Pirchei Shoshanim expands to England Rabbi Fishel Todd

Pirchei Shoshanim Rabbi Fishel Todd expands

to England

Nechama Gold

Last week, the Jewish Tribune ran an
advertisement for a course to qualify as
a To’en Rabbani. The course is organised
by the American organisation Pirchei
Shoshanim, headed by Rabbi Fischel Todd
of Lakewood. It is designed for those who
seek structure and accomplishment in their
learning and want to further their practical
knowledge of Shulchan Aruch Choshen
Mishpat, especially those who work full
time and would otherwise not have the
possibility to study Choshen Mishpat. It has
the approval of rabbanim in Eretz Yisrael
and the United States, most importantly in
this country the course has the haskama h
of Rav Avraham Gurwitz. The course is also
recognised by the Law Society of England
and Wales as a distance Learning CPD
Course Provider. The program teaches how
to deal with the court system, and many
other practical applications.

Intrigued by a course of this type, I spoke
to Rabbi Dovid Kestenbaum of Manchester
who is involved in promoting the course
in this country, who told me more details
about the course.

“I have known Rabbi Fischel Todd for
many years” shares Rabbi Kestenbaum, “and
he is a true tzaddik who has a tremendous
love for Yidden, for Torah and for Bnei
Torah. Rabbi Todd is involved in many
novel initiatives for the sake of increasing
Torah learning all over the world. His
organisation, Y eshivas Pir chei Shoshanim,
offers worldwide learning opportunities in
several languages on a variety of topics
with shiurim by top talmidei chachamim.
It also offers semicha programs and trains
orthodox chaplains for the US armed forces.
Rabbi Todd is also coordinator of military
chaplaincy affairs in the United States armed
forces, which means that his organisation has
the authority to approve Jewish chaplains for
the army and he has been instrumental in
curtailing reform and conservative influences
in the US armed forces.”

Rabbi Todd is a talmid of the late Rav
Aryeh Leib Berenbaum, zt’l, the son of Rav
Shmuel Berenbaum zt’l Rosh Yeshiva of Mir,
New York and of Rav Avidgor Miller, who
encouraged his initiatives.

Rabbi Kestenbaum continued to explain
that Rabbi Todd has now started a program
to train lay people in the halochos of
Choshen Mishpat. “ When Rabbi T odd
turned to me for help with introducing
the course in England, I felt apprehensive
about the idea of a course to train to’anim
. After all, doesn’t the Mishnah in
Pirkei Avos say ‘al tehi ke’orchei hadayanim’”,
he explained.

“I knew that in America Rabbi Todd has
close connection with Rav Eliyahu Levine. I
am close to Rav Eliyahu Levine who is a great
talmid chacham and a halachic authority.
Just as an example of his status as a posek,
I will tell you that after the World Trade

Centre attack, Rav Elyashiv referred all
agunos shaalos to him, and he would call Rav
Levine many times to discuss cases with him.
I approached my Rosh Yeshiva Rav Avraham
Gurwitz, to ask his opinion on this matter
and I was surprised to hear his enthusiasm
for the initiative.”

Rabbi Kestenbaum discussed the
course with Rav Avraham and he was
very encouraging, saying that this was an
opportunity to open up knowledge of
Choshen Mishpat to a wider public. The
study of Choshen Mishpat is very much
neglected, says Rav Gurwitz and there is a
tremendous need to broaden its knowledge.
With this course, he said, people will be able
to learn Choshen Mishpat in a structured
form. “

“I was also apprehensive about the fact
that the course is approved by secular
institutes of higher learning and that people
studying law will take the course just to
cover their quota of study requirements and
may not have erliche intents,” shares Rabbi
Kestenbaum, “but Rav Gurwitz dispelled
my fears. He emphasised the importance
of vetting candidates for the actual to’en
qualification so that only serious
yirei shomayim should act in this capacity,
but that the fact that it will be used by the
wider community as a study requirement
for their law studies is no problem, he said,
because ultimately it is an initiative that
will increase in-depth Limmud Torah in an
area that is sorely neglected and the fact
that it is an approved course by the Law
Society does nothing to detract from its
importance. It will appeal to professionals
because it is presented in a structured and
organised form, said Rav Gurwitz and if this
will encourage them to learn more Torah,
it is no different from any lo lishma that
Chazal promise will lead to Torah lishma.
Since the course will put the lomdim in touch
with talmidei chachamim and dayanim both
abroad and in this country, it will ultimately
increase the respect for batei dinim and

