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Rabbi Ephraim Oshry

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Birthplace: Kupiškis, Kupiškis district municipality, Panevėžys County, Lithuania
Death: Died
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About Rabbi Ephraim Oshry

Responsa From the Holocaust by Ephraim Oshry | April 1, 2013 in History

Rabbi Ephraim Oshry served as the spiritual leader of the Kovno Ghetto during the Holocaust. Highly regarded as a scholar, he was presented with many questions about Jewish law amidst the hardships of ghetto life. Rabbi Oshry wrote the questions and answers on scraps of paper torn from concrete sacks, placed these notes into tin cans, and then buried them. These questions reflect the dilemmas faced by Jews in the Holocaust and serve as a historic record of how the Jews in the Kovno Ghetto were determined to live by Jewish law despite the inhuman, horrifying conditions.

After the liberation of Kovno in August 1944, Rabbi Oshry retrieved the hidden archive and published five volumes of responsa. A sampling of these responsa, taken from Rabbi Oshry’s Responsa From the Holocaust, follows.

Responsa From the Holocaust, written by Rabbi Ephraim Oshry. Translated by Y. Leiman (New York, 2001). Excerpted with permission from the Oshry family.

Risking One’s Life to Join the Partisans Question:Every day the Germans would take more than 1,000 people to slave labor at the airfield near Kovno. Whenever they found it difficult to fill that quota, they immediately grew infuriated and swept through the ghetto in a murderous mood to capture additional Jews. This was before they placed the burden of supplying the 1,000 men for each of the two shifts every day on the Eltestenrat (Council of Elders).

When the Germans swept through the ghetto, they would attack unarmed Jews, beat them mercilessly, and do what they could to denigrate them. In the ghetto, every day was worse than the previous one. Countless new edicts were issued to confuse and frighten Jews.

One day a report spread through the ghetto that the Germans had decided to transfer a large number of people to another camp. We knew that this meant a death camp. On the heels of this rumor came a new one. A large number of ghetto prisoners were planning to escape that night to join the partisan units in the forests that were fighting a guerilla war against the Germans. At least that way they could stand up to the enemy.

The problem, however, was that the road to the forest was extremely dangerous. In addition, the ghetto was surrounded by an electrified barbed wire fence—touching it was suicidal—and watchtowers with machine-gun-armed German sentries who were on duty day and night. If all that might not keep the Jews from escaping, a great searchlight lit up the entire area outside the ghetto.

The partisans lacked weapons and, as a rule, they accepted only people who brought their own weapons. This rule increased the risk of escaping from the ghetto. Any Jew found outside the ghetto would immediately be killed by the Germans. But if they caught a Jew with a weapon in his possession, his treatment would be far worse than a quick, simple death.

To add to all these dangers, most partisan groups in the forests had little desire to accept Jews. Anti-Semites themselves, the partisans were fighting the Germans for their own reasons, and a Jew who fell into their “protective” hands more often than not paid with his life.

In consideration of all these factors, I was asked whether Jewish law permitted a ghetto prisoner to risk escaping into the forest in the hope that G-d would help him stay alive.

There seemed to be two approaches to take: Within the ghetto, the danger to one’s life was certain, whereas escaping put new hope into one’s life. The standard ghetto joke the prisoners used to express the certainty of death within the ghetto walls was to call the ghetto dwellers, “dead men on vacation.” In other words, we looked upon ourselves as dead men, whose lives were no more than temporary reprieves.

Even during the periods when there were no Akzionen (roundups), the lives of the Jews in the ghetto were always in peril. For any little infraction, the Germans would shoot to kill. It made no difference whether the German imagined that the Jew had been disrespectful to him, or whether the Jew had a crumb of food in his clothing when he came back from slave labor. The ghetto itself constituted an immediate danger to life, whereas life outside was not as absolutely dangerous. Outside the ghetto there was always a vital element of uncertainty: one might survive.

On the other hand, one could make the following evaluation: Life in the ghetto posed no immediate danger. Other rumors had it that those who remained in the ghetto would come to no harm so long as they worked and fulfilled all the German demands, while the danger to those who escaped to the forest came not only from Germans but also from Lithuanians who either handed such Jews back to the Germans or killed them themselves.

Response: It seemed to me that living in the ghetto was definitely a danger to life. The entire purpose of isolating the Jews and imprisoning them in ghettos was solely to rob them of everything they possessed, to enslave them for their labor value, and then to destroy them physically. On the other hand, escaping to the forest offered the survivor another chance at life. Whoever gathered up the courage and decided to escape did so only after thoroughly investigating and weighing his chances.

From time to time we saw partisans inside the ghetto, evidently getting in—and out again—without trouble. Anyone who wished to join them was given instructions as to how to find his way through the forest partisan hideouts. Although the paths were risky, the partisans obviously survived. Clearly, the accursed Germans’ declaration against the Jews made it obligatory for the Jews to fight back and do to them as they were doing to us.

I therefore ruled that one should not undermine the spirit of those who wished to escape to the forest. Rather, one should encourage and support them, and give them every possible assistance in obtaining weapons and ammunition so that when they arrived they would be ready to fight.

Reciting Kaddish for a Gentile Woman

Question:During the days of affliction when the accursed Germans mercilessly annihilated young and old, men and women, the Lithuanian gentiles, with whom the Jews had lived for hundreds of years, conspired with the German murderers to kill Jews and loot their property. They sought out the Jews wherever they were hiding and whenever they caught one immediately handed him over to their German masters who proceeded to torture and kill the Jew.

Despite the violent hatred that the gentiles had for the Jews, a hatred which the Germans fanned into a flame of vengeance, there were among them unique individuals who were anguished by the cruelty committed against Jews and would not sit by doing nothing. Whatever they did, though, was done at an enormous risk because the Germans immediately shot anyone they suspected of aiding Jews. Nevertheless, such people existed and they saved Jews at whatever cost.

In 1945, shortly after our liberation, Reb Moshe Segal came to me with the following question: He had been saved by a gentile woman who, at enormous risk to herself, had hidden him in her basement together with ten other Jews, providing them all with food and shelter until the liberation. After the war, when these Jews wanted to repay her in some way for her great compassion, they discovered to their deep sorrow that she had died right after the liberation. The idea took root in their minds to say Kaddish for her, and Reb Moshe Segal was chosen for the task. His question was, Was it permissible to say Kaddish for a gentile?

