June 15, 2024
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June 15, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

Rabbi George Silfen, Esq. Publishes a Second Superlative Sefer

How do you follow up on an outstanding Sefer on Chumash and the Mo’adim? By releasing an even better one three years later! A few samples of Divrei Torah from the new Sefer explain my great enthusiasm for this magnificent contribution to our community.


Brit Milah

We often perform a Brit Milah when the boy’s eighth day falls on Shabbat. The Ba’al HaTurim (Rav Silfen loves to expound on the Ba’al HaTurim) finds a hint to this halacha in the equal number of words (five) and letters (23) in the pesukim “Uvayom HaShemini Yimol Besar Orlato” (“On the eighth day we perform the Brit Milah;” Vayikra 12:3) and “Vayechulu (with a Vav after the Chaf) HaShamayim V’Ha’Aretz V’Chol Tzeva’am” (“Hashem completed the universe’s Creation”; Breishit 2:1).

Why does the Torah specifically present this hint in the pasuk of Vayechulu? Rav Silfen notes the Gemara (Shabbat 119b) which states that one who recites Vayechulu on Friday night becomes Hashem’s partner in Creation. Hashem created the world, and we serve as his publicists.

Rav Silfen notes a similar theme with Brit Milah. The Sefer HaChinuch (2) explains that Brit Milah expresses a partnership with Hashem in eliminating negative character traits. Just as we partner with Hashem by removing the orlah from the boy He created, we also partner with Hashem in eradicating our negative characteristics. This explains the connection between Vayechulu and Brit Milah. Both represent the noble roles of partnering with Hashem.

Rav Silfen adds that connecting Vayechulu to Brit Milah shows that Brit Milah is not a one-time event. Rather, as Shabbat is an ongoing event each week, removing our negative sides is a lifelong project. Shabbat is the perfect time to remove our bad features since on Shabbat we step out of our routine and allow ourselves the necessary “bandwidth” for introspection and personal growth.



Rashi explains the introductory pasuk of Parashat Emor (“Emor El HaKohanim V’Amarta Aleihem,”— “Tell the Kohanim and say to them”) as instructing adults to alert young Kohanim to separate from Tumat Meit, contact with the dead. The Ramban understands this exhortation to apply not only to educating young Kohanim about Tumat Meit, but also to adults, thereby teaching all young Jews to avoid all aveirot.

Why is steering youngsters away from aveirot taught in the context of Tumat Meit? Rav Silfen explains that a great lesson for success in chinuch is communicated in this way. When a young Kohen asks why he must separate from Tumat Meit, unlike his non-Kohen friends, he is told that his prohibition stems from his special status. Similarly, when a young Jew wonders why he must separate from activities acceptable to almost everyone else, we respond that the restrictions stem from our special status as Jews.


Tisha B’Av

It is well-accepted (as documented by the Piskei Teshuvot) that one should wish Mazal Tov to the Ba’alei Simcha when a Brit Milah is held on Tisha B’Av. But how is this permitted if greetings are forbidden on Tisha B’Av (Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 554:20)?

Rav Silfen explains that this ruling is intended to avoid stirring up ill will by the failure to wish Mazal Tov to the Ba’alei Simcha. He notes that it is similar to the Shulchan Aruch instructing us to quietly return a greeting on Tisha B’Av from one who does not know it is forbidden to greet people on this sad day. In both cases, the intention is to avoid creating negative vibes between individuals.

Rav Silfen notes that avoiding ill will cuts to the core mission of Tisha B’Av. Our goal is to place ourselves on a path to rebuilding the Beit Hamikash, which was lost because of sinat chinam, unnecessary enmity between Jews (Yoma 9b). Hence, we must make every effort to avoid generating sinat chinam, which sets us back from achieving Tisha B’Av’s goal.

Rav Silfen observes that we learn the importance of issuing a hearty Mazal Tov when meeting Ba’alei Simcha. Wishing a full-hearted Mazal Tov to those experiencing a Simcha is a crucial component of our responsibility to generate a special bond amongst our people.


Yom Kippur

Vayikra 16:19 teaches that on Yom Kippur we purify (Tiharo) and sanctify (Kidesho) the Beit HaMikdash from our rendering it impure. Rashi explains that purify refers to tumah created in the past, and sanctify refers to the creation of future tumah.

How can one sanctify tumah to be created in the future? The Siftei Chachamim explains that one resolves not to impurify the Beit HaMikdash in the future.

Rav Silfen expands on the lesson by explaining that Yom Kippur is not only a day to cleanse our past sins but also a time to resolve and refrain from tainting ourselves with sin in the future. Thus, Yom Kippur is a day of purification of past sins and sanctification of our future.


A Call to Action

As I wrote in 2021, as beautiful and instructive as Rav Silfen’s Torah thoughts are, they are not the most crucial facet of his works. The fact that Rav Silfen, an attorney by profession, has written two outstanding sefarim serves as a powerful call to action for the community. Rav Silfen has mastered vast amounts of Torah, enabling him to cite a stunningly versatile range of Torah sources. He has forged a close relationship with Rav Asher Weiss, Rav Menachem Genack and Rav Pinchas Weinberger and has emerged as a great Torah scholar.

This would be very impressive for a full-time rabbi or Torah educator. However, what is truly remarkable is that George Silfen is a partner at a major Manhattan law firm! He was even rated as a “super lawyer” from 2014 to 2023.

The Gemara (Yoma 35b) tells of heroes who overcame substantial challenges and became great masters of the Torah despite their difficulties. For example, Hillel famously overcame the challenge of poverty, and Rabbi Elazar ben Charsom conquered the challenge of wealth. The Gemara concludes that these great talmidei chachamim obligate the rest of us to become great Torah scholars. After all, if they accomplished so much despite their many demands, everyone else has no excuse for not doing so.

Similarly, George Silfen is mechayev, obligates all of us. If a major law firm partner can emerge as a significant Torah scholar and compose two top-quality sefarim, what excuse do we have for not doing the same?



A special Mazal Tov to Rav Silfen, his wife, Bonnie and his entire family on releasing another superb contribution to Torat Yisrael!

I can hardly wait for Rav Silfen to release his third sefer in the hopefully not-too-distant future!

Rabbi Jachter serves as the rav of Congregation Shaarei Orah, rebbe at Torah Academy of Bergen County and a get administrator with the Beth Din of Elizabeth. Rabbi Jachter’s 18 books may be purchased at Amazon and Judaica House.

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