Army Clothes for Davening

[Hat tip MD with my additions]

Rav Soloveitchik (the Rav) was very meticulous and stringent in every phase of Hilchot Tefillah, the laws of prayer. He often cited the Rambam (Tefillah 5:1) that eight specific aspects of prayer must be adhered to while standing for Shemoneh Esrei. The first four are:Amidah, standing; Nochach HaMikdash, facing Eretz YisraelTikun HaGuf, feet together and clean body; and Tikun HaMalbushim, proper and dignified attire.

This went to the extent that the Rav held that Chazoras HaShatz was Tefillas HATzibbur, and as such stood with his feet together facing the front. My own opinion is that this view of the Rav is even more relevant today in Shules where the majority simply cannot Daven, and are subject to a continuous set of announcements saying “we are on page number n in this edition, and page m in this edition etc”. The importance of the Shatz as being connected to and an actual Shaliach, as opposed to some performer seems to have been lost.

The Rav was once visited by a student who served in the Israel Defense Forces who asked the Rav the following question: He worked in the tank division and his job was cleaning and maintaining the tanks. Often, his uniform would get covered in oil and grime and he wanted to know if he needed to change clothing before davening Mincha. He emphasized that it would be possible to do so but it would be quite inconvenient and difficult. The Rav looked at him in amazement and said out loud,

“Why would you need to change? You are wearing bigdei Kodesh, holy clothes”!

That is how the Rav felt about someone serving in the Israel Defense Forces.

Author: pitputim

I'm a computer science professor in Melbourne, Australia although my views have naught​ to do with my employer. I skylark as the band leader/singer for the Schnapps Band. My high schooling was in Chabad and I continued at Yeshivat Kerem B'Yavneh in Israel.

24 thoughts on “Army Clothes for Davening”

  1. As a gefihl, his response resonates well, but as a matter of halacha, the Torah tells us ופשט את בגדיו ולבש בגדים אחרים, even though both sets are kodesh, and Chazal tell us the reason is because בגדים שבשל בהן קדרה לרבו אל ימזוג בהן כוס לרבו

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      1. There’s nothing in the story about guns, or extreme time constraints, just difficulty and inconvenience. That calls for a psak based on exactly how difficult and inconvenient it is, and how much difficulty and inconvenience one must put up with for the sake of a mitzvah. To brush it off by saying that the dirty uniform is bigdei kodesh is contrary to halacha and to an explicit posuk in chumash. As I said, the gefihl is understandable, but the soldier wasn’t looking for a gefihl, he was looking for a psak din.

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    1. Just for the לימוד I would like to quote from the Talmud:

      תלמוד בבלי מסכת ברכות דף טז עמוד א
      תנו רבנן: האומנין קורין [קריאת שמע] בראש האילן ובראש הנדבך, ומתפללין [עמידה = שמונה עשרה] בראש הזית ובראש התאנה, ושאר כל האילנות – יורדים למטה ומתפללין. ובעל הבית – בין כך ובין כך יורד למטה ומתפלל, לפי שאין דעתו מיושבת עליו. רמי ליה רב מרי ברה דבת שמואל לרבא, תנן: האומנין קורין בראש האילן ובראש הנדבך, אלמא: לא בעי כונה; ורמינהי: הקורא את שמע צריך שיכוין את לבו, שנאמר: שמע ישראל, ולהלן הוא אומר: הסכת ושמע ישראל, מה להלן בהסכת אף כאן בהסכת! אשתיק. אמר ליה: מידי שמיע לך בהא? – אמר ליה: הכי אמר רב ששת: והוא שבטלין ממלאכתן וקורין. – והתניא, בית הלל
      אומרים: עוסקים במלאכתן וקורין! – לא קשיא: הא בפרק ראשון, הא בפרק שני.

