Saturday, 25 September 2010

Random Sukkot Thoughts

  • Maybe I just have a weird sense of humor but I thought it was pretty funny watching people struggling with lulav, etrog, and siddur during hoshanot. The less yeshivish folks just held the lulav and etrog in one hand and the siddur in the other while the more black hat types were very makpid to hold lulav in right, etrog in left, and somehow manage to balance a siddur on their outstretched arms.
  • Perusing an Artscroll Yomtov halacha book (*shudder*) and I noticed something interesting. When it comes to smoking on YomTov Artscroll mentions that part of the reason smoking may have been permitted back in the day on Yom Tov was because it was שווה לכל נפש (a luxury or habit which all people need/do/want) whereas nowadays most people don't smoke so perhaps the halacha nowadays would forbid smoking. But when it came to showering it just quoted a Mishna Berura (or some old source) which prohibited heating up water to bathe one's whole body because bathing everyday is not שווה לכל נפש Now maybe I'm just pampered but I think most people nowadays consider it normal to bathe daily so I'm not quite sure why Artscroll doesn't consider the possibility that nowadays daily bathing is considered שווה לכל נפש.

The possibilities:
1.Many Orthodox Jews still have 19th century hygiene habits. (*double shudder*)

2. You can only take changing circumstances into account halachically if it makes things stricter. But making things easier based on changing circumstances is evil Reform/Conservative/Liberal "innovation".

Or maybe I just missed something or am unfamiliar with the halachot. Very possible.

  • Kohelet is such an Un-Orthodox Book. I mean how much more skeptical can you get than this:

יח  אָמַרְתִּי אֲנִי, בְּלִבִּי--עַל-דִּבְרַת בְּנֵי הָאָדָם, לְבָרָם הָאֱלֹהִים; וְלִרְאוֹת, שְׁהֶם-בְּהֵמָה הֵמָּה לָהֶם. 18 I said in my heart: 'It is because of the sons of men, that God may sift them, and that they may see that they themselves are but as beasts.'
יט  כִּי מִקְרֶה בְנֵי-הָאָדָם וּמִקְרֶה הַבְּהֵמָה, וּמִקְרֶה אֶחָד לָהֶם--כְּמוֹת זֶה כֵּן מוֹת זֶה, וְרוּחַ אֶחָד לַכֹּל; וּמוֹתַר הָאָדָם מִן-הַבְּהֵמָה אָיִן, כִּי הַכֹּל הָבֶל. 19 For that which befalleth the sons of men befalleth beasts; even one thing befalleth them; as the one dieth, so dieth the other; yea, they have all one breath; so that man hath no pre-eminence above a beast; for all is vanity.
כ  הַכֹּל הוֹלֵךְ, אֶל-מָקוֹם אֶחָד; הַכֹּל הָיָה מִן-הֶעָפָר, וְהַכֹּל שָׁב אֶל-הֶעָפָר. 20 All go unto one place; all are of the dust, and all return to dust.
כא  מִי יוֹדֵעַ, רוּחַ בְּנֵי הָאָדָם--הָעֹלָה הִיא, לְמָעְלָה; וְרוּחַ, הַבְּהֵמָה--הַיֹּרֶדֶת הִיא, לְמַטָּה לָאָרֶץ. 21 Who knoweth the spirit of man whether it goeth upward, and the spirit of the beast whether it goeth downward to the earth?

Forget Evolution calling men monkeys! Kohelet calls man an animal! And says "they all end up the same"! And what is this "who knoweth" stuff about man's spirit going up to heaven!? Doesn't poor distraught Kohelet know about Olam HaBa!? If it weren't for the whole Sof Davar thing Kohelet could not have made it into the canon.

An Orthodox approach would be: A Rabbi once explained to me that Kohelet is sort of a parody of what man is like without religion. Basically the author made up this basically irreligious guy Kohelet and shows how depressed he is. The moral of the story is something akin to "Be Jewish or you'll be sad like Kohelet!" Very interesting idea. Kinda sounds like modern Orthodox propaganda about how awful it is to be not-frum/OTD.



AW said...

