Foregetting The Torah (Part 5): Drying One’s Hands On His Clothing and Leaving A Sefer Open

(This should not be relied upon for practical halacha. When a question arises a Rabbi should be consulted.)

Please Read Forgetting The Torah (Part 1) before reading this post.

Drying One’s Hands On His Clothing-

1. The Tashbeitz (287) writes that drying one’s hands on his clothing causes one to forget his learning. This opinion is cited by the Magen Avraham (158:13) and Mishnah Berurah (158:45).

2. The Aruch Hashulchan writes that one should not dry his hands on any garment, whether its his shirt or pants.

הפרי מגדים שם מסתפק דאפשר חלוקו ממש הא שאר בגדים לא, או אפשר כל בגדיו במשמע, והו”ד במשנה ברורה. ובערוך השלחן סי”ז כתב בפשטות ולא ינגב ידיו בחלוקו או בבגדו דקשה לשכחה.

Leaving A Sefer Open-

1. The Shach (Yoreh Deah 277) writes that there is an angel who attacks and causes forgetfulness for those who leave seforim open when they leave the room.

2. The Aruch Hashulchan maintains that this is only true if one leaves the room for an extended period of time. However, one may leave the sefer open if he is merely stepping out of the room momentarily (such as to use the bathroom). However, Harav Chaim Palag’i zt”l and Harav Ovadia Hadaya zt”l disagree and rule that one may not step out of the room even for a moment if the sefer is open.

כתב הערוך השלחן שם ס”ב דזה דוקא כשיצא לרחוב אבל הנכנס מחדר לחדר, או אפילו נכנס לרחוב לזמן קצר אין חשש. ובשמירת הגוף והנפש דף רע”ד הביא דכן דעת הגאון בעל שו”ת שואל ומשיב בספרו ידות נדרים.
אכן ראיתי בספר כף החיים מהגאון רבי חיים פלאג’י ס’ כ’ אות י”א שכתב: “ויזהר שלא יניח הס’ פתוח ויצא אפי’ ע”מ לחזור תכף כי גורם לדי שכחה כנודע”. וכן בשו”ת ישכיל עבדי ח”ה יו”ד ס’ נ”ו כתב דאין חילוק בין זמן ארוך לזמן קצר, דפשוט שזה המלאך שממונה ע”ז, משתדל למצאו הזדמנות, למלאת את צפקידו, ותיכף שרואה מי שהוא השאיר ספרו פתוח אפי’ לרגע, מכיון שהוא ממונה על השכחה, הרי מוצא לו הזדמנות זו, להשכיחו תיכף את לימודו ע”ש.

If you have a question, comment, or an idea for an article please email me at avizakutinsky@gmail.com.

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Forgetting The Torah (Part 3)- Walking Between Two Women and Sleeping With Clothes Under One’s Head

(This should not be relied upon for practical halacha. When a question arises a Rabbi should be consulted.)

Please Read Forgetting The Torah (Part 1) before reading this post.

Walking Between Two Women

1. The Gemara in Horayos (13b) writes that a man passing between two women can cause forgetfulness. Similarly, the Gemara in Pesachim (111a) states, “There are three things that should not pass between two men and a man should not pass between two of them. And these are a dog, a palm tree and a woman. And some say, also a pig. And some say, also a snake. And if they do pass in between, what is the remedy? Rav Pappa says that he should recite the verses found in Numbers 23:22-23, which begin with the word “Kel” (Almighty) and concludes with the word “Kel.” Alternatively, he should recite the verse in Numbers 23:19, which begins with the word “Lo” and concludes with the phrase ‘Lo Yekimenah.’”

2. This issue of not walking between two women is cited by the Aruch Hashulchan (2:6). The Chazon Ish (Sefer Hazikaron 2:19, Taameh Dekra 29) and Harav Elyah Lopian zt”l (see Rivevos Efraim 3:525) are both cited as being very diligent not to walk between two women.

