[Avodah] Showering During the 9 Days

Micha Berger micha at aishdas.org
Thu Aug 8 12:50:08 PDT 2019

On Thu, Aug 08, 2019 at 06:31:06PM +0000, Rich, Joel via Avodah wrote:
> See page 198 of nefesh harav where r'ybs quoties r'ms that the minhag
> not to shower during the 9 days was taken from not showering during
> shloshim. Since people now shower during shloshim there's no reason
> not to shower during the 9 days

I heard RYBS explained it two ways. And barring an intended Brisker
chaqira in the subtle difference, I would assume they're simply different

1- If you shower everyday, then it isn't that showering is a luxury
unbefitting aveilus. And there is precedent for this among early pesaqim,
eg the AhS, allowing showering before Shabbos by those who shower before
every Shabbos.

2- Someone who showers everyday may shower during the 9 Days because he
is an istinis.

RYBS's position about the 9 days paralleling sheloshim appears to be
his own chiddush, and part of the whole "halachic man" mindset, his
approach to minhagim, to "ceremony" in halakhah, or this story found in
"Women's Prayer Services - Theory and Practice I" (Tradition, 32:2,
p. 41 by Rabbis Aryeh and Dov Frimer):

    [T]he following story, related to us by R. Yehuda Kelemer, former
    Rabbi of the Young Israel of Brookline, Massachusetts. During the
    mid-1970's, one of R. Kelemer's woman congregants at the Young
    Israel of Brookline was interested in wearing a tallit and tsitsit
    during the prayer services. After R. Kelemer had expressed to her
    his hesitations about the matter, she approached R. Soloveitchik --
    who lived in Brookline -- on the matter. The Rav explained that
    in light of the novelty of the action, it needed to be adopted
    gradually. Accordingly, he suggested that she first try wearing a
    tallit without tsitsit (which is, of course, allowed for women.) The
    Rav asked the woman to return to him after three months, at which
    time they would discuss the matter further. When the two met once
    again, she described to R. Soloveitchik the magnificent nature of
    her religious experience in wearing the tallit. The Rav pointed
    out to the woman that wearing a tallit without tsitsit lacked any
    halakhically authentic element of mitsvah. It was obvious, therefore,
    that what generated her sense of "religious high" was not an enhanced
    kiyyum hamitsvah, but something else. Under such circumstances,
    the Rav maintained, wearing a tallit was an inappropriate use of
    the mitsvah. Consequently, the Rav forbade the woman from wearing
    a tallit with tsitsit.

In a talk (in Yiddish) to the YU Rabbinic Alumni in May 1955 (see The
Rav, The World of R Joseph B Soloveitchik vol II pg 54), he gave his
opinion of kiruv based on "ceremony":

    ... There is much foolishness and narrishkeit in some of these
    publications. For instance, a recent booklet on the Sabbath stressed
    the importance of a white tablecloth. A woman recently told me that
    the Sabbath is wonderful, and that it enhances her spiritual joy when
    she places a snow-white tablecloth on her table. Such pamphlets also
    speak about a sparkling candelabra. Is this true Judaism? You cannot
    imbue real and basic Judaism by utilizing cheap sentimentalism and
    stressing empty ceremonies...

A year later, when speaking to the RCA, the Rav returns to the "white
tablecloth" when discussing R' Samson Raphael Hirsch's emphasis on
"ceremony" and how that is one of the ways the Hirschian approach differs
from YU's. See Insights of Rabbi Joseph B Soloveitchik, pg 162.)

The Rav's negative attitude toward finding meaning in an shawl without
tzitzis is akin to his devaluing the aesthetics and peace of mind many
people get from a beautiful Shabbos table.

This idea that in true Judaism, meaning is only found in halakhah goes as
far as to shape the Rav's rulings about how to practice mourning during
these three weeks. The Rav was certain that Chazal and the rishonim could
not possibly have established practices for the Three Weeks that did
not follow the forms of aveilus for the death of a family member. And
therefore rules that only the ruiles of the 12 month period of aveilus
apply to the Tammuz portion of the Three Weeks, whereas the 9 Days have
the practices of sheloshim.

The point in common is that to the Rav's worldview, there couldn't
be a minhag of mourning that didn't have the halachically established
structure for aveilus. Such a practice would be "ceremony".

Even within the community of the Rav's students, efforts to have more
"ceremony" in our lives are increasingly common. Whether Carlebach
minyanim Friday night or on Rosh Chodsh (the YU of today hosts both)
or study of Chassidic works like Nesivos Shalom or the works of the
Piacezna. (Halevai there were more opportunities to find and experience
Litvisher spirituality, ie Mussar, but that's a different topic.)
The Rav's attitude comes straight from Brisker ideal as expressed in
Halakhic Man, that halakhah is the sole bridge between our creative
selves and our thirst to relate to G-d. But I believe that as the world
transitions from Modernism to Post-Modernism, it speaks to fewer and
fewer of those of us who live in that world -- even fewer of us that
are resisting that world's excesses.


Micha Berger                 Zion will be redeemed through justice,
http://www.aishdas.org/asp   and her returnees, through righteousness.
Author: Widen Your Tent
- https://amzn.to/2JRxnDF

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