milk curds, most of it becomes whey. Thus, although it is theoretically possible to make cheese or butter from non-kosher milk, the halacha does not require one to be concerned about this. Rather, one may assume that a gentile would not adulterate this milk.

Rav Frank concludes that what permits the unsupervised milk used in cheese and butter is not that it is impossible to use non-kosher milk for this process, but that it is unlikely. Thus, he reasons, although one could powder non-kosher milk, the prohibition of chalav akum was limited to fluid milk and other products available in the days of Chazal which could easily be made from non-kosher milk. Since powdered milk did not exist in the days of Chazal, and since we are certain that standard, available powdered milk is of bovine origin, the prohibition against chalav akum does not apply to milk powder, just as it does not apply to butter and cheese.


Another responsum authored by Rav Frank (Shu’t Har Tzvi, Orach Chayim 1:9) discusses whether one fulfills the mitzvah of tzitzis with a four-cornered garment made of nylon. He discusses whether nylon should be comparable to leather, which is exempt from the mitzvah of tzitzis. Rav Frank concludes that leather is not obligated in tzitzis, because it is not woven. He then notes that there are two types of nylon garments, one made from woven nylon thread, which he rules would be required to have tzitzis, and one made from sheets of nylon, which are not woven and are therefore absolved from the mitzvah of tzitzis, just as leather is.


Why should drinking be permitted before one feeds one’s animals when it is forbidden to eat, and, according to many authorities, even to have a small snack? Rav Tzvi Pesach Frank (Shu”t Har Tzvi, Orach Chayim 1:90) provides two reasons for this distinction. First, suffering from thirst is far more uncomfortable than suffering from hunger, so the Torah did not require one to remain thirsty in order to make sure that the animals are fed. Second, the Torah forbade eating before feeding one’s animals out of concern that once one gets involved in eating, he may forget to feed his animals. Drinking does not create this concern, since it takes less time.


Rav Pesach Frank (Sefer Mikrai Kodesh, Hilchos Pesach vol. 2 pg. 206) permits the use of cottonseed oil on Pesach, and quotes that Rav Chayim Brisker permitted its use. Cottonseed is not a food at all and, also, does not grow in any way similar to grains, unlike canola that grows similar to the way grains grow. However, Dayan Yitzchak Weiss of the Eidah Hachareidis writes that he is uncertain whether cottonseed oil may be used on Pesach. He cites sources that the prohibition against kitniyos includes any item stored the way grain is stored and forbids eating any seeds, grains, or anything derived from them (Shu’t Minchas Yitzchok 3:138:2 and 4:114:3). As a result, many hechsherim in Eretz Yisroel, for example, the Eidah HaChareidis, treat cottonseed oil as kitniyos, whereas the prevalent practice in the United States allows it.


Here is another psak of Rav Frank:

“We just moved into a new house, and the only place where we can put a sukkah is in an area which is shaded by a fruit tree. May we chop down the tree, in order to have a place to build our sukkah?” Rav Frank analyzes the topic and is inclined to be lenient, reasoning that the performance of a mitzvah cannot be considered a destructive act. He concludes that one should have a gentile remove it, but not as an agent for a Jew (Shu’t Har Tzvi, Orach Chayim II #102).


Rav Menachem Kasher asked Rav Frank whether one could build an eruv in Manhattan. Rav Frank answered that he was not in a position to answer the question specifically, but that, in general, he was in favor of the concept (Shu’t Har Tzvi, Orach Chayim II #24). In this particular psak, he followed a position that was disputed by many of the famed poskim and gedolim of the New York area, including Rav Moshe Feinstein and Rav Aharon Kotler, both of whom published teshuvos to the contrary.

Rav Frank’s teshuvos tend to be on the short side, and are written by explaining the sources of the halachos involved and the basis of his psak in a very clear way. He does not quote many later sources, but, rather, explains clearly how to understand the central issue of the topic and prove why the approach he is following is correct.

Always learning, always clarifying halachos — to his last days, Rav Tzvi Pesach remained the leader of his people in Yerushalayim and the rest of the world. He passed away on 21 Kislev, 1960 (5721), after over half a century of dedicated learning and serving the Klal.


Nine and a Child

torah-1427213-639x479Since the beginning of parshas Tolados discusses the education of Yaakov and Esav, it is appropriate for us to discuss the topic of:

Nine and a Child

Question #1: Nine and a Chumash?

“A friend of mine once moved to a community where the local daily minyan was not that reliable. On a regular basis, services were conducted by having a ten-year old hold a chumash as the tenth man. Is there a basis for this practice?”

Question #2: Studying Chumash

“When the rishonim referred to a chumash, what did they mean? After all, they lived before the invention of the printing press.”


When Avraham prayed for the people of Sodom and its four sister cities, he asked Hashem to save them if forty-five righteous people lived among them, which Rashi (18:28) explains would be the equivalent of a minyan of righteous people per city: nine plus Hashem counting as the Tenth. Can one consider that there is a minyan present with a quorum of less than ten?

The basis of this topic is the Gemara (Brachos 47b-48a), which discusses whether one may conduct services requiring a minyan or a mezuman when one appears to be short of the requisite quorum. Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi ruled that if one has nine adults and a baby, one can bensch as if one has a minyan. Rav Huna stated that if one has nine adults present one can count the aron hakodesh to form a minyan. To this, Rav Nachman retorted, “Is the aron a person?” Rav Huna explained that he meant that there are situations in which a group of nine people can act as if they are a minyan. Rav Ami ruled that two great talmidei chachamim who sharpen one another in their halachic discussions can be considered the equivalent of three for a zimun. Rabbi Yochanan stated that a child who is almost bar mitzvah can be included as the third for a zimun. Some rishonim (Rabbeinu Yonah) quote a text that concludes that, on Shabbos, one can make a mezuman with two adults – with the day of Shabbos counting as the third “person.”

However, the Gemara concludes that we do not permit a mezuman with less than three adults or a minyan with less than ten — the only exception being that we can count a child for a zimun, if he is old enough to know to Whom we are reciting a brocha. Nevertheless, Rabbeinu Tam rules that one may rely on the above-quoted opinion of Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi that nine adults and a baby qualify as a minyan even for prayer (Tosafos, Brachos 48a). The Rivash feels that one should not follow the lenient approach, but rules that those who do rely on it can do so only when the child is at least nine years old (Shu’t Harivash #451). Others understand that a minor can be counted as the tenth man, but only if he is twelve years old, which halachah recognizes as an age of majority regarding oaths and vows (Rabbeinu Yonah). We should note that none of these authorities permit counting more than one child to complete a minyan.

Nine and a chumash

Tosafos (Brachos 48a s.v. Veleis) reports that some people counted a child holding a chumash as the tenth “man.” He then notes that Rabbeinu Tam criticized this approach, explaining that if we follow Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi’s opinion, a child qualifies as the tenth man even if he is not holding a chumash, and if we do not follow that opinion, counting a child holding a chumash is without halachic basis. Rabbeinu Tam explained further that even should one locate a statement of Chazal that a child holding a chumash completes a minyan, the ruling would mean a chumash as was commonly used in the days of Chazal, which comprised one of the five chumashim (Bereishis, Shemos, Vayikra, Bamidbar, or Devorim) of the Torah written as a scroll, similar in style and appearance to a small sefer Torah or a navi scroll used for reading the haftarah. However, in the time of Rabbeinu Tam, although chumashim were still handwritten, they were no longer written as scrolls, but were bound into books. Thus, there would be no basis to permit counting a child holding the type of chumash used in his era.

What is the source?

What is the source for this custom of counting a child with a chumash for a minyan? Rabbeinu Tam was unaware of any such source in the halachic literature that he knew. However, since the practice was widespread, the possibility existed that there was a halachic source somewhere. Bear in mind that in the days of the rishonim, all halachic material was handwritten, almost always on parchment, and that it was therefore very expensive and difficult to have access to seforim. (Rabbeinu Tam lived approximately 300 years before the invention of the printing press.) Rabbeinu Tam had such profound respect for this custom of Klal Yisroel that he assumed that there probably was a statement of Chazal somewhere, one that he had never seen, with a source for the custom. This is what the Gemara refers to as hanach lahem leyisroel, im ein nevi’im hein, bnei nevi’im hein (see Pesachim 66a), “allow Jews [to continue their practice], if they are no longer prophets, they are descended from prophets,” and their customs are based on solid foundations.

However, Rabbeinu Tam understood that should such a statement of Chazal exist permitting a child holding a chumash to be counted as the tenth, it would include only a chumash written as a scroll and would not apply to what existed in his day.

Later authorities note that having a child hold a sefer Torah would count as the tenth man, according to this custom. Furthermore, Rav Moshe Feinstein (Shu’t Igros Moshe, Orach Chayim 2:18) notes that the requirement of having the child hold a sefer Torah scroll would not require that it be a kosher sefer Torah. Even a sefer Torah that is invalid because some words are no longer legible would qualify as a holy scroll for the purpose of counting towards a minyan.

Do we permit a child+Torah?

Most rishonim rule that one cannot count a child as the tenth man even when he is holding a chumash or a Torah. For example, the Rambam (Hilchos Tefillah 8:4) rules that a minyan for prayer must be a minimum of ten men, although for bensching he allows that the tenth “man” be a child who is seven years old or more (Hilchos Brachos 5:7). This is based on his understanding of the conclusion of the Gemara (Brachos 48a) we quoted above that allows counting a child for a mezuman or minyan for bensching, and this forms the basis of Sefardic practice. However, regarding prayer the Rambam does not allow counting a child who is holding a chumash or a sefer Torah. Praying with a minyan requires ten adult men, no exceptions.

Nevertheless, the Tur mentions that “some permit the inclusion of one child with nine adults if they place a chumash in his hand.” The Tur then notes that his father, the Rosh, wrote that one should never count a child as part of a minyan or a mezuman. This Rosh is the main approach followed by Ashkenazim.

Kerias Hatorah

Some early authorities conclude that a minor cannot be counted as the tenth “man” of a minyan for bensching or for prayer, but can be counted to allow the reading of the Torah (Tashbeitz Katan #201). The reason for this distinction is that a minor can sometimes be given an aliyah to the Torah (see Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 282:3 and commentaries). Some authorities permit giving a child even one of the seven aliyos, and all authorities permit giving a child maftir and having him read the haftarah. Thus, for this mitzvah he is indeed considered a man.

The Magen Avraham (55:4; 690:24) cites this position of the Tashbeitz, but does not accept it, demonstrating that both the Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 143:1) and the Rema (Orach Chayim 690:18) do not accept the line of reasoning proposed by the Tashbeitz (see also Pri Megadim, Eishel Avraham 55:4).

Shulchan Aruch and Rema

In regard to prayer, the Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 55:4) concludes: “Some permit the recital of devarim she’be’kedusha [meaning kaddish, borchu, kedusha, reading of the Torah, etc.] when there are nine adults and one minor who is older than six years and understands to Whom we pray. However, this opinion is not accepted by the greatest of the authorities.” With these words, the Shulchan Aruch provides honorable mention to Rabbeinu Tam’s opinion that a child can count, on his own, as the tenth man, but he follows the majority of rishonim who reject it. The Rema comments that although one should not count a child as part of the minyan even if he is holding a chumash, there are those who permit it under extenuating circumstances.

Difference between bensching and davening

Some authorities note a curious reversal in the positions of the Shulchan Aruch and the Rema. The Shulchan Aruch rejects counting a child as the tenth man for tefillah (Orach Chayim 55:4), but accepts counting him as the tenth or third man for bensching purposes (Orach Chayim 199:10). This, of course, reflects the position of the Rambam and most Sefardic Rishonim.

On the other hand, although the Rema mentions the practice of counting a child as the tenth man under extenuating circumstances, he absolutely rejects counting him as the third or tenth for bensching (Orach Chayim 199:10). Thus, he accepts the Rosh’s ruling not to count a child as the third or tenth man for bensching, and cites a leniency only with regard to davening. This is strange, since the halachic sources imply that there is more basis to be lenient regarding bensching than there is regarding davening.

The Maharsham explains that the Rema rules that a minor can count as part of the minyan only if he holds a scroll, which to us would mean that he must hold a sefer Torah. In shul, one may take a sefer Torah out of the aron hakodesh and place it in a child’s arms in order to have a minyan. However, one would not be permitted to bring a sefer Torah to the dining room, and for this reason the Rema rules that one can never include a child in the count of a minyan or mezuman for bensching.

Later authorities

The Magen Avraham (55:5), whose opinion is highly respected by the later authorities, concludes that one may include one minor holding a chumash, but not more than one, to enable the recital of borchu, kedusha or a kaddish that is a required part of davening. However, when relying on a child to complete the minyan, one should not recite any of the kaddeishim at the end of davening (other than the full kaddish recited by the chazzan), since they are not obligatory. This means that when having a minyan of nine plus a child holding a sefer Torah, one may not recite kaddish after Aleinu, or after the shir shel yom.

After quoting this statement of the Magen Avraham, the Mishnah Berurah writes that many later authorities rule that one should not count a child as part of a minyan even under the limited circumstances established by the Magen Avraham. However, the Graz (Rav Shulchan Aruch 55:5) rules that one should not correct someone who completes a minyan under extenuating circumstances by counting a child at least six years old who understands to Whom we are davening, even if the child is not holding a chumash.

We should note that, although the Magen Avraham ruled that even those who are lenient permit the inclusion of only one child, a much earlier authority (Shu’t Min Hashamayim #53) ruled that one may include even two children, provided they are old enough to daven. He explains that since the mitzvah of davening with a community is rabbinic in origin, a child old enough to daven can be included in the count since he is also required to daven as part of his training in the performance of mitzvos (Mishnah, Brachos 20). (The obvious question is that this reasoning should permit counting more than two children, yet Shu’t Min Hashamayim permits only two, but we will leave this question for the moment.)

The shul in which I don’t daven!

In this context, it is highly educational to study two relatively recent cases recorded in the responsa literature. In the late nineteenth century, the Bruzhaner Rav, known also as the Maharsham, Rav Shalom Mordechai Hakohen Shvadron (the grandfather of Rav Shalom Shvadron, the famed maggid of Yerushalayim), was asked the following (Shu’t Maharsham 3:162): The only minyan in a small community in Hungary has been meeting for the past 25 years on Shabbos and Yom Tov in the house of a local wealthy individual. Recently, this individual has been insisting that they incorporate certain innovations in the davening, including changing the nusach of the “shul,” and requiring that the audience recite the entire davening extremely quietly and that not even amen should be answered aloud. The individual who owns the house where the minyan has been davening has now agreed to allow some members of the community to form their own separate minyan whereby they will be able to daven as they are accustomed. However, the group desiring to form their own shul has only nine adult men. Their question: May they lechatchilah begin their own shul, knowing that, according to most authorities, they will not have a minyan?

After listing many of the authorities who rule that they are forbidden to conduct services because they do not have a proper minyan, the Maharsham concludes that he is highly wary of the baal habayis of the original shul and therefore feels that they should rely on the lenient opinions and form their own minyan. He further concludes that they could rely on the opinion that, if necessary, upon occasion, they could have two children holding sifrei Torah to complete the minyan, thus ruling according to the above-quoted Tashbeitz and against the Magen Avraham. The Maharsham is the only late authority, of whom I am aware, who permits eight men plus two children to be considered a minyan.

Another responsum

Rav Moshe Feinstein was asked a similar question in which an established shul’s membership had dwindled to the point where there were only nine adults at its daily minyan. If the shul cannot count a child for the daily minyan, it will be forced to disband. Rav Moshe discusses whether they may continue their minyan notwithstanding the fact that there is another shul in the neighborhood, although it is a bit distant. Rav Moshe notes that although a majority of poskim contend that one should not allow the recital of kaddish, kedusha, etc. when there are less than ten adult men present, maintaining the existence of this shul is considered extenuating circumstance. Since the prohibition of reciting a davar she’be’kedusha without a minyan is only rabbinic, this extenuating circumstance would allow one to follow the minority opinion against the majority. He concludes that since the members of this shul may not make the trek to the other shul, and will also stop attending the shiurim provided in their current shul, the minyan should be continued.

