July 21, 2024
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A Shining Example of Shunning Ashkocentricity—Eretz Hemdah’s ‘Living the Halachic Process’

A great light entered my home a few weeks ago when I was presented by a representative of Eretz Hemdah with a volume of their series on Halacha, entitled “Living the Halachic Process: Questions and Answers for the Modern Jew.” The series is a veritable gold mine. I have been struck by the cogency and persuasiveness of the author (my former schoolmate and Morasha Kollel mate from the early 1980s), Rav Daniel Mann. The author has clearly mastered the corpus of halachic literature and has a good sense on how to apply Halacha with kindness and sensitivity. In particular, his expertise, experience and sensitivity regarding dinei mamanot (Jewish financial law) is prominently on display in this magnificent three-part work. Rav Mann with these works establishes himself at the forefront of the next generation of leading mainstream Modern Orthodox halachic authorities along with Yeshiva University’s Rav Baruch Simon and Rav Zvi Sobolofsky. The books may be ordered from the Eretz Hemdah website, http://www.eretzhemdah.org/publications.asp?lang=en&pageid=30&cat=5, and may be accessed at the Orthodox Union’s website http://www.ttidbits.com.

What is particularly striking, as the rav of the Congregation Shaarei Orah—the Sephardic Congregation of Teaneck, is Rav Mann’s sensitivity to an issue we raised a few weeks ago. Rav Mann, while born, raised and educated in an Ashkenazic milieu, is fluent with Sephardic halacha and minhag (custom). He is careful to label a minhag as Ashkenazic when discussing divergent practices. He is, following in the footsteps of his esteemed rebbe, Rav Mordechai Willig shlita, a huge fan of Hacham Ovadia Yosef, whom he cites frequently. He also follows Rav Yosef’s basic approach to Halacha, to incline to a lenient stance when possible, to enable a broad range of Jews to feel comfortable with a comprehensive allegiance to halachic norms.

One example suffices to illustrate his approach. In addressing the question of Ashkenazim eating non-kitniyot food at the home of Sephardic Jews (whose pots are used to cook kitniyot on Pesach), Rav Mann adopts the lenient approach of Hacham Ovadia. Although many Ashkenazic rabbis (such as the author of the “Shemirat Shabbat Kehilchata,” Rav Neuwirth) adopt a strict approach to this topic, Rav Mann concludes that it is untenable to preclude two such large Jewish communities from eating at each other’s homes during Pesach.

Not to be missed is the introduction to Volume I where Rav Mann outlines the basic contours of the history of the halachic process. Kudos to him for presenting Sephardic greats such as the Pri Hadash, the Hida, Rav Haim Felagi, alongside the Ashkenazic giants Rav Akiva Eiger, Rav Yechezkel Landau and Rav Moshe Sofer. Rav Mann does not fail to notice Jews of North African descent who sometimes differ with Hacham Ovadia due to their loyalty to the halachic traditions of their communities.

As mentioned in our earlier column, the time has arrived for all Jews to maintain Sephardic Jews and their practices on their spiritual radar and map. The rapid growth of the Sephardic community, especially the fully observant Sephardic community, continues, baruch Hashem, at breakneck speed. We commend Eretz Hemdah in general and Rav Mann in particular for recognizing and respecting this reality and we look forward to all other writers on halachic topics, whether in Hebrew or English, following suit.

Rabbi Haim Jachter is the spiritual leader of Congregation Shaarei Orah, the Sephardic Congregation of Teaneck

By Rabbi Haim Jachter

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