Monday, January 04, 2010

A Night to Remember

Last night I attended a very unique event. It was a Chag HaSemicha for Dayanin. I’m not sure how many ‘graduation exercises’ there are like this anywhere in the entire world. Perhaps there are some. But I am relatively certain that this is a first for Chicago. Eight members of the Chicago Choshen Mishpat Institute (Machon L'Choshen Mishpat ) received the advanced rabbinic degree of Yadin Yadin. They have become expert in that segment of the Shulchan Aruch that deals with monetary matters. These rabbis are now qualified to serve as Dayanim, judges in a Beis Din – a Jewish court of law.

One of the things that made this particular event memorable for me is that it was a model of Achdus.

The master of ceremonies was Eric (Ricky) Rothner a modern Orthodox Jew and a very successful businessman who is one of the primary forces behind Chicago’s Yeshiva University Kollel. He is also the primary benefactor of this institution. The speakers included Rav Gedalia Schwartz, Av Beis Din of the Bes Din of America (RCA) and the Chicago Rabbinical Council Beis Din - and Rav Avraham Chaim Levin, Rosh HaYeshiva of Telshe-Chicago and member of Agudah’s Moetzes Gedolei HaTorah.

Rav Schwartz spoke first dealing with the concept of Shimush. A Posek needs no less training for his field than a doctor who becomes a specialist in his field. Just like any great specialist will study under the ‘greats’ in his field, so too must a Posek study under the greats in his field. When someone ‘graduates’ with Semicha, he is not really ready to Paskin difficult Shailos. He has studied the theory, but has not been out in the field.

He needs to learn practical applications of what he learned under the guidance of an experienced Posek in order to do it properly. Much like a doctor who graduates medical school. At that moment he becomes a legitimate doctor. But that is only the beginning. He then becomes an intern. And he begins to learn the practical applications of his craft for 3 or more grueling years. He will not do – say a heart transplant without studying long and hard under the guidance of an experienced heart surgeon. This is the idea of Shimush. It is a recognized and vital aspect of preparation for one’s job whether it is medicine or Psak Halacha.

Rabbi Levin spoke next. He not only spoke reverently about Rav Schwartz but publicly recognized his great status as a Dayan - an area that Rav Levin conceded he has little or no expertise in. Think about it. A member of the Moetzes of Agudah recognizing the Av Beis Din of the RCA as greater than he in Psak Halacha. I don’t know how many in the overflow audience noticed it. But it struck me as a huge Achdus moment. Rav Levin proved once again that he is a man of both great integrity and humility.

Rav Chaim Cohen who is the Rosh Machon L'Choshen Mishpat then spoke followed by Rabbi Michel Twersky of Milwaukee whose son Rabbi Ephriam Twersky was there as a graduate. Among the other Musmachim were Rabbi Zev Cohen, founder of this institution and Rabbi Ahron Yosef Fuerst, son of Rabbi Shmuel Fuerst Dayan of Agudath Israel of the Midwest.

And then a very emotional Rabbi Zev Cohen spoke about this achievement. Afterwords Rabbi Cohen’s father in law, Rabbi Pinchas Stolper handed out the diplomas.

Everyone there was together – both on the dais and in the audience. Individuals from disparate Orthodox groups that are often in competition with one another were there participating as one – together for the same purpose; showing respect and acceptance for one another.

The last time I remember this kind if Achdus was when 8 students of Merkaz HaRav were brutally murdered by a Muslim terrorist. How sad I thought at the time that it took the mass murder of Yeshiva students to have that kind of Achdus. But this time, there was no murder. There was instead an event that celebrated learning and knowledge of Torah law. All politics were put aside. I couldn’t help feeling good about that. Ken Yirbu.

The Musmachim were (in no particular order) :

Rabbi Zev Cohen
Rabbi Ephraim Friedman
Rabbi Tzvi Finer
Rabbi Gershon Schaffel
Rabbi Yerachmiel Pickholz
Rabbi Efraim Twerski
Rabbi Aharon Yosef Fuerst
Rabbi Shlomo Tennenbaum