Rav Moshe then raises a few practical questions. The Magen Avraham, upon whom Rav Moshe is relying, permits counting a child for the tenth man only if he is holding a sefer Torah. However, this creates two interesting halachic questions.

  1. One is not permitted to hold something while reciting shma and the shemoneh esrei, so how can the child be holding the sefer Torah then?
  2. While the sefer Torah is being held by someone who is standing, everyone is required to be standing, which means that the entire membership of this shul will be required to stand for the entire davening. (It appears that Rav Moshe understands that one may count the child for a minyan only when he is standing. I am unaware of the source for this ruling.) Therefore, Rav Moshe suggests that the sefer Torah be placed on a table, and that the child stand next to the sefer Torah with his hands holding the atzei chayim, the “handles” of the sefer Torah, which Rav Moshe considers equivalent to holding the sefer Torah.

Rav Moshe writes that it is preferable to have a 12-year-old child hold the sefer Torah, citing the authorities we quoted above who permit a 12-year old to be the tenth man of a minyan.

Rav Moshe recommends that the shul relying on these heterim not have a repetition of shemoneh esrei (chazaras hashatz). This is because reciting chazaras hashatz without a minyan present involves a brocha levatalah, a brocha in vain, which, according to some authorities is prohibited min hatorah. Rav Moshe rules that the chazzan should not recite the quiet the shemoneh esrei, but, instead, should wait until everyone has finished their shemoneh esrei and then he should recite his own shemoneh esrei aloud.


At this point, let us return to our opening question: “A friend of mine once moved to a community where the local daily minyan was not that reliable. On a regular basis, services were conducted by having a ten-year old hold a chumash as the tenth man. Is there a basis for this practice?”

If we follow Rav Moshe’s psak and consider it applicable to their situation, then a child should hold the atzei chayim of a sefer Torah that is placed on the table. Only the kaddeishim required according to halachah should be recited, and no mourner’s kaddish or kaddish derabbanan. The chazzan should preferably not recite his own quiet shemoneh esrei.

The Gemara teaches that Ein Hakadosh Baruch Hu mo’eis bitefillasan shel rabim, Hashem never despises the prayers of the community. Certainly, this should inspire all of us to daven with the tzibur whenever we can.


Uva Letziyon, a Precious Prayer

Chazal tell us that Yaakov’s davening was the introduction of tefilas Maariv, which sometimes includes Uva Letziyon. I therefore introduce:

Question #1: Why does the kedusha that we recite in Uva Letziyon include an Aramaic translation?

Question #2: Why does the Uva Letziyon kedusha quote a different pasuk, Hashem yimloch le’olam va’ed, instead of the third pasuk that we usually say for kedusha, Yimloch Hashem le’olam Elokayich tziyon ledor vador halelukah?

Question #3: If I am delayed in beginning the second Ashrei of the morning prayers, should I daven in order, or should I recite Uva Letziyon together with the tzibur and recite Ashrei later?


The greatest thing man can accomplish in life is to praise Hashem, and, indeed, all of our mitzvos and all of our studying Torah are different ways whereby we demonstrate homage to Hashem and fulfill His will. In addition, we actively praise Hashem in many places in our prayer, but, most particularly, when we recite Kaddish and Kedusha. The precious prayer Uva Letziyon, recited most frequently towards the end of the daily Shacharis, includes the Kedusha referred to as the Kedusha Desidra.

The importance of this prayer is manifest in the following incredible passage of Gemara:

Now that the Beis Hamikdash has been destroyed, with what merit does the world exist? The Kedusha Desidra and the Yehei Shmei Rabba recited after the weekly sermon (Sotah 49a with Rashi).

What is the special merit of these two prayers that gives them the ability to sustain the entire world? Both of these prayers involve two highly important mitzvos – studying Torah and praising Hashem – and both are performed by the entire community (Rashi ad loc.). It is presumably for this reason that the Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 132:1) emphasizes that one must be very careful to recite the Kedusha of Uva Letziyon with proper concentration. Furthermore, it is prohibited to leave shul until these passages are recited (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 132:2).

Why are these two mitzvos special? Through Torah study we understand a glimmer of the brilliant blueprint with which Hashem created the world. At the same time, reciting Kedusha and Kaddish is our praise in Hashem’s honor. By combining these two concepts, sanctifying Hashem’s name and studying His Torah, we literally maintain the world’s existence!

Rashi (Sotah 49a) explains that the Kedusha Desidra was established so that every Jew be involved in studying Torah each day, since the prayer includes passages that are immediately translated. Being recited both by scholarly Jews and unlettered ones is precisely the reason for its great worth.


The words of the Kedusha parallel the exalted, sublime praise recited by the angels. We recite Kedusha itself three times in three different forms during weekday Shacharis. The main Kedusha that we recite during the repetition of the Shemoneh Esrei consists essentially of three praises, first the words beginning with Kodosh, Kodosh, Kodosh, from the book of Yeshayahu (6:3), then the sentence Baruch kevod Hashem mimkomo from the book of Yechezkel (3:12), and then the words beginning with Yimloch, which are from Tehillim (146:10). The first two of these verses, Kodosh and Baruch, are the actual descriptions of the Prophets witnessing the angels praise Hashem.

Although when we recite Kedusha we are describing, or perhaps even mimicking, how the angels praise Hashem, the angels must wait for us, the Jews, to praise Hashem, so that they may begin their praise (Chullin 91b). Singing Hashem’s praises in this fashion demonstrates not only our ability to rise to the plane of the angels, but actually expresses our ability to supersede their level.

For this reason, we recite the main Kedusha standing, with our feet together like angels (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 125:2). We lift our bodies by tiptoeing at the beginning of the reciting of each of the three verses (Shla). Furthermore, one should look heavenward while reciting Kedusha (Rama), and some authorities rule that one should keep one’s eyes closed (Taz), although this approach is not universally accepted (Mishnah Berurah 125:6).

One should be careful to recite the Kedusha together with the tzibur, not earlier and not later (Mishnah Berurah 125:3). We rule that as long as one begins reciting each sentence while the tzibur is still reciting it, one is considered to have recited it together with the tzibur (Elyah Rabbah, cited by Bi’ur Halachah).

Why Three Kedushos?

Why do we recite the Kedusha a total of three times during our Shacharis? Would not one recital be sufficient?

The first Kedusha that we recite daily is an integral part of the long, first brochah of what we call the birchos kerias shma the brochos that accompany the recital of the morning shma.

Above, I mentioned the Gemara’s statement that the world exists in the merit of the Kedusha Desidra. The main focus is that every Jew should participate in the daily recital of Kedusha as part of the tzibur. At the time that this prayer was initiated, many of the less learned individuals who attended daily morning services were not concerned about arriving on time, and, consequently, missed the earlier kedushos. So that these Jews not be deprived of the merit of reciting Kedusha together with the community, Chazal instituted this prayer, Uva Letziyon (Avudraham).

Redemption before Kedusha

The main focus of this article is on the third Kedusha and the prayer that surrounds it, whose words begin Uva Letziyon. The beginning of the Uva Letziyon prayer introduces the Kedusha Desidra by reciting three verses. Why do these verses precede the Kedusha Desidra? The opening two are consecutive verses from the book of Yeshayahu, the first of which promises the future redemption, and the second of which refers to the covenant of the Torah.

We are about to complete our morning daily prayers, with which we hope to establish the “Torah-ness” of our day, and now we are embarking on our daily struggle for financial survival. Immediately prior to beginning this effort, we should be reminded that there will be a future redemption in which we are assured participation, provided that we maintain cognizance of our responsibility to Hashem (Hirsch).

The second verse begins with the words, va’ani zos berisi osam amar Hashem…

Hashem says: “As for Me, this treaty I have made with them.” However, as Rav Hirsch notes, the verse should then say va’ani zos berisi itam, with them, an indirect object, and not osam, which is a direct object. The word osam implies that the treaty is not simply with the Jews, but that the Jews are the object of the treaty – the bris is the very essence of what the Jews are — we exist because we are Hashem’s People. Thus, the second verse reminds us that our raison d’etre is to be Hashem’s People, and that this sensitivity should remain with us as we begin the day’s mundane activities and throughout the ensuing day.

The third verse, which reads ve’ato kodosh yosheiv tehilos Yisroel, is from Tehillim (22:4), and means that Hashem awaits the praises of the Jewish People (Avudraham). As I mentioned before, the angels must wait until the Jews begin saying the Kedusha before they may begin their praises. The Jewish People are the sole bearers of the recognition of Hashem for all of Mankind (Hirsch). Thus, this verse is an obvious lead into our shira to Hashem.

Closing of Uva Letziyon

After we recite the Kedusha, we recite a verse from Divrei Hayamim to verbalize the request that the recital of Kedusha bring us closer to Hashem and repair our hearts. We then include prayers for Divine assistance in learning to fear Hashem.

This last request raises a question: How can we ask Hashem to help us fear Him? After all, everything is in G-d’s hands except for the fear of G-d, which is in our hands. Thus, this is the one item that we should not ask from Hashem, but should assume responsibility for, ourselves!

The answer is that we ask Hashem for His assistance in our learning to fear Him – we start on the road and request His help in continuing (Avudraham). As the Midrash states, “Hashem said to Israel: ‘My sons, merely open for me an opening for teshuvah as large as the eye of a needle, and I will expand for you openings wide enough for wagons to drive through'” (Shir Hashirim Rabba 5:2).

Why Aramaic?

With this background to the prayer, we can now begin exploring the answers to our opening questions. The first question was: Why does this Kedusha include an Aramaic translation?

At the time that this prayer was established, the familiar language spoken by Jews was Aramaic, and some of the common people did not understand Hebrew. For this reason, several other parts of our liturgy specifically intended for everyone’s comprehension were also written in Aramaic. The most common instance of this is the Kaddish (see Tosafos, Brochos 3a s.v. Ve’onin), but note, also, ha lachma anya in the Pesach Seder, which includes a personal invitation to any Jew to join the Seder, and the kohen’s question to the father of a firstborn at a pidyon haben, mai ba’is tefei. With the same goal in mind, at the time of the Gemara each verse read during the kerias haTorah was immediately followed by the Targum translation, an observance that we no longer follow, since the average person no longer understands Aramaic. A vestige of this practice remains when we recite the Akdamus praise on Shavuos as part of the kerias haTorah. (By the way, some Yemenite communities still follow this practice of reciting the Targum after each pasuk during kerias haTorah.)

For the same reason, since the Kedusha Desidra was instituted to include the unlettered, it was accompanied by the traditional Aramaic translation, so that everyone who read it would understand it (Tur; Avudraham).

It is also important to note that the Targum is not simply a translation of the verses, but serves as a commentary. For example, the Targum that we recite to the verse Kodosh, Kodosh, Kodosh, which is from Targum Yonasan, teaches that the repetition of the word kodosh is not to show how holy Hashem is (three increasing levels of sanctity), but that His Holiness exists in the highest Heavens, in the earth that He created, and forever.

Why Yimloch?

The second question asked above was: Why does the Kedusha of Uva Letziyon quote a different verse, Hashem Yimloch Le’olam Va’ed (Shemos 15:18) rather than the verse that we recite for Kedusha in the repetition of the Shemoneh Esrei? With a bit of an introduction, we will discover that the answer to this second question is also linked to the basic theme of why we recite the Kedusha Desidra. Let us first study a related passage of Gemara:

Onkelos the Convert composed the translation of the Torah that he had been taught by Rabbi Eliezer and Rabbi Yehoshua. Yonasan ben Uziel composed the translation of Nevi’im that he had been taught by Chaggai, Zecharyah and Malachi [the Last Prophets], and the Land of Israel trembled 400 parsah by 400 parsah. A Heavenly voice emerged, declaring, “Who is it that revealed My secrets to mankind?” Yonasan ben Uziel stood up and declared, “It is I who revealed Your secrets to mankind. It is revealed and well-known before You that I did this not for my honor nor for the honor of my father’s household, but only for Your honor – to decrease contention in Israel.”

He [Yonasan ben Uziel] also wanted to reveal the translation of the Kesuvim. A Heavenly voice emerged, declaring, “You have done enough!”

What is the reason [not to translate the Kesuvim]? Because it contains the End of Days – the arrival of the Moshiach (Megillah 3a). (The translation published on Kesuvim called Targum Yonasan is of unknown, but definitely much later, origin, and was certainly not written by Yonasan ben Uziel. It does not carry the imprimatur of an old, accepted translation.)

With the background that this Gemara provides, I can now explain why the Kedusha Desidra includes a different verse to praise Hashem’s Kingship. In the Kedusha recited during the repetition of Shemoneh Esrei, the third verse, beginning with the word Yimloch, is from Tehillim, which is part of Kesuvim and therefore has no traditional Targum translation. As mentioned above, the main purpose for reciting Kedusha Desidra is to include the entire Jewish population – including even the unlettered, who required an Aramaic translation. Since the sentence beginning with the word Yimloch was without a Targum, a different verse, Hashem yimloch le’olam va’ed, that conveys the same concept, Hashem’s Monarchy, is substituted, because it is a pasuk in Chumash and therefore has a Targum Onkelos (Avudraham).

What should we recite aloud?

The fact that this verse is from Chumash, whereas the two preceding verses are from the Prophets, became the cause of some interesting practices. The Avudraham mentions a custom, rejected by the halachic authorities, to recite the entire Kedusha Desidra quietly, to avoid calling attention to the fact that Hashem yimloch le’olam va’ed is mentioned last, although as a verse from Chumash, it has greater sanctity than the two passages from the Prophets. Although the majority of halachic authorities rule that all three Kedusha verses should be recited aloud (Mishnah Berurah 132:4), other sources mention a custom of reciting only the two pesukim of Kodosh and Baruch aloud – but not Yimloch, which was recited quietly – again to avoid calling attention to the fact that this verse is not recited until after the words of the prophets (Avudraham).

Aramaic out loud

There is a dispute among the authorities as to whether the Aramaic translations may be said audibly. The Beis Yosef (Orach Chayim 59) explains that, according to the Zohar, these passages are not to be said aloud, and the Rama (132:1) also rules this way. However, the authorities quote that the Arizal was not concerned about this and interpreted the Zohar in a different way. Most communities follow the practice of the Beis Yosef and the Rama and recite these passages quietly.

Kedusha Desidra with the Tzibur

At this point, we can address the third question asked above: “If I am delayed in beginning the second Ashrei, should I daven in order, or recite Uva Letziyon together with the tzibur and recite Ashrei later?”

Since the whole thrust of Uva Letziyon is that the angels wait until we collectively sing shira, every individual should participate in this recital. Therefore, except for someone who is at a place in the prayer where there should be no interruption, everyone should join for the recital of Uva Letziyon and certainly for the refrains. For this reason, the Magen Avraham (Introduction to 132) rules that someone who has not yet davened and finds himself with a tzibur who are ready to recite the Kedusha Desidra should join them in their recital (cf., however, Shaar Hatziyun 132:3), and certainly that someone who is a bit behind the tzibur should skip ahead to recite the Kedusha Desidra together with the tzibur and recite Ashrei afterwards.

We should note that there is a major dispute among the Rishonim whether one may recite the Kedusha Desidra and the Kedusha of the Birchos Kerias Shma without a minyan. The conclusion of most authorities is that one may recite these two kedushos without a minyan. However, one should strive to recite them with a minyan whenever possible.

On Shabbos and Yom Tov

On Shabbos and Yom Tov, Uva Letziyon is not recited in the morning at all. Instead, its recital is postponed to Mincha. This is because the late-arriving individuals who were the reason for the takkanah of the Kedusha Desidra arrived early enough on Shabbos to daven Shacharis with the tzibur and be present for the Kedusha. Instead, Chazal postponed the recital of Uva Letziyon to Mincha because there was a weekly drosha on Shabbos afternoon, attended also by the amei ha’aretz, that closed with words of hope about the future redemption, the sanctity of the Kedusha and our role in praising Hashem – so the drosha naturally led into the prayer Uva Letziyon (Avudraham). Others provide a slightly different reason for postponing Uva Letziyon to Mincha – since the Shabbos morning davening is fairly long, Chazal postponed Uva Letziyon (Siddur Vilna, quoting Orchos Chayim).

