For the time being, here are three matters that I wanted to write about.
The Gemara (Bava Kama 87b, Kiddushin 31) brings a machlokes Reb Yehuda and Chachamim whether a blind person is obligated to follow the mitzvos of the Torah. Reb Yehuda holds he is not. It is from our parsha of Ir Miklat, the City of Refuge, that Reb Yehuda derives his opinion. (Chukim = dinim, Dinim = missas beis din, missas beis din = galus, and by galus it says בלא ראות, and בלא ראות teaches us פרט לסומא, so if no galus, no missas beis din, if no missas beis din no chukim, and chukim = all mitzvos.)
Most poskim say that we hold like the Chachamim, that blind people are obligated to do mitzvos like everyone else, but some pasken like Reb Yehuda. (Shaar Tziyun 53:41 and Minchas Chinuch 2:25) The minhag (Mishna Berura 139:13) is that blind people can get an aliya to the Torah (even among the Sfardim, as the Tzitz Eliezer brings in vol. 11 12:2 from the Chida.) The Mechaber, Reb Yosef Karo, paskens that a blind man may not be given an aliyah. As I said, the minhag among both ashkenazim and sefardim has moved away from that opinion. But I saw that someone brings that in Tzfas, where Reb Yosef Karo lived, the minhag to this day is that they do not call a blind man to the Torah. In Tzfas, where the Mechaber lived, he is still the Mara D'Asra, and they still follow his opinion.
The idea that a great posek should be honored in his city, that the city should follow his psak even if normative halacha moves away from that opinion (to the extent that his psak would be called טעה בשיקול הדעת because the סוגיא דעלמא is not like him), is not unique to Tzfas.
- There is, of course, the first Mishna in Reb Eliezer D'Milah, where the town of Rebbi Eliezer followed his halachos lekula even when all the rest of Klal Yisrael paskened not like Rebbi Eliezer.
- In the city of Reb Yosi Haglili, they used to eat chicken with milk. (Chulin 116a)
- A modern day example: when people agitated for an Eiruv in Chicago, the Bnei Torah refused to become involved, because Rav Aharon Soloveichik was strongly opposed to the Eiruv, in that he was chosheish for the Rambam. After Reb Aharon was niftar, the grass roots movement gained momentum, and of course the Chasidim and Baalei Batim didn't care about Reb Aharon's chumra, and so there are eiruvin in Chicago now. But most Bnei Torah still do not carry, lichvod Harav Soloveichik, although the eiruv is kosher according to almost all poskim.
The Rashba (Tshuvos 1:253) says this:
Tshuvos Haran (48)-
Reb Tzadok draws an analogy to medicines. Different patients suffering dissimilar illnesses at distinct times require different - often opposite - Refu'as HaGuf medications. Similarly, different members of Am Yisroel in dissimilar places at distinct times in history require different - often opposite - Refu'as HaNefesh medications. Hashem created a world full of variety and differences. (....) The variations in Halacha correspond to the variations among human beings. (A Kabbalistic explanation of these variations along the lines of chesed and gevurah is cited in the Hakdama to Tanya). The inhabitants of the town of Rabbi Eliezer who cut down trees on Shabbos to make coals to forge knives to perform a Bris Mila that day (according to his opinion in Shabbos 130a that machshirei mila are docheh Shabbos) were therefore fulfilling a mitzva and Retzon Hashem. Their Mara D'Asra, whom Hashem had provided them as a Rofeh HaNefesh, had made such a determination. Inhabitants of any other locality who would engage in the same activity, however, would be liable to capital punishment!
The Gemara in Bava Basra 122a (אלא לקרובה ורחוקה) strongly implies that the closer a tribe's land was to Yerushalayim, the better the portion. This is how the Rashbam learns the Gemara- because it is closer to the Kedusha of Yerushalayim, and farther from the dangerous borders. I once heard from Reb Moshe that one can say the contrary as well- that the farther from Yerushalayim the better, because then you have to walk farther on the Shalosh Regalim, and for every step there is schar halicha (e.g., the woman Reb Yochanan talked to in Sotah 22a). You are placed in a situation where you have to do more hachana. I never understood how he could say that, when the pashtus of the Gemara in Bava Basra is directly opposite. I understand that drush is more flexible, but how can you say the exact opposite of the Gemara? I then saw that the Chasam Sofer here says exactly like Reb Moshe.
There's a news item going around about Rav Shteinman's nixing a new Beis Yaakov because it catered to frum elitism (original article in Hebrew is here.) I want to remind everyone that around a year and a half ago, Rav Steinman expressed this opinion very forcefully and unequivocally here, or http://www.kikarhashabat.co.il/video.php?vid=28285-20044- where someone came to him about whether to let in some kids whose home is more "open," and Rav Shteinman listens calmly, and discusses it in soft tones, until... you have to watch it. See from 3.00 for the fireworks. Poor Rav Steinman. It must be hard to be sane in an insane world. In another example- Haaretz, an agenda-driven newspaper, has no credibility, but in this case they happened to tell the truth. The protesters, by the way, were those refined souls, those אצילי בני ישראל, whose cultural legacy voiced itself in the line I quoted a few weeks ago:
After Reb Chaim Stein was niftar, people said "why did nobody tell me about this great man? Why did I have to wait until it was too late before I was told of what he was? If only I had known, I would have jumped into an airplane and gone to see him before it was too late!"
There was once a Doctor Raphael Moller, a yekke, who occasionally saw the Satmarer Rov. One time, he came into the waiting room, and the Chasidim, seeing a yekke with a short beard, kind of squashed him into a corner. The Rebbe heard he was there and immediately brought him in to his room, and sent his Shamosh out to tell the people in the waiting room that they should take advantage of being able to look at Dr. Moller, because in Olam Haba, they won't be allowed into the same room with him. (Heard from Dr. Moller's grandson, Rabbi Avraham Shimon Moller. We don't make stories up.)
Well, my friends, now you know. There is a Rav Steinman in Bnei Brak. Get over there and look at him. Learn something about him before you go, about his gadlus in Torah, about how little he eats, about his indefatigable energy in chesed and avodas hashem, prepare yourself by understanding what kind of person it is that you will be looking at. In Olam Haba, you might not have the zechus to look at him.