A fine professional film on the life of Rav Breuer and his famous kehillah in NY, prepared for a YRSRH dinner years ago, with historical footage, alongside reminiscences of family, talmidim, kehillah members, and prominent personalities.
A public spirited יהודי has just made available for viewing a valuable historic collection of several video clips of Rav Shimon Schwab zt”l, famed Rav of KAJ WH, and author of various renowned ספרים.
The recording consists of the following:
1) It opens with some brief, quiet clips of Rav Schwab and Rav Dr. Joseph Breuer zt”l, senior Rav and meyaseid of KAJ WH. From the 5730’s/1970’s I would guess (approximately two and a half minutes).
2) Following that quiet segment, a segment from the yovel (50th) anniversary commemoration of KAJ WH is featured. That was in approximately 5750/1990. One can see in attendance there prominent personalities of the present Torah world, שליט”א, such as R. Avrohom Ausband, Rosh Yeshiva of Telshe Riverdale (Rav Schwab zt”l learned in Telshe in his youth), and R. Yaakov Perlow (aka Novominsker Rebbe), who served for years as a marbitz Torah with KAJ WH. Rav Schwab expounds upon the meaning of the words יובל and דרור, as stated in the Torah with regard to such a jubilee and shares appropriate Torah השקפה for the occasion. The shofar is blown as well (thirteen minutes approximately).
3) That is followed by a segment from the installation of Rav Zechariah Gelley שליט”א (he should have a רפואה שלמה במהרה בתוך שאר חולי ישראל), which I guess is from the early 5750’s/1990’s (nine minutes approximately).
It is in turn followed by video messages from Rav Schwab
4) on the occasion of the simcha of the wedding of Rav Gelley’s son (six minutes approximately),
5) to a dinner of the KAJ branch in Monsey, where he expounds upon the future of the kehillah based on the words in Bereishis of ועתה הייתי לשני מחנות (six and half minutes approximately).
We are indebted to the one who has shared this great material with us, and hopefully we will be zoche to see more such treasures in the future.
In these video clips we see Rav Schwab’s combination of profundity with deceptive simplicity and straightforwardness.
I would propose to say that that might describe his מהלך החיים, way of life, in general, not just his דרך הלימוד, and way of speaking, and that that is also a מורשת אשכנז, a way of great gedolim of אשכנז.
יהי זכרו ברוך – זכרונו לברכה לחיי העולם הבא
The Glory of Chanukahs Past and Present: A Chanukah Stroll Down Western European Jewish Memory Lane: Breuer’s and IGB Basel – הוד חנוכה של שנים קדמוניות בזמננו – קהל עדת ישורון וואשינגטאן הייטס, ביהכ”נ באסלDecember 14, 2015
Just in time for זאת חנוכה (important correction: commenter D. has written to me that in מסורת אשכנז the last day of Chanukah is called חנוכת המזבח, rather than Zos Chanukah, and Rav Hamburger shlit”a commented that his point was very correct, and so it is in ספרי רבותינו הראשונים והאחרונים, so I stand corrected with regard to the terminology, שגיאות מי יבין….וה’ ירחם עלי), a commenter, Mendel, has alerted us to some fine, important newly posted videos, one of historical footage showing Chanukahs past in KAJ-Breuer’s, as well as one of a program focusing on IGB Basel on Chanukah in the past.
Viewing them, one gets a renewed appreciation, feeling, and yearning for the glory and majesty of the past, as seen in Western Ashkenaz type kehillos, and a renewed desire to help them continue enriching our lives.
We thank the poster for sharing these newly virtually available treasures with us, and invite our community of readers to view and enjoy them.
יישר כחו וחילו
א פרייליכען חנוכה
The Special Experience of Sukkos at KAJ WH – היחודיות של חג סוכות נעלה בקהל עדת ישורון בוואשינגטאן הייטס: רעיונות ממשתתף אחדOctober 2, 2015
R. Avrohom Gordimer, a talented writer, thinker, and Torah activist, has shared some thoughtful reflections on the specialness of the Sukkos experience at KAJ WH.
