By Rabbi Yair Hoffman for 5tjt.com
Tonight, the 28th of Tammuz, is the 8th yahrtzeit of Moreinu Rav Elyashiv zt”l. What follows is a short biography, followed by rulings of Rav Elyashiv zatzal on the Mitzvah of v’ahavta l’rayacha kamocha. These rulings were culled from a sefer put together by his grandson, Rav Lipa Israelson, and shown to him for approval. Some of the material, of course, may be obvious, but it needed to be articulated in order to get a bigger picture of this important Mitzvah.
Moreinu Rav Yosef Shalom Elyashiv zt”l, was widely considered to be the ‘Posek Hador,’ passed away after a weakening of his general health. Rav Elyashiv was 102 when he passed away on July 18th, in 2012. His yahrtzeit is on Monday, July 20th.
Rav Elyashiv zt”l was known for his incredible hasmada, dedication in learning and his penetrating analysis of all parts of Torah. He was an only child born after seventeen years of marriage. Rav Elyashiv lived in the Meah Shearim section of Yeruhalayim. He taught at an adjacent synagogue, all until very recently.
Rav Elyashiv arrived in Eretz Yisroel during the period of the British Mandate in 1922. A year after his arrival, he was Bar Mitzvah’ed. When Rav Elyashiv was fifteen his grandfather, a well known Mekubal, passed away.
The greatest Rabbinic minds in Eretz Yisroel took notice of this young Talmudic master when he was very young. Rav Avrohom Yitzchok Kook suggested a shidduch with one of the daughters of Rav Aryeh Levin, Shaina Chaya,the famed Tzaddik of Yerushalayim. The Shidduch went through and Rav Kook was mesader Kiddushin.
Rav Elyashiv had five sons and seven daughters. Two of his very prominent sons-in-laws are Rav Chaim Kanievsky ilc“t and Rav Yitzchok Zilberstein ilc”t.
Rav Elyashiv dealt with many issues in the fast-paced changing world of today. His halachic rulings have had significant and far-reaching ramifications. When the majority of people stopped smoking on account of health issues, Rav Elyashiv issued a stern warning that the heter or leniency to smoke on Yom Tov was now very very questionable if not altogether forbidden. The majority of Bnei Torah stopped smoking on Yom Tov because of Rav Elyashiv’s ruling.
Rav Elyashiv’s position on the issue of hatmanah, insulating on Shabbos, changed the way Bnei Torah used cholent pots on Shabbos. The use of an insert type cholent pot dropped dramatically and even those who did use them adopted the idea of placing three or four stones on the surface of the outer container to avoid the problem of hatmanah.
When faced with numerous abuses of software licensing, Microsoft had actually approached Rav Elyashiv for a ruling on the matter and Rav Elyashiv ruled stringently regarding software. The dramatic difference in software piracy within our own community seriously declined, When asked whether Bnei Torah should remain silent during the moment of silence held on Israel’s Veteran’s Day, Rav Elyashiv responded that they definitely should. This ruling set a new tone in the relationship between the Hareidi world and the secular world in Israel.
Rav Elyashiv’s ruling that when there is evidence that a religious instructor is molesting a child, Heaven forbid, rabbis should rule that the violator should call in the authorities has been hailed by child advocates as a game-changing ruling.
Rav Elyashiv was one of the leaders of the Degel HaTorah party after Rav Eliezer Menachem Schach had appointed and urged him to the position. Many years prior to this Rav Elyashiv was a dayan in the Rabanut and ruled on many thousands of cases, now found in the Piskei HaRabbanut. His role in the Rabbanut was a initially a cause of consternation among the Hareidi world, but Rav Elyashiv’s breadth of knowledge, saintly deportment, and towering intellectual stature soon ameliorated their concerns.
Rav Elyashiv was quick to recognize the scholarship and erudition of others. On a number of occasions he informed visiting Rabbis from America that Rav Feivel Cohen shlita was one of the most outstanding Poskim in America. He informed a friend of mine that Rav Dovid Morgenstern was proficient and knowledgeable in Kol HaTorah Kulah, the entirety of Torah. These are just two examples.
Some rulings that this author had posed to Rav Elyashiv throughout the years were: Is there an obligation of Chinuch for the Laws of Shnayim Mikreh Echad Targum? (He answered that there was not.) When the leining of the Torah is missed at Shacharis, when is the Torah leined at Minchah? (He answered before Shmoneh Esreh just like on Shabbos Mincha.) Is “time is of the essence” ever to be reckoned with when dealing with a possible molestor (He answered that it was definitely dependent upon time is of the essence as well.)
Rav Elyashiv’s halachic positions have been collated in a three volume work called “Ashrei Ha’ish.” Three volumes of his responsum have been published and a series of books on mesechtos has been published called “Haaros.”
