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Thought for the Day: Aveilus and Tachanun

Baruch HaShem, most of us are not aveilus very often.  On the other hand, we very often do daven in a minyan that includes one or more aveilim.  Usually, though we are not davening with an aveil who is still within his week of shiva at shul.  It does happen, though; my proof: it happened to me yesterday in the Loop Synagogue.  So I looked up the relevant halachos and I am here now share my findings with my little world.

Let's start with siman 131:4, where we find that the custom (read: halacha) is to not say tachanun in the following circumstances:
  • house of  mourner
  • in the wedding hall in the presence of the chosson
  • in the shul where they are performing a bris mila
  • in shul when a chosson is in attendance
What is the unifying factor?  Great question; and there is a great answer: there isn't one.  Again: there is no unifying factor.  We don't say tachanun in a beis aveil (ie, notes the Mishna Brura sk 20: specifically during the week of shiva) because there is the pall of the attribute of strict justice on the mourner (מידת הדין מתוחה עליו) and we don't want to arouse that any more than necessary.  (Which is also why we don't say tachanun at night, by the way.)  When it comes to the chosson, though, the obligation of the miztvah to bring joy to the chosson and kallah contradicts our obligation to say tachanun; the obligation to gladden another Jew wins out over our own obligation to cry over our past bad judgments (there will be time for that later...)  Ditto for the rejoicing of the entire Jewish community on the entrance of a new member into the covenant of Avraham.

So what tachanun in shul?  Obviously (as coded in halacha by the Shulchan Aruch) the reason we don't say tachanun at the wedding hall applies equally well to a chosson in shul, hence, we don't say tachanun in his presence there, either.  When it comes to the mourner, though, that attribute of strict justice applies to him and the house of the nifter, but not to shul.  Therefore, says the Mishna Brura (sk 20), if a mourner attends shul during his week of shiva, while he will not say tachanun (for the reason mentioned), the congregation certainly does say tachanun.  R' Shlomo Zalman Auerbach, ztz"l, makes one exception (as brought in the Dirshu Mishna Brura): if the mourner is leading the services then the congregation does not say tachanun.  I assume that because he is the messenger of the congregation and since he isn't saying tachanun then they shouldn't either.  (I do know what "they say" about "assume"; I still think its a reasonable explanation.)

Whether and in what circumstance the mourner should leave his house during the week of shiva and whether he should be made the shali'ach tzibur in that case is far outside to scope of the present work.

Luckily, today is 7 Adar, so we won't be saying tachanun anyway.  Why?  I have no idea.

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