Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Chayei Sara. Two from the Tur: No Eulogies for Smokers, and Enduring Love.

The Baal Haturim on this week's parsha says two things I found interesting.

23:2.  ולבכותה  Avraham mourned Sara, but the letter Kof in "ve'livkosa" is written small in the Sefer Torah.  The Baal Haturim cites a Braisa in Maseches Smachos that states that a person that causes his own death is not to be eulogized.  This is not to say that there is no obligation of mourning; the Baal Haturim paskens that there is an obligation to mourn, but there are no eulogies (from Smachos 2:1,  ולא מספידין עליו אבל עומדין עליו בשורה ואומרין עליו ברכת אבלים מפני שהוא כבוד חיים.  As the Rambam says, in 1 Aveil 11, המאבד עצמו לדעת אין מתעסקין עמו לכל דבר ואין מתאבלין עליו ואין מספידין אותו. אבל עומדין עליו בשורה ואומרין עליו ברכת אבלים וכל דבר שהוא כבוד לחיים. ואי זהו המאבד עצמו לדעת. לא שעלה לגג ונפל ומת אלא האומר הריני עולה לראש הגג. ראוהו שעלה מיד דרך כעס או שהיה מיצר ונפל ומת. הרי זה בחזקת שאבד עצמו לדעת. אבל אם ראוהו חנוק ותלוי באילן או הרוג ומושלך על גב סייפו הרי זה בחזקת כל המתים ומתעסקין עמו ואין מונעין ממנו דבר:).  He then quotes the Gemara in Bava Kamma 93a that a person who asks Hashem to judge someone else is closely scrutinized under Middas Hadin and might die as a result.  The Gemara derives this from Sara's death here in our parsha:

אמר רב חנן המוסר דין על חבירו הוא נענש תחילה שנאמר (בראשית טז) ותאמר שרי אל אברם חמסי עליך וכתיב (בראשית כג) ויבא אברהם לספוד לשרה ולבכותה

Apparently, Sara complained to Hashem about Avraham Avinu's behavior, and this invoked Middas Hadin, which resulted in her death.  Combining the Gemara in Bava Kama with the Braisa in Smachos, the Baal haturim says that because Sara, to some extent, caused her own death- כמו גורמת מיתתה- Avraham did not say a hesped for her.  Now, Sara did not commit suicide.  But, he says, what she did contributed to her death, and that is reason enough to not eulogize.

Obviously, this is intended as drush, and nobody would bring a raya le'halacha from here, but the concept would seem to extend to anyone whose behavior contributed to their death.  If so, if someone knowingly engages in unwarranted risky behavior (that is not דרך כל הארץ), such as one who is very obese due to overeating, or a person that smokes excessively, or a rock climber, may Hashem preserve them all, but if רחמנא ליצלן Hashem does not, one might cite the Baal Haturim as proof that one should not eulogize them.  I'm pretty sure that nobody is going to change his behavior for fear of not getting a nice hesped, and acute depressive disorder might remove some of the halachic stigma of suicide (Chasam Sofer on YD 345), but if you want a frum excuse to not go the hespeidim, now you have one.

I didn't put this paragraph in before Friday because I didn't want to spoil a nice Shabbos table vort with morbid musings.  But now, what I would like to think about is this:  Why are we not maspid a suicide?  Is it because of the gravity of the sin, the affront to the will of the Ribono shel Olam, in which case there are other sins for which a person would be similarly punished by silent funeral?  Or is it specific to suicide; the person chose to die, and so he doesn't deserve to be honored by being spoken well of at the time of that death.  The reason I ask is because if it is because of the gravity of the sin, I find it hard to equate outright suicide with recklessness.  I can't imagine that any sort of negligence or recklessness would be viewed with the same severity as specific intent to end one's life.   If it is because of choosing to die, it's still hard to equate our case with outright suicide, but at least it is under the same rubric.  But in any case, the Baal Haturim's use of the Tosefta is a chidush to me, unless he means that since K'chut hasa'ara, she needed this absence of kavod for kapara.

  Tzorich Iyun.  

24:67.  ותהי לו לאשה ויאהביה
The Baal Haturim here says that in the Mesora there is a Beis on this passuk.  He says that it alludes to the passuk in Shmuel II 13:1, ויהי אחרי כן ולאבשלום בן דוד אחות יפה ושמה תמר ויאהבה אמנון בן דוד, that Amnon loved Tamar.  He explains that this refers to the idea expressed in Avos 5:16, 
כל אהבה שהיא תלויה בדבר--בטל דבר, בטלה אהבה; ושאינה תלויה בדבר, אינה בטילה לעולם.  איזו היא אהבה שהיא תלויה בדבר, זו אהבת אמנון ותמר.  
Love that derives from physical attraction quickly comes to nothing, while the refined love that does not stem from physical attraction endures forever.  Amnon's love was nothing more than animalistic impulse.  As soon as his desire was sated, his burning "love" turned into hatred and disgust- וישנאה אמנון שנאה גדולה מאוד כי גדולה השנאה אשר שנאה מאהבה אשר אהבה.  Yitzchak's love stemmed from the realization that Rivka was the perfect wife and soulmate-ותהי לו לאשה - and then ויאהביה, their love endures forever.


  1. The Ba'al Haturim applies this to Sarah Imeinu, one of the greatest and holiest people who ever lived. Can it be extrapolated to a Rosh Yeshiva or Gadol who died of complications related to smoking?

  2. It sure seems like it ought to. But you could argue that the purpose of the hesped for Roshei Yeshiva is to be me'orer the olam, or to push an agenda, and nothing to do with kavod of the niftar. Many Maspidim take a cue from Cassius: their hespeidim are not to praise the dead, they are to awaken the living. How do I know this? Unfortunately, because of a recent hesped I heard.

  3. yakra d'shichvi or yakra d'chayi?

  4. Often, neither. Just an opportunity to tell the olam not to use their Blackberries so much, because the niftar was a big masmid.

    How bout this faux pas: the maspid brought the story of Amsei d'rebbi who, upon realizing how much Rebbi was suffering, distracted the bnei torah and Rebbi died. In Moed Kattan, she saw a man hitting his adult son and put him in Cheirem because of lifnei Iver, because the son might not be able to take the yesurim and might fight his father. So this guy said that it was l'shitasei- that she was afraid that Rebbi couldn't stand the yesurim shel ahava he was having, so she was mispallel he should die. What was the tzushtell to Reb Noson Tzvi? That he, too, suffered, as Rebbi did, and he was makabel b'ahava.