One of the restrictions practiced on Tish'ah BeAv is the study of Torah, because Torah study "gladdens the heart".

Several exceptions have been formally codified, which are of a nature germane to the day and/or to mourning.

Is it permissible, therefore, for one to study Holocaust responsa on Tish'ah BeAv? That is, may one study the questions and answers presented during (and preserved since) the Nazi Holocaust, in which Jews were confronted with situations that not only tested their life and faith, but also the limits of Jewish law? If so, is this generally practiced (do Shuls and Yeshivoth tend to offer classes on these subjects, and/or are these subjects included as recommended study in various communities)?

A written source one way or another would be preferred, but anecdotal evidence of a practice one way or another would be interesting, and possibly useful, as well.

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    Those are not activities that can potentially "gladden the heart" (à la Torah study). – Seth J Jul 24 '15 at 17:50
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    @DanF That doesn't seem to follow at all. – Double AA Jul 24 '15 at 18:13
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    @SethJ I figured :) Perhaps you can edit in an example of the kind of q/a dealt with (eg. nazi's cut out a person's tongue in torture, how does he eat matza? (i think there's one similar to that)) to help clarify what these are for those who haven't read them before? – Double AA Jul 24 '15 at 18:22
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    @double kind of unnecessarily gruesome for the purposes of my question, don't you think? – Seth J Jul 24 '15 at 18:29
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    I asked a Rov and he said that one may not. – ertert3terte Jun 10 '17 at 1:35

Rabbi Silber, one of the Rabbonim in Baltimore, included a few responsa from the sefer as part of his kinnos morning shiur/program. (See page 29 of the sourcesheet: https://files.rabbisilber.com/Shiurim/Kinnos5777.pdf) Rabbi Silber clearly felt it was muttar to discuss the teshuvos, likely for the reason that the discussion takes on a more serious tone given the context - being there I can say for myself it was a feeling of "aye, what a painful scene" rather than enjoying the intricacies of the psak.


I would understand that it would be forbidden. The reponsa themselves go through dialetic discussions of halachic topics that are not germane to the seriousness of the day, but rather the intracacies of the halacha. While some responsa are indeed shocking and give an insight into the events of the Holocaust (this would be permitted), others discuss issues that do gladden the heart in terms of halacha. For example, it is forbidden to learn the Gemara in Sanhedrin that deals with punishments meted out by Beis Din, as is forbidden to learn the sugyas of Haba b'machteres - pre-emptive killing of a thief and rodef. These are in-depth sugyas that have many discussion points related to the holocaust - giving up one's life for halacha etc. etc. So it may well be that the application for the scenarios presented in the responsa are germane to Tisha B'Av, the actual sugyas are not. Thus if one is reading the responsa for their halachic content it maybe forbidden, but when it comes to simply learning about the tragedy and its impact on the Jews from what the Rabbonim of the time saw and wrote, perhaps it would be permitted. I would be inclined more to study the Midrash of Eicha or hespedim of great tzaddikim. From my experience in Yeshiva, the Rabbonim that I learned from never used the Responsa as a discussion point or spring board.

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    Hi D. Welcome to Mi Yodeya. Remember we don't know you that we should value your opinion, so answers that just present your thoughts without sources to back you up aren't that valuable. See our tour to learn more about our site. – Double AA May 10 '17 at 23:39
  • The poster already understood that the Shulchan Aruch already assurs limud Torah on Tisha B'Av because it gladden's the heart. Responsa tend to have halachic dialetic which often involves pipul and deep understanding of the sugya - something that is limud Torah - and gladden's the heart. This is personal experience from just such a Responsa from Rav Ostry. That being said, the Responsa does also discuss the events and life of Jewry in the Holocaust - not halachic in nature and that would obviously be permitted since you're reading about tragedy that befell the Jewish people. – D Freedman May 10 '17 at 23:48

If you view the shu't sefer as a cheftza of aveilus this should be mutar, otherwise not.

So that if any enjoyment you get from the pilpul is subsumed in tzaar there is no mesamchei lev.

But if you think it's interesting, you're probably not learning lishmah.

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