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Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Hafetz Hayim's 75th Yahrtzeit Today

See's biography from Rav Nosson Scherman.

In addition to salvaging neglected mitzvos, the Chofetz Chaim assumed responsibility for reviving interest in a long neglected area of the Torah. For centuries, Kadoshim, the section of the Talmud dealing with the laws of the Sanctuary and sacrificial offerings, had been virtually excluded from the curricula of major Torah centers. Rare were the scholars who had more than a passing familiarity with its intricacies. Reb Yisrael Meir saw this as a far more serious matter than a lack of knowledge among Torah intelligentsia. With the deceptive simplicity that masked his penetrating insight, he would ask, "We believe that Mashiach can arrive today. If he does, are we ready to bring our offerings to the Bais Hamikdosh? Do the Kohanim know the laws of sacrifices? Do the scholars know enough to train the Kohanim?"

Obviously, the answer to all these questions was a shameful "No."

"Then are we not somewhat lacking in our prayers, hopes, and beliefs in the imminent coming of Mashiach?" The solution was simple: organize groups to study Kadashim. Thus was born a trend that continues to this day. Far from being neglected, the study of Kadashim is now a mark of prestige; the endeavor of the most advanced group in nearly all yeshivos.

Typically, the Chofetz Chaim showed the way by practical example as well as by exhortation. He published Toras Kohanim, a compilation of the Tannaitic interpretations of Chumash Vayikra, with an amended, completely accurate text; and an original commentary that ranks as a model of conciseness and clarity. He also composed Likutei Halachos modeled after the Alfasi, which is a compilation of halachic sections of the Talmud dealing with Kadashim topics; and included an elucidating original commentary.


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