Thursday, January 29, 2009

*That's* a wrap?

Skip this post if you're bored by halachic technicalities.

I told my husband that, though I started going back to morning minyan last Thursday, I can't go back to being the baalat tefillah (prayer leader [feminine form of noun]) just yet because of what I think is called "tircha d'tzibbur, " a burden on the congregation. (Tircha d'tzibbur is the reason why, whenever possible, the sefer Torah/Torah scroll is wound to the proper place for a particular day and service before [often the night before] that service begins--it's considered a tircha d'tzibbur to keep a congregation waiting.)

Here's the story.

Some years back, a good and learnèd friend recommended that I buy a Hertz siddur (prayer book) as a reference book. (It's too darned big and heavy to use for davvening/praying.) A few months ago, I was checked the Hertz siddur--probably for a previous post--when I spotted something unexpected: Hertz's minhag (custom) for putting on a tallit (prayer shawl) and laying tefillin was to do so after Birkot HaShachar (the morning blessings), rather than before, as I've always seen it done. (Hmm, that bit of info shouldn't have been so unexpected--commenter Schvach already mentioned that minhag here.) When I mentioned this to my rabbi, he said that, technically, one is not required to wear tallit and tefillin until the (part of the service that includes the?) recitation of the complete Sh'ma, and one usually doesn't say the full Sh'ma in Birkot HaShachar. It also occurred to me that it makes sense to put on tallit and tefillin upon arriving in synagogue, and, originally, one recited Birkot HaShachar at home (see the post to which I just linked in the previous set of parentheses).

So what does that long-winded explanation have to do with me refraining from leading the minyan because of tircha d'tzibbur? Simple:
  • Since wearing tefillin on an arm with a recently-repaired wrist fracture (complete with surgical scar) can be downright uncomfortable when the fingers decide to swell, I've decided to follow Hertz's minhag and put on my tallit and tefillin after Birkot HaShachar.
  • However, in our synagogue and many others, the baal tefillah starts leading at Birkot HaShachar. Therefore, the minyan would have to wait while I took a break after Birkot HaShachar to put on my tallit and lay tefillin. And there you have it--instant tircha. :(
Then there are the interesting questions of
  • whether it's appropriate for a person wrapping tefillin so high on the arm (to avoid the scar) that there might be a question about whether it's a legitimate "wrap" should be leading services, and
  • whether it's appropriate for a person who unwraps the "finger" section of the hand tefillin/shel yad (because that's where the shel yad hurts me) immediately after the Amidah (because I've heard that the requirement is to wear the tefillin for the Sh'ma and the Amidah only--some say the requirement is for the Sh'ma only) should be leading services.


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