May 28, 2024
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May these words of Torah serve as a merit le’iluy nishmat Menachem Mendel ben Harav Yoel David Balk, a”h.

This week we learned Menachot 22. These are some highlights.

A community got back its parochet, which had been used by a gentile during the war. May they hang it up to adorn their aron kodesh?

During World War II, the wicked Germans would seek to desecrate holy Jewish objects and sites. In one community in Europe they turned the synagogue into a horse stable and allowed local gentiles to pillage its contents. A gentile stole the parochet that adorned the aron kodesh and used it in his home as a bed cover. After the war, the government returned to the Jewish community the property that had been stolen from it. The survivors found out about the parochet and reclaimed it. They now had a halachic question. Were they allowed to hang up this parochet on their rebuilt aron kodesh? Our Gemara teaches that just as the altar was made from material that had not been used for personal use, so too the wood and fire on the altar had to be from materials that had not been used before for personal use. Rambam (Hilchot Issurei Mizbei’ach) quotes this law. Beit Yosef (Orach Chaim Siman 153) quotes the Agudah who derives from this law that the same is true with the parochet around a Torah scroll. We need new felt and material for the Torah scroll. We cannot use material that was used for an individual’s use as a parochet around a Torah scroll. Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chaim 153:21) writes, “One is not to buy coats that had been used for personal use to use them as a holy utensil.” Rama (Orach Chaim Siman 147:1) quotes the Agudah: “We are not to make covers for the Torah scroll from old things that were used for an individual’s use.” In light of these sources, the community thought they were not allowed to use the parochet anymore. It had been used for a personal use and therefore they should not be allowed to hang it up on an aron kodesh.

Rav Yitzchok Zilberstein argues that the community would be allowed to use the reclaimed parochet on their aron kodesh. There is room to distinguish between the cover of an ark and the cover of a Torah scroll. A cover on a Torah scroll is a tashmish d’kedusha. It is a utensil that serves a holy object. The ark holds the Torah scrolls, and the cover of the ark is therefore a utensil of a utensil of holiness, tashmish d’tashmish d’kedusha. Mishnah Berurah (147:13) writes that the Taz (Siman 282) rules that the law of the Agudah only applies to a tashmish d’kedusha. You can use an item that had been used for a personal use for tashmish d’tashmish d’kedusha. The Magein Avraham questions this ruling. Mishnah Berurah concludes that if you can add another argument to why one should be allowed to use an item that had been used for a personal use, then all would agree you can use it for a tashmish d’tashmish. Rav Zilberstein argues that in the case of the Holocaust parochet there is another argument to allow the usage of the parochet again.

Many authorities feel that when the gentiles conquered Jerusalem and destroyed the Temple the objects of the Mikdash lost their sanctity because of the verse uba’u ba paritzim vechilaluha. Ba’al Hama’or (Masechet Avoda Zara daf chaf gimel bedapei harif) feels that uba’u ba paritzim vechilaluha does not apply to gentiles. Gentiles are not called paritizim. The verse refers to Jews. If wicked Jews misuse sacred objects, the objects can forfeit their holiness. According to the Ba’al Hama’or, when the Temple was destroyed it was the wicked Jews desecrating the holy that caused holy objects to lose their sanctity. In our case, Jews had not mistreated the parochet. It was a wicked gentile who had desecrated its holiness. According to the Ba’al Hama’or, the actions of a wicked gentile cannot remove the sanctity from a holy object. Our parochet therefore never lost its initial sanctification. When it was first put up it was material that had not been used for a personal use. Now that the community was reclaiming it, they were taking back an item that still had initial sanctity. They could put this parochet back up for they were not building a holy object with materials that had been used for personal use; the personal use had never impacted this parochet.

There is another reason why we should allow this parochet to be put back up on the aron. If we put back this parochet, we will sanctify the name of Hashem. All who will see the parochet will be reminded of its story. They will realize that the Nazis, yemach shemam, tried to wipe us out but Hashem in His mercy saved us. The Nazis are gone, and the Torah and the Jews who observe the Torah are still here. (Chashukei Chemed)

By Rabbi Zev Reichman


Rabbi Zev Reichman teaches Daf Yomi in his shul, East Hill Synagogue.

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