Failed Commitments

by R. Gidon Rothstein 13 Tishrei: Chatam Sofer on Failed Commitments The thirteenth of Tishrei might feel close to Sukkot for some of us, but Chatam Sofer’s responsa show him still involved in the usual business of life. As I didn’t find any one responsum that would take up our space here, I am going to share three relatively brief ones. While they are on ...

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If Tzitz Eliezer Were Your Rabbi, What He Might Say This Yom Kippur

by R. Gidon Rothstein 10 Tishrei: If Tzitz Eliezer Were Your Rabbi, What He Might Say This Yom Kippur In the later volumes of his responsa, Tzitz Eliezer (R. Eliezer Yehuda Waldenberg, 1916-2006) included two derashot, sermons, he gave on Yom Kippur (one before Yizkor of 5741, or 1940, the other before Kol Nidre of 5727, 1966).  We could do a great deal worse than having him serve as our ...

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Forgiving People

by R. Gidon Rothstein 28 Elul: R. Hayyim David Halevy on Forgiving People Sometimes, I find a responsum that answers a question I’ve struggled with for a long time. Shu”t Aseh Lecha Rav 6;42, responding to a letter written on 28 Elul 5744 (1984), takes up a question which points out how difficult forgiving people can be, and is acutely relevant to ...

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Pre-Authorizing a Get Before Going to War

by R. Gidon Rothstein 24 Elul: R. Herzog on Pre-Authorizing a Get Before Going to War Among the many casualties and tragedies of war, one that attracts particular attention of poskim is the limbo in which wives find themselves should soldiers go missing (or be taken captive, without good information about what happened or near-term hopes of getting his release). Shu”t Heichal Yitzchak Even HaEzer 2;40, ...

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Eulogies Past the First Year

by R. Gidon Rothstein 17 Elul: R. Hayyim David Halevy on Eulogies Past the First Year Mourning and eulogies are both a personal and public process. As a personal matter, speaking about someone who passed away can be cathartic, as well as edifying for those who may not have known the deceased. Shu”t Aseh Lech Rav 8;67—dated 17 Elul 5786 (1985)–reminds us ...

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The Need for Metzitzah ba-Peh

by R. Gidon Rothstein 10 Elul: The Need for Metzitzah ba-Peh During a Circumcision Conflicts between modern science and halachah are nothing new, so when we find a respondent from a hundred years ago deal with an issue that is also still contemporary, it offers interesting light on the question. Shu”t Binyan Tziyyon 23, dated 10 Elul 5606 (1846), is an example, since it defends metzitzah be-peh, ...

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Sukkah Constructions and Obstructions

by R. Gidon Rothstein 3 Elul: R. Uzziel on Sukkah Constructions and Obstructions Building a sukkah requires open space, which can sometimes be at a premium. Shu”t Mishpetei Uzziel 3; Orach Chayyim 78, dated 3 Elul 5702 (1942) has R. Uzziel responding to a rabbi who was checking whether he had ruled correctly about a sukkah with certain problems.   One wall of this sukkah was nine tefachim [there are various views about how long ...

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Some Limits on Saving Lives

by R. Gidon Rothstein 26 Av: R. Moshe Feinstein on Some Limits on Saving Lives It’s common to say that saving lives pushes aside all of halachah, that we can do whatever it takes to save a life. That’s obviously exaggerated, because we all know situations where a Jew is required to let him/herself be killed rather than violate the Torah ...

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Introduction to Rav Kook’s Responsa

by R. Gidon Rothstein 19 Av: Introduction to R. Kook’s Mishpat Kohen One of the pleasures of this series has been “meeting” great rabbis. I have long known R. Kook a bit through his more philosophical writings, but his responsa are a revelation—written in a very different style (one I personally find more straightforward, clear, and accessible), displaying a completely other ...

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The Sho’el U-Meishiv

by R. Gidon Rothstein 12 Av: R. Yosef Shaul Nathanson’s 12 Av, 5613 In this series, one of my secondary goals is to learn from and gain a passing familiarity with a wide range of authorities. R. Yosef Shaul Nathanson (1808-75) is someone whom I’d like to include but whose writings I find difficult to summarize effectively. On the twelfth of Av, ...

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