There Is No New Thing Under the Sun

Rav Yitzchok Zilberstein relates:

תלמיד חכם אחד הגיע אל מורי חמי מרן הגרי”ש אלישיב שליט”א, וסיפר לו על עמודון ספרים עם פטנט חדש שיצא לשוק, שבו אפשר לסובב את הספרים כרצון איש ואיש, וכך לא יצטרך הלומד לקום ממקומו, אלא רק להושיט את היד ולסובב את העמודון ולהוציא את הספר.

מורי חמי לא היה מרוצה מכך. ‘ומה עם הספר חסידים הכותב שכאשר אדם קם ממקומו לחפש ספר בארון הספרים, יש בכך מצוה מיוחדת של עמל התורה’? – שאל.1

There exists prior art for this ‘patent’; this exact invention, as well as Rav Elyashiv’s precise objection to it, are found in the fifteenth century work לקט יושר, as discussed by Dan Rabinowitz:

“אותם הבחורים העשירים המפונקים שעשו להם שולחנות כשיושבין במקומן הופכין השולחן לאי זה צד שירצו ועליו הרבה ספרים לא טוב הם עושים, אדרבה כשמבקש אחר הספר ובא לו בטורח גודל זכור באותו מעשה מה שרוצה ללמוד, כמדומה לי שמצאתי לו סמך ב[יורה דעה] בסימן ג’ (שפח) ‘ולא כאלו שלומדין מתוך עידון’ וכו”

“Those rich, spoiled students that had made a revolving table which allowed for them to turn the table to get which ever book they wanted [without having to get up] such behavior is inappropriate. Instead, one who gets up to get a book and exerts themselves will remember that they had to look for the book [and will remember what the book said]. It seems to me [R. Yosef] that support for this position [that frowns upon the turntable] can be found in Yoreh Deah where it says “one should not study in luxury.'”

See Dan’s piece for further analysis and sources on the topic.

  1. רב יצחק זילברשטיין, עלינו לשבח, דברים (א) פרשת שופטים עמוד תסא []
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3 Responses to There Is No New Thing Under the Sun

  1. CS says:

    Interesting piece. I wonder how you know so much about patent law.

  2. SW says:

    IIRC Rav Hutner writes in a Haskama or Hakdama to Otzar Meforshei Hatalmud that one should not confuse searching around for Amal. By which I understand that Amal is mental exertion and other effort might just be giving yourself a difficult time. This does not seem to sit with Rav Elyashiv’s position.

    The Leket Yosher OTOH could simply be describing a practical study tool that aids recall by linking information with physical effort or suchlike. There does not seem to be any need to assume he holds that getting up to get the Sefer is fundamentally a Mitzva.

  3. Yitzhak says:

    Dan mentions Rav Hutner’s comments in his piece:

    For example, R. Yitzchak Hutner, in his approbation to the Otzar Mifarshei HaTalmud, explains why the Otzar is a good thing. As many are aware, the Otzar collects all (or almost all) the literature on a particular passage of the gemara (or mishna as is the case with the volume on Hallah). This avoids the need to look through many books to see what, if anything, they have to say on a particular passage. R. Hutner cites to a statement from the Hazon Ish, that “people confuse looking (hipush) with study” and, according to R. Hutner, the Otzar eliminates that problem. Thus, it can be argued that both according to R. Hutner and the Hazon Ish, there is no benefit or merit per se in the act of getting a book or looking to see if that book has anything relevant. This appears in conflict with the Leket Yosher.

    I agree with the plausibility of the distinction of your second paragraph.

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