July 24, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

Reviewing: “Takanas Hashavim,” by Rabbi Daniel Yaakov Travis. Ohel Rabbeinu Yonoson Ublima Foundation.

Often people will (mistakenly) say something to the effect that there are halachic leniencies to do something for the sake of kiruv. Rav Elyashiv was often quoted as noting that the same Shulchan Aruch applied to all Jews, regardless of their level of observance. So, saying a leniency can be used just for the sake of kiruv would ostensibly be a misnomer. The question is when certain leniencies can be invoked for kiruv professionals and those who are starting their journey into religious observance.

In “Takanas Hashavim: Shaylos v’teshuvos ha’noagim l’baalei teshuva,” Rabbi Daniel Yaakov Travis, rosh kollel of the Kollel Toras Chaim halacha kollel in Jerusalem, has written a fascinating work that deals with the myriad questions involving ba’alei teshuvah and kiruv professionals.

Travis covers nearly 100 different topics in this well-written work. For each topic, he follows a style of introducing the question, providing an initial brief answer, then breaking up the question into its core parts. He then provides an in-depth answer to each question. For those who suffer from tl;dr, the author writes a detailed summary for each question.

A number of the topics have been discussed elsewhere, such as giving food to a non-religious person who will not make a blessing, a child relying on the kashrus of their non-religious parents, civil marriage and halacha, and more.

There are also other topics that are not often discussed that Travis examines. Some include the halachic significance of Jewish actors in a play where a marriage scene takes place, questions surrounding issues of yichud of a woman who owns a dog, women’s hair-covering requirements for a woman who had relationships before becoming religious, and many more.

One particularly interesting question is that of a man who, before he became religious, had a tattoo on his arm of a woman lacking clothing. Now that he became religious, the quandary was that putting his tefillin over an inappropriate picture could be a serious issue.

Travis concludes that one should not put tefillin on there, given it would be a disgrace to the tefillin. He suggests using laser tattoo removal and goes as far as to say that one can use proceeds from tzedakah to do that if he lacks the necessary funds.

Rabbi Travis has written a fascinating and engaging work that has significant value for everyone. Not just those involved with kiruv.


Ben Rothke lives in New Jersey and works in the information security field. He reviews books on religion, technology and science. @benrothke

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