A Hidden Responsum

Mar 16th, 2012 by Rabbi Simcha Weinberg in Music of Halacha
The 20th of Adar is the Yahrtzeit of Rav Yoel (ben Shmuel) Sirkes of Cracow, (the Bach) (1561-1641), author of Bayis Chadash on the Tur, in which he traced each law to its source in the gemarah. In his youth, he studied under Rav Shlomo Leibush of Lublin and Rav Meshulam Feivush in Brisk. He had several rabbinic appointments throughout Poland, lastly as Chief Rabbi of Cracow in 1619. He was the teacher and father-in-law of Rav Dovid HaLevy, the Taz.

In 1979, Rabbi Elijah Schochet told me about the following Responsum, which he wrote up in, “A Responsum of Surrender.” I no longer have the book, but here is the question:

Teshuvah #43-Censored and removed from second edition of Responsa of the Bayit Chadash:

This concerns the false accusations leveled against the city of Kalish against a Jew who was arrested in the matter regarding the theft of their savior. As he was being led away he handed over his bag to others, among them his father-in-law and brother-in-law, who were standing in a large crowd of non-Jews.

After this Jew had suffered martyrdom his libelers leveled a charge against the community claiming that the father-in-law who was the Shamash of the community had taken the bag from the prisoner’s hand and the “savior” was inside.

The officials of the Royal Court handed down the verdict that the elders of the Jewish community were responsible for surrendering the Shamash to stand trial before the Wojewoda. Should they not turn him over to authorities, it would be they who would suffer the punishments intended for him meted out by the Royal Court.

In the interim, the Shamash escaped and is being hidden by friends.

There is reason to fear that if, God forbid, he were to be forced to stand trial before them, he would be tortured in ways beyonds their own established practices.

This is evident from the decree which they have issued against the Community, for according to their own rules and regulations, there is no reason for the community to be held responsible.

Since, as we have observed, they do as they please with us, contrary to their own rules, it is a matter of life and death should he be forced to stand trial.

What is the ruling regarding this man? Is it or is it not permissible to surrender him to stand trial?

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