Response: Basically, Kaddish is a prayer of praise to G-d. When Rabbi Nathan of Babylonia was appointed Exilarch, the cantor used to add in Kaddish the phrase, “In your lifetime and in your days and in the lifetime of our Exilarch and in the lifetime of all the Jewish people.” Similarly, in the days of Maimonides, they used to add in the Kaddish, “In your lifetime and in the lifetime of our master Moshe ben Maimon.”

In this vein of mentioning others in the Kaddish, it is plainly permissible to say Kaddish in memory of the gentile woman who saved so many Jews from death…. Not only is it permissible to say Kaddish with her in mind, it is a mitzva to do so.

Eating Soaked Matza to Fulfill the Passover Mitzva

Question:In the winter of 5702 (1942), several months before Passover, many of the Jews in the Kovno Ghetto began to try to figure out ways to fulfill the mitzva of eating matza on Pessach. At that time even the most basic foods were not available in the ghetto, let alone white flour from which matza is normally baked. The ghetto prisoners ate whatever they could get their hand on because the black bread that was rationed out was never enough to keep away hunger, and the Germans guarded against any food getting into the ghetto.

Precisely because of this plight, people made every effort not to be ensnared by depression or apathy but to retain their spirits and their psychological strength, hoping that the evil forces would ultimately be destroyed and the prisoners set free. Many of the ghetto prisoners perceived that the only means available to them of opposing the will of their accursed German warders was to maintain some form of Torah study, along with keeping the mitzvos so that the Jewish character would not be destroyed.

Toward this end, I organized a small secret group of men who undertook to find ways and means of obtaining flour so that they could bake matzos and fulfill, at the very least, the mitzva of eating an olive-sized piece of matza on Passover Eve. One member of the group was Moshe Goldkorn—may G-d avenge him—a Polish Jew who had escaped the German murderers and found his way to Lithuania, only to be cast into the Kovno Ghetto along with us. This man labored in the Jordan Brigade and came into contact with Lithuanians with whom he could barter for flour.

Our next problem was how to get the flour into the ghetto, since the Germans guarded each one of the entrances, and were especially careful that no food, from potatoes to bread, should get in through the gates undetected.

But Goldkorn took it upon himself—literally at the risk of his life—to locate a source for flour, and from time to time to smuggle a small amount into the ghetto. His joy at being granted the merit of making it possible for Jews to fulfill the great mitzva of eating matza was enormous.

The flour was hidden in a secret place guarded very carefully so that no harm would come to it. Bit by bit, Goldkorn smuggled in enough flour to bake matzos for nearly 100 Jews, each of whom would receive one olive-sized piece of matzo. As Pessach drew nearer, the members of this group, at the risk of their lives, managed to bake the matzos in Block C, die Kleine Werkstaten [small workshops], where bread was baked for the ghetto families. With permission from the directors of the Werkstaten, this group managed to bake all the matzos over a 10-day period after preparing the oven according to Halacha.

But the happiest of them all was Goldkorn, for he had merited the privilege of bringing the flour in, not only for himself, but for the other Jews. At that time, it was indeed a very great mitzva that Goldkorn had fulfilled—providing the means for so many people to fulfill this aspect of the holiday of freedom in according with Halacha, inspiring hope in his fellow-Jews that they might yet live to celebrate this holiday with joy after the defeat of their German enemies.

Two days before Passover, Goldkorn was returning from his labor in the evening. He was stopped by German police and searched. A small bag of flour was found on his person. When the Germans realized that a Jew, despite their strict orders to bring no food into the ghetto, had dared violate their edict, they beat him violently and viciously all along his entire body, but the worst of it was that they broke all of his teeth. Yes this Jew, throughout all of his suffering, accepted it with love for his Creator, knowing that he had made it possible for so many others to fulfill a precious mitzva. Afterward, Goldkorn came to me with a very serious problem. As he spoke, he broke into tears. “With my broken teeth, how can I fulfill the mitzva of eating an olive-sized piece of matza? Since I come from a chassidic family, whose custom is never to eat matza that is soaked (gebroktz) on Pessach, how can I break that custom now? Is there any way for me to fulfill the mitzva of eating matza?”

Response: The tradition of not soaking matza is a stringency. Halacha does not forbid soaking matza. I allowed the questioner to soak the matza in water even though he was descended from Chassidim whose custom was not to eat soaked matza on Pessach—because he had no other way of fulfilling the mitzva, a mitzva for which he had risked his life. I did however instruct him to obtain permission from a beis din of three people which would annul the implicit vow of the tradition of his forbears that he had upheld all his life not to eat soaked matza on Pessach.

After we set up a beis din which annulled his “vow,” he proceeded to fulfill the mitva of eating an olive’s bulk of matza together with all the others who, thanks to him, fulfilled this mitzva. Although his whole body was aching and scarred from the vicious beating the German animals had inflicted upon him, there was no end to his joy and his thanks to G-d for granting him the privilege of eating matza despite his wounds and his broken teeth.

Donning Tefilin Before Bar Mitzva

Question: In the ghetto hell, we discovered that the main design of the Germans was to strip away our divine image and to show the world that Jews were a subhuman species whose blood could be shed with fear of punishment; that killing a Jew was like killing a fly: not only had no crime been committed, but you had done the world a favor by getting rid of a troublesome creature.

Part of their overall plan to develop a smooth-running machine for the annihilation of the Jews was the effort to instill in their victims a spirit of despondency so pervasive and deep that it would destroy whatever sense of hope we Jews might have, and leave nothing but broken shells to be led like cattle and sheep to the slaughter.

That is why I took it upon myself to encourage and inspire the brokenhearted, to inject within them the spark of hope, the belief that HaShem, the G-d of the Jews, would turn away His fury, heed our prayers, and not leave us in the hands of our enemies.

I organized a group of boys called Tiferes Bachurim, whom I taught Torah and the fear of G-d, implanting in them the seeds for eternal living that would sprout from doing G-d’s will wholeheartedly.