Worth reading and thinking about.
Other communities and individuals may want to share in the spiritual bounty therein, via similar fare.
א גוטען מועד, א גוטען שבת, א גוטען יום טוב, און א גוט יאהר
From Medieval Ashkenaz Techinah Supplication to Iconic Segulah: The Chasidic Transformation of G-d of Abraham – השינוי החסידית של גאט פון אברהם: מתחינה אשכנזית מימי הביניים לסגולה מפורסמתSeptember 18, 2015
In many siddurim and bentchers nowadays, one encounters a supplication at the conclusion of Shabbos called גאט פון אברהם (God of Abraham) (GFA). It is often accompanied by words stating that it is from the Chasidic leader Reb Levi Yitzchak of Berdichev (RLY), and that it is a great segulah for success (such as with פרנסה), and should be recited three times by men, women, and children.
While on the surface it seems a simple matter, it actually is quite a bit more complicated, as a number of questions may arise if one thinks about it, such as 1) why is a Yiddish prayer in the standard Hebrew (לשון קודש) siddur?, 2) why is it specifically promoted as a potent segulah?, 3) why the emphasis and detailed instruction that men, women, and children recite it?
Medieval Ashkenaz Origin
Firstly, it should be mentioned that GFA is originally an old Ashkenaz תחינה (supplication) in the vernacular that goes back to hundreds of years before the time of RLY, who was in the early years of the Chasidic movement. See this interesting related discussion at the Musings of a Jewish Bookseller blog, which includes illustrations of the prayer in pre Hasidic printed works. A more clear rendering of an old Ashkenaz version can be seen in a recent siddur here.
However, as a vernacular (Judisch-Deutsch, or Yiddish) תחינה supplication, it is not as formal and set in stone, so to speak, as, for example, sections of the main body of the סידור התפלה. Therefore, there were numerous versions of the prayer extant in Europe in the past. The contemporary scholar and researcher ר’ יחיאל גולדהבר , in his fine work מנהגי הקהלות (v.1, p.267-8), has a discussion of it, in which he cites a work printed a little over a century ago in Warsaw with twenty two versions of it. In many places it was basically a women’s prayer seemingly.
To better understand this, we need some context. Centuries ago, the state of Jewish education for the masses was not at the high level it is at today for some, ב”ה . There were women (especially) that were not proficient in Hebrew. For them, a Yiddish-vernacular prayer was something they might better understand and relate to than one in Hebrew – לשון קודש. Men were typically better learned, so they were more connected to more standard Hebrew prayers, but even among them, due to various pressures, many were weak in Hebrew and Torah learning. So perhaps we could say that it was a supplication with a special connection and appeal to the less educated, who were more comfortable with the vernacular of Yiddish as opposed to Hebrew.
Chassidic Transformation of Old Supplication
There are some additional discussions online of the topic, which shed much light on it. Firstly, is a page with information from a Rav Gershon Kitzis in לשון קודש, which is very helpful. Also helpful is a discussion at an online forum here. Both of them I credit for helping greatly in researching the topic, from which are drawn the understandings below.
The Yiddish composition of GFA gives it a folksy, informal, populist feel, which fit in well with the populist, anti-establishment, and anti-elitist aspects of the Chasidic movement, especially in its early years. RLY was one of the most popular Chasidic leaders, who spoke to G-d directly and in Yiddish, as seen in some of his other famous legacies, such as ‘א דין תורה מיט הקב”ה, דודאלע, וכו. Anyway, it seems that RLY or someone else in early Hasidism, took the old GFA and transformed it, by adding aspects related to and stressed by the nascent, early Hasidic movement, such as אמונת חכמים, דבוק חברים טובים, ודביקות בהקב”ה. Though people nowadays may not realize it, those are themes very important, integral to, and stressed by the Chasidic movement, especially in its early days, when RLY lived, when it was under strong attack by its Rabbinic opponents. RLY suppposedly instructed that it should be recited 3x (something seen with some other recitations as well, especially with Chasidic or Kabbalistic connection), by not just women, but rather men, women, and children (‘everyone’). This could be seen as part of Chasidic outreach to the less educated masses, as well as an expression of Chasidic identification and solidarity. The term אמונת חכמים could be understood as referring to Chasidic leaders, while dveykus and dibbuk chaveirim are also well known major Chasidic themes.
