The Sefer That Has Taken The Torah World By Storm: Mincha Ketana

The Sefer That Has Taken The Torah World By Storm: Mincha Ketana
The Sefer That Has Taken The Torah World By Storm: Mincha Ketana

Reviewed by Rabbi Chaim Serebrowski

If you pass the Sefer Mincha Ketana on the table of your local bais medrash, your mind would most likely register it as the timeless 19th-Century sefer Minchas Chinuch. Not only does the cover of the recently released Mincha Ketana mimic that of the classic edition of the popular sefer, but the inside typeset is identical as well.

But the new sefer is far from a simple parody of the original. Sefer Mincha Ketana seeks to pick up where the Minchas Chinuch ended, and to bring the tantalizing style of Rav Yosef Babad’s magnum opus into new territory.

Sefer Minchas Chinuch is legendary for exploring some of the most lomdishe chakiros of the mitzvos of the Torah. Written as a pirush on the Sefer Hachinuch – the anonymously published 13th-Century sefer that outlines the 613 mitzvos d’Oraysa – the Minchas Chinuch has become a fixture of every frum home, as Yidden from all spectrums are drawn to his tangible brilliance in dissecting the various scenarios in which mitzvos apply.

The Minchas Chinuch, however, only covers the 613 mitzvos d’Oraysa. The new seferMincha Ketana, seeks to emulate the style of the Minchas Chinuch in dissecting the mitzvos d’rabbonon.

Sefer Mincha Katana is the brainchild of Rabbi Yaakov Yehoshua Juravel, a native of Eretz Yisroel who grew up in South Fallsburg and now lives in Jackson, New Jersey. Rabbi Juravel, a grandson of the renowned mechanech Rav Dovid Juravel, is an alumnus of Yeshiva Zichron Moshe of South Fallsburg, and now heads Kollel Afikei Mayim, under the direction of Rav Zalman Wachtfogel.

The concept for the sefer was born when Rabbi Juravel became involved in a discussion about whether a non-Jew who baked cookies and subsequently became a ger – would be able to eat the cookies he made when he was a non-Jew? A friend mused that such a question would typically appear in the Minchas Chinuch, but there was no Minchas Chinuch on the subject of machalei akum – a mitzvah d’rabbonon – so Rabbi Juravel resolved to create such a sefer.

Sefer Mincha Ketana covers 20 mitzvos d’rabbonon, including taanistefillahsimchas chosson v’kallahnichum availimshnayim mikradina d’garmimachalei akumbedikas chometzdeled kosos, Chanukah, Purim, and neiros Erev Shabbos.

The sefer is molded to follow the exact format of the Sefer Hachinuch and the accompanying Minchas Chinuch. In the center of each page, the core yesodos of each mitzvah d’rabbonon is described, with the same key points as one would expect to find in the Sefer Hachinuch: a description of the mitzvah, the sharshei hamitzva, the dinei hamitzva, and who is commanded to fulfil the mitzvah.

Surrounding the center yesodos are the lumdus-oriented chakiros, similar to what one would typically find in the Minchas Chinuch. These short, pointed quandaries cover numerous angles of each mitzvah d’rabbonon, in a way that allows loimdim to glean a deeper understanding of the reid on the sugyos covered. Additionally, as is found in the prevalent edition of the Minchas Chinuch published by Mechon Yerushalayim, the new sefer contains short descriptive subheadings in the margins to allow for quick reference.

The notion of utilizing the format of a classic work for a contemporary sefer has been used in the past. The Chofetz Chaim used the format of the Rif for Likutei Halachos, and Rav Chaim Kanievsky molded a number of his seforim after the Mishna Berurah. Similarly, Sefer Pardas Yosef on BereishisShemos, and Vayikrah were written by Rav Yosef Patzenowski in the 1930, but after his petirah in the Lodz Ghetto in 1942, others have undertaken to compile volumes on Bamidbar and Devorim, as well as on the Haggadah Shel Pesach, following the precise format of the original three volumes.

On mitzvah 15, the obligation to mark Chanukah with a yom tovSefer Mincha Ketana delves into many scenarios of neiros Chanukah. Where should one light if he has two wives in two separate homes? How many neiros should a boy light if he becomes bar mitzvah during Chanukah? Can a blind person, for whom pirsumei nisah would only be affective to others, light if he was delayed until after the zman of tichleh regel min hashuk? If a non-Jew is magayir after the zman of tichleh regel min hashuk, is he obligated to light menorah that night, or did he miss the zman hadlakah? Is the home of an onein obligated to display a menorah? Is one yotzeh if the wick of his menorah extends higher than 20 amos? These intricate chakiros, some of the hundreds discussed in regard to Chanukah, can be the catalyst to understand the underlying lomdus of the mitzvos of Chanukah.

Similar quandaries are discussed about the other mitzvos d’rabbonon, giving loimdim an opening to gain insight into many relevant, as well as many theoretical, scenarios of each mitzvah.

The sefer is the product of the input of tens of bnei Torah, most notably Rav Elya Ber Wachtfogel, rosh yeshiva of Yeshiva Zichron Moshe of South Fallsburg, who spent months reviewing the sefer and offering comments. Rav Elya Ber’s resounding haskamah contains unique praise for the sefer, including refrains such as ‘I would not have believed that someone from our time can create such a wondrous sefer,’ and ‘If the Marcheshes [who decried the then-new Brisker derech halimud] would’ve seen this sefer, he would not have had any qualms about the derech halimud of the new generation.’ Many others have offered their suggestions as well, and the final product reflects the collaborative effort of many minds.

In addition to the haskamah from Rav Elya Ber Wachtfogel, Sefer Mincha Ketana has haskamos from Rav Chaim Peretz Berman, {rosh yeshiva of Ponovetz}; Rav Shmuel Deutsch, {rosh yeshiva of Kol Torah}; Rav Michel Zilber, {rosh yeshiva Zshvill}; Rav Yisroel Dovid Harfenes, rov of Khal Yisroel V’hazmanim; Rav Yitzchok Sorotzkin, rosh yeshiva of Mesivta of Lakewood; Rav Yeruchom Olshin, rosh yeshiva of Bais Medrash Govoha; Rav Yaakov Ephraim Forchheimer, senior posek of Bais Medrash Govoha; Rav Boruch Hieschfeld, rosh kollel of Kollel Ateres Chaim Boruch; Rav Osher Dovid May, {rosh kollel of Yeshiva Gedolah of Passaic}; and Rav Shlomo Feivel Schustal, rosh yeshiva of Yeshiva Gedolah Tiferes Yerachmiel.

The intriguing subjects presented in a concise format made the sefer popular among a wide range of bnei Torah. In the words of Elya Ber Wachtfogel in his haskamah, “Anyone who delves into the sefer can enjoy it on their [level], whether they are advanced talmidei chachamim, whether they are tzurba m’rabbon (students), and whether they are baalei batim who are yodei’ah sefer (know how to learn).” The sefer has also become popular for distribution at simchos and corporate events, as well as a gift from schools to rebbeim, as the contemporary spin on a classic sefer has a unique allure. Although the sefer was just released recently, the second printing is already almost sold-out, and the first edition sold out in Eretz Yisroel before the sefer even reached American shores. A third printing is now in preparation.

Sefer Mincha Ketana was published under the auspices of Machon Aleh Zayis and is being distributed by Israel Bookshop. Questions or comments about the sefer can be addressed to Mechon Mincha Ketana, 2 Oklahoma Drive, Jackson, NJ 08527, or to minchaketana@gmail.com.

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