Among the boys in the Tiferes Bachurim was an extraordinary boy from Kovno named Shereshevsky who dedicated himself totally to the study of Torah. Even though he was not yet bar mitzva, he was as precise as an adult in his fulfillment of mitzvos. This extraordinary boy asked me if he might be permitted to don tefilin, despite the fact that his bar mitzva was 3 months away.

When I fathomed the simple sincerity of this boy’s request, tears gushed from my eyes. I could not help citing the words of the prophet Yirmeyohu, “Who would grant that my head be water, my eyes a source of tears that I could day and night bewail the dead of my nation, for death has come up in our windows, has entered our houses, to destroy the youth outside, our chosen ones from the streets.”

Response: I ruled that that precious child who had such a great desire to merit the privilege of fulfilling this mitzva because he feared that he might not live to fulfill it if he waited to reach 13, certainly had authorization for donning tefilin. I relied on the opinions that permit a minor to don tefilin if he knows to guard them in cleanliness. This was certainly applicable to the Shereshevsky boy who had already demonstrated his fear of G-d and was a Talmud student aware and capable of maintaining the degree of bodily cleanliness required to don tefilin.

Moreover, since he was three months short of his thirteenth birthday, I relied on the prevailing custom that a boy don tefilin 2 or 3 months before his bar mitzva.

Although I had ruled that he might don the tefilin even though he was still a minor, I warned him that if he should find himself with nine other Jews who wished to count him as the tenth for a minyan, he was obligated to let them know that he was not yet old enough to be counted into a minyan.

New edicts by the German taskmasters were issued against us every day; especially upon Jewish children. Who could assure this boy that he would ever reach the age of 13 to fulfill the mitzva? This was why he could not wait to don tefilin.

This article was featured in Jewish Action Summer 2008.

there are 5 volumes of ממעמקים that can be downloaded from:

http://www.hebrewbooks.org/22145

http://www.hebrewbooks.org/22293

http://www.hebrewbooks.org/22144

http://www.hebrewbooks.org/22097

http://www.hebrewbooks.org/22143

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Ephraim Oshry (1914-2003), author of The Annihilation of Lithuanian Jewry, was one of the few European rabbis and poseks to survive the Holocaust.

Born in Kupiškis, Lithuania in 1914, he studied alongside some of the most prominent and revered Jewish leaders and rabbis of his time. When the Nazis invaded Kaunas in 1941 during World War II, Oshry's community was forced into the Kaunas Ghetto and Concentration Camp.

In his book, The Annihilation of Lithuanian Jewry, Oshry tells his story of living through the Holocaust. Besides the horrific details of how the Nazis and their Lithuanian collaborators viciously murdered innocent Jews, Oshry focuses on the spiritual life of the Jews living in the Kaunas Ghetto and Concentration Camp; these tortured Jews, despite being starved and beaten, continued to study Torah in secret and to risk their lives in order to fulfill God's commandments.

While in the Kaunas Ghetto and Concentration Camp, Oshry began writing his responsa to the Holocaust, answering very difficult questions concerning human nature, God, and Jewish ethics. Before the final battle between the Nazis and the Soviets, Oshry buried his responsa. After the war, he retrieved them and they were published in Hebrew under the title: She'eilos Uteshuvos Mima'amakim. There is also an abbreviated version in English (with much of the halakhic argumentation removed): Responsa from the Holocaust.

After Kaunas was liberated in August 1944, Oshry and his wife Frieda Greenzwieg, a survivor of Auschwitz, went to Rome. There Oshry started a yeshiva for orphaned refugee children. In 1950 he brought with him all of his yeshiva students when he and his family moved to Montreal. They came to New York in 1952 where Oshry became the rabbi of Beth Hamedrash Hagadol. Oshry opened two yeshivas in the East Bronx. Also Yeshiva Shaar Ephraim is named after him and is run by Oshry's son-in-law.

Oshry died on September 28, 2003 in New York; he was survived by his wife and nine children.

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Rabbi Ephraim Oshry, 89, religious scholar, dies

By Albert Amateau

Rabbi Ephraim Oshry, leader for 50 years of the landmarked synagogue Beth Hamedrash Hagadol on the Lower East Side and venerated among Orthodox Jews as a sage of the Torah and author of a five-volume religious response to the Holocaust, died on Sunday afternoon, Sept. 28, the second day of the Jewish New Year, in Mt. Sinai Hospital at the age of 89.

He was revered for the influence of his character on succeeding generations of the congregation as much as for his scholarship. “He was known as a Posek, a term bestowed on a man whom people can ask the difficult questions of life,” said Victor B. Zybernagel, a member of Congregation Beth Hamedrash Hagadol at 16 Norfolk St. for 30 years.

Born in Kupishok, Lithuania, in 1914, Ephraim Oshry studied with the great rabbis of the day. He was interned in a concentration camp near Kovno, Lithuania, by the Nazi invaders during World War II. His first wife and their children died in the camps before the end of the war. In 1949, he married Frieda Greenzwieg, a survivor of Auschwitz, said his son-in-law, Rabbi Mendel Greenbaum.

The volumes on the religious response to the Holocaust were begun while he was in the camp, written in Hebrew on bits of paper, which were buried and retrieved after the war, according to Zybernagel. It was the rabbi’s life work. A one-volume version in English won a National Jewish Book Award several years ago, he said.

Rabbi Oshry and his wife left Lithuania and landed in Rome where the rabbi organized a yeshiva for orphaned refugee children. In 1950 he managed to bring all the yeshiva students with him when he moved with his family to Montreal. They came to New York in 1952 where he was invited to be the rabbi of Beth Hamedrash Hagadol, a congregation founded in 1852. The family has long made its home in the Seward Park Co-op on E. Broadway.

For several years Rabbi Oshry ran two yeshivas, one for boys and the other for girls, in the East Bronx. He is also the patron of a yeshiva named after him in Monsey N.Y., Shaar Ephraim, run by a son-in-law, Zelig Greenberg.

Rabbi Oshry is survived by his wife, three daughters and six sons. He designated his son-in-law Rabbi Mendel Greenbaum, to succeed him at Beth Hamedrash Hagadol.