Supplication to Segulah
Putting together the above pieces of the puzzle, the above background may solve the mystery of why specifically this prayer (the Chasidic version) was touted as a great segulah. Perhaps it was that basically switching over to (similar to Chasidim changing from נוסח אשכנז לנוסח ספרד perhaps), or saying the Chasidic version of the תחינה (rather than an Ashkenazic version, or not saying it at all) was a way of identifying with, expressing support for, and praying on behalf of the Chasidic movement, something very close to the heart of RLY. That is why he (or whoever it was) assured people that it would be a great segulah. On the other hand, non Chasidim who didn’t go along with that, were/are making a statement as well in terms of their allegiance religiously, as remaining faithful adherents of the great pre Chasidic Ashkenazic path.
The Ashkenazic, non-Chasidic versions also continue on as well. Rav Binyomin Shlomo Hamburger שליט”א has a tune for an old version that he sings with it.
I hope you found this exploration as fascinating as I did.
In the zechus of our following in the ways of our great ancestors, and the גדולי אשכנז זי”ע, may we be zoche that the G-d of our ancestors, אברהם, יצחק, ויעקב protect and bless us.
Thanks to my dear friends for their support.
Soul Terminology, and Expressions of Love: Proper Frum Expression In The Lens of the Ashkenaz Tradition – Gleanings From Rav Shimon Schwab – התבטאות תורני בדברי רב שמעון שוואב זצ”לJune 17, 2015
I recently came across a number of recordings of הרב שמעון שוואב זצ”ל online. Rav Schwab zt”l, whose twentieth yohrzeit was marked just a few months ago at קהל עדת ישורון – ‘Breuer’s’, where he served as Rav for many years, was a master expounder of Torah hashkofoh, as well as a general גדול בתורה and מנהיג ישראל (he was also a strong supporter of מכון מורשת אשכנז, see e.g. his הסכמה printed at the beginning of שרשי מנהג אשכנז חלק א, as well as his letter in the beginning of שרשי מנהג אשכנז חלק ד). His ספרים, many of which came out toward the end of his life, or after his petirah, have spread his greatness to people around the world. However, many, especially among the younger generations, even if they know of him, never heard him speak, בקול קדשו, thereby losing out on the special flavor this great godol imparted with his audial דברי אלקים חיים. Therefore, it is great to know that recordings of a number of major addresses that he made to mechanchim are accessible online.
While listening to Rav Schwab recently via these recordings, in addition to enjoying the general great Torah wisdom on the declared topics of the addresses, I also gleaned some important lessons from his careful diction, even if they were peripheral to the main subjects under discussion. With a תלמיד חכם of the stature of Rav Schwab, who did not utter words lightly, all the more so in his later years, when his Torah was in category of old wine (as per mishnah in מסכת אבות פרק ד), one can see and deduce important lessons from seemingly minor phraseology as well.
Following are two examples of what I mean.
There are expressions that are commonplace today, in various circles, that were not commonly used by the masses (if used at all) in previous generations. Which compels the thinking Yid to wonder, if they are according to our mesorah, or are in the category of חדשים מקרוב באו?
1) ?חלק א-לוה ממעל, או נשמת א-לוה ממעל
When Rav Schwab talked about the soul of a Yid (in “An Address on Tznius”, second section of this recording) (54:38), instead of using an expression for it often heard nowadays, namely חלק א-לוה ממעל, he used a different term, namely נשמת א-לוה ממעל. The relevant passage (just after 54:25) is
What is the difference one might ask? The former (Cheilek Elokah Mimaal) is a Kabbalistic term, used by some, which can be, and is (mis)understood by some as meaning that a neshomoh is literally a ‘piece of Hashem’, a notion at odds with traditional Jewish theology, which posits rather that the neshamah is a creation of Hashem. The latter term (Nishmas Elokah Mimaal) does not lend itself so easily to such misunderstanding.
