Scenario No. 1: Every week the eruv in Town A is checked at 12:48 p.m., and announced to the community as intact. What if between 12:48 p.m. and the onset of Shabbat, the eruv was severed by the wind? Do we spread the word?
Scenario No. 2: The keilim mikvah in Town B had 40 seah of water at 8 a.m. on a Monday morning. What if it was discovered that at 6 p.m., the mikvah only contained 30 seah of water, below the required level? Do we make an announcement that the people who used the mikvah at 8 a.m. should come back to tovel their dishes again?
Scenario No. 3: Town C hosts 10 butcher shops on Dead End Street. One of the 10 is not kosher. If a steak is found on the ground, should it be considered kosher or not?
These three scenarios were offered by Aaron Friedman, co-chair of Congregation Rinat Yisrael’s adult education committee, as he eagerly anticipates the launch of Rinat’s upcoming series “Shev Shemateta 101.” The seven part series will be based upon the seven chapters of the 1804 volume authored by Rav Aryeh Leib HaCohen Heller. The work, which has become a perennial classic of the yeshiva world, deals with the “science” of halachic decision-making in cases of factual doubt.
Friedman explained: “The backbone of much of pesak halacha relies on legal presumptions based upon time-honored rules such as rov, hazaka, safek d’oraita lechumra and safek derabanan lekula. Rav Heller’s seven essays in Shev Shemateta deal with cloudy areas and the process by which the final halacha is determined.”
Based upon the recent success of Rinat’s winter series, Friedman foresees a significant audience for this high-level series as its virtual venue allows participants from communities across the U.S. and in Israel to log on.
Rav Aryeh Leib HaCohen Heller (1745-1813) served as the rav in Rosnitov, Russia. He authored various foundational seforim including “Avnei Miluim” and “Ketzos HaChoshen.” Heller’s “Shev Shemateta” is divided into seven sections, each with approximately 25 chapters, and deals with intricate halachic topics including the validity of a single witness and the practical ramifications of doubt. The reasoning process used to analyze and resolve these very basic contradictions in the Talmud is the basis for the analytical method used in high-level Talmud study.
Rav Heller authored this volume in his early years, and according to Rav Baruch Ber Leibowitz, even prior to his bar mitzvah. Legend has it that each of the seven chapters was delivered during his sheva brachot. Upon publication, the sefer was received with great acclaim and has since been reprinted in close to 100 editions. Dozens of commentaries have been published on the work, and it is one of the most studied works in yeshivot gedolot today.
Participating in Rinat’s seven-part series via Zoom are seven master teachers of Talmud. Each speaker will focus on one of the divisions of “Shev Shemateta.”
Friedman noted: “The hope is that while each presentation will be independent of the others, taken as a whole the series will give the audience a broad introduction to the world of analytic yeshiva learning and of halachic theory.”
The series will begin on Sunday, May 2, at 8 p.m., with a presentation by Rabbi Yosef Adler, morah d’atra of Congregation Rinat Yisrael, on the topic “Safek d’Orayta leChumra: Oh Really?”
Avigail Gross Gelman, currently teaching Gemara and halacha at the Pelech High School for Girls in Zichron Yaakov, will be presenting “Is Possession nine-tenths of Jewish Law?” on Sunday, May 9, at 10 a.m.
Rinat Yoetzet Halacha Tova Sinensky will be presenting on Sunday, May 23, at 8 p.m. on the topic “Vestot D’Orayta or D’Rabanan: When Halachic Theory Encounters Unpredictable Circumstances.”
On Sunday May 30, at 10 a.m., Devorah Evron, director of Ohr Torah Stone’s Susi Bradfield Women’s Institute of Halachic Leadership at Midreshet Lindenbaum, will discuss “Kol Deparish Meruba Parish.”
Avi Heller, Director of the Manhattan Jewish Experience, will discuss “The Concept of Status and Status Changes in Halacha” on Sunday, June 6, at 10 a.m.
On Sunday, June 13, at 10 a.m., Rabbanit Dena (Freundlich) Rock, coordinator of Midreshet Lindenbaum’s Matmidot Scholars Program and instructor of Talmud and halacha in the program, will address the topic of “The Power of One: Ed Echad Ne’eman B’Issurim.”
Concluding the series on Sunday, June 20, at 8 p.m. will be Rabbi Chaim Strauchler, currently rabbi of Shaarei Shomayim in Toronto, who will be assuming the role of rabbi of Rinat beginning in August 2021. Rabbi Strauchler will speak about “Halachic Epistemology: Rabbi Aryeh Heller’s Explanation of How We know What We Know.”
The series is free of charge and is available on Zoom at https:zoom.us/j/4653630025,
Password 8372795, or call in at 1-929-205-6099, Meeting ID 4653630025.
By Pearl Markovitz