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Deafness In Halacha: A Reappraisal

 By: Rabbi Moshe Taub


Originally published in RJJ Journal of Halacha (Sukkos 7773/Fall 2012, No. LXIV)


For thousands of years, people born without the ability to hear were often erroneously consigned to mental institutions. It was not until a few hundred years ago that sign language and other techniques were developed to communicate with such people and even teach them how to speak so that they could make themselves understood.


The Gemara  (Chagiga 3a; Yevamot 113a) rules that a cheresh –which here, and almost everywhere else in the Talmud, refers to one who can neither hear nor speak (Chagiga 2b) – is exempt from all mitzvot.[1]

This dichotomy, between the unchanging halachot relating to cherashim and the advancing pedagogic skills of specialists in the fields of oralism (spoken language) and manualism (sign language) has, over the past few decades, been exponentially magnified by the tremendous technological advances in modern-day hearing aids and cochlear implants.


Consequently, many poskim (major halachic decisors) have addressed the question of whether and to what extent the status of deaf persons who now exhibit understanding and can communicate with others should be modified from the way they were categorized in the days of the Gemara.[2]


The goal of this article is to present the many views found in the poskim concerning deafness in the modern age.[3]


Deafness – General Halachot


About one in one thousand children are born deaf.[4] Infants and adults can also develop deafness due to illness (e.g. meningitis). There is no halachic distinction between conductive deafness (where the inner ear works, yet, for a host of possible reasons, the sound is not able to travel through the ear canal) and sensorineural hearing loss (where the inner ear, the cochlea, is unable to perform its function of discerning sounds by sending messaging to the brain).


While the scriptural source for the ruling that a cheresh is exempt from all mitzvot is unclear, the Chatam Sofer on Even HaEzer 2:2 posits that it is a Halacha l’Moshe M’Sinai (a fiat, something taught to Moshe Rabbenu at Mount Sinai, which is accepted without scriptural source). See Minchat Shlomo 1:34 who also discusses what possible source chazal (the early rabbis, usually reserved for rabbis from the time of the Talmud) had for this law,[5] and where he also seeks to explain how this halacha (that a deaf-mute is exempt from mitzvot) might today go through a radical change -- if chazal had been aware of our ability to train a deaf-mute so that they could understand things the way other people do.


According to some, this status of a cheresh as exempt from mitzvah observance applies equally to one born deaf (congenital) as well as one who developed deafness and muteness later in life (Maaseh Cheresh); others disagree,[6] and are therefore more lenient regarding one who was at one time able to hear or speak.[7]


From the straightforward reading of the Gemara (Chagiga ad loc. Yevamot 113-114; Shavuot 42a) one can infer that this exemptive status of the archetypal deaf-mute is causative in nature and not intrinsic.[8] What this means is that it is precisely due to deafness and lack of communicational aptitude that a deaf person’s development becomes arrested, which then leads to a deficiency in the rational agility and mental maturity that would be necessary to bind one to the Torah’s many obligations (even its negative laws; see Yevamot 114b). Rabbi Moshe Feinstein further explains communication as being the key to intellectual growth and development, and a deaf-mute who, perforce, cannot communicate, has to be viewed as unique within the confines of halacha proper.[9]


Thus, this that a cheresh refers to one who is both deaf and mute is not due to two unrelated conditions (deafness and muteness) having coincidently struck the same individual, rather that it is precisely because one is (born) deaf that he would never learn how to speak or communicate.[10]


In fact the biblical term for deafness - the root CH’R’SH - is often used to connote silence as well (e.g. Shmot 14:14, inter alia). The Radak (Sefer HaShrashim, column 239) explains that this word’s true meaning is indeed ‘deaf(ness)’, and it is used sometimes to mean ‘silence’ merely to allude to the fact that one who is silent is acting as a deaf person would since, typically, they are fated to silence. (ADDED SEPTEMBER 4 2014: See also Rambam Peirus Hamishnaoyos Terumos 1:2; See also Turie Even and Haghoas Rav Moshe hurvitz to Chagiga 2b [found in Leket Haoros Shas Lublin] who understand that in the main the central concern is the deafness, and certainly if one cant also talk)


Based on the above rationale it is easily understood why one who is a medaber (can speak but is deaf) or a shomea (hears but can’t speak) is obligated in all mitzvot (Shulchan Aruch 55:8).


Having only the skill of writing, however, would not transform one who is a deaf-mute into a medaber (Tur Even Haezer, siman 120:5, 121:6; see Gittin 71a with Rashash).[11] This is certainly true regarding one who was born deaf.[12]


It is critical to point out that a Jewish cheresh –which rarely, if at all, exists today in the classic deaf-mute form- is still an equal member of the Jewish nation- e.g. one desecrates Shabbat to save them,[13] and the Torah warns us to not curse them.[14] Other such examples include the ruling by some that a kohen (priest) who is a true cheresh is still entitled to the special honors due to kohanim,[15] and the view that we do not stop a cheresh from donning teffilin.[16]


Furthermore, one fulfils the mitzvah of procreation through a deaf child.[17]


One modern expert on issues of medical halacha argues that the above laws notwithstanding, one cannot feed a true cheresh non-kosher food or assist him in performing other sins.[18]



Shomea, Medaber, and Pikcheut


As stated, a mute who is not deaf (shomea), or one who is deaf but can speak (medaber), is halachically viewed as a pikeach (a person of common intelligence, capable), and would therefore be obligated in all mitzvot (except possibly mitzvot that are dependent on shmia (listening), e.g. megilla.


Communication being the reason for a cheresh’s unique status in halacha, one can make the cogent argument that in modern times when even the most severely deaf-mute is taught some form of communication, their status might well be changed to that of a medaber and they could then be viewed as no different from that of the average Jew in that he would be obligated in virtually all mitzvot.[19] This would seem to be true whether or not their hearing devices give them perfect hearing, and even if they do not have perfect speech. The same may be argued even concerning a cheresh who can communicate using only sign language. If true, many supplemental questions would arise, e.g. their being counted for a minyan, and regarding hearing devices themselves and if they are viewed as affecting true halachic hearing (shmia) for mitzvot.


The major poskim of the late 20th century all discuss this issue: Rabbi Moshe Feinstein (Even Haezer 3:33, etc.); Rabbi Shlomo Zalman Auerbach (Minchat Shlomo 1:34, etc.); Rabbi Eliezer Waldenberg (shu’t Tzitz Eliezer, 15:46, etc.); Rabbi Yitzchak Yaakov Weiss (Minchat Yitzchak 2:113, etc.).  We shall first marshal their views and later seek to apply them to common cases.


Hearing Aids vs. Cochlear Implants


Before discussing the views of the poskim, it is important to clarify that the term “hearing aid” that will be referenced when discussing the various responsa literature is simply a reflection of the terminology used by the poskim.  Cochlear Implants (referred to in this article as CI), which are a fairly new invention, would probably be no different, from a halachic standpoint, than standard hearing aids.


