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Thought for the Day: HaShem Protects Fools... and Therefore What?

After carefully learning through the Igros Moshe on smoking (Choshen Mishpat, 77) and publishing my findings, my chavrusa suggested that I check out of few of my conclusions and assumptions with R' Fuerst.  I was very happy to show him that I was right, so of course I agreed.  Baruch HaShem, I was even happier to find that I was wrong on a few points and to have R' Fuerst correct me.

I am about to brag, here... I hope you'll forgive me.  I approached R' Fuerst before mincha on erev Shabbos (I daven at that minyan largely because the rav davens that and it has afforded me many opportunities to speak to the rav directly for a few minutes at a time; which is all one gets on the phone anyway).  I told him I had a couple of questions on R' Moshe's t'shuva regarding smoking and general questions about the style of Igros Moshe.  Just then the chazan started "ashrei" and the rav held up his hand and said, "Time to daven..."  "Darn!", I thought, "If only I had gotten hear a few minutes minutes earlier!"  Then the rav added, "You can walk home with me after ma'ariv and we can discuss it then."  My disappointment over my bad luck flipped to excitement at the hashgacha!  (Yep... bad stuff is "bad luck", good stuff is "hasgacha"; your point?)

I had two main questions.  First: What, exactly does 'שֹׁמֵר פְּתָאיִם ה/HaShem protects fools (Psalms 116:6) mean?  Second: When R' Moshe concludes with two reasons that a person should not smoke, is he giving mussar or deciding halacha?

First, though, who are these פְּתָאיִם/fools that HaShem is protecting?  There are a two main words in the Holy Tongue that translate into "fool"-- פתי and כסיל.  Both are lacking basic knowledge that they could easily acquire and are therefore quite justifiably called fools.  However, they are separated by an ocean of intention.  The פתי has foolishly and recklessly forged ahead without due diligence because he wants to enjoy this or that experience.  This is the behaviour of my five year old grandson when he tries something without asking permission because it looks fun.  The כסיל, on the other hand, foolishly and recklessly forges ahead to show you that he can do what he wants and doesn't need your permission.  This is the behaviour of my five year old grandson when he does something without asking permission specifically to demonstrate to his parents that they are not in charge.

HaShem protects the פְּתָאיִם.  HaShem put us into a beautiful world with lots of fun stuff to do.  Fun (and even just living), as noted, comes with risk.  'שֹׁמֵר פְּתָאיִם ה/HaShem protects fools means that we don't have to walk around nervous that the sky is falling.  Amusement parks have dangers, but the danger is managed so we can have fun.  The world has dangers, but the dangers are managed so we can have a blast!  We are allowed to live our lives, have fun, and trust that HaShem will protect us from normal risky behaviours.  What's called normal?  Ask your rav.

Regarding my second question, I wanted to know if one could apply those principles to any situation of potential danger that come without much benefit.  Answer: Affirmative.  Ok... but is it mussar or halacha?  R' Fuerst said that it is hard to tell.  R' Moshe sometimes did include mussar woven with the halacha in his Igros Moshe.  Then R' Fuerst, before wishing me a good Shabbos as he entered his him, gave me mussar: What difference does it make?  He said don't do it; so don't do it.

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