By Rabbi Yair Hoffman
One of our most revered Torah sages of this last century was Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach, zt’l, of Jerusalem. Members of the Torah community in Eretz Yisrael did not make a move without looking to his prodigious Torah knowledge and sagacious advice. He was recognized as a leading sage in both the chareidi and chardal Torah communities. Rav Shlomo Zalman, zt’l, passed away on February 20, 1995 and the loss of such a gadol was immeasurable.
The loss to American Jewry, however, is perhaps more profound, in that we were not even fortunate enough, due to the language barrier, to have had access to his rulings and statements. The following is a short compilation of some of the rulings that were issued by Rabbi Shlomo Zalman, zt’l, a few years before his passing. These comprise only the halachic rulings, but not the extraordinarily profound halachic thought processes that characterized Rav Shlomo Zalman’s method of halachah. To glimpse a taste of that, the reader is referred to the Hebrew responsa sefer titled Minchas Shlomo.
The rulings found below (see the numbered paragraphs) were culled from the prestigious Torah journal Mevakshei Torah printed in Israel (POB 41170, Jerusalem). The rulings in the original Hebrew were reviewed by Rav Shlomo Zalman’s son. For each section of rulings below, a brief overview was included by this author to provide a frame of reference.
Waking Up In The Morning
The Shulchan Aruch begins with the statement that we must arise like a lion to serve our Creator. This statement serves as a call to arms of sorts, imbuing the observant Jew with the motivation to face his evil inclination head-on. Man’s ultimate purpose is to serve Gâ€‘d in every way possible–with all our “heart, might, and soul.” This can be realized in a number of ways, whether it be by developing our personal sensitivities to where we should pray and what we should avoid doing before we pray, or by heightening our sense of the immeasurable loss incurred by the destruction of the Beis HaMikdash. The laws below deal with the halachos that apply when we first awaken in the morning.
1. One should not daven next to netilas yadayim water (on account of the impurity; see Shaarei Teshuvah 4:8).
2. One should not be awakened with music (a tape or radio on a timer) or a musical alarm clock. (See Ramah 560:3.) Because of the destruction of the Temple, we should avoid all music not associated with a mitzvah.
3. If no one else makes his bed, he may do so before davening. If, however, someone else will make his bed for him, he may not do so before davening.
4. If one did not sleep during the night, and he needs to wash his hands, there is no need to do it at the exact point of dawn. Rather, before he leaves to daven, he should wash his hands.
5. It is prohibited to wash one’s body with soap before davening, even if it will cause him bittul Torah. The reason is so that others will not learn from his actions.
6. Since in our times everyone drinks tea with sugar, it is permitted to drink tea with sugar before davening and there is no problem of yuhra (haughtiness in taking care of our needs before we thank Gâ€‘d).
There is a little-known halachah in the Shulchan Aruch (Orech Chaim, Siman 5) that we are required to have certain ideas in mind when we pronounce the names of Gâ€‘d. When we pronounce the name “Ado-shem” we must think that He is Master of all and that He was, is, and always will be. When we pronounce the word “Elokeinu,” we must have in mind that He is our Gâ€‘d and that He is All-Powerful, or Omnipotent. Rav Auerbach, zt’l, explains the exact details of this halachah.
7. One may rely on the opinion of the Eishel Avraham, who writes that a person should state in the morning that the intention he has for all Divine Names that he recites that day is like it is found in the Siddurim. The whole issue of the intentions when pronouncing the Divine Names is not found in the Gemara, and therefore one may be lenient. It is enough to have in mind that this is the name of the Master of the World, and it is known that Rabbi S. MiKinon had the practice of davening like a one-day-old child. The meaning of this is that he prayed, but prayed to the Master of the World. Even though it is not recommended to argue with the Shulchan Aruch, the Vilna Gaon has already written that one does not have to have the intentions that the Shulchan Aruch writes.
8. This statement in the beginning of the day (that the Eishel Avraham writes) is ineffective for the first verse in Shema, nor does it work for the first berachah in Shemoneh Esreih.
Of Birkos HaTorah
The concept of reciting a blessing has three aspects to it. The first is the active recognition of Gâ€‘d’s presence in every facet of our lifecycle, both the holy and the mundane. The expression of gratitude for what Hashem has given us is a second aspect that is achieved through the rubric of blessings. The third aspect, however, of reciting blessings, is the qualitative change that it brings about within ourselves. Expressing gratitude to Hashem transforms us into people who appreciate what has been done for us, even by others. It imbues us with Gâ€‘dly qualities of goodness, which we are commanded to develop. The majority of blessings are of rabbinic origin. The rabbis took their cue from the two areas of blessings that are of Divine origin–grace after meals and the laws of Birkos HaTorah–the blessings that we recite before we study Torah. The laws of this blessing are somewhat intricate. Below we find some of Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach’s rulings on the details of this blessing.
9. If one is in doubt as to whether he had recited Birkos HaTorah, he may learn even before he finds someone else who can be motzi him.
10. Those who are careful in mitzvos recite Birkos HaTorah whenever they sleep three hours in the daytime.
11. One who went to sleep before sunset and woke up after the stars came out does not need to recite Birkos HaTorah again, because when he said it in the morning he had in mind until the next day. v
Look in next week’s issue for the next article in this series.
Rabbi Hoffman author can be reached at Yairhoffman2@gmail.com.