Hershel Schachter

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Hershel Schachter
Born (1941-07-28) July 28, 1941 (age 80)
Alma materYeshiva University
PositionRosh yeshiva
OrganizationOrthodox Union
ResidenceWashington Heights, Manhattan

Hershel Schachter (born (1941-07-28)July 28, 1941) is an American Orthodox rabbi, posek (religious law authority) and rosh yeshiva (dean) at Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary (RIETS), part of Yeshiva University (YU) in New York City.[1]

Schachter is an halakhic (Jewish law) advisor for the Orthodox Union, and has rendered notable decisions in a number of contemporary topic areas.

Early life and education[edit]

Hershel Schachter was born in Scranton, Pennsylvania to Melech Schachter, a rosh yeshiva (dean) at Yeshiva University (YU).[2]

Schachter became an assistant to Joseph Ber Soloveitchik at the age of 22. He earned a B.A. from Yeshiva College and an M.A. in Hebrew literature from the Bernard Revel Graduate School of Jewish Studies in 1967.[1] After receiving semikhah (rabbinic ordination) that year at the age of 26, Schachter became the youngest rosh yeshiva at Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary (RIETS), and was appointed rosh kollel (dean of the kollel) in 1971.[1]

Schachter is a prominent posek (religious law authority). He is also a halakhic (Jewish law) advisor for the kashrut division of the Orthodox Union.[3]

Halakhic opinions[edit]

In the realm of medical halakha, Schachter does not allow doctors or medical students to work on Shabbat (Saturday) unless they need to save a life.[4] Schachter believes that the living status of a brain dead individual is a safek (matter of doubt), and thus requires that all decisions be made with the same stringencies applied to all cases where life-and-death is in doubt. This, ipso facto, forbids the organ donations of brain dead individuals, by considering them as possibly still halachically alive, but also requires chalitzah (release from the obligation of levirate marriage) in the case that a childless widow is left with only a brain dead husband as well as a normal brother-in-law.[5]

In monetary law and taxation, Schachter believes that a graduated system of income taxes is "fair and reasonable" and thus falls under the ægis of dina d'malkhuta dina (law of the land is law), and thus everyone must pay taxes.[6]

Schachter holds that a woman is not allowed to serve as the president of a synagogue unless there is absolutely no other choice.[7] Schachter was the posek for the YU eruv in Washington Heights, Manhattan, and is one of the most notable contemporary halachik authorities to allow for the implementation of an eruv (religious enclosure) in sections of Manhattan.[8]

Other views[edit]

In a December 2006 speech, Schachter stated that mesirah (informing on a fellow Jew to the authorities) "is permitted in situations where one is a public menace (see Shach to Choshen Mishpat 388, 59), or if one is physically or psychologically harming another individual (for example, in instances of sexual abuse of children, students, campers etc., or spousal abuse) (see Shach to Choshen Mishpat ibid, 45)."[9][10]

In a February 2013 speech to a London audience, Schachter echoed this sentiment. He did express concern that before going to the authorities, one should make sure that a potential abuse victim is credible by referring him to a competent rabbi or psychologist. Schachter cited concerns that if the child's story was a fabrication, it could result in a Jew's being locked "in a cell with a shvartze, in a cell with a Muslim, a black Muslim who wants to kill all the Jews." Yeshiva University condemned the use of the term shvartze (the Yiddish word for black, racially loaded when directed at a person):[11][12][13][14] “The recent use of a derogatory racial term and negative characterizations of African-Americans and Muslims, by a member of the faculty, are inappropriate, offensive, and do not represent the values and mission of Yeshiva University,” a YU spokesman stated.[15]

Schachter is endorsed by the Organization for the Resolution of Agunot, a non-profit organization that advocates for the elimination of abuse from the Jewish divorce process by, among other things, organizing public protests to compel husbands to grant their wives gittin (religious divorce documents).[16] David Eidensohn, a Monsey, New York rabbinical judge who believes that coercing gittin renders the divorces invalid, has accused Schachter of misquoting Maimonides in public lectures to the effect that beating husbands is a valid procedure in these cases.[17]


Schachter has written many books related to Judaism. They include:

