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What is it?

How is it performed?

May one perform it?

And, if so, when may it be used?

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Small comment, this activity attributed to the Gra, is done in the Talmud in stories relating to Acher and the destruction of the Beis Hamikdash. Although there, they use children and ask which verse they are learning. –  avi Sep 4 '11 at 13:08
    
Related (to the answers): judaism.stackexchange.com/q/36504 –  msh210 Mar 20 at 23:19
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5 Answers

up vote 10 down vote accepted

As I've heard it, it involves opening a Tanach to a random verse; I heard something it specifically being some Amsterdam printing of the Tanach (anyone back me up here?). There are some famous stories about its use, though these may be no more than hearsay:

  • One rabbi who got the verse, "do not use witchcraft or divinations!"
  • When Rabbi Joseph Breuer was ill and needed an additional name, they found the verse "Shimon and Levi are brothers"; his "brother" in leading the KAJ community was Rabbi Shimon Schwab, so he became Levi Joseph Breuer.
  • I think there's one with R' Aharon Kotlar, debating coming to America in 1941, and finding (Exodus 4:27) "Hashem told Aharon, go greet Moshe in the desert", referring to Rabbi Moshe Feinstein (who had made it to America in 1936). H/t Alex (see comments below).

As far as how/when/why to use it, eh good question.

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There is also the famous story of how R' Aryeh Levin used it to establish the identities of 12 Israeli soldiers (out of the Convoy of 35) whose bodies couldn't be otherwise identified. –  Alex Jun 11 '10 at 23:09
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The one about R' Moshe and R' Aharon is actually the other way around: R' Moshe was in America since 1936, R' Aharon didn't arrive until 1941. The verse he found was, "Hashem said to Aharon: Go to meet your brother Moshe" (Ex. 4:27). –  Alex Jun 11 '10 at 23:11
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@Shalom: you never edited the answer. –  Menachem Jun 19 '11 at 2:59
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@Shalom, what does "H/t" stand for? Hakaras hatov? –  msh210 Jun 24 '11 at 18:15
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Heh. From wikipedia: "In the 2000s, the term "hat tip" (often abbreviated to "HT" or "h/t") rose to prominence in the blogosphere to acknowledge someone who has made a significant contribution toward an effort, or someone who drew attention to something new or interesting. It is considered good netiquette when sharing a link or news item to give a hat tip to the person from whom you learned of the item." –  Shalom Jun 24 '11 at 18:22
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In this article from The Seforim Blog, under the heading "Bibliomancy", it says:

Another interesting method found in this sefer is the method of gorel using a Chumash to find out what to do:

ואני הצעיר הכותב קבלתי שצריך לעשות הגורל הנז' בחומש מכתיבת יד שאין בו כי אם חמשה חומשי תורה ואפילו לא הפטרות. והשלך שבעה שביעיות שהם מט, ומן שער החמישים יוצא כזה השלך ז' עלין... (עמ' קפט)‏

This concept has been used by many and is more recently the subject of two books, Gorel Hagra and Hegyon ha-Gorel from E. Martzbach. See also Bromberg's book, Me-Gedolei ha-Torah veha-Chasidut on the Marsham, pp. 129,144; Eliach in his book Ha-Goan, pp. 1110-1127; Alei Tamar, Shabbat, pp.83-4; R. Reuven Margolis, Mekor Chesed, p.214.

I haven't actually looked up any of these sources, but I thought someone might find this useful.

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The Chida (based on the Maharikash) permits opening a Torah and acting on the first verse that comes up, basing his ruling on the story of Yoshiahu who found a Torah rolled to a verse.

PS. He came before the Gra, so "Gorel Hagra" technically is a misnomer.

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+1 for the reference, but he lived the same time as the G'ra. –  msh210 Sep 7 '11 at 3:02
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@msh210 the Maharikash? –  Shmuel Brin Sep 7 '11 at 3:24
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Oh, got it. Sorry, I thought you were referring to the Chida (which was stupid of me, actually, since he's simply quoting the Maharikash). The Maharikash lived some two centuries earlier. –  msh210 Sep 7 '11 at 3:46
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What I recall from reading "A Tzaddik in Our Time" some years ago: Using a special two-column Tanach, the user opens to somewhere random. He then flips a bunch of pages 7 times (as in grab a bunch). He then proceeds forward 7 pages, 7 columns, and 7 verses, 7 words, and takes the next verse from its beginning (I think).

It is recommended to fast on the day you are doing this Goral.

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The place to look for info on the Goral HaGra is the three volume HaGaon: R' Eliyahu MiVilna by Dov Eliach. Unfortunately for those who do not own it yet, it might be out of print.

Here is a relevant article from Yated on the Goral that bases itself on R' Eliach's book.

I just discovered a sefer called "Goral HaGra" that deals with this subject exclusively. I do not own it yet.

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Yahu, maybe you can add some details of the Gorel itself as all the answers seem to be I have heard and you have access to a book that answers the above questions,and the article from the Yated just seems to bring stories nothing about the Gorel Itself,The Blog is exciting for those who love the controversy around the GRA some but some of us are here for the Learning aspect? –  SimchasTorah Jun 15 '10 at 12:09
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YS, bl"n I will add to my answer some details over the next few days. If it really is out of print I wonder if it would be a legal problem to attach a pdf or jpegs of the pages that deal with what the Goral actually is. –  Yahu Jun 15 '10 at 16:13
    
If Hebrewbooks can do it why not you? –  YRU Jun 16 '10 at 10:38
    
I must first confirm that a copyright held publication that is out of print may be photocopied (at least in portions) for public release on the web. –  Yahu Jun 16 '10 at 18:21
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@Yahu Have you found out any more about the copyright issue? And have you gotten the R' Greenwald book yet? What do you think of it? –  Seth J Feb 28 '12 at 16:07
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