Arie E. Pelta
Arie E. Pelta

Siyum on Mishna Berurah

After studying Mishna Berurah on and off for 22 years, I finally completed it in Eretz Yisrael. This sefer was written by the Chafetz Chaim, whose real name was Rav Meir Kagan.

Rav Yisrael Meir Kagan HaCohen

The Chafetz Chaim died at the age of -105-years old on Sept 16, 1933. His death was noted in the Saturday edition of the New York Times.  In that article they noted his belief that we are living in the time of coming of the Moshiach.  Therefore, we must make preparations for his arrival.

At the age of 90, when he was already a legendary figure among the Jews, the Chofetz Chaim, became convinced of the imminent arrival of the Messiah, who would lead the Jews back to Palestine and he regarded it as his special duty to assume the functions of the high priest (New York Times 1933).

Rav Kagan had no tolerance for Loshon Harah, especially about a Talmid Chacham. In 1923, the Agudas Yisrael held its first Knessiyah Gedola in Vienna. The greatest Torah scholars of the time came from all over Europe.  Among the gedolim in attendance was the Chofetz Chaim.   At the opening session of the conference, one of the rabbis made an insulting comment about Rav Avraham Kook from Israel. Utterly shocked, the Chafetz Chayim who was sitting at the dais, stood up and said,

“They denigrated the Rabbi of Eretz Yisrael! We should rend our garments!”

He then left the room in protest (An Angel Among Men Pg.244). There is now famous movie footage and a picture of the Chafetz Chaim walking out of the Agudas Yisrael convention in 1923. In this manner he demonstrated his full support for Rav Kook.

Earlier in his career, the Chafetz Chaim went to the Aderet (Rav Eliyahu Dovid Rabinowitz-Te’omim) for a letter of approbation for his Sefer, Nidchei Yisrael.  The Aderet at the time was too ill to comply, so he assigned his son in law Rav Avraham Yitzchak HaKohen Kook, to write the haskama for the sefer.  The Aderet subsequently signed the haskama for this sefer (An Angel Among Men, pg. 369).  Unbeknown to many, Rav Kook also studied in Rav Kagan’s learning group for Kohanim.  This group was organized specifically for Kohanim to master the practical avoda in the Beis Hamiksh, L’maisa (the actual Temple service in Yerushalayim).  Clearly, Rav Kagan had Eretz Yisrael on his mind at all times.

Introduction – Why Should We Learn Halacha?

I started learning the Mishna Berura on a regular basis in when I was in the “Smicha” Hilchos Shabbos Kollel of Rav Asher Balanson, at Yeshivat Ohr Yerushalyim. I began with the third volume of Mishna Berura, the Laws of Shabbos.

In the introduction to volume one of the Mishna Berurah, Rav Kagan teaches us the need to learn Torah in order to bring it into practice. The main point of one’s Torah study needs to be “learning” that brings one to practical action לימוד המביא לידי מעשה.  This is based on Talmud Berachos 8a quoting Tehillim 87, “G-d loves the gates of Zion (Yerushalyim/Eretz Yisrael) more than the neighborhood of Yaakov”.  This means, that G-d loves when Jews learn Halacha (Jewish Law).

תלמוד בבלי ברכות ח עמוד א

אמר ליה רבא לרפרם בר פפא לימא לן מר מהני מילי מעלייתא דאמרת משמיה דרב חסדא במילי דבי כנישתא אמר ליה הכי אמר רב חסדא מאי דכתי’ (תהלים פז, ב) “אוהב ה’ שערי ציון מכל משכנות יעקב“. אוהב ה’ שערים המצויינים בהלכה יותר מבתי כנסיות ומבתי מדרשות והיינו דאמר ר’ חייא בר אמי משמיה דעולא מיום שחרב בית המקדש אין לו להקב”ה בעולמו אלא ארבע אמות של הלכה בלבד. ואמר אביי מריש הוה גריסנא בגו ביתא ומצלינא בבי כנישתא כיון דשמענא להא דאמר רבי חייא בר אמי משמיה דעולא מיום שחרב בית המקדש אין לו להקב”ה בעולמו אלא ארבע אמות של הלכה בלבד

The Shach deduces from this, that one must learn Halacha every day in order that our Torah study turns into action.

The first section of Shulchan Aruch is called Orach Chaim.  It is the most important section of all to study; since it addresses the laws of all our holidays and daily life.

One is not supposed to learn the Shulchan Aruch without any commentaries. According the author of the Shulchan Aruch, Rav Yosef Karo, one must first study his Beis Yosef.  This is a review of the Talmud and background and explanation of the Tur.  After completing this sefer, then one is supposed to use the Shulchan Aruch as a method of review.

The Shaarei Teshuva (Rav Chaim Mordechai Margaliot, great Uncle of Rav Eli Margolis of Shaarei Tefila, RBS A) assumes the one already knows all the background information.

The first Halacha in Orach Chaim (1:1), addresses all Jews (specifically me), to “be like an Arie ארי lion to serve your  Creator”.