Kedusha at Night

Aside from the daily dose of Uva Letziyon, there are three occasions when we recite this prayer at night. Those three occasions are Motza’ei Shabbos, after reading the Megillah on Purim, and after reading Eicha on Tisha B’Av.

Why Motza’ei Shabbos?

The reason why this prayer is recited on Motza’ei Shabbos is because this is when the deceased evildoers who now inhabit gehennom return there. To ease their plight a bit, we add this prayer, which somewhat delays their return to gehennom.

When this prayer is recited at night, the accepted custom is to omit its two opening verses (those from the Book of Yeshayahu) and begin with the words Ve’ata Kodosh. This is because reciting the words Uva letziyon goel, and the redeemer will come to Tzion, as a prayer, is inappropriate at night. Recital of these words as a prayer at night implies that we are hiding the salvation and the freedom from bondage that Hashem will bring. On the contrary, this redemption will happen in broad daylight.

Why on Purim and Tisha B’Av?

On Purim night we recite this prayer immediately after completing Megillas Esther, expressing the manifestation of Hashem’s Kedusha that resulted from our redemption. We recite this prayer on the night of Tisha B’Av, both because it is a special time to pray for the ultimate redemption and because it is a consolation that deliverance will come (see Abudraham and Aruch Hashulchan 693:1).


We now understand why the prayer Uva Letziyon is so important. Let us all now strive to recite it with the appropriate respect and focus.


Hodu – Our Daily Thanks

In commemoration of the thanks recited by Eliezer, we will study:

The Daily Hodu Prayer

Question #1: “Why does Nusach Ashkenaz recite Baruch She’amar before Hodu, whereas Nusach Sfard recites Hodu first?”

Question #2: “I noticed that there are sections of Tehillim that are very similar to Hodu. Why are there noticeable differences between these parts of Tehillim and Hodu?”

Question #3: “The Hodu that is in the book of Tehillim is divided between two chapters, Chapters 105 and 96. Why do we combine them when we daven?”

The beautiful praise to Hashem that begins with the words Hodu lashem ki tov, which we recite as part of the daily morning prayers, is a quote from the Divrei Hayamim book of Tanach, with a concluding selection of other verses. Nusach Ashkenaz recites Hodu immediately after Baruch She’amar, as the first part of Pesukei Dezimra, the Biblical praises of Hashem that we recite every morning, whereas Nusach Sfard recites it prior to Baruch She’amar. I will explain, shortly, the basis for these differing customs, why we recite Hodu daily and the historical context within which it was originally written. This will provide both an education and inspiration about our history, our prayers and our customs, in addition to answering all the above questions.

Historical Background

Allow me to first trace the background of the events that led to the writing of Hodu. Let us return, in history, to the first prophecy of the prophet Shmuel, who is still a child, and is being raised and educated by Eili Hakohen. Eili was already quite advanced in years, and he had handed over the running of the Mishkan, then in Shiloh, to his two sons, who had, unfortunately, abused the authority granted them. Eili admonished them for their wrongdoing, but they ignored his rebuke (Shmuel I 2:22-25).

One fateful night, while the lad Shmuel was asleep, Hashem appeared to him, telling him that a major catastrophe would befall the Jewish People, one that would include the destruction of Eili’s sons. The following morning, Eili, who knew that Shmuel had received Divine communication during the night, insisted that Shmuel tell him all the gruesome details of the prophecy. When Eili heard the prediction, he responded, He is Hashem. He will do what is good in His Eyes (Shmuel I 3:18), thereby accepting Hashem’s judgment.

A short time later, the Jews went to war against the Pelishtim (the Philistines). The first day’s battle went very badly for the Jews, and included the loss of about four thousand slain on the battlefield.

The elders of the Jews then decided to get the aron from Shiloh and bring it into battle with them, to save them from their enemies (Shmuel I 4:3-4). When the aron arrived in the Jewish camp, they sounded a great shofar blast. The Pelishtim discovered that the aron was now in the Jews’ camp, and they were petrified, knowing what Hashem had done to the Egyptians many years before (Shmuel I 4:5-9).

The Aron is captured!

However, the next day’s battle was catastrophic for the Jews. Over thirty thousand fell, including Eili’s sons, and the aron was captured by the Pelishtim (Shmuel I 4:11-12).

The Pelishtim took the captured aron to Ashdod, then a Pelishti city, to the temple that housed their main deity, Dagon, and placed the aron alongside their idol. The first morning, they discovered the statue of Dagon fallen over, which they proceeded to upright. The second morning, Dagon’s statue had fallen again, but this time it was badly damaged. In addition, the residents of Ashdod and its suburbs had become plagued with a serious and extremely painful medical condition. The Ashdodians refused to continue harboring the aron, requesting direction from the leaders of the Pelishtim as to what to do with it. The Pelishti leaders decided to move the aron to their main city of Gath.

However, upon the arrival of the aron in Gath, the people there were struck with the same health problem that had previously plagued Ashdod. Subsequently, the Pelishtim decided to move the aron to a third Pelishti city, Ekron, but the Ekronites refused to allow it to enter their town. The Pelishtim then decided that the aron was too dangerous to hold onto, and that they would therefore return it to the Jews. In the interim, while the Pelishtim prepared an appropriate gift to Hashem to accompany the return of the aron, they kept it in a field that was outside any city, so that its presence would not harm anyone. The Pelishtim then prepared a gold offering to placate Hashem for having taking His aron and for having treated it disrespectfully. They then loaded the aron onto a wagon pulled by two cows and sent it on its way, apparently unaccompanied by any individual. The cows proceeded with their precious cargo towards the city of Beit Shemesh, a Jewish town (Shmuel I 5:1-6:12).

Unfortunately, the people of Beit Shemesh, also, did not treat the aron with adequate respect and, as a result, many of them died. The Jews then moved the aron to Kiryas Ye’arim, to the house of a man named Avinadav, where it was treated with proper respect. The aron remained in Avinadav’s house for twenty years (Shmuel I 6:19-7:2).

The aron is moved

Twenty years later, and much has transpired. Shmuel has gone to his eternal reward. Shaul has become king, lost his right to the monarchy, and fallen in battle. David is now king of Israel. He plans a gala celebration to move the aron from its current location in Avinadav’s house to Yerushalayim. David consults with all the leaders of the Jewish people and gathers 30,000 select men from the length and breadth of the country to participate in the festivities.

However, the event is marred. At one point during the transportation of the aron, it appeared to be slipping from its place, and Uzza, the son of Avinadav, grabbed the aron to prevent it from falling (Shmuel II 6:1-7; Divrei Hayamim I 13). However, this was halachically and philosophically a gross error, since the aron does not require being carried – on the contrary, the aron carries those who carry it (Rashi, Shmuel II 6:7). Uzza died as a result.

David cancelled his plans to move the aron to Yerushalayim that day, and instead, he diverted it, temporarily, to the house of a Levi named Oveid Edom. During the three months that the aron remained in Oveid Edom’s house, his household received much blessing, thus demonstrating that Hashem was not angry at David or the Jewish people. Thus, David decided that the time was now right to move the aron to Yerushalayim, as he had originally planned. Amidst much dancing and jubilation, the aron was transported to Yerushalayim (Shmuel II 6:12-19).

As part of this celebration, David arranged for Asaf, the Levi, and his brothers to sing a unique, ecstatic song of thanks to Hashem, specially written by David in honor of the joyous occasion (Divrei Hayamim I 16:7). (This same Asaf is the author of numerous psalms of praise to Hashem, see Tehillim 50 and 74-83.) The song that David wrote for this special occasion (Divrei Hayamim I 16:8-36) begins with the words Hodu lashem ki tov, and it forms the foundation of the prayer that we recite every morning. We will shortly analyze the thrust of this beautiful prayer.

Why Daily?

Why do we recite this song every day?

Among the beautiful and ancient Midrashic literature that Klal Yisroel possesses is the early, revered work Seder Olam, which the Gemara (Yevamos 82b) attributes to none other than the esteemed Tanna Rabbi Yosi ben Chalafta, one of the greatest disciples of Rabbi Akiva. In an era that included outstanding Tannaim – Rabbi Shimon ben Yochai, the author of the Zohar, Rabbi Meir baal ha’nes, the prolific Rabbi Yehudah (ben Illa’ei), who was honored to always speak first ahead of the other great scholars of his generation (Shabbos 33b et al.), and Rabban Shimon ben Gamliel, the head of the Sanhedrin – Rabbi Yosi’s halachic opinion is preeminent, even at times when he is in the minority (Eruvin 46b). As the Gemara states, Halacha kerabbi Akiva meichaveiro, ukerabbi Yosi meichaveirav, the halacha is according to Rabbi Akiva when he disagrees with any other individual scholar, and according to Rabbi Yosi even when he disagrees with more than one scholar (Eruvin 46b).

The Seder Olam (Chapter 14) records that, for 43 years, from the time that the aron was moved to Yerushalayim until the Beis Hamikdash was built by Shlomoh Hamelech, the first fifteen verses of the song Hodu were performed to accompany the offering of the daily Tamid every morning, and the next fourteen verses accompanied the afternoon Tamid. Based on this Seder Olam, it became common practice to recite this song of praise, Hodu, every morning to commemorate this ancient practice (Orchos Chayim, quoted by Beis Yosef, Orach Chayim, Chapter 50; Tur, Orach Chayim Chapter 51).

Before Baruch She’amar or after?

At this point, we can address the first question that was asked above:

“Why does Nusach Ashkenaz recite Baruch She’amar before Hodu, whereas Nusach Sfard recites Hodu first?”

The Orchos Chayim already notes that in his day, there were two customs, one of reciting Hodu before Baruch She’amar and the other approach of reciting it after. Even a terse reading of Hodu certainly explains why one would include it in the Pesukei Dezimra, since it is a beautiful praise of Hashem. But why recite it before Baruch She’amar?


To explain this practice, I need to present a small introduction. The part of davening immediately before Baruch She’amar is called korbanos. It includes recital of the Torah verses that illustrate some of the daily procedures in the Mishkan\Beis Hamikdash, the chapter of Mishnayos beginning with the words Eizehu Mekomam, which categorize and explain the different types of korbanos offered, and then concludes with the teaching beginning with the words Rabbi Yishmael omer. One of the reasons why we recite these Torah verses and Mishnah towards the beginning of our daily davening is so that we can fulfill the verse Uneshalmah parim sefaseinu, our lips should replace the bulls (Hoshea 14:3), which, in this context means that our prayers should be adequate substitutes for the offerings. (Bulls are mentioned specifically, since they are the most expensive offerings [Ibn Ezra ad loc.].) This is true even more so today, when we cannot offer korbanos as long as the Beis Hamikdash remains in ruin, and therefore the closest we can come to offering korbanos is to recite the passages about them.

We can now explain why Nusach Sfard recites the Hodu prayer before Baruch She’amar. Its position there acts as a climax to the recital of the korbanos. Although we are unable to sing shirah to accompany the korban Tamid, we can nevertheless praise Hashem with the same words that were recited then. Thus, this prayer is a sequel to korbanos and should be recited prior to Baruch She’amar.

Korbanos or Pesukei Dezimra?

On the other hand, Nusach Ashkenaz recites the Hodu as part of our Pesukei Dezimra, the part of our daily prayer, whose title literally translates as Verses of Song. The same great scholar mentioned above, Rabbi Yosi, declared his yearning to receive the extraordinary reward granted to those who recite the Pesukei Dezimra daily (Shabbos 118b).

Similarity to Tehillim

At this point, we can explain the second question that I raised above:

“I noticed that there are sections of Tehillim that are very similar to Hodu. Why are there noticeable differences between these parts of Tehillim and Hodu?”

The passages of Hodu are from Divrei Hayamim — and they are very similar to passages in Tehillim. The first part of Hodu, that which was sung to accompany the morning Tamid, is almost identical to the first fifteen verses of Tehillim Chapter 105. The second part of Hodu, which was sung to accompany the afternoon Tamid, bears much similarity to the 96th Chapter of Tehillim. Why would David have written two versions of these passages that are so similar, yet with some minor changes between them?

How are these verses different?

Let us begin by noting the differences that exist between the otherwise identical first fifteen verses of Hodu and the first fifteen verses of Tehillim Chapter 105.

There are several very minor changes between the two passages that do not affect the translation in any significant way. Therefore, whichever David wrote first (we have no way of knowing whether he wrote these parts of Divrei Hayamim first or these chapters of Tehillim), when he wrote the second passage, he decided to modify it slightly, and there could be any number of reasons why he chose to do so. For example, he uses a different form for the Hebrew equivalent of the word his mouth. Whereas Divrei Hayamim uses the poetic and less common pihu, Tehillim uses the more common piv. Another seemingly insignificant change is whether Yitzchak’s name is spelled with the letter tzadi, as it usually is (as it is in Tehillim 105), or in the irregular way with the letter sin (Yischak), as Divrei Hayamim spells it.

Avraham or Yisrael?

Three of the differences between Divrei Hayamim and Tehillim are relatively significant: The Divrei Hayamim version calls upon zera Yisrael, avdo bnei Yaakov bechirav — the offspring of Yisrael, his servant, the children of Yaakov his chosen ones — to sing the joyous hymn, whereas Tehillim says, zera Avraham, avdo, bnei Yaakov bechirav, the offspring of Avraham, his servant, the children of Yaakov his chosen ones, mentioning the children of Avraham in the first part of the verse rather than those of Yisrael.

A second, even more significant dissimilarity occurs two verses later, where Divrei Hayamim commands the Jews: zichru le’olam beriso, remember His covenant forever, whereas Tehillim says zachar le’olam beriso, He [that is, Hashem] remembered His covenant forever. Thus, in Tehillim both the subject and tense of the verb are shifted, which now transforms this pasuk from being a commandment to the Jewish people to observe their covenant with Hashem, as it is in Divrei Hayamim, into a praise of Hashem for keeping His end of the bargain.

A third, less significant, change occurs four verses later when Divrei Hayamim states that Hashem promised the Land of Canaan to the Jewish people, biheyosechem mesei mispar, when you were but few in number, which in Tehillim appears as biheyosam mesei mispar, when they were but few in number, speaking not to the Jews, but about them.

The explanation for these variations appears to lie in the differences in the roles that David Hamelech intended these fifteen pesukim to play in the two, respective places. Tehillim Chapter 105 consists of 45 verses, and therefore, the first 15, which are so similar to the Hodu of Divrei Hayamim, are really an introduction or first section of a longer whole. The entirety of that Chapter of Tehillim is to articulate the praises to Hashem for fulfilling all that He promised to Avraham Avinu. The main thought of this praise is that we are to recognize what Hashem has done for us. All of world history was planned and arranged by Him for the purpose of creating the Jewish nation. Its emphasis is thanks to Hashem for what He has already done. We therefore praise Hashem that He remembered His covenant forever. It is also appropriate to refer to the Jews in third person, when they were but few in number. And, since the entire Psalm praises Hashem for fulfilling all that He promised to Avraham Avinu, it is appropriate to describe the Jewish people as zera Avraham, avdo, the offspring of Avraham.

However, when we use these same fifteen verses as an introduction to the rest of Hodu, they function as an exhortation to praise Hashem for making the Jews unique among all the nations of the world. Once we understand this point, then the changes made by David, himself, in the two passages become self-explanatory. Divrei Hayamim commands the Jews: zichru le’olam beriso, remember His covenant forever. (See the essay by Rav Moshe Eisemann, included on page 431 of the Artscroll Divrei Hayamim.) Similarly, Divrei Hayamim is talking to the Jews, and it is therefore appropriate to say biheyosechem mesei mispar, when you were but few in number. And, certainly, we understand why, when Jews are praising Hashem for making us unique among the nations, we emphasize zera Yisrael, the offspring of Yisrael, his servant – since we are not the exclusive offspring of Avraham.


