Rabbi Juravel’s Lessons

An Interview With Rabbi Dovid Juravel About His Groundbreaking 39 Melachos CDs

Upon the release of Rabbi Dovid Juravel’s groundbreaking 39 Melachos CDs, the Yated spoke to Rabbi Juravel about this tremendous undertaking. The Yated also contacted Rabbi Juravel’s family to get a glimpse of what goes on behind the scenes.

Yated Ne’eman: Shalom uvracha, Rabbi Juravel. Your newest release, The 39 Melachos with R’ Juravel, has made waves in the Jewish world. Where did you get the idea to make a halacha CD?

Rabbi Juravel: My children mentioned to me that there are ehrliche Yidden who are doing their best but just don’t know the basic halachos of Shabbos. My granddaughter was in the Catskills one summer when she overheard a woman inviting her children for seudah shlishis outside on the lawn. The well-meaning mother washed her children’s hands for hamotzie on the grass without realizing that it’s a violation of the melacha of zorei’a, planting.

I once watched how in an area without an eruv, the shul got locked from inside. A man lifted a child through the window to go in and open it. He didn’t mean to, but he was oiver motzie m’reshus l’reshus, carrying from one place to another.

So it seems that Rabbi Juravel felt the need for such a project for a while.

Rabbi Juravel’s Family: Yes. But Rabbi Juravel was grappling with how to make a halacha CD interesting enough for children. In truth, the idea of making a halacha CD for children went through many stages until the decision was made to teach the melachos through fictional stories that contain the melachos in the story.

We heard each of the 3 CDs begin with a song of the melachos. Can you tell us about that?

RJ:This song was originally put on the Stories of Shabbos CD. That CD is not about halachos. It contains stories about Shabbos, but it begins with the song. When I was a rebbi years ago, I wanted my talmidim to know the melachos baal peh and realized that a song would help them memorize them. We use that same song to familiarize the children with the melachos and refer back to the song throughout the stories.

How long did it take you to complete this project?

RJ:It took us about a year from beginning to end, with some breaks in middle. We had to first do research and make sure that all the information is accurate.

We see that the CDs have haskamos from rabbonim. It is quiet uncommon for a CD to have a haskamah.

RJ:True. We wanted to have haskamos because of the complicated halachos involved. Although we stress on the CDs that children should not pasken from what they learn from them, we took great effort to make sure that the halachos are correct. We had noted poskim review all the material.

RJF:Rabbi Juravel often told us about this project, “I got the biggest haskamah of all! I got the haskamah of the baal dovor!” That means that the yeitzer hara gave his haskamah by placing many obstacles in the way. Actually, when one of the maskimim, Rav Yaakov Forchheimer, was approached to see if he would be able to give his haskamah, he exclaimed, “Such a project! I would like to be part of it!”

Did the rabbonim suggest any changes?

RJ:Yes. There were a few changes, mainly in the wording or explanation. Some of the changes were not even on hilchos Shabbos. The rabbonim felt that it’s a chinuch tool and should be worded as such.

RJF:Rabbi Juravel had a surprise when one of the rabbonim asked for a change. The rov felt that Rabbi Juravel said that something was assur while he felt that it would be mutar. Rabbi Juravel said, “But we saw that in your sefer!” It emerged that the rov brought that shita down, but he himself didn’t agree, and Rabbi Juravel fixed the text accordingly.

Can you tell us more about the hurdles you encountered during the production of this series?

RJ:We had an amusing incident. In our single-minded goal to get the melachos into stories, we had a scene in which Yankel Gross is in jail and we wanted to get the melacha of tuveh, spinning wool. The original story said, “Yankel needed to twirl the cotton into wicks before Shabbos to bentch licht. He couldn’t do it on Shabbos because it would be the melacha of tuveh, spinning wool.” But someone pointed out that the reason Yankel needed to spin it before Shabbos was because he needed to use the wicks before Shabbos! Of course we corrected it.

How did you get the story to fit all the melachos?

RJ:Siyata diShmaya and zechus harabim.

RJF:Rabbi Juravel used much creative skill to fit the melachos into the story. He felt that a shipwreck, a prison and an army setting would lend themselves to the scenarios needed to be able to include all the melachos.

Can you tell us about feedback you received to your latest releases?

RJ:We are very thankful for the positive letters and chizuk that people give us.

RJF:The feedback we get is unbelievable. Here are some examples:

We heard three-year-old kinderlach singing the 39 melachos song.

We saw a father playing a game with a very young boy; the father gave him a scenario of something on Shabbos and the boy sang which melacha it would be.

There were two yungeleit learning a sugya that involved knowing which melacha is counted as one of the av melachos. When they came across one that they weren’t sure about, one yungerman started singing the song and said, “No, the action in question is not an av melacha!”

A family called to tell us that in their house, the 7-year-old and 5-year-old had a conversation about which melacha one is oiver when doing different kinds of activities. A gentleman in his sixties overheard this conversation and called to purchase the entire series – almost 100 other CDs.

Was there any particular hashkafa that you tried to incorporate?

RJ:Besides teaching the melachos, we wanted to show how lucky a Yid is to keep Shabbos and that only a Yid is allowed to be shomer Shabbos. It’s a privilege to spend this special time with the King! On CD #1, there is a moshol that explains this.

We cannot interview Rabbi Juravel without getting a sneak preview of other projects you have planned.

RJ:Be’ezras Hashem, we have a lot of work ahead of us. There is a bitachon series in the finishing stages, and a series on the importance of being mochel other Yidden who may have hurt us. It’s based on the Chofetz Chaim, and it’s a moshol, a story, to help us understand. That is also near completion. There is also a taryag mitzvos series, which begins with a song, and the plan is to give stories to explain the mitzvos that are hard to understand. There is a Novi series coming soon too. Also, we have a number of projects in mind, like melachos of Yom Tov and hilchos brachos, but we didn’t start working on those yet.

RJF:Rabbi Juravel spends a good part of his day learning b’iyun with enormous koach at Yeshiva Gedola of South Monsey, where he has a close kesher with many bochurim and their rosh yeshiva. He also spends time each day working on all these projects, even beginning new ones simultaneously.

There are rumors that Rabbi Juravel plans some CDs in Yiddish.

RJ:Yes. Be’ezras Hashem, we are well into the production of our Yiddish series. The first release will be the 39 melachos in Yiddish. That was a huge undertaking. The havarah, punctuation, is Litvish and the words used are “today’s Yiddish.” It’s a very close translation of the English CDs, so if a child wants to learn Yiddish and he knows the English version, he can learn Yiddish easily by listening to the Yiddish CD a few times.

I cannot talk about anything related to the CDs without thanking my son-in-law, a man of rare understanding and zechusim, R’ Mendel Feinzeig of Lakewood. It’s really all his zechus. He brought the series to where it is today.

RJF:Our family has infinite hakoras hatov to R’ Mendel, who had the foresight, chochmah and perseverance to help bring clear and pure Torah hashkafah to our heimishe tzibbur – with no sound effects!

Thank you, Rabbi Juravel. May Hashem give you lots of koach and gezunt to continue teaching Klal Yisroel.
And thanks to Rabbi Juravel’s family for the extra tidbits.