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Thought for the Day: A Tiny Introduction to Aninus

My wife is out of town, so I do not have the sheimus that comes from daily personal contact with my eishes chayil.  Long distance may be the next best thing to being there; but it's a distant second, to be sure.  I therefore decided to "chahp ah rhain", as they say, and attend a Sunday morning shiur by R' Fuerst.  Today's topic was aninus.

Aninus is that twilight zone between the p'tira and k'vura of one of the shiva k'rovim (seven very close relatives); father/mother, brother/sister, son/daughter (rachmana latzlan), and spouse.  During that time, one is expected to be entirely consumed with the needs of the meis.  There is a general rule of "oseik b'mitzvah, patur min ha'mitzvah" that everyone knows, but that usually has little more effect than delaying one thing or another by a few minutes.  In the case of aninus, the person is considered not only oseik b'mitzvah, but totally absorbed in the single mitzvah of preparing for the needs of the meis for at least hours and sometimes days.  The "p'tur" from other mitzvos turns into an issur to involve oneself in anything else.  One is, for example, forbidden to daven or even make brachos during that time.  There are exceptions (such as Shabbos, when one is unable to make preparations and is therefore again allowed many normal activities), but the general rule leads to surreal feelings of being disconnected from normal life.

There is a machlokes -- going back to the rishonim -- about the stringency of aninus with respect to aveilus.  There are those those who feel it is "aveilus plus" and other's who feel it is just different.  As with all matters of halacha, but particularly in the area of aveilus and aninus, one must have a close relationship with a rav to get proper guidance.  This shiur was full of classic "R' Fuerst" responses.  Someone expressed some amazement that one should not put on t'fillin (not the yom ha'misa and not the first day of aveilus) even after the k'vura; which means that the aveil could end up davening from the amud for that first mincha, wearing a tallis and not wearing t'fillin.  R' Fuerst's response: "That's why you're coming to a shiur, to hear chidushim."  Someone else said he's never seen anyone do that.  R' Fuerst: "They should have called me."  Bottom line, we tend to be machmir and treat aninus as aveilus plus.

The topic of tearing k'riya came up and R' Fuerst said that you an onein is allowed to change to an old shirt -- even one that is freshly laundered -- before going to the k'vura so he will be tearing an old shirt.  Even though he generally shouldn't put on freshly laundered clothing, that's only when he is putting on the fresh clothing because it feels nice.  In this case, the changes of clothing is only to save a monetary loss.

A nice bit of humanity: Someone asked if there was any limud z'chus for tearing that little ribbon instead of tearing k'riyah on the garment properly.  R' Fuerst said there is no limud z'chus at all.  Moreover, he tells rabanim who have to deal with non-frum families to either tear k'riyah properly or don't do it at all.  However, said the rav, he tells the rabanim to ask the mourner, "Isn't your mother worth the loss of one shirt?  All she did for you from the time you were born till you were on your own and afterwards; isn't is worth tearing one shirt on that loss?"  The rabanim usually call back and say that the eitza was good; the mourners always agree and are even thankful.

There is paskening halacha, there is knowing halacha, and there is knowing how to live and teach halacha.

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