The funeral was at the synagogue on Mon. Sept. 29.

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Responsa by Rabbi Ephraim Oshry in the Kovno Ghetto

Question: May it be explained whether it is permissible to save oneself, and thereby cause another to be killed.

I was asked the following in the Kovno ghetto, on 23 Elul 5701 (September 15, 1941): Jordan, accursed be his name, Commander for Ghetto Affairs in Kovno, had given the Altestenrat (Council of Elders) 5,000 white cards ("Jordan permits"), which were to be distributed among the craftsmen and their families, and only those who had cards would remain. At that time there were almost 30,000 Jewish souls in the ghetto, and among them about 10,000 craftsmen and their families. There was a great tumult, and those who were strongest snatched the cards from the Altestenrat.

And now the first question is whether it is permissible for the Altestenrat to take the cards and distribute them among the craftsmen in accordance with the orders of Jordan, accursed be his name? The second question is whether it is permissible for the craftsmen to snatch these cards and to push away their comrades among the craftsmen who will remain over and above the number of 5,000 cards, and what will be with them?

[Answer:] ...It is possible to say that in this case all the craftsmen are in a sense partners in all the cards, for it is conceded that they were given for all of them, and therefore all have a share in them. And if so, then each one may snatch who has a share in them. And later, when I came to write, I was shown by my distinguished friend, our Rabbi and teacher Israel Gostman, may he live good days, Amen, the head of the Torah School at the Yeshiva of Lubavitch, that the commentary of Rabbi Eliezer Edels (Maharsha) on the Tractate Baba Metzia [of the Talmud] 62 states: "If a flask of water (which can sustain but one person) belongs to two (men), then Rabbi Akiva accepts the position of Ben Petora, that in this case both should die rather than one drink and witness the death of his friend. This, therefore, represents a position opposite to the one we proposed, for if we consider them partners then they may not snatch [the permits], for that would make them as one who takes a thing from his fellow and saves himself by means of a thing that belongs to the other.

But while all this must be considered, it may be said that in this case the ruling does not apply, for it is not a matter of a specific person; it had been the intention of the evil ones, may they be accursed, to destroy all, but now there is a way to save a few by means of the permits that have been issued, and thus acceptance of the cards and their distribution becomes a matter of saving [persons]. Later I heard from the revered and learned Rabbi A.D. Schapira, may he be remembered as a just man and blessed, the head of the Rabbinical Court of Kovno, that when the order went out on 6 Heshvan 5702 from the evil ones, accursed be their names, to the Altestenrat that it should post a notice on 8 Heshvan 5702 (October 26, 1941) that all the occupants of the ghetto -- men, women and children -- be assembled at the Demokraten Platz, the Altestenrat came to ask the head of the Rabbinical Court what they should do in accordance with the laws of the Torah, for it was known that a great part of those who assembled would be doomed to die. After he had considered the matter, the head of the Rabbinical Court ruled as follows: if the order was made that a community in Israel be destroyed, and if by some means it was possible to save a small part of the people, then the heads of the community must gather up courage in their souls, and it is their responsibility to act and to save who may be saved. And therefore in this case it appears that taking and distributing the permits is also a matter of rescue and it is not appropriate to rule in this case according to the law for an individual and therefore the Altestenrat is required to accept the permits and to distribute them.

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Question: Are infants subject to the commandment to sanctify the Name of God by martyrdom?

I was asked on 3 and 4 Nisan 5704 [March 27-28, 1944] in the Kovno Ghetto, in the days of the killing and loss and terrible fate for the glory of our offspring, concerning our children and infants, the children of Israel.

In their desire to save their children, the parents devised a way: they bought birth certificates from the unbelievers and abandoned the children at the orphanage of the unbelievers in order that the unbelievers might think that the abandoned child was also an unbeliever. The parents also gave the children to priests and wrote to the priests that the children had been converted from their faith. Is this permissible?

2. Is it permissible to give the children to the unbelievers to hide until after the war and the fall of Hitler, may his name be accursed, where there is doubt that the parents will remain alive and therefore the children will be bound to remain among the unbelievers and live in their faith and their ways?

[Answer:] ...If the child is not given to the unbelievers it is certain that it will die, and if they are among the unbelievers they will live, and it is possible that the parents may remain alive and take the child back and return it to Judaism, and it is possible that the unbelievers themselves may return the child to a Jewish institution, and there are many possibilities in favor. And the Almighty in His goodness will have mercy on the remnants of His oppressed people and not add further to their suffering, and we shall witness the consolation of Zion and of Jerusalem.

E. Oshry, Sefer Divre Ephraim ("The Sayings of Ephraim"), New York, 1949, pp. 95-96, 101-102.

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October 5, 2003

Ephraim Oshry, 89, a Scholar In Secret During the Holocaust

By DOUGLAS MARTIN

Rabbi Ephraim Oshry, whose interpretations of religious law helped sustain Lithuanian Jews during Nazi occupation and were buried in tin cans for retrieval and publication after the Holocaust, died on Sept. 28 at Mount Sinai Hospital in Manhattan. He was 89.

Rabbi Oshry was a young rabbinical scholar in Kaunas, the second-largest city in Lithuania, when the Nazis invaded on June 23, 1941.

After the city's Jews were herded into the ghetto, the Nazis made him custodian of the warehouse where Jewish books were stored for a planned exhibit of artifacts of the extinct Jewish race. Rabbi Oshry used them to make interpretations of religious law, traditionally called responsa, to help people continue to live as Jews in seemingly impossible circumstances.

Could a penniless widow remove gold from her murdered husband's teeth? Rabbi Oshry said no, because it would be a desecration of his corpse.

Could one perform a Caesarean section on a dead woman? The rabbi said that when saving a life is involved, avoiding the desecration of the dead is of lower priority.

But he determined that even to save his life, a Jew could not buy a Christian baptism certificate, and he said a Jew had no right to commit suicide.

Rabbi Oshry did more than bring centuries of rabbinical precedent to his judgments on questions of observance. He held secret nightly worship services in various hideouts and helped people maintain Jewish practices, including continuing to bake matzos under the threat of death.