I suspect (but don’t know with absolute certainty) that Rav Schwab may have deliberately used the term he used due to the above concern.
Nowadays one at times witnesses public statements, in the form of songs, declarations, and even bumper stickers, proclaiming הקב”ה אנחנו אוהבים אותך (Hashem, we love you), an expression that was not commonly heard shouted aloud in the past in our circles. Is that in consonance with our מסורה? Rav Schwab (in his address entitled Internalizing Eternity) states the following (after 33:20) “Since Ahavas Hashem is such a strictly personal matter, he who truly loves Hashem does not show his אהבה. He rather hides it. It is far too intimate to parade it in public. He is mekayeim והצנע לכת עם ה’ אלקיך. It is exclusively his private affair, between him and his Creator.”
In the zechus of following our holy mesorah of traditional Torah expression, may we be soon be zoche to the expression from הקב”ה of אני ה’ א-לקיכם.
א גוטען חודש
The Disappearing Doctor of Iyyar: Virtual Vanishing of a Venerable Minhog – הרופא הנעדר של חודש אייר: מנהג ותיק בכתיבת שם ה’, שהולך ונתמעטMay 6, 2015
There is a popular vort that some people like to say over, especially around this time of the year, which interprets the letters of אייר, the month we are now in midst of, as standing for אני ה’ רופאך, I am Hashem your healer (‘doctor’). The aleph stands for אני, the two yuds for הקב”ה, and the ר for רופאך. The month is thereby depicted as a month of healing. The vort seemingly is based on an old minhog of many generations among Yidden, in which the letters י-י (sans hyphen) are used to represent the venerated name of Hashem (in particular the שם הוי-ה), in place of the spelling out of it with the letters Yud-Kay-Vov-Kay (י, followed by ה, followed by ו, followed by ה).
Writing the Shem Hashem – background, past, and present practices
Jewish custom is that the Shem Hashem is treated with special respect. When people write, they do not write the Holy Name as it appears in a sefer Torah, for example. Rather they write ה’, ה’ יתברך, or similar. This was followed not only in private writing, but even in the printing of סידורים, where in the past, Shem Hashem was not written out explicitly, based on venerable, old practice. In other words, the spelling out of the letters, Yud – Kay – Vov – Kay in the past was done in Biblical texts, such as ספרי תורה וספרי נ”ך. In texts of תפלות, however, it was not done. Instead, Yud – Yud was substituted. The reason for this, was as part of the great veneration and respect Jews had for the great and awesome name. Just as people don’t enunciate it when they speak, rather they say instead ‘Hashem’ (the name), הקדוש ברוך הוא, etc., so too, they were careful not to spell out the name in writing as well. Recently, however, almost all נוסח אשכנז siddurim have abandoned this ancient practice (with the notable exception of some Yekke ones, whose circulation and numbers are quite limited at this time though) and started to write out the sheimos explicitly, with the letters ‘Yud – Kay – Vov – Kay’. It has gotten to the point, that one is hard pressed to find a siddur which follows that venerable minhog in many nusach Ashkenaz Shuls.
To better bring out the above, one can take a look at pages from a variety of נוסח אשכנז siddurim over the centuries, by clicking on the links below, thanks to Hebrewbooks.org.
2. The famous סידור בית יעקב (also strongly Kabbalah influenced), of the great Rav Yaakov Emden, here.
3. A siddur from one of the גדולי ירושלים, ר’ זונדעל קרויזער, from a few short years ago, here.
Note the difference between how the Shem is written in the first two and how it is seen in the third.
Why should this be cause for wonder and concern, לעניות דעתי, as it seems from this vantage point?
For a number of reasons. If this was the minhog of the gedolim and masses of the past, how can people later, who are presumed to be on a lesser level, make such a change, on such a broad scale, to the extent that the old tradition is threatened with disappearance ח”ו? Do they think we know better than so many previous generations, and their leaders, the gedolim? How can such an old tradition be so easily abandoned? It should be stated that the question is more for people involved in putting together סידורים than the masses who daven from them, who are likely not aware of the issues involved, to be fair.