Some do argue that CI should be viewed as halachically more lenient than a standard hearing aid in two areas: 1) Shabbat - because a standard hearing aid is similar to a microphone (it is, in essence, a mini microphone) the same Shabbat concerns should apply to both. It has therefore been argued that at least concerning the Shabbat issue of hashma’at kol (lit. producing sounds)[20] which is one of the concerns regarding microphones on Shabbat, CI should not be affected, for CI works through sending audible pulses to the brain and not through amplified sounds. 2) Fulfilling a mitzvah dependent on hearing (e.g. megilla) - there is much debate whether such mitzvot can be fulfilled through a microphone (and hearing aids) (see next section), and here too some argue that CI “…may…” be a non-issue due, again, to the fact that CI is not a microphone.[21]


It would seem, however, that both of these points may be moot, based on faulty assumptions. As for the point made regarding hashma’at kol, Rabbi Moshe Feinstein (Iggerot Moshe Orach Chaim 2:85, s.v. vhenay hataam) has already ruled that this is of no concern even for hearing aids because, although essentially a microphone, the sound produced by a hearing aid is not meant for nor can it be heard by others (the rabim).[22] Furthermore, regarding both points 1 and 2, which seek to distinguish between hearing aids and CI because the latter works without a microphone -- this is a non-starter due to the fact that CI does work through a microphone! While it is true that hearing aids simply amplify sounds so as to be audible to a damaged ear, CI also begins its process with a microphone. It is only after the sound is first picked up by a microphone that the speech processor organizes the sounds, the transmitter and stimulator transforms these sounds to impulses, and finally the electric array gathers these and sends them to the various areas of the auditory nerve.[23]


If anything, one could argue that CI should be viewed as a greater halachic concern than hearing aids regarding mitzvot that rely on hearing, for while both begin as microphones (that convert sound into electric signals, see Minchat Shlomo 1:9)[24] only CI reverse engineers these signals and then rearranges them, which means that a CI takes sound one step further away from the original speaker when compared to a standard hearing aid!

Nevertheless, based on the leniency of Rabbi Tzvi Pesach Frank (see next section) that “all sounds are kosher”, and Rabbi Feinstein’s argument (see next section) that even natural sound waves are manipulated before reaching one’s ears, it would seem that all hearing devices may be treated equally, and that once one is hearing only a shadow of the first sound, it is irrelevant how many steps removed it is. Further halachic clarification is required regarding this last point.


With the above in mind, let us look to some of the responsa literature that discuss modern day deafness, both in generalities and specific cases. We will further seek to apply them to common cases in the section that follows it.


Iggerot Moshe


Rabbi Moshe Feinstein[25] rules that someone who was born a cheresh (deaf-mute) but later had a hearing aid attached which permits him to hear and which allows him to communicate with others, would have the status of a pikeach (of common intelligence) and be obligated in mitzvot like any other Jew.


What makes this particular responsum so fascinating is that although he advances such a pragmatic halachic view when discussing modern-day cherashim, he nevertheless goes on to explain that one’s ability to hear through an electrical device does not transform one into a shomea (one who can hear), but rather transforms him into a medaber (one who can speak)! Rabbi Feinstein draws a distinction between electronic hearing aids and the mechanical, crude hearing aid that the Pri Chodesh[26] ruled would transform a cheresh into a shomea, for the latter still allowed one to hear the original voice or sound.


It would appear then that Rabbi Feinstein is suggesting a somewhat complicated halachic structure: modern electrical devices allows one to ‘hear’ - although not “halachic hearing” – through which a cheresh would learn how to converse with others, and it is the lack of being able to converse with others which is at the heart of a cheresh’s halachic disability – which, once removed, would make him a medaber. This ruling applies even if one’s speech can be difficult, but not impossible, to understand.[27] Such an individual would be viewed as no different than the average Jew.[28]


This ruling of Rabbi Feinstein, where he states that electrically amplified sounds are not viewed as shmia (hearing), would seem to contradict an earlier responsum of his where he was asked regarding hearing the megilla, or another obligation dependent on hearing, through a microphone.[29] There he argues that since even regarding regular speech the vibrating waves/air that enter the listener’s ear is in fact different and unique than the vibrating waves/air that were used when the words were first spoken, the sound modified through a microphone should be viewed as no different halachically than natural sound waves themselves, and one can, then, fulfill such mitzvot through it. He ends there by stating that while one should not protest those who follow this ruling, he is reluctant to have this leniency acted upon.


It seems puzzling, however, that in the teshuva mentioned earlier, which apparently was written years later, [30] he maintains an opposite approach, arguing strongly against a hearing aid being seen as halachic shmia with not even a hint of an allowance or mention of his previous lenient approach comparing such audibility to sound waves.


Furthermore, in 1980, Rabbi Feinstein was again asked about hearing the megilla through a microphone and he then reiterated his inclination to be lenient –although he was slightly more hesitant –and warned that it nevertheless should be avoided, even b’sha’at hadchak (cases of need).[31]  He makes no reference to his earlier responsum regarding hearing aids where he completely rejected such manipulated sounds as true shmia on pure halachic grounds.


While it is tempting to solve this apparent discrepancy in Rabbi Feinstein’s views by suggesting some dissimilarity between a microphone and hearing aids, such a distinction is untenable, especially when we consider that virtually all scholars who discuss hearing aids connect it to their or others’ view(s) regarding a microphone.[32] In fact Rabbi Feinstein himself draws such a comparison![33]


When assessing Rabbi Feinstein’s view on the issue of microphones/hearing aids and mitzvot that require hearing (shmia), some scholars look only to his microphone teshuvot and therefore quote him as being lenient.[34] Others quote only the hearing aid teshuva and therefore cite him as being stringent in this matter.[35]


Even the sefer ‘Shmaitza D’Moshe’, which seeks to gather all of Rabbi Feinstein’s rulings as a flowing commentary to the Shulchan Aruch, states in his name: “One should not hear the megilla through a microphone, even in a sha’at hadchak…” In their commentary they seem to only focus on the latter two teshovot mentioned in this article (nevertheless, they accurately quote him as forbidding it under any circumstances).[36]


Minchat Shlomo


Rabbi Shlomo Zalman Auerbach (Minchat Shlomo 1:34), writing to Rabbi Chaim Pinchas Sheinberg z’l, recalls a case where both he and Rabbi Elyashiv were asked regarding a deaf boy who was trained to talk (limitedly) and even had a chavruta (a learning partner). They both ruled that this boy had the status of a pikeach and was therefore obligated in mitzvot with the possible exception of being called up to the Torah, because of the fear that some will not understand his blessings (this last point will be explored further in a later section). This seems to be in contrast to the view of the Iggerot Moshe (3:33 s.v ‘v’hanochon’) who only speaks of a medaber who also has a functioning hearing aid or once had modest hearing. However, Rabbi Auerbach clearly rules that even one with no hearing can be viewed as a pikeach, seemingly without having to be categorized as either a shomea or a medaber. Rabbi Auerbach ends with some discomfort toward disagreeing with earlier poskim[37] who had ruled that a cheresh who learns to talk is still considered a true cheresh and is simply viewed as if repeating words blindly. We all clearly see, Rabbi Auerbach asserts, that today this no longer holds true.


