An Interview and Analysis
By Rabbi Yair Hoffman for 5tjt.com
His name is Mordechai Weinraub, and he has been installing windows in religious Jewish homes and buildings for four decades. His company is M. Weinraub Inc. and he expertly installs all sorts of doors, windows and skylights. He is intimately familiar with the repercussions of the ethical will of Rabbi Yehudah HaChasid imperative #20 – not to close up windows or doorways. (There are 78 total clauses)
The Ethical Will (Tzava’ah) of Rabbi Yehuda HaChassid (1140-1217), written by Rav Yehudah ben Shmuel of Regensburg. And the Tzava’ah is followed in many circles among religious Jews. Mr. Weintraub has a fascinating story with the Skverer Rebbe.
YH: So what happened exactly, with your window installation and the Skverer Rebbe?
MW: It was a very interesting story. I was doing some window installations in a house in Woodmere. They had next door neighbors who were not frum. The husband, unfortunately, took very ill. The frum neighbors advised them to go to the Skverer Rebbe to get a bracha for him. They went, and the Skverer Rebbe said something that confused them. He said, “Unseal your window.” After they were explained the Tzava’ah – they responded that they did not seal any window. The Rebbe just responded, “Unseal the window.”
The neighbors asked me to look at it, and sure enough there was a window that was sealed before they had purchased the house. I removed the blockage.
YH: And what happened?
MW: The man, boruch Hashem, had a complete recovery.
YH: Fascinating. Can you tell me about of the skylight story?
MW: I had a woman who asked me to take out a skylight and close it up. Of course, she knew about the Rav Yehudah HaChassid and asked that we not close up the skylight completely – and put a hole in it. Truthfully, I was unsure if the roof tiles alone would prevent leakage. I explained the situation to my gentile expert installer, and he said, “Yes, I can leave a hole and still make sure that the water will not leak through the roof.”
YH: But aren’t the roof tiles considered blocking?
MW: Apparently, her Rav paskened that roof tiles are not considered blocking a window. Well, it seems to have worked – because I never heard back from her.
YH: How big does the hole have to be?
MW: I always tell everyone to ask their Rav. Some Rabbonim insist that you must put a string through the hole and pull it back and forth occassionally. Others say that as long as the string is movable on both sides it is enough.
YH: But what size?
MW: Usually we make at least of a quarter of an inch hole – that was the psak I received from Rabbi Rubin, the Sulitzer Rav.
YH: The father z”l or the son?
MW: The father.
YH: Any other interesting Rav Yehudah HaChassid stories?
MW: They happen pretty often. Last week, for example, there was a home with stained glass. The wife had investigated that originally there was a window there. I had to make two holes: One in the bottom of a stained glass window and one in the plexiglass to ensure that there is was a pathway out.
YH: Well thank you so much, do you have an internet site in case anyone wishes to contact you? No, but my Company Name is M. Weinraub Inc. – people can find me. Thank you!
Analysis by Rabbi Yair Hoffman:
THE TZAVA’AH IN HALACHA
The idea is cited in tha Shaarei Knesses HaGedolah in Yore Deah 179:9,10 and teh Kaf HaChaim 116:122 aside from numerous Teshuvos, The reason is that there may be sheidim and or various negative spiritual forces that need an egress. One can also see the idea in Chulin 105b and Psachim 111b. It is not found in Yerushalmi and the Rambam seems to have ruled like the Yerushalmi.
WHO IS THE DANGER FOR – THE BLOCKER OR THE RESIDENTS?
Another question that needs to be examined is whether the issue applies to someone who had moved into the house later. According to the Skverer Rebbe it seems that it does apply to the latter as well. The Oxford manuscript uses the word “b’baiso” which perhaps indicates that it does not apply to someone who moved into the house later – the other five extant manuscripts indicate that it does – as this word is absent.
IF A LONG TIME HAS ELAPSED
If a long time has elapsed, such as twenty years time, and no one suffered any damage in the interim Responsum Chaikel Yitzchok (#46) indicates that there is no need to be concerned because these forces had either not been there in the first place or found a workaround. Responsum Bais Avi Vol. II #69, however, recommends making a small hole regardless.
THE ROOF TILES
As far as whether the roof tile may cover the hole, Rav Vosner zt”l in his Shaivet haLevi (Vol. VI #11:12 rules that one may plaster over the hole on the outside. This may be proof to Mr. Weintraub’s worker’s innovative method. On the other hand, a solution suggested by the Tzemach Tzedek (Lubavitch) that a tube be placed through the hole and a cork be placed on both sides seems to indicate not like Rav Vosner (cited inShivim Tmarim on Tzava’ah #20.
WHAT IF THE WINDOW IS A HEZEK RIYAH TO THE NEIGHBOR?
The Responsum Bais Dovid Vol. II CM #95 rules that Rav Yehudah HaChassid never discussed a case where one is obligated halachically to seal off the window. However, a shade (no pun intended) would be sufficient to deal with the issues of Hezek Riyah (See Responsa Ohr Yisroel CM #12) – so it would be applicable.