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What Is The Reason? Tzelem, Torah Scholars, Torah Writings, & Reviewing the Weekly Portion Print E-mail

What Is The ReasonWhat is Tzelem – the Image – of a human being? M.A. The Mahara MiFano (Asarah Ma’amarot; Ma’amar Chikur Hadin 4:14) explains that our Tzelem is an ethereal light that surrounds us from our birth until our death. This light is shaped and defined by our choices, actions, speech and thought. It is this Tzelem that accompanies us on the Day of Judgment as a record of our spiritual lives.

The Rokeiach (Chochmat HaNefesh pg. 80) follows the opinion of Rabbeinu Bachya (Bereishit 49) that Tzelem refers to an angel that appears in our image. (See the story of Rabbeinu HaKodesh ‘visiting” his home before Shabbat even after his death. Ketubot 103a.)


I have heard some of your father’s students quote him as ridiculing the current custom to refer to so many rabbis as “Gaonim” which was a title bestowed on few people for generations. Is there a reason for this practice? E.C.

My father zt”l also insisted that there is inherent sanctity in the practices of the Torah world. You are right to ask for an explanation of this new practice.

Rabbi Yonatan Eibushitz (Ya’arot Devash, Derush 12) bemoans the fact that his generation was so lacking in true Torah scholars. He explained that a generation that does not properly honor Torah scholars will suffer the loss of great leaders. The more people honor the wealthy rather than the Torah scholar, the fewer great sages there will be.

I suspect that our generation is making an effort to honor Torah scholars more than ever before in order to properly merit having great scholars to lead us.

However, we must beware: The Chidah (Shem HaGedolim) rules that a Gaon is someone who knows the entire Talmud. (The Gematria of Gaon is 60, which corresponds to the sixty tractates.

The Ramah (Responsa #24) insists that we may not call someone “Moreinu,” – Our Master Teacher – unless the Rabbi is familiar with all aspects of Torah. Nevertheless, the Shulchan Aruch (Y”D 242:14) rules that we may call someone Moreinu if he writes Gittin – Religious Divorces. The Maharshal (Yam Shel Shlomo, Bava Kammah Chapter8 #58) is critical of those who bestow undeserved titles on rabbis. (See too, Shevut Yaakov Volume 3:121)

What are the laws of reviewing the weekly Torah Portion 3 times? Z.H.

Pleas see The Music of Halacha: A Three-Ply Cord is not easily Severed.

I would add that the Shulchan Aruch (O”C 285) rules that we may study the portion with Rashi rather than Targum. The Ba’eir Heitev adds that one who is not learned may even review the portion in translation.

I believe that I once overheard you discuss whether handwritten Torah notes should be considered Oral Law and perhaps even be placed on top of a Chumash. Is my memory accurate? F.T.

Wow! Yes, your memory is accurate. In fact, the Aderet rules that notes of Chiddushim – new ideas and insights – definitely have the status of Oral Law, much as does a Gemara – a volume of Talmud. He even rules that it is Halachically considered Sakanat Nefesh – Danger to Life – for a person to lose his writings: the person may become ill from the loss of his writings. The story is told of Rav Charlop, the Head of the Beit Din in Bialystock, who lost all his writings in a terrible accident and died soon after. 

The implications are whether a person can save his Torah writings on Shabbat.
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