Monday, October 25, 2021

Mishne Berura: Status & Nature

I received the following letter - as a response to my recent posting of the Chazon Ish's letter - with permission to publish it.

I had written:   Chazon Ish: The paradox of majority rule & Daas Torah

So far have found this is the view of Get Poshut,Sheilas Dovid, Shach, Maharetz Chajes, Rav Moshe Feinstein, Minchas Chinuch. It is probable that the Mishna Berura disagrees. This is rather odd since it seems the majority view is that they need to meet and discuss it so how could the Mishna Berura disagree?
It also seems that the Chazon Ish didn't hold by Daas Torah ie the view of the Gedolim or even majority of Gedolim - but rather that of the local rav.

Chazon Ish [i](Beginning of Kelayim): [[It is well known that the requirement to follow the majority applies only to a beis din which is in session, but regarding scholars holding different views who lived at different times or in different places, the question of majority or minority is not relevant. In a particular area where most of the Torah derives from a particular rabbi and his disciples, and the disciples' disciples, it is correct to follow their rabbi even in a matter in which the majority (of authorities) holds a different opinion.[...]

The respondent - who wishes to remain anonymous wrote the following:

I have b'Mesorah from 3 different sources that the Mishne Berura's approach was a departure from normative:

1) My Zaideh - a contemporary of Rav Yaakov and Rav Aharon (actually even though the same age he arrived in Slabodka 3 years before they did) who was a Rov in Europe and in Chicago told my father who told me that the Mishne Berura was NOT accepted in Europe at all. The Aruch HaShulchon was considered the Posek (Sefer) to consult

2) Rav Schwab told me that when he visited R. Chaim Ozer and he shared that he had just been by the Chofez Chaim. Rav Chaim Ozer responded to him, "Un vos zogt de Ba'al Habo'os!"

3) When I was a young Yeshiva Bochur in Washington Heights and we would come with the Mishne Berura's conclusion as an objection to the accustomed Hanhogo of the Kehila, Rav Breuer would give us a knowing benevolent smile and say, "The Minhogim of the Kehilla predate the Mishne Berura by a couple of hundred years"
The popularization in our day that the Mishne Berura is "Posek Acharon" is the result Of Rav Aharon and Rav Yaakov's strong support but others were vigorously opposed to the whole approach. See also Chazon Ish (Igros 1:32) on the use of newly uncovered manuscripts to modify standard Halocho
The position of the Chazon Ish below is a gemoro in Horoyos 2b. ie that someone who is Higiah l'Horoyo is responsible for his own Halachic decisions and cannot just "cave in" to Daas Rabim of Talmidei Chachomim. If he does he is considered To'eh b'Mitzvo Lishmoeh Divrei Chachomim.. This is paskened Halocho l'Maaseh in Rambam Shgogos. and brought by Ramban in his Hasogos to Sefer HaMitzvos Shoresh 1 on Lo Sosur (pg 14 of old editions).. only if the Sanhedrin convenes and votes down his position must he capitulate. otherwise he is obligated to follow his own understanding and conclusion even if runs contrary to the majority. The Ramban cites Rabi Yehoshua & Rabon Gamliel concerning Yom Kipur


  1. Thank you for this post. It is a valuable corrective to common misunderstandings.

  2. It's and old story that we were told in yeshiva that CHazon Ish unlike Chofetz Chaim holds you cannot posken from genizah. Even Rav Elyashev shlita does not posken like Mishna Brurah like he is mattir thick liquid soaps as long as there is any flow at all.

  3. Thank you for that post, It's sad that this younger generation doesn't realize the gadlus of the Aruch HaShulchan. More sad is the fact that this generation has lost the ability to think for themselves halachically; the old generation was taught to evaluate different poskim and make up the decision that made sense. Sadly, there is so much pressure to just conform to the Mishna-B without thinking things through. (Not to say that he is wrong- c'vs- just to state that others can be right)

  4. Rebbeim in Yeshiva Torah Temimah Brooklyn would sort of knock the Aruch Hashulchan as a banker baal habos and say he was prone to make mistakes in some of his seforim. Now that we know what Yeshiva Torah Temimah is all about, that they are the last ones to decide who is Daas Torah. I wonder if talmidim of other yeshivos have heard something like this from rebbeim or if YTT is an isolated case. R' Yaakov said YTT was geboit oif sheker and geneivos by former Torah Vodaas bus driver Margulies and will not have a kiyum. May they continue to unravel from all the molesters they protected. Kolko and Weingarten were not the only ones.

  5. Thank you so much for your post. Here are links to a practical and positive project that can help reintroduce people to the Arukh ha-Shulhan:

    Anyone can contribute by improving the text and adding to it!

  6. (2) above is hard to believe. Still, there is a well known story that Reb Meir Simcha referred to the Chafetz Chaim this way at a conference and that Rav Chaim Brisker was very upset by it...

    It is known that Rav Moshe and Rav Henkin both preferred the Aruch Hashulchan.

  7. The Aruch HaShulchan was not a banker. However his son the Mechaber of the Torah Temima was

  8. His son who you refer to wasn't one of the gedolim.

  9. but the son came here to the "treifeneh medina" to get a job, but couldnt find a "shteller".

    i guess banking didnt pay too well.

  10. Rav Eidensohn,

    1) I'm not sure how the Chazon Ish's position re. newly discovered manuscripts is relevant. Surely, the Mishnah Berurah is "new" as a work, but the Mechaber is not basing himself on manuscripts or academic scholarship, etc.

    I always understood the Mishnah Berurah/Beur Halakha to be a very good peirush on Orach Chayyim, adding to one's understanding. He also brings down much of the minhagim that develop in E. Europe between the 16th-20th C., esp. the customs found in mystical lit. (e.g. Shelah).

    As per his acumen and level of scholarship, I think his work speaks for itself.

    One reason, I believe, why he became so popular in the US and Israel in the 20th C. is because of his clarity and use of easy hebrew. Anyone can learn Mishnah Berurah. Compare his writing style to Aruch HaShulchan, for instance, and you will see what I mean.

    2) What about halakha pesukah or minhag yisrael? Do certain things become "accepted practice?" Can one merely pick a da'at yachid in a Rishon and dismiss all others and the last 800 years, let's say, of rabbinic scholarship? Even if klal yisrael has accepted one rishon over another in this area?

    3) How much authority do the Shulchan Aruch & Rema have for establishing the final halakha?

  11. Where can I find the original post? I would like to read it in its enitrety.

  12. I'd also be very interested to see the original posting. Where do I find it?

  13. The ohr sameach, rav Meir simcha ztl was also opposed to the MB or at least it's author, for the same reasons. Ohr sameach was a community rav, not a R'Y, and halacha was classically a matter for community rabbis. Even the Gra didn't get involved in practical halacha.

  14. He opposed him only regarding teaching Russian in yeshiva. Where did you see he was opposed in general?

  15. there was a rabbinical conference, and he said to him "why are you here, you are nto a community Rav"
    anyway, i am not suggesting we or anyone today is as great as the CC or the OS to dispute one or another.

  16. itwas only in reference to one issue

  17. mayeb you are right

    doesnt specify here

  18. I have this book, it is a very nice book.

  19. there is a story in here about the Chofetz Chaim making a ruling in agreemnt with the Ohr sameach, and Rav Shach had an idea that it was to show that they held not bitterness towards each other. Rav Elefant asked the family of the Cc an confirmed this was the reason

  20. This is what rav Goren wrote in a letter to Lieberman , saying it was actually a godo thing, since he can now pasken without fear of what the Hareidim think, as a true Judge is meant to do.


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