Sunday, June 22, 2008

Halacha Alert! How to fold your tallis on Shabbos and Yom Tov

So screamed the kol korei distributed in my shul, this past Shavuos.
Halacha Alert !
How to fold your tallis on Shabbos and Yom Tov.

It says in Sh'miras Shabbos K'hilchosah (15:44:46):
"One must not fold a garment or cloth back into already existing creases... Consequently, one should not fold a tallis or a tablecloth into its previous creases... Any article may be folded if one takes care not to fold it into its original creases (e.g. one can fold it into the reverse of its folds) but one {meaning may} should re-fold it into its normal creases after Shabbos or Yom Tov."
The strong implication of this leaflet is that there is only one proper way to fold the tallis, and that anyone who acts differently is acting in ignorance and contrary to halacha. Also implied is that there is no contrary position. Thus, it is a HALACHA ALERT! You are doing it wrong.

The leaflet is unsigned by the person who printed it up/distributed it, and they presumably thought that there is no need to do so. After all, the author of Shmiras Shabbos Kehilchaso is a big talmid chacham and posek.

But of course, not everyone follows this particular posek in all their Shabbos practices. And further, this is a quote from the English sefer. Many know that the English version is the strict one, while the Hebrew one, with the same text, has footnotes, where the real kulos are. In this particular instance, the footnotes don't say the kula explicitly, but does give a reference to Aruch haShulchan among other sources, and the Aruch HaShulchan is where the kulah can be found.

The following is the text, and rough summarization (not intended as translation, though I sometimes wander into translation) of the Aruch haShulchan, Orach Chaim, siman 302:

Seif 10: There is a major conceptual dispute between Rambam and Raavad as to the nature of the prohibition of "folding."

Rambam groups it with making pleats on cuffs, just as one it metaken them during a weekday. And then mentions folding.

Thus, says Aruch haShulchan, Rambam considers this a problem of metaken kli. And so Rambam does not hold the gemara is talking about regular folding, but rather a type of folding which is craftsmanship, just as he talks about making pleats on clothing. {Perhaps Aruch haShulchan thinks the Rambam considers making pleats and folding the same, though one can argue it as that they are different actions but both work of a craftsman.} But regular folding (like folding your tallis), there is no concern at all in any form.

Meanwhile, Raavad holds that the prohibition is not because of tikkun kli but rather because he is matriach, taking pains, on Shabbos, for something needed during the week.
As he will develop it, it is only according to Raavad that folding a tallis is problematic.

Seif 11: Here Aruch haShulchan makes this distiction. According to Rambam, since there is no reason of tircha, it is permitted to fold any garment with a regular folding, since there is no tikkun kli, even if for the week.

However, according to Raavad, such would be forbidden for the reason of tircha from Shabbot for chol.

Further, he suggests that Raavad holds this is a problem even where there is no issue of metaken, but just the tircha. He connects this to Tosafot. For they write "from here we learn that it is forbidden to fold tallitot of the synagogue, because they are needed for the next day." And what seems apparent is that there is no issue of metaken kli at all. Rather, the prohibition is because of tircha.

Furthermore, he adds that even according to Raavad/Tosafot, one is not going to simply cast it aside without any folding, for this is not miderech benei Adam. {I, Josh, would note that this appears to be the derech of chassidim. :) } Rather, even according to this, in inexact folding would still be OK. He attributes this as the intent of the Mordechai in the next seif.

{I would add that this kippul she`aino meduyak might well not be the same as Shmiras Shabbos KeHilchoso's taking care not not to fold it in the original creases. But here is not the place to expand on this idea..}

Seif 12: Aruch haShulchan now turns to the Mordechai. He says that the Raaviah wrote that the white taleisim which one does not need on that day of Shabbos, after leaving shul, it is forbiddden to fold them, then even where all the other conditions from the gemara {of Rav Yannai} are satisfied, because those were the conditions for something that was needed that day. However, if it not in its original folding {seder kipulo} it is permitted, even with two people doing the folding.

The Bet Yosef brings this position down and agrees with it.

This, says Aruch haShulchan, is even within Tosafot's position about tircha from one day for the next. Such is apparent.

Then he sets out to explain how each Rishon and Acharon holds along this dispute of whether the problem is tikkun keilim or tircha lemachar. Tur holds the problem is metaken, and explains how by new and white clother, the tikkun is not so much. So also seems implied in Rashi.

Finally, he has a defense of the modern practice in which everyone folds their tallis normally on Shabbos. He suggests that with our folding of talleisim, there is no tikkun, such that there is no issue according to Rambam et al. Meanwhile, the idea of tircha lemachar they do not hold by, but rather hold like Rashi, Rambam, Tur and Shulchan Aruch about the nature of the prohibition being tikkun rather than tircha lemachar.

