Q What is the final halacha regarding whether an aveil (mourner) can/should change his seat in shul on Shabbat? According to the opinion that he does change, why doesn't that violate the principle that one does not do aveilut b'farhesia (mourning in public) on Shabbat? Also, is the halacha the same for women?
A The laws of aveilut are the classic example of an area where minhag overpowers classical sources, and we do not intend to change that tendency. If there is a clear minhag where one lives/davens, he should follow it. We will explain the validity of each side of the issue. We do not have access to a reliable survey of practices, but it seems that in America, most aveilim change their place in shul even on Shabbat, whereas in Israel not as many do so. This response focuses primarily on Ashkenazic communities, as your particulars seem to indicate that you belong to one.
The idea of changing places is based on the following gemara. "A mourner, the first week, he does not leave his house; the second, he leaves but does not sit in his place; the third, he sits in his place but does not talk; the fourth, he is like everyone else" (Moed Katan 23a). Thus, our halacha should not even extend for 30 days, yet the Rama (Yoreh Deah 393:2) says that there is a minhag, which is to be followed despite its lack of basis, that mourners change places for their entire period of aveilut. Although the classical sources do not write explicitly where one changes his place, the main place that it is done is in shul (not at home) at least regarding 12 months (P'nei Baruch 22:1; see Chuchmat Adam 167:2).
Indeed there is a rule that one does not display mourning publicly on Shabbat (Shulchan Aruch, YD 385:3). Yet there are classical references to mourning-related activities on Shabbat. The Nimukei Yosef (on Bava Batra 100b) learns from one such source that a mourner changes his place even on Shabbat. However, the Beit Yosef(YD 393) argues because of the issue of public mourning, and in the Shulchan Aruch (393:3), he speaks against the practice. However, the Rama upholds the minhag to change seats even on Shabbat. The ARI Z"L did not change seats on Shabbat, but the Birkei Yosef (ad loc.) suggests that only one who is so respected that his divergence from the minhag would not be seen as haughty should follow the ARI. The standard minhag in America seems to be like the Rama, which is strengthened by Rav Moshe Feinstein's support (Igrot Moshe, YD I, 257). Practice in Israel may be affected by the Gesher Hachayim's (I, 22:3) ambivalence on the topic.
Investigating answers to the question of B'FARHESIA may provide room for distinctions. The Ramban (see Beit Yosef, ibid.) explains the practice in the Beit HaMikdash that mourners entered on Shabbat through a special gateway with their heads covered like mourners as follows. Since they wore shoes, unlike a mourner, it was not considered acting as a mourner. The Shach (393:7) has a thesis that only practices that are reserved for shiva create problems of public mourning on Shabbat, and changing places extends beyond shiva. Neither of these opinions is mainstream (see Pitchei Teshuva 395:7). A more likely possibility is that a person's specific seat need not be a classic sign of aveilut, as different factors affect where one sits (Shut Radvaz II, 662; Shach, ibid.). If this is the logic, then one with a prominent, permanent place, especially the rav of a shul, would be more clearly demonstrating aveilut and has more reason to keep his seat on Shabbat (Pnei Baruch,22:(12)). Along similar lines, others (Taz, OC 526; R. Akiva Eiger, YD 393) say that one sits in a different place on Shabbat only if he began sitting there before Shabbat. Thus, it is possible that a woman (or a man in that situation) who frequents a given shul only on Shabbat morning and did not established a new place before Shabbat should not change their seat on Shabbat (based on Panim Me'irot II, 124). Again, all should follow the local minhag if one exists.
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Never again in history did we ever agree on anything! Yet Sinai was the moment in history that mattered, the one that turned the Jewish people into an inseparable and indestructible entity. As it forged into a single collective, as it united with God and His Torah, the Jewish nation turned into an eternal one.
Notwithstanding this remarkable moment in Jewish history, it wasn't until the Jewish nation crossed the Jordan River that the principle of "Kol Yisrael arevin zeh lezeh," "All Jews are responsible for one another," went into effect. Although Klal Yisroel was formed at Sinai, the deepest level of Jewish unity only began to operate in the Land of Israel.
The process that began at Sinai was only completed in Eretz Yisrael.
Rebbitzen Holly Pavlov, Jerusalem
Soon R' Moshe began to sense that his family income was greater, and he asked his wife: "How do we suddenly have extra money? Are the community elders paying you anything behind my back?"
"Heaven forbid," she replied, "but ever since you became the Rav, we have had many more customers than before, and that is why our income has grown."
R' Moshe took out a piece of paper and calculated
how much the family needed per week, and he told his wife, "I want you to
know that we need such and such an amount weekly for our expenses. As soon
as you have earned that amount, even if it is still Sunday, you are to close
the store for the rest of the week, and are not to open it until the
following Sunday. The other storekeepers also need to earn a living."
The Torah tells us that G-d rested on the seventh day and then blessed the Shabbat and sanctified it. Understanding the relationship between blessing and sanctification may help us under- stand why Shabbat seems to stand out among the other commands.
Rashi explains that the blessing was a double portion of the heavenly Manna before Shabbat; the sanctification was the lack of Manna on Shabbat so that no one would be forced to gather food. Thus we understand sanctification as something that is separate from normative behaviors, as something that separates our people from other nations. We also appreciate the consequent trust in Hashem who provides for those who keep his Sabbath.
Ramban suggests that Shabbat's sanctification (kedusha)
derives from the higher spheres; the blessing is the spiritual nourishment
for the rest of the week. Clearly, however, if we imitate Hashem's creative
capacities during the week, then the separation of work and rest that
constitutes kedusha is in itself a blessing for all those who observe the