At this point, we can address the third question that I raised above: “When Hodu is quoted in Tehillim, it is divided between two different chapters, Chapters 105 and 96. Why do we combine them when we daven?”

Although the content of Hodu strongly overlaps with the content of those two chapters of Tehillim, there is a difference in emphasis between the role of the chapters of Tehillim and the praise of Divrei Hayamim. Here, in our prayer we use the version of the Hodu as it was used when transporting the aron, and when the shira was sung to accompany the daily korban tamid prior to the building of the Beis Hamikdash.

Rav Hirsch, in his Commentary on the Siddur notes that Hodu was the shira sung when the aron was in “galus” – when it was located in a temporary place. Thus, Hodu was added to our prayers as praise to Hashem when we are in galus. This is so that we remember that we are required to prove our legitimate right as bearers of Hashem’s Name, and that we continue to declare His works and sovereignty – specifically, when it is not popular for us to do so in our current environment.


The Gadol of Sochatchov-Baltimore, Part II

Question #1: How was a chassidishe gadol instrumental in creating one of the most prominent Litvishe yeshivos?

Question #2: How did the same gadol make his parnasah during the Great Depression?

Question #3: Who was Rav Gifter’s first rebbe, someone with whom he kept an active correspondence for almost thirty years?

Last week, I began the biographical introduction of the life of an almost unknown gadol beYisrael named Rav Michael Forschleger, whose 57th yahrzeit falls on the fifteenth of Marcheshvan. We mentioned that although Rav Forschleger was asked to become the Rosh Yeshivah of well-known yeshivos, he never took a position in either rabbonus or as a Rosh Yeshivah, content to spend his life learning and writing his voluminous chiddushei Torah. Nevertheless, he was highly influential in his own original way. In last week’s installment, we began from Rav Forschleger’s birth in a small town in southwestern Poland, through his education in the Sochatchover yeshivah, and followed him on his travels to Baltimore, Maryland after World War I. There, he made his house into his beis medrash, while he was supported by his father, who had developed a successful real estate business.

Rav Forschleger was known for learning non-stop, sometimes forgetting to sleep. When he did sleep, he slept for only a few hours. There are several stories of gedolei Yisroel who came to Baltimore for fund raising and visited Rav Forschleger, and the two talked in learning through the night, without either one realizing the passage of time.

In 1930, Rav Avraham Yitzchok Bloch, the Rosh Yeshivah of Telz, Lithuania, came to Baltimore to raise money for his yeshivah. Rav Bloch stayed in the house of one of the rabbonim in the city, and, one evening, he had prearranged that he would return early. Rav Bloch did not return to the house that evening, and the host searched for him, to no avail, finally filing a missing-person’s report with the Baltimore Police. At 2 a.m., Rav Bloch returned to his lodging, unaware that he been the source of much consternation, but aglow with the Torah he had just heard from Rav Forschleger for hours. It was only then that Rav Bloch realized that he had been “talking in learning” with Rav Forschleger for eight consecutive hours!

Rav Forschleger never owned a telephone – even in the 1950’s  – because of the bitul Torah that owning one might entail. Once, he and Rav Yaakov Ruderman, the Rosh Yeshivah of Ner Yisroel, were discussing a matter in learning, and Rav Ruderman asked Rav Forschleger a question to which neither of them had a satisfactory answer. At 2:00 a.m., Rav Ruderman received a phone call from Rav Forschleger, with an approach to answering the question. When asked how he could make a phone call at that hour of night, Rav Forschleger responded that he could not wait until morning to tell Rav Ruderman, so he went to the nearest bar to use the payphone!

Rav Forschleger was sitting shivah for the passing of one of his siblings when Rav Ruderman came to be menacheim aveil, accompanied by his brother-in-law, Rabbi Naftali Neuberger and his son-in-law, Rav Yaakov Weinberg. Three hours later, Rav Forschleger was still discussing divrei torah with them, in the interim having forgotten that he was in aveilus and prohibited to learn Torah.

Appreciation for learning

In 1942, when Rav Chayim Zimmerman published his work Binyan Halachah, he came to Baltimore to sell his new sefer. Rav Forschleger purchased it from Rav Zimmerman. The next day, Rav Zimmerman came by Rav Forschleger’s house to discuss with him a topic in learning, and Rav Forschleger paid him a second time. “Last night I went through your sefer, and I found in it a profound observation. By thinking about your question, I was mechadeish an entire work of my own. I want to demonstrate my hakaras hatov for this.”

Rav Forschleger had a shitah in Torah that every thought, idea, of a great Torah mind will find its place. This means that even if one feels that an answer one finds is not accurate or relevant in the context cited by that particular gadol, one will find that the concept is applicable in a different area of halachah.

Rav Forschleger and olam hazeh

Olam hazeh held no interest for Rav Forschleger. There are several instances recorded when, while talking in learning with someone, he would pick up a sefer to show a point, and large amounts of dollars would fall out of the sefer. Rav Forschleger had no idea how the money got there, nor did he take notice or pay any heed to the money. After all, what permanent value does it have?

No one is certain where these moneys came from. The assumption is that during the years that he was without parnasah (to be explained shortly), members of the Baltimore community visited him to give him money, which he placed in the sefer he was then using, so as not to be distracted.

A seforim store once heard that Rav Forschleger owned a full set of the sefer Heichal Haberacha of the Komarna rebbe. At the time, the seforim were unavailable, and the store offered Rav Forschleger $5000 for the set, at the time enough money to purchase a small house! Rav Forschleger could not fathom how someone could part with potential olam haba for something related only to olam hazeh.


At the same time, he was well aware of how far the local Jews were from their Jewish roots. Once, when a questioner inquired how long he should say kaddish for his father, Rav Forschleger answered “twelve months.” Afterwards, a talmid chacham who was present asked Rav Forschleger why he ruled that one should say kaddish for twelve months, when the halachah is that one stops after eleven months? To this, Rav Forschleger replied: “Does it bother you that a Jew wears tefillin for an extra month?”

A proud Chassid

Proud of his chassidus, he would eagerly share with Litvishe talmidei chachamim pieces of Shem Mi’shmuel and other great works of chassidus, to show them the depth and brilliance of thought.

His library

In the course of his decades in America, Rav Forschleger built up a huge, private library of some 7000 seforim. As many people saw, he knew the contents of the works in his library by heart! There are numerous stories of people removing seforim at random from his shelves, beginning a quotation somewhere in the sefer, and him completing  the rest of the page from memory!

The founding of Yeshivas Ner Yisroel

In the 1930’s, Rav Forschleger was instrumental in laying much of the groundwork for Yeshivas Ner Yisroel. Rav Forschleger decided that the time had come for there to be a yeshivah gedolah in Baltimore, and he made a very large contribution to Rav Ruderman – specifying that the money was not for the kollel in Cleveland, with which Rav Ruderman was then associated, but to build a yeshivah in Baltimore! Rav Forschleger then arranged a position for Rav Ruderman to become the rav of a shul in Baltimore, called Tiferes Yisroel, with two goals in mind. The shul would provide the Rosh Yeshivah with an honorable livelihood, and the shul’s facilities would be used to house the nascent yeshivah that its rav would open.

The founding of Ner Yisroel did play an advantage for Rav Forschleger. Although he never held a position in the yeshivah and continued to do his learning at home, for the 26 years that the yeshivah existed until Rav Forschleger’s passing, Rav Ruderman encouraged talmidim of the yeshivah to visit him to discuss their learning with him and to understand and appreciate what a gadol batorah is. For his part, Rav Forschleger encouraged them to learn not only Gemara, but also to delve into sifrei machshavah and kabbalah, to expand their learning horizons and to develop their relationship with Hashem. Bear in mind that the talmidim who arrived in Ner Yisroel in his day were American boys from typical American homes – and many were from homes that were not even shomer Shabbos!

At the same time, he related to them that a young yeshivah bachur must have only one goal in life: to learn Torah. He said that in Sochatchov they did not allow the bachurei yeshivah to attend the tishin of the rebbe, since this would take away from their single-minded goal of growing in learning. The Sochatchover rebbe told the talmidei hayeshiva that the best preparation for yomim nora’im was to study during the aseres yemei teshuvah the mesechtos of Yoma and Sukkah, quoting from both Zohar and the writings of the Ari to demonstrate this.

A Purim story

One Purim, when talmidim came to visit him, he asked them for questions related to what they were learning. One talmid asked him a question about the laws of Pesach. Rav Forschleger proceeded to explain the topic, with new chiddushim on related topics, for over three consecutive hours without pause. Finally, his rebbitzen entered the room to remind him that they had as yet not eaten the purim seudah. He was so absorbed in this learning that he did not hear her! Five minutes before sunset, she succeeded in attracting his attention, and all the assembled washed netilas yadayim to begin the Purim seudah.


Rav Forschleger and his family were indeed supported by his father’s real estate business for many years after they arrived in Baltimore. However, the great depression that wiped out so many businesses also wiped out his father’s business. Once again, the Forschleger family was without support, and Rav Forschleger sought different possibilities of employment. He, of course, stood out with his beard and his demeanor. He consistently refused to receive gifts or to seek any rabbinic position for parnasah.

At this point, some local baalei batim asked him to give a daily Gemara shiur for them, so that they could provide him with some honorable livelihood. The shiur he gave was simply basic pshat in the Gemara. Later, he began giving a shiur in Mishnayos to baalei batim in a different shul. Here, you had a man who was sent halachic and hashkafic inquiries from the greatest gedolei Yisroel, and yet was content with giving shiurim in basic Gemara and Mishnayos to ordinary, non-yeshivah educated baalei batim!

Well over twenty years later, the “leadership” of one of the shuls in which he gave a daily shiur decided to remove the mechitzah and change its affiliation to Conservative. Rav Forschleger fought, unsuccessfully, to prevent this from happening, but when the congregation indeed proceeded, he stopped giving his shiur there. In a still extant letter, he wrote them, “After having been associated with you 26 years and over four months (sic.) I thought I would never have the difficult task of writing a letter such as this. I am writing this with tears in my eyes… as each and every one of you is imbedded in my heart… I know that every person… gave me the highest honor in all respects… Now, how can I do otherwise? And I believe that all… understand my feeling that I have to take this step, much that it grieves me. I know that I am hurting all in the shul to have to leave…

With all my blessings, your affectionate friend

Michael Forshleger”

The shul decided to provide him a pension in recognition of the many years he taught there, but he refused to accept money from a now-Conservative congregation. Eventually, the attendees of the shiur arranged that they would pay him from their own individual resources in a way that the congregation was not involved in any way. This pension he was willing to accept.


After having been in declining health for a number of years, Rav Forschleger passed away suddenly on Wednesday, the fifteenth of Marcheshvan, 5719 (October 29, ‘58), and was eulogized and buried in Baltimore.

Upon his passing, it was discovered that in addition to his library, Rav Forschleger had left approximately 50,000 pages of chiddushei Torah! The family donated his library to Machon Rav Herzog, on condition that they edit and publish some of his Torah. The volume that was produced was entitled Toras Michael.

Very recently, a full-length Hebrew book was published about Rav Forschleger, entitled Micha’el Be’achas. The first half of this book, from which most of the information in this article is drawn, is a biography based primarily on personal interviews, and the second half consists of correspondence that Rav Forschleger had on Torah topics with a wide variety of gedolei Yisroel.

Rav Michael Forschleger was indeed a multi-faceted gadol beYisroel. He demonstrated greatness in his learning, greatness in his serving Hashem, and incredible breadth in his Torah knowledge. And, although he was always deeply connected with the chassidus of his youth, he interacted with a host of great Torah leaders, many, if not most, from non-chassidishe approaches, and he was involved in the opening of one of the most influential Litvishe yeshivos in America. Yehi zichro baruch.

The Gadol of Sochatchov-Baltimore, Part I

Question #1: How was a chassidishe gadol instrumental in creating one of the most prominent Litvishe yeshivos?

Question #2: How did the same gadol make his parnasah during the Great Depression?

Question #3: Who was Rav Gifter’s first rebbe, someone with whom he kept an active correspondence for almost thirty years?

All three of these questions revolve around the life of an almost unknown gadol beYisrael named Rav Michael Forschleger, whose 57th yahrzeit falls on the fifteenth of Marcheshvan. Although on several occasions Rav Forschleger was asked to become the Rosh Yeshivah of well-known yeshivos, and he could have been the rav of a very prominent community, he never took a position in either rabbonus or as a Rosh Yeshivah, content to spend his life learning and writing his voluminous chiddushei Torah. Furthermore, through his entire life he refused even to sit in a prominent place (along the mizrach wall) in a yeshivah or shul, but always insisted on sitting together with the regular mispallelim.

However, notwithstanding his reticent nature, he was highly influential in his own, original way, and in every place that he lived there were individuals who asked him questions in learning. Many of these individuals subsequently became great gedolim and talmidei chachamim and viewed themselves as his talmidim for the rest of their lives.

Rav Michael Eliezer Lipman Hakohen Forschleger was born in 5644/1884 in a village named Leubitsch, in southwestern Poland, to a large family of Sochatchover Chassidim. Leubitsch was located about 25 kilometers from Sochatchov, the town whose name was made famous because the great gadol, Rav Avraham of Sochatchov, author of the classic works, Avnei Neizer and Eglei Tal, served as its rav and rebbe. “The Sochatchover,” as Rav Avraham was known, was a disciple, son-in-law, and successor of Rav Mendel of Kotsk, known universally and simply as “The Kotsker,” whose reputation was well established as a fearless leader of chassidus and whose pithy adages have become part of standard Jewish lexicon. The Sochatchover was respected by all talmidei chachamim and gedolei Yisroel, and his halachic works are studied in every beis hamedrash. In the chassidishe world, the Sochatchover was considered the posek of his generation. Completely unknown to the Litvishe yeshivah world is the fact that the Sochatchover was also the author of works on Chassidic thought.

Rav Michael Forschleger made his first pilgrimage to Sochatchov when only six years old. He continued to study in chadarim and with rabbei’im in his hometown until the age of fourteen, when he moved to Sochatchov to become a student in the Sochatchover’s yeshivah. He remained there as a disciple and later a chavrusa of the Sochatchover, until the latter’s passing in 1910. Rav Forschleger continued to be part of the yeshivah in Sochatchov until it disbanded during World War I.

At the age of 18, Rav Michoel married Sarah Reizel Fleischman of Sochatchov. His father-in-law, a devout Sochatchover chassid, was a successful businessman, and intended to support, indefinitely, his new son-in-law and his family, which eventually included seven children.

Already as a young man in Sochatchov, Rav Forschleger was known by the gedolim of that region and time as a mammoth talmid chacham. Among the great gedolim who knew him were: Rav Yosef Engel, author of Gilyonei Hashas and many other works; Rav Yoav Yehoshua Weingarten, author of the Chelkas Yoav and Kaba Dekash’yesa, and Rav Yehosha Kotno, author of Yeshuos Malko, all of them highly respected poskim and authors of well-known classics. On their visits to Sochatchov to consult with the Eglei Tal, they spent their free time “talking in learning” with the younger talmid and chavrusa of the posek hador, who, when not learning with his rebbe, could always be found in his place in the beis hamedrash. Rav Forschleger was, at this time, also the bochein in the Sochatchover Yeshivah, responsible for testing the attainments of the many talmidim, which he did without ever resorting to looking at a Gemara or commentaries, even to check a minor point in the Ran or the Tosafos that they were studying.

Already in Sochatchov, Rav Forschleger was involved in conferring semicha. As recorded by Rav Yitzchak Hoberman, who was later the rav of Raananah, Israel, “In 5671 (1911), in order to receive semicha from Rav Forschleger, I was required to know by heart and explain all of Mesechta Chullin with the commentaries, Rif, Rosh and Ran; and the Tur and the Beis Yosef on all of the topics covered in Mesechta Chullin. I also had to understand thoroughly the Shulchan Aruch with all its commentaries on those topics, and I was expected to present my own novel explanations (chiddushei Torah).”