In a separate teshuva (1:9) Rabbi Auerbach discusses the issue of hearing mitzvot requiring hearing through a microphone. He rules that one does not fulfill his obligation in such a manner. He then writes in parentheses: “In pains me that now deaf people, who can only hear by using a microphone-like device, would not be able to fulfill mitzvat shofar, megilla…at the very least they should not make a blessing on these mitzvot.”



Tzitz Eliezer


The Tzitz Eliezer (15:46:5) also rules that deaf people today, who go to special schools or can converse with others, have the status of pikchim and are obligated in all mitzvot. He also suggests that there is no difference between one who can only hear when spoken to in a loud voice and one who can only hear through a hearing device; both of whom, he rules, would be obligated in all mitzvot.[38] He therefore rules unlike Rabbi Auerbach and views such hearing as “halachic hearing”.


However, at the same time, in three other responsa he argues against the possibility of fulfilling a mitzvah through a microphone, because a) he views such devices as not producing the original sound,[39] b) it takes away from the reverence we are to have in the synagogue and for davening (praying).[40] He therefore, in the latter teshuvot mentioned, approaches the issue of fulfilling mitzvot dependent on shmia through a hearing aid similar to the Minchat Shlomo and the more stringent teshuva from the Iggerot Moshe.[41]


Rav Frank and Chazon Ish


Relating specifically to the issue of hearing devices, Rabbi Tzvi Pesach Frank, writing to Rabbi Yitzchak Yaakov Weiss rules differently.[42] He argues that with the exception of the mitzvah of shofar where the Gemara explicitly rules that one must hear the sound itself and not its echo (or a reverberation), a microphone is in fact viewed as halachic hearing.[43] The Chazon Ish also suggested a similar permissive approach verbally to Rabbi Shlomo Zalman Auerbach (Minchat Shlomo 1:9).[44] As we will see in the next section, this debate between Rabbi Shlomo Zalman Auerbach and Rabbi Frank (and possibly Rabbi Feinstein) colors how one approaches a slew of issues in practical halacha.


From the above we see that while disagreeing on the particulars, these poskim nevertheless have a clear consensus that obligates virtually all of today’s cherashim in mitzvot, and which rules that their status has (in most cases) changed from their earlier status of being absolved from all mitzvah observance.[45] There is, however, some disagreement regarding the peripherals, the application of which will be discussed later  below.


All of the above creates a unique category of halachic status, for although such classifications as medaber and shomea were discussed in the Gemara, and at times in the Shulchan Aruch (e.g. siman 199:10 with Mishnah Berurah 28), the plausibility of people who were deaf yet could talk or visa versa was at one time too rare to be commonly discussed in the codes.[46]


What follows is an attempt to gather the most common halachic questions relating to deaf or hard-of-hearing pikchim today. Due to the breadth of this topic we will focus on the Orach Chaim section of the Shulchan Aruch as it relates to a medaber with and without a hearing device. Beyond this, some of the other questions that relate to hearing aids (e.g. Shabbat use) and sign language will be briefly touched upon.


Practical Applications


Tekiat Shofar – Even according to the lenient opinions cited above that view assisted hearing through a hearing aid or CI as halachic hearing, tekiat shofar (shofar blasts) would be different.  The Gemara (Rosh Hashana 27b) has already ruled that an echoed sound is not enough to fulfill this mitzvah, as one must hear the original blast. Nevertheless, a deaf person who hears with such a device should still blow shofar for himself. Should they have even faint hearing without the assistance of a hearing aid, then they should take the hearing aid out before the blasts.[47] In any case, such a person may certainly not blow shofar for others.


However Rabbi Shternbach marshals the early view of Rabbi Yonatan M’Lunel (b. Provence 1135) who rules[48] that a cheresh who can talk is obligated in shofar.[49] Rabbi Shternbach therefore suggests that someone who could talk but cannot hear (or one with a hearing device, which according to most is viewed as deaf when it comes to this mitzvah) should learn to blow shofar for themselves,[50] and do so without making the blessing. This also seems to be the ruling of the Aruch HaShulchan.[51]


Berachot, Kriat Shma, Tephilla, Kriat HaTorah – The Shulchan Aruch rules (62:3; 206:6) that although prayers and blessings must be heard by the reciter, bdieved (ex post facto), if one says the words but did not say them loudly enough so as to hear them one stills fulfils his obligation (see Berachot 15a). A deaf person, even without a hearing device, who can talk would then be obligated in all such mitzvot and fulfills them although he cannot hear what he is saying, or only hears with his hearing aid. Although for a person with healthy hearing this would only be acceptable after the fact for such a cheresh it would be his l’chatchila (prime method of observance).[52] Another argument offered is based on the rule of “kol haroy l’bila” (lit. ‘anything that is fit to be mixed’, see Menachot 103b), meaning that it should be enough that the medaber is in fact speaking in a sound loud enough to be audible, it is irrelevant if he himself hears it or not (see Shaagat Aryeh 6,7; shu’t Maharil Diskin 181).


The consensus is that a deaf person may recite the blessing “HaNoten L’Sechvy Bina” (…Who gives insight to the heart/rooster”). This is true even regarding a true cheresh.[53]


Regarding a kohen who is a medaber, the Mishnah Berura (siman 128:49) rules that he is obligated in the priestly blessing even though he cannot hear the chazzan’s call.


Both a medaber and a shomea are counted for a minyan according to all views (Shulchan Aruch siman 55:8). Regarding a minyan made up solely of such individuals, or even when they make up four or more of the ten, they must be informed or aware as to when to answer amen (Pri Chodosh ad loc. 8; Shulchan Aruch HaRav 11; Cf. Taz siman 124:2; Sukka 58b).[54] Again, according to both the Chazon Ish and the Rabbi Frank (and perhaps Rabbi Feinstein) there would be no restrictions should they be equipped with a hearing device, even if they make up the entire minyan. According to the view of Rabbi Shlomo Zalman Aurbach that even a classic cheresh who was taught some form of communication and can move his mouth so as to be understood by others has the status of a pikeach, then such an individual would count for a minyan as well.[55] It should be pointed out that even according to Rav Shlomo Zalman’s more stringent view regarding hearing aids (that one does not fulfill mitzvot shmia through them) an individual equipped may use it to know when to answer amen.[56]


The general consensus, and the general custom, is to allow a medaber to be called up to the Torah for an aliya (Torah blessings).[57] Rabbi Feinstein allows even a true cheresh to receive an aliya for his bar mitzvah or aufrof –so that he should not feel downgraded – and writes that in such a case the cheresh should try to say the words as best he can, although such an aliya may not be from the main seven aliyot.


A medaber acting as the leader for prayer services (chazan) is subject to debate.[58] Therefore regarding saying kaddish, while a medaber may certainly say it along with others, saying it alone, however, would be subject to the above dispute. However, according to both the Chazon Ish and Rabbi Frank (and perhaps Rabbi Feinstein) this dispute would not apply to one with a working hearing aid or CI who can, without equivocation, lead a congregation during prayers and kaddish.


