Wednesday, December 13, 2006

when is it assur to sing shalom aleichem?

One of the issues the Dvar Avraham is known for is his many tshuvos addressing the order of precedence when one must perform a milah b’zmanah and milah shelo b’zmanah on the same day. He concludes the milah shelo b’zmanah takes precedence - the milah b’zmanah is done early only because of the din of zerizus, but for the post-8th day baby the father is oiver mitzvas milah “b’chol yom” according to the Rambam, which the D.A. is mechadesh means every single moment of delay (yom=lav davka) is a seperate issur, so it should be done first.

In the context of defending his chiddush the Dvar Avraham cites the recent daf yomi gemara (Rosh haShana 6a) that one is over an issur of bal t’acher for any delay in fulfilling a pledge of tzedaka – since the poor are present and ready to accept the charity, there is no excuse for delay. In a footnote he adds an amazing comment: he heard from R’ Yisrael Meir haKohen of Radin (I guess he was not yet known as the Chofetz Chaim) that if a poor person is invited to eat at one’s home on Friday night, since the seudas Shabbos is a kiyum of mitzvas tzedaka, one is not allowed to sing Shalom Aleichem and zmiros, as delaying the start of the meal would violate the issur of bal t’acher!

I have heard this idea in story form, and dismissed it as mussar or tzidkus. However, the Dvar Avraham held it makes sense l’halacha and was forced to offer a limud zechus on behalf of most of us who he assumes are not makpid on this issue. He suggests that since the poor assume they will be fed in the context of the bal habayis’s own meal, it is as if a set time was designated for the tzedaka, and until that set time is reached there is no issur of bal t’acher.

What a testimony to the sensitivity of true gedolei yisrael not only to every nuance of halacha, but to every nuance of chessed and human kindness.


  1. Anonymous10:51 AM

    Take this with a grain of salt. But on erev Pesach the din is lekadesh miyad. We attribute this to avoiding delay so that the children will not fall asleep before the conclusion of the seder. But, as it is a mitzvah to invite poor people, one could posit that their presence also constitutes a reason to avoid delay.

  2. what if the wife and kids are just hungry? isn't it sensitive to skip it for that, too? personally, in those circumstances i do sholom aleichem 1x each verse, and give my wife the option of eshes chayil or kiddush. i find singing eshes chayil while my wife's hungry to be completely nonsensical.

  3. I absolutely agree. Shalom bayis outweighs shalom aleichem!

  4. Anonymous8:01 PM

    Perhaps this should be refined further. Skipping shalom aleichem for the sake of the poor guest indicates that they are invited as persons in need of charity, in their eyes and the eyes of family members and other guests. Therefore, out of respect for the feelings of the poor, one should not skip sholom aleichem.

    Of course, this has no application to hungry wives and children. But then, I'm a bachelor.

  5. Anonymous10:02 AM

    I suppose it depends on the situation. If you sense that the guest really is starving, you can proceed to the meal right away. Or,if you sense he may feel slighted by that, as addrabbi suggested, do the shalom aleichem verses only once. Not knowing you, he would accept it as your minhag.

  6. Look, if it was really bal t'acheir, the lahv would be doche tefilla b'tzibbur as well. It's only doche a hanhaga tova, so it can't really be a lahv. So you're right, it must be mitzad hamussar, not a din k'dima mamash.

  7. Barzilai,
    I guess the poor also need to daven, so until it is actually mealtime, there is no bal t'acher (and by the same token, you could say since you have to sing zemiros it's not mealtime yet, which is essentially the Dvar Avraham's point). In any case, the Dvar Avraham at least took the idea seriously as a real din.

  8. great point kishnevi-
    it's not the best 'kiyum' when you treat the ani as a 'cheftza of a mitzvah'. singing with him might make him feel like he's contributing to everyone's experience and thereby 'earning' his food.
    then the following dilemma arises: may one delay in order to arrive at a higher level of tzedakah (e.g., in Rambam's taxonomy)?