As many of you know, I am a fan of the [chiefly] Sefaradiy approach to halakhah wherein everything is considered – historical precedent, the state of the people at large, technology, the lack of proper authority to make new gezeroth in our times, pressing societal needs/problems, and most of all the willingness to reassess the halakhah as it has developed in light of the meqoroth (sources). The goal is to make Torah livable and not require more than Hazal required while also not demanding that people somehow re-create a bygone era or society that no longer exists.
One such Sefaradiy rav working hard in this endeavor is Rav Yisshaq `Abadi of Yerushalayim. Rav `Abadi, who was born in Venezuela and grew up in Israel, was discovered and sent by Rabbi Avraham Yeshayah Karelitz z”l (the “Hazon Iysh“) of Beney Verak to study under Rabbi Aharon Kotler z”l in Lakewood, NJ. In the mid-1960’s, after the passing of Rav Kotler, Rav `Abadi became the sole poseq for the expanding community of Lakewood, singly rendering decisions for both Ashkenaziym and Sefaradiym, until he was ousted years later by descendants of Rav Kotler for political reasons. Although I myself do not always agree with the particulars his approach (mainly because he tends to rigorously follow the Shulhan `Arukh for better or worse, and while there is a principle of following a halakhic authority in their leniencies and stringencies alike, the Shulhan `Arukh itself is itself an amalgamation that does not itself follow that model, and this is not to mention the fact that since today most of our halakhah comes from books and not personally from rabbaniym, this principle does not, le-`aniyuth da`ati, have much place in the current era), nonetheless my admiration and respect for Rav `Abadi as a rav is due to his confidence and bravery in making halakhic decisions. Known by outsiders as a “makel” in many areas, he is known by his students and admirers as an incredibly capable rav with a knowledge of halakhic sources unparalleled by few in our time. As it says in Masekheth Sanhedriyn 6b, “אין לו לדיין אלא מה שעיניו רואות – there is nothing for [the hakham] to judge except for that which his eyes see” meaning that the halakhah is determined by each hakham or dayyan according to the best of what he can assess about the situation and he must follow his own understanding as he sees it, and when the hakham searches a matter properly and gives a ruling, the Gemara says that we assume that “God is with him in judgment” (cf. Rashi, Mussaf Rashi there).
Nevertheless, my own differences of opinion with him notwithstanding, the work that he and his sons do on their website kashrut.org is nothing short of incredible. What they have produced is a resource that is open, accessible, and valuable. And while they are most known for their work in the areas of kashruth and hilkhoth Shabbath and Yom tov, they are willing to answer any halakhic question sent to them. Much of their aim is to utilize the historic pisqey diyn (rulings) available to make orthodox Judaism more accessible and affordable to a wider segment of Jewry. Examples of such rulings are his promotion of Torah scrolls that are produced through a silk-screening process (an explanation may be found HERE) and his certification of Hebrew National brand meat products – together with Rav Ralbag of the Triangle-K – as being kosher for those who do not require “glatt.” Other rabbinic work includes a shortened form of birkath ha-mazon, which is available digitally from the Google Play app store HERE, something that I find useful and have on my own phone.
But perhaps one of the smartest arenas they engage in is defending women against the onslaught of the dreaded “mikveh lady.” You know, the nosy Yentas who are less than discreet and think that their job is to embarrass women who come to use the mikveh, all while apparently being qualified as halakhic decisors. Mikveh ladies, much like the stereotypical lunch ladies who make you lose your appetite and avoid the cafeteria, unfortunately are responsible for driving many Jewish women away from the misswah of miqweh as well as turning them off from taharath ha-mishpahah altogether. Rav `Abadi and his sons have risen to this challenge by taking complaints and personally interceding on behalf of many women, setting more than a few of these tyrannical biddies straight. They do this because, unlike other poseqiym, they allow women to immerse in a bathing suit (which is fine in the Gemara, even le-khatehiylah), to keep things like permanent belly-button piercings in, and to check themselves for cleanliness – all things which make many women who are returning to observance, and to taharath ha-mishpahah specifically, much more comfortable and willing to go immerse once a month.
Several times on their site, they have posted their correspondences with mikveh attendants. One which I thought was particularly excellent can be found HERE.
In closing, I want to highlight the fact that Rav `Abadi, although he is not a “Rambamist,” Yemenite, a follower of Rav David Bar-Hayyim, or a part of some other particularly meqori group, is still very much considered by me to be meqori. The reason that this is important is that I have received comments lately that “returning to Second Temple Judaism does not seem to be the way forward” in response to the work of this site. But this is a gross misstatement based on a complete misunderstanding of what meqoriyuth is and what this site stands for. Meqoriyuth means returning to the texts of Judaism written in ancient times, not a return to ancient times. No one thinks that when they follow a pesaq of the Rambam, or even of the Shulhan `Arukh for that matter, that it is then required of them to dress in garb from a thousand years ago and learn Arabic. This would be absurd. What we are interested in is the is the purity and simplicity of Hazal in their legal reasoning and the universal focus of their wisdom. There is, of course, much more that could be said about this, but I’ll end it here for now.
Perhaps more later.
Until then, kol tuv.