Kabbalistic siddurim have previously followed such a path, of printing out sheimos explicitly, and in Sepharadic/ Eidos Hamizrach siddurim one sees many varied sheimos spelled out. But the minhog among Ashkenazim was not so.
הרב יעקב לויפר, who wrote about this recently, feels that Kabbalistic influence is involved in the shift. He also mentions a responsum of Rav Moshe Sternbuch שליט”א, who/which advocates as much, as well as a claim that the Brisker Rav held so as well (which he states requires investigation), but feels that R. Sternbuch is in the minority.
It still surprises me, however, as this is not a small, minor matter, but a venerable old minhog that was kept for centuries.
The extent of the strength of the minhog can be seen from strongly worded declarations from very prominent Rabbonim in support of it over a century ago, which can be seen online, once again thanks to hebrewbooks.org, two examples being
1) ר’ אלעזר הכהן, son in law of ר’ יעקב מליסא, the famed Nesivos Hamishpot (בעמח”ס נתיבות המשפט), wrote strongly about this inyan over a hundred years ago, with his message entitled אזהרה למדפיסים.
2) A few years later, a קונטרוס came out in support of the same, entitled הסכמות הרבנים, with statements of a group of renowned Rabbonim, including R. Chaim Berlin, and R. Eliyohu Boruch Kamai of Mir.
Rav Sternbuch, in his reponsum where he discusses the matter, from circa thirty years ago, states that most siddurim do not spell out the sheimos, but rather use י-י instead. But if that was true at that time, it definitely is not so now, as the tide has swung dramatically, to the point where I think the old minhag can be placed in our ‘endangered minhogim‘ category. The fact that it has reached such a situation, hopefully will spur people to give it more thought and consideration.
In the zechus of התבוננות in, and hopefully, at some point, החזרת עטרה ליושנה in this inyan, may we be zoche to אני ה’ רופאך, בב”א.
Note: (The info in the above is primarily based on an excellent מאמר in קובץ חצי גבורים פליטת סופרים ז, אלול התשע”ד by הרב יעקב לויפר, ירושלים, עמודים שמז-שסה)
Rav Shmuel Wosner zt”l, Oberlander Titan: His Ashkenaz side – הרב שמואל וואזנער זצ”ל: הגאון האבערלאנדר מוויען ויחסו למסורת אשכנזApril 29, 2015
A few weeks ago, Rav Shmuel Wosner, בעהמ”ח שבט הלוי, passed away, after more than a century בעוה”ז.
Many of the reports, commentaries, and eulogies (הספדים) that followed described him outright, or gave the impression, that he was a Chasidic leader. While it is true that Rav Wosner had close connections with the Chasidic world (as well as with the Litvish world, and other frum groups), the reality is actually somewhat different, and more complex.
For those that are not aware, to set the record straight, wearing a shtreimel does not necessarily a Chasid make (cf Rav Elyashiv zt”l). In reality, Rav Wosner was an Oberlander (Austro-Hungarian empire Ashkenaz) Yid from Vienna, aka א וויענער, who davened נוסח אשכנז. Having nusach Ashkenaz as one’s personal נוסח התפלה, and being Chasidic, do not typically go together. While it is clear that Rav Wosner adopted some Chasidic practices, the fact that he davened nusach Ashkenaz speaks volumes, and indicates that he retained his core Oberlander identity.