Although most of Rav Forschleger’s disciples and talmidim from this era, unfortunately, did not survive the Holocaust, well-known talmidim of his from this early era of his life include the aforementioned Rav Hoberman and Rav Avraham Aharon Price of Toronto, who was viewed as the main posek of that illustrious city during his lifetime.

During this time, Rav Forschleger’s parents and siblings had all moved to the United States and settled in Baltimore.

When the Eglei Tal passed away, Rav Forschleger became a chassid of the Eglei Tal’s only son and successor, the Shem Mi’shmuel. The Shem Mi’shmuel requested Rav Forschleger to become the Rosh Yeshivah of the Sochatchover yeshivah, a position that he refused, as would become his approach for the rest of his life. (Decades later, after the passing of Rav Meir Shapiro, Rav Forschleger was asked to become Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshivas Chachmei Lublin, the most prominent yeshivah in Poland, and he turned down that position, also. The fact is that because he turned down that position, he was saved from the Holocaust.)

When the Shem Mi’shmuel passed on in 1916, only six years after his father, Rav Forschleger viewed himself as the chassid of the Shem Mi’shmuel’s son, the Chasdei Dovid. When, decades later, the Chasdei Dovid passed on, he wrote to the Chasdei Dovid’s younger brother, Rav Chanoch of Sochatzev, including a sizable pidyon donation, that he was accepting him as his rebbe. Rav Chanoch responded that since he had studied under Rav Forschleger as a student in the yeshivah in Sochatchov, he considered himself a talmid of Rav Forschleger, not his rebbe.

The Great War

Rav Forschleger and his family were supported completely by his father-in-law until the outbreak of the First World War. The area of Poland in which Sochatchov was located was under Russian rule and was located not far from the German border. When the war broke out, the eastern front between Germany and Russia passed right through this part of Poland, bringing with it financial ruin, starvation, deprivation and disease upon the Jews in the area. Tens of thousands of Jews were left homeless. The city of Sochatchov was completely destroyed and its Jews were scattered, left as destitute, starving refugees. The Shem Mi’shmuel moved first to Lodz, and then to a nearby town, Lezgerge. When he passed away in the middle of the war, they were able to bury him in Sochatchov next to his father, the Eglei Tal. However, the headquarters of the chassidus never returned to Sochatchov. The Shem Mi’shmuel’s son, the Chasdei Dovid, established his court in other Polish towns. The chassidus called Sochatchov still exists today in Eretz Yisroel, headed by descendants of the Shem Mi’shmuel, with batei medrash and yeshivos in the Bayit Vegan neighborhood of Yerushalayim and in Bnei Braq.

The Forschlegers during the war

The chaos of the war completely destroyed Rav Forschleger’s father-in-law’s business, plunging the entire family into extreme poverty. Rav Forschleger moved with his family to Warsaw. During the war years, the Forschleger family was without any structured support, and Rav Forschleger, a gadol baTorah, performed manual labor, while his wife and daughters did sewing work to try to provide some food for the family. Four of Rav Forschleger’s seven children died because of disease or starvation during the war years. When the war finally ended, everything in the area was in ruins.

Notwithstanding the hardships that he endured, whenever time availed itself, Rav Forschleger returned to the local beis medrash, where he learned and taught talmidim. Among his talmidim in Warsaw was Rabbi Alexander Zushia Friedman, the noted author of Mayanah shel Torah, who quotes insights from Rav Forschleger in his work.

Post-war and United States

After the war, Rav Forschleger’s attempts to support his family were unsuccessful, and his father, who had by now established a successful real estate business in Baltimore, implored Rav Forschleger to join him, noting that he could and would support Rav Michael and his family. At first, Rav Michael refused, realizing the spiritual galus that was America in those years; but, eventually, realizing that he had no choice, he accepted the move to America as a gezeirah min hashamayim. In 5881/1921, he, his rebbitzen and their three surviving children, Golda, Rivka and Yechiel Meir, traveled from Le Havre, France, via the S.S. La Touraine for the United States.

Notwithstanding the fact that he was aware of the spiritual desert that awaited him, Rav Forschleger was still shocked by the vast differences in priorities between the Jews of America and what he had left in Europe. Whereas prior to this time, he had always learned in a beis medrash or yeshivah, in Baltimore there was no such thing. He made his house into his beis medrash, investing all his time and energies into continuing his learning and, with time, accumulating seforim. As Rav Gifter described it, the house may have physically been located in Baltimore, but inside it were the Torah citadels of Warsaw. My Rosh Yeshivah, Rav Yaakov Ruderman, described how he was a houseguest of Rav Forschleger in 1932. At that time, Rav Ruderman lived in Cleveland, where his father-in-law, Rav Sheftel Kramer, had a small yeshivah and kollel, and Rav Ruderman was visiting Baltimore to fundraise for his father-in-law’s institution. He said that Rav Forschleger’s command of kol hatorah kulo was unmatched in America. “At the time, America did not have a gadol in his league.”

Whenever Rav Forschleger would find a young man interested in Torah, he would devote all his time and energies to studying with him. Through this method, he developed a relationship with a young man, named Mordechai Gifter, born in Portsmouth, Virginia, whose family had fortuitously moved to Baltimore. Rav Forschleger studied with him until the young, aspiring man decided to attend yeshiva in New York and then in Europe. Rav Gifter maintained correspondence with Rav Forschleger, first from New York, then from Telz, Lithuania, later from Waterbury, Connecticut, and eventually from Cleveland. Whenever Rav Gifter had a question in Torah, whether it was in understanding a difficult passage, a major question to which he had found no answer, or a question in hashkafah, he wrote Rav Forschleger. Rav Forschleger did not save copies of any of this correspondence, but it appears that Rav Gifter saved every reply that he received from Rav Forschleger. I have read some of this recently-published correspondence. Rav Forschleger’s answers, brilliant, insightful and novel, run the gamut of learning, from explanations of passages of Yerushalmi to expositions of kisvei Arizal. Aside from his incredible bekiyus in both Talmudim and their commentaries, Rav Forschleger, himself, was well read in a vast array of machshavah and kabbalistic writings. Rav Gifter often repeated that Rav Forschleger would emphasize “it is not sufficient that one learn Torah. One’s entire essence should become Torah.”

Click here for part II of this article.


Bnei Noach and Korbanos

Question #1: Rite or Wrong?

“My neighbor is not Jewish and believes in G-d, but she has rejected any of the existent organized religions. She often burns incense, which she learned about in Eastern religions, and she says that she does this to feel G-d’s presence in her life. May I enter her house while the incense is burning?”

Question #2: Joining the Sprinklers

“This must be the strangest question that I have ever asked. While camping, I met a group of sincere non-Jews who told me that they believe in one G-d and have regular getaways to discuss how they can live more in His image. While I was with them, they sprinkled some wine and oil on a campfire in commemoration of the Biblical sacrifices. They invited me to join them, which I did not, but I am curious to know whether I could have sprinkled with them.”

Question #3: The Doubting Moslem

“My coworker, who still considers herself a Moslem, confides in me a lot of her doubts about her religion. Should I be encouraging her away from Islam, or is it not necessary to do so, since they do not worship idols?”

Answer: Mitzvos Bnei Noach

All the questions asked above were by Jews about non-Jews. Indeed, although it may seem strange for a non-Jew to ask a rav a shaylah, it should actually be commonplace. After all, there are hundreds of gentiles for every Jew in the world, and each one of them should be concerned about his or her halachic responsibility. As a matter of fact, there are many non-Jews who are indeed concerned about their future place in Olam Haba and, had the nations not been deceived by spurious religions, thousands and perhaps millions more would observe the mitzvos of Bnei Noach that they are commanded. It is tragic that they have been misled into false beliefs and practices.

Fortunately, there is a revival of interest among gentiles to observe the requirements given them in the Torah. There are now many groups and publications devoted to educating non-Jews about their halachic responsibilities. The mitzvah requirements of non-Jews are usually referred to as the “Seven Mitzvos of the Bnei Noach,” although in actuality, these “Seven Mitzvos” are really categories. A gentile is required to accept that these commandments were commanded by Hashem to Moshe Rabbeinu (Rambam, Hilchos Melachim 8:11). A non-Jew who follows these instructions qualifies to be a “righteous gentile,” one of the Chassidei Umos Ha’olam who merits a place in Olam Haba.

Jews should be familiar with the halachos that apply to a non-Jew, since it is forbidden to cause a gentile to transgress his mitzvos. This is included under the Torah’s violation of lifnei iver lo sitein michshol, “Do not place a stumbling block before a blind person.” In this context, the verse means: Do not cause someone to sin if he is blind to — that is, unaware of — the seriousness of his violation (Avodah Zarah 6b). For example, a Jew may not sell an item to a gentile that he will use for idol worship, or an item that is designed for criminal activity.

Gentiles and the Beis Hamikdash

May a gentile pray in the Beis Hamikdash?

The Beis Hamikdash was meant to serve gentiles as well as Jews, as the pasuk states: Ki beisi beis tefila yikarei lechol ha’amim; My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations (Yeshaya 56:7). This sentiment was expressed by Shlomoh Hamelech in his public prayer whereby he dedicated the Beis Hamikdash, “…and also to the gentile who is not from Your people Israel, and who comes for the sake of Your name from a distant land. When they will hear of Your great Name, Your powerful hand and Your outstretched arm and come to pray in this house, You will hear from Heaven, the place of Your abode, and do whatever the gentile requests of You, so that all the nations of the Earth will know Your Name and fear You (Melachim I 8:41- 43).

Gentiles and Sacrifices

Not only was the Beis Hamikdash a place where gentiles could pray and serve Hashem, it was also a place where they could offer korbanos (Zevachim 116b). A gentile who desired to bring a korban in the Beis Hamikdash could do so, and, when it is rebuilt, their offerings will be welcome. The laws governing how these korbanos are offered are fairly similar to what governs voluntary korbanos offered by a Jew. Allow me to explain.

A Jew may voluntarily offer several types of korbanos in the Beis Hamikdash. He may offer a korban shelomim (sometimes called a “peace-offering”), in which case the owner receives most of the meat to eat in Yerushalayim when he is in a state of purity (taharah). A Jew may also offer a korban olah, which is offered in its entirety on the mizbei’ach, the altar, in a specifically prescribed fashion.

A gentile may offer a korban olah in the Beis Hamikdash, but he may not offer a korban shelomim. When this olah is offered, the procedure of its offering is virtually identical to that of a Yisrael. This means that any Jewish shochet may slaughter the korban, but it may not be slaughtered by a gentile, since a gentile’s slaughtering is, by definition, invalid as shechitah. The Kohanim then proceed to offer the korban of the gentile, just as they would offer the korban of a Jew, following all the halachos of a korban olah.

Gentiles and Imperfections

The animal that a gentile offers in the Beis Hamikdash must be completely unblemished (Vayikra 22:25). An animal suffering from visible impairments or injuries is called a baal mum and is invalid. Some examples of this are an animal with a broken limb, one that cannot walk in a normal way, one whose limbs are noticeably disproportionate to one another or relative to its species, or a blind animal. All told, there are 73 different imperfections that invalidate a korban as a baal mum (Sefer Hachinuch). Were a kohen to offer the imperfect offering of a gentile, he would be violating the Torah’s express prohibition and be liable for the resultant punishments. For an in-depth discussion of this topic, the intrepid reader is referred to Minchas Chinuch, Mitzvah 292. The same author mentions that the laws governing a gentile’s korban may, in one situation, actually be more stringent that those governing a Jew’s korban. The details of how this could happen are beyond the scope of this article.

Treatment of Holy Bulls and Sheep

There are a few differences in halachah between the korban olah offering of a Jew and that of a gentile. Prior to a Jew offering a korban, he rests his hands on the head of the animal and presses down on the animal’s head. This procedure is called semichah, and, while doing so, the owner of the korban recites viduy, confessing his sins. However, when a gentile’s offering is brought, no semichah is performed (Temurah 2a).

There is another curious difference between the olah offered by a gentile and that offered by a Jew. When a Jew consecrates an animal as a korban olah, someone who subsequently uses the consecrated animal, such as one who sheared the wool of a consecrated ram or worked a consecrated bull, violates a serious prohibition of the Torah called me’ilah. The individual who committed this prohibition negligently must offer a special korban called an asham as atonement. However, when a gentile donates an olah there is no prohibition min haTorah to use the animal and there is no violation of the prohibition of me’ilah. The Gemara concludes that using the consecrated animal is prohibited only miderabbanan (Temurah 3a).

Gentile Exceptions

A Jew may also offer wine to the Beis Hamikdash, which is then poured onto the mizbei’ach. However, a gentile may not offer wine or other similar offerings (Temurah 2b, as explained by Rashi). On the other hand, a gentile may donate any item of value or cash to the Beis Hamikdash to assist in its upkeep (Bedek Habayis). This leads to a very surprising halachah. Although, as I mentioned above, there is no prohibition of me’ilah should one use the korban of a gentile, property that he donates to the Beis Hamikdash is subject to this prohibition in the same way that a Jew’s donation is (Temurah 3a).

Outside the Beis Hamikdash

Once the Beis Hamikdash was constructed, the Torah prohibited a Jew from offering korbanos anywhere else in the world (Devarim 12: 13, 14, 26, 27). Someone who sanctifies an animal to be a korban and then offers it on an altar outside the Beis Hamikdash violates two grave prohibitions of the Torah called shechutei chutz, slaughtering a korban outside the approved area, and ha’ala’ah bachutz, offering a korban outside its approved area. As a result, since our Beis Hamikdash unfortunately still lies in ruins, we cannot offer any korbanos to Hashem, and we must await its rebuilding to offer them.

A gentile is not required to observe these mitzvos, and, consequently, he may offer korbanos anywhere he chooses: in his backyard, on his camping trip or even in a shul! A Jew, however, may not assist in this endeavor, since this violates his mitzvos shechutei chutz and ha’ala’ah bachutz, notwithstanding the fact that the korbanos were sanctified by a gentile (Zevachim 45a; Rambam, Hilchos Maasei Hakorbanos 19:16).

Although a Jew may not offer these korbanos for the gentile, he may instruct the gentile how to offer them correctly. To quote the Rambam, “A gentile is permitted to offer korbanos olah to Hashem anywhere he would like, provided that he offers them on an altar that he constructed. A Jew may not help him, since a Jew is prohibited from offering korbanos outside the Beis Hamikdash. Nevertheless, a Jew may teach him how to bring the korban to Hashem properly” (Rambam, Hilchos Maaseh Hakorbanos 19:15).

The Rambam adds a requirement to this halachah — this korban must be offered on some type of constructed altar.

Blemished Offerings

Whereas the korban of a gentile offered in the Beis Hamikdash must be performed by kohanim, a gentile who offers a korban outside the Beis Hamikdash may perform the procedures himself, and actually must have the procedures performed by a non-Jew. In addition, he may offer from any kosher species (Bereishis 8:20 with Bereishis Rabbah and Rashi), whereas in the Beis Hamikdash one may offer only sheep, goats, bovines, turtledoves and pigeons. Furthermore, most of the 73 blemishes that invalidate a korban as a baal mum do not apply to what a gentile offers outside the Beis Hamikdash. The only such restriction that applies outside the Beis Hamikdash is a missing limb, but any other injury or physical impediment does not invalidate the korban (Temurah 7a; Avodah Zarah 5b).

Gentile Mitzvos

We need to address one more point before we can answer our opening questions: May a gentile observe mitzvos of the Torah, and may he create his own observances?

A gentile may not keep Shabbos or a day of rest (meaning, a day that he refrains from doing any activity that is forbidden on Shabbos, melachah) on any day of the week (Sanhedrin 58b). This is considered a very grievous violation of the Torah. I am aware of three approaches provided by the Rishonim to explain this law.