Furthermore, he cites the Kolbo saying the same thing, more or less, also defending existing practice of folding talleisim: "And nowadays that they are accustomed to folding all clothing, it is possible that our folding is not comparable to their folding, that they were extremely insistent to smooth out its folds, and we do not do so." [And the Tur and Shulchan Aruch actually separate the law of making folds in cuffs from this law, and do not bring the law of making up beds.]

All this, I would note, is something of a chiddush. It is not clear to me that Tur or Bet Yosef actually make the distinction between these two reasons so clearly, and perhaps conflate the two. And see what Mishnah Brurah does with this, harmonizing reasons. Still, Aruch haShulchan is someone upon whom one can rely.

One more seif before my own suggestion and general discussion.
Seif 13: is about the other law brought down in that same Mishnah, making up the bed on Shabbos, either for Shabbos or after Shabbos. So, insights into one may shed light on the other.

He suggests that the Mishna which prohibits setting up the beds on Shabbos for after Shabbos was talking about where the beds were in a separate room for the beds, where one did not go into that room all the day. But we have the bedroom as it as one of the rooms of the house, and people go in their during the day. It would look messy and not nice. Therefore, setting up the bed is to make the house look nice, and thus is specifically for the honor of Shabbos, and not for machar. He cites Magen Avraham to this effect.

And this is the widespread, common custom everywhere.

As an additional reason for permitting, he brings in his discussion from the previous seifim, about the distinction between metaken and tircha lemachar. He suggests that they hold the reason is metaken, and the way we set up the beds, it is not called metaken, in accordance with the Kol Bo said.

He also draws a distinction between setting up the beds for beauty {which is what we do when we set beds} and setting of the beds to sleep upon.

I {=Josh} would add a few points to what was discussed above. Certainly, when we make up the beds, one cannot easily sleep in them, for the top sheet or blanket is too tight, and in some cases the pillow is covered, etc., etc. It is all done for presentation, so that the bed looks good when it is not being used. It is thus for beauty, and for kavod haBayit and thus lekavod Shabbos. This was my inclination, to make such a distinction, before reading Aruch haShulchan on this, so Baruch Shekivanti!

But I had a similar reaction to the issue of tallis. Why does one fold a tallis? I can testify about myself that I am not always as neat as I should be. My clothing gets rumpled and I leave my bed unmade. My wife is not always so happy about this. And there may be various halachic problems with what I do in this regard, for a talmid chacham {if that is what I am} is supposed to always look extremely presentable. But it means that I am in general not so makpid that my clothing is always neat and pressed.

Yet, I always fold up my tallis after I am done with it. Why is that?? Am I really trying to keep the tallis smooth and unwrinkled for the next day?

I don't think so. Rather, there are two reasons:

1) Ritual. I have a specific ritual for putting on tefillin and putting away my tefillin. A specific order, a specific number of wraps around my arm for tefillin. Indeed, my father taught me the family minhag or wrapping tefillin, which is distinct from the way anyone else I have encountered ever does it. But other people also have distinct ways of wrapping tefillin. Those are more common ways, but they do vary somewhat. On the shel yad, do all the wrappings go on one side, or on both sides.

The same is true for the tallis. My father has a specific minhag of how to fold the tallis, which is distinct from most other people's. I never bothered to learn the intricacies of it exactly, but one of these days I will, bli neder.

The fact that such distinct customs can arise means that putting away the tallis has acheived a status of ritual. If so, people folding their tallit are not going through tircha to put away their tallis for the next day. Indeed, it would be easier to just let it lie there unfolded, because then it would be more accessible the next day! Rather, the seder of putting on a tallis in shul involves the ritual of taking it off and putting it away as well. So the intent is not metaken keli, and one can argue there is no tikkun kli at all. And even if you hold the problem in general is tircha lemachar, like Raavad and Tosafot, this is not tircha for machar, but rather is just part of the donning and doffing of the tallis.

2) Zilzul mitzvah. A related but distinct point. Even if we do not say it is part of the ritual, and that is why I and others fold the tallis, we can say it is a matter of treating tashmishei mitzvah with respect. To cite the Aruch HaShulchan from above, though he was making a slightly different point: "However, to cast aside a garment without any folding at all is not from the derech benei Adam."

That is why we fold our tallis. Why do we carefully wind up the tefillin from one day to the next. It takes time to unroll it. But not only is it not mentchlech in general to cast clothing about haphazardly, it would be a zilzul hamitzvah to simply leave the tefillin with the straps lying about, not in the batim, etc.

So too, the tallis gadol. We do not just want to leave it lying around. So we put it in the tallis zekel. And it is surely improper to just stuff it in, so we fold it. Even if we fold it neatly, exactly on the creases, I would argue that this is the way one puts it away bederech kavod. And it is thus not tircha lemachar.

We do not need to go this far, even though I think what I said is true. We have the Aruch haShulchan, and his reasoning to rely upon. And he is citing Kol Bo, and relying on Rambam et al. (Beis Yosef also cited this Kolbo, though he did not bring it lehalacha in Shulchan Aruch.)