3. Rav Yosef Chaim Zonenfeld zt”l (Salmas Chaim 503) maintains that there is only a problem if a man travels between two women who are stationary. However, if all three are walking (as is common in busy streets), even if the man is walking in between the women, there is no concern of forgetfulness.

4. The Ben Ish Chai (year 2 Pinchas 17) writes that if two men travel in between two women it is permissible. In addition, the problem only exists if the two women are standing within four amos of each other.

5. Rav Chaim Kanievsky shlit”a (Sefer hazikaron ibid.) posits that one may walk between girls who are under the age of twelve. This is also the view of Harav Nissam Karelitz shlit”a (Chut Shani Even Haezer page 69).

6. The Maharsham (4th edition 4:148) questions whether one is permitted to walk between two non-Jewish women. He concludes that if one wishes to be lenient he should recite the verses described in the Gemara cited above. The Sefe Otzar Hachaim (1034) discusses this issue and he offers a definitive ruling. He writes that one may not pass between two non-Jewish women.

7. The same law applies to one’s relatives. Therefore, one may not walk between his two daughter’s or his daughter and his wife. (Rivevos Efraim ibid. Sefer Shemiras Haguf V’Nefesh page 333)

8. The poskim write that if one needs to walk between two women, or if a woman is walking between two men, one should carry an item in his hand and that negates the issue. If one does not have an item to carry he should grab his peyos. (Rishfei Eish 334)

Sleeping With Clothes Under One’s Head-

1. The Gemara (Horayos 13b) lists sleeping with clothing under one’s head amongst five activities that cause one to forget his learning. This means that one may not substitute clothing for a pillow.

2. The Mishnah Berurah (2:2) rules that if one places something in between the clothing and his head (such as a pillowcase) it is permissible. A similar ruling was expressed by Harav Yaakov Emden zt”l (Sidur Hanhagos Haboker 2). Harav Chaim Kanievsky shlit”a, however, disagrees with this lenient ruling.

3. Harav Yosef Chaim Zonenfeld zt”l maintains that if the clothing does not belong to him he may use it as a pillow.

הקשו האחרונים מההיא דתנן בריש תמיד (כ”ה:) לא היו הכהנים ישנים בבגדי קודש אלא היו פושטין ומניחין הבגדי קודש תחת ראשיהן, ע”ש. והרי המניח כליו תחת מראשותיו בא לידי שכחה. ובשו”ת שלמת חיים ח”א סימן י’ תירץ הגאון רבי יוסף חיים זונפלד זצ”ל דדוקא כליו אסור אבל כשלובש בגד של אחר מותר ליתן תחת מראשותיו, ולכן בגדי כהונה שהם קודש ואינם כליו ליכא איסור. ועל חידוש זה דן הגר”ח קניבסקי שליט”א בספר הזכרון, ומסיק ולכן קשה להקל בכל זה. אכן מסיים: “מיהו בבגד חברו שאינו לובשו הוא אפשר שאינו בכלל כליו דלא דמי לכל הני דשם מיירי בלבשו בהם”. ועוד תירץ בשלמת חיים הנ”ל דדוקא ברגיל אסור. אכן הגאון רבי חיים קניבסקי שליט”א העיר דכאן בגמ’ לא הוזכר רגיל כמו שהזכירו גבי זיתים. וגם במהרי”ל הנ”ל מבואר להדיא דגם באקראי יש לחוש. וכן בשו”ת יביע אומר ח”ב יו”ד סימן ח’ חולק עליו ע”ש.

4. One may nap on his sleeve and it is not considered sleeping on clothing (Sefer Hazikaron).

If you have a question, comment, or an idea for an article please email me at avizakutinsky@gmail.com.

Forgetting The Torah (Part 2- Olives and Olive Oil)

(This should not be relied upon for practical halacha. When a question arises a Rabbi should be consulted.)

Please Read Forgetting The Torah (Part 1) before reading this post.

