Responsa

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 ...

Read More »

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 ...

Read More »

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 ...

Read More »

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, ...

Read More »

Non-Jews Violating Shabbat on Jews’ Behalf

by R. Gidon Rothstein 27 Tammuz: R. Uzziel on Non-Jews Violating Shabbat on Jews’ Behalf The personal interplay between the person asking the question and the respondent is also an aspect of the responsa literature from which we can learn. In Shu”t Mishpetei Uzziel 3;Orach Chayyim 31, dated 27 Tammuz 5798 (1938), R. Uzziel responds to an article by R. Yosef Shaul Elyashar, ...

Read More »

Where to Place a Mezuzah

by R. Gidon Rothstein 20 Tammuz: R. Ya’akov Ettlinger on Where to Place a Mezuzah Mezuzah seems like a fairly simple mitzvah: you buy a piece of parchment with the proper writing on it, put it in a case and attach it to the right doorpost of a doorway. In fact, several of those words need better definition before we can ...

Read More »

Choosing Communal Leaders

by R. Gidon Rothstein 13 Tammuz: R. Uzziel on Choosing Communal Leaders People struggle with ceding power to leaders, however they are chosen, because they may or will take actions the citizenry will dislike. Shu”t Mishpetei Uzziel 4; Choshen Mishpati 3, dated 13 Tammuz 5695 (1935), responded to HaPoel HaMizrachi’s questions about the powers of leaders, and the best way to select them. He starts ...

Read More »

Moshe’s Sin at the Rock

by R. Gidon Rothstein 6 Tammuz: Tzitz Eliezer on Moshe’s Sin at the Rock I think we sometimes hear the word “responsum” as limited to practical halachic discussions. For some meshivim (and this might depend also on whether the scholar himself collected these letter for publication, or his heirs did), any correspondence on Torah matters qualifies. That means, for example, that some or many responsa deal ...

Read More »