Jan 24, 2012

Interesting Psak From Rav Elyashiv: Torah Scroll and Zuto Shel Yam

An interesting question was raised by the leaders of a community from Baltimore visiting Rav Asher Weiss on Ramot.

They showed Rav Weiss a Torah scroll that had survived the war, World War II and the Holocaust, and they wanted to use it in their shul in Baltimore. The question they asked is if using such a torah, as they never received permission from the original owners or the original community whom had, presumably, been wiped out by the Nazis, might be considered stealing.

Rav Weiss did some research and supposedly responded that there is no problem for them to use it. Rav Weiss then went to Rav Elyashiv and discussed the issue with him. Rav Elyashiv paskened that there is nothign wrong with using this Torah scroll, as it is considered having been saved from "zuto shel yam" - it is like it was washed out to sea by the waves. (source: Anashnews)
The halacha of "zuto shel yam" is that such an object is considered hefker, as the original owners had automatically given up hope of ever retrieving it.

Considering how ill Rav Elyashiv is, and has been recently, this discussion and psak must have happened a while back.


  1. Does this apply to stolen art and so forth?

  2. Doesnt mean it happened so long ago. Look at bechadrei or kikar today. He is on the ball, BH

    Yamim al yemei melech tosif

  3. "a Torah scroll that had survived the war, World War II and the Holocaust,"

    Amazing, that one Torah scroll was able to survive so many different disasters!

    "Does this apply to stolen art and so forth?"

    Does what apply?

  4. > psak must have happened a while back.

    Kofer! Despite being in a near coma and barely able to breathe he is learning 7 dafs of gemara before breakfast every day!

    Seriously though, wouldn't there be another reason you could use this Torah? A person is generally pleased when a mitzvah is done with his possessions. Why could they simply start using it and announce that if a representative of that community appears he's welcome to the Torah?

  5. S - my thoughts would be that art stolen by the Nazis in world war 2 would have the same status.

    Garnel - there is such a halacha but it does not apply to everything. for example, in shulchan aruch it says it doesnt apply to seforim, because they could get ruined. others say that nowadays printing is cheap so it does apply to seforim. I dont remember if it applies to sifrei torah, but i think it doesnt. that would be unless you make an exception in sucha case where it is fairly obvious the original owner would want it to be used.

  6. A bigger issue is that Torah scrolls from that era are usually in terrible condition (I do spot repairs every so often). These things have a shelf life, and people's sentimentality often clouds that out.

    1. True though often they are repaireable, albeit sometimes requiring serious renovations. My shillings in chicago fixed up such a torah many years ago


Related Posts

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...