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Are there any rules or or general best-practices for requesting an approbation (הסכמה/haskama)? Can an approbation that was sent based on an incomplete manuscript still be used if changes are made to the work later on? What are some of the guidelines related to haskomot?

Please provide answers based on sources or personal experience not "it seems to me..."

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A haskomo does not usually mean that the rabbi has read through the whole sefer. He may not have read anything at all of it. All it means is that he thinks the rabbi can be reliable of understanding what he is writing about. Today there are only a few rabbis whose haskomo's are really accepted. – user2709 May 7 '13 at 5:25

2 Answers 2

up vote 7 down vote accepted

Having worked in the Jewish Publishing Industry for a number of years, I can tell you that it is common practice to use approbations on partial manuscripts, or even for other books written by the same author, or even just a letter attesting to the author's reliability. There are no real guidelines. I have seen haskamot from Rabbis who passed away before the book was ever even written (either written regarding a previous book or about the author)!

Regrading how to get a haskama: I would recommend personally taking the manuscript to the Rabbi from whom you want to get an approbation, handing to him and reminding him of who you are, how you know him and what your credentials are. I would also recommend including a "cover letter" with your qualifications and other approbations you may have already received. If you cannot give it to him personally, I would recommend sending it in the mail with a cover letter and a picture of you, to remind the Rabbi of who you are.

If you don't personally know the person from who you are requesting an approbation, I would recommend finding a friend or someone who does know the Rabbi personally or has some connection with him to do the hand off.

The key to getting a good approbation, from my experience is the Rabbi knowing who you are or getting a word of mouth referral.

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Having spent time watching some of today's leaders who are requested to write haskamos I can tell you the process I have seen.

Situation A. A person the Rabbi/Rosh Yeshiva knows closely, either from the yeshiva or the neighborhood brings in a manuscript and request an approbation. The Rabbi/Rosh Yeshiva happily obliges, sometimes while flipping through the papers, casually asking what it is about.

Situation B. A person the Rabbi/Rosh Yeshiva never met comes in and introduces himself as Rabbi Nick Nud and requests an approbation. The Rabbi/Rosh Yeshiva tries to excuse himself by saying he doesn't give approbations, all without asking any questions about the work or looking at it. From here there are multiple outcomes. Either Rabbi Nud is smart enough to get the hint, he leaves, sometimes to return as will be mentioned later in situation C. If Rabbi Nud doesn't get the hint, he will spend the better part of a day chasing and hounding the Rabbi/Rosh Yeshiva who almost certainly will win this standoff.

Situation C. A person walks in and shows a list of approbations he has been accumulating, starting with his local friend Rabbi and continuing up the ladder showing each successive Rabbi the previous one's letter basically saying well he signed, so you should too. This procedure seems to work pretty well. In fact, sometimes Rabbi Nud, our friend from situation B, retuns after having gone through these steps and actually will be successful in securing his top tier dream Rabbi approbation. Yay!

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if this is how approbations actually work today it is an embarrassment and not worth the paper it is printed on. – rikitikitembo Jan 16 at 1:47
I've been through step A, and step A only. ....anyway, it wasn't mine, by myself; it was a collection of my year's chaburos that my friend and I edited into kuntress form, and the "knows closely" part was the fact that this was our rosh yeshiva; but all the same. – Shokhet Jan 16 at 2:04
@rikitikitembo The vast majority are class A. Which is exactly what an approbation should be. A Rabbi saying the person under scrutiny is a good person. It's the same idea as a semicha. Very few are actually like class B. I just mentioned it because I've seen it a couple of times and it's pathetically funny. Class C are not usually the type of sfarim that anyone reads anyways so it doesn't matter much. – user6591 Jan 16 at 2:48
I don't see how class A is what it should be. Perhaps that is an approbation but it is certainly not what a haskama is supposed to be. The latter is supposed to be an indication that the work has been reviewed and is valid and reliable (same idea as semicha). – rikitikitembo Jan 16 at 3:29
@rikitikitembo You sound like someone who never reads haskamos or semichos. They testify that the person is a reliable person. Not that the work is a reliable work or that he knows everything there is to know. In fact many haskamos say openly that the writer of the haskama did not read the work but is rather saying that the person is a good person who knows how to learn. Read any haskama Reb Mosge Feinstein wrote. Semicha papers also don't say this person knows all these halachos and will never err. It says he is a good person who knows how to learn and he learnt whatever to semicha is on. – user6591 Jan 16 at 3:55

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