As for a medaber acting as the actual reader of the Torah, this should be avoided yet can be done in cases of need, such as the bar mitzvah of a medaber.[59] Certainly regarding biblical readings (e.g. parshat Zachor) we should not rely on these lenient views. In addition, and as we will point out below, there is a distinction between the reading of the Torah and the reading of Megillat Esther, the latter being more stringent regarding a medaber.


With respect to fulfilling the mitzvah of hearing the Torah being read, Rabbi Moshe Shternbach suggests that even according to the views that rule that microphones/hearing devices are not considered true shmia, the mitzvah of kriat haTorah (reading from the Torah) would be different.[60] This is because this mitzvah may not be an obligation to hear a person read the Torah rather simply to hear ‘words of Torah’.[61]


A medaber and a shomea[62] are counted toward a zimun – groups for grace after meals (Rema siman 199:10) [63]  of both three and ten. According to some (see Shulchan Aruch Harav) they should not (especially a shomea) be counted as one of a zimun of three, and even in a zimun of ten there should be no more than four medabrim.[64]  As for leading the zimun, see Biur Halacha siman 199 s.v. “meztarfin” who relates this question to the issue of a medaber acting as the chazan. He ends by suggesting that it might be possible to be more lenient concerning his leading a zimun. Here too, the Chazon Ish and Rabbi Frank would view one equipped with a hearing device like anyone else.


Kriat HaMegilla – A medaber who can hear through the help of a hearing aid, according to the view of Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach (1:9), may have no way of fulfilling the mitzvah of reading the megilla and is therefore is exempt from it (ones rachmana patrei –Gd does not hold us culpable for impossible actions).[65] As stated in a previous section, Rabbi Auerbach does imply that they should still listen to the reading while making sure not to say the blessings.


Shulchan Aruch siman 689:2 with Mishnah Berura (5), regarding one who is completely deaf (Shaarei Teshuva) yet can speak, rules that he cannot even read the megilla for himself. Even though we mentioned above that regarding blessings and prayer that require one to hear the words that they uttering, a medaber nevertheless fulfills his obligation, kriat ha’megilla they argue is different. This is due to the special concept of pirsumei nissa –the public showing of the miracle we are coming to commemorate that is activated on Purim and that obligates the reader to hear the words that he is saying (Beit Yoseph). Many achronim (post 16th century scholars) disagree with this ruling of the Shulchan Aruch (Gra, Shaagat Aryeh, et al.) and allow for a medaber (with no hearing aid) to read the megilla, even for others.[66]


The Meiri (Megilla 19b) explicitly compares megilla to the case of being a chazzan and rules that for megilla too a medaber can read for others and exempt them. The Shaarei Teshuva (ad loc. 2) posits that when dealing with one who could hear through a hearing device, even the Shulchan Aruch would agree that he could read the megilla (cf. shu’t Tzemech Tzedek Even HaEzer 323). This last point, however, is difficult to rely upon due to the fact that the Shaarei Teshuva was speaking of non-electrical, primitive hearing aids of bygone years, which as pointed out by Rabbi Moshe Feinstein (Even HaEzer 3:33) must be viewed more leniently than modern ones. The Chazon Ish and Rabbi Frank would, again, see one equipped with a modern hearing device like anyone else even regarding kriat hamegilla. 


Shabbat- Due to all that has been discussed thus far, a cheresh-medaber should make kiddush and havdala for himself and should not exempt others. It would seem, however, that a father of a household may be lenient in this matter and lead kiddush etc. for his wife and children. This is due to the many lenient approaches we have seen regarding modern day hearing devices, and, based on the many opinions mentioned in the Biur Halacha (siman 55) that allow a cheresh who can speak (even without a hearing device) to fulfill mitzvot on behalf of others. While we would not typically rely on these views, in cases of need we would, and a father being seen as the head of the household is crucial for children, especially in our day. [67] 


Hearing Aids on Shabbat -A week after Rabbi Feinstein received a query (Iggerot Moshe Orach Chaim 4:84) regarding the use of microphones on Shabbat –which he forbids for four separate reasons –he received a query (ad loc. 85) relating to hearing aids on Shabbat. He ruled that albeit a hearing aid is indeed a mini-microphone and he had recently ruled that microphones are forbidden to be used on Shabbat, one can still wear a hearing aid on Shabbat. He goes on to demonstrate how all four of his reasons forbidding a microphone on Shabbat would not apply to hearing aids.[68]


While Rabbi Feinstein suggests that it is better for others not to speak directly to the wearer on Shabbat unless it is urgent,[69] according to Rabbi Shlomo Zalman Auerbach (Minchat Shlomo 1:9), talking directly to the wearer is of no concern. As for raising or lowering the volume of hearing aids on Shabbat, there are a number of views. Some, like Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach (Minchat Shlomo 1:9 anaf beit 1; Shimerat Shabbat K’hilchata 34:28; shu’t Beur Moshe 1:17) felt that adjusting the volume on electrical devices –so long as no new current is being created, rather an existing one is being raised or lowered –is allowed. One’s personal rav should be consulted before acting on this issue.


The reader is directed to Rabbi Elysha Sandler’s excellent article in Journal of Halacha & Contemporary Society, XLI; Spring 2001 - Pesach 5761, “The Use of Hearing Aids on Shabbat”, as well as Torat HaCheresh, by Rabbi Shuchatowitz (NCSY, 2002) where issues that relate to Shabbat are discussed in greater detail.



Sign Language


There is significant debate as to the status of a deaf person who cannot be assisted with hearing aids and who never learned how to talk, yet has the ability to converse in sign language. A competent rav should be consulted.[70]


Rabbi Feinstein (in a teshuva first published in the back of the first volume of Rabbi Eider’s English work on the laws of nidda),[71] rules that one who was born deaf and also cannot speak yet can converse in sign language still has the status of true cheresh.[72] He draws a comparison to writing, which, as stated above, is not a skill that transforms a born cheresh into a medaber.[73] Nevertheless, he rules in a later responsum that if a cheresh is unable to recite any words, it is better he daven in sign language that not to daven at all.[74] This last point is consistent with his view stated above that even a true cheresh who is exempt from all mitzvot should still not abandon Torah. Others disagree and rule that a cheresh who has the ability to converse in sign language has the status of a pikeach (fully understanding person).[75]


As for using sign language during davening at times when talking would not be allowed, a logical distinction must be made between the arbitrary motions people may make at times in order to communicate specific things (i.e. for silence, or for a pen) and an official, agreed upon, language of signs and gestures. The Shulchan Aruch rules (siman 63:6) that one is not allowed even to motion during the first chapter of kriat shma. The Mishnah Berura (siman 104:1) rules the same for the amida.[76] Regarding birchat hamazon (grace after meals), the Shulchan Aruch rules (siman 183:8) that some say all the laws regarding prayer apply as well to birchat hamazon, which the Aruch Hashulchan explains would mean that one cannot communicate through motion, just as during any prayer.  These laws would all the more so apply to sign language. Regarding other points in davening where talking is not allowed, or is frowned upon, sign language, while certainly not viewed as talking,[77] and certainly such communicating does not disturb others when compared to talking, would nevertheless seem to go against the reverence we are to have toward prayer and the synagogue (see Shulchan Aruch siman 150; Zohar, parshat Teruma) and will certainly weaken the atmosphere in shul and may even cause the other worshippers witnessing such open communication to view actual talking lightly.


