Gedolei Haposkim Give Advice and Praise for New Dirshu Shulchan Aruch Yoreh Deah

Second Volume Just Released

ו׳ בסיון תשפ״ג – May 26, 2023

By Chaim Gold

“A game changer!” exclaimed one of today’s prominent poskim when he saw the first volume of Dirshu’s new Shulchan Aruch on the Yoreh Deah chelek of Shulchan Aruch. In honor of Shavuos, the second volume of what promises to be a nine-volume set on Shulchan Aruch is being released. The set of the Dirshu Yoreh Deah chelek of Shulchan Aruch is sure to have a transformative impact on talmidei chachamim who learn Yoreh Deah all over the world.

For nearly four years a large cadre of prominent talmidei chachomim and poskim have been diligently working on publishing a Shulchan Aruch that will empower those learning Yoreh Deah to gain a comprehensive understanding of the often-complex halachos contained within that order of Shulchan Aruch.

Gaining Guidance From Gedolei Haposkim

When the plan was in its infancy, Dirshu consulted some of the leading poskim in Eretz Yisrael to ask myriad questions about the structure of the future magnum opus. The questions focused on things such as: What should be included, what shouldn’t be included? How to create a commentary that would give lomdim a better understanding of the Shulchan Aruch’s depth and its primary mefarshim such as the Shach and the Taz, as well as the foundational commentaries of the Rishonim upon which the Shulchan Aruch was created.

In addition, since the Shulchan Aruch and its primary commentaries were written hundreds of years ago, thousands of new scenarios and piskei halacha from later acharonim through the poskim of our time have arisen. How can those be incorporated into the Shulchan Aruch without sacrificing the foundational learning of each sugya that is required for any serious lomeid Torah?

Separating Two Commentaries with Two Distinct Purposes

Among the poskim consulted were HaGaon HaRav Moshe Shaul Klein, shlita, Rav of Western Bnei Brak and a talmid muvhak of Rav Shmuel Wosner who leads Rav Wosner’s Beis Horaah and is currently one of the gedolei haposkim of Eretz Yisrael. Rav Klein also guides and trains aspiring poskim in their early steps as morei horaah, passing down the mesorah he received from his own Rebbi.

Rav Klein explained that whereas the Sefer Mishnah Berurah is primarily a sefer of piskei halacha, the Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh Deah, is different. Aside from obviously being a sefer of psak halacha, it is also a sefer limud, a sefer that talmidei chachomim learn with great iyun and a sefer that contains the fundamental lomdus of the halachos that it covers.

For that reason, Rav Klein and numerous other poskim advised that first and foremost there should be a commentary that explains the source in Chazal for each halacha and then brings the sources for the psak from the Rishonim and Achronim, briefly explaining how the Rishonim understood the sugyos and came out with their rulings. This will give background and help the learner who is learning Shulchan Aruch b’iyun, assimilate all the rulings brought in the Tur and Beis Yosef along with the fundamental lomdus of each sugya as contained in the primary commentators on the Shulchan Aruch. In this way the learner will be empowered to understand the fundamentals of the sugya, before seeing how final halacha evolved from the Gemara and the Rishonim.

Rav Klein strongly urged Dirshu’s hanhala to separate the commentary that leads to a comprehensive understanding of the underlying foundations of the sugya from the commentary that brings the piskei halacha from the later Acharonim and today’s poskim.

Thus, the second commentary that Dirshu’s team of talmidei chachomim and morei horaah added to the new edition of Shulchan Aruch is one that briefly and concisely encapsulates each halacha, adding halachic rulings from the Achronim and later poskim right up until our times. The halachos include practical halachos and modern-day scenarios based on the original psak of the Shulchan Aruch and its meforshim.

The reason for splitting the two commentaries is to avoid confusing the learner with the practical halachos for modern times before he gains a strong, comprehensive grasp of the foundational underpinnings of the sugya.

Gedolei Roshei Yeshivos and Poskim Express Pure Delight

Rav Dovid Hofstedter and senior members of the hanhala of Dirshu also paid visits to the homes of the senior Roshei Yeshiva, HaGaon HaRav Gershon Edelstein, shlita and HaGaon HaRav Dov Landau, shlita.

