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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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?

Setting up matzeiva in destroyed cemetery by R' Aaron Cohen


10:11 minutes (1.88 MB)

Rav Oshry describes the wholesale destruction of Jewish cemeteries throughout Lithuania by the Nazis and their Lithuanian accomplices. A Mr. Segal posed the following Shaila to Rav Oshry: The tombstones of his parents’ graves had been destroyed and it was impossible to identify the location of their burial within the cemetery. Should he set up a Matzeiva (tombstone) memorializing his parents in the cemetery, even if it would not be located where they were buried?

Kohein whose vocal cords were damaged - can he duchen - v4 #9 by R' Aaron Cohen


14:00 minutes (2.53 MB)

A Kohein, attempting to smuggle a piece of bread for his sick mother, was caught by the Nazis and beaten mercilessly. His vocal cords were permanently damaged and his voice was barely audible. While suffering great emotional trauma, he turned to Rav Oshry with trepidation to ask: Is he still allowed to fulfill the Mitzva of Birkas Kohanim, despite the difficulty in making his voice heard to the Tzibbur?

Keeping remnants of Sifrei Torah in one's home - v4 #21 by R' Aaron Cohen


11:12 minutes (2.05 MB)

Rav Oshry notes that the savagery of the Nazis and their cohorts was also directed at articles of Kedusha such as Sifrei Torah, Seforim, Tefillin, etc. One individual, a descendant of the Vilna Gaon, had a Sefer Torah that had belonged to the Gra and was passed down in the family through the generations. Despite his efforts to hide the Sefer Torah, he found it after the liberation torn to shreds. Could he keep the remnants of the Sefer Torah in his home as a memorial to his family, or did he need to bury it in the ground as the Gemara and Shulchan Aruch prescribe?

Chatzitza by tefillin - when covering a cross etched on the arm - v1 #26 by R' Aaron Cohen


11:59 minutes (2.19 MB)

Rav Oshry describes the overwhelming burden of the Jews conscripted into forced labor, leaving well before the break of dawn and returning at night. These Jews faced the question of when they could put on Tefillin. One courageous individual secretively put on his Tefillin at daybreak while marching to work, but he was caught by the Nazi guards. After cruelly beating him, they engraved a cross onto his arm where the Tefillin Shel Yad is placed. This individual was painfully embarrassed at this symbol being seen by others as he prepared to put on his Tefillin.

Putting on Tefillin that was found without checking its Kashrus - v4 #19 by R' Aaron Cohen


6:03 minutes (1.17 MB)

In the aftermath of the Holocaust, survivors were faced with a shortage of Tefillin. Some pairs of Tefillin were found in the possession of non-Jews, apparently taken from homes and Shuls as the Jewish communities were ravaged. Given the extenuating circumstances, could these Tefillin be used without checking their Kashrus?

Fulfilling Krias Shema by listening - v4 #13 by R' Aaron Cohen


9:26 minutes (1.75 MB)

After the liberation, Rav Oshry searched for Jewish children who had been taken into non-Jewish families. He found a 14 year old boy wearing a cross, who asked Rav Oshry incredulously if there were still Jews left from the Kovno community. The boy eagerly went with Rav Oshry and was entrusted to a foster family. He had no knowledge of the most basic elements of Torah and Mitzvos and could not read Hebrew, and the question arose how he should initially fulfill the Mitzva of Krias Shema.

Boy who does not know his age - putting on Tefillin - v4 #17 by R' Aaron Cohen


12:06 minutes (2.21 MB)

Families desperate to save their children from the impending Holocaust sometimes paid non-Jews to take their children in, and the children were disconnected from the Jewish people during the duration of the war. After the liberation, great efforts were made to locate and bring these children back. One such child, whose family had perished, was around the age of 13 but it was impossible to determine his exact age. Should he put on Tefillin presently?

Saying Krias Shema while being interrupted by German guards (v4 #2) by Rabbi Aaron Cohen


19:06 minutes (3.47 MB)

Elul 5741. The Jews of the Kovno ghetto are forcibly conscripted into merciless slave labor. The days are long and the work is relentless. The question is posed to Rav Oshry: how can they fulfill the Mitzva of Krias Shema, which must be said by the third hour of the day? It is usually impossible to complete Krias Shema without being interrupted by the German guards. May one say Krias Shema in incremental sections, continuing where one left off after the interruption is over?

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