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Friday, August 21, 2009

Learning Torah at Night Part 2

We had previously discussed the specialness of nocturnal Torah study. I would like to qualify that with an interesting limitation on night-time Torah study.

The Medrash reports that when Moshe Rabeinu ascended Mt. Sinai, the way he was able to differentiate between night and day was that Hashem would teach him the Written Torah (the 24 books of Tanach) during the day, and at night-time He would teach him the Oral Torah (Mishna, Talmud etc.).

Based on this, the Mekubalim say that one should refrain from studying ‘Mikrah’ at night. The Mishna Berura explains that at most it is a matter of preference, not forbidden. The Yesod V’Shoresh HaAvodah and other more Kabalistic works write that there is a spiritual danger to studying Torah Shebechsav at night.

There are however many notable exceptions which would make this preference very easy to fulfill.

1) One may learn Tanach with Rashi or another commentary. An English translation would fit the bill as well.
2) Sofrim may write and verbalize the words they are writing. This is because they are writing in accordance to the Mesorah which is Torah Shbal Peh.
3) This concept is not applicable on Thursday Friday or Saturday night, on Yom Tov or on Chol Hamoed.
4) Tehillim said for a sick person or for shmirah may be said.
5) Some say that the whole prohibition is only until Chatzos (halachic midnight).

Based on the above, there is almost no practical application of this chumrah, and were it to be applicable, we could always rely on the Mishna Berura’s opinion that it is merely a scheduling preference but if that is when one has time to study Tanach they should definitely do so without hesitation.

You may also be interested in Rabbi Ari Enkin’s excellent article on what not to learn on Shabbos.

As Elul begins and we draw nearer to Rosh Hashanah some of you may be feeling the urge to learn how to blow Shofar properly. There is an excellent how-to book on the subject, written by Rabbi Avrohom Reit, an expert in the practical applications of Jewish Law. Check out his illustrated guide here.

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Meet Rabbi Tzvi Hirsch Haber

Rabbi Tzvi Hirsch HaberRabbi Tzvi Hirsch Haber is sought after by all who know him for his Halachic and practical advice. His keen ability to put complicated matters into a digestible perspective coupled with his ability to get the facts, make him the perfect blogger to help us all “Do It Right”.

A native of Buffalo, NY, Rabbi Tzvi Hirsch Haber spent his childhood globetrotting with his family. His pioneering spirit first surfaced in Melbourne, Australia, where he was excited to be a member of the opening class of Mesivta Bnei Torah. From Australia the Haber family settled down in Monsey, NY. Ever the maverick, Tzvi promptly left home to study in Yeshiva Ohr Hameir in Peekskill, where he became a mainstay of the Yeshiva, and inspired his younger brothers as well as several friends from the Mesivta in Melbourne to follow him. He then joined his chaburah in Jerusalem, first at the Mir Yeshiva and then at the Bais Medrash of Rav Dovid Soloveitchik, a senior scion of the famed Brisk dynasty. As his globetrotting family returned to Jerusalem, Tzvi returned to the US, to freeze in the famed, yet comparatively chilled Beth Medrash Govoha of Lakewood.

 In 2004 he met his wife, Suzanne Schor, a native of the warmer Los Angeles climate, and the couple settled in Lakewood, where he focused his pioneering and independent strengths on the study of Halacha, or Jewish law. His innovative spirit and innate ability to help others seeking to clarify the finer points of Judaism and integrate them into their daily lives inspired his decision to commute daily from Lakewood to the Lower East Side of Manhattan in order to bask in the day to day exposure to the world renowned Posek, HaRav David Feinstein. The daily commute was more than compensated for when he received Semicha from Rav Feinstien and the Kollel L’Torah U’lhorah (a division of Mesivta Tifereth Jerusalem) in Tamuz 5768, June 2008.

In August 2009, the Habers moved west, heading toward Los Angeles where Rabbi Haber joined the LINK-LA Kollel. After being an active member of the Kollel for several years, he joined the business world, however he is still actively involved in teaching and learning in LA.

Actively involved in all aspects of TorahLab, Tzvi has taken upon himself a quasi-role as administrator of quality control and has effectively improved and upgraded many of the smaller yet vital details involved in our site. His advice is eagerly sought and gracefully given.

Rabbi Haber is now living in the La Brea section of Los Angeles with his wonderful family. He can be contacted at tzvi@torahlab.org