1. The Gemara (Horayos 13b) writes that one of the things that causes one to forget his learning is “one who eats olives regularly.” The Gemara later lists five things that restore ones studies. One of them is consuming olive oil. The Gemara adds that this follows the view of Rav Yochanan who said that just as oils cause one to forget seventy years of one’s learning, so too olive oil restores seventy years of one’s learning.

2. The Maharsha uses the above Gemara to explain why out of all of the seven species the only one which is a bi-product (of the fruit or grain) is olives. Olive oil, not olives is one of the seven species. The reason being that olives is a friut that is damaging to one’s memory. While, olive oil is beneficioul to one’s memory. Therefore, it is appropriate that olive oil and not olives are one of the seven species that are listed in the Torah as being special products of the Land of Israel.

אגב עיין במגן אברהם הנ”ל דאין זה אלא בע”ה אבל המאכל בכונה המשכחים את האדם מוסיפין לו זכירה כי הוא מתקן אותה, ע”ש. וכ”כ בנגיד ומצוה (די”ח ע”ב), שיכוין בשמות “קל אלקים מצפץ”, שעולים כמנין זית, ע”ש. אכן שו”מ בשו”ת שלמת חיים ס’ מ”א שנשאל להגאון רבי יוסף חיים זוננפלד זצ”ל בלשון זה: “במג”א ס’ ק”ע ס”ק י”ט בענין דברים המשכחים את האדם כגון זיתים וכו’ אין זה אלא בע”ה אבל האוכלים בכוונה כנודע מוסיפין לו זכירה כי הוא מתקן אותה, ושמעתי לכוין על זיתים כך ק-ל א-לקים י-ק-ו-ק בא”ת ב”ש היינו מ-צ-פ-ץ בגימט’ זית [בגוף השאלה היה כתוב השמות כהויתן ובהפסקת קוים וגם צרוף חשבון העולה במספרים]. מהו אם יש לסמוך ע”ז שלא להקפיד להרגיל את עצמו באכילת זיתים שאמרו ע”ז ובמס’ הוריות דף י”ג כשם שהזית משכח לימוד של ע’ שנה וגו’, אם אין מצוי לו שמן זית”. והשיב הגרי”ח: “תמהתי על שכ’ השמו’ הקדושים וכן לענ”ד לא יעשה ומכ”ש שלא הי’ צריך לכתוב אח”כ החשבון ולענ”ד אינו דרך כבוד ועכ”פ יזהר בדף הזה מאד כי נכתבים בו שמו’ הקדושים לשמרו היטב ולענין הדין אין ראוי להרגיל בזה במה שמפורש בש”ס ומכ”ש עניני שכחה אפשר יש בזה לתה דלאו השמר פן תשכח [עיין לעיל שהבאנו מכמה פוסקים דאין בזה כלל איסור דהשמר פן תשכח את הדברים וכו’ ע”ש] אבל יאכל אותם עם שמן זית ואז מה טוב לכוין”. ובסמוך לזה בסימן מ”ב הוסיף שהמג”א לא העתיק דברי האר”י זצ”ל כ”א לומר שאם רואים אדם שאוכל זיתים שלא להרהר אחריו אבל עדיי’ אני עומד בסברתי שאין ראוי להרגיל בזה וכו'”.

3. The concept of avoiding eating olives regularly is cited by Rabbeinu Bachya (Parshas Vayishlach Vateitzei Dina), Magen Avraham (170:19), Aruch Hashulchan (2:5), Ben Ish Chai (Shana 2 Pinchas 17) and Kaf Hachaim (157:27).