שולחן ערוך, אורך חיים, א:א

יתגבר כארי לעמוד בבוקר לעבודת בוראו, שיהא הוא מעורר השחר. הגה: ועל כל פנים לא יאחר זמן התפילה שהציבור מתפללין (טור). הגה: “שויתי ה’ לנגדי תמיד“, הוא כלל גדול בתורה ובמעלות הצדיקים אשר הולכים לפני האלהים. כי אין ישיבת האדם ותנועותיו ועסקיו והוא לבדו בביתו, כישיבתו ותנועותיו ועסקיו והוא לפני מלך גדול; ולא דיבורו והרחבת פיו כרצונו, והוא עם אנשי ביתו וקרוביו, כדיבורו במושב המלך. כל שכן, כשישים האדם אל ליבו שהמלך הגדול, הקב”ה אשר מלא כל הארץ כבודו, עומד עליו ורואה במעשיו, כמו שנאמר: “אם יסתר איש במסתרים ואני לא אראנו נאם ה'”, מיד יגיע אליו היראה וההכנעה בפחד השי”ת ובושתו ממנו תמיד (מורה נבוכים ח”ג פ’ נ”ב). ולא יתבייש מפני בני אדם המלעיגים עליו בעבודת השי”ת. גם בהצנע לכת ובשכבו על משכבו – ידע לפני מי הוא שוכב. ומיד שיעור משנתו, יקום בזריזות לעבודת בוראו יתברך ויתעלה (טור).

Introduction To Chelek  Gimel on Mishna Berurah

It is impossible to be spared from violating the Shabbos laws, if one does not learn the depth of Hilchos Shabbos very well. This is important because proper Shabbos observance brings in the Geula and The Moshiach.

All that occurs in our lives is from G-d. For this reason we need to always serve G-d daily with true happiness, Simcha. The Mishna Berura concludes with the Simcha of the laws of Purim. Personally, I learned it out of order and finished with section five, the laws of Yom Tov. תקכט:ב one must be happy on Yom Tov.  One can do this by eating meat and wine. The Sharey Teshuva points out the obligation today to visit Yerushalyim on the Shalosh Regalim (Pesach, Shavuos, and Succos).

The Torah is our Source of Life .כי הם חיינו ועורך ימינו –

We are worthy to serve G-d daily here in Eretz Yisrael and have an intimated relationship with Him. This unique Divekus (closeness) to G-d is only possible in Eretz Yisrael; despite what some of  the USA Rabonim teach contrarily.  The Shechina is palpable because it exits and manifests here in Eretz HaKodesh.  It is even more apparent when one studies halacha in Eretz Yisrael.

The Talmud quoted by Chafetz Chaim (Berachos 8a) states that, “From the day the Beis HaMikdash was destroyed G-d does not manifest himself in this world other than in the four amos of one’s learning and keeping Jewish law הלכה”. Imagine how close a Jew who studies Halacha in Israel gets to G-d,  whose Shechina presence still exists  here in Eretz Yisrael.

G-d favors the Jews who are learning Torah in Eretz Yisrael.

            (תהילים פז:ב)

אהב ה’ שערי ציון, מכל מכנות יעקב.

Hashem loves the gates of Zion (Eretz Yisrael) more than all the dwellings of Yakov (Tehillim 87:2).

In Parshas Vayishalach, the BeReishis Rabbah (76:2) comments that Yaakov was afraid of Eisav when he returned to Israel from Chutz LaAretz.  He was scared of the evil Rasha Esav, because of the strength and merit Esav gained by living in Eretz Yisrael.  Imagine the strength that we as Torah observant Jews get by living in Eretz Yisrael.

Nazis in 1933

The Chafetz Chaim was asked how to deal with the rising threat of the Nazis in 1933 (Chafetz Chaim Al HaTorah)?  He declared that Hitler would not succeed in annihilating the Jews. This is based on the pasuk “If Eisav comes to one camp and smites it, then the remaining camp will escape” (Berishsis 32:9).

Then he was asked who will be in the remaining camp that will escape? This too is stated explicitly in the VaYishlach Haftarah “On mount Zion there will be a remnant (~Pelta), and it will be holy, and the house of Yakov will inherit its inheritors” (Ovadyah 1:17).

עבדיה א:יז

וּבְהַר צִיּוֹן תִּֽהְיֶה פְלֵיטָה וְהָיָה קֹדֶשׁ וְיָֽרְשׁוּ בֵּית יַֽעֲקֹב אֵת מוֹרָֽשֵׁיהֶֽם:

Our family name is pelta (remnant?) my father and great grandfather’s names are Yaakov. We are now living and building in Eretz Yisrael; inheriting the land.  The fact that we originally come from Spain is also alluded to in the same Haftorah.

עבדיה א:כ

וְגָלֻת הַֽחֵל הַזֶּה לִבְנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל אֲשֶֽׁר כְּנַֽעֲנִים עַד צָרְפַת וְגָלֻת יְרֽוּשָׁלִַם אֲשֶׁר בִּסְפָרַד יִֽרְשׁוּ אֵת עָרֵי הַנֶּֽגֶב:

And this exiled host of the children of Israel who are [with] the Canaanites as far as France and the exile of Yerushalayim which is in Spain shall inherit the cities of the southland (Ovadiah 1:20).

Yaakov was in Chutz LaAretz for 22 years then he came home to Eretz Yisrael , then he met Esav.  I started learning Mishnah Berurah twenty years prior.  I began my study in Israel, left to the USA, and then had the privilege to complete the Mishna Berura in Eretz Yisrael.  We are survivors .פליטה

Just as predicted by the Chafetz Chaim, we have made it to the Gates of Zion, Eretz Yisrael. Here in Eretz HaKodesh, I am worthy to make a Siyum on his sefer “The Mishna Berura” and  live with  the Shechina within the four amos of Halacha.  It is no wonder that Eretz Yisrael is considered the body, גוף  of the Shechina (Rav Moshe Dovid Valli).

About the Author
Arie E. Pelta, M.D., a Board Certified General and Colorectal Surgeon from the USA , made aliyah with his wife and 7 children in 2013. Received Rabbinical ordination in 1997. He is also a active Medical Corps Officer holding the rank of Captain in the IDF Reserves. Currently practicing in Laniado Hospital in Netanya; speciaizing in the surgical care of all problems of the colon, rectum and anus.
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