יום רביעי י"ז בשבט תשפ"ב 19/01/2022
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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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  • 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

Rabi Shlomo Luria (the Maharshal)

Rabi Shlomo Luria was one of the greatest Torah sages of Poland at the beginning of the fourth century five thousand years after Creation.

David Sofer 02/12/2009 08:00
Rabi Shlomo Luria was born to his father Rabi Yechiel in around the year 5270. The place of his birth is a matter of controversy; it is recorded as either Posen or Brisk. His family ancestry can be traced back to Rabbeinu Shlomo Yitzchaki (Rashi). During the years of his youth, he learned Torah from his father, and when he grew older, he learned in the house of his mother’s father, Rabi Yitzchak Kloiber, who was a gadol b’Torah – the Maharshal would later cite his grandfather in his sefarim. The Maharshal married the daughter of Rabi Klonymus, the rav of Ustra and Brisk, who ascended to the holy city of Yerushalayim towards the end of his life, where he gained renown as a miracle worker. The Maharshal also learned Torah from his father-in-law, and he too was cited in his sefarim.

While still a young man, the Maharshal was already known as one of the gedolei haTorah of the generation, and halachic queries were sent to him even from distant lands. The Maharshal was appointed to the rabbanus of various towns across Poland and Lithuania, including Brisk, Ustra and Lublin, and in each location he would disseminate Torah in the yeshivah there.

the Rama  

The Maharshal was outstanding among the rabbanim of Poland. He was extremely independent in his line of thought, and frequently took an innovative approach with a critical eye to discern the absolute truth. In his great sefarim he brings his opinion sometimes in opposition to most other poskim, and he did not hesitate to attack anyone’s opinion in the face of true justice. In fact, he did not fear to criticise conflicting opinions, even those of the Rishonim. Of the ‘Migdal Oz’ he writes that he ruined his words, which emerged without any redeeming factor, and that he transgressed the prohibition against waste (bal tashchis) with his use of his ink. On the sages of France he writes that they are as garlic peels in comparison to the Rambam. On Rabi Avraham Ibn Ezra he writes that one is not to rely upon him whatsoever, not to impose stringencies and not to seek leniencies, since he went against the Mishnah, the Gemara and the halachah.

In the introduction to his sefer ‘Yam shel Shlomo’ he writes that from the time of the sealing of the Talmud, the Talmud was accepted among the Jewish people as the sole source of halachah, and that no gaon or posek, however great he may be, was permitted to rule on matters of halachah according to his own opinion if it contradicted the words of the Talmud. It was this approach that he adopted in his sefarim, where he explains each law according to the shittah of the Talmud itself, and compares the shittos of the various poskim and examines them under his critical eye, and then rules on the final halachah according to the Talmud itself.

The sefer ‘Yam shel Shlomo’ is invaluable for understanding the sources of the halachos and their development over the generations. The Maharshal brought numerous sources in his sefer, which refers not only to printed seforim but also to many handwritten manuscripts from early poskim and the sages of France and Germany. Additionally, he had at his disposal many fundamental works and early versions with more precise terminology and wording.

In contrast to the prevailing method of learning in Poland at the time, which was the method known as ‘pilpul and charifus’ (comparison and sharp distinctions), the shittah of the Maharshal emphasised making a simple analysis. He focused initially on the establishing of the precise and correct wording of the text of the Talmud and its commentaries - Rashi and Tosefos and the poskim (Rif, Rambam, Rosh). Even solely in this matter of amendments he made many innovations. The Maharshal would sharply condemn those who followed the words of the poskim without first verifying if their words conformed to earlier sources. He wrote forcefully against excessive reliance on the words of the Rambam and other poskim.

