[Avodah] Circles Where It Is Not Done Today

Akiva Miller akivagmiller at gmail.com
Sun Jun 12 12:57:30 PDT 2022

R' Jay F. ("Yaakov") Shachter wrote:

> Let us consider three generations of a family that you will not
> say was less Torah observant in previous generations than now.
> When Ahron Soloveichik ... married Ella Shurin, there was mixed
> seating at their wedding. There was separate seating at the
> weddings of their six children, but no mxitzoth. Mxitzoth began
> to appear in the third generation.  The same trend has occurred
> in other areas, as stated above. ...
> The most important question, however, has not yet been addressed.
> Why do we care?  Why do I have to correct misinformation of the
> sort that was quoted at the beginning of this article?

Yes, "Why do we care?" is indeed the most important question.

I can't speak for anyone else, but to ME, the reason I care is because I do
not know how to deal with this information. If I applaud the changes that
have happened, I must wonder why they weren't implemented earlier. If such
mxitzoth are a good thing, is it lashon hara to say that the previous
generation didn't bother? And if they aren't, then why do *we* bother?

My usual answer is that the generations are not identical, and what the
Torah requires of one generation is different from what it requires of
another. It seems entirely reasonable to say that previous generations were
less tznius-challenged than we are, and they were in genuinely less need of
the mxitzah than we are. So there's really no contradiction. They
didn't need it, but (arguably) we do.

(In fact, if I'm not mistaken, there was once a generation which did not
need a mxitzah even in the Beis Hamikdash itself, even at the height of the
Simchas Beis Hashoveiva celebrations. It was only later (I have no idea
when) that they saw the situation deteriorating, causing the mxitzah to be
installed there.)

But other situations aren't explained so easily. Just yesterday, someone
was kvetching to me about the Plag minyan that our shul has on Erev
Shabbos, enabling us to daven both mincha and maariv in the proper zman
according to R' Yehuda, with no Tartei D'sasrei. Such minyanim are common
nowadays, but in the community where this person grew up, there were many
"very frum" shuls and yeshivos, and almost all of them had a standard 7 PM
Mincha on Erev Shabbos for the whole summer. (Only 2 of them, he said,
davened only at the regular zman.)

I had no idea how to respond to this person. Dare I say that recognized
gedolim were less makpid than we are? I certainly don't want to say that,
but the alternative is to say that leaders have to pick their fights
carefully, raising their flocks here and there, only pushing those things
which the people are likely to accept. But that's perhaps even worse,
accusing those Shomrei Mitzvos of halfheartedness.

Another example is the frequent claim that very few women covered their
hair, even among wives of the gedolim.

"Why do we care?" We care because if we don't know where we've been, how
can we possibly know where we're going?

Akiva Miller


RJFYS also wrote:

> Obviously, there can be no hetter to attend your daughter's
> wedding while you are in mourning, if she cannot see you at
> her wedding, and cannot even know whether you are there.

I respectfully disagree. At the very least, you must distinguish between
the father's presence at the chupah (which his daughter will be VERY aware
of) and his presence at the seudah.

But even if she cannot see him at the seudah, she DOES know that he is
there. I would argue that his presence somewhere in the building DOES
enhance simcha for the kallah, and to a significant degree. Imagine, for a
moment: How much she would enjoy her seudah, knowing that her dear father
was sitting it out at home? V'ain kan makom l'haarich.

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