Indeed, he saw the persistence of Jewish life as the highest kind of resistance against the Nazis. Many Jews might not survive, he said, but Judaism would.

One resists with a gun, the rabbi said in an interview with The New York Times in 1975, another with his soul.

Rabbi Oshry's mother and two sisters died in the Holocaust. He is survived by his wife, Fraida; his daughters, Chana Weinstock of Brooklyn, Chaya Greenberg of Monsey, N.Y., and Leah Greenbaum of Brooklyn; his sons, Moshe, of Israel, Dov, of Brooklyn, Jacob, of Monsey, Zelig, of Brooklyn, Yisroel, of Brooklyn, and Yehuda, of Monsey; and 40 grandchildren and 8 great-grandchildren.

After three and a half years of Nazi occupation, Soviet troops liberated the Jews in the ghetto of Kaunas. Rabbi Oshry took 65 children on a circuitous route to Rome, gathering more along the way. There he set up a yeshiva in a large villa donated by an Italian Jew. He moved to Montreal, where he set up another religious school, and finally to New York, where in 1952 he became rabbi of Beth Hamedrash Hagadol on the Lower East Side.

At first, more than 1,000 people a day came to services at the synagogue, one of the city's oldest. Rabbi Mendel Greenbaum, who succeeds him as rabbi, said that congregants had dwindled as many aged and moved elsewhere but Rabbi Oshry worked tirelessly to keep the synagogue going.

About 15 years ago, Rabbi Oshry established a yeshiva for gifted boys from 14 to 17 years old in Monsey, N.Y.

Rabbi Oshry was born in August 1914 in the town of Kupishok, near the city of Ponevezh, in north central Lithuania. His father died when he was 11. He studied with legendary rabbis at the Slobodka yeshiva, which was widely known in the world of Jewish scholarship.

During the occupation, he carefully recorded the questions of Lithuanian Jews as well as his responses, writing them on bits of paper torn from cement sacks he carried on forced labor and burying them in tin cans.

He dug up the cans after he was freed and began writing out his notes when he reached Rome. He continued for years, taking care to cite the precise history of rabbinical opinion behind each decision.

Such responsa have been part of the Jewish tradition for about a thousand years, with more than 250,000 decisions recorded. The Holocaust brought up many new and exceedingly difficult questions that many rabbis struggled to answer, though probably few with more personal experience than Rabbi Oshry.

He ended up writing five volumes of questions and answers, which he published himself in five volumes, one at a time, in Hebrew. In 1971, Volume 2 won the National Jewish Book Award for best book on the Holocaust; in 1974, Volume 4 received the same honor. A book of excerpts in English was published by Judaica Press.

Some questions had more relevance to life after the Holocaust. One young woman asked if she could have the number tattooed on her arm by the Nazis removed. Rabbi Oshry answered no, because it would erase a memory of the great crime, which was exactly what the evildoers wanted.

The rabbi firmly believed that it was recorded memory that enabled the Jews to persist spiritually. In his book The Annihilation of Lithuanian Jewry, he referred to the sum of holy scripture as the Book and wrote:

Jews were somehow able to part with everything that defined their place in life -- home, business, job -- but the one thing they could not part with was the Book.

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מקור: הרב דב בריש Wiedenfeld (של Trzebinia), דובב Mesharim, בסעיף 15, עמ ' 20.

מקור: הרב דב בריש Wiedenfeld (של Trzebinia), דובב Mesharim, סעיף 18, עמ ' 24

מקור: דב בריש Wiedenfeld (של Trzebinia), דובב Mesharim, בסעיף 16, עמ ' 22

מקור: הרב דב בריש Wiedenfeld (של Trzebinia), דובב Mesharim, בסעיף 11, עמ ' 16

About הרב אפרים אשרי נפטר ב תשרי תשס"ד (עברית)

Oshry מנהיג במשך 50 שנה של הכנסת ציון בת Hamedrash הגדול, על האיסט סייד של ניו יורק , ו נערץ בקרב יהודים אורתודוקסים כמו החכם של התורה מחבר דתיים בחמישה כרכים בתגובה השואה, מת ב -28 בספטמבר 2003 בגיל 89.

במהלך מלחמת העולם השנייה, מונה על ידי הנאצים כשומר של מחסן הספרים היהודי יאוחסן על התערוכה של "ממצא של נכחד הגזע היהודי", אך השתמשו ספרים לקיים שירותי פולחן סודי. רשימותיו על דתיים התגובה השואה, כתוב עברית על פיסות נייר, נקברו והוציא אחרי מלחמת לאור בסופו של דבר חמישה כרכים עברית ב. אחד הכרכים, יצא לאור באנגלית בשנת 1989, זכה בפרס הספר היהודי הלאומי עבור הספר הטוב ביותר על השואה, היה זכאי שו"ת מן השואה. זה לא רק של הדתיים הגדולים, אך חשיבותו ההיסטורית גם.

בנוסף אלה עובד, הוא ידוע בעיקר Khurbn ליטה ב אנגלית העבודה שלו השמדת יהדות ליטא, שפורסם בשנת 1995, שלו תורגמו ליידיש העבודה. זה פרטים בסוף בגטו קובנה ורשומות גורלו של ארבעים ושבעה אחרים shtetls היהודי כולל של Kupiskis. ספר זה משמש כמקור העיקרי של החוקרים המשפחה היהודית ביותר. הוא נחקר גם על ידי Anschel שטראוס שמשפחתו Gafanowitz בא Kupiskis על מנהגי או העיקרים כי Kupishokers בעקבות בחיי היומיום.

הוא היה נערץ על ההשפעה של הדמות שלו על הדורות הבאים של העדה ככל למלגה שלו. "הוא היה ידוע בתור פוסק, מונח העניק לאדם שאותו אנשים יכולים לשאול את השאלות הקשות של החיים," אמר ויקטור ב Zybernagel, חבר קהילת בית Hamedrash הגדול ב 16 נורפולק סנט במשך שלושים שנה.