V’AHAVTA L’RAYACHA KAMOCHA
It is a Mitzvah incumbent upon every individual to love every member of of Klal Yisroel, as it says, “v’ahavta l’rayacha kamocha.” Anything that you would want others to do for you in Torah and Mitzvos you should do for them.
Included in this are physical acts of gmilas chessed, such as visiting the sick, comforting mourners, attending a funeral, bringing joy to a chosson and Kallah and helping others in all their needs.
NEGATING THE MITZVAH
One who does something to his friend that he himself would not have wanted done to him is in violation of abnegating this Mitzvah. He will suffer on this account (Avos D’Rav Nosson 16 and Shabbos 31a).
Indeed, even if you personally do not care if this embarrassment was done to you, it is still forbidden to embarrass others in this manner (Chofetz Chaim Toras Kohanim Kedoshim 12)
JOINING IN HIS JOY AND PAIN
One must rejoice in the good turns of other members of Klal Yisroel, as well as participate in their sorrow (Sefer Chareidim 9:28 in Mitzvos HaTluos B’Lev). Therefore, if one hears that there is a simcha of an individual , one must make it one’s business to be happy in his simcha. When a friend has a tragedy, chas v’shalom, one must share his pain with him.
HELPING AND PRYING FOR OTHERS
There is an obligation to help others in all that one can. One must also daven for them to save them from their pain. One who requests mercy on his friend in front of him, does not need to mention his friend’s name. When it is done not in the presence of his friend, must mention his name (Introduction to the Chofetz Chaim’s Ahavas Chesed and Mogen Avrohom 119:1, Mishna Brurah ibid).
A person is also obligated to think thoughts of advice that one can give to his friend. These thoughts should be useful and effective. Indeed, this is one of the methods of performing Gmilus Chassadim. If he provides him with untenable advice he is in violation of “v’lifnei iver lo sitain michshol – placing a stumbling block before the blind.”
SPEAKING POSITIVELY OF OTHERS
One must also speak positively about other members of Klal Yisroel. However in front of someone who has a dislike for the person, one may not sing his praises, because it may lead to negative speech about that person. Indeed, even if the positive remakrs are not actually said in front of the enemy, but there are such people that are present there, it is also forbidden to speak positively on him. Others say that even in front of his loved ones one should not over-praise him because on account of his praise negative speech may ensue (Sefer Chofetz Chaim 9:1).
LIMITATIONS OF POSITIVE SPEECH
Even though there is a Mitzvah to speak positively of others, it is forbidden to incorrectly state that the person is very wise and one can completely rely upon him if the truth is that this is not the case. Why is this so? Since it may cause damage to others if they rely upon his advice and statements. One may also not state that another person is an honest person who can be relied upon if he does not necessarily know that it is true.
OPPORTUNITY TO TEACH OTHERS
When the opportunity is presented to an individual to teach Torah to fellow Jews, even if they are children, and it is not possible that this be done through others – there is an obligation to teach them. Even if through this the person will miss out on his own deeper Torah learning. This is true just like any other Mitzvah.
TO HAVE IN MIND THE MITZVAH
Regarding the Mitzvah of v’ahavta l’rayacha kamocha and like in other Mitzvos that are between man and his friend – one should have in mind when doing the favor to his friend that he is doing so for the sake of a Mitzvah. For it has been established that Mitzvos require intent (See OC Siman 60). However, if this was not done – it does not negate the Mitzvah like in other Mitzvos – since the other party is benefiting from it the Mitzvah still counts (See Kovetz Teshuvos II #23).
NOT TO LOSE OUT ON INCOME
A person is not obligated to lose out on his income in order to perform work for others, for Rabbi Akiva has already come and taught “Chayecha Kodmin l’chayei chavercha – your life takes precedence to that of your friend.” From here we learn that there is no obligation to love one’s friend to the exact same extent as one love’s oneself, since the nature of a human being is not ready to accept such a thing (Yad Haketana Assei #3).
WHO IT DOES NOT APPLY TO
The Mitzvah of v’ahavta l’rayacha kamocha applies specifically to one who is rayacha – a peer in Torah and Mitzvos. However, if the other person is evil – that is, he sees that he violates a sin of which it is well-known to be forbidden, and he does not accept rebuke, it is a Mitzvah to dislike him. However, someone who has merely fallen off track – it is a Mitzvah to pray that he return in Teshuvah (Mogen Avrohom 156 and Mishna Brurah #4).
EVEN TO CHILDREN
This Mitzvah even applies to children. Therefore, one should not cause them pain or agitate them if not for purposes of education by their parents and teachers.
BEFORE EACH PRAYER
A person must accept upon himself to love every member of Klal Yisroel. Before each Tefilah this should be verbalized with the following formula: I hereby accept upon myself the Mitzvah of v’ahavta l’rayacha kamocha.