A few months ago, רבש”ה שליט”א spoke at a gathering for a new MMA affiliated minyan in ירושלים , and, in the course of his remarks, related some interactions with various gedolim over the years, with regard to Machon Moreshes Ashkenaz related activities, small excerpts of which re R. Wosner follow. He stated that Rav Wosner was most supportive and helpful, relating that when MMA opened its first shul in Bnei Brak, a week before Rosh Hashanah 5752, Rav Wosner said ‘this is a great זכות for the ימים נוראים, not just for you, but for all of כלל ישראל, that you are returning these minhogim to Klal Yisroel’…..Over the years he always encouraged us….After he encouraged us to open a Shul that says פיוטים and מערבות, he then began to say them in his own shul, which is נוסח ספרד, as well. He began to say במה מדליקין in his shul, and he says all the piyutim in the tefillah, even when the tzibur isn’t saying it. In the last year he even stopped the תקיעות in the ‘shtille shmoneh esreh’ (תפלת מוסף בלחש) on ראש השנה…I owe Rav Wosner a lot, because he gave us a lot of support.
May the memory of רב וואזנער זצ”ל be for a blessing, and hopefully there will be, of his many followers, admirers, and descendants, those that continue on in his ways of following the traditions of Oberlander Yiddishkeit, including davening nusach Ashkenaz.
יהי זכרו ברוך
Updates: Hespedim for Rav Wosner with maspidim wearing a טלית גדול, have been held in multiple locations: See e.g. Lucerne, Paris (Strasbourg Rav שליט”א being maspid in tallis), London Satmar.
Big Tallis Roundup: Tallis Wearing During Drosho, Hesped, Megillas Esther night reading, etc. – טלית גדול לדרשה, הספד, קריאת מגילת אסתר בלילה, וכוMarch 26, 2015
We are now at a special time of the year, just before שבת הגדול, which is one of the times when people can see prominently a special, ancient minhag in practice in some kehillos, namely the Rav’s wearing of a טלית גדול for the דרשה. As expounded upon at length in שרשי מנהג אשכנז חלק א, according to Minhag Ashkenaz, talleisim (tallis gadol) are not only for davening with, and not only for daytime use. Rather they also have the role of being recommended appropriate garb for communal functionaries performing certain functions, מפני כבוד הציבור, for the honor of the congregation, during both daytime and nighttime hours.
A few months ago, it was touched upon here, on this website, in conjunction with a שבת שובה דרשה, Shabbos Shuva being a twin of sort to Shabbos Hagadol in this respect.
Now, I would like to point out some other examples, which I noticed recently, which show this ancient practice continuing in other contexts as well.
Zayin Adar drosho with tallis
In some kehillos, for example those of Oberlander (Hungarian Ashkenaz) background, ז’ אדר (the seventh day of Adar, yohrzeit of Moshe Rabbeinu) is marked religiously with special observances, one of them being a prominent דרשה given by the רב.
In a recent report online from קהל עדת יראים וויען in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, in the USA, a kehillah with Oberlander roots (למרות שהסניף בוויליאמסבורג שינו נוסח התפלה שלהם בשנים האחרונות) , one can plainly see the Rav giving his drosho while wearing a tallis.
A Tallis Gadol for Hespedim
A. In a Chasidic Beis Midrash
Recently there was a hesped in London for R. Elchonon Halpern, a leading Chasidic figure in the recent era, especially in Europe, who was recently niftar, in his Beis Medrash there, at the end of the shiva for him. I found it interesting to notice, in a photographic report of the event, that various maspidim were wearing a tallis while delivering their eulogies. In a Chasidic Beis Medrash no less.
Another Minhag Ashkenaz vestige where you might not expect it, evidently….
It seems that such things are more common in some parts of the world than others. It seems that in the old world (such as Europe) (as well as former old world colonies, as opposed to, for example the USA which was פורק עול of the U.K. via its revolution :) such practices are stronger than in new world places like the Americas, the old world being more history and tradition conscious and bound at times than the new one.
So, for example, at a hesped for the same R. Halpern in a Chasidic Beis Medrash in Boro Park in the USA, a tallis was not seen on the maspidim (although it is possible that it was at night, which could have been a factor as well, though I think it was not the decisive factor, rather the location was).
B. In the Lederman Shul in Bnei Brak
In Bnei Brak, at the famous (nusach Ashkenaz) Lederman Shul, at a hesped for Rebbetzin Bassheva Kanievsky z”l a few years ago, one sees talleisim on the maspidim as well.
