Thursday, December 05, 2013

is there psak on what constitutes hidur

I don’t know why I never noticed, but it’s interesting that the Shulchan Aruch in the dinim of how to light (siman 571)does not mention at all that you can be yotzei with one candle ner ish u’beiso.  The mechaber writes to light one candle on the first night and then add one more on each succeeding night – mosif v’holeich – without mentioning that this is a hidur and not the baseline.    

The Biur Halacha has an interesting chiddush (d”h yesh omrim) with respect to hidur.  The gemara has a machlokes Beis Shamai and Beis Hillel whether to start with one candle and add more each night or start with eight and subtract one each night.  Even though normally the halacha is like Beis Hillel against Beis Shamai, the M.B. suggests that this rule may be true only with respect to debates about ikar hadin, not with respect to hidur.  The sugya continues that Rabbah bar bar Chana saw two elders, one who lit like Beis Shamai, one who lit like Beis Hillel, indicating that there was not a clear resolution.  This is quoted by the RI"F, even though if halacha is like Hillel it has no relevance.  It seems that since we are speaking about a matter of hidur, perhaps Beis Shamai's view is not totally rejected.
I imagine the sevara here is that when it comes to hidur, beauty is in the eye’s of the beholder.  It’s not something that can be formalized as a matter of psak. 
(In a comment earlier in the week GU suggested that the ikar takanah was hallel v'hoda'ah and lighting just provides a context for the brachos. Proof: if hadalakah was crucial, how could there be such a fundamental machlokes between Beis Shamai and Beis Hillel about how to fulfill the mitzvah? [By way of analogy, the Ran in R"H asks how there could have been such different views - shevarim, teru'ah, or shevarim-teruah - of how to blow shofar. It is impossible to imagine that there was no tradition of how to do the mitzvah.] In light of the M.B., the proof is a little less convincing.  Perhaps because the debate was not about the fundamental ikar mitzvah, but rather only about a subjective element of hidur, there was room for a divergency of views to emerge based on different perspectives.)

R’ Shach in Avi Ezri writes that the takanah of mehadrin and mehadin min hamehadrin is not rooted in the din of hidur in kol hatorah kulah.  Let me explain with an example: there is a din to take an esrog, and there is an added element of hidur in having  a beautiful esrog.  The person who has a $30 esrog, the person who has a $100 esrog, and the person who has a $175 esrog are all doing the same mitzvah, just each has invested more or less into it.  Ner chanuklah is different.  The takanos of mehadrin and mehadrin min hamehadrin are not just means of adding beauty to the same one takanah of hadlakah.  They are actually three different ways Chazal instituted of being mekayeim ner chanukah, three different takanos if you will.  (He has a number of proofs -- not for now).

I was wondering whether the M.B.’s chiddush would be true if you understand hidur like R’ Shach does.  If the hidur we are talking about is not just a matter of beauty, the icing on top of the cake of the mitzvah, but is rather something  that speaks to the very definition of how Chazal formulated the mitzvah, then shouldn’t we use klalei psak to determine that issue?


  1. [Knee]-jerk defense: If the hiddur is part of the mitzvah, and the mitzvah is l'hodos u'lhallel, then here hiddur is in the eyes of the beholder. Which was m'rumamaz in my use of the word "emotional".
    Or, to invoke R' Shach, Chazal provided a menu even within the purview of BH, for emotional hiddur.

    Which means that if someone who didn't feel the hiddur lit more than one light, he wouldn't be accomplishing anything.
    [Today, when this hiddur has become mechanical and habitual, ironically, that would be hard to conceive of. Almost like my Father ZT"l's experiment trying to buy a murkav esrog.]

    Chazal speaks of hiddur mitzva many times. I don't have the resources now, but would someone please list the places in Chazal where the expression "mehadrin" is used other than by chanuka. If, as I think off the top of my head, it doesn't exist elsewhere, then the din hiddur here is gavra and not cheftza.

    If so, then our lighting multiple neiros even if we didn't feel the hiddur might come under the rubric of acting something out often enough internalizes it.

    1. >>>If the hiddur is part of the mitzvah, and the mitzvah is l'hodos u'lhallel, then here hiddur is in the eyes of the beholder.

      Beauty/hidur is by definition subjective -- you don't need to redefine the mitzvah to say that. (see Reshimos Shiurim from RYBS on Rashi at the beginning of Lulav haGazul who learns that hidur by esrog, where we don't have a similar takanah like by chanukah, is subjective).

    2. Not all agree that hidur is subjective. For example, there's a machlokes Rishonim whether there's a din of hidur in a hidden place. RT in Menachos 32b and as brought by the Gaon in OC 147 hold that there's no din hiddur, like shirtut, in tefillin, because it's not exposed. On the other hand, the Binyan Shlomo II:3 says that it has nothing to do with beauty, it means shleimus in the mitzva, so it applies even in a hidden place. Also the AVnei Nezer OC 433:49, and Tos in Brachos that its a hiddur to say the words even though shomei'a k'oneh, and the Biur Halacha in 656 from the PMG that it's called hiddur to do a mitzva in a way that all poskim agree it's kosher, even those you don't pasken like. I suppose you can say that the Brisker Rov's chkira whether hiddur is a din in the mitzva or a side halacha is talui in these opinions. But for sure you can't assume it's a din of beauty.

    3. Whether or not hidur applies in a hidden place doesn't mean it's not subjective -- if you love a certain artist and collect all his/her works to hang in a hidden bunker in your basement, your assessment of the artist is still subjective.

      In any case, every case of hidur shares the common denominator of enhancing either the ma'aseh mitzvah or the cheftza shel mitzvah. Agreed that there may be hidurim that are not purely subjective, but at least in this case the question of whether being mosif v'holeich or being pocheis v'holeich is a better enhancement is a matter of personal perception.

      The Brisker Rav's chakira in the context of ner chanukah is very difficult -- that's what R' Shach's piece is all about.