Conclusion: As can be seen by this brief monograph, the laws of a cheresh, medaber, shomea and all the cases in between, touch upon virtually every aspect of Jewish life. Precisely because of developments in the field of deaf education and the advancement of the deaf and hard-of-hearing in daily life, poskim devote much time to clarifying their status.

Everyone in klal yisroel has their important role to play as well as their deficiencies. Let us all come to terms with our own and use them too to benefit others. May we soon merit the promise of Yishayahu (35:5-6): "The eyes of the blind shall be clear-sighted, and the ears of the deaf shall be opened…the lame shall leap as the hart, and the tongue of the mute shall sing”


This article is dedicated to the bachurim and rebbeim of Yeshivas Nefesh Dovid – a yeshiva for the deaf and hard-of-hearing.




[1] See Iggerotros Moshe Yoreh Deahy’d 4:49:2 where he briefly states that such a cheresh should nevertheless see to fulfill mitzvots for “…it is not appropriate for one to permit action for themselves with the excuse that the Torah allows it.”.



[2] We should note that we find earlier indications of sign language and lip reading within Talmud. See Gittin 59a in the Mishnah and Yevamot 112b regarding hand signaling [“remiza”] by and to deaf individuals; in Chagiga 3a we are taught regarding some form of lip reading. See also Tosephta Terumot 1:2 where it is taught that the deaf sons of the second generation mishnaic sage R. Yochanan Ben Gudgada were charged with all the taharot (purifications) of Jerusalem. Such responsibility could have only come about through some sort of communication and special education; Sota 13a teaches us that Chushim the son of Dan was deaf and yet we are taught that he was able to communicate.



[3] Indeed the Minchats Chinuch (21:10) remarks thatsays a monograph on the laws for the deaf is needed. See also Maaseh Cheresh, a 12-page sefer on this topic published by R. Yehuha Leibish Broch in the mid 19th century.



[4] It is estimated that genetics plays a role in about 30%-50% of childhood deafness cases, and it can be determined if one’s deafness is due to a genetic marker or not (“Understanding the Genetics of Deafness” by Harvard Medical School of Hereditary Deafness). I contacted Dr. Rehm, the author of this review, and she further explained that there is still much being discovered regarding the role that genetics plays in deafness. ChazalChazal allude to the role genetics can play in causing deafness in Chagiga 3a: “Two mutes living in Rebbe’s area who were either the grandchildren or nephews of Rabbi Yochanan Ben Gudgada would make sure to sit in front of Rebbe when he would enter the study-hall to lecture…” . This is the same Rabbi Yochanan Ben Gugada mentioned above (Tosephta Terumot, 1) whose sons were deaf, suggesting either remarkable coincidence or an allusion to genetics playing a role by deafness and muteness. Even more, it would seem that his nephews’ muteness was likely related to severe cases of hardness-of-hearing as the Gemera itself seems to indicate when it informs us that his nephews would make sure to sit in front of Rebbe when he would teach, which, if they were simply mute, would not be an understandable action, and certainly would not warrant being a detail mentioned in the Gemera (cf. Ein Yaakov and B’Einei Yitzchak ad loc. and Maharsha to Eruvin 13a who offer different solutions to this problem). Indeed, many commentators wonder (e.g. Iyun Yaakov, see Schottensntein Talmud ad loc. footnote 7) why the lineage of these two mutes had to have been mentioned at all, as it seems to add nothing to the events and the lesson to be derived from it. However, it can be suggested that the gemera went out of its way to mention their pedigree to allude to this issue of genetics and deafness. See also Yevamot 64b regarding Hemophilia and genetics. See as well the article, ‘Judaism, Genetic Screening and Genetic Therapy’, by Dr. Fred Rosner.



[5] That this law is a direct mesora (tradition, and in this case - as Chatam Sofer argued - Oral Law) would be challenged by the views of R. Eliezer, and more so R. Yehudah, who argue on it, see Tosephta Terumot 1:1, 1:2. See Maharam to Shabbos 132a s.v. v’R. Yochanan regarding not finidng a machloket regarding a Halacha Moshe M’Sinai.




[6] Pri Megadim, kollelets 2:4-7; shu’t Mimamakim 3:2; Sdei Chemed #103.



[7]  See also Nishmat Avraham, Artscroll, volume 1 pages 27, 28 with footnotes. See Sdei Chemed, merechets ‘Chets’ klal 103.



[8] See Rashi ibid. s.v ‘cheresh’, that such a cheresh is not a baar-daat (of common intelligence)s; see Iggerotos Moshe, Even Haezereh’e 3:33.



[9] Ibid.Op cit.



[10] Rav Bartenurah; Rambam, Peirush Hamishnayot, Terumot 1:2.



[11] As quoted by Dr. Steinberg in Encyclopedia Refuit vol.2, footnote [58].



[12] Based on Gittin 71a. See Encyclopidia Talmudits, erach ‘cCheresh’, column 496 and footnotes 30-37.



[13] Minchats Chinuch, 39.



[14] Vayikra 19:14.



[15] Minchats Chinuch 269:3.



[16] Mishenaeh Berrura, siman 37:12. See also shu’t Tzitz Eliezer, 15:32:2. Cf. Magen Avraham, siman 282:6 and Hagaootas Rav Akiva Eiger ad locum.




[17] Reama, ehEven Haezer’e 1:6. In fact, One of the purposes of this monograph is to allow modern-day cherashim to no longer be viewed (by some) - as one deaf person put it to me - like “specimens”, and instead as common members of the klal who happen to have, at times, unique halachos applied to them, just like we find by an onnein or a doctor.


[18] Dr. Steinberg, op.cit. column 540 in the name of the Pri Megadim, kollelet 2:1. See also Magid Mishnah, hilchot shabbat 20:7. It has been difficult for this writer to understand these arguments for the proofs brought (e.g. Shabbat 153a with Tosafot s.v. ‘mi’) seem to either relate specifically to the laws of Shabbat where there is a unique obligation of rest even for one’s animals (l’havdil -an academic, not literal comparison to cherashim), or, to a katan (see Rambam end of hilchot meachelot assurot as mentioned in Maggid Mishnah op cit.) where there is a specific obligation of chinuch (education). The latter would seem to apply little to a cheresh. Indeed the Minchat Chinuch rules (5:2 s.v. v’henay) that there is no obligation of chinuch for a cheresh. It would then seem that the Beit Yoseph and the Pri Megadim, who rule that one cannot feed a cheresh non-kosher food would, perforce, need to disagree with the Minchat Chinuch and indeed obligate a father to be educate a child who is a cheresh. Indeed the Pri Megadim does explicitly state that there is a chinuch obligation for a cheresh (op cit. 2:9). However while Dr. Steinberg brings both views regarding the chinuch of a cheresh (op cit. column 542 with footnotes # [70], [71]), he brings only the negative view regarding feeding a cheresh prohibited matter, while as explained, these two issues should be seen as necessarily tied to one another.




