Yisrael Meir Kagan

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Rabbi Yisrael Meir Kagan, known as the Chofetz Chaim.

Yisrael Meir (HaCohen) Kagan, also known to students of Judaism as the Chofetz Chaim, was a rabbi, Halakhist and ethicist, born in Zhetel, Poland on February 6, 1838, and died in Radin, Poland, September 15, 1933. His legal surname was "Poupko" but this is seldom used.

He was one of the most influential rabbis within Orthodox Judaism during the late 19th and early 20th century taking a central leadership role in the Agudath Israel movement in Eastern Europe. He is best known by the name of his first book, Chafetz Chayim (חָפֵץ חַיִּים "Seeker/Desire [of] Life") (published in 1873), that deals with the Biblical laws of gossip and slander (known in Hebrew as Lashon Hara meaning "Evil tongue" in Hebrew.)

Some of his other works include: Shmirat HaLashon ("Guarding [of] the Tongue"), Mishnah Berurah ("Clarified teachings") with its commentaries known as the Bi'ur Halacha ("Explanation [of the] law"), and Sha'ar HaTziyyun ("Gate of Distinction").

Sh'mirat HaLashon is a comprehensive discussion of the philosophy behind the Jewish concepts of power of speech and guarding one's speech. It also serves as an inspirational work designed to motivate the reader to be vigilant in the ethical usage of his speech and avoidance of others' unethical speech.

Mishnah Berurah is a unique commentary on the Orach Chayim section of Rabbi Yosef Karo's comprehensive compilation of practical Jewish Law, the Shulkhan Arukh. It combines his own elucidations and differing opinions with those of earlier commentators.

Bi'ur Halacha is a commentary tangential to the Mishna Berurah. It usually provides complex analysis of the legal rulings of earlier Jewish legal decisors.

Sha'ar HaTziyyun serves primarily to document sources for laws and customs quoted in the Mishnah Berurah, but sometimes serves also to clarify ambiguous legal statements. The name Sha'ar HaTziyyun derives from the phrase sh'arim m'tzuyanim ba'halacha, translated as "gateways distinguished in (or marked in) Jewish Law," referring to the Torah study and scholarship that would distinguish Jewish homes. Rabbi Kagan chose the title as a double entendre, hinting at the distinguishment of scholarship referenced in his work, but primarily referring to (as he writes on his title page) the function of Sha'ar HaTziyyun to document (mark) sources.

One major American yeshiva named in his honor is the Yeshiva Chofetz Chaim: Rabbinical Seminary of America centered in Queens, New York, with several branches in the United States and Israel.

Many smaller Jewish religious institutions throughout the world also carry his name. The Chofetz Chaim's teachings have inspired some modern Haredi English-speaking American Jews to establsih the Chofetz Chaim Heritage Foundation dedicated to the dissemination of his teachings to Jewish communities around the world.

See also

External links

References

  • Chafetz Chaim, the life and works of Rabbi Yisrael Meir Kagan of Radin by M.M. Yoshor. New York, NY: Mesorah publications, 1984. ISBN 0899064620.
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