Thursday, December 20, 2007

The Truth of Yaakov - towards an intellectual portrait of R' Yaakov Kaminetsky Zt"l 5- Minhagim

Mekorei Minhagim

The final aspect of R’ Yaakov’s work that we will discuss here is his analysis on the sources of certain Minhagim. One can find these in the comments to EY SA (מפי השמועה).

In the end of Pesukei D’ Zimra we recite a passage starting ויברך דוד in the middle of the passage אתה הוא השם לבדך there is a separate paragraph starting וכרת. R’ Yaakov notes that וכרת is the middle of a Passuk. The Talmud writes that – "כל פסוקא דלא פסקי משה אנן לא פסקינן ליה" (מגילה כב,א. וש"נ). [1] - it is forbidden to break up a Passuk?

He provides the following ingenious explanation. On days when there was a Bris the congregation would stop to sing at this point and the Shaliach Tzibur would have to pause. It is for this reason that the printer of the Siddur (AKA the Bochur Ha’Zetser who, as is well know, was generally far from being the greatest Talmud Chacham) divided this passage into two paragraphs.

"מצווה להתענות יום שמת בו אביו או אמו" - רמ"א, יו"ד ת"ב י"ב. Today the Minhag has become to make a Kiddush on this day [2]. R’ Yaakov explains that this Taanis, like the Taanis Bechorim on Erev Pesach, could be interrupted by a Seudas Mitzvah like a Siyum. Therefore someone with a Yahrtzeit would make a Siyum and provide a Kiddush. As time passed, explains R’ Yaakov, the Kiddush was remembered but the Siyum- forgotten.

These are only two examples out of many [3]. R' Yaakov's incisive logic is the equal of even the most advanced scholar in this field[4].

[1] For the Halachic details, see the relevant discussion here. In addition see also שו"ת חתם סופר או"ח סי' י

[2] See R’ Yitchok Alfasi – Ha’Chassidus V’Ha Shulchan Aruch:
החסידים נהגו ביום ה"יאהרצייט" לתת "לחיים" ולשמוח, כי הנשמה עולה מדי שנה בשנה, אם כי
קבעו גם לימוד פרקים ידועים במשניות. כן נהגו לפי קבלת האר"י להתפלל מוסף בשבת שלפני ה"יאהרצייט" ומעריב במוצאי שבת. אצל "יאהרצייט" של צדיק, אף נהגו לסעוד סעודה גדולה עם אורות גדולים ורבים ואין אומרים תחנון. עיצומו של ענין מ"ההלולא" שהיו עושים על קברו של רשב"י. קובע רבי דוד משה מטשורטקוב: לכן צריכים בני הצדיק, ותלמידיו, לעשות יום טוב ביום פטירתו, כי באותו היום מתעלה נשמת הצדיק בכל שנה ושנה למדרגה עליונה ביותר והוא דומה ליום שנעשה בו נס לאבותיו". ("דברי דוד" ע' כ"א

[3] More of these can be found on the bottom of EY on SA (culled from various conversations with different people – R’ Neustadt did a truly amazing job collecting this fascinating storehouse of information). It is interesting that R’ Yaakov didn’t find these points to be of sufficient interest to write down. Mention should also be made here of במחיצות רבינו an enthralling collection of observations and conversation of R’ Yaakov from one of his Talmidim - R’ Michoel Yaakov Jacobs

[4] In the introduction of the expanded version of EY on Chumash is son-in law writes that R' Chaim Heller who was a good friend of R' Yaakov told him that - "Your father-in laws knowledge of Tenach exceeds that of several well known professionals in the field". R' Yaakov used to say that R' Chaim Heller was a יחיד in Emunah in this generation. The present writer would like to take this opportunity to pay tribute to HaRav Mordechai Ben R' Shimshon Breuer Zt"l who more then anything else was a גדול in יראת שמים. The spirit of pure emunah that is imbued in his writings speaks far louder then the intellectual arguments alone would have. זכר צדיק לברכה

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