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The Somewhat Litvshe Yid

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Half and Half

Part of what I want to do here is להחזיר עטרה ליושנה (to return the crown to its original glory). That is to say to try and reinstate certain practices that are more firmly based in Halacha then the current minhag. The first is something that I have been doing for the last 5-6 years, with thanks to my friend Rav YH who gave a shiur on it one year and impelled me to organize it in my community. That is the requirement on Yom Tov to spend half the day in learning and half the day enjoying the holiday. The phrase that is used in the Gemara is חציו לד' וחציו לכם (half for HaShem and half for you).
Since this is the first time I’m doing a post like this I’ll give a short overview of how I intend to organize this time of thing.

Pretty straight forward I think. The only time I will stray is when I’m looking at a specific Achron, in which case I will try to add some biographical information if I have it. On with the show!

The requirement of a person to spend Yom Tov half in learning Torah and half in eating and drinking.
I’m choosing this topic because it is specifically germane to the approaching Chag of Shavuos for several reasons. The minhag that has spread throughout Jewish communities is to spend the night in learning until sunrise. While it is a wonderful thing that more Yiddin are busying themselves with learning Torah unfortunately this minhag has supplanted a halacha psukah. The Gemara brings down the requirement of a person to dedicate the Chag, half to HaShem and half to oneself. This opinion shows up in the major Rishonim without any emendations and is brought down l’halachah in the Shulchan Aruch as well as the Aruch HaShulchan and Mishnah Brura.
מראי מקומות
Maseches Psachim 68b – דתניא ר' אליעזר אומר
Parallel sugiya – Beitzah 15b (Rif and Rosh ad. Loc. Also note Korban Nesanel on the Rosh)
Rambam Hilchos Yom Tov 6:19
Tur Orach Chaim 529
Shulchan Aruch ibid. (Mishnah Brurah and Aruch HaShulchan ad. Loc.)
Magen Avraham Orach Chaim 494 (איתא בזוהר)

The Talmud both in Psachim and Beitzah discusses an argument between R’ Eliezer and Rav Yehoshua on how to understand the apparent contradiction between two psukim. The first is D’varim 16:8 – עצרת לד' אלקיך. The second Bamidbar 29:35 – עצרת תהיה לכם. How does one reconcile the difference between l’HaShem and Lachem, For HaShem and For You. R’ Eliezer says that a person can spend the day either totally for HaShem or totally for You. That is to say, the day should be spent either only learning or only eating and drinking. Rav Yehoshua disagrees and says the day should be split, half for HaShem and half for you. The Gemara in Psachim adds on that according to R’ Elazar that everyone agrees (הכל מודים) that on Shavuos that also “לכם” is required since it is the day that the Torah was given and therefore one needs to be happy. (I believe this statement is based on a prior machlokes between R’ Eliezar and R’ Yehoshua if Simchas Yom Tov is a Mitzvah (R’ Yehoshua) or R’shus (R’ Eliezar), coming to say that on Shavuos even according to R’ Eliezar simcha is required and therefore the day should include not only learning but eating as well).
The Rif and the Rosh pretty much copy the Gemara word for word. The Kitzur Piskay HaRosh brings down the side of R’ Yehoshua (Perek 2 Siman B) saying the mitzvah of Yom Tov is to split it half in eating and drinking and half for HaShem. The Tur uses this same language in the opening line of Siman 529 in O.H.
The Rambam expands and gives a clear picture of what the day should be like and uses a very interesting expression. אלא כך היא הדת (Rather this is the law) an expression that doesn’t show up often in the Rambam. Meaning, if I understand correctly, that what he has to say, even though it may not be a mitzvah certainly is an obligation on everyone. He says people, in the morning, should arise (משכימין) and go daven, read from the Torah and go home, eat and return to the Beis Medrash to learn until Chatzos (half the day), at which point they should go back home and engage in the Yom Tov meal, eating and drinking until nightfall. As a side point to what is meant by arising in the morning, it is clear that this refers to davening with the Netz (with the sunrise), that way it will be a full half day l’Hashem.
The Mechaber brings down in the Shulchan Aruch the language of the Tur, l’halacha.
The Mishnah Brura adds (based on a Gemara in Chulin also quoted in the Korban Nesanel on the Rosh in Beitzh quoted above see all the Sha’ar Tzion where he quotes in the name of the Marshal that chazanus is considered neither L’HaShem or Lechem, V’Kal LaHavin) that it is correct to reprimand the Chazonim who extend the tfiloh inordinately, causing people to miss out on learning. The MB does say like the Rambam that one should rise early and pray and then learn until half the day, going on to enjoy his festive meal.
The Aruch HaShulchan brings down the language of the Rambam word for word. His take on the issue of chazanus is a bit different then the Mishneh Brurah’s though he does say that G’dolei Yisrael were upset about the issue of chazanim drawing out the davening. He does leave an opening for those who find it enjoyable, that there maybe a side of Oneg Yom Tov in it.
It’s very clear from all the above sources that it is incumbent on every Jew to spend their Yom Tov in this split fashion. Rising early, going home for a quick Kiddush and then returning to the Beis Medrash to learn until chatzos, at which point he should daven Mincha then go home and enjoy his festive meal until the night time. There really isn’t even a place for doubt. No posek that I was able to find holds any differently. It’s a very cut and dry Din. This applies to every Yom Tov, by the way, not only Shavuos, though as we saw, there is a special Din in Shavuos to do it.
That said, the other side of the coin is the minhag that has spread throughout Am Yisrael to stay up all night learning and then as soon as davening is finished to go to bed. The basis for this minhag is brought down in the Magen Avraham (I also understand that it is brought down in the Shlah, though I haven’t had a chance to look it up). The MA says in the name of the Zohar that the original Chasidim (and we’re not talking those who walk in the path of the Ba’al Shem Tov…) would remain awake all night in learning and that most people who learn do that nowadays. He brings the well known reason that it is a tikkun since HaShem had to awaken Bnei Yisrael for Ma’amad Har Sinai. It should be clear that the Chasidim Rishonim weren’t your average Joes. I think then, it wouldn’t be far fetched to say that when they were finished davening in the morning, they didn’t head off for a chavrusa with their pillows, rather they went on fulfil the mitzvah of the day (yes, that is the language of the Rosh, the Tur and the Shulchan Aruch…mitzvah) which is to say they learned until chatzos and then proceeded to have their Yom Tov meal.
As a side point, I was told that Rav Moshe Feinstein was makpid on this point on Shavuos. When the Yeshiva would go off for the meal after davening and then to sleep, he would remain in the Beis Medrash learning. He said that it doesn’t make sense, you’re up all night as a tikkun for Bnei Yisrael being asleep at when it came time for the giving of the Torah. So, you’re up all night. And when the Torah is actually given (in the day) you go to sleep.So, now you know what the halacha actually is. If you’re up to it, great learn all night and then learn until Chatzos. If not, don’t feel bad about going to sleep. You can still fulfill the Mitzva of the day according to all the opinions. Just get up early, daven and then learn until chatzos.


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