C. In varied venues in Europe
Hespedim for Rav Shmuel Wosner with maspidim wearing a טלית גדול, have been held in multiple, varied locations: See e.g. Lucerne, Paris (Strasbourg Rav שליט”א being maspid in tallis), London Satmar.
Wearing a tallis for Megillas Esther leining at night
Needless to say, according to Minhag Ashkenaz, the one who reads the megillah at night on Purim does so with a tallis. In Litvishe Yeshivos where the chazan regularly wears a tallis gadol for maariv during the week around the year, the same applies.
Interestingly, it seems that many Chasidim do so as well, see e.g. these photos from various minyonim in Bnei Brak, and these from the Gorlitzer Rebbe there.
It is seen in these photos at an Oberlander kehillah down under too.
So we see quite a broad spectrum of Ashkenazic Jewry is doing so (of course, not 100%, Moshiach has not arrived yet ;-), even some of those who don’t usually wear a tallis at night. Something worthy of consideration.
Important article re wearing a tallis gadol at night
An important, wide ranging study on the wearing of the tallis gadol at night, was recently published by a leading scholar, מחבר, and researcher of minhogim, R. Yechiel Goldhaber, of Eretz Yisroel, in the kovetz חצי גבורים, mentioned in our previous post on מי שברך לחולים בשבת.
He shows in it, that what people think is an absolutely unequivocal, clear cut matter, re a kabbalistic position on wearing of the tallis gadol at night, is actually not exactly so, but rather much more complicated than generally known. An important area of study and line of inquiry, which we hope will be continued.
Perhaps we will discuss it, as well as some other relevant material, in the future, בעזרת השי”ת.
יה”ר מלפני אבינו שבשמים שבזכות טלית גדול ושבת הגדול נזכה לתקיעת השופר הגדול בב”א
א גוטען שבת און א כשר’ן און פרייליכען פסח
Fascinating, Little Known History of a Mi Shebeirach Revealed: The Hidden Story Behind A Shabbos Practice – מי שברך לחולים בשבת: הלכה, מנהג, ומציאות, נחשף, נחקר, ונברר ע”י רב המבורגרDecember 24, 2014
Davening for a sick person on Shabbos?
May one daven for a sick person on Shabbos?
Not a simple matter. Recall that we don’t say the regular, weekday Shmoneh Esrei, which contains a prayer to heal our sick, on that day.
What about making a מי שברך לחולים for an ill person on Shabbos?
Were your answers to the above two questions the same? Different? If so, why?
Mi shebeirach for cholim on Shabbos today
A recent issue of a קובץ תורני (Torah journal) by the name of קובץ חצי גבורים, פליטת סופרים, from this past אלול, includes a major contribution by רבש”ה, Rav Binyomin Shlomo Hamburger, נ”י, bearing the title of מי שברך לחולים בשבת, in which these and some related topics are masterfully and comprehensively expounded upon and explicated.
In many Shuls today, the mi shebeirach lecholim on Shabbos is a drawn out affair. Some people seem to rack their brains to think of any person, with almost any kind of health issue, they could include in it (not surprising – after all, we are רחמנים בני רחמנים :). In some places, long lists are read by the mi shebeirach maker, while in others a new custom has been innovated, in which people in the congregation say names they wish to have included, while remaining in their places.
Many people do not seem to be aware that it is not a simple matter to assume that davening for a sick person is allowed on Shabbos. While there were and are decisors who ruled that such davening is allowed, a significant body of חכמי אשכנז held that such is allowed only for a חולה שיש בו סכנה, someone who’s life is in danger, specifically בו ביום, on that very day of Shabbos.
Mi Shebeirach for Cholim on Shabbos through the ages
Rav Hamburger takes his readers on a journey through many centuries, exploring how our chachomim addressed this issue, navigating skillfully through the waters of Talmud, and pages of Midrash, Responsa, and Siddurim. The wide ranging exposition ranges far and wide through many centuries, including examinations of various nuschaos (versions) of mi shebeirach texts, as well as the emendation made by R. Avraham Gombiner, the Magen Avrohom, to the מי שברך לחולה text, the reaction to it, and instructions (or their lack) in סידורים (prayer books).
