Monday, May 02, 2005

How do you explain not shaving during sefira?

I am not shaving (since the first day of Pesach) until Lag Baomer. I am not good at explaining why to people at work . Saying that the talmidim of R' Akiva died 2000 years ago doesn't really move anyone. Anyone have a good way of explaining this minhag to no-religious Jews or non-Jews?

20 comments:

Anonymous said...

Try to put it in different terms. Say that it commemerates a tragedy when 24,000 of the best and brightest of the Jewish people died. Give them an analogy to the present. Imagine if hundreds of thousands of the brightest American young people died rapidly (since that is more proportionate and more likely to affect the whole in the future). It would threaten the very future of society, as well as being a tragedy in its own right.

And explain, of course, that Judaism places a premium on historical memory.

Anonymous said...

Why don't you just shave?

Anonymous said...

I don't like either solution, since it is quite difficult to convice people that they all suddenyl died (unless they dies in bar Kochba's war). Even if they did, thousands more died at all times during the Jewish year, and yet we don't mourn. It's a rough call. I say: shave.

bluke said...

No one cares if I shave or not at work, the question is just how do I explain it.

I live in a community where almost no one shaves and I see no reason to go against this minhag

Anonymous said...

" don't like either solution, since it is quite difficult to convice people that they all suddenyl died "

You don't have to tell anyone that they all suddenly died. There's nothing unreasonable about 24,000 people dying in a [plague, war] in a period of 5 weeks in the 2nd century c.e.

Godol Hador said...

So we commemorate 24000 people who died 2000 years ago, but not 6,000,000 people who died 60 years ago. Thats going to make a lot of sense.

Mississippi Fred MacDowell said...

"So we commemorate 24000 people who died 2000 years ago, but not 6,000,000 people who died 60 years ago. Thats going to make a lot of sense."

Of course we do (should). Yom HaShoah. Those who don't need to explain why they don't.

bluke said...

There are 2 issues with Yom Hashoa.
1. It is during Nisan which is a festive month (we do not say tachanun all month) and therefore it is not appropriate to establish a day of mourning in Nisan.
2. Tisha B'Av is the day of mourning for the Jewish people, the holocaust should be included on Tisha B'Av and therefore R' Schwab and others wrote kinnos about the holocaust that many say on Tisha B'Av

The Zohar states that the period of Sefira is a period of mourning unrelated to the talmidim of R' Akiva.

The fact is that the minhagim of Aveilus are a relatively late addition. The Rishonim for example discuss a minhag of not getting married in this period not a general aveilus.

With everything that I wrote the question is better then my answer.

bluke said...

Even if you commemorate Yom Hashoa (which has it's problems, see my comment above), you have to agree that it is nowhere near the scale of sefira. It is 1 day with no halachic significance while sefira is 33 days which have halachos of aveilus attached to them.

Anonymous said...

I know the reasons. Two objections to the Nisan issue is that a true avel will obviously be noheg avelus in Nissan and that we are noheg avelus vis a vis sefira (at least some people are before rosh chodesh).

However, in my opinion the timing is unfortunate since there is a halakhic objection to it. If it wasn't established in Nissan then the halakhically observant would have to really come up with a good reason why they don't observe it.

As far as the objection that Tish b'Av is the Jewish national day of mourning, two things. One, the Holocaust was simply an event in scope and scale that cannot be subsumed under Tish b'av. The proof that it cannot be subsumed is the fact that for decades no one said kinnos for the Holocaust on tisha b'av, and the one or two that were added are said at the end. That really hardly qualifies as paying attention to the Holocaust.

In my opinion the crux of the issue two things. One is that Yom HaShoah was not established by the rabbis of the kinds of Jews who refuse to observe it. Those rabbanim and their followers will never assent to any Jewish observance they didn't create or promote, halakhic issues are smokescreens. The second is that to confront the Holocaust is extremely painful. Thus after 30 years or so a couple of belated kinnos are added to the end as people are getting antsy in their seats. That is "confronting the Holocaust".

Here is a quote that, imo, explains that

"...the Holocaust is a unique event of destruction - because of its scope (the almost successful killing of the entire Jewish population); its denial of any right to exist or escape Jewish fate; the attempt it incorporates for man to become God totally (both by the extent of control and by killing God's people and thereby "eliminating" God as rival; by its assault on Judaism and Jewish values simultaneously (including the power of total degradation during life and after). For these reasons alone, it is inadequate to try to understand the Holocaust fully in the categories of past churban."

Frankly, GH raised a good question. How do we explain mourning for a month for 24,000 nineteen hundred years ago and essentially zilch for 6,000,000 in living memory? Unfortunately our own rabbinic sources never prepared the Jews for a third churban, so some of us pretend that it was just a postscript to the second, the last 5 minutes in shul on tisha b'av morning.

bluke said...

I agree with you, as I stated the question is better then the answers.

Another question is why didn't the Haredi world come up with it's own equivalent of Yom Hashoa? After all the Haredi world was a very hard hit sector in the holocaust (if you can say such a thing).

