Posts Tagged ‘Chasam Sofer’

Rav Elyashiv, Rav Shach, and the Chazon Ish, זצ”ל, On Going To Meron On Lag Baomer: Rav Elyashiv’s Talmid (Student) Speaks Out

April 30, 2013

I just came upon, not long ago, a critical analysis by a mekurav of Rav Elyashiv זצ”ל, R. Dov Halbertal, להבחל”ח , that expresses well the point of view of very important gedolei Yisroel about the problematic nature of the Meron pilgrimage nowadays. Although it focuses on the viewpoint of gedolei Lita, namely Rav Elyashiv, the Chazon Ish and Rav Schach, זצ”ל, commenters mention that, להבחל”ח, Rav Ovadya Yosef and Rav Shmuel Wosner שליט”א also have taken similar positions with regard to the Lag Baomer event. So you have quite a spectrum of top level gedolim there expressing similar concerns.  Highly recommended reading!

Additionally, those that follow the news know about the chaos and צער that many suffered from in and around Meron this year in particular. Which reminds me of a story (brought in פניני מנהג – ל”ג בעומר, דף לח) regarding Rav Akiva Sofer, the דעת סופר. After he left Pressburg and fled to Eretz Yisroel due to the persecutions around WWII, one year he set out to travel to Meron (I am assuming to observe the goings on there). On the way, his vehicle broke down, necessitating lengthy repairs Whereupon he decided not to continue on to Meron then, even though things had already been fixed. He waited until after Lag Baomer to resume his journey, remarking that מן השמים, from Heaven, they do not allow him to go (on Lag Baomer), due to the קפידא (objection to the practice of the pilgrimage then) of his forebear, the Chasam Sofer. This shows how a גדול בישראל reacts to such phenomena. He makes a חשבון הנפש, he practices introspection.

וממנו ילמדו וכן יעשו, אכי”ר


No – No – No – No – No – Minhag Ashkenaz & Recent Lag Ba’omer Innovations – חגיגת ל”ג בעומר ע”פ מנהג אשכנז, ללא מירון, חאלאקא, מדורה, ח”י רוטל

May 20, 2011

Yes, it is that time of the year again. Lag ba’omer is almost here. And with it, all the hype and solicitations for trips to Meron, Chai Rotel Mashkeh donations, upsherin, bonfires, and the like.

So it is time to review what our holy Ashkenazic mesorah is about relatively recent Lag Ba’omer innovations, to avert confusion be”H, and help save people from getting swept away by all the hype generated by those with stakes in promoting such a holiday.

To simplify things, בקיצור? No-No-No-No-No. (Yes, some of us enjoy saying no. 🙂 No, we are not always negative on everything. 😉

1) No new יום טוב not mentioned in ש”ס. As the חתם סופר famously wrote in a teshuvoh (יורה דעה רלג, last column on bottom left of page linked to), we do not go along with the making of a new Yom tov not mentioned in Shas and poskim. We don’t go along with making a holiday of the day a tzaddik passed away (aka hillulah) , when the gemara mentions such a day as a day of fasting. In the mesorah of Ashkenaz that is called a yohrzeit, and is a day of fasting and introspection. We don’t make a small village in northern Eretz Yisroel the focus of a giant pilgrimage, more than ירושלים עיה”ק.

Update: The Chasam Sofer also mentions this in a hesped that he gave after the devastating earthquake that hit northern Eretz Yisroel in the 1830’s למספרם. See in ספר תורת משה in the paragraph בד”ה אך לפי here.

2) No Bonfires. No putting ארץ ישראל under a giant cloud of smoke. It can be dangerous to people and the environment. Pollution, smoke inhalation. Some people suffer from the smoke, have to stay inside all day and night and keep their windows closed. Contractors in ארץ ישראל complain of significant losses from wood disappearing from building sites.

And what are the origins of bonfires in connection with such a day, if it is a yohrzeit, a death anniversary, as is claimed, anyway?  The Wikipedia entry on bonfires is interesting.

And even for those who insist on doing so anyway, must they be all over the place? And in the diaspora too lately? That was not done in the past.

3) No Upsherin – That has been well covered by others, see שרשי מנהג אשכנז חלק ג and elsewhere.

4)  No Chai Rotel Mashkeh. Chai Rotel is a Chassidic segulah, connected to the Meron event.

Interestingly though, in the sefer of minhogim of Worms, by ר’ יוזפא שמש, it does mention that מלמדים gave יי”ש to תלמידים, although presumably within reason of course. I assume it was something like ‘making a lechayim’.

5)  No תחנון – According to old מנהג אשכנז that goes only for שחרית though.

What many people don’t realize with all the Meron hype, is that many gedolim, and I am not just talking about גדולי אשכנז, but also great Chassidishe Rebbes and Sepharadic gedolim, deliberately do not participate in this event.

Rav Schach זצ”ל told his talmidim not to go to Meron (hat tip to Rafi). להבדיל בחל”ח, Rav Elyashiv שליט”א, as of a few years ago, had never gone to Meron. He stated, as was reported in the Jerusalem Post, that he feels closer to רשב”י learning a blatt gemara.

If the Chasam Sofer voiced reservations about the Meron pilgrimage close to two hundred years ago, when the attendance there was  much smaller than it is nowadays, would his reservations not be much greater today?