Furthermore, the gemara itself never spoke about folding a tallis. We see it only in a diyyuk that Tosafot made from the Mishna and gemara. And in three generations, at least, masses of Jews did not pay heed to the restriction as it applied to folding a tallis: In the generation of Kolbo, in the generation of Aruch haShulchan, and in our own generation.

One could appeal to the principle established in Pesachim 66a, as cited by Hilel haBavli:

אמר להן הלכה זו שמעתי ושכחתי אלא הנח להן לישראל אם אין נביאים הן בני נביאים הן למחר מי שפסחו טלה תוחבו בצמרו מי שפסחו גדי תוחבו בין קרניו ראה מעשה ונזכר הלכה ואמר כך מקובלני מפי שמעיה ואבטליון

and assume that if many Jews are doing it, it is quite possible they have valid halachic reason for doing so. Especially for something like this which has aspects of mimetic tradition to it. This is not the assumption made in the leaflet. On the other hand, hilchos Shabbos is complication, and surely a lot of things are violated in ignorance, so it is a question of how far one would apply this principle I cited. And further, see in Korban Nesanel on the Rosh (note tzaddi) on Shabbos 113a that after citing the relevant Tosafot, he says וראוי להזהיר העולם על זה. Which firstly shows that in his days, the common practice of many Jews was to fold their tallis regularly on Shabbos. And secondly shows that he wanted to correct this erroneous practice. And the author of this leaflet was doing exactly that. Though perhaps the Korban Nesanel was not aware of other approaches which would permit the common custom.

Still, I hope that in general, this illustrates the problem of this kol korei/leaflet approach. One should really learn through the relevent sugyas. If you want to convince someone to take on a different practice, one should tell them all the relevant details, not just give out an anonymous kol koreh, effectively trying to pasken for them. And tell them to consult their local orthodox rabbi, who can instruct them if it is proper to change one's practice.

Please note: This is not intended halacha lemaaseh. I deliberately did not include in the above my father's practice, which is to always fold it backwards, against the creases, even during the week, so as not to err on Shabbos (which might have its own problems), or what my own practice is. I am not trying to forbid and not trying to permit here, but rather to discuss the issue and its complexities, in order to argue against the kol korei approach to such issues.


Anonymous said...

He's only following the lead of the Rabbis.

When a large number of prominent rabbis break a thousand year old tradition and communicate their halakhic opinions through kol koreys instead of logical teshuvot (i.e. shabbos oven), you can't expect any better from the shlomazels hanging up signs in your neighborhood.

Anonymous said...

Please tell me how many graduates of RIETS become charedi I mean in terms of the medinah and do not even share a RHs or RMW view

joshwaxman said...

I am not sure I understand your question, or how it relates to the above post. Still stumbling in the dark on this, I will note that I am somewhat of a maverick and do not represent the typical RIETS graduate.

Looking back now, do your roshei teivos refer to Rav Herschel Schachter and Rav Mordechai Willig? I can reiterate, the purpose of this blog post is not to advance any particular ruling, but to make a *meta-halachic* comment as to whether these kol korehs which keep readers ignorant of the halachic complexities are good. Nor is that the general purpose of this blog. (In this instance, I can say that I was not really in Rav Willig's regular shiur. I was in Rav Schachter's shiur, but I do not know what he holds on the practical matter of how to fold one's tallis on Shabbos, nor did I ask him prior to preparing this post.)

But what does the medinah have to do with anything? I remain confused. Can you explain your question, and your background? Thanks.

Kol Tuv,

Steg (dos iz nit der šteg) said...

R' Moshe Feinstein agrees with you.

Anonymous said...

Rabbi Waxman I am a centrist RZ. After numerous discussions with RIETS graduates of late I find them to have a non RZ or even an agudah derech Many want to move to Passiac or charedi brooklyn. I want to know if YU has become just another charedi yeshiva That is the view if many people in the community. So many YU boys would rather daven in shuls with no tefliah for the MEDINAH/IDF. I was wondering what the @#$#$ is going on there. In queens and long island I have not seen on YU intern who is a staunch RZ

joshwaxman said...

I haven't been there in a while, so I cannot say anything accurate about this.

But my impression is that there are different people who come into YU, and it is a mix from across the spectrum. If this is so, perhaps due to sociological reasons, more chareidi-leaning folk are gravitating towards YU. I don't think it is due to any specific teaching which goes on at YU. Sorry I cannot be more helpful in this regard.

Kol Tuv,

thanbo said...

I have a particular way of folding my tallis, but it has nothing to do with ritual, or tradition, but because it fits better in the bag that way. Rather than just folding it in half multiple times, the third fold is three-ways, like a letter for an envelope. Then keep folding in half, and it fits the bag nicely.

Probably depends on the shape of your bag and proportions of your tallith.

Anonymous said...

It would seem that in the Mishna berura's "generation", they did NOT fold their Talis, else he would have taken a "yeish limchos" stance. And I would imagine same could be said for many of the later Poskim inside the SH"A who take no issue with this psak.


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