  • Eretz HaTzvi (1992) (with an approbation by Rabbi Dovid Lifshitz)
  • Nefesh HaRav (1994) - Torah from Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik
  • B'Ikvei HaTzon (1997) (with an approbation by the famed Rabbi Pinchas Hirschsprung, the former Chief Rabbi of Montreal)
  • Shiurei ha-Rav ha-Gaon Rabi Yosef Dov ha-Levi Soloveitchik, Masekhet Gittin, chap. 1-4 [based on lectures from 1963-1964] (1999)
  • Shiurei ha-Rav ha-Gaon Rabi Yosef Dov ha-Levi Soloveitchik, Masekhet Kiddushin (2001)
  • MiP'ninei HaRav (2001) - more Torah from Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik
  • Shiurei ha-Rav ha-Gaon Rabi Yosef Dov ha-Levi Soloveitchik, Tzitzet, Tefillen, Kriat haTorah (2002)
  • Shiurei ha-Rav ha-Gaon Rabi Yosef Dov ha-Levi Soloveitchik, Yom HaKippurim, Megillah (2002)
  • Shiurei ha-Rav ha-Gaon Rabi Yosef Dov ha-Levi Soloveitchik, Masekhet Shabbat (2004)
  • Ginas Egoz (2007) (with an approbation by Rabbi Gershon Yankelewitz)
  • Divrei HaRav (2010) - a third volume of Torah from Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik


  • בגדר מצות קידוש והבדלה in HaDarom No. 26, Tishrei 5728 (September 1967)
  • בירור הלכה בענין אמירה לנכרי בשבת וכבוד המת in HaPardes No. 57, Vol. 8 (May 1983)

Recorded shiurim: See https://www.yutorah.org/rabbi-hershel-schachter/

He has also written more than 200 articles, in both Hebrew and English, for scholarly Torah publications such as HaPardes, HaDarom, Beit Yitzchak, and Or Hamizrach.

Works about[edit]

  • Lawrence Kaplan, "The Multi-Faceted Legacy of the Rav: A Critical Analysis of R. Hershel Schachter's Nefesh ha-Rav," BDD (Bekhol Derakhekha Daehu: Journal of Torah and Scholarship) 7 (Summer, 1998): 51–85.
  • Ferziger, Adam S. “Feminism and Heresy: The Construction of a Jewish Metanarrative.” Journal of the American Academy of Religion 77, no. 3 (2009): 494–546.


