Wednesday, January 2, 2013

SEPHARDIC RABBIS: Refael Aharon ben Shimon (1847-1928)

As we said last week (see here) Rabbi Ben Shimon wrote many responsas about the new inventions of his time. As the highest authority in his community he had to pronounce a ruling on those issues. 
In a rare and exquisite passage in one of his responsa (oraḥ ḥayim , 8, p.23) of his book umiṣur debash, he was asked about the usage of matches (a new popular invention in those days) in Yom Tob. Before he build the case against or in favor of using matches in Yom Tob, he writes the following [my own, free translation]:

"What a difficult task is for a Rabbi today to answer this kind of questions. New inventions in all areas of life are so many in our generation... Human knowledge has increased through the investigation and the new discoveries of the principles of Creation, and with it, man's industrial and technical capabilities. Every day there are innovations which were inconceivable for our ancestors or even for our own elders. It is a very difficult task for a Rabbi to find the proper answers to questions about these new technological inventions. To determine, for example, if they could be used on Shabbat or Yom Tob.  Because it is very laborious to compare these new inventions with the elements mentioned in our holy Talmud [1500 years ago], which is the guide of our lives and the source for establishing what is permitted and what is forbidden. Only through a great patient effort, and with a clear and calm mind, and with enough available time--free from all other troubles--it will be viable to analyze these innovations and compare the classic principles with the new discoveries. Searching with candles every comparable detail which could be found in the Talmud --which is like a deep ocean-- to arrive, perhaps, to a practical conclusion and final ruling. And in addition to all this, once a conclusion is reached, one has to have a special merit to be spared from the critics, those whose expertise is to condemn, because they were trained to criticize arguments, and not to build them... "

Picture of Rabbi Refael Aharon ben Shimon



(Do not expect to see  THIS VIDEO in mainstream media...)