Q A recent column in Torah Tidbits stated definitively that one may not walk within 4 amot (6-7 feet) of someone during his Shmoneh Esrei. Some readers inquired whether this is an absolute rule. We want the "Vebbe Rebbe" to voice an opinion on the matter.
A We must distinguish between the
desirable and the prevalent practice. Under normal circumstances it is at
least desirable for people not to walk within 4 amot of someone in the
middle of Shmoneh Esrei (Shulchan Aruch, OC 102:4-5) (and perhaps Kri'at
Shema (Eliyahu Rabba 102:6) and Kaddish (Yabia Omer V, OC 9)). This is the
simple reading of the gemara and the classical poskim and displays good
midot. However, there are important poskim who found grounds for limud
z'chut (justification of leniency) of less than full fulfillment of the
stated halacha. In some cases, stringency is unnecessary or negative. We
will start with background.
The poskim display varied approaches regarding their flexibility in considering whether the prohibition applies in borderline cases. The Shulchan Aruch (102:4) rules that one can pass near someone from the side, and the Mishna Berura (ibid.:15) is inconclusive on the question of whether passing diagonally in front is a problem. He also shows an inconclusive, moderate approach by entertaining local leniency where the problem is less severe (e.g. the davener has his face covered by a tallit), yet he stops short of permitting it outright. The Aruch Hashulchan (102:13) is lenient where the two people are separated by furniture that is 10 tefachim high (roughly waist high), whereas the Mishna Berura is not (ibid.:2). Yet none of these sources rationalizes walking directly in front of someone who is blocking one's path to the aisle.
Some bold ideas of limud z'chut on those who all but ignore the halacha are found in Eishel Avraham (Butchach) (102) and Tzitz Eliezer (IX, 8). The former talks about one being optimistic that when he wants to pass, the davener has finished the main part of Shmoneh Esrei or is taking a break in his tefilla. The latter even suggests that since few people concentrate well anyway (see Tur, OC 101), the halacha's full force no longer applies. One should not follow these suggestions regularly but can use them to be tolerant of the lenient or in cases of specific need.
When one needs to pass to fulfill a mitzva (e.g. a Kohen needs to duchen, he is the ba'al koreh) or he has an acute need to use the facilities, most poskim are lenient, as logic dictates (see cases in Tefilla K'hilchata 12:113-116). The Shulchan Aruch (ibid.:5) says that the need to take the three steps back is insufficient to encroach on another's 4 amot, even if he began davening late. However, when the davener's actions create an unreasonable burden on others (especially, a group) by blocking the door or aisle for an extended period of time, some poskim draw the line. Da'at Torah (ad loc.), comparing it to one who buries the dead in a public thoroughfare, says that it is permitted to traverse the area. Consider also that standing near him with an angry face may affect his concentration more than passing by. Of course, while a slow or late davener should give thought to his location's affect on others, we should remember that he has feelings, too.
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Rabbits and Hares - Difference?
Hares hide among plants and usually try to escape enemies by running. Rabbits are often found together. Male rabbits even fight within a group to become the dominant male. The dominant male rabbit then mates with most of the females in the area. Hares live most of the time by themselves. They come together in pairs for mating only. There is little or no fighting among hares. They just pair off. Both are vegetarians, eating broadleaf plants such as clover, plantain, vetch, aster and grasses in spring or summer. Once winter arrives, the main diet is bark from young willow, aspen, hazelnut or alder... both have long tapered ears, strong hind legs, and bulging eyes on the side of their head, enabling them to watch for danger... When threatened, they communicate to others by thumping the ground with their hind leg.
The words SHAFAN and ARNEVET from the
small list of non-kosher animals that chew their cud but do not have split
hooves, are often translated as rabbit and hare. This translation is
highly suspect, especially because neither rabbits nor hares chew their
cud (at least not in the usual defini- tion of the phrase). There are
several other animals suggested as the SHAFAN and ARNEVET, but the
intended identity of these animals remains obscure.
Yaakov continues on his journey and comes to a field where there is a large well covered by a huge stone. The stone is so big that the shepherds have to wait until they are all gathered in order to roll it off. But Yaakov sees the beautiful Rachel coming and single- handedly (29:10) "rolls off the stone." He approaches Rachel, kisses her and cries. Again, a stone plays a role in the story.
In the last story of the parsha, Lavan chases after Yaakov insisting that he stole his idols. After a search that finds nothing, Lavan suggests they make a covenant. As a symbol of the covenant, Yaakov chooses a stone. The agreement between them is that the stone will be a sign or demarcation that neither of them will pass to harm the other. What's with all the stones?
In the first story, Rashi notes that Yaakov gathered many stones for his pillow, but after his dream he took (28:18) "THE stone." Rashi explains that all the stones vied for the position directly under Yaakov's head, because each one wanted to have that Tzaddik's head on it, so Hashem caused all the stones to merge into one. The stones went from a symbol of disunity to one of unity. Since this is the place where the future Temple would stand, the message seems to be that the Temple, which connects Heaven and Earth, is the ultimate place where a Jew finds unity with Hashem.
In the second story, Rashbam says that there was such a huge stone on the well because the shepherds didn't trust each other not to steal extra water, so they wanted to make sure no one could take water by himself. Here again the stone symbolizes disunity. When Yaakov sees Rachel and realizes he has found his soul mate (someone with whom he will be unified or "one") he throws off the stone. Now that the well has become a place of unity, the stone has no place there.
In the last story, both connotations of the stone are again implied. Lavan and Yaakov agree that only in unity can they live together. If they will try to harm each other, better that they be apart.
The overall message here is that stones are not inherently good or bad, rather it depends on how we use them. We choose whether to throw them at each other, or to use them to draw one another together. Hopefully we will choose the latter.
Shprintzee Herskovits, Jerusalem
Rachel suffers humiliation during the following years. And after her eventual marriage to Ya'akov she still endures the shame of barrenness while her older sister gives birth to one son after another. Then we are told that, "G-d remembered Rachel" (Breishit 30:22). What did G-d actually remember about her?
Was it her infertility? Was it the Chessed performed to her sister? Was it her suffering? Kedushat Levi suggests that above all, Hashem recognized Rachel's forbearance in knowing that having lost Ya'akov at that moment, her father may yet marry her off to the infamous Esav. How many of us could merit such selflessness?