A Review Of Sefer Birchas Yitzchok

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(By Rabbi Yair Hoffman for the Five Towns Jewish Times)

Every so often a Sefer comes along that is destined to be an instant classic – and will find its place on the bookshelf of every Yeshiva and every Rosh Yeshiva – indeed every Talmid Chochom.  The new Birchas Yitzchok is just such a sefer – and more.  There is no question that this sefer will become the classic text of the Brisk world.

For many decades, Rav Binyomin Paler zt”l was known as the repository of the true Brisk in the United States.  And now, the remarkable profundity of his shiurim has been made available to the public by his illustrious sons and Talmidim.  Rav Paler was one of Rav Velvel Soloveitchik’s closest Talmidim, and a chevrusah of Rav Beryl Soloveitchik zt”l– father of Rav Avrohom Yehoshua Shlita, the current Rosh Yeshiva of Brisk in Yerushalayim.

Rav Paler zt”l helped Rav Leib Malin zt”l launch Yeshiva Bais HaTalmud and was Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshivas Mekor Chaim in Brooklyn (and now in Lakewood).  Rav Moshe Feinstein zt”l himself suggested the name – to show all that Rav Paler embodied the authentic teachings and continuity of Rav Chaim Soloveitchik himself.

THE SEFER

The Sefer is comprised of Rav Paler’s shiurim on the Rambam’s Sefer Ahavah, Mada, and Zmanim – but many of the pieces are predicated on the Shulchan Aruch, as well as on Gemorahs.  Rav Paler’s shiurim have been described by Gedolei haRoshei Yeshiva as epitomizing the highly cogent and textually-compelling analysis of the sugya with the penetrative mehalech of component-part-analysis that the Brisk mehalech was known for.   Rav Paler zt”l mirrored Rav Chaim Brisker’s methodological use of precise definitions for each Talmudic concept to a tee. These are, of course, known as Chakiros.  Rav Paler discusses both classic Chakirahs from Rav Chaim Soloveitchik and his son (and brings new innovative proofs to them), as well as a number of his own newly formulated Chakiros.  But the ones that he conceives are so textually and conceptually based – that they seem to have been true classics all along.

Not all who have laid claim to Rav Chaim Soloveitchik’s mantle of analysis lived up to it.  It is said that the Chazon Ish would subtly poke fun at those who engaged superficially in the two-dinim approach.  He would humorously ask:  Why is there a chiyuv misah for chillul Shabbos?  Is it because chillul Shabbos invokes the chiyuv misah or is it that everyone b’etzem is mechuyav misah – it is just that keeping Shabbos is a ptur, an exemption, in the chiyuv misah?

Not so with Rav Paler zatzal.  He was universally recognized by all as one who strained and meticulously reviewed every single shiur that he gave until it reached a level of absolute perfection.  The quality of the Sefer reflects Rav Paler’s extraordinary reputation.  The shiurim go from Rishon to Rishon – where each meforash is accurately analyzed and the most subtle and nuanced of points is masterfully unfolded before one’s eyes.  Time and again the reader asks himself, “Of course!  How come I did not see that?”

The sefer has 160 shiurim on the major sugyos in Mada Ahavah and Zmanim precisely formulated in 365 pages of shiurim. There are also two very useful maftechos (indices) which will allow instant access to the profound analysis of Rav Paler zatzal.

HILCHOS TEFILAH

In Hilchos Tefilah (page 63-64), Rav Paler resolves a number of difficulties in one sweeping explanation. Why does the Rambam combine the obligations of prayer for women, servants and children –  when the former two are biblically obligated while the latter is only obligated by Rabbinic decree?  Why can a child be a shliach tzibbur for Maariv but not for other Tefilos?  He answers these questions and more with the concept that the Rabbinic notion of “Tefilah” can only be conceptualized when there exists an obligation for it.

BIRCHAS HATORAH

In the nature of Birchas HaTorah, Rav Paler quotes his Rebbe’s father, Rav Chaim, that the obligation is not on account of the Mitzvah of Talmud Torah requires a blessing, but rather that Torah itself requires a blessing (See Brachos 21a).  This is why thinking in Torah does not require a Bracja (See SA 47:4). Rav Paler brings further proof to this concept from the Gemorah in Brachos 11a (see p. 73).

ARBA MINIM AND ESROGIM

In regard to the issue of Bal Tosif in Arba Minim (page 299), Rav Paler brilliantly explains a two pronged understanding of the Raavad’s attack on the Rambam.  The exposition is so clear and so textually based – that it is a wonder that no acharon touched upon it previously.

In his piece on green Esrogim (page 329), Rav Paler brilliantly analyzes the differences between the Maharil and the Bach as to how they understand the Gemorah’s final view of Rabbi Yehudah’s position.  At first, the Gemorah (Sukkah 31b) assumes that Rabbi Yehudah’s views are on account of a requirement of Hadar – beauty – even for an Esrog.  The Gemorah concludes that Rabbi Yehudah’s disqualifications are on account of the fruit not having reached maturity.  But now that we hold that there is a requirement of Hadar – are the Gemorah’s conclusions dismissed?  The Bach says yes.  The Maharil says no.  It is a brilliant analysis filled with further insights into all the Rishonim.

SHMINI ATZERES

In analyzing the Gemorah’s statement about Shmini Atzeres that we surely sit in the Sukkah but we do not recite a blessing on it, Rav Paler deals with the question of the Rishonim as to why we do not treat it like a Yom Tov Shaini because of the doubt on the day.  He explains Rahi’s statement that “the name of Sukkos” does not fall on Shmini Atzeres as follows:  There are two aspects to a Sukkah – the very name of it being a Sukkah and the Kedushah of a Sukkah citing the Gemorah on Daf tes. The doubt in the day prevents the chalos of the holiness of the Sukkah coming down upon it.  Rav Paler provides other explanations as well.

There is no question that this first printing will sell out in a matter of a few short weeks.  Two thousand copies were brought to America and it seems that they were all sold out.  It is the perfect gift for any Ben Torah.

The author can be reached at yairhoffman2@gmail.com

(YWN World Headquarters – NYC)