A number of answers have been offered among them that the Haredi world didn't know how to deal with the holocaust especially given that the leading Haredi gedolim of Europe actively discouraged their followers from leaving Europe.

IMHO this is not a very good answer. I would suggest that because modern/secular Jews came up with Yom Hashoa the Haredi world felt that they could not do something similar. In addition as the famous quote from the Chasam Sofer goes "חדש אסור מן התורה", a new day of mourning is חדש and therefore no good.

Anonymous said...

Maybe. Yom Hashoah was established though in 1959. The immediate response of the Jewish people wahtever the sector, to the Holocaust, seems to have been to basically not respond to it.

a pashut yid said...

The Chazon Ish, as far as I know, assured making a special day of mourning for the Holocaust. He was niftar before 1959, so there must have been some movement to establish such a day, or else why would he have assured it.

The Chazon Ish is probably considered the biggest poseik who lived after the Holocaust. If he says it is assur, it would be a pretty good bet that it is a halachic approach and not just a smoke screen. If one thinks that the CI answers shailas based on anything other than a a halachic approach, how is it that he became known as such a great poseik? Moreover, why stop there? Maybe all Poskim do whatever they want and make up smokescreens to make it seem like there really is halachic basis for their own personal opinions.

There is a question posed here: Why do we mourn the loss of talmidei rebbi akiva and not the 6 millions. I dont think based on this one question we can challenge the CI's or anyone's ability to pasken a shaila. Maybe we should learn about the Talmidim of RA and see the seforim and what they say about them and the time period.

This is not a plug for the position of assuring. It is merely a reader dumbstruck as I read a layman (and if its not a layman, compared the the CI, i am certain it is a layman) can just brush off the CI and any poseik for that matter.

bluke said...

I looked up the Chazon Ish (Igros Chazon Ish letter 97). The Chazon Ish writes that to be קובע תענית is like to make תקנה דרבנן. Our generation is not on that level to do such a thing. An therefore he says we should not make any new day of memorial.

As you can see this is not a pure halachic reason, there is nothing per se halachically with making such a day. The Chazon Ish just thought taht we were/are not on a level to make such a thing.

Shmuel said...

Regarding the death of Rabbi Akiva's students, I'm sure you've all seen "The Death of Rabbi Akiva's Disciples: A Literary History" (Journal of Jewish Studies, Vol. LVI, No. 2, pages 264-284, Autumn 2005) by Aaron Amit of Br Ilan University. If his literary detective work is correct we can all shave on Sfira.

DovBear said...

There are 2 issues with Yom Hashoa.
1. It is during Nisan which is a festive month (we do not say tachanun all month) and therefore it is not appropriate to establish a day of mourning in Nisan.
2. Tisha B'Av is the day of mourning for the Jewish people, the holocaust should be included on Tisha B'Av and therefore R' Schwab and others wrote kinnos about the holocaust that many say on Tisha B'Av.

These answers are bogus. We do observe sefira in Nissan, and we do say yizkor on Pesach. And if ( Av is the day or mourning, then why do R Akiva's students get 33 days?

The real answer is this: We don't mourn during sefira b/ of Rabbi Akiva's students. See my blog in a few minutes for more.

solomon said...

I'm not a Rabbi, but I can think of a number of reasons why you should simply shave, obviously after speaking to a Rav.

1. The aveilus during sefirah is most comparable to the aveilus of the year, and not to the aveilus of shloshim or shiva. After shloshim, you may shave when your friends tell you, "Hey, you should really shave, man." If you have to explain to people why you don't shave, you're probably at that point; especially if you shave every day.

2. On Erev Shabbos, there as an additional heter to shave l'cavod Shabbos. You can of course play it safe and shave on erev Shabbos since you get both of these reasons.

3. I don't know what your job entails, but if you are dealing with people who don't know about sefirah, you could probably get a heter to shave since you may lose business. I would be skeptical of someone's business commitment and ability if he showed up to a meeting without shaving. It implies laziness and even an element of cockiness. (I don't need to look good for people like you.)

Well, those are 3 reasons off the top of my head at 12:30 in the morning. Again, I am not a rav, and actually far from it. I am not a talmud chacham, and I don't know enough to paskin. These are only some ideas you may want to research a little before you put yourself in such a weird situation.

Spiritual Dan said...

Just say that you don't shave during the Stanley Cup playoffs. That the Goyim will understand.

Spiritual Dan said...

Just say that you don't shave during the Stanley Cup playoffs. That the Goyim will understand.

Kaplan USMLE said...

I wouldn't make a big deal of Rabbi Akiva's student die. It was probably a shock at that time to see so many young die, meanwhile it could have been a contagious infection due to the close quarters they were living in. I agree to say that 24k students trump the holocaust for a day of remembrance is preposterous. There is actually an article that I just read that goes through a whole shpil if you want to read it:

http://www.vbm-torah.org/shavuot/sefiratha-omer3.htm