He began his most monumental work in the year 5306 when he was thirty-six years old. The first masechta that he began was maseches Bava Kamma, and afterwards he went on to maseches Kesuvos. He worked on maseches Yevamos for around two years and only managed to cover half of that masechta – and on maseches Kesuvos he worked for a full year, only completing two chapters. Once he realised that such in-depth study also had disadvantages, since he would not manage to complete his task, and those learning would become weary at his lengthy style, he decided to limit himself and to abbreviate as much as possible, and not bring all the opinions, but only his own shittah with brevity. But it was not long before he returned to his original lengthy method. Around this time Rabi Yosef Karo published his Shulchan Aruch and Beis Yosef on the Arba Turim, and although the Maharshal praised these sefarim, because of the vast amount of material covered there, he was then all the more persuaded of the necessity for continuing with his own work, since his method was to rule between the Rif, the Rambam, the Rosh, according to the majority view, without considering other opinions, especially those of the baalei Tosefos. The Maharshal was actually somewhat annoyed at the Beis Yosef, since his sefarim were not properly proofread for mistakes, which had crept in, which could lead to mistakes in rendering halachah. All this encouraged the Maharshal to continue with his original practice of writing on each law at length, bringing all the various opinions, in order that talmidei chachamim should not blindly follow the Beis Yosef. The sefer ‘Yam shel Shlomo’ was written on sixteen masechtos as his talmid attests in his introduction to maseches Bava Kamma – however, only his works on seven of the masechtos have survived to the present day.

Another important work of the Maharshal is the ‘Chachmas Shlomo,’ which includes amendments to the Talmud and to the commentaries of Rashi and Tosefos. In this sefer, the Maharshal reveals himself as a tremendous sage with an incredibly sharp mind. With his exceptional attention to detail he compares the sefarim printed in Venice to those he had at his disposal which were based on different manuscripts of the Talmud with Rashi and Tosefos than those used in Venice. In addition, he suggested alternative versions for many words and phrases based on his exceptional breadth of knowledge of the sugyos. His sons wrote that their father did not concern himself with the printing of this sefer, since he only made footnotes in the manner of his ‘Yam shel Shlomo’; but after his petirah, his sons made sure that his works were printed and widely disseminated.

A substantial portion of his editing of the Talmud was incorporated into the Talmud itself, so that his sefer became shorter as those corrections that were accepted into the standard text were then omitted from his sefer. The Maharsha argued with many of the Maharshal’s writings in ‘Chachmas Shlomo.’ The Maharshal was extremely hurt by his attacks, and decided to publish a composition entitled ‘Tzohar l’Binyan,’ which would answer the challenges of the Maharsha to the Maharshal. The Chasam Sofer in his haskamah to this sefer defended the Maharshal, writing that the Maharshal had penetrated to the roots of all the various versions of the Gemara without making chiddushim, and then the Maharsha had come to a ploughed field left bare, where nothing was left but to create chiddushim on the sugya and to question the Maharshal. Proof of that, he suggested, was that on the masechtos that the Maharshal did not suffice to cover, the Maharsha hardly made any exceptional chiddushim.

A third sefer of the Maharshal is the teshuvos that he replied to halachic queries sent to him. Even in this sefer he revealed the vast extent of his sharp mind and genius. He based his arguments on sharp reasoning, in the manner of many of his generation, and stood as a barricade against any opinions that contradicted daas Torah. This unwavering attitude did not earn him close friends or admirers, and he suffered greatly from the talmidim of the gaon Rabi Shachne and his son Rabi Yisrael. In addition, several of his talmidim later turned to their own shittah of learning, something which caused enormous anguish to the Maharshal.

One who truly appreciated the Maharshal’s greatness in comparison to other gedolei haTorah was Rabi Moshe Isserles (the Rema). He drew close to him with great affection, more than any other of the sages of the generation, and gave him his support in many of his halachic teshuvos. Nevertheless, the Maharshal did not refrain from offering his occasional criticism of the Rema too.

The Maharshal did not only excel in his genius and profundity of thought, but also possessed a heaping measure of piety. It was his custom that whenever he was teaching, if someone came with criticism, he would accept it as if he were merely a simple person from the marketplace. Whenever anyone criticised him, the Maharshal would wrap himself in his cloak and sit and listen to the words of mussar and reproach with great awe and trembling.

An incredible tale is related of the Maharshal, that once he was sitting at night and writing one of his sefarim, but he had only a small candle, sufficient to burn for just half an hour. He was greatly distressed by this, since he wished to learn for the entire night, and a miracle was performed for him and the candle burned until the light of morning. In this miracle the Maharshal saw a sign from Heaven that he should ensure that this sefer was disseminated. The Maharshal was niftar on the 12th of Kislev in the year 5334, at the age of sixty-four.