She’eilos U’Teshuvos Mi’maamakim

She'eilos U'Teshuvos Mi'maamakim A short series of shiurim given online by Rabbi Cohen based upon the sefer "She’eilos U’Teshuvos Mi’maamakim" by Rabbi Ephraim Oshry. This moving sefer was written during the Holocaust in the Kovno Ghetto as Rabbi Oshry grappled with issues of halacha and observance amongst his fellow Jews in the ghetto. This window into the suffering and spiritual triumph of our people during this dark period is an important lesson we can especially learn from and be inspired by during the three week period leading up to Tisha B'Av.

This lecture is presented in approximately 15 minute segments and will be updated Monday through Friday (B'li Neder) during the three weeks.

She’eilos U’Teshuvos Mi’maamakim

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Using an incandescent bulb for Neros Shabbos & Havdala- v1 #11 by R' Aaron Cohen


12:54 minutes (2.22 MB)

The Jews in the Kovno Ghetto did not have the means to acquire conventional candles or oil for Shabbos candles and Havdala. Could they fulfill the Mitzva of Neros Shabbos and Borei Me’orei Ha’aish on Motzei Shabbos through incandescent electric bulbs?

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Can a deaf mute count in a Minyan & receive an Aliya - v3 #2 by R' Aaron Cohen


17:32 minutes (3.01 MB)

Rav Oshry presents a heart-wrenching question posed by R’ Moshe ben R’ Aryeh, who davened in Rav Oshry’s Bais Medrash. While on a work detail, he looked for potatoes and vegetables growing in the fields to give some nourishment to the starving Jews working with him. The Germans caught and beat him mercilessly, causing him to lose his hearing and speech faculties. He maintained his cognitive abilities. Could he be counted in a Minyan? Could he receive an Aliya to the Torah?

Bishul on Shabbos in the Kovno ghetto - v1 #5 by R' Aaron Cohen


12:33 minutes (2.16 MB)

A student of Rav Oshry by the name of Yaakov, was given the opportunity to work in the kitchen where food was prepared for the Jews. This would allow Yaakov to avoid the excruciating work that Jews were subject to, and would also give him greater access to food, which would increase his chances of survival. Would he be able to work in the kitchen even though he would be forced to cook on Shabbos? And, if he was allowed to cook the food on Shabbos, was he allowed to eat it?

Erasing the numbers tatooed on one's arm - v4 #22 by R' Aaron Cohen


9:27 minutes (1.63 MB)

A young Jewish woman who survived the Holocaust was haunted by the horrors that she had experienced. Was she allowed to erase the numbers that the Nazis had tattooed onto her arm, in order to put these terrifying events behind her?

Reference Material (pdf)

Reading the Parshas Hashavua on Shabbos afternoon - v4 #1 by R' Aaron Cohen


15:20 minutes (2.64 MB)

Elul 1941. The Germans, intent on rapidly building a major military airbase outside of Kovno, increase the demand on Jewish slave labor. The Jews are forced to work, including on Shabbos. The workday ends at 7:30pm, and there is no time for davening or Krias HaTorah. The question is posed to Rav Oshry: can the workers layn the Parshas Hashavua when they return to the ghetto at 7:30?

Reference Material (pdf)

Giving up one's life for general Mitzvos - v5 #14 by R' Aaron Cohen


16:33 minutes (2.85 MB)

Rav Oshry was given the task of running a bathhouse that was a lifesaver for the Jews in the Kovno Ghetto, who were suffering ailments and sickness brought on by the terrible hygiene in the ghetto. He made sure that the bathhouse remained closed on Shabbos and Yom Tov. Community leaders expressed concern that if the Nazis found out, Rav Oshry would be killed. Was Rav Oshry permitted to endanger himself in order to prevent Jews from desecrating Shabbos?

Reference Material (pdf)

Entrusting children to non-Jews to save them - v5 #9 by R' Aaron Cohen


11:02 minutes (1.9 MB)

As word spread that the Nazis were planning to conduct a mass murder of children, parents frantically sought ways to save their children. Could they give the children to a priest or church, knowing that they would be inculcated with Christian beliefs? Could they entrust the children with non-Jewish acquaintances who avowed that they would return the children to their families after the war

Reference Material (pdf)

Can someone in hiding adjacent to a Minyan be considered to be davening bi'tzibbur - v4 #4 by R' Aaron Cohen


9:05 minutes (1.56 MB)

The Jews in the Kovno Ghetto constructed a Bais Medrash for Tefilla and Torah, and they made a secret room adjacent to it for those hiding from the Nazis. The question arose: if they could hear the Tefillos from that secret room but could not see the Bais Medrash, was it considered Tefilla Bi’tzibbur?

Reference Material (pdf)

Can a boy use the name of his adoptive father for an Aliya - v3 #11 by R' Aaron Cohen


5:52 minutes (1.01 MB)

A man saved a boy from the mass murder of 1200 children by the Nazis. He adopted the child, protected him, and cared for him. Tragically, the child’s parents were murdered during the Holocaust. The adoptive father asked Rav Oshry: when the boy is called up for an Aliya to the Torah, can his own name be used when referencing the boy’s father?

Reference Material (pdf)

Geniza of Aron Kodesh of destroyed Bais Knesses v2 #17 by R' Aaron Cohen


10:01 minutes (1.85 MB)

Following the war, Rav Oshry travelled throughout Lithuania and witnessed the heart-rending obliteration of Batei Knesses, Batei Medrash, and Yeshivos. The question arose: Is it necessary to bury the remnants of an Aron Kodesh? What about the other parts of the Bais Knesses, Bais Medrash, or Yeshiva?

Reference Material (pdf)