[19] Lord Jakobowitz writing in his groundbreaking ‘Jewish Medical Ethics’ (p.age 336, footnote 180), states,        “The legal disabilities of the deaf and dumb are entirely due to the mental dementia resulting from their inability to communicate audibly with their environment. But in view of the modern advancement in the treatment of such cases, it has been suggested that their religious and legal status may now be modified…”



[20] This is a rabbinical prohibition relating to performing an act on Shabbat whose result produces sound in a permissible way or method (i.e. a radio set on a timer to go on/off) when that act would typically be achieved–when performed on non Shabbat or festival days - in a manner that would be forbidden on Shabbat due to the fear that some may come to believe that a violation was performed– see Shabbat 18 and Orach Chaim siman 252.



[21] See also Techumin 5764, Dr. Brema.



[22] An additional factor to consider is that our acceptance of this rabbinic decree of hashma’at kol is debated and is not codified as an absolute. Indeed the Rema in siman 252:5 only brings this decree as a “yeish omrim” (some say) and states, “such is the custom (to be stringent)”. Furthermore in siman 244:6 the Rema rules that in cases of great need or financial loss we follow the lenient view. This would all the more so seem to be the case regarding one who needs to rely on this view so that he could hear! See footnote 52 regarding how the Rema chose when to rule leniently when there are a number of views. Cf. Gra siman 252 who is more stringent regarding this debated decree. See Biur Halacha s.v. ‘v’hachi noheg’.



[23] See Tradition, Spring 2009, “Survey of Recent Halachik Literature”, by Rabbi Bleich where he briefly discusses the question of a halachic distinction between CI and standard hearing aids. He quotes, and then disagrees with, the view of Dr. Israel Brema (op. cit.) who argues that because CI works without a microphone it should be more effective halachically. Rabbi Bleich in his dissent does not mention that in fact CI does begin its process with amplified sound. Indeed Rabbi Bleich writes, “The crucial Halachik difference between a hearing aid and a cochlear implant is that the latter does not transform electrical current into amplified sound waves”. It is my contention that both he is and Dr. Brema are factually incorrect. I sent my language used above (“CI also begins its process with a microphone. It is only after the sound is first picked up by a microphone that the speech processor organizes the sounds, the transmitter and stimulator transforms these sounds to impulses, and finally the electric array gathers these and sends them to the various areas of the auditory nerve”) to Dr. Ross of the University of Connecticut, an eminent expert in this field, who replied: “You are quite correct; a CI and a HA both require microphones in order to begin the electronic processing. Your wording is absolutely accurate. Both, also, eventually engage the auditory nerve (albeit differently) to transmit electronic nerve impulses to and through the brain”. Rabbi Kakon of Yeshivas Nefesh Dovid later informed me of the importance of the arguments laid out above and in this footnote because, as he explained it, many rabbonim advise to acquire a cochlear implant and not a hearing aid based on the premise that it poses fewer halachik concerns, which, as argued here, might be factually untrue.



[24] It should be noted that, today, there are several different types of microphones, some of which, like fiber optic microphones, compare little to the classic devices. Research needs to be done to see if Rabbi Shlomo Zalman Auerbach’s analysis would apply in these cases is true by these as well.



[25] Even Haezerh’e, 3:33; written in 1971, a fact that will become important in a forthcoming paragraph.



[26] Even Haezerh’e, 121.



[27] Ad locum., in the beginning of the responsum where Rabbi Feinstein describes the case that was posed to him.



[28] Rabbi Feinstein however does rule, in accordance with Rambam (hilchots mechirah 29:22), that although viewed as a medaber and obligated in mitzvotos, he does not have the ability to sell land.



[29] Iggerotros Moshe Orach Chaimoh’c 2:108. See also Iggerotros Moshe 4:91:4 where he permits listening to havdala over a telephone in cases of need.



[30] While the tTeshuva in chelek 2 does not have a date one can assume, based on it being in an earlier book, and by the dates of the teshuvots before and after, that it was written around 1965. However, there are occasions in the Iggerotros Moshe where earlier teshuvots are printed in later books and visa versa. 



[31] Iggerotros Moshe Orach Chaimoh’c 4:126.



[32] E.g. Teshuvots V’Haenhagots 1:101; Minchats Shlomo 1:9 brought below.



[33] Iggerotros Moshe 2:85 where after forbidding the use of microphones on Shabbat, was asked about hearing aids which he admits are the same thing –although he allows the latter for reasons that are specific to Shabbat law. See however Rabbi Elysah Sandler’s article in JHCS, Spring 2001 “The Use of Hearing Aids on Shabbat”, where after Rabbi Sandler writes that there is no distinction between the mechanics of a microphone and hearing aids (save, as alluded to above - and discussed in detail in Rabbi Sandler’s article - relating to shabbos), he mentions in a footnote (#52) the Nishmat Shabbos 3:360, where the Satmer Rebbe is quoted as indeed making a distinction between the two by suggesting that the poskim who forbade microphones on shabbos was a response, primarily, to the reform movement, therefore hearing aids would not be a concern. However, this would help little to answer the discrepancy in Rabbi Feinstein’s resposna 1) because, as pointed out in the beginning of this footnote, Rabbi Feinstein himself draws a parallel between hearing aids and microphones 2) the Satmer Rebbe’s theory would only be viable should we find one ruling less stringently by hearing aids, not more, which is what Rabbi Feinstein seems to do regarding fulfilling general mitzvos through them.



[34] See Rav Howard Shachter’s highly lucid  Jachter’s‘Grey Matter’ and the chapter titled “Fulfilling Mitzvot Through Hearing Devices”; Rabbis Tendler and Rosner in The Journal Of Contemporary Halacha, Fall 1991, “The Physically and Mentally Disabled”, footnote 17.



[35] See Encylopidia Refoit op cit footnote [386] where the tTeshuva regarding hearing aids (Even Haezer eh’e 3:33) is quoted as proof that Rabbi Feinstein would not accept them as vehicle through which to hear the megilla and that, like Rabbi AurbachAuerbach (see below) he does not perceive hearing devices as affecting hHalachick shmia.



[36] Siman 689:2.



[37] E.g. Maharam Shik, Divrei Malkiel



[38] Ibid s.v. “uk’sh’mdabrim”.  See Perisha Choshen Mishpat, siman 235:20; Sma ad loc. 46.



[39] Ibid. 4:26:2:8, he even goes so far as to compare it to listening to it through a “gramophone”(!). See also ibid 8:11.,



[40] Ibid. 4:26; 5:3. This concern would seem to apply little to hearing devices.



