As was the case with the earlier volumes in this series, much of the material presented in this volume originally appeared in my "Survey of Recent Halakhic Literature" which is regularly featured in the columns of Tradition. Those items have been expanded and amplified for presentation in their present form. Other portions of this material were first published in the Journal of Halacha and Contemporary Society. Chapter fifteen, which is devoted to an analysis of the halakhic issues surrounding the Sotheby sale of manuscripts and rare books rescued from Nazi Germany, was first published in the Cardozo Law Review and hence many aspects of law review style have been preserved in the citation of sources in that chapter. Portions of this work served as the subject matter of shi'urim and seminars conducted for students of the Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary and the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law.
The present volume has been divided into two sections. Part I is composed of chapters each of which contains a series of relatively brief discussions of related issues in a given area. The material presented in this section is to a large extent, although by no means exclusively, drawn from current periodical halakhic literature. Each of the chapters in Part II is devoted to an extensive analysis of a single halakhic topic and focuses upon a more wide-ranging array of sources.
This work is not intended to serve as a practical halakhic guide, and, indeed, no attempt has been made to present definitive psak halakhah. It is devoted to an analysis of Halakhah and halakhic reasoning rather than to definitive statements of halakhic determinations. As such, it is directed primarily to those who have at least some background in the study of rabbinic literature but lack the requisite skills or the leisure to assimilate and analyze the maze of responsa pertaining to the topics treated in this volume. It is intended as an invitation to the reader to join in the noblest of Jewish activities and the supremest of joys—the study of Torah.
I wish to express my thanks to my brother-in-law, Rabbi Mordecai Ochs, for his painstaking reading of the manuscript and his many valuable insights; to Rabbi Jacob B. Mandelbaum of the Mendel Gottesman Library of Yeshiva University whose encyclopedic bibliographic knowledge has been of immeasurable aid; to Mrs. Chaya Gordon, Mr. Zvi Erenyi and Mr. Zalman Alpert of the Mendel Gottesman Library for their constant helpfulness and assistance; to Mrs. Els Bendheim, both for her meticulous proofreading of the galleys and for her keen and imaginative editorial comments; and especially to my students for their incisive and relentless questioning.
My thanks also to Dr. Norman Lamm for initiating the Library of Jewish Law and Ethics; to the publisher of this volume, Mr. Bernard Scharfstein for his unfailing indulgence and patience and his warm friendship; and to Dr. Ya'akov Elman and Dr. Richard White for their efforts in shepherding the manuscript through the various stages of publication.
Above all, I am grateful to the Almighty for my cherished collaborators—the members of my family. Our prayer to the Almighty is that we continue to be numbered among the mashkimim le-divrei Torah and, to paraphrase the words of the hadran, ke-shem she-azartanu le-sayyem sefer zeh, ken ta'azrenu le-hatḥil sefarim aḥerim u-le-sayyemam lilmod u-le-lamed lishmor ve-la'asot u-le-kayyem.