Monday, October 14, 2013

The Clash between East and West; Rabbi Yosef Messas of Tlemcen, Morocco and Rabbi Nathan Neta Leiter of Lviv (Lemberg), Ukraine (was Poland)

Rabbi Yosef Messas (1892-1970), was of the greatest and most famous Poskim and Community Leaders in Morocco. His ability to bring together an encyclopedic knowledge of Halacha, a love for the common Jew and a profound understanding of the issues facing the Jew of his day are legendary. His method of dealing with religious issues, and being willing to investigate how much halakha could be adapted in order to take into account the realities of the modern world, has made him the poster boy for those trying to show where the Sephardic approach differed from that of the Ashkenazim.

This approach, naturally did not sit well with the Rabbis of Eastern European Jews. Though they must have had very little interaction, I discovered a response written to R. Messas by Rabbi Nathan Neta Leiter, who held the position of Rabbi in Lemberg before WWII. Leiter read through the Shu"t Mayim Hayyim of Messas and this letter was in response to things he saw in the book. His Response to Messas appears in Zion Lenefesh Haya of Rabbi Leiter, published after the author's death in 1964. Below is scans of the Responsa as it appears in Leiter's book.

Here are some quotes from the above responsa:
אכן תורה דכתיב בה אמת לא אוכל לכחד ולגלות לכ"ת גם זאת כי מצאתי גם דברים אשר לא ישרו בעיני ולא אוכל לעבור" "עליהם בשתיקה בל יאמרו מושתקי רבנן ש"מ דניחא להו
"Regarding the Torah which is written within it "Truth" prevents me from not saying that I found within it (your responsa) also things which did not sit well in my eyes, and I can not go over them in silence, lest they say, the Rabbis were quite thus they must agree with it"

"ואם יבוא שאלה כזו לפנינו היינו משיבים לשואל הכבד ושב בביתך"
"If such a question would appear before us, we would respond to the one asking to respect himself and stay in his home"

One of the Responsa which Rabbi Leiter could not sit silent against, was Rabbi Messas' Responsa regarding eating from the Slaughtering of a Shohet which did not observe the Shabbat. The Responsa appears in Shu"t Mayim Hayyim, printed in Fes in 1934. Here is the conclusion of the responsa:

הרי לך ידידי קורא חביב כמה צדדים ברורים, להאמין אלו הקצבים על הבשר היוצא מתחת ידם, ואפילו צד אחד יספיק להתיר, וכל שכן כולם ביחד. ואם כן בפה מלא נאמר שכל הקונה מהם בשר, סמוך לבו לא יירא, רק שיאכל וישמח בנפש טהורה. ועם כל זה ידי לא רפתה מהם, רק מעת לעת אני מעורר את הקהל לעמד עמי בדבר מצוה כזה, אולי נצליח להטותם הדרך, לעשות הישר בעיני אלוקים ואדם

Rabbi Messas permitted to eat from the meat of butchers in his town of Tlemcen, after trying unsuccessfully to convince the butchers to close for Shabbat. Messas felt that as the people were eating the meat regardless, and all other efforts failed, it was important to find a leniency within the Halacha.

Here is the entire Responsa as it appears in Shu"t Mayim Hayyim

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