4. Regarding eating olives, when analyzing the Gemara carefully, the Gemara states, “One who eats olives regularly” and not just “One who eats olives.” Harav Chaim Kanievsky shlit”a writes that that the word “regularly” is indeed specific, for if one eats them only sparingly and not regularly, this will not cause one any forgetfulness. The question is what is the definition of “regularly.” He continues to cite the Talmud Brachos 40a (regarding the medicinal value of eating lentils) that if one consumes them once in thirty days that is called regular consumption. Rav Kanievsky shlit”a, therefore, rules regarding olives that if it is as infrequent as once in thirty days then that is not considered regular consumption. He does note in a postscript that the Gemara (Shabbos 110a) implies that “regular” consumption is once every forty days. Which would mean that regarding olives that if it is as infrequent as once in forty days then that is not considered regular consumption.(Sefer Hazikaron 2:11 and in hosafos)

5. Rabbi Yosef Chaim Zonenfeld writes that if one consumes olives with olive oil there is no concern of forgetfulness. This solution is indicated in the Gemara cited above where it states that olive oil is beneficial to one’s memory (Salmas Chaim 41). Harav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach zt”l is cited as ruling that even one drop of oil would suffice to remove any hallachic problems (Halichos Shlomo chapter 2 page 23 in a footnote). However, Harav Chaim Kanievsky shlit”a questions whether adding olive oil to olives suffices to remove the concern of forgetfulness.

6. Harav Yaakov Emden zt”l (Mor Uketzia 170) noticed that even the religious people of his day commonly ate olives and he wonders why they were not concerned about forgetting their learning. He explains, “That the Gemara was referring to one who eats raw olives and makes them the focal point of his meal. However, if the olives are cooked, salted or brined, which are commonly eaten as a snack, one need not be concerned that they will cause forgetfulness.”

It seems that the common custom is to rely upon the view of Harav Yaakov Emden zt”l. However, Harav Chaim Kanievsky shlit”a cites the Meiri who writes that salted olives also cause one to forget his learning.

If you have a question, comment, or an idea for an article please email me at avizakutinsky@gmail.com.

Forgetting The Torah (Part 1)

(This should not be relied upon for practical halacha. When a question arises a Rabbi should be consulted.)

Jewish law places a tremendous amount of importance on amassing Torah knowledge and not to G-d forbid forget one’s learning. Throughout the Gemara and Medrash our Sages tell us of numerous activities which one should avoid since they are “kasha l’shichcha,” cause one to forget his learning. In the next few blogs we will discuss some of the more common and more obscure actions which can cause one to forget his studies. For a full list of things that one should avoid please see Harav Chaim Kanievsky’s Sefer Hazikaron.

Section 1: The Prohibition-

1. The Mishnah in Pirkei Avos (3:8) says that anyone who forgets what he has learned is considered to be deserving of death. The source for this is a verse in Parshas Va’eschanan, which says: “Only beware for yourself and greatly beware for your soul, lest you forget the things that your eyes have seen and lest you remove them from your heart all the days of your life, and make them known to your children and your children’s children” (Devarim 4:9). Similarly the Gemara in Menachos 99b says in the name of Reish Lakish that someone who forgets what he has learned has transgressed the negative commandment of the aforementioned pasuk. The Gemara explains that since the verse uses the words “hi’shamer” (beware) and “pen” (lest), this verse constitutes a negative commandment. This prohibition is cited by the Smak (9, 105), Smag (Lo Saaseh 13) and Yireim (28).

2. The Shulchan Aruch Harav (Talmud Torah 2:4) likewise rules that one who abstains from reviewing his learning and therefore forgets it has transgressed a biblical prohibition. This is only true if he neglected to review his learning due to laziness, however, if he does not have time to review because of his work and the like he is considered an “ones” and has not transgressed. He also adds that the prohibition applies even today where the oral law is written down.

[While this seems like an obvious ruling, in fact the opinion of Harav Chaim Volozhiner was that the prohibition only applied when the oral Torah was just that “oral.” Once the oral Torah was written it is no longer possible to forget Torah.]