      בית הבחירה למאירי מסכת ברכות דף טז עמוד א
      אף על פי שאמרנו שלענין תפלה צריך הוא לירד יש אילנות שאף לתפלה לא הטריחוהו לירד והן הזית והתאנה וטעם לדבר פירשו בתלמוד המערב מפני שטרחתן מרובה ר”ל שיש טורח גדול בעלייתם וירידתם ויש בטול יותר מדאי ויש מפרשים מפני שאדם טורח בהם הרבה שיש הפסד מרובה אם ירבה בעליה וירידה בשבור הענפים ויש מפרשים מפני שענפיהן גסים וגדולים ואדם עומד בטוח בהן אף מעומד כמי שעומד בקרקע והכונה מצויה בהם אף על פי שהקלו באומנין העושין אצל אחרים…

      The Talmud tells us what a worker has to do when it comes to praying during work. He does not tell us here anything about changing his working clothes before praying.

      This is just for the deliberation of the subject.

      And just something from the CHAZON ISH:
      ושמעתי מהגאון ר’ נסים קרליץ שליט”א שאמר בשם החזון איש זצ”ל: להיות עני זה לא בושה, ולכן ללכת עם כובע מיושן אין בו כל פגם, אולם עצלות היא מדה מגונה, ויש להבריש את הכובע מאבק כי בקלות ניתן לנקותו והמזניח את עצמו הרי זו עצלות ובושה.

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      1. Why would a fruit picker need to change his clothes? How dirty do they get? How can you compare them to a mechanic’s clothes, which by the nature of his job get filthy?

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        1. PS: I’m not saying he definitely has to change them, but that it calls for shikul hada’as, for a weighing of competing considerations, not for a dismissal.

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            1. Reminds me of the guy who refused to wear tachrichim as per his will and wanted to be buried in his filthy auschwitz uniform. The Rabonim in Melbourne said ‘yes, listen to his wish’

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            2. What’s that got to do with it? It’s a very simple question. A mechanic’s clothes are filthy or not? Yes or no? You said it’s not filth. You must justify that claim, or withdraw it.

              It’s obvious to everyone that it is filth, and much filthier that an explicit pasuk says should be changed. The only possible heter for this soldier not changing them must be based on balancing the difficulty and inconvenience against the amount that halacha requires a person to put up with for the sake of a mitzvah. There is a shiur, and deciding exactly how it applies to the situation is what a rov is for. If the Rav had heard the exact situation and told the soldier that he is not obligated to go to that much trouble, I’d be 100% OK with that. But to brush the question off, to pretend that there is no shayla in the first place? If this story is true, and the Rav really said that, then he was not just טעה בדבר משנה, but טעה בדבר מקרא, and out of respect for him you should not repeat the story.

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            3. Tachrichim are irrelevant. There is no requirement that a person be buried in clean clothes, and an explicit halacha that a murder victim is buried davka in the filthy clothes he was wearing at the time. Nobody denies that they are filthy, but filth is not a chisoron in burial. Aderaba, in such a case it’s a maalah. How can you compare it to davening, where clean clothes are required, and where the Torah itself says that literal bigdei kodesh, not just metaphorical ones like an IDF uniform, must be changed if they get dirty.

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            4. It IS the smae metzius. Or rather, it’s WORSE. If you claim it’s not the same metziyus, EXPLAIN THE DIFFERENCE. Or admit that you were 100% wrong. Can’t you do that?

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          1. He did not say it wasn’t filth, YOU are the one saying that. You MUST justify your claim or withdraw it. You said it’s a differnet metziyus. How so? How is the filth from a tank different from the filth from THE MIZBEIACH?

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            1. That got mis-threaded. It belongs here.

              It IS the smae metzius. Or rather, it’s WORSE. If you claim it’s not the same metziyus, EXPLAIN THE DIFFERENCE. Or admit that you were 100% wrong. Can’t you do that?

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          2. And no, if this is what hte Rav really said, if your story is true, then he clearly did NOT know what he was talking about, and you have no right al pi din to say he did. It is דבר שקר.

            טעה בדבר משנה חוזר, kal vachomer בדבר מקרא.

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