[41] Op cit Eh’e 3:33. Like with Rabbi Feinstein’s teshuvots, it is possible to solve this contradiction between Tzitz Eliezer’s permissive teshuvot and stringent ones if we can come up with some distinction between hearings aids and microphones. See above, footnote 42.



[42] Although assertive in his language, he ends the letter by stating “tzorech iyun b’zeh” (further study relating to this issue is required). See Rabbi Frank’s Mikroei Kodesh, purim #27. and Rabbi Weiss’s shu’t Minchas Yitzchak ad loc.



[43] Rosh Hashana 27b. However, see shu’t Halachot Ketanot 276 where no distinction is made between shofar and other mitzvot, all requiring hearing that the initial sound be heard. See Tzitz Eliezer 8:11:7 where he explains the intent of this teshuva of the Halachot Ketanot.



[44] He basis this on the logic that the sound being heard was first generated by the original speaker.



[45] See also shu’t Divrei Chaim Even Haezereh’e 72 and 73, where he the Sanzer rav also views modern-day cherashim as pikchim.



[46] Specifically regarding one who was born deaf. When the Gemara discusses one who is deaf yet who could talk Rashi often makes the point that this is due to his becoming deaf later in life, e.g. Rashi, Chagiga 2b.



[47] See Mishnahe Berura, siman 589:13 that one can fulfill this mitzvah through a mechanical hearing aid. See also the always extraordinary Pisskei Teshuvots 489:3.



[48] This ruling is found in his commentary to the Mishnah, Rosh Hashana 29a. His ruling is based on a novel reading of this Mishnah which otherwise seems to clearly state that a cheresh has no mitzvah in shofar.



[49] Moadim L’Zmanim 1:1.



[50] An exact opposite approach is found in the Beits Yoseph siman 689 in the name of the Rashbatz who argues that regarding shofar, since it is athe mitzvah based onis in the shmia and not the act of sounding it, one that cannot hear is not even a bar-chayuva  (obligated individual(obligated). This approach to a medaber differs from Rabbi Frank’s. the Har Tzvi’s for Although both rule that a medaber cannot fulfill this particular mitzvah, there is no reason according to Rabbi Frank the Har Tzvi not to still view the medaber (with a hearing device) as a bar-chayuva (obligated individual), which may allow him to exemptbe motzi others., see Avnei Nezer oh’c 439 and Kovetz HaOros 48:14 if an onness can still be viewed as bar-chayuva in order to be motzi others. See the always breathtaking (and breadthteaking!) Chavtzalus HaShurin, Shmos, page 93-95; Shalmei Toda, Purim page 164b - whereas according to the Rashbatz there is no room for such an allowance.




[51] 589:6



[52] See Reama in his introduction to Torat Chatat where he explains that when appropriately following a bdieved it is becomes “Ki Heter Gamur Aliba D’Hilchatah”. The concept of bdieved can be, and often is, easily misunderstood. It is only utilized when there is already a view that allows that certain action or inaction lchatchila yet, for whatever reason, this view is not seen as normative. See Marharsham, in sefer Daat Torah, hilchot treifot 38 –see Taz 688:5; Shach Yoreh Deah y’d 54:9 and 242:5; Pri Megadim, seder hanhagot Orach Chaim 1:9 and klallim l’horoat #6. The Reama writes that bdievedit is actually a fallback to normative law and away from an accepted stringency, and writing that in such cases of need, “Yesh Lehaamid Davar Al Dino” –we only reverting to the basic law.



[53] Inferred from Reama siman 46:8; Magen Avraham ibid.; Kaf Hachaim uses the same reasoning in the name of the Arizal; Shulchan Aruch HaRav; Mishnaeh Berura, who suggests, in the name of the Chayay Adam that he wait until sunrise to recite this blessing).



[54] The Gemara here famously relates that in that a certain large shul in Alexandria many could not hear the chazzan (the one who is leading services) and could only know when to respond by having someone standing up and waving a cue. See Shulchan Aruch 55:8 with Mishnahe Berrurah (38) and SA Harav (11) how to relate this to deafness; Cf. Taz siman 124:2. See also Halichot Shlomo vol. 1, page 265 and footnote 26. See however shut Maharil siman 106 and 150 who seems to argue that even if a medaber is not waved so as to answer amen he should still be counted for a minyan based on Sanhedrin 39a, “Gd resides amongst ten”, regardless if they respond to the chazzan. In fact this teshuva was the source for the Shulchan Aruch’s ruling to allow a medaber to be counted in a minyan! See Aruch HaShulchan siman 55:12 who writes “And one should not ask regarding one who cannot hear what the chazzan is saying or (regarding) one who cannot speak ‘How can they be included to say kaddish and kedusha’, for this is not a question…for what is needed is ten for the Divine presence to settle there, even if not all of them can answer”. It would seen from his next paragraph (13) that we would nevertheless limit the number of medabrim who won’t know when to answer to no more than four out of the ten; the Shulcha Aruch HaRav states this explicitly (55:11). There is support for this lenient approach in the Shulchan Aruch itself. In siman 55:6 he rules that one can include in a mMinyan one who is praying his silent amida and even one who is sleeping, yet in siman 124 he rules that if there are not ten answering amen to the chazan’s repetition that it is “a quasi blessing in vain”. To explain this apparent discrepancy some explain (Derisha 124:1) that even in the latter ruling he only wrote that it is a “quasi blessing in vain” meaning that bshat hadchak it would be allowed and it was only in such shas hadchak cases that he was referring to in siman 55. Others, however, explain (Shulchan Aruch HaRav) that there is no discrepancy for while the Shulchan Aruch allows one who is sleeping to be counted for a mMinyan this is only for kaddish or kedusha whereas by the chazzan’s repetition, where blessings are being made, he rules that an answerable mMinyan is required. According to this last opinion the medabrim would have to be told when to answer during the amida’s repetition. It would seem however that the view of the Maharil can be further supported by this ruling of the Shulchan Aruch (55:8) who rules that a shomea is counted for a minyan. Being that a shomea, by very definition, can’t answer amen (!) this ruling lends strong support to the notion that what is needed is ten men, even if they are not responding.




[55] See also Halichots Shlomo vol., 22:26.



[56] See ibid. 22:16.



[57] Iggerotros Moshe Yoreh Deahy’d 4:41:6; Shu’t Teshuvots V’Hanhogots 1:155; Siddur Beits Yaakov; Pri Megadim, siman 139 M.Z. 2; Cf. Minchats Shlomo 1:34, although being that the latter’s concern was about understanding his words, even he would agree that in cases where this is not a fear that there is no concern.



[58] See Biur Halacha siman 55 s.v. ‘cheresh’.



[59] Teshuvots VeHanhogots, 1:150.



[60] Ibid. 1:150; 3:79.



