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Thought for the Day: The Importance of Not Just מסורה, But Continuous Transmission from Generation to Generation

I was once sitting in the Monday night shiur that R' Fuerst, shlita, used to give to ba'al ha'batim on Mishna Brura.  Well... nominally on Mishna Brura; in point of fact, R' Fuerst used the Mishna Brura to organize the discussion, but the rav was more than happy to field our questions.  The questions almost always started from something said, but -- of course -- not infrequently took on a life of their own.  As much as I learned halacha in that shiur, I also learned how to approach and learn halacha from a written source.  Even more, I learned how to interpret nuances of the expressions used in order to arrive at an accurate application of the halacha in practical situations.

We were once learning something about hilchos Shabbos and I expressed surprise that the rabbi said something different than I had seen in R' Eider's sefer.  Rabbi Fuerst's reaction was classic, "I told him not to say that; that's not what R' Moshe meant!"  It was an (one of many) eye opener for me.  Somehow I always put s'farim in one category and talking to the rabbi in a different; I now experienced that my rabbi was, in fact, a "living sefer", if you will.  It also struck me that the gemara will from time to time not be able to resolve a contradiction and finally conclude, "it's the opinion of the rav being reported by two different students".  That's how I understood the situation; R' Fuerst and R' Eider had been sitting in the same shiur, each came away with a different interpretation of what the rebbi meant.  I now think it may have been more subtle than that.

Some background.  The Torah prohibits cooking on Shabbos.  That being the case, of course, Chazal have put in place many safeguards.  One of those safeguards is that one may not -- on Shabbos -- put raw (read: not cooked enough to be edible) food onto a surface that is hot enough to cook it; even though one's intent is to remove it long before it becomes cooked.
You may me wondering why someone would do that... a cold liquid is considered "uncooked" as far as Shabbos is concerned; whereas a liquid at yad soledes bo (~130° F or so) is considered "cooked".  You may just want to take the chill of your drink; but it would still it would be forbidden to place that liquid on a surface that could bring it to yad soledes bo.  Just as an example.
One is moreover, by decree of Chazal, forbidden to put a raw food -- even erev Shabbos -- into an oven where one might be tempted to adjust the temperature on Shabbos in order to hasten the cooking.  There is much discussion about how that applies nowadays.

So... we now have electric urns that are not adjustable; they are on or off.  Suppose one puts cold water into the urn before Shabbos and plugs it in just before candle lighting.  If one were to remove some of the water (say half(, then the remaining water would heat faster.  Does this fall into the decree above or not?  On the one hand, there is no adjustment being made.  On the other hand, one is certainly achieving the same purpose.

In Igros Moshe, it is written about putting cold water into such an urn just before Shabbos: מסתבר לאסור.  That could be read as: "logically, that is forbidden"; so it could mean that R' Moshe includes that in the decree of Chazal.  It could also be read as (from Google translate): Apparently ban.  Hard to know how to interpret that.  It could also mean: seems reasonable to be careful not to do that.  (Something like that fact that I always lock my car with my keys from the outside; that way I can be assured that I haven't locked my keys in the car.  I am careful, but I haven't violated any laws if I lock the car with the inside button before closing the door.)  Depending on how I read that Igros Moshe, I may or may not get a cup of coffee Shabbos afternoon at my friend's house who put of the urn just before Shabbos with cold water.

Shulchan Shlomo (R' Shlomo Zalman Auerbach's commentary on Hilchos Shabbos section of Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim), says it means that last way.  I shall understand the halacha that way because I have heard directly from R' Fuerst, "If R' Shlomo Zalman Auerbach says it; you can rely on it."  In fact, I now wonder if R' Fuerst was commenting (above) more on the way R' Eider said over R' Moshe's psak, rather than his interpretation.

Small details in situation can make significant changes in halacha.  All the more so having a clear understanding of the halacha itself.  Way more so understanding the rebbi.  Igros Moshe is a collection of responses to (largely) rabei'im.  You can't just read the words without knowing to whom they were written and hope to get an accurate read.  Here is one response written less than 100 years ago, and still there is room to misinterpret.  Having this continuous chain of coverage is critical to the entire halachic process.  And we have that... from Moshe Rabeinu down till today.

We don't have to guess about interpretation, we can ask our rebbi, who asked his rebbi, who asked his rebbi... who asked Moshe Rabeinu.  That's so cool.


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