- Question: [Wednesday, 4th Teves 5783]
Chassidim in general and Chabad Chassidim in particular have accepted the rulings of the Shulchan Aruch Harav and use it as their main source of study of Jewish law. What is our perspective regarding the Mishneh Berurah, which is the most popular Halacha Sefer studied today amongst Ashkenazim and Litvaks? Did the Chabad Rabbeim ever encourage studying it and do we follow his rulings? What should be our attitude towards the Sefer?
The Mishneh Berurah: The Rebbe instructed the Chassidim to study the Sefer Mishneh Berurah, in addition to studying the Shulchan Aruch of the Alter Rebbe, and we indeed accept many of the rulings of the Mishneh Berurah as final, when they do not contradict the rulings of the Alter Rebbe or confirmed Chabad custom.
Explanation: The Sefer of the Mishneh Berurah is a one of the most fundamental Sefarim in Halacha accepted by all circles, including, Sephardim, Chassidim, and Chabad, and it goes without saying amongst Litvish Jewry. The Ketzos Hashulchan, which is a summary of Halachos catered to Chabad Chassidim and those who follow Shulchan Aruch Harav, and was authored by the prestige Chabad Rav and Posek, Rav Avraham Chaim Na’ah, entered many of the rulings of the Mishneh Berurah into his summarized rulings, and preached them as Halachically binding, in those areas that they do not contradict the opinion of the Shulchan Aruch Harav. Likewise, the famed Sephardic Posek who authored the encyclopedic work known as Kaf Hachaim, cites the rulings of the Mishneh Berurah countless times within his commentary. Hence, although the author of the Mishneh Berurah belonged to the Lithuanian sect of jury, we see that his commentary and rulings are widely respected amongst all groups of Jewry, and in many cases his rulings have become universally accepted when they do not contradict the rulings of the accepted Poskim of other sects.
It is of importance to note that the Mishneh Berurah himself carefully studied the rulings of the Alter Rebbe in his Shulchan Aruch, and entered many of the Alter Rebbe’s rulings and explanations into his commentary, hence in essence bringing the Torah of the Alter Rebbe to a much broader audience. Now, with regards to the opinion of the Rebbe: The Rebbe cites the rulings of the Mishneh Berurah dozens, if not hundreds, of times in his letters, and talks, and often mentions him in the footnotes in Likkutei Sichos. Furthermore, on the 1st anniversary of the court case of the Sefarim, Hei Teves of 5788/1987, in what is now considered a famous talk discussing selling Sefarim at a discount for Hei Teves, the Rebbe also instructed the Chassidim to purchase and study a number of different books, especially books of Jewish law.
In the Rebbe’s words [Mugah-Free Translation]:
“In continuation of that which we spoke earlier about the importance of studying Torah from books that explain it Halacha Lema’aseh, one of the main books of such nature [after the Book of the Rambam] is the work of the Beis Yosef, both his commentary on the Tur, and especially his summarized rulings in the Shulchan Aruch…… One is of course to also learn the rulings of the Rama which the Jewish people have accepted, and is likewise to learn the commentaries of the Shulchan Aruch. It is obvious that one is to learn the Shulchan Aruch Harav, and study a commentary which covers the entire Orach Chaim, which is the book of the Mishneh Berurah, who due to his desire for life “Haish Hachafeitz Chaim,” he merited that his book be accepted amongst all Israel. [It is obvious that the study must be in a way of practical conclusions, especially relating to loving a fellow Jew, which is a great rule in the Torah and was the path of the author of the Mishneh Berurah, the Chofetz Chaim, who lengthens in his books of the necessity of loving a fellow Jew and negates its opposite, to be extremely careful not to speak slander of another Jew, and it goes without saying to not lift a hand against another Jew or hit him or defame him in public.]
From the Hosafos:
“Who do we have greater than the Chofetz Chaim in relation to the negation of anything contrary to the love of a fellow Jew, to speak slander about another Jew. Who are you that you can speak negatively about a Jew, an only child of God, the king of all kings.”
Sources: See Toras Menachem 5th Teves 5748 vol. 2:170; Hosafos p. 177