Rashi’s Reason

Rashi explains that a non-Jew is obligated to work every day, because the Torah writes, “Yom valayla lo yishbosu,” which can be interpreted to mean, “Day and night they (i.e., the non-Jews) may not rest.” According to his understanding, this prohibition has nothing to do with any ban against a gentile performing religious practices to Hashem. There is a specific requirement for gentiles to work every day – or, at least, to perform melachah.

Meiri’s Reason

The Meiri presents a different reason why a gentile may not observe a day of rest — that a Jew may mistakenly learn from him that it is acceptable to create his own mitzvos. Of course, creating one’s own mitzvos, which is a very popular idea among contemporary religions, defeats the entire reason of observing the Torah and keeping mitzvos. The purpose of the Torah is for us to become close to Hashem by following what He instructs us to do. Creating one’s own mitzvos implies that I can somehow bribe G-d to do what I want. Although we realize the foolishness of this approach, this idea underlies all of idolatry and greatly influences the way most of mankind views religion.

Rambam’s Reason

The Rambam’s approach is similar to the Meiri’s, in that he explains that a gentile is prohibited from making his own holiday or any other religious observance, because the Torah is opposed to the creation of man-made religions (Hilchos Melachim 10:9). In the words of the Rambam, “A non-Jew is not permitted to create his own religion or mitzvah. Either he becomes a righteous convert (a ger tzedek) and accepts the observance of all the mitzvos or he remains with the laws that he has without adding or subtracting.” Any attempt to create a mitzvah other than that of the Torah runs counter to Hashem’s goals for mankind, as I will soon explain.

Contradiction in Rambam

However, many authorities ask if the Rambam seems to be contradicting himself. The Mishnah states that the terumah or maaser separated by a gentile from his own crops is halachically valid, and his declaring his property to belong to the Beis Hamikdash (hekdesh) is similarly valid (Terumos 3:9). In his Commentary, the Rambam states that even though a gentile is not obligated to keep mitzvos, observing them allows him a small degree of reward. This statement implies that a gentile can receive reward for fulfilling mitzvos of the Torah.

There are several approaches to answer this seeming contradiction. According to Rav Moshe Feinstein, there are a few very specific mitzvos that a gentile is permitted to observe, and only in these instances will he reap any reward for observing them. Those are mitzvos where we find that a gentile was specifically included, such as tzedakah, prayer, offering korbanos and separating terumos and maasros (Shu”t Igros Moshe, Yoreh Deah 2:7). In Rav Moshe’s opinion, a gentile who observes any other mitzvah receives no reward. However, should he perform these mitzvos knowing that he is not commanded to do so, we do not stop him. On the other hand, if he performs these activities because he wants to consider himself obligated to keep them, we should prevent him from doing so if we can, and we should certainly discourage his observing them.

Others contend there are ways whereby a gentile can become obligated in Torah mitzvos (Biur Halachah, end of 304, in explanation of the Magen Avraham), and there are others who feel that a gentile who observes mitzvos, knowing that he is not required to do so, receives reward for his endeavor (see Sefer Hamafteiach, Melachim 10:10). Among those authorities who follow the last approach, some exclude a gentile from observing certain mitzvos. For example, the Radbaz (Hilchos Melachim 10:10) prohibits a gentile from wearing tefillin or placing a mezuzah on his door, and the Taz (Yoreh Deah 263:3) and the Levush prohibit him from performing bris milah (but see the Shulchan Aruch 268:9, Nekudos Hakesef ad locum, and the Shach, Yoreh Deah 263:8 and 268:19 who disagree).

Answering our Questions

At this point, we are equipped to examine the opening questions. The first question was:

“My neighbor is not Jewish and believes in G-d, but she has rejected any of the existent organized religions. She often burns incense, which she learned about in Eastern religions, and she says that she does this to feel G-d’s presence in her life. May I enter her house while the incense is burning?”

Is the neighbor doing something idolatrous? It may be, depending on what her understanding is of G-d. If, indeed, her acts comprise avodah zarah, then one should not be in her house when the incense is kindled, because one is benefiting from idol worship.

On the other hand, if she understands G-d similar to the way a Jew does, there is no idolatry in her act. Assuming that this is true, then there is nothing wrong with enjoying the fragrance of her incense.

Joining the Sprinklers

The second question was: “This must be the strangest question that I have ever asked. While camping, I met a group of sincere non-Jews who told me that they believe in one G-d and have regular getaways to discuss how they can live more in His image. While I was with them, they sprinkled some wine and oil on a campfire in commemoration of the Biblical sacrifices. They invited me to join them, which I did not, but I am curious to know whether I could have sprinkled with them.”

It is good that you did not join them. For a Jew to effect any type of korban outside the Beis Hamikdash is prohibited, although, because of certain halachic details, this situation would not have involved the severe violation of ha’ala’ah bachutz. Similarly, these individuals did not fulfill a gentile’s mitzvah of offering korbanos, because their fireplace did not meet the halachic requirements of an altar.

The Doubting Moslem

“My coworker, who still considers herself a Moslem, confides in me a lot of her doubts about her religion. Should I be encouraging her away from Islam, or is it not necessary to do so, since they do not worship idols?”

Without question, observing Islam is a grievous sin, even for a gentile, despite the fact that there is no idolatry involved (see also fRitva, Pesachim 25b). Hashem gave very specific instructions of how He wants mankind to worship Him, and any other attempt is prohibited. Therefore, if your coworker is asking you for direction in her life, you should explain to her the fallacies of Islam and how she could indeed fulfill Hashem’s wishes by becoming a proper bas Noach.


We are meant to be “a light unto the nations,” which charges us with the responsibility to act in a manner that we create a kiddush Hashem. If we have the opportunity to educate non-Jews how to live their lives as proper, G-d-fearing Bnei Noach, that is surely within the scope of our directives.

Eating before Kiddush

kiddush cupQuestion #1: Reuven calls me: I have not been well, and I need to eat something shortly after awaking. On weekdays, I daven shortly after I wake up and then eat immediately afterwards, but there is no available minyan for me to attend early Shabbos morning. What should I do?

Question #2: Ahuva asks: It is difficult for me to wait for Kiddush until my husband returns from shul. May I eat something before he arrives home?

Question #3: Someone told me that a woman may not eat in the morning before she davens, but I remember being taught in Beis Yaakov that we may eat once we say the morning berachos. Is my memory faulty?


When we recite Kiddush on Friday evening, we fulfill the Torah’s mitzvah of Zachor es yom hashabbos lekadsho, Remember the day of Shabbos to sanctify it.

There is another Kiddush, introduced by our Sages, which is simply reciting borei pri hagafen and drinking wine prior to the Shabbos day meal. This article will discuss under what circumstances one may eat before reciting the daytime Kiddush.

First, we need to categorize that there are two related subjects here:

May one eat before reciting Kiddush?

May one eat before davening in the morning?

May one eat before reciting Kiddush, either at night or day?

May one eat or drink prior to reciting the Torah-required evening Kiddush? Although the Tanna, Rabbi Yosi, holds that someone eating a meal when Shabbos begins is not required to interrupt, but may complete his meal and then recite Kiddush afterwards, the Gemara concludes that we do not follow this approach. Once Shabbos arrives, it is forbidden to eat or drink anything until one recites or hears Kiddush (Pesachim 100a). The poskim conclude that one may not even drink water before Kiddush (Shulchan Aruch Orach Chayim 271:4).

What is the halacha regarding eating or drinking before daytime Kiddush? This matter is disputed by the two great pillars of halacha, the Rambam and the Raavad. The Rambam  (Hilchos Shabbos, 29:10) declares that one may not taste anything before reciting the daytime Kiddush, whereas the Raavad contends that this prohibition applies only to the evening Kiddush, but not to the morning Kiddush.

What is the underlying issue of this difference of opinion? At first glance, it would seem that the Rambam and the Raavad are disputing the following question: When our Sages required Kiddush in the daytime, did they provide it with all the rules of evening Kiddush? After all, there is a general halachic principle Kol detikun rabbanan ke’ein de’oraysa tikun, whatever the Sages instituted, they did so following the pattern of the Torah’s mitzvos. (For brevity’s sake, I will henceforth refer to this concept simply as Kol detikun rabbanan.) Kol detikun rabbanan would indicate that just as one may not eat or drink before evening Kiddush, similarly one may not eat or drink before morning Kiddush. It would seem that the Rambam is contending that Kol detikun rabbanan applies to daytime Kiddush, whereas the Raavad disputes this, for a reason that we will soon explain.

However, a careful reading of the Rambam demonstrates that this analysis is somewhat oversimplified, since the Rambam, himself, does not fully apply the concept Kol detikun rabbanan to daytime Kiddush. Whereas he introduces Chapter 29 of Hilchos Shabbos by stating: “It is a positive mitzvah of the Torah to sanctify Shabbos with words,” when he begins discussing the daytime Kiddush, he says, “It is a mitzvah to recite a beracha over wine on Shabbos morning before one eats the second meal of Shabbos, and this is called Kiddusha Rabbah.” Evidently, the daytime Kiddush is not a second mitzvah of Kiddush, but simply announces that the daytime meal is in honor of Shabbos. (The early commentaries note that the term Kiddusha Rabbah [literally, the great Kiddush] for the daytime Kiddush, whose origin is in the Gemara itself [Pesachim 106a], is intentionally overstated.) We could say that the evening Kiddush is a sanctification of Shabbos, whereas the daytime Kiddush is a proclamation about the coming meal.

Reciting Kiddush over Bread

Now that we understand that evening Kiddush and daytime Kiddush serve different functions, we can explain why there are other halachic differences between them. For example, one may recite evening Kiddush over the challah-bread that one is using for the meal, but one may not use the bread of the day meal as a substitute for the daytime Kiddush. After all, if daytime Kiddush is to proclaim that the coming meal is in Shabbos’ honor, this proclamation must precede the meal and be somewhat extraordinary.

So now we need to ask: If daytime Kiddush serves a different function than evening Kiddush, why does the Rambam prohibit eating before daytime Kiddush? The answer is that he understands that some laws of Kiddush still apply in the daytime. The dispute between the Rambam and the Raavad is the degree to which daytime Kiddush is compared to evening Kiddush.

The Halacha

The accepted halacha follows the Rambam: that one may not eat before daytime Kiddush (Shulchan Aruch Orach Chayim 289:1), although as we will soon see, the Raavad’s opinion is not completely ignored by later authorities. They often factor the Raavad’s opinion when other mitigating circumstances exist, a halachic concept called tziruf. For example, the Elyah Rabbah (286:9) rules that a weak person who has davened Shacharis and has no beverage available for Kiddush may rely on the Raavad together with another opinion who contends that there is no obligation to make Kiddush until one has completed davening musaf.

May one drink water before Kiddush?

In regard to the evening Kiddush, the halacha is that one may not drink anything, even water, after Shabbos begins and before reciting Kiddush. Does the same law apply to morning Kiddush? The Tur cites a dispute whether one may drink water before davening on Shabbos morning, since one has as yet not recited or heard Kiddush. He quotes the Avi HaEzri as prohibiting this, whereas the Tur’s own father, the Rosh, permitted drinking water before Kiddush, and he, himself, drank before Shabbos morning davening. The Rosh reasoned that drinking before Kiddush is prohibited only once the time for reciting Kiddush has arrived, which is not until one has davened. Prior to davening, one is prohibited from eating, and, therefore, it is too early for the Shabbos meal, and too early for Kiddush. As we will soon see, one may drink tea or coffee before davening on weekdays, and the Rosh permits this also on Shabbos morning.

May one eat before morning davening?

At this point, we can discuss the first question raised by Reuven above: I have not been well, and I need to eat something shortly after awaking. On weekdays, I daven shortly after I wake up and then eat immediately afterwards, but there is no available minyan for me to attend early Shabbos morning. What should I do?

Reuven’s question involves an issue that we have not yet discussed: May one eat before davening in the morning?

The Gemara states: “What do we derive from the verse, You may not eat over blood? That you may not eat (in the morning) before you have prayed for your ‘blood’… The verse states, in reference to someone who eats and drinks prior to praying: You have thrown me behind your body (Melachim 1 14:9). Do not read your body (in Hebrew gavecha), but your arrogance (gai’echa). The Holy One said: After this person has indulged in his own pride (by eating or drinking), only then does he accept upon himself the dominion of heaven (Berachos 10b)!?”

The halacha that results from this Gemara is codified by all authorities. To quote the Rambam: “It is prohibited to taste anything or to perform work from halachic daybreak until one has prayed shacharis” (Hilchos Tefillah 6:4).

Would you like tea or coffee?

Although all poskim prohibit eating and drinking before morning davening, we find early authorities who permit drinking water before davening, since this is not considered an act of conceit (Rosh quoting the Avi HaEzri; the Beis Yosef cites authorities who disagree, but rules like the Avi HaEzri). Most later authorities permit drinking tea or coffee, contending that this is also considered like drinking water, but the poskim dispute whether one may add sugar to the beverage. The Mishnah Berurah and others prohibit this, whereas the Aruch Hashulchan and most later authorities permit it. They are disputing whether adding sugar to the beverage promotes it to a forbidden beverage, or whether it is still considered water that one may imbibe before davening.


The Rambam rules that someone who is hungry or thirsty should eat or drink before he davens, so that he can daven properly (Hilchos Tefillah 5:2).

Similarly, some authorities contend that,for medical reasons, one may eat or drink before davening. They explain that the Gemara prohibited only eating or drinking that demonstrates arrogance, whereas medical reasons, by definition, do not express arrogance (Beis Yosef, quoting Mahari Abohav). This approach is accepted as normative halacha by the Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 89:3).

I will be hungry!

What is the halacha if someone is, as yet, not hungry, but he knows that he will be so hungry by the end of davening that it will distract him from davening properly. Is he permitted to eat before davening, so that the hunger does not distract him? This question impacts directly on Reuven’s question.

The answer to this question appears to lie in the following Talmudic discussion:

Rav Avya was weak and, as a result, did not attend Rav Yosef’s lecture that transpired prior to musaf. The next day, when Rav Avya arrived in the Yeshiva, Abayei saw Rav Avya and was concerned that Rav Yosef may have taken offense at Rav Avya’s absence. Therefore, Abayei asked Rav Avya why he had failed to attend the previous day’s lecture. After which the following conversation transpired:

Abayei: Why did the master (addressing Rav Avya) not attend the lecture?

Rav Avya: I was not feeling well and was unable to attend.

Abayei: Why did you not eat something first and then come?

Rav Avya: Does the master (now referring to Abayei) not hold like Rav Huna who prohibits eating before davening musaf?

Abayei: You should have davened musaf privately, eaten something and then come to shul (Berachos 28b).

We see from Abayei’s retort, that someone who is weak should daven first and then eat, even if this means that he davens without a minyan. Based on this passage, several noted authorities rule that someone who will not be able to wait until after davening, and cannot find an early minyan with which to daven, should daven privately (beyechidus), eat and then attend shul in order to hear the Torah and fulfill the mitzvos of answering Kaddish and Kedusha (Beer Heiteiv 89:11; Biur Halacha 289; Daas Torah 289 quoting Zechor Le’Avraham; Shu”t Igros Moshe, Orach Chayim 2:28 at end of teshuvah). Thus, it seems that we can positively answer Reuven’s question: If he cannot wait to eat until davening is over, he should daven be’yechidus, make Kiddush and eat something, and then come to shul to answer Borchu, Kedusha, Kaddish and hear kerias Hatorah.

May a woman eat before Kiddush?

At this point, we have enough information to discuss Ahuva’s question: It is difficult for me to wait for Kiddush until my husband returns from shul. May I eat before he arrives home?

Of course, Ahuva may recite Kiddush herself and eat something before her husband returns home. To fulfill the mitzvah, she needs to eat something that fulfills the halacha of Kiddush bimkom seudah¸ a topic we will have to leave for a different time. However, Ahuva either does not want to recite Kiddush, or does not want to eat something to accompany the Kiddush. Is there a halachic solution to permit her to eat or drink before Kiddush?

