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Thought for the Day: All Your Turnings Should Be to the Right

Horace Greeley may have advised travel to the west in one's youth, but Chazal say that all your turnings should be to the right.  With all due respect to Mr. Greeley (guess how much that is), I am going with Chazal.  The question is, "Which way is right?"

What's the question?  One aspect of the question is that the right side represents strength and control.  So much so that the left hand of a left-handed person (itar yad) is called his right hand in halacha.  For example, a left handed Jew should put on their left shoe first and a man puts his t'fila shel yad on his right (weaker) arm.  On the other hand (of course the pun is intended!), they would waive their arba minim around in a circle that is clockwise from above just like everyone else; which is to their weaker/right side.  Perhaps, therefore, "all turnings to the right" is just a rule that doesn't depends on one's own handedness.  On the other hand, maybe the reason lulav goes always to the right of the majority because of the competing (in this case) principle of "al tifrosh min hatzibur"/do not set yourself aside from the community.  The t'fila shel yad is personal (and should be covered anyway), so using one's personal right does not run afoul of the community, whereas turning against the whole congregation obviously would.  (As far as waiving at home, the principle of "lo plug"/we don't change the p'sak because of personal/unique circumstances, holds sway.  [Yep, another pun. Perhaps not a great one, but puns are by nature not great.])

For those of us who light the chanukia inside, this machlokes makes a difference, because "al tifrosh min hatzibur" does not come into play.  To wit: If "all turnings should be to the right" means to his personal right, then he should add each additional candle to his right (the majority's left) so that he will be turning toward his right (the majority's left) as he lights each new night.  On the other hand, if "all turnings should be to the right" means "to the majority's right", then he should not be gauche (left in french) and sinister (left in latin), but should light as the rest of us do.

The L'vush and Taz have another p'shat; they say that "to the right" means to start at the right; which means that the actual motion will be from right to left.  The L'vush brings a proof to this p'shat from lashon hakodesh itself, which is read and written from right to left.  Others push off that proof by noting that while the words and lines are written from right to left, the letters themselves (as formed for sacred writ) are formed from left to right.

Basically, you can't go wrong on this one.  Having demonstrated that I am not above puns, even weak inter-lingual ones, I shall close by remarking that "all your turnings should be to the right" could be understood homiletically as: All of your efforts should always to toward making your actions and thoughts more correct; learned both from that small internal voice and from the surrounding (kosher, of course) community.


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