June 16, 2024
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The Test HaGaon HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, shlita, Gave to The New Dirshu Sefer Hamaftei’ach on the Mishnah Berurah

A sense of tension combined with tremendous anticipation was in the air as the senior members of hanhalas Dirshu together with the primary editors of the new seminal Dirshu Sefer Hamaftei’ach on the Mishnah Berurah gathered outside the home of the Sar HaTorah, HaGaon HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, shlita.

All present knew that there is no letter in the entire six chalakim of Mishnah Berurah that Rav Chaim does not know by heart. What would he say to the Mafteiach? It is well known that whenever the author of a sefer on halacha and especially the Mishnah Berurah comes to Rav Chaim, Rav Chaim asks halachic questions that are found in the Mishnah Berurah, but not necessarily in the place where you would think of looking.

The delegation was met at the door by Rav Chaim’s son, Rav Yitzchok Shaul Kanievsky. After greeting the delegation and perusing the new Sefer Hamaftei’ach, Rav Yitzchok Shaul surprisingly pulled a paper out of his pocket. The editors of the Sefer Hamaftei’ach could not believe their eyes. Rav Chaim had personally prepared a list of questions and answers that are not easily found in the place where one would think of looking. Clearly, Rav Chaim wanted to test the Sefer Hamaftei’ach to see if it cited these obscure sources.

The Black-on-White Answer To a Confusing Question

Looking at the paper that he had transcribed from Rav Chaim, Rav Yitzchok Shaul read, “What happens if a person started to make a bracha on one item, let’s say an item whose bracha was Borei Minei Mezonos, and before he completed the bracha someone took away the borei minei mezonos item and replaced it with a borei pri ha’eitz item. If he has not yet said the words borei minei mezonos, can he change his bracha to borei pri ha’eitz?

Now, anyone with some degree of familiarity with the Mishnah Berurah would assume that the answer to this question is in chelek beis, the chelek of Mishnah Berurah where the laws of brachos on food are discussed. The editors of Dirshu’s Sefer Hamaftei’ach on the Mishnah Berurah quickly opened the Sefer Hamaftei’ach to the topic “Bracha,” they then thumbed their way to the sub-topic, “Finishing it when one didn’t initially have in mind to make that bracha.” The Sefer Hamafteiach, however, does not send you to chelek beis because the answer to that specific question does not appear in chelek beis. Rather, it is in siman 8 in chelek aleph! What is the question discussed in siman 8, chelek aleph, that deals with the halachos of tzitzis!?

The question there is if someone started making a bracha on his tallis but before he finished the bracha someone took the tallis away from him, leaving his tefillin there, still in front of him. Can he finish the bracha by saying l’haniach tefillin instead of saying l’hisatef b’tzitzis? The answer is that he is permitted to say the bracha on tefillin. Thus, the answer to Rav Chaim’s original question is yes, it is permitted to make a borei pri ha’eitz on a fruit even though you started making the bracha on a grain.

It was amazing to see Rav Kanievsky’s expression when he looked in the maftei’ach and there was the answer to Rav Chaim’s question, black on white!

He asked many more such questions (more of which we will cite later) and the Sefer Hamaftei’ach on the Mishnah Berurah passed Rav Chaim’s difficult test with flying colors.

Restoring the Mishnah Berurah as A Practical Halacha L’Maasah Sefer

There is a tremendous buzz in the Torah world with the recent appearance of the Dirshu Sefer Hamaftei’ach. Rav Binyomin Birenzweig, one of the primary editors of the sefer, related why its appearance has so taken the Torah world by storm. He explains, “Over the past couple of decades, many, many halacha sefarim—sefarim that we call ‘sifrei kitzurim’ wherein practical halachos on a certain topic are condensed into one sefer—have been published. A byproduct of this is that for many, the Mishnah Berurah had stopped becoming the sefer where one looks up the halacha. Rather, it has become a sefer that you learn in a learning seder. When one actually needs the halacha l’maaseh, one often turns to the abbreviated sefarim. This causes the learner to lose so much depth and understanding of the halacha.

“Nearly ten years ago, Dirshu began to address this issue by publishing the famed Mahaduras Dirshu Mishnah Berurah. The Mahaduras Dirshu published alongside the Mishnah Berurah, contained many piskei halacha from the later poskim on areas discussed by the Mishnah Berurah. Mahaduras Dirshu revolutionized the learning of Mishnah Berurah as a practical sefer on halacha l’maaseh, thereby ensuring that the learner actually gains a comprehensive understanding of the halacha starting with the Shulchan Aruch, continuing with the Mishnah Berurah and culminating in the piskei halacha of more recent poskim.

Still, the Mishnah Berurah is a sefer containing tens of thousands of piskei halacha spread across the Mishnah Berurah, the Biur Halacha and the Shaar HaTziun. If you add the tens of thousands of additional piskei halacha in Dirshu’s Biurim and Musafim additions, it can become difficult to quickly locate a psak halacha when you need it.

6,000 Primary References and Over 70,000 Secondary References!

That is why, after consulting with leading gedolei hador and gedoeli haposkim, Dirshu embarked on the historic Sefer Hamftei’ach. It was years in the making, but now the new one-volume sefer possesses over 6,000 primary references and over 70,000(!)—yes, 70,000—secondary references. In addition, Dirshu has included an English section for those who may not be familiar with some of the current-day Lashon Kodesh terminology.

Members of Dirshu’s hanhala have visited tens of leading poskim, all of whom have been simply amazed by the comprehensive nature of the maftei’ach and how it will enable Yidden across the globe to better observe Halacha. Poskim such as Rav Osher Weiss, Rav Naftoli Nussbaum and so many others have encouraged Dirshu’s hanhala and thanked them for what they termed “a historic addition to the seforim shrank of klal Yisrael.”

Getting back to Rav Chaim Kanivesky’s house, Rav Chaim’s son, Rav Yitzchok Shaul, took out the list of the many questions that Rav Chaim asked. Another one was, “Does bentching absolve someone from reciting the after-bracha of borei nefashos?”

Rav Avigdor Berenstein, one of the members of Dirshu’s hanhala, immediately opened the Sefer Hamftei’ach to “Borei Nefashos.” He then looked up the subheading, “Does Birchas Hamazon pater it?” The maftei’ach takes you to siman 137, se’if kattan 16. The question there is about someone who did not take part in a meal, but wants to join two others who did, to enable them to make a mezuman. If he ate something, even a shehakol, he is permitted to join, thereby creating the mezuman. Is he allowed to listen to the entire bentching, answer amein to the brachos and therefore absolve himself from the bracha acharona of borei nefashos? The Mishnah Berurah says no.

Indeed, the new Dirshu Sefer Hamaftei’ach has found favor in the eyes of the Sar HaTorah, Rav Chaim Kanievsky, shlita. It is not only Rav Chaim. During the short time since it has been published it has become an important addition to the sefarim shrank of anyone who seeks out psak halacha in the Mishnah Berurah and the subsequent poskim.

By Chaim Gold

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