By Chaim Gold
“We have to make the berachah of Shehechiyanu on such a sefer!” exclaimed HaGaon HaRav Yitzchok Sorotzkin, shlita, rosh yeshiva of Telshe and the Lakewood Mesivta, when he saw the new Sefer HaMafteiach on the Mishnah Berurah that Dirshu has just released.
“Hafla va’feleh!” was the enthusiastic response of HaGaon HaRav Aryeh Malkiel Kotler, shlita, rosh yeshiva of Beis Medrash Govoha of Lakewood. “The velt,” continued Rav Kotler, “owes Dirshu a huge yasher koach for the sefer.” Numerous other gedolei Yisrael echoed these sentiments when they saw the sefer.
The word “historic” is perhaps overused in our times, but in this case, it is applicable and possibly even an understatement. Dirshu’s new Sefer HaMafteiach is a historic breakthrough in the world of halacha and will open the Mishnah Berurah to Klal Yisrael in an unprecedented way.
As its name implies, the Sefer HaMafteiach on the Mishnah Berurah is a comprehensive index on the entire six volumes of the Mishnah Berurah, Mahaduras Dirshu. The 700-page sefer contains more than 6,000 categories and exceeds 30,000 subcategories!
When a person needs to find where a certain topic is discussed by the Mishnah Berurah or subsequent poskim brought in the Biurim U’Musafim portion of the Mahaduras Dirshu Mishnah Berurah, all one has to do is open the Mafteiach and look for the topic. Topics are listed in alphabetical order, and every topic delineates each time the Mishnah Berurah talks about it or cross-references it in all six volumes of Mishnah Berurah.
“Ashreichem! This Is A Peleh”
It happens all the time. You are at home when a she’eilah comes up, you know that the Mishnah Berurah addresses the topic somewhere—but where? How can you find it? The new Dirshu Mafteiach is the answer. It has opened the Mishnah Berurah and piskei halacha of the major poskim of our time in a way that has never been done before.
It is for that reason that the gedolei Yisrael who recently saw the sefer expressed such tremendous joy and amazement at the accomplishment of such a feat. The venerated Rachmastrivka Rebbe, shlita, of Boro Park, repeated over and over, “What a z’chus haTorah!”
HaGaon HaRav Shlomo Feivel Schustal, shlita, rosh yeshiva of Yeshiva Toras Yerachmiel, joyously said, “Ashreichem, fortunate are you! This is a peleh, a wonder! It will be a tremendous to’eles.”
In order to properly encapsulate the groundbreaking nature of what the Sefer HaMafteiach is and the tremendous value that it has for the world of Torah and halacha, we must go back in history about a decade. A decade ago, Dirshu began to release what was then a totally new project that would have a transformative impact on the world of halacha. Dirshu began to publish the Dirshu edition of the Mishnah Berurah. The unique facet of the new edition of the Mishnah Berurah was the Biurim U’Musafim, the commentary alongside each page of Mishnah Berurah containing questions and answers brought by more recent poskim related to the words of the Mishnah Berurah. For example, if the Mishnah Berurah spoke about the halachos of cooking food on Shabbos, every modern-day scenario in the kitchen that is addressed by the poskim is included.
Understandably, however, the Mishnah Berurah—and, even more so, the Dirshu Mishnah Berurah, with the addition of the Biurim U’Musafim—contains many tens of thousands of halachic rulings. Given the complexities of life today, how is it possible to observe halacha, refrain from issurim, prohibitions, and fulfill mitzvos in the best possible way?! Every G-d-fearing Yid encounters she’eilos in daily life, but it is often challenging to find the exact psak halacha among the tens of thousands of halachos contained within the Mishnah Berurah. In addition, a person might conceivably be seeking a halacha relevant to the laws of Purim, but the answer to that she’eilah can be found in the laws of Rosh Hashanah! Or even if it is contained in the laws of Purim, the source is in the Shaar Ha’Tziun or the Biur Halacha in a location where many learners would not think of looking. What happens when you are looking for a halacha in hilchos tefillah but the psak is found in hilchos Rosh Chodesh? Until now, unless a person was a tremendous expert in all six chalakim of Mishnah Berurah and was blessed with a terrific memory, he simply would not have found the halacha. The Sefer HaMafteiach has changed that!
Is it any wonder that the Skulener Rebbe, shlita, said, that this goes into the category of a fulfillment of the pasuk that says, “Ki lo sishachach m’pi zaro—Torah will not be forgotten from Klal Yisrael?”
The Seminal English Index
Another trailblazing innovation from Dirshu is included at the back of the sefer—nearly 100 pages of English primary references guiding the reader to thousands of other references in the Hebrew part of the sefer. Let’s say, for example, that a person wants to know the halachic status of paying for items with a “check.” Many don’t know how to say check in Hebrew. He goes to the letter C in the English index and finds the word check. The English sends the reader to page 459 in the Hebrew section of the Mafteiach and there, one can find five different halachic scenarios about paying with a check: 1. Being that when it comes to the four species on Sukkos, one must “own” them to be yotzeh, is buying with a check considered ownership? 2. What about writing a check on chol ha’moed? Permitted or not? 3. Can one sell one’s chametz with a check? Let’s say the check is not cashed before Pesach starts. Is the chametz considered sold? 4. What about giving matanos l’evyonim with a check?
The Mafteiach promises to be a vital tool in enabling Klal Yisrael to find the optimum path to observe halacha and to ensure that Yidden do not, chalilah, unknowingly transgress issurei d’Oraysa and issurei d’rabbanan, Torah mandated prohibitions and rabbinic prohibitions.
Perhaps it is not a coincidence that this Mafteiach is being published at a time when many Yidden are living somewhat in isolation and cannot access the dibuk chaveirim, the interaction with others that is such a fundamental component of the halachic process.
Indeed, now that the Sefer HaMafteiach is available in sefarim stores everywhere, anyone who picks up the remarkable Mafteiach and begins to enjoy the tremendous benefit that it provides will echo the pivotal words of HaGaon HaRav Avrohom Ausband, shlita, who couldn’t contain his amazement upon seeing the sefer, “What a to’eles! What a zikui ha’rabbim!”
Perhaps the prominent Sephardic posek from Eretz Yisrael, HaGaon HaRav Messoud Ben Shimon, shlita, put it most succinctly when he remarked, “As new mutations and plagues are spreading, you’re spreading the Mishnah Berurah! You have no idea how much joy this Sefer HaMafteiach brings me, because it opens up the Mishnah Berurah, a sefer that is the ‘aleph–beis’ for each Jew!”