Seforim in Review:  Rabbi Yaakov Forchheimer’s New Responsa Sefer


Reviewed by Rabbi Yair Hoffman for

Rav Yaakov Forchherimer shlita, one of the senior Poskim in Lakewood, New Jersey, has just released a remarkable responsa Sefer entitled, “Orech Yaakov” on the Orech Chaim and Choshain Mishpat sections of Shulchan Aruch.  It is hot off the press and well-worth buying.  This is particularly true since Rav Forchheimer is not only an outstanding Posaik, but he is an outstanding gadol b’Yisroel as well. 

The Sefer encompasses a total 173 Teshuvos and 442 pages – aside from two indices, one of mekoros and one of inyanim.  The indices truly open up the sefer to the thousands of psakim found in the sefer.

The wide range of topics cover the underlying issues in great depth and give a wonderful introduction and background to the essential issues at stake.  Rav Forchheimer includes a new take on the shtender question (Siman 23):  Can other items be placed on it?  Is it considered a tashmish of kedusha (See OC 154:3) [directly servicing an item of kedusha] which would make it forbidden to do so or is it permitted because it is a tashmish detashmish?  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 seforim exclusively and not to make the home decorative– it would be forbidden.

Rav Forchheimer tackles the sugya ofMezonos bread (Siman 26) – where he cites the Mishna Brurah 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 of is only when eaten alone but in a sandwich the bracha remains HaMotzi.

Rabbi Forchheimer rules on the basement sump-pump issue when flushing on Shabbos – 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 electric well-pumps that kick in whenever the reserve emoties.  They are an issue in the Catskills, in many homes in Lakewood and in Monsey, and now in apartments houses in New York City.  Is there more of a problem or an equal problem?

In Siman 21, Rav Forchheimer also deals with Jewish communities undergoing gentrification. Is selling a shul in a neighborhood where there is no longer a minyan even on Shabbos a problem?  What is to be done if one know that it will end up being purchased by a bais tiflus?  Although seemingly a very challenging halachic problem, Rav Forchheimer conceives of a “construct heter” that would permit it under certain conditions.  For many communities, this issue is quite pressing.

Moving to the Choshain Mishpat section, in CM Siman #167, Rav Forchheimer rules that, although one cannot purposefully hit a car parked incorrectly, but 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 Forcheimer deals with a  case of a woman holding a baby and the baby grabbed 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 midine 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 Mishna in Bava Kamma 47a – (that ma shekansah isha kana baalah – tells us that 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 that 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 by 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.  [See Bais 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 responsa Maharam MiRottenberg Prague ed. #850, see also SA EH 85:11]

This sefer  fills a huge void in the Torah world. Every Rav and talmid Chachom should purchase it. It is written with great clarity and insight and clarifies thousands of halachic points that until now were not resolved. The material is extremely well organized as well.  It is destined to be a classic work.

The reviewer can be reached at [email protected]