On the Aruch Hashulchan

A reader asked me what “caused” the Aruch Hashulchan not to remain the primary acharon for Psak, arranged according to the Shulchan Aruch but then be “overtaken” by the Mishna Brura as a source for final psak by many. (Mind you they don’t accept the Mishna Brura on skirt length and more, even if they accept him for Hilchos Shabbos)

This is largely due to the Hungarian Charedim.

They couldn’t accept

  1. His Psak that it was permitted to say Krias Shma in front of woman with revealed hair because today such a thing no longer titillates a male
  2. His Psak that Dina D’Malchuso Dina, following the laws of the land, especially vis-a-vis Mesira, are not germane because in many cases we live in a Malchus shel Chessed.

Of course, number 1 is factually true unless one is hermetically sealed. Unfortunately, number 2 is not only factually true but is the problem with today’s society in fearing going to authorities over especially heinous crimes and is infamous. There are those who want to claim that the Aruch Hashulchan was forced to write as in 2. to assuage the authorities and avoid the censor. I don’t know. But I do know, that if you live in a Malchus Shel Chessed, you have no excuses.

I like the Aruch Hashulchan very much because he starts with primary sources and for a very much part time learner like me, that is helpful.

The Mishna Brura has some issues which many still won’t acknowledge: it wasn’t all written by the Chafetz Chaim. Some sections were written by family, who openly acknowledge they didn’t agree with the Chafetz Chaim and therein is the source of some contradictions in the Chafetz Chaim. I have seen tomes trying to reconcile contradictions in the Chafetz Chaim, but they failed to realise that it was from two sources!

The Shulchan Aruch HoRav, who mainly basis his Psak on the Magen Avraham, is a masterpiece of prose. It is a pleasure to read and every word needs to be weighed carefully. Furthermore, he doesn‘t always pasken for Lubavitch, although he follows the Kzots and not the Gra in respect of shiurim and the like. His Siddur will often say what is for Lubavitch. The Chafetz Chaim has a strange habit of not quoting Shulchan Aruch HoRav in many instances for some reason, even though he easily outweighed those Acharonim who were quoted.Then again, I don’t know who is  responsible for that.

As a more modern sefer, I do like the Shearim Metzunoyim B’Halacha, and I bought it 32 years ago. I understand he’s a relative of Rabbi Braun, formerly of Tzemach Tzedek in Sydney and now on the Beis Din in Crown heights. He wasn’t a Lubavitcher. The Kitzur remains an essential part of anyone’s library.

The Chayei and Chochmas Adam are good but a little too brief for me and seem to have parts missing.

In a nutshell, that’s my answer to the reader. By the way, you can find Aruch Hashulchan online, re-typeset.

For Sephardim, it’s another matter. You have the Ben Ish Chai or you follow Rav Ovadya as in Yalkut Yosef.

And, anyone who doesn’t know, do yourself a favor and download the free ובלכתך ודרך from the Apple Store for your iPhone or iPad (you have to type it in Hebrew). It’s great. I know it sits on my iPhone but haven’t got a clue about Android.

Finally, while I have no affiliation with Rusty Brick, I like their products. They cost a little, and are vastly superior to the free versions of various things available from Lubavitch web sites. It’s important to support software companies who are trying to write good things of use!

Davening etiquette/halacha

Being in Aveylus, of course, sensitises me to such issues. I am sure I am not the first nor am I the last. It’s not a unique situation, of course, so I’m interested to hear others views. Disclaimer: I haven’t reviewed the halachos, which I will hopefully on the weekend, and am working off memory.

The Mishna B’rura (and others) point out that if someone comes late to Shule (let’s say Shachris), then depending on how late they come, they should skip certain pre-tefillos, and make sure that ultimately, they commence Shmoneh Esreh with the Chazan. Shmoneh Esreh is Tfilla, and all else is a preamble, although we have to say Krias Shma before its appointed time. In such a situation, one who has skipped sections, ideally should return to them and complete them later.

Shachris often presents a dichotomy, especially in older established Shules. Some Mispallelim work for a living. They daven, then may go home to eat breakfast, help out with the kids and then ensure that they are at their workplace on time. Many start work at 9am, some start earlier. There are others, who either don’t work (perhaps they are retired or unemployed or incapacitated) or have less of an issue about being at the workplace at a particular time.

It is not always possible to have a Minyan that davens relatively slowly and starts at the crack of dawn. Many different issues come into play. It is quite common to find minyanim that daven at a brisk rate. When I say brisk rate, I don’t mean a pun on the city of Brisk. Rather, I mean, at a rate where one can say each work, but do so quickly, and without much time to meditate on words/phrases. Shma and Shmone Esreh tend to be different. Shma is meant to be said so that one can audibly hear oneself and ideally said with the Trop. Shmoneh Esreh (the silent one) usually is a bit slower, as I pointed out above, it IS Tefillah, ultimately.

Now, this view of the Mishna Brura and others is not universal. Minhag Chabad based on the Alter Rebbe, the Baal HaTanya and Shulchan Aruch HoRav, is to always daven in order. That is, not to skip. If that means that one isn’t up to the minyan at Shmoneh Esreh, so be it.

I’m not sure, however, that the view of the Alter Rebbe was that if one finds oneself davening in such a minyan, that one should never say Tefillah B’Tzibbur. Perhaps, and I am stretching with no Mekor, he would argue that in such a situation one should begin davening privately and come earlier so that when Shmoneh Esreh came along, one was with the rest of the Minyan. Either that, or he’d say find a Minyan that davens at your pace.

On the flip side of the coin, the Yeshivish/Litvishe types who tend to say each work aloud (not just Shma) and/or extend their own quiet Shmoneh Esreh for a longish time, may cause those who have to go to work, to wait for them to have a minyan answering Amen. Perhaps, they too should come earlier to Minyan so that they can “kill two birds with one stone” so to speak?

I discussed this issue with one Mispallel where I daven, who happens to learn in a Kollel each day, and he said to me that he saw somewhere that the Mishna Brura’s advice of skipping is only when one comes late. But, if someone didn’t come late, then he should daven at his normal pace, even if this means that the rest of the Minyan might be waiting for him so that they can start Shmoneh Esreh (quietly) or for Chazoras HaShatz. He couldn’t recall where he had seen this difference.

Given that I daven for the Amud, as an Avel, I’m acutely aware that those who have come to the minyan include people who need to leave by a certain time, and I try to keep things moving.

The above two categories of Mispallelim can sometimes cause angst in that it makes it harder for the Minyan to be “worker friendly”.

Your thoughts?

Image from shulcloud.com