הרב Oshry למד אצל הרבנים הגדולים של היום. הוא היה כלוא במחנה ריכוז ליד קובנה , ליטא , על ידי הפולשים הנאצים במהלך מלחמת העולם השנייה. אשתו הראשונה וילדיהם מתו במחנות לפני תום המלחמה. בשנת 1949, הוא נשוי פרידה Greenzwieg, ניצול אושוויץ , והם היו שלוש בנות ושישה בנים.

הוא ואשתו עזבו ליטא והלך רומא שם הרב ארגנה הישיבה, ישיבת Me'or HaGolah, עבור ילדים פליטים יתומים. בשנת 1950 הוא הצליח להביא את כל תלמידי הישיבה איתו כאשר הוא עבר עם משפחתו למונטריאול . הם באו ניו יורק בשנת 1952 שבו הוזמן להיות הרב של בית Hamedrash הגדול, קהילה שנוסדה בשנת 1852.

במשך כמה שנים הרב Oshry רץ שתי ישיבות, אחת לבנים והשנייה לבנות, ב במזרח הברונקס . הוא גם הפטרון של ישיבה על שמו ב מונסיי, ניו יורק , שער אפרים, המנוהלת על ידי בנו של החוק, זליג גרינברג.

הרב אפרים Oshry

ז"ל 1914-2003

שאלות ותשובות על ידי Oshry אפרים הרב של גטו קובנה

שאלה: יהי הסביר אם מותר להציל את עצמו, ובכך לגרום עוד ייהרגו.

נשאלתי הבא קובנה בגטו, על 23 אלול 5701 (15 בספטמבר 1941): ג 'ורדן, ארור יהיה שמו, מפקד גטו קובנה לענייני, נתן את האלטסטנרט (מועצת הזקנים) 5,000 כרטיסים לבנים ("ג' ורדן היתרים "), אשר היו אמורים להיות מופצים בקרב בעלי מלאכה ובני משפחותיהם, ורק מי שהיה לו כרטיסי יישאר. באותו זמן היו כמעט 30,000 נפשות יהודיות בגטו, ובהם כ -10,000 בעלי מלאכה ובני משפחותיהם. היתה מהומה גדולה, וגם אלה שהיו החזקים חטף את הקלפים האלטסטנרט.

ועכשיו השאלה הראשונה היא האם מותר האלטסטנרט כדי לקחת את הכרטיסים ולחלק אותם בקרב בעלי מלאכה בהתאם לפקודות של ג 'ורדן, ארור יהיה שמו? השאלה השנייה היא האם מותר מלאכה כדי לחטוף אותם כרטיסי להרחיק חבריהם בקרב בעלי מלאכה שיישארו מעבר למספר של 5,000 כרטיסים, ומה יהיה איתם?

[תשובה:] ... אפשר לומר שבמקרה זה כל בעלי המלאכה הם במובן מסוים שותפים כל הקלפים, שכן הוא הודה כי הם ניתנו לכל אחד מהם, ולכן כל יש לשתף אותם . ואם כן, אז כל אחד יכול לחטוף את מי יש לשתף אותם. ואחר כך, כשאני בא לכתוב, אני הוצגה על ידי חבר מכובד שלי, הרב שלנו מורה בישראל Gostman, הוא יכול לחיות ימים טובים, אמן, ראש בית הספר תורה בישיבה של חב"ד, כי הפרשנות של רבי אליעזר Edels (המהרש"א) על מסכת בבא מציעא [של] התלמוד 62 קובע: "אם בקבוק מים (אשר יכול לקיים, אבל אדם אחד) שייך שני (גברים), אז רבי עקיבא מקבל את העמדה של בן Petora, כי במקרה זה הן צריכות למות ולא אחד לשתות העד מותו של חברו. הזה, ולכן, מייצג עמדה הפוכה לזו שהצענו, שכן אם אנו רואים בהם שותפים אז הם לא יכולים לחטוף [את] מאפשר, כי זה היה להפוך אותם כמי לוקח דבר מן חבריו ושומר את עצמו באמצעות דבר ששייך השני.

אבל בעוד כל זה יש לקחת בחשבון, ניתן לומר כי במקרה זה, פסק הדין אינו חל, שכן הוא לא עניין של אדם ספציפי, זה היה הכוונה של הרשעים, הם עשויים להיות מקולל, להרוס הכל, אבל עכשיו יש דרך להציל כמה באמצעות היתרים כי ניתנו, ולכן קבלת הכרטיסים והפצה שלהם הופכת לעניין של שמירת [] אנשים. אחר כך שמעתי מפי הנערץ ולמדתי הרב א"ד שפירא, ייתכן שהוא ייזכר רק גבר ברוך, ראש בית הדין הרבני של קובנה, שכאשר הצו יצא ב -6 בחשוון 5702 מן הרשעים, ארור יהיה שלהם שמות, כדי האלטסטנרט שהוא צריך לכתוב הודעה על 8 בחשוון 5702 (26 באוקטובר 1941), כי כל דיירי הגטו - גברים, נשים וילדים - להתגודד ליד כיכר Demokraten, הגיע האלטסטנרט כדי לשאול את ראש בית הדין הרבני מה הם צריכים לעשות על פי חוקי התורה, שכן היה ידוע כי חלק גדול מאלה הנאספים יהיה נגזר למות. לאחר ששקל את העניין, ראש בית הדין הרבני קבע כדלקמן: אם הסדר נעשה כי הקהילה בישראל יושמדו, ואם על ידי כמה אמצעים ניתן היה להציל חלק קטן של אנשים, ואז ראשי הקהילה צריכה לאסוף אומץ בנפשם, וזה אחריות שלהם לפעול כדי להציל את אשר ניתן להציל. ולכן במקרה זה נראה כי נטילת וחלוקת ההיתרים הוא גם עניין של הצלה זה לא מתאים לפסוק במקרה זה על פי חוק עבור הפרט ולכן האלטסטנרט וכן נדרש לקבל את האישורים ואת להפיץ אותם .

שאלה: תינוקות כפופים המצווה לקדש את שם האלוהים על קידוש השם?

נשאלתי על 3 ו -4 ניסן 5704 [27-28 מרס 1944] בגטו קובנה, בימים של הרג ואובדן גורל נורא לתפארת צאצאינו, הנוגעות לילדים שלנו ותינוקות, בני ישראל .

