Thursday, May 22, 2008

Sins of our sons

The title of this post really doesn't have too much to do with what I'm planning on writing about today, but A. I really liked it, and B. You never know, inspiration may strike. Anyway, today I'm going to point out some interesting things about Tachanun, the penitential prayers said on many days of the year.
The main part of Tachanun which is talked about in Shulchan Oruch is Nefilas Apayim, which is the resting on the arm thing. This is only done when there is an ark and a Torah scroll in the room, according to the Ramah, but the Taz states that the ark is really not necessary. I assume that this means that if there's only an ark and no Torah then you don't rest on your arm, but I'm not sure if this is the case. In general, when you don't do Nefilas Apayim, you just say Tachanun sitting down. It's funny, because the early codifiers stress that it's very important to say it sitting down, especially according to the Kabbalah, but later commentators say that it's not such a big deal, though obviously it's preferable. The Be'ar Haitav says that if a person has a Torah in his home, then he also does Nefilas Apayim, and even if he has Seforim in his house then he does it. The Alter Rebbe doesn't bring this Halacha down in his Shulchan Oruch, which would seem to imply that he doesn't hold of it. Back in the day, no one had Sefarim in their houses, but whether that means anything I don't know. Maybe they had more respect for books. Again though, I don't know.
Another interesting Halacha is that if the congregation is saying Tachanun then a person at home can do Nefilas Apayim, as he's considered to be among the congregants, because even an iron curtain can't separate a Jew and his Father in Heaven. As our fearless leader pointed out, this reason doesn't seem to have any connection with the Halacha; after all, why does the fact that there's no wall separating Jews from their G-d mean that a guy who's separated from his fellow Jews is allowed to participate with them in their falling?
One more thing about Tachanun: I seem to recall learning that one doesn't do Nefilas Apayim when the Torah is out of the ark, but I have yet to see this in print. If anyone knows, please comment.

8 comments:

Leo de Toot said...

Dear Mr. R.S.

Now I am confused. Regarding separation etc., why does this not apply to forming a minyan? Surely I cannot sit at home and be part of the minyan down the street? (That would be too easy, wouldn't it - and we'd save a fortune on High Holy Day memberships).

Inquisitive minds want to know, L d T.

Nemo said...

I think it would be relevant at this point to also dispel the whole Tefilin strap over the ear thing, which, thanks to years of pleading, is not as strong and widespread as it once was, but I see it done in 770 once in a while and feel the impulse to throw the dude's Rosh off his head.

Then I calm down.

The Real Shliach said...

To LdT, it's not so simple. Though I don't recall the relevant laws precisely right now, I do know that in many cases it is in fact sufficient to Daven at the same time as the Minyan, not necessarily in their presence. Of course, there are also many wonderful things said about those who show up, and many not so wonderful things said about those who don't show up.
To Nemo: Yes, I fully agree. The justification is that you shouldn't do Nefilas Apayim on your bare arm, though A. I've never seen this anywhere in Halacha (not that my not seeing is a proof for anything), and B. According to Shulchan Oruch one has to wear a jacket anyway when Davening, so even if such a Halacha exists, it's a moot point. Besides, it looks really tacky.

Nemo said...

TRS- SH"A recommends that someone that can't make it to the Minyan should at least Daven at the same time as the Minyan and be M'Kaven their Teffilos. That permit them to say Dvarim She'Bkdusha though, i.e. Kaddish, Barchu, Kedusha, Chazaras Hashatz and 13 Midos. Furthermore, they can't even be Yotze Kriah on their own with a Kosher S"T.

As far as the second point, I'm issuing a Fatwa against any Teffilin-strappers. I'm sick of this stuff.

Additionally, the justification that you can't do it on your bare arm is insufficient because most of the people that use their strap merely cross it across their foreheads without actual Nefilas Apayim. They miss the entire point.

I'm not sure if it's Halacha or Kabbala that you can't do it on your bare arm. There is a lot of Kabbalistic stuff about positioning and such; you're supposed to do it on the back half of your forearm, but not touch your head to your sleeve. Apparently the lower half is too close to the hand itself and that position is Mamshich Klipos or something.

Oh, and if you're really Shpitz, you can get into all the little details of how the Rebbe said Tachnun.

Nemo said...

Sorry, in the first line above:

That doesn't permit them to say Dvarim She'Bkdusha though ...

The Real Shliach said...

The point, Nemo, is that the Alter Rebbe holds that you can be Yotzeh these Devarim B'kedusha without attending the Minyan. Obviously you can't say 'em, but in heaven they have some sort of deal going; don't ask how it works because I don't know.
A fatwa? That's a bit harsh, no? I was thinking that the threat of castration would work a little better.

Nemo said...

He says the word "Yotze" or just as something which is helpful/nice B'shas Hadchak?

The Real Shliach said...

I'd have to look it up, but something like that. A similar thing is found in Tanya where he says that if a guy has to daven fast and leave Shul early, then he'll be yotze whatever he missed with a minyan.