Bringing a Sefer Torah to Soldiers (A Teshuva from Rav Amital)

I have started going through Rabbi Binyamin Tabory’s series on She’elot UTeshuvot from the 20th century (a KMTT series). In a special shiur recorded right after the passing of Moreinu V’Rabbeinu HaRav Yehuda Amital zt”l (here), he explores several responsa written by R. Amital to students in the army. These were published in the early journals of Alon Shevut, though they have never been collected into a Sefer. One that caught my attention (from Year 4 Volume 2), primarily because it related to by chabura on the Kriat HaTorah of the Kohen Gadol on Yom Kippur (here), dealt with the question of whether a group of soldiers were allowed to have a Sefer Torah brought to them for a temporary period of time. As long as I am summarizing it for myself as part of chazara on Yoma, I will post it here. Also, as the Shiur Bet in Yeshiva get drafted next week (and many other people have been called up for Miluim), it is a good time to think about some Hilchot Tzava. Lastly, this question comes up often during the summer when camps or other groups go on trips and bring Sifrei Torah with them, so it seems like a relevant time to talk about this question.

The question was whether the soldiers could bring a sefer Torah with them when they would be away for a Monday or Thursday. The givens were that 1) it was a Sefer Torah meant for this purpose, 2) you brought the Torah with the Aron it was in and 3) it brings great joy to the soldiers when they have a Sefer Torah.

R. Amital answers:

Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chaim 135:14) rules that you cannot bring a Sefer Torah to someone in prison, even on Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur. The Rama, based on the Or Zarua, says it is permitted if you bring it a day or two in advance. If the person is important, there is no such limitation and it is always permitted.

The source for the prohibition is the Yerushalmi in Yoma (7:1) cited by Mordechai. The Yerushalmi notes that when the Kohen Gadol reads the Torah on Yom Kippur, we bring the Sefer Torah to the Chazal HaKinesset, who then gives it to the Rosh HaKinesset, who gives it to the Sgan, who gives it to the Kohen Gadol. The Yerushalmi challenges this, claiming that in general we go to the Sefer Torah, and here it is coming to us. The Yerushalmi responds that here it is different because the people are Gadol BaTorah.

The Pri Chadash suggests that the prohibition of bringing the Sefer Torah is only when there is another way to fulfill the obligation. If there is not, it is permitted. The Biur Halacha writes that the prohibition exists only when you would have to bring both the Torah and a minyan to the prison. If there is already a minyan there, and therefore an obligation to read, we can bring the Torah. [R. Amital proves this from several places, and notes that it is also agreed to by the Maginei Afikim.]

The Har Tzvi notes that this seems to contradict the Yerushalmi, as there the Gemara thought it should be assur even though the Torah was being read for many people in Klal Yisrael in the Beit HaMikdash. This, however, supposes that there is an obligation on all of Klal Yisrael. If the obligation is only on the Kohen Gadol (as is held by many), this is not a problem. [R. Amital cites R. Blumensweig as noting that in fact, this works the opposite way. If the real issue at hand is obligation, and on Yom Kippur there is only an obligation on the Kohen Gadol, according to the above logic you should be able to bring the Torah even without a minyan!]

R. Amital then adds several more reasons to be lenient:

1) The Har Tzvi thinks that the issur only applies to a Sefer Torah meant for a shul. He proves this from the case in Yoma yet again, where the people would bring their personal Sifrei Torah and read from them after the Kohen Gadol, and the Gemara never challenges this. Thus, a traveling Sefer Torah, such as that in the army, should have no issur attached to it.

2) All cases of a minyan may be like the case of the Rama of Adam Chashuv, and thus there is not a problem to begin with.

3) In a case where the Torah will not be read in the other place (such as here where the base cleared out), it is more respectful for the Torah to move it so that it will be read. [This is cited from Kaf HaChaim 135:82 when the Sefer Torah is in someone’s house. The Teshuvot Zecher Yosef extends this to when a Sefer Torah is sitting unused in a shul.]

4) If you bring it in advance, you have the heter of the Rama. Additionally, the Maharam Padua cited in Magen Avraham claims that there is only a problem when you bring the Torah from the other place for the reading and then return it, rather than putting it in an Aron in the new place. This is not a problem in the army case.

Thus, R. Amital ruled that it was permitted, and if possible it should be brought in advance of the actual reading of the Torah.

One last note from R. Tabory – there seems to be no early source that suggests you need to read the Torah three times in order to permit moving it. While this is mentioned by modern poskim, it is not entirely clear where it came from.

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2 thoughts on “Bringing a Sefer Torah to Soldiers (A Teshuva from Rav Amital)

  1. I would think that the sevara for being able to move it when you are reading from it three times is that then it doesn’t count as bring the Sefer Torah to be read. You’re just changing the muchzak location of the Sefer Torah, and misvara that is obviously mutar (as in three times will create the chazaka). That seems to be how the Aruch HaShuchan explains the minhag but he doesn’t quote a source for it.

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