Jerusalem – The Machon Shilo Beit Din, one of the most controversial new organizations to hit the Torah scene, was in the news this past Pesach. Readers will recall this Beit Din having issued a ruling that all Ashkenazic Jews living in Israel may consume Kitniyos products. Some jumped for joy. “Finally – culinary freedom for Pesach!” Others were more circumspect, wondering who exactly was this Beit Din, and who died and made them our Poskim?
Vos Iz Neias News decided to find out. and sent a well versed Torah Scholar from New York Rabbi Yair Hoffman who spend couple of weeks in Israel to meet with the man behind this Org.. Rabbi Hoffman is a Mechanech in a Bais Yaakov and the former Morah D’Asrah of the Young Israel of Patchogue. He has written Seforim on Hilchos Mezuzah, Lifnei Iver, Chanukah, Purim, Niddah, and authors a regular Halacha column in the Five Towns Jewish Times, which is posted on VIN News. His seforim have Haskamos from Rav Yisroel Belsky, Rav Malkiel Kotler, Rav Dovid Kviat, Rav Shmuel Kaminetsky, Rav Chaim Scheinberg, and Dayan Roth’s Beis Din. He is also the author of the forthcoming Sefer entitled, “Not Your Usual Halacha.”
The negotiations between VIN News and the Beit Din resulted in the first full-blown media interview ever granted by this controversial Beit Din. The terms of the interview were that Vos Iz Neias News can ask any question, but that it cannot turn into a brawl.
As far as the filming goes, VIN News may show the interview in its entirety or if VIN News wishes to edit it down then Machon Shilo gets approval rights. The terms were accepted and the interview was arranged.
For those who have a vast interest in philosophical Torah research will find the interview fascinating. its a total of 2 hours and can be viewed on YouTube here, its a total of 12 clips. We are aware that views By Rabbi David Bar-Hayim is very controversial. Rabbi Hoffman, and VIN News do not endorse any of his believes, we are just reporting.
The driving force behind Machon Shilo is a fascinating individual named, Rabbi David Bar Chaim. Rabbi Bar Chaim seems to be a sincere individual, bent on discovering truth in his learning. He wearsTefillin the entire day and is willing to hear dissenting opinions. The Rabbi Has 100’s of followers.
The Beit Midrash is located in the Givat Shaul section of Yerushalayim, near Angel’s Bakery. Rabbi David Bar Chaim agreed to an an exclusive interview. The terms were interesting – I, the VIN News reporter could ask any question I want.
Anyone familiar with Rabbi Bar Chaim, whether a fan or a critic, will agree with two things: 1] He is quite brilliant and 2] He is quite controversial.
Rabbi Bar Chaim is a talmid of Rav Yoseph Kapach zatzal, the Yemenite Maimonidean scholar. Although Australian by birth, Rabbi Bar Chaim has adopted the full gamut of Yemenite pronounciations – th for saf Jimel for Gimel and the full guttural Ayin or Gayin. He also studied in Yeshiva Merkaz HaRav, although he is not too fond of the manner in which Yeshivos teach Torah. Even Merkaz HaRav did not escape his criticism.
As a preface, Rabbi Bar Chaim is of the opinion that Eretz Yisroel has a unique Torah heritage called Torath Eretz Yisroel. He distinguishes between this Torah and what he terms “Torat HaGaluth.” How far he takes this notion is where the controversy lies.
He has issued rulings and opinions that are quite startling. He ruled that the Birchas HaChama should not be recited on Erev Pesach this past cycle. He advises people to recite a blessing when they take off their Tefillin. He disagrees with the identification of oats and rye as two of the five grains of the Mishna, and the list goes on and on.
The questioning began. How do you openly disregard the positions and decisions of the Talmud Bavli? He calmly responded that even the Rambam writes that Torah thought is not monolithic and comprises a multiplicity of voices that include the Sifra, Sifri, Mechilta, Yerushalmi and Bavli. He noted that many times the Rambam himself rules like the Yerushalmi instead of the Bavli.
When it was pointed out that the Meforshim will constantly cite other passages in the Bavli as supporting the Yerushalmi position Rabbi Bar Chaim dismissed these views as apologetics.
Another question. How do you openly disregard the views and conclusions of the Shulchan Aruch? He responded that numerous meforshim will disagree with the Shulchan Aruch and Ramah, and it is a misnomer to state that Klal Yisroel took it upon themselves to follow the Shulchan Aruch completely. He claims it never happened and that the often dissenting views of the Shach demonstrate this point.
Regarding the blessing on Tefillin (a custom in Maarava according to the Bavli), he quoted Rav Hai Gaon and the Ramban who ruled that it is permissible to follow this view.
When asked about the oats and rye he cited a Yerushalmi describing it. “Shiboles Shual” is supposed to grow upward and straight – oats are very spread out. He cited other indications too including the archaeological record. When it was pointed out to him that the Egyptians did in fact cultivate and sell oats according to Colombia University professors and that Rav Moshe and the Chazon Ish had previously dismissed this assertion, he was unfazed.
What about that HaMavdil Bain Kodesh Lechol sentence on Motzei Shabbos? From his writings it is clear that he does not hold of it. Only a Havdallah in Shmoneh Esreh or on a Kos is valid in his eyes. Even though the Talmud Bavli (Shabbos 150a) states it explicitly, it does not seem to matter to the Rabbi. Clearly, the Rabbi is not afraid of extremely controversial views.
Another aspect of Rav Bar Chaim is his vision of developing and spreading a renaissance of religious nationalism in Eretz Yisroel. Although this message would appeal to certain masses of the religiously observant, there is one aspect of his views that will most decidedly not appeal to them. As interesting a person as Rav Bar Chaim is, he does characterize the Talmud Bavli itself as Torath HaGaluth. In the country of Israel this is like attacking motherhood and apple pie.
Does he have Rabbinic backing? Aside from a Rabbi Bock who has joined him in Machon Shilo the Rabbinic establishment has not seemed to have made any comments one way or the other. In the interview he did quote a well known Mashgiach of a Yeshiva who consulted with him on Birchas HaChama. He seemed to indicate that this Mashgiach did trust his Psak.