בשנת רצונם להציל את ילדיהם, ההורים המציאו דרך: הם קנו תעודות לידה מן הכופרים ונטשו את הילדים בבית היתומים של הכופרים על מנת הכופרים חושבים כי ילד נטוש גם כופר. ההורים גם נתן את הילדים הכוהנים כתב הכהנים כי ילדים שהוסב מהאמונה שלהם. האם זה מותר?

2. האם מותר לתת לילדים את הכופרים להסתתר עד לאחר המלחמה ולאחר נפילת היטלר, ייתכן ששמו יהיה מקולל, שבו אין ספק כי ההורים יישארו בחיים, ולכן הילדים יהיו מחויבים להישאר בין הכופרים ולחיות את אמונתם ואת דרכם?

[תשובה:] ... אם הילד לא ניתנת הכופרים אין ספק כי זה יהיה למות, אם הם בין הכופרים הם ימשיכו לחיות, וזה אפשרי, כי ההורים יכולים להישאר בחיים להחזיר את הילד ולהחזיר אותו ליהדות, וזה אפשרי, כי הכופרים עצמם עשוי להחזיר את הילד היהודי מוסד, ויש אפשרויות רבות בעד. וגם הקב"ה בטוב לבו ירחם שרידי העם המדוכא שלו ולא להוסיף עוד על הסבל שלהם, שנראה העד נחמה ציון בירושלים.

תפילה

הזמן והמקום: Av 9, 5702 (23 ביולי 1942) בגטו קובנה

רקע: בליל תשעה באב, קבוצה של יהודים התאספו לתפילת ערב קריאת Eicha. לפתע, הגרמנים פרצו והורה להם לעבוד במשמרת לילה; לאחר מכן הם היו צריכים לעבוד יום שלם של תשעה באב וכן. הרב Oshry אמר להם לאכול למרות הצום כי הם היו כל כך חלשים.

שאלה: האם אנשים שאוכלים על תשעה באב לדקלם את התפילה Nachem במהלך ברכת המזון (שכן אחד תמיד מזכיר את החג בעת אמירת ברכת המזון בחג)? Nachem, בנוסף Esrei Shemoneh אמר במהלך הטקס אחר הצהריים ביום תשעה באב, היא בקשה כי הקב"ה לנחם את היהודים האבל על ציון וירושלים, וכי הוא לבנות מחדש את ירושלים.

תשובה: הרב הנחה את עובדי הכפייה לומר Nachem בזמן ברכת המזון, אם הם היו אוכלים בזמן המיועד תפילת הצהריים או על אחרים בכל שעה של היום.

מקור: הרב אפרים Oshry, Mi-ma'amakim, חלק 5, שאלה 8, עמ ' 78

הזמן והמקום: 5702 (1942), בוכרה

רקע: במהלך המלחמה, השאלה עלתה על דקלום של קדיש, עקב גבוה שיעור התמותה לבין מיעוט הניצולים. כאשר אין בנים נשארו, כמה אנשים שילמו יהודים אחרים כדי לומר קדיש מטעם המנוח.

שאלה: במאי אדם שנשכר קדיש לעילוי נשמת הנפטר אדם אחד לעשות זאת עבור המנוח אדם אחר גם?

תשובה: הוא יכול להגיד קדיש על נשמותיהם של שני אנשים המנוח, בתנאי שיש לו את זה בחשבון.

תפילה על ידי האילם

הזמן והמקום: 5702 (1942), בגטו קובנה

רקע: הנאצים נכים יהודים רבים באמצעות מכות וצורות אחרות של התעללות אכזרית. יהודי אחד, רבי משה בן אריה של סלובודקה, שתמיד היה מוקדש לעזור לאחרים, סיכן את חייו כדי להשאיר מקום העבודה שלו, לאסוף מזון מן השדות עבור עצמו ואת שאר הפועלים עבדים רעבים. "אבל הוא נתפס על פשעו 'ו, כדי לשמש אזהרה על פושעים אחרים" רעב, "הם היכו אותו באכזריות כך שהוא איבד את שמיעתו ואת היכולת לדבר." למרות פציעות קשות, הוא נשאר צלול היה מסוגל לתקשר בכתב. הוא קיבל את העובדה שהוא היה חירש ואילם, אבל הוא היה מפוזר על חוסר היכולת להיות לתורה, והוא רצה לדעת אם, למרות חירשותו, יוכל להמנות במניין.

שאלה: האם יש דרך להתיר איש אילם להיות לתורה? מה עם מנה במניין, למרות שהוא איבד את שמיעתו?

תשובה: הרב התיר האיש להיכלל במניין מחמת הספק, שכן הוא היה mentis compos ולא היה חירש מלידה. כשקוראים את התורה, לעומת זאת, היה בעייתי. על מנת להקל על דעתו לנחם אותו, הרב הציע לו להיות לתורה יחד עם הקורא, ועל שניהם אפשר לומר את הברכות על התורה יחד.

מקור: הרב אפרים Oshry, Mi-ma'amakim, חלק 3, סעיף 2, עמ ' 25; ובתרגום מקוצר של הרב אפרים Oshry, שו"ת מתקופת השואה (ניו יורק, 2001), pp. 75-76

לראש הדף

תפילין

הזמן והמקום: 5702 (1942), בגטו קובנה

רקע: אחד Oshry תלמידים של הרב היה ילד בשם Szereszewski אשר עדיין לא הגיע לגיל בר מצווה. הנער השתוקק להניח תפילין לפני הבר מצווה שלו, כי הוא פחד שהוא ייהרג אחד בפשיטות של ילדים לעולם לא יגיע ליום ההולדת הי"ג שלו, כאשר הוא יהיה חייב להניח תפילין.

