Skip to main content

Thought for the Day: Be Very Careful When You Write (or Print) Divrei Torah

This is a topic that I found to have a surprisingly practical application.  First some background.

Because we Jews are sensitive to the holiness in the world, we have laws that forbid us from debasing objects/places of holiness and also from using base places for holy purposes.  That's the 10,000 foot overview.  Here are some examples.

One is not allowed to store money in his תפילין bag.  The bag itself is used regularly for storing holy objects (תפילין), so it would be debasing to use it to hold ordinary objects (money, for example).  In fact, it would even be problematic (read: don't do this) to store one's טלית in his תפילין, since the טלית is only a mitzvah object, while the תפילין is a holy object.  There is, in fact, no problem at all in keeping money in one's טלית bag.  Putting one's תפילין in his טלית bag is ok once in awhile, but repeated use can upgrade the status of the bag to "holder of both mitzvah and holy objects", which requires some care to get right; don't do that.

Another situation that arises when a shul does remodeling and wants to replace the aron hakodesh.  The old aron hakodesh must be put into storage, as it cannot be used to store anything less than Torah scrolls.  You might think (as I once asked R' Fuerst) that it would be better to repurpose the old aron hakodesh into a bookcase for siddurim or other s'farim; but no, that is not better.  The widow of the king is not going to marry anyone less that another king of equal or greater status.

On the flip side, doing holy things in base places is also forbidden.  For example, reciting a bracha in the bathroom is not allowed even in our modern, clean facilities.  That is true even though the waste has been flushed away and there is not even the trace of a bad smell (thank you, Febreze).  The bathroom (nice euphemism, no?) is a place designated by regular use for base activities, which is not in consonance with the performance of holy activities.  Speaking of bathhouses, though, we do have real ones of those today: workout facilities with changing/locker room.  In the outer room where everyone is always dressed, one may make brachos.  In the inner/shower stalls, one may not make brachos even when one is dressed and no one else is around.  In the middle region -- the lockers/changing area -- where people are sometimes dressed and sometimes not; it depends.  If everyone is dressed now, then you can make brachos there; if not, not.  I leverage that halacha on a nearly daily basis looking for a private place to say אשר יצר at work.

Now... when, precisely, does the area/bag/what have you become a holy or base place?  If I am planning a house and have designated a place for the bathroom, I can make brachos there as long as it isn't actually used.  If I am making/buying a new תפילין bag, but haven't actually placed my תפילין in it, then I can still put money in the new bag.  The concept in halacha is הזמנה לאו מילתא היא/designation ain't nuthin.  There are some exceptions to that rule, however.  If the designation is done by actually physical manipulation of the materials that will be used in the construction of my holy object, then הזמנה מילתא היא/designation is something.  For example, when I being the process of curing the leather to be used for תפילין, that הזמנה מילתא היא.  I can still use the leather for mundane -- and even base -- purposes, however, if I include that condition in my designation.  That is, I declare that I am preparing the leather for תפילין, but might also want to use it for things of lower status.  Then I am good to go.

All of this is explained very well by the Mishna Brura 42:2.  In the Biur Halacha there (ד''ה סודר דאזמנה) one more very practical consideration is noted.  If I prepare the actual object that will become holy, then not only is הזמנה מילתא היא/designation is something, but making a condition does not help.  The example cited is writing divrei Torah on a piece of paper.  That paper, by virtue of that preparation and beginning use is now an object of holiness and may not be used for mundane purposes.  That is, I am sitting in a shiur and start making notes, then I have now elevated that piece of paper to a new level of existence.  I can no longer use that paper for a shopping list nor balancing my checkbook.  The Biur Halacha says that the Chayei Adam allows one in that case to make it conditional, but says he really doesn't know where the Chayei Adam got that and he disagrees completely.

By the way, the Dirshu Mishna Brura brings that the Chafeitz Chaim rules that printing (not writing by hand) divrei Torah is just הזמנה for learning.  It seems to me, that is why one need not be careful with Jewish magazines about bringing them into the bathroom; as long as you don't actually read the divrei Torah in the bathroom, of course.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Thought for the Day: Battling the Evil Inclination on all Fronts

Yom Kippur.  When I was growing up, there were three annual events that marked the Jewish calendar: eating matzos on Passover, lighting candles on Chanuka, and  fasting on Yom Kippur.  Major news organizations around the world report on the "surreal" and "eerie" quiet of the streets in even the most secular neighborhoods of Israel.  Yom Kippur.

As you know, I am observant of Jewish law.  Some have even called me "ultra orthodox" (not in a kind way).  Given that, I have a question.  How likely do you think that I would be tempted to eat on Yom Kippur, that most holy day of the year?  Let's make the scale zero to ten, where zero is "as likely as driving through McDonald's on Shabbos and ordering a Big Mac with extra cheese." and ten is "as likely as breathing regularly".  Take your time.  If you answered "zero"; thank you, but -- sadly and penitently -- no.  The answer is more like nine; I'd like to say lower, but i…

Thought for the Day: Coming Into This World for Torah, Avodah, and Acts of Loving Kindness

This TftD is so self-serving that I should be embarrassed.  But I am not... talking about grandchildren is always off budget.  I have, bli ayin hara, a beautiful new grandson; born at 6:11 PM CDT last Friday night.  The secular (aka -- by me, anyway -- slave) date is October 20, 2017 CE.  The Hebrew (aka Real) date is certainly Rosh Chodesh חשון/Cheshvan and certainly in the year 5778 since Creation.  The date, you ask... good question!

Sundown on Friday night was 6:01 PM CDT, which means he was born either at the end of the last day of תשרי or the beginning of the first day of Cheshvan; a period know as בין השמשות/twilight.  What's the big deal, you ask... I am so glad you asked.  We all deal quite handily with בין השמשות every week and every holiday; we're just stringent.  We start Shabbos and the first day of Yom Tov before בין השמשות; that is, before sundown.  Likewise, we end Shabbos and the first day of Yom Tov after בין השמשות; some 42, 50, 60, or 72 minutes after sundo…

Thought for the Day: Prayer II -- How?

Now that we know that the obligation to pray is nothing more (nor less!) than a divine decree, we are going to also need instructions from heaven on how to implement that decree.  I cannot stress enough how important it is to have instruction from heaven how to implement heavenly decrees.  One only needs to look at the shambles that one modern ism has made of the very important Torah principle of תיקון עולם/improving and fixing the world.  They have taken words out of context and used them to support their own nefarious schemes.  (To the point that Google Translate actually translates -- not transliterates -- תיקון עולם as Tikkun Olam.  Amelia Bedelia would be proud; we are not amused.

The Torah teaches us how to pray in two complementary fashions.  One is the way in which the concept is presented as an obligation, the other is by giving us examples of how to practically implement those instructions.

The obligation is introduced in the second paragraph of "sh'ma" -- וּלְ…