[61] See also Shulchan Aruch HaRav, Hilchots Talmud Torah #2 where Rabbi Liadi posits that one does not even have to understand Torah Sh’bKtsav (the written Torah) when studying it ENGLISH, PLEASE, NOT HEBREW to warrant reward; see Gevurats Yitzchak by Rabbi Yitzchak Sorotzkin where he draws a distinction between kriats haTorah where one fulfills a mitzvah even if they do not understand it and mitzvot hs Hakhel where there is an obligation to hear and understand (Chagiga 3a) based on the verse (Devarim 31:12) “…so that they will hear and so that they will learn” and which would therefore exclude a medaber. This idea of kriat haTorah view being about hearing words of Torah and necessarily the reading itself is strengthened by the view that Moshe Rabbeinu’s Rabbeinu’s regulationtakana mandating for thrice weekly Torah readings is not an obligation on each individual, rather on the congregation tzibbur,  ENGLISH, PLEASE, NOT HEBREW, which would mean that the halachick rules of shomea k’oneh (the listener fulfilling his obligation through the one speaking) are not activated during its readings. For this reason some argue that even hearing kriats haTorah through a microphone would not be a concern either, see Pisskei Teshuvots 135 and shu’t Teshuvots V’Hanhagots 1:55. According to the several responsaa of the Tzitz Eliezer sourced in the last section where he decries the usage of microphones in a synagogue due to his view that it transgresses the reverence demanded of us there, these arguments would doue little to assuage his feelings.


[62] See Mishnah Berura ibid.



[63] Although the Rema utilizes the term “cheresh”, the Mishnah Berura (28) explains that he was only referring to a medaber.



[64] Based on the points raised in footnote 61.



[65] See Avnei Nezer Orach Chaim 439 and Kovetz HaOrots 48:14 if an onness can still be viewed as bar-chayuva in order to be fulfill motzi others’ obligations. See Chavtzaluts HaShurin, Shmots, page 93-95; Shalmei Toda, Purim page 164.



[66] Although even these views do not recommend that he not be the one to read it for othersbe motzi others.PLEASE EXPLAIN THIS IN ENGLISH, NOT HEBREW



[67] It is related that Rabbi Yaakov Kamenetzky, when visiting his married children, would refuse to sit at the head of the table, explaining that the function of the father, and his being seen as unimpeachable in his role as head of the house, is sacrosanct and should never be infringed upon when their children are present, even though he was thereby usurping his own children’s biblical obligation of honor-- kibud av--for him. ‘Reb Yaakov’, Artscroll, page 324.



[68] Rav Levi Yizchak Halperin of the Institute of Science and Halacha, in a statement issued in 1996 and quoted in Torats Hacheresh footnote #5, posits that cochlear implants are no different than hearing aids as they relate to Shabbatos.



[69] Op cit. See also Orchot Rabbeinu (Kinievsky) vol. 1 p. 146 where it is written that the Steipler Gaon would not speak directly to one equipped with a hearing device on Shabbat, he would however speak to a group of people even if it was known that one of the people there was using a hearing device.


[70]  Rav Yechiel Yaakov Weinberg, Kitvei R. Weinberg, 1:1, seems reluctant to rely on any scientific standards in assessing pikcheutus (common intelligence). See also shu’t Tzemech Tzedeck 77 and Nishmat Avraham (Artscroll) Volume 1, page 27. However, a logical proof can be brought from chazalchazal that would seem to indicate against both viewing sign language as a language (or talking) and against judging a true cheresh pragmatically: :PLEASEpragmatically:  EXPLAIN THE FOLLOWING IN ENGLISH, NOT IN HEBREWThe Mmishnaeh (Yevamouts 112a) rules that a cheresh may marry through remizah, i.e. signaling,, which Rashi explains as hand motions. The gemeraGemara 112b explains that although biblically such deaf peoplethey are exempt patur from all mitzvot s and that in reality such an acquisition  kinyan should be of no religious value, for the benefit of society it is allowed. This would mean, it would seem, that generally sign language is insignificant, and one’s ability to ‘understand’ is not judged on a case-by-case basis, otherwise we would not need this special takana/allowance only for martial matters.



[71] ‘Halachos of Nidda’, Page 25.



[72] Iggerot Moshe Yorah Deah 4:1:25 and reiterated in 4:49:1.The question was in regard to the nidda inspections of a chereshah and if she is trusted to do it herself. On page 71 of the English section of his book Rabbi Eider writes, quoting, in the footnote, Rabbi Feinstein as his source, “There is a view that holds that a deaf-mute, although she is capable of communicating intelligently, may not perform her own examinations”. He could only be referring to sign language as indicated by his question posed to Rabbi Feinstein printed in the Hebrew section found in the back of this volume.



[73] Nevertheless Further complicating his view on the matter,,Amazingly, in a later teshuva (Yoreh Deahy’d 4:49:5) to his grandson, Rabbi Feinstein allows such a cherashah to do her own examinations so long as her husband trusts her; suggesting a pragmatic approach even to true is therefore not our place to make a definitive statement about Rabbiv Feinstein’s ultimate ruling.



[74] Yoreh Deah 4:41:3. See also Shevet Sefer Even Haezer 21 s.v. “vroesy” where he begins to say that sign language does not change the status of a cheresh, but ends in doubt. His writes that his father too (the Chatam Sofer) was not sure how to view them. He therefore suggests that they should be stringent in mitzvot.




[75] See also shu’t Beis Shlomo Orach Chaim 95; Divrei Malkiel 6:35, both as brought in sefer Hilchot Gerim (Klein) p. 117, footnote 44, where, based on these sources, the author rules that such cherashim may be accepted as converts. Although seemingly ludicrous, would not the next logical conclusion be that, according to these views that see sign language as some form of quasi-language, one man using sign language can make kiddush for another who understands it? Perhaps these views would brush this question off by arguing that shomea k’onah would still require, as its name suggests, some type of shmia.

See Shevet Sefer eh’e 21 s.v. “vroesy” where he begins to say that sign language does not change the status of a chereshcherish, but ends in doubt. His writes that his father too (the Chatam Sofer) was not sure how to view them. He therefore suggests that they should be stringent in mitzvos. See also shu’t Beis Shlomo oh’c 95; Divrei Malkiel 6:35, both as brought in sefer Hilchos Gerim p.age 117, footnote 44, where, based on these sources, the author rules that such cherashim may be accepted as convertsgeirim. It is unclear if according to these views, as cited, one can lchatchila make a beracha or pray using sign language; or be motzi another (who also understands it) through such communicative gestures. One is always advised to look up all such teshuvos brought down in likkutim; regarding what is found in this article as well, nothing should be relied upon until one goes through the material for themselves to see if this writer faithfully explained them.



[76] See also Ben Ish Chay, Chukas #8 and the Chida as brought in the Shaarei Teshuva ad loc. and Ben Ish Chay, Chukat #8.



[77] E.g. see the Birkei Yosef (siman 104:2) who rules that although one cannot motion during shemoneh esreh, if children are disturbing one’s davening it is better to motion than to silence them verbally; see also shu’t Be’er Moshe 3:13.


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deafness in halacha deafness in halacha deafness in halacha deafness in halacha deafness in halacha deafness in halacha deafness in halacha deafness in halacha deafness in halacha

deafness in halacha deafness in halacha deafness in halacha deafness in halacha deafness in halacha deafness in halacha deafness in halacha deafness in halacha deafness in halacha

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