Monthly Archives: May 2014

The Changing Parameters of Lifnei Iver

Sometimes understanding the whole picture forces a posek to radically reimagine how a Halachic concept will be applied.  Rarely have I seen a posek who did this more masterfully than Rabbi Shlomo Zalman Aurbach and his understanding of lifnei iver with non-religious Jews.  The shiur and sources are available here.

The Gemara (Chullin 107b) rules that one cannot give food to a waiter unless he knows that the waiter will wash his hands first.   Rabbenu Yonah (Brachot Perek Eilu Devarim) extends this to forbidding giving food to someone who won’t make a bracha, a position accepted lehalacha (Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 163, 169). This is based on lifnei iver.  There is some discussion amoung the poskim as to whether this applies only when he will definitely not wash or make a bracha or even by safek, whether this also applies when by giving food one is mekayem a mitzvah (such as tzedakah), what happens if the person can get the food by himself, etc.  We will not get into details here.

Rabbi Shlomo Zalman (Minchat Shlomo 1:35), however, notes that there is a complicating factor that is especially pronounced in modern times.  Especially with the existence of multiple denominations, there are many people are truly love and support Torah, but are not themselves shomer Torah u-Mitzvot. Continue reading The Changing Parameters of Lifnei Iver

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Halacha’s Response to the Emergence of Denominations: Tinok Shenishba

I have always thought that examining teshuvot that are self-consciously dealing with new situations is a particularly effective way of understanding the process of psak.  Therefore, we explored the teshuvah of Rabbi Yaakov Ettlinger that first suggested that members of non-orthodox denominations should be classified legally as tinokot shenishbu.  The shiur and sources are available here.

The Binyan Tzion, in a teshuva (23) that has a preface indicating that it is not meant as practical Halacha, was asked whether non-shomrei Shabbos Jews in his day invalidated wine like classic Shabbos violators.  [The Minchas Elazar assumes the printer put this preface in – I’m not sure why he thinks that.]  At first, he establishes the standard Halacha and asserts that they should.  However, in the middle of the teshuvah he notes that the reality he is dealing with is fundamentally different from that of Chazal.  Rashi, he notes, explains that the reason that one who violates Shabbos has the status of an idol-worshipper is because he denies the creator and creation.  This was true in an era where everyone understood that there was basically only one way to be a Jew – keeping Halacha.  Obviously some people were derelict or even rebellious, but there was not alternate model.  Thus, violating Shabbos meant that you rejected the system and what it represented.  However, in Germany in the nineteenth century, there was another vision.  The Reform Movement had begun. Continue reading Halacha’s Response to the Emergence of Denominations: Tinok Shenishba

Religious Zionism as a Factor in Psak (Halachic Methodology Test Cases)

For the remainder of the year, our shiurim in Yeshiva on the Methodology of Psak Halacha are going to be focused on test cases.  I wanted not just to talk about the process, but to take some critical cases and show how it works.  As I have said before, to really understand the Halachic process, one must have some combination of actual experience with poskim, as well as have read around 10,000 teshuvot and watched how experts have dealt with issues over the year.  In honor of Yom HaZikkaron and Yom HaAtzmaut, our first topic was the role of Religious Zionism in psak.  The shiur is available and sources are available here.

We began with an overview of what defines Religious Zionist Psak broadly speaking, using the outlines of Dr. Aviad Hacohen (here).  Continue reading Religious Zionism as a Factor in Psak (Halachic Methodology Test Cases)