ראיתי דבר חדש מהגרי”זּ הלוי, שכתב הכתר ראש (אות ס”ז) בשם הגר”ח מוואלאזין, וז”ל: “בענין שוכח דבר אחר ממשנתו, זה קאי על הראשונים שלמדו בעל פה”, עכ”ל. וביאר בחדושי מרן רי”ז הלוי על התורה (פרשת ואתחנן, על הכתוב “והיו הדברים האלה”) שעיקר האיסור שלא לשכח דבר אחד מן התורה קאי דוקא על התורה שבעל פה הנמסרת מדור לדור, מרב לתלמיד פה אל פה, כדי שלא תשתכח. אבל אחר שכבר נכתב התלמוד, ונפסקה הקבלה של תורה שבעל פה איש מפי איש, שוב אין זה בכלל שוכח דבר אחד ממשנתו, ע”כ. אכן בשו”ע הרב מבואר דלא כדברי הגר”ח. ויש לבאר שנחלקו בגדר האיסור לשכוח דבר אחד מן התורה, האם הוא על הגברא- שלא ישכח, או על התורה גופה, שאנו נזהרים שלא לשכוח את התורה באופן שתפסק מסירת התורה. שמדברי הגרי”ז מבואר, דזהו איסור על הגברא, שלא ישכח דבר אחד מן התורה, ולכן איסור זה נוהג תיכף כששכח דבר אחד ממשנתו, אע”פ שיכול לחזור ללומדו פעם שניה. ולהכי פשיטא ליה, דלא ישתנה איסור זה בשינוי הדורות. אולם הגר”ח ס”ל, שכל האיסור הוא שלא לשכח את התורה באופן שתפסק מסירת התורה, ולפיכך פשיטא ליה דאיסור זה נאמר דוקא על הדורות הראשונים שלמדו בעל פה, שאם שוכח דבר אחד ממשנתו לא יוכל להעביר לתלמידו את כל מה שקיבל מרבו. אבל אחר שנכתבה תורה שבע”פ, אף אם ישכח דבר אחד ממשנתו אין התורה משתכחת, שהרי יכול הוא לעיין בספרים, לפיכך אין בזה איסור.

3. Interestingly, Harav Moshe Feinstein zt”l uses this prohibition of forgetting Torah to prohibit double ring ceremonies. In the betrothal process, the giving of the ring is a means by which a kinyan is made. Here, the man is “acquiring” the woman. In a double-ring ceremony, where both the chosson and kallah give each other a ring (accompanied by commitments), it is unclear as to who is acquiring whom. This exchange of rings may lead to the erroneous conclusion that a woman can acquire a man for a husband. In addition this may lead to people forgetting the halachic kiddushin ceremony, which falls under the negative commandment of forgetting Torah. (Igros Moshe Even Haezer 3:18)

4. As stated above there are many activities that the Gemara warns against as it can lead to one forgetting his learning. The poskim debate whether performing these activities falls under the biblical prohibition stated above. Rav Chaim Palag’i, Rav Yosef Chaim Zonnenfeld zt”l and the Aruch Hashulchan all feel that performing theses acts are biblically forbidden. However, the Sefer Chassidim seems to indicate that there is no prohibition. (See Yabia Omer Y.D. 2:8 and Sefer Shemiras Haguf V’Nefesh Mavo chapter 18 for a full discussion.)

5. Harav Chaim Kanievsky shlit”a explains the view of the Sefer Chassidim. He writes that these actions do not actively cause one to forget his learning, rather, they weaken the mind’s ability to remember, which in turn may lead to forgetfulness. The Torah only forbids actively forgetting learning by deliberately not reviewing Torah. Merely weakening one’s ability to remember is not forbidden. It should, however, be avoided (Sefer Hazikaron).

6. The poskim write that women may perform the activities which the Gemara warns against (Mishmeres Shalom 72:2, Rav Chaim Kanievsky shlit”a who adds that a child should not perform these activities).

7. The Yad Yitzchak (vol. 2 84:17) writes that an “am haaretz” (ignoramus) may also perform these activities.

If you have a question, comment, or an idea for an article please email me at avizakutinsky@gmail.com.