  1. ^ a b c "Rabbi Hershel Schachter". Yeshiva University. Retrieved 2008-04-14.
  2. ^ Greenwald, Shlomo (February 28, 2007). "Rabbi Melech Schachter, Noted YU Rebbe, 93". Extras. The Jewish Press. Retrieved 2008-04-14.
  3. ^ "Mesorah". Orthodox Union. 2008. Retrieved 2008-04-14.
  4. ^ Schachter, Hershel (2007). "Shemiras Shabbos for Doctors and Medical Students". Torahweb.org. Retrieved 2008-04-14. The medrash derives from a posuk in Parshas Lech Lecha that one may violate the laws of Shabbos to save the life of a choleh sheyesh bo sakanah (an individual with a life threatening sickness). The Talmud clearly states that even when we are not sure whether there is a real danger to someone's life or whether the chilul Shabbos (transgression of Sabbath observance) will save the life, we still declare that the chilul Shabbos is allowed. Rav Shimon Shkop, in his famous sefer Shaarei Yosher, points out from the Gemarah that even in a case of sfek sfeka we still allow chilul Shabbos.…There is a terrible misconception that the laws of Shabbos do not apply to doctors. This is absolutely incorrect. No profession exempts anyone from any mitzvos. Medical students are certainly not exempt from Shabbos observance. And even after having completed his school years, the future doctor must take special care to make sure he has a Sabbath-observant residency. If this can not be arranged, the student must simply look for a different profession.
  5. ^ "Organ Donation Conference at Yeshiva University Tackles Difficult Issues". Yeshiva University. September 18, 2006. Archived from the original on August 13, 2007. Retrieved 2008-04-14. Perhaps the most fascinating portion of the day was the discussion of brain death and halakha. Rabbi Hershel Schachter, a rosh yeshiva at the Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary (RIETS) and the rosh kollel at RIETS' Marcos and Adina Katz Kollel (Institute for Advanced Research in Rabbinics), spoke on the topic by video conference from Los Angeles. Rabbi Dr. Moshe D. Tendler, Rabbi Isaac and Bella Tendler Professor of Jewish Medical Ethics, professor of biology, and a rosh yeshiva at RIETS, spoke near the end of the conference. Rabbi Schachter has deemed the question of brain death a safek, or a matter of doubt. Rabbi Schachter's opinion would obligate its followers to act stringently in all cases of doubt, rendering a brain dead person not dead and ruling out the possibility of donating his organs.
  6. ^ Schachter, Hershel (2005). "Taxation and Dina Demalchusa". Torahweb.org. Retrieved 2008-04-14. In the days of the Talmud taxes were collected for the purpose of enriching the king. Based on the parshas hamelech in Sefer Shmuel (Shmuel I 8:11), the Rabbis formulated the principle of dina demalchusa dina (Nedarim 28a), literally, the "law of the land is binding": everyone must pay taxes. In Shulchan Aruch (Chosehn Mishpat 369:8), the Rishonim are quoted as having pointed out that if the taxes are unfair, or discriminatory (which is also unfair,) this would not constitute "dina" demalchusa – "the law of the land," but rather "gazlanusa" demalchusa – "the embezzlement of the land," and such tax laws are not binding (see Nefesh Harav p. 269). A system of graduated income tax is considered fair and reasonable (see LeTorah Velemoadim by Rav Zevin, p. 118).…t is important to note that today the basis for taxation is totally different from what it was in Talmudic times. Today, all modern countries provide a variety of services: They provide streets and highways, and maintain forests and museums. They provide fire, police, and military protection. They collect garbage and deliver mail. They do medical research to discover cures for diseases, etc. The taxes are collected for the purpose of covering the annual budget, which pays for all of these projects. The halacha views all of the people living in the same neighborhood as "shutfim" – "partners," sharing a common need for a shul, yeshiva, mikveh and an eruv, and therefore, the "partners" can force each other to put up the needed amount to further their partnership. So too, all people who live in the same city, state, and country are considered "shutfim" with respect to the services provided by that city, state, and country.…In our modern world, one who does not pay his proper share of taxes is no longer viewed as cheating the king (or the ruler) of the country, but rather as cheating (i.e. stealing from) his partners. The amount of money not paid by the one who cheats will have to be taken care of by having the rest of the "partners" put up more money from their pockets to cover all the expenses of the partnership. And even if much of the tax money goes towards expenditures that are not to one's personal liking and that one gets nothing out of, such is the halacha of any partnership: the majority of the partners have the right to determine what are the reasonable needs of the partnership (Choshen Mishpat 163:1). Therefore, this majority has the legitimate right to force the minority to contribute their share towards properly furthering the partnership.
  7. ^ YU Torah Online : Shiur 43 (Rabbi Hershel Schachter)
  8. ^ "YUeruv". Retrieved 5 August 2015.
  9. ^ "Regarding Mesirah" "TorahWeb.org", 24 Mar 2013
  10. ^ "Rav Hershel Schachter: Should I Call the Police? Clarifying the Issurim of Mesira and Chilul Hashem", "TorahWeb.org", 24 Mar 2013
  11. ^ Paul Berger, "Yeshiva Rabbi Hershel Schachter Stirs Hornet's Nest With Remarks — Again; 'Shvartze' Cleric Spoke of Killing Israeli Premier, Compared Women to Monkeys", The Forward, 21 March 2013
  12. ^ "YU dean warns against reporting unconfirmed sex abuse claims", The Times of Israel, 16 March 2013
  13. ^ "Schachter, a top Y.U. rabbi, calls for panels to screen abuse claims" Archived 2013-05-01 at the Wayback Machine, JTA, 15 March 2013
  14. ^ "Yeshiva University rabbi warns sex abuse reports put innocent Jews in prison", Haaretz, 20 March 2013
  15. ^ Berger, Paul (15 March 2013). "Yeshiva Condemns 'Offensive' Racial Remarks by Rabbi Hershel Schachter". The Forward. Retrieved 19 March 2022.
  16. ^ Kollrin, Lianne (April 1, 2017) "Shun Get Refuser, Urges Leading Rabbi, The Jewish Chronicle. Retrieved July 13, 2021.
  17. ^ Yudelson, Larry (October 18, 2013) "Unchained Reaction", Jewish Standard. Retrieved July 15, 2019.

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