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Behind The Drawings: The Making Of Pe’er Halachah

Yisrael Davidowitz

As Chanukah approaches, people tend to brush up on their knowledge of the pertinent halachos of hadlakas neiros. But some halachos can be confusing, even to the point of being incomprehensible. The solution? Pe’er Halachah, Rav Dovid Hirsch’s beautiful work on Mishnah Berurah. Through clear, concise graphics that highlight his understanding of the finest distinctions of halachah, Rav Hirsch makes even the most difficult sections of Mishnah Berurah accessible to all. The man, the mission, and his methods.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

I remember Rav Dovid Hirsch from our days together in yeshivah. The sugya was Shnayim Ochazim B’Tallis (at the beginning of Bava Metzia), and we were all struggling with the Gemara and the intricate commentaries of the Rishonim and Acharonim. Sometimes the basic facts of the case were not entirely clear from the text — how much of the tallis each litigant was grasping, how much they would be awarded by beis din, and why. But Dovid had it all worked out — in drawings. The drawings were not only charming, they helped to resolve our doubts and clarify the sugya.

We were the first to benefit from his diligent doodling. Before many years were to pass, thousands of others would join us. It was to become his unique path in avodas Hashem, and an expression of the meticulousness in mitzvah performance that has become the signature of our generation.

As Rav Hirsch describes it in his introduction to Pe’er Halachah Al Arba’as HaMinim, the impetus for his work arose from a desire to clarify halachos.

“When I was learning Perek Lulav HaGazul and Hilchos Arba’as HaMinim , without even thinking about it, I would draw little pictures for myself in the margins of the page to help me remember ... I wanted to see with my own eyes what exactly was the meaning of murkav al shneihem of a hadas according to the Rosh? What was the exact location of the chotem of an esrog, according to the Rif, Rosh, and Rambam, respectively? Where is the tiyomes of the lulav, according to the Shulchan Aruch and the Rema, respectively? The little drawings accumulated, until it reached the point where my friends and rebbeim encouraged me to refine and complete them and gather them into a sefer for the benefit of everyone learning those sugyos, as it says in the Gemara (Shabbos 104a): “Make simanim for the Torah, and acquire it.” 

 

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