The Dextrocardian, Or the Man Whose Heart Was Not In the Right Place

A remarkable, albeit grotesque, example of Polish halachic man: a young man is hospitalized, and the doctors discover that he has dextrocardia (it is unclear whether we are dealing with dextrocardia of embryonic arrest, dextrocardia situs inversus, or even dextrocardia situs inversus totalis). His concern? Upon which arm should he place tefillin! The question is discussed by the reliably interesting Rav Aryeh Tzvi Frumer:

נשאלתי מבחור אחד שהיה חולה ומונח בשפיטאל דפה ובדקו הרופאים ומצאו שהלב מונח אצלו בצד ימין היפך הרגיל ונסתפק אם יניח תפילין בימין דהרי בעינן שימה נגד הלב:1

He concludes that in spite of his condition, he nevertheless places them upon the left arm, as from the established halachah that a (normal, non-dextrocardian) lefty places them upon his right hand, in spite of the fact that his heart is on his left, we perforce conclude that the law of “placement opposite the heart” is either non-normative, or merely determinative of the appropriate region within a particular arm, but not of which arm in the first place:

אמנם כיון דקיימא לן להלכה בשלחן ערוך סימן כ”ז דאיטר מניח בשמאלו שהוא ימין של כל אדם וצריך לומר א’ משתים או דסבירא לן דלא ילפינן דבעינן שימה כנגד הלב … או ד .. לא ילפינן זה רק לענין באיזה מקום בזרוע יניח התפלין אבל לא לענין יד שמאל. ואם כן בנדון דידן אפילו נתברר שהלב שלו הוא בימין צריך להניח תפלין בשמאל:2

[I have been unable to locate any other discussion of dextrocardia in halachah, with the single exception of this tantalizing page, whose relevant hyperlinks unfortunately seem non-functional.]

  1. שו”ת ארץ צבי (לובלין תרצ”ט) סימן קט”ו – קשר []
  2. שם בסוף התשובה – קשר []
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2 Responses to The Dextrocardian, Or the Man Whose Heart Was Not In the Right Place

  1. Mendel says:

    nishmas avraham http://98.131.138.124/articles/NA2/NishmatAbraham.OC.27.asp references dovev meisharim and yesodei yeshurun http://hebrewbooks.org/pdfpager.aspx?req=4198&st=&pgnum=91 who say the same as the kozhiglover hy”d. BTW the kozhiglover was rebbe of my RY.

  2. Yitzhak says:

    Thanks much! The יסודי ישרון and נשמת אברהם merely cite the ארץ צבי and דובב מישירים (ב:מו)‏‏, so the latter is the single additional primary source we have.

    The responsum of the ארץ צבי cites a couple of paragraphs that “a certain gadol” wrote to him on the topic; it turns out that this refers to the Tchebiner Rav, whose responsum was addressed to the Kozhiglover [and includes a note of its idea’s inclusion in the latter’s responsum].

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