Rav Gershon took the new volume of Shulchan Aruch in his hand and studied the pages with great concentration. When he looked up, it was clear from the expression on his face that he was impressed. He then gave his heartfelt bracha for hatzlacha and siyatta d’Shmaya on the upcoming volumes.

Rav Dov Landau met the Dirshu delegation in his dining room and similarly looked through the new volume of Yoreh Deah. His exclamation of great surprise and joy upon seeing the comprehensive work was followed by his bracha, wherein he said, “Keep on doing such wonderful things and may Hashem continue to give you siyatta d’Shmaya!”

When Dirshu’s hanhala, led by its Nasi, Rav Dovid Hofstedter, went to show a sample of the new Shulchan Aruch to gedolei haposkim in North America, they were deeply gratified by the tremendous outpouring of chizuk showered upon them.

HaGaon HaRav Shlomo Miller, shlita, Rosh Kollel of the Kollel Avreichim of Toronto and Av Beis Din of Lakewood’s Bais Horaah, met the Dirshu delegation with great chavivus, warmth and esteem and was clearly highly impressed. After speaking with great passion about the importance of knowing halacha l’maasah in everything a person does, he praised Dirshu for creating so many conduits for learning halacha l’maasah that would strengthen the observance and chashivus for comprehensive limud halacha among Klal Yisrael.

Another fascinating meeting took place between hanhalas Dirshu and Lakewood’s senior posek, HaGaon HaRav Yaakov Ephraim Forchheimer, shlita. It was amazing to watch Rav Forchheimer looking through the sefer and becoming increasingly animated. “Ahh,” he exclaimed with pleasure, “you cover the sheilah of a mezuzah in an attic. Oh yes, this shailah about an elevator…”

The phones were ringing. Rav Forchheimer was in the middle of his very busy schedule. But… he took the time to look through the first volume of the Dirshu Shulchan Aruch that comprises the third and final volume of Yoreh Deah, simanim 270-361 covering hilchos sefer Torah, mezuzah, shiluach hakein, chadash, orlah, kilayim, bechoros, bechor beheima, and petter chamor.

Rav Dovid Hofstedter related how watching Rav Forchheimer, the senior posek of Beis Medrash Govoha and Rav of Khal Shearis Adas Yisrael, was reminiscent of a personal encounter with the Gadol Hador of the previous generation, HaGaon HaRav Elazar Menachem Mann Shach, zt”l.

“I went in to speak with Rav Shach, zt”l, many years ago They took me into his room, and he was learning. He was sitting and learning with such a geshmak, learning the Gemara, looking in the back of the Gemara at the commentary of the Rosh and the Korban Nesanel… There was such serenity in his world of total immersion. He didn’t even notice me! When his attendant finally got his attention, and he looked up, he greeted me with such profound warmth… In a similar vein, I now saw a similar immersion by Rav Forchheimer while he perused the new Shulchan Aruch.”

Another meeting was held with HaGaon HaRav Yisrael Reisman, shlita, Rosh Yeshiva at Yeshiva Torah Vodaas, Rav of the Agudas Yisrael of Madison and a prominent posek in the Flatbush community.

Rav Reisman was very impressed when perusing advance copies of the Shulchan Aruch and commented about the size and scope of the project.

The delegation also met with HaGaon HaRav Shmuel Felder, shlita, senior posek in Lakewood, who had profound words of praise for the way Dirshu is investing in bringing practical halacha to all segments of Klal Yisrael.

The Purpose of the New Dirshu Shulchan Aruch Yoreh Deah

There is no Mishnah Berurah on Yoreh Deah and in general, to learn the Shulchan Aruch on the Yoreh Deah order of Shulchan Aruch requires significant background. Although a Jew is obligated to know halacha l’maasah in everything that he does, throughout the generations, a strong, comprehensive knowledge of Yoreh Deah and the sugyos upon which it is based has more often been the purview of talmidei chachamim and aspiring moreh horaah.

