Friday, April 06, 2007

Sefirah: Holding by a heter?

See also Sefira confusion, not to mention my "Carlebach clause" post on Sefirah.

The other night, after Mincha/Maariv (Afternoon and Evening Services), the rabbi gave a standing-on-one-foot rundown of the rules for Sefirah. No haircuts, no weddings, no live music. Some listen to recorded music. (Elie said the same thing in a recent comment. Hmm.) Some say there’s a heter (permission, leniency?) for live music during Chol HaMoed. I’ll take it! Klezmatics concert, here I come!

But seriously, folks, the more I think about the mourning customs of Sefirah, the less sense they make, especially for those who observe the “early” mourning period (Pesach through Lag B’Omer) as opposed to the “later” mourning period (Lag B’Omer until, um, Rosh Chodesh Sivan?). To the best of my knowledge, we don’t say the Tachanun repentance prayer during the entire month of Nissan, in which Passover takes place, because we’re rejoicing in our liberation from slavery. How can we rejoice and mourn at the same time, as a people? (As individuals, obviously, a death in the family can take place at any time.) Then, too, as DovBear points out in this post on Sefirah, why do we mourn for a month for the victims of (depending on your opinion) the plague in Rabbi Akiva’s time or the victims of the European blood libels and pogroms, and only one day for the victims of the Shoah (Holocaust)? Some say that the victims of the Shoah should be remembered on Tisha B’Av, the traditional day of mourning for the tragedies that have befallen the Jewish people since the destruction of the Temples. Why, then, should the victims of earlier tragedies not be commemorated on Tisha B’Av? Three weeks (plus a few miscellaneous fast days) for the destruction of the Temples, a month for the victims of the pogroms, and one day for the victims of the Shoah?

I’m seriously considering returning to my previous custom of observing only the restriction against getting a haircut between Pesach and Lag B’Omer (at least in private--not sure what to do about work). Your thoughts/interpretations, etc. would be appreciated.


Blogger elf said...

I agree with you 100%. I observe the most common sefirah mourning customs, but I try not to make a big deal of them. I get my hair cut before Pesach mainly in honor of the holiday, but DH shaves on chol ha-moed, and sometimes continues to shave until the end of Nisan. Frankly, I think it's disrespectful to the holiday to observe mourning practices on chol hamoed.

Fri Apr 06, 05:19:00 PM 2007  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

"Frankly, I think it's disrespectful to the holiday to observe mourning practices on chol hamoed."

I agree. I just have to figure out what I'm doing after Pesach, until Lag B'Omer. Also, if the plague stopped on Lag B'Omer, why do some say that one can't start listening to (live) music again until the morning (as opposed to the evening) of, or even the day *after,* Lag B'Omer? Too many questions, not enough, well, *acceptable* (from my perspective) answers.

Sun Apr 08, 03:01:00 PM 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just another area in which the halakha just can't deal with the 20th/21st centuries. When the rabbis developed this, how often did people have haircuts? Did women go out with their heads uncovered? Were people working in offices, did men need to shave? Let's face it, most people need a haircut more often than every seven weeks.
As far as music, what music did people listen to before electricity, radio, recordings? Only live music, and probably only at weddings. How many concerts were available to Jews in 1300? 1500?
Oh, and by the way, imagine an economy made up of all Jews. What do the poor hair stylists do for the seven weeks of the sefirah? Go on vacation?

Mon Apr 09, 12:28:00 AM 2007  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

Anon. in Teaneck, very good points, all! Your approach reminds me of Chassidic clothing traditions--they're still wearing the clothing of Polish noblemen of a couple of centuries ago. Perhaps Sefirah customs are, similarly, based on a long-gone life-style. Indeed, what on earth do Orthodox Israeli barbers do for a living during Sefirah?

Wed Apr 11, 08:19:00 PM 2007  

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