שאלה: במאי הנער להניח תפילין לפני גיל 13? "כשאני לפענח את כנות פשוטה של בקשה זו של ילד, דמעות פרצו מעיני. לא יכולתי להתאפק בצטטו את דברי הנביא Yirmeyohu (ירמיהו)," מי יקנה את זה בראש שלי להיות מים, עיני מקור של דמעות אני יכול יום ולילה להספיד את המתים של האומה שלי, על המוות עלה ב החלונות שלנו, נכנס לבתים שלנו, כדי להרוס את הנוער בחוץ, הנבחרים שלנו מהרחובות. " "

תשובה: הרב Oshry מותר לנער להניח תפילין, שכן קטין יכול ללבוש התפילין למטרות חינוכיות, בתנאי שהוא יודע איך להתייחס אליהם בצורה שלהם קדושת ההולם. הרב מהימן את הילד הזה, אשר חזקה הרצון לבצע את המצווה, העידה על אופיו. עם זאת, הרב הדגיש כי הוא היה צעיר מכדי להיות מנה במניין.

מקור: הרב אפרים Oshry, Mi-ma'amakim, חלק 5, שאלה 10, עמ ' 94; ובתרגום מקוצר של הרב אפרים Oshry, שו"ת מתקופת השואה (ניו יורק, 2001), pp. 115-116

הנחת תפילין בלילה

הזמן והמקום: Tishre 22, 5702 (13 אוקטובר 1941), בגטו קובנה

רקע: עבודה על שדה התעופה ליד קובנה החל בשעה 4 בבוקר, כשעוד היה חושך בחוץ. כל עובד שהגיע באיחור היה עלול להיהרג. העבודה נמשכה עד שעה מאוחרת בלילה.

שאלה: במאי הפועלים להניח תפילין, להתפלל, לדקלם את קריאת שמע לפני העבודה, בזמן שהוא עדיין לילה?

תשובה: הרב פסק כי העובדים יכולים להניח תפילין, בירכו עליהם, ולהתפלל לפני עלות השחר, משום שאין להם זמן אחר לעשות את הדברים האלה כי על כן, חייהם היו בסכנה. ובאשר שמע, הם צריכים לנסות לומר לפחות פסוק אחד במשך היום; אם הם יכולים לעשות יותר, זה יהיה אפילו טוב יותר.

מקור: הרב אפרים Oshry, Mi-ma'amakim, חלק 5, שאלה 2, עמ ' 25 עמ '. 115-116

הזמן והמקום: 5703 (1943), בוכרה

רקע: כי אנשים לא היו לוחות שנה בתקופת המלחמה, הם לא תמיד בטוח מתי שבת היה. הרב Wiedenfeld משווה את האנשים למצב זה הנוסעים במדבר דנו בתלמוד (שבת 69).

שאלה לא. 1: כי התפילין אינם שחוקים בשבת, רשאי אדם להניח תפילין כל שבעת ימי השבוע (מאז הוא לא בטוח מתי שבת)? או שאולי הוא ביצוע עבירה על ידי אמירת הברכה לשווא כאשר הוא מניח תפילין בשבת?

תשובה: כי רוב הימים הם ימי השבוע, אנחנו הולכים לפי הרוב, ולכן הברכה על התפילין עשוי להיות מדוקלם מדי יום. יתר על כן, הסיבה לא הנחת תפילין בשבת כי שבת הוא עצמו סימן ויום כאשר העבודה היא אסורה. אבל בימים אלה, כאשר השואל נאלץ בעל כורחו לעבוד בכל יום בשבוע, הוא נדרש להניח תפילין בכל יום עם ברכה (בהתאם סבור כי יש להניח תפילין בחול המועד, כי העבודה מותר אז).

שאלה לא. 2: אם אדם לא יכול להרשות לעצמי לקנות את התפילין על היד והן על הראש, הוא צריך להגיע?

תשובה: הוא צריך לקנות את התפילין על הראש.

לראש הדף

קריאת התורה

הזמן והמקום: אלול 16, 5701 (8 ספטמבר 1941), בגטו קובנה

רקע: עבודה בשדה התעופה ליד קובנה התקיים ביום ובלילה, כולל בשבת. בתעלות ותעלות, עם כלים בידיהם, עובדי הכפייה היהודים קידמו שבת, לשיר "Lekha דודי" חרישית.

שאלה מה הם צריכים לעשות על קריאת התורה במשך הקיץ, כשהם חוזרים מהעבודה, בעוד היא עדיין היום? מה הם צריכים לעשות על קריאת התורה בימי החורף הקצרים, כשהם לחזור לגטו לאחר צאת השבת נגמרה?

תשובה: כאשר אדם קורא את פרשת מ מודפס ספר (ולא מגילה), הברכות על כשרות אינם דיקלם. עם זאת, אם מגילה nonkosher תורה משמש, הברכות על כשרות ניתן דיקלם.

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וספרי התורה

הזמן והמקום: יום שישי, פרשת משפטים, 5703 (בפברואר 1943), בוכרה

רקע: אין ספר תורה כשר היה זמין לשימוש על שבת במלחמה.

שאלה: איפה כל ספר תורה כשר זמין ואת פרשת הוא קרא מתוך ספר מודפס, אפשר לדקלם את הברכה על כשרות?

תשובה: הרב פסק כי בחודשי הקיץ, כאשר הם מסיימים לעבוד כל עוד יש זמן תפילת הצהריים, הם צריכים לקרוא את התורה הראשון ולאחר מכן להתפלל, כי התורה ניתן לקרוא בכל עת בשבת.

מקור: הרב אפרים Oshry, Mi-ma'amakim, חלק 4, שאלה 1, עמ ' 15

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ברכות

הזמן והמקום: פסח 5701 (1941), פורסט לא. 45, סברדלובסק, סיביר

רקע: בשנת סיבירי ביערות בזמן המלחמה, באיכות הענבים הגבוהה מתאים לייצור יין היו בלתי אפשרי להשיג. (השאלה עלתה על ערב פסח, ככל הנראה בקשר עם ארבע כוסות של יין זה חייב להיות שיכור.)

שאלה WMay אחד לדקלם "בורא פרי hagafen" על היין עשוי צימוקים גרעינים קטנים?

תשובה: כי ענבים גרעינים נחשבים גם הענבים, "בורא פרי hagafen" צריך להיות מדוקלם על היין עשוי מהם.

לראש הדף

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Rabbi Ephraim Oshry's Timeline

1914
1914
Kupiškis, Kupiškis district municipality, Panevėžys County, Lithuania
2003
September 28, 2003
Age 89