There are some authorities who suggest approaches to permit Ahuva to eat or drink before Kiddush. Here is one approach:

Although most authorities obligate a woman to recite the daytime Kiddush and prohibit her from eating before she recites Kiddush (Tosafos Shabbos 286:4, 289:3; Pri Megadim, Mishbetzos Zahav 289:1; Mishnah Berurah 289:6), this is not a universally held position. One early authority (Maharam Halavah, Pesachim 106, quoting Rashba) contends that women are absolved of the requirement to recite daytime Kiddush, for the following reason:

Since the daytime Kiddush is not an extension of the mitzvah of evening Kiddush, but is to demonstrate that the meal is in honor of Shabbos, this requirement does not devolve upon women. Although this approach is not halachically accepted, some authorities allow a woman to rely on this opinion, under extenuating circumstances, to eat before reciting morning Kiddush (Shu”t Minchas Yitzchak 4:28:3).

When does a married woman become obligated to make Kiddush?

Rav Moshe Feinstein presents a different reason to permit a married woman to eat before Kiddush. He reasons that since a married woman is required to eat the Shabbos meal with her husband, she does not become responsible to make Kiddush until it is time for the two of them to eat the Shabbos meal together, meaning after davening (Shu”t Igros Moshe, Orach Chayim 4:101\2). However, the Shemiras Shabbos Kehilchasah (Chapter 52, note 46) quotes Rav Shelomoh Zalman Auerbach as disputing Rav Moshe’s conclusion that a married woman has no obligation to make Kiddush before the Shabbos meal. Firstly, he is unconvinced that she is halachically required to eat her meal with her husband, and, even if she is, that this duty permits her to eat before Kiddush.

If we do not follow the lenient approaches mentioned, when does a woman become obligated to recite Kiddush and, therefore, at what point may she no longer drink tea, coffee, and water? The Acharonim debate this issue, but understanding their positions requires an understanding of a different topic.

What must a woman pray?

All authorities require a woman to daven daily, but there is a dispute whether she is required to recite the full shemoneh esrei (I will call this the “Ramban’s opinion”), or whether she fulfills her requirement by reciting a simple prayer, such as the morning beracha that closes with the words Gomel chasadim tovim le’amo Yisrael. (I will refer to this as the “Magen Avraham’s opinion.”) Allow me to explain.

When may she eat?

According to the Ramban’s opinion that a woman is required to recite the full shemoneh esrei, she may not eat in the morning without first davening (see the previous discussion), whereas according to the Magen Avraham’s opinion that she fulfills her requirement once she has recited a simple prayer or morning berachos, she may eat once she recited these tefilos.

Some authorities rule that a woman becomes obligated to hear Kiddush as soon as she recites berachos, since she has now fulfilled her requirement to daven and she may therefore begin eating. According to this opinion, once she recited berachos on Shabbos morning, she may not eat or drink without first making Kiddush (Tosafos Shabbos 286:4, 289:3). This approach contends that before she recites morning berachos, she may drink water, tea or coffee, but after she recites morning berachos, she may not even drink these beverages without first reciting Kiddush.

There is another view, that contends that a woman can follow the same approach that men follow, and may drink water, tea or coffee even after she recited berachos before she has davened (Pri Megadim, Eishel Avraham 289:4 as understood by Halichos Beisah page 204).

At this point we can address the third question I raised above:

“Someone told me that a woman may not eat in the morning before she davens, but I remember being taught in Beis Yaakov that we may eat once we say the morning berachos. Is my memory faulty?”

Many authorities contend that although a woman should daven shemoneh esrei every morning, she may rely on the opinion of the Magen Avraham in regard to eating, and may eat at home after reciting morning berachos. In many institutions, this approach was preferred, since it accomplishes that the tefillah the girls recite is a much better prayer, and they learn how to daven properly.


According to Rav Hirsch, observing Shabbos and declaring its holiness means recognizing that the arrival of Shabbos signifies that man’s activity has attained its goal. Now, it is time to recognize Hashem’s creation and devote ourselves to developing our spirituality. When we recite Kiddush, we should internalize this message.


Sukkah Schach Review

bamboo matQuestion #1: “What are the potential halachic issues encountered with schach mats?”

Question #2: “My aunt, who always takes the family out to eat when she visits, will be in town for Sukkos, and knows that her favorite restaurant has a sukkah for Chol Hamoed. Can we rely on the restaurant’s sukkah?”

Answer: This article, which is a revised version of an interview I provided to Mishpacha magazine a few years ago, covers some of the more common halachic issues and problems one finds regarding Sukkos. Although I have edited the original article somewhat, I have left the interview structure. A pdf of the original article can be found on RabbiKaganoff.com

Mishpacha: Rav Kaganoff, I am very appreciative that you have been able to make time for us. Can you mention what types of halachic issues you have noticed concerning the validity of Sukkos?

RYK: The laws of sukkah are very complicated, and a rav should not assume that his members know how to construct a kosher sukkah, unless he himself has been certain to teach them thoroughly. If the rav has not (yet) taught them properly, then one can certainly assume that there will be many issues concerning the sukkah walls and the schach, and, potentially, questions even where they place the sukkah, since they may build it under trees or overhangs.

How frequent the problems occur will depend on how well a rav has succeeded in educating his membership to the basic requirements of sukkah. There are two obvious ways he can teach them. One is by mentioning aspects of the laws of sukkah whenever he has an opportunity during the weeks before Sukkos – a little bit before his drasha on Shabbos; a little after daily Shacharis and between Mincha and Maariv. Another method is to offer to make “sukkah calls,” just like doctors used to make house calls! The message eventually gets through, and I noticed how, with time, my shul members became very sensitized to the main issues.

Mishpacha: Could you point out the most frequent problems you have found and explain why there are concerns?

RYK: Certainly. Let me first introduce the fundamentals of sukkah construction. A sukkah consists of two basic components, its walls and its roof, which we call the schach; and each has very specific halachic requirements. The schach must be of vegetative material that once grew from the earth but is no longer connected to the earth, is not food, and has not been fashioned in a way that halacha considers it a “vessel” or a “utensil.”

The correct term for these items is that they are mekabeil tumah, susceptible to becoming tamei, should they be in contact with a tamei item. The exact rules defining what qualifies as a utensil are fairly complicated, and it is interesting how much halachic literature is devoted to defining whether such diverse items as arrow shafts, wooden ladders, thread, and straw or reed mats may be used as schach – meaning, are they processed enough to be considered “utensils” for halachic purposes or not. However, a full treatment of this topic is beyond the parameters of this article.

A “Venetian” Sukkah

There are many interesting discussions about the use of other common household items for schach. For example, in 1941 a rav asked Rav Moshe Feinstein whether one can use venetian blinds, at that time made of wood slats attached with cloth, as schach. The inquirer wanted to permit their use, since both the slats and the cloth are made from materials that grow from the ground. Rav Moshe demonstrates from the Talmudic sources that although the wood is basically unprocessed, once it has been attached to the cloth, it is halachically considered a utensil and may not be used as schach.[i]

Walking (under) the Plank

There are also categories of items that the Torah permitted as kosher schach, but were later prohibited by the Sages because of various concerns. For example, wide wooden planks are not utensils and do meet all the other requirements for schach and, therefore, should be acceptable. However, the Sages prohibited using them out of concern that someone might mistakenly assume that his regular wood roof would be satisfactory as a cover for his sukkah.[ii] Although today it is unusual to make a roof out of wood boards, in early generations these were standard roofing materials.

This developed into a halachic controversy not that long ago: May one use wooden slats or laths for schach? I remember seeing wooden slats used commonly as schach material by respected Torah scholars, whereas other, equally knowledgeable Torah scholars took strong exception to using this as schach, invalidating it because slats are used in construction. (Shu”t Yaskil Avdi Volume VI Orach Chayim #20 analyzes both sides of the question. He also quotes a very interesting reason why people prefer using slats to other types of schach. He contends that it is uncommon for them to be insect infested, whereas other forms of schach often have such a problem.)

Metal in the Schach

Many people assume that if one puts any metal into the schach, such as nailing together the schach, the sukkah cannot be used. This is not accurate, although they are correct that one should not use metal to assemble or support the schach, such as by resting the schach on a metal framework. However, the vast majority of halachic authorities conclude that if a sukkah was assembled in a way that its schach is held up by metal, the sukkah may be used. Let me explain.

Supporting the Schach – the Maamid

The Gemara discusses whether the schach must be “held up” — supported by material that could be used for the schach itself. The majority opinion contends that the rules I mentioned above apply only to the schach and not to what supports the schach, which is called the maamid.[iii] According to this opinion, one may use any material at all to support schach, and even having your schach rest directly on steel girders is perfectly fine.[iv]

There is a minority opinion that contends that the rules of schach material apply, also, to what supports the schach. Following this latter approach, one must be careful not to have the schach supported by metal or, for that matter, any other material that would not be kosher schach.

Usually the halacha follows the majority opinion, and following their view, as long as the schach itself is “kosher,” we need not be concerned about what supports the schach. Indeed, most early authorities follow the majority opinion, concluding that there is no halachic problem with supporting the schach with material that would, itself, be invalid schach.[v] Thus, according to them, one could construct a metal framework, rest the schach on it and the sukkah is perfectly kosher. However, there are some early authorities who take the more stringent approach and conclude that one may not support the schach with material that is itself not kosher for schach.[vi]

The conclusion of the later halachic authorities is that although we follow the majority opinion and permit the use of a sukkah whose schach is supported by metal or other invalid-for-schach material, one should not construct a sukkah this way. In other words, one should try to construct a sukkah that is kosher according to all opinions, by supporting the schach with material that itself is valid for schach, but a sukkah constructed ignoring this concern is nevertheless kosher.[vii]

This has many ramifications. For example, you are invited to someone’s house for a meal or Kiddush during Sukkos and discover that their schach is held up by metal or other material that is invalid as schach. Alternatively, you take the family to a recreational area on Chol Hamoed and discover that the sukkah there was erected with the schach held up by a metal frame. You may eat there and enjoy your meal, since the sukkah is kosher, notwithstanding that those in charge should not have assembled the sukkah this way.

The above section elicited the following subsequent inquiry: “It would seem that this halacha applies only regarding the beams that hold up the schach. Meaning, if the metal nails are making sure only that the schach doesn’t slip off the beams, metal may be used. However, if the schach would blow away with a ruach metzuyah, a typical wind, then nailing it down would be forbidden according to the opinion that you should not use metal or the like to hold up the schach.”

Rabbi Kaganoff responds:

“My answer was somewhat ambiguous, and I thank you for bringing it to my attention.

To clarify the matter: the schach should be placed in a way that it is held up and held in place by items which are themselves kosher for schach. If the schach would fall through, or be blown off by a commonly occurring wind, one should not secure it with something that, itself, is not kosher schach. However, if the schach is sufficiently heavy that a common wind would not blow it out of place, but one wants to secure it better so that it does not slip or move, one may secure it even with metal or a different item that is, itself, not kosher schach.”

“Threading” the Schach

I mentioned before that there are items that meet the Torah’s requirements as kosher schach, but were later prohibited by the Sages because of various concerns: The Sages prohibited using combed flax as schach, even though it meets all the Torah requirements[viii] — it grows from the ground and is now disconnected, is not edible and is not a utensil. The early authorities debate why combed flax was banned for schach use, some contending that it was prohibited because it no longer appears like it grew from the ground,[ix] whereas others prohibited its use because it is only one step away from spun flax which is mekabeil tumah,[x] as stated in the Torah, and is therefore invalid because of Torah law.[xi]

Does this dispute concerning why the Sages banned use of unspun flax have any halachic ramifications? Indeed it does, and this affects the kashrus of some varieties of schach mats. Is cotton or hemp thread kosher for schach use? This will depend on why combed but unspun flax was prohibited. If combed flax was prohibited because it no longer appears like it grew from the ground, then cotton or hemp thread or string would similarly be prohibited. On the other hand, if unspun flax was prohibited because someone may errantly use spun flax as schach, then there is no reason to invalidate the use of cotton, hemp or similar thread as schach. Now, it appears highly impractical that anyone would use thread as schach, but but the question whether thread can be used as schach impacts on whether thread can be used to tie together the schach, a topic that became an interesting issue with the development of “schach mats.”


How so?

Schach Mats

Let me mention that I may have been the first rabbi ever to provide a hechsher to schach mats. Before that time, different companies were producing these mats, but none of them had a hechsher, although a few responsa had been written concerning whether these mats were valid schach.

There was a very interesting curiosity with the schach mats. The fellow who met me and asked me for a hechsher was manufacturing and selling prefab sukkahs, complete with the schach. He came to me with his planned design for the schach, and I suggested improvements on the design, so that there would be no halachic issues involved, which he followed. I then provided him with a letter of certification on the mats. At the time, the idea of a hechsher on schach mats was very original, and I received inquiries from many rabbonim.


What design changes did you make?


His sukkah design called for large mats made from split pieces of bamboo tied together with string. Assuming that these were to be made in China, I had a halachic concern. In China, bamboo mats are used as mattresses, which might invalidate a mat made there, even if it was intended for transport and sale elsewhere.[xii] To avoid this problem, I told him to have the factory weave every six inches a piece of bamboo too thick to lie upon comfortably. This way these mats could never be used for sleeping, even by the Chinese, and their status as kosher schach mats was uncompromised.

I also had him make another design correction. The sample had the mats tied together with nylon thread, which I did not want. The problem is that nylon does not grow from the ground, and it is therefore not kosher schach. Thus, the thread holding the mat together was not kosher schach, and this thread has the status of a maamid, that which “supports” the schach, since the mat would fall into the sukkah if it was not tied together.

There was another potential question about these mats, even if they were tied with cotton or hemp string. As I mentioned above, it appears to be dependent on a dispute among authorities whether these threads are valid for use as schach. If they are not valid, then they should not be used to be “maamid” the schach either, since we rule that one should build a sukkah in a way that it is kosher according to all opinions, including those who invalidate maamid that is not kosher for schach.

However, I permitted him to make the sukkah mats and tie them together with cotton thread. Since some authorities consider these strings to be valid schach, the ruling of the late authorities not to use invalid schach material to support the schach should only apply when the supporting material is certainly invalid.[xiii]

There is a second reason to permit cotton string to tie the schach mat. Even if we assume that cotton string is invalid for schach, it is invalid only as a rabbinic stringency, and there are early sources who rule that even those who invalidate maamid that is not kosher schach do so only with schach that the Torah prohibited using, not with schach that was prohibited only as a rabbinic prohibition. To explain:

The halachic authorities cite two reasons to invalidate maamid that is not kosher as schach. Rashi states that using an invalid maamid is equivalent to using invalid schach. According to this approach, the Bach contends that the Torah, itself, invalidated maamid that is not kosher schach. On the other hand, Milchemes Hashem and Ran both state that the use of invalid maamid is only a rabbinic injunction to avoid people erring and using invalid schach. According to the latter approach, one could argue strongly that Chazal only prohibited use of a maamid that would be invalid schach min haTorah, but banning something invalid only miderabbanan would constitute a gezeirah legezeirah, a rabbinic injunction created to avoid violating another rabbinic injunction, something that Chazal are not empowered to do.

Slatted Mats

When the first commercially-produced schach mats reached the market in Israel, there was debate among the halachic authorities whether they could be used. These mats were made from thin pieces of wood tied together with nylon or cotton string. For a variety of reasons, the authorities disagreed on whether these mats could be used as schach. Some were concerned that tying wood pieces together might make the entire piece into one big board and invalidate its use as schach, just as the Sages prohibited use of wide boards, out of concern that someone might think that his regular house roof is valid for a sukkah. The majority of authorities were not concerned about this problem, but were very concerned about mats that used nylon strings to hold them together, considering the string as a maamid.

