שבת ט' בכסלו תשפ"ג 03/12/2022
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  • The Mission Continues

    As in the past so it remains today - we were and still are under the selfsame commitment to adhere to the directions of the Gedolei Yisrael, who stand guard against breaches of purity threatening our camp. When we were required to ask – we asked. When we were instructed to depart – we left. The moment we are summoned back to raise the flag, every other consideration is pushed to the side and we answer: We are ready!

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בראי היום

  • Harav Yisrael Friedman zy”a, the Rebbe of Husyatin

    מוטי, ויקיפדיה העברית

    The ancestral chain of Harav Yisrael Friedman, the founder of the Husyatin chassidic court, originates with the holy Baal Shem Tov. The Husyatin chassidus has its roots in Galicia and eventually came to Tel Aviv, during the turbulent years between the two World Wars.

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  • Maccabi'im Gravesite

    In honour of Chanukah, we will discuss a fascinating, ongoing investigation attempting to establish the place of burial of Mattisyahu Kohen Gadol and his family.

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Reflections

the Minchas Chinuch

A Master of Torah Thought: The ‘Minchas Chinuch’ In Yeshivos and study halls around the world, Torah students toil over the words of the saintly Rabbi Yosef Babad zt’l, in his famous Sefer: ‘Minchas Chinuch’

Avi Lazer 15/09/2009 13:06
Rabbi Yosef Babad zt’l was born on the 23rd of Elul 5561 (1801), to Rav Moshe Babad in the city of Pshevorsk, Galicia. His grandfather was the revered Rabbi Yehoshua Heshel Babad, Rav of Tornopol and author of ‘Sefer Yehoshua’. From an early age young Yosef Babad stood out amongst his peers in diligence and aptitude. He married the sister of the Divrei Chaim (Rebbe Chaim of Sanz), after learning with the great Sage for a while. When his first wife tragically passed away, he married the daughter of Rav Dovid Hager of Zbaltov.

Rabbi Yosef held positions of Rabbanus in many cities in Galicia. In the year 5617 (1857) he was appointed as Rav of Tornopol (the town where his grandfather had served as Rav), and he led the community there until his passing seventeen years later. He is most famous for his magnum opus, the ‘Minchas Chinuch’ – an extensive and all-encompassing commentary on the ‘Chinuch’. The Sefer haChinuch itself deals with the 613 commandments of the Torah. Its author is unknown, but there is evidence that it was written in Spain in the period of the Rishonim (early commentators). Rabbi Yosef’s ‘Minchas Chinuch’ does not only provide a comprehensive commentary on the Chinuch, but expands on the topics under discussion and brings numerous sources. Although he intended the Sefer to be solely a theoretical research based on the Halachic principles of each Mitzvah, it has come to be recognized as a prominent Halachic authority in and of itself. Its conclusions are profound, and its novel approach to the understanding of the words of the Rishonim serves as a precedent on which many Poskim rely until today.

As an introduction to each Mitzvah, he mentions the main points of the Mitzvah without going into great detail, being that any Talmid Chacham can understand the laws with the help of the Rambam, Shulchan Aruch and other commentators. After this he gives short discourses on each Mitzvah – preferring to touch on many topics in brief as opposed to delving into a long debate on one issue. He concludes each Mitzvah with a summary of the main Halachic points, and finally raises several questions that were not yet resolved.

The Sefer deals extensively with possible ways of approaching hypothetical circumstances. For example, in one Mitzva he may discuss a wide variety of people, such as a gentile, convert, woman, slave, minor; and argue as to whether they are obligated in that particular Mitzvah or not. Sometimes this tendency to theorize appears to be exaggerated, such as when far-fetched or uncommon scenarios are depicted; however that is the entire purpose of the Sefer: to delineate Halachic guidelines by way of theoretical discussion. A prime example of this is where the Sefer discusses the famous case from the Gemara of the half-slave (a slave of two partners where one of his masters freed him) - is this person obligated in the Mitzvah under discussion, and can he perform this Mitzvah on behalf of others… and so forth. In yet another discussion, he even raises the absurd possibility of ‘half Kohen – half Yisrael’!

The central characteristic of the Sefer, in whose merit the ‘Minchas Chinuch’ has conquered the hearts of every striving Torah scholar, is the rich source of thought-provoking questions that are hidden under its surface. The Chiddushim (Torah novallae) that are raised likewise reveal a depth that is phenomenal and unique.

Throughout the Sefer there are many questions and observations that remain unanswered. This fact alone is what generates such intense interest in the Sefer, as those who learn it wish to delve deeper into the issues until they reach a conclusion of their own. This was apparently the original intention of the author. One of Rabbi Yosef’s relatives sent him a letter in which he offered answers to several of these questions, and Rabbi Yosef responded: “Out of principle I don’t give answers to my questions and don’t express my own opinion, since the purpose of the Sefer is to arouse the heart to express a different opinion, and as known – there are ‘Seventy faces to the Torah’”. So it is that generations of Torah scholars discuss his theoretical cases, and it has become a widespread custom in Yeshivos amongst students who wish to bring out a ‘Chidush’ (novel thought) on a certain subject, to turn to the ‘Minchas Chinuch’ where they will find scores of subjects on which to elaborate.

Numerous times in the course of his writings Rabbi Yosef remarks that his intention is to keep his commentaries brief, but despite this his Sefer is a voluminous work. Rabbi Yosef did not originally intend that his work be published; he claimed that due to its unusual style, with many topics discussed very briefly, he did not see it as fitting to be published and preferred to disseminate his teachings orally to his students, in a more detailed and elaborate manner. One day his commentary on the Gemara was stolen, and Rabbi Yosef was devastated. He approached one of the Rabbanim of the time for advice. The Rav asked him – did not one single manuscript remain untouched? Rabbi Yosef answered: I still have the short explanations on the Sefer haChinuch, but it is too sparse and not worthy of being printed. However the Rav advised him to print it nonetheless. In conclusion, what we know today as the ‘Minchas Chinuch’ is only a shorter version of what is was meant to be…

The sheer number of Sefarim that were subsequently written on the Minchas Chinuch, demonstrates how widely accepted and valued the Sefer became. These commentaries raise the issues discussed by Rabbi Yosef, and elaborate on them.
Rabbi Yosef passed away on his birthday: the 23rd of Elul, in the year 5634 (1874). He thereby fulfilled the words of the Gemara: ‘…the Holy One blessed is He, sits and fills the years of Tzaddikim from day to day and from month to month’ (Kiddushin 38).

The Jewish Nation is known for its discerning and refined taste with regards to scholarly works. Tens of thousands of Sefarim have been written over the centuries, each filled with compelling ideas and thought provoking concepts – but most did not leave as lasting an impression as the gargantuan ‘Minchas Chinuch’. It plumbs the depths of Jewish logic and quenches the thirst of those who seek to peel away the layers surrounding the Truth. There is almost no student of Torah that has not nourished himself from its wisdom, and not drawn sustenance from its wellsprings of novel thought.