Sunday, May 01, 2011

Notes on Shabbos Talks of Rav Schachter Shlitah - Parshat Kedoshim 5771 - Any Errors Are Mine

I had the merit this past Shabbos of hearing Rabbi Herschel Schachter speak twice. There was overlap in topic but not content. The first talk was on Pirkei Avot and he focused mostly on the statements of Anshei Kneseset HaGedolah. The Shaloshudes talk focused on the obligation to study Torah, as the Ramabam says - and in this case all agree - at any age in any health, always.

He noted Rav Chaim MiVolozhin's peirush (written up by his grandchildren) on Raban Gamliel's three statements: To choose a rabbi, free yourself from doubt, and not to offer ma'aser based on approximation. The fact is that by approximating your contribution of ma'aser there can be serious problematic halachic ramifications. This is but one example of why you should not guess in regard to halacha, even if you err on the side of stringency. It's best to ask you Rav and get the true answer.

Rav Schachter explained that every chumrah is also a kulah. He gave two examples: Someone chooses to eat only hand shmurah matzah for all the days of Pesach. This is an expensive investment and he wondered aloud about the other side of the equation, the fact that this money would seem to be be better used if given to several poor people who can't afford basics, rather than being used for a chumrah for one person. The other example was when there's a shaylah about the kashrut of food. Many people assume the stricter thing to do is to throw the food out, but then you're being lenient about bal tashchit and once again there are poor people who could use the food - or the money that the food is worth - that's getting thrown out and maybe didn't have to meet that fate just because you didn't look into or ask.

Rav Schachter shared that when Rav Elyashiv was in yeshiva he was teased for learning all of the piskei halachah related to the sugya he was learning. Today, having just celebrated his 101st birthday (Rav Schachter noted that he'll have a lot of candles to blow out) the joke is on those who mocked Rav Elayashiv and did not learn his way. (I am thankful to G-d that I was blessed to meet with Rav Elyashiv and ask him shaiylos on two occasions - in the mid eighties, before he was such a household name as today.) (As I wrote the word "G-d" just now I was reminded of how toward the end of my grandmother's life we'd speak on the phone and she'd catch herself time and again when she said G-d and change it to Hashem. She said that I'd told her to do that. I told her that it wasn't me who told her that because I was more of a fan of saying G-d than of saying Hashem.)

Rav Schachter stressed the importance of covering ground in learning and in learning as much as possible on the surface before analyzing deeply. He feels strongly that although many preach the opposite approach, real learning is covering dafs and blatt (and the 24 books of Tanach) and that "the analysis is the icing on the cake." He told a story about how many years ago he was at a gathering of YU rabbis and there was alcohol. He said he couldn't drink because he was giving shiur shortly and it would be assur to be under the influence of alcohol while giving shiur. Someone questioned another rebbe there who would soon be giving shiur and yet was drinking. That rabbi said that you are not allowed to paskan if you're drunk, but you are allowed to teach. He said, "In Herschel's shiur the students look at the Shulchan Aruch every day. He added - with pride - that in his shiur the talmidim did't even know that there was Shulchan Aruch on the masechet they were learning that year (Kidushin). Due to (what he felt was) the proper way he taught, this rebbe, was allowed to drink before giving shiur - but Rav Schachter due to his belief that the Gemorah has to be tied to halacha could not drink. The whole speech of this other rabbi was at a dig at Rav Schachter, who being clearly a highly sensitive person (as evidenced by his crying often when he speaks about Israel and other topics close to his heart) is still bothered by this rabbi's dig all these years later. Like Rav Elyashiv, Rav Schachter has gotten the last laugh. May he be zocheh to, one day blow out a hundred plus candles as he still teaches and paskens with youthful sincerity, vigor and charm.


Blogger Pesach Sommer said...


May 2, 2011 at 8:49 AM  
Blogger rabbi neil fleischmann said...


Thanks for the comment Pesach.

May 5, 2011 at 2:28 AM  

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