Monday, June 23, 2008

Schmoozing During Yizkor

Here is another flier / poster that was distributed in my shul this past Shavuos. (Here is where I discussed the previous one.) This flier read:
Please post this ad in your shul for Shavuos While our chaveirim remember their loved ones during Yizkor on Yom Tov, let's remember how fortunate we are to remain outside. Hazkoras Neshomas -- the memorial service for the departed -- is an ancient Minhag based on the fundamental Jewish belief that the Neshama is eternal. For those who leave the shul for this poignant Tefillah, this brief recess is a perfect time to thank Hakadosh Baruch Hu for our good fortune and to be sensitive to the other members of the Kehillah. Gedolei Yisroel suggest that we seize this opportunity to do something productive, such as reciting of learning one of the following:
  • Three Kapitlach Tehillim
  • Mishnayos
  • Hilchos Lashon Horah
  • Hilchos Kibbud Av Va'aim
[For free color posters or to sponsor flyers, posters and additional materials, please call: [Redacted]
לזכות רפואה שלימה לחולי ישראל
Once again, we have well meaning people trying to be mezakeh the rabbim, albeit anonymously. What could I possibly find wrong with this? :)

Let us dissect this poster. The first paragraph, "While our chaveirim..." possibly carries with it an attempt to guilt people into a change of behavior. Look how good you have it! We must remember how fortunate we are to remain outside, and therefore it continues with recommended actions. The implication is that Hashem has granted us this tovah, and it shows ingratitude to misuse the time to shmooze amongst ourselves.

This is made more explicit in the next paragraph, where they state "this brief recess is a perfect time to thank Hakadosh Baruch Hu for our good fortune and to be sensitive to the other members of the Kehillah." The idea is then that to shmooze during this time -- which is what everyone for decades has done -- is kafuy tovah to Hashem, and is being insensitive to the people in shul.

The next paragraph says that "gedolei Yisroel suggest." Who are these gedolim? Why were they not mentioned by name as supporting this endeavor? I would like to know their identities so as to know whether I consider them my gedolim. And I also need to know to be able to (theoretically) make inquiries to make sure that the information transmitted in their name was accurate. If they are not identified, that even if gadol X does not support this, perhaps gadol Y is the one who supported it. Also, I would like to know exactly how the question was phrased, and exactly what they answered. And we would need to know their identities to be able to clarify their intent.

Imagine someone goes to the gadol and asked, "Is it a good thing to learn Torah, or the halachos of Shmiras haLashon, during this time?" What Gadol would say no? But such a question and response is a far cry from stating that the present practice -- of shmoozing outside during Yizkor -- is a bad practice, which shows ingratitude to Hashem and insensitivity to those who have lost loved ones. Would these Gedolim consider it forbidden because it is bittul Torah, or not?

By putting Shmiras haLashon in there, there is the additional potential implication that allowing people to hang out a schmooze is bad because they will be saying lashon hara to one another.

As I discussed quite a while ago (in a post titled "why I support talking in shul") , there is value to socialization in and around shul. And that is to allow people to live Jewishly, to hang out with Jews. The demise of the kiddush club because of alchoholism and disrespecting the rabbis derasha has something to it, but on the other hand there is value in making connections an a personal rather than religious level to other Jews. Furthermore, there is a concept of chatzi lachem and chatzi laShem. Whoever put this leaflet together quite possibly does not like the idea of chatzi lachem. There cannot be any time which is not programmed time, controlled in some way. There is value, I think, in simply letting people be. Hanach lahen leYisrael! Leave them alone. Not every single second needs to be controlled and directed towards learning / self improvement. For yourself, sure, it is a positive attitude to take. But not to direct this towards the general community, as a required activity, in the name of nameless Gedolim.

What actually happened in shul? Personally, I learned through the Aruch haShulchan on the laws of the beracha of birchas haGomel. But that was not because of the flier, but because I am an introvert, and because that is what I like to do. But as far as I could tell, other people from the shul people stood outside (in the hot sun) and shmoozed for a bit, before going inside, thus paying no heed to the poster. Good for them.

Note: Not halacha lemaaseh. Just commenting on the idea of anonymous leaflets counseling changes in practice.


Eliezer Eisenberg said...

I agree with you, but not so much for the reasons you listed as because it is natural to not want to think about the inevitable, and to rub peoples' noses in the fact that their state of non-yasmus is temporary is just not necessary and not fair. It's not like they deserve to become aveilim and they're avoiding what they deserve; people are entitled to their parents, and death is the usurper. May Mashiach come and render the whole issue moot, but in the meantime, let people cross that bridge when they have to and not before.

Anonymous said...

what do you think about the anonymous posters in shul saying that "if there is the slightest white dot on your tefillin than they're totally pasul!!!!!!!!"?

joshwaxman said...

I've never seen that sign, and thus never researched this. Do they give a makor?

Kol Tuv,


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