Chanoch Dov Tauber, which was his family’s original surname before they changed it to Padwa, was born in 1908 in the small town of Busk in Galicia, forty km from Lvov and fifty km from Belz. At the outbreak of WW1, the Padwa family, like many others, left their home and travelled to Vienna in order to find some refuge. There they stayed and in 1936 the then Rabbi Padwa was appointed as Rav of the Shomrei Hadass shul. However, around this time the reign of terror began and his shul was attacked with petrol bombs, he was beaten and his beard was forcibly shaved off.
In 1940 the Padwa family obtained an exit visa to Israel. Dayan Padwa was appointed the ba’al hora’ah of the Machanei Yehudah area, and received halachic guidance from three teachers: Rav Duchinsky, the Belzer Rebbe, and the Tchebiner Rebbe – Rav Dov Beirish Weidenfeld, who was considered to be the greatest ba’al hora’ah of his generation. In 1955 Dayan Padwa was recommended to Rabbi Dr Solomon Schonfeld as an ideal candidate to be the Av Beit Din of the UOHC. He took this position, and remained Av Beit Din for 45 years until his petirah in August 2000. Whilst you may not have had direct dealings with Dayan Padwa, our local Dayan Lopian received much halachic guidance and what we call ‘shimush’ from him and in fact, one of his questions is featured in Dayan Padwa’s teshuvot.
During his life, Dayan Padwa must have ruled on hundreds, possibly thousands, of cases and provided countless halachic rulings. However, whilst these were mostly oral rulings, in 1963 he began to published his most significant questions and answers in his set of Sheilot Uteshuvot called Cheshev HaEphod. Before his death, 3 volumes had been produced, the last of which was printed in 1991.
These volumes, printed in small rashi font and containing complex halachic analyses, contain answers to 434 questions which span the range of all four sections of Shulchan Aruch. Over the years, I have referred to a number of teshuvot he has penned, and Dayan Padwa is often quoted by halachic scholars such as Rabbi Bleich.
However, last summer, two more volumes were published which shed greater light on Dayan Padwa and his halachic method.
Sefer Halichot Chanoch, a Hebrew volume including the oral rulings and insights of Dayan Padwa as well as more biographical information, was produced by Rav Avraham Yonah Schwartz, the Av Beit Din of Vienna and a close student of Dayan Padwa. Furthermore, Judge Leonard Gerber recently published a book containing essays on Anglo-Jewish Rabbis and the history of the East End called An Era Remembered, including an insightful piece about Dayan Padwa and his role in the UOHC.
As such, I would like to take a moment to reflect on some of these rulings both from Cheshev Haephod as well as in Halichot Chanoch and explain why these are deserving of further study.
Case 1: In Cheshev Haephod, Dayan Padwa addresses the question of whether those who hear and seek to be Yotzei by the Kiddush of another may speak between the Kiddush being recited and the mekadesh drinking his wine. In this case, it is clear that the mekadesh may not speak. However, whilst people appear to be careful about this, is such a stricture required? After a careful halachic analysis, he explains that if one speaks, there is an argument to say that perhaps the mitzvah of Kiddush which someone is being motzi you is impeded if you speak. As such, whilst bedieved you are still yotzei the Kiddush if you speak, lechatchila – ideally – one should not.
Case 2: In responding to a letter he had received on the rules of Ikkar and Tafel in Brachot, Dayan Padwa addresses whether if someone only eats cake to accompany a cup of coffee, then perhaps one should only recite a bracha on the coffee and not on the cake. He answers by citing the Imrei Yosher of Rav Meir Arik that the rule of Ikkar and Tafel only applies when you don’t really want to eat the Tafel but do so because it comes as a part of the Ikkar. However, when someone has coffee and cakes, they want both even though the cake may be being eaten on account of the coffee.
Both of these questions relate to the Orach Chaim section of Shulchan Aruch, which is the section relating to daily living where we strive to live a lechatchila – an ideal halachic life.
However, it is in his teshuvot dealing with Yoreh Deah issues – ie. Questions of kashrut which have arisen and require a halachic response – which highlight Dayan Padwa’s creativity and his ability to address bedieved situations.
Case 3: It was an Erev Shabbat and Dayan Padwa was asked to solve an immediate halachic query. A woman had prepared a large pot of chicken soup. Whilst it was on the flame she accidentally placed a milky lid which had been used once in the last 24 hours and the question arose whether the soup, which she had prepared for her family and the many guests she expected, was kosher.