Also discussed are the meanings of enigmatic Talmudic phrases that figure in the discussion, such as שבת היא מלזעוק ורפואה קרובה לבא, and יכולה היא שתרחם.
At the end he notes that while widely accepted poskim such as Chayei Adam, Aruch Hashulchan, Mishna Berurah, Shulchan Aruch Harav, among others, said that it should be restricted to a חולה מסוכן on Shabbos, much of Eastern European Jewry (with some notable exceptions) seem to be meikil on it, conducting unrestricted mi shebeirachs for cholim. On the other hand, the older minhog was maintained among Bnei Ashkenaz (‘Yekkes’), among whom, not only was such restricted to a choleh sheyeish bo sakonoh, but also the mi shebeirach used was a regular mi shebeirach לבריא, rather than the mi shebeirach lecholeh.
Understanding the spirit behind the practice
The gedolim and poskim that limited mi shebeirach for the ill on Shabbos, did so, not, חס ושלום, G-d forbid, out of a lack of compassion or cold heartedness, but rather, following the mesorah they received, out of concern that the special atmosphere of Shabbos, its sanctity and tranquility, not be compromised by such supplications (except for extreme cases, and even then just in a limited manner). The Shabbos itself, with its atmosphere of holiness and tranquility, is therapeutic and healing. As alluded to in the text of the מי שברך לחולה, there is a connection between רפואת הנפש, healing of the spirit, spiritual health, and רפואת הגוף, healing of the body, physical health. That special Shabbos atmosphere needs to be guarded to be properly maintained. Additionally, the zechus, the merit of keeping Shabbos properly, which, as we say in the shmoneh esrei of mincha on Shabbos, is מנוחת אהבה ונדבה, מנוחת אמת ואמונה, מנוחת שלום ושלוה והשקט ובטחת, is itself a great zechus, which accrues to the benefit of the חולה and others who guard it.
Once again, Rav Hamburger has illuminated for us, with great light, the ins and outs, as well as the roots, branches and variations of a Jewish practice forgotten and misunderstood by many.
The return of Shorshei Minhag Ashkenaz (hopefully)
In addition to the great contribution and sheer enjoyment that this enthralling contribution to לימוד התורה represents, it is also very welcome for another reason. Namely that it is the first such new lengthy, Shorshei Minhag Ashkenaz type exposition (it is written in a format like that used in Shorshei Minhag Ashkenaz, e.g. starting from the beginning, from relevant early sources, such as Biblical and Talmudic, tracing the practice down through many generations in later sources such as halachic codes, collections of minhogim, and siddurim, followed by surveys of practice in different lands of Jewish settlement, culminating in a final review/summation section) to appear in some time. Since the four initial volumes of Shorshei Minhag Ashkenaz (SMA) (as well as the accompanying small introductory volume, גדולי הדורות על משמר מנהג אשכנז), appeared between app. twenty and ten years ago, no new volumes have appeared in recent years (though a fine volume with an English synopsis of the Hebrew volumes appeared a few years ago – and now is listed at hundreds of dollars at Amazon.com – wow!), while Rav Hamburger was occupied with other literary endeavors, such as הישיבה הרמה בפיורטה, ירושתנו, וכו. It is hoped that this new perek (which Rav Hamburger indicated may be incorporated in a future volume of SMA) heralds the return and resumption of the highly acclaimed and very necessary series in the near future. According to the Machon Moreshes Ashkenaz website, a number of new works are awaiting sponsorship, including SMA V & VI. Hopefully הקב”ה will send discerning sponsors soon that appreciate the greatness of this work (along with other valuable MMA products), to partner with the Machon and enable the resumption of its dissemination. It is a series that has gained wide acclaim, in wide circles of cognoscenti. From Talmidei Chachomim, to Academics, to Bnei Ashkenaz, to regular Jews, who recognize something special when they see it.
יה”ר שנזכה לכך במהרה בימינו, אכי”ר