Thursday, June 29, 2023

The book ‘Shemirat Shabbat Ke’Hilchata’ and the controversy it provoked

Despite the enormous virtues of ‘Shemirat Shabbat Ke’Hilchata’, disputes arose in Bnei Brak. Rabbi Yaacov Yisrael Kanievsky (the Steipler) wrote that it was his duty “to write here a great and necessary notice, because in our times of a an orphaned generation, in which everyone does as they please, there is no doubt that there are compositions about which Chazal said ‘for many are those she has struck dead’, who claim to collect and order the laws of the Shulchan Aruch, and it is forbidden to rely on them. Because apart from gathering instructions [to be lenient, of course] from everything they find in essays and journals [many of which have nothing at all to base themelves on], they also add their own disruptions and distortions in the hundreds, knowingly or unknowingly, and all with the aim of introducing leniencies upon leniencies into the laws of our holy Torah, and God forbid, one should rely on such treatises”.


  1. Wasn't RSZA the posek hador?

  2. You're only a Gadol when you say what people want to hear.

  3. IIRC RSZA only became involved with the sefer, after the first edition came under fire.

    RSZA meticulously went over the sefer with a fine tooth comb, and his comments were incorporated in the footnotes.

    The second edition was thus a new and revised edition; different from the first. RSZA's vital backing now made it much more acceptable to the public, because the sefer was perceived by many as a reflection of RSZA's opinions; which commanded respect.

    Thus RSZA saved the day for the SSK. Otherwise, without RSZA's input, the SSK was destined for the Sheimos bin, since it was considered to be a ספר שאינו מוגה, and at best would have collected dust on obscure forgotten bookshelves.


    "The book has been published in two different versions. After the first version was published, Rabbi Neuwirth was pressured to change many of his rulings, so in the second version many stringencies (chumrahs) were added, and the footnotes stated that there was an alternative lenient opinion.[2] Rabbi Yaakov Yisrael Kanievsky attacked the book in a sharply worded footnote in his book Chayei Olam, and some other rabbis from the Lithuanian tradition supported him. However, the prominent Gedolim who wrote glowing Haskamos (letters of approbation) to the book presumably disagreed. Besides Rabbi Auerbach, these include Rabbi Yechezkel Abramsky, Rav Moshe Feinstein, Rabbi Yosef Breuer, and Rabbi Yechiel Yaakov Weinberg. Moreover, in 1993, about two years before his death, Rabbi Auerbach published a collection of footnotes and corrections to Shemirat Shabbat Kehilchatah, thus further strengthening its stature as an accepted work of halakhic decision-making."

  5. This Wikipedia article, which seeks to portray Rabbi Neuwirth in the best possible light, actually does the opposite, in that it indicates that he allegedly changed his rulings due to external pressure.

    Unfortunately, that either smacks of intellectual dishonesty, or fickleness in trying to please his potential market.

    If he held a Halachic position, then he should stick by it. Just because others disagreed with him, or pressured him, he should not back down from what he believes to be the truth.

    I prefer a more charitable approach, which is that Rabbi Neuwirth personally grew in Torah as time went by, and was intellectually honest in that he was willing to reevaluate his previous held positions, and to modify them, in acceptance of external criticism, especially that of his Rebbe, RSZA.

    The Wikipedia article posits that the prominent Gedolim who wrote glowing Haskamos (letters of approbation) to the book, presumably disagreed with Rabbi Kanyevsky. That is not necessarily true.

    A closer examination of these letters of approbation indicates that NONE of the rabbis who wrote approbation read the entire work in a critical manner, nor did they evaluate each of his rulings.

    Rabbi Yechezkel Abramsky does not view the sefer as a work of "psak" (definitive Halachic rulings) by the author, rather as a compendium of rulings of other rabbis. He is careful not to agree with Rabbi Neuwirth's conclusions, and merely states that he's pleased that the author showed the sources that he based himself upon, and leaves it up to the reader to discern each matter by delving into the sources.

    Rabbi Shlomo Zalman Auerbach makes it clear that he wasn't able to review the entire sefer, and give it proper attention. He relies on the fact that sefer has footnotes to show where he got his material from, and what he bases himself on, and that the author surely wouldn't put out anything that was lacking.

    Rabbi Moshe Feinstein makes it clear that he is NOT giving an approbation to the rulings contained in this book, as he has no time to read through the entire sefer, and evaluate each ruling. He makes it clear to the reader that just because he wrote a letter of approbation, that doesn't mean that all the rulings contained therein, are also his own position.

    Rabbi YY Weinberg writes that he's in a weak state of health, and wasn't able to give the sefer the necessary amount of concentration.

  6. Seems like your analysis is self contradictory. If the gedolim who gave haskamos don't necessarily agree with his psak, it shows him to be independent minded, not bending to pressure. That depends of course on which edition they gave approbation for.
    That no one read tg3 entire book is not his own shortcoming.
    Are you trying to degrade his standing ñ

  7. 1. Open the sefer, and look. The haskamos were given on the first edition, before the controversy emerged.

    2. Wikipedia is the one who wrote that after the first version was published, Rabbi Neuwirth was pressured to change many of his rulings, so in the second version many stringencies (chumrahs) were added. I merely added analysis, that writing about someone that they yielded to external pressure, in matters regarding Halacha, is actually unflattering to the person. Therefore, in my eyes, the Wikipedia article, which sought to portray Rabbi Neuwirth in a positive light, actually did the opposite. Oops.

    3. That no one read the entire book is not R' Neuwirth's own shortcoming. However you still can't invoke the names of these Gedolim, and say that they disagreed with the Steipler, Rav YY Kanyevsky.

    In short, the haskamos don't support Wikipedia's claim, and leads me to believe that the editor(s) of the Wikipedia article didn't actually read the texts of the haskamos.

    4. I'm not trying to degrade his standing. In my opinion, the first edition was a disaster in many Yeshivish circles. I personally saw many copies of the sefer discarded in Genizah (Sheimos) and had no desire to take a free copy for myself. It was basically considered an unreliable work. Rabbi Shlomo Zalman Auerbach subsequent active input rescued the sefer from oblivion, by helping the author edit and revise the sefer. This helped give the second and third editions the respectable standing the sefer enjoys today.

  8. Thank you for the information -
    Wikipedia is not a daas torah opinion, it is written by am haartzim.
    However, the presence of haskamos from the greatest poskim of the generation shows it was a serious work, and they deemed him a reliable scholar.

    They clearly differed from the position of the Steipler gaon. That is not to say he was wrong. perhaps both the pushing away with one hand and bringing closer with the other helped develop the 2nd edition into a more widely accepted sefer.


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