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Shabbos Tears

The Regional Board at the Spring Regional Convention at Camp Mogan Av, 1987: Rabbi Dovid Orlofsky (in back) with (L–R) Rebecca Hochster, Yael Schechter, Rabbi Moshe Gordon, Brian Wieser, Scott Feltman, Yonason Spar, and Steve Puddel

The Regional Board at the Spring Regional Convention at Camp Mogan Av, 1987: Rabbi Dovid Orlofsky (in back) with (L–R) Rebecca Hochster, Yael Schechter, Rabbi Moshe Gordon, Brian Wieser, Scott Feltman, Yonason Spar, and Steve Puddel

By Rabbi Yair Hoffman

On Shabbos, there exists a mitzvah of Oneg Shabbos—taking delight and pleasure in the day. Delighting in the day means that we should avoid activities that bring about sadness. Most authorities hold that the mitzvah of Oneg Shabbos is a Biblical mitzvah (See Rashi and Rashba on Yevamos 93a and Rivash, responsum #513). Generally speaking, crying is an expression of sadness—an activity that people want to avoid when they are happy.

One could assume then, that we should avoid crying on Shabbos. And while it is true that the Rambam (Shabbos 36:1) holds that Oneg Shabbos is only a rabbinic mitzvah, it would seem that even on a rabbinic level we should avoid crying.

Praying For The Kidnapped Boys On Shabbos

The kidnapping of three yeshiva boys, Hy’d, brought this issue front and center to many synagogues across the country. Crying has the same halachos as crying out in tefillah (See Responsa Torah Lishma #103). Were we permitted to cry out to Hashem on the Shabbos itself on their behalf? The leadership of Agudas Yisroel’s Moetzes Gedolei Torah chose not to issue a ruling. They left it up to the individual rav of every shul.

Naming A Child

Naming a child is a period of fantastic joy for both parents and grandparents, particularly when the naming perpetuates the memory of loved ones. Yet sometimes, people are brought to tears at the moment that the child is named for the deceased loved one. When a b’ris falls on Shabbos, should we avoid giving krias sheim to the father if he will be brought to tears? Are these tears of complete joy or is there an element of sadness here?

All this brings us to a fascinating passage found in the Talmud Yerushalmi (Berachos) that is not cited in the Talmud Bavli.

The great sage Rabbi Akiva, had lost his son, Eliezer. Rabbi Akiva’s students encountered their master crying on the Shabbos. They asked him, “Rebbe, have you not taught us the verse, ‘And ye shall call Shabbos a delight?’ Rabbi Akiva responded, “This [crying] is my personal delight.”

The Bavli makes no mention of this episode. The Beis Yosef (OC 288), however, cites the Agur in the name of the Shvilei HaLeket who does mention this Yerushalmi.

The Agur clearly indicates that Oneg Shabbos is a concept that does not have objective criteria. It is subjective and dependent upon each individual.

Two Views On
Rabbi Akiva’s Tears

The Rema (OC 288:2) and the TaZ argue about how one understands the Agur. The Rema rules that if crying makes a person feel better, by allowing the pain to go away from his heart, then it is permitted to cry on Shabbos. It seems from the wording of the Rema that it is only permitted if the person would know that the crying would make him feel better.

The TaZ, on the other hand, has a different explanation for the crying and an altogether different source than this Yerushalmi. The TaZ explains that the crying of Rebbe Akiva was not based upon the idea of removing pain from one’s heart. He writes that it is a special form of crying that emanates from d’veikus, cleaving to Hashem. He cites as the source for this idea the Zohar Chadash. According to the TaZ, it would not be permitted to cry on Shabbos in order to take away the pain. Indeed, the TaZ writes that if the Rema is correct, everyone would be permitted to cry on Shabbos.

The TaZ gives us no further reference where it may be found in the Zohar. It is likely that it is the Midrash HaNeelam in Parashas VaYeirah, page 98b. The Mishnah Berurah cites the TaZ but further elaborates upon the opinions of the Eliyahu Rabbah and the Tosefes Shabbos, who disagrees. The Eliyahu Rabbah quoted the responsum of Reb Binyomin Ze’ev (#210) who justifies the Rema’s position. As far as the question that the TaZ poses that this leniency would permit everyone to cry, the Eliyahu Rabbah answers that not all people are the same. To some, crying makes a sad matter worse or at least the same. To others, crying allows a person to get it out of his system. The Rema’s permissive ruling was only for the latter.

Those Who Disagree
With The Rema

While it seems that the position of the Mishnah Berurah is to allow crying for those people who will feel better about it, the Rav Shulchan Aruch (the first Lubavitcher Rebbe) leaves out the entire matter. It would seem, therefore, that he is in agreement with the view of the TaZ—that crying is only permitted for those who do so out of a profound sense of d’veikus and chassidus. The Mezritcher (Reb Dov Ber ben Avrohom, student of the Besht) in his Likutei Yekarim (#4) also understands the issue like the TaZ.


According to what we are suggesting here, crying out in Tehillim for the three yeshiva students would only have been permitted to those whose agony might be quelled by praying for their safe return. If, however, the person’s pain will not be alleviated, even somewhat, through the tefillah—if he or she would be further stressed by the pain brought on by thinking about it on Shabbos—it would seem that he should not be crying out in tefillah.

What about the father who, on Shabbos, is given the honor of krias sheim, naming a child after a parent, who will be brought to tears? Perhaps we can argue that it does assuage pain; the pain he or she is feeling upon the loss of a parent and the perpetuation of the name within the family addresses that tza’ar. Thus it would be permitted according to the Rema. According to the TaZ, it may not be so clear.

As an aside, gedolei Torah have said that the tefillos that Klal Yisrael recited during those terrible weeks were not lost. The miraculous fact that we had so few casualties despite Hamas shooting 2,874 rockets from Gaza in July alone can be attributed to the tefillos of Klal Yisrael for the three yeshiva students, H’yd. Iron Dome performed far more effectively than ever imagined.

May Hashem bring yeshuos and nechamos to all of Klal Yisrael and may we all share in simchas! ϖ

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Posted by on August 14, 2014. Filed under In This Week's Edition. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.