Rabbi Gedalia Oberlander: ‘In the Eyes of Your Mekurovim, You Are a Rov’

Rabbi Gedalia Oberlander: ‘In the Eyes of Your Mekurovim, You Are a Rov’

September 4, 2022

Together with Chicago’s Rabbi Baruch Hertz, Monsey’s Rabbi Gedalia Oberlander teaches Lemaan Yilmedu’s upcoming Community Rabbonus course which is geared to Shluchim. The year-long course covers subjects that aren’t taught in Semicha and are encountered daily by anyone in a rabbinic position. Subjects include parts of Orach Chaim, Yoreh Deah and Even HaEzer, with an emphasis on the “fifth part” of Shulchan Aruch, the feel and sensitivity that can only be attained by learning from a veteran, experienced Rov.

What happends when I spot a mistake in the Sefer Torah during Kriah? Which events require a mechitzah? How and when do the halachos on Yom Tov differ from Shabbos? 

These questions are encountered regularly by a Shliach. Lemaan Yildedu provides the tools to answer them with confidence.

We spoke with Rabbi Oberlander to learn more about the course, who it’s for, and why they need it.

Q: Thank you for taking the time to speak with us. Can you explain what a community Rov is?

Rabbi Oberlander: Any Shliach will eventually have a community that will be asking him questions, even smaller communities. In the eyes of the people you are mekarev, you are their Rov—that’s a fact. They will ask you all sorts of questions about things you’ve never learned, questions you never thought you would be asked. You can call another Rov—many Shluchim consult with a more senior Rov—but you will be required to have some kind of knowledge in these subjects. During the week it's possible to contact another Rov, but on Shabbos and Yom Tov you need to know what to do.

Q: Can’t a Shliach learn these topics himself? Is a year-long course necessary?

Rabbi Oberlander: It is not really possible. Truthfully, this could be a three-year course, but we’ve condensed it to a year. Even this course cannot cover everything and you will occasionally need to consult with a more experienced Rov, for when you learn the yesodos in the Shulchan Aruch and Poskim, it doesn’t cover most of the contemporary questions. In this course, you will learn from experienced Rabbonim who answer these questions daily. You will receive shimush of sorts to understand how to apply the basic Halacha to real-life situations. This course will teach you how to rule when there are differences in opinion.

When you learn on your own, it is—lehavdil—like completing a degree in college and going to practice that field without any residency or apprenticeship. You won’t have a proper understanding of how to apply it.

Q: Which topics will you be teaching?

Rabbi Oberlander: Hefsek betefilah, shliach tzibbur and everything related to minyan, hilchos mezuzah, hilchos tzedakah and hilchos yichud. Hilchos Yichud is actually one of the most frequently asked questions to a Rov, and much of it isn’t directly discussed in the Shulchan Aruch itself—it’s not clearly written—for example, all the shomrim, if you have a child with you, etc.

Q: Many Shluchim are dealing with people of different backgrounds, each with their own baggage. How will they learn to apply the Halacha to their congregant’s unique circumstances?

Rabbi Oberlander: It is important that the Rov answers not only the question but also the questioner. This is part of the “fifth chelek” of Shulchan Aruch. There are halachos that apply beshaas hadchak. You have to understand the situation and the person, if for them you should rule following the majority opinion or whether they’re someone for whom you need to rely on the minority opinion or even a shittas yochid. Perhaps for this person or this family, you need to be more lenient. This sensitivity too will be taught to our students.

Q: There are many Lubavitch minhagim and halachic opinions that aren’t found in the regular Seforim. Will you be including them in the course?

Rabbi Oberlander: Of course. Once you learn the halachos it’s important to know what our shitta is; what the Rebbbeim would do—even if there isn’t a written psak from them. For instance, in hilchos mezuzah, we may know how their house looked and where the mezuzos were placed, thus we can infer what their opinion would be. In addition, there is “Torah Shebaal Peh” which we received from Rabbonei Chabad of previous generations. All this is a treasure which we will give over in the classes.

Thank you very much, Rabbi Oberlander, this has been an enlightening discussion!

To learn more about the course and to register, click here

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