A few weeks ago the Jewish world mourned the death of Rabbi Nota Greenblatt (1925-2022) who, aside from being the Rav and Av Beis Din of the Vaad HaKehillot of Memphis and the founder of the Margolin Hebrew Academy, was a tremendous Torah scholar and a Rabbi’s Rabbi who often travelled to smaller Jewish communities throughout America to help provide them with whatever halachic solutions they needed.
While I knew of Rabbi Greenblatt, I didn’t know much about him, and so when he died I decided to find out more about who he was – which led me to listen to the interview between R’ Dovid Lichtenstein and Rabbi Avi Lebowitz on the Headlines podcast (see https://bit.ly/3tDV88B).
As Rabbi Lebowitz explained, one of Rabbi Greenblatt’s areas of expertise was gittin (Jewish divorce), and whenever a ‘get’ was required, he travelled to wherever he was needed to ensure that a ‘get’ was given. Significantly, Rabbi Greenblatt not only oversaw the giving of a ‘get’ but also served as the ‘sofer’ (scribe), and nowadays our sofrim (scribes) who write gittin almost always consult a sefer when doing so. However, given that Rabbi Greenblatt was such an expert, and given that he was often writing gittin in more far-flung places without any access to sefarim, he wrote his gittin from memory.
Yet what Rabbi Lebowitz noted was that while Rabbi Greenblatt wrote and oversaw many many gittin he also performed the most amount of Chalitzah ceremonies in America, and notwithstanding their relative rarity, whenever he did so he conducted the ceremony (bringing with him a range of chalitzah shoes) by memory without needing to refer to a Chumash, Gemara or Shulchan Aruch. As Rabbi Lebowitz said, when he first saw Rabbi Greenblatt running a Chalitzah ceremony he was blown away because it takes an extraordinary Torah scholar to have all that knowledge at their fingertips that they don’t need to consult a sefer.
And why do I mention all this? Because today’s daf (Yevamot 101a) quotes a Beraita stating that those who oversee a Chalitzah need to be sufficiently qualified שיודעין להקרות – ‘that they know how to dictate the relevant Torah passages [about Chalitzah]’. For most people, this means that they need to be able to read and dictate these words. But Rabbi Greenblatt fulfilled this statement literally, dictating the words of a Chalitzah by heart and helping ensure that gitting and chalitzot were performed whenever, and wherever, they were needed.