On Kohelet being non-Orthodox: You're absolutely right, of course, and as if often pointed out, Shir HaShirim is, on the face of it, similarly out of step with Orthodox are many passages in virtually every book of the Bible.

And isn't it wonderfully ironic that the rigidity of Orthodoxy, which can't even consider revising its canon, must not only accept such books and passages--but vigorously defend them, too, and perpetuate their sacredness for posterity.

JG said...

A number of rabbis I know permit showering on Yom Tov on that basis.

Tamir said...

Now maybe I'm just pampered but I think most people nowadays consider it normal to bathe daily so I'm not quite sure why Artscroll doesn't consider the possibility that nowadays daily bathing is considered שווה לכל נפש.

According to "מלאכת יום טוב (9): רחיצה וחימום ביום טוב"( at the very bottom of the page), the book Shemirat Shabbat keHilkhata( chap. 14 fn. 21) asks a similar to yours, pointing to the prevalence of water boilers in private homes, making full body bathing Shaveh leKhol Nefesh( as opposed to just changes in people's habits), as the factor leHatir, but gives no answer.

By the way, R. Ovadia Yosef seems to permit, in accordance with the Mechaber, bathing in water heated in a water boiler before Yom Tov( whereas the Rema prohibits), and in sun-heated water even during Yom Tov( and R. S. Z. Auerbach , according to Shemirat Shabbat keHilkhata chap. 14 fn. 3, agrees).

AW said...

This is good information, and (without verifying it at its sources) on this detail seems to be accurate.

I would, however, agree with one of the larger points S. seems to be making in the post--namely that, Orthodoxy, especially of the Charedi variety, seems to too often equate goodness and piety with ever more restrictions. For every "mutar" there seem to be 10 "assur"s, and for every rov willing to stand up and make a psak to make life easier for people, there seem to be 25 so very eager to originate or reinforce halachic decisions making life more difficult. This obsessive, micro-managed, and ever more anti-freedom lifestyle does work for some, but for many others it sows or fertilizes the seeds of healthy doubt:

Would any reasonable and loving God really want an entire people to live such a minutae-heavy, restriction-focused life, where most people's instincts toward joy and love, not to mention pleasure, are rendered nearly inaccessible--and the "good and pious life" is supposed to involve more and more rigid adherence not only to more and more halachos, but to increasingly isolating and limiting minhagim, too?

Are there mass demonstrations (calling fellow Jews to task) in Borough Park, Williamsburg, or Meah Shearim, authorized by rabbinical authorities when a Jewish person is found to have cheated others out of their life's savings, or engaged in sexual exploitation, or harshness and sinnas chinam or various forms of selfishness and cruelty and elitism and intra-community divisiveness and rejection? Not that I can recall. But let a road be proposed to be built in the vicinity of a rumored ancient Jewish cemetery, or let the police arrest a very guilty charedi--and the tribal, ritual-bound, rabbis and masses come pouring out for demonstrations.

This neglect of the important spiritual and communal things like kindness, true justice, humility--and the over-focus on religious ritual and halacha--is as old as religion, and has been protested at least as early as the prophets of 2 millennia ago. "Who asked you to trample my (temple) courtyards...?" and to bring sacrifices? Instead (to paraphrase) be kind to the widow, feed the orphan, etc.

But for many it's easier to adhere rigidly to rules than it is to truly open their hearts and be kind with one another and deeply honest with themselves. Self-righteousness is ever more agreeable to the dispositions of most than is vulnerability.

And so we have religion against spirituality, time and time again. But without some communal framework like religion and its rules and obligatory customs, spirituality is far more difficult to convey to posterity. (That, and the fact that the rules-bound temperaments tend to also feel the need to direct and control others, and it is these people who end up forming and running the institutions of power, making and enforcing most of the new restrictions in any community and any age. Such people have little need for freedom, and often feel better when they have more rules to live by. Their critical error is not seeing that this is far from true for all their co-religionists.) And so the eternal tension.

anon said...

Lulav practice is derived from fertility cults of Egypt. Their preists waved the fronds over the fields and this increased yeilds, That is because it increased pollination, but they did not know why and thought it had to do with the ritual and gods. Jews just adopted the practice. Many jewish practices, festivals, customs are rooted in ancient fertility cults.

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