I am not getting into the she’eilos of possible חילול שבת caused by preparations for lag baomer when it comes out on Sunday like this year, and whether it is actually the yohrzeit of Rabbi Shimon ben Yochai. An excellent article discussing the latter issue, as well as other matters related to the day, has just appeared at the seforim blog.

YES – YES – YES – YES – YES – Minhag Ashkenaz & The Old Way Of The Day

1) Yes, we have simcha because the talmidim of Rabbi Akiva stopped dying.

2) Yes, it is a day when students are given leisure.

3) Yes, we enjoy music and have weddings.

4) Yes, we can take haircuts.

5) Yes, there is a place for משתה ושמחה.

In the zechus of following מנהג אבות, may we soon be zoche to ביאת משיח צדקנו, and have the zechus to be oleh to ירושלים עיה”ק בב”א.

א גוטען שבת און א פרייליכען ל”ג בעומר

Chasam Sofer Responds to Rav Yaakov Emden, Defends the Singular Ashkenazic Kaddish – החתם סופר מבאר ומצדיק מנהג אשכנז שרק אחד אומר קדיש

May 10, 2011

Looking at הישיבה הרמה בפיורדא, חלק ב, I discovered a mass of additional information related to The Development of קדיש יתום – part II Recent Developments, which was not covered in the shiur that Rav Hamburger gave. Of course, it was a relatively short shiur, so not everything could be covered in it, but ב”ה he incorporated more on the subject in the sefer.

One particularly interesting thing I found there was a citation of what the חתם סופר wrote in a teshuvoh, defending the old minhog Ashkenaz that only one person says kaddish at a time, and taking issue with the words of רב יעקב עמדין about it.

The analysis of the Chasam Sofer, contrasting the Ashkenazic singular kaddish minhog with the group kaddish practice, is quite enlightening.

He says as follows (last thirty-five lines in right column, starting with words עוד אני מדבר בכיוצא, my understanding and synopsis) –

That which Rav Yaakov Emden wrote re kaddish, that the minhag of the Sepharadim that everyone says kaddish together is easier, and many, e.g. a group, who do a mitzvoh, are better than individuals who do so….


So it is a wonder, astounding, that our ancestors, the great Torah scholars of Ashkenaz, to whom the Torah was an inheritance, as is stated in the responsum of Rabbeinu Asher, the רא”ש (which is brought by the great Sepharadic Rav, the Beis Yosef, in his commentary on Shulchan Aruch Yoreh Deah as well), didn’t follow such a practice. Can we merely lightly assume that they had an inferior and defective stance in this matter? And furthermore, how can we understand the סדר קדימה, the minhog that an aveil in shiva has precedence over one in shloshim, who has precedence over a בעל יאהרצייט, who has precedence over a an aveil in יב חודש? After all, if there are partners who find profitable merchandise, can one of them say, I need it more, give it all to me, and the others have no share in it? No, the partners divide it. So too, with kaddish, if several people need to say kaddish, they should share it and say it all together, rather than having just one say it.

So the חתם סופר explains that the main benefit to the נפטר (deceased) that comes from saying kaddish is not from the mere recitation of it, but  rather from the many responses of amein, and especially אמן יהא שמיה רבה, that it elicits from the ציבור (congregation). Since those come about via the aveil, the benefit accrues to the niftar.

(We could view this as a multiplier effect. If one person saying kaddish causes a tzibbur of fifty people, for example, to answer four ameins, one אמן יהא שמיה רבה, and one בריך-הוא, he has done so much more than just say kaddish with six responses of אמן, איש”ר, ובריך הוא. He has brought about three hundred such responses)

Therefore, explains the Chasam Sofer, it comes out that our minhog, the מנהג אשכנז that only one person says kaddish at a time, is beautiful and most potent. Because in the case where many say the kaddish at the same time, nevertheless, the bringing about of the responses of amein comes about through just one of them, and the others are just in the category of מסייע, those who extend a hand, which act is considered by halocho, as אין בו ממש, lacking in substance compared to one who is the clear cause of an action….


P.S. It occurred to me that this important הסבר of the Chasam Sofer (actually, if you think about it, it is פשוט that the answering of the ציבור is the עיקר, rather than just the plain recital of kaddish, as when the gemara mentions אמן יהא שמיה רבה, and speaks so highly of it, it mentions and focuses on the responding of it by the ציבור, not the recitation of it by the individual. However, sometimes we lose sight of things and we need a gadol like the חת”ס to set us straight) is perhaps especially important in our day, to combat another distortion that has arisen.

Some people have adopted a practice of saying kaddish at a קבר (grave) without a minyan, at times alone, e.g. when visiting a קבר on a יאהרצייט (yohrzeit) or some other time. I assume it is found more among non-Orthodox, but I suspect that even some Orthodox (albeit unlearned ones presumably) may do so at times. They may be doing this because the stress among many has been the saying of kaddish, without realizing that it is the answering of kaddish by the many members of a ציבור – congregation is what gives kaddish it’s great power (of course, kaddish is a דבר שבקדושה, which requires a minyan, but I am thinking that the above explanation gives an additional angle to explain why such a practice is misguided).

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