In truth, there is no substitute for learning the sugyos, the Tur and Beis Yosef, and then progressing to learn the Shulchan Aruch and the primary commentaries of the Shach and the Taz. Nevertheless, even after learning this way, it is often difficult to come out with a clear psak on many questions.

That is why, when Dirshu began the Kinyan Halacha program for aspiring morei horaah, encompassing Yoreh Deah, the senior posek of the generation at the time, HaGaon HaRav Yosef Shalom Elyashiv, zt”l, gave them guidance on how to structure the program and maintained that even talmidei chachamim and aspiring rabbonim need practical guidance on how to learn the Shulchan Aruch, which meforshim are mandatory and the importance of learning from poskim muvhakim who have received the mesorah of psak and horaah from their predecessors.

Over the years wonderful new editions of the Shulchan Aruch have been published with bold, large letters and numerous other enhancements that make it easier to learn. What Dirshu, however, has done now with their release of this first volume in a planned nine-volume set on Yoreh Deah is a true game changer.

The beautiful Shulchan Aruch using the popular tzuras hadaf of Machon Yerushalayim’s Friedman edition has added two seminal commentaries on the corresponding page. The first commentary, entitled L’asukei Shmaatsa, explains the source in Chazal for each halacha and then brings the sources for the psak from the Rishonim and Achronim, briefly explaining how the Rishonim understood the sugyos and came out with their rulings.

The second, longer commentary, entitled Alibah D’Hilchasa, briefly and concisely encapsulates each halacha, adding halachic rulings from the Achronim and later poskim right up until our times on practical halachos along with modern-day scenarios based on the original psak of the Shulchan Aruch and its meforshim.

In addition, Dirshu has included a comprehensive mafteiach, an index in the back that makes it easy to find any halacha brought in that volume.

Second Volume Just Released

The second volume that has just been released covers siman 322-403 which contain the halachos of challah, maasros, matnas aniyim, reishis hagez, nidui and cherem, bikkur cholim, and aveilus.

When Dirshu consulted with the well-known posek, HaGaon HaRav Yitzchok Mordechai Rubin, shlita, Rav of Kehillas Bnei Torah of Har Nof, he recommended that when choosing people to work on the sections of Shulchan Aruch that were less known or learned they should choose people who were already intimately familiar with those difficult, often obscure sugyos, and had already worked or written on these matters.

With that goal in mind, Dirshu gathered a wide-ranging team of erudite talmidei chachomim who have previously worked on these sugyos. For example, the members of the team who were compiling and working on the halachos of challah, were people who have already learned and written extensively on the halachos of challah and are already experts in all the nuances of the Gemara, early Rishonim and poskim and who have themselves interacted with the poskei hador about practical, modern-day scenarios.

The same applies to hilchos aveilos and mitzvos relevant to Eretz Yisrael. For those halachos in particular, the team members were culled from the beis medrash of HaGaon HaRav Yosef Efrati, shlita, a talmid muvhak of Rav Eylashiv, zt”l, who specialize in mitzvos relevant to Eretz Yisrael.

Rabbi Binyomin Birenzweig, who served as co-editor in chief of the Dirshu Shulchan Aruch on seder Yoreh Deah concluded, “When the Mishnah Berurah was written well over a century ago, it revolutionized the limud of halacha. The Chazon Ish said that the Mishnah Berurah became the posek acharon for our times and we follow his psak. He gathered all the different opinions of the poskim and clearly gave over the psak for Klal Yisrael. The Mishnah Berurah opened the entire seder of Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim for Klal Yisrael.

“Sadly, the Chofetz Chaim did not write a Mishnah Berurah on the chelek of Yoreh Deah. It is our fervent hope that in some way the Dirshu Shulchan Aruch with its two commentaries L’asukei Shmaatsa and Aliba D’Hilchasah will open up Shulchan Aruch Yorah Deah for talmidei chachomim in a similar way.

“It is our tefillah that this new volume will spread the enhanced understanding of halachos, both the foundations and lomdus of the halacha as well as the halacha l’maasah of every area of Yoreh Deah that will truly enrich Klal Yisrael and expand the practical halachic knowledge of Yidden the world over.”