Dayan Padwa permitted the soup, and in his teshuvah he explained his rationale, based on a weak sfeik sfeika, as well as coupling this with reference to 2 further snifim – arguments, one of which being a minority opinion which he used.
In this case, and where circumstances demanded it, we see a classic example of bold halachic creativity.
Moreso, in his Cheshev HaEphod, Dayan Padwa criticizes those poskim who are unnecessarily strict in the sphere of Taharat HaMishpacha questions. In fact, elsewhere he noted ‘people say that I am meikel – but what do they expect of me if the Torah rules as such!’.
Again, here too, where many would (wrongly) perceive a Posek as inflexible and forbidding, it is quite the contrary.
However, I would now like to review some of his rulings as presented in Halichot Chanoch, which not only provide greater information about Dayan Padwa as a posek, but also give us insights as to how to apply halacha to our own lives.
I have noted that Dayan Padwa grew up near the town of Belz, his father was a Belzer Chassid, and he studied from the Belzer Rebbe when he lived in Israel.
The Belzer Rebbe had an interesting position that he did not allow his Chassidim to establish a shteibel for themselves. The reason for this was that by mixing with the general populace, the Belzer Chassidim were able to be role models to so many others whilst, were they to pray in their own minyan, this would diminish the spiritual aspirations and opportunities of those around them. However, just prior to the second world war, it was decided that shteibels could be established out of fear that the chassidishe yungerleit could not maintain themselves in response to the spiritual distractions that they encountered.
Dayan Padwa was interested in this tension between enhacing the broader Jewish community and protecting the spiritual welfare of the young and found an insight on this question from the teshuvot of the Radbaz.
Gemara Avodah Zara teaches that we should always study those parts of Torah that our heart desires. However, the Radbaz adds that this concept applies to prayer as well. We should always pray in a place where our heart desires. Whilst encouraging others is important, it should not be at the cost of one’s own spiritual stability.
A further idea which I think is applicable to us is found a little later on in Sefer Halichot Chanoch.
Dayan Padwa described how he was told a story from Rav Zalman Salasnik of the Etz Chaim Yeshiva in Yerushalayim that when the Sha’agat Arieh visited Vilna, he went to visit the Vilna Gaon and talk in learning with him. The Gaon quickly realized what a great Torah scholar he was, and sought to host him for a Shabbat meal. The Sha’agat Arieh responded that he would be delighted to take up the offer, but had a policy not to eat at a table with a woman who was not part of his family. Whilst the Vilna Gaon at alone throughout the week, on Shabbat he would always eat together with his wife.
As such, the Vilna Gaon approached his wife and said: “I have a very important guest who is a great Talmid Chacham who I would like to invite for a Shabbat meal but the issue is that he will not attend a meal where a woman not related to him is present”.
The Rabbanit responded “I also have a very important guest who is a great Talmid Chacham who is coming, and I can’t ignore my guest for yours”.
Because of this, the Sha’agat Aryeh did not dine with the Vilna Gaon.
The fact that this story is viewed to be part of the Halichot Chanoch provides us with a great insight into his emphasis on Shalom Bayit, and also makes it clear to us that we should never sacrifice our Shalom Bayit for Hachnasat Orchim.
Let me now conclude by talking about Dayan Padwa’s attitude towards ‘shimush’.
When training to pasken, one should always seek shimush – the ability to assist and learn from an experienced posek.
More often than not, most Rabbis have shimush in only a few areas of study such as the laws of Hilchot Niddah. However, for most other areas, they may have studied the material from Shulchan Aruch with a chavruta and merely been examined about their proficiency in the subject.
Dayan Padwa was particular that he would never issue a psak in an area where he did not receive shimush from his teachers. In fact, on one occasion, a woman sadly needed to have a Halitzah performed, and Dayan Padwa did not want to oversee this as he had not received shimush in this area. Instead, he instructed her to have the ceremony peformed by Dayan Weiss.
Whilst the rationale of this decision is clear, all too often young Rabbis seek to offer halachic rulings without having been provided with solid shimush. If Dayan Padwa followed this rule of thumb, it would be worthwhile that others do the same.
 Most of this biographical information was taken from An Era Remembered pgs. 91-105. Further biographical information appears at the back of Halichot Chanoch.