kosher bookworm

Shabbos in law and tradition


A question — Do You Know Hilchos Shabbos? — is the subject of this week’s essay. Specifically, a new book with that question as its title. Published by Menucha Publishers, this halachic work of over three hundred pages is patterned along the lines of the questions dealing with the most practical acts that are the source of much of the debate as to proper religious practice on the Shabbos.

The author of this work is Rabbi Michoel Fletcher whose biography includes educational background in halachic studies with such legendary rabbis as Rav Leib Lapian zt”l and Rav Moshe Schwab zt”l.

In his time at Gateshead, Rabbi Fletcher had the privilege of being a ben bayisof Rav Mattisyahu Salamon shlit”a, now the esteemed mashgiach ruchaniat Lakewood Yeshiva. According to the author, he was the “most influential guide and support when I decided to forgo other options and continue learning and teaching Torah for over [the next] four decades.”

Over a decade ago, the author moved to Israel and settled in Ramat Bet Shemesh, where Rav Shlomo Zalman Perlstein is his mara d’asra. In the author’s words, Rav Perlstein is a scholar of rare stature who welcomes Rabbi Fletcher and came to serve the author in practical guidance in all his work of Jewish law.

Among those who reviewed the text of this book were Harav Tuvya Weiss, av beis dinof the Eidah Hachareidis of Jerusalem; Harav Shraga Feivel Zimmerman, the ravand av beis dinof Gateshead, UK; and HaRav Moshe Heinemann of the United States.

To give you a taste of the flavor of his style below please find for your edification the text of the introduction to this sacred work. Read and learn from the hand and mind of a master.

Who has time to spare? We are so busy. Hopefully men have fixed times for learning, but how much can one learn in an hour or two, relative to what we need to know? Women have many responsibilities too and spare time is at a premium.

“Baruch Hashemfor Shabbos, our weekly escape from the pressures of the outside world.

“Baruch Hashemfor Shabbos, our weekly opportunity to interact with our families.

“Baruch Hashem for Shabbos, our weekly pit stop to recharge our spiritual batteries.

“It is the halachos of Shabbos that create the framework for our Shabbos activities. Clearly we need to know the halachos to observe Shabbos properly and in order to gain the most from it. There are excellent sefarimalready available for those who have the time for serious study of the halachos of Shabbos from beginning to end. But how many of us haave that time? If we have such sefarimthey are almost invariably put away on our bookshelves only to be brought out when we want to look something up.

“This seferis designed for people with more limited time who want to learn or review the halachos of Shabbos in a stimulating way. It can be learned in a formal context or in an informal way, for instance at the Shabbos table or at Shabbos groups. A question-and-answer format is popular with all age groups. Even those who are experts in hilchos Shabboswill find the sefera good way of discussing the halachos with their families.

“There are nearly five hundred questions, many of which are asked frequently within families all over the Jewish world. The answers are not short text-book answers but are personalized, advising the questioner what to do in that particular situation. The characters are named so that we an relate to them as ordinary people. They are not perfect, just like us. The seferdoes not claim to be exhaustive but hopefully it will encourage people to study the halachos in more detail if they have the opportunity.

“What is perhaps unique about this work is that while it is a serious seferwith many piskeihalachos, it’s written in an informal, reader-friendly style. The answers sometimes suggest how we can encourage our children and how to interact with family members. There is even a touch of humor; after all, one of the key ways of trying to ensure that our children will want to build their own Jewish homes is by infusing our homes with simchah, particularly on Shabbos and at the Shabbos table. The first chapters concentrate on honoring Shabbos and other positive mitzvos of Shabbos, before going on to activities that we do not do on Shabbos. This order gives people a more positive feeling about the day.

“In difficult situations, I try to find halachic solutions. Needless to say the answers are carefully researched and have been approved by gedolei harabbanimand talmidei chachamimin Eretz Yisrael and in chutz laAretz. All the sources are noted and the notes themselves sometimes contain important information.”