Wednesday, July 26, 2006

M'shenichnas Av m'ma'atim b'simcha - court cases during Av

Chazal tell us (Ta'anis 26) that once the month of Av begins, one should be ‘mema’et b’simcha’, lessen the intensity of simcha in one’s life. The gemara quotes Rav’s opinion that this is not just a psychological idea, but has practical halachic significance – if one has a court case with a non-jew scheduled for the month of Av, one should try to postpone the trial for a later date. The Rambam (Ta’aniyos 5:6) cites the law of mema’atin b’simcha, but omits the practical import, leaving us with the question of why. The Chasam Sofer (Shu”t 160) offers two explanations for the Rambam: 1) Rav is l’shitaso elsewhere that the customs of aveilus are observed through the entire month of Av (think of how much laundry you would have been doing yesterday if we paskened like Rav!). Since we follow the practice that aveilus ends with chatzos of 10 Av, we reject Rav’s opinion; 2) Rav assumes that the mazal of the month of Av has an effect on one’s fortune; however, we pasken (Shabbos 156) that ain mazal l’yisrael, the Jewish people transcend the effects of mazalos. In a time of tzarah it bears mentioning that even if one accepts the premis that yesh mazal, according to many rishonim great zechiyus and tefillah have the power to override the influence of mazal.


  1. A question that I always add -- which I was told was implicitly addressed by this Chasam Sofer is why does the Mechaber bring down the concept of meshenichnas av memaatin besimcha but not meshenichnas Adar marbim besimcha -- given they are derived from the same gemara. The Mishnah Berurah in hilchos megilah quotes it about Adar with the halach of if you have a din with a kusi to do it in Adar because the Mazal is good.

    Also - a little off topic - see the Bnai Yisaschar in talking about the tzeruf of the Shem Hashem for the months of Tamuz and Av (which is particularly appropriate for RC). He writes the tzeruf of the Shem for Tamuz is key vav key yud (completely backwards) where for Av it it key-vav-yud-key -- the first half is backwards and then it is forwards -- indicating that things turn around midmonth in Av (once TU Bav comes along). There is more to it but I am already off topic so I'll stop here.

  2. Regarding the second point - see R' Tzadok haKohen (Pri Tzadik, R'Ch Av, os 1) who quotes this Bnei Yisaschar and adds that the shem havaya (which is what the tziruf spells) is the only tziruf which we vocalize, and it also carries the secondary meaning of marriage (e.g. makish havaya l'yetziya). In learning kiddushin one can come across this meaning every other day and not associate the word with a tziruf of shem Hashem. This is the month of Av - a public 'nigleh' face of tragedy, but concealed within is the deepest levels of kedusha (he writes much more as well).

  3. jeffrey smith12:17 AM

    What about court cases in Elul and Tishri?

    It seems to me that court cases would be more productive of anxiety than of simcha, at least in the runup. Once you've won the case, of course, then simcha comes. But being they are a cause of worry, could it be argued that preparing for a court date would effectively interfere with one's spiritual efforts during Av, and vice versa--and therefore not mix the two. (Which is why I asked about Tishri and Elul.And Nisan, for that matter.)

    As for mazel: isn't that simply G-d being more obvious than usual?

  4. >>>What about court cases in Elul and Tishri?

    In case you cannot tell from past postings : ), I am not a pure rationalist because I think it leads to problems like this. Once reduced to anxiety or some other psychological phenomenon, indeed, why not Elul and Tishrei - but the gemara never mentions such a thing.

    Re: mazal - I would have said the opposite - mazal is G-d working through astrology or nature, as opposed to direct intervention, but this is a broad topic for another time bli neder.

  5. jeffrey smith5:27 PM

    Then if the gemara never mentions such a thing re Elul and Tishri, then that means I was wrong. Not the first time :)

    As for mazal, I would call that an intermediate between nature and miracle. Miracle is G-d working openly and directly ("He's parting the sea for us in a way that directly contravenes all usual laws of nature!") Nature is G-d working totally hidden ("Oh, look, the tide is coming in, so the sea is going low enough for us to walk through it!") Luck and coincidence are G-d working hidden, but not so totally hidden that discerning viewers will not realize that something beyond blind natural forces is at work ("Oh, look, the tide's coming in just at the right time for us to escape the Egyptians! Isn't it so nice for G-d to arrange that for us?")

    A truly spiritually aware person, in my view, would understand that while something are miracles and somethings are luck, nothing is ever nature (that is, blind natural forces working without guidance from G-d).

  6. >>>something are miracles and somethings are luck, nothing is ever nature (that is, blind natural forces working without guidance from G-d).

    That sounds like the Ramban at the end of P' Bo who seems to deny that there is any concept called 'teva' and everything is nes, just nes nistar. I think this comes back to the question we once dealt with whether G-d guides an individual leaf blown from a tree through hashgacha (Besh"t's view) or is it that nature at work (most rishonim). The problem with saying it is G-d working though an intermediary is that sometimes mazal seems to be an obstacle to fulfilling G-d's will which the person can overcome through great zechuyos or tefillah - if it is just G-d's will clothed in the guise of an intermediary, why does it present an obstacle and how does one circumvent it? This needs a dedicated posting (or series of postings)!

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