By Rabbi Yair Hoffman
One of our most revered Torah sages of the last century was Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach, zt’l, of Jerusalem. We are continuing with a series of articles featuring rulings culled from the prestigious Torah journal Mevakshei Torah printed in Israel (POB 41170, Jerusalem). For the benefit of the reader, the rulings for each topic are preceded below by a brief introduction to the topic.
The Laws Of Putting
The tefillin are an eternal sign given to us by Gâ€‘d himself. Consequently, the mitzvah of putting on tefillin is precious. The Rav Shulchan Aruch (37:1) writes that there is no greater mitzvah in the Torah, as it is equated with the fulfillment of all the other mitzvos in the Torah combined. The exact details of this mitzvah were handed down by Moshe at Mount Sinai and were transmitted orally down the generations.
12. An ambidextrous person who puts on tefillin on both hands should not have them both on at the same time, because it appears as if he is adding to the Torah.
13. The covering for the tefillin shel yad is not considered a covering for the purpose of fulfilling “For you a sign but not for others a sign.”
14. Even though there are those that wrote that the cover on the tefillin shel yad is like an addition to the tefillin and it is proper to remove it, this is not an obligation. The rubber band that attaches the yud to the tefillin, however, is not considered an addition. Rabbi Shlomo Zalman Auerbach’s minhag was to remove the cover of the tefillin shel yad before the berachah and to return it after he donned the tefillin shel yad.
15. One who touches his arm while putting on tefillin does not need to wash his hands. [Rabbi Auerbach is arguing with a ruling issued by Rabbi Moshe Sternbuch in a published responsum.]
16. If someone’s hair is wet, this is not considered a chatzitzah for the tefillin shel rosh.
17. One may place paraffin oil on the tefillin shel rosh to ward off moisture and sweat. This is not considered a chatzitzah because it gets absorbed into the tefillin leather.
18. The Mishnah Berurah 27:14 cites an argument among Acharonim whether one should be careful regarding whether the tefillin strap can be chotzetz between the tefillin box and the flesh. The opinion of the Revid HaZahav is that is not considered a chatzitzah, because it is considered min bemino, of the same type; while the Levushei Sarad’s opinion is that one should be stringent. Even though it should be considered min bemino, Rabbi Shlomo Zalman Auerbach, zt’l, explained that since the holiness of the tefillin box is greater than that of the straps it is not to be considered min bemino.
19. It is permitted to sit down on a bench that has tefillin straps lying on it.
Of Davening Vasikin
In the times of the Mishnah, there were a group of people who observed mitzvos most meticulously. These people were known as “the vasikin” and performed every mitzvah at the first opportunity. Those that daven k’vasikin begin their Shemoneh Esreih at sunrise. It is said that if one davens vasikin properly on a particular day, no harm can befall the person on that day. In our times as well, there are many people (particularly in Eretz Yisrael) who pray vasikin.
20. It is preferable for a yeshiva student to pray in yeshiva rather than to pray vasikin, even though vasikin is a great thing, as its name attests. The reason is that the yeshiva student must be careful with the sedarim, learning, and prayer schedules, of the yeshiva.
21. If one has a custom to pray vasikin every day and he wishes to stop this custom, he must make a special hataras nedarim in front of three people–the hataras nedarim he makes on erev Rosh Hashanah is not sufficient.
22. However, one who has a custom to pray vasikin just one day a week and wishes to stop this custom, may rely upon the hataras nedarim of erev Rosh Hashanah.
23. If one davens each day at a set minyan and it happens that he was awake at sunrise, he does not have to recite Shema then; rather he reads it with the berachos in his regular manner.
Of Pesukei d’Zimrah
The Talmud (Berachos 32a) tells us that one should not approach the Creator of the World for personal requests without first having sung praises to Him. Pesukei d’Zimrah, or literally, “Verses of Praise,” composed by King David himself, was placed in the morning service in order to address this issue. Pesukei d’Zimrah, however, is an entity separate and apart from the Shacharis service, which technically begins with the blessing of Yotzer Ohr. According to the Kabbalists, it is filled with wonderful mystical significance. How its unique identity correlates to Shacharis and other aspects of davening is of paramount significance and is the subject of the next few responsa.
24. One whose custom in Baruch SheAmar is to say the word “Pi” should continue in his custom.
25. If one is davening Pesukei d’Zimrah and, if he would not recite it quickly, he would miss tefillah betzibbur, it is preferable to skip some and say fewer of them with greater kavanah, because few with kavanah are better than many without kavanah.
26. One who is reciting Pesukei d’Zimrah and hears a Kaddish or a Kedushah from another minyan should preferably not stop to respond, since this distracts him from having the necessary intent for Pesukei d’Zimrah. This is preferable; however, he does have the option of answering if he wants to.
28. One who is reciting Pesukei d’Zimrah when the shaliach tzibbur has already reached Kaddish and Borchu should have in mind that he does not wish to be yotzei with this Borchu. Since Borchu is the beginning of the berachah “Yotzer Ohr,” he can no longer continue saying Pesukei d’Zimrah.
29. It is prohibited to omit anything from Pesukei d’Zimrah if it is possible to daven properly afterward in a different minyan, unless he feels he can daven better in this minyan. Similarly, if he is rushing for purposes of his parnassah, daily occupation, he may omit parts.
Look in next week’s issue for the next article in this series.
Rabbi Hoffman can be reached at Yairhoffman2@gmail.com.