Midreshet Amit


Back to Main Page

Parshat Vayakhel

By: Rabbi Jonathan Duker

This Shabbat  marks the yarzeit of Rabbi Yechiel Michel Epstein, author of the book "Aruch ha-Shulchan." Rabbi Epstein, who in his time was the foremost halachic authority in all of Europe, was not only approached with questions because of his deep and wide ranging Torah knowledge, but also for the care and sensitivity  that he showed to each questioner. This can be seen in the following story, which is told by Rabbi Ovadia Yosef in his commentary to the Haggadah (Hazon Ovadia p.9).

On Pesach night before the Seder, a woman visited the Gaon Rabbi Yechiel Michel with a serious question about some chametz that was mixed into her food.  Rabbi Yechiel Michael went into his library and began to search books of psak and to leaf through responsa  to see if he could find reasons to be lenient. Meanwhile, outside the room his family sat and waited, for they were ready to begin the seder. But Rabbi Yechiel Michel did not leave his library. An hour passed, and Rabbi Yechiel Michel sat in his library, investigating the question.

His family were no longer able to control themselves, and his grandchild entered the library and said, “Excuse me Grandfather, how long will we sit and wait? It is Pesach night, and you are missing out on the joy of the holiday. If there is no way to permit her food, then say it is forbidden!”

Rabbi Yechiel Michel answered him, “What did you say, my son? How can I sit at the table with my family to rejoice in the holiday and participate in the Seder, while this poor woman will be mired in pain will not know any joy this holiday?”

He continued to leaf through his books, until after some time he emerged from his library with a joyful countenance and ruled for the woman “It is permitted!” Only then he took a seat at the table to have his own proper seder. 

It is this trait of sensitivity, along with Torah knowledge, that we prize in our Torah leaders.