Some authorities were even concerned with the use of schach mats that used cotton or hemp thread or string to tie them together, being more concerned than I had been when I gave a hechsher to the schach mats. They felt that, ideally, one should not manufacture mats with cotton thread since, according to some opinions, this might constitute a maamid that is not valid schach.[xiv] Others felt that it was perfectly fine to use schach mats tied together with cotton thread.[xv]

By the way, some of today’s schach mats are produced with a much rougher bamboo that could not possibly be used for roofing material, and they are then tied together with a rough natural twine that should avoid any concerns about the thread.

Must I Fumigate my Schach?


Talking about schach mats, there has been a large of discussion lately about the problem of insect infestation in schach mats, and people are being given very extensive instructions in how to fumigate their mats.


There are some contemporary authorities who feel that people should check their schach carefully for insects, whether their schach is brand new or stored from last year.[xvi] One should note that the Aruch Laneir, in his addenda Tosafos Bikkurim to the end of Shulchan Aruch Orach Chayim Chapter 627, advises not to hang flowers from the schach for decorations, out of concern that the flowers are infested with small insects that, indeed, could fall unnoticed into one’s food.

Others note that since most people spread beautiful white tablecloths on their tables during Sukkos, they would readily notice if insects had fallen from the schach onto the white cloth.

I will continue this article next week, with a discussion about the manufacture of the sukkah walls.


[i] Shu”t Igros Moshe, Orach Chayim 1:177

[ii] Gemara Sukkah 14a

[iii] Gemara Sukkah 21b

[iv] See Gemara Sukkah 2a

[v] Few Rishonim (other than those mentioned in the next footnote) quote the issue of maamid, and Terumas Hadeshen (1:91) and Shulchan Aruch in Orach Chayim 630:13 clearly rule that maamid is not a concern.

[vi] Milchemes Hashem and Ran, Sukkah 21b; Bach, Orach Chayim 629.

[vii] Magen Avraham 629:9, whose position is accepted by the majority of later authorities.

[viii] Gemara Sukkah 12b

[ix] Rambam, Hilchos Sukkah 5:4

[x] Tosafos, Sukkah 12b s.v. Ba’anitzei. There are other opinions to explain this Gemara, but they will not affect the halacha that we are discussing.

[xi] Linen thread, which is the same thing as spun flax, will become tamei if tzaraas appears on it, see Vayikra 13:48, and is therefore invalid schach since this qualifies it as a davar hamekabeil tumah.

[xii] See Gemara Sukkah 19b and the Rosh ad loc.

[xiv] Shu”t Shevet Halevi 6:74; Shu”t Yeshuas Moshe 3:52

[xv] Shu”t Yechaveh Daas 1:64

[xvi]Bedikas Hamazon Kahalacha by Rabbi Moshe Vaya, Volume III pages 784-786

How Will I Buy My Esrog This Year?

esrogimAs the shmittah year comes to a close, and the laws prohibiting agricultural work phase out, several halachos will still apply to the special produce that grew during shmittah. One issue that affects people living in chutz la’aretz is the status of the esrogim arriving for Sukkos. Before delving into some of the controversial issues involved, let us first discuss the basics:

The Torah imbues shmittah produce with a special sanctity called kedushas shvi’is. As a result produce that grew during shmittah:


The owner of a field or orchard must treat whatever grows on his land as ownerless, allowing others to pick, without charge, as much as their families can use. Furthermore, one may not harvest the produce in order to sell it commercially (Tosefta, Shvi’is 5:7).


One may not sell shmittah produce in a business manner (Rambam, Hil. Shmittah 6:1). For example, shmittah produce may not be sold by weight or measure (Mishnah Shvi’is 8:3), nor sold in a regular store (Yerushalmi Shvi’is 7:1).


If one trades or sells shmittah produce, whatever one receives in exchange becomes imbued with kedushas shvi’is and must be treated with all the laws mentioned above. Even so, the original produce always maintains its kedushas shvi’is (Sukkah 40b).


According to many (and perhaps most) Rishonim, if a farmer did not allow people to pick from his fields, the shmittah produce that grew there becomes prohibited (see, for example, Raavad and Baal HaMaor to Sukkah 39a). Similarly, many authorities prohibit consuming produce that was tended in a way that violated the agricultural laws of shmittah (Ramban, Yevamos 122a).


One has the right to consume shmittah produce as long as it is still available in the field. Once no more produce remains in the field, special laws called biur shvi’is apply, which I will explain later.


One may not export shmittah produce outside Eretz Yisroel (Mishnah Shvi’is 6:5). I will discuss shortly this issue’s impact on the export of shmittah esrogim.


Shmittah produce is meant for Jewish consumption; one may not give or sell kedushas shvi’is produce to a gentile, although one may have the gentile join one’s meal (Rambam, Hil. Shmittah 5:13 as explained by Mahari Korkos).


One may not ruin shmittah produce (Gemara Pesachim 52b). What types of “ruining” did the Torah prohibit? One may not cook foods that are usually eaten raw, such as cucumbers or oranges, nor may one eat raw any produce that is usually cooked, such as potatoes (Yerushalmi, Shvi’is 8:2; Rambam, Hil. Shvi’is 5:3). Similarly, one may feed shmittah produce to animals only if it is unfit for human consumption.

The prohibition is only to actively ruin shmittah produce; one is not required to prevent it from spoiling. For example, when one finishes using a shmittah esrog on Hoshanah Rabbah, one may not chop up the esrog so that it will rot faster, but one is not required to wrap it up so that it does not dry out. Once shmittah produce has become useless, there is no mitzvah to treat it in any special way, and it may be thrown away.

According to accepted opinion, there is no obligation to eat shmittah food – rather, the Torah permits eating it, if the rules are followed (Chazon Ish, Hil. Shvi’is 14:10).


Since shmittah esrogim must be treated as ownerless, the grower may not harvest them for commercial sale or market them in the usual fashion. Furthermore, if someone sells the esrog, he must treat the money received in exchange with all the laws of shmittah sanctity. To remove this sanctity, he must use this money to purchase food that he will now eat according to the laws of shmittah food. When he does this, the kedusha on the money transfers onto the food.

This leads us to an interesting question. If no one may profit from the sale of a shmittah esrog, why are tens of thousands of esrogim being sold? Are people violating shmittah when they sell these esrogim?


The answer is that when using an otzar beis din in the correct way, the esrogim are distributed and not sold. What is an otzar beis din?

In an article published here towards the beginning of shmittah year, I detailed the halachic and historical background of the otzar beis din. Allow me to briefly review the concept and then explain how this permits the distribution of esrogim.


Literally, otzar beis din means “a storehouse operated by beis din.”

As mentioned above, the owner of an orchard may not harvest his produce for sale, and he must allow individuals to help themselves to what their family may use. But, what about people who live far from the orchard and find it difficult to pick fruit for themselves? How will most people ever utilize their right to pick shmittah fruit?

Enter the otzar beis din to help out! Beis din, representing the public, hires people who know how to carefully pick and clean the esrogim, evaluate their kashrus, purchase the wrapping materials and boxes, and pack and ship the esrogim to the consumer. The beis din represents the public interest, supervises the hiring of necessary labor, the rental of equipment, and the delivery of the esrogim to a convenient distribution center near the consumer.

Obviously, no one expects the pickers, sorters, truckers, and other laborers to work as unpaid volunteers; they, also, are entitled to earn a living. Similarly, the managers who coordinate this project are also entitled to an appropriate wage for their efforts. Furthermore, there is no reason why beis din cannot hire the owner of the orchard to supervise this massive project, paying him a wage appropriate to his significant skills in knowing how to manage this operation.


The otzar beis din divides these costs among the consumers. The charges to the esrog user should reflect the actual expenses incurred in bringing the esrogim to their consumers, and may not include any charge or profit for the finished product (Minchas Shelomoh, Shvi’is 9:8 pg. 250). Thus, otzar beis din products should cost less than regular retail prices for the same items. (See Yerushalmi 8:3 that shvi’is produce should be less expensive than regular produce.)

All the halachos of shmittah apply to otzar beis din produce, which therefore may not be sold for profit. Acquiring from an otzar beis din is not really “purchasing,” since you are not buying the fruit from anyone, but are receiving a distribution – your payment is exclusively for necessary operating costs. For this reason, if the otzar beis din is run correctly, the money paid for its products does not acquire kedushas shvi’is, because it is paid not in exchange for the shmittah fruit, but as compensation for expenses (Minchas Shelomoh, Shvi’is 9:8 pg. 250).

Although many otzarei batei din allow sellers to grade esrogim according to quality, a particularly beautiful esrog cannot command a price any higher than any other esrog in its general category, and the price of the entire category must reflect only the actual costs incurred. Selling an esrog at a higher price than this violates the rules of the otzar beis din and the laws of shmittah. In addition, the money received would be in exchange for a purchase and consequently have kedushas shvi’is that requires appropriate care. As a result, negotiating a particularly high price for a specifically beautiful esrog is certainly forbidden.


At this point in our discussion, we need to explain the concept of biur shvi’is. One requirement of shmittah produce is that when it is no longer available in the field, it becomes subject to biur. The word biur literally means elimination, as in biur chometz, which refers to the destruction of chometz performed each year before Pesach. Biur shvi’is means that one removes shmittah produce from one’s possession when the biur date for this species arrives.

Although the Rishonim dispute exactly what biur shvi’is entails, we rule that it means declaring ownerless (hefker) any shmittah produce in one’s possession (Ramban, Vayikra 25:7; cf. Rashi, Pesachim 52b s.v. mishum and Rambam, Hil. Shmittah 7:3 for alternative approaches.) For example, let us say that I picked shmittah apricots and canned them as jam. When no more apricots are available in the field, I must take the remaining jam and declare it hefker in the presence of three people (Yerushalmi, Shvi’is 9:5). I may do this in front of three close friends who will probably not take the jam after my declaration; it is sufficient that they have the right to take possession. If someone fails to perform biur, the shmittah produce becomes prohibited for consumption.

Produce still in the possession of an otzar beis din at the time of biur is exempt from being declared hefker. The reason is that this product is still without an owner – the otzar beis din is a distribution center, not an owner. However, produce originally distributed through an otzar beis din and now in private possession must be declared hefker. We will discuss shortly how this impacts on our esrogim.


At this point, we must discuss a very misunderstood concept called havla’ah, which means that one includes the price of one item with another. The Gemara (Sukkah 39a) describes using havla’ah to “purchase” an esrog that has shmittah sanctity without the money received becoming sanctified with kedushas shvi’is. For example, Reuven wants to buy an esrog from Shimon; however, Shimon does not want the money he receives to have kedushas shvi’is. Can he avoid this?

Yes, through a strategy Chazal called havla’ah, in which Shimon simultaneously sells a different item to Reuven that has no kedushas shvi’is, such as a lulav. The lulav is sold at a high price, and the esrog accompanies it as a gift. Although everyone realizes that this is a ruse to avoid imbuing the sales money with kedushas shvi’is, the ruse works and the money does not have kedushas shvi’is.


However, it is inconsistent to purchase an esrog with havla’ah and acquire it through otzar beis din at the same time. Otzar beis din means that I am not purchasing the esrog, but receiving it from those who picked it for me. I am paying, not for the fruit, which is rightfully mine, but for the expenses, just as I compensate a friend who ran an errand on my behalf. Since the money is for expenses and not for the fruit, how can the otzar beis din agent charge extra for the esrog by saying he is selling an expensive lulav? The moment I pay an unwarranted sum for the esrog, I have nullified his role as agent, and instead, he is engaging in commercial trade in violation of shmittah. Thus, most instances of havla’ah cannot be utilized when someone is selling shmittah produce through an otzar beis din (Maadanei Aretz 7:2; note to Minchas Shelomoh, Shvi’is 9:8 pg. 251; see also Sfas Emes to Sukkah 39a).

Although I am aware of esrogim dealers who sell expensive otzar beis din esrogim through havla’ah, I know of no halachically acceptable method to do this. Hopefully, some authority holds that one may use otzar beis din in this way. However, Rav Shelomoh Zalman Auerbach, z”tl, and Rav Elyashiv, z”tl, both prohibited this practice.


Having explained many of the issues of shmittah esrogim, we are still left with one major subject to discuss. At the beginning of this article, I mentioned that the Mishnah prohibits exporting shmittah produce to chutz la’aretz (Mishnah Shvi’is 6:5). If that is true, how are so many thousands of Israeli-grown esrogim arriving in chutz la’aretz? Are the shippers all violating shmittah?

This question has been the subject of much halachic debate within the last century. I am aware of several innovative approaches to permit the export.

A very prominent Eretz Yisroel talmid chacham, Rav Yehoshua Tzvi Michal Shapiro, passed away in the early twentieth century leaving behind extensive notes and correspondence on a wide range of halachic areas. These materials were edited and published in 5680 (1920) by the renowned gadol, Rav Yaakov Moshe Charlap, under the title Tzitz HaKodesh. In his responsum addressing the export of esrogim to chutz la’aretz, Rav Shapiro suggests three creative heterim to permit exporting esrogim to chutz la’aretz. The first approach assumes that Chazal prohibited exporting shmittah produce out of concern that the fruit would be eaten in chutz la’aretz, since shmittah produce may be eaten only in Eretz Yisroel. Indeed, there are early authorities, most notably the Raavad, who rule that shmittah produce may be eaten only in Eretz Yisroel, even though this position is by no means universally accepted. (Raavad commentary to Sifra, Behar 1:9; responsum of Rav Avraham Eizen published in Beis HaRidbaz 5:18; cf. Ridbaz, ad locum, who contends that this approach is not accepted halacha.)

Assuming that Chazal prohibited exporting shmittah produce to chutz la’aretz out of concern that it might be eaten there, the Tzitz HaKodesh reasons that it is permitted to export esrogim, since they are not usually eaten (Tzitz HaKodesh Volume 1 #15:4).

The Tzitz HaKodesh suggests two other ingenious methods whereby one could legitimately export esrogim, including a suggestion that a gentile ship them. The other option contends that one may ship shmittah produce to chutz la’aretz to fulfill the mitzvah, if one stipulates that they are returned to Eretz Yisroel afterwards. (By the way, several shmittos ago, the esrog I purchased contained such instructions inside the box, obviously based on this psak.)

Another authority suggests a different rationale to permit exporting shmittah esrogim. He cites sources that the prohibition to export shmittah produce is because the biur of all shmittah produce must be in Eretz Yisroel, and Chazal were concerned that the fruit may remain in chutz la’aretz until the time for biur arrives. He then contends that the law of biur does not apply to esrogim, since some esrogim always remain on the tree. Since esrogim are always available in the field, the law of biur does not apply to esrogim, and the prohibition to export is similarly inapplicable (Beis Ridbaz 5:18; however, cf. Minchas Shelomoh, Shvi’is 6:5).


Rav Moshe Feinstein accepted none of these rationales to permit export of shmittah esrogim. Nevertheless, he ruled that the importer does not violate halacha by ordering shmittah esrogim from Israel, since the exporter is acting on the basis of a lenient psak (Shu”t Igros Moshe, Orach Chayim 1:186).


For the most part, those living in North America are concerned less about whether they may import esrogim from Eretz Yisroel, and more about what to do with such an esrog after Sukkos. The esrog keeps its kedushas shvi’is until it becomes inedible, and one may not actively facilitate its decay process nor ruin it in any way.

According to one approach suggested by the Tzitz HaKodesh, one may be required to ship the esrog back to Eretz Yisroel after Sukkos. However, most authorities do not require this.

Assuming that return shipping is not required, one still may not destroy the esrog after Sukkos, but one is not required to preserve it. Therefore, the simplest solution is to remember not to wrap up the esrog on Hoshanah Rabbah. Without wrapping or refrigeration, the esrog will soon dry out and become inedible. At that point, one may dispose of it.

When we look around the shul on Sukkos and see everyone holding his own set of arba’ah minim, we should sing praises to Hashem for helping us fulfill these mitzvos so easily in comparison to earlier times, when it was common for an entire community to share one set. At the same time, we should remember the modern farmer in Israel who observed shmittah with true mesiras nefesh, thereby attesting to the message of shmittah — that the Ribbono Shel Olam created the world in six days and rested on the seventh.