Rabbi Kestenbaum further elaborates that
Rabbi Avraham Pam is known to have
decried the fact that people go into business
without any knowledge – or even awareness
– of the complicated halachos of Choshen
and he often used to emphasize
the importance of studying Choshen Mishpat
before going into business. There are so
many halochos that can be transgressed by
lack of knowledge, like halochos of mekach
, the transgressions of over-charging, of
ribbis and so much more. Rav Eliyhau Levine
is known to have said the recent financial
recession was Heavenly retribution for Klal
Yisrael’s lack of knowledge of Hilchos Ribbis.

Rabbi Kestenbaum also shared that the
fact that the course is given in English didn’t
bother Rav Gurwitz. On the contrary, he
said, it will allow access to Choshen Mishpat
to a large audience. This will increase
awareness of potential pitfalls in business and
Rabbi Fishel Todd
will make people aware of ‘what they don’t
know and what they need to ask’.

As part of the to’en program Pirchei
Shoshanim is planning to open legal clinics in
this country where dayanim will be available
to answer shaalos in Choshen Mishpat so the
course participants will have the opportunity
to learn from real-life shaalos and scenarios.

a message as follows: Most don’t know how
to learn the Shulchan Aruch, but those few
who do need a very big broom to clear the
dust that has accumulated on sections of
Choshen Mishpat. In Eretz Yisrael 40% of
the cases are presented to the Rabbinical
Courts by non–frum lawyers who can plead
their case because they have a law license!
The Rosh Yeshiva wants us to set a standard.
Our sister organisation Chesed v’Mishpat
has an office in Bnei Brak since we are
approved to provide the preparatory course
to take the exams of the Rabbanut through
our www.limd.co.il branch. We also have a
Spanish-speaking branch. Our Israel office
has 40 European Communities who are
members of the Conference of European
Rabbis based in London, and we hope they
as well will take advantage of this program.
Chesed v’Mishpat is creating a database of
every proper Beis Din in the world and
will create their own worldwide T o’en
association as the lawyers do.

This will provide a resource which will
be available to plead their cases in front
of a proper Beis Din and To’enim that are
experts in their field just as lawyers have
speciality areas.

Rabbi Kestenbaum concludes our
conversation with a vort that he heard
from a well-known English ger tzedek on the
words in Tehilim: maggid devarav leyaakov,
chukav umishpatav le-Ysrael, lo asa chen lechol
goy umishpatim bal yeda’um….
A non-Jew
can also understand that chukim are of
Divine origin, given to us by Hashem. What
he cannot grasp is the concept that for us
Yidden, even mishpatim – civil laws – which
every civilised country possesses – are not
just creations of the human mind. Rather,
they have been given to us from Shomayim
and they represent the ratzon Hashem.

In Rabbi Todd’s own words: Klal Yisrael
has thousands of very ‘ill’ people i.e. who
have legal problems, but very few doctors
– to’anim- and even less hospitals i.e. Batei
Dinim around the world. This is contrary
to the secular legal world where one can
file a lawsuit and hope for objectivity and
accountability. Our mission is to provide
guidance and support to all those seeking
assistance with the Beis Din system, thereby
alleviating any stress and uncertainty
associated with the world of halachic civil
The greatest issues we have today are
financial issues, continues Rabbi Fishel Todd. 70
years ago the challenge both in the U.K. and
U.S. was being able to make a living without
having to work on Shabbos, kashrus and the
like. Today Shabbos and kashrus are a way of
life. The youth have the best cuisine available
rivalling the non-Jewish world. We learn
in Parshas Yisro that Yisro advised Moshe
Rabbeinu that he wouldn’t and couldn’t by
himself handle all the court cases he had in
front of him and he had to appoint other
judges to handle the case load. This is even
more true today! If more than 3300 years
ago there were issues, then kal vachomer
in our time, yet the Jewish court structure
is one of the most mystifying and unknown
areas to the Jewish world. Our goal is to
unlock that mystery.

When Rabbi Kestenbaum went to his
rebbe, the Gateshead Rosh Yeshiva, he sent

Rabbi Fishel Todd