Thursday, May 25, 2006

Orthopraxy - II - Sitting In A Succah

Can one not believe in God and simultaneously keep all of halacha? (first post in the series here)

I am defining Orthopraxy as the keeping of halacha even as one has doubts or does not believe in the existence of God. The question: to what extent does halacha mandate belief in God in order to fulfill various positive and negative commandments.

In the previous post, I mentioned the first few the Rambam mentions, and highlighted specifically the following commandments: (1) belief in the existence of God; (2) loving God; (3) fearing God; (4) seeing oneself as though he left Egypt with his forefathers. Read that post for more details.

The next example is well summarized by R' Student at Hirhurim, in a post titled "Sukkah Intentions".
The Tur (Orah Hayim, 625; and later the Shulhan Arukh, ad loc.) introduces the laws of living in a sukkah by saying that the mitzvah is so that we remember that God had us live in sukkos in the desert after the exodus from Egypt. R. Yoel Sirkes, the Bah, asks why the Tur mentions this theological idea in his practical compendium. He answers that this idea has a practical application. The Torah tells us that we must live in a sukkah "in order that future generations may know that I made the Israelite people live in booths when I brought them out of the land of Egypt" (Lev. 23:43). Therefore, writes the Bah, when one sits in a sukkah one must consciously remember the historical origin of the sukkah in order to fulfill the commandment.

This innovation of the Bah is accepted by all major posekim, with the only debate centering around the case of someone who failed to remember this historical origin. Has this person ex post facto (be-di-avad) fulfilled the commandment or must he repeat it? Many (e.g. Bah, Bikkurei Ya'akov, Derekh Pekudekha) hold that he has not fulfilled the commandment while others (e.g. Peri Megadim, Mishnah Berurah) hold that he has and need not repeat the mitzvah act.
The post happens to continue with a question about the methodology - this appears to be a post-Talmudic textual derivation. In a post on parshablog (here) I gave a possible explanation of the gemara in the beginning of Succah such that perhaps one might read this into the gemara (namely, the reading of the pasuk to mean that one must be cognizant of the fact that he is living in the Succah can by extension be that he should be aware of this fact so that (and the pasuk continues) he can know that Hashem sat the Israelites in Succahs (or in Clouds of Glory) ).

According the Bach and others in his camp, one cannot fulfill sitting in a Succah if he does not know that the Israelites sat in Succot when they came out of Egypt.

Now, someone who does not believe in God does not believe that He took the Israelites out of Egypt. (And one who is unsure also does not know - limaan yede`u.) How can he know a fact that is not true? If so, the Orthoprax person will not have fulfilled his obligation.

It gets worse than that. How can the Orthoprax person make a blessing on sitting in the Succah? He cannot fulfill the mitzvah, and so this is a bracha levatala! Thus, another violation of halacha.

We do not have to rule like the Bach. The Orthoprax can rely on the Peri Megadim and the Mishnah Berurah that he has fulfilled the commandment bedieved. But bedieved means that he did not fulfill the commandment in the ideal way, in the way that Chazal/Torah intended.

{Update: Plus, if we assume that the fact that the Bach darshens it means that he reads this as a Biblical command to know, then perhaps even according to Peri Megadim where it is lechatchila, he still is not fulfilling this separate Biblical imperative.)

More to follow in the series, be'ezrat Hashem.

6 comments:

Chaim B. said...

Other mitzvos to add to the list: 1) navi sheker and listening to navi emes (without belief in G-d, nevuah cannot exist, and certianly one cannot discriminte true from false nevuah) 2) morah mikdash - see Yevamos 6a bottom that the mitzva is to fear G-d who dwells in the mikdash, not the building itself; 3) kerias shema - cannot be fulfilled w/o kabalas ol malchus shamayim.

joshwaxman said...

thanks for the pointers.

some of the above I'm going to cover, and some not.

There is the deeper issue of whether halacha requires action or thought which of course I want to explore, but the specific issue I want to explore is: is the modern Orthoprax individual keeping halacha in its entirety or not?

in terms of actual practice, since we do not have navi sheker or emet today, the Orthoprax individual can say he is acting in accordance with halacha. Or course, perhaps we should (or should not) apply this to actual books of nevuah.

That is, the Orthoprax individual might be required to believe in the truth of existing historical neviim. (I have not looked into this in the sources at all yet, I am just musing and amusing myself.) Or perhaps, if he holds God does not exist, then the navi emet does not exist, and so by listening to any navi he is in violation of listening to a false prophet. :)

in terms of morah mikdash, I'll take a look. it might be morah mikdash *because* of God who dwells there. Does this apply to the churban bayit also? for the modern-day Orthoprax would there be any problem? Something to look into. (again, all off the cuff without looking in sources)

I was thinking in terms of keriyat Shema - which seems to be leyached shemo - what is the source that it must be an internal kabalat ol malchut shamayim? have you posted these on your blog?

thanks again for your input.

Chaim B. said...

K'Sh - I don't have a S"A with me, but I think you will find it in poskim. I have dropped the discussion for now unless the Skeptic decides to revisit it. Check the Rambam end of ch 8 of melachim, even a nochri who observes mitvzos but does not acknowledge that they came from G-d is not a ben olam haba.

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