Reviewed by Rabbi Yair Hoffman
Rav Yaakov Forchheimer, shlita, one of the senior poskim in Lakewood, New Jersey, has just released a remarkable responsa sefer titled “Orech Yaakov” on the Orech Chaim and Choshen Mishpat sections of Shulchan Aruch.
The sefer encompasses a total 173 teshuvos and 442 pages—aside from two indices, one of mekoros and one of inyanim.
The wide range of topics includes a new take on the shtender question (Siman 23): Can other items be placed on it? Is it considered a tashmish of kedushah (see O.C. 154:3) [directly servicing an item of kedushah] which would make it forbidden to do so or is it permitted because it is a tashmish d’tashmish? Rav Forchheimer rules that if the shtender was purchased for making the home look pretty, it would be permitted. If it was purchased for the use of sefarim exclusively and not to make the home decorative, it would be forbidden.
Rav Forchheimer tackles the sugya of mezonos bread (siman 26). He cites the Mishnah Berurah who rules that if the taste of the juice and sweet additives are detectably more prominent than the taste of the wheat, it is considered mezonos—notwithstanding the view of the Maharsham who follows a majority. Rabbi Forchheimer informs us of the reality that in contemporary bakeries the breadlike products do not have a strong taste of the juice. He further writes that the whole concept is only when eaten alone, but if the bread is in a sandwich the berachah remains ha’motzi.
Rabbi Forchheimer rules on the basement sump pump issue, giving us a “construct heter” to use it [until we develop a technological solution: GE where are you?]. It is interesting what he might say on the well pumps that are an issue in the Catskills, in many homes in Lakewood and in Monsey, and now in apartment houses in New York City. Is there more of a problem or an equal problem?
In Siman 21, Rav Forchheimer deals with selling a shul in a neighborhood where there is no longer a minyan even on Shabbos. Although seemingly a very challenging halachic problem, Rav Forchheimer conceives of a “construct heter” that would permit it under certain conditions.
Moving to the Choshen Mishpat section, in C.M. Siman #167, Rav Forchheimer rules that, although one cannot purposefully hit a car parked incorrectly, if the car was parked incorrectly and there was no room to maneuver, then the one who hit that car is technically exempt.
In Siman 121, Rav Forchheimer deals with a case of a woman holding a baby and the baby grabbed a vase (or other vessel) and threw it down on the ground, smashing it. Who, if anyone, has to pay for it? Perhaps the woman is exempt because she is currently married, and the child is a child. Is there an obligation to pay to be yotzei midinei Shamayim? Rav Forchheimer cites Rav Blau in his Pischei Choshen that the woman is obligated because she was at fault for placing the child near the vase.
Rav Forchheimer questions whether the Mishnah in Bava Kamma 47a—mah shekansah isha kanah ba’alah, she is exempt because she has no funds herself—still applies when women work and earn an income. He concludes that since there is no clear minhag, we cannot obligate her in payment.
This author would humbly suggest two possible caveats to Rav Forchheimer’s conclusion. If the wife came into the marriage with what is called “nichsei melug,” items she previously owned, where the actual item itself belongs to her, but the fruit of that item belongs to the husband, then the poskim suggest that she is obligated to pay the damages—it is just that she cannot do so now for lack of funds. The beis din, however, writes a note that she is, in fact, obligated to pay. There are investors out there that buy things on a chance—in case certain events happen—albeit for a fraction of the cost. For example, if she outlives her husband or if they divorce, then the nichsei melug would belong to her with the right to sell it to whomever she pleases. She can, and thus must, sell the nichsei melug now on the chance that she will outlive her husband or be divorced—even if she will just be selling it at a great loss. [Beis Yoseph (346:20), Avkas Rochal (160) writes that it is obligatory.]
Alternatively, if someone gifts her money on condition that her husband not possess it, it seems to work. [See responsum Maharam MiRottenberg Prague ed. #850; see also S.A. E.H. 85:11]
The author can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.